Category Archives: Responsibility

Can Government Create Economic Value?

Raining CoinsWe live in “interesting times”.  I’ve heard a lot of complaints from friends, acquaintances and the media lately about how moribund our government has become.  It’s true not just in the US, but around most of the world.  Just when we need leaders to drive forward a variety of human, economic and environmental innovations, our elected officials appear to be uninterested in governing.  So who’s in charge when it comes to creating the kind of value that adds to the economy?

Citizens should be able to count on government to step in for intractable problems. We understand that these issues need a big voice and strong leadership to succeed. But structurally, I don’t think that government – at the present time – has the capability, capacity, or confidence to lead on the truly important issues of our day. Continue reading

The Dark Side of Process Efficiency (Part 2)

New Orleans MintI’m an efficiency expert.  My raison d’etre is to make businesses run better, faster, cheaper.  I love the work, which is challenging and rewarding, in more ways than one.  But in recent years, I see a darker side to what I do.

Efficiency increases the divide between employees who are capable of innovation and those who merely follow instructions.  In an earlier post, I mentioned three examples of how automation is taking away jobs, faster than any of us ever imagined, and in a wider variety of professions and industries.

At the present time, the easiest tasks to automate are the ones that don’t require the ability to think on your feet, or reason out problems, or innovate.  We’ve heard before that the drive toward automation and efficiency is increasing the divide between the educated and uneducated workforce.  The thought is that there are going to be fewer jobs in the middle income strata. Continue reading

The Importance of Influencing Peers

Wrong Way SignAt one time, Stephen King decided to stop selling a relatively popular book called “Rage”.  The novel was the first book published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman, and was written decades ago.   It’s the story of an angry teenager who shoots teachers and holds classmates hostage.

For a while after the book was published, King defended his story, saying that it did not cause anyone to go off the deep end.  Over time, however, the book was found in the belongings of four perpetrators of school shootings, and around 1997, King allowed the book to fall out of publication and apparently asked publishers to remove existing copies from sale.  A few years after that, many applauded his decision, although others thought he should have stood up for the rights of the artist.

This isn’t the only story of how people use their influence to create a better world. Continue reading

It’s Okay That the Corporation Has No Soul…

Man Facing the SunIt’s a well known maxim – “the corporation has no soul”.  I believe that with my whole heart.  People have souls, enterprises don’t.  Sometimes, the culture of an organization allows the collective souls of its employees to set a shining example, but those efforts are still led by feeling, thinking humans.

There are lots of reasons for business to exist, but the overwhelming and primary reason is to make money.  And… if a corporation focuses on that goal without wavering, they will do a lot of good along the way.

Most of us understand the basics of the enterprise.  Every business in the world – from Campbell to Planters – has followed one script… Continue reading

When a “Casual Comment” is Anything But

Stacked WoodLet’s say you’ve recently become a manager.  No doubt, you’re happy with your achievement.  You have a lot more authority to make decisions and to influence others.  Has it occurred to you yet that there could be a downside to your authority?

Kerry Patterson, in the VitalSmarts newsletter, has written an excellent cautionary tale he calls “the captain’s fireplace”.  You can read the original story for yourself, but here’s a quick summary…  The captain of a military base notices some scrap wood in a dumpster and calls to make sure no one else wants it before he grabs some for his fireplace.

The ensign he talks to offers to find out about the scrap wood and calls the chief of supply to make sure it’s okay.  The warrant officer makes a call, and so on, until the captain’s wife eventually calls to thank them for the wood.   Outside in the supply yard, people are grumbling about how they had to cut brand new boards to fit the captain’s fireplace, when they couldn’t afford other vital supplies.

What happened? Continue reading

Are We Forgetting How to Discover?

Lagoon

Have we become a society that doesn’t know how to discover anymore?  When I go online, Google serves up what I’m looking for before I really understand that I’m looking for it.  It’s creepy, and thrilling.

I just watched “Her” the other day.  (I know I’m running behind, but I have a boyfriend who only uses the cool dark confines of a movie theater to catch a nap.  As a result, I often fall prey to the beckoning Redbox kiosk that sits patiently at the end of the checkout inside my local Safeway.)  In the movie, the Siri-like voice on the cell phone anticipates needs – a richer experience than Google offers in my search results, but similar.
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Want People to Help You? Learn to Respond Well…

Gratitude SignWe all need a little help sometimes.  There are moments where all it takes is a small assist.  Other times, you need lots of resources to get you out of a dark, deep hole.  Sometimes, it feels like help is hard to find.

On the other hand, have you ever noticed that there are some people who always have a long line of people willing to help?  They don’t need help very often, but when they do, lots of assistance shows up.  There’s a reason for that… It’s all in the way they respond.

You might need professional support, money, a borrowed item, a hide-out, or advice.  Maybe you asked for help, maybe you didn’t.  Regardless of the type of help you need, there are only a few basic responses for colleagues, friends, family and even total strangers.

Let’s take these one at a time… Continue reading

What I Believe…

Sun and CloudsSomething is coming together these days.  Last year, we got a new pope, one who is shocking the world with simple messages of tolerance and compassion.  Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that it is okay for town meetings to include prayer.  I’m feeling the rumblings of something, breezing through the social fabric.  It’s like a gathering storm of faith, after a long drought where intellectuals disdained religion.  So I think it’s time to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a long time… What I believe.

This is not the most personal thing I’ve ever written.  But it is (so far) the most personal thing I’ve ever posted here. Continue reading

Social Media at Work: How Much is Too Much?

Social Media at Work Dec 2013It amazes me how often this question arises among millennials:  How much time is too much for social media at work?

Social media is like having real friends.  If you spent your entire work day socializing in the break room or chatting on your phone… well, you would get fired.

So seriously, how much time is enough?  How much is too much? Continue reading

The Time-Vamp of Social Media

Cell Phone Ignore November 2013 MedI heard a great question the other day:  “How much time can you spend on social media without neglecting work or family?”

Think of it this way: Social media is like having real friends.  Let’s consider work first.  If you spent your entire work day socializing in the break room or chatting on your phone… well, you would get fired.  It’s good to be friendly with the people you work with – you should spend 10-20% of your work day networking with people in your company or industry.  But, except for brief check-ins for making plans, non-work “friends” should be addressed in your non-work time.

Continue reading