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SenseMaking from the Web

This post is an aggregation of recent articles that I have collected over at Flipboard on my magazine there. It captures great sense making from others, in other words, great articles from other sites I thought worth capturing and sharing. Curating good articles is a discerning process and I’ve automated the delivery of it in WordPress using a Power Automate Flow to achieve this – more on that here.

We need a global reskilling revolution – here’s why

Posted on July 22. License and Republishing World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons …

Beware the rise of corporate rituals designed to manipulate employees

Posted on July 21. ONE of Apple TV’s latest shows, WeCrashed, is a drama series based on the founding and subsequent travails of WeWork, the workspace-providing company …

Rewired: Protecting Your Brain in the Digital Age

Posted on July 20. Dr. Carl Marci is a board-certified psychiatrist and Harvard neuroscientist. He spends time as a health technology entrepreneur and executive through …

Employee experience joins CX for total enterprise view

Posted on July 19. One of the many impacts of the Covid pandemic was to accelerate a nascent trend among progressive organisations towards adopting the discipline of …

Customer and employee experience: The new normal

Posted on July 19. In fact, Pew Research found that a full 86% of respondents to a survey about post-pandemic life expect the pandemic to have lasting effects on …

AI Art Is Challenging the Boundaries of Curation

Posted on July 17. Artists working with programs like DALL-E do more than push a button—selecting outputs and engineering prompts are acts of aesthetic expression. In …

Employee experience automation: Human-AI care for your workforce

Posted on July 17. The global workforce has, today, readily embraced the new normal of hybrid workplace models. Keeping up with expectations of flexibility at work, businesses are evolving rapidly with an eye toward post-pandemic life. The challenges and benefits of remote work coupled with the Great …

Why Microsoft Measures Employee Thriving, Not Engagement

Posted on July 16. As the pandemic continues and many people work hybrid schedules, people analytics researchers at Microsoft realized they needed to move from measuring employee engagement to measuring employee thriving. Defined as “to be energized and empowered to do meaningful work,” the authors explain how their …

9 Life-Changing Stoic Exercises Explained In Simple Drawings

Posted on July 16. It’s often said that if you can’t explain something in simple terms, then you don’t understand it well enough. With this in mind, I decided to put …

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Power Automate your content curation for WordPress

I started work a while back on trying to curate articles from a platform I use (Flipboard) and bringing them into WordPress. I started with a plugin called Feedzy, an RSS aggregator, but that had limitations. I documented those here in the first of a series of posts called SenseMaking from the web. This post is about an alternative which I am much happier with, using Power Automate from Microsoft. And a big shout out to a colleague who helped me achieve this: Amit Chug.

First, what is the purpose of curating content and who is this for?

Although I could always point people to Flipboard to the collection of articles I save in my magazine there, I wanted to be a little more intentional and bring them into this site and blog in separate posts, each taking a snapshot of recent articles I collected.

  1. Curating good articles and content from other sites around the web is a discerning process and takes time, effort and requires insights into what is good versus what isn’t. Automating the process is also very helpful.
  2. Curated content adds value to originally created content and recognises the wealth of other information and talent that exists out there on the web.
  3. It’s good for staying fresh with new content, which in return helps improve content marketing, boosts your SEO, increases audience engagement, and if that’s what you are in it for, it probably earns you more money.
  4. You become good by association if the articles you share are good.
  5. Who this is for: Anyone publishing their own content on a blog like this one or for people in companies responsible for content marketing or managing their company’s blog/s and want to achieve some of the aims above.

How to use Power Automate to do this

The above is the flow in brief, without each of the sections expanded or explained in detail aside from below:

  1. The first step is to create a recurring trigger that schedules the task weekly.
  2. The second step focuses on the feed source and details necessary to fetch articles.
  3. The filter array in the third step and the fourth step specifies further the tasks related to time period and items being fetched.
  4. The final step with multiple steps in it in the left branch, set up the formatting of the output and form it should take, namely a WordPress post containing all feed items from the last seven days should be created in draft form.
  5. Once the draft is created, I can perform some simple checks in WordPress before publishing. I have also automated the use of a featured image using another plugin called Quick Featured Images which creates a featured image based on the tag I assigned in the final step.

At this stage, I have just managed to get the automation to work but I have more work to do trying to improve the formatting of the output. If you compare the output of the Feedzy posts captured here versus the first version I achieved here using Power Automate, there is a gap I need to fill.

As I progress, I will update this post with more detail of how I improve things and how the automation works will become clearer.

In the meantime, if you are interested, I can share an exported version of the current automation if you contact me.

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SenseMaking from the Web

This post is an aggregation of recent articles that I have collected over at Flipboard on my magazine there. It captures great sense making from others, in other words, great articles from other sites I thought worth capturing and sharing. Curating good articles is a discerning process and I’ve automated the delivery of it in WordPress using a Power Automate Flow to achieve this – more on that here.

How to Create an Employee Handbook

Posted on July 15. Learn the benefits of having an employee handbook, what information to include for employees, and find easy-to-use templates. An employee handbook is …

The future of cars is a subscription nightmare

Posted on July 15. As cars get more expensive to make and profit margins dwindle, automakers are coming up with new and loathsome ways to squeeze more money out of their customers. Subscription-based access to vehicle features, like heated seats or remote-start key fobs, are the latest attempt to charge people for …

Forget long screen recordings. These tools automate your company’s how-tos.

Posted on July 15. Scribe and Tango take screen recordings and automatically turn them into step-by-step lists. The leading metaverse theorist shares his thoughts on the …

Do these 5 things first starting a business

Posted on July 15. Not sure where to begin? Read on. When it comes to starting your own business, it can be hard to know where to start. After all, there are so many things to do. From coming up with the idea for the business itself, to creating a plan, to actually launching and getting things off the ground, the …

Agility Is No Longer Optional in Business

Posted on July 15. Agility is no longer an option, and agile marketing and CX organizations and businesses are best set up to weather whatever storms may be on the …

Top Five Reasons Customers Don’t Return

Posted on July 15. GUEST POST from Shep Hyken Whatever you sell, be it a product or service, your customers expect that it will do what it’s supposed to do. If you sell …

Strategic Planning as Leadership Challenge

Posted on July 15. Company strategies often fail and this is frequently ascribed to unpredictable changes in the context. But most failures are the result of fairly predictable challenges, including one factor that is constantly overlooked: the role and impact of loss. New strategic priorities inevitably generate …

Drive Profitable Growth And Deliver Value Through Digital

Posted on July 15. As the next era of digital unfolds, consumer expectations will continue to evolve, creating more demand than ever for high-quality, seamless digital …

Delivering product innovation in a customer-first, disruptive world

Posted on July 14. Would it be surprising to learn that decreasing company lifespans correlate directly with increasing rates of technological innovation? Over half of the Fortune 500 companies from 2000 no longer exist. Furthermore, it is predicted that 90% of today’s Fortune 500 companies will be acquired, merged, …

Gen Z Wants Video And Personalization, But Is Less Interested In Email

Posted on July 13. Email is the preferred communication channel of consumers: 52% choose it, versus a distant 17% for text and 14% for online accounts. But young people …

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At the intersection of inner and outer worlds – the individual and company

The inner and outer worlds are indivisible and if you are to make a sucess of yourself as an individual, you need to think of both. When it comes to work, companies also have to think about these worlds, in relation to employees and customers. We have to think about how we, as individuals, bring our best to how we live and work every day. Leaders of companies need to think of how to enable this, so the most important stakeholder of a business is satisfied: the customer.

Click to enlarge

How to optimise a strategy for personal and company success

1. Start with yourself first and look inside

We are often tempted to focus on externals. Material things, how we look, how we attain wealth, etc. Thats because these may appear more tangible and easier to quantify and handle.

But it would all be for nothing if we are not happy and healthy, and this work starts first on the inside.

Start with your thoughts and take care of them. As Buddha once said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”

Thoughts give rise to emotions so you are best placed to start with thoughts, but emotions are also highly spontaneous and can be leveraged or managed for successful living.

All these thoughts and emotions go to creating an inner set of beliefs and values over time and help mould your purpose.

2. Monitor your lived experience

No man is an island, as John Donne famously penned in a poem and no plan survives first encounter with the enemy as German field marshal Moltke the Elder once said.

Unless you want to become a hermit or are debilitatingly introverted, you have to interact with people.

The way you come across is a reflection of how you see and value yourself.

Being acutely aware of your interactions and the impact your personality and identity have on others when you are interacting with them is fundamental for success.

The behaviours you display and elicit are a reflection of you and ultimately effects the experience others have with you. And this needs to be understood and evolved as you do, and change based on the feedback you get.

3. People power

Few companies and leaders understand the importance of their most important asset – people. A lot of lip service is given to employee well-being, but still not enough is done.

With the advent of technologies like AI, automation and robots, there is also a danger that people are overlooked for these sexier alternatives.

But that is changing. Many are now realising the importance of the employee experience and the impact this has on the bottom line and ultimately, the company’s success.

Employee experience is the culmination of efforts a company takes to ensure the well-being of employees while optimising their capabilities around a company’s strategy and execution.

The outcomes, if managed well, are higher levels of productivity and therefore business performance and a positive company culture which has material impacts on the same.

In essence: The Key to Happy Customers? Happy Employees.

4. Customer Success

Customer success is when your customer reaches their desired outcomes while using your product or service.

Assuming this happens, you will have satisfied customers and satisfied customers tend to want to stick around and continue using your company’s products and services.

Now there will be many more factors at play than just the people generally responsible for ensuring the customer is successful with your product or service. Things like systems, processes, methodologies and technologies.

But it is when the people efforts (all people and all efforts, not just of those with customer success in their titles), all come together and connect to make exceptional customer experiences, that you have magic.

This connection, the middle bit of the diagram above, is something I am writing a trend report about and you can find out more about it by clicking on the link below.

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Sense Making from the web

This post is an aggregation of recent posts that I have collected over at Flipboard on my magazine there. I’ve automated the collection of these posts around specific topics and intend to share the best here in this blog from time to time. Here is the latest batch and I have been using Feedzy, an RSS Aggregator Plugin for the job but this post is a test run. I am pretty discerning in my selection of what gets added to the magazine, I hope you agree.

UPDATE (13.7.22): After testing the RSS Aggregator plugin mentioned above, I discovered a shortcoming that I wanted to mention here. The feed below is not from a specific date or fixed in time as I had hoped, the items will be constantly refreshed as I add to my Flipboard magazine which is where the RSS feed comes from as mentioned. A conversation with the plugin provider about this and explaining more can be found here. So I continue my search for the ideal solution…

Update (16.7.22): I found a new solution 🙌 You’ll see from the conversation I mentioned above with the plugin developer that I did not want to make use of multiple plugins to achieve what I wanted. So I have stopped using Feedzy altogether, much as I liked it. Instead, I have used Power Automate to achieve my goals – see this post for details of how. The below feed is just a screenshot taken at the time of deactivation since deactivating the plugin would otherwise show a blank section.


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The SenseMaking Funnel

I’m pretty keen on SenseMaking as a key 21st century skill and I also use it as a main category I write under. In most posts where I use the category, I am writing or doodling (an integral part of the process) to make sense of things for myself and sharing it in case it helps others. I have written about it as a skill though and initially tried to make sense of SenseMaking. This post does more of the latter as I delve deeper with the help of a DanelDoodle.

First the DanelDoodle then some elaboration.

A funnel and all seeing eye – geddit 👀😜 – you can click to enlarge

Info

On the receiving end at the beginning of the funnel, a necessary step. We have to start with gathering information. But if we stay here too long, we get stuck, confused and lose the plot.

Here most of all we have mostly a jumble of facts. Maybe worthwhile in parts, but as a whole pretty useless.

Most people operate at this level – passing on facts and passing them off as knowledge.

Knowledge

This is where you start with the real process of making sense of facts.

Mostly it’s about organising the facts into some improved order. You structure the information you have received and convert it into some degree of knowledge.

The end result should be a knowing of what all the facts mean, in totality. That is, the collective meaning of all the facts and the impact they might have on actions. This last point, a conversion into something more meaningful that can culminate into improved behaviours, is deeply important.

The knowledge could simply take you to a deeper level of understanding, but this is less useful.

Wisdom

So true SenseMaking is when you convert all the knowledge and meaning into action and ideally a lived experience.

Then you are at the seeing stage, with your own senses you have learned, understood and acted on what you have learned and seen how this works.

I include the practical, experimental elements to this phase because I think it is what really brings knowledge to life. But it doesn’t have to be.

You can just see things better, more clearly. What a pity though don’t you think, if you can’t translate it into some that takes you beyond your starting point?

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Features that delight – mostly – chat to self

No I’m not going mad. As the old adage says, the first sign of madness is talking to yourself. Thankfully, there is this BBC Science Focus magazine’s perfunctory dismissal of that and anyway, that’s not my point. I’m referring to text based chat, be it on mobile or PC and regardless of App, which is booming for both consumers and in the workplace.

I tried ages ago to find out if I could have a conversation with myself on WhatsApp. Turns out you can but it’s a right royal pain to activate. Also, its not persistent between devices, i.e. when I message myself on the phone, I expect to see that same message on my desktop App. That doesn’t work. See below how with the same profile, different messages between PC and iPhone based messages are shown.

Click to enlarge

I tried it on Facebook Messenger and it works – but this is an App I rarely use so no good for me. I need it where I conduct the majority of my personal conversations which is in WhatsApp.

One thing I got excited about concerning my workplace chatting which is predominantly in Microsoft Teams, is that the function is coming to Teams: Announcement by Microsoft Product Manager on LinkedIn. But it is not persistent on mobile yet 😢

I could look at a dedicated App but I don’t want another App like the interesting looking Talk to Myself App. I want to do it all in the Apps I already use heavily for personal or work purposes.

I guess all this begs the question why I want to even do this?

Main purpose and why

  1. Quick sharing between devices. Yes I could use something like Collections in Edge for links, but that doesn’t work for files so easily – they are getting a new Drop function I need to check out. For files I could use OneDrive and for notes I could use OneNote. This leads me to a second point.
  2. Because I spend so much time in chat, I don’t want to have to leave chat to open another App. Less context switching, which places a burden on ease of use, would be a boon.
  3. Journaling has many known benefits (just do a search for any number of good articles on this) but doing it in chat would be sooooo beneficial for reasons already mentioned. Check out the Talk to Myself App mentioned above on how journaling could work in a chat App. Love the tagging function especially for simple categorisation.
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The compelling reasons to find and trust your inner voice

Ironically, the basis for this post was formulated after reading the thoughts shared by the author of a book I am currently reading, which in turn is based on the thoughts of someone else.

The essence of the thought is that too often we are swayed and influenced by others rather than finding and trusting our own inner voice.

The book I am reading is The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers by Eric Weiner.

I am currently reading the chapter on Arthur Schopenhauer. A relevant extract from that chapter below (first paragraph starts with a quote from Schopenhauer):

“No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change means progress.”

We make this mistake every time we click mindlessly, like a lab rat pulling a lever, hoping for a reward. What form this reward will take we don’t know, but that is beside the point. Like Schopenhauer’s hungry readers, we confuse the new with the good, the novel with the valuable.

I am guilty of this. I’m constantly checking and rechecking my digital vital signs. While writing this paragraph, I have checked my email (nothing), opened my Facebook page (Pauline’s birthday, must remember to send her a note), placed a bid for a nice leather backpack on eBay, checked my email again (still nothing), ordered a disturbingly large quantity of coffee, upped my bid for that backpack, and checked my email again (still nothing).

The encyclopaedia was the Internet in Schopenhauer’s day, and nearly as seductive. Why puzzle over a problem when the solution is readily available in a book? Because, answers Schopenhauer, “it’s a hundred times more valuable if you have arrived at it by thinking for yourself.” Too often, he said, people jump to the book rather than stay with their thoughts. You should read only when your own thoughts dry up.’

Substitute “click” for “read” and you have our predicament. We confuse data with information, information with knowledge, and knowledge with wisdom. This tendency worried Schopenhauer. Everywhere he saw people scrambling for information, mistaking it for insight. “It does not occur to them,” he wrote, “that information is merely a means toward insight and possesses little or no value in itself” I’d go a step further. This excess of data – noise, really -has negative value and diminishes the possibility of insight. Distracted by the noise, we don’t hear the music.

I would say that in my writing, such as on this blog, my guilt is that I too often refer to others. I am too quick in finding validation from and through others.

This is unsurprising since this was the foundation of good blogging back when it first started. That is, hyperlinking and the web of connections and ultimately knowledge this builds up.

Fill your head too much with the ideas of others though and they will displace your own.

While I am not suggesting that the habit of referencing others work and building on the ideas of others is not a good one (on the contrary), I do think we should be more mindful about our inner voice.

Sometimes it’s good to shut the world out and home in on that inner voice. Here is how I think we will benefit.

Benefits of developing your inner voice

  1. Evolving intuition. As much as you might believe that data is the better basis for understanding and making decisions, this is not about a choice. Regardless the weight that intuition and gut feeling play in your decisions (in life and at work), it plays a role. You should hone the skill as much as you can and that is best done by listening to your inner voice.
  2. Build your unique differentiation. Especially in personal brand efforts, it pays to have your own voice that stands out. That you have considered deeply what you stand for and believe in and you can speak that truth widely – it will be appreciated.
  3. Focus. Simply put, you will be less distracted by the clicks. When you need to be that is. As mentioned, there is sense in seeking to build evidence, but when you need to focus, it sometimes makes sense to shut out the outside world and focus on what you have learned and putting it all together yourself.
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OuterVentures and travel Apps

As I wrote in my last post, the importance of getting out into nature cannot be exaggerated. Fresh off a week on the West Highland Way in Scotland I can definitely verify the benefits. Whilst on the walk I made use of several travel Apps. This post covers two of the most useful.

So first a little about the trip.

At left are just a few of the pics I shared on Instagram.

This trip doesn’t have to be covered in the time we took, a 7 day trek covering 160km’s, more or less.

The full journey is generally broken down into 7 stages but you can break the stages down further and you could opt to do just a few of the stages – no need to do the full walk.

We (four men) did it in 7 stages and used a tour company to organise everything.

I am so glad we did 🙌 They were excellent – find out more about them here: https://www.macsadventure.com/

We arranged to have our luggage transported to each days overnight stop (hotels and BnB’s) and we walked every day with just a light daypack.

Many we saw and met on the walk were camping and carried full kit – definitely more for the fit, brave and young 😉

Komoot

Not long ago I paid for access to Komoot Maps, a onetime payment option (there are subscription-based offers too) that comes in three flavours: world pack, region bundle and single region. I paid a discounted, special offer price on the world pack which provides reliable navigation where and when you need it – it allows you to access routes offline. More on all offers here: https://www.komoot.com/shop

Komoot App

Here is a little demo from the Komoot App.

You can see that I select from an entire route map that was provided by Komoot and I added to my collection.

It’s broken down in the stages I mentioned earlier.

Every day at the start of a new stage, I would start the navigation for that stage and it guides you in case needed (mostly not as the trail is so well marked). But what is useful are the route progress stats you get like mileage done, still to do, speed, etc.

There are a lot more options in each stage as you can see, I went through the elevation function and you should be able to see the added info you get in each stage to help inform you about the points of interest in that stage. It also covers community input.

I’ve been using Komoot for several months now and loving it. Another nifty feature which I haven’t shown is how you can plan trips and Komoot steers you based on validated paths that are frequently trodden. You can make the trip as far or short as you want. I often plan circular walks close to home.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet App

This is very handy when you want to collect expenses over the entire duration of a trip and especially when you are in a group and sharing costs. More on the App here.

As you can see in the demo video, I have several trips in there already that I used the App for. In the first few trips (family trips I wanted to manage a budget for, since I was paying) I was not sharing costs, just capturing them for myself.

On this trip, we all agreed to take turns paying for group costs as they arose and keep track of them and then make sure they were all equally distributed at the end.

You can see how you get a total to date and then in the bar chart what the distribution of expenses is amongst the group. I tweaked the original categories that are available out of the box (by type of expense), by adding new ones for each member. Thats the way the pie chart works, per category.

You can see that a further breakdown is possible by tag in the All Trip data view, which you see at the end and it’s also possible to filter expenses by tag so you can dive deeper.

Once the trip was complete, I exported a CSV file (done from Settings) with all trip data and then did a simple calculation to see who owed what to whom after first determining what the average cost for the entire trip was.

All in all, a marvellous hike aided by some very nifty technology.

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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 – 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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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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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.

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3 ways to automate WordPress and improve content creation

This is a test post to some degree as well as an explainer. I’ve been trying to work out the best way to get a post out without needing to tend to some of the tedious chores of publishing a post every time. I want to get those out the way fast so I can focus on the writing. Read on to see what I am trying out.

I make use of featured images – a lot. I try have them in every post except when I create a DanelDoodle because then the doodle becomes the only image I want the reader to focus on.

Most of the time I create custom featured images for each post because when you share on social media, the central part of the featured image stands out. Sometimes it matters less so I looked at several ways of to automate the creation of a featured image.

One was super simple which I loved but there was no way to distinguish between posts and pages (Default Featured Image). Another broke my site since the plugin hadn’t been tested to work with my version of WordPress (Auto Post Thumbnail). The third worked a charm: Quick Featured Images.

The featured image (and thumbnail) for this post was automatically generated by using the plugin so its a step I can skip when creating posts with a specific tag. I’ve started with this and will see how I go but so far so good.

Social Sharing

click to enlarge

I had a challenge with the social sharing function in the past but I am now trying to see if it has been fixed. I’m referring to the Jetpack function that you see in the screenshot.

In the past, the message I would write for the audience would overwrite the heading and excerpt I normally capture at the start of the post or in the SEO description.

I don’t want that to happen.

I would prefer it if the message was displayed in addition to the title and the excerpt I normally see.

That is because each plays its own role in making content stand out. I have been doing it manually for the last year or so but am hoping this will now work and save me more time.

Once this post is published, I’ll come back and confirm how it worked.

Block Templates

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Reusable blocks. This entire page and its layout can be saved as a reusable block. I would first have to group the elements I would want to reuse and then save the group. There’s more on that from WordPress. This does not included the featured image however and nor the headline.
  2. Copy post. I could just go to my list of posts that have been published and copy the entire post. This would copy everything and then I just need to change the things I want to change but everything else in terms of structure, would remain. More on that here.