Dangers and Advantages To Taking Action

Just do it

This is the topic of today's #kaizenblog chat. Elli St. George Godfrey has written a really good framing post for it — to do or not to do: the real question. The pendulum has swung way on the other side when it comes to talk — everyone is talking about doing.

We need to be careful not to throw the baby with the bathwater. The opposite of action is inaction, not thinking or talking. We think to process information and visualize where we will apply our energy — everywhere may not be an option and plans are good maps to get you where you want to go.

We talk to think together, transmit information — yes, blog reading and writing are also talking. We make a commitment public when we declare it. For all the social networking we're doing, it should be clear by now to all that connections are where talk meets action.

I'm in favor of doing. Doing helps you:

  • get unstuck
  • think creatively
  • problem solve
  • learn from experience
  • feel satisfaction
  • be productive
  • control your destiny
  • make a choice
  • invent
  • connect
  • be in flow
  • grow
  • experiment
  • build prototypes
  • launch products
  • ship
  • build momentum
  • focus
  • explore
  • test
  • improvise

Doing helps you connect ideas and executions with the people who benefit from that connection. If there are so many positive associations with doing, what are the dangers?

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0 responses to “Dangers and Advantages To Taking Action”

  1. Failure. Fear of scrutiny. Fear of the unknown. That’s all that comes to mind at the moment, but I’m sure there are a ton. While doing my MBA, I definitely met a number of people, who understood the concepts, could consult others on them, etc, but could not actually practice them themselves because they were paralyzed by things like “What if I fail?” It’s amazing to me that someone would think that inaction is better than action…especially inaction combined with lip-service to action.

  2. Hi Valeria,
    I associate most if not all of what you list with not doing as well.
    Consequence is caused as much by doing and not doing. What matters is whether you know which is appropriate to practice at any point in time.
    A bias (impatience) to doing is as dangerous as a bias (fear) to not doing.
    By the way, I was thinking. When did we forget that life’s surprises come wrapped and they’re all the more precious for the work it takes to reveal them.

  3. @Eric – there used to be this really harsh saying that if you couldn’t do, you’d teach. I’m a doctor in languages, I was supposed to teach English. I much prefer to use the language to provide context for marketing and brand building, communication and transmission of meaning, a huge component of which is listening and making sense, curate and filter content. Restraint is a virtue when applied judiciously.
    @Peter – yes, that was the intent. Not doing is as powerful and a form of doing, although it sounds like a play on words. Aikido and Jujitsu come to mind. When every aspect of our self is aligned we have a greater ability to think, feel, and act on what is best for us in any given moment. There’s a whole conversation here on the differences between Western lifestyle, with a bias for action, and Eastern causality, practices, etc.

  4. I’ve found just doing to be a wonderful tool also. But you asked about dangers – it can be hard to make a strategic change in direction while doing. It’s harder to recognize the overall system and see the reactions that are further away from you.
    An example is the Beer Game story Peter Senge tells in The Fifth Discipline where retailers kept ordering beer because the factory wasn’t getting the newly larger order to them in time, even though demand only jumped by a small bit instead of continuing to climb. And eventually there was a ridiculous glut when the factory caught up.

  5. @Valeria It’s funny that you mention that phrase about doing versus teaching because I have an MA in German, taught during my masters studies, and was on track to get a phd when my interests shifted 😉 Now, I still consider myself to be much more in the student phase than in the practitioner or teacher phase of marketing (despite practicing day in and day out), so who knows if the saying will come true in my case and I’ll end up either doing or teaching or if it will be some mix of the 2.
    From what I gather, teaching versus doing in the work you do are really two sides of the same coin, or to put it another way, they are two different ways of looking at what you do. Both are applicable and apt descriptions, while neither is better than the other in terms of value.

  6. Even if we fail 99% of the time, the more we do, the more we get done. The more we get done, the more productive we feel. The more productive we feel, the more we try to get done.
    The danger might be growing, but I’m gonna keep on rowing. I don’t want to be showing, any signs that I am slowing.
    Roninism #3: You’re either part of the solution, part of the problem, or part of the landscape. 🙂

  7. Valeria,
    Beautiful. One of the things I was considering today is how few people are willing to accept autonomy because they are paralyzed by accountability. Lately, if one person does one thing wrong (or a few), the only solution that seems to come out of it is another policy.
    That’s kind of crazy. The more policies, the more likely no one will do anything. My answer to the question is always to do. Not doing has the more predictable outcome, which is usually nothing or worse.

  8. @Beth – great point about remembering to check back in with assumptions while you’re doing. The example drive it home nicely. Thank you.
    @Eric – German was my minor. Good thing to know, although I forgot most of it for lack of practicing. I believe in lifelong learning and see us all on a continuum with the ability to both teach and learn as we progress.
    @Brian – sometimes I have this nagging feeling that a little more thinking would be helpful. There is much goodness in slowing down. The slow food movement, being social, accepting serendipity, yielding to someone in traffic. Another way of looking at landscape would be to create context, facilitate, curate information and redefine conversation. Those are helpful, too 😉
    @Rich – policy from policing. Like many, I’ve experienced analysis paralysis at some point in organizations and it can be debilitating to business and energy depleting. In fact, I am reading another book that proves it. Review in the next few weeks.

  9. Valeria – interesting you have your doctorate in languages, I have my masters in Sociolinguistics/Language Planning and Policy
    Most people don’t do because they have been wired since they were kids not to because ‘they don’t know enough’ or ‘they aren’t an expert’
    I was one of these people. Thinking ‘why am I in this field’ when I was 22 and working for a soccer team. I had no real qualifications to be there, but I just did it because I wanted to and I knew I had to.
    Why do we have 1000 blogs on our reader but fail to blog once a week? Seek solace in the fact you are ‘learning’ and once you learn enough then you’ll start.
    But you never do.
    Ryan – NSCAA

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