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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: The path to collaborative achievement

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Friday, January 8, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Many managers operate under a false premise: That they have to make decisions when confronted with unavoidable tradeoffs.  Quality versus cost, safety versus productivity, etc.

The problem with the mindset trade off is that it is rooted in an arrogant pessimism.

Quality, safety, cost, yield, responsiveness and so forth are all derivative measures, the consequence of how the complex interactions among people and technology are managed. To focus on trade offs–that to get more of something means you have to give up something else–means you assume you are extracting as much cumulative value out of your work as possible.

To believe that true, you have to assume you already know all there is to know about how that work can be done–an arrogant view no doubt.  Or, you have to assume that even if there is more to discover, you’ve maxed out your own capacity.  A fairly pessimistic framing.

An alternative is humble optimism: the humility to acknowledge that whatever you can achieve today, is less than what is possible according to laws of chemistry and physics.  The optimism that with effort, openness and engagement, you can move from where you are to better understanding.

The former posture–arrogant pessimism lends itself to confrontation.  Someone’s gain has to be someone’s loss.  The latter posture–if practiced lends itself to cooperation and collaborative achievement.

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