Absurd!: Exploring Management of the Absurd

by Ron

lIZrwvbeRuuzqOoWJUEn_Photoaday_CSD (1 of 1)-5I picked up small book off my bookshelf this week that is twenty years old.  When I say it’s small I mean in size (small format and just 172 pages) not stature or content.  It is a profound book and should not be forgotten.  I don’t know if it every achieved numerical success but the forward was written by Michael Crichton (the late author who wrote books such as The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park and others). That should have gotten the attention of a lot of people.

The title of the book is Management of the Absurd: Pardoxes in Leadership by Richard Farson.  You’ll find it on my Reading List but as I said, it’s twenty years old so you may not have spotted it.  But this book is timeless.

Just look at a few of these chapter titles:

  • Nothing is as invisible as the Obvious
  • Effective Managers Are Not in Control
  • Most Problems That People Have are Not Problems
  • Technology Creates the Opposite of Its Intended Purpose

If you’re like me these titles grab you before you’ve read one word in the chapter.  I wish I was as good at creating grabbing titles as this.

I haven’t done this before but I’m going to spend some time going through Management of the Absurd with you.  I’ll capture a few thoughts and lines from various chapters and talk about the timeless nature of the principle.  I believe you’ll begin to see that the truths that guide good management and leadership are ageless and should frequently remind us of the seemingly absurd nature of good leadership.

Chapter one is titled “The Opposite of a Profound Truth is Also True.”  And in the first few paragraphs Farson reminds us that:

“We have been taught that a thing cannot be what it is and also its opposite.”

This belief that if my position or perspective is true than yours must be false leads to an incredible amount of conflict, strife and division within organizations.

F. Scott Fitzgearld reminds us:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Now I think having a first-rate intelligence would be a great starting point for a good leader but notice that I don’t say a high IQ.  There has never been any correlation found between IQ and success and one measure of a great leader is achieving success.  So it’s not IQ, its intelligence.  Don’t believe that the opposite of a profound truth, your truth, is not also true.

In his book The Primes, Chris McGoff points out that often when teams don’t seem to be able to reach a decision it’s because they are assuming they’re in a right vs wrong argument when in reality they’re in a right vs right argument.  The opposite of a profound truth is also true.  Great leaders realize that they are often choosing between right vs right, not right vs wrong.  Assuming everything is a right vs wrong argument is childish.  Great leaders are also mature.

Don’t let your leadership or management style look like it has the maturity of a teenager.  Realize that even though you may hold the truth on a topic, others on your team also hold the truth.  Bring all the truth’s out together and then decide which direction the team should take.

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