February 25, 2011

Simplicity

I have become aware that my life is complicated.  To be more accurate, I have made my life complicated.  I would actually like it to be simpler.  A lot simpler.  And once something has been made to be complicated, it isn’t so easy to simplify.  It takes a fair effort.
It takes a lot of energy to maintain a complicated life.  It often happens subtly, over a long period of time.  You don’t realize how much it costs you – in energy, effort, time and peace - to keep it all going. 
Having too many choices is a form of complexity.  Research shows that when people are in a store to make a purchase, and are presented with too many options, they tend to leave without buying anything.  Too much complexity overwhelms us.
Take this awareness and turn the lens to where you work.  How complicated are the processes and systems that keep your business working?  How much of that complexity really needs to be there?  What is it costing?
This applies to pretty much anything…project management systems, computer systems, filing systems, business processes.  Things should be only as complex as they absolutely need to be, and starting from simplest is usually best.  More complex is rarely better.  It costs more to build and maintain.  And it leaves a legacy of extra time and money to keep it going.  Einstein had it right.
I also think there are two considerations in any decision about whether to buy something, or to implement a system or a process.  The first is how simple or inexpensive it is to put in place (or to purchase) in the first place.  The second is how simple or inexpensive is it to keep it going or maintain.  Next time you have a decision to make, you could consider the answers to both of these questions.
This is an article from Volume 1, No. 10 of my newsletter, Prosperous Times.
photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

February 11, 2011

what's your point of view?

A twitter exchange this week reminded me of a fable told to me several years ago. I'd like to share it with you. It goes something like this.

A gas station attendant is working at a full service gas station in a small town. A family pulls up in their car and asks for gas. He fills their tank. As they are paying for the gas, they say to him, "We have been thinking about moving. We like your town and are wondering what it would be like to live here. Can you tell us, what are the people like?"

He pauses, and then says, "Well, that's a great question. What are the people like where you come from?"

They respond. "Well, the people where we live are really friendly. They say hi to one another on the street. They look after you if you need something. We really like it there. We don't want to move here if the people are not going to be as friendly as where we are now, because we like them so much."

He thinks for a moment. Then he responds with 'Well, I think you will find that the people here are very much like that."

The family thanks him and drives away.

About half an hour later, another family drives up in their car, looking for gas. He fills their tank. As they are paying for their gas, they say to him, "We have been thinking about moving. We like your town and are wondering what it would be like to live here. Can you tell us, what are the people like?"

He pauses, and then he says, "Well, that's a great question. What are the people like where you come from?"

They respond. "Well, where we come from, the people aren't very friendly. They are rude, and they wouldn't lift a finger if you needed help. We don't like them at all. We would like to move away."


He thinks for a moment. Then he responds with, 'Well, I think you will find that the people here are very much like that."

The family thanks him and drives away.

I really like this fable. It is an excellent reminder that point of view - and attitude - affects everything. Which is great news, because that is something we have total control over over.  We get to choose it.

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng (grceva: rotten apple; Stefan Gustafsson: red apple)

February 8, 2011

stereotypes and communicating

We communicate because we have something to say.  We want to be heard by others.  The outcome that we want varies. Sometimes we are just sharing our own perspective, our own experience.  Sometimes, we want the other person to be influenced by what we have to say. Sometimes, we actually want them to do what we are telling them.

The language we choose affects our message.  An example of this is making generalizations about others, or using stereotypes.  When we are interested in communicating to others, stereotypes often get in the way.  There is a much higher likelihood if you use stereotypes that you will offend someone, that someone will have a reaction to what you are saying.

If you have something to say, you want people to listen to you, to really hear you.  If you generalize or stereotype about something, and they react to it, they can't hear you and your message is lost.

An example is this TED talk by Arianna Huffington.  It's about sleep deprivation, and how important it is to make sure you get enough sleep in order to be performing at your best.  The messaging is good.  The TED organizers asked her to speak, so they thought that she had something important to say.  However, her speech contains generalizations about the sexes, and as a result (and this is apparent from the comments on the site) the message is lost, at least to some.  In fact, the opposite of what she likely intended happened for some folks; they have discounted her premise as a result of how she communicated it.

Something, perhaps, to think about the next time you want others to hear your message.

photo courtesy of mzacha, http://www.sxc.hu/