Freedom to the nose (2): stealing at work

How free are you at work? How free are the people you’re responsible for? “As free as possible,” is a good answer, but there are some clear limits: no-one is allowed to hurt people physically (freedom to the nose) or to steal the property of the organisation (or other people). Intangible theft – stealing time, for example – is harder…

Orders of magnitude / next size up

There are lots of things that are easy enough to do once. Doing the same thing a second time can be almost as big a step: you’ll have learned some useful lessons the first time round but might also have used up non-renewable resources (available time, money, enthusiasm) or discover that you’ve picked the lowest-hanging fruit. If you’re serious about…

Net vector

They* say that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. It might even be true, although I’m wary of the implication that we should leave the other people behind.** The question for each of us is – in your family, friendship group, workplace, tribe – which way are you pulling, and how do…

New challenge, old challenge

I am pretty good at new challenges. Most of the time, I rise to them. I enjoy novelty. I like a challenge. It’s stimulating, creative work, and progress is rapid. I’m not so good at challenges that go on longer than I think they should – long enough that the the return on my effort starts to diminish, or that…

Systems thinking: Peter Senge on the limits of learning from experience

The most powerful learning comes from direct experience. Indeed, we learn eating, crawling, walking and communicating through direct trial and error – through taking an action and seeing the consequences of that action; then taking a new and different action. But what happens if we can no longer observe the consequences of our actions? What happens if the primary consequences…

Systems thinking: Gall’s Law

Gall’s Law: A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system. As described by David Perell in his very interesting 50 Ideas That Changed My…

The unglamorous work of doing good (2)

I recently delivered some food parcels to families in our area. This was “helping those who have less” in one of its clearer and more concrete forms. I was happy to do it, but it didn’t feel that great: I loaded up my car, delivered the packages to some people who said thanks, and then drove home. It didn’t feel…

The unglamorous work of doing good (1)

The side of the tracks Among the most rewarding pieces of “good” that I’ve ever done was to start a micro-savings group for a small community of men and women who lived along a railway line in West Jakarta. It was hard: hot, dusty, dirty and smelly from the rubbish that they recycled for a living, always smokey from cigarettes…

Operationalising culture

It’s important to think and talk about your values – to know what’s important to you, why you do what you do, and how you want people in your team to relate to each other and to the work you do. Then you have to live out these values – apply and embody them, demonstrate their importance and their worth,…

McDonald’s miracles and me

McDonald’s gets a lot of stick, much of it deserved. But critics of McDonald’s are often blind to the value it adds – in large part because we never knew (or have forgotten) the context it emerged in. In the pre-McDonald’s era, I suspect more so than now, the quality of food and service available in local restaurants across small-town…