Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Being Present in Your Collaborations: The Second Circle of Patsy Rodenburg

Serendipity can be a wonderful traveling companion, and on a recent journey she took me to meet Patsy Rodenburg (figuratively, of course).

Patsy is one of the most highly regarded voice coaches in the world, and has worked with actors like Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, and Daniel Day-Lewis. She is also an author of such books as Speaking Shakespeare, The Actor Speaks, and The Second Circle. One of the reasons I was drawn to her was that her ideas are not just relevant to the acting world, but to all us – in our relationships, our work collaborations, in our classrooms.

The central concept is presence (attentive energy), and we are always faced with the question, “To be present or not to be present?” We have a choice.  She says: “I actively discouraged behavior that in my observations, diminished energy: carelessness, slouching, shallow breathing, underpowered voice, uninformed thinking, mocking and cynicism – anything that seemed to drain the vital life force out of a human being and the group around that person.”

She eventually identified three circles of energy – ways human energy moves:
First Circle: This is energy moving inward (withdrawal) drawing energy to the self. If you are with someone who is in the First Circle, you feel alone, ignored, dismissed, unimportant; that person is just not with you in the moment. They are detached. When you are in the First Circle, you are not observant or perceptive of what is outside of yourself. At its best the First Circle energy is engaged in introspection and reflection, but often it is just sucks passion out of us, and others.

Third Circle: This is the opposite of the First Circle. This is energy forced outward. It is the energy of bluff and force, the energy of attracting attention. This energy lacks intimacy; it feels impersonal  – “. . . others feel they don’t really matter to you.”  Listening is not going on; those in the Third Circle look through people rather than at them.  They stay on the surface in their interactions with others.  Those in the Third Circle want to be felt and seen, not reduced and ignored.

Second Circle: People in this circle fully connect with the world; they are present, alert, and available to others. The energy is focused. “Two human beings present together experience intimacy and knowledge of one another.”  It is the circle of giving and taking of energy - “you touch and influence another person rather than impress or impose your will on them.” You hear and are heard; you notice details about others, and you acknowledge the feelings of others. The Second Circle “is a state of mind and body where confident, relaxed control allows us to establish intimacy and human connection where and when we want it.”

All of us can move between these circles, but we tend to have a habitual one. 
Collaborations will be more productive – and provide a better experience for all involved – if Second Circle interactions are encouraged and role-modeled.

Here is a link to a video of Patsy Rodenburg talking about the Second Circle, and I highly recommend her book The Second Circle: How to use positive energy for success in every situation if you want more detail and practical exercises.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Paradox At the Heart of Collaboration

This week I picked up a new book called This Will Make You Smarter edited by John Brockman (New York: Harper Perenial, 2012). Who wouldn't pick up a book with that title. Mr. Brockman is the founder and publisher of the online science salon known as Anyone interested in ideas should subscribe.

The purpose of the book is to “give us better tools to think about the world,” and is guided by one question: What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? The book contains over 100 very short essays, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about many in future blogs.
Being interested in collaboration, one of the essays immediately caught my eye: Self-Serving Bias by David G. Myers who is a social psychologist at Hope College in Holland, MI.

What is the self-serving bias?  It is the tendency we have to take credit for success and deny responsibility for failure. It is a self-deceptive mechanism for protecting our egos. If we don’t achieve success we shift the blame from internal factors like attitudes, motivations, and disposition to external factors like my boss didn’t like me. As Prof. Myers reports:
In one College Board survey of 829,000 high-school seniors
  • 0 percent rated themselves below average in ‘ability to get along with others’, 60 percent rated themselves in the top 10 percent, and 25 percent rated themselves in the top 1 percent. Compared with our average peer, most of us see ourselves as more as more intelligent, better-looking, less prejudiced, more ethical, healthier, and likely to live longer.
  • Nine out of ten drivers rate themselves above average.
  • Ninty percent of college faculty rate themselves superior to their average colleague.
Does the self-serving bias – and related phenomena like illusory optimism, self-justification, and in-group bias - doom collaboration to a mythical status? It doesn’t help because it weakens or eliminates our own sense of responsibility, and encourages victimhood.  A desire to protect our egos can also result in self-handicapping – playing it safe to ensure success, however inconsequential and meaningless

Collaboration isn’t doomed, but it is a fragile creature requiring care. Like many challenging things in life, it is at heart a paradox: collaboration depends on the presence of confident individuals who share their talents openly, but who also have enough humility to recognize their own limitations and self-serving bias

Friday, February 17, 2012

Institute of the Future: Future Work Skills 2020

In a December 2011 report for the University of Phoenix Research Institute, the Institute for the Future investigated the key drivers influencing the world of work, as well as identify the proficiencies and abilities needed across different jobs and work settings (1). While 2020 was used as a prediction point, many of the skills are critical, right now.

Drivers are defined as “big disruptive shifts that are likely to reshape the future landscape.”  The six drivers they identified are:

·         Extreme Life Longevity
·         Rise of Smart Machines and Systems
·         Computational World
·         New Media Ecology
·         Superstructed Organizations (‘superstruct’ means creating new forms of organization that go beyond those with which we are familiar. For example, new structures emerging from application of social technologies)
·         Globally Connected World

Given these disruptive forces, 10 skills emerge as highly relevant to the productivity of the future workforce:

·         Sense-Making: Being capable of getting to the deeper meaning or significance of what is being communicated
·         Social Intelligence: Being capable of relating to others deeply and directly
·         Novel & Adaptive Thinking: Being capable of thinking and solution-generating outside of the norm to respond to unexpected and unique situations.
·         Cross-Cultural Competency: Being capable of operating in unfamiliar cultural settings, and utilizing differences for innovation.
·         Computational Thinking: Being capable of translating large amounts of data into useful abstract concepts, and to understand data-based reasoning.
·         New-Media Literacy: Being capable of leveraging new media forms to communicate persuasively.
·         Transdisciplinarity: Being capable of understanding concepts across different disciplines to solve multifaceted problems.
·         Design Mindset: Being capable of designing tasks, processes, and work environments to help produce the outcomes we want.
·         Cognitive Load Management: Being capable of filtering important information from the ‘noise’, and using new tools to expand our mental functioning abilities.
·         Virtual Collaboration: Being capable of working productively with others across virtual distances. 
 All of these skills resonate with my own thinking about the future workplace, but let me frame them a little differently. Playing and re-framing often helps me understand more clearly. I would have liked to see ‘play’ mentioned more explicitly in the list, but I assume it’s part of Novel & Adaptive Thinking.

I see five interdependent skill clusters. At the center would be Virtual Collaboration and spinning around this nucleus would be four electrons: Relationships, Data, Meaning, and Innovation.

Virtual Collaboration: The rapid development of collaboration technologies, along with the competitive need to leverage the knowledge and skills of a global talent pool, are pushing and pulling Virtual Collaboration onto center stage. New Media Literacy is a skill in its own right, but also a critical component of virtual collaboration.

Relationships: Highly productive collaboration within and across geographic, cultural and organizational borders will depend on high levels of Cross-Cultural Competency and Social Intelligence.  Technology will not be the differentiating success factor; the quality of the relationships enabled by the technology will make the difference.

Data: The increasingly massive amounts of data becoming available create high stress points for individuals and collaborative groups.  Finding patterns and filtering out the ‘noise’ are of great importance, and so Computational Thinking and Cognitive Load Management are essential to future work.

Meaning: In a highly complex world of multiple cultures and disciplines, superficial and one-dimensional thinking can lead to overly simplistic understandings and solutions. Real meaning and significance can be lost when we rush to impose what is familiar.  While simplicity can be a virtue, ‘simplistic’ never is. Avoiding dangerous over-simplification requires both Sense-Making and Transdisciplinarity.     

Innovation: In a hyper-competitive environment driven at Internet speeds, few innovations will have a very long shelf life. That doesn’t mean stop innovating, it means innovate faster or go obsolete. In creating and implementing the ‘new’, Novel & Adaptive Thinking and a Design Mindset are must-haves.

I’m a great fan of the Institute for the Future, and I hope they don’t mind me ‘playing’ with their work. to access the full report.