Creating a Vision Board

All of us reach points in our life when we are faced with important choices to make. One of the most common enablers to help us make these choices is what mentors call our Vision Board. “Do you have a Vision Board?”, “What do you want to be?”, and such other questions come up in our discussions with friends, philosophers, and guides.

I present below, a few questions in a mind map that help us to feel, think, and set up a Vision Board for ourselves. It is a good idea to iterate through the responses you think of, and keep refining them as much as you like. The leaf nodes are indicative only, and you may identify them differently. The sequence is broadly from top down, but you can start at any point.

Setting up a Vision Board

Once you’ve responded to these questions in whatever level of detail you think is appropriate, print it out and keep as a reference that you think over the next few days/weeks.

It is also a good idea (and good fun too) to review your Vision Board at least every year, and make changes you want. Look at the Vision Board not as written in stone, but as what encourages you to become what you want to be proud of.

I look forward to your comments and feedback on your experience of using this, and your suggestions for how people could benefit more from it. Thank you!

Draft Standards for TMBC (Text-Message Based Learning Content)

The last several years have seen the mushrooming of text-message or SMS based content being published on messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, etc., for consumption as learning material. This became especially evident during the last year when the pandemic locked us all indoors and such platforms were the quickest, simplest, and most widely available medium to reach more and more people, globally. Training on anything and everything has been offered, from photography, to performing rituals, to removing snakebite venom, to learning the scriptures.

As the explosion happened, so did the variety of styles and language and various other aspects of quality of content. It often surprised me when the content did not seem to acknowledge the needs or preferences of the readers. Having been in the Content design and development space for almost 30 years, I have become quite sensitive to these preferences, though each of us can choose which ones are important and which may not be for them.

Please have a look at these draft Standards to consider when designing, developing, and delivering Text-Message Based Content (TMBC). I will be delighted if you can share your opinion on what can improve these standards, and the overall communication through TMBC. If it is a medium, lets use it not just well, but in the best way. Please add your comments to the discussion in this post.

Length

  • Each post should not be longer than 2-3 screen scrolls on a device. Long messages tend to be partially read, deferred for later, and get left unread.
  • Balance the content posted each day (by the learner time required), so that learners can manage their time better. Don’t have content which requires the learner to spend say 1 hour on one day and 5 hours on another day. (also note next point).
  • Sentences should usually be about from 20 to 30 words long. If your style is breezy, 15 words would be good. Sentences with 50 or more words should be avoided if possible. Throw in a shorter sentence now and then that refocuses, summarizes, surprises.

Content

  • Indicate the time expected to be taken by each post or activity before the learner gets into the content, for better time management and selection of a good time of day when the learner may choose to devote their time to it.
  • Labeling is important. Title each post with meaningful labels, and maintain the clarity, consistency, and hierarchy of labeling.
  • A small visual map can be included at the beginning of each day’s posts to indicate which part of a bigger knowledge chunk will be dealt with that day.
  • Use short, simple words.
  • Have a consistent presentation mode/pattern for each info type that is presented, e.g. (this is only an example, the model can be redesigned to suit desired objective and nature of subject)
    – Concept – text
    – Principle – spoken audio
    – Structure – visual
    – Process – video, morphing through phases
    – Procedure – numbered list of steps, text, each beginning with verb-object, action, ending with the result
  • Never post or share politically or legally controversial content like debates, opinions, unsubstantiated facts, or misleading statements.
  • Never infringe on another’s copyright on intellectual property, and always acknowledge sources, provided you have permission where required.

Voice

  • The voice of the text content can be first/second person, as that is expected in a chat medium.
  • Write short, simple sentences, and this is even more important in TMBC as the medium by context expects less time focused attention.
  • The message to be delivered should be simply contained in short bytes.
  • Ensure all dates/times etc. are mapped to real time, and indicate time zones, as the TMBC may be consumed by learners globally. This is especially important when posts contain time sensitive information, e.g. dates, times, virtual meeting links which expire, etc.

Language

  • Avoid texting jargon and abbreviations like ‘u’, ‘hru’, ‘atm’, etc.
  • If multiple language posts are to be broadcast, ensure each post is in only one language.

References

  • Embed links to media or documents that are too big to see natively in posts, but as far as possible, embed content that does not require linking out to a browser or another app. The learner is likely to get ‘lost’ once they leave the learning chat.
  • If you’re encouraging questions or sharing, provide a link to another chat where questions and sharing can be posted by learners. Maintain the content chat clean of any conversation.

Typical progression of content (information presented and built up for assimilation) could be as depicted in the sketch below, through the information types that are meaningful for the learner:

— O —

We will be stronger

The effects of this global episode are going to be deep and far reaching in so many different areas of our lives. We are however, beginning to see the sunbeams shining through the clouds!

As with every shake-up, I see the biggest opportunities for the best ‘new’ to emerge, for most of all it is a time when change is accepted and even expected by most.. and the natural tendency of mindful people is to change for the better!!

Stay safe, stay mindful!

Abstraction is the Core Skill for Learning

Intelligent, knowledgeable, wise!!  Don’t we all like being known for such attributes?  We spend our lives learning, passing exams, gathering degrees and certificates, and awards and recognition, little realizing that the only real attributes we get to be known for, depend on how we respond to people, and how we solve ‘problems’ in daily life.

Knowledge, for example, not only depends on what we know, but is evident from whether we are able to recall the knowledge and articulate it in a concise way that is coherent for people.  Intelligence is a ‘system’ we build within our minds to manage our knowledge, and wisdom reflects in how insightful, relevant and useful our responses are.  We can learn about anything and everything, but to learn what is useful is the most valuable.  Skills and Competencies are other dimensions of knowledge which are more application oriented and may even be more physical or kinesthetic.  We have talked about skills and competencies in another paper many years ago, which you could check out here if you like.

Learning

I understand the purpose of learning to be to assimilate, understand, comprehend, distill the essence, to integrate new information into knowledge, into what we already (believe we) know.  We could say that learning begins with identifying a ‘problem question’ in our mind, inquiring about and understanding concepts, and then being able to assimilate, apply, and leverage them with our constantly changing knowledge-base or matrix and experience to answer the problem question satisfactorily.  It is not only the ‘essence’ that we have to distill, the most relevant essence must also rise to the top of the heap as more importantly relevant compared with the other candidates of essence in consideration.

Observing around us, I found that a lot was being said, being shared, being articulated and communicated, but more often than not there seemed lack of alignment between speaker and listener, or writer and reader.  This essentially led to a waste of communication time, effort, everything, for both the giver as well as the receiver.  The listener(s) often went on to wonder… ‘what was the point?’  Instead of having a lot to say, share, etc., what if we focused on the essence and just made sure it was received and digested?  That’s where I started looking for the Abstract!  Shared below is the definition(s) of Abstract from dictionary.com.   I have italicized the meanings and senses that are most relevant to our discussion in this paper:

Abstract

Noun

  • a summary of a text, scientific article, document, speech, etc.; epitome.
  • something that concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things; essence.
  • an idea or term considered apart from some material basis or object.
  • an abstract work of art.

Verb (used with object)

  • to draw or take away; remove.
  • to divert or draw away the attention of.
  • to steal.
  • to consider as a general quality or characteristic apart from specific objects or instances: to abstract the notions of time, space, and matter.
  • to make an abstract of; summarize.

 

As I thought about Abstraction, and maybe abstracted some more 😊 I realized that Abstraction is actually not only the key skill for learning, it is also the ability that actually helps us accommodate more in our mind as we learn more, without having to necessarily increase the number of grey cells 😉.

Abstraction

This entire process of Abstraction actually increases our knowledge, as we are able to condense knowledge into its abstract and then add more knowledge into our mind, to be abstracted further, to provide more space to add more knowledge, and so on.

Assimilating and presenting requires prioritizing and emphasizing some aspects over others.  A lot may be written on a slide, and if you read out the words to the audience you are likely to face a sleeping audience pretty soon.  What people are interested in listening to is what YOU think is important., and how do YOU understand it, for that is where the clue to understanding lies for them.  If you could understand it, they are also likely to.

An analogy

The formation of learning in our minds is like the making of a ‘phulka’, or ‘roti’, the fine Indian bread, beginning with the grinding of flour, adding water, kneading, abstracting, compacting, rolling, and baking, finally leading to the separation or distinction of the two layers as it fills up with hot, wholesome air.

Thinking of existing knowledge as the grain to begin with, the grinding of flour is the breaking down and analysis of what we know, which is then made fluid and malleable with the addition of water (a Guru, or Teachings), going on to being kneaded allow connections being made from heretofore unknown knowledge, abstracting and compacting (identifying general principles and isolating the key learnings), rolling (forming a plan to implement), and baking (when the rubber meets the road), the distinct layers being the discrimination and discretion that wisdom brings.

What brings wisdom

With time, we build the belief that we already know what there is to know.  We close the doors for new learning gradually, as we think we grow wiser… But time has little to do with wisdom; it is our sensitivity to what knowledge is valuable in which situation, and how to increase the value of knowledge that is ultimately our wisdom!  It is our knowledge of knowledge that becomes our wisdom.

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From The Texts to Texting

We accomplish what we pay attention to.  I think it is common knowledge by now that the attention spans of humans have reduced dramatically, and are reducing every year, as we adapt ourselves to newer and ‘cooler’ ways of thinking and interacting.

I wonder many a time about how our habits in communication have changed over the years in terms of how much (or how little) we want to read and write.

 

Scriptures – The Vedas, The Bible, The Koran, The Book of Mormons, et al

Books (Classics, Biographies, Epics, Novels, Short Stories)

Letters

Documents, memos, etc

Email

Texting/WhatsApp

 

We seem to be giving ourselves less and lesser time to reflect on the information we exchange… It hardly has the time to become knowledge or wisdom… It’s when the light of understanding and insights reflects upon information that information grows into knowledge and then into wisdom…

In fact, there are two forms of learning – one is called learning (from external inputs), and the other is realization (from inside our own selves).  We seem to be depending more and more on learning from external sources, and depending less and lesser on the organization of knowledge inside ourselves.

Fragmenting

Google has fragmented wisdom and knowledge into information, our methods of communication viz. WhatsApp, Text Chat, Messenger, etc. have left us with little more attention span than a fly.  I’ve had friends ask me for steps to accomplish something on different occasions, and to my surprise when I sent them the entire procedure in a neat document over email, they promptly requested the steps over WhatsApp!!  What does this mean?  Are we losing the big picture?  Or am I losing the new Big Picture?  Frankly, I have also considered the latter.  Is it something that I may be stuck upon, instead of moving along with the ‘times’ to be as ‘cool’ as everyone else?

Maybe its just different ways we deal with the span of attention and focus that we have and need to distribute across the multitude of stimuli that bombard us every hour.  The only thought that worries me is that value needs to be created, and long term value comes from pointing at the long term, beyond all the immediate short term objects, which seems to be a rare event these days, rarer than it used to be.

 

From Cement to Concrete, what is the difference?

A significant aspect to consider in the fragmentation of knowledge, is the probability (or lack of it) of retention of the whole with the fragments. How are Cement and Concrete defined?

Cement

  1. any of various calcined mixtures of clay and limestone, usually mixed with water and sand, gravel, etc., to form concrete, that are used as a building material.

From <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/cement?s=t>

Concrete

  1. formed by coalescence of separate particles into a mass; united in a coagulated, condensed, or solid mass or state.

From <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/concrete?s=t>

 

Cement becomes Concrete only when it cures, when it matures over time, remaining set in the same state of being (meaning).  Fragments become that much more difficult to retain, as well as to retain in the configuration in which they made any sense.  In fact, the ability to create and grasp long sentences is an interesting indicator of this skill.

Considering other forms of fragmentation too, e.g. of work, of time, of attention, of money (investment/payments) – the trends are consistently indicative.  Work management for example, has emerged as an Agile approach, or worse, just giving up on the integrity of work with outcome.  In its fragmented form, work is simply kept consistent with an activity list and schedule.  Project management has also become fragmented.

In its fragmentation, we must ensure work (or anything that might be fragmented) does not lose its flow, which sometimes is the very core of the value of work.

Does this mean long term value is giving way to immediate gratification, a rhythm that’s faster, and a rhythm that’s a combination of so many rhythms that the core rhythm can’t even be perceived amidst the noise and chatter?  I would love to believe that the capacity of the mind is infinite and modern minds can actually create long term value even from the fragments of life they deal with every day.

The point is not in extremes, but in the maturity to realize that every situation may require its own way of being dealt with.  Some situations will demand the speed and responsiveness that can be met only with fragments.  And then there will be situations that holistically lend themselves to creating new meaning, new insights, and new purpose by curing and maturing into lasting value.

Lets make more sense!! 🙂

— O —

 

T.I.M.E.

Thought that Integrates the Meaning of Everything!

Time has been the subject of discussion and rumination ever since it was conceived by man. From Science to Philosophy, every field has had thinkers who have proposed ways to comprehend and harness Time. We as humans have had time as the one common proviso in our lives, with nature giving all of us the same amount to work with.

Time builds meaning. As time passes, we know of its passing because of the difference it means to us. The most meaningful moments seem to pass so quickly, while something that doesn’t make any sense seems to last forever. Our efforts and struggles are only against what we cannot make sense out of, while what we reflexively respond with happens in a split second.  Time is provided to us to make sense of.

If we have a sense of accomplishment, it is because we understand. When we aren’t able to understand why something happened or didn’t happen, doesn’t it seem that time stands still? Time may not be needed to build understanding, it may be the other way around – understanding may be needed to value time.

It is said – “The best use of a life is to spend it in creating something that will outlast it…”. Our lives need to have meaning… far beyond what we may be able to understand. This is possibly why we feel the need to understand the Mysteries of the Universe, which we may not understand fully, but we have the faith that they are there, and they are bigger than us!

Designing Goals

Well designed goals are a key strategic differentiator that great organizations, teams and individuals have from others.  How do we design goals that are better than others?

To begin with, we must understand the nature of Goals, and their interdependencies, so that we craft integral sets of goals that lead to success.  As is evident from experience, the only goals that people are likely to work towards purposefully, are the ones they understand, in the way they understand.

Goal Setting Semantics

Goals, Objectives, Targets, KRAs (Key Result Areas), KPAs (Key Performance Areas), are all used differently in different teams, and often much of the debate is simply about smantics.  It is useful to have a common, simple to understand (and remember) interpretation of them as we intend to use the terms.

One meaningful interpretation of the terms and the relationships between them is shown in the structure below:

Goals                                                   ←        (Come from the Vision, Mission of the Organizational Unit)

A.  KRAs                                   ←        (Areas of Interest for a Business, e.g. from the Balanced Score Card)

A.1  Objectives          ←        (Useful purpose, strategic)

A.1.1  Tactical sub-plan/endeavor (Useful action, tactics)                  Target 1                    (Worthwhile achievement)

A.1.2  ….                                                                                                                             Target 2                                    

 

Goal Matrix

The Goal Matrix is used to align and review goals across different roles in a function, and across all functions to ensure there is parity of goals assigned to roles at the same level, as well as to ensure that every target is worthwhile in working towards the strategic objectives, for every KRA, all of which work towards the Vision and Mission of the organization.

Goal Matrix

Components of the Organization, and their Goals

  1. Top Management – Strategic (Growth)
  2. Structural segments of the Organization – Allow several Degrees of Freedom (Flexibility and Specialization)
  3. Middle Management – Tactical (Improvement)
  4. Executive – Decisions and Actions leading to Quality (Creation of Value to meet Customer needs)

Goals need to be translated down from the top down, ensuring that while the core competencies of role-holders are leveraged, they are also challenged to grow the organization.  Business Development translates work possibilities/competencies to money, Delivery translates money to work/competencies.

Sideways too, goals need to be integrated and aligned across different functions and roles (see Goal Matrix below) within functions so that there is ‘equity’ and ‘parity’ between role-holders, and what they contribute to the bigger, organizational goal.

Articulation of Objectives

The way Objectives are articulated, each objective needs to have the following included in its articulation:

  1. Behavior, performance, direction of endeavor – e.g. Improve, minimize, maximize, reduce, increase, grow, etc.
  2. Condition – the condition(s) under which the endeavor is expected to be undertaken, by default it is in the current scope of the organization.  Also, each objective is to be understood in the context of every other objective in the set.
  3. Qualifier – this is a criterial measure that provides observable visibility of the degree of satisfaction of the objective and relates to the Target
  4. Target – this is the criterial target measure, which if achieved will mean that the objective has been met.

Choice of Objectives

A common confusion in choosing objectives arises from not being clear about whether the chosen objective is a cause or an effect.  The best objectives are ’causes’, and they lead to desired ‘effects’.  Setting the ‘effect’ as an objective hides the real ’causes’ that need to be worked at to meet the goals.

E.g. if the Goal is to “Double the market share” of a company, one objective could be “To increase the visibility of the Brand”, which is an ‘effect’ objective.  Another objective could be “To increase Sales by 300%”, which is a ’cause’ objective.  The effect objective is not wrong, but could prove to be limiting in its achievement, while the cause objective is more certain of achieving the goal, given the target of 300% has been set based on market and industry trends.

Check on Goals

  • Goals can be for ensuring we cause the targets to be met, or simply for the effect of meeting targets.
  • Responsibility is clearly taken and carried through
  • Improvement built into the objectives and targets, or must have Objectives crafted especially for improvement of performance aspects.
  • SMART check on Objectives and Tactical plans

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What Are We Afraid Of?

For many of us, most often, fear is the key.  Our actions are driven by fear, just as much as our lack of action might be.  What are we afraid of?

Wikipedia says –Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (terror) a freeze or paralysis response is possible.  Some psychologists such as John B. Watson,Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman have suggested that fear belongs to a small set of basic or innate emotions. This set also includes such emotions as joysadness, and anger

It is interesting to note that fear is a feeling, and therefore something we can control (can we?).  Fear is also based on perception and awareness, again something we can control.  But Wikipedia adds:

It is worth noting that fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. Fear can also be an instant reaction to something presently happening. All people have an instinctual response to potential danger. This emotion is described as fear and it is pre-programmed into all people.[2] Fear, whatever its source, can become a controlling factor in a person’s life.[3]Fear can channel one’s energies away from areas of perceived threats and into directions that seem safe.[4]

It seems fear is an “instinctual response”.  How do we control it then?  Well, the first step is to recognize it when it happens.  It is for us to understand it better, and identify which heuristics are leading to it in our mind.  Our first responsibility to ourselves is to think!

Our problem might be in how we think about responsibility.  Almost always, people relate responsibility with a burden, with the liability or the blame we carry about something.  This thinking itself is the result of our perception and awareness, and therefore has the same opportunities of correcting our perception by increasing awareness.  We must distinguish between ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ in our mind.

Responsibility is what we carry before something is done, and Accountability is what we have after we have done it.  It is responsibility we need to do something, to begin doing something,… and accountability for having done it.

Corruption loses

The movement crystallized by Anna Hazare in India is heartening.  A welcome sight to see so many individuals speaking up against corruption, something our culture has been riddled with for decades.

For all those who are still doubtful about joining and supporting  the movement, here are a few possibilities they might be thinking about:

——————————————

“Why should I support it?  I actually stand to lose if everyone becomes honest.”

“It won’t work because the system is widespread, deep rooted, age old.”

“It is futile, too many people are corrupt.  From top to bottom.”

Some misguided, stupid people might even believe “A little corruption is necessary.”

——————————————

Well, if the malaise is age old and deep rooted it just means it might take longer than otherwise, and it certainly will take more effort than otherwise because it will be difficult.  But then just because things are difficult is no reason to not work towards them.  We wouldn’t ever get anything we wanted that way.

If we take the corrupt view and what we will lose, we forget to look for what we will gain.  What can truly be depended upon needs to be delivered by a method respected by everyone.  Without this positive regard for the mechanism, it can never lead to delivering more than what it has in the past.  Suspicion, skepticism, cynicism, disbelief – they all lead to an erosion of value, and we can only expect such a system to spiral downwards increasingly rapidly.

The movement across the country has millions now participating, and the numbers are growing.  Have we ever realized that evil seems to be strong and the evil gather unsummoned, almost instinctively.  Why does good believe itself to be weak, or subservient to evil?  Should it not be the other way around?  How can we gather all the good together to fight evil?  It won’t be a short fight, or even one with an end, but at least the right side will win!  Each one of us joining in and raising their voices is causing the change to goodness, and I hope this will teach us to do the same in more areas where the good suffer.

Have you ever thought about the definition of ‘corruption’?  Dictionary.com says it is…

– noun

1. the act of corrupting  or state of being corrupt.
2. moral perversion; depravity.
3. perversion of integrity.
4. corrupt  or dishonest proceedings.
6. debasement or alteration, as of language or a text.
7. a debased form of a word.
8. putrefactive decay; rottenness.
9. any corrupting  influence or agency.
All of the above apply, but to my mind the simplest understanding of Corruption is to…
“Seek what is not Deserved!”
Whenever we seek what we do not deserve, we are acting in a corrupt manner, demonstrating Corruption.  Of course the key is to know and accept what we deserve.  This requires being aware and honest with ourselves.  And then to have the courage to deal with ourselves as we deserve.
This responsibility we have to ourselves is the key!!  We must know the significance of this responsibility by realizing the effect it has on us.  We must also realize the connected nature of our environment with us, and how important it is to be responsible towards others in our society as well.
A big support to Anna would be what we could bring… the change… as Gandhiji said:
“Be the Change you wish for!”  This is not going to be just a support, but an imperative.
Here’s to moving the nation towards a responsive, responsible people!!

How Our Choices Realize Abilities

  1. SWOT for (Abilities) External Realizable Abilities and Environment

While we know the concept and practice of doing SWOTs for various entities, environments, and systems, we must also realize that the driving force comes from our motives and motivation.  Just as important as the skills and competencies are the feelings that drive us, that give us the motivation.

Our beliefs and attitudes are in fact a more important factor in what we achieve, because they exist even before most of the skills and abilities we acquire and develop through our lives.  As such, our attitudes often define which skills and abilities we will acquire and develop.

Lets spend some time and try to understand and articulate the beliefs, attitudes, motives, and feelings that subconsciously drive us to our goals.

 

  1. ESHF for Internal (Motives) Driving Beliefs and Choices of Response

#

Enjoy

#

Suffer

<what do I Enjoy, and repeatedly do, think about?>

<what do I Suffer, Bear, Tolerate and tend to Avoid, Resist?>

#

Hope

#

Fear

<what do I Hope for?>

<what do I Fear?>

  • What we enjoy, we do more of, becomes the impetus for moving forward.
  • What we suffer we try and avoid, holds us back.
  • What we hope for provides direction.
  • What we fear, we try to circumvent.

Doing an ‘Enjoy-Suffer-Hope-Fear’ (ESHF) will not be as easy as doing a SWOT.  You might find it difficult to identify what you enjoy, suffer, etc., but if you try and think at different levels, you will soon hit the jackpot.

Putting our motives down and in front of ourselves, we gain the power to critically examine them and exercise choices to moderate and modify them, to maximize our prospects of achieving what we truly want.

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