Digging out of your RUT-imentary Thinking

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to enhance your innovative problem-solving. Reading time: 3:11.

         Twelve board members scanned the AGENGA just before the start of the meeting. It took four meetings of the same attendees looking at different meeting’s AGENGA before anyone mentioned that the word –Agenda –was misspelled.  We see what we expect to see. And no more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   We can get too comfortable seeing things the way we always have. After all,  every meeting starts with an Agenda or Agenga. Close enough. Not really.

         Your short hand for sighting can be shortsighted. Consider the first time Galileo demonstrated his telescope. No one at first pointed it to look at the stars.

         Merchants saw the telescope as a tool to get advanced notice of the ships heading for harbor.

        Hunters saw the newly invented telescope as a tool to hunt game.

       And military leaders saw the newly-invented telescope as a tool to fight wars.

                 Indeed it’s too easy to imprison ourselves in the familiar. It’s comforting  to guard against the new and the unfamiliar. That’s why the most effective leaders guard against that kind of Rut-imentary thinking when we get fenced in by our own minds. Stuck in a rut.

Wasp looking for a grasshopper for dinner

          We become like the wasp so set in their ways the wasp would rather starve than adapt to a change. Wasps routinely drag grasshoppers by their antenna for dinner. But if the grasshopper’s antenna are cut, the wasp will not even try to drag the grasshopper by its legs. All 6 of those legs are just overlooked. Stuck in a rut.

        We get stuck in our ruts like the proverbial fleas. Fleas can be trained to constrain their jumping ability. They can be taught to jump only half as high as they normally could. Those fleas can easily get stuck in their rut-i-mentary thinking. Put fleas in an open jar that is half the size of the height they can routinely jump and they can’t jump out. Stuck in  a rut.


         Spinning our thinking wheels in those ruts, we wind thoughts like a coiled Slinky around a limited attention span . And like a Slinky we can only uncoil or react in one way to change. We yield our thinking to others and the results can often be comical if not downright frustrating.

      You’ve no doubt smiled at the story of the cook who would always cut the two ends of a ham off before putting in the oven. The cook was only following precedence. Her mother had also cut the two ends of ham to fit in the pan she owned at the time. Today, that pan is long gone but the behavior continues.   Rut-i-mentary.

      The only thing worse than being stuck in a rut in your thinking is in thinking you have The Tool to fix your errant thinking. The problem is your tool box is stuck in a rut when the only tool you have is a hammer. Then every problem begins to look like a nail, as psychologist Abraham Maslow once observed.

        The toolbox of bonafide leaders is filled with a sense of intuition, a sense of humor, a sense of creativity, a sense of duty, a sense of enthusiasm, a sense of perspective , a sense of irony. And common sense that often isn’t so common–even when you’re following an AgenGa.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Beware of the familiar to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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