BriefConsulting 2.7: Tickling The Tickle Point

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Ever since Malcolm Gladwell hit the best seller list with his The Tipping Point, I’ve been finding clients chasing their tail, pursuing that almost eternally elusive point where their system might actually tip. This doesn’t quite qualify as a fool’s mission, but I usually recommend ‘investing’ in lottery tickets as a viable, much more likely-to-be successful, alternative. The Tipping Point, you see, might be that point where a system crosses the Rubicon, unable to return to its old status quo. I promote a more easily achieved objective instead, The Tickle Point, where attention might shift without tipping anything over ... yet.

Anyone who’s ever wrestled a three year old out of a tantrum into a giggle fit understands the nature of The Tickle Point. It’s that point where the seemingly permanent frustration notices some brighter-shinier. True, nothing’s really changed at that point, except, perhaps, for focus. But once the focus changes, the previously impermeable barrier’s penetrated. Then, anything might happen. Even something really different.

Tickle Points are easier that Tipping Points. One never knows with Tipping Points, whether they’ve really occurred. Tip makes a fine post-hoc explanation, but a lousy success metric in the moment. A month or a year later, perhaps over a celebratory brandy, one might be able to cheer the achievement, but in that Tipping moment, usually nothing seems to have changed. How can anyone chart, let alone navigate, such a course?

Tickle Points, however, provide a fine delineating line between the old and new state. That tantrum’s distracted, clearly distracted, and potential for different visible as if clouds were parting to reveal a moonlit night sky. The kicking and screaming—or, more likely, the slow, morose sameness— shifts, and shifts in a clearly discernible instant. An insight visits. Some shift happens. The mood changes.

These instants provide real leverage. Whether that leverage works or not can’t hope to be the question. Maybe a Tipping Point might follow, but Tickle difference appears laden with opportunity. Sometimes a brief distraction tickles The Tickle Point, even a moment of reverent irrelevance might break that sucky old status quo’s bonds. And otherwise meaningless difference might do it.

I favor the visual. I might sit in my client’s chair after he escorts me into his office for some grave meeting. That might qualify as different enough to break the trance that’s holding him and threatening to hold me, too. It’s a delicate balance, but not one likely to hurt anyone. To transform some encumbering reverence into the slightly silly ritual it always was, this qualifies as magic no one could ever be prepared for. If it elicits a giggle, it’s progress. Especially if nobody remembers the last time anyone giggled in that space.

I think of these little intrusions as my punch lines. I’m no comedian, but I firmly believe that any significantly serious situation responds better to levity than even more gravity. Life might be altogether too serious to be taken too seriously.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved












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