Social Conformity and Situational Awareness

  SocialConformity

Situational awareness is a skill of insight, anticipation, and respect for personal boundaries in social and organizational contexts.

It is the skill of perceiving reality as it is, not as we want it to be, or how others see it, but as it is.

Situational awareness is knowing how to be yourself regardless of the context you are in.

One of the most challenging aspects of being situationally aware is learning how to deal with the social conformity that lies at the root of all social environments.

Social Conformity and Self-knowledge

Much of our socialization as children and adolescents was not intentionally focused on developing situational awareness as I describe it. Rather, we were taught various ways of conforming to the social requirements of a particular situation.

Social conformity breaks down situational awareness by suppressing individual initiative.

The institutional form of social conformity requires us to think less for ourselves by operating according a set of prescribed codes and processes. Ironically, the "expressive individualism" as Charles Taylor describes in his book, A Secular Age is at the same time conformity to a wider consumer culture.

I believe ... that our North Atlantic civilization has been undergoing a cultural revolution in recent decades. The 60s provide perhaps the hinge moment, at least symbolically. It is on one hand an individuating revolution, which may sound strange, because our modern age was already based on a certain individualism. But this has shifted on to a new axis, without deserting the others. As well as as moral/spiritual and instrumental individualism, we now have a widespread "expressive" individualism. This is, of course, not totally new. ... What is new is that this kind of self-orientation seems to have become a mass phenomenon.

... With post-war affluence, and the diffusion of what many had considered luxuries before, came a new concentration on private space, and the means to fill it, ... And in this newly individuated space, the customer was encouraged more and more to express her taste, furnishing her space according to her own needs and affinities, as only the rich had been able to do so in previous eras.

While we perceive ourselves as individuals, we still make choices that are motivated by the fear of rejection or retribution for standing outside the circle of conformity. To think for ourselves in a situationally aware context requires us to have the self-knowledge that enables us to see social situations more objectively, to engage people without personalizing the interaction, and to discern what is in the best interests of the group.

Social conformity produces a personal identity that is formed by external conditions governed by institutional rules and defined by objects that provide us our identity.

Consider all the groups a person experiences from kindergarten through high school. Family, academic, sports, arts, religious and community organizations each have a set of guiding values. From place to place, town to town, organization to organization, each one provides a developmental experience that may or may not have the intention of creating stronger, mature, life-ready individuals.  Each institutional situation does require some sort of accountability to the goals and values of the group. An over-riding concern, therefore, is when social conformity is accomplished by cohersion, threat and fear. An extreme example of this would be the practice of hazing as an initiation rite into membership of a social organization.

Group oriented organizations can provide lessons in how to fit in, to play the game that others control, and how to win or excel as a group. One of the realities of this situation is that some people are better at whatever the purpose of the group is. Whether it is math class, football or band, there emerges a recognition that every group is ordered according to those who are the elite players, and those who are the support ones. Every kid knows who the cool, the key, the elite members of their school or group are. It is a part of the process of social organization and conformity.

This kind of institutional social control is a product of a time when our society was based upon people working within large institutional organizations. If you are going to grow up, work in a factory, in a corporate environment or any large complex organization, knowing how to play the game of social conformity is essential to success. There are multiple boundaries that a person must learn to negotiate to function well in those complex settings.

However, this kind of social conformity is becoming less and less beneficial in society. Institutions are no longer capable of sustaining life-long employment where the benefits of fitting in are rewarded. Instead, in today's world, advancement comes through not fitting in, of moving from one organizational setting to the next, as a means of finding the most advantageous place for ones' gifts and talents to be expressed. In effect, advancement is "expressive individualism" as a life strategy.

As a society, social conformity works less and less for more and more people. A recovery of genuine identity is essential. Today, we need to develop the self-knowledge that provides skills of objectivity, engagement and discernment.

The virtue of self-knowledge is that it provides us the foundation upon which we can develop the social awareness that is necessary to be effective in a global world of connection.

As I have explored this aspect of our lives, I believe we can say this much.

Situational awareness begins with self-knowledge.

I can stand apart; I can see what is going on; I can empathize with a person; I can avoid compromising situations.

With self-knowledge I grow out of the need for every situation to be about me, and I lose the fear of what happens when I do not fit in.

When I am able to be myself, without losing myself, then I am able to see how to build relationships of understanding and collaboration that create strong families, organizations and communities.

Find other posts in this series on Situational Awareness:

Three Keys to Situational Awareness

The Speed of Change

The Social Space of Situational Awareness

Social Conformity and Situational Awareness

In the Moment of Situational Awareness

The Story We Tell Ourselves


The Platform of Desire, Part 5

IMG_2304The Desire to Connect

Desire isn't just an idea. It is a movement within us drawing us towards some value or experience or person.

This drawing, like water into the porous membrane of a sponge, is the activity of connection.

You walk into a room at a business after hours event. You register, get you name tag, and turn around and look at the crowd. Who are you looking to meet? Who is looking to meet you?

We are drawn towards particular kinds of people. What is it that us draws to them?

You sign up for an online dating service, and out of the dozens of possibilities, one person jumps off the page. Why this person?

What draws us towards this one individual rather than another?

Why can we talk about the synergy between two people who only met two minutes ago? What is it that draws us into relationships where we are prepared to trust, to be vulnerable and change our business plan immediately?

It is the intangible nature of human desire. It is beyond rational. It really isn't subrational, but rather supra-rational. It is beyond explanation. It falls into the realm of faith.

What is it about the connection of human desire that causes us to flee the safety of the fortress to venture out into the unknown to discover what lay in our heart's desire all along.

Many refer to this as a call, a voice that constantly beckons them onward, to risk all for the sake of that source of passion deep within us that refuses to be quiet.

This is the magic that happens between two people or within a team when they stop playing the game of control and risk management, and pursue a call they share to make a difference that matters.

In other words, it is love that draws us together. The love of ideas, of people and of the change that we can create together. This is the desire that lies deep within us that calls us to accept and honor its all or nothing demand upon our lives.

The People We are Drawn Toward

At a most basic level, we are drawn toward two kinds of people.

One type are those who affirm or validate who we are. They are like us or complement us by helping us see the inherent value of who we are. These relationships appreciate us for who we are right now. These are family and friends with whom we have happy moments each day.

Often these are people we've known a long time and with whom, even if we are very different in personality, we feel comfortable because of our shared life experiences together.  These are people with whom we share similar values. These are our peeps.

The second kind are those people for whom we feel a kind of longing. This longing is to be different, better, fulfilled, complete, or known for some facet of our lives that the first group cannot see. These people set a standard for their life and work that we view as higher or more ambitious, and therefore is desirable. We desire relationships with them, hoping that some of their magic will rub off on us.  We desire what we think they have. More than anything, we want their respect, and a connection to them.

These relationships may not be with people that we know or with whom we spend most of our time. The relationship may be virtual as on Facebook or Twitter. A connection is made when they like a link that we post. A social media connection with this person fulfills a longing for association with someone whom we perceive to be the person we wish to be in the future. These persons symbolize for us the values that matter to us, that may seem beyond our reach, yet live down deep within us as the desires that we have for our life and work.

We need both of these kinds of relationships. However, neither speaks to the character of the relationship, only to a type of relationship.

The character of our relationships matter.  I thought of this when I came across this selection from the Diary of Anais Nin.

"The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters. meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision."

She could easily be describing the relationships that many of us have through social media platforms. We desire connection. But too often it is superficial, lacking depth.

What then does it mean to have relationships of depth?  This is the kind of relationship that I wrote about in my post Still Waters Still Flow. There I write,

"Am I setting up an impossible scenario for our relationships? Of course I am! For without a standard, an ideal, or a vision of the highest in human experience, then there is no clear direction to the flow of our lives.

When the love I describe becomes complete within us, and seeks out others who also have found a completeness in the love within them, then a depth of relationship results that changes us. We are transformed by loving, not simply by the idea of love.

All these human characteristics that we celebrate and honor, like Respect, Trust, Confidence, Responsibility, Courage, Empathy and Self-sacrifice find a ground upon which to grow. For ultimately, flow rises from our own capacity to be the person we wish others to be.

I wish I could say that all this can come without pain or suffering but it can't. In fact, it is the very comforts of our modern life that stand in the way of a fulfilled, complete and flourishing life. Those comforts present the appearance of strength and completeness. But too often they are the curtain that blinds us to harsher realities of the world.

For still waters to run deep requires the dredging of the stream bed of our lives to remove all those barriers to flow. The more courageous, the more willing we are to raise the standards of our life and work, the more willing we are to be committed to do the hard work of changing our lives, the more willing we are to defy fear, and move into unknown territories of discovery, the more we will discover that still waters still flow bringing peace into a world of conflict."

For these kinds of relationship to flourish requires a setting or an environment for our relationships to grow. Increasingly, I'm convinced that this is difficult to achieve when the relationship is only in a virtual context.

Digital or Analog, Virtual or ... ?

What do we call the setting of relationships that are not virtual, that exist outside of an online digital social space? To say they are analog, physical or real does not capture it well. What are our relationships that exist where we live, with whom we encounter in physical proximity to one another.

Lacking an adequate terminology, I've decided to use a sacramental term that Presbyterians and other Protestant Christians use to describe the relationship of God to the eucharist, the sacramental meal that Christians observe in worship. That term is Real Presence.

I'm using real presence in a non-religious way. It is the relationship that develops between people who find their life and work connected at a deeper level of meaning and impact than with other people. The result is that they are drawn together in such a way that the traditional social media platforms are an insufficient for the purpose of the relationship. In other words, they find they need to be in physical proximity to one another often enough to advance their relationship's purpose.

To be really present, requires us to be open and vulnerable, attentive and willing to adapt to each opportunity as it appears. Real presence is living each day with intention and commitment. I realize that these are familiar words to people today. The challenge is not knowing the meaning of these words, but deriving our meaning of life from living them each day.

There are many people that I've met online with whom we now have a relationship of real presence. We are constantly in touch with the living our of our lives. We are not simply observing and commenting in a detached manner. Our relationships to one another matter. As a result, we are drawn to be with one another in a physical sense. And so we make the effort to travel to be with one another.

Let me return to my question from above. Why is it that we connect with some people and not others?  Is it because the place where we meet and develop our relationships is conducive for the kind of relationship we seek? Is it because there are certain values that we share that can flourish in either a virtual or a physical context?

This is a complex question. To understand it we must understand ourselves. To understand ourselves demands that we understand the kinds of environments that are most conducive to making the kind of connections that we truly desire.

This is an important question because so many of our connections are virtual, operating only within a digital context. Yet, we are not virtual people, digitized, pixelated images or text narratives on a screen. We are embodied persons whose whole selves experience the movement of desire flowing through us.

Developing Platforms for Desire

We are at the beginning point in the evolution of the digital world. What it will be in a decade or in fifty years is pure speculation.

I am convinced that because we are desiring beings (James K A Smith's term), that the structure of society and organizations ultimately adapt to who we are. It is never smooth, however.

Today, we are at the end of the industrial era, without real clarity about what is to follow. Current global social and political forces are aligned to avoid change as much as possible. Resistance to human evolution is futile. And at the heart of our evolution as a species is the drive our desires for meaning, healthy relationships and lives of impact.

As a result, there will always be a tug-of-war between those forces that seek to control the evolutionary course, and those who choose the freedom to adapt to change as it presents itself each day.

As social media platforms develop, change and die, new platforms will emerge to meet the opportunities that come from human social interaction. The challenge for the developers of these platforms as I've said previously in this series, is not really how to monetize the platform, but rather how maximize the ability of people of shared desires to collaborate to make a difference that matters. The mousetrap has been invented. Now is the time to make a better mousetrap.

There is much more that can be said about the relation of human desire to the virtual online world. For now, this is sufficient.


Networks in Transition

Transition Point - without Title

Networks are the new management mantra. The back story to this development is the increasing importance of healthy relationships for the sustainability of organizations. I've seen this coming since the mid-1970s with the realization that relationships are the vehicle through which life works.

The science of networks is growing in sophistication and practicality. It is truly amazing to see what the data on networks can reveal. That said, networks are not the end point. They are a transition point to something else.

The first transition

If you step out, look back, you'll see that for most of the past couple millennia, organizations have been structured as hierarchies. I've posted on this before.

Hierarchy of  Structure

This hierarchies look basically like this image.  There is leadership, with a level of  middle and supervisory management, followed by everyone else. This is an over simplification.  The point though is that the structure was organized for order, efficiency, and bottom-up accountability.

This hierarchy has been the primary form of organizational structure since human beings began to organize themselves. Some form of this hierarchy will always exist. However, it will be different.

Into the context of organizations appears a new phenomenon called a network of relationships. This is a new form of human organization that exists as connections without a designated location for these relationships. These are the kind of relationship that populate social media networks. They are virtual and intermittent, lacking comprehensiveness and continuity.

Prior to the advent of modern communication technology, the highest form of network was a local community of residents.  This ancient form of the network was based on physical proximity. Think of an Amish barn raising where all of one's neighbors come to your farm to construct a building that serves a family's need for sustainability.  Of course, no one talked about their local community as a network, but that is essentially what it was.  The connections formed a tight bond of closeness that made it difficult for outsiders to join. Today, networks are the opposite, loose, open configurations where the social bond is in the moment.

Hierarchy of Connection

Today, this network of relationships looks like this.  It is not primarily based on living near one another, but rather being connected through common interests. The sophistication of these networks is enabled by the data mining that modern computer technology provides. Social media provides the most practical and universal means for these networks of relationships to develop.

These networks are driven by the science of connection and its viral nature. There are great possibilities for impact when a network is mobilized for a cause, when an influential hub (person) sneezes and the whole world catches a new pair of shoes, or when one person posts a video of some random guy dancing, and it is shared globally millions of times. This is the power that this form of network connection holds.  This, however, is a feature of contemporary networks of relationships, and not the potential, ultimate end.

Two shifts

Networks are a basic infrastructure of the future of organizations. Where hierarchies are based upon position and role within an organization, networks are based upon who you know, and the ability to turn those connections into action.

To understand networks is to be aware of a couple shifts that have taken place over the past century.

The first shift is the elevation of the individual to a place of centrality in their own network of relationships. In this respect, being member of a community or an institution means less today than it did a generation ago. This individualism is a product of living in a society of choices made available to all who have the means as a consumers.  Today's consumer mindset sees organizations and networks existing to meet my purposes and desires. It is social in a limited, not a comprehensive sense.

The result is that much of the emphasis on networks is focused on developing them for one's own purposes as a universal platform for marketing the individual to a world of individuals.

A second shift is the emergence of the network as a place of virtual habitation. We live online, and our relationships are online, and our identity is formed online, and our life is lived online. What the old hierarchies and old local communities offered was a physical place to live one's life and to develop the habits and practices that provided a basis for a sustainable society. There is a reason why cultures survived centuries, even millennia, without the modern technologies that we have today.  These cultures of the past were communities rooted in a specific place, organized around specific traditions that helped people know how to live a life of contribution and meaning within that specific context. Many of the habits and practices that provided sustainability during the pre-modern era have eroded away as we taken up residence online. Today, everything can be done online, not requiring anything more than a wifi connection to be connected to a network of social profiles of people whom we only know as they choose to present themselves online. 

The significance of this shift is seen in the difficulty that people who are not highly engaged in an online network of relationships find in dealing with people who are not used to face-to-face human contact. Frankly, they do not understand the patterns of interaction and communication that take place through social media platforms. As a result, they are missing the necessary capacity to be persons of influence who can make a difference on a global scale.


Three Desires-Impact-NoFill
These two shifts inadequately address the fundamental desires that people have.  Those desires are for our lives to be Personally Meaningful, for Happy, Healthy Relationships, Socially Fulfilling and to Make a Difference that Matters. All of this can happen through our online network of relationships. To do so requires that they become more than simply a place where I daily project my personality into noise of the online social world.

The Next Transition

These changes are why I see our current fixation on networks of relationships as a transition point between the old hierarchical structures and what comes next. What comes next is a recognition that we are more than the constructed persona of our diverse social media profiles. We are real people who have lives apart from the online world.

The next iteration of the network is for them to become more communal. By this I mean that the relationships transcend the virtual to be transformational. For this to happen, there must be a personal stake in the relationship that moves beyond what I get from it. It goes to what I give to make it work.  In this respect, the next transition is a return to the old communities of proximity where being a neighbor meant that we were actively engaged in the care and sustainability of our community of common welfare.

SharedLeadershipImpact
There is a sharedness of these communities of relationships as seen here. When I speak of "leading by vacuum," it is a way of talking about how we each bring our own gifts and talents to the network of relationships, and in so doing, the network transcends the virtual to become something greater.

In this scenario, the individualism of the network is transformed into a community of relationships who share a common purpose or goal for their relationships.

For example, the Flow Ventura Global Triiibes Retreat  brought together people from around the globe, most who had never physically been together before. We knew each other online. The event would never had occurred had the relationships been simply virtual and individual. Instead, over a period of time, our relationships came to increasingly matter more and more. We were more than virtual connections. We were friends whose daily interaction online mattered in how we live in the dispersed places where we reside.  In other words, knowing one another online was insufficient for the sustaining of our relationships. We needed to be together in the same place, face-to-face, and side by side.

The retreat as a result was transformational for many of the participants.  Many common points of interest explored in the conversations and presentations elevated the shared values that transformed our once virtual network of relationships into a community of friends whose relationships matter to one another.

Facilitating The Transition from Network to Community

For a network to transition into a genuine community requires leadership. It needs people who facilitate and coordinate the interaction that is needed to build a community of relationships. Conversations within these networks need to clarify the shared ideas of purpose and values that are a basis for a shared vision of impact, and a common commitment to share the responsibility for it. Each provides a way for the relationship to transcend superficial connection to one that is meaningful, fulfilling and makes a difference that matters.

This is the future that I see emerging. I see it as the logical evolution of networks of relationships to become more communal than social. That does not mean it will happen in every place.  It does mean that it is possible. That it is a choice fueled by our desires for a certain kind of life that transcends the shallow superficiality of much of what we experience each day.


TransitionsOrgStructure
PDF of this guide now available
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The Unnameable Problem

People

Leaders of every organization face an unnameable problem. This problem is hidden in plain sight. Yet not recognized.

This problem is also an opportunity, even an asset, yet it is shied away from because it requires a different approach that what is typically practiced.

I learned of this unnamed problem two decades ago as I began to form a student leadership program at the small college where I worked. For three years, I tried to identify the top leadership talent on campus, and attract them into a program that would development their leadership potential. I failed in virtually every way.

What I learned was something that has driven my insights about organizations ever since. Yes, people want to be treated as individuals, but the pull of the social can be equally motivating.

Within every organization there is a social context. It functions on many different layers depending upon the intricacy of the organization's operating structure. It is close and so immediately alive in our experience that we don't truly see it. Except when serious conflicts arise.

The unnamed problem/ opportunity/ asset is the social bond that unites people together in a setting.

This social bond has many sources. In every case, it is formed by a shared experience or set of ideas that creates a common bond. It could be the shared experience of being the administrative staff on the senior executive floor. It could be a shared experience as franchise holders in a region whose challenges are different than other owners. It could be a shared value that inspires a high level of performance by a team. It could be any number of things. And what that common bond is may or may not have anything to do with the business or organization.

When I finally saw this in my work with students, I realized that people are not just individuals, but social beings. Their identity as individuals is not entirely personal, but also social.

When a kid wears his favorite team's jersey, he is signalling to us a part of his social identification. When you see a bumper stick advocating a social cause, or telling a joke, or celebrating their hometown's initials, they are signalling to us a social connection that matters to them.

In business, this is an unnamed problem because leaders, typically, don't want to deal with the social element. They want to deal with quantitative issues that lead to decisions, actions, results. Many don't even want to deal with people as individuals. They are human resources, or workers, or employees, not people, and certainly not individuals.

The reality is that our identity as individuals is not wholly self-determined. In fact, I'd say very little of our identity is self-determined. Read this excerpt from Shoshanna Zuboff and James Maxmin's The Support Economy.

"In the second half of the twentieth century a new society of individuals emerged - a breed of people unlike any the world has ever seen. Educated, informed, traveled, they work with their brains, not their bodies. They do not assume that their lives can be patterned after their parents' or grandparents'. Throughout human history the problem of identity was settled in one way - I am my mother's daughter; I am my father's son. But in a discontinuous and irreversible break with the past, today's individuals seek the experiences and insights that enable them to find the elusive pattern in the stone, the singular pattern that is "me." Their sense of self is more intricate, acute, detailed, vast, and rich than at any other time in human history. they have learned to make sense of their lives in unique and private ways, to forge the delicate tissue of meaning that marks their lives as their own.

In all other times and all other places, psychological individuation was unimaginable. It was, at best, the emotional precinct of an elite group of artists and spiritual seekers - rare, elusive and precious. But today that unique human capacity for individuation has been put within the reach of millions of people. Their individualism, long regarded as the basis for political self-determination, has also become the foundation for the one sure thing they have in common: a deep and abiding yearning for psychological self-determination."

I think they over simplify this change. It isn't as clear or as positive a step forward as they suggest. The impetus for self-determination is partly a reflection of the failure of organizations and institutions to accommodate change.

We are not a world of atomistic individualists who each stake out our private turf to celebrate and defend. We are also social beings whose need for connection outside of the interior space of our own minds and emotions is exhibited in the social networking that takes place on line.

The 500 million people on Facebook are not all just projecting their own individual profiles. They are engaged in real interaction that makes a difference. As I write this post early this morning, one friend has responded twice to two posts of my Facebook posts from yesterday. 

The challenge for organizational leaders is not just to begin to treat people as individuals, but to recognize and elevate the importance of the social dimension in their businesses. This is partly addressed by a greater emphasis on collaboration. However, if collaborating is simply a tactical exercise in getting a task done, then its value is not being fully realized.

The unnamed problem is the reality that our individual identities are products of the environments that we are in. To embrace my parents' values or to reject them is a reflection of the influence with which that particular social setting has upon me. The work place is no different.

The hidden asset in the workplace social environment is our inherent need for a social bond with those whom we work. To be treated only as individuals is to miss what is also true. We thrive on social interaction because it helps us to center our own sense of who we are in the larger world of other people and places.

How then should leaders begin to address both the individual and the social nature of the human environment of their organizations?

The first step to do is recognize that the social bond exists, lies hidden in the relationship of the people in your business, and is an asset that awaits development.

The second step is to realize that a shift in strategic direction is called for.

The third step is to begin to see that the decisions and actions function within a social context, and therefor how communication of information, collaboration between people and groups, and coordination of plans and programs matters in developing the social assets of the company.

The fourth step is to identify and operationalize the values that is the social bond that unites your company.

The fifth step is to recognize that as a leader you are not just managing business processes, but the leader of a social culture that either advances the business or detracts from it.

A vibrant social culture builds upon the company's values to strength the social bond that unites people together to achieve the goals of the company. This means, therefore, that the goals or purpose of the company must be aligned with the values that unite people for their work together.

Most leaders are not trained or equipped for this kind of work. The future viability of their business is dependent upon their gaining those insights and skills.

Implementing a social context strategy

When I came to see the social bond that existed at the college where I worked, I changed my approach to working with students.

I looked for where students were self-identifying themselves as belonging to an identifiable group: academic clubs, fraternities/ sororities, resident halls, sports teams, and other campus organizations.

I started two programs that provide groups of people the opportunity to serve: one a program working with the elementary age kids of adolescent mothers, and the other, a Habitat for Humanity International campus chapter.

The rationale behind this step was the realization that if a group participated in one of the projects, someone within their group would need to take the lead to organization their involvement. Those leaders became the focus of my efforts. A second set of leaders also emerged who committed to working with the program because it matched their interest and values. The residual effect was immediately noticable as out of our fledgling Habitat chapter, a local affiliate was born.

There are two realities that we need to recognize if we are turn the unnamed problem into an asset for an organization.

First, that people are individuals.

Second, their social context is a reflection of their own self-identity.

The social bond in an organization is between people who share similar values and expectations for the experiences that they have.

When leaders see this, and act on this strategically, the hardened resistance of organizations to change begins to soften. It can be trite to say that people are a company's greatest asset. It is only if we ignore the social context as a strategic asset that has hidden value waiting to be realized.


7 Virtues of the 21st Century Organization

7VIRTUES image

My current Weekly Leader series is on the 7 Virtues of the 21st Century Organization. Check here, here and here

The 7 Virtues are a system of values that can be used to improve the functioning of an organization.

7 Virtues 21stOrg

In this post, I look at the 7 Virtues through the lens of the Circle of Impact Leadership Guides. The Circle of Impact is built around two sets of ideas. The first is that all leaders must address themselves to the Three Dimensions of Leadership: Ideas, Relationships and Structure. The key is to align the three so that they work together. The way this alignment is achieved is by being absolutely clear about the Four Connecting Ideas: Values, Purpose, Vision, and Impact. The key here is that every facet of the organization is focused on Impact, which is defined as change or a difference that matters.

Impact as change or the difference that matters is a very general definition. This means that each organization, and each division within it must define for their own purposes what impact means. As a function of leadership, this requires each person within the organization to be able to state the impact that they seek to create by their work within the system. This is how leadership becomes a shared responsibility, and not simply a positional one.

Circle of Impact- simple

The 7 Virtues

 1. Collaboratively-led:

This idea encompasses the other six virtues into a singular perspective that defines what it means to be collaborative. It means that a collaborative leader will focus on aligning the three dimensions and the four connecting ideas so that the people who are a part of the social and organization structures may have relationships that enable them to fulfill their shared vision for impact. This is what a collaborative leader does.

2. Decentralized, local control:

This function of the structure of the organization, created by policy governance and design, establishes a system of communication and accountability, built around collaboration.

3. Long tail internal operational structures:

This is a function of the alignment of structure with relationships. This means that the people who are bound to one another by a clear purpose and set of values have the freedom and may take the initiative to organize how they work together.

4. Purpose-driven organic adaptability:

This is also a function of the alignment of structure and relationships. In this context, the group or team adapts freely and with great agility to changing circumstances in order to keep their purpose foremost in their relationships.

5. Relational-asset based:

It may seem that this is a function of the relationships, and at one level it is, but the importance to treating the group or company's network of relationships as a relational asset is that these connections bring value that does not exist when the people of an organization are viewed as human resources. Relational resources are the assets to come from having a large, diverse, and widely dispersed network of relationships that feed information, insight, talent and business to the organization. From a structural point of view this is a fourth classification of resources, along side the financial, material, and human. The higher level of collaboration that takes place through these relational assets, the great value they bring to the company. These assets are what are commonly understood as social capital.

6. Values that are operational:

This a function of the alignment of the Ideas and Relationships dimensions with the Structural. Values, which inform an organization's purpose, is the core strength of a business. It is the only thing that is unchangeable. An organization's purpose can change as circumstances change. The structure can change to remained aligned with a vision that is constantly adapting to the current context of business. But the values of a company remain constant, though not necessarily acknowledged or practiced. This virtue, therefore, focuses on applying the company's values operationally. This done by asking the question how are our values represented in this decision or this policy? The greater alignment between values and practice, the greater the integrity, confidence and impact from the collaborative work of the people of the company.

7. Ownership culture of giving:

This virtue is a function of the whole community of the company.  It is the responsibility of the company's leadership to foster a culture of giving. The aim is to encourage people create a culture of giving through their own initiative and expression of gratitude. This is the kind of culture that is represented in the Five Actions of Gratitude (Say Thanks Every Day).

The complaint that I've heard over the years about a more relationally oriented business structure is that these are soft skills, not the hard skills of finance. True they aren't the same, but they are also not contradictory either. Create a culture of the 7 Virtues, and you'll see not only a transformed workforce, but a transformed business environment. If you do it sooner than later, you'll be ahead of the curve, and be recognized for leading rather than following.


Qualifying your Network

Following our Lessons In Leadership Making the BIG SHIFT workshop a month ago, one of the participants told me/asked me the following.

"I know how to grow my network. What I need to know is how to qualify the people I meet so that I'm growing it in the right way."

This is a great question. Let's use the Circle of Impact guides (free download) for this purpose.Circle of Impact - Life-Work image

The Circle of Impact is built around three dimensions - Ideas, Relationships and Social & Organizational Structures.

Simply put, everyone has ideas, relationships and lives and works within specific social and organizational structures. This is true of everyone.

The focus of each of these dimensions is Impact creation.

Simply put, we all use our ideas and our relationships within our social and organizational structures to make a difference, to create change.

The question we must ask ourselves is whether those changes matter.

Simply put, the qualifying question that we need to ask is

Does the potential impact of this person's ideas, relationships and their social and organizational structures matter?

The only way to know is learn to ask questions that reveal the answer.

This where the Circle of Impact Connecting Ideas come in.

A starting point for qualifying someone is learning about their purpose, their values and their vision for impact. If these ideas are not clear or not well developed, then it tells you something about them.

Of course, anyone well versed in networking practice has learned to have their little spiel prepared to answer these kinds of questions.

What matters is not having an answer to what is your purpose, values and vision, but rather demonstrating how those ideas matter in action in your relationships and your activities in the social and organizational structures of your life and work.

See how this Circle is completed.

The most important aspect of discovering how to qualify your network is becoming a person who matters. In so doing, you learn to discern substance from superficiality.

Was it Gandhi who said, "Be the change you want to be.

It applies here.

Be the person of impact who creates the difference that matters and you'll find the people of like purpose, vision, values and impact.

Remember: It is better to have a small and impact qualified network than a larger network that is as thin on impact as a business card.


The Subverting of Hierarchy

Emotions - 382031318_17f9632b01
 

A decade ago The Cluetrain Manifesto was released as a prescient picture of what we are now coming to understand as the future that is fast becoming the present.

The Cluetrain authors, in a revolutionary style reminiscent of Martin Luther's 95 theses nailed to the Wittenberg church door starting the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, posted 95 theses on the nature of organizations, markets and life in the age of the Internet. The entire book is available free online here.

The seventh Cluetrain thesis - Hyperlinks subvert Hierarchy - makes a point about information flow and access to that flow. A hyperlink like this one takes you to some other place in the online world. In this case, the main page at Wikipedia, but it could be any one of a billion different places. This ability to access information places power in the hands of people that we previously did not have.

Recently I heard Manuel Lima speak on the visualization of networks. You can follow his exploration of this topic at his blog Visual Complexity

Manuel Lima - VC - human knowledge

In his presentation he compared the French Encyclopedia of the 18th century with Wikipedia. As you can see from this slide from his presentation, the growth of information in our time is staggering. This growth of information and our access to it is forcing organizations to change.  From this one picture you can see how we now truly live in the Information Age.

Hyperlinks may subvert hierarchy but that is not replacing hierarchy. Reading Clay Shirky (See his recent book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations) may lead to the idea that we will see corporations go away, though he doesn't say this. In its place, we will all be self-organized into online social networks linked by our own hyperlinked profiles and communication means. This is already happening, but it is not replacing the traditional hierarchical organization.

For example, the free e-book, Managing Morale in a time of change is a product of the very phenomenon that both Cluetrain and Shirky identify.

The larger picture is something a bit different from simply being the end of formal organizations and the rise of communal structures. Instead, we are seeing a shift towards social influence that is more significant than simply the subverting of hierarchy.

Since humankind began to create communities and stop wandering as hunter/gatherers, hierarchy has formed as the power base of all organizations. Read Homer and the Old Testament history of the early Hebrews, there were always persons who held power and authority in a hierarchical structure that secured power and created order for their society. The difference between one lord and another lord was often (1.) the strength of their military defensive power and (2.) their moral vision that created either a just, prosperous society or not.  This is what we know of as organizational hierarchy up to this very day. It is the nature of hierarchical power that is at the center of the debate about healthcare today.

What Cluetrain, Shirky and many others point to is the realization that hierarchy's claim upon our lives has been loosened. I characterize this change as the end of a kind of institutionalism that is rigid and not adaptable, followed by the rise of social connection as the organizing principle of organizations. The hierarch doesn't really go away. It is rather transformed from within, and has been for at least a generation as the complexity and speed of life in organizations has grown.

Hierarchy of  Structure
Hierarchy creates order from top to bottom. Power resides in a graduated scale with greater power held by the few at the top, down through the organizational structure to lesser power held by the many at the bottom.

These vertically integrated structures existed for millennia on the control of the lower levels of organization. Control of access to information, resources and opportunity were some of the ways that hierarchy functioned.

In a time where most people were undereducated to their potential, and where the skills required to produce things were simple and repetitive, hierarchy worked. It is what made the industrial revolution so productive. In this instance, the worker in a hierarchical structure was only as free as their income allowed them to be. Dreams of wealth and advancement were not most peoples' privilege. Yet, beginning in the 15th and 16th centuries this began to change as exploration of the world, and tools for communicating ideas began to spread to the masses.

In our day it is hard to imagine a world without easily available reading material. However, prior to Gutenberg's moveable type press, the cost and time constraints on the production of printed information was such that the vast majority of people across the globe were functionally illiterate. As literacy and education became more common, so did the range of opportunities available to the average citizen grow.

Yet still, hierarchy ruled because there was not the means for any other kind of  organization. Over the past generation this has begun to change. Today, collaboration is fast becoming the norm in how business gets done.

Hierarchy of Relationship

Collaboration is the ability of people to communicate and coordinate complex work processes in an efficient and effective manner.

It is dependent on the ability of members of the collaborative group to work together, to communicate effectively and share in the rewards and responsibilities of the project.

Many collaborative groups function not by hierarchy, with one person in authority who delegates the tasks of the project. Rather many groups are lead by the "first among equals". This view also known by its Latin form, primus inter pares, treats the organization of work from the perspective of whomever has the knowledge, experience, expertise or responsibility is the leader. From this perspective, leadership is not a role, but the contribution we make within the social context of work.

In a collaborative project, with one person's client, the lead will be taken by the person who has the information or skills to address the specific need of the client. So, if a planning client of mine needs assistance on employee pension plans, then I bring in the expert on that area, and they take the lead on helping my client establish the best approach for them.

In hierarchical structures, leadership is a function of position, authority and power. In collaborative structures, leadership is a function of the character and influence of people in a social context. Personal character, communication skills and the ability to share power are keys. 

Network-Hierarchy Image

While this may seem rather mundane and ordinary for many of us, it is revolutionary in the context of hierarchy. It is so because it means that leadership is not held as a private privilege, but rather shared as a common responsibility. It is this way of work that is creeping into the hierarchies of organization as changing them from within.

It would be nice to think that this is all a very rational, forward thinking process, but typically it is not. Instead, when hierarchy breaks down, and goals and standards must be met, the last resort is to call a meeting to see who has any ideas for getting out of the mess.

What is pushing the acceleration of the adoption of this approach are many causes. However, at the heart is the access to information and tools for communication that the internet provides. The e-book Managing Morale in a Time of Change was the work of 36 people from 11 countries on four continents. The conversation we captured in the ebook took place over 12 days, and the production of the e-book a little over a month more. This is a model of the future in miniature.

What needs to happen is for companies to embrace the subversion of hierarchy in favor of social collaboration and allow for their businesses to grow from within at all levels.

I don't think that hierarchy will ever go away. It remains an efficient way to create order for the production and distribution of products and information that do not require high levels of interaction and collaboration. It It will lose its hold on society as people realize levels of freedom and opportunity that come from their social connections to one another.

Yes, subvert and elevate hierarchy to be an incubator of shared collaborative leadership.

This is the future that would have scared Agamemnon, Caesar, Henry VIII, Hitler, Stalin and all the little dictators who use hierarchy to subvert the interests of their people to their own private ones.

It is the future. Embrace it now, and learn to lead to strengthen hierarchy through its subversion to a more socially connection environment for work.

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Managing Morale in a Time of Change can be download here.

Photo Credit: Flickr #382031318_17f9632b01


The Difference between Facebook and Twitter

Charlie Malouf pointed to this post by Joshua Porter about the difference between Facebook and Twitter.  Porter is applying a basic principle of network theory to the difference.

Relationship Asymmetry in the Twitter model

In general, there are two ways to model human relationships in software. An “asymmetric” model is how Twitter currently works. You can “follow” someone else without them following you back. It’s a one-way relationship that may or may not be mutual.

Relationship Symmetry in the Facebook model

Facebook, on the other hand, has always used a “symmetric” model, where each time you add someone as a friend they have to add you as a friend as well. This is a two-way relationship, and it is required to have any relationship at all. So as a Facebook user there is always a 1-1 relationship among your friends. Everyone who you have claimed as a friend has also claimed you as a friend.

The difference is significant and why I find Twitter more useful for my purposes.

The difference is between closed and open networks of relationships.

With Facebook, both of you have to agree to be friends. On Twitter, you can follow anyone. If your Facebook network doesn't grow, it could mean that you've exhausted your easily reachable potential FB friends. As a result, everyone in your network, is quite possibly just like you, thinking just like you, reading the same books, websites and having the same perspectives.

On Twitter, there is an obsession with numbers of followers. That is useless if you have no purpose other than to be able to say I have a large following. The key to Twitter is creating influence. Being able to reach beyond your natural network of relationships to influence people is the purpose. Closed and Open Relationships

Ron Burt looked at the nature of competition from a network theory perspective in his book Structural Holes. If you are interested in theory, I recommend it. Here's a diagram I created to help me visual Burt's perspective.

What is important to understand is that a closed network becomes a self-congratulatory feedback loop. What binds the group together is a set of shared, unifying values. The potential result is a belief that all that matters is what we know and share together. This is a classic insular community structure. Before the information age emerged, it was possible for this structure to survive because the completitive demands were much less. As my grandfather told me near the end of his life when I asked him what was the most signficant development he had seen in his lifetime. "The radio. It was what told us that there were people living in other places."

Today, close networks suffer from a lack of access to information and opportunities.  Many businesses are failing during this recession because their network of relationships is insufficient. Network scale matters more and more.

Open networks, on the other hand, are constantly reaching out for new relationships that lead to new ways of understanding the world and new opportunities for making a difference.

This leads me back to Twitter. The genius of this platform is that it more perfectly replicates two aspects of human relationships.

The asymmetric nature of human communication is the first. Listen to normal conversation and there is a give and take. And the pattern is of short bits of information shared that help advance the conversation. Blog posts can be interactive, but aren't conversational. Facebook is more like email or writing letter. It takes more time to construct a comment, and responses. This is simply because there is more space to write.  I just responded to two messages at my Facebook page. Both required a brief response, but the impulse is to write more than is really necessary.

The other aspect is the competitive nature of human relationships. I'm not talking about one-upmanship or poltical gamemanship.  Rather, I'm referring to how we seek to influence people with our ideas. This part of human interaction is changing too.

It used to be that trying to influence others meant I spoke in declarative statements that intruded into the listening space of people. It wasn't conversational. It was advertising. Today, the shift to a more conversational mode requires us to listen and respond as we offer our thoughts for influence. The key element in this shift is the importance of asking questions that lead people into a conceptual context that provides them a basis for understanding the ideas that you want to share.  This is where my three conversation guides came from. They simply are the result of lots of conversation built around asking clarify questions.

If we want our influence to expand, we need asymmetrical relationships. We need to know people who know people that we need to know, and who need to know us. Which tool is better? Twitter or Facebook? In my estimation, Twitter.  Why? Well, ask my Four Questions about the platform.

1. What should be the Impact of Twitter? Are follower numbers a measure of impact or simply a strategy for developing a context for influence? There is a current theme resonating in Twitterland that "retweets" are a better indicator of value. A retweet is simply someone reposting a tweet of yours. it is an indicator of influence.

2. Who should I be impacting through the use of Twitter? Isn't the possibilities limitless? After all if you are retweet by Guy Kawasaki, his "sneezer" influence is huge.

3. What opportunities come from growing one's Twitter influence?  Depends on what you want from the experience. Access to information and the creation of a network of relationships that value your ideas. Granted, the connection maybe thin, but if you are recommending a friend's new book, that could be all it takes to make a best seller. If this doesn't make sense, check out Mark Granovetter's "Strength of Weak Ties" concept.

4. What problems must I address in order to make the most of Twitter?  The first one is conceptual on several levels. It is our perception of who we are as influencers or as connectors to influencers. Second, understanding what kind of influence do we want to have? What is the impact that you want to have through your involvement in social media? Why are you participating and contributing? It helps to have a plan or a strategy, and not simply do this for amusement. Third, commit to developing the skills of virtual relationship building.  Fourth, commit to the time that is required to do this well.

As for me, my purpose of Twittering, as well as for writing this blog, is to build Trust and Confidence in my ability to provide leaders the help they need as they go through organizational, professional and personal transitions.  Trust is confidence in the integrity of the person. Confidence is trust in our competency to do what we say we can. Twitter is one of the ways that allows for that impression to lead to the establishment of a relationship of service.

All these social media tools are in their early stages of development.  The next generation must develop the capacity to link the virtual work with the local. To create real collaborative partnerships that utilize the value of social media is the next step. Part of this is technological, and part learning how to adapt our human relationship perceptions to adapt to a changing world. Should be interesting to watch it develop.


A Conversation about Constant Change - 5

Here is my response to Steven Devijver's latest question (below) author of the free ebook, The Strategy of Constant Change

Q: You talk about social contexts, I talk about networks of relationships, but I think we're talking about the same thing. In your professional life, how do you look at your commercial relationships (how are they created, maintained; how do they evolve?) And how do you look at economic value in relationships (compared to contracts)?
Relations in Social Context
Here' a simple diagram that illustrates what I see.

I meet people within a social context. It could be through a social organization or a business. Every organizational setting is a social context. If we are merely social, a relationship doesn't really form. We are simply acquaintances. We share a common set of interests, that are called social objects. The existence of the social object doesn't mean a relationship forms. A relationship is established when two or more people decide that their connection transcends the social context. Something personal takes places as a result.

Here's a personal example. On vacation, I met a man name John. We are as different as night and day. He shoes horses for a living. I do organizational consulting. Yet, one day he saw that I was writing in a journal. He had never seen anyone who would write thoughts down on vacation. We began to talk, and found that we had much in common that a surface view would not reveal. He was a wise, insightful guy who understood as well as anyone I know what I do. Our relationship grew and transcended the social context of vacation. A decade later, we are still close friends though we live far a part.

In my work, I meet people and I share my conversation guides. The guides serve as a social object to provide a stronger basis for a relationship to form than simply being physically or virtually present.  I use the guides as way to create a bond of understanding. Once an understanding of their situation reaches a certain point, I'll ask if they would like a proposal. The project proposal is a tool for deepening our commitment to working together. Once the relationship has established a shared purpose, then we can go back into the social context and make a difference.

I don't look at the relationship from an economic perspective. I see the social context as the economic context. I see the relationship as personal. Whether the need is organizational or personal, I am there to provide help as is appropriate and effective to the relationship. I met a fellow at a networking event the other night. We talked about the guides, and he keep seeing people he knew that would benefit from them. So, he offered to gather them together, to create a social context, where relationships between me and his friends and clients could be formed. I offered to him to do my Leading from the Middle presentation for free, for these people. These clients and friends of his then pay me to come in to help them with their business. The context and the project are business and the place where economics takes place. The relationship is personal. I want to establish friendships that last after the project.

Another example, I have a friend, Cary, whose son was in our scout troop. He left his job and moved to a city an hour away to join with two other guys in starting a business. A year or so into this venture, difficulties in the partnership relationship emerged. I came in and worked with them on trying to resolve their situation. Because he is my friend first, I'll meet with him and talk about the business. In fact, I'll talk with him forever if that is what he needs. Then if there is a reason to enter into the social context of his business to do work within their organizational structure, then I'll charge them for that.

My aim is to establish client relationships that last a life time. Not all of them will result in this way, but many do. For example, my planning projects are conducted by a committee. Typically, I work with the chair of the committee more intensely that the rest. A relationship in many cases forms that transcends the project. In the course of doing business, we talk about our families, what's happening to us personally. As a result, I can call upon them years later to renew for a moment a relationship that3dLeadership - Mission-Vision-Values was prominent for us for that moment in time. Many of these people were the ones whom I asked to vote for Say Thanks, Every Day in the Johnny Bunko contest. And the did so, and I'm grateful to them.

This leads to my last observation. Relationships without a social context are difficult to sustain. When you blend relationships with a social context, usually a purpose to your relationship develops. If this purpose is not focused on some impact that you want to achieve, then the friendship will not be sustainable. 

Look at the Circle of Impact diagram. I can have an idea. If I never share it with someone else, it goes nowhere. If it never gets translated into the mechanism of an organizational structure, it never has the opportunity to reach its potential. Values are what connect relationships together. Too often, we think that social context or the organizational structure is what unifies people. I don't think that even an organization's mission unifies people together. No, their values do. This is why I talk a lot about values with my clients. Also, if all we have is an relationship of shared values, and their is no place, no social context,  where those values matter, then it is difficult to sustain the relationship. My issue with most social contexts is that they are either all ideas or all relationships, and no action.

Action takes place in the social context. We, together, in our relationship, work within a social context to do something that achieves impact. We don't just hang out. We don't just project our personalities on to an unsuspecting, unreceptive world. We come together focused what we in relationship with one another can do in this specific context to achieve the impact we desire together.  And I see this as the dynamic that leaders must address every day.

My friendship with Tom Morris, whom I frequently mentioned here, began my second day of college. We were casual friends within a large social circle of friends. After college, we went in different directions. I keep up with him through other people. Then one day 14 years after we last saw each other, I found that I was going to be near where he and his family lived. I arranged to spend a day with him, and we found that our life's path on a spiritual, intellectual, and professional level were remarkably similar.  As a result, we have maintained almost daily contact ever since. Our relationship is strong, not because we move in the same social context, because we don't at all. Instead, the social object that creates the bond between us is our shared interest in the application of ancient wisdom within organizations. We enter our individual social contexts everyday through the world of ideas, and through the world of the relationships we individually have in our unique contexts. Last year, we had the opportunity for the first time to do two events where we worked together in the same context. It was fantastic because we both saw how our differences were complementary to one another. In those two instances, the dynamic of the Circle of Impact came together.

This has been extremely helpful to me. You have helped me articulate what I live everyday. No one has ever asked me the question that you did here. I thank you, Steven, for that gift.  You have affirmed the truth that we discover new aspects of our lives in conversation.

My next question your view of social objects.

Q. From your perspective, what is a social object? How do we identify them? And more importantly, how do we nurture them so that they provide a basis for a sustainable relationship over time?


A Conversation about Constant Change - 3

Here is my response to Steven Devijver's questions (below) author of the free ebook, The Strategy of Constant Change

Q1: You’re this amazing guy with a really special view on leadership and human relationships. What’s your view then - with all this background - on the three human universals? I ask this because you’ve only just recently written on your blog about The Golden Rule. I would like to understand why you think these tree human universals are novel.

Steven, I'm not sure that these universals are novel. I think your identification of them is insightful. They are what I observe in my dealings with people. They want to be treated with respect, kindness and given the opportunity to grow. Yet, at the same time, as people, we make mistakes.

There are two aspects of this worth identifying. There are mistakes that come from a lack of knowledge or ability. These can be corrected by instruction and training. The other kind of mistakes are ones of character.  These are more serious because they are not so easily subject to being changed by training, but by disciplined action. If what I say sounds like Aristotle, you'd be correct. I believe of all the ancient philosophers, his perspective on how we are to live is the closest to what people raised within an institutional context need today.  The parallel insight is of the management philosophers (Say and Schumpeter, especially) of the past couple hundred years who described entrepreneurialism in similar ways. From Aristotle through to Peter Drucker, the virtuous, happy person is the one who acts and creates new things.

I see in your identification of these human universals an ancient truth that is emerging in discussions about organizations and institutions in our day. I point most specifically to my good friend Tom Morris who has been writing and speaking on the value of ancient wisdom in the context of modern corporate institutions for almost twenty years. His perspective informs much of my own.

To be human is to create, and this comes from action, from taking initiative to transform abstract ideas into concrete realities. I believe that this is why God made us, and is God's most indelible mark upon us.

Q2: You mention the human point-of-view on organizational change. How important are human beings and relationships in organizations according to you, and what else should we pay attention to to help organizations thrive?

What I wrote above is about the individual person. Every person, however, exists within a social context, or, rather, many social contexts. There is our family, our neighborhood, our associations whether they are religous, political, or interest based, and then, of course, our work context. What I find is that social organization leads in one direction without intentional human intervention. I find that most organizations grow towards minimizing ambiguity, resist change, exclude outside influence, and become uniform,closed systems of relationships that squeeze out human initiative in favor of social compliance. One of the unintended consequences of universal education is to remove human initiative in favor of comformity. We treat education as a management exercise where efficiency is valued over effectiveness. This is true in every institution that I have had contact with during my lifetime. I do not think that this is intentional, but rather a logical result of how we think.

We think like managers who do not own the work we do. We simply have organzed our lives around the performance of certain activities. Ask people what their purpose is, and rarely does it have anything to do with the work they perform. We think like managers instead of as leaders because we have been taught to work within an institutional environment. I heard yesterday that a million people have lost their jobs in the United States over the past year. Those businesses that lost those people are now more efficient, but are they more effective. Are they capable of taking advantage of opportunities that still exist? I don't think so. Now, imagine, all those million people starting new businesses. Imagine the creative energy that will be released into world as a result.

From my perspective, I see a need to reconceptualize not only what it means to live an authentic, happy, virtuous human life, but also what this means within a social and insititutional environment. As a result, I'm interested in the nature of human relationships. Let me give one example of what I see.

Over the past decade there has been an explosion in the level of social interaction that takes place on line. You and I met through our involvement in the Triiibes online social network. I see in the growth of social media an expression of the basic human need for companionship.  However, I don't see all this social interaction as necessarily their purpose. Instead, taking my lead from Aristotle, I believe that our human interaction should lead to collaborative human action. Through these social media tools, we should be forming relationships where we work together to achieve some impact. If all they are is a place to talk, they will not be sustainable. They will degenerate into a narrow clique built around a few strong, influential voices, and a circle of people who compliantly go along. It is a picture of all social institutions in microcosim.

What is the solution? I return to Aristotle and entrepreneurism. We must become virtuous people who act to create new ways of meeting needs and opportunities. My personal responsibility is to be a person that others can trust. This trust is built upon not only personal integrity, but openness, honesty, humility and the recognition that we each have a role to play within every social context. Sometimes it is to lead, others times to follow, some moments to give and others to receive.  It is from this philosophical perspective that was born my Johnny Bunko 7th lesson - Say Thanks, Every Day. Giving thanks in this perspective is an act of creative openness that affirms the connection that exists between us.

Q3: What’s your view of change is bad, and should be avoided?

I don't see change as either bad or good. I simply see it as the context of how we live. Every change has within it some good that can be identified. For example, suffering is a kind of change. We can view suffering as something to be avoided or we can see in it the opportunity to gain strength.  We have a choice in how we deal with change. We either see it as an opportunity or as an inconvenience. The choice we make determines whether we will find happiness.

We need to develop our capacity to adapt to change. Returning to Aristotle, I believe that this is what he writes about as becoming habituated to doing virtuous acts.

Okay, my next question for you.

Q. Why is it important for human beings to experience discovery? How can we do this on a daily basis? And how do businesses and organizations develop ways to discover?