Friday, April 1, 2016

Originally posted June of 2012 and still very relevant today:
The social cost we'll pay for unchecked expansion of technology 

I am starting to understand how my 15 years of Internet networking experience and my passion for the issue of Human Trafficking are related!  I have been a community advocate here in Phoenix for almost four years and all the while anticipated the news I heard today.  Turns out that a couple of young, teenage girls in Canada were recently arrested for trafficking other teens for sex!  (You can read the whole story here. What concerns me the most about this story is that these teen girls, completely comfortable and knowledgable with the use of Internet and social media worked completely on their own to trap and broker young girls to john's directly.  No adults involved.

One would ask, where are they learning this behavior?  We live in a society today that is based on exploitation.  Maybe this has always been the case, but the Internet makes it far easier for one to get outside their community and lure in an unsuspecting, unknowing victim to take advantage of.  This has been my greatest concern with technology and "the network" expanding as quickly as it has.  Being part of/ associated with the organizations that are truly building the Internet, I have had conversations with business professionals that are bragging about the fact that these companies are laying fiber in third world countries, delivering electricity AND the Internet all at once.  So, these individuals that have never so much as had an e-mail account now have social media and are "friending" all sorts of people, regardless of whether they know them or not.  Frankly, it is scary.

How do we transition our kids from blurring physical boundaries and emotional boundaries?  These are not the same.  As a child, I learned boundaries as physical.  This is easy to teach.  Providing our kids the basic rules for activity on-line is critical at this point.  We need to get our parents engaged and interested in social media in order to prevent further exploitation.  As I've said many times, it is only going to get worse before it gets better.  The social stakes are a generation of kids that have been exploited due to unsupervised on-line activity and a lack of understanding of emotional boundaries.

Our free market believes in expansionism and profit-seeking, regardless of the costs to society.  How are we preparing our children for the explosion of on-line porn?  How are we preparing our children for the explosion of social media?  How are we preparing our children for what's expected to be exponential growth of on-line access from foreign countries where trading in people is cultural norm?  It starts by being prepared ourselves.  These technology tools can be used for bad...which is why MANY refuse to use them.  Well, these technology tools can be used for good as well!  Social media platforms are wonderful for educating, building awareness, sharing the truth (whatever your truth may be).  It is time for MY generation of parents...all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles...to get engaged. This isn't fear-mongering...this is a call-to-arms. There is a war on-line and, I hate to say it, the bad guys are winning!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Social Media and the future of a Global Community


I happen to be very excited with the transparency that comes with living an your life online, but I understand that with the good comes the bad. There are several videos (links herein) that highlighted much of what I consider the good that will come with the Global advancement of the social web. Social media is about transitioning community from physical world to virtual world. With this greater sense of community, I believe we'll experience a quest for greater authenticity, greater empathy, greater vulnerability and, as such, greater community that extends way beyond physical boundaries of neighborhoods, towns, counties, cities, etc.

The Heywood video on Patients Like Me (PLM) was a perfect example of the good that can come from extending community online. As someone who has had her share of health issues, I am excited to create my profile and begin connecting with others that have been living with the disease that has caused so much turmoil in my life. Everyone experiences health issues in their life, this social network provides those going through it at the time with information about the experiences, treatments and outcomes of others with similar diagnoses. Now, like any social network, one has to be cautious about their interactions with others, and it is especially true in this case. Call me a skeptic, but I am always somewhat suspect of the intentions of others in a social network and, in the case of health outcomes, it is important to consider the opinions and data provided by others as just another source of reliable information.

These social networks are allowing individuals the opportunity to be themselves, share themselves, in a vulnerable way in these social communities. This sharing leads us all to "get real" about and better appreciate the human experience, from the perspective of those around the globe. The Anderson video highlights this idea of the unique human experience. He talks of radical openness and a propensity toward niche skills and hobbies, as well as the idea of accelerated innovation as a result of crowd-sourcing. There have been many examples of niche skills that, in a physical community, have gone either un- or under-appreciated, but have taken off online. The outlier in the community immediately has a cohort of similar outliers in other geographic communities that have a unique skill or hobby. This new-found appreciation for the unique, odd, different is finally being pulled into the light of day, offering us all a greater appreciation for the unique and varied talents of a diverse world.

I believe we are going through the greatest change I will see in my lifetime as a result of the advancements around the social web. The Anderson video speaks of the use of the pervasive use of video in the next 5 years as a result of increasing Internet bandwidth. With this will come more face-to-face communication, more authenticity, more transparency, greater acceptance of the individual and greater encouragement and participation from the individual's virtual community. These changes will provide us a greatest leveler I believe we've ever experienced in any lifetime. As the RSAnimate video on Empathy introduces, "empathy will allow us to civilize." And the social web will provide the connections, Global connections, to support greater empathy, "expanding it to all of humanity." The problems on the other side of the world are no longer "out of site, out of mind." Every one of us has the opportunity to connect with individuals participating in the human experience on the other side of the world, firsthand. One of my favorite videos is one that speaks to the growing need for vulnerability in a world hopped up on ego and compartmentalization. I believe that this is the direction we are headed, as more and more live a fully transparent, fully authentic life online and find acceptance, this will spill over into the physical world as we'll all be more comfortable with who we are and no longer desirous of fulfilling some image or need to fit in in our physical communities. AMEN!!

So, how does all of this apply to the Public Administration challenge? I believe that the human experience has been hijacked by politics, consumerism and privilege. This increased transparency, individuality, and community will likely lead to greater participation in the citizen experience. Representation, as laid out in our 225 year old Constitution, has been deemed ineffective given the size/ population of representative districts and the challenge of a growing divide between the haves and have nots. This new culture of online community will provide those who don't feel represented due to physical, geographic or economic boundaries to finally feel like they have a say in policy that affects their lives and their communities. Whereas, someone who feels strongly about a policy change or introduction may not know someone in their community to organize and mobilize with, these connections can be made through online communities, pushing the idea of crowdsourcing into the policy space. The minority and disenfranchised have the opportunity to congregate through online communities, lobbying through grass roots, finally standing a chance against the decades-old lobbying with exorbitant amounts of cash. I am very excited to participate in the transition of our Government and take it back for those who haven't had a seat at the table for generations.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

8/28 Republican Speeches: In a Word Cloud

Word Cloud of Ann Romney's speech:
Word Cloud of Chris Christie's speech:

I was struck today by the discussions and debates around the speeches offered during the Republican Convention last night. So, I thought I would take each of the transcripts from both Ann Romney (top) and Chris Christie (below) and put together a word cloud for each.  I love doing this because it provides insight into the use of words and how that lines up with theme's from the speeches.

One of the most notable things about these two word clouds is that Mitt's name barely appears in either.  Some are asking if this is an exercise in advancing the GOP platform or if it truly is about Mitt Romney's policies and leadership abilities.  This certainly begs that question.

Another interesting thing about Ann Romney's speech is that it lacked in really any kind of consistent theme.  While I think it was her best attempt to be the softer side of the candidate and the GOP, stressing words like moms, love, want, America, it is severely lacking in vision.  As a "Mom," I "want" to see "love" lead in "America."  Today, "money" leads in America and we haven't heard specific details of a plan that appeals to this ideal of moms driving the economy.  To me, this is a lost opportunity...she could have called me...I would have been glad to write THAT speech!

Lastly, I find Chris Christie's use of words very telling about his personality.  He's speaking like a lawyer using words like believe, truth, etc.  Notice the words care, family, love and future are tiny...he clearly was trying to convince the American people of HIS version of the truth.  Added with his emphatic tone, his approach seemed desperate and inauthentic to say the least. The sad truth is that there will be some who will respond to his authoritative, "I KNOW what's best for you" style.  I find his style very egomaniacal, and frankly, very consistent with playground bullying.

This exercise is unique and telling...I look forward to contrasting the different speakers and the different parties over the course of the next few weeks...so please check back.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The social cost we'll pay for unchecked expansion of technology

I am starting to understand how my 15 years of Internet networking experience and my passion for the issue of Human Trafficking are related!  I have been a community advocate here in Phoenix for almost four years and all the while anticipated the news I heard today.  Turns out that a couple of young, teenage girls in Canada were recently arrested for trafficking other teens for sex!  (You can read the whole story here:  http://bit.ly/MjhGzX)  What concerns me the most about this story is that these teen girls, completely comfortable and knowledgable with the use of Internet and social media worked completely on their own to trap and broker young girls to john's directly.  No adults involved.

One would ask, where are they learning this behavior?  We live in a society today that is based on exploitation.  Maybe this has always been the case, but the Internet makes it far easier for one to get outside their community and lure in an unsuspecting, unknowing victim to take advantage of.  This has been my greatest concern with technology and "the network" expanding as quickly as it has.  Being part of/ associated with the organizations that are truly building the Internet, I have had conversations with business professionals that are bragging about the fact that these companies are laying fiber in third world countries, delivering electricity AND the Internet all at once.  So, these individuals that have never so much as had an e-mail account now have social media and are "friending" all sorts of people, regardless of whether they know them or not.  Frankly, it is scary.

How do we transition our kids from blurring physical boundaries and emotional boundaries?  These are not the same.  As a child, I learned boundaries as physical.  This is easy to teach.  Providing our kids the basic rules for activity on-line is critical at this point.  We need to get our parents engaged and interested in social media in order to prevent further exploitation.  As I've said many times, it is only going to get worse before it gets better.  The social stakes are a generation of kids that have been exploited due to unsupervised on-line activity and a lack of understanding of emotional boundaries.

Our free market believes in expansionism and profit-seeking, regardless of the costs to society.  How are we preparing our children for the explosion of on-line porn?  How are we preparing our children for the explosion of social media?  How are we preparing our children for what's expected to be exponential growth of on-line access from foreign countries where trading in people is cultural norm?  It starts by being prepared ourselves.  These technology tools can be used for bad...which is why MANY refuse to use them.  Well, these technology tools can be used for good as well!  Social media platforms are wonderful for educating, building awareness, sharing the truth (whatever your truth may be).  It is time for MY generation of parents...all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles...to get engaged. This isn't fear-mongering...this is a call-to-arms. There is a war on-line and, I hate to say it, the bad guys are winning!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Leadership is about ownership

I have been consulting with a small company with the hopes of assisting them in their quest to establish a more clear middle management structure. In this process, it is clear to me that the biggest gap I see is a clear delineation of ownership. So, I'm going to talk today about how establishing and communicating ownership to your management team provides them both the responsibility and the opportunity to effectively lead their areas and their people. Upon starting with this company, I asked the team to provide me a list of "roles and responsibilities." What I got was a list of actions or tasks that each team member participates in on a weekly, monthly, annualized basis. How is this different? Roles and responsibilities speak to ownership, whereas actions and tasks speak to activity. As activity doesn't always lead to results, it is important to delineate areas of ownership for leaders in your organization. Establishing ownership This is what the organizational chart is designed to do. Whether you follow it to the letter or use it as a guide, it is important to have a structure in place so as to define working boundaries for the team. It is important that the boundaries be based not on the team you have, but more generally on areas of responsibility. The skills and competencies of an individual in Marketing may be very different than that of Operations. Always put an individual in a position to succeed by lining up their strengths with the responsibilities required within their role. Communicating ownership Tell your middle management leaders that they are responsible for both operational and strategic functions for their given area. They need to be responsible for the tasks and activities that they inherit, but they also need to be open to exploring new ones that will provide for better optimization with the marketplace. This is where many organizations make their biggest mistakes. How you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Make sure you are communicating as a leader and not as a manager. These two skills are very different. Managing ownership Communicate outcomes and deadlines. Do not tell your middle management leaders HOW to do something. If they are in a leadership role, trust them to take full ownership of HOW and assess the results. So many leaders over-step their boundaries and give their mid-management staff too much direction. By doing so you are encouraging your people to operate from the box you put them in, rather than allowing them to create the box and to ultimately create the outcome that they believe is appropriate. You may not like the outcome first time. You may believe that they could have done a better job. However, as a leader, you need to regularly check-in, provide guidance and correction, question their activities and help them learn from their experience. As we have heard many times, the most effective route between two points is a straight line. However, the greatest learnings come from bouncing off the side rails. That's what you need to let your people do!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Choosing the Next CEO

This story may be fictional, but I thought it was wonderful. Speaks to the importance of integrity in leadership.

A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different.

He called all the young executives in his company together. He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. "The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today - one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by -- still nothing in Jim's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed.

Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil - he so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room.

When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful - in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives.

Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!" When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed, Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "This is your next Chief Executive Officer! His name is Jim!" Jim couldn't believe it. Jim couldn't even grow his seed.

"How could he be the new CEO?" the others said. Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead - it was not possible
for them to grow.

All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!"

So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later. Think about this for a minute.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Makin' it happen in Phoenix now

This week I am serendipitously remembering my relocation from Chicago to Minneapolis in 1995. The phrase ignorance is bliss is appropriate when considering the decision to move away from all that we knew and all the family we loved. I had NO idea what I was in for. Once settled in Minnesota, I began the steady work of opening up to the local community. Building relationships, making investments in local businesses, learning to trust my local network of service and business professionals. Looking back on it now, I see that doing this once was hard. Doing this twice...what was I thinking? As I stated before, I love Phoenix and have no regrets about the change. I'm now consciously understanding the work I need to commit to, yet again, to open myself up to the local community...especially from a professional perspective. Living as an outsider is very difficult. Not being part of the networks and relationships that make up the business community here in Phoenix, I am very interested in finding ways to "break in." This is my project in the immediate term. If you have any recommendations for this please feel free to leave them in comments.

When I made the move from Chicago to Minneapolis, I had a job with a local company. This helped in making those local connections. Here, almost all of the companies I have worked for are out-of-state and had me as a virtual employee. This has made for a very lonely and disconnected existence. It is for this reason that I am committed to doing the work of making it happen in Phoenix now. I love this place. There is such immense beauty here. My kids are very content here. All of us have had opportunities here that we wouldn't have had in Minnesota. This is the place for us. And in order for it to work, I really need to do the work of building a LOCAL network. Help!!! Time to get in the game and make it happen here!