Autism Acceptance Week. As a part of my own expanded awareness this week, I came upon the graphic below which provides a useful illustration of the multidimensional “spectrum” of “Autistic Spectrum Disorder” (ASD). This richer model more clearly articulates how someone “on the spectrum” may have impairments in an area, but none in most others. In assessing how someone with ASD might be quite successfully integrated in a team or organisation, understanding this nuance of how the disorder presents itself and how the particular individual is affected is critical.
The Sunday Times article “GCHQ: meet the spooks with very special skills” shares the case study of an the GCHQ which went a step further of not just embracing neurodiversity, but seeing some of those impairments as actual advantages in certain types of tasks:
- “Hundreds of people with autism and dyslexia work at the government’s eavesdropping post. Why do they make such good spooks?…Although GCHQ draws its employees from a wide cross-section of society, a handful of these ‘unsmart casuals’ are very smart indeed – and not in the conventional way. GCHQ needs brains that are wired differently.”
- “Harry’s habit is the manifestation of his dyspraxia, which is deemed a ‘strength’ within GCHQ’s ‘neuro-diversity’ programme – and not a ‘condition’, as it is described in the outside world. Dyspraxia is regarded as a developmental coordination disorder, which affects the brain’s ability to process information such as language, thought and perception, but does not impact on a person’s intelligence. He set out to solve a problem, which his boss said was ‘not logically achievable’. He clutched his 10 coloured pens and notepad and began ‘scribbling and doodling’ until he cracked it. Ultimately, it earned him one of GCHQ’s top merit awards.”
The unit manager “Jo” describes “the essence of human potential and the wonderful plasticity of the human brain.”
- “We still have storm damage, but we just consider that storm damage is part of our lifestyle and we use it as inspiration to change because the whole place is a big installation art piece that transforms in some way every year. And usually winter storms cause the inspiration for that.”
Freedom Cove has just used generous proportions of recycled materials for more than a home, but a mini-homestead. In fact, the very “ground” it exists on is recycled, ie. discarded logs. Embracing the detritus which failed to find other use as its very foundation, it is no surprise that entire construction is regularly inspired by embracing failure. The quote above reminds me that a storm offers more opportunity than the doldrums.
- “Fair winds do not a great captain make. We dream of finding our own greatness one day, but we want it to happen when the sun is shining.” – Hugh McLeod
Global Recycling Day today. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, especially for these creative architects have turned refuse into residences and debris into dwellings cover in the piece “These beautiful homes are actually made from trash”:
- “This house, from top to bottom, is entirely made of garbage. Literally. the “Waste House” was designed by studio BBM’s director Duncan Baker-Brown, along with undergraduate students at the university. The walls are covered in used carpet tiles and are insulated with junk, including floppy discs and toothbrushes… The architects claim that the Waste House is the UK’s first permanent building constructed with garbage. The designers hope to inspire others, showing that “junk” can be used for so much more. Traditionally, these materials are undervalued. ‘“Foundations made from ground-granulated blast-furnace slag support a framework comprising salvaged plywood beams, columns and timber joists rescued from a nearby demolished house.’ The walls of the house are filled with 20,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs and two tons of denim offcuts. You can see the insulation through these ‘windows’.”
The creations remind me of some clever constructions I’ve come across in my other blog, Maldives Complete, such as Makunudu’s plastic water bottle spa.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. The title is of course Gaelic for “Embracing Failure”. An opportunity to look at another country’s cultural attitudes toward Fáilte Failure which Irish Times article “‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ Irish business is embracing the ‘fail fast’ culture” seems to embrace it with all of the enthusiasm of an Irishman belting out song in a pub after quite a few Guinness pints:
- “Irish CEOs have embraced what i’s called a ‘fail fast’ culture in their organisations quicker than their global counterparts, according to the KPMG Global CEO Outlook. 82% of CEOs surveyed want their employees to feel empowered to innovate and try new things without worrying about negative consequences.”
May the pluck of the Irish be with you!
- “Thanks to a happy accident, the sound of the 80s was born.”
Including probably the most famous drum sequence of all time. Another example of serendipity of failure inspiring creativity in the realm of music.
And the Grammy for the “Best Score Celebrating Failure” goes to…<drum roll>…Corey Schutzer’s performance of “Failing” by Tom Johnson.
- “The weak shows his strength and hides his weaknesses; the magnificent exhibits his weaknesses like ornaments.”—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
No matter how fearful you are of failure and how much you invest in avoiding it, there is one notorious time in nearly everyone’s life when they are challenged to embrace it – the “what’s your biggest weakness” interview question.
But what really works? According to Engineering Recruiter at Facebook, Ambra Benjamin (“A top recruiter says there’s only one good way to answer that question about your biggest weakness”) actually embracing failure:
- “You must always start from the end goal when assessing your answer to an interview question. The interviewer is asking you this question to gain valuable signals about your self-awareness. Understanding your gaps is important, and an employee who doesn’t know his or her own weaknesses is a walking liability. So when it comes to weakness, there is nothing that displays a greater lack of self-awareness than humblebragging. Maybe perfectionism is your real top weakness. Skip it. Go to your second top weakness, or even your third. This should be easy. Personally, I have an entire list of areas I can improve on. Show the interviewers that you realize what they’re getting at, and give them the answer that allows them to get appropriate signals. If you can’t rattle off some gaps in a matter of moments, what exactly are you working on to improve yourself? Everyone has flaws—some we’re aware of, and others are blind spots. I sometimes wish candidates would get over the fear of looking bad, and instead share a true weakness in an interview with confidence. Be a little vulnerable. No one’s asking you to admit that you can never deliver projects on time. That might cost you the job. But knowing your strengths and weaknesses shows that you’re self-aware, and you are developing yourself as an employee or expert in your field. When people use this question to insert a humblebrag, I find it very inauthentic. Afraid it could backfire and be used against you after the interview? Frankly, I’d be very wary about working for any employer that didn’t offer me the job because I candidly shared one of my weaknesses. I’m not sure that’s a job I’d really want.”
She rightfully slams hackneyed tactic of the “humble brag” (eg. “I’m too much of a perfectionist”, “I care too much about people”). Identifying an actual weakness (which is always the first step to the embrace) is key. I would add that applying the other principles of embracing failure – like adopting mitigating strategies and exploiting silver linings – can provide an even more compelling answer.
- “Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Eccentricities, oddities, weirdness…this is the “embracing failure” blog. Let’s not be afraid to call out that many are just plain flaws. And that’s not a bad thing as Seth explains in his post Idiosyncratic:
- “So, which is more interesting: A vintage 1964 Porsche or a new Honda Civic? Which is a better car? If we think hard about the definition of ‘better’, it’s pretty clear that on almost every measurable performance metric, the Honda is a far better car. More reliable. A better value. Able to drive faster, longer, in more conditions. Better mileage. Safer. And on and on. So why do people pay more, talk more, gawk more at the other car? Scarcity isn’t the only reason. It turns out that perfection is sort of boring. Airbnb isn’t as ‘perfect’ as staying at the Hyatt (more variability, more ups and some downs) but it’s certainly more interesting…”
It’s one thing to admit that the hopeless pursuit of perfection is toxic. But it’s another to realise that even if you were ‘perfect’, you might be even more so with some flaws.
- “The things that make me different are the things that make me, me.”—Piglet
More Milne wisdom this time from the mouth of Piglet reflecting on the failure of normality…whatever that is. Olga Khazan explores this theme in more depth in her piece “The unexpected benefits of being weird”:
- “People on the periphery of their environment often have surprising strengths, including creativity. What’s more, weirdos can develop ways to calm their social anxiety, break into the in-crowd, and get other people to embrace their ideas.”
For a collection of role models in this spirit, check out Buzzfeed’s, “People Who Won At Being Different”.
- Any fool can be incrementally shinier than the next guy. If that’s your choice, fine, just don’t complain when you find out that nobody really notices, let alone cares. So get your weird on, this world needs it!”
- “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”—Winnie the Pooh
As we enter the anniversary of lockdown, we should all be expert in “doing nothing” by now. We were reminded of the joys of “nothing” by the charming film “Christopher Robin” (see trailer above) which provide a fanciful frolic as a device to portray as many Taoist pearls of wisdom from this honey-loving, literary icon.
- “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”—Winnie the Pooh
For all of the measures of social distancing, face masking, sanitizing, etc, one of the most effective measures to contain the outbreak has been to hunker down at home and do nothing. And in the growing cacophony of social media intruding more and more into our lives and sanity, just “doing nothing” by not rat-holing, not responding, etc. can be the healthiest response to some of that toxicity.
Doing nothing has not just saved lives, but has also enhanced many lives. This “time out” pause is one of the silver lining to the clouds of pandemic that have stormed across our lives this past year.
Jenny Odell explores this Pooh-esque perspective in her article “Jenny Odell on Why We Need to Learn to Do Nothing: ‘It’s a Reminder That You’re Alive’
- “Finding solace in nature is not a new idea, but its sense of escape is increasingly necessary for our survival, says Odell. She has previously likened it to ‘a wastewater treatment for my brain’ – if not clearing it of ‘debris and noise and worry’, at least making her conscious of it. ‘You really can’t see it unless you step aside,’ she says now…”
May your days be packed with just the right amount of nothing.
- “What I like best is just doing nothing.” —Christopher Robin