Thinking You Know the Answer

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Thinking you know the answer to the question before its even asked, is a sign of a mind that is at the bottom, impatient, arrogant, and prideful.

When you think you know the answer before the question is asked, you have to wonder if curiosity and empathy, or impatience and self-interest are the  motives that are driving you.

Thinking you know the punchline, before the joke is even finished, demonstrates that your ability to be open to the new—is really closed.

Now, there are some answers to some rudimentary questions that are obvious.

But there are so many places to add value to the human experience—through effective conflict engagement, the application of radical self-awareness, and the use of connective storytelling—that we need more people to be impatient for the joke to continue.

And for the punchline to remain non-obvious.

However, if individuals continue jumping to conclusions about the answers to hard problems with non-obvious solutions, in a race to the bottom to “just be done” already, well…

…we all have seen how that has worked out in the past to solve the hardest human problems.

Haven’t we?

Tough Crowds

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Blog, Culture, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Organizational Development, Platform Building, Problem Solving, Speaking, Strategies, Strategy, Training, Workshop

Tough crowds are tough because they are skeptical, secure in their own assumptions, wedded to their own worldviews, and unwilling to be convinced.

The skill of being able to face that level of social norming—whether from a crowd of 5-year old’s in kindergarten to a crowd of intoxicated adults at your local comedy club—requires a little something more than bravery.

It requires the skill of being willing to die—metaphorically usually, but sometimes, with some crowds, literally—in order to prove a point, make an assertion, or to create a space for other people to advocate for a minority view of the world.

Being able to win crowds over by knowing your audience is another skill. As is knowing your own point of view inside and out. But, beyond that, there are two key elements to focus on when seeking to internally overcome the crushing psychic weight of a tough crowd:

Never lose focus on the point you’re making.

Don’t get your point caught in their weeds.

Tough crowds seek to tame and turn a presenter, or facilitator, for the purpose of serving their own motives and motivations, and for achieving their own desires and outcomes.

But when you realize that time, focus, and the strength of your position are more powerful than that of the crowds’, you will stay in sharp rhetorical shape.

And ready to face any tough crowds, anywhere.

Shipping Matters

By | Emotional Intelligence, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, New Posts, Peacemaker, Problem Solving, Relationships, Resolution, Social, Social Communication, Strategies, Strategy, Training, Truth, Workplace, Workplace Development

When we fetishize the act of failure more so than the lessons learned from risk-taking, shipping a product takes a back seat to preening in public.

Ok. But what is shipping?

Shipping is getting an idea out to the world.

Shipping is putting a product out on the market.

Shipping is connecting people together in a network.

Shipping is showing up and working with your whole heart.

Shipping is talking to that person in charge who you don’t want to talk to.

The act of shipping—delivering a product, idea, message, or service to the world, whether the world is ready for it or not—is the most important thing.

The lessons we learn from the act of shipping matter more, in the long run, than the act of failing to get people, audiences, and the market to “buy-in.”

It wasn’t that way for the majority of humanity over the last 5,000 years, and particularly in the last 150 years. But now, at this point in human social and economic history, shipping matters more than whatever you learned after the shipping happened.

Stop fetishizing the act of failure.

Start fetishizing the act of shipping.

Consumers or Products

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The participants to your training, development or educational opportunity can either be consumers of the information (and the opportunity) or they can be products of the impact of the information (and the opportunity).

Consumers or products.

You can argue with this perspective all you want, but fundamentally, this is the distinction. And it comes with a difference:

Consumers are always right—even when they’re wrong. And you, as the provider of the learning experience, will move mountains to keep them happy and avoid the friction that comes with unpopular ideas, perspectives, and approaches to learning.

Products are always proof—even when they are negative proof. And you, as the provider of the learning experience, will move mountains to make the results of the education you are giving more relevant to the world they are going to interact with based on the information you give them.

Consumers or products.

You may object and ask “Well, can’t a participant (or attendee) of a training, development, or educational opportunity be both a consumer of the opportunity, and a product of the opportunity?” And the answer is, yes and no. The person paying for the participant (or attendee) to take advantage of the opportunity may be a consumer. But the attendee (even if they are paying directly) is always the product of that interaction.

Consumers or products.

What matter so much is not the distinction (although it is important to be clear in your own mind about what’s exactly on offer in an educational interaction); instead what matters is the posture you take toward the participant.

If they’re a consumer, you’ll reduce friction, give easy answers, and hand out “A’s” (or the industry equivalent) without worrying too much about the outcome.

If they’re a product, you increase friction, give Socratic answers, and not bother with the extra approval and permission associated with credentialing a learning experience.

If they’re a consumer, you’ll make sure to say nothing controversial in your marketing, close sales at the mass level, and not be too concerned about outlier ideas, research or approaches to learning.

If they’re a product, you’ll make sure to be pointed and direct in your communication, you’ll close sales at the individual level, and you’ll be really concerned with what’s happening at the edges of the idea, information, or education universe.

Consumers or products.

It doesn’t matter what you decide, but be clear in your own mind about what’s on offer, so that the participant isn’t confused about the experience, and the education, that they’re paying for with their time, their attention, and their money.

Old Ideas

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There are old ideas—and “old” just means “ideas we don’t think will ‘work’ in whatever cultural, economic or political ordering of the world humanity is advocating for now”—that sometimes need new traction.

Ideas fall out of favor for a variety of reasons that reflect cultural evolution. When this evolution reaches a standstill (or when going forward seems scarier than standing still) old ideas from the past tend to return to the minds of the present.

Unfortunately, the speed of the Internet has convinced humanity (at least in some places on the globe) that the speed of cultural evolution should match the immediacy with which an individual can order a latte from their phone.

Here’s a list of some old ideas that are still relevant regardless of how fast you are culturally evolving:

  • Love your enemies.
  • Do good too (and for) those who would seek to do wrong to you.
  • Actively practice humility and grace.
  • Live your life according to a set of values, ethics, and morals that you can explain when the rubber meets the road.
  • Help others who are not as fortunate as you in acquiring stuff.
  • Be interested, open and caring about another person’s story so that you can grow as they grow.
  • Listen more than you talk—either with your hands or your mouth.

When an old idea returns to prominence (or when an idea that never had traction in the first place takes its turn in the milieu of cultural evolution), we often say that it is “an idea whose time has come.

Of course, for ideas as old as the ones above (and many others I’m sure that you could think of) their time never really left.

The Opposite of Civilization is Human Nature

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Culture, Education, Leadership, New Posts, Relationships, Social, The Future & The Singularity, Training

The opposite of civilization is human nature.

And occasionally, regrettably, human nature finds a way to break through the behavioral, cultural, social, and even religious boundaries constructed assiduously around it.

We define this “breaking through,” as conflict, violence, and—at the nation-state level—war.

The purpose of civilization is to hold back the tides of human nature and to negotiate the consequences of human nature when it runs amok: selfishness, greed, vanity, pride, sloth, envy, and so on.

Civilization does this job through the application of social and behavioral norms that enough individuals agree to. Conflicts arise, of course, when the social and behavioral norms are no longer considered normal.

Cultural evolution is a constant. Human nature is a constant.

But civilization is precious, demanding, and worth defending.

[Strategy] Crossing the Chasm for the Peacebuilder

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For the innovative peacebuilder, the truly important switch must happen in how thinking about products and services cross the chasm.


Most of the time, processes (such as mediation, negotiation, or dispute resolution) are confused with products.

A process is, in essence, a service.

Sure, there are sometimes opportunities to grow a process past a service and into a product, but this is rare.

The idea that content focused around “how-to” can be a product, is supported by the digital reality we live in now. With digital platforms, developing digital components for processes we already think of as services, should become second nature.

But for many it hasn’t.

At least not yet.

There are four ways to cross the chasm in thinking, from a strong consideration and focus on services, to a strong consideration and focus on products.

  • Deep listening requires surveying clients (formally and informally), compiling that data, and executing on the results of that listening. By the way, deep listening is beyond active listening, and is something that peacebuilders are increasingly seeing as a tactic for clients at the table.
  • Deep understanding is the corollary to deep listening. Deep understanding requires accepting that crossing the chasm is the only way to scale. Plus, it requires accepting that one-offs, workshops, seminars, and more of the traditional ways of engaging with audiences, clients, and scaling a “lifestyle” business, have changed irrevocably.
  • Deep advice requires accessing the wisdom contained in the organizations peacebuilders may already be working in. It also requires listening to, and reading, advice that comes from non-traditional places. Accessing, and considering deep advice is strategic and tactical. Deep advice not only comes from outside the box, but also it comes from looking in another box entirely.
  • Deep courage is the last way to cross the chasm. Execution is about courage, and many of the reasons that serve to “stall out” the crossings peacebuilders attempt, is less about not doing the other three things listed above, but is more about the lack of courage to pull the trigger and execute on a truly scary idea.

Philosophy first, tactics second, and courage always to change how peacebuilding happens in our digital world.

[Advice] Intentional Anchoring

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The first sentence in a discussion anchors the rest of the conversation.

“I need him to shut up.”

“I don’t like what’s happening here.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

“The fact that we’re focusing on this issue is crazy.”

“They don’t know what they are talking about.”

“Who’s in charge here?”

“I’m in charge here.”

The first sentence of a blog post, the first sentence of an online status update, the first sentence of an email does the same thing.

In a negotiation, this tactic is called anchoring. It’s the process of putting an idea into another party’s mind about a topic of discussion, and then using that initial idea to push or pull the other party in a particular direction.

There is verbal and nonverbal anchoring. Anchoring occurs with signs and symbols. Anchoring happens when parties speak and when they are silent. Anchoring happens with body language.

People perform anchoring all the time, mostly unintentionally, but occasionally, someone “gets” it and intentionally chooses their words carefully and judiciously for maximum effect. And with the purpose of generating maximum conflict.

In any negotiation—along with management, facilitation, mediation, arbitration, or litigation—of a conflict, the person who establishes the anchor first has a greater chance to do better than the person who doesn’t. In this context “doing better” just means “getting an outcome that works for me.”

What outcome are you dropping an anchor for?

[Strategy] Facilitating-as-a-Sales Process

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The skills required to facilitate training for an audience with content that wasn’t developed by the facilitator, are the same skills sale people practice every day:

Persuasion: Since a facilitator doesn’t create the presentation content (or product) they are facilitating (just like the sales person doesn’t create the product they sell door-to-door), the skills of persuasion through using influence in the room, is critical for success. The facilitator must use all the skills of persuasion their fingertips to get the “customer” to buy the product. Yes, the audience already “bought” the product by being there physically. But just like children in school, you have to “re-earn” their attention caring and awareness, rather than taking it for granted.

Body language: Sales people know that confidence, body language, and silence combined with active listening (more on this one below), can help close the sale in a face-to-face encounter. Facilitators need to keep this in mind. Particularly, when facilitating content with which they are not familiar. A facilitator with none of those traits, just like a sale person with none of those traits, can stumble and fall in the room.

Active listening: Facilitators should listen more that they talk. This is easy when the facilitator has developed the product they are facilitating. It’s hard when facilitators haven’t developed the product they are facilitating. The problems compound when they don’t believe the content itself. The first person to listen and react to the content should be the facilitator. But not in the room. Not in front of the audience. And not when the audience pushes back and disagrees, asserts themselves, or engages in conflict with the content.

With all this being said, the facilitator should remember, above all else, that the work is on the line in the room, not the facilitator as a sales person.

[Advice] Evolving Cultural Sensibilities and ADR

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As the economic, cultural, and spiritual forces that used to bind us together continue to refragment from overarching macro-cultures to indispensable micro-cultures, alternative dispute resolution practitioners must take notice.

Overarching macro-culture was driven by communal events, television, economic stability, and overarching cultural “norms” that allowed people to engage in conflicts and disputes with the same regularity they always have, but also allowed the impacts of those conflicts to be dampened.

Indispensable micro-culture is driven by technology, network connections that defy geography and notice, a dismissal of the status quo, and a strong identity component. People still have conflict in these micro-cultures (what used to be called “sub-cultures”). But the impacts of those conflicts are like wildfires that catch the masses attention for a moment, but without a “there” there, there is little sustained effort mounted to ameliorate the effects upon people in those micro-culture conflicts.

Conflict resolvers, conflict coaches, conflict engagers, mediators, arbitrators, and others have watched this evolution occur over the last fifty or so years, with greater acceleration, but the response to the evolution through providing access points to conflict resolution has not been as quick. This is mainly for three reasons:

  • Indispensable micro-culture is still seen as “niche” and not really enough to build a business model on by the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. This is a terrible fact, but except for some people doing some great work in resolving conflicts in specific areas with specific groups in conflicts (i.e. with parties in churches, with divorcing or separating pet owners, etc.) there is more focus by ADR professionals on how to gain credibility with the courts—still standing as the last guardians of a passing away overarching macro-culture.
  • There are still enough parties in conflict participating in the remaining civic life of a formerly overarching macro-culture. This is something that will pass away over time, but right now, there are enough of the “masses” left around that many professional conflict resolvers look at the problems and conflicts of that group and decide to address their issues first. Both as a way to make a “dent” in the universality of conflict, and to make money from a reliable income stream.
  • Refragmentation is still not understood—or accepted psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually—as an inevitable outcome of the erosion of the twin, post-World War 2 oligopolies of corporation and government. Now, this is not to say that government will disappear either now or later; but the fact is, that as conflicts and disputes between parties in indispensable micro-culture become harder and harder to understand, the overarching macro-culture responses from government entities (i.e. new laws, regulations, taxes, and fees) will be less and less effective. This is because indispensable micro-culture conflicts are driven by esoteric, identity based rules, that require conflict resolvers to engage in relationships with those cultures to resolve—and to go beyond the overarching macro-culture rubric of intercultural communication skill sets.

None of these three areas are that daunting to overcome. And once overcome, the business models to get ideas for resolution to people in conflict begin to overwhelm the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. All that is required to get there is the courage of conflict resolvers to act outside of the “box” they have been trained in.