Today a colleague shared a podcast with Greg McKeown, author of the book <Essentialism> and <Effortless>. This theme touches so many aspects of my work currently, in the context of complex human system transformation, as well as challenges and aspirations of working in a teal way, working with fluidy teams, prioritizing in the face of ambiguity. Here are some reflections.

  1. Awareness of one’s own meaning and purpose

The first aspect that resonates a lot is the foundation of all, clear awareness of what’s my meaning and purpose in life. With clarity in this question, it is easier for me to make choices and say no to certain things, therefore wholeheartedly focusing on the things that I say yes to.

My own process has been an evolution, it feels like a gradual process of peeling off the layers and layers of beliefs, gradually touching my core values. For me, there is a component of compassion, for self and others and the system. There is a component of curiosity and seeking, being comfortable that the path is the goal. And there is a component of lightness and non-attachment of grasping. After all, we are all guests in this world and we will leave one day. Zooming out every now and then to see life as a holistic story could help to bring perspective.

Listening to this podcast, I realize how important it is to have such awareness. The author said in a witty way, “I realized that until I knew what was important right now, what was important right now was to figure out what was important right now!

2. Critical aspects of prioritization in a teal-like environment

Another reason why I was intrigued by the 2 books is its relevance in a Teal-like environment. In the organizational context, I’d say my current team environment is the closest to teal in my entire career. Despite all challenges and ambiguity, we aspire to swarm to meaningful outcomes, in fluid teams, and aspire to create all supporting mechanisms of a networked organization so that the whole organization is more able to enable the value creation of the ecosystem.

So far one of my biggest challenges has been identifying the key leveraging points, prioritizing and bringing creativity and depth to few most important topics. As the author indicates “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

There is a human tendency to solve problems by doing more. And in a teal-like environment where everyone has the freedom to swarm to their passion, transparency, alignment and prioritization is ever more important. With clear enough outcomes and transparency, people should have a clearer view of prioritization. Then we could use aligned mission principles to help make personal decisions about where to swarm.

There is another element of incentives. What are the incentives for stopping, doing less and creating space as opposed to adding new actions in the system? A system transformation to teal way of organization requires all aspects to be organically evolving at the same pace.

“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”

3. The essential practice of creating mind space

“If you believe being overly busy and overextended is evidence of productivity, then you probably believe that creating space to explore, think, and reflect should be kept to a minimum. Yet these very activities are the antidote to the nonessential busyness that infects so many of us. Rather than trivial diversions, they are critical to distinguishing what is actually a trivial diversion from what is truly essential.”

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day.”- Lao-tzu

This is a straightforward neuroscience fact, when our brains are at a high load and stress situation, it won’t be able to activate the creative mind. To be able to create novol solutions, our brains need a state that is not too loose and not too tight (just like when playing a music instrument) in a flowstate. And to enable that, the practice of creating mind space is essential.

However, in an environment where there is a mixed soup of beliefs and emotions, it take courage to hold the space. I resonate strongly with what stated in the book “Without courage, the disciplined pursuit of less is just lip service.” And without conscious and intentional intervention of creating space, we might be dragged back to our “autopilot” of busyness.

4. The practice of self compassion and cultivating lightness

In Zen Buddhism, there is a notion of “effortless effort”—that is, a deliberate, well-intentioned practice, without strain or aggressiveness. This is very similar to the state that McKeown suggests we get to so “we get the highest return on the least effort.”

Here a summary I found on goodread really helps me to grasp the essence of the book

Effortless state
-Physically rested, emotionally unburdened, mentally energized
-Aware, present, attentive, focused on what matters most with ease

-Ask, what if this could be easy?
-Find indirect approaches

-Pair most essential with most enjoyable
-Work & play together
-Turn tedious into meaningful rituals

-Release emotional burdens
-Focus on what you have to get what you lack
-Each time you complain to say something you are grateful for

-Art of doing nothing
-Essential work into 3 x 90 min sessions

-Heightened awareness
-Focus on the important
-To see others more clearly, put their truths above your own
-Clear clutter in physical environment before clutter in your mind

Effortless action
-Accomplishing more by trying less
-Stop procrastinating by taking first obvious step
-Pace yourself

-What done looks like
-Visualize desired outcome
-Done for the day list

-First action most obvious one
-Name concrete steps
-Start w/ 10 mins of focused activity

-Remove steps
-Maximize steps not taken
-Measure progress

Fail cheaply
Create pace

Effortless results

-Learn principles
-Stand on the shoulders of giants/leverage what they know
-Develop unique knowledge
-Use teaching to leverage impact
-Teach others to teach
-Tell stories easily understood and repeated

-Free up space in brain
-Automate as many essential tasks as possible
-Make checklists
-Single choices to eliminate future decisions

-Make right hires once
-Hire for integrity, intelligence, initiative
-Clarify results, resources, rules, roles, rewards

-Solve problems before they happen
-Simple actions can prevent complications
-Measure twice, cut once

Emmm, a lot to try out…