Work Smart

General Business

Wednesday 25 February 2009

David Pearl

Work Smart: The art of getting things done

LSO St Luke's, London

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The London Business Forum convened in the impressive surroundings of St Luke's church, home of the London Symphony Orchestra, eager to learn how to 'Work Smart'. The session was run by business impresario David Pearl - an ex-opera singer who helps organisations to think creatively and disrupt the unhelpful habits of office life.

David’s team includes musicians, martial artists and healers. First to the stage at this event strode Russell Saunders, a six foot plus former tennis coach, charged with the unenviable task of energising delegates in the midst of their post-lunch dip. Five minutes later, and the audience were suitably recharged and ready for inspiration. Cue David Pearl. Upon taking centre stage David proclaimed that “the key to working smart is to minimise mistakes as well as finding new things to do”. In other words Work Smart means Work Less Dumb! To illustrate this we were taken through a litany of the everyday things we are probably all guilty of at one time or another:

  • Emailing the person next to you!
  • Looking busy (not being busy)
  • Poor delegation
  • Ineffective meetings
  • Winging it!
  • Reinventing the wheel

David’s resolution for such procrastination and ineffective working practices was to organise our issues into four quadrants - What, Why, Who and How - and then take a holistic view to solving them. Doing this helps to break unproductive unconscious habits and allows you to clearly understand what’s working, what isn’t, and what you can do to improve. Once the audience had assigned their habits to the relevant quadrants, David identified four ways to break the bad ones:

  1. Do the habit deliberately for a week i.e. be late on purpose for a week to reacquire conscious control
  2. Remember why the habit was reasonable
  3. Be curious
  4. Practise

Next to the stage was energy expert Jyotish Patel. His mission: to introduce us to the basics of Energy Medicine, and to show how, by transforming our energy levels, we can markedly improve our impact at work. To illustrate, Jyotish welcomed a female volunteer to the stage. Having established that her current energy boosting techniques consisted of “chocolate, followed by coffee” Jyotish demonstrated the impact this can have on the body. To do so he checked her energy levels by testing the strength of resistance in her arm, which was presently high. She then underwent the same test whilst holding a chocolate bar; the strength in her arm had significantly dropped. A couple more volunteers, and a few more exercises later and an initially sceptical audience had moved to somewhere between intrigued and converted. Job done, David Pearl returned to the stage.

Next on the agenda was the dreaded meeting, which David denounced as, “one of the key places businesses fall down”. In order to keep away from these pitfalls, David outlined a simple diagnostic tool that can help you to plan meetings of any type more effectively. It has four steps - intent, connect, context and content.

  1. Intent: The purpose of a meeting is often a clear objective. The intent of the meeting is its underlying rationale. So, for example, if you're meeting to plan an advertising campaign, the intent might be to improve the reputation of your brand. "If you don't know what the intent of the meeting is, how do you know who should be there?" Pearl asked. The way to deal with an invitation to a meeting that you don't want to go to, without seeming rude, is to ask the following question: "What is the intent of this meeting, and how do I specifically add value?"
  2. Connect: Determine who needs to be at the meeting and invite them based on specific criteria: why they need to attend, what they are expected to contribute and for what part of the meeting they need to be present. It is utterly wasteful, David pointed out, to make people sit through a meeting of several hours if their presence is only needed for 15 minutes.
  3. Context: Without a clear business context, a meeting has no meaning. Equally, it needs the right physical context if it is to be sufficiently engaging. David lamented the fact that so many function rooms at plush hotels are in the basement. A poor venue will compromise a meeting, he said.
  4. Content: It is content that should govern the schedule of a meeting, David suggested. Otherwise, people will be more easily distracted in anticipation of the next coffee break. Each segment of a meeting should end only when the relevant item on the agenda is complete. "The most highly explosive question is, 'When is the break?'" he said. And we shouldn't give a precise answer, because "unless this is a tea convention, what we're actually here to do is business."

By the end of the session the audience was suitably recharged and raring to tackle their business challenges. Jyotish may have been slightly disappointed, however, to see so many sneak a sly chocolate cookie and coffee before heading off!