Black Swan: Get the “F” out of your “Act”

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

The widely acclaimed movie Black Swan directed by Darren Oronofsky which won the best actress award for Natalie Portman is a must see for all students of Change Management. At the core of this movie is a very common message we all know. The Mind is a dangerous tool that builds up facts to justify its actions. A ballet dancer wins the lead in “Swan Lake” and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan – Princess Odette – but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.

The Black and the white swan resident as twins within us that arise out of the choices that we make. The ballet dancer wants to be ‘Perfect’ while her director urges her towards excellence. He asks her to experience; to feel the character of both the white and the black swan.  It is easy for her to portray the white swan because that is what the world expects out of her. But it is most difficult for her to surface her black swan tendencies, though that is what she experiences interanlly. Consequence is self-inflicted pain and suffering and eventual death while finding everyone else but herself  responsible for her condition. It is a pity that she experiences “Perfection” in death rather than in the experience of dancing, which was her entire life. There are other messages as well such as the cruelty of expediency in business and the ever popular adage – you are only as good as your last performance!

Individuals and Enterprise focus on Performance as an end state rather than the experience of it.  Therefore the popularity of Business Intelligence. However, the experience or cognition of the process that achieves performance is more critical for performance. The focus of Change Management must be on the cognitive more than the business intelligence. The latter may be “fact” but does not provide an insight into the learning of the “Act”. Cognitive Intelligence points to the causes of performance while Business Intelligence points to the symptoms.

CognitionAt a micro level, Change / Transformation is all about the process of decision making in an enterprise or making choices individually.  Understanding Consequences is the driver for decisions and the truth be Actual than Factual; where actual is experiential and Factual is an image of words from the past. (Please refer to my previous blog edition for the example on the picture of yourself). In essence, Change Management is all about how one can be more experential; in other words receptive and responsive. As the Black Swan example points out, it is not what others perceive (make meaning of your performance) that is important but your own perception born out of the experience of acting  that leads to performance that is more important for you and your enterprise. Because out of that understanding is born the method to navigate the hurdles and phantoms you face to record performance. Failing to recognize that can only lead to deceit of the self and the stakeholders / shareholders involved in the case of an enterprise and the ones who love you in the case of individuals.

There is a very popular quote from the great Tamil Poet Arunachala Kavi, which I am making a feeble attempt to translate here. He says

“What you have heard is not the truth, what  you have seen is neither the truth;

only what you have deeply involved and experienced yourself is”.

Each one of us wants to be good and do well as individuals and collectively as an enterprise. However,  we are also solely responsible for the outcomes / consequences of our actions. It all depends on what is the source of intelligence that we seek to rely on. Perfection is the Perception of the beholder who does not understand, see or experience the process that you undergo to produce that Performance. Therefore, Perfection cannot be your driver for Performance. However, you can spot your excellence maturity (Innocense, Awareness, Understanding, Definition, Competence and Excellence) in the process you undergo and continuously renew your journey to excellence that defines the cause of your performance.

About Subbu Iyer

Subbu Iyer is an Innovation & Transformation Leader as with 28 years of serving customers globally. He is currently the Chief Designer & Transformer at Energizing Innovation, an enterprise that is being founded to facilitate continuous growth in enterprises and as a consequence create societal wealth. The Radical Shift that this enterprise intends to employ is focusing on the Potential rather than the Performance of a business. He has been a serial entrepreneur and an intrapreneur in his past life, having founded Nihilent Technologies and Nandaki Systems besides being associated in senior leadership roles with firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Cambridge Technology Partners, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies and Steria.
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