Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I've Moved

Thanks for visiting my blog. I've moved my posts over to http://www.proceeduntilapprehended.com/. You're welcome to look around, but if you want to check out my latest or subscribe, please come see me over there.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We're Breaking Up

Dear selfishmatters.blogspot.com,

Sorry, I know. Even starting a post with this title is bound to make you nervous. Let me cut to the chase. It's time we part ways. I love blogging. I don't think I'll every quit writing and inflicting my thoughts on the public, but I want to grow. My commitment to you was done in haste. I didn't yet know who I was going to be. Uh, yeah. It's not you, it's me.

I don't know how to measure this, but intuitively, I'm pretty sure I'm right. Visitors are turning around (or not even clicking) because you're too "out there." Yes, I get that you're deliberately provocative, but if my potential readers don't take the time to understand your clever double meaning, they may just presume our collaboration is inwardly focused. I want to hit them over the head with the value proposition.

At minimum, I want them to read for a bit before they decide this is all about me.

So, here's what I'm going to do... an ultimatum of sorts. I'm going to move over to www.ProceedUntilApprehended.com. You can either link to me because you know that if you love something, you should let it go, or I can go into your dashboard and post a "we've moved" announcement. Either way, I'm taking my content (and hopefully, my subscribers). I'm making a clean break. I hate to be so harsh, but, shit, if you've learned anything, you should know I'm selfish.

And no, you can't call me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Defending the way it's always been done

When you start something new, you often see with great clarity the things that are wrong or inefficient. You ask simple questions like, "why is this done this way?" or "could we just stop doing that?"

It's a tremendously valuable perspective, but it's typically not received that way. Instead, the reaction is defensive, perhaps a bit perturbed. My guess, the person doing the reacting probably agrees with your point, but it's that you've made them feel foolish. It's hard to separate the emotions from the logic.

You see, everyone prides themselves on being a strategic thinker. It's like those surveys that ask people if they have above-average intelligence. The large majority will say they do. These folks have been fighting the good fight, even if it was a little in the weeds, and today you pointed out that they're churning instead of making it simple. It's like someone just showed them the shortcut after they've used the long route for five years (or twenty). They had a reason, you know... or in '82 that option wasn't available... or it's easy to say that NOW... or we've been building to that shift for a while, let it come.

As the instigator of a broader view, however, you should gird yourself for this kind of reaction. Finding an innovation was easy. The hard part is getting through the egos and the habits to make it happen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Manage impulsivity and delay gratification

I apologize if this isn't new to you. I'm not necessarily writing anything original with this post. However, I find this to be such a simple, profound observation that I can't let it go, even if it's new for just one reader.

I want to share with you the "Marshmallow Test." I'm familiar with the Marshmallow Test because Daniel Goleman talks about it. Goleman is a leader in the Emotional Intelligence field of study, and it's very informative stuff, in that so-reasonable-it-must-be-true sort of way.

The Marshmallow Test had researchers putting a marshmallow in front of four-year-olds. If the child can wait 20 minutes without consuming it, they get another one. They get a total of two marshmallows. If they eat it before 20, that's it. They're done at one.

This can be seen as a pretty simple measure of these kid's ability to delay gratification. Twenty years later, the researchers show that the kids that had the ability to manage their impulsive desire to eat the marshmallow for twenty minutes did better on a number of measures intended to indicate life success.

Perhaps the lesson is obvious by this point, but let me hit you over the head with it anyway. We're confronted with opportunities to get instant gratification all the time. Buy now, pay next year. Skip the gym. Eat the dessert. Avoid the crucial conversation.

Beyond the results of the test, I think we all know we can challenge ourselves to put the long-term utility of our choices as a bigger priority than our immediate satisfaction.

I'm not saying don't pursue gratification, though it's an option. The lesson I take is that the more we can manage our impulses and make rationale decisions about what and when, the better off we are in the long run.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Finally, good advice to be successful

I've got one word for you. Plastics.

I don't have good advice. I tricked you, as so many others have before. In my defense, at least I'm willing to admit the charade.

I'm pretty frustrated by the "helpful" advice we get from friends, colleagues, parents, teachers, guidance counsellors, professors, supervisors, people that are older than you, people that have some sort of societal status... I'm sure you have more to add to the list.

It is soooo hard to discern good advice from bad. You can't tell from tone of voice, cut of clothes or the number of degrees on their wall. Seeing material evidence of their success or media coverage of their latest coup doesn't actually mean anything, either.

Whatever they say, you're still confronted with an individual that is giving well-meaning advice about a future they can't predict.

I'm in a unique role now to see LOTS of people who have listened to LOTS of well-meaning advice and are still struggling to find success, to get work or to feel valued. All those people that provided advice with gentle eyes and a hand on the shoulder? They didn't know. They just thought they knew. From a paradigm of "my position requires me to groom, control and cultivate," they sold a Nigerian inheritance.

I'm thinking it would be more helpful if they said, "I don't know what's needed. I've had a long and full life with a particular strategy for adding value, but I'm not sure it's relevant anymore. I think the only thing I can encourage you to do is ready yourself for a lot more change. Be ready, willing and adaptable."

THAT would have saved me some time... if I listened to it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You are hereby authorized to innovate

I'm pretty sure the only thing stopping us from taking the action we really think we should be taking is ourselves.

A number of years back, I was feeling a tremendous frustration with some of the patterns and culture of my work. Everything was urgent and everything was a priority. I wouldn't be surprised if this sounds familiar to a few of you.

I was challenged. When it has to be high quality, when it has to be done fast and "for the last time Nevin, no, we can't hire more staff," what's to give? Time and time again, it was I that relented. I worked the weekend or the lunch hour, grumbled about it and ultimately got the task done.

Anyway, a couple years of this... yes, I said years... and as I said, I was sick of the pattern. I still wanted to create value in the organization, but I didn't believe in our methods for creating it. Actually, I didn't just disagree. I was confident we would NEVER reach our goals if we didn't fix some of that systemic stuff. I also came to the slow realization that no-one was going to save me from it. There was no-one from up on high who "got it" and was going to eventually fix it.

Then it came to me. Titles and authority don't matter. This wasn't just me saying "Titles and authority don't matter." This was a change of heart. A deep commitment came with knowing titles and authority don't matter. I knew change comes from those who simply choose to take personal responsibility, and this knowledge gave me permission to disobey, to challenge and to generally raise a ruckus.

We can look in the mirror and say, "I hereby authorize you to innovate." I think that's where the magic happens. Everything after that is just uncomfortable and deeply fulfilling.

I jest, of course. You get used to the discomfort.

So, here's an exercise. All the things that we have declared as untouchable in our jobs? They're not. Stop using that as excuse. Get honest with yourself. Ask what really happens if you don't get it in on time? What happens if you say, "sorry, I'm keeping my lunch plans?" Prove to me that it does more than start a conversation, a conversation you've been wanting to have for a long time.

And by the way, "not getting that promotion" doesn't count as a reason. We're talking about strategies for REDUCING the insanity.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Five tips to outwit the knowledge economy

Even the most reticent among us now acknowledge that the way our economy works and the way a large majority of us produce value has changed significantly. If you're not there yet, you should perhaps watch the latest version of Did You Know. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3rqW_n1Y8o&feature=youtube_gdata to get a sense of how this world is asking something different of you.

This fundamental shift clearly hasn't been matched by a smooth adaptationd by our population. Personally, I've experienced a significant lag between my realization that the world had changed and the creation of strategies to feel like I'm actually engaged in the shift.

Here's some rules I've now put in place. Perhaps they'll be of assistance:

Make information work for you
Set up filters and categories in your email, through RSS and screen your phone calls. If you don't manage the flow coming at you, it can be constant and very distracting.

Document your best ideas and share them
The name of the game is now reputation. People won't seek you out for your knowledge like they used to and letters behind your name now mean less than they ever have. If you want people to have confidence that you have the smarts for the next problem, solve some existing ones without being asked.

Become a student... and a teacher
Along with increased availability of information is an accelerated pace of change. The approach I advocate is to institute a self-study course that makes you an eternal Master's student. You can never be on top of it all, but to be relevant in the discussion, you have to be informed and carry an opinion. Teaching is a no-brainer. It's how we learn. There's also a huge audience as we all try and figure it out.

It's DIY
In The Pirate's Dilemma, Matt Mason references a punk magazine that showed the neck of a guitar and three possible chords. It said, "Here's a chord. Here's two more. Now go form you own band." Go nuts. There are no restrictions. At little to no cost, you get to try what you want.

Embrace your new role
Most of all, beyond any advice I'm providing, I urge you to find a way to enjoy this environment. It's not going away anytime soon. There are plenty of discoveries, perspectives and unconventional sources to keep things interesting, but they can also drive you nuts. Make sure you have the right frame of mind. It's more of a pick-up game than league play. No-one is looking over everything with the right answer, not even Seth Godin.

There is no single source. YOU are a source. I'm a source. Isn't this fun?