Nutritious Imperfection

Horst Abraham coaches elite athletes. He recognizes their thirst for achievement but makes an intriguing observation about their orientation to learning. Many of us find our imperfections painful and we practice denial. Horst says that many of his clients are “positively energized by their imperfections.” Instead of denying or becoming depressed by their imperfections, they seek to recognize and understand them. They develop “chronic discontent – but in a nutritious way.”

When people observe their imperfections and turn them into positive energy, they grow and develop. In organizations, there is often a different tendency. There is an emphasis on hierarchy, authority and expertise. When circumstances change, the system fills with uncertainty. There is a need to move forward, learning through trial and error. Yet the fear of vulnerability is great. The “knowing organization” prevents learning and adaptation. The people practice denial while the organization slowly dies.

Recently I worked with such an organization. The insistence on knowing led all the way to bankruptcy. Yet the disaster had positive effects. Today there is an entirely new culture. There is chronic discontent. One executive said, “Our new program leads the industry and is making big money. We are already changing it. We are searching out every flaw. We are continually learning how to make it better. The objective is to stay in front and it requires continual change”

The knowing organization has become a learning organization. They are “positively energized by their imperfections.” They no longer have to be experts. They are willing to be vulnerable and learn together. Instead of denying or becoming depressed by their imperfections, they seek to recognize and understand them. They develop “chronic discontent – but in a nutritious way.”

Reflection

  • When have we denied reality?
  • When have we shown chronic discontent – in a nutritious way?
  • How do we turn a knowing organization into a learning organization?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?
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