Fuzzy Logic for a Complex World
by Janet C. Macaluso

There's an ancient Asian fable that illustrates the importance of seeing multiple perspectives, contradictions, and ambiguity.

An old farmer's only horse ran away. His neighbors worried and complained, as it was his only means of support. "Who knows what's good or bad?" said the old man, refusing their sympathy.

A few days later his beloved horse returned, bringing a wild horse with it. The neighbors congratulated him on his good fortune. "Who knows what's good or bad?" he snapped, rejecting their celebration.

A few days later, when the old man's son was attempting to ride the wild horse, he was thrown from it and broke his leg. The neighbors, once again, expressed their disappointment. "Who knows what's good or bad?" replied the old man.

The next week, the army came to the village to enlist all able-bodied men to fight in the war. But the old man's son was not fit to serve, and was spared. And the pattern continued ...

So, the moral is ... Our minds are hard-wired to see "black/white," "right/wrong," "win/lose" extremes. Yet the world is more realistically characterized as ambiguous and complex, rather than neat and tidy. It takes a certain level of maturity to look for multiple perspectives, especially when "your" way appears so obviously correct. Yet doing so expands your understanding of the situation, giving you more information and influence options!

Mind Opening Exercise

Think of a challenge in your life. Practice identifying the paradoxes:

  • Think "gray" instead of black and white. When you make an assumption (about someone or something) say to yourself, "That's one perspective, what might be another?" (e.g., perhaps she doesn't have good communication skills, or she's stressed out, etc.)

  • As you think about a situation, try to understand how people "feel" about it, not just "think" about it. This will increase your empathy (a key leadership skill).

Janet Macaluso, Ed.M., MSOD, is a recognized speaker, consultant and writer with 20 years of business experience. She helps leaders and teams meet their strategic business goals through organization development. Janet has held management positions with Delta Airlines and Fidelity Investments, and is writing her first book: “Power, Influence and Politics: Secrets to Making It in Today’s Workplace.” Visit http://www.learning2lead.net/ for additional information.

Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 by Janet Macaluso. All rights reserved.

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