Category: Awareness

Writing your story for the new year: A question of attention

 

We’re here again. Sometimes it feels like things are moving fast — it was just summer, then Christmas, now we’re in a new year. Wham!

As we enter into our new year, we can use this moment for an enticing ritual. We can use this time to slow down, take a breath and focus.

This year’s ritual offered by The Strategy Blog is about the creation of stories. Our own stories.

Of course your story is unique and only you can write it; I am simply helping you to ignite new movement, to set this year’s story in motion.

Here’s what you do: choose one of the books below and click on the number above the book to open it. The one you select contains the beginning of a key narrative for your new year.

There is a special theme that permeates the stories in all four of the books: attention. Where we put our attention determines how the story of our life unfolds.

The ideas inside your new book are meant to inspire. Often, all we need is a nudge to be on our way to advancing our life projects and to do our best work.

Today I propose that we lift our gaze together to catch a glimmer of what could be waiting for us in the future.

This is going to be a year full of great stories. I can see it from here.

. . . . 

(Click on the number to open, not the book.)

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A holiday fortune cookie: What’s cooking for you in 2013

Being a creature of both tradition and innovation, the chef at The Strategy Blog has baked a new batch of fortune cookies to celebrate the closing of 2012 and to start the new year cooking with the most enticing ingredients and a pinch of mystery.

The unique recipe of these fortune cookies is especially blended to be eaten by entrepreneurs, free-lancers, artists, small businesses owners and the decision-makers of organizations. They are also easily digested and nutritious for management of large businesses, members of parliament and agents of change.

Because these cookies are only offered once a year, they are carefully cut and baked to offer the savory flavor of reflection topped with a glaze of creative thinking.

If you are not in the mood for reflection or creative thinking at the moment, perhaps you should wait to open yours when your appetite gives you the signal. The cookies have no expiration date and will stay fresh for as long as you need. Only the most natural, local ingredients are used, and they will be housed safely in the digital shelf of this blog — tightly sealed, toasted and crisp.

But if you do have the appetite and curiosity to unveil the fortune that is waiting especially for you, the chef would first like to help you enjoy these cookies to the maximum by telling you the underlying culinary secret in all of the fortunes offered here: The belief that our projects and businesses are extensions of ourselves — of our talent, skills, emotional landscape, blind spots and desires.

The chef believes that the personal is the professional, and it is difficult to separate the two. And with that in mind, how wonderful it is to observe the way we nourish our projects and how they also nourish us. We are, in fact, inseparable.

So enough chit-chat, let’s get on to the fun part.

If you want to open a fortune cookie, first you should contemplate all of the numbers, then, when you are ready, choose the number that tempts you the most. Click on the number, not on the cookie, to open the fortune.

It’s the one meant just for you.

Read, savor and enjoy.

Thank you for being here, dear reader, with me and The Strategy Blog one more year. You are what inspires me to keep writing.

Happy holidays and happy new year!

Jenifer

(Remember, click on the number, not the cookie.)

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Delight in a moment of mystery: Fortune cookies for a strategic 2012

The beginning of a new year is a symbolic time for many people.

In the West, this is a rare occasion when our highly commanding society actually dictates very little. When publicity and advertising and cultural mythology are not telling us what to feel, to want, or to do.

Depending on where we live in the world, as the clock strikes twelve midnight, there are different customs that many of us follow, but the deeper meaning of this moment is up to every individual to define or embrace for themselves.

In my adopted region of Catalonia, populated by large clock towers throughout every town and village, we eat a grape with each dong of the midnight hour. Hastily shoving one grape per second into our smiling open mouths under our laughing eyes, and secretly wondering, every year, if we will choke upon reaching the twelfth grape, the ritual thereby becoming our farewell to the world instead of our entry into a new year. At the end, we don’t choke, we never do, though the risk is exciting and palpable.

So we enter the new year, alone or in the company of others, chewing, swallowing, and full of desire. A year marked by the cyclical 12-month calendar that structures the parcels of time for most of the people on the planet. 

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The mirror, the dress, and the digital paradigm

In a hurry and feeling impatient.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror attempting to tie an attractive knot in the long cloth belt of the taupe colored wrap-around dress I had chosen to wear that morning.

I needed to be out the door; I didn’t have much time before the beginning of a meeting with a group of clients.

I tied the knot, stood back, looked in the mirror, frowned, untied the knot and tied it again.

“This one”, I muttered to myself, “is worse than the first”. I let out a sigh, and then something unexpected happened.

I had an immediate impulse to go to the menu and select and click Undo. To go back to the previous knot with the quick, simple click of a mouse. 

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5 tips for responding to emails that will save your professional life

Emails are one of the most dynamic and unwittingly dangerous communication tools that exist. And they are here to stay.

As we jet through facebook, tweeter and google+ on to the emerging applications of the future, the email will take the ride buckled into the seat right beside ours, sipping a cocktail, sure of its destiny.

The use of this powerful tool calls for no license, training or mentorship. It is a technology open for all to use — freely and innocently. The email is seen as an efficient, flowing and communication-fomenting vehicle.

Until your first crash.

It is then that you realize the amount of damage this tool can cause in the blink of a human eye. And you also realize, much to your horror, that emails are less biodegradable than steel. They are permanent.

Once you push the send button, they cannot be taken back or amended. Ever. Just that simple thought makes me shudder.

As a content and communication strategist, I believe we all need a little guidance to avoid disasters — a few handy tips or rules that will help to keep our professional relationships healthy and robust.

Before I go on to the 5 tips, however, I first need to make a confession.

A few days ago, I broke my own key rules on responding to professional emails. I also broke the back-up rule that I had set up in case I wanted to break a key rule.

Of course, a small crash ensued.

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Be innovative. Your public eats cheese.

But not just any kind of cheese.

Thousands of people living in my city of Barcelona are following a particular diet that consists of low carbohydrates, low oil, low fat intake, lots of vegetables and high protein content. Just imagine how many folks in this grand metropolis are happily munching on low fat cheese right this minute as you read this article. It is a growing trend that will probably hit very large numbers within the next few years in Europe and North America.

Yet in this same city, there is not one restaurant that I know of that serves even one specially designed meal that these hungry people can easily identify on the menu, sit back, relax and enjoy with the rest of the restaurant-going population. They are left feeling alienated or must break their diet when dining out. For some, this can bring on tinges of guilt, frustration, as well as altered social relations.

Something is not quite right in this picture. 

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Your fortune cookie: A strategic message for a lucky summer!

The tradition of wrapping words of fortune and luck inside a small pastry originally comes from 19th century Japan. However, through the waves of migration to America and Europe, together with an eager entrepreneurial spirit, this tradition suddenly changed hands and began its legendary popularity as the ritual dessert at the end of a meal in thousands of Chinese restaurants.

The mystery and intrigue of glimpsing one’s fortune wrapped in a cookie is ageless, whetting our appetite for solving the riddles of our future.

As a way of wishing you all a wonderful summer—full of relaxation and reflection, The Strategy Blog has made a fortune cookie just for you.

Inside one of the four cookies below, you will find a message that, if understood and used wisely, will guide you on your path to healthy and happy project development.

The message is meant especially for the summer month of August, though it holds true throughout the 12 months of the year.

All you need to do is:

Contemplate all four numbers and, when you are ready, choose one, click on it to open and read what’s inside.

After you read your fortune, if you feel curious and would like to open another, go ahead—there is strategic wisdom to be found in them all. But remember, the first one you open is the message that was meant especially for you.

Enjoy…

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The three strategies of the classic world

After many journeys to distant lands as a kind of modern day Ulysses, after wandering far and wide, back and forth over the seas, I finally arrived safely to the mythical port of Ithaca—Barcino, in my story.

In my voyages over the years I have come to know scores of projects and their strategies from many different lands. I have loved them, nourished them, warred with them, and even left many of them to travel their own journeys with new maps and cunning.

As I reflect back on the types of strategies I have seen used throughout the world by entrepreneurs, organizations, and businesses, I see clearly that they can be categorized into three classic groups that I will briefly describe below.

In honor of my own journey’s end at the ancient Roman port, today known as Barcelona, I thought it appropriate to coin names for these strategies that still thrive with good health in our modern times. Thus was born: strategius spiritum, strategius erraticum and strategius precisum. 

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The shimmer and shine of failures

Failures. We don’t talk about them much. We don’t put them on our CVs, and we don’t open our cover letter, job interview or project pitch referencing them.

But maybe we should.

Risky? Perhaps.

Sassy? Yes.

Illustrative of our capacity to pay attention, learn and evolve by looking at situations squarely in the eye and having the courage to keep going, this time with more understanding and skill? Definitely.

And the project scouts, headhunters, team builders, above average bosses and great human relations professionals know how very important it is. As a matter of fact, fearless learning from failures could be the most important ability you have.

It goes something like this: if you have any real experience in the work world then you have surely been part of a project that has failed (meaning it didn’t meet objectives, either those formally stated or personally desired). And you know what? That’s great. That’s absolutely perfect. There is no better opportunity to learn—no better opportunity to put your analytical, critical and creative thinking skills to use than to take a failed project apart.

Maybe this is not initially easy for you, and that’s understandable. Here’s what you can do right now. Sit back, push your chair away from your computer a bit or set down whatever screen you have in your hands, raise your eyes upward toward your brows and think: what was the last or the biggest project failure of mine? Not a mistake, not a misstep, not a bad decision, but a true failure. Meaning, you did not do what you set out to do—either with your own money and resources or those of others, it doesn’t matter for this exercise. The only criterion is that the project did not work. Period.

Now that you have that in mind, let any surge of emotion that comes up pass through you like the wind that passes through the leaves of a tree, to then become still and calm again. Spend a few minutes thinking about what went wrong, strategically speaking. No blaming other people. Think objectively and be cool about it. Deconstruct the whole project if necessary; find the parts that were weak, the blind spots, see what was missing or overly abundant. Name it all, honestly. Free of guilt and resentment. Examine it, cut and polish it like a diamond in the rough. Discover its size, dimension, shape and contours and let the opportunity shine so brightly that you become mesmerized by its reflective brilliance. You, my friend, have discovered a treasure.

Why can we learn even more from a failed project than a successful one? Because there is precise and detailed information about the exact type of action, absence, oversight, thinking or strategic misstep that lead a project down the wrong road or a road to nowhere. This information is your treasure. It will turn your strategic toolbox into a treasure chest, and if you do this exercise honestly and with genuine curiosity, you will never ever make those same mistakes again. Your next projects will be strategically clearer and have a greater chance of meeting goals and of being successful.

Still finding this unpleasant? Would you like an example from my bag of experiences? OK, here goes.

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A vision statement in 3 scenarios


Scenario # 1: The island

You are sitting on the cool golden sand of a small beach. Your clothes are wet and tattered but you feel fine. You are not sure how you got there; the last thing you remember is that you were standing on the hull of a large boat looking out over the open sea. You turn around to take in your surroundings; behind you there is thick green jungle and the soft orange of the setting sun. There is no one else in sight. You know somehow that you are alone. This is a deserted island. You feel fine and strangely calm as the light from the sun casts long shadows on the small shells scattered about the beach. You spend time thinking. You think about the people you love, the people that love you. You fantasize about building a hut to live in and eating the fruit from the palm trees. The hours pass, the sky turns a deep apricot, and as you lie down in the soft sand and look up at the sky, you begin to think about your project, your creation, your work.  Your perspective is different, you can see your project from a distance, for the first time. And you begin to see what it gives to the world, how it fits in, how the world will change if you keep going, if you make your project strong. And you feel your face begin to smile at the same time that you have this thought: “the world needs me, the world needs my project”.

In the distance, faintly at first, the sound of a ship’s horn can be heard over the gentle lapping of the waves.

Scenario # 2: The woman

You are in a spacious office with polished wooden floors; there is just you and a woman dressed in a finely tailored suit made of light brown linen. You are sitting across from each other, comfortably, in wide beige upholstered chairs; there is no desk between you. You are in the middle of pitching your project to her; she has the ability to offer you the economic and logistic support you have dreamt of. The woman is listening carefully and attentively to your words as you masterfully describe your project. You stop for a moment, take in a deep breath, center yourself and wait for any question or sign of interest. Your sole audience looks at you with a smile in her eyes, and after a moment of silence she respectfully says, “I like it. I just have one question before I give you my full support: What is your project trying to accomplish in the world?”

Scenario # 3: The circle

You have been invited to a meeting. You walk into a large room with lots of chairs arranged in a wide circle. There are many people there and they begin to each take a seat, casually without haste. As you look around, you begin to recognize many of the faces, and suddenly the realization hits you: you are in a meeting with the world’s most important visionaries, leaders, thinkers and great teachers of all times. There are people of all possible skin tones; they are tall, short, large and small; they are men and women of all different ages. You are sure that some of these leaders could not possibly still be alive, yet here they are together in this room—as if time had no relevance here. And there you are, standing among them; “there must have been a mix-up in the invitations”, you mutter uncomfortably to yourself feeling awkward and out of place.

Following the gestures of the others in the room, you take a seat in the large circle of chairs and sit, very quietly, waiting. Spontaneously and quite naturally, the men and women in the room begin to speak, one by one, taking turns, with all the others listening in silence with great attention and patience. Each person tells briefly and simply his or her vision of how they would like the world to be and how their particular work is striving to achieve that. You begin to feel nervous and fluttery in your stomach; you don’t like this type of exercise. However, as you sit quietly and listen, you come to sense that no one looks uncomfortable or as if groping for ideas or words. And no one looks as thought they would disapprove of anything the others say; they seem to truly accept all that is being said. It seems that the most important element is quite simply that the words come from the heart, and this way of speaking seems to relax the mood in the room, and you begin to feel a little less nervous, a little more alert. And curious.

Meanwhile, the speaking continues, slowly making its way around the circle, person by person, vision by vision. There are about five or six people before it’s your turn to speak.

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Three values important to you

This is not easy to write. And I am not entirely sure why.

One reason could be the deceptive levity of the word ‘values’ compared to the depth of influence the word has in our world, and in our every day lives.

What, then, are values? A question that philosophers, writers, poets, politicians, creators and common folk have contemplated since the concept came to life a very, very long time ago.

Wikipedia says: personal values provide an internal reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable, constructive, etc. Values generate behavior [...] and provide answers to questions of why people do what they do and in what order they choose to do them.

But we don’t really need those definitions, do we. Because we inherently know what values are. We feel what they are much more clearly than we can probably describe them. Values reside in a place deep inside us. Deep inside the individual and the collective self.

I think the reason this post was not easy to write is because of the very nature of values themselves —of their deep seated place within ourselves and within in our society. And reaching into ourselves and wrapping language around what we find, can sometimes be, well, challenging.

When I put myself and a few colleagues to the task of naming three of the most important values for us, I was met with silence, smiles, pursed lips, searching eyes and groping for words. Everyone eventually came up with three, but the effort it took intrigued me. I wanted to know more.

So, I hit the streets of Barcelona on a weekend afternoon with a digital recorder wanting to hear what people’s most important values were —people I had never met, randomly chosen. The question was not easy to construct, nor was the answer easy to convey, though, interestingly, every single person I approached seemed sincere in their desire to answer, everyone took the question very seriously. The basic question I asked was this: What are three values, important to you, that you look for in others or in society?

And here is what a few people said:

So, if you were to take a moment to answer that same question, what would you say? What are three values, important to you, that you look for in others or in society?

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2._____________
3._____________

Now let’s turn to your project, organization or business. Are any of the three values you have just named clearly reflected there? In the mission statement? In the objectives? In the relationship with your public? Do they guide you in your daily management?

They could be reflected in your project in a number of different ways. Why?

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Zero tweets

The digital era is cool. It’s seductive and extremely convenient. It can make life easier, faster, and even more visible.

Except when it doesn’t.

Some things can actually become invisible. The lives of some people.

In our world of work, there is a very large group who are invisible to the digital gaze. Even in our own projects or enterprises, people who are doing some of the most important work might never show up at the top of a Google search after we enter their name and tap the return key.

The great majority of the people working on projects, often times very large projects, are busy with the work that must be done in order for the project to function. The general public rarely, if ever, sees their names in large illuminated lights. 

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