Why do we still hide failure?

When I told some ten ‘Health Product People’ in ‘Conference Room One’ that they had to be able to make mistakes — they paid attention.

This elite group of government and NHS digital product developers and leaders had met to share a presentation on methods to evaluate the progress and direction of their digital projects, and to learn from the experience of the leader.

The leader had made the point that if it became necessary, one must, and he had ‘pulled the plug’ on an expensive digital development project because it was clear that the direction was not leading to achievement. This was clearly a difficult thing to do, with the ‘press’ so keen to ‘be at their heels’, but he and ‘they’ had pulled the project.

Hiding failure is still major in our culture, in the NHS, in academia and the corporate world and social sector. So what those specialists were advocating was not only hugely important but still often incredibly difficult for hidden cultural reasons, like scapegoating, losing face or your job … They needed to be reassured of doing the right thing, and aware of why such decisions may seem to be SO difficult.

I have been demoted for whistleblowing in my career and seen many examples of inconvenient issues being covered up, but I could have told of when, in 1970, the senior medical officer of a blue chip company had given an injection incorrectly — and I had needed to tell him.

The effect of the too-quick-effects of that injection would probably have given the patient a fever for a few hours, but not done any major harm, other patients should be spared that experience! In the 1950’s I had seen similar doses of the same vaccine used to induce fever in patients with skin conditions.

I was shocked when he reacted by urgently telling me not to tell anyone about what had happened. That anyone, especially a senior doctor, should be so afraid as a result of someone knowing that he had made a mistake is wrong.

Fortunately, especially among major corporate digital developers, having to halt a development is recognised as being better, cheaper than trying to keep it going when it should be stopped. The press, unfortunately, still enjoy publicising expensive failures, and the public sector is especially exposed to ‘the press’.

The culture is being changed, it has to be.

There are major efforts to make it safe for staff to acknowledge mistakes in health care, without that, improvements are delayed. Scapegoats are still far too common as was the case with Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba who recently won her appeal against being struck off. No one should have to suffer so unjustly.

We who have to make decisions in our work will make mistakes. I hope that we will have leaders who will be constructive when we acknowledge that. In any event, there may be HR people or other professionals and in Lucidity Network we have a group of supportive and experienced professionals to consult.

If we lead our organisations, can we offer suitable supportive environment for our people to ‘fail quickly’ and ‘safely’ and move on? What is the policy and is it robust enough? Successful organisations have such policies and practice them.

If you would like to be part of a network of dynamic professionals, making mistakes and making improvements check out the Lucidity Network. It’s a pick and mix of online and offline practical tools and advice as well as access to a dynamic network of expertise to help you take the lead in getting the results you want. We are open to members several times a year. Sign up here to join the waiting list. 

Genevieve Hibbs

Genevieve M Hibbs former: nurse (general and occupational health), midwife, Christian missionary, lecturer, elected councillor, mayor and a member of the Lucidity Network.

Running a home business on a hectic schedule

Running a home business

A guest blog from Eva Benoit.

There are a lot of reasons you may not be able to run your home business on a regular 9-to-5 schedule. Perhaps you are in school and you have a great idea that you can only capitalize on once you graduate. Or, maybe you’re nursing an infant at home and your schedule is their out-of-whack sleep schedule.

Whatever your reason to work outside the normal full-time parameters, it’s not impossible to do so. You can make your not 9-5  home-based business work with these helpful tips.

Your own space

The one thing every person trying to run a home business needs is a designated workspace where they can get what needs to be done without distractions. You may not have a whole room available for an office, but at the very least you need a corner or a desk where you can file necessary papers, set up your computer, and have a home base for whatever it is you need to run your business. Optimizing said workspace for productivity ensures you make the most of what limited hours you can work in your bonkers schedule.

Lighting is important; as light synchronizes your circadian rhythm. You can use artificial light to help your body switch into productivity mode even if you’re working the night shift. If you really have a hard time staying awake and motivated, consider light therapy.  It can be helpful in the winter when symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can rear their ugly heads.

Other ways to optimize a home workspace:

  • Add some life to the area! Houseplants and fish tanks can help people think in a more creative manner. They may also improve performance, ease anxiety and aid in your ability to focus on your work.
  • Use color psychology to curate a workspace that motivates in the specific way you need.  For instance, those who find themselves needing a pick-me-up when it’s time to work can benefit from energizing shades of orange and red in their office. Those who thrive in a practical and ordered environment can work with neutral tones that emit cleanliness, stability, and practicality.
  • KISS- Keep it simple, stupid! Having too much clutter in your workspace is a huge bane to productivity. Embrace minimalism and learn to stay organized from the get-go so you don’t have to waste time on major clean-out and reorganization projects.

Save money wherever you can

Funds mean flexibility. Cut costs wherever you can and pocket those savings into an emergency fund, making sure you have something to fall back on if you have to take a hiatus or you fall behind because of your crazy schedule. Instead of embracing a “spend money to make money mentality,” use these helpful tips to pinch pennies:

  • When outfitting your office, buy furniture used. Look for deals through newspaper ads, bankruptcy sales, Craigslist and surplus offices at nearby schools.
  • Connect with other home-based business owners to pool your purchasing power. You can save major moolah when you buy in bulk. However, when it’s just you on the team, you don’t really need 100 boxes of printer paper for the month. When you split the costs and products between multiple business owners, it makes more sense while saving your pennies.
  • Work with local suppliers. Not only will you save on shipping if you pick things up yourself, but you establish real relationships with people that can make a difference in your professional success. Their connections and word-of-mouth endorsements are worth more than anything some marketing agency can do.

No more excuses! You can start the business of your dreams despite your crazy schedule. Establishing a designated space for work helps shift your mindset to work mode. You can increase productivity even in your wonky hours with lighting, color, houseplants and minimalist decor. When you save money at every corner, you can turn those savings into a safety net for your business. Buy used, pool your purchasing power and shop local to save big all the while making valuable connections.

Eva Benoit specializes in helping professionals with stress and anxiety, but welcomes working with people from all walks of life, visit her site.

If you’re thinking about setting up from home you might also benefit from the Lucidity Network – a pick and mix of online and offline practical tools and advice as well as access to a dynamic network of expertise. We have designed the Lucidity Network to help you take the lead in getting the results that you want. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

From sticklebacks to midwifery – my innovation story

Genevieve and her sister Pat - an innovation story

An innovation story by Genevieve M Hibbs. 

When and why did I start to innovate?  That is a good question. My late older sister, Pat, undoubtedly had something to do with it.

Pat, who had physical challenges that throughout her life she intelligently and persistently fought to overcome, was five years older than me.  We lived in the vicarage of a feudal village in Yorkshire. The population of the village was a hundred people, though more came and went as the government took over the Grange as a rehabilitation centre for the RAF.

When Pat was at home, she used her superior knowledge of the natural world to manage the livestock and natural resources of the purpose designed, vicarage property and its rural environment.  She regularly teased and challenged me with her knowledge and ideas.

We explored all the local ponds using fine kitchen sieves to discover microscopic and larger creatures.  We collected daphne and other microscopic creatures to feed the sticklebacks and ever-hungry dragonfly larvae that we kept in battery tanks.

We took our goats and ponies out to local green roadside verges where we tethered them to stakes to feed on the grass and herbs.  Eventually, Pat hired a field to which we could ride using just halters (no saddle!). We would leave the ponies there while we went to senior school for the day.

After leaving school I worked unsuccessfully in a dress shop.  That involved cycling twelve miles both ways each day. Then, I worked at a Christian holiday conference centre for a year.  Now as I look back, I can see that my approach to work has always involved innovation.

My first job there, was cleaning bedrooms.  I worked out that if I did the basic work in each room every day and concentrated on getting some part of one or two rooms really clean, over time, the whole area became quicker to clean.  I did not discuss my methods.

Junior staff all helped with washing up.  The boys were very competitive about their speed.  I did not comment on speed, but worked to be able to win, especially to exceed my own previous performance.

My second job was in the kitchen, preparing vegetables in the morning and washing up the cooking pots and utensils in the afternoon.  I worked out that I could have control over the time spent in the cold vegetable room. The speed of peeling a sack or more of potatoes using the manual rotating potato peeler could be manipulated by amount of water, time in the machine, and the state of the potatoes.  How much would go to waste and how much time would one need to spend taking out ‘eyes’. This experience provided a case-study within my later PhD in cybernetics, “Information handling: concepts which emerged in practical situations and are analysed cybernetically.”

At the holiday conference centre, I attended their six-month Bible school and then went to West London to start my general nurse training.

When we were three months into our training, the matron interviewed us.  Matron told me that I was progressing quite well but was slow.

I didn’t comment to her, but did reflect that being slow was OK, because what I was trying to thoroughly understand what I was doing.  When I had understood, I would be faster than any of the other nurses. Previous competitive situations, especially those against myself had shown that was a realistic expectation.

This approach really paid off, when I was doing midwifery training.  I came on night-duty for my first 12-hour shift on a ward with mothers and their new babies, I was faced with a ward full of yelling new-borns and their exhausted and exasperated mothers.  Over the course of the first night I managed to get the babies fed so that they and their mothers could sleep. The mothers then had a much better chance of continuing to breast feed.

‘Innovation’ did not become part of my vocabulary until very recently, but my learning strategy inevitably led to smaller and larger innovations in many different contexts.  Curiosity and attention to the effects of details were essential.

Genevieve M Hibbs former: nurse (general and occupational health), midwife, Christian missionary, lecturer, elected councillor and mayor.

Image credit: Genevieve M Hibbs. Genevieve with her sister Pat.