Enterprise IT, Ideas and Adventures in Social Media

I’ve always been a bit of a Enterprise IT guy.

To me there’s nothing a small, highly-motivated team can do when inspired to achieve a common goal.

But at the same time, I have seen this kind of environment turn insular and it’s people become unwilling to accept external input. Somewhere along the way, that same wonderful camaraderie builds a kind of collective hubris. In this environment, wheels are constantly re-invented, best practises are often disregarded and the viewpoints of outsiders are rarely sought or at worst met with xenophobic disdain.

You won’t see much of this breed on the ‘net, save for the occasional question posed on Stack Overflow. Its type tend to observe rather than participate, only venturing outside their protected habitats briefly to gather what information and tools they need to get the job done.

Yet despite all this, the team thrives in this isolated environment, often coming up with innovative and novel solutions to difficult problems and (mostly) delighting stakeholders with the fruits of its labour. The fact is that often this team is so closely aligned with its internal customer’s goals that its technical shortcomings have limited bearing on the end result. Though there can be notable exceptions, as anyone who’s spent time auditing Enterprise Web App security would know!

Yes I’m an Enterprise IT guy — guilty as charged — but I’m starting to realise how much I’ve been missing in “the outside world”. During the last 6 months, as I have taken my first tentative steps into the world of social media and attended my first major conference (you can read about my incredible experience at BoS2010), I have started to feel more and more part of a greater community.

I knew that doing this would be a bit of a humbling and at times scary experience, but what I didn’t expect is how it would make the world feel like a smaller place. Everyday it seems, people are finding new ways to come together, to share ideas and learn from each other’s experiences. If it’s true that grand ideas are formed in the rapid collision of lots of smaller ideas, then the future of the connected world looks very bright indeed.

Perhaps this big IT world could benefit from the trials and tribulations of a little corporate IT world. And maybe I can encourage some of my fellow team members take those first few steps outside as well. Just perhaps.


Habit & Habitude

If you’ve read any of the preceding posts you will have quickly gathered that I am something of a procrastinator.

It’s not that I don’t want to do things, things that I feel are important and need to be done. It’s just that I don’t necessarily have the motivation to do them. There are a whole variety of reasons I’m sure I could come up to explain this syndrome, from fear of failure through to not fully knowing what it is I’m embarking on but it really just boils down to this: I can’t be assed and quite frankly I’d have more fun doing something else (in the short-term, anyway).

However a few weeks ago, I followed a tweet to this article by Oliver Burkeman which contains a one sentence antidote to this:

Don’t wait until you feel like doing something.

And there you have it. Simple huh? Oliver makes a very good point in his article that is only when in the midst of doing something that we actually start enjoying it and therefore feel like doing it more.

But this by itself I don’t think is quite enough to get you through a long-term project (I’m thinking my own start-up here!). What creatures of habit like me and you really need is to build a regimen into our daily lives that will keep us moving forward, incrementally and with gathering momentum.

By pure good fortune, I stumbled upon this very sage piece of advice shortly thereafter from Jerry Seinfeld who revealed a technique he used during the making of his 9-season long TV show run.

In short, Jerry conveyed through fellow comedian Brad Isaac that the key to long-term, sustained productivity is building a daily routine based on including a certain amount of work, even if it is a small one, can over time add up to big results.

I’ve taken on board both suggestions and giving it my best shot (got my yearly planner nailed up against the wall next to my desk). As someone who loves to tick off to-do lists and be able to measure progress I must admit I’m finding it quite addictive.

Here’s getting into some new habits and kicking some old ones.

A lesson learnt in humility

One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that, when the creative bug begins to bite, a subtle attitude shift begins to happen.

Before I start creating, like if I’m in a rut and I can’t motivate myself, I am humble by default. Without feeling like I’ve produced something worthwhile with my time, my self worth is lessened. On the upside, while I’m humble I’m also a great listener. In this mode, my ability to learn is greatly enhanced by my open mind.

However once I begin to climb out of the rut, and start to create and see results, a bit of arrogance sets in with this renewed sense of confidence: if my work is criticised or questioned, my ability to take on the thoughts of others or consider alternate points-of-view is impaired. While not every idea suggested to me is going to be great, fundamentally I am limiting the potential for what my creation can become: without input from others, my creation can’t possibly evolve beyond a certain point.

Instead I need to learn from the weaker side of my personality and focus on staying humble, all the time.

A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.  ~Benjamin Franklin