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A toolbox full of pictures

A toolbox full of pictures

The insanity of dabbling

One of the most exciting things about living during this time is the creativity, and the incredible rate at which things are being invented. Add to this the amount of new information that is available online, and for the creator/explorer types it is “like a kid in a candy store”. 

If you are a leader you need to think clearly about engaging in programs and tools that are available, and you need to be researching and exploring, but you also need to make sure that when you use something that you use it properly. 

I want to look at the word: Dabble.

Dab·ble – ˈdabəl/

Take part in an activity in a casual or superficial way. “He dabbled in writing as a young man”

Synonyms: Toy with, dip into, flirt with, tinker with, trifle with, play with, dally with “he dabbled in politics”

What is the difference between a picture of something and the real thing? What is the difference between a picture of a hammer and a real hammer? It sounds like a stupid question. The answer is that although a picture of a hammer looks just like a hammer, a picture cannot hammer in nails.

Years ago, a worldwide survey was done that produced some interesting results. In the study statements were made and then questions were asked based on the statements. 

Here is an example:

Statement 1. England is a cold country

Statement 2. Cotton does not grow in cold countries

Question: Does cotton grow in England?

In the survey done in western countries the answer was “No”.

In the survey done in many eastern countries the answer was “We don’t know. We have never been to England”. In these countries you do not know something until you have experienced it. 

We live in a culture that believes that if we understand something theoretically then we know it. This leads to dabbling.

I come across this frequently in the corporate world. It seems that leaders are under pressure to find something new that will have a positive impact on productivity, or increase the wellbeing of the staff, or increase sales. Nothing wrong with that, unless you bounce from one to the other and never use any of them properly.

If you find a good product – use it, but use it properly.

Using any good product will have immediate, superficial benefits. To get the full benefit, however, requires application and discipline, and this is something that seems to be sorely lacking.

One of the reasons I have moved away from training and I am focussing on coaching is because coaching is like an apprenticeship. Not only do you learn about the tools, but you are coached and given guidance to become skilled at using the tools.

Dabbling is actually like having a vaccination. When you are vaccinated, you receive just enough of the real thing to ensure that you never get the real thing.

Instead of a real tool we have a picture of a tool. We think that if we have a picture of something then we have the real thing.

We end up with a toolbox full of pictures.

The problem is that I have never seen anyone cut a piece of wood with a picture of a saw, and I have never seen anyone hammer in a nail with a picture of a hammer.

With a box full of pictures, you will create some memories and feel good, but you will never be productive or effective.

Someone asked me a few years ago what type of people do I think are the most effective in life and in business. My answer was that, not matter how you are wired, no matter how smart you are, and no matter how much experience you have, if you are not disciplined, you will not achieve much.

Ask yourself the question: “Am I giving my team good tools, and making sure that they are becoming more and more proficient with those tools, or am I giving them a toolbox full of pictures?”

Written by Doug Johnson

Published on 31st Jul 2020

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