Some years ago, every week I listed what I was reading, learning, doing. I have no idea why I stopped – I guess life got in the way.
This year, I’ve been remiss with my blog writing and I think it’s because I’ve been spending my time either (a) working or (b) doing other stuff which is namely pursuing more creative pursuits such as reading (I’m reading my 27th book so far this year, sleeping or creating video reports for CNT News Channel, a fake fun sideline project) or meeting up with friends for coffee.
Needless to say, I’ve decreased the amount of time spent on social media and I haven’t done any LinkedIn videos or amusing videos shared on Twitter. In fact, I think I’ve become way too serious for my liking.
One of the other things I feel as if I’m not doing much of is experimenting with various tools and apps. There’s a reason for that. Ever since joining Adopt & Embrace as one of their Adoption Consultants, I’ve been head down madly trying to learn the ins and outs of all things Microsoft.
To many of you, you may not be aware but Microsoft has a plethora of different tools, programs, bots and utilities. Naive me, thought it was just Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Access and wasn’t there some time ago something called Publisher?
Well, when I joined Adopt & Embrace and was caught in the onslaught of different tools and programs, my eyes rotated in their sockets. The more I explored, the more I realised that really, any worker in a modern workplace nowadays has at their fingertips every single application and tool to be able to do their work without leaving the Microsoft ecosphere.
Now this post is not going to be about Microsoft suffice to say that the bulk of my time has been spent madly getting up to speed with the programs. Learning them has been assisted by a great team who I have already harassed with my constant questioning however, what I’m more interested is how say, various departments and job roles can use these to do work or improve performance at work. So I set myself a goal to only use Microsoft products during my workday. This is the only way I’ll learn and exploit their full functionality.
Now this post isn’t going to be about Microsoft. In fact, it’s more about what have I been doing with my time of late when I’m not learning Microsoft. Here’s what piqued my curiosity this week…
What I’ve Been Reading
“Unflattening is an insurrection against the fixed viewpoint”. @Nsousanis “defies conventional forms of scholarly discourse to offer readers both a stunning work of graphic art and a serious inquiry into the ways humans construct knowledge”. pic.twitter.com/ZAd7XyEMXo
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) March 21, 2019
Unflattening a Graphic Novel by Nick Sousanis
I was delighted when this arrived in the mail. It’s a graphic novel called Unflattening by Nick Sousanis. My friend Richard Martin had strongly recommended this to me and as I trust his book suggestions, I ordered it. It’s a mesmerising read but I have to warn you, it’s pretty heavy however, it’s one of the most thought-provoking reads. I think I say bleak because it’s all black and white and when I come to think of it, the drawings evoke and portray the emotions that I’ve been through in recent years about my work and thinking. What I like is that you cannot read it in one sitting. I’ve been reading a a few pages at a time because you really need to ‘take in’ the detail which is amazing. It’s testing me out in ways where it’s forcing me to slow down my reading.
At a time when I kept saying that I was to slow read, I had been reading more fiction books this last 18 months. What Nick Sousanis taught me was that I was missing an entire genre of graphic novels that would have forced my mind to slow down and take in the wonderful artwork which in all cases, says a lot more than the text that goes with it.
I stumbled upon the work of Nick Sousanis accidentally. I like trawling through bibliographies. His name stood out because it’s Greek but also because his subject was on graphic art which was unexpected so I went down that rabbit hole.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
I bought all the books by Harari and decided to start with his second one because I was intrigued that he would say that the next phase of humans from homo sapiens would be homo deus – gods.
It was unlike my own personal observations where it seems we’re all heading towards idiocracy but that’s just me. I can’t say I enjoyed the book – enjoy means that you derive pleasure from it. I didn’t derive pleasure reading about what life might be like in the future. In fact, I couldn’t help but feel a heavy dread.
A few things stood out for me such as the meaning of lawns – I had wondered why this small piece of useless land in my front garden was there. The Greek in me wanted to plant vegetables and a lemon tree but it’s created some friction at home as to how our neigbours would perceive us if we do this. Now I know why.
As I was reading this book, I kept thinking about how I’m not going to be a big fan of the future. Society is changing too quickly and we can’t keep up or we’re botching it up as we go along. We’re so quick to have technology decide every single thing for us and the chapter on the quantified self sent me into a right royal state of angst and anxiety. Just wearing a fitbit and tracking my steps during the day stresses me out – I don’t know how I’d be if every single thing was pre-calculated and optimised so the choices are made for us. That is, we don’t have free will anymore. That didn’t sit right with me.
Read the book and tell me what you think. (Here’s what others thought).
I think I need to now read his third one because if that’s tomorrow – stop the train, I want to get off.
Why Being Smart Is Not Enough by Mieke van Bijl
This was a Medium post (some really good posts there) called Why Being Smart is Not Enough – The Social Skills of Tackling Complexity. It was one of the better posts I read about workplace collaboration. I am in the middle of developing a module within a Workplace Collaboration guided online program and was on the lookout for excellent references and this one made the grade.
“If we want to address the complex problem situations that the world is facing, being a smart systems thinker and innovator is not enough. We need to engage in new ways of collaborating that promote continuous, productive and collective learning and innovation. These collaborations require us to learn social skills, build social structures, and adopt attitudes of openness to learning, trust and responsibility, however hard it is to let go of the behaviours and structures that hold us back.”
One of the things I’ve been noticing of late is that there is a real lack of dialogue. Not just at work – but at home and with friends too. Our technology has changed the way people interact and converse. In some way, I’m missing the old days where if you didn’t know something, rather than whip out your mobile phone and do a Google search, you discussed, debated, speculated, maybe you asked others around you and in general, there was a lot more banter and ideas being thrown around.
Go into any workplace nowadays and see people in front of their screens with their headphones on or worse, conversations, brainstorming and collaboration is SCHEDULED into people’s diaries. I think we’ve lost the art of spontaneous conversation – most of all – in the workplace. It’ll only get worse as more people work remotely. This was confirmed last night when I saw that schools are now teaching students face to face social skills….
Should We Be Working Less by Matt Davis
This was another article by Big Think that made me think.
In fact, for the last year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to reclaim my time back towards more leisure activities. I’ve also been napping a lot – so much so that I feel far more relaxed than I have in a long time. Who knows, it could be age as well as I reach a milestone this year.
One of the things that irritate me and that I see a lot of online is people working so hard – they’re always busy – and claim busyness as a badge of honour. Some of them reach celebrity status just because they can sell an online course or a book. They’re in my LinkedIn feeds, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts – telling me that if I’m not busting my gut and working 24/7 that I’m not going to make it. I’m done feeling guilty about that anymore. In fact, I don’t resonate with them at all.
I’m predicting that these same people over the next year or so would change their tune and lament that they have focussed on the wrong things in their lives. Let’s wait and see what happens. I’ll be rolling my eyes again…
The Psychological Trap of Freelancing by Charlotte Cowes
People who attach dollar signs to their time — or “value time like money” — tend to be overwhelmingly less happy than those who don’t, because their nonworking hours suddenly seem less important. “Free” time gets tainted with guilt because there’s a cost associated with it.
This is another one that taps into the above article and I explained it far better in my Twitter thread:
Dictating Notes with Otter.AI
I was concerned that I wasn’t blogging as often as I used to because well, you know, the napping, the reading and the learning of the Microsoft products so I thought that if I could simply dictate or narrate my thoughts into an app like Otter.AI which immediately changes my voice to text, I’d be able to cut and paste my dictation into a blog post. Boy, that was a mistake. I realised that I think better and write far better in front of a screen tapping away on a keyboard than rambling. Here’s what transpired:
There’s been a whole lot more that I’ve been reading and watching but they were the main articles that stood out for me this week.
This blog post by Helen Blunden was written in Melbourne, Australia and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.