How Would You Feel If Everything You Did Was Completely Forgotten?


Thursday, 9.25pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

I feel like reflecting a little today.

They tell you to do that at University – look back at what’s happened to help you learn.

And the reason for this is that this is my five hundredth post – and that seems a good point at which to reflect.

I didn’t really have a plan when I started writing – arguably I still don’t.

The idea was to write – spend time stringing words together trying to make sense of interesting ideas.

I knew that the advice to every writer was you’ll throw the first million away anyway – so you might as well get started.

To date, I’m nearly half way there – if you count the 280,000 words on this blog and stuff that really is just for throwing away.

The fact is that committing to doing something every day inevitably builds something.

It might not be something you had in mind at the start but whatever it is simply builds up over time and, if you’re lucky, compounds.

That means it gets easier – easier to put words together, work through ideas and create something useful – if only for you.

But that thing you create can also be startlingly short lived.

I was following links and came across one that linked to Dennis M. Ritchie’s page at Bell Labs.

Dennis was one of the creators of Unix and his page and links are, to me, a historical artefact – something that should be preserved.

But it wasn’t there.

I looked at the wayback machine and found some of the pages – but there was a sense of disbelief that the material had disappeared.

It turned out, fortunately, that it hadn’t – it had moved a little, but that was all.

Many other pages are not so lucky.

For example, there’s a short piece written by Victor Noagbodji based on an exchange he had with Brian Kernighan – another doyen in the Unix field – on the craft of writing books.

I couldn’t find the original but the wayback machine had a copy.

Still – can that now only be found in an archive?

The ideas in that post are the ones in the picture above – ideas that I find useful and really should be preserved.

For example, if you want to write, then write about something you care about.

If you don’t – you’ll stop. It’s just too hard to keep grinding away at something that you don’t really like.

If you do write – talk about real things and real situations. Made up stuff is ok for fiction but what most people want is something useful.

And that means giving real working examples.

When it comes to programming this is essential – if the example is wrong you’re going to spend hours figuring it out.

The point of writing is not to show how clever you are.

It’s to take someone, even if that someone is you, step by step so that they understand the thing you’re trying to explain.

So having reached this number of posts what have I learned?

Nothing we didn’t know at the start.

  • If you want to write – write.
  • Write every day.
  • Use short words.

These are things you can read in any book about writing.

What matters is the practice – the act of doing.

And I suppose that’s the thing about a practice, especially something you plan to do for the rest of your life.

All you have to do… is do.

Whether that’s remembered is up to other people.


Karthik Suresh

How Do We Know Which Metrics To Use For Lasting Change?


Tuesday, 5.41pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Tell me how you measure me, and I will tell you how I will behave. – Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I’ve got to be up front with you here – I’m not a big fan of metrics.

They stand in the way like prickly, thorny bushes, reminding you to be careful or you’ll end up getting hurt.

For example, the other day I saw a chart – a simple table with a clear ranking of performance and it left an impression on me.

I didn’t want to be last.

At the same time, things have often worked only when I’ve counted as I went along.

Take losing weight, for example.

It doesn’t matter what you count – kilos on the scale, carbs, sugar.

It’s the act of counting that reminds you to watch what you eat.

It’s the same with money. When you don’t count where it goes, it somehow vanishes. When you do, it seems to stick around.

The trick is getting it to work for you.

Early in my career, for example, I kept timesheets in the style set out by Watts S. Humphrey in The Personal Software Process.

The idea was to keep track of start times, end times and interruption times.

That’s because you can often spend three hours working on something and find that half your time is taken up by interruptions.

When you have that kind of data you can either try and protect your time to get more done in each block or make more accurate forecasts about how much longer it’s going to take.

So if you’re collecting metrics because you’re trying to improve something for yourself – that’s easy enough to do and sustain.

If you’re trying to create metrics for a group – that’s a little harder.

It really depends on what happens if you don’t meet those targets.

If there are no sanctions then you’ll find that things will eventually just grind to a halt.

It’s hard collecting figures regularly – hard work extracting them from people who have other, “more important” work to do.

So it’s almost more important to design how you’ll collect metrics than the metrics you collect.

If you can get them automatically – then that’s the best way.

Anyone who blogs knows this – you keep an eye on your stats.

If you had to do it yourself you probably wouldn’t bother but because it’s built in it’s so much easier to do.

But it’s harder in business.

Take proposals, for example.

You create one, send it off and breathe a sigh of relief.

Can you always be bothered to update the trackers or logs?

Maybe you can be – and good on you for the willpower.

But in many cases, it’ll just be another thing to update at the last minute just before the report is run.

Perhaps what we need to realise is that metrics are good when you know you need to pay attention to something important – maybe something you want to change.

So perhaps selecting which metrics to use needn’t be a fixed thing.

You might have a few that you collect all the time – a little like taking the pulse of your organisation.

But then, to change things you might want to focus on one metric for a short time.

Like a high intensity session – where you try and go as hard as possible in a set amount of time.

The fact is it’s very easy to collect data for the sake of collecting data.

If you need to hit a target then you’ll do everything you can to do it – and if you can’t the temptation to fix the result is very strong.

Measuring something then is perhaps more than getting a result.

It’s the voice of the process – it tells you what is happening and how the system is performing.

If you want to create lasting change – you don’t target the metrics.

You change the system.

And if you do that right, your metrics should start to turn green.


Karthik Suresh

What Can Software Development Tell Us About Business Development?


Tuesday, 9.04pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. – Scotty, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Why do you think we create new things – products, services, software, businesses?

Is it because we know something others don’t about what is needed in the world?

Or are we trying to find our way, like explorers hacking through dense undergrowth hoping to discover a new world?

The fact is that most of us are uncertain – should be uncertain.

Certainty is for show, an act put on to convince an audience.

Inside, we should listen and watch because that’s how we learn.

So what does any of this have to do with software and business?

The point is that we face many problems in business and our ways of dealing with them seem woefully inadequate.

Take training, for example.

If you’re a large organisation you might have a person in charge of training. Someone who organises everything and makes sure people attend.

In a small company, however, your training might consist of sitting next to someone who learned their job a few weeks ago.

That’s not a good strategy if you want a trained workforce that works well together.

Or let’s say you’re a small business that needs to increase sales. You’ve got a website, do lots of digital marketing, run events and do all the things you should be doing.

Is that enough? Should you be doing something else?

The thing with most business problems is they are wicked – they don’t have a simple solution. If they did, you would have sorted the problem already.

It’s like trying to box a beanbag – you can hammer away at one end and all that happens is it bulges out somewhere else.

And this is the problem we come across if we try and apply any kind of theory to a practical situation.

For example, Gary Vaynerchuck talks a lot about creating media and dominating your space on different platforms.

He’s a good role model because he dominates his platform. By definition, however, you can only have a few dominant entities – the rest have to scrabble in the shadows.

So what we really need to do is try to get an understanding of what could happen for us.

And that’s something that software developers call a story.

There is a person at the centre of a story – it could be you, a customer or someone you want to work with.

This person – the protagonist – is going to have experiences and you’ve got to try and put them down in words.

For example: This prospect I’m talking to doesn’t believe that it’s possible to do what I say can be done.

You might have lots of such story fragments.

As you collect related fragments you might end up with quite a large pile – which developers call an epic.

But an epic is too large to hold in your head and so you need to select a few stories and link them together.

Stories in a sequence make up a storyboard – just like in the films.

For example, it might include:

  • I’ve got a case study that describes what we did.
  • We’ve got customers who can vouch for us.
  • We can put you in touch with the authorities who work with us on this.

As you link stories together you get a coherent narrative – a story that makes sense.

And that’s when you finally build a feature.

In business – that’s when you create a new process or initiative and allocate resources.

Now, this approach something developers call agile – and I’ve probably missed lots of nuances.

The thing that appeals to me is that the idea of writing stories replaces the idea of writing business plans and specifications.

Those kinds of document focus on what needs to be done rather than what the person at the centre of it all is experiencing.

We can get much closer to how a person thinks and feels by writing a story than we can writing a list of requirements.

It’s a more empathetic way of approaching a problem.

And the one thing we don’t do enough in the modern world of business is start with people.


Karthik Suresh

How To Add Meaning To Events And Things


Monday, 9.07pm

Sheffield, U.K.

When I read a good story, I often start thinking, ‘Should I live my life according to what this character chooses and values?’ – Jenova Chen

Imagine you were in a networking group that met one morning every week and, as part of your agenda, you had to describe what you do to everyone else.

How would you approach this?

Would you wing it? Come out with the first few words that came to mind?

Would you work off some notes and try to get through it as quickly as you could?

Would you have a script – one that you have honed and repeat that every time?

Or would you mix things up – and say something new new?

What a lot of us probably do is try and put together some facts and string together a few sentences.

For example, something like I’m a widget attorney and I help companies like Small Corp make sure that their widget contracts are properly done.

How much of this message do you think gets across to the others in the room – the others waiting nervously for their turn to speak?

My experience of such situations is that I’m only half listening – worrying about what I’m going to say next.

Is there something we can do to help people like us listen and understand better?

The answer may lie in reaching for one of the oldest methods out there.

Telling a story.

You may have heard of the Significant Objects Project. Journalist Rob Walker and writer Joshua Glenn came up with the idea of putting objects on ebay, adding a story and seeing what happened.

The objects were cheap trinkets from thrift stores and the stories fictional ones – with the authors able to write anything they wanted – with no restrictions on genre, style or voice. And the buyers knew that the ebay description was just a fictional story.

And yet they bought – spending over $3,500 on objects “worth” $130.

Which tells you something very interesting.

It tells you that value is linked to meaning.

Our brains are suckers for stories – ever since people huddled around a fire and told each other tales of what happened that day.

You can see this in the wide eyes of children who have to have a story before going to bed – who refuse to sleep without having had their favourite story read to them.

Today I followed a link from someone who posted something that caught my eye.

I’m not especially fond of the person who shared the post in the first place – he seems a bit of a bully online – but I don’t know him enough to judge.

Anyway, I followed this post to a biography page which, unlike the ones that simply list name, rank and serial number, had a long narrative about this person’s struggle against an institution and injustice.

Now, none of this was a particularly good use of time – but the fact is that it was a story and once I started I had to keep going.

That’s what stories do to you – they draw you in and keep you hooked.

So, I wonder, what would it be like if we told a story at that networking event?

Or instead of a bland about me page had a story instead?

It doesn’t need to follow any rules – just be more than the facts.

Would you be more likely to listen, or read that?


Karthik Suresh

When Do You Know That Enough Is Enough?


Sunday, 8.13pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The middle path is the way to wisdom. – Mevlana Rumi

Every once in a while something comes along that makes you realise you really didn’t understand something you thought you did.

Like Jordan Ellenberg’s book How not to be wrong: The hidden maths of everyday life – which makes you look again at things that happen every day.

On LinkedIn, for example, you’ve probably had at least one message from someone talking about “crushing it”.

Get up earlier, work harder, stay longer and you’ll get ahead.

That’s an example of linear thinking – if you do more of something you’ll get a bigger return.

We see this everywhere – mostly among novices, it must be said.

It’s good to post regularly on social media, says someone who got famous by posting regularly.

That must mean it’s good to post every day, better to post a few times a day, even better to post every hour or maybe even every few minutes.

But what actually happens if you have the misfortune to be connected to someone filling up your media stream with their programmed patter?

If you’re like me, after a while you turn off the tap.

There’s a middle way between extremes for most things.

Too little posting and as far as the world is concerned, you don’t exist.

Too much and it tunes you out.

What happens is that there is a sweet spot – a level of activity from which if you change and do less, or do more, the outcome is worse either way.

And once you get this, you’ll see it everywhere.

The answer to productivity is not working harder but working better for the optimum amount of time.

The answer to crowded roads is not to ban transport – because all you’ll then get is crowded housing and crowded walkways.

Solutions that tend to extremes don’t work.

Take being frugal, for example.

If everyone saves everything they make then you end up with no economy and no vitality.

If everyone spends everything they make you get goods being produced and consumed but a population with nothing in the bank to pay for old age or a tough time.

A diet that is too restrictive isn’t going to work in the long term – but neither is giving up and having chocolate every day.

The thing is we know balance is important but the imagined link between activity and result is very seductive.

So we have companies rushing for growth at any cost, governments racing to weaponise or industrialise, and people pushing themselves and their families harder and harder.

And that’s ok – if you’re on the left side of the curve.

The challenge is being able to recognise where you are.

And one approach to that is to, as pilots do, read from the ground to the map.

Don’t live according to someone else’s expectations of where you should be right now.

If you follow a map of expectations, you could easily get lost.

Instead, look at your life and how it’s working and make your own decision about whether you need to do more or, as importantly, do less.


Karthik Suresh

When Shortcuts And Hacks Don’t Work In Business And Real Life


Thursday, 8.12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects. – Margaret Thatcher

There’s an interesting pattern repeating in the world these days.

We’re seeing a shift to two very clear ways of operating – one where we make quick decisions on things we understand and another where we hope to find someone that we can trust to help us make the right choices.

The first is a transactional approach and the second a relational one.

And this is important because so much of what we do ends in a contract.

Perhaps not always a legal one, where you sign and pore over small print – but an equivalent one in your mind.

Which is why that quote from Thatcher sounds very strange to non-Western ears.

There, consensus building would probably be seen as the most important thing to do.

Because you’d hear the exact opposite from a Japanese company, for instance.

And the reason this difference matters is because of the way business and life works now.

If you have something simple to buy – an AA battery, for example, the chances are that you go on Ebay and buy whatever looks cheapest.

It might not be the cheapest – there might be one a few pence cheaper hidden on another page with a different description – but it’s not worth bothering about.

When you know what you want you make a decision based on price – when that price is satisfactory.

This is called satisficing – you’re not trying to get the best deal, just one where you think you’re now done with searching for something better.

And the larger the price the more time you’ll spend getting the best deal.

Ten years ago in Kenya we had a safari holiday which includes regular rest stops at shops selling handicrafts where you get a fairly hard sell.

At one of these shops I made the mistake of looking at a small carved giraffe.

The salesman pounced.

In Kenya the way of negotiating prices is to write them on a small pad.

He started with the number 8,000 shillings – around 80 pounds in UK money, I think.

I crossed out the last zero.

He looked rather put out – and we moved on.

Then another salesman started, telling me a story of how he had carved the giraffe himself.

So we took the pad out again and settled at 1,400 shillings.

This impressed everyone else on the trip no end, and one chap even insisted on taking a picture of the giraffe, the salesperson and me in front of an enormous one.

At the end of our trip, I found the same giraffe at the airport – for 500 shillings.

In the end, it all came down to price – and he was better than me but the extra money wasn’t much and it made for a story.

So the difference between buying a trinket on Ebay and buying it from that chap at the store was that he took a commodity and turned it into something bigger and more interesting.

But, did that make it any less transactional?

And the answer is no because a relational contract is not just about adding people to a product.

It’s about adding trust.

Robert Bruner says that you need three things for trust: sincerity, reliability and competence.

It’s trust that underpins a relational contract.

And Bruner says there is a simple rule – don’t work with someone you don’t trust.

What does this have to do with shortcuts and hacks?

Well, you can’t take a shortcut or hack your way to trust.

You have to earn it – by showing sincerity, reliability and competence over time.

And that’s something Thatcher appears to have forgotten.

The process of building consensus is a process of building trust.

If you have a belief and do things your way you might get your way but lose trust along the way.

Which is what happened to her.

And, many years later, the current political class appeared not to have learned that lesson either.

Why else would this country be in the state it is in – where politicians have so utterly failed to come to a consensus on the right way to proceed with what is perhaps the most important and divisive act in generations?

The fact is that transactional business has its place – and the computers will sort all that out.

As a human your job is to be trustworthy.


Karthik Suresh

Why Planning Ahead Seems Essential To Get A Natural Result


Wednesday, 9.02pm

Sheffield, U.K.

It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless – Ben Mitchell

I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve been binge-watching The Grand Tour on Prime for the last couple of weeks.

And the presenters decided to do something interesting in the last show I watched.

They were getting angry letters about how the show was too scripted and why couldn’t they just do things off the cuff and keep it natural.

So they did.

And it was rubbish – which was the point they were making.

Without the planning and preparation the big scenes that we’re used to just didn’t happen.

And without the scripting, the presenters couldn’t think of good lines to say and fumbled on camera.

Now, this is obvious, you say.

But it’s a difficult lesson to learn for those of us who dislike planning and order.

Those of us who prefer a more fluid and organic way of doing things.

But when you dig into it the chances are that what you consider fluid and organic has an underlying structure so much a part of you that you’ve forgotten it exists.

Like bones and muscle.

Take writing, for example.

Almost every writer will tell you that the process of getting better is never-ending.

You never feel like what you’ve created is finished or complete or done.

It’s done when you’ve given up trying to do any more.

It’s done when you abandon it.

So what most writers focus on is not on results but on process.

I have a process, for instance, when I write these posts.

I write everything using the terminal – the command line.

I first do three paragraphs of freewriting, using the ed text editor to get my fingers moving.

Then I do some research, look for an idea that grabs me.

Then I sketch the idea – trying to find a way of approaching it as a concept.

And then I open emacs and org-mode with org2blog and let the words fall out.

I try and write every day so all this needs to happen in an hour or so – so it can’t be hard and painful and unpleasant.

This process helps me get 300-800 words on the screen that help me work through a problem I have or understand something new.

Then it’s time for a quick spell-check and then publish.

And the beauty of the Internet is that if there’s a mistake you can just correct it and republish.

If you had more time, what would you do?

Would your words be twice as good, twice as clear, if you spent twice as long?

Or would it be better if you spent half as much time – getting the process tuned as well as you could?

In a world with infinite possibilities, a plan is a route for you to follow.

The thing we need to get clear is that it’s just one route.

If it doesn’t work you can try another.

It’s the trying and learning and trying again that gets you to the point where what you do looks effortless and natural.

You don’t run out of time to have another go.

Until you finally do.


Karthik Suresh

What Is The One Thing You Must Remember If You Want To Achieve Anything?


Monday, 9.38pm

Sheffield, U.K.

People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest. – Zig Ziglar

A teacher once said to me that the kids that do well are the ones that aren’t afraid to fail.

Think about that for a second.

When did we first learn that it was bad to fail?

Not when we’re small.

Babies are, to be quite frank, rubbish at everything.

But they don’t know that – they just haven’t a clue just how badly they do the simplest things.

And, as a result, they just get on with doing things badly until they do them better.

Like feeding themselves. At first, they’re not sure which end of the spoon to hold or where it goes.

But they figure it out eventually and somehow or the other most babies end up being able to wield a spoon.

Learning to walk is actually a process of learning how to put one foot in front of the other without falling over.

And these are the things I tell myself when I’m in a new situation like a networking group.

The fact is that everyone in that room knows everyone else, has a perfect pitch and is clearly much better than I will ever be.

And that’s ok.

Because when you’re rubbish, at least you have a chance to get better.

I’ve found that it’s no bad thing to be really bad at something you try and do for the first time.

For starters, it teaches you humility.

You realise that you don’t know everything, that your pitch could do with refining, maybe even tossing out and starting again.

It makes you look at what you’re trying to get across with fresh eyes.

A long time ago I talked to someone about the effect words might have on how you felt.

My view was that it didn’t matter what someone said – you always had the choice about how to feel about what they said.

It was your choice to get angry or sad or happy.

The person I was speaking to disagreed – her view was that it was your responsibility if your words made someone else feel a certain way.

That’s a tomato vs tomato argument, perhaps.

But if someone doesn’t understand what you say – well that’s easier to sort out.

You just keep trying new combinations of words until you find ones that work.

The fact is failure only matters in a one-shot game.

If you only have one chance to get it right then you have to get it right.

But life isn’t mostly like that.

Life is a repeated game – where you play the same one-shot game again and again.

If you went to one networking event and were rubbish – you can do it again next week.

You might still be rubbish – but a little less so.

And then the next time you’ll do something different and it will be different and maybe it will be better.

If you want to be successful the most important thing to remember is the idea of baby steps – all you’ve got to do is keep practising and eventually you’ll walk and run and jump.

As long as you keep practising.


Karthik Suresh

What Is The Point Of Building A System To Manage Another System?


Sunday, 8.59pm

Sheffield, U.K.

A bad system will beat a good person every time. – W. Edwards Deming

There are certain laws in the Internet world.

One of them, Godwin’s Law, says that as an online discussion grows longer the probability of a comparison that involves Hitler or Nazis approaches one.

Another, Zawinski’s Law, says that every program tries to expand until it can read mail.

These laws are really an observation of the side effects that seem to happen to things over time – whether they are discussions or programs.

And one that I’ve been mulling over recently has to do with getting things done.

If you’ve read David Allen’s book on the subject you’ll know that he has a process – collect everything, pull out next actions and manage them in a system.

There is no shortage of todo list applications. Microsoft Project, for example, is really a todo list app that has a lot of stuff in it.

What I’ve found over the years is that aiming to get things done is pretty easy when you don’t have much to do.

Early in your career, for example, all you really have to do is get your work done – so you can track and manage everything and work a system that works.

But as you get older the problems of scale come up.

What happens when you have to manage life itself – all the things you have to do that revolve around kids, getting your house sorted, managing relationships, growing your business, looking after your property rentals and a host of other things.

Quite soon you can find that things make their way onto your list faster than you can strike them off.

It’s a peculiar problem that has to do with affluence.

Take your house, for example.

If you have young children the chances are that a new thing made of plastic enters your house on average every day.

At the end of a year, you probably have 300 odd things in your house that weren’t there at the start.

When your kids are 10, that’s closer to 3,000 – at which point you’ve given up any hope of ever getting rid of any of that stuff.

It’s sort of like that with todo lists that grow and grow.

One way to deal with the whole thing is to just ignore your list.

Some people start a new list every day – trusting that if something important is forgotten you’ll be reminded by someone or something else.

But if you do try and manage your list you’ll quickly realise that while life is lived one day at a time you need to hive your actions into a separate system – your todo list.

And now, you have that list to manage – and unsurprisingly, over time, that list can get stale and out of sync with what’s actually happening in your life.

This may seem a little pointless as a discussion – but here’s the thing.

We often think that we have to manage things for them to work.

But the best things don’t need managing – life itself – for a start.

Most living things go about their business without thinking of their todo list – they are self-regulating systems.

Humans are the only ones with this urge to have a system to manage another system.

And so a design principle for managing a system should perhaps be that it should be self managed.

For example, if you write stuff in a diary throughout the day and take notes of actions, you should be able to manage the actions in your diary without having to put them into a new system.

Practically, that is really a simple job of searching and replacing.

Search for action items that are marked as such – perhaps with brackets.

When you’re done, put an x in the brackets and don’t show them in the search any more.

You could do this with text files and around 3-5 line of code.

In Linux, for example, you could put each action on its own line starting with [] and find every instance with a command like look [] file.txt.

A trivial way of pulling out the actions.

That means your notes and actions are part of the same system and managed in there – more self management than anything else.

Or you could build or subscribe to an application – which is probably going to be more complex that requires you to manage two systems and that will eventually fall out of sync.

Like every CRM application out there.

Yes you can manage it with effort – but wouldn’t it be nicer if it was self-managed and didn’t need effort?

But building a simple system is often an order of magnitude harder than building a complex one.

And that’s because you often need to build the complex one and live with the pain of using it daily until you realise – in a flash of enlightenment – how to make it simpler.

But no one said the path to enlightenment was easy or straightforward.

Cheers, Karthik

Why Being Around Others Is Bad For Creativity


Saturday, 9.33pm

Sheffield, U.K.

To be creative you must create a space for yourself where you can be undisturbed… separate from everyday concerns. – John Cleese

Pilita Clark’s article in the Financial Times is the kind of thing that you either agree with vehemently or try and ignore.

And that’s because it strikes at the heart of what it means to be an organisation these days.

We all talk about talent as the most important thing an organisation can have.

For example, some companies say that most of their assets walk out of the door each evening and their most important job is making sure they walk back in again.

But then why are the places most people work at so poorly designed for work?

This is one thing universities get right – the ones I’ve seen anyway.

If you’re doing research you get a private space. It might be a cubicle as a grad student but as you get further in your career everyone seems to have an office.

And that’s not just because you need space to dump your paper.

It’s because you’ll do your best work in uninterrupted blocks of time.

It’s ironic that many aspects of modern organisations have less to do with what the organisation does and more to do with who’s in control.

Let’s say you’re a manager – do you see your role as one where you tell your team what to do or one where you coach them to do better work?

If you want to tell them what to do and how to do it and watch them while they do it then you don’t really need a team – you need labour.

It doesn’t matter whose hands do the work as long as they do it in the way you want.

And those people are disposable – you can get another in pretty quickly and get them producing work in next to no time.

And really, if you are a manager you probably don’t want someone that is going to think for themselves and suggest a new way to do things.

That’s not what they’re here to do – that’s a waste of working time.

I wonder how many business owners and managers really think about why they organise the workplace the way the do.

Is it because having people lined up at tables in an open workspace works for those people or the business?

Or is it because this way you can keep an eye on everyone.

So what does that mean for people who want to do creative work?

Well, you could look for a company that will give you your own office or let you work from home.

And those kinds of companies are going to be flooded with resumes from the best available candidates.

Or you could do your creative work in your own time – after the normal day has finished.

Because the fact is organisations aren’t going to change – and so if you want something to change you’re going to have to do it on your own.


Karthik Suresh