Culture, Machine Intelligence, and Ways of Working

As my followers know, I have written about the digital workplace for some years. Lately, however, I have grown somewhat tired of it: It seems we either only talk about the latest semi-smart upgrades in Office 365 and how they can be used, or some futuristic views of how we will work in 5 years from now. In one sense these are interesting subjects. In another sense, they are somewhat boring, repetitive, and distant. Some days, I couldn’t care less about the tools Microsoft throw at us, and how they relate to Slack. Meanwhile, I have started a blog on Machine Intelligence, and oh that has opened my eyes. Suddenly, I see more of the woods instead of just staring at the trees, and where we look is the deal breaker:

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism: The Essays

By expanding my field of vision, the limits of my world are moved further away. Then there are other writers who help me understand the world. One such example during the last months is Gloria Lombardi’s compilation of what she refers to as the future of work predictions for 2017. A line of smart people present their views on what they think will come this year, and here is my quick interpretation of the things the interviewees talk about:

 

Very short version: If you don’t take care of your employees and the exponential technology that is coming, the smart employees will leave and you will lose business deals while feeling left behind.

I have written and spoken about corporate culture before, and I have just entered the world of Machine Intelligence. Now I read more about the ways we organize work, including the Gig Economy which I honestly don’t see coming as fast yet but maybe it is. We should never think entrepreneurs are the only ones to save the world – the intrapreneurs are crucial here. Don’t underestimate the existing industrial companies.

So, let’s look at what Deloitte says about Machine Intelligence:

Collectively, these and other tools constitute machine intelligence: algorithmic capabilities that can augment employee performance, automate increasingly complex workloads, and develop “cognitive agents” that simulate both human thinking and engagement.

Exponential data growth is requiring Personal Knowledge Management for individuals, faster-distributed systems are democratizing information handling, and smarter algorithms help us process information to understand the world better. Combine these with the strong positive cultures we need, and the new ways we should trust the coworkers no matter where they are, and an interesting painting is forming. Trust me: Companies who miss this train, will for sure be left behind.

And on that note, we might as well focus on something important while working, and maybe this is the middle of the three rings: The purpose that the culture, machine intelligence, and ways of organizing work creates. The company I work for creates brakes and other safety equipment for large trucks and trailers. We all want them to stop instead of running into us, and we want them to be kind to the environment. We are also very focused on the culture we nurture and create, while keeping a close eye on the technology that is evolving. I think these are all keys to the great kinds of workplaces we look for.

If you think you lack a purpose, which is alarming since a purpose is the jet fuel in our tanks, you can always look at the upcoming possibilities. Just look at World Economic Forum which helps us zoom out and see the big picture, as in 5 global problems that AI could help us solve.

There is a lot of thought work left to be done from many people, to understand this. Thankfully, a lot of people are engaged in this, and I follow them closely.

How #PKMastery helped me create a blog on #AI

I have attended Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) workshop twice, and they have been wonderful learning opportunities. There is a kind of meta-learning involved that I seldom experience otherwise: I learn about how I learn.

One of the images Harold uses to describe PKM is this

pkm

Image borrowed from Harold Jarche’s site

Harold describes PKM as:

PKM is a set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world, work more effectively, and contribute to society. PKM means taking control of your professional development, and staying connected in the network era, whether you are an employee, self-employed, or between jobs.

  • Personal – according to one’s abilities, interests & motivation.(not directed by external forces)

  • Knowledge – understanding information and experience in order to act upon it.(know what, know who, know how)

  • Mastery – the journey from apprentice to disciplined sense-maker and knowledge catalyst.(masters do not need to be managed)

After talking about PKM at conferences and aiming to apply it at work, I am now applying it in a new blog. Since I work in the automotive industry, there are many trends and technologies within artificial intelligence (AI) that will affect us. This is a fascinating area to me, marrying the most human aspects with the most technical. To keep track of all the top news in this area, I created a blog called The Deckard Blog – named after the main character in Bladerunner. An example post can look like this:

23_ai_principles

The blog gathers what I think are the best AI news, quotes them, and then groups them into subject categories:

ai_categories

This way I can, based on my own interest in and fascination in a subject, Seek the most relevant news, Sense by categorizing it and explaining it, and Share by posting on the blog.

I will see where this adventure takes me, but at least I have taken the first step.

My new morning routine, thanks to Tim Ferriss

Ever since I read Tim Ferriss’ book “Tools of Titans”, I have started to change how I live. One such thing is my morning routine. Before the book, it was the standard semi-haze, trying to eat, shower, and read the newspaper before waking the kids. Now I do the following every morning:

  1. Yoga for my back and overall mobility. Takes a few minutes, but helps me avoid the back pain I have suffered from since before.
  2. Drink Pu-Erh black tea with coconut oil. A wonderful way of starting each day, instead of the strong jolt of caffeine from coffee.
  3. Meditate 10-15 minutes using the calm.com app. A great way of putting things into perspective.
  4. Write in my 5-minute journal to set the goals for today. You will be amazed at the direction life gets already in the morning when you know what the three most important things are.
  5. Make my bed. As described below, such a minute thing actually helps.

Even if the rest of the day becomes a hectic mess, I at least had a great start and a focus. Highly recommended! Below, you can read more about how Tim starts each day, fetched from Business Insider.

“The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss breaks down this morning routine that primes him for his day.

Source (incl. the image): ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ author has a 5-part morning routine to maximize his productivity – Business Insider Nordic

Recommended jobs via LinkedIn is a sure miss, and AngelList is smarter

For some reason, LinkedIn sends me its recommended jobs via e-mail a few times a week. And each time it is a sure miss compared to what I have described on my LinkedIn profile. The last e-mail I received took some wild guesses:

For sure, here are several interesting companies, but it is closer to a random draw of jobs than something that would help if I actually was looking for a job. Microsoft sure has a few things to do with the LinkedIn AI before it can help both companies and job seekers meet.

Another initiative that I found via Tim Ferriss, is AngelList. It matches the jobs in startup companies with the people who could match:

It costs nothing, saves people’s time, and leads to awesome matches. A true way of working smarter, which could easily be done for other companies than start-ups. For the people looking for jobs, a feeling of hit and miss or missing opportunities should be avoided. And given the enormous costs for companies to recruit the right people, we must look at better solutions going forward.

Change – this time it is personal

I have written before on change management, and especially how it has failed to support companies. But that’s change on the macro level. Now it’s time for changing myself. I started the year by reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.

Tools of Titans

If you ever thought about changing your life for real, then read this book now. It has nearly no quick solutions. Instead, it has smart solutions. Really smart solutions. I have already started to meditate, planned my finances better, drinking wonderful teas, and building a stronger body. Gladly, many others such as Michelle Ockers are reading this book as well, and I look forward to many interesting ideas.

Thank you, Tim Ferriss, for all the time and effort spent to create this book. The rest is up to us.

Change can be hard, but it is necessary

All companies are going through changes, and must handle them in some way. Things are no different where I work:

  1. Our CEO has resigned to be the CEO of a larger industrial company. Meanwhile, we have a strong and experienced management team to steer the company.
  2. One of our competitors just announced that shareholders representing 86% of our shares have accepted their offer, and they can potentially buy us. Until the deal is signed, if it happens, anything can happen.
  3. We work in a market that is changing rapidly, with self-driving trucks, smart algorithms, platooning, and much more. Our customers are preparing for a trucking and logistics world that is radically different from what we all are used to.

Once modern

70% of the change initiatives fail to reach their targets

One way to handle changes such as these, could be to be worried, complain, and lose valuable sleep. Of course, that is of no use. It is simply impossible to know where all the above lands and we must handle these changes constructively. Meanwhile, many companies approach it the wrong way:

What if everything we have been told about Change Management over the course of the last few decades was all just … plain wrong?

Luiz Suarez hits the nail on the head in his blog post “When Context Transcends Change Management”. 70% of company change initiatives fail to achieve their goals, meaning companies are bad at handling change. Meanwhile, there is a multitude of consultants who want to take our money since they have figured it out, they say. Most of the time, they haven’t. Just look at the numbers. If they were truly good, the results would say far more change initiatives succeeded.

Small actions that change perceptions

Among other things, Luiz highlights parts of the analysis made by Dave Snowden in “Towards a new theory of change” such as:

But the real change in organisations is when you change the way that people connect, and the most profound way in which that connection can be achieved is through small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way.  People argue that it is easier to change an individual that to change the system and that may be right.  But if you want systemic change there are simply too many individuals to change to achieve it and it is a lot easier to change the interactions and allow people autonomy over what they are.

Small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way. Sounds far more intriguing that the standard grand change management PPT. For those interested, even more myth busting is presented in “Debunking the myths of organizational change management”. Yes, it is presented by Accenture, a consultancy firm, but their presentation is based on a rigid set of data spanning 15 years. For example, it is not the change that causes organizations to go off track. The changes instead just expose what is not working – things you should pay attention to.

Models for change that could work for your company

So, how do we move away from the massive set of bad change programs? There are of course many ways, and I can only mention a few here. Two models that might work are these:

  1. The Cynefin framework, which helps organizations deal with complex problems by enhancing communication and building understanding of the current context, and more. I first heard about it via “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making“ from a 2007 article and have later learned about it via conferences and more. For an introduction, see Dave Snowden:[x_video_embed type=”16:9″][/x_video_embed]
  2. Moving from traditional Change Management, over to Change Leadership. Yes, it might sound like consultancy speak, but I really believe in the difference. John P. Kotter’s 8-step model as presented in “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail” – also from a 2007 article – explains this. Also this model focuses on small actions that can change perceptions. Without a sense of urgency, gathering the right people, communicating where we all are going and more, change initiatives grind to a halt. For example, how do you know when the urgency rate is high enough to enable change?

    “When is the urgency rate high enough? From what I have seen, the answer is when about 75% of a company’s management is honestly convinced that business as usual is totally unacceptable. Anything less can produce very serious problems later on in the process.”

    For an introduction to the difference between change management and change leadership, see:[x_video_embed type=”16:9″][/x_video_embed]

Soon, 10 years have passed since the above articles were published. Still, companies fail to change fast enough, and the world that has accelerated even faster during the decade. My advice is to pick a model that makes sense, the above two or not, and then just start. As we heard, status quo is totally unacceptable.

Making sense of the Office 365 suite

It is hard making sense of the Office 365 suite from Microsoft. Barely had we had time to grasp that they have included Yammer in all Office 365 tenants, and what that means. Then Microsoft threw their Teams app into the game, and it became even more challenging to understand which product does what.

To help us, they gave an excellent introduction to the product’s capabilities:

[x_video_embed type=”16:9″][/x_video_embed]

It is, however, not the product in itself that is hard to grasp. On the contrary, it seems straightforward and well-designed, and it is integrated with the rest of the 365 suite. The somewhat obscured path ahead is created when comparing Teams with Yammer and more. Here is where people like Naomi Moneypenny and Marc D Anderson come to the rescue.

Confused by all the apps

Marc D Anderson wrote an article called “Dear Microsoft: I’m Confused. Can You Help Me Collaborate Well?” Here, he highlights the feeling so many of us get when looking at the array of tools Microsoft give us:

What has me confused about Microsoft’s overlapping offerings in the communication spectrum is that they don’t come with guidance about which is good when or for what type of organizations. Instead we see a lot of talk about choice being good.

He also asks Microsoft to guide us much better:

Here’s hoping that the smart people in Redmond get on this soon. As the options keep piling up on us, it’s only getting harder to choose.

The solution: Highlighting what each app is good at

Naomi took a step in clarifying the road ahead by writing an article called “Choices in Collaboration: Microsoft Teams, Yammer & Office 365 Groups Service“. Here, Naomi clarifies that Office 365 Groups are the fabric behind our collaboration choices. She also explains what separates Teams from Yammer:

Yammer is the really the only app in O365 that allows you to have a conversation with the entire company. You can of course push an email or IM to the entire company, but that’s not the level of dialog we are looking for these days. Yammer is a great way to enable conversation across an entire organization. […] Once a project team has come together to work on a specific set of tasks and deliverables, that team should decide whether they want to use the Groups conversation experience primarily in Outlook, or Outlook then Teams, Teams or Yammer to get their specific work done.

Thank you Microsoft for wanting us to collaborate better. You could, however, reach even further by listening to Naomi, Marc, and more. Many of us take care of Office 365 environments, and our job is to alleviate collaboration pains. The better you at Microsoft describe what to use when, the smoother our ride becomes.

Grow new habits with liminal thinking

I just discovered that I could grow new habits with liminal thinking, and it has already changed how I see things. By reading Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray, I was not only presented with tools to change my view of the world. Through reading this book, I also re-opened the door to the world of philosophy. Far too many have asked why I started my academic road studying practical philosophy and even asked me how philosophy can be practical. Well, those ideas can govern your whole world, and that is why you win from paying attention to such ideas.

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limit of the world.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer

The subheading of Dave’s book, “Create the change you want by changing the way you think,” stays very close to what Schopenhauer expresses above. Please note, however, that we are not talking about the over-optimistic, happy-happy, you-can-do-it mentality so prevalent in so-called self-help books. Instead, we are talking about the fabrics of life: If we learn to challenge our beliefs, judgments, theories, and more, we can lead a different kind of life than we are used to. By learning to work with the liminal space between what we experience as reality and the “obvious” way we think the world works, we can move our minds and bodies to places we never thought of before.

Dave explains the principles and practices of liminal thinking in a clear and entertaining way in this book. I recommend it to anyone interested in finding new paths to walk. And remember, again, what Father Zosima told Fyodor Karamazov after this depraved and muddleheaded family father made a fool of himself in Zosima’s cell:

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, from the Brothers Karamazov

Yes, stop lying to yourself about how the world works. Instead, challenge how you view it. Please take the time to read Dave’s excellent book, and then head over to the Liminal Thinking site to continue the conversation. Thank you, Dave, for writing this book.

Mapping the Neo-Generalist in you

“The neo-generalist wanderer often has to adapt to contextual shifts and reinvent themselves when circumstances call for it.” (from The Neo-Generalist)

Recently, I finished reading an excellent book called “The Neo-Generalist,” with the Zen-like subtitle “Where You Go Is Who You Are.” Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin wrote this book – two authors that clearly have wandered between specializations, and learned a lot from it.

The book hits a current issue right on the head: Hiring managers and HR departments still focus most of their efforts on finding specialists. It seems to be the default view for everything. We have an issue here – let’s call in an expert! It is reminiscent of kids’ cartoons – the problems there are always clear, and a specialist can always solve them. As in Paw Patrol – they can dig, fly, stop traffic, pour water on fire, and more, focusing on one thing each to save the city over and over. But, as it turns out, the world is more complicated than that, and our work should follow. Yes, the world still needs specialists, of course. Meanwhile, there is a significant need to highlight the serial specialists/neo-generalists too. People who can draw experience from several different professional areas, and merge them into something new. For many of us, this is how we know we can bring value to the world, and we should nurture this. In one sense, it is like saying yes to the open, childlike curiosity we all have had at some point:

“Throughout our early lives we talk about what we want to be when we grow up. Then middle age hits and there is a slow realisation and gradual acceptance that, actually, we never grow up. The potential, the opportunity, remains to be many things.” (from The Neo-Generalist)

It might be that you have experience from different professional areas, and want to support all your skills and interests. One way of making this understanding more concrete can be to create a simple map of who you are as a neo-generalist. This way of thinking is fully in line with the Personal Knowledge Mastery ideas I have learned from Harold Jarche – throw out half-baked ideas to see where they land. I will start with myself as an example, based on my interests and experiences:

neo-generalist

My current job title is “communications manager,” but I have done many other things earlier in my life: technical writing, Ph.D. studies in educational sciences, writing and producing e-learning, taking care of intranets, and focusing on how new technology can help us evolve the workplace based on a healthy culture. If I place them together, it can be a bit easier to see where my different set of skills can take me. I can see how experiences of various disciplines can merge and support each other. And since I have practiced Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) for years, I also know which people can help and inspire me for each circle. Yes, this is an experiment, but I like the visual idea of mapping the serial specialist areas to see where they land. Start by looking at yourself right now, and then build a map. In a few years, it will probably change. A good thing that might come out of such an exercise is that you find what makes you unique. As Oscar Wilde said:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

I highly recommend the book The Neo-Generalist. It has grown on me, gives me new ideas every week, and has awakened a childlike curiosity. Thank you, Kenneth and Richard! I look forward to more discussions going forward.

Spend your next 20 years doing something valuable

Once you reach your 40s or 50s, life can start feeling a bit more empty despite all visible proof of success. You have the job, the paycheck, the career, the diplomas, the car, the mobile, the wines, the bike, the travel, the clothes. But somehow the joy seems more distant than before. This might be a sign that your professional life should change in some way. Spend your next 20 years doing something valuable.

Spend your next 20 years doing something valuable

Let Peter Drücker guide you

Peter Drucker noted that our priorities change as we get older and that we should adapt for example by becoming social entrepreneurs. Yes, it might sound obvious that life changes, but I don’t think we always note and embrace this change. We are bombarded with messages of extreme youth, never ending beauty, and constant health, and it is said our attention spans are now shorter than that of a goldfish. I say: don’t believe this stupidity. As Søren Kierkegaard said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” It is up to you to harness your wisdom, slow down, read as long texts as you want, and think about how to spend the next 20 years of your work life.

One way of going forward is by following the advice of Peter Drucker. You can either grow older and continue focusing on your satisfaction and growth. You have your boring job, but you get a raise in pay every year. Or you can start thinking about creating something of value outside yourself. Yes, the comfort zone breaks, but perhaps it is sunnier on the outside?

Create your future

“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” said Drucker. One way of doing this is by seeing the signs on the horizon, and adapting to them. This happens a lot when people talk about how future technology could impact our jobs. Another way is using your wisdom to create something the world has never seen before. Remember Arthur Schopenhauer’s “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Therefore, if you stare in the mirror and wonder about what to do next, you have an option: Either you dig a deeper hole and buy that red sports car, or you start looking beyond where people in your profession are looking. No, I don’t say this is easy. But I for sure think it is worth it.