How the seesaw can save the world
By: Bruce Kasanoff
"Every healthy civilization, organization, and team works like a seesaw.
Sometimes you’re in control, and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you are hanging high in the air, trapped and at the other person’s mercy, because s/he thought it would be funny to lean backward and control your fate.
Each of you is dependent on the other, giving them your trust… because both of you know that if you jump off while the other person is in the air, that person will slam to the ground.
Here’s the important part:
In a healthy society, power never vests with one interest to the exclusion of all others. That’s called a dictatorship. It is what sparks civil wars, and breaks apart partnerships.
If your group or opinion is out of favor, you can probably tolerate the state of affairs as long as you know that eventually your way will get another try.
Things fall apart when you think that you will always be trapped at the bottom (or the top, whichever you fear the most). The seesaw needs to keep moving. In too much of our world, the seesaw is stuck. Someone is at the top, and someone is at the bottom.
Likewise, businesses stop functioning properly when one skill set or functional area takes complete control. A firm that is all about execution and never about imagination will eventually lose the interest of its customers. The reverse is also true; a team that spends all its time dreaming will never bring anything worthwhile to market.
The same is true for your career and your life. If you always have to be up, you will never be successful at working with others. If you have to win every debate, you will eventually run out of people who are willing to be in the same room with you.
The more power you accrue… the bigger your ego grows… the easier it becomes to forget about the Seesaw Principle. You have to be willing to let power, ideas, energy and control go back and forth.
This sounds like such an obvious observation, except that it is widely ignored or forgotten.
Read the news headlines. In so many parts of the world, the seesaw is stuck. It’s tempting to think something is wrong “over there”, until you sit in an endless meeting and realize the seesaw is stuck over here, too.
Yes, I’m mixing the trivial with the life-threatening. A rigid boss is not the same as a family forced to flee their home to survive. But the same principle often applies to both circumstances: power has ceased to shift smoothly back and forth.
True, life is slightly more complicated than a playground seesaw. Sometimes the other person or group will be in control longer than you might wish, and the reverse can be true. That’s okay.
What matters is that the other person perceives that you are engaged in a back and forth process that ultimately will benefit you both. Viewed this way, you arrive at a startling conclusion: you want power to shift away from you. On a regular basis, you want things to go the other way, rather than your way. This is how you keep the system functioning.
Once you understand the Seesaw Principle, you abandon the desire to win 100% of the time. For society, that is a very good thing. Spread the word. The seesaw can save the world."