Showing posts from 2011

New Leader Integration Process

Are you the new leader of a company or department?Are you about to hire a new leader for your firm?Would you like to accelerate this transition and realize amazing enthusiasm for what’s next?Here are the steps one manufacturing plant took to get their new plant manager, and everyone else, up to speed.

First, the new leader, Pat, and the management team wrote responses to a confidential survey to get their expectations and issues out on the table.This process made sure the new leader and the whole team would be aware of and address the “real” issues in the plant that crop up every day. Confidentiality meant the tough, politically difficult questions could be asked:

1.Is there anything you need to know from Pat right away in order to do your job better?
2.What do you want Pat to know about the direct report team?
3.How do you feel about being a member of this team?
4.What is the organizational "secret" that Pat needs to know to be more effective?
5.Who are your customers and what …

Why Start a Business?

Did you know there are four times as many entrepreneurs per capita in Peru than there are in the U.S.? Who knew?!

In fact, who knew that there are more entrepreneurs in agriculture-based locations than in metropolitan ones? More per capita, that is. It turns out that Laramie, Wyoming is the entrepreneurial capital of the country. All of which hinges on the question, "who is an entrepreneur?"

Entrepreneurs, according to Merriam-Webster and Scott Shane, PhD, (Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and author of the book, The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By) are those people who organize, manage and assume the risk of a business or enterprise. That covers a lot of territory.

I’m reading this book as part of my research on entrepreneurship and here’s what I’ve learned - Entrepreneurship is much more commonplace than we might have suspected. Take a look at these statistics: Over 11% …

Music Matters to Us

Music has a way of teaching us things we weren't learning in other ways.  The sustainability movement  has had trouble reaching some people.  Perhaps music could be a pathway to reaching some of them. 

The scope and urgency of our problems is hard to grasp, frankly.  It's hard to contemplate a billion hungry people, let alone understand how my eating a hamburger on the 4th of July contributes to their lack of food. 

So how could music help? I want to show you how combining a slide presentation on global sustainability problems with music affects the viewer’s experience:’ve seen a thousand of these presentations, but please look at this one too.Then come back to this post.

(You really should watch the whole video to get the effect, but if you're not going to watch the whole thing then watch a moment at these points:   The beginning, 1:42 and 5:40.)

The first two times I watched this, tears welled up in my eyes.  I was less able to "turn off&…

Why Don't Board Members Stay Engaged?

Today a Board VP asked me, "Why don't Board members stay engaged?  They start out enthusiastic and then their activity tapers off."  There are basically three reasons why Board members participate in meetings, committees and fundraising:  
They know the other members and are friendly with them.  They belong and want to contribute to their team.They know what to do and how to do it.  Offer samples and "a buddy" even if your member is successful in business. He or she may not feel confident about asking for a donation or leading a committee of volunteers.They know what they do or say matters.  They want to make a difference.Knowing these three motivators, it's easier to design activities, meetings or retreats that foster engagement.  For instance, a Fundraising Letter Writing Party ties all three reasons together.  Socializing, especially if there's food, sample letters for members to use as a basis for their own letters, plus knowing exactly what the fund…

Entrepreneurship as History Making

There is so much confusion about who entrepreneurs really are. They're mushed up together with small business owners and even independent insurance agents! So I want to tell you how I distinguish entrepreneurs from other folks.

To my mind, entrepreneurs are people who invent a product or service and form a company to deliver that invention that operates in a new way because of that invention. Admittedly that diminishes the number of entrepreneurs around, but it also means we can see them more clearly and can honor their history making task.[1]
The whole point about entrepreneurs is that they see things that could be, see why they would be useful, make them, and get them distributed to the rest of us. There may be a number of iterations before they get it right, but the concept won't let go of them. Sometimes it's as though the idea itself wants to be born.
Entrepreneurs are not working on projects that the rest of us want or think would be great. Those people are innovators -…


… It is not "can any of us imagine better?" but, "can we all do better?" The
dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion
is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case
is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves,
and then we shall save our country.[1]

In his Annual Message in 1862, President Lincoln urged Congress to consider how to influence the fate of the nation.Today his words inspire us to review our current conditions with greater acuity and reflect upon them from a more noble perspective.How shall we disenthrall ourselves?How shall we act anew to save the larger world?
Learning – questioning common beliefs, understanding new concepts and truths, testing new insights, and being changed by them – takes our thinking to a higher order of complexity when it is done in a group.The new way of thinking alters previous constraints, and provides opportunities to cross-pol…

Harnessing the Value of Cross-Functional Discussions

Do you ever wonder how to get your message across to co-workers in a different department?  Do you have to work really hard to understand why someone else is talking about whatever it is they're describing to you?  How can companies help people communicate with each other, in a way that incorporates everyone's knowledge and talents without turning everyone bald from pulling out their own hair?

Planning or working with people from different departments of an organization can be tough; and it's not just because you might be competing for scarce resources.  Almost always, people from one department genuinely like and respect the people from other departments in the organization.  But to really be able to collaborate -- work on something together -- people need more than appreciation.  They have to understand what the other person is saying and why it matters.  How does one get that common understanding?

One suggestion for strategic planning or process improvement projects, is t…

Leaping to New Solutions

Do you ever wake up in the early morning with a random thought that answers a question you’ve had?  I’m talking about the kind of answer that isn’t the product of a logical thought process, but is the result of a kind of leap. One morning, I woke up with this phrase in my head, “generative vs. determinative thinking.” In my half-awake fog, I wrote it down, wondered what in the world this phrase was pertaining to, and fell back asleep. Once I was actually awake, I still had no clue what it was about. 

So off to Google I went. Here’s the first entry from the search for generative vs. determinative thinking: Ontological and Epistemological Terrains Revisited  “…To grant thought generative and determinative functional properties is ...”Boy! Did that not clear anything up! The next source was a lot more interesting: Why Nonprofits Have a Board Problem (  This short interview and book review of Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit …

What's Involved in Facilitating a Staff or Board Retreat?

Last week I was asked by a small non-profit for a proposed budget to facilitate a two day, off site, overnight staff retreat.  The retreat, they hoped, would have two components: team building exercises with a staff of nine to eleven (five of whom were hired this summer), and facilitation of implementation planning of their Board's new strategic plan.  They wanted to form several working groups, which with only 10 people, meant that we would have to stagger the working group meetings so that people weren't trying to be in two places at once.
This organization would make their decision on whether or not to hire me based on price.  First of all, I really appreciated not being asked to develop a full proposal when the issue was going to be price.  I provided this team three options for more or less time, and therefore in-depth work, across two days so that I could vary the price for them.  Even so, it can be really surprising to find out how much even a modest retreat can cost.


The Next Copernican Revolution

As you know, Copernicus paved the way for the scientific revolution by convincingly showing that the Earth is not the center of the universe.  This challenged the prevailing authority structures, understanding of God and the purpose of humans, and supported the development of scientific process. 
Lewis Mumford wrote that there have only been four or five such total societal transformations in the course of human history.  Willis Harman in Global Mind Change makes the argument (arrogant as it may be) that we could very well be in the midst of such a far-reaching global change in our time, "when society goes through a more fundamental kind of change involving all its institutions and even more basic aspects of its culture."
Harman goes on to say that "every society ever known rests on some set of largely tacit basic assumptions about who we are, what kind of universe we are in and what is ultimately important to us." [Italics his]
In our times, our understanding of the …

What Tachi Kiuchi Learned in the Rainforest

I have no idea where I got this little booklet. There's no publication date in it, but it's probably almost 15 years old.  I keep it on the coffee table in my living room a) because it makes me look soooo environmentally conscious and b) because I have to keep working hard on understanding Mr. Kiuchi's message.
Tachi Kiuchi was Chairman and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric America when he received letters from elementary school children asking him to help save the rainforests.  Next thing you know, he's conducting primary research in Malaysia.  Here is what he learned.

Well, the first lesson actually came from his father, long before his sojourn into the forest: "Do what you want. Follow your purpose.  But don't die."  Kiuchi writes, Lesson One: Stay alert. Watch where you're going.

Lesson Two: I learned that saving the rainforests - in fact, saving the environment -- is more than an environmental necessity.  It is a business opportunity, to use creativity a…

Resilience or Adaptability - Focusing Action to Create a Desirable Future

The following article was written last May.  My thinking has evolved since then, which you'll see in future posts. -s

Resilience as a concept for a desirable future is out of vogue, and here's why.  We, quite rightly, are careful about the words we choose to define our goals because they focus our actions to achieve them.  One of the words in vogue these days is "resilience."   Here is a description of resilience from a report, Resilience and Sustainable Development: Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformations.
Resilience, for social-ecological systems, is related to (a) the magnitude of shock that the system can absorb and remain within a given state, (b) the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization, and (c) the degree to which the system can build capacity for learning and adaptation.
It's worth noting that resilience is not needed for adaptation to a steady state. The whole point of needing resilience is that the external state is…

Using the Creative Process - One Model

(Original Post Date: Early April 2010)
A few weeks ago, my coach Louise Kaelin ( asked me to consider being open to the idea that I have "earned a full share of the harvest."  Louise uses a process of crafting statements that help her clients sort out what's true and not true for them and this was the statement we were working on when I needed to slow down and explore what it meant.

Like most of my fellow humans, I have lots of limiting beliefs so I developed a creative, intuitive process to bypass them.  Remember when we used to make collages to help us visualize our dreams?  Well, being an internet aficionada I don't have lots of magazines around to cut up anymore; but I could copy pictures from the web. I Googled images for phrases like,
full measure of the harvestreceiving one's full shareearning your shareworkers in the vineyardand more.  When a photo appealed to me, I copied it into a Word doc.  I had 23 pictures and no idea…


Dear Readers,

Are you interested in finding ways to make Northeast OH a thriving region?Are you interested in how to take ideas and move them into action? Are you interested in finding solutions to problems that work for everyone and the earth we live on?Are you creating wealth and want to let us all know how you are doing it or what help you need?
This is the purpose of my blog - to promote ideas in support of a thriving Greater Cleveland region.To further this aim, let’s use this blog as a way to stay in touch with others who have the same interests.
Our topics will likely range from inclusion, to highlights of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit to boondoggles of entrepreneurship and more thought-filled pieces about inclusion, generosity of spirit and the like.Overall, this topic is too grand to keep to myself.I hope you’ll think with me so that at least, as Descartes said, we’ll know we exist. (
I can’t wait to read your posts!
Best and…