Tag strengths

New Beginning.

Territories is my new blog from which most all other creative endeavors will originate.  Territories will be a continuation of the journey described in Incubator, but the subject matter will focus less on healing / introspection and more on pure exploration – both from a concept and design perspective, as well as physical locations across the United States and around the world.

Below are some of the themes that you’ll see over the next year:

THEMES: electronic music . industrial design . graphic design . product management . emotional intelligence . advanced concept design . going beyond . HD . instructional . personal . travel . environments . deep-thinking . socialization . advancement . education . next generation . ideation . radical thinking . evolution . inspiration . post digital

 

Immersion: Operating Framework and “Post Digital” Concept

The concept of an operating framework is to organize your time and effort into specific areas of focus.  In theory, and with appropriate discipline, an operating framework can accelerate one’s development in one or multiple areas.  The very nature of writing down one’s goals (or visually representing them) can plant these ideas and objectives into one’s subconscious, and this becomes a very powerful motivator even if you aren’t explicitly thinking of the framework on a daily basis (you shouldn’t be).

For example, here is an example of a partial framework from 2007 (Plane 6 – “Foundation”):

(Click on the image to enlarge)

While I listed electronics and software development within this framework, I didn’t end up spending a lot of time in these specific areas.  And that’s where the evolution of an operating framework becomes relevant; where are you focusing your energy?  And if you aren’t spending your time in certain areas, is this necessarily a problem?

In the Immersion (Plane 10) framework shown below, there is now a clear separation of what I’ve focused on in the past and what I ultimately need to focus on in the future.  This is a radical shift given that I’ve typically had to justify and take on multiple, parallel tracks that had little relationship to one another – other than the fact that one path was for survival, and the other more aspirational.  By logically separating these skills from the “core”, they will eventually become dormant and by default, the skills that I want to develop will have developed due to this increased focus (i.e. a self-fulfilling prophecy).

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Layered above these “dormant” skills are multiple layers of activity – all leading to a radically advanced portfolio along with an increased level of interaction weighted more heavily in the real-world than in the digital realm. What’s truly important here is that this increased interaction ultimately stems from a broader range of experiences.  Not surprisingly, this has a dual purpose; the greater one’s experiences, the greater one’s ability to learn, identify challenges and design solutions to those challenges.  Experiences represent a designer’s playground.

Finally, one concept that perhaps serves as the basis for this framework is John Maeda’s concept of “post digital”:

[Post Digital] is a term that I created as a way to acknowledge a distinction between those that are passed their fascination with computers, and are now driven by the ideas instead of the technology.  […] the “post digital” generation refers to the growing few that have already been digital, and are now more interested in Being Human.

Ultimately, this is exactly what Immersion is all about – I’m less interested in the technology for technology’s sake.  Rather I am interested in using technology to increase idea generation to make people’s lives better.

Mental Evolution III (“Lessons”)

January 1, 2011 marks the beginning of the tenth chapter (“Plane”) in the Planescape saga – a chapter I call “Immersion.”  While the details are still being mapped out, I am becoming enthusiastic about what this new framework entails.

In advance of sharing more details about Immersion, I think it’s worth sharing a few things that I’ve learned over the past year – particularly over the past sixty days – all of which will be incorporated into my larger advancement strategy.

  1. In the workplace, team chemistry is perhaps the most important thing to me.
  2. I have a much clearer sense for what I should ultimately strive for, and what I can leave behind.
  3. I have a better understanding of my strengths and skills, and also have the confidence to let some of those skills lay dormant as I develop new skills and further improve my strengths.
  4. I believe that if I am not happy, moving somewhere else will not necessarily change this.
  5. I am uncomfortable with a significant amount of uncertainty, but I have learned ways to accommodate where extreme uncertainty exists.
  6. I have learned what it feels like to be unemployed and the psychological effects of the job search.
  7. I have a better understanding of the types of companies that interest me – and those that do not.
  8. I know I need to centralize my development around design, technology and business.
  9. I need to be more careful and conscious of future decisions to increase my life satisfaction.
  10. The past several years of effort have ultimately paid off in terms of being able to tell a more accurate story of who I am and where I’m going.
  11. I am interested in leading design efforts with proper experience / education.
  12. I have learned that a continuous bombardment of failures can result in a sense of “learned helplessness” which can be corrected.
  13. I have a better sense of who to trust and when trust should be given.
  14. I have learned better decision-making skills given past failures.
  15. I do not wish to work at home or alone because it is psychologically very draining / alienating for me.
  16. I have a better understanding of what I want and do not want in my life.
  17. I have learned that I can become blocked when facing too many significant (life) decisions at once; thus, employing some type of partitioning strategy is necessary to make these decisions in confident, thoughtful and expedient manner.
  18. I may never be completely satisfied with my life, and maybe that is okay.
  19. My graphic design portfolio is fairly strong, but I need to spend more time developing the other sections of my portfolio (e.g. 3D).
  20. I would like to expend more time on entertainment design, but realize that it may always be a passion but not necessarily a career.
  21. A robust ID portfolio and MFA degree could open a lot of doors for me in the long-run.

Mental Evolution I (“Realization”)

[This is part one of multi-part series related to my experiences in searching for a new career opportunity.]

I read an article on CNN today which really hit home with me.  The article was about the rescue of two boys who were lost at sea for nearly two months – having recently been found by a tuna ship off the coast of Fiji.  The story is nothing short of a miracle.  While the concept of faith is perhaps an underlying factor in their survival, the final sentence of the article is a very powerful one:

“They’ve got a lot of gusto, a lot of strong mental spirit,” Fredricsen told the Morning Herald. “Physically they are very [distraught] but mentally they are very strong.”

When I attempted the summit of Mt.Rainier in 2007, the main reason I was unable to accomplish this goal had everything to do with a lack of mental toughness and very little to do with physical capability.  This was very surprising to me.  The fact that these boys’ survival was based primarily on their mental strength says a lot – not only about them but about me as well.

I am physically very strong.  Mentally, however, I think there is opportunity for improvement.  Of course, the degree of “weakness” depends upon a number of factors – and there are certain circumstances where I can be quite resilient when many others cannot.  In any event, this ability to adapt can be strengthened – and this identification is the first step towards a stronger “mental infrastructure.”

Using my personality type (INFP) as the basis for this journey is key.  Without going into elaborate detail about the aspects of this personality type, I was able to locate ten INFP-specific “rules” to achieve greater success and become mentally stronger.

In scanning this list, and looking back over the past year, it’s safe to say that my ability to “follow” these rules has varied depending upon the situation.  Fortunately, given the degree of personal introspection I’ve invested over the past two years (e.g. this blog), nearly all of these rules are ones that I employ on a daily basis.  But, there are two major exceptions:

  1. Express Your Feelings. Don’t let unexpressed emotions build up inside of you. If you have strong feelings, sort them out and express them, don’t let them build up inside you to the point where they become unmanageable!
  2. Assume the Best. Don’t distress yourself by assuming the worst. Remember that a positive attitude often creates positive situations.

The first one has been the most difficult for me – primarily because I tend to internalize everything I’m feeling before expressing those feelings.  In certain circumstances, this can be a positive but in many cases it causes me significant stress – particularly if those same feelings remain “hidden.”

The second is another area for improvement.  While my ability and desire to help others can be seen as having an optimistic outlook, I’ve found that this level of optimism is in contrast to what I sometimes feel in my personal and professional lives.  I need to take steps to employ a similar perspective independent of the situation.

While this CNN article prompted me to share these thoughts, they have been there for some time.  Given my experiences over the past several weeks, I’ve felt this lack of mental toughness to be something that I really need to pay close attention to.  When you strive for success on a daily basis, any and all barriers need to be managed accordingly – and increasing my mental strength is my primary barrier right now.

The Visual Journey

As you may already be aware, this blog is one of several projects that I have been working on over the past several years.  The underlying goal has centered around building a foundation onto which I can layer in new creative projects and pursuits.  This is why I’ve branded my main web site and bundled these projects within a title I call “Supercharged Creative Exploration.”

The original home page design launched earlier this year showcased the three original projects – Incubator, Microcosms and Pixeldust.  Since that time, I’ve also included a few other projects to the list – including Ink.

Not surprisingly, one of my goals has involved designing a new home page that provides visitors with a complete inventory of these projects along with a modular format that is easy to update.

With this goal in mind, I’ve formulated a few graphic designs that do just this.  While the current design solves the current objective and is easy to update, I consider it an early version and will eventually be replaced.  Over the next several months, I plan on eventually migrating to one of the site designs show below: (or some derivation thereof)

If you visit the new site, you’ll also notice a new link – something that I call “The Visual Journey.”  This is a design that encapsulates who I am, what I am interested in, and some more information about the history of my professional career and my interests.  I think it will help people understand what motivates me and what I am passionate about.

Due to the nature of the design and purpose, I’ve left it in a PDF format.  It’s best read using the official Adobe Acrobat reader but aside from a few minor graphic inconsistencies on the title page, the Preview application available in Mac OS X should also work well.

The combination of this new design along with the Visual Journey supplement symbolizes the next chapter in my creative and intellectual journey – it’s a chapter I call “Immersion.”

The Project Survival Kit

If you were deserted on a stranded island, what three things would you take with you?  While there is no official answer to this question, you could answer this question by identifying the core fundamentals of survival – essentially, food, water and shelter.  If your three things address these needs, you have a good chance of survival.

A similar stance can be said for project management.  All too often, managing a project introduces specific processes, tools, documentation and applications all of which are designed to streamline the act of project management, but may do the complete opposite in enabling true productivity.

I believe that there are three things one needs to have at her/his disposal to accomplish a specific task with a discrete number of resources.  These three things can be thought of as the “project survival kit” – their collective use allows one to “get the job done.

1. Description of the end-state – This 1-2 page document is an expansion of a traditional “scope” statement.  It provides a full picture of the project including artifact creation, team dynamics, communication plans and final deliverables.  The intent is to describe the “ideal” project in sufficient detail before you start working.  Think of it as your “map” to your destination.

2. Team Strengths and Personality Inventory – You have resources at your disposal, but how do you utilize their talents in the best possible way?  Know the strengths and personalities of your team members!  When the relationship is strong, anything is possible.

3. Organizational Chart – If you don’t know how project participants are “linked” to one another, your effectiveness as a project leader will be limited.  In addition, you run the risk of “crosstalk” (redundant and inefficient communication) between project participants which can impede progress.  Also, if there is more than one leader identified on the chart, you have a problem.

So, what am I leaving behind?

You’ll notice that I don’t have a timeline or project plan listed.  While I think a timeline is useful, I don’t think it’s one of the top three.  If you know what you are looking to accomplish, have a good sense of how the team will be organized to deliver this end-state, and their strengths, the project will move forward at it’s most efficient pace; a timeline isn’t going to matter.

I also don’t have risks identified.  Remember, anything can happen.  Even if you list all of the risks you know about, there are plenty of things that you likely don’t.  Spend your time on what’s happening now. If an issue exists, take action.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you completely eliminate the use of supporting documents or forgo the use of a project plan if it provides a real benefit.

However, by looking at projects with a forward-thinking mindset, I think you’ll be less concerned about timelines, documentation, “CYA” strategies and risks / issues inventories.  Instead, you’ll be utilizing resources whose activities are all designed to achieve the end-state in the most efficient and enjoyable manner possible.

It’s about focusing your attention on the activities that truly matter, and isn’t that what getting things done is all about?

BG | Creating the Strategic Vision – Part I

In my last post, I focused on the importance of having a personal vision for the future.  In the business world, defining what the future entails is typically found within a strategic vision statement.  In this post, I’ll share a five concepts that are helping me define a strategic vision for my design firm.

Concept #1: Strengths

The first step is to start with your strengths.  In the workplace:

… people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general. – Tom Rath, Strengths Finder 2.0

As most people spend a considerable part of their life working, doing what you can to align opportunities with your strengths can significantly increase your quality of life.

As an example, here are my top five strengths as identified in the text Strengths Finder 2.0:

1. Strategic – “.. enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route.”
2. Learner – “.. you will always be drawn to the process of learning.”
3. Individualization – “.. leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.”
4. Relator – “.. a relationship has value only if it is genuine.”
5. Input – “.. the world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.”

If I want my business to succeed over the long-term, I need to make sure these strengths represents at key part of its foundation.

Concept #2: Personality

Another major part that plays a key role in a successful business is one’s personality type.  Understanding key facets of one’s personality allows for continuous refinement and increased understanding of one’s behavior and motivators.  The key is to take full advantage of those personality traits that will give direct benefit to the business, and place less emphasis on those that may not.

The core of my personality type (INFP) is sometimes called “The Idealist”.  Thus, coming up with scenarios of possibilities and detailed descriptions of “what could be” comes naturally.  As we’ll see, this aspect of my personality will play a key role in my company’s strategic vision statement.

Concept #3: Interests

Your interests represent another piece of the puzzle.  While it may be obvious what interests you, there are methods that you can use to explore your interests in a more formal way.  One such method is via a deck of “talent” cards made by a company known as Mastery Works.

The core interest areas that I discovered through this method include both “Ideas” and “People”.  More specifically, I was able to narrow down my detailed interests down to ten: (in no particular order, and from a total of 52)

  1. problem solving
  2. questioning
  3. writing
  4. explaining
  5. innovating
  6. developing
  7. strategizing
  8. collaborating
  9. leading
  10. teaching

If you are doing what you are interested in, your skills in these areas will continuously improve, and this will further expand your ability to help your clients and their customers.

Concept #4: Personal Vision Statement

Being able to describe one’s personal vision for the future is a recommended exercise prior to describing a business equal.  Given the time investment required, you want to ensure that there is alignment between the two.  You can read more about this concept in my earlier post.

Concept #5: The 10-Second Summary

The “10-second summary” is perhaps the seed from which the company begins; it’s the first statement you’ll make when introducing yourself to future clients.  After all, what good is a strategic vision if you are not interacting with potential clients?

Based upon the guidance conveyed in Get Clients Now!, the statement should be short and simple enough that a 12-year old can understand.

Here is an example:

My name is Adrian Daniels.  I help business owners and organizations get noticed.  I am a designer focusing in creative strategy and graphic design.  My company name is Big Generator.

This particular statement can be altered to reflect the audience with whom I am speaking.  However, it’s always best to start with the basics and then elaborate.  Your initial goal is to gain understanding and peak interest.

These five concepts represent the key starting points to develop a strategic vision statement.  In my next post I’ll begin exploring several ways of visualizing strategy with the intent of formulating a strategic vision statement that can be used to guide my business development path.

[Note: Posts that begin with the letters “BG” focus on business-development concepts that tie directly to my design firm,  Big Generator.]

Why total “professional transparency” doesn’t work – yet.

“Being transparent” is a phrase most commonly discussed in interpersonal relationships. Let me share an excerpt from a book entitled “Getting Real” which describes this concept:

“Self-disclosure, synonymous with being transparent, is the ability to reveal to another person what you have done or what you are sensing, feeling, thinking, or saying to yourself at the moment. When you share your thoughts, sensations, feelings, even your judgments “in the interest of transparency,” you are less apt to get caught up in the illusion of control. […] Letting yourself be seen by others is also an important aid to seeing yourself more honestly. It is harder to fool yourself when you are going public about who you are.”

The theory behind total professional transparency is essentially to share information about one’s professional life to allow them to grow even faster.

One major goal of being professionally transparent is to allow colleagues and future colleagues access to information they wouldn’t normally have. For example, performance reviews are not shared with large audiences because of their confidential nature. If I was allowed to share this information, however, colleagues can gain a glimpse into my professional work experience, how my performance was summarized for each time period, and how my performance changes over time.

In theory, my relationship with my colleagues can improve through a common understanding of my professional history, strengths and development opportunities. In addition, future employers can benefit from having greater insight into my past experience. In either case, my professional development can increase that much more rapidly through this common understanding. This is the ultimate goal in sharing this information and being completely professionally transparent.

One major problem with being completely transparent in one’s professional life is that there is a risk that people will misinterpret what is being shared.

This, of course, is understandable and grounded in reality. Having enough context to understand another person’s professional life and experience is extremely difficult. Because of this, the reader is left to form their own opinions about what is being conveyed. Depending upon the objectivity of the reader, feedback can be interpreted as negative or positive.

Perceptions aside, companies are torn between sharing confidential information and allowing associates to be professionally transparent.

For better or worse, companies are forced to protect themselves when it comes to managing their labor pool. That being said, more and more companies are working to expand their transparency efforts by encouraging open dialogue and communication among associates and management, particularly with a goal of improving associate performance. However, they are indeed torn between providing unrestricted sharing of information and protecting their own interests.

In addition, not all companies are equipped to provide useful and grounded feedback for employees.

Each company is different, and many do not follow a formal review process. I am fortunate in that my experiences over the past several years have offered me the opportunity to be involved with such a process.

Having complete transparency in one’s professional life, therefore, may not be realistic at this stage. But, one can still employ useful constructs to become closer to this goal.

Being transparent means that one does not have to worry about presenting a front that masks their development opportunities. Masking / hiding development opportunities can work for a period of time, but they will ultimately surface. By not sharing this information in advance, time that could have been spent further improving is unfortunately wasted.