- Published: Sunday, 03 February 2019 15:51
Or: scribbling and mental/social patterns acquisition, storage, retrieval.
There are few funny elements in interactions within business environments worth considering whenever working on change- be it introducing new people, technologies, or even just new bits of knowledge.
And further elements whenever you are just a temporary member of the physical environment, moreover only for few days once in a while.
The first point is certainly the management of expectations, notably expectation of continuity- and expectation of scope, i.e. how far you could extend.
I will leave aside a digression on this point for future scribblings.
In the end, you can attend courses and read books for most "domain-specific" knowledge, e.g. I consider "technical" not just what has to do with information technology or manufacturing, but also business processes.
But in the late 1980s working across multiple industries and "domain-specific" knowledge each week for years pushed me to resurrect my old interests in cultural anthropology, politics, and started filling my personal library with books covering other issues- what are usually called "soft skills".
Anyway, only when working officially on cultural and organizational change from 1990 could actually first design and deliver courses on those subjects.
Yes, my library contains plenty of books from the 1980s and 1990s about communication studies (and, in the end, in 1994 spent almost a month in Sweden to study formally intercultural communication): but almost never talked about it in "technical" environments (e.g. finance, controlling, ICT).
Why? Because would have been considered "exoterical" and a "distraction".
And in any "technological" assignment I left that safely in the background.
Even in the 2010s, in Italy there is still the assumption that "soft skills" are useful but mostly belong to the HR domain, and anywhere else are either a distraction or at best an "add-on".
Anyway, if you were to have access to my library loans since I re-registered in Italy in 2012 (and hence was able to obtain again a library card in Turin), you would see that, beside languages (to "seed" my Chinese and German studies), plenty of books were (and are) on marketing, communication, and studying local processes and approaches.
Whatever you do, whenever you did it, there are two risks: you will become complacent, and cease re-assessing continuously what is worth tossing away or restructure (a.k.a. update), and, also if you do enter into the "continuous learning" mindset, you will actually end up being too used to your own ways, and really cease to innovate.
Yes, you might enter the "incremental innovation" realm- but this would still imply that, for fear of losing touch with what you know, you will keep introducing as much change as possible to call it an "innovation", but not as much as would be possible.
Whenever shifting between assignments (also while still on ongoing assignments), I routinely take the opportunity to update.
And, since 2008, when I started posting and writing often (even more after 2013, when I started publishing), I think that any post or any mini-book that I write is an opportunity to "cross the Ts and dot the Is", in order to avoid sharing something that did not survive the test of time (a.k.a. obsolete).
Or even something that seemed correct at the time, but was then proved to be wrong.
As I just closed in late December 2018 the activity that I started in early March 2018 after completing an assignment at the end of February 2018, while doing my "ex-post" analysis and preparing for something else, one of the "updates" ongoing covers of course communication and marketing.
For reasons too long to explain here, years ago, probably while still living in Brussels, registered on Coursera and attended online courses (I had already attended online courses e.g. in 2009 watched courses from Yale and then MIT).
One of the courses was from HSE in Moscow, and few weeks ago received an update about two new courses that I considered worth following, one in communication.
The link is: https://www.coursera.org/learn/communicationtheory-academia-practice/
While it is structured as a 9 weeks course with weekly exams (if you want a certificate as proof of attendance, it costs less than 50 EUR), I actually used it in a different way.
Downloaded the material, and then followed the lessons at 1.5x speed, as a cross-check for patterns.
The course delivers some interesting references to recent material, and shares also readings (each less than 20 pages long) to be used in-between lessons.
Frankly, I spent part of three days and evenings this week, and it was enough for my purposes.
As I wrote half-jokingly to a colleague, it would make sense actually to use it as an induction course, condensed within a week, to create a common lingo, also for those working on more "technical" domains (including those in startups working on marketing as if it were a mere matter of checking boxes).
Then, everyone in attendance could identify items that would like to explore more.
As an example, the course contains one lecture on "intercultural communication", e.g. the same subject that I covered by attending for one month a summer academy at the Linguistics Department of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Therefore, expect a significant headache if you follow my approach.
But it is worth doing, and an approach that I used often in the past.
Generally, whenever I had a mission, I prepared before it started, even when somebody more expert could then help me identify "holes" to be filled in my domain knowledge: it is a matter of respect (not wasting somebody else's time when it just takes hours to read few pages).
Then, did a "deep dive" into material, mainly to build patterns in my mind, and retain active skills while still fresh.
Then, reinforcement happens through use, and it becomes almost a Pavlovian reflex, as any other skill that you can use without thinking at it.
When a mission is ended, the patterns stay, but the skills are not operational anymore.
Interestingly, when opportunity arise, it takes a short while to resurrect enough to be conversant again.
Operational? That is something else.
Just a couple of examples.
My mid-1990s activities included supporting on trying to introduce on the market a software product on Assortment Planning in retail.
A decade later, I found myself in Paris and Zurich in retail management reporting projects where actually that knowledge was useful- and having had that "deep dive" before helped.
But the same applies for much older "pattern building".
Both in the early 1980s for political activities while still in high school, and at London School of Economics in 1994 and 1995, I had to understand more than a bit about international trade rules, and followed the various WTO and pre-WTO negotiations via international media.
In 2015, that was again useful to understand how a passing reference could have a significant business impact (and economic value)- and state so.
Just because something sounds as if might require a mundane, routine task, it does not imply that it has less business impact than something that requires a majestic software development project.
Incidentally: I consider "business impact" something that delivers both direct benefits and positive externalities on an aggregate value exceeding the costs (and impacts, including cultural impacts and process changes) required to achieve it.
Of course, if there are no direct benefits and large positive externalities, call yourself a "benefactor of humanity", not a businessperson.
And if you generate only negative externalities, and plenty of direct benefits, well, I cannot think of anything polite to call you.
In any activity, "sustainability" should cover an appropriate balance between direct benefits/costs and positive/negative externalities.
Therefore, also when studying, I am focused either on doing it for a specific mission, or for something that I think could be useful in the future, or... for fun.
Compulsive reading and studying for the reading and studying sake is a variation of the Stendhal Syndrome, not a healthy passion for learning.
Why? Because time is limited and... you should waste it wisely.
But, of course, right now I am preparing further books and material, and, therefore, an update on marketing and communication (as well as other subjects) is relevant.
Have a nice Sunday evening!