black swan

Black Friday strikes me as a strange confection – a celebration of nothing more than an urge to spend, with no purpose in sight other than to get retailers beyond their breakeven point (The term derives from the point they have covered costs for the year, and here on in is profit)

As never before we are defined by asymmetry. We are moving from the traditional Pareto of 80/20 to many areas of 99/1. From sports stars to wealth. Those who have receive, only moreso.,

Whilst on the face of it this seems grossly unfair, I don’t think that’s where the unfairness lies. If we were all able to use our talents to the full, we would all be in the 1% within  our own field. For some, that may be money, for others, skills, and for many, happiness.

Instead, events like black Friday encourage us to play by other’s rules. Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about “anti fragility” – a state where we can grow stronger when unexpected events occur.

Playing to other’s rules – playing to the tunes of marketers, retailers and credit card companies – makes us fragile. Buyer’s remorse is a powerful concept – the debt obligation outlasts the satisfaction of purchase and initial pleasure – on an asymmetric basis.

So, on this Black Friday, maybe we should consider where our 1% lies, and ask ourselves whether what we are spending today – from money to attention to energy – takes us toward that 1%.

Whether tomorrow, Hangover Saturday, will find us more. or less, Fragile.



Friday question #3. Play, leadership and work.

In a world of increasing complexity, a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) I think we try to make our selves feel more comfortable by talking about “change management”, as though that somehow makes something essentially unmanageable less threatening. By believing we can manage it (as against develop a relationship with it – something entirely different) we think about it as episodic rather than continuous and largely random.

Our experience to date is nothing compared to what is coming, and our industrial era models of leadership, organization, marketing and employment are rapidly becoming counterproductive. The sort of attitudes, dispositions and skills we will need are beautifully outlined in Bob Johansen’s “Leaders make the future”, shown here (and here’s a link to one of his presentations at CCL)

Screenshot 2014-11-21 10.48.44

If you want to see these skills displayed with absolute Mastery, watch a group of five year olds playing, or go and talk with an early years education specialist, or visit www.sightlines-initiative.com. If you want the theory, watch Stuart Brown’s TED talk. At GrowHouse Initiative we are building a whole approach around rediscovering and using these skills.

So, here’s your Friday question. When was the last time you played at work – I mean, REALLY PLAYED? If you can’t remember, you may want to try it……..

The power of small numbers.

There is a real challenge for those of us who are in a services business (and the reality of course, is that we are all in a services business to a greater or lesser degree). It is this; we can now make more contacts, reach more people, and be more visible than at any time in history, but it is extraordinarily difficult to build relationships with more than around 150. The number is pretty solid, and the 5 min video here shows an extract from Robin Dunbar talking about it.

I think that creates both opportunity and challenge. Try this exercise for a day. For every email, text, or other communication you get or send, give it an AQ, an Authenticity quotient from 1-10.

1 signifies little or no sense of connection, whilst 10 is total understanding and empathy – a real and deep sense of connection.

At the end of the day, consider how much of your time has been wasted on contacts with little depth, who you will not remember, and who will not remember you.

Your biggest asset is your connections with other people, not in number, but in quality. These are the people who you bring out the best in, and who in turn bring out the best in you. Authentic connectivity, and no matter how many Facebook friends you have, if Robin Dunbar is right (and he’s a very smart guy) you have a ration of 150.

In an age of hyperconnectivity, we can dilute our authenticity to the point where we are indistinguishable from every body else in an attempt to reach ever more people. We are reduced to making decisions on the basis of shallow marketing messages. As individuals, we become invisible.

What if we considered our closest, most authentic relationships and focused on them. Those people who really know you and what you stand for, what you believe in and who really trust you. Now you have a tribe, a following. They might convey who you are to their 150. The compound effect of that is a high degree of credibility to 22,500 people who might connect with you, your values and your purpose – not a marketing message of dubious provenance. How many contacts do you need again?

How might you spend your time tomorrow?