Monday, October 25, 2010

What I've learned from playing Solitaire

Sometimes you find a life lesson in an unusual place or person. My recent mini-obsession with playing Solitaire has either taught or reminded me of the following:
  • You have to be prepared to lose. There’s always another game.
  • Don’t get fixated on one particular next step or you’ll miss other opportunities.
  • There is no strategy that works all the time
  • Sometimes it’s best to stop planning, and just pay attention.
  • It’s not always useful to grab every opportunity as soon as it come up, if you can expect it to come up again, take the time to consider your options.
  • Sometimes luck feels like strategy, strategy feels like luck
  • Success may lie more in your circumstances than in striving.
  • When things are going well, it feels like it will be that way forever.
  • You’re usually moving fast and travelling well when you’re heading down a cul de sac.
  • You don’t control your circumstances, but you can make the best of them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The end of the sixth day

I'm not sure if its true whether fortune favours the bold, but I am sure that the harder I work, the luckier I get. (Thanks to either Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Goldwyn or Gary Player for that gem.)

Not that the hard work occurs in isolation. Some days the stars align, and you get a payoff for several things you've been working on at once.

I've just been perusing (great word, eh?) the first concept proof of my new music studio website by the talented graphic artists at Webalive. Very exciting. Writing the design brief was harder than I expected. I do pity designers who are given a very unclear word-picture, then criticized if the work 'isn't what I asked for'. When actually, its a bit all over the place and so was the brief.

Once my new website is finished I will link to it, right now I'd rather you don't look at the rotting corpse of my old one.  (The irony that I have been freelancing designing other people's communication strategies and websites while absolutely neglecting my own is not lost on me. Hey, doctors don't treat their families either.)

At my current comms gig, I've put to bed the outline of a new program. It's pretty exciting stuff too - the birth of my new brain child! There is an amazing satisfaction in describing a concept so that your listeners appear to 'see' what you are 'seeing'.

Tonight I feel a little like God at the end of the sixth day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tribal organizations

Is your company basically tribal?

Do you and your immediate team have a strong feeling of identity with and loyalty to your work group, department, region or reporting line. Is there even a certain lack of identity with and loyalty to other groups in your organizational structure?

Another common phrase to describe this is the silo effect.

Many large organizations can communicate only in straight lines, and with the cooperation of various gate-keepers along the way. If you try to cross between the lines it becomes much more difficult.

So how do you break down the silos and get inter-tribal communication happening? Officially, rather than along unofficial lines (which happens anyway and can't be stopped, but leaves some folks out in the information cold).

How do you respect the cultural patterns of your organization, while Getting Stuff Done in a way that doesn't require a Summit Meeting, trade gifts and the liberal application of a peace pipe?

Audience participation please...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trying to change the onion

Reader note: This post may contain onions.

When I prepare raw onion my eyes stream water and puff up like I've been on a day long crying jag. I can't see what I'm doing and worse it stings. Maybe you have a similar reaction? Many people do.

There is a lot of advice and folk wisdom about how to solve this problem. We can soak the onion in hot water before chopping it. We can part freeze the onion before chopping it. We can use a certain type of onion, a 'low-fume' variety. We can use a food processor, which limits our exposure to the onion. We can find someone else to chop the onion.

All of these solutions work up to a point. Most of this advice is about trying to change the onion so it won't release the fumes that set us off. The best solution I have found, which works every time, is to wear swimming goggles so the onion fumes don't get into my eyes. Rather than trying to change the onion, I'm changing myself, or at least granting myself the best possible conditions under which I will chop the onion. This solution has never failed for me. Better yet, it gives me sense o confidence about onion-chopping that the other solutions never did The other solutions work some of the time, creating uncertainty. The big 'will it work, won't it work' can become a problem itself.

We have to decide which problem we are solving. Are we solving the onion's problem of releasing irritant fumes? (Effectively 'blaming' the onion for our discomfort, and accidentally victimizing ourselves. It's not me, it's the onion... If only the onion were different...) Or are we solving our own problem of watery eyes when we work with onions? It's often harder to define the problem when we put the focus on ourselves and our own experience, (whaddaya mean I might be the problem? Don't look at me, buddy, its the onion...) but it is also often easier to solve. We are focussing on the aspect of the problem where we have the most power and control.

It was only a nanosecond after thinking this that I had a Blinding Flash of the Obvious: when dealing with other people and their irritating behaviors we are usually trying to change the onion.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, October 15, 2010

Creativity tools

Everyone is, or can be, creative. It appears to be part of the human condition. Many of us would like to become even more creative. Here's a couple of things that have increased my creativity.
  • Teach your non-dominant hand to do something new. If you are very dominant with one hand, this will be difficult, time consuming and frustrating. If you perservere, you will find a host of subtle benefits. Breaking my dominant arm forced this on me, which I don't recommend. Daily writing with your 'off' hand will work in a few weeks, if you do some each day. Which hand do you pick up your coffee cup with? Does it feel odd to use the wrong hand?
  • Buy yourself some crayons and a sketch pad. Don't expect to produce 'art', but do enjoy exploring drawing or playing around with the colours. Abstract or photorealistic, the point is how it makes you feel, not what the end result looks like.
  • Buy a drum, or use a found object such as a tupperware container, a bucket or a pot. Small Pringles (tm) potato chip containers are particularly nice. Explore the different sound effects you can make. Copy the beat of your favourite rock song - then see if you can improvise your own rhythmic line.
In each activity, your brain will forge or reinforce new neural pathways. When it comes to brains, more connectivity means more creativity.
    What creativity tools do you use?

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    A rose by any other name?

    From time to time I'm asked about my blog title.

    Just recently I was introduced to a colleague of a colleague who said, "Oh, you're the one with the interestingly" - here he quizzically lifted his eyebrows - "named blog". Oh dear.

    Others say, "You know, you're not that opinionated, and you never write about childlessness..."

    So here it is, the origin of 'An Opinionated Childless Woman'.

    One day I'm going to write a book about parenting. Yep, it's all kinds of hubris, I know. In the spirit of spinning a bug into a feature, I figure I'll get the issue front and centre. You'll either laugh at the title: How to Enjoy Your Children More by an Opinionated Childless Woman, or you'll be offended and won't read it. Either way you'll know what you're getting yourself into.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    The world needs all kinds of minds (Temple Grandin)

    Managing disinterest

    When writing communications in the business world, we generally assume that we have an audience of nominally willing-to-listen, not merely a soapbox. This may be a mistake.

    Advertising copywriters receive blunt feedback: "So what?" "Who cares?" or "Huh?"

    In business, communications are often top-down and basic survival instincts usually ensure a pretence of interest. Which makes genuinely managing disinterest difficult.

    Disinterest comes in various forms. It arises out of a failure to perceive benefit or relevance. (And when we are already feeling time-poor, we an be very blinkered in what is beneficial or relevant.)

    Timely, brief, relevant and searchable information usually hits the spot.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    A lack of opinoin? not likely

    Is this my longest absence yet? I need to get a new challenge going, pronto! I'm losing urgency without one.

    Suggestions? Shorter than a year, longer than a week...

    3 things I'm feeling opinionated about:

    1. Spring: it's great, it's here, I'm loving it.
    2. Stephen Fry: he's wonderful to listen to, if you get a chance to see him live, go.
    3. Ruts: when you find yourself in one, start digging - left or right doesn't matter, just get out.