A few years ago I heard an interviewee on some talk show quote the waifish British supermodel Kate Moss's motto: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." Whether she actually said that or not (I've never checked it out) it contains a brilliant counterintuitive theory of management. I've used it ever since. What I like is its conceptual shift from the idea of "sacrifice to meet a goal" to the idea that, yes, there is sacrifice from not eating but, yes too, there is also sacrifice for her from not enjoying the life of a supermodel. It's not that you give up one thing in order to have another. It is a balance, with two different things that give her pleasure, and one--feeling skinny/being a supermodel--gives her more.
Here's what intrigues me. The usual, censorious take on Kate Moss is that she is anorexic. That may be. And if she is, that's a bad thing since anorexia is no one's idea of good self-management. I want to be clear that I'm not condoning that and that's not the point of what I'm interested in as management theory. And, yes, I know she's perennially accused of being a cocaine user and, duh, I'm not condoning that either. And a third disclaimer: yes, I despise the beauty industry that pushes such body-images of women. That is not the point I am making. (Is that enough disclaiming on the way to making a point?)
Here goes: I am simply thinking about consequence and causality in most planning and management theory and what happens when one weighs cause and effect, ends and means, together as all part of the same goal of "what gives me pleasure in the world"? What if one breaks the connection that you have to suffer for pleasure? What is intriguing to me generalizing from that motto, as a counter-theory of management and planning, is that the other usual, censorious take on Kate Moss, is that she "deprives herself" of food to stay so thin, that she is willing to "sacrifice" to devour a minimum amount of calories in order to maintain her career as a supermodel. That's a very Puritanical model.
But her motto, extended as a management theory (do I hear Harvard Business Review calling?) reconfigures a tired binary that invades far too much discourse on just about anything, acknowledging that the end does not justify the mean but that the end may itself be a pleasure that outweighs (no pun intended) the means. Eating fattening food has one negative consequence. So you avoid fattening food in order to achieve the end of being a skinny supermodel. But that goes the other way. Weighing too much, in her business, also has negative consequences that deprive her of pleasure. She loves being a supermodel. She cannot have one pleasure without also having one negative consequence. They are connected, intrinsically, a pleasure and a pain. And taking in calories deprives her of the pleasure that she, personally, likes more than calories.
Maybe that's a trivial difference for most people but it was a proverbial lightbulb going on for me. I'm not sure I had heard anyone talk about the "end" as being a pleasure in itself, and then reversing the equation. It applies to anything. And basically means taking causality in our personal actions and planning those actions more seriously than we really do. It's more like a game mechanics model. You don't sacrifice this in order to get to that goal. The process of moving in one direction gets you in that direction. There is continuity of cause and effect, seamlessly, all part of the same progress toward that Epic Win, where the process is the progress is the win.
Anyone who has read Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrationalthis knows that we are constantly fooling ourselves into believing that this particular action isn't going to have any negative consequences (when, of course) we know it does. The Kate Moss motto puts all the consequences, in both directions, into the same stew. She's like the chef (funny analogy!) tasting the whole concoction, aware that adjusting the salt also means tasting again to see if now it needs a bit of pepper so that the whole thing---let's call it the Stew of the Life One Desires--can be savored in toto. [That's a pretty funny metaphor, but it's a Saturday in July . . . Have a good weekend everyone!]