Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Turning Right

I've spent a fair amount of time driving on the wrong side of the road. This is not because I am a lunatic destined for destruction but simply the fact that driving in the USA is the reverse to Australia.

Whilst I do not find this difficult on the surface it became very evident that my brain was doing some significant gymnastics in the background that often mirrors our behaviour in personal and business life.

Firstly, due to my unfamiliarity to the various regions I was consistently using a GPS to get me to the locations I needed to go. The guidance voice would tell me to turn right but the first reaction that I had was to turn left. Why was this? Because my learned behaviour told me that to do a right hand turn in Australia I needed to move to the centre line and negotiate crossing over the oncoming traffic. This of course was on my left hand side now so my brain was continuing its task of translating the information and reversing it even though it didn't need to. Therefore an instruction to turn right must mean turn left? A learned paradigm!

The instruction was simple and needed no interpretation but because my brain was translating all the other roads aspects in the background it naturally took this instruction and translated it too.

The second thing that was happening was even when I knew I had to head east, my first inclination was to turn west. By now your thinking I have a serious problem but my natural compass was being screwed up because I was now in the northern hemisphere and the sun was now in the wrong part of the sky.

Now if I had all the time in the world and didn't care where I ended up this would not be a problem, (except for the people behind me in the traffic) but sitting here safely off the road sipping my Starbucks coffee I can see a parallel in how we subconsciously do similar when we interpret things in everyday life.

The learned behaviour becomes the norm, and when new advice or instructions are introduced, we translate it into the learned environment that we are used to or currently dealing with. This can often end up with disastrous outcomes or significant conflict (not unlike the drivers behind me).

Our environment is continually changing and unless we make a conscious act of stepping back and looking at what is being shown to us in a literal sense we may be at risk of inadvertently doing the learned paradigm translation into our organisational strategies and missing the essential insight or instruction. Why so many people and organisations miss the essential turns in life is because they are using the same learned translation for everything they come across without clarifying the origin and language of the message.

I recently presented to a group of business managers preparing for their annual planning cycle. When given some advice on a different way of approaching their planning it became obvious that many of the people were translating the instruction into their respective learned paradigms. This of course was totally unnecessary and confused the whole process.
Something very simple (like “turn right”) now became a complex series of unnecessary manoeuvres.

How often do we even actively ignore essential indicators, advice or warnings due to our learned translation or paradigm? Any wonder we don’t achieve our objective or take so long reaching our destination.

Give both yourself and the other drivers on the road a better chance of reaching the desired destination and check whether your "Turning Right".

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