Embracing uncertainty: a demanding and lonely tango for leaders

In order to kick things off, please ask yourself these simple questions:

Do I want to lead? Do I want to be a leader?

Now try to grasp that initial response to the questions above before reasoning and doubt kicks in. Take a mental note from that very first reactive thought and put it somewhere safe for a while. I bet the most of you who got curious enough to give this article a shot, probably said yes.

For those who are anxious to get back checking their Instagram or Twitter feeds or just otherwise with low too long, didn’t read-tendency, I am going to skip right ahead to the conclusions. In short, if your response was positive, there’s two essential things, you should know:

  1. You have to get used to being less certain about things.
  2. You should better get used to being alone with your thoughts.

The two points above sound kind of irrational, don’t they? A good leader stands firm in her foundations and has a razor sharp clarity in her inner vision, right? She’s always accompanied by similar minded people and enjoys the comfort of being understood and supported for her thoughts. However, for a leader that is not a fanatic, I am afraid this is not quite so.

Thing is that for a majority of people, being a leader seems to just a question of social status; it’s about being a person who either possesses or stewards significant amount of resources, stands in the front facing the crowd, and has thereby an elevated social position. When we are talking about true leadership, none of this social status is necessarily required – and vice versa.

Being a leader, be it vanguard or more blending in terms of style – to me at least – is about leaving the comfort of your pack and sticking your head out in search of something better.

Being a leader is about being obsessed about what could be; it’s about managing the non-existing and the great internal uncertainty that comes a long with it.

In essence, the latter part of having this uncertain mind – or in other words a ambivalent mentality – is what sets leaders apart from managers.  For managers, there is no hesitation, you just execute your self contained, step-by-step algorithm.

However, what puts leaders and managers back in the same boat, is their relation to action: a leader has to be also bivalent simply to be able to get stuff done – in other words: you either do something or you don’t. A curious mind, unable to close an activity, results in drifting without making an impact.

Heading for leadership: action and mentality traits
The “valency” of mentality and actions determining your social position. Which one are you?

These drifters in the bottom right corner of the picture above, on their behalf, are sensing souls that lack the ability to shape their ideas into something whole and useful. In addition or alternatively, their actions are controlled by impulse and whim taking away their ability to execute. You don’t see the extreme of this type too often in a regular day jobs.

The group on the bottom left corner, the managed, consists of the people that have extremely polarized opinions, fixed beliefs and limited self reflection.  They also have a low ability to execute and to close an activity without a little push from someone. The managed  are the ones typically being waived from responsibility – possibly by mutual agreement; even if there was will and also ability for autonomous execution, the responsibility is claimed from them by the managers, for whom trust and assumption is the mother of all mistakes. 

When you talk to people even a little beyond the the typical jive, the black’n whiteness and poor self reflection is one of the first things you notice. On the other hand, it’s hard to draw accurate conclusions about someone’s ability to execute. The managers and the managed could be much alike when it comes to a mindset. In fact, it might even help to have certain polarity of mind if you are a manager for a project, just expected to blaze through a list of tasks.

By far and large, in order to be able to question your own opinions and beliefs, firstly you have to know yourself well enough to identify and articulate your beliefs. Coming to terms with what drives you internally, you most likely have to deal with qualities of oneself that are not necessarily the most agreeable. In order to cope with an elevated self reflection, it requires tolerance and even forgiveness for oneself. Granted, there is also the option of self-deception. It is altogether a totally different story.

The level of self reflection. -How well do you want to know yourself?
The level of self reflection. -How well do you want to know yourself?

By far and large, the level of self reflection correlates pretty accurately also with our relation towards change. Where leaders tend to believe to find possibilities in change, the bottom left corner often reacts to change typically in more victim like fashion. This is natural obviously also from the stand point that the managed are located typically in the bottom of the organization charts with slimmer range of options, than at the top of the food chain.

Social positioning 4- fielder: Change
Do you feel like a victim or do you believe you can always find ways to gain control in change?

Exploring the relation to change a little further, even if managers typically have more options in terms of career opportunities (unless you are totally unqualified legacy middle management) than the managed, they might have something more in common than just possibly a polarized view on things. Namely, the mentality trait that might put managers once again in the same boat with the managed, is the question of fixed versus growth mindset.

Do you think you are born with what you have or do you believe and learn whatever you want?
Do you think you are born with what you have or do you believe and learn whatever you want?

Where a growth mindset sees a possibility to learn something from oneself, a fixed mindset typically hates putting herself to a test or against any given evaluation. Usually being able to move up any ladder, be it promotion, a higher position, or a degree of some sort calls for being assessed and ranked. Fearing for unwanted results, bad rankings or even a rejection, a fixed mindset chooses only tests she is sure to win or pass. In the world of no ask – no get, fixed mindset is not going places, she’s at most taken there.

Finally, coming back to the two initial questions:

Do I want to lead? Do I want to be a leader?

No matter what you answered initially to yourself, some of you might see leadership in slightly different light based on what you have just read. Maybe you are able to see much difference between leadership and management better and even see that a manager might be closer to a managed in terms of character than to a leader. This is especially important for all us Finns, where johtaja  or päällikkö draws no real distinction between to two.

All in all, it has to be mentioned that real life is naturally more diversified in terms of outcomes. (Thank goodness!) Everything is also relative, so an individual can have all combinations of characteristics and represent absolutely every single type presented in this article in different environments.

Ultimately, the most important take away to me, especially in this modern, overly complicated world of great and constant turmoil, screaming for better and stronger leadership, is that we need to understand what leaders have to bear with them. Sometimes it would be beneficial, if we could have a bit more tolerance for uncertainty -also when it comes down to the path chosen and shown by our leaders.

It doesn’t take a lot to blame one, but it takes a lot to be one.

Agreed?

Dirt poor

I think it was the spring of 1991, I found myself rubbing my itching and sore eyes, having a runny nose with even occasional respiratory problems with my wind pipe. All of a sudden and for no obivious reason, I had become allergic to the world: pollum, the typical domestic animals, a good half of all fruit, all nuts , etc. Blimey.

Not realizing how serious my allergy was, my family decided to get a dog. It was a stubborn fella, a true alpha of his pack no questions asked. After three months of this new joint venture, suffering more and more from the typical symptoms of allergy, but other stuff too like fever during the nights with aching joints and muscle, it was clear something had to be done. Seeking confirmation to what I had been going through, a set of  tests was ran on me and I was diagnosed a level 3 out of 5 (5 meaning more or less life in a sealed container, I recon).

After the allergy test results came out, it was clear that either one of us had to leave. With my 12-13 year track reacord as a fixed act in the house band, it wasn’t me. (Sorry buddy! – I hope you had arrived a couple of years earlier and maybe you could have saved me from this burden.) With the dog gone, my allergy however stayed. While not being a total show stopper, it naturally changed my life significantly. Thinking back, who knows, maybe it even affected my growth. I will get back to this a little later in this story.

Those days, allergy was perceived among common people as a fixed genetic condition – you were either born with or without it. However, there were already talks in public about the increased use of antibacterial detergents and their possible link to the growing numbers of people suffering from allergy. The scientific theory was called the Hygiene hypothesis  or even Lost friends theory – sounds kind of sad, yet coming to to think of it from immune system balance perspective, it’s brilliantly self-explanatory.

Now, a couple a decades later, we have started to see even wider health implications around us caused by increased hygiene. All in all, it seems that in addition to allergy many autoimmune diseases, like IDB, Crohn’s, or even hypothyroidism are also drawn to the equation with convincing hard evidence to say that reduced biodiversity directly related to increased number of allergy and autoimmune problems. The theories suggest that with limited exposure to narrowing range of bacteria our immune system ends up being imbalanced, resulting in the system starting to work against itself.

Furthermore, we are not talking about physical matters alone. It has been discovered that getting a nice bacteria bath is good for your mental health too as it can both prevent but also cure people from depression. More precisely, the white lab coat people have figured out that microbes affect our brain by causing the immune cells to dump out cytokines that on their behalf stimulate nerves to cause certain neurons to release serotonin – a chemical involved with prefrontal cortex (part of our braing regulating mood among other things). Lack of serotonin is believed to cause depression. ..and this is only some parts what we know at the moment.

Sounds pretty profound, doesn’t it?

When it comes to conclusions and action, to me at least the solution is a beauty in its simplicity: go out and get into the nature! No pills, no magic bracelets, no exclusive and expensive treatment – just get get back to where our anchesters came from! If you need a more conceptualized treatment to cure you, have a shinrin-yoku (forest bathing in English!) as the Japanese call it. Really, forrest baths – how marvelous – you could not expect anything less from the zen thirsty Japanese! Don’t see dirt as something out from this world -it is an essential part of our ecosystem. Embrace it!

Personally, it has become increasingly important to spend time in the wild. This means getting lost for a few days in the sticks, like simple day trips of back country skiing  in Lapland (Yes, why would you get  yourself all the way up there to ski on tracks?)  Despite the physical strain involved being on the move for many consecutive days, I am charged with energy, determination, and just overall feel really inspired about life. I usually end up bringing back a lot of dirty laudry and a couple of fresh but lamentably still bad ideas.

For some time I was just fascinated and focused on why all the new ideas incubated in the nature. To put a finger on something for now, let’s just mention slow thinking and hypo transient state at this point. (These terms, maybe in the premise of innovation, deserve their own blog.) However, I have gradually started to paint in more holistic and less categorized or labelled picture and simply put I just feel good inside out because of more natural environment.

Without a doubt, food plays a significant role in our well being; we are what we eat. Getting your five a day should not be shocking news to anyone being able separate a carrot from a sausage, but still some people seem surprisingly alienated from fresh, unprocessed food.

There is however a great deal of controversial debate on different aspects of food. With media feeding our appetite to keeps things simple and above all convenient and easy, people drawn to resonate with the most extreme statements. With catchy headlines about bio, conservatives, gluten, sugar, raw, lactose, high protein, low calorie, some evolutionary approach or whatever, it’s not hard to start being a fanatic over a new miracle diet.

In fact with all this noise, it’s difficult to build solid and unquestionable understanding on food. Even if I consider myself to be a sensible person that believes is logical thinking, sometimes I find it hard to digest the established scientific truth. This is mainly because of the possible bias generated from money, power, and politics. If you need examples, look no further than the Finnish dairy co-op Valio and the milk propaganda they have been able to churn out for decades.

Furthermore, one challenge is also the limited amount of variables in a typical scientific study. This practical limitation enables studies to look at only fragments of the big picture. Finally, we are all individuals and we react differently to different things. There are high hopes regarding the last point on bio banks, but I don’t think I have heard them mention once since the financial crises started.

Still keeping our focus on food, my own personal guess is that we should get a little dirty in what we eat too. This means less processed food simply due to conservatives, but also the high temperatures being used to make sure the products stay “fresh” long enough to be picked up from the shelf.

In fact, the extreme temperatures reaching as much as 150 Celsius in food processing means that we humans are eating  dead food, totally wiped clean from microbes, no other animal with choice would even care to look at. Comically, it seems that domestic animal food has higher quality standards than what we people eat – have a look at the baby food for example that stays edible in room temperature for ages – now, I don’t know a single cat that would eat those and why would we? (If I ever have kids myself, maybe I will know better then.) Or don’t you find it disturbing that todays “fresh” milk doesn’t seem to go sour even in two weeks after the to-be-consumed-by date?

Sure, the dairy industry will tell you all about the necessity of pasteurization to kill all dangerous bacteria. Still, I personally don’t find it hard at all to believe that untreated milk, directly for a farm will give you a hefty shot of bacteria your immune system needs to stay balanced and even cure some with health issues. Sure, there is a risk of something that could take you to bed for a couple of days, but I would be at least willing to accept that.

Granted, we also have to give credit to mainstream science. Our life expectancy has been in steady incline, much thanks to mainstream nutrition research and development. In this mixed bag of conflicting outcomes, I guess you just have to find your own truth. One of my heros, Jack LaLanne, also know for his wisdom packed one-liners once said If it’s man made, don’t eat it.

Looks good, doesn't it? -maybe there is a good reason for that.
Looks good, doesn’t it? -maybe there is a good reason for that.

..oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you about what happened to my allergy: I got rid of all of it by persistently exposing myself to the allergens by myself (not advised for someone with really dangerous allergy symptoms!). Yes, it took some time and effort, but it was surely worth every single itching throat along the way. Who knows, maybe that one year when I rode motocross helped to give me that extra edge needed to curb my allergies? It’s not a coincidence, they are called dirt bikes, you know.

Coping with addiction

I am and addict. Please excuse me for saying this, but probably you are an addict too. In fact, compulsive engagement in rewards stimuli, despite adverse consequences is the “new” normal by looking  at how we are constantly being exposed to and suckers of falling into all kind of intentional dirty tricks, taking advantage of the fact that evolution of mankind has not been able to keep up with time. Be it sugar, alcohol, coffee, endorphin, gambling, sex, or just attention, there are plenty of good masters to be a slave for.

For a long time, I used to be ashamed of someone really close to me becoming work life drop out of an alcoholic. Just like people with weight problems, alcoholics are implicitly considered as weak, losers and failures that simply lack discipline to limit themselves from excess. All in all, I admit personally falling to this mental trap sometimes too. However, having spent hand full of my most recent years sober and observing the relation of my surroundings to alcohol, I don’t think it’s a question of simply weakness or lack of will power.

Moreover, on a typical social event with a bunch of friends –guys especially and when there is alcohol involved, it’s not hard to see that alcohol has a totally different effect on different people. While some sip their beers so that they get warm and flat, others pound in pints one after another with two hands. Some just cannot seem to get enough, no matter how obvious their intoxication gets (please notice the the word “toxic”). I think I used to be the latter one especially among my team mates, mostly because of my self-image –the one that could always do one more and push the limits a bit further. Not a good idea for a max 75kg bloke, size of a mosquito among ballers twice my size.

Indeed, the signature addiction of our Finnish nation expresses itself with unhealthy relation to alcohol. While I am not considering myself exactly Einstein pointing this out, but even with pretty  holistic coverage on for example culture, sociological, psychological and even genetic aspects, I think we are still missing something essential in the discussion – something that would give us a more balanced explanation.

With my kitchen anthropologist hat on, it seems somewhat logical to think that having to survive in tough or even hostile environment, the ones that survived best in our neck of woods, had to be able to use every single opportunity to stock up fast on resources. This basically meant that the ones having the strongest response to reward thrived, as they were most inclined for that little bit of extra, just in case. With our good ol’ Finnish winters back in the day that “in case” scenario probably took place more often than desired and evolution took care of the rest. Bearing this in mind, if you have stronger tendency to build addiction to sugar and alcohol (both contain a lot of energy) doesn’t mean nature made a mistake with you, but in fact you represent something what used to be fittest of the fittest – before the world flipped it’s course, that is. -but also, don’t use this as a “boys will always be boys” excuse. Please try to understand that the world has changed and we hardly going back to what it was.

On the other hand, some of the recent discoveries in treatment of serious addiction with for example muscle relaxants give a whole new insight to addiction. You know, it’s been said that heroin is basically a pain killer. Hence, no pain, no reward – and no addiction either for that matter. What is this pain then, that makes people addicted to something that sooths it? Is there a mental switch we could flip to another mode by manipulating the neurons of the brain and thereby stop the addiction?

On the other hand, I have personally always played with this idea, that what if alcoholics or narcotics are simply geniuses we others just cannot connect with? What if they just somehow feel profoundly misunderstood and alone in this world? What if that addictive substance might help them understand their surroundings and act in a way that rewards them – take positive social interaction as an example. The flip side of the coin is that people are also unintentionally cruel with their reactions to a change around them. A person trying to quit a bad habit becomes easily uninteresting and boring -maybe even a threat and gets pushed aside. We all want to be loved and feel a sense of belonging. The fear of being rejected might be a whole lot worse deal than coping with addiction and the strain that comes with it. Believe me, I know something about this.

With a bit of good in everything, addiction might also lead into something extraordinary and original. Thinking about it, passion, dedication, obsession, and addiction are basically the proceeding evolutionary steps of one another (not unconditional though) – the life-cycle of striving for the extraordinary. If you want to be the best in today’s world, you have to work hard for it. Addiction might help to keep you pushing just that little bit further than anyone else is willing to go. The problem however is that what are you going to do with your addiction when you have to downgrade and you have a totally blown out reward stimuli scale? This is a story we see with former top athletes time and again.

What is my addiction then? When it comes to substances, probably sugar, but that something I think I can control. The beast of addiction, I really need to watch out for, appears to be state of flow – you know, the state when you lose perception of time and self-awareness. In order to conquer this beast, I personally need to come to terms with not doing anything and encounter boredom. Other option is to keep dancing with it until the end. Only time will tell which one it is going to be. The fact that I want to live a long life but at the same time desperately seek ways to “worm hole” my time perception, is one of the biggest paradoxes of life.

WHAT IS YOUR ADDICTION?

Clouds on top of your legacy

During the recent years, the discussion around assets has mostly delved into banks and the toxic assets on balance sheets. Outside this debate, only a little to none discussion has been directed towards the business assets of companies in the middle of digital disruption. Now, companies in digital shock therapy, are finally but slowly waking up to self-reflect.

In more concrete terms, I bet a lot of companies are now asking themselves what are their 1980’s “CIM” manufacturing lines, their buildings, their stock, their office buildings, their IP rights, their knowledge and know-how, their IT systems, or their data worth currently? Naturally, it’s impossible to say accurately in general, but I am afraid for some it could be that they are worth a whole lot less than they think and can accept.

Taking another, maybe a bit more culture infused angle to company assets, we could boil down all these previously mentioned sources of potential (at least in their prime) to a term legacy. Despite some connotations of dynasty and continuum, in today’s digitally disrupted world however, the word legacy has started represent all that inertia that is keeping a company or even a country from being able face and embrace the challenges of a changing world.

Look at the new low cost airline operators and with flexible pricing (yes, you can actually book one way too! Greetings to the people at IATA ivory towers btw.). Look at relatively young independent nations like Estonia and their relative ease to deliver new and chic nationwide services, without that nonsense power clutter some other countries, like Finland have to deal with.

To be fair though, the new kids in the block, the progressive liberals -if they survive long enough- naturally seem to become conservatives too, as legacy gradually builds up through times. Taking Finland as an example -now a country trying to regain its economic stride in it’s own swampy marsh grounds (see etymology of fen, or Suomi,suomaa’ in Finnish)-, was once on of the first nations to have a national central bank (4th oldest to be exact) and have the once progressive unicameralism established in our country. In certain aspects time favors the new comer.

Something to take into consideration is also the fact that, a lot Davids take their chances on Goliath eventually missing their swing for the fences, but some make it and shake the foundations of the establishment.  With little or nothing to lose, one is also willing to take far bigger chances. High risk is associated with expectation of high yield etc.

We just got rid of about a 1000 of these fixed line phones. No scrap value what so ever. With all their characteristics, they might not be so far from some of your typical IT systems.
We just got rid of about a 1000 of these fixed line phones. No scrap value what so ever -even took one to bits for gold or whatever. With all their characteristics considered, they might not be so far from some of your typical IT systems.

Now, zooming back to more micro level questions, it is pretty well understood that for example modern day to day consumer electronics and technology, such as computers and mobile phones have a typical life span of two years. However, some assets tend to loose their value under the radar.

Master data is a good example of an asset with most overlooked risk of asset value depreciation, if not being treated properly to ensure the overall quality. (As a side mark, I am glad I had to work with data migration projects at some point of my life so I have at least some basic understanding how important it is to keep good care of your data). The good ol’ garbage in, garbage out -data quality mantra applies always and forever, be it on-premise or cloud, small or big data. Moreover, the bigger your garbage data, bigger the bias. Based on biased information, successful decisions are taken only by accident.

Data in fact, in the realm of digitalization, has been seen as the most important asset of a company in the future. As a matter of fact, you see this more and more already, having companies being evaluated, not by their 10x EBITDA -or whatever other more traditional evaluation method-, but just based on their customer data or user base. Other than data, everything else comes and goes (at least it should) with services in cloud. Just be sure you add explicit rights to your proprietary data signing your cloud service contracts!

Furthermore, It’s not like there is not enough talk about IT driving the digital change and more specifically about the impact of the transition to cloud IT services (for internal IT especially), but I think some people and even our leaders still fail to understand (-or are unwilling to react?) both the depth and the width of the change lurking in the horizon.

Looking at maybe the single most important asset of the company, the people, it’s worth stopping for a minute to think about what could be a logical outcome of cloud services on internal IT.  The pessimist I am, I see cloud services as the “2nd wave of outsourcing” breaking through the bulwark built behind the IT front desk. To spell this out properly: no more infrastructure, no more admins etc. – even solution developers might have to adjust and shift towards business and adapt more of a business broker role.

The “1st wave of outsourcing” on the other hand, that overtook IT front desks, is also coming back in, but this time with robotization ripping the tide like the legendary surfer Kelly Slater on his best days. However, let’s just keep further robotization considerations on hold for another dedicated blog of its own.

Driving the transition from on-premise to cloud is the flexibility and the scalability that cloud has to offer. Cloud services hold the promise of an ability for the business to act quick on a change in such manner, internal IT could only dream about high on Volt cola. Additionally, to pamper the CFO of the company, there is also the capex vs. opex angle.

Naturally, all good things come at a price. With cloud services, one of the obvious drawbacks is the strict limitations on customization. Looking at your room to play in general, at tops you can probably get some kind of additional service layer to make your mark on solution development, but once again this naturally adds additional layers of complexity to your solution. Having seen plenty of system implementation projects, especially during my systems integration consultant days, I’m more that willing to accept the trade off of less customized solution. The business on their behalf might disagree and that is partly the cause of the problem at hand.

In general, coming from more customized solution world, does this mean redesigning your processes and reshaping the organization structure to appropriate extent on the side? – most probably it does. Of course some some specific core solutions of a company will never leave the company premises.

While organization structure stir up caused by the radical redesign of processes is not necessary what all the employees want to hear, as it is natural to resist the uncertainty in change (people do not resist the change itself!), the good thing about this scenario for your company might be that you have a good catalyst for a fresh start. Also, changing culture takes time and huge amount of effort, so you might as well start working on it today. Start small and dream big.

Free yourself from being a slave to your own legacy!

Bored ..to death?

Roughly about a year ago, I went to see a play based on Anton Tsehov’s Uncle Vanya. As you would expect from a good play and a mind boggling story, it gives you a new perspective on things and you get to wear a new mind set or fresh look on life – even for a brief moment. I guess on a higher level, this particular story kind of made me feel comfortably insignificant – that life is not that much about me after all!

Consequently, the more specific theme that stuck with me for a good while after the play, was the universal struggle of people trying to avoid not being bored and wasting their life in vain. On the other hand, did it really take me this long to realize that boredom is not a new concept, coined in the 80’s together with the launch Nintendo NES? Looking a little closer to it to understand the true purpose for the feeling, people might have been bored long before it was conceptualized anywhere close to be explained in a standard elevator pitch.

But what is “being bored” exactly then? Some definitions talk about a reasonable level of psychological energy without an appropriate object of devotion.. Sounds boring in a complicated way, doesn’t it? Maybe other way to put it in more simple terms, would be that your mind basically raises a flag on wasting your time on something less important that does not for example increasing your chances of survival. Curiously however, the lack of psychological energy and arousing stimulus from environment equals relaxation.

By stopping to think that last sentence for a brief moment, honest to Mom, I have never intentionally wanted to relax in the most obvious ways, like go lying down somewhere and doing nothing. While writing this peace, I realize, it has never even occurred to my mind that I would like or need to chillax. Maybe there is always that psychological energy or I am always aroused by my environment? Who knows, maybe the response to reward is too high for me to win the alleged euphoria of unwinding? Ok, enough about me. I bet this is boring enough already.

When it comes us people in general and when the discussion targets the infamous millennials, or any given last-in-the-alphabet-generation for that matter, the establishment in charge tends to see them in a light of good-for-nothing, ill-mannered, unmotivated, unskilled and bored bunch of people, grown physically attached to their mobile phone.

Nevertheless, there are obviously other takes on the future generations too, as some futurists and work evangelists claim the new generations becoming many times more productive what we could ever dream to be. Who knows, what is going to happen finally, but I am hoping on the latter scenario – even if some of my interest are being dictated by the fact that I am closer to 50 than 20 by my age and I love my excel. I simply want to see this world become a better place.

It might be also worth pointing out that the conservative establishment has always been worried about the next generation and in the end, the kids have turned out alright just to worry about the next ones while being in charge with equally conservative spirit. Sticking with the perception of younger generation being bored over excel sheets, what if they are eventually onto something real and true? Who knows, maybe we should be really doing something else than trying hard day after day to frown at a display, churning out reports, and writing papers no one cares to read unless being forced to?

On the other hand, I don’t think it is entirely bad for kids to get bored sometimes. For example, being bored teaches you to be resourceful. Thinking back about the times, I was a kid, we were never bored – except when being forced to stay put for a while and concentrate on something totally uninteresting.

No doubt, it’s also good to learn some patience and perseverance growing up and not just bath in a stream of endorphin of instant reward. Looking at the famous Pisa report results, simply too many of the boys nowadays seem to be struggling with the difficulty of longer return on investment and they are falling behind in school being compared to girls their age. Having said that, let it be known that I am not blaming the girls for being so good at school -on the contrary. The girls should be proud of how good they are doing and never think anything less of themselves than how brilliant they are with what ever they do.

In the end, reaching the latter phases of our life-cycle, our deteriorating physical and mental state seems to make us more boring for others. Or why else would all those elderly people be so lonely? I hope I will not be unbearably boring to my surroundings when I cannot control myself anymore. I believe this is something I need to start working on already now making myself genuinely more positive.

Who wants to spend any time with a grumpy and judging old man possibly poisoned by his strain, and who just constantly complains about absolutely everything or reminds repeatedly everyone how good it was when we still used fossil fuels in an unsustainable matter?

Not me at least, but wait and see until we get to that age.

All in all, even with possibility of decisive subjective bias, I dare to say that business has gotten more and more boring over the years. Undoubtedly it has got something to do with the current depressive social climate,  but also I think we are nowadays more into reasonable yet depressive management of existing realities than managing bravely the non-existent; a vision or a dream.

Without a doubt, many milestone achievements like the Concorde or the opera house of Sydney were epic failures in terms of project management, but you simply cannot associate boredom with them (Yes, opera itself is a matter of opinion, but I am not talking about that now!), that is for sure. Imagine the world without the totally out of the scale space programs of NASA for instance. No thank you. Thank goodness space programs were and are not funded straight from my pocket though.

Buzz Lightyear
Space – an endless source for dreams. Boring as hell on paper though.

Finally, it’s difficult to say what the purpose of life exactly is, but maybe we can narrow down the possibilities by saying what it is not. Boredom is probably a strong candidate for things to avoid (even with the paradox of perception of time in state of flow). Just pure survival in mind, being bored can be unhealthy to us via apathy that causes similar stress reaction than a system overflow. Thereby being bored to death doesn’t seem so exaggerating after all!

Thank you for reading! I hope I didn’t bore you.

Gear up your sales

There I was once again, wiggling around with caution on a tight seating arrangement, trying to set up my temporary office for the day at Digital Business Day 2016 event, as a video with short looped yeah-the-future-is-here score invited and supported an attempt of pompous entry for the keynote speaker. I missed most of it, probably fiddling with power my cables, wifi and/or god knows what. People applauded, I guess.

Head still down, trying to send away something utterly important (sarcasm), a sentence penetrates all the obstacles of distraction:

“All my life I have been fucking up industries”.

Ok, I don’t know if you can say that, but you surely got my attention. What next?

“Boy, I have failed dramatically”

The major fan of failed attempts that I am, this statement resonated so deeply with me that I decided to put the endless email limbo on a pause for a while. -as if it would ever end anyhow.

The keynote was titled Gearing up your sales – how to create a winning culture, and in charge of the delivery side was Jonas Kjellberg, a serial entrepreneur with a tall feather in his hat from being involved creating Skype, a heavy weight guest speaker, and lecturer at Stanford and Stockholm School of Economics. Like Hans Rosling (most of you have probably seen him on TED) the sizable Swede was blasting away with excitement and quite remarkably able to get a one or two people from the audience to actually participate -not bad! ..being in Finland among Finns and all, that is.
Having had his daily portion of mocking the established academia and the usability of the most common business models they teach and after explaining how he once played along nicely with “the typical business bullshit” until realizing he was totally lost as a fresh CEO of a company: how do I get customers? Yes, this is what people tend to forget once too many times every now and then: no matter what (business) you do, there is always -or at least should be- a customer.
Flabbergasted by losing his once so beautiful playbook and in despair, he ended up reaching out for help and ending up familiarizing himself with the phrase “100 knack, 10 snack, 1 tack” know to apparently all door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen in Sweden. Getting down and dirty he realized that the formula worked, but the problem was the time being spent going physically from door to door but also even if he had people calling. He needed to increase frequency to get better results and so he did with a marvelous innovation putting computers to do the work for him.
Increasing sales frequency one way or another was one of the winning formula also in many of his latter success stories. Other important ingredient was the ability to utilize the resources that didn’t belong to you (“innovating from 0”) as in Skype’s case. Hearing about how our idle computers were way back when being used as super nodes for the network, made me realize how cunning and daring you have to be sometimes to make it. Yeah, Uber, AirBnB..  (*yawn*) no need to go there this time.

Along the way, competing against Google with Lycos in his sales oriented battle gear however, this was not the case anymore. Content was the new king. Additionally the customers were looking to have their content to be served with proper efficiency plus functionality and sugar coated with delight. Yes, delight!

Too many a times as a customer you are being offered in Finland something that most possibly lacks efficiency and functionality, but even if the ground work is done properly, the delight is missing. Unfortunately too many public sector services fail in all three of the previously mentioned; take Finnish Customs as an example for instance.

Skimming through a handful of success stories (yes Ikea too) the some things-are-not-really-what-they-appear-to-be -points were made (eg. Zalando is really a tech company) etc the session draw to a close with the three final questions:

What? (..are you selling?)

Who? (..are you selling it to?)

Why? (..are you selling?)

Answering these simple questions might not always be so simple.

Thank you Jonas for the injection of inspiration!

REFLECTIONS ON LATEST PHOTO SHOOTS

 finally got around -partly because of lack of better options- to open my vlogging space.

Just to keep the expectations low enough, just about everything went wrong with the video shoot:

  • the focus was off
  • the topic was not the easiest to cover (the unfamiliar terminology, coining the findings etc.)
  • eventually also the battery went flat on me just as I was starting to wrap things up.

After draining the battery, it started to rain so the window of opportunity was closed. At least it cannot get any worse than this!

..btw -haha-, I got also a threatened of getting shot because of trespassing even if it’s a public space.

Finland, I know our chips are down, but really?

..anyhow, grab your pop corns and enjoy the show:

Below you can get a bit of taste of both of the assignments mentioned in the video above.

Thumbnails on some family shots
Thumbnails on some family shots
Insplan mugshots
Insplan mugshots

Winning? Garbage more likely? I would love to hear your comments!

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