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Quote of the Week comes from Albert Einstein

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leadership: Economy of Thought Part 1

Language as the means of communication can be a powerful tool or a debilitating enemy. We think in pictures as children but are taught to use our words as we grow. Many adults eventually think only in words, while dreaming replaces “thinking in pictures”. When it comes to business affairs, Leaders are often required to think in terms of red or black ink; the bottom line is either positive or negative; decisions are made between this thing or that thing. Apparently, this often required line of thinking has become always required. And required for all things, required for every thing. We fail to see in the full colors of the spectrum nowadays, reducing all we see to shades of black or white. We are compelled by some need to speed up decision making. Have we gone too far with our economy of thought and thinking?

The world at large has followed the mindset and example of our Leaders and subsequently we have all been taught to think in similar decisive and numeric terms that extend well beyond the reach of the military or the stock market. Sons and daughters killed in action are referred to in the news as the number of casualties sustained, so named by willful design. Casualties sounds so, well, casual; like something easy or relaxed, that it’s hard to imagine we are referring to the death and dying of our youths.

The real meaning of what is being said is camouflaged and diluted, intended to breed a sense of complacency.  Casualties invokes a much lesser emotional charge than thoughts of death or dying. We tend to forget the casualties we are talking about were real living, breathing people who sacrificed their very lives for us. We forget that other real people around the world who are just like us are now mourning the loss of a father, mother, sister, brother, or friend. We isolate the pain of war to those who suffer a direct loss rather than sharing the loss between us, even though the sacrifice of life was made for all. Militaries around the world have their reasons for desensitizing us to the numbers of dead and dying, as well as plausible reasoning whereby some swift decisions are clearly essential and necessary.

The prevalent thinking today is that we should use this same restrictive, limited (and often misleading), thriftiness in thought to define ourselves and each other, and further, to allow these thrifty thoughts to govern all of our endeavors - not just wars. (Did we get what we paid for?) The dehumanization of our vocabulary , borrowed from the military and applied to economics (meaning the work place), has brought us daily estrangement from our emotions for most of our waking hours.  Worse yet, this constant estrangement eventually  supplants the voice of our conscience, the heart of our values. It needs to when we are required to kill our enemies in battle.  Does it also need to in our places of work or of leisure? Don't we also stifle creativity, strangle innovation, and diminish all joy, if we lose these vital connections within ourselves?

We are not free to be free-thinkers anymore. We are collectively imprisoned and confined to a very small thinking box consisting largely of active verbs and a hefty measure of numbers. What seems lacking in economic thinking is some evidence of any human virtues - particularly those that might be born of kindness or compassion. The pace at which we operate and move from thing to thing leaves little time to pause or to reflect. The application of Pace and Command leadership styles are also borrowed from the military. Are we, perhaps, causing ourselves greater harm, than greater good, with this militaristic economy of thought applied to the office and our business affairs?

Why would we want an economy of thought about anything we thought was important? Why not an abundance of thinking, expansive thinking, unlimited thinking? And particularly expansive for what is important? Are we so far removed from reality with our present way of thinking that the lost lively-hoods of millions of people now seems unimportant to all but those directly affected? Has our thinking “progressed” so that these hardworking mothers and fathers have merely become nameless and faceless "Ranks of the Unemployed"; our latest “casualties” of war? What is this new civil war and who’s on what side? And why?

Don't we all agree that unrestricted and thoughtful consideration, ensures a lesser likelihood that we have overlooked or disregarded relevant information (that might prove critical to our decisions) as we head on down these roads? Fail safe contingency plans, for example? How many things in life are really so important that the fast choice is better than the right choice, carefully considered, within a broader context? Is the entire world out there a battle-field where instant decisions spell the difference between life and death or are we simply thinking and acting “as if” they do? When should we stop pretending as if and collectively face some truths of the real world results of applying an economy of thought to all things?

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