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    Entries in VUCA (4)


    A story will help you make sense

    This is sense making at work. It's how we connect the dots and draw some conclusions from what was uncertain or complex.

    With Sensemaking rated as a vital capability for the future of work as work keeps getting re-worked, we've got to look at human, helpful and effective ways to make sense - that don't involve drowning in fathoms of data.

    In making sense, stories are critically important. Not so much the telling of stories, rather the hearing, the distilling and the getting to the essence. That's the sense part.

    Even micro narratives, tiny little slivers of a story are worth grabbing and capturing. It could be a phrase, a statement, a couple of words, a slang term or a quote.

    When people drop these little micro-gems into the conversation, look out, grab them and capture them. Reflect them. These will help you make sense.

    It’s a little like how panning for gold might give you hundreds or thousands of little pieces of golden glitter, but no big nuggets. Yet it’s the mounting up of those little shimmers that can give you the right to say you’ve ‘struck gold’.

    So don’t discount the little pieces of glitter, the little slivers of a story, the tiny segments or phrases or grabs. Together they can make some wonderful sense.

    In sensemaking and making sense, you’ve got to tune in those listening skills to hear the slivers of stories; to listen to what people are saying and sharing with you… to capture those.

    Don’t just wait for facts and data. Engage in the anecdotes, the stories, the tales and the telling.

    In my earlier career, my first career, I worked in public relations. Oooh, don't throw tomatoes or boo and hiss. It was good PR. It was community relations. I worked in public health, education, government, training, media, sport. It was about helping people understand what was going on and how they could either get involved … or run the other way!

    Whatever the topic, project, program of work or PR piece I was working on, we always had to craft key messages. When you watch someone present to the media, and if they've been media trained, they'll be delivering their content in sound bites and key chunks - those repeatable, printable, quotable quotes that the media like to broadcast. It's a short chunk of sweet loveliness on the topic. (Oh and at the bad end of the scale are those nothingness quotes that politicians like to sprout. Not those.)

    The same can apply in communication, leadership and workplaces the world over. You need some sound bites and digestible chunks for your listeners and viewers to take in and understand - for your employees, teams and tribes to grab hold of.

    Gather together the little slices, pieces, chunks and cues. Together they can give you incredible sense and help show what people are thinking, wondering, learning, sensing and making.

    Collect the stories you hear - even the tiny little ones - capture them, visualize them, share them and reflect on them… put them together, for they will help you – and the people you’re working with - make sense.


    Making sense of WTF is going on

    It can be entertaining to see how we predict the future. From characters like The Robot on Lost in Space, to any Star Trek episode, we are always imagining into the future and picturing what our world will be like.

    Reading Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock or the classic from George Orwell 1984, watching science fiction and thinking of future technology… we’re predicting what it might be like up there, in the future.

    Equally entertaining is when we then look back and see where we’ve come from; there may have been plug and cord switchboards for telephones or we hear the old dial up noises that connected us to the earliest versions of the Internet. Or when we see an older film – from the 1940s or 50s or from the 1990s or early 2000s - and see the technology we used to use: big boxy mobile phones with external antennas and battery packs the size of suitcases?

    What were we thinking!? 

    Today we continue to use all that we know and all that we can get our hands and minds on to predict and plan for the future.

    How do we make sense of the now to plan for the future?

    We are humans and we use sense making.

    We make our best guess.

    Our discussions, thinking and mapping help us predict and scope, ponder and plan.

    And then we look back on it … and sense is made… and often it’s not quite as we thought is might be. We might smile or shake our heads and laugh at what we were thinking then.

    But it’s what we knew at the time. We made sense of what we knew at the time.

    We proposed scenarios, situations, possibilities and options. We were creative and thought provoking and making our best guess of what the future would be like or what we could do based on what know now.

    In the world of work today, for the future of work, we have to keep doing our best to make sense.

     The Institute for the Future reckons Sensemaking is the #1 skill and capability for the future, for 2020 and beyond.

    We can make sense alone... or together. So when you're alone, how do you deliberately make sense of something?

    When you're at a conference or meeting or event and so much data and information is pummelling you, how do you deliberately sensemake?

    Then when you're in a team, group or business unit and you're working together on things, how do you all make sense of what's going on... and do it - kind of deliberately?

    How do you make sense?

    I think you need a tool... no, a handbook of tools. There isn't just one way to make sense. There are many ways.

    "Making Sense: A Handbook for the Future of Work" is just that... a handbook.

    This is not a book about the future of work; it’s a book that will help you handlethe future of work… whatever it is, whatever happens, however it impacts you.

    Making Sense is full of approaches, questions, techniques, tools and models to help you as you respond to what the future has in store - for you, your team, your organisation, industry, country… your world.

    It is a tool and a handbook that will help you put your sense making to work. You see, this sense making topic has got some balls, and that's where it can get tricky. It's a capability needed in workplaces and communities today and the irony is that it can be difficult to make sense of making sense. 

    There’s such a depth of information on the topic of sensemaking; journals, well-researched articles and peer reviewed detailed pieces that go deep, deep, deep on sensemaking. But I don’t think they help us make sense of making sense. Time is of the essence. How do we make sense swiftly? How do we get smart… quick?

    Making Sense is my thinking and experience on how I've worked with people, to help them work together to think, map and act… to make sense of whatever is going on in their industry, their organisation, their team - or for themselves.

    It’s a book that is about making sense. And no matter what the future holds, no matter what technology comes or what changes are made to the world we live in, we will always be striving to make sense of what’s going on.

    We are humans and we use sense making.


    5 Capabilities for Leading into the Unknown

    Leaders leading in uncertain times and unknown situations are needing more flexible capabilities; a mindset of being able to flex and shift no matter what's happening. 

    To lead into the unknown - whatever your industry, field, expertise or role - here are five capabilities for keeping it together when you're not sure what's up ahead:

    1. Start Before You're Ready
    You can't wait for the script to arrive. You've got to get momentum and get doing. 

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving. We are adaptable humans. Our survival depends on it. 

    2. Like Surprises
    Scriptwriters call them 'plot twists' and we notice them as shocks, surprises or bolts from the blue. Once you’ve started before you’re ready and you’re in motion, some unexpected stuff will happen along the way. How spontaneous are you?  Do you insist on sticking with the plan or are you open to other ways, paths and possibilities?

    3. Try Something Else
    Experimenting helps you refine, edit and alter your thinking, offers, service, design or idea. It's rare for the first version to be the final version... of anything. In a world that's more accepting of failure as a learning process, you've got to see what works as well as what doesn't. As Keith Johnstone, teacher and godfather guru of improvisation says 'Do something, rather than having lengthy discussions about doing something'. 


    4. Go Co

    "If you want to see the future coming, 90% of what you need to learn you'll learn from outside your industry" - so says Gary Hammel, author of 'Leading the Revolution'.

    Thinking with diversity invites varied views, talents, experiences, cultures and backgrounds to the table or conversation to co-create good work. 'Co' is all about together. Working with others is a... co-brainer. It's impossible to do it all by yourself. Plus, others need your expertise to make what they're doing brilliant too.  

    5. Be Curious
    Being a risk taker and brave explorer in times of uncertainty can feel like it’s too big a risk; but bold actions can also reap huge rewards. Leaders who set up an environment where others can succeed are staying open to what that team can do. That means stepping into some uncertainty, some unknown and some unsure. 

    There's nothing to fear when you're leading into the unknown.

    The opposite of fear isn't bravery; it's curiosity.  


    Leading change is a three-step thing

    At a retailer's staff forum on innovation recently, the team was encouraged to 

    • envisage
    • think big and
    • imagine

    These are all such visual, thinking and 'possibility' words. It was all about what they could 'see'.

    To survive and thrive in the challenging retail environment, this team had to change how they were working, how they were responding and how they were evolving the business. 

    That's a lot of change. 

    Add to that the usual change processes of new technology, systems, and other ways of working that go on across the business. 

    For this team, change had to be a three-step thing. But it wasn't the boring three-step of: 

    1 .analyse

    2. think

    3. change. 

    Dan and Chip Heath in their book on change 'Switch' report on research from Kotter and Cohen where this approach is mighty popular, yet super ineffective at creating, driving and embedding change. 

    Folks... the dance steps have to 'change'. 

    The three-step thing that will work is:

    1. see

    2. feel

    3. change.

    Am I getting all emotional on you here? Well, analytical stuff works best when things are known and the future is clear. 

    But in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment we all operate in, often the future is... out of focus, blurry. 

    See, Feel, Change is about seeing evidence that gives you a feeling and from there you can change. You can help guide people through their responses to that feeling about what they've seen. Show people what's going on. Let them see how things could be. How do they feel about that? That's when change will come. That's when people get on board, buy in, sign up and advocate for the change. 

    Otherwise you're just dancing in the dark!

    Read more in Dan & Chip Heath's book 'Switch' here