Welcome aboard your flight to the Future of Work

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome abroad Your Work Airways on this flight from the Present to the Future of Work.

Flight attendant or stewardess talking on intercom

Photo Credit: iStock Photo

Before we take off there are a few preparations I’d like to run you through to minimise anxiety and maximise possibility on your career journey.

You might note that our plane is not yet fully built, such is the uncertain nature of the flight you are taking. Don’t let that deter you from the things you can control and organise.

Our Captain today is flying with a compass rather than a map. We fully expect we’ll have to make multiple course corrections as we navigate changing conditions. We have a heading rather than a specific destination. You are going somewhere; you’ll probably know where only as we get closer.

At this time please stow away your luggage or present it to the crew to be taken away. It maybe baggage from your past that will no longer serve you where you are going. Prepare to give up or lose some things.

We anticipate turbulence. When the seatbelt sign comes on, we recommend you stay calm and remain in one place. When things get agitated, there is a temptation to Do Something. Sometimes that best thing you can do is Be Still. Turbulence typically will pass. If you are experience a sense of disequilibrium, know that this is simply a phase as you adapt to a new reality – you are not going mad. There are strategies you can learn to respond and recover from such a state graciously: ‘Mind like water.’

When the seatbelt sign is off, you are invited to get hands on and involved in shaping our flying experience. Our passengers don’t get to be passive spectators – the future is what we make it.

A normal flight would advise you to locate your nearest exit to be used in case of an emergency. You could do that – it can be prudent to have an exit strategy. However, there is a risk that an exit strategy lessens your disposition to take a leap of faith and embrace uncertainty. Like a turtle, you might only make progress if you stick your neck out.

If oxygen masks should appear (or something that seemed to fall on your head) from above – be sure to look after yourself before attending to others around you. If you are struggling to cope, then your needs come first. And remember to Breathe: In, Out and repeat. Oxygen is a fundamental resource for your whole wellbeing.

Reach out for help – your crew are there to help you. You’ll need to identify your own crew. Look about you for a special group of those who you can trust and who will support you with encouragement or a kick in the pants as you might need. Make sure they know they are your crew and you have expectations of the role they will play for you. Consider being the crew for someone else – we all need help at different times.

Should the plane need to make an unexpected landing in unknown conditions, know where to locate your life vest – as you have defined it. When indicated, put it on ensuring it fits your situation. If necessary blow a whistle to attract attention of others who can assist you; your courage to alert them of your predicament is an invitation for their compassionate action.

Unlike normal air travel we won’t be insisting on Flight mode for your communication devices. We recommend openness to variable flows of information and communication as you venture to the future. Something insightful may appear – keep an open mind. To take a break from the information flow, simply disconnect.

Fires have been known to start from excessive decision making. We desire this to be smoke-free flight so we encourage you to lessen decision fatigue by making upfront decisions wherever you can for routine things. Preserve your decision-making abilities for the novel things you have yet to learnt about or resolve.

While there are activities we discourage in the toilets, we admit they are a great place if you need to shut other people out for a time. It’s okay to hide in silent solitude. Silence can be useful if it keeps you from broadcasting an anxious version of yourself into your web of special relationships. It may be a time to listen to yourself and check in with what your inner voice has to say.

This is a flight in which we’ll be figuring stuff out as we go. It can be helpful to write things down, especially when a lot is happening all at once. Whether in the seat pocket in front of you or on your person, consider keeping a notebook so your mind is free to deal with the unexpected, rather than busy trying to remember stuff that could be written down.

On this flight we expect you will need a diverse offering of refreshments. Some of you have boarded with a hunger for knowledge to sustain you on this journey. Others are thirsty for insights to fuel your decision making. Ask for what you need and give yourself suitable time to absorb the full nutrient value. Take a course, digest a book, or savour the goodness of a mentor.

It is our pleasure to provide in-flight entertainment; this consists of an excellent view of the emergent and surprising. It is sure to affect you with a range of emotions as you move through phases of comedy, drama, horror or thriller. We don’t recommend the history channel; your future is an adventure awaiting you in a forward direction – it’s a fiction awaiting to be realised.

For those curious about the future of work, at the top of our inflight recommended reading and viewing list is Lynda Grafton speaking at TEDx on How to be ready for your future and her book, The Shift: The future of work is already here

It’s time to put away things that you don’t need right now – have what you can in order. Know where to put your hands on things quickly; keep large items stowed away for when they are needed.

On behalf of Your Work Airways I’d like to congratulate you on launching yourself to face an unknown future of work. It promises to be unpredictable.

Helen Palmer, co-founder of RHX Group, has not followed a traditional path in her career, nor does she intend to. It’s been her personal experience that she’s made career plans, then life happened and things went in a direction that wasn’t anticipated. As a consequence she’s fascinated by the emergent and serendipitous approach to life and work. She’s been thinking about ways to help others navigate the future of work, given the ambiguous possibilities and opportunities if there is courage to take that journey. And for good measure, she likes to inject humour and originality into her work.

12 things every knowledge worker should know how to do

As a knowledge worker you are a site of production. You are ‘plant and machinery’. You are a knowledge ‘engine’. Your capability and capacity for knowledge work is a function of the condition of YOU and the conditions you create for yourself. What should you know how to do to be the best functioning knowledge engine?

Here’s a list of twelve things.

Manage self

1. Know your own learning style/preferences (try Felder and Silverman’s Index of Learning Styles); your personal knowledge management style (try Six Cs of Personal Knowledge Management by Straits Knowledge).
2. Know your strengths and what to do to play to these (try Clifton Strengths Finder).
3. Use personal resources like Time, Attention, Energy and Relationships effectively (try Activity Time Budget, Honest Digital Calendar, Attention Filter).

Manage information

4. Title documents meaningfully – follow a naming convention that makes good sense. Use Properties and meta-data whenever you can to enrich the information, and enable quick easy discovery.
5. Setup, maintain and use an information organisation system; both for a collection of items, and with the structure within a single item. (i.e. Headings/Sections, Table of Contents, Cross Referencing, etc.).
6. Curate information; manage a collection of useful resources for self and/or others.

Develop knowledge

7. Use reflective practice including after-action reviews, to Think about what you’ve done and what could be done and what you are going to do.
8. Set an intention and test hypothesis; experiment to gain insights. Sometimes you need to Act to discover useful Thoughts.
9. Summarise and distil a set of knowledge (try Notebooking or Mindmapping).
10. Recognise knowledge creation and distribution opportunities and leverage them.

Produce knowledge

11. Create produced knowledge to address different learning styles, with communication medium appropriate for the audience.
12. Package knowledge creatively for production/publication (e.g. document, presentation, slides, session outline).

Learn more about Develop knowledge and Produce knowledge phases in knowledge creation.

If you can do all these, you have the foundations for being knowledge-savvy.

 

Helen Palmer is Founder of RHX Group, a boutique agency that partners with people who want to make change in how they work with information and knowledge.  She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in making small changes that disrupt the way people think and what they do.

 

Exposing the design behind a new-style resume

Late in 2013, guest author to this blog Christoph Hewlett shared his thoughts on using a knowledge product I created: a new style resume.

In response to requests for insights about the WHAT and WHY of the resume design, I provide the following details.

The basic design

Resume is four pages; no more, no less.
Each page has specific content:
Page 1 – Contact details, Description, List of Key Skills or capabilities
Page 2 – Portfolio: List of selected items of work experience
Page 3 – Testimonials: Excerpts of recommendations that relate to the Portfolio items
Page 4 – Qualifications: list of selected items; Work history: Job Title, Organisation, Dates for all your working life

The order of the content

There is a logic in why the content is laid out in a particular order.

Page 1 is the page likely to get the most attention from your reader. Therefore it needs the most important information: how to get in contact with you; what to remember about you (you description should be memorable!); and the set of capabilities that make you useful and desirable.

Page 2 is a tailored list of things you have done, that show what you are capable of and which show you in your best light. This content differs than normal work history in a number of ways:
* You can include small items, e.g. An interesting blog post you wrote; a powerful introduction you facilitated; as well as large items, e.g. A project you managed.
* You can include old items, i.e. something you did 20 years ago, as well as recent items. Traditional resumes tend to drop off content that is not recent, i.e. last 5 years. This hides the fact that you have more experience that could be relevant or transferable than what you’ve done in the past 5 years.
* You can include extracurricular items that doesn’t have any place to go in the traditional resume because they aren’t related to a job, e.g. Social media activity; leadership in a professional association; or volunteer role.
* You can be specific and concrete, and mix activity with achievement or purpose – thus give more interesting and relevant information:
Compare “Managed large projects” with “Managed the ABC Project with $500K budget and team of 20 people, delivering on time and within budget.”
Compare “Made a blog” with “Designed, built and maintained professional blog with insights and inspiration for people  leading knowledge workers or doing knowledge work (https://rhxthinking.wordpress.com)”

Page 3 is content that provides ‘social proof’ about your experience and talents.
Some of the good things  said about you in the past, are still useful to your story even when you’ve lost contact with the person or they are not available to be a verbal referee.

Don’t leave your reader waiting to talk to referees to learn what others think about you! Provide this knowledge as soon as you can for the most positive effect.

Page 4 is the facts that need to be evident and can be checked out if necessary. This is typically not the content that is going to sway somebody towards favourably considering you – however, it’s due diligence that this information is available. The work history is downgraded content – this means presenting information in an order, where what you are capable of, is more important than the job titles you have held in organisations.

Content for the pages

A. Reuse content you have
For this new style of resume, you can reuse content from your traditional resume for Pages 1 and 4.

For Page 1 content, make sure you include ways to contact you in writing and in voice. If you have quality online profiles (e.g. LinkedIn), you could include a hyperlink.

Consider including a quality photograph.

Have a description that is more akin to a bio (though write it in first-person) and includes a sense of where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.  For good advice, see article ‘Does your resume tell your story?’

Be memorable; be interesting.

For Page 4 content, include Qualifications or Certifications rather than listing courses you have been on. If you wish to promote the fact that you are continuing to learn – then add that content under the Skills section or a relevant item or two in the Portfolio section.

Keep the list relevant to the audience, so be prepared to adjust this content each time you use the resume. For example, your First Aid Certification is probably not so relevant if you are applying for a Leadership role.

B. Gather and Create content you need
For this new style of resume, you probably don’t have content ready to include on Page 2 and Page 3.

For Page 2 content look back over your work life; use your old resume as a prompter and compose a list (a looong list!) of work experience items. For examples of items, see a copy of one of my resumes (MS Word DOC).

Organise the items under headings that relate directly to the audience of your resume. Where your audience is a recruitment panel or HR personnel filtering applications in response to a job advert, use the headings from the Position Description.

Include hyperlinks to online examples, or reference material relating to the items.

I keep my lists of content on pages within a MS One Note notebook, in the right typeface and font size for me to simply cut-n-paste the items into the resume when it is being constructed. Here’s a screenshot of a page in the context of a notebook.

Screenshot of Portfolio List in OneNote

For Page 3 content you’ve got old content to reuse, and new content to get:
a) Look through old letters of Reference and review Recommendations that have been posted online; extract short excerpts that are relevant to reuse.  Don’t be afraid to cull words – though be sure to use conventions that show if you have edited someone else’s quote.

b) Ask people for Recommendations. Ask people from your past to provide relevant content. When you are finishing up a job or project, ask people to compose you a Recommendation.

To get better quality recommendations, read this blog post.

Whether it’s old or new content, all recommendations should support what you have chosen to include in the Portfolio section on page 2.

Supplementing the resume

Your resume is a marketing document for a target audience. It isn’t a record of all the details of your work history – keep that worthy information somewhere else. I use a MS OneNote notebook to store items for the Portfolio page and Testimonial page, as well as results from assessments I’ve done, bios I’ve written for myself, and reflections about work I’ve done. The image above gives you a taste of my collection.

Just one resume?

Above is the advice for a single resume. It is entirely possible that you have a suite of resumes, tailored to a different theme or focus.  I have 6 basic resumes: 5 follow the format above for the themes of Change Management, Enterprise Business Analysis, Learning & Development, Leadership, Information Management. The sixth resume is an Academic resume and conforms to expectations of the structure and content for Academia.

For each resume theme, I change the following:
The Description on Page 1
The order of the Skills on Page 1 (put the most relevant first)
The Portfolio headings and items on Page 2
The Testimonials on Page 3

My resumes get used as an Appendix in a Tender, as an Introduction to an Agent, and as an Application for a Vacant Position. For each of these situations I change the content to best address the anticipated needs of the audience.

 

If you are inspired to use this new design, let me know how it goes. Please share with me any ideas you have to extend and enhance the design.

 

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 making small changes that disrupt the way people think and what they do.  With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people and knowledge.

 

Origami: working in three dimensions

My girlfriend’s a viticulturist. Her work product is grapes and wine. I’m a knowledge worker – what I produce is less tangible: content and process (messages, documents and conversations). So when I have a hankering to make something ‘real’, I turn to origami (Japanese craft; literally, ‘to fold paper’). It’s a pastime I picked up while living in Japan.

You might be tempted to think of paper-folding as simply a hobby (to do while drinking my girlfriend’s great wine), but working with coloured squares of paper can have quite an impact on how you think and behave. To my surprise, I’ve found a place for it in my work practice.

Unfold your potential

Origami is not just for children or playing. Scientists and researchers are taking it seriously.

‘Diversifying experiences enhances cognitive flexibility’ argue researchers in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. So why not fold paper in strange and beautiful ways, to expand your usual thought patterns?

A recent article in Business Week explains: ‘Flowers, leaves, wings, proteins, mountain ranges, eyelids, ears, DNA—all are created by folding. Today researchers in robotics, biology, math, and computer science are immersing themselves in [folding] methods. Scientists are looking at how materials and molecules wrinkle, drape, flex, and crease. They’re using folding to design everything from robots to cancer drugs, from airbags to mirrors for satellite telescopes.’
This is a great example of using an art form in a surprising way. Like Jeff Jarvis’s definition of serendipity: it’s unexpected relevance!

Origami and my work

So how does paper-folding bring a new dimension to life at the office? My job is facilitating change and learning, particularly in knowledge and other organisational initiatives. I’ve discovered that origami has a place beyond my leisure time, and that there are workplace benefits from this offbeat form of paper trail:

  • Play – you have fun, experiment, create at your desk. It takes only a short time to produce a new piece. You use your hands in a tactile way and develop your hand–eye co-ordination, which is a welcome break from tapping the keyboard and digital work. Play is big as a workplace activity, as is gamification.
  • Relationships – you can make friends, build rapport and trust. It’s non-threatening. You can try it one-to-one or in a group. Anyone can do it – it cuts through boundaries. (Side thought: Origami as offline social medium?)
  • Object lesson – you learn something new, and collaborate. It’s also about creativity, about choices and detail.

Here’s an example. Before a workshop with dense technical content, we used origami as a fun starter. The aim was to make a set of building blocks, each one folded by an individual and then assembled into a single object. All the pieces had to be right, for the assembly to work. Some people saw the paper and instructions on the table and started without waiting for the demonstration. Others ignored the verbal instructions and raced ahead, failing to fully comprehend what was required. Both approaches hindered successful collaboration, as they resulted in pieces that wouldn’t fit in.

During a business coaching session with an entrepreneur who was overwhelmed by work and needed to step back for a short break, we did origami together. He felt as if he was being productive and learning something new, all the while having guilt-free time playing.

A useful model

I taught a colleague how to do origami during lunchbreaks. She enjoyed it, and she can see links between the creative process and her work. In her own words:

‘I was asked to talk about how I build an academic timetable. I quickly found a connection to origami. Just like the timetable, origami starts with something small that one can’t immediately see as part of a larger entity. I was able to relate different elements of origami (e.g. coloured paper, pattern to follow, building blocks, etc) to timetable concepts. It was the right approach – not everybody knew timetable terminology but they were successful in understanding the process.’

Ending on a happy note

At the end of a consulting session, I’ve produced a folded creation to show my gratitude or simply lighten the mood. I invite the client to choose a piece of paper, and I make a paper swan, a butterfly or a flower as they watch. The unexpected fun and the gesture of a handmade gift enhances our rapport and generates goodwill.

Ready to fold?

For origami paper and instructions in English, I recommend the online store:  www.origami.com.au
For inspiration, see some of the creations in my Facebook photo album.

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.