‘Life is like the harp string. If it is strung too tight it won't play, if it is too loose it hangs. The tension that produces the beautiful sound lies in the middle.’ (Gautama Buddha)
In World War 2, when faced with a critical decision on how to respond to the Nazi threat, one of Winston Churchill’s advisers argued forcefully that ‘organisation is the enemy of improvisation’. This wasn’t a diatribe against the power of organisation per se. It was, however, deeply rooted in a belief that the UK’s main chance of success would be to act in ways that would capitalise on its own agile cultural traits – and leave the highly-organised German war machine disorientated and defeated.
I’ve noticed there are parallels in learning a second language too. Students are often taught in highly-organised ways – focusing on vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing. It can provide them with a useful foundation, yet can also leave them completely paralysed in free-flow conversation. I’ve concluded that, at least in this respect, ‘Accuracy is the enemy of fluency.’ Remove the expectation to get everything right, distract from fears of making a mistake, and the words will start to flow.
That said, I need to beware of unhelpful polarisation. Early in my OD career, I worked alongside an experienced HR consultant, Chris Rowe, who introduced me to a tight-loose principle. I had argued instinctively that an organisation needed to let go of its highly-organised, stifling structures and processes to become more flexible, responsive and innovative. Chris challenged me: there is a time for tight and a time for loose – and wisdom in knowing which, where, when and for whom.
18/5/2023 09:49:13 am
Thought provoking as always, Nick. Thanks for posting.
18/5/2023 09:51:53 am
Thanks for your encouraging feedback, Christine.
18/5/2023 09:51:19 am
I'm always interested in how you jump between seemingly unrelated topics, Nick, then make links between them! I would never have gone from WW2 tactics to language learning. :)
18/5/2023 09:55:32 am
Thanks Mark. :) I think it's perhaps reflective of my Myers-Briggs intuitive preference: seeing patterns and hidden meanings. I believe it's also, at least sometimes, God revealing insights to me that I would never have seen on my own.
18/5/2023 09:58:50 am
Nick, I agree with Chris. I'd never heard of the tight loose principle but followed the link to the Forbes article and it all made sense to me. I suppose its about being sensitive to the needs of the situation. One size doesn't fit all.
18/5/2023 10:08:18 am
Thanks Tracy. Yes, I have never forgotten Chris' wise words. My natural instinct is often to push against the status quo, to be disruptive of stuck patterns of structure, process or behaviour, to enable a release. Although often helpful, it's not always so. 'Being sensitive to the needs of the situation.' I agree.
18/5/2023 10:11:36 am
Hey Nick Wright. I followed your link under Accuracy to your Performance = Potential – Interference (Gallwey); Trust = Risk + Support (Covey) article. It's mind-blowing and so true!!
18/5/2023 10:15:56 am
Thank you, Maryam. I'm incredibly grateful to the student teachers in the Philippines who allowed me to try out my experimental social-psychological approach to language learning with them. I, too, found the experience mind-blowing - as did they and their Filipina English Language professor!
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