Yang: Simple Ideas

Simple Ideas
By ELENA YANG

Summer fantasies and lite-writing are supposed to be over…well, summer isn’t officially over, and I allow myself to cross my “black line” every so often. Black line, as in “black words,” shows on your computer white background.

The first simple idea is this: What if we dropped packages of Sarin antidote in Syria?

Do I cross the line into politics? Not really. Geopolitics has a profound impact on economics and organizations. Wall Street developed an allergic reaction to just the speculation of a potential strike against Syria, lowering the Dow Jones indices; it is likely to have a fit over the actual US attack to Syria.

This simple idea, dropping packages of antidote, is similar to the concept of parrying away a frontal attack. I studied Karate two life-times ago. In a confrontational stance, trading blow for blow, both parties could sustain injuries. By deflecting away the force of a striking blow, I stop trading and stand a better chance to upset my opponent’s balance. While it’s a particularly useful self-defense technique for someone of smaller stature, it can help conserve energy for big fellows as well. 

Aside from whether my “simple” idea is feasible (and I know perfectly well it would incur significant medical risks while being of limited medical benefit), the point is that sometimes a glancing blow may accomplish more than a direct frontal attack. This is true in politics and management. 

Still on this theme of simplicity, here is a simple analogy for organizations: pursuing your goals like a cheetah, or a snake.

The cheetah selects her prey and uses all her strength to chase it. Being the fastest animal on four legs, a cheetah has just about 50-50 success rate of catching prey. But when she finally catches it, she’s too exhausted to eat it right away, and then she has to contend with opportunists, like hyenas, wild dogs, or lions. By contrast, a snake assesses a territory or identifies a pathway where suitable prey may be expected, and waits. When he strikes, most of the time, he catches the unfortunate target and swallows it whole. 

When a human group/organization/manager aims for something, which strategy should it (or manager) emulate? We anthropomorphize the animal world and assign value to various species. So, cheetahs are majestic and noble; snakes are cold-blooded and sneaky; and hyenas are just odious. Right. Of course they are just animals doing what their instincts and nature have taught them to do. But if we humans can set aside prejudice, we can learn a lot more from animals. Perhaps we can learn to complement each other by acknowledging, respecting, and perhaps even encouraging, both cheetah-like and snake-like strategies according to circumstances. 

But I am so not emulating hyenas. That’s a line I don’t cross.

Fantasy can lead to creative solutions. Do you have stories of fantasy to share?

Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

Direct Contact:  taso100@gmail.com

Editor’s note: Dr. Yang has a PhD in Management from the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at Wharton for a number of years, and consulted for small groups and small organizations and on cross-cultural issues. Her professional worldview comprises three pillars: 1. All organizations are social systems in which elements are inter-related. 2. To improve organizations, the focus should be on the positive dimensions on which to build. This philosophical foundation is Appreciative Inquiry. 3. Yang subscribes to the methodological perspective that she is part of the instrument from which to gain quality data from respondents, and with which to compare and contrast with others’ realities.

CSTsiteisloaded