Posts Tagged ‘perspective’

Time For a Change #16: A Rewarding Business

by William Reed on May 31, 2012

Finding your path of least resistance

To better understand the Wealth Dynamics Square featured here, a brilliant creation by entrepreneur and founder of Wealth Dynamics, Roger J. Hamilton, it is best to start with the Wealth Dynamics Profile Test, which gives you a measure of where you start, and how far you can go, as well as which direction represents your path of least resistance to Wealth.

Even if you are not an entrepreneur, it will help you understand Wealth Creation, which is a major function of any business, and increasingly an imperative for educational institutions and non-profit organizations, which cannot depend on donations to keep their operations afloat.

There isn’t space here to go into the details of the 8 profiles, except to note that they are supported by successful entrepreneurs and business models in each category, and based on the concepts developed by Carl Jung, and derived from Asian philosophy. More importantly, the Wealth Dynamics Square is like a codex for understanding how people interact with people to create the ideas, networks, products, services and systems that make the business world go around.

Keeping your perspective

There are so many elements to manage in business that it is easy to lose your perspective. By focussing too much on one area at the expense of others, it is easy to win the battle but lose the war. The Mandala Chart can give you flexible focus, like a zoom lens which can look at the bird’s eye view of the whole, the insect’s eye for detail, and the fish’s eye for the connections.

As a guide to navigating and actually applying the concepts in the Wealth Dynamics Square, I suggest 8 categories you can use for Business: Value, Leverage, Wealth, Business Model, Strategy, Platform, Resources, and Network. Download a BUSINESS MANDALA featuring key questions for each of these categories, so that you can begin to create your own customized approach to a rewarding business.

A. Value

Without value you have no business. The challenge is that the value that is obvious to you may not be obvious, and may not even be noticed by the people who have the ability to pay for it. To be successful you need to create value, brand and package it in a way that is easy and attractive for others. This is an ongoing process, if your business is to survive the eroding forces of competition and shifting values. You must have energy and commitment to be at your best.

➀ What is your Wealth Profile, your path of least resistance?

➁ What is your personal platform, you means of showing your value to others?

➂ What is your process and plan for increasing your value over time?

Click here to find out more about the Wealth Dynamics Profile Test.

B. Leverage

Value without leverage is mere potential, a good idea waiting to be implemented. Leverage is how a concept is made known, tangible, deliverable, and ready to use or consume. Leverage is made possible by working with people in complementary profiles who can carry the concept forward into action. It depends on trust, tools, and systems for reliability.

➀ Which profiles offer the most leverage for your value?

➁ What strategies outside of your profile can you engage in to increase your leverage?

➂ What is your process and plan for increasing trust among your leverage partners?

C. Wealth

According to Roger J. Hamilton, Value X Leverage = Wealth (V x L = W). This is higher level of value for business partners, customers, and society, and the reason why a business stays in business. It is also what contributes to the lasting value, or legacy of the business.

➀ What types of value will you create for your business partners and stakeholders?

➁ What type of value do you create for your customers?

➂ What value do you create for society, and what legacy will you leave?

D. Business Model

All successful businesses operate on a structure, or business model that keeps processes running smoothly, and is the key to duplication, repetition, and sustainability. Some business models can be copied, as often happens with franchises. However, the ultimate success depends on the people involved, and not the mechanics of the business.

➀ What are the key elements and processes in your business model?

➁ Can you articulate them in the Business Model Toolbox?

➂ Do you have agreements or contracts in place to communicate and protect your business model?

Click here to learn more about business model generation, as well as tools for generating your own business model.

E. Strategy

While the business model is the vehicle, strategy is the map, the plan that shows where you are going and how you will get there. Strategies should allow flexibility to adapt the plan as you go, without losing sight of the end goal.

❐ Do you have scenarios and simulations for your business potential?

❐ Do you have a business plan?

❐ Do you have a platform for implementing your Strategy?

Click here to learn about a tool that can give you Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE

F. Platform

In a world which is flooded with information and driven to distraction, you need a platform to be noticed, and to attract people to your products and services. Although there seems to be no limit of choices in how you build your digital or analog platform, the options are increasingly affordable and provide greater reach at a lower cost. The effectiveness of your platform depends on having a sound business model and a good strategy.

❐ What is your digital platform, website, social media, software?

❐ What is your analog platform, brochure, business card, one sheets?

❐ What is your process and plan for leveraging your platform?

G. Resources

No business can last without resources, not only financial, but information, contacts, ideas, all of the things that support and sustain your business as it grows. Pay close attention to and protect your resources.

❐ Do you keep an inventory of your resources?

❐ Do you polish, protect, and use your resources?

❐ What is your process and plan for outsourcing when you do not have particular resources?

H. Network

Ultimately it is the people in your network who make everything possible for your business. You need to identify who they are, and take care of your network well if you would have people take care of you in turn.

❐ Who are the people that can help you?

❐ Who are the people that you can help?

❐ Do you have a process and plan to cultivate and increase your Wealth Network?

Click here to read about the anatomy of your Wealth Network

Developing a rewarding business is hard work, but it becomes easier once you identify and coordinate the elements that support it. The great thing about being or even thinking like an entrepreneur is that you navigate your own course, rather than following instructions to navigate someone else’s course. Use the Business Mandala to keep your perspective and develop your work into a rewarding business.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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The Curse of Linear Thinking

Goal directed thinking is useful, but can cause problems when pursued in a linear fashion. Linear thinking is easier because it ignores complexity and chaos. The future is seen as a simple extension from the past through the present in the same direction. This is behind our ideas of progress, our system of step by step education ending in graduation, and climbing the ladder of success.

The problem is that life is rarely so simple, people are seldom so cooperative, and even nature itself seems averse to straight lines. Chinese tradition held that demons traveled in straight lines. Curved rooftops were designed to ward off evil, Chinese laborers wildly resisted the laying of railway tracks in straight lines.

A new perspective makes us consider that the shortest distance between two points may in fact not be a straight line.

Big promises and hidden agendas

Have you ever taken on a job or a project that was promised to be a certain way, but turned out to be quite different, and in fact significantly harder or less pleasant than promised? Things promised in a straight line fashion often end up seriously misrepresenting the reality of the situation. Look out for the hidden agenda.

Whether you are choosing a college major, making a career decision, or enrolling in professional training, these programs are often delivered with a promise of a predictable path. Think carefully before you commit to such a path. What assumptions are they making? Do they clearly show where they are taking you? You can get a better idea if you ask what kind of changes they anticipate. Awareness of change ahead implies flexibility in steering. Ignorance of change reveals a one track mind.

Have an exit strategy

It the job does turn out to be other than promised, instead of Career Promised Land, you may find yourself in Career Purgatory, or worse. You may have started out on the straight track, but somewhere along the line someone pulled a railroad switch, and you ended up on a track traveling in another direction altogether. This has happened to me, and perhaps to you as well.

Rather than wasting energy assigning blame, better to have a plan for getting out or moving on. Do you have a safety net and a clear idea of where you want to go? If not, you may find yourself jumping out of the frying pan and right into the fire.

In planning your exit strategy it can be helpful to speak to the veterans who have been there, as well as to those who may have already left. Of course their experience is not the same as yours, but it can help you see the situation more clearly.

Stairway to…?

Beware the lure of linear thinking. Success is not a ladder to climb, but rather finding happiness in the pursuit of goals that really matter to you. It is easy to become persuaded that you need to take intermediate steps first to eventually reach your goal. However, these steps may not lead you where you want to go, but instead on a detour toward something else.

From where you stand now, you may not be able to see very well what is ahead. Rather than gazing hard in one direction, you may find more clarity by getting into in a new environment altogether. A walk in the woods, a conversation in a cafe, a getaway vacation, a change in your routine can give you a different vantage point from which to view your current situation.

Get a fresh perspective

The best cure for linear thinking is 360-degree awareness, taking in the whole rather than looking in a single direction. The character 観 (kan) means vision or perspective. It depicts a stork standing in a state of awareness, not staring but seeing with great clarity. It is this commanding view that gives you a better vantage, an advantage.

This viewing point can take the form of stories, even parallel situations from another time and place. Keep alert and you can learn lessons without getting lost in linear thinking, or ending up on someone else’s track.

An excellent way to step out of linear thinking but remain goal focused is to use GOALSCAPE software, which helps you visualize, track, and achieve your goals with 360-degree awareness.

Download a PERSPECTIVE MANDALA to review these ideas, and free yourself from the trap of linear thinking as you pursue your goals in life.

Editor’s Note: Self-Portrait and Calligraphy by William Reed. 観 (kan) means vision or perspective.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #70: The Carp of Creativity

by William Reed on September 22, 2011

If you have ever been in Japan in early May then you will remember how the landscape is covered with carp streamer kites (koinobori), suspended on high poles and streaming in the wind. These are to celebrate Children’s Day (Boy’s Day) on May 5th, and are flown in hopes that boys will grow up strong and healthy. This national holiday follows the Girl’s Day Japanese Doll Festival on March 3rd. The symbolism of the koinobori is based on the legend that the carp swims against the stream, climbs a waterfall, and becomes a dragon. It is a powerful picture of the power of swimming against the stream, the very opposite of going with the flow.

Author Steven Pressfield wrote a book called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which describes a process by which writers, artists, musicians, and anyone engaged in a creative endeavor can overcome the internal and external resistance which comes of swimming upstream to create something new. In some ways, the stream acts and filters out all of those who lack the resolve to press through and create something new. After all, it is much easier to simply allow yourself to be swept along with whatever else goes downstream. As Pressfield says, it takes a special mindset to overcome resistance and achieve the unlived life within.

You need something other than sheer will power to help you navigate against the stream. You need fins and a strong tail to weave your way against the current and overcome gravity. When it comes to publishing and presenting, the Mandala Chart can give you an added advantage in this process. There are 8 key words that can help you see it through.

  • Passion. This is the driving force, the tail of the carp. Without passion your project hasn’t any hope of meeting or overcoming resistance. People without passion are mentally and physically set adrift in the stream, and subject to its whimsical nature. However, if you know what you want and are driven to achieve it, you have what is called a “fighting chance”. If you don’t yet know what you want, look deeper to see what drives you.
  • Perspective. This is the eye of the carp, which provides a sense of direction and helps stay the course. Any creative person must have a vision, a point of view, a perspective. The creative task of the artists is to give shape to what he or she has seen, and thereby transport others to it. The witnessing precedes the rendering. If you lack a clear perspective, you can deepen what you have by exploring the perspectives which other artists have rendered, and then search for your own.
  • Preparation. These are the muscle fibers of the carp which strengthen from use. It is the daily search and struggle which builds creative staying power. Because creativity rarely proceeds in straight lines, it is the muscular zig zag which finesses the current and allows the carp to swim against it. It is like this in the creative process, which is constantly in search of ways to weave its way back to the source. If you lack ideas and inspiration, you can more easily find it by keeping a daily log of your ideas of insights, which will develop your creative muscles and keep your thoughts in flow.
  • Pressure. This the current of resistance against which creative people must swim to create anything new. It comes in all kinds of forms physical and mental, and is the undoing of all who give into its subtle force. The current is actually not strong enough to stop you, if you manage to master the creative process. But if you yield to it and surrender your creative spirit, it can cause you to procrastinate, compromise, or even give up. If you feel you are weakening to the pressure, think of the resistance as your ally and don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Think of it instead as the rope ladder which will help you to climb higher.
  • Platform. This is the riverbed, which supports the stream and provides all kinds of interesting shapes and variations in the current. It is in these that you can find opportunities to express your ideas and develop your creativity. It is also the media through which you publish and present. Today there are many options and formats for a personal platform, either in print or online. You may start with a blog or Facebook account, or you may wish to create works in tangible form that you can share with others. A platform is a place where people can find you, experience and enjoy your work, as well as comment on it. Using such platforms to talk about what you had for lunch will only interest a very small audience. Why not use it as a means of practicing and improving the way you express ideas, the way you capture them in titles, the way you express them in visual or auditory form?
  • Productivity. These are your writing tools and techniques, the fins of the carp that steer and shape your path. Every artist, every writer, every musician, and every creative person has discovered ways to be productive, to give more fidelity to their message, to express the finer nuances. If you follow or befriend a creative person, you will find that they are often more than happy to share their secrets, as others have done for them. To be productive is to produce, to continuously create and give shape to your ideas and insights. It is an essential part of the process, and that which gives you momentum for the big leaps ahead.
  • Presentation. This is the carp climbing the waterfall, the thrilling leap that transcends the limits thought impossible. It is the goal of swimming upstream, and represents the performance, the big stage, the formation that precedes the transformation. It is not a single event, because truly creative people continue this process as long as they live, and leave behind a creative legacy that in some cases is treasured for generations to come. Not everyone can be a Picasso, but each person can achieve something of creative value, if you overcome resistance and bring to life that which is inside struggling to come out.
  • Payoff. The character for Carp 鯉 consists of two radicals, that of fish 魚 and that meaning home or place of origin 里. In a sense the payoff for the Carp is returning to its original form, freedom achieved after persistent creative efforts to overcome resistance, to climb the waterfall, and to transform into a Dragon. For many artists, this is enough, although they may and should also be able to earn a living, gain recognition, and help spark the creative spirit in others through their work.

As a reminder of the elements of the creative process, you can download here a Mandala Chart entitled The Carp of Creativity. Whatever your media or message, a wonderful way to ensure your creative growth is to overcome resistance and find ways to publish and present your ideas and insights. When you awaken your creative spirit, you will find all kinds of resources and resourceful people come out to support you on your path. In time the resistance you felt in front of you seems to be replaced by a counter current pushing from behind which drives you forward and keeps you in creative flow.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #46: Lens on Consciousness

by William Reed on March 24, 2011

In the last eight articles we have looked deeper into the realm of the mind, looking through the lens of consciousness to see our life from higher, bigger, and deeper perspectives. And yet even from vastly different perspectives, it is all in the context of our daily familiar existence. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

MIND MANDALA BODY (From Flexible Focus #38: Flexibility without Forcing)

Out of your comfort zone…into freedom

Many people like the idea of flexibility more than the practice of it. This is understandable, for if the experience takes you out of your comfort zone, you may prefer the familiar to the flexible. When your body is stiff, then physical stretching can feel more like pain than gain. A similar thing happens mentally when your values or beliefs are forcibly stretched beyond their limits. The key to expanding your comfort zone is to have more degrees of freedom. A brittle stick has no degrees of freedom, so anything which bends it, will break it. The fear of breaking causes many people to retreat into their comfort zone when stretched, but rigidity is ultimately a zone of discomfort. When you have more degrees of freedom in your mind and movements, then you experience flexible focus in action!

A NEW MODEL FOR COACHING (From Flexible Focus #39: The Principle of Gratitude)

You are not the only one in trouble…Make the world a better place

One of the hardest lessons of flexibility is letting go of the ego’s attachments. Pride prevents you from achieving flexibility, because it insists on being right, being first, or being better than others. It’s companions are alike, inflexible, stubborn, righteous, and condescending. These attitudes have ruled and ruined empires as well as personal relationships throughout history, and of course are equally evident today. The ancient Greeks called it hubris (hybris), excessive ambition or pride leading to a fall, or to total ruin. In Asian tradition, pride is like the brittle stick which does not bend, but only breaks. The inflexibility of mind, also known as the hardening of the attitudes, is ultimately the cause of the problem. It is better to be flexible, like bamboo.

A NEW KIND OF NATION (From Flexible Focus #40: The 8 Frames of Life: Society)

Social Media is a classless…and virtually free territory

What is your place in society? At one time, and still in many countries, this was a not a question which you were permitted to answer or control. Rather, it was a matter of birth, circumstance, good or bad fortune, and your place in society was largely determined by people and circumstances beyond your control. Throughout history in various times and places, individuals and groups of people have raised this question, and asserted their right of self-determination, the right to determine their own role and mission in society. Now due to the momentum of such movements in the past, and the amazing impact of technology to connect people and facilitate communication, these questions are being raised widely around the world, not just in the traditional style of political movements, but in a brand new style of personal movements.

YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN A MANDALA PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #41: Your 100 Year Lifespan)

The past can be changed…and the future is fixed

You periodically encounter popular sayings that life ends or begins at 30, or at 50, depending on the attitude and experience of the person saying it. It is a poor and arbitrary perspective really, and let’s face it, sour grapes living produces sour grapes sayings. Yet there are many people who lose the plot of their life somewhere along the way. If you look closely there is a plot, and although life’s drama unfolds differently for each person, there are underlying themes that are remarkably consistent in a meaningful life. The originator of the MandalaChart system Matsumura Yasuo created a framework using the 8×8 B-style Mandala Chart, called the 100 Year Life Span. He said that, “The past can be changed, and the future is fixed.” How can this be? Commonsense tells us that you cannot change what has already happened, and that no one can say for sure what is coming. However, using the Mandala Chart you can reframe what has happened, and you can pre-frame what is coming.

PUTTING TIME IN A NEW PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie)

The Mandala Chart takes you out of conventional time…gives you a new perspective

The 3×3 framework of the Mandala Chart lends itself well to showing the relationship of the frames as a visual Gestalt, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The bird’s eye view gives you a 3-dimensional perspective. But what about the 4th dimension, that of time? Most discussions about the 4th dimension focus on its abstract geometry, trying to visualize what it would be like to be 90-degrees perpendicular to the 3rd dimension, in effect looking at the transformation of a 3-dimensional object over time. This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography, where you can watch a flower grow, or see a full day of cloud transformations in the span of a few minutes. Time-lapse in real time – it is even closer at hand than that, because we all experience transformation moment to moment.

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET (From Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness)

The central premise…is that our thoughts create our world

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness. The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of. What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core.

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF BALANCE (From Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance)

How many things are juggled already in perfect balance…without any effort or interference on our part

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all. Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying. At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center.

ABUNDANCE IN 8 AREAS OF LIFE (From Flexible Focus #45: My Cup Runneth Over)

Gratitude grows into giving…and is a principle seen everywhere in nature

In our pursuit of prosperity, we tend to take for granted the blessings that we already have in abundance. A Greek myth which made a big impression on me as a child was the story of King Midas and the Golden Touch. The King was granted a gift to his greed that whatever he touched would turn to gold, but the gift was a curse because he petrified everything and everyone he touched, turning it into a golden object devoid of life. Gold is as perennial in our culture as greed itself. While we talk about a heart of gold, good as gold, and the Golden Age, we often find that gold can bring out the worst in human nature, from gold diggers to Goldfinger. It is often taken as a symbol of wealth, the gold standard. But it is seldom seen as a symbol of abundance. Let your helping hand be one of Kindness, not a golden touch.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #9: The magic of mindset

by William Reed on July 8, 2010

The word mindset often refers to a frame of mind, a point of view, a perspective that is single or fixed, and not flexible in focus. The question to ask is whether a singular mindset helps us or harms us?

Having a point of view enables us to be very clear on where we stand. The disadvantage is that once we gain a clear viewpoint, there is a tendency to believe that our point of view is the only one that is right. This is not a light matter. Differences and inflexibility over point of view can put people on the warpath.

Flexible focus changes your point of view

Two friends were walking on a busy summer New York Avenue. One was an entomologist, an expert who was able to identify insects by sound and shape, even on a busy urban street. The entomologist astonished his friend by hearing and pointing out insects along the street, despite the clamorous sounds of people and traffic. His friend asked, “How can you possibly hear such small sounds with all of this traffic noise?” The entomologist removed a coin from his pocket and dropped it on the street, which instantly turned all heads. “We notice,” he replied, “the things which interest us.”

A mindset is a mental filter, predisposed to select certain types of information and shut out the rest. The more knowledge or interest you have in a subject, the more you are able to see and find things which are related to it. A mindset can work for us if we need to specialize, or against us if we sacrifice flexibility, the ability to change points of view. F. Scott Fitzgerald said that, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

Flexible focus gives you a strategic advantage

Miyamoto Musashi (武蔵 1584~1645) was a master swordsman, painter, and philosopher. Fighting more than 60 duels from the age of 13 to 30, he was an undefeated samurai. His book on strategy and swordsmanship, The Book of Five Rings, is a classic of martial arts literature from Japan and is still quite popular today.

Musashi’s most famous duel took place on Ganryu Island on the 13th of April 1612, and was fought against Sasaki Kōjirō, The Demon of the Western Provinces. This duel has been immortalized in film and literature. Musashi combined courage with unconventional strategy to defeat his hot-headed opponent. Musashi gained the advantage in three ways: psychologically upsetting his opponent by deliberately arriving two hours after the appointed time; choosing a wooden oar as his weapon against Kōjirō’s long sword; and running to position himself with the sun at his back, thereby blinding his opponent at a critical moment.

The first character in Musashi’s name (武) is also the character for Bu in Budō (武道)meaning martial arts. It appears in the illustration here eclipsing the rays of the sun, exactly as Musashi did in his duel with Kōjirō.

Flexible focus opens your eyes

A classical optical illusion is the Rabbit-Duck, which appears as both a rabbit facing right, or a duck facing left, depending on how you look at it. Even more surprising is the animated optical illusion of the dancing girl, who appears to be turning clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on which leg you focus on.

Dutch artist M.C. Escher took optical illusions to a level of artistic perfection. Optical illusions remind us that things are not always exactly as they seem. A slight shift in perspective produces a completely different picture.

Just as our eyes play tricks on our visual perception, our mind also plays tricks on our mental perception of people, places, and phenomena. The Buddhists go so far as to say that the world we see is void of fixed forms, and modern physicists agree.

Flexible focus lets you frame and reframe

If you get too caught up in the illusions, then the world appears as unreal as a house of mirrors, which indeed it is to the person who plays a passive role in life. When you realize that you can also shape, imagine, and influence what you see, then the game changes and the real fun begins.

As long as you accept your assumptions and believe that everything is just as it appears, you will miss the opportunity to make new discoveries and to shape your circumstances. This takes practice, and a good way to start is by framing and reframing the things you see using the Mandala Chart.

To assist in framing and reframing a question or problem, try downloading the Magic of Mindset Mandala as a reminder and worksheet for the following questions.

  1. Metaphor. What is this situation most like? What can the problem be compared to?
  2. Game Changer. What strategy can I use to change the situation?
  3. Second Opinion. Who else can I ask that can give me informed or expert advice?
  4. Sleep on it. Gain a fresh perspective by getting away from the problem for a while.
  5. Win/Win Solution. What would help all parties?
  6. Mastermind. What help can I get from mentors or books?
  7. Ask Better Questions. Reframe the problem by asking new and better questions.
  8. Empty Your Cup. If your cup is full of opinions and prior knowledge, you may have no room for anything new.

Remember Musashi and see if you can reframe the situation, put the sun at your back, and find a winning strategy. Have fun learning the art of flexible focus, and make magic with your mindset.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Quality #4: Simplifying Processes

by Tanmay Vora on November 12, 2009

keep it simpleWelcome to the fourth part of a 12-part series titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first three posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality

#QUALITYtweet Want to add complexity?

Get obsessed with a solution without

focusing on the real problem.

We love complexity because thinking complex solutions give us a false sense of achieving something worthwhile. Two questions to ponder:

1)      Is your complex solution accurately solving the problem?

2)      Is there a simpler way to solve the same problem?

Consider this story:

One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese Management was the case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan’s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soap box that was empty. Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soapbox went through the assembly line empty.

Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but spent a whoopee amount to do so. Now, when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc but instead came out with another solution.

He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soap box passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

Implementing complex review process or a complex workflow is relatively easy. Picking up an off-the-shelf best practice is easy too. Identifying the simplest solution that best solves the problem is difficult.

When you improve your processes constantly over a period of time, adding new steps to the process, it tends to get complex.  Simplification of process requires you to think with a fresh perspective (and may be a fresh set of people) and ask a simple question: “What problem is this process intended to solve?”

The answer often reveals that there are much simpler ways of solving the problem.

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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