[Opinion] The Listicle is Simple and Seductive

Three points need to be emphasized at the beginning of any training, workshop, or seminar.

Your way of thinking about conflict, communication, and persuasion must shift before anything else can happen.

Your way of consuming information, your attention span, and your level of caring about the content you are about to hear, must shift before any deep learning can happen.

Your way of listening to the delivered content must shift from passive to active, for without that shift, nothing else can happen.

The desire, of course, from some of the participants is for these three things to happen. And these points being made out loud makes those participants relieved.

But there are other desires in the room.

The desire to get the tools, get the skills, get the listicle version of the information, and then to leave.

The desire to get the lecture, get the knowledge, but to not engage in any deeper change. After all, such change is challenging, and if there’s no support in the environment from which you came for change that needs to happen, well then it’s easier to ignore the calls to change.

The desire to not care. This is reflected in the phrases, the questions, the statements, and the observations that spring forth from the participants. Typically framed by some participants as “I hope that you can keep me awake,” or “You kept me awake more than any other facilitator I’ve ever sat through.”

The desire for the listicle version, the shorthand, the summary, the 30-second point, is seductive. But ultimately, changing the philosophy about how we think, matters more than applying shortcut tactics to achieve an outcome we might not enjoy.

[Strategy] I’m Right

The reason why talk of biases (implicit and otherwise) doesn’t connect with audiences listening for tips on how to manage conflict, is that the audience already knows that they’re biased.

And they’re fine with it.

The challenge is not to harangue them until they give in and admit that biases (implicit and otherwise) can be attached to values.

The challenge is to persuade them that their biases aren’t helping them get the results they so desperately crave.

And yes, it’s easier to harangue and force an “I’m right you should listen to me” -argument, on an audience that has already heard your “I’m right you should listen to me”-argument and has rejected it.

It’s easier for the person presenting the “I’m right you should listen to me”-argument that is.

But the audience leaves (mentally, emotionally, or physically), loses interest, or gets distracted by something more entertaining.

And less badgering.

Persuasion serves to manage and resolve more issues in ways favorable for both parties (the biased and the unbiased) alike.

First, connect through persuasion. Then build a relationship. Then change behaviors.

And last, change the world.

Network Leap

The deep revelation of the revolution called the Internet, is that it continues to demonstrate that networks are the most valuable resource that an individual, a corporation, or a government possesses in order to leverage innovation, change, and advancement.

Of course, during the height of the Industrial Revolution last century, no one understood how to measure the revenue generated by any kind of network (personal or professional), but everyone knew somebody who had gotten hired via a referral, or who had made a purchase from strong word-of-mouth.

The Internet shows the power of such networks virtually (have you bought an online course lately?) even as it erodes the networks between people in the “real” world.

This is a particularly troubling realization for organizations built at scale, i.e. “real world” companies, from old line manufacturers (Ford) to healthcare companies (name your national hospital conglomerate of choice here).

The fact that a network matters more than physical size, monetary resources, access, etc., on the Internet is the main reason why corporate mergers (i.e. AT&T + Every Other Media Company You Can Name on the Planet) won’t do much to increase the overall market share of individual eyeballs and mass audience attention. The mass approach doesn’t work (because of the network impact of the Long Tail) and such mergers are the flailing attempts of declining industries to remain relevant in the face of the only thing that scales from individual to individual.

The web of the network.

Some sectors are provincially beginning to understand the impact of the presence of the network in the physical world, with the growing talk around the Internet-of-Things. But this is just the beginning.

The fact that the presence of the network matters more than the size of the network, is why Google will eventually get out of the search business altogether (probably around the middle of this century or so) and be the first Internet based company to burst from your computer or mobile phone application, out into the physical world.

Search matters less and less when the network matters more and more to accomplishing revenue, connection and growth goals at scale. Sure, Facebook may “win” the networking wars against search in their own little walled garden, but Google is planning on escaping to larger territories in the physical world where the presence of a network generates more revenues, because of the inability and myopia of Industrial Revolution based organizations to appreciate the impact of a network at scale.

These larger territories where networks aren’t as valued (yet) include the physical connectivity infrastructure of a city (Google Fiber), the physical place where individuals spend time commuting to work (Google Car) and the place where individuals spend the time connecting with others physically AND virtually (Google A.I. projects).

The fact that the network matters more than the technology facilitating the development of the network, is why virtual reality companies (Oculus Rift) and augmented reality games (Pokemon Go!) will be on the edges of individuals’ and companies’ radars for some time to come. The real “killer” app for both virtual reality and augmented reality technology will be the one that brings connectivity and an already established network into the new technology. And then pivots to connect that network to a larger, physical world.

For companies that can’t envision the leap to network based thinking (but who have executives and others on their cell phones texting, emailing, messaging, and otherwise building their virtual network constantly) here are a few suggestions:

Build the physical network between schools, industry, and government in your local town, or municipality. There is nothing less sexy or interesting than sitting at a table talking about how things were better economically in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, but that lament must be part of a larger discussion of expanding the web and the network using the same thinking and acting that individuals are doing virtually daily.

Realize that money is no object. Money is a story. Fear of change and resistance to the present reality and the future possibility are the objects. Recently the question came up in a workshop with an organization in transition “How do ‘crack’ the Resistance?” One way is to build trust. The other way is to change the thinking of the organization around what constitutes a “revenue generating” activity, and what does not.

Realize that there isn’t power in hoarding knowledge, access, or a carefully constructed network anymore. There isn’t power in hoarding money anymore (no matter how much cash on the balance sheets the Fortune 500 is hoarding). There isn’t even power in hoarding connections to politicians, power-brokers, or personalities anymore. The power is in sharing, reciprocity and building trust across boundaries, rather than busily building moats.

Or walls.

The full power of the Internet—in its ability to shape how humans build, how humans communicate, and how humans create network value—has yet to be fully explored.

We are at the beginning of a revolution.

[Advice] You Get The Conflict Culture You Hire For

The fact of the matter is, organizations get the conflict culture that they hire for.

If organizations hire for avoidance, they get that.

If organizations hire for aggressiveness, they get that.

But so many organizations don’t consider conflict culture.

That is, until they are in litigation, mediation, or negotiation, over a problem that could have been solved if they had hired employees at every level in the organization more intentionally in the first place.


Hire more intentionally.

HIT Piece 10.25.2016

The top six questions for leaders (or aspiring leaders) at work, are as follows:

  • Who is responsible for the organizational culture at work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is responsible for the conflict culture at work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is responsible for the innovation at work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is responsible for having the courage to change? You, or your boss?
  • Who is going to accept responsibility if changing doesn’t work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is going to get the credit if changing creates more productivity at work? You, or your boss?

The answers to those six questions will define how you work, where you work, and what outcomes derive from the work that you do.

[Strategy] If I Were You…

“If I were you…” is the worst beginning to providing feedback to anyone.

The statement merely says, if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback then this is what the feedback would be.

This is a poorly considered bit of critical shorthand, because if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback, then nothing would change.

This is a poorly considered bit of persuasive shorthand, because if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback, then that person wouldn’t be persuaded to change in any meaningful way.

This is a poorly considered method of shortcutting through another’s experience to get to “empathy” and to get around the other party’s defenses.

The thing is, if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback, they would be acting in the same way that the person receiving the feedback is.

Better to say, “If my brain were in your situation” or “If my behavior could be inserted in between you and the problem,” and be done with it.

[Strategy] The Era of the Chameleons is not Ending Fast Enough

Human interactions, impacted and shaped by the economic, political, and social effects of the Industrial Revolution, used to highly value—and continue to reward—the skills of the chameleon.

You know the chameleon at work.

This is the person at a meeting who, when a person says “This is clearly black in color,” they nod their head approvingly.

This is the same person who, twenty minutes later at the same meeting, when another person offers their color opinion and says, “This is clearly white in color,” they also nod their head approvingly.

Then, a person walks up to them after the meeting that was supposed to be about colors (but was about acquiescence) and says to them, “One person said the color was black. Another person said the color was white. I think that they were both wrong and the color is grey. What do you think?”

And the person, the chameleon agrees that the color is grey.

You know the chameleon at work.

This behavior, this inability to stand up, stick out, take a stand, or state an opinion, for fear of being fired, flattened down, or left out, was a critical management benefit of our past Industrial Age. It was a function of a work culture based in top-down, command and control directions and the presence of a lone voice of authority to whom to appeal. This behavior was rewarded with promotion, bonuses, and extra trips. This behavior was so regular and so pervasive that it was lampooned by comedians; it lay at the core of televised situational comedies; and it was studied by psychologists.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the chameleons that currently in the workplace, the color is neither black, nor, white. It isn’t even grey anymore.

The dominant color of change, conflict, and innovation is plaid.

And when a chameleon must adjust to the presence of plaid—particularly the chameleon at work—it tends to not survive the experience.

The era of the chameleon is ending, but not nearly fast enough.

[Advice] Understanding is Disruptive

When you understand the nature of a thing, it becomes simple to predict an outcome.

When you understand the nature of a conflict, it becomes simple to manage it.

Simple, but not easy.

We confuse the simple with the easy because we desire to attain outcomes that “work” for us with a minimal amount of emotional effort expended on our part.

We confuse simple with easy because confrontation is hard, and increasingly, we communicate in a world that rewards avoidance in the face of increasingly seemingly intractable, conflict.

We confuse simple with easy, because understanding the nature of anything—from the science of managing conflict to the science of climate change—requires critical thinking, objective reasoning, and the emotional bandwidth to be surprised, be delighted, and to be wrong.

Predicting outcomes from human behavior is dicey at best. But since human beings seek to bring reason to a world that appears to be in chaos, the ordering of patterns and the innate desire for reason, combine to fool us into thinking that outcomes are predictable.

Once, of course, you understand the nature of the outcome you’re predicting.

When we don’t take the time to understand the nature of the conflict we’re in, because we don’t care about the outcome, we disagree with the other party, we think that we’re right and they’re wrong, or we don’t engage with critical thinking and reasoning, then we search and seek for the easy answer.

The simple solution, the jiu-jitsu, that will make all our conflicts, our problems, and the other party, either disappear or change to suit us.

When you understand the nature of a conflict that you’re in, it becomes simple to seek, not the quick and easy solution, but the patience to deal with the ambiguity of a long, and complicated solution, without getting angry, defensive, or disruptive.

[Opinion] Developing the Present

When in economic development conversations with government officials, investors, and concerned community members, the tension is always revealed at a certain point in the dialogue.

Usually it comes in the form of either (or both) of the assertions below:

In the past, one person (typically a politician, or group of politicians) provided the authoritative voice that told every other person, political party, or community member what was going to happen.

In the present, one person (typically a politician, or group of politicians) no longer exists with the authoritative voice that tells every other person, political party, or community member, what is going to happen in the future.

And then, typically, there’s a moment of silence and a sigh.

The tension between the imagined past (or actual past, as in the case of Walter Cronkite versus Lyndon Johnson) and the current day reveals a nostalgia for centralized control, a reduction in the clamoring of voices for attention in the public square, and the desire for speed in change.

  • Was there an authoritative voice in the past that stated “how it was going to be,” or was that also an illusion?
  • Was there a centralized authority that “flattened” choices in the past, making everyone in a community conform, or is that just a myth that we tell ourselves in the present in hindsight?
  • Was there more progress yesterday than there is today, because yesterday people in the community knew not to ask for permission, and instead followed orders?

The conflict—or tension—between remembering a simple imagined past (nostalgia) and living through an uncomfortable present, won’t be resolved by a centralized voice—if it ever could be.

Instead, the development of new ways of persuading, convincing, caring, and telling stories that resonate must combine with patience to accomplish an economic future we can all experience the benefits of.

HIT Piece 10.18.2016

Transparency means different things to different people.

Some people believe that transparency means establishing, maintaining, and growing connection to another person.

Some people believe that transparency means collaboration with another person or with a group of people.

Some people believe that transparency means authenticity, a species of “being real” or “keeping it real” in language, attitude, approach to an issues, tone or topic.

Some people believe that transparency means honesty and integrity—all of the time rather than some of the time.

Some people believe that transparency means refusing to “groom” a social appearance for the sake of other people, the crowd, or the audience.

Some people believe that transparency means being responsible and accountable—particularly when no one else in the group, the team, or the organization, will be.

Some people believe that transparency means acting with faith and hope in a future that could be, rather than complaining about the present that is.

The question on transparency is not one of who sees transparency through what lens, instead the question on transparency focuses around whether or not transparency matters—and in what context.