Find Career Fulfillment by Embracing Your Multiple Selves

Career Expo 20110928 010

Career Expo 20110928 010 (Photo credit: City of Marietta, GA)

It behooves companies to have motivated employees. Yet many employees come to work like zombies, clocking in at 9 and out at 5, just to turn around and do the same thing day after day, year after year, until retirement. But a simple shift in the mindset of both employees and employers could erase this bleak picture. All both parties have to do is realize that:

We have complex, multi-faceted experiences, interests, values and talents, which might mean that we could also find fulfillment as a web designer, or a community police officer, or running an organic cafe. (This) raises the possibility that we might discover career fulfillment by escaping the confines of specialization and cultivating ourselves as wide achievers … allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold.

From: How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric

How did we fall in the trap of putting people in a vocational box and closing the lid forever? Krznaric blames it partly, well really mostly, on the Industrial Revolution which ushered in specialization. As Krznaric says, this is great if you have an area that you’re really good at, your niche. These people have probably already found fulfillment.

The good news for the rest of us out there is that the Industrial Revolution is over. This could mean that our time has come. I say could because we’re still seeing the push for people to define themselves as experts, but along with that, I do believe that people who embrace their multiple selves are finding ways to express themselves and make the connections that enable them to be a web designer, community police officer, and the owner/manager of an organic cafe, all in one lifetime.

Myth Debunked — You aren’t either a left-brained or right-brained thinker

Contrary to common ideas as expressed in this ...

Contrary to common ideas as expressed in this diagram, brain functions are not confined to certain fixed locations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I told you that everyone is creative and here’s proof.

An article published in the journal Pios One in August 2013, reports the findings of a two-year study conducted by neuroscientist at the University of Utah. The conclusion was that….

 Lateralization of brain connections appears to be a local rather than global property of brain networks, and our data are not consistent with a whole-brain phenotype of greater “left-brained” or greater “right-brained” network strength across individuals.

In other words (for those of us who used to think we were right-brain thinkers) evidence does not exist to support the idea that the participants had a stronger network on the right side or the left side of their brain.

Now, according to the study’s lead author, Jeff Anderson, a professor of neurology at the University of Utah:

 It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain, language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right.

But the right side of the brain is also active in processing aspects of language like intonation and emphasis.

So, you see, people just can’t split the brain in half and then say this side does this and the other side does that. What really happens is that the two sides of the brain communicate with each other.

According to Anderson:

The neuroscience community has never accepted the idea of ‘left-dominant’ or ‘right-dominant’ personality types. Lesion studies don’t support it, and the truth is that it would be highly inefficient for one half of the brain to consistently be more active than the other.

From what I’ve read, it seems to be popular psychology, that took the results of what happened when one part of the brain was injured and this communication couldn’t happen, that kind of started this right-brain vs. left-brain categorization. And even with these findings, the categorizations aren’t likely to go away soon.

Have you seen how many tests there are out there for you to see if you’re a “right=brain” or “left-brain” thinker?

But this doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to let this guide your life. No more excuses about not being creative, because you aren’t a right-brain thinker. Don’t let some previous classification turn into a self-fulling prophecy. Everyone, is creative.

Creativity at Play in Business

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus. Date approximate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Christmas Day
and I’m here to say
that creativity is at play
within successful businesses every day.
Just take this tale
of why Coca Cola didn’t fail
because a creative campaign blazed the trail
bringing in Santa to create phenomenal sales.

No joke. Fat, jolly Santa — the guy with the red suit and cap, the thick black belt and sooty boots, the rosy cheeks, the luminous eyes, the brighter-than-white teeth — is the spawn of an advertising campaign by Coca-Cola back in the 1930s.

Surprised? Don’t be. As far as Coca-Cola is concerned, this is public knowledge. The company is open about its role in popularizing Santa; it has even sponsored gallery exhibitions on “Advertising as Art” that explain how it all happened, one of which was held at the Carrousel du Louvre, in Paris, in 1996. Here’s the story:

Back in the late 19th century, when Coca-Cola was new, the whole purpose of the beverage was medicinal. If you were feeling “low” or if you suffered from headaches, a Coke was the perfect remedy. The featured ingredient — cocaine, or coca-bean extract — guaranteed a renewed agility and acuity. Indeed, many people found out about Coke from their pharmacists; the company paid pharmacists a commission if drugstores allowed them to install a carbonation tap on the premises.

By the 1930s, Coca-Cola needed to re-evaluate its business plan. The more controversial aspects of the beverage had long been dealt with (as early as 1903, coca-bean extract was removed and caffeine took its place), but it was the Depression; beverage sales were slow — especially in the wintry months — and Coca-Cola needed a new hook and line to attract the American market.

So, in 1931, Coca-Cola changed its target audience: from the adult looking for a pharmaceutical pick-me-up to the whole family. Coca-Cola was now a great taste to be enjoyed by everyone! To bring the point home, the company launched an extensive advertising campaign that pioneered the use of well-known artists as ad designers. Coca-Cola blitzed pharmacies and stores with promotional material suitable for the whole family.

The most successful illustrations were by a Swedish artist named Haddon Sundblom, whose work depicted a portly white man in a red suit bringing joy to family and friends with a bottle of Coke. The figure in the illustrations was the first modern Santa.

Source: Coca-Claus, Did a soda-pop company invent Santa?
The Boston Phoenix (December 9-16,1999)

Happy Holidays!

What’s Stopping You From Creative Thinking?

Man thinking on a train journey.

Man thinking on a train journey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know you want to do it. You know you need to do it. But, try as you might, you don’t do it. Why don’t you think in an insanely creative way?

I can hear the excuses now, probably the biggest one being, “I’m just not creative.” But that’s just an excuse. Because even though creativity may come easier to some then to others, everyone has it in them.

One thing that I think people have to let go of is their perception of what it means to be creative. Most people I know think you have to be an artist, a fashion designer, or a musician to be creative. But that’s not the definition.

cre·a·tive

adjective \krē-ˈā-tiv, ˈkrē-ˌ\

: having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas

: using the ability to make or think of new things : involving the process by which new ideas, stories, etc., are created

From Merrium-Webster

OK, so I bet the next thing people will get stuck on is the word “new.” I know that’s my problem. I try to squeeze new ideas out of my head, and then get disappointed when I find that someone else already came up with them. But the thing is, the idea only has to be new to you (that’s what I’ve read anyway) and that knowledge makes me feel super creative because I’m always coming up with something that’s new to me.

My creative inhibitions still haven’t disappeared, though, and they won’t until I get rid of habits that are blocking my creativity. Like putting imaginary boundaries on problems and solutions (have you ever tried to connect the nine dots?). And I know that I don’t sometimes follow my instincts which falls under being afraid of taking risks (or not wanting to look stupid).

So there, I’ve shared and am making it a point to make a change.

What’s stopping you from creating thinking?

Whether you share or not, if you want to be a creative thinker, you need to drop the habit(s) that’s keeping you from doing it. It won’t be easy. It will require work. But it can be done.

Habits take us to where we were yesterday and our attitudes keep us there.
— Confucius
The only difference between a person being obsolete at 35 and a pioneer at 70 lies in their ability to change their attitude.
— C. Kettering

Change Management — Are you a Sniff, Scurry, Hem, or Haw?

Cover of "Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazin...

Cover via Amazon

I just finally read Who Moved My Cheese(Better late then never). And I must say that it really lives up to its reputation. But I’m not going to write a book review today. What I’m going to write about is what I thought of as I was reading it. And that’s how business analysts, and probably people in other professions , too, are handling the notion that their cheese has been moved.

Whenever I read about or attend an event for business analysts, I hear, “What’s the fate of the BA profession.” And you know, I find this really surprising from a group of people who are supposed to solve problems and be change agents. So I ask anyone facing change, who are you and who do you want to be?

Sniff? The one who sniffs out change early on?

Scurry? The one who scurries into action when change happens?

Haw? The one who learns to adapt in time and ends up seeing that change can lead to something better?

Hem? The one who denies change and resists it out of fear that something even worse will happen?

Yes, the BAs world is changing. But the work world is changing in general (the industrial revolution is over, you know). Everyone needs to stay on their toes and learn to adapt to a changing world.

Programmers tend to do this. Just think how rapidly the tech world changes. Instead of sitting around moaning and groaning about the introduction of new technology they are ready to gobble up information, to read about it, take classes, do whatever they have to do to remain relevant.

Do BAs do the same? I’m sure some do, but I’m not the only one who has noticed the difference.

So here’s my challenge to you. Choose “three books that challenge your status quo, business books that outline a new attitude/approach or strategy, or perhaps fiction or non-fiction that challenges you” and read them over the holidays. And let these three books guide you in 2014. And don’t stop there. Share with us what you learn.

Some of this challenge is in quotes because it’s adapted from Seth Godin’s post “Pick Three.” I say fully go for the whole thing if you’re at that point. But for those of you who are hemming and hawing around, start with yourself first.

And what am I? Well I would say that I was a Sniff early on but as time went on I degenerated. Luckily my degeneration stopped at the Haw level. Now I have my running shoes hung around my neck and am making may way through the maze in these times of change. And yes, it’s frustrating at times, but I know that what I’ll find at the end is even better than what I had before.

From Seth Godin’s blog

Pick three
If I could suggest just one thing you could do that would transform how 2014 goes for you, it would be this:

Select three colleagues, bosses, investors, employees, co-conspirators or family members that have an influence over how you do your work. Choose people who care about you and what you produce.

Identify three books that challenge your status quo, business books that outline a new attitude/approach or strategy, or perhaps fiction or non-fiction that challenges you. Books you’ve read that you need them to read.

Buy the three books for each of the three people, and ask them each to read all three over the holiday break.

That’s it. Three people, nine books, many conversations and forward leaps. No better way to spend $130.

I still remember handing copies of Snow Crash to my founding team at Yoyodyne. It changed our conversations for years. And years before that, Soul of a New Machine and The Mythical Man Month were touchstones used by programmers I worked with. When the team has a reference, a shared vocabulary and a new standard, you raise the bar for each other.

[If the Pick Three approach makes you uncomfortable, because you’re not allowed to do this, or not supposed to, you have just confronted something important. And if this feels too expensive, it’s worth thinking about how hard you’re expecting to work next year, and how you plan to leverage all that effort.]

Should “Mindfulness” Be Added to the Business Analyst’s Toolkit?

English: Mindfulness Activities

English: Mindfulness Activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not to long ago I was talking to someone who was telling me how they had met a very successful business person who attributed their success to yoga and the focus it gave them.

Now I’ve just read the article, Tech companies find their inner Zen (computerworld.com) and after reading quotes like this:

“We were trying to get a two-stage boot to work wirelessly,” he explained. “We said we’d do mindful engineering for a couple of hours. We turned off cellphones, IM and Outlook. Over a couple of mindfulness periods, we nailed it. It was a breakthrough.”

Cockrell added that his group would have solved the problem over the course of a couple of months but never as quickly as it did by using mindfulness techniques.

“I was amazed at how quickly we solved it,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener.”

my eyes really opened, too.

And here’s another quote from the same article.

Qua Veda, a research analyst at Intel, had similar ideas and began what has become a grass-roots push to bring mindfulness to the company’s workforce.

“A few years ago, people took multitasking to be a great virtue,” Veda said. “But it’s about finding that quiet, centered place within so you’re functioning at a much higher level of performance…. It’s not just about stress reduction but having a capacity for insight and awareness, and engaging on a whole new level.”

All of this makes me wonder if practicing mindfulness, finding your inner zen, and doing activities like yoga would also benefit business analysts — increasing their creativity, helping them see new connections and ways to solve problems and adding value to their organizations?

Personally, I know that I come up with lots of ideas when I do mindful running and walking (a great alternative for those who can’t sit through a meditation class).

So, what do you think? Are these tech companies on to something?

Trying to Communicate With An Introvert? 5 Points That’ll Help

Business Analysts who come from the business side may sometimes wonder, “Just how do I interact with people on the tech side of the world?”

When I first started  my career, I have to admit that this was not my strong point. I remember taking a training class in which I had to get people with different types or personalities to do things. I succeeded with everyone except, guess who — The introverted technical guy.

Now there were technical people that weren’t true introverts, and I did fine with them. But it was the true introvert that I just couldn’t get anywhere with.

Fortunately I got better (really fortunately since my job depended on it). And the lessons I learned about dealing with introverts are summed up in this cartoon that I just found circulating on the web.

Take a look and let me know what you think? Can you relate? What tips do you have?

Introversion comic