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Month: October 2010

Event managers: 3 things we don’t want

Puzzled by event managers

I am not an event manager.  In truth, frivolity and religion both seem to be beyond my neural circuitry.   I accepted that a long time ago.

But I am puzzled by an event that I have been invited to.  No, invite is the wrong word.  An event I feel pressured to attend.

3 things we don’t want from our event manager

1. A complicated decision

It’s years since I have worked with my hosts but the event managers seem to have got my address from an old list and I have become a valued associate.  The first message told me so and promised a light supper at a London venue with a surprise speaker!

Now if I lived in London, I would trash that message. I would want to go home after work.  And I am adult.  I want to get my information up front, make a decision, answer yes or no, and put it in my diary.  The golden rule of management:  keep tasks down to 30 seconds

But I don’t live in London and sometimes I will go down to the capital for 3 or 4 meetings on one day where I wouldn’t go for one of them only.  So I noted the event and thought I would decide later.

2.  Promises of the Easter Bunny

Then I got another reminder and then another.

Finally, the surprise was revealed and it was a surprise, but entirely of the wrong kind.  So my choice came down to “I wonder how good the supper will be?”

3.  Not knowing the company we will keep

Of course, if the organizers had arranged this event through Meetup or Amiando, I would know who else was going and the other attendees might be a reason for going.

I am a simpler soul (but not a marketer, I know)

Gee, if the event manager had written to me and said, “We want to launch ourselves on the London scene.  Would you come to an event?” – I’d be motivated to help.  I’m just that way.

I don’t want to be beaten or bribed.  Just tell me the score.  I’ll help when I can. I’ll join in when it suits me.  And I’ll retweet and pass on your request even when I can’t take part.

Let your event speak for itself

I know packaging matters.  We can be put off a good product that has bad packaging.  But we also sick of excessive packaging.

We don’t have to be cajoled, bribed, and threatened to take part in an event.  A simple, courteous invitation will do.  Honestly.

Just ask if we would like to join you

If you want my help just ask.  If you can give me supper, that would be cool as I will be driving home afterward.  If you let me know who is coming, I’ll adjust my expectations so they have just as good time as I intend to have.

Seriously, some of us are easy to get along with.  Just ask!

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4 practical career tips from a new politician

Peter Parker (Spiderman) by Thomas Dhuchnicki via FlickrJobs, jobs, jobs and naive politicians

Headline news today:  1 in 8 households have one adult out of work.  Is that all?  Of course, some households have 2 or more adults out of work.

I am tired of naïve politicians who think people will find work if only they would look hard enough.  I  am depressed by naïve politicians who think the economy is going to “bounce back” just because they say so.   The banking crisis was not a misstep.  It was the collapse of a misshapen economy.  It was the UK and others “getting found out”.

The good times are not coming back until we rejig our economy and focus on today’s opportunities.

Jobs, jobs, jobs and not so naive politicians

I am not a party political animal and hold no brief for any particular set of politicians but I was pleased today to read the blog of one of the new MP’s –  James Morris.  Halesowen and Rowley Regis, just west of Birmingham seemed to have chosen well.  Small business owner, Cranfield MBA and social activist – that does seem like a good combination for keeping your feet on the ground and your eye on the horizon.

“Our national interest needs to be defined by the realities of Britain’s economic interests in this world where economic power is shifting from west to east. We need to ensure that we develop deep and reciprocal relationships with countries which are emerging as the key players in the future. Both economic and political ties must be strengthened with countries like Brazil, Nigeria, China and India and others.

Our view of the world needs to be characterised less by a conception of it as a hierarchy of nations with the U.S. at the apex; but more as network of peer relationships where Britain negotiates and influences at many different levels simultaneously. This will allow us to use our strengths, capabilities and influence to maximise our relationships in a world which will look very different from that which was the case even a decade ago.”

Jobs, jobs, jobs and savvy individuals

What works for an economy works for each of us too.

Define our economic interest

Identify emerging key players of the future

Aim to develop “deep and reciprocal” relationships with those you judge to be emerging key players

Don’t think who is best or worst – this is a network not a pyramid.   Think of  peer network which we are each shaping with our strengths, capabilities and influence to create a set of relationships that go with us into the future.

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What do we learn about occupational identity from Amartya Sen?

Sail Boat by Lee Cannon via FlickrPlural identities

I’ve just finished reading Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence.  He ends:

“As an eleven year-old boy I could not do much more for Kader Mia as he lay bleeding with his head on my lap.  But I imagine another universe, not beyond our reach, in which he and I can jointly affirm our many common identities (even as the warring singularities howl at the gate.”  We have to make sure, above all, that our mind is not halved by a horizon.”  (pp. 185-186)

Identities as a concept in organizational psychology

I picked up Identity and Violence partly because of the author’s fame but also because identities are a hot topic in contemporary organizational psychology.  We encourage people to develop personal identities that are stronger than the identities of the companies with whom they work.  Instead of being a small boat bobbing about on the choppy waters of a stormy ocean, rather be the ocean and let the company bob about on you.

It’s a fine aspiration and possibly the only way to stay sane.  But I wanted to be able to think about this core idea critically and what better way that to pick up a highly readable book by a Nobel prize winner with command of philosophy and world history and an inclusive outlook.

What are the dangers of encouraging strong personal identities?

I think Sen would not regard our exhortations as entirely foolish.  Sen counsels developing our commitment and appreciation of multiple stories and identities as parents, as children, as professionals, as members of churches, as patriots and as members of organizations that cut across international boundaries.  We are all of these at the same time.

“To halve our horizon” by narrowing our world to one identity and then too, to narrow that world to a formulaic lifestyle laid down by others – that’s what he counsels against.  That’s what he believes is used easily to manipulate us into actions we might in other times and other places (my words) find unacceptable.

Thoughtful multiple identities are strong occupational identities?

A strong occupational narrative might narrow our world.  I suspect though, that narrow occupational narratives turn us into the small boat on choppy seas.  When we see ourselves as part of an ocean able to accommodate many small boats of identities, we feel more comfortable.

That’s my humble reading, anyway.

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Thoreau on the interconnectedness and meaning of life

Umbrellas in the rain by Ed Yourdon via FlickrHow can severe disappointment provide meaning?

Sometimes when life disappoints us severely, it is hard to imagine what Viktor Frankl means when he says that people who survived the concentration camps expected it all to make sense in the end.

“How?”  we wail.  “How could that ever make sense?”

I suspect what we are crying is that “No, I won’t let it make sense.  Because to make it make sense is to say it is OK and I cannot say it OK that you killed my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my grandmother, my grandfather, my uncle, my aunt, my cousin.”

Possibly to have faith in the universe feels disloyalty and we prefer lack of faith to lack of loyalty.

Loyalty is a good thing and loyalty should be honored and celebrated.

Life is often unfair

But life does disappoint, in big ways and small.  Often we feel very profoundly that life is unfair.

I am not saying we should do nothing about unfairness.   Not me.

But the writers like Thoreau point us to another way forward.

First, look at the interconnections of the world.  See the whole picture. Loyalty is part of that picture.  Put it in.

Then, decide what you think.

Thoreau’s dilemma of a rain day

This is Thoreau writing about a rainy day at Walden when he elected to be a subsistence farmer so that he would have time to read and write.

His beans are important to him.   He became a farmer to have time, and the weather is throwing out his plans, challenging the very raison d’etre of his project.

He needs his beans too.  Otherwise he will starve.

But nonetheless he brings first the outlook of a contemporary quantum physicist.  Everything is connected. A rainy day may be disruptive; but it is not an insult thrown at us by the universe.

It is a invitation by the universe to bring ourselves into a more connected relationship with everything around us.

Thoreau on a rainy day

Nothing can rightly compel a simple and brave man to a vulgar sadness.

While enjoy the friendship of the seasons I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me.

The gentle rain which waters my beans and keeps me in the house to-day is not drear and melancholy, but good for me too.

Though it prevents me hoeing them, it is of far more worth than my hoeing.

If it should continue so long as to cause the seeds to rot in the ground and destroy the potatoes in the lowlands, it will be good for the grass of the uplands, and, being good for the grass, it would be good for me.

Sometimes, when I compare myself to other men, it seems as if I were more favoured by the gods than they, beyond any deserts that I am conscious of – as if I had a warrant and surety at their hands which my fellows have not, and were especially guided and guarded.  I do not flatter myself, but if it be possible they flatter me.

(p. 114 of the 1927 edition of Walden)

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Procrastination, Thoreau, and modern psychologists

I'm not working by quinn.anya via FlickrFeeble attempts to dispel procrastination

I am tired.  I am procrastinating.  I have  a messy confused project on my desk so I switched on the Conservative party conference under the pretext that Hague makes sense and I should listen to the Prime Minister.  I have no idea who was speaking but that time-filling gambit didn’t last long. British politicians SHOUT.  Anything on my desk seems preferable to the assault on my ears.

Procrastination doesn’t work

I thought briefly I had found the fail safe solution to procrastination.  Switch on a party political broadcast.

But within moments, my thoughts had drifted to a book in the other room:  Walden, Henry Thoreau’s classic account of his experiment living frugally in the woods while he studied.

Henry Thoreau and Walden

Thoreau was a principled man, it seems.  In the same breath that he talks of  hoeing beans, he talks of sheltering runaway slaves.  He mentions just as dispassionately about being jailed for not paying his taxes because he refused to pay tax to a government that condoned slavery.

Thoreau and procrastination

Thoreau would have thought less of me for doing work that leads to procrastination.  He believes his experiment for living on almost nothing (rather than steeling himself to live on almost nothing) demonstrates:

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the licence of a higher order of things.

In proportion, as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitde, nor poverty povery, nor weakness weakness.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost: that is where they should be.  Now put foundations under them.”  (p. 280 of the 1927 edition).

Thoreau and self-regulation

I wonder what Thoreau would have thought of modern psychology.  I think he would have despised it.  Yet some of it is helpful.

Peter Gollwitzer’s work on “wish to intent” and “crossing the Rubicon” highlights the phenomenon that Thoreau describes.  When we are “in full flight”, when we are in flow (Cziksentmihalyi), everything suddently becomes very easy.

Roy Baumeister indirectly also confirms Thoreau’s view.  Baumeister shows experimentally that when we have to make a difficult choice, like eating chocolate instead of something less pleasant like radishes, we show less ability to control ourselves on the next task.  This is why, in David Whyte’s words it is important “to leave all other world’s behind us”.  Or the “the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness”.

When we are tired we need to move toward “the channel in which our life flows”.

A solution to my procrastination

So I am tired.  Allowing myself respite, will help.  Compromising on the quality of that report will not.  Compromise will make me tireder.

Yup, I least I am not fighting distaste.  I have a challenge now; not an annoyance.

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