Which one would you rather be?

There are two kinds of employees:

  • Those who react to the day-to-day issues, and those who prevent them from occurring in the first place
  • Those who make themselves indispensable (mainly by retaining knowledge), and those who make their knowledge available (ensuring the organization’s sustainability)
  • Those who go fast by going alone, and those who go far by nurturing a culture of collaboration
  • Those who get things done, and those get things right
  • Those who get comfy in the status quo, and those who face challenges head-on
  • Those who set the bar, and those who choose to see no bar

One would survive, but the other will thrive. Which one would you rather be?

“Everything is connected” – A paradigm to live by

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Source: Tv Show “Touch” revolves around the idea that everything is connected.

While I was doing some  much needed winter cleaning of my laptop, I found the transcript of this talk I did two years ago (if memory serves) and it tackled how, in today’s interconnected world, It takes a network-paradigm to thrive. As it’s resolutions season, although I’m not a big fan of the whole ritual, I thought I’d share an excerpt to take into account while forming this year’s big plan. *Turning sleeves up* (And by the way, Have a blessed and productive 2014!)

“I’ve become convinced that how networks work has become an essential 21st Century literacy.” ~Harold Rheingold

In the Era of interconnectedness that we are witnessing today, we belong to many many networks And weaving various network is the key to thrive. That is why to my sense, brokers (people who tie together otherwise disconnected people and leverage what is called weak ties)  are actually what we can call great network players. And here is why.

Rene Fourtou once said that “Shock comes when different things meet. It’s the interface that is interesting”. We learn most from people who don’t resemble us. Great ideas come from cross-pollination, a combinatory process that remixes ideas from different backgrounds to give birth to novel ones. How much exposure you have to various ideas determines how creative you can be. So when brokers play the role of interfaces between groups they are actually getting exposure to different ideas, which causes a shock, and a shock causes a spark, and spark gives birth to disruptive ideas. Brokers are creative!

Brokers are Problem solvers. People connected across these groups, who cross those gaps, are more familiar with alternative ways of thinking and behaving. They can juggle and appreciate divergent outlooks and multiple realities. They know that answers don’t lie within. Hence, they are more prone to have a vision of options otherwise unseen.

Brokers are Change makers. A Network Weaver is someone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides). Network Weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there’s potential for mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups.

Creative, innovative, problem solver, change maker. Who wouldn’t want to be all this. But how Do we get to that? How do we become network weavers? It really start by having a network mindset. The “me” attitude should be replaced with a “we” attitude which fits in the networked ecosystem we live in today.

Reaching out of your bubble: Going to event outside your normal sphere can enhance your exposure to new ideas. If you are a techy, try going to modern art expositions, literature events etc. Mingle with people with social science, philosophy, quantum mechanics backgrounds. The furthest you go outside that filter bubbleyou unconsciously locked yourself into, the better chances you have to come out with unique ideas. 

Always look for fresh blood: we are people of habit, we seek the comfort of familiar faces, of people who share our world view. There is nothing wrong with that. Greatest opportunities of growth though come from reaching out and connecting with those whose views are very different than ours. Intellectual diversity is a great creativity catalyst. Let’s then make it a point not to shun away from those who challenge us intellectually. 

Never miss a chance for a new experience: Spend your money wisely. Material things have a short life span, experiences on the other hand are life-long companions. Make it a point to try a new experience whenever the chance presents itself. An Arabic class? A travel to a multicultural destination? Anything that widens your range of interests is welcome.

Leverage the power of the web: In the words of Tapscott “The web, -indeed the world- is your stage, so get ready to deliver your star performance”.  Go out there and shine!

Each network you reach out to gives you access to a whole new reality you may have been oblivious to. The more exposure you get, the more your mind expands and the more creative you can be.

The “I don’t know” Manifesto

 In our culture, not to know is to be at fault socially… People pretend to know lots of things they don’t know. Because the worst thing to do is appear to be uninformed about something, to not have an opinion… We should know the limits of our knowledge and understand what we don’t know, and be wiling to explore things we don’t know without feeling embarrassed of not knowing about them.

~ Sir Ken Robinson

“I don’t know” must be one of the most stigmatized sentences in the history of languages. Yet, these simple words are the gate to mind expansion, discovery and thereby growth. Embracing the possibility of not knowing is the first step into exploring and eventually knowing. I couldn’t put it any better than Wislawa Szymborska, 1996 Nobel prize in literature when he says:

This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself “I don’t know”, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job.

That is why I decided to create an “I don’t know” manifesto, so we can all remember that it’s ok Not to know, we just have to adopt the right attitude about it.

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“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said, “I don’t know.””

Mark Twain

Sunday musing: The power of introverts

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At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
One of the books I’m most excited about reading this year is Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking“. Maybe because I think of myself as an introvert or maybe just because it essentially questions the common belief that being outgoing, outspoken and social is the only path to success. It takes all kind of people to make the world, and as much as we need extroverts, introverts “bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated”. In a passionate TED talk, Susan makes the case that introversion is dramatically undervalued, and that the world will be a much better place if our culture stopped solely celebrating extroversion and accepted the power of Quiet as well.

 

 

I think I’ll go back to my books’ suitcase now. Until we talk again, have a great Sunday!

Sunday musing: Why I unplug

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I’m no better-never, I don’t think technology is ruining our brain, life or whatnot. I truly believe though, that like anything else, it’s our use of it that makes it the Good or the Villain. Sometimes it’s actually the over-use of it that makes it the latter. As I was revisiting “Connected“, I thought about  relearning to be disconnected and how I have failed to consider that sometimes the only way to appreciate something’s value is by distancing oneself from it for a while. Relearning to appreciate technology, rethinking its effect on our lives can only be possible by unplugging the matrix and then re-plugging with a new perspective.
Not convinced? Monika Guzmano from geekWire makes a good sell of it on her Ignite talk: Why I unplug.

 

 

It definitely gives you something to think about.
Have a great Sunday!

Sunday musing: Life, a second at a time

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Photo courtesy of Toni Blay

On this beautiful morning I came across this video that embodies one of the most powerful lessons of life and I thought: "I Gotta Share :-)"! Cesar Kuriyama who was selected as one of the 17 finalists for the TED full spectrum auditions, has launched a very interesting project called the "One Second Everyday":  

The concept is simple: every day I record and capture a single second of video—just something interesting about that day. I will compile these tiny slices of my life into a single, continuous video.
But what started out as a fun way to chronicle my year off grew quickly into a catalyst that forced me to reevaluate how I approach my day-to-day life. Soon after I started the project, I realized that I couldn’t even spend a couple of days on the couch without detracting from the whole video. Footage of my typical routine was, frankly, boring. The One Second Everyday project has helped me to maintain my creative drive, as I am constantly attempting to capture something noteworthy. It has become a perpetual reminder to wake up and seize the day.

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swaps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours." 
— Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Lamia Ben.

Sunday musing: feels good to be back…

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Image courtesy schaaflicht

It’s been a while since I last blogged. Of all the things I was forced to abandon but missed the most while on my sick leave, I must say that blogging comes on top of the list. I miss having a space where I can express my ideas and discuss them with others. I miss the exhilaration once I’m done writing, the expectation about the reaction my post would stir. I miss the feeling that I contribute, even with the slightest portion, to the web rather than being a mere consumer… Anyway, it really feels good to be back. 
I just thought that instead of writing (once again!) about the lesson I could have learned from this small experience (I’m a lousy learner it seems!), I’d rather take the opportunity to thank my Internet friends for their kind words. So Jonathan Zittrain was right after all, the web is more than just a pile of information it is a network of random acts of kindness.

Have a great Sunday!

Lamia Ben.

Sunday musing: Weird, or just different?

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Image courtesy: TED.com

Another great quick talk from Derek Sivers at TED brings out a lot of what's been nagging on my mind lately. Niels Bohr once said "The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth." but we often regard any opposition of the truths we hold dear as wrong or weird or… It is easy to disregard the "different", what's remarkable is to understand it, accept it and draw a new vision of life from it. 
Enjoy the video and have a great Sunday!

Lamia Ben.

Musing: O’ Autistic new world

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Image courtesy rishibando

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” – Isaac Newton

In a world of the new web we have never been this connected. The farthest nodes of our social networks have never been this close. In a world where everything has become at arm’s reach, where all our acquaintances are a phone call, a text message, a tweet away… we have never been this disconnected. I’m not being a better-never and I’m not blaming it on the technology. I believe we are the ones using the tools the wrong way. A fool with a tool makes a more empowered fool and thus a worse one. I’m merely voicing out some thoughts I’ve been rummaging lately and I’d love to discuss this further in the comment section if you’re interested.

When friends become our main source of information

Our social network is turning into our main source of information. Scoble often boasts about how his Twitter timeline has come to replace his RSS streamline. While the latter can be a rather objective source (assuming it’s diversified enough to gather different points of view) the first is more susceptible to subjectivity. Whereas we used to mine the information from soi-disant its source, we now get it second handed, digested, reassembled by our social network and presented to us with a thick layer of our friends’ opinions.

I’m aware that even while making our opinions based on blogs, books, newspapers or TV channels, we are to fall for a reductive conception of the world. But the lines are not that much blurry. If I solely watch Fox News, God forbids, tagging me wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Now if my like-minded friends and I are the core of your social network, for any reason other than our “sensible” positions of the world’s issues, you are to become a Fox-News-paradigm-adherent without even being conscious about it. You are getting so drowned in a deluge of consenting opinions that you would subconsciously end up thinking: If everyone thinks so then it must be true (Let us not get into the insurmountable wrongness of such assumption, we however can’t deny it’s a common trap we fall for). We have become the window through which you see the world, and that window is small, limiting and colored (the politically correct for stained). The issue isn’t our capacity of bias, which is somewhat high if you think about it, the issue is rather our non-awareness of being biased.

Here is a quick fix you might say: “I can add up some sane dose of opposite poles here and there to my social network and Problem solved!” It’s easier said than done. The main issue is its being counterintuitive. While building our social network, the most solid connections are those with people who resemble us. And according to the Strong Triadic Closure property, if the node has strong ties to two neighbors, then these neighbors must have a tie between them. This translates into more connections to like-minded people. Breaking such mechanism takes much more effort than most of us care to deploy. So, we end up with chunks of the network, tightly knitted more or less biased sub-networks that are almost oblivious to the world outside, Autistic networks.

So I’ve been really thinking, how do we fix this? How can we lead our social networks and thus ourselves out of our autism? Here is my humble attempt at finding answers.

1) Reaching out to networks outside our social circle might be a first step into becoming aware of positions different from our own. I have experienced this firsthand last year and realized how little I knew about the Arabic Blogosphere and how much of good content I was missing out on.

2) We need to stop preaching openness and really start communicating (as in listening first). Social Media offer us a stage to voice out our opinions easily and freely (in most cases), but it is often used in a self-centered kind of way. Engaging into meaningful constructive conversations should be one of our main concerns.

3) We need to accept our differences, get out there, embrace fresh perspectives and learn to appreciate an idea for itself and not for the person voicing it.

 

Lamia Ben.

Sunday Musing: Pale Blue Dot

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Photo Courtesy: "Pale Blue Dot" photograph of the Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on July 6, 1990.

In the shadow of recent events that made history for Tunisia, I remembered this amazing quote of Carl Sagan: For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness. 
And it actually reminded me of this great video I once saw that made me realize once more, how we are, as Pascal puts it, A nothing in comparison with the infinite, an All in comparison with the nothing, a mean between nothing and everything…

“We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the Earth, and the ocean, and the sky. The open road still softly calls. Our little terraquious globe as the madhouse of those hundred thousand millions of worlds. We, who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds; Are we to venture out into space? By the time we’re ready to settle even the nearest of other planetary systems, we will have changed. The simple passage of so many generations will have changed us. Necessity will have changed us. We’re… an adaptable species. It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars. It will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths, and fewer of our weaknesses. More confident, farseeing, capable, and prudent. For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness. What new wonders, undreamed of in our time, will we have wrought in another generation? And another? How far will our nomadic species have wandered by the end of the next century? And the next millennium? Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that whatever other life there may be, the only humans in all the universe come from Earth. They will gaze up, and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of raw potential once was. How perilous, our infancy. How humble, our beginnings. How many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.”

— Carl Sagan

Have a great Sunday!
Lamia Ben.