Inventors are from Uranus. Investors are from Venus.

Sometimes you trip over a word and it takes on a shape.  It bugs you until you look at that shape and see something different.  Something unusual.

That happened to me this morning.  I received a note from a friend of mine who was talking about Elon Musk and his investor dilemma.  Whilst typing back a reply, I said: “it’s the difference between an inventor and an investor”.  And the shape of these two words hit me!  They were so similar – and yet poles apart.

So, as is my wont (an old English word meaning habit or custom that spellcheckers highlight as a mistake, but it isn’t), I set to with the idea that an inveNtor and an inveStor are two opposing forces under tension in any business.

And whilst deciding that this was, indeed, a good analogy, it struck me that so many letters are shared between these two words. In fact, seven out of eight letters are not just the same – BUT THEY ARE IN EXACTLY THE SAME POSITION IN THE WORD!  The only difference is the fifth letter – where one is an “N” and the other an “S”.  How can two such similar words have such contrasting shapes positions in business, yet share so much at the same time?

To use the old analogy “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, it got me thinking about which planets would inveNtors and inveStors inhabit?  I looked up this idea on an astrology website and found that Venus is the bringer of love, beauty and money.  So that will do for the inveStor community (though I sometimes find it hard to see how those three words fit nicely into one sentence.

As for Mars – well that is a non-starter.  We needed another planet.  And so I typed-in “innovation” to find that Uranus represents technology, rebellion and innovation!  That will do nicely!

So, inveStors are from Venus and inveNtors are from Uranus.  There you go!

Yet that wasn’t enough.  I further studied the two words to find that the only difference were the two letters: N and S  – and suddenly it hit me!  They are also polar opposites on the dial of a compass!  I was so encouraged to find even more elegance down this particular rabbit-hole!

                                     North, South or somewhere in between?

 

Further to discovering this chance pairing, I thought again.  Whilst looking at the meanings behind the planets, I came across  Mercury, the Messenger God who is know for communication, day-to-day expression and  coordination.  A vital and often missing ingredient when inveNtors and inveStors cannot see each other’s point of view.  What other letter (in the same place as the N and S) could be a catalyst for change?  What could be the Mercury that goes between Venus and Uranus (though I know full-well that is impossible in our particular solar system – but work with me on this!)

And so I came across the letter “R”.  One of the few that makes sense and is a word.  An inveRtor.  It has a medical meaning, but I preferred the one used in electricity – which converts AC to DC current and back again.  An inveRtor is a converter of energy from invention to investment.  Perfect!

So, in summary, we need more inveRtors in business to go between the impossible stances that inveNtors and inveStors take when they stand-off in their own worlds of creativity and resolution.  A few more inveRtors that will be comfortable in the space between what is impossible and what is possible.  A few more inverRtors that will help  inveNtors like Elon Musk save the planet with his fantastic ideas to make the world’s transportation system run on electricity without making all the inveStors run a mile!

As it was such a great rabbit hole to go down (and it is Thursday and I have not written Thursday Thoughts for a while), I thought I would write-up the story.  More to follow soon!

Please do leave a comment below if you see any other strange or fantastic happenings on the road from invention to investment.

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Connecting Dots, Throwing Javelins and Grassroots Movements

We all love them, don’t we? Whether it is the weather, election results or even horoscopes, the human psyche is intrigued by those who believe that they can predict the future.

Yet, in the past few of years, things that seemed to have been stable and predictable have had an uncanny knack of not being so! Brexit, the rise of Trump, global weather patterns, crazy valuations for Tech companies. Some trace this unpredictability back to the financial crisis of 2008. Others pin it to the rise of globalisation. Yet others believe that the real culprit – climate change – can be attributed as far back as the industrial revolution.

“Leaders of Hope” require a good dose of “back-to-front thinking” to inspire people to follow their vision of the future – only to become disillusioned and frustrated by the system. The pendulum swings and “Leaders of Fear” take over and simply look in the rear view mirror to say how things were great in the past and that “Back to the Future” is the answer.

With linear thinking, we tend to post-rationalise decisions and make them look logical after the event. Ever more so in large corporations and national governments. Steve Jobs put it so well when he talked about connecting the dots in his Stanford commencement speech

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

So we come to trusting the dots that will connect us to a positive future – and also trust in “gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever….” to get us there! That’s not very precise or scientific. Certainly not terribly rational and not very easy to measure either!

So, maybe all this objective setting stuff we strive for is baloney? 

In my experience, Jobs was correct. Most decisions are made from spinning around looking at various alternatives and then having an intuitive hunch that things would be better if they lined up in a direction where you have a fuzzy idea of the target zone or outcome. As time progresses, things become clearer.

I call this the “White Javelin” approach. We have a Javelin that we can throw in any direction, but we choose to throw where the light shines brightly. Once we have thrown it, we move along to pick it up and then decide where to throw it next. It is better if you keep going in one particular direction. Otherwise, you keep going over old ground and spinning around like a dog chasing its tail!

Fulfilment becomes an intuitive sense of progress towards a fuzzy outcome, which needs to feel good before each throw.  If your daily work does not give you the autonomy to decide the direction of throw or they give you a needle instead of a javelin, then I suggest you quit!

As I’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve also become increasingly aware that everything is connected. Literally. So the desired outcome in one country, system or domain will have undesired consequences in another. The current North Korean-US war of words is but a simple example.

So, with all the unpredictability and variability of system outcomes, maybe we need a new set of meta-objectives or meta-goals that we can start to organise ourselves around so we can work out best where we throw our white javelins.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals were a noble attempt to do this. Yet a global, top-down approach is probably only going to help fix a minor part of the problem. As Arnold Schwarzenegger stated in his message to Donald Trump on reneging the Paris climate agreement: “Like all the great movements in human history, our (clean) future starts with a grassroots movement in our communities, our cities and our states.”

It gives hope to mere mortals that there is a clear path to a cleaner, brighter future through grassroots activism, clear personal intent and envisioning end-results that are for the betterment of our local communities.

Whereas linear-thinking approaches had a good chance of succeeding in more stable and predictable systems, we need new ways to shape a purpose, objectives and outcomes for a particular problem set – outside the boundaries of corporate self-interest. (what Ian Ure in an article on LinkedIn calls his “magic ingredient” – which inspired me to write this one). 

Asking lots of “W” questions is a good place to start. Why?, What?, Who?, When? and Where?

Too many “How?” questions asked too early on creates early “solution-thinking syndrome” which gets in the way of exploring alternative approaches and landing points.

Equally, too many “Why?” questions too early on can also be counter-productive because the answer might simply be: “Just because!”.  W can also stand for “Wait” – like  “all good things come to those who wait”.  Counterintuitive, perhaps, but powerful, nonetheless.

I believe that the world is a mysterious, magical and mystical place, well beyond the ken of any single human being. Science and reason are useful tools, but by adopting the Zen-like “beginner’s mind” with an inquisitive sense of discovery, prediction becomes less important. Each day brings magic moments with new discoveries and new areas to explore with our individual throws of our uniquely crafted white javelins.  We need to stop listening to the Merchants of Doom and become our own Leaders of Hope.

Go on! Throw it as far as you can and see where it lands! It will only be good! 

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Give Thanks! Fire, Aim, Ready.

Last week we explored what it was to be “on purpose”.  The various meanings of the word and the importance of living a purposeful life or working within a purposeful organisation.  It has been very encouraging that so many readers have commented on the post and that the ideas resonated with many of you so well.  Thank you also for the feedback: it is always welcome!  I wish you all success in thinking more about what it is to lead a more purposeful life and continuing the quest to find more meaning in it and in the work you do.

This week I want to deepen that thinking and explore the relationship between purpose and the main aims (or goals) that cause us to line-up the activities that we perform as we go about our day-to-day lives both at home and at work.  I believe that this process is at the heart of what it is to be successful.  Indeed, success is a very personal and subjective thing.  Sure, others might judge your success – but that is by THEIR opinion, not yours.  It is important to shape the factors that will make you successful by moulding them out of what you are and what you want to be.  Sourced from your passions and purpose, as it were.

It is a perfect time of the year to look back and look forwards.  Particularly as today in Thanksgiving in the Americas.  Even if you are not from that part of the world, it is a useful exercise to be grateful for all that has happened to you in the past year and for the friendships and experiences you have had.

At the same time, it is also worth looking forwards.  Thinking about the habits that you want to grow, or the ones that you want to release.  Thinking about the ideas or relationships you want to nurture and the ones you want to celebrate or change.

There is an old phrase “Ready, Aim, Fire” that covers the stages you go through when firing an arrow at a target.  For a bit of amusement, I decided to reverse the order of these three steps to see what new thinking might emerge.  It ended up as  “Fire, Aim, Ready”.  Not a very significant sequence of events if you want to hit a target, you might think.

FIRE

But wait!  What if we use the word “Fire” in some slightly different meanings: FIRE that you are fired-up by – or FIRE when you have a “burning platform” that needs immediate attention – or FIRE when we fire someone from work or a relationship.

If you write down your purpose and underneath put the three or four things that are firing you up at the moment or that they need immediate attention, then FIRE becomes a good first step to deciding the few things on which you should focus.  Either because they are important (as in fired-up) or because they are urgent (as in burning platform) or else you want to be rid of it (as in “you’re fired”).  What few things do you want to add, act on urgently or get rid of in your life?  For me, I have a bonfire worth of business books that have been lying up against the wall on the landing for the past year!

AIM

By listing-out these few aims (or goals) and then understanding what sort of change is needed in your life, you can then try to envisage what life would be like with more (or less) of the factor.  New role at work, more time with family, change-out the car, less time tripping over books.  That sort of thing.
At this stage, it is so important to write these ideas down on a bit of paper.  Sure, a computer will do, but somehow writing them down on paper and referring to them on a regular basis helps speed the process to achieving the aim – and either adding to or subtracting from the fire!  They need to be the bigger things in your life.  Otherwise, you will bury yourself in a long to-do list.  If this happens, try to pick the top five or six ideas and work on them.

READY

If nothing else, by doing this exercise in the next few days, you will be in a better position to shape your ideas, projects and activities as we move into 2016 and be ready to design some bold, boring or fun New Year’s resolutions over the next few weeks ahead of the rush.  Typically, in the past, I have jotted my resolutions down on a paper napkin with a hangover from the holiday period on 1st January and then throw them out with the rest of the excess paper a few days later!  It is only in the past few years that I have become a bit more disciplined – but I still have a way to go.

Writing out your aims and then having the discipline to review them regularly reaps the rewards.  Not least, by the above definition of success, you will be much more effective in aligning your activities to your purpose and living a more fulfilling life!

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Next week we will focus on how you can measure your aims (or goals) by breaking each one into a series of defined objectives.  Not only will this allow you to envision more clearly what success looks like, but it will also let you recognise success when you arrive at your destination sometime in the future!

If you are interested in digging deeper into these ideas in the New Year – as well as wanting some help to accelerate success in achieving your aims and objectives, then please do email me at lorne@objectivedesigners.com and I will send you some additional information in December.

And to add a Zen-like koan at the end of all of this just to get you thinking even harder (or not at all):

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” 

Lao Tzu

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Oh, and some of you have kindly asked about my friend’s planning application that I wrote about two weeks ago.  The inquiry has been adjourned until 21st December – so we might well not know the outcome until the New Year – but I’ll keep you posted when I know the result!

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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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Hearts, Minds and Connecting the Dots

I was recently asked to comment on a blog exploring the idea as to whether or not it is critical to follow your heart”.  It got me thinking (quite a bit).  Oh, and I make no excuses for the apparent New Age flavour to this post.  It’s just how it came out!


 

Over the past few years, I have become more aware that we have several centres of intelligence. The mind is but one. The heart is another.  More recently, the gut has been recognised by scientists as having its own intelligence.

In such a fragmented world, where academics and book writers are rewarded for micro-ideas that can be framed into sound bytes (such as the one above), I find it interesting to call on history and the ancient wisdom of the Hindu/Buddhist Chakra system.  In this system, there are seven centres of energy within the body. Each system nowadays has a colour of the rainbow associated with it.  The heart charka is green and is at the centre of the system.

Chakra

One of the main issues in today’s world seems to be that the mind (indigo) and communication (blue) centres are so energetic – with our so-called “knowledge society” coupled with “mass broadcast media” that the other (lower) forms of subtle energy get drowned-out.

Maybe this is an age-old problem?  For there is also an ancient buddhist saying that “the longest journey in life is from the head to the heart”.

Anyway, I am currently doing some research on how the seven centres of chakric energy can become better balanced – not just within the context of an individual – but also in organisations AND society in general.

For:

  • Without a higher purpose, life becomes meaningless.
  • Without mind that is connected to serve others, life becomes ego-centric and selfish.
  • Without clearly articulating what you want for yourself or your organisation, others won’t understand where you are coming from and ignore you or misinterpret your ideas.
  • Without being allowed to truly express your feelings, life becomes emotionally blocked.
  • Without a sense that you are truly empowered, life becomes deeply frustrating.
  • Without a co-creative connection with others in your family or tribe, life becomes lonely.
  • Without a place to call home, life becomes frightening.

And so, to the main discussion about whether or not it is critical to follow your heart.

On thinking about the idea, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t just when the heart-centre is “in flow” – or we are “in the groove” that we get that feeling of life-is-good.  It is when ALL the energy centres are aligned to create an organic energy that is more than the sum of its constituent parts.  It is at such times that we, as human beings, are most connected to our fellow human beings – and to the natural world around us.

In terms of organisations, as regular readers will know, I look for much of my inspiration in the work that I do a as a beekeeper. I find the universal energy which is generated in abundance from the colonies of bees that I keep is indescribable – it has to be felt to be understood. The ways that the movements and (unrecordable) energies from each tiny, individual bee are compounded to create a colony that vibrates and energises the space around for the greater good of the colony is not too dissimilar to an organisation or society where the subtle forms of energy are recognised, amplified and aligned to a higher purpose.  Religious movements are one obvious answer.  But there are many other examples – some with “good” objectives.  Others perhaps, with more dubious ones.

I’ve also come to believe that intuition and flashes of inspiration (Ahah! moments, if you like) are not from us, but come to us when we most need them or call upon them. The egoic state sees itself as the centre of the universe. But spiritual practice is about removing the ego and tuning into more subtle forces of universal energy that pull you.  It is as if you are plugged-into connected consciousness and more aware of the subtle energies that might give you a greater chance to allow your energy to be mixed in more rewarding, unique ways.

So, it probably is important to follow your heart (over your head). But true connectedness comes when each energy centre is in alignment with the whole. It is then that we give up pushing and allow ourselves to be pulled.  It is then that all the dots are joined-up and where everything makes sense after the fact. This was so well articulated by Steve Jobs when he delivered his famous speech to Stanford graduates:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward,” Jobs told the Stanford grads. “You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Trouble is, it’s very difficult to put all this stuff into a few sound-bytes and broadcast them over Twitter – or even a blog post like this!


 

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If I had my life to live over

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.

I’d relax, I would limber up.

I would be sillier than I have been this trip.

I would take fewer things seriously.

I would take more chances.

 

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.

I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles,

but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

 

You see, I’m one of those people who live

sensibly and sanely hour after hour,

day after day.

 

Oh, I’ve had my moments,

And if I had it to do over again,

I’d have more of them.

In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.

Just moments, one after another,

instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

 

I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere

without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat

and a parachute.

If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

 

If I had my life to live over,

I would start barefoot earlier in the spring

and stay that way later in the fall.

I would go to more dances.

I would ride more merry-go-rounds.

I would pick more daisies.

Attributed to Nadine Stair, 85 years old

More on other versions at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moments_(poem)

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