How did they ever work together?
By Andy Howie
Regular readers of this blog will know that I love books, and an enjoyable part of my holiday preparations is deciding which books to read while away. My wife, Sue, and I started the new year with a week in warmer climes and I chose a book by Michael Lewis as my travel companion. Michael Lewis is best know for writing Moneyball, but it was his latest The Undoing Project that caught my eye. Maybe it was the subtitle of the book that drew me in: A Friendship that Changed the World. The book is about the relationship between two psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, how they came to meet, work together and their impact on the world. It was fascinating.
Kahneman and Tversky were two very different people. “How did they ever work together?” people asked, but they did and managed to achieve great things. My life’s work has been an interest in how relationships work – through teaching, coaching, training, parenting support and critical incident review – so I was intrigued by the collaboration between Kahneman and Tversky.
It also made me reflect on my own relationships, particularly with Sue, my wife, and Rob, my business partner. I know there are some similarities between us, but there are some differences too which stretch me and bring a mixture of opportunity and, at times, discomfort.
Which is most powerful: our similarities or our differences? I think it is the differences that bring the edge and offer a perspective. Sue and Rob’s personalities bring a new level of energy and drive for change to me and I offer a slowing down to them, which I am sure, on occasion, can produce negative feelings.
Tversky and Kahneman wrote some groundbreaking academic papers, and when asked who brought what, all they will acknowledge is that their output was a result of collaboration. The relationship was a realistic one though. They don’t try to hide the fact that there was competition, jealousy, joy and pain at times, but when their two worlds collided they found a way of working together that was incredibly fruitful.
There is some degree of separation between my ambitions and those belonging to Sue and Rob, but there is great power in inviting each other to contribute. My involvement does not limit their own ideas, aspirations and energy for change, and vice versa. However, as with Tversky and Kahneman, there is pain too, particularly when I have to go beyond the limits I’ve set myself, but I have come to recognise that I can be comfortable about feeling uncomfortable.
I wonder why we need to know who has done what in a relationship, for example why do people ask which lyrics Lennon and McCartney each wrote? Why do we seem to want to give recognition and credit to an individual, rather than a partnership?
A few years ago, at my daughter’s wedding, part of my speech was considering the importance of relationship:
“It’s customary to say something about marriage and there has already been so many lovely words and sentiments in the readings earlier. From me I offer this, I think the strength of a marriage is grounded in the word ‘listen’. It is so important to listen to each other well. To sometimes stand in the other person’s shoes and see life from their world. It is also important to listen to yourself, your own hopes and dreams, thoughts and feelings so that you can speak honestly with your partner when needed. The interesting thing is if you do both well you start to discover more of yourself and you grow as individuals and you also grow together.”
I find the dynamics of relationships compelling. Are they the most important things that have a bearing on our lives? If yes, do we study them enough? How can the study of relationships improve workplaces?
I believe that they will continue to absorb me for as long as I live.