Prior Quotes of the Week

July 5, 1998

(books may be ordered through our online knOwhere store)

Quote of the Week (1998.06.28)
The Blank Page

"We tend to think that paintings and drawings always start in the mind and the idea is then channeled down through the arm and into the hand and fingers, which execute the mental image. This way of working in any medium is likely to generate stiff constructions.

"Why not consider that images grow through the interaction among hands, body, eyes, materials, the painting or drawing surface, and the mind? Images emanate from gestures, spontaneous marks on the surface, and other leads sent out in advance of the composition that call it forth. Truly original expressions can never be planned in advance. Surprise rather than predictable results rule the process in which creations reveal themselves. As creators we try to stay open and receptive to what is moving through and around us.

"A performance artist said to me, 'I plan, but what comes through is much bigger than anything I can plan or even imagine. . . .'

"The empty space is the great horror and stimulant of creation. But there is also something predictable in the way the fear and apathy encountered at the beginning are accountable for feelings of elation at the end. These intensities of the creative process can stimulate desires for consistency and control, but history affirms that few transformative experiences are generated by regularity. . . .

"If I tell a person what to paint or write, I obstruct the forces moving through that person's life at the particular moment. When we immediately tell people what to do in a studio, we alleviate the anxiety caused by the emptiness, but we also interrupt the gestation of the creative process, which may take time and maybe a certain amount of tension.

"Starting to work is always the primary mode of discovery, whether in painting, writing, or any other art form. I don't sit back and wait until an idea appears. The ideas emerge through the movement of painting or writing. . . .

"Practice and preparation are essential even if the performance is totally improvised. Preparing for artistic expression can be compared to athletes training before an event. I may have a game plan, but once the competition starts, I respond to whatever presents itself. . . .

"When I am teaching performance art, I encourage people to begin with a general sense of where they want to go, but to focus primarily on being present in the particular situation. If the participants can do this, they will find that 'the process' will carry them in significant ways that cannot be known in advance. I have learned that if I rigidly stick to my game plan or prepared statements, I can completely miss the opportunity to engage the energy that is present and moving through me and a given space. I always try to leave room for that."

Shaun McNiff
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go
pp. 60-63, Shambhala, 1998

Quote of the Week (1998.06.21)
The Design of Knowledge Work

"Those three elements, analysis, synthesis into a process of production, and feedback control, are particularly important in knowledge work. For knowledge work by definition does not result in a product. It results in a contribution of knowledge to somebody else. The output of the knowledge worker always becomes somebody else's input. It is, therefore, not self-evident in knowledge work, as it is in making a pair of shoes, whether the work has results or not. This can be seen only by projecting backward from the needed end results. At the same time, knowledge work, being intangible, is not controlled by its own progress. We do not know the sequence of knowledge work in the way we know--at least since Taylor and Gantt--the sequence of manual operations. Knowledge work, therefore, needs far better design, precisely because it cannot be designed for the worker. It can be designed only by the worker."

Peter F. Drucker
Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices
p. 183, Harper and Row, 1985

Quote of the Week (1998.06.14)
Creating the Problem, Living on Intent, Finding the Solution

"Curiosity is not enough. The word is too mild by far, a word for infants. Passion is indispensable for creation, no less in the sciences than in the arts. Medawar once described it in a talk addressed to young scientists. 'You must feel in yourself an exploratory impulsion--an acute discomfort at incomprehension.' This is the rage to know. The other side of the fun of science, as of art, is pain. A problem worth solving will surely require weeks and months of lack of progress, whipsawn between hope and the blackest sense of despair. The marathon runner or the young swimmer who would be a champion knows at least that the pain may be a symptom of progress. But here the artist and the scientist part company with the athlete--to join the mystic for a while. The pain of creation, though not of the body, is in one way worse. It must not only be endured but reflected back on itself to increase the agility, variety, inventiveness of the play of the mind. Some problems in science have demanded such devotion, such willingness to bear repeated rebuffs, not just for years but for decades. There are times in the practice of arts, we're told, of abysmal self-doubt. There are like passages in the doing of science. Albert Einstein took eleven years of unremitting concentration to produce the general theory of relativity; long afterward, he wrote, 'In the light of knowledge attained, the happy achievement seems almost a matter of course, and any intelligent student can grasp it without too much trouble. But the years of anxious searching in the dark, with their intense longing, their final emergence into the light--only those who have experienced it can understand it.' . . . In the black cave of unknowing, when one is groping for the contours of the rock and the slope of the floor, tossing a pebble and listening for its fall, brushing away false clues as insistent as cobwebs, a touch of fresh air on the cheek can make hope leap up, an unexpected scurrying whisper can induce the mood of the brink of terror. 'Afterwards it can be told--trivialized--like a roman policier, a detective story,' Francois Jacob once said. 'While you're there, it is the sound and the fury.' But it was the poet and adept of mysticism St. John of the Cross who gave to this passionate wrestling with bafflement the name of which, ever since, it has been known: the dark night of the soul."

Horace Freeland Judson
The Search for Solutions
pp. 5-6, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1980

Quote of the Week (1998.06.07)

"Tendencies. Yougottendencies. Soevenifyoudideverythingoveragain,

yourwholelife, yougottendenciestodojustwhatyoudid, alloveragain."

"Yes, but where does that leave me?"

"Likewesaid, we'lldowhatwecan. Trytoreconnectyou, towhatyouwant," said the

Sheep Man. "Butwecan'tdoitalone. Yougottaworktoo. Sitting'snotgonnadoit,


"So what do I have to do?"

"Dance," said the Sheep Man. "Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays.

Yougottadance. Don'teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop,

wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you'restuck. Sodon'tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb.

Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown.

Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou'retired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone,

okay? Justdon'tletyourfeetstop."


"I don't get it."

"Dance," he said. "It'stheonlyway. Wishwecouldexplainthingsbetter.

Butwetoldyouallwecould. Dance. Don'tthink. Dance. Danceyourbest,

likeyourlifedependedonit. Yougottadance."

The temperature was falling. I suddenly seemed to remember this chill. A

bone-piercing, damp chill. Long ago and far away. But where? My mind was

paralyzed. Fixed and rigid.

Fixed and rigid.

"Youbettergo," urged the Sheep Man. "Stayhere, you'llfreeze. Butifyouneedus,

we'rehere. Youknowwheretofindus."

Haruki Murakami
Dance, Dance, Dance
pp. 85-87, Vintage International, 1994


Quote of the Week (1998.05.31)
The Programmed Context and Transition Management

This week's quotation comes from the last pages of an excellent book of fiction (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) which includes many insights into the MG Taylor Data, Information, Knowledge model (soon to appear on this website). Basically, Data combined with a Context (pattern from memory) yields Information. Information acted upon in an experience yields Knowledge. The Context is powerful enough in many instances to break the loop between the internal and external worlds so that the system becomes completely self-referential. From this vantage point, there is never a solution to problems outside of the system's Context, and the system ossifies in this state.

If you think you might like the book, don't read this week's quote, as it will spoil the whole thing. On the other hand, it's a very intriguing quote, so maybe you should read it. Dilemmas ;-)

"'I have been thinking it over . . . ,' I dredge up the words. 'I'm not going.'

The shadow looks at me blankly.

'Forgive me,' I tell my shadow. 'I know full well what staying here means. I understand it makes perfect sense to return to our former world, the two of us together, like you say. But I can't bring myself to leave.' . . .

My shadow sighs, then looks again heavenward.

'You found her mind, did you? And now you want to live in the Woods with her. You want to drive me away, is that it?'

'No, that is not it at all, not all of it, I say. 'I have discovered the reason the Town exists.'

'I don't want to know,' he says, 'because I already know. You yourself created this Town. You made everything here. The Wall, the River, the Woods, the Library, the Gate, everything. Even this Pool. I've known all along.

'Then why did you not tell me sooner?'

'Because you'd only have left me here like this. Because your rightful world is there outside.' My shadow sits down in the snow and shakes his head from side to side. 'But you won't listen, will you?'

'I have responsibilities,' I say. 'I cannot forsake the people and places and things I have created. I know I do you a terrible wrong. And yes, perhaps I wrong myself, too. But I must see out the consequences of my own doings. This is my world. The Wall is here to hold me in, the River flows through me, the smoke is me burning. I must know why.'

My shadow rises and stares at the calm surface of the Pool. He stands motionless amid the falling snow. Neither of us says a word. White puffs of breath issue from our mouths.

'I cannot stop you,' admits my shadow. 'Maybe you can't die here, but you will not be living. You will merely exist. . . . You'll be trapped for all eternity.'

'I am not so sure,' I say. 'Nor can you be. A little by little I will recall things. People and places from our former world, different qualities of light, different songs. And as I remember, I may find the key to my own creation and to its undoing.'

'No, I doubt it. Not as long as you are sealed inside yourself. Search as you might, you will never know the clarity of distance without me. Still you can't say I didn't try,' my shadow says, then pauses. 'I loved you.'

'I will not forget you,' I reply."

Haruki Murakami
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
pp. 398-399, Vintage International, 1993

Quote of the Week (1998.05.24)
Innovation and Survival in the Knowledge Era

"Now, more than ever before, the only way to ensure a continuing profit in any business endeavor is to learn from your competitors' successes quickly and to have your own constant, steady stream of new ideas, improvements, and innovations. In other words, what is important is not a single new idea, but the ability to continue to generate new ideas.

"Again and again, economists, business consultants, and other students of free market systems have concluded that the ability to innovate is more important to a firm's long-term survival and prosperity than any particular innovation. . .

This is the fundamental argument for the importance of software over hardware at a company's operating level. Your company's 'software' consists of your innovative people, your corporate culture, your collective capacity for evaluation, accepting, and implementing new thought."

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D.
The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time
pp. 336-337, Currency Doubleday, 1993


Quote of the Week (1998.05.17)
Navajo Nightway Chant

"House made of dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.

Dark cloud is at the door.
The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high upon it.
An offering I make.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
Restore my voice for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.

Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily I go forth.
My interior feeling cool, may I walk.
No longer sore, may I walk.
Impervious to pain, may I walk.
With lively feelings may I walk.
As it used to be long ago, may I walk.

Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.

May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.
In beauty it is finished."

This quote came from a website,


Quote of the Week (1998.05.10)
Analysis, Direction, Positioning in Creative Tension

[Note: employ some creativity and metaphor in interpreting the meaning of "the opponent" in the following quote. It doesn't necessarily refer to other individuals or organizations or even an enemy. The quote may be about how to deal with your creative tension, for instance.]

"Those who have Direction can arouse like charging waters,
Uprooting boulders along the way.
Those who have Timing can charge like a bird of prey,
Piercing its target along the way.

Hence, those who are skilled in conflict
Are formidable in their Directing and quick in their Timing.

Directing is like a tautly drawn crossbow;
Timing is like the release of the arrow.

The numbers and confusions and comings and goings
Make the contest seem disordered--
And yet there is not disorder.
The blending and merging and chaos and tumult
Make the Position seem encircled--
And yet there is no losing.

Apparent disorder is a product of control.
Apparent fear is a product of courage.
Apparent vulnerability is a product of possession.

Control or disorder is a matter of Analysis.
Courage or fear is a matter of Direction.
Possession or vulnerability is a matter of Positioning.

Skillfulness in moving an opponent about comes through
Positioning the opponent is compelled to follow
And gifts the opponent is compelled to take.

Through the promise of gain,
An opponent is moved about
While the Team lies in wait."

Sun Tzu, translated by R.L. Wing
The Art of Strategy: A New Translation of Sun Tzu's Classic Art of War
p. 73, Doubleday, 1988

Quote of the Week (1998.05.03)
The Courage of Innovative Thought

"'The ethics of creativity'--integrity, pain, courage, self-knowledge, and freedom--is a problematic subject, because creative achievement imposes specific distinctions between the thinking individual and society at large. These are not just distinctions of comparative insight but rather imply the much greater gaps between competence and excellence, between security and exploration, between caution and risk. No culture, however 'liberal,' can annul these distinctions, which are part of the fabric of social necessity. No culture can make innovation painless or free of danger.

"What, then, is the courage of independent thought? . . . it is eclectic, facing miscellaneous adversaries, despising illusory dangers and enduring real ones, accepting limited victories and inevitable losses. Can any single quality of character perform all these functions? To Plato and Aristotle, courage was a kind of knowledge, an awareness of what was or was not really worth fearing, predicated on a broader sense of a good that validated the risk. For our own more specific uses, the following may serve: the courage of innovative thought is not a distinct virtue that can be practiced in and of itself. It is rather a by-product, a strength that is the simple consequence of loving our work and knowing why we love it.

Robert Grudin
The Grace of Great Things: Creativity and Innovation
p. 109, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990


Quote of the Week (1998.04.26)
Discovering Our Potential

"The development of abilities is at least in part a dialogue between individuals and their environment. If they have the ability and the environment demands it, it will surely develop. The young person with excellent athletic skills is likely to discover that ability fairly early. . . But most abilities are not so readily evoked by the common circumstances of life. . . Most of us have potentialities that have never been developed simply because the circumstances of our lives never called them forth.

"Exploration of the full range of our own potentialities is not something that we can safely leave to the chances of life. It is something to be pursued systematically, or at least avidly, to the end of our days. We should look forward to an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our potentialities and the claims of life--not only the claims we encounter but the claims we invent. And by potentialities I mean not just skills, but the full range of our capacities for sensing, wondering, learning, understanding, loving and aspiring.

"The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his own education."

John W. Gardner
Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society
pp. 11, 12, W.W. Norton & Company, 1995


Quote of the Week (1998.04.19)
Prisoner's Dilemma

"Structures of which we are unaware hold us prisoner. Once we can see them and name them, they no longer have the same hold on us. This is as much true for individuals as it is for organizations. . .

"Discovering structures at play is the stock and trade of people with high levels of mastery. Sometimes these structures can be readily changed. Sometimes, as with structural conflict, they change only gradually. Then the need is to work more creatively within them while acknowledging their origin, rather than fighting the structures. Either way, once an operating structure is recognized, the structure itself becomes part of 'current reality.' The more my commitment to the truth, the more creative tension comes into play because current reality is seen more for what it really is. In the context of creative tension, commitment to the truth becomes a generative force, just as vision becomes a generative force.

"One of the classic illustrations of this process is Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Through the visitations of the three ghosts on Christmas Eve, Scrooge sees more and more of the reality from which he has turned away. He sees the reality of his past, how the choices he made steadily whittled away his compassion and increased his self-centeredness. He sees the reality of his present, especially those aspects of reality that he has avoided. . . And he sees the reality of his likely future. . . But then he wakes up. He realizes that he is not the captive of these realities. He realizes that he has a choice. He chooses to change.

"Significantly, Scrooge can't make the choice to change before he becomes more aware of his current reality. In effect, Dickens says that life always avails the option of seeing the truth, no matter how blind and prejudiced we may be. And if we have the courage to respond to that option, we have the power to change ourselves profoundly. Or, to put it in more classic religious terms, only through the truth do we come to grace."

Peter Senge
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
pp. 160-161, Currency, 1990

Quote of the Week (1998.04.12)
Corporate Adolescence

"The Adolescent organization is somewhat schizophrenic. It wants stability, yet it also wants an escape from the mess of development, the superficiality of projects, and the despair of getting involved in useless, expensive investments. It therefore seeks to establish policies, routines, standards and systems. At the same time, however, it wants to keep the freedom of irresponsibility, of trying out untested methods. It wants to set as many records as possible.

"The therapist is caught in a double bind in such an organization. If he facilitates stabilization and systemization, some members resent him. If he does not systemize, other members will resent him. Hardly anything the outsider does will be accepted gracefully by the whole organization. The Adolescent organization is a pain in the neck. The therapist must have enormous patience to deal with it. He must maintain a very delicate balance between flexibility and systemization. He must change direction and assignments rapidly and with good timing. . .

"When the Adolescent organization clearly identifies and achieves commitment, it becomes a Prime organization. If an Adolescent organization is incapable of such focus, it can become either arsonous or rigid. It becomes arsonous if it loses all interest in systemization. It gets involved in too many projects and fizzles out. If it loses [entrepreneuring], it becomes rigid and disappears since it cannot adapt or produce results.

"The assignments for the Adolescent organization are usually given to a multidisciplinary group (from production, marketing and sales), so that there is an adequate balance between [authority] and [entrepreneuring]."

Ichak Adizes
Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What To Do About It
pp. 336-337, Prentice Hall, 1988


Quote of the Week (1998.04.05)
Starting Fresh

"Mallarme writes of 'vide papier que la blancheur defend' (blank paper whose whiteness is forbidding); but generally writers love a blank page, a new pad, a ream of bond. For the freshness and openness of these things is an invitation to freedom and to the magic which makes something of nothing. By extension, something similar can be said about the beginnings of large projects in general. During these times our minds are less constrained and more receptive to discovery; our wills are faced less with binary alternatives than with manifold opportunities. As we progress, we will know our subject better, but we will also have set canons which we are reluctant to transgress. Thus at the beginnings of things it is well to treat ourselves to a luxury of blankness, to go into each day's work without the deadening burdens of continuity, consistency and fixed purpose. Don't look back; you will have time enough for that during later stages. At this point the essential things are amplitude, variety, boldness, imagination. Contradictions are not only allowable but essential; for without them you will almost always fail to transcend your initial understanding."

Robert Grudin
Time and the Art of Living
p. 122, Houghton Mifflin Company

Other Prior Quotes:

January 1, 1998 through April 5, 1998

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