I learned a long time ago that everyone is right. I’m one of those people with strong principles, and I’ve always seen it as my job to teach, show, or even cudgel others into the ‘correct’ (which means ‘my’) way of thinking. When this involves like minded people, and a few beers, everyone has a great time with the debate.
However, when this involves others who are also trying to convince me of their point of view, trouble abounds!
So, with the influence of some of the great teachers I have had the fortune to benefit from, I came to the conclusion that everyone is right. From their point of view that is.
I developed the knack of sitting on other peoples hilltops and looking at their view of the world. Now, this doesn’t mean I agree with them, but it does at least mean I understand their perspective. And generally, from their perspective, they are right.
And so am I.
In fact, I got so good at this, I started to really admire, but then worry about people who have definite views, views that they are 100% sure of, no matter what argument or evidence to the contrary is advanced. You know the types, the ones who tell everyone else how to live, and who are minutely concerned with everyone else and what everyone else is up to, rather than getting on with things and just minding their own business.
And I’m reminded of that at the moment, with this latest in a long line of elections upon us, we are surrounded once again with opinions and arguments.
The trouble is, they all sound so plausible don’t they? I couldn’t make up my mind about Brexit because everyone seemed to talk a lot of sense. Apart from of course, the hysterical among us like the tabloids and that bloke in the pub.
While I eventually came down on one side, it was a long intellectual journey to get there. Because I could hop from one hill top to another, I was constantly changing my mind, agreeing with different parts of the argument at different times.
And its the same now. I agree with points all the parties make. Im more strongly inclined towards one for sure, but then I’ll think of something one of the competition says and think ‘Well, that makes sense’ and I’m back to debating all over again.
But I have noticed one thing. One technique that everyone seems to use, and I genuinely believe it does more to hold us back, politically for sure, but also from a business perspective, than anything else.
And that thing is this. People are more interested in going backwards to establish blame, than they are going forward with a new plan.
So, one party says something about how an idea is no longer a good idea – and everyone agrees, until someone points out, that a few years ago when that party was in power, they introduced that idea in the first place!
And the ‘lets move forward’ to fix that, is lost in a cacophony of ‘its your fault anyway’ coming from all sides.
Or look at business, and take business transformation in particular. Someone says ‘it would be a good idea to do X’ And everyone agrees!
But then you need to work out who is going to deliver X.
And everyone is just pointing at each other and saying, ‘Well, they usually do that stuff’. Or someone else points somewhere else and says ‘That won’t work, because of A and B and C!’
Then someone else comes along and says ‘If we’d done this other thing in the first place we wouldn’t be in this mess! And so on and so on.
Before you know it, the argument has just revolved around so many times, no one knows what you are talking about anymore!
And other arguments have sprung up. As a manager, you find you have to fix that thing from three steps back in the process, before you can move to the place you suggested being at the beginning of the disussion.
And thats a whole other thing. That part of the process has been broken for years, and no one has done anything about it because the accepted wisdom is that it can’t be done.
Before you know it, you are mired in the past. Bogged down by ghosts of what happened before, regurgitated opinions, no facts mind you, opinions, and endless to-ing and fro-ing.
All the same points are made over and over again. And because none of it has ever made any sense, all anyone can resort is trying to pin the blame for the most fundamental issue (assuming we can at least agree on that!) on some poor, by now, completely dispirited individual.
There is another way.
Forget the past. What went wrong, who did what, why they did it and what that meant at the time. Whats the point in raking over those old, cold coals now? I don’t care who said what and when, and I don’t care about why this happened 5 years ago and what the consequences of that were.
All I want to know is how do we more forward?
How do we get where we want to be?
Guess what? If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. So in moving forward, expect to have to do things differently, OK?
Expect the unexpected, expect to have to learn new things. Expect to have your beliefs challenged and your ideas examined.
But in a positive ‘Can this be done?’ sort of way, not a ‘We tried this before and it didn’t work sort of way’.
And maybe if the politicians spent more time convincing us the plan is going to work, and less time blaming each other for things that happened in the past, we would finally start to get somewhere!