Is the best part of being 20 something discovering our own competence?

Gen Y or age?

There is so much talk about Gen Y (shortly to be displaced by Gen i).  Unless we are a 12 year old at TED, we rarely talk about age anymore.

What it means to be twenty something

Increasingly, I’ve found myself entertaining the idea that in our twenties, we particularly like solving task problems.  Sacha Chua in Canada posts a great account of sewing clothes.  I remember that!  The triumph!  (Great blog, btw. Subscribe!)

Task triumph palls!

I don’t like doing that anymore.  I just “want it to work”. I am tired of clothes shops without clothes that please at price that is sensible.  Just how many pounds a day should we spend on clothes?

I am tired of having to trawl through websites to find what I want.  That is the retailer’s job.  Yes, when I was younger beating the retailer was a thrill.  Doing a better job than them by finding what I wanted elsewhere always delivered a frisson of delight.  I felt competent. I probably felt that I was asserting my immortality.

Existential crisis or not?

It’s great to feel competent.  It’s great to feel agentic.  But I also feel tired.  Is it an existential crisis to want the person who pulls coffee to be able to make coffee?  Is it an existential crisis to want the people to run the bus to keep it clean and safe and come when they say (to the schedule if there is one and whenever they promise if there is not)?

Is the best part of being 20 something discovering our own competence?

Is not the case that 20 somethings, in our system, have a grand time proving they can work our system? Is there a age-thing working here, mixed in with a residual need to prove we are better than our teachers?

Young people giving awful service

Little dogs who want to play ball

Over the weekend, I threw the ball for a friend’s dog   .   .  . I threw two balls for two dogs – one many times and one once.

We threw the first ball for the cooperative dog and then a second for the other dog.   He picked up the ball, raced around and refused to give it back.  He wants to play ball but can’t grasp the essential idea.

The other dog had fun.  We threw the ball. She fetched it and brought it back.  And so it went on until we were tired.  Then we took her ball away and waited patiently for the old boy to realize the game is over and to drop his too.

That’s how we dealt with the old dog.  We’ve stopped trying to teach him to play ball.  We just gave him a spare one and let him think he was part of the game.

Life is great when you have a great supply chain

In real life, are we so patient?

I used to say that we need a magic list of essential people : our plumber, our electrician, our mechanic, our hairdresser.  There are usually about 10 people who we depend upon more than we realize.  We can probably survive one of them being unreliable.  If more than one is unreliable, life becomes a hassle.

Web 2.0 is full of inexperienced suppliers

With web2.0, we have many conversations with many people and we interact with people who have no idea of what the people they serve want.  They seem blissfully unaware of their own narcissism and muddle.  Indeed they seem to regard their own narcissism as social status.  Some even take the view that they click away from services that they don’t like and you should too.

They think they are the energetic little dog racing around.  Actually they are the old fellow who won’t give back the ball.  Sadly, they are going to play alone.

How do we help a youngster who isn’t up to the to-and-fro of Web2.0?

All my instincts are to help a young person.  I feel bad at giving them a ball and letting them waste their time.   The trouble is that if they are engrossed in their narcissism, there is not a lot we can do.

How do they learn to answer the questions that the customer is trying to ask?  When do they learn that we aren’t interested in the answers they know?  When do they have the epiphany and realize we aren’t even interested in the answers to the questions we ask?

We want the answer to the question we are trying to ask.  As experts in their field (or so they claim), they need to educate us.

When we throw them the ball, they must bring it back so we can throw it to them again.  They must help us play our part in their game.  We won’t have a game without some effort on their part.  Pretending to play doesn’t quite do it.

Our moral obligation to the young

Of course, when I am their supplier, and I include being a boss or teacher in the category of supplier, it is my job to understand the question they are trying to ask.  It is fatal to answer the one asked because in their inexperience they may have left out a detail essential to understanding the situation.

When someone has a question, it is my job to ask more questions to understand their situation.  It is through my questions, that they learn what to look for and an orderly way to approach the same issue in the future.

Indeed, once I have highlighted the important features of the situation, it is very likely, they will be see the way forward themselves.  Even if they are still overwhelmed, they will implement more confidently knowing what salient features they should be observing and knowing that I am there for them.

The foolishness of putting young people on the front line

Why oh why do we put inexperienced people on to dealing with the public?  It is so daft.

I suppose I cannot give up on them.  It is immoral to give up on the young. But they cannot be my preferred supplier either.

Preferred suppliers answer the questions I should ask

My essential suppliers must know their business.  And that means knowing the questions I need to ask.

Be prepared! Tips for driving in snow?

Were you a Brownie, Cub, Scout or Guide?

As a girl, I was a ‘Brownie’.  I love the “Be Prepared’ part.  I like thinking up a plan and making it happen.

It’s snowing in UK

This morning I set off for London knowing that snow was expected.  I left London earlier than usual and found I rather like driving in snow.   Cars slow down and observe a decent stopping distance!

And I had prepares, a little.  I had a sleeping bag and a flask of hot water just in case!

What are the tricks of driving in light snow?

But what I hadn’t expected was losing my brakes.  A car in front of me slowed down and I tried to as well.  Aha!  Judder judder.  Nothing but judder.

I pumped the brakes thinking I could dislodge some ice.  Nothing happened.  I just closed on the car in the front of me.

So I hastily started to change down (we have manual shifts here) and looked left and right to pick a snow bank to skid into if the gears didn’t slow me down.

I did slow down, thankfully. And this happened again several times.

So much for being prepared!  I realized that I know nothing about driving in snow.  I need to find out!

Competence matters in this world.  It really does!

PS  I took 1 hour 50 minutes to get back in snow driving most of the way at 25 miles an hour.  Going down to London in fine weather this morning took 2 hours 15 minutes much of it at 5 miles an hour.   Snow has led to efficiency!  I just need to develop a good mental model of safe driving.

Any tips?

This is how succession planning will change in the next 5 years

Succession planning ensures we have someone ready to do a job tomorrow

In business, we use succession planning to ease short term supply problems ~ or in plain terms ~ to make sure that we have people available quickly, to do a job and to do it our way.

We have 3 basic methods of succession planning

#1  Do nothing or leave everything to chance

This is obviously the cheapest to do.   It also sets the base line.  Whatever else we do should work better than this, or we will stop doing it!

#2  Job cover for every position 5 years ahead

We make a database listing every job in the organization and every person in the organization. This massive  ‘spreadsheet’ is repeated 6 times: now, next year, 2 years from now, etc.  Every year, the plan is reworked to make sure that there is someone to cover every job 5 years ahead.  That way someone’s training and work exposure is started well before they are likely to take on the whole role.  And if someone resigns, there is already somebody in-house, trained and ready to take over.

This is the most expensive system and it works best when an organization is very stable.

#3  Evaluate the depth and potential of every team

This method looks at the potential of “critical” teams.

The depth of each team is assessed by rating each member on a 3×3 grid.  On the vertical is their current performance (better than adequate, adequate, not adequate).  On the horizontal is their potential (unlikely to go higher, will go up another level, will go up 2 or more levels).

This is a relatively cheap method because most of the data is already available from performance appraisals or it can be gathered intuitively from a panel of managers.

Succession planning in the information age

The key to #3 is an assessment of how much higher a person will go in the organization.  The Economist today makes a good point.  The level that a person will reach is no longer very relevant.

What is relevant is a person’s ability to

  • gather information
  • analyze information
  • make sense of it
  • present it so other people can make sense of it and know what to do with it

I can imagine some people thinking these skills mean research skills.  That’s not quite what we mean.  We mean skills linked to the internet.

  • Make a website in minutes to make data available
  • Use Google Alerts, Twitter and Search to keep abreast of events and to rapidly deduce what is relevant
  • Mashup data so that other people can see what is happening
  • Ask questions that are relevant to people around them
  • Present data so that people understand the underlying processes and quickly understand what decisions they should make
  • Track the effects of action

This sounds geeky.  It is a little.  To do any of this well, though, we need to understand people and their context.

What do they need to know and what will they do once they know?

Succession planning will ask then

  • Is the person aware of what is going on around them?  Do they gather and analyze the right information?  Do they ask the right questions?  Do they lay out information well?  Do people understand them and people find it easier to act quickly and effectively?
  • Is the person developing his or her information talents?
  • Are they able to take on larger leadership roles with more complex & dynamic information environments than they currently enjoy?

It would be good to write up the types of information contexts that people work in currently and the demands on their attention.

 

What can I COUNT ON you to do?

What can I count on?

Yes,”count on”, “depend upon”, “know that you will do as surely as the sun rises and sets”.  And you ask the same question of me.  What am I 100% committed to doing for you?  That is the foundation of our relationship.

Our relationship may be more. It will include

  • What do we do together?
  • What do we celebrate together?
  • How important is our relationship compared to other relationships?  What priority does it have?
  • How relevant is our relationship to coping with the trials and tribulations and  developing the opportunities already present?

Most people only look at the priority of a relationship.  They want total loyalty – which is unrealistic.  Blood is thicker than water, after all.  What counts is the essence.

What, what is it that I can count on you to do?

Disciplines study trust from different angles

  • Economists use game theory to look at our interests and the constraints that lead us to be quite predictable.
  • Politicians look at our interests and the alliances we make with others to pursue them.
  • Poets urge us to put “ourselves inside the river” – to pay attention to the story unfolding around us
  • Clinical psychologists measure our self-efficacy – how do we rate our competence to achieve something that seems hard
  • Educational psychologists have championed collective efficacy – how do we rate the competence of our colleagues?
  • Positive management scholars ask “what do we do well” and “what will we do more of”?
  • Toyota management specialists tell us to take our ideas and run a formal experiment – find out what matters and respect it.

Do we understand the nature of our commitment to each other?

Collective efficacy, the tool used by educational psychologists, illustrates well where I am going.  Collective efficacy  is measured by the specific question: “how good is X at his or her job?”  Questionnaires and simple ratings are neat and tidy.  Cool stuff – we get a number and the higher the number, the better the school.  Important to know and understand.

It’s also important to put our finger on the nub.  Can we describe our relationships in simple, accurate and concrete language?

  • What is it that we are totally committed to do for the people around us?  In what way are we utterly dependable to others?
  • In what way are they utterly dependable to us?
  • In what way is this, our reciprocated commitment, important to our lives?
  • And are we talking about “what is” rather than “what isn’t”?  Are we talking about the relationship as it is, rather than as we want it to be?

Do we understand the network of commitments that are important to the good life?

I’ve always felt that there are 10 or so people in my life whom I need to trust entirely.  They include my banker, my mechanic, my butcher and my baker.   When 3 or 4 are unreliable, my life becomes miserable indeed.

I am magnificently happy though when I am surrounded by people who share a mutual commitment to me.  It may be a small commitment. It may be a relatively small circle.

But that sense that we are competent, dependable and principled is very important.

(As opposed to fickle, corrupt and inept – a phrase I heard on BBC.)

Our lives are as big and as magnificent as our sense that people around us are good people.

Celebrating that goodness will boost your sense of well-being.

  • It’s worth putting our finger on the small contribution each person makes to our lives.
  • It’s worth putting a name to its essential essence – not to what we want to change – but to what will never change because it is the essence of the person and what they will do for us.
  • It’s worth hearing the words of others as they see what about us is predictable and counted upon (because they’ve observed our essence and don’t try to change us).

When we have mapped our network, or social graph, of commitments, when we begin with what is rock solid, how do we feel?  How much energy have we liberated?

I’d be interested to know how you approach these questions.  Have a great weekend.

Connect people who want to hear with those who want to tell!

In this day of social media and viral campaigns, I’ve discovered that I have a new competence.

I am good at team-tag!

I don’t have the mischievous mind to think up viral campaigns.  But I do recognize good viral material and I am quick to endorse it.

Playing team-tag in social media

The beauty of the Hootsuite interface for Twitter and Google Analytics is that I can measure the effectiveness of my “team tagging”.

Getting better at team-tag

I look at the stats not to brag, you understand. But to learn.

The statistics shape my judgment about what people want to hear and see and when they want to hear and see it.

The person running the campaign still has convert the interest and the quick drop-in into a sale or action. To get better at that, they need to speak to people like Paul Imre in High Wycombe.

Helping connect people who want to know with people who want to tell – that I can do.

Social media has raised the ante in events & conference management

I am not an events manager.  If you want information on events management, follow @tojulius and @carmenhere.

I am writing this because someone asked me how an event could be better.  Events are a highly specialized and skilled form of organizational management, but as a sub-class of organizational management, some general rules apply.

My question is this:  if apply the four basic rules, do I arrive at any insights of value?

1. Make it easy to join in

If we stumble on the sign up, or forget our passwords, nothing more will happen.

The basics are having the event at a place we can reach with public transport, on a day that isn’t filled with competing events, etc.  You get the point?  I can move on?

2.  Make it easy for people to connect

I still go to conferences where I cannot see in advance who is attending, let alone connect with them.  And the attendance list does not include email addresses or twitter handles.  There is no way to find anyone at the conference once we get there.  We are under-utilizing the social, or connect-potential, of the meeting.  Grossly.

I know why we continue to organize like this.  It is not technology. Amiando and Meetup have full social capacity.  It is the ‘control-freak’ nature of British-society.  We like to dis the government for being control-freaks, but it start with us.

Maybe we should give every meetup a control-freak rating?  Anyway, it is time to stop.  I don’t come to your meetup just to meet you!  I want to meet other people too.  I don’t want to meet up with 1% of people I could meet.  I want the full potential!

3.  Find a way for people to learn

We learn whenever we ‘do’.  We are learning animals.

But just as there are levels of convenience in #1 and levels of sociability in #2, there are levels of learning.

When I introduce myself and the other person struggles to understand what I am on about, I learn.

I also learn when Twitter feeds go up on a big screen. Those big screens can be distracting though.  Sometimes they are just a techie gimmick.

Whether they add value or not seems to revolve around ‘feedback loops’. Which feedback loops can we add to highlight great examples of what we do?  And is there a way of making data available so people with the skills and inclination can mash it up, dress it up, and present it back to us?

A raffle in which we put our business cards in a bowl for a prize is an example of this principle.  The pile of cards grows and we feel good to be at a popular event.  The lucky winner is highlighted for being present (and being lucky).   I am sure the organizers are looking through the cards too, to see who came (with cards and who will have a gamble)?

What else can we amplify in this way?  How can we help people learn?

4.  Find a way for the event to add meaning

We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves.  I don’t mean belong to a group bigger than ourselves.  We want our group to fit into a wider landscape in a meaningful way.  The existential purpose of the group must be clear.  Not just the instrumental purpose or the social purpose.

How does this group fit into the wider community?  Why would the wider community be happy that we are there?  Why would they mourn if we were not there?  How does our meaning change with our activity?  How does the wider community thrive and flourish because we thrive and flourish?

This is the big ask.  So many old organizations feel rotten because they are no longer connected with the wider well-being of the community – in the community’s eyes, that is, not their own.  Does the community see them?  How does the community see them?  What is the symbiosis?

What is the symbiosis between our event or startup and the wider community?  How do they see us? When they talk about us, or our activities?  Which parts of our work bring a light to their eyes?

Social media has raised the ante in events management

Tough.  In the olden-days we were a star to get #1 right.  It is not enough any more.  We have to step up through the levels. So point me to good examples, please, because I am still learning too.

Reality is broken. Games are great. What do you dislike about games?

Game designers are better at psychology than psychologists

Jane McGonigal, games designer extraordinaire, has long pointed out that games are better designed than most jobs.   I agree with her, but oddly I still prefer work.

Nonetheless, agreeing that games designers make better use of work psychology than psychologists do, I’ve been deliberately playing games from beginning to end.

Orientation that gives control back to the audience

Getting into games, the autonomy dimension of Ryan & Deci’s ARC model is clear.  We need to be be able to see what to do at glance. We shouldn’t need elaborate instructions or encouragement.

Something for the audience to get their teeth into

I am stepping through the levels quite doggedly.  That should be the competence dimension of Ryan & Dec’s model.  In truth, games are quite fun while I am figuring out the rules – or when I think I can push myself to a new level.  But they also get boring quickly.  Dogged is the feeling I have!

A way for us to play together

I think I don’t use the social aspects of games sufficiently. Social or relationships, is the third component of Ryan & Deci’s ARC model.

I am probably not very sociable because my motives for playing games aren’t social.  But, equally, I probably get bored quickly because I am not being sociable.

Bringing our own rules to the game

What has interested me more has been the way my preconceptions affect my game play

In a game in which I played the role of explorer in Africa, it took me a long while to realize that I could deliberately kill people and even longer to do it.

In Mafia Wars running on Facebook, I am yet to start a fight. I am yet to invest in armor.  I only do jobs against an anonymous enemy.  When someone attacks me, I just clean up and take out some more insurance.

In Farmeville, I would like to share my tractor.

Does social mean more than sending gifts and energy bonuses? Are our ‘identities’ and ‘values’ also important to us?

Sometimes it is useful to have our values challenged.  Sometimes it is useful to see that we impose rules that other people don’t care about.

Then we have a choice.  Do we want to play by those rules?  Maybe we do.

3 Easy Sunday Ways to Master the 3 Principles of Design

It is Sunday today, and I want you to do three things for me.

1    Watch Dan Pink’s TED lecture on Motivation

2    Flick through Jane McGonigal’s slides for SXSW 2008 or  fixing reality.

If you have seen them before, remind yourself of slides 22 through 24.

3    Login in to Facebook and play FarmVille.

Why?

First, today is Sunday. I know you want to catch up with your reading but you should also be having fun.

Dan Pink, former speech writer, speaks good too.  Jane McGonigal’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is to win a Nobel prize for games design and she designs games that ‘give a damn’.  And FarmVille, though childish looking, is actually fun, and will probably get you chatting with a couple of old friends over your farmyard gate.

Learn about the Ryan and Deci (2000) 3 principles of design (ARC) in an enjoyable way

But mainly, because if your goal today was to keep up-to-date with what the gurus are saying, you should know that leading gurus are popularizing the research results of Ryan & Deci (2000).

Ryan & Deci boiled down the principles for designing for work, games and events that are compelling, engaging and ‘moreish’ to

Autonomy.     Can we make our decisions in this place?

Competence. Does the game, work, or event help us learn, and do the conditions keep pace with our growing ability?

Relatedness.  Can we play with others? Is this event socially-rewarding?

Dan Pink and Jane McGonigal may use slightly different terms, but these are the 3 attributes that are being described.

9m people are playing FarmVille (for free) on Facebook

As you play FarmVille, you can admire the ‘assets’ the games have deployed for our leisure and imagination and marvel that 9 million people will seriously attend to their farmyard online and nip over to their neighbours to chase the cows out of the strawberries.

You can also admire the way FarmVille draws you into the game by appealing to your autonomy.   This is your farm and your avatar.   They gently guide you through the possibilities and in a short time, you are as keen as mustard to develop some competence.

FarmVille has levels. I mysteriously found myself at level 3 – possibly it starts at three.   There is clear feedback that tells you how well you are doing and lets you work out the best strategies.   There are rewards that entice you to make an effort.   And there are levels that are both badges of honour and opportunities to try new things.  FarmVille even throws in some random rewards which, of course, are massively reinforcing.

And it is social.  You can see at a glance whom of your friends are playing.  You can send them free gifts.  And they can reciprocate.  You can visit their yards and admire their work (and aspire to catch up.)  You can ask them to be your neighbour.  You can rush over to help on their farm when you they are out and something urgent needs doing.

So a Sunday well spent?

Master the Deci & Ryan model.  When the gurus start propagating a model, you know it will become common knowledge very fast. Everyone will be quoting Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness soon (ARC).

And when we are all talking about the psychology of design and trying and learning to use ARC in our own work, Jane McGonigal will achieve her dream of seeing our ‘broken reality’ fixed and become a lot more like a game.

Will you fix reality with the 3 principles of design?

Will you be up there with the games designers, event managers and entrepreneurs who can design work and play worth living?

Or at least understand why some tasks are tedious beyond belief and others bring a light to your eyes, a bounce to your step, and a gentle smile, if not the singing of your soul?

Have a good Sunday, and if you are in the UK, a good Bank Holiday weekend.

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Complicated is horrible. Complexity is beautiful.

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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