I stumbled upon a very interesting realization.
I met a few people who are part of a sports club last week in Delhi. They were in the middle of a Cricket tournament. When I asked them how it was going for them, they told me they weren’t winning much. When I asked why, they said, “The team is not motivated enough, we think.”
Just now I happened to read a note from a scientist on ‘Abstract Entities’ – “Entities like Atoms or Enzymes. Has anybody ever seen an atom or enzyme? Has anybody talked to them or touched them? They probably do exist but we know it through logic and not through any direct information? Therefore in hard sciences when we can no longer use our senses we start to use abstract entities.”
We all rely on abstract entities as everything cannot be verified by direct observation. Therefore a statement like ‘team is not motivated’ is fuzzy logic. This is circular logic. It is a trap. Not winning because not motivated. In a normal environment, therefore we might start working on ‘motivation exercises’. Whereas the real cause may be that they aren’t motivated because the matches are played on Sundays and they rather be with their families.
We need to be very careful with abstract entities. Ask yourself – Why do we accept it? How do we know the team didn’t have enough motivation? The answer most likely is, “They lost the game, didn’t they?” – Circular Logic.
The reason I am pointing all this out is that ‘circular logic’ prevents clear thinking and therefore prevents breakthroughs.
The key to a breakthrough is very simple – embarrassingly simple – avoid circular logic – that’s all. Never say, ‘I know because of this’
I was consulting with a software company sometime back who were experiencing lower sales in a particular product. When I asked them why are the sales down. Their reply was that the market is changing. Can you see that – Circular Logic – you don’t have a root cause. There can be plenty of reasons – like a downturn in economy, or new competition, or deterioration in service or increase in prices. There was no attempt or reason to prefer any one of these over the other.
On deeper analysis we figured another effect as a result of declining sales. The sales of another alternative product increased by a similar amount. What next? This again comes back to the cause that market taste is changing. You see they weren’t losing overall so it was ok to conclude this. Obviously in a situation as this the only plausible explanation is that market conditions have changed. However what is the cause for the cause. Is it important?
Whenever you see yourself concluding an argument on an ‘abstract entity’ or ‘circular logic’ be rest assured you putting aside a breakthrough for the taking.
When we made the senior management delve deeper into this particular ‘low sales of a product’ – it was discovered that because of a launch of the new product, the marketing team was hyping it by offering attractive discounts and launch offers. This resulted in a self compete situation where the market preferred a new and cheaper product which does about 85% of the job. Yes, obviously the market taste is changing but we now have a root cause. So where is the breakthrough?
Once they knew this, they realized, they can’t sell both products and sustain sales. We decided then to stop selling the first product and give it for free and sell services related to it. This was aimed at a different market - the one’s who needed the missing 15% performance. The price of this was almost doubled. Two things happened – The new product sold more as it was now less confusing for everyone, inside and outside. Secondly the new division was created to sell services – with much higher profitability. They outsold the previous sales highs of this product in no time at all.
You see whenever one uses circular logic – it doesn’t get substantiated. To make sense one needs to substantiate a cause (for example substantiate market taste). To substantiate a cause another effect is needed (for example increase in sales of another product) that can be verified by direct observation. Otherwise we will forever be faced with a dead end. More importantly we’ll be ignoring the opportunity for a breakthrough.
This is true for everything. Look around you, think – think of decisions, problems… anything. Let’s see.
Business is down because economy is down. (Abstract – Economy is down from 9 to 7% - I bet your business is more down than that)!!!!
I work long hours because I have a lot to do. (Get real – you work long hours because either its work culture for your company or you are poor at time management or you cannot say no to work or you are avoiding going home early or you are just plain slow and lazy)
I want to start reading but I just don’t have the time (Circular – Cannot read, no time. No time so how can I read. In a recent coaching session we figured that hiring a driver freed two hours for a person to read.)
Weight problem is genetic. It runs in the family. (Most absurd – Go run before you decide it does)
This can be endless. The point is one needs to be simple about all this. A very simple fact is that a cause will have more than one effect so think both, not just the abstract entity.
I’d like to take one more example to drive a final message. The reason as to why we settle for abstract entities.
The example - the most popular circular logic - “We cannot implement XYZ because people resist change”
What do we mean by people resisting change. Since the statement does not quantify itself it basically means that people may resist almost any change under any circumstances – good or bad- even though it may potentially transform their lives.
This is so widely accepted that it is almost crazy. Lets go deeper. What is implied by saying that people resist change? We are essentially saying that people are conditioned to just simply resist, irrespective of the benefits of the proposed change. They just assume otherwise and resist it. People are programmed to resist. People includes you and me. You and I therefore also have an inability to make people understand ‘good change’. Isn’t this all very silly? What are we doing? Does this say good things about people? Not really. This is derogatory. It’s a negative way to behave and / or deal with things both for people who are resisting and those who are saying it.
In other words people are comfortable being derogatory about themselves and about others.
That’s unfortunately the culture we are part of. In fact this statement is so widely accepted that everyone uses it. So everyone lives this culture.
Therein lies the underlining truth about abstract entity – we use it, accept it because we rather hide behind ‘derogatory assumed realities’ than actually change things.
We rather accept that we don’t have the brains to manage time better, that we will keep looking unfit but blame it on another generation, that business is down 20% but economy is down 1%, that we are so silly that we will deny ourselves of knowledge from books in the name of working more, that we cannot change because people resist change, that we rather further pass derogatory remarks on people in concluding they are like this or that than actually resolve an issue, that we rather say that we are completely helpless than look to change another person’s perspective, that we rather accept a compromised life than resolve relationships, that we rather knowingly get addicted to things and further insult ourselves than living healthy…………… We are just so comfortable being derogatory about us……………
Why do we do all this? Why do we live in these entities, in circular fuzzy logic? Look there is a potential breakthrough in all of the above statements only if we remover the circular logic and think clearly. But we don’t do it. We rather be circular, knowingly derogatory, than clearer. Why? I have been asking this question to myself. I have no answer. Actually I do.
We are very stupid. Almost to the point of not using the brains that we have.
Its simple logic, yet we will still make an assumption that breakthroughs have to be complicated and cannot be so simple. And that’s probably because in our minds we don’t think we deserve better. Derogatory again!
The easiest and quickest way to a breakthrough is to remove circular logic and think clearly. It can be achieved in a matter of seconds.