I’m a frog, you’re a frog… KISS me!

“I’m a frog, you’re a frog… KISS me”.
This is an actual quote from a very popular song from Robert Charlebois in the early 70’s in Quebec.
As a Quebecer or Québécois, we were all aware that English speaking people in Canada called us so. I am not sure why but it turned out to be quite a compliment.
As for us French speaking “Canadians”, we called the ROC (rest of Canada) Squareheads. Not sure why either… As it is, it might have reflected a real difference between Anglos and Francos.
French people have a Latin origin. More hot blooded, more chaotic, less predictable.
Anglos were more systematic, more business-like, a bit colder (at least in appearance)… More like a clock.
And us… More like a Frog!


I like that analogy a lot.
It reminds me, again, of the Cynefin model that Dave Snowden developed.
Oh, I do not present to understand all the intricacies of Dave’s work but the more I talk about it and the more I understand it. And appreciate its beauty and brilliance.



A ruler is simple. You look at it and “get” it.
A Swiss clock is complicated. Once trained and using a good procedure you will eventually “get” it. Oh, you might need a bit of artful expertise but, the watch will tick its way.
A frog is complex. Put a frog on a table and guess which way it will jump. Good luck. Put 50 frogs in a room and… Oh well, you get the picture.
Trying to manage frogs with simple procedures, lots and lots of simple procedures to Keep It Short and Simple (KISS as we all know!) will simply create chaos! Real frogs do not understand even simple procedures and simply do not respect… anything!
Except… flies.


Frogs understand this simple fact : they are carnivore and will eat meat. Mostly flying meat. Mosquitoes and flies are favorite food.
Ah, Ah… So a frog will more probably jump at a passing fly.
This clarifies the picture (ok, ok… Knowing which way a fly will fly is also a complex system… But hey… One step at a time!).


I love metaphor. They might not be perfect but they certainly help to understand complex situation (ok, ok… This might be a lame excuse to apologize to the fact that my frog metaphor is not perfect).

So we are frogs. All of us.
We might like to think that we are Swiss clocks, running smoothly, thanks to a ton of procedures…
Or we might even, preposterously think that we “get” the whole thing, that we just look at a situation and understand everything in a glance… simply.
But the hard reality is…
We are frogs!
We do jump in any directions, sending a crowd of well-intentioned managers to a hell of process maps and procedures revisions.

Unless we understand that frogs jump towards food.

And that a group of hungry frogs will probably jump in the same general direction… as long as food points the way.

Frogs and flies.

Change the food and change the jump.

I just love this analogy.
Give your team a mission and a set of clear and simple principles (Keep It Short and Simple) and let them play frogs.
Impose the “how’s” and “what’s” and other purposeless dictates and the team will… Lay frogs anyway!


I quote Dee Hock, the founder of VISA, again: “a set of clear and simple principles will generate complex and intelligent behaviors. A series of complex procedures and regulations will generate simple but stupid behaviors”

The Cynefin model suggests that to deal with complex situations one should first explore to then understand before acting. This also suggests that we must humbly accept that complex situations are unpredictable and well… Complex beyond our imagining. Frogs jumping in seemingly chaotic unison.

Thinking and understanding.
Before acting.

Whereas CHAOS is the realm of
acting before thinking,
of not understanding simple principles
and of being unable to even write or think about procedure… who cares anyway, if we do not follow them!



I’m a frog, you’re a frog… KISS me!
Robert Charlebois is a singer and composer. An artist.
Art is complex and mysterious. It is a communication form that is well understood by its creator and a few privileged fans who “get” it.
Robert Charlebois “got” it. He might not have been thinking about intelligent organization or complexity management.
But he “got” it anyway.

I’m a frog, you’re a frog… KISS me!
But do not forget to give me a fly… Or a mosquito… Your choice.
And let me jump. You have no choice in this anyway.

Do you “get” it ?


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