Q&A

We had a question run in the team the other day "What’s your favourite TV series?"

The first few answers were pretty straightforward: Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, 13 Reasons Why, and so on.

Then came this person who said: I feel like I’m really bad a TV series because I don’t want TV a lot. But if I have to pick one, it will be ABC.

Then the next person: well I don’t want TV either but …

Then the n-th person: I often have TV series play in the background while I’m surfing the internet so I’m not actually watching. But I’ve heard it from my friends that ABC is good so I will probably check it out.

And I sat there, thinking how interesting it was that people were going the extra miles to explain their TV watching habits and as a result, make the name of the shows they would mention later becomes less important albeit it is what answers the questions. What makes it compulsory that they have to pick something to sound like a part of the conversation and acknowledge that it’s a force-pick. Why wouldn’t anyone just say "I don’t have any favourites" or "I don’t want to pick my favourites because …". Why do people going around the question, rather than addressing the question? What does it say about people giving names and no explanation, vs people giving explanations then some names of the series?

From my point of view, with that question, I was expecting short and specific answers. I just said ‘Breaking Bad’ and moved on, as to me that’s enough information to answer the tabled question. I was not asked if I watch TV, if I have TV, how often I watch TV, or is there any show that I’ve heard of and will want to watch.

However, there are people who expand the questions asked. They take it as an opportunity to open up about themselves. There are people who are interested in knowing more about others, so they don’t just listen, they probe and clarify and tease out more personal insights from the speaker. They are looking for some hints of preferences and personality traits from the answers. And they find the delight in finding this new information. Which is totally cool.

It then goes back to what’s the point of the question? Why is it asked in the first place? Does it mean to gather data or information (note there’s a difference between data and information)? What’s the context the question was asked? Why is it a question for a crowd, but not in a one-on-one? Was it asked in a way that everybody can have the same understanding and interpretation? Is it a compulsory question? Can there be a No answer? What people who answer the question want the listener to know about them through their answers?

Some many questions for a question.

#emailgoals

27 July, 2017 13:07

Me hand-washing my plates after lunch.

Colleague A: you don’t use the dishwasher?
Me: Nope, I don’t believe in it.
Colleague A: you think it conspires some theories?
Colleague B: it used to be my job for a while. I sat in there.

* * *

Me: how tall are you?
Colleague: 6"2′
Me looking up what 6"2′ is in cm: ah 1.93. Let me tell my husband.
Colleague: are you guys planning to kidnap me? Let me know so I can say goodbye to my friends.

open & honest

We had a mini discussion at work today about openness and honesty – do both words mean the same?

I think that they are not. Openness and Honesty bear different meanings and implications. Openness implies the accessibility to information, while Honesty refers to reflecting what’s known to be true.

An example: I can be honest and tell you how terrible the day has been, but if I choose not to tell you because of certain reasons (not worth your time and attention, or by telling you it will only make me feel more terrible), it doesn’t mean that I’m not honest.

Some of my colleagues think they mean the same thing. "That’s why you say an open and honest conversation." Why do you need to use both words in a sentence if they refer to the same thing? Have you heard someone saying "this book is nice, great, and fantastic"? "It both means transparency." Hmm, you are using a new word to neutralise the meanings of these two words. "Those are only semantics right?" Nahhh darling, this is about your personal take, what Openness and Honesty mean to you and me. It’s about having a shared and common understanding of our vocabulary so our expectations are aligned.

When you say you expect honesty from you, you would think that it includes openness, and vice versa. So I have to tell you every single time how terrible my day goes.

When I say I expect honesty from you, I expect you to call A an A. When I say I expect openness from you, I expect you to tell me how many As you’ve got.

See the difference?

An honest conversation. Imagined.

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– I don’t appreciate being talked to that way.
– Why?
– You are implying that I changed my mind arbitrarily.
– Well, that’s exactly what I think. Remember a few weeks ago, you didn’t like that idea and wanted to not proceed with it at all? Then someone talked to you and you weren’t quite happy because she challenged your objective. You went with the idea in the end after that talk. Now you say this is a good idea. That gives me the impression that you changed your mind arbitrarily. I stuck with this idea from the beginning. I said I’m aware of the pros and cons, but I’m willing to take the risks because I can see the risks are something I can manage. I’m not surprised with how this idea turns out to be now. It is what I foresaw it would be. And I’ve worked really hard to make sure we are on track. I’m glad that you have acknowledged how everything works out now; however, from where I stand, I see there’s an 180-degree of opinion change on your end.
– But the decision to go with the idea was still mine, right? It was me who made the final call that we should go with it. It was the right one.
– That was ultimately your call, as in any other decision in this place, isn’t it? You have to sign off on everything.
– I’m just very annoyed with the way you said it.
– I can’t help you control your own emotions. Do you need a moment?

Some great tools

Wordclouds.com is a free online word cloud generator and tag cloud creator.

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typographyeditor.com

Why am I doing Smart Seeds?

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Someone asked me about that after he learnt that I’m currently working full time and doing a master’s degree part time, “Why are you also doing this (Smart Seeds)?”. I felt being put on the spot at that moment so I gave a really lame answer.

Now at this very wee hour, with the luxury of a quiet late night, I contemplate this question “Why am I doing Smart Seeds?”. Here’s what I reckon:

  • I have never taken part in an innovation programme of this scale so I want to experience it.
  • This is going to give me the experience of
    • stepping outside of my comfort zone,
    • working on something that’s bigger than me and my capability,
    • getting to work with a bunch of people in other industries that I would not otherwise have a chance to work with,
    • getting to learn from other industries through working on a project which of course, I would not otherwise have any chance to.
  • Again, an opportunity like this is not popping up often enough.
  • I put my time and thoughts into the application, of course, I will follow it through upon being selected.
  • This gives me a chance to be “out of the office” and have a wider perspective.

the square

If you find yourself having way too many wandering thoughts and distraction, here’s a tip.

Draw a square (or circle if you like) on a piece of paper and figuratively speaking, put your thoughts there. Like Dumbledore and his Pensieve, only less fancy.

Broaden the Decision Frame to Make Effective Decisions

Narrow frames, which pretend that knowledge is complete.

A broad decision frame takes into account
(1) multiple objectives – not just the most salient one at the moment;
(2) multiple alternatives – not just the first option that lands on the table; and
(3) multiple outcomes that could arise in the near and long term – not the expected state of the world.

Common training, common experiences, and frequent interaction all have the effect of leading to shared views on problems.

Although shared views can be beneficial because they facilitate communication and coordination of efforts, they can be harmful when they perpetuate narrow perspectives on a decision problem.

Ironically, a like-minded group is a poor source for new objectives, alternatives, and future scenarios, but more confident in its ability – the consistency of perspective across colleagues leads each individual to feel validated and confident in his or her view of decisions.

A group that starts a brainstorming session without first asking each member to generate his or her own views on a problem risks having a specific view emerge early in the discussion that then frames everyone’s view of the problem.

Techniques for Broadening the Decision Frame

Formal techniques:

  • Considering multiple attributes and alternatives
  • Assessing and weighing future states of the world
  • Using "all four cells" to make accurate predictions
  • Barriers to adopting quantitative techniques

Informal techniques:

  • Informal techniques for broadening the search for information
  • Informal techniques for using a broader set of attributes and alternatives in decisions
  • Informal techniques for broadening diversity of perspective
  • Unfortunately, classic brainstorming can undermine the independence of thought to the extent that early suggestions can entrain everyone’s subsequent ideas. Thus, the best group techniques preserve initial differences in perspective by having individuals think about a problem alone (this stage is often called a "nominal" group), but then pool the information so that others can react to it.

Limitations to Broadening the Frame

Practical limits on broad frames:

  • Elaborate techniques, such as multiattribute choice processes, are time-consuming and risk "analysis paralysis" (How do you know when you have reviewed enough attributes and alternatives?)
  • Recommendations that involve soliciting objectives and alternatives from many different parties risk introducing conflict, politics, and negotiation.
  • More comprehensive processes may increase confidence and satisfaction with a decision, but, if the processes make obvious stark tradeoffs, they may dampen satisfaction with a final decision.

–> Blinking rather than thinking.

More on Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior: Indispensable Knowledge for Evidence-Based Management, 2nd Edition

what do i like?

Someone asked me what I like (to do in my free time) today. I said I like to stay at home. As long as, in no order of important or preference, there’s a bed, a book, a laptop with Internet, food, my husband, home is truly a paradise. I can spend 48 hours on weekend at home happily, rested and contented.

Now thinking about it, why am I having so many shoes if I’m not going out?