Innovation, Reflection, vision

Framing

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop this morning preparing to write something about framing when a woman outside caught my eye.  She was motionless on the sidewalk of a busy street below where streetcars and heavy traffic move constantly.  The scene looked something like this:

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My camera shots don’t show everything close by –  the woman crossing the street was almost run over by a passing car, a streetcar or two passed, and a bike nearly ran into the woman on the sidewalk.  Her world was framed by a device that measures about 2.5 x 5.5 inches.  As you can see, she was totally absorbed in it.

We are shrinking our frameworks – and ironically expanding them at the same time.  Our phones allow us to go anywhere in the digital universe.  The question is whether the digital framework will affect our sense of possibility in the real one.

Most of us have been exposed to the  diagram puzzle below where we are asked to connect the dots using only four lines without lifting the pen/pencil from the page.

The square is a shape that we know all too well and the shape suggests a straight-forward solution – except that it takes five lines instead of four.  The real solution requires us to move outside the frame.

We can observe that we first focused on numbers and measurement in trying to find the solution.  But what we have to do is place the image in a much larger box to see more possibilities

 

The new frame doesn’t necessarily have to be square.  It could be a rectangle or ciccle.  It just has to be bigger.

When we  look for new possibilities, thinking quantitatively will not always work.  Other elements also come into play in  real transformation.  Moving from one frame to another can depend upon  seeing relationships – sometimes with people,  but also relationships in a universe filled with “joy, grace, awe,  wholeness, passion and compassion” as the writer of The Art of Possibility says. When we expand the frame,  it opens up more than we can initially ask or imagine.

 

 

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Benjamin Zander, effectiveness, Reflection

More on Possibility

seedlingHow do we make change happen?  Pathways to Possibility, a book by Rosamund Stone Zander, a family systems therapist and the wife of noted orchestral conductor Ben Zander, has some important reminders.  Transformation, in her view, involves systems or fields rather than CEOs or heroes. But behavior matters.

She focuses on being rather than doing.  While we try to do the right thing, no one has the full picture. Einstein noted that “As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness around it”.  How we act relates to our past experience. Zander describes us as walking stories.

We are affected by what happens to us as children and the strong positive or negative feelings these events evoke.  Both become internalized and part of how we cope.  We bring them into the relationships in our lives, Families and organizations of all sizes become a network of tangled pasts.  We sometimes compare organizations to families and use words like warmth, caring, loyalty and belonging.  But hidden in the family metaphor, says Zander, are control, hierarchy, competition, neglect, coercion and smothering.  Groups of any size may be a living collection of child stories.

As we mature, we may discover on our own that the stories are not valid or universal and no longer apply. Sometimes it takes therapy or life changing events to bring them to the surface.  Zander suggests two strategies to overcome the hurtful experiences – to recognize them as memories located in the past or look at them as stages in our personal development. We don’t have to be stuck in them and entrap others in the process.  We can tell our stories and move on.  She says:

We reconcile by facts 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 these ways, we bring our hearts into collective resonance and that is where our power lies.

Having dealt with individuals, Zander moves on to larger groupings and the ways we try to change people.  Her list includes management, patience, do as I say, exclusion loving manipulation, bribery and ultimatums.  As a parent and grandparent, I’ve used all of them consciously, if not wisely. It might be less obvious how all of us use them to organizations – but we do.  At a recent meeting, I watched people offer suggestions of what we might do to fix people we thought were less effective in defined roles.  But we excluded ourselves from the picture.

Zander’s insight is no surprise.  If we wish to shift change in an organization, it has to start with ourselves. She calls the process walking into a new story.  It is our being – not our doing – that will make the difference.

Offering good advice is out.  What we need to look for in others is what she terms the infinite self – we know this possibility in ourselves and our task is to see it in someone else.  rather than just look through the lens of our own story.  The task is to see possibility. The result is more likely to be collaboration.

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Creativity, effectiveness, media, Reflection

CREATIVE DISSENT

golden-book

Much of what I have seen in response to the leader of our neighbor to the south has the same angry and dark tone that he himself uses.  What humor does is to use the same tactic  by simply shifting the context. Ms. Conway’s phrase  “Alternative Facts” deserves  exactly this kind of reply.  What she is trying to do is to erode the meaning of the word, fact  – which is extremely dangerous.  It is illustrated by the reaction of many of the leader’s supporters, who simply respond – I don’t care.  But if we stop caring, who are we?

One simply hopes that someone who accepts alternative facts can see the reality pictured here rather than putting all their aspirational eggs in one questionable basket.

Another more lighthearted response comes from a Dutch talk show.

The beauty of both these approaches – rather than angry rants – is that they’re fun and help us get on with our lives and doing whatever good we can in our small corners – and whatever the leader next door thinks of them – he’ll be less able to end his Tweet with “sad”.

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mind mapping, planning, Reflection, Robert Fritz, Sample Tools, VisiMap, writing

MY PERSONAL TOOL BOX

My personal tool box

Over the years I’ve always had a tool box in the closet like the big one pictured above.  It’s pretty basic – a screwdriver with a variety of heads, a hammer, some picture wire, some duct tape.  Any heavy jobs require assistance from a family member or professional.

But my personal organizational tool box contains some good ones which vary as I acquire more and more digital technology.  The contents here really makes a difference.

First of all – paper journals – even though paper sounds out of date.  Recently I recycled about 25 from past lives pondered and agonized about.  If I were a novelist they might have been fodder for a set of future neurotics , but dipping into them revealed somebody who was self-absorbed and rather silly. No doubt the journal I am filling now will seem the same way later.  But I do find it essential to record what’s on my mind.  A journal gets the ideas and problems out there from inside.  It can be reviewed, laughed at or cried over later when I have better perspectives.  I keep these hand written journals for a while – but not forever.  Sometimes I have a look and copy the best notes from reading or personal insight into another one and those journals are longer keepers.

In addition to the big journal – usually black – and Moleskine or a comparable cheaper brand with a bookmark and an elastic –  I have a couple of other books.  One is for ideas for blogs and things get written down if and when they come to me – (it contained the suggestion of this article among other things).  The third one is a notebook for taking notes at meetings or seminars.  I prefer to do this by hand – and try to capture the main ideas with verbatim phrases or even mind maps.  I’ll later transfer the contents to a report if they are something like minutes and meant to be shared.  Generally people who take notes during meetings capture nearly everything but don’t take the additional step of reflecting on what matters in the content.

Second – Synchronized stuff.  We move between laptops, tablets and smart phones and we need to have it all in hand and as portable as possible.  If I need reference material for a meeting, I’ll want to have it available when and where I need it.  A recent meeting had an advance portfolio of over 500 pages.  I had the option of reading it onsite on a tablet by either using wi-fi or a previously uploaded copy. In another situation I needed the combination to open a safe.  It was in a Gmail folder in message saved to a folder three months earlier.

Third – Mind Mapping.  I’ve been a mind mapper since a son responded in the early nineties by giving me Tony Buzan’s The Mind Map Book for Christmas.  He had heard me complain about a client‘s proposal.  As an arts consultant at the time I was helping plan a major civic arts facility housing performing, visual and media arts.  There was a lot of blue sky thinking and it was our role to introduce a few clouds.  Suddenly there was talk of taking one of the three components out of the plan without understanding the financial effect on operating revenue.  “If only there were a way to show how one change affects everything else – but on one page,”  I wailed.

Mind mapping does that.  I later went down to Palm Beach and became a Buzan certified trainer, but you can actually learn mind mapping in 10 minutes here. Hand maps can be visually beautiful and works of art.  Digital maps have the advantage of reordering and restructuring with ease.  Either technique organizes and structures your thinking.  That’s how this article started and got organized in a very few minutes using Mind mapping software called VisiMap.

Fourth – Graphic Tools.  For any long term plan or project, you have to use something to see the big picture as well as the details.  Most of us think both logically and intuitively and have a preference for one or the other.  We’re exposed to a growing number of messages and an infinite number of words.  When someone says, “Do I have to draw you a picture?” out of frustration, they may be indeed on the right track.  There are many examples of digital canvasses and some of these like Canvanizer are now available for collaborative use.  They are a simple way of uniting those with different ways to think because they combine the textual and the visual and relationships among the components are easier to see.

I also invented a hand written to-do format combining Robert Fritz‘s calendar idea and post-it notes.  In one of his books Fritz  he suggests ranges  for things that have to be done in columns – within one day, two days, three days, five days and two weeks.  It helps see life in a bigger frame and you can even do some stuff earlier if you have time.  Very small post-its are great to write the tasks – and I keep those that tend to repeat – like “pay credit card’ or “prepare meeting agenda” – I just throw the one-time ones away and it feels even better than stroking them off a list.

Fifth – Password Savers.  My current password count is 86. The list might be missing a few or have some that should be deleted.  I still have a small paper book where I wrote these down and had to look them up frequently – until I discovered that there is software that stores all of them securely and can access any of them. Basically all I have to remember now is one – which will allow me to keep all the others on file and synchronize them to my other devices.  It’s really fun to see them automatically open anything from bank accounts to online courseware – and that pause even gives a few seconds to relax and reflect.

Sixth – for now – because there will always be more to explore – Subscription Collectors.  We sign up for things all the time – and then forget about them.  Suddenly our mail boxes are jammed with incoming distractions.  Suddenly an hour has past and we forget what we came to the in-box for in the first place.  We don’t want to give subscriptions up entirely – but we have met the enemy – and it is us.  I used to put incoming ones in a Gmail folder called @Parking-lot with the intention of looking at them on Friday afternoon.  I would usually forget to look – and then after a month there were more than 100 things to read and I tended to delete the whole lot of them –  time saved perhaps, but also opportunities lost to learn anything.  Then I discovered an app called unroll.me which first checks out what I have subscribed to – all 87 of them –  and allows me to clean out my list.  Then it asks me when I would like to look at incoming mail – morning, afternoon or evening.  After that, it lets me choose a list or a graphic format for all the entries and sends me the whole lot once a day at my preferred time.  This allows a better balance between attending to what has to be done – and still exploring new things at an appropriate time.

These serve me well and I’ll keep using them for now.  What’s in your tool-box?

 

 

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Education, Reflection

Rethinking Physical Space

Here’s school as it ought to be!

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Creating, effectiveness, Howard Rheingold, Learning, Reflection, Technology

What Works – and What Doesn’t

I sat in a meeting yesterday and heard an interesting presentation from a person who is trying to build a new church community in a suburb – without a building, and the hope that a gathered community would have enough strength to move toward one some time in the future.  His target audience is families with young children – people quite like himself – and he is trying to do this by meeting the people where he knows they are – probably on public transport where they spend large portions of their lives. Because he also has a technology background he has created an app to make contact with them.  He calls the app, “Redeem the Commute”.  His target group is also described as “unchurched” – in other words, those who have no experience of or context for the kind of community that he is trying to create.

It’s a new way to try to combine local with global – and what was engaging was the honesty of his reporting.  How many of us get real about how things work – or don’t.  – in the worlds of social media and mobile apps.

His idea was to offer online mini- courses – parenting, marriage preparation and relgion 101.  I immediately found myself questioning the first one here – did he have the necessary credentials to offer a course on parenting – especially as a new parent himself?  While I have decades of parenting experience I’d be inclined to recognize my views as opinion rather than credentials.  Marriage prep and Religion 101 were fine. These are churchy things and related to the business he is in.  There were hopes that participants would group themselves around topics and form discussion groups.  There were also invitations to come to real meetings in a real location  Here are some of the things that happened.

Clear measurements took place over a 60 day period. There were a fair number of downloads of the app and quite a few visits to the website. But there was very little interest in the parenting or marriage course; there was better response to religion 101. The online communities never formed.  There were a very small number of visits to the local website.  Turning up for local events was sparse. Some local initiatives worked so much better.  An outdoor movie night attracted 400.  A Christmas party brought out 40 parents and children.

What do these things say to any of us who write for blogs or websites or posts for social media? We may be fooling ourselves quite a  lot of the time.  I had the same experience writing for a local community grouping in downtown Toronto over a three year period.  There were interested subscribers from all over the world – even a reporter from the Washington Post checked in – but local interest was sparse at best.

My Facebook friends are people whom I would recognize if I met them on the street – and some of them live a plane ride away – but the truth is we have common contexts for being digital acquaintances – and let’s face it, we are not all friends in a real sense but more often colleagues, classmates, and acquaintances.  It’s extremely difficult to develop relationships unless people have something of substance  in common – and what the targeted group had in common here was actually defined – no knowledge of the enterprise that was trying to recruit them. Social media is now based on the economic hope that what we “like” will be adopted by our “friends”.  Such friendship will come at a price and it doesn’t really build human bonding.

What did work was what the movie and Christmas party have in common.  They were local events where real people could actually meet and interact with other people.  When I think back to Howard Rheingold’s lovely book, The Virtual Community, Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier”, which I first read in the early 90’s, I realize how much things have changed.  Local combined with digital was possible then – to have a local community like the Bay area “Well” where people could meet online and share theirv real life experience.  But they also shared the context of San Francisco.  What there is to share in the sense of a new suburban commiunity is a a bit hard to say. There often is no sense of history or common experience and sometimes even landmarks are hard to spot.  Apps, on the other hand, are almost by definition, global.

So this honest presentation raised far more questions for me than it answered.  The presenter suggested that he might go in an app direction or a local relationship building direction or possibly a combination.  What did seem necessary was to make a choice – because the strengths and limitations of both were clear.  And I found myself leaning toward building relationships.

 

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Creativity, Innovation, Learning, Reflection

Transformation – and how it happens

I spent the morning seeing pictures and hearing about a recent trip to China – two working professionals spent a month there last November on holiday. One is a lawyer.  Her husband is the dean of a cathedral in a neighboring city.  He started by saying that getting his visa was more difficult than for any other member of the touring group.  Apparently he was seen as a threat who might be up to converting the 1.5 billion Chinese he’d run in to.

They had marvelous pictures – and raved about the luxurious accommodation and the food.  The dean remarked that for him, what was odd was not visiting any place of worship of his own denomination during his time on the mainland – though there was clearly lots of exposure to temples and shrines.  The way he described the experience – and especially the contacts with young English speaking guides was “transforming”.

This made sense to me.  On thing that bugs me about any enterprise is how often we seek transforming experiences is by hanging out with people so much like ourselves. In his book, Imagine, How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer notes how the strength of the high tech industry in Israel is influenced by the fact that most young men have compulsory military service a few weeks of the year.  It means that they make loose connections with people frequently and reconnect – and this spills over into new ideas from varied sources and capabilities in different fields.

But Lehrer also notes that our  “friends” and connections so beloved of social media – surely loose ones – are no substitute for real learning from others.  Thinking that others really care about what I have for dinner, or where I am right now, or my latest selfie may just represent the triumph of ego over reality.  But I find there are benefits of following different folks on Twitter who come from different fields and perspectives.  Some of them are good curators of new ideas well worth a read.

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