A few comments on the language of texting

cell_waves_by_arcticcathuffy-d4sti5g
cell_waves_by_arcticcathuffy-d4sti5g

cell waves by arcticcathuffy

I stumbled into a short conversation recently on the value of text-speak or, perhaps more accurately, I was told how text-speak was utterly lacking in value and rotting the minds of the teenage population.

Texting is, indeed, an odd form of communication.  You do have to marvel in curiosity at the chronic need for immediate information exchanged, not to mention the superficiality and triviality of the messages being sent.  Nonetheless, I retorted, you do have to appreciate the enormous creativity involved in the phrases that kids are developing, as well as the implementation of problem solving skills in order to fit as much information as possible into as few characters as necessary.  Given my affinity for efficiency, I like the trend.

My counterpart in the discussion sneered and reiterated the belief that people ought to be able to write out, in longhand, clear, precise, detailed descriptions and think in such terms.  After all, that is how people used to be taught and all those people turned out just fine.  My side of the argument was quickly dismissed.

So, to determine if there was any merit to either side of the conversation, I went to the Google and looked to see what the state of the matter was.  I found most of the argument boiled down into this article: FOCROFLOL: Is Texting Damaging Our Language Skills?

The article points to some research that reveals what I consider to be the universally true answer to every question ever asked:

It depends.

You see, the development of the texting language follows many of the patterns linguists expect a language to follow as it matures.  Yes, there is tremendous creativity and innovation in the use of the language and in the adoption of the technology that enables it.  Information moves faster.  People think faster.  The status quo changes faster.  None of these are, necessarily, bad things.  In fact, much of it is indicative of the future and enhancing these skills will make young people more capable and successful in the future.

Then, of course, there is the “Yes, and…” part of the discussion.

Not having the skills to concentrate and absorb information for long periods of time is a problem.  Not being able to structure your thoughts and make cohesive arguments while taking into account multiple points of view is a problem.  Not knowing how to delay a response, contemplate potential reactions, and carefully word your arguments in order to elicit a reaction is a problem.  All of these things are enabled by training a mind through reading and writing lengthy pieces.  Not to mention the tendency to multitask, which is a self-deceiving activity since we all know that multitasking is a myth.

The takeaways from this conversation I had?  For one, not all things are bad.  Most issues are multifaceted and, while you should have a preferred point of view upon which rest your convictions, it’s not acceptable to say that your point of view is the only one.

Secondly, no matter what you might think of them, today’s young will set the tone for the future.  By saying their ways are silly or stupid and that those folks shouldn’t be acting in such-and-such manner, you do very little to stop their progress.  All you really accomplish is to block only yourself from understanding them.  

If history has shown us anything, it’s that the young will eventually come into positions of power and authority and will not revert back to previous generations’ patterns of behavior. And certainly not because those older generations liked it better … way back when.

 

Stump the Chump, and the Steve Jobs Paradox?

Paradox
Paradox

iTime paradox by IlookingYou

Two weeks ago, I delivered the presentation that’s been adorning the home page to a monthly meeting of the New Hampshire chapter of the project management institute.  That presentation was drawn from a series I put on the blog just a little over a year and a half ago, where I made a connection between common, sub-optimal activities that are found in project environments and Lean’s 7 wastes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to stand up and speak about how Lean is not a set of cost reduction techniques nor a quality assurance program, but a philosophy of how organizations work, how people work, and of how people within organizations work.  While several in the audience were expecting a discussion of Agile software development when they heard the topic would be about Lean in Project Management, I think my focus on understanding environments and behaviors resonated with a few of the audience members.  Many asked if they could obtain a copy of the presentation, which I took to be quite the complement, also.

If the Q&A that followed, however, I was asked a question that – as I put it, “Stumped the Chump.”  One gentleman asked, in response to the portions of my presentation that focused on the Respect for People foundation of Lean and, in particular, the Shingo model, how I would characterize Steve Jobs and Apple’s success, given that Jobs was a well-known egomaniac and had a reputation for being quite stern and non-compromising.

While some members of the audience offered their take on what might have happened at Apple as others took up the cause of Respect for People and the “appropriate” management styles, in an effort to help me out as I stated that the question would require some thought, I thought up my response.  I briefly recounted my understanding of the work Steve Jobs did at Pixar, and the interpersonal dynamics he created within the hallways of Pixar (quite literally) that fostered collaboration and creativity – including several dynamics for idea sharing and generation that were drawn from – you guessed it – the Toyota Production System.

While this answer satisfied the gentleman asking the question, it has stuck with me for the past couple of weeks, as I felt the need to contemplate the question a bit further.  What I may have come to realize, is that there is something of a Paradox involved when a true visionary ascends to the position of influence within an organization.  These situations are remarkably rare, I believe, which is why they are so disruptive, revolutionary, and highly successful.  It is dependent as much upon the circumstances as the traits of the individuals involved, but it is clear to me that the person(s) who creates a whole new paradigm for conducting the work of an organization very often must embrace what I will call the “Jobsian Paradox.”

Clearly, the stories of the founders of the Toyota Production System are not that far from what we hear of Jobs doing at Apple.  The outcomes are revered by many, studied and copied by others, and delved into by an army of commentators looking for the secret to the success these visionaries bring about.  What they have in common, however, is something that is, indeed, contrary to the tenets of creativity and innovation in both project and process.  That is, that at the beginning – when people’s mindsets need to be calibrated towards a new understanding and  that understanding needs to translate into action, someone authoritative, demanding, relentless personality must be at the forefront of creating and driving the system under which change will occur.

From those personalities come systems, and from that relentless focus on driving people to the correct behaviors comes guiding them to possibilities, and from satisfactory mediocre comes the expectation of greatness.  It must begin, however, with unique individuals willing to drive others to the point of aggravation in order to be achieved, which is something of a paradox in the realm of thinking that believes people are intrinsically motivated and that all a brutish task master can do is to de-motivate them.

This is, in many ways, akin to the concept of a Level 5 Leader that Jim Collins discusses.  To foster change, unique, rare, visionary people are needed.  In order to turn their vision into reality, however, a certain drive is required that leads the people with that vision to adopt behaviors we tend to believe, at least in the short term, are counterproductive and entirely suboptimal.

To wrap it up, the Jobs-ian paradox is this:  For true visionaries with the ability to persevere, many of the management practices and behaviors that we associate with high levels of creativity  and innovation among the workforce, are ignored or simply not practiced in order to bring the organization, as a whole, to high levels of creativity and and innovation.

 

You can’t buy pride (and I just like to write)

Writer
Writer

Writer by jacobdca

Many times, I have been asked with regards to this blog, “What do you expect to et out of this?”

Well, fame, fortune, world-wide recognition for being an intellectual genius, a great job, tons of friends, an awesome new car, my kids’ college tuitions paid for and a bottomless glass of beer would be nice.

Unfortunately, as much as I can dream, I don’t actually think I’ll get those things (at least, not all of them).  So what do I honestly  expect?

Writing this blog is, sort of, its own end.  Yes, I’d love to have achieved all these wonderful things as a result of my writing, and maybe I will.  However, even if I don’t – I will keep writing.  Because it’s the one thing that comes easily and naturally, and that people seem to tell me I’m pretty good at.

And, it has some very, very nice rewards, too.  I’ve interacted with many great people, who have done amazoing things that make me envious.  My words have reached 6 continents and been cited by corporate honchos and students conducting research alike.  In perfect alignment with my  mid-life crisis, that gives me some feeling of having at least a little bit of a legacy to leave behind, long after my remains join the floating particles of the universe.

So, in a way, that’s what I expect to get from this – some recognition.  And that has come with a wonderful sense of purpose and pride that ought to be cultivated in everyone from an early age.  All too ften, however, pride gets muddled together with the brute application of effort – and that is supposed to be a healthy trait – working through arduous, difficult circumstances for the sake of doing a good job or one’s duty.  We really don’t do enough to tell people to play to their sttrengths and enjoy what they are good at.  Rather, we reward those who have overcome something difficult – even if the difficulty, in reality, was self-imposed.

Perhaps we ought to rethink the things we take pride in.  Perhaps, then, we will focus more on the people who do the little things to avoid fires rather than make heroes of those who put them out (figuratively, of course – real firefighters are, genuinely, heroic). 

Pride can’t be bought.  You can’t simply give someone a heap of rewards and expect them to be prideful.  It is an innate sense of producing something the individual cares about – even if the larger organization surrounding the person doesn’t.  If you can recognize and appreciate what a person cares about, and provide them with opportunities to do exactly that thing in such a way that they can be prideful in their work and benefit the organization – I am willing to bet you will have given that person not just a sense of pride, but of purpose as well.  They will no longer be working only for themselves – but for both their own sense of self as well as the good of the group.

The interactions I’ve had so far as a result of writing this blog have certainly created a sense of purpose and pride that are far greater than any monetary rewards. 

Now, if only I could get paid for it…….

 

;^)