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Which sort of presentation is this?

If you’re going to do a presentation (instead of sending a memo)…

If you’re going to do a sales call (instead of staying home)…

it’s because you want to make a change happen. What action are you seeking?

There are two kinds of changes you could work with:

1. There’s already a goal and a set of commitments, and here’s an update as to how to take appropriate action to reach that goal.

Example: The GPS in your car. It knows you want to go to Cleveland. It’s giving you an update about where to turn to get there, or an alert about traffic up ahead that will be relevant to your journey. Note the GPS isn’t asking you about why you want to go to Cleveland nor is it trying to get you to go somewhere else.

2. The presenter wants a change in priorities, to want something different.

Example: I know that you’ve never given to a charity like this one before, but once you see the urgency of what’s happening, it will change your mind.

If you’re doing a GPS update, then your presentation ought to be focused on communicating the facts and changes we know we need to take action on.

On the other hand, if you’re doing a presentation about changing people’s minds, please spare us the irrelevant coordinates and turn by turn announcements. You came for a change, please ask for it.

Paid to learn

The rationale for traditional education is that more learning gets you a better job, and a job gets you paid, which makes the learning a worthwhile investment.

But what happens after you get that job?

In some organizations, that’s the end of that. You might pick up experience and wisdom on the job, but the short-sighted organization may view ongoing learning as too expensive.

The insight is to realize that stuck employees are far more expensive than educated ones.

More and more organizations have come to understand that paying their employees to learn, to really dig and learn something, is a bargain. An inspired and insightful employee is going to produce far more value than one who’s simply being ignored.

And employees are beginning to understand that the time and effort they put into continuing education comes back to them for the rest of their careers, because once you learn it, it’s something you can use again and again.

We put together the kernel of a list of companies that actively reimburse their people for education. And a page with an invitation for L&D leaders to consider the altMBA as a tool for developing real skills among their key employees.

Better decisions, emotional labor and the confidence that comes from education are the future of work. Either you’re on that path or you’re falling behind.

Judging a day by the weather

It seems more productive to judge tomorrow by something more relevant, useful and in our control than whether or not it’s raining, doesn’t it?

We can judge a day by how many tools we get to use, how many people are open to hearing from us, how many problems are available to be solved.

Weather, or anything else that’s not in our short-term control, can become an excuse and a distraction. If you can’t do anything about it, it might not be worth your focus and energy.

We can begin by embracing the fact that we get a whole day to make an impact. We can open doors, find new resources and create value. In spite of or because of the prevailing conditions…

What are you drawn to?

All moths are the same.

For the right species, if you light a candle, the moths will show up. They’re drawn to it for little-understood reasons related to how they’re wired.

Just as moths seem to be the same, humans manage to be different.

How do you spend your unscheduled time? What distracts you or moves up your priority list?

Perhaps you’re drawn to danger.

To conflict.

To hedonistic pleasure.

Perhaps you’re drawn to take actions that avoid criticism.

To shiny objects or new opportunities.

To crossing things off the endless to-do list.

It could be that you can’t resist fixing a typo in someone else’s work, or that you’d rather win at a team sport than just about anything.

Maybe you want to do things that feel safe. Some people want to do things that actually are safe.

For many, it’s either the avoidance of trouble or the desire for praise, but rarely both at the same time.

It could be that the highest priority is to fix what appears to be broken. Or it might be to avoid what appears broken and to run to the new, unsullied opportunity instead.

You might need to turn off all the lights and make all the beds before you leave the house. And you might be willing to trade everything just to be sure that the world at large doesn’t think for a moment that you’ve faltered in your work.

The extraordinary variety of our urgencies makes it obvious that we’re not moths. The opportunity lies in understanding if what we’re drawn to is actually helping us achieve the outcomes we seek.

Now with recipes….

Over the last few months, I’ve added a few recipes to the pages of this blog, mostly so I have them handy, partly because I haven’t found anything like them online.

If you want insight into the official lunch foods in the office, here you go:

Daily Dal (this is as close the perfect food I know. Vegan, easy, filling and delicious. You can serve an office full of people. Buy the spices once and you’ll have enough for months). We serve this with dosa made on the cast iron pizza pan below.

Almost raw brownies. They’re pretty unbelievable, almost as good as the ones at By the Way.

PS a thirteen-year-old post on compromises that’s relevant.

Also, a page of kitchen items that can completely change the way you cook… Have fun.

Principles and being let off the hook

Principles that we suspend during difficult times aren’t really principles. Principles really count when they’re difficult to maintain.

That’s not the same thing, though, as refusing to consider the edge cases.

“Free speech,” is a fine principle, one to live by. But shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theater isn’t allowed, for good reason.

The edge cases are always subject to endless debate. There are no easy bright lines. It’s tempting, then, to never consider the edge cases. A rule’s a rule.

But principles without judgment aren’t the easy path they seem to be. Because without our judgment on the edge cases, we’ve given up responsibility. It’s no longer our decision if we’re not making a decision.

The hard work involves willingly being on the hook for making a tough call.

Next to the competition

On Fisherman’s Wharf, there’s one restaurant after another. Is that a smart place to open a business, right next to all the others?

At the bookstore, there are tens of thousands of books, each competing to find a reader.

The thing is, books are impossible to sell when there aren’t a lot of books around. They don’t sell many books at Macy’s.

The biggest competitor most marketers face is “none.” Inaction always has the biggest market share of all.

The surprising solution is to be surrounded by competition. Because that changes the question from, “if?” to “which?”

“Everyone draws the line somewhere”

Of course they do.

The interesting insight is to realize that our line seems to be in exactly the right place, every time.

Getting used to the fact that our lines are unique is the first step in figuring out how to engage with people who see things differently.

Open parentheses

Technology shows up and changes the culture. The culture then enables new industries and movements, which further change the culture. And then technology shows up and puts an end to the system we were all used to.

The parentheses open, and then, perhaps, they close.

The pop-rock parentheses opened with the transistor radio (kids could listen to music without their parents) and closed with streaming (no scarcity meant long tail meant no mass market).

The publishing parentheses opened with Gutenberg and ended with the death of the bookstore. Digital books mean no scarce shelf space, no scarce paper, no power to the publisher, no mass market.

A door opens, and then, one day, it closes.

It’s easy to mourn the end of these eras, but in my lifetime, so many parentheses have opened…

Computers connect us–to resources, to truth and to each other (which can mean folk-truth instead of actual truth)

Medicine is truly a science, not a series of half-understood superstitions

Musicians and writers can find an audience without a gatekeeper

We’ve changed the narrative about fairness (even though we’ve just begun to make progress)

It has never been easier to spread an idea or start an enterprise

Access to information, just about all of it, is cheap and fast

If you care enough to learn something, you can

It’s possible to day trade tragedy and doom, and if it was the best way to make things better, I’d be in favor of it. But with all the doors that have opened, what a chance to make things better. To make something, and to make things better.

HT Kevin Kelly, Chris Anderson, Bernadette JiwaJeff Jarvis, Rohan Rajiv, Paul McGowan, Dan Pink, Roz Zander, David Deutsch and so many others. More on systems thinking in this week’s podcast.

Go start a project.

The $50,000 an hour gate agent

Conventional CEO wisdom is that top management is worth a fortune because of the high-leverage decisions they make.

But consider the work of Wade, an unheralded Air Canada gate agent. Yesterday, I watched him earn his employer at least $50,000 while getting paid perhaps .1% of that.

The microphone was out of order, but instead of screaming at the passengers, he walked over and spoke directly to the people who needed to hear him.

On his own, he started inquiring about the connection status of a family of four. He could have cleared the standby list, closed the flight and told the four that they’d have to find another way home. Or, he could have saved them their four seats, which would have flown empty if they hadn’t been filled. Instead of either path, he picked up the phone, organized other staff to find and expedite the family and get them on board.

And then, in an unrelated bit of valor, he tracked down a lost wallet and sent his #2 to fetch it from where it had been left–getting it to the plane before it left.

Most of all, in an era when loyalty is scarce, he probably increased the lifetime value of a dozen wavering customers by at least a few thousand dollars each.

Krulak’s Law states that the future of an organization is in the hands of the privates in the field, not the generals back home.

Unfortunately, management and a lack of trust get in the way of the work environment you’ll need to build to earn the human, dedicated work of the next Wade. Hopefully, the airline will put him in charge of their horrible website next. But I’m not optimistic.

Where is your Wade? What are you doing to make it more likely that he or she will bring magic to work tomorrow?

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