The Art of Strengths Coaching

A is for Where You Feel Alive, Alert And Use Your Antennae To Achieve Results    

Great workers often feel alive and alert in situations in which they excel. They employ their antennae to clarify what is happening and see patterns.

Clarifying the real results to achieve, they may take time to reflect on the best way forwards. They then implement their chosen strategy and do what is required to achieve the desired results.

Great workers often use their antennae in situations in which they excel. They have a deep feeling for the activity. This enables them to sense what is happening and to select the best strategy for achieving success.

Different people have different names for this quality. Some call it personal radar, some call it strategic intuition. It is the ability to scan a situation, sense what is happening and select the strategy most likely to achieve success. Sometimes it includes the ability to know what will happen before it happens.

Marshall McLuhan described how artists have this ability, but so do many other people. Some are artists in their own fields – be this art, technology, business or another activity.

Here is what Marshall said in the introduction to Understanding Media. You can discover more via the following link.

Marshall McLuhan

The power of the arts to anticipate future social and technological developments, by a generation and more, has long been recognized.

In this century Ezra Pound called the artist ‘the antennae of the race’.

Art as radar acts as ‘an early alarm system,” as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them.  

I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it. 

Looking back at your own experience, can you think of a situation when you felt alive, alert and used your antennae? What did you do to gather information and select a way forwards? What did you do to achieve the desired results?

You may have taken these steps when counselling a person, running a workshop, working with animals or designing software. You may have done so when fixing a technical problem, managing a crisis, helping a customer, leading a team or doing another activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you have felt alive, alert and used your antennae to achieve the desired results. 

Describe the specific things you did then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

 

Imagine that you want to follow similar steps in the future. One approach is to focus on a specific activity in which you demonstrate the following qualities. You find the activity fascinating, have a strong feeling for it and have a strong track record of finishing. Let’s explore these themes.

You Find The
Activity Fascinating

What are the topics you find fascinating? What are the ideas you love to explore? What are the areas of interest where you want to make sense of things and build models?

One approach is to choose an activity you would pursue even if you did not get paid for doing it. It is almost like a positive addiction. The Gallup Organization asks people a question on this theme when exploring their strengths. They ask:

What are the things you cannot help but do?

Derek Jacobi, the actor, said something similar in a television interview. When approached by young people who want his advice on becoming an actor, he says something along the following lines.

If you want to become an actor, then don’t do it. If you need to become an actor, then do it. 

Choose an activity that gives you positive energy, even when you think about it. You can then clarify whether you demonstrate the next quality.

You Have A Strong
Feeling For The Activity

Choose an activity that you have a strong feeling for and are good at. This will probably be one where you use your antennae to gather information, select your chosen strategy and work to achieve success.

How to tell whether you have a feeling for an activity? Sometimes it can be useful to ask some of the classic questions. These include the following.

What are the deeply satisfying activities in which you deliver As rather than Bs or Cs? What are the activities that give you positive energy? When are you in your element – at ease and yet able to excel?  

When do see the destination quickly? When do you go ‘A, B … and then leap to … Z’? Where do you see patterns quickly? Where do you have the equivalent of a photographic memory? Where do you have good personal radar – you seem to know what will happen before it happens?  

What are the activities in which you always do the basics and then add the brilliance? What are those in which you have natural self-discipline? When do you score highly on drive, detail and delivery? 

What are the activities in which you enjoy the journey as much as reaching the goal? When do you reach the goal and then add that touch of class? What are the activities in which you make complicated things look simple? 

What are the activities in which you feel calm? When do you find solutions to challenges by focusing on clarity, creativity and concrete results? What are the activities in which you are good at dealing with crowdedness – many things happening at once? 

What is your successful style of working? Looking back, what for you have been your most satisfying projects? What made these satisfying? Looking at these projects, can you see any patterns? How can you follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to do satisfying work in the future? 

Imagine that you have chosen to focus on an activity that you find fascinating and have a feeling for. You can then clarify whether you demonstrate the next quality.

You Have A Track
Record Of Finishing

Creative people often start many things but only finish those they believe are important. Bearing this in mind, it is useful to look back and clarify the activities in which you are good at finishing.

Different people are good at finishing different things. One entrepreneur explained their style in the following way.

I have a good record of building and selling successful prototypes. This normally takes between 2 and 3 years.

I did run one company for five years. But scaling the business meant I got involved in the maintenance aspects. My staff took care of the day-to-day work, of course, but I lost interest in running the business.

Some people create and sell larger businesses for massive sums, but that is not my forte. I prefer to build prototypes, provide proof of concept and then sell to buyers. This is what I am good at finishing. 

Let’s assume that you have settled on your chosen activity. How can you continue to develop? One approach is to hone your strategic intuition.

William Duggan, the author of Strategic Intuition, writes a superb blog on this topic. Below are excerpts from his website. You can discover more via the following link.

William Duggan

What Is Strategic Intuition? 

When do you get your best ideas? You probably answer “At night,” or “In the shower,” or “Stuck in traffic.”

You get a flash of insight. Things come together in your mind. You connect the dots. You say to yourself, “Aha! I see what to do.”

Brain science now reveals how these flashes of insight happen. It’s a special form of intuition. We call it strategic intuition, because it gives you an idea for action – a strategy. 

Brain science tells us there are three kinds of intuition: ordinary, expert, and strategic. Ordinary intuition is just a feeling, a gut instinct. Expert intuition is snap judgments, when you instantly recognize something familiar, the way a tennis pro knows where the ball will go from the arc and speed of the opponent’s racket.  

The third kind, strategic intuition, is not a vague feeling, like ordinary intuition. Strategic intuition is a clear thought.  

And it’s not fast, like expert intuition. It’s slow. That flash of insight you had last night might solve a problem that’s been on your mind for a month.  

And it doesn’t happen in familiar situations, like a tennis match. Strategic intuition works in new situations. That’s when you need it most.

Why Is Strategic Intuition Important?

Everyone knows you need creative thinking, or entrepreneurial thinking, or innovative thinking, or strategic thinking, to compete in the modern world. All these kinds of thinking amount to the same thing: you figure out what to do in a new situation.

There are currently three massive misconceptions about how this kind of thinking works. I call them Plod, Plot, and Play.  

Plod means you go beyond your usual routines to analyze a much wider range and depth of information, and advanced technology means there is essentially no limit to the amount of data you can and should plod through.

Plot means you spend a lot of time defining your mission, your goals, your objectives, your sub-objectives, and so on.

Play means you give up your usual ways of thinking to build a race-car out of duct tape, or toss frisbees across the office, or throw random words onto a velcro board. 

But the Plodders and Plotters and Players are all wrong. The trick is to plod and plot and play at the same moment. That’s what a flash of insight does.

It’s how the brain makes something new out of real information, and projects it as a strategy. But you get there not through Plodding or Plotting or Playing, but through understanding how strategic intuition works and how to do it better.

How Does Strategic Intuition Work?

Flashes of insight are so important that scholars have written about them for centuries. The best description comes from an early classic of military strategy, On War by Carl von Clausewitz. 

Clausewitz’s account of Napoleon’s strategy matches amazingly well what modern neuroscience tells us about flashes of insight. Clausewitz gives us four steps.   

First, you take in “examples from history” throughout your life and put them on the shelves of your brain. Study can help, by putting more there.   

Second comes “presence of mind,” where you free your brain of all preconceptions about what problem you’re solving and what solution might work. 

Third comes the flash of insight itself. Clausewitz called it coup d’oeil, which is French for “glance.” In a flash, a new combination of examples from history fly off the shelves of your brain and connect.

Fourth comes “resolution,” or determination, where you not only say to yourself, “I see!”, but also, “I’ll do it!”   

Can You Learn Strategic Intuition?

Just from these few pages, you’ve started to strategic Intuition. Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement will help you learn much more.   

Some people have certainly learned it on their own, without even knowing what exactly they’re doing. But like all other complex human actions, you are born without it and over time your brain learns it. 

These days, the hardest part to learn is the third step, presence of mind. When you need a creative idea for a strategy, methods of Plod or Plot or Play spring to mind right away.  

Presence of mind means you clear your mind of these false paths and let your strategic intuition go to work.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a specific situation in which you want to feel alive, alert and use your antennae on the way towards achieving results?

This could be in your personal or professional life. You may want to take these steps when encouraging a person, solving a problem, leading a team, building a business or doing another activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things. 

Describe a specific situation in the future when you want to feel alive, alert and use your antennae to achieve the desired results.

Describe the specific things you can do then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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