Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

You Suck, I Suck, We All Suck

I appreciate that political correctness and liberal politics continue to abhor unfair, abusive, illegal, and immoral treatment of others. When politicians and government make grand statements of attrition and reconciliation, they need to continue to have an eye to the reality of the present. In Canada, when all levels of government apologize for the treatment of first nations people for the way we treated them at first contact, it is empty words because of the abhorrent conditions we continue to press them into. When a city council changes the name of a bridge because the person the bridged honoured for 50 years was a proponent of the residential school system while urban aboriginals are dying from their poverty, it seems disingenuous.

An eye to the past is important so that we don’t repeat our mistakes and help us continue to learn from them. An eye to the past can act as a shield to taking meaningful, difficult steps to remedy a current situation. If I/we don’t know how to, don’t have the commitment to, or are afraid of the ramifications of a difficult issue, like first nation poverty in Canadian cities we take an easier path. Creating an Aboriginal Poverty Reduction Strategy that sits on a shelf without resources or teeth is self-serving and possibly mean-spirited but somehow offers satisfaction to the writers and their sponsors. It may not help those struggling with poor housing, poor nutrition, poor health, and poor self-esteem but it gets headlines in the mainstream press and impresses potential voters and supporters.

I use the tactic too and am frustrated by the obvious dodge it can become. When I don’t know how to remedy a wicked question, I often answer a different one. ” How do we eliminate child hunger in Canada?” and I responded with a school lunch program in Calgary for children identified by an authority as being food insecure. I accepted congratulations for the work (3000 kids a day got fed) and celebrated the immediate, relevant and concrete solution to a very narrow problem. But the solution of providing a nutritious lunch to some hungry kids at school, on school days doesn’t begin to answer the wicked question. I don’t recall anyone challenging what we were doing because after all we were feeding hungry kids and it feels good to be doing something. Successive parliaments and numerous legislatures have passed unanimous motions to eliminate child hunger to great applause and little impact.

All of us need to get past the rhetoric and easy actions and begin having very difficult discussions and trying unbelievably risky experiments if we hope to solve the issues that are destroying lives and killing people. If we continue to manage social issues, social issues manage to continue. Most of what we do and say feels and sounds good but without challenging what we are doing, it seems that we are perpetuating the problems with a faint hope that they will somehow disappear.

Think and Act on Solutions,
B

 

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Sharing Economy

Disruptive Collaboration

We are smarter together than apart. The sum of our experience is more valuable when used collectively. It takes a village … Then why do we resort to an echo chamber when we are trying to solve a wicked problem? How do we get plowing down a path that becomes the only direction we look? An article on Aeon this morning entitled ” Group Smarts” by Jane Hu and some suggestions around building a ‘smart’ team. This matched, somewhat with a presentation I heard, on Saturday, at ‘Soul of the New Economy’ about Messy Collaboration. I will pull some thoughts from both and add what I think is important from my philosophy and practice.

From ” Group Smarts” Ms. Hu quotes Sir Francis Galton ( 1906) on the results of a contest he ran to guess the weight of an ox. “This result is, I think, more creditable to the trustworthiness of a democratic judgment than might have been expected,” when collectively they averaged 1197 pounds and actual weight was 1198. When collectively working to a defined conclusion we collectively do a good job. But how do we do when there isn’t an answer to be calculated or a past experience we can draw from?

hive

Because of my affection and admiration for the hive, I did pause to think about bees and there ability to manage complex problems that require enormous collaboration. I marvel that the hive can be maintained at a constant temperature, optimal for the Queen and brood, by tiny fanning wings cooling or even tinier thorax muscles vibrating to add heat. My astonishment for the hive extends to how together they solve social problems like free loading drones or season changes. Each worker bee lives with a collective purpose – the next generation. The thousands of flights they take to bring nectar and pollen back, the cleaning and preening, the care of the brood focuses on insuring the survival of tomorrow’s workers. In recent years new circumstances have challenged hives across North America. Colony Collapse Disorder seems to be associated with neonicotinoids in pesticides and genetic mutation of monocrops is still destroying hives but the bees are adapting, breeding resistance and beginning to cope.

For bees under normal circumstances or for us in the adding and subtracting world, straight lines to a norm are helpful. “We have always done it this way so let’s do it this way again” In complex and shifting sands we both need some disrupters who begin the slow process of shifting the mindset and turning the caravan. In wicked and desperate situations we shouldn’t just accept dissent but we should find a way to demand it. In the past large stalward groups tried to plant naysayers like the advocatus diabli of Pope Leo X (1513-1521) but after a time they aren’t taken seriously. The devil’s advocate lacks the conviction to disrupt for long or to stray too far because their ‘job’ may be on the line.

I wonder if process can make room for and cultivate discord and resistance. Would built in tests; checks and balances, be enough to pause the race towards a preconceived and accepted conclusion? Would ‘forced’ divergence after every convergence help to moderate the echo chamber? I have used rapid prototyping and improv to add tiny explosions on the track and seen stunned expressions turn to awe turn to inspiration. As yet unimagined solutions rose through the tension and new approaches were discovered. This isn’t a on size fits all correction but I would encourage exploration of possible practices that add detours. Most teams will eventually manage the change if they aren’t constantly hustled to the next step. If the point is to discover a different and better approach then rushing towards a louder, brighter, faster version of today isn’t likely to generate it.

There are risks to working in disruptive collaboration. Strong personalities can attempt to dominate so facilitators need to be tactful and democratic. Variations on a theme have significant gravity so there needs to be a counter force pulling away from the safety of familiar. It seems that once the orbit changes the force needed to resist the status quo lessens and when teams witness unimagined solutions or exciting trajectories, they become confident in the exploration and can hold the unordinary and practical at the same time.

We are smarter together when we work smarter. When we broaden our horizons and search for a distant source of light, we might just discover a planet or a galaxy of better ideas.

Make Today Remarkable,

B

Self Improvement

Tomorrow’s Breakfast

I heard Suzanne West from Imagena Energy speak yesterday at an event called #BecauseCalgary. She was part of a panel on business innovation and the changing landscape ahead of us. They all had a lesson to share and as always Suzanne was passionate and inspirational. She said that ” we shouldn’t back down. In fact we should joyfully eat problems for breakfast because that is how we move the needle.” I have written about tackling something big first thing in the day and agree that we need to embrace the opportunity that challenges bring. There is something exciting and frightening (in a good way) about facing a new problem with my Cheerios.

I have been reading a lot of spiritual practice writing and there is some suggestion that if we spend ten minutes at the end of the day reflecting on the day that was and imagining the day to come that in sleep, a new possibility arises. When you awake, before you dive into the day, take another ten minutes and reflect on how the shape of the problem has changed and record your ideas for change and the newly imagined path to a solution.

Keep the solution in view all day, either as a post-it or a screen grab. When you have another ten minutes begin a reflect and refine process. Keeping the solution on the proximate periphery allows you to use it as part of your day and use your day to improve the solution.

Try the ten minute routine tonight and tomorrow morning and at least once throughout tomorrow and then rinse and repeat.

Make Tomorrow Remarkable, by eating a problem for breakfast,

B

Uncategorized

From Strategic Monk  “It is easy for us to get focused on mastering the puzzle by finding the solution. There is something seductive, almost addictive, about knowing the right answer. When we decide we have the answer, we stop look and stop asking questions. We close our hearts, and minds, when we already know.We experience more when we are asking questions, before we decide we know the solutions.What are the questions you most deeply want answered today?When will you ask your next question?”

I do think we need to focus on solutions to our big wicked problems but in general and in relationships, I agree with the monk.

When was the last time you were curious to understand? To learn something just for the sake of learning something? To be interested in something frivolous just because it is fun?

Be curious, not judgmental.
~Walt Whitman

I am passionately curious about so many things that I have a breadth of information but not so much depth. I have accepted that I won’t be an expert on anything and probably don’t want to be one. I still have a thirst for new subjects and read and take notes on stuff that has no practicality in my current life. Somewhere knowing some of this will be beneficial but it will mostly just rattle around and synthesize to some other gem that I hear or find.

Make Today Passionately curious,

B