How We Fly: Aircraft as Career Metaphors

If you visualize your career (or your entire life) as the piloting of an aircraft, what sort of aircraft do you see? Modes of flight work as great metaphors for your life and career. The story of Icarus, of course, is the best known flight-as-metaphor parable. On the abstract side of the metaphor, you have Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. On the pseudo-spiritual parable side, you have Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. In this piece you have a very literal-minded aerospace-engineer take on the subject (mostly stolen from other people; back story at end). Here’s a chart of major aircraft-choice personality types for you:

Aircraft as metaphors

Aircraft as metaphors

Take a moment to classify yourself (if you know enough about aircraft, you can of course pick one not on the list, and get specific beyond generic labels like “fighter.”)

[Read more…]

Work-Life Chemistry and How to Measure It

Let’s say you go on a business trip to the city where your favorite cousin lives, who you haven’t seen for a decade. You enjoy a nice dinner together one evening. In utility terms, this is positive work-life chemistry – your company doesn’t pay anything extra, and you essentially got a freebie family visit. Or maybe you’ve been meaning to read a book, but haven’t been able to find the time. Then the book suddenly becomes critically relevant to your work, and your boss demands that you read and present a summary at the next team meeting. So you spend a few afternoons at your desk, at work, reading it. Work-life chemistry happens when episodes of work-life blending lead to a non-zero sum outcomes. I made up a way to measure and visualize your work-life chemistry. Here is what it looks like. If the arrow in the diagram below is in the reddish zone, as in this example, you are blending work and life positively. In the blue zone, work-life chemistry is draining you (thinking “dampening” if you like). Let me explain how this works, and show you how to sketch out your diagram and arrow.


[Read more…]

Context-Switching Metaphors for Work-Life Blending

I have previously written about/drawn cartoons about the evolution of work-life attitudes. I also drilled down into the issue within the Gen X framing of ‘balance’ using the surfing, juggling and spinning plates metaphors. Let’s now try and visualize the ‘work-life blending’ framing. Blending inevitably involves very frequent context switching, so we need metaphors for both the blending itself, and for understanding the context switching. Let’s talk about it with two graphics. For the blending, the communications-technology metaphor of time-division multiplexing is probably the easiest one to start with. For context-switching, we’ll use metaphors like unwind and unplug.


[Read more…]

The Evolution of Work-Life

Most people think of only one notion relating work and life: the work-life balance notion. You and I of course, are smarter, and we know that the relationship has been evolving over time. Here’s a picture of this evolution. I’ll leave it for you to figure out how to correlate this to generational attitudes and important technological enabling events.


(Feel free to use the graphic for your own purposes. Linkbacks appreciated).

The Other Games Indians Play

A few months ago, I read a thoroughly depressing book by V. Raghunathan, Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are. That book is a game-theoretic exploration of Indian weaknesses. Being a strengths-oriented guy, I am offering up a much more energizing look at real Indian games and what they reveal about us. I’ll talk about three games — Kabbadi, Kho-Kho and Lagori — and tell you how these games, viewed as business metaphors, help explain some widely-recognized Indian strengths, particularly in the area of management thinking. I hope it provides some introspective fun for my Indian readers, and some insight into the Indian psyche for my non-Indian readers worrying about outsourcing decisions.

Kabbadi Khokho Lagori

[Read more…]

The New Location, Location, Location

So far in my series on virtual geography, I have talked mainly about relative location — the 50-foot-rule, the Twitter Zone and the notion of ambient presence are all about where a is in relation to b, in cognitive and physical ways. What can we say about absolute location? The man with the best (and I believe, right) answer is Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class and now, what might be his Magnum Opus: Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life

[Read more…]

Generation Blend by Rob Salkowitz

Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap, by Rob Salkowitz is a book that might have saved me a lot of trouble. I have been managing a social media evangelism effort at Xerox for the past year, and learned many of the lessons in this book the hard way. But then, a year ago, this book probably could not have been written; 2007 was, in many ways, the year these lessons became very clear. The book tries to do three things: describe generational differences in attitudes and approaches towards work and careers, explain them, and examine one aspect of how to manage them: social computing technology. The results, respectively, are very competent, exceeds expectations and competent. Or B+, A+ and B- if you prefer letter grades. But the one A+ is well worth the cost of the book, and it is relatively straightforward to manage around the weaknesses on the other two fronts. It would have been a brilliant book if it had just focused on the explain bit.

[Read more…]

Johnny Bunko and the Future of Work

Dan Pink, whose work I’ve written about before, is releasing a new book next week that will likely bring to a conclusion a powerful line of thinking about the nature of work, that’s been gathering momentum for about a decade. In doing so, this new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, will likely spark some controversy, elevate the debate to another level, and frame a whole new set of important questions about the future of work. Johnny Bunko is a deceptively simple and doctrinaire business parable that distills the essence of a strengths-based millennial philosophy of work into a comic-book. So let’s take a look.

[Read more…]

On Japan as a Robot-Loving Nation

I suppose I am not your typical blogger in one way: I don’t blog about news items that grab my attention, because I am rarely happy with my first-order immediate reaction to the news. It often takes me years before I consciously “get” why a piece of news grabbed my attention. For instance, I have had this snippet saved in my email for a couple of years now:

…Japan’s robot love goes farther than respect for function, and deeper than mere pragmatism can explain. Shinto, Japan’s homegrown religion, is an animist faith. The Japanese embrace of robots is a logical extension of ancient beliefs that all things, living and nonliving, organic and inorganic, can possess a transcendent spirit. In Japanese tradition, humanity has never been reserved for humans. Is it any wonder that Japan is welcoming the cyborg future with open arms?

From: “ASIAN POP: Robot Nation” by Jeff Yang, SF Gate Thursday, August 25, 2005

[Read more…]

Ambient Presence and Virtual Social Capital

In previous articles in this series on virtual geography, I considered the 50-foot rule and its reconstruction for a digital world. Let’s return to the theme from another angle: ambient presence. Let’s say you and your spouse work in different cities. You both sign up for a VoIP service like Skype, but instead of dutifully talking every evening, you just turn up the speakers on your respective computers, and leave the Skype connection on. You occasionally say something to each other; you can hear each other’s TVs and kitchen noises. That’s ambient presence. Communication technology becoming so cheap that you can afford to leave it on to create a passive background connection. It is a pretty darn cool concept, so let’s take a serious look at it.

[Read more…]