Changes we notice and changes we choose 

I suspect you are a mobile addict. You don’t have to be obsessed and have the device in arms reach at every moment to qualify. You merely have to rely on its always connected capabilities to keep you “plugged” in to your connections, and by default the world. 

The speed at which mobile technologies have been adopted has been unprecedented, and I am less interested in its occurrence, and more interested in unraveling its meaning and understanding what changes will unfold next. This post invites you to consciously evaluate the range of activities that tether you to this device, and the choices you can make next.

An overwhelming number of people check their device for “messages” within their first waking moments. In the not-too-distant past, messages waited to be picked up in the variety of places where they were left.

A missed caller could leave messages on answering systems, that replaced secretaries who made and pass a note. This task was automated by machines who accurately recorded the caller, and refrained from edits or shorthands. The machines soon became embedded into answering systems with retrieval now possible remotely.  You could call in to learn who had called.

Email, a desktop computer application, was faster than the post office, and quickly displaced the fax machines for sharing documents or lengthier detailed messages.  Cheaper computing, networks expanded Email from an office communications system to personal. Not only was it faster than regular mail, it was significantly cheaper than calling and more convenient. 

Now, all messaging systems are neatly available in your single mobile device, and your messaging interests and practices routine, if not obsessive.

How does this capability to be more on top of your communications make you feel?

Does this combination of access make you feel more effective, responsible, efficient  or something else? Are the experiences and emotions associated with interaction or the anticipation of the interaction? when and why does the experience become distracting or chaotic? 


I’m asking this questions, because I have a hypothesis that needs testing. I believe it’s the small stuff we change that leads us astray from our original purpose or focused intent.

Distractions come in many forms and largely occur when our attention wanders. Driving for example, our focus should be on the road, the vehicles and conditions. Instead , we’re typically multitasking while driving, Whether the division of our attention happens by listening to the radio, engaging in conversation with a passenger, or on the phone ,  or just the flow of other thoughts.

Diversion is candy to the brain. It’s how small stuff easily adds up. The sideways glance that misses what’s ahead robs our attention,  scatters our focus, can delay our progress and mar our effectiveness.

Any efficiency we built in to our process are quickly filled by the abundance of new opportunities, the change in process enables.

Here’s the rub, it’s at the moment of learned efficiency that we choose either to keep learning or we move on to a new domain.  In both cases, we have reached a level of effectiveness and masters keep moving up while the rest of us begin a steady ascent of decline.  This has been documented as the learning curve aka the efficiency curve, and it’s that pivot moment that interest me.

My hypothesis is that it’s in those moments of awareness of the pivot point that innovation begins.

Process changes: Innovation, Invention or Improvisation

I invite you to consider the value of anticipation, or the expected emotions that flow in a particular situation. For example, we want a celebration event to end on a happy note.  Likewise we want our decisions to also produce positive outcomes, but that’s the problem, not all of our behaviors result from conscious decisions.  When driven by habit, the small stuff that changes escapes our notice. That’s both good and bad.

For example,  no matter where you live on the planet, the time of sunrise and sunset changes daily and we generally don’t notice or feel those effects. We do experience the differences relatively over long periods of time, such as the longer days of one season vs. shorter days in another.

The same is true over the little changes we make every day in the use of our mobile device. Perhaps you have grown aware that you are using it differently than you did a year ago, but you don’t know exactly why or what you are doing differently.  Of course some of the changes have been controlled by the businesses who are using agile methodologies to constantly release improvements in the look, speed and functions available on the screen.  The more these businesses issue changes, so does your behavior.

So, have you taken the time to reflect and assess your own set of personal habits and processes?  Have you considered the cumulative effect on your employees of these external changes and its effect on their productivity, their effectiveness and your overall efficiency?

I did, and reflect on my processes pretty regularly. It’s the bane of being a consultant, I need to understand and tinker with things in order to keep up to date and provide relevant information to solve client’s business problems.

I always asked lots of questions, the biggest difference in my process happens to be the research process.  In the past, I was a very avid reader of the New York Times and dutifully ventured to my front door half asleep to pick up the paper and begin scanning the headlines.  Later I went to the Wall Street Journal and slowly opted to skip the chore of recycling the old newsprint, and read the headlines on my phone through the convenience of their respective apps, or use my desktop.  The thing is, the biggest change? Neither one of these newspapers remains my #one information source or morning view.  In fact, I stopped reading the New York Times entirely for a while, because as email habits led me to click open the inbox, other publications had more interesting headlines and their content became a more interesting set of sources.

Better still, the minute I opt to share an article with a colleague, I’m no longer in email but a new application that the team chose to use less to keep our inbox clear, but to insure we were finding and able to keep and organize the messages.  Naturally some of our remote global team members would notice I was online and would shout out to me via Google Chat.  Those who were using the proprietary platform we built, would post and the site would automatically trigger an email notification to encourage other members to respond.

I discovered that my own process, work habits and overall effectiveness ebbs and flows with the connected capabilities of the underlying platforms I find myself using.  I’m not suggesting that having one is a good idea, but I also know that it’s valuable to impose some discipline and standards for the teams in which I work.  It’s way too easy to be online, for example this post began as a voice transcription using my phone.  The longer it got, the sooner I had to move to a bigger screen and so I jumped to my desktop to continue.  Inevitably, there was a sync delay. Later, I  had to reconcile the two versions on the two separate devices.

I would welcome thoughts on if and when you personally, or your team revisits your work processes and to what extent efficiency or effectiveness plays a role.  Please share, and if you would be willing to be part of larger research drop me a line.



Value, honor and reward everyone

This morning a post on a very eclectic list serve populated by keen observers read:


…the BIF project we are working on with Babson in our Entrepreneur Experience Lab. We’re doing a deep dive into the experience of intrapreneurs and keep observing that they seem to assess risk in terms of personal affordable loss measured by reputational capital.

I thought about this idea of reputation, or personal investments in keeping up appearances and realized that in new situations and settings where I need  be on top of my game, I’m often initially uncomfortable about engaging people. Especially when my perceptions of the crowd or group intimidate me, I prefer a little distance and project a quiet intensity.

In the company of friends and family, where I am open and comfortable, I will laugh quite heartily, encourage stories and take risks to be playful or funny  though it doesn’t come very naturally. When I’m feeling confident in new situations , the courage I muster allows me to openly approach strangers. Surprised, I suddenly find it easier to make new friends.

The trick to both my playfulness and open engagement? Suspending critical judgment, reminding myself how much I enjoy chewing on surprising ideas and then remembering how I feel in those moments gets me past my natural comfort zone.  My creativity quickly comes to the top and allows me to share and learn. I learn to  make this style work, while continuing to notice what I’ve seen work for others and then try it on.  The result I never say or do the same thing twice, my style keeps evolving and others learn I always something new when they see me.  Using these principles makes it easy.

Give to Get

Choice is part of our daily process, but most of the choosing we do is not very conscious.  From the moment you wake up you begin to make choices but most of them are not very memorable, are they? Naturally, we associate actions we value with benefits.  We study for better grades, work to get paid, we drive to save time, we eat to satisfy our hunger etc. How actively did you value the ability to wake up? Or the ability to feel, hear, see, smell, taste, move, or speak? Actions that require no conscious effort are often the things we value least.

The expression no pain, no gain sound familiar?  Trying generally means we put more into  the process, tapping abilities beyond those that kick in when the brain’s autopilot signals them.  Cheering on all of our senses’ contributions is similar to cheering on another team member’s effort, honoring the additional participation. Honor is a conscious act. It helps us repeat those active choices by protecting both what we value and the memory of the experience.

Very small children don’t think before choosing their actions,  they just do. In time, the reactions of others begin to redirect their attention and the consciousness leads them to change. Increasingly, other factors, additional information such as the situation, the setting, the behavior or responses of others splinter the choices. The first positive experience buries a set of conditions that often stop us from repeating.  Our actions no longer being cheered or honored.  The collective opportunities to openly share, experiment and indulge the full use of our senses become rare. It’s why we can do things in kindergarten and then stop. Denying these urges shut down the natural balance in our system, we express fewer of our feelings and controlling those urges raises our stress levels.  The medical data demonstrates how much stress is killing us.

Make value not Cents

Its time to put an end to segregating our emotions and actions, and restrict creative releases to distinct settings and environments. Doing things that bring smiles or makes it possible for us to be in the company of other people proves very motivating.

When was the last time that you made laughter a daily priority, or set aside time to put your hands intentionally to work, or attempted to translate your thoughts into sketches to share as opposed to typing and using only words?  These activities are natural outlets for energy and impulses that are great de-stressors. They act as natural balancing activities and help us bounce back, feel less overwhelmed and less reactive when stress does arise.  Incorporating more of them into our daily, yes DAILY routine, is the secret to living well.(Further details about reducing the impact of bad stress in your life  using these simple activities are available at here.)

My renewed values and principles

Since habits are hard to break I’m committing to a new set of critical principles in my daily routine. Here and Now, I plan to be smarter not only in how I work; but also how I interact with others, in an effort to manage precious time and energy.

So here are the principles.

1. I will value people’s time.
2. I will honor people’s attention.
3. I will reward positive forward progress.
4. I will assert more sensory interactions using Laughter, playfulness and drawing in my daily routine.

What are your plans? principles or reactions?  would love to learn what you are thinking.  If you missed the tips I shared earlier, I urge you to check out Making the Impossible Possible.