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Evolution of Value and Trust

Another interesting talk from TED.

Value and trust evolves, it emerges. But the chemistry has to be right.

It emerges in unexpected places, at unexpected times, in unexpected ways.

So get involved, have an opinion and be aware of the impact you’re having on those around you.


Less is More

A quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery.

“You know you have achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add,

but when you have nothing more to take away”


Creating relevance

Someone once said to me “I don’t need more information, I need more insight”. That was over 10 years ago. It’s even worse today! There’s more information and, it seems, less attention to go around.

A valuable insight, is to be able to distil the vital few from the trivial many. Whoever you are – whether you’re a chief executive, policy analyst, HR specialist, mother, fireman, or anyone. Malcolm Galdwell wrote an interesting book on this – “Blink”.  It takes experience to pick the ‘right’ vital few.

Many organisations are currently operating with significantly constrained resources (compared to a year ago). For too many the response has been for their people to pedal faster! Do more with less, but the underlying thinking hasn’t changed. Too many organisations/teams still lack a coherent and simple strategic plan which shapes the focus and engagement of their people. And the current economic pressures aren’t helping. Everyone is simply to busy to think differently.

This is part two in my emerging leadership framework. It seems important that leaders can take what is personally important to them and turn it into a strategy that creates relevance for them and their teams in their work environment. This is a piece of “thought leadership”.

A useful tool can be to build a team charter . This would be explicit about the future that the team is building. I call it the intended shape of the future. While we can’t control everything that influences our future, there is a lot that we can control. So it is important to make some deliberate choices about where to focus. And there should only a few areas of focus! I’d recommend 3-5. I call them the pillars, that support the intended shape of our future. I understand that Microsoft, with all it’s resources, has their “3 big bets”. I’ll bet their people can remember 3!

It sounds simple, but it requires the ability and intention to synthesise a wide and diverse range of inputs. It requires a discipline to stop doing some things. And, it requires the courage to keep going. Then we can start to shape the future we want, rather than react to the future that simply arrives.

Open sesame

I have just spent the weekend helping facilitate a vision/strategy meeting of over 250 people. We used Open Space technology.

See …

For me, an exhilarating reaffirmation of the power of:

  • letting go of organisational agendas.
  • creating the space for everyone to have their say and be heard.
  • building vision and strategy from the broadest base in an organisation.

Over 2 days, from over 200 pages of flipchart content to 1 page!  Awesome.

It’s a great facilitation technology.

But it would be even more powerful to embed Open Space in organisational culture. So that there was an ongoing open conversation about the organisation and where/how it is heading.

Try it.

at the intersection

I was at an intersection last week.  I visited a house which opens its doors every Friday night for a meal. It’s on near-CBD Wellington intersection. It’s a religious community who share their meal with people who are on the outside of the mainstream.  A long way outside for some. I talked with people who I never meet in my regular life. The woman who invited me wants to encourage more business people to come. It was a great experience, and I’ll say more in my upcoming posts. But I wanted to describe a particular incident.

It was a conversation with one of the other visitors.  It was a conversation that we sometimes encounter. A conversation with someone with a strong and deeply felt conviction. It could be a religious/spiritual conversation, an environmental conversation or any other conversation involving an ideology. This conversation was about religion. He is a Christian and if I’m an anything it would probably be a Buddhist. We talked about God and sin. It was clear we had different points of view. But rather than being satisfied that we both enjoyed spiritual experiences, he started to evangelise. He was sincere and respectful but … he was right and I was wrong. He wanted to debate the merits of Christianity and Buddhism. And ultimately convince me that Christianity was in fact the superior religion. The more he talked the less inclined I was to agree.It’s a conversation I’ve had a few times. Stop trying to save me!!

And then yesterday I was having coffee with a public sector leader talking about how passion can get in the way of effective communication. Tell me about it, I thought. He was thinking of passionate environmentalists and how they can sometimes turn people off with their enthusiasm and righteousness. He’s right of course, but only half right.

The problem isn’t passion, it’s how we communicate it that’s the problem. Now I think passion is great. I want people to bring more of their passion to their communication, work and life. But it’s important to communicate it effectively. To be effective, there are three perspectives  to bring to our conversations.

  1. Our passion – show -up, bring who we really are to our conversations with others, be ourselves, say what we want to say.
  2. Clear and realistic objectives – what are we trying to realistically achieve in this conversation? Have low expectations of what change can be achieved in this moment. If you are trying to change someone’s world view – it’s going to take a long time. What small step is realistically possible now. Maybe it’s only to convince the other person that you truly understand their perspective. To build a relationship of trust and respect for each other. Even that can take time. Not trying to convince each other.
  3. An understanding of who we’re talking to. What are their perspectives and how will they shape their perception of me and what I’m saying. So that I can consciously decide how I will express myself.

Keep those 3 things in mind for more effective communication. That’s the intersection to be at. All the time.

See you there.

Empty space

Just read Garr Reynold’s “Presentation Zen” book.  A beautiful book about using visual imagery to support communication. He talks about shibumi, meaning elegance in Japanese. It’s an important part of Zen. I liked Leonardo da Vinci’s quote that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. When designing visual images the ability to eliminate the non-essential components, results in a more powerful image. The image left is the essence of what you’re saying and plenty of empty space. The book has plenty of examples to show how powerful your image becomes.

The same applies to oral communication. The ability to net your comunication down to the essence of what you’re saying, and using silence, makes your communication more powerful. Not necessarily more effective, the image or essence stills needs to be the right one for the situation. But once we get that right, more powerful.

Anyway, this idea of empty space came to mind as I had a coffee with a friend who works in the area of innovation. Innovation in the public sector, no less. We agreed that the challenge with innovation often isn’t about a lack of ideas. There are lots of great ideas out there. The challenge is often an awareness of the ideas that are out there, and the courage to take some action.

To become aware of the ideas that are out there, we need to create some empty space  of our own. Creating some empty space by:

  • suspending judgement.
  • actively listening to others points of view.
  • asking questions rather than making statements
  • developing a healthy sense of paranoia
  • being curious
  • giving ourselve some time to think (rather than always responding)

So, I like this idea of empty space. There may a general principle here. Something like … “Real power is in the empty space”.

Prepared and accepting

I saw another 2×2 matrix yesterday. I love the simplicity of distilling life into 4 quadrants! But they can be useful.

It was Prepared/Unprepared vs Accepting/Unaccepting. It was written by a Buddhist nun talking about death. But could equally apply to communication. In particular taking the stance of Prepared and Accepting into our own communication.

Preparation is important. We all have something to say and we should do our best job at saying it. It’s a bit of an indictment if we don’t get the impact that our thinking and communication deserves. I see plenty of examples where great ideas don’t get the consideration they deserve, because people haven’t prepared as best they could. By preparation, I mean thinking about what we’re really trying to say, who we’re saying it to, the wider context of our conversation, and how we say it.

Acceptance is about being present in the conversation. Listening to the perspectives of others. Letting go of the need to defend our own points of view. Allowing  meaning to emerge (see Stephen Billing’s – Changing Organisations blog- see blogroll). Allowing the response to our communication to influence our own thinking. Accepting that we don’t control the result of our conversation. As they saw, ‘the result of our conversation is the result we get’. And yet, doing our best to influence that result.

I see plenty of examples of Unprepared and Unaccepting. For example I came across someone on Kiwiblog (talk-back radio for the digerati) recently claiming the loss of over $30 trillion was proof that capitalism is working. Define working! Ideological thinking rationalising bad news.

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