What we call things does not affect the thing. It surely affects us, though. Just having a new name for the year benefits our state of mind.
Some thoughts of preparing ourselves for the new year. This will certainly be a year of change from 2020. I don’t predict or prognosticate, but I do think that we’ll see a change in the pandemic for the better. Probably the change will happen before we realize it. Hopefully the vaccine helps.
I shun New Year’s Resolutions. I bet yours are already broken 😉 . I do reflect on the past year–changes, successes, changeable mistakes. Mostly I look at subtle changes that help see become a better human. I’ll try a few out on you.
Did you pick up the dreaded “Covid 15”? That is, 15 excess pounds–or more?
Start being the kind of person who naturally and normally eats a little less for each meal. Energy-boosting snacks become almonds, peanuts, apple slices, and the like. I buy little packets of green olives from Thrive Market and keep some around for a snack. Save sweets, salty processed snacks, and colas for “cheat day” if at all. Some people allow a cheat day once per week. Usually it is Saturday, dubbed “Faturday”. Drop sodas, both sweetened and “diet”, from your shopping list and clean out the refrigerator.
If you haven’t already, start moving. Be the sort of person who walks more or takes up jogging or running. Of course, exercise within the bounds set by your physician. But most of us can walk briskly. Make 30-60 minutes a day part of the daily routine. If your body is up to it, throw in a few sprints a few times per week for a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. That helped me lose a few pounds.
Buy some dumbbells and check out some YouTube instructors. I use lighter weights for a couple of shoulder exercises and curls and extensions for the biceps/triceps. Then heavier weights for standing rows and squats. Throw in some bench pushups and 30 minutes of Yoga stretches and ab work. 45-minutes to an hour three times a week in your bedroom (assuming the gym is still on limited availability) will work wonders.
Pick up a good book and read it. Be the type of person who expands and strengthens their mind. Take notes so that you think about it. I read a variety. Lately I’ve been reading memoirs of successful women–Madeline Albright, Kara Goldin (Hint Water). I’m reading Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday right now. Just finished How the South Won the Civil War by Heather Cox Richardson–a well written history of the US. Also 10% Happier by Dan Harris and The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin. That was within the past couple of weeks. (Note: all links are to bookshop.org which supports local independent book stores, I don’t have an affiliate account.)
Feed your spirit with appropriate reading. I usually suggest January as a time to read the Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible. (Old Testament to most Christians) There are 31 chapters. Do a chapter a day for a month. Or perhaps the Christian book of James (another Wisdom writer). This year, I am reading an ancient Wisdom teacher from a different tradition–Tao Te Ching and Hua Hu Ching. It’s good to see how alike we all are in our pursuit of spiritual growth and peace. I mean all cultures and all epochs. From 5,000 years ago to current Wisdom literature, there is a steady current.
Stop, pause your busyness. Meditate and pray at least once per day. Maybe twice–morning and evening. Do this and after several months people will probably comment about how calm you have become. Trust me. That has been true for me. If you think this is too “foo-foo” for a manager or engineer, then I suggest the Dan Harris book (above). That is the story of a driven network news person who learned to slow down and probably saved his life in the process. Oh, while still excelling as a network news host and reporter.
Andy Wu of Harvard Business School and his doctoral student Sourobh Ghosh embedded a field experiment in a Googlehackathon to investigate the impact of stand-up meetings—a core component of agile management practices—on innovation. They found that the teams that engaged in them developed less-novel products. The conclusion: Stand-up meetings inhibit innovation.
Those of us with familiarity with Lean thinking know the standup as a daily first thing information and daily goal-setting time. You “stand up” to keep the meeting a short as possible, but no shorter. The standup is conducted where the action is. When people gather in conference rooms in the morning, they have their coffee or tea, a doughnut, and settle into their chairs. A 30-minute catch up time can become a 60-minute waste of time.
I am slightly familiar with the various software development organizing hacks. But this one seems to me to be applying the wrong tool for the purpose. There is a time to sit and have an intense discussion with coffee or Hint water or whatever. There is a time to do a standup in order to maintain focus and get done.
Innovation does not come from committees or meetings. People need time to think on their own to come up with ideas. I insist on the 20-Things method. Sit alone with your coffee and a blank pad of paper and a pen. Put your topic or question at the top. Then quickly start listing possible solutions. By item 20, you should have evolved the idea completely away from where you started and come to a satisfying conclusion.
And when you are doing research, don’t make an observation and then just jump to a broad conclusion. Step back and take a different view. Maybe additional insights will come to you.
Note taking with pen and paper helps me remember interviews better than typing them. Journals filled with notes from reading and thinking occupy a spot on my bookcase by my desk. My typing speed is very fast forcing increased thinking speed. But that is not necessarily a good thing. By writing outlines and thoughts, my mind slows causing more reflection and deeper thinking.
When I was editor of a magazine, I would take a pad of paper and a pen and place it on the counter beside my coffee and breakfast oatmeal. I’d put a question or problem at the top of the page—say theme of an issue or title of an article—and then I’d write by hand a series of thoughts about the topic. The goal was 20 items. Usually by 10, my thinking was becoming more creative, less rote.
My notebooks are sometimes a Moleskin purchased at an independent bookstore. For the past couple of years, I’ve written for free on notebooks secured from conferences I’ve attended. I find the 5” x 8” size to be best. Smaller is only good for your pocket on walks. Larger I find awkward to carry around. I use a Uniball Signo Micro 207 pen. I used to be a fountain pen fanatic, but the quality of what I was buying just wasn’t up to the task. These Uniball pens are inexpensive, but the writing is consistent and even enjoyable.
I’ve written about this before. A company noticed and sent me a link to an infographic. Check it out.
Life is a series of paradoxes. We’re living in a time of many people either temporarily or permanently losing their jobs while other companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire.
When we dip into the labor pool, are we limiting our searches through something called Cognitive Bias?
I ran across this article at the World Economic Forum by Adwoa Bagalini, its Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion Lead. He identifies three cognitive biases and shares some ideas for overcoming. Not to give away a punchline, but most of us should be students of W. Edwards Deming and/or Taiichi Ohno and should have learned about changing the process, not the individual.
From the paper.
We do know is that lasting, positive change is difficult to achieve without deliberate, sustained effort informed by reliable data that is free from bias. And it’s important not to underestimate the role cognitive bias can play in undermining these efforts – and to stay vigilant in spotting and mitigating it.
What is cognitive bias?
Human brains are hardwired to take shortcuts when processing information to make decisions, resulting in “systematic thinking errors”, or unconscious bias. When it comes to influencing our decisions and judgments around people, cognitive or unconscious bias is universally recognized to play a role in unequal outcomes for people of colour.
1. Moral licensing
This is when people derive such confidence from past moral behaviour that they are more likely to engage in immoral or unethical ways later. In a 2010 study, researchers argued that moral self-licensing occurs “because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard”, and future problematic behaviour does not evoke the same feelings of negative self-judgment that it otherwise would.
Moral licensing may help explain the limitations of corporate unconscious bias training in creating an anti-racist work environment, an effect which has already been observed when it comes to tackling gender inequality.
Many people’s perceptions of others with different identities and with whom they have limited interaction, is strongly influenced by media depictions and longstanding cultural stereotypes.
For example, a 2017 study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people tended to perceive young Black men as taller, heavier, and more muscular than similarly sized white men, and hence more physically threatening.
How to overcome unconscious bias
1. Change systems, not individuals
The main reason unconscious bias training programmes fail to have the desired effect in creating lasting change, is that they are focused on changing individual behaviours while leaving largely untouched the systems that enabled those behaviours to thrive.
2. Slow down and act deliberately
Bias is most likely to affect decision-making when decisions are made quickly, according to Stanford University psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, who studies implicit bias in police departments.
3. Set concrete goals and work towards them
Data is essential to making real progress on diversity goals, and especially important when it comes to mitigating the effects of bias because it provides an objective measure of what has improved – or worsened – over time.
Press releases are the lifeblood of journalist enterprise. These let editors and writer know when something new happens or a new product is launched at a company we are interested. For me, these were more important when I worked at magazines. Even now they help when I hear about something and I want the company’s words describing what they are up to.
We quickly learn which are the companies and the PR people we can trust and listen to and which send either off-target things or fill their prose with fluff. A friend once ran a “PR Hall of Shame” with the worst examples of press releases. I told him he was a bit off the mark. Usually the culprit is not the professional PR person. Look instead to the marketing manager or the business owner for the culprit who packs as much vague and meaningless jargon as possible into the prose.
A professor in Sweden has a bold on idea on what BS, pseudoscience, and pseudophilosophy actually are.
He suggests they are defined by a lack of “epistemic conscientiousness” rather than merely being false.
He offers suggestions on how to avoid producing nonsense and how to identify it on sight.
There is a lot of BS going around these days. Fake cures for disease are being passed off by unscrupulous hacks, the idea that the world is flat has a shocking amount of sincere support online, and plenty of people like to suggest there isn’t a scientific consensus on climate change. It can be hard to keep track of it all.
Even worse, it can be difficult to easily define all of it in a way that lets people know what they’re encountering is nonsense right away. Luckily for us, Dr. Victor Moberger recently published an essay in Theoria on what counts as bullsh*t, how it interacts with pseudoscience and pseudophilosophy, and what to do about it.
Dr. Moberger argues that what makes something bullshit is a “lack of epistemic conscientiousness,” meaning that the person arguing for it takes no care to assure the truth of their statements. This typically manifests in systemic errors in reasoning and the frequent use of logical fallacies such as ad hominem, red herring, false dilemma, and cherry picking, among others.
This makes bullsh*t different from lying, which involves caring what the truth is and purposely moving away from it, or mere indifference to truth, as it is quite possible for people pushing nonsense to care about their nonsense being true. It also makes it different from making the occasional mistake with reasoning, occasional errors differ from a systemic reliance on them.
I think this professor is generous, but also he has put his finger on the correct pulse. What do you think?
Good Monday morning (at least for me). Here are 10 things you can do today to change for the better that require zero talent. I snapped the picture, but I didn’t note the source. It’s good. Share widely–especially with younger people.