Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Browsing Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

pic courtesy of Amazon.com

The Heath Brothers, authors of Made to Stick, on why some ideas, companies, etc. stay in our minds and others don't, in Switch posit the idea of a rider on an elephant trying to stay on a path.

The Rider is analytical logic. The Elephant is feeling, based on empirical evidence. The Path is all goals.

The Heaths suggest directing the Rider via crystal clear instructions. These include finding what's already right, scripting critical moves, and pointing to the destination. Motivating the Elephant to stay on the Path happens by igniting/finding the feeling, shrinking the change, and growing your people. Shaping the Path means tweaking the environment, building good habits a bit at a time, and rallying the herd.

Teacher, Bart Millar, had two attendance problems. As a former teacher, I can relate. Boy, can I relate. Anyway, he needed to make some changes to get these kids to class on time. He could have attempted a rational approach appealing to their rational riders to control their emotional elephants, which wanted to show up whenever they felt like it, by letting them know their grades would suffer, and with them, concomitant opportunities. He could've asked for their empathy for his position, "Hey, you know how hard it is to teach effectively when I can't use all my class time for teaching?" Effective? Not so likely.

What Miller did was genius. He brought in some old couches, put them in the front of the room, and allowed early birds to sit there if they wanted to. Tardiness problems solved.

That's tweaking the environment.

Amazon has changed the environment for book buying, and now book reading with the Kindle.

Instead of confronting the hard change problem: How do we persuade people to buy more? They did what Chip and Dan Heath call shrinking the change, and building new habits, by asking an easy change problem: How do we make it easier for people to buy?

Voila! How many of us now buy differently than we did 10 years ago? Likely everybody reading this blog. Amazon led the way.

The Heath brothers say their favorite story in Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard is that of Jerry Sternin.

Little wonder, as Sternin is famous for making change with the attitude: “You cannot think your way into a new way of acting, you have to act your way into a new way of thinking.”

Sternin went to Vietnam to save children's lives. He found many intractable, systemic problems. Poverty, lack of education, lack of clean water. Jerry Sternin had no chance to change those. What he did have a chance to impact were individuals. He got mothers in one small village to study lack of nutrition there. He then asked if they knew any childeren who, despite the endemic malnutrition, seemed to be doing fine? Any who were perfectly healthy despite their environment? Yes, said the mothers, there were some children like that.

Next, he had the mothers of the malnourished children ask the mothers of the healthy children what they were doing right. they found little differences made big changes. Malnourisehe stomachs are smaller so some mothers fed 4 smaller bowls of rice a day, rahter than one or two larger ones. Tiny shrimp and crabs, thought to be adult food, were added, along with sweet potato greens, giving kids more protein and vitamins. Then Sternin got those mothers to teach the other mothers.

With the help of those with the most to gain, Sternin managed to make a dent in na big problem, without changing any of the underlying systemics.

This is what the Heaths call Finding the Bright Spots: Ask What is working? And make that the focus.

You can hear a fifteen-minute podcast interview with Chip and Dan here at Amazon.

Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath is worth picking up on, and passing along to co-workers and bosses.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It was 28 years ago today . . .

I earned my most honest dollar ever. Playing a Neil Young song.

Go figure.

And read about it here.

And don't forget to read the follow-up post here.

Was free-writing about it this evening. Here's a little of that:

. . . finding it there and then, as that guy--likely 3 to 5 years less than my "24 and so much more"--purposefully striding across the square, looking me in the eye, and HANDING me the DOLLAR, not just tossing it off in the case or even humbly placing it in, as at an altar, but handing it to me, eyes up and locked, all a purpose, handing me that dollar in exact appreciation.

The most honest dollar I've ever earned.

One of the great moments of my life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Pragmatic Alternative recommends. . .

pic courtesy of TedsTake.com

. . . Washington Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis's new book, The Business of Happiness.

Leonsis, whose famous 101 List is a model for anyone, spent years studying the mechanics of happiness.

What makes someone happy? Relationships, Community, Self-Expression, Giving Back, Pursuing a Higher Calling.

Everything we're doing at Brazen Careerist.

Hear Ted speak about all these, here: http://fora.tv/2010/02/24/Ted_Leonsis_The_Business_Of_Happiness.

I've had a personal email correspondence with Ted Leonsis for over ten years now.

Since 1999, when he bought the Washington Capitals from Abe Pollin--philanthropist, pillar of the community and mensch himself--Leonsis has dramatically raised the fortunes of his team, above all by connecting with fans, customers and clients alike, actively seeking input.

He asked fans for complaints about the team: about the game day experience, prices, parking, concessions, bathrooms--everything.

He compiled a list of 101 things fans didn't like, then systematically attacked those flaws, one by one.

That kind of enlightened ownership does more than sell tickets. After all, if the team weren't any good, there'd be empty seats every night.

What it does is gains permission. It gets buy-in. It buys patience and time and trust. Trust that things will be done right, that things will steadily improve. That these are shared values.

That "It's always about team, and there's always better."

And I never say "always."

So buy a copy of The Business of Happiness. Ted's idea of "the double bottom line" is crucial.

This one's for you, Penelope.

Oh, and Go CAPS!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why I Haven't Been Ready For Anything Recently...

...I'm still getting things done! Working at it--hahd--as they say in N.E.

So, that series I was working on for several weeks has hit a bump, and will return when I get a real system of CoPORDing in place and working daily.

Getting much better, but still re-working.

I find, in contrast to what David Allen suggests, that a top-down approach helps. I'm all too easily distracted by minutia, so his instruction to write it all down, in no particular order, and then rearrange later hasn't been working.

So, it's projects first. Ultimate goals on top, and priorize, organize and review in accord with them.

Goal here is to post more regularly, which will mean shorter posts, and will constitute a more active review process.

Biggest goal for this month: create a shirt a day--like this one front

and back

-- for the month. Starting late, so let's see if I can catch up.

At least a shirt a day every workweek day. That'd be 23 for this month.

And they won't be all about MD. I've got DE, NJ, MN, and CA lined up, along with the usual off-beat hilarity you've come to expect from the good folks at HepCatIndstries.

Stay tuned. . .

Meanwhile, I need a drawing board.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

What The Pragmatic Alternative Has Always Been About

pic courtesy media.eyeblast.org

Check out today's Face the Nation, featuring Sens. Lindsay A Graham and Evan Bayh, along with a compelling question from Bob Schieffer about yelling "Fire!" on a crowded Internet:


Pragmatic and alternative.

That's the idea!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Huck Finn!

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

Ernest Hemingway

On this day 125 years ago, February 18, 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was published by Charles L. Webster and Company, New York.

How do I know it was published by Charles L. Webster and Company, New York?

Well, since 1982, an analog of this Year of Superior Vision, 2010, I've been the proud owner of a facsimile First Edition of this Greatest American Novel.

And very proud of it I am.

I've read this book since I was in Second Grade. I've read it 15 - 18 times, and I started reading it again tonight.

I love this book. It is the quintessential American Novel. It examines the essential American conflict: freedom vs slavery, and without doubt the noblest character, the most human, the most loving is the slave, Jim.

Few moments in literature rival Huck's resolution in Chapter 31 to stand by his friend.

Motherless Huck, whose father is an abusive drunk, accepts on faith that his entire adventure down the Mississippi with runaway slave, Jim, has been sinful. He may not have good or proper breeding, but he knows right from wrong, and absconding with someone else's property is unequivocally wrong.

And Jim is property. Not a man. An asset. Capital. Physical plant. A factory.

Certainly not a father.

Though Huck knows nothing of karma, he's feeling bad about not having spoken up long ago. He's been carrying and protecting stolen merchandise, and finally resolves to clear his conscience by writing to Miss Watson, Jim's rightful owner.

Of course, he hasn't felt guilty until he learns "the king" and "the duke," two All-American confidence men, have sold Jim to a local farmer, and made him a slave again "and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars."

But Huck's feeling it now, acutely, and fears, "It would get all around, that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was to ever see anybody from [my home]town again, I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame . . . here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched . . . whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't ever done me no harm . . . ."

The misplaced modifier is crucial.

Faced with the prospect of "everlasting fire," Huck resolves to pray. "But the words wouldn't come. . . . because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; is (sic) was because I was playing double. . . deep down in me I knowed it was a lie--and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie," Huck concludes.

So he writes a simple, one-sentence letter to Miss Watson telling where Jim is and where to send the reward money to get him back, and immediately feels better.

Then Huck begins to pray for his eternal salvation.

But not right away. First , he sits and thinks.

He thinks of how close he has come to going to hell. Then he thinks of the ease and joy of his life with Jim on the raft on the river. And he thinks of Jim looking out for him, and caring for him. And he remembers Jim saying Huck was the best friend "[he] ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now. . . ."

Then Huck looks down at the letter, and thinks:

"It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and says to myself:

'All right, then, I'll go to hell'--and tore it up."

If you've never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, start today.

If you've read Huckleberry Finn, read it again.

I hear you can get it on Kindle for a quarter.

There's no finer story in any language.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 10 -- Creativity Shows Up When There's Space

Getting ready to write this latest post in the series, a further reinforcement of David Allen’s premise that the mind is truly open for business and cleared for takeoff--aka creativity--only when it is first relieved of its standard job as office space, I realized, “You know, I haven’t actually CoPORDed in a while.”

Yeah, it’s been at least a week, maybe a couple.

I can rightly attribute this to my focus on several key ongoing projects with multiple next actions, but the truth is, in so doing, I’ve neglected to write down everything as Allen instructs from the beginning.

And, as a result, some of the little stuff has been falling through the cracks.

So, before I go any further, allow me to CoPORD right here, right now.

Finish pulling up the rugs in bedroom. Too dusty. Must get rid of.

Call in prescription refill. Hey, wait, I’ve done that! But waiting on follow-up from pharmacy as to pickup/delivery instructions.

Dig out car from under latest 15” of snow.

Congratulate self for waiting till today to do so, when it’s above freezing and snow is beginning to melt anyway, making preceding job easier.

Call about Barbara’s gifts. I wonder if she’s reading this. Hey Babe!

This just in: help out neighbor downstairs in wake of snowfall. This falls into the urgent and important quadrant; won’t take less than 5 minutes, but needs to be done now.

Organize for yard sale in May. Designate other clothes for Goodwill. Get clothes, house wares, etc. to Goodwill. Throw out trash. Buy more trash bags. Plan dinner.

OK, you get the point. And this is just the beginning.

But I appreciate your indulgence in the utterly boring minutia of the warp and woof of my daily decisions-making.

What David Allen brings up in Chapter 10 of Ready For Anything: Creativity shows up when there’s space, is that getting it all down intimidates a lot of people because they fear there won’t be anything really there.

“Is that all there is?” is a pervasive angst among far more people than you might think. The worry is that with all one’s responsibilities, projects, even simple daily to-dos out and in the open, “Is that all there is?” will resonate and echo deafeningly.

So we insist on keeping it all “up here” with a smile and a tap of the forehead, convinced both that we’re managing just fine, and that we could be great, and will be eventually, once our awesome burdens ease up a little and we have time to see clearly again.

No, says David Allen. CoPORD! Get it all out. Review it all regularly. Manage it all in a completely integrated fashion. Only then will we be operating at the top of our game.

David Allen’s point in this chapter is again: Get it all on paper. A mind is a terrible thing to waste on office space. Holding it in clogs the pipes. Getting it out clears the pipes.

Clearing the paths is liberating and almost instantly puts the mind in flow, and flow is where you want to go.

Allen asks this question at chapter’s end: Are you ready for a bigger parade?

Well, are you?