Sunday, July 28, 2013

Disaster–The Best Thing That Ever Happened

As a strategy guy, I have taken an interest in how the post-flood recovery is being handled in Alberta and I have come to a realization.

The flooding may be the best thing that ever happened to Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party. 

While the party would deny that they are taking advantage of the situation on the backs of citizens who got wiped out, any political strategist would call them foolhardy for not taking advantage of the situation.  That’s the way the game is played and historically, the common man has always born on their own backs the burden of those in power, whether it be a local event or a global war.

In a time of fiscal challenge in Alberta, Ms. Smith is walking the difficult walk of demanding that the government not spend money it doesn’t have while simultaneously insisting that citizens demand the right to be relocated by the government at the government’s expense.

Watching her in action at a town hall, it could be debated whether she is merely supporting the anger and frustration being experienced by the citizens or if she is actually fuelling it.  Anger is a very useful tool as I wrote about here Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation.

However, her seemingly two-faced strategy is strategically brilliant and demands an equally brilliant response from the current government.

To influence the mind, one must touch (or torch) the heart.

Is Ms. Smith ….

…. a hypocrite or a hero?

…. astute or asinine?

…. politically savvy, politically stupid or politically suicidal?

We will only know upon historical reflection.

The history books are written by the victors and within those pages, it will be revealed for whom the disaster really was the best thing …. or the worst.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

 

Addendum – July 29, 2013

A few readers reached out to me privately and asked if my comment “history books are written by the victors” was a veiled reference to Wildrose Party Press Secretary Vitor (Victor) Marciano and a future victory for the Wildrose Party.

I don’t make veiled references.  Nice try, though! :-)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Quantum Physics and Problem Solving

I have always been fascinated with the double slit experiment, one of the fascinating elements of quantum physics where an electron acts as a particle or a wave depending on whether it is being observed or not.

For those of you not familiar with this principle, the following video explains it nicely.

 

 

Many people in the business of solving problems would do well to understand the double slit experiment.

Oftentimes when someone is asked to solve a problem, the necessity to observe the problem actually alters the problem or the factors contributing to it.  When people are being observed, they may accidentally or purposefully change their behavior to please the observer or to hide something from the observer. 

The observer in turn may intentionally or accidentally offer information that enlightens or discourages the observed, also changing their behavior and perhaps causing an accidental solution (unlikely), the hiding of the original problem or the creation of a new one.

Add as well the notion that for human beings, unless we rely on appropriate data obtained before the process of observing the problem began, our previous experiences and emotions may taint our view on what we are observing.  This may cause us to possibly see the wrong problem, the wrong solution or not be aware that our participation may have altered the problem.

This of course creates an additional recursive dilemma – it is not always easy to gather data created before observation begins. :-)

The fact is that once the observer begins to participate in the problem solving exercise, they become part of the observed system, thereby influencing it.  This  participation influences the current direction of the observed system before any recommendations can be made to solve the original problem, potentially creating a moving target in relation to problem definition / solution.

And if we continue to attempt to solve the problem without the use of appropriate data, we will likely make choices based on what we already know and will therefore likely get the result we know (which may not be right).

Meanwhile the original (or a new) problem remains, buried in obfuscation, theory and a lot of activity but not the productivity necessary to solve the problem. 

Finding the right data – difficult albeit essential

Selecting the right data to analyze, knowing how, where, when and why to obtain it, with minimal impact on the observed and accepting the same limitations of human behavior to avoid selecting “the data we know” isn’t easy.

In fact, it’s the holy grail of problem solving.

And while it is difficult and complex to identify and select the right data, doing so produces a more powerful solution than to rush into immersing one’s self into the problem, redefining it by the mere insertion of one’s self into the system being observed.

Knowing how to do use  the right data, the right way and at the right time will make the difference between solving the original problem or solving (or even creating) a different one.  And if the new problem is the one that gets solved, there’s a high likelihood that the original problem remains in the same form or a different one when the observer leaves, inviting the problem solving process to repeat itself ad infinitum.

Do you know how to identify and use appropriate data in an appropriate way when solving problems?

Are you sure?

How do you know this to be the case if the system you are observing is changing merely because you are observing it? :-)

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

I had a humorous incident about an hour after this blog was released that reminded me of the difference between using facts and using “what we know”.

Exiting a bathroom in a coffee shop, I was confronted by an angry woman who demanded to know “What the hell I was doing in the lady’s room”.

I pointed to the sign by the door that indicated that the bathroom was for men and women to which which she replied “The sign is wrong.  Everyone knows that the bathroom on the left side is the lady’s room”.

I replied that she could have used the bathroom opposite which appeared to be vacant and which also had a sign indicating that the bathroom was for men and women.

She pushed past me with a harrumph, bringing this Confucius-like thought to mind:

Always strive to leverage the data right in front of you lest what you know leave you in a pi$$y or crappy mood.

Sorry – I couldn’t resist. :-)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Society: Are We There Yet?

Most parents have heard that dreaded question at some point in their driving lifetime, the question that, if left unanswered, gets asked again and again until the parent goes crazy but if answered, probably draws an unfavourable response that the answer is not good enough.

The question is “Are we there yet?” (insert whining tone for effect).

The other common event that many a driving parent has had to deal with are kids who love to argue once they are in the confined space of a vehicle, poking at each other and trying to incite unrest in what would be a blissful drive otherwise.  Many children also have a sixth sense that the longer the drive ahead of them, the more they need to misbehave (at least until they get bored).

Many parents in such situations occasionally look in the mirror and make comments such as “I can see what you’re doing back there”, lose patience and yell at them, attempt to bribe them with teasers like “There will be no treats when we get to grandma’s” or say something more threatening like “You know that distracting the driver is very dangerous and could kill us all, don’t you?”.

And despite how many times this is repeated around the world and barring an unforeseen incident, the vehicle usually makes it way to its destination at the time it was meant to despite the arguing, noise and unrest that was contained within the vehicle during the journey. 

No amount of mindless questioning or making demands of the driver have any significant influence on either the direction, the destination or the arrival time.  The vehicle’s mechanical systems are indifferent to the noise and unrest contained within its passenger compartment and the driver is focused more on getting to the desired destination safely than figuring out how to keep the kids placated unless not responding to them places the vehicle in greater danger. 

The driver is also limited by speed limits, driving conditions and performance characteristics of the vehicle and therefore is not able to get to their destination faster than is possible given these constraints …. no matter how much they wish they could.

Is society any different?

In observing some arguments on social media in recent days, I believe many people fit the description of “the kids in the car”.

They forget that our judicial, legal and financial systems have for the most part, far outstripped us, their creators, in terms of our ability to guide, direct or even predict their behaviour or outcomes.  Such systems operate at their own pace with their own destinations despite our belief that we can define or change them.

And because many people forget this, they spend an inordinate amount of time yelling and screaming at each other, at “the system” or at “the drivers” in an effort to make the system change its direction or get to its destination faster.

In the case of the driving parent, smart children who understand more strategic ways of asking questions discover that they can influence the driver in ways that benefit everyone as opposed to yelling and screaming which for the most part expends more energy but produces a less favourable result.

The same is true about society.

Yelling and screaming at each other will not influence a system that has a life of its own and which is indifferent to our passion and our arguing.  Nor will yelling and screaming influence the people who believe they are “driving the system” unless the person who is “driving” perceives a greater threat by not responding. 

In situations such as the latter, the person “driving” will offer just enough teasers or threats to keep the “passengers” quiet so that the “driver” can return to that which is more important to the “driver”.

The bottom line is this …

Being strategic about asking the right question, the right way, at the right time and with the right intention can produce a much more significant result for the “passengers”.  Otherwise, if we create too much noise and distraction, we may inadvertently cause the “driver” to make an error.

And then a lot of people may get hurt.

We need more focus on the road ahead right now than ever in our known history.  The “drivers” see potholes, detours and delays ahead that may not be immediately obvious to the people sitting in the backseat.

And on the rare occasion that a “driver” is unqualified or unsuitable to be driving, one doesn’t merely overpower the driver to take command of the vehicle.

There are better and safer ways of influencing the “driver” that must be used.

Do you utilize them or are you too busy poking and insulting the person next to you?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

It has been said that many people project outwardly what they struggle with inwardly and for this reason, we can often ascertain someone’s demons and struggles based on what they are screaming about the most.

For this reason, we should probably be careful about what we scream and shout about, lest we tip our hand to others regarding a potential weakness within ourselves.

It is for this reason that some “smart” people intentionally evoke emotion, especially anger, in some people in an effort to expedite the revealing of such weaknesses.

Some related musings ……

Asking Questions That Get Answered

Solving Puzzles–Follow the Breadcrumbs

Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation

Friday, July 19, 2013

Governments, Solutions and Citizen Expectations

As the Province of Alberta moves past the initial phase of shock and survival of the disastrous floods of 2013 and proceeds to recovery and rebuilding, the inevitable debates are arising as to which solutions will work best moving forward.

For people who wonder why solutions don’t manifest magically or why problems couldn’t have been prevented, whether for the flood in Alberta, the bankruptcy of Detroit, the decaying confidence of the US government at home and abroad, the struggling economy, etc., they should consider the following.

A simple, effective, proactive solution to prevent all of our problems in the future must factor in the following.

Definition and agreement upon the solution:

- Think it’s easy? Ask a bunch of kids to decide where they want to go for dinner.  Take that complexity and multiply it a bazillion-fold.

- Oftentimes, people can’t agree on the definition of the problem and so they never get to defining the solution.

- Who defines the group of people who define the problem and solution? That argument alone can take months or years to solve.

Assuming that a problem and solution have been identified, define  …

Solution cost:

- partial solution cost

- full solution cost

Risk of solution choice, accepting that cost is balanced against the risk of implementing / not implementing, return on investment, etc.:

- no solution

- a partial solution

- a full solution

Cost types including but not limited to:

- capital cost

- administrative cost

- social cost

- productivity cost

- GDP impact, nationally and internationally

- personal, national and international security cost

- individual, corporate and government privacy impact

- health of the individual and “the system”

- reputation cost

Reputation cost, many which are maddeningly difficult to measure yet impact us deeply, include but are not limited to:

– international

- national

- provincial / state

- city

- personal

- political

Voter satiation factors:

– what the voters say they want

- what the voters think they want

- what the voters actually need

Political perception:

– what the politician perceives as acceptable voter satiation levels

- what’s in it for the politician

- what’s in it for the organizations and groups that lobby governments incessantly

Then throw in ….

Climate change impact:

– regardless of whether manmade, naturally occurring or some combination

- we are spending more time arguing over the previous point than actually looking for measurable solutions that are known to be helpful

Global economic factors impact:

– too complex to understand, our economic engine has long outstripped the ability of its creator to control, direct or even predict the behavior of.  Don’t believe me?  Ask 10 economists what the key challenges of our present and future are and see how many opinions you will get.

- we are riding the wave, not controlling it, while providing a strong PR message that we are “in control”

Then sprinkle in …

Common human characteristics:

– fallibilities and frailties including fear, hesitation, greed, apathy, indifference, distrust, misdirected passion, dishonesty

- competing priorities / needs

- varying degrees of “what’s in it for me” or ‘not in my backyard”

Let’s not forget that …

The world changes incessantly:

- what we perceive the world to be today changes by the minute, and with ever-increasing speed, complexity, ferocity and impact, providing a moving target

We have multiple problems to solve, all equal in complexity and competing for the same, finite list of resources:

- in the areas of the economy, aging infrastructure, healthcare, social security, world peace, cultural differences, judicial concerns, poverty concerns, etc

It is easier to be an opposition party than the political party in power:

- they just need to spin how easy it is to fix everything, without explaining their strategic or tactical intentions or how they will pay for those intentions.  They count on the fact that citizens always ask “why” and “how do you know” of the party in power but rarely of the opposition party, with citizens easily falling susceptible to emotion-laden promises without any facts to back them up.

Then demand the solution be solved by …

Political will:

– balancing (hopefully) what the citizen needs versus what the politician desires (too often leaning towards the latter)

While still not forgetting that …

We still have to clean up the current mess, finding money that doesn’t exist for the current situation, let alone for the proposed solutions in the future:

- recognizing that the clean-up method chosen is impacted by the choices we are making for the future, making the current / future solutions somewhat linked together in a chicken and egg scenario

And expect it as soon as possible, as complete as possible, as simple as possible, as cheap as possible, as __________ as possible.

I guess it IS pretty simple, isn’t it.

Hardly.

And this was the simplified, 2%-of-the-problem definition.

Anyone who demands a quick, simple solution is deluded.

And any politician who makes it sound simple in a “my x steps to preventing this in the future” plan is either deluded or is assuming that you are.

I could have said “idiot” instead of “deluded” but that would be impolite and most people who are misinformed came by it honestly, through their genetics and life experiences.

If Life were as simple as “follow these x steps”, then our Life would already be problem-free.

And if the problems were “so easy” for some “experts” to have predicted in the first place when they present their master plan for the future, why didn’t they identify the problems before they manifested?  It’s like when a psychic greets you and asks “how can I help you?”.  Shouldn’t they already know? :-)

Meanwhile, the rest of us do the best we can with what we have to produce the best result possible.

And we keep an eye on what the future holds – good and bad.

Which camp are you in?

How do you know?

How do we know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mike Allen, Politicians and Apologies

Mike Allen resigned from the Alberta Legislature yesterday after being arrested as part of a prostitution sting.

As is typical for politicians, he came forward with the standard apology (Politician Apology, Version 1.5, available at your favorite business supply store) which contained stock phrases such as:

- this is a deeply embarrassing moment

- I humbly ask for forgiveness

- I will work hard to regain trust

We’ve heard these apologies before, whether from politicians like Anthony Weiner and Elliot Spitzer, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, etc.

And they all came back bigger and better than ever, at least according to their followers. 

Scorned today – star tomorrow

My personal policy on apologies is based on my simplistic perception of two types of people in the world:

1. The honest type doing the best they can in a challenging world.  They trip up on occasion and make honest mistakes merely because they are human.  An apology from such individuals is unnecessary because they made a normal, human mistake which any of us may have made in the same circumstances.  Anyone claiming to have never made such mistakes is deluded, psychotic or a liar.

2. The dishonest type who make their way through Life taking advantage of others or serving their own selfish needs at the sacrifice of others.  They do things that are unethical, immoral or illegal and continue to happily do so until they are caught.  The obligatory apology that follows rings hollow since more than likely they are more upset that they were caught than for the actual act itself.  Since the apology is therefore often insincere in regards to the reason it was offered, such apologies are unnecessary and in fact, may be insulting to those affected.  Many such people use such an apology to prepare the stage for a comeback later so that they may resume their previously established behavior.

And that is why I find that apologies are unnecessary at best (from good people) and manipulative and deceptive at worst (from less than desirable individuals).

Which camp does Mike Allen fall in?

I don’t know him well enough to say.

I guess what he does in the future will demonstrate the nature of his character and will define the true intention for his apology.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – July 23, 2013

Case in point.  It was announced today that Anthony Weiner, while disgraced and chased from office in 2011, participated in a new round of inappropriate behavior during the summer of 2012.  It goes to show that people’s actions speak so loudly that you often can’t hear what they are saying.

The Heroes We Worship

There has been a photo circulating on social media in the last couple of days that, while disrespectful in some way, speaks volumes in others.

Here is it ….

14793_222500984563640_163985184_n

Cory Monteith’s death from a mix of heroin and alcohol is indeed a very sad event and yes, this photo unfairly “dismisses” him.

But listening to the outpouring of grief, including the number of people who indicated that they may need counselling to go on, seemed a little disturbing to me.

One person interviewed on the radio indicated she would miss the person who wrote and sang “Jesse’s Girl”.  Sorry, Rick Springfield, it appears that you have been demoted.

When I think of heroes and the people who we worship, I think of those who make sacrifices for others or who go above and beyond for the greater good.

How about when a soldier or first responder dies, that we have the opportunity to hear his or her life story – how they put everything on the line, including their family, so that we could enjoy freedom, safety and security?

How about businessmen or, yes, even some politicians, who have made a large impact in the world through their efforts?  With all due respect, Steve Jobs is not the only businessman who has impacted our world significantly and other great leaders deserve an opportunity for their story to be shared when they pass on.

How about other unsung heroes in our community who make our world a better place just because they were in it?

Their efforts inspire us to do better for ourselves and others.

So why don’t we hear more about them?

Who we worship (outside of personal religious beliefs) is a strong indicator of our upbringing, our character, our values and what we think matters in the world.

All of those attributes are not only a reflection of who we are but play a significant role in forming our future and the future of the world.

The question becomes …… who do you worship?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

We need to be careful also that we don’t accidentally create hero worship by the way a story gets treated.  Rolling Stone magazine is facing a lot of criticism for how it featured the Boston Marathon bomber on the cover of its recent issue, as discussed here.

The cover of the magazine makes the bomber look “cool” as shown below.

image

We need to be more cognizant of that which we portray as “desirable” lest we create more people who seek to emulate it / them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Thinking–No Guarantees For Old Problems

Have you ever wondered why, with the number of experts in the areas of positive thinking, goal setting, life transformation and the like, that the world hasn’t figured out how to heal itself of the many difficulties that it faces?

In fact, with the sky-high sales of self-help books, you would think that we should be walking around in a state of permanent euphoria and success and yet despite the number of experts in the self-help space, many people struggle.

Even within the circles of business, many organizations continue to struggle despite their adoption of the latest tools, best practices, frameworks, methodologies and the like that promise that their results are about to become amazing.

Within my industry, despite the incredible plethora of tools and best practices, many clients struggle with projects that are running later and more over-budget than ever despite assurances that such difficulties will disappear with the adoption of the process du jour.

I’m not saying that the words of advice of experts in these and other areas can’t add value nor am I saying that new processes, best practices or methodologies are inherently flawed.

In fact, the positive results that come from embracing new knowledge, ideas, tools, best practices and the like is critical to success and one should strive to embrace a mindset of constant knowledge acquisition and the application of said knowledge.

However, I am suggesting that the promoters of such things are either deliberately or accidentally not telling the consumers of their products and services two critical things:

1. Every human being and organization has their own unique set of circumstances in addition to the commonalities that bind us and for this reason, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Anyone who believes that their offering solves every unique situation is deluded.

2. In order to layer new thought processes, belief structures and behaviors into human or corporate brains, old thought processes, belief structures and behaviors must be removed, nullified or retasked into something positive.

After all, if we didn’t have processes that were incomplete or incorrect, then we wouldn’t need to be learning how to do things better, would we?  If such is the case, how will layering more ideas on top of broken ones magically produce a positive result?

It’s like training someone how to be a competitive runner while ignoring the fact that the runner likes to tow a 100-pound anchor behind them.  All the great techniques in the world in the areas of breathing, energy conservation, eating habits, training, positive visualization and the like will still not power the runner to become a winner in his / her sport.

In fact, I would posit that such training will only frustrate the runner, since they now know what they need to do to win but they don’t know what’s holding them back and because the mystery remains, they move from one trainer to another, hoping to finally stumble on success.

They make the trainers wealthy while the solution to their problem continues to elude and frustrate them.

It would be like seeing your favorite dish inside a glass case – tantalizingly close but permanently out of reach.

So the next time someone promises you amazing success personally or professionally by offering to sell you a new process, methodology, way of thinking or something similar in ignorance of understanding the “anchor” that prompted you to ask for help, ask them this:

If you don’t know what was holding me back or preventing me from making progress, how do you know that implementing your “cure” without effectively diagnosing my “disease” will propel me to new heights of success?

Layering on more stuff doesn’t solve anything.

In fact, it merely hides the problem deeper and deeper under layers of “stuff” until it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to identify the anchor that is holding you back personally or professionally.

The anchor that prompted you to ask for help in the first place.

That’s why when I see people or organizations loudly trumpeting that they are now on the path to success simply because they have embraced “process x”, I can tell if they will be successful or not, merely by looking to see if they removed or retasked the inhibiting anchor first.

You’ve seen these people also.  They are the ones who tell you that this time they have finally discovered the secret to success, based on book x, technology y, etc. but you don’t have the heart to tell them that this is at least the n’th time they have told you this over the years and you don’t see any reason why this time will be any different than any of the others.

Do you know what your anchors are and their impact on your results personally or professionally?

Have you appropriately addressed or removed them?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – July 15, 2013

For the people who wrote me insisting that brute-forcing a way through the “weight of an anchor” is the best way to earn success and to develop one’s character and persistence, such actions usually take a lot more time, energy, money and pain then removing the anchor in the first place. :-) 

While it is true that this approach may occasionally be necessary, for people who routinely and consistently brute-force their way through everything, we usually label such people as “stubborn” (or something else).

It’s like suggesting that intentionally breaking one’s arm is the best way to learn about the pain that results.  I’d rather avoid breaking my arm in the first place and take someone else’s word that it hurts (learning from their experience). :-)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zimmerman–Martin–The Hidden Issue

I could say I am disheartened, disappointed or surprised by the racial divide that became evident when Zimmerman was found not guilty but to do so would be in ignorance of data and facts.

What seems apparent here is that if an African American falls at the hands of a non-African American, then he must be found guilty automatically otherwise it is a travesty of justice.

And yet when people use the phrase “travesty of justice” in America, they forget that justice in America relies on a few key tenets:

1. The accused is innocent until proven guilty.

2. Guilt must be established through the presentation of a sufficient burden of proof by the prosecution.

3. The ruling by the Supreme Court that the constitution prohibits criminal defendants from being convicted on any quantum of evidence less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Remember the OJ Simpson trial?  Despite the fact that law enforcement had a record of prior acts of violence by him against his wife and despite the finding of his DNA at the crime scene, the prosecution was unable to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt and he was found not guilty.

America’s justice system is not perfect nor is it infallible

However, despite inherent weaknesses created by flawed human beings, it is still the best system in the world and in the complexities of today, the system did the best it could with the information, processes and laws that it has.

We need to continue to work together to look past color, creed, religious beliefs or any other differentiator to ensure that our justice system serves everyone to the best of its abilities.  Playing the race card or highlighting any other difference between individuals does not strengthen us – it divides us and weakens the justice system as a result.

And then there is the media

In addition to this, the media did a terrible job of creating a racially charged trial as noted here.   NBC intentionally modified the 911 tape to make it appear that Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin, the Associated Press intentionally chose photos that accentuated the youth and innocence of Martin and the thug-like appearance of Zimmerman and ABC intentionally “redigitized” photos of Zimmerman to make it appear that he sustained no injuries in the altercation.

The media has long ceased to be a presenter of information and this trial confirms that they have now fully morphed into a manipulator of opinions via falsehoods and intentional spreading of misinformation.

And then there are the guns

On top of all of this, we must never forget that in a society that believes that arming itself is the means to self protection, there will always be unfortunate occurrences such as this one.

If Americans insist on the right to bear arms, there will always be a certain percentage of people killed as a result.

If a person is legally armed with a legally registered weapon and feels threatened, they will use the weapon to protect themselves or their loved ones.  You or I would do so without hesitation – this is human nature.

And someone will die as a result.

If you don’t like that, then get rid of the guns.

Otherwise, sadly, such events will continue to happen and we need to stop acting surprised or affronted as a result.

How about our ESP?

Not to sound flippant, but it has been amazing how millions of Americans have been able to piece together the exact events that transpired that night even though witness testimony is scant and contradictory.

People claim to know exactly what was said between the two individuals, what each person was thinking at the moment, what each person’s intentions were, etc.

If people have such skills, I would suggest that they turn their talents to solving the other problems in the world instead of stirring up hatred via armchair legal diatribe.

Speaking of problems - how about inner city violence?

While it is sad that a life was lost that night, look how many young people (especially African Americans) are killed in inner city violence on an almost regular basis in cities like Chicago. 

How about the heart wrenching stories of young children killed in the crossfire between gang members?  Why isn’t that story gripping America?  Why aren’t more African American leaders screaming for society to do better in such situations?

Do you know why?

Because to demand better in inner city America doesn’t serve the purposes and needs of certain individuals.

These individuals seek out others who are looking for something to be angry about, to be affronted by or to be able to cry victim about.

They are happy to inflame the affronted (under the guise of helping them), whether it is to serve their own needs as some politicians do, to prop up ratings as news media does, or to serve someone else’s self-serving goals on the backs of the angry who don’t realize they are being played.  Sometimes even Presidents play the game.

Angry people don’t realize that their simmering anger is being used against them, at their expense, as I wrote about here Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation.

When people are that angry, they don’t want facts.  They won’t listen to reason.

They want blood.

They call it “justice” but they want blood.

When blood spilled is in their favor, they revel in their sense of justice.

When it is spilled in a manner that doesn’t meet their needs, it is called a travesty of justice.

Justice is ultimately defined by perspective.

What they don’t see is that their demand for “justice” may produce events that may get beyond everyone’s control.

And once that happens, everyone loses.

Well … not everyone.

There are many who benefit from such unrest.

When someone incites you to unrest or hatred, do you know if they are serving your needs or if you are helping them achieve theirs?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – July 14, 2013

George Zimmerman’s brother discusses the trial result.

 

A lawyer shares his thoughts on the verdict - The Embarrassment Of The George Zimmerman Verdict.

Addendum – July 17, 2013

I really like how former Governor Mike Huckabee summarized this:

Zimmerman is not a hero. He was a young Hispanic man who believed he was in danger, and used a gun to end what he felt was a threat to his own life. He's going to spend the rest of his life second-guessing his decision to get out of his car that night when he spotted a young man he thought might be part of a crime wave in his neighborhood. And Trayvon Martin is not a hero. He was a young man whose life ended way too soon, maybe because he decided to confront a man he believed was showing him disrespect.

But if there are no heroes, there are some villains. The media deserve to be excoriated for their role in inventing many parts of the narrative before the facts and evidence were even presented. Thank God the press is not a true "fourth branch of government." They emphasized a race factor because Trayvon Martin was black, but they were blatantly dishonest in not acknowledging that George Zimmerman was Hispanic. The facts in the case, as presented in court under oath, were far different than the heated comments that were spewed by the media and the professional agitators, who called more attention to themselves than they did to the tragedy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Revising Expectations of Politicians

One of the things that people love to complain about is how politicians let them down, either not delivering on what they promised, not delivering on what we expected of them or not delivering on what we thought they had promised.

It was for this reason that I was struck by the naked (perhaps accidental) honesty of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Finance Minister, Jerome Kennedy, in a recent interview.

James McLeod recently interviewed the Honorable Minister on how well the Progressive Conservative government in Newfoundland and Labrador was delivering on the promises it had laid out in its Blue Book prior to the last provincial election.  During the interview, Mr. Kennedy said something stunningly transparent when it came to meeting the “promises” laid out in the Blue Book while at the same time contradicting his leader, Premier Dunderdale.

Leading up to the provincial election in 2011, Premier Dunderdale referred to the material in the Blue Book as “promises” to the citizens of the Province as noted in this CBC report.

But in this recent interview between Mr. McLeod and Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Kennedy made these curious remarks (see the link for the full conversation):

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McLeod: Do you think that the government can, with its fiscal situation being what it is, make good on all those promises before 2015?

Kennedy: Well, I’m not aware of the all of the promises or, excuse me, all of the commitments that were in the Blue Book

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McLeod: Can we afford to do the things that your party promised to do in 2011?

Kennedy: You used the word promise. I’m not sure that the Blue Book can be described as a promise. It outlines a platform of initiatives ….…… It’s a blueprint or a platform, as opposed to an absolute promise that we will do things.

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And with those interesting comments, we must come to a couple of conclusions.

1. Senior ministers and politicians in general, once in power, can toss out their “promises”, forgetting them altogether as the Honorable Minster professes to not even know what’s in the platform documents used by his party to win the last election.

2. The word “promise” as used by many (not all) politicians is merely a suggestion and not a “promise” as we interpret it.  Many people have known this for years but it is refreshing to hear a senior politician admit it. :-)

And with the open admission that a politician’s interpretation of the word “promise” differs drastically than our own (shocking, yes I know), we need to change our approach when it comes to our expectations of politicians.

We need to forget about what we can expect from elected officials since once we have two dictionaries in places, all bets are off.

And in the meantime, we need to raise our expectations of ourselves, apply better levels of scrutiny of the candidates before us and raise the bar in how we select our representatives.

For if we don’t, we might think we are disappointed in the people we elect when in fact, we are merely disappointed in ourselves.

We just don’t recognize the subtle difference.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

Will Rogers once said “A fool and his money are soon elected”.  When people are elected because of the gullibility, apathy or indifference of the electorate, I wonder who the real fool is. :-)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Preparing For the Imminent Alien Invasion

I was amused to see an announcement this week that two Congresswomen were putting forward a motion to set aside the Apollo landing sites on the moon as a National Park.

If passed, the legislation requires that the National Park Service have a group responsible for managing the park within a year of passing the bill and that a draft of a plan for managing the park must be tabled within 18 months of passing the bill.

I guess we can consider the following items complete if we have time to consider such legislation:

1. The issue that 1 in 6 Americans are using food stamps to get by must have been resolved.

2. The issues in the Middle East and other areas of the world must have been taken care of.

3. Worries regarding the ever-growing cost of Obamacare must have been addressed.

4. Concerns around the solvency of social security must have been solved once and for all.

5. Concerns around the storage of nuclear waste have been taken care of.

6. The impact of GMOs on our health has been addressed to our satisfaction.

7. Employment numbers are still woefully below what they should be but that’s ok – we have embraced this as the new definition of a successful economy.

8. The fact that nuclear power plants and nuclear arsenals may someday be compromised remotely by hackers, worms or viruses have been completely addressed. 

9. Insert your own concern here.

These may seem important but there are some REALLY important things that arise from the existence of such legislation:

1. Will the park offer free admission for its first year of operation?

2. Can I write off the cost of the trip to the park?

3. Will weight-loss companies show misleading commercials, highlighting earth and moon weights, suggesting that they are responsible for the miraculous apparent weight loss (at least until you return home)?

4. Given that PayPal is now working on a solution for payments originating from space, at least I don’t have to have cash on hand when buying one of my favorite treats at the park – moon pies of course.

5. Pursuant to the previous point, what will my data roaming rate be when I complete a PayPal transaction on the moon and what foreign exchange rate will be provided by my credit card company?

6. Have we considered the aliens who, according to conspiracy theorists, live on the far side of the moon but who probably have not been consulted about the park being built in their backyard?

Yes … I’m being silly and having a bit of fun.

Well …. sort of.

What if point #6 turns out to be real, the aliens get their space knickers in a knot and they come to Earth to kick us around.

If that happens, you should make sure you have a copy of Dr. Travis Taylor’s “Alien Invasion: The Ultimate Survival Guide to the Ultimate Attack” on hand, just in case.  The book is much better than the reviewers suggest – you know how those naysayers and people in denial are. ;-)

Of course you’ll want to make sure you have the hardcopy since everyone knows that the aliens will open their invasion with an EMP, wiping out e-readers. :-)

I read the book on the recommendation of a couple of Air Force officer buddies and then I realized something.

If you don’t believe in aliens and their plans for imminent invasion and you use the book as an emergency preparedness guide for terrestrial-based challenges, you will be much better prepared for almost anything that may happen in our future (with the exception of nuclear war, biological weapon attack, mass coronal ejection, ………).

Well … you will still be better off. :-)

And if you do believe in aliens and their intentions for imminent invasion, you will have the good fortune of being able to say “See? I told you so” with a smile to your neighbours when CNN broadcasts the announcement of mandatory “physicals”. :-)

All jests aside, the bottom line is this

Preparedness and paranoia are two separate things.

Information and obsession are two separate things.

Which one of each pair do you embrace?

Why or why not?

How do you know?

As for the possibility of an imminent alien invasion and whether such an arrival would be good or bad, I have my own opinions.

But for now, I offer Mel Gibson’s musings from the movie Signs. :-)

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Note:

I wrote this in a more tongue-in-cheek fashion than I usually do.  There is method to my madness. :-)

Addendum:

Out of respect for conspiracy people who believe we never landed on the moon, all visitors to the park will be blindfolded in order to maintain the mystery. :-)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

History–A Source of Entertainment, Not Knowledge

Many of us have heard the old adage (and the many variants thereof) that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.

I wonder if the truest variant is Hegel’s when he said “history teaches us that history teaches us nothing.”

In the spirit that stories resonate better than facts and figures, I present the following illustrations that demonstrate Hegel’s point.

Natural Disasters

In the City of Calgary, despite the many politicians and other leaders who acted surprised about the floods, we have a few facts that we can’t deny.

1. The city has faced devastating floods repeatedly in its past and as recently as 8 years ago.

2. The areas stricken the most in each flood are built upon flood plains known to be at high risk of flooding.

3. The City and the Province knew the risks of building in high risk areas but permitted it for decades anyway, lighting the fuse on a time-bomb that keeps going off.

4. Some of the areas are so obviously at risk that a property buyer doesn’t need to be told that they are in risk of catastrophic loss but they buy the property anyway.  Some residents admitted that they have known the risk for years but decided to remain as they “waited for the government to fix things”.

So despite warnings, recommendations and the like in the past, status quo remains and construction will likely continue in high risk areas, threatening life and property in the future.

Meanwhile … in US politics

I find US politics to be a fascinating reflection on the electorate and a great source of support for Hegel’s thoughts on history.  Here are some examples.

1. Former South Carolina Governor  Mark Sanford was found guilty of a number of inappropriate actions as Governor and faced impeachment proceedings.  Despite being disgraced as Governor, abusing taxpayer funds, having an extramarital affair while in office and the like, he has now been re-elected as a Representative from South Carolina, thus demonstrating high levels of support for his “character and values”.

2. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner who was forced to resign from Congress for inappropriate texting of a body part that shares commonality with his last name is now a front runner in the NYC mayoral race (even as he warns that more photos of him may surface in the future).  I guess he is proof that if we choose to stick it out in times of adversity, rising to the occasion, we can overcome anything.

3. Former NYC Governor Elliot Spitzer, disgraced and removed from power in an escort scandal as well as a campaign contribution scandal, is now running for the office of NYC Comptroller.

4. Proving that life has its ironies, Kristin Davis, the madam who ran the organization that brought Mr. Spitzer down, is running against him for the same comptroller position after serving prison time for running her less-than-ideal organization.  Ironically, Mr. Spitzer did not receive any jail time for partaking of the services that Ms. Davis’ organization offered.

5. Jesse Jackson Jr. easily won re-election of his Congressional seat despite facing charges at the time of wire fraud, mail fraud, inappropriate use of campaign funds and a number of other things and while being off the campaign trail as he was treated for a number of “exhaustion” related mental and physical illnesses.  After being re-elected despite the charges against him, he plead guilty, with prosecutors recommending in June of 2013 that he be sentenced to 4 years in jail.

I could go on but the list is too long.  However, it is true that we get the government that we deserve, isn’t it? :-)

And then there is national security

Senior military officers and advisors to the US government warned leaders for years that one of the greatest threats to national security were foreign agents commandeering US commercial aircraft and flying them into American buildings and landmarks.  I was told of this as a civilian in the early 90’s so I suspect that it was known long before I was told.

Ahhhh …. the list is never ending.

Why we can’t find a better way to live?

Human beings have a great gift in our seemingly unlimited levels of resilience.  We appear to be able to overcome everything.

This ability to overcome almost anything thrown in our path is also our greatest weakness.  Our belief that we can overcome everything tends to make us play down prevention with the belief that we will do the best we can and just overcome whatever disaster befalls us.

Unfortunately, as I have seen in disaster preparedness meetings within organizations and governments, planners are paid to anticipate disasters far greater than anything citizens have experienced to-date or could even dream of.

Or would want to dream of.

Some of those disaster scenarios are in fact large enough to overcome even the greatest levels of human resilience.

Unfortunately, those same planners are hamstrung, knowing that they don’t have the money or other resources to deal with every threat and that to share the true threat levels with the world would paralyze everyone into fearing that “the ultimate disaster” is right around the corner.  The resulting panic that would ensue would create its own epic disaster.

And so the planners, advisors and leaders play the difficult game of balancing cost vs. risk while at the same time, keeping citizens contented and focused on ever-increasing consumption.

Interestingly, this ever-increasing consumption is building a new set of disasters for the planet but we don’t need to worry about those right now. 

After all, our children will be resilient enough to figure them out.

Won’t they???

Meanwhile, when the next disaster rolls around, which it will, we will fall back on our old standbys:

1. We will act surprised, supposedly caught off guard that we had no warnings that such an event was possible.

2. We will rise to the occasion, saving those who can be saved while we congratulate ourselves on our ingenuity for our quick response and our ability to create solutions on the fly.

3. We will get angry when we rediscover / relearn that this has happened before.

4. We will find someone else to blame.

5. We will demand action to prevent this from happening in the future.

6. We will go through the motions of doing something, analyzing data, creating reports and then burying them.

7. We will move on without actually changing anything.

8. We will get angry at anyone who points out how predictable we are as a species and how we keep repeating ourselves when it comes to disaster avoidance. We will also get angry at people who remind us that the world is not perfect and that merely thinking good thoughts is insufficient in creating a better world.

That’s assuming that the next challenge doesn’t overrun our level of resilience altogether.

Until then, history will serve as a source of entertainment and not as a warning to hold ourselves and our leaders to a higher level of accountability and preparedness.

And we will continue to ignore warnings, mainly because thinking about them disrupts what otherwise would be an easy Life for many of us.

Well … at least for now.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Personal Note:

When I first started working on “interesting projects” in the early 90’s, I acquired a very deep respect for the many planners out there who do the best they can with what they have so that we can be safe.  Few know of the sacrifices they make, especially in the areas of their own personal health and their family relationships, in performing the tasks that they do.

I was presenting at a conference a few years ago and I was speaking to a colleague about the struggles that I had with the things I had been exposed to over the years.  I figured that someone I looked up to and who had much more experience than I with these things would have some words of wisdom for how to deal with them.

When I asked the question “How do you deal with this information and how do you sleep at night knowing what you know?” his answer was very telling.

“I try not to stay sober”.

A sobering statement indeed.

Addendum – July 11, 2013

The CBC reported today that experts are warning us that damaging water events such as those that occurred in Alberta and Toronto in recent weeks will likely become more the norm and that we need to invest heavily in infrastructure in order to protect life and property moving forward.

This resonates with things that I and others have written in the past about global climate change.  Too many people are trying to prevent it when it is quite possible that it is not preventable, regardless of whether it is a natural cyclical event or a man-made one.

And when people spend all their time arguing about how to prevent what may be unpreventable instead of how to survive and thrive within it, they may be so busy (and so distracted) that they won’t see the event that overwhelms them.

Addendum – July 23, 2013

Case in point.  It was announced today that Anthony Weiner, while disgraced and chased from office in 2011, participated in a new round of inappropriate behavior during the summer of 2012.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Edward Snowden and Diminished Results

In my work over the years on a number of “interesting projects” and working with a number of “interesting people”, I have seen my share of things that frighten me for the future of society.  People who know me know that many of the projects I have worked on keep me awake at night and I have occasionally had warnings issued to me for voicing an opinion that came close to but didn’t cross any boundaries or violate any covenants.

I am reminded of this when I post a musing to call attention to something a public official has done that I believe is wrong.  I can always tell when my blog has struck a nerve because that’s when the number of lawyers reading my blog peaks sharply as it did this week with my post Politics and the Fortuitousness of Calamity as people explore ways to quiet inconvenient truths.

The one thing I am cognizant of whenever I share information or an opinion is that I make sure I stay within the facts, I do it forcefully but respectfully, I do it to encourage dialog, I do it to encourage people to think and I do it to encourage people to consider the greater good and the importance of creating a stronger society for future generations.

Creating paranoia or fear, causing people to feel physically threatened, creating opportunities for evil people via one’s sense of self realization or getting consumed by a sense of “hero” serves no one.

And yet I think that Mr. Snowden has devolved into this state, appearing more to be serving his own needs rather than the needs of the people he claims to be helping.  I don’t  see any positive result or momentum for positive change outside of the noise that he has created in angry people who were already angry about other things before Mr. Snowden hatched his plan.  “Noise” in absence of data and an intelligent strategic intention that serves others rarely produces a positive result for anyone outside of the person who is creating the noise and in fact, it often hurts more people than it helps.

He serves as a warning to any of us who feel compelled to call the world as we see it – that we make sure that our actions are always focused on the greater good, that we don’t create a greater fear or anger in people without a suggestion for a solution and that we don’t expose others to greater danger merely because it serves our own need or sense of self-righteousness.

On this July 4th, we remember that the great nation of the United States of America was built upon the principles of dialog, justice, collaboration, public accountability and service to fellow citizens and the world.

We need to honor the founding fathers by making sure that we protect and use these principles proactively and wisely and that we not rely on someone else to do it on our behalf.

After all, what happens if the people acting on our behalf are wrong or create an injustice under the guise of creating social justice?

Create a great July 4th.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – Sharing a Conversation – July 4, 2013

Sharing an exchange from another social media platform, responding to questions that reflect the responses of a few people who made similar comments.  The >> reflect the comments of a reader.

>>If Mr. Snowden had never revealed the broad spectrum of personal data that the NSA was collecting then no dialog could exist

Anyone who has been reading the news since the 90s has known of the extent of the data collection efforts, including programs such as Echelon and others.  While the programs existed in the 60s, they became common knowledge in the 80s / 90s.  In the late 90s, some of us used to play with Echelon by sending emails that were innocent to a human being but which we knew would trip up a computer.  Back then, emails which were suspicious were often delayed before delivery for a variety of reasons and so we used to send two emails concurrently, one with tricky content and one with normal content and time how long it would take for the tricky one to arrive.

>> I believe it's closer to the level of promoting dialog, collaboration, and public accountability than inciting fear.

Do you honestly believe that what he has done will produce dialog of value?  What is happening RIGHT NOW is that escalation of surveillance is taking place, watching things that didn't even come out in Snowden's exposure.  So the breadth and width of surveillance is increasing and changing as I write this.  Has this helped your privacy or further hampered it?

>> Honestly, he gave up his whole life and livelihood for this exposure. He will be living on the run or in asylum from here on

He admitted that he signed up for the program in order to steal the information and reveal it.  He knew what would happen, taking actions that are considered treasonous under current laws.

>> Mr. Snowden himself is quoted as stating that his intention was to create a dialog that would hopefully change the programs and practices that exist.

Because of my background, I can describe techniques for getting bombs on planes and for stealing your bank information.  How would you like it if I describe it on the web in order to encourage dialog around airline security and security of your financial information?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Finding Answers–Less Emotion and More Data

I wrote a blog over the weekend entitled Politics and the Fortuitousness of Calamity where I discussed the unfortunate habit of some politicians to use disaster as an opportunity to promote their own brand.  In the process of doing so, most politicians like this are smart enough to mix in some benevolent actions in order to keep their followers blind regarding their leader’s intentions.

While I haven’t had an opportunity to respond to the 843 emails I have received as of the posting of this blog, there is one thing that I have noticed.

Of the approximately 8% who disagree with me, 95% of those, including public dissenters such as Vitor Marciano, the Press Secretary for Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, have responded with taunts, insults and attempts at intimidation to convince me to take the blog down.

I could have directed them to blogs such as Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation, Asking Questions That Get Answered or Solving Puzzles–Follow the Breadcrumbs but such blogs only make emotion-laden / fact-less taunters more angry. :-)

It appears that they believe that strong (ala intimidation-based), emotion-laden actions are enough to convince someone to change their actions or to take different actions.

It reminds me of this story.

A teacher was giving visiting parents a demonstration of the acumen of his students and selected a student named Billy for the demonstration. 

“Billy”, said the teacher, “If Jane gives you two cats, Bob gives you two cats and Fred gives you two cats, how many cats do you have?”

Billy responded quickly by saying “I will have seven cats.”

The teacher smiled patiently and then repeated the scenario to Billy, to which Billy gave the same answer.

The teacher cleared his throat, somewhat embarrassed before his audience and then said “Billy, if I give you two apples, Jane gives you two apples and Bob gives you two apples, how many apples will you have?”

“Six”, replied Billy.

“Correct”, replied the teacher, now speaking sternly “and so why ….”

At that moment, one of the exasperated parents yelled out “For God’s sake, kid, why do you think you have seven cats then?  Are you an idiot?”

“Because”, replied Billy calmly, “I already have a cat at home.”

Such stories serve as a reminder that when we seek answers to questions, kindness, respectful dialog and seeking to understand the facts will go a lot further than merely assuming we know all the answers (or that the other person is automatically wrong) and subsequently using intimidation tactics to prove it.

When anger or other emotions rule the day we also tend to make additional mistakes.  Mr. Marciano made the additional error of attempting to guess my motivation for writing the blog by attempting to extrapolate an intention from my business background instead of looking at some glaringly obvious data points.  If he had conducted his research into my background in a methodical, fact-based manner (with the necessary data plainly described on my website here , here and in other places) instead of in a rushed, anger-laden manner, he would have uncovered some insight as to why I wrote the blog and how to approach me about it.

And there’s nothing more frustrating to an emotion-laded person than a fact-based person who won’t rise to respond to taunts and intimidation. :-)

Guessing or totally ignoring the facts rarely produce desirable outcomes unless one is incredibly lucky or the target in the dialog is susceptible to being bent by the intimidation of others.

When seeking to understand the intention of another, do you engage that person with fact-based dialog in a respectful way or do you assume you already know the answer and attempt to bend the other person to fit your “answer”?

And … what happens if you “win” and then suddenly discover you are wrong?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Explanation:

In my line of work as a strategy advisor, very large-scale IT architect and investment capital generator, I am highly sensitive to the importance of authenticity, transparency, character, strategy and legitimacy in leadership.  However, I am most sensitive to these attributes when it comes to political leadership regardless of political stripe. 

Why?  It is because when we get it right in the political arena, most of society thrives but when we get it wrong, everyone in society suffers.  I believe that how well our politicians are enabled (or not) is far more pervasive, important and impactful than is the case with most business leaders.