Round Two on Science Based Culture

A few days ago, I started a thread here. The basic idea was to begin a dialogue about a project that I would like to see develop. The vision is to create a new priority for Estonia’s future. Not to change people, but to focus attention on something and make it even better.

So what is that thing? Estonians are good at science. For a lot of reasons, science and Estonian culture go together. My vision is to use that natural link more effectively. To get more people involved in developing our scientific prowess and using it for society. For innovation and policy making.

The first step is to start talking Do people like the idea? Well, I have been doing that talking now for a week or so. And universally, I get an enthusiastic thumbs up. I expected that. But I got something unexpected as well. I also found that folks in other places are going very cool stuff along the same lines. In other words, there is a lot to share here. And that is always good news!

More later!


Are You “Locked in”?

When you do project work, like I do, you get sensitized to whether people are “locked in”. By that I mean are they invested in a position or idea that they need to defend. That is not bad in itself, but when you are “playing defense”, you spare less conscious thought on “playing offense”.

The odd thing is that people tend not to notice whether they are playing defense or offense. They notice instead how challenging it is to do what is on their agenda. The react to the difficulty level and focus on it without questioning whether they are doing it for defensive or offensive reasons.

Kahneman made a brilliant observation about this. In general, we are much more inclined to defend what we have in hand than to risk it for bigger returns. In other words, we are more ready to play defense than offense.

You might check out this interesting article about the competition between two firms: Netflix and HBO. The point is that HBO has trapped itself into a defensive position. HBO has good reasons for seeing things this way. But in the long run, we don’t expect this to produce “winning”. It is a short run play.

The Origins of Self-Worth

This evening, I watched a rather astounding video biography of Oliver Cromwell, once the so called “Lord Protector” of Britain.  The astounding thing about the video is in the beginning of the story. At the beginning, Cromwell was a wreck of a man. Broken down. But he found a sense of self-worth that changed his life.

He happened to find it in puritan teaching. Setting aside for a moment the source of this new inspiration, consider the effect. A broken man is re-awakened. and finds formidable personal strength of character. Is our sense of self-worth so precious?

Czikscentmihalyi argued that it is. He argued that life has no meaning other than what we give it in what we see and do. And we only see and do things based on our inner sense of self.

Something to think about.

Group Tracking: Anchors, Flow and Itzahk Perlman

This is a follow up post from yesterday where I started a short thread about using WordPress in a new way.  I mentioned yesterday that we can and should get better at understanding group dynamics. We may not want to be the “life of the party”, but we do want to have fun at great parties.

BTW, in the old days (when I worked in Philadelphia) I didn’t think of this much. I didn’t have to because my education and job had created a social network for me. I took advantage of the group connections that I had from those structures and didn’t think about going beyond them. But these days, I work at building groups. And I realize what I was missing.

One thing that was missing was the confidence to translate ideas into group activities. When it came to “new ideas”, I was more a follower than a leader. I allowed myself to be a connoisseur of other people’s ideas rather than aspire to becoming a Michelangelo of generating and implementing ideas.

Where does the confidence come from? It comes from watching how you do stuff. Being “mindful” of how you use ideas when you relate to people. Where do the ideas come from? They come from what you individually want from life. We talked before about identifying who you need to help bring those things into the real world.

But how to create the “group dynamic”? Dave Logan points out that this is a lot harder than it appears on the surface. The world is loaded with failing and failed groups.  In my view, there are two metrics to follow that predict how dynamic a group will be. They are anchors and flows.

The anchor is the thing people want to focus on. They have to be able to see it. So, for example, it is hard to build a group around “learning to negotiate”. Not because people reject negotiation skills, but the process seems a bit abstract. It is far easier, for example, to persuade someone of the value of writing a better letter. That is more easy to see.

The flow is the learning that happens when people try to move forward. They find out stuff. Interesting stuff. And in our normal day to day lives, most of this is lost. Capturing the learning from flow was the initial fun in blogging. Facebook and Twitter, in my view, capture less and so are less fun. But the key idea is that groups thrive more when their learning flow is captured over time. That is true of a book club, a recipe sharing forum, and it is true of groups inside Apple or IBM.

Right – so back to WordPress. It creates a shared platform (users only) where you can build anchors (as menu items) and flow (blog posts) around a project idea.

Does it work? Well, it does work for me. Why does it work? The above sketches out a group learning process. It is meant to be a slow learning process – where we retain what we learn. BTW, I am fooling around with a plug in (not on this blog) called “events manager“. The link is to the tutorial. It looks like fun!

And thanks Marju for sharing a link to Itzahk Perlman’s video where he talks about the value of slow practice. What you learn quickly, you forget quickly! What you learn slowly, you remember longer. Wise words, indeed! So if learning is slow, tracking flow is very important. And that is why using WordPress in this way works for me. It anchors better and captures more flow.


Using WordPress a New Way

One of the more challenging things we do in life is to build groups around things that need to get done. Some of us are good at this. They are “organizers”. They love nothing more than getting people together for events, parties, whatever. But most of us don’t list that as our main strength.

And yet we need to get better at it these days. Why? Because if we don’t form groups around what we like to do, we will be put into groups whether we like it or not. Create an agenda or someone else will give you one. This is the second big area in my “Take Five” model. It is where you take your individual skills sets and use them to build focus in groups. The idea is to move groups to the next steps.

So let’s assume you have a project idea. Like, for example, getting more tourists to come to the city of Tartu (where I happen to live). It is a great idea. Tartu business needs the added revenue. And there are groups of people who might want to visit (including Scandinavians and Russians and other Balts). So what do we do?

In the old days, you would hire a marketing consultant who would — for a hefty fee — put together a project idea for you. Can’t we do that ourselves_ We can … if we can assemble the needed talent around our project.

Here is the good news! Hooray! We know that this works in 2 stages.

The first stage is to create the core team. The folks here have to be able to do the basic stuff needed to get done. So in my example, I would need (1) a person who wants to gather stories about what is happening in Tartu and tell those stories (like a journalist) (2) a person who can get that content placed in digital media so that our target groups start to see it (like a marketing geek), and (3) a person who can get local partners in Tartu excited about telling their stories and supporting the development of the information flow (like a business development guy or gal). So, I am on the lookout for a person who can do all or at least some of the above. And if I find a person or persons who can do this stuff, I have completed stage 1. Hooray!

The second stage starts when I have the above areas covered. Then I need a way to get my group moving. In the old days, we might use “project management” tools – BORING! These days, WordPress works just fine and indeed better. I am developing processes that energize wordpress blogs into project development and tracking tools. and it is fun. And the key idea is that folks need to SEE next steps before they can do them. Then, once they have done that next step, they need credit for it.

More on this as I go!

Oh. I forgot to mention. You can take your WP blogs with you on your IPad with the WP app – free at the App Store. Pretty cool.