In The 80/20 Manager, Richard Koch tells the story of a Prussian army commander and his unique method for utilizing his officers, according to their intelligence and their work ethic…
1. Officers who are both lazy and stupid – leave them alone, they do no harm.
2. Officers who are both hardworking and stupid – fire them at once, they create trivial work for everyone else.
3. Officers who are both hardworking and intelligent – useful for administrating and executing plans.
4. Officers who are both lazy and intelligent – promote them to the highest ranks. They will have the best ideas and will see how to implement them without creating trivial work for everyone else. Great advice for managing your staff. But also great advice for managing your own brains.
I believe that I have two brains.
One brain is an intelligent and hardworking officer.
Let’s call it my rational mind. It kicks in when I’m working very hard.
It’s dualistic. It’s black and white. It makes snap judgements. It “disqualifies” and ignores as much sensory input that it possibly can in order to keep me focused on the (often trivial) daily tasks that I’ve set before it.
It loves routine. It loves logic. It loves order.
When I have many routine, daily tasks to get through, it serves me well. It is a trusty little, inside-the-box tool. A good soldier.
But it serves me poorly when I need grand ideas. When I need breakthrough ideas. When I need to see things from outside the box.
In fact, if I let my good soldier brain stay in charge too long, I completely miss what is truly important. My good soldier brain wants to keep me “on the job”.
I need my second brain for real breakthrough.
My lazy and intelligent brain. My commander brain.
This brain looks twice, three times, four times at a problem and turns it over, meditates on it, considers it deeply. It makes revelatory connections that the good soldier brain will always miss. It’s holistic. It’s comfortable with gray areas.
But here’s the thing…it doesn’t WORK on problems, it PLAYS with them. And it does it mostly subconsciously. And it only plays when I’m not working at all.
My breakthrough ideas come ONLY from my lazy and intelligent “commander” brain, never from my rational and hardworking “good soldier” brain.
Which brain are you using today?
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