To succeed at self-discipline, you must observe yourself and discover where you fail. Kelly McGonigal says we need to learn to “observe ourselves with curiosity, not judgement”. A lot of her students are trying to quit smoking, lose weight, save money, and achieve many of the things we all sometimes struggle with – thanks to willpower scarcity.
Roy Baumeister moots self-control as a metaphorical muscle that we can exercise and strengthen. Matthew Gaillot sees it as energy management. There’s only so much willpower to go around. Wang and Dvorak suggest that our brains treat energy like banks treat money. They’ll let us have it for things we don’t really need, but when we really need it they hang onto it for themselves.
We have plenty of self-control until we need it. Use it on something meaningless and there won’t be enough left when you really need it. If you’re forcing yourself to avoid chocolate all day, don’t be surprised when you scream at your kids after work with less provocation than usual. It’s a scarce resource – put your willpower where your goals are.
#accountability #selfdiscipline #results #focus
People shouldn’t label themselves as ‘failures’. Failing is a behaviour and there are different kinds. I’m starting to use the term ‘failer’ (TM):
Someone, with improvement as their purpose, deliberately operating at the edge of their ability which inevitably leads to learning opportunities.
If we don’t do the learning bit, then we can give ourselves a judgey label. Perhaps, ‘doofus’?
This comment started as a joke comment on a FaceBook post but I liked where it went, and thought to myself, “This is going straight to the pool room. ( I mean, my blog…)”
I was driving. Phone rang. Luckily a carpark magically appeared.
3 weeks ago, I’d answered a call. It was a request to run a personalised workshop, an unusal one, one I might not normally have taken on. No content. Nothing off the shelf. Just me & whatever was in my brain, alongside 2 biz owners with an idea & questions. What the heck, who knows, I’m curious, let’s do it.
That gig was Wednesday. It had been fun, interesting, well-received & seemed to help.
The call I took in the car was from the same person who’d booked me. Effusive praise, another booking, plus synergy opportunities that had never occurred to me. Hey, I’ll pretend not to care what people say about me as much as the next middle-aged dude but that was unexpected & cool, especially so given my respect for the booker’s opinion.
Lucky I took the call. A left message might’ve skimped on the kudos. Lucky I accepted the initial offer. Lucky that carpark magically appeared. To a large degree, we make our own luck.
Much of success comes from interpreting & adapting to unexpected events. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.
What do you DO to generate luck? How do you take control of interpreting the luck that falls in your lap?
#success #hustle #learnedoptimism #mindset #positivethinking
One of my all-time favourite comedy shows was Blackadder. In the third series, the cynical butler played by Rowan Atkinson enviously lamented to the lowly Baldrick how poorly his life had turned out in comparison to the luxury enjoyed by his ‘bit of a thickee’ master Prince George. On the subject of education, Blackadder remarked that he was “a graduate of the University of Life, the School of Hard Knocks and the Kindergarten of Getting the Shit Kicked out of me.” (Kids today love Blackadder too, although they must get confused to see Prince George is actually Doctor House and Professor Johnson who wrote the dictionary is actually Hagrid from Harry Potter.) I choose to interpret Blackadder’s comments as a commonly held belief that formal education and qualifications are but one small plank in the platform of lifelong learning that should support us in our career and other aspirations. Indeed, isn’t the primary aim of the NZQA to give recognition to people who have learned from the school of hard knocks? Perhaps I over-simplify? I was after all educated during the era of School Certificate.
Any employer going through a recruitment process has some form of checklist of what they’re looking for – a list of skills, competencies, experience or whatever. Applicants need to be able to do X and they need to be able to do Y. It may be true that they need to be able to do X and Y today but there is no guarantee that X and Y will be relevant or even exist in five years’ time. The top item on that recruitment shopping list of skills should be the skill to develop new skills. Many of us would have received that homemade PowerPoint email doing the rounds with the goose-bumpy overly-dramatic orchestral soundtrack stressing the increase in the rate of change and the impact on learning. True or not, or to whatever extent exaggerated, it was quite a provocative little number. Is it true that the annual number of PhD graduates in China exceeds New Zealand’s entire population? Is it true that halfway through the third year of a four year engineering degree that half of what you learned in your first year is now obsolete? Is it true that two thirds of the children starting school this year will finish school in the not-too-distant future and begin a type of job that doesn’t even exist today?
Assuming even a skerrick of truth in the above predictions, it would seem that if employers were genuinely looking at capability development and productivity improvement that they should look at not only hiring people with a proven track record of learning ability but to also strengthen that skill in their existing people. We should help our people learn how to learn more efficiently and effectively. We all learn all the time but we’re mostly a bit random. For example, today I learned the word “skerrick”:
sker·rick / Pronunciation[sker-ik]
–noun Australian. A small piece or quantity; a bit: Not even a skerrick of cake was left.
Many employers have a policy or several when it comes to supporting study. Give us a receipt and a certificate to show you passed and if we consider it to be directly work-related then we’ll reimburse you for the tuition but not the books. That sort of thing. Sounds fair but I take issue with the “work-related” bit. It’s very short-sighted to hire a widget-polisher and train them only in widget polishing. What about creative thinking to stimulate widget innovation? What about conflict resolution to encourage less disruption on the polishing line? What about problem solving and the raft of other skills that a myopic bean-counter might not consider to be directly work-related? What if widgets are replaced by a new piece of functionality in the 2009 i-Pod?
It’s encouraging to sit in a primary school classroom today and see evidence that not only are kids being taught content; they’re being taught how to optimise their own ability to learn. From the biomechanical healthy snacking and rehydration to wall charts displaying DeBono’s six thinking hats, kids are getting some useful tools to set them up for the rest of their lives beyond school. There’s a large mass of older people who either don’t know or care that their thinking is being impaired by their lack of water drinking.
I’m cautiously encouraged by the practice (or prospect) of Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) working with schools. If any groups should have their fingers on the pulse of trends in society’s changing skill requirements it should be ITOs and they would be best positioned to tool up schools on what skills are currently required or are going to be. If nothing else, it might lessen the number of lawyers and accountants in society and this can only be a good thing. I’m constantly staggered that I can’t get a decent plumber for a reasonable price but if I throw a stone into a crowd I’m bound to hit at least two lawyers. Now, there’s a thought.
You don’t need to carbo-load to make better decisions, try distraction to leverage the power of your much wiser unconscious self.
A study by Ap Dijksterhuis and Teun Meurs out of the University of Amsterdam cleverly reveals how thinking too much and poring for ages over the logical list of pro’s and cons you’ve made about that big decision you have to make can actually cause a much lower quality outcome. (Which is bad if you’re choosing a new toaster but terrible if it’s a new car, employee or husband / wife.) This particular study focuses on creativity and originality but Dijksterhuis has another study more specifically about making decisions – examining the ‘deliberation without attention’ hypothesis.
I’m not suggesting that lack of attention is a good thing. Otherwise we may as well put teenagers in charge of all the important decisions. Most can usually (always) be relied upon to provide the ‘without attention’ component! No, it has to be a bit more structured than that.
Both studies look at what might be called intentional self distraction. They contrasted three approaches to decision-making: make an instant choice, long list of pro’s and cons, briefly distracting the conscious mind. The latter was the most effective and , down the road a bit, evoked the least regret.
If you just skim read Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Blink’, you might assume that instant decisions are often best. But on closer examination, I reckon Gladwell agrees with Dijksterhuis. Both reject the supposedly time-tested tradition of logically weighing up over a period of intense concentration a list of pro’s and cons. It takes ages and delivers a poorer result.
My shorthand version of a useful process is:
1. Introduce the problem and range of solution options if they exist yet
2. Carry out a pre-set 3 minute distraction activity*.
3. Return to the problem and / or the options. Make your choice.
4. Live with it.
* By distraction activity, they’re not talking about painting the beach house or enlisting in the foreign legion (although if that whole husband / wife thing didn’t work out, it’s always an option.) No, it’s something simple. Their test involved having subjects follow a dot on a screen for three minutes. Thus they had to focus and actively concentrate on something unrelated to the problem for only a short period but nonetheless long enough to get the loud conscious mind to shut the hell up for while. I’ve started testing one that doesn’t need any capital investment in screens which seems like a hassle in the real world outside university studies. Try counting to 100 three numbers at a time, reversing the order of every second set of three numbers. Even the instructions are quite distracting! It’s simple really though but it does clear the mind of anything else, especially that pesky problem. 1,2,3,6,5,4,7,8,9,12,11,10 etc. (Don’t write them down. You’re supposed to to do it in your head. That’s the point – distracting focus.)
Despite the best efforts of everyone I know to recommend i-Phone game apps to me, I have only one – Word Warp. Six random letters appear and I need to make as many words out of those six letters as I can in six minutes, scoring points, but I lose out entirely and revert to zero if I fail to make at least one six letter word in that two minutes. There is, of course, a ticking clock in the background that cranks it up in the last ten seconds. I’ll play the game on flights when the person next to me I’ve been chatting to decides to fake sleep. Sometimes I’ll get interrupted during a two minute spell to reject the offer of airline food. I’m always astonished at my much improved performance upon my return to the game. Our much smarter unconscious selves get into gear once they’re allowed to, thanks to the distraction.
We can’t have a flight attendant distracting us all the time, at just the right moment to allow our minds to process decisions, utilising deliberation without attention. (Except JetStar, I think they’ll do that.) We need to manage our decision processes at work and those of our people to, not just allow, but insist upon, a managed period of controlled distraction. You’re paying the wages of their unconscious minds; they may as well get put to work too.
In case you’re wondering (and we should spend a lot of our time wondering, don’t you think…) what the pasta image has to do with anything, here’s what. The creativity study tested the subjects by getting them to think up names to for new types of pasta. If it ended in the letter ‘i’, suggestions were deemed to be uncreative. I have a similar rule when it comes to attending operas – I’ll only attend an opera whose composer has a surname ending in a vowel, and sometimes Tchaikovsky .
Oct 15 in Auckland and Oct 16 in Christchurch, I’m co-facilitating Accountability Builder workshops.
Linked to the best-selling book ‘The Oz Principle’ this powerful, practical, and simple methodology will promote and build accountability for achieving results within you and your teams.
Sounds good? Is good! Check the link for details.
If you’ve raided all the ideas from the top selling business books and you’re still hungry to get better at what you do, to where else can you turn? Don’t laugh, but have you ever thought that comedians could teach you a thing or two about how to be a more effective business person, or even a more effective person?
In 2000, I was a mild mannered call centre manager. A grown-up in a grown-up’s job. Very serious. I also had two young children. I was constantly inspired by their unquenchable desire to learn, so as one of a number of devices to rekindle that spirit within myself, I started a tradition. Each year I now try at least two new and scary things. For the year 2000, it was skiing and stand-up comedy. I’m still mild mannered but I’m sure I’m now a far more effective professional because of the things I have learned and continue to learn as a comedian. Don’t laugh, but I reckon many of the skills a good comedian needs are directly transferable to the workplace.
Writing, delivering, evaluating and rewriting comedy has made me incredibly efficient as a communicator with my colleagues and customers at work. Jerry Seinfeld (a pretty fair comedian himself, although never achieving his potential as a call centre manager) says that he will spend an hour trying to condense a nine word sentence into five words. A measure some comedians use is LPM (Laughs Per Minute.) The more time you spend setting up a gag, the better the gag has to be. A joke or story is always a work-in-progress. Every performance of it is assessed with modifications and variations stored for future use and reassessment. The same goes for my sales pitches and inspirational fables I treat my staff to. They get better every time because they get shorter.
An extension of this focus on time is the need to create rapport quickly. First impressions count in comedy, as they do in a sales interaction or presentation to a management team. In a presentation lasting an hour, you may spend ten minutes introducing yourself, back-grounding your topic and connecting with your audience. Rookie comedians get six minute spots so my rule of thumb is that you have twenty seconds to make that connection and create rapid rapport.
As I’ve already said, first impressions are profoundly important for business people. For a comedian, it can be the difference between ‘killing’ and ‘dying.’ I used to be a corporate trainer and I was taught that above all else, I had to convince my trainees that I was credible and approachable. My choice of words, the clothes I wore, my tone of voice, my body language should all reinforce those two key messages. Its a bit like brand value, in that all corporate communications should be assessed against your brand values so that they can be reinforced and the organisation can be seen to be consistent in the eyes of the customer. That is a powerful notion and it’s called congruence. If you look at old footage of the great and influential speakers of all time, you see that their choice of words, tone of voice, body language etc all totally and emotionally reinforced the focus of their message. Check out Ghandi, Mandela, Churchill, Kennedy and oddly enough, even Hitler. They were persuasive in a large part due to that total congruence. Check out the popular comedians and you’ll see the same reinforcement of their humour through every non-verbal method at their disposal. A joke about a man waving or fishing is better told by waving or fishing with an imaginary rod. The same applies to a speech, sales meeting or job interview. People will find you more convincing but they won’t consciously realise why.
A comedian adopts an attitude or set of characteristics and ensures their material is consistent with that attitude. Ewen the Westie for example. Mine is a devoted father and loving husband of two. My material is consistent with that and the audience has to believe me. I have a great two minute bit that is hilarious but it totally depends on the audience accepting that I am a serial killer. This is inconsistent and I can’t use it. Plus I am told I don’t look like a serial killer. Personally I would have thought that the point with serial killers is that you can’t tell what they look like otherwise we could deal with them before they did it but that’s kind of a side issue.
As a business person, you need to focus on one, or at most two, characteristics you want to impress upon the people you meet. You can’t be all things to all people. Your characteristics depend on what you sell. A comedian is different from an accountant, landscape architect or interior designer and for that we can all be eternally grateful. I’d like my accountant to impress me with honesty and attention to detail. You can’t be everything to everybody so pick the one or two absolutely critical characteristics and assess yourself and your materials against it. Ask your friends. Ask your existing clients. I’ve found clients want their comedians to be funny yet professional. This is a challenging and often inherently contradictory mix. Arriving to a gig late, drunk and accompanied by your parole officer might be funny but it isn’t professional. (Well, that’s what they told me anyway.)
Rapport comes about when people meet you and they feel a sense of familiarity, a matching physiology and a relaxed state. That’s what the psychologists will tell you and you’d get a lot of this from the books of Alan Pease, Anthony Robbins and all those highly published and highly paid personal development types. One of my comedy mentors drummed into me that I need to do two things quickly:
- connect with the audience, not just a generic audience, but this particular one
- connect with now
I might have funny material (and I assure you I do) just as you might have a great product or service (and I’m sure you do.) Why should the audience care about what I have to say and why should your prospect care about what you have to sell? On stage, I have twenty seconds to answer that question. Oddly enough, I’ve found a powerful technique to answer that question is to use questions. Next time you watch a stand-up comedian, check out how many of their early sentences are questions.
- “How is everyone tonight?”
- “What do you do sir?”
- “Is anyone from out of town?”
- “Are you two a couple?”
- “What about that big news story today?”
- “Who’s got kids?”
Often these are rhetorical questions. Getting an answer isn’t the objective of asking the question. Its about creating the perception in the audience’s mind that the content of the show tonight will be different and will be customised for their needs. My brother is a litigation lawyer and apparently one of the axioms of cross-examination is to never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. The equivalent of that rule in comedy is to never ask a question when you haven’t prepared a response to any of the potential answers to that question. Most comedians have material in mind when they start a show just as you would have prepared a sales pitch. The winning comedians and the successful sellers are those that can quickly engage their audience.
Workplace Creativity and Innovation
All workplaces need to solve problems or think up new products or services or continuously improve processes. This is certainly true in my call centre. We used to run staff meetings where problems were identified, talked about and ideas for solutions talked about. We even used structured problem solving techniques. Wonderful stuff that my former management lecturers would have been proud of. Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes there were long, quiet, unproductive spells. As a comedian, I need to come up with jokes. All too infrequently does the inspiration pixie hover above me and sprinkle inspiration dust on my head, despite my best efforts to encourage him to visit. Jokes, at least my jokes, are created via a number of structured methods designed by me or stolen by me to forcibly create a lot of material from which the gems can be sifted. Quality through quantity, that’s what I say. Very quickly I made the connection between day job and night job and I started applying the humour generating forms to workplace problems. I’ll share just one basic joke form with you now and how you can apply it as a brainstorming technique. If you don’t mention the word “joke”, then you should be able to convince your colleagues you learned it at the Knowledge Wave conference.
A common joke form is premis-setup-punch. A situation is presented. Extra information is given. It leads you in one direction. Then the punchline takes you somewhere completely different. When you hear the punchline and think backwards, it’s all so obvious.
premis – “My wife and her mum get on well these days.”
set-up – “There are a thousand reasons for that.”
punch – “And those reasons are called kilometres.”
Rather than concentrating right now on how funny that joke is, let’s examine how it was born. I had a topic on adults’ relationships with their parents. I wrote this on the top of a blank sheet of paper. I then wrote as many factual statements as I could about that topic – at least thirty. No humour at this stage is required. I set my page up as a table with the row headings being the factual statements and four columns with headings of exaggeration, reversal, question and comparison. Then I write an exaggeration, reversal, question and comparison for each factual statement. So, as you can imagine, the joke above came from a reversal of a factual statement. Applying this technique to a workplace brainstorming scenario is simple, whether by yourself or with a team. The only difference is the size of the paper. A serious business topic goes at the top of the page such as “cutting stationery costs” or “our relationship with the Marketing department” or whatever. Then away you go. It’s a simple, structured approach that forces different perspectives on issues.
The process of creative thought is important and valuable. It is learnable. Think of products like the Sony Walkman or 3M Post-it notes. The technology to invent those things existed long before someone came up with the idea. In hindsight, the need for them and the concept is blindingly obvious, just like the punchline of most jokes.
I market myself as a serious comedian. Given the value of humour to us socially and to our health, I’m often surprised and disappointed at how comedy seems to be the poor cousin to other art forms in this country. There are plenty of stories out there of people dealing with illness with humour as part of a balanced approach to their treatment. Even if there is no proven causative link between laughing and living, it seems to me to be one of those things that is true if you believe it is. Most of my call centre’s business dealt with complaints and it was an inherently stressful operation. My team’s use of humour in their workplace was a major contributor to our single digit staff turnover rate.
There are many other applications of comedy and comedic techniques to our workplaces. This article has briefly touched on efficient communication, first impressions, congruence, consistency, connecting, workplace creativity and innovation, and stress management. Give it a go in that special kiwi way. What’s the worst that can happen – people laugh at you? People laugh at me all the time and it hasn’t stopped me being a comedian.
I didn’t invent the term ‘’Just-In-Time Learning’. I may even be a latecomer to it. I am, however, a raving fan. Money has a value and we’d all like to spend less of it and make more of it. The new currency of business people is not so much money, as it is time – time and focus. We can always make more money. Time ain’t coming back and there’s a lot of noise competing for our attention. How can we get our topics in front? How can we get our people investing their time and attention in the right places? Instead of throwing training at people hoping some of it sticks through the magic of ‘teachable moments’, why wouldn’t we create quality-controlled learning resources that can be easily accessed and searched by demand-driven learners. How can we enable people who want a problem solved or a gap bridged to find the answer in a self-driven way – giving them what they need, where and when they need it?
HR people in general, and Learning & Development people in particular, need to have their eyes and ears open to this development and be ahead of the wave in both satisfying it and leveraging it. One of my little catchphrases is, “Don’t fight human systems, go with them”. And what humans are after is learning, but not in the packages it has historically been delivered in. The old paradigm is supplier-led. Someone believes themselves to be a subject matter expert and they’d like that expertise to be spread around a bit so they write a book, or draft a lesson plan, construct some activities and tests, perhaps centrally in a command-and-control way attempt to get people in a room at the same time for the delivery of that expertise to occur. The way of the future, indeed, the way of the now is demand-driven. It’s not quite as fanciful as a Kevin Costner movie. If you build it, they might not come. They might but they might not. (‘It’ being an online learning resource library). But the beauty of the technology is that it enables you to determine in advance, in a low-risk, low-cost way what and where the demand is. You can then go there to meet it. Again, the technology allows you to monitor and measure and be flexible, adapting to meet changes in demand, not quite in real time but close enough.
It might be old-fashioned and may even be inaccurate but let’s re-address the hoary 70-20-10 model. I think it still has legs. When it comes to the different formats of learning for the workplace, imagine a pyramid with three levels. The top and smallest level is formal, planned, classroom training. Let’s say that is the 10%. The next and second-smallest level is planned but informal on-the-job coaching. Let’s say that is the 20%. The foundation and largest level is informal, often unplanned and equally often self-directed and demand-driven on-the-job learning. You see something. You try something. You break something. You get feedback. You try again. That’s the 70%. So much time, effort, money sweat and tears goes in the 10 and even the 20. Even today, I think the 70 is under-resourced yet is probably where the biggest bang for the L&D buck lies via a micro-learning, ‘just-in-time’ approach.
I think it will be helpful to invest a paragraph here as to where the term ‘just-in-time’ comes from. I did a post-grad management diploma and part of that was around service quality management. Essentially, these were the early days of studying the quality management techniques arising out of Deming and post-WW2 Japan’s economic boom with processing and manufacturing, then trying to apply them to the intangible and fuzzy world of services. There was a time when factories would buy and store their inputs. This cost them for the inputs and cost them again for storing. If they bought too much and stored it for too long there were most costs and possible wastage. So, the goal became to minimise those costs as much as practicable with the practice of ‘just-in-time’. Newly developed maths and computers enabled logistical algorithms to do the heavy lifting and the modern world of manufacturing and transport has inputs arriving at factories with the minimal of storage and downtime, often being put straight into production.
OK, so that’s the technical origin of the term ‘just-in-time’. What has that got to do with L&D? A bit more history first, sorry.
I got my first degree in the 1980s as you were supposed to, like people do in the movies. I attended a bricks and mortar university. Mine was a bit more ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ and not so much ‘Animal House’. I got my second degree in the 1990s. I was working a full-on job as a trainer and I was a dad of two pre-schoolers. I did my degree via correspondence. Their slogan was, “At your own pace, at your own place”. My employer supported me financially and with time, resources and access to people for projects. In fact, some of my projects were real assignments solving real problems for them. Looking back, the quality of my second degree far outstripped that of my first. Sure, I was older, wiser and considerably more sober but I am sure the primary reason is that I was motivated and the learning was demand-driven.
At about the same time, I was also learning up a documentation methodology called ‘Information mapping’. I’m not selling it but I am a fan. To me, it is far more ‘reader-centric’ in its design. So, at this time, I was immersed in reader-centric documentation whilst involved in distance-learning. It was about this time that I noticed something called the internet and I got my first email address.
My employer at the time ran lotteries and were heavily invested in a franchisee network. Hundreds of outlets that were hugely varied and geographically all over the place with owner operators with tremendous diversity. From memory, despite all their diversity, they had two features in common. One was a desire to optimise their money-making from the franchise. Their other was to spend as little money and time as possible in doing so. This was true of their attitude towards training and learning as well. And they had a lot of learning to do. We continuously introduced new products and occasionally threw some real curveballs at them with lots of secrecy and short timeframes. We certainly ran a lot of traditional classroom courses but we also produced a lot of demand-driven resources and create some novel and innovative learning events and systems. But it was rough as guts. The technology and the users of that technology were not there yet. Remember dial-up? Yeah, that. The ideas were there. The concepts were sound. The demand was latent. The technology and the users were a jigsaw missing a few pieces.
Flash forward through the 2000s and dancing into our lives and imaginations came broadband and smartphones and online communities like google and YouTube. Wait a few more years for mobile data networks to build up some muscle mass and we’re probably now two years into a new era where all those old distance learning, micro learning, just-in-time ideas can come back with a vengeance on digital steroids.
Ultimately the tech means nothing but falsely raised hopes if the people, the learners, are not just ready, able and willing, but already familiar and immersed. I’m going to give you three stories that illustrate just how ready the world is. And it is the world, not just your employees. As long as you’re developing resource, why not monetise it for the learners of the world, or gift it as a socially responsible corporate entity might do? But that’s a topic for another, possibly more controversial blog post. Let me just give you my three stories and we’ll conclude that the demand is there for bite-sized, just-in-time learning and if you build it, they will come.
I own three horses and apart from everything else they do, they are grass-processing machines, producing a lot of manure. We’d like to use this as compost so I telephoned our local lumber yard and they left for me to pick up after-hours a triple-bin compost kitset. When I arrived to pick it up, I found a pile of wood and a bag of nails. Stapled to the bag of nails on a ripped piece of paper was a scribbled URL. Next day, I laid out the wood outside the barn and, with my iPad able to grab some wifi from the house, I typed in the URL. From YouTube up popped a video probably shot on a smartphone with a couple of guys in boots and shorts instructing me how to make my compost bin. It wasn’t as shaky as a ‘Blair Witch’ movie but it clearly an amateur video but such is the tech in everyone’s hands these days, it was fine. There was no Peter Jackson CGI but everyone was visible and even with the sound of the wind on the phone’s mic, Steve and Kev would clearly audible. And, I’ve never built anything as level and square and strong as that compost bin.
I did some work with a boutique printing company. They specialised in short-run, one-off, urgent labels. They had no HR department. They had no in-house trainers. A bunch of people with ink on their hands – printing tradespeople. Each with their own smartphone and at least one of them with an idea. Using their phones and the free, user-friendly and ubiquitous YouTube with its search and tag functionality, they created a closed channel and uploaded all their homemade ‘how-to’ videos they needed to show to new staff. They took footage of their real-life mistakes as a warning and they became a resource that they again added to their online library. Totally self-directed and born entirely out of demand-driven learning needs. Between Kev and Steve and my printing buddies, I was finally starting to come to the realisation that time and tide had risen to where ‘just-in-time’ was coming into its own. Nothing else had to be invented. No one else had to be convinced. Teens were doing this to teach and learn how to put on makeup or play guitar. Why wouldn’t organisations utilise the same channels to supply the learning demands of its people?
The third story was back at my barn. A floodlight lightbulb exploded. It didn’t just burn out. The glass blew out. And the thing with that lack of glass was it meant I couldn’t unscrew the dead bulb to replace it. The glass was what you gripped to do the unscrewing. Fortunately, I talked myself out of my first instinct which was to shove some pliers in there with all that electricity. I asked Professor YouTube. Three seconds later I found a ninety-second Lithuanian video showing a simple, safe and near zero-cost solution that was so simple, I never would have thought of it myself. Wedge a potato into the diameter of the missing glass until tight, then grip the potato and unscrew that taking the bulb out with it.
The last key was a robust, reliable and responsive mobile network. My barn is pretty remote and Lithuania even more so, yet in three seconds I had all the learning I needed to solve my problem and bridge my gap at near zero cost. (The potato was collateral damage). Leaving aside the pun of “wedging” a potato, the other pun that came to mind was that this was a ‘lightbulb’ moment for me. Finally, all the jigsaw pieces were there for me and I had my realisation of the power of just-in-time learning – what I need, where and when I needed it.
WARNING: Horse-related business metaphor follows.
100m downhill & northwest of these two is heaps of grass. These two currently are nibbling in the same well-nibbled space.
If one of them just turned around.
If one of them explored alternatives.
If one of them didn’t just follow the other.
There are 2 acres of space they could inhabit, yet each chooses to exist right next to an undifferentiated direct competitor.
In fairness, they’re horses.
We and our businesses are not.
Make a decision to attempt new experiences. Some will challenge your current beliefs. You’ll see new opportunities and take new actions. You’ll improve your results. The accountability for taking that first decision is yours, at work and in life.
Learn more at https://lmac.co.nz/accountability/
In motor-racing, there’s a concept called the ‘optimal lap’. Say, you’re in a race of 100x1km laps. One of those is your fastest. That’s not the optimal lap.
Computers break down the timing of every lap into small sectors – let’s say for the sake of the maths, 100m. 10x100m=1km. There are 100 1st 100m, 100 2nd 100m, & so on. They identify the fastest 1st 100m, the fastest 2nd 100m, and so on, then add them up.
THAT’S your optimal lap. It will be faster than your fastest lap.
With our people at work, who are we looking for? Someone who matches the best person we currently have, or someone with the component talents that make up the ‘optimal candidate’? How do you know what those component skills are, or who has them? What about the skills your team doesn’t currently have, or skills that aren’t obviously needed right now but will be needed in the near future?
The thing about lap 1 of a 100km race is that you can learn and have 99 chances to apply that learning. How does your team learn systemically from their experiences to improve performance in their next attempt, & the next?
Accountability is a big part of that. Not just a skill but a foundational element of effective workplace cultures.
How can you build that?
Learn more about building accountability for yourself and / or your team, to get better results and building team culture at https://lmac.co.nz/accountability/
Multiple studies have shown that the vast majority of regrets people have, nearing the end of their lives, is not what they did, but what they didn’t do. They regretted inactions, not actions.
One study (Ellen Langer / Judith Rodin) was on 2 groups of nursing home residents. One was encouraged to make decisions for themselves – where and when to receive visitors for example. They were given a houseplant to look after. The other group were equally as looked after but were not offered the responsibilities. They were given the houseplants but told not to worry about them and that they would be looked after for them. The mortality rate of the group with added purpose was half that of the other group.
Nassim Taleb in his book ‘Antifragile’ writes about how just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos but need chaos in order to survive and flourish. I think, to a degree, your entire life is one of those things, as long as you get to initiate and control the chaos.
Rather life on a rollercoaster than a conveyor belt.