How to Break the Grip of the Rip

Years ago, at a beach resort in Dubai, I ran out into the surf, and was suddenly caught in a rip current. Having been a lifeguard for years back in high school, I told myself, “don’t panic, you’ll figure something out.” After struggling for a number of minutes, with the current sweeping me toward an extremely rocky jetty, I finally panicked.

As it turned out, I wasn’t far from the edge of the current. A nearby swimmer pulled me over a few feet, far enough to escape the most severe current. With help, I escaped the grip of the rip. Just in time, too. Back on the beach, the lifeguard saw what was happening and was ankle-deep in the water, rescue tube in hand. Apparently four other tourists had washed against the jetty the previous day.

The norm in most companies is “when you’re stuck, think harder.” This solitary activity requires a lot of time and energy. Worse, it may not result in a viable solution. This is because we get stuck in a fixed way of viewing the problem. We can’t see our own blind spots.

Since it’s summer here in California, and many of us are at the beach, I thought I’d use the analogy of a rip current to illustrate how to escape a rip mindset. Following are a set of steps to help you “break the grip of the rip.”

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The Growing Importance of Social Intelligence

In the past, professionals typically devoted their entire careers to companies that valued their functional or technical skills, not their social ones. Today’s lightning-fast business environment demands job candidates who can step into senior management roles in five to eight years, often in decentralized and constantly transforming enterprises, in relationship-based professions like investment banking and consulting, and in dynamic and diverse communities. In such organizations, leadership success is often defined in interpersonal terms: knowing how and when to collaborate or command, how to lead and develop subordinates, or how to manage and empower networks.

Excerpt from the Forward to the book Leading with Kindness
R. Glenn Hubbard, Dean and Russell L. Carson, Professor of Finance and Economics
Columbia Business School

If this is true for effective leaders, and feedback is craved by employees who want to continue to grow and develop, why is actionable, compassionate feedback so hard to provide?

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Team Effectiveness Tip: “I don’t see it, help me see it”

Authentic communication and understanding are critical to team effectiveness. This is the first of a series of posts on this topic. I hope you’ll adapt and integrate the ones you like into your own team culture.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. –George Bernard Shaw

Last weekend, team effectiveness, development, marketing and agile professionals converged at PlayCamp. I was reminded me of a valuable scrum exercise I learned from Matt Smith called “I don’t see it, help me see it.”

It can be used in an Agile context to clarify user stories, but I also think it makes a nifty habit for teams to ensure everyone is on the same page.


How It Works

When someone says “I don’t see it, help me see it” this serves as a signal that whatever was just said is unclear to one or more team members.


Mike: [Mike communicates something important to the team he leads or is a member of (v 1.0)]

Alan: “I don’t see it, help me see it”

Mike: [Mike tries again, using different words (v 2.0)]

Alan: “I still don’t see it, help me see it”

Sue: [Communicates it yet a different way using her own words, and/or a visual (v 3.0)]


If Alan understands, he’ll tell Sue and Mike he gets it. If not, other members of the team will jump in to clarify. The ensuing discussion ensures all team members are on the same page.

Democratizing Design and Production for the Other 99%

“A country that has the knowledge workers to design products and to market them will have no difficulty getting those products made at low cost and high quality” — Peter Drucker

While most of us are not professional chefs, architects or furniture makers, we create meals from recipes, construct modular creations with Lego, and build furniture from IKEA. In this provocative talk, Alastair Parvin shows what wikihouse is doing to scale architecture and engineering knowledge to provide shelter for the other 99%.