E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Work Life Integration

The Happy Secret to Better Work by Shawn Achor

Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco in the SpringPositive Psychology. Goodness! How cool, and how timely, is that concept? At a time where we are constantly being bombarded by all sorts of various different news items, most of them on the negative side of things, about the global financial crisis, the need to reboot this or that other country in order to get back in shape, their own public institutions, their own business models, or their societies in general, here comes positive psychology to go and change all of that and demonstrate to all of us how we may have been holding, all along, the wrong end of the stick! Well, time to change all of that! Welcome to “The Happy Secret to Better Work“.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you would probably know by now what a big fan I am from TED Talks. Those rather inspiring, thought-provoking, mind-blowing at times, truly life transforming presentations / speeches by incredibly amazing talented folks on a wide range of topics. Well, in the last couple of weeks I have bumped into one that would fit in that profile and so much more! The beauty of this one is that it’s totally unexpected on its final outcome, and you will see what I mean shortly, and on the good side of things it’s just a bit over 12 minutes long. So rather easy to digest, pause and ponder, and even worth while watching several times! 

This particular TED Talk I’d like to spend a few minutes on today is coming from Shawn Achor under the rather suggestive title “The Happy Secret to Better Work” and in it Shawn shares plenty of insights around some interesting issues that we seem to keep neglecting and that perhaps we shouldn’t, like the dangers of measuring the average, because, according to him, that’s exactly what we are going to get: the average, instead of excellence. His views on wanting us all move the entire average up, so that we don’t just focus on our current average, is just remarkable. 

Essentially, he comes to proclaim that in order to become better at what we do and to become better at who we are, we need to focus on the lens which the brain sees the world and change that lens so that we would also be capable of changing reality, our reality. That way, by shifting that focus, we would have a great, unprecedented, opportunity to change our happiness, our education, our business. Anything. And everything.

Mind-boggling, to say the least! But it gets better as you move along through the TED Talk. What he then comes to state in rather powerful messages is how we need to shift gears into changing, or even better, reverting the formula for happiness and success with a rather simple equation: focus on the positive and not on the negative. Going away, slowly, but steadily, from that mantra we have lived on over the course of decades along the lines of “If I work harder I will be more successful, if I am more successful I am happier“. More than anything else because every time our brain hits success, you already get to change automatically that goal of success, meaning it’s already embarking on to the next piece of success. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success we will never reach that state of happiness. What we have done, according to Shawn, is “push happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. WOW!!! I told you, mind-blowing!

But there is even more, because coming close to the end of his dissertation he mentions how what we should eventually be doing is focusing on raising everyone’s level of positiveness in the present, so that the brain would experience what it’s called a happiness advantage. Meaning that if our brain is positive it will perform significantly better than thinking neutral or negatively. Yes, I know. Think about it, it makes perfect sense, don’t you think? 

So essentially, what we would need to do in both our work and personal lives, is to find a way to become positive in the present, then our brains will work even more successfully. Doing so it will make us all happier, but it would also turn on all of our learning centers in our brain allowing us to adapt to the world in a different way and better. Much better.

Wrapping up his TED Talk presentation, Shawn proclaims that when thinking about small changes rippling outward we could surely start creating lasting positive change with a good number of very simple, yet, incredibly powerful, things to consider, such as these:

  • 3 Gratitudes
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Random Acts of Kindness

No, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil all the fun explaining much in detail each and everyone of those items I have just quoted above. Instead I would strongly encourage you all to make time (Like I said, a bit over 12 minutes…) and allow Shawn to wow you big time by watching the video, because he’s certainly going to do that, I can guarantee you! In fact, I would take things even one step further and state that Shawn’s Talk will not leave you indifferent. Rather the opposite. Forever. It will challenge you to think there is a better way out there, a way you can certainly influence right off after you finish watching the attached embedded video clip: 


Because, like he just said, by doing that not only would we be creating “ripples of positivity“, but eventually we would be creating a real revolution that we can all relate to and feel even more attached, engaged and committed to providing us all with much better quality lives, lives where fulfillment and happiness rule big time altogether over everything else! And that’s just such a fine feeling, don’t you think?

You bet! It’s already helped me think about things in a completely different manner, whether work related or on a personal level, to the point where something I was not expecting did eventually happen. Moments of happiness galore, if I can say that! WOW!! Rather liberating and incredibly re-energising to say the least… Yes, you should try it, too! 🙂

Thank you, Shawn! 

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Engineering Life Work Integration

Gran Canaria - Las Canteras BeachI am sure that this may have just happened to everyone out there and on a rather regular basis, too! Specially, if you are a blogger! Just as I was putting together a blog post on the topic of the 40-Hour Work Week (- “The Magic of Sustainable Growth”), which I published a couple of days ago I happened to bump into another really interesting and worth while watching video clip that touched quite a bit on the very same topic that I covered on that article: work life balance, although, like I said in the past, I have grown to be more fond of the concept of Work Life Integration, instead. The video itself comes from the Ignite series (Ignite Philly, this time around) and it’s a rather thought-provoking 5 minute-long inspiring speech by Pam Selle that tries to share with each and everyone of us how whenever we reach the tipping point of stating “Get a life!” we may as well need to do so! As we may be missing far too much of what really matters… because of work.

Like I said above, the video is a short, crisp and rather powerful awakening call for all of those knowledge workers out there who may feel that their job is eating up not only all of their work time, but also most of their personal time, along the way, too! Now, I understand the video has got some strong language, but I think Pam gets the point across very nicely and in a tone that while I understand may not be getting through for some folks, I think it’s all just too down to earth, and rather realistic on helping everyone understand where we are and how we may need to keep on challenging a good number of the presumptions that we have always been taking for granted in a business environment when talking about work time AND personal time.

Go the F*ck Home: Engineering Work/Life Balance” is a rather provocative watch, for sure, but well worth the time to discover the real consequences of working overtime, of giving up your time, just like that!, for free, of constantly being used (and treated!) as an asset, of showing how there are better, smarter ways of getting the job done, of re-focusing on what you would need to do and do it!, in the time that you have been allotted, so that you, too, could get a life. I loved her comment about naming more than two things that we all get to do outside of work and if you can’t name more than two, you have got a problem. Indeed! Too much work time, too little play, personal time! Priceless!

You see? It looks like the best option for all of us is to have an escape plan, something else to do, other than work, to occupy our time during the course of the day, when we are no longer working, and still have the feeling we are achieving something meaningful. And all of this going all the way to the top, including management!, who should be acting as leading examples, in the first place, helping their employees understand that they, too, have got a life and therefore should leave work, and do something else, before they would come to realise that their knowledge workers may be rather unhappy with their overall jobs, just as much as they themselves. When we all know that happy employees are the ones who produce the better outcomes: happy customers. After all, if Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg can do it, why can’t everyone else, right? What’s our excuse?

And if you need an escape plan, how about having a vacation? That would probably help out everyone out there start up with making that separation between work and personal life, right? And stick around with it altogether as well, upon your return. After all, we all know how beneficial, relaxing, chilling, unwinding and healthy it is to take a good long vacation, of, at least, two weeks disconnecting from everything for optimal results (Yes, even my own boss is confirming that!). Even better, we all know and embrace the many other good benefits from having unlimited vacation days, as I have also blogged about in the recent past sharing the experience of the delightful Maggie Fox from Social Media Group So why not do it? No, don’t worry, contrary to what most people would think, knowledge workers, in general, would not slack off. Why? Because they are hard working professionals, remember?, the ones you hired in the first place, the ones who you have trusted all along to do the right thing, i.e. getting their work done. So they are not going to abuse it. All the other way around! They are going to become even more productive and effective at what they do and work harder, because they are the first interested parties in keeping things that way!

Ohhh, that you cannot take vacation, because you can’t afford it? Even your work project won’t allow it? Well, let’s take it into the next level… How about *not* having any vacation, nor off sick time altogether? Let’s go to the other extreme. Let’s wipe out the entire concept of taking a vacation from the workplace and instead, like my good friend Kevin Jones blogged about just recently, let’s introduce this rather fascinating and refreshing new policy: “Need it, Take it“, which goes pretty much as follows:

If you need time off, take it.  If you are sick, stay home.  Just continue to do amazing work

Yes, I know, if you have been reading this far you are probably thinking I am just crazy. But why not? Why couldn’t we just live without vacation days and, instead, shift gears ourselves and change mindsets thinking that you may not need to have a fixed vacation period eventually, but, maybe what you need is just taking the time off, when you need it, for the time you consider responsibly enough to take off and just go ahead and do it! Knowing that it will happen when you know it will have the least impact on the business. Your business.

Smart companies like Evernote are already doing it and proving that it can be done and I guess at this point in time you may be wondering what you would need to do in order to make it happen for yourself, right? Well, something relatively simple: just ask! You know, like I have always been telling people, if you don’t ask, you already got the “No!” for an answer; if you do ask and get a “No!” for an answer, that’s just totally fine, remember you already had it. But if you get a “Yes!” for an answer you may find yourself you are right on track and you got it! A win-win situation for everyone, because when you get that “Yes!” you would probably be *the* most interested party in keeping things going that way. And I can’t blame you. I would do the very exact same as you would be doing. In fact, I have already been doing it myself for the last 8 years working AND living in Gran Canaria. Remember, for many years I didn’t ask, so I had a “No!” already. But then, one day, I eventually asked, took the risk, a good chance that things could work out, and, I got it! I got the “Yes!” and two weeks later I moved permanently to Gran Canaria where I have been living and working ever since. And still having a blast!

But if you don’t ask, if you don’t provoke that conversation to take place, it will never happen. So you are back to square one. And I am not sure what you would think, but I do believe it’s worth while taking the risk of asking away (your immediate management or whoever else), because in a way you are also helping your management line to understand how they need to shift gears themselves and instead of measuring your performance by the amount of hours and days that you work, they would probably be much better off measuring your overall outcomes, your deliverables, your output, and understand fully how, in a good number of times, you would be providing that extra level of top quality value by taking time off to focus on what you need to focus on: yourself. Re-energise, charge your batteries and come back for more!

After all, it’s a beautiful, wonderful world out there and every extra hour that we spend doing overtime or not having that time off for ourselves to do other things as part of that personal work life integration strategy you should all start working your way through on it, you are losing out. And you are losing big. As big and mind-blowing as this:

Don’t you think it’s worth while asking after all? Don’t you think it’s a good time now to take your life back and instead of talking about work life integration you start living more that life work integration for yourself and for what really matters?

You bet!

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Work Live Integration – 23 and 1/2 Hours

Tenerife - Roques de Garcia with Mount Teide in the WinterOver the course of the last few weeks, perhaps couple of months, I have noticed how I am starting to post articles about a good number of different topics on this blog that have expanded beyond the original intent to talk about Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Online Communities, Learning and Social Computing / Networking for Business. In particular, I have begun to become more and more interested in those subjects related to work life integration that are surely part of the business world, too, specially, when time and time again plenty of folks have been talking all along about that work life balance, but time and time again we have never seen it become a reality. Well, what if that balance didn’t exist in the first place? Most importantly, what if that work life balance has never existed, right from the beginning, despite what we may have been thinking about all along? Time then to wake up to that new reality of always-on, (inter)connected, and readily available, regardless of where you may well be, what device you may be using, who you may be connecting with, and what you may be working on at that moment?

While I was in London a couple of weeks ago participating at the #UCExpo event, where I did a keynote session on the topic of Living A World Without Email” (See this great article put together by Guy Clapperton to get a glimpse of what I talked about or this other link for the recording of the session itself) and the subject of work life balance came up from the audience when asking me how do I balance it all out not relying on corporate email anymore and instead having made the transition into social networking tools for getting work done. One of the attendees brought up the whole concept of work life balance and how important it is in today’s business world and how we all seem to keep neglecting it big time, and I just couldn’t help getting a chuckle or two, because, in reality, I have always thought that such balance just doesn’t exist. It is a big myth. It always has been!

In most cases, indeed, it’s a myth that most corporations have made us, knowledge workers, believe is possible to have in today’s work environment as a way to combine our work lives with our private ones, when, all along, I have always stated that such balance just doesn’t exist and for a single reason: work has always won (and it will continue to win!). It has trumped life all along and it will continue to do so for many decades to come. Instead, a long while ago I have made the transition into what some people have been calling work life integration, where one of key words / concepts that has started making the rounds in the last few years, that is, flexibility, is gaining more and more importance and relevance as we move forward.

Work life integration, and that flexibility, starts kicking in when both knowledge workers and employers begin to understand how we need to make a transition into measuring business performance by the outcomes and deliverables of what you produce, regardless of the time that it would take you to complete such tasks, rather than by just your mere physical presence, working a good number of hours, even if there is no more work to be done. It’s all about autonomy and how you are going to manage your work hours in the wider, larger context, of how you are going to live your own personal life. And we should all remember that we just got ONE life, and perhaps MULTIPLE jobs (Seeing today’s new reality, in the dozens!).

Just recently I read this fascinating article, over at Lifehacker, that points to this other, much longer, but equally worth it, piece of research by Sara Robinson about how if your work week extends beyond the 40 hours per week you may be having a huge problem with your own productivity that you would need to tackle. And soon! There is no denying that in today’s corporate environment becoming even more productive and effective knowledge worker is going to ever increase our stress levels because more and more is being demanded from us, by multiple projects, teams, networks, communities and some times it’s difficult to juggle with it all. But what if we would take a step back, and realise that not everything is about work? That not everything is about being chained to whatever the computing device to get work done. That there are more important aspects out there, in our lives, that we should treasure perhaps even more than work, and I am not even taking into account the private quality time that we spend with our families, friends, relatives and loved ones, which we all know has been decreasing quite a bit over the course of time anyway, in the first place.

In this particular case I am talking about something so fundamental as health, our very own health. Indeed, that aspect of our lives that we keep taking for granted, day in day out, till it’s perhaps too late and we cannot longer back out of it, because we didn’t pay enough attention to it in the first place. One of the things that I have come to terms with over the course of the last 4 years, when I started with this initiative of Living A World Without Email“, is that us, knowledge workers, are not that fundamental, critical to the business and indispensable that we think we are. In fact, we aren’t. Whether we would like to admit it or not, the business world will always continue to move on, with us, or without us, and things will be just fine. You know, it’s something that’s been happening all along, but that we have never realised about it till probably now. We all go on holidays for one, two or three weeks, or longer, if you are lucky enough! (Fascinating read that one, by the way, that I will be picking up on another blog entry), and we try to disconnect, relax, unwind from everything work related. We may be more or less successful in achieving that, but one thing for sure is that when we are not there, things keep moving on just at the same pace as before, if not even faster, judging by the amount of catchup most of us have got to do upon our return.

That, in itself, is an indication of how we, knowledge workers, may need to start shifting gears and become more focused on what work is all about and what our personal lives should be about. It’s that integration between work life that needs to kick in, to understand that some times you will be working really hard for over 12 to 14 hours straight, because work would require you to do that, and then there would be other times where you may just be working 2 to 4 hours and the rest of the time you can dedicate it to spend it doing something else. The key challenge though would remain on how willing would those businesses be to allow for that kind of flexibility in the corporate environment and whether they would be able to support it or not. In my opinion, they surely would, because, amongst other things, they would haven’t have much of a choice, if they would want to retain their talent in fear of those knowledge workers moving elsewhere, i.e. to another business that would be much more accommodating for that same flexibility.

That’s why, over the last few months we have seen how plenty of corporations have been paying attention to one key fundamental aspect that affects them, just as much as their knowledge workers: our very own health! I am not sure whether you may have noticed it or not, but plenty of companies are starting to carry out rather intense campaigns to raise awareness of how important and critical it is for knowledge workers to look after their own health in order to be able to perform better. I am sure most of you folks out there would have plenty of reasons to share across on why businesses are finally paying attention to such important matters, but one thing that is undeniable, to me, is that in this matter if one self doesn’t look after their own health, no-one else would. So, I am really glad we are now finally seeing this topic coming up on the table. It’s an important one.

That’s perhaps why as of late, I am becoming a whole lot more interested in that work life integration from the perspective of taking into account other important aspects of how we can conduct work in a meaningful way, rather than in work itself. After all, we all know it’s going to happen eventually anyway, so if we can remain focused and purposeful about it, we should probably take into account other important aspects, like this one on health. It all became a lot clearer to me way back in July last year when I decided to take a bit more of a proactive approach in taking care of my own health by growing up the habit of doing daily workouts (and plenty of exercise!), a good healthy diet of learning to eat smaller portions of everything and get plenty of sleep, as I have detailed on a blog entry at the beginning of this year. From there onwards, interest grew in me further along as the results of my overall performance at work have been much better eventually in the understanding that the healthier you become, and no need to go through to the other end of the extreme!, the much more productive and effective you end up being.

And that’s why I wanted to put together this blog entry over here today to highlight a short video clip I bumped into over the course of the last couple of days that I am sure most folks would find quite a fascinating watch, not only because of how relevant it is to this whole discussion of living a healthy life, while getting work done and enjoying plenty of good quality private time with your family and friends, but also for covering some stunning facts about how something so relatively simple as 30 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis can be so beneficial for us all. Indeed, in 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? Dr. Mike Evans gets to describe a whole bunch of facts as to why regular physical exercise can help boost not only our health levels, but also our intellectual capacity, which is rather remarkable, because it comes to confirm how we may need to stop obsessing too much about getting work done, and perhaps start obsessing more with looking after own health, if we would want to become better at what we do.

Very little more to add at this point on such important matters, other than perhaps include the embedded code of the video clip over here, so that folks could have a look into it and start pondering how and when they would need to start injecting such energy boosts that come along from that daily exercise in order to provide us with a higher quality life, which I guess is just as good as it gets. And don’t worry, work will continue its course. It always does. Right now, as an example, I am stuck in a hotel room in Madrid, trying to get some work done, but, alas, I can’t because my VPN connection to the Intranet is currently down. So, you see? The world doesn’t stop. It just moves on. Like you should be moving on! This time around the key challenge, and the good fight for us all, is all about trying to figure out how we can integrate it (Work, that is) effectively with other more important tasks dropped on to each and everyone of us: live fully a better quality life.

See? Don’t you think it’s worth it every minute? And it’s just only 30 minutes per day… What’s our excuse not to do it then? Please don’t tell me it’s work, because it surely isn’t. It’s never been about work. It’s always been about how much good care you would be taking about yourself and what really matters to you. And I bet work alone does no longer cut it, does it?

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One Moment Meditation

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterHere we go again, already done with another one of those crazy, rather hectic and buzzing Mondays, and embarking on what promises to be quite an interesting and exciting week, as I am preparing for my next business trip, which, once again, is going to take me to two different cities in two different countries in the next few days. First to Antwerp, Belgium, to attend and present (On Being Social, as a panelist, and on #lawwe as a speaker) at the stunning BLUG event, where the agenda seems to be more impressive than ever; then, over the weekend, heading over to London, UK, where I will be staying till Wednesday, participating and presenting as well at Melcrum‘s fine Digital Communication Summit, as I will be talking about IBM’s journey towards becoming a social business sharing the experiences, lessons learned, hints & tips, and adoption techniques of our now 5 year old Social Software Adoption program called BlueIQ.

Phew! You can imagine it’s going to be a rather intense week (Another one of those!), where perhaps stress will make its presence more than once, and, just now, when thinking about it, I can sense it’s going to show up a few times eventually. Nothing new, really, right? I mean, in today’s current business world who doesn’t that have feeling that some times, and, hopefully, just some times, there are just so many things going on at the same time that even juggling with them to see how many balls remain on the air proves to be quite a challenge on its own.

My good friend Jacob Morgan captured, really nice, on a recent tweet, what the actual impact that stress is causing into the business world and although his tweet was just specific to the US, I can imagine how it would also be applicable in multiple other countries. If not judge for yourself:


Now, I can imagine that there would be plenty of various different things and activities you could do to help tame that stress and bring it back under control, since we all know that negative stress has never been rather helpful to one’s productivity and effectiveness. But yet, since we are all so busy doing multiple things and juggling with multiple projects, and whatever else, there is one key question that keeps popping up: Where do you get the time? You know, we are all so busy, we just don’t have it any more! We cannot even control it or have a little glimpse of what we are doing with it. It’s become the new economy. Along with Attention Management, of course, for that matter.

But what if we would have that opportunity to address, manage and tame that stress to reasonable levels with something so relatively simple as one minute? Yes, you are reading it right. One minute! Nothing more, nothing less! Who can’t afford a single minute going by here and there then to achieve that new goal of living a stress-free work life and get so much more done? I am sure you may be thinking that I am dreaming, once again, or that I have become a bit of a utopian. But what if it were possible? Would you do it? … I bet you would!

So allow me to introduce you to this absolutely delightful video clip of just over 5 minutes that will introduce you to the wonderful world of Meditation. In this case, One Moment Meditation by Martin Boroson. I bumped into this video late last week on my of my Google Plus circles and, of course, I just couldn’t help watching it through to see what it would be all about. And, I eventually, got to practice it!! Whoaahh. Really. And it works!!

There are lots and lots of things that I could say about the video, how incredibly inspiring it is and all, but once again, I am not going to spoil it for you folks and I am, instead, going to encourage you all to watch through the video, right as we speak, even if you are not stressed out, so that, when you are, you know exactly what you can do to avoid it and move on with your work. I tell you, I tried it out while going through it and I can certainly vouch for how effectively it works, to the point where it doesn’t feel like you are doing it, and, yet, you are and getting the best results! Just brilliant! And painless!

Again, you may not need it just now, or you may need it pretty drastically; the good thing is that after you watch it, it is just so easy to carry it on with you that no matter where you may well be, or what you will be doing, or what you will be working on, as soon as you notice that negative stress kicking in, it’s time then for that One Moment Meditation, and get back on track. Seriously, it’s that effective.

What do you think? Does One-Moment Meditation work out for you as well? Feel free to drop a quick comment or two and let us know whether it is working out for you or not, and if you have other tips and techniques to help tame that negative stress share them across as well. I bet we would all love to know about them!

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Another Special Day

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the Winter, Seen from ArternaraHappy Saint Patricks Day!!, for those folks who may be celebrating it anyway… Today surely is a special day for a whole bunch of people all over the world. Well, for me, too! No, it’s not because on the Internet apparently it’s my birthday today, which it isn’t (Thanks ever so much everyone for those kind and warm wishes shared across though!). Once again, and like I have been doing for a couple of years now, I *lied*. My actual birthday date is in February (Yes, I am a true Aquarian!), as I have hinted elsewhere already, but in a way it is my birthday today as well. At least, what I would consider having been reborn again into the current life I have been enjoying for the last 8 years and counting… Indeed, 8 years ago, on March 17th, 2004, on such a special occasion as St. Patrick’s Day, I moved to Gran Canaria, as my permanent home. And I haven’t gone back anywhere else ever since!

If you have been reading this blog for a long while you will notice how, despite the odd and awkward experiences here and there with my business travelling, I do enjoy traveling all over the place quite a bit. It’s probably the best option out there to get to know places, people, their languages, their customs, their traditions, their cultural traits, and whatever else. Amongst one of the best learning experiences in life. It’s also probably the best option to meet up a good bunch of close friends who no longer live near you in the same city, country or whatever, but that thanks to the wonderful world of the Social Web they are scattered all over. But, to be honest, the main reason why I love traveling, is because every time that I do it gives me an opportunity to treasure and appreciate why I work and live in Gran Canaria. My home.

You know, time and time again, when I get to present at conference events, summits, workshops, seminars and whatever else on the initiative I started over 4 years ago on living A World Without Email“, and how the world of Social is helping us transform the corporate world of the 21st century as well as our societies as a whole, it surprises plenty of people how I can still get away with having ditched corporate email, rely quite heavily on social networks for business and still live and work in Gran Canaria. Even more when my own boss is thousands of kilometers away from me… Well, that’s my story. And I am surely grateful to my current employer, IBM, as they have been employing me for the last 15 years to give me an opportunity to demonstrate there are other ways to contribute, make yourself useful, have an impact, and enjoy with a passion what you do on a daily basis. Regardless of where you are in the world. It no longer makes a difference. Remember the blog post I put together a couple of days ago on “Everything is connected to everything“?

That’s what I have been trying to prove all along. That with the emergence of much more effective and efficient collaborative, knowledge sharing and social networking tools we now have an opportunity to redesign how we do work, where we do it and with whom. And how it’s that flexibility and work life integration that would surely help knowledge workers become a lot more attached to the work they do, with a rather strong sense of belonging, ownership and co-responsibility for wanting things to work out just all right. To always want to improve the way your business does business, even if that means facing as well the ugly parts, to try to solve them in a meaningful and purposeful manner. All in all, to become more engaged, transparent, open, nimble, in short, sustainable and smart enough to carry on for a few decades more in perhaps one of the most complex, yet exciting, times in our lifetime as a species.

That’s why I am celebrating today my 8th year anniversary since I arrived in Gran Canaria. I never expected I would be staying over here that long. In fact, after my family’s home, it’s the place in the world I have lived the longest in a row. And while I don’t know how much longer I would be living over here, since that’s something that you can never plan anymore these days (Welcome to the world of uncertainty! hehe), I can certainly assure you all that, to me, it’s all about enjoying every single minute of it, yes, the good old carpe diem, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Oh, well, hang on, yes, I know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Actually, beginning of next week, when I am on the road again for a couple of business trips to Belgium and London (again!) and where you can imagine how much I would be looking forward to coming back home and be greeted with something special , something that 8 years ago welcomed me to be part of its family, its extensive community, and still accepts me to be there for who I am. Yes, that’s Gran Canaria. That’s my home. That’s my life. We may as well enjoy it, don’t you think?

Again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, for those celebrating it, and happy 8th year anniversary, @elsua 4.0! Time to go off now and enjoy plenty of the beauty this paradise on earth island has got to offer! Ohhh, and if you ever come to pay a visit on your holidays or next business trip, get in touch! I would be delighted to show and guide you around … Or check my Foursquare’s checkins for some of the best places to hang out, as well as enjoy some of the most beautiful surroundings with incredibly friendly people and superb food. Oh, yes, I am a #foodie, too! But I am sure you have noticed that already, haven’t you?

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Why Do We Keep Insisting On Killing Productivity?

Gran Canaria - Up in the AirAs you may have noticed already, the last post that I put together over here in this blog was a bit over three weeks ago, so, once again, it looks like that quiet period is now over and it’s a good time again to resume my regular blogging activities. I know that plenty of folks out there may have thought that I have given up on blogging altogether, again!, after such a long time not writing much in it, but far from the truth! Coming back in full force and perhaps with a new direction for the blog as well, which I will explain in an upcoming new entry. However, I am sure you are all wondering what have I been up to then in the last few weeks, right?, and what prohibited me from coming back to the blog and keep up with the regular schedule. Well, how can I put it? Hummm, how about when a combination of business travelling, planned obsolescense, lack of consideration towards others’ own health, and @elsua v4.0 decided to kill my own productivity?

Indeed, in such pretty demanding times, where more and more is expected from us, knowledge workers, where we are continuously asked to produce more with less, where remaining effective, if not even more productive, has taken a new meaning for all of us, it seems like we are doing a pretty bad job at getting rid of productivity killers and help us get better at what we are already doing. And I am not just referring to the things we can do ourselves to avoid those productivity killers, since I am sure we all know how we could get rid of each and everyone of those!, but talking about those that have been inflicted upon us and for which we do have very little to do to overcome it; but perhaps now it’s a good time to get rid of the silliness of it all.

Cutting through the chase though, the main reasons why I haven’t been capable of resuming my regular blogging activities, as well as pretty much all of my external social networking interactions out there on the Social Web, and perhaps internally as well, has been due to 4 different productivity killers that apparently all decided to kick in at the same time, i.e. that period of three weeks!, and for which one has got very little to do about it all. Although, again, perhaps we need to start doing something about it. And here is why. Here are those productivity killers that I wish we would all know how to address them and get rid of them:

  • Business Travelling

After having seen, and experienced!, the future, as a result of a short visit to Helsinki, Finland, I am no longer too sure that I would be capable of putting up with being stuck at an airport, or in a hotel room, or at a conference venue, where the Internet connection is just not up to the standards of what one would expect to keep being productive. For example, on my way back home from Paris, after a wonderful Enterprise 2.0 Summit event, I was stuck for almost 5 hours in Barcelona airport, plus another 3 hours from Barcelona to Gran Canaria. And throughout all of that time I couldn’t manage to get a decent connection in order to do my job. That, right there, is already 8 hours of lost productivity! Yes, 8 hours that no-one is paying for!

Now, as most folks out there may have seen it for a long while, in a good number of European countries things are starting to become a bit dire, with regards to the financial crisis, high unemployment rates, lack of decent jobs, etc. etc. Our governments keep telling us that we need to go through these little sacrifices in order to make it. They keep telling us that we need to work more hours, increase our productivity and perhaps become more conscious of the time we spend at work. In short, they keep telling us we need to be more productive. Yet, time and time again, they keep neglecting and ignoring the fact that traditional work is no longer the vast majority of the knowledge work happening out there. It’s no longer a physical location, or a place, or having a set of tools. It’s actually a state of mind. Work happens around you, wherever you may well be, and with whatever the tools you may have at your disposal, whether it’s your laptop computer, your smartphone or your tablet.

Governments keep failing at understanding and embracing this new dynamic where for most of the road / air warriors out there work happens while we are on the move! On the train, on the plane, at a hotel room, at a conference venue, meeting up with customers, etc. etc. And when a whole bunch of us have made the transition into an always-on work environment relying on the cloud to deliver what we need, we just can’t afford failing at not having a decent connectivity. We just can’t be effective and productive enough if the external world doesn’t catch up with us! If governments would finally truly understand that. If they’d want us to be rather productive they need to help us stay connected, regardless of wherever we may well be! Now, you may be saying that I am a dreamer, asking and longing for such state of things for always-on work, the reality though is that I am not. Finland, and I would venture to state that for all of the Nordic countries, for that matter, keeps showing us, and leading!!, the way. And, let’s face it, it’s working! Look at they financial crisis in all of those nordic countries. See? Nothing. They just keep working! They may have other problems and other issues, but lack of productivity is no longer one of them. And I bet that pervasiveness of a strong broadband penetration has got a whole lot to do with it. So if they have managed to make it, why can’t we, the rest of Europe, follow suit? Couldn’t we learn something from them? Aren’t we all part of the EU after all? Shouldn’t we help each other raise our common stakes as productive European citizens? Something tells me we got a lot more to win than to lose, don’t you think?

  • Planned Obsolescence

But just as I was on my way home, when I arrived and turned my MacBook Air on, the unexpected, as usual, was about to happen. And again far too soon! Indeed, on the top left of my MBAir a funny rattling noise started to become more and more worrying and after some initial diagnostics I eventually found out the MBAir fan finally ceased to stop working. Oh, yes, MBAir machines *do* have fans as well. Oh, yes, MacBook Air machines are also very much trapped in this 20th century non-sense that we all know as Planned Obsolescence. I have been having this machine for a bit over a year now, exactly one month after the guarantee expired!, and bang! The fan is now history. After calling Apple Care, as well as the Apple Store where I bought it, it looked like it was going to take me quite some time to have it fixed and eventually returned back to me, and quite pricey, too! So, falling, once more, for that silliness of planned obsolescence, I decided to give myself a treat (Seeing a very special date coming up for yours truly, which I will mention shortly…) and purchase a new MacBook Air 13”, which is the machine I have been using in the last couple of days.

But it wasn’t the machine I originally got when I bought it. Somehow, at the shop where I bought it they mistakingly gave me the 128GB hard disk model, vs. the 256GB one, which is the one I wanted. And that basically meant that I had to go through 2 different installations over the course of one week in order to be up and running once again. And I did. I tell you, there is something out there on getting new shiny objects, but, more importantly, something that I have noticed myself over the course of the last few years as you get a new machine time and time again. Going minimalist. That’s right. Every new machine that I have been getting in the last few years I have gone one level deeper with regards to the amount of Applications, Software, Documents, Pictures, Files and what not I may have got on my machine to the point where minimalism has taken a new meaning for me. Yet, it was two different clean installs that I had to do over the course of a single week and that added, quite a lot, to the productivity drains I have been suffering from in the last few days, and those of you who may have done such recent move would probably confirm this as well.

The key question though that I keep coming up with is when is the world finally going to come to terms with waking up and making a successful transition into becoming a full, sustainable, circular economy and leave behind those economy models that not only keep getting us in trouble, as we have seen, witnessed and lived over the last 4 years, and still going strong!, but at the same time, they keep destroying the most precious gift given to us, human beings, next to our life: our planet. When are we going to get rid of that pernicious obsession with wanting to own stuff. What’s wrong with borrowing, lending, making good use of stuff you need and then letting it go, with learning to live just with what you need, not what people keep implanting in your brain that you need? When are we going to fully understand that the resources we have got around us are finite. And we, too, are finite. That one day, if we don’t change our mentality, and start living more meaningful, respectful, purposeful and sustainable lives, we would be the ones that need replacing, that our long awaited planned obsolescence is very much overdue and that Earth will dispose of us, just as much as we are doing of her at the moment. Yes, please, let’s stop, and get rid of!, the non-sense of planned obsolescence and help us keep productive with what we have for longer periods of time. Planet Earth would be a much better place to live in, for sure!

  • Lack of Consideration of Others’ Health

Ok, moving into the third productivity killer for yours truly in the last couple of weeks. This one, in particular, is the one where I am planning to become a lot more aggressive to try to address it on my own terms, since I think it can be done easily. If you have been following my internal and external social interactions, to the point where I may have shared across some of them, you may have noticed how last week, the entire week!, I have been recovering from a rather nasty flu that I got from a good friend of mine, who, apparently, was just recovering from a severe bronchitis himself and he thought things were back to normal. Well, they weren’t! Because that flu knocked me down the entire week like you wouldn’t believe it.

This winter season I have been having one cold and this one flu. So I guess it’s not too bad. The problem though is that, for me, this was the first time in my life that I had a flu, that I remember, that involved fever, muscle aches, apathy, strong headaches, and what not. And, as such, it required a whole lot more taking care of it and curing it than anything else than I can remember. And I am finding it a bit too ironic that I was in Helsinki with a whole lot harsher temperatures and extreme winter, followed by Paris cold weather as well, and eventually 3 weeks later, the lovely sunshine got me and knocked me down for the entire week!

But why am I using the heading over here as lack of consideration of others’ health? Well, mainly because if that friend of mine had decided to stay home for a few more days a bunch of his friends, me included, would have been spared from a rather miserable week. One were my own productivity suffered quite a bit, just as much as that one from other folks, too!, because of him not being considerate enough that while he may have been feeling better, he obviously was not well enough just yet, because some of us got the flu virus after being in close range with him, while celebrating a special event I will talk about shortly.

And this is what I meant that some times, specially, when you are not feeling well, but you feel you need to carry on with the world around you, it’s probably better for you to stay inside and spare that rest of the world some better times. I stayed home the entire whole week last week and will probably do so for most of this one as well. Sometimes it’s better to recover in isolation, getting well taken care of, than just being out there, trying to pretend like nothing is happening and bang! get everyone around you infected with the odd seasonal cold / flu. Believe me, the fact that we may not see you for a few days does not mean that we have forgotten you at all. Quite the opposite. The fact that you have helped us remember one of those unforgettable weeks of you dragging along all the way, surely is going to leave a mark, because I have come to the conclusion that if you can’t spare from your cold / flu, we may as well do it ourselves. So next time we meet up F2F and you tell me you are recovering from a cold, flu, or whatever else, don’t be surprised if I rather walk away from you, or ask you to stay away till you get better. No, I’m not being anti-social. I am just asking you to be aware that just because you are sick it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should be sick along with you. And since you don’t seem to be conscious / aware of it, we may as well do that for you. Not to worry, when you feel better, we will be paying for the drinks to celebrate your comeback!

Oh, and if you have got to go to the traditional office to do some work, you may want to think about it twice, as well. Last thing you would want to do is to knock down your entire business for a few days, dragging along, just because you decided not to stay home for that little longer. Some times, it’s worth it staying home. Remember, whether you are there or not, the business will continue. If you get everyone sick, that may be another matter. Spare them. Spare us, please.

  • @elsua v4.0

And, finally, the last of those productivity killers that has prohibited me from being much more active in the Social Streams out there in the last couple of weeks. But, not to worry, this is a fun one! One that although it takes a long while for me to admit, it’d only seem to be happening every 40 years! And the reason why it was a productivity drain was more than anything else because celebrating it meant being outdoors, more than indoors working along.

Yes, that’s right, as some of you have noticed in several other places, a bit over a week ago, I reached that lifetime milestone of 40 years of age. Or, as I decided to call it, I just became @elsua v4.0. As you can imagine there were lots of celebrations on the side for such achievement and, while I have got a blog post coming up on the topic, where I will reflect on a few things I have learned over the course of those 4 decades, I decided that since it’s just such a special lifetime achievement, and given the recent issues with that nasty flu, I’ll be celebrating it throughout the whole year! Here and there, and right in between! Why not, right? What are the chances of being 40 again, don’t you think?

Oh, yes, that, too! I can now then vehemently state how those younger generations making extensive use of social networking tools for both personal use as well as for business use, are actually not that young anymore. And how we may be much better off switching the discourse from that generational divide into embracing different working styles within the workplace. That’s what it is all about!

And, to conclude this rather long and extensive blog entry that will serve as me getting back to my regular blogging activities, I guess I’d summarise the main key learning from @elsua v4.0 throughout the last 40 years picking up on a superb mantra headline that my good friend Harold Jarche has been using for a long while and, which, to me, has taken a new meaning altogether just recently: Life in Perpetual Beta:

Be a Natural Enterprise (Slideshare link)

  • “Find the sweet spot: identify your gift, passion & purpose
  • Find the right partners
  • Research unmet needs
  • Imagine and innovate solutions
  • Continuously improvise
  • Act responsibly on principle”

Yes, indeed, it’s good to be back, sustainably productive and Hippie 2.0 once again! 😀

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