Unlike most experts in her field, Erika Andersen has an approach to being strategic that’s sensible and accessible. With her, you feel capable of creating the business, career and life you want. Nancy Tellem, President, Entertainment & Digital Media, Xbox Studios LA


About Erika Andersen

erika Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.
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Archive for February, 2013

Feb
24

Hermit Crabs and Human Beings

Every year, my husband and I take a break from the New York winter and spend some time unwinding on a beach.  For the past four years we’ve gone to Jamaica.  Mostly it’s pure lovely downtime – I really make the effort to “contain” work, so that I just have one 30-60 minute session of emailing or blogging each day.  Like right now.

photoMy brain really never stops considering things, though – that’s just how I’m wired – so I thought I’d share something cool with you that I just found out.  Yesterday at the beach, Patrick brought me this fascinating creature (the picture at left); a big sea shell with a claw sticking out of it.  He said it was crawling along the beach by pulling itself with its claw.

I looked it up just now, and I believe it’s a hermit crab. They have long, soft bodies that they curl into an abandoned shell (whose original occupant has died), and then grasp into the shell with their “tail” – really the end of their abdomen. As they grow, they need to find progressively bigger shells. But then I started wondering – how do they find a shell that’s the right size when they need it?  They must be very vulnerable to predators, I reasoned, when they’re between shells.

Then Wikipedia gave me a really interesting answer:

Several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, use “vacancy chains” to find new shells: when a new, bigger shell becomes available, hermit crabs gather around it and form a kind of queue from largest to smallest. When the largest crab moves into the new shell, the second biggest crab moves into the newly vacated shell, thereby making its previous shell available to the third crab, and so on.

And I started to think about how “vacancy chains” are a big part of human life, as well. It’s just that they’re somewhat more complex, so harder to see.  But, for instance, every time someone moves to a larger/better house, it starts a vacancy chain.  Every time someone moves to a bigger/better job: a vacancy chain. And we’ve used the internet to create more efficient vacancy chains, too: to sell stuff we no longer need because we’ve acquired a newer or better version, to let other people know that we’re wanting to move on to a better relationship, organization, dwelling.

There’s an internal analogue as well.  When we learn something new, or understand something that previously eluded us, we’re moving to a bigger comprehension of the world and abandoning our outgrown worldview.

That kind of internal change is difficult; we feel vulnerable when we’re ‘between understandings.’ But here’s an inspiration to keep growing and ‘moving along the chain’ mentally and emotionally: when we cling to a smaller understanding of ourselves or the world around us, we’re actually getting in the way of evolution.

Keep moving…


Feb
9

Odd Coincidence Department

Last night I was throwing out my Google net to see what I would catch.  I do this regularly: Google search terms that have to do with our business (“leading so people will follow,” “erika andersen,” “executive coaching”, etc.) just to see what’s out there, and to respond when appropriate.

So I googled “proteus” and the first few entries that came up were about a newly released online game called Proteus.  It sounded intriguing, so I bought it ($10 on their website, if you’re similarly intrigued.)

It’s a little hard to explain; you use your mouse pad to wander around and explore a world of islands and seas.  It’s extremely primitive graphically (think early 80s pixelated video games), but somehow it seems more like the beauty of a primitivist painting than programming laziness.  Each island has its own character and background music, and little pixel creatures who make their own sounds and do their own activities. There don’t seem to be any clear rules or objectives; you explore and see what happens.  I haven’t spent much time in Proteus-land (remember, I just bought it last night), but the only cause-and-effect thing I’ve noticed so far was when I got onto an island that had lots of weather (rain, wind, rapidly moving clouds overhead – hauntingly beautiful), I discovered that I couldn’t move against the wind.  And when I moved into what looked like a little dust-devil circle on the ground, I was transported to another island.

Because this is how my brain is wired, as I played, I was looking for similarities to “my” Proteus. There were a lot of dissimilarities: most of our work with clients is pretty goal and outcome focused.  We help clients get clear about where they want to go and who they want to be, and help them build the capability or walk down the path to get there.

But then I noticed, as I moved around the world of Proteus, that I felt soothed and focused, drawn in, and very, very curious. Which are actually some of the effects I hope that we have on clients.  And when I looked at some of the reviews on the site, I thought, These are some of the things clients say about us. I especially loved these two:

What surprised me most about Proteus was I found myself going back to it over and over. There’s something delightfully intoxicating about it.

…you definitely will want to explore Proteus’s island – trust us on that.

 

I like to think that we also create an environment that’s attractive to people, where they feel safe, and calmed.  In our case, though, it’s a means to an end: it’s for the purpose of then breaking new ground, being illuminated and strengthened to live the lives and create the enterprises they want.

Maybe they’ll develop Proteus II, Leader Readiness…