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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.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Choose Consciously

Nature and nurture serve as guiding forces, flinch-reflexes and intuitions leading us in certain directions.  Ultimately, though, we can harness these influences and decide, for ourselves, which inclinations to accept, which to ignore and which bear reflection.
We can be in control of our choices - if we're conscious about what informs them. 

The Greater Influence on Teen Behavior – Nature or Nurture? Surprising Answer…

by Dennis E. Coates
It was one of the coolest weddings I’ve ever attended, the reception turned into a lively celebration, I was doing the kind of dancing I do only after I’ve had way too many drinks, and my friend and I were catching our breath. We were talking about his kids and out of the blue he asked me: “So, where do you land on the question of nature or nurture?”

Ah yes, the old question. Which has more influence on behavior? Nature (the hardware) – your genes take care of that part of it. Nurture (the software) – that’s the job of parents, teachers and mentors. Which has greater influence? My brain had to shift gears away from the raucous music to consider it. But I knew where I stood on the issue, so it didn’t take me long to reply.
I shouted into his ear: “In my opinion, it’s neither nature nor nurture. It’s choice. Our genetic inheritance gives us our start-point, our potential and limitations. After that it’s about learning. Like a computer, we upload the software and the data. But ultimately, we’re not driven by either. We make choices. Kids make choices.”
“Choices? I never heard that answer before.”
“We’re different from animals because we can think, ponder and reflect before we act. It’s not just instinct, habit and stimulus-response. We can make conscious choices. We can decide what we want to do. You take Person A and Person B and you put both people in exactly the same situation, and they may not make the same choices. And their actions will have consequences.”
“Choice,” he repeated. He looked a little dazed. I’m pretty sure he had dispatched as many drinks as I had.
“We’re responsible for our actions. For what we learn. For what we do. For what we become. For our lives. You can’t account for a person’s actions by saying it’s something he’s born with, and you can’t say the world programmed him to do it. We choose to do what we do.”
I don’t remember all the details of that night, but I it seems to me my friend changed the subject.
The question he asked is an important one, and it’s worth discussing. But you don’t have to take my answer as the final word. Check out this brief video featuring author Stephen Covey.

Friday, 26 July 2013

You Can't Take the Risk Out of War

It never ceases to amaze me how entitlement so often leads to ethical atrophy.  Whenever you offload both repercussions and consequences to others - whenever you take your skin out of the game - you stop thinking about the impact of your choices.  It's easy to employ drones when you never have to see the whites of your opponents' eyes.

This is why I'm not fond of any weapon that creates the illusion of distance - guns, missiles, drones, etc.  Not being present dulls your senses, erodes your situational awareness and mitigates your ability to size up your opponents directly.

The least you can do is make sure you understand who your opponent is.  When you don't, you'll find that your worst enemy tends to be yourself.

You Can’t Take the Risk Out of War
by Craig Carter Edwards – September 29, 2012

CFNUnmanned, remotely operated drones are the new craze in military toys.  They are excellent for both intelligence gathering and combat; they also remove any direct human risk for their operators.  Unlike the bomber planes used in World War II, drone pilots never have to put themselves in the line of fire.  In fact, they can operate their drones from computers a continent away, moving their weapon-system avatars around like characters in a video game.

I like video games. My son and I will occasionally play the WII Lego games where you get to run around exotic digital landscapes gathering clues to solve puzzles and killing bad guys. There’s something inherently appealing about smashing neutral environments and getting points for doing so.  It’s funny watching how these games shape my boy’s imaginary play, too – when he makes up adventures with his toys, he now tells me how many “hearts” his different characters have.

I also like swords. This I blame on my own youthful influences, including the Star Wars merchandising phenomenon and an ongoing fascination with historical knights and samurai. My boy has picked up this interest in all things involving pointy weapons; he’ll run around the yard waving sticks and describing in detail the epic battles he’s fighting.

One of our “fitness” WII games is a sword-fight simulator that let’s us combine these passions.  Players use their controllers as swords and wave them at the screen, trying to knock the other player down. It’s all fun and games with no chance of anyone losing an eye. Except for the bad guys, but then they aren’t real people anyway.

Of course, in real one-on-one combat, there’s a definite risk for competitors of losing more than just an eye.  Unlike Hollywood depictions, true sword-fights don’t last very long, nor are they glamorous. When you’re staring down the sharp edge of a blade, your sole objective becomes cutting or killing your opponent before they do the same to you.  Duelists can’t afford to waste an ounce of energy on looking cool or verbalizing a lot of clashing sounds. Not when their life is on the line.

In this way, swordplay is like any martial art; there is an immediacy and intimacy to every move and countermove.  This reality encourages the development of discipline, vigilance and an understanding of consequence.  The first time my son and I squared off with toy swords, he was focused on the show; wild swings and dramatic sound effects.  He told me to stand still so that he could hit me, like in a game or a movie.  The moment he moved, I got my own blade (foam, so don’t call CAS quite yet) in and caught him on the arm.  

“You hit me!” said he in shocked surprise.  Yup!  That’s the way combat works.  His takeaway was that if you’re going to fight, you have to accept the risk of getting hit - to be mindful so that you don't.

War isn’t a game, video or otherwise. When a person gets shot, stabbed or blown up, it’s not “hearts” they risk losing – it’s their limbs, lives and ongoing quality of life.  Winning is no tonic against injury, either; soldiers who come home still bear the physical and psychological scars of combat.  

If the war happens on a soldier’s home turf, there’s every risk that they won’t have a physical home to return to, either.  I will never forget walking around a bombed-out downtown Sarajevo still littered in rubble and “beware of landmines” signs in 2001, six years after the Bosnian War was supposed to be over.  The spoils may go to the victor, but when the spoils are in ruins, what has really been won?  

This is why military strategists from Sun-Tzu on keep developing new ways to mitigate personnel and infrastructure risks at the same time as increasing chances of meaningful victory.  The evolution of warfare has seen the development of increasingly complex offensive and defensive technology and tactics, but it has also included the nurturing of warrior codes of conduct like bushidochivalry or the Geneva conventions.  At its core, diplomacy is really a military strategy designed to mitigate the risk of destructive combat and avoid losses on both sides.

Of course, we wouldn’t fight in the first place if there weren’t rewards to be had.  Land and resources are of definitive value to expanding populations, which is why so many wars are fought over them.  A balance of power might encourage a military code of conduct, but when the balance shifts, we can always find wiggle room.  

Hawaiian Chief Kamehameha seized on the arrival of European weapons and tactics as an opportunity to tip the balance in his favour and conquer all the Hawaiian islands; Spanish conquistadors might have honestly thought they were doing God’s work in bringing Christianity to native heathens, but this noble quest didn’t stop them from slaughtering innocents and stealing their land and gold.   

The invasion of the New World provides a great example of how this process works.  European powers wanted to shift the balance of power in their favour; the Americas presented the opportunity for more land and resources to accomplish this.  Soldiers of fortune like Cortes and Pizarro could gain treasure and glory without any risk to their home turf.  With superior weapons, tactics and confabulated justifications, these conquerors were able to skirt their own ethics and rape, pillage and murder Native Americans with impunity.

Now, here’s the other side of that equation – people have a bad habit of not knowing when they’ve been conquered.  Realizing they couldn’t win a direct conflict with Spain, the Inca did what resistance fighters have always done – they changed the rules and took to the hills to wage a no-holds-barred guerilla campaign.  It’s no small irony that the Spanish cried foul when two of their diplomats were killed by Inca troops; as always, the rules only seem to apply when they work in an aggressor’s favour.  Of course, there has never been a balance of power in South America; despite the occasional uprising the descendants of the Inca remain a conquered people.

Of course, the Americas’ indigenous empires never had a chance; the odds of success against European guns, germs and steel were impossibly stacked against them.  Europeans themselves weren’t quite so badly handicapped when Moorish armies were using canons in their conquest of Iberia.  They used indirect military tactics to gain access to canon technology themselves and equal the playing field.  Looked at through the lens of history, Iran’s bid for nuclear weapons is simply a continuation of the Red Queen-like global arms race.

The progression of defensive and offensive technological development isn’t the only trend that has influenced military combat.  The evolution of communications technology has facilitated coordinated, large-scale warfare as well.  As it has become easier for generals to get situation reports in shorter time frames and from broader theatres of war, they have been able to create more all-encompassing strategies and run larger, more complex operations. 

As a sidebar, these generals and commanders-in-chief have been able to put greater distance between themselves and combat zones.  After all, it takes a bit of distance if you want to gauge the whole picture.  The further you are from harm, however, the less immediate becomes the risk of consequence.  What happens when the orchestrators of war throw new weapons onto the battlefield without having their own skin bared in the game?  World War I provides a good example.

The two World Wars were also accompanied by a terrible loss of civilian life and the devastation of social infrastructure, best exemplified by Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The Holocaust was equally revolting, taking the brutality leveled against Native Americans by European powers to new levels of systematic atrocity.  It was the Nazis’ attempted genocide of Jews that finally saw the establishment of the state of Israel, which brings us to a third major cause of warfare – security.

Israel has every right to fear attack by foreign parties.  There are thousands of years of precedent for violent anti-Semitism and regular expressions of hatred from their neighbours.  Israelis tend to pay a lot more attention to the news and foreign affairs than, say, the average Canadian or American, because they are constantly in the line of fire.  We, on the other hand, have no concept of what it’s like to live onstage in the theatre of war; we’re always the spectator, never the player.

Iran, for its part, has plenty of historical precedent for wanting to have nukes of their own.  They are also surrounded by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of hostile powers.  The people of Iran have access to the internet – whether they agree with every policy decision of Ahmadinejad or not, they can see the number of foreign headlines that present their nation as a global evil that needs to be stamped out.  Given the threat of conflict landing on your shores, you’d probably also feel safer knowing you had a big stick to fend off aggressors with.

Naturally, the US wants to defend itself and its interests, too.  9/11 was a real wake-up call to a nation unaccustomed to war on their own soil; it was the first time in a long time they could see the pointy end of their enemy’s sword up close and personal.  The War on Terror started by George W. and continued by Barrack Obama is the American response to this threat.  Although they took time, the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have reinforced the message that in warfare, try as you might to avoid consequence, you eventually reap what you sow.

While the War on Terror has arguably had some success – there have, after all, been no successful attacks (unless you accept school shootings and such by white Americans as terrorist attacks) on North American soil since 2001 – it has still cost us a high price.  Both Canada and the US have lost troops in Afghanistan.  We have engaged in practices that bend our own proclaimed morality to the breaking point. Governments can have a hard time justifying the death of soldiers to populaces not directly touched by the horrors of war, but they equally have a responsibility to safeguard their people.  It’s the age-old challenge of risk reduction – how do you maximize offensive capacity and defensive capability, ideally through keeping conflict at a distance?

Which brings us back to the drones, that marvellous military invention that takes this stepping-back process to new distances.  Now, not only can generals orchestrate war from the comforts of home, but soldiers can fight them without having to leave the office, either.  In addition to reducing risk to domestic assets and human resources, this innovation of war does something else – it removes any direct risk from the operators controlling them.  There’s no tangible consequence of any kind; just like a videogame, you can kill the bad guys, smash exotic environments and then go grab a Timmy’s when you’re done.

Without personal risk, there’s no reason to develop shared rules of combat.  When you don’t need to focus every ounce of attention to defending yourself or your family against an enemy, there’s no incentive to employ precision strikes.  That’s on your end of the game.  In the places where drones are dropping bombs, however, the consequences of war are still very real.  The people being hit aren’t just militants, but civilians in the wrong place – their home – all the time.  Were you in the shoes of these non-combatants, who would you label as the bad guy?

The Geneva Conventions are designed with state actors in mind and are built around a simple notion; that in war, when one nation loses, they admit defeat and the war is over.  Al-Qaeda is a non-state actor engaged in a no-fail mission to remake the world in their image.  They have no nation to be beaten and, as such, can plop themselves down anywhere, even among non-combatants.  Every strike made by their opponents against innocents plays into their objective. 

In using old-school military rules but employing modern military weapons, national actors like the US are causing unnecessary deaths and inciting their opponents to use increasingly unconventional tactics to try and regain the security that comes from a balance of power.  We’ve seen suicide bombers, anthrax mailings, planes flown into buildings and cyber-attacks.  When one opponent already bears all the risk, there’s no limit to the horrendously unorthodox tactics they can develop to even the playing field. 

Which is a big part of the reason why I prefer swords; it’s much harder to get lost in the Fog of War when you are personally staring down the sharp edge of combat.

Two Tiered Justice and Cognitive Dissonance in Canada

Warmington could be referring to the fact that City Councillors are getting slapped on the wrist for DUIs while everyone else suffers real consequences.  Or he could be referring to the fact that Toronto's Mayor Ford has made a mockery of the high office of the mayoralty.  He could even be referring to the hypocrisy of our Prime Minister, speaking out of one side of his mouth about the need for accountability at the highest levels among his opponents, but still clinging to the story that he knew nothing and has no responsibility over robocalls, the Senate scandal, etc, etc.

But no.

No, with this line Warmington is referring to Idle No More protesters, blocking a train.  I would agree with Warmington that they are breaking laws - laws which are meant to protect and defend them, but are failing to do so.  The Federal government has declared that it's too bad if Aboriginal women keep going missing or are murdered without justice - they've thrown some money at the problem and that's all they have to do.  It's too bad if Aboriginal youth are denied the starting-point opportunities of other Canadians - again, the law isn't about creating an even playing field, right? 

Add to that young people who pay big bucks for skills but can't find work, Somali-Canadian mothers with dead sons and no justice, civil rights groups and individuals that have been declared Enemies of the State and suffered consequences for that branding, etc., etc.

We have a very skewered sense of justice in this country.  The political right, ironically enough, wants individuals to fall in line and work within a system that is asymmetrically designed.  So what if you're marginalized? the message goes; work harder, it's up to you to overcome your own social-created plight.  If you can't, it means you haven't tried hard enough to overcome your ethnicity, your gender, your sexuality, your name or your postal code.  If you push back against social and legal injustice in a way that inconveniences the system (and the wealthy/influential who run it), you deserve punishment.  It's Dickensian.

The political left, the socialists, are the reverse - they want a system that enables individuals, providing but not empowering.  For these supposed socialists, it's the structural flaws of society that are at fault, and individuals are made to suffer.  However, strong societies are made up of strong individuals; when we don't empower individuals, we doom society to decay.

Canada is not a "1st world country" - there has always been pockets of extreme poverty dotted across the landscape, ranging from small rural communities without service access to massive urban slums and of course, out-of-sight, out-of-mind Aboriginal reserves.

There has never been social justice for all in this country.  People are weighed as individuals based on societal experiences and prejudices over which they have no control.  A disproportionate number of those from groups who have been marginalized throughout history are facing the sword, not the scales.   We have never had an even playing field.  People like Warmington who must surely be ignorant through personal experience or choice about these inequalities see justice as the thing that his class has and others are trying to take from them.  People like every Idle No More protester I have spoken to see justice as a thing that exists above them, out of reach. 

The more people with access and affluence choose to turn a blind eye to the two-tiered nature of justice we already have, the closer we slide into dystopian territory.

It's an uncomfortable reality we deal with; it's uncomfortable to think about.  It's far easier to find new ways to blame others than to accept that maybe our approach and own narrow view is part of the problem. 

We've seen a decrease in crime in this country - that has made us complacent.  It'd be a great tragedy if our own inability to think and act proactively leads us to a reversal of that trend.

Which leads us to that other piece of dissonance we are facing as a society; as we return to a mentality where bosses feel it's their job to threaten their workers into doing their job, leading to greater marginalization at the bottom, we have grassroots organizations steadily increasing the severity of their pressure on government. 

It's a cycle we have seen before and seem doomed to repeat.

Progressively Building Your Business Brand

Miguel Lima

Why am I posting this link?  And why does a Real Estate Agent remind me of Cheerios and Apple
Being profit-oriented doesn't mean you can't have a social conscience.  Quite the opposite - by empowering oft-neglected or marginalized groups, conscious capitalists are making a statement "whatever anyone else says, you are welcome here." 
That's free marketing, a great tool for building in customer loyalty but more important - by doing little things like portraying a mixed-ethnicity household (like mine is) or a gay couple buying a house and settling in, these businesses are saying "you are accepted; you belong."  Ultimately, that's the whole point of community - everything else stems from that.
Which is why, if you're buying a house in the Hamilton area, you owe it to yourself to check out Miguel Lima; buy a house, build a community.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Occupy, Idle No More, Voices-Voix: Our Grassroots are Showing

Occupy wasn't/isn't very organized, nor did it mean to be.  More than anything, Occupy could be seen as a cri du coeur, a call for attention.  Idle No More was a bit more concrete - it had/has spokespeople, more nuanced positions and requests.  Then you have organizations and movements ranging from Anonymous to 404 Systems Error to Samara to Why Should I Care, all engaging new methods and new technologies to build awareness, engagement and accountability.
Call me crazy, but I very much see a pattern in all of this.
Is the Voices-Voix Coalition the next iteration is this ongoing evolution of grassroots engagement?  If so, what does it mean for politics as a whole?

Canadian government enemy list: Voices-Voix letter to PM Harper

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A2
By fax: 613-941-6900
July 24, 2013

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you on behalf of Voices-Voix, a coalition of more than 200 national and local civil society organizations across the country.  We are seriously concerned about recent reports that your office had instructed government officials to compile “friend and enemy stakeholder” lists as part of the process of preparing briefing materials for new members of Cabinet.

Prime Minister, we are in particular deeply troubled about the use of the term “enemy”; seemingly to describe individuals or organizations with views critical of or in opposition to government policies and initiatives.  We call on you, as a matter of urgency, to make it clear that any such lists already compiled will not be used, no further lists will be prepared and that there is no place for such terminology in describing how the government perceives its critics.  Instead, it is vital that Canadians hear unequivocally and personally from you, acknowledging that your government accepts and welcomes opposition and disagreement as an essential dimension to developing strong public policy and maintaining a vibrant democracy.

Voices-Voix came together in 2010, reflective of growing concern that the space for civil society dissent and advocacy with respect to a range of critical social and public policy matters in Canada - including women’s equality, the environment and other human rights issues - has become significantly constrained, both directly and indirectly, through a variety of government decisions and actions in recent years.

We have researched and documented numerous instances of individuals and groups suffering serious financial, organizational and professional consequences because they have disagreed with the government.  We have also sought to engage with government, parliamentarians and the public with an eye to building deeper understanding of the crucial importance of ensuring that individuals, communities and organizations reflective of diverse and critical views are able to participate in public debates and discourse without fear of repercussion and with government support when necessary.

Given Voices-Voix’ focus on shoring up and bolstering the space for civil society advocacy and dissent in Canada, the news of the “enemy stakeholder” list is obviously of very serious concern.  At a time when many organizations and individuals are already nervous about publicly expressing disagreement with the government, additional hesitation that they may be labelled an “enemy” for doing so will inevitably increase that level of trepidation.  That in turn has very real implications for fundamental rights protected under international human rights law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.  This is of course worrying when it comes to the discussion and debate that is needed regarding the particular environmental, human rights and other issues that may be at stake; it is worrying more widely as well though with respect to the state of democracy in Canada.  Plain and simple, in a healthy democracy government does not publicly talk of its critics and detractors as enemies.

Prime Minister, civil society organizations across the country are waiting to see you demonstrate and assert the urgent leadership that is needed in the wake of the revelation of this intention to prepare enemy stakeholder lists; leadership that affirms and appreciates the work we do.  As such, we call on you to:   

  1. Make public any “enemy stakeholder” lists that may already have been compiled, confirm that such lists will not be used by the government, and make an unequivocal commitment to prepare no other such lists.
  2. State publicly that the government acknowledges and unequivocally welcomes the essential role of civil society in Canada across a range of activities, including service delivery, research and advocacy.
  3. Proactively seek regular opportunities to clearly state that the government does not see civil society groups that may be critical of government policies or initiatives as enemies, but rather as important partners in developing and delivering sound public policy and programs.
  4. Convene a multi-sector government/civil society roundtable process tasked with identifying measures that would strengthen the independence and better support the work of civil society groups in Canada.
The news that some members of government view civil society critics as enemies has become a source of considerable worry and consternation.  It can now serve as an opportunity for the government to renew that relationship, so as to bolster the many essential contributions that civil society groups make to both developing better understanding and addressing pressing social needs locally and nationally right across the country.

Representatives of the Voices-Voix Coalition would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and/or other government representatives to discuss our concerns and recommendations further.  A meeting can be arranged by contacting the Voices-Voix Coordinator Aurore Fauret by email at or by phone at 514 770 4950.


On behalf of the Voices-Voix Coalition Steering Committee
Alex Neve
Secretary General
Amnesty International Canada
Béatrice Vaugrante
Directrice Générale
Amnistie International Canada francophone
Robert Fox
Executive Director
Oxfam Canada
Leilani Farha
Executive Director
Canada Without Poverty Advocacy Network
Pearl Eliadis
Barrister and Solicitor
Lecturer, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Charis Kamphuis
Research Network on Dissent, Democracy and the Law
Julia Sanchez
Canadian Council for International Cooperation
Michel Lambert
Directeur général

Loyalty in Business and Politics

What is loyalty?  Is it partisan - my country right or wrong? Or is it through dedication to the mission and conscious support of decision makers?  When I think about loyalty, I always come back to this quote from Crimson Tide:
Be careful there, Mr Hunter. It's all I've got to rely on, being a simple-minded son of a bitch. Rickover gave me my command, a checklist, a target and a button to push. All I gotta know is how to push it, they tell me when. They seem to want you to know why.  

7 Qualities Of A Truly Loyal Employee

Dharmesh ShahDharmesh Shah

Founder and CTO at HubSpot

First things first: Where employees are concerned, loyalty has nothing to do with blind obedience, or unthinking devotion, or length of tenure.
Surprised? Think of it this way. Which employee displays greater loyalty?
1. The employee who has been with you for ten years and in that time has learned to do just enough to fly, unseen, under the performance issues radar, or
2. The employee who has been with you for 18 months and believes in where you’re going, how you want to get there – and proves it every day by her actions
Of course experience is important, but given the choice I'll take the employee behind door #2 every time.
At HubSpot we’re fortunate to have hundreds of extremely loyal employees. We're working hard to create a culture that recognizes and rewards true loyalty. We still have a long ways to go, but you can see our "work in progress" in our Culture Code slide deck.
Truly loyal employees are not just committed to helping their companies succeed; their loyalty is also displayed in other ways, some of them surprising.
1. They display loyalty through integrity.
Many people assume loyalty is proven through obedience: Often unthinking and unquestioning, even when a request or directive falls into a gray area or, worse, is unethical or illegal.
An employee who consistently seeks to do the right thing is not just following a personal credo – she’s also looking out for your long-term interests. You may see her as disloyal today… but in time you’ll realize that she displayed the highest form of loyalty by helping you avoid missing the “do the right thing” forest for the “do it right now” trees.
2. They generate discussions others will not.
Many employees hesitate to voice their opinions or feelings in a group setting. Some even hesitate to voice their opinions in private.
An employee once asked me a question about a new initiative. After the meeting I pulled him aside and said, “Why did you ask about our new pricing strategy? You know what we’re doing – you were part of the planning.” He said, “I do, but a lot of other people don't, and they’re hesitant to ask since they aren’t directly affected. I thought it would help if they could hear what you’re thinking and what we’re planning.”
Loyal employees have a great feel for the issues and concerns of the people around them, and they ask the questions or raise the important issues when others won’t. They know, for the company to succeed, that you need to know what employees are thinking… and that employees need to know what you are thinking.
3. They praise their peers.
Truly loyal employees care: About the company, about its customers, about its mission… they feel they’re working for something greater than just themselves. So they appreciate when another employee does something great because that means the company is fulfilling its mission.
Employees that praise and recognize others, especially when it’s not their job to do so, don’t just display great interpersonal skills. (When you do something well, praise from your boss feels great… but it’s also, at least generally speaking, expected. At least it should be. Praise from a peer feels awesome, especially when you respect that person.)
By praising others, they show they care.
Caring forms the basis of loyalty.
4. They dissent and disagree
Every great company fosters debate and disagreement. Every great leader wants employees to question, to deliberate, and to push back. Weighing the positives and negatives of a decision, sharing conflicting opinions, playing devil's advocate… disagreement is healthy. It’s stimulating. It leads to better decisions.
Loyal employees share their opinions, even when they know you may not initially appreciate those opinions, because they want the company to be better tomorrow than it is today. And they’ll occasionally take stands against a point of view or decision.
5. They support in public.
After a decision is made, loyal employees get behind that decision even if they privately disagree. And they don’t just pay the decision lip service; they support the decision as if it were their own – because when you’re loyal, every decision is, ultimately, your own.
When they disagree, some employees (the not so loyal ones), whether passively or actively, try to show that a decision they disagreed with was in fact wrong.
A truly loyal employee puts aside his feelings and actively tries to make every decision the right decision – instead of willing it to fail so they can prove themselves right.
6. They tell you what you least want to hear.
The Inverse Rule of Candor states that the greater the difference in “rank,” the less likely an employee will be to openly take a different position: An entry-level employee is fairly likely to tell his direct supervisor that he disagrees with that supervisor’s decision, but he is almost totally unlikely to tell his boss’s boss’s boss that he disagrees with his decision.
If you’re the CEO, that means your direct reports may pull you aside for an open, forthright chat… but few other employees ever will.
Truly loyal employees know that what you least want to hear may be what you – and by extension your company – most need to hear: That an initiative won’t work, that a decision-making process is flawed, that a mistake has been made… truly loyal employees realize that while you may not like what you hear, ultimately you want to hear it because what matters most is doing what is best for your employees, your customers, and your company.
Well-intended silence can be a good sign of loyalty; speaking up, especially when it’s awkward or even painful to do so, can be the best sign.
7. They leave when they need to leave.
If you can’t tell by now, a truly loyal employee is almost always a sensational employee. Often, they’re your best employees – so the last thing you want is for them to leave.
Yet sometimes they do: For a different lifestyle, for a better opportunity, for a chance to move to a different industry, or simply to take what they’ve learned and start their own company.
When it’s time, they tell you it’s time to leave – and they help you prepare to fill the hole they create.
You? You’re disappointed but you wish them well. For a time, even if only for a few years, they put your company’s interests ahead of their own…
…and now it’s your turn to do the same for them. Of course, you can always make your most convincing arguments to encourage them to stay (hey, you’re loyal too!) – but if it doesn’t work out, the right thing to do is to return their loyalty, wish them well and help them continue to stay awesome.
Dharmesh Shah is founder/CTO at HubSpot and blogs somewhat regularly at You can get new updates by clicking "Follow" at the top of this page.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Now that we can do anything, what will we do? (Massive Change)

I hate the term manifesto - it's too talk-oriented instead of being about action.  Instead, I see this as an invitation to board a train that's already leaving the station to a destination that's more about perspective than destination.
Below is the introduction to Massive Change (bold is mine mine):

The twentieth century will be chiefly remembered by future generations not as an era of political conflicts or technical inventions, but as an age in which human society dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective.
  - Arnold J. Toynbee, English historian (1889 - 1975)
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech on December 11, 1957, former Prime Minister of Canada Lester B Pearson quoted historian Arnold Toynbee, well known for his monumental A Study of History.  The main thesis of Toynbee's work is that the well being of a civilization depends on its ability to respond creatively to challenges, human and environmental.  He was optimistic about the twentieth century.  He believe that the cycle of rise and decline was not inevitable, that the future is not determined by the past, and that a civilization could choose and act wisely in the face of recurring hardships.  His prediction posed a challenge - and an opportunity - during the post WWII ear; it was significant enough for Pearson to reference it in the context of international peacekeeping during the Cold War era; it continues to challenge us today, into the twenty-first century.
Our world now faces profound challenges, many brought on by innovation itself.  Although optimism runs counter to the mood of the times, there are extraordinary new forces aligning around these great challenges, around the world.  If you put together all that's going on at the edges of culture and technology, you get a wildly unexpected view of the future.  Massive Change charts this terrain.
We will explore design economies
Not since the age of invention have so many new products, processes, and services become available to the public.  What we see over the last hundred and fifty years, and in a dramatically accelerated pace over the last fifty, is that design is changing its place in the order of things.  Design is evolving from its position of relative insignificance within business (and the larger envelope of nature), to become the biggest project of all.  Even life itself has fallen (or is falling) to the power and possibility of design.  Empowered as such, we have a responsibility to address the new set of questions that go along with that power.  At the same time, we acknowledge the hubris and inherent paradox of the new position we find ourselves in: We are designing nature and we are subject to her laws and powers.  This new condition demands that design discourse not be limited to boardrooms or kept inside tidy disciplines
As a first step to achieving this, we abandoned the classical design disciplines in our research and, instead, began to explore systems of exchange, or design "economies."  Instead of looking at product design, we looked at the economies of movement.  Instead of isolating graphic design, we considered the economies of information, and so on.  The patters that emerged reveal complexity, integrated thinking across disciplines, and unprecedented interconnectivity.
We will tap into the global commons
Massive Change is about the power and promise of design.  Design success equals global success.  What makes this possible is the radical change in scale in the capacity of design to meet human needs the world over.  Extraordinary projects are underway that are changing our world for the greater good.  Many of the people we include in Massive Change do not consider themselves designers.  But, if you listen carefully, they (and others like them) use the word design to describe their work; they speak about designing systems, designing organizations, designing organisms, designing programs.  We must applaud and participate in the efforts of these thought leaders (and doers) - or risk losing them.  There is an incredible story t o be told about human ingenuity!
The first step to its unfolding is to reject the binary notion of client/designer.  The next step is to look to what is going on, right now.  The old-fashioned notion of an individual with a dream of perfection is being replaced by distributed problem solving and team-based multi-disciplinary practice.  The reality for advanced design today is dominated by three ideas: distributed, plural, collaborative.  It is no longer about one designer, one client, one solution, one place.  Problems are taken up everywhere, solutions are developed and tested and contributed to the global commons, and those ideas are tested against other solutions.  The effect of this is to imagine a future for design that is both more modest and more ambitious.  More modest in the sense that we take our place in what our studio's chief scientist Bill Buxton calls the renaissance team, a group that collectively develops the capacity to deal with the demands of the  given project.  More ambitious in that we take our place in society, wiling to implicate ourselves in the consequences of our imagination.
We will distribute capacity
One thing is certain: We don't need a thought police.  We need discussion.  We need thinking.  We need critical faculties.  We need to embrace the dilemmas and conflicts in design, take responsibility for the outcomes of our work.  When we use the term "we," we don't mean designers as separate from clients, or as some extra-ordinary class of powerful overseers.  We mean "we" as citizens collectively imagining our futures.  It is critical that the discussions go beyond the design field themselves and reach out to the broadest audience, to the people directly affected by the work of designers.  The effect of the new conditions is to distribute potential, or capacity, worldwide and allow contribution by anyone, anywhere.  The future of global design is fundamentally collaborative.  In this condition there is no room for censorship.
We will embrace paradox
Massive Change calls for greater public discourse and personal responsibility for designers and their projects; at the same time, it is thrilled by the open-source effect of the cultural project of design.  The moment we came upon Toynbee's quote in Pearson's lecture, we knew we had our project because it included the phrase "practical objective"; it shifted the objective of the welfare of the human race from a utopian ambition - one that is by definition out of reach and will remain the realm of art - to a design project, a practical objective.
There is a proposal integrated into Massive Change for a right-angle shift in the axis of discourse defined by right and left, socialism and capitalism.  The new axis is defined by advanced retrograde, forward and reverse.  Plainly, Massive Change is a project that embraces the potential of advanced capitalism, advanced socialism, and advanced globalization.  In that sense, Massive Change is obviously ambitiously positive, and might be misunderstood as utopian at first glance.  But it is not futuristic.  It is about what is already happening.
We will reshape our future
Between 1965 and 1975,  r. Buckminster Fuller conducted five two-year "advanced design science" intensives and pulled together the results of the participants' research and analysis into several volumes of what he called the World Resources Inventory.  In Phase I of the work, "Inventory of World Resources Human Trend and Needs," he wrote, "There are very few men today who are disciplined to comprehend the totally integrating significance of the 99 percent invisible activity which is coalescing to reshape our future.  There are approximately no warnings being given to society regarding the great changes ahead.  There is only the ominous general apprehension that man may be about to annihilate himself.  To the very few who are disciplined to deal with the invisibly integrating trends it is increasingly readable in the trends that man is about to become almost 100 percent successful as an occupant of the universe."
This book is dedicated to all those with the discipline to comprehend the total integrating significance of the 99 percent invisible activity which is coalescing to reshape our future.  This is a beginning.

What workplaces need to learn from bees (Harvey Schachter)

Gives a whole new meaning to cross-pollination, doesn't it?

What workplaces need to learn from bees
David Zinger is a Winnipeg-based consultant who hosts a human hive, the 5,900 member Employee Engagement Network, for whom collaboration is a vital concern. Phil Veldhuis is a professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba who also happens to be a bee whisperer and bee hive keeper, hosting 1,200 hives with about 48 million swarming bees each summer. Aganetha Dyck is an award-winning artist who has created art with honeybees for two decades.
In recent years, the three got together to look at what could be learned about human collaboration from studying bees, and also to mix objects from the office with honeybees. The result was a reaffirmation of some prevailing wisdom on collaboration, some new insights, and a few computers and a cellphone encrusted in honey that have made for some unusual art objects.
“I thought there were a lot of connections between the way the bees work and the way we work in an office and use social media,” says Mr. Zinger in an interview.
For bees, the waggle is an essential approach. A waggle consists of figure-eight dances performed in the mosh pit of honeybees, designed to give direction. The scout bee’s waggle indicates to the rest of the colony where essential resources lie. Similarly, Mr. Zinger has collected a number of waggles – important directions for managers – that he shares in an e-book called Waggle, including:
One bee matters: At one point Mr. Zinger’s daughter Katherine was shooting a video of the installation of a computer in the hive when a bee landed on the beekeeper’s hand and began to sting him. When a worker bee stings, she dies. With 48 million bees, one bee seems insignificant – but not to Prof. Veldhuis. He gently wedged the stinger out of his palm, and set her free, demonstrating that one bee mattered. Often in our organizations, there seems to be so many people that we don’t have the time or energy to focus on their needs. But that teaching moment by Prof. Veldhuis suggested to Mr. Zinger “a level of caring we should be showing for people in our organizations. If you can care for one bee like that we can raise the ante in our organizations.” So while working collectively, he urges you not to lose sight of the individual, indicating with your daily actions that each person counts.
Small steps add big value: Honeybees are responsible for pollinating the entire crop of almonds in the United States. Their contribution is considered to be worth $2-billion. But each individual bee pollinates just 19 cents of almonds. “It’s never one bee that builds all those cells for a honeycomb,” adds Mr. Zinger. So at work, help each employee to understand how they can create value. Know that each employee makes a small, but important contribution, and think of the small steps that they can take to help your organization get ahead.
Success is in succession: Honeybees don’t live very long – perhaps a month in summer and six to seven months in winter – but during that brief lifetime they cycle through 15 to 20 tasks, including cleaning, brood tending, Queen tending, comb building, food handling, ventilation, guard duty, orientation flights and foraging. “The work flow and succession planning is phenomenal,” says Mr. Zinger. With that in mind, he suggests you consider whether you are ensuring there is someone ready or being trained for every role and function in your organization to make transitions seamless. Help employees to experience career progress and stop packaging work within tightly defined jobs and roles.
Go girl: Hives are female-dominated workplaces, with all the work done by females. Drones, the male honey bees, need help looking after themselves and have the sole purpose of mating with the Queen Bee. “Could being female or more female in how we work be the vital elixir of collaboration?” he asks in his book. In the interview, he is more cautious about going too far in differentiating between female and male characteristics. But research, he says, shows that certain behaviours associated with women – notably collaboration – can help organizations and it needs to be acknowledged that the highly productive beehive has a female culture.
Waggle while you work: You may not literally need to communicate by dance, but pay attention to communication in your leadership activity, letting people know where resources are and what is happening. Bees vote on a new home in quite a democratic way and organizations need to rethink in a social media world how better to tie everyone into decision-making. Perhaps the tendency of leaders to go off on private retreats for major decisions has to be replaced by more inclusive, social media gatherings to decide on strategy and purpose.
Pollinate profusely: Honeybees pollinate while gathering nectar from outside the hive. Similarly, you need to reach out beyond your hive, collaborating with others as you share and gather new ideas from everywhere.
He stresses you can go too far in the beehive metaphor, but still feels it’s helpful to employ this biological metaphor and look at our organizations differently. “It has been a fascinating project. I hope it’s a little nudge for people to think differently in their hive,” he says.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter