The way of kindness

Can knowledge work be influenced by the mindset of kindness?  Why not a kindful quality of knowledge and knowledge-sharing!

I’ve recently been introduced to the World Kindness Movement (WKM). It’s based on the idea that our world will be more compassionate and peaceful if a critical mass of acts of kindness is ignited.

I had an recent inspirational and energetic conversation with Michael Lloyd-White, General Secretary to WKM and Chairman/Founding Director of World Kindness Australia who passionately shared stories of what was happening with the movement. The conversation stimulated my thinking about ways I could be a useful ‘broker’ to keep this knowledge and energy flowing. I thought of …

  • Hand ReachingThose among my contacts who would embrace such an idea and how I would approach them;
  • Meaningful messages I could share with key people;
  • Using my interest in origami to package the idea and capture an audience’s attention; and
  • Forums I could use or start, to inspire more people to act with generosity, and to recognise it in others.

Fellow travellers

The very next day an opportunity arose to actively show kindness. I was standing on Platform 2 awaiting my train to the city. I saw a guy on Platform 1 opposite dragging a large suitcase, looking perplexed. He was glancing from the train tracks to our platform filled with people, to his platform with only him, to the train schedule board. I yelled out, “Do you want the train to Melbourne?” He replied eagerly, “Yes!” I told him he needed to quickly change platforms, as the train he wanted was due any minute.

I shared relevant knowledge with someone who lacked it at a time of pressing need, and avoided an upset. (He would have had to wait an hour for another train.)

A fellow passenger, another stranger, commented on my kind act. So I told her about my recent introduction to WKM, and thanked her for recognising what I did. We then parted ways as we caught our train.

That night, I ran into the same woman again on the train home. She said she had thought of me that day. She shared her own story of how she helped out a fellow traveller with timely information they needed.

My actions in the morning had resulted in a knowledge transfer on multiple levels, and led to two pleasant encounters in Melbourne that day.

Good business: generosity at work

As a Change Facilitator, I can see ample opportunities for empathy when dealing with people in the midst of organisational change. How great to discover a group that aims to spread the idea of compassion in the workplace – so often the arena for self-advancement and competitiveness.

In an organisation, kind actions provide a more conducive environment for us to create and share helpful knowledge. It’s like a ‘good virus’ that spreads the possibility of further altruism. I am more likely to be an agent for good if I am liked, and people like the way they feel in how I treat them.

Play the Kindness Card

kindness_card_frontpageWKM has created a great initiative to capture acts of kindness – the Kindness Card. Michael gave me a card (has the appearance of a credit card) which I’ve activated on the Kindness card website and will physically pass on next time I see and can acknowledge an act of kindness. And each time it’s passed on, a story can be posted to add to other stories on the website. How much better will the world be for sharing these heart-warming moments?

How exciting to take a simple, instinctive concept like kindness, integrate it into a professional domain like knowledge management, and see what positive effects can be had. My knowledge ‘engine’ is fuelled with a warm emotional energy that I hope in turn infuses the knowledge I create and pass on.

Kindness is ‘heart’ knowledge. And we tend to focus on head knowledge. It’s time to expand our focus more holistically.

Research indicates kindness is literally in our DNA. How’s that for original tacit knowledge?

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning, so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

Image credits: ‘Reaching hand’ from Microsoft Online Clipart; ‘Kindness card’ from World Kindness Australia

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Managing your Attention capacity with 4Cs Attention Filter

An important personal resource for knowledge workers is Attention. It can be difficult to decide what gets attention and what doesn’t. In an information-rich world, there is more and more competing for your attention.

The merchandise of the information economy is not information; it is attention.
~ James Gleick

Quick and confident decisions about your Attention can be particularly difficult when you want to be open to what is emerging around you. Common advice to minimise overload is “Just say No”. However, a simple “Yes” or “No” doesn’t work when things aren’t black or white but rather shades of grey.

Attention is a precious resource not to be squandered on trivial things that don’t matter to you – things that are distractions, or noise that unwittingly caught your attention. By setting meaningful boundaries, you can create criteria to aid purposeful decision-making about what is worthy of your attention.

What kind of attention to give

The 4Cs Attention Filter can be helpful for organising your attention by defining the type of attention to be given. The Filter categories are Committed, Contributing, Curious and Cease. Three of the Cs are shades of grey for when you want to say “Yes – with limits” and the fourth C is the classic “No”.

COMMITTED – Things that get ongoing deep attention; things to which you have a strong and pervasive commitment; things where the buck stops with you; things where you are actively scanning for new information.
CONTRIBUTING – Things that get momentary deep attention; things to which you have some strong attachment, however, you can care about with little or no responsibility.
CURIOUS – Things that get light and occasional attention, mostly when something crosses your path, not things you are actively pursuing.
CEASE – Things not worthy of any attention at all.

Think of the Filter as organising ‘Things I am interested in’ rather than ‘Things I am doing’, that is, ‘Topics’ rather than ‘Activity’.

Here’s an example of how my Filter is currently set (as at March 2012) for vocational or professional interests.

This is a reflection of where my interests currently lie; it isn’t a reflection of the depth of my competencies. With this filter, I can quickly make decisions about which meetings and conferences I attend, which groups I belong to, which blogs and books I subscribe or read, which conversations I contribute to, and to which people/conversations I’ll give priority.

With the Filter set, things that attract my attention pass through the Filter and stick to the category to which they match and therefore get the type of Attention associated with that category.

The 4Cs Attention Filter is not intended for planning or organising an action list, though it may contribute to setting some scope for a list of activities. For a technique to organise and prioritise your activities, read Mastering your workload.

Determining your Attention Capacity

Your capacity for purposeful Attention is a factor of breadth and depth. To use a scuba diving analogy: the oxygen you have available in your tank is a factor of how deep you dive as well as how long you dive. Deeper dives require more oxygen than shallower dives, even if the duration of the dive is the same. With a finite underwater oxygen capacity, a diver makes life-dependent decisions about how many dives can be made and to what depth.

So it is with your attention capacity. You need to factor how many things you will give deep attention (i.e. Committed) in relation to the breadth of things to which you will give attention.

Set limits for each ‘Yes’ category about the number of things to which you can purposefully attend. Typically there will be less items in categories characterised by deeper attention, i.e. Committed, and Contributing. To get started, a useful rule of thumb might be 3 things in Committed, 4 in Contributing, 10 in Curious.

The Limit is designed to help you maintain a sustainable Attention load. Be sure not to add items to a category without first considering what must be subtracted from that category.

What kind of attention you have been giving

Check where your attention is, and has been going, with a quick audit. Of the things that currently have your attention, in which Attention category do they fit?

Look at your list. If you have been feeling overwhelmed, you may have too many things in the Committed category which need a depth of attention you can’t give. Or maybe you have too many things across all categories which need a breadth of attention you haven’t got.

To reduce your attention load, downgrade items to another Attention category, either permanently or for a defined period of time.

To control attention means to control experience, and therefore the quality of life.
~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Attention is a precious personal resource. So manage it in a sustainable manner, and be sure to spend it on what matters to you.

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

Focusing attention with In-Out Focus Circle

With many things trying to get your attention, it can be difficult to find and keep focus on the activities that are important to execute. This blog is about a simple technique for finding and keeping your focus for work activity.

Consider this photograph …Sunflowers in and out of focus
(c) Microsoft Office Images/mp900178459

How many flowers are there?
How many flowers are in-focus? How many are out-of-focus?
Why would a photographer create a photo that is simultaneously in and out of focus?

Like the photographer, we use our physical eyes to control what is in our field of vision. So too with our conceptual eyes, we can bring clarity to what we choose to bring into focus.

The need for focus

What we focus on determines experience, knowledge, energy and fulfilment. It can be easy to squander attention on just whatever captures your awareness. Which isn’t to say: don’t scan your environment for new or intriguing things! It is to say: for things that you know to be important – make sure these get your attention.

The In-Out Focus technique is a simple idea to provide structure, balanced with flexibility, so you know what is truly worth your focus, and are able to refocus easily as needed.

The technique described below started with a need for a strategy to overcome states of procrastination or feeling scattered. I’d ask myself: What should the focus of Today be? What are 1 or 2 most important things to achieve? I’d write this on a sticky note and put it in my direct field of vision. Then I focus my attention on that, and give myself permission to ignore other things for the defined time period.

What determines ‘important’? I define it as things that will assist and advance my current situation to my preferred future. It can be as simple as making a phone call to enhance a relationship, or making a decision about whether to go to an event.

The technique has further evolved to a long-term view, i.e. What is most important for This Week, Month, Quarter or Year? And also evolved for use with a team, not just an individual: With a declared team foci of attention, individuals can better align their personal focus.

Using the technique

  • You can change focus anytime you want, but something must move out of focus. Don’t add unless you subtract, to maintain quality attention.
  • The granularity of the important items will differ depending on the focus horizon, i.e. Day, Week, Year, or Life. Don’t mix the granularity; rather have different Focus Lists or Circles for different horizons.
  • Focus on the right things (not senseless things). Is your attention consumption empty calories or nutrient rich? Eliminate what isn’t helpful. Cultivate attention-health.
  • Know what is most important even when the territory is shifting and emerging; there is always stuff that could be done – know what should be done.
  • Just because something is not IN focus doesn’t mean that it isn’t there or that it isn’t important. It’s simply not the current focus of attention.

Making it happen

1. On small sticky notes: write a project, group/organisation/committee, collaboration, interest that currently occupies your time and attention (present and future content). One per sticky note.

2. On large piece of paper (suggest A2 or A3 size), draw a large circle.

3. For ‘This Week’, what will be the focus of your attention?  Assign your notes to inside the circle. That is In-Focus. Anything left over remains outside the circle or Out-of-Focus.

Consider: If you organised for ‘This Month’ (instead of ‘This Week’), what items would you move?

4. Set a depth of field, i.e. Today, This Week, This Month, Year.  Set a number for the maximum items that can be in focus for the chosen depth of field, i.e. the breadth of attention you can simultaneously maintain, e.g. 2, 4, 10.

Expect to do some fine tuning to see what works best for you in terms of depth of field, and number of items in focus.

I no longer use the paper/sticky notes method in my everyday practice.  I use the digital Sticky Notes application for Daily/Weekly Focus lists which sit on my computer desktop. And I keep a page in my digital Notebook for longer-term Focus lists.

HINT: When you are starting out, I recommend using the paper/sticky notes method for at least a couple of months.

5. In your regular planning time, add an action item to Review and Adjust you In-Out Focus circles.  (In accordance with my Activity-Time budget, I have set aside weekly planning time.)

6. Live and work according to the Focus you have set.

Best wishes with implementing this technique.  Let us know what worked and didn’t work for you in your context.

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.