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Showing posts from April, 2014

In A Search For Authenticity, Locally Hosted Meals & Management by Accident

"Rain Room - Random International" by Tom via Flickr
It was an hour and a half to drive home tonight in the rain. Nonstop sheets of gray pelted the windshield and I flipped around the radio trying (mostly in vain) to find a song worth listening to.

The delay became somewhat worth it when I caught a really interesting news segment on WTOP News. I am always interested in trends, and they were talking about the trend toward locally hosted meals, such as with Cookening,Home Hosted Meals, and so on.

In this business model, the impersonal, cookie-cutter restaurant is replaced with an encounter with a true local person who is simply hosting a dinner party, wine and cheese tasting, etc. at their home. I could see the appeal, especially when you align this kind of business with airbnb, where you get a place to sleep from a  local person - rather than a cold and sterile hotel.

People nowadays want to do business with people. Not plastic. Not customer service "robots."

Whic…

Bumps & Bruises

Photo credit: Jennifer Rogers via Flickr
As a kid I knew my share of punks and bullies. Kindergarten, fourth grade, fifth grade, tenth. George, a girl with a boy's name, attacked me in a parking lot - I was only eight or nine. True, I got her pretty good. But she left me beaten up on the pavement, and I cried in shame as my parents carried me home.
Life is about bumps and bruises. My mother had no mercy about that. "Turn off the waterworks," she would admonish me when I started to cry. "It's enough."
It was better in the olden days, at least in some respects. We played outside - a lot. Chalk on the sidewalk, jacks, skipping rope. Plastic pool in the yard. Barbecue at Grandma's.
At camp I ran as fast as I could around the track, sprinting till I lost my breath and fell. Skinned my knees so many times. Picked at the scabs - why? Trying to make it go away was useless.
A child of the consulting life, moving every year till I was ten, I learned to live the solita…

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Feedback?

"Mirrors" by Neil Krug via Flickr
Over the past few years I've gotten a lot of feedback about my leadership and management style. Some of it's been good -- visionary, quick to learn, creative, insightful, direct.

Other parts have been bad (really, the flipside of the good) -- too quick to change things, do things my own way, tactless at times, need to think through more carefully "how will we get there."

All of it is good. And I hold myself responsible for doing better.

But does there come a point when feedback itself impedes progress?

Yesterday I was watching an old episode of The Brady Bunch. This is the one where the kids get measles, and they're all in bed, kvetching. There's Mr. & Mrs. Brady & Alice the housekeeper, putting the trays together in the kitchen, each one specifically tailored to what the kids wanted to eat.

They trudge up and down the stairs with the trays. It's funny to watch them going up the stairs, then down the stairs, h…

Normalizing The Irrational Website

Over the course of my career I've been a consultant, a client and an academic. Worked in the private sector and the public sector. Done internal and external communication, branding, web, social media, mobile, and open data. But one thing has remained constant:

NOBODY WANTS TO CHANGE.

The funny thing is that people always ask for fundamental change. They say "we have to get away from the past."

But the reality in most cases is that individuals and groups are usually fundamentally wedded to the dysfunctional culture that they know.

I remember when we moved to New Jersey back in the '80s. Boxes sat in my living room for years because my parents couldn't agree on where they should go. I could have brought in an expert to simply unpack the boxes and put them away in a logical place.

But the hidden logic behind the irrational boxes was as follows: we disagree and these boxes are a symbol of our refusal to budge.

Until you get the logic of the dysfunction, you can't make…

Can Negative Emotions Propel You To The Top?

10 Signs Your Change Initiative Stands A Chance

Change initiatives are notoriously prone to failure. As an employee you want to learn how to be a weathervane. Which way is the wind blowing? How do we make the most of good weather, and set the damage from a thunderstorm right?
You also want to know what a good mix of positive indicators looks like. Here are 10 pretty reliable ones that a change initiative is going well. (You can infer from their opposite when it's not.) Note that they tend to occur in combination and reinforce each other - just like ketchup and mustard look strangely good sitting side by side.
1. Leadership has stated the vision in broad terms.Middle management can translate that vision into action items. Staff can say it in an elevator ride.
2. People are excited to talk about it.
3. Cultural readiness is apparent as people seem impatient to just start implementing already.
4. Opportunity presents itself in the form of distinct "easy wins" toward the bigger picture.
5. Team members have a way to align their…

Celebrating Genius As A Form Of Diversity

A lot of companies talk about innovation, but few are prepared for dealing with actual creative people. They hire for uniqueness and then complain that unique people drive them not to celebrate, but drown their sorrows in drink. (At 7-Eleven you can go either way.)
I am that type of person. Not book-smart, necessarily, but "out there," outside the box, radical. I'll do anything to solve the problem. My mind is on the Rubik's Cube 24/7 - creative, workaholic, dramatic, demanding and obsessed with perfection. Spacey, because I'm thinking. Awkward, because introverted. Dramatic. And so on.
I understand that it's a lot for people to handle. But there is also no workplace where we really dialogue about what creativity means and how it manifests itself among a "normal" team. More than that how to encourage creativity at all levels and stages of one's career.
Really all of us are geniuses at something, I have found - it's just a matter of discovering …

Trend: Vintage Feminist

Snapped pics of these items in a shoe store on Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale, and got the sense that they exemplify a trend. (Not sure of the name, but we're seeing this type of stuff in a bunch of places.)







There's also a lot of gladiator going on right here in terms of women's shoes, but haven't got a great photo just yet. Also dandelions, and massive necklaces.



* All opinions my own. No endorsement or non-endorsement expressed or implied. Photos by me.

Blame Hitler

In "Hush" a young girl's friend is effectively murdered, and the ghost knocks at her window in her dreams until she pursues justice.
Today I started reading "Unchosen," by Hella Winston. Normally disdainful of books, I walked in the street fixated to the Kindle. And suddenly started to cry uncontrollably.  
(Like the writer Nora Ephron said, you have to put the pain on paper or it lives in your head forever.)
My entire nuclear family on my father's side, which I have never understood in proper sociological or historical context, could have been lifted, in a certain sense, from Chapter 1.
It talks about Yossi, a young Hasidic man who shaves his sidelocks and beard in a gesture of freedom.
Yossi's parents strictly forbade any contact with the outside world and he had barely any education. 
His grandparents were raised in New York City and had not known such stricture until the post-Holocaust immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe. They adopted it. 
Yossi is one …

"Because I Said So"

"Colorless Angry Cat" by Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

So I spent a week in supervisory training at my agency (The National Archives) and they taught us a really good thing: You've got to expose your mental models, your reasoning.

In other words, having the right answer is not enough. Doing the work yourself is not the job anymore.

Your job is to motivate other people toward a shared goal.

Sounds obvious, but here's the thing: Many leaders misunderstand what "shared goal" means.

It is NOT your goal that you share with the people. Rather it is "our goal" reached by consensus around what has to be done.

The way you get to "our goal" is to lay bare your logic: how you got from point A to point B.

In my group we're working toward our own shared goals. And I'm spending probably 50% of my time this week just talking to people about the reasoning. Then tweaking it according to their responses.

Yeah - that's the other thing. You get to "…

How To Get Your Innovation Moving In A Bureaucracy: Leverage The Leader's Field Of Vision

In the movie Paranoia, Liam Hemsworth plays an innovative developer who gets caught between two lifelong rivals. His problem? Overeducated but underpaid and exploited, and he can't get his good ideas taken seriously no matter how good his presentation.

In real life, professionals at every stage find themselves frustrated by a seemingly immovable and impenetrable corporate mechanism that seemingly resists every attempt to inject a new idea. I have often wondered why we put such an emphasis nowadays on advanced education and technical certifications and then ignore the precious advice we've already paid for.

But it can be done. One example: Goucher College provides academic support for the Hispanic community on the weekends, including daycare. But something was missing, realized one student: The community needed a GED testing center, because the credential is important to apply for jobs successfully.

Instead of dropping a voting card in a suggestion box, the student did extensive r…

Lost In The Sauce On Innovation

Photo by F. Delventhal via Flickr
Why do the very best intentions on innovation end up going downhill? There is more than enough urgency to go around -- so why can't we just pick a problem and fix it?

I think it's because we human beings tend to get lost in the sauce. That is, we start out on the right foot, but ultimately miss the point as we fall into five kinds of traps that distract us from the huge and life-changing goals that we can and must achieve:

1. We have a fixed mental model around what innovation looks like. In our agency, company, organization, institution, or what have you, there is a political and cultural environment that dictates what you can and cannot think, say, and do. It closes down the mind to disruptive and radical solutions that can actually work where the current approaches fail to.

2. We get fascinated by sparkly new toys. For example, social media is a toy. It's great and valuable and important of course. It's the new town square, it's a p…

Respect

Respect the rocks for what they are.

Respect the leaves for what they are.

Respect the trees for what they are.

Respect the sky for what it is.

And respect the earth.
If we could only respect people the same way.
* All opinions my own. Photos by me.

"The First Rule About New GM Is Don't Talk About Old GM"

Screenshot via Yahoo!
I was watching this great spoof of the GM hearing that recently left our nation's Senators wringing their hands.

The message: Look at our silly litigious culture. You can't be honest anymore, unless you don't care whether someone will sue you.

We see the same problem everywhere. Screwups abound - they are inevitable - and leaders try to move us past them, largely by quickly apologizing and then ignoring the past.

I understand that impulse. I hate looking back at my high school photos. That miserable sulking face! That depressed, pity-me poem! The weird slogan I chose for my goodbye saying! Oh why!

But you can't wipe the past away and neither should you. It is your life. Your heritage and you own it.

Similarly, employees are stamped by the legacy of the "old way." You can tell them that there is a "new way," but they are not going to feel it for many, many years past the time of your telling. Probably not until two "new way"…