To change the world a hero wears a 1000 catalysing faces

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Let’s wax philosophical on an important belief , “We can all make the world a better place.” First we’ll need to introduce you to some wonderful work that culminated in this document  called Keywords: building a language of systems change done by  ICAEW AND Oxford’s Said Business School and Marc Ventresca in 2014. This beautifully simple document captures and chronicles some of the most difficult actions of our times in succinct and meaningful language. Taking the complex multi-tiered world of change agentry and condensing such nuanced and often natural moves into a glossary must have been quite a feat. When I first read this document I was astounded and floored, I WAS NOT ALONE! Someone else has lived this. Someone else has had the same difficulty I have in articulating what they do. Someone else decided to do something about it.

We can all be change agents. Change agents are our heroes. We are our own heroes!

Those who catalyse the world to provide for a better future, are some of our most inner and sacred idols. We know from the stories that our lives are set in, that those who ensue in the battle for change must be ready for a good fight.

We could all use a little change. – Smash Mouth Lyrics

Change agents are my heroes.

Change agents, these are the mythical catalytical people or things that precipitate events. Such an ability to catalyse has attracted many folk as followers over time, we’ve all got a hero who pursues changing the world. I look in awe upon the David Bowies, the Andy Warhols, the Marie Skłodowska Curies, and many countless other catalysts of time. Our contemporary history books and daily narratives champion the change agents. We also know that it was not always so, many moments in history we’ve prized the ‘stay in line’ ‘chopping down of tall poppies’ style of mutual cohesion and contented communal achievement. The rebel, the radical, the change agent catalysing hero  has been demonstrated as an archetype across time and language over and over and over.

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Joseph Campbell summarised the hero’s journey mono myth as “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

An individual + unique environment + change struggle ensues = boons for fellow man

We hear often about the ‘change struggle that ensues.” Our contemporary first world environments are filled with visions to make the world a better place for you and for me. Being a catalyst for change is something we play out in ourselves daily, in selecting coconut yoghurt over bacon for breakfast, and in our mindfulness meditations and ashtanga yogic frenzies.

We are further surrounded by a networked social media hive mind of friends, foes, and institutions endlessly feeding us the power and will ‘to be the change.’ We’ve spun up and inwards a number of ways of growing a growth mindset and an attached detachment to our own wants and needs. ‘We are only responsible for our own happiness.’ Welcome back to the land of Rand, Ayn’s been waiting for you. So there in the middle of it all sits a deep objectivist lotus beckoning you forward and saying, ‘It’s only rational to pursue your own happiness.’ Oh my! What change is possible when you are the catalyst in pursuit of catalysing the world to activate your dreams? Take a glance at certain leadership stories and you will soon find one kind of answer. In pursuing change, change agents and catalysts may be temporarily changed (or forget to pursue boons for fellow man, maybe the boons happen to fall on just one man, oops)

Now about change agents and catalysts, I had always thought these super human change makers were gods and goddesses of the growth mindset. I wondered, in what ways they had grown and changed so profoundly in order to be able to facilitate the change we saw them precipitate in the world? Like stones skipping across a pond these people caused ripples. By being the catalysts for their own change they were able to spread change in their environments and communities. Changed change agents leads us to the myth of the catalysed catalyst. “One who has changed so profoundly in the course of making change in the world.” They probably haven’t changed you know? They just had strong core values which adapted to their environment in forming a useful reaction in humanity.

A true catalyst remains unchanged permanently. (a little bounce is ok!)

I was reminded recently of the true chemical definition of a catalyst at a work dinner in early February. I met a science afficionado named Dan Housman.   Dan said that a catalyst is something initiates the reaction to occur due to its presence but is not changed by the reaction. “A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.”

Ah ha! Of course if I went back to the root definition, specificity of language would save me now! Semantics for the win.

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So a catalyst remains unchanged? Being leading, reactive or going native during field work is the opposite of the job of a catalyst or change agent. Look at David Bowie if he had assimilated the traits of contemporaries then he would have been another rocker in the line-up. As a change agent he was effective precisely because what he did was to him being an unchanged catalyst. Let’s go back to the equation on the hero’s myth:

An individual + unique environment + change struggle ensues = boons for fellow man

Change agents or catalysts seem to tell a story more like this:

An individual + any unique environment + change struggle ensues + individual stays true to values (bonus if society values are aligned) = boons for fellow man

It is the ‘individual stays true to values’ that show the catalyst as a person remains unchanged. If their values drive the change for the positive then a better world should ensue. (Looking at one of the tech world’s change agents’  values, check out Atlassian’s values). If our hero is torn apart at the values level then how can she or he be an effective catalyst? Do you know what your values are? Do you know where your values come from or how they were made?

What are your core values?

If you want a new way to interrogate your core values I’d recommend looking into a new-ish way of thinking called liminal thinking. It was recently written about by Dave Gray in his most recent book which you can  obtain here: http://twowavesbooks.com/book/liminal-thinking/

But still to be a catalyst how can a change agent remain unchanged?

Likely the answer is no, you will change and be changed and all those wonderful things that go along with lovely messy life. Yet, by being aware of your core values and beliefs and how they were formed we have a chance to be conscious and responsive in the way we choose to affect the world.

Can we depend on change agents to remain unchanged in their values as they go about catalysing? Change agents like us will be changed, but not permanently, if we are able to truly interrogate our own values. Those go deep. Values are the heart strings we pluck to sum up the passion, motivation, and energy to keep that Sisyphean stone spinning up the mountain of change aversion. Catalysts do get worn down but values are what pick us back up again. Change agents need a values check up too. A deep questioning of beliefs can always help a change agent catalyse and remain aware of the change.

Being aware of the change is to remain unchanged. – profound quotationist

So to remain unchanged,  our best bet is to make more awareness of our changing our natural state! Liminal thinking can help with that, or mindfulness, or any other half a dozen practices designed to increase our presence.

Aware change agents are the catalysts to bring boons to our fellow man.

As an aside, this is kind of neat:

Watch this (occasionally controversial) documentary to know more about how profoundly objectivism & other schools of thought were involved in creating the modern reality we see today.

 

Lou and Cee Cee prepare for fieldwork in the future

Hey ya’ll! Ever wonder what an ethno-robot would be like?

Me too!

I wrote a piece about how we’ll prepare for fieldwork in the future. Meet Lou, Cee Cee, and Loz:

http://ethnographymatters.net/blog/2016/06/17/lou-and-cee-cee-prepare-for-fieldwork-in-the-future-a-world-where-robots-conduct-ethnography/

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This is for the wonderful Ethnography Matters Co-designing with machines edition:

http://ethnographymatters.net/blog/category/editions/co-designing-with-machines/

Behaviour change… that old chesnut

Elon Musk is a master of behaviour change. His ability to set goals and reassess them towards a final solution to a wicked problem is pretty awesome. I’m sure he hires some brilliant folks too, it’s what smart people do😉 I’d like to invite you take your time and go read the article which so evocatively and succinctly captures the magic of decision making by a master such a Musk. It is so craftily captured by waitbutwhy in this awesome drawing of how Elon makes things transform from wants, to goals, to strategies.

wait but why elon musk secret to success sauce

 

http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/11/the-cook-and-the-chef-musks-secret-sauce.html

Goals and strategies, its always been about the motivations and the moves needed to execute on them. The path of behaviour change is a strategy that many of us apply to ourselves, our tribes, and into the world. Always striving to have a growth mindset we often pursue a series of behaviour changing paths. In obtaining external goals we also see individuals and organisations seeking to change and influence behaviour for the greater good or for their own gains.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. – Sun Tzu

How might we subdue our own change challenges by applying Tzu’s principle of not fighting?

We might do so by understanding the motivations for behaviour change on individual and group scales. I’ll be focusing on the individual this week and in preparation I wrote a bit about how motivations tie into the structure of behaviour change success. I learned that insight is drawn from the source of desires. The ‘why’ behind a motivation can make our brain prioritise burning the requisite calories in order to sustain it. Today, on the plane on the way to lovely Portland I hand wrote this wee piece about behaviour change from another frame.

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Feedback Prism

I am a feedback prism, critique me please

Being critiqued can be hard. Especially if we take on all feedback thrown at us as one more point of improvement on our endless growth to do list. We all have that person in our lives who we want to please. Whether it is ourselves, our mothers, our fathers, our lovers. We push our boundaries to get better. We exit our comfort zones to grow. We are sometimes perfectionists, or passionate, or type A, or we just f***ing care. We really truly deeply care. So we want to get better. We want to know we’re progressing. We want to be high performers. It can be so difficult to see the feedback forest for all the constructive criticism trees. What can we do?

A few years ago I realised the perfectionist in me was taking on all the feedback too closely. Every critique I ever received was ALL the things in myself I needed to change, to fix, to improve. Everything needed fixing! I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t always able to cope. I couldn’t rationalise what I had heard into my own path forward. At times I was paralysed. That’s when I started re-framing feedback that came my way. I began imagining myself as a feedback prism and using all my self-care abilities and human centred way of viewing the world to look at feedback in a new way.

  1. Imagine that all the feedback you get comes to you as a single stream of white light.
  2. You are a self reflecting prism. Your job is to split the feedback up into its constituent streams of light.
  3. Choose to examine and tackle the feedback in the order that works for you. You can’t and don’t need to fix everything at once.

“I am a feedback prism. Critique me please.” 

Feedback Prism

 

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What is an ethnographic interview?

Recently a renewed discussion with an important colleague of mine resurfaced the common use of the phrase ‘ethnographic interview.’ We had previously discussed our concern that any old folk would be running around and using the powerful adjective of ‘ethnographic’ without putting any deep ethno power behind the phrase. This weekend I sat down on the dock with Charlie, my dog, and wrote out my thoughts in long hand, hence you’ll have a chance to enjoy the loopy cursive, occasional misspelling, and unedited sentence structures. It is hopefully worth a read, I promise you a twist is in store for those lucky readers who stick it out!

p.s. if it is truly awful to load the scans or difficult to read let me know and I’ll put it on the to-do list to type it up soon😉

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Ethnography in the strategic core, non-attachment, & weaponising empathy

(*This is a post on ethnography, strategy, & non-attachment written in first person voice for ease of reading, in many cases there are many ‘we’s’ involved and entire villages that helped me see clearly)

There is this older blog post of mine where I proposed uniting agile & ethnography through their common thread of stories . It has been getting heaps of readers this week. To be very honest the stats kept pinging through which reminded me I should maybe write something of interest for my future self to recall this time in life and my vision emerging from the fog.

Lately I’ve been attempting to weave. Working to weave together the concepts of ethnography and the strategic core of business decision making. In the last year I felt my career vision crystallising into “how can we get empathy to be felt & utilised in the core strategic business decision making machinery?” This is a timely vision with the huge shift in the market place toward purpose driven businesses. I feel this mirrored through our species beginning to awaken to the fact that if we don’t figure out how to be kind to our home and ourselves we might not even want to live on a diseased and discontent rock swirling around a fireball.

This recent thinking brings me to today’s musings and proposal: I propose we meet the world’s wicked problems with weaponised empathy, there is no better way to make a better world. The risk of confinement to a single mindset exceeds the cost of expanding your skillsets into the realm of weaponised empathy.

It would be hard to change a lot of the fundamentals behind how our planet is run by our 8 billion strong tribe. After all, culture is a very slow technology, and don’t let the speed of subcultural developments fool you. The fundamental mechanisms of scapegoating and emulating drive our desires and actions in such deep ways that even those most committed to the growth mindset fall into their traps. We must have examples of good and bad in order to learn, and we learn by mimicking and reading reactions to behaviours. Even the most profound buddhist teaching of non-attachment must be passed through language and example. (I resonate with these words about non-attachment)

Now back to the vision that’s been emerging: “how can we get empathy to be felt & utilised in the core strategic business decision making machinery?” My hypothesis behind this is that ethnography’s power lies in the transformation of the observer. Not in their ‘going native’ but in their ability to take on perspectives in order to expand their own knowledge and conciousness. I’ve only been doing ethno-work for a few years now, and I feel so empowered to spread the influence of the customer into the minds of leadership in organisations. In fact I got so attached to this role of going into the field to bring back the points of view that I threw quite a few tantrums earlier in my career when the bulldozing of the space to get out into the field took too long or caused the precious time spent with customers in the field to evaporate. Then 2 years ago I flipped my thinking & my role, I started to work to become the best bulldozer I could be and began teaching others to do the work. I became non-attached to doing the work and the outcomes of the work. Any ethnographic thinking was more helpful than none at all. At least there was a glimmer of a chance of empathy. I simply delighted in the ability to get to propel others out there to have the transformational perspective taking experiences that I had had the privilege of having previously. That moment was my first true understanding of combining a growth mindset with non-attachment.

Now about ethnography at the strategic core. This is a hypothesis many of us have heard of, or attempted, or mused upon. It’s one of those funny things which feels weird when you mention it to people… ethnography? in core strategic business decision making? You must mean ethnography to ideate on which products to build and how to build them. You might mean ethnography used to transform the organisation itself so it produces better upon its strategy… That’s not what I mean. I mean ethnographic practice that directly transforms the leaders, employees, & customers themselves into the powerhouse of driving strategic decisions & change. We’re all in it together and we can only learn from each other. Empathy through ethnography to empower a changing of the lens as we move into the era of purpose driven businesses. For all these very reasons most design thinking methodologies begin with empathy and insight discovery tools.

We’ve read and heard how PARC at Xerox & Intel have done it at times in a variety of ways. It is likely there could be a company out there kicking a** at it right now, but I’d never know. It is weaponised empathy, a smart business wouldn’t announce their latest greatest strategy artillery to the world. But on the other hand you see it everyday in the world’s most successful Kickstarter campaign, TED talks, start-ups, & radically astute solutions to world problems. Weaponised empathy is at the strategic core in all these cases, and those weapons are aimed directly at the world’s wickedest problems. 

Let’s come back to non-attachment and why it matters to the weaponisation of empathy, that thing we need to tackle the world’s issues. If you can imagine everyone getting a little bit of an ethnographic skillset. Give folks out there just a touch of ethno-mindset to help them take on perspectives through a human centric, design research methodology. Sure it would be hard to teach so many people something so deep. If we were to non-attach ourselves to the business outcomes, and just injected those ethno-skills as well as we possibly could, what would happen? Would we not achieve the business outcomes anyway? Would people not be more open and observant of others? Would communications and actions in organisations not become more mindful of perspectives? Would customers needs today and tomorrow not be more easily understandable or accessible? Would insights not be readily available at the finger tips of every single employee? Would those employees not be more happy, effective, and mindful of customers current & future needs? Would not these people create better outcomes… even if those were not the outcomes traditional business strategies would dictate?

Wicked problems take empathy to tackle because the only thing in common in every wicked problem is that there are people and motivations involved. If we were to become non-attached to the outcomes and just did the absolute best we could from a place of compassion and empathy… how could our results not be ‘better’?

A great many of us in the innovation world, the ethnography world, the whole world just want to make an impact that makes this world a better place. We want to give a little bit of a contribution so that the next one along or the one next to us can learn from our journey. We can’t let the machinery we’ve been born into crush our ability to act upon and for the best outcomes for this place. No more can we become attached and paralyses by the outcomes we might achieve or fail to achieve, we simply must strive to do our best. I propose our best is to meet the world’s wicked problems with weaponised empathy. 

From @picardtips: “Picard economic tip: The risks of confinement to a single planet exceed the costs of interstellar travel.’

Hedge your bets because we’re all in it together.

The risk of confinement to a single mindset exceeds the cost of expanding your skillsets into the realm of weaponised empathy. Love is all you need to make the world a better place, but the knack is in how you use it. Weaponise your empathy and you can aim your sights at the world’s wickedest problems. Ethnography for all and into the strategic core. Intrepid explorers! Who is coming along on the journey?

“If there is one ideal that the Federation holds most dear, it is that all men, all races can be united.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard

 

 

 

 

 

IBM’s Watson can analyse your personality based on your writings… and for me it was spot on!

The IBM Watson Personality Insights service uses linguistic analytics to extract a spectrum of cognitive and social characteristics from the text data that a person generates through blogs, tweets, forum posts, and more.

Go try it for yourself here: https://watson-pi-demo.mybluemix.net/

IBM’s gigantic super smart computer Watson can now analyse your personality based on your writing. Give it between 3000 and 6000 words of your personally reflective opinions and thoughts, and it will whiz bang you better than any personality test I have seen. I highly recommend reading The Secret Life of Pronouns, by: James Pennebaker which was used in the Watson analyses.

What did Watson have to say about me?

“You are heartfelt.

You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are assertive: you tend to speak up and take charge of situations, and you are comfortable leading groups. And you are proud: you hold yourself in high regard, satisfied with who you are.

You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of well-being.

You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you.”

*Compared to most people who participated in our surveys.
Rock on Watson!

RE-MOTIVATION: “If you’re not also in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

The art of re-motivation: championing yourself

Welcome to my re-birth! Rise phoenix! Rise!

Your critics all got burned up in your last demise!

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

“If you’re not also in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

― Brene Brown

I’ve been a rather demotivated design ethnographer lately. It has been a decades long journey for me to be able to say these sorts of things aloud, but I’m doing it here so you can feel with me. I am in the middle of a very long Sisyphean rock roll uphill. (Aren’t we all?) I’ve been here for a while. I will probably be here for a while yet. I have talked it through with members of my team and my leaders. Other folks are doing what they can to support me through this mid winter, seasonally compounded slump. I love the people I work with and the amazing perspective they help me achieve.

It came about when I started to feel like an askhole (someone who asks others for advice / feedback but doesn’t take on-board anything when they don’t like what they hear). I’ve been working on this stuff for what seems like forever. I thought I was done. Yet, all the feedback and interested parties just kept coming. All these people who have an interest but haven’t made it any easier. All these people who have feedback or something to say without saying much at all. All these critics and critical thinkers expounding on what needs to be done better, paralysing me into taking very little baby steps so as not to offend anyone. BAH! Out of my way! BAH!

As a consultant you get the creation to a recognisable format to tell the story meaningfully of what must happen and then you hand the baby over to others so they can raise the child to be a fully functioning ‘thing.’ What I had not counted on, as I changed roles this last year, was that I was now responsible for this child until it was a fully functioning thing. I had thought this was what I wanted when I changed roles. I wanted to see my babies grow up. Who knew raising babies was such hard work?, and it is never done! So just when I thought it made sense and the adoptive parents would swoop in… turns out there are no adoptive owners, you own this thing. Yes you! The ethnographer, you the researcher, you the ‘other’ must become one of us now and raise this child. Yeah yeah, so I’m learning new skills. Yeah growth is uncomfortable. Yeah anything worth doing is hard. Got it, now how to we get ourselves to feeling better when out of FLOW and in a slump?

If I am one thing it is stubborn, and I do not quit when I’ve signed on for something. I can think of so many instances where I signed my name on the dotted line for huge, expansive, massive adventures and then want to dash part of the way through. I never do. I cannot stand to think of leaving something half done. To imagine my name on something that is only partially complete makes my spine crawl. So I will persevere, I will keep coming back and trying new ways. I will be fuelling my fire from a diverse range of support systems. I will be looking at the issues with fresh eyes and from new angles. I will make this baby sing its way into a glorious adulthood.

So what has changed? What has helped me rally out of discontent?

  • Talking -> to those closest to me at home and at work
  • This too shall pass & I’m gonna make it go! Brrrrmmmm BRRRMMM!
  • Done is simply putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly while breathing deeply.
  • Today I watched Brene Brown talk about sweaty creatives and the arena & critics: Here is Brene’s full speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-JXOnFOXQk

So if you’re feeling what I’m feeling drop me a comment or a tweet (@aliciadudek) & let’s help each other with our stories.

Business as movements by John Hagel – Centre for the Edge Talks – Sydney June 2nd, 2015

John Hagel from the Deloitte Centre for the Edge gave an interesting talk at Deloitte in Sydney today. He was all about that narrative and that creation space! How you need those two working together to craft a movement & such! Here is my on the fly visual capture of the conversation. I haven’t seasoned it yet so take it with a grain of salt. #BAM Find out more about John & corporate narratives here

You can click on the images to expand them to larger size & higher quality.

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