flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘strengths

Thoughts on stray cards on my desk

I confess just to tidying up my desk and wanting somewhere to put a sentence I wrote on the back of one my business cards.  Looking at the card, I must have written this 18 months to 2 years ago.

“The give-and-take between us as we follow our dreams strengthens us as individuals and as a group.”

A touchy-feely sentiment perhaps but also a profound statement of the essence of business.

Give-and-take is the heart of business

The heart of any business is the give-and-take between us.  Give-and-take is not something we add as a layer of style or a way of resolving tension. Give-and-take is the heart.  Our business exists only to give-and-take.

We have give-and-take with our customers. We have give-and-take with our suppliers.  We have give-and-take among ourselves.

Too many businesses, though, set the process of give-and-take in stone.  The give-and-take evolves and it is the ability to build a business the grows the give-and-take that is genius.

Losing the give-and-take

Let me give you examples of misunderstandings of give-and-take.

Some Terms & Conditions on the internet put all the responsibility on the user.  Totally back to front.  The Terms & Conditions should phrase the responsibility and limits on the person who offers them.   In plain English, the T&C should state what I bring to the table and how I will honour you.

A standard role play in assessment centers sets up a “customer” as a bit of buffoon.  Managers, particularly those with accounting and legal training, often try to put the customer in the wrong and wring out of them monetary concessions based on the letter of their contract.  The smart manager judges the situation and looks at it as a way to deepen the relationship with the customer and the customer’s reference group.   A bad situation is simply an opportunity to grow the relationship and do more and better business.

How many times do employees tell managers that something is going wrong only to have their “heads bitten off”?   It is usually productive to ask for more details of the “symptoms” and to find out what the employee proposes.  Both are likely to be interesting.

Open-ended interaction is not always right nor is it predictable

It’s tough to interact with people and just to “see what comes of it”.  I don’t want to do that all the time, of course.  I am not really interested in “generative moments” with an immigration officer at the airport.  Beyond being as cheerful as possible, I just want to have my passport stamped quickly.  On a short haul flight, I also have no interest in manufacturing social moments, though I might do it to lessen the pain of standing in those ridiculous queues.

Long haul flights are quite different.  Being cooped up for 12 hours is a recipe for climbing the walls.  But the nature and quality of the interaction depends on my neighbor as much as me.

I’ve moved out my seat to allow someone two seats and the possibility of a nap.  I’ve asked the airline to find me a bank of seats so I can sleep. I’ve baby sat.  I’ve had people help me.

The story unfolds in a an unpredictable way and the flight is always better for flexibility rather than rigidity.  Of course, I hope there has been no vagueness about the fuel or the engineering.  But most of the human side is generative.  And we are more likely to chose an airline again when the interaction went well.

Give-and-take and management theory

Give-and-take is a difficult concept though.  Too often, in the management sciences we treat organizations as if they are the sum of individuals.  It is true that the interactions between individuals depends on the individuals.  I doubt Professor Stephen Hawking would find my thoughts on physics very stimulating, for example.

But after, all if the interaction of physicists wasn’t stimulating, then it wouldn’t really matter who was around him.

As it is much harder to stimulate and manage generative interactions than it is to find and hire people (buy their time), firms who understand interaction are likely to be the winners.  Brilliant people are probably better off in the company of less brilliant people who interact well than with other brilliant people who interact badly.

The practice of give-and-take

This is all theory though.  I didn’t want to lose my pithy little statement and this blog is my filing cabinet.  What I want to keep goes here.

Hope you find it food for thought.

If nothing else treasure the interactions you have with others.  Guided by their dreams, we grow stronger together.

Our strengths are our connections to the environment

Our strengths are not in ourselves.  They are in our connections with our environment.  So says Ralph Stacey, complexity theorist at University of Hertfordshire.

What on earth does he mean?  Is this just some abstruse idea that I can safely ignore?  Is it some pop idea that it is not what you know, it is who you know?

Use systems theory to understand your business and take action!

I am going to explain this idea using ideas from MGMT101: very basic systems theory.

Imagine the world as set of concentric circles. Go on.  Draw them.  Draw three.

Outer circle : macro-environment ~ the cloud

The very outer circle is the big bad world ~ the macro environment ~ the cloud. This is where you do your PEST analysis. This is where we worry about Politics, Economics, Social Trends like birth rates and Gen Y and Technological Change like Social Media.  What is happening in the stratosphere of our lives?  It is important to know this stuff.  In the slow moving world of the 1950’s, it was possible to look up and do this once a year.  In this day and age, you should have a set of Google Alerts just for this purpose. If you are a large organization, you should have part of your intranet reserved for articles on these topics written by your own staff in their areas of expertise.

Outer circle but one : micro-environment ~ your pond

The next circle are your competitors ~ your micro-environment ~ your pond.  Who is in your pond?  This is where we use Porter’s Five Forces.  We think about what your customers actually want.  What are the benefits of our products and services (rather than our features).  We think about what it takes to get into this business (barriers to entry).  We think about the suppliers on whom we depend (and how much they or we call the shots).  We think about who else ‘wants in’ to the business ~ who are our competitors.  We think about what our customers could use as a substitute for our service our product.

The ecosytem of our pond is quite complicated and we are sometimes overwhelmed by thinking it out.  I’ve found two concepts really help.

  • Think of your lunch.  Who wants your lunch? The answer is often very surprising. After all, if scientists depend on government for their money, then they are in the businesses of public administration, government or politics.  This is usually an aha moment.
  • Think of the food chain.  We are often make jokes about being at the bottom of the food chain. Actually you want to be at the bottom of the food chain. If you are nobody’s lunch, then there is no reason for your existence.   Who dies if you die?  Often your existence is rather diffuse.  So let’s phrase that a little.  Who would be inconvenienced if you closed down? You can see why businesses try to create monopolies. They are safe if they are indispensable.  Here is another aha moment when you see clearly who are your allies in the great game of  commerce.

When we have our competitors (they want our lunch) and our customers (they eat us), we are on the way to describing the ecosystem of our pond.

Defining your micro-environment ~ your pond ~ is work that you have to do yourself

Both these questions about ‘lunch in the eco-system’ are hard to answer.  They are not like PEST which is common to huge swathes of people and answered in The Economist and other general sources like that.

These are questions you must answer.  I can suggest ideas. We can borrow ideas and insights from other people in the trade.  Occasionally we find a really good book on our business like Michael Riley’s Human Resource Management in the Hospitality Industry.  Mostly we have to sit down and answer

  • Who wants my lunch?
  • Who thinks I am their lunch?  Who depends upon me?

We need concrete answers.  Take photos for me.  Tell me what they had for breakfast and where they are are 2.17 in the morning.  Why that time?  Because you know them so well.

The third circle – who are you and what is your agenda?

With those concrete and specific answers we can define the next circle.  Who are you and what are your strengths?

Now we do the SWOT analysis.  What are your strengths ~ your internal capacity, or things that you do every day, that allow you to be who you are.  Your weaknesses ~ those things you wish you weren’t (but might just be the flip side of your strengths).  The opportunities ~ those things coming up that you really want to do.  Threats ~ those things upcoming that you want to get out of.  You SWOT analysis is just a fancy ‘to do’ list.

Your strengths are the things you like to do and that you probably did yesterday too.  That’s what makes us thing they are us.

But they are really a story that we tell ourselves about us.  That’s why we look partly at our inner talk. We have a story of who we are, who we secretly fear that we are, we we secretly want to be.   We will always have our secret fears and aspirations, but our happiest times are when most of our story is out in the open.

And what is our story?  It is the story of what we do with other people for other people while we are up against a threat (those who want our lunch!).  It is a playful story about people who are in this game ~ with us and against us.  Cheering us on and getting in the way!

We cannot tell this story with the story of the outer two circles.  We cannot tell this story with the story of our times – the PEST analysis. We cannot tell the story without the story of our pond – Porter’s Five Forces.

Our story is a story about real people.  You must tell me who those people are.

Your strengths are your participation in the game of life. Everything you say and everything you do, with real live people.

Tell me that story and I will show you a successful business and blossoming career.

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Lost: can’t see the opportunity

When I was young, I loved career choices.  The world was my oyster.  Choices were everywhere, and I was in command.

Some people aren’t so lucky.  They don’t feel like that.  Our somehow they’ve gone through a bad patch and they feel lost. As I have got older, that has happened to me a few times.

What can we do about that?  How can we get back that omnipotent feeling that “everything is waiting for you”?

There seem to be three key things to remember.

1. Look after your emotional health

Negative feelings feed on themselves.  When we are feeling down, lost or confused, we like to wallow.  This doesn’t make us bad or inadequate.  It is quite normal to want to wallow.  Physiologically, we are primed to focus on threat, and our worry captures 100% of our attention.

The corporate poet, David Whyte, talks of arriving at a ravine in Nepal and being scared witless by the sight of a rickety bridge.  Many decisions in life are just like this.  We arrive at a ravine.  We can see clearly that we want to be on the other side.  We are least wise enough not rush onto the bridge, but we are paralyzed with fear.  All our attention goes onto the ravine and onto the rickety bridge, instead of working out our options.

The funny thing is that we hang on to bad feelings, as if they are the bridge itself.  Yet this is the time to get a grip.  At the side of the ravine, we check our pockets and rucksack -knife (check), water (check), food (check), etc. etc.

In ordinary life we have to take the time out to exercise, clean the house, and think about what is going exactly as we want it to.  We must, we must, we must (!) sit down each night, write a short summary of the day, and then answer this question:

Why did I do so well?

I can assure you that you won’t want to do this.  You will want to worry and tell me how badly everything is going.  Just do it! and you will surprise yourself by what has gone well.

It is also more.  It takes our attention off the equivalent of the ravine and the long drop down. It focuses our mind on

  • What we can do
  • What we can do well
  • What delights us and
  • what the world finds delightful about us!

2. Start before you are ready

When we feel lost, we often feel very tired too. The idea of starting anything feels too much.  And anyway, if we haven’t sorted out our emotional health (#1), then we are enjoying our panic attack far too much to give it up.

But if you don’t intend to spend the rest of your life weeping and wailing and gnashing you teeth, you will have to begin to move out of the anxiety, before your are ready.

The way we do this is to focus in what we have at hand.  At the edge of the ravine, that is your water, your food, your map, your radio, etc.

In ordinary life, I look for what you love.  What brings the light to your eyes?  I can give you a magazine and ask you to flick through and point to a picture which represent what you want out of life. You’ll have done it in 1-2 minutes.

Or, I can ask you about when you have experienced flow – that feeling of total engagement where characteristically you don’t notice time, but you do notice being growled at when you were late for your next appointment!  That’s flow.  When do you feel flow?  When do you feel totally engaged doing something you just love to do?

Then we deal with the next thought that pops into your head which is  “I can’t”.  I have kids and a mortgage.  I can’t be an artist – I owe it to my parents to make a good living.  I have a student loan to pay off.  I don’t have the skills.  You are looking at the ravine again!  Hold the image of what you want to be, that makes your heart speed up slightly, that makes your eyes light up (you can’t see them can you, but I can). Hold that image.  Don’t let it go.

Now we aren’t going to do anything reckless.  We are simply going to look around our immediate circumstances for things relevant to getting to the other side.  So we take stock.  As we took stock of our map, our compass, etc. at the side of the ravine.  And we do sensible things.  If we were at the side of a ravine and had a radio, we would call in and say where we are.  If we are tired out, we’d work out if it is feasible to eat and sleep.  We secure everything we need to go to where we want to be.  At worst, we may retreat.

But we keep our eyes on what brings us alive?

3. Marshall resources and support

And now for the humdinger, are you the only person in the world who wants you to be on the other side?  Are you Rambo all of a sudden?

As soon as you have yourself secure and have established the all important “time out”, ask yourself who else benefits from you being on the other side of the ravine.  Who else will benefit?  Who else will be delighted?  Who else will enjoy getting you across (however you are going to do it – we’ll leave that bridge alone!).  These questions might make you feel anxious again.  That’s OK. That’s only because this project is something you really want to do and you are about to make it happen.

So, let’s marshal help and resources.  If we were at a ravine, it might be helicopter rescue (do it in style?).  It might be a long trek around. You might be able to walk down and through some shallow water and up. In the morning light, you might realize you can reinforce the bridge. Who knows?  Start bringing together what you need and a plan will emerge.

Once you start to methodically and systematically work on the problem, the universe will conspire to help you.

This can’t be true, I hear you say.  This must be nonsense.  Well not in my experience!  Read on!

Damn the universe, it makes life so easy!

When I first noticed the universe helping me, I did feel nuts.  I felt superstitious and I didn’t like the feeling.  How can this be?  But it happened.  The universe kept helping me.  When I knew what I wanted, and moved towards it, it came towards me.  This doesn’t work if I am dithering.  If I start one thing and I am still doodling or daydreaming about something else, I don’t get any help at all.  I must be totally confident about my priorities and have ‘left all other worlds behind’.

I would get moving on a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and the phone would ring.  There it would be.  How could the other person know I wanted that?  It was freaky and just too easy!

Eventually I decided three things.

  • The world is a munificent place.  Stuff probably comes down my phone all day long, but I don’t notice when I don’t want it!
  • I have good judgement!  My sense of what is right or wrong is good.  I know which ravines are worth crossing and which ravines other people want to cross with me.

But sometimes I go through a bad patch when I am indecisive.  I dither.  Do I want to cross; do I not?  I am not ready to make a decision.    In part this is good judgment.  I don’t rush ahead before I know what I want.  But the reality is,  I am also frozen in fear.  Time to take “time-out” to de-clutter my emotional self and figure out what is going on. I know with a small investment, my head will clear.  I will keep my dreams clear, focus on what I have in hand, and be on my way again soon.

Everything is waiting for you

In poet, David Whyte’s words: everything is waiting for you, it really is (and would like you to hurry up!)

It is just that you have come to a ravine in your path.  You want to get to the other side.  You know you need to be there and you are rightly terrified by the rickety bridge and the long drop down.

The most important thing to do is to acknowledge your fear.  Don’t pretend you aren’t scared.  If you do you will either be paralyzed or you will be reckless.  Take yourself in hand, remember your goal  and focus your attention this minute on what you have in hand.

  • First, attend to your safety and the safety of everyone with your.  Take stock of my situation (maps, compass, radio, food, etc. if you were at a ravine), get yourself fed, watered and tell other people to where you are.  When your are physically able to think, focus your attention on what you want!
  • Then thoroughly enjoy exploring your options.  Bring in help if your need it and invite people to be part of the adventure if they want to be (which they probably do!)

Remember the three steps

1.  Keep yourself emotionally healthy: ask yourself daily – why did I do so well?

2.  Start before you are ready – tick off everything around you that is useful for pursuing your dream

3.  Welcome support – list everyone who will be enjoy watching and helping you pursue your quest

And do it for g…  sake.  It’s funny how the toughest of people are so bad at this.  Do it.  Whinging is annoying.

Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, the...
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In brisk, post-Thatcher Britain, we go to a lot of networking gigs

Post-Thatcher Britain, you may know, is an elbows-out sort-of-place.  Everyone is touting their wares like a scene out Dickensian Britain.  Do you remember the song “Who will buy?” from Oliver.  Well, it is like that. Except, people don’t sing so well.

Wannabe Artful Dodgers

There are wannabe Artful Dodgers at every gig.  They are not up to making-off with your wallet and silk handkerchief.  But you can see that is why they joined such a convenient crowd!

Fagin will be unhappy

When they get home, they will be in trouble with Fagin, their conscience, who asks them the wrong questions.

  • How many business cards did you give out?
  • How many business cards did you collect?
  • How much free food and drink did you score?
  • Did you find someone to give you some work?

They need to get a better conscience and a better Fagin to ask them these questions:

#1  Did they promise at least 5 favors to at least 5 different people?

If there weren’t at least 5 people at the gig who needed something they could do with their littte finger, they are sooo at the wrong gig, or soooo under-qualified to eat and drink with those people

If they were the Artful Dodger, they would pick a neighborhood better suited to their skills, or start to behave like the people in the neighborhood they’d chosen.

Or, they were so obsessed with themselves, they found out nothing about the other people there.

If they were the Artful Dodger, they would start to watch the crowd while Oliver stood in the shadows, singing mournful songs!

#2  Did 5 different people offer them 5 different favors?

Hmm, did they look at a lot of gift-horses in the mouth?  Maybe they talk too much and not give the other person even a few seconds to chip in and some assistance?

Oliver got help from all over because he was cute and un-pushy.  The Artful Dodger was admired but never got help from  anyone.

Had he washed his face, people may have helped him.  But then he wouldn’t be the Artful Dodger!

I suppose we really have to decide whether we want to work sooo hard or whether want to let luck find us!

#3  Did the person they help, or the person who took their card, write to say thank you?

Did they just hand out their cards like a free newspaper and walk away?  Or did they stay with the conversation to the point that they could offer to do something specific for the other person? Or ask them to do something specific and useful? Did they take the conversation through the stages of forming, storming, norming to performing?  Or. did they jump from forming to adjourning?

The Artful Dodger knew the endpoint – to hand his pickings over to Fagin.  But he didn’t jump there in one fell swoop. He watched, he followed, he ducked, he dived.  He fell into the other person’s rhythm.  Then he cleanly picked the other pocket and moved the contents smoothly to his own!

#4  Did they write to thank people who gave them their card?

Did they have anything at all to say to the people with whom they spent an evening?  Did they waste more time by sending an automated message when they got home?  Or did they talk to people in sufficient depth to remember them and be remembered?  Does their note reflect something they ‘did’ together?

The Artful Dodger would remember the people he met -more clearly than they would remember him.  He would know exactly how many pockets in each person’s suit, and exactly what is in them!

Which is your next networking event?

Maybe I will see you there!  I hope I remember you and you me!

I wonder what we have in common and what we could do for in each other, right there, in the few moments we share together!

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Find a quiet place where you have a moment to enter your imagination and notice your own reactions.  Then read this slowly.

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

Close your eyes, or if that is not possible where you are, look upwards to the ceiling and concentrate.  What happens when we connect strength with strength and hope with hope?

We know what happens.  We’ve always known.  But in a flash, our minds push aside what brought a fleeting smile. To bring it back, we must reread the question, and holding the happiness bursting from our chests, ask why: why can’t we keep it?

It is not a secret.  We do know why.  We fear our imagination cannot take wing in the maelstrom of the strengths and hopes. Impossible, we say, and we abandon our fleeting happiness with not even a good-bye.

Read the question again. What happens when we connect strength with strength and hope with hope?

Enough you say. No. Not enough. Read the question again, and this time connect strength with strength and hope with hope. Connect with strengths and hopes in the maelstrom.

Watch the confusion simplify. And connect again. And again.

And know that it is possible to do what we know happens when we connect strengths with strength and hope with hope.

In the maelstrom, there are many hopes and strengths yearning for you to invite them in.

Jane McGonigal, game designer and games researcher, specializing in pervasive games and alternate reality games.

 

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IQ, EQ and now PQ

PQ is going to be the next big thing in work psychology and management. What competencies do we need for participating, leading and influencing in today’s interconnected world?

Here is a list from Jane McGonigal, the games designer who talks of the engines of happiness. I’ve found links to her work here, here and here.

1 Mobbability

“- the ability to do real-time work in very large groups

– a talent for coordinating with many people simultaneously”

Restated: My immediate thought is the ability to mobilize people for anything – a party, a demonstration, etc. This is a little more though. It probably begins with the ability to appreciate the dynamics of a music festival, or the crowd at a big sporting event. A Mexican Wave is one of the simplest forms

My questions: I get the feeling that I am missing something!

2 Ping quotient

“- measures your responsiveness to other people’s requests for engagement
– your propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network”

Restated: How quickly do you respond to requests for your attention and participation? Do you plan your communication systems so that you are able to respond? Do you anticipate the types of inquiries you will receive and do you update your communication systems to reflect the inquiries you receive? Do you initiate contacts and broaden your network? How do people find you and how do you find them?

My questions: Where is listening?

3 Collaboration radar

“the ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task”

Restated: When you start a task, do you think about who can and will help you? Do you take an interest in what work other people like to do? Have you some kind of model in your head about how to collaborate with other people and what helps collaboration to be satisfactory or unsatisfactory?

My questions: Is this ability to engender collaboration? Or just detect it?

4 Influency

“- the ability to be persuasive in diverse social contexts and media spaces
– understanding that each work environment and collaboration space requires a different persuasive strategy and technique”

Restated: Are you persuasive and are you persuasive to different audiences and in different settings? Are you interested in persuasion and how other people are persuasive? Are you able to communicate through different channels? Do you understand the nuances of using different channels? Have you an emerging theory of when to use various techniques and why? Do you have some idea of what motivates other people in various settings? Are you curious about their motivation? Are interested in how motivation changes when we take part in groups? Can you predict what will individuals will do next in a social settings and what an entire group or community will do? Can you anticipate what individuals, groups and communities are willing to do?

My questions: The arts are so important, aren’t they?

5 Multicapitalism

“fluency in working with different capitals, e.g., natural, intellectual, social, and financial”

Restated: How much capital do you need for your business to succeed? What do you have now? What do you need to do to

Financial?

Intellectual?

Social? Whuffie?

My questions: What is natural capital? Is social capital tradable? Is the “securitization” of social capital the next political innovation?

6 Protovation

“- fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles
– ability to lower the costs and increase the speed of failure”

Restated: Do you “have a go” and look for feedback from other people? Do you pick small, cheap, easy ways to experiment with new things that don’t just lead to success but teach you something important when you fail? Do you learn the meaning of errors? Are they useful signals or just sources of distress? Do you celebrate the errors of others (and I don’t mean gloat!) so their experiences are seen as useful and valuable by everyone?

My questions: Has anyone linked protovation to self-efficacy (Bandura) and error-training (Michael Frese)?

7 Open authorship

“creating content for public consumption and modification”

Restated: Do you write, speak, make videos, etc. for other people? Do you expect them to take what you use and change it (mash it)? Do you judge your effectiveness by the extent to which your audience uses and changes your ideas?

My questions: Is this a major aspect of social media? That we expect our ideas to be an input rather than an output or expert opinion? Is expecting a reply rather than approval or disapproval the major behavioral shift of our time?

8 Signal/noise management

“filtering meaningful info, patterns, and commonalities from massively multiple streams of data”

Restated: Have you set up your data streams so that you receive information from many, many sources? Have you set up your data streams so that you can detect repetition (without checking our original sources), speculation, rumor? Are you interested in how information is passed around the world on matters that interest you? Do you streams allow you the benefit of serendipty? Have you got people (lots and lots) to consult when you are stuck?

My questions: How much have these skills changed from the checking of provenance taught in universities? How much can we transfer skills from one domain to another?

What have I still got to learn?

9 Longbroading

“thinking in terms of higher level systems, cycles, the big picture”

Restated: Having a “helicopter view” and seeing a problem from different perspectives have long been valued business skills. This seems to go further – to understand a situation in terms of its dynamics

My questions: If I am correct, then we need to see situations in terms of their feedback loops? And is this an important skill that kids learn when they work out different ways of playing a game?

10 Emergensight

“the ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity”

Spot unexpected patterns as they pop up, and be ready to take advantage of them – even when systems scale in size and messiness.

Restated: Do you look of for the way a pattern unfolds? Do you look for changes in speed as well – from the lull before the storm to the tempest that will blow itself out? Do you look for small levers that have huge impacts?

My questions: Is this improvisation? Are we talking about good reaction times, or understanding complex dynamics?

Hat-tip to NLabNetworks and Andrea Saveri of the Institute of the Future who spoke at the recent NLabNetworks meeting at Leicester.

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