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Month: August 2010

A working culture where people find flow frequently?

Reflecting on swans by pmarkham via FlickrWhen your eyes light up

Have you any idea what you look like when you are in flow?  I guess not, because almost a definition of flow is that you are not looking in the mirror .  You are so absorbed in what you are doing that time and the world stands still.

But I know what you look like.  And so does everyone else.  We can’t miss the glow in your eyes.

Flow is the core of an an organizational psychologist’s business

People often ask what an work and organizational does.  They are puzzled   Do we lay people down on a couch and mutter ‘there, there’.  Do we explore your sexual fantasies about .  .  . I’ll let you fill in the gap.

Our business is flow.  What is flow?  What conditions of work are conducive to flow?  How can we organize so that more people experience flow more of the time?

Embedded in the last question is a sub-speciality of organizational psychology.  A special topic within organizational psychologists is understanding the web of connections that go on behind the scenes so that in work situation after work situation people are able to pursue goals and find the exhilaration of flow.

Is it possible to support a working culture where people find flow frequently?  And if so, what are these institutions and what do they look like?

Unseen jobs in sky rise buildings

It is an interesting question because the people who think about these institutions are in what I call the hidden jobs.  We see people at the checkout counter. We see the doctor.  We see the lawyer.  But there is a whole world of people in sky rise buildings that we never see at work.  And even if we did, we would see little of what they do.  Their desk, their paper, their computers look like any other. They are just like any other.  It’s just what they think about is different.

That’s what is different.  Some of us think about whether it’s possible to support a working culture where people find flow frequently.  And if it is possible, what are these institutions and what do they look like?

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How I installed Java on Windows XP . . . eventually

Do you still dream by Zenera via FlickrHow to install Java on Windows XP

Normally, when we want to install Java, we google Java, go to their website and press download.  Hey, presto.  Sun pick the right for our machine and a window opens.  It takes a few minutes but everything happens without us doing much more than accept the licence and press Finish.  Or, something equally thoughtless on our part.   And so the day this doesn’t work, we are confused and mildly panicky.

I couldn’t download Java 6 Update 21 onto my XP this weekend and it took me about 3 days working very hard to sort it all out.  As always with computing problems, when you find the person who knows, it’s easy.  Sadly, the person who knows is not on Sun forums or on Microsoft help pages.

I’m writing down here what I learned to remind myself when it happens again.  Don’t follow me because I don’t really know.  Maybe do the checks I suggest here to get oriented.  Then head over to the links and follow from there.  Of course, by the time you get this problem, Java might be on a higher version and XP might be very old.  Proceed cautiously and google, google, google.  Someone out there has already solved your problem.

Evidence Java doesn’t work

You are looking at a webpage and a graphic refuses to work.  Maybe there is a grey box with a lego-like object in the middle saying download the plugin.  Your Java doesn’t work.

If you are not sure, at time of writing, the website for Wordle has lots of Java enabled graphics.  Head over there and try.

Java download doesn’t work

Most times, when you are told to download a Java plugin, download it.  Be patient, but within five minutes you should be sorted.

Download is not working.  You are getting crazy messages like Error 1722 saying the installer doesn’t work; try again later. You tried again later and you had no joy.

Or you are told the program is already there but then the install won’t work because the program is there.

You suspect Windows Installer is not working

Go to Microsoft and download Microsoft Installer 4.5.  You will have to restart your  machine.

(I don’t know if this is necessary.)

You saw requests for logfiles

Go to C:My Documents and SettingsAdministratorLocal  SettingsTemp

You are logged on as Administrator, right?

If your can’t see Local Settings, go to Tools on the menu bar, Folder Options choose View and make sure Show hidden files and folders has been selected.

Your logs are called msi…, jusched.txt and java_install.  Follow the genius below and you will not need these.  But just in case.

You’ve tried everything

This was my starting point.  I was pretty sure Java wasn’t working but I couldn’t update either.   I have tried downloading from the Sun site.  I tried all their options.  No joy.

Time for analysis

OK, it is time to stop expecting everything to work smoothly and to start to think in an orderly way.  Try these tests to get an overview.

Add/Remove Programs

Is any Java installed on your computer at all?

Go to Start/Control Panel/Add-Remove Programs

Wait for it to ‘populate’ the list.  Under J, is there any Java listed.  There might be lots; there might be nothing.

Don’t do anything yet. Just jot down what’s there.  Maybe later you will come back and remove it all.

Does Java work on your machine?

Go to Start/Run  type cmd<enter>

Now you are in the command-line, change directory (actually not sure you have to do this) but type

Cd c:

Then at c: type


You should see some sort of programmatic response.  If you get nothing or an error, your basic Java program on Windows is not working.

Note this.  There is a fix but I am not even sure it this is necessary.  But if you think it is, go here for instructions to reload MsJava

Clear all traces of Java from your machine

Go to this genius at Whatthetech and read the instructions and the thread.

Basically, what you are going to do is

  • Go back to Add/Remove Programs and remove all Java.
  • Then you are going to do something we users never do.  Fix your Registry. Don’t do it by hand. It is too dangerous.  Run his program to clear all the old Java references from your Registry.
  • Then you will install Java using the offline option.

I’ll add one more tip.  When Jave installs, don’t be in a hurry.  If you try to install twice, you will get the Error 1722 again.  I had given up and about an hour later, an install box popped up and the install went seamlessly.

Test whether Java is working

Close your browser. Reopen it  and test that you can read Java applets with a site like Wordle.

Thanks to my unnamed genius I am running smoothly again AND understand what I did.

P.S. The picture has no relevance to this story.  I need one for the format and this picture came up under Done!  I once used it on a Moo card and it was the most popular card with young male social media specialists. So in honor of competent young geeks who share their knowledge  . . . .

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Great Leaders, Great speeches: Jimmy Reid

glasgow university by Gavin Gilmour via FlickrJimmy Reid: Orator and Visionary

Jimmy Reid will not be known to many people outside the UK.  Nor will he be known to many Gen Yers.   I hard vaguely on the news that he had died but thought little.

Then on Saturday I stumbled over Jimmy Reid’s 1972 speech to Glasgow University which was reprinted in its entirety by The Independent.  I was so excited.  I thought a new leader had burst into UK politics.

I was half way through the speech before the penny dropped.  1972 – 4 decades ago and every bit as relevant a maninfesto today.

As a speech, it may not be quite on the same plain as “I have a dream”.  It doesn’t have the simplicity or the connection to images shared with a huge audience.  It’s too thoughtful.  It might rank up there, though, with Obama’s speech to the Democratic Party in 2004.

Here is a Wordle of the speech (via ManyEyes.)  I am going to do more work with speech.  I’d love your comments and requests.

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Coelho’s true path to wisdom

PauloCoelhoThe Pilgrimage

Finding Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage, in the local Oxfam shop, I bought it thinking I had already read it. I hadn’t. It’s marvelous; and packed full of wisdom that makes this a reference book to keep on your shelf.

True path to wisdom

One of the nuggets I thought would come up again is the advice Coelho is given by his guide who was called Petrus in the book.

“The true path to wisdom can be identified by three things,” said Petrus. “First, it must involve agape, and I’ll tell you more about this later; second, it has to have practical application in your life.  Otherwise, wisdom becomes a useless thing and deteriorates like a sword that is never used. “

“And finally, it has to be a path that can be followed by anyone.  Like the road you are walking now, the Road to Santiago.”

Writing to remember

I don’t have a good verbal memory so I like to write about things and link them to similar ideas.  That way, I’ll be able to recall the idea whenever I want to.  My method satisfies step 2, I suppose!  Blogging is practical.

Blogging also helps with step 3.  Anyone with a computer and internet connection and some literacy or a camera can blog.  About half the world, I suppose.  It’s not a protected activity, anyway.

But agape?  I write for a better understanding.  Yes, that is agape.  And I write to share. Not always well, but I try to be intelligible.

I worry though that I will reduce the ideas of Paolo Coelho to something prosaic and unworthy.  For what it is worth, these are two ideas from other domains that I immediately wanted to compare with Paolo Coelho’s ideas about the path to wisdom.

Happiness and chaos/complexity theory

Losada modeled happiness in a butterfly shaped space.   Contrary to views presented in the popular press, happiness isn’t  a consistently cheery mood.  It is appropriate reaction to events. We feel sad at sad times and happy at happy times but get stuck nowhere.

Ratio of positive to negative events

Losada uses three variables to model the space.  The ratio of positive to negative in our environment must range from 3:1 to 11:1.  3:1 is a lot.  For every jarring event, we need three good ones to recover.  5:1 is optimal.  Sometimes we struggle to maintain that ratio and the struggle captures our focus.  In these distressing times, we tend to exaggerate the bad by excluding what is good.  The good gets buried and we are in danger of slipping so far down the ratio we might never recover our composure.  Simply, we have to make a special effort to celebrate what is good in the situation to compensate our tendency to repeat the bad over and over again like a broken gramophone, presumably in the fear that if we don’t, it will bite us.  I take that to be agape.  The search for the good.

Other vs self

The second variable that Losada used was discussion of the outside world.  When we balance discussion of the world outside our immediate circle and the needs of our circle almost our mood swings throughout the spectrum.  We are less likely to see everything as all good or all bad.

To give you an example, I sometimes cheer myself up with an elaborate day dream of what I am going to do.  When I go out into the world, I am living my dream.  But people around me don’t see me that way.  It’s like meeting a bucket of cold water!  My immediate reaction is to feel small.  A better reaction is to build up the dream to include them too.  When my dream is not situated in the harsh realities of the world, other people will stop me, and more importantly my own sense of shock will stop myself.  And then I am unhappy because nothing works!!

Inquiry vs Advocacy

The third variable that Losada used is a balance of inquiry and advocacy.  At first sight, this is not the same as the criteria of universality, inclusion and humility that Coelho espouses, but when I put it like that, you possibly see the similarity.

Any way, I was struck by the similarity of ideas coming from different traditions and had to stop to test how far the ideas ran in parallel.

Social media

The second notion that struck me is that social media is successful because it also follows these principles.

Social media is a courteous world.   Sure it has its spammers and robots and flamers but the general ethos is to be helpful.    We simply get more done by celebrating what we can do together.

Social media is a practical world.  I watch my rankings not out of vanity, though of course there is an element of vanity too.  I watch my ranking and Google Analytics to help me find people who share my interests.   “5 best way” articles are very popular and that is partly a search for practicality ~ but they belong in the point below.  I write on blogs because they keep me grounded in reality (or at least more so than if I didn’t).

Social media is an inclusive world.  Through teaching, I know that a major difference between Gen Y and earlier generations is that digital natives test information in their own lives and absorb it or not when they find it useful.  When we can communicate useful  (not popular)  information, we see the response.  Of course, popular also wins.   Of course, tawdry also wins.  Not everything useful is deep or good.

I know we can take the analogy too far and the poetic description is far better than the stilted prose of a former academic.  I just wanted to test whether the three criteria ~ agape, practicality and openness ~ worked in other areas of my life.

Do they work for you?


If you are going to try, go all the way

NYC street dancers - 03 by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

If you are going to try, go all the way

Though popular, I’ve always found the poetry of Charles Bukowski harsh.  Is it the harshness of the cold light of truth?

What do you think?  Or do things work out the opposite of what he says?  When we give up our greatest idea for a friend, for a pay cheque,  or because it seems to hard ~ then we know who and what is really important to us.

But we also have to ask the question David White and Paolo Coelho might ask.  Without our dream, who are we?  And what will our friend or employer or our sense of self think when we give up so readily?

Will they think more of us, or less, when we give up?  Maybe they like us because of our dreams however inconvenient our dreams may be?

What do you think?

Roll the Dice
by Charles Bukowski

if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way. this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the
and the nights will flame with

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter,
it’s the only good fight
there is.

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