Beauty, Creating, Learning, Reflection, self realization

Pathways to Change

In the previous post I spoke of Rosamund Zander’s guidance for individual change. She also dealt with bringing change to families and organizations by recognizing that others, like ourselves are walking stories.  As the book progresses she focuses on energy.

She starts with a scientific analogy.  Energy becomes amplified, she says, when in proximity to waves of similar tone and length.  Visionary people use it that way too – though her she defines energy as commitment to something broader than our personal concerns.  And it’s not just about  getting one’s own way.  We enter relationships of collaboration and become catalysts to create a new story.

The physical world is dynamic – an ecosystem where things connect, react and change. The canopy of trees outside my window is awash with green where weeks ago there were naked limbs. Blossoms will turn to fruit, seeds will scatter, new growth will erupt and old growth with succumb to lightning or disease..

It’s a fractal universe too – in nature and in computer simulations and even in emotions when we share feelings and experiences that cross cultures and times.

When we want to change things, we traditionally  develop goals, objectives, strategies and tactics as though we are totally in charge – usually forgetting that there are other forces and energies operating around us – in a  playful universe of galaxies.

Zander suggests we try to think of ourselves less as actors and doers and more as conduits that interact with the energies of others – especially in bringing about change. That story is called possibility and it mirrors natural evolution.  Humans act and talk. How we do both has a marked effect on the bigger picture. She observes

We reconcile by acts and words; we restore through how we relate and how we grow; we inspire through what we build and the art we make; and we cure ourselves by how we care for others and what we give away. In those ways we bring our hearts into a collective resonance – and that is where the power lies.

Nations have child stories that often need a re-write. As we work on our personal maturing,  we change our habits and find new insights and truths that become more like the patterns of nature.  Rather than either/or we learn to live with ambiguity.  We lessen our need to always be right or to avoid the realities staring at us.

Our caring for the earth needs a rewrite even more.  Evolution has always favored invasive species – yet humans are the most invasive of the lot.   Urban living divorces us from the natural world. Nature embraces all systems, Zander says, while we have primarily looked after ourselves.

She has several prescriptions –  get out and walk in nature, question the child stories that place man at the center as the hero. Stop treating nature as a thing to exploit and re-frame it as an evolving system constantly becoming more complex and beautiful.  Take the same stance toward human relationships. “What would be a more compassionate or collaborative way of doing things?  Through the practice of what art may I expand my heart?”, she asks.  It’s an invitation to join an infinite story.

She closes with what she terms infinite games:

  • Take an infinite leap and find someone who has been lost to you
  • Get the love you want
  • Make a decision in a different way that you normally do – change a habit
  • Choose a guiding principle – some examples are wonder, service, courage and authenticity – and commit to making every decision based on it for a day or two.

The entire book is an entertaining reminder that I am not the center of the universe – and at the same time, there are plenty of new possibilities ahead.

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Creating, presenting, Technology, workplace

PPT and Zerox

Remember when photocopying was referred to as Zeroxing – because of my advanced years, I can even remember when photocopying machines entered schools – and suddenly we were freed from the dreaded purple Ditto copies which faded almost as soon as they were run.  The new copiers were so popular that every classroom teacher was reproducing documents at such a fast pace we were all put on a paper diet.  The name of the first photocopying machine became a verb or the process – in the same way that Kleenex now means paper tissue – and everyone knows how to ask for one from toddlerhood.

So it’s interesting that one – but only one Microsoft software program – has reached the same iconic status.  I’ve just received an invitation to a meeting where I am told there will be a PowerPoint presentation.  That is more than enough to keep me away – but do you notice that a presentation still must be preceded by PowerPoint.  At the same meeting there may be some documents or spreadsheets distributed but they don’t need the imprimatur of Word or Excel as prefixes to give them credence.  There is still some reverence for PPT in spite of the fact that it nearly always displays a canned document – not an engaging screen.  So even if you like the software – which I actually do – for heaven sake start with a blank page, an image and a maximum of about six words. Otherwise Death by PowerPoint will still hold sway.

 

 

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Creating, effectiveness, media, reading, Reflection, writing

LENGTHS TO GO TO

I’m probably violating the rules above, but this is worth thinking about when you are writing.  Hats off to Kevan Lee for providing it.

 

 

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Creating, effectiveness, Leadership, media, purpose, Reflection, reporting

DISCONNECT

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Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, Lovely spam, wonderful spam   – Trump, Trump Trump Trump . . . . . . . .

Where are rhe Pythons when we need them?

My morning paper, The Globe and Mail, created the world of the day in its Saturday edition. Today’s editorial suggests we “Keep calm and carry on”.  So how does its content this morning help us do that?  I decided that it would be fun to put some headlines into a word cloud generator.  The result is what you see above and the answer is “Not so much”

I restricted my Word Cloud to two sections of the newspaper –  “News” and the one called “Focus”, which includes commentary and the weekly editorial. I didn’t have the energy to cut and paste the copy of the articles under these headlines or we would see the word Trump push every other word out of the cloud.

Yes, I know that an inauguration is news through I didn’t see it on TV.  I don’t generally watch the swearing in of Canadian poliiticians on TV either though I did attend a real-life one the fall and it was moving and made me glad to be a Canadian.

But if the fourth estate wants us to keep calm and carry on here in Canada, is it effective to be as obsessed with one person as it seems to be?  I don’t need Canadians to be happy about an inauguration.  But I don’t need reporters and columnists to encourage me to be as angry or afraid as they are either.  I also don’t need them to share their disillusionment or wishful thinking that a new head of government in the country next door would suddenly become presidential.

I did feel as though I were being spammed this morning.  Reality TV has created this person and the press seem taken in by it more than anyone else.  The values that this genre inspires are mixed. I hardly ever watch it though it is a favorite of my young grandsons – unlike their father who used to like shows like Barney Miller or Get Smart at the same age.  Sometimes the Reality TV participants in their endless competitions show courage and ingenuity but more often display winner-take-all and to hell with anybody else.  If we are expected to keep calm and carry on, we need a press that focuses more on facts and less on the personal fears, obsessions and anxieties of its writers.

 

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Creating, effectiveness, Learning, media, presenting, Reflection

Death by PowerPoint -Yet Again!

Template

I’m approaching a coming all-day orientation session with a sense of foreboding.  I’ve seen the agenda which is reasonably appropriate.  But what is appended is a presentation document. You can guess – it’s death by PowerPoint again -in spite of the fact that it is 2016.  So for the benefit of all participants – those who design presentations and those who have to sit through them, I am sharing a generic template for your mutual use. It needs to be inserted on page 2 just after the title page.

If a handout were simply a take-away of the main facts, it might be vaguely useful – if rather boring.  But I fear that forty or more of us have been invited to a “read-along”.   The organization concerned had a recent review and the conclusion was that its operation was dysfunctional, that participants were passive and unengaged, that they were inundated with background materials that were excessive and sometimes unreadable and that the real role of the body was to rubber stamp decisions.  This year was to be a new start with real effort to effect change.  It doesn’t look as though it’s going to happen any time soon.

One of the challenges of institutions of any kind – and this one has a long and venerable history – is that they live in a bubble.  The idea of using slides isn’t new.  My children used to love visits to their grandparents in the seventies, when a grandfather showed them pictures of themselves on a big screen.  Some of us will even remember carousel projectors.  The idea of linking laptops and screens changed everything and the Mighty Microsoft is credited with inventing presentation software – though it didn’t. Forethought Inc. originally even called the original program Presenter. But PowerPoint made it easy and first came out in 1990 as part of Windows 3.0.  All one had to do was to fill in the headings and the bullet points.

I travelled to Durban South Africa in 1999 to make a presentation to the conference of the International Hotel and Restaurant Association.  Why a sole practitioner from Toronto would be invited to do so is another story –  I was nervous about the right media interface and different plugs so I brought along clear transparency sheets – and felt more than vindicated when the jazzy PowerPoint opening presentation crashed before an audience of more than a thousand.  But soon like everybody else, I was using PowerPoint. Something from the beginning told me that templates were all wrong for presentations though everybody was using them. A son suggested that I read Presentation Zen and its author, Garr Reynolds, agreed that templates were not a good thing.  That led me later to Nancy Duarte’s book, Resonate.  If anybody out there is using PowerPoint for anything at all, please, please acquire these books and take them to heart.

The heart of the matter is this. If you want to engage and inspire people, text on a big screen doesn’t work the way you think it does.  Duarte makes this clear when she distinguishes between reports, presentations and stories.  Reports summarize facts.  Stories provide drama.  Presentations fall in the middle and need to move back and forth between the two. The template has to be more like a film and less like a document. We don’t curl up in the evening in front of the big screen to watch a page of text.

The orientation summary sent out in advance of the coming meeting in is a report.  I’m going to take my Ipad and Iphone along.  Both contain a wealth of good stories to pass the time when I need to. Don’t get me wrong.  PowerPoint is handy for a presentation if you start from a blank screen and use high quality images and as few words as possible.  I have modelled my own designs on those of an excellent presenter that I first saw nearly 20 years ago when she showed colorful images, cartoons, and word art with a different voice-over of her own at breakneck speed.  What she did in that presentation activated our feelings and we were inspired.  Presentations require artistry.  My own presentations are laughably modest compared to what real artists can do.  But at very least we need to recognize, as Nancy Duarte observes that presenters are not mentors.  The role of heroes presentations rightly belongs to the audience.

Let’s back up a bit.  It used to be that a presentation was a social event.  You would have to go out to attend one and you joined with other people in the room. You would only get to experience it once.  You couldn’t take any of its content home unless you made your own notes. It was something that delighted you, inspired you, annoyed you, puzzled you, confronted you.   The coming presentation for the weekend has been sent out in advance as a product, a digital commodity, something that can be read, saved – or more than likely trashed.  The bright side might be that all of this is being given away for free – and I don’t even have to attend.  The dark side is that the presenters have diminished the coming session as a chance to interact, to envision, to inspire and to make us change.

 

 

 

 

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Creating, Reflection, workplace

Deconstruction and Construction

Sent this one to MEDIUM TODAY

Workplace diary

NOISE

collage2On June 27

I work from home — that is, I do stuff that is work even though it is voluntary and done for love rather than money. I was awakened that morning by the sound of something falling nearby with loud plops. A look out the apartment window revealed a large yellow tube leading from the fifth floor of the building next door to a large red dumpster. What was falling through it was a mix of drywall and now unnecessary debris from the company’s former executive suite. Its head office had recently vacated, the building had been sold; and rumour has it that it is to be converted to a condo.

The noise wasn’t so oppressive — but watching the lone worker on the ground moving waste matter around was a contrast to my ieisurely start and enjoyment of my morning coffee. We seldom get so up close and personal to the variety of work that is part of the modern world. Sitting in front of screens and reading about CEO annual increases of millions doesn’t quite jibe with this man’s day — living among modern waste in more ways than one.

DECONSTRUCTION

On July 4

The plops continue. We are now on the fourth large container and the contents have changed from plaster and insulation to metal strips. For six days four or five men have laboured and it will be interesting to see whether the entire fifth floor has been completed. Clouds of dust from falling plaster have given way to cleaner debris — for which I am thankful. At least I can leave windows on my side of the building open rather than watch the dresser beside the window become covered with white dust.

No one else in the apartment building seems much interested in this deconstruction phenomena — but I received word this morning that my next door neighbour next door is reading my blog posts about this. It used to be that people actually talked about local happenings in person rather than reading about them online. C’est la vie. But what about the participants in this deconstruction? Do they have time to ponder the meaning of life in the process?

CONSTRUCTION!

On July 18

I shared the news of deconstruction with two grandsons who were visiting for the weekend. “Don’t be surprised if you are awakened with a big bang in the morning”, I commented. But they hardly skipped a beat as they constructed new buildings of their own while playing Minecraft online on the Ipad and PC for several hours — just surfacing once to ask for a new Skin Editor. As an old style grandmother who thought kids should go outside, I called for a break. We tried a walk in the park and a Frisbee toss, but the heat soon drove us to the ice cream store and a very hot walk home.

Taking a cue from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, I encouraged the kids to go Analog for a while, giving each a large sheet of paper and encouraging them to use the whole page by fill it with anything they liked, using a variety of my art supplies. The older one started on a really good drawing of a dinosaur. The younger tried his own version, seemed dissatisfied with it and retreated to return shortly to show me his own version of how to complete the use of the entire page.

On August 1

REFLECTION

It’s now been more than a month of daily deconstruction. My life has changed. I go to bed much earlier to avoid being awakened by a daily dumpster crash outside my window at 6:45 am. Four full dumpsters leave most days. During these comings and goings I have filed reports for one of my volunteer organizations, prepared agendas and chaired meetings, planned a fall campaign, worked on a wonderful community day where we hoped to draw 100 and got 200, designed a quick website for a project that is just about to happen, — in other words, dumped a whole bunch of activities into my own calendar dumpster. But I have also realized that all this busyness has replaced some of the other things that I actually intended to do this summer — like writing. And I haven’t added the time spent in feckless pursuits like online crosswords, or surfing Facebook to find the odd interesting thing that wasn’t cat related.

Dumpsters, when it comes right down to it, are just containers. They are kind of like my Gmail inbox which I have trained myself to keep quite lean and to clear out as often as possible. The easiest thing to do is to transfer everything read to specific folders and one of my volunteer ones has over a thousand threads of items that are basically dumped. In counting I note that I have 23 active folders full of suchconversations. Most of these can head for deconstruction.

But returning to thinking about deconstruction/construction — the best things of the month have reallycome from going analog — hanging out with family, friends, and colleagues, reading books rather than reading stuff online, trying new recipes, sitting and just thinking — and even watching dumpsters. The huge orange box next door will disappear eventually — and probably be replaced by daily deliveries of stuff for reconstruction — just like my Gmail Inbox. The big challenge will be sorting what comes in and becoming less distracted by stuff that deserves throwing out from the get-go.

 

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Creating, Education, effectiveness, HBDI, Learning, mind mapping, mindmapping software, Teamwork, Thinking Styles, writing

Real Republishing

See What You Think (2)When a colleague introduced me to Smashwords – she republished her husband’s excellent book book that originally came out in 1990 – I couldn’t resist doing the same with one  of mine that came out in 2006 – though a manual dates almost immediately, unlike the well written history of a Toronto landmark.

My book was written to help those interested in real life applications for mindmapping software – using the software program, VisiMap, as listed in the menu above.  The ideas in it apply to any software or hand drawn maps in this now broad software class.  So if you would like a free copy you can access it here.

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