Thinking Impractically.

Posted by jlubans on May 09, 2016

Caption: NOT thinking impractically!

Keeping to my contrarian ways, there are times when impractical, indirect thinking may be better than following the scientific model of problem solving. The Eureka moment may come from sitting in a bathtub rather than running countless computer simulations.
That’s kind of the premise for a collection of fables for leaders.
My far-flung e-book team of author (NC), designer (Riga), illustrator (NYC), and editor (NC) is making progress. We’re producing an e-book for Fall 2016 based on the Friday Fables from this blog.
We’ve narrowed the fables down to 100 (out of more than 175) and have divided the 100 into five categories: Effective leader, Effective follower, Goals and Strategic Planning, Office Politics, and “Them and Us”. And, we’ve assigned several sub-heads to each category.
The book will open with Aesop’s “THE CRAB AND THE FOX”*
“A Crab once left the sea-shore and went and settled in a meadow some way inland, which looked very nice and green and seemed likely to be a good place to feed in. But a hungry Fox came along and spied the Crab and caught him. Just as he was going to be eaten up, the Crab said, ‘This is just what I deserve; for I had no business to leave my natural home by the sea and settle here as though I belonged to the land.’”
“Be content with your lot.”
My commentary begins: “This disputable moral – aren’t they all?” and goes on from there about just how contented one should be, if at all.
The book's purpose is to re-tell a good story and to inspire the reader to think about how this story and countless others engage us and help us in gaining a greater awareness of self.
Also, the fable e-book will serve as a text for a short class on literature and leadership in early 2017 at the University of Latvia.
Students will gain a new perspective on the world of work, a helpful one that exercises qualitative skills rather than relying excessively on quantitative analysis. This may be an “impractical” notion when compared to the purely practical - but I like to think that it is more than a little relevant to real world situations and helps us understand human behavior and improve one’s social IQ.
Right now, I’m considering the title. Originally, I thought my “Wisdom in a Thimble”* was a slam dunk, what with memories of the family in the kitchen, the children at mother’s knee while she sews and tells stories.
Then a young person asked, “What’s a thimble?”
I’d like for the title to catch the eye and to suggest what the book is about. Here are several brainstormed ideas:
“Fables for Managers: Thinking Impractically.”
“An impractical way of thinking.”
“Another way of thinking.”
“You’re not paid to think!”
“Uncritical thinking.”
“Be practical! Think impractically!”
“Fables for Dummies.”
I’m still looking. While eye-catching is important, more important is the implied suggestion that fables (among other literature) offer us insights into life problems, to our inculcated values. Those insights are not readily visible when one follows a disciplined, step-by-step, allegedly objective and critical approach to problem solving. Often, it’s the indirect path taken that leads to a break through. (Now, that sounds like the moral to a fable!)
The peculiarly worded end note of a translation** of Krylov’s fables is similar:
“Fable stories, readers saw in this book, are different …. Looking as a fiction they may be expanded on real everyday situations. Being supported by verse, stories easier touch our memory showing sometimes a path how to solve problems applying our knowledge and experience.”
That’s sort of what I am trying to get at, the idea that fables, ancient and new, or any kind of literature – stories - can give us insights that we might miss or overlook in our data driven, objectified seeking of solutions.
Be practical! How often have you heard that? The pragmatic beats daydreaming, does it not? Yet, we are directed to “challenge conventional thinking with original ideas”. How does one do that?
Fables are indirect, curvilinear (like life), oblique, off-kilter ways of getting to unexpected resolutions. It is anarchic, unconventional thinking.
It is Taoist. It is the way of the un-boss: “If you want to lead people, You must learn how to follow them.”
It is the idea of “doing by not doing”.
It is the Taoist’s counter to Stephen Covey: “Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.”
I already use literature in my classes - short stories, legends, myths, and fairly tales. They’ve been helpful; certainly a simple story can encompass complex life philosophies: equality, fairness, and kindness, helping others. Where do those notions come from? Why do they matter? Or, do they? I can imagine some would think not. These are core values for most of us. Engage them through simple stories and see where it takes us.

* That was the title of my February 24, 2016 fables workshop at the National Library of Latvia. It had 35 attendees and produced five new fables.

**End note, by David Karpman, “Fables of I.A.Krylov” 2010.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016
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Posted by Kelley Chisholm on May 09, 2016  •  23:19:11

Hi John, this is good news indeed and I look forward to reading this when it's published.

Of the titles suggested, my favorite was your original, "Wisdom in a Thimble." It saddens me that today's younger generation is clueless about thimbles, heavy sigh.

If you're asking for possible title suggestions, how about "Fabled: Doing By Not Doing" or "Fables: Fabulous Impractically" ?

Again, looking forward to this publication, and hope you are doing well!


Posted by jlubans on May 11, 2016  •  04:55:40

Thanks for the ideas, Kelley. I like them; will add them to the mix. I've not totally given up on the the thimble!
I like doing my blog. it keeps the blood circulating in the brain. J

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