There’s More Than One Way to Tie a Knot– The Power of the Observer

August 7, 2014 By Croft Edwards - No Comments
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     A quick little story about how our observation of things can serve us, and at the same time, limit us.

     I built a free floating wooden raft for my daughters to play on up at the lake. It was a simple, fun vacation project, a chance for me to find some flow (That state of being, a high performance bliss that I frequently reference in my work with leaders.) I started with the deck of the raft. I built a 8’x8’ frame out of 2”x6”x6’s and then covered that with deck boards. Then I sourced four 55-gallon white plastic barrels to be the floats on which the deck would sit. I used a few feet of rope to sling the barrels together and attached them to the underside of the deck. Simple enough but I soon discovered a flaw. And that was how I looked at the deck, as a woodworker who creates his own furniture designs. This ‘looking’ would greatly limit my success with the raft. Much of the time I spend planning a project is spent on aesthetics, trying to figure out how to make the design look seamless and ‘hide’ fasteners such as nails, screws, and in the case of my raft, rope.
     When I had completed the raft and was ready to put it in the water, I enlisted the help of several neighbors. As we proceeded to lift the raft in order to walk it into the water, the ropes loosened and the barrels fell out of my ‘perfectly’ designed raft. In my desire to hide the ropes I did not think through moving the raft to the water. I was more concerned about the final product and how it looked.
     Luckily for me, one of my neighbors, Dave, is not only a great guy but he happens to be an expert at tying knots, kind of a Boy Scout knot-tier on steroids. Dave is a retired firefighter and now is a consultant to state and commercial rescue entities teaching them how to tie knots for rescue operations. When Dave puts his skills to use in real life he is concerned with two main ideas around knots – will the knot do the job, and is the knot accessible to adjust or untie. As Dave realized my dilemma, his eyes lit up for two reasons, 1) he saw immediately how I had incorrectly designed my project, and 2) he saw the opportunity to do a project with a friend that would create a better final product (and maybe result in a cold beer after the job was finished.)
     After a few hours of safely climbing under the raft and adjusting the knots, the raft was launched to the joy of my daughters and wife (thanks, Dave.)
     For me this was a powerful lesson in the concept of the observer. The skills that I have as a woodworker served me well in this project, allowing me to build a great raft. At the same time, I was blind to a better way to build it because I was so influenced by how I was looking at it. I looked at it from the perspective of a woodworker – how to hide all evidence of my work and build a final product that looked good. Dave looked at it from the perspective of a fireman and an expert on knots – what will be the most effective and give us access to the knots. His way of observing opened up new ideas and possibilities for me that were not available from the observer I was.
     How often does this happen for you? How often do you only see your side of a problem? The simple act of listening to other perspectives can create a whole new product, or in my case a better raft. Think about it…as for me, I am heading out to the raft for a swim with my daughters.  #LeadershipFlow = #SelfMastery #CultivatingTeams #CreatingCulture #ExpandingCapacity


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