Enjoy Open Space events by becoming a player

Lost at an Open Space event

Cindy Hoong comments that at Open Space events, we wander around feeling lost and pretending we aren’t so that we fit in with the geeks.

Mmm . . . . yes, I did remember that feeling as I cast around looking for landmarks to orient myself.  We do like a measure of order in our lives and plenty of control for ourselves.

The first stage of group formation, anyway, reminds leaders that we are totally dependent on them to answer the question in our minds, “Do I belong here?”

Landmarks help people move from dependence to independence.  Social landmarks help us feel included.

What can we do when we feel lost at an Open Space event?

One of the most important features of an open space event is that everyone takes part – even if it is only to demonstrate how to make a cup of coffee.

If the event is half-half – then I would fall back on the open source principles. Think of something you like to do and volunteer to do it.  Offer to staff the reception area.  Offer to make the coffee. Set yourself up as official photographer or blogger.  Do something inanane ~ match people in green sweaters to people in green sweaters.

But do something. Preferably something you like to do.  Preferably something you are good at.  Preferably something that achieves a goal important to you.

Then your mindset changes. You want to know where the signing up board is.  You want to grab a room. You want to get to know the other participants so you can tailor your presentation.

Get into the flow.  Join the river.  Become a player.

Hope that helps!

Managing that dreadful post-honeymoon feeling – this job sucks

A few weeks into a new job, disillusionment . . .

It’s inevitable. A few weeks into a new job, the honeymoon passes, and we have our first ‘fight’.

Except, that unlike a relationship where we have mutual responsibility for getttng through a fight safely, at work, at work the blame usually falls on the employee. We get extremely anxious about this unwelcome feeling that our job sucks and that we have made a very bad move!

Temporary disillusionment is 100% predictable

In a well run firm, this should not happen. The crisis will happen ~ it is called storming, from the forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning sequence of group formation.

Every new relationship, whether personal or business, will go through a crisis of confidence as surely as the sun comes up in the morning.

What should happen, when we are running ourselves well, is that we wait for the storming. We even look forward to it, because storming marks the progress from the milling around of forming to “getting down to work”. We storm when we start working and we say “is this it? Is this worthwhile?”

Note well: we don’t have an anxiety attach until we start work! If there has been no storming, surely as the sun comes up, the employee is still in the forming stage. They still expect you to take all the responsibility and are yet to make the job their own. So welcome storming ~ even if sometimes it takes you by surprise!

How to manage storming when you are the manager

Your role as a manager, when storming begins, is not to panic!  The first sign of an inexperienced (untrained, unsupported) manager is that they take the storming personally, or ignore it.

The employee is serious. He, or she, has issues. And they want reassurance. Is this job worthwhile? Your task is to remain calm and through that calmness, show you confidence in three things

  • The doability of the project
  • Your competence to lead the project
  • & The employee’s competence to play the role that they were appointed to play.

Hesitate, show your own fears, panic, doubt the employee ~ and you confirm the employee’s worst fears. Your panic says to him (or her) that you also do not believe that this company, this team, this boss is not up to this job.

Please be calm and show confidence that all will work. And of course, if there is a specific issue, sort it out with equal calm and dispatch.

Task-oriented and socially-oriented reports

Now to make our lives a little difficult, employees don’t storm at the same points. They storm when they start working and different details will set off alarm bells.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that highly task-oriented individuals storm earlier.  Some will stat storlming before they arrive! Early stormers are more conscientious and results-oriented and consequently start questioning details early.   Budget some energy for being the anchor they need and be thankful you have hired a workhorse!

Very sociable people are the opposite. They have to get their social bearings before they start work (just as task people must get their task bearings before they get social). They may take an interminable time to get down to work and they will take longer if you push them. When they are ready, they will begin; and they too will get a fright and storm.  And maybe they start stormin months after the task-oriented individuals – so allow for it. Remain calm. That is what they are looking for. If you panic, if you believe they are attacking you, you will confirm their worst fears – that they are in the wrong job at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong people. Be calm.

How to manage your own storming

Now if you are in not-so-well-run firm and there is no one to calm you down when you start to panic, you are going to have to calm yourself down.

I’ve tried to make a heuristic for an individual to manage their own storming. Anyone? This one defeats me. After all, if I became involved as a coach/counsellor, I would a) calm down the report b) show the confidence the manager neglected to show and c) calm down the manager!

Maybe try this:

  • Draw out the work process
  • Mark every part that works quite well and you should continue
  • Mark out every process that worries you and try to understand why the firm manages that process the way they do
  • Keep your own counsel
  • Be calm because calmness seems to be lacking around here

Hope that helps!  Remember it is normal to have an anxiety attack shortly after the ‘honeymoon’.  It means you care.  It means you’ve started to deal with detail of the job!  Enjoy!

What are you working on and why is it important?

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

Back to my office with my three goals:

  • Explore the communication system
  • Catalog skills that I use and must look after, skills that I need to learn in the forseeable future, and skills that I am likely to stop using because they are no longer useful
  • Describe my current project – what am I doing by joining Xoozya?  What is important to me and why is my success important to others?

My current project

At first, I though describing my current work would be hard. How many of us feel we can explain openly why we have joined an organization?  But it turned out to be refreshingly easy.

  • I believe that the world of work is on the cusp of radical change.
  • As a work & organizational psychologist, I want to understand the changes that are taking place.  But no, that is not all.  I want to be in command of the changes.  I don’t want to be in charge of the changes, because I think the changes are emerging out of changes in the business environment.  I want to understand the changes fully and describe them to others.
  • And why is it important to others for me to have this command?  Work & organizational psychologists are midwives.  We help change occur.  Traditionally, psychologists have three roles.  When someone is facing a situation they find difficult, we provide models to think about the situation in an orderly way, we bring experience from working with people in similar situations, and we provide support while the person is working through the issue.

Being a psychologist at Xoozya

  • So what is my work here at Xoozya?
  • What models can we bring to this new organization that is determined to work in modern ways?
  • Can people cope with this open-ended assignment – describe your project and tell me why it is important to you and others?

My knowledge of ludology is not very good – that is one of the reasons I want to work on Xoozya – to learn more.  An idea from the games industry, that I read on Chris Bateman‘s blog, is useful for helping me think around these questions.

In a new environment, children, and adults, tend to play.  We take a new gadget out of a box and play around with it.  Only afterward do we say “should have read the manual”.  Bateman calls this paidia – free form play – and it is inspired by the combination of elements.  For example, pebbles and water tempt us to throw a pebble and try to make it bounce.

The opposite of paidia is ludus – or organized play, like sport.  Ludus is what Jane McGonigle specialixes in.  Play with an objective and rules.

Chris Bateman argues that a good game begins with paidia.  We are tempted to try things out in a playful way.  As we get used to the elements at our disposal, on our own or with others, we develop norms and sports-like rules.

This perspective is not very different the principles of work psychology that I grew up with.  And nor should they be. Good psychology is good psychology.

Cross-cultural psychometrics

Learning my trade in Africa where cross-cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychometrics are important, I was taught four principles for introducing people to psychological tests.

  • Give people easy obvious tasks to do directly and immediately.  For example, “write your name on the top”.
  • Begin with easy quick tasks like clerical and speed and accuracy.
  • Assume that the hardest thing to do is to find where to put the answer.
  • Show people what to do and check they’ve done it.  Eliminate strategies that are not in the candidate’s best interest.

These principles seem to represent the idea of helping people play with the elements, though in the context of testing, keeps an eye out for novel arrangements that would hurt the candidate.

Action theory

An action theory approach to work has demonstrated experimentally that the best way to train people on new technology is to introduce it as a functional level.  In other words, don’t teach people to type or to copy a letter.  Teach them how to save, to edit, to copy.  This seems to be equivalent to introducing people to the ‘elements’.

Another recommendation from action theory is to let people play with technology and to make ‘errors’.  Making errors builds our mental map of technology.  From my very limited experience of playing games, I also think free exploration makes early learning more purposeful.  We want to find out what we can do, and not do, and we adopt this broad goal without being told to.

Group stages

The five stages of group formation reminds us that in the first stage of joining a work group, people are quite dependent on the ‘leader’, in much the same way as we are dependent on a landmark for finding our way in a new city.

In the second stage, we begin to make errors and we evaluate whether we want to stay in the situation (or game).  Error recovery is central to our willingness to continue.

In the third stage, we become playful, often in groups, and are willing to accept goals.  We move from paidia to ludus, perhaps?

Then we become goal oriented – ludus? Sports-like play that morphs into work?

The fifth stage is ‘adjourning’, which is not so relevant here.

So how could I improve the induction?

What are the elements that people need to learn, explore and manipulate?  How can we bundle elements so they signal obvious affordances for the noobe?

How can we encourage a playful approach that encourages exploration and mastery?

How can we arrange the elements so that people explore them on their own, safely and profitably?

What do I want to have achieved by the end of the day?

Is it sufficient to say, hello I am Jo.  I am a psychologist and I joined Xoozya to be part of one of the most innovative contemporary experiments in management & organization.  I am interested in what you are doing and can swap the experience I gained consulting to multinationals and big organizations, where that is relevant.  What do you do here?

Is that enough for day one?  Time to go home!

And if you want to leave me a message saying what you are working on and why it is important to you and to others, I’ll read it gladly!

What about your work is important, valuable and innovative?

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

“So what is my first goal”, I said to the HR Director.  “The amount of work on my desk is expanding exponentially and I’ve only been here a few hours.  I must find an avatar, explore the communication system, and map my skills set.”

What are your priorities?  I know you will say get settled, but all employers say that, and they don’t mean it.  What do you want done by when?”

Kick the habit of looking to managers for goals

“Well, Goal One” Peter said, “is to kick the habit of looking to managers for goals.  We are not here to set goals. We provide an arena or framework for you to work, alone if you like and with other people if you wish.  We are a huge company and you can work with whomever you choose and with whomever chooses to work with you.”

Acknowledge your own judgment

“That’s stressful at first because it feels as if you have no boundaries.  And to feel oriented, we all need boundaries.”

“But you do have boundaries.  You’ve made choices all your life.  You’ve attended to some things and ignored others.  In your judg                    ment, some things are important and command your attention.”

“We will ask you to do a third task.  We will leaving your avatar to the end of the month.  In addition to exploring the communication system and thinking about your skill set, you have a third task, which is this.

What it important, valuable and innovative about your current project?

“Write down what you are working on now.  And then tell me

  • Why this project is important to you
  • Why you think is is valuable
  • Why you think it is innovative.

Why do you feel vital and alive when you are working on this project and why do you believe it adds vitality and quality to the way we live?”

“Let me give you an example.

Today, a young post-graduate in Sydney, Marsha Gittens,  published a post in Brazen Careerist on what she wants from work– her career must-haves.  She wants money, good leadership, perks, etc.  We all want the same things but right now the financial benefits of the corporate world are uppermost in her mind because she is making the change from being a student, with all that entails, to being a member of the corporate world, and all that entails.

But financial rewards are not her project.  The move from the student world to the corporate world is her project and we are all better off if we acknowledge that openly.  She will spend the next year or two finding out where she fits into the corporate world and she wants to know how roles are structured, what these roles involve, and how important they are to other people.  At the end of the year she will have done well if she has gained this knowledge that she does not have now.  Much of this knowledge can only be gained from the inside.  From being in a company. From working on a team.  From doing a job and getting her hands dirty.

“So she will not move as a spectator.  She moves as a player and she is looking for assignments that will give her the combination of overall understanding and hands-on experience consistent with her skills.

“You sought membership of Xoozya for reasons you told us when we recruited you, and for reasons you’ll have kept to yourself.  Whatever has been put on the table, at this juncture in your life, there is something you want to achieve and you believe that we are the tool for you to achieve it.  There are resources you expect to find here and that you will look for.

The young Australian post-graduate wants to find her toe hole in the corporate world.  To do that she needs to understand the corporate world.”

“You are mid-career and you want . .  . what?  Describe what you came here to achieve.  What are you working on and why did you believe that we have the resources you need.”

“What we suggest you do is write down your current project and answer those three questions.

  • What about the project is important to you?
  • Why do you believe it is valuable?
  • What about the project is truly innovative?  Why is it so important to be doing this work now and what about it is so special that it cannot be ignored?

Then we’ll talk again.  How about this time next Friday?”

And if you are enjoying this series, please do feel free to join in!

  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section
  • Grab the RSS feeds for posts and comments top right
  • If you comment on this post from your blog, please link back to this post from the words Jo Jordan, flowingmotion, or Xoozya
  • Tweet the post
  • Stumble the post

And PS, if you are new to this blog, Xoozya is an utterly fictitious organization. This series began on the spur of the moment as I started to explored the principles of games design and Ned Lawrence of Church of Ned mentioned how much time people put into designing their avatars, or online identities. Xoozya is an attempt to imagine what an organization would look, sound and feel like if it were run along lines recommended by contemporary management theorists.

And PPS Ned is an online writing coach and is available for hire.

Which skills will be valuable in 5 years time?

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

Mary, the HR Body put her cheerful face around the door and said “Lunch”.  Yep, I was keen.  There is just so much that I can take in at one time and the Dashboard at Xoozya is pretty comprehensive.

She dangled a key.  “Bring valuables,” she said, “but leave everything else as it is.  We’ll lock the door”.

The canteen wasn’t far and I could hear the buzz as we approached.  It was just as hyped.   Salads, fruit and hot food and the refreshing absence of the cloying smell of old fat and overcooked vegetables.  Sweet.

Mary, ever the professional, asked nimbly whether I ate fish.  I do, and she said, “I’ll get two fish pies – they’re good.  You grab some salads.  I’d like plain lettuce and tomato and pear or some fruit.  Water OK to drink?”  I caught up with her at the cashier where she introduced me as noobe and I put my food on my tab.  We grabbed napkins and cutlery and she led the way to a corner table.  “We’ll join Peter Wainwright, the HR Director.  You remember him, of course?”

As we approached, Peter rose, smiled warmly, and said “Hello, Jo.  Welcome to Xoozya!  Here’s to a prosperous and happy alliance.”

We fumbled around, as one does, arranging trays and getting comfortable and he asked about my morning.  I told him it was clear I have some thinking to do to set up a communication system that leaves me informed but not overwhelmed with information.

He nodded and added: “Well, take your time.  Every minute that you spend in exploration now pays off handsomely in comfort and organization later.  We also want you to base your judgments on what matters. You’ve joined us with your skills, as has everyone else here,” he said, waiving his hand at the crowded canteen.

Future capability and value

“There are skills that are essential to what you do and there are skills that will change with technological change.”

  • “We want you to jot down the skills that are absolutely essential to what you do.  These we will nurture and respect.”
  • “Then there are skills that are going to change significantly over the next five to ten years.  We want those on a separate list because those require significant investment in time and energy”.
  • “And there are skills that we don’t use anymore.  Those we give a respectful burial.” He smiled.  “When we have identified a skill or process that we no longer use, we get an occupational psychologist to document it and we make a display for our skills museum.  Then we have a little wake,” he chuckled, “to see it off.  It’s quite cathartic.”

Nostalgia for skills & practices of the past

“So which skill in the museum is best-loved?” I asked.  “Which grave attracts the most flowers?”

“Ah, we hadn’t thought of doing that.  Good idea.  We should put the skills up on the intranet with the choice of . . . flowers or . . . a good kick . . . or a big ? mark for ‘who was this!’.  And see what we get back!”

My induction so far

Well, I obviously have some thinking to do.  It is only lunchtime and I have to think about

BTW

Which skills are utterly essential to your work?

And which will change so fundamentally in the next five years that you will need to retrain?

And which skills deserve a respectful burial?

Which are you happy to see go and which will you miss?

And if you are enjoying this series, please do feel free to join in!

  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section
  • Grab the RSS feeds for posts and comments top right
  • If you comment on this post from your blog, please link back to this post from the words Jo Jordan, flowingmotion, or Xoozya
  • Tweet the post
  • Stumble the post

And PS, if you are new to this blog, Xoozya is an utterly fictitious organization.  This series began on the spur of the moment as I started to explored the principles of games design and Ned Lawrence of Church of Ned mentioned how much time people put into designing their avatars, or online identities.  Xoozya is an attempt to imagine what an organization would look, sound and feel like if it were run along lines recommended by contemporary management theorists.

And PPS Ned is an online writing coach and is available for hire.

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