The Antimatter Principle – The Anti-Kanban For Almost Two Decades Already

Increasingly this year I’m being asked to comment about Kanban – and its offshoot, the Kanban Method, being offered in the market by David Anderson (and others). Some are pushing the Kanban Method very heavily with their clients as a solution to the increasingly recognised challenge of effective and sustainable organisational change. It has been gaining some market traction. In two specific examples, both large corporations, one in the financial sector and one in the media sector, developers and development managers have had some concerns about their firm’s move to adopt the Kanban Method and asked me to share my thoughts with them. I thought I’d share them with everyone else too…

To be honest, I don’t know a great deal about the Kanban Method. I haven’t taken the classes or spent much time studying it. Most of what I know is reported second hand from those who have taken the classes or are working in organizations that are now going through Kanban adoption. I am much more focused on solving the root problems of software development – and more importantly, the broader and deeper question of organisation-wide effectiveness – still plaguing organisations everywhere. I’m focused on real clients, and on addressing issues in the market which are appropriate for the Antimatter Principle. Plus, I’m inviting others to examine and learn what those root problems are. I’m not so occupied with learning about the Kanban Method. However, from a brief skimming of Kanban material and things reported to me, I can make the following observations about how it differs from the Antimatter Principle

The Kanban Method – Yet Another Method

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Kanban Method is just that – a method. It appears to specify a collection of techniques from Lean Manufacturing processes going back to the 1950s. It offers these as one packaged collection of principles and practices. Individually, these techniques are considered successful and there are positive case studies showing their adoption and benefits. The Kanban Method posits that its collected set of individually successful principles and practices will also be successful in aggregate. I would compare this assumption to individually testing a thousand individual car components and then declaring that as each of the components are know to work, the entire car composed of those parts will work! The idea at the very root of the Kanban Method – as with so many other methods – is that improving the way people work – how they set about their various tasks and the principles and practices involved in accomplishing each task, and how those task are strung together – is the key to improved productivity. This means that adopters are getting off on the wrong foot even before Day One. Whether a new suite of principle and practices is implemented incrementally, “starting from where you are” as the Kanban Method advises, or the new suite is implemented in a single change, it’s still placing the idea of process-as-the-solution at the core. It isn’t getting away from the source of the software crisis: ignoring that people (and their relationships) are what make the difference. One hundred and fifty years of sociology, anthropology, psychology and cognitive science warns of the risks in taking a principles-and-practices-oriented – as opposed to people-oriented – approach.

The concept for Kanban adoption within an organization is a familiar one – clients should employ a (so called) “Certified Kanban Trained” specialist to assist them in applying the three Foundational Principles and six Core Practices of the Kanban Method, in the context of their organization. To me this seems awfully similar to a raft of previous methods, including SAFe, RUP, Scrum, etc.. The Kanban Method strikes me as trying to distance itself from these ancestors, through its emphasis on incremental uptake, on a “people-friendly” easing-in to “drive out fear”, and to “reduce people’s natural resistance to change”. These admonitions seem to serve some need to include every current buzzword and show that, somehow, Kanban has “people inside.” I’m not impressed with the so-called people-related aspects of the Kanban Method, nor its emphasis on the role of leadership. I guess it has to make itself look attractive and saleable to the progressive yet still Analytic-minded organisations out there.

Assumptions

Where the Kanban Method really differs from the Antimatter Principle and why I chose the title for this blog post, is in a combination of the approach to adoption and the underlying assumptions about how to drive and manage change in knowledge work and creative industries. Kanban is delivered as a set of principles, to be applied and understood incrementally. Ideally you (the management) have them (the workers) do this. They find their own path, built on the principles provided (via a management-appointed Kanban specialist), and then they (the workers) own the evolution of the existing processes in the organization. This approach fits right in with the assumptions already prevailing in the typical organisation: that there are workers and managers; that there will continue to be processes (and projects); that the senior management continues to own the agenda; and that folks’ needs, ways of relating, and collective assumptions need no examination. It could be straight out of a 2000s textbook on agile adoption. It’s a status-quo-centric approach delivered using change management techniques that are 50 years old and most strongly associated with the likes of e.g. Virginia Satir and Peter Drucker. So Kanban offers you individually proven principles and practices from the previous five decades delivered with a decades-old intervention model developed for 20th Century knowledge-work industries. There is an underlying assumption that people resist change and thus ways need to be found to countervail that resistance. This is becoming a popular and successful model for many specialist firms, so we must assume that it is meeting some clients’ needs too, or surely they would not be buying these services? It is fair to say that this approach is the antithesis of the Antimatter Transformation Model.

Peter Drucker associated the term “knowledge worker” (in the 1960s) with someone who knows better how to perform their work than their supervisor. He didn’t think to add the phrase, “or process consultants, coaches or specialists from outside the firm.” It seems we continue to live in an era where we continue to believe that telling people what they need, particularly in the way of mechanisms, methods and models, will help the workers learn how to better do their work. Kanban remains an approach that is underpinned by the assumption that telling is a valid approach. The Antimatter Transformation Model abandons this notion. With a therapeutic approach we assume that everyone involved is just trying to get their needs met in the best ways they know how, and the key to unlock performance is to hold a space, and invite those that want to, with support, to consider if there may be other strategies for getting their need met that might work better for them. The Antimatter Transformation Model delivers this. The Antimatter Principle creates and nurtures an environment in which the quality of collaborative relationships, and folks’ intrinsic motivations, can thrive, for the mutual benefit of all involved. There is no assumption of “improvement” being the goal, or of any specific outcome excepting what meets the needs of all involved.

“The curious paradox is that when we accept ourselves just as we are, [only] then we can change.”

~ Carl R. Rogers (paraphrased)

The Antimatter Principle And Complexity

The Antimatter Principle is about creating and nurturing a healthy work environment, about taking a community-led approach to examining folks’ collective assumptions. Everyone’s needs matter. In attending to folks’ needs, everone has the opportunity to find deep joy and fulfilment that significantly impacts the health and thus the performance of the business of which they are a part. Carl Rogers observed that: “It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried”. And so it is the people that have what it takes to set their own agendas, pursue their own collective and individual needs, and find their own solutions.

It is well understood that knowledge work involves complexity and that a complex situation requires an adaptive approach in order to be robust to the uncertainties and unknown events that may emerge. Kanban was specifically designed as a method that posits that people resist change. The Antimatter Principle rejects that assumption, in favour of the belief that people love to change when they participate in and unequivocally see folks’ needs being met. The Kanban approach is appealing to some buyers and sellers because it comes with idealistic aspirations and fine words. It appeals to some people’s need for hope. What it doesn’t account for is that people are just trying to get their needs met.

The Antimatter Transformation Model is specifically designed as a invitation to a series of conversations. The concept is to uncover folks’ needs and go about meeting them. Whilst at the same time examining folks’ strategies for getting those needs met. You start with what folks are seeing and hearing, how they feel about those things, and what those feeling tell us about folks’ needs. As we go along, we get better at at expressing feelings, and at divining needs from feelings, and as we experience the successes of alternative strategies, gradually shift over to those new, more effective strategies rather than stick with the old, less effective ones.

What makes the Antimatter Transformation Model new and fairly unique is that it embraces the social sciences and is designed to work with what science tells us about human nature – rather than what most people believe human nature to be. Organisations adopting the Antimatter Principle evolve in their own ways through a series of collective and individual decisions – decisions made by a fellowship of social beings.

Abandoning a Method-Centric Approach to Improvement

One organization, I was told, adopted Kanban “because Kanban offered a gently-gently incremental, evolutionary yet methodical approach to software development”. Indeed this need – more effective software development methods – comes up often. I am often asked, “Can you show us a better way to develop software?”. My answer is always, “Yes, I could, but it is not the business I am in these days.” I prefer to focus on the organisation as a whole. That’s where the real opportunities for better meeting folks’ needs reside. Teaching improved software development methods is not the business I am in.

I came to develop the Antimatter Principle precisely because a methodology-based approach – including the Kanban Method – generally fails to address people’s real needs. The real failure is the failure to recognise that people are human beings. And a failure to recognise that play, community, joy, doing things for others, and self-actualisation are what people ultimately thrive on. After several decades of what I might call the Analytic approach (processes, methods, change programmes, etc.) in 1996 I decided to focus on a whole different problem – the problem of creating a healthier (and hence, more effective) working environment. Incremental, start-where-you-are approaches, per se, weren’t working. What was needed was to stop saying what was needed. I see it as heavily ironic that the Antimatter Principle came about for me because of the problems of scaling Agile adoption in large corporations – problems that I recognized as early as 1994 as a recurrinng pattern. Two more disparate solutions to the challenge of delivering organisation-wide effectiveness, such as Kanban and the Antimatter Principle, are hard to imagine.

Silver Bullets and Panaceas

This brings me to my final observation about Kanban and the Antimatter Principle. Another company told me that they adopted Kanban because it was a known solution (and they could find people with relevant skills). This is very convenient, but does it work? The buyer wants to believe in a “silver bullet” – that one solution that will solve all of their problems. Some vendors will seek to make offers and package a method of principles and practices as a single solution, as they know there is a market for it. I am afraid I don’t believe in “silver bullets”. The Antimatter Principle is complete in the sense that it delivers what it claims – an environment in which people can be more human, and humane. It is not a process definition or a method to be adopted. It will not directly help you architect software or perform tests or write requirements. For these technical practices there are many place to look. What the Antimatter Principle enables you to do is create an environment in which people are more likely to choose to give of their best. A community of which people are more likely to want to become, and remain, a part. It enables great products to emerge, and everyone’s time and goodwill to be spent wisely. I’m cynical about cure-alls, panaceas. It’s difficult in this maelstrom of change to be an expert at one thing, never mind a great many. Developing the Antimatter ecosystem globally, we’re trying to be good at one thing – a hedgehog concept, if you like. We are seeking to be good at contributing to meaningful, positive social change through more humane workplaces. We do this by heeding Carl Roger’s advice:

“In my early professional years I was asking the question: ‘How can I treat, or cure, or change this organisation?’ Now I would phrase the question in this way: ‘How can I provide a relationship which this organisation may use for its own personal growth?’.”

~ Carl R. Rogers (paraphrased)

It is inevitable that many people in the market will find it convenient to choose a method, to select what they believe is a methodical solution to all of their problems, and to believe that this solution can work when it involved the workers and is allowed to find its own answers. And I am fine with that. The Antimatter Principle was never about a religious conversion of the masses or an attempt to bring the world of knowledge work to the one true way of behaving. It has always been about meeting folks’ needs, including the collective needs of those things we call “organisations” through an approach that is humane, aligned with the human condition and grounded in the social sciences. It’s about helping people who need help and have sought out a new radical approach, a different way of working to see their needs better and more often met, and to deliver greater satisfaction for all involved.

Conclusion

The Antimatter Transformation Model will coexist with the Kanban Method in the marketplace. People will choose between a modern 21st Century approach to human social challenges or a more familiar approach to change. Choice is good in a marketplace. The Antimatter Principle offers a counter-intuitive, innovative modern approach. The Kanban Method offers something more familiar. People may appreciate having alternatives to evaluate, and from which to select the approach which they feel best meets their needs. Many will choose something that feels familiar and intuitive and we have to accept they know their needs better than we, and rejoice in that. Coexistence of the Antimatter Principle and Kanban is a good thing. Providing alternative approaches to more effective organisations is a good thing. Both approaches will champion the role of people. Both will be marketed as approaches that place people at the heart of the organisation. I find considerable hope and joy in that.

– Bob

Afterword

Realistically, all the above is so much fluff. Attempting to rationalise the benefits of the Antimatter Principle, or the Kanban Method, or indeed any other approach misses the whole point that people don’t make rational choices. They make emotional ones. Engaging with folks’ emotions – their feelings and needs, not least – offers a much more fruitful path to communicate, and hopefully, help.

Are You Just Another Adjunct Of A Unimatrix?

BorgDrone

Are you a drone? Are you amenable to being programmed and reprogrammed? Can someone change your behaviours by simply uploading a different code package? Or by swapping out your knowledge database for another one?

Yet how often do you find yourself being treated as if this were true? As if you were no more than a tiny, swiftly replaceable cog in some faceless bureaucratic machine?

What About Adoption?

Methodologists of all stripes seem to behave as if adoption of their shiny method, process or tool were a given. Create a method that promises to “deliver value to customers faster” and then just believe people will find a way to adopt it. Ideally with lots of expensive consultancy as part of the deal. Or, more naively still, believe that people can be reprogrammed through e.g. training, presentations, documentation, change programmes, extrinsic motivators and managerial edicts to change the way they behave.

I have yet to see a methodology that pays any attention at all to the issues of adoption. Uptake. Transition. Let alone to the sustainability of such adoptions.

It’s About Psychology

I posit this blindness to the issues of adoption arises because, even though a method is seen as largely a process issue, adoption is seen as largely a psychology issue. And process wonks don’t grok psychology. Not at all.

The Antimatter Transformation Model

My previous post introduced a series of transformative questions. Questions which can lead to fundamental transformation of an organisation – the way it works, and the way it thinks. And a consequent fundamental transformation in its effectiveness, too.

What We Now Know About People

What the scientific community “knows” about people, how they relate, socialise and work together, how the brain works, what motivates people, and so on, has changed markedly in recent times. What the general population believes about these topics now lags way behind the science. The Antimatter Transformation Model’s questions emerge from a background of more than a hundred years of Mankind’s directed research into people and how they tick. Specifically:

  • People naturally form ingroups around a sense of shared common purpose.
  • People are almost entirely driven by emotions (primarily seated in the amygdala), rather than logic (the neocortex). Cf. Kahneman, Ariely, Goleman, Lindstrom, et al.
  • People like to have a sense of agency.
  • Folks’ behaviours stem from trying to get their needs met (in the best ways they know how). Cf Nonviolent Communication
  • Collaborative work stands or falls on the quality of the interpersonal relationships between the folks involved.
  • Folks rarely examine their personal or collective assumptions.
  • Collective assumptions limit the strategies available to folks for getting their needs met.
  • Changing folks’ strategies for getting their needs met requires normative learning (learning by doing) and support with e.g. meta-strategies. Cf Seddon, Schwartz-Hebron.
  • Effective cognitive function depends on low distress, high eustress and intrinsic motivation.

– Bob

Further Reading

Watch Out For The Toolheads ~ John Seddon

The Antimatter Transformation Model

Lun-Bear-Tree

Lean bugs me. For no other reason than its blindness to the social sciences. Yes, Toyota and Lean proponents pay lip service to the “Respect For People” principle supposedly at the heart of Lean. But how often does this actually happen in any meaningful way?  And I have issues with the idea of “respect” in any case. I much prefer the idea of empathy to respect.

Ignorance

Maybe ignorance of psychology is not seen as an issue in the world of manufacturing. But I’d suggest application of psychology seems quite relevant in e.g. software development, and in the knowledge-work space more generally. Seeing as how knowledge work, and in particular collaborative knowledge work, involves, you know, people – and relationships.

It beats me why so many folks have this blind spot to applying 100+ years of psychology research to the thorny questions of making our efforts at knowledge work more effective. Not to mention more rewarding. And more joyful.

This is one of my key issues with the whole Lean thing. Its blithe disregard for applying know-how from psychology, sociology and other related disciplines. I’m guessing that disregard comes about not least because Lean implementations are most often left to the auspices of engineers. Folks who inevitably tend to see the world, and the organisation, in terms of a machine metaphor. And people, mainly, as cogs in that machine.

Lean Is A Busted Flush

I’m with John Seddon and his assertion that “Lean is a busted flush”. (Seddon & O’Donovan, 2015)

To illustrate my case, how about we take a look at one of the central planks of the Lean approach, the Lean House:

HouseOfLean

And specifically, John Shook’s Lean Transformation Model

HouseOfLean-Shook

Here’s the five elements of John Shook’s Lean Transformation Model:

  1. What is the purpose of the change–what true north and value are we providing, or simply: what problem are we trying to solve?
  2. How are we improving the actual work?
  3. How are we building capability?
  4. What leadership behaviors and management systems are required to support this new way of working?
  5. What basic thinking, mindset, or assumptions comprise the existing culture, and are we driving this transformation?

The Antimatter Alternative

I offer by way of contrast the Antimatter “Bear sitting under a tree” Transformation Model. Here’s a Chinese pictogram which represent the idea of human relations. I like to see it as a bear – wearing an asian conical hat or dǒulì (斗笠) – sitting taking shade under a tree.

Basic Lun
The Chinese pronounce this symbol as Lún (Hanyu Pinyin). Which means, amongst other things, “Human relations”. I like the image for its organic connotations (bear, tree), compared with the stark, mechanical, engineered “Lean House”. And for the relationship between the bear and the tree – both living things. And for evoking the idea of planting a tree under which future generations might take shade.

“A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

~ Greek proverb

The basis of the Antimatter Transformation Model is the application of aspects of psychology and sociology to the challenges of making our organisations more effective, more (emotionally) rewarding places. And more joyful places. These being entirely complementary aims. The Bear-under-a-tree Model consists of five questions:

  1. What would we all like to have happen?
  2. How do we all feel about the way the work works, now and in the future?
  3. What are our needs, collectively and individually?
  4. In what ways do we all relate to each other presently, and would other ways of relating better help meet our needs?
  5. What do we believe about the nature and purpose of work, generally, and would other beliefs serve us better?

In Detail

Let’s take a look at each of the five questions in a little more detail:

Lun-31. What would we all like to have happen?

In Synergistic organisations, everyone is more or less on the same page with regard to what we’d like to have happen. This shared, common purpose provides the crucible within which productive dialogue can take place, and meaningful relationships can be created and developed. And let’s not talk about problems we have, but rather the way we would like things to be. Maybe some Solutions Focus perspective can come into play here – looking at what’s working well already, that we’d like to see more of.

Lun-42. How do we all feel about the way the work works, now and in the future?

What if we encourage folks to explore and share their feelings? With a safe environment where people feel comfortable and happy to do that. Positive feelings highlight needs that are already being met (and that we’d like to keep right on meeting), while negative feelings point to folks’ needs, often unrealised, that we’d like to start attending to.

 

Lun-53. What are our needs, collectively and individually?

Discussions around feelings lead naturally into discussions around people and their needs. Here also we admit the needs of the organisation itself. When we’ve an honest view on the needs people have, we can use these needs to guide the work we have to do. There’s not much point spending time and effort on meeting needs that no one has, or on needs that are already being well-met.

 

 

Lun-24. In what ways do we all relate to each other presently, and would other ways of relating better help meet our needs?

In collaborative knowledge work, the most significant factor is how folks relate to each other. The canopy of our tree provides the shade in which we can kick back and take the time to build these personal relationships. We might also like to ask ourselves whether our present ways of relating to each other complement or undermine the things we’ve decided we’d like to have happen.

Lun-15. What do we believe about the nature and purpose of work, generally, and would other beliefs serve us better?

The trunk of our tree acts to support the way folks relate to each other, and also as a prop to 1-3 (the bear leaning against the trunk). This is the collective set of assumptions, beliefs and memes (a.k.a. memeplex) held in common across the organisation. These beliefs can either  contribute to, or detract from, the things we’ve decided we’d like to have happen.

 

Designed For Adoption

The Antimatter Transformation Model is not a prescriptive implementation approach, but rather a set of fundamental questions which, if considered and discussed amongst all involved, in the form of an ongoing dialogue or series of conversations, can lead to a fundamental transformation of thinking, and thereby, of organisational culture.

It is not a value-driven approach, but rather a needs-driven approach. Needs always trump value. It makes no assumptions about the efficacy of process, management, or any other concepts in common currency in organisations today. (I call these baggage).

More fundamentally, it builds on research from a range of social sciences, in the belief that this offers an approach much better suited to successful adoption by us fallible, fragile, vulnerable, flaky, human beings.

Conclusion

By working through these questions, any organisation can examine its fundamental assumptions and concepts, maybe for the first time ever. Whatever comes out of this collective self-examination will be a context-dependent outcome closely suited to the needs of all the folks involved.

Finally, I leave you with a couple of Chinese proverbs which resonate with me and with the Antimatter Transformation Model:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

~ Chinese Proverb

“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”

~ Chinese Proverb

– Bob

 

 

Open

“Open to me, so that I may open. Provide me with your inspiration. So that I may see mine.”

~ Rumi

This quote spoke to me, so I thought I might write this post.

I often find inspiration in the words of Rumi, as I do in the lives and works of a significant number of my “Giants“.

More fundamentally, though, I’ve not really dwelt on what inspires me. Now taking the chance to reflect on that, since my youth I’ve always been curious about how things work. And that curiosity has inspired me to study, take things apart, find out how they tick.

That same curiosity, I guess, has driven me to make things. From Meccano, Lego, Airfix and Hornby, through analog and digital electronics, R/C aircraft, helicopters, tanks and boats, to real cars and motorcycles, carpentry, and food. And software, of course. Making things – and fixing things – helps me understand the fundamentals, and satisfy my curiosity.

Early in my career I made some small speciality out of fixing or upgrading software systems where all documentation – and often, source code – had been lost. And from time to time, taking research or prototype systems, again absent documentation or original authors, and turning them into commercial products. Even these days I find a certain self-indulgent catharsis in that kind of work.

And for the longest time, or so it seems, I’ve found inspiration in trying to understand social systems and how they work. Which in no small measure involves trying to understand people. At least, en masse.

And, I guess, I’ve sometime found much inspiration in exploring things together. With other folks who share my curiosity.

I’d love to hear about what inspires you. Would you be willing to share?

– Bob

What If #2 – No Process

What if “process” is one of those concepts from manual work a.k.a. manufacturing that has no place or value in knowledge work? What if “process” is a relatively very poor means (strategy) for getting everyone’s needs met in knowledge work organisations?

What Do We Mean By Process?

“Process” can mean so many different things, to different people. I’ll use the CMMI-style definition as a basis:

“Process: A set of activities, methods, practices, and transformations that people use to develop and maintain [software] systems and associated products.”

In the context of this post, I’m mainly talking about some kind of more or less defined process, somewhat analogous to CMMI Maturity Level 3 (ML3). Generally, I’m talking here about “activities, methods, practices, and transformations” which are defined by some people, and more or less mandated for all people in a team, group or organisation to follow.

Variation

Manufacturing seems to find value in “process” because of the need to reduce variation. When the goal is to produce millions of identical items, any variation is undesirable.

In collaborative knowledge-work, is variation our enemy, or our friend?

It depends.

What is the flawed assumption that is at the root of the conflict here?

Is all knowledge-work alike? Is it homogeneous?

What if there are aspects of e.g. software development that could benefit from a smidgeon of “process”, and some aspects where “process” is a major drag?

Standard Work and Compliance

Even though Ohno made the distinction between “standard work” and compliance to a standardised process, this distinction seems lost on most organisations that place their faith in “process”. People are expected to do the work, not as they find most effective, but as the process specifies. And often, too, little thought is given to how to continually adapt the (standardised) process to keep it effectively aligned to changing conditions.

Typically, then, standardised processes drift away from alignment and effectiveness, toward irrelevance, annoyance, and increasing ineffectiveness.

Process Myopia

If all we have is the idea of process then can we ever see improvement as anything other than “process improvement”?

Aside: This is the origin of the term “Rightshifting” – my attempt to disassociate ends i.e. improvement from means e.g. process.

And if process has no value, then process improvement, however many £thousands or £millions we spend on it, has no value either.

If we attribute performance, productivity to process, and we want more performance and productivity, then naturally we’ll look to improve the process. What if other factors are actually at the root of performance and productivity in knowledge work?

We’d look pretty silly ploughing effort and resources into process improvement then, wouldn’t we?

Psychology

In essence, process thinking is a throwback to Taylor’s Scientific Management, and the idea that workers should simply work and e.g. managers should have absolute dominion over how the work is done. Again, this may have been a sound idea when many manual workers were illiterate and poor local language speakers. And when managers and supervisors knew the work much better than their workers. In today’s knowledge-work organisations, exactly the opposite conditions pertain.

Today’s knowledge workers, then, can only feel frustrated and alienated when unable to work in ways they find effective. Inevitably, this leads to disengagement, low morale, stress, lower cognitive function, learned helplessness, and other undesirable psychological states.

– Bob

Other Posts In This Occasional Series

What If #1 – No Management

 

Those Bastards Need To Get A Grip

I see many, many people projecting their needs onto others. And most often with no awareness that they’re doing that. Or of the consequences.

Examples of Projecting Needs

Here are some examples which might help clarify what I’m talking about:

“My son needs to clear up his room.” No, he probably doesn’t need to do that, from his point of view. More likely the parent needs him to clean up his room. And maybe that’s because the parent has an (unmet) need to live in an orderly, clean house.

“Politicians need to stop lying.” No, they don’t. If they did need to do that, they would do that. More likely the speaker has an (unmet) need for politicians to be more open, transparent, honest, or whatever.

“Minorities need to stop whingeing and suck it up.” No, they don’t need to do that. From their perspective, they probably have a whole bunch of needs they feel are not getting met. And in this case, the speaker probably doesn’t need them to “to stop whingeing and suck it up”, either. More likely the statement is a proxy for some deeper need that the speaker is not even aware of. Maybe he or she needs some special consideration themself, and feels that others (said minorities) getting attention and special consideration is detracting from their own need.

Consequences

Would you be willing to consider the possible consequences of framing your needs in terms of things you believe other people “should” be doing?

–  Bob

Further Reading

Speak Peace In A World Of Conflict ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

Plausible

I’ve been on the receiving end of a bunch of presentations recently. Presentations generally along the lines of “I assume you have this (business) problem, here’s my/our solution for fixing it”.

To most of them, my response has been “Hmmm, plausible”.

And then I channel Feynman:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

– Richard P. Feynman

Then my own natural skepticism kicks in and I end up thinking “Meh“. Followed closely by “Witch doctors”. And “Pseudoscience”.

Falsifiability

Feynman suggests we look for all the details that could cast doubt on an idea.

“In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.”

– Richard P. Feynman

I have to confess I’m crap at this myself.

The Laity

Feynman goes on to discuss the relationship between scientists and lay people. Maybe his assertion holds equally for the relationship between specialist or expert, and non-expert, too:

“If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing – and if they don’t support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.”

– Richard P. Feynman

I’d very much like to act congruently with Feynman’s admonitions. I’d really like to be able to test my ideas. I just don’t understand how to do that in my field (broadly speaking, social science). And so I often prefer to keep my ideas to myself. And take the stance of therapist, rather than pseudo-scientist.

I do wonder how many prospective clients would give a damn about “scientific” results in any case. It seems like most are just fine with Witch doctors and cargo cult science, thank you all the same.

– Bob

Further Reading

Cargo Cult Science ~ Richard Feynman

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