Living in a “Fill the Space” Age (Or the myth of emptiness)

Life is great and small

We are living in the “space” age. Not the science fiction version with flying cars and tight pants but an age where every moment, every space, must be filled.

In our cities homes are stacked on top of each other. We build in as much as we build out. Hollow space is considered either a potential commodity or a design flaw. If you have empty space, or “free” time, the American question is; what will you do with it? What will you do to fill the space you’ve been given to make it larger, to make it better?

In our market economy product saturation, or infiltration, presides. Competition for space in the most precious of all real-estate markets, the human mind, is in constant flux. It seems no space is too sacred for the adviser’s pen. The desire to fill ourselves, to fill our own sense of emptiness, makes nearly every space, and every item, exchangeable.

Nothing is its own for its own sake. All can quickly become a token, a trading card for something else to fill the ironically increasing void in our expanding world.

As we look deeper into the origins of life and farther into the expanse of the heavens we find that both are endless. The visible world is growing as we gaze into what we thought was invisible, with new eyes. Yet there is a harmony in what appears to be chaos. The order runs deep and balance is maintained. There are limits keeping order between the spaces.

While in this accelerating age of space filling I hope we will choose to value the sacred space of the human mind and stop catering to those who would exploit our most vulnerable locations.

Enabling Perception of Control (Part I)

Perception of Control

Back in the 20th century I worked retail for Franklin Quest (Now FranklinCovey) and I was given “frontline authority.” This meant I was enabled to call the shots with our customers. If a discount seemed appropriate I could give a discount.  If a return seemed questionable the decision was mine to accepted or decline.  I was trusted to call the shots.

My ability to discern the appropriate course of action on the “frontline” quickly grew with experience.  My self confidence also grew. 

At the time, this concept of frontline authority seemed to be a unique course of action. The corporate decision makers could have followed the example of other retailers and distributed a detailed handbook mandating that all customer service decisions follow a strict written policy.  Functionally this could have been effective but it would have caused significant problems for our customers and employees. It would have been bad for business.

When an employee who should be making decisions is blocked from doing so, customers can feel it. It doesn’t take long before a request is made to speak with a “manager,” meaning someone the customer believes has the authority to make a decision rather than repeat policy.

Granting frontline decision making authority is essential to developing trust and strength in any organization. When individuals perceive that they have the ability to choose for themselves their world is expanded. When this perception is damaged or distorted their world shrinks and their work becomes frustrating. 

Making decisions and experiencing the consequences of those decisions is critical to individual development. If individuals do not perceive themselves as appropriately in control of their work, the organization suffers. They can, over time, develop a sense of learned helplessness. Not that they are helpless but by perceiving themselves as helpless they act as if it was true. Those who refuse to accept the model of learned helplessness eventually leave the organization.

I’ve used my days at FranklinCovey as an example of an organization that successfully enabled a strong perception of control in its most basic employees. If doing so is critical to running a business, how much more is it to a marriage, raising children, or even developing friendships?

To Wiki or Not To Wiki?

 wiki.png

Can Wikipedia be trusted? This is not a new question. It should be asked of every encyclopedia.

Encyclopedias are touch stones, introductory references, telescopes peaking into much larger worlds. Sometimes the lenses of our printed guides are blurred. Ink alone does not endow words with factual authority. Printing and binding only guarantee a higher delivery cost. The entries may be factual, but good luck verifying the sources. If you have access to the sources you probably would not bother looking it up in an encyclopedia; unless that encyclopedia is Wikipedia.

If you know a subject well, the best place to begin is Wikipedia. If the First Barbary War is one of your specialties, go to Wikipedia and see if the article is accurate. If it’s not, make corrections (The current article does not meet Wikipedia standards). As a contributor you can clear the way for other observers.  

Here is an example. I’m familiar with the events surrounding the murder of Joseph Standing in 1879 and Wikipedia had a stub (A short article marked for expansion) about his life. In July 2007 I made a major revision of the article. I adhered to Wikipedia’s three content policies; maintain a neutral point of view (NPOV), provide verifiable sources, and do not use original research. Since my revision there have been around 30 minor edits, made by other users, and with only two exceptions every edit has been an improvement.

This kind of real time editing can not be done in the world of paper. I recently found two errors in a history book that has been on the market for over a decade. I submitted corrections to the publisher earlier this week and while they were pleased to receive accurate information, it will probably take a year or more before the book is updated.

As Erin McKean says, sometimes paper is the enemy of words. The book is not the best shape for an encyclopedia. At the same time, I’m not yet converted to belief in a paperless world. I simply love books. Well referenced, indexed books. But from my non-neutral point of view Wikipedia and its volunteer army of Wikipedians, of which I am one, are headed in the right direction. Now let’s Wiki.