Posts Tagged Rework

One word wonders of our lives

Someone thought our attention spans are so short that 140 characters are plenty to get the point. Judging by Twitter’s success, many people do.

Those still writing books must have decided one-word titles are the max we can handle:

DRIVE

SWITCH

REWORK

TRIBES

OUTLIERS

BLINK

SWAY

NUDGE

TRAFFIC

AFTERSHOCK

ZILCH

Many of these titles are recognizable to top-ten nonfiction list readers. And it’s kinda neat that these single words make enough sense for the books they name that you can remember a whole book’s purpose with just one word.

Single words own their issue. A blogger who writes about book covers (is there anything people don’t blog about?) says one-word covers are definitive, they are the authorities, they inspire confidence. The words work because they don’t mislead us by overstating or oversimplifying.

Many of these books are about things that influence us, about human behavior. That got me thinking, what would my word be? What is the true word right now? And what would I want the word to be?

So, what if you wrote a book about your work? What’s the one-word “book title” you would give your job? What’s the one word you want your life’s work to be?

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A special note to those in small organizations

Do you ever think the grass is greener on the other side, in bigger organizations with bigger staff, bigger resources, bigger everything? Those in non-profits can sometimes feel this way. We wish we had the resources of the Fortune 500, especially the very profitable among the Fortune 500.

But the entrepreneurs who shared their business advice in Rework ask this:

Have you ever noticed that while small businesses wish they were bigger, big businesses dream about being more agile and flexible?

For those whose mission is to create change in the world, agility and flexibility are like air and water for survival. They allow responsiveness to take advantage of situations to influence. They let you act with speed, get your word out, meet the people you need to meet, and do the activities you need to do. Can very big organizations do this so well?

I thought of the small business/big business comment in Rework when I saw this headline: Microsoft is a dying consumer brand.

Who is changing what we do with computers right now? Who in the last few years has changed how we use the Internet? Think about that … they may be big now, but they weren’t when they started.

A few pages later, the Rework writers say:

To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. That you’re putting a meaningful dent in the universe. That you’re part of something important. … You should feel an urgency about this too. You don’t have forever. This is your life’s work. Do you want to build just another me-too product or do you want to shake things up? What you do is your legacy. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to make the change you want to see. And don’t think it takes a huge team to make that difference either.

As evidence, they remind us of the story of Craigslist. Look how it “demolished the traditional classified-ad business.” Craigslist didn’t need a huge organization of employees to do that. A few dozen employees is all it took. With the help of all the rest of us, of course.

And that’s the thing. With a smaller team, Craigslist changed us. It changed how we do things, and then we all took the change forward.

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Got 2 1/2 hours? Watch Project Runway and On The Road with Austin & Santino … or …

Read Rework. It’s written so snappily, it’s just as entertaining as wacky reality TV personalities. When I needed a book to last a flight from Chicago to San Diego, this fast happy read lasted from O’Hare to Oklahoma. But that’s OK. That’s exactly what the book is about — more results, not more work and more hours. The authors wrote a book the way they believe business should be done. Now that’s acting on your beliefs!

If you want a jolt of evidence that work can be done differently, get this book. It’s a business book that’s relevant for public health too. It challenges you to think the opposite of conventional wisdom. A few gems …

Many of us in public health would like more resources, more people, more to have more. The authors wonder why organizations always want to grow. Instead, they use the advantages of a small organization:

Embrace the idea of having less mass. Right now, you’re the smallest, the leanest and the fastest you’ll ever be. From here on out, you’ll start accumulating mass. And the more massive an object, the more energy required to change its direction. It’s as true in the business world as it is in the physical world.

They argue you don’t need to be bigger to make big change, and in fact, constraints can make you better. Think about tiny organizations that can say what they mean. They can advocate. They can push buttons. They can act where larger organizations have barriers preventing this.

This next tip is a twist on “don’t sweat the small stuff” advice. A theme throughout this book is, don’t plan too much too soon. For public health professionals trained to have plans for everything, this is a mindbender. But I’m gonna break out the Sharpies and try this …

When we start designing something, we sketch out ideas with a big, thick Sharpie marker, instead of a ballpoint pen. … They encourage you to worry about things that you shouldn’t worry about yet, like perfecting the shading or whether to use a dotted or dashed line. You end up focusing on things that should still be out of focus. A Sharpie makes it impossible to drill down that deep. … The big picture is all you should be worrying about in the beginning.

So true. While we are making perfect straight lines we aren’t using creativity to solve problems. While we are planning perfect plans, we aren’t acting.

In public health we often seek to change culture:

Artificial culture is paint. Real culture is patina. You don’t create a culture. It happens. … Culture is the byproduct of consistent behavior.

This is a great visual analogy to remind us that we can’t force culture to grow. It must come from within.

It’s a fun read. My copy already looks used n’ abused, many page edges turned under, passages underlined, favorite parts starred. If I shared them all here, there’d be major copyright violation. Let’s just say the book challenges prevailing thought about many things we do daily:

  • learning from mistakes is overrated
  • throw less at the problem
  • meetings are toxic (I know they can be unproductive, but, toxic?)
  • good enough is fine
  • make tiny decisions
  • underdo your competition
  • don’t write it down

Huh? Believe it? Or not? Well I can say this — from Oklahoma to California, I started reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Its stories reaffirm points in Rework. More on that later when I finish Switch on the flight home …

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