Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 7, Issue 39;   September 26, 2007: The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated

The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated

by

In fiction and movies, the world is often simple. There's a protagonist, a goal, and a series of obstacles. The protagonists and goals are good, and the obstacles are bad. Real life is more complicated.

In the world of entertainment, it's easy to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, and beautiful from ugly. That's part of what makes entertainment entertaining, because it shields us from the cares and confusion and nuance of reality, and lets us enter a world of clarity and simplicity and thrilling success. But when we expect the same of the real world, we're choosing a path that leads to trouble.

The giant sequoia

The giant sequoia, the largest tree species on Earth. Sequoia seeds germinate best when they come into direct contact with mineral-rich soil, which is a rare event in forests carpeted with leaf litter and debris. Fire tends to clear the forest floor, which helps the sequoia seeds by exposing the soil. It also opens areas of the forest that the young trees need to grow. For more, see "USGS Studies Wildfire Ecology in the Western United States Part 1." Photo courtesy U.S. National Climatic Data Center of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The complexity of reality appears in almost everything we do at work — workplace politics, negotiations, making design trade-offs — even choosing friends and allies. We have to "take the good with the bad" so often that the phrase itself is a cliché. Accepting what we don't want as a means of getting what we do want isn't always hypocritical — rather, it can be an acknowledgement of the variety and complexity of the real world.

Little in life — some say nothing in life — is all good or all bad. Even that statement is mixed. It means that the most horrible events can have some good consequences — difficult as they might be to see at first. Just as there are trees whose seeds cannot germinate until fire chars their forests, there are projects that cannot find funding until bankruptcy threatens their companies.

And even the most wonderful events can have some bad consequences — unwilling as we might be to see them at first. Rain falling on arid land is the salvation of most of the plants it visits — except those living in the no-longer-dry arroyos that carry the inevitable flash floods. And successful market-dominating products can lead companies to concentrate on existing customers longer than they should, freezing those companies out of new opportunities until too late.

If we choose to, we can usually find the bad in any experience. That can be worthwhile, when finding it leads to learning, or when it helps us avert failure. It can also be wasteful, when focusing on the bad drains us of energy or leads us to miss whatever joy or thrill the experience offers.

Little in life — some
say nothing in life — is
all good or all bad
And we can also choose to emphasize the good of any experience. Sometimes the good is hard to find, or we must put some time or distance between the experience and ourselves to fully grasp the good. Finding that good can give the experience meaning, especially when the discovery requires real effort. But it can also insulate us from important lessons, when we reject the whole of the experience to accept only that good.

Few of us consistently make the right choices, grasping the good and the bad and the complexity of every situation. But in teams, almost certainly, someone has it right. Embrace your disagreements. Rely on each other for a true picture of reality. Go to top Top  Next issue: Some Limits of Root Cause Analysis  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing Conflict Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenWWuDwBfJbxPiWrvAner@ChacLACnyrQlpCtCMLcsoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A hiker in the La Primavera calderaCommitment Makes It Easier
When you face obstacles, sometimes the path around or through them is difficult. Committing yourself to the path lets you focus all your energy on the path you've chosen.
The Night Café, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888Changing the Subject: II
Sometimes, in conversation, we must change the subject, but we also do it to dominate, manipulate, or assert power. Subject changing — and controlling its use — can be important political skills.
One site auditing a virtual presentationVirtual Presentations
Modern team efforts almost certainly involve teleconferences, and many teleconferences include presentations, often augmented with video or graphics. Delivering these virtual presentations effectively requires an approach tailored to the medium.
A centrifugal governorSixteen Overload Haiku
Most of us have some experience of being overloaded and overworked. Many of us have forgotten what it is not to be overloaded. Here's a contemplation of the state of overload.
Roger Boisjoly of Morton Thiokol, who tried to halt the launch of Challenger in 1986How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Focus on the Question
When group decisions go awry, we sometimes feel that the failure could have been foreseen. Often, the cause of the failure was foreseen, but because the seer was a dissenter within the group, the issue was set aside. Improving how groups deal with dissent can enhance decision quality.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Conflict Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Office equipment — or is it office toys?Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
Tim Murphy, official photo for the 112th CongressAnd on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenrPJgztvvWqiCHIfener@ChacyhBLfXdYIpOdSfIpoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.