Posts Tagged ‘actions’

Time For a Change #20: Memes Can Drive You to a Goal

by William Reed on July 13, 2012

According to Wikipedia, a Meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The word was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene (1976). It is based on the Greek word mimeme, the root of the word mimic, and is a play on the word gene, reflecting the process by which ideas spread and reproduce. In French the word mȇme has similar meanings ranging from same to even so.

The concept that ideas spread within a culture is nothing new, but the biological comparison has taken hold and captured the imagination of people in fields from social science to marketing. Once a meme takes hold, it has the power to motivate as well as duplicate. It is the infectious viral quality of memes that gives them such a powerful influence over people.

Another evolutionary biologist and prominent philosopher is Dan Dennett, who spoke about Dangerous Memes at a TED Conference. His talk begins with an ant which has been infected by a parasitic fluke that commandeers its brain, leading it to senseless and suicidal behavior. He says that memes can commandeer the human brain and also produce behavior that makes no sense from the perspective of biological survival. Religious and political memes can be so powerful that to the believer, they are worth dying for. Many people have laid down their lives in the service of an idea.

Urban legends are also memes. Originating as macabre jokes or fabricated tales, they often suggest dire things that can happen without proper precaution. Tourists are drugged and anesthetized, only to wake up with one kidney removed. Stories about contaminated foods or tampering with the water supply seem to contain an element of plausibility, and even though the rumors lack any detail for verification, they spread like wildfire. The Internet makes the spread of ideas easier than ever before.

Although memes have a viral quality in the way that ideas are spread, now even the idea of the meme has taken hold as a meme, and this has spawned meme generating software, which falls somewhere between low grade advertising and digital graffiti. Most of these artificial memes are meaningless, and therefore not likely to go viral unless force-fed by spam mail. Memes are used in marketing, but there are so many competing memes for products and services, that it takes more than a catch phrase to change people’s behavior

Making memes work for you

One book which makes the process very clear is Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It shows the essential ingredients that ensure that an idea will survive and thrive, and why urban legends and bogus schemes often spread effortlessly, while people with worthwhile ideas often struggle to even get the word out. Their acronym for these ingredients is SUCCES: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories. These ingredients are what give ideas virility and the power to motivate people.

Once you understand this you can actually begin to create and cultivate your own memes. Start with your notes and sketches related to your GOALS, and watch your motivation rise and your memes gain power as you communicate them to others.

Memes are usually a combination of verbal and visual elements. The more meaningful they are to other people, the easier they are to remember to to share, the faster they will spread.

Verbal memes can be found in slogans and catch phrases, powerful statements and quotes, parables and stories. Strong memes survive centuries, and get translated into many languages. Weak memes fade in the morning sun.

Visual memes can be found in photos with captions, videos and movies, and duplicatable demonstrations. A wonder source of memes is the site TED.com Ideas Worth Spreading—

Riveting Talks by Remarkable People. Great books can shape your life. Can you name 5 to 10 books which have truly changed your life, without having read you would not be the same person you are today? Great people can have an even more powerful transformational effect, and they are often connected the great books you have read.

Memes are hypnotic, and hence are a powerful way to commandeer the mind for a cause. Not all memes are in your best interest. For that reason it can be useful to know also how to break the spell of a meme. Understanding how memes work can help build your immunity. An excellent book on the power of semantics to create our reality is, Language in Thought and Action, by S.I. Hayakawa and Alan Hayakawa. A book which will help you see how even numbers and graphs can misrepresent reality is, How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff. Propaganda propagates because people succumb to memes without understanding them. Awareness and reflection can make you more conscious of memes before they command your consciousness.

An excellent way to examine a meme is to view it through a Mandala Lens, by analyzing its elements in at least 8 frames rather than just one. A good place to start would be to download the MEME MANDALA summary of this article, and then start looking for ways to use memes to motivate you toward goals and causes of your conscious choice.

Flexible Focus #63: SAMURAI WALK

by William Reed on July 28, 2011

Every year in Japan the Mandala Chart Association holds a Mandala Chart Festival, and contestants submit examples of a Mandala Chart that they are using in their work or personal life. The variety is something to see, ranging from a consultant’s application of Peter Drucker’s management philosophy, to an elementary school boy’s plan on his future career as a professional baseball player. The festival features various people who are leaders in their respective fields, and each shares examples of how they use the Mandala Chart.

Contestants submit both an example of a Mandala Chart, and an explanation of what it means and how it is used. The Mandala Charts themselves range from hand drawn to computer generated, from personal to professional examples, each as unique as the people who created them. However, each contestant has to submit an explanation in a standardized format with information on the following topics: Theme, Profile, Overview, Applications, Benefits, Recommended for, Why Now?, Future Projects, and In a Word. This is an excellent discipline because you need to make your Mandala Chart clear to others, as well as to yourself.

SAMURAI WALK Concept

I am attaching the Mandala Chart and Explanation which I am submitting for the Mandala Festival to be held on Sep 24, 2011. It also happens to announce my launch of a new brand and Trademark called SAMURAI WALK ®, along with the various products and projects (illustration, below) I am launching with it.

SAMURAI WALK Products

There will be more on this in future articles, but this is an example of how a concept can grow into tangible products and projects, even to launch a business.

It takes extra work and discipline to create a Mandala Chart at this level of precision, but it is worth the extra effort when you see the project on paper becoming a reality. For that reason you might see if you can describe a dream or project in detail on 3X3 Matrix, and then answer the questions in the 9 categories above on the Concept Sheet. The lens of the Mandala Chart will focus your mind wonderfully, and the discipline of putting it all into 9 frames will help you communicate your project to others.

Managing a project requires actions

by Guy Ralfe on August 4, 2010

I recently had to jump in and manage a project in deep distress. The project was 5.5 weeks into an 8 week schedule and the project was only barely 20% complete. This was a construction project so easier to measure completion than say IT projects.

When I jumped into the project we were about to be removed from the project, I begged for 48 hrs to produce a recovery plan but settled on a compromise of 24 hrs – this was my first commercial construction project so not much time!  In discussing the situation with the general contractor, they kept on telling us how far behind schedule we were against the original (baseline) project plan. This was the original project plan laid out before the project began.

The conversation was just hopeless to the situation – telling me how late each section is; does not give any direction with which to act to remediate the situation. When I asked what were the priorities and what dependencies existed I received the response “they are all critical!”

When the plan was originally built it was obviously constructed based on a number of constraints and priorities known at the time. Today those priorities were in a very different arrangement due to the impact of not having various sections complete that have an impact on others also working on the project.

What I set about doing was to produce a plan, a recovery plan, that defined the work that needed to be completed and by when based on current priorities so that it still remained a comprehensive plan. This plan set out the new objectives and the “new reality” we needed to produce for a satisfactory outcome – with this defined it was shared with the team who now knew what was required. Looking at the project this way provided tangible targets to manage the resources and production against. The obvious problem was – being told you are late yesterday and again today does not provide you any point of reference with which to act.

Another successful tactic we used was not to focus on the small details but rather identify the three or four key fronts we needed to make progress on and constantly reevaluated the plan every day to determine if we had made enough progress… and also, did we need more people and could we shift the load around between teams?

This was a recovery plan but in essence it is no different than it should be for any project correctly managed. Projects are living and evolving ecosystems – a plan helps us anticipate the future and organize a number of people/organizations for the execution of the project. What we need to remember is that when the situation no longer reflects the plan the plan needs to be adjusted and some actions need to take place as a result or the outcome cannot be the same. To manage projects you need to manage the project and not just read the plan!

The Entrepreneurial Switch

by Guy Ralfe on December 23, 2009

do-not-sit-on-the-fenceFor many entrepreneurship is scary, I found it that way for a long time until I found myself in the right environment. Initially I envisaged entrepreneurship as finding the right idea, quitting your job and following your nose with your new idea. For the longest time I just seemed to miss the idea.

In a way it is a bit like approaching getting married. You love your girlfriend and want to spend the rest of your life together, you see your friends and family getting married one by one around you and they all seem happy. However, I was still apprehensive about what was going to happen after I got married. Were all my married friends suddenly engulfed by the “married spirits” and sworn to secrecy. What was the world like after taking those vows? Were they just waiting for me to fall into the same trap?

Of course not! What was I thinking looking back now? The reality was that I just did not have the knowledge or experience of what were the standards and criteria for operating as a married couple. I didn’t even know where to look to find the answers. Yes I saw my parents with 30+ years of experience but it did not occur to me that that would be the same for me. In fact what I didn’t realize was that the actual answer to this mystery was actually my parents, as the background of what it is to be married is shaped by those around us, that we observe. Our interpretation of that is how we engage in a married relationship – of course your spouse also has her background of what marriage is and so the interaction of these two visions is what drives the resultant actions we hold in marriage as a couple. So far so good and in many ways our actions seem to be exactly how our parents acted with us.

There are no magical entrepreneurial spirits out there but there are different ways of overcoming the apprehension. Many entrepreneurs just find themselves in the situation and their story is just how they dealt with the situation. A bit like a couple after a steamy and risky night, suddenly find themselves dealing with the situation of becoming parents, they just have to deal with the situation.

The remaining entrepreneurs are in two camps: those waiting / planning and those executing on fulfilling their ambition. Those waiting for the right moment, big idea, perfect plan etc will remain that way unless something around them changes. I was in this group for a long time, I know what it is like. For me the ambition was there but the desire was just not strong enough to quit and start out on my own. I recognized that I still had many knowledge gaps and a lack of capacity to act, which all compounded the risk to start executing. For me I needed the organization, to help me cover these knowledge gaps and with the team at Active Garage I have been able to execute on an entrepreneurial venture I could not have imagined on my own.

From me this is a thank you to the Active Garage team for making this venture possible. To those of you on the fence, waiting for the right something. Stop waiting and seek out the help in the areas that you have apprehension – those are the knowledge gaps you have to close before you can move forward. Happy Holidays!

Listen for the action, test the speak

by Guy Ralfe on October 8, 2009

 Coordinate ActionHave you noticed how people come out of meetings and they question if someone that they were meeting with understood them or was telling the truth? I hear this often after meetings around negotiation when trying to find common ground or negotiating the way forward on projects. Our “bullshit” senses are triggered when we notice an inconsistency between what is spoken and what is done.

In business today people seem to be busier than ever before. With technology so many more interactions take place on a daily basis than at a lifetime ago. People find themselves in many situations daily where people are making requests and offers to them. Due thought is not always given to each request and the committed response is often based on a mood or a perceived ‘right’ answer just to move on to the next interaction. What people are not doing is thinking about the consequences of these spoken answers. How much time, effort and trust it costs each time the requester and recipient leave with different interpretations and then perform inconsistently with each others’ expectations.

Michel de Montaigne wrote over 400 years ago –

The true mirror of our discourse is the course of our lives.

What we really believe and think at the time is truly expressed in the actions we perform afterward. The good news from this is that humans have been consistent at this for well over 400 years so we can count on it continuing into the future and it will be worth our efforts to improve our skills in this regard, as it will greatly increase the efficiency with which we can execute projects and negotiate agreements aligned with both parties concerns.

Recently I was in a conversation where a client was very dissatisfied about a particular product delivery and they wanted to quit the development project. The supplier also liked the idea of quitting as the fixed price scope had crept out of sight and costs were at three times anticipated with an open punch list still to be contended with. As both parties were about to close and agree to walk away the supplier mentioned that they could have the components uninstalled in an hour, to which the client suddenly gasped out “why do you want to do that?”. While this startled the supplier it quickly became apparent that the spoken commitment by the client was very different from the actions that would have taken place had the conversation ended before the suppliers declaration of action.

This conversation ended well because the supplier declared the consequential action of the request, which avoided what would have been a very tense, and likely costly situation had the supplier just acted as he thought he had agreed.

Here are 5 tips to try in future engagements to build trust, coordination and efficiency:

  • Listen more – the more people speak the more consistent they will speak in terms of their true concerns
  • Repeat the request – when making a request ask the person you have made the request to, to tell you what they heard and/or what actions they plan to take.
  • Ask more questions – about the importance, value, action to be taken from the counterparts perspective
  • Always make an assessment of the moods – lookout for moods of resigned, despair, indifference, overwhelmed
  • Check-in informally – truths are often revealed in different settings and surroundings

There is a lot of posturing and politics in the marketplace, but one thing you can be certain of is that people act for what they truly care about. You don’t see people doing anything they do not care for. So always listen for the action.

Creating Possibilities

by Himanshu Jhamb on June 22, 2009

We strive to do this all the time. What they don’t tell us is that with every action that we take, we not only create some possibilities, we also shut off a few. Whether we know it, don’t know it, mean it, don’t mean it … it doesn’t matter. This just happens.

Consider the “Entrepreneurs action map”, below:

entrprnr_decision_map

* The ‘Start’ marks the point where the entrepreneur starts to act.

* The ‘Final Perceived Goal’ is the Goal he has in mind at the time he starts.

* The ‘Actual Final Goal’ is the Goal he ends up where he declares it to be so.

* The full red dots along the path represent the ‘Decision Points’ where he must make a choice (amongst many paths) on which path to take next.

* The ‘Solid lines’ denote the path he actually travels on.

* The ‘Dotted lines’ denote the path he chooses not to take.

So, what is the meaning of all this? Here’s what it means to me:

1. Every time you make a choice (on any of the decision points), you end up creating the possibilities along the chosen path and you shut down the possibilities on the paths you did not choose (hence the dotted lines… depicting fading possibilities).

2. Once you choose a certain path, the other paths emanating from the decision point (the ones you did not choose to take) will cease to exist for you. That is to say, they will be in your ‘blind spots’.

3. You will not know for sure where you’ll end up, when you begin the journey and more likely than not, it will be somewhere other than your perceived goal. So, no point in fretting or spending too much time worrying about it and its prudent to not get stuck in the analysis for too long.

4. Here’s a big one: The farthest point to the ‘Final Perceived Goal’ is the point where you start from. There is a possibility of not making it on any of those paths but it is guarantee of not making it if you don’t start!

5. Ready for the Biggest one? – On every path, you touch other people and their lives, in many ways… and that creates endless possibilities for you, some of which may not be apparent immediately. Brings the old adage to mind… “It’s all about the journey, not the destination”.

Here’s a little example that you might find useful to think with: Lets say you always wanted to write a book but did not start because you needed the entire journey mapped out beforehand. Now, consider that you started it, anyway. Can you imagine the possibilities you would be creating for yourself along the way?

Now apply this to anything that you always wanted to start and ask yourself – Are you waiting for the entire journey to be mapped out or will you start, even if it’s not?