Saturday, 21 March 2015

Is an integrated landscape possible?

Blog from the archives reprinted here

As I start to write this I'm not sure where I'm headed but thought I'd share the process of using metaphors contained within someone's language to try to solve the problem its describing.

The Spend Matters headline read "GPS and Cabinet Office procurement – more integration to come, says Crothers" and went on to quote Bill Crothers, Government CPO at the Cabinet Office, as saying "... different components of the commercial landscape that are not necessarily integrated."

So I got to wondering what an integrated landscape would be like in reality (ie in nature) and then we can explore together how these map (excuse the pun :-)) across into how to have an integrated commercial landscape Bill was referring to - because I'm not sure many people are liking the option he proposed.

The key when using the #landscapingyourlife process is to stick with the metaphor for as long as possible. In this case sticking with exploring the integrated natural landscape and not a commercial one. A bit like when we're conducting the research and analysis phase for a category. It's no use making assumptions and jumping to conclusions until all the data is in.

So stick with me, and notice what you notice as you read further, as I share the thoughts and insights that appear as I explore an 'integrated landscape' from my lounge and a road atlas of Britain!

As it's impossible to view the whole landscape at once I automatically thought of a map. Remembering of course that the map is not reality only a representation of it. The map I had to hand was a road atlas of Britain. It is however out of date and a little worn! 

So I'm already wondering if I can get a sense of integration when I don't even have an accurate and up to date picture of the whole? For example I know the new forth road bridge would be shown on a new map with completion date some date in the future.

The first page I turn to has a map that shows the bigger picture but not how all the component parts connect with each other. Each major city simply a blob!

The next size map has the Britain split in 2. It clearly shows the blue lines of motorways connecting major hubs and the linking A roads, but big gaps of blankness of unconnected space in between. So still a disconnect I suspect.
If I drill down I keep getting more detail but smaller areas covered. A greater sense of integration within that small area but greater loss of integration with the whole.
I'm currently not getting a sense of what an integrated landscape looks like and start to wonder if it's possible other than for specific areas within the whole as shown above.

This is where doing this alone has its weakness as I'm not sure where to go next and in groups it's easier to feed on each other's ideas...

I will give it a go none the less...initial thoughts I soon discounted included:

  • Using Google earth and satellites to help see the bigger picture and zoom in and out as needed. I kept getting a sense that's no different than the problem I was having with the maps. You either get high level of the whole, or detail of a small bit. You can't have a detailed whole picture.
  • I also thought about cutting up the map and pulling bits together. But that ignores so much and allows for a distorted view of reality because my values and judgements then decide what is and isn't included. 
Which brings me to the only solution from this exploration that I could see:
  • I keep being drawn to the water that surrounds Britain as the defining integrator. Every part of Britain understanding how they relate to the water even if not to each other. Unlike the landscape, that is full of variety and complexity and needs the detail to make sense of it all, the sea that surrounds the landscape is fairly uniform. A little colder or warmer in places impacted by different currents but something that can be understood as a whole.   
So where does that quick trip into the landscaping process get us - for me the insights include:
  • You need a map to make sense of the landscape - otherwise all you can do is view the landscape you're standing in at that moment in time.
  • That's only relevant if the map is up to date. That is you can't integrate something that's not quantified and you certainly can't integrate it in order to quantify it!
  • Beware of options that split the map in two as its easy to concentrate on the half you know better and forget about the bigger picture.
  • A detailed map is only possible for small areas, and locals will still know the area better than any map ever will.
  • You can't have detailed integration of the whole - you either have high level integration of the whole or detailed integration of a smaller area.
  • Integration at a high level tells us very little.
  • The only way to make sense of the bigger picture and how it all fits together is to understand the container in which it sits.
The next step would be to then understand what the sea represents on the 'commercial landscape' Bill was talking about.

I would love to read what you took from this slightly different way of looking at the situation. Not quite what I was expecting but then it would need to be Bill who makes the assessment of its value, as it was his metaphor I explored. 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Is it real

Is what you're experiencing real?

It's so easy to think what we're seeing, hearing and experiencing means one thing.
I saw this out of my window and wondered what pink boards the swimming pool had put in the window.

Until I looked closer and realised it was only a reflection of a pink horse trailer (far left of this picture).
Where in your life might you be seeing a reflection as real? 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

How's the weather with you?

A BBC article entitled 'is the British weather unique in the world' had me wondering about the weather and its effect on us. Although sometimes I do think my 'wonderings' should just stay in my head rather than be shared here!

I don't mean on whether we need to put an extra jumper on or get the sunscreen out. I mean how might the weather we experience where we live impact how we're feeling, thinking and acting? I also don't just mean the actual weather - like the lack of sun meaning we don't produce enough vitamin D and therefore are grumpier than we might be. I mean how might the patterns of the weather we experience daily, monthly or yearly unconsciously impact how we act.

Let's look at what the article says about British weather patterns and explore what differences in behaviour they might illicit.

Its a blog where I'd encourage those working cross culturally to share what they've experienced. So do please comment below on what you've noticed about weather patterns and their potential impact on cultural behaviour. 


Q: Does the predictability of the weather impact the level of planning involved when developing strategies?

The overarching theme to British weather is its unpredictability. Which means we grow up used to having an umbrella, extra layer, sunscreen and snow shovel in the car - just in case. We're also used to changing plans at the last minute to embrace an unexpected sunny day or to avoid getting drenched.

How does that translate in business?

Have we in Britain become so used to unpredictability that we have become good at planning it into what we do. Or does it simply mean we're great at thinking on our feet and adapting to the changing economic, political or social environment?

What about countries where the weather is predictable does that correlate with predictability of behaviour too? Or perhaps it has the opposite effect? 

4 distinct seasons

 Q: Do the number of seasons impact the process adopted and speed to implement strategies?

Some areas in the world only have 2 seasons compared to 4 here in the Britain. These 2 seasons come and go as if like clockwork with limited external factors effecting the date for the start of one and end of the other. In Britain the movement from one season to the other is impacted by many factors. Even then spring can take 8 weeks to move from south to north! 

So I wonder are strategies easier to implement in countries with only 2 seasons. Are they either planning or acting. Can we see a correlation to implementing strategies here in Britain that follows a four part process? 

Ratio of daylight 
Q: Does the variance in daylight throughout the year impact our preferred patterns of activity?

At summer solstice in London there's 16 hours between sunrise and sunset. Compared with just short of 7 hours at winter solstice.

Do the long nights in winter and long days in summer impact the patterns of our work. Not just directly in summer and winter but every day. Are we in Britain more likely to have a preference for peaks and troughs in activity. Will we throw long hours at something and then need to take our foot of the pedal afterwards.

What about countries with less variation in daylight - is output and productivity more evenly spread throughout each day? Do they find it hard to react to a need for an increase in output?
Lack of dramatic weather

Q: Does lack of dramatic weather lead to lack of dramatic behaviour?

The article suggest the UK lacks dramatic weather such as the monsoon's in India, the hurricanes in many other parts of the world and the thunder storms I've encountered in France.

Do other cultures see the British as less dramatic or do we make up for the lack of dramatic weather through dramatic behaviour. What about the behaviour of those individuals living in countries with dramatic weather? And does it depend on what the weather is? Does the fear of hurricanes make people less grounded or the propensity of thunder and lightening make others angrier?

Not sure if the blog has answered the questions as much as posed them. It was just a thought I had when I saw the BBC article :-)

I certainly believe that we're impacted by the patterns around us, and as weather is a set of patterns just wondered if we may be unconsciously impacted by them.

What do you think? What have you noticed?

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out