Introduction

What I am writing here is based on my own experience and what I observed and learned. It is my point of view and it makes sense to me. It has worked for me and is still working for me. It remains being your responsibility to do your own critical thinking, don’t just believe.

And that is exactly my intention: making you think for yourself.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Flow: Leading Oneself

Today it's going to be a different post. A post written being in the flow. In my flow. Usually, the posts I am writing here are short. This one is longer. Personal and about leading oneself the way I experience it.
This thing called life has its ways to teach us. It certainly taught me some lessons.
Early on in my life people told me to be in the flow. "Life is easier that way" they said. Yet, when I asked what exactly they meant by that I got the blank look. Some came up with some ambiguous answers. Others were explaining that it was something like fitting in, being part of whatever that was.
With my free and independent spirit I decided that this concept was too foreign. Well, to be honest, I thought it was plain old bullshit.
During my teenage years I was always a troublemaker. I never just believed. I wanted evidence. Arbitrary rules didn't work for me and still don't. I am the proverbial rule breaker. When I came across a Malcolm X speech I listened up: "Power is never given. Power is taken." he said. Now that resonated with me. Exactly.
The day came and my mother said to me "You are not in the flow. Don't be such a rebel." "Here we go again!" I thought. Yet my dad just smiled.
Interesting enough my friends always looked at me first when it came to play something. And so did my classmates at school. Later, the same happened with colleagues at work. I never asked for it. It was their idea to see me as their leader. And sometimes I wondered why. I was simply myself living my life. What was the big deal?
During my corporate life it was no different. I had all sorts of leadership positions. And there was one common denominator for all these positions: I could do it my way. I think for myself, doing my own critical thinking. Which is the way I live. It was not particularly healthy as a career strategy in a corporation though. But I had the most difficult, most challenging tasks. Exactly what I wanted and loved. And I was successful. And many people wanted to join my rather small teams. Hence, I could always pick the best ones.
I was and still am also a risk taker. Mountain climbing was first. Then, later, I added skydiving and scuba diving. And nature taught me the lessons of leadership. Going beyond my perceived limits drives me. Yet, it's a calculated risk. I train for it. I know what I am doing. And I understand the risk and its possible consequences.
But there was something inside me bugging me. And I felt like critical mass was building up. I was done with corporate. And I quit. Another risk taken. But free at last.
I took some time here in CA for myself. It was needed. I immersed myself into fields like philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and into my favorite: physics. Through physics I understand my world. Physics fascinated me from an early age on.
During these years I finally understood that I was always in the flow and I still am. I am in my flow. There were times when I had lost my path and ended up in a different flow: other people's flow. And you feel that something is wrong. It's like an electric current going through a conductor of high resistance. It doesn't work well that way. You feel the pain. And it gets you back to your flow provided you are self aware and pay attention.
I also understood this concept of being the master of my life. I see it more like the architect of my life. You can plan and build it any way you want it. Yet, there are principles in this complex world you must observe. There are the many things you cannot control. Uncertainty rules. Severe situations you can only endure. And those will show you the material you are made of. Character building events.
And it's never easy. I can't do easy anyway. Easy is boring. To me until now it was a rewarding experience. What made it rewarding were the people I met and got close to. Remarkable people I had and still have profound relationships with. Others took a different path and we lost contact. New people came into my life. And when I least expected it this one special person appeared. The one bringing out the best of you. The one you want to never ever miss in your life. More than just a soulmate. Remarkable people and remarkable experiences. People accepting me the way I am and viceversa. Well, that's the only way with me. That's what made and makes my life so rewarding.
I never thought of myself as a leader. I did and do my thing. I live my life. I do it my way. And I am in my flow. I don’t follow a different drummer. I am the drummer. No matter how difficult that might appear to others. Yet, for some reason there were always people choosing to follow me. And I feel deeply honored by that.
I think that's what leadership is about. Being authentic. Being the way you are. Being who you are. Being in your flow. Hence, my story above. When people then choose to follow you, you are a leader.
Stay in your flow. Always. Sometimes it's a peaceful stream, and sometimes it's the wildest river you can imagine. It's peaceful when you follow your path, your dreams ... it's wild and raging when you leave your path.
That’s what leading oneself is about.
Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lost in Translation: Cocreation and Cooperation on a Global Scale

People keep telling me how easy it is with technology to cocreate and cooperate on a global scale. People keep telling me that groups can get together online around a problem awaiting solution. That it happens naturally. People keep telling me that leadership is no longer required in such an environment. Anybody can and will lead.
People keep telling me many things … it’s astounding how naïve people are …
Take the real world for instance. It’s already hard and challenging to cooperate and cocreate in familiar settings. In small groups with similar cultural backgrounds. On a global scale, and involving different cultures and languages, it can become mission impossible.
Now add to this the challenges of the virtual network. And up a notch. Take the leader out of the equation. Everyone leads now. And voilà, here you go: excitement meets confusion. Eagerness meets incompetence. A recipe for disaster.
Trust me: you need a leader to make it work. And it can work. Yet, don’t ever underestimate the complexity. Human beings by definition are complex. And each one is different.
I have worked with many diverse teams. Teams with different cultural backgrounds. And of course with a gender mix of 50 : 50. The first thing I made sure was that I had A-players in the teams. The best I could find. And it’s not always easy in a large corporation to find them. They hide often in unexpected places.
The language barrier is formidable. You understand a different culture by mastering the their language and living there for a while. The agreed upon language for our teams was English. That doesn’t mean now that there was a common understanding. Even the Englishman in the group lectured the American that they (the Americans) were speaking a dialect and not real English. At least that was good for a laughter. But it illustrates the difficulties. And then there were some passionate Mexicans. Thin-skinned and with a more explosive character. Plus the usual behavior of males and females. Add to the mix me and a couple of other Germans. The proverbial definition of volatility.
Communication is an art. Mastering that art is the key to lead such a diverse team. Hence, I realized that we had to spend time together outside the office. A considerable amount of time. And we did. To the dismay of some controllers. There are always some bureaucrats in the way who don’t get it. Fuggem.
We met in Germany, in the US, and in Mexico. And I made sure that we would have some fun and unforgettable experiences. Exposing each one to the different cultures. And we also worked during these offsites. Trust was built that way. Mutual trust. It’s not easy to do in the real world. And it’s even more difficult in virtual environments.
So, yes it is possible to cocreate and cooperate on a global scale and be successful. Yet, meeting only virtually is not good enough. Overcoming cultural differences and biases is even harder. Plus the gender issues. Even in highly developed countries.
Why is it so hard? Because we are adults screwed up and conditioned by education and society.
Take some little kids. Five year olds for instance. From different countries. Put them together. Expose them to something new. A challenge. And then watch how they approach the problem. They speak different languages. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t take long and a leader emerges. And their natural curiosity gets them going. Going together. They have no issues. Let alone the strange issues adults have. Kids indeed do that naturally. They thrive doing it.
And then watch the miracles happening and learn.
That’s where leadership begins: Creating the environment where kids can cooperate and cocreate. It requires disrupting education as we know it. It requires disrupting society as we know it.
That’s where leadership begins. The technology we have. The leadership we lack.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ivory towers and spaceships

The ivory tower, this special place that a strange species calls home. A species, that developed the highest degree of resistance against any kind of advice. Immune to knowledge. Unclouded by expertise. The place, where a different game of thrones is the entertainment. The place where legends are born. Legends of prosperity and success.
Here’s the definition of legend for you:
A story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true.
The ivory tower. Home of the elite. Also known as the spaceship.
They like to think of themselves as leaders. Yet, they are never getting close to their teams. Indulging in busyness believing it’s productivity. Doing what’s interesting to them. But never engaging in what’s relevant for their organization. Always hard to reach. Despite their smartphones, iPads, laptops. Especially when they should take on responsibility. Disconnected in a connected world. Weightless.
Of course, that’s an overstatement. It happens only in a few organization and companies. Right? Of course.
Does this sound familiar:
Being there alone, the team is waiting. Thoroughly checked, the project ready, Waiting for the go, “Are you sure?” some experts argue. And the team is not convinced. But the countdown runs.

Disconnected from the basis floats the spaceship weightlessly.

Effectiveness dictates the action. Blindly relying that it might work. Each one is knowing what’s at stake. “Get me a drink” the leader jokes. And then he is taking off.

Disconnected from the basis floats the spaceship weightlessly.

“Resistance overcome. All works perfect. Scientific facts, why would one need them?”
and the leader smiles. Controllers in total panic. Course of the project, completely wrong. “Hello leader, can you hear me? Do you intent to kill the mission?” Yet he cannot hear.
He keeps floating. -

Disconnected from the basis floats the spaceship weightlessly.

Frustration everywhere, blaming begins. Customers angry. Money lost. And the leader thinks: “If they would know the light that guides me. I do not care about this mess.” But they do not know.

Disconnected from the basis floats the spaceship weightlessly.

(Thanks for the inspiration go to Peter Schilling - http://goo.gl/I0ve4Z )

Ivory towers, spaceships, exist in traditional organizations and also in modern ones. And in Governments. It comes down to how human beings are wired. It’s human behavior creating those. It also speaks loud and clear of the complete absence of critical thinking. As long as this is the case, the pain goes on. Obviously, the pain is still not big enough.
It takes two to tango.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Augmented Delusion: The Crude Reality of Virtual Social Networks

Before you start reading: did you already update your status in your virtual social network? Still married? Dumped your boyfriend? More complicated? And don’t forget to tell us that the light in the restroom is still turned on.
The crude reality of virtual social networks.
People are busy with the trivia of their otherwise boring lives. Yet, now they can share it with the world. Thanks God for caturday!
Most of the tweets in Twitter are utterly useless. Plain dumb bullshit sent brainlessly out to the world. And why should it be different? It’s just like the majority of phone calls and, worse, texting. And Facebook is no better. Or, Google plus. An incredible waste of bandwidth.
And of course, most of that senseless empty traffic happens on mobile. Why is a smartphone called a smartphone? Because it has often more brainpower installed than its user. As seen in the valley: a young girl walking into a light pole while texting … there is only so much a brain pacemaker can do.
Meanwhile in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan a taliban is looking at the screen of his smartphone in utter disbelief.  And suddenly he doesn’t feel so stupid anymore.
What’s astounding is how uncritical many leaders of organizations and corporations are. The hype is everywhere: virtual social networks are changing the way people cooperate. Connections are spreading all over the globe. Information can be exchanged in real time. What information? Not everything shared is information. And not every important information is shared. And privacy? What privacy?
Cocreation and cooperation could reach levels never before achieved. Excitement all over the place. They already see possibilities we never had before. Technology is the king they are bowing to. Limitlessness. Whatever we want technology can do. And Virtual Social Networks are the instruments of this beautiful new world. And it’s true from a technology standpoint.
And above and beyond I am told that now everyone can lead. What a joke. Not going to happen! Never ever! Well, they might be even right given the existing leadership. I don’t know what’s more frightening: the augmented delusion of leaders, or, the complete absence of critical thinking. Both go hand in hand. When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.
Here’s the upside: People are joining in massive numbers. They willingly share everything about themselves. Even that, which they would never dare to share with anyone in the real world. Everyone happy it seems.
Now the downside: People on virtual social networks are the same of the real world. The other day I came across a statistic about virtual social networks: 80% of people following are lurkers. 15% post something from time to time. 5% are active sharing valuable information. No different from the real world.
Yet, there is one group of leaders understanding it. The providers of these virtual social networks. It serves them to gather intel about all these users. Making sense of the big data using it for their purpose. Monitoring every step of its users. Even able to predict their next moves. And they can flood them with meaningless ads. With that they make some serious money.
And there is another group of leaders. Spy agencies of all the governments. They are eternally grateful. They have even stated that in public. The majority of people share all their information so naively.
All that leads to total transparency and total control of people. Remember “Minority Report”? It’s closer than you think.
Is that what you want? Is that the leadership you want? Looks like it. Think again.