meaning

Wired For Story

In line with my plan to improve my communication skills, I recently finished reading Wired For Story – The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence – by Lisa Cron. As the title indicates this is book about storytelling. More specifically, Lisa unveils how writers can leverage cognitive secrets of the brain to better engage their readership through powerful stories. Below is a summary of the main points of the book. On the importance of stories:

Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution—more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to. Story is what enabled us to imagine what might happen in the future, and so prepare for it—a feat no other species can lay claim to, opposable thumbs or not. Story is what makes us human, not just metaphorically but literally. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience reveal that our brain is hardwired to respond to story; the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it. In other words, we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.

What’s the role the writer can play?

Writers can change the way people think simply by giving them a glimpse of life through their characters’ eyes. They can transport readers to places they’ve never been, catapult them into situations they’ve only dreamed of, and reveal subtle universal truths that just might alter their entire perception of reality. In ways large and small, writers help people make it through the night. And that’s not too shabby. But there’s a catch. For a story to captivate a reader, it must continually meet his or her hardwired expectations. This is no doubt what prompted Jorge Luis Borges to note, “Art is fire plus algebra.” Let me explain. Fire is absolutely crucial to writing; it’s the very first ingredient of every story. Passion is what drives us to write, filling us with the exhilarating sense that we have something to say, something that will make a difference.

What’s the “algebra” part then?

But to write a story capable of instantly engaging readers, passion alone isn’t enough. Writers often mistakenly believe that all they need to craft a successful story is the fire—the burning desire, the creative spark, the killer idea that startles you awake in the middle of the night. They dive into their story with gusto, not realizing that every word they write is most likely doomed to failure because they forgot to factor in the second half of the equation: the algebra…It’s only by stopping to analyze what we’re unconsciously responding to when we read a story—what has actually snagged our brain’s mention—that we can then write a story that will grab the reader’s brain. This is true whether you’re writing a literary novel, hard-boiled mystery, or supernatural teen romance. Although readers have their own personal taste when it comes to the type of novel they’re drawn to, unless that story meets their hardwired expectations, it stays on the shelf.

How can we learn the “algebra” component of the equation? This is where this book comes into play:

To make sure that doesn’t happen to your story, this book is organized into twelve chapters, each zeroing in on an aspect of how the brain works, its corresponding revelation about story, and the nuts and bolts of how to actualize it in your work. Each chapter ends with a checklist you can apply to your work at any stage: before you begin writing, at the end of every writing day, at the end of a scene or a chapter, or at 2:00 a.m. when you wake up in a cold sweat, convinced that your story may be the worst thing anyone has written, ever. (It’s not; trust me.) Do this, and I guarantee your work will stay on track and have an excellent chance of making people who aren’t even related to you want to read it.

BUT, there is a caveat:

The only caveat is that you have to be as honest about your story as you would be about a novel you pick up in a bookstore, or a movie you begin watching with one finger still poised on the remote. The idea is to pinpoint where each trouble spot lies and then remedy it before it spreads like a weed, undermining your entire narrative. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds, because there’s nothing more exhilarating than watching your work improve until your readers are so engrossed in it that they forget that it’s a story at all.

So What are the secrets?

Secret #1: How to Hook the Reader: From the very first sentence, the reader must want to know what happens next. Secret

#2: How to Zero in on Your Point…To hold the brain’s attention, everything in a story must he there on a need-to-know basis.

Secret #3: I’ll Feel What He’s Feeling…All story is emotion based – if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading.

Secret #4: What does your Protagonist Really Want?…A protagonist without a clear goal has nothing to figure out and nowhere to go.

Secret #5: Digging Up Your Protagonist’s Inner Issue…You must know precisely when, and why, your protagonist’s worldview was knocked out of alignment.

Secret #6: The story is in the specifics…Anything conceptual, abstract, or general must be made tangible in the protagonist’s specific struggle.

Secret #7: Courting Conflict. The Agent Of Change…Story is about change, which results only from unavoidable conflict.

Secret #8: Cause of Effect…A story follows a cause-and-effect trajectory from start to finish.

Secret #9: What Can Go Wrong And Then Some…A story’s job is to put the protagonist through tests that, even in her wildest dreams, she doesn’t think she can pass.

Secret #10: The Road from Setup to Payoff…Readers are always on the lookout for patterns; to your reader, everything is either a setup, a payoff. or the road in between.

Secret #11: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch…Foreshadowing, flashbacks, and subplots must instantly give readers insight into what’s happening in the main storyline, even if the meaning shifts as the story unfolds.

Secret #12: The Writer’s Brain On Story…There’s no writing; there’s only rewriting.

Other highlights from the book, include:

So, What Is a Story? “What happens” is the plot. “Someone” is the protagonist. The “goal” is what’s known as the story question. And “how he or she changes” is what the story itself is actually about.

What Is This Story About? 1. Whose story is it? 2. What’s happening here? 3. What’s at stake?

Don’t Bury Your Story in an Empty Plot…A Story Is About How the Plot Affects the Protagonist

Knowing what the focus of your story is allows you to do for your story what your cognitive unconscious does for you: filter out everything extraneous, everything that doesn’t matter. You can use it to test each proposed twist, turn, and character reaction for story relevance.

That’s what readers come for. Their unspoken hardwired question is. If something like this happens to me, what would it feel like? How should I best react? Your protagonist might even be showing them how not to react, which is a pretty handy answer as well.

Adding External Problems Adds Drama Only If They’re Something the Protagonist Must Confront to Overcome Her Issue That’s why, when writing your protagonist’s bio, the goal is to pinpoint two things: the event in his past that knocked his worldview out of alignment, triggering the internal issue that keeps him from achieving his goal; and the inception of his desire for the goal itself. Sometimes they’re one and the same.

Six Places Where the “Specific” Often Goes Missing: 1. The specific reason a character does something…2. The specific thing a metaphor is meant to illuminate…3. The specific memory that a situation invokes in the protagonist…4. The specific reaction a character has to a significant event…5. The specific possibilities that run through the protagonist’s mind as she struggles to make sense of what’s happening…6. The specific rationale behind a character’s change of heart.

Unless They Convey Necessary Information, Sensory Details Clog a Story’s Arteries.

There are three main reasons for any sensory detail to be in a story: 1. It’s part of a cause-and-effect trajectory that relates to the plot—Lucy drinks the shake, she passes out. 2. It gives us insight into the character—Lucy’s an unapologetic hedonist headed for trouble. 3. It’s a metaphor—Lucy’s flavor choice represents how she sees the world. And that, my friends, is what makes stories so deeply satisfying. We get to try on trouble, pretty much risk-free.

Withholding Information Very Often Robs the Story of What Really Hooks Readers

The Importance of the Highway between Setup and Payoff: Three Rules of the Road…Rule One: There must actually be a road…Rule Two: The reader must be able to see the road unfold…Rule Three: The intended payoff must not be patently impossible.

On a concluding note:

Here’s a secret: when you’ve tapped into what it is we’re wired to respond to in a story, what we’re hungry for from the very first sentence, it is your truth we hear. As neuroscientist David Eagleman says, “When you put together large numbers of pieces and parts, the whole can become something larger than the sum…The concept of emergent properties means that something new can be introduced that is not inherent in any of the parts.” What emerges is your vision, seen through the eyes of your readers, experienced by your readers. So what are you waiting for? Write! Although they may not know it yet, your public is eager to find out what happens next.

A must read book on story-telling and writing. For another recommendation within this subject area, I suggest Storycatcher, and The Story Factor.

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On Flow

I just finished reading Flow – The Psychology Of Optimal Experience – Steps Toward Enhancing The Quality Of Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “This book summarizes, for a general audience, decades of research on the positive aspects of human experience—joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life I call flow…This book tries instead to present general principles. along with concrete examples of how some people have used these principles, to transform boring and meaningless lives into ones fill of enjoyment.”

2- “What I “discovered” was that happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”

3- “From their accounts of what it felt like to do what they were doing, I developed a theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow—the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

4- “The most important step in emancipating oneself from social controls is the ability to find rewards in the events of each moment. If a person learns to enjoy and find meaning in the ongoing stream of experience, in the process of living itself, the burden of social controls automatically falls from one’s shoulders. Power returns to the person when rewards are no longer relegated to outside forces. It is no longer necessary to struggle for goals that always seem to recede into the future, to end each boring day with the hope that tomorrow, perhaps, something good will happen. Instead of forever straining for the tantalizing prize dangled just out of reach, one begins to harvest the genuine rewards of living. But it is not by abandoning ourselves to instinctual desires that we become free of social controls. We must also become independent from the dictates of the body, and learn to take charge of what happens in the mind. Pain and pleasure occur in consciousness and exist only there. As long as we obey the socially conditioned stimulus-response patterns that exploit our biological inclinations, we are controlled from the outside. To the extent that a glamorous ad makes us salivate for the product sold or that a frown from the boss spoils the day, we are not free to determine the content of experience. Since what we experience is reality, as far as we are concerned, we can transform reality to the extent that we influence what happens in consciousness and thus free ourselves from the threats and blandishments of the outside world.”

5- “Control over consciousness cannot be institutionalized. As soon as it becomes part of a set of social rules and norms, it ceases to be effective in the way it was originally intended to be. Routinization, unfortunately, tends to take place very rapidly. Freud was still alive when his quest for liberating the ego from its oppressors was turned into a Staid ideology and a rigidly regulated profession. Marx was even less fortunate: his attempts to free consciousness from the tyranny of economic exploitation were soon turned into a system of repression that would have boggled the poor founder’s mind.”

6- “Over the endless dark centuries of its evolution, the human nervous stem has become so complex that it is now able to affect its own states, making it to a certain extent functionally independent of its genetic blueprint and of the objective environment. A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happy “outside,” just by changing the contents of consciousness. We all kn»now individuals who can transform hopeless situations into challenges to be overcome, just through the force of their personalities. This ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people most admire in others, and justly so; it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life, but for enjoying it as well.”

7- “Whenever information disrupts consciousness by threatening its goals we have a condition of inner disorder, or psychic entropy, a disorganization of the self that impairs its effectiveness. Prolonged experiences of this kind can weaken the self to the point that it is no longer able to invest attention and pursue its goals.”

8- “Following a flow experience, the organization of the self is more complex than it had been before. It is by becoming increasing complex that the self might be said to grow. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: differentiation and integration. Differentiation implies a movement toward uniqueness, toward separating oneself from others. Integration refers to its opposite: a union with other people. with ideas and entities beyond the self. A complex self is one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies. The self becomes more differentiated as a result of flow because overcoming a challenge inevitably leaves a person feeling more capable, more skilled. As the rock climber said, “You look back in awe at the self, at what you’ve done, it just blows your mind.” After each episode of flow a person becomes more of a unique individual, less predictable, possessed of rarer skills. Complexity is often thought to have a negative meaning, synonymous with difficulty and confusion. That may be true, but only if we equate it with differentiation alone. Yet complexity also involves a second dimension—the integration of autonomous parts. A complex engine, for instance, not only has many separate components, each performing a different function, but also demonstrates a high sensitivity because each of the components is in touch with all the others. Without integration, a differentiated system would be a confusing mess. “low helps to integrate the self because in that state of deep concentration consciousness is unusually well ordered. Thoughts, intentions, feelings, and all the senses are focused on the same goal. Experience is in harmony.”

9- “There are two main strategies we can adopt to improve the quality of life. The first is to try making external conditions match our goals. The second is to change how we experience external conditions to make them fit our goals better. For instance, feeling secure is an important component of happiness. The sense of security can be improved by buying a gun, installing strong locks on the front door, moving to a safer neighborhood, exerting political pressure on city hall for more police protection, or helping the community to become more conscious of the importance of civil order. All these different responses are aimed at bringing conditions in the environment more in line with our goals. The other method by which we can feel more secure involves modifying what we mean by security. If one does not expect perfect safety, recognizes hat risks are inevitable, and succeeds in enjoying a less than ideally predictable world, the threat of insecurity will not have as great a chance of marring happiness. Neither of these strategies is effective when used alone. Changing external conditions might seem to work at first, but if a person is not in control of his consciousness, the old fears or desires will soon return, reviving previous anxieties. One cannot create a complete sense of inner security even by buying one’s own Caribbean island and surrounding it with armed bodyguards and attack dogs.”

10- “As our studies have suggested, the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components. When people reflect on how it feels when their experience is most positive, they mention at least one, and often all, of the following. First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing. Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing. Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback. Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life. Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions. Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours. The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.”

11- “The same situation holds true for the artist painting a picture, and for all activities that are creative or open-ended in nature. But these are all activities that are creative or open-ended in nature. But these are all recognize and gauge feedback in such activities, she will not enjoy them. In some creative activities, where goals are not clearly set in advance, a person must develop a strong personal sense of what she intends to do. The artist might not have a visual image of what the finished painting should look like, but when the picture has progressed to a certain point, she should know whether this is what she wanted to achieve or not.”

12- “As this example illustrates, what people enjoy is not the sense of being in control, but the sense of exercising? control in difficult situations. It is not possible to experience a feeling of control unless one is willing to give up the safety of protective routines. Only when a doubtful outcome is at stake, and one is able to influence that outcome, can a person really know whether she is in control.”

13- “In our studies, we found that every flow activity, whether it involved competition, chance, or dimension of experience, had this in common: It provided a sense of discovery, a creative feeling of transporting the person into a new reality. It pushed the person to higher levels of performance, and led to previously undreamed-of states of consciousness. In short, it transformed the self by making it more complex. In this growth of the self lies the key to flow activities.”

14- “There is ample evidence to suggest that how parents interact with a child will have a lasting effect on the kind of person that child grow up to be. In one of our studies conducted at the University of Chicago, for example, Kevin Rathunde observed that teenagers who had certain types of relationship with their parents were significantly more happy, satisfied, and strong in most life situations than their peers who did not have such a relationship. The family context promoting optimal d experience could be described as having five characteristics. The first one is clarity: the teenagers feel that they know what their parents expect from them—goals and feedback in the family interaction are unambiguous. he second is centering, or the children’s perception that their of parents are interested in what they are doing in the present, concrete feelings and experiences, rather than being preoccupied with whether they will be getting into a good college or obtaining a well-paying job. Next is the issue of choice: children feel that the variety of possibilities from which to choose, including that of breaking parental rules—as long as they are prepared to face the consequences. The fourth differentiating characteristic is commitment, or the trust that allows the child to feel comfortable enough to set aside the shield of his defenses. and become unselfconsciously involved in whatever he is interested in. And finally there is challenge, or the parents’ dedication to provide increasingly complex opportunities for action to their children.”

15- “Without interest in the world, a desire to be actively related to it. a person becomes isolated into himself. Bertrand Russell, one of the greatest philosophers of our century, described how he achieved personal happiness: “Gradually 1 learned to be indifferent to myself and my deficiencies; I came to center my attention increasingly upon external objects: the state of the world, various branches of knowledge, individuals for whom I felt affection.” There could be no better short description of how to build for oneself an autotelic personality. In part such a personality is a gift of biological inheritance and early upbringing. Some people are born with a more focused and flexible neurological endowment, or are fortunate to have had parents who promoted unselfconscious individuality. But it is an ability open to cultivation, a skill one can perfect through training and discipline. It is now time to explore further the ways this can be done.”

16- “Even the simplest physical act becomes enjoyable when it is transformed so as to produce flow. The essential steps in this process are: (a) to set an overall goal, and as many subgoals as are realistically feasible; (b) to find ways of measuring progress in terms of the goals chosen; (c) to keep concentrating on what one is doing, and to keep making finer and finer distinctions in the challenges involved in the activity; (d) to develop the skills necessary to interact with the opportunities available; and (e) to keep raising the stakes if the activity becomes boring.”

17- “To realize the body’s potential for flow is relatively easy. It does not require special talents or great expenditures of money. Everyone can greatly improve the quality of life by exploring one or more previously ignored dimensions of physical abilities. Of course, it is difficult for any one person to reach high levels of complexity in more than one physical domain. The skills necessary to become good athletes, dancers, or connoisseurs of sights, sounds, or tastes are so demanding that one individual not have enough psychic energy in his waking lifetime to master more than a few. But it is certainly possible to become a dilettante—in finest sense of that word—in all these areas, in other words, to develop sufficient skills so as to find delight in what the body can do.”

18- “But for a person who has nothing to remember, life can become severely impoverished. This possibility was completely overlooked by educational reformers early in this century, who, armed with research results, proved that “rote learning” was not an efficient way to store and acquire information. As a result of their efforts, rote learning was phased out of the schools. The reformers would have had justification, if the point of remembering was simply to solve practical problems. But if control of consciousness is judged to be at least as important as the ability to get things done, then learning complex patterns of information by heart is by no means a waste of effort. A mind with some stable content to it is much richer than one without. It is a mistake to assume that creativity and rote learning are incompatible. Some of the most original scientists, for instance, have been known to have memorized music, poetry, or historical information extensively.”

19- “External forces are very important in determining which new ideas will be selected from among the many available; but they cannot explain their production. It is perfectly true, for instance, that the development and application of the knowledge of atomic energy were expedited enormously by the life-and-death struggle over the bomb between dited enormously by the life-and-death struggle over the bomb between Germany on the one hand, and England and the United States on the little to the war; it was made possible through knowledge laid down in more peaceful circumstances—for example, in the friendly exchange of more peaceful circumstances—tor example, in the friendly exchange of over to Niels Bohr and his scientific colleagues by a brewery in Copenhagen.”

20- “The bad connotations that the terms amateur and dilettante have earned for themselves over the years are due largely to the blurring of the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic goals. An amateur who pretends to know as much as a professional is probably wrong, and up to some mischief. The point of becoming an amateur scientist is not to compete with professionals on their own turf, but to use a symbolic discipline to extend mental skills, and to create order in consciousness.”

21- “At the same time, it would be erroneous to expect that if all ill jobs were constructed like games, everyone would enjoy them. Even the mos favorable external conditions do not guarantee that a person will 1 be in flow. Because optimal experience depends on a subjective evaluation of what the possibilities for action are, and of one’s own capacities, it happens quite often that an individual will be discontented even with a potentially great job.”

22- “A community should be judged good not because it is technologically advanced, or swimming in material riches; it is good if it offers people a chance to enjoy as many aspects of their lives as possible, while allowing them to develop their potential in the pursuit of ever greater challenges. Similarly the value of a school does not depend on its prestige, or its ability to train students to face up to the necessities of life, but rather on the degree of the enjoyment of lifelong learning it can transmit. A good factory is not necessarily the one that makes the most money, but the one that is most responsible for improving the quality of life for its workers and its customers. And the true function of politics is not to make people more affluent, safe, or powerful, but to let as many as possible enjoy an increasingly complex existence.”

23- “Why are some people weakened by stress, while others gain strength from it? Basically the answer is simple: those who know how to transform a hopeless situation into a new flow activity that can be controlled will be able to enjoy themselves, and emerge stronger from the ordeal. There are three main steps that seem to be involved in such transformations: 1. Unselfconscious self-assurance…2. Focusing attention on the world…3. The discovery of new solutions.”

24- “THE AUTOTELIC SELF: A SUMMARY – 1. Setting goals…2. Becoming immersed in the activity…3.Paying attention to what is happening…4. Learning to enjoy immediate experience.”

25- “But complexity consists of integration as well as differentiation. The task of the next decades and centuries is to realize this underdeveloped component of the mind. Just as we have learned to separate ourselves from each other and from the environment, we now need to learn how to reunite ourselves with other entities around us without losing our hard-won individuality. The most promising faith for the future might be based on the realization that the entire universe is a system related by common laws and that it makes no sense to impose our dreams and desires on nature without taking them into account. Recognizing the limitations of human will, accepting a cooperative rather than a ruling role in the universe, we should feel the relief of the exile who is finally returning home. The problem of meaning will then be resolved as the individual’s purpose merges with the universal flow.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Flow

On Liberating the Corporate Soul

I recently finished reading Liberating The Corporate Soul – Building a Visionary Organization – by Richard Barrett.

Below are key excerpts from the books that I found particularly insightful:

1- “I started out with two ideas. The first idea was that organizational transformation must look and feel a lot like personal transformation. The second idea was that the values held by successful companies must be similar to the values held by successful individuals. These two ideas led me on a journey of discovery that gladdened my heart. I not only found these two theses to be correct but also found underneath the tough rhetoric of Wall Street a small but growing number of successful businesses that live by values that are concordant with the highest moral and ethical principles. This book celebrates their success and provides a road map and tools for those who want to travel the same path.”

2- “Corporate transformation begins with a shift in the values and behaviors of the leadership. Corporations don’t transform. People do. Corporate transformation is fundamentally about personal transformation. It will happen only if there is a willingness on the part of the leader and all those in authority to live according to values that are less focused on self-interest and more focused on the common good. For transformation to be success^l the espoused values and behaviors must become pervasive throughout the organization.”

3- “The key characteristics of long-lasting companies that have superior financial performance are summarized as follows. A strong, positive, values-driven culture A lasting commitment to learning and self-renewal continual adaptation based on feedback from internal and external environments Strategic alliances with internal and external partners, customers, and suppliers A willingness to take risks and experiment A balanced, values-based approach to measuring performance.”

4- “The basic reason why companies find it difficult to develop these characteristics is that they operate from the mental model of the organization as a machine. More and more organizations are making the transition to the mental model of a machine with a mind, but very few have made it to the model of the organization as a living entity. Consequently, most companies seek only to satisfy their physical and emotional needs.”

5- “Self-interest and the single-minded pursuit of accumulation of wealth are at the heart of our current crisis. Fueled by greed, businesses all over the world are engaged in the wholesale exploitation of the Earth and its people. What is extraordinary is lat they are doing it in collusion with society.”

6- “There are millions of people around the world embracing this new responsibility. They are turning from “What’s in it for me?” as their unconscious world view, to consciously embracing “What’s best for the common good?” Many of these people are business leaders. Companies around the world are beginning to recognize that their future is intimately linked to peace, prosperity for all, and environmental stewardship.”

7- “Our proficiency in expressing our creativity falls off as e accept other’s opinions and evaluations of what is good and )ad, right and wrong. Our education systems have much to answer in this arena.”

8- “The pathway to creativity begins with employee participation. T\ere are five stages to participation—invitation, engagement. reflection, listening, and implementation. When an organization attempts participation for the first time, it needs to take care to complete all the steps. At the beginning, it is important to i let all employees know that they are being invited to share their ideas and that their opinions are important. The engagement begins when employees are presented with information about he situation at hand and have the opportunity to ask questions”

9- “The challenge for leaders is to build an organizational culture that maximizes the development of human potential and strategic alliances while working within the framework of acceptable values and behaviors that relate to the type of activity, the dominant professional discipline, and the mores of the local community.”

10- “Companies that operate with values that support the common good are able to maintain morale, commitment, and loyalty even during difficult times. When staff reductions are necessary because of a downturn in sales, companies that operate from the higher levels of consciousness explore ways to share the burden. If this doesn’t work, layoffs are handled with compassion and caring.”

11- “When an organization moves from being profit-driven to being values-driven, it does not mean that it suddenly regards profit as unimportant. On the contrary. Profit remains a fundamental objective. In values-driven organizations the profit motive is contained within an overarching ethical framework. Limits are drawn as to what the organization will and will not do to make an extra dollar.”

12- “I would submit therefore that it is not the sharing of an organizational mission or vision that creates cohesion, but the creation of opportunities within the organizational mission for every individual find work that corresponds to his or her personal mission or vision.”

13- “The first three categories of the Balanced Need Scorecard represent the primary needs of an organization: Corporate Survival—profits, finance, and funding; Corporate Fitness— productivity, quality, and efficiency; and Customer/Supplier Relations—sales, service, and product excellence…’The next three categories support these front-line needs. They include Corporate Evolution—participation, innovation, and creativity; Corporate Culture—vision, mission, values, and employee fulfillment; and Society and Community Contribution—social and environmental responsibility, being of service, and making a difference.”

14- “For trust to blossom and flourish, there must be shared values and mutual accountability, nurtured by cooperation and friendship. Above all, there must be a strong sense of working together for the good of the whole. Therefore, to grow trust, an organization must first grow community. The foundation of community is sociability (measure of sincere friendliness among members of community) and solidarity (measure of a community’s ability to pursue shared objectives quickly and effectively regardless of personal ties).”

15- “A leader is someone who holds a vision and courageously pursues that vision in such a way that it resonates with the souls of people.”

16- “To find real happiness at work, I had learned that I had to stop putting my energy into pleasing my boss, competing with others, and being the best. I had to release my unconscious fears about being valued and respected and pass through transformation.^ When I was free of the fears that were driving my competitive behavior, I was able to be my true self and be my own person. Only then was I able to discover my true passion and the joy of working in service to others.”

17- “The critical factors in successful transformations are (a) the management team’s commitment to modeling the new values and behaviors; (b) integrating the new values into the structural incentives of the human resource processes of the organization; (c) building psychological ownership by involving employees in defining the mission, vision, and values and the Balanced Needs Scorecard objectives and targets; (d) helping employees to think like owners; and (e) assigning responsibilities and developing structural mechanisms to support innovation, learning, and cultural renewal.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Liberating the Corporate Soul

On A Whole New Mind

I recently read A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future – by Daniel H. Pink.

As best summarized by the author: “This book describes a seismic—though as yet undetected—shift now under way in much of the advanced world. We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “A change of such magnitude is complex. But the argument at the heart of this book is simple. For nearly a century, Western society in general, and American society in particular, has been dominated by a form of thinking and an approach to life that is narrowly reductive and deeply analytical. Ours has been the age of the “knowledge worker,” the well-educated manipulator of information and deployer of expertise. But that is changing. Thanks to an array of forces – material abundance that is deepening our nonmaterial yearnings. globalization that is shipping white-collar work overseas, and powerful technologies that are eliminating certain kinds of work altogether—we are entering a new age. It is an age animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life—one that prizes aptitudes that I call “high concept” and “high touch.” High concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new. High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.”

2- “With more than three decades of research on the brain’s hemispheres, it’s possible to distill the findings to four key differences. 1. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. 2. The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous. 3. The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context. 4. The left hemisphere analyzes the details; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture.”

3- “Three forces are tilting the scales in favor of R-Directed Thinking. Abundance has satisfied, and even oversatisfied, the material needs of millions—boosting the significance of beauty and emotion and accelerating individuals’ search for meaning. Asia is now performing large amounts of routine, white-collar, L-Directed work It significantly lower costs, thereby forcing knowledge workers in the advanced world to master abilities that can’t be shipped overseas. And automation has begun to affect this generation’s white-collar workers in much the same way it did last generation’s blue-collar workers, requiring L-Directed professionals to develop aptitudes that computers can’t do better, faster, or cheaper.”

4- “We moved from the Agriculture Age to the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The latest instance of this pattern is today’s transition from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age once again fed by affluence (the abundance that characterizes Western life), technological progress (the automation of several kinds of white-collar work), and globalization (certain types of knowledge work moving to Asia).”

5- “In the Conceptual Age, we will need to complement our L-Directed I reasoning by mastering six essential R-Directed aptitudes. Together these six high-concept, high-touch senses can help develop the whole new mind this new era demands. 1. Not just function but also DESIGN. 2. Not just argument but also STORY. 3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY. 4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY. 5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY. 6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING.”

6- “Design is a high-concept aptitude that is difficult to outsource or automate—and that increasingly confers a competitive advantage in business. Good design, now more accessible and affordable than ever also offers us a chance to bring pleasure, meaning, and beauty to our lives. But most important, cultivating a design sensibility can make our small planet a better place for us all.”

7- “Stories are easier to remember—because in many ways, stories are how we remember. “Narrative imagining— story—is the fundamental instrument of thought,” writes cognitive scientist Mark Turner in his book The Literary Mind. “”

8- “Story exists where high concept and high touch intersect. Story is high concept because it sharpens our understanding of one thing by showing it in the context of something else…, Story is high touch because stories almost always pack an emotional punch.”

9- “”Storytelling doesn’t replace analytical thinking,” he says. “It supplements it by enabling us to imagine new perspectives and new worlds. . .. Abstract analysis is easier to understand when seen through the lens of a well-chosen story. ” Now Denning is spreading his message— and telling his story—to organizations worldwide. ”

10- “Like drawing, Symphony is largely about relationships. People who hope to thrive in the Conceptual Age must understand the connections between diverse, and seemingly separate, disciplines. They must know how to link apparently unconnected elements to create something new. And they must become adept at analogy—at seeing one thing in terms of another. There are ample opportunities, in other words, for three types of people: the boundary crosser, the inventor, and the metaphor maker. ”

11- “Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling. It is the ability to stanc in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hearts. It is something we do pretty much spontaneously, an act of instinct rather than the product of deliberation. But Empathy isn’t sympathy—that is, feeling bad/or someone else. It is feeling with someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person. Empathy is a stunning act of imaginative derring-do, the ultimate virtual reality—climbing into another’s mind to experience the world from that person’s perspective. ”

12- “Empathy is neither a deviation from intelligence nor the single route to it. Sometimes we need detachment; many other times we need attunement. And the people who will thrive will be those who can toggle between the two. As we’ve seen again and again, the Conceptual Age requires androgynous minds.”

13- “”The opposite of play isn’t work. It’ depression. To play is to act out and be willful, exultant and committed as if one is assured of one’s prospects. -BRIAN SUTTON-SMITH ”

14- “”Laughter can play a major role in reducing stress in the workplace,’ he says. Kataria says that businesses believe that “serious people are more responsible. That’s not true. That’s yesterday’s news. Laughing people are more creative people. They are more productive people. People who laugh together can work together.” ”

15- “Our fundamental drive, the motivational engine that powers human existence, is the pursuit of meaning. Frankl’s approach—called “logotherapy,” for “logos” the Greek word for meaning—quickly became an influential movement in psychotherapy. ”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

A Whole New Mind

On Mojo

I recently finished reading the Mojo: how to get it, how to keep it, how to get it back if you loose it, by Marshall Goldsmith.

As the author defines it : “Mojo is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.” He continues: “That’s the payoff of having Mojo. More meaning. More happiness.”

The book then expands on what are the foundational elements of Mojo: “Four vital ingredients need to be combined in order for you to have great Mojo. The first is your identity…The second element is achievement…The third element is reputation…The fourth element to building Mojo is acceptance…By understanding the impact and interaction of identity, achievement, reputation, and acceptance, we can begin alter our own Mojo – both at work and home.” After spending time explaining and illustrating each of these areas, Marshall then presents a complete toolkit of actions one can take to build/improve one’s Mojo. I have included below excerpts that further summarize these concepts.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book is the thoroughness in which the topic is covered: from summarizing the concepts, to explaining them and giving practical examples illustrating them, to finally presenting a toolkit on how to apply them. A recommended read that complements well Marshall’s other work: What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.

Below are some excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1) “Measuring your Mojo:

-Professional Mojo: What I being to this activity – 1) Motivation, 2) Knowledge, 3) Ability, 4) Confidence, 5) Authenticity

-Personal Mojo: What this activity brings to me – 6) Happiness, 7) Reward, 8) Meaning, 9) Learning, 10) Gratitude”

2) “Mojo Paradox: Our default response in life is not to experience happiness. Our default response in life is not to experience meaning. Our default response in life is to experience inertia.”

3) “To understand how you are relating to any activity, you need to understand your identity – who you are. To change your Mojo, you may need to either create a new identity for yourself or rediscover an identity that you have lost.”

4) “If we want to increase our Mojo, we can either change the degree of our achievement – how well we are doing – or change the definition of our achievement – what we are trying to do well.”

5) “…Worrying about the past and being anxious about the future can easily destroy our Mojo. It upsets us emotionally. It clouds our judgement. It dills us with regret. And it can lead to self-punishment. This sort of thinking afflicts the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the achievers and the struggling.”

6) “Mojo Killers: 1) Over-Committing, 2) Waiting for the facts to change, 3) Looking for logic in all the wrong places, 4) Bashing the boss, 5) Refusing to change because of “Sunk Costs”, 6) Confusing the mode you’re in”

7) “In this new world, Mojo is both harder to attain and more important to keep. When your competition is already responding to a tough new environment bu working harder and longer, you need unique tools to separate yourself from the throng.”

8) “The following is a list of specific actions that can help you attack the challenge of changing You or It…1) Establish criteria that matter to you 2) Find out where you’re living 3) Be the optimist in the room 4) Take away one thing 5) Rebuild one brick at a time 6) Live your mission in the small moments too 7) Swim in the Blue Water 8) When to stay, when to go 9) Hello, good-bye 10) Adopt a metrics system 11) Reduce this number 12) Influence up as well as down 13) Name it, frame it, claim it 14) Give your friends a lifetime pass.”

9) “…All of us, consciously or not, run everything through two filters: short-term satisfaction (or happiness) and long-term benefit (or meaning). Both have value.”

10) “When you have mission, you give yourself a purpose – and that adds clarity to all the actions and decisions that follow. There’s an underestimated value to articulating your mission: It  focuses you, points you in a new direction, alters your behavior, and as a result, changes other people’s perception of you.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Mojo

Mojo