March 12, 2012

We welcome comments from anyone on any blog post; we want to generate active, meaningful dialogue about issues related to the future of work, the workforce, and the workplace. However, we will not approve blatantly commercial comments, and we reserve the right to edit submitted comments to ensure mutual respect and remove commercial promotions.

InternetYesterday I wanted to understand a definition of leadership that I’d heard about at a recent conference. I typed the first four words of the definition into my browser search engine, hit Return, and in 0.42 seconds I had a list of over 58,000,000 relevant links. 58 million links! In 0.42 seconds!

Many of us don’t really understand how fortunate we are to be alive in 2014. Each of us has access to practically all the world’s recorded knowledge, whenever we want it, no matter where we are, in almost no time at all, and at practically no cost.

Not only that, but each of us can also communicate with almost every other human being, no matter where that person is, almost instantaneously, and again at almost no cost.

And every one of us can publish our ideas and our opinions on a global basis. In the last week alone my website has been visited by people from countries as far away from my home base as South Africa, Namibia, Russia, Iran, India, China, Australia, Vietnam, Brazil, and Nigeria (among many others).

I’m not bragging; I am simply astounded. [click to continue…]

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Editor’s Note: My newsletter/post  from last week, Why are Good Conversations So Elusive?, provoked more reaction than I’ve seen in a long time. I think I touched a raw nerve!

Bruce Rogow, a former colleague and good friend who I admire deeply, sent me such a thoughtful Comment that, with his permission, I am making the slightly edited version below my entire post this week.

Warning: Bruce is a self-proclaimed and non-apologetic curmudgeon who cares little about being politically correct – which is one reason I admire him so much. I hope you find Bruce’s observations as on-point as I did; please keep the the conversation going by adding your own comments and sharing your own stories.

by Bruce Rogow

Jim, I strongly agree that a major exposure of US business today is the inability to have meaningful and material conversations. I’ve been watching successful and unsuccessful businesses and their leaders for over 45 years. In addition to the fine points you raise, the constructive dialog necessary for business today also often suffers from:

“Diversity” is Dead: We have corrupted and distorted this word. It used to mean a diversity of views, perspectives and experiences were welcomed and solicited. Now it means, Do we have the right ethnic, sexual, or racial mix? No one pays attention to the diversity of peoples’ perspectives. Often, the people in the meeting are overly similar in experience, perspectives, and beliefs. It can be dangerous to have divergent views, and often those with divergent views were seen as dysfunctional and shunned out of the organization as we tightened down “the way we do things around here.” [click to continue…]

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Ask Me About My BookIt happened again. I was at a National Speakers Association Northern California Chapter event on Saturday, proudly wearing my button that reads “Ask Me About My Book” (a gift from Cathy Fyock, my writing coach).

Several people did ask (thank you!), and I responded something like this:

Thanks for asking. The working title of the book is Changing the Corporate Conversation. I want to improve the quality of meetings and all kinds of conversations at work. I’m convinced the workforce as a whole is wasting millions of hours of time attending mundane, non-productive meetings of all kinds. My goal is to enable people to design and lead innovative, productive meetings that leverage the talent inherent in every organization.

How did that premise strike people? [click to continue…]


To Live is to Learn

November 3, 2014

Experience is inevitable. Learning is not.

(Nancy Dixon, Conversations Matter blog)

John Dewey would have loved Thomas Watson.

Thomas J. Watson Sr.There is an old story (I really don’t remember where I first heard it) that in IBM’s very early days a young project manager had the unpleasant task of informing IBM’s founder and CEO Thomas Watson Sr. that a major design initiative had gotten off track and had to be shut down after costing the company about $6 million.

When he finished explaining what had happened, the project manager said to Watson, “I’m know I screwed up. I suppose you’ll be wanting my resignation.” [click to continue…]

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Creating Community

October 27, 2014

The most expensive part of a workplace is the salary of the person who occupies it.

(Kevin Kampschroer, Director, Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, General Services Administration)

Woman at desk

I am optimistic that the facilities world is gradually getting beyond purely physical measurements of workplace efficiency (eg, cost per square foot, square feet per occupant); we are in the early stages of learning to look at the relationship between workplace design and the employee experience, which is what ultimately drives organizational effectiveness.

At IFMA’s World Workplace conference in New Orleans in September I was pleased to hear David Karpook, Nancy Johnson Sanquist, and Joe Harris of Manhattan Software/Trimble discuss their research on “Workplace as Experience.” Drawing on The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, David, Nancy, and Joe educated all of us in attendance about just how powerful an impact place has on people.

And then my appreciation of how important that impact is rose several more notches when I heard Kristine Woolsey of Carrier-Johnson+Culture talk about the connection between workplaces and communities at the recent WorkTech14 summit in San Francisco. I was so impressed with Kristine’s insights that I invited her to meet and share her perspectives with my Talking About Tomorrow conversation group a few weeks later. [click to continue…]


Eisenhower on planning

(photo: FEMA Mgt. Institute)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
(Dwight Eisenhower)

All too often as executive teams attempt to develop visions of the future and define strategic plans for growth and profitability, they descend into arguments focused on differing predictions about the economy, or technology, or the workforce.

Or they become distracted by “bright shiny objects” like powerful new technologies (driverless cars, voice recognition, holographic distributed meetings – you know what I mean) that may be fascinating but usually have little to do with their own business.

Like so many other areas of organizational leadership, developing new kinds of conversations and new forms of inquiry about the future are critical components of organizational leadership.

Historically, strategic planning was all about focusing an organization’s attention on a particular marketplace and ensuring that it had the operational capabilities to compete effectively in that market segment. And today most strategic plans continue to make explicit assumptions about future trends, estimated probabilities, and include educated guesses about what’s going to happen.

However, in today’s highly volatile and unpredictable world, assuming any kind of predictability in the marketplace can be fatal. Traditional strategic planning is worse than useless when dealing with the uncertainties of today’s economy. Indeed, I believe that traditional thinking about the future, as if it were actually singular, and knowable, is downright dangerous. [click to continue…]


Imagine this: you are the head of workplace services for a large high-tech firm that has just been acquired by Google (that’s the good news).

Here’s the tough part: you are responsible for a major suburban campus facility that houses about 2,000 employees and you’ve just been told that your immediate task is to build out several floors of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to replace that suburban campus – and to persuade that entire workforce to begin spending about 90 minutes every morning and evening commuting between their homes and downtown.

As Stephen Monaco, Head of Global Real Estate and Workplace Experience for Motorola Mobility, described his experience carrying out that assignment, he began by observing: [click to continue…]


Listen for Meaning

October 6, 2014

Try this exerciseEyes sometime: When you are with a friend, stare into his or her eyes for a full minute (while he/she is staring back at you). This isn’t about flirting, or hypnosis.

No, it’s just about appreciating that you are looking at something completely unique (and so is your partner).

No one else in the world has the eyes you have just been looking at; in fact, a retinal scan is a more accurate way of identifying an individual than a fingerprint – almost as accurate (and a whole lot easier) than a DNA sample.

Each of us also possesses a unique brain – a three-pound mass of cells that contains over 100 billion neurons that are linked by over 100 trillion synapses – the pathways that create our memories and serve as the filters that generate the emotional meanings accompanying each of those memories.

(See my June 30, 2014, article “There is Only One of You” for a more complete discussion about the incredible carbon-based networks and processing engines that live between our ears).

But it’s not just biology that makes you unique; it’s also your experiences, your core assumptions, and your personal collection of talents, interests, and perspectives. And if we add in age, gender, and ethnic/cultural differences, there is no question that every single one of us is unlike any other human being in all of history. [click to continue…]

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BizMeeting 000018482966XSmallHow often have you walked into a corporate meeting wondering why you were there? Or walked out angrily after wasting an hour getting absolutely nothing done?

As a good friend said recently, “Meetings are the bane of our existence.” And if you want to generate universal consensus, just make a comment about how horrible most meetings are.

What’s going on? In my experience there are two major shortcomings in the way most meetings are handled. And I’ve developed a four-question checklist to help me and my clients turn meetings into productive, energizing experiences.

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