Jonathan's Blog
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Jonathan's Blog

Mindful Leadership and Technology (Mostly Software)


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Leadership Learning Interview

Learning, Like Falling in Love

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I used to ask an interview question about what analogy someone would use to describe their relationship to learning new things. I had a couple of examples (drinking a glass of water, winning the lottery) and then I would turn them loose.

I always considered this an interesting question because I was trying to understand what their relationship was to learning new things and I was trying to set expectations in the interview process about what was expected. In this case it was, "I hope you like learning new things, because that is a big part of the job here."

Anyway, I got a lot of "it's like travel to a foreign country" or "it's like climbing a mountain." All of which had some element of both process and destination, and I always considered these to be pretty good answers.

Until one day when I got the title of this blog:

"Learning something new is like falling in love."

How remarkable that was - it was ALL process and no destination, and yet who can argue with the process of falling in love? You're compelled by the very nature of the thing to want more of it, wherever it may take you.

This was a fine answer. It was, in fact, the best and only answer. I stopped asking the question because I couldn't help comparing every other answer to it.

Interviewing can be stressful, much more so for the candidate than the interviewer of course, but to do a good job you have to prepare on both sides.

Here is what makes it all worth while though - whether you get the job or not - in the interaction the opportunity to answer a question and offer insight. It's worth thinking about in any interaction of course, but in a job interview something to definitely seek out.

What if there was no opportunity to offer insight? Would you still want the job?

What if you offered the insight and still didn't get the position? What does that tell you?

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Technology Software

Monopolies: Here, There, Everywhere Until Their Not

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Did you know that US anti-trust laws are designed to protect consumers and not competitors? And did you know that not every one looks at it this way?

Here is a good article on the subject.

Irish Times Article on Google Judgement by EU

And that led me to this article, which is older but gives some more context:

Wired Anti-Trust Article

This is why Amazon doesn't get prosecuted for monopolistic practices, but Apple did for price-fixing on books. Amazon lowers prices (good for consumers, bad for competitors) and Apple was trying to raise them (bad for consumers).

The European Union would look at this differently. They say that one company possessing too much market-share is inherently bad for the marketplace.

Can you really trust an Amazon to keep having a focus on low prices? What about when there is no more competition?

To answer that question I found one more article. You have to dig, but it's there at the bottom of the top paragraph of page 4:

Comparison of USA and Europe Anti-Trust Policies - PDF

Basically, you can trust them if their anti-competitive (but pro-consumer) price lowering has to stay low because any raising of prices will result in new players immediately entering the market.

What does all this have to do with technology? Well it helps explain some differences between the US and Europe.

The other thing that is related is that there isn't really a software or online business that isn't susceptible to a new competitor.

To create software you may need software developers and servers, but you don't need other raw materials or a factory, so the cost is much lower than in analog industries.

Software business are inherently winner take all because world-wide delivery is so simple, there are no geographic restrictions on products, therefore the best will win and when they win they will win very big.

But they can only stay on top if the innovate relentlessly or buy companies who do.

Otherwise someone will find away to come along and eat their lunch.

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Leadership

Saying it First, Saying it Best

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Sometimes the person who says something first doesn't say it the best. It takes courage to articulate a new thought that is different from others.

It also takes courage to articulate a thought when you know may stumble because of it's novelty and freshness.

Say it anyway. Go first.

To help with this, surround yourself with people who can help echo your thoughts, improve them, and will still give you the credit for it.

Having people who can say it better than you means that your ideas will have legs and go further. You're more likely to see them out in the world running around in the future.

They'll be another idea that will come along. You should go first next time too. And the time after that.

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Leadership Creativity

Creativity and Habit

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Being creative is a habit.

If it's a habit that's hard for you, never fear. It's simply a matter of developing the habit.

Here are some things you can do to start a habit of creativity:

  1. Write a blog post
  2. Tell your kids a story
  3. Learn to fix something you've never fixed before
  4. Draw an org chart for your team or company that looks different than what you have today.
  5. Talk to a friend about a new opportunity
  6. Start a club or meeting
  7. Take a class in something you're interested in
  8. Learn a new language
  9. Build a website
  10. Introduce two people who you think could be friends

Sure, some of these are harder or easier than others. But the difference is a matter of degree or scale, not in the fundamental creative act that sits behind them.

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Negativity Bias Mindfulness Leadership

Positivity Bias

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I'm in the midst of reading Hardwiring Happiness.

I am really enjoying it which is why I am sharing this before I'm even half done.

The book digs into Negativity Bias (which I've written about before here) and the reasons why it exists. AND, it provides you with ways to combat it and develop help develop Positivity Bias.

The exercises/practices it provides are related to mindfulness practices but are even simpler to get started with. The tools this book provides are designed to specifically attack Negativity Bias by changing your brain to be more receptive to positive experiences and hold onto them longer.

So, while these simple practices are behavioral (they are things that you decide to do and you develop the habits of doing them), the goal is much more than that, the goal is changing your brain.

This is pretty exciting and you can get started with them quite easily.

As a leader this is a crucial tool to develop if it doesn't come naturally to you. And Negativity Bias tells us that it won't come easy to most of us.

Check out this amazing book.

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Mindfulness Leadership Software Development

Journeys and Guides and Maps

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It's hard to draw a map of a place if you've only ever been through it once, going in a straight line in a fast moving vehicle.

For a guide, you may want someone who can draw a map from memory. You may want someone who has been lost where you're going. You may want someone who has, at least, been there a lot of times, walking in more of a zig-zag pattern and seeing what's around.

OR you're accepting a guide who knows a little more than you but can't draw the map.

Both can work, but understand what you're getting and accept the advantages of the latter if you choose it. That is, you will be getting lost along the way, but you will also be a guide at the end of the journey.

Sometimes there is no map and never will be - for the country is forever new. In these cases we can only compare it to country we have been in before and offer help to one another.