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The Box: Literality, Enemy of Intelligence One of the most elemental aspects of intelligence is the ability to make leaps. If you are confined by the box that surrounds you and can’t see over the sides, then you are its prisoner.
Many of those who work for us are increasingly stuck in the box. The box might be called “what’s in the computer” or “the work process” or “the way I was taught to do this”. Whatever its name, the essence is the same. The box represents the confines of the existing paradox.
But its more that this. It extends to the Step by Step, Recipe oriented world that is fed to us. And that’s a good parallel, because people are refusing to go beyond what is fed to them. The de-intelligentiation, if that is a word, of the working folk is in part created by the lazy over-reliance on what is being directed at them by way of input. And as the computer folks say: “Garbage in = Garbage out”. Well, people are being fed a very limited fast food diet. And they are responding by becoming decidedly less vital and unhealthy.
Working level folks are fed process. Strict process in the form of what’s on the computer screens that they live in front of.
The chief complaint of this letter is their inability to go beyond. Their duty is to dispense what the screen says: no more. They cannot tie the question or enquiry presenting into the overall aim of the organization they are part of. Because they generally don’t have a clue what that is.
The classic examples are the airlines, but those are cheap and common. The refusal to go beyond what the system says and seek what we are trying to do, presumably at least cost and aggravation to all – those stories are legion among air consumers and are told with great relish.
Right now, friends and I are dealing with the health care system. “Can we book this test?” “Not yet!” “Is it going to be required?” “Oh, yes, definitely.” “Well can we book it now? So we can plan?” “No, not until this series of treatments is over.” “Well, if we know it’s needed, why can’t we do it now, so we know when it is and can plan around that?” “I’m sorry, no. You can’t book it until this series is over.”
In the spirit of the times, I will be specific about the point I am trying to make. The respondent is not thinking about what freedoms they might have to arrange a more sensible outcome. They are not looking at the situation from the customer’s perspective. And they are not thinking about net cost: like that this whole interchange will be repeated soon.
But that’s what I’m up about. People have to be told EVERYTHING. They are having increasing trouble abstracting their own lessons from examples. They want to be led to the next step and won’t take it without being prompted. And they’re uppity about it! If they are not told or led, they get mad, impatient. Come on, tell me!
Anyway, this is the new face of the bureaucracy we love to rail against. The acid question is, to what extent does your organization foster the same type of response?
The only way you’ll know is by personally interviewing what actually happens to customers attempting to gain the value they seek from your enterprise.
And maybe you don’t care. You may think that all this talk about what happens at the lowest levels – like where the customer interacts with your company – is beneath you. You may be seeking the next big break deal – the one that results in you getting rich and being able to leave all this behind.
But what you’ll see, if you do enquire, is a bunch of robotically trained people hiding behind what the computer dishes up. They know if they stay within the strict limits of what the screen says, they will never get into trouble. They have never been told the overview – what the company is there to: who the customer is and what he/she really wants. So they are lazy, they take the line of least resistance – and retreat behind the safe lines of the box they live in.
And they are supported by the existing culture, which is increasingly a short term, stimulus/ response world. I get a tweet, I respond with what comes top of mind. I never spend any time thinking….
So, in the measure we resort to when thinking about higher level talent, we talk about the ability of the candidate to extend their planning and thought beyond the present moment. Well, the weight is slowly falling on the side of the literal people, people who want to be a cog in the wheel, unable to take steps on the basis of native wit in accordance with inherent intelligence. Out of fear, laziness, lack of training?
Our era’s increasing literalness will condemn us to be no more intelligent than the dumbest computer. A bunch of compliant lambs. To the slaughter!!!

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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