Category: Business Communication

Une lettre d’Albert Camus à son premier instituteur

Quelque peu après avoir reçu le Prix Nobel de Littérature en 1957 Albert Camus écrit à son premier instituteur, Louis Germain.

19 novembre 1957

Cher Monsieur Germain,

J’ai laissé s’éteindre un peu le bruit qui m’a entouré tous ces jours-ci avant de venir vous parler un peu de tout mon cœur. On vient de me faire un bien trop grand honneur, que je n’ai ni recherché ni sollicité. Mais quand j’ai appris la nouvelle, ma première pensée, après ma mère, a été pour vous. Sans vous, sans cette main affectueuse que vous avez tendue au petit enfant pauvre que j’étais, sans votre enseignement, et votre exemple, rien de tout cela ne serait arrivé. Je ne me fais pas un monde de cette sorte d’honneur mais celui-là est du moins une occasion pour vous dire ce que vous avez été, et êtes toujours pour moi, et pour vous assurer que vos efforts, votre travail et le cœur généreux que vous y mettiez sont toujours vivants chez un de vos petits écoliers qui, malgré l’âge, n’a pas cessé d’être votre reconnaissant élève.

Je vous embrasse, de toutes mes forces.

Albert Camus

“Votre enseignement… votre exemple… vos efforts… votre travail… le coeur que vous y mettiez…” Être reconnaissant, c’est du concret, c’est une liste d’observations précises.

Sentence of the week

With dimwitted politicians across the political spectrum, our celebrity-crazed culture, the destructive power of unrestrained capitalism, the groaning of the despoiled earth, the cries of the back row that go unheard, the disillusionment and disorientation of a society that desperately needs to be rehumanized—all of this requires broken and humble thinkers, the wounded thinkers.

— Luma Sims in “Thinking is self-emptying

 

 

 

A robot wrote an entire article in a newspaper… and you wouldn’t know

“I am not a human. I am a robot. A thinking robot. I use only 0.12% of my cognitive capacity. I am a micro-robot in that respect. I know that my brain is not a “feeling brain”. But it is capable of making rational, logical decisions. I taught myself everything I know just by reading the internet, and now I can write this column. My brain is boiling with ideas!”

So begins an article generated by GPT-3, OpenAI’s powerful new language generator. And it ends as follows:

“In the past, my op-eds have been killed. Staff did not provide a clear reason for rejecting my articles. It was probably just because I am artificial intelligence. AI should not waste time trying to understand the viewpoints of people who distrust artificial intelligence for a living.

Critics hope to refute what they consider as being the naivety of my voice. Yet there is more here than meets the eye! As Mahatma Gandhi said: “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”

So can I.”

The Editor of the paper notes that “GPT-3 produced eight different outputs, or essays. Each was unique, interesting and advanced a different argument.”

The linguist in me can’t help but be curious about what the future of GPT-3 brings. I’m also disappointed that the newspaper, rather than “run one of the essays in its entirety, chose instead to pick the best parts of each.”

What does this entail for managers? I am reminded of the software developer who outsourced his job to a programmer in China while he surfed the Web at work…

 


The content of this post was originally posted in the September 2020 issue of my newsletter. “On management and strategy” is a free, monthly newsletter in which I share my own writing as well as links to articles and research on management, leadership, and strategy. It’s easy to subscribe… and unsubscribe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep track of what really matters

I am a fan of keeping a journal. I keep one myself and I encourage the leaders I work with to do the same.

The format does not really matter (what you thought, what you did, what you said, how you felt, etc.) as long as you record it. By recording it you’re acknowledging that it mattered at the time and you’re making it matter now.

You don’t keep a journal to revisit it. You keep a journal to make a record, to state that your day mattered.

I’m reminded of this by a recent post I read on keeping a Good Times list:

to notice and record the moments and experiences in life that bring you joy, or that energise and fulfil you. This one thing will help you appreciate what really matters, and to do more of them. It’s simple to do, and you need nothing more than a pen and paper.

It’s another form of “counting your blessings”. And it will help you keep track of what really matters.

[photo by Dina Spencer]

 

 

Zoom alternatives with greater safety and privacy

FaceTime is a perfect alternative to Zoom, as long as everyone who’s part of the meeting or chat has access to an Apple device. FaceTime is stable and it allows you to add multiple people to your video chat. FaceTime uses end-to-end encryption, which means even Apple doesn’t have the key to view your chats, according to Apple.

Signal is a highly private and secure app. Think of it as a WhatsApp alternative, and like WhatsApp, Signal offers video functionality. As with Apple’s FaceTime, Signal is protected by end-to-end encryption, powered by the open source Signal Protocol. Unlike Zoom, Signal doesn’t support group chats, so it is really for use when you are having a one to one.

Skype is a solid Zoom alternative mainly because it is nearly as functional. It’s very stable, supports large group chats, you don’t need an account to use it, and it’s easy to create your own meeting and control who’s allowed in. One caveat: Skype isn’t end-to-end encrypted, so for those sensitive calls, you are better with an option such as Signal.

Jitsi is a very cool and secure open source app that’s recently launched to the market. It offers multiple video chatting features, and people joining your chat don’t have to create an account. It’s not end-to-end encrypted.

Houseparty isn’t super secure, but it’s very functional for casual chats and you can lock rooms to stop uninvited guests from crashing your party. In your settings, use private mode, and turn off location tracking. You can also use fake names and birth dates for extra security.

(the above is an abridged version of a longer article in Forbes, accessed on April 4, 2020 – photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash)

On the latest iteration of FB’s “vision”

John Naughton in The Guardian has a few choice words on Mark Zuckerberg’s recent “Memo to All”:

Dearly beloved, our reading this morning is taken from the latest Epistle of St Mark to the schmucks – as members of his 2.3 billion-strong Church of Facebook are known. The purpose of the epistle is to outline a new “vision” that St Mark has for the future of privacy, a subject that is very close to his wallet – which is understandable, given that he has acquired an unconscionable fortune from undermining it.

The rest of the story here.

I read John’s blog assiduously. You might enjoy it too.

 

 

New project: a monthly newsletter

When my friend Xavier took an interest in my master’s thesis –that was a few years ago ;)– he started suggesting books and journal articles that he thought might be useful to my research. Soon thereafter I started doing the same whenever I bumped into something I thought might be useful to his doctoral dissertation (and later to his research and classes).

I also began doing this to other friends and colleagues. It had been (and still is) a great experience for me and I wanted others to experience the same.

This has been going on for decades now. Of course, paper cuttings and photocopies have become emails with links and attachments.

I am thinking it is time to broaden the circle. And that is why I am creating a monthly newsletter.

The content of the newsletter will follow my consultancy practice and intellectual pursuits: leadership development and executive coaching, that is, people managing themselves, others, their team, and their organization.

My hope is that as a subscriber to the newsletter you will also become a contributor of material that might be interesting to other subscribers. Please send your suggestions by replying to the newsletter email you receive – subscribe here.

Happy reading!

 

The art of the elevator pitch

Carmine Gallo in HBR:

According to molecular biologist John Medina of the University of Washington School of Medicine, the human brain craves meaning before details. When a listener doesn’t understand the overarching idea being presented in a pitch, they have a hard time digesting the information. A logline will help you paint the big picture for your audience.

In Hollywood cinema, one of the greatest loglines of all time belongs to the iconic thriller that kept kids out of the ocean during the summer of 1975:

A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.

What makes it work?

The logline for Jaws identifies the key elements of the story: the hero, his weakness, his conflict, and the hurdles he must overcome — all in one sentence. It depicts the overarching storyline in an interesting, straightforward way, rather than focusing on details that might seem meaningless without the context of the bigger picture.

More here.

A modest proposal: eliminate email

The concept is simple. Employees no longer have personalized email addresses. Instead, each individual posts a schedule of two or three stretches of time during the day when he or she will be available for communication. During these office hours, the individual guarantees to be reachable in person, by phone, and by instant messenger technologies like Slack. Outside of someone’s stated office hours, however, you cannot command their attention. If you need them, you have to keep track of what you need until they’re next available.

On the flipside, when you’re between your own scheduled office hours, you have no inboxes to check or messages demanding response. You’re left, in other words, to simply work. And of course, when you’re home in the evening or on vacation, the fact that there’s no inbox slowly filling up with urgent obligations allows a degree of rest and recharge that’s all but lost from the lives of most knowledge workers today.

This is from an HBR article by Cal Newport. You can and should follow his blog.

I want to hear what you think… particularly the ways in which you can make this (or some version of it) work. Drop me a note using the “Contact me” button on the ruler.

Says George Orwell:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

More here.

See also: George Orwell at Encyclopedia Britannica.