We all know about the so called “ostrich defense”. It is the urge to stick your head in the sand and hope that trouble passes you by. We all do this and sometimes intentionally. But we also do it unintentionally. That happens when we refuse to see things as they really are and insist that what we want to see is in fact what is there.
This is a recipe for producing prolonged conflict within and between organizations. That conflict arises when some wake up to a threat but others are locked into a mindset that blinds them to it. The newspaper industry in the US may be a good example of this.
What can one do? One thing is clear. These types of problems cannot be worked out by individuals working on their own. Only network effects can become powerful enough to match institutional inertia. So getting connected is a way to avoid getting trapped in conflicts that are much bigger than you are.
Viktor Frankl was an Auschwitz survivor and brilliant writer (Man’s Search for Meaning). He endured incredible hardship during his life and he made that the centerpiece of his philosophy of life. The meaning of life is in how we endure suffering.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a movie actress and celebrity. She is going through a divorce and writing about the hardship. As far as I can tell, there is none. She assures her fans that she will move through the experience at a higher level.
Why juxtapose these two persons? Because both assert that there is a way to get beyond the constraints of experience. Frankl by embracing the worst and Paltrow by aggressively ignoring it in favor of the perfected self. Both offer paths to get unstuck and we might see their attitudes — as opposite as they are — as tools. Nothing more.
Imagine you are a Samurai. You are an “ultimate” fighting machine and expected to perform at the highest level. You have been highly trained and are ready to handle conflict … of a certain type. That type is the battlefield. Like the knights in Europe, the samurai were the product of a class structure where one expected face to face physical violence and it was “winner take all”. So it should be no great surprise that a class of warriors would be expected to meet that challenge. Picture yourself in that role.
How would you cope with a ninja? The ninja are also highly trained to be in conflict. But their training is not to confront the enemy at all. But to prevail by cunning. This fun documentary gives the flavor of how the ninja functioned. One thing is clear. Your samurai training is no use here. All it does is pigeon hole you into a “type”, making your moves predictable to the crafty ninja.
Now think of this in terms of modern day conflict. Are you a samurai or a ninja?