10 Things Remote Working Has Taught Me About Learning and the Future of Work

Remote working is the future of work

Nursery. Primary school. Middle school. Secondary school. Undergraduate degree. Masters degree. Post-graduate Certificate in Education. Teaching. For thirty years (almost consecutively) I’ve been a cog in the state education machine. And yet, the best learning I have done has been in the first four months since I left full-time teaching/education and embraced the world of remote working as part of a distributed team with Social INK.

Here are the ten things remote working has taught me about learning and the future of work.

1) The Future of Work Is Looking Increasingly Decentralised

Work as we have known it since the Industrial Revolution is finally evolving. There’s no longer a need for conveyor-belt workers performing mechanical tasks. Automation has long taken care of that. Instead, with improved technology, greater global access to the internet and faster connection speeds, employers are now able to recruit from a global talent pool.

International borders, commutes into work, and skills gaps (like the factory line) will also soon be a thing of the past. Being able to potentially cover all time zones with your distributed workforce and offer a worldwide 24/7 service at a fraction of the cost — that’s the way the wind is blowing.

2) People Are Taking Back Ownership of Their Time

In order to work remotely successfully, you need to be a self-starter. You have to self-motivate and be driven to complete your tasks without having someone looking over your shoulder. It won’t work otherwise. Get up. Get dressed. Start work. Manage your day. But, without the commute to “the office” and without the endless and unnecessary meetings, all of a sudden there are extra hours in the day.

If you’re clever with your scheduling, you can even begin to find time to do things you’ve always wanted to do but never had the working flexibility to do so. How you use your time is up to you. So long as what needs to get done, gets done.

3) Knowledge Isn’t as Important as Skills

You don’t need to know what an oxbow lake is or how it is formed. Or what happened to Henry VIII’s wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived).

Knowledge is freely and readily available if you are willing to seek it out. Everything you need to know is a mouse-click or tap away. But skills. The ability to do something. To add value. That isn’t so abundant. So take time to learn new skills. You never know when they may come in handy.

4) Resilience Is Key

Never give up. Keep trying. Circumstances change. Change is inevitable. It’s how you deal with it that really matters. Learn from failure. I’ve yet to meet anyone who gets everything right first time. Persistence, stoic stubbornness in finding solutions instead of wallowing in self-pity, will drive you to success.

5) Remote Working Requires Adaptability

This is a bit of a combination of Points 3 and 4.

Change happens. Equip yourself to deal with it. Adapt to the changing needs and demands of society/clients/technology. Embrace it as personal and professional growth. And be ready to adapt again in the near future.

6) Be Open and Receptive to New Ideas

You don’t know it all.

There are many people who know things that you don’t. Be open to this. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried. You may just profit from it in some way.

7) There’s an App for That

Whatever you need, whatever it is you do, there’s an app for that.

Equip yourself with the tools that will make you more efficient. And if you find that there isn’t an app for your specific need, you may just have stumbled across a business idea.

8) The Internet Is Your Office

There’s no need for a physical office space (unless you’re in retail — maybe). Do away with the costs of having one and work from wherever you please. It’s freeing and often inspiring. Change your scenery and reap the rewards.

9) Creativity Does Not Mean Art

The creative subjects at school are the arty ones for arty people: Art, Drama, Music.

Actually, creativity is bigger than that. It’s about problem-solving. Being able to offer solutions to problems is less the domain of the artist and more that of the critical thinker. Scientists are creative. As are writers, mathematicians, chefs, manufacturers. Everyone is creative. Figure out how to tap into that and you’re golden.

10) The Best Learning Happens Outside of the Classroom

‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ ~ Albert Einstein

Make of that what you will.

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Don’t Obsess Over The Answer. Obsess Over The Question.

There are plenty of big questions out there in the universe

We want results. And we want them yesterday!

Give me answers.

I want solutions. Not problems.

It’s often the case that we obsess over the answer, the final outcome, the end result. But if we neglect the question, the answer can be rendered irrelevant. And the process of arriving at the solution becomes inefficient and wasteful.

As mentioned in a previous post (Slow Down! Why busy people need to stop and disconnect) the first step is to gain some perspective and objectivity.

Breathe deeply and slow things down. We are all very busy and this can affect our ability to distinguish the wood from the trees.

With this done, it’s time to change the obsession.

The Answer Is In The Question

Knowing how to phrase a question correctly is key to gaining a meaningful solution to the problem.

This is what Adam Morgan and Mark Barden call “A Propelling Question” in their book A Beautiful Constraint.

“A propelling question is one that has both a bold ambition and a significant constraint linked together”

It forces you to think and behave in a different way.

The Audi R10 TDI was the answer to a propelling question

(Image courtesy of http://www.evo.co.uk/audi/7921/audi-diesel-for-le-mans)

Morgan and Barden offer several examples of propelling questions that harness the constraint to the ambition, ensuring the constraint drives the solution:

  • How do we win the race with a car that is no faster than anyone else’s? (Audi, Le Mans 2006)
  • How do we build a well-designed, durable table for five euros? (IKEA)

In this way, questions that exhibit a bold ambition linked to a limiting factor, or constraint, will yield better answers.

The Power Of Why

My two-year old son understands the Power Of Why all too well.

He is a master.

There isn’t a statement or utterance that isn’t met with an instant “why?” in our house.

This will inevitably lead to an explanation. Followed by another “why?” And some further explanation. Then yet another “why?” In a seemingly endless sequence in search of the truth (usually ending in exasperation or throwing the question back at him: “why do you think?” – that’s CIA-level parenting for you).

But there’s a wisdom in this transaction.

As annoying as it can be, it is his way of trying to understand things better. He’s not satisfied with the quick, generic response to his question. He wants to know the detail.

“Why” is the way to a clearer answer.

Especially once you’ve found an initial solution.

Ask yourself, why you should accept it? Or, why it worked? Even, why you arrived at that answer and not a different one?

Do this and your results will improve.

Stretch And Challenge

The grid below is used widely in education.

The language you use in your questions is critical

It teaches the vocabulary of inquiry and how to ask good questions (for both teachers and students).

As you can see, “Why” questions (along with “How”) feature in the higher order Analytical and Application Synthesis sections of the grid.

When coupled together with the verbs across the top of the grid, these form powerful questions that really stretch and challenge your thinking. Inevitably leading you to a better answer.

It’s Ok Not To Have All The Answers

So long as you’re asking the right questions.

Get the question right, and you open the door to an intricate thought process.

You will arrive at the solution. There will be a final outcome. And you will gain results.

But the journey, the twists and turns, the developing sequence of questions that you use to arrive at the answer, may end up being more beneficial and enlightening.

Why?

How?

Over to you.

 

Gareth

 

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Dink Thifferently: Rules are only the limit of someone else’s imagination.

Blue shoe. Yellow shoe. Break the rules. Live a life without limits.

There’s a lot we can learn about creative problem solving from pioneers like Carol Dweck, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Avis. They know how to push beyond the limits of what is believed possible.

No. No Limits.

For every time someone has said “it can’t be done” there’s always been someone else thinking “how can I do it?”

If history teaches us anything, it is that things that were once believed to be impossible, can be achieved.

Just watch any science fiction TV show from the 60s!

Pioneers are those who shun “can’t” and embrace “can’t yet”. They embrace challenges. Persist in the face of setbacks. Acknowledge that effort leads to mastery. Learn from criticism. Find lessons in the success of others.

In short, they don’t put a limit on what they can achieve.

Or, as Carol Dweck explains, they have a Growth Mindset.

The difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset

Finding Lessons In The Success Of Others

When something is considered to be unreachable, it becomes the benchmark.

For some, it’s the limit.

For others, it’s a glass ceiling waiting to be shattered.

This is especially relevant to the three rule breakers below. They defied the norm successfully. They didn’t accept limitations. Instead, they transformed the sense of what was possible.

Afford A Ford

These days it’s hard to imagine a world without automation.

When Ford started building cars he did it in exactly the same way that every other car manufacturer did. One at a time.

This was the norm.

The car was built from the ground up by a team of mechanics. They would have to source parts, then return to the vehicle in order to assemble it.

Not a very efficient process. And very expensive.

Perfecting the assembly line concept turned the process on its head. Ford changed the game.

Henry Ford's legendary Mode T

(Image courtesy of https://hymanltd.com/vehicles/6028-1921-ford-model-t-center-door-sedan/)

He wanted to mass-produce affordable vehicles. Increase efficiency and reduce costs. He wanted to push beyond the limits of what convention dictated at the time.

Instead of having mechanics going back and forth to fetch parts, Ford had the parts brought to the mechanics at appointed stations. The chassis was then moved between each station, stopping along the way to have parts fitted, until the car was completed. (https://www.ford.co.uk/experience-ford/history-and-heritage#assemblyline)

Ford was able to reduce the assembly time of a Model T from twelve and a half hours to under six.

When everyone else was limited to building one car at a time, Ford found a way to push beyond what was conventionally accepted.

Cost-efficient, affordable vehicles for the masses became a reality.

A small change in thinking, made a big difference.

White Headphones

Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod on 23rd October 2001. A revolutionary device. It pushed beyond the limits of the portable audio technology available at the time.

An entire music library that fit inside your pocket!

This was the coolest, sleekest and most exciting new tech accessory ever invented. Everybody wanted one. And everybody who had one, wanted everyone else to know it.

But there was a problem.

It couldn’t be seen if it was in your pocket!

So, how would people be able to show off this cool new music device?

Before the iPod, headphone cables were black.

No one had ever had a reason to make them a different colour.

Want stand out from the crowd?

Go from black to white.

“As psychologists and business experts have acknowledged since iPod’s release, the decision to make its earbuds all-white sent Apple’s cache as an uber-cool company into the stratosphere.” (http://uk.businessinsider.com/why-are-apple-headphones-white-2016-5?r=US&IR=T)

From Second Best, To Second Is Best.

No one ever remembers who came second in a race. (Apart from the person who came second.)

That all changed in 1962.

Advertising agency DDB helped Avis turn being ‘second best’ into a strength.

Hertz had historically dominated the American car rental market. DDB turned this to Avis’ advantage. They devised a campaign celebrating the company’s customer service. Because “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.”

Avis' famous disruptive "We try harder" campaign by DDB

“Within a year, Avis went from losing $3.2 million to earning $1.2 million[…] From 1963 to 1966, as Hertz ignored the Avis campaign, the market-share percentage gap between the two brands shrunk from 61–29 to 49–36. Terrified Hertz executives projected that by 1968 Avis might need a new ad campaign—because it would no longer be No. 2.”

(http://www.slate.com/articles/business/rivalries/2013/08/hertz_vs_avis_advertising_wars_how_an_ad_firm_made_a_virtue_out_of_second.html)

Suddenly, being the best wasn’t as good as being second best.

That’s how you tear up the rulebook!

Sometimes,  you need to openly acknowledge your limitations. It might just be the kind of thinking that sets you apart from everyone else.

Break Through The Glass Ceiling

Rules and perceived limits can act as psychological barriers.

They can make something seem daunting and unreachable. However, changing your mindset can transform a limiting factor into a target for success.

Conventional wisdom is the general and unquestioning acceptance of the limitations of someone else’s capacity and imagination.

Don’t be defined by what someone else said can or can’t be done.

Break the rules.

Embrace challenges.

Persist in the face of setbacks.

Acknowledge that effort leads to mastery.

Learn from criticism.

Find lessons in the success of others.

Dink Thifferently.

 

Gareth

 

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Slow Down! Why busy people need to stop and disconnect.

Slow down and watch the world fly past - Train rushing past long exposure

Have you noticed how push notifications actually SHOVE their way loudly into your day? How instant messaging requires INSTANT REPLIES? Otherwise you end up having to scroll through a whole list of posts in the group chat to find out what the hell is going on! If you recognise these tell-tale signs you need to slow down. Breathe. Disconnect. Gain some perspective.

When Push Turns To Shove

Likes, shares and retweets are the new currency of approval and measures of success. We’re infinitely more connected, globally. Everything and everyone is pushing its way onto our phones and into our lives. Notifying us that we are indeed connected. And reminding us that we need to remain connected.

Yet, we’ve become totally disconnected. From real life.

We’re so busy chasing after faster broadband or super fast fibre optic connections. Moaning that 3G is too slow. Groaning because 4G just about manages to buffer a feature length film in full HD.

When are we getting 5G?

Everything is speeding up.

We need to slow it down. Stop. Disconnect. Unplug.

And let our natural creativity flow.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller

Speed Limit

Here’s an interesting anecdote from someone I know who had to go to Speed School:

“If you drive above the speed limit you might arrive a few minutes earlier at your destination. But you greatly increase your chances of not getting there at all.”

This isn’t exactly revelatory.

Better late than never?

Life’s a marathon, not a sprint?

Slow and steady wins the race?

We’ve all heard these idioms, or variants of them, more often than we’d care to mention. Usually delivered with the gravitas of a sage by a parent. Or grandparent!

Beautifully cliché. Eye-roll inducing. Yet with their basis in a very simple truth.

As old and wrinkly as they may sound (not your parents/grandparents), there’s wisdom behind these idioms.

What’s the big rush?

Stop And Look Around

You only get to appreciate the pace, and fleetingness, of life once you’ve experienced enough of it to look back and wonder where it all went.

So, yes. What’s the big rush?

It’s amazing what you miss when you’re not looking. Ever bumped into someone or something whilst staring at your phone as you walk through town?

Look around you.

Children (especially children who cannot yet read) are highly observant. They don’t miss a thing.

They’re not distracted by the words and symbols that bombard us daily. These things hold no meaning for them. So they take in their surroundings. Completely.

Young children will notice the smallest detail.

Something that may have been there all along. Staring you in the face. But, as a busy adult, you fail to see. Overlook it because there are so many other things drawing your attention. Too much on your mind. Far too many distractions.

All too often, you can find yourself looking at the wrong thing.

Disconnect. Stop viewing the world through a phone.

And these things are getting in the way.

Reducing your productivity. Curtailing your creativity.

This Is Your Life

Rob Dial offers an interesting assessment of our Life Timeline.

With the best years of our life spent as a working adult it’s probably wise to seek enjoyment in what we do. But more importantly is to take time to actually live.

Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” ~ Senator Paul Tsongas

Shove those push notifications away!

They can wait.

Disconnect To Reconnect

We may all be infinitely more connected. So civilised and modern. Extremely knowledgeable and advanced. Yet detached from reality and our surroundings.

Everyone is always busy.

It’s as if we need to fill our lives with things to keep us occupied.

But actually, it’s ok to do nothing.

It’s ok to be bored.

And it’s perfectly fine to allow yourself to look out the window and daydream.

Disconnect. Then reconnect. With reality.

Take Time

You can’t make time.

Don’t try to find time.

Take your time instead.

Slow it all down. Take a good look around. Don’t just hear, actually listen.

Observe the world and all its subtleties.

Notice things.

Your capacity for creative thinking will increase.

As will your productivity.

 

Gareth

 

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Catatonia – What to do when you’re stuck

Being stuck on a task can feel a little bit like this.

There’s always a point in the day, week, month, year, your life, when you get stuck. It’s that point when you find yourself staring a lot. Trapped in a middle-distance focus. Eyes partly glazed. Brow partly furrowed. Brain partly dead.

What’s Going On?

You might be tired. Overworked. Bored. Uninspired. Bored.

So you stare.

And things just continue to happen around you. Out there on the periphery.

You half-acknowledge people. You robotically go through the motions. And when you finally snap out of your catatonic trance you have no recollection of anything that’s happened! 

It’s like being drunk. Only cheaper.

Now What?

These are difficult times.

Perhaps not in the grand scheme of things, but they can feel difficult. Especially when there are things that need doing – there always are – and you just can’t bring yourself to do any of them.

Not interested in the slightest.

In fact. Maybe, if you ignore them, they’ll go away?

Better still, they might get done by someone else!

That’s unless it’s work that only you can do.

You’ve checked your smartphone for the hundredth time. Let out a big long sigh. Done everything imaginable to procrastinate and avoid the inevitable. But it still hasn’t gone away.

What’s The Solution To Being Stuck?

So, here’s the trick.

Banging your head against a brick wall is only going to give you a headache. And, at most, you might scuff the paintwork.

It’s pointless. You’ll get nowhere. You’ll feel worse.

Instead. Do something fun.

Distract your mind with an activity that you love.

Give your mind a rest. Change your focus. Free the subconscious. Let it wander. Break out of your trance.

STOP STARING!

Try a smile. Have a conversation. Write something. Draw something. Mess about on Photoshop. Do a One Minute Brief. Watch a silly YouTube video.

And when you’re done. When you’ve finally forgotten the burden that was weighing you down. Go back to it.

It’ll get done.

Unless the reason you’re stuck is because you went out for a couple of drinks on a school night and you’re hungover.

Then, tough.

Drink some water and soldier on!

I’m off to drink some water.

 

Gareth

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