Don’t get taken Hostage

Sometimes we just hear stuff that resonates, and need to stop and pay attention. I’ve spent years studying what helps people perform and find work that ignites them (or in a “job”, joy). From coaching to education to neuroscience. I have read probably thousands of books, and studied incessantly. I love what I do.

And what I have found is that the more I study, the more I recognise innate talent. I watch early years teachers pick up signals from “difficult” children, and see them transformed. I listen to Ferren Adria, or watch Michel¬†Roux Junior critique people on “Masterchef” and am blown away by their approach, and their unbridled ambition for the people they are talking to.

And this morning, on Saturday Live (BBC Radio 4) I heard Richard Mullender, who immediately became another reference point as he pointed out that effective listening is about gathering intelligence. He was a hostage negotiator, and the thought struck me that we all get taken hostage time to time ( I blogged here)

It resonated entirely for me, and found me another book to read

Listen to the piece on Radio 4, or watch this video. In the end, it’s about personal freedom.

Addicted to Yesterday

The announcement of Apple’s staggering quarterly profit (generated at a rate of ¬£5.4 million/hour reveals an interesting response. An obsession with how that rate of growth can be maintained. It seems to reveal a “milking” attitude to growth rather than a developmental approach by shareholders. Apple has phenomenal creative capacity.if it was owned by people with real agency, maybe they would be investing the cash pile the company has generated in something adventurous, and accept a temporary levelling of of profit and a degree of risk.
It is an important lesson I think.
With the chronic levels of uncertainty we have, shareholders without agency are a huge constraint on creativity. When Apple hits a poorer quarter (as it inevitably will), these shareholders will call for Tim Cook’s head, eschew any responsibility for their shortsightedness, and sell their stock.
This approach gives owner managed businesses a huge opportunity. They can move faster, take risks, and involve their staff in pursuit of a common purpose much more engaging than making stockholders rich.
They can break the rules that have to followed by their publicly listed brethren.
It requires different ways of thinking and acting, and turning away from the generic orthodoxy pushed on them by consultants and banks (disclosure. This is why we formed GrowHouse, so I have an interest here)
They can make great use of tools that can leverage their flexibility, including adopting Agile philosophies and the tools that go with it to create opportunities to outmanoeuvre and disrupt bigger businesses.
Handled well, uncertainty is a huge opportunity, not a threat.
They can focus on tomorrow, not be addicted to yesterday.

Separately, there is great report on the creative and high tech economy just published by Nesta that is well with reading
http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/creativity-everywhere-geography-uks-creative-and-high-tech-economies?utm_source=Nesta+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d9055a6850-Nesta_newsletter_28_01_151_23_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d17364114d-d9055a6850-181254709

Signal to Noise

In physics, the SNR – signal to noise ratio is the basically the power of signal (the information we want) divided by the power of noise (the information we don’t want).

In our business and personal lives, maybe the same principle applies. And therein lies a challenge.

The signal we look for – things that are meaningful to us – the art, relationships, meaning and the contribution we can make, amongst many others, is pretty much a constant. when we have clarity of purpose, when we are loved, we don’t go round saying I need more of it. These things are not consumables.

On the other hand, the noise in amongst which we look for signal has increased exponentially. The ability to communicate , social media, advertising, a drive to consume, and spam in all it’s forms has changed our signal to noise rations out of all proportion in the last twenty years. When we don’t understand that, we can lose signal altogether in trying to deal with the noise.

But there’s an upside. Without noise, we wouldn’t be able to identify signal. It provides the contrast, the background that allows us to separate one from the other.

But we have to give signal a chance. Processes to get rid of noise are all very well, but they may just take signal with them. Penzias and Wilson in 1964 tried for three years to get rid of background noise in their experiments, only to find that it contained the information that would win them a Nobel Prize.

To separate signal from noise we need to give it space. Time out. An opportunity to reflect. The time to discuss with others without an agenda – time to let our brilliant brains do what they do best – make connections that computers can’t. As yet, digital devices process brilliantly, but don’t wonder about things.

It’s Sunday. Use it to advantage.

Have a great week ahead.