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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Managing Our Humanness

If we have belly buttons, we are human. Being human we are endowed with a host of really great capabilities – really good things. These capabilities can create right thinking and right acting, however we can right think and right act for all the wrong reasons. It has been said that no one looks into the crib of their newborn child and says. “How can I screw up this kid’s life?” Nonetheless, our good intentions can foster something other than good results because we have belly buttons – because we are human. We are not perfect we can only balance what we have for the best possible outcome. Consider these ways in which to manage our humanness when dealing with an issue.

Overcome the belly button syndrome (when enough is enough)

Whether we actually have distinct brain levels, we do know that the brain functions in three ways. These three ways make up the Triune Brain. The Triune brain consists of:

  • The reptilian brain - am I safe, comfortable and are the basic needs to sustain my life available (food, water, shelter)?
  • The mammalian brain – am I loved, cared for, respected and recognized as an individual and as part of a group?
  • The primate brain –can I think my through new situations based on what I know and my ability to reform information and knowledge in such a way to adapt to the new situation?

The difficulty we run into being belly button based, is when we get stuck in any one of these functions and begin to examine our belly buttons. We do too much in one area to the detriment of the others and to the issue at hand. The ways and ramifications of stuckness in these areas get us stuck in.

Concerns for our safety and survival (reptilian brain)

The most common reference heard lately regarding this area is called the “amygdala hijack”. Deep in our brain lies the amygdala which when activated through fear or anger focuses our brain on the danger at hand and mobilizes the rest our functions for the purpose of safety. To do so, it shuts down the other functions of the brain. We know longer feel (mammalian) or think logically (primate) which keep us from functioning as fully human. While this had a very valuable function when physical survival (eat or be eaten) was our primary concern and still has an important function during physical threats (robbery, physical harm, natural disasters). It does, however, far less for us in perceived threats such as:

  • Potential job loss or demotion
  • Organizational change
  • Lack of recognition or appreciation
  • An offhanded remark or lack of response from others
  • Differences in communication (learning styles, ethnic and cultural differences)
  • Role and gender differences

Concerns for our personhood

We all have the need to be loved and be recognized. People deprived of such exposure, in the extreme, have severe mental and physical difficulties the results of which can handicap them for life. While all of us don’t get all the love and attention we want, on the whole we get all we need. It is human to want to transcend our humanness and be something greater. Finish on time and under budget, to stand above the rest is a vision that propels us into long hours and dreams of promotion, recognition and wealth. But we do have belly buttons – we are human and are finite. While there are times we may be able to reach our lofty goals, as humans we can mostly do the best until we can do better.

Embrace your belly button (when good enough is enough for now)

We can only work with what we have and though we have a lot, we are not unlimited. Analysis paralysis happens when we avoid movement because we don’t have all the information and "feel” ready. This may stem from the old notion of “get it right the first time” and while in our past when plans and results had a shelf life of more than a 90 day planning cycle this may have been possible. Today, it is not. Despite our desire and efforts to get it right the first time and hit the target at the bulls eye, today the target moves, the bulls eye is not always at the center and we often can’t wait until all the darts are in our hands. We see it every day:

  • Jobs we have targeted are frozen due to a downturn in the market
  • Regulations change, forcing unwanted interruptions in our service and product delivery
  • New competition ignites a cost war and a once well held position of product and service quality comes under question
  • A rise in benefit costs forces a change in the workforce development and planning

How can we possibly be right? The better solution is to accept as humans, in a dynamic, global market, we will never be perfect, data will not always be complete and tools may not always be at the ready. Accepting this we can then do with what we have and complete our best efforts at a healthy cycle of development. The effectiveness of the turnkey answer is diminishing. So is the one time solution. In its place we need to create multiple cycles of development and delivery adjusting along the way through subsequent low cost, quick cycles. It all started with Micro Soft and Apple. The good artist ships knowing that no work of art is complete. It is only done for now. Embrace you belly button. Accept your humanness. Do the best you can for now. Move on.


JB Bryant said...

Excellent insights, Mark. It could be said that people management is only necessary because of our belly buttons.

Chris Brown said...

Thanks for bring up the point about "good enough being good enough for now", because it does feel like things are moving so fast it's difficult to get something "done." Even writing my blog gets tough = "my post isn't insightful enough" or "it needs a clever headline." You know, the on and on of the internal editor.

I appreciate you recognizing and putting a name on this! Thanks!