How to pull a rabbit from your hat

I offer you this exchange from Rocky and His Friends, a charming television show from years ago:

Bullwinkle: Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
Rocky: Again?
Bullwinkle: Presto!
Lion: ROAR!!!
Bullwinkle: Oops, wrong hat.

What business needs today is someone who can find the right hat. They need it badly, and they need it yesterday.

The reason executives cannot find the right hat has been explained many, many times. This version from Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap is one of the very best. It is from their book Deep Smarts.

Deep smarts cannot be built in a culture that allows no questioning, because in such an organization, only top managers are assumed to have relevant experience; only their beliefs are assumed to be “true.”—Leonard and Swap

ProfesaurusExecutives cannot find the right hat because they always return to the same one, just as Bullwinkle did. They return to the hat of rules, of executive superiority, of habit, and of elite business school traditions.

The authors point out that people often choose their field of endeavor based on who shares their beliefs and values. They find reinforcement there rather than challenge or novelty.

I attended a party on Sunday and was introduced to a chef who works for a famous hotel chain. I asked him how they treat their people. His answer was the usual yadda, yadda. Work them hard, enforce the rules, and keep everyone in his place. Demand perfection, and provide little encouragement or guidance. They clearly have not found the right hat.

This post is to remind you of two things.

One. You probably work for someone who cannot find the right hat. The answer to the problem can be found in Deep Smarts, How To Cultivate And Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom.

The answer is provided in Managing the Unexpected, Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity. The authors are Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe

A third source is the venerable 1964 classic Managing for Results by Peter F. Drucker. It is a good read if for no other reason than to show us how good advice can be ignored for 50 years by people who have been to college.

The pertinent question is not how to do things right but how to find the right things to do, and concentrate resources and efforts on them.—Peter Drucker

Two. I “get” the answer for finding the right hat. I can bring it to your organization. Please tell your friends. 520-408-7507.

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