flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘complexity

Leaving adolescence

It’s interesting when we start to take control of our lives.  We make a plan.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.  And we resign ourselves to being powerless.

Encountering adulthood

Then we get a bit older and we resolve to make things work.  And we do. When a plan threatens to come apart, we jump around and keep it altogether.  And feel very good for it.

Muddling through middle age

It’s only much later that we realize that we weren’t really keeping things together. We were feeling better. We were exploring other stories about ourselves in the world.

Not confronting the experiences of middle age

I see the converse too.  I know people who are brilliant at retelling a story as if the world does it’s bidding.  They can’t countenance a notion that sometimes the world really is not on your side.

They’ve never made the transition from that early stage of needing to be in control.  They’ve just learned to divert their strong need to be in control to a story that convinces .  .   . well, them.  It doesn’t convince anyone else. They are still aiming to feel better and they are willing to pervert reality to regain that feeling.

Living honestly with our lack of control

I can’t believe that this self-deception is a good thing.  Misreading the world is dangerous.  The world simply doesn’t do our bidding.

Our best bet is to position ourselves in the river and go with the current, steering lightly but not fighting.   It’s tough though. I still don’t like being washed along.  I have to reverse attitudes I worked so hard to learn.

But maybe I can achieve more through inaction?

There!  I still want to achieve.  Maybe by promising myself that prize, I can experiment with inaction and simply enjoy the river in all its tumultus chaos?

What happens when we connect strength with strength and hope with hope?

We know what happens, but we don’t dare hope.

Because we don’t believe the connecting steps at the edge of our group.

We know what happens but we don’t believe it will happen here.

Because we don’t believe the other has strength.

That’s why first and last, leadership begins with a leader’s belief in his followers.

We lead well when we believe in our followers, deeply.

When we believe, others believe.

When they believe, they connect,

strength with strength,

and we advance together.

And then we must trust ‘the other’ too.

And as each trusts each other, we are liberated from anxieties.

Unless we have a relationship with ‘the other’, we cannot believe in our success.

Complicated vs Complex

I am so chuffed to see my post on Complicatedness and Complexity take off – even if belatedly.

The difference between the complicated and complexity is important.  We love the complex sound of music and are quickly tired of the repetitive noise of a jackhammer.

And complicatedness wears us out in seconds.  Meetings which are run around the manager’s whim leave the rest of us to hang about like spare parts. Not knowing when our delayed flight will resume and not being able to call ahead to rearrange our transport and meetings renders us astonishingly irritable.  Internet banking cluttered with advertising and instructions below the fold don’t allow flow.

The opposite of complicated is flow and we do know how to make flow.

#1 The task must allow us to act autonomously

All the information must be in front of us. We shouldn’t have to open dozens of files, folders and notebooks to find it.  Nor should we have to ask anyone.  Eveything we need should be in front of us and obvious.

#2 The task must give us feedback

As soon as we try the task, it should be clear whether we are doing the right thing.

#3 The task must allow learning.

A toddler persists in putting a square into a round hole until they achieve the insight, quite accidentily, that the shapes and holes match.  We like to learn.  We don’t mind at all.

But we must have time to learn.  Don’t shout at us or time us our while we figure things out.

#4 We must be allowed to finish.

Once we get going, we want to get everything done.  Please don’t interrupt.  Wait!

We also know how to test flow

It’s easy!  We take the group who is likely to do the task and we let them do it.  We watch.  We learn where we have misunderstood their skills, needs and working conditions, and we redesign!

Complicated – how I hate it!

But then I’ve always been a flow junkie!

Today, a very useful though long blog post on the new science of psychology popped up on my Google Alerts.  Blogspot was acting slow, so here are my comments.

#1 Formal differences between classical science and new science

For 20 or so key terms describing the difference between old fashioned methods & stats in psychology and new methods that are consistent with new forms of management

#2  Phase states illustrated with examples from psychotherapy and neuroscience

New science doesn’t look for incremental improvements, it looks for the sudden change of state – a bud bursts into bloom, an egg hatches, a baby is born.

#3  Procrastination is acknowledgment of pending self-re-organization

Going from wish to intent, from planning to procrastination – crossing the Rubicon – is a matter of “bearing the unbearable”.  We resist – we apply negative feedback – out of fear of who we will become – or a prolonged goodbye.

We are unwilling to be successful because we cannot “bear the unbearable”.

#4  The supportive psychologist is an active player in the change process

Psychologists aren’t ‘objective’.  We have to be sufficiently bold to be part of the change process and for the change process to change them too.  That is the essential ingredient of empathy.

Leaders require the some capacity but provide the empathy in the hurly-burly of life.  We work in more protected settings and with a promise to put the interests of our client above our own.  A leader puts the interests of the group above his or her own and includes our individual interests in so far as they strengthen the group.

A good article but blogspot, fail.

How do you greet a banker?

I did the two-step shuffle down the aisle of the aircraft, muttering apologies here and there, bobbed and weaved like Muhammed Ali  determined to get to my seat quickly, without being run over by bags-on-wheels, or clouted over the head with duty free wine as someone swings it into an overhead locker.

Blessed relief.  My seat!  Unfold the seat belt.  Move the blanket and pillow.  Plop myself down.  Greet my neighor.  Start chatting civilly.

It turn’s out my neighbor is an ex-banker.  I catch my breath for a moment, feel my pupils dilate slightly, and I burst out laughing.  A test of social skills, perhaps?

How do you greet a banker who helped design the Titanic of the UK economy – the ship that would never sink?

He’s a idiot, he’s a fool, he’s knave  .  .  . do I greet him with contempt, anger or curiosity?  Sell him something perhaps. He’s gullible after all.

Behind my impulse to laugh is a mix of embarrassment (for him) and traces of British irony – can’t fix it so you may as well live with it.

The natural born salesman, on the other hand, approaches life differently.  He understands that everyone should take initiative – all the time, every day, where ever we find ourselves.

These three attitudes correspond to three prominent ways of we talk about leadership.

Heroic

In the heroic idea of leadership, which we often associate with American movies, an individual leader rises to the fore, points to the horizon, and carries us off to our salvation.  It’s deemed hard to do.  That, of course, is just a belief to justify rewarding some people a lot more than others.

We have this idea in British culture too.  In the biography of Winston Churchill, Gathering Storm, it is clear that Winston had strong ideas about saving his country, long before there was any call to do so.

The trouble with heroism is that outside the moment of heroism, we look more than a little batty.

Ironic

The ironic story line of leadership runs a little differently.  It goes like this.  I tried.  It didn’t work out.  What a plonker I turned out to be.  So I will go back to the status quo.  It is not so bad after all.

We come together at the end of the story in a ‘group hug’, where no one wins or loses, and there is no challenge at all to distribution of rewards.  We celebrate the status quo.  Very British, of course.

Irony is funny when it is done well, and often awesome in its execution.   But it is a form of narcissism.  We do so love preening ourselves in the mirror.  It is such a good excuse to do nothing!

Personal

Personal leadership is a new label for understanding leadership in the networked world.  The salesman who promptly sells something to the ex-banker (a new job or a new Caribbean island, perhaps), sees the world as a network where everyone is influencing everyone else in their small way.  Tacky when I talk about a salesman, but very important as the world becomes more networked.

The Hero’s Journey

This genre, with its understated label, is a version of the heroic – where we are each our own hero traveling our own hero’s journey. It’s inspired by author Joseph Campbell, who believed that all good stories have a heroic structure.  We set off on a quest, meet a number of challenges on the way, overcome them, and return home in triumph to a new challenge – how to integrate our new life with the old.

In the cloud

Though this genre is a simple heroic form, and individualistic to boot, it fits neatly into our every increasingly networked world, where each person really does influence the world, and can influence the world.

I imagine Earth from outer space with a blanket of mist around it, cocooned in a mohair mesh of internet messages.  Anyone with an internet has free access to the cloud.  They need skills, but little is stopping them entering, and influencing, that space.

Swirling with others

But, of course, others are doing that too.  At the same time.  So, it is an ever evolving space and requires a new way of thinking.

Life becomes less a matter of right and wrong.  To predict an outcome requires the world to change slowly.  At the minute you believe you are doing the right thing, someone, maybe a ten year old in a rural village in India, does his own thing, and changes conditions and renderes your calculations incorrect.

To play in the new connected world, we have to play.  We have to be ever present. This bothers people who are not used to taking into account what a ten year old is doing in rural India.  It scares the pants off the old guard.

Learning about personal leadership in the cloud

Well, I might be squirming on behalf of the banker sitting next to me.  And maybe he is a fool or knave. But just maybe, he also understands banking sufficiently to see where banking is going.

Maybe, he will straighten out the mess and be our new hero of tomorrow?

Let me ask.

So where is banking going?  Where do you see banks in the future?

[And if he is heading towards his Caribbean island, maybe I can cadge a invitation for a holiday.  Have I lived in England too long?  Well, this will be an interesting flight, anyway.  I always talk to people on planes.]

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Oh, I am so irritated.  I’ve been doing tax returns all day.  They have to be one of the most irritating things in life, and not because someone is taking money off us.  They are irritating because they are convoluted, fiddly, and complicated.

There are plenty of other complicated things in life too.  Airports with signs that send you anywhere except where you want to go.  Bosses who change their minds quicker than change their socks.  And road signs!  Zemanta, the Firefox Addon which searches the web while you write your blog, found this humbdinger of signage from Toronto, dubbed ‘The Audacity of Nope‘.

The opposite of complicated is complex

Instead of the stop-start sensation we get when details are allowed to disrupt the flow of the whole, complexity is when the parts come together to make something bigger themselves – like the mexican wave in a home crowd.

Is eliminating complicatedness and creating complexity the essence of professional life?

Do architects create buildings where we flow, never having to stop and scratch our heads, or to backtrack?

Do brilliant writers grab attention our attention in the first line and take us with them into a world where we follow the story without distraction from out of place detail?

Do leaders describe our group accomplishment, and draw us into a collective adventure, to play our part without constant prodding and cajoling?

How do you create complexity in your work?

In what ways do you help us experience the whole where parts fit in without discord?

  • What is the ‘whole’ thing that you make?  If you can’t name it, can you visualize it, or hear it?
  • What are the essential parts of the whole, and the linkages between the parts that are essential to form the whole?
  • What are the signs that you look out for that the whole is ‘forming’, or ‘not forming’, as it should?
  • What are the extra bits of help that from time-to-time you add for the whole to come to fruition?

I’m interested in the complexity you manage, and the beautiful and satisfying experiences you add to the world.

Come with me

Share your experiences with us?

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