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The Case For Being Average

People often read what I have to say and then write asking for my advice.

But even though I write about lots of things I am expert in only one thing: programming in a computer language called APL. I owe all my financial success and a good deal of personal joy to that funny little language, and if you want to learn how I did it and how you can toothen go here.

So how have I been able to succeed in writing on these other subjects?

The answer came to me a few weeks ago as I was reading a book called How to be Averagely Successful at Comedy by my friend Dave Cohen. The promotional text bills it as a “practical and funny book explaining how to make a living at comedy” and it certainly is that. But it is also a very entertaining look at what has happened to comedy from Monty Python onward. But its broadest appeal comes from the fact that it is an insightful “how to” book on having an awesome life even if you are just average—whether at comedy or anything else.

At the bottom of page eight it hit me ...

What Do We Really Know About Building Cross-Agency Networks?

As millennials join the workforce, they are bringing their propensity for social networking with them. As a result, network-centered approaches to doing work will likely become more prevalent.

Government and nonprofits have already been pioneering the use of collaborative networks during the past two decades to solve complex societal challenges, such as cleaning up waterways, preventing child abuse, serving the mentally ill and reducing smoking. Much of this groundbreaking work has been done without a roadmap that shows what works and under what circumstances using networks is more effective than relying on traditional hierarchies or the marketplace to achieve public goals. The literature to guide practitioners is growing rapidly, but there are no guideposts on what to read and what to pay attention to.

Now there is a place both experienced network leaders and neophytes can go to learn more.

The IBM Center for The Business of Government digests the key academic literature of the past decade in a special report, “Interorganizational Networks: A Review of the Literature to Inform Practice by Janice Popp, Brinton Milward, Gail MacKean, Ann Casebeer and Ronald Lindstrom. This report has been under development for several years, largely as a labor of love, to synthesize ...

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else At Work

Years ago, I had a boss I disliked; he got under my skin so badly that his ghost haunted me years after I’d quit working for him and started my own company. I didn’t realize how thoroughly he’d occupied my unconscious mind until I woke up, five years into running my business, and saw the signs everywhere that while I thought I’d built a company that reflected my personal values and priorities, I had made many of my decisions in an absurd, belated rebellion against him. Where he had been relentlessly self-promotional to the point of arrogance, I resisted marketing. Where he had bought into rapid, exponential growth as the only path to business success, I refused to hire help even though I was working myself to the bone.

A decade after my wake-up call, I hear echoes of the same “comparison-itis” in the entrepreneurs and creative professionals I coach and advise: Entrepreneurs stifling their marketing attempts out of a terror of being “that guy.” Dislike of a particular colleague’s sales approach turns into a rejection of the entire notion of developing a sales system. And I can’t count the number of musicians I ...

There’s a Huge Hidden Downside to Standing Desks That No One Told Me About

It wasn’t fear of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes or even early death that did it. The reason I switched to a standing desk was, simply, to find a reprieve from pain. Since I graduated from college, back pain and its cruel confederates—neck, shoulder, and hip pain—have been unshakable facts of life. I’m not talking about the odd lumbar throbbing after a late night at the office; low-grade agony was pretty much a given, flaring into something more blinding a few times a month. Workday, weekend, vacation—it didn’t really matter, nor did the number of treadmill miles or chaturangas I’d banked that month.

Then in May, I read about how a standing desk helped allay a blogger’s chronic back woe. I was sold. I set my iMac on top of a small table on my home desk and put in a request for a standing desk at work. Vindication was almost instant. Within a week, my back pain started receding; a month on, and I’d almost forgotten about it. Aside from a weird hip glitch in August, the back pain is still mostly gone.

But in its place came something new. Fetching ...

We Drafted Our Own Dream Team to Tackle Government's Biggest Problems

Have an alternative team? Share it on Twitter at #DreamTeam

It may or may not take a village to raise a child, but it does usually take a crack management team to get anything done in the federal government. Here at Government Executive, we’ve thought a lot about the leadership qualities that contribute to successful initiatives. While others play fantasy football, we decided to play a round of fantasy management. Here are some of the folks we’d love to see on any leadership team tackling the kinds of big problems only government can address. 

(Top image via Jeff Thrower / Shutterstock.com)