About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

22 November 2009

Nurse Bryan's Rule

In our book See New Now: New Lenses for Leadership and Life, Jerry de Jaager and I offer 24 lenses designed to communicate vital business and interpersonal concepts simply and memorably. Their value lies in the fact that they help individuals see things differently, inspire groups to breakthrough insights, and can change the way entire organizations think. They are based on a simple fact, once stated simply by Peter Drucker: "Insights last; theories don't."

An example of a story we might develop into a full-blown lens comes from Drucker himself. I am quoting here from page 160 of The Essential Drucker:
A focus on contribution (italics mine) is a powerful force in developing people. People adjust to the level of demands made on them. One who sets his sights on contribution raises the sights and standards of everyone with whom he works.

A new hospital administrator, holding his first staff meeting, thought that a rather difficult matter had been settled to everyone’s satisfaction, when one participant suddenly asked, “Would this have satisfied Nurse Bryan?” At once the argument started all over and did not subside until a new and much more ambitious solution to the problem had been hammered out.

Nurse Bryan, the administrator learned, had been a long-serving nurse at the hospital. She was not particularly distinguished, had not in fact ever been a supervisor. But whenever a decision on patient care came up on her floor, Nurse Bryan would ask, “Are we doing the best we can do to help this patient?” Patients on Nurse Bryan’s floor did better and recovered faster. Gradually, over the years, the whole hospital had learned to adopt what became known as Nurse Bryan’s Rule; had learned, in other words, to ask: "Are we really making the best contribution to the purpose of this hospital?"
Drucker goes on to point out that even though Nurse Bryan had been retired for ten years at the time the staff meeting was held, the standards she had set still commanded the attention and respect of the organization she had served so well.

The Nurse Bryan story - if developed fully - would certainly meet all of our tests for a good lens.
  • It's quick: it can be read and appreciated in just minutes
  • It's powerful: it is hard-hitting and memorable
  • It's sticky: the story and its lessons will stay with you for a long time
  • It's deep: it makes the complex simple without losing anything in the translation
Why not take a look through this mini-lens to see if you can come up with a different - and perhaps more valuable - take on the notion of contribution?

  • What is this story about for you?
  • How does it intersect your life or work at this moment?
  • Is there a word, a phrase, or an image here that speaks directly to something important to you?
"There are many books I could have written that are better than the ones I actually wrote. My best book would have been Managing Ignorance, and I'm very sorry I didn't write it." - Peter Drucker
"Oscar Wilde did not dive very deeply below the surface of human nature, but found, to a certain extent rightly, that there is more on the surface of life than is seen by the eyes of most people." - J.T. Grein, Sunday Special, Dec. 9, 1900
"The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion – all in one."- John Ruskin
"When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul." - Rachel Naomi Remen, Jewish World Review 10/23/09
"We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers." - Seneca
"To encourage, to comfort, to awaken, and to stretch those who find themselves riding this big ball as it screams thru time in the silence of space. To be a bridge, not a barricade. To be a link, not a lapse. To be a beacon and a bolster; not a bragger or a bummer. To help bring the corners of life's lips to their summit. To be a friend to those who find their fit a little awkward in this chaos society calls living." - Vess Barnes III

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