Posts Tagged ‘Surprises’

A date with a surprise? 08.08.08

Friday,8 August, 2008

Sometimes we only see what we expect to see.

Intense study of incense

It’s reasonable to expect that, in a Japanese temple, we’ll see a group of people gathering around a dish of burning incense.

The pictures make a nice composition, with everyone’s attention on the flames and smoke, and the viewer is drawn to the rapt faces.

Richard Wiseman’s book “Did You Spot the Gorilla?” encourages us to expect the unexpected, so that we can learn to see hidden opportunities.

It’s a great read, and it can also change our way of doing things – and even our lives!

When I took this photograph I didn’t realise the gift within it. And it was only after several times of looking at the finished article that I spotted an extraordinary irony: the enthusiastic Japanese participant holding up the little girl to see burner, has a shoulder bag emblazoned in English with the words “Fire Fighters”.

If you spotted it, you may just have read the ‘Gorilla’ book, or be a genius . . . . . .

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?

The Gift of Irritation

Friday,16 May, 2008

How on earth can irritation be a gift?

Frequently, when dog walking, I get irritated by a stone in the bottom of my shoe. I know that, left unattended, the stone will create a painful blister, and ultimately stop me walking. So I take time to remove the stone from my shoe.

But we don’t always take action to remove irritations in other parts of our lives – usually because the irritation is experienced by our minds, rather than by our bodies.

Perhaps the irritation might be our subconscious telling us something important? Why wait until the irritating problem grows, and has an even greater impact on our health or our lives with colleagues, family or friends?

GoreTex water proof liners in walking boots and Post-It Notes help reduce different sorts of irritation. So we could say that some people have made a very good living from the gift of irritation.

I recently received an automatic reply to an e-mail I’d sent. The reply explained that the recipient only looked at his e-mails once a day, at 1pm, so as to make best use of his time. I was told the number I should ring if the matter was urgent. That’s a great way to reduce the irritation of being distracted by incoming e-mails. What should we do though, if we find ourselves bombarded with more and more automatic replies from those to whom we send e-mails? Perhaps someone might design some clever software to manage that for us, and make even more use of the gift of irritation?

Spaces between . . . . . . .

Tuesday,29 April, 2008

Places are made as much by spaces between buildings, as they are made by the buildings themselves.

And the world of buildings has a parallel with the world of organisations and work disciplines.

The focus used to be on organisations, or work disciplines.

But over time, and with the benefit of new technology, most advances possible within organisations or within disciplines have already been achieved.

The future now lies in the spaces between organisations or disciplines. For example:

  • nano-technology is where physics, biology and chemistry meet;
  • sustainable regeneration is only possible if social, economic, environmental, and cultural issues are all advanced.

No one organisation can achieve the complexity required to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

And therefore we must all become more adept at managing the spaces between, if we are to succeed.

This means, in practice:

  • enhanced partnership working within organisations, working between disciplines;

so as to build the skills and culture that will be needed:

  • to create the strong, lasting partnerships between organisations and ever more work disciplines, and across private, public and voluntary sectors.

[The photograph above is the space between two buildings in Nara, Japan. While only a few feet wide, the space is interesting and inviting in its own right – even though its ‘function’ is just to provide somewhere to wait while a table comes free in the adjacent Tea Room.]

Surprises can be good!

Tuesday,29 April, 2008

Looking at things from a different angle can be interesting.

And it can be fun as well!