7 Reasons to Visit Riga

These past few days have been an interesting first trip to Riga, the capital of Latvia. I’m heading home today and giving a talk on social media in the workplace in London tomorrow. Shortly after that I’m heading to Louisiana with Neil Morrison before returning here to Latvia again later in April. There’s something about the letter L featuring large in my life just now. Enough already.

Something we have been focussing on in our work here is the importance of visual media, and as I enjoy writing occasional travelog type posts I thought I would use some of my photos to help illustrate my short trip here.

7 Reasons to Visit Riga

Number 1 – The Sun Rise

Sunrise over Riga

This is the view out of my bedroom window, taken just after the sun peeked over the horizon. You can see a church tower in the distance and snow on the roves. The temperature had been very mild until this weekend when a sudden cold snap returned.

Number 2 – The Architecture

Riga Cathedral

There are lots of interesting buildings here. This is Riga Cathedral, taken at night. It was built in 1211 and has undergone several modifications since. I was lucky to find a pause in people wandering through the square to get an uninterrupted view.

Number 3 – Design

I spotted lots of interesting design touches when I was out and about. This old door handle really caught my eye, I’m glad I don’t have a screw driver on me otherwise I might be taking a few of these home. And this restaurant chair has lovely curves, it feels good and is comfortable to sit in too. I’m a bit nerdy about these small things, and when done well – they make a difference.

Number Four – The Food

It’s a good job that Riga is an easy city to walk around, I’ve eaten dangerously well here and the subsequent strolls have hopefully prevented me from putting on too much weight.

Number Five – The Art

Riga is the 2014 European Capital of Culture and on this short trip I’ve barely managed to scratch the artistic surface. There is loads to see here and on my next visit I will have more time to explore what Riga has to offer. For now though, here’s a wonderful, modern interpretation of The Venus of Willendorf.

Venus of Willendorf

Number 6 – Kronvalda Park

Kronvalda Park is a small open space in the town centre. It has many pathways wandering through it and this pretty canal. I like open space in a city – it’s great for stretching the legs and clearing the mind.

The Canal in Kronvalda ParkNumber 7 – The People

I’ve let the side down here, no picture I’m afraid. Everyone from the border control guy, to the taxi driver, hotel and restaurant staff and particularly the people I’ve worked with, have been lovely. Friendly and attentive, and when we’ve worked together, curious, enthusiastic and helpfully challenging. I enjoy work so much more when it flows, and when we need to rethink and shift our perspectives based on emerging information. Thanks folks.

I’ve enjoyed my short time here and I’m already looking forward to returning. My work with employees of the Latvian Government on smart use of social media is useful and enjoyable, and after I’ve concluded my second visit I will share more of what we’ve been learning about.

Come As You Are

Aside from being a top tune by Nirvana, Come As You Are for most people means no need to prepare, just turn up. This kind of spontaenous approach works well for parties, maybe less so at work.

A while back I was asked to deliver a three hour session on collaboration, and I agreed in principle. I followed up my agreement with a note:

Before I get stuck in and fully commit to this – can you confirm what my remuneration will be for the design and delivery of this piece of work please? I anticipate this taking two days overall – one to design, one to deliver.

We weren’t able to proceed because the budget on offer was half of our previously agreed one day rate, for what I thought was two days work. It wasn’t so much the fact that I felt the fee was too small, although it was, what surprised me more was the attitude towards preparation time. The company went on to explain:

The idea was for you to come along and provoke their thinking rather than teach or train them anything, as all the content will be covered off by A.N.Other during the main sessions. This session is an added bonus we have thrown in for the client so I’d like to think you could come along and “recycle” something you already have prepared. I appreciate this might not have been made clear to you, so would understand if you chose to decline the piece of work, but we would like you to do it…

I subsequently called to discuss things – just to make sure everyone was clear on how this was supposed to work, or rather, not work. During the conversation I looked for some clarification, asking, ‘Are you really OK with me turning up and working with your client having done no research and preparation?’ It turns out that yes, they were OK with it, at least to the extent that they saw no need to pay for my preparation time. ‘We thought you’d just rock up and give a talk’, was how it was positioned in a subsequent conversation.

We left it there and parted on good terms. No hard feelings but for me to accept this proposal would have been to seriously devalue my own worth and more importantly, that of the team I would have been let loose on.

Preparation Matters

Whether you’re employed or self employed, an integral part of work is the preparation that you invest beforehand. You wouldn’t expect a top flight sports person to turn up for a race, finish in last place and then say, ‘I did no training for this event whatsoever and yet somehow, I finished last. How did that happen?’ in the post race interview. Likewise when you’re working with colleagues you can usually tell if they’re prepared or not – and I may be wrong, but I expect you make judgements on their suitability for future work based partly on their preparedness or lack of it?

We spend time in preparation, in development, so that the delivery is as good as it can be. So why are people sometimes so reluctant to see past that burst of face to face time, and beyond to the hard graft that made the real work, work?

Everyone has a budget, everyone has to make a call on what good value looks like eventually, but I smiled when my friend Gary Franklin shared this on Facebook recently.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 17.55.45

Lightbulb Moments – Lessons in Learning

Lightbulb Moments

Keira and I were walking to school this morning and this afternoon’s swimming lesson came up in conversation. Keira said, ‘I hope Mum lets us practice butterfly, today – it’s my favourite stroke’, before asking me, ‘Do you think it is difficult for Mum to come up with a whole load of interesting lessons. I flipped the question back to Keira, ‘I don’t know – what do you think makes an interesting lesson?’ The following thoughts emerged from my ten year old daughter in the next 100 yards.

What Makes A Lesson Interesting?

Make it hard, but not too hard

Make it fun, especially if you’ve been good

Use different techniques

Involve people, ask them what they want to know

Encourage and support people, help them with their fear

Show me don’t tell me

‘What do you mean, show me don’t tell me?’ I asked. Keira replied, ‘There’s no point in telling a small child that the deep end is two metres deep, you need to get in the water and show them what that looks like and feels like’. And there we were – close enough to school for Keira’s embarrassment alarm to sound. A quick kiss, an ‘I love you’ and she was gone.

I walked home, lifted by the conversation and the sunny day. We didn’t get round to talking about Keira’s opening question, I’ll see what Keira thinks about that later this afternoon, but as a simple guide to what makes a lesson interesting, I think Keira is pretty much on the money here. What might you add to her list?