Aside

Why. I. Am. Doing. This.

A name. I start January with the desire to name this humble blog.

Which begs the question, “what is this blog about? What will I write about? Would I go deeper on the theme of “win markets”, which is what I am most known for? Will I continue to wander about as I have for some 9 months now? Or is there some new ground to cover?

And all that got me thinking on the central question: Why?

As in: Why. Am. I. Doing. This.

I am now a free agent exploring “what’s next”. This blog started as a way to simply explore. I am simply unspooling the ribbons of interests. And yet I sense that there is a weave or pattern that the ribbons belong to…

And, out of the corner of my eye, I spot a book on my shelf called “This I Believe” (you might recognize the NPR-related theme) which informs what follows:

 

This I believe.

- I believe in the power of stories as maps.

- I believe in the power of the question.

- I believe in the power of Doing.

- I believe that work can be power-filling.

- I believe that opportunities come many times.

- I believe the power of today’s creative act.

- I believe that we co-create the future.

I believe in the power of stories. Stories are like Maps. They point to directions and paths that we might not have seen if not well marked. I share my stories, and my goal is to enable others to be emboldened to share theirs. Stories told as they are happening is a way of seeing the imperfect, raw, and often tenuous ways that outcomes are shaped. When any decision is seen in retrospect, we can say “of course” but that’s rarely how it feels at the time. I did a very transparent process of sharing the Rubicon closure story over the course of a year, in the hopes that perhaps it will be informative to others and knowing that how I tell the story years from now will be different than the steps on the journey. This blog can then be a learning journey of stories – yours and mine.  

 -       I believe in the power of the question. I have often thought that my best role as an advisor over these many years is simply to ask a good question. But I notice many contemporaries taking up air space and dominating panels or lecterns. I stick by this truth: It is insufficient for me to have an idea that could help you/your company to win if you don’t see the idea as clearly and ultimately own it as your own. Knowing is simply smart but asking so others learn and come to their own clarity is wise. I want this blog to be a place where we pose as many questions as answers, to create learning and, with any luck, wisdom.

 -       I believe in the power of Doing. Many people know a lot. But they don’t live what they say they know. We all know leaders need to inspire and writers gotta write. But is in the leading that causes leaders to have followers, and in the writing itself that causes writers to communicate and connect. So it is in our doing that any of our aspirations and beliefs take form. Doing is the action. Doing is the opposite of the people who can refute any point, and spend time finding the flaw in any argument. Doing is the people who start their comments and contributions with “and…”. I want us to close our own knowing-doing gaps (that Jeffrey Pfeffer named so well), because it is in the doing that value is created. I don’t want the voice of this blog to be as a pundit or a guru but rather an earthy practitioner caught up in the doing of good work, the creation of value with others, and always helping others to do the same. I want this blog to offer ideas to bridge knowing-doing gaps.

 -       I believe that work can be power-filling. Most of us spend majority of our waking hours at work, yet most cannot describe it as a fulfilling act where they get to offer their unique gifts, and collaborate to create value with others. Entrepreneurs and start-ups offer us some clues to decode; they often do describe work in this power-filled joyous way. The very concept of entrepreneurism has come to captivate our collective imagination because it shows us that work can be power-filling, creative, and value-creating. Entrepreneurs may have titles or specific roles with an organization, but that provides no limitations and the shared purpose of winning matters above all. High functioning collaborative teams I’ve worked within big organizations function much the same way. They have cultural norms that enable human beings to thrive, and thus create outstanding results. I have seen that this change doesn’t rely on a set of particular people but on a set of incentives, and rewards that enable all people to bring their full intellectual, physical, spiritual, and emotional selves into work. My background in applied economics kicks in wanting to decode what the “secret” incentives and rewards are that would allow us to duplicate the code of great work, and can be applied to any size organization. The reason I care is that I believe when we embody creativity in our problem solving and innovation processes (not as a thing we do in some offsite once in a while), we will imbue our organizations with new vitality and create the kind of high growth value we need for all enterprises. Some may scoff at this belief, which at times makes me shy to believe in it. Yet, I’ve come to see that some endeavors are worth pursuing. Whether this shift of work — to be power-filled, thriving where human beings are fully alive — happens in my lifetime is certainly an open question, but I hold onto the hope that our work settings can be reinvented to enable all human beings to be (in short) kick-ass at work. This blog will explore ideas along this vein.

 -       I believe that opportunities come by many times. At times, I’ve said yes to many things believing this was a “once in a lifetime opportunity”. In doing so, I have found that frenetic behavior rarely leads to greatness and I’ve almost always regretted the times where I’ve tried to do 4 things at once in the desire “do it all” and prove one self worthy. Without perspective, and a sustainable pace, ultimately high performance — meaningful performance — doesn’t happen. If a sprinter ran all training runs as sprints, his body would ultimately fail. It seems to me high-performance in life is a mix of different paces, fast and slow. Our culture reinforces a “do it all now” kind of philosophy as if one’s career is going to be over in five years and we just need make the bucks now (or write that book now) or we’ll never get the chance again. Perhaps in this way, I express my developing Francophile side and believe that work serves life and not the other way around. We want to set the pace we are setting for our life, and find that flow that allows opportunities to keep presenting themselves and then to take advantage of them, when it is right. I want to this blog to be about a life well lived.

 -       I believe in the power of today’s creative act. I understand how it is to be governed by fear and the past. I have run from my past and I have run towards mirages. But I now understand that every one of is creating our future right now, in the present. We could let our choices be defined by our past or our fears… Or we could see our power in the set of decisions we make ever day about who we are. I believe in the power of each choice, made consciously, and made from a position of groundedness and faith and not fear about the future or anxiety about the past. I want to speak to that creative act of choices, to help people perhaps see that even the small moments that do not seem very dramatic are very powerful…It’s the every day choices, day after day that let us climb the mountain; “step by step” as MLK once said. As Anne Lamott wrote in her book, Bird-by-Bird, we create in small steps. What each of us are creating is our own journey – but we are all on a journey and I want for everyone (all of us) to see that we are active participants in our own story as it is being developed, powerful as the author of that future…at work, in life, and with others.  

So this blog direction will be about creating a space to explore how we human beings become more fully alive at work. Each of us has something to offer and create regardless of our titles, status and education. Work matters too, as it is where we spend the predominant part of our time and energy. When people are more fully alive, it shows up in all sorts of ways, ranging from personal fulfillment, to enabling great creativity and innovation, to creating winning outcomes for entire companies and industries.

 

I belief in the power of-co-creation. None of us learn alone, or create alone. I recognize that I bring something to this, but so do you. I bring my 20+ years of working with and in big companies like Apple and others. Included in that is the 10 years as an entrepreneur of a multi-million dollar firm, making payroll every month. Perhaps my experience as a published author of a book on collaborative work will inform some ideas. Mostly, I bring my curiosity to explore ideas that need to be explored.

 

I have an idea that this blog will be sparked by new ideas that no one has seen or thought of before, but especially old ideas that we have heard of, but perhaps need to be understood more fully through stories and questions. Perhaps, as we know more, and share stories and good questions, we’ll learn, grow wiser and do better. I hope it provides some sparks that ignite kick-ass-ness in each of us and in our organizations. 

I hope, too, that it serves as a community, where ideas are sparked, you catch ‘em, and throw them between one another, or pass them on in your own way. I hope it will be a good journey. I hope you will be an active member in this community.  I hope to learn with you.

But I am still without a name.

Will you help me find one now that I have laid open and bare my beliefs and hopes for this blog?

(I invite you to co-create this. )

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20 Responses:

  1. renee_berry. January 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm  |  

    I’ll think about it today & come back tonight, see what I can come up with! As always, love your post!

    Reply
  2. Nilofer Merchant. January 10, 2011 at 8:21 pm  |  

    thanks, Renee – I welcome your thoughts!

    Reply
  3. Nilofer Merchant. January 10, 2011 at 8:21 pm  |  

    This coming “out” of my beliefs is a bit nerve wracking but I figured it is who I am to be authentic in all things.

    Reply
  4. MsAmanjeet. January 10, 2011 at 8:42 pm  |  

    The obvious names are the simple ones: Nilofer’s Blog (taken from your tagline above), Nameless (and I’m not joking but perhaps too facetious for your purpose?)I do love your intent though with this blog about sharing stories to spark new ideas. My own brand new blog is about sharing, but sharing my own stories & observations, letting them out because I have to, and allowing others to relate to, if they wish.

    Reply
  5. Nilofer Merchant. January 10, 2011 at 8:47 pm  |  

    I just changed my blog header to <name> so this current post matches…good catch and good luck with your own blog.

    Reply
  6. Jonathan Hendler. January 10, 2011 at 9:21 pm  |  

    Sounds fun. * Grain of Sand – to make a pearl * The Early Story * Imagine the First Step * Future Map * Lining Up Ducks Some more literal words that might be useful in titles:Inception, Alignment, Initial Conditions, Focus, Flow, Synchronicity, Win-Win, Story Map Maybe you should go completely counter-intuitive and just pick a fun phrase that has nothing to do with the above ideas. Good luck!

    Reply
  7. Nilofer Merchant. January 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm  |  

    Thanks Jonathan. I wonder if XXX Sparks could be fodder for thought. This whole exercise reminds me of naming my first book, and that wasn’t pretty. ;-)

    Reply
  8. megbear. January 11, 2011 at 12:08 am  |  

    This spoke to me “I believe that we co-create the future. “. Could also be something like: “Creating the future… together”Thanks for letting us help create your future Nilofer. What a powerful story.-Meg

    Reply
  9. kelt. January 11, 2011 at 12:52 am  |  

    Nilofer – Story-Doing?That be you in a nutshell. Love your thoughts. Brought back memories of the milk cartons and lost children at Apple. ;-) Keep it going.Mary Planding

    Reply
  10. glubbert. January 11, 2011 at 2:33 am  |  

    Loved the ‘I Believe’ items filling your post. Your stories have impacted our culture @mojointeractive most of all. #collaboration #inspiration #questioning #leadership … I find myself referring to a few key questions that have been essential in so many instances to create a collaborative, co-ownership dynamic:1. What do you think isn’t working?2. What would you do?3. What do you need?These types of questions have not only helped inspire a collaborative culture, they have achieved better, faster results.I’m a stronger leader because of the stories you share that fit what ‘You Believe’Titles are elusive, but I hope this helps give you insight into how you and the stories in your blog inspire.glen.

    Reply
  11. laliahelmer. January 11, 2011 at 6:55 pm  |  

    I think Name in Progress is just great as a title. After all isn’t progress as a process what you are writing about? Well, in that case, maybe the title could be “a name in process”.

    Reply
  12. lisaw1. January 12, 2011 at 2:50 am  |  

    Nilofer, thx for a thought-provoking post! How about “The Power of Doing” for a title?

    Reply
  13. SmokeJumper. January 12, 2011 at 4:33 am  |  

    One of my good friends is Brazilian and often expressed frustration with working in the US. I quote “The United States is a country of people with answers. I prefer the question.”

    Reply
  14. janewillis. January 13, 2011 at 1:07 am  |  

    My suggestion is “Yes and Know”. Your mission talks about focusing on your absolute yes’s in life and cutting out the things that drain you. It is also about knowing many things: knowing your own truths, knowing what’s hot and interesting, knowing the stories and the people, knowing the right move at the right time, and even knowing what to say NO to. Absolutely loved your post. It really resonated with me to the extent I was even thinking about it at 3 in the morning…so thank you…but I’ll try to keep my ruminations to daylight hours in the future. Jane

    Reply
  15. Nilofer Merchant. January 13, 2011 at 1:54 am  |  

    Work in Progress

    Reply
  16. Swarna Podila. January 13, 2011 at 2:24 am  |  

    This is definitely a thought-provoking post. I’ve been thinking about this for these two days and I personally, find it hard to come up with a word or two that can describe what you are, what you do, how you do it and why you do it. I am sure that word already exists, but it escapes me now, so can someone please help me find that word/phrase which means that this is something that is indescribable in a word/phrase?

    Reply
  17. zubinwadia. January 13, 2011 at 3:48 am  |  

    Circles in the Sand

    Reply
  18. finnern. January 13, 2011 at 7:54 am  |  

    Before reading the answers I thought Nilofer as a name is very powerful and unique, at least in the western world, use that as the name of the blog. Not Nilofer’s blog, just Nilofer. I also like kelt’s suggestion: Story Doing that could be your tag line. NiloferStory Doing For now your … Name in Progress … works. Good luck, Mark.

    Reply
  19. Nilofer Merchant. January 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm  |  

    Many many thanks for the ideas, energy and creativity. I wanted this blog to be named by YOU and not me, because I want it to reflect what we bring to it. It’s official: it’s been named “YES, and Know”. Which says to me, it’s about how we build on each others ideas, and about a set of sparks that let’s us collectively learn and apply what we know in areas that matter…in life, at work…”.

    Reply
  20. Trisha Liu. January 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm  |  

    Yes, and Know – great title! Excellent choice!

    Reply

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