On Magic, Monkeys and Freedom

It’s the dark part of the year again. The sky is a leaden grey. And I miss my cat. But it’s only a few weeks until the holidays. And so, I dedicate today’s blog to magic. 

Today’s topics:

– The Magic of Digital Solutions – or why humans are safe
– The Magic of Rituals – on saying goodbye
– The Magic of Freedom – or the truth about monkeys
– The Magic of Moral Courage

The Magic of Digital Solutions – or why humans are safe

I believe in magic. It is all around us. In nature. In human interactions. And above all in love. I also believe in digital magic. In the same way that a 5-year-old believes in Father Christmas. Hopefully. With expectations. With faith. With the knowledge that so much is possible. Many of us do.

At Medical Affairs meetings people often ask, “Will AI take my job?” Although, currently even simple online forms often don’t work. A recent lateral flow test activation form asked for: address, gender, ethnicity, birthdate, vaccination status, phone number. Straightforward, but tear-inducingly impossible. The form accepted country of residence Switzerland but not Swiss postcode/phone number formats. Vaccination status “Yes” did not let me progress. The helpdesk said, “To circumvent the bugs just fill in a UK address, a UK phone number and select not vaccinated.” The whole process took over an hour and 4 calls to the help desk. On my last call, the agent said, “Big smile, chin up, you can do this.”
A digital form is simple if the data format is considered. However, based on my experience, the issues I encountered above are frequent. Consequently, I am confident that humans are safe from being replaced by machines. As long as companies implement cheap digital solutions, without taking formats into account, call center agents are safe. Whether they are happy, is a different story. 

The Magic of Rituals – on saying goodbye

In my last newsletter I wrote about my cat. He was with me for 15 years. I took him boating on a canal in France. I’d take him for walks in a harness when I had no balcony. We would play. I’d slide him down the corridor on his side and he would come running back for another go. I had to say goodbye to him as one does. When things in life end, we tend to push on. Move on. To do. Not to be. I buried my cat with his photo and his life story. And some leaves from the garden he used to play in. It made me feel better. Knowing what we need to make endings work for us is helpful. Not rushing through them also. Whether it’s leaving a job, voluntarily or not. Losing someone we love. Being left by a partner. Taking time. Making peace. Having a ritual of some kind. Marking an ending, noticing the transition, helps to make things easier.

The Magic of Freedom – or the truth about monkeys

Someone at work once said to me, “This is not our monkey.” I later realized the expression came from the HBR book: On managing yourself. A very busy manager led a team. His team members would drop into his office every day to ask for his opinion on their challenges. He would say, let me think about it. The manager was increasingly overworked and frustrated. Each day, his team dropped their monkeys off with him, and came back the next morning to find out what progress had been made. Once he understood the pattern. He said to his team members, “Great question. Have a think. Work out some solutions. Come up with a recommendation. Then present it to me when you are ready.” He left his employees to deal with their own monkeys. He freed up his time. He became a better manager. It’s often tempting to solve other people’s challenges. But by refraining from doing so can gain freedom. Next time someone wants to give you a task, ask yourself, “Is this my monkey?” If the answer is no, then ask yourself, “Do I want to do it anyway?”

The Magic of Moral Courage

Winter is here. The situation for migrants at the Polish Russia border is desperate. A Polish woman said, “I have put lights on my house to signal I am ready to provide help, if help is needed. I refuse to leave these families at the mercy of the winter in the woods.” She said it is a symbolic act. Her neighbours are angry with her, but she is unconcerned. She explained, “During the war I would have been killed for doing this. Now, I risk prison; what is prison, compared to people’s suffering? It is nothing, it’s a risk I am willing to take.” Speaking up for what is right, is hard to do. At work, sanctions are a concern, the impact on future promotions and bonuses. It’s easy to think there is nothing that we can do, yet small acts can have a big impact. Acts of kindness, honesty and sticking up for our principles, may be uncomfortable, but they are unlikely to land us in prison and certainly, at least at work, not to get us killed.

I leave you with a story that I love:

A boy was on the beach. Thousands of starfish had washed up on the shore. He threw them back into the water. One by one. A man saw him and said, “What are you doing?” The boy answered, “Saving the starfish.” The man said, “There are so many, you cannot possibly make a difference.” The boy took a starfish, threw it back into the ocean and said, “True, but it made a difference to that one.” Adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley

If you are facing a complex challenge and would like a sounding board or you’d like some help to implement globally, contact me for a chat.

Photo by manu schwendener on Unsplash