Principles of life to live with good heart and intelligence


Big Ideas go beyond discrete facts or skills to focus on larger concepts, principles, or process" (Credits: Ken Whytock)

Big Ideas go beyond discrete facts or skills to focus on larger concepts, principles, or process” (Credits: Ken Whytock)

Over Christmas holidays I had an interesting exercise with my father to identify what would be the principles of life that guide our life and that we would like to leave as our philosophical legacy to our ‘next of kin’s’.

I am coming back to this because, just like a contribution statement helps you become an effective person, worker, leader, principles of life help ground you in life and -if you manage to really live by your principles- give you real pleasure and a sense of harmony.

Needless to say, principles in knowledge management and communication are just as important. But today this is more of a personal set of principles. Still, some of them are useful for collaboration, group communication and knowledge management.

Hereby the list from our conversation…

From my father…

  • Love yourself
  • Love the people around you
  • Remember there are other ways to look at things, out there
  • Show (illustrate), don’t just tell
  • Remember that how to do things comes before you let others know how things should be done
  • Always be serious (in your intentions) but never take yourself seriously

Which I subscribed to and to which I added…

    • Believe in the good of people
    • Be humble because you (we) don’t know very much
    • Be curious about others and about everything, get out of your comfort zone
    • Listen to others and the world with all your senses
    • Do not be afraid, trust yourself
    • Create and then give, don’t just criticise and destroy!
    • And finally: Believe in the goodness in others and draw it out.
Come Together (Credits: Hartwig HKD)

Come Together (Credits: Hartwig HKD)

And these are some principles that hopefully will give my life, and perhaps at intersections other lives, some sense and grounding too.

Do principles dictate your life? Your work? Which ones? Why?

Related blog posts:

 

Enjoy the year of the’fire rooster’ and let’s toast old habits!


The fire rooster is coming our way (Credits: PhotoStylist1 / FlickR)

The fire rooster is coming our way (Credits: PhotoStylist1 / FlickR)

This is a bit ahead of time since the Chinese new year doesn’t happen until February but hey I can’t resist to share the joy of soon entering the year or the fire rooster.

 

I’m delighted by it because firstly I’m French and the rooster -silly animal as it were- is our national totem animal, and secondly because I work on a project focusing on chickens). So something has got to happen around my world this year.
This also leaves me curious about what will happen generally and what I will generally do to make good things happen. Balancing ‘fortuna’ with ‘virtu’ as Macchiavelli would have it.

And when it comes to changing practices, last year will be difficult to beat!

Indeed in 2016 I expanded my set of practices to:

What will it be in 2017?

What would you advise me to do?

What have been your recent aha moments in terms of personal and collective development and improvement?
A few tracks lay open ahead of me for sure: focus on group development rather than (just) my own, and move from independence to interdependence; explore conflict management more openly (I’ll soon be giving a presentation on this topic); keep exploring the best ways I can fulfill my contribution statement; develop my listening skills much more profoundly…

The options are many, and the year has just begun  Let the fire unleash itself!

In any case  I also wish you a fiery year full of satisfaction of different orders!

Happy 2017!

Happy year of the fire rooster! (Credits: Dreamstime)

Happy year of the fire rooster! (Credits: Dreamstime)

 

Jungian types, personality pigeonholing and finding my pathway and ‘contribution’


The past few days I was at a training course on management development.

A very interesting course, even though I still don’t believe much in training and even though the trainers admittedly mixed up management and leadership (though among many others Forbes reminded us this year that these two fields are quite different).

The training touched upon many things but among others the ‘Jungian types’ – based on Carl Jung‘s work which also led to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The training associates the types with colours e.g.

  • Cold blue (analytical type, introverted and thinking),
  • Fiery red (authoritarian type, extraverted and thinking),
  • Earth green (caring type, introverted and feeling)
  • And sunshine yellow (innovative type, extraverted and feeling).
The 8 personality types from Jungian's work (Credits: CapGemini)

The 8 personality types from Jungian’s work (Credits: CapGemini)

Turns out I’m a sunshine yellow. I kinda saw that one coming. But the analysis of my personality based on the two questionnaires I had to fill out and on the feedback I received from colleagues was bluffingly real.

And as we deepened the analysis of who we are (and as a result how we should manage ourselves and others) it also became clearer that my kind of role is really ‘motivator’ (on the central right hand side of the wheel here on the right).

The problem with personality typologies…

There’s some use in looking at peoples’ behaviours from such lenses (and again the analysis made about me was incredibly accurate). But there are also some issues with these personality types:

  • The risk of pigeonholing people into personality squares: Obviously the first issue is that if people believe too earnestly in this stuff, they start boxing themselves and other people in neat squares and expect them to behave just according to that lens. “Oh you’re a cold blue so of course you think this way”…
  • The single lens bias: Related to the above, there is a danger in using any lens as THE lens – whether it be psychology, astrology, Jungian types, gender, age or any other lens. Each of these framings contains some truth and taken all together they probably give a much more accurate picture of who we really are, but any one of them individually falls short of the complexity of our identity.
  • The relativity of our personas: Let’s even push aside the idea of using various lenses and assume that these Jungian types really work. The problem is that we behave differently in relation to different people. So for instance one person may be really creative when surrounded by not-so-creative people, but find themselves much less creative in the presence of other dynamic creatives. Ditto with introversion and extraversion etc. etc. We adapt to every context. We don’t stick to our box because the other people in the box define how we behave.
  • The danger of static analysis vs. dynamic personalities: Finally, and I’ve already made that point about not judging people because we change, we are not static people. We are dynamic, we evolve, we change, we challenge ourselves and others, we adapt, we anticipate. And that’s why the people-pigeonholing issue is indeed a problem.

Now that this is settled, it’s also fun to think about what this particular lens brings and certain behaviours that are inspired by certain personality types as in…

A (piss) take on Jungian types ha ha ha

A (piss) take on Jungian types ha ha ha

OK so now that leaves me with the final part of this post, a more introspective part about how I’ve myself evolved from where I come to where I’m going.

Finding my contribution, my gifts and how to share them

First of all let’s establish one fact: being an extravert is not necessarily a given. I’ve learned it myself. I was so introverted as a child that my mother was really worried for my (social) future. And the first time I had a real public encounter with a group of professionals coming from outside my organisation, I was so terrified by speaking to them in public that one of the group members came to me to relax me and tell me it was all ok. I had no idea then that working with and for people was going to be one of my utmost inner motivations.

But as I moved into the end of secondary school and into studies, I had started getting out of my shell and really engaging with people. And perhaps it’s something from my family (having an aunt in Mexico and a grand-uncle in Senegal) that predestined me and my modest origins to move out of my native Brittany. And actually being a Breton is a 50% chance that you end up travelling. We export ourselves exceptionally well (heliotropism might also explain part of this)…

When I started working I was not drawn into knowledge management directly. I started off working in marketing which is a field I really dislike now for all the layer of inauthenticity and unnecessary pushing to buy. But when I ended up working in cooperation development, by accident really, I started getting attracted to knowledge and learning.

And as I worked in the Netherlands, I was a victim of acute meetingitis – too many meetings all the time – and found myself more often than once irritated by the airspace that some people were taking without realising they were nibbling into it away from other people. That was a first revelation into process (il)literacy for me and a first calling to do anything in my power to redress this balance. Ever since I was a child I’ve had a strong sense of justice and respect for others. Coming to think of it I’m not even sure why.

I got opportunities to do a bit of time management and traffic management in small meetings and one of my colleagues and friends told me I really had a gift with it. Tadaa! The pathway was quietly shaping up ahead of me.

When I discovered KM4Dev it became one of the greatest sources of inspiration ever. And as I was getting into knowledge management I also started facilitating events and processes more and more, though quite rudimentarily still.

Me facilitating in 2011 (Credits: ILRI / A. Habtamu)

Me facilitating in 2011 (Credits: ILRI / A. Habtamu)

ILRI and my current boss Peter Ballantyne gave me another incredible shot at sharpening my own process literacy and my facilitation and KM skills. It’s been a great ride until now and one that made possible the next step… By now it seems difficult for most people to imagine that deep down I am or have been (also) an introvert.

The final event that set me off on my calling pathway to this very moment was the encounter with Sam Kaner and Nelli Noakes. They really touched me and inspired me like very few people do with their idea of healthy human systems and the process work that this takes. And in that process I became a trainer to give myself the ‘group facilitation skills’ training that their company Community at Work provides.

Where I am now and what inspires me is a result of all the above, and many more encounters, conversations, subtle events that have progressively shaped me to become who I am, with my gifts and with the contribution I can bring to this world.

And so this week, as we got trained in management development, one of the assignments was for us to develop a ‘contribution statement’ and I am working on it but so far the work in progress is:

I will coach/train/show/help and get people to realise their own value and to empower themselves to take better decisions by themselves (through questioning, reflection, feedback, joint work).

I will also coach/train/show/help and get people to realise the importance of togetherness regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, religion etc. and regardless of the personal affinity I have with them – because that is what unites us into a collective mind, heart and soul ‘grid’ that sublimates the sum of all of us.

I will do everything I can to get people to understand the value of communication, personal and collective improvement, knowledge management and learning so they realise that it starts with each and everyone of us and we all contribute to affecting the entire system we operate in – for the better if we build respectful, loving and generous relationships.

I will also very consciously aim at raising the ‘process literacy’ of people around me so they become better able to relate to others in synergistic ways and use learning, listening, love and fun to deal with the current and future ‘real challenges’ of our times (poverty, racism, climate change etc.).

Finally, I will try and foster a culture of listening and feedback where everyone is invited to share their thoughts and to contribute to smarter collective solutions to face the wicked problems we face.

I will do this with all the gifts that I am given and the realisation that I have many shortcomings myself and I am on the way to learn, to better connect, to better live life within myself, with others and with nature around me.

What is YOUR contribution? (Credits: KPieperPhotography/FlickR)

What is YOUR contribution? (Credits: KPieperPhotography/FlickR)

Sounds pretty text book ‘sunshine yellow/motivator’, don’t you think?

Related blog posts:

Every *little* step you take is magic (well, it can be if it’s purposeful)


Celebrate every little step you take (Credits: RamMorrison / FlickR)

Celebrate every little step you take (Credits: RamMorrison / FlickR)

 

In the series ‘Breaking Bad‘, lab chemist Gale Boetincher once talks about the purity of the crystal meth he can cook, guaranteeing his mafia boss 96% purity, a “hard-earned figure” he is proud of. The purity of his competitor (and future partner series hero Walter White)’s crystal meth is 99%. As Boetticher puts it:

That last 3%, it may not sound like a lot, but it is. It’s tremendous. It’s a tremendous gulf.

Relatedly, the Pareto principle (explained here) evokes that 80% of the value of a nation comes from 20% of the population. And business analysts would like us to think that the same applies to organisations and even ourselves.

The point here is two-fold:

  • Every step we take towards change is a hard-earned one;
  • Not every step we take is productive, however.

Focus on your leapfrogging steps

Change is hard, so we might want to focus on the changes we think will really be game changers. And as explained in the link above, you can actually consider your whole life from an 80-20 rule perspective, and find out where the value is.

So reflect daily, weekly, monthly, yearly on what creates value, what will allow you to work smarter. Thanks to a dialogue I had with an online mate, I have made it a weekly practice to reflect on what steps I’ve taken that allow me to be more effective, smarter.

Purpose (Credits: ??)

Purpose (Credits: Hustle-Grind)

Focus on outputs, and outcomes, not the activities and inputs you give. Focus on what creates effects, not what you are doing. Focus on others and how they become part of the effect, not just yourself.

Focus on your passion and on what makes you productive effortlessly. Find out where your purpose lies as the graph here shows.

And don’t compromise on reflection and on activities that also take your mind off the work. Sharpe your practice smarts toward the most essential and productive outcomes.

And earn every little step

And indeed remember that change is hard, even when you are willing to change.

But when it happens, it’s magical.

Whether it’s the fact that you are thinking differently about an issue and have basically evolved in your reflection.

Whether it’s that you are changing the language you are using, paying attention to very subtle distinctions that make a world of difference.

Whether it’s reflected in the way you act upon a situation differently.

Whether it’s connected to other people much more and your focus on change is actively embracing others.

Recognize, celebrate every one of these little steps. Dance to every step of the samba of change.

And on this musical note, finally, since the title of this post was inspired by two different tunes by The Police, have your shot at either/both of them.

Every breath you take…

Every little thing she does is magic…

Related blog posts:

“Get me trained and I’ll become a superhero!” I mean, come on…


A short post, for an idea that is not really new in my (mind)world: Training is great. But it won’t give you the superpowers you were expecting…

Where do people get this idea from? Even in my close surrounding people believe training is the surest way to become someone else, and I see countless CVs that display a sometimes endless list of training courses like a proud badge of capacity. Like: Training transformed me into a superhero!

Become a superhero with training? Errrrm.... (Credits: MindMappingSoftware)

Become a superhero with training? Errrrm…. (Credits: MindMappingSoftware)

I don’t deny that training:

  • Can bring critical new information and skills;
  • Challenges your thinking about some theories and practices that you may not have been exposed to;
  • (If done well) Puts you in concrete situations where you have to show and encourage new behaviours.
  • … and probably a few more benefits…

But on the downside:

  • How many training courses are actually designed around your context, your issues, your needs and opportunities?
  • How many training courses pay attention to how you will apply the new information and skills in your work tomorrow, next week, next year?
  • As a result, what is the likelihood that you apply new information and skills in your day-to-day work (unless you have the capacity/authority and discipline to enforce this? We already know how difficult it is to change.
  • How likely is it that you change your behaviour as a result of training? Some psychological research argues it takes (a minimum of) 21 days to change a major behaviour. Well, how many 4-week (20 working days) training courses have you gone on?
  • How likely are you to change that behaviour if you don’t have a practice of reflection about your ongoing work and naturally try to accommodate the new skills and information in your natural ecosystem and routines?
Training goes back to way back when and yet it feels to me as likely to be a fit as playing bilboquet (cup and ball) guarantees... (Credits: Noël Tortajada / Rita Productions)

Training goes back to way back when and yet it feels to me as likely to be a fit as playing bilboquet (cup and ball) guarantees… (Credits: Noël Tortajada / Rita Productions)

This is why in KM there is much more emphasis put on coaching, mentoring and communities of practice, on ‘learning on the job’ for continuous learning than on sheer training. And though that idea has been critiqued, if not criticised, I believe much more in the idea of 10000 hours of practice, and better still: 10000 hours of action learning.

So: training? Yes! But make sure it’s adapted to you, prepare yourself to putting the training insights into your context… and just don’t put all your eggs into the training basket…

I’m just sayin’…

And for whatever it’s worth, if you consider training, you might look at how to calculate return on investment. If anything, it just shows how complex it is to have training lead to value and impact.

Related blog posts:

KM… the extra mile that saves (y)our time


What is it that makes knowledge management worthwhile? A lot of things I’m tempted to say as a knowledge manager, but there’s one important benefit that you cannot ignore: it saves time. And so it saves money.

KM... the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

KM… the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

Whether applied at an individual level (personal knowledge mastery), within an organization or in a network, KM is the extra mile that saves your time.

It saves time because it goes beyond the immediate needs of one person in one situation at one time in one place, to extract generic lessons that people can use, in other places or at other times.

In doing so, KM helps people identify relevant experiences, information, knowledge that they need to solve problems and it even helps them connect with the people that can help them fully understand or address the puzzle they’re facing.

But KM does require a little extra mile.

Spontaneously, a good KMer encountering a problem will not just try and fix it. S/he will record it, bring it to the attention of others concerned with it, and also document the way that problem was solved, or the gap in policies and processes that was revealed in the process. It would be much easier to just fix the problem and get on with it.

And that extra ‘KM’ mile may not always come in handy:

  • Looking back at what past information, experience or expertise you can find at hand to understand an issue is not something most of us like doing;
  • Sharing, alerting others about some specific information takes time;
  • Documenting the process needs tedious consistency;
  • Involving others in the work you do (because you ) adds a lot of complexity to ‘fixing an issue’;
  • Updating guidelines, good, bad or best practices requires discipline;
  • And you don’t even have a guarantee that others will find your information, understand it well enough, or use it…

So, at least initially, KM takes some time off you… but hey, if that extra mile helps others facing similar issues (or yourself the next time you are in that situation), what the heck, it’s worth it! If you believe in KM, you share because you care. Pay it forward!

Just make sure you use the most appropriate places to share, document, update that critical information. If you use the right arenas, then you’re sure to help others save time, in space or… time…

In addition, at some point you just develop the habit of routinely going that extra mile and hardly feel the time it takes anymore. You are entering the ‘effortless helping’ phase that blesses all good KMers.

So, even if KM takes that little extra mile, as it saves your time, keep your smile (and just do it)…

Related blog posts:

What are you waiting for? Become a knowledge manager NOW!


Suffering from email overload?

Spending too much time finding information you need?

Feeling isolated and need to meet new people?

Annoyed by the fact you may be reinventing the wheel a little all too often?

Stuck in old habits and interested in new ways of working?

Want to work more smartly and get more out of your time?

KM might make you happier and wiser (Credits: Happy Buddha by Doug Wheller / FlickR)

KM might make you happier and wiser (Credits: Happy Buddha by Doug Wheller / FlickR)

Pick yours, but there are many good reasons to become a knowledge manager. Here and now!

Indeed, as illustrated in various writings, including the recent ‘7 habits of successful knowledge managers‘, here are some of the direct and indirect benefits to becoming a knowledge manager:

Direct benefits:

Indirect benefits:

Well, enjoying all the above may not be that automatic, but really chances are you will reap a lot of these.

So the next question is: when will you become a knowledge manager?

And the question after that: Will you move away from the KM field after that? That’s what seems to happen to a lot of KM folks…

Related blog posts:

 

The key to success in the networked age? Just look around and be humbled


Curiosity killed the cat (Credits - Stuff by Cher)

Curiosity killed the cat (Credits – Stuff by Cher)

(Another older post that I just finalise here before I get on with new stuff based on your feedback)

When I was a child, one of the sayings that finger-wagging adults liked to throw at me and fellow little people was that ‘la curiosité est un vilain défaut’ – Curiosity killed the cat.

How much we have moved on from that age when staying where we are was the desired end state. A neverending never changing state. Now the only thing that never changes is change itself, though even that is not true because the pace of change is increasing – and so is our need to connect to others, with curiosity, and a little something else, of great importance.

Humility

As modern knowledge workers, we have to connect the dots, we have to find others, build trust with them, and do ‘stuff’ together. If ‘In complex initiatives, expert predictions of outcomes are barely better than flipping a coin‘, we must harness collective intelligence. And that will not happen with alpha male chest-beating behaviour but with humility, the other godmother of learning (remember the happy families of engagement?) next to curiosity.

Being humble doesn’t mean we don’t know where we’re headed and think everyone else does stuff better than us or better stuff than us; it just means that we recognise we are trying to do something (or some things) without full certainty, and are open enough to hear what others do in relation, and occasionally pick up useful elements from their approach.

The path to wisdom is paved with effectiveness, focus, humility and empathy and just so we learn by being intently open to any signal that may improve our own understanding and thought-processing, set of practices and attitude. Any opportunity is good to power up another segment of the collective brain grid, the common energy grid of intent, purpose and calling (something I’ve written about before).

We can keep our criticism about, we should question our education and educate our questions but this is no longer the time to be cocky, know-it-all and ‘go it alone’. We need specialists in this complex world, but only combined with other talents.

Humility, being ‘in over our head’ is what keeps us sharp and connected. It’s a non-negotiable in the networked, agile, constant learning age, unless you’re the best in the world at what you do. And even then, arguably…

Want some spicy questions, Nadia?

  • How come leadership still seems overwhelmingly attracted to alpha-male, know-it-all styles?
  • Is humility enough to be a good modern knowledge worker? What other traits of personality allow us to be agile, ever-learning, increasingly effective?
  • If humility was considered to be assessed (or even measured) in an organisation – for broad effectiveness – how would we do so to qualify it?

I’m all ears…

Related blog posts:

What are we waiting for to walk our talk (on KM and comms)?


Back on the blog after a three-week pause related to important developments in my personal life. Still floating a bit and my blogging practice needs to be oiled up again, but I have some ideas of stuff to blog about, starting with: Why don’t more KM and comms specialists actually walk their own talk?

The past few weeks at ILRI have been about appraisals, 360 degree feedback – so a lot of retrospective thinking and sense-making – and also among others an important demonstration of what we do in comms/KM.

All good fodder for thought (yes, I am influenced by the livestock agenda of my organisation ;)) What strikes me in this first week back is that despite knowing that it really can be difficult to ‘sell’ KM and comms, many specialists of that field don’t seem to walk their talk – and I’m not specifically talking about my direct colleagues here, but about a lot of more distant colleagues who ‘should be out there’ and just don’t seem to.

  • How many of these specialists are really sharing what their doing on a regular basis – both online and face-to-face – to inform others about their work, to work out loud as John Stepper is convincingly inviting us to work?
  • How many of these specialists are really applying the principles of personal knowledge management (or ‘personal knowledge mastery‘ PKM, as Harold Jarche would have it) to manage their information and sharpen their expertise, knowledge and tap into that of others around them?
  • How many of them (of us!!) not spending adequate time performing a simple ‘after action review‘ (AAR) to ensure we keep learning and adapting?
  • How many of us are really curating our own content and ongoing work to ensure that every signal we come across, as much as possible (since obviously it’s impossible to achieve 100% there), finds its way to appropriate sharing channels and storing repositories, with our own added value to it?
  • And how come so many of us are still struggling with assessing and measuring KM when the field has been around… with the possible exception of Nick Milton’s excellent set of quantified KM stories on Knoco stories?

Many gaps in our own practices, it seems, so how can we expect others, who are not dedicated knowledge workers, to buy into KM and comms and use it for their own benefit? Being an effective knowledge worker requires discipline and dedication, all for the purpose of improving one’s and others’ practices and lives (I share because I care!). It is tiring at times, even exhausting occasionally, but it also continually gives a lot of energy.

This relates to another thought triggered by this first week back at work: a colleague gave a very comprehensive presentation about ILRI comms work. It was quite a complicated job, because the presentation was very broad and covered an incredible amount of items, so this is certainly no criticism on my part – there would have been things to improve anyways, but one thing that struck me was that the presentation seemed to miss an essential element: WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

What's in it for me? If we don't start there, how can we expect others to get interested? (Credits: Gino Zahnd / FlickR)

What’s in it for me? If we don’t start there, how can we expect others to get interested? (Credits: Gino Zahnd / FlickR)

Isn’t the trick, in our field of comms/KM, to start from either the concrete and devilish problems that our colleagues, partners, clients are facing or the opportunities to work more smartly? And then to demonstrate how we do this?

It seemed to me that despite the incredible richness of the presentation, there was a bit too much ‘this is what we do’, ‘this is how it works’, not enough ‘this is why it is going to solve your problems like no other solution’ or ‘this is going to strengthen your excellent work in area xyz’… And ultimately, ‘these are a few steps you might take in that direction…’ Remember Spitfire Communications’ ‘Smart Chart’ and its due emphasis on the ‘ask’?

We know (personal) change is slow, everyone wants others to start it rather than themselves, and it has a lot to do with psychology. So while there’s no need in criticising people for being slow at change, we equally cannot afford to rest on our laurels and not practice what we preach as comms and KM folks.

So, WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP to sharpen your practice? Mine will start with more systematic AARs. Next week. Tomorrow. Now! Still a lot of progress for all of us, me certainly included, to get better at explaining, showing and embodying the power of KM and comms 😉 Indeed we need to look at ourselves first, because as Leo Tolstoy excellently put it:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” (Leo Tolstoy)

What other areas of not walking our talk do you commonly observe in the field of comms/KM? Do you know of similar watchdogs in that field as Shit Facilitators Say (@ShitFacilitator) on Twitter for facilitation heads?

Related blog posts:

Use PACMAN to beat information overload and fix filter failures!


Dealing with information overload (Credits - Joy of Tech)

Dealing with information overload (Credits – Joy of Tech)

So much information out there! How to keep up with it?

Such filter failures (Clay Shirky would -allegedly- say) in the way we process information bubbles! How can we fix these?

So little time to do so much! Where lies our salvation from the digital flood?

People around me are constantly grappling with this: my researcher colleagues say they wouldn’t use new platforms and channels (they’re struggling with existing ones as is), my family wonders how I manage to engage on social media (beyond the obvious Friend&Family-focused Facebook), my friends mostly don’t really know about my info-flow-survival tricks…  All of this led me recently to wonder if only dedicated knowledge workers are able to strike a balance with information flow, between fast pace and slow space.

My mantra to keep the head above the info water is: PACMAN. Or rather PACMan: Plan-Act-Capture-Manage. PACMan helps you eat information nuggets all along the way and keep going happily, while fixing filter failures letting phantoms through. It has a lot to do with personal knowledge management (PKM) so perhaps it should be called PaKMan 😉

What does PACMan entail?

Plan

One of the main reasons why we don’t manage to find the time to read all the relevant information there is, is that we don’t plan for it properly. Typically our (lack of) planning is lousy because:

Plan openly, adapt relentlessly (credits: BlogWestinteractive / FlickR)

Plan openly, adapt relentlessly (credits: BlogWestinteractive / FlickR)

  • We usually don’t plan! We don’t set goals, which would give us direction and, very importantly, give us energy when we complete them;
  • As a result we don’t manage to channel energy and time to activities that fall off our crisis-mode (like Alice’s eternally late rabbit), such as reading interesting stuff;
  • When we DO plan, we over-plan. We put too much on our fork. And by the same token we ignore what we unconsciously sense (and know from experience): reality -usually- does NOT follow the plan. We need to keep our plans flexible. I’d say keep 20-25% of your plans open to allow spontaneity and serendipity (remember pinballs and bulldozers);
  • We’re usually lousy at saying ‘no‘ to more work; perhaps because it’s interesting but it still means we’re constantly pushing our multitasking limits (when some say multitasking doesn’t actually work), reinforcing this crisis dynamics… We just have to say no to too much work! It’s the only way to maintain focus, quality, energy and inspiration…
  • Oh, and we typically forget to plan holidays. Fatal mistake, as no one else will do that for you 😉

Turn these planning mistakes on their head, forget about perpetual fire-fighting and enjoy the luxury of quality time, for reading and otherwise.

What I do (among others): I plan on a weekly basis, keep one day entirely free, maintain manageable daily objectives and accommodate the unknown by pushing things back to when I have free time available. My reading time is early and late in the day, at the edges of a working day, when I have a break and if I need to read a specific document, I include that in my plan. Ticking off my to-do’s gives me joy and a sense of achievement, while I can still open any unknown along the way – ideal! Ha – and saying no and planning holidays were the two surviving skills I learnt with my previous employer IRC – just try it!

Act

…on the spot! I already covered dealing with email overflow – a lot of that advice applies to other information sources. Act is about avoiding future problems. It’s about finding heuristics that work for you (e.g. do, delegate or dump), but doing it in the moment, as it happens. Act according to your plans, act on capturing (see next point) when the opportunity presents itself, act on what you observe and feel, act rather than just think. Seize the moment to read, use your ‘dead time’ and combine opportunities to do reading (to serve another purpose) if that makes your life easier.

Try and stick to the plans when it makes sense, don’t dilute your focus. Keep zen habits… Though when a good opportunity presents itself to absorb that information in a slow, qualitative kind of way, just seize it, it might be your best chance in a while. It’s about being in the moment and honing the wisdom of insecurity.

What I do: I execute my plans, I regularly read stuff and when I see something valuable I share and/or save it on the spot. And a whole lot more which I guess I should unpack in a future post… 

Capture

Managing information flow is also about deferring / staging the time to absorb that information – and indeed fixing filter failures.

Staging the consumption of information means that you not only plan time to that kind of quality reading, but you can also save information for later consumption (and easy sharing). Like recording a program you don’t have the time to watch at the moment. Social bookmarking helps you do just that (see this video about social bookmarking).

RSS feeds are also a great way to differ your information consumption. What are RSS feeds? See the video below. What’s great about it is that they capture information for you – ready to be read any time – in one convenient place, like your personal, customised newspaper.

Fixing filter failures is itself about leveraging the combined filtering power of your personal learning network (PLN). Invest in your PLN, on all social media/networks you’re using; prune those networks, remove the people that you don’t really engage with or benefit from, act as the constant knowledge gardener. If well maintained, your PLN will help you find the cream of the content crop, by retweeting/saving/blogging about/referring to/sharing these great resources – something that Twitter does particularly well but other platforms too.

What I do: I’ve been using Del.icio.us for a while to bookmark resources that I have found interesting – or that look interesting. Sometimes I don’t come back to those. Most of the time I do, at some point, use these resources. Favourites in specific collections such as FlickRSlideshare etc. also provide similar features. I use those two, Pinterest for graphs and funny pictures (that are not mine), Instagram to store touched up pix taken with my phone, TumblR to keep track of fragments of conversations and blogging ideas etc. – I collect stuff on the spot. And I check RSS feeds (via Feed.ly) on my phone or over the weekend + a very quick check some mornings, possibly reading whatever incredible stuff appeared in my stream.

Manage

At some point it really helps to manage and curate your content: organise your tags/keywords to make sure you collect your resources around consistent references, bundle important references on specific channels, analyse your resources and blog about it. Robin Good recently shared this excellent resource on good (and new) curation tools and practices which will give you a lot of great ideas to curate relevant content.

What is content curation? (Credits - Webbythoughts)

What is content curation? (Credits – Webbythoughts)

Managing also covers learning – analysing the content and reflecting on your planning, acting, collection and curation practices. It can be part of planning, it can be done on a daily or weekly basis but it needs to be done regularly to adjust. The bad news: it will take you a while to get on top of your content collections and information flows. But once you do and you have properly managed and are regularly curating them, your practice becomes an unconscious competence: you just do it without noticing, so it doesn’t (feel like it may) take time.

What I do: I recently reviewed all my Del.icio.us, tags removed all duplicates etc. it took me half a day but it is now so easy to save a new resource (without wondering which tag I should be using) and to retrieve any of them later… I regularly save pictures aside and put them on Pinterest and FlickR to keep them in sets/collections. I also analyse my own (and other) content I ‘take stock‘ of important topics on this blog. I use my blog for many different purposes, including reflecting on my information management practices, it’s a powerful way to surface deeper issues and structure solutions for me. When I have more time I review how I use my collections such as Pinterest, RSS feeds. However I don’t reflect enough – every day – about what I could improve or why things didn’t go as intended.

So what now?

With PACMan you should now be able to stay on top of your information flows and progressively handle more and more of it – if you so wish – or balance the time you absorb information with other personal priorities of yours. Oh sure it will take some time but you no longer will be part of the people who feel constantly overwhelmed with information…

And that’s agile PKM for you 😉

Related blog posts: