Category Archives: Best practice

Hoe? Initiatief nemen doe je zo!


Initiatief nemenIn deze tijden van vernieuwing en innovatie moet je snel zijn. Die wat afwachten zijn te laat. Ze vragen je als medewerker om initiatief te nemen en misschien zit je al met enkele zaken in je hoofd. Maar hoe pak je het nu concreet aan? Hieronder vind je negen tips die je op weg helpen.

1/ Wees positief ingesteld

Bekijk de wereld met een roze bril, maar blijf realistisch. Met een negatieve ingesteldheid zie je enkel problemen, met een positieve ingesteldheid zie je uitdagingen en mogelijkheden. Een positieve ingesteldheid gaat je verder brengen en gaat ook andere mensen inspireren.

2/ Creëer je eigen dromen

Denk als een kind en zie initieel geen grenzen. Creëer zeker geen eigen grenzen op basis van onderstellingen en historiek. Ook aangeleerd gedrag kan een instinker zijn.  Kom uit je normale leven, kom uit je comfort zone en denk out of the box.

3/ Gebruik je passies

Als je gepassioneerd ben over iets lig je er wakker van. Op een goede manier dan. Je kan niet wachten tot de wekker gaat om er weer in te vliegen en liefst zat je nog steeds achter je PC of in de boeken. Als je deze kenmerken herkent, is er maar één tip: ga ervoor!

4/ Deel je idee

Het kerkhof ligt vol met mensen die een super idee hadden. Alleen gaan wij het nooit te weten komen. Laat eens een ballontje op in je netwerk. Vraag feedback aan collega’s en vrienden om je idee te laten groeien en verrijken. Na een tijdje gaat het leven en zie je misschien zelfs niet meer waar het idee vandaan kwam. Samen sta je sterk, terwijl egoïsme en profilering ten koste kunnen gaan van.

5/ Durf combineren

Eens op je zoektocht naar feedback ga je andere ideeën tegen komen. Bekijk de mogelijkheden en heb geen schrik om te combineren.

6/ Geef niet op wanneer het tegenzit

Tegenslag is normaal en als je niet faalt kan je niet leren. Je kan op het Internet citaten genoeg terugvinden van uitvinders die zijn blijven volhouden (denk bijvoorbeeld aan Edison en Tesla). Blijf niet wachten met er aan te beginnen tot het perfect zit in je hoofd.

7/ Wees oprecht

Ga niet meedoen aan iets waar je niet achter staat. Als je een masker op doet, kan je dat niet volhouden en als je er niet achter staat, kost het alleen maar energie. Neem dus geen initiatief nemen om initiatief te nemen. Geloof je er zelf niet in, stop er dan mee en steek je energie elders in. Dit maakt het ook gemakkelijker voor je om het positief te blijven inzien.

8/ Blijf niet piekeren, maar vlieg er in

Je wilt niet eindigen met “had ik toen maar” en “had ik maar ooit”. Het is ook niet leuk als je voorbij gestoken wordt. En zeker niet door een concurrent. Ook hier: blijf niet wachten met er aan te beginnen tot het perfect zit in je hoofd, maar stroop de mouwen op en vlieg er in.

9/ Durf risico nemen

Denk aan risico’s maar overschat ze niet. Zorg dat je de risico’s in rekening neemt, maar laat je niet afremmen door een uitdaging. Om te eindigen met de woorden van Formule 1 piloot Mario Andretti:

"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough”.

Veel succes!

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Inleiding tot Wervend Schrijven (NL)


Gebruik je ook verhalen om je boodschap over te krijgen bij de collega’s? Je zal waarschijnlijk gemerkt hebben dat dit de ene keer beter lukt dan de andere keer. Lees verder en word een betere schrijver door je verhalen succesvoller te maken.

Een goede week geleden kreeg ons team een wildcard om deel te nemen aan een opleiding “Wervend schrijven” gegeven door Wim Coessens van ‘The Works!‘. Het was een boeiende opleiding en ik heb veel bijgeleerd. Het zou spijtig zijn als het enkel bij de deelnemers blijft hangen, daarom deze samenvatting voor jullie in de vorm van een visual harvest / visual recording.

Niet veel tijd om te lezen? Prent dan enkel het stuk ‘Story telling’ in je hoofd, want deze structuur werkt als magie voor je verhaal.

De tekening in deze blog is ook onder verdeeld in slides. Deze vind je hier.

Als er vragen zijn: reageer en ik doe mijn best om je zo goed mogelijk te helpen.

Inleiding tot Wervend Schrijven

Inleiding tot Wervend Schrijven

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Getting started with Visual Harvesting


Template for strategy workshop

Template for strategy workshop

Because we receive more and more information these days, we need to optimize how to get, filter, process and store this information somehow. In this blog we’ll introduce a technique called Visual Harvesting or Visual Recording.

Acquiring interesting information is already described in a previous blog, ‘How to keep up. Social apps that boost your creativity‘. This blog will focus on a better way to process and store the information. I am talking about a new trend in our business landscape, called Visual Harvesting or aka. Visual Recording.

Visual Harvesting

Visual Harvesting is a method of processing and storing information using visuals combined with text instead of text only. Visual Harvesting can be used on various occasions:

  • Capturing notes during a meeting,
  • Making a summary,
  • Making a mindmap,
  • Facilitating a workshop,
  • Making a book summary,
  • Visualizing strategy,
  • As side animation next to a speaker,
  • etc.

The technique is promising because of the picture superiority effect you can save up to six times more than with text. Also because of the visualisation you will increase the group memory.

What skills do you need?

You need some very basic drawing, let’s call it doodling, skills to get you started. It’s actually an advantage if your drawings skills aren’t that good, because you’ll be focussed on drawing instead of facilitating and capturing.

If you prepare yourself a set of template drawings, you can save some timing and increase your reflexes.

Also, you need some fast visualizing skills. I say “target”, you’ll draw …? I say “project document”, you’ll draw …?

Is it possible to facilitate and draw at the same time?

Yes. But you’ll have to be gifted to do it. A very important part to visual harvesting is not drawing, but listening. Listen to what they are saying and translated it into a comprehensible drawing.

If you do need to facilitate and visual harvest at the same time, it’s best to create some sort of template framework up front. For example, for a strategy workshop, you can draw a landscape and a journey from the old situation, to the new one. The content and details can be filled in later.

How about mixing harvesting and participation? Is the role of harvester is typically for an outsider?

For me it’s the same as when facilitating other workshops like Root Cause Analysis (RCA) or Value Stream Mapping (VSM): if you participate in the discussion it’s hard to stay focused on guiding the process and not diving into the content. You might loose yourself in the discussion and end-up with nothing on paper.

How do you know if you did a successful visual harvest?

It’s a pitfall to make the most beautiful drawing of a workshop you attended… and end up afterwards with something nobody can understand. You made a successful visual harvest if at the end you delivered something that your customers understand and can use to recapitulate or elaborate.

Pitfalls

Some of the pitfalls when doing visual recording are:

  • Ending up with a result nobody can understand afterwards (only pictures).
  • Not listening.
  • Recording too many details.
  • Creating very nice and almost perfect drawings.
  • Making corrections to previous drawings.
  • Writing/drawing other things than being said. It’s best to stay neutral and only record.

Remark: because you’re in the situation of a professional drawing a picture in a workshop full of professionals, you might raise some eyebrows in the audience, but ignore them and focus on the end result. Afterward the participants will be convinced and proud on the result. Ignoring them will also easy because you’re busy like hell!

Examples

Some examples of where Visual Recording was applied:

Where can you get trained?

I got the “Visual Changemaking” training by Manuel and Martine, two gifted visual harvesting facilitators respectively from Modelminds.nl and VisualHarvesting.com. Both have experience in many business domains and are very enthusiastic about this technique and it’s possibilities.

They share two guides:

What will I do with it?

I plan to use the technique mostly in change management and strategy workshops. At the time of writing I have created two frameworks and facilitated one workshop. Further, I used the technique for my contribution in a yearly evaluation session of our team and ourself. The technique of visualisation was also apllied in a Future Search exercise on leading trends for creating a timeline, but pictures were used instead of drawings.

I also tried the technique while reviewing a book, but quitted after the first chapter. If you don’t have a clear goal about what you’re going to do with the end result, I experience it like a lot of work.

So you may wonder: “Why is this summary in text and not visual?”. Good question, I’ll be working on it.

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The new USB will be poka-yoke and user friendly


USB connectors

USB connectors

Can you remember getting frustrated while plugging in USB devices in your desktop and/or your laptop? The USB socket has a treacherous esthetic property which fails an extended definition of poka-yoke. Let’s take a look.

Not regarding which angle you’re looking from, the USB connection socket looks like a perfect rectangle. The difficult part is on the inside: the small rectangular connection point can go only one way in. Also the USB connections are located next to each other with only millimeters apart so that it really hard to take a look.

Twenty years ago, when the USB gate was created, it was probably meant to be poka-yoke. I had many discussions at school during our Quality Major about why it was not, so I feel kinda released that they finally had the insight themselves.

What’s poka-yoke?

Poka-yoke is a Japanese term used for mistake-proofing or also fool-proof design. When you create something fool-proof, you can not use it in a wrong way and create defects.

Examples of poka-yoke

  • New lawn mowers are required to have a safety bar on the handle that must be pulled back in order to start the engine. If you let go of the safety bar, the mower blade stops in 3 seconds or less.
  • The dryer stops operating when the door is opened, which prevents injuries.
  • The driver must press the brake pedal before starting the car.
  • Electrical sockets can only be used in one way.
  • Induction cooking plates only work with certain types of pans.
  • Toys for children in their first years.

Examples of lack of poka-yoke

  • A CD-ROM can be inserted upside down.
  • You can fill up your car with the wrong fuel because the different fuel pumps have the same handle.
  • A pencil sharpener can be used for sharpening pens.
  • Manual fill of soda drinks.
  • Renewing your cartridges in a CMYK printer.

Proposal: an extended definition of poka-yoke

To me poka-yoke is not successful if it only prevents damage by mistakes. The definition lacks some basic user-friendliness. That’s why I would like to add following to the poka-yoke definition:

poka-yoke is mistake-proofing design that makes the use very obvious and native (even from first time use).

Using this definition, following are examples of failed poka-yoke:

  • Bathroom sinks with the little hole near the top of the sink to prevent overflows where the overflow leads to your floor or closet.
  • A light socket can only take in certain types of light bulbs, but if you would put your finger in it, you get elektrocuted.
  • A floppy disk can only be inserted in one way, but it is not obvious which way.
  • Just like the USB connection, the Ethernet connection tried to be poka-yoke but failed in it (the same reasons as USB). Yes, you cannot insert it wrong, but it’s not obvious in which way to insert it.
  • And last but not least: the USB connection gate. The connector can only be inserted one way, but it’s not obvious in which way to insert it.

How will USB change?

The new USB will have a ‘Type-C’ connector that can be plugged-in in any direction. The smart socket works in any occasion. Sitting on your knees behind your desktop looking at the USB connection socket will be of the past. Getting frustrated by trying to plug in the second USB device in your laptop will also be of the past.

Other advantages of the new USB will be:

  • One universal micro socket (opposed to the many sockets that are available today).
  • Faster power charging for connected devices.
  • Other connections (like eg. firewire) will be deprecated (the ambition of the new USB).
  • High speed connectivity and data transfer.

More information about the new ‘Type-C’ connector

Addtional reading

Poka-yoke at Wikipedia

Poka-Yoke | you can’t go wrong

With new USB connector, no more wrong-way-up cables

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Cultural differences start at the table


Cultural differencesWhen you are visiting a foreign country, are you aware of the differences beside the language? Travel guides help us describe these sometimes subtle nuances, but there’s more to it.

When my parents visited Hungary they met with a long distance friend of us. They caught up and exchanged some small regional gifts, as you would do too when showing the best of your country to a foreign friend. The Hungarian gifts, some marzipan and ox bouillon are on the kitchen closet now and I wonder how long they would stay untouched. It reminds me of all times I introduced foreign visitors (eg. colleagues and consultants) to the Belgian mattentaart (literally translated as ‘carpet pie’), Belgian beers and other stuff. Convinced that it was the best they could ever taste.

We are at the verge of cultural differences here. And it only starts with the food and beverages. The way you shake hands and say hello, the way you engage in conversation, the way you give feedback etc are few examples of how cultural differences express themselves.

When things at the office in another country do not work and you’re pulling your hair like: “We tried everything and we don’t understand why they don’t get it!“, it’s probably a cultural thing.

While being aware of it isn’t enough, you really should (learn to) work with it. Study the culture and its differences before diving in. Start on a good foot, instead of an insult you’re not aware of.

In or outside the borders

These cultural differences can exist in other countries, but also in other parts of your organisation, even in the same building.

While you can prepare for visits to foreign countries (see further), preparing for other in-organisation ‘foreign’ cultures might just being you taking a visit to the department and experiencing it. You can ask the employees and take a look from a distance to observe the process. Consider yourself as a new employee.

Preparing for other countries

When we are going to foreign countries we use the Geert Hofstede cultural index to get insight into the country’s culture. Hofstede defines culture as the collective mental programming of the human mind which distinguishes one group of people from another.

The cultural index gives insight into 6 dimensions:

  1. Power distance. How is power distributed and how do they handle inequalities? For example, can you walk into the boss’ office when you want or is that not done?
  2. Individualism vs collectivism. Are individuals expected to care for themselves or is there a ‘we’?
  3. Masculinity versus femininity. Is achievement and assertiveness (masculine) appreciated, or are cooperation and modesty appreciated (feminine) (remark: non-exclusive summary of traits).
  4. Uncertainty avoidance. How do they deal with uncertainty and ambiguity? For example, is the organisation open for ground breaking innovative ideas or are the rather reluctant?
  5. Long-term versus short-term orientation. Do they adapt to change circumstances or is it more important to respect traditions?
  6. Indulgence versus Restraint. Is the culture focussed on joy and fun, or is it rather limiting it?

Remark: the descriptions here are very short. A full explanation can be found here.

The website lets you compare the difference in those cultures between the countries you select. For example, if you’re from Belgium and you’re paying a visit to Hungary can you see the biggest differences are in:

  • Power distance: Belgium gives more importance to hierarchy and a formal approach. In Hungary there’s only hierarchy for convenience, employees like to be consulted and control is disliked.
  • Masculinity: Belgium is more feminine than Hungary, so more attention goes to care and quality of life, instead of competition and achievement. Hungary is more masculine which implies  that managers are expected to be decisive and assertive. Conflicts are fought out.
  • Long Term Orientation: Belgium is short-term oriented which implies respect for norms and a business focus on quarterly results. Hungary is more long-term oriented which shows the ability to adapt their norms & culture to a modern context.

Belgium vs hungary

There’s no need to judge: there’s no right or wrong in cultures. A culture is not decided and taken in over night: it has steadily grown and developed over the years. But it can be very handy to be aware of these sometimes subtile differences.

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Pitch your idea


Pitch your ideaEverybody has ideas, but how do you sell them?

It’s good to have ideas, but if you can’t sell them to your team or your leader, you only have ideas and no implementations. The process I describe below is for pitching your idea (and not for explaining the business plan behind it).

The rationale behind is that you will need to convince an investor, a sponsor, or maybe even a jury. And your time is limited, to be compared with an elevator pitch.  I always give following example: you enter a lift and your general manager is in it. He heard you had an offsite activity and asks you: “So please explain to me, what did you do that afternoon?”.

Your Pitch

Start with the ‘why‘ of your idea.

I know this will be hard, but if you start with the ‘how’ right away, you will lose your audience. They will be hearing a rather technical explanation and still can’t imagine what it’s for.

Explain the impact of your idea.

What will you reach with your idea? Will it be Steve-Jobs-world-changing-great or rather small?

Dive into the ‘how‘ of your idea.

If you explained the reason why and the expected impact, you explain the how of you idea. But keep it rather high level. Your time is limited and it would be a shame if you didn’t have it to explain the other parts.

Explain who is involved

Who is going to implement your idea? Is it a great idea, but the other department has to do it? Well, a lot people have great ideas about how other people need to work, need to improve. But what is in your area of influence?

Create an action list and assign names and dates.

How are you going to follow-up and measure success?

How will you avoid that this remains an idea? That the action list is classified in someone’s desk? How do you know if your idea is succesful? How do you know when to pull the plug?

Tips

Some tips for helping you sell your idea:

  • Avoid the word ‘actually’. It gives the impression that you are not sure about your idea.
  • Practice your pitch. While practicing you probably notice where the explanation is going a bit harder or discover your uncertainties (let a colleague help you and count the occurrences of ‘actually’.
  • Study your audience. Who are they? What is their background? How do you need to adapt your pitch to their ears?
  • Study the location where you’re going to pitch. How can you use this in your advantage?

Additional reading

We read for you: Presentation secrets by Steve Jobs

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Translate strategic directives into actual behavior


The FutureWhen it’s these days all about vision, mission and strategy, we tend to forget that these are only the first steps in process. When you don’t get to the level of concrete behavior, your message will stay high level and abstract. And your people will not act according to it.

So one of the challenges is how to translate strategic directives into concrete behavior that can be distributed as behavioral anchors or guidelines.

An example

Let’s say you get a new team leader at work and with him, a new vision and mission. Everybody is different and he wants to leave his mark on the team, on the work delivered.

In the kickoff meeting of your team, the team leader explains the reason why there’s need for a change and how we are going to do it. “That seems to make sense”, you think. As strategic focus he gives: empowerment and client focus.

The first question that probably raises in your mind is: “What does he mean?”. ‘Empowerment’ can be interpreted in many ways and perspective. For some it recalls positive memories, for others bad experiences or disbelief.
The same is valid for ‘client focus’. Just take a moment to reflect: do you know any organization where the client isn’t the focus, where the client isn’t important? So what does it imply? What does it mean for us in our specific situation?

Tip: take the time to reflect with your team upon the values and the strategic focus.  If the message comes from the hierarchy above, you can do two things: wait for higher management to explain it to you, or make up your own mind what it means in your situation.

The next step in your thinking process will probably self-reflexion. As we all want to do a good job, we take ourselves up for consideration and ask “What are we already doing (good) in the area of empowerment? Ah, but we’re already doing … and last time we also …”. This is normal. Even as a new team.

Tip: start with the things you already do well. Appreciative inquiry taught us that starting with a positive mind will improve your creativity and lead to better and more creative results. Also confirming that some behavior is already good will have a positive effect on the feelings of the group.

The next logic step would be thinking the other way around: “What can we do to get better?”. People that are not convinced by the need of the change will not make it to this step.  They will be in resistance and rather reluctant to take their own behavior into consideration.

Tip: Asking these questions will generate a lot of feedback & output, so your need will need to set focus. Which items are most important and will get priority? You cannot take up everything at once.

After you acquired the goods and the bads, the actual work still needs to start! It’s time to assign tasks and setup workgroups for the bigger ones.

Let’s do it in a workshop

If you work out these steps into a process, you got yourself a workshop:

  1. What does (eg.) empowerment mean in your specific situation?
  2. What are you doing good in this area? (what doesn’t change?)
  3. What can be (even more) improved?
  4. Set priorities in the ideas gathered.
  5. Create an action plan and assign owners and target dates.

Tips

  • Make sure you communicate the desired output/result in the beginning of the workshop. To quote Steven Covey: “Begin with the end in mind”. It will increase your chances of actually getting to this output.
  • When there are many strategic directives to discuss, pick your Must Win Battle.
  • If it’s appropriate, you can let the group choose which strategic directive to focus on. It will increase their involvement.
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How to keep up. Social apps that boost your creativity


In this ever-changing world you’ve got to keep up. How do you? Two app’s I recommend.

Our new world is shifting from careers by defined college degrees to talent management. While you used to be safe after spending x years at college and passing all the exams, you now have to prove yourself more than ever. Our organisations demand creative and innovative people. But are you keeping up?

One of the possible ways to boost your creativity is to see what people are doing in totally different sectors. For example, if you work in IT, check out insurances or architecture. So on new year’s eve I decided to read a totally new/different magazine than the ones that I’m used to. Instead of reading HBR, I took an issue of Psychologies. I vowed to do this at least every month: one new magazine each month.

While this originally sounded like a good idea, it was just another piece on my ‘to read’ pile. Next to all the blogs, articles and links that I discover or which are sent to me. Further, there is also a lot of garbage in those magazines: articles that do not interest me and lots and lots of commercials.

So I started looking for another way to keep up and thought: why am I doing all the work myself? Let the social networks help me to see what’s trending.

Below are two apps I use and recommend to keep good ideas coming in.

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is an app that delivers you content from the various interests you select. While you used to go for targeted searches on the Internet, StumbleUpon uses its vast network of users to select content for you. For example, if you are interested in design, the app will deliver you websites about all kinds of design (typography, drawing, interior, etc) one by one. If you like the content, you press like, and if not… well, you know.

Finished with the website? Press “Stumble” and the app will find a new site for you. You really stumble from one discovery onto another. This gives you the opportunity to browse through different sites and different topics, without any obligation. You can use StumbleUpon where you want and nothing is pushed to you. If you like stuff, you can share it or save it for later.

The app also provides different common categories like “trending” and “social”, which are ideal to get new ideas and insights from what’s currently hot on the Internet.

Warning: this app can really be addictive!

More information: http://www.stumbleupon.com/

Pinterest

PinterestAs described in one of our previous blogs, “One week of street combing“, walking around with attention will give you many new ideas. Everywhere around us are inventions and innovative ideas, which we walk by every day … and do not notice because of our busy lives. If you really pay attention you will see great stuff from others. But how do you keep track?

Well, assuming that you own a smartphone, you can take a picture and upload it to Pinterest. The Pinterest app lets you “pin” that “interest” for later referral.

Want to see through other people’s eyes? Browse the Pinterest directory to find users who look at things from a different angle/experience and share it online.

More information: http://www.pinterest.com/

Wrap-up

I can really recommend these two apps. Even for leisure purposes 🙂

How do you keep up? Where do you get your ideas from? Please share!

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The long tail of book publishing


As Soulwax sang “Everybody wants to be a DJ”, every writer wants to publish a book. But is that even possible?

Everybody wants to be a writerAs a frequent blogger and writer I decided it was time to improve upon my writing skills. A local literature and arts organisation, Wisper, offered me the chance to participate in an introduction course to writing prose (fiction). As you know this blog almost only hosts non-fiction, so it was quite a stretch for me.

The teacher was the gifted Belgian writer Sandrine Lambert.

After the round-up of this introduction course we had the time for asking some questions. Many were about publishing, distributing and promoting our own book. Sandrine surprised us with the fact that unlike in other industries, amateur writers immediately think of publishing their own book. An almost immediate jump into professionalism. You can compare the situation with following an introduction to guitar playing and immediately making plans for playing at major festivals, like Rock Werchter. A healthy ambition comes in always handy. But if there’s one industry where the long tail principle is applicable, it’s the book industry.

The long tail

The long tail principle is an answer of to the all-encompassing Gauss curve discussed by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail. The Gauss curve theory says that everything is distributed in the say equal way with many in the middle and few exceptions. As this is valid for the height of people and rain fall in geographic areas, we see that there are exceptions to this rule. Like for example the distribution of wealth (few rich have so much more and very many have almost nothing). And also the success of book selling. The major number of books will never make it and only a few books (like amongst others Harry Potter, and The Da Vinci Code) will truly cash in their efforts. The Amazon bookstore even got popular with exploiting this long tail in the book market by offering a huge collection of less sold books.

So what about those book ambitions? I think it’s wise to follow Sandrine’s advice and practice some more. Talent flows, they say, and we will see how it turns out for me.

Additional reading

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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Which behavior are you rewarding?


Are you rewarding the wanted behavior in your organisation? Or only what looks like it? What actually pays off?

A pad on the backFor spreading the message we use presentations, inspirational talks, blogs etc. For projects we create project charters, planning schemes, critical paths and status reports. For looking at results we create data, charts, interpretations and more presentations.

Because people like to listen and other people like to talk, we spread more of these blogs, presentations and charts. We like the stuff that looks like output of something, but when we look close the actual added value is not always found. Who’s doing something with it?

As Leandro Herrero describes in his book “Viral change“, we are rewarding the wrong kind of behavior. We are actually confirming, rewarding and thus stimulating the “production” of things like presentations and stories, but we are not looking at the results they deliver. What good are all these inputs if there is no useful output?

“Waw, that was a great presentation. Next please.”

As long as we keep rewarding this behavior (by any means like promotion, salary increase, recognition, laughs, etc), the people in your organisation will keep exhibiting it.

The same is valid for this blog. For me it is a great way to spread my story and experiences, but I wonder who is doing something with it…

(FYI – with this post, I hope to make you more critical and start thinking in terms of output instead input)

Additional reading

Viral change

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