August 8

The Black Box Phenomenon

There’s a dynamic in every organization that I like to call the “black box” phenomenon. All the decisions are made among a small group of leaders, then someone comes out of the black box and begins issuing orders: “Joe, do this. Jill, do that. Mark, you do the other thing.” Then they go away, and everyone is left wondering, “Why are we doing this?”

It is difficult for talented people to do their best work when they don’t understand why they are being asked to do it. To bring your full creative effort each day, you need to know not just what is expected of you but why it matters. I’m not talking about why in the grand existential sense (“Why am I here on this planet?”) but in the very practical, tactical sense. If you understand the problem you’re actually being asked to solve and why that problem matters, it allows you to think differently about it.

Today, be mindful of any work you’re being asked to do for which the why isn’t clear. It’s your job to clarify that “why” so that you can approach that work more meaningfully.

It’s difficult to fully engage your work if you don’t understand why it matters.


is there any work you’re currently doing for which the why isn’t clearly defined?

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