Category Archives: social media

Trying a New Approach to Collaboration, Large and Small

When I think of horrific meeting experiences, my mind rewinds to a hands-on seminar I led years ago for Apple. The objective was to introduce teachers to Apple’s desktop. It was a group presentation with auditorium-style seating and keyboards for participants to use in conjunction with the talk. About 10 minutes into my sch-peel, a tiny grandmotherly-looking woman stood up and said to the group: “We’re not idiots. Why do we have to listen to this person, let’s just do this!”  And away they went, clicking happily along in utter chaos. That was point my boss walked in. Needless to say it was an interesting debrief.

meeting

The 20th century approach to informing, educating and convincing a group of people. 

I thought about that woman this week during a Liberating Structures workshop led by Keith McCandless (who wrote the book) and Anna Jackson who spearheads an LS meetup group here in Austin. Is there a better way to inform, collaborate, teach and motivate a group of people?  I’m a newbie but I’d say the tools they introduced me to are the best I’ve seen so far. I can see how they could work in all kinds of organizations. The idea is to tweak the feng shui of group interactions – topic, space, pacing, participation – and deploy a set of tools that better focus and distribute the conversation among the people who matter.

liberated meeting

Are there more possibilities here? Bigger group, more leaders. See the 1-2-4-All tool.  

You can read more on the Liberating Structures website. It lists all the tools and gives you a menu of when/how to apply them.

Since I haven’t applied it yet, the results are theoretical. But hey, if it works for The World Bank and The Gates Foundation, I’m all in. I’m intrigued about seeing how the tools would work cross-culturally, in situations where some of the participants are remote (there’s a technology conversation) and when selling one’s ideas to executives.

More to come.  I only wish I, like Merlin, could live backwards: Just think how I could have helped and gained from that woman who was so frustrated and anxious to learn so long ago.  I hope she’s running a company somewhere.

 

 

Who Put Brussel Sprouts in Every Shopping Basket?

What I want to know is this:  Who engineered the comeback of brussel sprouts?  Did I miss the tweets?  Because the humble vegetable of my childhood, grey and waterlogged, has morphed into a supply side challenge.

Can farmers keep up?

               Can farmers keep up?

Was it Mark Bittman and those classy NYT spreads?  Some trendy chef in upper New York state, or even here in what was once a comfortably populist ATX (Tex Mex or a steak, anyone?)?

There’s been no humiliating name change (bruss?), as prunes have had to endure (dried plums?).  They look the same:  little cabbages, hard and round.  No labor-saving innovations;  still a somewhat tedious process that requires a colander, trimming, cutting, and unless you’re a roaster, a two-step cooking process.

They still, sauces and marinades aside, taste (and smell) like cabbages.

Was there a blog?  A reality show (an island, 20-somethings, a case of brussel sprouts and lots of conflict?)  Opeds?

Did Dr. Oz endorse them for their digestive qualities?  Was it the source-agnostic but ever-purist French?

Where is the marketing team?  I want to meet them.

Delete that photo!

A  friend whose opinion I respect forwarded me a photo taken when I did not — shall we say — look my best. It got me thinking:  Does this require action?  Should I tighten up my reputation management?  Get a makeover?  What do geezer rockers do about this sort of thing?  Does Robert Plant worry about his hair?  Closed eyes?

Can it get any worse?  Add wrinkles!

Can it get any worse? Always!

We are well on our way in an era of visual communication.  Some people are blessed with telegenic looks and would shine climbing out of a dumpster. Does the way Nigella Lawson looks sell cookbooks?  Of course.  For the rest of us, it’s luck of the draw (or click).  Forget command and control.  I once worked with a top-ranking executive who, confronted with an unflattering photo, dispatched his minions to buy up every available copy of the trade mag in which it appeared, a feat that can never be repeated.  As for prep, the jury’s out. I recently caught myself  reaching over to sort out a no-nonsense entrepreneur’s hair (female).  She’d probably been up since 4 that morning. Working.  Personally, I think candid photography before 9 a.m. is cruel and unusual punishment.

What does our appearance say about us?  My mother, raised a Texas girl, never poured her coffee or opened a newspaper until her lipstick and hair were in place.  I can’t remember a time when she didn’t look beautiful.  Then again, I remember Hillary Clinton’s eulogy at Gov. Ann Richards’ funeral less for what she said (although it was memorable: she touched on just this subject) than that she looked exhausted — like she’d worked all night and still cared enough to show up and honor someone who’d been important to her.

As for me, I’m leaning in the direction of a well-developed sense of humor. That may be the point.

Sitting is the new smoking

A friend gave me the news: Researchers have discovered there is no way to compensate for sitting.  Forget the morning run, yoga, walking the dog, weights. Sitting is the new smoking.

My back and shoulder had warned me. I felt long fingers of gravity pulling me down in the chair, tugging my thoughts and hopes down with them.  Down, down, down.  A change was in order.  A new $500 chair?  An iPad?  Everything investment is a risk.

So I did what any risk-aware 21st century American would do:  I posted my gorgeous Amisco computer desk on Craigslist and waited. I waited and forgot about the desk.  Weeks later, two emails popped up, out of the blue.  Lo and behold, there was a market for the desk.

What to do?  Go with the flow.  Linelle pulled out her $65. cash and took the desk away.  I think she’ll give it a good home.  And when I turned to look at the vacant spot, I had a rush of hope.  So many possibilities!  I could put a table in the middle of the room to use for cut outs and thinking.  I could type standing up (my back had been hurting anyway).  I could rethink my entire working life.

So here I am, in my new phase:  typing on the top of a tiny old bookcase my mother kept in her bathroom.  It’s the right height but a little teetery.  I’ll have to look for a larger surface. I’ll have to innovate.

Change is good. It never comes when we expect or even want it.  But it’s good.

Sotomayor and Chaotic Moon – stay curious, take risks and get better

Two fascinating encounters this week.  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in town to promote her book.  By the time I got there, the crowd spilled out of the second-floor room where she was to appear, down the stairs and into the aisles of books.  All ages – moms with kids, octogenarians (holding hands), students scribbling notes.  We all pressed together – holding our breaths so we could hear.  And yes, she was wonderful.

Sonia Sotomayor visits Austin.  Photo by Pearce Murphy, The Daily Texan.

Sonia Sotomayor visits Austin. Photo by Pearce Murphy, The Daily Texan.

It was inspiring — the crowd, the diversity, the speaker, the very American-ness of it all.  Coming on the heels of the inauguration and Martin Luther King Day, even the cynics among us had to take a breath.

Sotomayor closed with a grace note of thanks to her audience, but also a warning:  Beware of false pride, she said. It stops the learning experience. I never thought I would be on the best seller list, she continued.  But here I am.

A second wake up call — a rambunctious presentation by the irrepressible Whurley of Chaotic Moon  — advocated the gospel of creative risk taking:  instigate, collaborate and innovate. It was a fun, uppity, polished pitch that challenged us to “just do it” and a testimony to cross-generation collaboration.  You need both the gas pedal and the brakes.

Chaotic Moon is pushing the boundaries of the creative “why not,” energizing the innovation efforts of companies like Toyota and Samsung.  Sitting in the audience, I was in awe: What a shot-in-the arm their thinking must be to the research and marketing teams of those huge public multi-nationals.

Side note:  Whurley differentiated innovation (it’s easy or we don’t do it) and invention (it’s hard), which reminded me of the brilliant Clayton Christensen column from last fall, “A Capitalist’s Dilemma” that made a similar point in relation to job creation.

The connection?  Curiosity and action. Sotomayor did not get to the Supreme Court just by acing her tests (though I’m sure that was part of it).  She reinvented herself over and over again.  She made consistent efforts to create a smarter, more broadly experienced and emotionally mature human being.  She took dancing lessons at 50+ (I tell you, there’s something about those dancing lessons).

Two vivid reminders to continue to try, experiment, expand — radically — and get better.

I don’t wanna …

A colleague mentioned that he couldn’t wait until February when everyone’s New Year’s resolutions pooped out, so he could get in and out of the gym faster.  I had a sudden vivid memory of waiting in line for a swim lane at the YMCA at 5:30 a.m. in January, shivering my skimpy Speedo and as the minutes ticked by, calculating how long it would take for a slot to open up.

So what happens in February?  “I don’t wanna” outweighs “I’m gonna.”

I don’t think I’ve ever done anything worth talking about that didn’t start with “I don’t wanna  …”  So many excuses, so little time:  I’m afraid I’ll fail; it takes too much time and energy; the traffic is bad; I didn’t know anybody there(!).

It's 9 a.m. and you're still in bed?

It’s 9 a.m. and you’re still in bed?

There are people who are smart, gutsy, competent and land in just the right place at just the right time — taking a job just as a company starts its climb back to the top, starting a company just before the market takes off.

But if I dig a bit, those people are disciplined and driven. They have a goal, and they’re committed to achieving it.  They are not whiners. They make choices and act. Sometimes they fail.  Can anyone imagine anyone more prolific than Seth Godin and his spare wisdom?   Or locally, Maura Thomas‘ disciplined hashmarks, Marc Miller’s prolific Career Pivot posts, and Pike Powers’ iconic pike-o-grams?

So, I’m raising one last glass to 2013 and (slightly) revising the iconic Nike slogan:  “If it gets you  closer to your goal, just do it.”

Get on with it!

3 easy steps to cultivating your sense of the ridiculous

Okay, I’ve had it.  Fiscal cliffs, elected officials, desertification, homelessness, elephant poachers, capital gains, women’s health funds, underfunded public education, elected officials, dying newspapers, Lance Armstrong, Mopac at 5 o’clock, aging, abandoned children, cats and dogs.  It’s all too much.  Time for some silliness (if the aforementioned wasn’t the right kind).

Do the following at critical junctures of your day, while reading email, talking on the phone – or my personal favorite – after I’ve done something particularly stupid.  It costs nothing, never fails to provide perspective and can be used at home, in the office, car or plane.

You’ll find this trick rarely fails to make you feel absolutely ridiculous — which for some reason opens a world of boundless possibilities.  Here goes:

(1).  If you know a basic swing dance step, skip to the next paragraph.  If not do the following:

  • Stand feet together
  • Lift one foot (ladies, your right; gentlemen, your left).  Put it back down.  That’s Tap-Step.
  • Other foot:  Tap, Step.
  • First foot:  Step backwards and then bring the foot back in place.  That’s Rock Behind.
  • So, that’s the basic swing:  1st foot – Tap.Step.  2nd foot: Tap.Step.  First foot:  Rock Behind.

(2).  When you’re comfortable with the basic step, add a simple variation, a turn:

  • 1st foot: Tap. Step.
  • 2nd foot:  Tap. Step.
  • 1st foot:  Rock Behind BUT as you bring your foot back into place, place it perpendicular to the other foot, pivoting 1/4 turn away from your 2nd foot.  Bring the foot down in a step to pivot back around and face your (virtual partner).

(3).  Now, add music.  I prefer The Jingle Bell Rock.  It is faster-acting than other options I’ve tried, particular when it’s not December.

The Chipmunks do a fine rendition of  the classic "Jingle Bell Rock."

The Chipmunks do a fine rendition of the classic “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Use this tool with a music-playing device, device-less or device-free, depending on your attitude.  You can sing to accompany yourself.  Here are the lyrics.  Learning them also helps with memory loss.  I’m not sure about hair or weight loss, but could it hurt?

My January IP to you:  Silliness.  We’re going to need it.

p.s.  Here’s the swing in action, but caution:  Don’t allow yourself to be put in a mold. It’s the spirit of the thing.  Innovate.