Monday, January 26, 2015

The Little Black Dress

Coco Chanel stated that simplicity is the key to any kind of true elegance.

But I dare to differ. Very often simplicity is not elegant at all. If we over-simplify our world, it becomes mono-dimensional, monochrome, lifeless and boring. If we simplify our world-view to an extent where the good cowboys wear white hats, and the bad cowboys black hats, we miss the multi-colour richness of experience the real world has to offer. Instead of trying to manage the complexities we face through black-and-white reductionism, we need to learn to manage our complex reality not by cutting through it and simplifying it. In order to achieve truly satisfying, elegant results, we need to embrace our complex reality by merging with it, gaining a deep, complete and essential understanding of it. Once we have achieved a state of total immersion in a topic, we may find that elegant solutions suddenly present themselves in the most unexpected moments, like a flash of lightning, when inspiration strikes. The resulting solutions may seem simple at first sight – but don’t be deceived! This type of simplicity is rich, complex and deeply satisfying. It provides a profound sense of significance. It addresses the real root causes of a situation, and it usually has a broad-ranging effect. In the fields of information technology, mathematics and engineering, elegant solutions provide a surprisingly simple method, which is normally not obvious at first sight, to produce a highly effective result, often solving multiple problems at once - even problems which may not be inter-related! Although these solutions may seem simple, their quality has nothing to do with reductionism, austerity, and blinkered ways of thinking.

Maybe Coco Chanel’s little black dress can teach us a lesson about true elegance.

This little black piece of magic is designed to reveal just enough, and hide just enough of the lady wearing it, in order to highlight her beauty, whilst at the same time concealing possible challenges in the most complimentary way. Ideally, the little black dress should not be noticed at all by the beholder. If it does its job well, it should simply act as a platform on which the lady can shine!

True elegance combines simplicity with complexity to create beauty!

Elegant solutions are often gentlemanly, unassuming, polite, working their miracles in the background. They don’t have to promote themselves. Their results speak for themselves. So – what might all of this mean for you? Elegance invites you to replace your accumulative drive for quantity with a selective quest for quality.

Elegance challenges you to upgrade and downsize at the same time!

Elegance encourages you not to follow marketing fantasies, fads or fashions, but to develop a strong sense of your own personal style instead. Use your refined sense of style as a filter when making decisions about what to do, what to buy, which people to associate with, and which circumstances you choose to quietly walk away from.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Elegant Objectives

Scientists have found that the moment a person sees a tangible object, their brain starts preparing to reach out for it. When the participants in scientific tests were shown pictures of tangible objects and tools, regions of the brain were activated which are needed for the planning of manual actions and movements. But when they showed participants pictures of large animals, they found that only those areas of the brain were activated that are required to perform the seeing activity. Obviously the brain decided that these objects were too large to handle and refrained from planning to reach out to them. The objectives were too large and thus the brain concluded that it was not worthwhile having the hand reach out for them.

The hand will not reach for what the heart does not long for!

Does this tell us something about how we might want to define our personal or business objectives?

No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to set smaller objectives!

But we may need to check whether our heart (our subconscious mind) perceives the objectives we set as tangible and achievable enough, so that we will indeed reach out…

Objectives you give yourself need to be processed by your brain. So, in order for us to design better objectives, it might help for us to know a bit more about how the brain processes such signals. Research into the way our brain works shows that representations of input into the cerebral cortex of our brain is structured like maps. The input-data are structured in a manner that ensures that similar input-signals stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain closely located to each other.

Furthermore, it seems that frequent input-signals take up more space than the infrequent. So, for instance musicians have more space allocated for their acoustic map in their cerebral cortex than do non-musicians, due to the frequency and intensity of the acoustic signals their brain has had to process. The underlying structural principles of how our cerebral cortex processes signals would thus be similarity and frequency.

So what?

What might this tells us about the way in which we should work with our objectives?

One conclusion might be that sitting down for yourself on December 31st to work out your new year’s resolutions is not enough. Nor will an annual objective-setting meeting with an individual employee suffice, if you are a boss. If you really want the brain to start planning and getting into action, if you want your heart to make your hand reach out for your objectives and ensure you meet them, you will need to make sure the brain accepts the objective as achievable and then increase the intensity and frequency of the input signals.

You say you don’t have time to review your objectives on a daily basis?

Then maybe you are not really convinced that your objectives are important enough?

Turning up the heat!

So what happens when we purposely increase the intensity and frequency of the objective signals we feed our brain with?

It seems that the nerve cells in our brain are connected with their neighbouring cells in a way that ensures that whenever a specific area of the brain is stimulated, the cells closely surrounding this area are stimulated, too, whilst the more distant cells are actively prevented from being stimulated. Some people call this focusing or lasering your thoughts and thinking patterns, for the more you increase the intensity and frequency of a signal, the more you leverage this principle.

In the process of thinking and learning, connections are created and successively strengthened between nerve cells, so that stable representations are generated out of the received sensations and input-signals. The learning effect is directly related to the strength and importance of the input signals. Over time, our brain produces an individual representation and version of the world and the reality surrounding us out of the input-signals it receives. Our brain is constantly learning from each and every signal it receives. In fact, one thing it can probably not do is not to learn!

This means that based on the type, strength and frequency of the input-signals our brains are fed, the maps in our brains are being structured on a very individual basis. And, based on the input our brains have received in the past, we will learn differently, interpreting input signals we receive from our environment based on past experience – constantly filtering and patterning these signals based on our internal maps.

In setting better objectives to ensure we generate elegant success, we need to take these mind-patterns into account.