Diversity and Flexibility

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We quite happily accept a diverse range of food dishes and food presentation styles. Regarding music, we like live performances and listening on our headphones.  We may enjoy a range of music genres. We might sing in the shower but prefer others to sing on stage. What to wear each day? We like various colours, patterns, levels of warmth and levels of formality in our clothing wardrobe.

We like happy surprises. We people watch and take a variety of photos, including selfies. We travel as tourists to see exotic sights and experience something of different cultures.

We read a variety of books, blogs, articles and adverts. We may download various TED talks and YouTube videos, both to be inspired, to be entertained and to learn something.

We appreciate the changing seasons. And watching children or pets slowly grow into fully-fledged adults. We like more than one sport and different kinds of entertainment.

We find a bit of variety at work brightens the work day and makes it seem a bit shorter. We like gardens with diversity in them. We like politicians who aren’t just clones of each other.

In short, we enjoy diversity and variety. So why is it when it comes to our fellow humans, we are so intolerant and so inflexible?  Some of us consciously or subconsciously discriminate on gender, age, personality, confidence level, values, maturity level, ethnicity or disability.

The thing about variety is it can involve risk. But in areas ranging from biological evolution and design, to portfolio finance, variety can also diversify risk, add vitality and minimise threat of a poor outcome. For that alone, we should appreciate the value of diversity in human communities.

And since we seem to appreciate diversity in so many other things, why not add an appreciation of human diversity too (this appreciation is yet another form of personal flexibility and flexibility thinking). It will be in good company, after all.

Simon

Plans, positioning and flexibility

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Strategic planning time is probably as scarce in our personal lives as it is in our professional lives. In both, assuming more of the same may be necessary. But developing a strategy is also needed, since significant external change will likely disrupt the present day momentum. As with the surge in a waterflow, the more powerful the flow, the more eddies there are to examine for opportunity as well.

Developing a strategy to manage our careers involves being resourceful & flexibile in finding gaps in the market that we can fill and that the market will value. Some gaps in the market are about product or service improvement (depth or breadth). Others, in an age of uncertainty and constant change, are about providing insight.

Three types of people will pay good money for insight. Those who have the most to lose. Those on the way up who want to reach financial stability sooner. And those who desperately need a solution.

One of the most important services that AI will likely provide is to properly value insight. Without all the biases, egos and prejudices that humans hold dear. AI will show us all what flexibility really means.

Simon

Education and Flexibility

As parents of the next generation and as taxpayers funding the public education spend, we should question whether the right subjects are being taught in our schools (the curriculum).

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Perhaps the future of education is less about putting knowledge into children’s minds. And more about putting skills into students minds, hands and feet.

Instead of teaching subjects like ‘science’, ‘mathematics’, ‘history’ and ‘geography’, perhaps we should re-assemble that content into themes like ‘numeracy & literacy’, ‘resilience & change management’, ‘leadership & problem solving’ and information search & analysis’.

When you think about it, teaching traditional subjects like science, maths, history and geography really only qualifies someone for a career to teach those subjects. Everything else is a compromise and an adaptation. Therefore, why not re-assemble such groupings into more generic themes that are relevant to future careers (some yet to be invented)?

Simon

Failure and Flexibility

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Failing at things, when you think more flexibly, is probably the best example of negative events transforming into positive growth.

The taste of sour or bitter is ok, if you breeze past it. And think of it as foretaste, not aftertaste. As for eating lemon cake.

Relatedness, Risk and Personal Flexibility

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I learned about the concept of relatedness while recently reading a fantastic book called ‘The Origin of Wealth’ published in 2006, by Eric Beinhocker. Beinhocker is now the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Oxford, England.

Beinhocker describes ‘jump distance’ in a business plan landscape as having three dimensions; relatedness, risk and time horizon. Relatedness is essentially how far your plans are from current skills and knowledge held. Beinhocker describes time horizon as the expected time to payoff from the experiments.  Beinhocker describes risk as ‘all the uncertainties that can affect the outcome of an … experiment. And the degree of irreversibility of the commitment (made)’. In this blogger’s professional experience, risk is commonly calculated in a relative way by assessing probability (likelihood) and magnitude (effect) of the risk. And then ranking risks from big to small.

What Beinhocker’s book didn’t outline was how the relatedness, risk and time horizon dimensions are related. Or how they relate to flexibility.

Using a famous physics formula that velocity = distance/time, we can estimate that progression rate (to achieve a personal goal say) = distance covered/time taken. And that a high progression rate (promotion to greater power say) is proportionate to a high degree of relatedness (patrons, mentors, special knowledge, influential networks to pave the way).

What about Risk? How does that relate to relatedness and time horizon? In relation to the velocity =distance over time equation, risk is that the planned velocity varies significantly in reality.  Perhaps because the distance covered in the allotted time varies significantly from plan.

On a personal level, we can consider progression rate = distance/time as it applies to three things; emotional maturity (in human relationships), wisdom and coping skills.

The progression rate of a teenager in achieving advanced emotional maturity can be raised if there are good role models to learn from. And few things (like peer pressure, stress and negative reinforcement) holding back the advancement of emotional maturity. Or if the maturity time can be shortened somehow. For example, with incentives to mature faster. Or with time substitution – shortening the time by applying other resources in its place.

Regarding improving the progression rate to achieve wisdom and coping skills, the distance covered (quality and depth of wisdom and skills developed) can be improved with safe trials/simulations, analysis practice, improved data storage and retrieval, integrated systems and leverage in learning (learn three key things from one simulation say). Or if the time can be shortened somehow. For example, with incentives to learn and cope faster. Or with time substitution – shortening the time by applying other resources in its place.

Finally, how can the application of personal flexibility (PFL) help to improve the progression rate in the above examples? With emotional maturity, collecting options of good role models to learn from is a good start. Different people’s styles and thought processes can be observed for different situations encountered. Timeflex (the action of buying time, playing for time or reinventing time) is relevant too. Using romance as the example, buying time might involve talking to lots of people about your date’s past track record. Playing for time might involve playing hard to get. Reinventing time might be expanding the honeymoon!

With wisdom, using the flexitypes of design flexibility, process flexiblity and systems flexibility can help improve information management. An example of process flexibility is committing to both advanced education and lifelong learning (more analysis tools and more case studies observed). Timeflex is also relevant. The ‘FLIRS’ acronym of flexibility to leverage to impact to results to stories is also relevant i.e. use flexibility to create leverage, with results being the eventual wisdom obtained.

With life coping skills, using the flexitypes of design flexibility is also relevant. As is styflex (style flexibility), timeflex and FLIRS.

What do you think?

Simon

A Daily Experience

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We all have stressful experiences and moments of uncertainty. Just this week, I accidently left my briefcase (satchel) on the overhead rack on a train.  No doubt, for the passengers who stayed on the train after I departed, it must have been stressful for them too, seeing an unattended bag with no obvious owner.

When we experience stress, having ‘coping reserves’ of patience & energy, as well as listening to our inner voice that is encouraging us to persevere and not panic, can help. Those are all intangible forms of coping reserves.

What about more tangible reserves to help us cope? If we choose to develop various reserves of personal flexibility, ones we can see, such as a duplicate wallet, a large bank balance, a credit card, a house key hidden in the garden (in case we lock ourselves out side by mistake), a car that we can drive to work should the train system fail, a few valuables we can sell if we have to, a trusted set of friends, they can all be an important way to cope too.

Personal flexibility (PFL) isn’t generally a product you can buy at the local store. Instead, it’s a form of strength you hold. Some people pay good money to do weight training at the gym. They are essentially buying an exercise programme that leads to strength and fitness. With that strength helping them weather uncertainty, look good and feel better about themselves. Other people pay for professional therapy to improve their emotional strength. Political lobbyists essentially win or buy influence from politicians.  Some people upskill and pay for advanced education, to improve their chances of future employment, professional success and promotion. In summary, PFL is valuable as a means to an end.

Can personal flexibility help us in other ways too? We can be happy on the surface, if we never challenge ourselves, or take a risk. To be happy beneath the surface likely involves moving out of our comfort zone.  Taking some calculated risks. Accepting that we may stumble. And that we may have to do the equivalent of kissing a few frogs to find a prince. What goes with that more colourful life journey, is success defined in our own terms. In other words, to become happy beneath the surface, we may have to redefine what happiness is, including;

  • being happy about simple things,
  • being happy about small, incremental victories,
  • being happy for other people,
  • the journey making us happy, not just the destination making us happy.

If other people’s inflexibility makes us annoyed or unhappy, can we counter that with our own flexibility instead? One way is having enough PFL to avoid their inflexibility. Another is to use our PFL to moderate their inflexibility. A simple example is where various companies use crowd management techniques– making us wait in lines or queues for something. Corralling us is their inflexibility to cope, translating into inflexibility for us on our speed and direction. We can moderate this by using our waiting time constructively – using our smartphone to research or learn something while we wait.

A final thought. What would our lives be like if, each day we tried to actively manage our reserves of personal flexibility? It would likely involve monitoring which bits we are losing (or cashing in) and actively finding replacement forms of PFL, for those PFL things lost.

With growing PFL, we may feel happier and more confident. Better able to cope with uncertainty. And more able to grow as people. What do you think?

Simon

Urban drift and Flexibility

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I live on the outskirts of a town in Buckinghamshire in the United Kingdom. My town borders on farmland, small lakes and parks. Including the walk to the local train station, it takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to travel by train south into Zone One (Westminster) London.

The train trip into Westminster starts by travelling past rolling landscapes of farmland (green rectangles of pasture, processions of trees, hedge lines and barren grain fields), through old industrial lands (an art-deco style drinks factory, an old biscuit factory and long empty Kodak factory). Continuing further inwards, you travel through the concentric zones of the commuter suburbs of London – the suburbs broadly getting wealthier, the further inwards you travel.

Travelling further towards the centre of London, you reach the hub station where a number of train lines converge. Then, travelling still further into the centre on the London Underground train system, you pass under various tourism sites. And ultimately reach the Whitehall government offices, close to the Houses of Westminster (the centre of UK-wide government).

Today it struck me that my journey into the very centre of London is rather like travelling forward in time (from basic farming, to 20th century industry, to a basic service economy to highly skilled service-worker economy. And ultimately, to reach the complexity & high stakes of a 21st century, first World, western government centre.

What has this got to do with flexibility? Well, as the super-rich progressively buy up the properties at the very centre (the plots of land that aren’t protected parks & tourist sites), each of the other groups, need to have the flexibility to move one level further out i.e. ride the waves of urban drift. To elaborate, new Industry moves into farmland, leaving old industrial sites ripe for environmental clean-up. New basic service-worker suburbs reclaim old industrial sites. Advanced service-worker suburbs renovate the more down-at-heel suburbs further out. Transport hubs move further outwards, to match the popular disembarkation points of the commuters. And with budget pressure on government department running costs, government offices move out into the nearby suburbs too.

All of this requires flexibility from local government planners & building consent regulators. And flexibility from the people who are inevitably priced out of inner-city accommodation.

At this point, I’m not passing judgement on whether this is a good or bad thing.

For inner-city, social-housing occupants, the further out their jobs move to, the longer their commute also becomes to reach those workplaces, if they stay in relatively inner-city properties.

What is also profound for the government planners in a mega-city is that the investment they need to make in transport infrastructure and social housing moves ever outwards. In other words, plan for greater investment in the outlying areas. Not renovation of the inner areas, to not even benefit the super-rich. Who travel by Ferrari, or helicopter in any case.

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What happens if some companies with deep pockets and high ambitions (Apple, Google, Microsoft etc) buck the ‘ripples on a pond ’ trend and invest in large inner city renovations to create office campuses there instead? Firstly the supply of inner-city property to super-rich investors becomes even more limited. Bidding wars drive up the prices of inner-city land even quicker. Commuter journey times lengthen, including for highly-skilled, service workers and the police, emergency-service workers who are required by their employer to commute into those areas. Of course, the more skilled workers are able to work from home, the more vacant those shiny new, inner-city software offices will become.

So in summary, what is needed?

1. For government policy makers and housing/transport regulators, make the urban shuffle as pain-free as possible, for everyone involved.

2.  And for the ‘players’? Accept the inevitable. And make your own plans regarding the inevitable shuffle.

What do you think?

Simon