RE-START

I'll go straight to the point:

I am closing fiveandaquarter and moving to a new site:

haibu.one

I will be more ambitious and less ambitious at the same time.

More ambitious because my intention is to do more than I have ever done. There's so much I am not doing here that I'd like to start doing. I have hundreds of films to talk about, book summaries I make for myself that I will share, app reviews; I'm fascinated by design in all its forms and would like to talk about it, I've collected hundreds of quotes I want to share... and certainly I want to keep reflecting on stuff I find relevant and worth a thought.

More ambitious also because, instead of relying on a prebuilt solution, I will build it from scratch. It means I will start with an empty file and code my way to a full site. I intend to make a full back to basics, not reusing any component whatsoever. Everything will be handcrafted. No templates. It will be both an opportunity to learn a good deal of nerdy stuff and a great opportunity to develop my design skills.

More ambitious, finally, because I will also deviate from existing models. Haibu will not be a blog, will not be a social network, will not be a static page... it will be something else. I want to try some different type of online habitat.

But it is also going to be less ambitious at the same time. I'd like to start small, and grow from there. I want to go back to the early days in which I wrote my weekly friky email for a bunch of colleagues. They helped me adjust what I was writing about, helped me understand what was interesting and what was not. That proximity creates opportunities long forgotten. I'd like to go back to that. I'm pushing the reset button.

So I will invite 8 people to join haibu.one in the first place. They will witness the actual creation of the site (there is nothing apart from the couple of pages and simple invitation service.) I will actually share with them the decisions I'm making, the progress I make (or not), why I am doing things in a certain way, how I organise myself to get it done... Should they want to provide feedback, they will probably influence the direction too (I'm pretty permeable to others' opinions!) I want to explore the possibilities of interacting with a pretty small group of people, and I bet this is going to be pretty fun for you too if you join. To be clear: nothing is expected from those 8 people but to have interest in it. If you happen to join and don't find it interesting, you can just tell me and I'll drop you and invite someone else.

You can request your invitation at haibu.one, and read more about it by clicking on the handwritten HAIBU mark (which was actually 'designed' by my kid in 2015, he's also excited to contribute).

Look, this doesn't make any sense. I know. And I love it for that very same reason.

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PS: it has been a great run here on five. This has given me more than I ever anticipated and I hope you guys enjoyed it too. For 8 of you, it's not a goodbye but a "talk to you next week", but for the others it may take a while. This site will remain available and I will probably post an occasional update on the haibu challenge. Head over to haibu.one to try your luck. Thanks for being there!

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The strength of the Pack

Mowgli soon learned a vital lesson, the Law of the Jungle:

…For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Ester showcased the Law of the Jungle in last Wednesday’s special edition. In that video, 4 kids follow a deductive process to understand the differences between living in the city and living in the country. They reach the conclusion that the city is an effective way of consolidating offer and demand (jobs, education, leisure options, …) but at the same time produces an unsustainable way of living (pollution, stress, …) The video shows how strong the method of collective thinking is, for each Wolf makes contributions and the Pack finally settles into a conclusion.

The Pack is stronger because it builds on the contribution of many. The Pack is stronger as long as the Pack remains united, as internal differences threaten to break it. The role of the coach is to handle that tension, not to guide or manipulate the conclusion. There are methods that facilitate this delicate balance. Thinking Based Learning is one of them. Design Thinking is another popular method for solution design that we’ve adopted at work, with great success.

Design Thinking uses this hourglass graph to illustrate what happens, emotionally, to the Pack applying the method.

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Part of the session is spent fostering divergence among the Wolves. Divergence is good because divergence is creativity, is options, is outliers, is richness. Divergence at the same time is risky. It threatens to break the Pack, Wolves become Wolves, attached to their ideas and propositions, fighting hard to impose their individual points of view. The coach must have the tools and methods to turn it around into a downward slope of convergence. Convergence will bring the Wolves together and regroup them into a joint conclusion. There is nothing more powerful than a regrouped Pack that has struggled and has agreed. There is some emotional primal instinct playing here. We belong to the Tribe and we will die for our Tribe. A Tribe that successfully resolves internal conflict is stronger. A coach helps create the conflict, and guide its resolution.

When I was a kid, we would every now and then have group assignments. Group assignments, without a guiding hand that manages this dynamics, turned people into Lone Wolves. Everyone that has gone through this know what I’m talking about: the clumsy split of tasks, the guy that does not commit to deliver its part, the other guy that simply won’t follow what was agreed, the endless discussions, the one that finally stitches it all together and curses. I think most of us hated group assignments. Today, I crave Design Thinking sessions. What is different then, if both imply a group of people working towards a common objective? The method and the coach.

During more than 30 years of my life, I have believed team work was bullshit. Today, I believe and follow the Law of the Jungle. So much as to believe that the role of a manager is no more and no less than to become a coach. It is not to make decisions. It is not to give direction. It is to help the Wolves dissent and contribute, then regroup them into a stronger Pack. The Pack makes the decisions, the Pack sets the direction, and the Pack is always stronger than the Wolf, no matter how clever or wise.

Enough assisted communism for today… enjoy the weekend!

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The power of caring

Ester, my wife, is a primary school teacher. She has always been extremely committed to her job. It shows in things like the deep care of her students and the availability to their families. I can see that every day. There is certainly no glass wall between her ‘children’ and her. I would have assumed that, over the years, you may detach from your job the same way that probably doctors or psychiatrists do. She does not. I can imagine the work of a teacher can be exhausting no matter what. But when your level of empathy is top notch, it becomes a heroic feature. My guess is she simply cannot help it. 

It is rewarding, though. Every now and then, I get the chance to read a gratitude letter from a student, or a letter from some parents. They can touch you; they can break you into tears. We sometimes go through hard stuff; if, during those days, you find someone like Ester, who grabs your hand and helps you and your child walk through hell, and takes you safely out of the dark pit you’ve been trapped... that is something. Many lives I’ve seen her touch and change, and I can only begin to imagine the impact she’s had on that people. She is so good at this that my friends also rely on her on difficult times! She has a gift; and that gift is both a blessing and a curse, as she carries in her heart part of other people’s burdens. It is admirable that, despite the cost, along these years, she still shows the same commitment as the first day.

But this post happens on a Wednesday because she’s been featured in EL PAÍS educational series: “Aprendemos Juntos”!! She’s been featured because of her special dexterity on applying a learning methodology developed by Robert Swartz, one of the most influential thinkers in education. The method, Thinking Based Learning, relies on applying certain analytic or deducting patterns to a problem so that learning happens by... well, thinking. Those patterns include comparing two alternatives, brainstorming ideas, making decisions... they are scripted and children follow predefined steps, guiding them to a conclusion of their own. For anyone that went through an MBA, you’ll see a resemblance with the case methodology applied there. Learning happens because you are arriving at conclusions (together with your peers,) rather than conclusions being thrown to you on a textbook.

Ester won’t admit it, but I will here, that Robert Swartz in person was so impressed by her ability to apply the method that he personally chose her to demo it in this video series. So here’s the video that shows Ester guiding 4 of her students in deducting the differences between living in the city and in the country, and drawing the corresponding conclusion. 

Check the whole thing, including Robert Swartz piece, in here.

But if I have to pick something from this video, it’s not the fascinating method, nor the wonderful kids nor the implications of all this in our education system, not even how gorgeous Ester shows in it. It is that look in her eyes when she looks at those children. It is such a genuine expression of pride and appreciation. Put yourself in those kids’ shoes and imagine how fulfilling that is, how that invisible energy opens the doors of possibilities, of daring to try, of being capable. This is as powerful as it gets; it gives you confidence, it changes your perception of the world. How can something so subtle carry so much significance? 

I’m not more proud of Ester today than I am everyday, certainly not more than those days when I get to have a glimpse of the impact she’s had on someone’s life... but this is certainly an achievement worth sharing, and I don’t have many chances to see her interact with her students, which I found absolutely fascinating.

Love you! 

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