How Becoming Nimble With Change is an Essential Competency

In this post ‘Becoming Nimble at Dealing with Ever-Changing Plans‘, Leo Babauta expands on our difficulties to adjust in a world changing increasingly quickly. The ability to be nimble is an essential competency today (and I am still personally working on it!)

He shares some principles to reflect upon:

  • Every change is a training
  • Use changes to stay present
  • Learn to relax with uncertainty
  • Practice flowing with changes
  • You can find focus in chaos, with practice
  • Structure is very helpful, but don’t be attached
  • Finding joy in the middle of the storm

Developing this competency is certainly essential in an accelerating world where plans change. The Covid situation has added another layer or unpredictability in particular when it comes to travel or work plans. Let’s get better at it!


How the Digital Age Requires New Digital Body Language Skills

In this post ‘How Effective is your Digital Body Language? Let’s find out…‘, Charlene Li reports on her conversation with Erica Dhawan, the author of a book on Digital Body Language. A passage in particular has attracted by attention: “reading carefully is the new listening, and writing clearly is the new empathy.”

Attention on reading is now very scarce as we see so many messages on our digital platforms and it is true that reading carefully is akin to modern listening skills.

The authors goes on to recount how proper skills at digital communication is also essential in the field of empathy. Since communication is now going through the written word on electronic messages, conveying empathy through this medium is now an essential skill.

You can’t get away with showing empathy in traditional body language only. We must master the skills of digital body language to build a culture of empathy and respect and showcase that we’re listening and that we value each other.

The post goes on to highlight 3 recommended practices:

  • Assume good intent
  • Practice virtual water cooler moments
  • Show your vulnerabilities

The digital age requires new skills and we’d better pay sufficient attention to developing those to remain effective in communicating in particular to the younger generations!


How Courage, Anger and Rage fit together

Austin Kleon – a famous author on creativity – writing about ‘What to do with your feelings‘ mentions in particular the issue of courage. “People often ask me how I got the courage to put my work into the world. I’m not sure I have any courage, but I do have rage.”

He continues explaining how anger can be channeled in an useful emotion (although this requires quite some control) in a situation where there is a need to react to something out there which is not quite right.

Whenever you are out of ideas, there’s someone, somewhere, with bad ideas that need to be corrected. But you don’t necessarily have to talk about the bad ideas, or take them on directly, you can just articulate the good ideas that cancel them out.”

Anger could thus be the source of positive alchemy, if used right. And it is true that more often than not, ‘courage’ requires ‘rage’ to express itself.


How to Improve Personal Projects

Seth Godin in his post ‘Five useful questions‘ advises us to ask some fundamental questions on our personal projects so that we address the right things and so that we don’t let us being distracted by less important stuff.

  • What’s the hard part?
  • How are you spending your time?
  • What do you need to know?
  • What is the scary part?
  • Is it worth it?

Having the right answer to those questions enables us to identify which projects are really those that will make us evolve and improve.

I like in particular the questions about the hard part and the scary part. It is those parts we will struggle to address, not necessarily because they are so hard, but because they are beyond our comfort zone and usual capabilities. Still if we want to progress we need to address those and make sure we increase our comfort zone reach. This is particularly true about getting the right data and the right interactions to reach our goals.

It is really useful to interrogate our projects with some fundamental questions about alignment and whether they will effectively lead to self-improvement.


How to Have the Right Skills and Abilities in Technical Positions

This interesting post ‘An incomplete list of skills senior engineers need, beyond coding‘ by Camille Fournier – targeted at coding engineering but more widely applicable – lists a number of skills and capabilities that are actually required beyond simple technical abilities. Of course they address a number of softer skills and human interaction capabilities.

Amongst all those skills listed I pick up my top 5 – those which based on my experience seem the most urgent to be acquired:

  • How to run a meeting, and no, being the person who talks the most in the meeting is not the same thing as running it
  • How to indulge a senior manager who wants to talk about technical stuff that they don’t really understand, without rolling your eyes or making them feel stupid
  • How to explain a technical concept behind closed doors to a senior person too embarrassed to openly admit that they don’t understand it
  • How to lead a project even though you don’t manage any of the people working on the project
  • How to find interesting work on your own, instead of waiting for someone to bring it to you

In any case this reminds us that whatever the position today, even in the most technical and expert positions, sufficient abilities in soft- and interpersonal skills is required to fully participate and contribute to projects and organisations.


How Commuting to Work May Have Positive Psychological Benefits

This interesting and recommended The Atlantic column ‘The Psychological Benefits of Commuting to Work‘ takes a novel view on remote work, highlighting positive aspects of actual commuting. The main effect would be to create a barrier between personal and work life, in effect a time buffer for disconnection.

Employers—even the ones that have provided the tools for remote work—see cause for alarm. “No commute may be hurting, not helping, remote worker productivity,” a Microsoft report warned last fall. After-hours chats were up 69 percent among users of the company’s messaging platform, and workers were less engaged and more exhausted.”

Historical studies would have shown that average commuting times have always be around 60 mins per day even since roman and greek times. ““You get a very strong feeling of two lives with the train a bridge.” The distance between those two lives is explored in a body of research loosely known as “boundary theory,” and this, perhaps, is where we see the commute’s more important job.”

There are even recommendations if you are working remotely to have certain rituals which may include a short stroll to set the boundary between working time and private time.

I am personally not so sure that this border between work and private life really continues to exist as we continue to be connected all day long to work through our phones. Still it is true that the psychological effect of distance between work and family life is important at least from the geographical perspective – having a separate work space at home certainly helps.

It thus may be a good idea when working remotely to actively and consciously implement a ritual to demonstrate the switch between working and family time and ensure that this transition is clearly delineated.


How to Take Delight in Uncertainty

Leo Babauta in his post ‘Delight in Uncertainty‘ explains how most people have difficulties with uncertainty in our lives, and highlights the positives associated with appreciating this uncertainty. As a recovering foe of uncertainty, this certainly resonates with me!

We don’t like uncertainty, we want to avoid or control uncertainty, we get stressed when we can’t. And uncertainty is unavoidable: everything is uncertain all the time!

So what can we do? First take stock that certainty is too boring: “We might instinctively dislike uncertainty, but in truth, we would be so bored without it.” Uncertainty is also the place to learn and to grow.

It is not easy to welcome uncertainty, and it does require an amount of practice. The usual corporate world generally does not provide it. Personally, I am practicing since I have started my company and I am not quite too sure who my clients and what my activity will be in 3 to 6 months! And I end up enjoying it because I know this provides space for unexpected opportunities.

Leo Babauta insists on some practices to learn to welcome uncertainty: notice the uncertainty, dance with it, set the joy in it and dance with it.

Whatever your approach, it is very satisfying to have a confident relationship with uncertainty. And yes, it takes time and practice because our Industrial Age education taught us about how to behave in a certain world. Nevertheless we can embrace uncertainty, and dance with it!


How Intuitive Approaches Are Better Suited to Opening New Markets

Following up from our previous post ‘How to Recognize Crazy Innovative Ideas that Aren’t so Crazy‘, and taking a slightly different viewpoint, this article from the Conversation addresses one of the main aspects of decision-making: ‘Gut feel or rational analysis? Both may be vital in finding winning ideas for new markets‘. It summarizes some research on the processes followed by companies trying to find winning ideas to penetrate new markets. And the conclusion is clear: intuitive approaches are more powerful to uncover new markets.

Like individuals, “Some [companies] will instigate procedures that encourage more analytical decisions – for example, using formal idea evaluation tools such as grid analysis techniques and weighted point-rating evaluation matrices. Others may opt for more informal ways of evaluating ideas, which leave more room for evaluators to draw on their intuition.”

The conclusion of the research is quite clear:

  • Rational idea evaluators tend to seek out ideas that focus on a company’s current strengths.
  • Intuitive evaluators focus more on identifying opportunities to enter new markets.
  • For intuitive evaluators, a highly formalised evaluation process reduces their emphasis on finding opportunities in new markets.

Hence it appears that intuitive approaches are more suited to exploring new market opportunities, and it also appears important not to introduce the rational approach too early in the process, letting intuitive approaches identify opportunities first!


How to Recognize Crazy Innovative Ideas that Aren’t so Crazy

In this interesting post ‘Crazy New Ideas‘, Paul Graham sets the scene about how to deal with breakthrough ideas that look crazy at first. And he proposes a workable scheme of how to deal with these, to decide whether they are worth supporting.

As a Business Angel I am constantly wrestling with this issue when faced with business plans of startup companies. “Anyone who has studied the history of ideas, and especially the history of science, knows that’s how big things start. Someone proposes an idea that sounds crazy, most people dismiss it, then it gradually takes over the world.

The first criteria proposed by Paul Graham is how reasonable the person proposing the idea is: “If the person proposing the idea is reasonable, then they know how implausible it sounds. And yet they’re proposing it anyway. That suggests they know something you don’t.” While we then need to beware of the expert trap, there is still an opportunity to ask questions and try to understand the viewpoint of the proponent.

The second issue is that the world will resist to the new idea. Free criticism is easy and socially rewarding, vested interests in the current state of the world widespread, current paradigms cloud our judgment. In addition the new idea is weak and fragile so it may easily be crushed away.

If you’re nice, as well as wise, you won’t merely resist attacking such people, but encourage them. Having new ideas is a lonely business. Only those who’ve tried it know how lonely. These people need your help. And if you help them, you’ll probably learn something in the process.” That’s an interesting call to action for innovation if I have ever read one.

Thus if a reasonable and sufficiently expert person proposes what looks like a crazy idea at first, don’t dismiss it: investigate, try to overcome those current paradigms that cloud your judgment, and support them.


How to Create Habits Effectively

This interesting article ‘Strategies for creating (or destroying) habits‘ summarizes principles of habits change management and provides an applicable four-pronged model: cue, craving, routine, reward.

In more detail:

  • How can I make it obvious? (Cue)
  • How can I make it attractive? (Craving)
  • How can I make it easy? (Response, Routine)
  • How can I make it satisfying? (Reward)

The first step is to make our current habit conscious and visible, and understand how it gets triggered. The second step is to make the new habit particularly attractive by associating it with an expected outcome; in that area, benefitting from the right environment and social pressure is clearly an advantage. The third step is to ensure that is easy to trigger the new habit; and finally the fourth step is to reward the new behaviors.

Worth remembering that changing habits (once we are aware of the need) can be enhanced by a structured approach. It is worth reviewing it from time to time as we all have habits to change.


How We Hold to the Past Too Much In Creative Endeavors

Seth Godin in this post ‘Sunk costs, creativity and your Practice‘ provides a need reflection on the fact that creative endeavors entail leaving behind things we have invested in learning in the past – in effect, overcoming the sunk cost syndrome.

We hold on to the old competencies and our hard-earned status roles far longer than we should. The only way to be creative is to do something new, and the path to something new requires leaving something else behind.”

Moreover, Seth Godin insists that this capability of leaving stuff behind that we have invested in learning or practicing is an actual capability in itself, that should be practiced regularly for the creative person.

I do believe that what we have made the effort to learn in the past will never be lost and will be useful in hindsight, but that we certainly should not be burdened by it when we start something new. This is not easy and certainly requires a lot of experience and thoughts.

Creativity requires overcoming what we know to produce something new to the world, and therefore requires overcoming the sunk cost syndrome as a matter of habit. Let’s practice!


How Emotional Work is Key to Manage One’s Own Misalignments

This post by Steve Pavlina ‘Aligned Solutions‘ provides interesting insights on how to manage own misalignments – like for example those between our aspirations, dreams, thoughts, choices…. Importantly, this requires working at emotional level and not at analytical level.

We all have some misalignments that create themselves and that we have to manage; and we also need to make sure they do not become so significant as to become hazardous, because if we have too much misalignments we may suffer in day-to-day situations when it comes to making choices.

The issue is how to deal with them to attain genuine alignment of our own self so as to attain the lightness and resolution that comes with better alignment.

I’d say that the heart is really the key to alignment. My biggest alignment mistakes happened when I tried to use my brain to go against my feelings. If my feelings aren’t aligned with what I’m trying to do, that kills my plans dead. Doing anything interesting in life requires sustainable motivation. So figuring out what gives you the most sustainable motivational juice can point you in the direction of increasing alignment too.” Therefore, the important point here is to able to distinguish at the emotional level in what direction we ought to go.

In addition, Steve Pavlina points out the need for discipline and motivation once we have decided on a new direction. Having an emotional commitment clearly helps.

Improving our own alignement is essential for our balance and our freedom; and this can only be addressed by undergoing emotional work.