Every morning on my way to and from work, I listen to smart people talking to other smart people about being human. For example, this morning I listened to Krista Tippett talking to Maria Popova about creating meaning in a digital age. In one of the passages, Maria quotes a conversation she had with Andrew Sullivan:
POPOVA: And then he said, “You know, culture needs stewardship, not disruption.”
TIPPETT: Mm. That’s lovely.
POPOVA: And I was like, “Yes.” But I actually think, yes, we have forsaken stewardship to a large degree, but we need both, always, to move forward.
When I look at Twitter and blogs, there is a ton of material written about ‘digital disruption’, as if that would awaken and guide us. Mostly, I just get tired and think the authors write ‘disruption’ because they have nothing else to say, no more words to use to increase the nuances. Let us look at the definition of ‘disruption’:
noun: forcible separation or division into parts.
noun: disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.
synonyms: disturbance, disordering, disarrangement, disarranging, interference, upset, upsetting, unsettling, confusion, confusing;
So, here we are, listening to all these consultants who think we find pleasure in hearing that our businesses will be “forcible separated” causing unsettling confusion. Again, look at what Maria referred to:
“You know, culture needs stewardship, not disruption.”
Where are the consultants and big thinkers who can show stewardship in how technology will support us? And no, I don’t mean how it can make us more ‘productive’ and create busy-work with yet another gadget, or show us where technologies are placed on Gartner’s hype cycle. I mean how technology can guide us to better businesses and help us lead better lives. Technology is part of our culture today, and it could sure win from more wisdom and less colorful hype with cool hashtags and top managers and consultants telling us what we already know.
Please, the next time you want to write about ‘digital disruption’, think about what you want to tell us. We all know that the world is changing, but please guide us more. Once you know how what you say will help us, write your words and publish.
The last six months I have made it a habit to read and listen to the books and podcasts from Tim Ferriss and James Altucher, and then apply some of their ideas. For example, Tim’s book “Tools of Titans” contains a tremendous number of tricks and tips to live smarter, while James’ books in the Choose Yourself series helps you build a stronger foundation for everything in life.
Meanwhile, via Lee Bryant and PostShift, I have been introduced to the Quantified Organization relating to the Quantified Self. Instead of guessing if we are making progress or not, we can measure if we are or not. On a personal level, it happens via apps, habits, smartwatches and more, and on an organizational level we use KPIs of all sorts.
It is, however, hard to measure if you are progressing in your personal development. Many of the tips coming from Tim’s and James’ podcasts and books feel great, but then I wonder if I can measure if I am progressing or not. Then it struck me that I might as well practice ‘idea sex’ as James puts it. By combining the advice from James and Tim with a theory like Constructive Developmental Theory, I might gain some clarity. This is a half-baked idea, but that’s ok: I learned from Harold Jarche that a great way to develop your own thinking is by releasing such ideas into the open. Then others can react, and we can continue building our collective knowledge.
I first heard about John Kegan’s Constructive Developmental Theory when reading about change, and especially why some people never want to change. Fast Company wrote about it when mentioning the mind-set we need to succeed in the future, and linked to Future Trends in Leadership Development (PDF) from the Center of Creative Leadership. Then Ana Cristina Campos Marques Curitiba clarified all of Robert Kegan’s five levels in her post on Constructive Developmental Theory:
No matter if such levels are true or not, they can work as mental models. I find that the ideas presented via Tim’s and James’ books and podcasts urge us to move up the above ladder. By adopting the best tips and tricks and habits, we can move from being loyal followers who don’t question anything, over to self-directed thinkers and then self-transforming minds. It is almost as if we in this later stage can hold ourselves in our hand and objectively analyze what is best for this person.
As Jay Barbuto puts it in this video, at this level we are no longer the prisoners of our own identity. Instead, we see all the different nuances and possibilities and can reinvent ourselves.
So there we have it: By merging great ideas from people like James and Tim and their guests with developmental theories, we can reinvent ourselves. A great start for a new way of life.
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.
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.
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.
All companies are going through changes, and must handle them in some way. Things are no different where I work:
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.
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.
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:
“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.