Original Thought

What do I Need to Learn?

“Every day I am surprised by what I know, what I don’t know and what I don’t know that I don’t know.” ~ Bob McInnis

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I had two long conversations today about culture change processes, intentionality, stepping stones, and establishing social norms in an unfamiliar and fluid environment. I recognized that some of the work I have been doing ans most of the reading has equipped me with some language, some models, and definitely some opinions about how and why people with something in common engage in the creation of a common culture and readily accept social norms. I know enough to have a theory and enough to facilitate significant shifts and enough to be dangerous.

I don’t know how diversity plays into the formation of common culture. One suggestion today was that we need to take Diversity 101,201,301 specific to the group we are living with, working with and playing with. For most we need to get to know or be reminded of our dispositions and tendencies so we can share them with others who we are interacting with so that they know I am not being a jerk – I just see the world differently and have different needs and practices. We understand tribe members better and figure out how to utilize the diversity to create an as yet unimagined game plan or solution.That would be 101 and 201. 301 takes us to  a place where our egos are set aside and we demand diversity by reaching out to those who see the landscape differently and asking ” Can you take a look at this and help me understand where I am going wrong?” Then I need to listen to the other opinions without resentment or defensiveness and after the feedback is provided reply with ” Thank you, you have made my project better.”

I still don’t know what I don’t know but based on the conversations, learning and impact I am committed to being receptive to outlandish, incomprehensible, out of my frame of reference challenges and to widening my scope of mentors to include a couple of folks that I really don’t agree with.

Are any of you up to the challenge?


Self Improvement

Where Do Original Ideas Come From?

Where do novel ideas come from? From deep study and reflection on the examples we already have or from wide and ranging discovery of paths not connected to the way we understand the present? Convergent or divergent?

I can get stuck in one or the other easily but have recognized that the most original and novel ideas come from doing both multiple times. In a world that is looking for predictability, because that is what we know and where we feel safe, the impetus is to land on one solution too quickly. The choice might seem logical and maybe even clever because it aligns with something we can relate to a previous experience. “A is like b and B worked when we did C’. Some decisions we make can survive and thrive in opting for predictability. If we are looking to get more of the same for the next year it works to use charts and tables and forecasts. If I want to lose 5 more pounds and it took burning 17500 more calories than I took in over 10 days to lose the last 5 pounds, I could predict a similar pattern for the next 10 day 5 pound plan.


But, the world we are living in is changing; changing faster than we can imagine or believe is possible. Fortune 500 companies use to spend an average of 65 years at the top of their game, now the might make 7. The things I take for granted in communication; Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Smartphones, didn’t exist 5 or 6 years ago. When I was in high school I took computer programming and needed to take my punch cards to the university to run on a computer that filled a large room. Now my cell phone has 100 times the power. In 5 years it will compute at the speed of the human brain and by 2050 it will have the power of all of humanity. Electric cars, hover boards, MOOCs, Pokemon GO … The world is changing fast. I can’t use prediction to forecast accurately what action I need to take today to be on track 2 months from now. Adaptability and flexibility will become the most important skills for the next generation or at least for the next while. The ability and comfort to thrive in ambiguity will be the difference between making a difference and being forgotten.

So I arrive at the conclusion that we need to do many things, most things, maybe everything differently. To get there we need to break out of the prison of bias and mediocrity. We need a plan to knock down the bars and make a great escape. This will take some diligence. Think like you are making a break from Alcatraz or Smokey Mountain Penitentiary. Nobody succeeded because they were all trying the same thing. How widely and wildly can you think about the problem? Can you imagine enough possibilities that you list a dozen crazy ideas? And then how do you decide on which ones make the first cut? second? Final?

Over the next couple of posts I am going to think about divergence and convergence then for a couple of posts work through convergence back to divergence and arrive at an original idea.

Make Today Remarkable, by thinking crazy thoughts,

Self Improvement

Popeye Arms

Are you exercising regularly but focusing on the same routine? Like Popeye the Sailor Man you may end up with huge forearms and tiny ineffective muscles everywhere else.


I worry that many of us are exercising our brains but the routine is so predictable that we are growing giant frontal lobes ( not a physical representation but a metaphor for what I see happening). I spent time with three different groups over the past week and discovered that they were well read and well versed in a narrow band that gave them agreement comfort. If we don’t stretch away from the echoes bouncing around in our heads, we end up with a distorted image, likely uni-dimensional of the world that we live in.

I was with 1300 bright, interested, motivated people last week who were okay being pushed within a very small bandwidth. They felt thinking out of the box required that they keep their bodies inside and maybe let their nose sneak out and smell the air. There was an opportunity to be challenged, checked, changed and choices were waiting to be made but there was a lot of escape hatches offered and most people retreated to the same thoughts they were having when they walked in.

I wonder if Trumpamania and Brexit are manifestations of getting to the edge and ‘remembering that the world is really flat’ and pulling back, out of fear, into something that sounds vaguely familiar (and safe). Most troubling is the polarity that single-minded opinions, confirmation conversations, and willfully blind tribal loyalty encourage. The more you focus on bicep curls, the bigger your biceps get but now those tiny calves don’t give you a leg to stand on.

Enter into open and curious conversations with people, books and ideas that you don’t understand and/or disagree with.





Am I insensitive? Do I miss signals from others that I am intruding into their space? Do I ignore contributions or ideas from other people? Do I make snide comments or cutting remarks? Can I be hurtful? Yes,yes,yes, yes, yes and I apologize for all of it. But apologies can be like excuses; not of much value. If I don’t learn and change my behaviour what value does seeking atonement bring to me or others?

I heard yesterday, or overheard, that much of the meeting I was in ignored women and their opinions. The facilitator apparently favored stale, pale men over women. I wasn’t the facilitator and didn’t notice the favoritism. Maybe I was blind because my opinions were heard and considered. I forget that part of the reason I can influence is my privilege; male, older, caucasian, educated, outspoken. I wrestled this morning with my participation and could conclude that I wasn’t overbearing or dismissive so it isn’t my problem. But I now see that the dynamic of the engagement did offer people with strong opinions and extroverted personalities a higher dais. Again, not my doing but I was willfully blind to the circumstances because they served me and my agenda.

I have replayed the table conversations and see that there were participants (mostly female) who were silent or said very little. They had obviously made the effort to attend and were curious about the subject so it wasn’t disinterest that quieted their voices. In the heat of the discussion, I did step on someone’s voice and stepped back and gave them space but there was some roughshod power plays happening and I didn’t ask ” what do you think?”

I talk and write a lot about personal responsibility so I don’t have much room to squirm on this. It was my obligation to pay close attention, observe, notice and attempt to remedy any injustice or unfairness or insensitivity. Last night I didn’t do any of them. I paid attention to the arguments being put forward, but not out of curiousity but rather to find a window to pounce through. I was focused on me and my desire so wasn’t observing the reactions and reflections of others. I didn’t notice any body language or posture changes that would have signaled some distress and I didn’t therefore see a reason or an opportunity to level the field and ensure that all interested voices were being heard.

My perspective was limited because the process gave me influence and I was satisfied with that.

In the future, I will be sure to open my toolkit and remind myself that others may not be satisfied. If I add some questions to my toolkit, I can still make a contribution and invite others to make theirs.” We haven’t heard much from you tonight, what do you think?”
” How does that idea sit with you?” ” If you were in their situation what would you do or recommend?” ” Have we heard from all sides?” ” Did everyone have a chance to add to the discussion?” Some of the questions are internal and some would need to be expressed out loud.

As I write this I wonder what we missed last night. How many people had a contribution that was stifled or spoken but not listened to? Did we miss the ‘great big idea’ that we were looking for? As a fan of generative thinking and a synthesizer of ideas I am pretty sure that the pathway that we took was a creation of he who spoke first as more than the quality or usefulness of the opinion. A different pathway would have created a different route and likely a different destination.
It is sad that some voices weren’t heard. Sad that I didn’t notice the inequity. Sad that we were insensitive. It is really sad that we will never know what opportunities and possibilities we missed in our zealousness.

Today is a new day. I can’t fix or recreate yesterday. I can learn from the stumbles and the leaps. I can reflect, adapt and change. I can make a commitment to taking different action in the next opportunity ( 3 today and numerous over the next 2 weeks). I can write and post and hopefully provoke some thoughtful reflection by others. I can be optimistic that a few words jotted down and published have whatever meaning others may attribute them and that in the exercise I have become a bit more aware, sensitive and committed.