From: Don Peppers
He died soon after writing this bequest, leaving the disciples in a dilemma, so they sought out advice from learned men for how to interpret these instructions. Someone told them just to make the nearest possible division, while another told them to own the camels communally until they reproduced. A clever trader said they should just sell the camels and divide the proceeds among themselves, and a wizened old judge advised them that the bequest was null and void because it couldn’t be executed.
The three disciples weren’t happy with any of these suggestions, sensing that their master must have had some deeper and more helpful lesson in mind for them. But what exactly was that lesson?
Lesson 1: Remain Open-Minded
One obvious lesson the disciples learned from their master’s instructions was that seeking advice and wisdom from others will always broaden their perspectives. No one ever has a monopoly on the truth, no matter how quick or smart they are. Genuine wisdom requires humility in the face of life’s many complexities, so a wise person not only knows how totolerate and learn from diverse points of view but actually seeks them out.
This is as true in business as it is in life. Rather than seeking information to confirm his or her own current beliefs, a good manager actively looks for conflicting information — facts, information, or contrary perspectives that challenge these beliefs. Very few business decisions ever involve Absolute Truth. A business decision almost always boils down to a matter of opinion. Not only that, but the actual outcome of any decision will have just as much to do with the random and unforeseen events that surround it as with the intellectual prowess of the decision-maker, so a good manager always prepares for the unexpected.
Lesson 2: Have Patience
Something else the disciples learned was patience. Their dilemma was significant, and they certainly wanted to resolve it, but there was no urgency to the issue. And for today’s managers, learning how to be patient is perhaps more important than ever before, given the fast pace of business and the proliferation of data and information. Every time your inbox is refreshed it produces a new batch of issues commanding your immediate attention. Figuring out not just how to prioritize, but how to “let go” of the unimportant issues while showing patience for the truly important ones is a skill that would come in handy for most bottom-line obsessed, goal-oriented, time-stressed up-and-comers today.
The Dilemma Resolved
In the end, our three disciples did find the answer to their Master’s challenge. After much searching, a wise old man solved the riddle for them:
“Although I only have one camel myself, I will lend it to you so you now have 18. The eldest disciple should then be given one-half of these, which is 9. The middle disciple should get one-third, or 6, and the youngest disciple should get one-ninth, or 2. That will leave just one camel, which is mine, and you can return it to me then.”
This was how the three disciples found their new Sufi Master. It also taught them one final lesson.
Lesson 3: Share
Sharing with others is a natural human urge, and it is becoming an increasingly vital idea as the cost of interacting continues to plummet and we all have the ability to maintain much more robust and diverse networks of friends and colleagues. The urge to share comes largely from the human instinct for empathy, and as Martha Rogers and I document in our most recent book, Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage, empathy and trust are becoming ever more important to people as we become more and more technologically connected.
It is the human instinct for sharing that drives our willingness to create Wikipedia articles, to post product reviews or comments on e-commerce sites, or to work for free on open-source software projects. So think carefully about how your customers’ and your employees’ own urge to share might be used to benefit your business in the e-social age. How can you do a better job empathizing with your customers?
Sharing comes from empathy, and for a business empathy is the ultimate form of customer insight.
Ancient lessons can often be very useful even in modern situations. Technology may gallop along, but wisdom is timeless.