So fundamental, so easily missed.
Forget about adoption – it’s easy to get people excited about something new.
Why it matters, even if people are on board with ‘What’ ….
Because eventually, people need a different ‘What’. “Gettin shit done” aint a reason to exist. People get bored with what you’re doing – even if it’s a temporary boredom. Unaddressed boredom turns into resentment. Resentment begets fight.. or, … flight.
… All because you don’t even know why you’re getting out of bed in the morning. What an easy save that could be.
If you’re reading this, you don’t follow directions well. Good for you.
This is hasty – because it’s 4am and because details don’t matter …
I’m looking for a few people – around 5 of them, maybe more, to form a group. For lack of a better term, I call it “Innovation Calisthenics.”
Every other week (or maybe more|less often) we get together to expand our thinking. How we do that will evolve. Not important how, and if this is something you dig, then you get why.
But what might that be? Maybe it’s word association games, field trips, table topics, collaborative art projects, .. there are lots of ways to practice innovation – let’s not get hung up on that.
What it won’t be:
-Talking about why innovation is important or how great it is to be innovative
-Talking about how to be innovative or who’s really good at it
-Other meta topics
The point is not to *be* innovative – it’s to stretch and exercise. Consider this part of your personal “forget the task list, sort things out” time. .. or a social muse.(?) And that feeds your everyday work|creativity|problems|opportunities. ….Nor is the intention to find ways to save the world, but it’s not off limits.
Here are your questions:
-Do you see it? / Do you want to?
-Can you commit to it regularly?
Tell me about yourself.
But you’re much more than that. Aren’t you? Maybe we describe ourselves through our vocations because it’s easy to identify. And maybe that’s OK if we’re not really serious about answering the question, especially if the person who asked it was not serious about knowing the answer.
But *can* you answer it seriously? Who are you? Suppose you don’t have a job. Now tell me about yourself.
You might start by answering with what you do for fun. Or how many kids you have. Or where you volunteer. All of those things tell us how you spend your time .. So we can assume that means those are the things that you value. But are we right?
Strip away everything from your day-to-day life. Your job. Your house. Your family. And especially the way that other people perceive you.
Think about what you value – what is important to you, for your own well-being. And don’t kid yourself. Don’t try to give the answer that the world wants you to give. Helping others, saving the planet. Maybe you do value those things – but it’s OK if you don’t. Because values are about what YOU believe – not what you think the world expects from you. Maybe it’s money and possessions – Just think hard about whether it’s really those things that you value, or if they’re just ways to affect people’s perceptions about you.
The important thing is that you dig deep and discover: What is really important to make you feel whole?
Once you have a list of what’s really important – look at what you do. How well do they match?
How much time do you spend watching television? How much time do you spend working overtime? How much time do you spend shoveling snow in the winter? How much time do you spend shopping? How much time do you spend talking about other people?
.. And how much time do you spend learning? How often are you challenging yourself? Do you wake up energized or dreading the day?
If what you value and what you do don’t line up – something is wrong. Either you’re not being true to yourself in what you value, or you’re not being good to yourself with what you do.
Once they DO line up, keep evaluating yourself. Not only do your values align with your actions, but are your values still the same? (They’re not likely to change often.)
… and what do you do?
Someone passed this article to me today: http://www.scribd.com/doc/6910385/Abuse-of-technology-can-reduce-UK-workers-intelligence . This is how I know I’m out of touch. People are still email junkies?
Think about how you sometimes get really interesting ideas in the middle of the night. Why is that? Because your brain has begun to turn off. It’s flushing out thoughts, clearing out the junk. Well, okay, that’s not science – but my point is that if we’re always turned on, we don’t stop long enough to have new thoughts. Clarity and insight can’t be forced and can’t come without stepping away from the hyper-connectedness.
Some of the most productive, most innovative work I’ve done has come from taking walks with a colleague, sitting alone quietly on an airplane, chopping wood, digging holes, etc.
Allow time for your brain to work for itself, rather than being fed more information.
Shutting down now. Going to bend some wire around a pencil or something …
I don’t watch the news. Because I don’t learn anything useful from it.
But someone told me that this morning’s news was about the storms we had overnight. So the lightning that I saw at 5:00am was in fact real. Luckily, we have some commentary this morning about how we nearly had weather conditions that could have been exciting to talk about.
I don’t blame the media for this drivel. Weather excites people. Charlie Sheen excites people. The news has to deliver something people want to see, or … Or they won’t watch it? Kind of a losing battle – give them dreck because they want it or give them substance that they won’t watch. Anyway, not really the media’s fault, the public’s appetite for useless content. I’m just glad the media manages to sneak some substance in there when they can.
But what if … What if the media could bring the same kind of excitement to local innovation, culture and community that they can bring to weather and sports?
much going on in this city that’s truly exciting. Instead of “Did you get woken up by thunder?” or “How about those Bucks?” as obligatory smalltalk, how do we use the local media to rally around what we *could* make this city about? (BTW, my vote is “Barrier Free Columbus” – an environment of “can-do” whether you’re starting a business, getting an education, finding a job, a home, a support network,…. there is a structure here to remove barriers to whatever you need to do.)
It’s not the media’s fault that people gravitate toward loud noises and shiny objects. But I challenge them to put a sheen on local progress. It’s all marketing, you know.
Someone sent this question to me today: “Why do people think that Integrity, particularly in Leadership, is a hard thing to find today?”
Integrity is trueness to your own values and trueness to your cause. But sometimes in order to accomplish anything in an environment where goals and values are competing, you have to compromise. So it’s the degree to which you are willing to compromise that your integrity is measured. And depending on the environment in which you are working (e.g. politics, industry-vs-regulation-vs-ethics) the choice may in fact be between integrity and progress. (Progress or rapid realization of goals, e.g. making a bunch of money.)
So it all comes back to leadership. If your choices are between integrity and progress, the system is broken and needs leadership to align the goals.
… but I’m interested in other people’s answers – beyond the idea that “people are jerks and money drives behavior.” That’s too easy. Assuming that most individuals are decent, why is there a perception that they are not? Or why are people decent as individuals, but jerks as a collective?
breaking blogio silence for this… a different perspective I had on gossip (negative gossip, that is) …. Anyone who’s gossip-worthy, i.e. has a scandalous story that people want to spread .. well, I don’t really want to know. No – not “I don’t want to know that bit of gossip” .. but, “I don’t want to know that person.” Not the gosspier. The gossipee. (OK, gossiper too.) Gossip = drama. Drama = voyeurism. Voyeurism = someone else’s life. Someone else’s life = not my own. Not my own = distraction. Huh. I know. dull post.
“What you need to do is …”
Here’s my problem of the day with Twitter: looking at most tweets, I see people proposing (to whom, I’m not exactly sure) solutions to the world’s problems. Reducing the problems to easily-solved contests that are met by spouting platitudes like, “No more bonuses for Wall St. until …” or “Provide health coverage just like they do in (whatever country)” .
So why haven’t the decision makers just looked to Twitter to fix things? The answers are there, and they’re so simple! Well, for the same reason they haven’t solved the problems in the first place – everyone has an answer. Who has an earnest question? (I ask rhetorically. J)
Instead of presuming to know enough to spout off a solution, what if people started asking questions? “Why do we need Wall St bonuses? What would happen if the financial community cleaned house and paid salaries competitive with other industries?” At the least, the people asking the questions might learn more about a subject (if they care to listen to the response.) But possibly, the people responsible for solving the problem may think of the problem in a new way – particularly if a naïve question demands that they defend something that they take for granted.
All this musing led me to the real point. It’s easy to criticize popular media for not asking enough questions. But is there a problem-solving methodology buried in this premise? Beyond the simple “ask ‘Why’ three times” idea , “what if” scenarios, Pareto analysis, Ishikawa, Decision Trees, etc… is there a more formal methodology and workflow that uses questions to solve problems? Something that ties all of those methods together, but is more formal than using “expert judgement” to determine which method to use at various stages. E.g. ‘Use X method to obtain output in the form of ______, which is used as input into Y method.’
What if I started to formulate one? No – wrong question… Where can I find such a thing? Why doesn’t exist if it doesn’t? How would I go about documenting and testing it?
It’s difficult to write a blog post about complacency. Because to understand complacency, you have to put yourself into that mode of thinking. And who the hell wants to be there?
But complacency is such a paradox to me anyway – if you live in chaos, you are motivated to find normalcy. If you find normalcy, it’s sooo easy to want to stay there – but you need to create chaos to escape.
This is something I have to remind myself of frequently. Professionally – implementing processes and measurements to get us to a state of optimization – there is a peace of mind in knowing that you can leave the office for a few days and the cogs will continue to turn. But that allows me to disengage, which is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because I don’t get the daily fuel from innovation and problem solving. A blessing because we’re doing greater things, more efficiently. (Look at Thomas Edison. His life’s work was inventing technology to make our lives easier. That’s a reward unto itself, but in employing those inventions we achieve even more greatness with less effort. It wouldn’t make sense to reinvent the same things just for the sake of creating innovation energy.)
So how do you keep moving? One way is to scrap it all and start over. Do what you did to get where you are, but do it someplace else. You made your fortune perfecting the electric nose blower; now figure out how to harness energy from mosquitoes.
But maybe there’s another plateau to be reached that’s still out of sight. Innovation and problem solving are great for the soul, great for business. But only if they are addressing real problems. As I write this, thinking about where I go from here (not that my work is finished or that I’ve perfected anything yet), it occurs to me that this quandry is a metaphor for my career. I have always grown and succeeded by finding a need and filling it, as a logical extension of my official role.
So I guess my answer is in there. Cycles of innovation & motivation ebb and flow, but if we’re looking for opportunities, we can organically keep growing, keep moving without drastic actions.
.. Which brings me around to Jim Collins’ How the Mighty Fall. Collins makes the point, in a much more subtle way, that slow and steady wins the race. Collins cites five stages of an organization’s decline:
- Hubris born of success
- Undisciplined pursuit of more
- Denial and risk of peril
- Grasping for salvation
- Capitulation to irrelevance
So, in terms of personal growth and motivation, the corresponding stages of marginalization and desperation:
- Not following a path of continuous learning and improvement
- Innovation for innovation’s sake, without adding value, without fitting a larger context
- Devaluing collaboration, succumbing to disengagement.
- Hasty decisions, get rich (or made) quick ideas.
- Retirement, new career, etc.
Another personal point to grow on that Collins mentions – Individuals, like organizations need to examine why they are successful (defined as you like) rather than how they became successful. Focus not on what things you’ve done to be successful (your deeds), but what about YOU has meant success (your character.)
No, not my silence on this blog… Yes, it’s been silent, but as far as I know, not roaring.
I know I’m guilty of this, and I try to understand when other people do it. Silence, while seeming innocuous at one end, can feel like a huge insult to the receiver. (Can you actually receive silence? If one hand claps in the forest, do any bears .. wait, wait, um, something like that..)
Not only can silence present the feeling of being ignored – worse, the receiver will misappropriate the cause of that silence and will often act upon that perceived cause. This can obviously be counterproductive and damaging to a relationship.
Immediacy of feedback can be more important than the content of the feedback itself. (Hello? Is this thing on? Can you hear me in the back?) Answer phone calls, emails, etc with an acknowledgment right away (unless you’re trying to snub someone.)
Now this seems like pretty elementary advice – yet in business we discount the value of social protocols as we focus on “I’m so busy. Must get things done.” I get over 100 emails a day, on (unmathematical) average. To return each of those would consume the majority of my day. But there I go – relating it to my day. Setting norms for which email should be responded to and how & when, can mitigate some of that overhead. The people that I see on a regular basis know that we will see each other and we will talk soon enough. So email among that group is viewed as a one-way information communication tool (and RSS inside a firewall is a clunky mess.) Any other decisions or discussions mean we meet in person (or video.)
Unfortunately, it’s the people you work with less often and that, frankly may be of lower immediate criticality to you, that silence most affects. These are the relationships that need the most care and feeding. (“The ones that love us least are the ones we die to please.” -PW)
What’s the payback? Trust. You determine how much that’s worth.