Archive for November, 2014

Where you are affects what you do

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

I met up with someone yesterday who had been in the same circles as me for many years, but we had never really talked before.  So I remedied that and met him for lunch and was rewarded with a very interesting meeting of minds.  He made a comment that resonated with me and which I had always considered important and then today I came across an article that discussed the same issue; the importance of environment on outcomes.  The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care at the Royal United Hospital in Bath has been designed with this idea at its heart, that patients will heal faster in an environment that is conducive to healing.

This is interesting but it is easy to neglect or forget the impact the day-to-day environment has on your team.  If you want them to perform or behave differently, changing the environment is a good way to remind people of this and support the new way of working.  If I am running a strategic meeting, I want people thinking and focusing differently, so I always try to make sure we meet somewhere off-site, wearing different clothes too.  If you are trying to encourage your team to be more efficient, don’t expect this to work, if they are in a cluttered, messy environment; if they don’t have access to the tools they need to do the job.  A friend and very busy office manager was working 10 hours a day trying to stay on top of things and expected to work with a computer that was laggy and unreliable.  If I want to have an important conversation, I usually prefer to do so when walking or driving as I find that moving physically helps us move through the issues.

I know companies like Google have some crazy ideas about environment, but they didn’t get to rule the cyber world by just being wacky.  Boxy conventional places are more likely to support ‘in the box’ thinking.  I realise that office refurbs are expensive but that doesn’t stop you using off-site facilities for specific purposes, or creating a particular room that helps people focus more.



  1. Gizmodo

You gotta sit…

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Before I begin to share, I’d like to apologise in advance to anyone who considers this a little crude or lavatorial.  Reader discretion is advised!

My wife was a wise lady.  I remember her once saying to me that the best piece of advice a friend and therapist had given her was (spoken in a Brooklyn accent) “If wanna shit, ….. you gotta sit..”  Having a somewhat childish sense of humour, I never forgot this little pearl of wisdom.  However, whilst it has come to mind from time-to-time, I never really explored it beyond the obvious connotations. It appears that today was the day that its full richness came to me.

Beyond the superficial meaning, that if you want to do something you have to prepare and be in the right place I think there is something deeper.  It is oh-so-easy to apparently comply with both elements of this couplet and think you are done and go about your day.  However, if you give yourself a little more time and commit to the process you often find you have so much more to give.  This is real meaning of this metaphor.  How often have you heard someone say on receiving a bit of good advice “Oh, I tried that already..”  and you know they haven’t really.  They may think they did but they never committed to it.  The thing is as often as we have observed this in others, we have done it ourselves!  We want a change, we need a different result but but we aren’t willing to stop doing the same old thing. 

If you want something to work properly, you have to commit to it and make the time for it to happen.  Anything else, and whilst iy may, perhaps, gain some superficial success, will never really work.

Who are you… It’s all about culture

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

I watched a fascinating program made by the artist, Grayson Perry, who asked the question “Who are you?” It is definitely worth watching, not only for the art but also for the questions he poses and the answers he uncovers. He explores with Ulster loyalists what being British means to them, why some deaf people feel theirs is a cultural issue rather than a medical one and why some Big Beautiful Women find if they can’ change their bodies to conform with society’s views of what is beautiful, they can change how they see themselves.

It made me wonder how I would label myself. What are the keys to my identity? I’m a middle aged, white Englishman who has had a solidly middle class upbringing in the south of England. I am a father of three, who was a husband for some 25 years, an accountant by training, a ‘lapsed’ Catholic, and a businessman. By choice, I’m a walker, a rugby fan (“Come on you Quins!), a music lover and whisky drinker. But which of these labels define me or am I the sum total of this patchwork? Some how, I don’t feel these capture my essence.

These days everyone from Stuart Lancaster down is talking about the importance and power of culture. However, most businesses are far better at using the word than understanding it or influencing it positively. The culture of a business is how they go about doing business, what is and isn’t acceptable, what is valued and measured. It is captured in the stories that are repeated in the business and about it. It isn’t what the bosses would like it to be, or pretend it to be, it is what they accept and what they do. Changing the culture is like trying to capture air. To do this you have to change what you do and how you do it; it takes time and focus. It takes repetition. There is no ‘quick fix’ for cultural ‘engineering’, but it is a huge and powerful weapon, once forged.

There are many paths

Monday, November 10th, 2014

I was watching a program on Sky Arts called ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’, which is well worth a watch. One of the most fascinating aspects of the competition, whereby artists must paint a portrait in 4 hours, is the sheer variety of ways in which they approach their goal.  Some sketch an initial outline in pencil, some quasi-sketch it with a paint brush, still others paint the entire canvas a solid colour first or use a palette knife instead of brushes. Some use a iPhone or iPad to help them compose or review their composition.  It is extraordinary to watch and some of the talent on view is fabulous. 

This is a wonderful example of both people’s creativity and individuality.  If you allow people to express themselves like this, they will find many ways to deliver what you or your customer wants, but it is very easy (and also sometimes appropriate) to drop into the “We do it this way..”  This can offer advantages but it is important to realise that it is easy to become stale and and allowing people to express themselves stimulates them and encourages them to bring more of themselves to bear on the job. 

Being positive isn’t enough

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

About 25 years ago I was introduced to the whole affirmation, visualisation and positive thinking methods and I spent a lot of time and energy investigating them. In the end I concluded that they didn’t really work, at least, they didn’t work for me. Today I read an article in the Harvard Business Review, by Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg.  She has used scientific rigour and come to the same conclusion. 

However, she has helpfully come up with something that she can show works.  It is called WOOP — Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.  It works by first being clear about what you want, then exploring the results of achieving that wish.  You then identify the various likely obstacles and then plan how you can over come or neutralise them.  This is not difficult and similar to some work I do with my clients but it is worth exploring and experimenting with.