Archives for the ‘Value’ Category

Beyond the Postern Gate

Old Friends

Last weekend, I went to visit my old friend Thomas Hardy, one of the greatest English writers to have ever lived. Although he wasn’t at home, there was a lovely lady from the National Trust¬†called Harriet to let us in.

It’s been almost 30 years since I last stepped over the threshold of Hardy’s cottage. Back then, I had dreams of becoming a writer. Of making a positive contribution to the world. And many more great things besides. You know, the usual dreams of many teenagers. The kind of dreams when we were still young, naive and earnest.

As I wandered through Hardy’s house with my new family, all those dreams came rushing back, beckoning me to hurry up if I’m to achieve all of them before the time comes for me to rest. In peace.


I knew I had come to visit Hardy for a reason. And this is it. To be reminded that we could sleepwalk through most of our lives by keeping busy, doing good and having fun even, but ultimately being distracted from figuring out what truly matters to us.

A Life’s Work

It would be a shame to only realise this when the postern gate is about to close behind us.

What can you do to make more of your life now? How can you make a positive contribution to the world today?

The Gift of Christmas Spirit

Ho! Ho! Ho!

December is one of my favourite months of the year. Call me a traditionalist. I value a time when many people converge on giving, sharing and generally making that extra bit of effort in being kind towards one another.

The Christmas Challenge

While Christmas day itself can be a sizeable test of one’s personal agility, the real challenge I find is with giving the right presents. I know, I know. “There’s no right or wrong when it comes to gift giving!” I hear you say. Only there is. It’s all too easy to get things “too wrong”.

So here’s my strategy for gift giving this Christmas:

  1. Be value-driven – Don’t just settle for spending money on tat. Figure out what the recipient is passionate about and values then go from there. Don’t be seduced by the sheer prettiness of shiny packaging. Believe you can find something that’s substantial and well-presented
  2. Set a budget – Do this for both your overall gift budget and amount per individual. Setting a budget allows you to calculate the relative Return-On-Investment of a gift for everyone on your list and helps you distribute the joy more evenly
  3. Spend time browsing – Giving a “good” (aka valuable) gift is a test of how well you know the recipient. If you’re stuck for ideas, put on your creative thinking hat and imagine what they would like. I recommend investing at least 15 minutes browsing per person or gift. Within that time box, challenge yourself to come up with at least 3 ideas to choose from before making a decision
  4. Ring a friend – Ask for help. Borrow ideas. Find out what others are buying their family and friends. Remember, you can always ask recipients directly for their wish list with no obligation to buy
  5. Give a gift of skill or service – What shareable special skills or interests do you have? Consider giving personal service tokens such as “This certificate qualifies you for 3 months worth of lawn mowing” or “Your child is entitled to 6 music lessons” or “This voucher gives you 3 arts and crafts sessions guaranteed to wow your friends”

Christmas doesn’t have to be commercial

If you’re still feeling “Bah! Humbug!” about Christmas, remember that commodification is in the eye of the gift giver. Imagine what a fairy godmother would give to someone you love.

Last but not least, when someone gives you a gift, you can always give the gift of gratitude.

Love the One You’re With

Sweet Valentine of Success

For me, the philosophy of work has come full circle. When I was a child, I was encouraged to dream and “do what you love”. When I became a teenager, those words slowly but surely morphed into “love what you do”. When I reached adulthood, the wise and elderly around me changed their tune once more. “A job’s just a job,” they said. “Do what you can to make a good living, don’t get into trouble and you’ll have a job for life”.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

I wrestled for years with those three very different choruses. I desperately tried to reconcile my daily toil on the anthill with realising my dreams. Slowly but surely, those dreams ebbed away, hardened and broken by the relentless beat of the daily commute.

Then one day, I overheard a friend say, “Of course you can do what you love. Doing otherwise would be madness!”

As I considered this friend wise, his words forced me to do a triple take on everything I’d come to believe in. What if, just WHAT IF, some of the things I’ve come to believe in are not true?

Rediscover your dreams

For most of us, the advice of “do what you love” is impractical for a number of reasons. The most fundamental being that to do what we love, we need to first figure out what it is we love doing. That takes time and requires discovery through a series of experiments and experiences.

For many of us, our dreams have become buried so deeply in the sand on the beach of life, that the only way to figure out what we love doing is by identifying what we don’t like doing. It’s through a series of trial and error and process of elimination that we begin to pinpoint what it is that we truly love doing.

Career advisors’ advice

Career advisors’ advice can be distilled into three criteria when it comes to a happy working life:

  1. Do something you’re good at AND
  2. Do something you enjoy AND
  3. Do something that makes you a good living.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you get this far in search of your dream job. Most likely, you’ll still be confused as it turns out that what you like doing isn’t just one thing, but a combination of things that make up the unique job tailored to suit you. For instance, a travel writer, a singing chef or a knitting teacher.

Find your true purpose

In order to figure out what we enjoy doing, we need to try many things. By bringing what we love into our work, we begin to close the gap between the gruelling toil of daily work and our passion. And it’s through this series of experiments that we define meaning with our work.

For those of you who choose to read this blog, the reward of meaningful work is probably worth much more than its weight in gold. Why? Because meaningful work helps us discover our purpose.

Bring back the love

The first baby step then is to love the job you’re in, love the work you do. If this seems impossible, ask yourself, “What would someone who loved my job do?” Then begin to move in that direction, one baby step at a time. And if it feels like you’re Bambi skating on ice, that’s because you’re outside your comfort zone. The good news is your dreams are back in sight albeit in the distance. For now.

Re-define “success”

As you do this, you may discover that you fall in love with your job anew. After all, there must have been a very good reason for you to have taken the job in the first place, all that time ago. Alain de Botton helps us answer:¬†What does “success” mean to you now? Begin by bringing back the magic. Happy Valentine’s!

OxfordJam Worth Spreading

Social Enterprise worth spreading!

Think “Fringe”

I recently went to my first social enterprise conference, a fringe festival to the Skoll World Forum called OxfordJam. Three words to describe the conference? Inspiring, creative and vital.

Inspiring” – Because of the variety and range of strangers who came together to share ideas and experiences of how they’re contributing to greater good in the world. Most of the attendees were social entrepreneurs, people who strive to do good in the world and create a sustainable business to fund that work.

Creative” – From the venue (the event was held in a building that used to be a jam factory, hence the name of the event) to the conference booklet (in the format of a funky university newspaper, jam-packed with interesting information). I especially liked the washing line for ideas contributed by participants held together with clothes pegs.

Vital” – It was refreshing to be surrounded by such a large number of people united by a common purpose “To make the world a better place”. Everyone was part of a project or some endeavour, however big or small, to help others.

With great power comes great responsibility

Many people expressed what they do and how they do it in terms of “the bigger picture”, with a clear emphasis on the need to better understand the consequences of their actions and the impact of social enterprise in a community, a globally optimised example of the Chinese proverb from “Give a man a fish AND teach him how to fish”.

As the day unfolded (I was only able to attend 1 out of 3 days), I was surprised by the number of parallels between my daily work and that of social entrepreneurs:

  • Make a positive difference: Help make things better.
  • For greater good: Think and act in terms of global optimisation.
  • Made to last: Quality is key to making a lasting impact. Enduring change is crucial to sustained improvement.
  • WIN-WIN: Maximise value and create alignment by asking “What’s in it for all of us?” For you, for me and for others.
  • Baby steps: Small steps can lead to big changes. Like Lao Tzu, the Chinese philsopher, said, “A journey of a thousant miles begins with one step.”

Spread your own jam

Following the adage of “eat your own dog food”, the most impressive thing about OxfordJam was the congruence between the beliefs on which the event is founded (what the organisers believe in) and how it worked in practice (how the event was run).

An example of this was that the conference was based entirely on a gift economy for the participants, with free entry for all. Even The Jam Factory offered the use of their venue for free in support of the event. The idea of a gift economy is that it’s up to you to give when you want, as much or as little as you want and how you want. It’s this recurring “free giving” that helps the economy go around. Following this spirit, many of us bought drinks and snacks to support the Jam Factory and some made personal donations in support of the event.

Thanks a million!

To The OxfordJam team: Ben Metz, Amanda Jones and Jonny Mallinson – am looking forward to OxfordJam 2012!

To The Jam Factory: For providing a great setting for the event!

The Gift of Giving

What was my biggest takeaway from the event? Instead of worrying about whether or not we’ve individually got enough to give or if we’re individually contributing enough, give what you can on your own terms. Every little bit helps. Together, we can turn the concept of a gift economy into a reality.

How can you introduce a gift economy at work?

The First European Agile Games Conference in 2011

Love Lego!

Play4Agile is the first ever European Agile Games Conference, set to take place next year in Frankfurt, Germany on 18 – 21 February.

It’s a conference designed by and for Agile and Lean coaches, experienced facilitators and game experts who want to exchange questions, ideas and experience on using games in teams and organisations. Find out more about the participants here.

An Open Playground

What I want to learn:

  • New games to play with my teams so we can become better than we were yesterday every day
  • About games facilitation (and share what I’ve learned about it)
  • How to design short, effective games (less than 30 minutes)

And also to:

  • Meet others who want to create a game together!
  • Share a game or two (and apply what I’ve learned from the conference to improve them lots) so that the games can provide even more value to future gamers!

I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting the folks from StrategicPlay, the team who’ve turned playing into a serious business!

Agile 2010: Session Materials

How do you represent Business Value?

We’ve had lots of fun at Agile 2010 and here are the materials for our two presentations. Download and have fun!

– Portia and Pascal