Weblog Entries for November 2008
November 21, 2008
Are you feeling "businesslike" ?
A few conversations lately have reminded me of this ad from my bygone days. Jimmy Saville pitches the joys of business travel on trains.
He talks about how you'll be in an excitingly different world where you be businesslike, and of course he's ditched his signature tracksuit for a straitjacketlike three-piece.
It's sometimes tempting to maintain a pose of being businesslike, fitting in with the culture etc. It's an effort to avoid looking or feeling awkward - but it can end up being counterproductive. A bit like for Jimmy here.
And here's Mike Yarwood's take on it all. ("81 is the age of the train, and some of them are even older").
November 20, 2008
I wrote about Howard Mann's ebook the other day, and said I liked his "pay fast, get paid faster" idea. He's now posted a few tips to help with the second half of that mantra. Might be useful in these recessionary times.
Number 4 got me thinking: Make the invoice an experience not a pain. I think I have this British thing running that means invoicing feels painful for me to do and I assume for folks to receive. I like Howard's suggestion of breaking that pattern!
November 19, 2008
Found in translation
Hat tip: Vic McWaters
NESTA and Virgin Atlantic are hosting a one day innovation event, called V-Jam - on Friday 28th November from 10am to 4pm. The idea is to get a range of people in the room - social media types, developers, frequent flyers and a selection of folks working at Virgin - and see if they can generate some ideas for using social media to improve the flying experience (whether before, during of after the flight). If some practical ideas come out of it, there is some funding available for development. I'll be helping out on facilitation, and the format will be based on open space - very conversational.
If you're interested in joining in, email me.
November 15, 2008
Tim Brown on play
I really liked this TED video by Tim Brown of IDEO on creativity and play.
He uses a few practical exercises to liven up the experience, but also to drive home his key points. One in particular dramatises how fearful we are, as adults, of the judgement of others - and how this blocks creative thinking. He talks about the value of play in buidling trust and friendship and how valuable this can be in freeing up creative thought.
I particularly liked his championing of using our hands, making physical prototypes to help embody experiences to help redesign things. He also champions the value of roleplaying to explore experiences and help develop ideas. One of his IDEO colleagues underwent a chest wax to help him imagining the experience of patients dealing with pain. One roleplayed a casualty patient holding a video camera:
The output of the video included 20 minutes of staring at this:
Just that one piece of provocation would surely spark a series of thoughts about the patient experience and what might be done to improve it. This isn't claiming that these experiments capture some absolute truth, but they do help to animate thinking. Far too many "creative sessions" I've witnessed involve people sitting in chairs thinking and talking, keeping discussions heady and often rather joyless.
Viv McWaters has done a good digest of her thoughts in response to this entertaining video.
Herds and blancmanges
Mark's published his Admap article: Forget influentials, herd-like copying is how brands spread (pdf). This is a nice summary of Mark's pedigree hobbyhorse. He challenges marketing gurus who think it's all about penetrating the inner decision processes of the individual mind to discover the magic levers that trigger purchase.
In fact, says Mark, so much of what we decide to do comes down to copying those around us, often quite unconsciously. How ideas/brands/viruses spread is complex and can't be controlled by, for example, identifying a few "key influencers" and reprogramming their minds. All in all, a nice counterblast to a large army of blancmange leveragers.
Mark and his coauthor, Alex Bentley, offer three bits of advice to future marketers
Pull not push: stop thinking about marketing as something you do to people and start thinking about what you can do to help the natural pull mechanism work better. Tactics include visibility, participation, and so on.I think the third is the most important: you have to try different things and see what happens. The second sounds sensible but may risk luring us back into a blancmange leveraging fantasy: first, make a beautiful, complicated model of reality and then make a few masterful interventions based on your superior thinking.
Understand the tides and landscape through which pull is operating before you decide on what you’re going to do.
Light lots of fires: cascades built on copying introduce an element of unpredictability. So best to reduce risk by lighting lots of fires and seeing which one(s) take(s).
I think you might better understand the tidal forces by doing stuff and being sensitive to what happens. (For complexity junkies, I'm thinking about the "probe, sense, respond" strategy of the complex domain in Dave Snowden's Cynefin model)
Perhaps the most difficult "key influencer" fantasy to shift is the idea the Marketing Director has, reinforced by organisational hierarchy, that he himself is - or should be - a key influencer.
November 9, 2008
My friend Howard Mann draws his inspiration for business from a college football coach. After a run of disastrous form he stops using a football for training. Instead, the athlete's have to throw bricks. Screw up on the basics with a brink and you're really going to feel it. That's a radical intervention. By getting them to focus on the basics, he turned the performance around.
Howard takes this idea and applies it to business: forget the fancy stuff, get the basics right. He's distilled this approach into a punchy, free book downloadable here. My favourite dictum is on page 38:
Pay fast, get paid faster... Repeat after me, "We are not a bank"
Howard's out to take his message out on the speaking circuit - which could be good timing as downturns are a great time for cutting out the froth and getting the basics right.
Penny Edwards' post - Are we really collaborating? - got me thinking. I'm wary of definition deckchairs, but I liked the idea of seeing a difference between collaboration and mere co-ordination. For me, collaboration involves something richer, more complex (so also messy), getting diverse groups to create things together. Co-ordination is more about getting everyone to stick to someone's plan.
Sometimes, when people ask for facilitation, I sense an unconscious agenda that goes something like: can you facilitate these people to be more compliant? There's a temptation to stay in the territory of the tidy and polite. But collaboration isn't always going to be a nice, clean business. The most exciting stuff happens when people are willing to step out the polite zone, encounter some conflict and keep working till out of the apparent chaos something interesting, unplanned and exciting happens.
November 8, 2008
Choosing to fail?
I liked this bit of thought-provocation from Annette:
Change processes evoke anxiety – whether it’s at a personal or professional level – that’s one reason why the change industry is outsourced to consultants. Anxiety is difficult to talk about or deal with at a conscious level but its presence is felt everywhere in what may look like irrational behaviour and illogical decision making. You’d imagine that choosing a consultant to manage the change process and deliver on the strategic goals would be important? After all, this is an important stage in the organisation’s development isn’t it? All well and good with our rational hats on. Unconsciously it may be more important to choose a consultant who can’t deliver, thereby protecting ourselves from the anxiety of change by blaming the consultant for not being good enough.
November 4, 2008
Chris Corrigan has been the biggest single influence on my work as a facilatator. One of his many gifts has been his championing of facilitation as a practice, which he explores further in this post. Here's a snippet
It seems an important feature of any practice that one recognize that the reason for practicing is to meet challenge, difficulty and frustration. In that sense any practice becomes a dojo, a place of training... Many of the places I work are difficult places, and I can see now that what makes me a practitioner is that I willingly choose those places because they are hard. That is where I practice, and the practice is learning to use the social spaces between us as people to make good happen in the world.I think it's important to experience days when the work is difficult, where things are not smooth or comfortable. Smooth surfaces can be nice to touch, but they don't give us grip.
Practice is not a retreat from the world, it is confronting your sharpest edge.
Amplified 08 sounds like my kinda conference - a conversational gathering of people who are into social media. It promises to have a flat structure which usually means a bubbly atmosphere. It's on November 27th.
I have a tentative prior commitment but if that doesn't come through, I'll be at Amplified.
November 3, 2008
Following up on WH Auden, here's R D Laing:
"The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice that how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds."Hat tip: Bob Sutton
November 2, 2008
Jyri on Obpops
Jyri Engestrom has posted this presentation about social objects. What most struck me was his argument that a lot of talk about social networks focuses on the links between people, but doesn't attend to the social objects through which they connect. Successful entrepreneurs are good at creating objects that are obligatory points of passage, or obpops. Google is - for now - a phenomenal obpop.
It also links to this Youtube satire on the friendships Facebook offers:
Hat tip: Adriana
Net beats newspapers for campaign news
Pew reports a big increase in the number of American's using the internet for presidential campaign news. The number's up from 10% to 33% in just four years. TV and newspapers have changed little over the same period.
Doesn't surprise me. I'm actively following the campaign online and what little TV coverage I've seen has felt quite feeble in comparison. I've found my personal "trusted sources" and the telly boys can't compete.