Change can appear dark at times but if we look at things differently, we may be able to gain light from another perspective. July’s elected Book of the Month, Ring in the Rubble, a management ebook that borders on a self-help guide for business people, starts with a moving account of the author’s son life-threatening birth, and how a golden ring can be found in the midst of when things fall apart; even when you see your life turning to rubble around you. Gary Bradt’s Ring in the Rubble (2007) is about discovering opportunities that lie within every situation and overcoming the fear of failure. An intrepid CEO echoes this Tolkien philosophy to her staff:
Folks, government regulations, shifting technologies, industry consolidation, and geopolitical uncertainties have reduced our best-laid business plans to rubble. However, my experience says that buried within the rubble is a golden ring of opportunity. Finding it will catapult us far ahead of our competition. I believe it’s our job as leaders and as an organization to find that ring. So, how do you recommend we proceed? (Bradt, 2007: 5)
A traditional management response might be to benchmark organizations, develop a list of competencies, design a training programme and invite attendees. Yet the choice is stark. According to Bradt (2007) to not search for the ring is certain failure in a ‘go for it’ culture , but to aggressively search for the ring is to win. Capitalism turned hunt-game. Not for the faint-hearted or skeptics.
The underlying premise of The Ring in the Rubble applies to your personal life as well, whether you’re ‘facing a new marriage, divorce, birth, death, or illness, it’s not the change itself that dictates the results we get, it’s how we perceive and handle that change that makes all the difference’ (Bradt, 2007: 7). How we face disruption and cope with a mounting workload effectively styles the type of manager you are, and this book challenges the reader to bravely examine established self-perceptions.
The non-solipsistic mantra of chapter 6 appealed to me: ‘Repeat after me: You are not the center of the universe’. Forfeit the ego….if only! Another illuminating chapter (chap. 8) is ‘What to do when the rubble is deep, your patience is short, and the odds are long’ starts with the author’s brother Jeff buying a new home and finding a solitary woman in a house full of paint, caulk and junk in every room:
“Do you mean to tell me that you’re cleaning the whole house by yourself?” he asked her incredulously. “No,” she replied blithely, “I’m only cleaning the room I’m in.” This woman clearly had developed a strategy for dealing with what I call our Everyday Rubble’. (Bradt, 2007: 104). Concentrate upon one job at a time, taking one step at a time. It might be my ignorance of management theory and Buddhism, but the book may be simply re-packaging mindfulness into the business world, a zen philosophy contemporarily taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. Bradt (2007: 104) explains that to tackle everyday disruption equates with success:
Everyday Rubble accumulates from all of the small yet typical disruptions in our perfectly planned days. Traffic jams, cancelled flights, unexpected meetings, client crises, bulging workloads beyond the norm, unexpected days with no babysitter—all sorts of things can contribute to our pile of Everyday Rubble.
Rethinking failure as something which should not avoided, not to entertain risk avoidance, over-turning the aspiration to acquire top grades, and recognising that the fear of failure holds us back, is a refreshingly bold concept. Is this an anti-scientific method? Children just try things without fear of failure or embarrassment. It’s just learning. Thomas Edison tried thousands of times before he perfected the light bulb. Bradt (2007: 116) views risk avoidance as nonsensical:
We don’t share ideas in meetings for fear of sounding stupid; we don’t float that new product idea for fear it will be rejected; we won’t even order new items on the menu at lunch for fear of being disappointed! That critical inner voice in our heads holds us back from trying anything new where failure is a possibility.
Being yourself is something which we could all learn from, and not taking yourself too seriously in the process. If you would like to read further, just search the catalogue for Ring in the Rubble and ‘log into ebook here’ near the bottom of the screen.