Archive for July, 2008

Mistakes are GOOD! Well, sometimes . . . . . .

Friday,25 July, 2008

These days we’re always being encouraged to innovate – to do things differently and improve.

Sometimes when we try to do things differently, we make mistakes. It seems that making mistakes is an essential part of innovation.

Sometimes the mistakes can be better than our first intentions! In 1928 Alexander Fleming was working with a bacterial culture which became contaminated and died. This ‘mistake’ led to the discovery of penicillin, which has saved countless lives ever since.

But unfortunately, sometimes the mistakes just make things worse, and then we have to learn from our mistakes and try again – what used to be called ‘learning by trial and error’.

In these days of extended accountabilities and media spotlights, risk is invariably seen as bad.

But if we can’t make mistakes, won’t we expose ourselves to the biggest risk of all – the risk of reducing our capacity to innovate and improve?

If we can’t learn from making mistakes, are we making a rod for our own backs?

So why don’t companies come right out and say “It’s ok to make mistakes”?

Of course there would have to be safeguards, but how would you feel if your employer said it’s ok to make mistakes:

  • Provided they are honest mistakes, made with the best of intentions and not because you were just being sloppy or negligent;
  • Provided you take responsibility for your mistakes;
  • Provided you learn from your mistakes, taking steps to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again; and
  • Provided you help your colleagues learn from your mistakes, sharing your experience with them in order to reduce the risk of them ever making the same mistake that you made.

If your company had a ‘Mistakes Policy’ like that, would you feel supported, more able to innovate and improve?

If this wouldn’t work for you, what would you need?

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Happy 90th Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

Friday,18 July, 2008

Today’s the day to wish Nelson Mandela a “Very Happy 90th Birthday!”

A recent BBC Radio4 ‘Any Questions?’ programme was asked why established democracies don’t seem to get politicians of the stature of Nelson Mandela.
A great question!

It occurred to me that Nelson Mandela was locked in prison for 30 years, and then became a President for three years. In other words, he had 10 years to think, for every one year he practiced as a politician.

We are probably lucky if our politicians are given one year to think, for every 10 that they act.

Of course I am not suggesting that we lock all our aspiring politicians in gaol!

But the shear breathtaking audacity and generosity behind the concept of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shows the power of thought – if only we can give ourselves sufficient time.

And action without sufficient thought, can be pretty dangerous – especially in the realm of world politics.

What would be YOUR answer be to the question “Why is it that established democracies don’t seem to get politicians of the stature of Nelson Mandela?”

Do share your thoughts.

Let’s CHANGE ‘Management Speak’!

Friday,11 July, 2008

Who invents ‘Management Speak’?

You know, the sort of thing – phrases that get trotted out and, after a while, can become irritating clichés!

How about “Touching base” or “User-centred” or “Interpersonal”?

Some examples really grate, perhaps because they seem to divide the speaker from the audience by using the language in an entirely different way.

Other expressions seem to use English in a normal way, with the intention of conjuring up an image without which it would take a lot of effort to explain – a bit like “one picture being worth a thousand words” – even if the picture is imaginary.

But even these can get irritating if over-used!

Frankly, I don’t fancy your chances of getting these ducks in a row . . . .

Perhaps the only answer is to keep inventing new descriptions?

People used to talk of others “Moving the goal posts” to explain a changing work environment. This was inadequate to describe the rate of change imposed by our regulator, for whom I would talk of “Having goal posts on castors”. Then it got worse, and I referred to them “Having goal posts on motorised castors”.

I found that this got the listeners’ attention much better than if I had explained the mounting and changing bureaucracy in a more literal manner.

When explaining the degree of difficulty in getting things done, people often speak of “Trying to herd cats”.

A colleague used to talk of “Trying to catch fog in a bucket”.

I’ve often spoken of “Trying to run up a down escalator covered in treacle” and, more recently “Trying to juggle with jelly”. (I quite like this last one, because it’s impossible, gets messy, plus it’s alliterative!)

So why don’t we invent some new expressions (to replace the ones we don’t like, or the ones we have become tired of), and see how quickly they spread?

If you post your ideas here, we can share them and even begin using them.

We might just brighten up the world of work, communicate better, and have some fun?

And having fun can unlock creativity and make us more productive. I could call this a “Win-win situation”, but I’d better not . . . . . . . . . I wonder what we could call it in stead. Any ideas?

Happy Independence Day, USA!

Friday,4 July, 2008

America is not just independent. America is very independent.

Why?

Is it something to do with the personalities of its people and/or its leaders?

Honey and Mumford reckoned people have four different ways of learning (often called ‘learning styles’):
Activists just get on and ‘do it’ – acting first, considering consequences later;
Reflectors observe and analyse – slow to reach conclusions;
Theorists think logically – fitting things into a pattern; and
Pragmatists put ideas into practice – shunning endless discussion.

Is America very independent, because Americans have a preponderance of particular learning styles?

Were the people who left Europe and sailed the high seas, more likely to be Activists? (Who else would cross the Atlantic under sail with no guarantee of success, and no likelihood of ever returning?) If so, can this pass down the generations?

What learning style do you need to become President, given that you can only run for office if you have substantial personal wealth?

Does this have any relevance to the conduct of international relations, where different peoples learning styles can come into conflict?

Does it even have a bearing on America’s foreign policy?

What do you think?  Of course how you approach this question, may just be coloured by your own learning style . . . . .

Happy Independence Day, USA and The World!