Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"You're not cool unless...."

So I’m potty-training my 19 month old daughter. Oh my. There are so many learnings and applications and struggles and wonderful parallels to everything I have ever and never been exposed to with regards to influencing the behavior of another. At minimum, there’s no missing the Human Action Model – unfortunately we’re not a shoe-in for the discomfort leg. I thought for sure “discomfort” would be the only natural option for her when some “human action” was running down her leg. Not the case, so I’ll have to focus on some other behavior modification techniques, but that’s not what led me to post:


You know how it’s cliché to imagine people in their underwear when you’re nervous (because it lowers their status). We’ll if you think about it. Every person used to pee his or her pants. That’s not so novel of a thought, but I realized it has quite the lesson when you see it in the context of experimental discovery.


Let’s tie it to the line in our mental model “Discovery Process and Experimentation Versus Grand Plans” which states that “…a company without some ventures that fail is a company that isn’t taking enough risks.” Most everyone will agree that failures are necessary for success, but how necessary? Simply an unavoidable side effect? Something we put up with to get to the end goal? Perhaps, but I would like to posit that it is process-critical.


While potty-training my daughter, I cannot anticipate every time that she would or should use the toilet instead of her clothes, for if I did, she wouldn’t learn anything but to depend on me for that task. I have to LET her make a mess, teach her why that happened, try (but fail) to explain how she can keep that from happening again, and then wait for her to make another mess. Until it clicks. Which we’re hoping will be soon.


You cannot become house broken until you start wearing pants and stop wearing a diaper. What we’re calling failure here is a critical step in the process. If we celebrate those failures as a path to success, we will learn and grow and profit. (literally… diapers are expensive!)

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