Network Leap 4

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The impact of the next leap remains non-obvious for too many people, and too far off in many individuals’ minds. But then, there is the alarming presence of all the obvious “whens” all around us.

When the AI gets so good that human beings can’t tell the difference between the computer program and the human being.

When the machine learning gets so good that human beings can’t navigate managing and strategizing about the flood of data coming at us faster than the machine can.

When the amount of collected data is so overwhelming that human beings are paralyzed by analysis rather than having the courage to act in spite of the implications of the data.

In a world of those “whens”—which are arriving to the present as fast as they possibly can, no longer “whens” but “nows”—the only areas remaining to categorize, atomize, and to deliver on spec at low cost to an eager consumer, will be the emotional content of individual, human-to-human interactions.

The next leap is not around AI, machine learning, the Internet, or social media applications.

The next leap is not around robotics, data analysis, electric cars, augmented reality applications or virtual reality.

The next leap won’t even be around the industrialization of outcomes to spec on price, cost, labor, and work.

The next leap will be people—individuals, corporations, businesses, churches, schools—preserving and paying for the texture that individuality brings to human interaction.

The companies that are playing the long game of digitizing everything—every human interaction, every job, every product, every process, every service, and every crumb of knowledge—understand this las concept innately.

Google’s next great leap from dominance in the digital world will be from industrialization of outcomes to spec in a digital environment, to dominance in the material world of emotional, human-to-human interactions where spec means something different from individual to individual.

Are you playing Google’s long game, or are you playing humanity’s long game?

Digital Wisdom

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Many people who have the historical memory of a different communication world,  intuit that the digital world is moving too fast, taking away too much of the “old” world and values that used to be held dear, and is corroding what has remained.

There is also the unstated worry, that the world of digital is moving so fast that it has passed by the wise, in favor of the ignorant, ever seeking knowledge, but failing to ever find the Truth.

The list of problems and issues these people have with modern digital communication are endless:

Lack of relevant empathy.

Increases in narcissism.

Lack of ability to listen.

Loss of critical thinking skills.

Loss of interpersonal communication skills.

Valuing speed to being first over the patience to determine whether you could be wrong.

And so on. And so on. And so on.

I have immense empathy for those who believe that the world is passing them by.

There is an incalculable need for human wisdom from all areas and perspectives to add value by leveraging new digital tools, that it would be a shame to let people other than the wise, to have all the fun in our new digital paradises.

Don’t you agree?

Necessary or Urgent

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Urgent is what is needed right now.

Necessary is what is needed to make the “right now” accelerate faster toward resolving the tension inherent between the urgent and the not-so-urgent.

We confuse the necessary with the urgent, sometimes in the pursuit of speed (just get it done) or in the pursuit of fear (just stop the demand for urgency from being so—well—urgent).

Urgent emotional labor is all around us. Here are some examples:

  • Caring when it’s not “our turn” to care.
  • Listening to someone else’s perspective when we disagree.
  • Searching for hard answers to seemingly easy questions.
  • Truly understanding context and subtext in an interaction.
  • Delaying gratification in the moment.
  • Teaching without losing hope.
  • Learning without losing interest.
  • Sacrificing ourselves for ideas, projects, and people that will outlast our existence.

Necessary emotional labor is all around us. Here are some examples:

  • Feeding the hungry.
  • Clothing the naked.
  • Honoring the memory of the dead.
  • Telling the truth in love.
  • Facing the consequences of our mistakes.
  • Letting other people face the consequences of their own mistakes.
  • Preserving face at the expense of immediate gratification.
  • Not losing focus when the emotional going gets hard.
  • Pressing into the uncomfortable and doing more of the hard things.

Don’t confuse the necessary with the urgent.

Writing with Your Non-Dominant Hand

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One easy way to think about strengths and weaknesses is to try writing with your non-dominant hand. This means if you’re left-handed, switching to your right; and from your right to your left.

This also means that the results of your writing with your non-dominant hand will be critiqued mercilessly by people who have had it drilled into them that the results of your non-dominant handwriting matter more than anything else.

To make matters worse, you might not be promoted, chosen, or even given a passing grade (or granted something beyond a passing grade) if you don’t show that you’re putting in effort to get that non-dominant hand in line over the course of a lifetime.

There are all sorts of examples of this kind of deficiency based thinking in our culture (and in cultures around the world), but it manifests itself most notably in the following ways:

Waiting to be chosen by the boss, the teacher, or the person who’s got more status than you.

Raising your hand before answering a question, not because you don’t know the answer, but because the risk of being wrong is too great to bear.

Sitting through a performance evaluation waiting to be given a “passing grade” (i.e. a promotion) or waiting to be given a “failing grade” (i.e. a firing).

And there are more that could be listed.

These are all forms of (metaphorically) writing with your non-dominant hand.

The fact is, when you’re constantly being rewarded for producing mediocre work with your non-dominant hand (metaphorically speaking) the idea of choosing, developing, supervising, managing, and leading people through a strategic application of their strengths, sounds like a foreign concept.

But the thing is when the boss isn’t looking; when the teacher doesn’t choose us; when we don’t get the promotion or the advancement at work; some of us begin to go back, slowly but surely, to using our dominant hand.

Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we just started people out that way from the beginning?

Sunk Costs in the Conflict You’re In

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When you’re an entrepreneur, the emotional labor you put into the project is a sunk cost. So is the time you spent on not getting a deal. The coffees and dinners that you paid for are also a sunk cost.

When you’re experiencing a divorce, the twenty years of marriage is a sunk cost. So are the kids that you raised together and the house that you bought together. The money that you spent on gifts, trips and other items is a sunk cost.

When you’re going through a lawsuit, the respect that you once had from neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives is a sunk cost. So is the peace and quiet you worked so hard to achieve in the face of what was metastasizing under your nose.

When you’re fired from work, the mistakes you made at work and recovered from are a sunk cost. The emotional engagements that didn’t work out. The twenty years with an organization and the self-worth that you exchanged for a paycheck—these are all sunk costs.

Continuing to invest time, money, attention, emotional labor, caring, and other investments in a conflict situation, because you’ve been doing it anyway, even after the conflict proves to be intractable, unsolvable, and the other party is unwilling to work, is a fallacy.

It’s understandable. After all, time, emotional labor, attention; these are finite resources from a human perspective that, once they are spent, can seemingly no longer be recovered.

There are two options in a conflict then: lament the fact of the sunk costs and seek to ameliorate the impact of the cost in terms of future gains. Or, just write it off and let it go.

The choice is yours.

Seeking Support

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There are five different types of support you can seek ahead of launching any type of initiative inside of your organization:

Moral support—this type of support comes from individuals who cannot give material support, but who believe fervently in whatever it is that you are doing. Belief in you, belief in the initiative, belief in the story of the initiative—these stories distill down into moral support.

Material support—this type of support comes from individuals who may not morally (or ethically) believe in what you’re doing, but they have access to power, money, and other organizational resources. Sometimes this access is conditional, sometimes this access is unconditional, and sometimes this access starts as one thing and ends as another.

Emotional support—this type of support is often confused with moral support in the mind of the person receiving it. The important difference is that moral support has little to do with whether I like you or not. Emotional support is all about whether I like you or not.

Public support—this type of support generates the same feelings of “being picked” in the person receiving it that being chosen on the grade school playground engenders. Public support is oriented not towards you—or towards the initiative you are championing—but is oriented toward convincing the audience that you are supported and that what you are championing has value.

Private support—this type of support generates the same feelings in the person being supported that material support does. The important difference is that private support is almost always exactly that: private. In this context, private means: “I’m supporting what you’re doing, but politically it’s more important for me to preserve private face than to endure the consequences of public exposure.”

When you’re launching an initiative, be sure that you are carefully considering what type of support you are seeking, and from whom.

ROI of Ethics

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One of the main reasons that social entrepreneurship is sometimes scoffed at by audience’s observing from the outside, is the recognition of the obvious tension between the founders’ personal ethics and business revenue generation.

So, what’s the ROI (return on investment) on founders’ ethics?

The ROI on founders’ ethics is the same as the ROI on using the Internet and the tools of communication to leverage business practices against future audiences’ time and attention.

The ROI on founders’ ethics is the same as the ROI on corporate social responsibility—the idea that business must be more like Martin Luther King, Jr., and less like Milton Friedman.

The ROI on founders’ ethics, at the core of social entrepreneurship practices, comes down to deciding whether maintaining principles matters more than generating revenues through all manner of non-ethical business practices.

But, every business person, every founder, every person who starts a social entrepreneurship project, must decide—usually at the beginning of a project—about what those principles are.

And about how far they are willing to travel with them.

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.

There is Risk Everywhere

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There is risk everywhere and fear of risk leads to avoidance, delay, or surrender in the face of conflict and change.

The thing about risk profiles is that they differ based on the stories that we tell ourselves about how we can either succeed or fail in the face of conflict or change.

The stories of failures (“People like us tried something like this before. And it didn’t work.”) and the stories of successes (“People like us tried something like this before. And it worked.”) both share at their core, a story about risk looming large.

If you want to succeed in managing a conflict effectively, or if you want to manage change for other people, or if you want to “win” at a negotiation, here are three points to consider about risk.

By the way, these are not exhaustive points, they are merely starting points:

Everyone has a risk profile. Many people believe strongly that they have something to lose.

For some, its respect, face, honor, the ability to do work tomorrow, or even deeper emotional hurts.

For others, its position, title, money, or the ability to get to show up tomorrow in a place that feels safe.

Most risk profiles, based on fear, is not about physical harm (most of us in the West have eliminated those factors from our daily lives) but is instead about psychological harm.

And psychological safety.

Everyone’s risk profiles mismatch to everyone else’s. This should be obvious, but the fact of the matter is, empathy is in short supply—and always has been.

It becomes even less of a factor when we are so focused on convincing the other party that their risk profile is wrong or misguided, we miss the fact that what matters is empathy to the presence of the mismatch, rather than trying to resolve it.

Everyone wants risk reduced at the least, or eliminated entirely at the most. Reduction and elimination of risk are acts that move parties toward a sense of safety in situations where risk is high, profiles are mismatched, and empathy is in short supply.

The party who succeeds in diplomacy, change management, or conflict reduction is the party who is in tune with what stories will reduce (or eliminate) feelings of risk in the other party.

By the way, the things that people focus on as being “risky” or that they believe they have to lose the most, sometimes are drivers for their most impactful, deeply held stories.

Understand the risk profiles (and the safety and trust needs) of the other party at the table, before trying to convince them of your “I’m right.”

That way, you’ll be sure they listen.

Critical Thinking is a Byproduct of Education

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Critical thinking is a byproduct of education.

When a culture prioritizes the educational process as one that exists to indoctrinate minds, ensure conformity of behavior, and to socialize to a certain level, education transforms into something other than a vehicle for encouraging critical thinking.

When public education becomes something else, it serves to overpower and induct rather than something that serves to grow engagement and interaction with hard ideas—and tough (rather than utopian) choices about life, morality, ethics, and care.

Critical thinking becomes the byproduct of analyses, interaction, and engagement in a model that favors the development of such traits. In this scheme, critical thinking is not to be confused with “criticism-thinking”: where a conclusion is pre-determined and then the student is educated backward to make sure that their answers (and their thinking) conform to the “right” answer.

Whatever that answer may be.

Fake news” as a public information issue is exacerbated by the presence of a lack of critical thinking among college students: people who are exiting a public education system that overpowered their critical thinking (but not their “criticism-thinking”) long before they became encultured to the vagaries of choices and options in the world that only applied critical thinking could help them manage.

When the public focus is more on telling people what to think, because that process sells more papers, encourages more compliance, or makes better workers (but not better citizens) the public overall shouldn’t be surprised when, after a few decades, critical thinking becomes less of a byproduct of education.

The critical thinking for which the public is looking—to create informed voters, for instance—comes about through first determining what exactly the educational system is for.