Five Reasons to Give Improv a Shot in Your Organization

There are tons and tons of trust-building exercises and theories but none of them are as active (or as much fun) as improvisation. Here are five good reasons to give improv a shot as your organizational trust-building tool of choice:

Reason 1: We already improvise – every day.
If you think you can’t improvise, take a moment to consider any workday. We all head in with a schedule in our heads and outcomes for the day. I would bet that 90% of the time, that agenda changes on the fly. How do you manage? You improvise. The good part is that if you can master a few simple behaviors that improvisers use on stage, it can exponentially improve your ability to adapt, stay engaged and move on.

Reason 2: Positive behaviors = positive results is a known fact.
The underlying principle of improvisation is the concept of “Yes!” Improvisers believe that contributions should always be greeted with agreement – at least at first. Not all ideas are kept, but the act of positive reaction changes how people feel about their value, their part in a project and about you. A 2001 paper from the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations found that for every 1% improvement in the service climate (a company in a good mood), there’s a 2% increase in revenue.

Reason 3: Committing to the game creates accountability.
After an improviser says “Yes!” they immediately say “and.” That simple word, “and,” allows them to add an idea, a joke, and a flavor to the scene onstage. When they add their piece, it also means that they are committed to the scene. They are in it and will stick to it through failure or success. If we could all jump into our work with the attitude that will be positive and add our contribution, every time, everything would be done faster, better.

Reason 4: Improv removes the fear of making mistakes and managing the unexpected.
Improvisers make mistakes and encounter the unexpected all the time. More importantly, when faced with those occurrences, we acknowledge it (instead of shoving it under a rug), think about how it could be used for the good of the scene or comedy, and move on. Instead of running, fretting or obsessing about the unexpected, you can make mistakes into opportunities by working like an improviser.

Reason 5: Fun is a good thing.
The most successful executives and high-performance teams which whom I’ve worked always include fun in the list of why they’ve done so well. Being willing to laugh, work like it’s play, and act like a team is the best way to spend the many hours you are away from your home and family.

Convinced? Interested? Still scared? Tell us…


Five Ways Scenario Planning Could Have Averted Major Disasters

Author Tom Chermack is a seasoned academic with impeccable corporate credentials as well in the field of scenario planning.Scenario planning derives from the observation that, given the impossibility of knowing precisely how the future will play out, a good decision or strategy to adopt is one that plays out well across several possible futures. Tom lists below the five ways in which scenario planning exercises by Companies and organizations (such as BP) could have averted the oil spill and ensuing crisis.

1)Consider Internal Dynamics. This may come as blasphemy to many scenario planning professionals. Scenario exercises have almost always focused on external events and forces, because the purpose is commonly to explore and understand what is going on out there. Given that more and more companies have global reach, and many have revenues that exceed small nations, a failure to explore internal dynamics can be a major oversight. Toyota is a prime example of an internal oversight that led to an organizational crisis. A secondary benefit of using internal dynamics as major forces in scenario exercises is that it brings the scenarios immediately closer to the users. Using an internal factor as a major critical uncertainty can help managers see how their actions could make a difference, and creates a set of circumstances in which their judgment matters, and they can see how their decisions might play out.

2) Explore Unlikely Scenarios -- Do Not Assign Probabilities. Scenarios existed that contained the events of September 11, 2001. The scenarios were dismissed as “unlikely” because the odds of their occurrence were deemed slim. This is a great lesson in the purpose of scenarios. The purpose is to explore and understand unlikely events that could fundamentally impact an organization (and increasingly, our world). Assigning probabilities is a sure way to dismiss the unlikely scenario elements and defeat the purpose of any scenario planning effort.

3) Consider Responses.
Many scenario exercises fall short of considering responses in each scenario. One of Peter Schwartz’s key questions for each scenario is “What will we do IF…”, yet this basic question is often overlooked. These do not have to be detailed contingency plans, but general responses to environmental conditions are critical. BP Amoco might never have been able to anticipate the problems that caused a major leak in the Gulf of Mexico, but general approaches to handling a potential disaster should have been considered long before drilling for oil. The potential for equipment malfunction is almost a predetermined element -- why not anticipate it?

4) Realize Regional Differences. Scenario planning use is on the rise, which is a good sign. Scenarios are powerful tools that can help people clarify their perceptions. More and more scenario projects are being undertaken for global events. For example, the UNDP website posts scenarios for India, China, Global Warming, Global Economies, etc. While these are useful starting points, they become a backdrop for more detailed scenario work. This applies to almost any complex phenomena -- location, resources, environment, and landscape all matter. This is a good reminder of Pierre Wack’s thinking that you must begin with macro scenarios, and, like a camera lens, you zoom in on the details according to a more specific location or issue.

5) Celebrate and Communicate Success. Many companies are currently using scenarios with great success. A great example is the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN (I was born and raised in the Twin Cities). Disaster scenarios were documented and well integrated with emergency response teams in Minneapolis, which is why the response was so rapid and seamless. Yet, not much was publicly communicated about the success of the response effort. The swiftness could be attributed to good planning, anticipating unlikely events, and thinking through responses, all of which would make for a good case that many city planners could learn from.

I urge company and community leaders to share their successes -- as we will be doing with our work through the Scenario Planning Institute at Colorado State University. I welcome your thoughts, comments, and observations.


Five Common Convening Mistakes

Craig and Patricia Neal have been organizing gatherings and meetings for decades across the nation and have a pretty solid idea of what works and what doesn't. However, even seasoned conveners still make mistakes when bringing people together.

In this entry, Patricia and Craig list the Five Most Common Convening Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them):

1. Not "Staying Connected": Convening is about being open to relationship rather than closed. It is a challenge to choose to stay connected and open when our lives and schedules are full and our time is precious. Stay connected by knowing who you are and how you want to be in relationship with others. You always have a choice when you walk into a meeting: do you want to be connected, or stay closed? Choosing connection can lead to collaboration, creativity, purposeful outcomes.

2. Fearing Rejection: The fear of rejection can derail our ability to extend a wholehearted and sincere invitation. Invite often – for all kinds of things – and experience acceptance and rejection as others’ freedom to choose rather than a personal success or failure. We often think that colleagues are too busy to talk beyond the cursory business at hand, but when we persevere, people are grateful for the opportunity to catch up and reconnect. Our fear of rejection, rather than rejection itself, was holding us back.

3. Making Assumptions: We say “assume and doom.” When we assume others know what a gathering’s all about, we put our gathering squarely in the realm of the unknown. Make the purpose and desired activity for a gathering as clear and explicit as possible – even if it seems unnecessary. At one important meeting, knowing we had only an hour, we jumped right into the action items. We neglected to set the context, assuming we were all on the same page. At the end of the meeting, people had different understandings of the purpose of the meeting and were not aligned in a commitment to action.

4. Reluctance to Impose Our Will on Others: “You’re not the boss of me!” How often have we said or heard words like that? But providing structure, environment and terms of engagement is a crucial part of convening. People need structure. If there is no structure, people look to create it. At a recent family gathering, we felt we should not be too controlling, but this led to a lack of clarity in stating the terms of engagement or agreements for a discussion. Everyone jumped in, in their own way, with cross-chatter and began talking over one another. It would have been better to state our expectations ahead of time to enable all people to be heard.

5. Impatience and Judgment: The compelling desire to “Just get on with it!” can rush us obliviously past the most important pieces of wisdom and capability present in our gathering. Remember, anyone included is equally important and essential. At the beginning of most meetings we do a check-in to hear from everyone. This one time we were 15 minutes late. we suggested we skip the check-in and move right into the agenda. Halfway through the meeting we realized we didn’t have everyone’s attention and didn’t have the necessary alignment to make important decisions we were there to make.

There are actually four other scenarios that generate obstacles for effective convening but we chose the the five most common. What do you think? Did we choose the five most common? Do you have any feedback or ideas for us?


Five Tips for Effective and Authentic Personal Branding Using Social Media

David McNally and Karl D. Speak’s expanded and revised version of Be Your Own Brand provides an updated and expanded framework to their pioneering work on personal brand. This fresh new approach is built upon the platform that everybody has a brand and anyone can become a strong brand.

A new addition to their new book is the role social media plays in becoming a stronger brand. Here are five tips taken from the expanded and revised version of Be Your Own Brand on using social media to build a stronger personal brand:

Tip #1: Your IRL and URL should be consistent. How consistent is your IRL (in real life) presence compared to your URL (how you interact in the social media world) presence? The tools and energy of the social media space can create perceptions about your personal brand that may or may not be consistent in the real world. Be careful not to inadvertently create a disparity between your IRL and URL personal brands.

Tip #2: Actually make a difference through social media. Social media is a powerful, game-changing tool for many of us. Use the power of social media to make a difference for someone or a group of others that could not have been achieved without it.

Tip #3: Make your brand distinctive, relevant and consistent. Be very thoughtful and purposeful about the impressions you make in your social media activities. Make sure your activities reflect the dimensions of your personal brand (as stated in your personal brand platform). Are you getting credit in the social media for the real you?

Tip #4: Use judgment deciding who to “friend.” Remember we are known by the company we keep. Having more people in your social media network is not always better. Be thoughtful and selective about adding people to your direct network. Keep in mind you have no control over your digital friends’ connections, being guilty by association can be a hazard!

Tip #5: What you post is never off the record. Are you ready to defend your posts in the social media space? You know, whatever you post is never off the record, so to speak. Be cautious and assume that whatever you post will find its way to places you had not planned on. Think twice before you hit the return key!


Five Regrets That Shouldn't Be

Author Marc Muchnick knows about the power of regret and how it is a crippling force in many people's lives. The problem is that it doesn't need to be because many so-called regrets are actually powerful motivators and educators.

To illustrate this point, Marc presents his list of The Five Things We Tend to Regret -- And Why We Shouldn't Regret Them:

Regret #1: Taking a chance on love only to find heartache in the end.

Putting your heart out there is not easy, and when our quest for love results in disappointment it can be disillusioning, demoralizing and downright depressing. What we have to remember is that it’s tough to find love if you don’t take the risk of making your heart vulnerable. While there is always the possibility of rejection or coming up empty handed, that is better than the regret of not having tried.

Regret #2: Paying your dues in a job that ultimately leads to nowhere.

No one wants to wind up in a dead end job after working hard to succeed. Whether because of a reorganization, someone else getting promoted into a position you wanted, or opportunity simply drying up, the end result is the same: it feels like you’ve wasted your time. But have you? After all, weren’t there learnings along the way? Think of what you can take with you from this experience and where you’re headed in the future. Look at it as a chance to get clear on what you want out of your career.

Regret #3: Getting in a disagreement with someone you really care about.

It would be wonderful if we always agreed on everything and never had any friction in relationships. But that’s not reality. Disagreement and conflict are inevitable, even with people we dearly love. The trouble is when we hold our feelings in and avoid confrontation, we consequently feel stifled and fail to communicate. Even worse is when we act like things are okay when in fact they are far from it. Every healthy relationship has conflict; the key is taking the time to work through it.

Regret #4: Feeling guilty about taking a break from work.

There is something to be said for having a strong work ethic. But sometimes we get so caught up in our careers and have so much on our plates that we actually feel bad about taking time away from work. Somewhere along the line we convinced ourselves that stopping to take lunch, working less than ten hours a day, or using all of our vacation days is not a good thing. Moreover, with e-mail and texting we are essentially always “on call.” The result is that we spend so much time working and thinking about work, we forget about living and enjoying life. Give yourself permission to take a break – you’ll never look back at the end of your life and regret not spending more time at work.

Regret #5: Not being able to say goodbye to a loved one.

Losing someone that we care about is never easy, but sometimes we are unable to say our final goodbyes due to distance, finances, or other obligations in life. The guilt – and regret – that we feel in such situations can be overwhelming. What we must realize is that our sadness is also because we truly miss this person. Although you may not have the closure you wanted in the end, the good times you spent with this individual while here on Earth cannot be taken away. Take time to reflect on the experiences you shared together and realize that those special moments are forever.


Engagement Gone Wrong

All organizations institute change processes at some point, and most do it very poorly -- which is what compelled author Richard Axelrod to write "Terms of Engagement" in the first place.

Here, Richard lists The Five Ways Organizations Mess Up Engagement (Despite Their Best Efforts):

1. Ignore unfairness
Everyone has a fairness detector. When it reads unfair, you disengage. Leaders who award themselves bonuses while they lay off thousands promote unfairness. Leaders who treat people badly yet remain in leadership positions set off unfairness alarms. When your fairness detector reads unfair, the innovative and collaborative part of your brain shuts down. Not good if you want a productive organization.

2. Create thermometer solutions
A leadership team was upset about the low employee-recognition scores from their employee engagement survey. They proceeded to create a new employee-recognition program. One year and another survey later, employee-recognition scores remained unchanged. This is a typical thermometer solution⎯you read the results and create the solution without understanding the underlying cause. Had the leadership team reviewed the results with employees, they would have learned that a simple thank you would have sufficed.

3. Increase engagement gaps as the few decide for the many
Have a tough problem? Find a sponsor, hire a consulting firm, and create a solution. Then worry about “buy-in.” In most corporations, this is the way change happens. In this scenario, leaders and consultants are highly engaged in challenging work. Meanwhile, the engagement gap increases as employees sit on the sidelines and worry about what “they” are going to do to “us.” The engagement gap shrinks when you widen the circle of involvement from the get-go. People connect to each other and to the issue, they learn from each other, innovation occurs, and the foundation for a speedy implementation is set.

4. Constrain talent
Why does Chris, a check-out clerk, love to work at Best Buy? What makes West Monroe Partners one of the best places to work in Chicago? Instead of constraining talent, they unleash it. Chris, a twenty-year retail veteran, is able to make her own decisions at Best Buy⎯decisions that required supervisory approval at former employers. The Chiefs Program at West Monroe Partners provides time for employees to work on issues they think are important, issues for which they have energy and passion. The Chiefs Program is so successful that West Monroe Partners made it part of their recruiting program.

5. Conducting time-wasting, energy-sapping meetings

As conducted in many conference rooms, meetings are fast-track disengagement vehicles. It is in meetings where people decide to sit on their hands or put their whole-hearted selves behind what needs to happen. In our workshops, leaders are able to identify within five minutes what it takes to create a meeting where no one looks at their BlackBerry as well as a meeting guaranteed to put people to sleep. When leaders realize that every meeting is an engagement opportunity, they stop putting people to sleep and start conducting engaging meetings where no one looks at their BlackBerry.

Thoughts? Reactions?

Five Deens that Make the Difference

Author Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a practicing Muslim and a dedicated environmentalist. It would surprise many to know that these two aspects of his life are essentially the same thing. This is because Islam advocates for sound, humane, and sustainable environmental practices.

In fact, many Muslim groups and organizations have been putting environmentally-conscious principles into practice for a while now. Below, Ibrahim lists five examples of measures being enacted by Muslim organizations and governments worldwide to encourage greater environmental guardianship:

Example 1:
Greening the Hajj (Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca/Medina): The Saudi Government

Hajj is the single most largest gathering of humans on the planet Earth. Upwards of two million Muslims each year gather in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to pay respects to the Holy City and to participate in thousand-year-old traditions signifying their commitment to God.  With this gathering comes a giant carbon footprint including transport vehicles such as airplanes and cars, and waste products from packaged food and water bottles.  The Saudi government is working on both fronts to reduce energy emissions and trash.  First, the government is developing a rail system with stops for all the cities that are visited during the Hajj.  By 2011, the train will transport almost 72,000 passengers every hour, reducing the need for automobiles by thousands.  Then, the Saudi government aims to ban plastic bottles -- thereby dropping the some 100 million plastic bottles accumulated after Hajj, to zero. 

Example 2:
Zero-trash Iftars during Ramadan: The DC Green Muslims

Ramadan is the holy month when Muslims fast for 30 days -- each day from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is also a time of community development -- each night, to break the fast, hundreds of people come together at mosques around to country to eat and pray together.  This is called, "Iftar." Iftars can generate a lot of trash including paper products, leftover food, and assorted plastics.  The D.C. Green Muslims held the first ever "Zero-trash Iftar" this past Ramadan.  At this Iftar, attendees had to: bring food to share in a reusable dish; bring their own water bottle or drink receptacle, and bring their own plate, cutlery and linen napkin.  Food is served by volunteers and each person is asked to only take what they know they can finish.  The result: Zero-trash and inspiration to make every Iftar one without waste.

Example 3:
Making meat more than Zabiha: Establishing

Zabiha is to Muslims like Kosher is to Jews. Zabiha meat is sacrificed in a very specific way -- with a single cut to the animal's jugular vein to minimize pain and to drain all blood, preventing bacterial infection, and is also blessed. Considering meat is a staple of most Muslim diets, there is a push for Zabiha meat that comes from animals who have lived a good life. Consumers wish the meat to be from animals that were free-range, grass-fed, and well-treated by family farmers.  Green Zabiha is advocated for in the Quran.  Yasir Syeed, founder of, wants Muslims to raise, harvest, cook, and eat food with a deeper consciousness.

Example 4:
Greening the next generation: Santa Clara Muslim Green Team

The Muslim Community Association (MCA) is one of the largest Muslim congregations in Northern California.  They are also home to the Muslim Green Team - young people dedicated to saving the planet because they believe it's their religious duty to do so. Each year, they sponsor an Eco-Fair, showing the adults of their community fun and unique ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Hundreds attend the Eco-fair, and everyone gets a reusable canvas bag and reusable stainless steel water bottle.  The Muslim Green Team sets an example for everyone in the community.

Example 5:
Helping developing countries choose energy from Heaven: The Miller Family

The industrial world has gotten ahead by relying on energy from Hell -- oil, coal, non renewable sources that require extraction and destruction.  As the developing world tries to catch up, they have a choice. The can choose to follow in the footsteps of the the developed world, or they can choose to innovate and turn from followers to leaders by choosing energy from Heaven. The Miller Family -- American Muslims dedicated to harnessing solar energy -- are helping the Sierra Leonian government install solar panels throughout the country's capital of Freetown. 

Thoughts? Reactions? Questions?


Five Things You Need to Stop Believing about Entrepreneurship

Chris Rabb knows a lot about entrepreneurship and its rewards, but he has also learned (and written his book) about the limitations that seemingly invisible factors enforce on a number of entrepreneurs. The Horatio Alger myth states that anyone with a good idea, drive, and pluck and succeed, but Chris disagrees.

Here are five ways we have been programmed to think about entrepreneurship that are entirely inaccurate:

1. Entrepreneurship is Part of the American Dream
Whether you read Horatio Alger or if you listen to the financial gurus on television, all you need to achieve material success in business, it appears, is to work hard, have a great idea, and radiate positivity. The problem here is that as straight-forward as this advice may sound, it's simply not true.

There is no statistically significant correlation between hard work, development of an objectively great idea or embodiment of a positive outlook on life and conventional business success. It's called the American dream because it is just that -- a fantasy not rooted in any reality.

2. Entrepreneurship Means Small Business and Small Entrepreneurial Ventures Represent the Backbone of the American Economy.

Entrepreneurship is really more about innovation and opportunity than it is about smallness. Small businesses are defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) as any for-profit, non-farm firm with fewer than 500 employees. That's over 99% of all U.S. firms! So, does that mean that 99% of all businesses are also entrepreneurial?

Just because a firm is small or new doesn't make it entrepreneurial. And the reason small businesses are considered the engine of the U.S. economy? Because 997 out of every 1,000 firms is a so-called small business. That's just cloudy math.

3. Entrepreneurship is inherently good, ethical, and beneficial to all.

Entrepreneurship is not inherently good. The value spawned by entrepreneurship can be every bit as destructive as it can be creative.

Remember Enron? Enron was emblematic of corporate entrepreneurship. They created opportunity through bold innovation to maximize profit. Starbucks Coffee was a great independent, entrepreneurial venture before it became the mom-and-pop-coffee-shop-killer. Entrepreneurship is agnostic. Like so many things, it can be leveraged in service of greed and graft or for puppy dogs and rainbows. The choice lies in the hands of the founding teams, their investors and how society advocates and rewards entrepreneurs to conduct their businesses.

4. Entrepreneurship Symbolizes a True Meritocracy.
Entrepreneurship appears to be one of the last pursuits that most people believe takes place on a level playing field. Unfortunately, these people are just plain wrong.

Assuming you're not a eugenics buff, it would stand to reason that the rate of business participation in the U.S. would more or less mirror the diverse demography of our country. It doesn't. While anyone can start a business, what it takes to fund, grow and sustain a business is highly predicated on the extent to which you have and know how to leverage invisible capital. Invisible capital is that fickle mix of human, social, and cultural capital that together encompasses your skills, experiences, resources, knowledge and networks along with the ascribed assets one has that they cannot control or change such as gender, ethnicity and class of origin. Invisible capital determines on which side the playing field rises.

5. This country needs more entrepreneurs!
We don't need more entrepreneurs or businesses in this country, we actually need fewer but better prepared business owners.

Every year about two million people start new ventures. Most of them meet an unceremonious end, and most of the ones that are still afloat are just barely so. The reality is, according to the Kauffman Firm Survey, it's easier to be accepted into an Ivy League college (16%) than it is to grow a business that will survive 4 years, generate annual revenues of $25,000 or more, and hire at least one employee (12%).

Given those odds, and given how, unlike your college choices, there are no "safety schools" when it comes to entrepreneurship, why would you push people in this direction?

Which of these misconceptions about business and entrepreneurship surprise you most? Which do you quietly admit you (used to) embrace?


When You Are Not to Be Trusted

Authors Dennis and Michelle Reina have spent decades studying issues of trust in the workplace. A commonly held misconception is that a breach of trust in the workplace has to be serious -- like the CEO committing fraud or a manager being accused of a crime. The fact is that there are breaches of trust that happen daily. Here are five breaches of trust that you probably didn't even realize that you may have been guilty of:

1. Failing to acknowledge a colleague’s efforts:

We’re all moving fast, and sometimes we forget to say “good job” or even the most basic “thanks.” This is more than manners, it’s about respect. One of the subtle and yet insidious betrayals people experience at work is not being fully seen or heard. Not being recognized hurts at an innate level, and it doesn’t take too many missed “thank you's” to add up to deep-seated resentment.

2. Missing a deadline or two:

Life happens and you miss a deadline here and there. No big deal, right? Wrong. Each time you don’t deliver, you are making the implicit assumption that others are available to work around your schedule. You betray trust because someone — your boss, your colleague, your assistant — was depending on you. Each time you miss a deadline, you reinforce their perception that you think you’re more important and that they can’t depend on you.

3. Arriving late for meetings:

When you consistently arrive after the scheduled starting time, you’re breaking trust because your colleagues sense that you’re wasting their time and that you may possibly think that your time and your job are more important than theirs. They end up feeling disrespected, insulted, and devalued. Over time, those feelings define your relationship, and trust begins to erode.

4. Micromanaging:

Most micromanagers are surprisingly unaware that they are micromanaging. You may think you're paying attention to details and being thorough, but those you manage feel that you are watching and just waiting for them to mess up. That’s really how employees experience micromanaging. They get the sense that you don’t trust them to get the job done. And if you don’t trust them, why should they trust you? Trust begets trust. Mistrust begets mistrust.

5. Discourteous, insensitive or rude behavior:

Before your second cup of coffee, sure, you might bark an order or two. And when things get rolling, you lose your temper now and then. Hey, that's just how you are, right? Wrong. Even if you’re nice as can be much of the time, your outbursts may well damage your relationships. You're showing that your behavior is unpredictable and brash. When people don’t know what to expect, they are less likely to trust you.

Have you been on the receiving end up these behaviors? How did you feel? And if you’ve inadvertently acted in these ways, how did you turn things around?

Don't Hold On!

Peggy Holman knows a lot about change in organizations and communities and she wrote Engaging Emergence to help people not only deal with unexpected and chaotic change, but even come out ahead by engaging it proactively.

But proactive engagement means letting go of some things just as much as discovering new things. To help you navigate, Peggy presents her list of The Five Things We Need To Let Go Of To Effectively Deal With Emergence:

1. Give Up Command and Control.
Ever tried to tell a complex system what to do? Imagine ordering the health care system to be affordable and accessible! We can't control a system but we can engage it so that order arises.

Example: Open source software. What principles and practices inspire thousands of programmers to contribute millions of hours to create software for public use?

2. Give Up Habit and Routine.
If we keep doing what we've always done we’ll keep getting the same old results. Let go of the stories that define “the way things are” and try something different.

Example: Using fossil fuels. What alternatives can eliminate, reduce, or better serve our energy needs?

3. Give Up Top-Down Decision-Making. When the situation is complex, no one can grasp it all, much less have all the answers. It takes multiple perspectives and skills to make a difference.

Example: Google employees spend 20% of their time working on something of their own design, resulting in such products as Gmail and Google News. What’s the benefit of creating conditions in which people follow their passions in service to something larger?

4. Give Up the Existing Order. When we know how things work, we can keep it neat and tidy. If we want innovation, expect to dip into the unknown. While it may be messy, ultimately, order can arise anew.

Example: Journalism as we have known it is dying. Between the holes created by its demise and the many new experiments underway, the current landscape confusing! What is possible as a new system is born?

5. Give Up Thinking That You Have the Answers. When we think we know, there’s no need to learn or to change. Questions that spark curiosity focus our intentions and invite those who care to participate.

Example: An inquiry being pursued by the National Institute of Corrections: “How do we reduce the prison population by half while maintaining public safety, in eight years?” What question inspires you?

Thoughts, responses, reactions? Chime in below.


I Think I Love You

Built to Love's authors Peter Boatwright and Jon Cagan explore how truly successful products address a customer's emotional needs by delivering something that satisfies on a much deeper level than even what the consumer may realize. Because of this, the consumer loves the product and the product's creator has garnered a loyal customer for life.

And how do customers fall in love with particular products? Believe it or not, it's not really all that different from how people fall in love with one other. The authors describe their six-stage courtship process below:

Step 1: Casual interactions (otherwise known as dating)

At the outset of any relationship, certain details can get things started, or prevent them from getting going. Looks, for example; but of course it goes beyond looks. Each and every interaction of the potential customer with the product or service is a touchpoint, a point at which that potential customer may receive value. Since the product’s appearance creates emotional takeaways for customers, whether planned or unplanned by the company, the design of each aspect of the product form should be intentional and calculated as a means to deliver specific and desired emotions. The same is true with other points of interaction.

Step 2: A courtship where initial attraction turns to love (the getting to know someone or some thing for more serious consideration)
If a customer is going to get serious, the product has to really deliver. But it has to do more than deliver on a performance task. The customer will really get serious when the product doesn’t just do the right things, but it makes them feel the right ways. And feeling is what it takes for them to fall in love, which leads to...

Step 3: Engagement
Once engaged, people are attached. Once attached, people are engaged. Emotions reach us deeply, engaging us to respond. It is emotion that instigates people to tell others about the products that they own, creating word of mouth that is the most powerful marketing force in today’s networked marketplace. Brides show off their rings; engaged customers show off the products that they love.

Step 4: Long term commitment... and satisfaction.
In the committed relationship, one with daily interaction, positive (or negative) emotions are maintained and renewed with each experience, eventually outweighing those felt early in the relationship. In the same way, product emotions are ongoing, substantiated and renewed with each product experience, and product emotions have the power to completely replace emotions surrounding the original purchase decision. So unlike the emotions designed to get a quick sale, here today and gone tomorrow, product emotions are the “feel-good” aspect of the product, those that endure for the lifetime of product use and maintain loyalty.

Step 5: Becomes an extension of who you are... and part of your identity

Just as there is a oneness in marriage, where each person becomes part of the other, captivating products become part of the customer’s identity, a badge of who they are. Some people are iPhones, others are Blackberries. Some are Starbucks, others are Dunkin’ Donuts. It wouldn’t feel right to have it any other way.

Step 6: Can't see yourself happy without it
As people in love anticipate and expect their time to be spent together in order to be happy, so is the relationship between the happy consumer and his or her product. People who fall in love with a product can’t see themselves without it.. providing strong impetus for eventual re-purchase of that product, as it wears.

In love yet? Tell us!


Five Questions to Ask in Tough Times

Margaret Wheatley's book Perseverance addresses the importance and relevance of remaining strong and steadfast in times of uncertainty and change.
To help us when we encounter difficulties, Meg has put together this list of five questions to ask yourself to help you stay aware, focused and clear in those moments when you feel like giving up:

1. Who do I choose to be for this time?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. Perseverance is a choice and you have to consciously make the decision to persevere, to not give up. When everything is going wrong, when we’re being unjustly criticized, when we’re exhausted, it helps to remember our deeper identity, who we’re trying to be, what we’re trying to accomplish.

2. Who do I know that has persevered in hard times?
Everybody has someone in their family, now or in the past, who have gone through much more trying times and persevered (otherwise we wouldn’t be here). Learn more about them and their stories. If nothing else, you’ll know that your struggles are not that big a deal; it’s just your turn to persevere. And our loneliness ends as you become aware of the many strong shoulders of those who’ve gone before that you now stand on.

3. How am I being negatively affected and influenced by my current situation?

The negative dynamics of this time—anger, aggression, anxiety, fear—can’t help but affect us. The only way we avoid being dragged under by them is to notice when they show up in us. How often are you getting angry these days? What’s your personal level of anxiety or fear? How impatient and urgent are you?

4. In my current situation, what’s the opposite of persevering?
The surprising fact is that the opposite of perseverance is not giving up, but withdrawing. We decide to protect ourselves, to not be bothered by others, to just get on with our life and abandon any notions of serving others or making a difference. Self-preservation works for the short-term, but it never leads to long-term steadfastness and satisfying contributions.

5. How have I weathered hard times in the past?

Now that we’re adults (or appear to be), it’s important to notice that we’ve gone through difficult periods in our life and we’re still here! If we can recall these difficult times, we’ll be able to notice what skills, perspectives and relationships gave us the capacity to persevere. It’s important to give ourselves credit for having gotten this far, and to consult our own hard-won wisdom for the challenges that confront us now.

Thoughts? Chime in below.

Let Your People Network!

Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham’s new book makes a strong case for the use of social media -— commercial products including Twitter and Facebook, as well as enterprise-strength counterparts like Socialcast and Socialtext -— to spur on corporate culture where people learn together, nonstop.

Here Marcia offers five reasons to encourage employees to tweet:

1. Twitter Streamlines Communications: While Twitter’s 140-character limit might lead you to think there’s not space to convey meaningful messages, with practice your succinctness will improve. This new skill can then be used in meetings, during presentations, and in other settings where crispness earns attention and gets results.

Example: The 325 characters above could be tweeted in just 81 as follows: “Think of Twittering as prepwork for an elevator pitch completed by the 2nd floor.”

2. Twitter Widens Conversations: Ask the people in your Twitter network a question, and they will respond with expert testimony, gut-level hunches, and field views you wouldn’t see otherwise. Those you reach may then send your question to their network, creating a multiplier effect. You can also enlist help en masse by asking people to focus on the same issue for a short burst of time to find a creative solution quickly or collaboratively brainstorm without having to order in lunch.

Example: While preparing a presentation, the CEO of localization company, Milengo, sought stories of people translating social media tools. Within a few hours he received links to six instances to showcase.

3. Twitter Keeps People Current Without Expending Much Time: The limited character format trains you to approach tweets with a headline scanner's mindset -- skimming countless post quickly, ignoring uninteresting ones, and evaluating compelling ones without adding significant cognitive loads. This allows you to rapidly process a stream of messages to get up to speed on any situation, and then efficiently turn your attention back to other tasks.

Example: Track your competitor’s accounts to gather business intelligence. Scan a local news station’s feed for weather and traffic updates affecting your drive home. Follow the author of a book that influenced your work to hear what she’s thinking about now.

4. Twitter Increases Awareness of Others:
When you commit to filling your Twitter stream with interesting messages, you start to look differently at every piece of information you touch. After recognizing that a book, blog, report, or stat will contribute to your work, you reflect on whether other people would benefit too. You ask yourself, “Why is it interesting?” or “What new ideas does it ignite?” or “Might other people glean value?” By posting a link to the materials alongside your take, you elicit other people’s perspectives, which can also quicken your work.

Example: Directing others’ attention to an article you don’t quite agree with or completely understand may lead to a more convincing explanation from someone in your network which can then elevate your thinking (or convince you to move on to other sources). Questions asked about something you wrote might challenge you to reframe a hypothesis or provide more concrete examples.

5. Twitter Makes You Smarter, Quicker:
Training programs can be boring and static, while Twitter can be energetic and spontaneous. The combination of timely information, delivered with personal touches, engages you emotionally and cognitively, sparking creativity and interest in learning more. Not just an information disseminator, Twitter facilitates a dialog so knowledge gets extended, transformed, reshaped, and built on as you and the people you are learning with actually create new and better ideas.

Example: Aaron tweets an idea he’s been noodling on. Gina mentions she’s working on a related project. Clark sends along a link to an article he read a few months ago. Jane comes on line a few hours later, sees this back and forth and has an epiphany that leads to a blog post she publishes the next morning. Aaron reads some of the post that afternoon in a meeting, where he also thanks his boss for encouraging people to use Twitter at work, and articulates how his idea can dramatically streamline a process that’s been vexing the organization for years.

Thoughts? Responses? Ideas? Tweets?


Five Ways to Network...the Wrong Way

Author Devora Zack is the anti-networking networker. She knows that the traditional ways of networking present real challenges to those who are introverts or otherwise networking-averse and so has focused her attention on effective connecting techniques that work for those of us who break out in a sweat whenever we put on a name badge.

Truth be told, the traditional techniques aren't all that great to begin with. Devora outlines below five mainstream networking approaches -- and why they're wholly ineffective:

Approach 1: Meet as many people as possible at a particular event or gathering. Yeah, it sounds great until you realize that this is the real-world equivalent of spamming where you try and force yourself into everyone's inbox without knowing anything about them, who they are, and what they do. Yes, you are casting a wide net because you never know, but you fail to make an impression on any single person because you're too busy covering the room.

Approach 2: Get as many business cards in others' hands as possible. Have you ever gone home after a networking event of some kind with a pocket full of business cards? As you flip through them, do you notice that you've already forgotten who some of these people are or what they even look like? That's exactly what someone is thinking at the same time as they look at your mashed-up, sweaty business card, just seconds before it goes on their email list for their newsletter about advanced government auditing procedures (no offense to government auditors).

Approach 3: Attend even a cattle-call career-networking event -- opportunity is opportunity. Sure, the event description states "Employers from major companies will be in attendance -- everyone welcome!" What this usually means is that there'll be one or two lower-level reps who'll be pretty exhausted from repeating their company's focus on diversity/environment/ethics/creativity/etc. to the two hundred or so people that show up for each employer, resumes in hand. These reps also end up handing the resumes over to someone else who makes the initial HR decisions. This doesn't mean that such conferences are a total bust, but it does mean you should do your homework to get details ahead of time.

Approach 4: Never eat alone. There's nothing quite as charming as sitting with someone who chomps loudly and has bits of food hanging off the corners of his or her mouth -- and at one time or another, you were that person. Even otherwise, many people feel uncomfortable eating with others (remember the rule about no pasta on the first date?) or don't want to time their chews so that they can also talk without spraying the chicken kiev. Eat alone if that's what makes you comfortable, and order the ribs with extra hot sauce.

Approach 5: Have a drink or two to "take the edge off." The whole idea of meeting with others in a professional capacity tends to make a lot of people nervous and uncomfortable, so they figure they'll have a drink or two to loosen up. In most cases this is fine, but when you're nervous, your self-discipline can be compromised. Also, you probably haven't eaten that much which means you'll metabolize the alcohol in a more potent way. There's a fine line between just settling your nerves and stepping into realm of even mild intoxication -- too many people don't know when they've crossed that line, but others do, and it's not a good thing.



Five Phrases That Don't Help in Negotiations

Don Hutson and George Lucas have been in the negotiations arena for a long time -- as academics, as consultants, as professional negotiators, and as authors. They've learned a lot of things in the time they've been doing this work that they want to educate others about.

Words and statements in a negotiation are like a hammer. You can use them to build a house or to just beat the heck out of your thumb. Below are five examples where small twists to what you say can make a huge difference. Change the words and you can change your fate.

1."We need a 5% to 10% [or substitute your percentage range numbers accordingly] price increase." People think this shows flexibility, but in reality it indicates you are uncertain what you want and lack confidence that you deserve any increase at all. It's not like they're going to say,"Oh, I have to give you 10% more or I could not sleep at night!"

2."You did not understand me."
This is actually a highly competitive comment that people use when they think they're clarifying things. The statement should be, "Perhaps I'm not explaining myself as clearly as I should be." The onus should be on you to insure you got the point across.

3."We can live with that price, let's tie the deal down." This sounds wonderful, but you may have just told the other side they left money on the table. Even if you like the number and it has been a collaborative encounter, you still want to ask a few questions in terms of what is included and not included so they other side does not feel they made the deal too fat.

4."We are asking for $[enter amount] but that number is negotiable." Of course all numbers are negotiable, but you just told them you do not think what you are selling is worth the amount you quoted. State your number, and per point #1 above, state it as one number and not a range. Also, state the number slowly, in a low and confident tone, while looking not only in their eyes, but almost like you're looking into the back of their skulls.

5."We can't possibly get you the item by [deadline date]." You think you're being clear, but in reality you just stated your inability to deliver by this date as a non-negotiable. Non-negotiables should be very few in number and generally tied to legal, ethical, and organizational policy issues. A better answer is to come back with, "That date is going to be a challenge, we could make that happen but only if you are willing to sign a contract today, pay for express shipping, and identify a contact person on your side we will have direct and open access to 24/7." With this response you may have just gotten the agreement of your dreams.

Thoughts? Responses? Other tactics? Chime in below.

Five Supposedly Good Reasons Why People Don't Set Goals (and Why They're Wrong)

International bestseller Brian Tracy found out that only 3% of adults have clear, written, specific, measureable, time-bounded goals. And by every statistic, they accomplish ten times as much as people with no goals at all.

Brian lists below Five Supposedly Good Reasons Why People Don't Set Goals (and Why They're Wrong):

Myth One: “I already have goals; I don’t need to set any.” People who say this also say that their goals are to be rich, thin, happy, successful, and live their dreams. Buy these are not goals, they are wishes and fantasies common to all mankind. A goal is like a beautiful home, carefully designed, revised continually, upgraded regularly, and worked on constantly. If it is not in writing, it is merely a dream or a wish, a vague objective with no energy behind it.

Myth Two: “I don’t need goals; I’m doing fine.” Living your life without goals is setting off across unknown territory with no road signs and no roadmap. You have no choice but to make it up as you go along, reacting and responding to whatever happens, and hoping for the best. If you are doing well today without written goals and plans, you could probably be doing many times better in the future if you had clear targets to aim at and the ability to measure your progress as you go along.

Myth Three: “I don’t need written goals; I have them all in my mind.”
The average stream of consciousness includes about 1,500 thoughts a minute. If your goals are only in your mind, they are invariably jumbled up, vague, confused, contradictory and deficient in many ways. They offer no clarity and give you no motive power. You become like a ship without a rudder, drifting with the tides, crashing into the rocks inevitably and never really fulfilling your true potential.

Myth Four: “I don’t know how to set goals.” No wonder. You can take a Masters degree at a leading university and never receive a single hour of instruction on goal setting and achieving. Fortunately, goal setting is a skill, like time management, teaching, selling, managing, or anything else that you need to become a highly productive and effective person. And all skills are learnable. You can learn the skill of goal-setting by practice and repetition until it becomes as easy and as automatic as breathing. And from the very first day that you begin setting goals, the progress you will make and the successes you will enjoy will astonish you.

Myth Five: “Goals don’t work; life is too unpredictable.”
When a plane takes off for a distant city, it will be off course 99% of the time. The complexity of the avionics and the skill of the pilots are focused on continual course corrections. It is the same in life. But when you have a clear, long-term goal, with specific plans to achieve it, you may have to change course many times, but you will eventually arrive at your destination of health, wealth and great success.

One last point. Goal setting has been called the master skill of success. You have two choices in life: You can either work on your own goals, or you can work for someone else, and work on achieving their goals. When you learn the master skill, you take complete control of your life and jump to the front of the line in your potential for great achievement.

Any thoughts? Ideas? Responses?

Mark Levy's Five Rules to Disobey in Freewriting

Mark Levy, bestselling author and founder of Levy Innovation, wants you to know about the power of freewriting and how it can help find answers to problems, reach goals, and enhance creativity. But using freewriting means discarding some "traditional" standards.

Here's the (much abridged) freewriting process: fix a problem in mind, open a blank document on your computer, set a timer for seven minutes, and begin. Write as fast as you can -- without stopping for any reason -- about your problem.

That's it? Not quite. Below, Mark lists Five "Traditional" Rules and Standards You Should Toss Aside for Effective Freewriting:

First Rule to Break: Don't time yourself. People don't time themselves when they write because they've been taught that timing oneself causes a distraction and puts the focus on time rather than quality of work. Well, forget that rule. Do time yourself. When the timer starts, you start. When it finishes, you finish. By using a timer, you can forget about logistics and spend your attention and energy on writing flat-out.

Second Rule to Break: Stop to think as you write. Forget that training that asks you to measure out each word carefully with forethought. While freewriting, it’s important to keep writing no matter what’s happening in your mind. That means, if you’re stumped, write about being stumped. If your thoughts are choppy, put them down choppily. Stopping for more than a second gives your internal editor a chance to reengage and disrupt the process.

Third Rule to Break: Write at a leisurely pace.
Don't. If you freewrite too slowly, you’re writing, not freewriting. You want to write fast enough so that your internal editor slackens its grip. That means, if your editor is running at five miles an hour, write at six miles an hour. Your fingers needn’t fly over the keyboard. They just need to move at a clip slightly quicker than your norm.

Fourth Rule to Break: Stay on topic.
Too much focus is a bad thing in freewriting. Sticking too closely to a linear route is probably what’s got you blocked in the first place. As Edward De Bono says, "Great ideas are only logical in hindsight." Our minds like to roam. If you start thinking about a TV show you’d like to watch, or a trade your favorite ball team is planning, write about those digressions.

Fifth Rule to Break: Write only from your own experience and reality. Yes, disregard. Since freewriting is done for your eyes only, feel free to make up characters and tell tall tales. Why? They free up the mind and force fresh perspective. Once you come up with an interesting idea in fantasy, you can always bring it back to reality and see if it can be made useable.

Give it a shot and then tell us about your experience below.


Ten Common Sense Principles for a New Economy

David Korten is very concerned that we still haven't learned out lessons from the last meltdown. The proof? Here is David's list of Ten Principles that Sound Like Simple No Brainers, But Directly Support Actions So Radical as to Invite Instant Dismissal:

1. The proper purpose of an economy is to secure just, sustainable, and joyful livelihoods for all.

2. GDP is a measure of the economic cost of producing a given level of human well-being and happiness. As with any well-run business, the proper goal is to minimize the costs of a given level of useful output, not to maximize them.

3. A rational reallocation of real resources can achieve the essential reduction in aggregate human consumption required to bring the human species into balance with Earth’s biosphere simultaneously with improving the health and happiness of all.

4. Markets allocate efficiently only within a framework of appropriate rules that maintain the necessary conditions of competition, cost internalization, balanced trade, domestic investment, and equality.

5. A proper money system roots the power to create and allocate money in people and communities to facilitate the creation of livelihoods and ecologically balanced community wealth.

6. Money, which is easily created with a simple accounting entry, should never be the deciding constraint in making resource allocation decisions.

7. Wall Street financial institutions devoted to speculation, the inflation of financial bubbles, risk externalization, the extraction of usury, and the use of creative accounting to create money from nothing unrelated to the creation of anything of real value serve no social purpose, are all forms of theft, and should be regulated or taxed out of existence.

8. Greed is not a virtue; sharing is not a sin. If your primary business purpose is not to serve the community, you have no business being in business.

9. The only legitimate reason for government to issue a corporate charter extending special privileges favoring a particular enterprise is to serve a clearly defined public purpose. That purpose should be clearly stated in its charter and subject to periodic review.

10. Public policy properly favors local investors and businesses dedicated to creating community wealth over investors and businesses that come only to extract it.

Energized? Offended? Chime in below!


Five Ways to Find Meaning in Madness

Alex Pattakos has successfully translated Viktor Frankl's key principles for finding meaning in life into our daily world. It's not very easy to do, but it is possible to find meaning and learn a great deal from setbacks other than the traditional "I-know-not-do-that-again" lesson.

As an exclusive to the Author blog, Alex presents below The Five Ways We Can Find Meaning in the Setbacks and Problems We Experience Daily:

1. See setbacks as a way to believe in meaning. Whenever we suffer -- no matter what the severity of our suffering is -- we have the ability to find meaning in the situation. Meaning exists in all scenarios and believing that means you'll be able to find it in the roughest patches. Also, meaning is not a singular value -- look for the "mini-meanings" along life's paths, not simply for the "BIG" answers to the questions that life asks.

Example: If you experience a tragedy but you don't acknowledge the value of meaning, it's too easy to start believing that you are a powerless "victim" of circumstances and nothing more. We all know people who are like this and we know how damaging such a self-fulfilling prophecy can be.

2. Use adversity as training for your attitude. In all situations, no matter how desperate they may appear or actually be, you always have the ultimate freedom to choose your attitude. This doesn't mean you can force yourself to be happy because something awful happened, but you can choose how you react and interpret an awful experience. Your choice of attitude is a first, and a very important, step towards finding meaning in any given situation. Choosing your attitude empowers you and builds your resiliency to misfortune.

Example: Ask yourself with absolute honesty whether you usually confront situations with a focus on positive outcomes. Your attitude dictates how you'll perceive events and how you'll grow and learn from them -- or not. Focused properly, your attitudinal predisposition positively influences your search for meaning, but done wrong, it can also thwart it.

3. Use an unfortunate event as an opportunity to gain perspective. Seek to look at both the situation and yourself from a distance as a removed third party. Learning when and how to separate yourself from a situation not only can help you deal with the stresses associated with it but also can help you find ways to deal with the situation effectively because you see options you wouldn't otherwise notice. A key strategic aspect to this removed perspective is a sense of humor. Humor can be used to put distance between yourself and your situation while also helping you find meaning in your plight.

Example: Have you ever been so close to a stressful situation that you felt frustrated and immobilized because you had tunnel vision and couldn't see other factors in the periphery? Now, imagine the same situation if you had been able to take a step back and laugh at yourself instead of tightening the blinders. Do you see how differently the situation would have been resolved?

4. A bad scenario is a good excuse for a break.
Deflecting your attention from a problem or otherwise challenging situation to something else positive can help you cope with the situation by putting it into a more manageable context. Even a quick "mental excursion" can be healthy, help you deal with adversities. This capacity also provides us with opportunities to find the deeper meaning in our predicaments.

Example: Have you ever found yourself "day-dreaming" when confronting a stressful situation and realized that it actually helped you ease your tension? Can you see how focusing on something positive can get you "unstuck?" No one ever found meaning or resolution in single-minded obsession, but "taking a break" actually moves you closer to finding value in a tough predicament.

5. A tragedy is a tool to relate to more than yourself. By directing your attention and relating to something or someone other than (and more than) yourself, you increase your chances of finding meaning in life. Authentic meaning often comes as the unintended side-effect of one's dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Finding meaning in tragedy or setbacks, in this regard, is less about oneself and more about extending beyond oneself.

Example: Have you ever confronted a challenge in which you were more concerned about others than you were about yourself? An amazing dynamic occurs when you rise beyond yourself in service to others -- an understanding of values outside yourself. Relating to others is a key part of finding meaning.

I welcome all of your thoughts and reactions (and stories) below!

Five Bad Assumptions

Marcia Reynolds has researched and studied extensively about high-achieving women and their ways of thinking and reacting to various scenarios. She's also noticed that there are certain erroneous assumptions that many successful and smart women make that can create a hefty brain-lock cycle from which is it very difficult to escape.

As an exclusive to this blog, Marcia Reynolds presents below five core assumptions that lock women into rigid perfectionist patterns:

Assumption #1: There is a right answer and it is mine

If you are the best and the one who knows, then you have an answer for every question about things that are important to you. No one dares to disagree. Always being right not only hurts your relationships, it is a heavy responsibility to bear.

Assumption #2: Everything is up to me

Things will spin out of control or fail if they aren’t done by you. As a result, you will overwork, take on too many projects, and resist sharing your work with anyone else.

Assumption #3: I will always be disappointed

Whether it's a job or a relationship, you start out excited about the possibilities, then you feel let down. This is due to the unreasonable standards you set up which no job or relationship can meet in the long run. The truth is, this behavior gives you an exit door so you never have to commit to ironing out your problems. If you don’t release your attachment to disappointment, you will always focus on what is wrong.

Assumption #4: I don't need help

You are a strong, smart woman so you don't need anyone to help you succeed. You can figure it out on your own. Unfortunately, this assumption is a horrible waste of your precious time. Letting other people help you is more efficient, it builds relationships, and you look stronger as a leader.

Assumption #5: I have to be great at everything I do

For the first time in history, women are brought up to believe we can do anything. To make up for lost time, this message is being delivered with a vengance. As a result, girls interpret the words to mean, "I must be great at anything I choose." As they mature, the greater their knowledge and experiences, the heavier is the "burden of greatness." When one accomplishment is complete, they quickly search for the next great thing to conquer. As a result, they restlessly wander with no clear purpose. This realization launched the idea for my research and the book, Wander Woman.

Thoughts? Responses? Suggestions? Ideas?


Five Simple (But Not Easy) Ways to Build Your Community

Peter Block is a bestselling author, speaker and legend in the organizational development world. His current passion, and the subject of his latest book, is community -- how to create it, nourish it, and sustain it. Real life satisfaction becomes possible only when we join our neighbors to live and create a community that supports our family and makes us useful citizens.

"The consumer society encourages this romantic idea that schools can raise our child, doctors can keep us healthy, institutions and services can care for the vulnerable, police can keep us safe, government will care of the land, and there is out there a global company will move into our city and save our local economy. The reality is that we already possess the ideas, the tools and the support to create a neighborhood that can raise a child, provide security, sustain our health, secure our income, care for our vulnerable people and get us work to do. Each of these is within the power of our community. Each is within walking distance. Here are five simple, though not easy to do steps to satisfaction:

1. Become gift-minded. Find out the gifts of each person in the neighborhood. What do they like to do, what do they know that they would be willing to teach other people? Skills such as training a dog, sewing, gardening, fixing a car or babysitting children can be useful to everyone.

2. Welcome Strangers. There are people nearby that we do not know. We are shut off from them by like-mindedness. Instead of staying in your social core, create a welcoming to those who are not part of the core circle but are still part of the neighborhood. This is not just hospitality because we need these people -- all people -- to make the neighborhood function. We do not have to particularly like them, but we need them to function as a community.

3. Discover Local Association Life. Dozens of formal and informal associations, groups of people who come together by choice to do something they enjoy exist in all neighborhoods and communities. Find out what and where these groups are and join one. If you can't find a particular group, start one. Groups can be for just about anything: a coffee group, a book club, dog walkers gathering, or those interested in the history and preservation of the neighborhood where you all live.

4. Choose to be a Connector. Every neighborhood has people who know just about everyone and like to find out what people love to do and bring them together. Be one of these people. Find a friend and knock on doors up and down the block asking what people like to do and would like to share with others. Meet with other Connectors and talk about building the social fabric of the place. Discuss how to support small local businesses, including the many being operated out of homes. Connecting is not just for adults, however. Find out what the neighborhood children are interested in and give them a function related to that interest. Doing so lets the youth know that they are vital and needed.

5. Finally, See it all as a Social Movement. This is a movement to reclaim into our own hands the capacity to find satisfaction. It is a social movement called localism. It marks the end of the dominance of consumerism and has been underway for decades. The movement remains invisible because it holds no large financial interest and is not in the job descriptions of people we call "leaders." Therefore it is not called news, it is minimized by calling it "human interest," but it is vital and kinetic. All of this is explored both in The Abundant Community and the website;

Join us in this movement, tell us your story, hear what others are doing that works, find each other. It is a world based on gifts and relatedness. Radical but doable."

Chime in below with your thoughts and responses.

What Women See, and Why It's Important

Women see the world through a distinctive lens and can use their vision to their advantage. Author Sally Helgesen provides this posting's list of The Five Things Women Notice -- and What Organizations (and Men) Can Learn From Them.

1. Women take a robust scan of the emotional temperature in a room. Women employ their capacity for broad-scale notice in order to read what people in a meeting are feeling. Are they present and engaged, or do they feel isolated and awkward?

Example: One woman in our book was asked by her employer to “just notice what goes on in a meeting” She came back with vital observations about a key partnership in jeopardy. Her employer dismissed the information, saying that “by notice I meant notice if the numbers add up.”

2. Women employ multiple senses when summing up a situation.
Notice isn’t just about what we see—it derives from multisensory impressions.

Example: Details matter. An otherwise powerful conference will not make as positive impression if the sensory aspects of it are unpleasant. Sound, smell, temperature and feel affect our judgment and how we remember. Yet most organizations don’t know how to use sensory information.

3. Women notice if the daily experience of work is rewarding. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many organizations tend to emphasize abstractions when offering incentives and rewards rather than supporting an employee’s ability to enjoy the daily practice of work.

Example: In our survey on differences in how men and women perceive, define and pursue satisfaction in the workplace, we found that women are less likely to be motivated by what a job might lead to in the future if they also perceive that job as offering a low quality of life in the present.

4. Women notice when collegiality is not valued. Many companies have learned to speak the language of teamwork and collaboration, but their policies do nothing to support it.

Example: In most sales units, providing support to help a team member meet a goal is neither recognized nor rewarded. People are instead graded and ranked on their individual achievements.

5. Women notice when other women’s suggestions get overlooked in a meeting. They see it as a sign of disrespect to women in general.

Example: Jill offers an idea at a sales conference. No one responds. Ten minutes later, Jim makes the same suggestion, using different words. This happens all the time. Men who notice this have a great opportunity to show their support for women by speaking up: “Great idea, Jim! I see you’re building on what Jill suggested.”

What are your thoughts and responses?


Five Ways to Be A Better Social Networker

There's an old New Yorker cartoon that shows two dogs sitting at a laptop. One says to the other, "On the internet, no one knows that you're a dog." Yes, the internet offers anonymity, but it also seems to encourage some bad behavior and poor judgment when it comes to online interactions. Deanna Zandt has worked with technology and social media all her life and has noticed that even the most experienced networkers lapse into bad habits from time to time.

For this reason (and for the purposes of educating new social networkers), Deanna presents this issue's list of The Five Mistakes People (Even the Professionals) Make with Social Networking:

1. Thinking like it's television. Many organizations see social networks like Twitter and Facebook as just another way to broadcast about the work that they're doing, whether that's selling products or promoting advocacy. This is akin to showing up at a party, getting on a chair, and yelling to everyone that you're awesome. Don't broadcast, have conversations. Your audience is a community of people, not a mass of passive listeners.

2. Talking only about yourself.
Again, you wouldn't do this at a party, would you? Social networks function a lot like ad-hoc, informal get togethers. You ask people what they're up to, you share some of what you're doing, and you pass on good news from friends or interesting things you've seen and read. There's a lot of give and take; only about 20-30% of your posts should be about your own work or mission.

3. Crafting "messages." While it's certainly worthwhile to make sure the material you're sharing on social networks is part of the bigger picture of the work you do, being overly careful about "staying on message" can ring hollow with your community. Remember, social networks are comprised of humans interacting with each other -- treat yourself, and your community as the living, breathing creatures they are.

4. Showing up only to vent. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I get really irritated with people who never participate in the thriving conversations on social networks, and only post grousings about the clerk at the grocery store or how terrible Jetblue's customer service has become. Social networks can be sounding boards, for sure, but they're so much more than that.

5. Reading lists of do's and don'ts. Yep, I'm getting a little meta here -- time for me to take some of my own medicine. Really, my point in saying this is that there are an awful lot of social networking "gurus" out there who try to prescribe all kinds of behavior for their own ends (often selling something). But much like our interactions offline, we shouldn't be limited by how a consumer-oriented culture wants us to behave... so really, just get in there and be yourself.

Give us your social networking wisdom, reactions, and thoughts below.


Right Here, Right Now

Steve Arneson knows leadership development better than most. Prior to becoming an executive coach, Steve was Senior VP, Executive Talent Management and Development for Capital One and played a principal role in Capital One being named by Hewitt and Fortune magazine as one of the Top 20 Companies for Leaders between 2005 and 2008.

Before joining Capital One, Steve was VP of Organizational Effectiveness at America Online (AOL) and VP of People Development for Time Warner Cable. Prior to AOL, Steve worked as Senior Director of People Development for PepsiCo.

Have a look at Steve's list of the five things you can do immediately to develop your leadership skills that won't cost a dime:

1. Document your leadership journey. One of the most insightful things you can do as a leader is to look back at your own career, and identify meaningful “lessons learned” from your experiences. Packaging these lessons into a crisp “story” gives you a powerful presentation about your growth and development as a leader.

2. Confront your hardest-held positions. Admitting to yourself where you’re “dug in” on issues or positions can be a great way to open your mind to alternative solutions. Make a list of all of your most hardened beliefs, and brainstorm other points of view – it can help you become a more well-rounded leader.

3. Practice your coaching skills. Coaching is very different from giving directions or merely providing feedback. Coaching puts you in a facilitative frame of mind, where your goal is to help others examine problems or find their own solutions. Coaching involves asking questions, and can set you apart as a manager. People love to work for a leader who is also a great coach.

4. Get to know your team. Too many leaders are afraid to learn about their team members beyond the job. Don’t make that mistake – get to know your people. Take an interest in their personal lives, their hopes and dreams, their families and hobbies. Interview them about their lives beyond work, and see what happens. People want to work for someone who cares about them as individuals, not just as employees.

5. Reflect on your leadership. Every day, ask yourself three questions as you commute home – “how did I show up as a leader today?” “What did I communicate today?” “Who did I develop today?” If you keep your leadership top-of-mind and self-evaluate about how others are experiencing your leadership, you’ll become a more effective leader.



Four Myths About Reimagining Your Life

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Most of us want to believe that we can reimagine our life's second chapter and purpose, but allow negative and inaccurate thinking to stop us from doing just that. Here is author Richard Leider's list of four common myths that stop us from seeking out our next purpose:

Myth #1: To now have a new possibility means I must do something completely original.

Can you really recall anything that is totally new? Almost every idea or creation is an extension or synthesis of previous efforts. New breakthroughs are built on existing fundamental truths. Like runners in a relay race, we simply do our part to carry the baton another leg of the race.


Myth #2: Only a few gifted or skilled people are able to discover new paths and possibilities in their lives.

This is the most commonly rationalized of all myths. History, however, is filled with great contributions made by ordinary people who had virtually no experience or expertise in the areas where they thrived in their lives' second chapter. In fact, being a "seasoned novice" gives us permission and courage to step into things with fresh passion and purpose.

Myth #3: What I want to do next will come as inspiration or revelation. Until that time comes, I will wait.

Inspiration comes to those who seek it. We don't find beautiful shells unless we're on the beach. If we believe in the the "miracle moment" theory, we rarely will find it. If we wait for "a sign," we end up being waiters for the rest of our lives.

Myth #4: It's too late; I'm too old. This something you do when you're younger.

Realizing new possibilities is a cradle-to-grave quest. Situations and people change every day and continue to change throughout our life. As long as there is change, there are new opportunities. Keep in mind that you now also have two things you had less of before: time and experience. Use them.