As many of you will know, I am an avid user of social media. I’ve found social media a great way to connect and exchange ideas with people that I never would have met otherwise, and one platform I’ve found particularly useful is LinkedIN. As you’re probably aware, LinkedIN has always marketed itself as a professional networking community. It’s a place to meet others in and beyond your own industry, and maybe even schmooze with clients, suppliers, or maybe even your next boss! As such, the posts tend to be more professional in tone than other networks. Well, most of the time, anyway.
If you’re a LinkedIN user you may have noticed a trend recently of some folks posting ‘motivational quotes’ or pictures of their holiday snaps. Next time you see something like this, scroll down and read the comments—sooner or later, someone will have angrily written “This is LinkedIN, not Facebook, this is no place for a post like this!”. I’ve seen a few comments like this, and it opens up interesting questions of purpose and perspective. Or put another way: What is LinkedIN for?
One Platform Multiple Purposes
The answer to this question is almost certainly ‘it depends
who you ask’. There are some people who
use LinkedIN purely to search for jobs.
Other use it to advertise
jobs. Some use it to make sales or
search for leads. Others use it to learn, network and engage. Which of those is the ‘right’ purpose?
An often overlooked technique, that can be very useful in situations like this is the ‘PQR’ formula for giving shape to a root definition(this forms part of Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), which I’d highly recommend reading up on, although it should be noted I’m using it outside of the context of SSM). The PQR formula answers the key questions of what, how and why. Elaborated it is:
One of the things I really enjoy doing on a sunny day is
going out walking. It doesn’t matter
whether it’s windy or cold, as long as there’s no rain, I find it a really
enjoyable pastime. I was recently
walking on a really windy day in my
hometown, and I walked past this fountain.
You’ll see from the picture that the fountain isn’t fully
active, it’s just bubbling over gently.
In the summer, the jets fire straight into the air, and children (and
the occasional adult) can jump in and cool down.
Initially, I’d assumed that the jets had been turned off for
the winter, but a few minutes after walking past, I noticed the jets were
active again. This piqued my
curiosity—why had they suddenly switched on again—were they on a timer? My attention was drawn to a small wind speed
instrument on a nearby lamppost—you can barely
see it in the following photo:
I then made the connection.
The fountain is designed to
switch itself off when it’s windy.
This prevents water getting lost from the system, whilst also ensuring
that those passing by don’t get an unwelcome surprise when they suddenly get
soaked when there is an unexpected gust of wind. Genius!
The Danger of ‘Hard Wiring’
At its essence, this could be considered an example of a mechanistic system that is ‘hard wired’ to respond to its environment. This is a convoluted way of saying it has been designed to respond in certain pre-designed ways to certain types of stimuli If the wind increases, it stops the jets. If the wind stops, it starts the jet. Job done!
If you have ever used the tube (metro) system in London
during rush hour, you’ll know it isn’t the sort of place where you can stand around
and admire the surroundings. Like most
bustling cities, there is a focus on movement;
there is a sea of people filling every conceivable space. Anyone who dares move at a glacial pace is at
risk of getting swept along with the crowd like a twig in a fast flowing river,
or even worse they might be greeted by the passive-aggressive ‘tut’ of an
exhausted commuter. It seems that
everyone is determined to get to their destination, trying to edge further and
further forward without pushing or making contact with anyone else. Like some kind of silent and choreographed
‘commuter dance’, It is fascinating to watch, and fascinating to be part
I have travelled on the Jubilee Line from Waterloo Station countless times. Most times, I am navigating my way through the crowds, with my brain and eyes focussed mainly on the immediate few feet in front of me. Only fairly recently, when travelling very late at night (when the station was empty) did I look up and notice there is literally an elephant in the room. More specifically, there is a sculpture of an elephant above the escalators. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture 🙂
is little doubt that social media platforms have created new ways for people to
interact with each other. Whether it’s staying in touch with friends,
exchanging holiday snaps or “debating” the day’s hot political issues
with strangers, there’s bound to be a place for it somewhere in the
social-mediasphere. In fact, if you are ever feeling brave, scroll down
into the comments sections of most news articles. Often there is a
treasure-trove of opinion, ranging from well-considered and well-considered
arguments and counter arguments, right through to knee-jerk assertions from
people who have done little more than read the headline. Of course, everyone is
entitled to their opinion, and this type of forum provides a useful space for
was recently drawn into reading the comments section on an article about snow
(a relatively rare occurrence in the South of the UK, and one that tends to hit
the transport infrastructure fairly hard). The comments ranged from
constructive ideas, through to moral outrage, through to individuals expressing
clear objection to certain political ideologies. To a certain
extent, this makes sense, but I suspect that of the hundreds of authors of
those comments, precisely (or nearly) zero:
Although it was more years ago than I like to admit, I can
still firmly remember my time at high-school (or ‘senior school’ as we call it
here in the UK). As with most schools,
there were cliques and divisions, and it was a time when everyone was finding their
identity and trying to prove how ‘cool’ they were. As is common in the UK, my school had a
prescribed uniform, so there were very few ways that identity could be
outwardly expressed. Some people chose
to shorten their ties (rebels!), and others covered their exercise books in
colourful wallpaper (shocking!).
However, one way identity could definitely
be expressed was with the type of bag
that you carried.
organisations position themselves as being customer-centric, and in doing so
consciously put the customer front-and-centre of their decision making.
In a dynamic and competitive business environment, this is a sensible move. In many
industries competition is rife and the cost of switching is low, and it may
even be possible for a customer to change supplier at the click of a
button. In this type of environment, being efficient whilst also
understanding customer needs is of upmost importance.
thinking, quite logically, permeates into change initiatives too. As analysts,
we have a whole range of techniques that allow us to understand customers, put
ourselves in their shoes, and create exploratory models. Perhaps we use
elicitation techniques such as focus groups, market research or questionnaires.
Perhaps we develop personas, customer journeys, scenarios and use a range
of other techniques that help us to ensure that we’ve fully considered the
types of experience that our customers will have. This is sensible,
surely? I mean nobody would argue against customer centricity, would
JDI and it’s slightly more risqué cousin ‘JFDI’ are management maxims that we have probably all come across from time to time. The acronym ‘JDI’ stands for ‘Just Do It’, and its implications are that we should stop thinking about anything except the immediate task at hand, and plough on—often without questioning the validity of the task or considering whether the results of the task will actually be desirable.
It has to be said that there are some contexts where JDI really is the best approach—where urgent action without deliberation or hesitation is necessary. If you are in a meeting and the fire alarm goes off, there is some very clear action that needs to be taken (evacuate via the nearest and safest escape route). This is likely to be fairly uncontroversial, and even if people had different views on how the situation could be handled, the urgency of getting out of the danger is sufficient enough that we need to quickly decide, commit to action, and then ‘Just Do It’. Of course, once you are out, there will be time to reflect and it is highly likely that someone will want to assess the root causes of the problem (in this case the fire).
I’ve always thought that one of the ‘fun’ parts of travelling by air is the in-flight meal. When packed in economy, there’s a real art to opening the foil or cellophane wrapped food items without showering the contents over yourself or a fellow passenger. This is made even more problematic if, like me, you enjoy the occasional beer in the airport before the flight…
On a recent trip, I was given the usual choice of chicken or pasta, and alongside the main course there was a cookie. After ravenously demolishing the main course (I always seem to sit in an area that is last to be served) my attention turned to the cookie—which was curiously labelled as an anytime cookie.I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this as it immediately triggered an image in my mind of the Cookie Monster saying “All cookies are anytime cookies! Me eat cookies all day!”. But, being the self-confessed BA geek that I am, my thoughts then immediately came back to business analysis and logic…
As BAs and professionals that help enable value to be created and captured, we deal a lot with logic. We use models and other ways of communicating that allow us to convey complicated concepts concisely and precisely. Yet when eliciting information we typically have to rely on everyday language—and if we are not careful these conversations can be filled with tacit assumptions and misunderstandings when we play them back.
Problem solving and organisational learning are two topics that are closely related to each other. So often, organisations appear to be ‘hard-wired’ in a way that they means they focus on solving immediate problems without spending time assessing root causes. It is all-too-easy to get caught in a fire-fighting doom-loop where symptoms are addressed rather than root causes, and everyone is consumed with tactical ‘busy-work’. This is akin to a motorist who keeps topping up their car with engine oil but doesn’t look for a leak. This works well for weeks until the leak suddenly gets worse and the engine is ruined in a catastrophic and expensive failure.
I was mulling this over recently whilst eating at a breakfast buffet in a hotel. I went to get a glass of juice, only to find there were no glasses left. No problem, I thought, I’ll let one of the hotel staff know and they’ll get it fixed. I caught the eye of a friendly waitress and explained the predicament, she apologetically looked at the empty shelf and immediately went away to put things right. She came back within minutes, clutching a single glass—passing it on to me. I said thank you, and before I could say anything further she smiled and scurried off to her next task. It was very busy, and I suspect she was under quite a lot of pressure to ensure her list of tasks were completed.