Concept of the Day: Cultural Plasticity

I’m not sure whether this counts as a real fully fledged concept, or just an idea, or actually even whether there is a difference.

PisaThe idea comes from Jonah Lehrer over on The Frontal Cortext blog where he reflects on the diversity of music that we enjoy (his pretext is the events at the MTV awards with Kanye West and Taylor Swift).

It got me thinking, in what other ways are we culturally plastic:

  • Food: The range of food available in the UK is incredible. Foods from every country in the world and even fusions of different food types. We skip between them without really thinking about it, something that my grandparents would never have done.
  • Video/Television/Films: I know a few people who will only go to the movies to see a certain type of film, but there aren’t many of them. And the range of film genre is increasing all of the time.
  • Reading: Looking at the book shelf beside me there is a huge variety of material. There’s no Mills and Boon, but apart from that there is practically every other type of writing.

So what impact does this plasticity have on the world of work?

Teams that accept diversity work better and produce stronger results. As people become more tolerant of, and learn to enjoy cultural differences hopefully this will be reflected in teams. This will be especially true for international teams which will become more prevalent as technology enables it.

I suspect, to, that people we start to choose the places where they work on the basis of the diversity of the culture. Places with a monolithic culture we be regarded  as stale and dull. Skilful business managers will be able to create diverse cultures that are highly productive.

Engaging with Paper and Interactivity

I was at a session on Friday with a client and a number of our own people.

Blackpool Prom Scuptures at SunsetI could have presented my material (I think I knew most of the answers) and told them my opinion. But I wanted a bit of engagement and I find that people don’t engage with presented material, they become passive, sit back and just receive.

Why did I want engagement? The main reason was that I wanted them to start to own the things that we were talking about.

My solution was simple, but the impact was profound – I got A1 sized print-outs of uncompleted slides and asked everyone to get involved. Rather than starting with a completely blank piece of paper we had somewhere to start from, but there was still plenty to do.

Straight away people were engaged, they were so engaged that it took us a good 15 minutes to explain what we were doing. From the start the discussion was about “we” not “you” – “What are we doing?” Everyone was hooked in right from the beginning.

Armed with the A1 sized pieces of paper and a pen we went on to fill in the information with everyone contributing as we went along, even arguing vehemently about the content. Different people added value and it became a team effort with everyone contributing.

I don’t think that anything was put on the paper that I wouldn’t have put on the slides beforehand. What was different was the commentary that went with it, different people stating one opinion over another. I’m sure that each person who left that session learned something that they wouldn’t have done with a presentation.

The material wasn’t any different, only the media.

I’m not suggesting that we should do all sessions this way but what I am saying is that we still have a lot to understand about interactivity.

  • How would this session have turned out if we had used a 3D world?
  • What if the material had focussed on scenarios?
  • Was it the paper that made it interactive?
  • Was the interactivity partly because the set-up was a bit like a school classroom?
  • Would the session have been the same if we had interacted with a virtual piece of paper?
  • When are you best to simply present?
  • What does art have to teach us?
  • What does journalism have to teach us?

I still have a lot to learn.

Ignore Everybody – and other quotations

As you may have noticed I really like quotations, I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because they are nice and short and I don’t really like reading anything too long.

I really like Hugh’s take on a set of quotes that come from the chapter titles of his new book “Ignore Everybody”:

Ignore Everybody

I particularly like the line “Everybody has there own private Mount Everest they were put on earth to climb”.