Random thoughts on things that are half connected to the way I think about HR, L&D, Management, Leadership, business and the world…. and the world of business and the business of the world – a blog by David D'Souza (@dds180)
It was my daughter’s birthday at the weekend. Two things happened which made me reflect on the nature of playing games.
The first was that Kate Griffiths-Lambeth gave my daughter a game, it was actually a Christmas present, but I wanted my daughter to open it early. The game was one that I’ve never seen before and is designed, at its core, to increase collaboration. It says that on the box. Kate said it was one of her favourites as a child.
I’ve worked alongside Kate for the past few months and had a chance to observe Kate in action. Collaboration, help, support, team – I smiled when I saw the game – as it was exactly the kind of thing you would have expected to see Kate play as a child.
I wonder how much impact what we play as children has on how we behave when we are older. We are now starting to appreciate the power of the systems of games as tools in the workplace.
How much of a difference does what we play in our formative years make?
Did the individuals behind the banking crisis play Monopoly with their pals and delight in everyone else going bankrupt? Maybe rig the card deck so that they always got out of jail free?
Are the top surgeons in the country the individuals who just kept on playing Operation long after everyone else had finished? When the batteries died they wouldn’t rest until they could test their steady hands again?
Are our best structural engineers the best Jenga players?
I was addicted to Trivial Pursuit as a child. All I wanted to do was test myself against the adults. If somebody wanted me on their team on Trivial Pursuit then I got to stay up late . My freakish capability at Trivial Pursuit at a young age became something for my family to show off when people came over. That stimulated me to read more and get even better. In the end we used to play all of my family against me to make it fair. If you keep doing things you keep good at them. There was nothing special about me, it wasn’t about me being smart or making claims about my ability. It was about what Matthew Syed describes as ‘purposeful practice’.
Believe you can get better, approach learning in a controlled way and test yourself. Trivial Pursuit allowed me/encouraged me to do this. I was a product of that environment.
So, what lessons is my daughter learning? Well, at the weekend she had a birthday party. We had a game of pass the parcel and my wife and I fouled up. A real parenting low point. My daughter waited for all of the other children to receive presents and then there was nothing left for her. Her bottom lip quivered but she kept it together.
I can imagine the moment being played back as part of an interview on a chat show when she is older.
‘I’m sure my parents did love me, but one of my first memories is being the only child not to receive a present in pass the parcel – at my own party’.
Plenty of other parents came up to us to say that their child would have thrown a tantrum. We are lucky we don’t have one of those children.
Doug Shaw suggested that it was a genuine life lesson for her. He may be right, but it isn’t one that I had planned. Maybe I should have. The Marshmallow Test is a fantastic example of understanding the importance of self control and more and more work on the importance of ‘grit’ to success is being produced.
Maybe I should be planning more life lessons through games for her. Or maybe if I really want her to help others I should just dust off Operation?
People play games every day. We tend to view people in the office who ‘play games’ as a bad thing. It suggests engineering a result for them, using other people as pawns. It is worth remembering there are more positive results available if you play nicely with others. Same is true for Social Media, same is true for life.
(written on the train, may have multiple errors, all apologies)
I grew up in a house surrounded by books. To remove any ambiguity in that sentence, the books were inside the house – I didn’t grow up in a house surrounded by a big wall of books around to keep us in.
Freakonomics references a great piece of research about parenting and the importance of books. It suggests that having books in the home isn’t important, but a large number of books in the home does indicate a number of other things about the parents that will influence the success/testing scores of the child. My parents were intelligent, middle class and my mother was a School Governor – the big data got a slam dunk with my family. They valued education – I value learning. If I liked an author I would just read everything they wrote, in a row. I can read an average length book in a day and that allows me to keep swallowing more info. Now I have 5-6 business books on the go at any time that I flick between to keep my brain active together with judicious use of Flipboard and… well, Twitter. I like reading.
My mother is passing a lot of things she has lovingly kept for years in the loft onto my brother and me. Photo albums, family records etc. It turns out that she kept all of my reading logs from when I was younger, showing exactly what I read and when.
During the summer holidays, after I had just turned 10 years old. I worked through
10 James Bond books
The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit
a number of books of myths and legends
several books on Welsh rugby
Reading Jaws had such an impact on me that I still won’t go swimming in the ocean. Perhaps I should have read this less threatening version in the style of Peanuts.
The first Bond book I read was Casino Royale. On reflection I’m not sure I should have been reading a book, at 10 years old, containing a summary of a torture routine that involves testicles being pummelled with a carpet beater. I’m still scared of carpet beaters now. I’m a little bit scared of carpets.
Here are some thoughts on what James Bond can teach us about people and business
gadgets give you an edge – far less prevalent in the books, but a mainstay in the films, is the theme that technology can give you an unexpected advantage. It can disrupt, it can blindside, it can disorientate. Those who know about it and embrace its use have the upper hand. The next few years will see the influence of this extend even more.
times change –attitudes to race, smoking, women and nationality have all evolved since the first Bond books and movies. A story is always of that time – they are rarely timeless. Things change, times change, we change.
people fail –there is a feeling that James Bond always wins – but best friend murdered (License to Kill), betrayed by colleague (Goldeneye), wife murdered (OHMSS), boss murdered (Skyfall, sorry) and (in the latest update of the film series) love of his life murdered (Casino Royale) – would suggest that some important losses are being glossed over. Winning is rarely smooth and whether a sacrifice was worth it really depends on your point of view. Our hero keeps going – but he isn’t exactly a chap you would want to be near. He fails too big and too often with significant consequences for those close to him. Ask yourself if your big career wins would be described in the same way by colleagues.
more isn’t always more –as the films became more elaborate and larger scale they lost an important sense of identity. Surfing tidal waves and driving invisible cars made Bond harder to relate to. It helps to let the people around you see that you are a real person. I once had a team member tell me that ‘it’s alright for you boss, you don’t make mistakes’. Which showed that I’d made a very big mistake of not letting them know all the times I’d had to fail to eventually end up as competent. I was coming across as dictating solutions, I needed to share the fact that I was sharing my experience of multiple and regular failure.
purpose and capability beats supervision –you’ll notice, if you follow the films or books, that Bond doesn’t constantly have to send status updates to M whilst in the field. He also doesn’t stop midfight to get sign off for his next punch. He is trusted to do a job. If you believe your people will do the right thing then given them the support they need and the space to do it.
sometimes you need to be clinical – the film Casino Royale started with Bond’s first kill. Messy, brutal, punishing and face to face. You need to be able to do that if you want the lifestyle that comes with the job. Please note: I’m talking about the spirit of being clinical, I’m not urging HR professionals to start garrotting people in toilets. We have Performance Reviews that can cause just as much damage.
best is subjective – I’m a Connery and Dalton fan. You might not be. Different people have different choices. our choices reflect us and what we care about. People choose to do things in different ways. Emotivism is where you say ‘Connery is my favourite’. Prescriptivism is where you say ‘if you don’t think Connery is the best then I you just don’t get it’.
Try and prescribe less and judge less. Sometimes you need to – but remember you can’t value diversity and believe everyone should think in the same way as you.
For those of you who remember Hartbeat (not the one with Nick Berry), the star turn was undoubtedly Morph. He went onto to greater prominence during the hugely successful ‘Mighty Morph in Power Rangers’ series. However, as I remember him he was a small man made of plasticine. He was pretty much the scene stealer in a show which was all about teaching children about art.
Here are some reflections on Morph and Hartbeat wedged into the form of business lessons
i) it is possible to recreate yourself. You can do it a number of times. You can change into things that may be more useful for your new situation – but always remember that anybody who sees the change will always remember what you were before and be waiting for you to return to that state.
ii) Emotions matter – not just words. Morph could barely speak, but you knew whether he was happy/sad/frustrated. With the advent of ‘big data’ it is more and more tempting to reduce people to numbers and lose sight of the humanity. Even if you can reduce them to numbers on a sheet it doesn’t change the fact that, if you want to retain a conscience, you should only ever make decisions if you could/would deliver them face to face and deal with the consequences.
iii) Seeing your own work showcased has a massive impact – studies have shown ignoring work has the same impact as shredding it in front of the people who created it. Tony Hart, the presenter, used to do his work in a studio surrounded by the pictures sent in to him by children. Sections of the show would be dedicated to a montage of efforts by viewers called ‘The Gallery’. If you want people to feel valued then showcase their work, out their efforts at the heart of what you produce. If you want to operate as a team then it always has to be about the team – not just when you want it to be. Why do organistions have silos? Because the silo is the other department’s fault…
iv) creativity matters, growth is possible – I can’t draw, I can’t paint, I blurt (rather than write). I wish I could do any of these better. I am bloody awesome at writing things unintelligibly on a whiteboard. After reading Bounce by Matthew Syed I’m now pretty sure I could learn to draw or paint better if I wanted to. If you haven’t read it then grab a copy over Christmas and your ambitions for next year might become more varied and possible.
v) change is coming – since the time of Hartbeat the world has changed immensely. I backed my first two Kickstarter projects last week, including this one to indulge my passion for rubbish scrawling on whiteboards. A new series of Morph starts filming next year after 1700 people backed a Kickstarter project to bring him back. The things of our childhood resurrected as indulgences of our adulthood.
The more things morph, the more they stay the same.
On Tuesday evening I thought it was about time we started thinking about the second book in the Humane, Resourced series. I’m a little bit impetuous, so I sent out an unthinking tweet and suddenly the juggernaut was in motion again.
48 hours later we have 50 authors signed up and a new cover by Simon Heath.
I want to make the process as easy as possible for people so I’m creating this as a landing page – then I’ll add links to updates and information from here.
Where to enter details if you want to take part – click here
For reviews and information on the first book – click here
To buy the first book – if you’re submitting to the sequel you really should – click here
Where and how to submit your blog – coming soon
What is this all about?
In July 2013 I resolved to publish a crowdsourced book on HR/OD/Business to showcase the work of bloggers or anyone interested. It turned out to be an idea that really caught on, to the degree that it makes sense to do a sequel. We made bestseller lists and people were really positive about the project and the output. We had real support from both the HR and Business community – and a really positive reception from people like Charles Handy and Dan Pink who I spoke to about the book, even when they didn’t want to and were obviously attempting to walk away from me.
What is different this time? How will we do even better?
The success of last time caught me completely off guard. This time we will do some things differently as the process ‘grows up’. For starters I will communicate via an email list rather than a mass tweet each week, please do share and reshare tweets though.
I will also be attempting to use Google+ and LinkedIn more – as shares on that will help us reach an audience we didn’t before. If people could share with people not on Social Media as well that would really help us break out. Someone suggested you give me Klout points – I have no idea if that helps anything. Please do connect with me on LinkedIn though.
I welcome help and support on the PR side – as that rather fell into place after publication last time. If you can help through contacts in arranging reviews/interviews/features then, for this project alone, I am a complete media floozy.
So who are the authors?
For the first edition there was no vetting procedure. If you wrote then you got in. That was on purpose, I could have gone with smaller and more highly edited and still had more than enough for a book. I’d like to keep the same principle for the second volume, but if you think we should do it differently then please let me know in the comments section or contact me directly. Please do keep encouraging other people to join in – this is a community project, communities grow by looking outwards, not by talking about how great they are amongst themselves.
I would love to have more authors from the US – for two reasons i) it extends the reach of the book ii) we are missing out on so many good writers
What are the topics? What are the rules?
Write about what you are passionate about – as long as it relates to work that is fine. What I would like to see more of would be case studies and examples to back up more general points. And don’t be afraid to tell a story – stories really work.
You can submit more than one blog, it doesn’t have to be new for the book, if you submitted for the last book I’d be delighted to have you submit again.
Are you affiliated with the CIPD?
No, to be honest I’m not even a member. The CEO, Peter Cheese, generously wrote the foreword for the last book and the CIPD were hugely supportive in publicising it – but this is not a CIPD publication and you can be as challenging and maverick as you like.
So you don’t make any money from the sale of the books?
No – if you are contributing then please let me know if there is a charity you’d like to support and when we find out people’s preferences that will be where the money goes. I hope to release a book next year that makes money for me, but it won’t be in this series and will be clearly differentiated. The ‘brand’ for this series of books will only be used for charity as long as they are being produced.
There is an upside for me in that I’m suddenly ‘the book guy’ – which seems to make me more employable, but anyone who saw the haphazard way the first book was put together will confirm this couldn’t have been part of a sane person’s career strategy.
What do I do if I have a question?
Tweet me or email me. You might not get an immediate response but if you don’t get one after 24 hours then just tweet or email me more aggressively and I’ll send you a response AND a grovelling apology.
This year a group of HR and business bloggers came together and published a book called Humane, Resourced. It went on to become a #1 Bestselling HR book on Amazon in the UK and did well in the US too. You can read more about the success and some reviews here.
I really enjoyed the chance to showcase other people’s work and I want to do the same again next year. So, here we go – a chance to be part of a best selling business book.
The brief – it’s open to all, I keep editorial control to a minimum, I make things up as we go along, it’s all for charity. I’ll publish a more detailed FAQ but essentially you write about something work or business related you are passionate about, it is that simple.
Helpful things for you to do: ask questions, publicise the book and share my updates – use your contacts and all your social networks, get your work in as quickly as possible to help me balance my workload, volunteer to help with stuff (this year the cover and all of the editing were done by volunteers), fill in your details below – even if you have tweeted me already, pay money into my bank account each month
Unhelpful things for you to do: think you are busier than me – I’ll be dealing with 50 sets of queries so please try and solve things yourself if you can, chase me for updates – I’ll update whenever I can (promise), write using a really odd font that doesn’t play well with WordPress, use pictures that are subject to copyright, use video if you want to be in a print version
What would be brilliantly awesome would be you adding your name and details on the below document (if you want to take part) and suggesting any ideas you have to make things even better. Welcome aboard, let’s do cool stuff together.