HIT Piece 8.30.2016

If you want to be known, it’s not enough to build a great product.

If you want to be heard, it’s not enough to do something that you call marketing.

If you want to be acknowledged, it’s not enough to sell constantly, and be an interruptive presence in your customers’ lives.

You have to build a product, a company, and a category that occupies a space in the mind of your client or your customer. You have to build a pirate ship, in essence, to hijack that valuable mental space.

And then, you have to constantly build out that space in their minds.

Does this sound like hard work?

Well, it was just as hard 100 years ago at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when companies, people, and organizations believed that all they needed to do was build a better product incrementally over time.

[Strategy] The Wisdom of Solomon Matters

There was once two women, who both claimed ownership of one child.

In an attempt to determine to whom, the baby actually belonged, (or who was the biological mother) the king decided to physically threaten the child in the presence of the two women through proposing to bisect the child.

The women who was the child’s mother protested. The other women kept silent and the baby was returned to its biological mother.

This story is ancient and hails from a time before lie detectors, biometric scans, and even neurolinguistics; which is why, it cuts to the heart of two human truths:

  • The women who claimed ownership of the children were both driven by ineluctable inner needs.
  • Threatening to bisect the baby focused the women’s attention on those things that matter.

Both of these truths are self-evident in a negotiation scenario. But here’s the thing: Sometime, it’s okay to let the baby be bisected.

Sometimes, parties need to experience the shock and trauma of loss, but not on their terms, in order to return to the table and negotiate for a better outcome.

When dealing with human lives (and “baby splitting” happens all the time in preparations for warfare) parties often count the cost and then decide to go ahead with a disastrous action. And out of that disaster comes new opportunities to focus parties on what matters, rather than getting trapped in the weeds of irrelevancies that may have previously dominated the conversation.

Parties in conflict can be lazy, deceptive, self-serving, myopic, and greedy. Clarity of purpose, drive, focus on attaining tangible outcomes that matter, and developing a relationship with the other party often stall in the real world.

And it’s in the real world, outside of the theories of how human beings should and ought to work, that the wisdom of a mediator matters the most.

[Advice] Listening to the Linchpins

There are all of these stories out there.

A woman works in the billing department of a major company. She is passionate about her work, but she is also knowledgeable about tax laws. She sells vitamin supplements as a side hustle, and owns a piece of rental property. Her kids help her with the work on the rental property and she is able to buy them new Nikes.

A women owned her own business for ten years because she went to business school because her father wanted her to. She was always passionate about working with people. After ten years of operating and owning a business, she put that project aside to work in a company with people.

A man works to feed vulnerable populations at scale on a daily basis. He believes in the work so much, that he is running for political office as well.

A man knows more about food safety than you and I will ever know. He has trouble convincing his family though, that they should listen to him in his knowledge and take his advice. They all get sick following an outdoor picnic at a family reunion where the food was out, starting a cascade of conflict via text messages after the fact.

All of these people are linchpins. They create value and connection with the people around them, in order to grow their worlds. They are taking risks to expand their voices and the only thing that is stopping them from going further is themselves.

Listen to the stories around you.

The stories of the linchpins.

Because the chorus of stories is growing louder and louder and expanding out further and further and touching more and more lives in ways that matter.

[Opinion] It’s Up to MBAs to Save the World

Business students—modern day, Internet savvy, native users of the information superhighway we’ve all built for the last twenty or so years—can save the corporate world.

The unfortunate thing is that somewhere along the way to cashing out in a cushy consulting position, or advancing in organizations by whose culture they are troubled, someone forgot to tell them.

This is not unusual. Partially it’s due to the echo chamber of higher education—the faculty who teach from a worldview and frame set on preserving the world they teach in—and partially it’s due to a corporate world still focused (in spite of all the evidence of disruption to the contrary) on achieving cookie-cutter, command-and-control outcomes on a quarterly basis.

There are, of course, a range of types and varieties of business students, from undergraduate business majors, dutifully studying their work at second, third, and fourth tier institutions, all the way to community and junior college students “older-than-average” who return to business programs to either run a small business better, or to provide for their families.

Finally, there are the top tier, classic business school students from elite institutions who are studying to become the next masters of the universe. These are the ones that we traditionally think of as dominating the salaries and cultures of corporations and organizations where MBAs are hired.

Except, at all levels, the work that matters is shifting away from what a human used to do well toward what a computer can do better. Accounting, spreadsheet analysis, financial reporting, supply chain management, and on and on, really matter less and less as topical areas of focus and interest in a world where information is changing hands faster than the left to right swiping motion on a smartphone screen.

The work that does matter, in organizations, to individuals, and the work that is going to reshape the global paradigm of the next fifty years, doesn’t show up on spreadsheet, and can’t be open to analysis. And it never did; but, industrialists of the past century who built the old paradigm want MBAs and anyone in a business program of any kind to continue to believe otherwise.

Philosophically, there must be a change in how we teach bright, young, ambitious, people at all levels (from community college programs to the Ivy League) in order to succeed with outcomes that will be measurable, not in terms of dollars and cents (though that will come) but in terms of people, connection, and the continuing malleability of human nature.

But what would a two-year immersive, MBA experience look like?

Here’s a rough idea of how practically, an MBA program would look, one focused on getting bright, ambitious, Internet native, students to develop and nurture the kind of work that will grow organizations in the 21st century:

  • Year One:
    • Semester One:
      • Ethics
      • Sustainability
      • Conflict/Dispute Resolution Skills
      • Failure, Success, and Resilience
    • Semester Two:
      • People Management
      • Psychology of Supervision
      • Storytelling
      • Listening
  • Capstone Project: Peer Reviewed and Focused on Building a Functioning Business in the Real World
  • Year Two:
    • Semester One:
      • Finance
      • Accounting
      • Supply Chain Management
      • Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis
    • Semester Two:
      • Persuasive Writing
      • Digital/Virtual Leadership
      • Organizational Culture
      • Restorative Justice
  • Capstone Project: Go and Turn Your Peer-Reviewed Project from the 1st Semester into a Business

And after all of this, there must be follow-up. But not in the traditional sense of “Did you get a job?” and “How much does it pay?” which are questions that really only interest the federal student loan originators. Instead, follow-up with these students would be focused on the only metrics that matter: failure, success, long-term growth, and connection:

  • Did you fail in 5 to 7 years after the program?
  • Did you succeed in 5 to 7 years after the program?
  • What “dent” if any, did you make in the universe?

And that’s it.

With such a program, the MBAs we are turning out from all institutions would be prepared to save the world from the current troubles and hypocrisies, that have caused many corporations to collapse under the inability to change for the future that is here.


[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 3 – Kathleen Frascona

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 3 – Kathleen Frascona, Certified Mediator, Coach, Author, Trainer, Working in the Public School System

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode #3 – Kathleen Frascona


It’s the end of August, which means that it’s time for you to listen to us in your car, on the way to dropping your kids off to school.

OR, if you don’t have children, maybe you are going to school yourself. In that case, carrying us with you while you go and attain your higher education goals, I thank you.

Today, our guest Kathleen Frascona, works in the school system in Florida, doing work that teachers, administrators, union stewards, and others, just won’t do. She is teaching students to be better human beings, one relationship at a time.

Getting to know our children in the eight hours they aren’t in our presence, formerly was the role of teachers. But as budget have been cut, and as the student to teacher ratio has dipped more and more in favor of the student, “getting to know” a child beyond merely some anecdotal facts, has become harder and harder.

K-12 schooling in troubled school districts is still devoted to the mission of preparing children to move into a world without social media, violence, drug use, and crime. In these school districts, preparing students to attain a middle-class lifestyle is the highest goal.

The trouble is, outside of the schoolyards where Kathleen does her work, the world that these students are in has stubbornly refused to transform itself into a middle class paradise.

And the work that Kathleen does prepares students for navigating THAT world with compassion, love, and above all else, a plan of action.

Listen to Kathleen and take the time to connect with her via the links below:

Kathleen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kmfras

Kathleen on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-frascona-65a45821

Kathleen’s Website & Blog: http://www.kmf-consulting.com

Kathleen’s Books:

[Strategy] The Three C’s

Clarity is the quality of being clear and understandable.

Candor is the quality of being open and honest in expression. Not transparent, not vulnerable, but truthful.

Courage is the quality of doing something that is frightening.

The character Mattie Ross in the Charles Portis book True Grit, published in 1968, is the rare character in fiction who is unvarnished in her candor, uncompromising in her clarity, and unwavering in her courage.

In the way of fictional female characters before her, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice to L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy and beyond, Mattie’s character stands out because without her making a decision and then communicating that decision, nothing much occurs.

With the three c’s, she is able to move the action of the plot forward, demand acknowledgement from other characters in the narrative, and is able to get engagement—but not resolution—to the issues which are driving her.

With the three c’s, Mattie is able to look at her world, her choices, and her circumstances without nostalgia—but not without regret.

With the three c’s, Mattie becomes the character with grit—that quality of resilience that often gets overlooked in the pursuit of happiness.

Fiction often reflects truths of life in ways that make us uncomfortable. This is because fiction shows, through the representation of “pretend,” that the traits we look for so hard in others, must be curated and developed in ourselves first.

[Advice] Evolving Cultural Sensibilities and ADR

As the economic, cultural, and spiritual forces that used to bind us together continue to refragment from overarching macro-cultures to indispensable micro-cultures, alternative dispute resolution practitioners must take notice.

Overarching macro-culture was driven by communal events, television, economic stability, and overarching cultural “norms” that allowed people to engage in conflicts and disputes with the same regularity they always have, but also allowed the impacts of those conflicts to be dampened.

Indispensable micro-culture is driven by technology, network connections that defy geography and notice, a dismissal of the status quo, and a strong identity component. People still have conflict in these micro-cultures (what used to be called “sub-cultures”). But the impacts of those conflicts are like wildfires that catch the masses attention for a moment, but without a “there” there, there is little sustained effort mounted to ameliorate the effects upon people in those micro-culture conflicts.

Conflict resolvers, conflict coaches, conflict engagers, mediators, arbitrators, and others have watched this evolution occur over the last fifty or so years, with greater acceleration, but the response to the evolution through providing access points to conflict resolution has not been as quick. This is mainly for three reasons:

  • Indispensable micro-culture is still seen as “niche” and not really enough to build a business model on by the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. This is a terrible fact, but except for some people doing some great work in resolving conflicts in specific areas with specific groups in conflicts (i.e. with parties in churches, with divorcing or separating pet owners, etc.) there is more focus by ADR professionals on how to gain credibility with the courts—still standing as the last guardians of a passing away overarching macro-culture.
  • There are still enough parties in conflict participating in the remaining civic life of a formerly overarching macro-culture. This is something that will pass away over time, but right now, there are enough of the “masses” left around that many professional conflict resolvers look at the problems and conflicts of that group and decide to address their issues first. Both as a way to make a “dent” in the universality of conflict, and to make money from a reliable income stream.
  • Refragmentation is still not understood—or accepted psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually—as an inevitable outcome of the erosion of the twin, post-World War 2 oligopolies of corporation and government. Now, this is not to say that government will disappear either now or later; but the fact is, that as conflicts and disputes between parties in indispensable micro-culture become harder and harder to understand, the overarching macro-culture responses from government entities (i.e. new laws, regulations, taxes, and fees) will be less and less effective. This is because indispensable micro-culture conflicts are driven by esoteric, identity based rules, that require conflict resolvers to engage in relationships with those cultures to resolve—and to go beyond the overarching macro-culture rubric of intercultural communication skill sets.

None of these three areas are that daunting to overcome. And once overcome, the business models to get ideas for resolution to people in conflict begin to overwhelm the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. All that is required to get there is the courage of conflict resolvers to act outside of the “box” they have been trained in.

HIT Piece 8.23.2016

Courage, awareness of trends, and thinking outside of your own box, work well when pushing innovation and getting new ideas at the individual level, but are tough to get to scale past just a few people.

Group think, social proofing, ego driven statements, fear based responses, body language cueing and other forms of involuntary people management begin to kick in when a groups gets to be larger than four members.

Which is why understanding your own conflict style, your own communication approach, and being clear on your own goals (not at the expense of understanding and listening to others’ goals though) becomes the bedrock of innovative action.

Don’t believe me?

Try this: The next time you’re in a meeting with the “smartest” people in your department, your division, your company, or your organization, say nothing (or little) and instead watch how they respond to each other.

How they subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) manage each other.

And if the group is larger than four people, watch even closer.

Watch how “good” ideas become mired in indecision, vagueness, and lack of forward motion.

And then, wonder to yourself: “How can I make this situation better the next time?”

[Opinion] How Do We Jiu-jitsu Our Own Clients

Mediators, negotiators, facilitators, lawyers, therapists, and analysts do it all the time.

When you understand the nature of the thing, it is almost impossible to avoid doing it.

When you do it, sometimes you feel as though you are manipulating somebody else into doing something that they wouldn’t normally do. But then you realize that kindness, patience, and humility begin to matter.

When it’s done, it’s done intentionally, not by accident, or even in a haphazard way, a reaction to something that another party said or did.

And yes, when you do it, you can still be taken by surprise. It just doesn’t happen as often.

In the past, people used to characterize it as “playing head games.” But really, once you understand that in many ways, individuals change, but the group doesn’t, then it’s less a “head game” and more a “gaming the system” game.

When you do it, you have to be careful to preserve the other party’s autonomy and rights to self-determination. Presenting all the options to get out of a conflict, without presenting the consequences as well (or even worse, allowing the other party’s imagination to ‘fill in the blanks’) lacks human empathy, and dares to challenge your own spiritual growth.

When it happens, it may seem like jiu-jitsu to someone watching from the outside (using the other party’s ‘throw weight’ of their language, rhetoric, ideas, or stories, against them), but the ability to

  • analyze,
  • listen actively and non-defensively,
  • hear a story succinctly,
  • and paraphrase that story back to the teller in the way the teller wants to hear it,

is not jiu-jitsu.

It’s just good form.

HIT Piece 08.09.2016

The thing is, we’re not building for the future we want, we’re building for the future we think will keep us the most comfortable.

The thing is, when the status quo is upended by events we did not expect, we react with defensiveness, because our identity is wrapped up in maintaining the status quo.

The thing is, when we anecdotally share ideas of change at a personal level, we are often surprised when those ideas are manifest in someone else’s experiences.

The thing is, when we generalize from the individual and the specific to the group, we make a decision around what matters, and what will scale versus what won’t.

The thing is, we have all been born at the beginning of greatness, the beginning of a revolution, not coming in at the end, and because we’re at the beginning, rather than the comfortable middle, or scary end, we don’t really know what to do.

The thing is, standing on a street corner in NYC, we can watch the world go by and wonder at what will come next; or, we can take this opportunity to build what will come next, for all of those people who are clutching to the past in their behaviors, their choices, and even in their identities.

The thing is…