Blog Post: What Is Your Hyperreality?

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The airwaves in December are filled with making your dreams come true. Commercials (you know, the stuff you fast forward through), have taught us that everyone wants a car with a big red bow, the newest Apple device, and for him to go to Jared. Not only do we want it, we deserve it. It would seem that we have constructed an entire season around hyperreality.

Hyperreality is an image or simulation, or an aggregate of images and simulations that either distorts the reality it purports to depict or does not in fact depict anything with a real existence at all. Think of it as every perfect image we have in our heads for how the world is supposed to look.

While it’s easy to point to this happening with holiday retail shopping, many of us don’t quite realize we have done the same thing in our own lives. In our morning commute, our team interactions, and company culture, we have created a reality that may or may not be based upon reality. As the definition states, our reality may not even depict anything that actually exists.

In our teams and company culture, how can this happen?

Every company, project, and colleague shapes our view of our current situation. Some experiences may be amazing, and can fuel open minds and hearts. Imagine how positive your mindset most likely is if your previous company culture fostered innovation. At the same time, you will probably hold your current team accountable for previous hurts and hangups previous co-workers.

There’s nothing wrong with either side of this coin, mind you. Regardless of how long ago the positive or negative experience occurred, there’s real growth to be had from acknowledging the existence of your hyperreality. Cliche aside, if you aren’t willing to talk about the lack of reality you bring into your current team culture there is no way you can right the ship.

Just how exactly is this supposed to happen?

I can only imagine the raised eyebrows that would appear if I started a retrospective with, “let’s talk about our experiences from previous jobs that may affect our current work”. Some thoughtful responses may come out of that session, but most of the time we want to address tangible action items instead of intangible feelings. This is why food and laughs are always great precursors to this discussion.

However you ply your fellow team members, once the pump is primed it is important to still lead with transparency. Be fully prepared to discuss some of the great experiences that helped get you to where you are at in your career. At the same time, come clean with some of the horror stories you have been witness to and acknowledge your part in the matter. Even if your part is the reaction only. 

Just like normal retrospectives, there will be a few themes and common threads that bubble to the surface. These can be turned into action items on your part, or just underlying things to consider when interacting with the team. Don’t be afraid to call them out on your board. Just like tangible achievements, there are less obvious goals that can be attained during the process of making amazing products.

Will you need to suck it up and deal with some cross looks? Your team would have to be asleep for this not to happen. Fortunately for me, I’m fine with fielding a few jokes and chuckles. Humility will take you a long way.

Lastly, I understand I am proposing an exercise that is a little “touchy feely”. The fruits of this labor may be difficult to see immediately, because everyone will be looking around wondering who is going to take the words spoken to heart. What will happen, in the end, is everyone begins to understand each other better. For teams that remain together for a while, a cohesiveness and camradarie will emerge to fuel your future efforts.

Will it make your velocity improve? Hard to say. Then again, who said improved metrics were the only benefit to growing individually and as a team?

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