Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Edge of Glory

Here I sit - on the edge of a new adventure.

Tomorrow is my Induction Day at City University for my MSc in Organsational Psychology.  I've done some reading, not as much as I'd hoped but a good foundation.

I'm looking forward to meeting the lecturers and my fellow students and I'm ready to learn.  



It set me thinking about a topic called Cognitive Fusion, which I was discussing with a coaching client last week.  

We rely very heavily on words in our lives.  Think about how a good book can create powerful emotions and have a profound impact on your life.  What about the scenario when a there is a dramatic global event and the different way it is reported through different media. Some channels will be accused of misleading the public or creating a false account.  In fact, all stories about the event are just that, stories.  We weren't present at the event so we must rely on the words of others.

When an event happens in our lives we also create stories.  Cognitive Fusion is what happens when the story and the event are merged.  We then react to our stories as though they are absolute truths.  When we are in complete Cognitive Fusion our thoughts hold enormous power.  Imagine the jolt when your hero in the novel is in mortal danger.  We react similarly to thoughts like "I'm rubbish it'll never work" as if they are important, wise truths.

Here's a simple technique for Congnitive Defusion, from the great book by Dr Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap.

First – bring to mind a thought in the form of 'I am X'. 

For example, 'I am stupid'. Preferably one that recurs frequently and upsets you when it does. Now hold that thought in your mind and believe it. Focus on it for several seconds. Notice how it affects you.

Now take that thought , and in front of it, insert the phrase “I'm having the thought that I am X.” Notice what happens.

People often find that this thought gives them some distance from the thought and it helps them step back.

This isn't a one time only exercise. You need to keep practising it.

If you're interested in hiring a Coach who is about to be exposed to the latest academic learning & practical techniques in the field of coaching psychology you can read more here.  There's a free 45 minute conversation to be had. What have you got to gain?


Cheers
Ross

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Knowledge Accidents Happen When You Work Out Loud

In 2013 I heard Jon Mell from IBM speak with great passion and conviction about the use of social media in the workplace. One quote really stuck with me:

"Knowledge accidents happen when you work out loud"


In a business context this is the equivalent of a tea point or water cooler moment. You're taking a break from your work and as you clean your mug or squeeze your teabag you either discover a piece of interesting gossip OR a way that your respective work projects are linked or could be mutually beneficial. In a social context it's the equivalent of chatting about friends, contacts or significant dates and discovering a commonality which increases the bond between two individuals.

For a business, social interaction can improve an outcome, save duplication, increase collaboration and lead to innovation. After all - everything is a remix - it's the way we combine and adapt existing ideas or concepts that can lead to great breakthroughs.

"But the most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined. By connecting ideas together creative leaps can be made, producing some of history's biggest breakthroughs." (everythingisaremix.info)

One way to create the effect of 'working out loud' is to use social media in the workplace.

In my experience the introduction of a social media platform (Yammer) in a Government Department had mixed results. There were early adopters who embraced the concept and were keen to share their projects and interesting articles. Some of the early users over-shared and strayed into more general updates and social experiences. This tended to turn off those who were exploring the possibilities of the system for the first time.



Many times I heard comments such as:

"If people have time to use 'Facebook' at work then they haven't got enough to do."

As one of the early adopters I also created a private group for the HR Business Partners across the department but I didn't succeed in convincing my colleagues of its potential range of benefits.  It could have allowed us:
  • to catch up on the key points of meetings we'd been unable to attend,
  • to let our colleagues know if we were going to be late,
  • to share comments on a draft report or paper,
  • to share common issues and solutions from across the department.
All of the above usually resulted in multiple emails and email chains clogging up our InBoxes which used to aggrieve me greatly.

There was a significant impact when one Director General became a regular contributor to Yammer. She used it to report back on Board Meetings and praise colleagues for projects and achievements. Interestingly - during a period of extended leave for this Director General, the rest of the Board considered whether a rota would be the most appropriate way to maintain the Board's input into Yammer. The far more powerful outcome would have been for all Board Members to make regular contributions and signal to the organisation how much they valued the medium.

One of the key factors to the mixed response was that the system was not integrated with any of the existing work platforms. If the system was integrated with the HR Platform or intranet and didn't require a separate login, it could create a more valid and respectable arena, leading to enhancements in decision making, collaboration and communication. An integrated system could also allow for real time feedback and suggestions for contacts or tailored training opportunities.

In his recent talk at the Changeboard Future Talent Conference Alex Lowe from Google showed a picture of their canteen. There was a quite a large queue waiting to be served in the photograph. This was apparently an intentional part of the design of the canteen space to encourage conversation.

Companies such as IBM have developed impressive solutions which provide an effortless and bespoke experience for employees. Solutions such as these allow more global 'working out loud' but never underestimate the wonder of what you can find out when you're cleaning your mug at the tea point. Here's to more working out loud.

Cheers

Ross

PS Here is one of my favourite videos from the 'everything is a remix website'.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Perspectives from your Inner Cavewoman (or Man)

In his book The Happiness Trap - Dr Russ Harris takes the reader on an engaging journey through the evolution of the human brain, from cavewoman to the current day.

I found this section quite thought provoking.  Take a moment to consider your daily behaviour in terms of these descriptions.

Danger - Lookout

The initial purpose of the human brain was to keep us alive.  Their world was a place full of danger.

The more that early man (or woman) could identify signs of danger and avoid peril the longer they survived. With each generation they became more skilled in survival techniques. Today the mind is still on the lookout for danger but our environment is very different.  We're unlikely to encounter wolves on a daily basis.  Instead our mind warns us to be careful not to be rejected, not to loose our jobs or not to be humiliated in public.  This reminds me of a great quote from Mark Twain: 

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

Belong!

In the stone age the chances of survival were much improved if you belonged to a group.  If you were rejected by your group you'd be out there in the cold, wild world with all its dangers.

So the mind of the cavewoman (or man) was constantly comparing herself with the rest of the group and asking questions like:
  • am I fitting in?
  • Is my contribution OK?
  • Am I as good as the others?
  • Am I doing anything which might get me kicked out?
How much time do you spend worrying about whether you are fitting in and whether Helen or Simon really like you? (do feel free to insert any names here!)  How much time do you spend putting yourself down because you achievements are less than others in your 'group'?

This is particularly relevant in these days of the cult of celebrity and social media.  There are many more comparisons to be made and the potential 'Group' in much larger (and possibly unspeakably gorgeous, rich and successful).


More, More, More


The general rule for the ambitious Caveman was - the more, the better.  The more weapons you had the more food you could potentially provide and the more children you could support through times when resources were scarce. The better your shelter - the more protection you could offer from the dangers of the world.

Translate this to the modern world.  We want more - belongings, status, money and a better job.  This may satisfy you for a while.  But the time will come when we find it's not enough and yearn for more.

I found it a great exercise to reflect on my life and behaviour after reading these descriptions. I was surprised by how much my caveman brain could be influencing my thoughts and my life.

Why not try this new perspective and see what you discover?

Cheers Ross