Creative Leadership – Essential Reading #2

A quick review of The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun

Creative Leadership - Essential Reading

Following a quick peek at 101 Things to Learn in Art School, next up in this mini review series is the epic, The Year Without Pants, by Scott Berkun. This book was recommended to me by the very lovely Heather Bussing (here’s her excellent review of it here) and it’s without a doubt, one of my favourite, most useful and enjoyable reads of all time.

Why do I like it so much? Essentially – it’s just very well written. It has the human touch, lacking in a lot of ‘business’ books, and it’s shot through with some great humour too. It’s about the year(ish) Berkun spent working at, the experience he and others gained and the wonderful shared learning. Rather than offer tons of advice, the book asks great questions – and often encourages you the reader to add your own organisational context. My copy is full of little tabs and markers highlighting little snippets I can easily refer back to. In no particular order, I’ll share a few of those with you here:

On Friday August 24th…I had my first team meeting. It was the worst kind of meeting – the kind where no one knows why they are there.

The only good news was the meeting was short, which is never a mistake. Until the day you can end a meeting where someone other than you says, ‘Wait! Can we meet longer?’ it’s safe to assume the meeting was longer than necessary.

The realisation that everyone is different when you talk to them alone is a secret to success in life.

What assumptions do you have about your organisation that hurt you? And what experiments are you doing to discover them and find better ways to work?

We faithfully follow practices we can’t explain rationally. Why is it that work has to start at 9:00am, and end at 5:00pm? Why are you required to wear a tie of you are a man and a skirt if you are a woman? Why are meetings sixty minutes long by default, and not thirty? We have little evidence these habits produce better work.

I love that when he started his work – Berkun drew up a list of priorities. Here’s his list:

  • Trust is everything

Keeping it real, keeping it simple.

This book has accompanied me to and been photographed on tour in London, Louisiana, Latvia, I had an L thing going on at the time. It has become part of my memory and a truly memorable read. I enjoy it so much I have bought several copies for friends, and happily supported the Kickstarter campaign for Scott’s next book.

Have a great day – next up it’s the turn of Steal Like An Artist

Note to self – this is the 700th blog post on this site. I need to get out more!

Time Travel – And Other Workplace Myths

Yesterday my friend Heather Bussing posted a link to a great little post by Scott Berkun titled ‘What Work Traditions Need To Go Away?‘ There’s loads of good stuff in the post, and in particular the challenge to ‘hour long meetings by default’, caught my eye. Last week I ran a workshop called ‘It’s Good to Talk – So Why Don’t We?’ for clients of the law firm Boyes Turner. The session was a mix of culture, behaviour and method around one of my favourite subjects, having more productive conversations at work.

During the workshop we observed that typically, people allow their diaries to be filled with back to back meetings, from 09:00 to 10:00, from 10:00 to 11:00 and so on, often running right through the day. I’m curious, how do you get from one meeting that finishes at 10:00 to another that starts at 10:00? Without the benefit of time travel, which I’m pretty sure is as yet not invented, you can’t. And at what point during your 09:00 meeting do you mentally disengage from what is going on around you in order to prepare for your 10:00? You can see where this is going, can’t you? Straight to some kind of Outlook Calendar invite infested, counter productive, unhealthy hell. And yet you persist with it. I persist with it. We all persist with it.

During the workshop, the short term fix we proposed was, if meetings are to start on the hour, then they need to finish by five to the next hour, at the absolute latest. Granted – this is a sticking plaster solution to a much deeper slavish cultural attitude, but at least this way, you get five minutes to walk from your 09:00 to your 10:00.

The Workplace Myth theme has also been on Neil Usher‘s mind too. Neil has co-created an wonderful Storify centred on #workplacemyths. It is recommended reading, festooned as it is with humour, agony, cartoons and a wonderfully sad video called Misery Bear Goes To Work.

I love how the separate togetherness of the Internet threads all this wonder together, and I encourage you to check out Scott’s post, and Neil’s emerging Storify. I’d love to hear from you too, if you have the time of course 😉

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