All posts by Alexander

Book review: The soul at work

Complexity science is appearing more and more often in business literature (and just about everywhere else). This book with the subtitle “unleashing the power of complexity science for business success” shows a better way to manage organizations than the old command-and-control way, and describes some of the tools needed to get there. It helped put me on to the “joy at work” project.
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TietoEnator buys Enterprise Systems

It’s official, Enterprise Systems has been sold to TietoEnator.

It’s a little ironic that this deal is finalized almost exactly 5 years after we started the company. It’s also a little sad, but I truly believe that this is the best option for Enterprise to develop. TE can give the company resources and strategic direction that we could never have found on our own.

I can look back on a great time, building a great company. We (meaning not only the founders but every single ES employee) created a company where people had fun, were committed, learned and developed as people – all the while making lots of money.

I already left the company a few months back, so I will not be a part of ES’ future in TE. I wish the guys (and the one gal) the best of luck, I know they’ll all do great. They’re the smartest, nicest, cleverest, most sympathetic people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and I’m sure that exciting stuff is waiting for them!

Exercise: Faster or slower

Is faster always better? Try this exercise, and see what you think.

Let’s say that you want to optimize some process to save time.

In many activities, you can take all the fun out of it if you hurry too much. For example, I used to be a hell-bent skier. This happens when you’re living in flat, snow-less Demark, and you only have the chance to ski for one week every year. By god, I wanted the most skiing I could possibly get! So I got up really early every morning, I took almost no breaks (except for a short lunch break), and I generally drove myself and everybody around me to exhaustion and desperation. Then on a trip a couple of years ago, I learned that by relaxing a little, taking a lot of breaks, I’d get less skiing done, but I’d enjoy it a hell of a lot more. Say 20% less skiing, 80% more fun! And I’ve found that this equation holds in many other activities.

So, what is it that happens when you try do something faster? Odds are, that beyond a certain point, the faster you do it, the less you enjoy it. Maybe it’s just more fun when you do it slowly. Alternatively, you may become stressed because you’re not doing it as fast as you’d like.

So this is the exercise: Find a process or action you’d like to optimize (it can be anything really, your morning drive to work, your evening meal or something you do at work), and then try to do it faster or slower. Keep a journal where you log the time it took and how you liked the experience. Then try to see if there’s a connection, and try to see if there’s an optimal “hurry level”, that doesn’t eliminate the fun.

Conference

I spent monday and tuesday attending a conference on mental health in the workspace. Topics ranged from stress and depression to motivation and creativity. The speakers were psychologists, business managers, scientists and even a priest (Johannes M?llehave).

The quality of the individual sessions varied, but overall the conference was good. I am left with the impression that mental health in the workspace is now being taken seriously. 15-20 years ago companies started improving the physical working conditions, and huge progress has been made in this area. Mental health, however, has long been a taboo, in private life and especially at work.

Therefore it was very refreshing to hear Jytte Hilden (ex-minister and current cultural director of the Royal Library) talk openly about her 3 bouts with depression. The latest happened a couple of years back, and when she needed 2 months off from work to deal with it, the Royal Library gave her that. She also did something I admire deeply: Before leaving, she assembled her staff, and told them exactly what was going to happen. She believes that this made it easier for her to come back after the 2 months, than if people had been told a cover story.

It was also very interesting to hear Niels Due Jensen the CEO of Grundfoss (the worlds second largest producer of pumps with 11.000 employees worldwide). He talked about how Grundfoss fight stress in their employees, and how they try to help seriously ill employees. It was clear to see, that this is a company that cares for it’s people, above and beyond the bottom line.

However, I have one major concern about the way the issues of mental health at work are being handled. In most cases it’s a matter of trying to avoid something. Companies are fighting stress, they have programs against smoking and drinking or they are trying to prevent employee burnout. These are fine and essential pursuits, but looking only at what you are to avoid os not enough in my opinion. You could in theory create a workspace where nobody suffered from stress, burnout etc., but that does not automatically make it a great place to work.

I think we should try to define the qualities that we DO want present in our work, and try to envision a way of working together that will give people a positive work life. It’s more fun to create a future when you base it on something you want, than when you base it something you want to avoid!

Possibly the best music video ever

Team up Fatboy Slim, Spike Jonze and Christopher Walken and what do you get? My favourite music video. It’s weird and beautiful, and Christopher Walken even choreographed his own dance moves.

Trivia about Christopher Walken from imdb: “Manages to insert a little dance number into all of his roles, no matter how small, scripted or not”. I’d never thought of that, but yeah – there’s the wedding dance in “deer hunter”, there’s the tango scene in “scent of a woman” and some truly amazing dance scenes in “pennies from heaven”. Though I don’t seem to recall him dancing in “pulp fiction”..?

Book review: The marriage of sense and soul

Science gives us truth. Religion gives us meaning. We need both. In this book Ken Wilber argues that we need a world view that unifies science and religion/spirituality, which is hardly news. What was new (to me at least), is that he claims that such a world view is possible, without distorting the essential nature of the two.
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