Friday Fable. Group 4’s* “The Elephant and the Rabbits”**

Posted by jlubans on March 25, 2016

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Group 4’s Sanita Pretkalniņa reporting out.

“The animal council elections were taking place. The animal in charge of storing carrots must be elected. Rabbits had their candidate, but the rest of council thought some one greater, bigger must be in charge. After much discussion the smallest elephant was elected as the head of carrot storage. On the first day of his duty, the elephant squished all the carrots into a puree.”

“A small elephant is not a rabbit.” - African Proverb

Group 4 offers us yet another interpretation of this bemusing African Proverb from Kiley Shields' “Puzzling Proverbs: So Why Did The Goat Go Home After It Broke A Leg?
Hiring, it is said, is one of the most important decisions any organization makes. Make the wrong choice – be it an over-size elephant vs. a perfect-fit rabbit or a “competent jerk” over a “loveable star” - and the organization suffers in lowered productivity, increased costs, decreased morale and other negatives. It’s the same for working groups or teams. A final exam question in my class on the Democratic Workplace poses a “ringer” for the essential elements for a group’s effective problem solving. Here are the multiple-choice answers:
a. Make sure there’s a Real Problem.
b. Always prefer expert advice over that offered by a user.
c. Be flexible, if the first solution fails.
d. Pay attention to the membership of the team.
e. Don’t do it all yourself.
Which answer do you think is most applicable to Group 4’s Fable?
I can draw from early in my career - when committees became all the rage - how academic libraries constituted task forces. The most common technique was to draw one person from each unit, department, division, etc; a misguided form of democracy, if you will. Groups like this usually produced compromised and unimaginative results at great cost to the organization.
There had to be a better way!
Recent research reveals that a group’s success improves greatly when all members take part in discussion and activities (no member dominating). And, the group is successful when it includes members who can read complex emotional states (high social IQ). While the research suggests a third criterion, gender, I’d say that might apply to organizations with a 50/50 ratio, but it’s an unhelpful criterion for organizations with an 80/20 ratio of women to men. So, appoint members for their good social intelligence and proven ability and willingness to participate. That composition, under the right leadership, will succeed far more than one drawn exclusively from stakeholders.

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Group 4's Māra Jēkabsone (left) taking part in the “Name That Fable!” segment.

*Group 4: Sanita Pretkalniņa; Ludmila Viļumova; Anda Simina; Iluta Krūmiņa; Anda Saldovere; Kristīne Robežniece; Māra Jēkabsone; Lilita Rudzāte.

**This is the fourth fable created by small groups at the "Wisdom in a Thimble: Managers and Fables" discussion I led at the National Library of Latvia in Riga, February 24, 2016.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016

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