Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.

Listen by Marcus Q via FlickrListening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.

I’m not sure what Dan Pink was really trying to say in this post, but the last sentence is terrific: Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.

Surviving kidnapping

Earlier this morning, temporarily forgetting it is June in the northern hemisphere a long way from the equator, I thought 3.30 was morning and inadvertently spent an hour listening to stories of religious people who had been kidnapped in Colombia and held for long and (more importantly in my opinion) indeterminate periods.  It was only when I wondered why BBC thought this was breakfast viewing that I realized my error.  That said, it was an interesting program.

Despite the Stockholm syndrome, the advantage of being kidnapped is that we know who the enemy is.  Often in real life, horror emanates from people we want to like.  Not knowing how long a horror will go on for is really horrible.  It’s difficult to budget one’s energy.  We cannot use the line I read about long term jail sentences: Do your time; don’t let your time do you.

It’s in that phrase that we see the value of religion in these never ending horror situations. When we say “don’t let your time do you”, we try to go on as usual.  We try not to change ourselves.

I never comprehend religious arguments.  They seem circular to me.  But what I gathered from the people speaking to BBC was a determination not to broken by the experience.  We can be changed by it, not broken.

Religious people have within their narrative the power to ‘offer’ the horrific situation to God.  Give it back.  Secular people have to reason logically.  This situation is bad but I am not.

Whatever narrative we use, the goal is to be happy within the situation.  I wonder if the programme is available on iplayer because it is difficult to repeat what the former hostages conveyed. Maybe being logical is not helpful.

Remember rather: Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.  What is your story?  What in this story is a story you can repeat, initially to yourself?

Immoral press

The Moral Maze on BBC4 last night ‘discussed’ ostensibly the outrageous behavior of BBC and other media outlets during the Cumbria shootings.  Beginning with bad manners and utter lack of empathy, they trampled over Cumbria turning other people’s tragedies into titillating gossip for people with nothing else to watch on TV.

Immediately following trauma, we need practical help

The program veered off this point into the personal prejudices of the panelists as is the Moral Maze’s wont, but some of the brave professors who gave of their time to be ‘witnesses’ made an important point.  In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, we don’t need professional help.  Immediately, we need practical help: a blanket, a cup of tea, a working mobile phone to contact loved ones.

Professionals concentrating on emotions do more harm than good.  I know from my own lit reviews that professionals are unlikely to do better than chance (one third get better, one third get worse and one third stay the same).

Why counselors might make trauma worse

Professionals probably do harm for three reasons:

  • They distract us from the immediate needs of the situation: a blanket, a cup of tea and get in touch with loved ones
  • We rehearse the bad parts making it more likely we will remember the bad parts
  • In the immediate shock, we have no story. Our story got demolished along with the actual event and we need time to think through a coherent and positive narrative.

The last sounds as if we are making things up.  We are not.  We are making sense of what happened.  And unless we have prior experience (and a story made up in advance), it takes time to reorganize our brain just as it does when we are finding our way over any unfamiliar terrain.  We are not ready to talk because we can’t organize our thoughts coherently.  Not yet.

But to leave our story as the story written by the perpetrator, or a story written by chance and bad luck, that is madness.  To live our story as so much debris tossed around on the waves of chance and misfortune, that is madness.

Once we have had a chance to catch our breath, we remember that Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary. Being buffeted by events means we are alive.   Taking notice of events means we are sane.  Listening to our own voice is revolutionary.

5 pretty petals of future work

I can see clearly now

Today, I visited Wirerarchy, Jon Husband’s blog. I was delighted to find the 5 principles of future work in plain language.

I do encourage you to go over and read his version.

To make sure I fully understood what Jon was saying, I rewrote his five points in my own words and compared them to other writings on the future of work.

Yes, Jon’s principles almost perfectly match the work on positive organizational scholarship, poetry and work, Hero’s Journey and positive organizational design.   Jon uses much more accessible language though.

Here is my version. I’ll add links to other versions below. And then I’ll walk the talk and tell you how I used the principles in the most unlikeliest of circumstances!

1 Changing focus

The future of work is not about institutions and organizations.

The future of work is about you and me.

2 Listening to the people who do the work

We don’t want to talk about abstract theories any more.

We want to hear the stories of people. Directly. With no translation.

3 Valuing what we can do for ourselves

We don’t want organizations and institutions to decide things for us.

We ‘ll support changes that allow us to do things for ourselves.

4 Representing ourselves

We won’t listen to so-called experts who secretly represent other people.

We’ll listen to people we know or who our friends recommend.

5 Being active and positive

We aren’t interested in being told to wait.

We will begin with what we do well. Right here. Right now.


How would you phrase these rules-of-thumb?

I would love to hear what you think of these rules-of-thumb and the way I have phrased them.

Links to my previous posts and slideshare

All phrased a lot more esoterically –

Previous posts on future work

The essence of a happy life is a point of view

5 point comparison of the Hero’s Journey, Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology

5 poetic steps for exiting a Catch 22

Lighten your personal burden for navigating 2009

Be still: Kafka and Joseph Campbell

Slideshare on future work

Positive organizational design

Positive organizational scholarship

So how will we get things done in this enchanting, new world?

For three years, I taught Management to a very large class of 800 to 900 students in a lecture theatre with 400 seats. You may remember attending lectures in one of these oversized rooms yourself. Hordes of students come in and sit in rows and struggle to stay awake as the lecturer drones on.

Of course, no lecturer wakes up in the morning intent on being deadly dull. But they do feel constrained. After all, how much can you do with this format and the size of the class?

Well, a surprising amount – if you follow the principles above.

The world through the eyes of the individual

I was teaching Management and Organizations. Students simply aren’t interested in perspective of the organization. But if you can think of how they view the organization from the vantage point of their part-time jobs and where their careers are going, then you have their attention.

Give me the whole story at once – circumstances, goal, steps, feedback loops, quirks and fancies

Students aren’t interested in the rules of organizing. No matter how elegant these rules are or how much work we put into thinking them up and trying them out!. They do like case studies, though, where they could follow a story. Then their active intellects take over. They imagine themselves playing a similar role in similar circumstances and start asking probing questions.

Don’t leave me out of the story – let me try out parts of it

Students don’t like being passive. Taking notes is better than sitting still. Solving puzzles is even better. I used questionnaires a lot in which they could see illustrations of concepts and relate them to themselves. Or I used two sets of power point slides – theirs had blank spaces and mine had the answers. In this way, they could anticipate (not just fill in) what I was going to say.

The way I relate to other people is part of the story – I’ll do this with others

Learning is social and students are influenced more by their peers than by us. They like to see and hear what other students think. There is a surprising amount of feedback from the noise and murmuring in a lecture room which is why so many students come to class in the first place! We also took polls often with a show of hands. It is active in an minor way. More importantly, students could see how much opinions varied. Developing a keen acumen of how much we vary in our preferences will be important to them as organizational leaders and influential citizens.

Harvard has a video of 2009 Reith lecturer, Michael Sandel, using the Socratic method with 800 students in one lecture theatre. Our students would have liked that – as long as we were able to be as courteous as Professor Sandel. Students really don’t like being put in the wrong in front of their friends, particularly in such a large room. (Who does?)

There is no journey unless I can take the first step

The jobs my students imagined after graduation were, to my surprise, not particularly ambitious. Though I didn’t fully approve at the time, now I think they had a well developed sense of starting with the ‘ground beneath their feet’ and growing from there.

These students particularly liked techniques that helped them do their jobs better, right now, or helped them put in words something that had puzzled them for some time.

Am I exaggerating the good points and dismissing the weak points?

You might be thinking that this was a University – we set the curriculum and the exams and the students did not have much control.

It is true that we began each year with a ‘classical’ textbook. But we would take topics that students had responded to well and use those as cornerstones to introduce new topics -or extend the conversation, so to speak. Thus as the year proceeded, a theme would emerge that was distinctive for that class.

One year, for example, the refrain became: “I will be me as I am. Not who you want me to be”.

You might recognize this line as coming from the film about Steve Biko, Cry Freedom.

Organizing for  “Me as I am.  Not who you want me to be.”

The challenge of management, as we put it to that class, is to design organizations where each of us can be “Me as I am. Not who you want me to be.”

What do you think?

Can you imagine organizing along these lines? Would you like to give me a case and see if I can rephrase it using Jon’s five principles?

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