What does ‘keeping it real’ mean these days?

Blue Trees ? -Sue Ridge

Blue Trees ? -photo by Sue Ridge

This week’s theme considers what it means these days to be real – and/or to be seen to be real.
I’ve collected here some stories about the blurred relationship we have between what we think of as authentic and what we think of as manufactured and whether one is better than the other.
And stories that question some of the assumptions we might be making about what is good – or bad – for us, at least attempting to interrogate a little more brightly one or two of the maxims we hold to be true in our early 21st century age.
There is a wonderful rambunctious rant by the always deliberately outrageous provocateur Tom Peters, who here is listing some the Blindingly Obvious Things we continue to ignore.
Perhaps some of things that some of us have long believed to be true and looking more sure:  one of this week’s top research news stories reports the London School of Economics findings that participating in arts activity brings us more happiness than a £1,000+ pay rise.  So too does sport, which I suspect more of us thought we knew already.  The bigger news is that arts participation and spending time in libraries turn out to really be up there in the high happiness returns too.
The best happiness provider is swimming, so if you want to combine pool time with arts participation and get the extra bonus of being part of a international community event, you might want to check out the Brockwell Lido Fun Palace 2014.  (And if you’re not a Londoner this may inspire you to make your own Fun Palace – there is still time.  Just.)

And before you take the plunge into all the words that make this post, you might like to first give yourself a 5minute dip into artist Sue Ridge’s meditative, languorous, hyper-realised video: The Swimmer, which you will find in the video section of her website.   (And my big thanks to Sue Ridge again for her inspirational photos that headline and end this post.)

The Blue Trees in London - photo by Sue Ridge

The Blue Trees in London photo by Sue Ridge

Trees for Cities – The Blue Trees In London

The colour and the Tree come together to transform and affect each other; the colour changing the Tree into something surreal, something out of this world, speaking of the importance of trees in our urban environment. 

“By colouring the trees blue, we want people to stop and notice these beautiful trees, which are so often taken for granted”, says Sharon Johnson, Chief Executive of Trees for Cities. “It is well reported in the UK that there has been a decline in urban trees over the last decade, and the threat from disease is on the increase.  Over 80% of the population will live in cities by 2050.  We urgently need to protect and plant more trees to help foster a sense of well being and happiness in our cities”.

With the Blue Trees, the colour and the Tree become a sculptural work referencing people’s lives, their daily existence and how individually and collectively we shape the world we inhabit.

Konstantin Dimpoulos, Australian artist and creator of the Blue Trees said: “I have always known that art is and always has been an extended part of nature and that art can effect social change.  For that to happen one has to move out of the art institutions and galleries and move outside among nature and human beings in their living spaces”

Link to the Blue Trees  in London website

Konstantin Dimpoulos’ Blue Trees

“What do you think of when you think of trees…?”

Dancing makes people as happy as a £1,600 pay rise

Official figures reveal for the first time how culture and sport make people as happy as being given pay rises worth thousands of pounds

Visiting the library, dancing and going swimming makes people as happy as a £5,000 pay rise, official figures have shown for the first time.

Researchers from the London School of Economics found that sports, culture and the arts can have a significant impact on people’s happiness.

They then assessed how much money it would take to give people a similar boost in their level of well being.

They concluded that playing sport on a weekly basis is worth the equivalent of being given £1,127 a year, while regular involvement in the arts such as music, dance and plays is worth £1,084 a year.

The most beneficial activity is taking part in dancing, which is worth £1,671 a year, closely followed by swimming which is worth £1,630 a year. Visiting libraries on a regular basis is worth £1,359 a year…

The report suggested that swimming had a more significant impact on people’s well-being than almost any other sport, almost than twice as much as football and cycling.

The research suggests that taking part in cultural activities, as opposed to being in the audience, makes people significantly happier.

As well as the benefits of dancing, taking part in craft activities is equivalent to a £1,000 pay rise.

By contrast listening to music is worth £742 a year, although going to plays is a significantly more valuable experience worth £999 a year.

The analysis also found that people who regularly enjoyed the arts were 5.4 per cent more likely to report good health, while those involved in sport were 14.1 per cent more likely to be healthy.

People who take part in sports save the NHS almost £100 a year, while those who enjoy cultural activities such as films, exhibitions and plays save the NHS £37 a year.

People who attended arts events and played sports were also significantly more likely to give to charity, while the research also suggested that culture and sport could motivate unemployed people to find work.

Link to read the original Telegraph article

Think authenticity is about being honest and open? Think again

by Dr Nina Burrowes is a psychologist and author of The Little Book on Authenticity

Authenticity is a concept often discussed in the workplace, especially when it comes to leadership. Today when people use the term “authenticity” they usually mean that they are being honest and open. To be an authentic leader is to be genuine.

Whilst being genuine in the workplace is both challenging and valuable, to use the term “authenticity” in this way is to misunderstand its original meaning, not to mention missing out on the true value that authenticity has to offer.

If you want to understand the true meaning of authenticity you need to go back to its root. The Latin root of the word “authenticity” is “author”, so being “authentic” doesn’t mean being honest about who you are, it’s about being your own “author”. Authenticity is an active and creative process. It’s not about revealing something, it’s about building something; and that something is “you”…

If you want to be authentic in the workplace, don’t focus on revealing who you are, instead focus on creating and truly becoming yourself.  Read the article

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when no one has the time – book review

In her Guardian review of Schulte’s book  writes:

Fighting “the overwhelm” means identifying the problem, and there are three villains in this book: our jobs, our expectations and ourselves. Give a small cheer here if you live in Europe, because it turns out that America really, really hates its citizens and wants them to be unhappy. “The US is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee workers paid time off,” Schulte writes. “Nearly one-quarter of all American workers get no paid vacation, most of them low-wage and part-time workers.” Oh, and don’t expect any paid maternity leave either; there is no legal requirement to offer it. All this is a legacy of the religious right’s dominance in the 1970s, when firebrands such as Pat Buchanan decided that nurseries were probably a plot to indoctrinate children and make them into tiny commies. Schulte gazes longingly towards Scandinavia, with its family-friendly policies, but the US situation sounds so bad I even felt a twang of pride for Blighty.

The next cause of the overwhelm is a construct Schulte calls the “ideal worker”. The ideal worker is the perfect capitalist machine-part, never seizing up or breaking down, always ready for overtime or foreign travel, never missing a day to look after a sick child or parent. Many businesses are in the grip of “presenteeism”, imagining that there is a perfect correlation between time spent with bum on office chair and productivity. There isn’t: research shows most people can only do eight hours of quality work a day. After that, they are just desk meat, surreptitiously playing Solitaire in a browser window or daydreaming about dinner. A macho long-hours culture hurts men just as much as women: when new dads ask for flexible working, they get burned both by the assumption they are not dedicated to the job and the assumption they are big old Girlie Men.

 We can’t blame everything on heartless employers, though. The relatively affluent have to take some responsibility for worshipping at the Altar of Overwork, an attitude Schulte calls “busier than thou”. Just as having a tan became a status symbol once it denoted that you could afford foreign holidays, so being overwhelmed is a badge of honour for middle-class professionals. Oh, between Jonny’s clarinet lessons and my Mandarin classes and Steve getting promoted to partner, I don’t have a minute to myself, they trill. Having no free time makes the point you don’t just have a job. You have a career. You are Going Somewhere.

Schulte’s prescription is simple: decide whether you love the bragging rights of being busy enough to live in a debilitating whirlwind of activity. If you don’t, perhaps leave the clarinet unmolested and the boxercise class undone. As for housework, one researcher’s message to women is refreshingly simple: be a slattern. “Do you have to be able to do open-heart surgery on the kitchen floor?” he asks. Also, make sure Himself pulls his weight.

This book’s strength is mixing research and anecdote in a lively, accessible way, with a reporter’s eye for detail.  The obvious criticism is that Schulte’s message speaks largely to uptight overachievers in creative fields, and being told to lobby for a four-day week or a 4pm hometime won’t cut much ice if you are on the minimum wage or a zero-hours contract. (The author does acknowledge that the figure for average working hours is misleading because it obscures the gulf between the crazy-busy top of the labour market and the underemployed bottom, yet is otherwise prone to breezy generalisations.) But, of course, a book like this can’t hope to tackle every aspect of such a complex subject, and even if it did, no one would have time to read the result. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Link to read the full Guardian review of Schulte’s book

Cultivating happiness often misunderstood, says Stanford researcher

Stanford research explores the concept of maximizing happiness, and finds that pursuing concrete “giving” goals rather than abstract ones leads to greater satisfaction.

by Clifton B. Parker

The paradox of happiness is that chasing it may actually make us less happy, a Stanford researcher says.

So how does one find happiness? Effective ways exist, according to new research.

One path to happiness is through concrete, specific goals of benevolence – like making someone smile or increasing recycling – instead of following similar but more abstract goals – like making someone happy or saving the environment.

The reason is that when you pursue concretely framed goals, your expectations of success are more likely to be met in reality. On the other hand, broad and abstract goals may bring about happiness’ dark side – unrealistic expectations…  Read this article

Why Chasing Happiness May Leave You Feeling Unhappier Than Ever

Reporting this research in Forbes magazine, Amy Morin writes:

Sometimes people incorrectly assume that having children, getting a new job, or becoming self-employed will automatically equate to increased happiness. But often, these changes don’t result in the increased happiness that people expect. When attempts to increase happiness fail, it can leave people feeling unhappier than ever.

Here are some examples of concrete and attainable prosocial goals:

  • Instead of saying you want to make someone happy, set out to make someone smile.
  • Rather than deciding that you will help the less fortunate, decide to donate two bags of groceries to a food pantry every week.
  • Substitute changing the world for working at a soup kitchen one day a month.

Creating attainable goals helps establish reasonable expectations for how much happiness you’ll experience when the goal is accomplished. Following through with your action steps to help other people can increase your overall life satisfaction and sense of happiness. Set out to make the world a better place one small step at a time and your happiness meter is also likely to climb.

Link to read the full Forbes article

“Mr. Peters is an enthusiast, a storyteller and a lover of capitalism. He says that effective management is management that delivers more value to customers and more opportunity for service, creativity and growth to workers. He is saying that the decent thing to do is also the smart thing. It’s a wonderful message.”
paul weaver, hoover institute, in the wall street journal

Tom Peters:  Excellence.  No Excuses

Here are some of the headings from Tom Peters’ 603-page superdoc rant: “Excellence. NO EXCUSES” which you can also access in PDF and PowerPoint formats.

What started when Tom copied a few Twitter conversations and made them into a PDF has turned into a magnum opus, now 57 parts,

As he points out (p.21), “Most of our conscious life will be at work. Like it or not. Waste your work life and you have effectively wasted your life.”

a ‘BLINDING FLASH OF THE OBVIOUS.’ – something we KNOW but relentlessly time and again fail to practice.” (Peters’ own capitals throughout; my bold emphases)

Blinding Flash of the Obvious:

We know putting people REALLY first translates into mid- to long-term growth and maximized profitability. SO WHY DON’T WE DO IT?

We know … GREAT TRAINING … pays for itself 100 times over—in business just much as in sports and the arts. SO WHY DON’T WE DO IT?

We know a simple “THANK YOU” is the greatest of all motivators. SO WHY DON’T WE DO IT?

And on—and on—it goes.

Frankly, I am in a rotten mood. If I was preaching rocket science, and people didn’t “get it,” that’d be one thing. But each of the 27 points in this brief introductory section do amount to, beyond doubt, a … BFO/BLINDING FLASH OF THE OBVIOUS:

BFO #1: If you (RELIGIOUSLY) help people — EVERY SINGLE PERSON, JUNIOR OR SENIOR, LIFER OR TEMP — grow and reach/exceed their perceived potential, then they in turn will bust their individual and collective butts to create great experiences for Clients — and the “bottom line” will get fatter and fatter and fatter. (ANYBODY LISTENING?) (PEOPLE FIRST = MAXIMIZED PROFITABILITY. PERIOD.) (ANYBODY LISTENING?) (FYI: “People FIRST” message 10X more urgent than ever in the high-engagement “AGE OF SOCIAL BUSINESS.”)

BFO 2: ENABLING “ALL HANDS” GROWTH IS LEADER DUTY #1. (And ALL good things flow from there.)

BFO 3: The “CTO”/Chief Training Officer should (MUST!) be on a par with the CFO/CMO. (In a 45-minute “tour d’horizon” of the enterprise: I GUARANTEE 9 out of 10 CEOs* [*10 of 10?] wouldn’t once mention training. THAT = DISGRACE.)

BFO 4: OUT-READ ‘EM. AGE 17. AGE 77.
2014: READ & GROW … or wilt.
(One financial services superstar pegs CEO prob #1: “They don’t read enough.”) STUDENTHOOD (OBSESSION THEREWITH) (for ALL of us) FOR LIFE!

BFO 5: Organizations exist for ONE reason … TO BE OF SERVICE. PERIOD. (And effective leaders in turn are … SERVANT LEADERS. PERIOD.)

BFO 6: The … HEART OF THE MATTER (productivity, quality, service, you name it) … is the typically under-attended … FIRST-LINE BOSS. (Your FULL CADRE of first-line bosses is arguably … ASSET #1.)

BFO 7: WTTMSW. (Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.)
WTTMSASTMSUTFW. (Whoever Tries The Most Stuff And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest Wins.)
“A Bias For Action”: #1 Success Requisite in 1982.
“A Bias For Action”: #1 Success Requisite in 2014.

BFO 8: “Fail faster. Succeed sooner.”
“Fail. Forward. Fast.”
“Fail. Fail again. Fail better.”
“REWARD excellent failures. PUNISH mediocre successes.”
Book/Farson: Whoever Makes The Most Mistakes Wins.

BFO 9: Enabling change: It’s NOT NOT NOT about “vanquishing (ignorant) foes.” It’s ALL ALL ALL about recruiting and nurturing … ALLIES.

BFO 10: Year = 220 lunches. WASTE NOT ONE. Cross-functional SNAFUs (Situation Normal, All F****d Up) #1 problem for most orgs. Software … WILL NOT … fix it. ONLY … “Social Stuff” works—e.g., makin’ pals in other functions; lunch = Strategy #1.
Goal: XFX/Cross-Functional Excellence … or die trying.

BFO 11: Excellence is NOT an “aspiration.” Excellence IS the next 5 minutes. (Or not.)

BFO 12: In Search of Excellence theme song: “Hard is soft. Soft is Hard.” (e.g., Numbers are the “soft stuff”—witness the crash. Solid relationships/ integrity/trust/teamwork = True “hard stuff.”)
Strategy is important.
Systems are important.
CULTURE is … MORE IMPORTANT.
(Serious change = Tackling the culture. PERIOD.)
(Even “Mr. Analysis,” in his autobiography, Lou Gerstner, IBM turnaround CEO, reluctantly acknowledged culture’s unequivocal primacy in the big-change-game.)

BFO 13: Apple’s market cap surpasses ExxonMobil’s.
Why?
D-E-S-I-G-N.
Are YOU obsessed by … DESIGN? (In EVERY nook and EVERY cranny of EVERY tiny or humongous enterprise—and in your own professional affairs.)

BFO 14: WOMEN BUY EVERYTHING. WOMEN ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE LEADERS. WOMEN ARE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL INVESTORS. (Does your organization … UNMISTAKABLY … reflect that from stem to stern?)

BFO 15: Forget B-I-G. (100% of biggies UNDER-perform long-term.) Instead build national wealth around … “MITTELSTAND” companies—MIDSIZE SUPERSTAR NICHE DOMINATORS—in ANY category you can name. (C.f., Germany.) (Battle cry: “Be the best. It’s the only market that’s not crowded.” WHY ELSE BOTHER?)

BFO 16: The problem is RARELY the problem. The lackluster RESPONSE to the problem is invariably the real problem. Answer? Slavishly adhere to these two response commandments: OVERKILL. UNEQUIVOCAL APOLOGY.

BFO 17: What do people (most) desire—including thee and me?
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.
So: Show your appreciation … BIG TIME/ALL THE TIME. (Track it … RELIGIOUSLY!) (“Acknowledgement” is … THE MOST POWERFUL WORD IN THE LEADER’S VOCABULARY.)

BFO 18: The two most powerful words in the English language are?
No contest: “THANK YOU.”
(ACT ACCORDINGLY—e.g., OBSESSIVELY.)

BFO 19: Have you done your MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around … TODAY? If not, why not? (Hint: There are … ZERO ACCEPTABLE EXCUSES.)

BFO 20: Your CALENDAR knows your TRUE priorities.
Do YOU?
You … ARE … your calendar.
Your calendar … NEVER LIES.

BFO 21: What is the individual’s/organization’s #1 enduring strategic asset? Easy:
ASSET #1 = INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE EXCELLENCE AT …
L-I-S-T-E-N-I-N-G.
(Listening can be … TAUGHT. Listening PER SE is a … PROFESSION. Are YOU a “stellar professional listener”? THINK ABOUT IT. PLEASE.)

BFO 22: Aim to make EVERY internal and external experience (PRODUCT/ SERVICE/SYSTEM/EMPLOYEE INTERACTION/CUSTOMER INTERACTION/ COMMUNITY INTERACTION) a … WOW!
WOW = WOW. USE THE “W-WORD” PER SE!
E.g., Do 4 out of your Top 5 projects score 8 or above on a 10-point “WOW Scale”? If not, get on it:
NOW.
TODAY.
(WITHIN THE HOUR.)

BFO 23: While on the topic of … WOW:
White collar work is by and large ticketed to fall prey to artificial intelligence/eye-popping algorithms as well as globalization. Stand there and take it on the chin?
NO.
My answer (1999 book, The Professional Service Firm 50):
CONVERT EVERY “DEPARTMENT”/”UNIT” (AND YOURSELF) INTO A FULL-FLEDGED … “PSF”/PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM … WHOLLY DEDICATED TO EXCELLENCE & WOW & ADDING SKYSCRAPING VALUE TO THEIR CUSTOMERS’ (USUALLY INTERNAL CUSTOMERS) ACTIVITIES.
Why not?
There is no good reason not to proceed in this direction within the fortnight!

BFO 24: EVERY DAY PROVIDES A DOZEN (LITERALLY) LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERY ONE OF US. (Every = EVERY. From the most junior—and even the 3-day temp—to the Big Dudes.)
GRAB AT LEAST ONE.

BFO 25: CIVILITY WORKS. CIVILITY PAYS.
E.g.: K = R = P.
Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.
(ONE MORE TIME: “Kindness” is N-O-T “Soft.”)

BFO 26: Most of us/most organizations discount … INTROVERTS. THAT IS A … FIRST-ORDER STRATEGIC BLUNDER. (Please read Susan Cain’s book QUIET. It was a no-bull lifechanger for me.)

BFO 27: Listen (HARD) to my old D.C. boss, Fred Malek:
“EXECUTION IS STRATEGY.”
(Execution: That all-important … “LAST 99 PERCENT.”)

Read the original article

small changes in the work space can go a long way

small changes in the work space can go a long way     photo credit

10 Unusual Ways to Improve Employee Productivity

by 

The University of Warwick in the UK recently published research highlighting that happiness can increase employee productivity by up to 12%. Separate research by the New Economics Foundation in 2013 suggested that in some creative industries, happiness can improve productivity by up to 50%. Furthermore, academic research in the US found that when employees were in a good mood they performed their least favorite tasks better than when they didn’t feel as happy.

With employee productivity so crucial to business growth, it should be encouraging to companies to learn that employee happiness is so closely connected to their performance, because employee happiness is not a myth; it can and does exist.

What was interesting about the original Warwick University research was how quickly and easily employees’ moods were boosted by eating chocolate and watching comedy for ten minutes. While this is an affordable and active way to boost somebody’s mood in the short-term, it is perhaps not the most cost- or time-efficient approach to ensuring employee happiness, and thus productivity, in the long-term.

For many years academics have been conducting surveys and research to establish proven ways that improve happiness in the workplace. The findings – many of which are summarised below – include a number of quick, easy and low-cost ways companies can start boosting employee happiness and productivity.

Get Some Plants…

…working in an environment with plants was very effective at improving staff health by reducing coughs, headaches and skin ailments.

Better Use of Space and Better Furniture…

small changes to the working environment can go a long way. Research in New Zealand has shown that investment in ergonomic furniture and effective use of space could increase productivity by up to 64%.

Organised Exercise Breaks…

…The same research in New Zealand showed that when exercise breaks were encouraged there was a 25% increase in staff productivity and separate research shows that taking four short walks a day can boost a person’s mood for as long as 11 hours.

Keep Your Promises…

…many employees consider a good manager to be someone who keeps their promises and puts employees first.

Make Managers Happy…

Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University explains that the main cause of unhappiness in employees is line managers. Investing in line manager happiness as a priority and encouraging this to “drip down” is a very logical and effective way to improve staff happiness. When studies have shown that over two thirds of employees feel their manager has an impact on their career it’s important to ensure that it’s a positive one.

LOL…

…Research also shows that regular laughter reduces stress, helps us sleep better and can even boost the body’s immune system. If laughing in the workplace isn’t appropriate, then organise a work trip to a comedy club or share recommendations for funny movies that employees can watch at home.

Let Employees Go On Facebook…

…In a recent interview with Entrepreneur, Richard Branson stated that one of the key reasons Virgin introduced flexible working was to show employees they were trusted and this in turn improved their productivity. This article also argues that some of the world’s most successful CEOs are very active on social media, and they use it to promote their company.

Start a Book Club…

Neurological research has shown that brain functions are significantly boosted after people finish reading a novel and the additional benefits of reading include greater social perception and empathy.

Encourage Sharing…

When we introduced the Noticeboard feature for our customers on Findmyshift we expected it to be used to share work-related memos. In reality it’s used by our customers to share a variety of information about social events, personal announcements and yes, even book club updates! In a recent survey we conducted it was listed as one of our most popular features by staff and managers alike.

Let People Get On With It…

Arguably the most welcome and cost-effective way proven to make your staff happy and more productive is to simply let them get on with their work. This is supported by Harvard Business Review research which showed that what motivated them most was not financial reward or public recognition, but progress.

There is some comfort in knowing that employees are motivated by the same thing managers are and in many ways it confirms the strong link between happiness and productivity; we all like to feel useful. Of course, you don’t need to be an expert to understand why happier employees are more productive employees, but perhaps we all need to take a bit of extra time to do what we can to make our employees happy when they come to work and not just when they leave.

Link to read the original Switch & Shift article

 

Why Chocolate Is Good for Us

Temptation -Sue Ridge ©

Temptation –Sue Ridge ©

 Happiness At Work edition #94

You will find many more stories about what happiness and productivity and success and leadership mean in our ever-changing work and lives in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #94 collection.

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy.

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Action Learning – a better way to collaborate and communicate together…

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3194 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3194
photo: Mark Trezona

Here are my newest thoughts about the discipline and magic that make Action Learning so potently transformational…

I had lunch last week with Alison Johns, a wonderful friend and colleague who I first met nearly twenty years ago when we were completing our MAs in Management Learning & Leadership. This was when I first discovered Action Learning, the framework that has changed my practice forever, as much, I confidently dare to believe, as it has transformed the lives and accomplishments of many of the people who have participated in its process.

In the Shaky Isles Theatre Company we have used Action Learning as the main framework for coming together to grow and sustain the company for a year now.  And more and more we are also using Action Learning inside our performance making process, as well, to sustain and nourish our creative learning alongside our show creation.

I am also currently facilitating Action Learning with a group of Rajni Shah Project artists to support their co-creation activities, and here, too, the discipline and framework of Action Learning is weaving across and into Board meetings, producing some really exciting new conversations and ways of working together.

In another application, Nicki Maher is starting to use Action Learning as a way to develop and grow Opaz, the Turkish music ensemble she leads.

And I am about to work with Tesse Akpeki to deliver training in using Action Learning for people who support or lead Trustee Boards.

These newer applications of Action Learning are continuing to amplify the belief, trust and joy that I have always found facilitating this process with very many very different groups of professionals and leaders, teachers and artists, teams and freelancers – not to mention my own invaluable membership of an Action Learning group that have been meeting regularly together since 1998.

With this in mind I wanted to try to uncover some of my newest thinking and insights about the disciplined magic that is Action Learning, and, alongside this, to provide a jumping off point for you to try it for yourself with the people you either work with or feel drawn to spend some time with uncovering fresh ideas and new ways to progress the things that most matter to you.

Sky Through Soundpod (Chelsea College of Art & Design, 2013)  photo: Mark Trezona

Sky Through Soundpod (Chelsea College of Art & Design, 2013)
photo: Mark Trezona

A Practitioner’s Guide to Action Learning

Reg Revans invented Action Learning to provide a ‘clean space’ in an overly noisy and overly directed world, to give people enough freedom and enough solid framework to be able to uncover and discover our own best thoughts and insights to become freshly inspired to act, fuelled by our own creative expectations and sustained by our continually expanding capabilities.

Revans was convinced that for an organisation to survive its rate of learning must be at least equal to – and ideally greater than – the rate of change in its external environment – this became known as Revans’ Law: Learning must be > or = Change.

The Action Learning process has developed over the last sixty years as a method for individual and organisational development. As a process Action Learning can be challenging and informative. Within organisations Reg Revans described it as “the outward communication of doubt” – an opportunity for people to engage with and work through what is unfamiliar, uncertain and not known and identify action which could make a positive difference to their own and the organisation’s effectiveness. For example, he was one of the first to introduce to the National Health Service the idea that nurses, doctors and administrators needed to listen to and understand each other – and action learning groups offer the opportunity.

In any attempt to describe Action Learning, it is essential to say that Revans rightly advises us that the only way to really know what it is, is to do it. With that in mind, here are the instructions we follow in our practice, which we hope will give you enough to be able to try it for yourself.

In the form of Action Learning we use, the available time is divided first into two parts: a first part for Action Learning itself, and the second part to work the ideas and progress the material that has emerged out from the individual contributions.

The Action Learning time itself is divided equally among the individuals present. Each person then has that amount of Clean Space time to bring to the table whatever is most live and prescient for each of them.  And during this time the rest of the group cannot interrupt or comment in any way. Once each person has said as much as they want to, the rest of us offer them open creative thinking questions for whatever Clean Space time remains.

The Clean Space Process

Space:

1. A continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied

2. A stretch of time

3. The amount of material used or needed to write fully about a subject

4. The freedom to live, think, and develop in a way that suits you best

Before you start agree how much Clean Space time each person will have and who will keep time.

In your Clean Space time…

1 ~ Say whatever you want to say. Be as selfish as you can be about what you want to bring to the table.  Talk from your own head and heart and don’t worry or care about what anyone else needs to hear. 

No interruptions, comments or questions from anyone else during this phase.

2 ~ Once you have said all you want to say, you respond to open creative thinking Questions given to you by the rest of your group.

Again, be completely selfish about how you want to respond to any question you get: you decide what it means and how you want to answer it, if at all.

The rest of the group seek to bring you moments of spontaneity – questions that open you up to fresh new thinking and insights.

Resist saying anything except Open Questions during this phase. The best questions will be a gift for the person who receives it, and they will feel and often say “That’s a great question…”

Use “Why…?” questions sparingly.

3 ~  (optional and only if time –at least 2minutes of each person’s Clean Space time) 

You ask whatever you want to from others in the group.

If there are no questions you want to ask people, use this time to draw together the thinking and ideas you are going away with.

Allow about 10% of Clean Space time for this, but shift into it sooner if the person who has the Clean Space is repeatedly saying “I don’t know…” to your questions.

Helpful Capabilities for Action Learning

o   Being fully present

o   Alert, neutral, open, heightened listening

o   The Fine & Difficult Art of Asking Really Great Open Questions

o   Being utterly selfless and tuned in to what the Clean Space holder is trying to get when it is not your Clean Space time

o   Being supremely selfish about what you want to bring and get from your own Clean Space time

o   Wondering your not-knowing out loud: bringing what you don’t know to the table

o   Being open to surprise

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3191 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3191
photo: Mark Trezona

This set of simple rules sets up the conditions for a very different way of thinking and communicating that lead almost inevitably to new insights and fresh possibilities for action.  When repeated over a series of meetings it replaces our usual default ways of listening and thinking with better ways that are far more open, expansive, diverse, inclusive, and actively engaged.  And over time, the disciplines and capabilities it demands from us start to become easier, more natural, and much more our new ‘normal’.

We shift our perspective; we shift our balance…

…from only paying attention to the information that immediately interests us to listening out and trying to pick up much more of what is being said and its many nuances;

…from narrowing the conversation down and heading off too quickly on a particular tangent, to exploring the situation in greater depth and from a wider range of perspectives;

…from talking more about things and re-presenting conclusions and ideas that we have already decided upon, to uncovering what we think and feel during the act of talking about it;

…from bringing our certainties and defending our established points of view, to bringing more of our uncertainties and opening out what we don’t know or yet have answers or solutions for: dialogue means discovering the meaning through communication;

…from only having the ‘need-to-have’ conversations, to unearthing extraordinary and surprising insights and solutions from conversations that arise out of what matters most to each of us;

…from tending to get most of the input from the more talkative amongst us, to getting and thus profiting from, an equal contribution from all of us, realising and optimising the inherent diversity that otherwise lies hidden and buried underneath our different communication styles and preferences;

…from prescribing the desired goal or outcome and restricting our thinking to what seems to be most relevant and strategic to its achievement, to keeping more open to discovering higher value aspirations that emerge and progress organically from the material of what people bring to the table;

…and from excited intentions that are too soon forgotten or lost to louder demands, to achieving ever widening results that spiral up from our collective learning ~ out to action ~ back into heightened learning ~ and out to new action ~ and so on in an increasingly reliable and self-powered momentum.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery to be made in Action Learning is that, very often, our greatest joy and discovery comes less from what we bring during our own Clean Space and much, much more from what we get from the ‘enforced’ listening we give during other people’s.

It is also helpful to know that Action Learning is not only for a team of people who want to use it to make work together, but equally powerful and potentially transformative for a group of individuals who choose to come together to hear and widen each other’s thinking entirely in terms of each person’s own personal agendas.

Action Learning and Collaboration

I have been thinking a lot recently about just what it is that makes Action Learning so enjoyed and successful and surprising and special, especially when it can be experienced by a group over a repeated series of get-togethers. These reflections have drawn out these five attributes:

  1. In-Betweenness 
  2. Listening In-ness
  3. Slowness
  4. Togetherness
  5. Connectedness

1 ~ In-Betweenness

This quality is not so much walking blindly through fog, as the more delightful experience of flying through clouds, up in the air and above it all, happy and trusting that we will get to where we want to get to without having to see ahead to our destination.

This is the ability to inhabit the grey areas between boundaries, to hold ambiguity and complexity with far less need to define it, fix it, bolt it down, categorise and name it.  It involves being simultaneously inside and outside the flow of thinking, both alert to what others are saying and what matters to them while at the same time aware of the live fresh dancing of our own thoughts colliding with what we are hearing.

This quality is especially enhanced when we can keep our not-knowingness wide open and transmitting, sensing out rather than seeing straight ahead, wondering out loud, teasing out our unformed ideas, uncertainties and barely yet understood intuitions.

2 ~ Listening In-ness

This quality is about hearing in real time (rather than anticipating ahead of what is being said and so hearing only what we expect).  It demands that we stay with the material as it unfolds in the here-and-now instead of projecting our own versions of reality on to things. This is the capability of tuning in with the deliberate intention to notice more and receive more fully.  It is HD hearing that picks up the finer inflexion, nuance, repetition and other poetic aspects of our thinking.

It requires us to lean in, bringing a particular kind of presence and concentration to stay with what is being said as it is being said, resisting our usual inclination to decide quickly on what is meant from the smallest fragment of information.

This needs our fullest energy, commitment, presence and attention. But, when the conditions of Clean Space are activated, it seems to happen with remarkable ease and reliability.

3 ~ Slowness

The listening we do in Action Learning recognises that…

…you can’t flick through sound;

…you can’t take a meaningful still of sound;

…you can’t glance at sound;

…you can’t sensibly hear sound backwards, or broken up, un-sequenced;

…you just have to start at its beginning and stay with it through to its end.

Mindfulness, a deliberate, disciplined, meditative practice of slowing down and tuning in, is becoming a mass practice across the globe, perhaps filling in and replacing our older religious rituals with something more secular and better suited to our times.  But, perhaps too, its popularity is building from a growing awareness that we need times of slowness, stillness and quietness that reconnects us into the rhythm of our breathing selves as a counterbalance to the incessantly turned on, turned up, turned out lives we are now living.

Stopping, and making a quieter stillness to listen and notice better are premium qualities in Action Learning. And much is yielded from the heightened waiting and trusting this gives us.

4 ~ Togetherness

Action Learning gives us a new way of co-creating – making something from the collective material that emerges from us all – and a better way of collaborating – making joint decisions and sharing out the work.

The material we uncover to work with is always richer and more multidimensional than any ordinary discussion could give us. This happens without force in a process akin to the sculptor’s art – drawing out and revealing and shaping and clarifying and heightening and unifying what is most fine and delightful and compelling from inside what we already have amongst us, waiting to be discovered.

5 ~ Connectedness

In Action Learning meanings, ideas and solutions emerge from making patterns. As humans we make sense of things by forging connections: that thing to the thing we already know (or think we know); this thing with that thing with the other thing to make the new thing.  Then the more we repeat, reinforce and practice anything the more strongly it becomes ingrained into our integral circuitry.  The repetition and cyclic iterations of uncovering and revealing and testing and rethinking we get in Action Learning deepens and strengthens our commitment to the ideas we most connect with.

Action Learning demands a kind of patient urgency – a different kind of dynamic that still has to move us forward with a sense of necessity and compulsion, but alongside a more careful, intimate and delicate holding on and out for what is still unfolding

Action Learning creates and sustains our propulsion from…

…the avoidance of rush and fixing too fast and hard alongside the necessity to make progress;

…the avoidance of jumping too quickly into action alongside the necessity for application and getting things done;

…the avoidance of the usual imperative to define desired outcomes and set the focus on the Vision alongside the necessity of getting somewhere worth arriving at.

Action Learning and Making Great Audience Experience

All of this I have come to know and trust from my many years sitting inside and outside dozens of different Action Learning groups since I first found it.

What is new for me is to start to wonder what might come from the explicit aspiration, or even the gentlest intention, to try to make the qualities we experience in Action Learning with our audience – whether they be our beneficiaries or our customers or our partners or our stakeholders or our public…

Audience: the people who come to give us their hearing.

What if… we could come together as a community of listeners?

And return to listen together again and again, each time able to listen better?

What might our better listening lead us on to do better?

What if…?

What next…?

What now…?

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3193 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3193
photo: Mark Trezona

Do please feel welcome to contact us if you would like to know more about how to make Action Learning part of your work or learning.

This post was developed from the one I originally wrote for Shaking Out, the Shaky Isles Theatre Company blog

Happiness At Work edition #90

If you enjoyed this, you may also find more stories and techniques for becoming more productive, happy and creative in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection, our weekly collection of the best stories about leadership and learning, mindfulness and happiness at work, resilience and self-mastery.

Enjoy…

 

A Collection of Treats to Celebrate International Day of Happiness 2014

Fun things to do near you  -A day trip to Mars - Sue Ridge ©

Fun things to do near you -A day trip to MarsSue Ridge ©

In celebration of International Day of Happiness 2014 this week’s post contains mostly good things, starting with Sue Ridge’s magical imagining of a day trip to Mars.

This year is only the second time this day has been celebrated, but already I notice that there is significantly more media, social and international attention than the same day seemed to get last year.

One of the major themes this year has been about reclaiming happiness back from the advertisers who would tell us our happiness depends upon buying their thing.  Instead, today’s global celebration reminds us that it is our relationships that lie at the heart and soul of true happiness, and spending time enjoying being with our family, our fiends and our colleagues is about the surest way there is of getting a happiness boost.

In this spirit, I have collected together my favourites from this week’s array of offerings, with a bias on the treats that you can enjoy and/or use, and I really hope there will one or two things here that you can take to treat yourself with.

Happy Happiness Day.

On International Day of Happiness, UN urges action to end poverty, build harmony

Of course there is nothing frivolous about this global call to action by the UN as their press release makes abundantly clear…

20 March 2014 – Marking the International Day of Happiness with calls to promote social inclusion and intercultural harmony, senior United Nations officials today urged the global community to make real the UN Charter’s pledge to end conflict and poverty and ensure the well-being of all.

“Happiness is neither a frivolity nor a luxury. It is a deep-seated yearning shared by all members of the human family. It should be denied to no one and available to all,” declared Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the Day.

While acknowledging that happiness may have different meanings for different people, the UN chief said that all could agree that it means working to end conflict, poverty and other unfortunate conditions in which so many of human beings live.

“This aspiration is implicit in the pledge of the United Nations Charter to promote peace, justice, human rights, social progress and improved standards of life,” he said, adding: “Now is the time to convert this promise into concrete international and national action to eradicate poverty, promote social inclusion and intercultural harmony, ensure decent livelihoods, protect the environment and build institutions for good governance. These are the foundations for human happiness and well-being.”

In April 2012, the UN held a high-level meeting on “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” at the initiative of Bhutan, a country which recognized the supremacy of national happiness over national income since the early 1970s and famously adopted the goal of Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product (GDP).

In July of that year, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 20 March the International Day of Happiness, recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in people’s lives and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.

In that spirit, current General Assembly President John Ashe said the Day celebrates unity and called on the international community to support the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

As the UN family sets out to identify the goals for an inclusive, people-centred post-2015 development agenda with the eradication of poverty as its overarching objective, he invited Member States, international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to raise public awareness of the aspirations of human beings around the world.

“Happiness is a fundamental human goal, and improving public policies in countries that can contribute thereto is essential to promoting equitable societies for all,” said Mr. Ashe.

Link to read the original article

In the UK, Action for Happiness provided an exuberance of provisions to help make the day fly, including these new research findings, and more social and participative, their #happinessday Let’s Reclaim Happiness Wall of photos inviting non-commercialise images of what happiness looks like for different people across the planet.

National Happiness Matters More Than National Wealth

87% choose happiness and wellbeing over wealth as their priority for society

Reducing inequality seen as most important for national happiness
Relationships seen as most important for personal happiness

 In a week that includes both the UK Budget (19 March) and the United Nations International Day of Happiness (20 March), a new survey has found that the vast majority of people think levels of happiness and wellbeing matter more than the size of the economy.

In a YouGov poll commissioned by Action for Happiness, a majority (87%) of UK adults were found to prefer the ‘greatest overall happiness and wellbeing’, rather than the ‘greatest overall wealth’ (8%), for the society they live in. This majority was found to be broadly consistent across all regions, age groups and social classes.

When asked to select the three changes they thought would most increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK, ‘more equality between rich and poor’ came out as the most selected factor, with 45% of people choosing this; the next highest response was ‘improved health services’ (39%). Of the choices offered, the least important were found to be ‘improved school standards’ (16%) and ‘improved transport and infrastructure’ (16%).

When asked to select the three most important factors for their own happiness and wellbeing, ‘my relationships with my partner/family’ was the most selected factor, with 80% of people choosing this; the next highest was ‘my health’ (71%), with ‘my money and financial situation’ a distant third (42%). The least important factors were found to be ‘my possessions’ (4%) and ‘my appearance’ (4%).

Commenting on results, Action for Happiness Director, Dr Mark Williamson said:

“The economy dominates our political and social discussions, but this survey shows that happiness is more important to people. The vast majority of people would prefer society to be happier rather than richer. So we need to spend less time focusing on the size of the economy and more time focusing on how to help people live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”

LSE economist and co-founder of Action for Happiness, Lord Richard Layard said:

“Our national priorities are clearly out of touch with what really matters to people. Our top priority should be people’s overall happiness and wellbeing. Above all, we should be giving much more attention to mental health, supporting positive family and community relationships and creating a more trusting society.”

Link to read the original Action for Happiness press release

It’s Time to Reclaim Happiness

Director of Action for Happiness, Dr Mark Williamson writes in the Huffington Post…

In recent years I’ve asked hundreds of parents what they want above all for their children. Although their answers vary, nearly all of them say something like “I really just want them to be happy”. Happiness is the thing we want the most for the people we love the most.

But the problem is that our happiness has been hijacked.

We’re bombarded with false and misleading images of happiness. Advertisers tell us it comes from buying their products. Celebrities and the media pretend it comes with beauty or fame. And politicians claim that nothing matters more than growing the economy.

Everywhere we look the story is the same: buy and achieve these things and then you’ll be happy. But remember, you’ll then need to keep getting more in order to stay happy and keep up with your peers. And if they start to get ahead then just keep consuming!

On and on we go in a mindless and seemingly endless cycle.

I could of course point to many studies confirming how wrong this all is – lasting happiness does not come from what we consume, how we look or how much we earn. But, let’s be honest, you probably knew that already!

So how can we put this right? Firstly we can each try to live more mindfully and avoid getting caught in the “I’ll be happy when…” trap.

But we can also reclaim happiness, by sharing a more authentic view of what really makes us happy. And this week is the perfect opportunity to start this together.

Thursday (20 March) is the United Nations International Day of Happiness. To celebrate this special day, Action for Happiness is running a global campaign, with support from over 40 organisations and many thousands of people around the world.

Their shared mission is to show the world what happiness really looks like – and in doing so, to reclaim happiness back from the advertisers, celebrities, media and others who try to manipulate us. Here’s how you can get involved…

  • Step 1: Find. Look through your photos right now for a picture of something that really made you happy.
  • Step 2: Capture. When something makes you happy today or in the coming days, remember to take a moment and capture it on camera.
  • Step 3: Share. Share your images of happiness with others using the #happinessday hashtag (e.g. via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc)

There are already lots of inspiring examples of people sharing #happinessday images: children playing in a garden, flowers outside an office, friends celebrating a birthday, a family walk on the hills, outdoor fun in the sun and many more.

Unlike the fake images in adverts and magazines, these authentic photos help to remind us of what really matters. We may not be able to change the world overnight, but together we can share a vision of happiness which is far more inspiring that the one we’re sold.

So why not take a moment to find (or take) a picture of something that makes you happy and share it right now. It might be profound, or perhaps profoundly silly. But however small and personal, the fact that you have noticed it makes it quite important enough.

Action for Happiness will be building a huge collection of these #happinessday images from around the world and, as well as taking social media by storm, the hope is to present a selection of these images at the United Nations later this year.

Let’s focus on the things that really matter. Let’s reclaim happiness together.

Link to  the #happinessday What makes You Happy photo wall

Reclaim your happiness at work on the International Day of Happiness

by Nic Marks, director of Happiness Works and on the board of Action for Happiness

The average Brit spends 100,000 hours at work and if we were happier at work, we’d be happier in our whole lives• Find out how happy you are at work compared to the national average

Thursday was the UN’s International Day of Happiness – a day set aside to raise global awareness that happiness is a fundamental human goal. Global issues such as human rights, peacekeeping and sustainable development are what we would expect the UN to have on its agenda. So why has it decided that the seemingly frivolous idea of happiness is worth championing?

If we could create a world that was more inclusive, equitable, and balanced, a world where all people were happier, most of us would agree that this would be progress. When understood like this, happiness suddenly seems a much more serious issue, one that belongs on the global agenda. The UN is so serious about it that in a 2012 resolution it called for a “more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes … the happiness and well-being of all peoples”.

All too often, the concept of happiness is hijacked by advertisers and the popular media and then sold back to us in the form of materialism and glamour. In reality, the important things for our happiness are rarely even things at all. They are more about the quality of our relationships and whether what we do in our home and working lives feels purposeful.

The London-based campaign group Action for Happiness is co-ordinating many global events this year under the banner of “reclaiming happiness”. Falling on a Thursday, this year’s International Day of Happiness is a workday for most of us. Let’s ask ourselves the question: how would the world be if we were all happier at work?

It is quite a radical question. For many, work has come to signify the exact opposite of happiness. It’s where we go to earn the money to buy the things we hope will make us happy. We don’t expect to be happy at work; we expect to endure it until we clock out or log off and return to our real lives – a life outside of work.

But hang on a minute. The average Brit spends 100,000 hours at work during their lifetime – that’s more than 11 and a half years. Work is part of our real life and if we were happier at work we would be happier in our whole lives. We’d be better partners, better parents, better people. So happiness at work is good for us, as individuals.

But what about business? Let’s ask another question: what happens to a business if its employees are happier at work?

Far from spending the day lolling about and chatting with colleagues, as some sceptics might assume, happier employees are more creative, more innovative and more focused on their work. Every day they make more progress with their work than their unhappy colleagues. They also are much less likely to leave – who leaves a job they love?

When we do the maths, the costs of ignoring happiness at work are substantial. An average UK company will employ about 250 people. If it is average in all aspects, then about 40 of them will leave each year and over 1,000 days will be lost due to absenteeism. If the company had a really happy, engaged workforce, then staff turnover would typically halve, absenteeism would be cut by 25%, and productivity would increase by about 20%. The cost of ignoring happiness in an average UK company, paying average wages, works out to be in excess of £1m every year. Happiness at work is not a threat to business; it’s an opportunity.

Creating happy profitable businesses may work for the few but surely the world will continue on its current path towards an inequitable, unbalanced, and unsustainable future, regardless?

This is where the happiness perspective gets really interesting. Most of us feel happier when we work for an organisation that is seeking to make a positive impact in the world. In fact, many of us forgo higher salaries to work for organisations and on issues that are aligned with our personal values and sense of purpose. Organisations that create products and services that make the world a better place will surely be rewarded with employees who are happier, more engaged, and genuinely proud to work there. There is a win-win-win here for individuals, business and society.

So today, let’s reclaim our happiness – at work as well as at home. Let’s follow the example of the UN and put happiness at the core of everything we do and we can work together to a make a better world for all of us.

Link to the original article

Happy Habits: how do you score?

Another offering from Action for Happiness is this short quiz that will let you check out your own happiness level, and quite possibly give you some gentle insights in to those areas that are most and least strong for you at the moment.

Happiness. All of us want more of it, but how many of us know how to make it happen – not just for ourselves, but for those around us too.

Scientists have discovered the habits that tend to make people happy. Now, the nice folks at Do Something Different and Action for Happiness have got together to help you explore these and see how you’re doing.

Take our simple 10-question quiz to get your Happy Habits Score and discover ways you could boost the happiness in your everyday life. Just answer each question as honestly as you can…

Link to take the Happiness Quiz

Pharrell Williams song Happy was chosen by the UN to be the anthem for this year’s celebrations, and people from across the world used this as the soundtrack to make their own videos, revealing the wonderful universality and singularity of being human.  I loved noticing the different inflexions and cultural qualities that are hinted at in these different performances of the same some by people in different countries.

You probably won’t want to watch all of these versions in line sitting, but I recommend you pop back to this playlist for another one any time you feel like you need a bit of a boost to your energy or spirits over the coming days and weeks.  I’ve set this playlist to start with Santiago’s video.  Chile has been topping the Happiest Planet Index over the last year or so and maybe you can detect why from this showreel of their streets…

I hope you will enjoy as much as I have the simple delight and fun in these dances…

Ice Breaker Games: How To Get To Know Your Office

After listing out those games that are cringe-worthy or just plain embarrassing to have to do (see if you most loathed is on the list), Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe, offers up his favourite activities for breaking the ice for new team members and loosening up relationships at work.  Maybe there’s one or two here that you might want to try – even just for fun…?  The Trust Walk, for instance, requires people to be willing and up for it, but if they are it is a very special experience to be guided blind through the world, giving up all control into the trust of your partner.

The Good Icebreakers

The next list of 10 ice breaker games are great for getting to know your new colleagues. Feel free to split your group up into smaller teams to make it easier (and faster) to play these games.

  1. Two Truths And A Lie: This is one of the more popular icebreakers and is pretty easy to play. It doesn’t require any equipment or anything which is good. The way it works is each person is supposed to tell three quick stories, with one of them being a lie. The object of the game is for whoever is listening to the story to guess which is the lie. It’s a fun way to get to know one another.
  2. Lost On A Deserted Island: This is a really fun icebreaker, and is also a cool way to see what really matters to people. The way this one works, is if they were stuck on a deserted island, name one thing that they would bring, and why. If you want to get really advanced with this game, ask people to pair up into teams, and to figure out how they can use their one object together to increase their chances of survival on the island.
  3. The Trust Walk: This is a great activity for building trust among your team, and learning how to listen to your coworkers. The way this one works is people are paired into teams of two, and one of the team members is blindfolded. Then the person who isn’t blindfolded leads the other one around by following their voice and listening for cues. The only bad part about this activity is it required a decent amount of space, so maybe do this one outside.
  4. The One Word Icebreaker: This one is great, because it requires everyone to be creative. Split the group into teams of four or five people, and get everyone to come up with one word to describe something. What topic you have them describe is up to you, but my advice would be make it something about their work. For example, if you could describe your company culture in one word, what would it be?
  5. The Five Favorites: This icebreaker is simple, and is a really good way to learn more about coworkers. The way this works is you ask each person to list their five favorites of anything, whether it’s movies, songs, TV shows, it doesn’t really matter. The point is to get some discussion started, and see where people have things in common. For an advanced version of this game, make the question more professional, like the five best qualities of a leader, or the five ways managers motivate employees.
  6. Speed Dating: It’s not “dating” in the sense that you’ll go for a fancy dinner, but it’s modeled after speed dating. The way speed dating works is each person has a few minutes to chat and get to know someone else before being moved to the next person, to get to know them. This works very well in a corporate setting, because it gives everyone a chance to have a quick one-on-one with someone new.
  7. The Interview: Think of this one as a more structured version of the speed dating example above. The way this icebreaker works is people split into teams of two, and they interview each other, asking each other questions about anything. At the end of the interview, each person has to come up with 3 interesting facts about the person they just interviewed. It’s a nice way to get to know someone.
  8. What’s My Name: I’m not that good at remembering people’s names, especially if it’s in a large group. This is a really simple, fun way to learn people’s names. The way it works is, each person says their name out loud with an adjective that begins with the same letter as the first letter of your name. Ideally, you call the person by that name for the rest of the day. Joyful Jacob? Jazzy Jacob?
  9. Would You Rather: This is one of my favorite games to play, and I play this one even when I’m not icebreaking. You go back and forth asking creative questions (often nonsensical) about whether the person would rather do X or Y. For example, would you rather eat nothing but insects for 3 meals straight, or not be able to watch TV for a year. It’s funny and light, which is always nice for relaxing the mood.
  10. World Geography: This ice breaker game really challenges people to think, which is always fun. I’m sure many of you reading this have played this game before, but the way it works is you say the name of a country, and then the next person has to say another country, starting with the last letter from the previous one. For example, Canada → America → Afghanistan → Nigeria…

Bonus Icebreaker – Twenty Questions: This game is so much fun, and I’ve played this one a lot on a long drives. The way it works is someone thinks of something, whether it be a person, place or thing, and everyone can ask Yes or No questions (for a total of 20) to figure out what it is.

Link to the original article

12 Most Effective Time Management Principles

We are getting more and more requests for training in time management and balancing multiple priorities across multiple roles in an increasingly always turned on world.  And much of our potential to enjoy time with the people most important will be ruined or hijacked completely if we are unable to make the time and space to fully with them in the first place.

This list by  creams some of the best techniques out there for making time work better, and if this is an issue for you, I hope you will find something here that you can add to your existing repertoire to help you feel more in control and on top of things…

1. Determine what is urgent and important

We’re all faced with a lot of different tasks that fight for our attention and time each day. How do you decide what is most worthy of your time? The best approach is to prioritize those tasks that are both urgent and important.

A task that is highly time sensitive is urgent. Important tasks may not be time sensitive, but they are valuable and influential in the long run.

Stephen Covey’s time management grid can be extremely helpful for seeing what tasks should be prioritized. A common mistake is to get bogged down with things that are urgent, but not necessarily important. By using the grid you can be sure that you’re focusing on things that will have a real impact.

2. Don’t over commit

If you’re someone that tends to say “yes” to every request for your time, you may find that all of these commitments prevent you from making effective use of your time. Make an effort to only commit to things that you can realistically accomplish with the time that you have available. You’ll also want to be sure that committing to something won’t prevent you from being able to do other things that are important to you.

3. Have a plan for your time

Each of us is different and not everyone works in the same way. I prefer to have a detailed to-do list that keeps me on task for each day and each week. Someone else may feel overwhelmed by a list of things to check off each day. Regardless of your approach or preferences, you need to have some method of planning your time. Not having a plan leads to a less efficient use of your time as you’ll wind up getting off task or working on things that really aren’t important. Find a system of planning that works for you and use it in your daily routine.

4. Allow time for the unexpected

It never fails that something unexpected will come up and demand your time and attention. No matter how well you plan your time, things are bound to come up — so make sure that you leave some time in your daily schedule. When I’m creating my to-do list for any given day, I tend to assign myself tasks that I anticipate will take about 75% of my time for the day. That leaves another 25% for tasks that take longer than anticipated or for unexpected things or emergencies that need to be addressed. Avoid the temptation to plan your time so full that you won’t be able to deal with important issues that arise.

5. Handle things once

Rather than dealing with something several different times before completing a task, make an effort to handle it only once. Email is a great example here. If you read through an email, make an effort to respond and take care of the issue at one time. I’ve found myself at times reading through emails and then deciding I’ll get back to it later. When I do get back to it, I have to read the email again and it winds up taking more time. Multiply that by several times throughout the day and it adds up. Whenever possible, handle it once and be done.

6. Create realistic deadlines

You may have deadlines for your work that are set by a boss or a client, but it’s also important to set deadlines of your own. If you do have deadlines from bosses or clients, it can be helpful to break up the project into smaller chunks and set deadlines to keep yourself on track. If you don’t have anyone giving you deadlines for your work, try setting your own deadlines.

In addition to simply having deadlines, it’s also important that these deadlines are realistic and will give you enough time to do your best work. If your boss or client is pushing for a deadline that isn’t realistic, explain why you need more time and the possible consequences of the project being rushed, and suggest a more realistic deadline.

7. Set goals for yourself and your time

Setting goals is an important part of achieving maximum efficiency. Your goals can include things that you want to accomplish in a particular day, week, month, or year. Goals can be used with major accomplishments or smaller tasks that are important to you. Whenever you’re setting goals, it’s best to set a date or deadline for achieving the goal.

8. Develop routines

Habits and routines can be quite powerful. When used effectively, routines can help you to get more done and to make better use of your time.

I use routines to take care of several small tasks that I need to do each day. First thing in the morning, I go through a routine that includes checking email and responding to messages received overnight, a few minutes of networking via social media, moderating comments on my blogs, publishing new content that has already been written and prepped, and a few other small tasks. The result of my routine is that I can get a lot of small tasks off my daily to-do list in a small amount of time right at the beginning of the day. After that, I can have the most productive part of my day for essential tasks that require more of my time and concentration.

9. Focus on one thing at a time

Multitasking is overrated. Sure, in theory it would be awesome to be able to do several different things at once, but the problem is that you won’t be able to do your best work when multitasking. If you focus on one thing at a time you can move through tasks quicker and the quality of your work will be better. Multitasking can lead to a lot of mistakes that you have to go back and correct later, which is wasted time.

10. Eliminate or minimize distractions

Distractions are all around us. If you’re working at home you may have distractions like kids, other family members, house guests, television, phone calls, and all kinds of personal responsibilities and tasks. If you work in an office you’ll probably have plenty of distractions from co-workers.

While it’s impossible to totally eliminate distractions, you can improve your situation by minimizing them or avoiding them whenever possible. For those who work at home, you can set up a dedicated office space with a door that you can close. In an office, you may want to go in to work early to get some distraction-free time before co-workers arrive, or maybe shift your lunch time so that you can get some peaceful time while most of your co-workers are away at lunch.

The key is to recognize the most significant distractions that are hurting your productivity, and then you can work towards solutions that will minimize their impact.

11. Outsource tasks or delegate when possible

Part of being efficient with your time involves deciding what tasks require your own attention. There may be things that could be done by someone else. Outsourcing work is a great option for freelancers and small business owners. Delegating responsibilities may be an option if you’re in management or if you’re part of a team.

Resources like Elance and oDesk are great for finding freelancers when you need to outsource some of your work. You can typically find qualified workers with very affordable rates, which allows you to dedicate your own time to tasks that may be more important to you.

12. Leave time for fun and play

While the purpose of time management is to use your time wisely and to improve efficiency, it’s also important that you don’t burn yourself out by working too much or too hard. Be sure to leave some time in your schedule to do things with friends and family, or even on your own. Getting time away from work is essential for dealing with stress, for refreshing your energy, and for living a balanced life.

Making efficient use of your time is important regardless of what type of job or career you have. If you can make even small improvements in your own time management, you’ll see noticeable results in terms of how much you can get done, the quality of your work, and your stress levels.

Link to the full original article

Living in “flow” – the secret of happiness

And here is a free ebook from Australia’s Think and Be Happy.  If you’re not already familiar with Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s groundbreaking work this is great introduction.  Csikszentmihalyi’s research investigates the conditions of optimum performance, from which he has given us the idea of FLOW ~ that state of complete absorption when we are totally immersed in what we are doing and time seems to both stand still and fly by, and we feel delightfully and rewardingly stretched to our finest capabilities…

You probably know what it’s like to not be in a state of flow. This can be when there’s a lot going on and you have to focus on many things at once. For example, if you’re cooking dinner and trying to help your teenager do their homework and catch up on some emailing all at once, chances are you’re not having a flow experience. How can you when your attention is so fragmented? Or maybe you’ve had a hectic day at work and are now zonked out semi comatose in front of the TV too tired even to switch channels even though you can’t stand reality TV shows. The point is none of these activities are engaging you fully. Not even close. Worse, in doing them you’re most likely feeling bored, distracted or irritated.

On the other hand, to be in flow is to be so engrossed in what you’re doing – and this can be in any activity although we often tend to associate this state with creative pursuits and elite sport – that literally nothing, not the passing of time, your full bladder or the fact that you haven’t eaten since breakfast, impinges on your awareness. And yep, as anyone who’s been in such a condition of single-minded immersion knows, you feel fabulous not least because it’s not about YOU for once, it’s about the thing that you’re doing.

Of course there’s a lot more to the psychological state of flow than that which is why we’ve dedicated an eBook to the topic.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about flow … based on the work of world leading psychologist Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Enjoy and share!

Link to download the free ebook

The complete guide to listening to music at work

By Adam Pasick

It has never been easier to tune in to your own customized soundtrack—or more necessary to tune out your open-office coworkers, cubicle mates, and fellow coffee-shop denizens. But not all music is created equal, especially when there’s work to be done. How should you choose the best office soundtrack for a given task? Which songs will help you get energized, focused, or creative—or even just through a very long day?

Let’s start with the basics.

Listening to music affects your brain

Putting on those headphones provides a direct pipeline from iTunes or Spotify into your auditory cortex. As the music plays, many different brain centers can be activated, depending on whether the music is familiar or new, happy or sad, in a major or minor key, or—perhaps most importantly for work purposes—whether it has lyrics or not.

Some tasks are easier with music playing…

Research shows that music goes best with repetitive tasks that require focus but little higher-level cognition. A landmark 1972 study in Applied Ergonomics found that factory workers performed at a higher level when upbeat, happy tunes were played in the background.

…and some are harder

Don’t fool yourself: Listening to music means that you are multitasking. Any cognitive resources that your brain expends—on understanding lyrics, processing emotions that are triggered by a song, or remembering where you were when you first heard it—won’t be available to help you work.

Studies have shown that reading comprehension and memorization both suffer when music is playing, for example. And just try putting numbers into a spreadsheet while listening to this:

Find the right balance

The downside of listening to music at work is that it places demands on your attention. The upside is it can make you feel more energetic and improve your mood. It’s also useful to drown out distracting background noises. The trick is to choose your music carefully, and match your tunes to the task.

For a cognitive boost, pick music that doesn’t have lyrics…

This makes intuitive sense to anyone who has listened to music at work, especially if your task is word-related. Your brain’s language centers can’t help but decipher the words you’re hearing, which makes it much harder to concentrate on, say, composing an email.

If you simply can’t find music without lyrics, you can pick something in a language that you don’t understand—like the invented “hopelandic” language used by the band Sigur Rós:

…and has a steady rhythm and mood

Your brain is a prediction machine, making a endless series of guesses about what’s going to happen next. When it comes to music at work, you don’t want your brain to spend cognitive resources predicting what it’s about to hear.

Listening to constant, relatively unchanging music—songs that don’t have a lot of emotional peaks and valleys, or changes in mood—has been shown to enhance some simple cognitive skills. Other research has shown that “low-information-load” music—simple tunes without a lot of complexity—have the strongest positive effect.

For instance, check out the steady, phased repetitions of “Music for Airports 1/1″ by Brian Eno:

Some studies suggest that major-key music (a song that sounds more happy than sad) makes time seem to pass more slowly. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how much you have to get done before you go home.

Don’t play music all the time

The widely cited 1972 study found that the benefits of music disappeared when it was constantly played. And sometimes your brain just needs all the cognitive resources it can get. One 1989 paper wryly noted that “complex managerial tasks are probably best performed in silence.”

Music as a pick-me-up

There’s an one category of workplace listening that has a totally different set of rules: the kind of listening you do when you’re tapping into the power of music to trigger an emotional response. Try playing a rock anthem or an action-movie soundtrack to jump-start your mood, or listen to a favorite song as a reward for a job well done. This gives you many of music’s cognitive benefits but without any of its distracting downsides.

Here’s one to play before a big meeting:

Hit shuffle for a dopamine rush

As mentioned above, your brain thrives on predicting the future, so throwing some randomness into the mix can reward you with a surge of the pleasurable neurotransmitter dopamine. To harness this neurological pharmacy, use a streaming music service like Spotify, Pandora, or Rdio to automatically serve up songs you might like.

Some of the best genres to work to

If you’re ready to experiment with what music best suits your work style, here are some suggestions (links to songs via Spotify):

  • Jazz: A massive variety of moods and tempos are available, most of them without lyrics. Try Miles DavisAlice Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk.
  • Classical: An even larger variety here. Many people swear by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for its elegantly mathematical processions and variations.
  • Minimalist composers: Repetitive by design, at their best they can induce just the sort of trance-like flow that you’re looking for. Try Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
  • Chill-out: The name is self-explanatory. Try Bonobo and Cinematic Orchestra. 
  • Ambient: You will barely know it’s there. Listen to Brian Eno or Aphex Twin.
  • Movie soundtracks: Use these to get your heart thumping, like the Top Gun theme song above; or find a particular mood with Daft Punk’s score for Tron or Trent Reznor’s for The Social Network.
  • Video game soundtracks: As one redditor observed, these are designed to keep you engaged without being too distracting. The London Symphony Orchestra recently recorded nearly two dozen, or there’s this spare, beautiful music from the game Minecraft.

Try the Quartz work playlist

And here is a playlist of songs, again via Spotify, that the Quartz staff picked as some of their favorites to listen to as they work (A version of the playlist in Rdio can be found here

Link to the original article 

UN International Day of Happiness: These people are way happier than you

Metro ran this story to celebrate the day with a series of looped videos that highlight moments of happiness in perpetual foreverness that we know of course is just not an option with real happiness.  But see if at least one of these doesn’t make you smile…

Today is the United Nation’s second International Day of Happiness. The UN wants us to remember that it’s friends, family and emotional well-being that actually make us happy, not cars and handbags. And then to share what makes us really happy with everyone else.

Which, if you’re not a fan of cute kitten pics, multiple exclamation marks and mega LOLs, might be making you consider shutting down your Instragram/Twitter/Facebook account and hiding in a dark place for the rest of the day.

Not a fan of organised happiness? Feeling a bit meh? Yep, these people are way happier than you today…

Link to see the gallery of stupidly happy people

Chemists discover secret to dark chocolate’s health benefits

by Monte Morin

Could this be the best news story yet…?

For years, chocolate lovers have remained blissfully unaware of the precise reason bittersweet dark chocolate seems to improve cardiovascular health. At least until, now that is.

On Tuesday, researchers at meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas said they had solved the confection conundrum: Specific chocolate-loving microbes in the gut convert an otherwise indigestible portion of the candy into anti-inflammatory compounds, they said…

“These little guys say, ‘Hey —   there’s something in there that I can use,’ and they start to break it down,” Finley said.

The smaller molecules that result from this fermentation can travel through the gut wall and be used by the body, researchers said.

“These materials are anti-inflammatory and they serve to prevent or delay the onset of some forms of cardiovascular disease that are associated with inflammation,” Finley said.

A number of short-term studies conducted in recent years have suggested that dark chocolate can cause blood vessels to dilate, and thus lower blood pressure, although this is not the case with white chocolate and milk chocolate.

Finley said that the amount of cocoa powder that appeared to produce beneficial effects was about two tablespoons a day.

One of the issues involving dark chocolate, Finley said,  was the amount of sugar and fat that chocolate candy contained. He said you could avoid those substances by putting cocoa powder on oatmeal, as he does…

Link to the original article

Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: The long reach of reason

And lastly, here is a rather wonderful animation of a debate about relative importance of our intuition and feelings or our reason for the successful flourishing of our species.  It’s packed with ideas but in this heightened pictorial representation, the ideas sing.

Here’s a TED first: an animated Socratic dialogue!

In a time when irrationality seems to rule both politics and culture, has reasoned thinking finally lost its power? Watch as psychologist Steven Pinker is gradually, brilliantly persuaded by philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein that reason is actually the key driver of human moral progress, even if its effect sometimes takes generations to unfold. The dialogue was recorded live at TED, and animated, in incredible, often hilarious, detail by Cognitive.

Enjoy.  And see if you agree with their final confusions…?

Happiness At Work edition #89

All of these stories – and many more – are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #89

Link to the Happiness At Work collection

Engagement At Work – a reflection of being in and out of flow

photo by Sue Ridge: 'sunbathing grape'

photo by Sue Ridge  ‘sunbathing grape’

I am just coming out of three months of making my first eLearning training programme. It has been huge, intense, wonderful, knackering, all-consuming, richly rewarding and quite definitely the hardest work I have done in one concentrated quarter of a year for a very long time.

At the end of each video I invite participants – still my preferred identity for the people who come to learn with me – to reflect back over what they most remember and want to take and use from their experience. And I decided it might be useful and of some interest, too, I hope, to step myself through these questions.

And I cannot even begin to want to do this to and for myself alone, and so I am using this post as a platform to come sit for a moment to reflect back out loud over what has been a huge three months of learning, making, experimenting, producing, crafting, failing, repeating, reworking, labouring and finessing this nearly-finished-now programme of learning videos.

Just like making a show in a multitude of ways, and completely different and unfamiliar for me in one ineluctable aspect: making a show is entirely collaborative and this experience has been entirely solo.

Question 1: What happened? What do I most remember from this experience? What stands out as significant or especially memorable?

I remember having to keep learning something new, every day, then every week. And every time I thought I’d learned everything I needed to produce this work, discovering something else I hadn’t realised I didn’t know that I needed to learn or figure out or muddle my way through or solve or fix or experiment with until I found a way to make it work. I love learning and this played right into one of my top strengths, but there were days when I felt like you can have too much of a good thing.

The programme itself consists of 6 x 70minute videos of me talking to powerpoint slides. My learning curve has been stretched to the maximum for weeks. First I had to learn all the technical skills of powerpoint (as complex as you want to make it), Quicktime screen recording (very simple) and iMovie video editing (a series of failed experiments and a great deal of scrolling through online Help conversations not really knowing what question to ask to get the solution I needed.) And there is still far more I do not know and will probably never know about video making than the tiny bit I now do know. I know that people who really know about these things would be able to do things with them in a trace of a moment and make them better. But I learned enough to make what I wanted to make good. And I learned that that was good enough.

But then I realised with a kind of Mr Stupid clunk, that in all my years of making and delivering learning programmes, I’ve never really been the expert at the podium with all the answers. I excel at participative facilitative learning. People don’t pay us to come and tell them all the things I know, they pay me to help them unlock and extend what they know and can do. So, although I joyfully help dozens of people become more persuasive and compelling speakers, I have never concentrated on delivering seminar or presentation-based teaching. This demands thinking through and ordering and finding the right articulation of all the theory and the ideas and learning you want to bring in advance and in the absence of the people it is designed to provide for. This involves making and sticking with a zillion decisions about the development and contours and cadences of the story to be told, enriching and vitalising it with the right images and preparing carefully constructed sentences. I thrive and am energised by keeping lots of different options in the air, multiplicity and then interactively weaving out meanings with the people in the room from the ideas we are creating in the space between us. Proactive independent decision making and narrowing and fixing things down are not my strong suit nor my preferred operating style, and this, more than anything else, exhausted me. I am good-on-my feet and being in-the-moment and I did initially try to make these speaking extemporaneously. The takes were hours long and then even the heavily and lengthily edited final results just sounded uncertain, graceless and irritatingly arhythmic and idiosyncratic. While I would never teach scripting a presentation, this turned out to be the winning solution, but this meant that I had to bring everything I had from my actor’s training to make it fly off the page.

‘Being in flow’ has always had a performance sensibility about it for me: the flow of a good conversation, the flow of ideas being conjured in the act of talking and listening together, the improvisational “yes – and…” (accept and build) flow of being in a group and riding the wave of what is actually happening as it is actually happening in the live here-and-now, the flow of movement, flux, emergence, dialogue, co-creation. Collaboration. This was altogether different, and it took me a surprisingly (now I think of it) long time to recognise that just because I was making this thing at 2am on a cold dark January night didn’t mean it still didn’t have to feel for the listener that it was being thought and spoken and presented as a compelling idea or an invitational springboard in that moment of them hearing it. I tried to remember (and steal from) what playwrights do. And designers do. And directors do. I could have done a lot more stealing from what stage managers do to galvanise and co-ordinate and plan and keep on track my scheduling and logistics, but I suppose I can accept being a one-person team means some things are going to fall short.

But it was a great advantage to have performance making to pull from.

And I have (nearly) got there. I have done it and I’m proud of what I’ve made. Time and the programme participants will tell with more authority on this but I dare to believe trying to practice what I teach has served me well.

As well as this I remember images: hundreds of pictures I have searched through looking for the best (creative commons licensed for commercial use) images to convey the multiplicity of ideas this programme incorporates: happiness, engagement, great relationships, meaning & accomplishment, positivity & creativity, and resilience at work are my six titles to give you a flavour of the ground I have tried to cover. And searching for the right image for each slide that is hopefully not too obvious nor too obscure, evocative without being just weird, and meaningful without being cliched has been one of the most exhausting and satisfying parts of this experience. My primary creativity is not visual, and yet it has been an immense and constant pleasure to have continually had to immerse myself in pictures and be repeatedly stimulated by all their colour and wonderful metaphor.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 1

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 1

So, above all else it seems, I remember learning, constantly and consciously in a way that I haven’t done for years.

Question 2: What new meanings, insights or conclusions can I take from any of this experience?

I have learned that, despite being a devoted follower of the less-is-more principle, I continue to be rubbish at practicing it.

I have learned that despite my love of going-with-the-flow and being spontaneous and gregarious, when I am working alone I become a zealot of perfectionism (my not-very-detailed version of it) and capable of working myself beyond and then some anything I would accept from another human being, or expect of another human being.

I have learned again that I am not at my best in extended periods of working in solitude and that I really do need to keep getting out into the world and interacting with people to keep my energy levels restocked, and my focus open and alert to incoming wide-range signals, and my sense of perspective balanced and broader than the minute ramifications of whether to align a photo credit along the left or the right hand margin. Oh yes – and that I continue to be utterly dependent upon feedback (read ‘praise’) to really know if what I am doing is good or not and to feel that what I am doing has any worth or purpose. (how do you introverts do it? how do you writers do it???) Happily I have been luxuriously favoured by my client and devoted family with enough cheering to keep me going, but I do realise that, in the absence of regular, emphatic and high quality appreciation, I could easily run myself into the doldrums and get lost in drift. (I heard in a documentary about Blondie that when rock performers get a level of repeated popularity and excitement from their audiences it helps them to hone and polish what they do. I get this. I learn best from praise and affirmation. Don’t we all? Give me the new 5-to-1 positivity ratio please. I will be so much better at responding productively to one criticism when it comes with 5 specific convincingly conveyed compliments. This is also perhaps what makes making fringe theatre great so impossibly hard – there is never enough performances to really polish a show in collaboration with its audiences: you work for months making it and you get it as good as you possibly can in the 7, 14 or 21 performances it gets to play. This isn’t enough to really find its proper orchestration. But I digress too far off road here…)

I have learned, too, and despite asserting the contrary case in one of the videos, that I can run out of creativity. By Module 6 I had squeezed out every last possible idea for what materials to include or leave out, in what order, with what images, framed alongside which model and with which ideas clustered together. But that this was only temporary and already my mind is percolating next and new ideas and making new possibilities and dreams for me to play with and/or chase down. So scratch that – it’s true – we don’t use up our creativity, or if we do run it dry, it restocks itself automatically.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 2

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 2

I have reconfirmed that engagement really is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines in his idea of ‘being in flow’, and is best experienced for me when I am deeply and completely immersed in a creative project that I care about stretched to the outer limits of my capabilities and able to spend uninterrupted periods of time being fully absorbed in what I am doing without competition from other demands. And that I am very lucky to have a husband who insists on pulling me out of this state at least once every day to eat and appreciate his delicious cooking. (And as an extra bonus I have learned to approximate the right pronunciation of Csikszentmihalyi, altho I have had to teach and rely on my spellchecker to spell it for me.)

And I have reconfirmed the irreplaceable reliability of my unconscious brain to bring me some of my best insights and ideas, but only if and when I take my foot off the pedal for a bit a make a space to hear the messages it is sending through. This means for me not drowning it in exhausted sleep – my project dreams tend to be fierce re-firings of existing ideas and anxieties. And it is not drowning it out with the noise of other media. TV and radio help me to fall asleep when my brain is on overdrive but they do not yield me any new insights. What works for me is my Qigong exercise and my fledgling novice mindfulness attempts to drop my thinking into my breathing and just stay with that. Then the thoughts fly out and at me, but I am learning that the best ones will hang around in my consciousness, ready and waiting to be worked with after my exercise. I did not manage to make this time nearly as much as I wanted to or aimed to but I made it more than I might have. And this too was good enough.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 3

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 3

Question 3: What could I do as result of any of this learning? How can I use or apply any of these ideas? Who could I share any of my learning with?

I have been able to use in practice many of the principles and techniques that I have been championing in my teaching and this has been doubly good: good for me to confirm experientially that they seem to hold up and bring real benefit in their application, and good for me to get the benefits they have provided. Techniques taken from Positive Psychology such as knowing and playing to my Signature Strengths to optimise my performance and productivity, and the capabilities of resilience that I have been able to draw from when the going’s got tough, such as staying resolutely and, hopefully, realistically optimistic and facing my fears. And, too trusting my creativity and using my slow emergent collage-based way of making to incrementally sculpt out the matter from the materials I was working with. To not need to be original in everything but, again I hope, to be original enough.

All of these capabilities become better with practice. So I will aim to keep practicing. And to keep making my practice better. And to remember to keep alive and as true as I can the artist’s holy discipline of being a practitioner.

And this above all others… Whatever aspect of happiness you look at you will find the predominant necessity of having strong relationships, to give and receive love and support.. It is key to our happiness and success at work as much as it is central to our health and being able to live a flourishing life, as it is, too, to building and sustaining resilience. This has been an especially tough time for some of the people I love most in the world – way beyond any of the challenges I have been facing in this piece of work – and it has been essential and nourishing for me to be a part of their lives and actively involved and exercised in getting their love and giving them mine.

So then this above all others – to remember in less heightened times that the people in my life are my life. They make me possible and they make matter. Not for who I am or anything I may do, but for what happens between us, in our connections and in how this affects and changes us. This surely is the finest flow to be in, and, if I am to have another time working in solitude I hope to remember that this must be without withdrawing too far from the people I love. Memo to self: the less collaborative your work activity the more engaged you better make the rest of your time.

As to the last part of this question, in this instant that turns out to be you dear reader. And thank you for your interest.

The question: “who could you share this with?” is exactly the kind of question we learning facilitators love to hand out to the people we work with, but are perhaps less likely to take up ourselves. Or at least I am. Which is what got me writing this piece, as a way to try and unravel and uncover a little more intelligence about what has just happened and what it means and what it could lead to than I might have scooped down to notice without stepping through these questions. This is why we give out these questions, And extraverted me needs an audience to have any reason to start to talk before I hurtle off into whatever will be next.

Actually, what will be next for me is learning to facilitate live online webinars as part of the weekly provision of learning elements that accompany the programme I have just made and packed into modular video instalments.

And in this, very much like making a show, the programme is only just being begun. Just as a show needs its audience to truly discover itself and find its real worth in the interplay and rhythms that happen between performance and audience, now my learning programme will have to find its actual relevance and interest and usefulness and enjoyment in the weave that happens in the space where learners – participants – bring their questions and existing knowledge and challenges and expectations to the programme I have made for them. It is, I am pleased to remind myself, only there and then that this programme exists and has a life. Let the new experience begin…

Thank you for listening. This has been a good thing for me to do. And I wouldn’t have done it without you.

If you want to find out more about your own top Signature Strengths, I like this VIA Me online self-assessment questionnaire a lot. It will give you a free report of your ranked order of the 24 character strengths based on the five virtues of Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence and Wisdom. Our top 5 are our Signature Strengths, and the guide is that exercising our Signature Strengths is a really great way to increase our sense of being in flow, as well as giving us increased energy, happiness and fulfilment, confidence, energy and resilience. (This site also offer an option to purchase a more detailed report.)

Link to VIA Me Character Strengths Profile

The programme I made and will continue to lead is called the Mini MBA in Peak Performance and Productivity, and will launch in mid-February from the IME: inspire motivate and engage online learning platform. If you’re interested in this do let me know and I will make sure you get any updates about it.

Link to the IME; inspire motivate and engage website

This post was originally written for Shaking Out – the Shaky Isles Theatre blog

Happiness At Work Edition #84

And you will find more stories about learning, creativity, productivity, self-mastery and happiness at work in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #84

Link to read Happiness At Work #84

photo by Sue Ridge: the view from Guy's Hospital cancer centre

photo by Sue Ridge:
the view from Guy’s Hospital cancer centre

Happiness At Work #83 – what’s the number 1 attribute that helped you to be successful?

What’s the #1 attribute that helped you get where you are in your career?

This is a question Forbes writer Christine Perkettgave13 successful women.

They answered…

  • a sense of adventure
  • tenacity 
  • learning to write
  • physical energy
  • being relentless
  • curiosity
  • heart
  • flexibility
  • tenacity (again)
  • resilience
  • commitment

One Thing That Got Me Here: Tips From Successful Women In Business, Music, Technology, Culinary Arts And More

Here is some fresh bright wisdom we can all learn something from:

All of these ladies inspire me – and I believe they’ll inspire you to chase your dreams, combine business savvy with your passion, and in general, live a “go for it” life – despite what advertisers, men and the rest of the world try to tell you what you can or cannot do. One common theme you’ll see? Do. Not. Give. Up.

What’s the #1 attribute that helped you get where you are in your career?

Link to read the full original article

This week’s Happiness At Work Edition #83 collection features a special section of stories about creativity.

Our lead story offers some really helpful ideas about the link between creativity and continuous learning, and how we can keep this alive and happening in our organisations, and for ourselves too.

Cultivate a Learning Mindset: Creativity

BY KEVIN WASHBURN

Creativity. The word stirs and scares us. We associate it with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Barrie’s Peter Pan, Botticelli’s Temptations of Christ, and other incomparable artistic achievements. But creativity empowers more than art; it is found wherever success and effectiveness thrive, and in organisations characterised by a learning mindset…

We don’t have to be Beethoven to allow creativity to help us and our organisations produce exceptional results. As with many things, how we think, how we approach our work, and how we use our resources determines our continued vitality…

Dis- & Re-

Creativity arises from a readiness to dis- and re-assemble. Researcher and author Nancy Andreasen suggests this willingness is key to creative thinking: “…during the creative process the brain begins by disorganizing, making links between shadowy forms of objects or symbols or words or remembered experiences that have not been previously linked. Out of this disorganization, self-organization eventually emerges and takes over in the brain. The result is a completely new and original thing: a mathematical function, a symphony, or a poem.” Creative thinkers eagerly break apart entities—both concrete and conceptual—and reassemble the pieces in new ways to craft or express something in a novel way…

Such readiness in practicing professionals keeps individuals and organizations growing. Healthy institutions know what works today may not work tomorrow. When results from the status quo diminish, a readiness to dis- and re-assemble is a positive vital sign.

Working for the New

Disassembling may reveal a need for new tactics rather than a restructuring of established practices. Perspective, more than any other factor, influences the success of new ideas. When individuals possess a willingness to work on establishing something new, results can exceed expectations…

Organizations with learning mindsets keep what works while learning new routes to increased effectiveness. They have a willingness to work for something new.

Equipping & Enabling

Growth is free, but sparking it often requires investing. Organizations treasuring a learning mindset devote resources to equipping and enabling their most valuable assets: their people. Failing to devote time, energy, and yes, money, to professional development indicates an institution in decline. While professional growth can and should be a personal pursuit, it is beneficial for us to be challenged by others, by individuals we may not encounter via social media or even books and graduate classes. These sparks can move minds, making new solutions and new approaches more likely.

Link to read the full original article

Here are 7 more stories we think you might like to know about:

Procrastination is a mindfulness problem

By Leo Babauta

We all procrastinate, and by and large, we all know the solutions to our procrastination…

…clarify what task is most important, clear away everything but this more important task, clarify my motivations for this task, break it down into something smaller and easier if I feel difficulty.

These aren’t hard solutions.

But they don’t work unless you’re aware of what you’re doing.

You can’t step back to clarify what your Most Important Tasks are unless you realize you’re procrastinating in the first place. You can’t break a task into small steps unless you realize you’re dreading the task. You can’t clear away distractions unless you realize you’ve been following the urge to go to these distractions.

Awareness is everything with procrastination. The problem isn’t finding solutions to procrastination — it’s being aware of what’s going on in the first place.

Once we know what’s happening, the fixes are (fairly) easy.

The problem isn’t just being aware of what’s going on — it’s remembering to be aware. This remembering is what mindfulness is about. Too often we forget to be aware.

So let’s talk about the awareness of what’s going on when we procrastinate, and then how to remember

Awareness of What’s Going On

So what’s going on when we procrastinate? Try these:

  • Following urges to distraction. We get the habitual urge to check email or social media or news. Or we get the urge to go to something easier, more comfortable. The urges can be beat if we are aware they’re happening.
  • Dreading hard tasks. Our minds tend to focus on the hard parts of tasks that we’re procrastinating on. Without thinking too much about them, we label these tasks as hard, scary, overwhelming, time-consuming. If we’re aware of this, we can solve each of these problems — hard tasks can be broken into easier ones.
  • Fear. Procrastination is often about fear — fear of failure, fear of success, self-doubts. But we don’t often know that this fear is even there — we just act on the fear. Fears, once we’re aware of them, can be beaten by the light of day. When we see fears out in the open, in the light, we can see they’ve been overblown in our minds. The worst-case scenario of failure is often not that bad when we really think about it.
  • Not being motivated. Lots of times we forget our motivation for doing a hard task. Why are we putting ourselves through this suffering? It’s way easier to put it off and do other “important” things instead. But when we remind ourselves of our motivation, we can focus. So we have to be aware that our motivation isn’t clear, or that we’ve forgotten what that motivation is in the face of discomfort.
  • Not being clear on priorities. What tasks are more important? It’s hard to know when you’re caught up in the flow of things, just doing things left and right, quickly switching between tasks, and so on. Everything seems important. But when we step back and think about what matters most, what will make the most difference in the world and in our lives, we can see what we need to focus on, to make time for. We can’t step back unless we’re aware that we’re getting caught up in less important tasks.
  • Compulsively checking things. Often we compulsively check email, social media, blogs, news sites, etc. We have those tabs open all the time and go and check them every few minutes. Why? What need are we fulfilling? Often it’s a need to be up-to-date on everything, a fear that we might miss something. And often it’s just the temporary pleasure of getting something new in our inboxes, of finding something interesting/pleasurable.

These are some of the more common examples of what’s going on when we procrastinate. But how do we become aware? How do we remember to be aware?

How to Remember

The problem with remembering to be aware is that we get caught up in our moment-to-moment actions. Once we open a computer, for example, a series of habitual responses kicks in and we’re suddenly in the deep end. It could be hours before we come up for air and realize we’ve been procrastinating.

So what we need are a set of tools for remembering.

Here are the ones that tend to work for me:

  1. Recognition of harm. The first thing you need to admit is that the procrastinating is actually doing bad things to you — if we think it’s not a big problem, we won’t take any of the other steps listed below. So what harm is the procrastination causing? Well, it might be stopping you from achieving your dreams or big goals, from pushing your boundaries and learning new things. It might be causing you anxiety, and making your work suffer.
  2. Commitment. Making a commitment to being aware is a great tool for remembering. What kind of commitment? You can write it on a piece of paper and look at it every morning. Or tell someone else about it. Post it on your blog or Twitter. Have someone check on you weekly. Whatever you do, commit as seriously as you can.
  3. Setting intentions. As you start an activity, like opening your email or starting to write something, or even opening your computer or starting your day, pause to think about what your intention is with that activity. Make an intention to be mindful and notice your procrastination. Setting intentions doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll actually achieve what you set out to do, but it helps. And it helps you to learn to get better at that with practice.
  4. Reminders. Every hour or two, have a reminder that helps you to check in to see if your actions match your intention, to remember to be aware of what’s been going on with your procrastination.
  5. Recognize signals. There are signs that you’re procrastinating — anxiety about your tasks, compulsively checking things, a rising urge to go do something other than the present task. These signs might be physical (tightness in your chest, for example) or they might be certain actions (checking email) — but you can learn to recognize them with time. They are flags, waving and telling you that something is going on. Notice the flags, and check in to see what’s going on.

These aren’t things you can master in one day. They take practice, and they take commitment. But if you can solve the mindfulness problem, procrastination becomes a much more manageable beast.

Link to read the original article

10 Trends Change Leaders Can’t Ignore in 2014

Leading or participating in a change is likely one of your biggest challenges in 2014. Here are ten trends that will cause waves this year. Ask yourself:

1) What can I learn about this trend?

2) What opportunities does it present in my organization?, and

3) How can I incorporate this trend in our change today?

Trends in What We Want:

1. Desire for Meaning

Meaning and purpose build a lasting commitment to change—not just compliance or reaching a metric. Meaning is defined as a commitment to something bigger than self. Today there is a growing emphasis on ‘what’s in it for us’ more than just ‘what’s in it for me’ which can have a very short shelf life.

2. The Real Deal

In our over-advertised, Photo-shopped, create-your-brand culture, it is expected that ‘who you are’ and ‘who you say you are’ align. Authenticity—the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intention – is essential for anyone building commitment to a change. It’s also an essential ingredient in finding meaning in our work.

3. Fast and Bite-sized

There is growing evidence that social media and changing technology are rewiring our brains with shorter attention spans than ever before. And, the exploding trend toward mobile means we are engaged all of the time, but not for long. The forty page presentations and lengthy emails aren’t the answer.

4. Customised By Me For Me

We design our own car features and phones, custom build athletic shoes, and create a display of our unique interests on Pinterest. This growing trend drives the shift from “one size fits all”, or your market segment, to “one size fits me”. Individuals want the bigger meaning, but the application must be individualized to stick.

5. Grapevine Becomes Primary

The grapevine, or word of mouth, is becoming the communication channel of choice. Research tells us that we listen to the recommendations of those we know much more than to campaigns or packaged communications. According to an Ernst & Young study, “Peer recommendations—not paid-for advertising, whether on social media platforms or in print—are what count.” Your change needs a word of mouth strategy.

6. Retro Communication

As we spend more hours in front of a screen, the more unique human interaction becomes. We use technology for convenience, speed, efficiency and even cost. Human interaction can be simple or obvious, yet is often forgotten.  Direct human interaction is a key differentiator that drives engagement and positive word of mouth. Know when technology works for you and when it gets in your way.

Trends that Affect How We Work Together:

7. Upside-Down Hierarchy

Social media has had a dramatic effect on leveling the playing field by allowing anyone to have a voice, platform and a following. Our stories and information don’t need to be filtered through an “expert” or an official source. The hierarchy and the command-and-control environment in business are giving way to a culture with more flexible and collaborative leadership unrelated to title or years of experience. An organic, flexible change plan is essential.

8. Peer Power

Crowd funding allows anyone to be an investor. Companies like Lego are crowdsourcing ideas for new designs from customers and there are increasing avenues to share our assets with each other. A self-created group can solve, invest and share without a traditional hierarchy. Find areas of your change that can be crowd sourced and designed by a broader group and then act upon it. You’ll drive up engagement.

9. Virtual Reality

Technology continues to enable a new era of virtual collaboration and sharing. Virtual collaboration from anywhere in the world can be a strategic advantage in your change rather than a challenge to be managed.  While not new, the virtual opportunity is so often underplayed.

10.  Demographic Tsunami 

In the four generation workplace, millennials will make up approximately 36 percent of the 2014 U.S. workforce and become almost half by 2020. Boomers are retiring at record numbers. For the first time a generation is entering the workforce engaged in technology well beyond what their employers use today. We all know this demographic change is upon us, yet are we redefining how we start and lead changes as a result? Our success will depend on it.

Link to read the full original article

Answering the Question: ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’

By 

What’s the first question exchanged when we meet someone new? You guessed it:“So… What do you do?”

In our culture, what you do for a living is inextricably tied to society’s perception of your worth. A stable job with a good salary is highly regarded, but we often look less lovingly upon the self-trained artist or entrepreneur who gives blood, sweat, and tears to make their vision possible.

Why is this? Is the number on your paycheck the true meaning of success?

 Instead of focusing on money or power, let’s focus on what’s fundamental: happiness and a sense of purpose. These two elements drive us to do more than status or material gain.

People don’t succeed by migrating to a particular industry or job. They thrive by getting curious about answering questions about who they really are and doing work they truly love. In doing so, they unleash unthinkable creative and productive energy. To truly be happy, our work must have meaning.

This is not a new idea. For decades, psychologists have known that humans are more motivated by personally meaningful goals than by external rewards such as money or status. Put simply: When you love what you do, it shows. You’re lit up by your passion, you put in extra effort, you’re a source of great ideas. Others envy your confidence.

Remember that 95% of the time finding oneself doesn’t happen in one major epiphany. Clarity comes in fits and spurts. Passion evolves.

All of us are born with innate strengths and aptitudes. Nurture your interests and have patience when finding ways to exercise passion for something — even if you don’t see a way to make money from it yet. Be persistent and remain open to the possibilities.

The first step is to simply explore your whims — those little sparks of interest you’re not sure what to make of yet. To help you figure out what you find meaningful and inspiring in your life, try this exercise:

Get out some blank paper or open a fresh computer file. Write for a minimum of five minutes straight. Do not censor yourself. Write freely. Jot down whatever comes to mind, no matter how silly or unformed the idea seems.

  • Name the top 3 peak experiences in your life. What do they have in common?  What does this tell you about yourself?
  • What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
  • What are your strengths and values?
  • If money weren’t a problem, what would you spend your every day doing?
  • What would you be doing if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  • What’s your favorite way to spend your free time?
  • What have you done in your life that you are especially proud of?
  • What activity are you doing when it feels like time just flies by?
  • When do you feel the most alive?
  • What kind of impact do you want to have?
  • What kind of professional and personal breakthroughs do you want to experience?
  • What are things (a language, a sport) you want to learn?
  • How do you envision you will leave your goal or legacy on people’s lives?
  • What are you excited, happy, and enjoying most in your liferight now?

Life isn’t predictable. Often the path to success isn’t clear-cut. The real secret to success is embracing life’s twists and turns. By dispelling limiting beliefs, you’re igniting a fire to help your interests grow and thrive. So the next time someone asks you, “What do you do for a living,?” you won’t have to know the final answer, but you’ll already be taking the next step.

Link to read the original article

All of Your Employees Hate Performance Reviews

Try to divide your employees into two groups: those who enjoy their annual performance reviews, and those who don’t. Turns out you can’t do that–they all hate performance reviews.

The study suggests that employers should realize that nobody, regardless of how they say they like to learn, is all that happy to be critiqued, so employers might consider framing their feedback in a more positive light…

You might also consider offering solutions and avoiding negative terms (like “don’t” or “shouldn’t”) in your feedback.

The results of the study should not cause you to devalue feedback. In fact, a Gallup study found that employees who receive negative feedback are 20 times more likely to be engaged than employees who receive no feedback at all.

A more realistic approach might just be to recognize and accept that no one’s going to jump for joy over a performance review. That doesn’t preclude looking for ways to improve the process, though, such as by reviewing teams rather than individuals.

Link to read the full original article

The Two Words That Will Lead You To Success And Happiness

The word “yes” leads to happiness.

The word “no” leads to success.

“Yes” creates opportunity. Saying yes a lot makes more things happen.

“No” creates focus.

Adam Grant has days where the door is closed, the answer is no, and important work gets done.

Other days are designated for new initiatives, helping others, and the answer is yes, yes, yes.

There’s a level of trial and error to see what works for you personally but this type of deliberate split is the first step to work/life balance…

Link to read the full original article

How a Happy Life Checklist Can Change Your Life

And here is a lovely 2minute video that might just breathe a little extra happiness into your day (even is we’re not at the beach on holiday).

Happiness At Work Edition #83

You will find all of these stories and more in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection

CB043083

Happiness At Work #82 ~ breaking the binaries

photo credit: psd via photopin cc

photo credit: psd via photopin cc

Breaking the binaries is one of the ideas that has emerged during some wonderful facilitation work I am doing with Rajni Shah Projects.  You know – like right or wrong, good or bad, true or false, task or relationship, reason or feelings, happy or sad, your way or my way, here or not here…?  And I am carrying the invitation to break the insistence of these enforced choices into this week’s Happiness At Work  headline theme:

How much of our thinking is governed by either/or expectations?
And what does this leave out, or push us into or away from, or force us into making unnecessarily limited or just plain bad decisions and choices?

The following stories from this week’s collection all play with this theme somehow, across of spectrum of different contexts, from debunking the myths that separate creative people from analytical people, and several stories that rattle the supposed high income OR do-what-you-really-love career choice we are supposed to have to make, and a couple of different stories that trouble some of our assumptions about what employees should do to impress and delight their managers and what managers should be thinking and doing in today’s organisations, and a fresh look at how to think intelligently and helpfully about getting and keeping a good work-life balance.

I am headlining with this post written by our lovely friend Stella Duffy, questioning a great deal of what we assume are fixed either/or alternatives in our work…

photo credit: sara~ via photopin cc

photo credit: sara~ via photopin cc

Stella Duffy publicly outed her new breast cancer this week, and, in doing so, breaks a whole rulebook of unwritten (and quite probably rotten) conventions about keeping illness hidden and private and ‘away from work’ (now there’s a phrase that needs interrogating).  In the same week as Radio 4’s Women’s Hour also highlighted professional women who speak out about having cancer, Stella courageously challenges our stereotypes about how ill people are, or or are supposed to be.  Perhaps this is especially so for women, historically expected to suffer invisibly in silence and carry their loads without any palaver to bother our expectations for keeping business-as-usual.  Her honest unapologetic straightforwardly “this is just how it is announcement” challenges, too, our probably outmoded ideas about the relationship between illness and work, and recovery and work, as well as resilience and work.

And it makes me wonder just how many working women are out there in the world at this moment, doing extraordinary work and making small and wonderful miracles happen, beneath an enforced mask of inordinate difficulty and hardness in another part of their lives?  Men too.  But today I am wondering about the unheard unseen experiences the women of the world are quietly carrying, to the benefit of the rest of us?

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

my news (and onwards)

So. I have breast cancer again.
This is rubbish, depressing, worrying and also kind of amazing – 14 years since the last one! My body (and the medics) did good…

Please don’t tell me to rest. Why? IF this is a bad one (and we won’t know until post-surgery) why on earth would I live my life any less than I’m already doing? Work (writing, speaking, Fun Palaces) is not WORK, as in a horrible thing, to me. It is WORK, as in what I care about, what I believe in, what I am driven to do and passionate for, what I am living for. I AM passionate and driven. I do not see these as bad things. (And yes, of course I’ll rest post-surgery, but after that, no, I won’t be cutting back on LIVING.)

What does it do to Fun Palaces? Nothing at all, except make me even more passionate about inclusion, engagement. Can we get more hospitals engaged? Can we enthuse more venues to engage with medical scientists? Can we make sure our Fun Palaces are accessible for sick and/or disabled people too? Can we do it all, and more? (Also had a wonderful conversation about Fun Palaces and arts and medicine with doc WHILE he was taking biopsy the other day. Really inspiring and hopeful for our professions, our missions, working together.)

There’s also a brilliant team of already-engaged, already-enthused volunteer Fun Palaces maker-mates, who are ready and willing to take over the email-answering while I have a couple of weeks to get my strength back post-op. (But hey, post-op from-bed emailing is what laptops are all about, right?!)

And of course there is Sarah-Jane. My work partner, my friend, my co-believer in the brilliance, strength and NECESSITY of the project. If I happen to be too tired to come to those speaking engagements we’ve already talked about, she’ll do it. Fun Palaces is hers too….

What does it do to my writing work? Nothing at all. It all stays on track, new book to deliver (third draft!) to agent in spring. And I’m totally up for all the same events/workshops etc as soon as I’m recovered from surgery. The mentoring continues – that one can be done prone!

What does it do to my directing work? See above. Working on the new idea with Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence will continue. Work with Shaky Isles will continue. Times and people are flexible and willing.

So, finally, what does it do to my life? Everything and nothing.

I had cancer 14 years ago. It was terrifying and awful. In many ways the worst part about it was that chemo led to my early infertility and me not being able to be a mother.

Having had cancer means I’m fore-armed. I know loads now. I know my surgeon and breast care nurse. I know they know me. I do not have to persuade them that I’m freelance and need to work. They know that, just like last time, I have no sick pay. And unlike last time, I’m not about to go to the US to do a show (and taking chemo with me!)

I have never felt like I was “all clear”. I had a grade 3 breast cancer, surgery, chemo and radiotherapy at 36. OF COURSE I have always known it might come back. I think my body has done so well to get me this far. I trust it will get me through this and on to the next part of my life.

It is horrible for Shelley, it is horrible for my family and friends, it is horrible for me. None of us wants to go through pain and illness.

BUT, even when I’m down and sad about this (and I have been, and will no doubt be again), I know I have waves of love and determination coming at me from those who love and care for me.

I know I have a HUGE dream – the Fun Palaces project – to achieve. I believe that my being ill now can feed that dream, can help us make even better Fun Palaces, more inclusive Fun Palaces, I don’t think this will detract from the project at all, not my ability to create it, nor OUR ability to make it the best we ALL can.

Link to read the original  article

photo credit: Eric Fischer via photopin cc

photo credit: Eric Fischer via photopin cc

Earning vs. Happiness: The Mutually Exclusive Myth

by , Author of ‘Being Human‘, International Speaker, and Life Coach

At what age did you go from being loved unconditionally to feeling that you have to earn someone’s love? Conversely, how old do you have to become to automatically earn respect? I believe the whole earning concept is at the bottom of many of our self-worth issues. Think about it.

I understand the notion of earning an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, but where did that translate into earning a living? The thought that we are not good enough to enjoy the good life until we have accomplished a goal (a number on the scale; the honor roll; acceptance into a particular college; a sales target or a salary; a square footage in our home) sets us up to feel inadequate from the start. Even if we persevere long enough to reach our chosen goal, more often than not, we are still unhappy. Perhaps our goal wasn’t high enough, and we then feel inadequate for setting such a feeble goal. If your inner critic is half as mean as mine, you don’t need to feel any more inadequate.

I am not, by any means, saying that we should not leap out of our comfort zones, aspire for great things, hold ourselves to a higher standard and strive for excellence. After all, I’m a coach and I help people do this on a daily basis. But what happened to enjoying your life while pursuing your goals? Why have we self-imposed this weighty condition that we will never be good enough until we have earned our happiness, our partner’s love or our coworker’s respect?

Some things are a birthright.
Like human rights. … The right to rest and leisure is a birth right — look it up. You are allowed to have fun while pursuing your goals.

Some things are a gift.
A gift is defined as a thing given willingly to someone without payment. And here I want to elaborate that a gift does not require payment of money, a favour, or reciprocation of any kind. I like the definition of grace even more: a free and unmerited favour – unmerited being the important part. … A sunset is a gift. A child’s giggle is a gift. Happiness is a gift that you are allowed to indulge in as much as you like without having to prove anything to anyone.

Some things don’t matter.
The opinion of others – your in-laws, your neighbors, or anyone who doesn’t share your values or the vision for your life’s purpose, these opinions do not matter. Yes, we are social animals, and most of us would prefer to belong to some sort of tribe or social circle, so I am not advocating that you tell everybody to take a hike. But, within your own inner conversations and your thoughts, don’t give weight to the unreasonable expectations of the heights you must climb to earn the approval from the toxic people in your life.

Happiness is not earned, it’s a choice every step of the way towards whatever life goals you have set. Delight in your journey.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: 50 Watts via photopin cc

photo credit: 50 Watts via photopin cc

How To Get A Promotion: 11 Bosses Spill

In this report from interviews with bosses about what made the positive difference in someone’s performance, one or two of these tips might be expected, but many will rattle and recalibrate our preconceived ideas about what the terms of engagement between employees and their managers are supposed to be…

…nearly a dozen bosses, in fields ranging from marketing and tech to new media, executive recruiting, and financial planning spoke to LearnVest on the condition of anonymity, to share exactly why they’d promoted a direct report in the past. From telling the boss when she’s wrong to schmoozing at happy hour, their answers just might surprise you.

Tell Me I’m Wrong
“I love when someone smart challenges my thinking,” says one boss.

That’s not to say you should be arguing with your supervisors on a regular basis, but if you have a well-thought-out point that disagrees with your boss’s plan, consider bringing it up directly. As this boss says, “I love it even more when a person has the data/facts or examples to actually make their point.”

Bring the Bad News First
“Don’t tell me how fantastic you are. Tell me what is going wrong and, even more importantly, what it is you are going to do to fix it.”

Ultimately, a mistake or issue is your boss’s responsibility, so make sure your supervisor is aware of any large-scale or constant problems. This doesn’t mean you should email every time the printer is a little wonky, but you should make sure your boss is apprised of any serious issues.

This serves two purposes: First, it lets your boss know you’re on top of the problem and working to fix it. Second, it gives your boss the time to work on her own solution, or at least prepare for a different course of action, and to present it to her boss.

Be Drama-Free
“I don’t care if you don’t like the person you sit next to or think the the Post-It notes should be yellow, not blue. Bring me drama and I am certain that you are not worthy of the next step.”

Especially in an office environment, we have to work closely with different personalities and in less-than-ideal situations. Unless there’s a real problem (read: you feel unsafe or can’t complete your work), keep complaints to yourself. As one boss says, “Your job is to make your boss’s life easier, not plop your drama on his or her lap. Save that for your friends and family or your diary.”

Another boss agrees: “If you gossip a lot, it’s a problem.”

Smile
“Your boss would like to harbor the fantasy that you actually like your job, since she is paying you, spending more time with you than her family, and helping you more than you realize,” one boss told us. “You can at least smile and seem like you are enjoying things in return.”

You don’t need to blind every passerby with your pearly whites, but remember that no matter how close your deadline or how heavy your workload, other people will take their cues from you. If you’re snapping at co-workers and frowning, they’ll snap and frown right back. Instead, take a breath, put on a smile, and show your boss you appreciate the opportunity.

Take Notes
“We hate having to tell you things over and over. No boss should ever have to go over directions more than once. If you don’t understand the direction when it is being given, clarify right then and there and take good notes instead of depending on your memory.” 

We’ve all been there — nodding and smiling and filing away the tasks we’re given in a meeting, only to get back to our desks having lost those mental files. Impress your supervisor by keeping a paper and pen (or laptop, if that’s acceptable at your office) at hand, ready to record the things you need to remember.

Taking the time to write things down is especially helpful, as it gives you a minute to process your instructions and think of any questions you need to ask then and there.

Never Skip the Office Party
You know how they say that as many business deals are made on the golf course as in the office? That same principle applies to the office party. One boss points out that skipping the chance to socialize with your co-workers means you’re missing basic office news (think: who is preparing to leave) and alienating yourself from the people who sit next to you eight-plus hours of your day.

When it comes time to pick a team member for an advantageous project or conference in Hawaii, who will be chosen? Not what’s-her-name, that girl who never comes to the party.

Don’t Expect to Be Rewarded
“In order to get a promotion, you need to actually be worth it!” says one boss. “Don’t walk around with the air that you deserve it, because that sense of entitlement is going to get you nowhere.”

Confidence is one thing; arrogance is another. Yes, you were the top of your class in college and yes, you dominated your last project, but it’s a fine line between letting your work speak for you and duct-taping it to your boss’s computer. Worried your boss doesn’t notice your achievements? Set up a meeting to talk about what you’ve been working on, and ask for feedback.

But don’t get too worried your accomplishments are going unnoticed. As one boss says: “Let’s be honest — I promote people with good personalities. Your ability to be professional and also eager, motivated, and thoughtful about decisions and interactions with others is significant.”

Hold Up Your End
“It’s awful when you claim to be a team player, but complain when you are given responsibilities to help on a project.”

“Team player” is cliched for a reason — because every boss wants to see that quality in a potential employee. In recent years, “team” has come to replace every office unit from department to entire company, and every employee is expected to be a team player.

Complaining about your role on the team is both futile and aggravating to your boss. Where is she supposed to find you a sub? If you aren’t a team player, the real fix is to learn the rules of the game, and fast.

Ask How You Can Help
“You should be asking me if there is anything else you can be working on to help grow the company or the project, instead of waiting around for me to tell you what to do.”

There’s another word for that, one that appears next on the cliched-for-a-reason list: initiative. Clearly, you shouldn’t be asking your boss to hold your hand during every step of a project, but a well-timed “What can I do to help?” or “I noticed that [task] needs doing — I’ll tackle that,” is much appreciated.

Have a Solution
Wrong: “You tell me you have a problem — well, actually, you whine about something which I understand means you have a problem — and you come in with zero solutions on how to fix it.”

Right: “You come up with new and successful ideas on your own and take initiative to do something we already do and do it better without being asked.”

One boss told us she’s happy to give advice to people who ask for it, but she’s “looking to promote people who can think their way out of something on their own.” To please a boss like this, you can follow one rule of thumb: Never bring up a problem without a possible solution to recommend. Brainstorm feasible, reasonable solutions to the problem you have (tips on being a better brainstormer here). When you present it to your boss, launch right into what you recommend as a solution.

Know Your Job — and Do It
“If I have asked you twice and you don’t pay any attention to what you need to do as a part of your job, I will not see you as valuable or smart,” says one boss.

Since you’re already taking notes (see: tip 5), make sure you scribble somewhere exactly what your responsibilities are, and make sure you prioritize them. Along the same lines, it’s important to know which tasks are crucial, and which can take a backseat.

One boss had the following recommendation: “I think the best candidates for promotion are those who best can gently ‘manage up’ within their ranks and can find the balance needed to do gold star work while still knowing when to draw the line and say, “I can do this for you, or I can do that for Mr. Smith, but I cannot get both done today. I feel like [this task] is the priority — would you agree?”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

And in the interests of balance – here are…

Ten Radical Shifts in Thinking All Leaders Face

Leaders fail when they don’t think like leaders.

Leaders who think like individual contributors demoralize their team and devalue their leadership.

Lousy leaders think like individual contributors.

10 radical shifts in thinking:

  1. From “I” to “we.”  Leadership begins with we.
  2. From controlling people to aligning passions. Raise your hand if you enjoy being controlled. I didn’t think so. Successful leaders align the passions of their teammates with organizational mission.
  3. From complexity to simplicity. The courage to cut away at complexity until simplicity emerges is a rare gift. Most just muddle through. Some leaders enjoy the feeling of importance that complexity creates. But, any fool can make something complex.  Leaders simplify.
  4. From who is right to what is right. In one sense leadership isn’t personal at all. The issue is the issue. It doesn’t matter who comes up with solutions. The person who screwed up last week, may be this week’s genius.
  5. From talking “at” to talking “with.” Engagement requires “with.” The more you talk “at” the more you lose “with.”
  6. From right and wrong to better and best. Complex issues have more than one answer. Usually, there is no “right” solution.
  7. From symptoms to causes. The reason you’re always putting out fires is you haven’t addressed the root issue.
  8. From feeling confused to pursuing clarity. Most people don’t have the discipline or endurance to bear the frustration of pursuing clarity. They just want to get something done.
  9. From how can I step in to how can I step out. Fixers struggle to make room for others. Stepping in means you’re in the way.
  10. From receiving praise to giving it.

Link to read the original article

The 3 myths about creativity in business

Creativity is vital in business; far too important to be left to a special cadre of ‘creative people’. Charles Andrew, joint managing director at Idea Couture outlines three myths about creativity in business that impede success and three key steps to overcome it

A business whose only ambition is to continue doing tomorrow what they did yesterday, will wither as both its competitors and customers change around it. The central role of creativity in business survival was recognised in an IBM survey of more than 1,500 chief executive officers from 60 countries. They reported that – more than rigour, management discipline, or even vision – successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity. But despite the focus on creativity and the proliferation of good advice, the solution still seems to be illusive. Maybe this is because there are three underlying cultural beliefs about what creativity really is, who has it, and how it can be managed (or not) that are acting as unseen barriers.

Myth 1. Analytical thought and creative thought are fundamentally different

Neuroscience is giving us ever deeper insight into the mysterious processes of the human brain. It is revealing that new ideas often emerge from the juxtaposing of existing information in the parts of the brain that we associate with more ‘rational’ processing and analytical thought. Understanding this, we can elevate the pursuit of creativity to a discipline that mirrors this neural process; systematically assembling, analysing, and challenging data about today in order to develop new possibilities for tomorrow…

Myth 2. Analytical people are generally not creative people

This often follows from the first myth. If the modes of thought are so different, then maybe the people having those thoughts must be different too. So if businesses need more creativity, it is a problem to be solved either through recruitment or external consultants. Either way, this perpetuates the division between ‘creativity’ and the core disciplines of business. And as we learn from organisational psychology, this cultural separation means that creativity, where it occurs, will remain largely peripheral and low impact.

By contrast, smart companies such as Procter & Gamble and GSK are especially strong at integrating scientists (often seen only as strong rational thinkers) into the early stages of innovation where capabilities in consumer empathy and imaginative thinking are equally vital.

Myth 3. Creativity is about making great leaps of imagination

The myth of the creative genius suddenly arriving at great ideas in a puff of brilliant inspiration continues to do much harm because it prevents us from recognising what is really necessary in the creative process; the on-going, painstaking, development of fresh perspectives and the nurturing of initially small ideas in order to gradually create something significantly innovative.

The problem with our observation of change is that we tend to see only the end result and we don’t see the process that led to it. Beethoven, for instance, would gradually develop a whole symphony based on taking a short melody which he would then adapt and restate. This process of continually building on, and nurturing, an initial (small) idea is more realistic and systematically effective.

Top tips:

  • The first step to an idea is not to try to have one, but to marshal the perspectives and inspiration from which ideas originate. Focus on collecting, not judging; the relevance may only occur to you later
  • Think ‘outside in’: use empathy to view your business from the customer’s point of view. Stop seeing them as merely a chooser and user of your services, but as a real person. Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Systematically challenge everything that’s important to the way you do business now. Nurture ideas that initially seem flawed to explore whether they lead you somewhere significant.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: sjdunphy via photopin cc

photo credit: sjdunphy via photopin cc

Engaging And Sustaining Creativity And Innovation: Part I

“The first step toward being creative is often simply to go beyond being a passive observer and to translate thoughts into deeds.  With a little creative confidence, we can spark positive action in the world.”  -Tom and David Kelley Creative Confidence

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

Jack and Jill were very sure why they were going up the mountain and what they were after.  As to whether that well and pail of water existed at the top of the hill, we will never be sure.  For, according to Wikipedia…”the rhyme has traditionally been seen as a nonsense verse, particularly as the couple go up a hill to find water, which is often thought to be found at the bottom of hills.

Which provides us with an interesting perspective as we determine how to better infuse and engage creativity and innovation…in our schools and our organizations.

Unlike Jack and Jill

Do we always know why we are going up the hill?  Do we even really and truly know what we are after? Is the hill even where we need to go?

Or, are we making our way up the hill in search of answers to questions that we haven’t even truly clarified for ourselves, let alone for others…and our organization as a whole.

And even if we make up it to the well (network), have we equipped ourselves with the necessary questions (the pail), to pull up and gather the water (ideas) that can drive us towards the vision and direction that we seek.

As we consider our next steps…

We understand and see the necessity and need for infusing and weaving creativity and innovation into all that we do. but we struggle to visualize what that truly looks like…or even means.

So, in regards to creativity and innovation, we’ve sounded the trumpets, we’ve rolled out the red carpet, we’ve even opened the gates of the kingdom wide to welcome both of them in.  The only problem…

Neither creativity or innovation may be standing at the gate waiting to come in…and if they are, we may struggle to recognize who they are…

Which is why it will be so important for us to push forward in our efforts to infuse and engage creativity and innovation at all levels of our organizations…

So even though we know it, we say it, and we expound their benefits…it often comes to a screeching halt at this point.  Knowing about the importance and benefits of something is much different than taking action and determining ways to experiment with, incorporate, and weave it into the processes of what we do…on an ongoing and daily basis.

And while we know they are both necessary, needed, and important…we are still often not sure how to truly infuse and engage creativity and innovation…especially as sustainable and scalable processes across our schools and organizations.

Which is why we not only have to determine and define for ourselves what creativity and innovation is, but where it comes from, and even what it looks like…

We have to look at those methods, strategies and processes that allow them to cascade and flow across and at all levels of the organization.

And that begins first…with our mindset.

And unfortunately, most of us fail to consider ourselves to be either creative or innovative.  We lack what Tom and David Kelley refer in their new book as Creative Confidence.  Which is where the discussion must begin…our starting point.  Especially, if we are going to move towards increased creativity and innovation across the organization.  If we are going to move it beyond small pockets and just a few individuals…

Which will require us to figure out what that looks like, sounds like, feels like, is like…when engaged and active.  To determine how we, as educational organizations, districts, classrooms, teams, and individuals…create that necessary “Creative Confidence” that the Kelley Brothers refer to.

So, instead of trying to take it all on, maybe we need to just start here…

We need to make sure we know why we are going up the hill.

To overcome inertia, good ideas are not enough. Careful planning is not enough.  The organizations, communities, and nations that thrive are the ones that initiate action, that launch rapid innovation cycles, that learn by doing as soon as they can.  They are sprinting forward, while others are still waiting at the starting line.” 

Tom and David Kelley Creative Confidence

Link to read the original article

Why Google, Facebook and Twitter Execs Are Meeting With a Monk

In an age when we’re constantly being distracted, being able to focus is the golden goose.

We may thank technology platforms like Twitter and Facebook for shrinking our attention spans down to nanoseconds, but the executives of those selfsame companies know that to grow their businesses, they need to put a priority on focus.

At the Wisdom 2.0 conference being hosted in San Francisco next month, a group of tech heavyweights will come together with yoga practitioners, mindfulness specialists and even a Benedictine monk to learn how to work and live within the demands of technology more effectively….

The growing interest in the conference mirrors a growing trend in our relationship with technology: As we become increasingly dependent on mobile devices and social networks, we struggle to not feel controlled by them. These questions and struggles pervade both our personal and professional lives, but business leaders and executives at the Wisdom 2.0 conference will specifically address how to perform more efficiently in the workplace.

For example, last year, Gopi Kallayil, the chief evangelist for Google+, talked about how to integrate the fundamentals of a yoga-practice to be a more productive professional. Kallayil, who was born in India and grew up practicing yoga, has five fundamental rituals that he implements in every single day:

focus on the essential,

do one thing at a time,

take time to listen to your own body’s needs,

make at least one minute for mindfulness each day

and set appointments for the activities that will help you stay mindful.

Link to read the original article

Work-Life Balance Is A Lie – So Here’s A Better Way To Think About It

…As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, the line between our work and our personal lives is often blurred. Nearly half of American workers have jobs suitable for part-time or full-time telecommuting (aka working from somewhere outside the office). That means more people are checking work email at the dinner table and typing up project reports in their pajamas. In fact, the physical separation between our work and our personal lives (aka an office building) may be somewhat outdated. One survey found that as many as 70 percent of college students believe it’s unnecessary to be in an office regularly.

For younger workers, these relaxed boundaries may actually be desirable. When they look for a job, many millennials say flexibility (in terms of where and when they work) is especially important. That’s possibly because employees in this age bracket want the freedom to develop relationships and pursue personal hobbies: Research suggests millennial workers place a higher value on being able to spend time with friends and family than Boomers (people born between approximately 1946 and 1964) did when they were younger. Likewise, millennials are less likely to define themselves by their careers.

But flexibility in the form of having constant access to work email and never technically “clocking out” for the day can have some negative repercussions. Research suggests it’s important to take breaks from professional demands and to recover from a busy workweek in order to reduce stress.

Unfortunately, there’s no one “right” approach to balancing work-related and personal commitments. For those worried about whether, where, or how to draw the line between work and play, follow the practical steps below to create a life that’s all-around fulfilling.

1. Pick and choose.
One of the hardest parts of achieving work-life balance is recognizing that we’ll never have it all. That is, we’ll never make it to every social event while also working extra hours and making home-cooked meals every night. Once you’ve decided which responsibilities and relationships you find most important (see number two), it’s all about prioritizing. So cut yourself some slack when it comes to other achievements in your personal and professional life, and remind yourself that you’re making progress where you believe it really counts.

 Credit: Nanette Hoogslag, Wellcome Images

Credit: Nanette Hoogslag, Wellcome Images

2. You do you.
The definition of work-life balance varies pretty widely between individuals. Instead of trying to conform to someone else’s lifestyle, figure out what’s personally meaningful to you, whether that’s developing a relationship with a new partner or working toward a promotion at a new job (or both). As long as you find your life fulfilling, it doesn’t matter if your schedule looks different from someone else’s.

3. Be open to change.
Even once you’ve searched your soul to figure out what truly matters to you, accept that those priorities might change over time. Maybe you’ll start a family, take a new job, or pick up a new hobby — whatever the situation, be prepared for your values and schedule to shift, and make adjustments accordingly.

4. Accept imperfection.
Let’s say you’ve established that friendships are the most important aspect of your life right now. That still doesn’t mean you need to freak out if you miss your BFF’s boyfriend’s birthday bash because you’re working late on a big project. Know that you’ll make mistakes, and that obstacles and challenges will pop up unexpectedly. Instead of feeling like a terrible person, try to enjoy yourself and be productive and present with whatever you’re doing. Then refocus on your main priorities as soon as possible.

5. Take it day by day.
One clever tip is to combine your work and personal calendars so you don’t necessarily prioritize one set of responsibilities over the other in advance. Each day, you can decide whether the staff meeting is more important than getting lunch with an old high school buddy, or vice versa.

6. Pursue your passions.
Just because you’re working a lot doesn’t necessarily mean your life isn’t awesome. Some of us (ideally, all of us!) love our jobs, so much so that we’re willing to spend hours brainstorming, emailing, and sitting in meetings. If it makes you happy to bring your laptop home and continue working after dinner because you feel like you’re making a difference in the world or you simply love the work, go for it!

7. Keep track.
One of the first steps to figuring out how we can spend more time on the things that are really meaningful to us is learning how much time we currently spend on all our activities. For one week, try keeping a log of everything you do, from washing laundry to browsing Pinterest. Then go over the lists, pinpoint potential “time sucks,” share your concerns with your family and coworkers, and create an action plan for refocusing on the activities that really matter to you.

8. Open your options.
A growing number of workplaces allow employees to work remotely or have flexible schedules. If that possibility interests you, and if you think a new work style could make you less stressed, talk to your employer and see what you two can work out. (The worst that could happen is your boss will say no.)

9. Rock to your own rhythm.
Researchers are increasingly paying attention to the topic of chronotypes (biological schedules that determine when we feel tired and awake), and they’ve found that people vary widely in terms of when they’re most creative, energetic, and productive. Think about how your own abilities evolve throughout the day — if you’re most alert in the mornings, try getting to the office early; if you really come alive after 9pm, consider creating a less traditional work schedule (see number eight). That way, you won’t feel like you’re wasting valuable time at work when you’re half-zoned out anyway.

10. Reconsider your commute.
The physical trip to and from the office can be more draining than work itself. If standing like a sardine on a crowded subway is making you sick, consider moving closer to your workplace: You’ll have a better attitude toward work and feel less like you’re wasting a big chunk of your day. On the other hand, don’t be afraid of a long commute if it means going home to a neighborhood you love and feeling happier in general.

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

11. Seek support.
Ultimately, work-life balance is about finding a way to juggle all the different kinds of relationships in our lives. So don’t be shy about asking other people to help you manage your responsibilities. Talk to coworkers about filling in for each other when one of you has an outside commitment, or to family members about sharing dog-walking or babysitting responsibilities on days when someone needs to stay late at the office.

12. Don’t tear down this wall.
Working from home can be liberating, but it comes with challenges, like potentially getting distracted by the pile of dirty laundry on the floor. To avoid these issues, set up a physical boundary between work life and home life by designating a whole room (or even just a corner) as your office space. Try to keep all work-related paraphernalia and tasks contained to just this area.

13. Squeeze it in.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to spend two hours lunching with pals every day and attend salsa lessons every night. But sometimes it’s more realistic to grab coffee with a friend and go dancing every other weekend. This schedule might not be exactly what we’d like, but it’s certainly preferable to not socializing or letting loose at all. Let yourself enjoy the time you do have, instead of lamenting the time you don’t.

14. Find fun anywhere.
These days, lots of workplaces are embracing the idea of organized fun, like bonding activities for staff members. And nearly three quarters of millennial workers say they want their coworkers to be a second family. If you enjoy the workday and the company of your coworkers, this experience in itself can count as socializing. Don’t feel like you have to create “balance” by spending your weekends and weeknights doing non-work-related activities unless you really want to do them.

15. Tackle technology.
Smartphones, laptops, tablets, spaceships: All these tools are designed to improve our productivity and our lives overall. But when these gadgets make us feel like we’re supposed to be responding to work emails or finishing up projects at home, we can start to get overwhelmed. On the other side of the spectrum, constantly checking our Facebook feed while at work can lead to some serious FOMO. Manage all this technology-induced stress by unplugging for a little while or by setting limits on when and where to use it.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

THE TAKEAWAY

The most important thing to remember in the quest for work-life balance is that we’ll never achieve perfection. There will be nights when we miss dinner with our partner because we stayed late at the office, and days when we skip a staff meeting to bring a pal to an emergency dental appointment. What matters is that we create a personally meaningful life that helps us feel happy and healthy overall.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: dullhunk via photopin cc

photo credit: dullhunk via photopin cc

Art in good health: how science and culture mix the best medicine

Why are so many health organisations funding art projects and what can artists and scientists gain from close collaboration?

Anna Dumitriu turns bacteria into art. She has stitched strains of MRSA into a quilt; she has crocheted with the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis, found on her own bed. For her latest exhibition, The Romantic Disease – just opened at the Watermans arts centre in Brentford, west London – she has made a series of tiny lungs out of felt, dust and tuberculosis samples.

Dumitriu is at the vanguard of a new wave of collaboration between artists and scientists. There has, in recent years, been a surge in the number of projects, across all artforms, with a health or scientific issue at their heart, and a scientific or medical organisation as a key funding source.

Take, for example, Mess, the 2012 show by theatre-maker Caroline Horton, drawing on her own experience of anorexia; or Our Glass House, a compelling, immersive piece of theatre about domestic abuse, staged in various cities around the country with the financial backing of local NHS services.

To see artists and scientists working together in this way is nothing new. Historically, both artists and clinicians were often polymaths, with their feet firmly in both camps, and the distinction between science and the arts can be viewed as a modern one, imposed by an education system that requires children to specialise at an early age.

But to see scientific organisations choosing to fund art – stating, in effect, that it is through art that a particular scientific message can best be communicated to the public – is a relatively recent, and intriguing development. So why are these organisations choosing to fund arts projects? And what do both artists and scientists get from the close working relationship that should, in theory, result…

Can art play a wider role in enhancing health and wellbeing? In a speech last September, Arts Council chief Peter Bazalgette quoted Alan Yates, former chief executive of Mersey Care NHS Trust, as saying that “if the arts had not been invented, we would now do so, as a front line NHS service”.

That was certainly the feeling I got from Lesley Johnston at NHS Lothian, one of the funding bodies behind Our Glass House, an immersive theatre piece exploring the impact of domestic abuse. “Theatre is a really powerful tool,” she said. “We’re working in this field day in, day out. [But] seeing something visual like this gets you at a much deeper level.”

This is also part of what drives Anna Dumitriu as an artist: the desire to take her own fascination with microbiology and other areas of science, harness scientific expertise, and communicate that knowledge to the wider public – together with the history and emotions that underpin it.

Ultimately, Dumitriu believes it’s something only art can do. “Art, for me, is a way of investigating the world,” she says. “In that way, I see no real distinction between art and science at all.”

Link to read the original article

Yes, teach workers resilience – but they’ll still have a breaking point

As the global economic race sets in, it is leaders’ responsibility to organise work in a way that does not harm people’s health

 writing in The Guardian

This “global race” business is no laughing matter. It’s as if the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics want us all to stay in training. The language of fitness and athleticism is everywhere: we have to be flexible, we have to be agile, we have to be nimble.

And now, it seems, we have to be resilient too. The civil service is the latest organisation to support “resilience training” as a way of helping staff deal with the pressures of work. Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the ministry of justice, told the FT that colleagues could benefit from developing coping skills in today’s tougher climate.

Who could be against resilience, or greater fitness come to think of it? The healthy worker may be more resistant to colds and flu, and will have the energy to keep going when others start to tire. Economists continue to worry about the chronic poor productivity in the UK. A lack of resilience may have something to do with it. Whether you are on a late or early shift, there is work to be done and targets to be hit. That means being ready and able to perform.

But what are we really talking about when we use the word “resilience”? Calmly rising above the daily irritations of the workplace is one thing. Suppressing anxiety in an attempt to appear in control is another. If the demands being made on people are unreasonable then trying to stay resilient may be unwise. Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, says that resilience can be a useful term when it refers to ways of boosting your mental wellbeing. “Talking about mental health is still a taboo in many workplaces,” he says. He supports “any training which can equip staff with the skills they need to help look after their own mental wellbeing”.

There is a caveat, however. Resilience should not be seen as a way of putting up with anything. “Nobody should be expected to cope with ever-increasing demands, excessive workloads and longer working hours,” he says.

What really adds to stress and a sense of powerlessness at work is a loss of autonomy, either as a result of poor work organisation or the impossibility of being able to speak up. And while it might seem refreshing to hear a senior civil servant discussing the need for a more open culture and better two-way communication between bosses and employees, if in practice this doesn’t happen then stress levels are likely to rise.

If only there were a large piece of research into workplace health conducted over many years to provide the evidence we need to know how to organise our work better. But of course this research does exist: it is the decades-long study led by Sir Michael Marmot into the health of… civil servants.

What Marmot has shown is that it is status and control that matter more than resilience, cognitive skills or attitude. It may be tough at the top, but it is considerably tougher lower down. “The high-status person has a lot of demand,” says Marmot, “but he or she has a lot of control, and the combination of high demand and low control is what’s stressful.”

So while we should be encouraging employees to develop skills to help them cope with workload pressures, which will include “framing” techniques and building a more resilient outlook, it is the responsibility of leaders to organise work in a way that does not harm people’s health.

Health at work turns out to be another revealing indicator in the biggest story of our times: inequality. As Marmot says: “Health inequalities that are judged to be avoidable by reasonable means and are not avoided are wrong, they’re unjust, they’re unfair.” Tell the boss, if you dare.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: geekcalendar via photopin cc

photo credit: geekcalendar via photopin cc

It gets easier, it gets harder and it stays the same…

Martyn Duffy reflects in the Shaky Isles Theatre blog on professionalism and what it means in 2014 Britain.  He is talking about theatre and performance, but a lot of what he says carries through into many other work contexts in the new economy we are tolerating at the moment.  See what you think…

There has been a lot of talk recently about professionalism and just what the word “professional” actually means. 

The dictionary says:

noun

§  a person engaged or qualified in a profession:professionals such as lawyers and surveyors

§  a person engaged in a specified activity, esp. a sport or branch of the performing arts, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

§  a person competent or skilled in a particular activity:she was a real professional on stage.

Seems straightforward, then.  But it’s not as black and white as the dictionary seems to suggest.  There are several shades of grey to navigate through before this semantic snapshot comes anywhere near the clear focus that a simple definition suggests.

In years gone by we as theatre practitioners insisted that getting paid was the marker for professionalism.  We assumed that the idea of the starving artist in her garret working by candlelight (and consequently so much more creative for that) was a concept long dead and buried. Now we have “interns” and people doing “job experience” which seems to translate as: “You will work for nothing and be grateful for the opportunity.”   All well and good if this leads on to better career opportunities and networking and profile raising and being taken on permanently, but sometimes  – and this is my biggest worry – it leads to organizations getting cheap labour and replacing one intake with the next for purely commercial reasons.

So, yes you can argue that the idea of the professional has evolved and now means something more like:

noun

§  a person engaged in a specified activity, esp. a sport or branch of the performing arts, as either a main paid occupation (rather than as a pastime) or engaged  in this activity with an understanding that there might be a paid opportunity at some future date.

But if this truly is now the case then we really do have to fight for the principle that a job well done deserves commensurate reward.  What that reward will be has become less tangible.

So many of us do produce work for nothing or practically nothing and that is our choice.  The reality is that there is not enough paid work out there for members of our profession and yet we still need to do what we do because we are driven to do it and that drive and that passion isn’t so much “our choice”.   We make daily compromises and generally do the best we can to offset all the demands and strains that our “real lives” throw at us.  Somehow we make it work.  Sometimes less so…

…Theatre is a strange world where we are often trying to bring life to imaginary worlds in different places, different times and different dimensions.   We do this in order to give our audiences an unforgettable experience.   I often think of this as a reflection of our own lives where we juggle different priorities and the various aspects of ourselves in the hope that we are truly making work that has meaning and that makes a difference.

For artists throughout the ages I think it has always been thus.  Some things do get easier, and yes, some things do get harder, but mostly they remain the same.

And mostly that is a good thing.

Link to read the original article

Rosie Hardy also has something to say on the theme of following what you love to do and making it your work, even when you feel like you will fail, in her inspiring, exuberant and energising TEDx talk from Youth@Manchester 2014

Rosie Hardy TEDx talk: “Creativity and Happiness”

“We live in a society where qualifications are valued more highly than happiness…”

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #82

These and many other stories are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #82 out from Friday 24th January 2014.

Happiness At Work #81 ~ resilience, sixth senses & letting go of control

photo credit: LyndaSanchez via photopin cc

photo credit: LyndaSanchez via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #81

This week’s collection is headlined by Steve McCurry’s latest photo collection.

McCurry’s photos are always intimate, beautiful and exquisitely held moments of  human strength and vulnerability, and this new collection is just as powerful and moving as always.

Portraits of Resilience (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Resilience
is the ability to overcome adversity,

cope with setbacks, and persevere in the face of  
trauma and deprivation.

The greatest glory in living
lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall. 
– Nelson Mandela

…more than education, experience, or training,
an individual’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds & who fails.
– Harvard Business Review, 2002

Link to see Steve McCurry’s  Portraits of Resilience

The Common Getty Collection Galleries

The Common Getty Collection Galleries

Resilience to become key attribute of future employees

Gabriella Jozwiak

More than 90% of HRDs believe employees’ ability to cope with change and uncertainty will determine their likelihood of being hired in five year’s time, according to a survey.

Talent and career management company Right Management polled 250 line managers and 100 HR decision makers in organisations with more than 500 employees, and revealed resilience has become an important employee attribute.

The results showed 79% of line managers and 75% of HR decision-makers thought employee wellness would be formally measured and reported by 2018.

However, 72% of line managers admitted their organisation could do more to support employees through persistently stressful periods.

Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, told HR magazine the recession was responsible for HR’s developing focus on resilience.

“As a result of 2008, in almost all workplaces, whether in the public or private sector, there are fewer people,” Cooper said. “Those fewer people are doing more work and working harder, and most organisations are too lean and too mean.

“Whereas before the crash we were probably a bit fatter, and could tolerate people burning out or leaving, now what I’m hearing HRDs talk about is that they cannot cope with regrettable turnover – they cannot afford to lose some key people.

Cooper added: “The way we think we can keep them now is by making them more resilient and creating an environment that’s into wellbeing. Whether it’s flexible working or better management of people – whatever it is, we really have to retain people.

“This has become more of a bottom-line issue – it’s a retention issue and an attraction issue. But retention is key. We have to manage people by praise and reward, not by fault-finding.”

The survey highlighted flexibility as a key feature of future workers. Among HR decision makers, 79% expected employees to have multiple simultaneous careers by 2018, and 60% thought workers will be hired on temporary contracts or working as contractors or freelancers.

Almost all respondees (92%) thought older workers would opt to work part-time rather than retire.

Right Management UK & Ireland general manager Ian Symes said the results suggested employers needed to “put people at the heart of their plans and provide their employees with the support, structures and vision they need to cope in an ever-changing environment”.

 “Organisations need to strategically plan their workforce and look at the systems they have in place to support employees and the business through turbulent times,” Symes said.

“Without this, they will always be reacting to what is happening rather than being in control. This will only add to the stress and exhaustion that many staff are feeling so it’s important that businesses look at ways to boost the resilience of their organisation and their people. Planning ahead and being flexible are central to making this a reality.”

Link to read the original article

Sheryl Sandberg: So we leaned in … now what?

Continuing the resilience theme, Sheryl Sandberg talks in this video interview about her own trips and tribulations at work alongside the stories of many other women.

Sheryl Sandberg admits she was terrified to step onto the TED stage in 2010 — because she was going to talk, for the first time, about the lonely experience of being a woman in the top tiers of business. Millions of views (and a best-selling book) later, the Facebook COO talks with the woman who pushed her to give that first talk, Pat Mitchell. Sandberg opens up about the reaction to her idea, and explores the ways that women still struggle with success.

Giving Up Control: It’s Key to Unleashing Your Workforce’s Power

by ronald thomas

And the walls came tumbling down.

Last week I read the article about Zappos doing away with all job titles and replacing them with what is called Holacracy.

Developed by entrepreneur Brian Robertson, Holacracy is a system of governance that takes things like managers, job titles and bureaucratic red tape out of the equation, distributing leadership and power evenly across an organization.

Instead of a standard hierarchy, companies in a Holacracy are comprised of different “circles” and employees can have any range of roles and responsibilities within those circles.

Coming to an organization near you

There was also the article about the company that instituted a policy that no one is to be contacted while on vacation. The thinking behind this concepts makes sense. We have become tethered to technology that we feel that we have to have in order to be on 24/7.

Some of the other “employee friendly” policies I found were free beer Fridays, pets allowed in the workplace, volunteer days, PTO instead of sick days, yoga at work, paternal leave, etc. Hopefully we all have tasted tele-commuting, however, that has taken a back seat at some companies. This list could go on and on and we know that these perks are not one size fits all.

Bye-bye Industrial Age

The walls of the Industrial Age management are slowly crumbling. This is aided by the fact that not only are the organizations changing, but the new worker mindset is already there waiting for their companies to come along.

Workplaces today are embracing innovation, new technology, diversity and inclusion in order to build sustainable success. The linchpin that drives these innovative efforts depends on the quality of leadership, culture, and management practices at all levels of the organization. Each one must play a part in the change required to achieve these aspirations.

The organizations that are leading this charge realize that all these initiatives requires thinking and doing things in different ways from what has been done in our relatively slow-changing, and disconnected, Industrial Age past.

The challenge ahead is to unwind more than a century of Industrial Age thinking about work  – mindsets that are controlling, mistake-averse and “know it all,” and evolve them into ones that are enabling, learning and willing to try new things and fail.

The notion of worker versus manager is outdated, and a collaboration between these two is needed to move forward with a new agenda

The primary drivers of the Industrial Age were equipment and capital, and that was what was important. Employees were seen as necessary but replaceable. Thus the term “hired hands” or “warm bodies” was born.

However, we now are living in a new economic era and the main drivers are knowledge and intellectual capital. The problem is that many of our management practices today originated back in the Industrial Age and the older manager was probably steeped in these practices.

Management knows best?

Whatever our systems and processes, they were conceived at an earlier time. Recruiting, hiring, training, and performance reviews all came along as organizations grew.

Communications were top down, if at all. Managers and bosses had all the answers. It was “my way or the highway.” Employees were not considered a part of the process in any way.

Our job descriptions force us, in a lot of cases, to try to fit a square peg into a round hole. The manager of this era saw his people as employees and subordinates.

Some of the companies mentioned earlier do not refer to their people as employees; you hear different terms such as associates, partners, etc. Today people want to be treated as part of the process and not just a cog in the wheel.

Controlling vs releasing

The Industrial Age mindset is one of controlling people while the modern era is more about empowering people to achieve their highest potential. Survival in this extremely competitive economic era demands that our people be allowed to bring forth their unique contribution. Isn’t that is what we hired them for?

Bottom line: we manage THINGS, but THINGS don’t have the freedom to choose. We lead PEOPLE who do have the power to choose.

Unleashing the potential of this age will require a fundamental break with the control paradigm. It will require leaders to embrace what the late Dr. Steven Covey referred to as “The Whole Person Paradigm.”

Link to read the original article

Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better

by Sigal Barsade and Olivia (Mandy) O’Neill

“Love” is a not word you often hear uttered in office hallways or conference rooms. And yet, it has a strong influence on workplace outcomes. The more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they are. (Note: Here we’re talking about “companionate love” which is far less intense than romantic love. Companionate love is based on warmth, affection, and connection rather than passion). It may not be surprising that those who perceive greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, but few managers focus on building an emotional culture. That’s a mistake.

In our longitudinal study, ”What’s Love Got to Do With It?: The Influence of a Culture of Companionate Love in the Long-term Care Setting” (forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly), surveyed 185 employees, 108 patients, and 42 patient family members at two points in time, 16 months apart, at a large, nonprofit long-term healthcare facility and hospital in the Northeast. Using multiple raters and multiple methods, we explored the influence that emotional culture has on employee, patient, and family outcomes. What we learned demonstrates how important emotional culture is when it comes to employee and client well-being and performance.

Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork.  They showed up to work more often. Our research also demonstrated that this type of culture related directly to client outcomes, including improved patient mood, quality of life, satisfaction, and fewer trips to the ER.

While this study took place in a long-term care setting ­— which many people might consider biased toward the “emotional” — these findings hold true across industries. We conducted a follow-up study, surveying 3,201 employees in seven different industries from financial services to real estate and the results were the same. People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another­ were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

So what does a culture of companionate love look like? Imagine a pair of co-workers collaborating side by side, each day expressing caring and affection towards one another, safeguarding each other’s feelings, showing tenderness and compassion when things don’t go well. Now imagine a workplace that encourages those behaviors from everyone, where managers actively look for ways to create and reinforce close workplace relationships among employees.

Some large, well-known organizations are already leading the pack in creating cultures of companionate love. Whole Foods Market has a set of management principles that begin with “Love” and PepsiCo lists “caring” as its first guiding principle on its website. Zappos also explicitly focuses on caring as part of its values: “We are more than a team though…we are a family. We watch out for each other, care for each other and go above and beyond for each other”.

You might think all this “love business” would be hard for some people. We did, too, before we started this study, but we found love in some unlikely places. For example, we talked with employees at a large aerospace defense contractor who told us about a newly acquired division that had a strong culture of love.  Employees there routinely greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek. Visiting executives from the parent company were alarmed to see this gesture, finding it not only inappropriate but possibly an invitation to sexual harassment lawsuits. Although they initially tried to prohibit such displays of affection, ultimately they decided to allow the culture to flourish within the division, simply acknowledging that it was not consistent with the more muted values of the rest of the organization.

Surely not every manager will want to gather his team for a group hug every day (nor would every employee be comfortable with that). But there are many other ways to build an emotional culture of companionate love. We suggest leaders do at least three things.

First, broaden your definition of culture. Instead of focusing on “cognitive culture” — values such as teamwork, results-orientation, or innovation — you might think about how you can cultivate and enrich emotional culture as well.  Emotional culture can be based on love or other emotions, such as joy or pride.

Second, pay attention to the emotions you’re expressing to employees every day.  Your mood creates a cultural blueprint for the group.

Third, consider how your company policies and practices can foster greater affection, caring, compassion, and tenderness among workers. For example, Cisco CEO John Chambers asked that he be notified within 48 hours if a close member of an employee’s family passed away. At some companies, employees can forego vacation days or organize emergency funds to help fellow employees who are struggling and need help.

Most importantly, though, it is the small moments between coworkers — a warm smile, a kind note, a sympathetic ear — day after day, month after month, that help create and maintain a strong culture of companionate love and the employee satisfaction, productivity, and client satisfaction that comes with it.

Link to read the original article

Sixth sense a myth, heightened awareness a truth

amie Lawrence reports on new research for HRZone

New research suggests people can reliably detect a change in their surroundings, even if they cannot accurately describe what the change was.

The research suggests the ability is due to cues picked up from conventional senses such as sight. Because it has been little understood in the past, it has formed a key part of the field extrasensory perception (ESP), which also included things like clairvoyance.

The research, which came out of a year-long study from the University of Melbourne, is – according to the author – the first to show people can sense information they cannot verbalise.

When I interviewed Daniel Pink, author of NYT bestseller Drive, he told me that mindfulness and attention to detail are two of the most constant predictors of workplace success.

The complexity of the modern working environment means that those who can identify risk factors and changes from the norm can help companies stop bad things happening.

Identifying candidates who are capable of processing their environment thoroughly should be a priority.

A related term is high sensitivity, which has been historically gravely misunderstood in the workplace – to the detriment of productivity worldwide.

Link to read the original article 

Another seeeeeeeriously cool workplace

To see what can happen hen artistry meets office design, see Alexander Kjerulf’s report and  pictures of how a design company in Detroit have converted an old bank vault into their offices.  This gives a very visual sense of just how the world of work is changing to become more and more suited for human life as our 21st century progresses…

There are boring offfices, cool offices and offices that just take your breath away!

In December we got a tour of dPOP in Detroit and what we saw there blew us away completely.

This is hardly surprising – dPOP’s business is to design office spaces for their clients – but still, this space was beyond awesome.

…I’m not going to claim that redecorating the office space is a surefire way to create a happy workplace. I’ve seen some very unhappy workplaces, that had beautiful bright airy office spaces but completely toxic cultures. I’ve also seen incredibly happy workplaces, whose offices look like crap.

But I still think that office design matters. And on a more fundamental level, why does every workplace have to look the same? Why does every office or meeting room inside a company have to look the same? We know that our minds thrive on variety and I think you can let the office design reflect that.

Here are a few of the pics we took at one seeeeeeriously cool office…

Link to see the photos and the original article

Ryan Holladay: To hear this music you have to be there. Literally

Our love of sound and listening makes these artists’ work compelling. One of the many wonderful conditions of sound and listening is that it can only happen in real time – you can’t glance or flick through a sound – it can only be experience as it unfolds itself, moment by moment, cadence by cadence.  Just like what we have to do really listeni to someone talking to us…

Makes you think…..

The music industry has sometimes struggled to find its feet in the digital world. In this lovely talk, TED Fellow Ryan Holladay tells us why he is experimenting with what he describes as “location-aware music.” This programming and musical feat involves hundreds of geotagged segments of sounds that only play when a listener is physically nearby.

Happiness At Work #81

All of these articles and more can be found in the Happiness At Work collection #81