Problems, problems, problems...  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

... they're everywhere, aren't they?

You're on your way to work and you find that there are transport problems: the train is late again. Once at work, because you are late for your meeting - your boss is angry. Worse still, you are not given the pay increase you were promised.

All this, and more, are typical of the every day issues that come up for employees and which managers sometimes have to 'manage'. The emotional twists and turns can be unhealthy for your morale and the energy you need to be successful.

A few years ago I came across a course, "The Power to Choose", by chartered psychologist Graham Price. Research that Price had done with colleagues at Birkbeck (University of London) found that there are three main ways in which people accomplish substantial goals. The first is the well known method of goal-setting: this made up around 40% of participants in the research. The second method was some kind of spiritual enlightenment, making up close to 10%. In the region of another 40% was a third method: people somehow accepting things as they are and their goals materializing.

Price's course explained the working of this third way of reaching goals and dealing with life. The most powerful concept of the course is that you have the power to choose. When you come across a situation that is unpleasant, such as a late train, you can choose not only your reaction to the situation, but also how you feel about it. Too often people let themselves get into auto-pilot chains of thought that lead to anxiety, depression, anger or a range of other unhealthy emotions. If you can get out of auto-pilot, you can put yourself into modes of thought and then action that are more productive.

Recently Price has released an e-mail based version of the course he normally delivers in-person to audiences around the UK. Because email is a more limited form than real life, Price is currently offering this version of the course free. Available at www.helpwithyourproblem.com, I recommend taking a look at this e-mail for anyone interested in taking greater control of their life.

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Self-motivated and unstoppable: Associability and 'The Black Team'  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

How do you grow a team that is so tightly jelled, that it becomes self-motivated, unstoppable and hugely successful? The technical term for this kind of team chemistry might be 'associability', a concept referenced in Viral Change from an academic paper [1]. The term 'associability' is described as the "willingness and ability of individuals to subordinate personal goals and associated actions to collective goals and actions". This is in contrast to 'sociability', which is related to the ability to socialise. While 'sociability' is useful, it is 'associability' that motivates people and the team to achieve more together than the sum of the parts that make up the team.

One well known self-motivated, unstoppable and hugely successful team is the 'The Black Team' from the book Peopleware[2]. The story is an interesting case study in how people with certain behaviours are selected, then combined together and nurtured through these behaviours - producing the net result of high associability. Some of the key drivers in this story are:

  • That people recognised across the company as having behaviours related to being good testers were gathered together in a single team
  • This team developed a philosophy, and associated behaviours, of (1) expecting and wanting to find bugs and (2) getting delight from the ordeal they put programmers through in finding bugs.
  • The team's growing identity that they are destroyers of software further reinforced the behaviours necessary for the team to succeed.
References:
  1. Leana, C.R., Van Buren, H.J. III (1999), "Organisational social capital and employment practices", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 24 No.3, pp.538-5
  2. Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister, Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, Second Edition, ISBN 0-932633-43-9
    • http://a.mongers.org/clueful/20020402-peopleware-blackteam

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Taking the GMAT - Debrief  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

I finished my GMAT today. This is my debrief and advice on taking the GMAT.

The FIRST step to taking the GMAT and starting the path down the MBA application process is to get motivated. When times are tough and life feels stressful, it can be hard to to get yourself into the mood for picking up the books and studying. Motivation helps get past these road blocks. I listened to an audio book called The Seven Hidden Secrets of Motivation. I found it extemely interesting and full of useful insights, such as just merely doing research and learning more about how to accomplish a goal will help increase the probability of success in your mind - and hence increase motivation. In fact, my mental perception of the probability of success played a big part in my level of motivation. The most important part of Motivation is having a really big Reason Why - why do you want to succeed at the GMAT? After a while, I found that I just got into the habit of studying while I was on the bus/train to work, during lunch time and after work.

The second part of taking the GMAT is doing research on how to get a top GMAT score. The mainstream books and materials available at high street book shops are not sufficient: this is aimed at the mainstream crowd aiming for 550 to 650 or so. Forums like TestMagic and BeatTheGMAT get you started thinking about this. I really recommend looking at the GMAT Strategy Guide complied by a few others. I have posted what I think is the most interesting part of this on my blog, Study tips that every single 700+ scorer mentioned. In a similar vein, there are some useful Insights from GMAC posted under the GMAT Strategies category of MGMAT Blog: i.e. those who study harder and longer generally do better. There are also other articles on the internet, such as Manhattan's Strategy Series. I highly recommend reading the debriefs of those who have scored highly and posted debriefs. In fact, not only did I read a number of debriefs from TestMagic, but I also copied out the parts of these I found most useful and posted them on my blog. These snippets that were useful to me (not necessarily you), as well as links to the original posts, can be found here and here.

Don't get too bogged down with the first two stages. What counts at the end of the day is solid grunt work: doing lots of exercises, learning from your mistakes and doing more exercises with a view to improving your 'strike rate'. There is plenty of material out there, in terms of questions and answers. The keys is tackling them in an organised way so that you track which questions are time consuming or you get wrong. Ursula's debrief describes how an Error log can be used to achieve this. It is worth stressing over and over again that the most important part of this is to learn from your mistakes. I also recommend keeping a cheat sheet for particular problems and methods of tackling them that come up again and again. You will notice that the same kind of sequence problem or probability problem will reoccur again and again. Collating all these and their answers is useful. I did this only for the problems I came across from the GMATPrep. I found this extremely useful because the Math problems I came across on the real exam were very similar to the in GMATPrep, and I had rehearsed the approach well for these.

However, the Errorlog approach to learning can be slow if you are not familiar with the subject matter to begin with. In this respect, the Manhattan GMAT guides are excellent for Math.

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