Saturday, June 26, 2004

Lessons from reality TV

As the latest season of reality TV's "Amazing Race" kicks off, I remember an episode last year that grabbed my attention and got me hooked on the show.

One couple was trying to get to a destination as fast as possible, and the man insisted on driving, leaving his wife to navigate -- something they both knew she was inept at doing. They lost he race, not because the navigator was unable to read a map, but because they failed to optimize their teamwork. Navigating required some specialized skill and was critical to success; driving was neither demanding nor critical. Why put the wrong team member on the critical task? If the man was imposing those decisions, and not managing their resources appropriately, he was to blame for their failure. If it happened out of habit, then challenging past behaviors would have been a productive thing to do -- though in the panic of a crisis, how often do we take the time needed to do this?

It is a leader's responsibility to set direction. He had assumed leadership, and was trying to lead by staying in control of the vehicle, even though he did not know where he was going. We see that a lot in business, in government, and we see it in training -- the headlong lunge for e-learning without pausing to think through strategy is a case in point.

When the driver finally realized that his navigator was not going to get them to their goal, instead of taking on that responsibility he did what so many business 'leaders' do -- he decided to follow his competitors in the hope that they knew what they were doing.

And, when it was all over, he let his navigator shoulder the blame for his failure.

I have to start watching more reality TV.

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