I was shared a lesson about context through a story of the fabled NASA rockets that helped NASA reach space, orbit the earth, and reach the moon.
Paraphrasing, the rockets evolved a great deal, especially captured in their sizes with the Saturn rocket (took the astronauts to the moon) greater than 35 stories tall. The earlier iterations propelled the rockets only so far. To reach the moon, the rockets had to be bigger. Common wisdom would suggest that bigger rockets added heft. Heft is counter to the goal of going farther and faster. Except, size hid the real need for “bigger” – more fuel.
Greater context can reveal the real value of an investment. What looks on the surface to be counter-intuitive can actually be a catalyst for a desired outcome.
A few examples where this plays out:
  • Instead of working, taking an hour off. That one hour may seem counter to the need for greater productivity. However, context of that hour may reveal an hour of exercise which has shown time and time again massive benefits mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.
  • Regular coaching of employees. Everyone’s working hard, right? There’s a lot to do and things seem to be working fine. Why coach or have periodic touch-points? Because there’s context happening that aren’t visible on the surface. Because being a B-player works, but being an A-player works better.
  • Slowing down a sale to learn more about the challenges a prospect faces. The more we close, the more money we make, right? Glengarry tells us to Always Be Closing. However, always aiming for the close can scare off prospects without understanding and value creation. It’s not just the one-time sale. It’s the consistent selling of a vendor-customer relationship. (Well, for complex sales anyways.)

It turns out we’re pretty smart, but we are also quick to jump to conclusions. What seems counter to a goal or objective can actually be a catalyst. All it takes is context for understanding.

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