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Unlocking Potential

I’d like to think this is one of my superhero skills. Maybe it’s because of the mentoring work I do. I am often trying to figure out, with the individuals in the company’s I mentor, or simply the individuals I meet, how to unlock their potential. A lot of the time they are young people, my children or those of my friends, or those at schools where I sometimes go to talk. I am often trying with my own self. So even if it isn’t, this post and DanelDoodle can serve as my call to action for it to become so. Maybe it works for others too.

Potential is often related to enthusiasm and I’m a natural born enthusiast so that may be one of the reasons I’m so enthusiastic about potential.

But honestly, I do think you have to have some kind of enthusiastic streak about you, if not in general, then at least for the area in which you are trying to unlock potential. This goes for yourself or for others you are trying to help.

You could probably succeed through sheer determination or doggedness. But your odds of success are exponentially increased the more enthusiastic you are about what you are doing and how you can get the best of yourself or others while doing it and getting better at it.

It is through my enthusiasm that I often inspire myself and others, so I am told, to attempt something that they thought might not be possible. Or to try harder to unlock the potential necessary to overcome a blocker or challenge in achieving something.

In this last point I am reminded of the famous Winston Churchil quote:

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.

Sir Winston Churchill

So, whether you are doing it for yourself or for others, be enthusiastic about it. But the key point is to unlock potential.

Tap into the boundless in yourself and everyone, not to succeed at everything necessarily because that’s impossible and unnecessary, but never to succumb to the dumb inertia caused by doubt.

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Framing your customer success efforts for success

In your customer success efforts, especially when you are going deep with several high touch engagements, you have to think about how to spread yourself for maximum effect. It may be exacerbated when you have several customers each with several engagements. How do you choose what will benefit the customer the most with scarce resources and achieve your goals within your organisation? I have a simple framework and here it is below.

It’s pretty simple really, which is a critical component of any good sensemaking framework 🙂

Scale of impact

What potential does the engagement hold for making an impact, this is the central question.

To answer this, you must first look to the customer engagement and what it is trying to achieve.

If it’s framed in terms of the right business outcomes, you are off to a good start.

If those outcomes are quantified in the right way, you should be able to tie in your engagement activities to those outcomes.

If the scale of impact is high in terms of achieving high returns and the customer holds these returns as a major priority, you are on a good path.

Ability to influence outcomes

This is a kind of sanity test. I mean you can nail the aforementioned activity on scale of impact perfectly but if you have limited means of achieving what you’ve identified, it’s no good.

Your ability to achieve the right business outcomes could have as much to do with resources on your side as those on the customer’s side. Or your organisational intent or that of the customer, or some other blockers that may prevent you from achieving the right outcomes.

So think carefully not only about why and what you want to achieve but also how. If the latter is missing, this should be a major factor in reaching the next point.

Prioritised solutions

You could use a scoring mechanism to help in this task but that’s probably not necessary. You should be able to tell just by plotting the engagements into a visual multidimensional matrix, focused on the two activities covered by two axes – as per below.

This is not rocket science, just sensible thinking. Good luck with your customer success engagements 💪💥

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Choose carefully how you spend your time

I love this quote by Annie Dillard from her book The Writing Life, which I read not too long ago – here is my review if interested. It’s as spartan and to the point as her prose.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Annie Dillard

I thought it would be really good to capture that sentiment in a DanelDoodle. This may become a design for a T-shirt so I’d love to know what you think by rating it out of 5 stars below.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The significance of this simple thought cannot be understated. It’s so true on many levels, beyond the context she was referring to, writing.

It’s true that your life is bult by tiny habits that accrue day by day by week, etc. Eventually they become your life.

It’s true that you should also guard against what you spend your time on and with who.

Annie Dillard goes on to write so eloquently on the subject that I thought it worth sharing here.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”

Dillard emphasizes the value of presence in living a good life:

“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.”

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The rental mindset and path to freedom

Nothing is ours, not even our bodies. We always rent never own. This is liberating. I have written about this before in the context of products and commerce: The end of ownership and the rise of usership. But I am referring in this post to a mindset, a way of seeing things that can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Liberation from attachment

Liberation comes when you realise that nothing you have gained in this life can be taken with you, nothing materially a least. And that most of our concepts of ownership come from an attachment to things.

We think that the more we own of something, the more it makes of us and also the more control we have.

Ownership is like a proxy for control. We feel if we own it, we can control it and have more rights than when we are just a custodian, a mere borrower. Okay this does not apply to everyone (think of those that trash an Airbnb property) but at least to everyone with a moral compass.

Yes some things can be passed on, like a house that falls to your dependents. But you cannot take your house with you. And while you can enjoy it, we sometimes invest far too much of ourselves into our homes than is warranted. It ends up owning us in some cases – think of overly burdensome mortgages.

The ephemeral truth that sets you free

I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. In every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away.

When, as nature does, you accept that all is ephemeral, transient and passing away, then you can let go control and be truly free.

Then you can ride the wave and enjoy the thing and the moment. You have no commitment to anything.

It doesn’t mean you don’t have any obligations, as mentioned you do. You have a duty to look after and be responsible in your use and not just to enjoy.

When you can see things as just a renter, not an owner, and do this beyond just material things, then you are free.

Be free.

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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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Upgrade your mental operating system

I’d love to tell you I have a simple solution for what’s promised in the title but all I have to offer is a t-shirt 😬I do at least have the solution but simple it is not. Meditation is what I’m talking about. That’s clearly what this new design is intended to convey. This is an extension of my DanelDoodle‘s where I’ve selected some for printing on T-Shirts and you can find others in the shop.

While I’m not going to talk about how to meditate in this post, since it is focused on the new design, I can point you to an eBook I created on the subject some time ago: Mindful over Mind Full.

Having said that, I do want to say a little about why meditation is the route to a new kind of operating system.

It is well documented from scientific based research, that meditation does change your brain in some pretty amazing ways.

But apart from any evidence you might need to justify why you should meditate or at least try to, you have to experience the difference.

Long term impact is not going to be felt overnight but even just with one meditation session, you should feel a little calmer, clearer of mind, more focused.

Over time, it really does change the way you operate. I have been meditating for over 10 years on and off and I every time I meditate consistently, I feel like I’ve been through an upgrade.

A newer, better version of myself and with each version upgrade, I do get a better set of features.

So give it a try and then buy the T-Shirt so you can say you’ve been there 😉

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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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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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The opportunity for inspiration is infinite

I started my DanelDoodles as a way to capture simple inspiring thoughts visually, for myself. I also use them for visual sensemaking. Some of my early inspirational ones can be found here. They are also a great creative outlet.

I started creating them using the Paper 53 App and their Pencil stylus on an iPhone (now just Paper after being acquired by WeTransfer and their stylus is discontinued). Then I migrated to iPad and Apple’s Pencil. Now I create on both iPhone and iPad – the former for quick idea capturing, the latter for finishing in higher quality. I’ve also moved on to Procreate now – trying to get to even higher quality.

You could say the market for inspiration is infinite. You need only look at the many inspirational cards, mugs or t-shirts out there, etc. Which is one of the reasons I started my little side gig – getting my DanelDoodles onto t-shirts. But this is not for massive commercial success – with all the competition that would be a challenge.

But I do want to try and be different. I’d like my designs to be original, quirky, thought provoking or at the very least, to provoke a smile.

I have created two categories for them – one for personal inspiration (Mind Doodles) and the other for inspiring people at work or in a work context (Work Doodles). This is pretty much in line with the main purpose of this entire site, captured by the strap line: Adventures inside Organisations and of the Mind.

Which leads me to the featured image at the top of this post. This is a kind of showcase image and not just aligned to the title. You can also see it on a t-shirt and buy it if you like too – I’ve embedded the product page at left

I use it to remind myself when things are tough or I am down, that there is beauty everywhere and life is short so I should open my eyes to see that.

As far as I am aware, this is entirely original meaning I did not copy this from anyone or anywhere. I can’t say that’s the case 100% for this or any of my work since nothing is ever original and anyway, great artists steal (said a pretty good artist called Pablo once).

But I’m not saying I’m a great artist. I’m just having some fun, inspiring myself and hoping that perhaps that may rub off on others that might need it.

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Product led growth is not a panacea – it is a good start

Imagine not having to employ any sales or customer success people or adopt any of the tactics they use – because the product sells itself or gets utilised by users without any help. I’m being facetious, but in a nutshell that is the promise of product led growth.

Continue reading Product led growth is not a panacea – it is a good start
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Productivity is not about place and balanced views are required

If the outdated and ironic view in the DanelDoodle above does not seem familiar to you, then you have probably been living under a rock, in your living room perhaps. Or under your desk in the office 😬

It’s no secret many leaders equate being in the office with being productive. This Harvard Business Review article which includes survey data on a related subject, nails it. But you will find many more with a simple search.

I struggle to believe that it is anything other than ironic, maybe even moronic, to think that the only time you can be productive is when you are in the same place and physically together with others.

That does not mean to say I don’t believe in the benefits of physical proximity to others. I’ve been writing about the middle way of hybrid work models repeatedly under the productivity tag.

And that is the point, to be balanced in your views – not blinded by the dogmatism of decades old management thinking. New tools and ways of working which favour virtual, asynchronous collaboration do work.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee ☕

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A review of the new Microsoft Whiteboard

Click to see larger view

Naturally I used Microsoft Whiteboard for the review itself. I then exported an image of it and that is what you see above. This is not so much a feature overview since you can find that all here: Welcome to the new Whiteboard! That was the announcement post from a few days ago. This is more about the drawing, writing and doodling capabilities of such a tool as I’m a massive fan – see my many DanelDoodle’s. For the record, these are the tools I use mostly on my iPad currently, as mentioned in the review: Paper and Procreate. As soon as the new Whiteboard becomes available on iOS, I’m going to try that and also in my next Microsoft Teams Meeting.

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Productivity – we have a problem

There has been a flurry of bad press for productivity recently, especially in relation to remote work, but in general too. This is not entirely a new thing – see this pre-pandemic post from a Global Government Forum on The productivity problem: causes, consequences and cures. Two recent discussions around productivity have spurred on this post.

Continue reading Productivity – we have a problem
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The ebb and flow of productivity at work

I was thinking the other day about the times when I’m most productive at work. So much has been written about the subject and I work at a company and in a role where it’s one of the key functions of my job, i.e. to make people more productive through technology. There are a gazillion sites and services out there on how to be more productive. I think a lot of them miss the point.

Continue reading The ebb and flow of productivity at work