When the wiring goes wrong – a cat’s tale.

August 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ally
She’s intense, willful, dangerously stealthy, surprisingly clumsy, endearing, ponderous, and difficult to ignore. She’s Ally the cat – one of two that share our home. Ally is sweet and cuddly and a contender for most annoying cat of the year. But it is only because she’s nuts. Something’s wrong in her wiring. Some primordial instinct in that little feline brain gets mixed up causing her to attack her own tail. It’s probably some play-as-hunting-practice algorithm that’s gotten a bug in it. She sits, gets bored, starts swishing, then thumping her tail and then it’s swat, thump, swat, thump, swat, growl, swat, swat, bite! And then she squeals gets up and runs away from her attacker. The whole thing would be comical if it wasn’t so darn frequent – or frequently happening so darn close to my bare feet. My bare feet have this funny allergy you see to needle-sharp teeth and all manner of slashing, swiping claws. As an aside I hope that the thought of me, bare-of-foot doesn’t put you off this blog post, frankly I do some of my best writing without shoes, but my hobbit-like writing practices are not the point here. The point here isn’t even that my cat is nuts, which she is. The point is she’s stuck in a bad pattern that may have been good, useful or productive once, but isn’t anymore. Ally is saddled with these weird, stress-inducing behaviors that certainly were important survival skills for her innumerable cat ancestors. But the thing is she doesn’t know that, she’s not intending to make me scream when she misses her tail and tags my big toe instead – she’s just doing what she’s wired to do.

I don’t think cats are the only ones who do this. A company will sometimes try to operate with patterns and processes that may have been successful in the past, but haven’t adapted to changing market conditions or new technologies. “Yell and Sell” marketing tactics end up doing more to turn off buyers when once they stood as the pillars of brand awareness. A person who hasn’t job hunted in 15 years is laid-off and suddenly thrust into a world that has been forever changed by Monster, Career Builder and LinkedIn. Over-dependence on old habits of looking in the paper for listings and sending unsolicited resumes to large companies have distracted that job seeker from building new skills and a vibrant network through social media just when they need every advantage. These people and companies aren’t intending to flounder, but they may have gotten stuck in old patterns that used to be the right answers. It’s a tough trap because they feel like they are doing the right things, but they are no longer getting the old results and they often find it hard to see the problem themselves.

A cat’s gotta eat, but lightning fast reflexes and hair-trigger aggression don’t make a bit of difference when your prey is a tin of Sophist-a-Cat Supreme. The felines of the Cohen kitchen, our domestic savannah, have to rely on a whole new set of emotional and psychological skills (primarily based on cuteness) to get the big human with the fancy thumbs to open their cans for them. Believe me, if cats could work the pop-tops we’d live in a very different society. So here’s the question: Are you trying to hunt for your supper when you could be going to a supermarket? What habits are you hanging onto that are no longer getting you results? What processes and approaches should you change to acknowledge today’s market realities?

Or the question I ask Ally: Have you got a tiger by the tail or has the tiger gotten you?

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