Tag flow

The Explosion.

“[…] Don’t try to do, just do. If you live this life without trying, it’s good.  If you try too hard, it won’t be any good.  It just has to be done, period – like an explosion.”

Ray Bradbury

 

Reason.

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New Additions.

Digital Oils.

After spending a month in Modo, I decided to switch gears and experiment some in Corel Painter.  While my digital illustrations created in the summer of 2010 were created using Photoshop, I wanted to branch out into a true painting application.  While it takes some getting used to, I am really impressed with the digital oil brushes that are just a few of the tools contained within the application.

Being able to use “natural” digital mediums is extremely helpful when attempting to visualize a concept without introducing the complexity of 3D into the picture.  The combination of the Cintiq and Painter’s digital oil arsenal makes for a very fluid and rewarding workflow.

While my latest injury has taken me off the court for the long-term, it will not steer me away from running!  In the spirit of footwear design, I sketched two sneaker concepts using digital oils.  The first is one I call “Y-Axis” and the second “H2O” given it’s clear origins to water and fluid motion.

(Coincidentally, I started using Painter in 1999-2000, but quickly abandoned the program when a few of my early paintings became corrupt after the program crashed.  Ironically enough, while this version does not exhibit this particular issue, it is still problematic.  Frankly, I’m puzzled why this program is still plagued with issues – particularly after more than a decade of experience.)

Design: “Evolution”

The (New) Hierarchy of Needs – Part II

[This is part two of a series on project management that is based upon Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”]

Having managed projects of various sizes and complexity over the past several years, I was puzzled with the absence of “interpersonal” elements in project management literature given that the team is ultimately at the core of any successful project.  To this end, I formulated a hierarchy of needs that incorporates pure project management concepts along with core interpersonal elements.

This hierarchy looks like the following:

  • Momentum
  • Problem-Solving
  • Accountability
  • Storytelling
  • Constraints
  • Foundation

The key behind this structure is that it has a very close relationship to Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs.

This is important to understand because the “real” goal of any project is to have a team where each individual is striving to be the best.  If each team member can work within an environment or “operating structure” (the layers listed above) such that they are able to realize their full potential (i.e. she/he is involved and engaged) and reach a state of “flow” (self-actualization), the collective team will ultimately build enough positive momentum to virtually guarantee project success.

Thus, you can see why this hierarchy of needs and the concept (and primary goal) of “self-actualization” is extremely important: if team members are happy, the chances for project success are that much greater.

Let’s explore this hierarchy in more depth.

Foundation

At the bottom of the hierarchy is a fundamental understanding of what the project hopes to accomplish.

To this end, going through a formal exercise of defining an explicit mission statement and underlying objectives can be extremely beneficial in the long-term.  This may seem unnecessary or even foreign.  But first, what exactly is a mission statement?

“A mission statement is a brief written statement of the purpose of a company or organization. Ideally, a mission statement guides the actions of the organization, spells out its overall goal, provides a sense of direction, and guides decision-making for all levels of management.” – Wikipedia

In the project management arena, the mission statement is ultimately there to guide the project team and to serve as a “beacon” when things start to become cloudy – “Why are we doing this again?” or “Why is this important to the company / LOB?”  In some circumstances, the explicit definition of a mission statement can start to raise questions across the board where assumptions will start to be challenged.  “Oh, I didn’t know that we are really doing this for LOB A …. if that’s the case, then we need to do X, Y and Z …”

Once there is agreement on the project mission, it’s only then where you can start to identify core objectives.

There really shouldn’t be many – three or four.  If you find that you’re heading beyond that, you may start considering ways to break up the project.  Be careful that the customer is not automatically jumping to the requirements definition “phase”.  This is not a requirements gathering exercise – it’s asking “What are you fundamentally trying to accomplish?”  If you’re struggling at this stage, it’s recommended that you remain at this “level” until you and your customer are certain what you’re collectively going to do.

In some situations where there are multiple organizations involved, it is also valuable to define what each organization/department hopes to gain from their participation.  While this may not directly change things, this level of understanding is helpful when challenges arise – “I see why team A is pushing back on X, because they are really focused on Y …”.  It’s better to know what’s driving behavior now than struggle with it later on.

The (New) Hierarchy of Needs – Part I

“The real goal of any project is to have a team where each individual is striving to be the best.  If each team member can work within an environment or “operating structure”  such that they are able to realize their full potential (i.e. she/he is involved and engaged) and reach a state of “flow” (self-actualization), the collective team will ultimately build enough positive momentum to virtually guarantee project success.” – Adrian Daniels

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article that discussed how Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs could be employed in other paradigms other than pure survival.  One such paradigm is the use of this hierarchy in project management.

Project management is a discipline that is more complex than a process or project plan.  Remember, people = complexity.  Understanding what motivates individuals to go “above and beyond”  and mastering team dynamics is what differentiates truly successful projects from average ones.

The concept that I’ll cover in the next several posts is intended to help project managers and participants really understand the interpersonal aspect to project management.  If you envision project management as a scale, the process and core “plan” are ultimately balanced by the interpersonal / psychological concepts described here.

As you take a closer look at this project management hierarchy, think about how this structure can be employed in your project(s) (or in ones that you participate in).  Can you employ the entire hierarchy or just elements contained within?  If you were to alter the ordering, what would it look like and why?

The benefits of using this hierarchy are limitless.  By taking advantage of this paradigm, I am confident that you, your team members and your project will  benefit.

The Hierarchy of Needs.

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed the concept of “Flow” and how the key to achieving flow – and ultimately happiness – is being able to live a life filled with involvement and enthusiasm in all areas.

In retrospect, is this reasonable given that one’s life circumstances aren’t necessarily such where “happiness” or “flow” is the primary focus?  For example, if my house recently burned down, my primary focus will be on finding immediate shelter – not on being “enthusiastic” or “engaged”.  My focus in this situation is survival.

As you can imagine, there is an ordering of needs that needs to be understood.  Such an ordering – the Hierarchy of Needs – was devised by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Motivation”.

“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is predetermined in order of importance.  It is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose.  Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.” – Wikipedia

The hierarchy – represented in the form of a pyramid – has the following structure:

– Self-actualization
– Esteem
– Love/Belonging
– Safety
– Physiological

As just mentioned, in this hierarchy the higher needs come into focus only when the lower needs are met.  Thus, the house example presented earlier makes sense given the ordering shown here – i.e. I need to be safe before I can really focus on my long-term goals, etc.  The key is to ultimately address “core” needs such that one can realize her/his fullest potential through a “self-actualization” phase.

This “hierarchy of needs” concept is applicable in other disciplines as well.

For example, in the book “Universal Principles of Design“, the “Hierarchy of Needs” is one of the 210 design principles described.  The specific use of this hierarchy shows how a given design “…must serve the low-level needs (e.g. it must function), before the higher-level needs, such as creativity, can begin to be addressed”.

This particular implementation of the hierarchy of needs looks as follows:

– Creativity
– Proficiency
– Usability
– Reliability
– Functionality

Having some experience with the design lifecycle, this makes complete sense.  An iPod that looks nice but breaks after the first two months clearly isn’t a good design.  The authors recommend using this hierarchy as a “report card” of sorts to determine where modifications should be made to existing designs to further improve them.

Another discipline where this concept is useful is in the project management arena.  Having considerable experience in this space, I was puzzled with the absence of “interpersonal” elements in project management literature given that the team is ultimately the core of any successful project.  To this end, I formulated a hierarchy of needs that incorporates pure project management concepts along with core interpersonal elements.

This hierarchy looks like the following:

– Momentum
– Problem-Solving
– Constraints
– Storytelling
– Constraints
– Foundation

The key behind this structure is that it has a very close relationship to Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs.

The “real” goal of any project is to have a team where each individual is striving to be the best.  If each team member can work within an environment or “operating structure” (the layers listed above) such that they are able to realize their full potential (i.e. she/he is involved and engaged) and reach a state of “flow” (self-actualization), the collective team will ultimately build enough positive momentum to virtually guarantee project success.

Full details about each of these layers will be published in early July 2009.

The thing to remember is that this hierarchy concept can be employed in many other disciplines – not just the three described here.  Think about how a “hierarchy of needs” can work within your particular discipline.  What is the “ultimate” objective / goal?  How can you use this hierarchy to measure not only your performance but others that also rely upon this structure?

Happiness 101.

From time to time, if I am feeling down, my family and friends will tell me to “Just be happy!”.  I have always struggled with  understanding what this really means.  This is not to say that I am not a happy person (I am), but if I am not happy, should I expend energy trying to be happy?  If I did, what exactly should I do to “be happy”?

Having just finished the book “Finding Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I think I’ve discovered the answer to this.

The answer ultimately suggests increasing your involvement and enthusiasm in your life and letting that experience and mindset ultimately guide you towards happiness.

Let me explain further.

Mihaly is best known for his research on the concept of “flow”.  Having experienced “flow” many times, I believe it is one of the most rewarding feelings that ultimately results in happiness.  But first, what is “flow”?

“The metaphor of “flow” is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives.  Athletes refer to it as “being in the zone,” religious mystics as being in “ecstasy,” artists and musicians as aesthetic rapture.”

When I come up with a new idea or am in the final stages of a drawing, there is a high likelihood of experiencing”flow”.  I know when it happens because I don’t think about anything else but what I am doing at that moment.  While it may sound strange, it’s almost as if time does not exist.  It’s an amazing feeling.

Mihaly makes an interesting point in his book in that one typically doesn’t experience happiness during “flow” (i.e. there isn’t enough “room” for any real emotion during flow experiences).  It’s only when the experience is over where one can feel truly happy – i.e. because they have experienced “flow”.

Returning to my original dilemma (“how can one be happy?”), most people assume that being happy is synonymous with a fulfilling life.  According to the author, “happiness is not the only emotion worth considering [to have a more fulfilling life].  In fact, if one wants to improve the quality of everday life, happiness may be the wrong place to start.”

The key to achieving flow – and ultimately happiness – is being able to live a life filled with involvement and enthusiasm in all areas. Those that are able to achieve this are considered to have an “autotelic” personality – formed from the Greek roots auto (self) and telos (goal).

“Autotelic persons are not necessarily happier, but they are involved in more complex activities, and they feel better about themselves as a result.  It is not enough to be happy to have an excellent life.  The point is to be happy while doing things that stretch our skills, that help us grow, and fulfill our potential.”

(I am fortunate in that I have a long track of having an autotelic personality, although admittedly I never knew that such a formal description of such a personality existed.)

Some of you may be saying “I can be happy without being involved in a complex activity!” and you are absolutely right.  The challenge, according to the author, is that:

“… this kind of happiness [happiness without “flow”] is very vulnerable and dependent on favorable external circumstances.”

He then goes on to suggest:

“The happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness.”

Through the “Finding Flow” text, my mission now is not to “be happy”, but experience happiness through increased involvement and enthusiasm in all areas of my life – and not just those that are self-directed (i.e. through personal projects, classes, etc.).

Using Tag Clouds to Increase Awareness

In an effort to accelerate real progress across the board, I’ve listed twelve activities that can encapsulate where I spend most of my time and energy: (I realize that some activities naturally overlap)

  1. Drawing
  2. Reading
  3. Playing
  4. Thinking / Reflecting
  5. Creating
  6. Learning
  7. Writing
  8. Training
  9. Resting
  10. Communicating
  11. Cleaning / Organizing
  12. Recording / Documenting

By periodically recording what I am doing at a given moment, I can gain a better understanding of where I am spending most of my time and energy.  While this may seem somewhat laborious, I think there is benefit in recording activity in this manner.

For example, if you were to associate tags to each activity when it is recorded, you can ultimately employ the use of a “tag cloud” to easily see where you are spending your time.  You can see an example of a tag cloud for this site on the left sidebar.  Words that are used more frequently appear larger, thus giving the viewer an immediate understanding of the prevalent themes in each post / page.  (A full explanation and supporting examples of tag clouds can be found at IBM’s alphaWorks “Many Eyes” site here.)

You could also append the amount of time you are spending on each activity to gain even more awareness.  For example, let’s say that you read between 1 and 3 hours per day.  You could “tag” your activity entry as follows:

  • Reading-1 (i.e. I read for 1 hour)
  • Reading-2
  • Reading-3
  • Reading-2
  • Reading-2
  • Reading-2

In this example, the tag “Reading-2” would stand out from the others because it’s the average time that you spend reading at any given moment.  This is important because some activities can take longer to “get in the flow” than others.  I know from experience, certain activities – especially drawing – can take longer to achieve any sense of “flow” than say, reading.

The key is to leverage what the “tag cloud” is telling you in order to plan your development (activities) more effectively.