Confusion: My new friend

I don’t understand. I’ve scrunched up my eyes and I’m even scratching my head. It just doesn’t make sense…

I have a shiny-new academic label for this feeling now, “cognitive dissonance“. An uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.

I’ve been trying out a reframe of this uncomfortableness. What if, instead of confusion being a negative experience, it is a positive signal? A signal that an opportunity to learn has just arrived.

I’ll need to be quick to grasp the opportunity. What question can I ask to get to the core of the confusion? A sincere and humble question that is free from bias and judgement. Think quickly.

This works for me. Maybe because I treat it like a game and it appeals to my sense of curiosity.

Can I train myself to the point where my response to confusion isn’t discomfort? It will be fun finding out :)

Might this work for you too?

Conway’s Law

Isn’t it great when a casual conversation leads to a new discovery?

Maybe it’s a new viewpoint, a nugget of information, an idea, or a story that really rings true.

One of the great things about the Henley MBA is the experience of the cohort. The average age of 36 means plenty of stories, lessons learned, and maturity of perspectives.

I learnt about Conway’s Law last night. It states that, “…organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations”. Wikipedia article

No rocket science here. However, until last night, and despite my ten years’ experience in systems change, I didn’t have the vocabulary to fully express this principle and it’s implications for design. It was more of a feeling or an intuition. Now there is some science behind this feeling. Thanks Steffen.

I believe that being open to new ideas and perspectives is a virtuous circle, where the openness drives the opportunity to discover or be introduced to other new ideas, which spark further ideas and questions and so on.

It’s easy to dismiss something new prematurely by reacting to our emotions. Philip Cox-Hynd encouraged us yesterday to live in the question, understand it, explore it, and be comfortable in it. I like that. I’m sure it will make me better at listening, learning, and making new discoveries.

Rubber ducking

Do you have a rubber duck?  You should have..

When I was a graduate trainee in IT a kindly wise owl contractor recommended a book called The Pragmatic Programmer. It’s a superb and very accessible book that helped me make sense of my learning journey at the time.

The authors suggested a technique, coined by Greg Pugh, called rubber ducking, “Place a rubber duck on your monitor and describe your problems to it. There’s something magical about stating your problems aloud that makes the solution more clear.”

“Not so great for open plan offices” you say? My boss suggested that talking to inanimate objects in public wasn’t a great advert for my sanity and offered to be my rubber duck. I would explain a problem that I was having and she would look at me and nod. Rarely would she actually have to say anything and I would, without fail, interrupt myself before finishing the explanation having worked out the solution. Magic!

At the start of the MBA, we were encouraged to keep a personal learning journal to record and make sense of our experiences. A sort of paper rubber duck. I’ve been slack and only done this roughly once a month so far.

Henley’s excellent personal development workshops always re-ignite the desire and recognition of the importance of reflection but my self-discipline has been lacking. I’m determined to make and embed changes before my time at Henley is over so am resorting to an old friend, the public promise, to keep me on track:  I will add a minimum of one blog post a week for the next 12 months.

(Crap! I’ve said it out loud now. I’ll have to do it…)

I hope you don’t mind being my rubber ducks. I’d be very grateful if you could nod gently from time to time but sitting there quietly is fine too.