• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • One of my oldest and dearest friends, Bob Boiko, is a ferocious question-asker. I can count on hearing one phrase from him any time I’m running a business or philosophical idea by him: “OK Joe, let’s tease that apart.” It’s Bob’s gentle way of saying, “I think there are some assumptions here you haven’t examined.” What we usually discover is that there’s some bias lurking in my thought process that needs to be brought to light.

    “Tease it apart” – I like that phrase. It brings to mind a tangle of hair that needs to be carefully sorted through. If you’ve had the task of teasing apart a tangle of your child’s or your spouse’s hair, you know that it is a slow, painstaking and laborious process…and you have to watch out that you don’t pull too hard. Sure, you can just cut the offending lump off, but if you keep doing that you’ll wind up with a bald kid.

    A lot of workplace ideas turn out to be like tangled hair that never gets teased apart. Either teams swallow the ideas whole (and we know what happens to hairballs), or they get cut off without examination. Teasing apart means creating space in the densest places, so the structure can be seen more easily. System diagrams, mind maps, and other heuristic tools help bring clarity to the density, by defining terms and surfacing contradictions. And having a ferocious question-asker or two involved doesn’t hurt a bit.

    So whatever tangle you’re confronted with, don’t take it as it is, and don’t eliminate it without investigation. Tease it apart.

    Try It: Consider a recent proposal that you or others have been suggesting. Find some ways to tease it apart: asking questions, challenging your assumptions, being aware of your mental predispositions, finding others to workshop the idea with. Examine it from different angles. Look closely enough to see where the key assumptions are located. Carefully untangle until the logic starts to move more freely—or begins to fall apart. It might take some time, but if there’s beauty and flow there, that’s the only way to find out.

    Photo: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/901552