Archive for February, 2010

The human side of collaborative software

February 24th, 2010 Kevin No comments

I wrote a paper on collaboration with Mike Mayeux of Novotus for a talk with Austin Technology Council members. The paper has come up recently. Mike’s keen insight on the interplay between people and the IT system that stores their thoughts, habits, and outputs brought about this to-do list when picking software to help your company collaborate on-line:

1.   Decide on the technology;

2.   Commit from the top and make the CEO the biggest fan of the project;

3.   Build out the IT solution with the future users in mind;

4.   Hold the software back while bugs and specific uses get sorted out;

5.   Interview future users to capture key knowledge, preferences, etc.;

6.   Populate the information you find and give credit to the originators;

7.   Prepare the way by getting everyone excited about the project;

8.   Train people on how to use it;

9.   Appoint a hero, the person who champions & oversees the technology;

10. Create excitement about using it;

11. Reward use;

12. Make information flow with changes, new features, and useful benefits.

The paper expands on these notions and demonstrates success for Mayeux and his company. Feel free to contact me if you would like a copy:

On-line collaboration needs great software and people who are willing and able to use it.

Categories: Consulting, People Tags:

Making sense versus seeking sense.

February 20th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Making sense is alluring. However, exclusive efforts to make sense, particularly before we seek sense first, ensures that we miss common sense on the way to misunderstanding what other people say.

How common is common sense?

Not so common. This is because we all “make sense” in a unique way. There is no “make sense” class in school, and we rarely ever talk about how we come to our senses.

How do you come to your senses?

That’s the key question (almost never directly asked) in every conversation where finding common sense is a goal. For what reasons is that so? How do you connect that thought with what’s been said so far?

Seek sense, it will solve a lot of communication problems.

Great questions seek sense. They hover around concepts and thoughts and opinions and tap into what supports them: feelings, past experiences, intuition. They all play a role. Investigating them is critical.

Make sense to remain comfortable; seek it to truly understand how things get done.

Categories: Consulting, Questioning Tags:

Got silence? Hold it!

February 18th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Silence is critical to allow for processing and connecting what we say to each other.

If you feel like it, cup your hands as if you are holding something.

That action reminds us that in silence we have the opportunity to “hold” the moment. Aside from the holding gesture, do nothing else. No gestures, no facial movements, no vocalizations. Try to stop thinking beyond thoughts related to what is happening then, there, in that moment.

Hold the moment.

When we do this, we hold the moment. We let it unfold, and things emerge. Awareness goes way up, and sensitivity to the other person and their expressions hits a high mark. It is a very special feeling, for you and for the folks you are speaking with.

Next time in the middle of a conversation when you decide to be silent:

Hold It!


Categories: Learning Tags:

Evidence-based business consulting

February 15th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Lawyers win lawsuits by presenting evidence to juries. Some folks term a process that relies on evidence “evidence-based.” Lawyers are not the only ones who benefit from evidence-based proof. Medical professionals have adopted the term evidence-based to support smart decisions that save lives. Business consulting benefits from an evidence-based approach too. An evidence-based consult allows the consultant to marshal evidence that harnesses great client results.

Finding that evidence and putting it to good use can solve complex problems fast. The evidence provides proof that the solutions offered work, and for what reasons. If the solutions do not work, the evidence makes clear the reasons for that too. Even after the consultant is done, retaining that evidence is a smart way for the client to track back and trend decisions that were made to see how the evidence worked out over time.

Proving business consults based on sound evidence makes good sense.

Categories: Consulting Tags:

Ask yourself a question and watch “the rest” of you answer it

February 11th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Questions frame issues for us.

Once we ask them, they are very hard to neglect. This is particularly true when we ask questions of ourselves. For even more impact, we can ask them out loud. If we do that, then they will really stick around for a while.

Once we ask them, questions help “us” because “we” work overtime to get the answers.

Asking the questions helps us find the answers. In fact, we actually work overtime to get them answered. And I’m not just talking about our conscious mind. I mean the rest of “us” too, that 90% or more of “us” that lies outside the control of our conscious mind. That part of us also “hears” and more likely “senses”  the questions and works overtime to answer them.

So, ask yourself some questions and see what answers pop up.

So the next time you are stumbling on something, for instance a hard to figure out problem or a decision that can go several ways, just spend some time and ask yourself a question about it. For example, if you want to know how to approach a friend with hard to hear news, or if you would like to better understand why something happened one way instead of another, just ask yourself a question about it. And remember, say it out loud for maximum effect.

See how fast you get an answer. Let me know how it goes.

Categories: Questioning Tags:

Find Common Sense Fast. Here’s How.

February 9th, 2010 Kevin 1 comment

Common sense is in short supply, it’s often quite uncommon. Has this happened to you?

We ask a question and the person answers a different question.

Of course this has happened to you. To all of us. And of course, it is the signature trick of seasoned politicians. What is going on, though, when it is not intentional? What question are they answering anyway?

The other question is the one on his or her mind so ask it and hear more.

That’s right, it’s that other question, the one we did not ask, that gets the other person going. He or she makes sense of the moment by answering that question, so ask it and explore it.

Ask the question that was answered and explore how it fits into the conversation.

There is it. That’s the trick. As we continue to ask questions, we attempt to find the questions that are not asked but get answered anyway. Those questions help us understand where the other person is coming from. We find understanding this way, and that mutual understanding will lead to common sense. Or at least, an awareness of how our sense of things is really quite different from the other person’s way of making sense.

Categories: Learning, Questioning Tags:

Heard of the Grueneberg ganglion? Used yours lately?

February 7th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Hard to pronounce, sounds funny, and would look funnier too if I used the “umlaut” version of the name.

What is the Grueneberg ganglion anyway?

The “Grueneberg ganglion” refers to a ball of nerves we mammals have near the tip of our noses. These nerves help us sense alarm pheromones. Whether we like it or not these sensing cells report on what’s happening in our world as part of our olfactory system. This thing quite literally scares the”you know what” out of us.

Can we block the alarms that this thing sends out?

Sure we can. It’s kind of like a fire alarm with a tired battery, isn’t it? The Grueneberg ganglion sends out an alarm that might be useful, but probably not for the bigger purposes it was initially meant to alarm us about like lions, and tigers, and bears. Millions of years ago when we faced more natural dangers this bundle of cells came in real handy. How’s it working for us now, though, in our cubicles, on sales calls, during conversations about what to eat tonight?

Today, danger is relative so let’s ignore this ancient alarm feature and vastly improve our talks.

Next time we get the sense something is off or we feel a little uncomfortable and don’t know why, let’s thank our Grueneberg ganglion (among a bunch of other ancient gear we don’t even know we have). Then, we can promptly ignore the warning.

Here’s what to do instead.

When we “sense” danger next time although harm’s way seems nowhere near go ahead and take nice long breaths. Accept that the perceived danger is probably not a realistic one. Then avoid the fight or flight response. Communicate what is happening calmly and sort it out without too much fear or anxiety. This approach will help us work through the moment’s meaning and overcome our evolutionary instincts at the same time.

Try it and let me know how it works out for you.

Categories: People Tags:

Answer Dancer and the Twang of “Question Boomerang”

February 3rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

Has this happened to you?

We answer a great question and then ask the questioner the same question– no response.

What happened here? The person thought up the question. He or she understood it in the context of our talk. And now, no answer. Silence. Or, a dodge, a move on, an avoidance, a focus back on us, the person who just offered the answer, supposedly to “hear more of the answer.”

When questions boomerang — why no answer from the person who asked in the first place?

So many reasons surely we cannot list them all. Context of the talk, content already shared, maybe it relates to the purpose of why we were speaking in the first place. All true, and still? Someone asks a question and is not willing to answer himself or herself, really?

Do we care to hear the answer?

Maybe he or she thinks we don’t care. They do a little dance to test our mettle. So then, if we “care” enough, we persist. If we want to hear that person’s answer, we repeat the question, this really expresses our interest. A game of sorts, true? A social exchange: “No really, what do you think?”

Why do these dancers tip toe around the answers?

Why the delay though, that is what this post is about. Why would a person who thinks up a perfectly great question become a dancer of his or her own answer? What is going on that he or she thinks enough to ask the question yet is perfectly content to not offer an answer. So curious.

What if the failure to answer is a fundamental road block to better relationships at work and in life?

There. I said it. What if this ability to not answer becomes an omission that critically affects how we live and play and work and act? That’s what this post is about. What if by holding back, by demurring, by reserving judgement and opinion and thought and feeling, we really become part of the problem? What if it is with those unanswered questions, those very questions we are happy enough to ask others, that we can forge true common sense and achieve simple and delightful mutual understanding?

The willingness to answer our own questions is a perfect path to solving our problems.

We have the opportunity to answer our own questions. The results will startle us. We can come clean with our thinking, sharing, and feeling in spoken word. We can share our answers out loud in response to the very questions we ask of others. This is an excellent first step to solving our problems. It is in realizing our own answers that we will find opportunities, make sense, and see the common ground.

How exciting!

Categories: Learning, Questioning Tags: