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Thanks for a great 2009, plus, for 2010, The Word is... Open!


Though my posting frequency dropped this year (but increased during my write shorter, simpler, and more frequent blog posts experiment), due partly to creating new products [1] and a death in the family at the end, I wanted to finish the year with a hearty thank you. I sincerely appreciate your being here (which encourages me), your comments (which stimulate me), and your showing of support. Thank you. I'll finish the year with one of my occasional "The Word is ..." lists (see The Word Is ... "Law" and The Word Is... "Stick*" Notes, Girth, Laziness, And Pasta). Cheers!

I'm curious...

  • How do you stay open, especially in the face of scary changes?

  • What highlights (good news and lessons learned) were there in 2009 for you?

  • How are you looking at 2010, given dreary economic times?

The word is... Open!

For the coming year, I'm thinking about how to stay open. To emotions, to relationships, to ideas, to change, to staying flexible, or to new data from your personal experiments [2]. To that end, some entries from my Big-Arse Text File:

  • Open-ended questions: Good in networking and conversations, bad in email messages [3]. Check out Open Ended Questions build Rapport and Open-Ended Questions (interviewing techniques).

  • Open to new inventions: From the interviews in Why Bad Times Nurture New Inventions, we're told that people become more open to new and efficient ways of doing things in bad economic times. How about you? Are there "out there" opportunities that need looking at?

  • Psychologically safe environments: A "wow" passage from The competitive imperative of learning:

    In psychologically safe environments, people are willing to offer up ideas, questions, concerns - they are even willing to fail - and when they do, they learn. In her studies, Dweck found that some children - those who early on were rewarded for effort and creativity more than for simply giving the right answer - see intelligence as something malleable that improves with attention and effort. Tasks are opportunities for learning; failure is just evidence they haven't mastered the task yet. Driven by curiosity about what will and will not work, they experiment. When things don't pan out, they don't give up or see themselves as inadequate. They pay attention to what went wrong and try something different next time. In adults, such a mind-set allows managers to strike the right tone of openness, humility, curiosity and humour in ways that encourage their teams to learn.

  • Before ever opening your inbox...: ... establish the day's top priorities. (From Email is like laundry..., and central to my daily planning program - see A Daily Planning Experiment: Two Weeks Of Accountable Rigorous Action, which led to my Where the !@#% did my day go? guide.)

  • Good science: From the lovely Project 2061 ~ AAAS:

    Accurate record-keeping, openness, and replication are essential for maintaining an investigator's credibility with other scientists and society.
    The productivity spin: Keep good records - know your organization's retention policy and take solid notes from your meetings and conversations (requires skillful filing chops). My system: I put the date at the top, number the pages, and mark my new tasks and waiting for. (Related: Five Secret Filing Hacks From The Masters, Some Answers To "Should I Keep It?" When Filing, Two Little Joys And Sorrows Using My Filing System, and a reader's comment on how she marks action in Dealing With Meeting Notes - GTD To The Rescue!.)

  • The Open Door: Here's a quote from this book by Helen Keller (out of print, but may be in your library) that for some reason helps me calm down when I worry about the future:

    Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of man as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

  • Surprise: In good science, be open to it! From a marvelous list [4] in the classic science talk, You and Your Research by Richard Hamming. (Long-time IdeaMatt reader and smart guy Brock Tice commented here on this piece, and shares an experiment he's doing: Dedicating Friday afternoons only to "Great Thoughts".)

  • Desirable personal attributes: From How Do Scientists Use the Scientific Method?: Honesty, Flexible, Experimenter, Suspend Judgment, Attitude, Skeptical, Sensitivity, Knowledgeable, Motivated, Seek Truth, Communicator, Passion for Subject, Organized, Curiosity, Team Worker, Emotional Stability, Courage, Creative, Open-Minded, Logical Reasoner.

  • Open door policy: The idea that being readily accessible to employees is compelling, but a strict implementation can hurt your productivity. Instead of literally having your door always open, consider creating time slots for availability. During these times, which you share with everyone, you make yourself free to be interrupted. For other times, people need to make an appointment, unless urgent. (If folks have trouble adapting to this, contact me for some ideas.) The article Be Accessible, Not Open-Door goes into this further.

  • Open systems: From Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (via Are You Organized For Failure?):

    In traditional organizations, trying anything is expensive, even if just in staff time to discuss the idea, so someone must make some attempt to filter the successes from the failures in advance. In open systems, the cost of trying something is so low that handicapping the likelihood of success is often an unnecessary distraction... Open systems, by reducing the cost of failure, enable their participants to fail like crazy, building on successes as they go.

Happy New Year!


Reader Comments (10)

Just somethings I was thinking about as I contemplate your blog and the new year:

Some ideas for discussions:

1) How do things get lost in your biz/home? SInce everything in GTD seems to depend on flow, when stuff gets lost it reallly messes you up. My favorite is when I have a difficult project under time pressure and I lose something I just had! usually it ends up BENEATH a set of books or folders or papers that I have opened in the rush to get done.

2) How many ways are there to problem solve? There are quite a few: you can brainstorm this; you can call an expert and simply go with their recommendations; slice it into tiny parts..

3) What type of information goes on your calender or whatever you use for future events? There's stuff that is time sensitive, there's stuff where you are waiting for another person to get back, but is there more?

4) What are your top ten time wasters? Stuck in traffic? Meetings? paperwork?

5) Is there a way to index this blog by subject matter? I'd like to be able to pull out all my possts for instance. Can the contributors themselves do this? LIke a wiki?

6) I want to do a multi post critique of Allens book: GTD; I dont know if I should post these under one of Matt's entries tokeep them in one place or post each critique as I write it under Matts most recent entry. what would be easier for people to read/find?

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjp in Md

For example can you post a comment on someone's experiiment? Do you have to register to do this? And what if the experiment is over? Can you still post? I tried to read the stuff and comment but got nowhere. It's amazing to me how many neat websites/stuff there and yet the interface is non intuitive and there is way to easily figure it out.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjp in MD

Hey, jp. Thanks for asking. I summarized the process here: [ Announcing Edison V1.0 - The Think, Try, Learn Experimenter`s Workbook! | http://matthewcornell.org/2009/12/announcing-edison-v10-the-think-try-learn-experimenters-workbook.html ]. It's simple: Join/register, explore, comment on others and/or create your own and start making observations. You can comment/observe even if the experiment is completed.

We'd love your suggestions on how to make function self-evident. We're working on some things to do this.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Wow, great questions, jp. I'll pull my ideas out into a separate post. I love it!

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

You are an efficiency expert, right? You can argue that this blog is no better or worse in indexing than other blogs, the pt. is that modern day blogs are not very efficient at organizing stuff. Certainly not as good as some message boards I am on.

Wouldnt it be great to say that this blog has a modern system of indexing and hence is more efficient? You can find posts by name, or by date or by subject matter. This blog can lead the way in efficienct blogging or some such.

Another reason is: I like to type stuff in here whenever I feel like and be comfortable that any time I want to refer to something I can find all my old posts or my old posts by subject matter. I often refer others here and try to quote stuff but alas it's hard to find my stuff.

think what if other posters feel the same way? they can post all their ideas on efficiency here and be comfortable in finding them later. Isnt that alot of what GTD book is saying? ALlen talks a lot about place holders. Exactly; you want to be able to move onto something quickly but be able to mark where you were or to make some reference material or something. It would seem like a better index system would be the shining beacon for an efficiency expert.

Oh by the way this software (this site not Edison) is still messing me up when I type in my new address (just got it today) It says "email not valid" Crap! What the hell? I just got the damn adress its fine :(

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjpin MD

It was simple to recreate: I typed in my email first and then added my name in the "Your name" part and then typed in the comments section. I hit post it; and then the original post came up with highlight in the emaiil field saying: "Your email will not be shown only the administrator..." Then I hit post it a second time and thats when it said email not valid. ..jp Thanks a lot for your help on this and the related stuff about finding my posts, I guess that will do for now.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjp in MD

Hmm. I wasn't able to recreate it. Specifically here's what I did (*not* logged in as the administrator):

1. go to http://matthewcornell.org/2010/01/are-you-having-trouble-commenting-email-not-valid.html
2. click 'Add new comment'
3. type: name: test name; E-mail: test@mailinator.com; comment: test name, test@mailinator.com
4. type captcha answer
5. click 'Post comment'

This worked fine for me.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

In line with everything that's happened in 2009, this 2010 is a chance for people to make a fresh start. Since many lost a lot, it's almost like starting with a clean slate. It’s good in a way, because there are plenty of new avenues to explore.

Personally, I stay open in face of scary changes by trying as much as I can to do just that – be open – to new possibilities, economic revival and a general improvement of the global situation. (Sounds idealistic, I know, but one can dream. :-))

In 2009, I learned that we really need to be prepared for anything and to know how to adapt to whatever changes happen. I believe we could all look towards a more positive 2010, which could promise to be a year for hope and revival. Happy New Year!

P.S. Visit www.makemorelivemoregivemore.com to help you be more open, happy and successful in life and business, as well as make, live and give more this 2010.

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

Thanks for this great post. Some of the links that you provided are great and so insightful.

What I learned from 2009 is that even when things are hard, life and happiness is what I make it out to be. I had some rough patches, but the rough patches all turned out to lead me to more opportunities than I ever believed possible.

I'm sure that 2010 will bring more unpleasant surprises at times, but I look forward to capitalizing on them and looking for the doors or windows that open when the first one closes.

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

I love your attitude, Alexandra. Keeps me inspired. Thank you.

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

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