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.”
Last night I had a fascinating dinner with a few friends at the Frontline Club where we discussed how you influence the future. We ended up designing a system of brainstorming panels which had 3D glass shelves and used 3D icons that could change colour and show pictures and movies – all hitched to a reconfigurable database the cloud! By 10.30 my mind was totally boggled and we headed home!
The conversation was triggered by last week’s post where we explored the idea of Presence as being a better paradigm to describe effective organisations and trying to show that the current obsession of process reengineering is so lacking as an organising idea for the new internet era. This week I intend to look at whether or not we can predict the future – and we can influence outcomes at an individual, organisational and world level.
To start with, I love the quote by William Gibson: “The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.” Since the beginning of recorded history mankind has held in some sort of reverence (or equal cynicism) those who say they can see the future. The oldest book in the world is based on the stories of the ancient prophets. Seers and clairvoyants have always held a deep romantic fascination for me as guides to some sort of futre picture (whether good or bad) and they seldom seem to be accountable for whether their predictions happen or not. Just as Gibson observes, seers and prophets might actually be in the future and are describing things that most of us can’t see yet because we are stuck in the past (perhaps tied up in processes that were invented by someone else long ago ;-)).
If you fancy your clairvoyant skills, then there is even an Australian website where you can enter them – and it keeps track of whether or not they come true! Here is a list of War on Experts’ top 10 best predictions. There is also an interesting podcast from Freakonomics on why we just love trying to predict the future and how louzy we are at it.
In my work, I find the basis of “back-to-front” thinking an absolutely critical tool when trying to find the best courses of action to achieve objectives. You can’t really be successful unless you know what success looks like – and you can’t get there unless you have worked out how to get there back-to-front. So, in many ways, the predicted (reinforced) path to get from where you are now to where you want to get to requires some sort of prediction and willing yourself into the future.
There is some fairly extraordinary research being run at Princeton University into human consciousness that records how the human race reacts to specific events around the world. With the help of correspondents around the world, events that can be expected to bring large numbers of people to a “shared or coherent emotional state”. The following is a partial, illustrative list of criteria and examples:
Suddenness or surprise. Terror attacks, especially where they are not usual.
Fear and compassion. Large natural disasters, typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes.
Love and sharing. Celebrations and ceremonies like New Years, religious gatherings.
Powerful interest. Political and social events like elections, protests, demonstrations.
Deliberate focus. Organized meetings and meditations like Earth Day, World Peace Day.
There seems to be evidence that human consciousness actually changed a few seconds BEFORE any jet was rammed into the Twin Towers with the monitoring of these”eggs” placed round the planet by Princeton University which generate random numbers.
Results still show that one of the main ways to make the world more peaceful and better place is to get a group together and go into a group meditation. Forget about thinking. Just sit and meditate. So whether you believe we can see the future or not, by changing our own consciousness, it appears that we can actually make the future more peaceful!
As Niels Bohr is famously quoted: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” but I am certain we can influence and make the future happen by our actions in the present and by envisioning the future back-to-front into our lives.
Beautiful day here. Hottest September afternoon in the UK on record, apparently. Off to go and meditate with the bees and raise the level of peace vibes on the planet!
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!