Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Imperfection as a core ingredient of progress






The illusion of perfection and the often painful  quest of individuals under social influence for this "ideal". Two areas on which I could write a lot because it's been my way of doing in the past. Now I just celebrate imperfection as the best engine for progress ever invented because I think a perfect life without any imperfections would be an imperfect life almost by definition. At least it would be a life that would rob us of fantastic opportunities to evolve and grow.

However, it seems that in some of our social groups or societies the very idea of failure or imperfection is sometimes enough to cause intense reactions. Some people choose to distance themselves from other people's imperfections and therefore choose to distance themselves from the people who they see as embodying them. But a person is not their behaviour nor their performance... Other people choose to blame or cooly underline the imperfection of others... Games of the shadow as Carl Jung would perhaps say.

What prompts this post, aside from my own personal path which is perfectly imperfect or perhaps imperfectly imperfect, is an article published by a Greek doctor in the Public Library of Science (an open-access scientific journal that is worth paying a visit to). John P. Ioannidis studied why most published research findings are wrong and identified factors that seem to favour this imperfection of our world. Nice to know if we are to use this as feedback. "It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false" according to the author. Well, I believe that sentence remains accurate if you replace the words "claimed research findings" by the words "of the claims of anyone of us". And that still does not mean that we should stop thinking, claiming, arguing, writing, speaking, discussing... well, living. While I am really OK about continuous improvement, I am far less happy
with self-righteous "judges of Truth and Knowledge" as Einstein put it.

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked
by the laughter of the gods. - Albert Einstein

So let's try to celebrate all those who...

  • try stuff that does not work 'cause that's how we get to stuff that works. Real life is not always like the beautiful success stories we are constantly told about ('How Mr X became an instant pop music icon' or 'The innate scientific talent of Ms Y');

  • try stuff that works differently than expected 'cause that's how we got cool new products many times over;

  • honor truth in practice by daring to show themselves as they are with all their imperfections 'cause they add taste to real life. An example of such a person is a guy called Thierry Janssen (meet him on his site and read the awesome stuff he writes)...

And that includes scientists who sometimes publish research that turns out to be wrong, journalists who happen to publish articles that are inaccurate, politicians who fail to implement 100% of what they promised during a campaign and many others who are only human. And yet magnificently human. Splendily imperfect and therefore truly perfect in a way. I believe every single person does their very best moment by moment to satisfy criteria that are important to them.

Now, sometimes it's useful to...

  • think about the relevance of a criterion, or

  • the concrete way (behaviour, action, attitude) in which someone attempts to satisfy that criterion, or

  • the beliefs that underpin someone's choices, or

  • whether all required capabilities are in someone's possession as they embark on an enterprise

It's all a matter of objective and intention. It's a matter of whether we choose to view failure and imperfection as a life sentence or as simple feedback that can be used to adapt ways and means. It's a matter of attitude towards our fellow human beings. At the end of the day I choose to see someone else's mistake, imperfection, failure as being also my own. That's an ingredient of progress in my opinion.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Quicker & more relevant than Le Monde

T_tournesolRemember a few days ago my story about "flower power", Thomas Plassard and his association?

Well it seems, my post beat Le Monde and AFP on this one (although I am pretty sure I am not the only one to have done so and that speaks volumes about what is happening to traditional media). On top of that, my story is about something far more relevant to the European & French readership. No matter which journalistic performance indicator you choose, my blog was better than Le Monde and I am proud of that! A zillion thanks to Thomas for offering me that gift in return for my driving him to beautiful Saint-Malo.

Below is an attachement with the "flash" article from Le Monde and AFP.
Download 20050830_LeMonde_RoulerALHuileDeFriture.pdf
The picture on this post is courtesy of La Poterie du Marais.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Training specifications template

Holidays_martinique_2004_00102Over the past year I developed a number of tailor-made and standard training events for customers. One of the things I am doing each time is to define what the specs of the training should be. And as with every single thing one undertakes, one of the keys to success is to set an objective that is adequate for them in a way that will work for them in pactice (see the conditions of proper formulation of objectives in an earlier post on this blog).

So now I am publishing a template for specifying training events that you are free to use (and free to tell me how it works for you) if you are developing trainings. With a little bit of tweaking around the template also works for specifying a service for a customer or for a segment of the market. The document contains only info that makes sense for me and depending on your business requirements, you may need to include legal and other aspects to it. Let this be my contribution to your efforts if you will.
Download 20050827_TrainingSpecs.doc

Sunday, August 28, 2005

New recipe & why a restaurant is a top B-school

20050827_recette_tartedelegumes_002Continuing to publish Open Recipes, I give you the delicious, yet healthy, vegetables pie, which was invented during the weekend. The recipe is only in French and I might translate it one of these days.
Download CusineLibre_RecetteLibreTarteAuxLegumes.pdf

You know, a restaurant is a good metaphor for almost any business regardless how hi-tech the business can be. And I spent a few summers working in restaurants back in the eighties. There is marketing (place, style, menu), sales (the helpful guy or girl who comes to get your order), operations (the kitchen), finance (cashier desk), procurement (where we get the ingredients & drinks)... and so on. It is actually one the best places to learn about the eternal truths of general management, people management, customer care, CRM, knowledge management, planning... and a few other very practical things.
As ever, good instructions on how to make what the customer is asking for are important... only insofar as they are actually applied. So it's more about the skill than about the plan. More about the action than about the talk. As Gandhi said, "an ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of theory".  Which is also one of the eternal truths of Life in general. And that's valid for every single being, from the leader of the most advanced nation as he keeps babbling (but not doing much) about freedom and democracy, to the tinniest creature as it tries out ways to evolve in a Darwinian world of co-opetition as Hamel, Prahalad, Brandenburger and a few other researchers-practitioners would put it.

So go on and try this recipe. Take pleasure executing every single step of it. Have fun doing it. Make each action a celebration of how perfect our universe can be (it just depends on attitude). Eventually you will end up having something quite enjoyable in your plate. Bon app├ętit!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Great traveller

One of my former colleagues (who used to be a globetrotter in his days as head of sales of the company we were working for) has started a great trip around the globe that has taken him from Latin America to New Zealand. I trully admire his daring nature and his way of always being in action. Lodewijk shares some of his considerable travel (and adventure) experience on his web site, Silk-on-the-Road. Beautiful pictures of awesomely beautiful places on the planet. A source of inspiration for something completely different.

Flower power?

20050814_thomasplassardReturning from Brest, Britany, France on 14 August last, I spent a little bit more than an hour with a hitchhiker, who turned out to be an extremely interesting and multifaceted person.
When I saw him waiting for someone to give him a ride, with his monocycle lying at his feet, I had a positive intuition... Go figure! So we started talking about his monocylce because I have a good friend who is painstakingly learning to ride one. So Thomas told me he was going back home after spending a few weeks with a Gypsy circus which happens to give shows that fully exploit the power of metaphors and of the subconscious (that's an interesting point too, because I am now working on a new type of training programme based on metaphors...) Anyway, Thomas is not an artist or at least not exclusively an artist. He is a physicist. He is also one of the people behind a French organization called "Roule ma fleur", which trains people around France on how to use vegetal oil instead of diesel to power their engines. It seems one needs only very limited changes to the engine of a car or other vehicle to be able to use sunflower oil (but it also works with other types of oil) as fuel. Given the rising price of crude oil these days, it might be interesting to examine more closely this type of options, especially since they also seem to provide solutions to the green-house effect that some developed and developing nations don't give a dime about.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Open feedback tool

During this past year I started developing tailored training material for workshops and training sessions I am organising for my customers. The development of material for an event is always an interesting challenge, especially when customers push for a lot of content. The imperative to explain that more often than not less is more is one of the things I have to deal with on a very regular basis. Sometimes I just warn my customer of the effects of pushing for too much content and just do my best to address their requirements. At the end of the day, a customer has their set of criteria that they want to satisfy (efficiency, economy, productivity...). They also have their learning style: for some people it is learning by understanding why, for others it is learning by understanding how and for a third group it is learning by doing. I respect that because my "truth" is not above or more than their "truth".
Sp3220050808121353All this leads to the issue of being able to assess how well a session went for attendees. Capturing and using feedback in a positive way is one of the keys to continuous improvement of any professional activity. Having performance indicators that mean something and can direct future action is an absolute must; of course, the value of a performance indicator lies in its business meaning, not in its existence.
So, I decided to publish under Creative Commons licence the latest version of the feedback tool I am using for the training sessions and workshops I am delivering. The criteria I decided to use make sense for me because they are derived from my definition of the experience I want for my customers when I delver a session. You are free to amend the documents below as you please; just play by the rules of the Share-Alike license of CC. The Excel document is designed to help you exploit the data collected at the end of a session. It is protected without password (so you can unprotect it if you want) and the range in which you can enter data is shaded in blue. And by the way, your feedback on this tool is most welcome!
Download 20050808_FeedbackForm.pdf
Download 20050808_FeedbackForm.doc

Download 20050808_AP_EventFeedback.xls

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Little Gesture 60 years after Little Boy

LittleboySixty years ago to the day a few good men performed their "duty" in planning, preparing and eventually executing a fateful attack that was to become known as the first nuclear attack in History. Hiroshima, its population and all life forms that found themselves in the region on 6 August 1945 were wiped out as they met Little Boy. Back then, as we are doing today, some people among our elected leaders, those who speak and act in our name, chose to use unfair and shameful means to pursue a fair goal, the end of war. Once again, this provides an opportunity for me to reaffirm the importance of the path versus the apparent primacy of the goal. Unfair means to serve a fair purpose corrupts the endeavour.

I would like to invite those of your who realize the dimension of the mistake that claimed millions of lives, both human and non human, to perform a Little Gesture on Saturday 6 August 2005 in memoriam. I invite you to do a little something that counts for you, whatever that may be, a prayer, a session of meditation, fasting, helping someone in need... anything you will do with your heart and soul. Not necessarily something big or spectacular. Not necessarily a big amount of effort. Something you will do with all your heart in the memory of lives destroyed in Hiroshima, and crucially as a tribute to Peace and Harmony today and tomorrow. In 1949 the Japanese Parliament proclaimed Hiroshima a City of Peace. Let us be People of Peace now.

Monday, August 1, 2005

Coming up on this blog

I have a list of topics on which I would like to write a piece on this blog in the coming days and weeks. So let me give you a preview and invite you to drop me a line or leave a comment on this blog if you think about other subject you would like me to write about. Of course, I cannot commit to accept all proposals as there are clearly matters I feel like writing about and other I would rather skip; in any event your suggestions are welcome and will be studied.
Anyway here's the list of what's coming up on this blog:

  • NLP and professional orientation

  • how to give people feedback in a respectful manner

  • why on-the-job coaching makes sense

  • how to develop and use human potential in IT projects

  • is NLP a technique of manipulation?

  • how to manage confusion of logical levels

  • the attributes of "flow activities" and personal happiness

Have a great week.