Pack #1

The Changing World

This introductory pack is designed to help us consider how a shifting global context requires us to build different organisations and rethink the way we organise ourselves, how we work and ultimately, our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

Episodes

Section Introduction

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

In this course, we will cover many areas, from organisational structures, to culture, group dynamics, interpersonal communication, and even our own beliefs.

And for all this to seem relevant, I think it makes sense to first think of the context within which this conversation is happening. So this first pack is called The Changing World think of this as an introductory pack to the longer course. It will be more philosophical and reflective than the subsequent packs in the course which will include many shorter episodes specifically designed for practical implementation with tips to guide you in making this real. But first, I think it’s important to lay the ground for that to happen.

So let’s start by zooming out pretty far, asking ourselves some fundamental questions about the world and particularly the world of work, and then we can start to zoom right back in and I’ll equip you with some tools along the way.

The Straight Line Instinct

Perspective #1

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

For this episode, let me start you off with a quiz I designed a while ago.

Imagine a company has made $2million in Year 1 and $4million in Year 2. How much did it make in Year 3? So the company made $2million, then $4million, then…? How much? I’ll repeat and whilst I do so, it might help you to imagine a simple graph with Time on the X axis and Money on the Y axis. I’ll repeat, a company has made $2million in Year 1 and $4million in Year 2. How much did it make in Year 3? So again, the company made $2million, then $4million, then…? How much?

Now, let me see if I can do some mind-reading here. My guess is that almost all, if not all of you, thought $6million as a gut reaction without even thinking. You thought 2+2 = 4; 4+2 = 6. Am I right?

Then some of you, analysed it a bit more and thought it could be 8. Because: 2x2 = 4 ; 4x2 = 8.

A very very small percentage of you, when one further. And you thought it could be 16. Because 2 x itself = 4; and 4 x itself = 16.

So my guess is that in most of your minds, you thought $6 million initially, some then thought $8million and a very small portion of you thought $16 million.

In the talks I give in boardrooms around Europe this is the pattern I see. And still, from all the audiences I speak to, nobody has ever found the 4th possible logic. That the answer could also be $256 million. Because 2^2 = 4 ; 4^4 = 256. Literally zero people out of hundreds and hundreds have ever suggested this answer.

In fact, I can even admit that when I created this quiz, my highest initial response was the same: 16. Only after did I see there was another answer: 256.

This is a systematic error of the mind. It is what in psychology is known as a cognitive bias. This one is particular strong in us and it’s implications are big. It can give us a totally distorted view of the world.

There are two sides to this bias. The first is that your instinct was to think in a straight line. This is what the famous Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling called ’The Straight Line Instinct’. In his book Factfulness, he documents how time and time again in his career as a statistician and health practitioner researching the development of various health epidemics mostly in Africa, our human instinct to see the evolution of something as linear, has led to gross misconceptions. It has meant that institutions think an epidemic is spreading on a linear basis that is to say 2+2+2…etc. The important part here being the ‘+’ sign, when there are other possibilities, the scariest being that the curve go 2x2x2…etc. In other words: with a multiplication sign. This gap between our instinct that the world goes in a straight line and the reality of things is what he calls a ‘mega-misconception’. The world can go in straight lines yes, but this is rare. It can also go in humps. In S’s. In slides. Or like a hockey stick upwards.

Let me read you a brief anecdote from Hans Rosling, from his book Factfulness that I think puts it well:

"In the Indian legend , the Lord Krishna asks for one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard , then two grains on the second square , four grains on the third square , then eight , and so on , doubling the number of grains each time . By the time he gets to the last of the 64 squares , he is owed 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 (over 18 billion billion) grains of rice : enough to cover the whole of India with a layer of rice 30 inches deep. Anything that keeps doubling grows much faster than we first assume."

The famous futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, sees this pattern also, and his bias towards technology, led him to the insight that he believes not only do we think in straight lines, when there are other more likely possibilities, but that the most likely possibility is often an exponential graph, the hockey stick effect.

In other words, we think in + signs, in 2,4,6s; when the world often changes with a x sign, in 2,4,256s… Kurzweil describes this as the gap between "The Intuitive Linear View" and reality which is “Historically Exponential”. This gap is the bias that I’m talking about in this episode.

It is a bias that we must all fight hard to overcome in order to be mentally healthy and thrive in a fast changing world. And it is perhaps the bias that organisations as a whole are most impacted and guilty of. It has led to numerous funny remarks such as former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer saying “There is no chance the iPhone is going to get any significant market share” (he actually estimated 2 or 3%), or the Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson dismissing AirBnb as an “interesting experiment” which was “fun to watch”.

Now it’s worth noting that these CEOs are incredibly intelligent people who were very well placed and very well informed no doubt, and yet… they fell into the thinking trap of thinking the world goes in a straight line.

I sometimes like to compare this with the analogy of the boiling frog. That if you put a frog in boiling water it will jump out. But if you put it in room temparature water and slowly increase the heat it will boil to death because the initial multiplications only constituted small increases, but that the subsequent multiplications are far greater increases. I’ve argued before that when it comes to our planet, we are the boiling frog. Not noticing the initial multiplication in temperature in the atmosphere, only to find a hockey stick effect occur in a way that seems sudden.

This effect is what Einstein called ‘Compound Interest’, he said:

"Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it."

In other episodes in this pack, we will look at the implications of this cognitive bias, and perhaps at a few mental models to overcome it. But for now, just pause to understand this. Understand that our brains make a very consistent error in seeing the world changing around us very slowly when in reality multiplication by multiplication, the world around us (even in our day to day lives) is changing incredibly quickly. Simply knowing that is a good place to start.

The Destiny Instinct

Perspective #2

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

At the time of recording this episode, I am 31 years old. I was born in 1987. Some would call me a ‘Millenial’. That generation that was brought up with technology and the internet. I myself think of myself as having been brought up knowing how to do some basic code, or watch millions of TV channels…etc. I see my luck.

But let me reflect on that. Is this actually true? When I was born: there were 5 billion people, now we’re closer to 8bn. The Berlin Wall was still up. The USSR still existed. In fact when I was born there were only 38% of the world lived in a democracy, where now it is 56%. There are also about 50 more countries in the world than there were when I was born. (Source: World In Data)

This is a lot of change since 1987. I remember, my Dad’s first computer ran on MS-DOS and I remember that it took so long to turn on that he would boil the kettle and make tea in the time it took to get started.

I remember the cartoons I watched were all hand drawn. That my toys were pretty basic and that a holiday rarely involved an aeroplane but rather a two day car journey to France via a shakey boat ride.

So things have changed a lot but I admit since 1987 to not quite being able to understand how much. There is a bias at play here. Some sort of systematic error that leads me to think that in my lifetime, the world has always been how it is right now. this is a trick my mind is guilty of.

My assumption is that this particular bias is linked to our memories often being erroneous, that we tend to create memories of the past, in the present, thus corrupting the file.

Regardless, it is what Hans Rosling calls ’The Destiny Instinct’. It is that false idea that we have that things quote "have always been this way and will never change.” If you’ve ever heard somebody say that horrible expression “That’s the way things are round here”, then you’ve heard somebody with a strong destiny instinct.

This instinct, whilst different, is linked to the Straight Line Instinct or Linear View I’ve discussed in another episode. It is a gap between how reality often is and how we consistently and wrongly view it. These two are linked particularly because what they can trick us into is underestimating change and particularly progress. And it can lead to poor decisions and stereotypes.

For instance, Rosling notes that many people have a view of ‘what africa is like’ or ‘what “the west”’ is like. Essentially, that ‘africa will never’ change. When not only does our destiny instinct trick us, because most african nations are already well away from Extreme Poverty for instance (that term applies to very few countries today) and therefore has changed dramatically without us noticing, but if this curve is exponential (as some statisticians believe it could well be), then Africa could be home to a booming economy and prosperous population very soon. Strategically Rosling gives the example that if America to Europe is the world's main economic route today, Africa to Asia could well be in the future.

The instinct preventing a perfectly intelligent strategist from seeing this is the destiny instinct. The instinct that things change slowly when in fact, they multiply so that tiny move by tiny move we have moved very far.

This bias has a few implications. One is that this combined with our negativity bias, means that we wrongly think we can’t change things. It leads to a feeling of huge disempowerment. We think ‘we can’t change this company’, or ‘we can’t change this or that’. When in fact. Things have probably changed a lot already if you look. This can lead us to apathy and being overly passive and not taking action.

Another implication of this bias is that much like the linear bias, we don’t see change coming until it has come and might be too late or more painful. We are unprepared.

I think these implications of this particular bias can be best summed up by the famous Bill Gates quote:

"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next 2 years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."

My question to you is: what has changed around you? what small things can you put in place that will further change things?

My assumption is that there are many unintended and unforeseeable changes that are consequential to the small changes. You are capable of making those small changes.

Losing Control

Perspective #3

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Both the destiny and the straight line biases we’ve discussed serve obvious purposes. Thousands of years ago, when the world no doubt changed far more slowly than it does now, it was useful to know things would continue more or less according to the same rules as the world does today. Knowing this meant we could crack on with inventing the wheel and stuff. It gave us a sense of control.

My view is that the problem now is that in many cases, these biases can be harmful to us in the 21st century when things move very very quickly. My sense is that many of us, much of the time are grappling for a false sense of control. We like to view things as static and unchanging because this gives us a sense of ease. But unfortunately:

“The 21s century is the wrong time to be a control freak”

(Source: unknown).

And so I think our job psychologically is actually to learn to do two things:

  1. To let go of the illusion control: to understand that things are changing very fast. That our jobs are changing quickly. That our industries are shifting.
  2. To take control: to not suffer from the inaction we mentioned before, but rather to realise that small changes today, that feel very possible, add up to huge unforeseen progress over time.

The opportunity here is to give up the feeling of control that makes us feel like we’re struggling against a chaotic world.

Whilst also standing with our shoulders back knowing that whilst we can’t guess what the future will bring, we do know that the things we do today will no doubt effect it. In this sense, rather than planning for our future, we should have the mindset of prototyping the future we want day by day. And as we’ve seen. This can lead to bigger changes than we can often imagine.

In your role wanting to create change, it's important to do both these things. Let go of the feeling that you can control everything, and also focus on what you can take control over. What are the things that you can do? What are the small things you can implement? Sometimes change management experts call this 'tickling the system'.

What parts of the system can you tickle in a small way? And what ripple effects will occur subsequently? You don't know yet... But it's worth trying.

Ice Or Liquid

Reflection

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

When speaking about this idea of both taking control and letting go of it, I often like to ask people to reflect by positioning themselves on a spectrum. So I’m going to ask you to take a few minutes to do that now.

In this episode I’m going to describe this spectrum, and through out my guided description, I’d like you to ask yourself where you fit on this spectrum.

So let me start.

On the one end of the spectrum is ICE.
And the other end is LIQUID.

ICE people tend to be more controlling. They tend to think in a linear way. To think in +s.

Where LIQUID people, tendto be more flexible, and tend to think in inter-related systems. They tend to think in multiplication signs.

ICE people tend to like planning long ahead to have a sense of control.

Whilst LIQUID people know that they don’t know, as so rather than plan, they imagine a long term vision they’d like to aim for, and then they experiment day to day and course correct along the way.

Where ICE people like to keep things close to their chest.
LIQUID  people tend to be open and transparent.

Where ICE tends to think things are right or wrong, black or white.
LIQUID likes to think things are complex and nuanced, even contradictory.

Where ICE people like a leader to direct them.
LIQUID people prefer to lead together when navigating complexity.

Now where do you fit on this spectrum?
Which characteristics did you think you were more ICE?
And which ones did you think you were more LIQUID?
Are there some situations in your life where you’re more ICE?
And others where you’re more LIQUID?

Is there any adapting you think you could do to improve your ability to both let go of control and take control?

Now of course, this spectrum is made up. It’s a way for you to think of your relationship with control. And there is no right or wrong. To say that you should be only LIQUID, would be ironic, that would be ICE.

But nonetheless, my assumption from guiding people through this thought experiment many dozens of times, is that most people feel they could benefit from moving slightly towards the liquid end of the spectrum a little bit.

And I’ll leave you with this:
Reflect on whether you are holding on too tight. On whether there is room for you to experiment more, to be more agile and nimble. It’s my view that doing so will not only really improve your well being, but also allow you to get far more done with far more ease in both your life and work.

Finally:
I would encourage you to have this conversation with friends or with your colleagues. Placing yourselves on the spectrum and discussing where you see each other in the grey area between ICE and LIQUID can provoke some really insightful conversations. Finding better ways to understand each other and get stuff done.

In your role as change makers, this is what it's about. It's about constant change. Understanding your relationship with control, understanding whether you're holding on too tightly to some things at the detriment of being nimble and creating change. That's really what this conversation is about.

Work Sheet
Ice > Liquid Spectrum

Control is often an illusion we create to keep ourselves feeling safe and sane but for the most part, things are always changing. Most things happen in relation to other things and therefore the only clear view of the world is something that is consistently shifting. Yet, we maintain our illusion of control.

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The Implications Map

Mini Workshop

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Now for a little group thinking. We’ve talk a lot about the degree to which things change a lot, really fast, and yet that our brains are tricked into thinking nothing has changed. To get a better realisation of this, I’d love you to apply this in a mini-workshop with a group in your company.

I want you to grab a piece of paper, ideally a bigger one.

  • And in a circle in the middle, write the name of an event. This could be a tiny event in your office like moving the office layout around, or setting up a new type of meeting. Or you could think of a big event occurring in the world, like a political shift or a huge new technological breakthrough. Think of something then write it in the middle.
  • Now, as a group I want you to discuss the immediate consequences of that change and I want you to write that down very close to the middle circle on its outer edges. Capture all the implications you can think of.
  • Now, once you’ve written down a load of implications, I want you to discuss the implications of these implications, and write them down on another outer circle.
  • And continue doing this further and further out until you’ve documented and noted the implications of the implications of the implications.

Once you’ve done this once. Try repeating it a second, third or fourth time, putting very different things in the middle. You might use it to test something that might not want to happen like ’your team having an autocratic or gossipy culture’. Or something you would like to see happen like ‘your team have a weekly coffee together’. It could be antyhing.

Have a go and I think what you’ll see is that actions have many many effects, most of which are unforeseeable. And that goes for your small actions too. Let me give you an example from a company I worked with. It was a company of about 70 people that we helped to run a load of experiments to improve the way they work. One experiment was simply to swap desks on Tuesdays. What they found is that one implication of swapping desks on a Tuesday, was that they couldn’t use their desk landlines anymore. So, they forwarded them to their mobile phones. As a consequence, they actually started working from home more. Because people were working remotely, they started seeing that sharing documents and communicating more openly and transparently really increased efficiency. They also found that man-management became really difficult and so a more facilitated and trusting form of leadership had to take its place. This was all because, they switched desks on Tuesdays.

The unforeseen implications of the implications of our smallest of actions can be remarable and ultimately we can’t predict with 100% certainty what they will be. So the only thing we can really do is try small things, see how they work, adapt and carry on with a long view of what kind of change we’re trying to create.

Work Sheet
The Implications Map

The Implications Map is designed to test out small changes you’d like to make and see what its implications may be. This can be used to help us see how small changes have some distant consequences and which changes have the biggest ripple effect.

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[BONUS] Daily Anchor Routines

Personal Workshop

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

We’ve looked a little bit intro complexity. Hopefully I’ve done a decent job in just a few episodes of demonstrating that the world is changing incredibly quickly and that we often struggle to cope with that. Well in this episode, I’d like to look into something we can do to take control as individuals.

There’s no doubt that many of us feel inundated. Inundated by information namely. Whether it’s ads, calls, texts, emails, notifications, opportunities, barriers. It’s just too much. And the problem is that many of us let ourselves get carried away into that world. We live at the whims of other people’s needs, the needs of organisations, or perhaps worst of all, the needs of algorithms. We live in what is often called the ‘Attention Economy’. A fight to make money from people’s attention.

And so to stay healthy and hopefully even thrive in this world, we really must learn to put utmost value on that very thing, on our attention. It is more or less all we have. Our capacity to choose where we place our attention is equal to our capacity to succeed in our creative projects, in our work, in our relationships and our happiness.

So the question becomes, in a chaotic world which is on the hunt for our attention, how do we control where we put it? Well I think the answer lays in two areas, the first is within our minds and particularly meditation. I’m not shy of promoting the benefits of Vipassana meditation because I’ve seen the huge effects this has had on my happiness, my relationships and my effectiveness and sharpness in my work.  But I won’t make this the focus of this episode, the focus of this episode and of the worksheet which accompanies it, is our habits. What habits can we put in place that will help us to maintain some control over our attention? How can we create time and space for deeper work, whilst also staying connected with the world around us? The purpose of the attached worksheet is to help you with that. To help you create a routine that allows for greater control over your attention.

On the left hand column, I follow the advice of my colleague Bruno Marion, where I ask you to write a list of dreams. They should be specific enough that you can imagine them in your mind, but not so much that they’re constrictive. For instance, I have dreams of spending a month in Sri Lanka with my family. I also have dreams of the next book I write being something that has a deeper positive impact on people. Whatever it is for you, whether professional, or personal, or both write something. Ambition is good here. It's a dream far away. Now one suggestion is to read this on a daily basis. Visualise it regularly. You will find that without the need for a static detailed plan, if it becomes entrenched in your mind, you will make daily decisions which will take you closer to it. Those decisions will become normal and have implications and lead to bigger decisions.

Ok, now you’ve set an intention, now let’s control our attention. The next two columns are essential. These could really change things for you. I want you to set a morning and an evening routine. These are two times in your day where you really are in control. Where you decide what you pay attention to. Even if you were to get pulled around by business, winds and choppy waters of day to day life, your morning and evening routines are your anchors. You always pull back to them, every day which helps you to never get totally swept away.

It’s up to you to choose routines that fit you but let me give some inspiration or suggestions as to elements that I know can really help. The first is that I would really limit the use of technology in these two phases. Particularly any form of technology where other people’s agendas get your attention. So one routine I have had for years now is to never schedule a meeting or turn my phone or email on until gone 10am. Why? Because 10am isn’t that late, people will still get a pretty early answer probably, but until 10am I had a few hours to work on the things that are most important to me or to get some headspace, or reflect, or prioritise my life. But these hours are dedicated to me. 10am is pretty easy really but it changes everything particularly for those of you who check your email before even getting out of bed. If you're doing that, there’s no chance your attention will be put to the important things to you when this happens. I also tend to meditate most mornings, others prefer going for a walk or perhaps reading a book on the commute. Create a realistic morning routine that you can stick to and which will allow you choose where your attention goes. There’s enough hours in the day to get swept away so sticking to this morning routine is powerful.

As for your evening routine, that’s up to you too. If I had one tip here, it would be to geek out on the science of sleep. Sleep is shown to be perhaps the single thing that can optimise your working performance and overall happiness the best. 1hour more sleep or even just a higher quality of sleep every night will change your mind, relationships, creative projects and work. Now creating an evening routine that results in great sleep is interesting be because many other things change. The blue light from screens for instance is shown to affect our sleeps, alcohol also does that. What would give you the best sleep? Is it to have a time when the screens go off? Or to read a book? Or to have a great discussion with a loved one? Whatever it is for you, do something that gives you control over your evenings, your sleep and ultimately your attention. This is the single tool you have in a complex world.

I really recommend you give this a go, and re-visit and tweak it every once in a while. The implications of sticking to some of these basic routines can be transformative because it can result in more control over your attention, something that people are at war for. Having some basic anchor to come back to can mean make complexity something to work with rather than against. Something you benefit from without being affected by.

Work Sheet
Daily Anchor Canvas

The world of work is busy. Technology distracts us. Instant communication sends us down other people’s rabbit holes. This document is a tool to help you stay anchored. To help you not get swept away by the currents of ‘busyness’. To create the conditions to live your own dreams and achieve more in less time, making time for balance, happiness and harmony not just as a ‘good to have’, but as a vital component to an examined life.

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with
Bruno Marion

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