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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 012
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now. 

In today’s newsletter…
  1. Shaking up your “commute” from Caroline Odom
  2. Change for the long-haul from Joanne Bolens
  3. Finding your front-lines from Joey Camire
And this time, our illustrations from Nora Mestrich.
From the Field

01 / Reinventing the Daily Commute 

From Caroline Odom
Remote work is saving commuters time and money, according to a recent study by Upwork. But what are we losing by skipping the daily trek? As seasons change and new work habits calcify, it’s worth re-evaluating the sustainability of our remote work routine, starting with our commute from bed to desk.
Why It Matters
Routines are a mental reset button. In 1915 when his ship became stranded on ice, Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton created a predictable daily rhythm—waking, mealtimes, work, and play—which kept him and his crew tethered to reality under otherwise extraordinary circumstances. Routine helped Shackleton’s crew survive harsh winter conditions—and a Fall routine can help you inject fresh energy into your remote work life. Now that we have the freedom to design our “virtual commute” from scratch, what will yours look like?
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Redesign your ritual to mark the beginning and end of each work day.
It can be something as easy as a walk around the block or a short stretch routine at your workstation, whatever you need to bookend the day with a mental reset. A few other ideas:
  • Normalize the virtual commute, and any other mental breaks, by making it visible on your calendar, in turn empowering other employees to do the same.
  • Enlist the help of your smart home device to program a daily EOD “shutoff” routine.
  • Recruit an accountability buddy to help stick to your “offline” schedule.

02 / RBG & The Art of Kintsugi  

From Joanne Bolens
US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a.k.a RBG or even Notorious RBG, passed away on September 18, 2020, inspiring the world to pay tribute to her legacy. Her story as a powerful jurist and feminist hero is the story of a journey—from her infamous visit to the iconic NYC deli, Russ & Daughters in 1940 to decrying a recent decision made by the Supreme Court’s majority about voting just this year. A visionary that understood the power of “the long-game,” RBG’s entire life was a story of persistence in making incremental change.
Why It Matters
We often think of resets as a radical way to quickly achieve a desired change in our life, whether it’s for a lifestyle change or a professional one. In that sense, we view resets as binary—the before (what we have to let go of) and the after (the ideal of a new me or situation). But the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminds us that meaningful change comes from incremental progress built over time. Resets don’t have to be drastic to achieve change: Japanese culture, with Kaizen and Kintsugi, reminds us that great change takes place in an iterative way, rather than through “big moves” alone. 
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Rethink your leadership long-game to open unexpected opportunities for improvement.
Applying the metaphors taught by Kaizen or Kintsugi might be a simple exercise in creative inspiration. Kaizen, or “good change” is storied in Toyota’s lean model of operations for its example of cutting to the root of problems and making continuous improvements. In what ways are you as a leader committing to incremental improvement, not just overhauling change? Kintsugi or “golden seams” is a practice in repairing broken ceramics, to find beauty in flaws and embracing optimism in imperfections. In what ways are you as a leader overlooking flaws that could be opportunities for improvement?

03 /  Find Your Front-line  

From Joey Camire
The World Economic Forum, as part of an initiative called “The Great Reset,” writes about the critical importance of social entrepreneurs today. These social entrepreneurs have been on the front lines of crises (e.g. health, climate, poverty, hunger), interacting and developing expertise directly with impacted groups, but are only now beginning to receive recognition and support on a larger scale.
Why It Matters
The work happening to elevate and support social entrepreneurs is an important reminder that progress and impact must happen, intentionally, across at multiples scales. Compared to social entrepreneurs, big corporations and governments have what seem like “infinite resources,” however their orientations are towards systemic or policy-based changes. At that high altitude, the resolution they have of problems may be low. However, those on the front lines of any problem have a level of depth and nuanced understanding that can drive meaningful innovation, particularly when collaborating with larger organizations. This applies in and out of crisis situations.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Find the front-lines of your challenge(s).
No matter the challenge you’re facing, finding the people, groups, or constituencies at the front lines is critical. Particularly for leaders, it can be easy to become removed from the day-to-day machinations on the ground, and as a result view problems in broad strokes and without nuance. This might mean finding and embracing your customers, sure, but it might also mean asking people on the manufacturing floor how they’d solve a supply chain problem. Asking junior employees how they’d solve a cultural breakdown. And yes, embracing affected communities in any CSR initiative you plan to undertake. Maybe Undercover Boss was onto something all along?

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