Is distraction good for you?

Distraction as an action, not a reaction

I am constantly distracted, when I want to be. My early years school reports concluded it was a trait to tame. But these days it is quite intentional. Or at least with my adult brain, I kid myself the same. Because we are each distracted whether we like to be or not.

As I continue to stretch my understanding of projects, and of people, and the paradigms that connect them both, so the distractions constantly bombard my mind. Not that I am unusual. It is the natural tendency of all of us. Part of our innate complexity, the brain’s counterpoint, constantly optioneering. It is only the awareness of this fact that we get to change.

We can train a warrior-like discipline. Learn to control urges and withstand pain. But there is more to this than will-power, at least if we want to be more than just a summation of sub-routines to repeat and engrain.

This is what we can do when meditating. We are taking interest in distraction. Even if that interest is just intending means to not be distracted. Or, we may be learning to positions ourselves behind distraction, sitting along-side it, or taking perspective from it. We may simply be learning to confront it, or finds ways to calm it. Both ancient practices and modern science are informing us we need to spend as much time outwardly focused as we do inwardly aware.

This is also what we do when we communicate. We invite, or attempt to initiate, distraction. We are presenting new perspective to another. We are receiving new perspective from another. We may be sharing or discovering new perspectives with each other. Meditating is one example of an active means of understanding this. Communication is an active way of doing much the same beyond our individual minds.

A distraction reaction, in action

By way of example of this in practice, I offer an observation I wrote in passing in a post on LinkedIn today. At the time, I had been reviewing some documents for work. On my mind were preparations for exams for my MSc in January. Yet my eyes and hands conspired to click onto LinkedIn. Subconsciously, my brain was asking for a dopamine hit to feed the addiction that now claims us all. So this was itself a distraction from the tasks upon my desk.

This is most pertinent to those who say yes too much. It’s important to find yourself doing so, and consider why. If being helpful is your curse, consider what you are not able to do because of all you have agreed to do. Crucially, check if the things you cannot now do are actually more important. Even more importantly, be honest with yourself and challenge your answer. Because behind all of this may be fear of that bigger thing. The more important thing. The thing that is harder to say yes to, maybe closer to your goal. Being busy serving others without clarity of why this is your best path, may be taking a heavy long-term toll.

Chances are the one thing someone has asked you to do that challenges you the most, is the one thing you find reason to say no to.

Saying no more often is step two. Step one is saying yes to those rarer opportunities that you doubt you can do, and that people less regularly request.

Step three is finding your own yes. Then its other people that think twice about saying no, to you.

My observations on LinkedIn 22 Dec 2021

This was my response to a poll on LinkedIn, asking “are you a “YES” person? How often do you say NO?”

It was only from responding to this post, and then returning to a specific query I was fielding, that brought both items together. The recurring project problem I was looking at was one part feeling obliged to say “yes” to even more formal reporting, when their better perspective could be offered by doing more, and reporting less. Which therefore required them to find constructive ways of saying “no”.

Learn how to channel your distractions

This is what we do in every moment of every day. We manage distraction, demands of attention, but in doing so we encourage a lateral connectivity. Each brain is wired slightly differently, nature makes this inevitably the way. We are the aggregation of our experience, and no two are therefore the same. The machinations of experiences creating happenstances that a more mechanised and optimised singular focus would not.

We also have much going on within the brain that is intentionally acting without our awareness. There is no conscious decision-making in temperature control or heart-beat, but nor is there is cognitive function of reading, or recoiling from something hot. We may not even need the brain at all to regulate the gut. We are however, a rarity of biological sets of processes to have some illusion of awareness at all. It is this awareness that enables each of us to compare. To be situationally aware. And by our abstraction of the real, both mull over internally but also externally share.

This is where much of the psychological, philosophical, and neuroscience debate still rages on. There is still plenty of room too for the debates of ethical, moral, theological, and physical. Objective, subjective, or existential.

For me, these are each fascinating discussions and debates. Some have been ebbing and flowing for 2,500 years. It is the cause of much of the distraction I now welcome every day. For it is this awareness of the perspectival, the conflicting, and the nuanced, that keeps me at my desk. Typing away.

Relate better to your distractions. Learn when to say “yes”, and when to say “no”. It is just part of the happenstance we may invite but not intend, in our human way.

Dialogos

Being more via dialogue – through meaning

The weekend starts here. Last weekend was all flu jabs and Moderna boosters, grumps and study deadlines looming. This weekend starts with new business about to begin, all university deadlines met with my best efforts offered, and a really enjoyable “riffing” session via Project Chatter today (recorded episode will be out on Monday).

I was pretty excited but nervous before my podcast today. In a good way. My normal momentary doubt, not really sure which way the discussion would go, knowing I would need to be on my game to keep up, but excited to be involved. For me that means I am in the right place – difficult but potentially expansive. No better feeling than contributing to a shared dialogue that is bigger than any one person. Especially among people I admire, who I have listened to extensively, and remain a fan. {Discussion link will appear here}

After all that I am feeling revved up but mindful, and glad for a quiet few days to regroup. After 637 days in lockdown, what does a quiet day look like? Watching lectures, reading, and listening to podcasts is not everyone’s idea of downtime. But it works for me.

My latest binge watch in a long list of new subject heroes is Dave Snowden. I heard him on a Rebel Wisdom podcast a few weeks ago {here}. I found out today he has also been a guest on Project Chatter {here}. It’s a brilliant episode – one of the few I missed – one I will be watching again. His insight is exceptional, and as an influencer of the great and the good he has authoritative wisdom to impart – check out his European Union Publication “field guide for decision makers” {here} and wider consulting and blog {here}. Academic breadth, business acumen, and an engaging speaker. I am already a big fan.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

It’s all just one big analogy

Can analogy help describe a project?

Responding to the question of how analogies can help explain projects. A delightful question posed tonight, on Opiner. (A brilliant app idea).

I wrote these notes in preparation for my 3 minute cameo.

The Greek word analogy means ‘proportion’, e.g., 2 is to 4 as 4 is to 8. Electrons and nucleus of an atom are related much as the planets are related to the sun. The analogy of analogy I offered is that it is like a zip-file of code passing from one closed system of consciousness to the next.

That is what we humans do. We symbolise and abstractly recreate what our senses have offered. We perceive.  We reformulate. We connect these abstractions. Approximate reality. This is how we think. How we communicate. And by both, we can collectively intend change.

Analogies do not help us explain projects. The notion of a project is an analogy. Analogous to the very fabric of what our projects are. Intended change. We approximate the complexity of nature, in attempt to understand change. We want to understand change because we can then influence it. We intend change, and by our shared approximations of reality attempt to control the change as we intend it.

This presents limitations. We cannot hope to receive and comprehend all by this summary. And we can only hope to summarise what we comprehend. Erroneous misunderstanding sits at every level of such conversion.

Analogy, metaphor, model, and theory each work well in describing intended change. Each is proportionally relative, limited by the range of our senses, perspectival and therefore compromised by the context of those observing it.

The notion of organisations being served by projects is also I think the wrong way around. Organisations are convenient and efficient means of putting ordered resource to work on bigger change. We can define smaller projects to reorganise that temporary organisational structure. Organisations are objectively bound. A legal convenience. They enable external processes, itself a transition state or change. Much as we can become the agent to change, biologically bound, and singularly legally culpable. Organisations are therefore the servant, not the masters of change.

I propose we change the narrative accordingly. The stories we tell enable us to be. They best approximate the processes of change we intend. Which is to the core of what it is to become the ever better contributor to the human project.

Tomorrow morning I attend a podcast with Project Chatter to discuss philosophy and if/how it applies to projects. This warms me up nicely for the dialogue to come. (Paul Goodge and Dale Fung).

Greek ‘proportion’2 is to 4 as 4 is to 8.electrons nucleus atom as planets are to the sun.
perceive symbolise reformulate connect extract vs abstractions abstractly recreateCommunication is abstract
EncodingModelling creating schemaAnalogy as zip-file of code
IN: We only receive and comprehend a summary of reality
OUT: We can only hope to summarise what we comprehend
a project analogy Intended changeAnalogy Metaphor Model theoryproportionally relative sensorially bound perspectival
the organisation an analogy legal convenienceordered resource process facilitatorsProcess Analogy of steps or change
Organisations are therefore the servant not the masters of change
change the narrative intended change at all scales core of what we are
Presentation crib notes

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

National shame – but it will happen again

It could have been worse

If England had won the European Cup Final in 2020, people may well have died. So says the findings of the Baroness Louise Casey report into the events surrounding England fans shameful scenes around Wembley stadium last year.  BBC article here. What a sentiment that is. Conclusions based upon “up to 6,000 people planning to storm the stadium at full-time to celebrate as the gates opened”.

The report suggests there were preparation failures. Failure to plan for “foreseeable risk”. Indications that additional strain on resources from Covid19 related issues played a role. But ultimately concluding that a large number of people’s behaviours were fuelled via externally sourced chemicals (alcohol and cocaine I assume), not internally generated excitement for an event. No great surprise there, perhaps. At least not to anyone who has visibility of what normal is deemed to be for many revellers in 21st Century Britain.

The report’s recommendations are mainly behaviourally focused:

  • Empowering authorities to act more strongly
  • “a sea-change in attitudes towards supporter behaviours”
  • Better communication between agencies
  • increased awareness of the unique challenges of such major events

My own view on these recommendations is they represent a misunderstanding of social psychology. They also mistake unpredictability of behaviours and the possibility of control. In this mis-placed behavioural assessment, I think we just invite rhetoric without real change. Much as other reports into other incidents fall into this same trap.

Three of these recommendations are based upon the temporal interface between prior planning and real-time adaptability. Visibility of a plan is best supported by the shared nature of its creation. This is communication in advance, the sharing of expected range of possible outcomes, and the collaborative nature of what is to be implemented. The empowerment element here then offers a change to the constraints, or better awareness of what they are, and what the systems of control are thereby intended to manage.

But none of these measures are relevant unless the planning is backed up by training and practical empowerments at ground level in real time. This is what the High Reliability Organisation (HRO) reflects. Increased visibility of the bigger picture based upon clarity of goals, clarity of roles and responsibility, and empowerment of those closest to the situation to act. It is also empowerment to act whilst accountability remains at the senior positions that have overseen the development of both plan and the control environment that contain all. Itself an expectation on leadership to serve, be authoritative rather than just have authority, and a shared understanding that pushing upwards rather than demanding more downwards, requires more understanding of layers of leadership intent on serving, not being served.

The “sea-change of attitude” of fans is a nonsense. It is a wishful remark with no actionable end. The only attitude that can be managed is the attitude of authority to be more cohesive, collaborative, and accountable for the functionality of control. I am all for addressing wider changes of attitude. But this is a societal level aim, and cannot possibly be targeted simply in the name of an event.

Projects of control to support change

These same sentiments can be examined at other scales. I look at the Grenfell aftermath with the same concerns for what is now being challenged. I look at the sad, sad, story of Arthur Labingo-Hughes. Sitting alongside a ridiculous fiasco of failed safety controls behind Alec Baldwin’s “it just went off in my hand, guv” defence.

We can always find someone or something to blame. But for me we keep coming back to a failure of control. A failure to adequately contain, and the permission of authority to look away. Not because of the event, but because of the manner of constraint, empowerment, colloquial interest, and evasion of accountability by those not motivated to think beyond themselves.

Every single one of us fails this test each time we look to an individual entity to shoulder the blame. If we are serious about a “sea-change of attitude” that puts us all in the frame.

I think we should be expecting more challenge to the infrastructure of control, when it is shown to have failed. Otherwise, what trust should we have that controls are now better placed to adapt. We should be asking “what is now different” so that it will be better contained, when it inevitably happens again…

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Bright Friday

Home but not alone

I have been sat at this desk for 623 days now. As I write this blog I am reading news of the World Trade Organisation postponing a ministerial meeting in response to this new Omicron Covid-19 variant {here}. Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove presenting a few seconds of comment that reaffirm the news that mutations of B1.1.529 is a variant of concern.

Picture opposite, sourced via BBC citing South Africa’s CERI. An early visual of the mutation which threatens to enable faster spread rates.

South Africa CERI website of note {here}.

For those who do not know, my wife has underlying medical constraints – lung capacity severely compromised – which mean we are both locked-down indefinitely whilst SARS-Covid19 remains at large. Maybe her third dose of vaccine last month will this time offer some underlying protection – the first two did not – but for now we are sitting this out. With variant Omicron B1.1.529 offering a little distraction, there may yet be cause to expect a longer stay.

But that’s okay. We are lucky in many ways. Indeed my whole research endeavour and time at my desk can be directly thanked for this extended retreat. We have many reasons to be thankful to so many.

I reflect today upon my connectivity with the wider world. On how far one can reach without leaving the house. These are truly changing times. I have blogged elsewhere about moments of great upheaval or change being linked to new transmission rates of information and dialogue. We must surely be at the cusp of another. We are all learning to communicate in new ways. That includes world leaders, and institutions, and whole systems of process and exchange. It seems to me inevitable that more transformation will once again follow the communication age now ripe to shine. Visibility is increasing for better or worse. Behaviours are being revealed, worse or just seen. Old trusts are being challenged, new tensions amassing, and transient forces making upheavals of people, power, and influence ever more likely and less bound.

This week I was accepted into the fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacture, and Commerce. A 260 year old institution of great change. I am thrilled my application was accepted. I am researching change, and now find myself among 30,000 fellows intent on connecting, conversing, and collaborating with a global community of changemakers. Maybe you should consider joining too {details here}.

Fellows are committed to inspiring better ways of thinking, acting and delivering change. An integral part of the RSA in creating a better future, Fellows champion new ideas, drive social change, deliver practical solutions and support the RSA mission.

https://www.thersa.org/fellowship

This year I also joined a think-tank called Acumen7. I have just become a contributor to a fantastic thought leadership app based service called Opiner. All of these connection points coming from regular engagement on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.

The more we communicate, the more we can share in intended change. The further into the future we can be aiming. The more paying forward we can do. All in all, I think the communication revolution in the information age is going to work just fine. Not that we will necessarily be the ones to see it shine, but that’s just a question of time.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Read what I say

Cognitive Psychology – language forum week 2

Is written word and what is heard cognitively comparable in any way? This is a question I’m offering to my forum to unpack this week.

Generating spoken word

This week our cognitive psychology is exploring word production in verbal exchange. We are marvelling at the speed of the spoken word and the processing complexity and power required to support such a phenomena. And it is a marvel to consider how close to immediate our sentences are formed.

Processing written word

Last week, we were looking at how quickly we digest the written word. We explored several hypothetical models pondering how our brain may be extracting the essence of such written word.

Bridging the gap

Between the two I see a gap. And to connect the two requires the spoken word to be turned into written word. We only bridged that gap 5,000 years ago. Yet in our lectures we are moving seamlessly from one to the next.

We have moved from reading to speaking. A visual receipt. A verbal transmission. Writing and listening sit opposed to each. How interchangeable can they be? Verbal dialogue is constantly evolving in near real time. Written exchange can be one way, perhaps indefinitely. At the very least, audio transmission is required to be captured in the visual coding we chose. Or written word to be read aloud and converted from visual to audio wavelength somehow.

Preparing to speak or write

What do we consider distinguishes our wider preparations when engaging in dialogue vs conversing in written form? The first is a marvel of speed of thought. The second a longer more singular task. Is the second more careful and considered perhaps? Certainly, more time to revisit each phrase and tone, should one wish to hold more in reserve.

I suspect next week’s lectures will be attempting to make this connection. In the interim, we have been asked to introduce our own discussion piece into the weekly forum. So, connecting these two weeks, this has me thinking of how differently I engage with people over zoom meetings (or face to face once upon a time) compared to how I engage with people by email, or social media, or in written reports. Or indeed written form via this forum or my daily blog – to which this note serves both.

This is what I do

I love unpicking a problem or moving discussion somewhere new. I enjoy writing. I enjoy listening. I enjoy talking too. Reading I do plenty of, but it is my least preferred way to download another point of view. In my opinion this reflects more than cognitive preference. Reading is impersonal to the author. I have less perspective on motives and feelings connected to the words. I am seeking more information from an exchange of perspectives than these formal cues.

This seems an important expansion to make to cognitive function. Language choices are more than just packets of code moving from one automaton to the next. I am therefore struggling to connect to the models we are being presented as working theories. To me, they are constrained unnaturally against this wider process. I therefore find myself instinctively rejecting these models at source.

Let me expand on both verbal and written words – the way I think I prepare for both.

Preparing to speak

If in a meeting, and if the format allows, I like to be the strong finisher rather than the strong starter when in spoken form. I like to gauge a room. I take the tone, the hierarchy, the touch points, and make best guesses as to positions people are taking and perhaps why. If there is need for preparation, it is as likely to be this anticipation of people and likely positions taken that I prepare towards – because I turn up to meetings as a shared process – I watch as others make their mark. Within a meeting, I have in mind all that has been said and seek to find the common themes. If there is clear conflict or obvious positions widening, I seek to find the higher level battle that must be had – but more likely seek out the better way – and ensure all have had their say. In my own way I am seeking time but with the room in mind.

Writing (and rewriting)

This time I also seek in written form. I may write something early, but it may not go very far. If something is complex, I may not write anything at all. I am minded to seek more perspectives if there is unknowns, or allow myself more time to let more scenarios and angles to make themselves known. This takes an inner confidence that I have something building. I am thinking fast and slow. I am resisting the temptation just to do. In my lowest moments, this can simply be an escape. Thankfully, I now have plenty of ways to maintain a confidence and counter such nagging doubt.

Language belongs outside

So how does all that relate to these two sets of lectures? What does that say of the planning of writing vs the spontaneity of conversation? What does it say of the process of communication at all? How completely can we hope to map out the cognitive elements of language, without bringing such wider factors into play? How homogeneous can we hope to be able to make our theories, or present the neurological mapping to call them more? How will this be part of the wider shared experience in verbal or written form? What is cognitive psychology to language, if not accounting for what it is for?

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Comms check

How are you being?

A quick anecdotal connection from my first discussion of the day. Why it is so important to take time to revisit, to reconnect, and be clear on how and why.

Are you doing the right things to become a serendipitist? i.e., “one who finds valuable or agreeable things not sought for.” I think this is connected to being present, but also a fluidity in perspective. Having the presence of mind to enable flow, but having the mental dexterity to operate and perceive at multiple levels of interest beyond that one flow task. To do that, you first need to check you are connecting and communicating with openness of mind and agenda. You also need to be aware of to whom you are communicating, how, and why.

That starts with yourself. This morning’s meditation was my prajna day. I alternate my daily practice between looking inwards (meditation or vipassana) and looking outward (contemplation or metta). Prajna is to do both – in parallel if you are really expert – but for the relative novice this is attempted with inbreath to outbreath. Looking inward, and then immediately outward. Vipassana and metta each advance towards the furthest limits – one infinitely inward and the other infinitely outer. Prajna then challenging the means to move with increasing ease across the entire spectrum of all that is between. This is intended to seek new insight, by being open to the perspectival change. This is of immediate benefit to bring yourself back to the present. It is surprising to realise just how quickly the brain is taken in by distraction. How hard it is to keep remembering this is a practice not a meandering daydream. To stay present. That goes for all three practices. Prajna is as much an exercise in mental agility as it is a peace of mind. Indeed the mindfulness revolution is heavily criticised for suggesting any such practice is about finding an escape towards a calm. It is not an escape of any kind. It is finding a better way to be, and a better directed attention towards what to become.

My serendipitous moment came as I concluded my prajna. I was working to a timeline. My first call at 0830. So after my work upon myself, I was quickly contemplating my work with a new client. A process of discovery of a different kind about to unfold anew. However, this discovery is not mine. I may facilitate or guide some of that process. But the process itself is one that only the patient can do. Starting with the manner of looking within. The vipassana. How well is the communication and inner transparency working? How honest is the relationship with the self? Is there awareness of the inner tensions, the conflicting motivations, the over bearing demands or the parts allowed to do their own thing away from conscious view. How are the inner layers responding, cooperating, collaborating, and containing the processes each and all are intended to do? But then to the metta. How well is this engagement with the outer world. How connected are the receptors of information – the eyes and ears, touch, smell and taste – the perceptions towards these masses of data being retrieved from the outside world, how is all this being managed and processed and made available to decision-making need? How are such decisions being handed back towards these moving parts? How adaptive and effective are these processes as a fit to these interfaces, but also the furthest reaches of this outside world? And therein to the prajna. How connected and effective is the communication at all of these levels of perspective. Therein, how dynamic and able is this one entity of many internal parts able to adapt to the chaotic wider world, and find means to belong, to survive, and enable both to thrive?

This is the projects | within projects idea. That the psychology of self-understanding and self-management relates to more than just self. That social psychology links to sociology and to anthropology. But that all of this, when drawn back to basic principles, is what any organisation of any system is required to do. As a nation, as a people, or as a network or a firm. That any project is just a function of intended change. This perspectival agility then sits at micro and macro scale, a spatial and temporal part of many parts.

Whilst none of the above language is likely to be the taxonomy I use – at its core this is what I do. With this first preparation, this first enquiry, towards a discussion with a C-Suite board of a major organisation of many parts, this is precisely the basis of enquiry that is about to unfold.

Psychology in management; projects in mind. The effectiveness of communication, is what connects it all.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

v | b | t – real time example

43,000 people wrongly told they were Covid-19 negative – the critical control questions to ask, today

  1. Visibility – what metrics are private labs being assessed against in their contracts for PCRs? Specifically, has a failure rate been agreed?
  2. Behaviour – What connects the interface of communication of results between labs and NHS Test and Trace and the public? If labs are communicating directly with the public how regularly are their failure rate results being independently checked?
  3. Trust – using these metrics of failure rates as a guide, what is the current performance rates of all other labs? What was the failure rate of this lab prior to 8th September? If this question cannot be answered, what is it that enables UKHSA to confidently state “public should remain confident in using both kinds of test”.
  4. Trust – given this systemic failure what changes to critical controls between individual labs and the NHS Test and Trace service are now to be made, and why? Noting particularly the interventions needed by the public and GPs to flag this failing.

These questions are produced by reordering the facts of today’s news of unexpectedly high false negatives being presented directly to the public from one private lab working on behalf of NHS Test and Trace. They are common-sense questions, derived from taking each fact from one press article, and considered holistically across the metrics of visibility | behaviour | trust, as detailed below.

All details below sourced via BBC report today.

visibility | b | t

43,000 deemed to have been wrongly advised; false negative rates breached by a multiple of the norm; dates in question are over a period of one month (8th September to 12th October); the lab have analysed 2.5 million samples in total for NHS test and trace; anectotally reported to BBC by GP’s for two weeks with concerns that symptoms of covid-19 were not being confirmed by PCRs;

v | behaviour | t

NHS test and trace investigation conducted; UKHSA suspended the lab; all prompted by individuals raising concerns as lateral flow tests and PCR tests conflicted; control environment uses PCR as a second check but overrides the LFT; UKHSA confirm no unusual circumstances that would suggest external cause (all other labs working normally, tests kits normal); testing sites deemed to be operating normally; UKHSA have commented “working with NHS test and trace and company to determine the laboratory technical issues…”; the lab commenting “fully collaborating”;

v | b | trust

UKHSA said “public should remain confident in using both kinds of test”; BBC asking who knew what when?; BBC asking how are these labs being run?; local councils in West Berkshire are asking people to redo their tests; scientists [per this article] advising people to trust the LFT if testing positive and stay at home.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

A theory of pain

How automated are your emergency systems?

This is a brief blog – I am in the middle of a three hour lecture frenzy – but here’s an interesting diagram to revisit in a projects context.

Gate control theory (Melzack and Wall 1965, 1988)

In explaining how specific touch fibres interact, Ronald Melzack and Patrick D Wall presented a gate control theory which distinguished two systems of communication in relaying messages of touch to the brain. Depending on source of information a gateway mechanism determines whether to use the separate pain pathway. The pain pathway is believed to pre-date other touch based sensing pathways.

As I read this, and follow up the references, I have command and control type responses to project pain in mind. And how effective or otherwise gateway responses are at organisational or project level in emergent events preparedness.

One more model to chalk up as a comparable between the communication, cooperation, coordination, and competition challenges we face every day in our projects. To be continued…

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Your written word

Remember son, your words travel further than you…

This is the single best piece of advice I have been offered. The best from a long list of the good. Presented to me by my father, when I was still at school.

This was in the 1980s. Long before our written word became the default communication in everyday life. No social media. No email. The days of the telephone as a device intended for speaking, not committing text to the whole world. Your word was in letters, in memoranda, in essays, briefing notes, and reports. Handwritten. Maybe typed. Your words travel further than you – was advice reflecting the care needed in formatting, grammar, clarity, and impressions of professionalism in yourself. Now, it is advice to wear in all of life.

This evening I find myself looking in some wonderment – again – at comments on LinkedIn. Wonderment that my own views must age me, and perhaps define me. At least by the default position I take in communication. It reflects other discussions (mostly verbal) I have had with people seeking my advice. People I have mentored or managed. People I have coached, guided, or just advised via passing remark.

Here is the Linkedin post as to present full content and context. This is what had me a little baffled, tonight. It is written by one of the editors on LinkedIn news.

OMG, my boss follows me on Insta

It’s not uncommon to befriend your colleagues, and many workers follow each other on social media. But what happens when a follow request from the boss lands in your notifications? It turns out, workers are a little more nervous about opening that door into their personal lives, according to a recent study. But it’s “become increasingly unavoidable,” writes Insider’s Sawdah Bhaimiya, who shared these tips on keeping your feed appropriate:

– Know your company’s social media guidelines and culture.

– Consider cleaning up your social media history.

– “Moderate yourself.”

– Keep politics to a minimum.

– Ask yourself if you would say it to someone’s face before posting

Kelli Nguyen editor of LinkedIn News

All comment and advice I think valid and sensible. But for me this is part of wider lessons to learn. Whether on social media or otherwise, always have in mind, your words travel further than you. So now do your images.

Would you say it to someone’s face, is a good question. In the project world when negotiations or critical debates are on email – when temperatures raising and tempers short – I warn people to beware the email bravery. It amounts to the same thing. But also imagine your images or words being shown to your grandmother, or being read at an employment tribunal, or presented as the last thing you said – at your wake. Your words travel further than you, and by extension talk on your behalf when you are not there.

v | b | t

To expand the point, here is the one example I have been using for twenty years. My adaption of the best of advice given to me. In keeping with this blog series, I have found means to frame this example around the three categories of visibility | behaviour | trust

Visibility | b | t

Claire Swire. That is the name I always send people away to look up when I am needing to make this point. This was an unfortunate story from twenty years ago. It went viral as a story. Indeed that was the story. I need say no more. The story is still highly visible and easy to find. It is also debateable as to whether all accounts are true.

v | behaviour | t

The flip side of that same story is the alleged post event behaviours of the parties involved. But also the immediate aftermath and longer lasting impact of impressions social behaviours can leave. True or in jest, the exponential click bait this became was most certainly for real.

v | b | trust

Trust could be considered in many ways here. First, there is contemporary debate as to whether this story is just an early example of fake news. Fact or fiction, it serves to reflect wider issues of trust. Trust between friends breached. Trust in a safe environment misplaced. The trust between employee and employer via vicarious reputations. When name and disrepute can be used in the same sentence, other terms like appropriate conduct or wilful misconduct, may divide whatever trust employee and employer may have otherwise assumed.

The actor in the show

Across all three of these v | b | t metrics, it becomes less relevant whether you have given tickets to an audience, or whether a wider audience have somehow found their own way to your stage. The visibility of your behaviour is increased when freely offered in writing – or any media form you choose to symbolise and express your life – never truer now that our platforms of communication are public and multimodal and one influencer away from being viral. You have no control over where your word goes. The only control is the words that you print, and pictures you post.

The witness or the voyeur

From the other perspective, and still using v | b | t , what behaviours are reflected in trying to connect on social media like Instagram? Consider the trust and closed distance assumed when social lines blur too far. How do you appear to others, when looking? What is your behaviour saying of you? What trust are you naively building in friendships, and what could you be building as different trust, better trust, in its place?

Context is all of course, but maybe – as the boss – your staff deserve some privacy. Maybe so do you. Maybe as the boss you should be thinking of the appropriate boundaries to keep. Maybe let your team have time without you. Give them space to freely talk about you, not to you. Or for a few moments, not have to suffer you at all. And accept the discussion may not always be nice. Maybe come to terms with the occasional role you play as the unifying villain, that gets everyone through. They need a leader not a friend. That’s why it gets lonely at the top. And a little creepy to stare.

This balance is hard to manage. The tyrannical boss vs the weakling boss. Only one is likely to come knocking as a friend. But so too may the master manipulator. Either way, I would prefer to be managing father to son, than as the older brother trying to rein in a sibling, or cousin, or a more intimate one. I am struggling to think why Instagram would serve any appropriate boss to employee need.

Concluding advice

To the employee therefore, be mindful of your visibility. Your words travel further than you

To the over-friendly boss, rethink your behaviour. Your actions may one day speak louder than your words

To both employees and bosses on social media, consider v | b | t. If visibility and behaviours are unfiltered, your trust is misplaced. You take unnecessary risks and leave yourself exposed. The only control you have charge of out here, is self-control. Just as it is in any public space.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here: