I was chatting to Oscar the other night and he pointed me to a really interesting site:
If the frame above does not work for you, then you can link to the site HERE. It makes you think how extraordinarily small in the Universe we are. And how big we are too! If you did not see my previous entry, the great 1977 video from IBM: “The Powers of Ten”, then have a look at that too.
The day before, I had come across another rather more abstract view that sets a new world record for representing a Mandelbrot Set – which gives a bit more of a zany trip towards infinity.
Oscar liked it – and called it “trippy”!
I hope these two views stretch your mind to think a bit more about our place in the Universe, touching both your left and right brains.
Following on from the popular RSAnimate video of Dan Pink’s great lecture describing the three attributes that really motivate people: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, I came across an equally impressive piece of work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in this month’s McKinsey Quarterly. If you don’t already subscribe, it is well worth doing so.
In their recent book, The Progress Principle, Amabile and Kramer uncover the events that allow people to gain deep engagement in their jobs and make progress towards meaningful, purposeful work. The McKinsey article (How leaders kill meaning at work) highlights four really interesting traps that leaders fall into that prevent the progression towards meaningful work.
These four traps outlined are:
Strategic “Attention Deficit Disorder”
Corporate “Keystone Cops”
Misbegotten “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs)
We all need a higher purpose – and if we cannot find it in our work we do, then we don’t work nearly as well than if we do have one. The article ends with a simple set of ideas:
“As an executive, you are in a better position than anyone to identify and articulate the higher purpose of what people do within your organization. Make that purpose real, support its achievement through consistent everyday actions, and you will create the meaning that motivates people toward greatness. Along the way, you may find greater meaning in your own work as a leader.”
A bit cheesy, perhaps, but there are some useful case studies in the article.
My parents founded The HALO Trust – a mine clearance charity that has grown very successfully, over the years. The purpose of the organisation has remained the same since its inception: “GETTING MINES OUT OF THE GROUND, NOW”. Very present. Very simple. Very effective. And the motto has really stood the test of time and allows everyone in HALO to focus on a very clear and important purpose.
I am sure that every reader has other interesting stories of their own – both positive and negative – which I would love you to share below!
You are probably past the point of setting New Year’s resolutions and have forgotten the one you set last year. Yet when you look back a year and look forward a year, it is surprising how little changes and how much stays the same.
Sure, 2011 was turbulent for many. In Europe, we seemed to leave the year with an uneasy sense of unknowingness about what lies ahead in 2012 for the Eurozone. And we are told that the world is now so connected that we don’t need New York to sneeze before the rest of the world catches a cold. The sneeze could come from Berlin or Beijing or anywhere else for that matter.
Yet there is nothing like a conscience and a critical review to remind you of what you committed to and what you forecast might happen…. And writing a blog is somehow a very public way of saying that I commit to something at the start of a New Year.
So it was that I was surprised to find that I went public this time last year to reduce my bodyweight. Apparently this is the most common New Year’s resolution that people make. I did actually manage to lose a stone between January and April last year – only to put on 9 pounds between April and Christmas!
So often, (in weight loss AND in business performance), the gains are difficult enough to achieve – but even harder to sustain. It is not that my body needs to be as heavy as it is. It is more about habit – and changing the habits that have been laid down over a lifetime. It didn’t take much for me to revert to my old habits as the summer came and the bees started to make honey!
Reading the press over the New Year, it was interesting to see that the UK population has become more and more obese – and some say over 35% is now obese. As has the banking system and, perhaps many of the service organisations that try to service our needs – or so the current UK government thinks.
So the question for me is how to we can reduce weight and sustain a healthy lifestyle in a world that seems to becoming more obese.
My diet last year where I managed to lose a stone in weight was not really a diet. I never felt hungry the whole time I was on the regime. I simply reduced the number of calories I ate.
In a similar way, the two puppies that we took on in September are a good weight – because they get fed the correct amount of food each day. It is interesting, also, that we have never been as healthy as our parents and grandparents were the 1940s when the country had food rationing.
It is not so much, then, about reducing weight. It is more about eating the correct amount you need to achieve and maintain a natural bodyweight.
So, for this year, as well as reducing weight (another stone would do), I resolve to try to sustain the weight loss. I would also like to do the reverse for my business – increase the revenues and sustain the flow! Funny that in March last year I earned the most in a month when my weight reduced the most!
Maybe one idea works with the other. Who knows? Maybe the Lean Folk know. Makes you think, anyway!
In celebration of the time of the year, I found these four sets of elegant Mathematical Formulae which I thought would make excellent Christmas Trees! As we leave 2011, here are two that celebrate the symmetry of eleven:
1 x 9 + 2 = 11 12 x 9 + 3 = 111 123 x 9 + 4 = 1111 1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111 12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111 123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111 1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111 12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111 123456789 x 9 +10 = 1111111111
And here is another that balances the tree above with another set of elevens:
1 x 1 = 1 11 x 11 = 121 111 x 111 = 12321 1111 x 1111 = 1234321 11111 x 11111 = 123454321 111111 x 111111 = 12345654321 1111111 x 1111111 = 1234567654321 11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321 111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321
And for those of you who believe, like the Chinese, that “8” is lucky, I have dressed this one in red:
9 x 9 + 7 = 88 98 x 9 + 6 = 888 987 x 9 + 5 = 8888 9876 x 9 + 4 = 88888 98765 x 9 + 3 = 888888 987654 x 9 + 2 = 8888888 9876543 x 9 + 1 = 88888888 98765432 x 9 + 0 = 888888888
And finally this one, my favourite, which took me ages to decorate!
1 x 8 + 1 = 9
12 x 8 + 2 = 98
123 x 8 + 3 = 987
1234 x 8 + 4 = 9876
12345 x 8 + 5 = 98765
123456 x 8 + 6 = 987654
1234567 x 8 + 7 = 9876543
12345678 x 8 + 8 = 98765432
123456789 x 8 + 9 = 987654321
A very happy Christmas and successful and abundant New Year!
Whilst exiting from the Underground Station at Canary Wharf yesterday, I saw an advertisement for a well-known global bank which said “The Future is Here”. How banal. How meaningless. How hollow, I thought, when the banks are in such a mess.
Last week I found a quotation which, for me describes the future in a far richer, more eloquent, more creative spirit – written in an age when true creativity mattered more than contrived cloud-based global bank adverts.
Here it is:
“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths
offered by the present,
but a place that is created –
created first in the mind and will,
created next in activity.
The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.
The paths are not to be found, but made,
and the activity of making them
changes both the maker
and the destinations.”
John Scharr, Futurist
The trouble is, the bank in question is my bank! What to do? Makes you think, anyway.
A couple of weeks ago, I took one of my sons to London. He wanted to go and see the Occupy London site near St Paul’s – during time that the Church of England were digging deep into their consciences to work out how they should react. A few days later, I was in Edinburgh with my daughter and went to the equivalent tented camp. In both cases, I took the time to try to understand what was in the minds of those protesting. There was a peaceful atmosphere in both camps – but a surprising lack of practical things for people like me to do. However, the two experiences got me convinced that the system is broken and that things need to change.
A chance Tweet on Twitter this morning gave me the opportunity to explore the issues further. The Tweet alerted me to a new sort of Peer2Peer investment site called CrowdCube and a new sort of bank – called Civilised Money – who were looking for investors. The idea took my interest and I read to find out more.
I was particularly struck by the coincidence that the project is the brainchild of Neil Crofts. I have been a keen reader of Neil Croft’s weekly blog – and applaud his ideas on Authentic Leadership. On reading more about the Civilised Money idea, is struck me that this kind of Peer2Peer banking is just like Skype was in 2002 – only transposed onto the banking system. It made a heck of a lot of sense, so I took the plunge and invested!
By the way, I am definitely NOT an investment advisor. I am not even sure that by the time you read this, the investment opportunity will still be open. But I am so encouraged that there are those protesting (making the issues clear) as well as those who are trying to find new ways to design banks.
I hope it makes you think a bit more about what you opt in to – and out of.
I cannot mark today’s Thursday Thoughts without a tribute to Steve Jobs. He became a legend in his own lifetime and he has surely changed the way that we work, play and think. He will be sadly missed having made a unique contribution to those who live beyond his untimely death.
Before he died, he expressed his philosophy on death with simplicity and elegance:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
This week, the bees went to bed for the winter. Fed down with verroa treatment in the hope that most colonies will survive the winter.
I have also had three very different conversations this week about the importance of Business Processes. In each conversation, I came to a different set of conclusions. However, there was one over-riding idea that shone through from each conversation. The obsession with the current process-centric religion in management thinking has actually made many of our service-based organisations less, not more effective and less, not more efficient.
The first conversation came from an experience I had with a US-based hosting company I have used for about ten years. Last year they put SAP into the company. Two months ago the company was sold. The service has been declining for about a year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The new process involves forcing you to ring a US telephone number which is actually answered by someone in the Phillipines who filters you so they can direct you to the right department. The problem I had involved both Domain Names and Hosting – so I ended up being put through to two departments. In the end I was double-billed and had to ring back a week later to complain – when I went through the same rigmarole – and was sent an email to say I couldn’t reclaim the money because it was against company policy. I rang a third time and finally got through to someone who sorted me there-and-then. Sounds familiar? More like a telephone company? Yes, indeed. I then got hold of the Director for Customer Experience and Process Design on LinkedIn to share my story. He was a Harvard MBA. He saw my profile but ignored me. The company is called Network Solutions.
The second case was with a former colleague whom I had lunch with. He is an aspiring partner at one of the big five consulting practices. He told me he was writing a paper about the importance of process design in telecoms companies. I cited the above story and said that Presence was more important than Process. He looked quizzical. He could not compute. He was not sure how he could implement Presence and make money out of the idea from a consulting assignment.
The final conversation was with an enlightened ex COO of a Telecoms company with whom I had lunch with on Tuesday. He said he was process mad – yet when you listened to his stories of how he managed processes, there was a great deal of practicality and experience blended in with the importance of providing the right information to the right person at the right time to turn customer issues and questions around on the first call.
In the crusade to banish the obsession with Process centricity, I continue to marvel at the bees that I keep. They don’t have crazy processes to waste time. They have developed an approach that balances Process AND Content (or pollen/nectar collection) IN THE MOMENT so that they can respond with far more intelligence than just following a book of rules. Interestingly, the model they use shows that outsourcing is extremely wasteful and makes no sense at all. If you have to hand off, do it only once (not three times like ITIL). The models from the bees also demonstrates the sense of investing in small, agile “cells” of capacity and capability tuned to specific types of demand.
To summarise, I believe it is time to create a new management paradigm based on Presence (modelled much more on the natural world that the bees have developed over 50 million years). It creates a paradigm shift that takes us away from the insanity (or caetextic thinking) of process-obsession and into a new much more organic model based on cells or colonies that can respond to demand of various types a seasonal basis.
Just like the bees do.
I am writing a book on the idea – so expect more like this in future postings.
I have also posted Presence over Process on MIX – The Management Information Exchange – please add comments and vote for the idea there or add your comments here as you wish. Always valuable!
In the week that Steve Jobs gave up as CEO of Apple, I was reminded by a good friend, Cliff, of part of Jobs’ address to Stamford students in 2005:
“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 – because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
The idea that “dots will connect down the road” is such an interesting one. So many things become obvious with the benefit of hindsight. So it was, whilst on holiday in Sicily over the past ten days, that I was thinking about the importance of coincidences when looking back in life.
How many times in your life have you thought “That’s a coincidence!” – and the event or chance meeting has led to something important developing further down the road?
There is also the famous puzzle about how many people you need to gather together in a group for there to be less than a 50% probability that two in the group will share a birthday. The answer is not, as may would think 183 (or a half or 366) – but it is, in fact, a mere 23! Therefore coincidences are actually more common than we might at first think!
James Redfield in his book “The Celestine Prophecy” develops the main character with him beginning to notice instances of “synchronicity”, or the realisation that coincidences may have deep, sometimes spiritual meanings.
And, as Einstein charmingly said: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
To bring me back to Steve Jobs – his creations (or the creations of Apple) have been important at certain transition points in my life – whether they be the first Apple 2 I bought in 1980, or the Macbook Air I ordered today because my MacBook Pro that I got when I set up Objective Designers 3 years ago packed up last week!
Whether you believe these deeper meanings or not, REFLECT ON IT: When have coincidences changed your direction in life – or the decisions you have made? They have for me. Maybe they have for you?
Please think about these coincidences that have turned your life….and, if you think you have a good story, please put it in the comment box below!
In a week where the Murdoch media empire appeared to lose its power, I came across this video “The Story of Stuff”- perhaps the most important “News of the World” that Murdoch’s empire was at the heart of ignoring.
Even if you have seen it, watch it again: it will make you think again about how the world works.
It is interesting how, with the launch of Apple’s Lion operating system we are still seeing “Design for Obsolescence” as one of the main design principles from what many say is the best design company in the world. It’s time for Apple (and the rest of us) to re-think design for the 21st century so that we can close the circle, not keep pushing the 99% waste down the pipe. Designing for Pull has to be a major factor in this redesign philosophy – and something I will come back to in future posts.