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Friday, December 02, 2016

Enough

"How often should I post?" is a question I am often asked. It came up again recently when I was working with a very busy chief executive who clearly saw posting on social media as a burden and I was there to encourage them to have a go.

Another question I am often asked, invariably in a judgemental tone, is "How much time do you spend on all this stuff?" to which my reply is "Enough".

Enough to build and maintain connection with other people. Enough to work out what is happening around me and in my own head. Enough to help others interested in doing the same thing.



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Thursday, December 01, 2016

How to practice storytelling while getting real work done

Twenty years ago, psychologist Anders Ericsson conducted research on what it takes to build expertise. Mere practice is not enough. If practice is all it takes to be great, taxi drivers would be the best drivers in the world. Ericsson discovered it takes a special type of practice to build better skills.

He called it deliberate practice.

Inspired by Ericsson’s research, we began incorporating deliberate practice into our story programs a few years ago. It was clear to us that merely attending a storytelling workshop was not enough for someone to change their behaviour. Sustained effort was needed, and ways of staying motivated to practice the newly acquired storytelling skills.

How to practice storytelling.
Now all our training modules include a six-month deliberate practice program, to help embed what people learn in the face-to-face elements of our sessions. It’s a mixture of online, teleconference and video coaching. We’ve seen tremendous results, but there is a particular challenge to overcome in truly embedding these new skills in a workplace.
For years, Anders Ericsson’s research could only be found in journal articles and weighty tomes such as The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. Then his work became famous thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers, especially the 10,000-hour rule (Gladwell penned this snappy but slightly inaccurate aphorism to remind us that it takes about 10,000 hours practice to be an expert in something).

Yet the general public only heard a small part of Ericsson’s thinking – like Gladwell, they missed some of the important features of deliberate practice.
Earlier this year, Ericsson and co-author Robert Pool brought these ideas to the public’s attention by publishing Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, which tells you what you need to do to practice deliberately.

The essential features of deliberate practice are fourfold

  • You must be motivated and willing to exert yourself to improve.
  • Practice tasks should be designed to build on pre-existing knowledge and skills.
  • You must repeat the same or similar tasks.
  • You should receive immediate and informative feedback.

 

Let’s focus on the last point. Clearly, feedback, and by extension coaching, are vital for successful practice. But the problem with most workplaces is that people rarely have time to attend practice and get feedback from a coach. So how can you find ways to practice while getting real work done?
Here’s what we suggest when we teach storytelling to sellers (something similar was mentioned in Peak). Just before a seller gives a presentation to prospects, they should share with their colleagues how they’re going to use the opportunity to practice and improve their storytelling. For example, to begin with, this might be as simple as saying, ‘I’m going to tell two stories in my presentation’.

As they progress, the seller can make their goal more challenging: ‘I’m going to make my story quite visual so the audience really feels like they’re there’.

After the presentation, the seller’s colleagues give feedback on what they liked and what could have been done better. In this way, the seller’s storytelling skills will keep improving – though only as long as they keep challenging themselves. Feeling challenged is an important indicator that learning is happening. If what you are doing is a breeze, chances are you’re not learning.

Practice storytelling and it becomes more natural

I used to teach eight-year-olds how to play basketball. For many kids, it was their first experience of the game. One vital skill they had to learn was the lay-up. The way I taught them was to get each child to stand to the right of the basket (if they were right-handed), hold the ball in their right hand and rest it against their right ear. Then I’d ask them to push the ball from their ear up into the basket. At first the kids found this difficult but very quickly they started to get it.

When they could do that, I’d get them to take a couple of steps back and then step towards the basket start with their right foot, then left foot, then shoot. When they got that, I’d ask them to repeat the drill while taking a few bounces before their steps. Pretty soon they could all do lay-ups. Each stage of the learning process felt clunky to them to start with, but before long it all felt natural.

We aim for a similar progression of learning with our storytellers. They have to be willing to feel clunky at first, knowing it will feel natural soon enough.
You won’t get better at storytelling by simply talking about it. True, stories are memorable and meaningful, and yes, they each have a beginning, a middle and an end, but discussing this is virtually useless in building the skill of storytelling.

You only get better by telling stories and getting feedback, ideally where it really matters – in the workplace.
As a sidebar, if someone purports to be a storytelling expert but they don’t tell any stories, don’t waste your time with them. If you want to know when stories are being told, check out our story spotting framework

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Friday, November 18, 2016

KM Opps, Realities & Challenges #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Title and Description: KM Opps, Realities & Challenges

New opportunities, new realities, and some old challenges.

Forces transforming “knowledge” and “knowledge sharing” include globalization, the information tsunami, on-demand expectations, flexible talent models, and cognitive technologies. This is the new reality of business and the enterprise, but the strategic choices we make to deliver knowledge at the point of need are not so different and represent new opportunities to familiar challenges.  Jooste discusses cognitive  technology, how millennials are remaking organizations and may be KM’s best new hope, “reinventing failure,” stopping knowledge from walking out the door, brain science and future scenarios for KM – disruption, design thinking, indifference or

Forces transforming “knowledge” and “knowledge sharing” include globalization, the information tsunami, on-demand expectations, flexible talent models, and cognitive technologies. This is the new reality of business and the enterprise, but the strategic choices we make to deliver knowledge at the point of need are not so different and represent new opportunities to familiar challenges.  Jooste discusses cognitive  technology, how millennials are remaking organizations and may be KM’s best new hope, “reinventing failure,” stopping knowledge from walking out the door, brain science and future scenarios for KM – disruption, design thinking, indifference or appification?

Speakers: Adriaan Jooste, CKO, Deloitte Advisory

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2016 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Experience.  “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”
  • Knowledge Management Waves and Tsunamis. KM has gone through waves — moving through one industry to another. However, now we face a tsunami in the workplace:
    • The sheer amount of information leads to cognitive overload. Cognitive overload leads us to narrowed focus, which hampers creativity.
    • Rob Cross reports that for the average worker, requests to collaborate have gone up by 80%. (This is taken from a recent Rob Cross podcast.)
    • Email is growing worse; it is not going away
    • We suffer from inefficient processes.
  • KM Disruption. How have we handled disruption? How are we handling current and potential disruptive forces?
    • moving from storytelling to books
    • moving from books to computers
    • moving from computers to websites
    • incorporating AI
    • distributing content managers around the world
    • sharing knowledge globally across international organizations
    • search — no one in the room believes that their enterprise search is within 30% as good as Google
    • mobile and tablets — only a handful of people in the room believe that their organizations have good mobile apps
    • analytics and Big Data —  no one in the room has incorporated analytics or big data in their KM efforts
    • blockchain — one or two attendees in the room are investigating this but no one in the room is using blockchain for KM.
    • flexible talent models — working with colleagues who are not always employees
    • virtual reality or augmented reality — why can’t your KM system be like Pokemon Go?
    • cognitive computing
  • Most promising Cognitive Technologies. Deloitte is working on several innovative programs using the new technologies listed below. In fact, Deloitte has won awards for using these innovative tools in one of the most conservative aspects of their business: audit. For more information on this, see the Deloitte MOOC on cognitive technologies.
    • Natural language processing
    • Computer vision
    • Machine Learning
    • Text Mining
    • Robotics
    • Speech Recognition
    • Sensing and Shaping
  • The impact of Cognitive Computing on KM. Cognitive computing will disrupt business and we will see its impact on knowledge management. Don’t be misled into believing that this is an “edge” technology. It is here and it is being used to powerful effect by market leaders.
  • Globalization. Deloitte’s clients want access to standardized services globally but they still value local creativity and responsiveness to their local context.
  • Millennials are our best hope for KM.
    • Their natural bent is toward sharing
    • They want work-life balance
    • They tend not to stay in one place long. So Deloitte focuses increases speed to competency. And then, when they move on, Deloitte has a program that treats them as “colleagues for life.”
      • Deloitte has built “Deloitte University” to train their employees — particularly their millennials.
    • They like rewards and recognition — they particularly want recognition for work well done.
    • They care about doing well by doing good.
    • They like having the latest technology.
  • KM Success depends on Behavior Change. KM has many of the same characteristics as lifestyle choices (e.g., exercising, sleeping, eating properly, etc.). You need to make the change, and hten make a commitment to sustain that change and to work continually on improving your outcomes. Success requires information, support, and feedback. Therefore, use what we know about brain science to improve the rate of behavior change.  For example, if you receive positive feedback when someone uses content you have contributed, then your brain gets a little opioid hit. This encourages you to contribute more.
  • KM and Innovation. KM should support innovation. But it isn’t just about enabling innovation more, it is really about increasing the rate of adoption of innovation.
  • KM Lessons learned at Deloitte.
    • Governance is fundamental to good KM.
    • Your KM program must be tailored to your organization’s context.
    • Invest in a formal knowledge management approach
    • Continually make the business case — daily
    • KM is an evolutionary process
    • Point solutions are a double-edged sword
    • Technology is not a panacea for KM ills
  • Moving your organization from a negative to a positive view of KM.
    • KM is “the thing that must not be named.” — if you have any KM, it is hidden within a quality or other program (e.g., six sigma, project management, etc.)
    • Active resistance — These people do not think KM is useful. These active resisters can be extremely effective missionaries once they are won over. So focus on them. And, in the process, you will learn the most and sharpen your game.
    • Passive resistance
    • Indifference
    • Benevolent neglect
    • Active support
    • Essential to organizational success and survival — this the optimum
  • Optimistic Future of KM.
    • no email
    • no website — just use apps
    • designing thinking builds knowledge into every step of every process your people do
  • The Three Pilot Rule
    • do one easy pilot so you have a quick win
    • do a tough pilot so you learn
    • do a pilot that will make senior leadership pay attention and then sign the checks you need

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Be Agile Not Fragile #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description: To be agile in knowledge management, and to innovate, Garfield suggests the following principles: identify three key business objectives, focus more on helping people use processes effectively, improve decisions, actions, and learning, connect people to each other so they can help each other at the time of need, implement, improve, and iterate. To avoid being fragile, steer clear of these traps: maturity models, best practices, metrics for the sake of metrics, certification, tool rollout and adoption, personality tests, corporate speak and more! Sure to spark an interesting discussion so don’t miss this session.

Speaker: Stan Garfield, Knowledge Manager, Author Implementing a Successful KM Programme; Founder, SIKM Leaders Community

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2016 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Fragile things typically are:
    • Large
    • Overly optimized — they are too smart for their own good; they are obsessed with standardization and efficiency
      • this works if everything goes according to plan
      • BUT things rarely go exactly according to plan — Randomness is the Rule (not the exception) — in the face of random errors or problems, the fragile system cannot cope with the variability
    • Brittle — they don’t have the innate ability to fend off stress
  • Fragilistas:  these are people who try to eliminate volatility.
    • Helicopter parents try to make life as safe as possible for their children but in the process they deprive their children of the ability to learn how to cope with variability and randomness.
  • How to avoid becoming a Fragilista? Avoid these behaviors
    • Maturity models and benchmarking: it’s good to learn from others but don’t try to conform to a rigid model.
      • Seth Godin: “Benchmarking against the universe actually encourages us to be mediocre, to be average, to just do what everyone else is doing.”
    • Best Practices suggest that the ideal has been achieved. Rather it’s better to look for (and then adapt for your context) “proven practices” that fit your environment.
    • Metrics for the sake of metrics — avoid tracking every random thing. Make sure there is a business reason for tracking something.
    • Certification — taking a one-week class in KM is not enough to be a KM expert. Focus on learning not on certification.
    • Tool Rollout and Adoption — don’t fixate on rolling out tools and then “driving” adoption. The better approach is to start with understanding the needs of the organization rather than finding a use for the tool you have purchased.
    • Personality Tests — each person is unique, not an oversimplified archetype. Why do we need this categorization? What is the practical use?
    • Corporate Speak — don’t use buzzwords, insider jargon, or corporate lingo. Refuse to use them —  use words and expressions that are widely understood if your intent is to communicate clearly.
    • Do as I say, not as I do — you must practice what you preach.  Your senior management must lead by example. (And the KM team must lead by example too.) People will closely observe the actions of leaders and mimic them. Therefore, model the desired behaviors.
    • Secrecy — don’t give lip service to transparency while continuing to operate in a closed manner. Communicate frequently, truthfully, and openly.
    • Mediocracy — man organizations have leaders have little (if any) talent and skill who nevertheless are dominant and highly influential. Leaders should serve their people and  treat them with respect.
  • Unfragile behaviors
    • people can’t find information
    • People are reluctant to ask for help in public
    • organizations want to push information out
  • How to Move from fragile to agile?
    • Make content easy to find
      • let users tag content to indicate “I reused this document” or “I found this document helpful”
      • figure out what documents are most important to your organization and force those to the top of the search results
    • Assist people when they ask for help
      • make it easy to figure out where to ask a question
      • train people to ask questions in community spaces
    • Use the power of pull
      • don’t force content on others
      • make your content/tool so attractive that people are eager to opt in
  • What would a “self-healing” KM system look like? (Question from Christian de Nef)
    • Simplicity
    • Mobility — easy to switch from one platform to another
    • Knowledge systems that do not rely on technology

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Rebooting KM with Purposeful Collaboration #ArkKM

Title: Rebooting KM with Purposeful Collaboration, Silo-Busters, and Ambient Knowledge

Speaker: Stuart Barr, Chief Strategy Office, HighQ

Session Description: Traditional KM has focused on accumulating and organizing knowledge that you know people need and trying to make sure it’s available when they need it. But what about what is known but not documented? Or the knowledge trapped in silos that are completely unstructured and inaccessible? In this session, Stuart Barr will explore how to break down traditional barriers to knowledge sharing, capture knowledge as people get their work done and automate knowledge extraction to drive new insight from your historical data.

[These are my notes from the 2016 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Traditional Approaches to KM
    • Collecting knowledge
    • Connecting that knowledge to people
    • Tying that knowledge to the organization’s productivity systems
    • Automating knowledge systems
  • Challenges to Traditional Approaches to KM
    • They usually are manual processes
    • They are siloed — both the repositories are siloed and the processes are siloed
    • They often are concentrated on “known knowns” — mainly the obvious knowledge is “hunted down and captured.”
    • People are not always motivated to contribute
    • You need to connect the knowledge to people more effectively
      • connect with experts
      • enable people so they can ask their questions in the open — this openness spreads knowledge and emboldens people to ask the questions they might have been afraid of asking.
    • We are stuck in very old ways of work = Ineffective Collaboration
      • Email is a massive “Black Hole” of knowledge. It is where knowledge goes to die.
      • Most firms have not found a way to collaborate. They do not realize that email was not designed for true collaboration.
  • Why is Social Collaboration Useful?
    • Assuming it is implemented correctly, it can provide a “peripheral vision” or “ambient awareness” of what is happening within an organization. This makes a knowledge worker much more plugged in and effective.
    • It provides passive access to information (e.g., the activity stream, group conversations, etc.)
    • It also enables active collaboration (e.g., shared workspaces)
    • It helps people share information actively, for example, by @ mentioning someone to draw their attention to an issue or to specific content.
  • Digital Transformation can drive KM. That said, KM should be at the heart of your digital transformation strategy. When done properly, digital transformation changes the way people connect, communicate and work.
  • What comes next?
    • Analyzing the data that are captured through your knowledge tools and social collaboration tools.
    • Coupled with machine learning, you can understand what content is important. In fact, you could provide digital assistants that can help knowledge workers find the content they need.
  • Conclusion
    • We need to keep doing traditional KM
    • But we also need to use more social ways of
    • We need to connect our systems of record to our systems of engagement
    • Collect and analyze the data about our work behaviors so we can make our systems and processes better
    • Use machine learning & AI to take these insights and enable digital assistance at the point of need
  • Audience Discussion:
    • How social collaboration helps strengthen law firm information security:
      • Meredith Williams (CKO, Baker Donnelson) noted that phishing is one of the biggest information security vulnerabilities for law firms. Often the dangerous emails masquerade as internal emails. (She estimated that 20% of emails are purely internal.) If you move those internal conversations into a social platform, you reduce the number of emails that can be used for phishing schemes.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Unmet Need for Trusted Talent Advisors

In a world that’s changing ever more rapidly, we all need trusted advisors. It’s a significant unmet need that creates a very attractive business opportunity. This has been a central part of my research and writing for almost 20 years since I published a book on the topic, Net Worth. Most recently, I returned to this subject in a blog post.

Today I want to make an important distinction between two major trusted advisor opportunities. So far, most of my writing has been about “trusted customer advisors” – businesses that will proactively help us to connect with the products and services that are most relevant to our needs and aspirations as we confront a growing array of options competing for our attention in the marketplace. Digital technology infrastructures are for the first time making it possible to take this business model and make it a mass market offering, rather than something that is only accessible to the very wealthy.

But there’s another trusted advisor opportunity – something that I call the “trusted talent advisor.” What’s that? It’s someone who proactively helps us to learn faster by developing a deep understanding of our individual context, capabilities and aspirations and connecting us with services and resources that will help us to achieve more of our potential.

Forces shaping the unmet need

Why is this becoming so important? Because we live in a world of mounting performance pressure where we can’t afford to stand still and rest on the certificates and accomplishments of the past. Unless we accelerate our ability to learn and achieve more and more of our potential, we are at increasing risk of experiencing growing stress, becoming more and more marginalized and ultimately dropping out.

And to add to the pressure, our educational systems are fundamentally broken. We’re paying more and more for diminishing value. Think about it. What’s the model of education?

You go to school for a specified number of years and receive a certificate verifying that you have mastered certain skills and then you leave education behind and go into the workforce to apply what you’ve learned. And, while you go to school, your key assignment is to “fit in” – to be successful, you need to adapt to the institution and listen carefully to the sage on the stage who will transmit to you the knowledge and skills required to be successful. This model worked very well in more stable environments where the key challenge was to learn a fixed set of skills and fit into institutions driven by scalable efficiency.

In a world that’s increasingly going exponential, shaped by digital technologies and a proliferation of knowledge flows on a global scale, the half lives of any given skills are shrinking at a rapid rate. Learning becomes a life long imperative, not something that we can compartmentalize into a certain number of years at the beginning of our lives. Learning becomes far less about absorbing existing knowledge from a sage on a stage and much more about developing a growing capacity to create new knowledge and skills in collaboration with others in our unique context.

Rather than trying to “fit in”, our key to success increasingly becomes the ability to “step out” – exploring challenges and opportunities that have never been encountered before. Most fundamentally, the imperative is to find, connect with and pursue a passion that will motivate us to learn faster and take the significant risks that entails – we need to cultivate the “passion of the explorer.”

What's required to address that unmet need?

So, who’s going to help us do this? It’s a growing unmet need that creates a significant business opportunity. What we all need is someone who knows us very deeply and better than anyone else and who will use that knowledge to proactively recommend actions that will help us to learn faster. We need someone whom we can trust to be on our side – aggressively helping us to achieve more of our potential, wherever that might take us. We need someone who will challenge us to get out of our comfort zone and to abandon beliefs that are becoming obstacles to success. And we need that person to be at our side, through thick and thin, regardless of where our journey might take us.

Now, at one level, we’ve all had exposure to people who help us in becoming better. Many of us have been fortunate enough to have mentors who have provided valuable advice at critical turning points in our lives. Most of us who have close friends who challenge us to become better and help us along the way to achieve more in our lives.

On a commercial level, there are lots of players emerging to address elements of this need. I’m struck by the growth of executive coaches, personal trainers and mindfulness advisors. At another level, we have the growth of incubators and shared workspace providers that offer some of the services I am describing in a business context.

But most of these providers are still targeting narrow slices of our needs in terms of talent development – they don’t seek to address all of our talent development needs in a more holistic way. The trusted talent advisors that I’m describing would connect their clients with these more specialized providers when the need arises, but they would be focused on becoming an overall orchestrator of specialized services, driven by a deep understanding of our overall needs and aspirations. By the way, one of the key services of a trusted talent advisor would be to connect us with a small community of people who are in a similar context and driven by similar passion so that we can learn faster by sharing our experiences, holding each other accountable and encouraging each other when unexpected obstacles arise.

And there’s a growing amount of technology, loosely grouped into the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and data analytics categories, that provide an opportunity for trusted talent advisors to gain growing insight into who we are, what we’re doing and what we’re accomplishing. It’s this growing technology infrastructure that makes it feasible to take the trusted talent advisor business model to the mass market, rather than just restricting it to the very affluent.

Why is this such an interesting business opportunity?

There’s a big white space remaining to be targeted. This business is a particularly interesting opportunity because it’s likely to be driven by powerful economies of scope. What do I mean by that? Think about it. The more this business knows about you, the more helpful it can be to you. If the provider only knows a narrow slice of who you are, the provider can be helpful in a limited way, but it will never match the potential value of someone who knows much more about you. And the more clients this business serves, the more helpful it can be to each client, because it can start to see patterns in terms of what drives accelerated learning and performance improvement for people like you. In short, the broader the business, the more value it can deliver relative to more narrowly focused providers. These economies of scope are likely to drive  the emergence of very large businesses over time.

Of course, acquiring such deep and broad knowledge about you will require deep trust. You need to be convinced that this provider is on your side, representing your interests alone, and won’t use this data to your disadvantage. It’s for this reason that I’ve suggested that the winning business model for a trusted advisor will be one where the clients pay the advisor, rather than having an advisor who is dependent on advertising revenue or commissions received from vendors. If you’re paying the bills and retain ownership rights to the data you are providing to your advisor, the advisor is much more likely to be on your side of the table, representing your interests.

There’s certainly a significant opportunity for existing educational institutions to target this growing unmet need. One powerful way to begin that journey would be to focus on building sustained relationships with alumni, not as targets for fund-raising, but instead as people who have just started out on their learning journey and finding ways beyond more classes to become trusted advisors to these alumni. But making the transition to trusted talent advisor will be very challenging and painful for traditional educational institutions, requiring them to ultimately transform virtually everything they do. New entrants will have the advantage of taking a clean slate approach to building a trusted talent advisor business.

In my writing on the likely evolution of business models, I’ve proposed that there are three key dimensions for the evolution of business models in our exponential age. The trusted advisor represents the highest form of evolution across all three dimensions.

But what about scalable learning?

In my broader writing on the Big Shift, I’ve proposed that all of our institutions will need to transition from scalable efficiency models to scalable learning models. Would that eliminate the need for trusted talent advisors? Wouldn’t all of our institutions then help us to learn faster? Well, no – there’s a paradox here: the more important scalable learning becomes, the more valuable trusted talent advisors become.

Here’s the challenge – institutions by their very nature are driven by their specific institutional mission. They will help you to learn faster within the context of that mission. But what about your mission? Your passion? As long as there’s a close fit between the institutional mission and the individual passion, the institution will help you to learn faster in areas that matter. But I suspect that there will always be a significant role for someone who is completely committed to help you learn faster as an individual given your specific aspirations and passion, regardless of the institutional setting that you find myself in at any point in time.

Is there an even bigger opportunity?

One more point before I wrap up. There’s an open question on the table. I’ve now outlined two trusted advisor business opportunities – the trusted customer advisor and the trusted talent advisor. Could one provider address both of these opportunities in the consumer space? Are these inherently two separate business opportunities?

There’s a part of me that wants to believe that these are in fact two sides of the same coin. As I’ve argued elsewhere, I believe that part of the Big Shift is a movement away from consumption as a status symbol (e.g., the type of car we drive, the size of our home, etc.) to creation as the source of status – what have we created and how many people have adopted our creation? To the extent that this plays out, it might make more sense to build a trusted advisor business that bridges these two arenas and focuses on helping each of us to achieve more of our potential through all the goods and services we access.

Bottom line

There’s a very powerful new business opportunity emerging. So far, it hasn’t been effectively addressed. It represents a significant white space in terms of value creation and value capture at global scale. But, given the powerful economies of scope that will drive this kind of business, there’s an urgency in pursuing it if you find it interesting. This is not the kind of business that will welcome fast followers. The race is on. Have you left the starting gate?



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Scaling Learning in an Exponential World

What does scalable learning really mean? I’ve been writing and talking about this for a while now including here, making the case that this will be a key driver of institutional success in the years ahead. In the course of conversations, I’ve discovered a lot of misunderstandings regarding what I really mean by scalable learning, so let me take this opportunity to clarify my perspective.

Why is scalable learning so important?

In the Big Shift, we’re rapidly moving from a more stable environment to a global landscape that is shaped by exponentially improving digital technology infrastructures. In the face of these exponential changes, if we’re not learning faster, we’ll rapidly fall behind. But what does learning really mean? In the context of a rapidly changing world, learning means developing new shared practices that can increase impact in a world of mounting performance pressure.

Free learning from the prison of the training room

First, let me emphasize that the learning I’m talking about doesn’t occur in a training room – it occurs in our day to day work and living environments. If we’re talking about developing new shared practices, it’s far more effective to do that in the environment where these practices are going to be applied, not in some artificial environment. Training rooms are fine for transmitting existing explicit knowledge, but not very effective for developing new shared practices.

Expand learning well beyond knowledge management platforms

Knowledge management platforms have largely been organized around sharing existing knowledge. While this may be marginally helpful, the key imperative in a rapidly changing environment is to find ways to develop new knowledge, rather than merely sharing existing knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is far more valuable than explicit knowledge

In rapidly changing environments, it’s important to realize that tacit knowledge trumps explicit knowledge. The latter can be articulated and written down and it usually takes time before it can be expressed clearly and coherently to others. Tacit knowledge is within our heads and we have a hard time even expressing it to ourselves, much less to anyone else. Because tacit knowledge is generally newer knowledge, emerging from new experiences that we’ve encountered, it’s often the most valuable knowledge, providing us with insight into how to act in a rapidly evolving environment.

Tacit knowledge becomes accessible through shared practice

Because it’s so hard to express, tacit knowledge is not easily accessible. The best way to access it is to work together and to observe the practices that emerge from this tacit knowledge. By working together, we also develop deeper, trust-based relationships that create a safer environment for us to explore new insights with others in our group that we have a hard time expressing to ourselves.

Tacit knowledge emerges from productive friction

The key is to move beyond accessing existing tacit knowledge and to work together to develop new tacit knowledge. This involves addressing unexpected needs and opportunities through the development of new practices. While we each may have some ideas about the practices that would have greatest impact, we are far more likely to develop higher impact practices if we come together and challenge each other’s ideas to come up with new practices that none of us would likely have developed on our own. This requires productive friction: the willingness to challenge and debate each other’s ideas in an environment that encourages diversity and mutual respect.

Let theory emerge from practice

Rather than sitting around and debating for prolonged periods, it’s far better to move as quickly as possible to action to test various approaches and determine which practices can lead to the highest impact on a consistent basis. As we accumulate practice in new environments, we can then start to look for patterns that will generate theories about why these practices lead to such high impact. Given how rapidly our environments are changing, these theories will likely lag our practices. We need to be continually evolving our practices to refine our theories.

Encourage learning in all parts of the organization

We are under increasing performance pressure and we can’t afford to silo our learning in certain parts of our institutions. Everyone in the organization needs to be learning faster by evolving new shared practices, whether they are research scientists in a laboratory or janitors trying to maintain our facilities. The institutions that will succeed in the Big Shift are those that help everyone to accelerate learning, rather than restricting it to a privileged few.

Focus on results and let learning be a by-product

We need to flip our learning mental model on its head. Rather than focusing on learning as the primary goal, we should shift our focus to accelerating performance improvement and let learning be a by-product. The goal is to improve performance more rapidly – that’s why focusing on developing new shared practices is so powerful. It provides us with results that we can measure and learn from, rather than investing heavily in training programs and taking people out of their working environments. Performance improvement accompanies learning, rather than lagging behind it.

Create environments that accelerate this kind of learning

If we took scalable learning seriously, we would apply design thinking and design methodologies to systematically redesign our work environments with the primary design goal of accelerating learning and performance improvement. I have been unable to find a single company that has attempted this, although our research uncovered 75 examples of companies that had redesigned slices of work environments with the result of accelerating learning.

Create and find ecosystems that can scale learning

And, if we take scalable learning seriously, we won't stop at the four walls of our enterprises and narrowly focus only on our employees. Instead, we'll seek to participate in expanding ecosystems that will help us to build deep, trust-based relationships with a growing number of third party participants that are all driven by a desire to learn faster together. Our research has helped to identify the characteristics of these kinds of ecosystems here and here.

Cultivate passion as a key driver of learning

No matter how much we redesign our work environments and expand participation in learning ecosystems, we’ll never harness the full opportunity of these environments unless we catalyze and amplify a specific form of passion among all of our participants – the passion of the explorer. We discovered this form of passion in our research on environments that produce sustained extreme performance improvement. The bad news is that only about 12% of the US workforce has this form of passion today. That’s not an accident, since our existing institutions, built on a rationale of scalable efficiency, rather than scalable learning, find this form of passion deeply suspect and do everything they can to squash it or at least restrict it to after-hours activities.

Provide effective leadership to scale learning

Like most things in organizations, the leaders help to define the culture and values. If leaders don’t embrace scalable learning, it will never scale. Here’s the challenge. The mark of a strong leader in a scalable efficiency environment is someone who knows everything, who can be relied upon to provide answers no matter what the issue or question. In a scalable learning environment, the most effective leaders are those who have the most powerful questions and who invite others to come together to discover the answers. They help to focus others on the questions that really matter. Perhaps even more importantly, they express vulnerability by acknowledging that they don’t have the answers and want help in finding the answers. In sharp contrast to scalable efficiency environments where having questions is a sign of weakness (you’re supposed to know what needs to be done), this signals to others that it’s not only OK, but essential, to have questions and to ask for help in discovering the answers.

Focus on trajectory, not snapshots

Finally, let me add that performance in a scalable learning environment is continuously evolving. Rather than focusing on snapshots of performance at any specific point in time, scalable learning organizations are relentlessly focused on the trajectory of performance – not only whether performance is improving over time, but whether it is accelerating. If it’s not accelerating, it’s not good enough. In an exponential world, we need exponential improvements in performance.

Bottom line

Hopefully, this brief post has helped to clarify what I mean by scalable learning. It’s certainly not learning in the traditional sense. It’s a very different and very powerful form of learning that, if effectively harnessed, can help all of us to achieve much more of our potential while having a far greater impact on the world around us. But, if we take it seriously, we’ll need to re-think everything. The time is now.



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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

7 tips to engage introverts in social learning


Introverts love to stay indoors and have difficulties expressing themselves, while extraverts are outgoing and enjoy telling all their stories. That is the image we often have about intro/extraverts. How does this relate to social learning? Can introverts engage in social learning? It could be that introverted professionals prefer to go through individual e-learning models and more extroverted professionals in social learning activities.  Maybe extroverted learners are especially active in a community of practice and the introverts read along and 'lurk'. But is that true? 


With these questions in our minds we, Annet van der Hulst and Joitske Hulsebosch, have investigated this theme, using articles, blogposts and doing a mini-research. Our aim is to find out what the difference is between both groups and how you can use this in your design of social learning processes. Here's a pinterest board with resources. An important source is the book Quiet by Susan Cain.

The definition of introvert and extravert

A third to half of the people are introverts. From Cain's book: “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough. Think of an introvert like: reflective, bookworm, sensitive, thoughtful, modest, friendly, risk-averse, avoiding conflict. The extrovert is action-oriented, assertive, active, outward looking and feels comfortable in the spotlight. And all without generalizing :). Do you know if you are introverted or extroverted (or ambivert)?

Everybody is social

In this infographic about introverts we immediately find an important conclusion: introverts are not antisocial, they have just as much need for interaction as extroverts. In other words introverts learn socially, but may like other types of learning activities. Susan Cain draws the same conclusion: “Relationships make everyone happier, introverts included, but think quality over quantity”.

What are learning preferences of the introvert and extrovert professional?

We have already concluded that everybody engages in social learning. But let's go back a step: do introverts have different learning preferences? In Kolb's learning cycle he distinguishes four learning activities. Two of them (reflective observation and abstract conceptualization) would, according to him more fit an introvert dimension and the other two (active experimentation and concrete experience) more extrovert. That does not mean that introverts can not or will not perform the other activities, but that introverted and extroverted learners have different preferences. For social learning would mean that activities that are invoked to reflect on the skills and thinking are more attractive to the introvert learner and you can expect more activity and input.

Karin de Galan from the School for training has written in Dutch about training introverted participants. She finds it difficult that the introverted participants provide less response while they are happy with the content of the training. According to her it is easier to engage the introverts if you give time to think, build in one-on-one conversations instead of only discussions in plenary, and in work assignment go at a slower pace. Translated to (online) social learning, this means that you do not always expect an immediate response in an online debate, but offer space to formulate a response (for example, send prior to a Webinar or online meeting some questions to think about). It is also good to get together in smaller groups or to work in pairs  (in a separate room during a live webinar for example, or in a subgroup on LinkedIn or Yammer). In Quiet we read about examples which support this line of thought. Avril Thorne did an experiment with women in conversation in pairs. The surprising thing was that the introverted women talked no less than the extroverted. However, the introverted pairs talked about one or two serious issues, while the extrovert discussed much lighter and wider issues. Another observation which confirms our findings is that introverts really like collaborative learning, but have a preference for groups of 2-3 with clear roles.

Online preferences of introverts and extroverts professionals: "it's a level playing field"

How about sharing online? Online seems just right for the introverted professional, because of the delay in communication. You can think as long as you like about your answer.  Heidi Cohen: Social media engagement affords introverts the ability to engage for short, strategic interactions on their own terms. introvertspring notes that online is perfect for both groups: "It’s a level playing field online".  Susan Cain: “Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally.” However, online we have to deal with information overload and extroverts seem better at coping with information overload. The reflection of introverted professionals namely takes a lot of cognitive space. If we state our cognitive capacity as 100%, then 75% of the introvert capacity is task-oriented and they use 25% to reflect. For extraverts these figures are  90% versus 10%.

Mini-research (n=8)

We are curious what we ourselves observe with regards to preferences within social learning activities in introverts and extroverts professionals- and especially online. We held a mini- survey (N = 8) within our online course. The result is as follows:
voorkeuren

Some tentative conclusions we can draw from this mini-research:

  • The extrovert professionals prefer activities such discussing statement in conversation, face-to-face meetings, a lot of interaction and synchronous online workshops. These are activities where the direct and synchronous social contacts are more central. Also, the more 'do-oriented' activities.
  • The introverted professionals have a preference for activities like a webinar with an expert, discover and experiment with tools and work on their own case. These too are part of social learning, but they contain almost all an asynchronous aspect or an aspect where finding out by yourself is a part. Again, we notice some 'do-oriented' activities, but the thinking and reflection activities are note-worthy. 

At first glance, the results of our little research seems so to confirm the learning activities that Kolb calls more introverted.

Seven tips for designers of social learning processes

Thus we arrive at seven tips for the designer and facilitator of social learning processes that take both groups adequately into account, so that everyone feels good and can actively participate.

Tip 1. Know yourself and your audience. How many introverted and extroverted professionals do you expect? And what are your own preferences? If you know your own taste, you can program the opposite: try to see your program through the eyes of the others.

Tip 2. Blended is a good way to serve both types of professionals. Face-to-face extroverts may take the lead and can be overwhelming for introverts. One seems perfect for the introverted type. A 'level playing field'.

Tip 3. Maintain a good balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning. Synchronous speaks to the extroverts more, asynchronous more to the introverted.

Tip 4. Vary between larger, smaller groups and plenary. Work in pairs of two can provide a secure space for introverts to express themselves.

Tip 5. Find a balance between hands-on activities and reflection. Introverts love to go in depth. Be sure to find the space for it.

Tip 6. Make sure all types of learning activities are covered: reflection, theory, active experimentation and experience, in this way you cater for all preferences.

Tip 7. Help introverts professionals to direct their attention. Extroverts can better cope with information overload. Online, overload is hard to avoid. Help introverts to deal with it by directing them to the most relevant discussions.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Structure

Hearing Mollie deal with the challenge of the unstructured nature of University after the imposed order and discipline of school brought back memories. Wandering around wondering what I was meant to be doing, feeling guilty about not doing it, lost in a slippery quagmire of expectations. Looking back I regret not having dealt with the challenge better. I would have done so much better with what I know now.

And what do I know now? After ten years of working for myself, and much of the time alone, I have become so much better at knowing what I need to do, refining my ability to do so effectively, and proactively seeking out the next challenge and opportunity for learning. In fact just in terms of reading I read more, and "better" now than at any time in my life. I am also more disciplined about how I spend my time and building my own structures to do so. Applying and refining David Allen's principles from Getting Things Done has been instrumental in this and a life saver in so many situations.

But this is not for everyone. I often make the mistake of thinking that everyone can, and should, work like this. I have to remember that some people respond better to an imposed structure, to tasks delegated by a boss, to clear and extrinsic rewards. I forget that for many the daily commute is part of that structure as is sharing space with others in an office.

My worry is that these structures look likely to become less common in the future. As our large corporations crumble under their own inefficiency more people will work for themselves or in small groups. Fewer people will commute to offices. As artificial intelligence nibbles away at work tasks the nature of the "knowledge work" that is left will become less routine and call for more individual input.

The comforts of our structures will become liabilities rather than benefits.



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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In KM, more is worse

In Knowledge Management, less is more. It's better to focus on providing fewer examples of top quality knowledge than a lot of mediocre content.


Image from wikimedia commons
In their excellent book "Working knowledge", Davenport and Prusak point out that "Volume may be the friend of data management, but it is the enemy of knowledge management; simply because humans have to sift through the volume to find the desired knowledge".

The ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus knew this when he wrote "A wise person knows the right things, not many things"

I blogged a while ago about applying Lean principles to Knowledge Management, and removing waste from the Knowledge Management supply chain. Too much volume, too much waste, in the supply chain is counterproductive, and can destroy a KM initiative. Again - here is Davenport and Prusak with an example.

"Knowledge can also move down the value chain, returning to information and data. The most common reason for what we call "deknowledging" is too much volume. As one Andersen Consulting knowledge manager told us - "We've got so much knowledge (not to mention a lot of information and data too) in our Knowledge Xchange repository that our consultants can no longer make sense of it, For many of them, it has become data".

We can see the deknowledging effects of volume in many settings:


  • Lessons learned databases that become cluttered with minor, duplicated or out of date lessons
  • Social media streams that are clogged with trivia, and with people reporting activity (maybe led by that brainless Yammer pront "What are you working on") rather than discussing knowledge
  • Knowledge published in multiple places (see the extreme example in this blog post, under "When WOL goes horribly wrong")
  • Knowledge bases which are bursting with work products, rather than containing synthesised knowledge

These examples of de-knowledging are driven by a few common factors:
  • Emphasising (and often incentivising) knowledge production and sharing rather than knowledge seeking and application, for example the companies who say "We want to promote Knowledge sharing", even going so far as to set each individual a target of "sharing X items very year"
  • Capturing knowledge "just in case" rather than for a purpose
  • A lack of resources for sorting, compiling, curating and synthesising knowledge into guidance documents (and then archiving the lessons and work products once they have been synthesised)

All of these are counterproductive. Instead you should do the following


Cut the volume. Go for the faucet and not the firehose; quality over quantity.  Aim for a small number of documents of concentrated, high quality knowledge, not a large number which people will need to sift through and sort for themselves. 

Because, as the Andersen example shows, if there is too much volume they just won't bother. 


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Monday, October 10, 2016

Rhetoric - a much need skill for knowledge workers

Rhetoric seems to have negative connotations these days. That's a shame, as Aristotle's approach to 'the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing' is a skill that anyone effecting change in organizations must have. Female staffers at the White House have proactively employed rhetoric in a very innovative and specific way to get their voices heard.
Whilst we're talking philosophers, the most effective masterclass technique that I train facilitators in is Socratic knowledge transfer. Too often deep experts reach for their Powerpoint slides and simply impart their wisdom, without demanding critical thinking. Much better to have a dialogue based on seeded 'judgement call questions' and elicit personal insights or experience from all those participating. Getting the 'expert' to hold off imparting their solution or answer until the end of the discussion is tricky!
The process involves a carefully selected and rehearsed case-study that gives plenty of context and has two or three decision points which relied on judgement. The 'expert' pauses at the judgement calls and asks, for example, 'what would you do?' or 'what else do we need to know?' or 'what do you think happened next?'. On several occasions an entirely novel approach or solution has emerged that the 'expert' had not considered.
One vital component is getting the right participants. Everyone invited should potentially have something to contribute to the topic. In that way there is not just one 'expert' in the room.
The process is particularly effective in generating new insights and conveying complex ideas, but needs careful coaching and facilitation. 



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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Revolution or Police State? Beware the Pitchforks!

pitchfork

You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising….It’s not if, it’s when.

It’s not often that you get a really rich person talking publicly about the dangers of growing income inequality in the United States. And especially the consequences of looming social unrest. Come to think of it, we never hear someone in the super rich club talking about the need to rebuild the middle class and to seriously address the huge numbers of Americans who live in, and at near, poverty.

Well, there’s one rich guy who not only gets it but who has increasingly become more vocal for a call to action by America’s elected representatives and business people. Meet Nick Hanauer, author of the opening quotation. (It should be acknowledged that investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet has spoken about America’s warped taxation system that favors the wealthy.)

Hanauer, age 57, was born in New York City (photo below). An average student, he earned a philosophy degree from the University of Washington. After graduating, he began work at his family-owned Pacific Coast Feather Company; he’s still the CEO and co-chairman. However, when he was a young man he displayed what he’s acknowledged as an appetite for risk, and began investing in numerous ventures over the years. One of his early investments was Amazon, serving as an advisor until 2000. He created Gear.com, which later merged with Overstock.com. Many other ventures line Hanauer’s CV, but of interest was his forming The True Patriot Network, a political action tank. He also helped create The League of Education Voters in the state of Washington.

hanauer

An advocate of a higher minimum wage, Hanauer (pictured) wrote a commentary in 2013 for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, in which he proposed a $15 minimum wage. The following year, Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker published Capitalism Redefined. This is recommended reading. However, it was Hanauer’s commentary featured as a special report in Politico that caused people to sit up and pay attention.

The Pitchforks are Coming…for Us Plutocrats is an in-your-face, frank assessment of where America is at on the issue of income distribution. You can also listen to Hanauer in this TED Talk, where he makes an appeal to his “fellow plutocrats” to help initiate the needed socio-economic changes to reduce income inequality. Be sure to take to watch this illuminating video.

A contentious public figure in the past few years, owing to his TED Talks and media interviews, Hanauer’s viewed by right-wing capitalists, and many Republicans, as too left-leaning and too critical of America’s capitalist society. Based on developments over the past 20 years, from NAFTA to China’s entry to the World Trade Organization to the 2008 financial meltdown and ensuing Great Recession to the Occupy Movement to the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, these criticisms hold little substance. American workers, especially those in manufacturing and information services, have gotten screwed.

Hanauer points out that in 1980 one percent of the U.S. population controlled eight percent of the national income. The bottom 50 percent held 18 percent. Fast forward to today and the top one percent controls 20 percent (up 12 points); in contrast, the bottom half has only 12 percent (down six points). However, of more relevance than these numbers is understanding the distinction between income and wealth.

To be in the one percent club required an annual cash income of $500,000 plus in 2008. However, at the core of the one percent issue is wealth, encompassing assets less liabilities. On that front, one percent of Americans control about 35 percent of the country’s wealth. However, that share of the nation’s wealth has barely budged upwards since 1962 (only 2.2 percentage points). Wealth begets more wealth. It’s the massive disproportionate increase in income by the one percent between 1979 and 2007, up 275 percent, that raises eyebrows—and tempers. The middle class, in comparison saw its income rise by just under 40 percent.

worker

The middle class has been squeezed relentlessly not just in the U.S. but in Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, with wages stagnating in real terms, young people being underemployed and older workers being thrown to the curb as work is outsourced overseas. No wonder why Great Britons voted to exit the European Union (aka Brexit), when one considers how the country has been hammered economically outside of metropolitan London.

One can pick at some of Hanauer’s arguments, but the underlying point is that American society, as we’ve come to see it evolve into a post-WWII healthy middle class, is under extreme threat. The work of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter started to unravel with the later introduction of trade agreements that saw jobs outsourced overseas. President Reagan, who oversaw the growth of the U.S. debt by $1.86 trillion (more than even President G.W. Bush), did take on the Soviets and through a sustained effort with Mikhail Gorbachev saw a large reduction nuclear weapons.

It was under Presidents H.W. Bush, Clinton and G.W. Bush that China’s massive manufacturing hub was created and took hold. President Clinton, many have forgotten, signed the legislation to eliminate the Glass-Steagall act of 1933 (enacted under President Roosevelt) which was aimed at separating consumer banking from investment banking. And President G.W. Bush and his successor Barak Obama didn’t have much of a clue when it came to economics. In short, for the past two decades-plus it has been America’s plutocracy that has controlled the way forward for the US economy, and by extension Canada.

We hear about the “One Percent,” as portrayed by the Occupy movement” that not only spread across the U.S. and Canada but Europe, the UK, Australia, India, Brazil, Argentina and many more countries. But what’s really at issue is the .01 percent, those super rich people who as this two-part British documentary explains benefitted mightily from the exploitation of consumer debt, initiated by CITI bank. Watch The Super Rich and Us, Part One. And here for part two.

one-percent

Many people have attributed the expression “The One Percent” to nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. While Stieglitz is a perceptive commentator on the socio-economic-class tensions prevailing in the US, it was actually President Franklin Roosevelt who coined the expression in the summer of 1914. It was at a public address in Reading, Pennsylvania, just when WWI was breaking out in Europe, and Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy remarked in his address:

“There have been two kinds of successful politics devised in our system of government…. The first is the kind which seeks to build up party strength by obtaining … power based on the personal domination of a few men and the perpetuation in places of authority of those few men and their own appointed successors. That has been in the past, we must admit to our shame, a successful kind of politics, but the day of its success has just about come to an end…. The administration believes that the national government should be conducted for the benefit of the 99 per cent, and not, as has been sometimes been the case in the past, for the benefit of the 1 per cent….” (from Young Mr. Roosevelt, by Stanley Weintraub).

This is not the first time in history since the Industrial Revolution where extreme income and wealth inequality have become incendiary issues. Yet we, as human beings, like to consider ourselves as more sophisticated and educated compared to our forebears in the early 1900s and during the 1800s. We shouldn’t congratulate ourselves or feel superior, given our technology advancements. As a 21st Century society we’ve actually fallen backwards. The longer we wait to seriously correct the disparities in the economy, labor market and financial system, the longer and more difficult will be the road back. Hanauer’s correct about the metaphorical pitchforks. One has only to read some history on what happens when repressed people finally stand up and assert themselves.

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll almost certainly get even richer.
— Nick Hanauer (from “The Pitchforks are Coming”)


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