Optimism in Art- Andre Derain

There are many interesting things about humans but one thing that leaders have and others do not is a vision. Vision involves seeing not what is there today but what could possibly be there in the future. This is something I have heard many times in my professional and academic careers but I did not fully understand it until I was fortunate enough to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

As I have matured, I have found that most modern art just doesn’t really speak to me. A great example of one that does not speak to me is that was a white square painted on a white canvas (Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White from 1918).  The painting pushes the limits of abstract art to the limits and while some talk about the movement created by the off-kilter square, I find that the painting is not all that interesting to me. My mother-in-law has a saying that fits in nicely here, “isn’t is good that we all have different tastes”.

In visiting the MoMA in New York, I did find a handful of paintings that actually did speak to me. One, in particular, is one that I find is a great example of vision and optimism, which I had not thought possible for ‘just a painting’.

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Happiness Matters

Starting in 2000, the Secret Society of Happy People expanded their annual Admit You’re Happy day to an entire month. With that in mind, this month, I will be focusing a bit more on happiness as it relates to leadership.

First, I feel like it is important to discuss why happiness matters. We live in a very results-oriented world and sometimes, we find the demands on those results tend to drive our decisions. However, sometimes, those decisions can come at the cost of the happiness of those that we lead. At the same time, we know happy employees/followers produce better results. How can you manage for happiness?

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The Greatest Constant: Change

I recently took a class where a central theme of the class was the idea of entropy. Entropy is the second law of thermodynamics which helps explain how things like pans cool down and how companies die. Energy disperses throughout the proverbial system as time goes on.

Think of DNA. The DNA in your body is being copied over and over. Mistakes are made from time to time so, over time, the quality of the copy deteriorates. Think of a hot pan fresh off the stove. The heat is generated from the vibrations of the atoms. That vibrating is not perfectly transferred to other atoms through so eventually, the vibrating dies down and the pan slowly cools.

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More Data, More problems?

Big Data

This phrase gets tossed around a lot today. Big data, at its core, describes large sets of data. What we hope to glean from this data is based on a simple idea, the more we know about a problem, the more likely we are to solve problems. This ultimately ends up looking like a great deal of complex analytics looking to better predict things, be it healthcare outcomes, purchasing habits, or even crime prevention. And while concerns exist about big data, those essentially revolve around concerns for privacy, discrimination, and security. But there is one more thing we should be concerned about.

I recently finished reading an interesting book called Sensemaking. This book’s tagline is “The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm” so clearly, this book is not going to be the largest fan of big data. Instead, this book looks at the idea of thick data.

Just as we discussed there are a variety of leadership styles that can work in various situations, there are different kinds of reasoning and they each have their own place. Deductive or algorithmic thinking is a way of thinking that is very logical, much like a math problem. The steps to getting a solution are clear and well defined. Any logical thinker can see the problem, approach it in this clear manner and come up with the same solution. Continue reading

What is the best leadership style?

As many of us have experienced in the workforce, each manager has their own style of working. I have had managers who have big personalities who were quick to anger but you always knew where you stood. I have had managers who wanted to micromanage everything I did. I have had managers who largely stayed away from me so long as I got my work done.

But which of these styles is best?

To answer this, we will take a look back at a classic war film, Twelve O’Clock High. This 1949 black and white war movie follows the 918th bombing division. The film ultimately is a great look at two vastly different leadership styles. This group has fallen on hard times, with bad luck seemingly around every corner.

Early in the film, we see Colonel Keith Davenport as a defeated man. Another disastrous mission has resulted in the death of some of his men and he chalks up the reason as bad luck. Davenport so deeply cares for his men that he comes up with reasons for men to not go on missions and has become indecisive for fear of making the wrong decision that results in the death of his men. His defeatist attitude has spread throughout the bombing division. Continue reading

What Lies Beyond Comfort?

Psychologists define comfort as a state of well being and is a combination of physical and psychological factors. Unfortunately, we do not grow our skills while comfortable (our waistlines may grow, but that is a different story). Pushing oneself out of our comfort zones is critically important in the pursuit of better leadership.

There have been some wonderful talks on the dangers of the comfort zone but here, we’ll look at my favorite place where media has provided us an example of the benefits of going beyond our comfort zone and the incredible growth that can take place out in the unknown.

Finding Nemo is the 2003 Pixar film where Marlin is the single father to his son, Nemo. Nemo, however, has a short fin which makes swimming dangerous. Nemo spends his early life with his dad trying to ensure he has everything set up for as much success as possible and keeping him safe and comfortable.

On Nemo’s first day of school, his dad tries to continue keeping him safe and comfortable in a way the Nemo clearly finds embarrassing. In an attempt to prove himself Nemo swims off the dreaded drop off and toward a “butt”. Upon touching the boat, Nemo begins his triumphant return back, only to be captured by a diver. Continue reading

Effort Reigns Supreme

This summer, I got to take a journey to New York. While there, I got to watch The Iceman Cometh, which is a play from 1939 written by American playwright, Eugene O’Neill. This play came in at about 4 hours long and starred Denzel Washington. With it being this long, I don’t need to regale you with every detail but an important take away from the play is that effort counts twice.

The play follows a bunch of drunks who all consider themselves down-on-their-luck individuals who have big dreams of chasing their dreams.

Tomorrow.IMG_7452

However, the one highlight of their year is when a friend, Hickey, is coming to the bar. Hickey has a history of working hard throughout the year then blowing his savings buying everyone in the bar drinks and throwing a massive party. The opening part of the play is everyone getting excited about the person who is going to bankroll their drunkenness. The barflies talk about how excited they are to see Hickey and how after he comes, they will chase their pipe dreams. Continue reading