I’ve warned you all before that you’re all part of one big experiment for me. But I’ve promised to always share the learnings from said experiments in forms of blog posts (which further propagate the experiment). But ultimately what am I trying to find out? I came across a great answer today while reading Neal Stephenson‘s new book, Reamde (which so far, is awesome). It’s a part of the book explaining how Sokolov, a “security consultant” for Russian mobsters runs “experiments.”
But on the other hand Sokolov owed his life—his survival in Afghanistan, in Chechnya—to his ability to see things through the eyes of the adversary, and in this case that meant trying to put himself in Ivanov’s shoes. This reversal of perspective was not always easy. One frequently had to work at it for some days, observing the other, gathering data, even conducting little experiments to see how the other reacted to things. His men in Chechnya had thought that he, Sokolov, was crazy because he had sometimes taken actions that made no evident tactical sense, solely as a way of proving or disproving a hypothesis as to what the Chechens were thinking, what they wanted, what they were most afraid of.
What they considered normal.
I love that last line: What they consider normal. It’s not about what you think they should think. It’s not even about what they tell you they want. It’s about how they behave and what they consider normal.
Now unlike Sokolov, I’m not dealing with life or death. But normal is subjective, normal is cultural, and normal is always changing.
It use to be normal that anyone who had a blog *had* to have comments enabled. HAD TO! Not so much anymore. It used to be normal that you *had* to follow everyone on Twitter back. That’s not normal anymore. Things change and if you’re not constantly running experiments to see what’s normal with the people you associate with as work, online, after work, etc you’re going to make a big mistake. I find it easier to make a series of small “mistakes” that test the boundaries of normal.
Here’s what you do:
- Do something different than you normally do.
- Watch for the response.
That’s it really. Do something different and gather data. You don’t even have to do the different thing yourself. Watch what happens when other people break rank and do something different. The important part is to withhold judgement yourself. Just observe and gather data. It doesn’t hurt to write these things down either.
So what does this look like for me? I occasionally write off topic blog posts not about business or social media. I occasionally don’t promote a blog post via the usual channels. I start a Google+ page for the blog to see how that does. I do the same things at work trying out different ways of presenting information to teams or clients. I even extend this to how I dress or act in meetings. You’d be surprised how different people respond when you wear a tie or don’t say anything in a meeting (or don’t shut up). And the experiments never end because every dynamic is different and every individual is different. It’s a never ending laboratory of excitement.
Over time you’ll get a sense of where things are going. Directionally, you’ll be able to see where things are going, not just where they’ve been or where they are now but what’s next.
So my challenge to you is Monday morning, plan to do something different.