CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG
May 24, 2012
- Soft power is as important as hard power. Twenty years ago, Nye came up with the term soft power. As he said last weekend, it used to be that whoever had the biggest army won. That’s hard power. In the 21st century, whoever has the best story wins. That’s soft power. The effective use of hard and soft power is what Nye calls smart power. If you step back and assess your own power, you’ll likely find that your hard power is limited by your circumstances. Your soft power, however, is entirely dependent on how compelling your story is. The way in which you share your story is something over which you have direct control.
- Power is no longer a zero sum game. Nye reminded us that for much of history, power was a zero sum game. One party won and the other lost. That’s rarely the case anymore. Today, the game is not so much about power over others but developing power with others. That can be a difficult mental shift for a country (or a person) that’s gotten used to being the biggest kid on the block. In your own case, it might be productive to look for opportunities to combine your power with others. Doing so can create a 1 + 1 = 3 scenario.
- Whoever collaborates most wins. Professor Nye shared several stories of a recent speech he gave to 500 students at Beijing University. It was fascinating to hear how candid he and the students were with each other. When one student asked him what it would take for China to compete long term with the U.S., Nye told him that it couldn’t as long as the Great Firewall of Internet censorship is in place in the country. His point was that sustainable long growth and innovation only occurs in an open and collaborative environment. It used to be that information was power. Today, sharing information is power. What sort of opportunities do you and your organization have to gain fromcollaborative leadership?
How does this apply to construction? The difficult building code review you just received acts as a good example. If you try to fight, you likely lose. If you just give in, you lose as well. The only viable alternative is to collaborate, to understand the code official’s viewpoint as well as he or she does, but to also have woven a story with your own interpretation. You put in the time to clearly develop your story that respects the code official but also gets the project done in a reasonable way.
So think about the struggles you face in the context of hard power vs soft power. Learn to develop the stories that most effectively make your point…and to use those stories. This may seem like way too much work to you, but those that do it will find fascinating futures.