TT1945 – On the Magic of Flow

You know the feeling.
When you are flowing with effortless ease.
When everything is “firing on all six cylinders”
And working in harmony.
Plans and ideas move into place, with no friction
And all things work in the way they were designed to be.

Flow isn’t just a great feeling;
It’s also one of the main contributors to the success
Of any great project, team or company.
The dividends are great for those that design for flow.
They become faster, more efficient, more successful
And out-perform those around them that ignore her.

How can we work better with this mysterious thing called flow?
Flow starts to move in the channel of the listener.
She takes the easy route: the path of least resistance.
Like a stream or river heading down to the sea.
She flows around any obstacle, rock or pebble
To get down to the next pool and onwards to the sea.

Flow is fragile when she appears and is hard to retain.
She can vanish and nobody knows where she has gone.
The strange thing in a business is that no single person
Is responsible for creating or destroying her.
Nor does anyone really have the overall power or responsibility
To get her back when she is gone!

Without flow, everything slows.
Deadlines slip and budgets bloat.
People get irritable and start blaming one another.
Games are played that increase the blockages
Which makes flow vanish even faster.
She is as mysterious and transient as the Queen Bee!

Jazz players call it “being in the groove”. Each player feels the beat
Each one dancing with harmony, discord and periods of silence.
In the moment. There’s no score, just a few hidden rules to be broken.
Performing with no effort, she demands hours of practice.
Whilst listening for the beat, flow rewards those that study her.
Invisible and ephemeral, we love to play with her hidden mysteries.

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Zen and the Art of Business Conversation

It is August and the holidays are here!  For many, July and August are the months for rest and recuperation and spending time with family on holiday.  For those that live in the northern parts of the Northern hemisphere, it is a time for getting some sun on our skins before the longer winter months kick in again.
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For many, it is also a time of reflection.  For although the calendar year starts in January, September is the start of the academic year and August is the gap before the start of the new year.  I have found that many businesses are tuned to the academic calendar – either directly (like a University or School) or indirectly (because many of their employees have children who set a cycle in the family geared around their academic needs).
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So it got me thinking.  Most of my great ideas have come from a time when I am not thinking about day-to-day stuff.  Those magic, “Eureka!” moments when a problem you have been working on suddenly becomes solvable.
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By not being hampered by the grind of meetings, actions and to-do lists, we can solve old problems and creating new ideas.  Finding a gap in the year’s day-to-day grind to think big, think outside the box or just not think at all and let nature take its course often relaxes you in ways you can’t achieve at other times of the year.
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There is an old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as long as we speak.  And so it is with the summer break.  There is a gap in proceedings where we can listen.  Not just listen to those who we work with.  But listen to ourselves.  Our inner mind.  Our inner bodies.  Our inner spirit.  We can refresh each other with the rest and easy living that we often over-ride in the rest of the year.
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So, back the Art of Business Conversation.  For my own part, I have been working on a new way to look at businesses through the conversations we have.  The Art of Business Conversation, if you like.  As simple as ABC.  Except it isn’t, is it?  It is quite complicated.
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There are several different types of business conversation (which I aim to explore more in future posts).  The most intense are often wrapped up in emotional outbursts or things unsaid.
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The key is to find space within the conversation to reflect.  On an annual cycle, this time of the year gives us time to reflect on the longer-term relationships we all have with the businesses and people we work with.  Either as employees; business owners; customers; suppliers; that funny, over-used word “partners”; or simply the friends and relations that weave in and out of those conversations.
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And that is where the idea of Zen comes in.  Zen is the space between.  Zen is the effortless flow.  Zen is the silent, observant onlooker onto our busy world of nothingness.  Zen is the state to get into before returning to the ABC of business, academia and all those things where we sequence stuff and continue our practice of the art of business conversation.
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So, enjoy the break.  Listen to the silence.  Observe the subtle messages coming from the conversation with yourself.  Say nothing and say everything.  Come back refreshed and energised to take on the new challenges that you discover in the hidden moments of this August recess.
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What’s Your Favourite Colour?

I’ve always been fascinated by colour and believed that men and women see colours differently.  So I was both interested – and not surprised to see what researchers have found on the subject.  It proves that men and women not only prefer different colours, they also see more hues of colour than men.  Men, on the other hand, prefer shades.  Perhaps it goes back to our ancestors, where women were more attuned to gathering different types of fruit and men were looking for subtle shadows of beasts behind a bush.  Who knows?  Makes you think, though!

By the way, my favourite colour is blue!  But I was surprised that no men liked purple!  It was my favourite colour once as a teenager.  Before I turned to red – and eventually to blue.  I wonder if others have changed their preferences through their lives?

Oh, and just for fun, why not put down your favourite colour in the comments box below – and we’ll see if the research is borne out by those who read the blog.

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The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence

Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague.  We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us.  Conversation flowed.  Ideas bubbled to the surface.  Creative spirit abounded.

During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition.  I had forgotten this – but it  is something I have recently become very interested in.  In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart.  I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.

And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:

I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals.  It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.

Sit back and enjoy!

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Blowing the Fibre

Today, the Parish of Goudhurst and Kilndown in rural Kent (which is where we live) came one step closer to achieving what most others in the UK have access to…..

It wasn’t fresh water.  That has been flowing freely from boreholes and the local reservoir at Bewl Water for quite a while.

It wasn’t gas.  Goudhurst used to have gas – but the Gas Works blew up in the 1948 – a few weeks before all gas works were nationalized.  Coincidence or dodgy insurance claims, no one quite knows.

It wasn’t electricity.  That has been delivered to all of the Parish since about 2006 when the folk in Bedgebury Forest came onto the Grid.

It wasn’t being connected to the mains sewage.  Our house still has a septic tank at the bottom of the garden.

What it was that we came one step closer to getting half of the Parish – perhaps more – onto Superfast Broadband.

The next stage of the scheme is due to go live next week – in time for the end of June go-live for four of the cabinets in the village to be fibred-up to Superfast Broadband.  And the spectacle today was watching the fibre being blown down the plastic ducts that have been laid under all the key roads in the village.

The event went off without an audience – large or small.  Simply two engineers diligently waiting whilst the meter showed how far the end of the fibre had been blown.  The fibre wrapped over the right arm to give it control as it entered the plastic duct pipe.

Looking forward to the fibre being lit next week.  Come on, light my fibre – or something like that!

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Overcoming Bitter Enemies

I came across this quotation the other day, and it struck a chord:

“One must be aware that there is nothing so difficult,
more doubtful in its result,
and more dangerous to do
than to introduce a new state of things. 
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The innovator has bitter enemies
among all those who benefit from the old system,
while he only has half-hearted defenders
among those who expect to benefit from the new system.
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This half-heartedness has its roots in man’s lack of faith,
because he does not really believe in the new state
until he has experienced it.”
Machiavelli
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Goldfish

The question is, how do you help folk to experience and have faith the new state at the early stages of a change?  How do you get to that tipping-point where there is enough energy to get lift-off with the new system?  Remember, Machiavelli never saw a computer, so it was not computer systems he was talking about!  It was much more about States and states!

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The End of the Break

As we come to the end of the summer break, for most of us, school, university or work starts afresh.  I say, for most because, like with all generalisations, there are always those who break the rule.  An increasing number of friends seem to be moving into “retirement” or “semi-retirement” – breaking the pattern of a life-time by taking more time off.  Two of my children are starting University – a break from the long years of study at school to the less structured, more fun time at Uni.

And the little word “break” got me thinking.  It seems to have so many meanings. It runs to many definitions in the dictionary – both as a verb and as a noun.  It can be:

  • destructive (as in – “break a glass”)
  • illegal (as in “breaking the speed limit”)
  • liberating (as in “break out of old patterns”)
  • exciting (as in “breaking news”)
  • disappointing (as in “break my heart”)
  • the point of profit (as in “break-even”)
  • time to eat (as in “breakfast”)
  • very confusing for someone not fluent in English (as in “break a leg”)

For such a little word, it has so many different subtle meanings and so many different ways to combine itself with other words to mean so many different things!

break-glass-in-fire-sign

Yet, with all of this, I always see the start of September as the opportunity to break from the past and focus on the future.  For some reason, even more so than with Christmas or Easter.  Perhaps we are all subconsciously programmed by the school year – whether as students, former students or parents.  Yet there are those who will always break the mould and find other beginnings and endings in their year and not agree with me.

Great word “break”.

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Sign Language, Stopping Distances and the Laws of Physics

Last month, one quiet Sunday evening, I was driving into Tunbridge Wells.  My normal route had roadworks, so I had to carry a bit further on – and passed one of those small yellow boxes in a 30mph speed limit zone.  I was doing 38 mph.  I got flashed by the camera and a week later, got a notice from the Police to say I had been done for speeding.

30mphcamera

I was given two options by the Kent Police.  Pay a fine of £60 and get three points on my licence.  Or pay £85 and go on a speed awareness course.  I had heard positive things about the latter – and so decided to go for the course as it would keep my licence clean.

And so it was, last Friday afternoon, I sat for four and a half hours in a small hotel conference room listening to two lecturers about the highway code, reaction times and the laws of physics.

Having filled-out a brief questionnaire at the start on what I thought the meaning of various road-signs were, it became apparent that I probably thought I knew a lot more than I actually did!  I worked out that I hadn’t actually been tested on the highway code since taking my driving test in 1978!  A sobering thought.

The turning point came for me when I was told that 38mph is the speed at which, if you are a pedestrian and you are hit by an oncoming car, you will almost certainly die.  Until then, I though it was a bit daft being done for speeding for so little over the speed limit.  After that point, it made me sober-up.  Added to that, it became clear that the speed limit is just that – a speed limit – not a “got away with it again” sign.  Just because half the population or more see it is the latter, the course was designed to get you into thinking sensibly.

We saw several very effective videos and learnt about reaction times and stopping distances.  Reaction times are when, as a driver, you are in control and have choices.  Stopping distance is the bit where you have decided to stop your pile of metal careering into something – and, here, the laws of physics and the speed you are traveling is the main defining factor as to whether or not you will succeed in stopping in your desired distance.

The stopping distances are in the highway code (a copy of which we were given for our £85) – see diagram below:

Stopping-Distances-723x230

These are distances a car travels, over the time it takes for you to bring the vehicle to a full stop.  These distances are for a well maintained car, with good brakes and tyres, an alert driver, and a dry road, in daylight.  We were told that if you are going at 70 mph down a motorway in good conditions the combined thinking distance plus stopping distance is about 96 metres or 24 car lengths.

What was not on the diagram was the fact that if you are going 80 mph down a motorway in similar conditions, you will still be going 38mph after 24 car lengths.  Spooky how that 38mph keeps coming up!  Oh, and if you are going 100mph down the motorway (who hasn’t, at some stage, gone for a “burn”even if just to see what it feels like?) – then you will still be going at 70mph after 24 car lengths!

So, at the end of this speed awareness course, I came away quite humbled.  On my way home from the course, I felt like a learner driver again.  A lot more aware of traffic signs – and – oh, yes – those lamp-posts which  mean that you are in a 30mph zone – even if there are no signs.  I never knew that – or if I did learn it once, I had forgotten the fact.

So, if you get the chance to pay a fine and get 3 points on your licence – or go for a slightly more expensive Speed Awareness Course, then I’d definitely go for the latter.  You will learn a lot – and hopefully become a safer driver.   Most importantly, I really did learn that you’re never too old to learn!

 

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Democracy, Accountability and the Power of Protest

This week three events happened that highlighted to me that the way that the world owns, controls and governs the 7bn people on the planet is under extreme pressure.  Yet signs that the new world is responding in sensible and more conscious ways are encouraging.

As the old-world sovereign-states governments try to balance their own budgets and wrestle with their own, unique, local problems, multinational companies increasingly put two fingers up to them to avoid paying corporation tax.  Apple is a good example which, this week, apparently saved over $9bn in tax with a “bond manouever”.  If you were Tim Cook, you’d probably have done the same.  Yet the countries that need the tax revenue  to help get themselves out of the debt that they have are being out-manouevered by the multinational tax avoidance network that serve the corporate giants that belong to no country and are accountable to, well, their shareholders, of course.  Big companies seem to get it all their own way.

In the middle east, even after all the investigations over the justification of the Gulf War and whether or not Saddam Hussein did or did not have weapons of mass destruction, we are fed confusing news that civilians are being sprayed with nerve gas in Syria – and that West military intervention is, once again, becoming more intellectually justifiable.  Soil samples have degraded and there is not enough evidence for going to war.  So we have to wait.

Yet there are interesting counter-pressures.  As a beekeeper, I have been keenly following developments on the EU which, this week, voted for a two-year restrictions on the nerve-agent pesticides (called neonicotinoids) blamed for the dramatic decline global bee populations. The EU decided on a narrow majority of 15/27 votes.  The UK was one of eight countries that voted against the ban in spite of a petition signed by 300,000 people presented to Downing Street last week by fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett.   The Independent has also campaigned to save Britain’s bee population.  The British government’s choice to vote against the ban was based on the fact that “there was not enough evidence” that bees were being affected – and that the samples in various tests had been contaminated.  The uncanny similarity between degraded soil samples from Syria and contaminated samples that voided tests for the bees made me think: how convenient!  How convenient it is for a government or a leader to ignore evidence when “tests are inconclusive” or when the “evidence is not clear”.  No decision is better than a decision that you could be held accountable for!

However, we beekeepers must thank the internet protest networks – led by Avaaz.org – who managed to get enough support in countries (other than the UK) to swing the vote against the vested interests of  Bayer and others who have, until now dominated the decisions taken in our food chain –  from the seeds we plant, the agricultural methods we adopt through to the quality of foods we eat.

4-Beekeepers-AFP

The bees have a short respite and Avaaz is now pursuing the real Dark Lord in the battle for  Mother Earth.  Go on.  Vote.  It can only help a growing wave of public opinion to counter the madness of global corporate arrogance that they are accountable to no one.

I believe that there is hope for us all with this new type of democracy emerging.  The vote to ban neonicotinoids was a turning point for me.  It would appear that these online campaigns really are starting to get policy makers in multinationals to think again and change their minds.  They have a new body that they need to recognise – and a protest can come from nowhere and expose issues is uncontrollable ways.  PR companies and even newspapers are becoming less and less effective in this new world of informed  internet politics and political activism.  Even governments must be encouraged as it gives them a new reason to act, not just sit on the fence because “there is no evidence”.  After all, most of them want to get voted back into power.

Interested to know what you think – please do leave a comment below.

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The Story of the Imprisoned Tinsmith

The ability to seek and identify structures, patterns and designs below the apparent surface of experience is the secret to success in communication, relationships, accelerated learning, languages, and many other things besides.

Someone asked me the other day why I chose to call myself a designer, rather than a consultant and I told them the story of the Tinsmith.  The story originally came from an order of the Sufi’s called the Naqshbandi Order.  Naqushbandi quite literally means “designer”.

“Once upon a time in a city far far away in a time long gone, a tinsmith was falsely accused of a crime he had not committed.  Being poor and without any powerful friends to influence the judge, he was imprisoned.  

He was given a wish before being sent to the cells and he asked that he be allowed to receive a rug which should be woven by his wife.  In due course, the rug was made and delivered to the prison.  Upon receiving the rug, the tinsmith prostrated himself upon the rug, day after day, to say his prayers.

Prayer Mat

After some time, he said to his jailers: “I am poor and without hope and you are wretchedly paid.  But I am a tinsmith.  Bring me some tin and tools to work with and I shall make small artifacts which you can sell in the market – and we will both benefit.”

The guards agreed to this and presently they and the tinsmith were both making a profit from which they bought food and comforts for themselves.

Then, one day, when the guards awoke to find that the cell door was open and the tinsmith was gone.  Some spoke of magic or perhaps a miracle because no prison in this kingdom had ever been escaped from.

Many years later, a convicted thief confessed to the crime that the tinsmith had been accused of.  As a result, the tinsmith was pardoned and two weeks later the tinsmith and his family reappeared in the city.  The governor of the province heard of the tinsmith’s return and summoned him to his palace.

The governor asked the tinsmith what magic he had used to make such an impossible escape.

The tinsmith replied “My wife is a weaver.  She designs rugs, mats and carpets.  She weaves patterns into the wefts and warps of her fabric.”

“By design, she found the man who had made the locks of the cell door and got it from him, by design.”

“She wove the design into the rug at the spot where my head touched in prayer five times a day.  I am a metal-worker and this design looked to me like the inside of a lock.  But I lacked the materials to make a key, so I made a business proposition to the guards, by design.  I then used the materials that the guards provided me to make many small artifacts, including a key that would unlock the cell door.”

So, by design, I escaped.”

“We are all born with a brain”, said the tinsmith.  “When we begin to understand the patterns and structures of our thinking, we can start to liberate ourselves from the enslavement of our limitations.”

Story adapted from the book: Sufis: The People of the Path: The Royal Way by Osho – Chapter 5 – Design within Design

Picture from Museum of London

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