Tag: balance

Being Human in The Age of Extremes: Pausing to see the other side

Front foot, Improvement, Reflect No Comments

What makes us human?

  1. The ability to tell stories that make sense of our lives?
  2. The (potential to have a) conscience?
  3. The way we organise to do ‘projects’ from farming to hobbies to start-ups?
  4. But also ‘othering’ – that is the way we pretty naturally like to put all we see and meet into groups and make those good or bad, helpful or harmful, right or wrong, hero or villain. ‘The other’ is frequently given less positive characteristics, though sometimes (for example in the case of celebrities, especially national treasures), they have a sort of saintly halo.


This final characteristic or seeing putting something in a neat box and labelling it positive or negative extends to the black and white thinking we see in the anxious debates of our age, including:
• Refugees and migration
• Junior doctors strikes
• Nationalism in Europe and the US
• Trident
• The Union
• The various issues and groups who Donald Trump targets
• Trophy hunting
• Sugar tax
In all of these a circle tends to be put around those with a different view and then there is a judgement that makes them and their ideas wrong.  We see it from our Facebook pages to Front pages.

The news media and social media coverage of all these stories polarises views. Advocates of a particular viewpoint tend to sound as if the argument is very clearcut; they know the answer – and it is in their direction.

So if being human means we have a tendency to seek tribal certainties, what makes us civil is, I believe, stepping back from quick scapegoating…seeing the other side, disagreeing well, looking at what is fact from the story and considering the alternative stories.

However, I agree that in a way I risk ‘circling’ those who are certain and making them wrong! Yet, this desire to see the other side is more of a habit I practice than a belief; a discipline more than a personal value. I find it as easy to label and judge as anyone else, but reckon that learning to challenge those tendencies (as I look for information to challenge my assumptions and confirmation bias) is pretty important in my life and work.

And the more I think about the stuff that occupies the pages, screens and chat in my life the more nuanced the ideas seem. I realise ‘IDK’: I don’t know.

As I explore the gospel of doubt in the age of anxiety I discover I need to continually practice ‘holding my beliefs lightly’. Yet, I regularly need to form a view and make a judgement. I need to vote. I need to advise a client; to call time in a meeting. I need to act.

So what makes us human? Pausing. The potential of a momentary pause to consider; what else might be.


Further reading:
Meaning of Life is a project
National treasures
• Projection, scapegoating, splitting
WITOS and perspective managment assessment
• From other peoples skin (shoes, eyes)
Holding our beliefs lightly
• The Gospel of Doubt and questioning the ‘bricks’ on which our beliefs are based
The Age of Anxiety


Tags: , ,

Are we sailing….we are sailing

Front foot No Comments

Sailing as a metaphor for our lives and work and organisations came up twice recently…
First from a mate who has been learning to sail: “it is a nice metaphor – you are at the mercy of the wind, with a degree of choice and skill mixed in”
And second, remembering some work 10 years ago on a Journey Planner (a large table top diagram – see p 10 and 11 here) for a more recent example that took sailing as its metaphor: We may know our ultimate destination and desired direction. Whilst we need to be focused on our overall vision and ultimate goal at all times we must also be prepared to continually adjust and amend what we are doing minute by minute and day by day as we tack and turn due to the changing circumstances around us.

Tags: ,

The power of quiet

Facillitation, Teams No Comments

Even as an ‘E’ in Myers Briggs  I know the value of designing in individual tasks in events we run – providing time to think and for everyone to contribute.

This video does a really nice job of presenting what can seem like a tension between E and I as a polarity.

It raises important questions on how to design our working spaces and ways of working.

Tags: ,

OOO #4

Personal productivity No Comments

This reflection came from one reader in response to our series of blogs on ‘OOO’ (out of office) messages for example. We share the ideas we received here (thanks R):

“Excellent and timely articles.

I have been experimenting with some of these (and would dearly love to try one or two others).

Although I have, and try to maintain, very separate work and social lives, I have found that the way I operate them has become almost identical.

By which I mean that work is ruled by desktop/laptop/Blackberry/mobile etc and social life is ruled by laptop/smartphone/internet. This means that when those two seemingly distinct worlds collide, which they inevitably do, it’s not always clear which laptop/’phone I need to reach for.

I recently found myself very much behind with what used to be called ‘paperwork’ – I don’t know the modern equivalent – in my private life (bills, correspondence etc). I had to specifically allocate a set amount of time on a specific day when I could deal with that and do so by switching off/ignoring everything to do with work. (For me, that’s a downside of the ‘digital only’ world – timely paper reminders kept me on track and ‘going paperless’ sometimes means I let things slide!)

I think I managed to give myself a three hour block when I did nothing but sort out those things important to me/my family. It was very liberating.

The ‘day blocking’ you cite here is something I will take up. I recently got back from a short period of leave to be faced with two conflicting issues: my first day back involved three meetings; and my bulging inbox contained ‘promises’ from colleagues about urgent briefings and the like that I would provide immediately upon my return.

The next leave period I have, I will clear at least one day either side. I have to say, the ‘e-mail bankruptcy’ idea is very appealing – I shall consider that further.”

Tags: ,

Our productive bandwidth

Personal productivity No Comments

What is the surest way to fulfilment?

Broadly there are two schools of thought.  Many aspire to idleness: planning the quiet weekend, hoping for an easy early retirement, keeping working hours low. Others argue that reasonable levels of stress keep us mentally alert and physically fit – and calming down gives us more time to fret and get fat.

It probably won’t surprise, that as part of our thinking about living a ‘front foot’ life, we see it as a question of balance!

Most independently wealthy people, emeritus academics or aged social entrepreneurs, have a few projects on the go at any one time – even in late retirement (if they have one!).  But also, it is good to be able to sit still and listen – to early morning birdsong, meditatively, to yourself or nothing at all.  And it is good to be able to calmly watch – what is going on in the relationships around you, noticing people going by from a café. 

Reflecting why you have an aversion to sitting still or taking on lots is probably a good question for a therapy session!

So the challenge is to discover the best route to create and sustain positive emotions.  Acheiving the balance between activity and idleness – projects and chilling – is an important element. It can be a difficult balance to strike, with the risk of overreaching and it’s associated stress or under activity with the resulting lethargy.  Getting the balance right gets us into the ‘flow’ and allows us to be our most productive in work and play.

Tags: ,

Is caring enough?

Think No Comments

Caring about something is not a sufficient guarantee of doing a good job.

It seems like it might be.

Especially in noble purpose enterprises.

But competence and taking time and space not to impose your own views on your colleagues does too.

Possibly more?

Tags: ,

Where do you put your attention?

Do, Reflect No Comments

If we create what we talk about, should you start your day with an argumentative media source?

Or with laughter and love?

Really, we have a choice…

An interesting interview from the guardian picks up the caution of starting the day with BBC Today programme and the power of Twitter.

Well, at least as long as it has only one mode of operation: argument.

A US-based collaboration provides an option for seeing the media as “an agent of world benefit”.

If you love news, why not skim read a number arguing different points of view – but do it lightly, and only for a while.

All this links to what we ‘feed’ to our heads and hearts during the day – and the power of positive thinking (see our think piece from a few years ago).

Tags: ,

Get onto the front foot: four things to try out with your team (#4 – Balance)

Do No Comments

Striking the right balance is the fourth thing to work on in getting and staying on the front foot.

The balance between:

– time working and time not working (no-one can stay on the front foot with an unrealistic workload)

– reviewing and thinking as well as planning and doing (it’s critical to break out of ‘firefighting’ mode).

The After Action Review process asks four useful questions for assessing progress against your 5-30-90 day plans:

– what was supposed to happen?
– what has actually happened?
– why was it different?
– what can we learn from this?

From this you can also think through what else it will take to keep on the front foot in getting your ideas into action.

So, there you go – four simple methods to bring our Front Foot framework to life.

Tags: , ,

Focus and relaxation

Plan No Comments

PlanePlanes have been in the news recently with the exhibition at Tate Britain (which is even more impressive in reality).

In this photo (with a great headline from The Sun), we see one member of a team of two with total focus, flying low through a valley. Meanwhile, the other is (for that moment) able to relax.

Managing the pace of work is a key element of what it means to be part of a team that is on the front foot.

See this on getting the balance right here.

Tags: , , ,

Phil's Blog

Sign up for Phil’s regular blog.

Email: phil.hadridge@idenk.com