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Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 1 of 4 – Music

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers music and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

While creativity is highly important in business, it’s an abstract process that works best with a concrete structure. This is where design thinking comes into play.

Top industries are hiring those with Design Thinking Skills

From: The Importance of Creativity in Business, 25 January 2022.

Music

You don’t have to be an avid muso to appreciate this. In fact sometimes it can distract, as it does me. Thats why the music you choose to support the work you are doing should be in the background and down low.

One new study explores music as a source of creativity. Since music has been shown to improve cognition and enhance learning and memory in other studies, it makes sense that perhaps it has an impact on creative thinking, too. 

From: How Music Helps Us Be More Creative, November 17 2017.

Here is my Spotify playlist. It’s made up of LoFi beats and very chilled music – I use it any time I need to tap into my creativity. Maybe it helps you :)

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Features that delight and distress when switching tech tools

Normally I talk about the former, features that delight, when I review any new use of technology or features I’ve come across. But there is most definitely times when distress is the case. And so in this post I have examples of both.

Spike in delight

First up is a new email app I tried on my PC called Spike. I’m absolutely loving it. They talk about “The power of email. The simplicity of chat.” Therein lies the first surprise, the way they convert email threads into a chat-like look and feel.

But it’s way more than that.

It’s also a very credible note taker. I have tried and use tons of note taking tools from Evernote (now replaced by OneNote) to Outlook Notes, Apple Notes and IA Writer, to name but a few. This is one of the finer alternatives. Most of the simple gif above shows the note functions.

I also love the way it integrates the many email addresses I have into one simple unified feed. And setting them up was no problem at all. I normally use Outlook Web App (in the browser) for work but I have lots of different email accounts on the Microsoft and Google platforms and Spike made short work of bringing them in. Since I do so much work in the browser, I didn’t want to have to open new Tabs for each of my email accounts. I was using the Windows Mail App but that was causing lots of problems with my many accounts.

All in all, email needs disrupting and this tool comes the closest I’ve seen to doing just that. Spike also does a great job of setting you up for success from the get-go with super simple in product guides and communicated instructions.


Migration hell

This is not so much about a feature or tool but more about a technology (platform) selection. For many years I’ve run email with my own domain on G Suite with Google for free. Now that the freeloading has been stopped, as part of a revamp and renaming exercise (to Google Workspace), I’ve had to consider my options.

And it’s how the companies facilitate the consideration of options that has been a bit of a nightmare and distressing to say the least.

Some of the challenges I’ve faced:

  1. Do I stay or do I go. If I want to stay on Google Workspace, do you think they make it easy to establish the cost of the alternatives – short answer, no. You have to go into your account as an administrator and go through the upgrade process and after only a few steps do you find out. The free alternative that I did have insight into does not include email with your own domain which is why I started exploring.
  2. Migrating to M365. I pay for Microsoft 365 already and use email from that subscription with another domain already. My first thought was, can I add a domain to the account after using the handy migration tool Microsoft set up: Perform a Google Workspace migration to Microsoft 365 or Office 365. I had known about the migration tool and thought the automated option would be pretty straightforward.
    1. A question of domains. However, on the questions of domains, although you can add as many as 900 domains to an M365 subscription without paying extra, what I could not find an answer for was whether I could send and receive email from the added domain.
    2. Using domains in email. I use that domain address for many accounts so it was imperative I could communicate with it exactly as it was. Firstly I could find no formal Microsoft documentation that verified I could. And then I found lots of forum topics that said it was only possible to send and receive email from the default domain which I was already using.
    3. Documentation distress. Also in the forum threads, I read that an alternative was to create a shared mailbox and set up the shared mailbox address with the newly added domain – this would allow one to send and receive with that domain email address.
    4. Support heaven. It sounded complicated so I decided to create a support ticket from my Microsoft 365 admin interface. Here was one bright spot – the response was almost immediate and I received a call. It was verified that a shared mailbox was the best way to set things up if I wanted the email address to show to the receiver in its original form (otherwise it will show as being sent from the default address). We tested this on the call and it worked. Here is some detail on how.
  3. In conclusion. Now that I had established I could use my domain, I went back to the migration process. It seems not to be so straightforward and I will likely have issues and spend more time on it than I care to. Not anyone’s fault, it must be complicated. For now I’ve decided to pay for one year of Google Workspace (Business Starter edition) which was discounted for me. I will try and migrate all the accounts with which I use the address with and then stop using that domain for email since its not my primary email.
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The unbearable weight of doing

One of the things you gain from going on vacation (as I did recently) is that you are liberated, if only temporarily, from the pressure of doing anything. At least in theory. Sometimes the habit of “busyness” we often pick up at work permeates into our holidays. We struggle to relax. Hopefully we are soon over this and into our stride of being on holiday.

My post title is somewhat of a play on the title from the famous novel by Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness on Being. From the Wikipedia article are some other points of interest that I would like to bring to [bear] – the philosophical underpinnings of the novel:

Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche‘s concept of eternal recurrence (the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative: that each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again – thus the “lightness” of being. Moreover, this lightness also signifies freedom. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on life and the decisions that are made – to borrow from Nietzsche’s metaphor, it gives them “weight”. Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.

My views are firmly on the “light” side although I find nothing unbearable about this view at all, i.e. that we have only one life. If anything, for me it is liberating.

The parallels to work

When your work mimics a treadmill then you are in the same position of being in an eternal recurrence.

Every day is the same, boring, monotonous Groundhog Day.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable. We have tedious tasks that are repetitive but they have to be done. No job is devoid of them and sometimes they are just plain necessary.

Sometimes we make our own busyness. We equate it mistakenly with importance (i.e. it makes us feel important) and productivity when there is absolutely no correlation.

This adds a crushing weight to our work lives that in many cases, is avoidable.

For one, take frequent vacations. It’s amazing, if you really have let go of work and taken the time to disconnect, how light your perspective becomes.

The art of being

When we go about our work in a natural state of being rather than being pressured to do increasingly more, there is a freedom that impacts our creativity and productivity.

I totally get it all depends on your job, your economic circumstances and sometimes the inevitably pressured times that any job entails.

Most of the time, you can master the art of being. Just some pointers to consider:

  1. Don’t feel you have to join every meeting just because you were invited. FOMO is not real! Think carefully about whether you really need to join or could be more productive staying out of it and focusing on some other more valuable task, or just being for a while. If you really need to do something, meditate 🧘🏽‍♂️
  2. Aside from vacations, step outside every now and then and smell the roses, in every way. Make like famed philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau who built some of his most profound observations around them, and many others who knew the secrets of walking, and take a stroll.
  3. Detach yourself from the notion that busyness equates to importance or productivity. Sometimes less is more and the more time out you get, the more creative and ultimately productive you conversely are.
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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Power Platform and Teams Hackathon tips

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

This was not so much a question as a request to present to all the hackers participating in the company hackathon in a launch event. I put a few slides together, here they are in a pdf below. Below that, a few notes of elaboration on the slides that I think need it. This follows earlier advice I shared with the same customer on how to organise the hackathon, captured in this story: How to run a Hackathon for Microsoft Teams and Power Platform. And it also builds on this earlier thought rocket: Hackathons the MVP and lean startup.

Slide 3

I wanted to instil some lean startup, entrepreneurial thinking into the hackers minds. This is also a setup for some of the later slides. The main point being that you have to have an idea of what you want to build in the way of problem/s to solve or opportunity/ies to leverage and that by definition (being future focused), you are not going to be certain that you can achieve it. I wanted to juxtapose this with the need to start building and iterating fast and testing your work as you go and that this has to mapped against your vision and course correction will be required all along the way. Course correction will require either that you refine your vision or your solution.

Slide 5

The clear point here is that you should try and build complete solutions (as far as possible) at every stage of your build. It follows naturally from the previous slide too. I also made the point that they should not be myopic in their thinking and focus too much on the technology or “product”. For instance, building a wheel which on its own, is not really usable. Rather they should think about solving a transport problem and in the image example, a skateboard could be a great first version, perfectly usable in its own right. Hopefully you get the point.

Slide 7

While the hackers were mostly focused on building apps, automations, reports and the like with the Power Platform, I did want to bring Microsoft Teams into the picture as the platform through which they should consider publishing their work. I made two points really. One is that they could develop their solutions either in the respective standalone environment in Power Platform but they could also create solutions directly from within the Teams environment – more on that here: Create low-code custom apps for Microsoft Teams – Teams | Microsoft Docs. More importantly, that they should think about bringing their solutions into Teams to become collaborative apps – a concept explained really well here: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams – Microsoft 365 Blog.

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Starting a business remote first – 10 priorities

I mentor startups from time to time, in my spare time. I am doing so at the moment with one. I am bringing my past experience to bear starting and working in startups and I’ve also written an eBook on a related subject. In the current case though, it’s more my current experience I am advising and focusing on based on my professional work at Microsoft (disclosure). This is around the use of the Microsoft 365 platform (mostly) to support collaboration and productivity.

First some assumptions to be clear on:

  1. Remote first. The team members are all distributed and not all in the same country. So far, so normal 🙂
  2. Side job so multiple other tools. Some of the members have other jobs and so there is a question of competing and even conflicting technologies that need to be considered.
  3. Early stage. This is a very early-stage startup with founders just starting to work together on this – hence the need to start from scratch.

Then here is my list of top 10 things I am focusing on – not that they are necessarily the most important, just what I can and need to prioritise for the team now:

1 Create a new Microsoft 365 account and license the users. Just because I work with this tech, I did not want to push it. Many of the members have familiarity with other platforms and this needs to be considered. In the end, after some discussion (and I presented the case in a DanelDoodle), we agreed on M365. I chose an M365 Business Standard option and here is a handy guide when setting up for the first time if needed.

2 Assign a domain that can be used in email and beyond. The team already had a domain, I was given access to manage the domain through GoDaddy, the domain registrar. Assigning it was a doddle.

3 Create a Team for internal collaboration. I started with a great template for project management. More about Team templates here. We are using this for all collaboration naturally, asynchronously and through Teams Meetings on regular sync calls.

4 Orientation page or description with clear outline of purpose. In the General Channel for the project management Team I set up, I created a simple wiki page in a Tab with pointers to everything they needed to know to get started and up and running. It also collates links and info on the function of each Channel and the tools available in each Channel.

5 Simple Task Planning – Planner in Teams is the perfect lightweight option to get started with. Members access it from a Tab in the Planning Channel in the Team that was set up from the template. Tasks are listed by sprint buckets.

6 Viva Learning and powering a growth mindset. Setting up a Tab in a Channel is straightforward and other than to bring in content covering Teams and the broader M365 platform, you can choose from the 125 free LinkedIn courses to driving learning in other important areas to fill any skills gaps.

7 Automation for competitive intel – Power Automate. One simple automation I have started with (based on a template) is to bring in tweets with relevant hashtags related to competitive activity. Will be looking for more and much of these kinds of templated flows plus many you can build come free with the M365 license (but beware of the limitations).

8 Marketing – start a website prototype. I had already started working on that and I documented that in this post: Content management with WordPress evolved – full site editing 1. This covers both the content management and website creation side of things as well as eCommerce.

9 Forms for surveys to get feedback on prototypes and other things. Microsoft Forms which comes with the license is a simple and useful tool.

10 Chat Bot in Teams (employees), later for website (customers) using Power Virtual Agents (PVA). I started with a simple pre-made BOT to support understanding of Teams. It’s snappily called the Teams Training Assistant App – you can watch it in action in this video here. I’m not actually sure it was built on PVA but regardless, it is useful for the Teams newbies. I will look to build a customer facing BOT later using PVA.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – what and why M365

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Question:

The customer is just about to launch Microsoft 365 so the decision has already been made about buying and using it. The question was more in relation to a kick off session to all staff in which I was asked to present in 10 minutes what M365 is and why it will add value to the organisation. I’ve also been asked this by others so I thought this would be a good exercise in any event.

Answer:

I’ve started my thinking on how to address this with a DanelDoodle, always a good way for me to narrow my thinking and generally sense make. As you can imagine, 10 minutes in which to explain M365, a platform so vast in capability, is not an easy task. Maybe impossible. But it is a good exercise. And on this point, this is just an exercise. This is not a definitive answer and will likely change as I prepare for my session and use this to gather feedback. Some explainers below the doodle.

Click to enlarge
  1. I started with a brief explanation in the first two blocks on the nature of Microsoft 365 in relation to the commonly held understanding that it is the Office suite you buy upgrades for every few years. It’s much more than just a set of document tools like Word, PowerPoint, etc. It also goes beyond a new name and business model. So the first block tries to explain that it is a subscription service and you get continues updates and innovation as a result. It also covers many other tools covered in the second block, more on all of them here: Microsoft 365 | Secure, Integrated Office 365 Apps + Teams
  2. I then wanted to cover the concept of the Microsoft Graph which is really important. This is pretty challenging, not sure I’ve done that quite yet. More on that here: Overview of Microsoft Graph – Microsoft Graph | Microsoft Docs
  3. I then tried to choose an area that M365 covers really well which is documents and processes. I chose some examples for each of these that showcase the two main functions. There are so many to choose from this is really difficult. I chose these because I think they capture the essence of innovative new features really well. Here is a little more on each:
    1. Analyze Data in Excel (microsoft.com)
    2. Create professional slide layouts with PowerPoint Designer (microsoft.com)
    3. Microsoft Editor checks grammar and more in documents, mail, and the web
    4. Microsoft Lists | Microsoft 365
  4. The last block covers Microsoft Teams which has become the de facto “front end for collaboration” incorporating so many other tools and components of M365. This article covers the concept I am trying to explain really well: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams – Microsoft 365 Blog
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Finite creativity and the importance of time out

Creativity is important. In our personal lives as well as business. Creative juices are sustenance for our innovation output. Why then do we treat it as if it were an infinite resource that can be tapped at will.

Creativity depletion deniers will say there is no limit to our capacity to be creative. But it is the possibilities that are limitless, not our capacity to be creative.

You can fill a glass only so much. What overflows is not necessarily of the same quality.

The antidote is time out – OuterVentures

Time out from the daily grind, from the incessant, plodding monotony.

Time out and immersion in different cultures, experiences, environments.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to enjoy the possibilities. I have just come back from a vacation. I regularly get out for hikes and travel frequently (although less so of late for obvious reasons). I had forgotten how beneficial this is.

My latest OuterVenture has taken my wife and I to Cape Town for the last two weeks.

What an amazing, vibrant and richly cultured city. Full of entrepreneurs and innovators making the most of sometimes challenging circumstances. What beautiful landscapes too. Such refreshing experiences overall.

This site is all about InnerVentures – an inward looking pursuit most times.

As you may have gathered, OuterVentures is the opposite.

As much as it is important to spend time investigating inwardly, it is equally important to lift our gaze from our navels. As Marcus Aurelius, the renowned Roman philosopher famously exhorted, stop thinking and act!

Anyway, some of the best snaps from my recent holiday below. Next is a 7 day hike in Scotland on the West Highland Way.

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Navigating the modern work landscape – impact and effort

As things have shifted so dramatically over the last few years and there is no sign of it abating nor of going back to normal, I wondered what that meant for modern work. Time for a DanelDoodle. This is a really high-level view and naturally I will have missed key elements. But I just wanted to map the landscape (the important factors being effort and impact) and then plot some elements I thought worthy. Some notes after the doodle.

What’s needed to get ahead at work in the next 10 years

Pick one or two at most, because you cannot excel at all.

  • Business Outcomes Achiever. My views on this are no secret, I’ve written countless posts with the tag. It is the most powerful of the activities in my view. If you can show how you are driving the company forward and to success, you will be successful. But it’s not easy.
  • Innovator. How are you thinking differently, doing things differently? This requires equal parts creativity and execution capability. Do it right and you will be rewarded handsomely because competition is so high and change so fast.
  • Productivity Pro. Because being able to withstand the pressures of distraction and so many things to do and focusing on the things that matter, matter. Not hard work but the right work.
  • Technophile. If you don’t master technology, it will master you. And get it to work for you, that’s why it is positioned as high impact and low effort. As every company becomes a software company and automation takes off, this becomes key.
  • Sense Maker. Navigating the onslaught of information, challenges and opportunities out there and making sense of it so you and your company ultimately make the right decisions.
  • Collaborator. As we work more from home and use tools to connect this becomes ever more important but it has always been. Because you go further together than alone.
  • Authentically Nice. Because you don’t have to be an arsehole to win. But it does have to be genuine.
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Content management with WordPress evolved – full site editing 1

Last month WordPress announced that full site editing was coming to its WordPress.com users of which I am one. I’ve been meaning to take it for a spin but haven’t managed to until now. This post is an attempt at documenting my experiences as I try and learn the new functionality as well as get to grips with how to test new features and functions like this on my active site without breaking it. I’ll track it all with my WordPress tag.

So on the very last point mentioned, I came across this option for How to Create Your Own WordPress Staging Site. I was going to explore that option but before I could, I came across this video below – a recording of a webinar run by WordPress on full site editing.

It does a great job not only of showing how full site editing works, but also goes through an alternative site staging option. It shows how to create a new site on WordPress and export and import your current site content and test that with a new block theme that works with full site editing. This way you test the new site theme and functionality in a kind of staging environment with existing content until happy and then you could switch to this new site when happy. Or upgrade your current site knowing what works and how.

But as attractive as this last option seemed, I soon ran into problems.

Problems with using WordPress.com as a staging site

  1. I’m currently on a Business Plan which is needed for enabling WooCommerce.
  2. My site has ecommerce functionality based on WooCommerce and using the Storefront theme currently. The Storefront theme is not currently capable of full site editing.
  3. I found a cool alternative: Wowmall – WooCommerce block based theme
  4. The problem is on a free WordPress site you cannot run WooCommerce and nor can you upload the Wowmall theme – you need to be on a Business Plan at least. This is cost prohibitive.
  5. My Plan B is to try run this on a an Azure plan I have, i.e self hosted WordPress on which I can instal WooCommerce and upload the Wowmall theme after grabbing it from here. Good article here on how to run WordPress on Azure.

So that’s all for now. I’ll update my progress in another post.

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Starting out as a customer success manager – first 10 things to do

I was asked by a new colleague who is just two months into his role, what advice I could provide. Here it is in a short, sharp list of 10 things to focus on. I’ve tried to make it generic since there are some things specific to the company I work for that I could not mention here (disclosure).

Follow the numbers

Because everything is measurable and measured these days, especially in the customer success field, this is a natural starting point.

1. Find out what metrics the company use to measure customer success effectiveness and how your performance will be managed in this regard.

2. Find out what tools are used to track your impact and outcomes against these metrics and master them. These will most often be transactional and analytics or reporting based solutions focused on either revenue and/or usage or telemetry-based metrics. You will find out more about this after doing your homework from point 1.

3. In addition to the tools, find out what will help you achieve the numbers in terms of processes and supporting resources. Things like content, funding activities or programs that drive customer activity, etc.

4. Find out who will help you achieve them internally. Identify top performers and what makes them tick and why they perform well, i.e. why the company has rewarded them for being top performers based on quota attainment. This also refers to supporting or complimentary functions like sales, product engineering, etc.

5. Find out which customers will help you achieve those numbers, an internal quantitative assessment. Hopefully the company will have done an analysis of which customers have the highest propensity to renew, upsell, cross sell and have the money (budget) and intention to invest in your product and company.

Forget the numbers

Because we are too often obsessed with measurement. It can dumb you down and make you myopic (great observations in an interview with renowned management thinker and professor Henry Mintzberg).

6. Understand your customers, their business, wants and desires – do your own customer qualification work not just what was done internally under point 5. This is an external qualitative assessment.

7. Prioritise customers based on intent to use your product – nothing to do with numbers. Its a feel for how engaged they are and how well bought in they are to your product and company. For this you should also look internally, at your culture and how well it aligns with the customer’s.

8. Identify the key stakeholders. These are the decision makers, the champions or advocates (for your product and company). If you don’t find any, you will either have to decide to develop them because the numbers justify it or deprioritise this customer. Also look at how open your organisation and the customers are to open collaboration and transparency – if connection and knowledge is hoarded, this is not a good sign.

9. Identify the business outcomes they are trying to achieve; okay numbers may come into this but think about what problems they are trying to solve and needs they are trying to meet and how your organisation and product/service can support these. Think innovatively and use something like the Jobs to be Done lens.

10. Focus on value that you, your product and your company can bring in trying to meet those unmet needs or problems they are trying to solve. Again, numbers could come into it. But think more creatively and innovatively and bring time into it. What is the customer’s plan for creating value and where do you and your organisation and its product/services fit in – think in horizons – 1-3 years.

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Everything can change except values

I’m reminded of this truth in the title which comes from an early interview with Tim Cook of Apple I discovered the other day that I had bookmarked. It is focused on the technology business and it’s an observation on how Steve Jobs worked and it really resonated with me. It can easily transcend the technology business.

Here’s a relevant piece from the article:

There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most. How many clicks did you get, how many active users do you have, how many units did you sell? Everybody in technology seems to want big numbers. Steve never got carried away with that. He focused on making the best.

Tim Cook, Apple

I do wonder if we in the Customer Success business as I am, sometimes focus too much on the clicks, active users, units consumed over the amazing that we help our customers deliver? Are our values and focus right?

I and many of my professional colleagues in the space have moved much more to a model where business outcomes matter. This is more values based, value for the customer.

But I am often guilty of obsessing over the changes in those numbers Tim refers to. Often it is in pursuit of the targets we are chasing, driven by senior executives. So one must guard against this.

Now as our world is changing rapidly before our eyes, and in many ways terribly, I am reminded of this truth more broadly.

It looks like the world is rallying around the right values. People, companies, countries are standing up for what is right and what they believe in while all around them, age old wisdoms about the order of things change. They have been reminded of what is important and what values matter.

Time will tell if the values were the right ones and whether they have prevailed.

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Microsoft Teams and CRM for Sales Productivity

Bringing CRM tools into Microsoft Teams makes sellers more collaborative with the intention of making them more productive, ultimately to drive top line growth. Microsoft where I work (disclosure) positions this as collaborative Apps that keep you in the flow of work. I’ve already written about the work I am doing with customers on this here, including other technologies: Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity. In this post I wanted to zoom in a little with a demo video I created around some new Salesforce and Microsoft Teams integrations just out and some of what others are doing.

Salesforce and Microsoft Teams

This demo goes through the standard Salesforce and Teams integrations to date but recently the functionality has been extended for Teams Meetings and so this video covers that in a little detail.

Q!kom has extended the standard integration further, powered by Microsoft Graph API. This video explains how and shows the possibilities of extension and customisation.

Microsoft Teams integration with SAP Sales and Service Core

SAP Sales is not necessarily one of the powerhouse CRM platforms out there, but they are showing innovation by focusing on this integration with Microsoft Teams

With monthly active users in the hundreds of millions, Microsoft Teams cannot be ignored.

As a core platform where work happens, integrating your solution with Teams is a great way to enhance its use.

Dynamics 365, Context IQ, Loop and Teams

You would expect Microsoft with its own CRM platform Dynamics 365, to be driving this integration too.

In this video (time stamped to start at the right time) you see it being incorporated into Microsoft Teams but also other technologies like Outlook alongside Loop and Context IQ (new AI based technologies being developed and released at present). The video is from recent announcements at Ignite – a Microsoft conference.

On the integration of D365 with Microsoft Teams Meetings, I don’t have a video to show but this is all being worked on – see documentations here: Drive seller productivity with a seamless experience between Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams meetings.

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Hackathons the MVP and lean startup

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently supporting customers with their hackathon efforts. It’s been especially focused on use of Microsoft Power Platform and Teams as core technology platforms underpinning the hackathons. I captured a best practice story about that and this is based on the many hackathons I’ve been involved in over the years.

Click to enlarge

But what I wanted to cover here was a thought rocket on where hackathons fit in to the innovation cycle using MVP’s and the Lean Startup cycle as context.

I see this as a kind of sweet spot for hackathons – cue DanelDoodle.

One key focus of a hackathon would be that it is used as a starting point for MVP’s (a key principle of Lean Startup methodology), as a main outcome of the event. That is, the winner’s ideas get taken forward for further implementation.

Thus a relatively simple yet collaboratively rich and less risky way for finding ideas to experiment with that then get taken forward through building prototypes.

Cheap and rapid experiments systematically lower innovation failure rates and risk.

These can be stage gated along the way with checks and balances so that they are constantly being evaluated for risk and future development (or not). A key measure should be through data.

The Lean Startup cycle is one of the most flexible approaches and you can easily see how what I have suggested fits in, but other innovation process flows could be considered.

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Stages of consciousness and the immaturity of tyrants

It’s difficult to stand by and observe the terrible events happening in Ukraine and not say something. Or to write about inconsequential things while people are suffering. At the very least, offer solidarity. Or light a candle rather than curse the darkness. I wanted to try do all of that in this post.

What do I mean by stages of consciousness and what does that have to do with Ukraine and the events there? My first thoughts are that the tyrant in question, Putin, belongs to a lower level of consciousness than do other human beings.

He may be sick, there is reference to his increasing isolation through the Pandemic and mental instability. But I think it is more deep seated than that.

The best reference for this thinking that immediately sprang to mind is Ken Wilbur’s integral model. This is based on his consolidation of many other peoples thinking:

Generally, in the Integral Model, we work with around 8 to 10 stages or levels of consciousness development. We have found, after years of field work, that more stages than that are too cumbersome, and less than that, too vague. One stage conception we often use is that of Spiral Dynamics Integral, founded by Don Beck based on the research of Clare Graves. We also use stages of self development pioneered by Jane Loevinger and Susann Cook-Greuter; and orders of consciousness, researched by Robert Kegan. But there are many other useful stage conceptions available with the Integral Approach, and you can adopt any of them that are appropriate to your situation.

From the Integral Life site

The stages of consciousness

Click the arrow to expand and see full explanation:

1. Crimson (Archaic) The Crimson Altitude (formerly “infrared”) signifies a degree of development that is in many ways embedded in nature, body, and the gross realm in general. The Crimson altitude exhibits an archaic worldview, physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), a self-sense that is minimally differentiated from its environment, and is in nearly all ways oriented toward physical survival. Although present in infants, Crimson is rarely seen in adults except in cases of famine, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events. Crimson is also used as a kind of catch-all term for earlier evolutionary stages and drives.
2. Magenta (Magic) The Magenta Altitude began about 50,000 years ago, and tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or “square one” for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving such cultural phenomena as superhero-themed comic books or movies.
3. Red (Egoic) The Red Altitude began about 10,000 years ago, and is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where “might makes right,” where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an “other.” Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, Amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.
4. Amber (Mythic) The Amber Altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of “might makes right,” amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to “my” group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to “fit in.” Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red.
5. Orange (Rational) The Orange Altitude began about 500 years ago, during the period known as the European Enlightenment. In an orange worldview, the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one’s religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that “truth is not delivered; it is discovered,” spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.
6. Green (Pluralistic) The Green Altitude began roughly 150 years ago, though it came into its fullest expression during the 1960’s. Green worldviews are marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths (“All men are created equal”), green sees multiple universal truths—different universals for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class….” Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism. The green worldview’s multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today’s intellectuals, academics, and trend-setters… not to mention another “lost” generation of students.
7. Teal (Integral) The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions. Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.
8. Turquoise (Mature Integral) Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).

In conclusion

So while my sympathies are clearly with the people of Ukraine, I don’t believe most Russians want this and are with them too. At least the ones that see this for what it is – the machinations of a tyrant.

I think the only way to overcome this (other than what sane minded authorities are trying to do to stop the war), is to advance our thinking. From the immature stages (clearly where I place people like Putin who is probably at the red stage) to the higher ones.

To reach higher levels of consciousness where we understand that war does not work and might is not right. That you cannot enforce your will on other people. That we are all in this together. That love conquers all and I send buckets of it, as well as hope, to all the people rising up in defence of these terrible actions by a madman.