Why I March(ed) Today

At brunch over the holidays, a friend and I were reflecting on the year. It was a big one: #MeToo and all that came with it, the legacy of the Women’s Movement–

“I don’t march,” she said. “What good does that really do?”

“Showing up really matters. In 2016, it was electric. People–across the world–had had a breaking point, and they knew they were not alone. Seeing and being amongst a virtual sea of pink hats in planes, buses, trains, on the street–it was incredible. For the first time, I was seeing women in the world not as a minority. I can’t really put into words the emotion of that day. You could physically feel kindness and empathy, everywhere you went. You can never go back to a “before” after experiencing something like that. Change, real change, happens from that kind of event.”

“Okay,” she conceded. “You have a point. But what does it mean now?”

I have given serious consideration to that question. This year, I reached out to a few march-y galpals to see if they were available this weekend to show up for the cause. Personally, I’m burnt out on marches, but I remembered how important it was to show up the first time, and even the second time. I was curious what this year might look like.

Responses? Several were out of town or skiing. Others were busy, demo’ing the bathroom, and another was helping her mother transition into an assisted living facility. All promised to wear their hats and #Represent. I had to get cat food and clean the windows myself, so I had put myself in rather a dilemma.

On my way to run errands, I joined the march as it was just starting to move.  The energy was low. The crowds were low. I didn’t see as much pluck and cleverness in the signage this year. The tone was different. The sentiments, predictable.

There were the costumes, now professionally made (probably specifically for protest marches). No matter, the red cloak has become an important symbol now, representative of just how much we can lose. Seeing them there was comforting.

I spoke with a cop about crowd expectations.

“We’re expecting 5-7,000,” he said. “Way down from last year, or the first year when it was 30,000. That was fun. I don’t know what it is this year. Maybe it’s the weather.”

“Maybe people are tired,” I replied. “I’m tired.”

“Yeah, well, stay strong. Have fun! It’s good you came out.”

He meant it too. He was in full support of the march. That was cute to see.

My personal favorite aspects of marches are:

  • clever signage. It illustrates the nuance of the protest. Marches are about one theme (in this case the idea that women’s rights are human rights), but people live in their particulars and it’s always interesting to me to understand those particulars better and see how much they matter.
“I dissent” Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • children. I didn’t grow up in a family or attend schools that were politically active. I didn’t attend rallies, marches, or show up for groups that were generally upset. As a result, I didn’t ever really feel that political issues impacted me much, and they didn’t because I grew up in a very protected bubble. So I appreciate parents bringing their kids to events like this. I believe it is important to show up and have your voice heard and feel like they are part of something larger. People need to learn that as young as possible.
Kids finding their voice, good boots!
  • engineers. There is nothing like an engineer with time to creatively express his/her voice. I was late with the photo because by then I was holding my double decaf mocha, but there was one couple with remote-controlled turkeys labeled Pence and one labeled Trump, each holding a sign saying “I’m with –>.” You have to tip your hat to that one.


Do low numbers and an organization suffering from bad management mean this movement was a failure? Not by a long shot. The energy from 2016 will never be forgotten, especially to those that showed up.

The thing to remember about energy is that it never stays in one place. It turns into:

the inspiration for new initiatives

Women-Only Coworking Spaces Are Having a Huge Moment. article

the drive to run for office

More than 100 women elected to Congress in historic midterms – article

the courage to speak up against bad behavior, this year, so many to name but this picture, to me, was the most powerful representation of the #MeToo movement

Cosby, Weinstein, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Larry NasserJoe Paterno

the anger to fight for what is right and the courage to find your voice

Face Of Anti-Gun Movement Vows To Start a “Revolution” Over Gun Control article

the belief that you can change what is possible for yourself and others


the insight to become a better ally — will this by YOU?

So even if the women’s march dwindles, that powerful, powerful, worldwide outcry for human rights was heard and it continues to inspire. I think it will become a memory like the Civil Rights marches of the 60s. But it’s important to remember that a lot of movement came from that first march.


“Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.” –Hillary Clinton


Marches are great, but sustaining change is better. Check out these orgs for ways to involve yourself in your community:

  • Make America Dinner Again (M.A.D.A.) In a divisive time, a nationwide organization is bringing people of divergent views together over dinner — with intense, cathartic results.
  • Living Room Conversations  Living Room Conversations are a conversational bridge across issues that divide and separate us. They provide an easy structure for engaging in friendly yet meaningful conversation with those with whom we may not agree. These conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground, and sometimes even allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed.
  • Attend Citizen University Citizen University is building a culture of powerful, responsible citizenship across the country.
  • Look for Local Events via Seattle Times
  • Become a student at the Community Police Academy Community participants will become familiar with various facets of the SPD and gain insight into law enforcement’s role in the criminal justice system and the daily work of police employees. With increased understanding, Seattle’s community and police can work together and achieve realistic solutions to neighborhood problems relating to crime, fear of crime, and neighborhood decay. This class is both fun and educational and often challenges the myths and images of law enforcement by providing a realistic view of police procedures.
  • Volunteer Your Time.  ACLU
  • Donate Your Resources. …
  • Shop Locally.
  • Join a Class or Group.
  • Seek local experiences, support people doing creative projects.
  • Organize Your Own Event.

Values guide us

It is endlessly fascinating to me how people and organizations decide to live their values–and I include myself here. How we choose to express ourselves through our work matters. We make a difference in how we choose to show up, whether we like it or not.
We are guided by our values. In the classes I teach, the talks I give, and the clients I work with–to a person–most people do not know their values…and I mean really know them. I will extend that notion to organizations as well. They come up with values, but rarely incorporate them in their ongoing decision making.
IKEA remains in my #PantheonOfInterestingCompanies – a category of posts I’ll add to over time – because of how they reckon with their values. The hold tension between both poles – waste and conservation – much like us individuals. And they try, hard (imo), to do the right thing. What attracts me most is their pursuit of elegant problem-solving resulting in learning that is valued and integrated into the company’s culture and eventually its products.
Every year, Ikea Group and INGKA Holding (the holding company that controls the majority of Ikea’s retail stores) publishes a research reporton how people live in and relate to a specific aspect of their homes. Since 2014 it’s dealt with morning routines, food and kitchens, and disagreements at home. This year, it takes on a more existential tone–dealing with loneliness, belonging, and the effects of living in cities.

Two years ago, the company asked thousands of people about where they felt “most at home.” At the time, 20% of subjects said it wasn’t the space in which they lived. Two years later, they asked again, and found the number has risen by 15% among people who live in cities. In other words, 35% of people who live in cities don’t feel at home in their house or apartment.

“Almost half of Americans (45%) go to their car to have a private moment to themselves,” the company reports in a new survey of 22,000 people in 22 countries.”
There is a huge amount of research and theory going back to the early 1900s on changing definitions of home. But what’s fascinating about Ikea’s report is that Ikea, simply by being the largest furniture retailer on earth, has a role to play here. The corporation has more than 400 stores in 25 countries. It reported 936 million visits to its stores last year. One favorite faux-factoid, which, obviously, can’t be verified, claims that 1 in 10 Europeans is conceived on an Ikea bed. We are increasingly renters rather than owners, which makes inexpensive and disposable furniture a necessity. …the idea of “home” has become less permanent and more transient than ever, and, as a result, we’ve stopped thinking of our homes as “self-expression.”
Full article here.
#ProblemSolving #creativity #sustainability #home #innovation #Values #ethics #learning

Genuine fascination gives us an edge on problem solving

Example of creative problem-solving and also how someone’s fascination with a particular creative medium, in this case: mushrooms. Genuine fascination with something particular gives us a unique advantage: the ability to see what most people don’t. We see opportunities, experiments, and solutions that no one thought possible.
To most people, mushrooms are a food source. To mycologist (mushroom scientist) Philip Ross, fungi are much, much more. In fact, Ross is most passionate about mushrooms’ ability to be used for building materials and it is this is what he primarily focuses his attention on. Recently, the mycologists figured out how to make bricks from growing fungi that are super-strong and water-, mold- and fire resistant.
Inhabitat reports that the 100% organic and compostable material is made from dried mycelium and then is grown and formed into just about any shape. It has a remarkable consistency that makes it stronger – pound for pound – than concrete. He recently patented his own version of the mycotecture procedure.

During an interview with Glasstire, Ross explained:

“It has the potential to be a substitute for many petroleum-based plastics. It’s left the art world and seems to have entered a Science Fiction novel or something like that. With this stuff it’s possible to go into regional production of biomaterials. For instance, here in San Francisco, we could start producing lots of local materials using this fungus and could create a pilot project of sorts.”

Constitutional Experiment #45…the largest A/B test in the world

PhotoCredit: Common Dreams

Regardless of your political persuasion, you’ve likely become a more engaged citizen now than ever before, because the grand experiment has not turned out the way you thought it would.  You’re either completely depressed and dejected or surprised and elated. With the Republicans on one side and the Democrats on the other, the U.S. government is really the largest A/B experiment in the world. But that’s exactly what we forget: it’s an experiment.

We think we are watching politics, but what we are really watching is an A/B test. In A/B testing, one solution wins out over another. Tests always start with a set of assumptions. Assumptions are informed by values, such as: Liberty, Equality & Self-Government. A winning result means both sides to develop and refine their processes, prompting new questions, but one solution dominates.

The shock (and surprise) being expressed right now are reminders that we got complacent with our own values, and with the grandness of the experiment. We forgot the magnitude of the opportunity and the impacts of losing liberties.

Experiments require ongoing participation. Results are never taken for granted. Living in one of the greatest experiments of our time, we have the privilege of directly participating in through voting, activism, volunteering, or dedicating our careers to a regional problem or public service.

How many of us do two or more of those things on an ongoing basis? 

When we don’t have to earn our rights by fighting a war, surviving a depression, or managing a natural disaster–all of which rely on government systems–we forget our core values and take our liberties for granted. We get complacent. We begin to feel entitled to a particular outcome from the great experiment. If this occurs, it means the refinements happening are no longer. Over time, the results of the test are less and less inclusive of the whole. The test has become, in fact, rigged to one side or the other.

We are consuming reason and facts and evidence and science and feedback—en masse—more than we ever have before. Synthesizing information is a messy process. So is governing.  Meaningful shifts do not come from one test. They come from thousands of tests.

Government is less efficient than business, by design. It is a giant barge, not a nimble aircraft. Systemic change that lasts gets fully integrated by society, like minimum wage, social security, civil rights, or voting rights takes time. It requires everyone participating in the experiment, not just the leader, to commit to playing a long game. For example, the judicial appointment to the Supreme Court was not 45’s victory, but a predictable outcome of 30 years of painstaking work by an organization most people are just now hearing of: the Federalist Society

The longest game we’ve had in the oval office in a very long time is being replaced by the shortest game in that office, maybe ever. And the feelings experienced across the country (and around the world) is the “quick hit” once an A/B test returned “an answer” as if it were the last answer.

We need to remember that experiments are never over. There is only more refining.  Another A/B test is coming.

How will you choose to engage?

It’s safest inside a ring of fire

Some truths are counter-intuitive.

My focus has been to study master craftsmen. Craftsmen are innovators, working on the fridge or trade, and focused on raising standards. I look at what they do and how they think can be applied in other areas.

Craftsmen tend to work alone. They are in community with other craftsmen, but they work day in and day out by themselves. They are in the business of playing with standards and elevating them. They do this through innovation and creativity.

There is great power in groups. We all know the kinds of things we can accomplish with strong teams. But this article focuses on the trouble we can get into when craftsmen encounter groups. And I want to point to a parallel that happens with people embracing creative problem-solving, trying to push through norms, and how organizations respond.

When groups grow, they become more coherent and pull together. They start to share an identity and see things similarly. They become powerful. These qualities can build cohesiveness on the one hand, and group-think on the other.

A challenge to both the craftsmen and the groups they interact with is that individuals outside the group are trying to work with existing standards, something the group is familiar with, and create something new.  This difference gets aggravated by the fact that innovations are experienced as happening out of sync.

The cliche “they were ahead of their time” comes to mind, but no one is ahead of their time. People invent in reaction to something (an event, a set of ideas, etc.). This is why we experience innovations as unpredictable.

We rarely recognize them as solutions or potential answers to a problem. We don’t know what to do with them when we see them. They make us think differently. They change the way we understand and engage the world around us. They force us to learn something new.

The virtue of any particular innovation is hard to judge until you’ve tried it.

As a result, communities often fear what they can’t understand. More often than we would like, we circle the wagons believe around our beliefs, shunning the new idea. We don’t even want to give it a try.

History shows us that bad things can happen at least temporarily and good things are lost. They are lost often at a time when they’re needed most.

It’s fire season here in Seattle, so it seems like a good time to reflect on firefighting, in general, and in particular, a 1949 fire that fundamentally changed the way we approach fighting fires.

A group of smokejumpers about to take off in Ford Trimotor plane at Missoula Airport, Missoula, Montana for a practice jump, June 30, 1941.

This particular fire is a cautionary story and it’s an important illustration of how the issue of learning well, how we can meet challenge head-on, and predict that it’s going to happen because it happens over and over and over again throughout history.

The fire-fighting crew this group was a very heroic bunch of young men between the ages of 17 to 22. They called themselves “smoke jumpers.” The last of them recently passed in 2014. They were the first firemen to parachute from a plane into remote areas to fight forest fires. The smoke jumpers were a courageous, elite group held together by their group values, their mission, and the courage to do accomplish a difficult job. They dropped into a chaotic environment with the few resources they could carry.

It’s most important to remember for this story is that these men knew if the fire came toward them, they could find safety on the top of a ridge. A ridge provides a natural break in the line of fire.

The innovator of the story, Dodge, was older and more experienced than the group. He could do everything the smoke jumpers could, but better. He had a great reputation and a lot of experience. He was also a reticent, quiet man. He took care of everything in the base camps. But he wasn’t one of them.

The day of the fire, he was their Foreman. They didn’t know him personally and it was the first time he had actually led them as a group. Left in the afternoon to meet the fire and they were on the ground fighting by five o’clock. We know because they found a watch that was melted indicating the fire confronted them 59 minutes later at 5:59. The incident happened in a very short period of time.

This is a familiar dynamic between communities and innovator.

In a crisis or pressure-filled experience, it’s never time that matters,

it’s the certainty with which we hold our views that seems to make a difference.

When they saw this fire the innovator saw one thing, and the group saw another. The kids saw something they could conquer they could tame. They referred to such fires as “ten o’clock fires” and laughed about them.  But Dodge saw the fire and saw something different. He saw a fire that was about to explode and get out of control. He tried to move the group down toward a river that ran through the center of the fire, where they could safely fight the fire within relative safety. They would be able to exit through the river.

But the wind was so strong grass just burst into flame between them and the river and they were trapped. He told them to run. At this point, their only option was uphill, against a fire traveling 100 yards a minute. This was a race they would not win.

At that moment, he did something that at the time that no one had ever done before. He took a pack of matches out of his pocket, turned toward the fire, and lit a ring around himself. He had invented what is now called an escape fire. It is something that every forest firefighter has been educated in today and has saved many many lives since.

The term now means….

escape fire noun\is-’kāp\’fī(-ə)r\

  1. a swath of grassland or forest intentionally ignited in order to provide shelter from an oncoming blaze.

  2. an improvised, effective solution to a crisis that cannot be solved using traditional approaches.

The fire was approaching fast. He called to his men and said to them, “Step with me into this fire.”

The team was running as their training had instructed them to do. Fifteen smoke jumpers ran for the ridge because that was the knowledge that they could rely on.  But Dodge took his canteen out, watered a cloth for this face, knelt in the ashes, and laid down in the ashes of the fire he had burned. The fire burned over him. Other firefighters found a lucky pile of stone. But the fire caught the rest of the men.

Dodge, the foreman, survived the fire by staying in the circle he had burned in the grass. Two more made it to the top of the ridge, only to watch ten members of their team fall to the fire. Two more died the next day in a hospital. All but one died of smoke inhalation.

This is a sad story and I don’t tell it to make you feel sad. However, this urgency of communication and influencing between innovator and group is one that breaks down all the time. You only have to look back through history:

  • the first time we were told the earth is flat;
  • the first time someone said microscopic things are responsible for disease
  • the first time someone said vehicles can go underwater, through the sky, and into space
  • the first time someone said a computer could fit in our pocket
  • first time Lady Gaga said I’m going to be a rock and star Idol

Whenever groups come together, they have common beliefs and their identity is preserved by them holding on to those beliefs. Innovators need to understand that when they are calling people to come with them to a new idea
they’re inviting them into an unproven fire.

No one knows if someone says “I have the greatest idea in the world” if it’s going to work or if it’s going to be a disaster until effort happens. I think in every group we have to ask questions and assign mechanisms that allow us to be open to ideas we haven’t anticipated.

As innovators, we have to find better ways to communicate and accept new ideas while maintaining our relationships. There have to be better ways to pool ideas and share resources in times of stress.

I know that was an intense story, but I want you to think about how you go through your day and interact with others when you are a member of a community that is holding to beliefs, or an innovator approaching a problem from the outside-in.

You are both. You are going to be in communities that you’re working hard to build and you’re a creative innovator that has ideas that people around you will not understand. So the question that we all need to answer for ourselves, and it’s a different answer for everyone, is:

what is the one thing you can do if you’re a member of a community

to see what’s possible when what is presented

is something you don’t understand?


when you take the role of innovator 

and you are telling someone what is possible, 

and sharing how you see differently or more effectively?

In the end, learning new ideas, and really being able to try them on when it counts, is the way we move forward. It’s about getting over our own anxiety. Change is not the problem. I’m not entirely convinced that we even mind failure so much.

The problem for most of us is fear of deviating from a leading strategy.

Just look what it’s doing to the business of healthcare, education, and poverty.

Your Circles Define You. Choose Wisely.

The people in our circles of influence set our standards, what we vision for ourselves, and how we approach change.

Given the impact our peers have on us, it’s surprising to me that we select our them based on proximity.

Relationships are not necessarily formed people who have similar personalities and interests. It’s the people you literally sit next to, work with, or live near. Whom we find ourselves mingling with can have enormous implications. As Jim Rohn has wisely said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Similarly, international public speaker Portor Gale believes your social capital, or your ability to build a network of authentic personal and professional relationships, not your financial capital, is the most important asset in your portfolio. She wrote a book about it: “Your network is your net worth.”

Like the frog in a pot of slowly boiling water, we adapt to whatever environment we find ourselves. We have what psychologists call an “external locus of control,” where we believe factors outside of us dictate the direction of our lives. Thus, we live reactively to whatever life throws at us.

Who is in your smallest circle? How did they get there? Was it intentional or because they were close by? Do these people raise your game? Or, do they hold you back?

If you want to move forward in your life or career, you need to surround yourself with people who have higher standards than you do. Life is a reflection of what you deem permissible. You embrace what you are willing to tolerate. Personal experience shows us that most people will stay in unhealthy relationships for too long, nurse poor finances, and endure jobs they hate. If those things were tolerated, they wouldn’t be in our lives.

Recently, I’ve been working on a book. I had gotten it to a level I was comfortable sharing it out. I shared it with friends asking for feedback and got a few comments here and there. I took a writing class and in every draft, my teacher shows me why and how it could be 10x better, and she holds me to that standard.

Versions I was previously satisfied with now make me cringe. Were my standards that much lower than my writing teacher’s standards? At the time, yes. As she helped me raise my game, my standards increased too. Feedback is a wonderful gift.

The same thing happened during my doctorate research. I sent my advisor a paper I thought was good and he found it unreadable. He challenged me to rethink my outline, always centering me with the question, “what is the story I’m trying to tell?” His questioning forced me to continue to think deeper and deeper on my topic. It was challenging and even frustrating, but it made me better.

This kind of dynamic isn’t just for working relationships. What about your romantic partner? Do they help you rethink your standard for what is possible? Do they help you become a better person? Do they challenge you to think differently? Do you help them?

Generally speaking, at any given time, a small part of your group is moving forward, the rest mimic whoever they are around at the time (we want to fit in), and the rest are moving backward. I didn’t make that up, it’s the old 80/20 rule from economics.

Here’s what the Wikipedia has to say about it:

The principle was suggested by management thinker Joseph M. Juran. It was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population. The assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes.

Because we reflect on those around us, it’s important to take stock of who is in our circle and what standards they have. If they drop, we drop. If they raise, we raise. That is why phrases like “rising tides raise all boats” or “better together” are used to describe efforts of raising everyone in a corporate culture, or society at large.

There are people in your life that just by being around them have increased your thinking, creativity, and energy. Those are the kinds of people you need to reach out and collect. Those are the kinds of people you need to be more like yourself so that you are an example to others just by being around you.

The standards you embrace for your life and work are set by what kind of life you want for yourself. You determine what is permissible. You define a quality life and the quality of your work. If you’re fine coasting than those around you coast as well.

If you want to raise your game, you have to find the better players and learn from them. Change your circles, change what and how you learn.

The talent and “potential” you were born with are irrelevant, especially if they don’t help you realize it. We all know people in our lives with unfulfilled potential. Don’t let that be you.

The people in our circles of influence set our standards, what we vision for ourselves, and how we approach change. This fact is undeniable.

The question is: what are you going to do about it?


The Importance of Relationship Currency

Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, discusses the importance of Relationship Currency in your career as a keynote speaker at this year’s Judson Women’s Leadership Conference.

“Invest in relationships in your environment if you want to ascend to higher and higher levels”, advises Carla Harris, Vice Chairman at Morgan Stanley. Listen to Carla’s advice on how building “relationship currency” is a game-changing investment in your success.