Thoughts

The writing’s on the wall

In the ideal space for facilitating meetings you can write on every wall. Ideas emerge from the recesses of our brains into the world for all to visualise and interact with. Pictures do tell thousands of words. And people love getting up and moving around. Plus, the cost of mistakes is zero; just wipe and start again.

The reality is that most meeting rooms I encounter have a pretty measly setup; one small flip-chart and a whiteboard if I’m lucky.

So now I carry this cunning innovation; Magic Whiteboard is A1 size flip-chart paper that sticks to any surface (static charge) and is wipe clean. It instantly turns any meeting space into a facilitator’s dream.

Hat tips to the City University Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice for introducing me to this, founders Neil & Laura for the innovation, and the Dragons’ Den for investing and bringing it to market.

Amazon have better prices than direct and don’t worry, it comes from the founders anyway. Check it out:

Happy drawing :)

Monday morning moment

Cycling in dark, cold and rain to work through central London. Passed by a Bentley. Glanced sideways. Looked warm and comfy. Next car past was a Porche, then another, then another. Looked around for the Top Gear film crew. Rough calc of £200k+ in 4 cars. And me on my Halfords bike in the rain.

And it hit me. I wouldn’t swap places for all the tea in china. I’m happy with me, my life, my beautiful wife, my newborn daughter, my choices, my priorities, my struggles and my shortcomings.

No sour grapes, no envy, just ambivalence. In fact, if I’m completely honest, there was a little grin. I smiled. Awesome car, I thought, but you’ve been mugged. That car is making up for something. The car marketing squad have sold you a dream that isn’t yours. In the Top five regrets of the dying no-one mentioned cars. Did they?

Our priorities define us. They shape our actions, habits, character and destiny. Best make sure they are really our priorities and not the marketing man’s or anyone else’s.

Personal Best

StravaCycling to work through London. 8 miles each way and plenty to take in. Cyclists leaving the train station starting from cold. Balancing the desire for a brisk tempo to generate some warmth with eyes and brain that adjust slowly to the early morning darkness..

Traffic is sparse and good tempered at 7am – no-one is late yet.

The park is full of runners, fitness clubs, walkers. Cycle lanes busy with the sounds of derailleurs, chains, sharp intakes of icy morning air and occasional bells warning errant pedestrians.

It’s the traffic lights where you notice it. Cyclists are not immune. The jostling for prime position, ignoring a red, taking a shortcut on the pavement. To gain an advantage. Over whom? Or what?

I know my PB. 34:03 in the morning and 40:19 in the evening. I know my average speed. The app on my phone tells me when I have set a PB for the ride or for one of the segments. Sometimes it tells me I am “King of the Mountain”. Ha! In London.

I can’t help wondering how many of the daily commuters I pass are also watching the clock. And how this alters our behaviour in subtle ways. The tight overtake, squeezing through a gap, the token indication manoeuvre.

Personal Best – it feels like a misnomer. Personal fastest – yes. But what about personal safest? Personal happiest? Most enjoyable? Most scenic? Smoothest? Fewest lights? Least traffic? Most variety? Most smiles from taxi drivers?

What you measure is what you get. Be careful out there.

Connected

Commuting home on the tube… Listening to an old Zane Lowe podcast about the Beastie Boys (downloaded automagically overnight). Reminds me of my very first cassette – Licensed to Ill. I check Spotify and download the whole album using the train station wifi.

Now on the train I play the album. The opening riff from the first track reminds me of Led Zep’s “When the levee breaks”. Never noticed that before. (Too young back then?) Search for the original on Spotify to compare. Ah yes, LZ not on Spotify… What’s this?

The London Philharmonic Orchestra version! Result.

Google search confirms the BB track has a direct sample. We all know that everything is a remix anyway, don’t we?

I write a note to get my ideas straight and retrace my tech/app/connection & curiosity steps. How did I stumble upon London Philharmonic? Blog worthy? Maybe not. But a good test of the WordPress mobile app.

What’s the point? Tech as an enabler for serendipity? Or how commuting ‘dead time’ is now up for grabs? Does it matter? Something eloquent about hyper-connectivity. Wait, about to head through Shiplake – goodbye data…

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Learning to fall

Wandering along the river at the weekend we saw a small boy take a spill on his bike.

It was enough of a fall to draw a sharp intake of breath from both my wife and me but no real damage was done.

The boy instinctively dusted off his hands and winced at the bits of gravel embedded in the palms of his hands.

His Dad, walking behind us shouted, “That’s alright. Just dust yourself off. It won’t hurt as much if you ride on the grass.”

~~~~~

My mum insisted my brother and I learn how to fall when we were little, “Tuck your elbow in and land on your hip and shoulder”. Good advice for adventurous boys.

~~~~~

Over the years, I’ve introduced a handful of people to rock climbing; encouraging them as they take their first nervous steps up from the safety of the ground into the unknown.

The pattern of a first climb is pretty common: grip tightly to the holds, head up using mostly arm not leg strength, get to the top, clutch onto the largest object at the top, look down nervously, eventually release death-grip on the wall to be lowered down, grip the rope tightly on descent, kiss the floor with relief/sense of achievement, stare with wonder at forearms which appear to be pumped and burning, realise that you arms are now too tired to climb again for a long time.

Falling

Until you reach the top of the climb and release your weight onto the rope, you haven’t tested the system. You have no real trust in it. No experience of how it feels to sit in the harness, deliberately or otherwise, until you are in an exposed position.

So why not learn to fall when the stakes aren’t as high?

That’s how I teach. On terra firma I tie the person into their harness, show them the basics of my belay device, take up the slack in the rope, then I just fall down into my harness next to them. “I trust the system”, I’m saying. “You can too.”

~~~~~

I’ve laboured the analogy; forgive me.

My point is that being comfortable and familiar with falling allows us to ride and climb better. We’ve reduced the cost of failure.

This doesn’t just apply to the great outdoors.  Learning to fall in our personal and work lives gives us the confidence to push our experimentation & creativity further.

So why isn’t learning to fall an integral part of every new undertaking?

 

Don’t blame the process

This MQ article on decision-making raises the recurring theme of ‘process’ as a pejorative term:

The word “process”

It’s boring.

It immediately conjures up images of bureaucracy and slowness and decisions by committee—all things associated with bad management.

This reminds me of a recent experience at a startup. “Let me know if there’s anything you need”, said the founder.

I nearly didn’t ask. My corporate conditioning had taught me to expect a stifling blanket of paperwork, admin, discussions, meetings and general hassle. A horrible process.

red tape

These guys should be different, I thought.  I’ll give it a go…

“I need a Balsamiq licence” (a nifty piece of software for creating low-fi wireframe sketches of user interfaces)

Ten minutes later and I’m knocking up wireframes in Balsamiq. I couldn’t believe it. Zero bureaucracy. So refreshing.

What multiples of the fee ($79 for an annual single-user licence) would the average corporate have incurred in labour costs for the time of those making this decision?

‘Process’ gets a bad rap. It’s really just poor thinking and process design that’s to blame.