>Selfishness and The Paradox of Emotional Intelligence

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I was fortunate to be in a terrific leadership development class this week held in coordination with University of Virginia, and one of the instructors shared this interesting explanation about the four levels of emotional intelligence (EI), which I have put into the attached graphic (note: there are other variants of this).

Essentially there are three levels of EI that have to do with “me”:

1. Self-Awareness: Being cognizant of one’s own emotions, thinking and behaviors

2. Self-Management: Being able to control negative displays of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

3. Self-Direction: Being able to positively choose emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

These three levels are steps and maturity in the development of a person’s emotional intelligence.

Then, for those that are able to “breakthrough” to the next and forth level having to do with “others” (instead of “me”), there is a fourth level called:

4. Empathy: Being able to understand, share, and identify with the emotions and thoughts of others.

The idea here, as another instructor stated, is that we close the [emotional] gap with others through empathy and disclosure.”

However, in order to get to the stage where we can genuinely connect and empathize with others, we must first work on ourselves.

From a leadership perspective, I think this model of emotional intelligence is very valuable, because it provide us the framework for maturing our emotional self-development starting with basic awareness and advancing toward gaining control over ourselves and ultimately being able to have meaningful understanding for others.

It is only with such understanding of and connection with others that we can create the foundation for successful teamwork, innovation, and improved performance.

Where are we failing on EI?

  • Being so busy with “the daily grind” that we don’t have the time, energy, or capacity to do justice to the relationships in our lives.
  • Lack of mastery of the “me”—we lack self-awareness and are not in control of ourselves.
  • Narcissism that leads us to ignore the others around us and therefore leads us to have difficulty relating to them.

All of these, in a sense, represent a huge life paradox. We are taught that to succeed we must work on ourselves, and in turn we have become a self-focused society.

We have learned that success means being perfectly educated, thin, fit, married, earning a huge salary, and so on. But we are so busy thinking about these goals and looking at them as pure achievements to be marked off on a list that we lose sight of the process. And in doing so we actually become less effective at the things we are trying to do.

The process is about becoming emotionally intelligent—about learning the skills of self-control, self-management, self-direction, and ultimately empathy.

In fact, to succeed—and to find meaning in that success—we must give meaningfully to others in time and energy, rather than just taking for ourselves.

Ultimately, it doesn’t have to be a “breakthrough” event to empathize, give, and build healthy and productive relationships. Regardless of how much money or prestige we achieve in life, I believe that achieving the “us” rather than only focusing on the “me” is truly where the biggest payoff is at in life.

>The Visionary and Enterprise Architecture

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In User-centric EA, we develop a vision or target state for the organization. However, there are a number of paradoxes in developing an EA vision/target, which makes this goals quite challenging indeed.

In the book, The Visionary’s Handbook by Wacker and Taylor, the authors identify the paradoxes of developing a vision for the enterprise; here are some interesting ones to ponder:

  1. Proving the vision—“The closer your vision gets to provable ‘truth,’ the more you are simply describing the present in the future tense.”
  2. Competing today, yet planning for tomorrow—“By its very nature, the future destablizes the present. By its very natures, the present resists the future. To survive you need duality [i.e. living in two tenses, the present and the future], but people and companies by their very nature tend to resisting living in two tenses.” “You have to compete in the future dimension without destabilizing the competition [i.e. your ability to compete] in the present and without subverting the core values that have sustained your business in the past.”
  3. Bigger needs to be smaller—“The bigger you are, the smaller you need to be….great size is great power, but great size is also stasis.”
  4. The future is unpredictable—“Nothing will turn out exactly as it is supposed to…yet if you fail to act, you will cease to exist in any meaningful professional or business sense.”

So how does one develop a viable target architecture?

The key would seem to be in deconflicting past, present, and future. The past cannot be a hindrance to future change and transformation—the past must remain the past; lessons learned are welcome and desirable, but the options for the future should be open to innovation and hard work. The resistance of the present (to the future) must be mitigated by continuous communications and marketing; we must bring people along and provide leadership. The future is unknown, but trends and probabilities are possible for setting a way ahead; of course, the target needs to remain adaptable to changing conditions.

Certainly, any target architecture we develop is open to becoming a “target” for those who wish to take pot shots. But in an ever changing world and fierce global competition, we cannot sit idle. The architecture must lead the way for incremental and transformative change for the organization, all the while course correcting based on the evolving baseline and market conditions. EA is as much an art as it is a science, and the paradoxes of vision and planning need to be managed carefully.

>Master of Paradox and the Enterprise Architect

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As enterprise architects, we need to have clarity of vision to see what is and to chart a way ahead for the organization. Yet, we live amidst polarities and paradoxes, which are challenges for every enterprise architect to see through.

In the book The Empty Raincoat, by Charles Handy, the author identifies nine paradoxes that we need not only be aware of, but also be focused on, so that we can find a better way forward for ourselves, our enterprises, and society.

Here are the top six paradoxes (of nine) of our time:

  1. Intelligence—“brains are replacing brawn…knowledge and know-how is the new source of wealth, [yet] it is impossible to give people intelligence by decree, to redistribute it. It is not even possible to leave it to your children when you die…It is not possible to take this new form of intelligence away from anyone. Intelligence is sticky…nor is it possible to own someone else’s intelligence…It is hard to prevent the brains walking out the door if they want to…intelligence is a leaky form of property. [Finally,] intelligence tends to go where intelligence is. Well educated people give their families good education.”
  2. Work—“some have work and money, but too little time, while others have all he time, but no work and no money…we also use money as the measure of efficiency. Our organizations, therefore want the most work for the least money while individuals typically want the most money for the least work.”
  3. Productivity—“productivity means ever more and ever better work from ever fewer people…as more and more people get pushed out or leave organizations…[they] do for themselves, what they used to pay others to do for them.” In a sense the newly unemployed stifle market demand and further growth.
  4. Time—“we never seem to have enough time, yet there has never been so much time available to us. We live longer and we use less time to make and do things as we get more efficient…[yet] we have created an insidious cycle of work and spend, as people increasing look to consumption to give satisfaction and even meaning to their lives.”
  5. Riches—“economic growth depends, ultimately, on more and more people wanting more and more and more things…If , however, we look only at the rich societies, we see them producing fewer babies every year and living longer. Fewer babies mean fewer customers, eventually, while living longer lives mean, usually poorer and more choosy customers.”
  6. Organizations—“more than ever, they need to be global and local at the same time, to be small in some ways but big in others, to be centralized some of the time and decentralized most of it. They expect their workers to be more autonomous and more of a team, their managers to be more delegating and more controlling…they have to be planned yet flexible, be differentiated and integrated at the same time, be mass-marketers while catering for many niches, they must introduce new technology, but allow workers to be masters of their own destiny; they must find ways to get variety and quality and fashion, and all at low-cost.”

Can we as enterprise architects ever resolve these paradoxes?

While, we cannot resolve the polarities of society, we can find ways to balance them, move between the extremes “intelligently,” as appropriate for the situation, and search for better way to adapt. We do this not only to survive, but to help our organizations and society thrive in spite of the paradoxes. “Life will never be easy, nor perfectible, nor completely predictable. It will be best understood backwards [20-20 hindsight], but we have to live it forwards. To make it livable, at all levels, we have to learn to use paradoxes, to balance the contradictions and the inconsistencies and to use them as an invitation to find a better way.”

So as architects what specifically can we do?

As architects, we are advisors to the Chief Information Officer (from a technology-business alignment perspective), Chief Financial Officer (from an IT investment perspective), and to the Chief Procurement Officer and Line of Business Program Managers (from an IT execution standpoint) and other organizational decision-makers. In this advisory role, we can help point out the polarities and paradoxes that may be driving the organization one way or the other, or actually in a conflicting, bi-directional manner. As advisors, we can highlight gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities and suggest ways to improve or capitalize on this. But most importantly of all, by having a structured way of thinking about IT planning and governance, we can provide a perspective to the organization that may otherwise be neglected or trashed (in favor of operations), and we can provide clarity to the organization in terms of planning and governance processes, when the organization may otherwise just be blowing around in the wind of universal contention.

“There are kings [executives] and there are prophets [architects]…the kings have the power and the prophets have the principles…but every king needs his prophet, to help him, and increasingly her, keep a clear head amidst all the confusions…prophets in spite of their name, do not foretell the future. No one can do that…What prophets can do is tell the truth as they see it.”