“The Emperor has no clothes”

I must admit that when I was young I read less than most of the kids. (maybe it’s because I first learned how to do math and reading came about 3 years later)
But even so I already had a few favorites books. And I can remember them even 25 years later.

One of those books is called The Emperor’s New Clothes and it was written by Hans Christian Andersen.

For those of you who don’t know the story, here is the summary from Wikipedia:

A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two weavers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothes themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions, and the Emperor does the same. Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him, and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all, and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor suspects the assertion is true but continues the procession.

I don’t know why Hans Christian Andersen wrote this and what was the social situation then. But I can see a lot of similarities these days.

Growing up I always knew it never was a good idea to directly express what I thought. Even though it was true.
Honesty is appreciated only when people agree with you. If your opinion is contrary with their beliefs, you’re gonna have a bad time. Even though you are right. People don’t want the truth, people want comfortable lies that reinforce their opinions and their way of living.

I think in life you have moments when you like having popular opinions, but I also believe that as you get older you just don’t care that much about other people feelings.

And in a way I always liked being the one backing up unpopular opinions if they were true.

But for must people it is really hard to tell that “the emperor has no clothes”, even if they see it with their eyes. They don’t want to offend their friends, or their colleagues, or their managers. They just want to be accepted, be part of the crowd.

I think we need more kids calling bullshit when they see it.

And don’t get me started with diplomacy. An apple is an apple, even if you call it apple or malus domestica.

malus domestica

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Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?

I have an ever growing list of books I want to read. One of them is The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.

People seem to like human and animal comparison. I’m not a huge fan of them, but Nate Silver as a really interesting one in his book.

How Foxes Think How Hedgehogs Think
Multidisciplinary: Incorporate ideas from different disciplines regardless of their origin on the political spectrum Specialized: Often have spent the bulk of their careers on one or two great problems. May view the opinions of “outsiders” skeptically.
Adaptable: Find a new approach – or pursue multiple approaches at the same time – if they aren’t sure the original one is working. Stalwart: Stick to the same “all-in” approach – new data is used to refine the original model.
Self-critical: Sometimes willing (if rarely happy) to acknowledge mistakes in their predictions and accept the blame for them. Stubborn: Mistakes are blamed on bad luck or on idiosyncratic circumstances – a good model had a bad day.
Tolerant of complexity: See the universe as complicated, perhaps to the point of many fundamental problems being insolvable or inherently unpredictable. Order-seeking: Expect that the world will be found to abide by relatively simple governing relationships once the signal is identified through the noise.
Cautious: Express their predictions in probabilistic terms and qualify their opinions. Confident: Rarely hedge their predictions and are reluctant to change them.
Empirical: Rely more on observation than theory. Ideological: Expect that solutions to many day-to-day problems are manifestations of some grander theory or struggle.

So what am I, a fox or hedgehog ?

  • Multidisciplinary vs Specialized: Easy one, Multidisciplinary. I studied marketing, started working in sales, then did some marketing, project management, product management, product design, web design and development, social media, community management, event organizing. Now I’m thinking about switching to data analytics.
  • Adaptable vs Stalwart: I would dare to say Adaptable. I get bored by doing the same thing and it is even more boring doing the same thing in the same way. There are always new and sometimes better ways to do things, so you could at least try some of them from time to time.
  • Self-critical vs Stubborn: Well .. a little bit of both. I always acknowledge my mistakes and I never mind taking the blame, but I do tend to be stubborn and sometimes I do not see things as they truly are.
  • Tolerant of complexity vs Order-seeking: I think Tolerant of complexity. I do like order, but I think that things are most of the time complex and I do enjoy trying to solve them or looking for solutions.
  • Cautious vs Confident: Probably too Cautious for my taste and I little more confidence wouldn’t hurt.
  • Empirical vs Ideological: I think Empirical, but I’m not totally sure of this one.

It seems I am a fox, although I do have some spines.
Is this a good or a bad thing? I don’t really know.
Should you prefer a company full of foxes or full of hedgehogs? I don’t know, you could pick either one.

But looking at the agile approach companies seem to take in the last years I think a fox would be a better fit.

It is better to move in smaller steps and you want to observe, measure and adjust along the way.
You need to be aware that customers don’t always fit a typical already known belief. So you need to prepare for more than one outcome.

And speaking about more than one outcome, it is probably a good idea to also have in mind more than one approach. This is why I am a big fan of multidisciplinary teams. You always get great results when you mix ideas from different disciplines.

I also want to add that if something worked yesterday it won’t necessarily also work tomorrow. And if something didn’t worked yesterday, it will probably not work tomorrow.
Don’t get stuck in the past.

So are you a fox or a hedgehog?

fox

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“Screw It, Let’s Do It”

I started reading “Screw It, Let’s Do It” by Richard Branson. I was a little circumspect when I got the book, didn’t know if I will enjoy it. But man .. this is such a great and fun book to read. It just gives you a nice boost of energy and it awakens in you a desire to do stuff.

While I was reading the book it got me thinking about myself, how I am living and what I do with my life, job, if I’m really enjoying myself. And in a way I can say that yes, I really am.
Is there room for improvement? Yes ! A hell of lot of it.
But I’m doing my best.

I think that the thing that always gets me going is that I get bored really fast and I always feel the need to be challenged, to learn things and do stuff.

My first job was in a bookstore. Selling books and other stuff. It was a really fun place and I had great colleagues. But I was paid close to nothing, little less than 200 euro per month. So the small salary and the routine made me quit in about 6 months.

Second job. I got a sales job in a small IT company. First thing I did there? Putting invoices in envelopes and sending them to customers. Pay was a little better (not much more) and I knew I will be learning a lot of things. And I really did.

When I left, after almost 3 years, I was working as a Project Manager, running projects worth millions of euro, implementing ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems that were used by hundreds of thousands of people.
After 3 years there, doing all the things I did, I can say that if I will ever be in position to run a company, I’ve got the knowledge to do it.

While I was working there I got bored again so I thought I want to learn how to build websites. I had some knowledge from school, but didn’t knew that much. So I started learning HTML, CSS, some JavaScript and a lot of things about building things on the web.
In short time I was already having some small gigs and making some extra money.

I was having fun creating websites, so I thought that maybe I can get a job. So I quit my job prepared to look for something else and with enough money for about 3 months.
It took me less than a week to get an offer and I said yes. It was from my current work place where I work as a Web Designer.

Fast forward to January 2017 (almost 2 years later). What I do right now beside my daily job?

  • have some fun on freeCodeCamp, learning things about web development
  • enroled in a nanodegree program from Udacity, learning Android development (got a scholarship, and I’m really grateful for it)
  • learning to play a xylophone and it is a lot of fun
  • learning German
  • part of a team at work and we are building an AR prototype
  • learning more about design (and will maybe move to a UX design position)
  • a lot more stuff

And all of this just because I get bored easily.

Is it hard? Yes.
Is it fun? Yes.
Do I got the right skills for all this things? Unfortunately, no ..
Will I succeed in doing all of them? I don’t know and I don’t care that much. I want to do them and I do them.

My point. Read “Screw It, Let’s Do It” by Richard Branson. Start doing anything you want to do. It is worth it, you will find your place in this world and things will get better and better.

grass growing

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How to help people work better

Or what I would do as a manager

If you really think about it, we don’t work that much when we are in the office. Sure, we get things done, but I’m not talking about this. I’m talking about doing meaningful things, having ideas, being innovative.

Just remember the last time you had that great idea, or think about your greatest work. I bet it wasn’t done while you were sitting on your chair, surrounded by the 40-50 people you share your open space with.

For some it was really early in the morning, when you were the first one in the office. Or while you were commuting, or in the shower (I always have some great ideas in the shower or on the toilet). Or probably when you were sick and had to work from home.

And this because we get distracted. We get distracted by our colleagues, by our boss, by the endless meetings and conferences. The moments when we can work at something for at little as 1-2 hours without being interrupted are extremely rare.

Until we are able to work from whatever place we chose and at whatever hour we want here is what I would do and propose you all try:

  1. Make your whole team not talk with each other for a day once a month (or at least half a day) – you will see that a lot of stuff will get done and this because people will be able to concentrate on the their job without anyone bothering or interrupting them. This will probably be the best job benefit you can offer to your team.
  2. Cancel your meetings – go to your calendar and cancel half of your meetings and then go and do it again. If there are more than 3-4 people in a meeting, you can probably skip it. Even most of the 3-4 person meetings could be replaced by a short email. Give time to people to put their ideas in order and afterwards they can just send you an email with anything they would like you to know. The world won’t end, everything will be just fine.
  3. Replace most of the active communication with passive communication – if someone comes to your desk you will have to talk with that person. And even if it is for 20 seconds, you will have to stop what you are doing, don’t think at the problem you had in mind, and offer your attention to that person. But if we replace this with emails or even instant messages, we gain control on the moment we want to be interrupted. We can quit Outlook or our IM app, but we can’t quit our boss or our colleague. You finish your tasks and then you spend a few minutes checking you email. Also, it is enough if you check your email 2 or 3 times a day. For must of us there aren’t any urgent things that need our immediate attention.
    So encourage your team to use emails and IMs.

I hope these ideas will help or at least encourage you to change the way you work.

lego people

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