Adaptive Change

May 23, 2010

Change is hard and yet more than ever we’re surrounded by a need to change.  The vehicle(s) that got you where you are today is increasingly faced with not just a need for a tune-up or even a newer model, but often a completely new mode of transport.  That is, different ways to view, analyze, and navigate through life.

Change for change sake is generally not the answer, nor is trying to find one’s comfort zone and cruising through life on auto-pilot.  Does past history, experience, and knowledge count for anything?  Sure it does, if you don’t let it blind you to new opportunities and ways of looking at things.  Adaptive Change is the type of change and challenge to seek out as we push ourselves to continually grow, develop, and sustain our energies and passions in life.

Just as Professor Heifetz talks of the “possibility of loss . . . generating resistance” in the link above, Seth Godin repeatedly refers to the lizard brain in his new book Linchpin.  Fear, in many forms, often holds us back and yet pushing through that fear to scale new heights and try new things is what often leads us to newer and better opportunities.

While it’s been a few months since I heard this sermon, I appreciate Andrew Warner’s bringing Heifetz’ notions of adaptive versus technical change to my attention.  While it’s generally easier to follow a road map versus drawing your own, the latter can help you determine if there’s a better way.  Are you creating your own paths and ways to get where you want to go or just trying to follow the worn-out roads of those that went before?


Consumption v. Creation

May 2, 2010

A couple of friends have asked in recent months, “what happened to your blog?” translated as “why no recent posts?”  No good reason, other than work & life in general have kept me busy, and I’ve come to appreciate the writer’s discipline that others have and that I, so far, do not.

I’ve read various commentary recently about whether we’re becoming more a society of consumption versus creation and innovation.  This applies at many levels, but I’ve come to think of it more in terms of consumption or creation of information.  While there are many innovators creating on multiple levels and often using many newly developed or enhanced technologies to do so, some of these same technologies are allowing for even greater consumption.  This consumption can be of more, and sometimes better, information, entertainment, enlightenment, and sometimes pure distraction and/or information overload.  The fire hose of information on the Internet, increasingly accessed via mobile devices on the fly, can both inspire and educate as well as distract and stifle original thought.

My goal in the coming months is to see if I can find the discipline to start writing more often, even if it’s only for my own reference later as to what I thought was important in 2010, and less time reading stuff that doesn’t matter.  I’m pretty sure I read and look up far more stuff than I used to, sometimes adding value and other times just stifling my own creativity and thought processes.

Lose the Labels, Make a Difference

July 11, 2009

Recently I read Umair Haque’s post on “The Generation M Manifesto” and Peggy Noonan’s July 11th column in the WSJ on “A Farewell to Harms” and also skimmed thru the long list of comments to both of these posts/columns.  Umair focused on the miliennial generation’s different approach to the world & Noonan talked about how Sarah Palin’s resignation was more than overdue.  What struck me as similar between the two was the response commentary, particularly the adversarial viewpoints.  My takeaway from both is that it’s time to stop making it an “us v them” approach to solving the very real, very challenging global problems.  Sound bites about how the other side (old people/generations in Umair’s critique, Republicans v. Democrats in Noonan’s column on Palin) is wrong is not the point in my mind.  Figuring out how to create meaningful, thoughtful, and realistic long-term solutions to our problems is the point.  That takes real leadership, it takes guts, and it takes a desire to collaborate across multiple viewpoints rather than pushing the old stakeholder claims deeper and limiting our ability to rise above the many challenges we currently face.

While I’m not a millennial like Umair or a Republican like Noonan (yes, for all her current Republican haters she was Reagan’s speech writer and biographer and has way more columns over time w/ a strong conversative focus), I identifed with the gist of what both of them were trying to get across.  I also don’t think either were saying that you had to be young (Umair’s generation) or clinging to a traditional party line (Noonan’s column) to aspire to a higher purpose of meaningful, thoughtful leadership that cuts across generational and party lines.

Stop taking sides and start making a difference!

Old v New, Long v Short

June 17, 2009

Earlier this week, I was at a conference where Ted Koppel gave the keynote address on the final day of the meeting.  His basic theme was that we’ve been living in an “age of entitlement”, not just recently but probably dating back 20 years or so.  The audience was career college administrators and teachers and he scored points with citing examples of students “entitlement” behavior but also talked more broadly about how this entitlement mentality has helped put us in this global economic recession.

He also bashed Twitter, specifically related to the disputed election results in Iran.  I’ve come to like Twitter in many ways, but like all forms of communication and media it has its limitations.  I’m not informed enough about the current Iranian situation to comment on it, so I won’t.  That was ultimately the gist of his Twitter rant, although I also think part of it was his admitted low tech approach to the news.  Personally, I think you need to get under the hood and understand current technologies before you throw stones at them, just as the digital natives shouldn’t reject all “old” methodologies as inherently flawed.

The latter was a big part of his point about serious, credible journalism versus the over saturation of fluff (my words, not his) that comes at us via the mainstream media.  He admitted to preferring paper and NPR over the Internet and cable TV.  I prefer my Kindle, iPhone, and laptop for information but I still want substance and depth of analysis.  Reflecting on it later, I think a real challenge moving forward is not so much new (media, methods, business models, etc.) trumping old but whether long-term (visionary, ideal-driven) thinking can push aside the pressures and demands of short-term (what’s in it for me now?) thinking.  To me, the latter is part of where we’ve ended up in terms of Koppel’s “age of entitlement” analogy.  We do want more for less, but we also want it now!  Yes, results matter, but so does thoughtful, reasonable dialog and discourse as opposed to the “you suck” v. “no, you suck more” mentality that drives so much of the public debate these days.

Purpose before Passion

May 17, 2009

Earlier posts dealt with authenticity and passion and will and passion.  Yet, probably more important than just being passionate about something is figuring out the purpose of what you are trying to accomplish.

I’ve now watched this video by Umair Haque twice because a) the power of what he’s talking about and b) because I’m not nearly as smart as him and it took awhile for some of this to sink in.  Overall, in this talk and otherwise on his blog, he  lays out “5 Paths to Behavioural Innovation” and talks about things like “thin value” v. “thick value” and building a business on ideals: not focusing on what we can do but what we should do.  Basically speaking, having a higher purpose.

I had the opportunity recently to hear Todd Sattersten, of 800-ceo-read and co-author (with Jack Covert) of “The 100 Best Business Books of All Time” , talk about the “meta-themes” that came out of their research and review in picking the “100 Best”.  They believe that the key leaders and successful organizations discussed in these 100 Best Business Books share 5 things in common.  The first of these meta-themes is “Clarity of Purpose”.

Final data point for me related to the importance of purpose came in reading Tara Hunt’s recently published book, The Whuffie Factor.  Her 9th chapter (of 10) is called “Find Your Higher Purpose” and why it’s important for building whuffie (social capital).

So, to better direct one’s passion should first come purpose.  What’s yours?

Accentuate the positive!

March 23, 2009

I’ve been following the mainstream media (MSM) news coverage less and less these days.  Too much focus on negativity, celebrity culture, and attack politics.  A few examples from today’s morning lead stories (national):

  1. A plane crash in Montana.
  2. An economic story with a “will any of this really work” tone to the interview questions.
  3. Investigative report on banks using corporate jets, more to follow on longer report tonight (boy, can’t wait for that!)
  4. “Smiley Face” killer story; no update on who it might be, just a revisit of story and interview from nearly a year ago.


  1. Fatal crash involving cyclist from last night.
  2. Prison guard on trial for sex crimes.
  3. U of WI and Marquette both lose in NCAA tournament play.

Some positive stories or angles with potential positive spin, that either weren’t covered or were buried several pages in:

  1. UW women’s hockey team wins 3rd national championship in 4 years – is on p. 8 of the local sports pages.
  2. Retief Goosen wins first PGA event in nearly 4 years (p. 8 of sports as well).
  3. Find information and cover companies that are succeeding in tough times.  They’re out there (hint: don’t just follow big business and public firms).
  4. Cover weather when it’s not just storms wreaking havoc.  How about a list of Top 10 picks of places with great 7-day advance forecasts?
  5. Local examples of companies, schools, community services that are making a positive difference.  Again, they’re out there, let’s hear more about them.

Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed piece in NYT this weekend, “Are We Home Alone?”, where he puts forth a call to action to leaders to inspire more positive energy.  He quotes Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, “Laws tell you what you can do.  Values inspire in you what you should do.  It’s a leader’s job to inspire in us those values.”  We need our leaders, at all levels, to inspire more.

Life is not always a bed of roses and I’m not advocating that we ignore the significant problems and challenges facing us these days.  However, I think we need more leaders with the courage to speak out about what’s working and stop hiding behind attack politics and the blame game.  To me this includes the media.  Much of MSM will likely stay the path of negative, sensationalist stories because they’ve convinced themselves that this sells.  Why don’t some within MSM take it upon themselves to go a different, positive direction – set the lead, stop following!

Finding fault and criticizing others is easy to do.  Figuring out what works, playing to our strengths, and staying on task related to ideals that really matter is harder but worth it in the long run.  All of us can help drive positive change if we start thinking about the positive changes we can affect in the world.  Stop watching and reading the MSM negative stories is a start; read and link others to positive ideas and thoughts online; help and encourage others around you; do some volunteer work; teach a kid a new skill; mentor a new co-worker; etc.

As I type this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks where the barista is greeting customers with “have a marvelous  Monday!” – on a rainy day no less.  We need more of that type of attitude right now.

Focus on What Matters

March 20, 2009

Today Eric Ries posted thoughts on building “companies that matter” on his Lessons Learned blog. This is a specific application of something I think we all need to spend more time on these days: focusing on what matters.  Ultimately we all have to determine what matters most to each of us and there are usually multiple things that matter in different facets of our lives.  However, in this world of information overload, continual mainstream media sensationalism and negativity, “transparency” that blurs the lines between personal and private, and on and on it’s easy to lose track of what matters.

If you get confused or wonder where to start, how about at the end?  That is, what do you want it to say on your gravestone?  I doubt it’s “reads and responds to lots of e-mail”, “great with Twitter”, “writes great ad pieces” . . .  My advice, first think about what you want your family and friends to say about you – would they say what you want?  Then, your co-workers and customers – would they say what you want and more importantly would the customers and co-workers agree?  If you’re getting honest yes answers to these questions, then you’re probably focused on what matters.  If not, restart, recharge, and think more about the big picture.