What follows are excerpts from
Masters of Change: how great leaders in every age thrived in turbulent times, by William M. Boast, PhD, with Benjamin Martin, Marocome Ltd., ISBN 0-9763198-0-2, 2nd edition, 2005.
[I first encountered Dr. Boast and these virtually identical ideas in a package of twelve audiocassettes given to me by a professional colleague in1982 being circulated among symposia planners as part of a search for a keynote speaker.]
“Learning about” is not the same as “learning.”… “Knowing about” is not the same as “knowing.” …. Individuals can change to the degree they can abandon past formulas and promises, and constructively conquer ambiguity and complexity.” [Pages 2-3]
“What did you do brilliantly in the last week? Have you noticed that most people have forgotten it already?” [Page 8]
“We may well be approaching the coincidental end of several cycles. Certainly, the industrial age is giving way to the age of information and technology. Western civilization is coming to a climax. Whether it be the end — the death, as German historian Oswald Spengler saw it — or a major change into something new and different remains to be seen. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has plowed under the history of the last seventy years and exposed the reality of ethic tension, border disputes and fragile economies. The world, once kept in balance by only two super-powers, is being overrun by a scramble of nations flexing their economic muscles, clamoring for position and power.” [Page 10]
“The verb of your job is everything. All of the things–your business cards, stationary, title, telephone, desk, company car and even your policies and procedures manual–are superfluous. The pertinent questions of a successful business or focused not on its nouns but on its verbs: “What are you producing?” “Whom are you serving?” “How well we you do it?” Now add to these questions the fact that the world in which you “do it” is also a verb in constant flux. With the verb of your job running counterpoint to the verb of the business world, you have begun an idea of how much action is expected of you.
If your job is a verb, and if the economy is a verb, then the question arises: “Where is it going?” You have only to read last year’s Wall Street Journal or last quarter’s Harvard Business Review to realize that no one really knows. No one has the vaguest idea. Not one psychic, not one economist, not one politician is able to predict the future of the economy. Financial portfolios are promoted based on the “divination” abilities of the broker or brokerage house, but the accuracy of many brokers is often worse than pure guess.” [Page 9]
“If you list all the great artists in the history of the Western world, almost half of them lived in northern Italy at the same time and knew each other. It boggles the mind. And here is another key to capitalizing on the opportunities of crisis rather than being trampled underfoot by his dangers: create a community of success by filling it with special people. Methodologies are secondary.
If you list all the great composers in the history of the Western world, over half of them lived in Vienna or were centered near it. If you list all the great theoretical scientists in the history of the human race, over 98% of them lived in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Success flourishes in communities of success. Failure flourishes in communities of failure. One of the prime missions in a world of change is to maintain a community of excellence–and communities are people.
Never let a community of success slip into becoming a community of failure by letting mediocre people come into it or by letting the people in it slip into mediocrity.…
Not only do you need to safeguard against the perverse ability of communities of failure, but you also need to guard against developing a narrow range of answers. Biologists refer to creatures as having “spans of tolerance.” Highly specialized creatures have very narrow spans of tolerance, but highly generalized creatures have wide spans of tolerance. In conditions of eco-stability, highly specialized creatures flourish, but in conditions of eco-instability they become extinct. Only the highly generalized creatures, with their wide spans of tolerance, can make it through. They survived to go on to another time. Human beings can master both.” [Pages 16-17]
Source of image: http://www.answers.com/topic/whitewater
“… You can successfully maneuver through the white water of change if your object is not to take the white out of the water, but to put a master in the kayak.” [Paraphrased][Page 20, and repeated thereafter]
“Common sense, combined with passion, makes a formidable [tool].” [page 20]
“Mastery begins in the ability to recognize what promises you bring to a situation and, in turn, what the situation is bringing to you.” [Page 23]
“The ancient Greeks did not have a specific word for art and a different word for science. Recognizing the need for both art and science in any effective, intelligent and responsible act, they had the word “techne”, which meant “art-science.” The time has come to replace the mechanical mentality of today’s management theory and formula with the Greek concept of techne. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Techne ]
Alfred North Whitehead, one of America’s great philosophers, gave a definition of education, but the definition also applies to succeeding in business, to making money and to living a full life. He said, “Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilization of knowledge.” Notice that he did not say that education was the acquisition of knowledge; he said it was the acquisition of the art of using knowledge. Tragically, we haven’t done that very much in American education.” [Pages 24-25]
“When decisions are made on the basis of dogma and not on skillful processing of the information, the battle eventually will be lost. Dynamic shifts… necessitate dynamic strategies. Only those with prepared minds, who have learned to suspend closure, who can take the techne of their craft and critically investigate their premises, will succeed.” [Page 32]
“An organism, or a social unit of any kind, rises and falls, functions and dies between the poles of its basics and its dynamics. The basics are those elements that are predictable and stable. The dynamics are unpredictable and turbulent. Every human system, whether it is a nation, corporation, office, production line, home enterprise, family or individual, finds its stability and its challenges in the constant flux and flow between two poles: basics and dynamics. [Page 32; the entire chapter three goes on to discuss this in detail.]
“In times of rapid change, experience is your worst enemy.”
– J Paul Getty
“… We must also determine the elements or qualities of any endeavor or problem that are dynamic–that have high degrees of unpredictability, chaos, disorder, randomness and challenge. Then we locate generalists who are prepared to handle the dynamics and help them to bring new solutions and appropriate responses to bear on the continuous changes of the environment. When you’re willing to accept the generalist vision, interpretation and direction, you must immediately seek out every basic to back it up in action.” [Page 45]
“After 20 years of brainstorming, observers have concluded that creative ideas are never reached by a group, but they are only generated by individuals in groups. Companies, as they strive for greater teamwork, should not overlook the role of individuals within teams. Teams depend upon their individuals within them: a team of jerks does not work any better just because it is a team, but teams can be made worse because of the jerks who are assigned to them.” [Page 45]
The characteristics of people who achieve in dynamic situations has been determined to some extent. In chapter 4 of “Masters of change” the beginnings of the list have been compiled to include:
Comfort in ambiguity.
Intuition and instinct.
Vision and values.
Emphasis on action.
The ability to seek solutions instead of blame.
Potential for growth.
Logic and other tools of the mind.
The effective use of models in learning.
The author of the book suspects that the list is incomplete and may include as many as 1,000 characteristics and suggests that our job is to find the rest.
“One of the easiest ways to spot losers is that they panic when you move their philodendrons.” [Page 56]
“When the swamp is drying up and no one knows what is coming next, you cannot wait for all the facts. By the time you’ve processed all facts”, others have already acted on their hunches and laid claim to all of the available resources.” [Page 59]
The key to success is not in your ability to adjust to change; “it lies in your ability to anticipate change.” [Page 59]
“Quality must be in the people first. In areas where the dynamics dominate, it is the talent, genius and character of the individual that matter most. No amount of experience can compensate for the lack of talent, genius or character. You can, and certainly must, provide training for the basics, but you are totally dependent upon the qualities in the individuals when it comes to mastering the dynamics.” [Page 61]
“Great golfers on the world tour sink beautiful putts that we watch with envy. On the other hand, I can find a professor of anatomy who can explain the articulation of every joint and precisely how it works in relation to making your golf putt; I can get a professor of neurology who can explain the firing of all the nerves that such an action requires; I get a professor of psychology who can explain the behavioral conditioning of the professional golfer in perhaps 40 or 50 pages with footnotes. I can get a geologist who can, with great bibliographic appendices, give you the exact chemistry of the soil or a horticulturist who can explain the particular species of the grass on the green or a physicist who could explain the lever action. But none of them can sink the putt–you are the one who must sink the putt.
It helps us intellectually to understand the processes. Certain actions can be enhanced by knowing, but ultimately, the actions must be unconscious and spontaneous. They must come from a mastery within the person and not from a set of rules thumb-tacked to a bulletin board or from a textbook of business management.
….I suggest that you read Thomas C Martin’s book Malice in Blunderland. It is an excellent book to have in your lower desk drawer in the turbulent, chaotic and, often, frustrating world. The author makes a very clear point when he says, “leadership should begin to take its clues from Olympic track coaches and stop relying so much on committees. After all, the job is to find one person who jumps 7 1/2 feet high, not seven little people who each jumped 13 inches. [Paraphrased]” [page 65]
Tools of the mind
Your ability to deal with ambiguity, productive inconsistency, instinct, action, creativity, field independence and growth potential all depend on the effective, intelligent and responsible application of your best tool: your brain. Your capacity to collect and use meaningful information effectively is the single most important tool you have for doing all the things listed here as characteristics of successful people in times of upheaval. And yet, most people know less about their brain as a tool than they know about the office photocopier or the keyboard on their computer. They know more about their filing system that about their own intellectual ability to handle categories and logic.
Most people have never been trained to think formally and have never been given the practical experience of thinking informally. They use their mind, haphazardly at best, as though they had been born with “the instinct” to think.
Training in logic, so necessary to clear thinking, has been totally neglected in our leadership, management, sales and administration workshops. Training and logical thinking should go hand-in-hand with training in analogical thinking to cultivate the creative side. We seem to have a very low regard for the human mind, to leave its development to such happenstance.…[page 45]
The old textbooks used in school were written by professors who wrote their books based on knowledge they have acquired 10 to 15 years before they wrote the book. We must question our sources and their appropriateness. In a new world, we must become continuously transformed specialists, standing solidly upon the generalized knowledge that comes from a real education in its broadest sense–for thought of for context period” [pages 70-71]
On page 73, inside chapter 4 on the topic of the qualities within the mastery of change, is a section on “models of excellence” which, interestingly, directly parallels Eric Booth’s theme of the creation of a personal “Hall of Masters” found in his book The Everyday Work of Art. “The first function of good leadership is good modeling–not just communication, but something deeper than that. The mere process of communication, without character, is ultimately meaningless if not destructive. As history shows, methodologies result only an incremental improvement, while in-depth models result in quantum changes within the human.” [Page 74]
“The universal role in the dynamics of change is: “There is no universal rule.” [Page 76]
[There is not one instance of Machiavelli succeeding in social, political or business ventures… ” [Page 77]
“Mastering mastery requires that you stretch far beyond what you have and what you are. Although we are continually told, “just be yourself,” that is not good enough for mastery. Instead, you must “surpass yourself”–you must master not only your craft but also your potentials; you must master not only your skills but also the proper use of the skills. You must become a supreme craftsman in the use of all of the tools available to you, whether they are tools of the hands, or the mind or of your character.
Leadership isn’t leadership unless it works in the context of mastery. The mastery of the best human achievement, productivity or creativity must be exemplified in the leader. The leader must become the perfect model of that mastery.
But mastery always requires more than just a skill. Mastery is not true mastery until becomes unconscious and spontaneous….. Such mastery always pulls us to the edge of risk…. Mastery grows and expresses itself through the challenges of a dynamic world.” [Page 80]
“… All attempts to persuade… must evidence the deep concern of the speaker for effective, intelligent and responsible action.” [Page 80]
“In anything you do, you must also be responsible, for when you are effective, intelligent and responsible, your effectiveness is reinforced beyond measure.” [Page 81]
The collective (teamwork, corporate culture, the organization, told total loyalty, etc.), in its decay, becomes dehumanized, rigid, rule-driven, bureaucratic and even tyrannical. The individualized, in its decay, becomes isolated, narcissistic and fragmentary. [Page 113]
[The book “Masters of change”] focuses on changes in people–the individual problems each person faces in change and the changes that must take place in each individual. Ultimately, no organization–company, state, school or home–and can keep up with change unless it is prepared within. “[Page 113]
“We must shape the world in which men and women, individually and collectively, can do their best in reaching their full potentials….” [page 124]
“The alternative to the secular and the positivist is the spiritual and the creative. At the heart of all religions–Judaism in the Torah, Christianity in the New Testament, Islam in the Koran, Hinduism in the Bhagavad-Gita and others–lies a deep focus on the human being and what is human. Love and compassion, model and mentor, genius and beauty, will and power are all words system from within the human being. Though religion may often manifest itself negatively, it is uniquely human. I am not advocating secular humanism. Secular humanism is simply not big enough to face the challenges that I’ve been talking about.
Sacred humanism (as described by Socrates, Cosimo di Medici (the elder), Pico della Mirandola, Desiderius Erasmus, Thomas Moore, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Martin Luther King, Jr.) in some form or another becomes more important than ever before. When I speak of sacred humanism, I do not see “sacred” as synonymous with “Sunday school” or with the fundamentalism of any religion in the world. If we are wise and not merely arrogant, we can see that our individual potential is shared with the collective potential of all humankind and comes from a deeper source than some merely mechanical or behavioral brain….. The great advantage of sacred humanism is its faith in human potential and spiritual grace.” [page 127]
“What [we] must ensure is meritocracy, much as Jefferson sought. It was at the heart of the founding of the United States [when] Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams just before his death in 1826 in which he made clear that the United States should not be run by the common man but by the aristoi. This aristocracy should not be based on wealth or birth, he espoused, but on merit and ability, or better yet, on ethos and genius. [page 118 and page 156]
… Corporate fascism and corporate communism (as absurd as that sounds) may emerge because of a failure of truly humanist leadership.
I can assure you that without the responsibility and the people, the Corporation will become fascist and will not survive. Although nothing survives forever, the pattern of history demonstrates that things which are greatly made survive for longer periods of time and for the good of more people.
You must anticipate the challenges of the wilderness. Many will be frightened by it. Many will seek protection against the anarchy and at any cost. There is no room here for victims. There is no room here for narcissism. There is no room here for stupidity or ignorance. Creative growth and development must dominate our very action and that growth must be spiritual as well as intellectual and aesthetic.… [ from The Conclusion, on page 157]