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

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.

Only this time, let the world look at you. I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

Why have managers ignored the poets for so long?

Contemporary English poet David Whyte

David Whyte uses contemporary language to talk about the essential ontological question of management, work, organizations and successful business.

When he takes his ball home, the universe takes its ball home too .  .  .

Far too often, our remedies for this world involve sulking.  Like an aggrieved child in a playground, we pick up our ball and go home.  We don’t address the lack of respect that sent us into a spin.

Persian poet, Khalil Gibran

Poets through the ages tell us that we find meaning and satisfaction through action, not inaction.  Through engagement, not withdrawal.

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt on self-knowledge from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.  He says it too.

We don’t find our bliss by staying in.  We find our bliss by setting out on a path.  And on that path we don’t meet our soul.  We meet the soul.

It also matters little which path we follow.  Many lead paths to the soul. What matters is that we travel the path.  What matters is that we set out. What matters is that we adventure a path.

We will recognize the soul on the way because it will recognize us.  And we recognize ourselves, we acquire self-knowledge, when the soul says good day.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Similar lines were said in the iconic movie, Goodbye Mr Chips, by the German teacher to the gawky, awkward Englishman.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Only this time, let the world look at you.  I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

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My customers come to me to interact with other customers. Yes they do!

The Dummies’ Guide to Social Interaction Design (SxD)

A few months ago, Adrian Chan of Gravity 7 explain Social Interaction Design in simple terms.  Here it is again. But even simpler.  Gen X and Baby Boomers like to begin with an overview. Once we have got the outline, we can drill down to the finer technical details.  This is for view.

Hopefully, Adrian will correct what I have got wrong.  When you have an outline, head over to Adrian for details.

1.  Who is the user?

Basic Idea: Don’t think about your product or your website, your mission or your purpose: simply describe your user.

Basic Technique: It’s tough to write a persona. You want to say what the user looks like, where they’ve come from, and most importantly, what they are looking for when the arrive with you. Think socially. Who were they hoping to talk to and why?

Advanced Techniques: Each user arrives with skills, social competencies and understandings about the way things will be done (variously called scripts and frames). What are people able to do easily when they first arrive? What do they expect?

We want to be predictable and make it easy for them to find their place on our territory

More Stuff You’ll Add After You Have Answered The Other Questions: Personas for other users: rich descriptions of various users in they many shapes and forms.

2.Who are the other users?

Basic Idea: Your visitor didn’t arrive to be lonely. Or to talk to you! Who else will they meet here? And what will they do together? And what about the reverse -who are they trying to get away from?

Basic Techniques: More personas, concentrating on how different everyone is not how much the same they are. Forget averages and typical. Think diversity and difference.

Advanced Techniques: Now describe how the users interact with each other. What do they say? How do they respond to each other? How do they encourage each other? How do they learn from each other? What scenarios are taken for granted by the locals that are not at all obvious to an outsider? When we are locals describing our own space, it is hard to describe what we take for granted. Ask what annoys people? What makes them contemptuous of other people? That’s a sure-fire indication of a norm being broken.

More Stuff You’ll Add After You Have Answered The Last Question: What is the difference between a gathering of users that is successful and one that is a flop? What is the feeling that people have when they say a gathering is fabulous?

3.   What social outcomes happen because the users are interacting with each other?

Basic Idea: Our actions come together to create something over and above our own wishes and desires, intentions and actions.

Basic Technique: What happens that cannot happen by one person alone? For example, we can sit at home and talk to ourselves about Coca-cola. That’s interesting. It probably prompts us to put Coca-cola on the shopping list. But so too is it interesting when one user talks to another user about Coca-cola. The conversation about a brand, and any downstream effects, becomes possible because of the interaction. If you get stuck, list all the interactions that people fear and turn these on their head.

Advanced Techniques: What are memes, tropes, fashions, fads, myths, and beliefs that seems to prevail among your users when they are together? How do they pick up on these norms? How quickly do the norms change and how do they change?

More Stuff That You Will Add After You Have Answered The Last Question: How many interactions happen before this new sense emerges? How can we prompt people to ask questions and to listen to each other? How can we prompt them to reflect their outside world in our world? How can we encourage an attention to positive processes? How can we learn to interpret the less positive interactions in the positive sense of seasons?

How do we add value to businesses, communities and organizations?

~ Trust, belonging & confidence are the foundation of action & initiative

4.  Beginning with Question 3, we have some understanding of the social outcomes that emerge from interaction. These are phenomena like belonging, trust and confidence. Hard-headed business men and women might scoff at these but the scoffing, the negativity, demonstrates the point. There is something they are looking for in the interaction must happen before the abandon their skepticism and react with trust and enthusiasm. What is it the business people need so badly before they will trust other people? When we can put our finger on that bruise, we may have identified the essence of our business.

~ We love our differences and riff them like mad

5. Question 2. We have some understanding of how people interact with each other in our community, in related communities, and in whichever context is our specialty. We learn fast about interaction because we pay attention to interaction. We are never ‘foreigners’ for long and even if we are marked out as different by our physical characteristics, accent or professional qualifications, we understand how people expect to behave and how they expect others to behave. We mix and match those expectations to help them ‘mod’ and ‘riff’ and have fun with each other.

~ We love our guests and find it easy to be kind

6. Question 1. We understand the diversity of people who arrive and the range of their social competence. What do they find easy to do? How can we help them find their feet in a gathering? How can we help them settle down, yet meet more people, and expand their horizons. How quickly do our wall flowers and the rambling roses become a magical bouquet?

Ready now for more details? Head over to Adrian Chan at Gravity 7. He’s the expert!

The not-so Artful Dodgers! Networking in post-Thatcher Britain

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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