The World Cup as a universal language

Univision (a American Spanish speaking broadcast station) recently published that their non-Hispanic viewership is up 2/3rds since the last World Cup.  In a recent NYT vlog, one young American woman was quoted commenting on her preference of viewing the games on Univision, noting that even though she doesn’t know Spanish, it is more exciting to watch than the ESPN version because of the enthusiasm of the commentators. “When I listen to ESPN, it’s not quite the same” she said.  Another young  American guy explains why he goes to a primarily Mexican bar to watch on Univision: “The whole vibe of it is…. more like a party!”

What a beautiful articulation of the power of emotion and the transcendence of language! Excitement, enthusiasm, despair, and loyalty know no language barriers – they are transcendent and powerful in any voice. If you are watching the World Cup tomorrow, consider checking out a few minutes in Univision even if you don’t speak Spanish. You just might be caught up in the power of it all in a different way, and who knows what might happen then :)

#likeagirl takes on redefining a huge cultural assumption

When I was growing up, doing something “like a girl” meant being substandard, clumsy, inadequate, or at a minimum being kinda dumb. The implied inverse, that doing something “like a boy” meant competent, strong, tough, or brave, was equally accepted.

The recent Always campaign to challenge what it means to do something “like a girl” is a beautiful articulation of this problematic phrase that we all know so well. People sometimes say to me “it is just an expression” or “it doesn’t really matter” when I challenge them about using these types of sayings.  If you think it doesn’t matter, check out the video, and really consider what you are saying when you use that type of language. Kind, generous, supportive, lovely people say these sorts of things all the time without thinking about what it really means, and changing that for girls everywhere is important in changing mindsets all over the world. It does matter.  Language matters, assumptions matter, and it is important for girls to hear that being “like a girl” is awesome – strong, independent, capable, and full of joy.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it:

 

In defense of libraries

It seems that periodically these days we hear about the coming demise of libraries. They are framed as dinosaurs, inelegant reminders of a space that has outlived its usefulness. Sometimes I wonder if the authors of these articles have been to a library recently.

Today I went to our local library, a typical suburban location with a reasonable socio-economic mix around it, just off of a strip mall. There is nothing remarkable about it from a location perspective that would make it particularly more or less busy as a library. It certainly isn’t anything like the libraries built as testaments to the written word. It opens at 10am on Wednesdays, and at 9:55 there was a line of people at the door about 15 deep.  I got in line, and by the time the doors opened at 10, there were about 6 or 7 more people behind me.

By all appearances, the crowd was a mix of people.  A mother and her teen age son were in line ahead of me, they were there for his weekly meeting with his math tutor, who was apparently in line behind me. I later saw the two of them in one of the small conference rooms, math on the white board, and deep in conversation. A mother with a small child and a stack of books was there for a drop off and restock. The minute she got through the entrance, the little girl said “Mommy, I’m going to go read OK?” and took off for the children’s section without hesitation. A man in a wheelchair made his way through the door and to a workstation where he got online – he was deeply engrossed in the news when I walked by about an hour later, although I’d observed several visitors and employees saying hello to him and stopping to chat. For that matter, the workstations with internet access were in constant full use – a good reminder that not everyone has access at home, either because of coverage, cost, or equipment requirements. A few older people quietly played cards in one of the side rooms, and several read the newspaper or a magazine in the periodical section. Other people browsed the stacks, stopping to check out the ‘staff picks’ and new releases. Me?  I was there to check out a few audio books for an upcoming road trip.

Maybe someday paper books, newspapers, and magazines will be obsolete, but the role of a library in a community is so much more than that of a warehouse. It isn’t just a place to put physical books and have people take them away and return them.  A library is a neighborhood asset, a connection place, a space where community happens.  San Antonio’s book less library has gotten some good press (see here for the recent Times article), an interesting experiment in what purpose libraries really serve, and how users want to consume literature as well as congregate.  The Pew Institute tells us that e-reader use is up, and printed media use is down, so as I said at the beginning, I accept that physical objects may go away. But be cautious of writing off the library too quickly as obsolete. Losing libraries would be losing so much more than a roof over the paper on which stories are printed.

Amsterdam’s Central Library, Photograph: View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images

Amsterdam’s Central Library, opened in 2007.

Remember Boston – The power of imagery

A year ago two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. Four people were killed, hundreds were wounded, and thousands of lives were changed forever. Today marks the anniversary, and in taking a moment to remember, I visited Robert Fogarty’s amazing website, Dear World.  Robert uses images in pictures and video to capture the essence of what people want and need to communication.  Their stories are told so simply and so powerfully in his work.  It is a wonderful reminder that often in communication less is more, and that stories transcend in our memories.

Check them out and take a minute today to remember not just Boston, but those around the world who have been just going about their lives only to be caught up in something that has nothing to do with them. What they do then is astounding in its resilience, its hopefulness, and its testament to the power of the human spirit.

Robert Fogerty’s Dear World Series on Boston Survivors Robert Fogarty's Boston Pictures

 

Truth or power – can you tell the difference?

Today we have more transparency and access to information than ever before. Sometimes it is overwhelming, other times it is wonderful to have so much at our finger tips. It makes us feel we have all sorts of ways to find”the truth” about almost anything.

It is still challenging to find ‘the truth’  though, and perhaps it is bound up in the way we cling to a belief in “the truth” – a single, finite, ultimate truth about something that is “the last word”. Is there ever really a single truth, a final statement? Think about all of the truths that have been debunked or modified over the centuries as the political power structures have changed. Try to imagine for a moment the truths we believe in today that will seem quaint or even harmful in years to come.

Nietzsche said that “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” It may be tough to accept that our fundamental beliefs, our most deeply held truths, are influenced by functions of power. When we challenge power structures, we challenge truths, and that can be dangerous business. But, if we can’t be at least open to the possibility, our worlds are very narrow.

One of our biggest challenges as humans is to really see power at work in our worlds and to acknowledge how it influences our beliefs, what we hold to be true. We naturally tend to view truths provided by powers that privilege and reinforce us as ‘correct’ and truths provided by powers that challenge, disrupt, or threaten us as being ‘incorrect’ or ‘not true’ and we look for evidence to support that.  Science is as susceptible to this influence as any truth-making machinery ever invented, even with the controls it has in place – the constraint Nietzsche describes is everywhere.

Perhaps we can’t escape it, but don’t be afraid to question the ways in which power influences your interpretation of what is true and not true. Be bold in examining how your own power is supported by what you choose to view as true. It can be scary to think about what happens then – once you’ve stripped away some of the reassurances and gotten below the surface, but it can also help you to develop whole new views, attitudes, and approaches to the world, which is pretty cool to do.

From Crystal Coast Optometry, here's an optical illusion that will challenge you to think about how your eyes can deceive you from the truth - are the dots really moving?

From Crystal Coast Optometry, here’s an optical illusion that will challenge you to think about how your eyes can deceive you from the truth – are the dots really moving?

 

Are you a curious person?

A few posts back I talked about curiosity feeding innovation (see here).

I think that people who are known for innovation are naturally curious not just about their specific areas of expertise but about the world at large. They talk to people, they take an interest in what others do and think, and they naturally expose themselves to new ideas.

If you want to develop your curiosity, start with your immediate surroundings. What are three things in your  world that you take for granted, that you don’t understand, or that you might have wondered about? Maybe it is what the person three offices down really does, or how WiFi really works, or if those three different kinds of fuel at the pump really matter for your car. Whatever it might be, pick one and spend just a few minutes investigating and learning.  It doesn’t take signing up for a semester long course or some other big commitment to develop your curiosity – it can be as simple as asking a few questions every day. Soon enough being curious will be a habit you can’t live without, and wait until you see what happens then!

The other day I was curious about this sign at the local bagel shop. When I went in I had to ask….. wouldn’t you  ??

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..

 

What happens then? You just come back.

Two months ago I put my blog on hiatus while I finished up a very cool project with a great client,  then went on a family vacation, and then had some downtime at home.  As I sat down last week to start writing again, I got a call from a former coaching client and we had a great conversation. He is interested in starting a blog, and I mentioned that I was getting back to writing this week. He asked me if it was hard to get started again and I said “well, you know, you just come back. There are no rules, there’s no etiquette, there’s not a process map to follow.  You just start writing again, it really is that simple.”

For those of you who have been reading for a while, thank you, welcome back, and I hope you enjoy this month’s focus on driving business results through innovative approaches to thinking about products, customers, markets, and sales. If you are new, please feel free to say hello, send in any questions or suggestions, and / or peruse the past.  I’m looking forward to getting back to writing, and to hearing about your experiences, questions, and thoughts.

In the meantime, enjoy this picture from my recent holiday in Cayman Brac, a lovely island with friendly people and fantastic diving!

Sunrise off of Cayman Brac

Sunrise off of Cayman Brac

GenT – How Transparency is rocking our world at work, at home, at life

There’s been a lot of discussion about NetGen, or the Millinials, but to me, the defining characteristic of today’s generation is transparency. Kids are growing up in an environment where everything they do and say is shared with broad audiences, and where digital archives are an accepted part of life. People in their 20s and 30s have spent the majority of their work lives in a digital world, where easy replication of once sensitive information is commonplace. Perspectives on what is private and what is OK to share are changing rapidly.

Transparency has some wonderful results – once taboo sujects like abuse, rape, hazing, government overreach, and workplace dangers are brought out of the shadows and into the national conversation, helping survivors to heal and assisting in the prevention of such behaviors going forward. In the workplace, sharing ideas, solutions, and having broader, more open conversations help drive creative solutions. Collaboration requires transparency and authenticity to be successful, and learning to work in a transparent world is a critical skill.

But transparency also introduces new problems for society to understand and address. Intrusions on privacy, protecting corporate practices and intellectual property, and respecting individual boundaries are all areas that start to shift when transparency is more accepted. What is private, the perceived need to protect, the value of sharing, and where exactly individual boundaries lie are all changing, and management approaches, policies, and social contracts need to keep up.

If your workplace isn’t thinking about the impact of changing social mores around transparency, now is the time to start.  Try these three questions to get the conversation going, and see what happens then.  Keep in mind that assumptions are usually driven by people with more tenure, and may be hard to surface if you don’t really dig deep.

  1. What are current assumptions about what is confidential and what isn’t?
  2. Are those assumptions really reflecting current behaviors and common understanding?
  3. If not, do you need to update the assumptions or address the behaviors?

 

 

One is the loneliest number when it comes to knowledge

When I’m working with companies on understanding and improving their approach to content management and knowledge sharing (formerly known as “knowledge management”), it always strikes me how some people want to get down to “just one” solution.  Just one repository, just one social platform, just one process, having Just One seems like a neat and tidy solution.

Here’s a problem that comes with the Just One direction (and not just that it comes with a boy band attached…..) – the governance and oversight required to sustain it is often extensive. So all you really do is move the complexity to the governance work, generally it fails to meet local needs, and eventually people will do their own thing anyway in order to survive.

It is, in my opinion, better to design a solid information architecture and infrastructure within which both general and specialized repositories and networks can co-exist. Solid guidelines give people the ability to create what works for them and the local culture of their teams / functions / work processes. At the same time, guidelines give everyone the boundaries within which they can be most successful.  If you have that in place, it actually doesn’t matter how many repositories or social spaces you have, because they are all following similar guidelines and a common architecture, but they are building what they need for their local needs and wants.

I equate it to driving down the highway – we all know the basic rules of the road – speed limits, how to use on and off ramps, staying in lanes, etc. As the saying goes, in the law, there is freedom. Generally people follow the same flow, but in very different ways – people use a car, a truck, or a motorcycle depending on their needs and resources, and the way they drive depends on the training they’ve received and their personalities, but for the most part it works pretty well considering all of the variables in play.

Don’t Crowdsource Your Opinions?

I saw a Cigna billboard yesterday that said “Don’t Crowdsource Your Opinions”.  I think the point is that we should think for ourselves. But, aren’t our opinions always “crowdsourced”?  It seems like our opinions are formed by all of the inputs we take in from around us – where we get our news, the ways in which we experience the world, the people with whom we interact all play into how we form our opinions.

Maybe it is even more dangerous to NOT crowdsource our opinions. When we form our opinions in isolation, or without a variety of inputs, we run the risk of being narrow minded (a problem I wrote about last month). So there’s some kind of magic that happens between listening to the crowd and forming our own thoughts that makes us interesting people with independent but informed thoughts. It is tough to work with intention at balancing listening to the crowd and thinking for ourselves, but when we do great things happen.