Skip to main content

Maximize Your Most Valuable Asset


Whack-a-mole is a game where you stand over a machine with a bunch of holes on the bottom. Faces pop up really quickly, and you smash them down as fast as you can.

It's fun.
As adults we experience whack-a-mole all the time, except that the reality of it is not so fun.

Overwhelmed by problems, some expected and most of them not, we bring that mallet down on the board. Faster, faster, we tell ourselves, hoping the timer won't run out until we're ready.

What can we do to make our lives easier and more manageable? How can we reduce the onslaught of tasks, requirements, challenges, puzzles, deadlines and demands that seem to have no end?

The answer might lie in the way we think about "problem" and "solution."

Chris Argyris was a pioneer of "double-loop" learning for organizations, which he developed as a way of helping them transform from dysfunctional and "stuck" to agile and adaptive--in essence, to help them learn.

The task as he saw it was to overcome "single-loop learning," meaning the tendency to focus on a presenting problem and tackle it with an incremental and obvious solution.

The sophisticated organization practices "double-loop learning," meaning they challenge their assumptions about what the problem is before devising a strategy in response.

Double-loop learning is uncomfortable and even risky -- there's no doubt about it.
  • It makes you slow down, when all you want to do is hurry up and allay the anxiety of knowing that something is wrong.
  • It exposes the wound for all to see, when everybody wants to cover it up.
  • It makes the people involved feel pain, when everyone would vastly prefer a horse-sized tranquilizer dart.
  • It makes people look at the consequences of others' behavior, creating the possibility of organizational conflict.
  • It makes people accountable for their own actions, which exposes them to the potential loss of status, material benefits and even legal liability.
But if the organization -- and by extension, the individual -- can tolerate all of the above, the potential benefits they stand to gain are enormous.

If "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result" -- then it follows that sanity means changing the way you do things when necessary.

By engaging in double-loop learning, over and over again, over time, you not only learn how to handle a current challenge better but you also learn how to prevent future problems from occurring.

This is essentially the practice of branding in a nutshell. Branding means reflection. It is a long-term, preventive approach to your professional life and your personal life. The emphasis is on thinking through what your assumptions are, and holding them up to evidence, before you make any decisions.

A simpler way of saying all of this is as follows: Your most valuable asset is the capacity to reflect.

Some people say that time is the most valuable commodity in the world, and whoever has lots of it is wealthy.

But most people have time on their hands. And too often, they waste it.

I would argue that the capacity to reflect is what makes your time valuable.

If you regularly think about what you're doing, and whether it makes sense, and what the likely future impact will be -- that is a great use of your time.

Every minute you spend reflecting is a way of challenging your own deeply held assumptions about the world.

The result will be a more effective method of handling things. In other words, less heads popping up from that whack-a-mole machine.

I'm reminded of a joke my father-in-law, may he rest in peace, used to tell so very well.

"Little boy, why are you banging your head against the wall like that, over and over again?"

"Because it feels so good when I stop."

_________________

All opinions my own. Main photo: Geralt/Pixabay (Public Domain). Whack-a-mole photo: Emil Ovemar via Flickr (Creative Commons). Single- vs. Double-Loop Learning Graphic: Ian Guest via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

________________
All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.