…and then what?

...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

Technology Consultant - Eric D. Brown | Image for link posts

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 By rhiannonstone on flickr
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.

So…what do I do?

I’m in a quandary these days.

As some of you may know, I’m working on my Doctorate in Information Systems.

In addition, I have a full-time gig in the consulting world as well as provide some freelance technology consulting for small businesses.

On top of that, I’ve got a couple of entrepreneurial activities going with one particular idea that should come to fruition in the next few months.

Oh…and I try to spend as much time as I can with a camera in my hand out in the ‘wild’ photographing landscapes and wildlife.

Somewhere in there, I’m trying to spend a good portion of my days with my wonderful wife Tracie, who’s a great Dallas Photographer specializing in weddings, boudoir photography and seniors.

So…when people ask me “what do you do?”,  I have a bit of a hard time answering that question.

Some people have snappy comebacks to the ‘what do you do?’ question.  Things like “I type” or “I sell” or something short and sweet.

Personally, if someone tells me ‘I type’ if I were to ask them what they did, I’d think they were sitting in a secretarial pool somewhere.   I actually ran across a software developer who said ‘I type’ when I asked what he did….I didn’t hire him for the project after I heard that.  I want a developer who can think…not just type.

But I digress….

So…what do I do?

A little bit of everything these days.

I’m juggling being a full-time employee, part-time doctorate student, full-time entrepreneur and must less than part-time amateur wildlife/landscape photographer.

When people ask what I do, I never lead with the doctorate work and for the majority of  interactions, I lead with my work in my current full-time gig since that’s what my main focus is.  Sometimes, depending on the circumstance, I’ll bring up my entrepreneurial activities and at other times I’ll dive into photography if I know the other person is interested in the subject.

But the bigger question, for me, is this:  What do I want to do?

Let’s use that big ‘what if’ to think this through.

What if I didn’t have to pay the bills, would I have my full-time gig?  Probably not.

That’s not to say that I don’t like my job…I do.   But I’d prefer to be out traveling around with Tracie looking for some outstanding photographic opportunities.

Back here in the real world, I know I’ve got to pay the bills so I continue doing what I have to do…but I’ve started looking at ways to replace my full-time income as an entrepreneur. This isn’t something that will happen in the next few months or even the next year but I’ve got a plan.

That plan will allow me to build a base of revenue over a few different entrepreneurial activities over the next few years to allow more freedoms in the coming years.  The plan will also see me finish my doctorate by 2012 (woot!).

Let me say this…I’ve wanted to do something different for a long time.  I’ve wanted to…but never really set any goals or made any plans to force the change that I wanted to see.

I look back over the last 15 years and see a lot of mistakes I’ve made. Lots of ideas but little execution on my part.  Some blame placed on other folks because ‘they’ didn’t do something.

But I’ve come to realize that ideas without execution are worthless.  Common sense stuff…but something I somehow forgot.

Earlier this year, I realized that I don’t want to look back in another 10 or 15 years and feel the way I do now…so I’ve made some changes and have a path towards change.

I’m walking that path now….walking the line towards a bit of a different future my previous approach to life was allowing.

So…what do you do?

Are you doing what you want to do?  If not…are you looking for ways to do what you want?

There are a lot of motivational speakers out there that will tell people that they can do anything they want to do…and for the most part, I agree.  You can do whatever you want to…you’ve just got to figure out a way to do that without destroying your career, your finances or your life.

Are you creating your future and walking the path towards that future?  Or…are you just walking a line drawn by others?

Maybe you’re more comfortable letting others draw the line for you…nothing wrong with that.  Just make sure you want to go where that path leads.

In 5 or 10 years when you’re asked “What do you do?”…will you be able to answer with a smile and know you are doing what you want to do?  I’ll be able to….hope you will too.