Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The (Im)Perfect Manager's Big Link Round Up!

Some of these will be old favorites, others will be new. All are interesting and have interesting components that apply to managing or being managed or thinking about communication (a major component of management).

A oldie but goody, Why You Need a Project Manager

The County Library. Seriously. I live in WA State, in King County. The King Country Library allows you to view materials online; they have an entire series related to tech and web work that you can look up and get immediate access to if you have a library card. Almost all libraries online have access to technical books, for free. Yes, you can always use Google, but some people prefer the structure of a book and the ease of a single index on a single topic to answer that one question that's been haunting them. This is a great resource for any employee who might need immediate help with SharePoint or .Net or how fly fishing works for a specific column requiring primary sources.

A visual Study Guide to Cognitive Biases: This stuff is GREAT! It basically gives shape to the currently known biases to standard every day thinking and clues about what to do if you encounter them.

The Talents of a Middle-Aged Brain discusses the difference in the way brains work between younger and older brains; you can extrapolate what will keep people with those brains enticed with their specific work and its an overall interesting read for your own ongoing brain health.

A visual Study Guide to Cognitive Biases: Cognitive biases are the reasons that information is processed differently individual to individual. In addition to knowing your own--and how that might affect data you are learning or teaching--its important to know how these biases can affect employees, co-workers, peers, and upper management. It basically gives shape to the currently known biases to standard every day thinking and clues about what to do if you encounter them.

Related, the You Are Not So Smart coverage of Confirmation Bias: On the whole, I find the You Are Not So Smart pages to be a bit on the stuck up side, despite the fact they frequently have really good information. They challenge the way you think, which can help you challenge the way other people think. Just, you know, try not to be obnoxious about it.

The Project Management Alliance Tips on giving presentations: most of this, like most communication lists of suggestions, are fairly easy to intuit on your own. Which is surprising, given the number of people (myself included) who often fail to follow simple rules. Oh, and there are all kinds of prescriptions for presentations (I've even done a whole Bonus Blog on it myself). The gist is, expose yourself to various methods of communicating through presentation, and then use the tips that work best for you for the best presentation.

Brain Images Show Actions Associated With Courage: From the article itself "Our results propose an account for brain processes and mechanisms supporting an intriguing aspect of human behavior, the ability to carry out a voluntary action opposite to that promoted by ongoing fear, namely courage." Not your normal management reading material, this article describes the experiment and the conclusions of how courage and fear work together in the body and suggest (in the last paragraph) methods of encouraging courage in individuals. Who wouldn't want that for their team?

A Neuroscientist Uncovers a Dark Secret: This is the first of the articles on the NPR site about a book called "The Psychopath Test." I found the articles and the book FASCINATING; they map out correlations between business behavior generally accepted to be good and effective to anti-social behavior often found in the 1 percent of the population that are psychopaths. Further, it explores the fact that powerful people--CEO's, Chairmen of Boards, basically successful business people--tend to score higher on the Psychopath test than the rest of society. It adds dimensions to looking at the people you work with, in terms of understanding what they might be looking to get out of interactions, but also to curb enthusiasm for the cut throat world of business and to concentrate (I say this very selfishly) on the tenants I espouse here, of building the people below you and at your level up, so that they will raise you up...and maybe protect you from the psychopaths out there.

Another from the PM Alliance, Being a Good Mentor: I like to read the
PM Alliance articles; not all of them are useful, but sometimes they have some real gems (other times they have things like "putting on a tie will make you seem more professional" which is sort of like listening to John Madden say "If he scores a touch down, they'll make some points." Um, duh). This is a pretty good one, especially if its the first time you are getting into the driver seat to mentor someone.

The exploration of group fusion in Would You Give Your Life For Your Group? provides insight to strongly associated groups and group dynamics. Not something you can immediately transfer to work ("Hey, team, would you throw yourself in front of a trolley for our team or Bob's team?"), but worth considering when contemplating group think and team building.

The Anosognosic's Dilemma: This is not just entertaining, but it also shows that competence is in the eye of the beholder. Even if the beholder isn't particularly paying attention. The basic concept is that many people over estimate their skills, and, because they don't have that skill level, are unable to understand why they fail at tasks where they assume they have the best skills possible; effectively, why they rationalize things when the simple answer to the problem is themselves. It's fascinating reading, and this is only part 1.

Finally, a revisit of the Monkey Business Illusion. The basic concept is that you can be so trapped in the weeds of a project, so close to it, that you miss things...like a giant monkey walking right through. Click to the old blog then click the video of the experiment itself. Even when you know the man in the monkey suit is coming through, you sometimes miss him.

This is just a sampling of reading materials I've had hanging about that I re-read or was getting ready to read. I read a lot. Psychology, communication, project management, management books and articles...they aren't my primary form of reading relaxation, but I try to keep up with them because as a manager the techniques you learn from someone else could some day be your own successful techniques. The wonder of the world is that it is constantly changing, that information is basically free to acquire, and research is being published constantly that can entertain you, as well as help make you and your team better at your respective jobs.

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