What are you avoiding?

I’m sure we’ve all been there. We have 100 things to do and we pick 90 things to get done and avoid those last few items that we just don’t want to do.

They are on our ‘to-do’ list for a reason. We put them there…or more likely…someone put them there for us. But, they’re there and they should probably get done.

Why do we avoid those tasks? I know there are some things that I just consistently ‘put off’ to another day (e.g., writing on this blog) and I can’t tell you ‘why’ I put them off.

Recently, I ran across this quote that really resonated with me:

People romanticize their plans but dread the execution. The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.

Using this blog as an example — it is quite romantic in that ‘hey…I can be famous if I write a blog’ type of way, but it means nothing if I don’t actually write regularly.   An idea is worthless without execution.  It’s the execution of ideas that deliver value.   You (and I) can talk all day long about what we are going to do, but until you do it, you’re just talking.

But think about what happens when you get those things done that really mean something to you? Those things that you’ve “romanticized.”  Getting those things to a ‘done’ state is so much more meaningful and magical than just having them sit there on paper or in your head.

What are you avoiding right now?

…and then what?

...and then what?I just finished reading a great article titled “The Most Important Question You Can Ask: Then What?

In the article, the author writes:

The great art of life is in balancing the short term and the long term, so that one can have enjoyment with integrity – pleasure with purpose. But in most areas of life, we pay strict attention to the immediate consequences of things. We look at the immediate results of a social or economic policy and call it a victory (or a complete failure).

The solution to  ‘short term’ thinking, according to the author, is to ask “…and then what?”.  By asking this simple question, we can force ourselves to look past the immediate and into the longer term. The author writes:

The problem is that so few of us take the effort to do this very simple thing. It’s understandable, we get caught up in the moment, and we don’t particularly enjoy thinking in minute detail each and every moment of our lives. But in the coming era, it will become increasingly important for us to ask these kinds of things, as our interconnectedness makes ideas and new technologies spread faster than ever before.

This very simple step of asking “…and then what?” can make a huge difference to any individual’s or organization’s planning process. By thinking about the step after the step, you’ll be able to open up plans to include much more than just the things needed to get the current project complete.

A perfect example of the lack of asking “…and then what?” can be found with most instances of the phenomenon known as Shadow IT.  Shadow IT usually arises because the IT organization can’t/won’t give a person/group a technology/system that they think they need. This group then goes out and finds something to fill their immediate need without thinking ahead. What will happen when the data in that new system needs to be integrated with other company systems, needs to be backed up or you need to move it to another cloud service provider? These are all very simple scenarios that can be covered if you simply ask “…and then what?”

Are you and your organization asking yourselves “…and then what?” during your planning?

What have you done for me lately?

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

What have you done for me lately?

If you’ve grown up in the world of IT, you probably either get asked this question regularly or you feel that the people within the organization are thinking it.

Its fairly common to have a technology project finish up and everyone is shaking hands and slapping backs after the successful implementation.  Then…the next day, everyone’s looking toward the next project, the next platform, the next milestone.   While everyone’s happy that you’ve done “something” for them now, they immediately revert to a past tense mentality and the mindset quickly moves to one of “What have you done for me lately”.

I don’t believe this is intentional though. I think people truly do care that IT professionals are around and helping to implement and manage technology…but the world of tech moves so fast that it feels like there’s always something ‘new’ to do. This ‘never done’ mentality leads to the “What have you done for me lately” approach.

In fact…many in IT ask this question of each other and of those outside of IT.  Its a question that comes up often in most organizations. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Well…it can be a bad thing if you let it.  This mindset can cause consternation and bad feelings throughout the organization. But…it can also be used for good.

Think about it this way..if you or your IT staff have become complacent, a form of this question might be a to ask yourself or your team.   Ask yourself “What have we done for them lately”…and see where that takes you.

This type of question does a few things.   It should force you to step back and revisit your recent projects and deliverables.  It should also force you to revisit those projects that were successes AND those that were failures. It should also force you to step out of the complacency box and rethink those things that you are currently working on and how to deliver on those projects. Lately, it should force you to stop thinking about you and start thinking about them.

So…instead of asking someone else the age old question… re-frame that question. Ask yourself what you’ve done for them.  Ask your team what they’ve done for the rest of the organization.  Its a simple question but can deliver valuable answers.

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

Watch out for the Gorilla!

Gorilla By Kris Elshout on flickrI’m currently reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (amazon affiliate link).

In one of the first few chapters, Dr. Kahneman describes the “invisible gorilla test” popularized by psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. The test consists of a team of 3 people dressed in black and a team of 3 people dressed in white passing a basketball to their teammates.

Watch for yourself…and really really focus on counting the passes between the white-shirts. (If you are reading this via RSS and don’t see a video, please click here to view it).

Did you get the number of passes correct? How about the gorilla…did you see the gorilla the first time?

Whether you saw the gorilla while watching the video or not…research shows that about half of the people that watch this video and focus on counting passes, do not see the gorilla. Pretty amazing huh? Half the people don’t see a gorrilla walk through the scene, pound its chest, turn and look at the camera, then stroll off.  Half the people.

From this test (and many other tests by other psychologists), we’ve learned that its very easy for us mere humans to get deceived, to miss things and/or just not pay attention that well. The ‘invisible gorilla’ phenomenon isn’t just some theoretical phenomena…Its something that happens in the real world every day. It happens to me and to you everyday.

The invisible gorilla shows up in many workplaces too.  With so many people and organizations focused on “doing more with less” (or whatever other buzzworthy terms you want to use here), we tend to miss some of the very important details that might change our outlook and approach towards those things we are so focused on.

Take a step back in your job/life and look for that invisible gorilla.  Maybe your gorilla won’t be as easy to see as the one in the video above…but i bet there’s one there…if you look hard enough.

PS: If you want to learn more about The Invisible Gorilla phenomenon, Simons and Chabris have written many papers on the subject and have even released a book titled The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us (amazon affiliate link). 

Image Credit: Gorilla By Kris Elshout on flickr

Links for September 18 2011

Rethinking Measurement by Jamie Notter
Quote: …rethinking your metrics is probably a GREAT way to start changing some trajectories. Measure different things, and at different intervals, with the intention of actually learning more about your system and how it operates. That can lead to some behavior that changes trajectories. You won’t know the answer when you start down the path (which can be scary for stakeholders), but this is the kind of courage we need right now to break free from what has been holding us back.

Are you Committed? by Jay Platt
Quote: Sadly, however, most people aren’t willing to “burn their ships.” They (like the soldiers in the story) want them there in case things get too hard they can use them to escape with.

But What if it Works? By Seth Godin
Quote: The thing is, if they make a fortune, you make five fortunes. Don’t worry about it. Go ahead and give people the opportunity to have their risk pay off. More than ever, people are motivated by the opportunities that come with scale.

Thinking Small — Thinking value by Mark McDonald
Quote: By thinking small, we can expose BIG thinking bias and consider alternative ways in which we create value, in the performance the business understands, in time and in context. Thinking small about IT helps re-imagine value and its realization in ways that build up our capacity/capability rather than consume cost.

The IT Light Switch by Elliot Ross on Strategic Technology for the Small to Medium Enterprise
Quote: Computer technology will continue to become invisible – by that I mean the ‘server’ or plumbing will be out of site and out of mind. Technology professionals will need to shift their focus to managing the experience of technology – becoming device agnostic versus trying to manage the end to end environment. Or as Mr. Greengard states – become ‘information-centric rather than device centric’

The dangers of social media…or…don’t be a sheeple

Sheeple By rhiannonstone on flickr

Sheeple By rhiannonstone on flickr

Social Media has brought a real danger to the forefront of society.

It’s not the security risks that might be inherent in social media, although there are many of these types of risks.

It’s not the many inherent dangers that might be found in social media, although they are valid dangers.

It’s not the very real and very serious issues parents and children must be aware of when dealing with social media.

What is the real danger found in social media today?

Its the same danger found in all aspects of life but social media seems to exacerbate it.

What is it?

Blindly following others and allowing them to form your opinion for you.

Of course, that’s always been a danger for anyone at anytime in history.  But…the adoption and widespread use of social media is leading to more and more ‘sheeple‘ in existence today.

In the past, these sheeple could always find someone’s opinion or idea to blindly follow but social media has given rise to a much more dangerous world for these folks.

Its quite easy today to find someone on Facebook or Twitter to follow.  Someone who seems to know what they are talking about. Someone famous perhaps…or someone who labels themselves an expert.

Sheeple base their opinions on the opinions of those they follow. In most instances they blindly accept as truth/fact/gospel whatever comes across their twitter stream (or email or web brower) without taking one nanosecond to think about whether that ‘fact’ is true.

Sheeple are nothing new…but social media has opened up a growth industry for the this non-thinking class to thrive.

Think for yourself.  Analyze for yourself.  Be yourself.  Heck…disagree with the people you follow (but disagree cordially of course).  You might find that you’ve learned more from non-agreement than you ever learned from simply nodding your head and moving on.

Don’t be a sheeple…plenty exist already.

Stop being lead by the sheeple shepherds and start thinking for yourself.

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