February 2018
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“You’re Not Getting a New Bike”

Answers to questions you haven’t asked can speak volumes
I live in the middle of Copenhagen, where the best way to get from A to B is on a bike. A few years ago, I bought a new bicycle. A month later I was outside the shop asking the owner why the rear brake had gouged the frame.
“I don’t know”, he said, folding his arms across his chest, “but you’re not getting a new bike”.
His wife had handled the transaction, so I asked to speak to her. When he stormed off to get her, my girlfriend whispered, “A new bike is exactly what you’re going to get”.
She came outside and looked at the gouge. ”This is unacceptable”, she said, promptly, “you’re getting a new bike.”
Neither my girlfriend or I thought the gouge warranted a new bike - until the dealer mentioned it. It was a useful lesson.

The unasked question
An old boss announced that to save money, we were moving to share offices with another department, adding, “no jobs will be affected”. No prizes for guessing that jobs were cut the next quarter.
The unprompted denial is as sure a signal as “I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but…” and ranks alongside “unsinkable ship”. The words ”there is nothing to worry about” should cause exactly that, worry.
“Nobody will be leaving the Euro”
Does this mean that the question is who will be leaving the Euro? This morning a radio host asked a panel of experts what a breakup of the Euro would look like. In 1991 he’d asked a colleague what a break up of the Soviet Union would look like and said both of them had been at a loss. His experts’ opinions were revealing.

Instead of discussing scenarios, they explained why it wouldn’t happen. It’s ironic that after a housing crisis built on a talk of why the market could only go up, we still can’t talk about what it might look like if things go down. Saying “Greece would be crushed, if it left the Euro” won’t help us plan for if it does or recognize a breakup as it approaches.

The new bike
For the record, I got new frame and the other parts were transferred from the original frame. The bike lasted almost seven years. Maybe the same will happen to the Euro.

1 comment to “You’re Not Getting a New Bike”

  • In one of my two favourite books (I cannot remember if it was in Predictable Surprises by Bazerman or Will Your Next Mistake be Fatal by Mittelstaedt) the author describes the events which led to the unsinkable ship sinking. I wrote about this in 2008: Before the Titanic struck that iceberg almost a century ago, the captain was told that there were icebergs in those waters but dismissed the junior officer’s warning. He was heard saying: “In my thirty years at sea, I’ve never struck an iceberg before. Full speed ahead.”

    It’s always been my position that everyone knows where the icebergs are but people find it too icky to think about the bad stuff happening like the Euro failing or jobs being lost. So they would rather change the subject and talk about something they do know.

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