Spence: The Value of Argument

Now that we have set the stage, onward to how to argue well — based on Gerry Spence from his book “How to Argue and Win Every Time”. Enjoy!

The first reason why folks do not argue well is that they do not see the value of it. Why not? We are taught as children not to cry, not to complain. We are bound by rules. Just like the Chinese girls of 100 years ago had their feet bound, we have had our souls bound. We see argument as a negative rather than a positive. This is the first lock. And the key is to give ourselves permission.

The second reason is fear. Fear of failure or causing trouble. It is a second lock. The key is to recognize that fear is both friend and foe. Fear stimulates. It heightens our perceptions. For this reason, we need to learn how to embrace fear. It is the painful embrace of our being. The dead are not afraid. But we can shout “I am!” and with this exclamation, argument begins.  It beings when you confront your fear. It is a “magical yes!.

Argument is the gift of ourselves to “the other”. We live by giving ourselves this way to get closer to truth and justice and all of the values that we claim to be larger than ourselves. The art of argument is the art of living.

but we do not argue well by copying others who we think argue well. Nor do we live by imitation. We do not strive all to be the same. Indeed, our authority comes from our individuality. And it is unique. No one else can make that argument. This is the key to making winning arguments.

Will anyone listen? Wisdom usually does not fall from high places. The mighty and splendid teach us little.  Children teach us far more. And we teach ourselves as we learn form ourselves. One cannot see the path without traveling that path, which gives the authority to make people listen.

What are they listening for? They are listening for a shared authority. The other person retains his or her authority as do you. If they have none, then there is point in arguing at all. You are talking to a lamp post. Winning arguments does not require giving up authority. It is sharing authority that we both see.

Next – When to argue? Stay tuned!


Post Career: Slow is Good

I was posting on the Slow Food Movement and its incarnation in Perugia and a thought hit me. Slow in this context is not about being stupid or lazy. It is about celebrating what is good in life. And that idea has broad application.

here is the point. What is it about work that is most annoying? Most would answer stress from too much to do and the ever attendant risk of failure. BTW, the faster one works, the more likely one is to screw things up and fail. So there is an ever present precariousness about balancing productivity and quality.

What if you did not have to race around so much? What if you were free to focus more on quality? In this environment, you could live much better.

Post career as slow work. Think about it.

Spence: The Overview

This post is about the method that Gerry Spence uses in his book “How to Argue and Win Every Time” and the structure of the book.

What holds you back from making a brilliant winning argument? It is not the brilliance of the other side. Nor is it a lack of wit or genius on your part. If you fail it is because you have locked yourself into a position that cannot win. There are various types of locks, and Gerry will identify them in the book – offering a key to unlock them.

The book has three parts. The first part is about you. Why you? Gerry relates a great story about the tin horn cowboy with the$1,000 saddle riding a $10 horse. The $1,000 saddle won’t get you anywhere without a better horse. So too for your arguments. The beautiful rhetoric, genius phrasing, etc. get you nowhere if they are not grounded in a powerful person – you.

The second part is about the structure of argument. And the third part is about different contexts that require different types of argument.

Pretty simple. And if we can master the ideas, we can make argument playful. Onward.

Next up – we address a first lock – “I don’t like to argue!”

Curating TED Talks

There are so many TED talks around, it is hard to keep track of them. So I liked this list. But needing a list brings out a fundamental weakness of the TED ecology.

What is that? Well, TED talks should START conversations. And no doubt they do. But we do not have a tool to easily FOLLOW the conversations that get started. And so TED talks tend to be “on off” or “ad hoc” injections of ideas, etc. We need a TED thread tool.

Thinking about Legacy Technology

This quote from Willy Shih’s HBR article gets you thinking

Technologies like 3-D printing, robotics, advanced motion controls, and new methods for continuous manufacturing hold great potential for improving how companies design and build products to better serve customers. But if the past is any indicator, many established firms will be slow to adjust because of a formidable obstacle: legacy assets and capabilities that they are reluctant to abandon.

The challenge is most extreme when adopting a new technology means that old skill and knowledge sets (competences) are no longer of value. New ones are required.  And the challenge is more daunting when investment in old capacities has not been fully amortized. In these settings short term thinking crowds out the long term.

Market players who have nothing to lose tend to make smarter choices with respect to embracing new technologies. Think for example of German and Japanese steel makers after the second war.

But what can the rest of us do? We should become more sensitive to “functional” obsolescence. That is when whatever we are using is less good than what a competitor is using.  And we need to balance how we experiment with how we exploit our current technologies.

The above strategic challenge applies not just to equipment. it applies as well to intellectual tools.


Creativity and the Cerebellum

We have known for some time that creative thought is hampered by “over thinking”. In other words, if you try to analyze too much, you will not be able to do. The doing has to flow easily.

This reminds me of my father. He was a surgeon and an avid golfer. As a surgeon, he had a powerful analytical mind. He did a lot of diagnoses in his practice. And so he took his diagnostic skills to the golf course to try to analyze his own swing and improve it. The results were poor — even after extended work. He never developed a “natural” swing.  My brother, on the other hand, did develop a natural swing and he is a very good golfer.  He could never explain it. He just did it.

Recent research may help explain at least part of this. The pre-frontal cortex is where we do a lot of thinking. You might think of this as the brain’s control center. The cerebellum was thought more to regulate movement. Not part of thinking. Ooops!

The research suggests that this may not  be the case. It turns out that the cerebellum gets active when creative work gets underway. It calms down when the work becomes more routine. In other words, the cerebellum may play a critical role in linking parts of the brain together to develop better creative solutions to problems.

Think of this as  — creativity comes out of doing. Not the other way around.

Testing Your Commitment to Training

this opening paragraph by Michael Schrage writing for HBR, is rather provocative

Almost every world-class, high-performance organization takes training and education seriously. But Navy SEALs go uncomfortably beyond. They’re obsessive and obsessed. They are arguably the best in the world at what they do. Their dedication to relentless training and intensive preparation, however, is utterly alien to the overwhelming majority of businesses and professional enterprises worldwide. That’s important, not because I think MBAs should be more like SEALS—I don’t—but because real-world excellence requires more than commitment to educational achievement.

Whether you read it from a corporate or institutional perspective or an individual perspective, the article is worth a look. In part because you get to learn what the Navy SEALs do. More fundamentally, it is because the article highlights the importance of embracing a training philosophy to be successful at what you do in life.

So do you have a training philosophy? Good question, that!

Spence: Why Argue?

This my first post on Gerry Sence’s book “How to Argue and Win Every Time”. We will talk a stroll through the book to uncover its core ideas and we start with Gerry’s argument about why this matters.

We might do well by taking a look at ourselves as  a species. While mankind has advanced tremendously in a technological sense, mankind still by and large relies on coercion instead of communication in managing relationships between ourselves.Our love of justice wilts while our military budgets soar. Sad, isn’t it?

We can do better. But to do better, we need to understand what makes communication without coercion work. That is to learn how to argue. Argument is an art that can be mastered by anyone. One masters it from the “inside out” so to speak. By getting in touch with our inner selves and projecting them out in an honest way.

I know of no one who has done this better than Gerry Spense. In this book, he lays out what he knows so that he can reveal himself.

Post Career : Managing Your Health

In the old days, folks pretty much expected that their bodies would wear out when they turned 65. That was one reason why they retired. It was only fairly recently that medical research advanced to the point where it became clear that people around that age don’t just wear out. They fall apart when they don’t get enough physical activity.  Ooops!

So the old idea that retirement meant getting more rest was, in effect, a sort of death sentence. Folks in my parent’s generation  understood this and began to exercise more. By and large, they started to live longer and better.

These days, we are more aware of how the body ages and what types of physical effects of aging are countered by exercise. Here are a few, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.