Someone shared this image with me of a pigeon’s nest. I don’t know if this accurately reflects the average pigeon’s nest. I didn’t google it. That isn’t the point I took away from the image. The point I took away is that for an onlooker – like me – this nest looks like a failure. For the pigeon, it seems like a success. Success for me is when I learn.
I know many of my experiments look like a failure when folks look at them. Sometimes, they look like a failure — after some time passes — even to me. And I have to remind myself that because that experiment I know how to ______________________ (weld, plumb, research, cite, whatever). Success is when you learn.
Now that I have this image, I’ve got a reminder that what might look like a failed experiment might, in fact, be a success because I learned.
Jacob L. Moreno introduced the phrase cultural conserve to describe anything that has the effect of preserving valuable cultural memories, such as skills, discoveries, concepts, or moral values. Culture is conserved by culture carriers, that is, those who carry something forward from one generation to the next.
One way culture is conserved is tradition. Tradition is acknowledging that I have a history. Tradition is acknowledging that for hundreds and hundreds of years before I existed, people existed before me. Those people, like me, wanted to flourish and to a large degree wanted to promote human flourishing.
To promote human flourishing they created customs and beliefs, created or accumulated tools, and bought and maintained property. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a remembrance of something good or noble. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a warning or reminder that some things are bad. These traditions are what make my most intimate community. It is the songs we sing, the dances we dance, the food we eat, and the way we support and care for one another.
To break with tradition is a contemplative act. To some extent, I have to say to myself and others that I have figured something out or been enlightened in some way that they were not. Rather than an act of hubris, breaking with tradition is an act of humility. It is saying to the many that came before me that I somehow got it more right than they did.
But for there to be a place for tradition, culture carriers have to do just that. Culture carriers have to meaningfully examine which parts of the culture, which traditions, they will carry forward into the next generation. To refuse to carry forward no culture is to unhinge from the generations upon generations that did carry forward their part for human flourishing. It is choosing unnecessary suffering and death for this generation.
There is a place for tradition. To choose tradition does not mean that we have to keep the bad along with the good. We can choose to carry forward the tradition that promotes human flourishing and leave the rest to history.
Post-pandemic, many companies are faced with the challenge of ending product or service lines. When they think about which products and services to keep the natural source of information is the income sheet. Did the product or service make money? Transactional. Many times the income sheet gives a clear answer about which products and services to keep and which to get rid of. A clearly wrong answer.
A restorative leader will consult the income statement but before making a decision will ask the stakeholders. A distinguishing characteristic of restorative leadership is that the definition of stakeholder is necessarily fuzzy. Many businesses conduct customer surveys but the definition of stakeholder may extend out much further than the customer. It may include, for example, the end-user, the third-party beneficiary, the customer’s spouse and family, the community the product or service will serve, and on and on.
A restorative leader will listen to the stakeholders empathetically rather than try to convince the stakeholder that they are wrong about something they say. When a restorative leader feels offended or disgusted by a stakeholder, they seek to dig deeper to better understand the stakeholder’s position. This requires creating a safe place for the stakeholder to share. It requires leaders to receive what is shared as a gift. It is a gift — even if the leader didn’t want it — it is a valuable gift.
What restorative leaders often find is that the products or services are fine but the way they are delivered or installed or services needs to be changed. They often find that a small change to a product or service makes it more profitable. They often find that packaging existing products together makes them more profitable. They often find that stakeholders would be more loyal or would recommend products and services more if they simply received a little gratitude. They often find that stakeholders are willing to be partners and allies when they feel heard.
Trying to decide which products to keep? Don’t just ask your customers. Restoratively ask your stakeholders.
Maybe I had it perfectly memorized but I got stuck. Maybe I prepared for hours but I got stuck. Maybe I never saw this question coming and I got stuck. About the only way to never get stuck is to never leave home and if you never leave home then, you are stuck. So, what can I do when I get stuck?
Spontaneity is the spark that ignites creativity. Spontaneous action comes from the limbic system. The limbic system is a set of structures in the brain that deal with emotions and memory. A lot of spontaneous action comes from the limbic system. So, action matters. One thing you can do when you get stuck is move. To the degree possible, move in the context you are stuck in. Stuck telling a story? Put the story in action. Stuck because you are speaking to a large crowd from the front of the room? Move to the back of the room.
What can you do when you get stuck? Get spontaneous.
It was unseasonally cold this morning so I put on the socks Eason gave me.
The story of the socks started with a summer phone call. I answered. It was Eason.
“Hey Brandon, what size shoes do you wear?”
“10, sometimes 10 and a-half,” I replied.
“Great! Talk to you later,” Eason said and hung up.
It was a typical phone call with Eason. Our friendship had transcended pleasantries. I did puzzle on why he wanted to know my shoes size, but I soon forgot about it and moved on with the next phone call, the next paper, the next person.
That Christmas Eve, my doorbell rang. When I opened the door Eason handed me a Bass Pro Shop sack and exclaimed, “Merry Christmas!” Not a gift bag. A sack. And in the bottom of the sack were three pairs of Redhead socks. Eason was almost giddy to let me know that the socks have a lifetime warranty.
I am certain that Eason discovered the socks while looking for duck hunting gear. They are warm like socks you would want in a duck blind and comfortable like socks you can wear for hours without complaint.
Eason died many years ago now. I have taken advantage of the warranty and replaced the original socks twice. No wonder, I wear them during all the cold months. My wife and daughter wear them on really cold days. What a gift!
I want to leave a sock legacy. Like Eason, I want to leave something for others that is protective and comforting. Something that, once given, will last them the entirety of their life.