flowing motion

Archive for the ‘opportunity’ Category

The lottery of Stumbleupon may have delivered an article on “luckiness”. Today, my fingers typed zero zero instead of OO and Launchy retrieved something dubious from the depths of my computer – a post modernist view of management.

Rants that pretend to have substance

Yes, I read that sort of thing, so you don’t have to – and just in case the author knows something we don’t.

I read a little of the article as I tried to figure out what I was looking at and how it came to be on my screen. I found a rant.

In short, Nike pays Tiger Woods as much per day as you or I earn in a year. And more than one of their workers earns in a lifetime. The writer was disgusted. I am sure the writer is correct – factually and morally.

But, when I looked more closely, I thought the pot was calling the kettle black. First, there was the rant. Then, there was some obscure theorizing. The author plainly didn’t see the his argument could be applied to him.  He lives in the West very well.   How many people around the world support his lifestyle with their poverty?

So, I wondered, what is a morally acceptable position?

I think we have to put our money where our mouth is.

Shouldn’t we be honest about what we will fight for and what we are trying to win – at least to ourselves?  Don’t we have to fight for the right we talk about?  Don’t we have to get out there and fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the people we champion?  Don’t we have to risk as much as they do?

Isn’t anything less hypocritical?

My 4 rules of a honest life

#1 It seems to me that as I cannot do everything with everyone, I should choose what I will do with whom, and join them, winning with them and losing with them.

#2 I think I have to tell the story from our own side.  Who did this post-modernist represent as he stood in his Western classroom?  I don’t know.  But I’d better know whom I am representing when I stand there!

#3 I need a clear goal.  And I prefer to be able to say it aloud in other people’s hearing.  I like to think through what the people who pay for my goal will have to say about it.  Not the people who pay me – the people who pay for my good fortune.  Will I be fleeing with them at my heels?  I don’t say this out of cowardice.  I am happy to annoy people if I believe in what I am doing.  But I am not going to pretend that my goals have no impact on other people.  Let me be clear about the inconvenience and upset that I cause.

#4 And not least, I need to respect that other people will pursue their goals equally vigorously.  To expect them to do anything less is crazy.  I may need to defend my projects from theirs.  If I find their projects totally unacceptable, I might feel compelled to stop them.  And I might get hurt in my efforts.   That’s why diplomacy is the preferred first strategy.   Perverting Clausewitz- war is just diplomacy continued through other means.

Player or spectator?

But just to rant?  Not for me.  I talk and write to figure out what I think, so that I can act.  I prefer to be a player.  Always have.

I very consciously chose to teach in Universities and to do consultancy because in these roles I am a line manager. I know that neither look like action to you!  But I am a psychologist, so it is in these roles that I run a business. I set the direction. I allocate resources. I solve problems. I am accountable for the outcomes. I couldn’t bear a role with no responsibility.

But that is my preference. What is yours? Are you a player?


Slurp, analyze, visualize, share

I was delighted to find Vinspired Voicebox this morning.  Young people are collecting data on young people in UK and presenting it online in interesting ways.

And you can share the data on Young Brits too!

  • What questions should Voicebox ask next?
  • What questions could Voicebox answer for you with a tweak or two of their current analysis?
  • What question should we ask other age groups?

This is good news.  Great work Voicebox!

My grand-mother had a clear ‘rule’ – none of us should work for a family-business. We should all go out and work in another business or organization.  My grandmother was obviously fed up with family businesses. She had been burned by them a few times. And I think she made the right call.

I think we should go further though. We should all aim to have our own business.

Is it the Talmud where we are advised to join an established business? That is good advice. We should acknowledge what works in the world and work with it.

But I think we should also aspire to autonomy. Many organizations work on a tournament system. You have to start in round one and work your way up. Should you want to move to another organization, you cannot carry credits from the previous rounds with you!

We need a way to aggregate our experience into a stronger and stronger portfolio.

Online portfolios are a good start. Planning our careers as if they are a business is another.

But as employment law is very clumsy and big organizations are more interested in subordination than developing your ongoing value, isn’t it a good idea to register yourself as a company, employ yourself, and develop alliances with others from day one?

Who is doing this? Who is making sure their youngsters go on to independent careers after an apprenticeship with some one else?

This is the greatest application of all time.  It rests on a basic idea that you can have my attention, you can use my telephone line, but you will pay me for the privilege!

Making junk callers pay for their calls

1.  When you telephone me, your caller ID is matched with several ads and you are redirected in the first instance to your competition, whereupon you hear an ad, and I get 25p!

2.  If your caller ID matches anyone on my list, then the call comes straight through.

3. If your have a promotional code that you add to the end of my number, the call comes straight through.

All calls are tracked.  So I can find out quite easily who is giving my special number away.

The sister app works for email

1.  When your junk mail arrives, I press one button and a message is sent back to the server who work out the sender and send one email back to them for every email they sent out.  And I get 25p!  Someone who blasts out 1000 unwanted mails is going to get 1000 back!

2.  The email that is returned reflects their competition.  For example:  when emails arrive from a scammer in Bakino Faso, they are sent scrumptious ads of something in Bakino Faso (what is scrumptious in BF?). Or a message from Interpol!  When Virgin Media sends me an email full of pictures, we send back an email about the thing they are obviously short of – social media specialists!  And so on.  Anyway, the app does that.  I get 25 p.

The cousin app works for junk mail

The cousin app works similarly but takes more work from me.  Instead of sending my junk mail to landfill, I strip off my name for security and put it back in an envelope and return to to the sender – in their envelope.  They pay the postage.

The app makes it money by collecting the returned junk mail from the big senders and recycling it properly.  They work out the cost details with the junk pushers.

I told you life is getting better!

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. — Soren Kierkegaard

Good to remember!

Though most people are better living forwards that understanding backwards

In industrial psychology, we distinguish between “tracking” and “diagnosis”.

Take a pilot landing a large plane, for example. They assimilate a lot of information, that changes before they have time to put it into words, and bring the plane down, hopefully, to a gentle landing at high speed.

When, God forbid that something goes wrong, highly trained investigators will come in to work out what happened. The investigators aren’t likely to be pilots and the investigators probably don’t land fully laden passenger jets.

We have specially trained people to think backwards

In factories, we make the same distinction. We have hands-on people who keep complex, continuous flow plants going, safely.  It’s as demanding as landing a plane.

Yet, the day the process breaks down, we call the process engineers. They work out what went wrong and bring science to bear to figure out what the factory managers can do to get the plant going again.

The two people groups aren’t interchangeable. Simply, the managers think forwards. The engineers think backwards.

Usually the engineers are more highly educated. They often earn more.

But they aren’t “line”. And the “line” thinks they are egg-heads because they can’t do the “real thing”.

So it is funny that we have to be reminded not to think backwards. Most of us don’t. Most of us can’t. We need experts for that.

In the future, we might have to do thinking forward as well as thinking backwards

What has been puzzling me recently, or truthfully what is in my in-basket marked “puzzles”, is how the “design-thinking” approach to management will change this divide.

Take Toyota, for example. Every worker on the assembly line is capable of doing quite sophisticated experiments.  They use statistics equivalent to Honours in any subject except statistics itself.   The two types of work seem to be merging.

The idea of ‘failing informatively’ will also change what professions like engineering and psychology learn and contribute in the work place. We will not only be required to diagnose what went wrong. We will be required to play a more hands-on role in moving things forward.

This is the age of statistics

The attitude of Google to data makes simple A B experiments a day-to-day job rather than the job of an expensive graduate. The burgeoning use of good visuals makes statistics a discipline of communication.

I sense there is more to this change than I am saying here. What is clear though, is that the education levels that used to be regarded as the preserve of the top 3% of the population are now necessary for all but the bottom 3%.  Necessary. Not optional.

How can every child learn statistics?

So what are we going to do about illiteracy in Western countries?   It amazes me that people who cannot read books play computer games quite well.

So I doubt this is a real problem. We need to get kids into factories where they see statistics being used

And then they can teach us!

I want a British TED

The world is divided it seems – in to those who watch TED and those who don’t.

I watch TED because I like positivity – I like my daily fix. And I admire technological advancement. I wish we had a British TED too – the best of science and technology that is coming out of the UK.

But is my wonder of TED shared?

It seems strange to me, but so many people don’t share my wonder.  They aren’t interested.  They even proclaim themselves proudly as Luddites.

What bothers the Luddites?

Of course, the original Luddites weren’t just disapproving of new technology.  They smashed  the new weaving presses too.

The people around us who claim they are Luddites, simply don’t understand the technology they decry.  But they don’t stop anyone else using it.

They share with the original Luddites, though, a sense of disapproval.  Most of all, the new technology threatens their status.

Should we bother with Luddites?

I am impatient with people who are ‘tight’.   But all fear is genuine – sincerely and acutely felt.   And I am willing to spend time to help people find a positive place in the world.

What I am not willing to do is hold up improvements for others while they have a sulk.  That’s not on the agenda at all.

The general class of bereavement counseling

When we are counseling people who are fretting about change, we are working with a ‘general class’ of issue – bereavement at the highest level, and adjournment at the level of group formation.

Because disdain of new technology belongs to broader, general class of situations, we have the know-how and experience to help people.  We work through three broad steps.

1.  Acknowledge the contribution they made to our welfare and celebrate the skills they used.  We do this fully, sincerely and elaborately.

2.  Focus attention on the opportunities that are opening ahead of us, and new patterns of relationships with new people who are coming into view.  We are concrete & specific and we introduce them, in person, to people who work in the new technologies.

3.  Help individuals, one-by-one, to formulate a personal plan.  We get down & dirty, one person at a time.

I think we should be bothered with Luddites.  If they cannot see how technological change will benefit them, then we haven’t worked hard enough to show them around the new world that it is coming.

Better Reality TV?  TED and the parallel program for Luddites?

I want a British TED, because I like to watch science, and I want to know the best of British science, up and down the land.

I’d also like to see a parallel program that offers respect for the work of people in ‘old technologies’ and welcomes them into a world that we find dear.

Shall we put reality TV and our license fees to good work?

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As a relative “noobe” in the UK, I’ve been frustrated in my search for data about the economy. It is incredibly difficult to get information from the National Statistics Office that in the US and NZ can be slurped online in seconds.

There also seems to be little vision about where we are going.

Repeating complaints and doomsday scenarios doesn’t help, I know. But asking the right questions does.

Yesterday, IT writer, Philip Virgo posted a summary of his lobbying at each of the Party congresses. I’ve reorganised his post below as a set of questions – using his words when they graphically describe the issue.

Questions about the future of work in the UK

  • Which are the industries of the future? [Which are they are, and how are developments in these industries consistently highlighted in the media?]
  • Which industries will have “integrated career paths”?
  • What would be consequences of not having industries with integrated career paths? What is the alternative?
  • Will “home made” careers do? Or, will our children be condemned to a “professional backwater . . . no longer part of the mainstream route to the top – unless they emigrate and don’t come back”?
  • Will our children and grandchildren be “condemned to surf the cybercrud on the fringes of the global information society – as the UK becomes the electronic equivalent of Cannery Row – a post-industrial poor relation to the economic powerhouses of Asia”?

What will attract industries of the future – particularly in IT and information-management?

  • A competitive communications infra-structure and access to world-class broadband
  • Regulatory simplicity, clarity and predictability
  • Fiscal certainty [presumably for companies and employees]
  • Removing planning controls designed for the 50’s and replacing them with controls we need for the information age.
  • “Workforce skills programmes” that develop a critical mass of skilled people in the industries that interest us

Virgo describes the migration of IT businesses out of the UK – Maxwell’s newspapers, Google and Yahoo. Isle of Man, Switzerland and Singapore seem to be attractive destinations largely because they undertake to defend data privacy from interference from the US. If that is so, then a foreign policy component of future planning is also clear.

These questions seem to be a good way to start thinking about life and prospects in the UK in the future

What do you think of them?

Being a ‘noobe’ here, I’d be interested in your thoughts on the right questions to ask . . . and the likely answers.

Carmen asked me what I “get out” of Spicy Networking and my answer is nothing. I don’t get anything.  That is why the meetings are so enjoyable!

Robin, whose last name I didn’t catch, also asked me and I asked him if he knew the concept of “chi”.  Rooms have chi (or not).  Well, events do too and so do people.

To use an example to explain.  I don’t get anything out of putting a money tree in the wealth corner of my house. Putting a money tree in the right corner simply pays respect to what is respect-worthy, and creates the right environment for good things to happen.  They may or may not.

The expression “make my own luck” is similar I have to create the conditions to be lucky – but I can’t force luck.   Luck doesn’t like to be forced.

Chi can’t be forced.   Joy can’t be forced.  But I can’t function without chi and joy in my life.

When I try to “get something” at an event, it won’t happen.

But it won’t happen either if I don’t make an effort. It’s the asymmetry that confuses people.  People want a linear equation – if I do it, it will happen.

It works more like this.  If I do certain things, something I value may happen.  But if I don’t do certain things, it  certainly won’t. I know people struggle with this lack of equation.  But there it is.  Life isn’t a straight line graph!

So let me ask the question the other way around.

What do I invest in a networking event?

#1: I am choosy.

Why go to a dull or badly organized event? And certainly why go back? I think people who tolerate rubbish events (and go back) have no respect for themselves.  They are unlikely to be a good environment for me.

#2: I show up

90% of success is showing up, reasonably on time. We can’t benefit if we are not there.

#3: I introduce myself to people

We gain little by standing in the corner (next to the snack table or the bar) having the same conversation that we had with someone last time.  First rule – don’t hold up the bar!

#4: I make time to listen

Particularly to people who haven’t learned the art of networking.  It is hard to introduce ourselves concisely. Like everything it takes practice.Those of us better at it need to give people still learning some air-time.

#5: I try to learn

People can ask amazingly disconcerting questions.  Last night I often said I was from a small town.  Everyone wanted to know more.  I need to think seriously about what they want to know about my town.  Questions simply tell us what is unclear to people. And we all are unclear to someone!

#6: I (sometimes) ask open-ended questions

It’s smart to end our elevator pitch with questions so the next person learns about us while talking about themselves.  It’s much better than interrogating them or yawning as they stumble though some waffle.

#7: I rephrase what people do and tell them how they benefit me

It’s good for people to hear how their work has value.  It struck me last night that a lot of people have got into the habit of concealing their contributions.  I must think about this a bit more.

#8: I play “happy-families”

How many people can you talk to in an evening? 15? And if we introduce ourselves randomly, how many will share our interests?  If I can speed up the time it takes to find someone with mutual interests by pointing out who has what in common with whom, very good.

#9: I connect after the event

I look up their website/blog and follow up using one of the channels they provided.

There is no point in sending an automated message that does not remind the person of our specific conversation. I am really arrogant if I think  they will remember me among all the people they met.

And to send an automated message via a service they don’t use is just an irritant.  I know I avoid anyone who does that to me.

#10: I am grateful and allow the possibilities to bloom

In a good evening, the ‘chi’ gets my creative mind going. I come away feeling that I want the day off to think through the ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. They came out of my head of course.  They don’t come from anyone I met.  It’s just that being in a good environment sets the process off.

I suppose that’s what I “get” – though I can’t “get” with any certainty because chi, luck, job, connection, belonging, creativity cannot be forced. They can only be encouraged.

Your turn.  Review time!

Should I be striving to “get” something?  10 things I do are a lot – I don’t actually think about it when I do it.  Writing it all down just makes a long list.

What do you do?  What could I do differently?

If you have even the slightest interest in living in the manner to which you have become accustomed, can I recommend you find 5 hours to watch these three videos of 12 economists talking what is happening in the US financial system and its dealings with the rest of the world?

I am just a lowly psychologist so I try to boil down economics to actionable rules of thumbs that we can use.  When you are done, I’d be interested in your take of mine.

1.  Find your growth story . . . and stick to it!

Find an industry that you enjoy, find the bit that is growing, and grow with it, wherever it takes you.

2.  Help you kids find their growth story

Invest in the things they love to do and take them on holiday to parts of the world where growth is happening.

Think abut a good trip to Brazil, Russia, China or India once in three years, rather than a time-wasting, resource-frittering holiday every year.

And if they have any inclination for languages, help them by doing their homework with them.   It may help when you talk to you grand-children who might be living in another country!

And may be include Arabic on you list of possibles.  Bang on the door of the mosque in your neighbourhood and ask them to include your children in their after-school activities?

3.  Remember that money is losing value as much as houses are losing value

Unless you have a lot of it hanging around, this is a good news story for you. Investors will want to invest in your growth story.

Don’t be desperate for their money. You have something as rare as hens’ teeth.

Bring in investors who believe in your story as strongly as they believe in returns on their capital.

And then write a tight contract for them!  This is a borrower’s market, whatever the mass media tells you.

4.  Learn the numbers and ask your MP and business leaders hard questions

The more we show that we know the numbers, the quicker they will get down and dirty with them too.

Let them watch 5 hours of videos on economic more often than we do.  That’s their job, after all. Let’s get our money’s worth!

5.  Vote with your ballot and your feet for people and firms with growth stories

Question the panic about government borrowing.

It may be different here in the UK – I wish we had a forum like these 12 economists here.  Common sense tells us, though, that we will only get out of our mess with a plan – a plan for getting out and moving along with growth stories in Brazil Russia India and China.

We don’t have to eat and drink ourselves silly to keep up. But starving ourselves and living in sack cloth won’t make us any richer either.

Government borrowing is only a problem when don’t have a plan to make businesses better over the next 5, 10, 20 years.

We want a growth story!  Can we start a fashion?  What will happen if we ask everyone you meet, what is your growth story!

Ready for Take Off
Image by D.Reichardt via Flickr

Yesterday, Paul Seamen published a long post on why he think social media does not pack the revolutionary punch celebrated by enthusiasts such as Jeff Jarvis, Clay Shirky and the leading lights in UK social media.

I must declare my position at the outset. I am a social media enthusiast. Rather than rebut any particular points in Paul’s long contrinution, I thought it better to print out his post, read it carefully, and try to get to the nub of what he is saying. After all, I don’t have to agree with him; but if I am serious about a career in social media and about espousing its potential to others, I should be able to explain positions other than my own.

So this is my attempt to disentangle what is new about social media

Paul makes an important point that we form institutions to bring together diverse groups of people to accomplish something together. We have schools which cater for all children in the neighbourhood. We have companies in which we can all buy shares.

The very nature of an institution is that it takes on a separate persona, recognized in law. A school can speak for itself. A company can speak for itself.

And the agents, or the Directors or the management or the front line staff, speak for the institution, not themselves. They leave their personal views at the door so to speak, because they speak of and for the common purpose.

It is their role to continuously interpret the institution’s purpose ‘faithfully and robustly’ in terms of the specifics of any situation in which they find ourselves.

An institution thus has a sharply different purpose than that of social media which is an essentially personal medium. In social media, each of us speaks for ourselves. There is an essential tension, therefore, between the purpose of social media and the purpose of any corporate communication.

If I have summarized Paul’s position correctly, then I agree, wholeheartedly. I teach management and related subjects for a living and this is the essence of what we teach. It is the essence of what we do as accountants, lawyers, etc. We run the collectives of contemporary life, and in that capacity, we represent the common purpose, not our own personal purpose.

What is the general position of social media mavens?

It is my general understanding that social media mavens are noticing the emergence of a new collective action – much as the commercial company emerged around the time of the South Sea Bubble. And they are describingtthe mechanics of those collectives as they emerge, piece-by-piece. Because the emerging forms are still very new, there is still a lot of experimentation, deliberate and accidental, and their observations take the form of “look at this, look at that” – a point that has already been made by Clay Shirky.

What is the debate?

The debate comes when we consider whether any of the old institutional forms will fade away. Will the old forms be displaced by the new forms?

Paul does not think so and I do not think the old forms will fade entirely either – for many reasons, one being that we won’t change what we are used to until we have to. Convents and monasteries still exist, after all.

What is the issue?

What matters for any one of us as individuals, or what matters for any institution or type of institution, is whether the institutions we work for or depend upon for income, will be displaced. What will their position be in the ecology of human purpose in five years, ten years, etc.?

My reasoning

There is an basic rule-of-thumb in management (and military) studies that broadly says theory doesn’t matter a toss.

In management-speak, we say that structure is contingent on circumstances. In the words of Sun Tzu, we say “Know the situation, know the circumstances”. In general military parlance, we say that “no plan survives meeting the enemy”. In short, we plan to pre-load relevant details into our heads so that we can act quickly and effectively in the cut-and-thrust of battle.

In short, we can talk in broad terms about what will happen but we have no way of knowing exactly. What counts is how we monitor unfolding events and how we position ourselves as events unfold. And as we are all jostling for positions that we believe to be advantageous to ourselves, what emerges is not the result of what any one of us wants, but what we all want , how well we play the game, and probably a large amount of happenstance.

This is my summation of the broad direction that social media is taking

Existing institutions

It is entirely likely that many of Paul’s clients will be largely untouched by social media . Their challenge is to think very carefully about the muddling of the personal voice, which has been made more clamorous with social media, and the institutional voice, which they are charged with expressing ‘faithfully and robustly’ on behalf of us all.

And they should attend to that with speed because the two are already well and truly muddled in public affairs.

New social movements

It is likely that other collective processes will emerge to aggregate the clamours personal voice enabled by social media, and it is the role of self-appointed community leaders to work out the responsibilities for the temporary and permanent associations that they stimulate and represent.

Examples of these processes include the tweeting of events like the Mumbai bombing and inadvertently providing the perpetrators with information; and tweeting in the Iranian elections and risking the ire of the prevailing authorities.

Emerging institutions

I increasingly suspect new types of institutions will emerge through social media . These institutions will be much the same as institutions that I described at the top of the post, at a very general level, but they will have been made possible by the technology of social media and they might change the relationships between people working within them.

I also think the profit-and-loss process might change. I’ll save discussions of these issues for other posts because these developments are embryonic anyway.

(This argument goes a beyond causing the destruction of old institutions by reducing transaction costs.)

My summary of the opportunities and imperatives of the social media age

To sum up, I agree with Paul that many large institutions formed in pre-social-media days will continue to exist for the reasons that they were formed. And I look forward to how they disentangle personal and institutional voice and start incorporating the essential precepts in the undergraduate curriculum. It is a fair test, I think, that they can layout out their principles clearly for a MGMT101 class.

I also think the Social Media crowd can help with this process and perhaps need to try to see the issues through the lens of the obligations of these institutions.

The work on social movements I find interesting, and as I have taken an active role in some effective social movements, I am happy to pass on any tips to people heading in that direction.

My main interest though is in the new institutional forms that are emerging:

  • New social media businesses
  • New markets for traditional businesses such as small town shops
  • New frontiers of competition for small towns and possibilities of strengthening local economics
  • Businesses (such as Boeing) who have re-jigged their business model to take advantage of the new communication possibilities
  • And the skills and roles in running these new enterprises including developments in commercial law.

I don’t know if I have summarized Paul’s position correctly. I hope he will comment. He makes a host of other points too.

And I don’t know if I have clarified anything for anyone else. That’s for you to say!

But I have benefited from trying to see the issues through Paul’s eyes.

Now let’s see if the debate continues to be productive.

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