Don’t Wrestle the Pig!

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Don’t Wrestle the Pig!



At Mindflick® our aim is to create innovative products, crafted from the science of performance psychology, to help individuals and teams increase their self-awareness and shift their habitual ways of working.


Mindflick® has recently become a new sponsor of the SDF conferences. Since the conference in November, we are keen to continue our engagement and connection with the SDF. This article offers a little introduction to some ideas we are passionate about…



“It’s a massive problem for us!”


“No matter what we try, things just don’t seem to improve!”


“We must spend 80% of our time talking about this, and we never make any real progress!”


When we first meet with clients who are tackling what appear to be complex, messy, mission critical problems, they’re often surprised to hear that what we really want to talk about is pigs…and the perils of wrestling with them.


We’re not sure if you have ever tried wrestling with a filthy pig…well, if you haven’t, don’t!  As George Bernard Shaw famously once said,


“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”


So let’s try an experiment.  Ask yourself right now, “What are the biggest challenges that I am currently facing around staff development?”


As a coach, development manager or people developer, these are probably the kind of things that keep you awake at night, the things you wrestle with at 3am. These might involve things like managing “difficult people” or under-performing teams. Or grander ones like enhancing employee engagement or leading cultural change.


We tend to find that when people are busy Pig Wrestling® the problems they are tackling tend to share the following characteristics…

So why is it that intelligent, successful, and high performing people find themselves wrestling with such problems? Well, whilst human beings are naturally brilliant problem solvers, we are inherently limited in our thinking when it comes to considering the challenges that we face.


This is nothing new, decades of research has highlighted our biased thinking patterns and all too human frailties.


But we’re also limited by our language and our communication. The very language we use to describe problematic situations limits our thinking and draws us ever closer to the pig pen.


We make sense of our world and the problems we face by labelling them, and in so doing often suffer from a case of “premature evaluation”…something that seems to be a particularly masculine trait!


The ‘language game’ that we play when talking about a problem is “sticky”. It’s our words that shape our own and others’ perceptions, limit perceived opportunities for change, and often embed the problem further.


And as if that wasn’t enough, technology can serve to compound these limitations even further. We become convinced that we’re dealing with the reality of a situation when we read an urgent email or SMS, interrogate performance dashboards, or compare reported progress against abstracted KPIs.


Unwittingly we craft narratives and stories that lead us to simplistically frame our view of the people problems that we face.


Unfortunately for us, for our colleagues and our families, it is these frames that hold our thinking captive and lead us towards the pig pen with our sleeves rolled up. In the pen, we find ourselves wrestling with what might seem like meaningful problems, but are in reality just poorly defined and ill-conceived.


We’ve learnt that when one of our client’s find themselves Pig Wrestling®, we only know one thing, but we know it with absolute certainty…they’re tackling the wrong problem.


Instead of wrestling the wrong problem, we’ve developed a simple, memorable framework and process to help co-create solvable problems and craft specific interventions to resolve such problems. Through a series of ‘problem cleaning’ thought experiments, the goal is to negotiate your way out of the pig pen with a newly solvable problem under your arm.


Wrestling problems can be frustrating, time-consuming and ultimately a drain on your mental energy. So as a starting point, the next time you find yourself wrestling with what feels like a pig of a problem, ask yourself, “What is the story I am telling myself about this problem?”. And perhaps, with a healthy dose of playful curiosity, ask yourself “What is a more solvable way of framing this current problem?”


A final thought…


The problems we wrestle with, and the solutions we typically try, and inherently linked to how we see the world. Understanding our own, and other people’s ‘Behavioral Style’ and ‘Mindset’ is a powerful way to avoid wrestling with ill-defined problems in the first place. This is why we developed ‘Spotlight’, a personality profiling tool designed with performance in mind, which is now being used by a wide range of high-performing teams and organizations around the world.


To learn more about ‘Spotlight’, please visit