Authors and poets often use metaphors to convey their true meaning. Nobel Prize winning (for Literature) Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was especially adept at the use of metaphor to convey images – take this example from Neruda’s love poem If You Forget Me:
…everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
What is Neruda talking about? Aromas and/or light can’t physically sail towards anything…can they? While our left brains may struggle to logically comprehend these words of Neruda’s, our right brains are right there soaking up the powerful image of Neruda’s extraordinary feeling of longing for his beloved.
More importantly, what does this have to do with a blog sponsored by a multi-family office populated with CPAs, CFPs, and a whole smattering of financial service offerings?
Singer Burke hosted our annual company retreat a couple of months ago at a beautiful site nestled nearby among our local Santa Monica mountains. During the day, our facilitators introduced the concept of ‘heart-centered’ leadership as a way to incorporate our whole brains (right and left) into the equation when addressing and/or assessing options on behalf of ourselves and our clients. As staff members shared their concept of heart-centered thought and action including examples of how they experienced heart-centered living in their own lives, one member of the management team advised that the heart was merely a muscle for pumping blood and that the concept of ‘heart-centered’ leadership just didn’t make logical sense.
Besides recommending Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind about the importance of right brain thinking to advance and improve the results of left brain thinking, I offer another metaphor/story to illustrate why relying solely on left brain or logical thinking isn’t enough:
The following is based upon a true story…only the names have been changed to protect the innocent…
Once upon a time there were a group of chickens who were doing their best to be as productive as possible (Editor’s Note: Chicken productivity is easily measured by how many eggs are produced on a daily basis). One day a management consultant recommended that the chickens consider a new strategy for productivity; e.g., build a flock consisting solely of your most productive chickens (the ones that lay the most eggs) and then, logically (left brain), egg laying productivity will flourish.
What do you think happened?
In fact, there was a study done by William Muir, an evolutionary biologist at Purdue University, who studied chickens in order to discover the secret behind super productivity. Muir knew that chickens were similar to people at work in some respects — they live in groups, just as we work in groups. He made a comparison between the 6th generation of a ‘normal’ flock of chickens and the 6th generation of a specially selected flock bred from high productivity stock.
At the end of the study, the ‘normal’ chickens were doing as expected. The ‘super’ flock, however, was a different story. Only 3 had survived. The rest had been pecked to death. These 3 had survived and displayed high productivity only by killing the rest of the flock.
The conclusion of the study was that attempting to cultivate high productivity was in fact counterproductive.
What does this say about the current worldview in business where, when faced with high competition, logic tells us that it’s only the exceptionally creative, talented, most skilled and intelligent who should be recognized and rewarded. In other words, to be recognized and valued, we must become part of that ‘super’ flock that sometimes sacrifices holistic achievement for individual recognition thereby, intentionally and/or inadvertently suppressing the productivity of others.
It turns out that the key to success lies in quite a different direction (right brain). The key to success lies not in any one brilliant person but in the cooperation and collaboration of many well-intentioned people (heart-centered leadership).
So to answer the age-old existential question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Heart-centered answer: Not to be individually recognized as a high achiever but rather to reach out to the chickens on the other side of the road in order to help build social capital within the flock.