Leaving Yongsan Station. (c) Danleo (CC BY 2.5). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Want Clarity About Work? Start By Defining Terms

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I have decided to take the advice I gave Paul Holmström at Management Unplugged, I’m posting my answers to questions posed elsewhere. Recently, Jim Heskett of Harvard Business School asked “Why Don’t Managers Think Deeply?

If you want to see why Wilfred Brown kept talking about need to define terms like “manager”, you could do a lot worse than reading Heskett’s blog. He never defines terms when he can get away with using Universal Language that everyone agrees with because it doesn’t really mean much. In this one, it was the term “deep thinking”.

My comment:

No one ever bothered to define, for this page, what “deep thinking” means. The Zaltmans seem to think that “deep thinking” means something like “mental reflecting that gets to our inner feelings”. But it could also refer to:

  • thinking about the consequences or results of an action over varying time horizons;
  • reflecting upon the core seeming paradox in a value or purpose at different levels of hiddenness;
  • stepping outside of one’s role and adopting another’s point of view, to varying degrees of success at predicting others’ actions;
  • and a host of other internal mental activities that aren’t quite much alike.

Rectifying names here is probably a good idea, otherwise we’re not talking about the same thing.

Most of the discussion here seems to be “Managers should raise their role up and do work at the next higher thought level” (whatever that is) which will surely disrupt the power balance within the organization. More interesting is the question of “Do we allow our managers to have time for reflection, in whatever way that works out for them and at whatever level they are comfortable with?”

Image Credit: Image Credit: Leaving Yongsan Station. © Danleo (CC BY 2.5). Via Wikimedia Commons.

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