Diversity and Flexibility

fruit market
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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.


Relatedness, Risk and Personal Flexibility

accomplishment ceremony education graduation
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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?