Write because I am curious about my audience?

Une belle journée à vous ! Have a nice day ! by GattouLucieso far behind.. Sorry via Flickr

So am I going to write that paper or shall I bin it?

In a former life, I might have decided whether to write a paper or not on the basis of the objective merits of the paper.  I might even had aspirations that someone might read it.  Ha!  The average formal paper is read by 7 people.  Blogs at least get read if ever so cursorily.

Solidarity and invitation

Galeano makes an important point.  The only interaction worth having is horizontal – solidarity.

If I write that paper

Who do I hope to benefit?

Who do I hope to invite in?

And most of all, whose reply do I hope to receive?And why do I want their reply?  For personal gain or because I am genuinely interested in what they have to say?

Deeply curious about our audience

Writing is not so much knowing our audience.  It is being deeply curious about our audience.

My challenge is clear.  Who do I want to hear from?

Designers teach work psychologists 3 questions to ask about work or any plan or bossiness about people

Mood hoovering work

I am a work psychologist and we design work.  We are brought up on a diet of (ersatz) experiments and (dated) statistics.  That’s not all bad. We are good at operationalizing – taking an idea and saying “what exactly are we going to do“?  We find Google Analytics easy to understand.

But we become very bad at people.  We even joke that is why we become psychologists.  Because people mystify us.

So we set out to learn from people who are good with people.

Psychologists learn from designers

Here are three questions that were blogged as a summary of Bantjes  (see that training, pedantically precise!). If we are going to set up mock experiments and tiresome evaluations, I suggest we hold ourselves accountable to these.

Three questions to ask about work or any plan or bossiness about people

Does it bring joy?

Is there a sense of wonder?

Does it evoke curiosity?

Failed at the off

My rendition does none of these things.  I can feel the energy hoovered out of me.   So do look up Bantjes when the videos on TED Global 2010 come out.  And let’s put the fun back into life.  Being orderly is good.  But being dispiriting is not.

Live the questions now. Live your way into the answer.

Last night, I stumbled on a wonderful collection of poems. Do bookmark this link and keep it for a moment when you want to relax.

For this morning, at a time when the economies of the UK and the US are about to become very turbulent, it is good to read a poem from German poet, Rainer Rilke.

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903

in Letters to a Young Poet

It is so hard to think about living without a clear goal.  We’ve been taught to be wilful rather than curious.

Maybe the first question is what it would feel like to turn all my goals today into questions?

What would it be like to get up?  What will it like to have a shower?

Just to ask a series of questions?

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Is it fair to puncture someone’s anger with active listening?

Writing to understand

I’ve been writing myself into this this morning.

Does active listening work? And who for?

When someone is angry, and we are genuinely curious about what led to their anger, won’t they calm down?

Is active listening fair?

Do they have any other choice?  If they have no choice, are we bullying them?  Do they lose out, in real terms or in psychological terms, when we really listen to them?

Will passive-aggressives let you listen to them?  Won’t that spoil their fun?

Of course, someone who is in the habit of passive-aggression, or who habitually plays a “double-bind”, might be very disconcerted.  They might feel deprived.  But how long will that last?  I think we need some clinical psychologists to comment on that!

Aren’t misunderstandings the key to getting along?

Earlier today, I wrote on the value of misunderstandings. If we go around the world looking for misunderstandings, relishing them, enjoying them, then aren’t we able to listen to people who seem to blunder from one misunderstanding to another?

So what can we do about people who enjoy being angry?

To give my thoughts a more real-world test, I ran my mind over several people I know who really enjoy being angry. It is their modus operandi.  I think they would prefer not to be.  But they daren’t not be.

When we listen to persistently angry people, they won’t let us listen.

They quickly side-step any inquiry about who they are or what they want from life.

Yes, we do have to hear their anger first.

  • We have first to deal with the immediate situation that has got them going.
  • And then the general situation about what made them feel disrespected by the world.
  • And then with what is deeply valuable about their contribution to our well-being.

Modern day maths helps explain being in love with anger

The maths of phase-states might help. This is a relatively new form of maths for me and I hope I don’t mis-explain or misunderstand it.

When we are healthy, we loop about through all moods  adjusting to reality and because of reality.  It makes no more sense to be permanently cheerful than it does to be permanently angry.

Systems flip out of control though.

We can get in a rut where we use a very limited range of emotions.  We go in circles, rather literally when our moods are drawn on a graph.

And when we are in a very bad way, we get stuck on a single point.  Let’s assume that people who are in a very bad way will get the help of a professional and put them aside for a moment. We don’t help them on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s just think about ourselves when we flip out of the swooping 3D butterfly that is normal and healthy and limit ourselves to an endless repetition of happy-sad, happy-sad, never growing and doomed to repeat ourselves rather precisely, often in the sad belief that this is normal.

Still thinking in numbers and graphs ~ it is quite normal to have fluctuations – a zig zag – Zig zags will remain and it is unhealthy when they are not there. Remember that!  The first sign of ill heath is the lack of a zig-zag – you know like the line on the heart monitor – when there is no zig zag you are dead!

Let’s keep using that as an analogy. Imagine your pulse is racing. We want it to slow down to a more normal level – for the graph to point downwards. For the line to move downwards, it must zig zag down. It is the zig-zagging that brings it down. If it was dead straight down you would wonder where it will stop – your instinct, and accurate instinct – is that you must slow-down the freefall – you’ll introduce some zig-zagging in other words!

We don’t wnat the zig zag to be so wild that we can’t zig afte a zag, or vice versa. But it should zig zag.

That’s why misunderstandings are so important.

Misunderstandings, however uncomfortable, reveal what is “true and good and better and possible”.  They are zig which we can turn into a zag.  And after a while we realize the line is going up (more mental health) as we muddle along.

Endless circles

People get on an endless repetitive circle when they shut down negative feeling rather than explore it.

And they shut it down, when no one believes in them enough to listen to them. Learning ends and they repeat themselves in an effort to be heard.

If only someone somewhere would just listen!

If only someone somewhere would afford them the respect of assuming their temper tantrum is about something important!

If only someone somewhere would give them the respect of assuming that their temper tantrum is valid because they are valid.

Then they have a chance of learning from the zag.

And we would too.  Misunderstandings tell us a lot when we start by assuming the other person’s point of view is valid.

I hope that active listening is not unfair

I hope I don’t spoil the day of the passive-aggressives.

No that is not quite true! When they are annoying me, I probably do hope I spoil their day because they are making mine worse.

But from the luxury of a sunny English autumn morning, I hope I don’t spoil their day. I just want them to be happy. I don’t mind that they are angry. Anger is a legitimate emotion. I just want to say that to them. It is OK. Be angry. We understand.  You are still important to us . You are still one of us.

Endless curiosity

And being endlessly curious, I’ll learn what they are about and why they are so important to our story on this earth.

Irrepressible enthusiasm. Damn, you can’t keep an exuberant person down!

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2nd secret of social media. Find more lucrative niches

Think change in your market, not growth

The 1st opportunity that marketers have kept to themselves is that we can change with our markets.  Markets flex and morph quite naturally.  If we are fixed on growth, or grabbing market share, we are sadly missing the point.  Our reports need to be about change.  How is our market changing?[!]  When we closely in touch with the heaving, sighing, pulsating, shape-changing nature of the market, then we are in the game!

The 2nd opportunity marketers don’t tell us about is that we can move up the value chain. We can expand the margin in each hit.

Noobes and margins

Now I know that when we are new in business, we are obsessed with getting any hits, making any margin!

Please don’t be distracted though. Psychology comes into play here.  Getting started is fundamentally linked to getting finished!  If there is one thing that psychologists know, it is that when we know what we want, we ‘go like a train’. If we are not ‘going like a train’, if we are procrastinating, we don’t know what we want.  It is really that simple.

And how do we know what we want?  By getting out there and trying out the choices. We humans think better when real experience is in the mix. We don’t get anywhere when we are going against the flow or when we are telling people that we want one thing one day and another thing the next day. We confuse them and ourselves.   So we get out there, to learn how the world works, and to be clear about the parts we want to be part of.

That’s why noobes are no different (except psychologically) from people who have been in the game a while. We are constantly learning the market and figuring out what part we want to ‘play in’.

Low cost or high differentiation

Business strategists will tell us one of the first things we must think about is whether we are going to “buy them cheap and stack them high” or “do something very special for a few people and charge a lot”.

Obviously, in real life, there are permutations on the theme. The point is to be clear in our own minds what we are doing and experiment wisely so that we get clearer and clearer as we take small steps to get experience.  When we are unclear, we muddy our offering and our customers are unclear what they are buying and unsurprisingly, don’t buy!

Use social media to figure out whether to be low cost or high value

Now social media, doing business in virtual space or via the cloud, gives us opportunity for experimenting safely in the ways we can’t in real life.

We get window shoppers in the real world.  In the virtual world, we get a lot more. If we are wide awake, we might notice slightly different people arriving to have a peek.

Real life is so constricting

Let’s take an example.  Let’s imagine that a granny comes and peeks in our teenage store. In the real world, we have limited choices. We can’t run down the street and talk to her – who will mind the shop? We can’t drop what we are doing to entertain her – we have other customers. We can’t change the entire shop’s display to answer her questions.  We have teenage customers who come to do teenage things.  The real world has constraints – real constraints.

In the virtual world, it is dead simple to add another room!

But in the virtual world, we can add another “room” quite easily. Granny can look around our teenage store and we can lay out another page that allows grannies to talk to other grannies about their concerns. We don’t have to shut them out or exclude them. We also don’t have to demand that they pretend to be teenagers with teenage concerns. Any social media site like Facebook, Ning, etc. allows them (and us) to set up new pages, new groups and new activities.

We can also ‘run down the street’ after some who just peeked and didn’t stay. Google Alerts give us some idea of where they go. We can go and look and ask them, or people like them, what they are looking for. Herein lies the possibilities. Our peekers may be shy but we can get them to open up!

Stay clear by keeping your ‘virtual bundles’ clear

How does this relate to being clear, you might ask?  Teenagers and grannies? Aren’t we getting mixed up. Quite possibly. We can mix up anything.

I want you to remember that we didn’t begin by being all things to all people. Grannies arrived in the normal way that markets morph as their that underlying social networks twist and turn, shrink and replenish.

Our teenage store brings grannies to see.  People explore the world more readily online where they can window shop discreetly. Rather than shutting out unexpected visitors, we can draw them in.  In the virtual world, we can do that without watering down our offering to our primary market. Virtual real estate is very cheap compared to real shops rentals!

Some virtual bundles will allow you much better margins per hit

To continue the example- I have no idea what grannies will spend in your new store, or spend in the next door store buying gifts for their grandchildren, but you get the idea.

Your business will morph naturally with the morphing of the market – if you decide to dance in step with it.  If you try to make the market dance in step with you, you’ll get nowhere very fast.

Social media allows business opportunities to find you .  .  . if you want to be found

My message is this, by looking out for change you may find opportunities to increase the margin per hit.

It is a big mistake just to look at your numbers. At the end of each evening, also ask yourself how you were surprised. What was unexpected?

Are opportunities arriving at your site that you aren’t seeing because you have developed the tunnel vision (of greed)?

Is engendering curiosity a pertinent goal in positive psychology?

How do you explain the simultaneity principle of positive psychology?

Last week, I gave a talk on positive psychology to psychology students at the University of Buckingham. I structured the talk around the five principles of appreciative inquiry which I used to explore positive psychology and the poetry of David Whyte some months ago.

As I linked each principle to what we might do in our lives, when we coach others, and when we design organizations, I felt a little inadequate on the simultaneity principle.

How can we simply explain ideas of emergence and exploring one’s relationship with the world to beginners in our field?

Is curiosity the quality we are hoping to create in our approach to life?  Is curiosity a virtue to be engendered in organizations as part of job design? Continue reading