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Archive for January, 2012

The importance of alone time: solitude and innovation

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Català: Imatge de pluja d'idees

Image via Wikipedia

A long snippet, but it has important things to say about solitude, inquiry, creating new knowledge, innovation and scholarship: the importance of “alone time”

 

from a thoughtful article

Games, consultants Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister compared the work of more than 600 computer programmers at 92 companies. They found that people from the same companies performed at roughly the same level — but that there was an enormous performance gap between organizations. What distinguished programmers at the top-performing companies wasn’t greater experience or better pay. It was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption they enjoyed. Sixty-two percent of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19 percent of the worst performers. Seventy-six percent of the worst programmers but only 38 percent of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly.

Solitude can even help us learn. According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that’s most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then, Mr. Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

Conversely, brainstorming sessions are one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity. The brainchild of a charismatic advertising executive named Alex Osborn who believed that groups produced better ideas than individuals, workplace brainstorming sessions came into vogue in the 1950s. “The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question,” Mr. Osborn wrote. “One group produced 45 suggestions for a home-appliance promotion, 56 ideas for a money-raising campaign, 124 ideas on how to sell more blankets.”

But decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

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Patton in the California desert, and the best coffee I ever tasted

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

WHAT WOULD PATTON SAY?

Image by Tumbleweed:-) via Flickr

i just love that desert; i miss sitting in the dirt and making a little stove for coffee and going to hang out with the mechanics. thats the best coffee I ever tasted

I like how simple Patton’s HQ and his entourage are. A dirt soldier at heart who understand war

The irreplaceable tax cheat Tim Geithner

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

That there are 36 Obama aides who owe back taxes is great news for the country which had just learned at the State of the Union speech that Tim “Tax Cheat” Geithner wouldn’t be around for a second term as Treasury Secretary.

We now have an expanded pool of candidates to take over from Geithner, possessing his same qualities and practices.

Waiting for superman: the sad story of American schools

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I took this photograph of a lottery document I own

Image via Wikipedia

Heartbreaking condition of our schools. The nation will go into debt to fund the military industrial complex, but we cant fund kids to go to quality schools.  Sold our soul for oil and  stock options

Watching the lottery draw to see which 100 of the 500 kids gets to win the success lottery by being randomly chosen for the effective charter school.  Teachers unions should be ashamed of themselves but they arent

Making the Invisible Visible: Understanding Leadership Contributions of Asian Minorities in the Workplace

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

leadership

Image by Ed Gaillard via Flickr

This small quiet book on leadership deserves to become visible so that its message of quiet leadership can be absorbed into our business and political organizations worldwide.

Who are the invisible leaders? How do we make them visible?

Back up for a moment: SHOULD we MAKE them visible, or is our understanding of leadership in the Western mode, with the “Individual as Hero”, not all there is to the story?

The authors tackle the problems and opportunities of global leadership from an angle that would be seen as nontraditional by Western leaders but which addresses the reality of leadership in daily life as experienced by millions of people around the world.

Coming from a Western in military background, I’ve grown up in a leadership culture that prizes individual heroic approaches to direct action leadership. I’ve never felt like that reflected everything that needs to be said about leadership and that’s the central message of this powerful book.

Thatchenkery and Sugiyama conducted a multi-year study to examine what they call the invisible leadership style that they experienced as members of various Asian communities. What they call invisible leadership can be thought of as a cultural worldview built on the ideas that showmanship is the opposite of leadership, that what matters is teamwork and results in long time horizons that favor growth and development from the inside of the organization and that performance is examined and valued on the basis of what’s good for the team. Invisible leaders get the job done and trust that the results will speak for themselves. They value team performance, and dont expect leaders to be constantly self-promoting and trumpeting from the front.

The authors proceed to explore their sense of this phenomenon by conducting a thoroughly grounded research effort that incorporates quantitative and qualitative data and analysis using surveys, focus groups, interviews and case studies to develop their argument. It is a model of scholarly work that carefully identifies assumptions, limitations and constraints while pointing to areas of consensus and opportunities to apply their insights in the last chapter.

They’ve incorporated scholarship on the impact of culture, motivation theory, multiple models of leadership and globalization in their efforts. They examine the impacts of leadership style and philosophy on promotions, training, recognition and reward systems and considered how invisible leadership is affected by current management practices in developing metrics, management practices and counseling programs.

They carefully examined the very notion of the utility of categorizing leadership under the broad concept of “Asian”, which on the surface seems like it could be useful but which masks the very real richness and diversity that can be found in various communities of practice and social groups populated by people from India, China, Japan, Thailand, Korea etc who are living and working in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada and whose generational demographics and further complexity to the rich mélange that is their personal experience.

The study takes a cross-section of all of these personal demographic factors and adds a further dimension based on work factors like public versus private versus nonprofit institutions. No simple leadership model can do justice to such a complex sociological mixture, despite the loud proclamations of best-selling leadership book titles, and the promises of quick fix, simple formula leadership solutions. The authors findings resonate with Heifetz’s “Leadership Without Easy Answers “, and Deming’s advice to “eliminate slogans”.

The book begins what should be a long and continuing conversation to understand the real-life complexities of modern organizations and to find ways to unleash the power and quality of all our people. It suggests that organizations can begin to apply the insights of invisible leadership by asking the right questions, considering organizational policies about visible leadership, and the payoffs of supporting invisible leaders from both pragmatic and philosophical perspectives.

They carefully examine and debunk three common mental models that have plagued Asians in the United States, the UK and Canada. Asians have been variously seen as a model minority that has supposedly “made it” and shown the way for other ethnicities; as a “middle minority” without the social problems inherent in newly emerging groups but who are not quite yet co-equal with the majority and the experience of Asians as a group that is forever foreign. According to the study, these mental models are broadly perceived by Asians to affect them personally and professionally and get in the way of Asians being seen as individuals with rich personal narratives and unique circumstances.

The study examines the realities of glass ceilings in professional promotion patterns in a broad spectrum of typical organizations, relying on insights from personal interviews and government statistics to make the case. It avoids simplistic formulations and superficial conclusions and does a fantastic job of providing a rich background of context that suggests many avenues of research needed in the future.

The authors suggest that organizing around affinity groups rather than simple ethnic and social groupings can add real value to organizational dynamics. Considering the impacts of quiet leadership at all levels of the organization: strategic, operational and tactical can have powerful implications for policy and vision. They recommend organizations consider breaking with tradition of hiring outside leaders and rather concentrate more on growing their own from the inside as a way to acknowledge the power of tacit, long-term values based growth.

The authors don’t recommend a simple exchange of philosophies (“either-or”) but rather suggest that broader integration of multiple modes and perspectives on leadership will add value and robustness to organizational DNA.

I give this fine book my highest personal and professional recommendation, because it resonates for me on a personal and a professional level. It describes a style and philosophy of leadership that has gotten little to no attention in the scholarly or popular press and which I have witnessed to be enduringly effective. It treats a serious subject seriously and respects the broad diversity of opinion and scholarship that has been conducted in this area and yet finds many points of contention and new sources of information and inspiration. It’s offered in the spirit of scholarship and understanding and suggests new ways in which our global communities and people can be respected and make progress together.

Surprise: hipsters fail to motivate themselves into action

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

it would’ve been a sad day for the Republic if Stephen Colbert’s latest idiotic attempt at cynical satire had further disrupted national politics in South Carolina. it is reassuring that so few people actually took him up on his promise of adding even more chaos to the Republican primary process.

Colbert is becoming just a little too impressed with himself and his pseudo-influence. The incident further proves that Herman Cain is incapable of feeling shame about his judgment really is as poor as it seems. Between the two of them, they have set back the Republicans progress by a decade.

On the other hand, typical Republican voters don’t know who Stephen Colbert is, and they have already begun to forget the disaster that is Herman Cain. Cain has succeeded in making Obama look presidential.

Santorum is Romney’s last, best friend

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Since Romney seems unable to tell the simple truth about Gingrish’s unfitness for executive leadership, it’s up to Santorum

English: Governor Mitt Romney of MA

Image via Wikipedia

, who is unelectable,  to do the dirty work. There is a cabinet position for santorum in the Romney administration, hey, maybe even the VP position, if he carries the water for Mr Bland