Talking to the duck

This entry was triggered by Dan Pink’s ‘Pinkcast’. You can watch it here (it lasts 89 seconds).

duckWhere Dan uses his duck, I tend to use whiteboard… and this blog. Thinking out loud helps me to clarify my thinking. Summarising it in a doodle or short entry here, helps me to spot the wrinkles. Or, have them pointed out to me, which is fine.

Occasionally thinking out loud can backfire. A few years ago, I was working with some of my team at the whiteboard. I don’t remember what we were discussing. Shortly after the discussion, I was told that some of the newer team members had started to work on the issue. I was surprised and puzzled until a longer-serving team member told me that the newer person hadn’t realised that I had been thinking out loud at the whiteboard. From experience, she knew that the ideas would probably change, and that it was best to wait for my fingers to hit the keyboard before acting.

Of course, the problem wasn’t with thinking out loud. The problem was not being clear about what I was doing.

(Photo by MirelaSchenk on

Saturday snapshot: Look north

P1200114(Click on image for larger version.)

Other, related images will be posted in Flickr.

I’ve been re-thinking my approach to blogging this week. So ‘Friday photo’ has become ‘Saturday snapshot’. I’ll write more about what else will be happening around here, if you’re interested. Actually, I’ll write it anyway – you can read it if you’re interested.



Beware the busy manager

Busy managerI had a technology failure at work last week. For 36 hours I was without effective I.T. I was a wee bit frustrated.

At one point I heard myself saying (out loud to myself!) ‘I am too busy, but I can’t get anything done’. I’ve written several posts about the allure of busyness. My own words came back to haunt me. So, as I pulled my thoughts together, I identified quite a few things that I could meaningfully and productively do without technology – like going for a walk to think through a tricky issue.

As I walked, several ideas came to me AND I was reminded of an HBR article that I had read several years ago. ‘Beware the busy manager‘ by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghosal. It’s worth reading, and looking at the characteristics of the four behaviour types that they describe. The four types are defined in a classic 2×2 matrix, based on focus and energy.

matrixI re-read the article at the weekend and realised that during the last week I had clearly fallen into at least three of the categories.

The question is, ‘Which category do I spend most time in?’ Or, maybe better, ‘What is my default behaviour type?’ I know what I’d like the answer to be, but based on my attitude last week, I’m not so sure!

The importance of asking the right question

(I should acknowledge at the outset that this entry is a bit ‘nit-picky’.)

Yesterday I was at an event, which had a very positive vibe… apart from a couple of wee moments that niggled me. One was a deliberate, provocative act, which I didn’t think was necessary or helpful in the context. The second issue was a question that we were asked to discuss.

As I travelled back on the train, my mind kept going back to it. The question in question was:

What can we do to incentivise them?

I think it was clumsy. Firstly – and pedantically – ‘incentivise’ is  an inelegant word. I know this is a matter of taste, but does it really need to be a verb? Secondly, the question infers a ‘them/us’ situation, when we were talking about collaborative opportunities. Clumsy!

More importantly, the question has an underlying assumption that I am reluctant to accept. To assert that ‘incentivisation’ is necessary, implies that actions are only the result of a reward. That is, some form of extrinsic motivation is required to achieve the desired response. Presumably, if incentives are required to stimulate action, ongoing incentives are required to sustain action.

What about looking for intrinsic motivation? What about exploring how the desired collaboration might be achieved through encouragement; explanation; clarifying desired outcomes based on agreed values? What about giving people the credit for ‘giving a damn’?

What about being more careful and thoughtful about the way we ask questions?