Showing posts from 2018

Viking Age Tar Production and the Decoupling of Ideas

Where do you get all your stories and examples from? This is a question that people often ask me after lectures and workshops. The short but unhelpful answer is that they come from my “ideas file”. This ideas file is not so much a file as a concept. At times it has been a box, a massive green folder, a notes file in my phone and all of the above.
But how do the ideas get into the file? This is where the real secret lies. Searching for ideas and examples when you need them is extremely difficult and often frustrating. The solution is to decouple the search from the need. My method is to scan news and new research routinely and then to squirrel away all the things that could be useful one day.
Some of these articles and research papers are useful almost immediately. Some wait in the conceptual ideas file for months or years before they suddenly become useful.
Let’s take a concrete example. In October 2018 Andreas Hennius of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala Un…

Getting People Used to New Ideas: The Nobel Center Case

One odd little detail of the 2018 Swedish election campaign is how some parties chose to focus their social media message on attacking the proposed new Nobel Center. Designed by David Chipperfield Architects, this new building is supposed to be built on Blasieholmen in central Stockholm, replacing an old customs house presently on the site.

Some people love it; others clearly do not and there is an organised campaign to oppose the new building. What is interesting about this campaign is how commonplace it is. When the iconic Tower Bridge in London was first proposed it was widely ridiculed, so was the Tour Eiffel in Paris. Now nobody would ever consider removing either of them.

Some buildings are, in fact, genuinely repellent. A glance at the winners of the Carbuncle Cup show clearly that some designs not only have no merit, they seem to suck the merit out of their surroundings, too. But many others are not precisely bad but unfamiliar. Why is it that a Tower Bridge or Tour Eiffel is…

Conference-proofing your presentation

One of the frustrations of speaking at events is that your carefully crafted presentation will often appear different and sometimes unreadable on the big screen. You are much more likely to see the presentation the way you intended if you can use your own computer, but conference organisers prefer to have all the presentations loaded onto their own computer to speed the changeovers.

Many presenters complain that the fonts appear differently, that the formatting is disrupted, that background images disappear and that the page is cropped, chopping away vital information. These problems are hard to avoid entirely but by taking a few simple precautions.

Design for compatibility. Instead of designing your presentation for optimal appearance try to design it to maximise compatibility. Avoid using unusual fonts, special effects or embedded media content that might work on your own computer but not on others. Try also to keep slide construction clean, without cutting and pasting complex block…

Going Beyond Google; How to Create Original Content

Search engines like Google are immensely powerful tools for finding information, but they have one serious drawback: when everyone is using the same resource everyone ends up writing content that is depressingly repetitive.
Google many topics and you will find that often all of the pages that you can find with a simple keyword search contain the same information. When all goes well that is the same content you find in the Wikipedia page, but more often you find the same misinformation simply repeated.
At this point anyone else trying to write about the same topic usually ends up citing the same facts, anecdotes, evidence and stories that everyone else has cited, for the simple reason that everyone is Googling the same keywords and finding the same pages. By simply Googling a topic and then writing more content based on the same information you are unlikely to add anything new to human knowledge and understanding.
So how do you create original content that doesn't simply repeat th…

The Dog Ate My Speech: Preparing an Important Presentation at the Last Minute

You have an important speech or presentation coming up on Monday. It’s Sunday now and you have prepared nothing. Maybe it’s not your fault because the plan was changed at the last minute, or maybe you had allocated time to prepare but then there was an emergency to deal with. Or maybe it is your fault. But it doesn’t matter.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the situation is not at all hopeless. You can always recover from a zero-preparation situation and sometimes it can even lead to a better outcome, provided that you know how to do it.

Pretending to be ill or saying that the dog ate your speech might get you off the hook, but long term this will work against your credibility. Your best approach is to go ahead but to use a lean approach to crafting a brief but powerful speech.
Here’s one way to solve the problem:
First of all, throw away all of your old notes, slides and other materials. It’s tempting to try to recycle old stuff but you will find that trying to find and adapt existing things …

How Organic Networking Helps Introverts Grow Their Network

Many people avoid networking because they are introverted or just shy, but a much better idea is to simply avoid the "artificial" networking opportunities like cocktail-hour mingles. You can get much better results anyway by networking organically through activities.

When you are working with other people you naturally build strong connections as a side effect of the co-operation, simply by being a good team player, colleague, employee or manager. If you have any sort of job you are already building a network in your workplace and environment even though you are probably not aware of it. You can greatly increase the reach and effectiveness of this networking by adding other activities to your daily job. These activities could be other projects in your workplace or related to your work, like organizing a work event. They can also be activities outside of work.

Probably the most effective of these outside activities is to volunteer for non profits that involve something that …

Three Secrets of Calm Public Speaking

After every talk that I do there are as many questions about speaking technique as there are about the actual content. One of the most interesting is "How do you stay so calm?". Partly this is just a question of practice, but there are also some specific techniques that make this much easier. Here are three of them, techniques that anyone can master:

Prepare a Backup "Unplugged" Version. Some stress is always caused by the fear that there will be technical problems with the presentation. No matter how many backup copies of the presentation you have and no matter how many tests that you have done before the show the projector can still fail or your laptop suddenly starts to misbehave. One way to avoid this stress altogether is to prepare a backup "unplugged" version that you can do using just a whiteboard, a flipchart or even nothing. You should create a minimal version with the essential content and make a list of the stories you will tell and the visuals…

About that quote: "Ask What Needs to be Done"

Every mentor at Startup Weekend Stockholm is invited to provide a quote for the Instagram event campaign. For the February 2018 Foodtech event I chose a thought that I had just tweeted when I was asked -- an idea that I have found very useful for solving difficult problems.

Never ask if something can be done; ask instead what needs to be done to make it happen. This apparently simple change of perspective is surprisingly effective because it reframes the question from one about possibility to actually finding solutions. When you ask yourself or other people if something is possible you allow the possibility that it is not. By asking how it could be done you concentrate all your efforts on finding some sort of solution.

Once you have taken away the option of simply walking away from the problem people tend to get much more creative in finding solutions. Perhaps you have to redefine the problem, or perhaps you need to adapt your expectations. But when there is no option to just walk awa…

How To Do Lists Give You Peaceful Nights and Weekends

Every working week usually ends for me by writing a "to do" list for the work to be done the next week, or at least Monday. I do this partly so that I don't forget the work in progress, or the highest priorities, but it also has the useful side effect of making the weekend more relaxing. This offloading of the work still to be done onto paper or a file appears to lighten the load on your mind, since you know the list is safely written down and you don't need to keep thinking about it.

How you do this mental offloading step doesn't seem to make any difference. At my own desk I tend to use a paper list and when I am travelling I often use an email to myself. Once the list is safely written you can mentally "close the office" for the weekend without being stressed by all the work still to be done. It has always worked for me, though I don't recall seeing any serious research to back it up.

But now there is some experimental evidence that indirectly su…