Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Friday, 9 January 2009

Movement, meditation and "Conversion" of problems into nobility

Part of the richness of the English language is that we can have equally compelling sayings which advocate opposite forms of behaviour. Consider:
Fortune favours the bold.
He who hesitates is lost.

Look before you leap.
Measure twice, cut once.
A short article appeared recently on the Sydney Morning Herald's "Enterprise" blog that stated: "When it comes to making decisions in business, motion is better than meditation."

My take on the author's position is that, essentially, action is better than inaction and getting stuff done accomplishes more then procrastination - which seems quite straightforward and sensible, rather like the "Action" proverbs offered above.

I think, however, that meditation is here miscast in the role of inactivity or of simply putting things off.

To this I would have to argue, in line with the "Consideration" sayings also listed above, that without reflection one risks action for action's sake and going off half-cocked all the time with a trail of destruction left in one's wake.

Then again...self-indulgent navel-gazing doesn't get you any closer to where you want to be either.

So, how to strike the balance?


One possible answer is provided by the process of
Conversion (as detailed in Section Four of the NeuroPower handbook, written by author and strategist Peter Burow).

The process, briefly stated, is a powerful yet elegant means of converting problems into opportunities for growth, development, insight and even nobility.

It's something that you can learn to do for yourself and which also works very effectively as part of a coaching process to help resolve thorny issues and get past deadlocked situations.

Here's how it works.

When confronted with problems, there are various tensions at play which serve to keep us stuck and temporarily unable to see the solution.

Note that this approach presumes that a solution exists, that we already know it in some form, and are simply unable to access that knowledge and wisdom in our current "stuck" state.)

Confronted with these tensions, we have a choice. We can hold the tension and use it to resolve the problem, or we can collapse into one of the fight-flight-freeze modes of our Core Belief Types as a means of avoiding the issue. Some signs that we have collapsed are when we:
  • continue to be stuck in the problem (that is, remain unable to access the solution)
  • experience strong, sometimes overwhelming sensations of anger, hurt or fear
  • tend to blame other people or external circumstances for our plight, unwilling to take responsibility ourselves
  • over-identify ourselves with the problem, merging with it so that it is an integral part of our self-understanding; this ensures the problem will remain unsolvable because to solve the problem would be to give up a part of our own identity

Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. - Albert Einstein

Find the level of thinking

Once we are aware that the problem exists externally to ourselves but is producing internal tensions, and that these tensions are subject to our influence, we then need to know in what level of thinking the problem sits so that we can rise above it to find the solution.

To begin, we identify whether the problem has to do with either:
personal agency (the drive towards autonomy, desire for independence and the will to preserve oneself in the face of a hostile environment), or
(the drive to be part of a larger whole, for interdependence, bonding to or relating with another).
Examples of agency include personal identity and self-expression, or personal success.

Examples of communion include
collective survival of one's own family/tribe/community, finding a sense of purpose/destiny located in the greater good, or gaining a sense of communal connection and egalitarianism.

Find the internal tensions

level of the problem thus established, we return to the internal tensions to determine the nature of the problem. To effectively triangulate the nature of the problem we need to know the following:
1) Is this something that has to do with me as an individual and what I want to do/have/be (my own performance, priorities, achievement, success, values, beliefs and the results I want), or with my place in relation to the group/collective/system (family, colleagues, sequential processes)

2) Does this problem concern subjective reality (interior dimensions of intuition, feelings, emotions), or has it more to do with objective reality (exterior data and facts)?
With one answer for each of these, we know in which quadrant* the problems falls, giving us insight into its nature. The tensions thus identified, we are one step closer to finding our solution.

Apply creativity

Carl Jung tells us that creativity gives the opportunity for the individual to reach a new level of consciousness - which is a way of saying: we rise above the problem to a higher level than the one that produced the problem, thereby addressing Einstein's dilemma.

Once these dimensions are clarified, it then becomes a question of what form of
creative thinking (visionary or spontaneous) we need to apply in order to find a resolution to the tensions at play:
Is it something that we want to think through and come up with a solution on our own (meditation, in a sense) or do we want to talk it through with others and find a solution interactively (motion and activity)?
And so we've come full circle to our original debate of whether motion really is better then meditation when making business (or any other) decisions. The answer is: it depends on the nature of the problem that the decision seeks to address.

To recap the Conversion process:
  1. Find the (external) problem's level of thinking
  2. Identify the internal tensions being produced by the problem: individual vs collective, interior vs exterior
  3. Apply creativity (visionary or spontaneous) to the problem
  4. Identify the noble quality needed to rise above the problem and access its solution

Noble qualities are portals of insight into our own knowledge and wisdom

"So what's this noble quality business?!" I can hear you exclaim.

Well once we've effectively triangulated the level and nature of the problem and decided which creativity is required, we now have the coordinates we need. Using the NeuroPower framework, we can now locate the exact noble quality that will dissolve the tension and solve the problem. A few examples of noble qualities that can be usefully applied to problems (there are 54 in all) include integrity, inspiration, diplomacy, courage, discernment, responsibility, objectivity and drive.

Once we can see beyond the tension of the polarities that are pulling us back and forth (a duel of dualism, if you will) and have gotten above and outside it, we are then able to delve deep into our own character and access a deeper wisdom than what's available in our everyday life.

From this vantage point, it's like viewing the problem through a
portal of wisdom and insight - one that rewards us with both a set of actions to take and the energy to carry those actions through, without procrastination or prolonged inactivity.

So while all this talk of nobility, character and wisdom and the like might seem quite esoteric and mystical...the fact is that in my experience and that of the people I've worked with, the Conversion process produces real, practical solutions to really thorny and seemingly intractable problems.

That's because, although noble qualities like
integrity, inspiration, diplomacy, courage, discernment, responsibility and others may seem at first glance to be too generic to be helpful, the Conversion process is about finding the exact noble quality that will make sense to the person stuck in the problem and help them get above it, to a place where its solution becomes apparent.

And when it comes to making business decisions - that's what it's all about.

*-Note that this lines up with the four quadrants of Ken Wilber's Four Faces of Truth, defined by the polarities "individual vs collective" and "interior vs exterior".

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