Leaning into Criticism

I’m teaching a new and improved version of MakerLab to undergrads this fall. The biggest change I’ve brought to the course is weekly writing assignments. The assignments have multiple parts and have at least two components:

  1. Explore a big picture question about the maker movement
  2. Identify a maker from a particular genre and write about their work

The latter component is called “Maker Appreciation” and I’ll dedicate a post to that in future. Quick insight: it’s a great and rewarding exercise.

The former component really interests me…and scares me a little. So far, the big picture questions have been questions like, “Why the maker movement, why now?” or “What are makerspaces and why do they matter?” But for this week, we’re going to move way out of the comfort zone and read some critiques of the maker movement. Why? It’s important to explore the criticism. I mean, if you are in the middle of a theatrical run, you might want to hold off on reading reviews lest they negatively affect your performance. But in other areas of life, you want to understand and acknowledge criticism in real time.

So for an upcoming assignment (not this week, but the next), we are reading Evgeny Morozov’s New Yorker piece called Making It: pick up a spot welder and join the revolution and Leah Buechley’s 2014 talk called Thinking About Making.  I look forward to seeing where the discussion takes us.

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Better Than You Found It

tees from parksproject.us
tees from parksproject.us

At home, at work, and school we benefit from sharing spaces, tools, and resources. However, sharing resources is challenging because the responsibility for them is distributed. Shared spaces get messy. Shared tools get broken. And no one person is on the line to clean or fix them.

So when you use a shared space, leave the space better than you found it. Do something extra. Change that light bulb that’s been out for too long. Make and hang that sign that needs to be in place. Sweep those stairs that need sweeping. And when you contribute, don’t be a silent contributor. Let the group know what you’ve contributed. Your generosity will inspire others to make their own contributions.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

check out these do-gooders: https://www.parksproject.us/

When we are afraid

When we are afraid we have two choices:

  1. We can try to ignore the fear and hope that it goes away
  2. We can lean into that fear with a friend and try to figure out how to move through it

If we ignore our fear, it doesn’t go away. In fact, it grows.

But if we lean into our fear, yes it will be hard and uncomfortable. But it will yeild better results.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

The worst decision

The worst decision is to not make one at all.

Why do we put off decisions? Fear of being wrong.

Why are we so afraid? Often because we haven’t thought through the consequences.

But if we think through the consequences, we might not be so afraid to make a decision and try it out. The thing you decide on can be an experiment with an evaluation plan. Once you try out your decision and evaluate it, you can then decide to stay on that course or change.

Moving through life is decision making. Not making decisions causes stagnation.

How to Leverage Failure

There’s a lot of talk about celebrating failure in the innovation process. However, failure alone isn’t really enough. You have to use that failure to help you and those around you grow.

There’s a great little piece in the NYTs today on this: Talking About Failure is Crucial for Growth – here’s how to do it right

Failure can help us grow if we use it to connect with colleagues. It offers a great opportunity to ask for help and share our vulnerability. It also offers an opportunity to learn.

So the next time you fail, instead of burying it and pretending it never happened, push through that shame and use your failure as an opportunity to connect and to learn.

 

Goals Build Trust

When you start a new project, it’s tempting to get right into it. Create those to do lists, assign tasks, and get it done. But according to Leigh Thompson, author of Creative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Breakthrough Collaborationleaders do well to take some time at the beginning of a project to build trust with their team. This is done, according to Thompson, by addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room: goals. Leaders need to discuss projects goals and get to know the goals of individuals on the team. The latter is often overlooked. The leader also needs to facilitate conversations about expectations from the leader and from the team members. And provide tools for giving feedback throughout the project. 

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Leigh Thompson’s courses on coursera

 

Simple Rules for Professional Behavior

There are many definitions of professional behavior. One of the more problematic ones is that you should bury your emotions at work. Of course, it’s important to exercise some control over your emotions so that they don’t become a chronic distraction to you and your team. But control does not mean bury. It’s healthy to acknowledge your feelings and the feelings of your colleagues. Sometimes things happen that cause good feelings. You want to celebrate those. And sometimes things happen that cause bad feelings. You want to deal with them as they arise.

Some very quick DOs and DON’Ts for professional behavior at work

DOs

  • BUILD & MAINTAIN TRUST. Create a culture of trust with transparency, honesty, vulnerability. You don’t have to be the boss to do this 
  • BE INCLUSIVE. Help everyone on your team feel seen and heard. Again, you don’t have to be the boss to do this
  • TROUBLESHOOT. Recognize bottlenecks and address them. Lean into problems that are uncomfortable

 

DON’Ts (counters to the points above)

  • Create a culture of insecurity with fear, opacity, and gossip
  • Be the only one talking and the only one who shares their goals out loud
  • Ignore problems and hope that they will magically go away. This isn’t what happens. Unresolved problems grow into resentment

 

There’s a lot of good writing about how to implement the positive points above. Here are some of my favorites:

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Creative Conspiracy by Leigh Thompson

The purpose of feedback is to help people achieve more success

I’ve written about the leadership book Radical Candor before. Radical Candor is often misunderstood as: “be honest with your direct reports.” But there is an important precursor to being honest: you need to develop a trusting relationship, understand the goals of people on your team, and to appreciate different flavors of goals. Some employees are on a steep growth trajectory (easy to recognize as “good”). While others are, by design, on a more steady growth trajectory.

Either way, taking time to understand the goals of the people on your team builds trust and thus helps you lead effectively and enroll them in achieving collective goals for the organization.

So how do you get started? Here are some tips from the Radical Candor website:

  1. Get feedback from others — Show everyone how you benefit from their candor. Lead by example.
  2. Give feedback — Remember to Challenge Directly and show that you Care Personally. Use our tips for moving towards Radical Candor, and make sure to find out how your feedback feels to the person receiving it.
  3. Encourage feedback — Take simple, visible actions to push your team to give each other praise and criticism.

If you do this, you are on your way to good communication, trust, and effective leadership. And if you don’t, you might reflect on how your current method is working (or not working) for you and for the members of your team.

 

Take it further

Tons of tools and tips on the Radical Candor site: here

Are you a Buggy Whip or a Buggy Chain?

“Buggy Whip” is an analogy that’s used to describe a technology that’s become obsolete in the face of a newer technology. Whips that were slung at buggy horses so that they would move faster were no longer needed when automobiles came on the scene.

But here where I live in Trumansburg, NY, there was a company called Morse Chain that was founded around 1890. They invented, patented, and produced rocker joint chains for bikes and buggies. And when the automobile came on the scene, the company adapted and used their capabilities to make chains for automobiles establishing an auto chain plant in nearby Ithaca in 1906. As you can imagine, the company grew exponentially. In the next ten years, the auto chain factory quadrupled in size. In years following, spinout factories were formed for airplanes and cash registers and clocks. And in 1929, Morse Chain joined the newly formed BorgWarner corporation. Today BorgWarner has 60 manufacturing facilities across 18 countries.

What’s the lesson here? When a new technology comes on the scene that feels threatening to your technology, take some time to think about whether you die like the buggy whips or evolve like the buggy chains.

Take it further:

Morse TEC timeline

BorgWarner on wiki

Building Safety in Your Organization

At present, I’m reading a leadership book called, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. In the book, the author claims that successful organizations have three things in common: They build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose.

Building safety is step one. How do we build it? We send a consistent stream of signals that reinforce the belief that people in the organization are connected. Coyle calls these “connection cues.”

In successful cultures, leaders continually provide a steady stream of small, powerful behavioral signals—we are connectedwe share a future—that moves people away from selfish behavior, and creates cohesion and cooperation. Successful cultures aren’t smarter—they are safer.

What cues signal that safety is a priority for your organization? Here are a few tips from the book:

  • Overcommunicate that you are listening
    • “Yes.” “Uh-huh.'” “Got ya.” These cues encourage the speaker to go on
  • Spotlight your fallibility early on, especially if you’re a leader. Open up, show you make mistakes
    • “This is my two cents.” “Of course I could be wrong here.” ” What do you think?”
    • Spark a response in the listener, “How can I help?” This invites participation
  • Embrace the messenger
    • If someone brings you bad news, embrace it. That way they know it’s safe to come to you when there’s  a problem in future
  • Overdo “Thank yous”
    • Saying “thank you” is less about thanks and more about affirming the relationship and cueing safety, connection, and motivation
  • Make sure everyone has a voice

 

Take it further:

Daniel Coyle website

Daniel Coyle at RSA (video)