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?

Legitimate anger

O OUTRO LADO DO MEDO É A LIBERDADE (The Other Side of the Fear is the Freedom) by jonycunha via FlickrI don’t like anger.  I don’t trust it.

I don’t like anger. I don’t trust it.  We just become one track-minded and lose perspective.

Eduardo Galeano expresses the anger many of us feel

But sometimes we do need to sink into an emotion.  I re-read Galeano’s words on the hegemony of unfairness and I re-read them aloud.  These are hard words to be read aloud to hear their flint-sharp steel-hard tones.

Reading negative poetry aloud at home is safe . . . and cathartic

I felt better.  I did.

It doesn’t harm that below those words I had also recorded a positive way forward.  But it helped to hear words that confirmed that I am not the only person in the world so heartily tired of having to pretend that the unfairness we see every day is not there.

Maybe one day I will read those words aloud in public

I don’t believe in charity – I believe in solidarity

Rock Shoes (Good Shoes) by Tatjana Ruegsegger via Flickr

Timely advice as we advance into the eye of the financial crisis

“Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that, one magical day, good luck will suddenly rain down on them – will rain down in buckets.

But good luck doesn’t rain down, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever.

Good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day on their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.

The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way. Who are not, but could be.

Who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper.

The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.”

Eduardo Hughes Galeano, The Nobodies

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”

Clay Shirky

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”

Eduardo Hughes Galeano

Experiment your way to success and a life you can call your own

Data a la Warhol by SuziJane via FlickrExperimentation is Gen Y

You may have read Four Hour Work Week and you might have noticed, but not paid much attention to the tagline on Tim Ferris’ blog : Experiments in lifestyle design.

Tim Ferris has many answers.  And many people read his blog (and his book) for ideas and inspiration.  I haven’t see too many people copy Tim Ferris in one essential aspect:  he actually runs experiments on a lifestyle to see what works and what doesn’t.  Tim Ferris may just seem a data nut.  He is not.  He experiments.  He actually puts to work those laboratory lessons we learned in psychology and related disiplines.

Ready, Aim, Fire

Few other people take this approach.  Creatives are willing, in Karl Weick’s terms to Ready, Fire, Aim, meaning try it, see the response, and learn what is important.  They are often disciplined at using agile methods and may have groups where people stand up weekly and sum up how far their project has got  in terms of {need, Approach, Benefit, Competition} (nABC).

A B experiments in web design

Google, of course, epitomizes a experimental approach.  If you sign up to Google Analytics, you can test two pages in classical A B design.  Which one attracts more hits?How an experimental approach differs from science

An experimental approach to life is radically different from a scientific (or pseudo scientific approach).

At university, we are trained to compare the average (actually the mean) score for two groups – say men or women.   We aret trained to look for associations in cross tabs and scattergrams.  We are reminded that correlation is not causality and we repeat that as a mantra.  But something even worse happens.  We start to confuse the statistical relationship with action.  We really come to believe that if women score more than men, the answer is get more women and improvements will follow.  We believe that if there is a lot of chatter about drink driving and around the same time alcohol sales fall off that in the future we only need to chatter about drink driving for alcohol sales to fall off.

No.  In every case, we still have to make something happen.

Why an experimental approach helps us succeed

Oddly, an experimental approach helps us become more active.  It looks like “science” that establishes “rules of life” that we can ape and be successful.  But an experimental approach is more.   An experimental approach draws us in to the moment and helps us concentrate on what needs to be done with the people we will be doing it with.

Our actions and judgments are not replaced by scientific laws.  We exert our judgment and act on the situation in an orderly way so that we see the effects of what we do and learn more about the situation itself.

Our results don’t tell us what to do. They don’t tell anyone else what to do.  Indeed, if they copy us they will fail.  Our results tell us about our situation and our understanding improves.  As our understanding improves so does our judgment.  As our judgment improves so do our results, our resources and both our faith in others and their fath in us.  We are an upward spiral begun and maintained by an open, inquiring, curious and essential  positive view of life that looks for what works and celebrates what works.  But we can’t be inquiring without the feedback of data.  Without data we simply gossiping.

An experimental approach draws us in to the moment and helps us concentrate on what needs to be done with the people we will be doing it with.

An experimental approach to training

McKinsey published a report today that brilliantly showed the return on investment of training leaders in a youth organization.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) did some basic reseah on their leaders. They measured each leader’s ability on 50 aspects of leadership.  Then they they regressed local organizational performance onto their measures of leadership.  Basically, they made a model that leadership, on the 50 aspects of leadership, leads to growth in members, funds raised, etc.

They found 4/50 aspects of leadership to ‘disproportionately’ contribute to performance: ability to build an effective board, find and pursue revenue-development strategies, use an investor’s minds-set toward programs and resource development, and lead and pursue with personal tenacity and perseverance.  They built their training program around these four aspects of leadership.

Now for the experiments.

a)       BGCA compared the performance of a local organization before and after a leader received training (Pre and post or AB design).

b)      BCGA compared the performance of a local organization where a leader had been trained with the performance of another local organization of similar size and circumstances.

c)       They triangulated their results by interviewing local board members to find out how leaders behaved differently after training.

In all, BGCA concluded that trained leaders did better than untrained leaders on every measure of organizational performance.  By extrapolation, they worked out that when all 1100 leaders had been trained, they would see an increase of 2-3% increase in local funding translating into 350 000 new members and more than $100m more revenue per year for the entire organization.  These improvements were more than 4x the cost of the training.

The trained leaders also varied in performance.  The top 25% of leaders improved 3x to 5x more than middle pack.  The most successful leaders were aspirational, set clear and quantifiable goals and taught what they learned to the rest of their organization.

Why the McKinsey study is ‘scientfic’ rather than ‘experimental’

We could give this study to a third year class and indeed, the top 25% would tear it apart, in many respects.

What I am interested in, though,  is the relinquishment of responsibility. The report read as if BCGA “discovered” some secret.  To be fair the article does go on to discuss the metrics that might be used in other organizations. What I would have like, though, is a description of leadership.

  • Who came together to discuss what mattered in the leadership of the 1100 local organizations?
  • Who drew up the list of leadership activities and how confident were they in the list?  How did they feel about their ideas being put under the microscope?
  • Was this the first time they had compared the performance of all 1100 local organizations?  What were people’s reactions when they saw all the data in one place?
  • How much did the past data vary for any one local organization from year to year?
  • Who decided and with whom that these aspects of leadership mattered and that they were sufficiently confident to test their ideas openly?
  • Once they followed through, how did leaders who were not in the top 75% feel?  What happened to them when the results came out?

The data being collected here is data about these leaders.  What information did these very same leaders get to guide them towards aspirational clear goals?  In other words, this study helps the central leaders steer.   What informaton do local leaders have to steer?

Good leadership is a narrative of who did what with whom

We can shoot holes in the analysis.  We are all trained to do that.  But lets do something different (and positive).   Lets tell the story and the story of 1100 local organizations.

Once upon a time . . .  and we were here.

Then this happpened and came together and decided to  .  .  .

This group agreed to try this way and this group agreed to try this way.

And they further agreed to come together on this date to compare what they learned and to exchange tips.

A story did happen at BGCA. But it is concealed.  We’ve carefully not been told who did what and, most importantly, who decided.

Leadership is about action.

An example of excellent leadership

If you want an example of fine management where the decision making process is super clear, watch this video of Randall Howard, the former General Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union shows you what I mean.

He gives a clear narrative of a situation, a collective decision and an action.  The action itself is an incredible story of blocking arms shipments to Zimbabwe.  It’s worth watching in an of itself.

Randall Howard begins speaking at about 1:55.

For more information on the stopping of the An Yue Jiang, look at Waging Nonviolence.

Importantly we see an experimental attitude.

We must do something.  Do you agree?

What is our goal and what is our first step?

Do the Courts agree?

Can we serve the papers on the boat? No.  Then what?

We collect data by following the vessel electronically.  When that data dries up, we find alternative data and we track the vessel.

And when the story ends, we stop and say.  What did we do?  What path did we follow?  What were our signals and how did we know how well we were doing?

Most importantly of all, we ask what did we learn about the situation.  We learned about solidarity and maintaining the institutions of democracy.  That’s not the same as stopping the boat.

We paid attention.  We worked together.  And we learned.

The welcome illusion of Monday morning

Too Much Weekend

I’ll like my week better for a tidy room

A golden rose cheerfully in a crystal tube

But with a day spent alone

Working on streams distant from the streams of others

I yearn for the strains of the world outside

If I had a TV, I would switch it on

I’m glad I don’t

It would not give me what I want

The compulsive tug of collective movement

People going somewhere, maybe nowhere

Do I mind our destination when we move together?

I’m ready to join the surging throngs of people in the morning

A good organization is good for all the players, A, B, C to Z

I am not attracted to elitism; I want to hear solidarity

I really don’t like to hear talk about selecting the “top 10%” or managing some people, they so-called talent, differently from other people.  I am not attracted to elitism; I want to hear solidarity.  Partly this is a matter of temperament.  It is also a matter of technicalities.

I am a personnel psychologist by trade. I do selection.  Y0u can’t position a business to work for only a few people!  You will not be able to secure your labour supply.  And without a constant supply of labor, you simply don’t have a business!  So please, don’t be disloyal and ridiculous!

That doesn’t mean we treat every one the same though.  We treat them differently because their needs are different.  But we are equally committed and loyal to everyone.

Can’t do it?  Yes, we can.  I’ve run a class of 850+ students and I was able to run it with a policy that “each and every student was as important as the next.”  You can run you much smaller outfit with the same even handedness.  I am not going to let you off!

As it is Sunday, a motivational story

The Two Pots

A Water Bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes my water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, we would not have such beauty.

Love us for our unique flaws

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

We’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

 

Found on wow4u

 

 

Group action wins out!

Groups in action

Today, 35 000 people took to the streets of London to mark the G20 meeting of next week.  I’ve always been fascinated by group action.

Does your community act effectively as a group?

Do you prefer to play as a individual, or a team, or an organization or community?

Do you feel slightly despondent that groups around you don’t play well together, or play well, like the G20 demonstrators, but without achieving results?

Community action and the financial crisis

On Friday, I drafted a long article about the importance of group action to overcome the current financial crisis.

Today, I found this video from Kruger National Park.  The animals make the point so much more effectively.  Watch it to the end!

Are you the crocodile?  Are you the ‘pride of lions’?  Are you the leader of the buffaloes?

And wouldn’t it have been nicer if they buffaloes had find their stride a little earlier?

Here is the video to illustrate my point.  Group action is very important.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM&insertedby=zemanta&w=300&h=242]

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3 channels of initiative for the recession

A financial earthquake

For five years, I lived in New Zealand – earthquake country.  Every household was asked to keep sufficient food and basic supplies for a week.  I religiously rotated tinned food and bottled water (yep that too!).   And next to the food and water store was a medical aid kit, matches and candles.

The so-called ‘recession’ is not unlike living in earthquake country.  We don’t quite know what will happen.  But we know the worst could happen at any time.   And it makes sense to be prepared.

Some people are so spooked, though, they are doing the equivalent of retreating indoors and not coming out!  My colleague in the next office at work had taken some elementary surgery lessons.  When I lectured on intiative, I used to quip that a sensible person should buy a house next door to him!

So what is initiative?

What is an adequate response to the unpredictable and unknown?  What is a sufficient response to prepare us for whatever might happen?

Michael Frese of Giessen University breaks initiative into three parts.

Self-starting

Self-starters get going quickly.  When they are given a task, they dive in, explore, and make it their own.  Gen Y are self-starters, and they confuse Gen X and Baby Boomers who don’t expect young people to step up and own their work.

Self-starters also like feedback.  They continuously monitor what is working and adjust quickly.  Gen Y, too, are notorious, of course, for asking for feedback!  They are results-oriented.

Self-starters aren’t likely to be phased by a recession.  They’ve tightened up their finances already, and they are keeping an eagle-eye on their cash flow and credit lines.

They’ve already started exploring what their customers want in cash-distressed times.  And they are experimenting with new lines.

Above all, self-starters are asking their customers for feedback about their tweaked services.  Self-starters are quick to action and they are continuously monitoring whether their activities are taking them towards their goal.

Proactivity

Proactive people are not just quick to action, they think ahead.  They are the planners of the world.  Because they are so good at thinking ahead and planning for various alternatives, sometimes they seem lazy.  They are those quiet people who don’t have to run around.  They’ve played through so many scenarios in their heads, they are ready for whatever comes up!

The proactives among us have already talked to everyone who remembers past recessions and they are able to run foward-cashflows for several scenarios.   They are on the look out for opportunities and they are busy working out how to arrive at the end of the recession in style & ready for the upturn.  They may even be organizing people and resources to exploit new opportunities!

Persistence

Persistent people are not stubborn.  They are quite flexible!  When distractions come up, they give them full attention, and then return to their work.  German psychologists have shown, for example, that expert computer programmers don’t make fewer errors than novices.  They just solve errors faster.  Getting back to our goals is important.

Persistent people know how to ‘conduct their blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind‘.  They know their strengths and their purpose in life.  For them the recession is not a distraction.  It is another context in which to make their special contribution to the world.

What’s your pattern?

I was always a bit of a self-starter – I always started an exercise before the teacher finished explaining!  I certainly feel alive when I am out-and-about the town talking to traders and the people I am inviting to my community site, Olney100.

With age, I’ve become less proactive.  I’ve come to believe the world is less predictable than I thought in my younger years.  And I would like to have better economic and financial knowledge!  Until I do, I’m working on two principles. We will find salvation by looking after each other and developing new industries which have the potential to sustain our standard of living.

Though I am a completer-finisher, with all the turmoil I’ve seen in the last ten years, I’ve come to believe that positive psychology is key.  It’s important to focus on what really matters in life.  If something makes me unhappy, I consider getting rid of it!  If a mortgage is keeps me awake at night, maybe I should lose it or radically restructure.  I am a work psychologist and I live in a town of 8000 souls.  A company of 8000 employees is small for me – so this is not the best place to live!  Nonetheless, I like it, and the best thing I ever did was to write down on a piece of paper 6 months ago this question: how can I bring my work to Olney?

Positive theorists estimate we can radically change our lives in one to two years by focusing on those things that are deeply important to us and simultaneously important to the well-being of others.

If you are being pulled in several directions at once, maybe you need the courage to write your direction down on a piece of paper and trust to your persistent instincts to work out an answer?

Come with me!

I don’t want to be over prepared for the recession.  Nor do I want to be frozen in fear.  If I were to sum up the work on initiative in three words, they would be : mindfulness, solidarity and self-compassion!

  • Have you done what needs to be done and have you made your work-routines your own?
  • Are you working with other people and sharing know-how about how to do business in a recession?
  • Are you being kind to yourself (and others)?  Do you recognize what you want out of life and what you uniquely contribute?  Are you allowing your special contribution to this world to work its way to the top-of-the-pile?

[MSC : Mice Seek Cheese]

Poetry of solidarity in hard times

Creeping into our shells

Some people are already having a hard time in the recession.  I can see it on their faces in the village.  And I’m sure there are also many others who are having worse, and who are at home, deeply worried.

If you are one of them, and arrived at this post this weekend, I hope I might persuade you to think back to when you were a kid in the school yard.  What you really hated were the times when other kids wouldn’t play with you.  It was in these times, that we creep into our shell.

But not so, when the teacher took our ball away.  We didn’t go home, or shrink back.  Not at all.  We thought up another game.  And we stuck together.

Solidarity

Sticking together, or solidarity, is the key to surviving bad times, and enjoying them too!

Two poems

If you are still reading, I have two poems for you.  The first is called Wild Geese, and it is by Mary Oliver.   In short, it tells you not to beat yourself up, and to come back out to the yard to play.

The second, I stumbled on the web last night.  It is a love poem, by Nizar Qabbani, and though written by a man for a woman, it reminds us, that togetherness and belonging come from commitment.

Back in those school yard days, there was always one kid, who kept us together and suggested other games.

Come with me

Reach out to someone this weekend?

It does not need to be expensive.  A smile for people in the shops.  A chat over the fence with your neighbour.  A walk with a friend.  A companionable cup of tea.

You may not know whom, but somone may need your solidarity very badly.

Here are the two poems.  I hope they give you comfort and inspiration.

+++++

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

+++++++

Love Compared

by Nizar Qabbani

I do not resemble your other lovers, my lady
should another give you a cloud
I give you rain
Should he give you a lantern, I
will give you the moon
Should he give you a branch
I will give you the trees
And if another gives you a ship
I shall give you the journey.

+++++

P.S.  If you own the copyright for either poem, please do let me know.  And to the authors, I thank you.

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Singing hearts 2009

It begins

Earlier today, I asked a professional services provider why I was unable to book for Monday.   She inquired of her superiors and that is how she found out that she had been made redundant.

Shortfly afterwards,  I completed a planned trip to Woolworth’s, and stocked up on stationery in their closing down sale.  It really felt rotten paying.  I got brilliant service by-the-way.  If you are looking for good talented  people in the Milton Keynes area, pop into the Newton Pagnell branch.

We stutter

@Pistachio, who is an astonishingly interesting tweeter given to pithy phrases, asked today:  what is the one thing you would change if you could?

This is what I would change: the lack of a coordinated collective, community response to redundanciesPeople should not be left on their own.

But do we fall?

Yesterday, I started persuading my village to join Twitter.  If we are all on Twitter, traders will be able to communicate with us more easily, and we will benefit.   For example, yesterday the Coop had carrots at 50p.  Had you known that before you left home, you would have arrived with ideas on how to make carrot-based dishes.

When I heard my provider had been made redundant, I undertook to find out rents and to investigate whether we cannot hire her independently.

And what help would I value  from you?

I do appreciate people who pop by this blog and make a comment.  I am very appreciative of people who’ve helped me settle well in the UK.

I want you to answer @Pistachio‘s question, but slightly differently.  I want you to think what you want for 2009.  Not what you commit to do as a type of New Year’s Resolution, but what you want.  I want to know what would make your heart sing and your spirits soar?

And then, flick Ian Jeanes a message.  Ian is organizing people with like dreams, and I will help him.

What is your dream for 2009?

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