E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #12

 Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogán

It is that time of the year again where we are starting to see the Top N lists of iOS Apps for this year, 2016, and it has been rather interesting to see from the 60 apps (including today’s) that I have shared so far from the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series which ones have been as well some of the favourites from everyone else. Not too many, apparently, and not much of a surprise either, as you can imagine, but that’s just fine, I suppose, more than anything else, because plenty of the ones I have been recommending are apps that have been there available already for a good couple of years, if not longer. However, some of the new ones I have been sharing over here that came out in 2016 have also been picked up by others, so, I guess, that confirms how good they really are, after all, if everyone else in the masses considers they are worth while downloading and playing with as well. Nice!

Either way, it’s that time of the week where I’m due to share over here the next round of recommended iOS apps and this week’s themes are as follows: Productivity (Task Management, Calendaring & Scheduling, Screen Captures), Photography and Traveling. Thus, without much further ado, here’s a short description for each of them as to why I have picked them up for week #12: 

 

  • Asana: In the past, you would remember, I have already mentioned a couple of different iOS apps for Task Management, like Trello and Clear that I enjoy quite a bit. Like I said previously, I’m totally hooked up about such type of apps, so, of course, over the course of time I have tried out a few of them and I suppose I will be including them in different posts over the next few weeks. One other of those apps I have been using for quite a while and that I still enjoy using every now and then is Asana.

    As far as handling your tasks in a very effective manner, it’s pretty impressive, to say the least. I’m pretty sure those of you who may have tried out the Web version could vouch for that. But what I really like about it is that you can use it to handle not very complex projects where you need to complete a number of different tasks, individually or in groups, and need to have some messaging capabilities while working in those projects. So Asana integrates all of that user experience quite nicely altogether becoming a single focal point of entry for tasks, messaging, project work, and what not, making it a very attractive option if you are looking for an uncomplicated task management environment for your small projects while you are on the move. 

  • Timepage: Managing one’s many calendars and agendas in an effective manner has always been a bit of a challenge for all of us. The fact we need to juggle with work and personal events and the many complexities of juggling multiple commitments on a daily basis doesn’t make it any easier. Over the course of the years I have used probably far too many apps to try to handle my various calendars and so far I have struggled to find the one that does the trick for me, which is why I keep trying some new ones every now and then and see what I may find. That’s how I eventually ended up with Timepage earlier on this week. 

    Overall, I quite like the user interface, the ability to access weather related information directly from the app, the fact I can integrate multiple calendars in the same space or the lovely option to show visuals AND colours to distinguish how busy your work days may well be for that week, month, or year. Other rather interesting features are the ability to use an assistant for a number of predefined events, or a pretty nifty searching capability to locate any kind of event from any integrated calendar you may have added already. Now, I am not too sure whether I’m going to stick around with it in the long run, but, so far, I’m enjoying the user experience and the rather engaging dynamics of handling one’s calendar, so that’s going to have plenty more of my attention from here onwards. Perhaps in a few weeks I may report back and share some additional in-depth insights on how things have moved further along… 

  • Skitch: On my MacBook Air, and over the course of the years, there have been plenty of apps I have used to capture areas of my screen to then share them across elsewhere. Of all of those applications there has been only one that has made it into becoming an essential productivity tool for yours truly around capturing screen shots and share them across and that tool is Skitch. Now, I realise Skitch has been discontinued over a year ago and is no longer getting the love it should be, but, either way, I still use it on my MacBook Air and, of course, on my iOS devices, where the apps themselves may not have gotten too much love either for a good while now. Still, it works, it gets the job done, and it’s a no brainer, to me, for simple screen capturing to then be shared across elsewhere. Now, I am pretty sure there may well be other apps out there to grab screen shots, but so far I’m sticking around with Skitch. Will that be forever? No, of course not, I’m pretty sure there are other apps out there I will be exposed to over the course of time, but so far that’ll do. 
  • VSCO: One more week of iOS apps recommendations, and one more week sharing along a new, different suggestion for a photography editing app folks may want to give a try and take it for a spin. Perhaps one of the most comprehensive and thorough ones out there and while I realise a few people have been commenting the app has gotten a bit too complicated to use with the latest updates, it’s still one of my favourites. It’s got tons of capabilities to tweak your photos in any possible way you can imagine and some pretty amazing filtering capabilities with specific packages you can purchase over time as you may see fit, or get them all together with the All Presets Bundle, which is not too bad, although I would suggest to perhaps start easy with the free filters made available already and grow up from there.

    If you are not too sure about the app itself and the kind of work you could do with your pictures, there is always the Explore option where you can check what some other people have been doing with the app already. Pretty nifty if you would want to build community around your snap shots without having to use other (social) media tools and stick around for a little while longer with VSCO. I tell you, it’s one of the better ones available out there. And if you are not too sure about its potential to meet up your needs, head over to YouTube and search for some recent tutorials. There are some pretty good ones out there (no longer than 10 minutes) that may help you decide as well whether you download it or not. As far as I am concerned, I would recommend it big time. 

  • TripAdvisor: And, finally, one of the many (social) apps that, over time, has become rather indispensable for yours truly whenever I am either traveling or staying at home and would want to find out some lovely place to eat & dine, specially. I must confess I quite like it when I’m traveling into a new city to open up TripAdvisor and see what it recommends in terms of nearby places to go and eat, or have a drink, a coffee or what not. Now, mind you, it’s not that I faithfully follow to the extenuation the different reviews from places, but it gives me an indication of what’s around and see what people think. I will give you an example with what I mean … 

    A couple of weeks back I started a new series of blog posts over here on what I called back then ‘Gran Canaria – A Mini-Continent to Rediscover’ with the sole purpose to start writing down the different recommendations I would share across of places to eat & dine, or have a drink, or any outdoors activity in Gran Canaria, where I live, because friends who come over on holiday keep trusting TripAdvisor for some amazing reviews from different people and when they go to some of those places they are utterly disappointed because while there reviews were incredible the reality would tell a different story.

    Ouch! That’s why I wanted to start with that series, because, like I said, I rely quite heavily on TripAdvisor to help me discover new, interesting places that I think may be worth while exploring and if I find they are any good, they will go into that series of blog posts like I have blogged about earlier on this week. So TripAdvisor, as an app for discovery of what’s around you it’s just perfect. To trust dearly plenty of the reviews shared across, that’s a different story, at least, it has been in my experience. Either way, still worth a try, don’t you think? 

And that’s it, folks, for this week’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Next week I will be back with another round of recommended iOS apps and for now I hope you folks may have enjoyed this week’s suggestions as much as I have so far and, again, if there would be an iOS app out there you would want to recommend I should try out, as usual, leave a comment below or reach out to me via Twitter at @elsua. I will be more than happy to take those suggestions for a spin and then let you folks know how it went and whether they would still stick around with me. 

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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Stop Blaming the Tools when Collaboration Fails

 Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves

We, human beings, seem to always be very keen on blaming the tools (and technology, in general, for that matter) whenever things just don’t work out all right, specially, in the collaboration space. Apparently, it is way easier to blame them (or others!), when our very own things go wrong, than to look into one self and question whether either our mindset or behaviours, for instance, have got some blame to be accountable for as well. By and large, we just can’t shake off our technology fetish, but, you know, when different problems come around, typically, associated with some kind of fatigue or overload (insert your favourite moniker here), or, just simply, plain collaboration failure, we seem to have developed that gift of shaking it off ourselves rather promptly and, instead, blame the tools. Seriously, why do we keep doing that?

Of course, we all know the tools can’t talk back to us, so they can’t defend themselves. We also know that, over the last few decades, we have been taught, rather well!, how we can shake off ourselves, and very efficiently, whatever sense of accountability or responsibility we may have got left. We will just go ahead and keep blaming the tools. Over and over again. Deep inside, we all know we just can’t face any other reality that may point directly at us, so, instead, we point elsewhere to deviate the attention. And it works. Every single time. It just works. #lesigh

You know, it’s so tiring sometimes. Even more so when there seems to be this cycle that keeps repeating itself, every few years, where collaborative tools may well be different, but we still blame them, just in case, when we start noticing how our productivity levels are not getting any higher anymore. Well, perhaps we may need to start realising it may well not be the tools, nor collaborative technologies, in general, but ourselves, the ones who, at long last, may need to come forward and acknowledge our very own culpability. Collaborative technologies by themselves are not the problem. They never have been. It’s been, essentially, our very mindset and behaviours of how we adapt to them, or fail to, what’s at play here. If anything, that’s who we need to start blaming, instead: ourselves. 

Why am I saying all of this? Well, mainly, because of an article Sean Winter wrote at CMSWire yesterday under the rather suggestive title of ‘Do Collaboration Apps Make Employees Less Productive?’ which seems to be repeating the same good old story as ever: we just can’t collaborate effectively because technology is getting in the way. Again. Hummm, not really. It’s us the ones who keep getting in the way, and, somehow, we don’t seem to want to change that much. Instead we justify it. Yikes! We need to smarten up, collectively. We need to start elevating the discourse and begin asking the really tough questions. If collaboration is failing, if productivity has been tanking since the 1980s (and still going strong!), maybe, just maybe, we need to think really hard whether it’s us the main problem. Something tells me we are, so how do we change it? How do we shift gears and stop barking up at the wrong tree?

Well, how about making use of some fresh, new thinking? How about applying some new lenses? How about if instead of aiming for a single collaboration solution to all of our business problems, which seems to be what most Enterprise Social Networking vendors keep advocating for, wrongly, we start acknowledging that it’s a bit more complex than that? How about if we, at long last, understand, comprehend, and fully embrace, the notion that fragmentation is good? It’s healthy. It’s something that should be very much encouraged as our mere means of survival for us all knowledge Web workers. And, finally, how about if we shift gears and realise that different people have got different needs and wants based on the context and interactions at play for the different outcomes they may want to execute on, whether individually or in groups?

At the end of the day, it’s all about choice. It’s all about understanding that different groups (and individuals) have got different needs to cater for; that is, diverse sets of habits, mindset, behaviours, corporate culture, contexts, constraints, conditions, understanding of the business world surrounding them, etc. etc. Have you noticed how, perhaps, a decade ago we were having the good old discussion about having a single one tool that could do everything and therefore there wouldn’t be a need for anything else, because, you know, we all thought we knew better and how nowadays it’s become rarer and rarer to see a single business or organisation making use of a single tool to do everything related to collaborating more effectively?

It’s all about choice, indeed, or, better said, it’s all about fragmentation, about having various lenses that could cater for distinct audiences to achieve a specific set of business related goals using the several (social) collaborative tools at their disposalThat’s why collaboration keeps failing us all, because we keep thinking about how we all view traditional collaboration, through 20th century models, (i.e. *cough* email *cough*) and we expect today’s emergent social collaborative technologies to behave pretty much the same way. When they don’t. They never have. Things are a whole lot more complex than that and that’s what we may need to think about and change altogether: our very own notions and perceptions of what constitutes effective collaboration. And start applying some brand-new, refreshing, 21st century thinking. 

At the moment, my current favourite trend of thought to counteract our obsession with either collaboration overload or failure, while we keep blaming the proliferation of either tools or input sources, is to think in terms of Social Lenses. A concept my good friend, Thomas van der Wal, coined back in 2008 and that he presented at this year’s KM World conference in Washington DC with a superb slide deck I plan to keep reusing over and over again every single time I hear, or read, how collaboration has failed us. No, it hasn’t. We have failed it. We have failed it, because we haven’t acknowledged how we need to think bigger, different, more diverse, context driven, accommodating not only the different types of interactions one can expect at the workplace, but also based on the different groups we may be part of, whether individuals, teams, networks, communities, or whatever else. Each of those groupings will have distinctive needs and wants to cater for, which is why we need to start coming to terms with the fact that not a single tool in any organisation would feed everyone’s needs anymore, regardless of whatever the collective.

The moment we understand that and fully embrace it, that’s probably the moment as well when we will all stop talking about how multiple (social) collaborative tools have failed us all along till today and, instead, while shifting gears accordingly, we’ll really start focusing on getting work done more effectively, which, after all, has always been the main premise of Productivity with a capital P.

Work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Don’t you think?

 

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Samsara – A Treat to All Senses

Gran Canaria - Samsara

 

This week there will be a bit of light blogging from yours truly since it’s one of those wonderfully weird weeks where multiple national bank holidays happen throughout the week, almost one after the other and for different reasons, so there is a great chance I will be spending most of the time offline rather than online. Perhaps, for those odd moments when I’m back online it may well be also the perfect opportunity for me to continue with the series of blog posts around ‘Gran Canaria – A Mini-Continent to Rediscover’ that I mentioned recently I would be writing about every weekend from then onwards. Well, this week already feels a little bit like a massively long weekend with this so-called ‘macro-puente’, so to get things going I will go ahead with the first recommendation of places to eat and dine in Gran Canaria and I will go for one of my favourite restaurants in the island that if I were to describe it with a short sentence it would be just this one: ‘A Treat to All Senses’.

Welcome to Samsara! That incredibly amazing place that, once you try it out, it will trap you for good with plenty of unforgettable and intoxicating memories, enticing you to keep coming back over and over again! 

It’s one of those places where you would need to book a table well in advance, because it gets really busy pretty quick. Once you are sorted out with the booking, what you would want to do is arrive way early, so you have a good opportunity to enjoy one of the most amazing long walks around the Maspalomas Lagoon that will definitely help out open up your appetite. And now you would be ready to enjoy an amazing experience. 

While going up the stairs you can already sense you are off to experience something pretty unique on its own. The atmosphere is very different to whatever you would find in the rest of the island. Something I could pretty well define as exotic, maybe even a tad mystical. Both the exquisite lounge area as well as the capacious restaurant are decorated in an oriental style that, at times, can be pretty overwhelming, but that, once you let your sense adjust accordingly, it’s as if you have just been taken into a completely different world even before you sit down. 

If it is the first time you go there, understand the world may have just slowed down a fair bit for you, because the owner (usually) will take his time to explain how the restaurant works. Pay attention, because that’s where it gets pretty interesting. Samsara’s mantra is that one of sharing the food with the people going along with you. The portions are usually rather large, sufficing a single dish for two people and rather generously, as you can see from the pictures I have shared in this blog post. So asking for a starter, the main course and the dessert for two people would be a rather good option on its own and, believe me, you would have plenty of amazing food on the table. Be prepared to be wowed and multiple times! 

To describe the food experience would be a bit preposterous from my side, as I would probably spoil it all for you, so I won’t. But I will probably add Samsara is a rather special fusion place of the West with the Far East, and getting it just right, meaning the wonderful and rather delicate mixture of western ingredients with oriental flavours, cooked with both pause and tender, loving care, becomes, on its own, a work of art you are just about to enjoy and be mind-blown altogether.

That’s where all of your senses will go through a massive wake up call almost instantly: the intoxicating smells, the gorgeous colours, the  flavours, oh, my goodness!, the scrumptious flavours, the chill-out rather suggestive background music, the always attentive service making you all feel rather welcome at their home. Whoahhh! Did I say already how wonderfully overwhelming it can get? Well, it gets better. The desserts!

You may have noticed how throughout this post I have shared three different snap shots of various dishes I have tried a few times already, but you would also notice how I haven’t shared any picture about the desserts. Such a teaser, right? Well, that’s the best part of entire evening meal. Believe me, I am not exaggerating a single bit when I share over here the desserts are just out of this world AND back! Their presentation alone (As creative as you can possibly get!) would just make you take a picture and forget completely about enjoying the rather suggestive mix of both western and eastern flavours. If you ought to be left with a first good impression about the whole experience I can tell you now it will be the desserts. So make space for them! You will need it. You will thank me later, too! 😋👍🏻

Now I can imagine at this point in time you may be wondering about how expensive the restaurant is, right?, specially, after all of what I have mentioned above. Well, for what you get, it isn’t. It’s very good value for money. Not too expensive, not too cheap, just perfect. So much so you will realise, upon paying the bill, you will already start thinking about when you would be coming back again and at that point that’s when it will hit you: it’s not yourself who would want to come back to Samsara, but all of your senses, because they just had such a dumbfounding experience they would want to repeat it again. I can’t blame them. It’s a real treat for all of them. I know

I, too, can’t wait to come back! Fancy joining me next time around? 🙌🏻

 

Gran Canaria - Samsara

 

 Gran Canaria - Samsara

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #11

Gran Canaria - Countryside

 

Week #11 of the series of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog posts and it seems as if it was just yesterday when I was sharing my first entry over here of recommended iOS apps. I must admit I’m having a blast though going through each of the different screens of apps in both my iPhone and iPad Pro and challenge myself really hard whether I can continue to make use of one app or another that I would then go ahead and recommend on these blog posts. And if the answer is ’no’, I just go ahead and delete the app and move on. So far, I have been sharing over here about 55 of them, including today’s post, and I think I may have removed from my devices a few more than that, so it’s proving to be a rather good housekeeping exercise on its own, because it’s helping me focus quite a bit on figuring out what I want out of my iOS apps and ditch everything else. I think it’s far from going minimalist and everything, but if, so far, I have been able to remove for good several dozens of unused apps I think I’m on the right track towards just focusing on those that provide the most value, which, I guess, is what we should all be aiming for, after all, don’t you think? 

Either way, here we go again with another week of recommended iOS apps I find rather helpful and I hope most of you may find useful as well. The overall themes for this week are Productivity, Finance, Task Management and Photography. 
 

  • Notes: Well, this one won’t be much of a surprise to anyone out there, since it’s one of Apple’s own iOS apps that comes pre-installed in the operating system already, but I must confess, after iOS 10, it’s proved to be a rather noteworthy competitor from other note-taking apps. The integration between devices is just superb, seamless, almost instant. Sharing notes with others, or inviting them to chime into your notes, is a pretty nifty capability if you would want really easy ad-hoc collaboration for the not too complex interactions to work just right. But what I like the most about it though is its simplicity and immediacy to the point where it’s become my digital moleskin. I no longer write things down on paper, but on Notes on my iPhone, specially, while I’m on the move, making it incredibly easier to then work on those notes in whatever other device. At one point in time I even used it to draft some of my blog posts that I could then finish off in MarsEdit in my MacBook Air before I would go ahead and publish them across. Like I said, if you already have got iOS 10 installed, Notes is worth another look, for sure. It may surprise you and in a good way. 
  • 5coins: One of the many things you learn, early in the game, as a freelancer, is to keep an eye on both revenue and expenses, specially, the latter, so you can make ends meet month in month out according to the income you may have and live somewhat comfortably while still paying all the bills. And while I realise there are a number of different iOS apps to help you manage your finances quite nicely, one of my favourites, is 5coins. Uncomplicated, very easy to use, very light in terms of features and capabilities and incredibly helpful to manage your expenses without getting the usual headaches while trying to make sense of it all.

    Now, it’s not really fancy nor complex in terms of what you could do with it, but if you are looking for an app that can help you document your expenses really easy, keep an eye on daily, weekly, monthly and yearly expenses, as well as helping you visualise it all in a clear, straight to the point manner 5coins may well be it. You can export the data as .CSV files, you can add a monthly budget to help you stay on target, sync with iCloud and a couple of other features, but what I like the most is its immediacy in terms of annotating the expenses quickly and off you go! Worth a try, in case you may not have done it just yet. 

  • Clear: I mentioned in a previous blog post how there are a number of different note-taking apps I use in my iOS devices on a rather regular basis. Somehow I’m hooked to them for the variety of user experiences they provide, but there is also another category of apps I just can’t get my hands off and, of course, have multiple of them as well. Task management. Yes, I know, I have got a whole bunch of them I use regularly and I think I’ll start sharing along a few of them, so today, I am going to begin with Clear.

    Talking about speed and performance, those are two of the main features Clear excels at. Using gestures to mark as complete, or delete or create new items (tasks) is really good fun and it’s surprising how intuitive it can well be. Now, it’s probably not the best app to manage and handle complex tasks (from projects, team work, etc. etc.), but if you are looking for something relatively simple to annotate your daily tasks without too much hassle and doing it all really quick, Clear may well be what you are looking for. Take it for a spin and you will see what I mean in terms of fun task management being taken into a whole new level.

  • Productive: This is an app specially meant for you to help you build up on your own daily and weekly habits. And stick around to them. Whether they are related to health, fitness, home, hobbies, social, or efficiency, or whether you create your own, Productive helps you build a solid library of habits to execute on at different times of the day: morning, afternoon and evening. And reminds you, in a rather friendly way, so you can complete them accordingly.

    Obviously, it takes some effort to put together the different habits you may already have and some new ones you would want to build further upon, but once you pass that initial hurdle the rest is quite an amazing experience of helping your habits stick around in a fun, enlightening, and overall rather engaging way. My good friend, Bernie Mitchell, recommended it to me a few weeks back (Thanks ever so much, Bernie!) and after having played with it already for a good while, it’s a keeper. Why? Well, because it will help you stick to your habits and complete them accordingly effortlessly. That simple. That good. It just works.

  • Lightroom [iPhone App]: Yes, I know, another week of recommended iOS apps and here I am, once again, recommending another photography app worth while looking into for your iOS devices, in this case Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and, specially, on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pen. Whoahhh! If you love tinkering around with your photos and play with all sorts of different effects and filters like a pro (without being one, for that matter!), Lightroom is a pretty good choice altogether out there! It’s a whole new world of possibilities to discover and play with, but without having to go through an entire course around photography, which, at this point in time, I appreciate very much!

    I got this app recommended by Mauro Fuentes, a.k.a. @fotomaf, via an Instagram Story where he was entertaining questions to answer about photography, which is one of his many different passions. Yes, I know, those of you who already know him could vouch as well he is really good with photography, but Mauro is also very good at something else: sharing generously what he knows about his many passions, so that others become just as passionate about them as he is! So when I asked him which one was his favourite app for photo editing Lightroom was his first suggestion and after having played with it for a while he was right. Even someone like myself, who is nothing more than an amateur at photography, can get some gorgeous photo editing results with Lightroom in just a few steps. I am very thankful, indeed, for his recommendation, because more than anything else it’s opened up a whole new world of good fun, editing capabilities of pictures without going crazy as a result! So many many thanks, Mauro, for your generous help and guidance! I very much appreciate it. And if you get a chance, folks, that is, if you are still looking for an app to edit your photos from your iOS devices, Lightroom is a pretty good start altogether! Highly recommended!

And that’s it, folks, for this week’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Next week I will be back with another round of recommended iOS apps and, as usual, if there would be an app you would want to recommend yourself, reach out to me via Twitter at @elsua or leave a comment below and I will check it out and see if over the course of time, after I have used it for a while, I can go ahead and add it in an upcoming blog entry over here to recommend it as well to everyone else.

Thanks a lot for your contributions shared across so far! Keep them coming, please. 

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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Teamwork Needs Healthy Friction to Collaborate and Get Work Done More Effectively

 Gran Canaria - Guayadeque

Who would have thought something so relatively simple and mundane as food would be the glue for your team(s) to work together more effectively? Who would have thought cooking together would provide just the perfect level of healthy friction you would need to help your team(s) members collaborate more openly and effectively to get even more work done? Who would have thought cooking food would help your team(s) members bond together in much more meaningful ways than whatever other team building activity you may have thought of in the past? Is your kitchen ready?

A couple of days ago Tim Beyers wrote exactly about that very same subject in a rather interesting Fast Company article under the suggestive heading ‘Why Teams That Cook Together Work Better Together’, where he shared a couple of relevant stories from companies like PLAE and Segment that are using cooking food as an opportunity to help their teams get together and collaborate more effectively in an environment that’s totally different than their day to day operations. To quote Milbank, from the article itself, here’s the main reason why they do it: 

Ultimately, it’s about teamwork, thinking creatively with one another and working under a time and budget constraint.

My goodness! I can totally relate to it and big time! Over 4 years ago, Bob McMilan once asked me, while he was interviewing me for his Wired piece on ‘IBM gives birth to amazing e-mail-less man’ (as part of the #NoeMail experiment), where did my inclination to connect, learn, collaborate and work together closely with other people come from? Where did it start exactly? What was the trigger? Well, my first initial reaction was to eventually mention the very first project I started working on at IBM back in January 1997, but he kept insisting to go even further back, before I started working in the IT industry. And I had to think… 

I had to think really hard, because it wasn’t very obvious at the beginning, but once I realised about it, BOOM!, it was right there, right in front of my face! Two different activities, one followed after the other, were the ones that triggered that spark towards understanding the importance of teamwork no matter what you were doing or working on. Funny enough those two activities were related to a couple of passions of mine that decades later are still pretty much intact: basketball and cooking.

I started playing basketball (point guard, in case you were wondering…) when I was 10 years old (Thanks to my older brother and his own school gang) and I continued to play it till I left my home country when I was 23 years old. Throughout those 13 years, and after having played in a good number of different teams across different divisions, you get to understand how you, as an individual, are pretty much nothing, unless you are a team player and help your team win collectively through each and everyone’s individual effort.

Yes, everyone knows it, basketball is a team sport, who doesn’t, right? But what most people won’t tell you about it is that in order to do something rather significant, as a team, you need to learn how and when to sacrifice the individual for the collective good (i.e. learning to tame the ego, as I usually call it), so you can win the game. That looking after one another, no matter what, helping each other address our very own weaknesses and turn them into strengths, as a team, is probably as good as it gets. It teaches you plenty of understanding of the conditions and constraints around your team, about building enough empathy to utilise it wisely when needed, about helping one another altruistically so that the team benefits in the long run and, finally, about learning to master the art of healthy friction and negotiation that comes through from compromise. Gosh, I still love the game, don’t you? 

After I left the country and before I started working in the IT industry, I was a cook, as I mentioned in another blog post last week, in several different types of restaurants in multiple countries (Spain, France, Germany, UK, etc. etc.). It was the experience of working as a cook in an Argentinian restaurant in London though the one that taught me the importance of diversity, of inclusiveness, of understanding everyone’s needs to be different, while still being together, of embracing different cultures, customs, languages, traditions and what not. All in all, you learn to embrace all of that, and so much more!, for the benefit of the cooking team you work with, because everyone in the team knows, no exceptions, we are all on a very specific daily mission: delight our clients (so they keep coming back and keep us employed!). 

Of course, there are different kinds of pressure: time, stress, hectic (crazy) schedules, impossible goals to achieve, multitasking, not much thinking (just execute), yelling and screaming at others, and the list goes on and on and on. If you have ever worked in a kitchen environment I bet you know exactly the kind of pressure you are exposed to on a daily basis. The thing is all of those pressures are easily tamed if the team stays and sticks together, that is, if the whole team understands that healthy friction of rubbing it against each other has got one specific purpose: get the work done, effectively, as a team, delighting your clients, whomever they may well be. Yeah, indeed, I still get goosebumps, wouldn’t you? 

And then fast forward to 1997, when I started working for IBM as part of the IBM.HELP.NET project team. A team of teams of about 450 people from 40 different countries, 5 continents, speaking multiple languages, doing customer support for the mainframe and PC environments. A melting pot, indeed, of cultures, languages, customs, traditions AND, of course, people, vast majority of them without prior knowledge about the IT industry (Had to be acquired while doing the job after a couple of weeks of training) and yet working really hard every day, neck and neck, to address and fix as many business problems from our customers as we could possibly do.

You knew there always was something up in the air as you would enter the building and meet your colleagues: an inner urge to help them become successful, because the moment they were successful you, too, would be successful for that matter. Part of that collective team of teams effort, hard work and energy, for sure, but there was something else special that glued everything together in a very engaging manner. And it was food. 

At one point in time, one of the teams decided that every first Monday of the month, they would gather together for lunch on a single table and each team member would bring in with them a typical dish of their country. The purpose was to lay on that big table some pretty amazing, colourful, incredibly tasty and overall gorgeous dishes everyone in the team could nibble on, while standing and moving around, talking to one another, sharing experiences, recipes, childhood memories, weekend activities, personal hobbies, hints and tips, tricks, perhaps the odd customer problem that needed fixing right after lunch in a timely manner, etc. etc. It was just buzzing altogether! 

Soon enough, on that first Monday of every month, another team joined in, and then another, and then another one, and another one, and before we realised it, we had an entire floor of multiple large tables with all sorts of wonderfully yummy dishes from all over the world, literally, waiting to be enjoyed and talked about by everyone who wanted to come along. Yes, that was a very important aspect that most people kind of took for granted, but that those of us who knew what was going on appreciate it the most: it was an open environment and everyone was welcomed! Even people from other floors, other projects, other parts of the business. You can imagine what happened next.

You can imagine the huge impact in the overall team building activities that we had that such a small initiative of gathering people around some delicious food did have over the course of time in terms of helping just that, build community, because that’s exactly what was happening back then and that most people didn’t even notice. We just took it for granted. Yet, whether we like it or not, we are all, after all, social beings eager to connect, learn, share and work together with others and if food can help us achieve that, why not embrace it, right? It’s what makes us all human, that strong sense of belonging, of connecting, of caring for one another. I tell you, it was just mind-blowing altogether!

You know, all of that happened nearly 20 years ago and I still remember it today as if it were just yesterday! I bet that some time soon we may be having a few of them dropping by this blog post and leave a comment to say ‘Hi!’ It pretty much reminded me of this wonderfully inspiring short blog post by my good friend Tony Holder under the title ‘A sense of community’ where he pretty much nails it in terms of defining succinctly what it is like building an engaged, sustainable, committed, involved, open and overall participatory community: 

All it takes is a smile, a cheery greeting and a few seconds treating people like you want to be treated, as a human being.

Well, if on top of that you add some really good food (and drinks, of course!) I can imagine only great things will happen: some bloody good conversations. Conversations through which we can master the art of collaboration and fine, healthy friction.

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When Context Transcends Change Management

Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogán at sunset

What if everything we have been told about Change Management over the course of the last few decades was all just … plain wrong? What if research keeps telling us, over and over again, how ’most change efforts fail’ ? What if we have been approaching change initiatives from the wrong side of the spectrum and we never realised about it till now when it might be a bit too late already? Isn’t it time for us all to shift gears and, at long last, change? Oh, the irony, right?

Over the course of the last few months there have been plenty of really interesting articles around the discipline of change management itself (out of the several dozens of millions of publications, practices, methodologies, processes, and what not), whether it’s been talking about its many different mythsits various principles, along the science behind change in itself, or perhaps some forgotten questions, or comparisons between leading and managing change, where does it belong within the organisation?, how it tights everything up altogether around technology (as its main key enabler), or, questioning, as McKinsey put it recently, how, in a nutshell, we may need to change change management itself after all, given that massive statistic of how over 70% of change programmes fail to achieve their goals, whatever those may well be. Ouch! That hurts. A lot! 

Yes, I know, the links I have shared above are just a glimpse of an entire industry talking and writing extensively about what change management has always been all along: an obsolete change methodology using 20th century mindset, processes, tooling and practice while trying to address plenty of the organisational challenges from the 21st century in a more complex business world than ever. And, somehow, technology seems to be making things much worse, like two completely different worlds colliding with one another! 

What if all of that literature around change management could be smashed with just a couple of tweets? Yes, indeed, two different tweets, with a few weeks in between each of them, that have recently captured my attention, more than anything else, because of how both of them have undermined, and challenged at the same time, in a very healthy, disruptive, enlightening and rather provocative manner, everything I have known about change management in the last 10 to 15 years. So much so that after reading the second tweet shared across just last week I’m going to start challenging, not only my very own change practices, but also everyone else’s who may keep neglecting the fact we are living and working in completely different times, and therefore we need some fresh new thinking around change altogether coming further along.

Indeed, I love Twitter, specially, when people use it to school me, and everyone else for that matter, directly or indirectly, about things I stopped challenging myself some time ago, because I started taking them for granted and let inertia do the rest. Complacency can be so brutal, so lethal, so deadly, it’s not even funny anymore. The thing is, when looking into those two tweets, in the context of change, with new, fresh eyes, AND thinking, you wonder why you didn’t do it much much sooner.

Unlearning old, useless, obsolete stuff we keep clinging on to no matter what (even if we are wrong) to then relearn again about new ways of getting work done, specially, in change initiatives, is really hard, we all know that, but, at the same time, making it happen successfully can be rather intoxicating and enticing altogether, if anything, because it helps us all open up a new window of opportunity into thinking AND doing things differently, which is exactly what I will be doing from here onwards as a result of those couple of tweets I have mentioned above already. 

At this point in time I bet you are all wondering about those rather impactful tweets, aren’t you? The suspense may even be killing you, right? Well, let me share them over here with you all, so you can see what I mean about how a couple of sentences may be able to challenge every single change management programme you may be involved with, or know, out there within your own organisation, to the point where it may take you back into the drawing board and start again. I know it has done that with me big time. You will see what I mean shortly. 

Ok, here we go then. Both tweets come from Sonja Blignaut after having attended two different events in time around complexity and change from the one and only, Dave Snowden. To quote each of them: 

And here is the second one, shared a couple of months later, perhaps even more wonderfully poignant than the previous one:

As you can see, there is a lot of meat to chew on for a good while with regards to both tweets, but, on their own, they remind me of a superb recent blog entry Dave himself wrote where he pretty much nailed it in terms of why change management needs to shift gears of its collective mindset and change (pun intended). To quote him: 

Now there are a whole group of consultants in this field who focus on the idea that changing individuals is the best way to change an organisation. The worse ones come with a ideological view of what sort of people they want to create and a process of self-reflection that draws on the worse excesses of the counselling movements that took off a few decades ago. […] It’s the preacher man phenomena, in which the preacher is the privileged interpreter of the word and has achieved a heightened state of enlightenment to which they invite to you to seek to attain.

But it gets better, much better, because from there onwards he shares a rather thought-provoking reflection that has intrigued me to no end and I am pretty sure it’s going to make lots of people out there rather uncomfortable, but, hopefully, in a good way, that is, unlearn to relearn effectively about change and its many nuances too often ignored, or neglected. To quote him again: 

Now don’t get me wrong, individual change is important, meditation has huge value (I am less sure of mindfulness as that has become a simplistic fad), most practitioners are well intentioned. But the real change in organisations is when you change the way that people connect, and the most profound way in which that connection can be achieved is through small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way. People argue that it is easier to change an individual that to change the system and that may be right. But if you want systemic change there are simply too many individuals to change to achieve it and it is a lot easier to change the interactions and allow people autonomy over what they are.’ [Emphasis mine]

Whoahhh! If neither of those tweets, nor Dave’s quotes, shared above (never mind the fantastic blog post he put together), don’t persuade you to help evolve your own change management practice, I don’t know what would, frankly. Do we still think that organisations can change? That we can change people, even one individual at a time? Hummm, we may need to think again… And think hard! Seriously. 

You would remember how a few weeks back I wrote about the Social Business Adaptation Framework I am currently using with my clients to help guide them through their own Digital Transformation journey and that has evolved over the course of the years; well, next to each of those different five pillars I covered back then I shall be remembering, from now onwards, those terrific tweets and noteworthy quotes, put in context, where it matters, to essentially do just that: override the change management practice from the 20th century and fast forward into the 21st century. 

It will be high time to start catching up with this rather complex business world we live in, don’t you think?

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