A feedback based personal review: how? (part2)

Filed under: Stuff... pfu... — Ilias Bartolini at 2:40 am on Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Choice, past - Ilias Bartolini In the part 1 of this series I explained “why” you should do a personal review and its benefits. In this post I will explain “how” I did it.

In Aimee Daniells’ 2011 review I liked the format inspired to agile’s retrospectives:

  • set the stage,
  • gather data,
  • generate insights,
  • decide what to do,
  • close the retrospective.

But if you’re on your own (not working in a group) you may benefit from not following strictly this process, let your thoughts flow and start sketching ideas more freely.
I actually haven’t strictly followed the above process, but is important to recognise in which phase you are and group your data or ideas together using the above categories.
I used a mind map which slowly grew and evolved to the form in the picture below.
Choice, past - Ilias Bartolini
I started collecting data on the left side under “2011″ under the “work” label, in particular writing the feedback collected from my colleagues. Then while filling my “expectations” I realised that more thinking was needed around “What matters and I really value”.
At this point is where I realised that more data and information on the “life” side were needed and the review changed to a wider perspective.

This is only a simple example on how the process very roughly worked for me but I encourage you to follow your own flow.

What worked well during this review?

Was very important growing slowly and rearranging the mind map with new ideas: “No Big Design Up Front” ! :)
Continuously review your map and create association between the ideas you’re collecting to generate new insight and new ideas.

The process has been continuos for a couple of weeks: most of this process initially happened in a couple of evenings. Keeping Freemind always open in my laptop and collecting notes on a notebook on my bedside table contributed to add many other late thoughts.

Two parts have been influenced by a couple of books I have red.
To set my “expectations” I started using the method described in Rosamud and Bejamin Zander book “The Art of Possibilities”.
The method is called “Why I deserve an A”, is a method that Ben Zander used with the students in his music class. At the beginning of the school year his students were required to write a letter dated in the future (at the end of the school year) describing the reasons why they deserved an A.
Even if you’re not actually writing in a letter form, this exercise let you to focus on excellence and takes away the tension that harms accomplishment. But remember that what matters more is not the final accomplishment, but step along the learning path and the motivation do to your best to reach it.

And don’t forget that the greatest goals are not the selfish ones, but the ones that move your focus form “I” to “WE”.

Finding the right question is an important part both when you’re asking for feedback and to find the right inspiration for your self-review.
To answer the questions on “what I really value” I found very useful Katy Le May’s book “The Generosity Plan”.

What did you considered very positive or negative in the past? Why? and what are the underlying values?
What inspires us most? What work do you see truly making a difference?
Who are the people you admire most?
If you ran the world …fill in this blank
What is broken and needs to be fixed?
What keeps you up an night?
and what gives you the motivation to get out of the bed in the morning?

Despite the details of this post I still think that is most important that you use your own tools. You should follow a natural process that is able to capture your train of thoughts across multiple days: follow again the principle “people more than processes and tools” :)

Soon I’ll publish the 3rd part I which I’ll try to share how you can use positively all the information that we gathered!

PS. maybe unrelated from this post topic, but you should absolutely watch this TED video from Ben Zander “on music and passion”!
It may be a good source of inspiration to think at your values and for setting your expectations :)

A feedback based personal review: why? (part1)

Filed under: Stuff... pfu... — Ilias Bartolini at 5:43 am on Monday, January 30, 2012

Choice, past - Ilias Bartolini
At the turn of this last new year I spent few days in my hometown with my family and closest friends in Italy.
During those days while reading some of my daily blog updates I stumbled upon Aimee Daniells’ 2011 retrospective so I also started writing some random personal notes on a mind map to start a personal review.
Some people call this just a set of “new year resolutions”. But I found many other positive factors that made its result very effective!

After one month the result and positive effects of this self-review are so great and caused me a sense of epiphany on many aspects of my last year. Despite is just a personal experience I hope that sharing it you can find similar benefits running your own review!

Why should I run a personal self-review?

I discovered two main benefits.

The first one comes from reflecting on yourself in retrospect. Many of us are busy in their daily life and we forget to use a wide-angle perspective and our long term personal path. Starting from external feedbacks you can start noticing new facts and learn completely new lessons from your own life, reflect on your values, set your new expectations and take action! Create an inner-feedback cycle and strengthen your own self-confidence and improve effectiveness.

The second is about strengthening your confidence in relation with your peers. You can decide to share you review (and I encourage you to do it!) with some of the people that are closer to you. For me moving to a new city and working as a consultant caused to meet lot of new people, change often colleagues and clients. But is important to remember that we are people not curriculums. World and society is changing faster every day, but we should continue caring about the path and steps of people around us, not the size of their shoes.
While early and quick feedback is important, sharing this wider perspective with the people around me created a second external feedback cycle. Share your ideas and be open to receive new long term suggestions and insights!

But is this a review about your work or your life?

Well, it started as a work and career review, than I started thinking in term of work-life balance and suddenly reminded myself that work is just a part of our life :)
You should use a bird-eye-view both in time and space!
Many of the best answers I found came from creating a correlations between changes in my work and the life context.

What has been the most important thing you learned last year?

Is about “learning from feedback” both in work and in life: ask for it, share it with your peers, take actions and say “thank you”!
And feedback has been one of the most important values and principles of my review!

For this lesson I must say a very big THANK YOU to my teammates and fellow colleagues at ThoughtWorks.
I recommend reading Pat Kua’s posts on Feedback where you can find a guide on “Receiving Feedback” 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Soon I’ll write more about the process and some details that made my review very effective and until now very successful.

The uncontrollable Network

Filed under: Stuff... pfu... — Ilias Bartolini at 3:30 am on Monday, January 16, 2012

Entanglement - Ilias Bartolini

“The ultimate proof of our understanding of natural or technological systems is reflected in our ability to control them. Although control theory offers mathematical tools for steering engineered and natural systems towards a desired state, a framework to control complex self-organized systems is lacking”

These are the first words of a recent article “Controllability of complex networks” published on Nature by Yang-Yu Liu, Jean-Jacques Slotine & Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.
Barabasi is the person that started few years ago a new branch of science “The Science of Networks” and published an excellent popular book titled “Linked” (which I strongly recommend!).
What our metabolism, our social relationships and the Web have in common? How nodes in a Network grow? What are the rules that drives the creation of new links and how these impact the topology and distribution of a network? How do we control a Network?

On Tuesday 25th of January 2011 a popular uprising spread in Egypt starting from the street in Cairo. Quickly millions of protesters gathered demanding the overthrow of the regime of President Mubarak.
On Wednesday 26th for following 72hrs the government ordered a shut down of Internet and Mobile services access for most of the country after that several Facebook groups were created and tweets called for mass demonstrations. But this measure came too late to stop the uprising a quickly many protesters where able to circumvent the blocks and let information flow out of Egyptian border.

In November 2011 a new political debate started on the Stop Online Piracy Act, the House of Representatives bill, known as SOPA, that almost every major company of the media industry is supporting.
This bill advocate manipulating some of the core protocols of the internet, in particular DNS. They are at odds with efforts to improve the security of DNS and encourage the use of techniques that may be used ill-intentioned individuals.
Again today there are many form of protest and opposition to this bill, but in particular one attracted my attention: a loosely organised collective so-called Anonymous is forming a network of hacktivists that using Internet as a platform is targeting some of the groups and individuals supporting SOPA.

And what happens when this uncontrollable network system goes wrong? 6 months ago a teenager indadvertedly publicly posted his birthday party on Facebook, 1600 people turned up at her house causing some not so small troubles and 11 arrests.

And when this effects is spread so quickly that is impossible to react? One year ago a friend of mine shared this semi-fictional video presented at Ignite London 2010: “Flash Mob Gone Wrong” by Tom Scott: check it out

“Every single thing in this story has already happened, not at the same time, but has already happened”

The ironic fact is that a riot actually erupted few months later, in August, in London and many started, at least initially and probably not correctly, to put in the spotlight Internet social media and telecom firms!

Let’s go back to the original paper by Liu, Sloatine and Barabasi.
Their article is only one of the first studies on controllability of networks and I may commit the error of generalise it too much, but we can read the first results: Even if social networks are apparently more difficult to control, a few individuals could in principle control the whole system. At the same time social network are characterised by a very low number of link (relationship) that can be removed without affecting the controllability of the Network: that can be rephrased as most of relationship matter and cannot be ignored.

Finally networks that are sparse and heterogeneous, like Internet, require the higher number of driver nodes, suggesting that such systems are difficult to control.
Probably is not an unexpected result… and somehow relieves me …but in other way doesn’t :/

How do we avoid and be ready to respond to potential bad reaction of the network? How do we avoid the bad effects without adding control measures?
I think the direction should come form underneath the network: create a background of ethical principles and stronger values that can be a canvas on which we draw our networks.
Increase the education and awareness of Internet users. As individuals learn stand up defending the right thing.

18 years ago when I was introduced to Internet and started posting on usenet after few days someone suggested me (…well, not very politely) to read the Netiquette: a set of social rules and conventions that facilitated interaction on Internet.
This was only a specific and small example. Today the Internet platform is incredibly more wide but at the same time we lost the existing few common rules.
I’ve never defined myself what Evgeny Morozov calls “cyber utopian” but I think we need new common and flexible principles that can adapt at the evolution of Internet and safeguard it. As individuals we must act as model citizens of our network space. If we don’t, I’m worried that sooner or later movements advocating for a more strictly controlled Internet under exceptional circumstances will succeed: maybe the next SOPA?