Same runway, different approach

Pick any one of the world’s busiest airports. Now ask yourself, where do its passengers come from? If you imagine a compass, it’s fair to say that the people that pass through come from every direction. From the north, the south, the east and the west. All its passengers are heading towards the same few runways, but they’re all coming from different places and directions.

Now, pick a topic, field, discipline or craft. And pick a hot topic within that domain, a debate that provokes heated conflict and constant skirmishes.

I’ll give an example from productivity: It’s generally accepted that certain states of mind or moods map better to certain activities. Exploration is aided by a feeling of curiosity and intrigue. High performance requires just the right amount of pressure, difficulty and uncertainty. Creativity is enhanced when a state of playfulness and confidence is present. Administrative tasks are more easily completed when backed by patience and a reserve of energy.

But how to get into each of these frames of mind is not generally agreed upon. Some advocate rituals. Some argue for the power of place and environment. Some cling to illusion and deliberate manipulation. Others favour social cues or shoot for an uncompromising realism in their approach. 

All these different approaches and their advocates are like passengers heading for a single airport. They all want to get to the same place and touch down on the same runway, but they’re all coming from different directions. 

Now, with that in mind, we can ask ourselves a question: If we’re all just trying to get to the same place, wouldn’t it make more sense to help each other land, rather than fighting over the merit of our own unique approach? Wouldn’t we be better served—and make more progress—if we focused on the runway, not the approach?