The Zone vs the Clock

This weekend, we worked on the home renovation – continuously – tiling until we ran out of tile, tweaking the bathroom sink until it stopped leaking. There were no phones, no radios, no email, no meetings pulling us away. We were able to focus on the task at hand until it was complete….really focus. I’m reminded of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research on the subject of work – where he finds that it takes 2 _uninterupted_ hours to get into any given task.

Two hours of not glancing at the clock or checking email or answering the phone.

Compare your daily routine against these 2 hour blocks – does your schedule support you getting into your work? Or is it more about managing distractions?

Measure Once – Cut 5 or 6 Times

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we spent the weekend redoing our bathroom & entryway. The biggest a-ha I can offer you:

Iterate For a Snug Fit.

For each piece of sub-flooring, each tile, and the new mopboard – we would:

  1. Make the measurement
  2. Cut off a hair little less than we measured
  3. Massage the piece in place
  4. Mark where it didn’t fit, and take off a little more
  5. Repeat as necessary

This gave us a much closer fit everywhere – and taught us more about the house than measuring and cutting exactly. Which wouldn’t have worked perfectly anyway because, as my father-in-law says, “The blade has width.”

For more on iterative prototyping check out Michael Schrage’s book Serious Play.

Many Conversations Converge

After a number of recent conversations with my good friend Chip, where he concisely and articulately restated my thoughts on entrepreneurship and quality of life, I’m directed to this section of Tom Peters’ website, where he declares – as only he can – how offshore outsourcing is not a new problem or something we should be concerned about.

I’d like to personally thank both Chip and Tom for asking the hard – What do you want to do with your life – questions this week.

Thank You.

Learning from Living – Part 2

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent the weekend doing tearing out carpetting from our house and understanding the electrical and plumbing systems. A couple of our plans needed to change once we really got into the house:

  1. Need a new subfloor in the bathroom & entryway
  2. May need to re-wall the bedroom – we find out on Tues.

As a side note, when an electrical engineer says, “That’s scary,” in response to an electrical outlet – you know something needs to be fixed.

Legalizing Feng Shui

Last month Assemblyman Leland Yee introduced a bill in the California legislature to put Feng Shui principles on the books.

State officials were speechless “We know earthquakes knock down buildings, we know fire burns down buildings. We don’t know what feng shui does to buildings.”

As Assemblyman Yee responded, “A lot of the principles of feng shui are common sense. You should have light, air, and you should not have people’s backs to the door.”

Cut away the mysticism, the compasses, the octogans, and the core of feng shui describes common sense ways to prevent yourself from being surprised and startled during the day.

Like all media, buildings facilitate relationships between people. Make a small change in the environment and you’ll transform the relationship of the people within that space. I remember a dramatic example a few years ago. I was working for a small firm – in a small, single-room office. All the desks were along the perimeter of the blank cinderblock walls. It was difficult to talk with any one about anything – your back was to them and their’s to you. Not the type of climate conducive to a successful start-up.

After about a month of being forced to ignore the others in the room, I pushed the tables together and offset the workspaces. Within a week, we went out to lunch together more and started to gel as a team. Things were going so well, we moved into a new, larger space – with built-in desks forcing us into the corners, backs to each other. We lasted 3 months in that space before disbanding.

Learning from Living

Over breakfast this Saturday, my wife and I discussed various home improvement projects for our new place. Very early into the conversation, we realized how little we knew about the house. What’s under the carpet? Can the toilet be moved easily? How long will it take to remove the wallpaper?

Answers that can only be found inside the space – and tearing up the carpet.

One of the principles of Kaizen is to be in the environment you’re attempting to improve.

Yet, many conversations I have with clients, especially early-stage meetings, take place outside of the environment in question. Many teams feel pressure to nail down times, processes, and schedules before their first step into the space.

Veen’s Presentation Tips

I highly recommend Jeffrey Veen’s Seven Steps to Better Presentations

My personal favorites:

  • #3 Don’t Apologize.
    Apologizing for your own performance so directly and swiftly weakens.
  • #4 Start Strong and #5 End Strong.
    I was in a sales presentation recently where the main presenter apologized 5 times in as many minutes. From the audience’s perspective – it’s painful, frustrating, and transforms what could be an engaging conversation into an unfortunate waste of time.

Lunch is the Most Important Meal – Redux.

As a follow-up to my earlier post on lunches, I submit this announcement from Duluth, MN’s mayor Herb Bergson.

Bergson plans to visit one classroom each Friday and take a tourist to lunch that day. He also wants to meet with different small-business owners each Friday to see how the city can help them grow.

A very public effort to see his city through its citizen’s eyes. Kudos. If you’re planning a long weekend in Duluth, give Mr. Bergson a call.

Lunch is the Most Important Meal

In my experience observing organizational behavior, especially start-ups, what happens at lunch is a key indicator of an org’s health. If people go out, for a walk, and talk about non-work stuff – Congrats.

If they brown-bag it and eat alone at their desks – something is very, very wrong

Laurent Bossavit agrees with me (courtesy bBlog). Formally expecting regular lunches with the team is great way to say you care about your org’s health.

I remember one “lunch” I had with a creative director – when I arrived to his darkened, barren office, he was in the corner eating a Hot Pocket off a paper plate. No…he didn’t share. Unhealthy in so many ways.

March 11, 2002

Finished reading the The Adrian Mole Diaries over the weekend.

Ahhh, to be an oblivious, self-involved teen again. It really took me back. The formal English, as it often does, amplified the humor. Not such a complementary view of Americans, but I could relate to it also.

It took me 2/3 of the book to get involved and wanted more when the last third was over. Worth a visit to the local library.

It troubles me that Adrian Mole isn’t a real person. I can’t call him up and see how he’s doing. That just might be the issue I have with fiction. It’s very difficult to find more information on the imaginary.