Creating Impossible Results in Business
In this episode, Ankush speaks with Dr Aaron Turner about creating “impossible” results – outcomes beyond what were reasonably thought possible. Some of what they discuss include:
– What do we mean by “impossible results”?
– How understanding more about our mind can lead to unusual results in business
– The difference between mindfulness and other techniques vs Aaron’s approach
– A number of case studies from organisations that Aaron has worked with.
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To contact Aaron Turner and find out more about her work, visit www.onethought.com
[00:00:03.01] Ankush: Welcome to the business series podcast. My name is Ankush Jain, and I’m a state of mind coach, working with businesses and individuals. On each episode of this series, I’ll be speaking to a coach or trainer on a different topic relevant to your career or personal development. Enjoy.
[00:00:24.22] Ankush: Welcome back to another episode of the business series podcast. Today I’m going to be talking to Aaron Turner, about seeing impossible results in business. Aaron is someone who works with organisations and helps them to see the relevance of how the mind works to their objectives, and he’s got some great case studies and some wonderful things to share with us today. So thank you for joining us, Aaron.
[00:00:50.20] Aaron: It’s a pleasure.
[00:00:53.17] Ankush: So I’m going to jump straight in as I always do, into the topic. I always like to address the question that we’re pondering today. So, what do you mean by, “impossible results”?
[00:01:05.27] Aaron: Just exactly that Ankush. Results that people who achieve those results would have said were not possible. So results that are outside of what the people themselves would have expected and would have thought was possible. I can give a few examples if you want just to give a feel for that.
[00:01:24.01] Ankush: Yeah please do, because what we’re not talking about is, iterative change, kind of a small process change, we’re talking about really large differences and beyond what people thought possible.
[00:01:35.02] Aaron: Yeah, so in the realm of, I’ll start more in the realm of normal. So within a sales organisation, over years and years and years of experience, they have a range of return per salesperson, that they think is a given. So, you can expect a certain return per sales person and if you want a higher sales return, you have to increase the cost of having more salespeople. Well as we’ve worked with that organisation, they start to see higher sales return, which is not something they thought was possible. They thought that the sales return ratio average was a complete given. Turns out, it was possible for it to improve.
Within a hotel, the GM in a boutique luxury hotel, had a budget that was given to him by his bosses, that he thought was completely unrealistic. After having a better understanding of the mind, with him and his heads of department, not only did they achieve it, but they achieved it without any change in strategy, technology, personnel, or organisation process. Purely with a change in understanding of the mind, and that in and of itself is not seen to be possible. That you can have a change in results, without doing anything, just by understanding one of the variables differently, that that in and of itself is not seen to be possible.
It’s very common for entrepreneurs to start businesses in partnerships, and it’s very usual for those partnerships to disintegrate quite acrimoniously, and having worked with entrepreneurs, we’ve actually had really un-acrimonious business partnership partings, where both parties were able to go their separate ways without impacting negatively on each other, their shareholdings, the value of the company, and they themselves said, “I’ve never seen that happen without this understanding, that wouldn’t have been possible.”
As we’ll talk about in the case studies, we’ve seen organisations that staff below what the industry thinks is possible, but have an above industry client service experience, which is two impossibles. Firstly, how do they staff so low, and get everything done while growing aggressively? Which adds an additional to-do burden on things, but, in the face of that, they have great client feedback. Usually you have to have more staff, with less on their mind in order to have a better client experience, but they don’t. They have staffing below what the industry thinks is feasible, but yet they have way above average client experiences. So we have, there’s one more that I thought was really funny Ankush.
So we’ve had leadership teams that we’ve worked with, that when they go on leadership training, and the trainer says to them “what keeps you up at night?” All of them say, “nothing,” and he’s like, I’ve never come across that before, I’ve never. Usually, when I work with leadership teams, they always have stuff that keeps them up at night. It’s a very rare exception, that someone doesn’t. Here’s a whole team in a growing, aggressive, committed organisation, and nothing keeps them up at night. So, what we’re talking about is, possibilities beyond what is seen as realistic or normal, or possible, and all of a sudden, they emerge as achievable, not because people are trying, but because they’re getting an understanding of the role of the mind in what they’re doing, and they’re navigating that variable, in addition to all the other variables that they’re already aware of.
[00:05:23.05] Ankush: As you were talking, I was thinking we could call this, “unusual results in business,” but, unusual in the best possible way that this almost sounds like the holy grail of what businesses are looking for. And you started talking a little bit about, well how you do that is help people have an understanding of the mind, now, I know we haven’t got an awful lot of time today, but, could you really talk more about that, because if I’m listening to this, and either I’m a senior executive or I work in an organisation, or I own an organisation, it almost sounds like what you’re saying is too good to be true, but if it works, I’d like to know more about that.
[00:06:02.02] Aaron: Yeah, so in a way, given the understanding that we currently have, which is missing, that there’s the understanding of the role of the mind and the way that works, is a missing piece currently, and given that missing piece, it is too good to be true. So, most professionals and organisations I work with, the assumption is, is that if you want performance to increase, you have to increase skills, knowledge or effort, or you have to improve technology or processes, or, you have to do something differently, that’s kind of the prevailing model. And you have to be able to do what you do better, you have to have better technology, better skills, or try harder.
Now what’s missing from this picture, is that, and I’m going to say it my way, and then I’m going to explain it because obviously, this is something I’m already aware of. The state of mind in which you do things affects how well you do them. Because one of the aspects of our state of mind, and what I mean by that is, the clarity of mind in which we are doing anything. Right? So, for example, a really really simple example is, if you’re threading a needle, and you’re thinking about something else, it will be very hard.
The clearer and less distracted and rushed your mind is, the easier it is to thread a needle. And what people don’t realise is, that variable, your clarity of mind, affects everything you do, and how well you can do it, and therefore how much struggle, effort and thought it takes to do it. And at very high levels of clarity, and I know your listeners will have experienced this, because everybody has experienced very high levels of clarity at some point, your mind is so clear, your bandwidth is so wide, that everything is obvious, and without any effort, you kind of have a very clear idea what to do. There’s no stress, there’s no agitation, it’s just very very simple. And if you take an engineering model it makes sense, it’s like, the more processing bandwidth you have, the less challenging every piece of information is to process in a meaningful way, and the same goes for content. So in a way, the clearer your mind, the more simple and obvious everything is.
So if you look in the sports arena, when athletes are in the zone, one of the things they tend to say, is firstly, it came easily and effortlessly and it would have had a lot of flow to it. And the other thing that they say, is that they know exactly what to do, without thinking about it, before it was time to do it. And a lot of people that have been in emergency situations say that, even though things are happening very fast and there are complex variables at play, their mind is so quiet that time seems to slow down. Again, as you’re processing bandwidth increases, the information is less challenging, so time, you seem to have more time. And as your clarity of mind decreases, your mental bandwidth is more obscured, time seems to speed up. And one of the things that people don’t realise is, the normal state of mind in which most people go to work in is not a clear state of mind, so everything is more complex and challenging than it needs to be. And that’s something that people are not aware of.
It’s funny as well Ankush because they see it in sports, that everybody knows you can have the best players in the world, play on a team, and if their state of mind is not right, they won’t do very well. And you can have an amateur team in the FA Cup, and they’re totally on fire, their state of mind’s great, and they totally out-perform themselves, they could beat anybody potentially. We’re including an understanding of that variable within a business, but in a very nuts and bolts workable way, it’s a very very simple system. There’s only one thing that clouds our mind, and that’s the way we think, and if you understand that, you logically and naturally, stop thinking in ways that cloud your mind, and you’re left with a clearer mind, so you’re effortlessly higher performing.
[00:10:21.01] Ankush: Just to be clear, because people might be listening to this and thinking, “well, Aaron this isn’t new, we’ve heard about clear minds in business before, we’ve got a mindfulness programme,” some forward-thinking companies might even encourage other ways of clearing the mind but you’re not talking about that are you?
[00:10:45.09] Aaron: No, I’m not, so these programmes are great, if your normal state of mind is not a clear mind. So, if you think in ways that creates stress and agitation, which are the symptoms of an unclear mind, then having corrective mechanisms like mindfulness and table tennis tables, and longer breaks and nap pods and all that is great, but what people don’t appreciate is that a clearer mind, is a more natural mind, it’s an unobscured mind and that means that left to its own devices, our mind gravitates toward clarity. So, the problem that we’re solving is that most people are unknowingly getting in the way of their own clarity, and it’s the unknowingly part that we’re addressing, because once they see how that works, very few people knowingly mess with their own clarity, if they know it doesn’t work well. And that’s the other part of this impossible results, is people don’t realise that they could effortlessly have a clearer mind, and that would effortlessly lead to higher performance, better communication, better relationships, and it’s that part that we’re uncovering, it’s our natural potential for a clearer mind. So from my perspective, just to sum it up, because we don’t understand that the mind plays such a big role, and because we don’t understand the ways in which we’re using our mind in an unhelpful way, we unknowingly think in a way that gets in our way, and when we understand all that, that stops making sense, we stop doing it.
[00:12:27.19] Ankush: So I’d like to go onto a case study, but before I do, or maybe you want to combine this with a case study, I’m really curious as to how long this takes, because this is sounding really great so far for businesses, but is this something that’s challenging for people to get? Because you know, it almost sounds, like I said, too good to be true.
[00:12:49.18] Aaron: Yeah, well, I’ll give you a case study that illustrates what you’re talking about, and so your listeners can follow along. It’s both easy and challenging and it’s challenging because, in business none of us are used to stepping back, and looking at anything other than what we’re trying to do. In a way, one of the challenges of business that people are always talking about, is everyone’s so busy chopping down trees they never sharpen the saw, let alone, step back and look at the grip they have on the saw, or whether they… see, you get what I’m saying. That’s a challenge, because people’s minds are unclear in a kind of little bit of an overwhelmed and stressed, and speeded up, that’s the normal lack of clarity in the world today, people are not inclined to step back, and look at their state of mind, so that’s the first challenge.
The second challenge is once you step back and take a look at your state of mind, in order to understand it, you have to be willing to see that we have misunderstandings of the mind that stop us from appreciating it properly. So, I’m going to give you an example. So, in my previous practice where I used to work, we worked with quite a large engineering firm, and one of the problems that they had, as they had a massive cost of poor quality, so it was around 20%. It was somewhere between 18% and 20%, which means that 20% of the cost, was taken up in mistakes, right? Now, because they were an engineering firm, they, and they didn’t see state of mind, they basically troubleshoot all the mistakes, and they found the points in the process where people most frequently made mistakes, and they created extra processes, that if followed, would prevent people from making those mistakes, and they felt like, job well done. And to their surprise, the mistakes increased, which, technically should not happen. Which shows you there’s an unappreciated variable at play, right? And every engineer knows that. If you make an adjustment to a system, and it has the opposite effect you expect it to, there’s a variable you don’t appreciate, right?
So, we did interviews with these people and what we saw was, they were all frantic. Now if you step back for a second, everybody knows that frantic people make mistakes. If you’re frantic and you’re looking for your keys, you can look right at them 9/10 you won’t see them. You drop things, you miss steps, and this is what was happening. So firstly, they didn’t realise that your state of mind, your level of agitation, your lack of clarity, will translate into lack of efficiency in mistakes. There’s nothing you can do about that, right? So that was their first misunderstanding. The second was, like most people, they believed that their state of mind, their feeling state, was being created by their environment, they said, “look, if you’re really busy people, that have complex processes, that are really important, that you have a time pressure in order to achieve, everyone in that situation would be frantic.” Now what they didn’t see was, even though that was fairly true, it wasn’t completely true. There was the odd person involved in that process that wasn’t frantic, and all the frantic people had varying levels of franticness, and their level of frantic average, varied between them.
So, the fact that you’re experiencing your clarity of mind and not your external circumstances, the evidence is there, but we share an assumption, that your environment, your circumstance, your life challenges, creates your feeling state in your clarity of mind. I even had a global HR director say that to me, she said, “you know Aaron, I know that the two problematic teams I’m dealing with, where I spend 80% of my time, you’re right, state of mind is what’s causing all the problems, but let’s face it, our state of mind is created by so many variables beyond our control, there’s no point focussing on it. Now that’s a common misunderstanding, because actually what we’ve discovered, that we’re showing organisations, is that your state of mind is 100% completely determined by how you use your mind, so it’s completely in your hands, and this is a hugely underappreciated fact. So you have a major performance variable, that is completely under the influence of the person, that they believe is out of their control.
It’d be like someone driving a car thinking they couldn’t touch the steering wheel and then wondering why it was so hard. So, this is the situation, so we go in to talk to these people, we say, “look, we’ve diagnosed your problem, you’re frantic.” Now half the people got really amused and they said, “what kind of idiot would tell us that, we already know that, but there’s nothing we can do about it, it’s our circumstance.” And the other half got really angry and said, “what kind of idiot…” They said the same thing, but what was consistent among the group is, not a single person thought that their state of mind came from them, not a single one. So there was literally nothing they could do about it.
Now the challenge for them, was to start to consider that they might be wrong about that, that’s not easy for people. Like you don’t get to 30/40/50 years old, and think that maybe there’s something I misunderstood, right? So that can be hard for people, but once they did, because the evidence is there, there’s evidence that your state of mind varies when your circumstance doesn’t, and people have rotten states of mind in great circumstances. Like I was recently at a gorgeous tropical resort, and most people there were not having a good time. They just looked like they were barely coping, you know, what should we do, I don’t know, lunch is fine, and there are people in rotten circumstances, with very clear states of mind, so, you start to see that independence. Now when this group started to see that independence and they started to understand how they could have a healthier relationship to unclear states of mind, the cost of poor quality dropped and dropped and dropped, until it was slightly positive, because of all the great ideas people were having for efficiencies and reuse.
Nothing else changed, processes didn’t change, engineering didn’t change, physics didn’t change, the machines didn’t change, the personnel didn’t change, the only thing that changed was their understanding of the influence of their mind and their influence on their mind, that was it. Does that illustrate what you were asking about Ankush?
[00:19:36.00] Ankush: Yeah and I’m curious how long did that change take to occur?
[00:19:39.17] Aaron: Well it’s interesting, because the overall process by which they became aware of this understanding, was three days, but the evolution of the cost of poor quality started to go down immediately, but it went from around 20% to 0.1% or 0.2%, that was over a couple year period that that happened, but, it started a trend downward immediately after those three days, and so it depends on the process. So there are, like cultural conflicts on teams that resolve from one day to the next. So one team within the same firm was in the red, so, green means you’re on schedule, you’re on target. Orange means you’re kind of bobbling on the line, red means you’re behind schedule, or behind target, and they had been for several years. And the executives in the company said, “Aaron, they really don’t communicate well, but they’re definitely very stressed. We don’t know whether to put them on a communication course, or to do a state of mind course.” I said, “well the thing is, people who are not in a clear state of mind, can’t communicate even if they have the skills, so you might as well put them on the state of mind course first.” So, on the second day of that course, when they realised, hold on, we’re not stressed because we’re a red programme and we’re under pressure and we’re behind budget and behind schedule and we’re stuck on several technical issues, we’re stressed because we’re thinking in a way that’s tormenting ourselves with pressure, and that’s making a difficult situation really hard, and they stop doing it, and from literally within the next five minutes, they went from stress and pressure to very high spirited, and they started having a conversation and their communication was excellent, literally from one moment to the next, and after that three day programme, they went from the team that was hidden in the basement when the customer came, “don’t take them to that team whatever you do.” And they became the kind of the show team that they would tour customers around their area, because they communicate so well. Now, within two months of that three day, they solved the major technical problem that they’d been struggling with for two years. But even then it was hard for them to see the link between their state of mind and that technical problem. So the director said, “well Aaron, you’ll be pleased to hear we’ve solved a major technical problem we’ve been struggling with for a couple of years.” So I said, “oh you’re welcome.” They said, “what are you talking about, you didn’t teach us engineering, you don’t know anything about our technical problems.” I said, “well do you think that people’s, the degree to which people are frantic and stressed and essentially running around like chickens with no heads, versus having a clear mind has anything to do with solving technical problems…” He said, “oh well I guess there might be a link.”
[00:22:48.01] Ankush: What if someone’s listening to this and thinking, ‘Aaron that’s a great case study, but my team, my employees, my colleagues, they’re beyond help.’ Would you say this works for everyone or would you say, some people they just, they’re not open to this?
[00:23:05.25] Aaron: Well, it’s really interesting, there’s two things to say about that Ankush. The first one is, is that every single living human being, is at the effect of their state of mind, and what’s fascinating is, if their emotional experience is negative, and usually the people that are most far gone, are the most intense, the most negative, the most stressed, the most intense. I want people to consider, that’s just a state of mind, and if it’s not a clear state of mind, it’s not being held in place by anything other than the way that the person’s thinking.
So firstly, everyone’s in a state of mind, everybody’s natural state of mind is a clear one, so, everybody’s capable of really unclear difficult states of mind, and very clear states of mind, everyone, so nobody’s beyond help because everybody’s in that same arena of their state of mind. So that’s number one. And then people say, well you know there are some people that are just really committed to really negative, agitated, reactive states of mind. And it does look that way, but the thing you don’t realise is, they’re suffering the effects of that. Their relationships don’t work well, they get a lot of pushback from people, they’re having unpleasant experiences that they have to adjust for, either by going on holiday or drinking or having hobbies that take them away from it… they’re suffering.
So what happens is, when we talk to people, they always want the things that come with a clearer state of mind, but they didn’t know that’s how to get it. And once they realise that, I’ve yet to meet someone that didn’t want to have a clearer state of mind, either to do a better job, or to have better relationships, or to just have more energy and well being and mental ease, even happiness within their own life, and what’s interesting is, these are three dimensions of the same thing. So there’s something in it for everybody, and I’ve yet to meet someone that ultimately wasn’t looking for those things, and if they’re willing to consider it might come from their state of mind, we find that most people start to learn and as they start to learn, they discover it, so, that’s another one of those impossible results, is it applies to everybody, and sometimes, it’s the most difficult people within teams that take to it the best.
So, a few years ago we were working in a media company and the team was terrorized by their boss, the CEO, and he was very intense, he was very impatient, he was very agitated, he was very aggressive, and they really wanted to do the course, because they were all suffering, and they thought they were suffering because how intense and negative he was. So they said to us, “well look, you’re going to have to talk to him, you know, good luck, he’s not going to like this,” because in their mind he was even worse than he was in reality, because they had such a bad experience of him. And when we talked to him it made perfect sense to him. “Oh yeah, clear our mind, that makes perfect sense.” And it was so funny because, he was the most enthusiastic in the training and took to it the most and they were shocked. So there’s a logic behind it that I found to be true, and to the degree that people catch a whiff of that and they get interested and to the degree that they get interested, they see something that’s already true, that they hadn’t appreciated, and that allows them to be wiser in the way that they go about things.
[00:26:40.11] Ankush: So just to wrap up, what’s the one takeaway you want people to leave this podcast with, what do you want them to take away from this?
[00:26:48.16] Aaron: Well what I’d like people to take away from this podcast, is to consider that your feeling your clarity of mind, and that that’s directly affecting everything in your life, including your job, and just to consider that if you were thinking less intensely, you would have a clearer state of mind, things might get easier, and just to kind of consider that, that you’re experiencing your state of mind, a freer mind is a clearer mind, and you’ll start to notice your level of agitation and ease vary, as the intensity of your thinking varies.
[00:27:28.20] Ankush: Fantastic, if people like what you have to say Aaron, and they would like to get in touch with you or carry on this conversation with you, how might they do that?
[00:27:37.18] Aaron: Well that can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look at www.onethought.com, and reach out to us that way, and there’s also, if they look at, there’s a section on there Ankush called, in our video section, public videos called business and performance, and there are lots and lots of short videos on how state of mind relates to different aspects of life and work that they can take a look at.
[00:28:02.15] Ankush: Fantastic, thank you so much for joining me today Aaron, and I’ll be back next time with another episode relevant to business. Thanks for listening to the business series podcast, if you want to hear more, you can click on the “subscribe button” below, you can share this with someone else who can benefit, or you can “like” it and encourage others to listen. Also, it would be great if you left a comment below, as I love hearing from listeners, and I want to keep creating great content for you. Thanks for listening.