Tink_HeadphonesAlmost in every conversation the word “mindful” pops up. It could be because of the circles I’m running it but I do think it’s the latest buzz word – driven perhaps by the ongoing desire for “self-help” or “lifehackers” amplified by the our digital communication channels. Maybe I’m just getting old and this is what happens.

I’ve listened to many podcasts from meditation, wellness, naturopathy and dedicated mindful podcast but I just didn’t quite get it. It seems to mean to be very / hyper aware of YOU and your surroundings – to take a moment and take stock of your breathing, tension in your muscles, your interactions with something (not normally email though!).

It wasn’t until I decided to be mindful with some music that it clicked so I thought I’d share. It’s quite simple which is what you’d expect!

Step 1 – grab some headphones. Being a part-time audiophile I recommend some good quality headphones that allow you to hear all the nuances of the music.

Step 2 – choose a song. In this case I recommend one that you  are very familiar with, an old classic that you could put your hand on your heart and say “I know that song”.

Step 3 – play the song. But instead of listening for and to the dominant noise i.e. the vocals, the guitar riff or the deep base, listen for that background noise behind the dominant sounds.

Step 4 – focus on that. Listen for it. Keenly anticipate it. It might come and go, you might even switch which sound but the idea is to drill into the one noise.

When I did this I found a new fascination for the song. I started to feel like I was pushing aside the dominant noises and look behind them. I wondered why the artist choose to put that noise there – there must be a purpose right? Or maybe it  was leftover from the production and they didn’t remove it? Or did someone else suggest they put it there?

This train of thought reminds me of the idea of ‘processes for process’ sake, or what someone once called ‘wallpaper’ at work (layers and layers of redundant stuff). We all know we do things at work because that’s how it’s always been done. Joe before me did it, John over there does it, and group-think settles in with no-one challenging it.

Maybe this epiphany of mindfulness through music will train my mind more to look beyond the dominant noise at work and focus in on what’s behind it. It’s a loose connection from a background noise in a song to the real the meaning of a task  or work but perhaps mindfulness is actually all about changing the way we look at things.

Not burning the daylight hours!The 2015 Queen’s birthday weekend was a little different for me this year. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this post I took part in a 2 day safe tractor operation’s course at the Tocal agricultural college a little west of Newcastle.

The weather turned out amazing and on day 2 as the team were slashing a field and using the front loader I found myself sitting on the grass, steel capped boots on and taking in the tractors, bulls, stallions and cows wandering the fields. In this state of mindfulness I chuckled to myself that I might have missed my calling on the land, but there’s still time for that!

Shortly after we were chatting with the trainer who is living the self-sustainable dream. Rearing and slaughtering his own animals, learning new sustainable and organic practices and teaching others. But it was one particular comment that I instantly related back to my current career. He said “I never burn daylight hours“. Of course he was referencing the huge amount of work he needs to get done to keep his “just bigger than hobby farm” going but it made me think – do I burn daylight hours?

If you sub in “productive time” for “daylight hours” it’s highly relevant to anyone. I like the question because it’s not about “burning the midnight candle” that we all know with a love / hate relationship

Do you know where your time is spent? How long and on what? Taking it up a notch, is what you a working on the right thing to be working on?

I might put a sign up somewhere that says “Are you burning your daylight hours?”. It’ll remind me to think about the task at hand, is it the right task? It’ll also remind me of the people working hard to provide an outcome for me (food) while working to improve the practices and processes (business process optimisation?).

Are you burning daylight hours?

Next job might need to be with a company that has an office in HK that I need to visit. Looks amazing!

This Expat's Life

I got a voucher for a free drink, so why not visit the lobby bar?

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(c) 2014 Lincoln De Kalb LinkedIn have done a great job with Pulse. How do I know? Because I never get past the first page of the feed. I get stuck on the Pulse news and end up chewing through my time reading the very interesting articles.

I’m assuming the articles are tailored and it’s in this that they excel. Clever articles that are very rarely from people that i’m following but always on topic. Today I have articles on leadership, innovations and mobile related content.

There’s a striking difference when I compare it against some of the other social sites featured content. In most cases the featured content is uselessly after the fact or needlessly repetitious.

Take for instance Facebook. Right now the featured content is all about buying or investing in property – great content if I was looking but since I bought a place almost a year back it’s largely irrelevant. There can’t be that many professional investors for this algorithm to be of benefit!

Amazon has some smarts in their featured content and arguably one of the most talked about. The cleverness comes in capturing your searches then feeding back to you (over and over) related content. Works great for books where related content might be useful for further reading or upsells, but it’s not so good with butter boats.

I bought a butter boat almost 2 years ago from Amazon and without fail every personalised email or featured content contains some reference to a butter boat. I’ve already got one, why do I need another one?

Twitter is nearly the winner in my featured content fail contest. I’ll give it to them that it is quite often relevant either to my general feed or the hashtag feed I but I don’t need to see the same featured content over and over in my feed. I’ve seen it once, I didn’t act on it, maybe show it to me again but there’s only so many times I need to see a betting agencies featured content on my football hashtag feed!

This might sound like a whinge against advertising but I assure you it’s not. I understand advertising is an integral part of commerce and I often learn about new products from advertising. What I’m complaining about, and recognising LinkedIn for their great implementation of, is personalised content that is just wrong, over bearing or behind the times.

Personalisation is tough. Predictive personalisation is even harder. But if it’s not done right now it’ll blur into the background much like Google’s sponsored or paid for ad’s!

Do you have any great examples of when you have looked at the advertising and though “that’s not right”?

Do you know how to Innovate?

Posted: October 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

InnovationI recently attended my works innovation state awards night. I think it’s great that any company both recognises the importance of employee led innovation and also that they take the time out to celebrate those innovations. The program has been running now for 4 years and has grown considerably in that time from one business unit to the entire company across all states. Brilliant! The “winners” in each state go onto the national awards to compete for the grand national awards. Last year the national champion was a talented guy from the trade marketing team who came up with Formula – an industry focused app for staff to learn to mix cocktails, brew a coffee plus more. A great way that a business can add value to another to another business!

Throughout the presentations it was great to see so many ideas from various area’s of the business that in some way helped the company along, whether that be in driving efficiency, providing value for our customer or even making sure employees are safe from occupational hazards.

All up I think it’s a great example of an innovation program succeeding.

It did however remind me of a thought I had a while ago, does your average employee know how to innovate? It’s a simple question but it talks to the heart of any innovation program. Do employee’s believe that an innovation is a bright spark that goes off while having a shower in the morning? Or perhaps they aren’t sure what the difference is between a true innovation and just “doing your job”? The latter is something I’m sure folks in IT or marketing have to think about given that in most cases they are often challenged with ways to makes things better!

But really – do you know how to innovate?

If you do – What processes do you use? Brainstorm? Mind Map? workshops?

The “lightbulb” moment is oftentimes perpetuated by urban legends. For instance, how many people actually believe that Isaac Newton had his defining thought when an apple fell on his head? Surely he would have had to have been pondering a related problem (even if) when that happened. And what about all those success stories we hear about entrepreneurs doing the zen thing and come back with great ideas? I’m sure some ideas appear like a lightning bolt but I’m even more sure that the majority of them appear after a huge amount of thinking, research and exploration. Hindsight is crystal clear and it’s easy to read these stories and think it was bound to happen.

Innovation becomes even murkier when tease apart incremental vs revolutionary ideas. Incremental is the small changes you make to an existing process or idea vs the game changers you often read about. So if you take someone else’s idea and make it better are you innovating? Taken to it’s extreme what’s the difference between creativity (making something new) and adaptation? Is anything truly new these days? Revolutionary makes headlines.

Tough questions that I’m not sure I have the answers to.Though I do know that before you embark on an enterprise innovation program you do need to have answers for them. When is an innovation above and beyond vs doing your job? To what level can you modify someone else’s idea and call it your own?

Does it really matter? Isn’t the purpose of an innovation program to excite employee’s to think outside the box and do things differently for the better of all?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

When marketing just get’s it!

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Marketing

Marketing is one of those dark arts that is part creative, part psychology and part luck!  I know of seasoned marketers who still keep a “Dummies Guide to Marketing” on their bookshelf to make sure they stick to the basics from time to time. We all love the reviews on the “best commercials of <insert year>” and even in Australia there’s always good commentary and debate on the creme de la creme, gold plated (and paid for in kind) Super Bowl commercials.

So I approach marketing as both a cynic but also an admirer when it’s done well. And today I came across some marketing material that I admire.

iiNet is an ISP in Australia that has always had a flair for quirkiness and have deliberately set themselves apart from the others. They’ve had an on-going theme of a geeky irishman (?) spruiking the benefits of iiNet and their marketing has always followed suit. Now I’m not necessarily advocating iiNet to potential customers, I’ve had a good service from them but I’m not the sort of person that has trouble connecting the bits, bobs, thingamagigits and doohickeys together and need to call them for support. I’ll leave others to comment on that.

They sent me this piece of advertising today and I just had to laugh and admire it. In my mind they have nailed not only my behaviour but that of my friends and family. Even if it doesn’t ring true for everyone we can all appreciate the cliche in it. In my mind they have nailed the scenario and used it to their advantage. (BTW – if you are from iiNet and are reading this – feel free to get in touch and we can talk about some remuneration 🙂 ).

iiNet advert

When marketing just get it.

Embrace the subcultures

Posted: September 19, 2012 in E20, SocialBiz

the subculture In my last post I talked about how culture comes first for your Enterprise Social Network (ESN). Without the right culture, which is generally a product of the senior leaders, your companies social platform may flounder. However that isn’t always the case, there may be instances when someone in the organisation has taken the lead on deploying the ESN platform and stopped there. Sometimes the organisation takes a “build it and they will come approach”, perhaps project funds run out during the change management program or perhaps the change management program wasn’t successful. In any case, the end result is you have a social collaboration platform ready to be used by anyone that wants to.

This is when true magic happens.

We often hear about the Gartner adoption curve and how the innovators or early adopters are the ones that jump on board. Now here’s insight #1 – the early adopters dont need to be specific individuals, the passionate folk trail-blazing the new technologies. Early adopters can be entire groups or departments of people that recognise the power of ESN’s and can adapt it to their specific business needs.

One of the biggest “a-ha” moments for me was when a manufacturing plant became a very early adopter. They saw in the collaboration platform a “digital cork-board” where they could post shift-reports (being a 24hr operation), information on production lines and general news such as OH&S tips etc. They adopted not only the short sharp messages of the microblogs but also regular blogs and calendaring. It was an “a-ha” moment because had we spent the time talking to these people prior to implementation we would have identified the business need (sharing of information across shifts) along with the problem (lack of richness in current platforms including multi-way conversations, ease of historical conversation tracking) and found a very clear use case.

So insight #2 is embrace the sub-cultures. Dont assume that the entire organisation has a particular culture and that every department or group will act the same way. While i’ve seen some tightly controlled deployments the danger with that is that you’ll corral disparate business teams into an accepted framework. The flip side is that an open self-service platform whereby anyone can create their own communities might provide you with some surprises while learning a little more about the business.

I’m not a change manager but the obvious other aspect of this insight is that you need to be aware of these differences in your change and training programs. Work out the “what’s in it for me” message for as many of the sub-cultures as you can and iteratively adapt the message as you see the evolving use cases.

So while the company culture  plays a big part in mass adoption there’ll no doubt be some great opportunities and some surprises when you embrace the sub-cultures.