altMBA: Week Two

It’s Monday, which means that week two of the altMBA intensive is over with. As well as reflecting on the second week, this is the half-way point of the course, so I’d also like to look back on the first half of the program.

Note: My summary of week one can be found here.

Projects

Last week’s projects focused on three things: confronting the irrationality we see in ourselves and others, digging deep on the real purpose of things, and looking at organisational structures critically when thinking about how meaningful change really happens.

Irrationality

The key insight I got from this first project is that all humans, ourselves included, act in ways that are contrary to logic. It’s easy to look at other people and say that their behaviour is clearly irrational, but it’s much harder to face that truth’s difficult corollary: so are we. And what’s more, it also follows that because every one of us is irrational, none of us are—that’s just the way humans work.

Rather than pointing out the lack of logic, scratching our heads, and trying to “work out” why people don’t act in their economic interest, or behave in ways that are “obviously beneficial” from our point of view—we’re far better embracing the way things are and learning how to work with these quirks of human nature instead. For everyone’s benefit.

What is it for?

This question is important. So are it’s adjacent questions: “who is this for?”, “how do these people know it’s for me?”. Unless we ask these questions and really strive to get to the bottom of them, there’s a high chance we’ll end up positioning our products in an extremely sub-optimal context.

I also saw a huge overlap between the act of asking these questions, and shifting your thinking into the Jobs To Be Done mindset for understanding products. Like Clayton Christensen famously explains with the milkshake story, when we stop thinking about the functional purpose of a product or service, and start thinking about the surrounding context that makes someone hire a product to do a job, profound insights start to occur that can radically alter what you see as “obvious” ways to improve things.

Influence within organisations

Within any organisation, there’s the way things appear (i.e. the org chart), and then there’s the way things actually work. The two are often wildly different, and it’s important to recognise this difference if your goal is to make any kind of change, decision, or idea happen. Don’t read into this difference too much—it’s probably not there out of malice or deliberate deception—it’s just that the way people say they act and the way people actually act are almost never the same.

Rather than fighting this reality, and wishing that things worked the way they look on the org chart, it’s clear to me that it’s better to go with the grain, and use the momentum and leverage that brings to make important stuff happen. If there’s parts of how the organisation works that need to be changed for people’s benefit, we can always use the way things work now to our advantage in bringing about the new reality we’re after.

Reflections at the half-way point

I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty drained and overwhelmed after two weeks of this. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s tiring. What I think that’s doing though, as I look towards these next two weeks of projects, is it’s forcing me to examine where I think my comfort zones are, compared with where they may actually be.

What seems to be dawning on me as I reflect on the first half of the program is that a lot of my energy went into the worry and the anxiety around each assignment, instead of into getting it done.

That’s something I’m deliberately going to work on for week three: save my energy for the hard part of actually doing the work for each project, instead of wasting it fretting over the process of deciding what approach is best. Go with the flow, and use the additional momentum that generates to relax for the same result instead.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

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