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“And then what happens?”

A simple dialog can turn opinions into plans (or perhaps, into less tightly held opinions).

We ask, "and then what happens?"

Flesh it out. Tell us step by step. The more detail the better.

No miracles allowed. And it helps if each step is a step that's worked before, somewhere and sometime else. The other question that helps with this is, "has that step ever worked before?"

We don't have a shortage of loud and strongly held points of view about business, culture, or technology. But it may be that finding the time to draw a map helps us get to where we want to go (or to realize that we need a new map). 

Fast, easy, cheap, delicious and healthy (a food bonus)

I don't usually blog about food, but here you go:

The next chance you have to visit an Indian grocery, buy yourself a packet of papad (sometimes called papadum, or the phonologic, 'poppers'). They cost about $2 for 10. (my favorite brand) [It turns out that this is a woman-owned company, doing social innovation along the way]…

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and then put them in, one or two at a time, right on the oven rack. They cook in about one minute.

Done. (photo

High in protein, healthy, low impact in their production, crunchy… They even keep for a few days in a plastic bag.

This might be the perfect food for the planet. Have fun.

What bureaucracy can’t do for you

It lets us off the hook in many ways. It creates systems and momentum and eliminates many decisions for its members.

"I'm just doing my job." 

"That's the way the system works."

Most of all, it gives us a structure to lean against, a way of being in the world without always understanding the big picture or the side effects or the implications of our actions. Bureaucracy, the organizational imperative, the system of meetings and people and leverage—it keeps us sane.

The one thing it can't do, though, is let you off the hook.

When you write your history, and when others judge you, they will not accept that you had no choice. What you did when it felt like it was too difficult to say 'no' is precisely who you are.

We remember the people who said 'no' when they thought they had no good options. And we remember the people who went along as well.

We get the benefits of bureaucracy, but we also have to accept the costs. And the biggest one is that we're required to own our actions, to speak up, stand up and act up when we're asked to do the wrong thing.

The alternative is to lose our agency and to accept that we're no longer human.

The why of urgent vs. important

You know you should be focusing on the long-term journey, on building out the facility, signing up new customers or finishing your dissertation.

But instead, there's a queue of urgent things, all justifiable, all requiring you and you alone to handle them. And so you do, pushing off the important in favor of the urgent.

Of course, everyone has this challenge, but some people manage to get past it. Even you, the last time you made a major move forward. Think about it–those urgencies from a few years ago: who's handling them now?

The reason we go for urgent is that it makes us feel competent. We're good at it. We didn't used to be, but we are now.

Important, on the other hand, is fraught with fear, with uncertainty and with the risk of failure.

Now that you know why, you can dance with it.

The smoking lounge

They still have one at the Helsinki airport.

No one in the lounge seems particularly happy to be there. Perhaps they enjoyed smoking when they first started, but now, it sure looks like they realize that it's expensive, unhealthy and a bit of a hassle. Something they feel compelled to do.

The thing is, there are a few people near the lounge busy checking their phones, and they seem just as unhappy about what they're doing.

I wonder when we're going to start building social media lounges?

“Hit the red button”

Everyone on your team should have one.

When we hit the button, it instantly alerts the CEO or someone who willingly takes responsibility for what happens next.

And then the question: What are the circumstances where an employee should (must) hit the red button? Consider:

  • A sexual harassment complaint
  • A customer leaves over poor service
  • There's pressure to ship inferior or dangerous products
  • The wait in the customer service queue passes 8 minutes
  • Any other combination of bribery, racism, dumping of effluents, breaking promises, cooking books, lying to the public, etc….

If you don't have a button, why not?

The red button makes it clear to your team that they should either solve important problems on the spot or let you do so, and that not treating a problem seriously is not an option.

And if you don't treat your project seriously enough to have a button, if there isn't a culture where you want people to either fix these sorts of problems or get them looked at immediately, why not?

We can compromise our way into just about anything. At least do it on purpose. 

Over/with

You connect with someone.

But you exert power over someone.

You can dance and communicate and engage with a partner. It's a two way street, a partnership.

On the other hand, you either exert control over someone, or you are under their control. If you want to be an Olympic wrestler, you need to be comfortable (not necessarily in favor of, but willing to live with) the idea that you will spend time under.

For thousands of years, we've built our culture to teach people to not only tolerate a powerful overlord, but in a vacuum, to seek one out. We build school around the idea of powerful teachers, coaches and authority figures telling us what to do. We go to the placement office to seek a job, instead of starting our own thing, because we've been taught that this is the way it works, it's reliable, it's safer.

And so we're pushed to begin with under, not with.

The connection economy begins to undermine this dynamic. But it's frightening. It's frightening to have your own media channel, your own platform, your own ability to craft a community and 1,000 true fans. So instead, we seek out someone to tell us what to do, to trade this for that.

I think it's becoming clear that power doesn't scale like it used to. Too many unders and not enough withs.

But, each of us can change our perspective, as soon as we're ready.

Find your with.

Drawing a line in the sand

There are two real problems with this attitude:

First, drawing lines. Problems aren't linear, people don't fit into boxes. Lines are not nuanced, flexible or particularly well-informed. A line is a shortcut, a lazy way to deal with a problem you don't care enough about to truly understand.

Most of all, drawing a line invites the other person to cross it.

Second, the sand. Sand? Really? If you're going to draw a line, if you're truly willing to go to battle, you can do better than sand.

Squeezing the last minute out of a session

It's too late now.

If you're the moderator of a panel and you want to rush through one more question…

Or if you're the speaker and you need to race through three more slides…

Or if you're a writer or designer and want to add just one more idea…

Or if you're the teacher and there's just one more concept to talk about even though the bell's about to ring.

Too late.

End with a pause.

End with confidence and calm and yes, please respect your audience enough to not expect that cramming is going to help us or you.

No one, not once in the history of timers, has ever said, "I'm really glad that they went over by thirty seconds, huffing and puffing and begging for attention. That was the best part, and I respect them for cramming it all in."

Our worldview casts a shadow in the words that resonate

One reason it's difficult to understand each other is that behind the words we use are the worldviews, the emotions and the beliefs we have before we even consider what's being said.

Before we get to right and wrong, good or bad, effective or ineffective, we begin with worldview. 

They affect the way we choose a car, engage in a conversation or vote. These cultural and learned worldviews alter the way we see and hear and speak.

Words like: Fairness, change, interference, freedom, responsibility and opportunity trigger different reactions based on worldview. It's always easier to encourage action based on an existing worldview than it is to change that view.

The columns below don't line up for everyone (or anyone), but instead highlight different instincts on different axes on how each of us see the world in any given moment…

An all-powerful authorityTreat others as you'd
want to be treated
Confidence, results,
right now, right later
Exploration, truth, working toward perfect, always a little wrong
Self-respect,
power, agency, taking space
Role awareness, dignity,
giving space, flexibility
Deserve, entitled, keepShare, distribute, invest
EffectsSide effects
Ends and meansMeans and ends
Getting things doneListening, speaking up
and being heard
Patriotism, nationalism,
the homeland
Community, ecology,
the system
Power, authority, compliance, respect, statusFairness, hope, justice,
connection, healing
Profit-seekingPublic utility
IntuitiveInformed
Realism, denialOptimism, pessimism
Rewards, incentives,
victory, spoils
Equity, fairness and
the alleviation of suffering
Urgency, triumph,
security, impulse
Self control,
long-term thinking, wisdom
VengeanceForgiveness
Zero-sumWin-win

Once we understand the landscape that someone sees, we have an easier time using words and images to fill in that landscape, to create a story that they can hear and understand, and, perhaps, we can make change happen.

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