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Wicked Problems & Designer Possibilities

Tips and hints on making performance happen…

The more senior you become, the older you become, the more complex things seem to become – problems just seem to get more wicked!. More stakeholders to satisfy. Greater consequences of failure. Higher expectations. Shorter time frames. Etc, etc.

As a committed human being, what options do you have beyond hiding under the duvet? You can try and be clever – look for causes of problems – ask WHY? However, when you look into problems, you find more problems, you become “problem saturated.”

The lines between real, perceived and completely made up problems become obscure – helplessness can become a close companion. A different option, rather than to look backwards into problems, is to look forwards into possibilities.

Ask: What does success look like? How would I know things were moving forward? What would life look like if problems were absent? Suspend your judgement and answer these questions – coming up with at least 30 bullet points (50 if you’re up for a challenge). Then step back – what you’ll start discovering are the clues and signposts to make progress – possibilities around which you can design your own ways forward.

The morale of this blog? Thinking problems makes you an expert in problems; thinking possibilities makes you an expert in progress. Sit with this sentiment for a while and see if it makes sense. Better still, experiment with it and see what happens. You’ve got nothing to lose.

(Thanks to Evan George at for the quote: “Thinking problems makes you an expert in problems; thinking possibilities makes you an expert in progress”)



Control Freakiness

“When a control freak loses control, all you have left is the freak!”

This quote has stuck with me since my wife put it to me in a moment of my own freakiness.
It’s a great quote – it beautifully nails the human endeavour – it’s all about control. In my experience as a coach, the surest way to lose control is to focus purely on “winning” – winning involves too many variables beyond one’s influence, let alone control. The day Lehman’s collapsed, a friend of mine lost 75% of his business. Yes, he probably had a freaky day or two in the aftermath, but to bounce back from a set-back, the focus isn’t on winning; it’s on acting like a consistent high performer. It’s the consistent high performer who has the presence of mind to take a deep breadth, step back and assess the situation, identify opportunities and have the courage to step forward again. It’s the high performer mindset that gives you the required control in order to be successful.

Question: What would be different in your life if you had 10% more of a high performer’s state of mind?