Coming and going matter far more than what happens in the middle.
Tearing off the bandage.
Meeting someone new.
Getting on the airplane, getting off of it.
Ending a feud.
We mistakenly spend most of our time thinking about, working on and measuring the in-between parts, imagining that this is the meat of it, the important work. In fact, humans remember the transitions, because it's moments of change and possibility and trepidation that light us up.
Challenge one: Believing that the solution you've got (the person you want to hire, the strategy you want to implement, the decision you want to make) is the one and only way to make the problem go away or take advantage of the opportunity.
Falling in love with your solution makes it incredibly difficult to see its flaws, to negotiate with people who don't agree with you, to find an even better solution.
And, on the other side of the table...
Challenge two: When you find someone who is pitching a solution you don't like, it's tempting to deny that there's much of a problem at all. After all, if you diminish the problem, you won't have to accept the solution that's on the table.
But of course, the problem is real. The dissatisfaction or inefficiency or wrong direction isn't going to go away merely because we deny it.
It's amazing how much we can get done when agree to get something done.
A neighbor recently put in some new sidewalk. As usual, the workman interrupted the unbroken swath of perfect concrete with lines every three feet.
What are the lines for?
Well, the ground shifts. When it does, perfect concrete cracks in unpredictable ways, often ruining the entire job. When you put the breakpoints in on purpose, though, the concrete has a chance to absorb the shifts, to degrade effectively.
This is something we often miss in design and in the creation of customer experiences. We're so optimistic we forget to put in the breakpoints.
There's no doubt the ground will shift. The question is: when it does, will you be ready?
Human beings suffer from scope insensitivity.
Time and again, we're unable to put more urgency or more value on choices that have more impact. We don't donate ten times as much to a charity that's serving 10 times (or even 100 times) more people. We don't prioritize our interest or our urgency based on scale, we do it based on noise.
And yet, too often, we resort to a narrative about big numbers.
It doesn't matter that there are more than 6,000 posts on this blog. It could be 600 or 60. It won't change what you read next.
It doesn't matter if a library has a million books instead of a hundred thousand.
It doesn't matter how many people live without electricity.
Of course it matters. What I meant to say is that when you're about to make a decision of scale, right here and right now, if the number is more than ten, the scope of the opportunity or problem will almost certainly be underestimated.
But they're useful.
That's why professionals use them to teach, to learn and to understand.
A metaphor takes what we know and uses it as a lever to understand something else. And the only way we can do that is by starting with the true thing and then twisting it into a new thing, a thing we'll be able to also understand.
(Of course, a metaphor isn't actually a lever, a physical plank of wood that has a fulcrum, which is precisely my point).
The difference between the successful professional and the struggling amateur can often be seen in their respective facility with metaphor. The amateur struggles to accept that metaphor is even acceptable ("are atoms actually building blocks?") or can't find the powerful analogy needed to bring home the concept. Because all metaphors aren't actually true, it takes confidence to use them well.
If you're having trouble understanding a disconnect, or are seeking to explain why something works or doesn't, begin with a metaphor. "Why is this new thing a lot like that understood thing..."
Metaphors aren't true, but they work.
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