Now vs Later

Now is when you thought of it.
Now is when you want to do it.
Now has energy, passion and surprise.
Now is spontaneous and infectious.
Now lets you solve for the real problems of now.
Now means momentum.
Now isn’t easy or sure of success.
Now lets you do.

Later is when you must remember it.
Later is when you will need to remember why.
Later has doubts, processes and predictability.
Later is ambiguous and vague.
Later lets you solve for the imagined problems of later.
Later means delay.
Later isn’t easy or sure of success.
Later lets you wait.

Your call.

99 Posts and the Pitch Ain’t One

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Working out loud is an important practice to escape the sense of social media as a challenging exercise of pitching yourself.

Many people struggle with the feeling that blogging and other forms of social media is self-promotion, bragging or a claim to expertise. Reluctant to pitch themselves publicly these people sit on the sidelines. As a result they and their networks miss the value of their contributions.

John Stepper has made the point that everybody works so working out loud is accessible to all of us. There is a humility that is essential to joining in the process of sharing partially completed work. There is no need to pitch when the process is a simple as: 

Working Out Loud = Narrating your work + Observable work

The work need not be perfect. It should not be finished. Working out loud is a process of learning and collaboration. The idea that you would share work in progress to invite discussion presupposes you don’t know everything and don’t have all the answers. 

The benefits of working out loud don’t always arise from a single post. However, working out loud is an application of the the Formula for Awesome. Working out loud supplies the humility, generosity and collaboration.  

All you need to add is some purpose, urgency and persistence. Your daily work challenges should give you more than enough for these three. If you sustain the practice of working out loud, you will learn more approaches to working out loud, you will gain comfort in social collaboration and you will build trust with your colleagues.  

A side benefit of working out loud is that you will develop an authentic reputation for both the work you do and the generosity of your collaborative style. That’s far more powerful than a sell job that everyone views cynically. Build a reputation for doing, not talking.

So here’s your next challenge. Work out loud each day for 99 days. Don’t worry about the Pitch. Just share and reap the rewards of collaboration.

PS With apologies to Jay-Z. Thanks to Ross Hill and the many Do Lectures conversations about social collaboration for the inspiration.

Mindful

Mindfulness was a common theme of discussion at the first Australian Do Lectures. Many of the speakers referenced the importance of their practice in some way. Many of the attendees were practitioners of one technique of mindfulness or another.

In one discussion, we explored the many mindfulness techniques that people did not even consider a practice. These ranged from a deep breath at frustration, to a long morning walk or the powerful time alone with your thoughts when swimming.

Why would an event of doers be so focused on discussion of meditation, yoga, reflection and the other practices of mindfulness and reflection?

Mindfulness is a precondition to presence and focus. A mind that is not present and that is cluttered with thoughts and emotions will struggle to focus on the opportunities for change. Irrelevant thoughts, distractions and doubts eat at the capability to deliver and create change.

The simple practice of being mindful can help you to help make the world a better place. Importantly, it will change you in the process too.

How to Make New Sense

The Tools of New Sense

Every man is made a fool through his own wisdom – Erasmus

Humour plays with our ability to make meaning from our circumstances. The best humour involves a deliberate misdirection of meaning before dropping us into a new insight with the punchline.

The tools of humour are the same tools as leaders, change agents and entrepreneurs need to use to find and share new meaning.  At the heart of how we make and share meaning are three key tools of our sense-making:

  • Context: how we frame our understanding and what we choose to include in our thinking
  • Categories: how we group and relate ideas
  • Narratives: the inner and external stories we tell to guide our lives

Change the Context, Categories and Narrative

When I hear any man talk of an unalterable law, the only effect it produces upon me is to convince me that he is an unalterable fool – Sydney Smith

An adept fool, as a master of humour, can play with each of these tools.  Humour makes us fools through what we know. Great fools leveraging our settled patterns to send us in the wrong direction before showing their ability to make us laugh as we are switched away to another insight.

Change leaders need to both understand and change their own contexts, categories and narratives. This activity is at the heart of finding new insights to drive their changes and actions.

Critically, change leaders need to be able to share these new insights which requires the ability to help others to hear new narratives, shift categories and change their frames.  This is the work leaders need to do to drive change in meaning. 

Next time you need to drive change consider:

  • How can you change the context in which the new behaviours are seen and occur?
  • How can you help others make different choices to categorise the new behaviours?
  • What new story can you tell?

Leaders Create New Meaning

Fools & Leaders Question Meaning

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about. Oscar Wilde

When it comes to serious challenges in life, Oscar Wilde & Neil Gaiman have a point. A key advantages of humour is that it allows for the lightheartedness and irreverence that lets us reconsider our understanding of our circumstances. The fool in a medieval court was the one who could speak new truths because he could play with meaning and context.  

Great insights and opportunities for change come when people rethink the meaning of their circumstances and their actions. 

Philosophical issues like meaning and sense are not popular topics in the halls of business. Ask a manager to unlearn some common practice and you will get a blank stare. Often those who start conversations that question the sense of commonly accepted practices and beliefs are quickly categorised as fools.

Managers find it hard enough to embrace the time for reflection in the midst of the pressures for constant action. However, we need leaders to go further and find new meaning to realise the value for their businesses and the potential of the future of work. Creating change and new value depends on the ability to make new sense out of circumstances and opportunities and translate that new sense to new behaviours.

New Thinking Needed

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Spend time with the creative, the innovators, the entrepreneurs and the change agents and you discover that they specialise in looking beyond typical thinking. Making new sense of their circumstances and translating that to new action is a speciality of those who create change. The inspirations from a new sense of possibility is where they find the opportunities to act in new ways and to break through the perceived limits and institutions that have constrained others.

In some cases, this new meaning is a denial of constraints. Roberto Unger described what he called ‘negative capability’ as ‘denial of whatever in our contexts delivers us over to a fixed scheme of division and hierarchy and to an enforced choice between routine and rebellion’. Many entrepreneurs and change agents refuse to accept the currently accepted options presented for a problem or practice.

Finding another creative way beyond the frustratingly constrained choice between insider (who is constrained, muzzled & influential) and outsider (allowed to be unconstrained, confrontational & excluded) is critical if we are to see greater change. What matters in many organisations is not the loudness of the talk, what matters is meaning and action.

In his book Opposable Mind, Roger L Martin described one positive capability to break the accepted meaning as integrative thinking, a capacity to take a wider view of the systems and outcomes and find new paths forward. We need to ensure that the creation of new sense is a valid management activity if we are to leverage its creative potential in the future of our work and our organisations.

Lead Sense-Making

A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.- Antoine Saint-Exupery

As managers adapt to a rapidly changing world, they are going to need to accept new uncertainties. We will need to help build the capability to still manage.

The best way for managers to deal with the rapidly changing circumstances we find in the new networked economy is for them to lead the process of making new sense of why organisations exist, the value that they can create and how. The future of work is the future of leadership and human potential.

This change in leadership will require managers to break with the comfort of current approaches to the understanding of their organisation and roles. Incrementalism which is by definition grounded in current meaning will not deliver transformative changes. Managers will need to explore new meaning, experiment with its application and convey that meaning to others through stories and action.

Sense-making is a critical foundation for a responsive culture. We already see sense-making as a characteristic of success in the use of new forms of collaboration. Sense-making is also a critical component of personal knowledge management in an era with an abundance of information and stimulation. Instead of a once-and-done exercise in understanding leaders will need to embrace a continuous learning and sense-making to find new and better opportunities for change.  This ongoing process will need to be a part of people’s work widely across the processes and interactions in the Responsive Organisation.

People make new sense of themselves, their roles and their position in the world as they choose to adopt new behaviours and create new value. We need to explicitly design our processes and roles to allow for sense-making. Only through leadership of this work will we find the new ways to change the culture & practices of our organisations

Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies – it happens when society adopts new behaviors – Clay Shirty

Focus

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There are endless distractions. We face an abundance of opportunity to be drawn away from action. Mobile and social technology makes opportunities for distraction continuously in reach. Our effectiveness depends on our ability to focus on the action, not the distraction.

The most effective people are those who manage their focus. Peter Williams in the final talk at Do Lectures Australia summarised much we had learned when he noted that those who do more manage their time in a more focused way. A doer does more of the good stuff and spends less time on the things that waste time. In many of the lectures we heard the importance of being able to focus on what matters most.

I came away from the event with a better sense of focus.

How do you strip away the distractions?

  • Purpose: Clarity of purpose helps you determine whether each moment is contributing to the impact you want to have on the world
  • Presence: The more present you are, the more you see the opportunities to add value in each moment. The more present you are the easier you will catch your own distractions.
  • Create Potential: Be open to fun, chance and serendipity. We need to live chaotic human lives but we must know the difference between surprises that create human potential and those that consume it. When the right door opens, jump through it wholeheartedly.
  • Do First. Solve Later: Worry less about being sure, knowing everything and gaining approval. Doubts, learning and support can all be won on the journey of work. Solving for them too early is a major source of distraction and waste. 
  • Measure and Reflect: Measuring the right impacts and reflection on progress will help you weed out the tasks that don’t add value and do less of them while doing more of what delivers
  • Flow: Lastly, use up your time doing the good stuff. Nothing is better at eliminating distraction than the focus of flow. When you are constantly stretched by acting against a worthy challenge, you will find holding a focus easy.

Finding and holding a focus is at the heart of getting things done. A purposeful focus is how we realise the best of our potential.

What’s your one purposeful focus?