Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why only the paranoid survive


 “The lesson is, we all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change” Andrew S. Grove 

I was recently watching an episode of the hit TV show Scandal and was asked what I liked most about the show.  My love for the show went deeper than it being a hit TV show; it took a while for me to ponder:  Why did I like Scandal so much?

I love the show for the rubric cube-like interconnectedness of the plots and the seemingly endless array of multi-dimensional chess gamesmanship across the characters and the stories.   If you are a Scandal junkie, you have most likely become slightly paranoid watching the show at times in attempts to decipher certain symbols or code words in conversations or gestures; one never knows what’s lurking on the other side of a comment, glance, or decision.

While emotions of paranoia span a spectrum of actions and beliefs, those that live on the “slightly paranoid” side of disruptive change sometimes have an edge.  The slightly paranoid typically embrace disruption, whether that is disruption is positive or negative, whether it is in a particular industry, or within your own organization.   

Think about some of the most disruptive events in history and how the slightly paranoid individuals who saw it coming were able to anticipate, prepare, and embrace the new normal before others even knew what was going to happen.   

  • When digital media disrupted the music industry, some people initially gaffed at the idea of “having 1000s of songs in your pocket” as Steve Jobs once envisioned.  The slightly paranoid began leveraging the early versions of this idea hence the creation of illegal peer to peer sharing sites such as the infamous Napster to what eventually led to today’s digital media culture.  

  • The U.S. mortgage housing crisis of 2005 disrupted the housing market and began the financial crisis; many people spiritedly debated about how strong the markets were and commercial construction projects across the US were in full swing, a handful of slightly paranoid American financial experts predicted and profited from the build-up and subsequent collapse of the housing market and subsequent credit bubble in 2007 and 2008.

Think about how these examples apply to your organization…who are some of the slightly paranoid individuals in your firm that may be trying to get your attention on what seems like a minor, non-urgent, manageable threat? Whose warnings do you keep brushing off?    

In the book, “Only the Paranoid Survive”, author Andy Grove call these employees “Helpful Cassandras” after Cassandra who in Greek mythology was cursed so that no one ever believed her prophecies.   

Helpful Cassandras are slightly paranoid individuals in an organization that are acutely aware of the emerging shifts and trends.  They usually are the first to fire warning shots towards a pending disruption before the average person even recognizes anything is even happening.  Unfortunately, sometimes their guidance and warnings fall on deaf ears or even ridiculed…until it is too late.  

Being slightly paranoid is not a bad thing when it comes dealing with exponential 100X change within your organization.  Change can become more tangible and opportunistic when it is embraced rather than feared.  The slightly paranoid make decisions and take action from a place of strength, courage, and power to reap the full benefits of the pending disruption.  

If you want to prepare, anticipate, and embrace disruptive change around you, pay closer attention to the world around you.    

Stop and read the signposts - particularly the silent, subtle trend lines that no one else maybe paying attention to. 

Listen and investigate the warnings.  

Ask questions during critical inflection points. 
Challenge the status quo. 

Connect the dots.  

Plan and pivot.  Don’t be afraid to take action; if the first action doesn’t work, change your approach.   
Just keep moving. 

…or, build up your paranoia muscle by watching Scandal.     Because in disruption, only the paranoid survive.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If you constantly answer emails and text messages in your head – but not in real life - read this

In the last week, at least 10 different people expressed frustration about how they have gotten into a weird habit of answering emails or text messages in their head, but do not provide an actual response to a message in real life. They each described the impact this was creating in both their work and personal lives and were literally scratching their heads, trying to make sense of this phenomenon.

Since it kept coming up over and over again, I started thinking about why is this happening to many of us? Can one person truly get in front of this data train?

I decided to do some digging to gain a broader understanding of the problem. I took a step back to analyze how much information you are actually receiving in a day?a week? a year?

I conducted a quick scan that yielded some interesting insights. Consider this:

  • An average email is about 75 kilobytes (KB) of size. 75 KB would be around 7000 words in plain text or about 37 and a half pages of typewriting. 
  • The average email user receives 147 messages per day.  This means that if the average email is 75 kilobytes, this translates to 1,029,000 words in plain text or approximately 5,513 pages of typewritten information a day – just from one mailbox.  
  • If you are like most people, you have probably have at least 2 email addresses – a work email and a secondary (personal) email address.  According to research firm Return Path, people read 83% of the emails in the primary mailbox versus only reading 16% of the email messages in their personal mailbox.    
  • This means that you are probably reading or scanning through a combined 5,458 pages of typewritten information a day via emails.    
  •  Layer on top of that people send/receive about 60 text messages per day.  At 140 bytes on average per text message, this is an additional 8,400 bytes (or 7.8 KB) of data.

This means on a weekly basis you are trying to filter through 270+ typewritten pages of new information being pushed to you. 

Annually it means you are receiving approximately 12,960 of typewritten pages of information requiring some sort of additional level of action for you to take.  This is all before the social media feeds, other email addresses/data streams, and mobile app notifications.

Visually, the amount of emails, text messages, social media notifications, etc.... you receive annually would probably looks something like this if it was filed away manually in real life:

Let that sink in for a moment.

And then you wonder why your brain keeps resorting to “phantom” email/text responses - answering emails or text messages in your head, but not actually taking physical action in real life. 

Cut yourself some slack…!

With all of this data being constantly pushed to you, it is actually natural for your brain to react to this constant stream of data through automatic filtering and indexing of information called selective filtering.

Running from meeting to meeting, commitment to commitment, we attempt to stay on top of a massive data train that is coming our way moving at lightning speed and landing in our mobile devices with content being generated by people and machines all the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What we fail to realize is that this 24/7/365 data train will win - every time. 

You might have to give up the idea of trying to get in front of it and determine a smarter, less evasive approach to how you will consume critical information and at what times that are most effective to help you better manage and communicate.

What we need to realize is that this data train will win - every time.

What are ways you can completely disconnect and only read or scan emails/text messages when you have the time to pay full attention?  Share your comments below.