Go slow to go fast: A counterintuitive way to improve your work habits
Today's fast-paced culture leaves no time for relational intelligence. Here's why it's worth slowing down to eventually speed up.
Angie McArthur is Professional Thinking Partners' acting CEO. She has been an integral part of PTP since 1998, co-facilitating and designing global conferences, leadership retreats, training programs, and ongoing one-on-one Thinking Partnerships in organizations from non-profits to Fortune 500s. She is also one of the creators of the Worldwide Women’s Web, a network formed in 2001 to retain women in corporate leadership roles. As an expert in perceptual learning patterns, she has developed communication strategies for authors, corporations and CEO's, and the Executive Champions Workshop. She has also designed interactive web assessments and products for corporate training programs.Angie has co-authored two books for Random House with Dawna Markova: Collaborative Intelligence (2015) and Reconcilable Differences (2017).
JENNIFER BROWN: Do you think relational intelligence is more important than ever, given we live in very polarizing times? And I know that this is kind of bleeding into the workplace and every client that I work with, where dialogue has really in some ways stopped because I think people don’t have this kind of intelligence. Because these are the tools where we keep the door open. These are the tools where we are curious with no agenda about establishing a connection with others. And I think it’s difficult because feelings are running high and that sort of “I’m going to square off against” is an easy energy. I think the harder energy is “staying with and staying in”. Something where you may feel there’s a disagreement that feels personal or emotional, et cetera. So what kinds of advice do you find yourself giving these days in particular, given that the stakes feel higher and it almost is the toughest time I can remember to build bridges?
ANGIE MCARTHUR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I really feel this. I get, now—actually this is going to sound very odd. I now get excited when I bump up against a difference with someone, because it’s an opportunity to practice exactly what I preach, which is stepping into the conversation, digging in. And the mantra that I carry that I would invite anyone to use on any possible connection is: what can I learn from this experience? How can I grow from this experience?
If I hold that in my mind I feel like I can get through anything with anyone. And it takes this unbelievable courage to step in and dig in and be willing to be—which we don’t like in this culture at all—confused. Which changes your mindset. I love confusion and often in the team setting we don’t allow for confusion. And honestly when we bump up against differences and when we start going, “Oh, gosh, what she said is terrible,” or, “That guy over there…” you know. Often what happens in those circumstances is because we’re looking for quick answers, we’re looking for people to be right all the time.
But any group or any team as they’re working through decisions, or even in family systems, you need to allow for confusion and group confusion: people being okay with, “Oh, I don’t quite get where she’s coming from,” or, “God, what he said, you know, that doesn’t make sense to me.” That’s okay. Step into it. Move into it. Open up those doors. Ask them more.
And so I think that’s a huge part of it, is we’ve gotten very slick in how we expect people to be, with this “performance” kind of mindset. And confusion is a really necessary part of relating to one another well, because you won’t understand each other. Even people who have a huge amount in common, they will bump up against each other’s differences. So it’s that willingness to discover, to be awkward for a minute. That’s okay. I love awkwardness! Love confusion. So next time someone is sitting next to you and you find yourself confused instead of judging yourself or judging them say, “Huh, I wonder why that is.”
JENNIFER BROWN: And it feels like the speed of business is almost counter to what you’re talking about because you’ve got to leave time to be confused and time to dive in and time to explore. And yet we live in this—like you said—a performance-based expectation culture where we deliver, deliver, deliver. And I feel like it’s a binary. That’s so binary, and yet it leaves so much behind.
So we might make a decision but we might not have heard all the input and we may not have dealt with the cognitive dissonance that—what I call the “creative abrasion” between people. And we didn’t then give ourselves time to develop the skills for the next time as well, to welcome different viewpoints and go through the process of reconciliation. So it seems sort of at odds with the world that we are being held accountable to be successful in. So how do we build-in time to practice relational intelligence in this fast-paced, frenetic, fewer-resources kind of world?
ANGIE MCARTHUR: I don’t think we can afford not to, and it’s not even necessarily about time, it really is about our mindset and our approach to one another. We all like to think we’re open-minded, and to me I challenge us all: to be open-minded means openness of perspective, of not willing to be so, “Okay, here’s the agenda item. Okay, we’ve got that decision made. Okay, this is done.” We get so much satisfaction about checking things off the list that we don’t check those things off well and with attention. And so it’s not even necessarily a time thing. It’s openness, and when you talk about diversity of perspective it’s also giving time to really step back and say: what perspective is missing?
We tend to “tribe” and we tend to be on this fast-track train, but I think the more people practice this—as I mentioned before, I get excited when I bump up against a difference with someone, it can be a difference of anything because it gives me a chance to practice this willingness to go, “I wonder what’s really important to them in this moment. Are they willing to listen to what’s important to me?" And while it seems to take time it actually accelerates the effectiveness of the decision, the effectiveness of the outcome. So it’s retraining how we’re actually thinking about time. It’s not such a linear process. It’s more of, okay, what does our engagement here look like so we can produce the absolute best result we could?
JENNIFER BROWN: It’s really quality over quantity. It’s go slow to go fast.
ANGIE MCARTHUR: Go slow to go fast.
JENNIFER BROWN: And ultimately we go faster together and the quality of our output is going to be better. And how we got there is going to feel that we were honored versus making a decision going forward just for the sake of going forward. So I mean this is so classic, it’s a classic business dynamic that really matters. It really matters.
When your method or worldview clashes with a colleague's, how do you respond? Leadership expert Angie McArthur has one word for these encounters: exciting. She views them as opportunities to develop relational intelligence—a skill that is sorely missing from most workplaces today. McArthur believes that the confusion of not understanding why someone acts or thinks a certain way is a growth opportunity that, in the long run, builds more productive teams that make stronger decisions. The problem is that our fast-paced performance culture leaves no time to step into that confusion and explore it—in fact, we don't even like to admit our confusion exists. Here, McArthur speaks with diversity and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown about slowing down and retraining your relational intelligence for quality results over fast deliverables. This live conversation was part of a recent New York panel on diversity, inclusion, and collaboration at work. Angie McArthur is the co-author of Reconcilable Differences: Connecting in a Disconnected World.
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While not the first such minister, the loneliness epidemic in Japan will make this one the hardest working.
- The Japanese government has appointed a Minister of Loneliness to implement policies designed to fight isolation and lower suicide rates.
- They are the second country, after the U.K., to dedicate a cabinet member to the task.
- While Japan is famous for how its loneliness epidemic manifests, it isn't alone in having one.
The Ministry of Loneliness<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/I5FIohjZT8o" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><a href="https://www.jimin.jp/english/profile/members/114749.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tetsushi Sakamoto</a>, already in the government as the minister in charge of raising Japan's low birthrate and revitalizing regional economies, was appointed this <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/21/national/japan-tackles-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">month</a> to the additional role. He has already announced plans for an emergency national forum to discuss the issue and share the testimony of lonely <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/12/national/loneliness-isolation-minister/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">individuals</a>.</p><p>Given the complexity of the problem, the minister will primarily oversee the coordination of efforts between different <a href="https://www.insider.com/japan-minister-of-loneliness-suicides-rise-pandemic-2021-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ministries</a> that hope to address the issue alongside a task <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/21/national/japan-tackles-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">force</a>. He steps into his role not a moment too soon. The loneliness epidemic in Japan is uniquely well known around the world.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Hikikomori</em></a><em>,</em> often translated as "acute social withdrawal," is the phenomenon of people completely withdrawing from society for months or years at a time and living as modern-day hermits. While cases exist in many <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00247/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries</a>, the problem is better known and more prevalent in Japan. Estimates vary, but some suggest that one million Japanese live like this and that 1.5 million more are at <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/article/japan-hikikomori-isolation-society" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">risk</a> of developing the condition. Individuals practicing this hermitage often express contentment with their isolation at first before encountering severe symptoms of loneliness and <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200110155241.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">distress</a>.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodokushi" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Kodokushi</em></a>, the phenomenon of the elderly dying alone and remaining undiscovered for some time due to their isolation, is also a widespread issue in Japan that has attracted national attention for decades.</p><p>These are just the most shocking elements of the loneliness crisis. As we've discussed before, loneliness can cause health issues akin to <a href="https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/americas-loneliness-epidemic-is-more-lethal-than-smoking-heres-what-you-can-do-to-combat-isolation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">smoking</a>. A lack of interaction within a community can cause social <a href="https://bigthink.com/in-their-own-words/how-religious-neighbors-are-better-neighbors" target="_self">problems</a>. It is even associated with changes in the <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/loneliness-brain" target="_self">brain</a>. While there is nothing wrong with wanting a little time to yourself, the inability to get the socialization that many people need is a real problem with real <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-loneliness-hunger" target="_self">consequences</a>.</p>
The virus that broke the camel's back<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Hp-L844-5k8" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> A global loneliness pandemic existed before COVID-19, and the two working in tandem has been catastrophic. </p><p>Japanese society has always placed a value on solitude, often associating it with self-reliance, which makes dealing with the problem of excessive solitude more difficult. Before the pandemic, 16.1 percent of Japanese seniors reported having nobody to turn to in a time of need, the highest rate of any nation <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/21/national/japan-tackles-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">considered</a>. Seventeen percent of Japanese men surveyed in 2005 said that they "rarely or never spend time with friends, colleagues, or others in social groups." This was three times the average rate of other <a href="http://www.oecd.org/sdd/37964677.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries</a>. </p><p>American individualism also creates a fertile environment for isolation to grow. About a month before the pandemic started, nearly<a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/01/23/798676465/most-americans-are-lonely-and-our-workplace-culture-may-not-be-helping" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> 3 in 5</a> Americans reported being lonely in a <a href="https://www.cigna.com/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> issued by Cigna. This is a slight increase over previous studies, which had been pointing in the same direction for years. </p><p>In the United Kingdom, the problem prompted the creation of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The commission's <a href="https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/active-communities/rb_dec17_jocox_commission_finalreport.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">final report </a>paints a stark picture of the U.K.'s situation in 2017, with millions of people from all parts of British society reporting feeling regular loneliness at a tremendous cost to personal health, society, and the economy.</p><p>The report called for a lead minister to address the problem at the national level, incorporating government action with the insights provided by volunteer organizations, businesses, the NHS, and other organizations on the crisis's front lines. Her Majesty's Government acted on the report and appointed the first Minister for Loneliness in <a href="https://time.com/5248016/tracey-crouch-uk-loneliness-minister/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2018</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracey_Crouch" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tracey Crouch</a>, and dedicated millions of pounds to battling the problem. </p><p>The distancing procedures necessitated by the COVID-19 epidemic saved many lives but exacerbated an existing problem of loneliness in many parts of the world. While the issue had received attention before, Japan's steps to address the situation suggest that people are now willing to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.</p><p>--</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, help is available. The suicide prevention hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.</em></p>
MIT professor Azra Akšamija creates works of cultural resilience in the face of social conflict.
Scientists use new methods to discover what's inside drug containers used by ancient Mayan people.
- Archaeologists used new methods to identify contents of Mayan drug containers.
- They were able to discover a non-tobacco plant that was mixed in by the smoking Mayans.
- The approach promises to open up new frontiers in the knowledge of substances ancient people consumed.
PARME staff archaeologists excavating a burial site at the Tamanache site, Mérida, Yucatan.
Do they really need the human touch?
- In Pinduoduo's Smart Agriculture Competition, four technology teams competed with traditional farmers over four months to grow strawberries.
- Data analysis, intelligent sensors and greenhouse automation helped the scientists win.
- Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as AI are forecast to deliver huge productivity gains – but need the right governance, according to the Global Technology Governance Report 2021.
Pinduoduo<h3>Growing potential</h3><p>Numerous studies show the potential for Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies like AI to boost economic growth and productivity.</p><p>By 2035, labour productivity in developed countries could rise by 40% due to the influence of AI, according to<a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/12/ai-productivity-automation-artificial-intelligence-countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> analysis from Accenture and Frontier Economics</a>.</p><p>Sweden, the US and Japan are expected to see the highest productivity increases.</p>