Getting it together

Inder Sidhu's new book: Doing Both - How Cisco Captures Today's profit and Drives Tomorrow's Growth - gives us some profound insights into the challenges I've previously explored as benefiting from paradoxes. Business enterprises usually rely on a set of metrics to monitor deviance from standards and asses performance of assets, individuals and profit centers. This inadvertently creates one right answer or one way to win which defines the perilous prospect of making career-ending mistakes. In order to "do both" of many different combined objectives, this conformist culture needs to be revised. There needs to be valid mistakes to learn from and new sets of metrics for doing the opposite of the prior one way to win.

As I reflected further on this book, last night, I realized more ways to benefit from utilizing paradoxes in business and educational practices. If we take the example of doing both: making useful mistakes and avoiding stupid or repetitious mistakes, we can see several more benefits:
  • There are no absolutes, rather situational evaluations of contexts which relies on the people involved to assess the mistake
  • Anyone obsessed with too little experimentation or risking the making of a mistake will feel pressured to maintain a better balance
  • Questioning "how many errors is appropriate?" or "how much emphasis to place on making mistakes?" will be answered by combined intentions to be right and proven wrong or being in the know and in need of knowing more.
  • Personal inclinations to idealize being error-free and then to demonize flawed performance gets transformed into realizing the best of accuracy and experimentation together
  • An approach to these contradictory objectives emerges where consistent, prescriptive advice gets replaced by guidelines for making complex judgment calls and insightful readings of the situation
  • A systemic approach for monitoring the balance between mistakes and experimentation evolves to recognize too few mistakes, too little accuracy, too many mistakes and too much insistence of flawless execution.
  • The successful cultivation of a dynamic equilibrium for each "doing both" paradox become unreadable by competitors and nearly impossible to beat in showdowns between rivals.
  • Facing the challenge of doing both as a paradox restores a sense of mystery to daily routines which can increase personal creativity, job satisfaction and dedication to successful outcomes.
We can change our minds about doing both by considering these many benefits. However, changing the culture, business models, and reward systems of an enterprise is a much bigger challenge that Inder Sidhu shows us how to tackle effectively.

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