Posts Tagged ‘court’

Flexible Focus #7: Inside the lines

by William Reed on June 24, 2010

The common catchphrase for creativity is thinking outside the box. This metaphor originated from the nine dots puzzle, in which you must connect nine dots in three rows, using just four connected straight lines. As long as you stay inside the box, you cannot solve the puzzle. Only by going outside of the square can you actually connect the dots. This puzzle is often used by creativity and management consultants to encourage people to look at problems from a fresh perspective.

Although this metaphor has captured the popular imagination, the real challenge is to engage in applied creative thinking that solves real problems. Tennis, for example, is a game that is played entirely within the box. It would certainly be easier at first to play tennis by taking down the net and ignoring the lines on the court. But players would not progress and audiences would find nothing worth watching. The presence of rules and limits is a prerequisite for progress in any discipline. Of the ideas and approaches that appear to come from outside of the box, the most exciting and productive creative work is often produced and performed inside the box.

It is on the court inside the lines, where action occurs. The word court has multiple meanings. A court can be a field of play in tennis or basketball, an interior garden court, a court of royalty, a court of law, or even courting as a process of wooing to gain attention and affection. A court implies focused action or judgement inside the lines.

The Mandala Chart is a court of play for your thoughts. You start with an 8-Frame Mandala Chart. To expand your thinking you do not go outside of the box, but rather dive deeper into the box by expanding each of the 8 frames into a 64-Frame Mandala Chart. You can change your focus by zooming in or out, as you flexibly reframe your thoughts.

As a practical matter, anything past the first level of 64-frames probably belongs in a library or database. You can also divide 8 by 8 to create a single frame, and this can be part of another set of 8 or 64 at a higher level. But as a practical matter, too much abstraction and you lose the plot. A great number of practical issues can be solved by simply reframing by 8 to the level above or below.

The Magic of Memory

George A. Miller, a cognitive scientist at Princeton University in 1956 published a famous study in which he argued that the largest number of objects a person can hold in working memory was the magical number 7, plus or minus 2, a phenomenon now known as Miller’s Law. The 8-Frame Mandala Chart is well within Miller’s Law, and its companion simply multiplies 8 x 8 to create a 64-Frame Mandala Chart.

Memory experts seem to defy this rule through such feats as memorizing the random digits of pi (the ration of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) beyond the textbook definition of 3.141… out to an astonishing number of non-repeating decimals in the tens of thousands, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. However, all mnemonic devices and memory systems work by converting abstract data by association into more familiar images that can be chunked and compacted into strings and stories that are easier to recall.

Musicians do the same thing when they learn to sightread a musical score. In effect, they juggle the same magic number of mental objects, but manage to connect more of them together by chunking and mental association. This is a good example of flexible focus, and  how performance improves with practice.

Both mental depression and memory loss are associated with a loss of the ability to make flexible mental connections, leading to a feeling of disorientation, feeling cut off from everyone and everything. The hippocampus is the seahorse of the brain most closely connected with this process, and neuroscientists have discovered that it has the capacity to regenerate as well as to atrophy. It makes sense to give your brain’s seahorse lots of exercise in flexible focus.

The Unfettered Mind

The process of flexible focus was described by Takuan Soho (1573-1645), a Japanese Zen priest and a genius of Renaissance proportions, in a work entitled The Unfettered Mind. This remarkable piece was written to Yagyu Munenori, head of the Yagyu Shinkageryu School of Swordsmanship, and is now a well-known classic on Zen in Swordsmanship. Takuan cautions that the stopping of the mind in an abiding place is what leads to ignorance, and can be fatal to a swordsman. Takuan advises that the unfettered mind has the ability to see all of the leaves of a tree, without being fixed on a single one, to catch the essence of movement without being caught in the details.

Olympic athletes work with attention control training, a field pioneered by Robert Nideffer, who found that tennis players, divers, gymnasts, golfers, and other athletes shift their attention flexibly from broad to narrow, and from internal to external focus, depending on the demands of the moment. In this case, enhanced performance depends on a flexible attention style.

So we return to the tennis ball, which of course must be served and returned over the net and inside the lines. That is where skill is developed, and where practical problems are solved. Whatever your game, use the Mandala Chart to develop flexible focus and enhance your performance when the ball is in your court

Collaborative-PracticeThe frequently destructive effects of litigated divorce, especially on minor children, are well known. While the lawyers get much of the blame, the fault really lies with a legal system that, all too often, turns adversaries into enemies and spouses with common interests into winners and losers.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There is an alternative that can provide all the legal protections of a court process, minus most of the downside. It is called Collaborative Practice (CP), and it deserves your close scrutiny. CP is different from litigation in three important ways.

1. The spouses agree in writing not to go to court. If either party abrogates this agreement, all professionals must withdraw.

2. The spouses agree in writing to provide all relevant information, whether requested or not.

3. While the final settlement must be filed with the court, the couple, not a judge, makes all decisions.

There is a core team of professionals, including an attorney for each spouse, a coach for each spouse, a neutral financial professional and, if there are minor children, a child specialist. When there is a family business, the couple retains a neutral business valuation specialist.

With a neutral, two draining elements are greatly reduced – cost and stress.

The Cost is cut down as the hourly rates for financial and mental health professionals are typically much lower than those of family lawyers, the cost for CP is often less than with litigation. In addition to that, neutral business valuation is much less expensive, because there is only one expert, rather than two; and finally, there is no need for depositions and court appearances and, therefore, legal fees are also cut substantially.

The Stress from a protracted battle over the value of the business can take a heavy emotional toll. The non-manager spouse can feel over matched and at sea in a situation so laden with numbers and financial concepts. The manager spouse is often genuinely afraid that buying his or her spouse’s community property interest in the business will kill the goose that is supposed to be laying the golden eggs. Rival experts can exacerbate these fears and misgivings.

Not surprisingly, the business valuation professional in the Collaborative environment is quite different from the one that delivers an opinion in court. Here are a few of the key differences.

1. The function of this professional is to help the divorcing couple to agree on a value for the business that they understand and believe is fair.

2. The professional is free to deliver a preliminary report, which is open to criticism. If either spouse can make a persuasive case that revisiting an issue, reviewing a document or interviewing a person may have a material impact on the opinion, the expert should be happy to do so. This can never happen in court, where defending one’s opinion is the order of the day.

3. The expert is also able provide a range of value, rather than a specific dollar amount. This option is advantageous for two reasons.

• It is easier for the couple to agree on a range than on a number. Once this threshold is crossed, agreeing on a point within the range should be well within their grasp.

• A range of value allows the spouses to juxtapose business value and spousal support in ways that are beneficial to both parties. For example, a young spouse with a high paying job will often want to maximize the value of the business for use in an investment or retirement vehicle. S/he would probably be willing to sacrifice something in spousal support to achieve this goal. An older spouse with limited income prospects may be primarily interested in maintaining the lifestyle that the business has supported. This individual can afford to give a little in the value of the business in order to maximize spousal support.

When retaining a neutral business valuation specialist, the couple must make two key decisions: the valuation date, and the level of service. In court, the valuation date is typically selected because it is close to the date of separation (business highly dependent on the efforts of the spouse) or to the date of trial (many others, besides the spouse, contribute to the financial performance of the company.) In Collaborative Practice, neither of these markers need be dispositive. Rather, the decision revolves around practical issues, such as proximity to the end of the calendar or fiscal year, at which time the quality of financial information is usually much better than at other times during the accounting year.

In Collaborative Practice, the expert can offer a number of choices in service that accomplish different objectives and cover a wide range of cost. For example, if a valuation opinion were for court, the IRS or some other official body, an official opinion may be required. That is almost never the case in Collaborative Practice, and an unofficial report is much less expensive. In some instances, it is necessary only to review financial documents, rather than cover the entire business landscape – another way to save money. It is not necessary to satisfy a judge in this matter. Rather, the question is: What makes sense for the couple and their available resources?

My future posts will add detail regarding business valuation in the context of Collaborative Practice. In the meantime, if you or someone you care about is entering a divorce process, Collaborative Practice should be front of mind. You can learn more about this important option by visiting the Collaborative Practice website. The site will also help you to find Collaborative professionals all over the U.S. and around the globe

PhotoPopellThis article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell CMC (Certified Management Consultant.) Steve has been qualified as a business valuation expert since 1974, and has published extensively on this topic. CMC, a certification mark awarded by the Institute of Management Consultants USA, represents evidence of the highest standards of consulting and adherence to the ethical canons of the profession. Steve was a 2007 winner Collaborative Practice California Eureka Award for contributions to Collaborative Practice in this state.