December 12, 2007

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The evils of blur

I left my purse at the Bay food court at around 1:30 this afternoon.
When I realized this at 5:00, I spent few minutes of frantic rushing
about with a pounding pulse, checking asking cleaning personnel and
security desks if a purse was reported found. I made a few calls
cancelling my evening plans, borrowed transit fare from my manager,
and headed home. (It would have been difficult to sing festive
Christmas carols in that state of mind.)

A few years ago, I might have spent the commute home fretting.
Instead, calmed by the realization that there wasn’t anything else
I could do
about it at the moment and that it was just
anyway, I continued reading Denning’s book (“The Leader’s
Guide to Storytelling”, a very good read).

W- greeted me at the door with a big warm hug. I shucked my coat and
proceeded to the kitchen, where I booted up the little computer that
held the encrypted backup of my account numbers. I called TD,
PCFinancial, Fido, and the Toronto Public Library to block my
accounts. I also called the Toronto Police, and a friendly police
officer promptly called me back for the police report.

I’m getting better at dealing with the consequences of these mistakes.
It’s just stuff. Credit and debit cards can be cancelled, phones can
be blocked and replaced, identification can be flagged and reissued,
and cash I can subtract from my play money budget. And I’m still
looking forward to finding the purse at the lost and found counter
tomorrow. Some of my favorite letters were in the purse, but W- will
write me more over the years, and the letters themselves are not
important; the sentiments within them are.

It’s just stuff. While paying more attention will definitely help in
the future, there’s no reason to beat myself up about it—which W-
gently helps me remember whenever I forget this and let out a
frustrated “I suck!”. I’m glad he’s around and that he’s so understanding.

My personal challenge is blur. It’s an evil, evil thing. A
moment’s inattention
is all it takes for me to not see something I’m
looking for, lose a set of keys, or leave a purse. I’m going through
the motions
of doing something, but I’m not fully present, so things
slip through the cracks. I may remember something about the key
moment, but I don’t remember enough of the context in order to easily
find things again, and my memories are disjointed. This feeling sucks.

When does this happen? When I’m thinking about other things, when I’m
running on autopilot, when I’m rushed. Misplacing small things or
detecting small inconsistencies usually serves as a good warning sign
that something’s taking up too much of my thought on the whole. If I
don’t slow down and pay more attention to what I’m doing, it gets

Here’s what I need to do in order to avoid this:

  • Experiment with living slowly and with full presence and intention. A habit of looking back doesn’t help if you look, but don’t *see*…
  • Or at least, pay attention to those niggling feelings and catch myself before I drift.
  • Make sure I replenish my emergency money stash so that I don’t have to rely on luck and friends.

It’s a constant struggle against blur. How do you manage this?

Random Emacs symbol: undo-extra-outer-limit – Variable: If non-nil, an extra level of size that’s ok in an undo item.

On Technorati:

Story: Connecting through social computing

Let me tell you about a recent example of how social computing can help us form better relationships with our clients.

It started on December 7, when we were heading into the elevator at the end of the day. Making small talk, one of the clients asked me, “How long have you been with IBM?” “Two months,” I answered. I thought I saw a look of surprise flash across his face. I remembered belatedly that companies don’t generally like being sent fresh trainees with no experience. I hurried to say that I had just finished my master’s degree and that my research focused on expertise location using social media in a large organization, which was a good fit for what the clients wanted to do. I had scarcely explained myself when the elevator door opened and we had to go on our separate ways.

The client team knew my teammate from years of working together, and had originally intended to get only her services for this engagement. She had convinced them to take on an additional resource, a junior consultant with some more exposure to social media and networking–me. Still thinking of my gaffe in the elevator and feeling very junior indeed, it was with more than a little doubt that I walked to the client office the next Monday, December 10. During the commute, I thought about how I could establish my credibility and help the clients feel that they were getting value. Perhaps I could prepare a short narrative bio or send them a copy of my resume. It didn’t help the bulk of my project work wouldn’t be visible for a while. I didn’t want the clients to feel shortchanged.

I think it’s fair to say that in the past, that negative impression might have stuck with them. Had I given them an impressive resume, they would probably have been even more cautious, having seen overstated accomplishments before. At least I had a personal recommendation from someone they trusted. I was there because my teammate vouched for me. But clients are not in the business of training or education, and most clients would prefer getting the most experienced person available.

But I shouldn’t have worried. When I walked into the boardroom with the other members of the client team, the client I chatted with in the elevator casually mentioned that he had checked out my blog over the weekend. He thought that my Flickr photos were cool. He remarked that he felt he knew me more than he knew some of the other members on the team, at least on a personal basis. Another client noted that he does better business with people he likes, and that getting to know people is important.

It was the perfect segue into my story about social computing. In the minutes before the start of our working session, I shared with them how that kind of quick, deep connection is one of the things I find so amazing about social computing, and how I am passionate about helping companies help people connect in that and other ways. With that shared context, I found it so much easier to relate to the clients, and it seems they found it easier to connect with me, too. And now that I’ve also checked out some of their blogs and profiles, we’ve discovered that we have quite a few things in common. I care more about their success now that I know who they are, and I hope that they feel more comfortable working with me.

I’m looking forward to having more of these moments in the future. =)