First quarter inventory

It’s almost the end of Q1 2010, so in lieu of a New Year’s resolution list, here’s what this nomad has been up to:

I started New Years day flying to Istanbul, then the first work day of the year with a Vespa Ride across one of the Istanbul bridges and running around the city with a bunch of happy, curious Finns. I’m not missing organization meetings at all.

  • Ran 241km+ in less than 3 months over 30 sessions. Not bad considering my physiology was built to be a cyclist. In the process I dropped 3.5kgs. Not bad. This is for the Berlin Half Marathon. I’ve never run one before but was planning to go visit Berlin and this seemed like a nice avenue
  • 3 countries in 3 months – 2 of them new. Iraq called, Australia calls, Brazil calls, Portugal calls, South Africa calls, Spain calls, UK calls…you get the picture…
  • Started this bloggy with contributions from an amazing group of global ladies
  • Learnt how to make tahini (which is 1 cup of toasted sesame seeds to about 1/3 cup of olive oil). Sandwiches are happier.
  • Started studying German. The last time I looked at German was 19 years ago, but thanks to a very good high school education, all the frameworks for learning languages are still there, just needing a good dust-off
  • Discovered the magic of Chopin and Liszt

and of course I met some special fellow nomads. Check ’em out: from India we have Surya, from Finland, Minna and Marlon from South Africa.

Muxlim was kind enough to bring me over to dear Helsinki for a week and here’s what I learnt there:

  • Meetings can actually be productive! They are spaces where decisions are made, ideas are shared and not bogged down in details. Details part are hashed out in workshops or face-to-face so that no-ones time is wasted. Since the NY-UN days, I’d given up that productive meetings could be had (I was with Security there, and that Department was pretty good at moving things along. Perhaps it was because we had an efficient German at the helm, ‘eins zwei eins zwei, build an empire…’etc)
  • The importance of skill set complementarity. Everyone is good at something but there is no use trying to push something forward if the only people telling you you’re good are those who think the same as you do. We all have something to learn from one another and for me it took bringing business savvy folks/web developers/tech dudes/marketing magicians and so on to really appreciate this.
  • Finland is on the top of a lot of social indexes and rightly so. Open office floor plan versus cubicles = more collaboration, better concentration (less distractions) and a pool table thrown in reminds everyone to take time out, and not take themselves too seriously. A huge kitchen table makes lunch what it should be: social, engaging and a restful pause in the day. More on what we can learn from Finland in a later post.
  • The private sector ain’t so bad after all! My political science genes impounded evil corporations but over the last 3 years or so, I’m meeting more and more folks from the private side of the fence who a) care about making a difference versus the bottom line and b) who are making it happen.
  • How fun it is to work in small teams without having to go through pages and months of processes and bureaucracy. Ah so refreshing!

Building business: on the train. Mobile office anyone?

So what next?

  • Well if this half marathon goes well, then why let that all that running go to waste? Eddie Izzard has got me thinking about SportRelief and such. They focus on the UK, but seriously even little actions like running can contribute to a better community, a better world in some way.  Its just about bringing those beams of light together…
  • My partner in excellence, nomadic’ing and taking regular ‘dance’ breaks during the work day Lojo and I are finishing off our bizplan, our website/identity is in the hands of my good, longtime buddy Trevor and we are getting ready to make some big waves. Is it normal for business partners to dream about their inaugural TED talk? Note to self: when Lojo hasn’t drunk coffee for 10 years, its not the best idea to restart with Turkish Coffee. Unless of course you’re ready for literally jumping off the walls, flying off shelf energy…which is fun 😉

and, as always, more to come!

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‘Cultural’ Differences

One of the great ‘ joys’ (pun intended) of living and working in a place other than where you were born, or raised, or even educated, is getting used to the work ethic there.

Granted: some of the issues you face may be because of *you* – i.e., your own professional and cultural values are a mix of this and that, and therefore not realistic in terms of a new environment.

But sometimes the differences one faces are purely cultural – for instance, being educated in a liberal arts tradition, where everything is open to question, and then moving to work in a place with less open social values.

Or, for instance, being trained professionally in a much more advanced environment than where one ends up. Admittedly, it is this background and training that gets one there in the first place – the new employer valuing the skills learnt elsewhere, and hoping for a communication of those same values and ethics.

But any organisation is made up of parts, which don’t always add up to the whole. Barring a boring post on organisational behaviour, let me just say that things can get  challenging for a modern-day nomad in such diverse environments. I guess reading cultural cues and expectations is not something one learns in fancy-pants school!