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Sunday, November 29, 2015

What Kind of a Thinker are you. 11-29




What Kind of Thinker Are You?






We all aspire to work better together. Technology is making some of that effort easier. But digital tools are only part of the answer. It’s people who ultimately make the difference.

The problem is that technologies for collaboration are improving faster than people’s ability to learn to use them. What can be done to close that gap? A year ago we set out to find the answer, drawing on the collective experience of dozens of collaborative communities and learning organizations. Here’s what we found.

In most organizations, there’s a standard set of tools we use to form, lead, and manage teams. These include personality tests, skill profiles, and team roles. When you put a team together, you consider people’s personalities: are they an introvert or extrovert, risk-taker or risk-avoider, analytical or intuitive? You consider their skills: What is their specific area of talent, experience, or expertise? And you consider their potential role on the team: What will their contribution be to the team’s purpose?

We normally think of roles as being about what people do, such as team leader, project manager, or researcher. When you need a decision, you go to the team leader. When you want a status update, you go to the project manager. When you need something investigated, you go to the researcher.

But in today’s marketplace, the smartest companies aren’t those that necessarily out-produce the competition. Instead, it’s the organizations that outthink them. And while there are plenty of tools that help us quickly understand what our teammates do, it’s harder to tell how they think. Research shows that it is ultimately how teams think together that most determines their performance.

We therefore propose that just as team members today have assigned doing roles, there should also be thinking roles. By knowing how other members of your team and organization think — and by others knowing how you think — everyone can be more energized, more engaged, more creative, and more productive.

One aspect of collaboration is about getting people aligned in what they do. But there is another dimension is about getting people aligned in how they think.

So how should you evaluate about how you and your team think? There are frameworks for how you personally think or how you influence others one-on-one. But we didn’t find any simple assessments that would help people connect, communicate, and collaborate based on how they think. So after a lot of co-creation and trial-and-error, we developed a three-step method that delivers practical and meaningful results.

Focus. 

The first step is to identify the focus of your thinking in a particular context or setting. Do you tend to pay the most attention to ideas, process, action, or relationships? For example, in the morning as you contemplate the day ahead, do you tend to think about the problems you need to solve, the plans you need to make, the actions you need to take, or the people you need to see?

This isn’t about picking one to the exclusion of the other. It’s about where your focus naturally lands. Just like when you consider watching a movie or reading a book, do you tend to go for action, romance, drama, or mystery?

Orientation. 

The next step is to notice whether your orientation in that setting swings toward the micro or the macro — the big picture or the details. A good way to identify this orientation is by thinking about what tends to bother you in meetings. Are you more likely to complain about getting dragged into the weeds or about things being too general and not specific enough?

These dimensions are complementary to personality, skills, and traditional roles. Some project managers are more inclined to focus on process and others on people. And some extraverts are big picture and others more detail oriented.


The third step is to combine these two dimensions and see the thinking style at work in whatever context or setting you chose.




For example, on the big picture or macro orientation:


Explorer thinking is about generating creative ideas.

Planner thinking is about designing effective systems.

Energizer thinking is about mobilizing people into action.

Connector thinking is about building and strengthening relationships.
Across the micro or detail orientation:

Expert thinking is about achieving objectivity and insight.

Optimizer thinking is about improving productivity and efficiency.

Producer thinking is about achieving completion and momentum.

Coach thinking is about cultivating people and potential.

When you know your thinking style, you know what naturally energizes you, why certain types of problems are challenging or boring, and what you can do to improve in areas that are important to reaching your goals.

Once you know your style, it helps to share it with others, and have others share theirs with you. In this way, your thinking style becomes a useful tool — a kind of social currency — for the team. Imagine you put together a team to work on a new initiative. Wouldn’t you like to know who is energized by big-picture strategy discussions and who finds them frustrating? Who likes to work on the details of the execution? And who is energized by managing the team dynamics?

As a real-world demonstration, one company had their entire leadership team identify their thinking styles as managers and leaders. Looking at a heat map of the results, they realized they had a lot of big-picture Explorer thinking and a lot of Action thinking (Energizer and Producer), but very little Process thinking (Planner and Optimizer). The team was strong at coming up with big ideas and mobilizing everyone into action, but weak at working out the details and making things run efficiently.

With this new information in hand, they started giving more voice to those whose detailed thinking often seemed like a buzz kill to the big picture explorers and energizers. They also shifted the culture and recruiting strategies to create a more balanced and diverse thinking style.

At an individual level, one specific leader had always operated in idea-rich environments like consulting and marketing. But by identifying her thinking style, she realized that she was more energized by relationships than ideas. Her orientation was more towards Connector thinking than Explorer thinking. She used ideas to nurture relationships, rather than relationships to nurture ideas. This insight led her to shift the focus of her work toward account management and business development, leading to much higher levels of energy and engagement.

The landscape of business is changing rapidly, and we have to find new and better ways to connect and communicate. We all aspire to work better together; the challenge is actually making it happen. Understanding collaboration through the lens of thinking rather than doing is a practical and powerful step forward.

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Day on Pluto, a Day on Charon 11-21



A Day on Pluto, a Day on Charon

On approach in July 2015, the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured Pluto rotating over the course of a full “Pluto day.” The best available images of each side of Pluto taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation.



Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Pluto’s day is 6.4 Earth days long. The images were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera as the distance between New Horizons and Pluto decreased from 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) on July 7 to 400,000 miles (about 645,000 kilometers) on July 13. 

The more distant images contribute to the view at the 3 o’clock position, with the top of the heart-shaped, informally named Tombaugh Regio slipping out of view, giving way to the side of Pluto that was facing away from New Horizons during closest approach on July 14.  The side New Horizons saw in most detail – what the mission team calls the “encounter hemisphere” – is at the 6 o’clock position.

These images and others like them reveal many details about Pluto, including the differences between the encounter hemisphere and the so-called “far side” hemisphere seen only at lower resolution. Dimples in the bottom (south) edge of Pluto’s disk are artifacts of the way the images were combined to create these composites.


On approach to the Pluto system in July 2015, the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured images of the largest of Pluto’s five moons, Charon, rotating over the course of a full day. The best currently available images of each side of Charon taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation of the moon.






Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Charon – like Pluto – rotates once every 6.4 Earth days. The photos were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera from July 7-13, as New Horizons closed in over a range of 6.4 million miles (10.2 million kilometers). The more distant images contribute to the view at the 9 o’clock position, with few of the signature surface features visible, such as the cratered uplands, canyons, or rolling plains of the informally named Vulcan Planum. The side New Horizons saw in most detail, during closest approach on July 14, 2015, is at the 12 o’clock position.

These images and others like them reveal many details about Charon, including how similar looking the encounter hemisphere is to the so-called “far side” hemisphere seen only at low resolution – which is the opposite of the situation at Pluto. Dimples in the bottom (south) edge of Charon’s disk are artifacts of the way the New Horizons images were combined to create these composites.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

What Taking a Global View of Youth Unemployment Reveals 11-01



















Looking at trends in youth unemployment in high- and low-income countries makes the need for supporting youth entrepreneurship clear Youth unemployment is a critical issue for any country. From the lifelong effect graduating in a recession can have on students’ earnings to the upheaval of the Arab spring, the headlines of the last few years have shown that the ramifications of youth unemployment are deep and far-reaching. Taking a global view of trends in youth employment reveals what’s at the heart of the challenge—and points to the change that needs to be made to address it.

While youth unemployment rates across geographies vary, they diverge in a fashion that one may not expect. The world youth unemployment rate (ages 15–24) sits at 13.9 per cent, according to the World Bank, increasing by .2 percentage points since 2006. High-income countries—including the United States, Argentina and Kuwait—average an unemployment rate of 18.2 per cent. Middle-income countries—including China, Malaysia and Mexico—average a rate of 13.8 per cent. Low-income countries—including Afghanistan, Nepal and Liberia—a rate of 9 per cent. The key to making sense of what may be a surprising disparity is to ask: What kind of employment do these numbers reflect? That in turn underscores the transformative role youth entrepreneurship can play in both developing and developed economies.

“What often goes unrecorded in the data on youth unemployment is underemployment, and the negative impact that has on income and quality of life,” says Dr. Ben Oppenheim, Visiting Scholar and Senior Fellow at New York University, whose research focuses on economic development and governance in emerging markets. “Unemployment estimates can also be unreliable, since in many emerging markets, a significant share of labor activity takes place in the informal economy.”

A dearth of legal, high-paying economic opportunities means populations, including youth, in developing countries are forced to take jobs that expose them to occupational hazards and decrease their overall well-being. A 2012 study, for example, found that people in developing countries are exposed to more than 80 per cent of global occupational hazards.

In a similar vein, workers in the developed world are witnessing an increased informalization and fragmentation of their work, putting greater strains on youth employment. “What we see today is increasingly informalized labor in wealthy countries,” says Oppenheim. “The rise of the on-demand economy creates both pressures and opportunities for workers in the developed world to piece together income streams, as many people in developing countries do.”

This global, cross-regional perspective helps to clarify where the focus of combating youth unemployment should be—not just on hitting a number of “employed,” but also on creating quality employment opportunities with a positive impact on the individual and community alike. Fostering youth entrepreneurship may provide one avenue for accomplishing this. “Small and micro enterprises can absorb a lot of labor, and we know how to stimulate those kinds of businesses—for example, through microloans when credit bottlenecks are a critical constraint,” says Oppenheim. While no prescription for fostering youth entrepreneurial activity will be the same across borders, there may be similar through-lines that transect geographies. A key challenge, however, says Oppenheim, is that not everyone is ready to be an entrepreneur, and training and relieving constraints to entrepreneurship can only go so far.

This highlights that a combination of measures is needed to support a culture of youth entrepreneurship by choice, as opposed to labor-force participation out of hand-to-mouth necessity. While programs like social safety nets can free young would-be-entrepreneurs from subsistence work, getting to the “liftoff” point, where ideas become thriving business realities, takes more than that. That’s why training and mentoring are key. Investing in these resources for youth can have an impact on a country’s social and economic health that goes far beyond today’s topline numbers.

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore how this central insight is being turned into solutions that are unique to the challenges and opportunities of countries around the world.