When do you feel Ikigai?

I stumbled upon the Americanized version of this image (replacing “Ikigai” with “Purpose”) on my Facebook feed a few weeks back (oh, the irony) and it really stuck with me. When it came up again this week, though a different channel, it was time for a post.

According to Wikipedia:

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.”… Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is important to the cultural belief that discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life… “people can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization.”

Despite the visualization most likely being a gross simplification of the deeper meaning of the word, that sweet-spot of “what you love” + “what the world needs” + “what you can be paid for” + “what you are good at” is a tough one to find for most people.

I find it to be a useful, self-reflective, diagnostic tool. Understanding where you currently fall short in pursuit of your Ikigai (which circles don’t yet overlap in your life), gives you a focused direction for the next step towards that ideal.

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When do you feel Ikigai?

Rhizomatic Organizations [Rao]

Breaking Smart: Frankenstacks and Rhizomes by Venkatesh Rao

I’ve been a Breaking Smart subscriber for almost a year now and this is exactly the type of post that made my subscribe in the first place.

If you skip the Ethereum intro, and look beyond that IT-focused framing, you’re left with a fascinating concept.

Rao introduce the distinction between Rhizome — a structure that allow for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation — and Arborescent— as tructure following totalizing principles, binarism and dualism.

In the context of the organizations, while the transition from a hierarchical to a networked mental model is a hot trend in organizational design, both concepts remain in the realm of arborescent. Trying to capture the complex, multi-dimensional attributes of the organization in a reductionist, two-dimensional architecture. But what if we started looking at organizations as rhizomes?

Rao suggests that this leads to some interesting insights, and able to predict interesting phenomena that we’ve all encountered:

The archetypal action in a rhizomatic information architecture is cut-and-paste. The spreadsheet is the archetypal integration tool: a sort of generalized clipboard. There is a relationship here to the idea that the medium is the message, and Conway’s law (product structure mirrors org structure). Our information environments are becoming rhizomatic because our informational lives are becoming rhizomatic, and vice versa, in a chicken-and-egg loop.

There is perhaps a distinction between a n00b and an expert, but it is highly localized around specific corners of the rhizome. You can go from n00b to expert and back to n00b in 2 steps. In a traditional org, you can count the floors between the executive suite and say the shop floor where blue-collar workers build products on assembly lines. Authority falls as the elevator descends. n00b/expert relationships change slowly and predictably in space as you move. Expertise and authority turfs are simply connected and simply bounded. In a rhizome, in a move from point A to point B, relative knowledge and expertise might swing wildly. And the value of actions might swing wildly while you’re moving

A rhizome is also a high-friction space. Movement through a rhizome involves an unpredictable stream of transaction costs. Every journey is an obstacle course… Sometimes a single click moves mountains. Other times, you need to move mountains to do one tiny thing. Effort-outcome relationships get out of whack… In a rhizomatic world, if your expectations and work habits are built around architectural cleanliness, you will get deeply frustrated and be perennially frozen. If you can only navigate well-paved paths and clean, well-lit spaces, you’ll likely spend a lot of time in low-value, or even futile, ritualized behaviors while getting nothing done. You must be willing to adopt an opportunistic approach to navigating complexity, and switch from ugly hack to elegant beauty, from amateurish fumble to expert flourish, in an instant.

Rhizomatic Organizations [Rao]

Team Rhythms

I was inspired by Christina Wodtke’s “Design the Team you need to Succeed” to create my own version of the framework, filling-in some of the aspects that I felt were missing in the original version:

A team is a multi-disciplinary group that acts in a coordinated manner, over time, toward a shared goal. It is:

  • Bounded — Clear who is — and who is not — on the team
  • Stable — Membership is kept intact for some period of time
  • Interdependent — Members share accountability for a common purpose

High team performance requires working agreements among team members across 3 key dimensions:

  • Goals — Strategy, Initiatives, OKRs — the Why-What-How
  • Structures — Roles, processes and governance
  • Relationships — group norms, personal and interpersonal dynamics and growth

These working agreements are first defined when the team is formed, and then maintained and iterated upon through 3 operating rhythms: Perform (weekly), Reform (monthly) and Transform (quarterly).

Form Rhythm (kick-off workshop)

Target: establish working agreements needed for high team performance

Objectives:

  • Introduce Team Rhythms Framework
  • Define team type and purpose
  • Establish relationships and share growth areas
  • Set group norms
  • Delineate roles and decision making process(es)
  • Set shared goals for the quarter

Perform Rhythm (weekly)

Target: execute working agreements

Objectives:

  • Track performance indicators and confidence around goal completion
  • Coordinate actions and make decisions needed to make progress towards goals
  • Proactively maintain relationships and address detractors

Reform Rhythm (Monthly)

Target: refine/course-correct working agreements

Objectives:

  • Ratify big decisions (directional, rather that ones supporting coordination)
  • Gauge current team health and leverage low-hanging fruit opportunities
  • Create structured to invest in relationship building

Transform Rhythm (Quarterly)

Target: reflect on working agreements and overhaul / redesign if needed

Objectives:

  • Grade goals and set new ones
  • Identify foundational team health issues and map to explicit (new) goals
  • Provide team members with developmental feedback
Team Rhythms

A Working Class Manifesto [Kilpi]

The best way I can describe Esko Kilpi is as a “future of work philosopher”. And this is a prime example:

A working class manifesto

It’s a short read, arguing that in the era of knowledge work, the distinction between work and personal lives is a false dichotomy, and the tension is only if you choose to look at reality through a very particular lens.

A few memorable quotes:

We need to study the intersection of business strategy and personal narrative and use the new agenda to challenge our industrial age practices and flawed ways of thinking. We are accustomed to taking work home, but what would the opposite be? Knowledge work needs people who are more fully present, people with responsibility and ownership.

Post-industrial business is about doing meaningful things with meaningful people in a meaningful way.

A Working Class Manifesto [Kilpi]