The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 194

Dave Evans and Bill Burnett

Designing Your Work Life

How can you re-design your job to create the life you want? The change starts with you. From the authors of Designing Your Life comes their newest book, Designing Your Work Life. In this special, in-person episode, Dave Evans and Bill Burnett return to the podcast to discuss how to remove the melodrama from a conversation, how to get to the root issue behind a complaint, the right way to research a new position or career, and how to “let it go” when you need to.

About

Get the book, Designing Your Work Life, from Amazon here:

Learn more

Website: Designingyour.life/
Bios:
Bill Burnett is the Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford. He directs the undergraduate and graduate program in design at Stanford, both interdepartmental programs between the Mechanical Engineering department and the Art department. He got his BS and MS in Product Design at Stanford and has worked professionally on a wide variety of projects ranging from award-winning Apple PowerBooks to the original Hasbro Star Wars action figures. He holds a number of mechanical and design patents, and design awards for a variety of products including the first “slate” computer. In addition to his duties at Stanford, he is a on the Board of VOZ (pronounced “VAWS – it means voice in Spanish) a social responsible high fashion startup and advises several Internet start-up companies.

From saving the seals to solving the energy crisis, from imagining the first computer mice to redefining software — Dave Evans’s been on a mission, including helping others to find theirs. Starting at Stanford with dreams of following Jacques Cousteau as a marine biologist, Dave realized (a bit late) that he was lousy at it and shifted to mechanical engineering with an eye on the energy problem. After four years in alternative energy, it was clear that this idea’s time hadn’t come yet. So while en route to biomedical engineering, Dave accepted an invitation to work for Apple, where he led product marketing for the mouse team and introduced laser printing to the masses. When Dave’s boss at Apple left to start Electronic Arts, Dave joined as the company’s first VP of Talent, dedicated to making “software worthy of the minds that use it.”

Dave holds a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford and a graduate diploma in Contemplative Spirituality from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Video

Transcript

This transcript is unedited.

Peter:

With us today is Dave Evans and Bill Burnett. Dave is an entrepreneur. He worked at Apple. He led the design of Apple’s first mouse. He cofounded electronic arts before becoming a CA consulting assistant professor at Stanford. Bill is the executive director of the design program at Stanford. He’s worked professionally on a wide variety of projects ranging from award winning Apple power books to the original Hasbro star Wars action figures. It was kind of awesome together. They wrote the book designing your life, which we’ve had them both on the podcast for that book today. We have them on the podcast for it. Designing your work life, how to thrive and change and find happiness at work. Bill Dave, welcome to the Bregman leadership podcast.

Bill:

It’s nice to actually be here.

Peter:

Yeah, it’s nice to be in person.

Dave:

Doing this 3D thing. What can I say?

Peter:

Uh so let’s start, first of all, we’d like and, and, and you know, either of you can can decide who wants to answer this, but like why another book designing your life was a great book. It did really well. It was, you know, it was both successful and had a lot of core ideas in it of design thinking applied to life. Why this book?

Dave:

Well, to our greatest management, the book is an, I mean frighteningly well, I mean we’re between five and 600,000 copies in 23 languages. We really didn’t see that coming. And so we’re getting a lot of feedback from a lot of people around the world. We’re hearing a lot of things. That’s one thing. And the is going, it’s not a book, it’s a movement. Let’s keep the movement going. You know, what’s the next thing? So the next thing was a conversation for awhile. And based on both what we heard from the field, from our many readers, clients and students, you know, we now also at Stanford taught over a hundred universities how to do this kind of work with their million plus students. So we have a lot of feedback and a lot of people spend a lot of time, in fact, more time than anywhere else at work. And even if I don’t want to jump ship and redesign my life entirely, I’d like to make my life a little better. And if I picked one place to make a little better, I do it at work. And then the publisher said the same thing. Like, you know, that would be something everybody could use, bring it right down to the ground. A real practical toolkit for redesigning where I spend most of my time. So that’s why we wrote the book.

Peter:

What does it mean to make it a movement? Uh well, every time you don’t want to answer it, you can pass it to Bill. I like that. I like that.

Bill:

We’ve, we’ve got, you know, 50 some thousand on the email list. You want to know what we’re going to do next? We’ve got people in, you know, 600 or 800 book clubs now on our Facebook page talking about, you know, going through designing your life and thinking about that. I’m one of David and my objectives at Stanford was get the, get to two kinds of impact. Write a book so that people can’t come to Stanford, can take the, you know, take the class and get it off campus. So we’ve been running studios for other universities. I just came back from bowling green state university in upstate Ohio. They’ve decided to become the first life design university where from freshman year to your senior year, you’re going to learn these tools to figure out how to design a thriving, exciting life. And then what’s everybody we know, what does everybody do for most of the time in that life? They have a job in it, right? So get the big story about life right? And then get a job in it that’s meaningful and, and something that you know, that, that you want to get up in the morning and do. And you know, the stats were terrible. Like 68%, 70% of Americans wake up on Monday morning and go, Hey, I’ve got to go to work. And it sucks.

Dave:

So 69% of American workers. And 85% of global workers are disengaged about half that number severely so, I mean, they’re stuck at work. They’re pretty unhappy. Yeah. It works not working. Right. So what, what’s a movement? A movement isn’t just like, Hey, let’s go sell a bunch of books. But let’s change the conversation, right? We’re trying to change the conversation in education. It’s not just about the liberal education, but finding ways or just about building a career at college. It’s about finding a way to navigate your way forward into way wayfind into a future of your own design. So the competency of figuring out your future is something you can learn. And now the workplace, the competency of taking responsibility for the agency you have over your own career satisfaction, you need some tools for that. So I think the movement idea is to change the conversation. We’ve, we’ve been trying to change it on campus. We’re trying to change it in the culture at large about it’s not find your passion, it’s design your way forward. That’s a really different way of going about it. And in the workplace, Hey, if you want a better job, the first person you could probably go to to get it from would be you.

Peter:

So there’s a way in which you’re saying that you want to change the conversation. I’m also hearing that you’re wanting to change expectations, meaning people don’t, for the most part, if 70% of the workforce is engaged, they don’t actually have an expectation of going to work and being engaged. And, and it feels like what’s, what’s most important as a first step is to change the expectation of, of how people think about work.

Bill:

Yeah. And also, you know, it’s a kind of modern idea that your work is going to somehow be meaningful and you’re going to be super passionate about it. Right. my grandfather came from, you know, Germany in 1933 he didn’t think that Hitler guy just got elected was gonna turn out so well and he worked on any job he could get. Just to bring his family here and put a roof over their head. Nowadays people are thinking, you know, maybe work should be more meaningful. Maybe that’s where I find my purpose in life, but we wanna we want to open that expectation up to and kind of redesign like, well, where does meaning come from? And you know, what’s the difference between meaning and money? And how do you take the agency that you’ve got in your own job? You don’t need your boss to help you make your job more meaningful.

Bill:

There’s a lot of things that we, we we’d understand about the psychology of our, how we’re motivated that we can use to make our jobs more meaningful. So we try to pack all that in the book so that people had some really simple ways forward. But yeah, it to some extent, you know, when you, when you move from a fixed mindset to a designer’s mindset, when you move from well what your future is going to come. And I’ll just take whatever I get. I’ll deal with it to a, Hey, wait a minute. I can change this a little bit. I have, I have agency in designing this future that really changes what your expectations are. And you become more resilient because, you know, stuff’s going to happen. You can’t control, we don’t, we’re not, design thinking is not magical thinking. It doesn’t suddenly make the world do what you want, but you’re more resilient because you have a lot of options and you know how to design your way into many, many options for the future. And that seems to make people happier.

Peter:

So a fundamental core aspect of design thinking is what you said. Dave, which is, you know, it’s not just follow your passion and your, and, and, and even more so like, you’re not going to figure this all out in your head. I can’t, I, you know, one of the things that your book did for me the first time was helped me in conversations where people are trying to make decisions. And I’m very, very quick now to say, you know, if we can’t figure it out in a couple of minutes, you got to go try something and then see what your experiences and see what feedback you get. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dave:

Yeah, so what is design thinking, which is the modern moniker of human centered design, which is an innovation developmental methodology. It’s one of a variety of problem solving techniques or methods that the school of engineering at Stanford teaches. You know, we’re in the design program inside the mechanical engineering department of the school of engineering at Stanford. We teach a rigorous, even remember that, you know, I’m a Stanford prof. I’m really smart. It’s just a long sentence. I’m used to the but the point being it’s a bottom up empiricism. So if we can’t solve it quickly, then that means that’s not a tame problem. Well understood for which there are theories and proven research that knows the answer some data, which is top down. So a lot of academic work is research top-down, you know, here’s the right answer to a well-understood problem.

Dave:

And when that works. That’s lovely. That’s great. But all the gnarly stuff is much messier and it’s empirical. So we don’t know. We have to go try things. So this is the bias to action. The core of design thinking is prototype iteration, right? So go try stuff, what we call them this book to set the bar low and clear it to method. You know, small steps and that’s core to the way we do things. So, you know, the way you move forward, certainly in life and career design is, you know go empathetically, check out what’s really going on, learn in person from what’s happening in the scene you’re considering participating in, and then go start trying stuff, I. E. running prototypes.

Peter:

So in some ways, if I were to actually relate that in very personal ways, like if someone’s thinking about married you date first, right? If you think about having children, get a dog first, like dues your friend dog, sit for your friend for a week and like try, you know, and it won’t be exact, but if you can’t, if the dog starves then you know, maybe you’re not ready to have, have a child yet.

Dave:

There’s actually some more Dan Gilbert’s done at Harvard on surrogation versus analysis and decision making accuracy. And, and kind of an awful study that was about speed dating actually. And they asked a bunch of women who are considering going online and you know, researching men they might want to date. We’ll give you two choices. We can even give you this thick dossier with a whole bunch of information about this guy and you can figure out who he is and decide if you wish one of these dossiers you would like to try dating or the same group of men we can give you phone numbers of some women who’ve recently had a date with him and you can call them, which one would you like. And the large majority of people took the dossier cause like I’m a real smart person, I know what I’m doing. Yeah. Cause I, well I don’t, I don’t, you know, here’s, you know, Ben’s off camera and so Ben, I don’t know Ben. I mean just cause he liked her doesn’t mean it’s gonna work for me. Give me the data, I’ll figure it out myself. And the correlation between what did I think was going to happen with the person I picked. And what in fact happened is if I use the analytic data, no correlation at all. I got it wrong every time, right? If I talk to people –

Peter:

Or I got it wrong sometimes. Right. But it was random.

Dave:

Totally random. There’s no better than monkeys jumping on keyboards. And if I had a conversation with a number of people, even if they were different from your, like she said he wasn’t that interesting actually. I think he might be, cause I’m pretty sure I’m not you. My ability as a human being to pick up the experience of a human being because it was his bill often says we are embodied intelligence as we are not brains on transport systems. Right. That actually picking up that just the conversation is actually an empirical embodied experiential encounter that gives me incredibly important information. It’s a lot different than just Googling

Bill:

Because in this case, in this case, the surrogate, the surrogation of the surrogate who had the experience with the person is a prototype, right? She ran a prototype with this guy and it was good or bad. And then as I get to know her, I get to know how close to, to her experience my experience had been and now I make a much better decision because the answer is in the world radical collaboration with the world

Peter:

Now, would you suggest that people rely on those conversations versus have the experience themselves or would you suggest that that’s just part of their decision making process? Does my question make sense?

Bill:

That makes sense. I mean in the case of the dating thing, obviously going on, the data’s in a prototype, it’s the little thing going on the date right there. What they’re trying to do is make a good decision about which of the 10 people that spend time on it. So in that case the prototype makes sense. There’s a lot, a lot of stuff, you know you’ve been on the in on the job, but like we say, don’t read, don’t resign, don’t reassign and lose your whole network of people that you know. Here just redesign, redesign in place. When you move from one job to another in the same organization, you’re actually quitting one job and starting a new one. It’s, it’s a whole reboot. It can be, it can be small, it can be really big. We got four ways to do it, but in that case you really want to prototype by talking to lots of people in the firm to figure out does it really make sense for me to move from here to there? I think I’ve got these skills but I don’t know. Maybe I should go talk to George.

Dave:

Step one is talk to step two is do stuff. I mean the short version of get curious, talk to people and try stuff. Tell your story. That’s the very short version. That’s the book. And one more time. Slowly get curious. Get curious, talk to people, talk to people, try stuff, try stuff. So there’s two forms approaches having Billy Wayne, that’s half the list of four. Tell your story, right? So that you do that. And the Tristar in the workplace is so it’s not like, Oh go take the Jerry’s, get an MBA, work for, you know, four years at night on the side, then go try working in the analyst group and finance instead of this marketing sales thing I’m doing. And then go, ah, I don’t like it. Huh? No. Start talking to those people in marketing and sales. And then it’s, Hey, could I do a ride along on a sales call? What am I, if I said, and on a staff meeting. So do prototyping, even a small project, how to help you on the L. Let me run the numbers on that for you. Right. You know, she can get wet long before you get the job. Right.

Peter:

I’m curious about, and I’m still on the dating thing cause I find it so interesting, but I’m curious about whether there’s some way you, from a surrogate perspective, you can assess yourself in comparison to others to make good surrogate kind of choices. And, and, and what I’m thinking about is like, you know, there’s some people like I, I write and I speak, you guys write and you speak and, and, and you like what you do. Right? I like what I do. There are people who would absolutely hate what we do, right? Like they would hate to be on camera having this conversation. They would hate to, you know, come up with new ideas and stand up in front of a crowd of a thousand people and talk. They would like absolutely hate it. But if they talk to us, we would be like, Oh my God, this is awesome. Like he’s totally do this. So how do you help people? Like what’s your advice or what’s your thought process around that challenge of surrogacy?

Bill:

Well, actually, if people came in and asked me about this, I’d say, you know, it’s it’s actually pretty challenging. I’m an introvert. I really don’t like standing in front of large groups of people. I don’t like staring at myself on a camera. It’s really kind of weird. I’ve had to get used to doing that, but, so I would tell him that part and then I would tell him, Hey, I, the part I really like, which Dave hates by the way, is I go off for three weeks to someplace where nobody knows who I am. I work on the book for 60 70 hours a week. You know, I just write all day. I write all night, I write all day, right? All night. I do that for three weeks. I’ve produced 60,000 words. I cut it down to 40. I turned in my half of the manuscript. I love that part. But you got to like being all by yourself, talking to yourself in a room. Right. And so people asked, you actually asked me about this experience. They would get some data about whether that fit for them because it isn’t awful.

Peter:

So the questions they ask is really important. And what are the aspects you like about them?

Dave:

What do I do good sir. Cause you said this is why we say look, we call it the, the you know the life design or the career design prototype conversation where this is not the research call. This is first of all, don’t learn face to face. We’re having face down, right? What was never good. We know each other kind of well and, and we see you now in them, but I don’t, don’t waste FaceTime and stuff I can get at your website. Right? So don’t waste FaceTime on stuff you can get elsewhere. And then when I’m with you don’t just have the content conversation. What do you, how much money do you make on this and what requirements are in the job and you know, who do you work with? I mean that’s helpful. That’s fine. But now, and what’s that like for you?

Dave:

What did you use to do? How is it different? How do you make that decision? What’s your favorite part? What’s, what’s the surprise for you? Get the human experience of the story and the lifeline. And if I hear your story, not just your facts, then I will quickly know, Oh, that’s really interesting. It’s coherent to you and you are so not me. So my ability to recognize whether or not your story makes it is going to make sense, right? Because if you’re coherent and you can speak well, you’re going to tell me a story that makes some sense to you. Whether or not it’s my story too or not you’re my tribe or not. We call this harmonic resonance. You know, can you actually pick up on, that’s a good vibe. Is it mine? I gave some students years ago on assignment and a go talk to people and find out what it’s like.

Dave:

So two young women were interested in dentistry and one comes by and goes, Oh Dave, thank you so much. You saved my life. This is someone has saved my life because dentistry is horrible at tuck to three dentists. It’s awful. You know, I don’t go there. Thank you. Thank God. Five minutes later. Here comes an in. Thank you so much. So the most important to someone ever had because you know dentistry is fabulous. They’re so happy. It’s a great field. I can’t wait to go and I kind of go, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. Neither of you know anything. You met three happy dentists, you met three unhappy dentists. Dentistry isn’t good or bad, it’s just dentistry. It’s just teeth exchange names. Go interview the other three. You now both met three happy and three unhappy then you to have dinner and talk about why are they happy dentists happy. Why are the unhappy dentists unhappy and what does either of those things get to do with who the heck am I right? That’s what you want surrogacy to do for you.

Peter:

That’s great. And, and what’s clear to me also is if you’re going to engage in designing your work life and you’re going to engage in exploring this and prototyping you need, you know, of course my gig is emotional courage, right? The willingness to feel things. But you need the willingness to ask questions, stick with it, probe deeply, like it’s not a surface conversation about do you like this or not? No. It’s like, you know, you have to be willing to maybe a little uncomfortably probe to understand many more specifics. Probably what you’ll find is they’re more than happy to answer because people tend to like to talk about themselves.

Dave:

You’re asking for something they have, which is their story, which is different than asking them for a job, right?

Bill:

It’s another good reason that you want to also have an experience. You could have that story and then say, Hey, can I just do it? Can I shadow you for a day? Can I shadow this dentist for a day? We’ve got students who are really, really think they want to, you know, beat, go premed and get a, and then go to medical school and get a degree. And we say, go talk to some doctors. And they come back and I, half the time they say the doctors aren’t very happy, you know, and, and, but go below that story because a lot of times when people do tell their story, they try to, you know, spiff it up a little. They want to make it sound like a pretty good job.

Bill:

And we give them lots of ideas about how you can get to, you know, maybe a more vulnerable set of answers than that. And then going and trying it yourself. Like w, you know, one students that I walked into, as soon as I walked into the hospital, it just felt like the right place for me. I don’t know why I can’t explain it, but my body tell great. Right. And other people can walk into that exact same experience and go energetic response. It’s an energetic response. So they ha they have that. And, and, and, and then they have the opportunity to go to go deeper, you know, to shadow for a day to do anything. In the case of jobs, you’ve got this whole organic thing called the workplace. Any job with any company, with more than a hundred people in it. There’s stuff doing, there’s people doing stuff out all over the place and you only get to see a little piece of it cause you work with the three or four or five, six people that you work with and your boss and maybe your boss’s boss.

Bill:

And that’s the most you get to see. But if you can get, start talking to people inside the organization and even thinking if you’re thinking about different kinds of moves you might make you can really start to not only see where are the interesting people where the interesting jobs you know, I was at Apple when it was much smaller epileptics 30 or 40,000 people now thousands when you were there, 800 when you were there. Right. so there isn’t one Apple experience I have. Students are having an amazing experience with a fantastic boss who’s really, you know, mentoring and driving them to their best possible performance and other places where they’re kind of bored, right? So it really depends on where you are, but that that ability to inquire and start with curiosity, mindsets of curiosity and reframing. Figure out what people are doing to ask a lot of questions, bias to action.

Bill:

Get out in the world, try some stuff. You don’t need your boss’s permission to do more work than you’ve been asked to do. You don’t need your boss’s permission to add a little something creative to your job. And there’s a lot of ways to do what we call a simple cosmetic remodel and then find yourself in a much more interesting situation than you were when you started.

Peter:

Speak about reframing.

Bill:

Reframing is sort of the power tool of designers, right? Because you never, you’re almost never as we’re been consultants for years, clients never give you the right problem. I’m sure you’ve, you’ve friends, that’s why they framed the problem too narrow. They frame you say, that’s exactly the right question. First thing out of your mouth. That was perfect. Yeah, let’s work on that. And I would actually say that they don’t even ask me a question.

Bill:

They ask me for a deliverable. And the deliverable is almost always wrong. It’s almost wrong. So it’s stepping back. It’s looking at the problem from a different point of view. It’s really in our case, you know, you starting with empathy, empathy for yourself. What, what, what are my talents and abilities? What does the world need? What is going on in this problem? Why is this this relationship either with my boss or the company not working? So you start with empathy and then you try to figure out, like cut through the drama, cut through all the noise. What’s really going on here for me and maybe for my boss. And then you can reframe the problem and you know you’ve done it right when all of a sudden with that reframe, you can think of, Hey, there’s five things I want to try. There’s five credits I can run now because the big question is how do you get in stuck? I’m stuck because it’s somebody else’s fault. I’m stuck because the job is boring. I’m stuck because dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. Meaningful. So politics. I’m, I’m, you know, I’m eight. I’m eight months into the job. I’m a brand new kid out of college. I’m not having any impact yet. It’s like, all right, well let’s stop. Let’s reframe w what does impact mean? How do you find it? What could you do with the experience that you have that could be impactful?

Peter:

What are some guidelines of questions you can ask because you have them in the book that will help people get started on reframing. Like people who said like, yeah, I get reframing. I get, but I don’t even know where to start.

Dave:

Well, very often it’s, we actually have a we, because we’ve been doing it so long, we unfortunately, you both have a deep unconscious competency in reframing, right? I mean the, the honest answer, Hey Dave had a reframe as I listened to two Peter talking for a while. And then I take a quick check on the 17 screens in the Mo, in the multi cinema in my head. And it, on one of the screens it says, maybe it looks like this and the, it’ll rephrase what you just said. And then I read that screen off of my brain and then I read it back to you and you go, Oh, that’s a better way to say it. So just look up at the screen and pick the right one. That doesn’t help. That’s not a helpful tip. Cause I’ve been doing this for 40 years.

Dave:

What we tell people is normally what they’re stuck on is either a description of a problem or a description of something that they’re going to work on. So like the example in the book is how do you reframe to go? So, you know I’m never going to get any appreciation around here. My boss is just a jerk. So his frustration is I’m looking for feedback. I don’t get any feedback. I don’t get constructive appreciation or feedback and muscles jerk, he doesn’t care. And so what you, the first thing I look for is very possibly there are errors, factual errors or melodrama in your framing that if we could take it out, might free it up. So like I’ll never get any appreciation right here. My boss is just a jerk. So the melodrama is never right and just a jerk, I mean is you’re really 24 by seven just to dry.

Dave:

It doesn’t do anything well at all really. So can we strip the drama out? Like, okay, today I’ve had great difficulty in obtaining feedback and my boss appears committed not to be doing that right now. That’s a more objective stand. Be like, Oh, well what can I do with that? Okay, so now, okay, my choices are, is there a way to get it from my boss, yes or no? And if not, then what? So that could actually invite say, where do I go from here? So the framing is how do I obtain more feedback in a culture that is not normally committed to that and from a boss without that skill, that’s an objective question now could actually go to, I could take it.

Peter:

So what you’re doing is you’re taking, first of all, you’re taking the personal charge out of it, right?

Dave:

Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Peter:

Because usually if I’m stuck, you’re saying like, let’s start with a premise that you’re born boss in general, that other people are not jerks. Like as a basic premise. Yeah. Like they’re, you know, like people generally, I mean, some people are jerks, right? But, but as a general premise, if we’re, we’re better off starting to ask the question. If we, if we start with the premise that people are not jerks.

Bill:

And remember he’s just a person, he’s got boss who’s, he doesn’t get feedback from it. He thinks she thinks, he thinks he’s a jerk. So we’re all kind of in this, in this game and taking the drama out and doing the, you know, kind of a factual restatement. Now Frank, now all of a sudden you can say, Oh well maybe it’s not chosen my boss. I could get feedback from lots of places I could go. And it turns out she overstating things doesn’t do any good at all. Right?

Dave:

See you’re frustrated emotions, emotional courage, right? You know, heavy, emotional courage to recognize, look, you’re just mad because you’re not getting what you want. Right? Okay. So, Oh now all you need to know is I’m not getting what I want. Now, if I call him just a jerk, I get to blame him. It’s his fault.

Peter:

Let me ask you guys, cause then the way I would think about it is one way of doing that is, okay, so if you’re feeling frustrated or angry or or despondent or whatever it is that you might be feeling, yeah, it’s probably because there’s something you care about, right? It’s not happening. Right, right. There’s something you care about [inaudible] or a bad, you don’t want it. Right? And so if you deserve it and you think you deserve, it’s called pain, it’s causing you some pain, right? This is your pain voicing itself. And so maybe the next question is, so what is it that you care about that you’re not getting? Yeah. And then you start from there and go, okay, well how do you get that thing that you…

Bill:

That would be a classic reframe cause you zoomed up a level. You said, okay, this is the situation, but what am I not getting right? I like, I want to get better at my job. That seems like a reasonable expectation for you that any feedback on how I’m doing, I’m not getting any, what can I do?

Peter:

You know what it’s reminding me of a little bit. Byron Katie was on the show and, and she has her four questions right… I’m probably not gonna remember them exactly, but it’s like when, when you’re, when you’re stuck on something, the question is, is it true? And then if you think it’s true, it’s like, is it really true? You know, like, like, like ask yourself again if you’re saying it’s true. Like, is that really true?

Dave:

That it’s true assessment questions in the book, which are what’s going on followed by what’s really going on.

Peter:

Right. I know. I love those questions. That’s what I was sort of thinking about it. And then, and then the question of who are you when you believe that it’s true? Oh, that’s interesting, right? Like when what does it do? What are the consequences to you believing that this is true? Yeah. Right. Oh, well I, you know, I write off my boss or I didn’t think, I never thought of them as like reframing questions, but they’re actually very good reframing. Reframing presses.

Dave:

You just disempowered yourself. Right? You, you made the problem bigger than it is. Right. You blame them, which means you’re a victim. Right. As opposed to, so actually when I am in this I to do a little coaching like you do and what I’m talking to a senior executive about something like this, and they’re saying that about a whole organization or a division, right? I say, look, we need to obtain executive transcendencey and we don’t use that term in the book because it’s kind of weird. But what I mean by that is-

Peter:

You guys are from California.

Dave:

– Objectively be able to float up above the situation, look down on it coolly and simply describe the facts, right? Putting out the word about the new corporate strategy for the last six months and then you know, in this band of idiots hasn’t heard me yet. Right, right, right. That’s a nice executive. Right? Victimization. I noticed that my communication process over the last six months has repeatedly not failed, hasn’t it? Repeatedly not successful right now. What do we do? Right? As opposed to, you know, give me somebody with a three digit IQ and I can do better. You know, which I’ve heard that seatbelt noise that you have clients just delivers it. I just need three digit IQ and we’re like, I think you’d probably have them actually. And maybe you have the whole reframing thing is cool off. Tell the truth. By the way, design only works in reality. We often talk about we don’t shit on you and we’d recommend you should on yourself. Magical thinking is that the root of an awful lot of difficulty. So start with reality. That’s why you are here is that is the symbol in Boston on the cover of the book. Again, you have to start in reality and then you can go forward, right? Because that’s where your most agency will be felt. And if you want to even start doing this, like small remodel in place, you know, you gotta begin with where you are and have some reasonable incremental goals. Make it a little bit better. No, it’s not good enough. But it might be more than good enough for now.

Peter:

Right? So this is related to it and it was something you wrote that I really, really liked and, and I have an ultimate question at the end of this, which I think is a $60 million question. The ultimate question. So it says, no, be aware of being attracted to problems, conflicts, forgotten to do items, et cetera. The mind loves to get caught up in that stuff when that stuff appears. And it will just tell yourself, I’ll get to that another time and let it go. Don’t fight it or attempt to resolve it, both of which steal all your attention. Just acknowledge it and then let it go. And return to reflection. Yes. That takes some practice to get the hang of it. So this question of like, like I see this in people all the time, including myself, write a reflection exercise, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And, and it’s and you know, and like I like there’s an organization, there’s a problem I’m thinking of and there’s a person who’s the problem and it is so seductive to gossip about this issue and this problem and what’s happening and to learn. And so the $60 million question is like, just let it go. You know, like how do we just let it go like that? Like, like I, I understand how to actively do something. You’re both linkage if you take the mic and yeah, like I understand how to actively do something. Yes. But how to stop doing something that is, you know, unbelievably appealing. And, and you know, by human nature appealing, but also, you know, like we’re stuck somewhere. Like how do we just sort of let that go and you can’t stop, right. Okay.

Dave:

For the next five minutes, whatever you do, don’t think of a blue elephant. Now we’re going to be thinking of like a relationship between a pink elephant and the blue horse. And so you can’t go there, but the the kid, this is the, the, the, the mindfulness of process. A designer mindset. Like what is going on and where am I? Right? So just be in charge of yourself. And so like, Oh, there I go again. And so the key, the key trick I think is number one, Oh, I get stuck in the rumination by being upset and rehearsing that argument. And I hear that squeaky little hamster wheel thing in my head when I go around and around, say the same stuff over and over again. Just get more upset. Okay, that’s not helpful. Right? And then I notice I’m starting to do that.

Dave:

I hear that first little squeak cause here I go again to that same thing. There he goes again and don’t do that same routine. And as soon as I do that I stop and kind of go, Oh no, don’t do that. And boom, it’s got me anyway. Cause now I’m either doing the dumb thing or getting mad at resisting the dumb thing or the same dumb thing. But they’ve got me either way I suppose like Oh just for a quick forgiveness, right back in reality. Oh there I go again. Right. Is there something I can do about that right now is can I take action on that note? It’s, Oh, if it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem. It’s a circumstance. Right? So what do I need to do now is to redirect my attention by literally physically get up, walk somewhere else, go do something, you know, connect to a different climate. You’ve got to change the channel, right? Not just somehow rewire –

Peter:

So I’ve thought about that a lot. So I’ve thought about the fact that like what you have to do, it’s kind of like when I’m meditating and my mind wanders, I don’t sit around thinking about why it’s wandered or per separating over what it’s wandered about. No, you just bring it back to your breath. Right. You just pick it. So what you’re saying is bring it back to your brain back. Like bring it back to your breath.

Bill:

Yeah. And if that’s a bias to action and a thing, you can actually do a prototype. You can build a conversation. You can have a cup of coffee, you can, you know, walk down the hall and talk to the maintenance guy. Cause he knows all the rumors of all the stories of everything that’s going on. Then you go and do that. Right, right. Yeah. It’s, it sounds a little silly to just say, don’t you know, if you don’t like it, don’t think about it, but it, you, you, you, the way you don’t think about it as you redirect your attention to something. Yeah.

Peter:

But yeah, you’re not saying, if you don’t like it, don’t think about it. You’re saying if you don’t like it, think about something else.

Bill:

Yeah. You have to redirect your attention to something that’s useful. Something that is assumption. Yeah. Right? Yeah.

Dave:

You know, we use the word generative a lot. We do, we teach generative conversation. We’ve got a chapter on generative quitting, you know, that, look, there’s a whole lot of deconstruction. There’s a whole lot of critique, there’s a whole lot of skepticism. Out there. There’s a lot of analysis out there, none of which are really building anything. So as designers, you know, we’re maker guys where I want to build stuff. So how is this, you know, the psychologist Azure, how is this serving you now? Right. It’s to be his favorite questions and obviously and as a maker, like how, what are you building? What are we building now?

Peter:

Right. One question I have is from the from the perspective of the leader in an organization. And, and one of the things that I hear leaders complain about all the time is they are trying to focus the organization in a certain way. They’re trying to focus people in work. And people I’ve talked to you to get massive traction, massive traction on their most important work. And, and increasingly they’re finding, and I’m increasingly, I’m hearing this that like people are like, no, I don’t want to do that work. That’s not the right work for me. I’m going to do other work. And, and, and they’re struggling with how do I get people to do the jobs? I don’t want them to do. Just had someone, a COO of an organization call me and just say like, I’m trying to teach these managers that even if people don’t want to do the work, the work has to get done. They can’t just farm it all out. And, and part of me thinks they can farm it all out. Like maybe, you know, like maybe farming it out might be the right solution. But I’m wondering like, is there, like what, what do you say to leaders who are like, I don’t want people designing their own jobs. I want them doing the job I’ve designed for them.

Bill:

Well, you know, I mean, if you’re really talking about senior leadership, they haven’t designed a jump for anybody in a long time. Somebody else has been doing that. But you know, I, it, it is true that the, the, the, the next two generations, millennials and gen Zs are going into the workplace and they’re saying, ah, essentially prove this is valuable. I’ll do the spreadsheets, I’ll do all the analysis, I’ll be the junior, junior kid on the team. I’ll build, I’ll build all the, all the models for everybody. But you gotta tell me like, not just do the spreadsheet. You gotta tell me why does this turn into business for us to turns into the client when that turns into something. So if you just can put some framework around it, my experience is, you know, people say, Oh, these, these kids don’t work hard. I got, I got students who start their own companies.

Bill:

They work 90 to a hundred hour weeks. They crush it. They’ll work their ass off if they know what it’s for and why. And he said that when everybody’s kind of asking for,uuthe, of another chief learning officer, former chief learning officer at Deloitte, and Deloitte’s having a problem in that, you know, it’s a kind of partners are here and jr I hired 3000 junior analysts and then you go analyst one and it was two analysts, three blah blah all the way up and people get to about the middle and then they go and they look up at the partner and they go, that doesn’t look like it’s any fun. And they all leave. So they got partners saying that people at the bottom, they can’t fill the middle because they haven’t been able to explain to anybody what’s the value of going up. Right. I think that’s, if you do that well, you’re not going to have the problem and people not doing their job and if, and if you have their problem, if you’re saying, I don’t want to do that job, it’s because they don’t understand how it plugs into anything that they can hang their hat on on Friday. Say, well, I did a good job on that thing and I think that moved the ball forward for everybody. And even if I’m the lowest kid in the totem pole, I know how I fit. Right?

Dave:

I think there’s a, we do kind of the research intensive chapter talks about, you know mindset grit and the arc of your career and arc Stanford’s the research by a guy named Edward [inaudible] on that. What people really want is autonomy, relatedness and competency. I want to know my work matters and I want to be involved with other people and I want to be good at what I do, right? So if you aren’t investing in people getting the arc of their career to start to bend toward the direction they want, they’re not going to own it. So I’m a leader and people aren’t pulling the oars the way I want them to. Hard enough and fast enough. Couple of things are going on there. Our experience and we spent a tremendous amount of our time with people under 35, right? Both in the workplace and young companies, you know, and certainly with college students.

Dave:

And are there some entitled whiny people at the allocated to this for 10 minutes? I want to be president now. I mean, okay, sure. A few. But in our experience, way fewer than sort of the cartoons would lead you to believe. Right? So what’s really going on? But they’re, but they’re also not going to say, I’m just going to suck it up for 20 years until it’s my turn. Right. And frankly, I think that’s probably healthy, right? So what’s really going on is look leaders, you can’t just say, cause I said so. And this is where, in my experience with executives especially, you know, in doing change management, the big breakdown is communicating. Where are we going? Why and how does this relate to that? You gotta show me the conductivity between why this matters to this organization and therefore could matter to me.

Dave:

Now that may not be enough. That kind of goes still. No, that’s only a 70 and I need 85. It’s not on the tomato meter high enough for me to say, I’m going to watch that movie. Okay, now we’re going to cut a deal. My job isn’t to make you happy. My job is to run this company as well as I possibly can. Right? And if you can find a place to be happy here, that’s great. Here’s the deal. Is that a compromise? Now I can actually clarify the compromise I’m asking you to make and as a manager, and this where I think this goes all the way back to the Ken Blanchard force, you know a situational leadership model, you know, as to in S3, nobody does the developmental stages of real coaching and says, how can we contribute to you? How can I help you? Peter, experienced some degree of autonomy. Identify where you’re growing in competency. This is deepening your relatedness to your other employees. I have to have the conversation to help you build some value, add out of the stuff that I need done. Right? The compelling truthfulness and the logical veracity of why it’s necessary isn’t sufficient. Right. It just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s enough.

Bill:

Yeah. Because it’s changing anyway. Maybe it’s not necessary. You know, I mean, I, yeah, I play hard in the orange and purple heart on the horse and then six months later, Oh, management management, change tape. We’re not going that way. We’re going this way. If you Google just did a massive study of, you know, what makes high performance teams and one of the number one things is clarity of goal. I can’t be a high performance team if the management keeps changing their minds. So I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m suspicious about the guys who sit by them. They just do what I tell him to do. It’s cause you tell them to do something different every six months or somebody else told them to do something different a month ago and now you’re telling me it’s ambiguous and we don’t know where we’re going and we don’t know how that adds up to anything.

Bill:

And particularly when a company’s changing and we were all, we’re going to go this way and then something bad happened. Now we all have to go that way. Or if we got bought or the new guys are going to set a new direction. It’s the reason most change management fails. Just like you say, nobody, what are we changing from to why? Where are we going? Why? I like my old job. I like doing it the way I did it. Right? How can I just do that?

Peter:

You know? And it’s, it’s like on the one hand I, we started this conversation with you’re raising the bar for what people should expect from work, right? Which is we’re basically saying 70% of the people are disengaged and actually like that’s not okay. It could be better. Here’s a way to get engaged.

Dave:

We’re saying in the meantime you can make this better yourself.

Peter:

So exactly. Going where, where we’re now ending the conversation but also talking to leaders basically saying you have to raise the bar on leadership. Meaning we’re not living in a world anymore where you just help people because I’m your dad and I told you so. Yeah. That’s not the world we live in. And so that raising the bar on leadership means being thoughtful about like recognizing that your workforce is different now. And so you know, you have a responsibility to actually create an engaging environment that leverages people’s, you know, competence and skill in a way where they have autonomy and relatedness.

Dave:

This is leaders having the empathy for both the or they have to be empathetic to their market, to their end user, customer to the competition and to their employees. Can I, okay this people want to, people don’t want careers anymore, right? They want great lives with a cool career in it. Right? So this is, the conversation really is shifted. That’s just like, how do I get ahead? But if I’ve just had to getting ahead as part of what makes my whole life work for me, then how do I get that?

Peter:

Which explains when you said your book PR, you know, it surprised you. How well, how well the book did that speaks to, you’re touching on something that’s like very much the zeitgeists of, you know, sort of our culture right now, which is, you know, people, people want, because people aren’t just working to a career, their career is fitting in with their lives and what their lives.

Bill:

And they’re going to be three years or 5% one place, two years or five years. And another place, my students, if they’re 20 now, they’re probably going to live to a healthy 100 they’re going to be working for 60 or 70 years. Right. You know, this is a long game and you want to get real good at it and people are playing it kind of project by project. That’s the other thing is companies, companies aren’t saying, Hey, you know, just stick to it sun and you could be here 40 years from now. No, they’re saying get the project done right. And then we’ll valuate whether we want you right. And then we’ll get another project, another project.

Peter:

I’ve got two people I know who’ve been at companies for over 20 years. One of them is, it’s the Navy, right? Right. You’re not going away. And the other is IBM. Okay. And they’re both retiring after retiring after 22 to 25 years of work. Now I’ve been running Bregman partners for 22 years and I don’t imagine retiring anytime, but I can’t quit. Right. I can’t quit for my own. But it’s also because, because I think, you know, entrepreneurs do this naturally. Right, right. Which is constantly redesigning. I mean, you guys have redesigned and reinvented your careers multiple times, right? Yeah. And like that’s, that’s sort of the game, right? Right. Nothing lasts forever and you can’t, you know, if you’re a smart person, you get bored with something and you want to change it up. Right. And people are, you know, the statistics say they’re going to have 15 to 25 jobs, they’re going to have two to three different careers.

Bill:

So getting good at designing your way, building the thing you, you’re hoping to, you know, end up with just seems like it’s going to be more resilient. And when the robots come in, when AI comes in, all that stuff, you look at all the studies that everybody agrees not on what’s going to happen, but they agree that they’ll very last jobs will be jobs with social emotional learning and tell, you know, working back and forth with human collaboration, creativity and the kinds of things that designers learn to do from day one. So learn to design. You’d be more resilient.

Peter:

We’ve been speaking with Bill Burnett, Dave Evans, who have written the book most recently, designing your work life, how to thrive and change and find happiness at work. You guys are doing awesome work. It’s so fun to have you over at my house to actually do this in person and and to have you on the Bregman leadership podcast.

 

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