How Bionic Gloves Support a Professional Pianist to Play Again

This excellent article ‘How the Maestro Got His Hands Back‘ explain how world-renowned pianist João Carlos Martins got back the ability to play thanks to special gloves.

He was a prodigy and celebrated as a great pianist until he could not use his hands properly any more. He reinvented himself as a conductor at that stage. But still expecting to play piano, an admirer found a way by getting people to build special gloves for him.

Then along came these bionic gloves, created by an industrial designer named Ubiratan Bizarro Costa, who became familiar with Martins’s problems after he saw the maestro on a Brazilian television show in 2019. There is nothing high-tech about the gloves Costa invented, which is how he prefers it. […] The gloves are both deceptively complicated looking and incredibly precise. The hand slips into a neoprene sleeve outfitted with a 3D-printed frame and stainless steel bars on the fingers. Costa, a fan of Formula One racing, was inspired by the cars’ rear suspension mechanism: When weight bears down on it, it springs back up. Without the gloves, when Martins’s fingers hit a key, they stay depressed; the steel bars pop them back up.

Watch this moving extract on YouTube about his happiness to be able to play again.

Modern technology can improve significantly lives and overcome disabilities. The potential is limitless, even without excessive technological complication.


How to Motivate People in AI Environments

Motivating people working in AI-rich environments (where many operations are actually driven by AI) is a new challenge. Some researchers work on this issue though, as explained in this interesting Fast Company article ‘Why organizations might want to design and train less-than-perfect AI

While it is clear that in the future, value will be created by close collaboration between humans (very strong for creative tasks) and AI (very strong for repetitive tasks). Refer to our post ‘How We Need to Learn to Work with AI‘ for example. What is new here is the idea that AI itself must be adapted to fit this human interaction in the way it behaves.

Giving too much authority to AI systems can unintentionally reduce human motivation.” How can we retain motivation? According to some Stanford research, the trick is to rely on the fact that “decision-making authority incentivizes employees to work hard“. Therefore, “there may be times when—even if the AI can make a better decision than the human—you might still want to let humans be in charge because that motivates them to pay attention

The deal is not to have the best AI, but a slightly imperfect AI or an AI that asks humans for directions and instructions are well timed moments may be the best approach for a harmonious human interface.


How Self-Help Approaches Can Be Summarized

I liked this quite ambitious post ‘Every self-help book ever, boiled down to 11 simple rules‘. And as we speak of apparently a $11 billion self-help industry, that’s even more ambitious!

Here’s a summary of those eleven points reworded by me

  • take a small step at a time – change should come in small chunks
  • visualize where you want to get to
  • struggle is good because you need to get out of your comfort zone. It will necessarily be scary
  • be emphatic and take some time to judge people
  • contemplate your mortal nature to act with a sense of urgency
  • be playful in change, cultivate your specificities
  • help others and be useful in life
  • avoid perfectionism, which leads to procrastination. Just ship to the world
  • accept human limitations and play the long game recharging your batteries when needed
  • write down objectives and do lists
  • don’t just read, go out in the world and try

I am not sure this summarizes all self-help books around but it is certainly a good try. And like me you’ll find probably a pair of points that are worth remembering now because we may not have been sufficiently careful about them in the recent past.


What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid

I read recently this excellent little book by Oprah Winfrey ‘What I Know for Sure‘. Not living in the US I am not fully familiar with her work on TV but her book is certainly the expression of a very spiritual person.

One of the points she makes is about facing a difficult decision. “Whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision , I ask myself : What would I do if I weren’t afraid of making a mistake , feeling rejected , looking foolish , or being alone ? I know for sure that when you remove the fear , the answer you’ve been searching for comes into focus

And, more powerful even “And as you walk into what you fear , you should know for sure that your deepest struggle can , if you’re willing and open , produce your greatest strength”

That’s it – always ask the question, what would I do if I was not afraid? And this is certainly a powerful question that can create enormous strength.

I need to remember this more often!


How to Build Your New Normal

As we live through unprecedented changes, there is quite a challenge to build our new normal. This Capitalogix post ‘Building Your New Normal‘ provides some pointers.

Things won’t go back to the way they were, but they will go back to normal. Only, it will be a new normal. It’s a good lesson in being attached to a result, not a medium for a result.”

The point is here: let’s not concentrate on how we were doing things, but back to why we were doing them. The means and technology do not matter, as long as we can align to our longer term purpose. We will adapt our delivery methods, our way of working, but the wider world still needs us because of our purpose.

It is a good time now to sit and reflect how we can deliver our purpose more effectively and to more people.


How We Should Worry About Who We Have Helped Become Better People

Clayton Christensen, the innovation scholar that wrote so many books about innovation, passed away recently. He wrote “Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.”

This quote if of course inspiring, and coming from someone with the life experience of Clayton Christensen, quite interesting too – since he had certainly reached a very high level of prominence.

This probably explains his drive to be a university professor while he could have had a very successful career in consulting and private ventures.

Still its reminds us that what people will remember is how much we helped them become better people. How can we work to achieve this better?


How to Avoid Burn-Out – a Proven Approach

Burn-out is now recognized as an occupational condition in many countries and is observed to become increasingly prevalent. In this post ‘A simple strategy helps doctors fight burnout. Could it work for the rest of us?‘ a simple method is described that appears effective in hospitals, where it is a major concern.

This method is simply to get a conversation going about difficult workplace situations, with minimum framing and facilitation. “Wherever they are, the structure is the same. Organizers choose a topic: dealing with patients’ families, for example, or a deep dive into a particularly wrenching recent case. A pre-selected panel of volunteers shares their perspective to get the conversation started. Then it opens for discussion. Moderators gently steer away from efforts to diagnosis or solve problems—no small feat in a room of people who diagnosis and solve all day, every day. The normal hospital hierarchies do not apply. The only thing participants are allowed to do during rounds is talk about how they feel. No judging. No fixing. Just talking.

The emotional connection thus created seems sufficient to recreate a sense of purpose and get rid of the strains that are at the source of burn-out. It has been observed that burn-out is not just physical (lack of sleep for example) but is also psychological such as loss of the sense of purpose. This method addresses directly the psychology and just creating a location for emotional sharing appears effective.

It goes to show that the modern workplace does not allow sufficiently deep emotional sharing and engagement, and that may be something that needs to be addressed more consistently.


How to Work for making a Statement in the World

Following up on the post ‘How Dangerous It Is to Define One’s Identity by Work: Workism‘, I found this interesting counterpoint from Mitch Joel: ‘Loving The Work That You Do‘. He reacts to the Atlantic article about workism. As we spend a lot of our time actually working, it is best to make it for some purpose, to make a statement in the world!

The article in The Atlantic isn’t taking a shot at anybody who is engaged, in love and passion about their job. The Atlantic is just questioning how hard we are all working, what we’re working for and – maybe – if we’re letting our work define our life’s purpose much more than we should.”

Why work eight-plus hours a day (and be away from your family and friends) if it’s just a job? Why do all of that heavy lifting if you don’t love it, when you could be with your family (or practicing a music instrument, or doing art, or… you get the idea)? What is the point of working if it doesn’t make a statement?

Let’s work to make a statement. I find this expression quite magic. Make a dent in the world, make a statement.


How Dangerous It Is to Define One’s Identity by Work: Workism

Following up from our previous post ‘How the Balance of Work Time Between Rich and Poor has Dramatically Changed‘, this excellent Atlantic article highlights concerns about workism: ‘Workism Is Making Americans Miserable‘. Workism is about work becoming an identity and pervading all aspects of our lives, becoming an obsession.

The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.”

Specific american aspects are quoted in the post – with which I do not agree totally: in my travels to the US I have observed that while american engineers don’t take holidays, their working day is generally shorter and ends on a fixed time, which may not be the case in other countries.

Nevertheless, the issue of work having become a means to personal identity is an important issue; and the article also develops the case of millennials trapped in student debt exhausting themselves at work. Advice like finding your passion to justify long hours at work may be subject to caution.

In any case it is certain that if work is your only identity, you face a problem, because you may get retrenched or face a substantial issue some day. In that case it is better to have one’s identity defined in a more robust way.


How the Japanese Concept of Ikigai Increases Life Satisfaction

The concept of Ikigai has been floating around the web lately, like in this Medium article ‘Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life Might Just Help You Live a More Fulfilling Life‘. It seems to be a japanese concept aimed at locating the area at the intersection of what you love doing, what you are good at, what you can be compensated against, and what the world needs. Compared to other models, it is this last addition which makes the approach special.

The addition of values and seeking activities that the world needs is an interesting change to the more classical model of finding the soft spot between passion, career and capability. It definitely gives an interesting spin to the exercise of finding out where to locate what we are currently doing as our main activity.

As to whether finding one’s Ikigai is the best way to prolong life, that’s a stretched conclusion which we’ll not investigate further, although this claim obviously creates interesting reflections.

How close are you to your Ikigai?


How Waking Up Early Is a Myth and May Not Be the Success Recipe

One of the key recommendations of a lot of self-help books describing successful people is that ‘successful people wake up early’. It is for example, a key approach of Robin Sharma and of a lot of entrepreneurs. In this Quartz paper ‘Waking up early won’t change your life—but it’s awesome for capitalism‘, this assumption is examined and is not found to be particularly relevant.

We learn there that this waking up myth is so widespread and deeply engrained that some people take it so extreme that they wake up at 2:30 in the morning!

The paper makes the point that “the cult of early rising seems to miss a pretty obvious point: There is an opportunity cost involved“. Basically, it is linked to spend a larger proportion of one’s waking hours doing work: this includes not having long evenings to do alternate activities, and starting earlier to work and be productive (before the lazy ones wake up presumably, so that we won’t be interrupted).

It seems to me that the issue is to find some time without interruption to be more effective. It can be early or late, depending on one’s own rhythm. But at the end of the day we still need our night’s sleep to be productive. As the paper recommends, the best is simply to have such a rhythm that we don’t need an alarm to wake up!


How Persuading Ourselves to Do Something Might Take the Longest

Seth Godin in his blog post ‘But why does it take so long?‘ makes the point that the time-frame to achieve various objectives can be very different. And that physical factors are not the limit when it comes to creative work: it is coordinating, persuading, pathfinding. Moreover, that what may take the longest of all is persuading ourselves to go for it.

I find this statement quite to the point: it is true that what often takes the longest in all projects is the decision to go for it. Self-persuasion is a major hindrance. Even more so when we have to persuade ourselves against the opinion of our environment.

The total time to achieve a project is thus too often driven by the time we need to persuade ourselves to go for it. Isn’t that a major issue in a world where projects need to be developed always quicker before they become obsolete? There is a pressure and a benefit to those that can persuade themselves quicker that it is worth trying the project.

This statement gives quite a useful insight on some critical success factors in today’s world. Let’s take less time to persuade ourselves before we go for it. Maybe experiment more at small scale before going for it at a large scale.. which beings us back to the lean startup and other considerations that aim at lowering the barrier for action.