#52books The End of Power

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#52 Books – The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be

Format: Softcover

It’s not really the END of power. More the end of the effectiveness of a type of power that prioritizes scale and concentration.

Moises Naim has had a front-row seat to this transition, between his tenure as Venezuela’s trade minister, serving as editor-in-chief for Foreign Policy magazine, time as an executive director at the World Bank, and his scholastic work with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He sees three big trends that change the way power is held:

  • More – “When people are more numerous and living fuller lives, they become more difficult to regiment and control.”
  • Mobility – These people move around a lot more and have access to faster, less costly ways of moving information, money, and values.
  • Mentality – As a result, people’s expectations have changed as they see the possibility for more prosperity, freedom, and personal fulfillment and start demanding changes.

As a result, Naim argues:

  • Automatic deference to authority can no longer be assumed since jurisdictions are now porous and the populace is more numerous, healthier, and better informed.
  • Moral claims and dogma are challenged and universal values begin to take precedence.
  • There is a growing awareness of alternatives and ability and propensity to switch
  • Niches become profitable
  • The incentives to accept the status quo become weaker and the cost of loyalty increases.

The bulk of the book further details how this works in various areas: business, religion, politics, and the military get particular focus.

Naim also speaks to the ever-increasing amount of information and the growing challenge to filter and sort that information.

Essentially, power (as we traditionally understood it) is decaying, spreading, and becoming more ephemeral.  Naim is of two minds about this trend. On the one hand, “The undeniably positive consequences of the decay of power include freer societies, more elections and options for voters, new platforms for organizing communities, more ideas and possibilities, more investment and trade, and…more options for consumers.” On the other, Naim fears that these trends have “simultaneously made our problems bigger and more complex and weakened our mechanisms for addressing them.”

Ultimately, he seems to want the old forms of power back.  He fears disorder, alienation, impatience, de-skilling and loss of knowledge (because, Naim argues, no small firm can match large internal R&D), and the banalization of social movements (because we can “participate” with just a click of a mouse).

Naim’s solutions to mitigate the risks involved in this new de-centralization of power include:

  • Stop ranking each other. Focus on interdependence.
  • Be on the lookout for the “terrible simplifiers.” We need to be skeptical of those who loudly offer “easy” solutions.
  • “Bring Trust Back” Naim sees this as changing the way political parties organize and operate and in how they screen, monitor, hold accountable and promote/demote their leaders.

 

Personally – I see this as a pattern throughout. Are you trustworthy? Is your organization (no matter what type) promoting the trustworthy?

I was a little disappointed to see that he concludes his book by focusing on strengthening the political parties and political system.  Naim, maybe inadvertently, spoke to a much larger move towards networked, agile societies that rely on collaboration and interdependence to thrive.  I’m not so sure he meant to do that.  I would have liked to see a more robust discussion of ways to work with the More, Movement and Mentality revolutions he identified.

My sense is that he sees this re-defintion of power and how it works as a bad thing. Naim at least made a go at providing “solutions” to what may not necessarily be problems.  If nothing else, it starts the conversation around how best to maneuver in this new world.

How to Reskill as an Individual

For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. – World Economic Forum, Towards a Reskilling Revolution, pg.17

As much as I sometimes wish it was otherwise, education isn’t (and can’t be) a one and done thing.

Not so long ago, our environment “seemed” stable enough for individuals to develop mastery and expertise in a particular field without worrying about irrelevancy.

Having recently watched a number of telecommunications experts become the equivalent of typewriter repairmen, I’m convinced that we need to embed learning into our lives.  They had built expertise over decades, then were forced to retire because their skills and knowledge no longer seemed relevant.

I don’t want to be forced into retirement early because I’m irrelevant.

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Harold Jarche has been talking about lifelong learning for close to 15 years. 

He’s argued for Personal Knowledge Management.

Learning how to learn and continue building knowledge and skills for a lifetime.

Maintaining relevance.

Harold breaks down the process to Seek > Sense > Share.

My take on how Harold’s process can help individuals reskill:

  • Seek.  What do you want to learn about?  Go find resources. Internet, books, people, experiences.  What’s out there on that topic?
  • Sense. Harold really means sense-making. Read the resources. Put together what you are learning into forms that make sense to you.  Play with the ideas. Practice and make mistakes and build things that you wouldn’t share with your closest friends.
  • Share. I learn more when I have to explain what I am learning to others – either through teaching, writing, or building courses.  Through sharing, I also get valuable feedback.  For the knowledge and skills I am learning that I don’t particularly want to share publically, I use this step to reflect on how what I am learning here can apply to my other, more public, endeavors.

Using that Share step to reflect on how what I am learning can serve others and what the transferable skills are within that learning has been invaluable to me.

Reskilling


The World Economic Forum recently started publishing a series of resources around the changes in the workplace and how to reskill the workforce.

Organizations are complaining that they “cannot find the right skills.”

Individuals, many of whom have been working to master certain knowledge and skills for years, find themselves with outdated knowledge and skills they are not entirely sure they can transfer elsewhere.

At this year’s Davos conference, they started to tackle this disconnect between the individuals, the organizations and the economic environment.

In the session on Putting Jobs Out of Work, Yuval Harari noted that “people are now fearing something far worse than exploitation – they fear irrelevance”.

“There will be new jobs. The question is whether people feel they can re-invent themselves to fill these new jobs…If you have to reinvent yourself every 10 years…that’s extremely difficult…To reinvent yourself when you are 20; it’s difficult, but you do it. To do it again at 30, at 40, at 50…That’s a really high level of anxiety.”

The World Economic Forum, with the help of Boston Consulting, made a first pass at some pathways to make it potentially easier for people to reskill.

The Current and Target job lists are interesting.  My favorite – Printing Press Operators to Farm and Ranch Managers.

This struck me as a stretch – but dig deeper and it kinda makes sense.

Printing Press Operators have a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes.  They have skills in inventory and throughput.

Farm and Ranch Managers need a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes. They need skills in inventory and throughput.

The materials you are controlling (paper and ink vs plants and animals) and the environment you are in (factory vs barns and fields) are different, but the baseline mindset and skills are the same.

I’m glad to see this conversation.  It’s not about being an expert in a particular field.  It’s about developing transferable skills that can move across fields.

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The World Economic Forum realizes this is a multi-pronged problem that requires all stakeholders to participate.

I’m quoting their recommendations below. My comments are in italics.

— For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. Think in terms of transferable skills. And give yourself the time and space to learn new things.

— For employers, relying solely on new workers entering the labour market with the right ready-made skills will no longer be sufficient (emphasis mine). And while predicting the exact nature of the demand for skills is impossible, recent research from the World Economic Forum reveals that across a wide range of scenarios, investment in workforce reskilling and human capital development is a ‘no-regret action’—that is, it will be a beneficial investment even in the absence of skills shortages (emphasis again mine). Stop writing job descriptions asking for 15 years of experience in technologies that have only been around for 5. And give your current employees the time, resources, projects, and environment that will allow them to learn the skills YOU BOTH need.

— For policy-makers, fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labour force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.  This is going to require a major re-think of our educational systems.  Barring that, I think those of us who claim to be adults could help those younger than we enjoy learning and encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in their day-to-day life outside of school. We can’t abdicate responsibility for developing the generations behind us to the schools anymore.


Resources

World Economic Forum – Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum – 8 Futures of Work Scenarios and Their Implications

World Economic Forum – 6 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Work

World Economic Forum – Which of Tomorrow’s Jobs are you Most Qualified For?

Video: Putting Jobs Out of Work (60 minutes)

 

Reskilling


The World Economic Forum recently started publishing a series of resources around the changes in the workplace and how to reskill the workforce.

Organizations are complaining that they “cannot find the right skills.”

Individuals, many of whom have been working to master certain knowledge and skills for years, find themselves with outdated knowledge and skills they are not entirely sure they can transfer elsewhere.

At this year’s Davos conference, they started to tackle this disconnect between the individuals, the organizations and the economic environment.

In the session on Putting Jobs Out of Work, Yuval Harari noted that “people are now fearing something far worse than exploitation – they fear irrelevance”.

“There will be new jobs. The question is whether people feel they can re-invent themselves to fill these new jobs…If you have to reinvent yourself every 10 years…that’s extremely difficult…To reinvent yourself when you are 20; it’s difficult, but you do it. To do it again at 30, at 40, at 50…That’s a really high level of anxiety.”

The World Economic Forum, with the help of Boston Consulting, made a first pass at some pathways to make it potentially easier for people to reskill.

The Current and Target job lists are interesting.  My favorite – Printing Press Operators to Farm and Ranch Managers.

This struck me as a stretch – but dig deeper and it kinda makes sense.

Printing Press Operators have a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes.  They have skills in inventory and throughput.

Farm and Ranch Managers need a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes. They need skills in inventory and throughput.

The materials you are controlling (paper and ink vs plants and animals) and the environment you are in (factory vs barns and fields) are different, but the baseline mindset and skills are the same.

I’m glad to see this conversation.  It’s not about being an expert in a particular field.  It’s about developing transferable skills that can move across fields.

—————————–

The World Economic Forum realizes this is a multi-pronged problem that requires all stakeholders to participate.

I’m quoting their recommendations below. My comments are in italics.

— For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. Think in terms of transferable skills. And give yourself the time and space to learn new things.

— For employers, relying solely on new workers entering the labour market with the right ready-made skills will no longer be sufficient (emphasis mine). And while predicting the exact nature of the demand for skills is impossible, recent research from the World Economic Forum reveals that across a wide range of scenarios, investment in workforce reskilling and human capital development is a ‘no-regret action’—that is, it will be a beneficial investment even in the absence of skills shortages (emphasis again mine). Stop writing job descriptions asking for 15 years of experience in technologies that have only been around for 5. And give your current employees the time, resources, projects, and environment that will allow them to learn the skills YOU BOTH need.

— For policy-makers, fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labour force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.  This is going to require a major re-think of our educational systems.  Barring that, I think those of us who claim to be adults could help those younger than we enjoy learning and encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in their day-to-day life outside of school. We can’t abdicate responsibility for developing the generations behind us to the schools anymore.


Resources

World Economic Forum – Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum – 8 Futures of Work Scenarios and Their Implications

World Economic Forum – 6 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Work

World Economic Forum – Which of Tomorrow’s Jobs are you Most Qualified For?

Video: Putting Jobs Out of Work (60 minutes)

 

#52books The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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#52Books – The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)

Format: Audiobook

For Christmas during my freshman year at Virginia Tech, my father gave me a copy of The Power of Myth.

“Wendy, you might not understand this right now – but keep revisiting it.”

Joseph Campbell’s life centered around finding the commonalities between mythologies and cultures. His work and perspective influenced the way I approach life.  The constant search for common themes between disparate cultures and activities.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is the combined, comprehensive exploration of Joseph Campbell’s academic work.  The foundations of the hero’s journey are here. The recognition of the similarities between creation and destruction myths is here. Essentially, this is (and has been) the foundational book in the comparative mythology corpus.

That said, this is also very academic and not the most approachable read.  Even in audio, the text is dense and professorial. The over-dramatic reading by the 3 narrators doesn’t help.  Furthermore, it felt like it took 5-10 chapters for the editors to determine the best balance between the narrators.

Hearing the material DOES help get a sense of the poetry and repetition inherent in the stories told in oral cultures.  The stories are designed to be remembered and re-told around the fire.

The audiobook is long and I found myself alternately drifting elsewhere or being aggravated by the British accented male narrator’s over-dramatic delivery.  My taste in audiobook narration leans towards straight-forward.  You may find it charming if you are into fiction.

This does not negate the importance of this book.  Dense, richly layered, and comprehensive.

As an introduction to Joseph Campbell, however, I would show them The Power of MythThe Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) is the deep dive for those who want to explore further.

(All links Amazon affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting this blog.

Strategy and Tactics at Point of Value

Point-of-Work (PoW) is where measurable business outcomes are generated…or they’re lost…if not lost…compromised. – Gary Wise

Gary Wise has been a leading thinker in the Performance Support space for years.  He’s been banging the drum for workforce capability and thinking in terms of point-of-work publically for almost 10 years.  He was one of the key influencers in my instructional design career.

His recent posts have me thinking about projects and how they often stop short at value delivery.

Though there is significantly more discussion in the project management space around value and how projects are (or should be) designed to deliver business value, most projects in practice still focus on getting the deliverable out the door. Training, performance support, any change management, or discussion of how this impacts the organization’s customers are often considered at the last minute – if they are considered at all.

We got the thing out the door on time and on budget. Hooray!

Then no one uses it.

Or…worse…the successful project has a negative impact on the business.

We need to start looking further down-stream and longer term.

Here’s some ideas I’m kicking around right now – triggered from Gary’s recent post  Adopting a Strategic Re-Think

He talks about this from a Learning and Development perspective, but I think he’s on to something broader.


Let me list my assumptions.  These are some initial thoughts and I would love some feedback to let me know how far off the mark I am.

A project is an investment that will allow the organization to better serve its customers, either directly or indirectly. (I’m going to file any project triggered by changing compliance requirements as indirect service to customers – humor me here).

The interaction between the organization (often through its employees, with potentially a gatekeeper in between) and its customers is what I am going to call the Point of Value.  The organization exists and thrives if it is able to provide value to its customers.

For an employee to better serve its customers, the organization is looking for what Gary calls Sustained Workforce Capability in the knowledge and skills needed to deliver customer value through the organization.

As Gary argues, training is one tool to drive Sustained Workforce Capability. It does so by reducing the time-to-competency for new knowledge and skills.  However, training is NOT the ONLY tool that needs to be used. Appropriate longer-term supports and environments at the Point of Work for the employee are also necessary to embed these behaviors that will (ultimately) provide customer value.

Designing projects such that the “definition of done” for the project occurs at the point of usability and utilizes the appropriate metrics to determine the business impact of project deliverables.

You can’t design a project that ends at “we got the thing out the door.”

You can’t even design a project that ends at “we did training and went live.”

The project end is really when the longer-term supports are in place, the new system has stabilized, and you are starting to see the impact of your project deliverable on the business.

My experience has been to give it a good 2-3 months after “go live” to clean up any leftover business and allow the system to stabilize with no major configuration changes.  From there, the business can see whether the project helped or hurt, issues that have surfaced with adoption, and what changes need to be made next to get closer to the vision.

 


Resources

Gary’s blog, Living in Learning, is an encyclopedia of useful ideas and tools for workforce performance and how workforce performance impacts the organization.  It’s not just about “training.”

DRIVER – A Repeatable, Agile, Discipline to Generate Learning Performance Guidance

DRIVER: Enabling a Strategic Re-Think for L&D

DRIVER – Avoiding the Paralysis of Fear & Loathing of CHANGE

Performance Support & “The Art of War”

Data Analytics Vs. Tsunami

How to Eliminate Noise

Michael Hyatt and his daughter Megan, in a recent Lead to Win podcast on the Cost of Overwork, observed that current technologies have made this an incredibly noisy world.

The whole podcast is worth a listen (or read – I linked to the transcript above).  However, what struck me wasn’t the cost of overwork (high), it was their observations of how we are doing this to ourselves through our technologies.

Social media services like Facebook… This is one of the dark sides of that particular service. We can get such a quick dopamine hit we don’t develop a tolerance for boredom and we don’t stay in these spaces where there aren’t the measurable results. I also think behind all that is fear. It’s like fear of missing out. “If I say no to that opportunity, if I say no to that project, maybe I won’t be promoted. Maybe I won’t advance as quickly as I would like.” Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown.  – Michael Hyatt

Beyond that – they noted that our digital productivity tools feel like we spend more time playing with our digital productivity tools. Our almost unlimited access to information these days makes it harder for us to find and filter what we need.

Worse, our technologies require us to run the gauntlet of distractions, people demanding our attention, and noise.

How many of you have been interrupted while looking for information on a Slack channel?

Have you taken a course that leveraged Facebook for its community participation and found yourself surfing your feed before getting to your group? How much time did THAT take?

What is your experience with Messenger apps? Email?  How much weeding do you need to do before getting to real information or real work?

And this is just desktop. Now let’s add your mobile phone and all of the notifications and the difficulty of shutting off all of the notifications.

We are in a time that requires us to get focused and stick to that focus. Find a north star and walk towards it.

Say “no” regularly and brutally cull anything that doesn’t apply to our direction and destination.

Our individual and collective sanity may depend on it.

The Window of Tolerance

The concept of Window of Tolerance is a useful one to help us understand why we feel so stressed in today’s working environments.

The original theory comes from Childhood Development.

I’ve observed the same behaviors in adults as well.

Also, many of the same solutions.

Are the environments you are creating around yourself safe or stressful?

How are your interactions with others?

How much time are you spending in fight or flight (chaos state)?

Alternately, how much time are you spending in freeze or numbness (rigidity)?

As adults, we are responsible for the environments we find ourselves in.

 

We have the responsibility to get ourselves back within our personal window of tolerance.

We have the option to walk away.

We have the option to find better coping mechanisms.

We have the option to pay attention to the things and people that support us.

We have the option to shut out the noise.

NO ONE ELSE CAN (OR WILL) DO THIS FOR US.

Take care of yourself.

Then, do your best to take care of others.

It’s the least we can do.

Asking Questions

Doug Rose, in his Lynda.com course Learning Data Science: Ask Great Questions, observed that in most organizations, questions are seen as (and often are) confrontational.

Questions are saved for bad news and to show displeasure.

Questions are used as political weapons.

Questions are interpreted as a sign of ignorance.

Is it any wonder we are afraid of asking interesting questions? Or even asking ANY questions?

I’ve been fortunate to spend most of my career as the History/Education major in a room full of engineers.

The “trainer.”

I treated that role as an opportunity to ask all of the “dumb” questions that everyone else was too afraid to ask.

Starting with school, and through our working life, we have been trained to be afraid of asking questions.

Time to change that.

It starts with us.

  1. Start asking questions, no matter how stupid they seem to you.  Chances are, someone else in the room has the same question.
  2. If you get the eye-rolling, impatient or whatever response from the responder, repeat the following to yourself: “It’s not personal. Their response is theirs.”
  3. Observe when you are impatient with others’ questions.  We have so much information thrown at us on a daily basis, is it any wonder we have to ask the same thing repeatedly to make it stick?
  4. Try not to ask the same thing twice with the same person 			</div><!-- .entry-content -->
	    
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