Exponential Organisations (ExO) Podcast

I was recently invited onto the Exponential Organisations (ExO) podcast by Lance Peppler – and the recording is now publicly available here and via your local podcast supplier.

Our recording date had been scheduled weeks before COVID-19 became top-of-mind here in US, and South Africa, but the timing of this podcast discussion now feels very, very, relevant.

We covered some topics from my book about how to work effectively while physically distributed, as well as why distributed teams (working from home, etc) are good for business – including workforce diversity, ability to hire and retain, and of course office real estate costs. In these COVID-19 days, of course, we also allocated a bunch of time discussing how COVID-19 has forced a sudden, widespread, change to how most “knowledge workers” actually do their work and handle prolonged “disaster” events like this. Including of course, an interesting discussion on whether we will return to the way worklife was before (the “old normal”) or are we going to have a permanently changed “new normal”?

Have a listen, and let us know what you think!

Speaking at RemoteAID today – how you (yes, you!) can help…

Today is RemoteAID conference.

This free day-long event is fully online, in these #covid-19 times and is helping raise donations for the Red Cross. I’ll be the closing speaker on main stage at the end of the day, with “How You (Yes, You!) Can Help Rebuild Economies”.

Come join this conference, learn tips and tricks from an amazing collection of seasoned industry leaders and share your knowledge with others. This looks to be an exciting day, Chris Herd, David Heinemeier Hansson, Jo Palmer, Paul Estes and Tracy Keogh were the first 5 to make me stop and go “wow”, but you should see the entire list at https://runningremote.com/remote-aid-agenda/.

See you all later today?

“The Race for Space” by Public Service Broadcasting

I was happily surprised by this as a gift recently.

For me, the intermixing of old original broadcasts with original composition music worked well as an idea. Choosing which broadcasts to include was just as important as composing the right music.

I liked how the composers framed the album around 9 pivotal moments events from 1957 (launch of sputnik) to 1972 (Apollo 17, the last Apollo departing the moon). Obviously, there was a lot of broadcasts to choose from, and I liked their choices – some of which I’d never heard before. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech, a homage to Valentina Tereshkova (the first female in space), Apollo 8’s “see you on the flip side” (the earthrise photo taken by Apollo 8 is still one of my favourites), and the tense interactions of all the ground + flights teams in the final seconds of descent to land of Apollo 11 (including handling the 1202, 1201 errors!).

All heady stuff and well worth a listen.

“Oughta See” by General Fuzz

Well, well, well… I’m very happy to discover that General Fuzz just put out yet another album. Tonight was a great first-listen, and I know this will make a happy addition to tomorrow’s quiet Sunday morning first-coffee. Thanks, James!

Click here to jump over to the music and listen for yourself. On principle, his music is free-to-download, so try it and if you like it, help spread the word.

(ps: if you like this album, check out his *6* other albums, also all available for free download on the same site – donations welcome!)

BBC’s Panorama coverage of The Spaghetti Harvest

(“Panorama” is the very-serious-current-affairs program of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and has been running continuously since 1953, making it the longest running current affairs program in the world.)

On 1st April, 1957, Panorama ended its show with a brief ~3minute segment on the early harvest of the Spaghetti trees along the Swiss-Italian border.

It is believed to be one of the first times an April’s Fool joke was played on television viewers, and caused quite the stir at the time. Excellently put together, with great attention to detail, and a script echoing an earlier segment about the French wine harvest, I found it a great fun 3minute watch.


More details on Wikipedia and The BBC.


Summit is coming.

Summit is exciting. With so many people scattered around the world, this gathering of Mozillians… this summit… is a rare chance for people to get together face-to-face.

Summit is scary and stressful. It is a total change in location and routine, which can be stressful. It forces everyone into a high-volume-of-contact… not anonymous contact like a crowded street in New York… high-volume-and-intense-contact with lots of people you work with, closely or intermittently, on a shared project that we all care about passionately. It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It’s overwhelming. In the coming days, even extrovert people will need a quiet time or two… more introverted people doubly so. Add some small factors like: jet-lag, sleep deprivation, language barriers, change-of-routine, and it’s easy for people to get frayed at the edges.

With that context, I’d like to offer the following thoughts:

  • Respect of self (1): Despite all the great things going on, keep a mental track of how *you* are doing. If you are feeling stressed/overwhelmed with everything, take a few minutes to walk outside in the sunshine, read a book in your room, go for a jog in the sunshine, call family back home, go for a swim… everyone is different, so do whatever works for you. I’ve done this at every conference I attend over the years, and it really helps me recenter. It also lets me mentally process all the inputs so far, and gives me time to remind myself what is important that I still need to do when I go back in the crowd. After all, we’re all here to connect.
  • Respect of self (2): Don’t quietly put up with unacceptable behavior. If a conversation or a situation is making you uncomfortable, make a mental note of it, regardless of whether it’s directed at you, or something you observe/hear being directed at someone else. Politely say “I’m starting to feel uncomfortable“.
    It may not be intended, so this is a great way to give others a chance to quickly learn, self-correct and grow (without risking offense to either party). If that doesn’t fix things, politely excuse yourself with “That’s an interesting opinion, but I have to leave now” and disengage. Some people, at Mozilla and elsewhere, enjoy trolling… but keep in mind that you don’t have to feed the trolls if you don’t want to. Nicole’s presentation is just great, I re-watch it often. If you think the situation merits it, please do let any of the Mozilla Conductors or Site Hosts know.
  • Respect of others: Lively, honest, debate is a great way for smart people to quickly solve complex problems. When it works, it’s magic. True magic. And to be encouraged. Sometimes, however, these can spiral out-of-control. The difference, as far as I can tell, is respect. Don’t impose your thoughts/intentions where they are not welcome. To be clear, I’m not saying that people should stop having honest conversations, and suddenly be all super-politically-correct. Just be respectful. If you find yourself in a heated discussion with someone, and you’re not getting anywhere, try the following:
    • Wait, wait, wait. We’re repeating ourselves here, and clearly not agreeing, so lets take pause and reset.
    • Then wait a few seconds, and take a few deep breaths!
    • OK, to reset context, can we assume that we both are professionals in our areas? Can we assume that we both want the best outcome for Mozilla? Agree?” (It is important to have these be asked, and answered, honestly and with “yes” from both! If you cannot even agree to this, you’ve got a different situation to resolve.)
    • Once you get a “yes”, then speaking calmly, ask “ok, so using different words, can you tell me why you care about xxxxxx? And I promise to not say *anything* until you tell me you’re finished. Then afterwards, we’ll switch, so I’ll speak without interruption, and you listen. But you first…“.
    • Listen. Take notes if it helps. Allow the other person time to pause and collect their thoughts without interruption. Literally no interrupting.
    • When they finally say they’re all done, then say “ok, here’s what I heard you say – is this correct?” and paraphrase it all back to them. Adjust for corrections and repeat if needed, but make sure to state the full end-to-end one last time after last corrections, so they clearly hear you say their entire opinion/concerns *once* perfectly, in one uncorrected pass.
    • Now, reverse roles. “ok, now it’s my turn to speak without interruption, while you listen“.
    • Make sure they can paraphrase back to you, accurately like you did for them.
    • Almost every time I do this, we instantly find that we were actually solving unrelated *different* problems… problems which just happened to overlap in one small area. No wonder we couldn’t agree! We were two smart professional people who were each actually solving very different problems. This tactic helped debug *which* problem we were each solving, and typically cleared things up right away.
  • Respect of Mozilla: I didn’t create Mozilla, but I’m super glad that Mitchell, Brendan and others did years ago. Imagine for a second… if this was a organization that you had created, and nurtured over the years, how would you want yourself, and everyone else, to treat each other? With that thought in mind, go out into the great crowd and engage.

Hopefully people find these thoughts helpful. Disclaimer, this is an area I’m still working on myself, so any feedback/suggestions/improvements are very very welcome… either here or in email or (yes!) in person!

Travel safe, see (some of) you soon, and lets have a great Summit!


ps: Some additional links I found helpful are: Bob Sutton’s No Asshole Rule and Laura Forrest’s “5 Hacks to make the most of Summit”, bsmedberg’s “Mozilla Summit: Listen Hard”… and yes, of course, I would be remiss to not include this great song:

HOWTO: Use crutches

I spent the best part of 2 years on crutches after a venom bite and an unrelated fall. Thankfully, I’ve made a full recovery. With all that time on crutches, I built up some tips/tricks. Since then, whenever I see someone on the street who is obviously new-to-crutches, I strike up a casual conversation about how long I spent on crutches, empathize about the various awkward realities of crutches and generally try to be encouraging. If things feel ok, then I ask if its ok to share some tips I learned from my time on crutches. This happened recently with someone in the office, and afterwards, they encouraged me to blog this in case it is helpful to anyone reading who is also newly on crutches.

1) buy fingerless cycling gloves
Sore hands from pressure of the crutch handle is a problem. Some people prefer to pad/wrap the crutch handle, but I found this still left lots of friction / movement-under-pressure while using crutches. Over time this friction led to blisters on the palm of your hands, between your thumb and first finger – exactly the spot that you needed to press your weight on while using crutches. Painful.

Padded cycling gloves solved this problem perfectly. These are padded in exactly the right area… between the base-of-thumb and forefinger…and they’re cheap! Being fingerless, I could still type and answer my cellphone with them on. And the mesh backing kept my hands from getting too hot while wearing them indoors all the time, so I could just easily leave them on all day.

2) be aware of possible nerve damage to armpits
If you get sore hands (see above), its easy to then start resting your full weight on your armpits on the top of the crutches. Every now and then is typically ok. However, its easy to get into the habit of resting your full weight on your armpits on the crutches. Dont. Leaning your weight on your armpits on your crutches can lead to nerve damage in your armpits, which will seriously limit future use of your arms and hands.

From wikipedia, “A condition known as crutch paralysis, or crutch palsy can arise from pressure on nerves in the armpit, or axilla. Specifically, the brachial plexus in the axilla is often damaged from the pressure of a crutch…In these cases the radial is the nerve most frequently implicated; the ulnar nerve suffers next in frequency”. More details are also at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axillary_nerve.

Instead of resting your bodyweight on your armpits on the top of your crutches, use your arms to hold up your body weight. As a fulcrum point, squeeze in your arms to pin the top of the crutch between your upperarm and ribs – without contact to your armpit. Then try to move around the room. I found my arms were not use to this much work and quickly got tired. Start with short distances. Over time, build up to longer sustained use of crutches as your arms build up strength.

On the bright side: when I finally came off crutches, my arms were in the best shape ever. And I had no nerve damage in my arms and hands!

3) buy a jogger fanny pack, specifically one that has holders for full-size water bottles.
One of my most frustrating episodes soon after being on crutches was my first attempt to “have a normal day at home”, by myself, making my own coffee and hoping to sit at the computer with my leg elevated. It was tricky to wrangle the machine/filter/coffee/water while on crutches, but the brew smelled great – and the first sip was wonderful.

Success! If I can make my own coffee, how bad can life be?! Then I realized I had no way of getting from the kitchen to the chair, on crutches, while holding my prized mug of coffee. Foiled!

Weeks later, I had a brainwave. The water bottle holders in fanny packs is the same diameter as most car coffee travel mugs. Coffee in a travel mug in a fanny pack doesn’t spill while you are on crutches.

Make coffee. Pour into travel mug. Put travel mug into fanny-pack-bottle-holder. Use crutches to get to chair. Sit. Drink coffee from travel mug. Rejoice.

ps: While you have this fanny pack, you might as well also pack it with:

  • house keys
  • powerbars
  • cellphone
  • tissues

Thats it. Hope those hints help someone out there… and of course, if you have other tips or hints, please email me or add them to comments below.

take care

Pina by Wim Wenders

I rarely go to the movies, and even more rarely do any movie reviews on this blog, especially in an area I know little about. However, after seeing this in movie in 3D at a local theater recently, I still cant get it out of my head.

Luscious imagery. Great choreography. And a soundtrack I eventually had to buy and keep looping around and around… I’m still listening to it right now, weeks later.

Very different. Hope you enjoy!

More details about Pina Bausch here on wikipedia.