Skip to content

Don't let pig-headedness spoil a perfectly good idea

“No it will be fine, just around the next corner! This map is ridiculous, we must be there by now…. stupid instructions!” How many times have I put my family through fruitless extra hours trapped in a car rammed with luggage with the added stress of a lost and bewildered and it has to be admitted - often quite cross driver! And all because the stubborn bloke at the wheel wouldn't stop and ask for directions…

I have a shrewd suspicion that my rather pig-headed approach to navigation might -on occasion- be also reflected in my work and I wonder whether in a moment of honest reflection you would admit to the same niggling admission. As project professionals we are paid to solve problems in the most efficient way possible for our sponsors, but this often turns into 'coming up with a new solution to every problem.'

An obscure verse in the Bible says 'there is nothing new under the sun' (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV)… and its true! Why oh why then do we maintain a stubbornly resistant pig-headedness to the re-use of perfectly good ideas.

I think that there are a number of different forces at work and that it might be thought provoking to rehearse three:

  • 'The Poker effect' - as the late Terry Pratchett wrote in Unseen Academicals, its a short step from 'Adopt, Adapt, Improve' to 'Steal, Use, and Look Innocent.' To create an atmosphere were lessons are shared and learned, we need to make sure that people are properly credited otherwise they won't share.
     
  • 'The Goldfish effect' - corporate and personal forgetfulness has the consistent repeatable effect of allowing the same mistakes to be made over and over again. Learning lessons is not something that can just happen by chance it needs to be systematically pursued both personally and corporately. How many of us keep a personal log of lessons as opposed to relying upon our (perfectly recalled) memories to not repeat the same errors?
     
  • 'Pig headedness' - that very human quality that even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary continues to maintain that we know best!

Ladies and gentlemen, the power is in our hands. How about a future in which we can avoid the pitfalls that others have had, at the same time helping others avoid our personal collection of bear traps? 

And finally… for heavens sake if there is an established well worn methodology for a problem we need to solve – let's use it!

Just a thought!
 

1 comments

Join the conversation!

Log in to post a comment, or create an account if you don't have one already.

  1. James Dale
    James Dale 25 February 2016, 05:06 PM

    Hi Colin.  Your excellent piece has triggered the grey matter.  Firstly  -  why are intelligent, professional people apparently so reluctant to learn in these circumstances?  Secondly, what has become of the 'learning organisation' so much has been written about? The sad truth is that the higher up we are in organisations and the greater our status the less likely we are to admit mistakes.  People talk of reflective practice but as you suggest very few people subscribe to the art.  I love the innate simplicity of Rolfe's 'what', 'so what' 'what next' model which I now try and use.  I wish I had learnt about the reflective arts when I embarked upon my managerial career, more years ago than I care to admit.The term learning organisations is a misnomer.  Its the people in them (not the organisations) that need to learn and apply lessons from the past.    The challenge for senior management is to convert the lingo of the learning organisation into a culture where people are encouraged to be reflective practitioners and share every type of lesson.  For many organisations that requires a seismic shift in culture.