|Have you ever noticed|
When you have to decide between
Two different points of view,
Or two contrasting futures …
The best answer is almost never found
At one extreme, nor the other?
Have you ever seen leaders
Giving passionate speeches about a future
That requires short-term pain for long-term gain?
Dividing those who can stay (on uncertain terms)
Against those who will need to go to “save the ship”?
All in the name of some grand plan no one understands.
Have you ever wondered if there might be a better way?
We oft need reminding that you can’t follow fear.
Fear doesn’t know where it’s going.
It only knows where it’s not going.
Through the confusion of fear, uncertainty and doubt,
The spin-doctors weave a web of contradictory messages.
Why is thought-control through fear so common?
The “leaders” are even more fearful of losing their positions.
They oft say nothing, for fear of any negative reaction.
They become angry and throw tantrums like a 3-year old child.
They cannot see their way forwards through the confusion.
They become tired, despondent and ill.
Apparently it was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said:
“The past is history. The future is a mystery,
But today is a gift – which is why we call it ‘The Present’”
As we move into the time of the year where we think
About which gifts to exchange, have you ever thought
That giving love in the present moment is all that’s needed?
“Deal” or “No-Deal?”; “Blue or Red?”; “Haves” or “Have Nots”
Where can we find the best answers to all our struggles?
Settle into a place of stillness and quieten the mind.
Then focus on a higher purpose: centred in love, not fear;
One that both excites you and is of service to future generations.
You’ll find that the answer lies in the space between!
Stop what you are doing!
What do you hear?
Listen for those subtle noises
That are normally drowned-out
In the busyness of life.
The chatter, the clicks, the hubbub
Listen to the space between the noises
They are quieter and even more silent
Than the silence you started to listen to –
Quieter, even, than the quietest sound!
What else lies in the space between?
It is a space to meditate on
The past and the future.
It is the place of pure presence.
Absence of anything,
It holds the answer to everything!
Claude Debussy once said,
“Music is the space between the notes.”
The notes might dance harmoniously,
But the rests dance closer to the truth.
A hidden message that you can only hear
If you listen to for the silence.
In conversation, there are those that compete
To drown-out the silence. They do not listen
They are on “permanent send”,
Not yet charmed by (nor knowing of) the fact
That they were given two ears and one mouth
For a reason: to listen twice as hard!
Try it for a minute, then an hour, then even a day.
Muted by the desire to listen more.
Not just to the noise, but more importantly,
To the space between the notes
That play to the timeless music of glorious silence.
The answer lies in the space between.
© Lorne Mitchell 2019
Picture from iStockPhoto 178359962
At the end of every quarter, I move into the centre of the circle.
The centre is constantly shifting and changing.
Sometimes it can feel a bit stuck in place or time.
Othertimes, it has everything spinning around at 100 miles an hour.
But there is always a still centre to be found somewhere in there.
Calmness in the eye of the storm.
It is that centre that I seek out every three months.
To give me space.
To take stock.
To look backwards and forwards at the same time.
To celebrate what has been done.
And to meditate on where we might go in the future.
This week is a particularly special time of the year.
The hard work of opening-up the combs and extracting the honey is over.
We have an angel called Heather who helps us with that part.
It is now time to bottle the sweet amber nectar.
Some say it’s been a bad season for others.
But we have been fortunate this year. It’s looking like a good ‘un!
The honey itself pours into the jars in a vortex of swirls
Sometimes left-handed, other times right. Never straight-down like water.
As each jar fills, the trick is not to stop the flow too early,
Nor too late before the honey overflows onto the floor and makes a mess.
There is a rhythm to it which becomes quite meditative.
Like all skills, it is a combination of practice, timing and feedback.
You are never quite sure how many jars you will fill.
Nor how many total pounds of honey you will jar.
The mystery of not knowing whether this will be a record season.
But it really doesn’t matter. It is what it is.
I don’t worry too much about which particular flowers they have come from.
They make their own unique, delicious blend.
Harvest time is such a natural time of the year to close circles.
The celebration of the friendships made
And a time to reflect on those who have passed.
Now to get ready for winter. It’s going to be a cold ‘un, they say.
Time put the winter quilts into the tops of the hives.
The circle is closed.
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!
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.
Someone asked me what one word or phrase I would use to take me into 2018, leave behind those ideas, things and people you don’t need anymore and create something new and vibrant.
I thought for a moment and then said “I use the term “Lighten Up! quite a lot.”
It gives you the chance to drop those dead-weight ideas, as well as the things and even people who drag you down. It also gives you permission to become more conscious and, literally, “enlightened”. It is a good one, too for losing those extra few inches around the belly and becoming lighter on your feet!
The lighter you think, the lighter the world becomes. You need fewer words to connect with people. Your emails become shorter. You need fewer “heavy” conversations. You laugh more. Life becomes much more fun and interesting because you are not held back by the shadows of past traumas nor fears of the future.
And if you look into the light, you can’t see the shadows of the past anyway!
“LIghten-Up!” It works for me! Try it. It might work for you too!
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!
The news this week that the upwards-ever-upwards iPhone sales are finally stalling was a stark reminder that even the greatest companies struggle to keep the juices of innovation flowing year-on-year. The Apple Watch couldn’t replace the iPhone and the iCar (if it ever arrives) is still a few years out.
Most companies that I study or consult to are in an innovation crisis. They know they must innovate in order to remain competitive and keep growing (or simply to stand still). Yet how often does the innovation agenda become demoted to “novel” efficiency drives and cost-cutting initiatives?
It begs the question: where is the best place to source innovation? Many of my clients in the telecoms world look to technology suppliers. They continue to develop new features on top of their already bloated stack of products and services that were offered last year. The latest gizmo. The latest bell or whistle. Yet I already have an iPhone 6s. Why do I want a Plus? I upgraded from an iPhone 4s to wait for the 6. I think I’ll hang on until I see something really new and different from Apple.
Innovation can come from suppliers – but you can’t really differentiate your company if that is all you rely on. Such is the fate of many telecoms companies: they continue to develop new features on top of their already bloated stack of product features that were offered last year. The latest gizmo. The latest bell or whistle. A price war starts and the cost cutting initiatives cut even deeper. No, suppliers, are not the best answer.
What about the young folk who have just joined the organisation? Straight out of University or School, they bring a fresh set of thinking. They are the next generation! Surely they hold the answer? Give them a difficult problem and let them brainstorm their ideas to create something truly whacky. Too risky, I say! They will not understand the product and how it is used, yet. They might come up with some good ideas., but Good ideas are not the same as innovation. The newbees are not the best source of innovation either!
So where should we go next? To customers, of course! Customers that use (and misuse) your existing products and services! Customers who suffer day-to-day from trying to work the processes that you have under-designed and waste your customers time and effort. They are loyal customers until they suddenly vanish. And if no one contacts them to see where they have gone, then innovation dies on the vine!
Customers are an incredibly cheap this source of innovation, too. Not just cheap, but very valuable! By asking a few simple questions of customers every time you interact with them, you can increase your profitability, customer loyalty AND innovation in one fell swoop!
And what are those questions? Well, you will have to read the next few Thursday Thoughts to find out my thoughts on this. In the meantime, try and work out what you think they might be and comment below!
Oh, and thank you so much for reading this far. I hope, at least, it has made you think a bit more about one of the most important aspects of business and human life!
Poem by Clinton Scollard
Had I the power
To cast a bell that should from some grand tower,
At the first Christmas hour,
A jubilant message wide,
The forged metals should be thus allied:-
No iron Pride,
But soft Humility, and rich-veined Hope
Cleft from a sunny slope;
And there should be
And silvery Love, that knows not Doubt nor Fear,
To make the peal more clear;
And then to firmly fix the fine alloy,
There should be Joy!
A very happy Christmas
and Joyful New Year
to all readers of Thursday Thoughts!
Picture the scene. A young child who has done something wrong. A parent standing tall over the child looking on in disgust or anger. The young child cowering, knowing that they should not have done it – whatever the act was. The parent erupting: “You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”
Doing something on purpose, in this case, is doubly bad. It adds to the criminal act because it was “on purpose”. It is the difference between manslaughter and premeditated murder. Somehow, when a crime is committed, when it is done “on purpose”, then it is so much worse and carries a heavier penalty.
Picture another scene. A company gets amazing results. Profits are up. Revenues are up. The workforce has high morale. The CEO is asked: “Why are you are doing so well? How did you make so much profit” He or she answers “Our primary objective isn’t to make a profit – although it is nice to make a profit so we can develop better services for you. The main reason that we are doing so well is that we are all in service for a higher purpose”.
Think of some recent technology successes: Google and Apple. Each one highly profitable, yet much more importantly, each one serves a higher purpose. “Do no evil”. “Putting a ding in the Universe”. Interestingly, in its early days, Microsoft had the mission of putting “a computer on every desk and in every home”. In 2013, Microsoft changed its mission to “morph from a software company to a devices and services company”. In doing so, their purpose became clouded (literally) in confused corporate-speak and financial engineering. As soon as the purpose (or mission) is framed in terms of profit or puts shareholder returns above everything else, the writing is on the wall that the organisation to become less successful.
Such a powerful phrase it is, then. “On Purpose”. It shows premeditated intent. Driven by purposeful desire, it can create extraordinarily beautiful things. It also drives people to follow great leaders – not because of the ego or personality of the leader, but because the whole tribe/team/organisation believes in a higher purpose beyond the power of a single human being. It is why great religions have such enormous followings. Abraham, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed. Each, in their own way, started a religion which today still have many followers.
Purpose also drives revolution and could be seen as the lifeblood of change. The events in Paris last week were a tragedy, attacking the French libertarian belief system to its core. The repercussions are still to be played out in terms of hardening European borders, increasing the checks on people travelling to and from Europe as well as the need to control the mass migration to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East. In some cases, it is a cash of ideas, ideals and purposeful intent. In another, it is driven by a desire to find a better life for yourself and those who depend upon you.
However hard it is to imagine a cause is so strong for someone to want to blow themselves up in martyrdom, history shows that there is nothing new to such an extreme act. Religions are full of martyrs – often given god-like attributes after their demise. For someone to die “on purpose” or in total alignment with their belief system is somehow at the extreme end of heroism and martyrdom.
Back to the first scene that I started with at the start of this piece. What is most interesting is whether you saw yourself as the child, the parent or an onlooker? Think about it!
At an individual level, many of my close friends in their late forties or early-mid fifties are in transition from a full-time career in corporate life to a much less secure “portfolio career” in post-corporate life. Is it at times like this that you really do question your own purpose in life. You think “what is this all about?”. “Why did I spend over 10/20/30 years working for such-and-such a cause and end up with …..?” It is a time for reflection and searching for a deeper meaning in your own life so that it can become more purposeful.
In thinking about your own purpose, I like to think of an analogy with the Global Positioning System or GPS. I used to do offshore sailing back in the 1980s and early ‘90s – when the navigation was all based on charts using pencils and compasses and triangulation to work out where you are. How the world has changed! Via the GPS system, you can now know exactly where you are – even if it is thick fog outside. A Guiding Purpose Statement (or GPS) should do the same for you at major transitions in your life.
Over the next few weeks, I am creating a programme to go deeper into some of these ideas. If you would like to find out more, please do email me at: lorne(at)objectivedesigners(dot)com and I will send you an outline of what I am thinking about – plus a few questions that might help us create something that is a bit different and special.
The main purpose is to create a group that can support folk as they transition from a more structured (corporate) part of their lives to a portfolio career where you have to take more personal risks and seek deeper meaning in what it is you do and how you express yourself. I’ve been through it myself – and have some lessons I would like to share – but I am sure many readers will also have equally valid ideas and suggestions to help others through this period of their lives.
By the way, on my search for more meaning and purpose, I have come up with my own GPS: “To help people communicate more effectively”. It helps me to bridge my interests in telecommunications, media, marketing and conversational flow between systems. I’m currently refining it to be a little more tangible, but it will do for the moment. If I can help you in this mission – or, indeed if you can help me become more effective in my mission, please also email me!