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Learning the hard way

There we were. In the red barn staring at a black baby lamb named Oliver.  Oliver was 5 days old and was in need of having his tail docked*.

So my wife and I were a bit nervous.  This was the first time we had docked a lamb’s tail.  We were in new territory.  We were googling ‘how to’ videos.  We were calling our friend Kelly who is an old pro at this work.  So the moment of truth is upon us.  We were moving the bander in place and our oldest son, Lukas, spoke.  He was sensing the nervousness in our eyes, and said this:

“This is not easy.  It is not like adding 2 plus 2, this is something you have to learn the hard way.

There is wisdom is knowing the difference in the challenge before you.  Docking baby Oliver’s tail was an adaptive challenge, not a technical one at this stage in the game for us.  Adaptive challenges are problems for which you do not have the knowledge or experience to tackle.  You need a team (ours was google and Kelly).  Technical work is work like adding two plus two.  You know it, you have memorized, you simply must execute it.

There is a danger when you do mis-identify adaptive challenges with technical work.  When you see a adaptive challenges as simply technical, you pull out the hammer and start banging away.  Damage can be done in that process.  There is some measuring that needs to be done – some consultation needed.  Likewise, to make technical work into adaptive work is just as dangerous.  Sometimes the hammer just needs to be brought out and the work done.  No asking questions, no measuring needed.  You simply know what needs to be done  and  roll your sleeves up and get to it.  We have to learn to the difference and take appropriate steps to deal with each type of work.

What adaptive challenges are before you now?  What technical work is calling your name today?  In the past, what has happened when you have got the two types of work confused?


*Docking is the process of shortening their tail by placing a thick rubber band until the circulation is restricted and falls off.  Before any one freaks out, docking a lamb’s tail is the right and good thing to do.  Without the tail being docked, there is chance tail will collect fecal matter  and maggots will grow.)

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