Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Put Your Best People on your Most Boring Challenges

A guest article today from The Harvard Review via the Dynamic Small Business Network.

Don't you love it when someone crystalizes what you know already but haven't been able to put into words?

as organizations scale, they often slip, slide and default into less than mediocre processes that get the job done. Unfortunately, the job gets done in manual, jury-rigged or improvised ways that are deadly dull to manage and excruciatingly boring to fix…. [T]he real barriers to growth aren't around the ingenuity of value-added implementations; they're in the lag-behind, necessary evil support systems and three-quarter baked infrastructures desperately attempting to support them.

When we confuse process with result

Here's the scenario: you decide to spring clean your closet / hall cupboard / stationery store. You pull everything out to see what's in there, and have it all spread over every available surface at the point where your blood sugar falls through the floor or you're called away to another task. It all starts to feel pointless and counterproductive. You shove it all back in, any old how, and mentally curse yourself for being such a slob that even when you're trying to clean up you're still only making a bigger mess.

Congratulations, you've confused the process with the result. The result is a tidy and organised closet / hall cupboard / stationery store. The process is chaotic and appears disorganised. (People never believe that random looking piles of stuff are a form of order.)

Our new fitness regime is likely to suffer a similar fate. We don't feel (or look) trim, taut, energetic and terrific when we exercise, so when we hit our lowest ebb, we wonder 'what's the point?' We're confusing the result with the process.

Take this human tendency into the field of human relationships and you just know its going to go kablooey.

Can you see this pattern at work anywhere in your life?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The end of embalmed wood

I'm about to rave about a new non-toxic paint stripper, called soygel.

I love wood, which is why I dislike the plasticised finishes on so many items of furniture. Sure, you can put your coffee cup down on it without it marking, but sometimes the polyurethane is so thick - and tinted - it obscures the grain. One scratch and its ruined forever, there's no recovery. (With oil and wax, you just add some more and buff till the mark is gone.) And polyurethaned wood doesn't feel like wood, it feels like plastic. A book I once read on fine carpentery techniques called it 'embalmed wood'. I wish I could recall the author's name, because that's a genius phrase.

Soygel is the answer. As the name suggests, its a byproduct of soybeans. Its so non-toxic you supposedly can eat it out of the container (I wouldn't.) You can't eat it once its mixed with paint, you don't know whats in that stuff. It smells faintly fishy to me, in a 10 litre quantity, its not offensive in smaller doses. Compared to paintstripper it has no smell worth mentioning.

The thicker the paint/varnish, the thicker you apply the soygel. It goes on a bit runny and thickens up to the consistency of jelly (aka jello) once it combines with the paint/varnish. Two hints - use a brush that doesn't have a painted handle otherwise you'll end up with soygel on the paintbrush and it will lift off staining your hands. Don't use a foam 'brush' - the soygel seemed to break down the foam.

Wait a while then use a plastic scraper to literally scrape the paint-infused gel off the surface.  You don't need anything as aggressive as metal scraper. Wipe the scraper off onto paper towel. A while is around 30 minutes but can be up to 2 hours. If you leave it too long, it dries hard again, so you just apply some more soygel. On a flat surface, and with the optimum amount of time, you can just scraper the gunk off the edge of the item straight into a waiting container.

At the end, wipe the item down with warm soapy water and any residue will be removed. Unless your item is very damaged there is NO NEED TO SAND. Really.

Life will never be the same again. Viva human ingenuity.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gift giving - a moment of truth

Gift giving can give you an insight into the level of intimacy in your relationships. I'm talking about gift giving that is motivated by love, rather than by duty or social obligation.

There are people you love who you could pick a dozen appropriate and desirable gifts for, you know them that well.

There are people you love who you have no idea what they really genuinely like. Maybe you did 2 or 5 or 15 years ago, but now you don't.

If you're not increasing the intimacy of your relationships - the other person is becoming more 'real' to you, more complete or multi-dimensional - then you are decreasing intimacy, and paying less attention to them. Which can begin to merge into situational love rather than specific love.

So the only thing worse than not knowing what to buy someone you love, is knowing what this says about how you relate with them. Loving blindness is, as Billy Connolly would say, 'of use to no bugger'.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Earlier, I posted about tweaking photos.

Serendipitously, this week I'm reading Clive James' A Point of View, a compilation of articles he wrote for the eponymous BBC Radio show.  Radiant Faces discusses icons - do follow the link to his website, where you can read the article yourself - and made me realise that is what I am doing with my tweaks, I am turning the photo into an icon. James writes:

… the viewer’s imagination is drawn in to fill a space, instead of shut out by a display of technique…. any kind of camera, whether cinematic or still, always lies, because it gives a single figure far more importance than it can have in life.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Listen up!

A short, fascinating talk by sound expert Julian Treasure on how to improve our listening, and why we might want to.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Resistance is useless

I'm very attached to my treats. I'm a chocaholic, a caffeine fiend (in a small way), and I like a glass of wine now and again. I'd be very reluctant to give up any one of these.

If you ask me do I prefer chocolate or bacon, obviously I prefer chocolate. Especially if that's Lindor 60% cacao you're half-hiding behind your back.

But if I absolutely had to give up one or other other, forever… that changes things. I'll keep the bacon thanks. Especially if it's Waitrose smoked streaky back bacon. Which goes very well with rosemary infused portobello mushrooms and a cafe latte. I'm just sayin'.