Handpicked: My Week of Learning

Here is my weekly post on what I have been reading or listening to.

Book am I reading (Non Fiction)

41kbppigf7lThe Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

This book has been on my reading list for a while. A project I am on at the moment brought it to the fore again. How often do we over engineer a solution?

I have referred to checklists often in the last few years. I  have used them effectively in the past. Particularly with repetitive tasks.

Why would you want to figure out a set of steps again if you have done once before? Unnecessary effort, and you might miss a step.

The checklist also aids learning. Remembering what worked before and what didn’t. It helps make sure the same mistakes don’t happen again.

Checklists come in many different guises, from a task list, to standard operating procedures, to run books, and sometimes as far as a project plan.

More to come on this book .

Favourite Highlight from the week?

“Four generations after the first aviation checklists went into use, a lesson is emerging: checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us—flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness. And because they do, they raise wide, unexpected possibilities.”

Podcasts I Heard

Hidden Brain on NPR: How To Build A Better Job

“Why do you work? Are you just in it for the money or do you do it for a greater purpose? Popular wisdom says your answer depends on what your job is. But psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski at Yale University finds it may have more to do with how we think about our work. Across groups such as secretaries and custodians and computer programmers, Wrzesniewski finds people about equally split in whether they say they have a “job,” a “career” or a “calling.” This week on Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam talks with Wrzesniewski about how we find meaning and purpose at work.”

What Stuck

img_5597This is the second time I have listened to this episode. An old friend got in touch recently and was talking about a career change and the difficulty in ‘finding your passion’.

I have been where he is. Not in exactly the same personal and mental space. But I have been in a position of comfort and security where you start to think about meaning in your job. Easy when you have a job. When you don’t, earning money becomes all the meaning you need.

This episode is interesting because it talks about job crafting. This refers to your attitude and mindset at work. Some work to earn, and some find meaning in what they do while doing it.

You need to find the meaning. You don’t start out with it. OK some might. But a lot of people find ways to do the things that inspire them in their jobs. They do the job, then add to it or expand into areas that interest them. That is how I understand job crafting.

It reminds me to be aware of my own mindset. How I frame my work, and experience at work, affects how I feel about it.

Looking back I can see where I have crafted my work before. I didn’t see it that way at the time. But when I have done it and I enjoyed working there.

The Tim Ferriss Show: Kevin Kelly – AI, Virtual Reality, and The Inevitable

Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) is back again and, as I’ve said before, he might be the real-life “Most Interesting Man In The World.”

Kevin is Senior Maverick at Wired Magazine, which he co-founded in 1993. He also co-founded the All Species Foundation, a non-profit aimed at cataloging and identifying every living species on earth. In his spare time, he writes bestselling books, co-founded The Rosetta Project, which is building an archive of all documented human languages, and serves on the board of The Long Now Foundation. As part of the last, he’s investigating how to revive and restore endangered or extinct species, including the Wooly Mammoth.

Kevin’s most recent project is The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. The praise for the book is incredible, with Marc Andreessen saying it’s, “an automatic must-read.”

What Stuck

img_5600I enjoyed Tim’s first podcast with Kevin Kelly. As soon as I saw this one it was an immediate listen. I need to read some of Kevin Kelly’s books for sure.

The one subject in this discussion I have talked about since is what Kevin Kelly calls Techno-literacy.

This was not what I thought he meant initially.

One example he gave is people coming to understand that the cost of technology is not only what you pay upfront at the beginning. It is also being aware of maintenance costs, and the requirement to upgrade and stay current.

In the work environment this is obvious. We talk about maintenance costs. We think about the requirement to upgrade. We have to put forward business cases to create the projects.

This has lessened with everything moving to the cloud. But it has not gone away.

When a cloud vendor upgrades the system you have to test all your integrations. Yes it is less effort. But it still effort.

There can be small impacts too. You could be relying on an API from Google for example and they change it. With little or no warning. Then your own application fails.

There are ways to limit that risk and impact. Right near the top is being techno-literate, understanding these last few paragraphs.

That is what it means at work. I think he really meant at home too. Paying attention to the technology you have at home and the demands to upgrade it for example. Think abut your smartphone and feeling like you have to upgrade every two years.

For those Business Analysts reading, I believe this is one area you can add value. The sales teams for these vendors will sell the idea that you only need a super user to configure an application. That anyone can do it. And yes these applications are very well designed. And yes someone with the right aptitude could configure it will.

None of these applications work in a vacuum. Someone has to think about the impact on the wider system. What does it mean in context?

That can be your job if you choose.

Becoming Wise: We Choose Our Own Tribes | Seth Godin

The challenge of our future is to say, are we going to connect and amplify positive tribes that want to make things better for all of us?” Entrepreneur and digital wise man Seth Godin on our capacity to use connection to elevate and advance the human spirit. Find more at onbeing.org/becoming-wise.

What Stuck

img_5601This is a short new podcast from On Being with Krista Tippett. I have become very interested in learning from Krista. I took a few steps to doing something about it. There is a course by Krista called The Art of Conversation on Udemy. You can get a discount through Friends of Acumen.

I want to get better at asking questions. And if you listen to her podcast you will hear an expert.

Back to this episode with Seth Godin. You can’t ignore anything he is involved in.

These are short, less than ten-minute episodes. He talks about the Icarus Myth. He talks about becoming more interested in this myth and realising that at some point the myth lost part of the story. I know the second part does not come to mind when the myth is mentioned.

In the myth Icarus is warned not to fly too close to the sun or the wax will melt and his wings will fall off. That bit I knew.

The second part is he is warned not to fly to low or the sea water will weigh down his feathers and he will fall.

He talks about this myth and the way we focus on the first part. Focusing there discourages flying high. Discourages pushing too hard. To the point that we are now flying so low. So low that we are doing ourselves a disservice.

HBR Ideacast: Asking for Advice Makes People Think You’re Smarter

The research shows we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Francesca Gino and Alison Wood Brooks, both of Harvard Business School, explain.

What Stuck

IMG_5602This was fun to listen to, particularly towards the end as the researchers use their own research to change the usual style of interview on this podcast. At the end it was a conversation, whereas the HBR podcast is normally more formal. I liked that. I heard more about the presenter than you usually would.

This was a podcast about questions. A theme for the week I think.

They talk about how questions show vulnerability. That willingness to show vulnerability builds trust. They talk about how people who ask more questions are more likeable and perceive as great conversationalists. If you want to sell yourself ask more questions. Yet we don’t find this intuitive. We think we need to tell, tell, tell people about ourselves.

Hack The Entrepreneur: The Value of Working in Systems and Processes

My guest today is one of the hardest working, smartest, and most successful entrepreneurs I have had the pleasure of speaking to.

He was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. Without a social life due to his lack of English skills, he turned to the Internet and entrepreneurship.

Today, at 25 years old, my guest is an award-winning entrepreneur, and has been recognized as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 30.

He is the owner of several 7-figure online businesses, and over 400 million people visit his websites annually.

He is the founder of WPBeginner, the world’s largest free WordPress resource site, and the cofounder of List25, OptinMonster, SoliloquyWP, ThemeLab, Envira Gallery, and WPForms.

Now, let’s hack…

Syed Balkhi.

What stuck

img_5603Directly linked to the book I am reading, Sayed talks at the beginning of this podcast about systems and processes. Specifically the checklist kind.

He talks about how he has devised these checklists for repetitive processes ensure a degree of quality and allow his teams to focus on where the value really is.




Articles I Saved

The following articles were worth saving this week.

How Not To Lose Friends To Parenthood

A great read for parents with friends who don’t have kids. Lessons for both the parent and the friend. Great advice about how to keep your friendships healthy.

One Skill that Will Take Your Writing from Good to Great

A great piece of writing advice. Be prepared to throw your words away. Find the one word or sentence in your first draft that is golden. Then rewrite around that sentence.

Business and the Ladder of Needs

This way of cutting up our needs signals the different parts of the mind and body that a given business may be appealing to – and allows one to segment organisations in the commercial landscape according to what needs they service.

Understand the changing needs of consumers as the economy and jobs start to transition.

Nasty Businesses

“By focusing like this on the structural problems of businesses, we start to understand people’s conduct as a response to a given environment, which doesn’t make it any more pleasant to be there, but it changes the emotional burden: instead of feeling personally got at, or blaming individuals, one realises that a particularly nasty situation has been created by impersonal forces.”

Structure always wins. I read that a couple of years ago and have seen it in action. Linked to that is the influence of our environment. I feel particularly attuned to that as a parent.

At the lower end of the scale I am reminded of party bags kids get at the end of a birthday party. Filled with a toy, and always a couple of sweets. A couple of sweets you are going to argue about all the way home and the rest of the weekend. I think of the world of kids birthday parties as the environment. And the bag an element in that environment. The bag has a tempting sweet in it. And that temptation drives the behaviour of the kids and the parents. No sweet in the bag, not argument. If only it were that simple because in truth the kids expect a party bag. And they expect a sweet in it. So you are going to have tears either way.

The environment drives their behaviour in that situation as much as anything else.

The Vocation Myth

“One’s nature is ultimately so complex, one’s abilities so tricky to define in detail, the needs of the world so elusive that discovering the best fit between oneself and a job is a momentous, highly legitimate challenge that requires an immense amount of thought, exploration and wise assistance and might very properly use up years of our attention. It’s wholly reasonable not to know what work one should perform. And it is indeed often a great sign of maturity to realise that one doesn’t know, rather than suffer any longer under the foolish assumption that one should.”

Another vote for jobs being the topic of the week. I like this article because it frees us from the expectation of having ONE thing to be great at, and in particular from thinking we will just stumble across it.

However I shared this on a LinkedIn group discussing ‘What is a Business Analyst?’ because it gets at something more subtle. We are never an exact match for anything. So free yourself from that expectation and then be prepared to learn.

Handpicked Tweets

Have a great weekend.