Controlling the Centre

two women performing yoga on street at daytime
Photo by theformfitness on Pexels.com

Strong squash players dominate the central zone of the court. This helps them in several ways. It helps them handle uncertainty i.e. where the next shot from their opponent will come from. And it helps them with ‘growth’ i.e. shortening the average time to hit the ball and maximising the time they have to set up their own future shots.

So what is the relevance of squash strategy to personal flexibility?

Firstly, imagine a two-dimensional matrix with columns for personal planning (strong or weak). And rows for direction (clear or unclear). There are 4 quadrants in the matrix.

Those whose natural inclination is strong planning and clear direction forward are thought of as strategic and focussed. And unkindly, as ‘control freaks’. For the control freaks, if operating in a turbulent or increasingly uncertain environment, their supporters (employers, sports coaches, parents, teachers or tutors) can help them become more comfortable with uncertainty and more agile under turbulent conditions – become dynamic planners and become tolerant of multiple versions of the truth, perhaps caused by some versions being out of date faster than others. Football goalies are perhaps a sports example of control freaks.

Those whose natural inclination is strong planning but weak direction forward are the long suffering, ‘steady eddies’.  For the steady eddies, their supporters can reassure them on direction and encourage them to rely on more dynamic planning approaches – less detailed and less complex plans, more empowerment and more self-belief. Civil servants serving politicians (especially under UK Brexit) are perhaps a workplace example of steady eddies.

Those whose natural inclination is weak planning and unclear direction, are the go with the flow, ‘fatalists’. People who are fatalistic in their home life probably need supporter encouragement to build some hopes and aspirations. Anything that gets them to experience the taste of success is a good start. Supporters can help them to become better planners, project members or team players. Spectators at a sports game are perhaps an example of fatalists in the sense not of supporting their team, but of being an onlooker.

Finally, those whose natural inclination is weak planning but clear direction forward are ‘opportunists’, making their own luck. For the opportunists, their supporters need to encourage them to create more control for more benefit. With control coming from teamwork, planning and quicker influence. Football strikers are perhaps a sports example of opportunists.

Now imagine a world of constant and accelerating change – not change in everything. But change as a rhythm or backbeat to everyday life. In such conditions, a medium level of both planning and direction is desirable, like the central zone for playing squash. But requires personal flexibility from those in all four quadrants to achieve i.e. travel a similar distance towards the centre zone, but from a unique direction, with a unique rationalisation.

Families, voters, groups of volunteers and groups of friends rarely encounter the structure and rules that simple games prescribe. Therefore, all could benefit from seeking out the ‘central zone’ of the matrix to achieve good progress. It’s not just about tolerance. But appreciation of the merits of opposing outlooks too. Work is needed to seek out commonality and win-wins. But not achieve the extreme of groupthink. All that remains is to forge some cultural pathways towards the central zone for each social group concerned…

Simon

Negative Personal Flexibility

ancient arches architecture art
Photo by Lorenzo Pacifico on Pexels.com

As for having evermore business flexibility, having evermore personal flexibility isn’t necessarily good. On the later, seeking ever more friends to build your personal network means spending less time supporting the friends you already have. Trying endless activities gives you a life of rich, but shallow variety (think of sampling many kinds of sweets in a sweet shop, rather than having one satisfying meal instead).  Encouraging your children to do what they like, eventually leads to some bad outcomes. Paying for ever more features and options becomes expensive and counter-productive. Committing to help in areas where the workload fluctuates wildly (or going beyond healthy lifestyle choices) won’t have a happy ending for your health.

So is there an optimal level of personal flexibility – enough to give someone a rich and rewarding life. But not enough to exceed the limits of their health or good reputation?  Probably. All we can do is try and figure out if having more personal flexibility is an improvement over the current state.

The point after optimal personal flexibility might be a gradual decrease in benefit. Or a dramatic decrease. This is a fascinating area worthy of future study, to see if certain kinds of personal flexibility generally drop away fast/gradually on any kind of predictable basis.

However, because the subjects of business and personal flexibility are still emerging, the research hasn’t been done. The nearest we have are economists look at marginal utility and finance professors who look at the value of options held.

Because personal flexibility is a wide subject and since flexibility can take many forms, all we can do is monitor for negative flexibility at a personal level, until theory catches up with reality.

Simon

Looking forward

person wearing black jacket holding black umbrella walking on street
Photo by Ethan Brooke on Pexels.com

True flexibility makes options. It also leaves the options not chosen, available for later use.

Arguably we all need to be futurists. Embracing flexibility will make futurism less daunting.

Are dairy farmers a model for how man-machine partnerships should work? Dairy farmers made hay and mud bricks until they discovered milk production was more lucrative. Cows are the intelligence that convert grass into a substance that gives our physiological systems the ability to be more healthy and act in smarter ways. The rest is up to us!

The best markets have the greatest flexibility. Both in trading and in regulatory compliance.

In the same way data security software monitors data networks, automated regulators need to monitor market trading and evolve as fast as markets evolve.

Regulatory agents aren’t there to impede trading per se. But to limit the task of their peers in welfare means-testing (or UBI) for parts of the community that markets don’t reach.

AI needs to become an acronym for assisted initiatives, absent inequality and augmented innovation.

Simon

Personal Flexibility Acronym

P=Plan flexibility (Plan A, Plan B, Plan C).

E=Enlist support & ideas. Good ideas come from anyone, anywhere, anytime!

R=Rotate when you need to. Rotate, Reset, Relax.

S=Select amongst style & substance flexibility.

O=Options management. It’s as important as accumulation.

N=Name your epitaph. What do you want to be remembered for?

A=Analyse the situation. Unless you want to rely on dumb luck!

L=Lay out encouragement and praise like a new carpet. You might get a magic carpet in return!

 

F=Flexiscribes & flexitypes to flex your flexibility.

L=Limit your pessimism, limit your downside, limit your limitations.

E=Explore new routes. Life’s meant to be a great adventure.

X=X on the trade-off spectrum.

I=Invest, invest, invest in more options.

B=Brace for impact, brace for success.

I=In it for the long haul.

L=Leverage for impact. Small lever, big technique!

I=Initiative & innovation.

T=Turn to & tune up the talent of the team.

Y=You are never surprised the way you surprise yourself!

 

Simon

 

Flexibility fuss

_MG_3601.jpg

The best is ahead of us when we create uncomfortable choices. When we settle into a comfortable rut, the World starts looking for an epitaph for us.

Play your cards well.  But keep a spare pack up your sleeve.

Flexibility stands, we run.

Style flexibility – celebs who put skin in the game. Believe they have a duty to entertain. Grab media attention, based on the celebs’ style.

Substance flexibility – emergency services workers who put skin in the game. Believe they have a duty to serve. Grab people in danger, based on the emergency service workers’ substance.

Simon

Brace for impact

boy playing on slide in playground
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Yesterday with my wife, I did what turned to be an 8 mile walk along a river canal near Milton Keynes in the UK. We usually take a few pics on our smartphones along the way – photogenic narrow boats, rolling green landscapes and any wildlife we see. And the occasional selfie too. As you do.

Anyway, at one point along the walk, we passed over a short, concrete aqueduct, with a concrete spillway channel coming off it at right angles, to take excess water down to a lower channel, some 70m away from the main canal path.

I sometimes see a photo opportunity in my head ahead of time and thought I could pose, standing in the middle of the spillway, while my wife took a pic from above. At first glance, the spillway looked fairly dry and not a drop of water was trickling down it. I climbed partway down the waste ground (about the first 20m in distance from the main canal) next to the spillway and stepped down onto it, with my wife watching from the top. The spillway seemed walkable at first and not too steep to walk across. My hands left the side wall of the spillway and I gingerly started walking across it, to the mid point.

I noticed in the bottom section of the spillway, about 50m from where I was, that it flattened out. There were a series of concrete pillars on the flat section, regularly spaced. Each pillar was about one metre high – presumably to stop tree branches or other debris from going any further along the drainage channel.

Suddenly, both feet started gently sliding downwards. I used to roller blade and ski. So I knew about upper body balance, when you start moving in a diagonal direction. It was one of those moments when several things start flashing through your mind in quick succession. My first thought. This isn’t going to plan! The surface isn’t as dry as I thought. I can’t retrace my footsteps. Or quickly put a hand on the side wall of the spillway. I seem to be picking up speed. I can’t seem to use the edge of my walking boots to create any friction.

By now, most of me is touching the slimy surface and I’m moving my hands outwards for balance. I look below and see the row of concrete barriers that I’m heading for. As I approach, my speed is accelerating. I’m out of other options, so I brace for impact.

I think about trying to hit the barriers with both feet fairly close together, my knees slightly bent. I hope I’m going to hit one barrier square on and not slip half through the gap between them. My body is like a child’s body going down a slide in the playground. I’m not panicking.  But I do have time to wonder how hard I’m going to hit. I decide to use my legs as a giant shock absorber and hope for the best.

The soles of my feet hit and I keep travelling. I’m still wondering whether my legs will stop me in time. Then just before my torso slams into the concrete, I stop. I have a second to register that nothing is broken and that I’ve made a clean landing.

It could have gone much worse. If I’d have panicked, or not acted quickly, I probably would be in hospital right now, with parts of my body in a plaster cast. If I’d been less lucky and there had been some metal or wood debris clogging up the concrete pillars, my landing would have been a lot more painful. Ditto if the spillway was longer or steeper. Or had potholes in it.

On the positive side, my wife is still speaking to me and I haven’t lost all credibility for making judgements. I also surprised myself in acting quickly in the heat of the moment. It’s been a long while since I’ve been in an unplanned adventurous situation, with skin in the game i.e. being out of control with a likely painful and hazardous ending coming for me personally.

What did I learn? That sometimes in life, the unexpected overrides your plan. That when it does, you become resourceful real fast, or suffer the consequences. That you can’t always change the unexpected. But you can ride it out and try to control the outcome. And also, that the work you put in earlier (lots of walking previously to strengthen my legs), sometimes pays off big time in a momentary crisis situation. And most of all, have faith in yourself and don’t panic. Brace for impact instead and hope for the best!

Simon

Not for the faint hearted…

Have just been listening to several Ray Kurzweil TED talks about the pace of technology.

Apart from the speed, one of the most interesting & surprising things is how well technology progress measures, of all kinds, over the last few decades, fit an exponential curve. It got me thinking more about those curves in our own lives:

Since exponential curve behaviour is transforming our lives, understanding the properties of those curves is arguably the most important maths we all need to master.

Perhaps our biggest blind spot is not seeing when we’re on the ‘flat plains’ of a curve. One with the ever-steeper ‘mountain face’ of the curve ahead, still cloaked in mist. And like mountaineers approaching a steep mountain face to climb, our options are greatest before the ascent.

The least blurry view of the curve is early on, before the meteoric rise kicks in and things change at the fastest rate.

Some technology exponential curves must surely accelerate others. Probably less a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ and more a case of ‘hold tight with both hands, for the ride of a lifetime!’

The more exponential curves swerve and jolt our lives, the more flexibility in the driving seat we require. And the bigger the flexibility toolset we’ll need for the ride. Note to self: spend more time thinking about the relationship between flexibility and exponential curve behaviour.

What do you think?

Lastly, if you find these blogs interesting, feel free to click ‘follow’.

Simon