How We Can Overcome Being Judged Only By Our Track Record

I like this quote “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we already have done“. – Longfellow.

longfellow-quoteI find it so true both on a professional and a personal level. Because we are often judged by others on our past track record, it is extremely difficult to explain that we have decided to change, and that we intend to change. And even more to explain what we feel capable of doing in the future if it looks vastly different from what we have done in the past.

As a personal note, the most salient occasion where I have observed this was when I was an expatriate. The home office was still judging me on the basis of what I was doing before departing a few years earlier, while of course by experience grew tremendously from the exposure (hence, a divorce to be expected with my employer).

When we face this issue, explanation is one way, but action is probably the most effective way to demonstrate commitment and that we take a new orientation seriously, based on what we believe we can achieve. It may involve some significant initiative-taking. But that’s worth it!


How the Development of Legal Tech Will Change our Lives – and the Lives of Lawyers

As many other professions, the legal profession is not immune to being transformed by the Fourth Revolution. There have been many examples lately where simple legal processes have been performed by programs or simple versions of Artificial Intelligence.

legal_techFor example, a website promises to waive a large percentage of parking ticket fines using the strict application of the law (160,000 tickets would have been successfully fought in New York and London). Or, robots also get involved in divorce proceedings too.

The general article from ParisTech review ‘Legal Tech and other smart contracts: what future for legal automation?‘ provides a more general overview. According to a 2015 study, “47% of lawyers interviewed considered that it would be possible within 10 to 15 years to replace their “paralegal” employees (the administration that works as subordinates to a lawyer, in the United States) by solutions of artificial intelligence. 35% think that junior lawyer positions could be fully eliminated over the same period“. The paper continues by explaining what the most important changes will be.

While experienced lawyers will remain required for complicated cases, the legal profession should brace for a structural change in the years to come.


Why Big Data Prediction Capability will Remain Limited

Big Data is trendy, and the graal of Big Data is to be able to predict behaviors and ultimately influence them. But the world is complex and whatever power we put behind Big Data, there will be a close limit to what can be inferred.

Big dataThe most well known complex system is weather. In spite of the tremendous increase in computing power in the last decades, our prediction capacity remains limited to a week or so. That is because it is inherent to a complex system that prediction capability is limited by the system, our understanding of the initial conditions, and not by its equations or by the computing power we put behind.

So the graal of Big Data is in fact elusive – it will never possible to predict behaviors beyond a certain limit which is still to be determined practically.

Big Data will never allow the long term prediction we hope for. It will be a disappointment for many. It is also another sign of our freedom.


How Software Default Values Impact Real Life

When you write software, to avoid bugs you assign to each variable some default value, that is afterwards supposed to be updated by the program.

The farm at the default location for IP addresses in the US
The farm at the default location for IP addresses in the US

What happens when the default value does not get updated? Something like the nightmare of happening to be located at the default value of a mapping application, like what happened to a quiet farm in Kansas. The story told in this Fusion article ‘How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell‘ is really though-provoking. Just because it happens to be at the center of the country, it is mapped as the location by default of IP addresses. The article contains many other similar stories of misplaced geographical locations of IP addresses.

It happens all the time also on our favorite online maps when they show the center of a long avenue when searching for an address – this center could be far remote from the actual location we are looking for!

I am not speaking of people driving in entirely wrong locations by their GPS because they did not check that they had selected the adequate town or checked there was actually a road!

Even in this century of overwhelming information some checks are required before believing what the machine says. Stay vigilant!


How to Overcome our Taste to Become Really Creative

Creative work is tough and it takes a lot of time to reach the point of true creativity. Most of all we need to overcome our taste.

Ira Glass creativityI like very much this quote from Ira Glass. It is very deep about our taste and the work required to overcome it:  “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.

We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Yes it will take lots of time and work to really become creative, and so many people drop it before. What about you?


How to Scale Organizations Dealing with Complexity

Following up on General McChrystal‘s book ‘Team of Teams‘, the unique feature of the book is how it describes practically how to scale organizations that deal with complexity.

command_centerIn large complex projects I am used to see co-located teams of 150 to 200 people maximum that can manage huge projects. General McChrystal describes how he scaled a similar organization to deal with thousands of contributors and dozens of departments/agencies in a context of high complexity – war in Iraq.

The recipe is quite simple however it requires a lot of leadership consistency. The co-located team is limited to 100-150 people which is the maximum practically feasible. It mixes all departments and there is no secrecy within the team – all information is shared. Graphical displays show the situation as it unfolds. Exchanges between departments are organized to help people understand others’ approaches and points of view.

The result of setting up and running such an organization can be astounding in reactivity and nimbleness. There is not reason why it could not be adapted to civilian organizations. My guess is that the organization of the future will probably be some evolution of this model.


How Dealing with Complexity Requires New Organization Frameworks

To those of us that are passionate about understanding how to deal with an ever increasingly complex world, I can’t recommend enough to read General McChrystal‘s book ‘Team of Teams‘.

Stanley McChrystal - team of teamsManagement models based on planning and predicting instead of resilient adaptation to changing circumstances are no longer suited to today’s challenges. Organizations must be networked, not siloed, in order to succeed. Their goal must shift from efficiency to sustained organizational adaptability. This requires dramatic shifts in mental and organizational models, as well as sustained efforts on the part of leadership to create the environment for such a change.

This is exactly the organizational approach I support for large, complex projects in my consulting role: organize projects as open space, removing people from their department of origin and creating a team cohesiveness around the common goals of the project.

It is surprising how this is still a new way of organizing work for many organizations that are still very much in the departmental, top-down industrial organization model. And, as reinforced in the book, “Efficiency is necessary but no longer sufficient to be a successful organization. It worked in the twentieth century, but it is now quickly overwhelmed by the speed and exaggerated impact of small players, such as terrorists, start-ups, and viral trends.”


How People Buy More Experiences and Less Things

It seems that there is a trend for people to increasingly buy experience and not just things as part of their luxury expenditures.

experience_not_thingsIn a 2014 report the Boston Consulting Group says that nearly $1 trillion of the $1.8 trillion spent on “luxuries” in 2013 was spent on experiences — 55 percent.” quotes Valeria Maltoni in her excellent post ‘Seeking Experiences Where the Product is a Better Self

“When we buy experiences, those purchases make us happier than when we buy things,” says Joseph Pine, the co-author of The Experience Economy. “Some large part of that trillion is luxury transformations—people looking to recharge, revitalize or to improve well-being in some way.”

And it is true that in the quest for the meaningful, minimalism and avoidance of excessive tangible ‘stuff’ is quite a trend.

What about you? Do you increasingly buy and offer experiences instead of things?



How America Becomes Sedentary When the World Becomes Nomadic

Having travelled in the US on and off in the last 20 years, I had been struck that American people seemed to have increasingly grown roots. The “hometown” is now a well established concept, and I do not remember that was so much the case in the 1990s. At the same time in the world, nomadism increases dramatically.

Where is the frontier spirit gone?
Where is the frontier spirit gone?

This feeling is confirmed by the Atlantic article ‘How America Lost Its Mojo‘: “Between the 1970s and 2010, the rate of Americans moving between states fell by more than half—from 3.5 percent per year to 1.4 percent“. Nobody knows exactly why. The article proposes the expensive price of housing to be the main cause of this sudden sedentarism. This might come together with the fact that more young people are staying in their parent’s home.

As I write this article I am in Abu Dhabi. Here less than 10% of the population is local. The rest is constituted by immigrants – Indians, Pakistani, Omanis, Yemenites, Syrians… Walking in the streets at night, one feels in a melting pot. All those people who have migrated to find better conditions and contribute to the emergence of the local economy. Maybe not with the best working conditions, but they come and seek the means to provide for their families.

With the Fourth Revolution, the nomads are again in power. At the same time the US settles down. Is that a sign that in spite of being at the source of new technology, the social setup of America does not follow suit?


Authenticity: How to Create Meaningful Connections over Social Networks

Creating meaningful connections, even over social networks, requires a high degree of authenticity. Unfortunately it is rather the opposite that most often occurs: our own self online is rather more superficial.

authentic selfAmber Naslund writes in this excellent, touching and profound post ‘the Life-Out Loud Manifesto‘: “the only way to truly forge those connections in a lasting, valuable way is to put our genuine selves out there. To say boldly: “Here I am. Here is what I stand for. Here is what I love and what I don’t and what I would like to know more about. Here is where I hurt. Here is where I stumble. Here is me, unapologetically, without pretense, without shame.”

She continues: “The web makes validation and connection more possible than ever. But to find it – to find more than superficial words and fleeting sentiments writ quickly with thumbs – we must pledge to step out of our comfort zones in order to let people see us in all of our beauty and individuality and imperfection. Only then can others see the light that only we shine, see their own reflections in our mosaic, and perhaps find their strength and their voice and say “I’m here, too.”

I like the pledge to be more authentic online. It’s tough but it might be something that will distinguish success in the Collaborative Age.


One of My New Adventures: CleanuC

For those of you who follow my professional activities I want to share one important new initiative: CleanuC.

cleanuc logoCreated by a group of people frustrated by the lack of progress in nuclear decommissioning in France, CleanuC is a new concept that aims to improve significantly the effectiveness of nuclear decommissioning programs by taking them as an integrated project driven by a single responsible contractor.

cleanuc banner

For me it is the occasion to bring my expertise in managing and controlling large complex projects in an area of public interest.

It is a highly disruptive contractual and industrial approach in France where decommissioning programs have generally been contracted in small pieces.

CleanuC is born as a registered entity in July 2016 after maturing the concept during one year in a few Paris cafes (actually we have taken over a small company specialized in safety studies for decommissioning facilities). We have a partnership with a leading industrial partner.

I have taken a participation and will devote significant effort to set it up and develop it. Watch this space and for news on this exciting project!


How We Constantly Underestimate the Role of Luck in Our Lives

This article from The Atlantic ‘Why Luck Matters More Than You Might Think‘ is a useful reminder that we constantly underestimate the role of luck in our lives.

don't minimize importance of luckLuck to have been born in a developed country from a well-to-do family, luck of being healthy, luck of having met the right people at the right time… we constantly underestimate the role of luck and overestimate the role of our abilities and hard work. The quote mentioned in the article “Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” sums it up.

Another interesting aspect developed in the article is that seeing ourselves as self-made leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. People that acknowledge the role of luck tend to offer lucky breaks to others!

Never over-rationalize what happens to you, and acknowledge the role of luck. It is a useful first step in reconciling with the complex world that surrounds us.