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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Government Relations: Challenge and Solution

The government of Ontario is continuing its crack-down on lobbying.  Any reforms implemented will make it more challenging for those in the lobbying industry to do their work, therefore making lobbying less profitable.  A sidebar will be less organizations willing to use external lobbyists from fear of getting caught in a scandal; at the same time, politicians will be more wary of seeking the advice of lobbyists, because they won’t want to suffer the slings and arrows of social media, either.

Done properly, there is a definite public benefit in terms of transparency and accountability.  It’s kinda nice to know how policy decisions are being informed and who’s playing a role in deciding the public’s fate, as well as knowing where on the margins our tax dollars are being spent.  There’s a real big negative to the track being followed, though – lobbying is being turned into a dirty word.  If a lobbyist is brain-storming with a client and throwing out far-fetched ideas to build context before settling on a direction to take, would that kind of information be accessible to the public?  Would it be presented with context, or in a way that validates the narrative of a journalist/politician/interest group?  How would bans work?  Would they be permanent, would they involve remediation?  If a politician needs to understand how a complex set of issues impact a sector in language they understand, who will provide them with that insight?

While there are real and justifiable concerns about how lobbying works, we have to keep in mind just what the role of an effective lobbyist is.  The good ones aren’t just meeting-arrangers or influence-peddlers; they’re translators.  They speak the languages of business, of specific sectors like health care or education and they speak politics.  This is no small thing; we have a silo-based system of governance and silo-based industries that really don’t know how to communicate with each other.  It's not as easy as one might think to pick up the phone and reach a Minister, or a Deputy Minister, or even an MPP.  Besides, when you get them, what do you say?  How do you frame your message in a way that connects with the political folk?  How do you resonate?  Do you understand their specific position and what's informed that position?  This is the gap that good lobbyists fill.  Without them, who will?

The sad truth is, nobody will.  That level of communication will just cease to happen or even worse, be driven so far underground that only the bad apples who are spoiling the industry will take the risk of skirting the rules and make bigger bucks for doing so.  Meanwhile, tri-sector partners will circle each other like heart-breaking best friends, wanting to reach out but not knowing how.  The duplications, gaps and overlaps of our system will expand; the distance between our social silos will grow wider.

There's a better way, but it's not an easy one.  It requires all parties to shift their thinking a little bit and get past the demand for elevator-pitch explanations.  Lobbyists will have to want to be transparent in the way they work, but doing so will also help build their brand.  They'll have to develop goals beyond profit that they work towards, holding themselves to rigorous standards.  For its part, the public will have to be open to the idea that politics isn't simple, that translation is necessary and that it's not a bad thing to have third-party mediators connecting not just government and the private sector, but the Not-For-Profit sector as well.  After all, you can't develop win-win solutions without a bit of give-and-take.

Believe it or not, the model to follow on this was innovated by The Courtyard Group.  They started with an idea - improving healthcare - and focused all their attention, all their expertise on that sphere.  They made money, but they did so in the context of solving a problem.  Were there issues with how that idea played out?  Of course there were; that doesn't invalidate the idea, but rather provide a lesson to learn from.  Firms of any sort that follow a practice-area model develop specialized expertise in both subject-matter and communication, which is an invaluable tool for everyone.  The trick now is for everyone to dedicate just a bit more effort to considering the broader context and both how they git into that matrix and how that role will be perceived.

This is the model that is being pursued by the rising number of social entrepreneurs in Ontario and across the country.  These are people who have figured out it's possible to do the right thing and make money at the same time.  They don't see admitting mistakes as putting blood in the water, but as an opportunity to share and learn from collective experience.  I myself fall into this category; I know where my passions lie and I have the skills, experience and connectivity to turn them into positive solutions. I'm also conscious of the fact I don't have all the answers and can only achieve my goals through strategic collaborations.  The future of GR will, from necessity, embody this approach.  It might be a harder path, but ultimately, a more rewarding one both selfishly and altruistically.  Consultants conscious of their place in a societal network will focus less on getting rich quick and instead, put more emphasis on building a lasting, positive legacy

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Profiling The Kadhrs: This Smacks of Eugenics

Dr. Michael Welner is a forensic psychiatrist, one of many looking for ways to quantify evil.  He has been called to offer testimony on the likes of Luka Rocco and, of course, Omar Kadhr.  This, to be, is more than dubious science, as evil is a linguistic catch-all and not a scientific concept; it's a little too familiar.

Even more disturbing are the connections Welner is making between Kadhr, his father and Osama bin Laden; it doesn't matter what they say, it doesn't matter how they act, they are fundamentally evil and that evil can't be overcome.

If we believe that as a concept, what's the conclusion to be drawn?  That some people, groups of people, perhaps even whole tribes are not suitable for social living.  What do you do when you have people that you don't want around?  You run them out of town.  Or, failing that, you contain them.  When you create a distinct divide between yourself and a perceived other, you permit yourself to stop seeing them as human and remove responsibility on your part to treat them as human.

We're seeing what that looks like in Syria.  We've seen it before - in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, in Nazi Germany.  Simple solutions with finality are never the answers they seem to be on paper.  There's a reason for that - life isn't simple.  Answers aren't simple.  We might prefer them to be, we might even delude ourselves that they are, but simplicity exists in our minds only.

There are psychotic people in the world - people, human beings - who do not have the neuro-psychological capacity for empathy.  They aren't evil, they're limited, just as someone born with any deficit is.  While these folk can be dangerous to society and must be contained, they aren't monsters, any more than a shark is.  Beyond this, the brain is a very plastic organ; with the right training, accommodations and environment, most neurological conditions can be managed.  It's just takes conscious effort on the part of everyone.

This issue isn't about Omar Kadhr - he's a symptom, not a disease, one person that none of us has ever spoken to.  This is about what we are willing to accept as fact on the belief of so-called experts.  We cannot allow for philosophies - for that's all they are - like Werner's to stand unchallenged.  We've seen before what happens when prejudice is justified by science.  It's not a path we want to walk again.

UPDATE - Now, Francois Legault is adding his own piece to the eugenics file, saying Quebec kids should be more like Asian kids.  What's really being asked is, what motivates behaviour?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Provide Alternatives to Crime

Good on Stephen Harper.  Like political minds tend to circle the wagons around issues, but this is a concern that, like mental health, is bigger than partisanship.

There are multiple fronts that need to be pursued.  Identity is one; when you feel accountable to something larger than yourself, you tend to self-regulate a bit more.  Education is another; youth need training that meets their learning styles, but also teaches them to be flexible.  At any rate, it's hard to learn when you're worried about getting shot. 

The other side to keeping kids away from crime, though, isn't just providing alternatives - it's about steering them towards success.  This is within the realm of the possible; you really can teach resiliency and practical social skills like financial literacy, networking, social emotional learning, critical thinking, planning, etc.  Not everyone will be a whiz, but with the right level of exposure and encouragement, everyone can find a niche that works for them while allowing them to be contributing parts of society.

I keep turning back to martial arts training I've received over the years.  Failure wasn't an option because failure meant quitting on the part of the student, the teacher, the family and the community (school).  Falling was inevitable, but as we all know, the reason we fall is to learn how to pick ourselves back up.  The best teachers I have ever had were the ones that were relentless, patient and consistent, making praise something to be earned rather than expected and always pushing me to crystallize my skill a little bit more.  Those lucky of us to have had teachers or mentors like that over the years love them for teaching us that excellence is a pursuit, not a benchmark.

The fundamentals of this style of training can be applied in our schools.  It starts with empowerment, flows through achievement, and keeps on giving with success and resiliency.

It's within the realm of the possible - we just need to commit ourselves fully.


What We Should Have Said to PG

What ever you're trying to sell, never forget the importance of internalizing the vision and being able to put it into a narrative.

What we should have said to PG

“So it’s like a wiki?” he says, moving his fingers in circles against his temples. His eyes are closed. He’s concentrating. He has 10 minutes to understand me.

This is the story of how we interviewed at, and were turned down by, Y Combinator. I decided to write about the experience because storytelling is one function where we startups tend to shit the bed. Hopefully this post helps kick that ball forward a bit.

This past May, it cost $2,428.13 to have three of us spend 10 minutes with Paul Graham. Being from out of town (Toronto) this included flights, taxis, and accommodation for 3 nights. In hindsight, spending three nights in sleepy Mountain View was a great decision. There’s nothing to do but talk about your business from morning to night. The extra time also meant we were extremely well prepared for the interview. Or so I had myself believe.

Only now, having been tested by the pressures of a ticking clock and the questions of an impatient (and widely respected) mind, do I have the courage to say that the reason we didn’t get into YC was because I didn’t know my business well enough.

Sounds crazy, right? I mean, as far as titles go, I’m the guy who’s primary role is to know what the hell business we’re in. I’m not asked to write the code that brings it to life, or define the user experience that sets the tone – I’m asked to tell our story clearly, effectively, and when needed, very f*cking quickly. So maybe this post should have been titled, ‘What I should have said to PG’ – because this one was on me.

The following is a rough outline of my conversation with PG.

“So what is Rocketr?” he opened. To which I replied…
“Rocketr is a bottom-up approach to knowledge management. We connect people through their notepads. Basically, people take notes and decide how to share them. The primary mechanism by which they share them is through co-authored notebooks.”
“So people can all write to the same place. So it’s like a wiki?” he asked.

“Not really, no. A wiki is more like a google doc – it has one true version at any given time. Sure, there’s a revision history, but nobody lives in the revision history. Rocketr is about having one author for a given note, and a threaded conversation around it.”
It may not be immediately obvious what’s wrong with this picture, but if you picked up on it, kudos to you. There are 2 things wrong with how the interview opened:

  1. PG drove and I quickly found myself back on my heels.
  2. I stripped out so much of the marketing jargon (a YC rule), that I skipped right over the customer’s pain and the value of solving it. I gave the “features” pitch, not the “benefits” pitch.
I came into the interview ready to react. I had an answer for everything, but no real story that I was going to tell. In hindsight, I should have opened like this:

“Rocketr bridges two worlds that could not be further apart right now – how we capture information (using personal tools), and how we get work done (using team-based tools). We’re betting that these worlds will converge, because if they don’t, it will get harder and harder for teams if they can’t collaborate at the speed that information is changing around them. Oh… and the medium we use to facilitate all this, is note-taking – something we all know how to do.”
Yes – it’s a little longer, but that shouldn’t matter if I’m the one driving for those 10 minutes. Even if I was interrupted, I could pick the story up where it left off. In this version, I’m illustrating the pain, the trends, and only at the end do I mention the vehicle by which we go about it.

The missteps continued when he asked, “Who needs what you’re making?” I reacted with something like the following:

“There are two sides to the market. Organizations need this to drive innovation and individuals needs this to satisfy both use cases – personal note-taking and sharing those notes for the purpose of getting feedback. Currently, they’re resorting to email for the latter which is a terrible environment for notes to grow up in.”
Just reading that now makes me shudder. So far I’ve communicated that we are “another note-taking app” with some social features AND that every entity on Earth needs us. Kill me.

What I should have said was:

“Paul, we think Y Combinator needs this in a big way. You’re managing 460+ companies. I’m guessing you send them articles, competitive intel, potential customer leads, and a wealth of other ideas. You’re probably using email to do it. And while you might use labels or folders to keep all this information organized on your end, your startups don’t have access to that. You’re effectively relying on them to either a) action every idea immediately, or b) do multiple queries of their inbox every time they want to revisit an idea you guys discussed.”
Not perfect, but much better. It becomes obvious that the pain increases the more “teams” or “topics” you’re managing. Furthermore, by putting YC in the middle of the story, I am making it easy for him to stand in the customer’s shoes. This all but guarantees his next question will move the conversation forward – not sideways.

And if you don’t have the lucky fortune of being able to use YC as an example customer, then use someone close to them – like one of their companies. And be sure to use peoples’ names. It will make it easier for them to empathize with the plight.

No matter which way you look at it, 10 minutes goes fast. It’s incredibly easy to get flustered and not have enough time left on the clock to recover. And despite all the wonderful resources that point to the questions you’ll be asked, I promise you, you will be asked many more that aren’t listed.

My recommendation for any startup reading this, is to shift your mindset ever so slightly. Prepare like you would, but when you walk in that door, have a 4 or 5 minute story to tell, instead of 25 answers to 25 commonly asked questions. In fact, take this approach on every occasion where you get to pitch your business.

The next time someone asks you, “So what does your startup do?”, lay it on thick. Tell a story. Get them to empathize.

And most importantly, drive.

The Spatial Genetics of CRM

Of course, when the average bear refers to CRM, they're thinking customer relationship management - not cis-regulatory modules.  When you strip away the context and look strictly at the content, though, is there much difference?

Whether your business is genes or people, the same rules apply - you're looking at an organic system that functions in organic ways across a temporal map.  We like to look at the world, relationships, time, etc. as being along a line - poverty is a separate issue than gun crime, mental health is a separate issue from labour, politics is separate from behaviour, so on and so forth.

While this might be easier for us to understand and allows us to "strip away the fluff" and focus on core messaging, we do ourselves no favours when we ignore complexity because it makes us uncomfortable.

Life isn't a time - it's a map.  You can't effectively navigate your way if you don't know the terrain.  Perhaps, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, but whoever sees with both eyes is the navigator.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Future of Social Media and Politics (by Matt Silverman)

Politicians are brands. Like their counterparts in the private sector, we’ve seen some pretty interesting things when it comes to using social media on the campaign trail.

Representative democracy seems the perfect place for social media — a direct communications channel between the governed and the government. But are we headed toward a more interconnected body politic, or a new sea of unmanageable political noise?

With the U.S. midterm elections in their final throes, we spoke to some key players for their views on what the rise of mainstream social media has in store for the next generation of political campaigns.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, But Perhaps Tweeted

The medium is the message, and like television before it, the social web will radically alter who is electable, according to Matt Lira, the director of new media for Republican Whip Eric Cantor. “Before television, there was a dramatically different set of candidates who could win that didn’t have a chance once television emerged,” Lira said. “Social media’s effect will be no less dramatic.”

Lira notes that at first, campaigning on TV was viewed as a gimmick and was given to young staffers to experiment with. “Over time, television asserted itself as the dominant form of political communication — remaking our nation’s politics in the process.” If that progression sounds familiar, it’s because we’re reliving it today.

It’s about how the social web is rapidly becoming the default place where people spend their time and discuss issues that matter to them. “It will be about how much society has integrated itself into it,” said Gerrit Lansing, the new media director for Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th). “Citizens will be far more accustomed to being a fan of their congressman on Facebook, because it will soon become one of the main ways in which they communicate with him.”

“What we’re seeing across the political spectrum right now is a rejection of traditional media,” said A.J. Bhadelia, the online communications coordinator for Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA 15th), who represents the Silicon Valley district in California. He notes that among Rep. Honda’s constituents, a quarter of the people who get their news online get it from social media. “[I]f given the opportunity, it will take up any space that traditional media has conceded.”


The New Grassroots

Like many publishers and businesses, political media relations are still entrenched in a “one-way announcement or press release communication” style, as Bhadelia puts it. But today’s forward-thinking campaigns offer a glimpse into what political activism might look like a few years on.

“Future candidates who ‘get it’ will be conducting increasingly supporter-centric campaigns that put the needs of the candidates’ most enthusiastic and ardent supporters at the center of the campaign,” said Brian Komar, the director of strategic outreach for the Center for American Progress. As social media trust continues to shift away from organizations and toward individuals, a highly social political campaign can decentralize its message and create what successful marketers have been tapping on the web for some time — brand ambassadors.

Komar told us that since experts are generally more trusted than institutions, a key component of their outreach has been to train staffers to be individuals with a message, rather than representatives of a large organization. “We’ve had considerable success with this decentralized approach, ranging from tweets being picked up directly by major press outlets to tweets being forwarded by influencers to high-ranking White House officials, to enhancing various policy experts’ reputations.”

Essentially, we may be looking at political outreach coming full circle over the course of a few generations. Focus was initially on personal grassroots activism, then on mass media, and is now returning to a one-on-one trust model for the digital age.

Socially Connected Legislation

The ancient Greeks probably would have dug social media for its potential to realize direct democracy. But can millions of people updating, tweeting and texting really generate a vox populi worth a senator’s attention?

“I believe that social media must be fully incorporated into the daily operation of the United States Congress,” said Lira. “Not simply as an outbound communication tool, but to actually include the American public in substantive legislative decision making.”

Lira cites one digital democracy experiment led by House Republicans called YouCut, a social media hub where participants can suggest and vote on which government spending programs should be cut from the federal budget.

“For the first time, the public is able to have direct impact on what their representatives vote upon on the House floor,” said Lira about the YouCut initiative. “The public’s response to this program validates that they will engage with Congress when given the opportunity to do so.”

Lira said that more than 2 million votes have been cast on the YouCut website so far, and every week that the House is in session, the item that receives the most social media votes is brought to the floor for debate (typically 45 minutes) and an actual legislative vote. “To date, no cuts have passed the House, but all we can do in the minority is force the debate and the vote,” said Lira. “The full voting records are available online, so people can know where their representative stood.”

Komar cites another success for connected legislation in a recent campaign by the Enough Project. The organization pushed for regulation on the U.S. import of conflict minerals (tin, tungsten and tantalum, which are commonly used in electronics) from eastern Congo, where mining operations for these valuable materials are often used to fund violent and genocidal military groups. Ten members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee were targeted by the Enough Project and their supporters.

“Within 48 hours, about 500 people posted on the Facebook walls of these members. Soon after, two of the 10 members agreed to co-sponsor the bill and another three members of the committee who were not targeted also agreed to co-sponsor,” said Komar. “The committee’s chairman, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), then took the unanticipated step to not just put the conflict minerals bill up for a vote, but also put a second bill that the Enough Project was pushing, up for a vote, too.” Both bills passed unanimously out of committee.

Both YouCut and the conflict minerals bill serve to illustrate that legislators can cut through the social media noise the same way many businesses do — by listening to and tackling the issues raised by small, focused online communities.

“By focusing public engagement on a specific challenge or issue, I believe that elected officials can attract the involvement of the experts and activists most interested in solving any particular issue,” said Lira. “The audiences that congregate around each specific challenge will also be motivated to keep the discussion qualitative.”

But social media isn’t yet the proverbial “town square” democracy that some might hope for. “The current platforms … still have far to go before there is direct governance,” Bhadelia conceded, citing concerns about verifying the locations and motivations of the most active politically minded social media participants. “Is this person a constituent? Are the views held by a broad slice of the district or the vocal few?”

Hands-On Candidates

To win at social media, you’ve got to keep it personal. In the future, can a political candidate still be in the game if he or she is delegating social outreach to staff, as many do today?

“A good new media guy who can write well can still do it,” said Lansing. “Five years from now, it will need to be at least 50/50.”

“I don’t believe that an elected official can be removed from the process,” Lira added. “The staff can, as they do in other areas, support that communication. The essence of that communication, however, begins with the elected official.”

Komar sees social media as yet another component of the larger communications picture, and handing off responsibility might just be a matter of course in terms of time management.

“[P]oliticians and candidates delegate drafting of press releases to staff. They delegate drafting of speeches to staff. They delegate drafting policy positions and fundraising asks to their staff. So yes, serious politicians can still delegate some social media outreach to staff as well.” He noted, however, that candidates who pass all of their social media engagement on to staffers will be missing big opportunities for authentic engagement of supporters.

The Takeaway

As in many sectors, it’s likely the political landscape will be radically different in just a few years thanks to social media’s pervasive influence on our ideas about culture, business, celebrity and public discourse. The ways in which we think about candidates and elected officials will change based on how connected we feel to them. And that will influence how we vote.

“The day is fast approaching when you can win your election on the basis of a really good social media campaign,” said Lira. “Build genuine connections with your constituency, authentically engage with them, and you can earn their support.”

Lansing’s advice to would-be candidates of the digital age is to “be very aggressive. What social media allows you to do is build an empire, and the timid do not build empires.”

What do you think? Does your local congressperson have a place in your Facebook newsfeed? Do you engage your government directly via Twitter? Do you feel your online voice matters to legislators? Share your thoughts on the future of social media and politics in the comments.

Want To End Gun Crime? Address Mental Health

Yes, there has been funding.  Yes, there has been talk of comprehensive strategies.  But we're not there yet. 

Why?  Because we have yet to really internalize what mental health is or what it means in a social context.

We can continue skirting around the issue and keep throwing funding starfish back into the ocean, but until we really drill down to where the problem originates, we'll never find the solution.

Mental health, personal opinions, intelligence, voting intentions, creativity, violence, obstinacy, flexibility, naivete, workaholism, micro-management - whatever behavioural tick you want to hook on to is just a reflection of what's happening in our noggins.  Brain is body - just as body's can be shaped, thought can be shaped.  It gets shaped all the time, we're just not conscious of what influences are doing the shaping.  Personality is neuro-chemistry; "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" is really just about genetics.  There are boundaries to how far we can push ourselves, but we haven't even begun to explore the fullness of individual potential.

If we really want to foster strong individuals for a strong society, we have to start with the basics.  Until we do, the cracks in our social infrastructure will continue to build.

Waiting For Superman

Max Landis, the brilliant writer of Chronicle, has done a hilarious rant about the enduring popularity of Superman.  Landis contends that Superman is boring because, in essence, he's perfect; powerful, wise, compassionate, constant.  He's unrelatable, says Landis, which is why he's not relevant to an audience that wants to see themselves reflected in their heroes.  This logic rings true; none of our heroes are perfect, no legend is without flaws.  The Greek and Norse gods were essentially Dawson's Creek with superpowers; every mythic character from Gilgamesh to King Arthur to Anakin Skywalker had their fatal flaws.  They've either died heroes, or lived long enough to see themselves become villains

That's why Game of Thrones makes for such compelling reading/viewing. 

Landis also rips to shreds the chintzy way DC killed Superman off for ratings, then just as quickly brought him back.  Superman didn't change, his world didn't change, the audiences felt ripped off.  The stakes going in seemed so huge, yet there were no consequences.  It didn't ring true; our mythic protagonists, be they of good character or bad, must change the world with their passing.  Whether heroes or villains, these icons must die if they are to be reborn as more than just men, if they are to become legends.  Giants do not walk the earth without leaving footprints.

It has been said that there are no giants any more.  The larger-than-life leaders who shaped entire nations with their great and/or terrible visions have been replaced with technocrats, tweaking away at the margins.  An aversion to risk has replaced boldness; messaging has replaced vision.  We actively tear down our icons, whatever the forum; in an almost Socratic way, we subconsciously seek out and exploit the chinks in their armour.  We mistrust superiority as an oppressive force that, because it must by its inherent nature be flawed, will lead us into temptation.

Yet, locked away in the deep recesses of our hearts lies hope that one day the perfect hero will rise, take our sins onto their shoulders or do away with challengers and show us the way to a better world.  It's one of the great contradictions of humanity; we crave assuredness and unwavering discipline in leaders, but know our leaders are only human and therefore fear the inevitability of their - our -  failure.  We know that when we place our faith in all-too-human unwavering confidence, we inevitably end up disappointed.  This is why we tear our icons to shreds; if they seem too good to be true, they probably are.  It behooves us to deconstruct their perfection and discover those fatal flaws before they are able to harm us.  The only leaders who can bring us to the promise land, truly, must be superhuman.

But there are no Supermen in the real world.  We're waiting for someone who's not coming.

Which is why we love come-back stories.  We feel as though flaws are ingrained into our nature; the only way to grow beyond our faults is by first succumbing to them.  As much as we want to destroy our icons, we draw inspiration when they rise from the ashes/shed the skins of their mistakes; in so doing, they provide us with hope that we too have that power.  Whether you look at religions (accepting original limitation and being reborn) or overcoming "personal weaknesses" (admit you're an alcoholic then strive to be sober) or any form of education (tests, coming-of-age ceremonies, graduation ceremonies, etc.) we have a habit of building rituals around the notion of personal transitions.  We need these moments of personal transcendence to be wrapped in contextualized significance if we're to accept them as having real social meaning.

It's no surprise, then, that we expect our heroes to fall down, spend time delegated to the wilderness and be reborn as role models.  It's through the process of failing that they learn to pick themselves back up and transcend normalcy into exceptionality.  If gifts are not earned, they are not respected and therefore, not to be trusted.

There's a lesson in this, one that we already know but most of the time choose to ignore.  Failure is inevitable; not something to be avoided, denied or trickled down to others, but sought out.  When we cut away (which is different than deny) all the doubt that holds us back and actively challenge ourselves, there's a bit of a multi-faceted hero in each of us.

Which is why the best leaders don't impose from without - they nurture from within. 

RELATED - saw this quote, had to post here: "They are like Superman emerging from the phone booth in times of crisis; their abilities to concentrate and solve problems go up."       

CFN - The Politics of Science

We might call it political science, but politics is really about the art of war.

Of course, politics isn’t about seeking compromise solutions that reflect the collective will of an electorate; it’s about winning majorities to implement partisan agendas. Between elections, Parties will strategically pursue issues in ways they feel enhance their support to the detriment of opponents. They will nurture allies that favour their causes, employ propaganda and wage “hearts and minds” campaigns. More like warfare then scientific debate, politics seeks to undermine confidence in adversaries through personal attacks and narrow public focus to just the issues that resonate with their themes. Understanding is entirely secondary. That’s why political operatives are so keen to define “the ballot question”; it’s less about what people care about and more about what issues give the best political traction.

The upcoming US election provides a case in point. Does it matter that Obama went to a church with a radical pastor, or is he really a Christian at all? Does Mitt Romney despise poor people and did he tie his dog to his car roof? If you undermine the character and credibility of the man, you cast doubt on anything he has to say, whether it’s factual or not. The corollary to undermining your opponent and targeting niche issues is promoting the concept that you have the definitive answers. Is the election about the economy, or income inequality? Only Obama can achieve income equality. Only Romney can fix the US economy. What about the viability of the US education system, the new Digital Government strategy, the challenges of energy security or threats from foreign countries? All are relevant to the electorate, but the Dems and GOP want you focused strictly on the issues that fit within their message frames. To issues beyond those frames, Parties will tell you “so what?” and direct you back to what they think you should know.

Canada’s current master of political positioning is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. From targeting subsidized political funding to suggesting coalitions were illegal to promoting a “tough on crime” agenda, Harper has carefully crafted every tactic to benefit his Party. Harper successfully defined his Liberal opponents as untrustworthy. The Harper Conservatives have also systematically removed information that could be detrimental to their cause from the public discourse; the media has had limited access, the Census has been gutted, government officials who challenge Conservative messaging have been silenced, Tory MPs who dare to voice independent opinions are quickly brought back in line. Opposition Members have seen their access to information significantly reduced; even Harper’s appointed Parliamentary Budget Officer is being denied the data he needs to do his job and been derided for seeking it. The Conservative government has actively lied to the public and disparaged anyone who challenged their political framing.