Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Learning to think book review

During my 18 years of education (19 if you count Kindergarten), I only had two teachers that encouraged thinking.  One was my high school science teacher.  At the end of class he would frequently say, "Read the chapter, then sit back and think about what it means and how it applies to the broader world around us."

The other teacher was a professor of psychology.  In his theories of personality class, he encouraged discussion and would incorporate whatever we were talking about when he walked in as the introduction to his lecture.  He gave partial credit for any answer that made sense on a test.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Organizational Metaphors

Many of us use metaphors to describe various situations.  We may find ourselves up to our necks in alligators or at the end of our rope or looking for a needle in a haystack.

Gareth Morgan took this idea and developed organizational metaphors to describe various types of organizations and forces within a company.


Each metaphor represents characteristics:

Brain = self-organization and learning
Organism = adaptable
Culture = social reality
Political system = bureaucratic structure
Psychic prison = limitations and little risk
Flux = continually evolving, permanent whitewater/rapids, never in total control
Instrument of domination = rigid structure, implied ceilings, rigid succession
Machine = routine, repeatable processes

Based on this summary of organizational metaphors, what kind of company do you work for?  What are the implications for working for a certain type of company?

Leaders have the opportunity to identify work cultures and encourage change.  However, this can take many years, depending on the size of the company.  For employees, if the company is stifling creativity or inhibiting promotion of quality individuals, it may be a case of finding a different company.

There are not always easy answers, but identifying characteristics of a problem - defining the problem - is the first step of making positive changes.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Create conversation

I recently came across a blog post from ideas.ted.com about creating smart conversation in situations where you would normally engage in small talk.



Here is an except from the blog post.  I encourage you to read the full post and download the book from Amazon.

One way to get beyond small talk is to ask open-ended questions. Aim for questions that invite people to tell stories, rather than give bland, one-word answers.

Instead of . . .

“How are you?”
“How was your day?”
“Where are you from?”
“What do you do?”
“What line of work are you in?”
“What’s your name?”
“How was your weekend?”
“What’s up?”
“Would you like some wine?”
“How long have you been living here?”

Try . . .

“What’s your story?”
“What did you do today?”
“What’s the strangest thing about where you grew up?”
“What’s the most interesting thing that happened at work today?”
“How’d you end up in your line of work?”
“What does your name mean? What would you like it to mean?”
“What was the best part of your weekend?”
“What are you looking forward to this week?”
“Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room?”
“What does this house remind you of?”
“If you could teleport by blinking your eyes, where would you go right now?”



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Descriptive quotes from Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon by James Hilton is a novel about four travelers who are hijacked from a remote airport and flown over the Himalayan mountains in Tibet.  When their plane crashes, they are rescued by Tibetans lamas-in-training from a nearby lamastery.  What the travelers learn and experience at the secluded sacred retreat will change them forever (no spoilers here!).

The book is fairly short, and is a quick read.  Lost Horizon was written in the 1930s.


Descriptive Analogies

I found myself highlighting several interesting descriptions in the Lost Horizons.

"It would be like trying to sell an epic poem to Tit-Bits," a magazine dedicated to tidbits - brief articles - from other media sources from 1881 to 1984.

"You were left with one good story to tell for the rest of your life."

... "with an air of having been compelled to attend a party at which there were goings-on that she could not wholly approve."

"I wouldn't care if it's Tibet or Tennessee."

"It's effect might not be tranquilizing."

"The night dragged on, as if each minute were something heavy and tangible that had to be pushed to make way for the next."

"One is fortunate if, as on this occasion, a touch of novelty seasons the unpleasantness."

"One of its features, for instance, was a very delightful library, lofty and spacious, and containing a multitude of books so retiringly housed in bays and alcoves that the whole atmosphere was more of wisdom than of learning."

"There came a time, he realized, when the strangeness of everything made it increasingly difficult to realize the strangeness of anything."

... "only a fragrance whose melancholy we may enjoy."

"Urgency did not clamor nor postponement disappoint."

"He did not know whether he had been mad and was now sane, or had been sane for a time and was now mad again."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What doing something everyday looks like

When my daughter finished the school year in May, she made a list of things to do this summer.  High on that list was working out on a regular basis.  In reality, she only worked out very little.  However, if she had stuck with a daily work out, she would have achieved a total of approximately 75-90 workouts over the course of the summer (allowing for a few misses here and there).

Truth-be-told, I am not any better.  Although I typically don't make New Year's resolutions, I decided at the start of this year to set a goal of walking 3 miles everyday.  I even gave myself a slogan:  "5K everyday."  Well, I was fairly faithful until mid-February, when we relocated to a new city and state.  I've been walking fairly consistently since then, but haven't made it back to 3 miles per day.

Impact of daily effort

In thinking about this, I began to consider the impact of repeating a small activity on a regular basis.  Consider what the positive impact is for each of the following:
  • Walking 3 miles per day for an entire year - almost 1,100 miles.
  • Writing 275 words per day for an entire year - over 100,000 words (300-400 page book).
  • Reading 60 minutes per day - over two full weeks of reading.

Of course, there can be negative impacts as well:
  • Smoking a pack of cigarettes every day - 7,300 cigarettes.
  • Eating 500 extra calories every day - 182,500 calories (or 240 Burger King Whoppers).
  • Starbucks every morning on the way to work - $1,000.

Visual Illustration

The infographic below shows the impact of doing something at different frequency intervals over a year.  The smallest, light color square in the lower left corner represents doing something once in a year.  If you do something quarterly, the result is 4 times in a year, monthly, 12; Weekly, 52; and finally, 365 times when repeating an activity daily.


Clearly, engaging in an activity every day can really add up over the course of a year.  What is a small activity that you can perform every day that will improve you in some way?  Write it down and commit to taking that action every day for an entire year.  Even five minutes of activity every day translates into 30 hours by year's end.

Monday, August 18, 2014

GROW to focus on your goals



Has this ever happened to you?  You attend a conference or participate in a class and learn some valuable information that will help you become more productive or improve your life in some way.  You know that you will apply these principles as soon as you get back to your desk. 

Life Happens

When you arrive at your office the next morning, you first have to clear out your mail box to avoid getting “over the limit” messages, and possibly even be able to send messages.  In between clearing out messages, you start catching up on the work you set aside while out of the office.  Finally, you have to attend in-person and virtual meetings.

By the time you get through all of this and resume your daily routine, it’s possible that what you committed to during the conference or class may have taken a back seat to the realities of life.  When you find yourself in this situation, you can use the following self-coaching formula to make changes.  This approach works in the workplace and at home (for you and in working with your children).

You Already Know How to Be Great

In his book You Already Know How to Be Great, Alan Fine shares the framework that he calls the GROW model.  Alan was a sports coach, and developed this model to help athletes improve at their respective sports.  He has worked with tennis player, golfers, and Olympic athletes.  GROW is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options, and Way forward.



Goal

The first step is to determine the goal.  As priorities shift, it is possible that the goal of attending a conference or class may have been lost.  Taking some time to think about the goal, and – if possible- write it down again, can you help you regain your focus.


Reality

The next step is to make a list of all of the realities of life that prevent you from achieving your goal.  What are the constraints holding you back?  Available time, lack of staff, changes of priorities, etc. are all possibilities that can derail achievement of a goal.


Options

The third step is to evaluate each reality identified in step #2 and list options for overcoming the constraint.  This requires brainstorming, either as a group or individually.  If your high school stuent is having a difficult time keeping up with homework because of not enough study time, possibly limiting access to social media and connecting with friends might be an option. 


Way Forward

The final, fourth, step is to identify a way forward.  From the options determined in step #3, which of these can be implemented to keep you focused on achieving the goals that you can established?  Create a specific action plan that can be followed.

Ideally, responses to each of the steps in the GROW process should be written down and shared with the planning team (in a work setting) or yourself or child (at home).  

Use the GROW steps to stay focused on current goals and to regain the momentum lost when competing priorities become a reality in our busy environments.


Buy the Book from Amazon




Friday, August 15, 2014

Sacred Texts of Major World Religions

Throughout the world, several major religions are practiced by billions of individuals.  This post contains brief descriptions of each text and links to a version of the writings.

Christian Bible

Written over thousands of years and many authors, the Christian Bible includes both Jewish writings, published as the Old Testament, and ministry of Christ and spread of the Christian gospel in the New Testament.

Bible Gateway

Hindu Vedas

The Rig Veda, one of four vedas - knowledge - is believe to have been composed around 1500BC and passed down orally until around 300BC when a transcribed version was written down.

Rig Veda

Islamic Qur'an

Muslims believe that the Qur'an was given verbally to the prophet Muhammed and transcribed by him in the early seventh century.

Qur'an

Book of Mormon

According to the author, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon was revealed to him by the angel Moroni.  Moroni told him the location of ancient golden plates which contained writings.  Joseph Smith translated these plates into English and published the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon