Switching Back On the Light

While the world in general seems to get tougher and more and more focused on individual power, wealth, and success – rather than the old idea of helping each other to prosperity – I thought that it could be interesting to recap and search through the memories of a long working life, listing the things that actually worked well despite being out of sync with today’s rougher working conditions.

It seems to me like the new style is, in fact, just being the pendulum swinging back towards the conditions of the beginning industrialization after having briefly touched a more humanist approach. The darkening is again becoming the goal, after many years of enlightening. The light has been switched off.

Utopia

I imagine a world in which each potential employee/job seeker writes a list of tasks and conditions that would suit them – and then employers can bid in on it with an application. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the world as we know it, hence, an Utopia.

My list

General company terms:

  1. Flexible hours – if work can be done at any time, then why insist on fixed hours?
  2. Possible to work from home – gives flexibility in life and easier time management
  3. Stress free environment (not “we are always very busy” or “you thrive with tight deadlines and rapid changes in goals and conditions”)
  4. Overtime is fine, occasionally, but in general the work can be done during the hours agreed on in the contract
  5. Values: Respect for the individual + knowledge sharing
  6. No performance management – control and cooperation are rather based on dialogue and mutual assistance. Any measurements are for the purpose of understanding, not for punishing
  7. Physical surroundings suitable for the job, i.e., if car is needed there are parking spaces, if meetings are part of the job there are meeting rooms, etc.

Characteristics of the job itself:

  1. There is a defined area of responsibility
  2. Tasks cover end to end, allowing for an understanding of the value of each step and being proud of having completed it – also when several people collaborate to do this
  3. Plans are made carefully but with flexibility to allow for new understandings and learning to be utilized and new needs to be included. No panic reactions and sudden, unexplained changes of course
  4. Knowledge sharing and communication is part of the job
  5. Goals are reached through people, processes, and technique – in that order
  6. There is feedback on the work, showing that it is important to some
  7. No matter the job type and level the employee is part of a team that has a main focus on helping each other to make good decisions and, simply, to ensure a systemic approach to solving the tasks

Some features of the boss:

  1. A human being, not an archetype – the HR approach to standardizing leadership is taking away the human aspect and should be used with caution
  2. Team oriented – is helping their employees rather than commanding them, allowing them to create their own successes
  3. Coaching, but in a human way, like a colleague – not “coaching for performance”
  4. No treatment of employees as types – they are individuals and must be treated as humans
  5. No micro-management
  6. Good at filtering tasks so that employees will not be given such that are meaningless or counter-productive
  7. Ensuring the correct work environment, suitable for the tasks

The culture and colleagues:

  1. Polite atmosphere – “Good morning”, “Have a nice weekend”, holding the door, etc. makes it pleasant to be together
  2. Friendly but not intimidating – understanding that being colleagues is not automatically the same as being close friends
  3. No mocking
  4. Learning and personally developing
  5. Accountable and taking care of their duties, showing responsibility
  6. Helpful
  7. Adult people, serious about their work – but all of them individuals

Myself – what would I need to bring in:

  1. Dedication and enthusiasm (of course, in a ping-pong with the surroundings)
  2. Strategical, visionary thoughts about tasks, working place, business area
  3. Observant, analytical and improving, participating and developing
  4. Accountable and taking care of my duties, showing responsibility
  5. Flexible
  6. Helpful
  7. Another individual – broadening the scope of thinking and problem solving capabilities of the team and the company

Mix and match

Headhunters and recruiting agencies as well as internal HR departments are often a lot more focused on matching than they are on mixing – meaning, they do not appreciate the extra competencies and additional experience a job candidate may add. They are even tightening in on a few treats and mostly considering everything else as noise that should be kept out of the company.

However, the ability for an organization to adapt to changing conditions and develop a pleasant (and thereby efficient) work environment depends on mixing various experiences and competencies. It is not enough to find the “best” candidates for selected areas. An example:

I started in a new job, many years ago, where the focus was systems development based on Microsoft tools and platforms, so these skills had been asked for. However, a few days into the new job a customer asked for a Crystal Reports consultant – as I happened to know about this product too, we got the assignment and it became the beginning of a long and important collaboration with this customer around their reporting needs. Without my extra and not-asked-for skill, this would not have happened.

The switch

Can we change the job market to the reverse, as I fantasized about? Or are there good and sound reasons for not being much interested in the wishes of the employees?

Can we similarly reverse the development, the pendulum movement, to again focus on what actually works in terms of delivering what the customer’s need, which is a collaborative and both analytical and goal-oriented approach, making use of thoughts and skills of individuals, rather than on the internal power structures and bonus payments?

Is it, perhaps, just a matter of switching the light back on?

—oOo—

First published at LinkedIn Pulse:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/job-search-utopia-jørgen-winther
Advertisements

Information really wanted to be free

How to cry over spilled milkDon’t cry over spilled milk!, you might say, and you would be right. I should not cry – but since I didn’t spill the milk I wasn’t planning to cry anyway. Only complain.

Because the milk has been spilled – by the world, the society, companies, individuals, by all the usual suspects when something goes wrong.

When the internet was first invented, it might have been a military tool – the ARPA-net. But it developed into a great platform with the ability to connect the world by making information available that used to be difficult to get or even know the existence of.

At around the time of the internet getting public, in 1984, apparently Steward Brand told Steve Wozniak at a hackers conference:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

It didn’t take long before politicians got worried and began to talk about putting restrictions on the use of the internet. If to follow Brand’s thoughts, then obviously they got scared of putting value into the hands of the people. What if people would see and learn things that were not suitable for them? Oh my, what a mess it would lead to if knowledge would reach those who were not worthy – or not old enough, not from the right country, not… whatever exclusion criteria you could think of.

Now, the conversation by Brand and Wozniak obviously wasn’t an ideological one – they didn’t necessarily want information to be free, but Brand had noticed that this was part of its nature. Secrets cannot be kept forever. But they can be kept for some time, which can be an annoyance to others.

What the politicians probably never considered was the egoism and lack of empathy that makes up the foundation of our modern society – the liberal idea of making your own happiness by being better than the others, which, unfortunately, to some people translates into being better by preventing the others from getting access to knowledge.

Tame My Toddler - Teach children to share their toys

We teach children to share their toys, for instance with the help of Tame My Toddler – while we adults increasingly do not share our main toy: information.

After a while with huge amounts of knowledge being shared by lots of people, we now rather have a lot of people using the internet without contributing at all, not sharing anything, and we have a lot who do contribute but with copyright notices on everything they share. And at the same time, you know that they know more than they share. At times they use this knowledge to make a point while still being unwilling to share it.

The most absurd thing I have seen recently is that even old material, which is no longer protected by copyright and therefore is in the public domain, for instance old books and photos, is being scanned and the one who scans it puts his logo as a watermark everywhere on it along with copyright notices and various threats and warnings about not to copy “his” material. Obviously people believe that by scanning a public domain book they become the owners of it. Or that a copyright notice by itself gives them the ownership. Like if planting a flag on some piece of land would make it theirs.

Another trend is to create websites in such a way that photos cannot be downloaded from them, and to publish pdf-files that cannot be printed. All this despite the fact that the publishers do not own the material – they themselves have taken it from the public domain.

And something that really puzzles me: many companies have information about their products on their websites, which is not surprising, but some of them put only bad quality pictures of the products, even completely covered with watermarks that makes it impossible for any other to reuse those pictures – which, of course prevents bloggers and others from mentioning these products. But which company does not want its products mentioned?

No Copyright! logo

In general, I believe that people are simply forgetting the idea of information sharing and the value of spreading the word of their products. It has become a sport in its own right to prevent others from reusing information, and a sport as well to keep some information un-shared. And then some people believe that this will make their fortune.

The world pendulum has moved from limited accessibility of information to easy and widespread information sharing – and is now moving back towards limited accessibility. But how far back will it move? Will the internet end up as a private and for-payment-only party with no free information at all? Will even the No Copyright logo end up being copyrighted? Will we see a day where someone claims the legal rights to the entire public domain?

That will be the day when information no longer wants to be free.

What is Normal? Tradition?

Recent years have seen a shift in acceptance in many Western countries with regards to accepting people with different sexual orientation and allowing them similar rights as others – like gay marriages, for instance. Also some non-western countries have at times been moving in that direction, like when Nepal recently announced that they would put a third choice of gender in passports, as mentioned by Reuters/Yahoo News a couple of days ago, making it possible for a Nepalese to be either male, female, or indeterminate.

But some countries are moving in the opposite direction and most strikingly Russia seems to have moved towards an official policy about what is normal, saying that only a so-called “traditional” lifestyle can be accepted. And apart from simply showing disrespect, as has often been the case towards those who are not considered normal, Russia has made laws regulating their behavior.

A quite absurd level of this harassment by law has now been reached, as it has become forbidden for transsexual and transgender people to obtain a driver’s license. Apparently because homosexuality in Russia is considered a mental disturbance, a personal disorder, that could lead to dangerous behavior. BBC News Europe wrote about this recently.

The absurdity becomes obvious when visiting Russia and seeing how people drive. I guess that ruling out one minority from being on the roads will allow for a little extra space for the others, but honestly, if the purpose was to make driving safer, many other precautions should be considered first: the technical condition of vehicles is by large miserable, traffic police is corrupt, speeds are too high on crowded roads and there seems to be an “order of social level” applied to rights in the traffic, meaning that some people are holding back while others are making their way.

What is the most interesting here is how the world has been split – that one part is moving in one direction and another part in the other direction. But maybe there are good reasons for this – in the West, we are fed up with traditions to a degree where we now want changes, in Russia all traditions were either lost or seriously challenges with the fall of the Soviet Union, and in times of crisis people might seek back to something they can share as a common identity.

We have seen this phenomena many times through history, around the world – each time leading to trouble. The Cambodian genocide was an extreme case, as was for instance various waves of witch-hunt, and the Hitler-German idea of cleaning up the Aryan race. But the hunt for a common identity is almost always leading to discrimination of minorities.

Howling with the flock and perhaps killing odd individuals seems to be a normal behavior for the human species, while respect for the individual and acceptance of differences seems to be less normal. Or maybe each of these extremes are just end points of a pendulum, meaning that we can be certain that whatever is the rule now, will change into the opposite later?

Wooden Toys is the Future – Again

Today it was announced that the Swedish toy maker Brio had been sold to the German toy maker Ravensburger. Brio is known for wooden toys, something that was on its way out ten years ago but which is now again in fashion. Computer games didn’t take over children’s world of playing entirely, as was predicted by many just a few years ago, all non-computer game production being then moved to Asia.

Now, however, the pendulum is swinging back, says Radio Sweden – classic toys are again popular and are again being produced in Europe and the USA.

Source: Toymaker Brio bought by German firm

Cars in China Today: What does this little picture say to you?

There is definitely a pendulum moving towards more consumption – when will it reach its maximum and start moving back? And what will be the trigger?

World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities

This little picture gives us a few ideas about cars in China today.  Important if we bear in mind that today is the first day of the future.

China traffic third Beling ring road - all new and clean

View original post 201 more words

Seasons in the Sun

Video

This song came out when I was 10, it was me and my best friend Sam Statler’s favorite song. We listened to it over and over. Sam Died at 16 years old in a car wreck; I always think of him every time I hear it. I am 50 now, and if I have learned anything, its that life really does go in seasons, the seasons in the sun are for sure the best ones. Very Special Song
Rob H (comment on YouTube)

The Wall – Chinese, Berlin, Pink Floyd’s? No, Ukrainian

Aside

The Ukrainian wallBuilding a wall has always been a very visible sign of taking the “wulf” cries seriously. Today, a wall will hardly stop any nation from invading another, if that should be the fear, but still walls are being built.

The pendulum has moved back since the Berlin wall was torn down and all world decided to work towards a common future. Futures do not last, it seems, but politicians’ interest in masonry does seem to do so.

Newsweek wrote about the new wall a couple of days ago, but from the Russian news agency TASS, news about it have been told for more than a month, other media (see the image source) for half a year. In general, news about that region are somewhat biased – Western media mention everything bad they can think of about Russia, Russian media tell the opposite story.

But a wall seems to be put there now, along all the 2,295 km long border between Russia and Ukraine.

Image source: Euroradio.fm