Tag Archives: Work

Business School!



Actually this was a simulation we ran in “Organizational Culture Demystified” designed to help us understand the challenges, pitfalls, and best practices of bringing two distinct and national cultures together.

I was on the team on the floor of the balloon blowing factory in “Randomia.”   The other team were trainers from headquarters in another made up country.  Us Randomians were given a set of rules and behaviors to follow that made direct communication with our trainers difficult.  In order to get any useful information from us,  the other team had to learn and adapt to our preferred method of communication.  They didn’t, however, know that this was the underlying purpose/lesson of the exercise

As you can see from the photo, it didn’t go very well for the trainers.

The key insight–as always–is communication.  Lots of communication.  The trainers visited the factory for ~10 minutes at a time, and  had set breaks to convene privately in a different classroom and share their observations.    I think they would have been more successful if they found opportunities to discuss what was working and what wasn’t while they had the chance to experiment and try new ideas in real time.

In some ways, designated time for communication (ie. weekly team meetings, daily reports, etc.) can actually discourage employees from communicating openly and sharing insights at all other times of the day.

The exercise also that reaffirmed something I’ve noticed and applied on my sales calls, which is that it’s always ideal to have someone riding shotgun your meeting whose responsibility it is to observe the conversation as carefully as possible.  As a presenter or primary communicator, it’s hard to ‘perform’ and be totally in tune with ALL the nuances of the listener’s demeanor and how your message is being received.  Of course a strong presenter should be able to “read the room” and adjust their style accordingly.  Nevertheless, with an additional person in the room, he or she can focus 100% on the audience, and add a key points here and there when the audiences appears in need of a little bit more info for clarification.  The wingman can also give you candid feedback afterward, and help you brainstorm next steps.   It’s a win-win.

In the Randomia Balloon Factory simulation, the trainers may have been able to uncover the detail of how to communicate with us had they established dedicated observers, responsible for recognizing and sharing these details.

There were a lot of other interesting insights from the exercise, but these are what resonated with me the most.  Sure, blowing up balloons in business school is a little bit different, but I’ve always found that simulation is the most effective way to drive home an important lesson.


Take this.

This is my new desktop background at work.

Take This

I’m sure a lot of people would look at this and think “Man-Child.” They might even be right.

When I see this on my screen every day, I think of something completely different.

If you don’t recognize it already, this screen is from the very beginning of the original Legend of Zelda.  The first thing you do is wander into a cave and HEYYyy, there’s this old guy and he’s giving me a sword. Awesome.

When I look at this screen I see beginnings — the first clumsy steps of a long adventure — and I’m filled with the spirit of ‘anything is possible.’ You have no money, no stuff, and there’s a blank map in the top left corner that’s yours to fill in. Ready, Set, Go.

I look at this and see bravery a cautionary tale about the importance of planning ahead. Your character is a kid on a mission to kill a giant pig monster AND HE DIDN’T EVEN BRING HIS OWN FUCKING SWORD. That’s a little bit like a musician arriving at a gig and realizing he forgot his guitar.

I see the kindness of strangers. Thankfully this old guy has an extra sword laying around and is cool enough to give it to you. This act of generosity makes the entire adventure possible. It reminds me to take stock in all of the help, advice, and tools I’ve been given to succeed.

While we’re talking about Old Man, he reminds me to respect my elders.  They’ve been through all of this before, and they have the perspective to help the next generation make better decisions with regard to weaponry and who knows what else.

Most importantly, my new work background reminds me to have fun and helps me tap into how enjoyable it was to pour myself into the immersive experience of such a well-designed game.  It’s OK to be a little bit of Man-Child if you focus on the productive elements (enthusiasm, joy, curiosity, fun) and reject/confront the negative stereotypes

When I sit down to work, I look at the screen and try to channel the emotions I’ve assigned to this simple image: opportunity, bravery, preparedness, generosity, respect, and joy. I’m glad to have found an image that so efficiently captures so many of the motivational values I aspire to.  On the surface, the background reads as nostalgic nod to my gaming roots, but as you now know,  it serves a higher purpose.

What’s your desktop background these days?  Why did you pick it?  Does it inspire you in any way?