Books on Work: Decisive, Part Two

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Last year, a friend of mine asked for advice. His organization was being relentlessly criticized on social media. Most of the criticisms were unfounded and easily answered—but there was one problem.

His organization wouldn’t let him mount a defense. The strategy was to emphasize only positive things and look to others to defend the organization. But no one was doing that; they were waiting for the organization itself to act first.

What could he do?

We talked. I suggested some small action so as to be almost unnoticeable—select one of the criticisms, answer it, and see what happened. He eventually tried it.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, in Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, would call this “ooching”—running a small experiment to test a theory or idea of course of action. It’s the proverbial dipping your toe in rather than diving in head-first.

Ooching is, or should be, a critical part of making decisions for at least two reasons.

First, we’re not good at predicting the future. Even the experts aren’t good at predicting the future. Trying something—something small—is a way to test if what we intend to do, or want to do, is a good thing or not.

Second, ooching is entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurs, say the Heath brothers, don’t spend enormous amounts of time planning. They go out and test, see if it works, learn what will make it better, change it, and go out and try it again. Real-world experience provides considerably more insight than planning in a conference room for months or years. An entrepreneurial approach can break through internal culture, institutional bias, and vested interests.

What ooching isn’t good for, the authors say, are the things that require commitment. Dating, for example, may be a form of ooching; marriage is not (although divorce rates suggest that we increasingly see marriage as a form of ooching).

So my friend tried his ooch. And a remarkable thing happened. Actually, two remarkable things happened.

First, others noticed his effort and joined in defending the organization.

Second, no one inside the organization noticed what he was doing—at least at first.

He tried it again, and it worked again. So he kept trying and adjusting as he went along; seeing what worked on one social channel and then another—Twitter one week and Facebook the next. It didn’t drive all the organization’s critics away, but it did result in more and more people stepping forward to join the defense.

My friend ooched in defending his organization. Eventually, even the people with the original (and longstanding) strategy to only promote positive things about the organization saw what was happening. The official strategy changed.

And all because of an ooch.

On Mondays in June we’ll be discussing Chip and Dan Heath’s latest book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. Join us next week as Nancy Franson leads our discussion on Part Three, chapters 8 & 9.

Also, we're giving away two copies of network member Billy Coffey's new novel When Mockingbird's Sing each week of our June book club! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. Winners will be announced in next week's book club post. The winners of last week's drawing are Monica Sharman and Dusty Rayburn. Congratulations! We'll be in touch. Our book selection for July is The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time by Judith Shulevitz. Order your book and join us in July!
Image by Tim Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Glynn Young, author of Dancing Priest and A Light Shining.