Posts tagged “Feature Article

Sounds Extreme

Posted on December 10, 2017

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The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum sits on New York’s Upper East Side in a renovated Andrew Carnegie mansion. When Carnegie purchased the land in 1898, it was more than a mile north of what was then considered fashionable society and many levels removed from the deafening steel mills that accelerated his fortune. It seems he wanted space for a garden. On a sunny Sunday morning in October of this year, the Cooper Hewitt galleries are quiet with only a few visitors at such an early hour. I break the silence by tapping a few keys on a dot piano in the Designing with Sound exhibit. The notes present a stark reminder of how sound surrounds us, how sound influences us, and how sound is often most noticeable in its extremes – the overwhelming excess in its presence or…

Future You

Posted on January 8, 2017

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My best personal planning occurs when I consider the context of my situation – past, present, future – and act in the best interest of my future self. In its simplest form it’s asking, will I tomorrow be pleased with the decisions I make today? Especially as New Year’s resolutions start to fade into post-holiday realities, I encourage you to plan – and progress – the optimal future you. The Past Recognize the connection of past decisions to present situations. Personal histories in health, in education, in career, in relationships, etc. are too frequently rationalized in hindsight, rather than fully related to the present. In financial hardships, for example, the real villain is often the victim’s past self. The point is not to beat yourself up…

Peer of One

Posted on September 10, 2016

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My team was calculating benchmark comparisons for a client, and I called an abrupt mental break. Really, how similar are these peer companies? Is Ford the same as General Motors? Coca-Cola and PepsiCo? Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi? Are company components – like people, process, or technology – commodities to be easily transferred? How much of one company would need to be replicated elsewhere in order to produce similar results? Yes, we can compare metrics to identify and apply best practices in domains, but ultimately an organization has its own history, culture and structure at a point in time. It has only one true peer…itself. “…if you want to rework Matisse, you’ll just be a bad Matisse, that’s all.” -Donald Judd It’s similar with individuals. Your specific personality, choices…

Pattern or Prison

Posted on January 2, 2016

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I often see patterns in my clients’ (and my own) actions. While mental shortcuts may be helpful to speed decision-making and reinforce comfort zones, they can lock you into unnecessarily tight boundaries. At worst, extremely patterned behavior imprisons thinking, actions and results. Let’s consider three patterns – deferring to planning, precedent or power – that often entrap decision-makers. “What you do as an editor is search for patterns, at both the superficial and ever deeper levels – as deep as you can go…Putting a film together is, in an ideal sense, the orchestration of all those patterns.” –Walter Murch Prisoner of the Plan This prisoner spends an inordinate amount of time setting an overly complex plan, and once it’s set, he never changes it. So much…

On Time

Posted on April 18, 2014

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Homer Simpson described alcohol as the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. In many organizations, you hear similar statements about time. The timeline is too aggressive. We have plenty of time. We need more time. We’ll have more time next quarter. We have to start now. Time is often perceived as uncontrollable, must like the movements of the sun came to be viewed as being ‘controlled’ by Maya sacred kings. It’s generally not the case. In most environments, a better understanding of time and relevant time pressures can help you better pace activities and control the quality of outcomes. Time Pressure Time pressure is frequently associated with poor decisions and stress. IT projects procured in the last week of the fiscal year are between two and six times more likely…

On Ants and Networks

Posted on October 19, 2013

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Interpreting an ant’s behavior can be quite difficult, especially without the accompaniment of a confident young relative. What an ant is doing at any given moment is often just as vague as why the ant is doing it. We do know, however, that behaviors of individual ants are heavily influenced by ongoing interaction patterns within the colony network, which in many ways is similar to the way we navigate our networked world. Ant Interactions First, some background on ant interactions drawn from the work of Stanford’s Deborah Gordon: Ant colony behavior arises from dynamical networks of interactions among ants. The pattern of interaction is more important than content in influencing behavior. Ants react to two kinds of external information: changes in the outside world…

Finding a Natural Cycle

Posted on August 28, 2013

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Approaching the Labor Day holiday in the U.S., it’s a good time to consider work cycles. Upon closer inspection, most work routines appear more arbitrary than natural. Wall Street obsesses over quarterly earnings. Workers clock their eight hours (or more).  Auto makers release new models every year…often as early as July of the prior calendar year. Work structures frequently constrain more than they enable. “At some point in time the cycle takes over, and even though you’re not really ready to make the record during that window, it’s the only window you have, so you put it out. Cracks in the foundation start. And slowly, over time, the creative process gets eroded, and it becomes something that’s just a window in the schedule instead of the…