Coping with Change using Character and Personal Flexibility

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How best can we cope with change? The change in our personal lives might be a new-born baby, or a virus pandemic. It could be a betrayal by a friend, a natural disaster, or perhaps a new romantic relationship from a chance encounter.

In professional organisations, information systems can lead to frameworks & work politics (editorial bias). Which in turn can lead to forecasts & actions. While in our personal life, our character, with its qualities of inherent inner strength & flexibility, can lead to inner confidence – the confidence we feel about our understanding of a situation and our ability to handle a situation. Which in turn, generates an outer confidence (the style we present), leading to judgements and actions.

New change experiences in our lives, whether good or bad, help grow and shape our character. When it comes to inner confidence, we don’t always get it in synch with our underlying character. Sometimes our resulting judgement and actions are off because we felt overconfident about handling a situation – riding our first bike. Or taking our first steps upright. Sometimes we fret about a future event. And then surprise ourselves. By handling it well when the time comes.

Incidentally, does it matter that character and inner confidence are sometimes out of synch? Maybe. Afterall, it takes emotional energy to cope with that difference, when we reflect on the results afterwards and perhaps beat ourselves up mentally. But it can lead to beneficial results for our character too. Incidentally, character has other qualities such as integrity level and generosity level too, which won’t be further explored in this blog.

Now imagine two triangles joined together by a common base (a diamond shape, with its ‘sparkle’ being character and its ‘ring-finger presence’ representing impact). In one triangle, the two outer sides are personal efficiency (PE) and personal innovation (PI). The shared base of the triangle is personal flexibility (PFL). With the area of that triangle representing personal impact (on people, things and the World generally).  In the second triangle, the two external sides are focus and development. With the area of the triangle representing human character.  But first, what are focus and development?

Focus is about concentration on route with more efficiency. For example, coaches and athletes aspire for faster times, greater power or stamina, always looking for a more efficient training regime to achieve it. To cope with change, some kinds of leadership rely on focus – leading the way and mentoring others by showing the efficient way to do something. For example, parenthood, or leading a group of novices out of a storm to shelter, as quickly as possible.

Development is about finding new & better ways. Developing smarter plans. Uncovering superior technique and tactics. Perhaps enlisting expert help from stakeholders & allies to achieve it. To cope with change, some kinds of leadership rely on development. Inventing a solution in the moment to a problem never encountered before. Improvising using unfamiliar materials or unconventional techniques.

Returning to the diamond shape, hopefully for most of us, a life goal is for our character and personal impact to grow stronger – bigger impact, richer and more resilience i.e. for the size of the diamond to grow over time, as we experience more, handle more and reflect more.

Personal flexibility (PF) acts like an accelerator (or brake) on the pace that our personal impact and character develop. And PF is also the mechanism by which personal impact and character mutually reinforce each other – the more our character develops, the greater personal impact we can have. But equally, the more personal impact we have, the more our character can develop too.

I’m currently reading a really interesting book called ‘Anti-fragile’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (pub Penguin books 2012). Taleb says ‘when you are fragile, you depend on things following the exact planned course, with as little deviation as possible-for deviations are more harmful than helpful. This is why the fragile needs to be very predictable in its approach and conversely, predictive systems cause fragility. When you want deviations and you don’t care about the possible dispersion of outcomes that the future can bring, since most will be helpful, you are antifragile.

A final thought. For the diamond shape I’ve described to sparkle and be strong, the ‘fragile side’ (personal efficiency and focus) need personal flexibility to bring across some ‘antifragility’ from the personal innovation and development side of the diamond. This can only happen if someone strengthens their personal flexibility in the first place.

Food for thought?

Simon

Planning and Acting

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Fighting is acting to achieve change. Debate is about examining options to improve planning.

Should we put more planning into fighting and more fighting into planning? And if so, what might that look like in practice?

For a political party fighting an election, campaign resources including the number of enthusiastic canvassers prepared to knock on strangers’ doors is limited. Voter areas to target are critical too. Planning is everything.

For an advocacy charity fighting to achieve significant impact, but operating in a world of inertia and indifference, planning what data to use, who to serve the insights to and how to incentivise them to act is key.

For an SME start-up, they need to fight to establish their brand and delight customers with the brand experience. Market research, cashflow and communicating the values embodied in the brand all need to operate in tandem. That takes careful planning.

What about putting more fighting into planning? Effective planning includes a battle of ideas and approaches. The winner isn’t the successful planner, but the successful plan. That plan, if the right people are in the planning room, ought to be a hybrid synthesised from many high quality contributions and a few ‘what if we…’ comments.

Food for thought?
Simon

Flexibility and Brands

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Having Flexibility on the outside and the (business) brand at the core makes sense for organisations wanting their clients to experience their own unique version of the brand. Caterers, publishers, movie makers & evangelical religious leaders take this approach. Their clients might say, ‘I don’t know what I want, but I’ll pay good money (and invest my soul) when I see it.’ The brand values are a molten core, radiating outwards into the client experience. Consistency where it exists, isn’t across the client base. But across the repeat experience of a given client. 

Then there are organisations who put Flexibility at the heart and wear their brand on the outside. You can’t think of their brand without valuing the innate flexibility within it. The likes of Google, Wikipedia, hospital groups, research-led universities and legal systems take this approach. Their customers might say, ‘what insights can my interaction with this brand reveal?’ There is consistency of experience across the user base. But if the product evolves, a given customer’s experience may vary over time.

So what does this tell us? Creating a sustainable brand is necessary. Figuring out whether to put Business Flexibility at its centre, or on its surface, is what makes your brand sufficient.

It probably works for personal flexibility too.

Simon

 

Technical solutions seeking existing problems

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At the time of writing (late Aug 2019) there are at least two pressing Brexit problems that will need a technology solution to ride in and save the day. The first is a practical technology solution to avoid the need for an ‘Irish backstop’. If achieved and quickly demonstrable, the UK won’t have to exit the EU on 31 October 2019, on a default, ‘no deal’ basis.

A second, related issue is about UK rubbish recycling, pre and post Brexit. At present, quoting the 6pm BBC news on 22nd Aug, loads of UK rubbish is exported to the EU (Sweden & Holland) for conversion into energy, under existing EU agreements.

Meanwhile app developers and inventors every day come up with (trivial) tech solutions, seeking a business or social problem to solve.

Wouldn’t it be grand if a tech company or two quickly presented a compelling solution to the backstop problem, saving Britain and its EU colleagues from a ‘no deal’ aftermath.

And if a science solution quickly emerged to provide UK onshore waste recycling on masse, (so no need to send to landfill, perhaps with intermediate stockpiling) as well?

Am I the only one keeping my fingers crossed?

Simon

 

 

 

Flexibility and Binary Choices

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Are binary choices becoming an endangered species? Flexibility on binary seems to go in one of two directions:

(1) There is the conversion from binary to a spectrum instead.

  • Oscillation along the spectrum between two limits is useful for bird flight, in juggling and in art. Or to make songs more interesting.
  • Computers to date have been binary, but quantum computing uses more of a spectrum approach.
  • Expert amateurs and novice professionals existing between the states of expert professional and rank amateur.
  • Logic used to be binary. Then we recognised fuzzy logic as useful too.
  • Governments generally moved away from binary sentencing in the justice system (death penalty or not, innocent or guilty) to concepts of restitution, share of blame, clemency and degree of penalty.
  • Human genders used to be recognised as male or female. Now we recognise a trans gender spectrum.
  • Political parties used to cluster around left wing or right wing. Now simultaneous local, national and trans-national identities feature just as prominently for voters.

(2) There is two merging into one united view, perhaps to realise synergies.

  • Humans used to combine our skills with nature’s raw materials (binary). It was obvious what was created by nature and what was created by people. Then we invented technology and eventually added synthetic biology to natural biology. We also augmented our own design approaches with computer-aided design & build. Then came computer-generated design & build, with its merging of physical and digital reality into augmented and virtual reality. And its blending of natural and synthetic biology.
  • People’s identity started when they were conceived. And their actions ceased when they died. Now people can pre-programme digital events (including posts) to happen after they think they will die. It then becomes possible to give the digital appearance of human life, after actual physical death.

What do you think?

Simon

Surfing the ups and downs

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Surfers know about staying on their board to ride out the lows and enjoy the highs. Breaking right or left when the opportunity arises. Surfing away from danger if they spot a shark in the water.

How can companies or staff use flexibility to stay sustainable through boom & bust cycles? For companies, buying up distressed assets and companies in an economic downturn isn’t the only game in town. With companies desperately shedding cost by laying off staff, the downturn is a golden opportunity to pick up experienced talent in plentiful supply. Likewise for staff, stay open to new opportunities from those companies wanting the good people.

In the downturn, if they can’t justify hiring operations staff, firms can hire more developers instead, to deliver for the next bull run. Or better still (in a flexibility sense), acquire staff who develop in the downturn and do operations/marketing in the boom. For staff, think about widening your skills from operations into development and marketing too.

In a downturn, business ethics are tested by fear, not greed. Whether boom, bust or in between, staff can work hard to join up their personal morals with the business ethics of the business, to keep the customer love alive and thriving.

Finally for staff, if you’re not involved in development innovation (team leaders and middle managers), try to catch the eye of senior management, by helping them develop real options for the company’s future. For the company, having both innovations and real options is the equivalent of riding the surfboard through the ups and downs both.

Simon

 

Management and Leadership

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On environmental pollution, managers collect rubbish and send it to landfill sites. Leaders ensure consumer products are biodegrade.

On Brexit, managers coax passengers into making the trip. And pressgang the rebels on to any boat that floats. Leaders engineer the journey of a lifetime, on a robust, spacious ocean liner, designed to make the journey trouble-free.

On housing, managers write up the waiting lists, set the criteria for allocation and fix the rents. Leaders spread the jobs regionally, deliver modular housing units for the masses and reform planning regulations to fast-track construction.

Managers push sentiment change to get regime change. Leaders keep suggesting reform of unpopular practice, until the weight of popular opinion drives mass momentum towards a useful outcome.

Managers create a one door pathway. Leaders create a many door environment for followers to choose from.

Managers move movers & shakers to move forward. Leaders shake shakers to shake movers forward.

Managers downplay rigid to progress. Leaders practise flexibility to progress.

Simon