Why We Need to Connect With People to Get More Often Below Superficial

Following up from our post ‘How Everyone you Will Ever Meet Knows Something that You Don’t‘, the issue then becomes how to share this knowledge. How can we be in a position to better exchange knowledge through our daily interactions with people?

coffee connectionThe reality is that 95%+ of our daily interactions with people remain at a too superficial level to figure out what it is they know we don’t know. The issue is then to figure out how to setup those conversations in a way to enrich our experience and their experience.

It all comes down to connecting in the right manner, demonstrating interest to the person, its interests and aspirations. It also come down to a benevolent attitude that does not seek immediate advantage or profit from the relationship.

Of course that takes time so we can’t do that for everyone we meet, but we can certainly do better.

Benevolence is important. I had written first the first sentence of this post “how to benefit from this knowledge”. But the point is not to benefit, but to share!

Let’s try to learn more about the world by connecting better with more people, learning exciting new stuff we did not even know existed and sharing our knowledge too!


What the Benefits of a Deep Conversations Are

Deep conversations are arguably some of the most valuable moments we can spend.

deep-conversationsI love this analysis of conversation from Valeria Maltoni in her post ‘Inventing Options for Mutual Gain‘:

Conversation is not just our ability to verbalize information, it’s also our ability to process information, of becoming aware of what we know, the internal dialogue we have with ourselves and our mind, the interaction between what we think and what we say, but also between what we say and what we do.

Many of the most productive conversations we have lead to an understanding of sorts. In some cases they allow us to connect with one another in a way that leads to solving a problem, advancing a project, and creating opportunity for a next step or action.

Spot on what a great, deep conversation can achieve.

How often do you have deep conversations? Think again. You might want to have more.


How Combining Human and Artificial Intelligence Might Be the Winning Combination

A lot gets written and debated about Artificial Intelligence these days. In that context, the recent report by the US National Science and Technology Council ‘Preparing for the future of Artificial Intelligence‘ is a must read.

the-future-of-aiOne area that has struck me in particular is the reference to exceptional performance of the combination of human and artificial intelligence when is comes to pattern recognition. An example: “In one recent study, given images of lymph node cells, and asked to determine whether or not the cells contained cancer, an AI-based approach had a 7.5 percent error rate, where a human pathologist had a 3.5 percent error rate; a combined approach, using both AI and human input, lowered the error rate to 0.5 percent, representing an 85 percent reduction in error.

It seems increasingly that this combination of two different perspectives, ours and the other one we are creating using Artificial Intelligence, could open us new frontiers. Artificial Intelligence in that sense seems rather a useful tool to broaden our perspectives and capabilities.


How To Create Emotional Connection in a Community

In this great blog post ‘What do people need to feel part of your community?‘, Pamela Slim shares how to create actual emotional connection within a group of people. And she certainly has great experience doing just this.

community connectionHer recipe includes:

  • Feeling safe
  • Feeling seen
  • Feeling heard
  • Feeling honored

One aspect that struck me particularly is her statement “I want to stress that “safe” doesn’t have to imply “always comfortable.” Some of the very best community building involves real discomfort as people explore beliefs and perceptions, challenge assumptions and explore differences.” Actually, I do strongly believe that going together through uncomfortable situations is a great way to create emotional connection – and that’s a ploy commonly used for example, for team-building events.

How do you treat the community you are trying to build? Is there any of these elements missing?


Why You Should Use Powerful Questions More Often

Questions have great power. They can create real shifts in our thinking. It is a tool I use a lot in coaching. Action Learning is a cousin, where problems are being managed by diverse teams of people using questions.

power_questionsRequiring people to think in terms of “questions first” transforms the dynamics of the group. The natural impulse to make statements and judgments gives way to listening and reflecting” writes Michael Marquardt in the book ‘Optimizing the Power of Action Learning’.

In business meetings I observe that people too often proceed with making statements. It would be much more effective to ask questions. The best leaders actually do that, and it is quite easy to identify leadership with the ability to ask questions rather than making statements.

Next time, when you’re about to make a statement, ask yourself whether it would not be better to ask a powerful question instead. It will change the dynamics of the group!


Why Integrating New Experiences in Our Life is an Essential Skill

The ability to process new experiences, to find their meaning and to integrate them into one’s life, is the signature skill of leaders and, indeed, of anyone who finds ways to live fully and well.” —William Bennis

transformationI find this quote very much to the point. What is implied requires two skills:

  • the ability to venture beyond one’s comfort zone and be open to new experiences,
  • and the ability to process this new experience and change oneself

Both can be challenging to people. For example, I do easily venture outside my comfort, but I am not completely sure I take advantage of all this experience to change quickly enough.

In addition, I like the relationship that Warren Bennis makes between the ability to change and leadership. A leader must be able to entice followers to come, she must also be able to recognize the need to change herself. This might not always be easy to do both.

How able do you find yourself going beyond your comfort zone, and to process the experience to change yourself?


How to Improve the Effectiveness of Complex Problem-Solving Teams

We’ve already established in this blog that an effective team is the best way to tackle complexity. There appears to be one additional condition: the team must be complete when it meets to resolve a situation.

problem solving teamAccording to  Michael Marquardt in the book ‘Optimizing the Power of Action Learning’, “Putnam (2000) notes that the most complex problems can be solved only by a group that has developed a strong social bonding. Therefore, it is much better that the group meets fewer times when everyone is present than more times when one or more of the members may be absent

I have observed that when people are missing it certainly influences the effectiveness of the process. This warning also implies that problem-solving teams be of a limited size so as to make it workable.

Increase definitely the effectiveness of complex problem solving by insisting on the attendance of everybody in the problem-solving team!


How to Discover More About People: Play!

Long ago, Plato said: “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

unhappy tennis player
An unhappy player that expressed his disappointment physically

It is particularly true I find when it comes to the emotional reactions of people who lose, or even simply by observing how much people can get involved in the game.

It is to a point where it is surprising that recruiters haven’t thought to include group games as part of their selection process (some do, but they are rare). It would also allow to observe whether people are team players, or rather seek to demonstrate their own performance. Games and playing are used extensively in teambuilding and leadership development programs though, and that often allows to know people much better!

Want to know people better, quickly? Set up a team game!


Why a Healthy Company Culture Encourages People to Share Bad News

A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news. A company that discusses its problems freely and openly can quickly solve them. A company that covers up its problems frustrates everyone involved” – says Ben Horowitz in his book ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’.

good news, bad newsI have observed numerous times how cover-up cultures finally lead to disaster. The role of the leader is essential in that respect. Ben Horowitz continues: “The resulting action item for CEOs: Build a culture that rewards— not punishes— people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved“. In other words, don’t shoot the pianist!

That leadership approach is incompatible with control-and-command styles in particular when terror is part of it. It is easy to find out on what side an organization lies: just listen to people speak about senior management and whether they can be heard when they raise issues.

Of course it is also important to celebrate the good news when they happen. That should not be forgotten either, because the organization should not just look at issues. Some leaders fall in that trap as well.

Still, cover-up is not a sustainable proposal. Candidness is, and I have found over time that it is better to raise issues even if it can lead to being shot in the short term. If your leadership can’t bear bad news and goes up to dismissing you, it might not be worth staying anyway.


How to Negotiate Properly To Reach Agreement

In the book “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury (veterans of international and corporate negotiations), the useful approach of Principled Negotiation is exposed. It is based on four powerful points:

Avoid this particular negotiation tactics!
  1. People: Separate the people from the problem.
  2. Interests: Focus on interests, not positions.
  3. Options: Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do.
  4. Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard.

Of course proper and consistent implementation of these principles requires some practice. It also sometimes requires quite some work to get the other party to agree on this approach and play the game of that type of negotiation.

If I had to choose one of these points as the most important, the creative ability to come up with a number of options (and at the same time, to be sufficiently resilient from an emotional point of view to be able to assess the actual pros and cons of these options), would probably be my choice. Having as many options as possible a key asset in a negotiation. Be creative!


How to overcome the 5/ 15/ 80 rule

The 5/ 15/ 80 rule states that “we enter any given assignment knowing 5 % of the relevant information. A further 15% of the information is that which we know we don’t know. And the 80 represents the 80% of the relevant information that we don’t even know we don’t know” (from Jon Steel in ‘Perfect Pitch‘).

Much information is missing, we can still see the overall picture!

While the first 5+15=20% of the issue is not so scary (we always enter a new assignment with information we know we must seek), the remaining 80% is probably much scarier. This “black matter” will have to be uncovered, piece by piece – that is, if we manage to realize that there is stuff our there we don’t even know we don’t know.

It is similar to the usual cycle of learning: the transition from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence is probably the toughest because it sometimes requires us to overcome our filters and beliefs.

Does it really matter? We can recognize patterns even with only a little bit of information, such as the enclosed picture shows. Thus, provided there is a pattern we can recognize, poor information is not an issue. That is, if our experience and the patterns we have formed over time are relevant.

The issue is maybe not the quantity of information, but to seek if there is any that contradicts the pattern we would expect. If that is the case, it is a sure indicator that there is some stuff out there we don’t know. And then we need to search.


Why You Should not Seek to Adapt too much to your Circumstances

The Better Adapted You Are, the Less Adaptable You Tend to Be“. Systems and living beings tend to adapt as much as possible to their environment. With a dramatic effect: if they become too adapted, too specialized, they become vulnerable.

lab mice
It can be dangerous to be too specialized!

Human success in nature is mainly due to our adaptability across different climates, seasons and living conditions.

Yet we tend to forget too often that adaptability has been our key for success for generations, like for example when the Industrial Age taught us that specialization was best for our social success (see the post ‘Stop to be Excessively Specialized – Become a Generalist to be Successful in the Collaborative Age‘).

Gerald Weinberg, whom this quote is from (in ‘The Secrets of Consulting‘), continues: “This law provides one reason why people need consultants. Consultants are less adapted to the present situation, and therefore are potentially more adaptable. Their perception of now/then tradeoffs is different from those close to the problem, which makes them a valuable source of ideas (as well as people not to be trusted)“. That’s why you need to have candids in your meetings and make sure you always bring people that have not been too associated with your ideas.

Remain adaptable. Seek outside advice. And you’ll be successful.