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Euan Semple
Works at helping organisations, and more importantly the people in them, get their heads around the web
Attended University of St Andrews
Lives in Great Missenden, Chiltern District, United Kingdom
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Euan Semple

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Most people

“Most people don’t…”
“Most people are…”
“Most people like…”
“Most people feel…”
“Most people think…”

It is so easy to preface our statements with “Most people”. It feels as if it gives what we say additional authority, as if we are sharing an incontrovertible truth. But we’re not. We’re just sharing our opinion and often simply projecting aspects of our own character. 

Most people don’t think of themselves as most people! 
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Busywork rots the soul.

So much of what takes up people’s time at work is pointless. 

Meetings that are in the diary that no one can remember their purpose and that rarely agree anything; forty page reports that you are asked to rewrite or reformat a dozen times and that you know no one is going to read; pitches for work that inflate everything so that both purchaser and supplier can look more important but that are really only an indication of an intent to work together; project plans and strategies that bear little relation to how things turn out and join the large pile of their predecessors gathering dust on a shelf.

You know this and I know this, the people around us know this, but no one wants to admit it. No one wants to confess how out of control it all is, how nervous they are of stopping moving long enough to realise that they have forgotten what the point is (if they ever knew it). 

Whole careers get wasted like this. This seems sad.

We can avoid this soul destroying nightmare if we break ranks, if we find the courage to be the first to ask that scary, and apparently dumb, question: “Why are we doing this?”. Follow it up with: “Do we need to do this?” Keep asking these questions and maybe others will break ranks and join you. 

Maybe some, just some, of the madness will stop. 
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Negativity

I wrote a post this morning that had a go at faux busyness in the workplace but decided not to post it. It was a grumpy post, written for the wrong reasons. 

It’s too easy to focus on the bad things in life, the news does it, we all do it, it seems to be part of human nature. It’s also wrong to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that things are OK when they are not. But just finding fault without offering possibility for change or insight doesn’t help.

We should try not to. 
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"faux busyness in the workplace"
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Being brave

We live in a time of massive change and instability. Many of us sense the uniqueness of the opportunities this presents us as individuals and collectively. 

But we are daunted too. In many cases we are trying to shrug off lifetimes of conditioning and habit.

In the "real" world of work most of us are afraid, most of the time. We comply, compromise, concede. We know we "should" be brave and then we beat ourselves up about being too scared. 
 
We need to be gentler with ourselves, and each other, as we take the small steps that are the only way we will be able to deal with the enormity of our challenge. 
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Rico
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It's the little things

It fascinates me how organisations don't disappear under the weight of their own administravia. Getting even the simplest thing done becomes a challenge that can soak up valuable time and energy. As a freelancer I have a lot of control over my own processes but if you are stuck in a large organisation it can become a nightmare. 

Bureaucracy is a necessary part of all of our lives but sometimes it runs rampant and out of control, becoming an end in itself. We need to exercise constant vigilance to keep it in check: to  get as good as we can at designing the form that we expect others to spend time filling in; to constantly ask if we really, really need the form in the first place; to have the courage to say no to processes and practices that we feel add no value.

The world doesn't end if we say no to bureaucracy. Try it today! 
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"Ask if we really need the form" Should be the number 1 question.

Number 2 should be, if we need the form, what's the best format it should take for all parties.
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Enjoying the skylark above my office today, though it brought back the memories I wrote about here four years ago:

http://euansemple.com/theobvious/2011/3/29/killing-songbirds.html?rq=skylark
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Have him in circles
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Guest post from me, about giving ourselves permission, on Gerard Richardson‘s blog http://www.thenetworked.org/giving-ourselves-permission/
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The enormity of it all

By the nature of my work I spend a lot of time with people who are trying to change the world around them, upsetting the status quo, encouraging people out of their comfort zones and into new ways of working. This is often unrecognised, long term, and challenging work that calls for endless energy, personal commitment, and a belief in worthwhile outcomes. 

Sometimes people get ground down by the enormity of it all. They feel like Sisyphus, endlessly pushing that stone up the hill only to have it roll down again; a lone voice facing armies of at worst dissenters, at best the disinterested. 

Helping keep their confidence and energy up is part of my role; reminding them that they are not alone, that others around the world are taking on similar challenges. Reinforcing the idea that what matters is taking the next concrete step, no matter how small, and doing that again and again - potentially for a very long time.

The trick is to focus on and enjoy the process rather than obsessing about the outcome. Remembering this is the hard bit!
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Passion is a driver, if you've got it, use it and be damned with the outcome.
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## Fear of disapproval

We all face it. From an early age the disapproval of our parents and teachers was something that most of us learned to avoid. This feeling of not being good enough carries on into the workplace where we are monitored, measured, compared. Even if we have become successful, have reached senior positions, gloried under impressive job titles, the existential terror of being found wanting lurks under the surface.
 
On the face of it we may appear confident but our decisions are really being driven by concern about what other people might think. We don’t say what to us seems obvious in case we contradict. We keep our world changing ideas to ourselves in case they are laughed at.

In the online world this fear is even greater. We are expressing ourselves in writing, potentially in front of large numbers of people most of whom we don’t know, in a medium that can last forever.

It’s little wonder we are terrified.

But we need to overcome our fear. We need to learn to assert ourselves, risk disapproval, deal with it when it happens. We need to because if we don’t we will always wonder what might have been. We will have let ourselves down. We will have let those around us down.  
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Change

Years ago I wrote that "Social media adoption happens one person at a time and for their reasons not yours". As time passes I am more and more convinced that this is ultimately how any change happens. 

For all the change initiatives that keep people busy at work, the strategising, the PowerPoints, the endless meetings, nothing happens until one person has a conversation with another and the other person thinks "Right, I'm having some of that!"

We use slightly disparaging words such as viral for this kind of change, as if it was somehow under the radar, unofficial, risky. But it isn't it how all change really happens? Isn't everything else just a displacement activity helping us avoid facing the fact that we feel uneasy about having those real conversations because we ourselves haven't bought into the change that we are so busily proposing?

Isn't real change something we do for and with each other rather than something we do TO others? How could we get better at that? How could we all make it more likely to happen?  
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Fear. Generally people want change but haven't the balls to implement it or to speak up in case they get into trouble or it fails.
Personally, I do speak up and find that sometimes makes people itchy.

People want change, but want you to go first.
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Reality

Presenteeism came up in conversation over the weekend and I was expressing frustration that it was still so common. "But that is what real work is like" was the rejoinder,"anything else is just philosophy".

How did we end up with this fixed sense of reality? Isn't it all just stories about how things should be? 

We must always ask who started those stories and why. We must always remember that we can choose our own stories. We can always imagine new ones. 

If we don't have control over our stories we have lost control of our lives. 
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Have him in circles
16,119 people
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Education
  • University of St Andrews
    Drinking, 1978 - 1982
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Story
Tagline
Management consultant, speaker and author.
Introduction
help organisations, and more importantly the people in them, get their heads around the web.
Bragging rights
Author of Organizations Don't Tweet - People Do http://amzn.to/xRYEHs
Work
Occupation
Management consultant, speaker and author
Employment
  • helping organisations, and more importantly the people in them, get their heads around the web
    present
  • BBC
    1986 - 2006
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Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Great Missenden, Chiltern District, United Kingdom
Previously
Strathaven - St. Andrews - London
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