Tuesday, 16 August 2011

HBR: not the best advice

HBR appear to be the choice of literature for a great deal of my clients.  Rows of hardbacked booked sit magnificently across oak bookshelves in many offices I visit.  I remember a Korean firm in Seoul where the head of department had every book from HBR associated with creativity and innovation on display. It appeared none had ever been read. I always look for post-it notes, dog eared pages and torn dust jackets as a sign of use.  It’s nice to think leaders write “my thoughts exactly!” in the margin.

In this instance though, the online advice is poor.

Although the two final points make sense. Small teams and keep them together. I take umbrage with the first point.  The last thing you want in a team is a ‘devils advocate’.  I agree it’s good to take stock of your thinking from time to time but it’s important the whole team do that together and then collectively switch to more expansive conversations thereafter.
If one person is constantly analysing ideas, suggestions and first thoughts, NOTHING will get done. After a while everyone will get used to running by decisions and ideas to the naysayer and getting permission to move on. In addition, if the devil’s advocate is tasked solely with analysing all the time, all his/her clever experience will simply be tailored to spot what is wrong with everything.  The more you practise the better at it you get.  Try hard enough to find fault with an idea and you’ll find it. Eventually people will stop coming up with ideas as it’s too risky and personally exposing. So no HBR, DONT have a Devil’s advocate in a group.  Ever.  Everyone is either growing and building ideas or collectively analysing them as one.  It’s the skill of a facilitator to help everyone get aligned between those two worlds.  This isn’t advice that should come as a shock.
On writing all this though, I can’t help but think though I’ve demonstrated the very behaviour HBR advocate in their advice. Oh how soon before the headache begins...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riots - It's not about greed and it ain't about values either.

Obviously a lot out there about the London Riots over the last few days and I accept 100% that writing about it means I join the ranks of the commentators and not the street cleaners and other folk who have to clear up the mess.
I’ve read lots about the difference between the politicians and the ordinary people and how the two speak different language.  I find myself shouting at the t.v. as the political elite serve platitude and cliché; no-one seems to talk anything of sense or worth. I also think how terrible a mess we’d all nbe in if the ‘ordinary people’ had positions of responsibility and had a go at running the country too.  We can all be armchair leaders.
One article caught my eye and I thank the author and the re-tweeter for passing it on.  It got me thinking and I hope it does you also...
I don’t think it’s a question of greed though. No-one thing causes anything like a riot.  I grant there may be a catalyst but life isn’t as black and white.  Greed has been present since the dawn of time. The have and the have-nots have co-existed for centuries and certainly have they been aware of each other.  If the rich are targeted by the poor in such demonstrative ways, is that not proof enough that one has a greater value set than the other as I cannot recall a time when the affluent took arms against lost generations and wantonly took it out on them in the streets.
To say that violence on the t.v. causes riots is false; t.v. also shows romantic comedies, but I don’t see streets filled with passionate kisses. To say that all this lies at the door of the parents is also false – we all know of ‘well brought up people’ who have tremendous power to harm, bully, pester and intimidate.  I don’t think it’s the fault of youth clubs being closed, or churches falling empty, community centres being knocked down or other elements of our society closing around our young people.  No-one thing is to blame.
What is consistent in time like this is action and re-action. We all have a reaction to what we see and hear and take a point of view.  Some will blame greed, some parents, some the government, some the police, family values... I’m waiting for someone to blame teachers or pop music...  or a leaf on a tree.
My opinion (as I’d rather have one than not) is that this comes down to self image. self worth. pride. individuality. I don’t see anyone who is a rioter having any of these. There is perhaps something more interesting and worthy about being at a riot than the alternative – which is bettering oneself, taking a stand to defend a value, rising above the crowd etc.
But of course I’d say that as I had a middle class up bringing in the 80’s and the biggest fear I had growing up was not getting a job, letting my family down or going to prison. I just didn’t take it out on the local JD sports store. Perhaps my opinion would be different had I been born another time. I’ll hold on to that thought when I next feel judgemental.
Guess it’s easy to write about being right.