Why do colors turn brown when they mix?

“Why do colors turn brown when they mix? Three beautiful colors put together, and they become the least beautiful color. It makes no sense,””

Brandon Sanderson, Words of Radiance

Painting in school, it always fascinated me what happened when I mixed colors. If you took two colors it usually turned into another color that looked really great, but when you started to mix in more and more colors it ended up brown and boring.

This is a great metaphor for building teams. People with different backgrounds, skills and competencies might complement one another perfectly, or they will clash. The difference between working with colors and working with a clashing team, is that if you keep working with a team they might go from being an ugly brown to a beautiful mix.

What is a leader’s job?

“He was just the right man in the right place, and that was so obvious that no one argued about it. He never exactly gave orders or speeches, he just went ahead with the driving and let us get on with our thing–it’s not as if anyone had any doubts what the task was, after all–and when something tricky came up he wandered around Piper 90, from the roof garden to the engine level, and he talked to people.”

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

If people are completely clear about their organisation’s goal, and their teams’ purpose in it, then they will always be able to work towards it. The leader will not have to give any day-to-day orders. She or he can instead focus on the strategic issues. If something unusual happens, trust in your team to do their jobs, they know what needs to be done better than you: Your job is to to make sure that people are talking to one another and that they have all the information they need.

What do you expect of a leader?

“You’re really not interested in power, are you?”

It was my turn to shake my head. “Power is fleating, and I like not having the responsibility of people who look up to me and need my guidance. Life is simpler that way.”

Steve McHugh, With Silent Screams

If you choose to lead then you also take the responsibility of being the leader. It means having people that look to your for guidance and direction. This responsibility will change from day to day, and from group to group. But it will always be there. Some people fear this responsibility so much that they will do anything to avoid leading; and some people thrive on leading to such an extent that they might forget the responsibility.

You have to check what your colleagues expect of you, and that they know what you expect of them.

What can I prevent?

“One of the bad parts about being in charge is having to think of every conceivable terrible idea and trying to work out which ones I can actually prevent.”

Steve McHugh, With Silent Screams

To be able to create possible scenarios of what could happen is only a useful skill if you also can evaluate their costs.

  • How probable is it?
  • How much will it cost us if it happens?
  • How much will it cost to avoid it?

You simply ignore it if something is probably and the cost to avoid it far exceed the cost of it happening, and you do something about it if the cost to avoid it is low. The hard part comes in estimating probabilities, if something is extremely improbable but the cost of it going wrong is extremely high, how much time and effort should you use to try and avoid it?

Holding a grudge is a huge waste of time

“So that’s it? I say sorry, you say sorry and we both move on?” Galahad’s laugh was enough to force him to sit down. “It’s a good thing that we’re almost immortal, or the last thirty years would have felt like a really stupid waste of time.”

Steve McHugh, With Silent Screams

We are not immortal, so going around for years being angry with someone is just a huge waste of time. Either decide to do something about it or let it go. This is not always easy, but we need to start focusing on what it is we need to move past the grudge instead of what the other person ‘should’ do.

It is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about not wasting your time.

My expectations change all the time

“In my mind

In a future five years from now

I’m one hundred and twenty pounds

And I never get hung over

Because I will be the picture of discipline

Never minding what state I’m in

And I will be someone I admire

And it’s funny how I imagined

That I would be that person now

But it does not seem to have happened

Maybe I’ve just forgotten how to see

That I am not exactly the person that I thought I’d be”

Amanda Palmer, In My Mind

This song made me remember my 30th birthday. I was attending a conference in Frankfurt. I remember how I woke up in my hotel room and walked in to the bathroom. When I looked in to the mirror my mind, all the expectations I had when I was twenty flooded into my mind. All my dreams and thoughts of how I thought my life would look like when I was thirty. When I was twenty I was certain that I would have everything figured out when I was thirty; I would be married, I would have children and I would have a clear career ahead of me.

This clashed completely with where I was 6 years ago; I had just met my girlfriend, I had no children, and I was halfway through my PhD. I had fulfilled nothing of what I thought I would and for a few seconds I felt panicked. The feeling turned into amusement and contentment when I realised that I was happy with where I was now and what I was doing. I loved doing my PhD, I loved the freedom I had, and I was so excited to have met the woman I have now married.

“Fuck yes! I am exactly the person that I want to be”

Amanda Palmer, In My Mind

The possibilities that exist in a word

“When I was eighteen, clubbing literally meant hitting someone with a very large club.”

Steve McHugh, With Silent Screams

I love reading about words, how they change meaning and where they come from. One of my favorite sites to browse through is EtymOnline. I can spend hours just reading about the meaning of words and their (often latin) roots. It gives me new perspective on what we actually may be saying, feeling and thinking. I don’t care much for the exact definition of words; I like that they develop over time and that we find new ways of using them all the time.

I like the possibilities that exist in a word.

What path are you following at the moment?

“…water or rivers always seek the easiest path downhill, and that was why the waters often dropped great distances over falls.”

L. E. Modesitt Jr., Antiagon Fire

It is so easy to take the path of least resistance, to just follow the path followed by others or the path where we see the least amount of conflict. Life would probably be easier for us if we handled some of the conflicts in our life instead of just avoiding them. And life might be more fun and rewarding if we travelled away from the common path and found our own.

What path are you following at the moment?

How do we choose who to trust?

“I don’t like flying. I’ve been told it’s perfectly safe, that it’s the future of travel and about a hundred other things which I’m sure the sane part of my brain agrees with. The other part of my brain doesn’t like the idea of being tens of thousands of feet in the air, in a small metal tube, with large quantities of jet fuel. I don’t like the fact that my life is in the hands of people I’ve never met – from the pilots to the repait crew.”

Steve McHugh, With Silent Screams

It is very interesting that we will trust our lives to people we have never met when we are flying, but we might have trouble trusting people who works for us. Every day we might check on how far along they are with their project, or demand to read a person’s report before they send it. And then we will just walk into an airplane and calmly sit down and read a book. For some it is the other way around, they are deadly afraid of flying but are very trusting to their colleagues. There are all combinations of this in people, some trust everyone and some trust very few people.

I wonder if the trust of flying would increase or decrease if we would actually know the pilot or the repair crews.

I wonder if it is about statistics – Statistically speaking it is very safe to fly, and your colleague might have missed the last couple of deadlines.

I wonder if we are taught it when we are young.

I wonder if some are born with more trust and some with less.

I wonder how our trust changes during life and through experiences.

I wonder how we choose who to trust.

What language are you speaking?

Oh yeah I might be crazy – but that’s not the same as insane
And I’m scared – but that’s not the same as being afraid

Sister Hazel, Swan Dive

What does a word mean to you? What is the difference between being scared and afraid? For some people they would mean exactly the same thing and to others they will have different meanings. A huge part of creating a team is actually to come up with a common language, to both consciously and unconsciously decide on how we will communicate and what a word will mean in this group. Some parts of the language will grow while a group are working together but some can be supplied directly. The most important language to give a group early is how they will talk about conflicts; how they will disagree and give feedback in a constructive way.

Tools like FIRO-B, Red&Green zone, and MBTI are not the final truth about how humans behave or think, but they are a way for us to communicate about differences and to talk about how to work together better. And to reflect about earlier experiences of working in groups; successes and failures. By doing this the other parts will fall in place faster, because they will be less scared/afraid of talking about things that bother them, and to talk about the problems long before they become gigantic.