Everything is Entangled

“All too often we hit the wall for want of a wide-angle lens. It may feel safe to focus on simple metrics, but it’s not. Obstacles, opportunities, connections, and consequences are often revealed only by seeing the bigger picture. There are no closed systems. Everything is entangled from code to culture. That’s why it’s malpractice to design a product, service, or experience without considering strategy.”

Peter Morville, Intertwingled

Let’s start with a chair. A chair sits in a room. A room in a building. A building in a city, a city in a country … you get the picture.

Let’s say that building is a house. The room is a formal dining room. Chances are the chair is a dining room chair. The home owner selected a house with a formal dining room. The type of dining room chair they pick will differ from what they may select for the kitchen.

Stay with the house. The room is a lounge. It might be an armchair. Where is this armchair going to be placed in the room? Does it recline? Is there space for it to recline?

The room is the bathroom. Could be a chair for the shower for someone who can’t stand in the shower. Why did you choose the chair you did?

Even something as simple as a chair, in a room, depends on what you want to do with that room. 

Zoom out a level, which country are you in? Here in Australia we may choose to dine on our deck more often than not, so we don’t want a formal dining room. In the UK, we may not have space and need a dining area with more flexibility.

This simple example seems obvious. However, we do not translate this simple idea into other areas. 

When implementing a new system in an organisation, what “room” does that system exist in? What purpose does it serve in that room? What rooms is it connected to? What furniture needs to move to make way for it? 

A project team will focus on the project scope as they should. 

But, someone needs to be thinking two, three, or more steps away from that project.

What are those second or third order consequences? Where is this leading you?


Travel Time

“We evolved to move slowly over the world, in sight of everything en route. It makes sense that passing time and changing surroundings share a rhythm, and that as a consequence further or more different places naturally seem longer ago. The differences between a forest and a city are so enormous that the journey between them interposes itself as a chronological jump, a kind of time-hill.”

Mark Vanhoenacker, Skyfaring

This is a book written by an airline pilot. As we fly around the world, able to get places relatively quickly, in a sense we “jump” between them.

It is interesting to think how that might be a form of time travel? How this affects our sense of what it means to travel in the world. That far away places feel different in time as well as place.

Yet, in “jumping” between cities as we fly what we we missing from the journey? You don’t see the places you are flying over …


Are You Adding Enough Detail?

“Relying on pointing also short-circuits vital deductive analysis. Forcing specific articulation increases our focus, will deliver a more detailed account, and creates a superior memory of the observation.”

Amy E. Herman, Visual Intelligence

If you have kids, you have experienced how little information is communicated by pointing.

They want you to look at something. They point off into the distance. You have no idea what they want you to see. You long for them to mention any additional detail, a colour, a shape, an object … anything that will help you know what you are looking for.

Think about where you do this yourself. Are you providing enough information for the person you are talking to to know what you mean?

It is quick and easy to point. But it conveys so little information.

All Habits Serve You, Even the Bad Ones

“The labels “good habit” and “bad habit” are slightly inaccurate. There are no good habits or bad habits. There are only effective habits. That is, effective at solving problems. All habits serve you in some way—even the bad ones—which is why you repeat them.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

The point on effective habits reminds me of a similar idea from NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), that everything we do we do for a positive reason. It might not make sense to anyone else. But we don’t tend to deliberately do things that harm us.

The example that stuck in my mind from the NLP book was smoking. Smoking is bad for your health, yes. Yet it can also be a way to fit in with a group, or to deal with anxiety, or many other reasons. To the person who smokes, they are doing it for a good reason to them. Not to us. To them.

If they do want to quit, it is important to understand what need smoking meets. Then to talk to that need and how it can be met by other positive behaviours.

Procrastination as Creativity

“Of course, the things he did finish were enough to prove his genius. The Mona Lisa alone does that, as do all of his art masterpieces as well as his anatomical drawings. But by the end of writing this book, I even began to appreciate the genius inherent in his designs left unexecuted and masterpieces left unfinished. By skirting the edge of fantasy with his flying machines and water projects and military devices, he envisioned what innovators would invent centuries later. And by refusing to churn out works that he had not perfected, he sealed his reputation as a genius rather than a master craftsman. He enjoyed the challenge of conception more than the chore of completion.”

Walter Isaacson , Leonardo Da Vinci
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I learned in this book that Leonardo Da Vinci is known for unfinished works. Yet, amongst all the unfinished works are the masterpieces we celebrate.

He has come up a few times as an example of productive procrastination. The point made is that in his detours, in the time spent observing nature, in trying to understand how things worked, were the seeds of what became his masterpieces. This is the way he learnt about light, shadow and perspective, based on what he observed in the real world.

These observations made the masterpieces possible.

I did not know that he worked on the Mona Lisa for a long time. Perfecting it bit by bit by bit as he learnt from those detailed studies that appeared to go nowhere. They never went nowhere.

What can look like procrastination to some people is the creative process. You let new ideas in, test them, let them percolate in your mind. You practice and try. You perfect.

The point is best summarised in the below quote from a book I am currently listening to.

“Procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, but it can be a resource for creativity.”

Adam M. Grant, Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World

What Stories Are You Telling Yourself?

““Everybody agrees that a story begins with some breach in the expected state of things,” writes Jerome Bruner, the pioneer of narrative psychology. “Something goes awry, otherwise there’s nothing to tell about.” The story is the tool to resolve this breach.”

Bruce Feiler, Life Is in the Transitions
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I am fascinated by the power of a story. Older posts on this blog have frequent references to stories of my own to help make a point.
 
I picked this book up last week and started to read as I go through a personal health related transition of my own. It is already getting me thinking about the stories I tell myself as I face my own transition.
 
Why is this happening to me?
 
The story I tell myself affects my mind set, and how I approach my own treatment.
 
I have been lucky, in a perverse sense, to have friends who have been through what I am going through. One consistent piece of advice has been to focus on the positive. To understand that the treatment, while not pleasant is healing my body. That my body can heal itself as well. To welcome the medications into me, even when the side effects leave you feeling awful.
 
This is the story I am telling myself. I could be telling a different, more negative story, focusing on how unfair this all is. But where would that leave me? How would that help? Life has thrown me a curve ball. I can choose the story I want to tell myself. I choose to focus on the treatment, that it helps, and that I know people who are better now.
 
My challenge to you is to dwell on this quote. Think about the stories you tell yourself about what is happening around you.

The broader point of this book, bearing in mind I am early in its reading, is that we all face transitions in life.
 
We do not live life in a linear pattern: birth, school, work, marriage, family, retirement … in those areas we face transitions, for example loss of a job, death of a family member, or serious illness.
 
Whatever it is for you, pay attention to the story you tell yourself. Then think about the power of creating a different story. Would it help?
 

The Book

Friendships

“This is one of the things we rely on our friends for: to think better of us than we think of ourselves. It makes us feel better, but it also makes us be better; we try to be the person they believe we are.”

Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing
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Today I simply want to share this quote. I don’t think it needs much explanation or discussion, particularly if you are lucky enough to have made strong deep friendships that last.

Metaphors

This is an obscure quote on which to base a post. Yet, it is the second book this year I have read about metaphor and how we use metaphors to think and communicate.

This second quote better captures what I want to say today on metaphors.

I rarely write notes about the highlights I make in a book – I am trying to get better at it – but I did for this one.

This seems like a key feature of facilitating a conversation. The type of thing I would do at work. Searching for the metaphor, or mental model, that a person is using. This is what I may be listening for. Then trying to play that back to them, and find coherence around the table.

When listening to an explanation, try to identify the metaphors they are use. Then consider why they chose that metaphor.

Be aware that often one metaphor cannot completely cover a topic, and we may need to use a second or third.


The Books

Work Well With Others

As a knowledge worker, your performance is dependent on those around you. Not just what is in your head and your specific skills.

In knowledge work it is what is in your head that matters, you are the means are production.

However to be effective, to be productive, you need to work effectively with others. Working well with others helps you get the most out of your knowledge and your skills.

Building strong lasting takes time and require a bit of give on your part. Be generous with your time and it will pay dividends.


The Book

Pay Attention to Verbs

The choice of this quote centres on the word “verb”. It is has come up a few times recently in my reading, both on how to write and communicate more effectively, pay attention to the verbs you use, but also in technology trends.

Technology is progressing from things, “nouns”, to services, “verbs”.

But mainly I think about verbs the most when I write for work. When I think about how to clearly communicate with colleagues.

Of all the topics I read on, I have been surprised at how much I enjoy reading about writing. I have read books on grammar, writing generally, and even screenplays.

So as you think about your next email, or the next document you work on, think about the choice of words, and how you construct you sentences.


The Books