Three ways to create an experience

Three ways to create an experience

In my last post, I said we’re moving from the Information Age into the Experiential Age in everything from the way we learn and interact with ideas, to the way we create and collaborate, to the way we make decisions about products and services. So it might be useful to talk about what makes an experience different from receiving information, and how to create better experiences for learning, working, and living.

The Experiential Age

The Experiential Age

If the last hundred years represented a shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, we’re seeing a new shift now: a shift to the Experiential Age. Here are four ways this is taking shape.

Five ways VR will transform education

Five ways VR will transform education

Virtual reality is giving educators powerful tools to shape new kinds of learning experiences for students, from school children to postgraduates and beyond. The immersive quality of VR is perfect for education. It gives learners an interactive rather a passive learning experience. It minimises distractions, creates engagement, helps with retention, and aids in learning and mastering complex subjects. Here are five ways virtual reality is already beginning to transform education.

Human Future

Human Future

In a previous post, I wrote about different ways we can choose to respond to the crazy, unsettling rate of change that is our new reality.We can ignore or reject change, but we do this at the peril of becoming irrelevant and increasingly isolated. Irrelevance might be a fine choice if you can afford it. But for those of us who still need to earn a living or who plan on living and interacting in the world for a good, long while, it’s not a smart option.

VR Odyssey - Part I

VR Odyssey - Part I

There have been two times in my life when an experience with technology has rocked me so much it has changed the direction of my work.The first time was in 1994 when I was working at Carnegie Mellon University and I published my very first web page. Just by sitting at my desk, writing a few lines of HTML, and uploading it to a server, something I had to say could immediately be seen by people all over the world. I hadn’t needed to go through any intermediary: no publishing house, no newspaper, no television or radio station, no film studio. Just me and a web server, and my content was out there.

Creating a story worth telling

Creating a story worth telling

Try this short thought experiment. Imagine some benefactor has given you an unlimited budget to go on the holiday of your dreams. You can go anywhere you want, do anything you want. You start planning. Where would you go and what would you do?But there's a catch to this holiday. You are not allowed to take any photos or videos. No posting to social media. No journal. No souvenirs. And you and everyone who went with you on the holiday will take a pill at the end that will wipe it from your memory. Afterwards, it will be for you as if the holiday never happened.

Balance in a time of paradox

Balance in a time of paradox

The world has gotten a little surreal lately as everything gets faster, faster, and there are a few ways we can choose to respond.

1) Do nothing
Ignore it and try to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. Be paralysed -- like a deer in the headlights of an approaching car after dusk in rural Pennsylvania where I come from. This goes very badly for the deer.

2) Fight it
Join the counter-revolution. Fight with all your energy to put things back the way they were. Find a tribe of like-minded reactionaries, fuel the collective anger, and blow things up.

3) Be assimilated
Go along with it. Be seduced by the latest gadget and convenience and the pretty, blinking lights. Go on, see what’s just landed in your inbox. Check your Twitter feed. You know you want to. In the meantime you have a vague sense that life isn’t as satisfying as it used to be, but who has time to worry about that? What’s on Netflix?

4) Dance with it
I discovered the transcendent joy of swing dancing a few years ago, after spending the first part of my life being so miserably self-conscious that I refused to dance on any occasion. Not even at my own wedding. The secret to dancing is that you have to hold onto your core and your frame, while at the same time responding in a playful, fluid way to the music, your partner and what’s happening around you. It takes some practice to master this skill but once you do, it’s a whole lot of fun

Charles Handy says, ‘The secret to balance in a time of paradox is to allow the past and the future coexist in the present.’ Can we learn to hold onto our core, the things that makes us us, while we dance playfully with change?

The gift of reflection

The gift of reflection

At this time of year, it’s easy to be so busy tidying up loose ends that we don’t take time to reflect on the year that’s finishing. Instead, we move straight into anticipating and planning for the year ahead.

But if we don’t take some time to reflect, we miss out on the opportunity to celebrate what we’ve achieved, absorb what we’ve learned, and understand how we’ve changed.

This year, why not give yourself a gift of thirty minutes of quiet reflection? Take longer if you can. Find a nice spot with good coffee, or your drink of choice. Bring your notebook and pen. I favour a soft cover Moleskine with dot grid pages, and a Staedtler fine liner.

List some of the things that have happened this year in your work and your life. Draw it as a river if you like a visual metaphor.

Which of those things would you like to quietly celebrate?
Which have helped you learn something?
Which are moments to savour for their juiciness?

How have you changed this year? What kind of chapter has it been in the bigger story of your life and work?

Wishing you a safe, joyful, and reflective holiday.

Why tell your own stories?

Why tell your own stories?

In working with leadership teams, I find they’re usually quite ready to embrace the need to tell THE story of the thing they’re doing--the strategy, the proposal, the services they offer. But they’re less comfortable about the idea of telling THEIR stories at work--events from their personal experiences.

I think there are several reasons for this. First, the idea might not have occurred to them. They want to communicate something about the strategic plan. Why would an anecdote about their kids be relevant? Second, it takes more time to prepare because they have to think of a relevant story and work it into the message. And third, revealing something personal to the people who work for/with them makes them feel a bit exposed.

But telling a short, personal story that’s relevant to your message is one of the most powerful ways you can communicate. Here are five reasons to get over yourself and give it a try:

1) Make messages stick
Now that science is using MRIs to watch how we think, a number of studies (like one published in Nature recently) have shown that what happens in our brains when we listen to a story is a lot like what would happen if we were experiencing those events ourselves. The story activates many more parts of the brain than abstract information, including emotional, sensory and memory networks. The result is that stories stick with us in the same way that experiences stick with us, so a relevant story makes your message memorable and gives it more impact.

2) Create rapid rapport
Listening to stories causes our brain to release dopamine and oxytocin into our bloodstreams, which makes us feel more relaxed and makes us feel empathy towards the person in the story. So telling a personal story makes you more relatable and likeable to your audience, which means they’re much more likely to listen to all the other very sensible things you have to say.

3) Be more human (and inspiring) as a leader
People want to follow leaders who are real people, not jargon machines. The more you you bring to your work, the more people want to work with you.

4) Give something of yourself to others
Sharing experiences that have meant something to you is an act of generosity. It lets other people learn some things you’ve learned, and it lets them know they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing.  Sometimes it makes them smile or laugh, and that’s a gift too.

5) Make meaning from your experiences
This one is my favourite reason for storytelling, and it’s something you only discover the value of after you’ve done a bit of it. In an age where we constantly move from one distraction or one urgent task to the next, taking the time to reflect on and share your own experiences is one of the best ways of bringing meaning into your life.

Things you know to be true

Things you know to be true

Okay, so it’s important to Start With Why. But where do you find Why so you can start there?

Finding a purpose that feels right and real to you as an individual, as a team, or as an organisation is not an easy thing to do. It takes some experimentation and usually some fumbling inarticulateness along the way.

In his latest Museletter, the always delightful Dr Jason Fox explores the Perils of a Neatly Defined Purpose. Words, he says, can get in the way of meaning.

Yes, they can.

If Why is making your brain hurt, another way in is to think about some things you know to be true.  More of a philosophy than a purpose.  A set of core beliefs.

Google does this in lieu of vision, mission or values with their Ten Things We Know To Be True. To give you a quick idea of what they are for Google, here’s their list. But go to the website and read them if you’re curious because each one isn’t just a statement; it has an explanation behind it that gives it more meaning.

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

  3. Fast is better than slow.

  4. Democracy on the web works.

  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.

  6. You can make money without doing evil.

  7. There’s always more information out there.

  8. You can be serious without a suit.

  9. The need for information crosses all borders.

  10. Great just isn’t good enough.

Pretty good for guiding decisions and letting people know what you’re about, even if it’s not a purpose or a vision. So if you’re not getting a good GPS signal on your Why, give this a try instead.

What are some things you know to be true that relate to you or to your business?
How did you come to know these to be true?

Making Values Real

Making Values Real

Your organisation’s values say what kind of people you are and what you stand for. They reflect how you do your work when you’re at your best.

If there’s something real behind them, your values make you stand out. They help you attract and keep staff who will bring their best to the work. They help you become a leader people want to follow. They are the ultimate differentiator and driver of long-term customer loyalty.

But usually values statements are just some nice words somebody stuck in the strategy document and put on posters around the office. They are abstract, empty and meaningless. And if they don’t match what people see happening around them, they breed shadow stories and cynicism.

To be real, values need to reflect who you are when you’re at your best, and they need to have examples behind them to make them concrete.

Here are three questions to help you find your values. Answering these will also give you some stories that show what they mean in action. 

  1. Think of a time when you were particularly proud of your work or your team’s work. What happened? What values or characteristics were important in this example?

  2. Think of a time you felt you or your team missed an opportunity or missed the mark. What happened? What important values or characteristics could have made a difference?

  3. Think of a time you saw someone demonstrate a characteristic your organisation needs, whether it was here or somewhere else. What happened?

Another great thing about values is that they can be translated into behaviours, which means they can be measured. And these will be measures that matter. Once you’ve identified your values, think about ways they can be turned into actions.

Go Engage Yourself

Go Engage Yourself

Companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share, according to Gallup research. That is extraordinary. But the same research shows that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work.

So you may be asking, how do I find these few, marvellous, possibly mythical, engaged people, or how can I wave a magic wand to engage the ones I already have?

A good place to start -- really the only place you can start -- is with yourself.

How long has it been since you’ve reminded yourself what’s important about the work you’re doing, and why it matters to you? My friend and colleague Simon Dowling, in his wonderful new book Work With Me, calls this kind of reflection ‘romancing your purpose’.

Take your business case out for a candlelit dinner and have a nice, long conversation with it. Look into its eyes and let yourself remember what spark attracted you to it in the first place. What hidden qualities and depth are covered up by the numbers and pie charts? Are you willing to tell other people what you love about it?

This will do wonders for your own engagement and conviction. People will hear the difference in your voice and see it in your eyes when you talk about the work, and it will have an impact on everyone around you.