Leadership, Transparency, Fearlessness

Leadership without Fear

The entire Western and Corporate worlds have and are evolving into new methodological contexts – with raised expectations of transparency, participation, collaboration and recognition of the inherent value of the individual as part and parcel of membership, stakeholder or workforce in Association, Organization or Business. It’s not just TDM (those darn millennials) anymore.

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First, though, perhaps we might address this term, “Millennial.”

Now might be the time to drop this word from our lexicon as the pejorative term it has become. No longer really applicable to a specific, definable age-demographic; if anything, Millennial is a point of view, a way of seeing things, a combination of aspiration, inquisitiveness, a sense of one’s value (and perhaps a smidgeon of entitlement, here and there) that pervades vast segments of society and culture…largely irrelevant anymore to age or “generation” and more broadly so to exponentially greater segments of the professional workforce who plan on remaining in that workforce for some time to come.

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Thus, it behooves those in leadership positions to embrace the r/evolution and factor consciousness of these perspectives into management and leadership techniques and styles that resonate and function effectively in the new world.

What does that mean? Primarily: it means Listening

In broad terms what this means is that the aged model of top-down leadership is dying on the vine of ineffectiveness. Executives and boards (especially of non-profits and more and more of corporations: witness the Google walkouts of last week) can no longer expect membership or staff and workforce to accept what is decided in the privacy of boardroom/backroom and “executive sessions” as The Right Thing.

People who have been immersed in transparency and full availability of information for the greater part of their lives are not willing to accept the traditional dictum and edict model anymore. Those affected by decisions expect to see and know the etymology of said decisions and policies; to see, participate in, appreciate and embrace the path by which these were reached. Even with final decisions to which they may not be fully in agreement, people are far more likely to support the result if they’ve been a respected part of the process by which it was created.

Not only do they want to “see the research,” they expect to be a part of that research; to have had a voice in the outreach for and collection of data, of the factors that inform decision-making relevant to themselves, their work, their support of the institution.

Therefore it falls to Conscious Leadership to embrace this dynamic and include the membership or workforce body in the process such that they actually feel and know that inclusion.

Especially in a non-profit, the leader or leadership body are no longer the de facto Decision Makers; rather they are the Decision Managers, the Decision Shepherds; with inherent responsibility to hear from all sectors, appreciate all points of view, include far larger numbers in foundation-laying exploration as policies and procedures are developed and devised…before said policies and procedures, codes and parameters are announced or implemented.

And the Body must sense having been heard before acceptance of any policies coming out of the Executive Suite can be expected.

It has long been embraced by leaders in the microcosm of short-term projects and programs in the creative industries (and some of the major, grassroots NGO’s) that the best leaders and directors listen to and hear (and hear-out) the members of their teams as courses, standards and policies are explored, mapped and decided. The fact is that this has now become a requirement of the macro.

Boards and leaders who believe that they know what is best for an organization without practical inclusion of the member-stakeholders of that organization in the process are deluding themselves and short-changing the organization. Paternalism rears its outdated head.

Members want a voice; an actual voice, and an effective forum for that voice.

It is a virtual truism that the strongest, most effective leaders do not believe that it is incumbent on them to have the answers.

No, a good leader knows the path to the answer, where s/he might go to find the answer, how to explore for the answer and – above all – that leader is always willing to discover that s/he might not yet have arrived at the answer at any given moment.

One needn’t be Right to get to the Right Answer…or any of the possible Right Answers.

The acceptance of that possibility – the management of membership bodies grounded in the acceptance of that philosophy – is what will empower the most effective leaders now and into the next decades.

IMHO

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Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,

“IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience”

remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: Free.

IKR?!

Read it. [Link to iBooks site ]

Casting a Wide Net : Thinking Outside the Arch

New Attraction in Gateway Arch Visitor Center

The Gateway Arch is seeking creative individuals, collaboratives, consortiums and companies for concept development, design and potential execution of a compelling, unique experience to be featured in our new Visitor Center.  Please join us in-person or remotely on Wednesday, November 14, during IAAPA in Orlando, FL for a presentation and launch of the solicitation process.

If you’re interested in any aspect of this, be at this meeting in person or via livestream.

The possibilities are limited only by imagination… http://GatewayArch.com/Projects

This an exceptional opportunity to create a legacy-enhancing experience.

IMHO


Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: Free.  [Link to iBooks site ]

Two Guys Talking on the Subway…

Mount Shasta from the Shasta Daylight. Photographer: Kile Ozier

Someone close to me retweeted this thread by Tucker Shaw (Of “America’s Test Kitchen“), yesterday. I glanced at it and began to read; doubting I’d make it much past the first bit, about two young men talking on the subway…

By the second one, I was completely engaged.

In the years immediately following the worst of the pandemic, it seemed to us – to me – as though the youth that followed wanted no part of this legacy, did not want to know what that experience was. It was bad, that’s all they were willing to hear; then would turn away, physically, spiritually, socially…

I don’t blame them…at all.

When one arrives at an intersection, a crossroads, and off to the left a huge, dark, virtually impenetrable cloud of sadness looms while to the right is the bright sunshine of possibility shining on one’s own special future…the choice is easy and understandable.

These days, there exist groups and organizations and likely millions of ad hoc conversations among the survivors still dealing with our own Waterloo, our own Normandy. Except our battles lasted for years.

Years.

Years of putting friends and lovers – and those without friends or lovers whose families had thrown them out and ceased communication – into the ground or on the surfaces of oceans deep or in forests quiet.

PTSD? Probably. Who had time to Process any of this? Boys (mostly) would get sick and die in a matter of weeks, evaporating before our eyes as we desperately tried to comfort them and one another.

Then. Gone. And we turned to the next one. And the next one. And the next…

No time to grieve. Thus, I believe we still continue to harbor that pain, that bewildered emptiness, and support one another though a loss that remains incomprehensible; returning to enclose and haunt our hearts still, these thousands of nights, later.

Through this most recent decade, though, I’ve encountered scores of young people (everyone’s a young person to me, anymore!); younger men and women who want to know how it was; what it was: newly stunned at what took place during those awful years.

I am gratified to see the compassion and concern in the bright eyes of these questing people. I welcome their questions, their articles, their projects, their documentaries…

And then I hear conversations that reflect an objectivity, a clinical perspective that from here seems so profoundly detached from the experience. I want to grab shoulders, look them in the eye and say, “You have no idea!”

But that’s an unfair challenge to those who were not there.

I wept beside my partner, Jaxon, as I shared “Angels in America” with him for the first time. “This is how it was…”

This is how it was…

I had such a notebook. The list got too long and became too painful.

Then comes this thread from yesterday; the response of Mr. Shaw.

Simple. Eloquent. Evocative. True.

I share this in the name of keeping the human experience, the residual power of those dark years alive, current, appreciated.

It wasn’t so long ago…

Thank you, Mr. Shaw.

His Posts:

This is how it was.

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Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: Free.

Read it. [Link to iBooks site ]

The Pheromonal Element to Collaboration

CIS:E.1234-1962

…Just coming up for air after an intense few weeks directing a team from an already Big and currently Burgeoning and Evolving, Iconoclastic Global Agency on a Secret, Massive Creative Project for a Big Entertainment Company the name of which I can’t reveal or…well…you know.

Each individual on our Team of Ten was hand-picked for this project, and very few of us had ever met one another until immediately prior to the launch of the process. Yet, from our fortnight of collaboration came some of the most powerfully compelling, (realistic and physically possible) original creative concepts of which any of us have had the privileged experience of being a part for quite some time.

The atmosphere throughout the entire arc was high-energy; full of engagement, respect, acknowledgement and enthusiasm as Ideas were born, shared, augmented and articulated.

Approaching showtime, as passionate as were each of us for this far-greater-than-the-sum-of-parts Whole Experience; we were trepidatious as to how this would all be received by The Client.

This Client is as discerning and rare to impress as they come; setting standards across the industries in which we work. The overriding goal when presenting was to at least meet expectation, with perhaps an elusive dream of surpassing them…though no delusion.

As we worked, as our project took magnificent shape, we began to fully appreciate what we had and became proud and excited by our own work.

“What If…” this really blows-away the client?

Well, L’s and G’s. We did. Met and exceeded…

How did this happen? In a word: Charrette.

What the heck is a Charrette?

Born of the architectural communities of France in the 19th century; a “charrette” was actually the physical cart in which the work of architectural students was collected on the day of an exhibition. In the mid 1900’s, the word came to label an extended, working meeting in which all stakeholders to something gather to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

In the Theme Park industry – and in it’s most pure form – the charrette has become a multi-day meeting (generally 2 days, though sometimes more) of a disparately-backgrounded, differently-experienced and differently-focused group of professionals, artists, producers and stakeholders – sometimes augmented with peripheral professions or members representing audience demographics – gathered to envision possibility without boundaries for a park, land, experience, resort, destination or Experience Phenomenon of any type.

Done before the application of budget and time to a given project, this “blue-sky” session can uncover and open vast possibilities previously unimagined as differing points of view, likes and dislikes, personal histories and visions are gathered and mixed in this “pheromonal crucible” of minds and imaginations.

(Ah! There’s that word; “pheromonal.” What’s that even mean?)

I’ll get to that.

The first charrette of my career in these industries was run by the illustrious Phil Hettema; the reigning King of All Where We Play. (Long Live the King!) Thus, the standard was set for me with this first encounter of the process. That was 20 years ago, at the beginning of a project – now fully realized – that is now ranked as one of the best theme parks in the world.

So, that’s my model of how it’s done.

Though, it is an expensive process; involving fees, travel, meals, room nights – generally at an “off-site” location in order to prevent or at least minimize distraction and keep focus on the project…in the name of thoroughness and vast freedom of imaginations, sure, but this also serves to deliver the best ROI.

(I mean, if you’re bringin’ in the pro’s, you want all of their minds and all that attention for which you’re payin’. Amirite?)

This charrette thing virtually never happens in an Agency. Time and Money usually stand right in the way.

In Agencies and Corporations, this process has effectively been pared-down and is labeled a “Brainstorm:” a couple of hours to a day in a conference room, banging out ideas under an immediate-ish deadline. Not ineffective, certainly, and definitely far better than not doing it, at all; this creative forum differs from the charrette in that

  • It is far shorter
  • There is no “downtime” or time and space meditation and cogitation for ideas to simmer and for the subconscious Muse to do her work…
  • People tend to enter and leave based on needs of projects and/or callings that are “just down the hall…”
  • It is not unheard-of for participants to call-in or attend for only what they consider a “relevant section” of the conversation.
  • Often, the entire process is conducted online; one or two hours of collaborative dodgeball, with ideas coming out of brilliant minds as though from a circle of batting cages. Great stuff, immediately applied.

While many great things do come out of brainstorming – and this is not to disparage a very necessary and proven productive process…the results of which make thousands of clients a year very happy – there is no substitute for the charrette.

And that is why the fact of this recent charrette has been so phenomenal…so pheromonally phenomenal. The fact that this Agency took a look at the stakes and decided to invest in this process is eminently forward-thinking and delivered a result that had the client in candidly-expressed awe.

We flew ‘em in from NYC, Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles, St. Paul to join in San Francisco at a relatively pastoral, non-office facility; surrounded by trees and the ocean. Our first experience was one of discovery and inspiration as we took the group to an immersive spot to which none had ever been. Thus, a shared experience of unique discovery, as each individual connected with something different, there, and came away excited and revitalized by that discovery.

The afternoon was intense download of all the background; the research, the mission and vision of the client, all the data, the work that had been done to date, the mandate and our scope.

Then, assignments of independent thought homework to be shared on Day Two. An evening, each on their own, to ruminate on what they’d seen and heard on Day One and Let the Silence Do its Work.

Then, Day Two was an intense and organized, wonderfully productive flurry of ideas and artwork. At the end of the day, the walls and table were covered with concept art, features and components of a vast and disparate family of concepts which, woven together, might truly manifest something never before seen – a Destination that reflects and draws an evolving world and a participatory tapestry of human cultural existence.

Yet, the true value of the two days was seen in the days that followed.

Having met, come to know one another at some level, worked and collaborated in person with one another – the opportunity in what I call “Pheromonal Collaboration” was fully realized.

Having everyone in the same place at the same time, hearing and seeing the same things and responding to those things, each from their own experience and POV, having each person able to experience the reactions and responses and Points of View of the others and observing myriad responses to the same input at the same time ensured a strong sense of Team and awareness of the components and facets thereof.

With no in-and-out, no one jumping-in to participate only in a given area of expertise, we were able to tap into the experience of each individual beyond the core capabilities or talents; a conversation informed by the person, as well as the expert.

Some of our most thoughtful, compelling and exciting ideas for technical components, for instance, did not come from our digital and technology experts. Some of our most accessible experiences for children came from one who happens to not have any. And so forth…

The whole person – the entire team together – at the table at the same time for All the Things made our subsequent collaboration in bringing these ideas to articulation and definition fantastically smooth.

Not easy, mind you; there was sweat and pressure aplenty. But the massive amount that was accomplished in a short amount of time between ideation and concept presentation – the depth and breadth of concepts realized and expressed – was breathtaking…for us and for the client.

Just sayin’… It was productive and exhilarating; and we all were and are appreciative of the foresight and investment outside the paradigm this company chose to make. This is not something that happens every day or could even happen with anywhere close to every project; though perhaps worth an out-on-a-limb investment, every so often, with the right project(s).

IMHO.

Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: It’s Free.

IKR?!

Read it. [Link to iBooks site ]

Mind the Gap – A Moment on Silence

Enjoy the silence - Thomas Leuthard- CC BY

 An effective technique in documentary filmmaking and onscreen interviewing of any sort is the subtle use of Silence.

In Silence lies the key to deeper meaning, more intimate responses, heartfelt authenticity, intensity.

When asked a question by the interviewer, the subject generally answers with top-of-the-mind, ofttimes practiced or rehearsed responses. This is especially true of those who are in positions of being interviewed regularly.

In the silence at the end of the answer lies the key to deeper, more intimate, more authentic statements, comments, expression. The experienced and sensitive interviewer allows that silence to be; s/he quietly allows the quiet to become almost uncomfortable. Rather than instinctively filling that gap with a comment or follow-up question, the interviewer sits calmly, looking the subject in the eye with empathy and curiosity; waits and allows the subject to fill that void.

And that’s when the Good Stuff shows up.

Silence…Quiet…is an integral part of the Creative Process. After the download, post-input, interviews and research, comes the moment when – as I articulate it – one must hand things over to the Muse.

There is a rhythm to Creativity; after taking-in all the relevance, priorities, strategies and vision; the Creative Mind needs Peace. Quiet time in which the subconscious mind – One’s Muse – can sift and sort, explore possibility, mold ideas and concepts.

This rhythm is difficult to protect in the world of agencies, global entertainment conglomerates and corporations. As pressure builds to deliver on a spreadsheet-inspired deadline; having the time to creatively ruminate and allow one’s innate talents to apply themselves can become a hard-fought and often lost battle.

It ain’t toothpaste, though, n’est-çe pas? The best ideas are rarely squeezed out in the instant.

It’s no surprise that some of the best ideas show up on long flights, long drives, long walks, through meditation or the old standby, Sleeping on It.

During extended periods without input, the mind will do amazing things.

Creatives often must push back on pressure in order to give themselves time to do their best work. [For those new to the world of such pressure; trust yourself and your instincts. Accept and acknowledge the pressure but seek with confidence to protect your processing time.]

Of course one can come up with cool and exciting work on the spot – and sometimes that can be a great idea. However, no matter how good the First Idea, a night of sleep, an afternoon in a park (themed or verdant) will very likely yield something far better.

And, it can save money in the long run; but that’s another topic for another time.

Set Time Aside

In the ideation phase of a project or program, when a group is gathered in charrette or brainstorm, building in quiet moments – even a random, solitary and device-free hour for the participants to simply sit or walk and think to themselves – can show up in exciting ways when the group reconvenes. Those minds were recruited to the team for a reason; this simple approach will yield better product by allowing the minds to stretch.

Just as the relaxed muscle will push the runner off the block with greater speed and power; giving these minds a Moment to relax will bring them back to the table regenerated and likely with vastly evolved ideas and concepts.

Listen without Interruption

It’s easy, in the excitement of the birth of one fantastic idea after another, to short-circuit the most fruitful exchange of ideas and concomitant successive inspiration of one idea into another simply by interrupting. It’s easy; we’re all excited.

The discipline of supporting the active listening to every shared idea rests on the shoulders of the Director of that process or meeting. Eyes and ears open, watching the faces of the team and ascertaining that every light that ignites thereon is expressed will inspire confidence and alleviate the self-imposed pressure that can materialize in such crucibles.

Seeing to it that the pressure is not felt through creative sessions, giving each member time to think and articulate – while it may feel as though this slows things down – will actually deepen the experience and enhance development of the concepts. Seriously. Try it, maybe.

IMHO.

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Bonus Features

Coincidentally, as I was considering a short post on this, I came across this articulate video on how Silence affects the brain.

…as well as this exceptional 7-minute read on how to avoid sabotaging one’s creativity by Jack Preston King.  He goes much deeper into the philosophies and psychologies of the rhythm of the creative process and is far more articulate than I.

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Still popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Seriously: Free. IKR?! Read it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/imho/id555219645?mt=11

Leadership in This Millennial Age

ww-animal-ears-fennec-fox.adapt.945.1Millennial is no longer a Demographic. Millennial is, rather, a Way of Thinking, Seeing and Doing. We would all do well to ride this wave, embrace the dynamic and evolve our methodologies…and evolve ourselves in the process.

For decades…for ever, actually…effective leaders have known that one of the most important tenets, virtually the most important First Step of Leadership, is Listening. Long before Deciding and immensely potent in inspiring and empowering team members, staff and colleagues is the act of having Listened and Fully Heard as the first step in any process.

Any process.

This is Nothing New. Socrates was and is an iconic Listener; gauging and engaging his students from the start and immersing them in the process of growing knowledge – theirs and his own.

Even Odysseus listened to all of Penelope’s suitors…before slaying them. (Coming Soon: “Know Your Audience & Know Your Enemies.”)

connundrum_1200x675_hero_focus_0317Participation in Creating Solutions

With the arrival and advent of the broadly-defined (and ofttimes maligned) “Millennial” since the turn of the century, there has been a tectonic shift in the way people will accept being “led.” Expectations of being involved in the assessment of a situation or project and contributing to the addressing of it, of being respected as individuals and participants in solution-crafting – for what each brings to the table throughout the process – has evolved the dynamic into the Collaborative Leadership that is becoming the effective norm. 

So, what does that mean?

Most all people come to the workbench with a set of skills, talents and preconceptions. All of these factor in the dynamic of assessing and addressing objectives. Assuming there is only One Way to accomplish any set of objectives is, any more, fallacious and runs the very real risk of disengagement. While there may be The Way This Has Best Worked in the Past; that ain’t necessarily the Best Way to Do It; even if that is the way a given Leader may have done it, historically.

Today’s creative and professional thinkers want to contribute to and participate in the solutions they may be expected to execute. Without such engagement, the resultant propensity will be to view what is levied or decided for them as irrelevant to them; the absence of engagement begets the absence of respect.

Y’gotta open it up. Know who is at the table and what experience and POV each represents. Lay out the parameters and objectives of a given project and open it to exploration by the team before attempting to lock a course of action.

People want to be part of creating the solution, not simply to be the executors of someone else’s vision or priorities, and not expected to do it the way someone has done it before just because s/he’s been successful in doing it that way. That is the old way, born in the industrial age of factories with assembly lines of workers as simple cogs in the machinery.

This is old-fashioned, paternalistic thinking and simply will not fly in the Millennial Age.

team-brainstormingWhile the way things have been done, historically, may have worked and worked well; the assumption that This is The Only Way or inherently even the best way is simply not embraced by those comprising a greater and growing percentage of the professional resources each day.

Published before in this space is the theory that people, having been and felt fully heard throughout a given process are far more likely to accept, embrace and support the path and solution ultimately taken than if they are simply directed to do something a given way.

More salient, however, is the fact that through such a process all at the table are enlightened to other possibilities; something that virtually always evolves a preconceived or envisioned course of action or solution in unexpected and often profoundly nuanced ways.

Everyone listens, everyone learns, a pathway becomes clear before decisions are made.

This is the expectation of Millennial Thinkers.

Include them in the process. You will learn: They will learn. Success will be more readily grasped and realized.

IMHO.

Still popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Seriously: Free. IKR?! Read it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/imho/id555219645?mt=11 ]

Fantastic Codes of Ethics and Where to Find Them

Don Quixote Attacking The Windmill

If every organization, association, company, guild, union, club and institution created, adopted and lived by a Code of Ethics; perhaps the world would be a far better place in which to live and do bidness.

Am I dreaming? Perhaps. A little.

Though, I don’t believe it is out of the question for such organizations to consider and adopt such a code; to embrace a set of standards of conduct that are espoused, held as respectable examples and voluntarily exemplified by leadership and members of such a group.

In response to last week’s post, some have pointed out that “…we don’t have a Code of Ethics, and our Mission Statement says nothing about having the backs of one another…,” as though such absences – these failures to outline and stand up for doing business with honor and integrity – somehow justify looking the other way as members fall victim to inappropriate and generally unacceptable business practices.

Seeming to assert that, as these things aren’t covered in the organizational documents, said organization is absolved from any responsibility or blame. We can’t be bound by what we haven’t written and included.

Consider: perhaps the absence of such codes of recommended conduct and the ongoing voluntary, active support of them are a large part of the problem…

“We aren’t in a position to police our industries!”

Actually, “policing our industries” has not been suggested.

On the other hand, it may be accurate to suggest that a laissez-faire attitude toward irregular and sometimes dishonorable practices in the name of “doing business” over the past few decades has contributed to the proliferation of such conduct.

Perhaps transforming or evolving through example is a realistic, and potentially a compelling and effective, logical approach.

The association of which I am a proud member was founded, in part, under an implied umbrella of collective bargaining. The little independents who made up the core of this then-new and now-worldwide leader in the industries were often put in exceedingly exposed positions – and sometimes put out of business – due to accepted and standard practices of the Big Boys of the Industry. Not by intent, perhaps; but by [perhaps unintentional or careless] de facto design.

As the industries have grown and become more and more global, diversified, expanded, sophisticated; perhaps some of the spirit of those founding, aspirational moments have been lost… dissipated.

Those companies that have been able to afford the losses so often inherent in some contexts and cultures could slough those losses off; building protections against them into contracts in such a way as to protect profit even without the occasional failure to pay at the end of a project.

The shape and form of the industries have, however, changed.

Now, more so than ever before, a far greater segment of the work done worldwide is by and through ad hoc or to-the-project collaboration of small businesses and independent contractors – organized and managed under the purview of a pivotal entity, perhaps, but contracted directly with a much larger entity as Client.

Thus, financial dealings are not always equal within a given project; such that some companies and groups might be fully paid while other, smaller companies and individuals might be made to wait…or even never receive their full due.

This can seriously compromise the stability of the smaller businesses and individuals, or simply put them out of business.

With that, and harking back to broad and often ambiguous language found in Mission Statements and Statements of Purpose that speak of healthy growth of industries and quality of experience for audiences and customers; we are again confronted with the vital importance of advocating honorable business practice among colleagues, clients and contractors, worldwide.

To eschew such responsibilities – in my opinion pretty much inherent in the DNA of any such association – directly imperils the depth of the talent pool, the breadth of skills and talent at hand, indeed the very quality of skilled, contractable, collaborative expertise available to all of us as future projects materialize and future teams are assembled.

If they’re no longer in business, we have lost access to those assets and the quality of work achievable is at risk, overall.

So, Why Not…?

To be clear:

Having A Code of Ethics does NOT imply…

  • Judgement
  • “Policing”
  • Arbitration
  • Bureaucracy
  • Administration
  • Legal Issues

However… Having A Code of Ethics DOES imply…

  • Ethics, and
  • Offers the opportunity to live by them, and
  • Lead by Example

So, why not create and adopt a Code of Ethics? Not something to be “enforced;” rather, one to be embraced and exemplified voluntarily?

Such a code; proudly held and lived by membership, stands to contribute to transformation by example; colleague-to-colleague, encouraging one another to take the high road of honor and respect when conflicts or obstacles occur.

As George W. Bush said at the opening of the African American Museum on September 16, 2016 (and I surprise even myself by quoting GWB, but here it is…);

“A great nation does not hide its history,

it faces its flaws, and corrects them.” 

Sweeping these problems under the rug is no small part of what got us here. Perhaps we can work toward correcting our own failings by facing them, acknowledging them and exemplifying what is Right.

’Tis possible; n’est-çe pas?

Perhaps a task force created to study and recommend…

IMHO

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Still popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Seriously: Free. IKR?! Read it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/imho/id555219645?mt=11

A TEAchable Moment?

Climate-Ethics-2

If a business fails in the Desert…

…and the reasons are not addressed; will it happen again?

Probably.

Tonight; the largest, most respected organization of its kind in the world – conceived and created more than 25 years ago and comprised of thousands of the most creative, accomplished, productive, innovative and even legendary men and women in these industries – is bestowing annual, glowing acknowledgement on the most exemplary accomplishments of the year just passed.

Born of a very real need to work together to nurture and build an international association of creators of experience – and, by design, to protect these independent business people, small businesses, individual artists and artisans from being victimized and having advantage taken by the Vast and Powerful, by those of Big Money, by the Dominant (who have since become, coincidentally, active members) – this association has become respected worldwide, is the “go-to” entity in these industries for new knowledge, for sourcing the best in the business, for building teams and leading projects in every country on the planet.

The Experts, the Leaders, the Setters of Standards and Practices. That’s us.

Tonight, this organization is giving one of its highest awards to a company and a project that, by refusing to live up to its own contracts, by failing to pay the vendors, creative and production, who have delivered this project to such high standards, has egregiously risked the financial security – indeed the very existence – of a number of our own members.

How have we come to this?

This is not a New Thing, and has been going on for decades. For so long, the big boys in the business may have wryly griped about it over cocktails and dinner; though in the end, seem to have pretty much simply considered it a cost of doing business in these countries.

As the world has shrunk, however, and the number of small, independent, specialized craft, technical, design and management segments have become more specialized and to-the-project rather than living protected under a massively financed umbrella; this dynamic has persisted and the risk to the “little guys” has grown. Concomitantly, those who have become more and more vocal about the untoward business practices have been told to keep quiet in the interest of The Business, the stories are not reported and the incidents are swept under the proverbial rug.

Yesterday, during a presentation for the awardee, for the first time in…ever, the owner of one such small business currently having been put at great risk by this awardee stood up and, in open forum, asked when he and the rest of the unpaid vendors of this ostensibly finished and apparently award-winning project can expect to get paid.

The room fell silent. The CEO remained silent. The question went unanswered.

But. The conversation is now in the open.

The basic question: how can an organization that was founded to protect individuals and independent businesses overlook the damage being done to its membership and award the perpetrator for such a project?

Are we overlooking where lies our real value? In supporting the Big Money to the detriment of the people who actually do the work; is that not the opposite of nurturing an industry?

Don’t embarrass the <Name of Culture here>!!

The offline responses to this man’s plea, yesterday, were myriad; a mix of “don’t quote me” support and cautionary admonishment. “You don’t want to embarrass the “X,” you know; you may never see your money…”

I have two responses to this.

  1. You know what? He may not ever see his money. He may not ever have seen his money whether he raised the issue or not. But, if he didn’t raise the issue and never saw his money, he most definitely would not have been the last to suffer this fate.  Similar to coming out of any Closet: the first ones to stand up most often pay the price for those that follow; but they open the door for those to follow. Without the courage of the first, all who follow will continue to suffer.
  2. Seriously. “Don’t embarrass the <company / person / culture>?” What sort of de facto acceptance of unacceptable behavior is that? If a businessperson comports himself (or herself) in such a way that public knowledge of that conduct would be embarrassing; how is the person who calls out the transgressor doing that embarrassing? The embarrassed has embarrassed himself. If it’ll embarrass you, don’t do it! Pretty easy stuff…unless one isn’t interested in integrity, honor or doing business in a manner of which s/he can be proud.

Our Industry Press

One of the biggest problems is our industry press. For the most part, essentially reprinting Press Releases from the public relations arm of owner companies; these publications virtually never actually investigate and report. If a writer attempts to actually share underlying truths, editors or marketing departments seem to stand in the way. Thus, in the name of Client Relations, they only print positive stories.

…At least, until the press releases finally begin to acknowledge the billion-dollar-shortfalls which, I would offer, might have been avoided were candor to have been a larger part of the earliest and ongoing conversations.

The vast amounts of money, the billions of dollars lost and wasted, is painful to the philanthropist in me. How great would it be were these monies to be pointed toward the quality of the human condition, of life on the planet.

One can dream…

That being said; it’s understandable how a selection committee ostensibly in possession only of the “facts” of a project by way of our industry press and through the presentation of the nominee might not be aware of the downside or dark side of a given project.

If anything, this is an egregious flaw in the system. Beyond that, perhaps Selection Committees could be more open and responsive to membership from the divisions in that part of the world for informed enlightenment.

Being a part of a free press does have some risks; especially in “client-supported” publication. Meaning, effectively, that we don’t have an industry based free press.

Something to consider.

What Price: Self Interest in the Short Term?

So why don’t Principals in and of our industries uphold fact and truth when the sharing of fact and truth is in direct conflict with the vision or intent of a potential or current client? The answer most often cited is generally, “…there will always be someone who will take the work and the money and get out; so, why not me?”

How is this in any way healthy for an industry? Is it conceivable that an association united under its Code of Ethics could make a positive, worldwide difference by embracing and living such a Code? Enforcement by peer pressure?

Just as enlightenment doth grow in other areas and industries: the bottom line in any question of conduct or integrity is that if one knows of and does nothing, one is complicit.

Speaking of a Code of Ethics

In a search of the website for our association; I was unable to find specific reference to a Code, Ethics or a Code of Ethics…there is a Best Practices series, though that seems aimed at specific disciplines rather than the overall responsibilities of doing business.

Perhaps simply featuring on the website what is expected of membership with respect to responsibilities of doing business and respect for one another might go a long way toward communicating the importance of integrity in business from the POV of the association.

“We Aren’t the Police!”

Currently, our association tends to meet such situations with an I-Can’t-Get-Involved, knee-jerk reaction; running and distancing from any sort of intra-membership conflict. IMHO, this doesn’t jibe with an organization that openly claims to watch out for one another.

What is the point of a Code of Ethics if it isn’t respected and supported? If members cannot adhere to a level of standards and respectable practices; then, should they continue to be Members?

This, then, is the opportunity for evolution. For recalibration. For self-examination and commitment to what we claim to and can be.

This is not a call for an Arbitration Board or Judgement panel or anything of the sort. Rather, this is an opportunity for the evolution of how we live and do business under the umbrella of such a Code.

When a member company, client or advisee is seen to perhaps be crossing a line, how is it not apropos for a call from a respected colleague; simply saying, “buddy, perhaps you might sit down with this person with whom you are in conflict and see if you might be able to work something out; learn what each of you may not know…” and work to eradicate the “So, Sue Me!” mentality.

And, if we can’t sister-to-brother, brother-to-brother or sister-to-sister encourage the embracing of responsible, respectful practice; perhaps we shouldn’t have a Code of Ethics at all.

This is not a call for public banishments and pogroms. Sought, rather, is the personal, private, individual-based embracing of the High Road in all things. Yes; there may be a short-term price for stepping up and “…Going High”. In the long-term, however, and taking the High road, we build a business and industry based in integrity, truth and respect.

Just two days ago, this association opened a dynamic conversation on #BlindersOff, #TimesUp and #WhatsNext? If we can discuss and offer perspective on subjects at this level of resonance and empowerment with and among ourselves, our clients and vendors; surely we have the spine to address Getting People Paid and Keeping One’s Word.

Just sayin’…

Can we live, lead and do business by example? We have the spotlight and the cache; let us find a way to embrace that … and make money at the same time. I cannot accept that this is not possible.

IMHO.

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Still popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Seriously: Free. IKR?! Read it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/imho/id555219645?mt=11

Eve of Disruption: New Tricks from Old Dogs

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Elizabeth Streb at work. Photgraph by loulex.

Old dogs can – often and effectively – teach new dogs even newer tricks.

Some of the most (Re)volutionary Ideas, Concepts and Actions may take decades to germinate.

I had an entirely different post written; then came across this article on Elizabeth Streb   and am compelled to set that aside in the interest of sharing this article, this brilliant woman and this perspective on value, creativity and vintage.

Here is a woman of Sixty-Seven years who is breaking ground, shaking up, challenging and evolving an Art and Experience form as she continues to challenge, startle and scare even herself…bringing decades of experience to the table (or, in this case, stage). Her company respects her, her colleagues respect her, she is watched and heard in her Community and beyond (and probably not always with agreement…though that isn’t necessarily a negative).

As I read this article and watched the video (WATCH this short video! http://video.newyorker.com/watch/action-hero-choreography ), I kept thinking of my own gig and job-market experience since returning to the States and the immense value of experience, experimental leadership and mentorship potential I see being lost and overlooked in this MBA spreadsheet- and, it would seem, myopically ageist-driven, culture here at home.

After about four years, I returned home to San Francisco from an eminently well-paying final gig in Dubai at the end of 2016; planning to continue project work in different parts of the world and figuring on extensive contract work in and from San Francisco.

Not to be so. The experience represented by the silver hair that is so valued in other parts of the world seems seen as a sign of irrelevance (or “unnecessary” expense), stateside.

As continues to be discussed in threads that run through such sites as LinkedIn and Medium, there seems a prevalent prejudice against Experienced Skill and Talent virtually inherent in US-based business; especially and in my experience those of SF and Silicon Valley.

Silver-haired, “Vintage” (my preferred term) pros seem dismissed and rejected out of hand without exploratory conversations that could prove transformational and enlightening; this, a trend or syndrome it would seem is based on assumptions made by…well, who knows?

We Vintage People (there are many of us out here, and we talk to one another) can still rely on our vestigial, applicable networks to gain entree to some arenas of opportunity; though are regularly stymied by this wall of unresponsive silence encountered at younger companies (some of which are actually already decades old.

These institutions might perhaps find significant value in some new thought and approaches ( “Opportunities for Storytellers…”) by a silver head or two…

The real losers, though, are the legions of brilliant, articulate, aspirational young professionals entering and rising through the work force with sights set on leadership and groundbreaking evolution of their own.

As brilliant as these Millennials, X’s, Y’s, Z’s and Beyonds are; what is missing in their development is practical experience and healthy, respectful, collaborative relationships with these potential Vanguards of Practical Experience.

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Offering enlightened experience to the leadership mix – those who embrace change and are adept at resolution of the unstructured problem, those who can ramp up the inspiration among the New Professionals – can only add value and productivity.

Sourcing, gathering and recruiting individuals who’ve broken ground in their own fields, iconoclasts who made change before and have maintained their edge, placing these people in key positions to affect the valuable resources coming on board, now…this is protecting and enhancing your investment with “Collaborative Leadership” .

The request, then, this “alert” to the current CEO, COO, HR Professional is read this article and check-out this video through the filter of the needs and vision of your own institutions and companies; then, re-examine the recruitment policies and processes in place.

Go out on a limb. The atmosphere is fresher and opportunity flourishes.

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Elizabeth Streb is amazing; there is an army out here of folkx ready and willing – indeed, excited and nurtured – to be part of passing the torch of inspiration manifestation to new generations so’s they can blow the top off their respective arenas as they come into their own.

This can significantly expand the ROI of every hire made. IMHO.

Still popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Seriously: Free. IKR?! Read it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/imho/id555219645?mt=11 ]

Confluent Dynamics – Collaborative Leadership

rock-pile

Our industries are in the midst of a magnificent boom and concomitant crisis. It seems the world of themed entertainment and experience is at capacity in terms of experienced, skilled creative, tech and production personnel to design, build and open projects currently underway…and there are even more projects coming off the boards as this is written.

Ground is well-broken on massive, new, from-the-ground-up theme parks across all hemispheres. Beyond that are vast expansions of, and new Lands in, iconic parks, renovations of legacy installations and dynamic ideation of properties and experiences we haven’t yet seen.

It’s a tsunami of abundance…

Word on the street is that <name a conglomerate> is scrambling to find experienced people to support the myriad business plans and projects already in process; not to mention what’s coming down the pike.

At the same time, there are scores – if not hundreds (if not even more) – of smart, talented young people coming out of design schools, universities, technical schools and basements who possess the “book-learnin’,” the valuable objective knowledge and the passion that is going to drive Entertainment and Experience into the future.

…and these two Rivers of Project and Resource are flowing together at a moment of synchronicity that stands to greatly benefit our industries and very likely completely evolve the way things are designed, done, sold and experienced for the next few decades.

Thus, this Convergence of Harmonic Opportunity…

There was a conversation in this space some years back about the bestowing of titles that imply experience to those fresh out of school; an inflation that has historically been seen as diminishing of the title, itself (“Creative Director,” “Producer”…), misleading the person holding the premature title and undermining efficiency and quality.

Well…that’s not gonna change. These “darn millennials” are going to come out of school thinking they are ready for anything. In reality, this is not a problem; rather, it is a portentous opportunity…for all of us.

The opportunity, then, for the remaining grey-haired heads, our peers and colleagues in these industries is to embrace these folkx*, their aspirations and ambitions, and support them in becoming who and what they see in themselves.

Rowers Rowing Boat

Collaborative Leadership & The Apple Store

Rather than confront them for who they may not yet be, embrace them for what they are about to become.

During the Crash of 2009+, I was most fortunate to find myself immersed in 20-somethings at Apple SoHo** at a golden time for that company and the perfect time for me. Where I first walked-in to this sea of edgy youth thinking I’d never fit; I learned in short order that this was just the opportunity for me to completely recalibrate my own collaborative style – something of which I’d been proud and something I learned could be vastly revivified in that maelstrom of tech and humanity.

No one knows everything on the floor at Apple; but together, we knew it all. The context is one of ad hoc dynamic collaboration. Everyone is resource to each other, respect is paramount and the fundamental skill – the basis of success in that place- is Listening: to one another, to the customer.

(Listening. we may have spoken of this quality, before…)

We each had our own ways of addressing a given problem; yet, with successive interactions I would offer that each of our approaches evolved just a tad, time after time, as we collaborated with other Specialists or Geniuses on a given problem at hand.

We learned all the time; about the technology and about one another. The level of respect afforded every, single team member was radically empowering: we each knew something the person next to us did not, and we each could learn something from that same person.

There was an inherent, healthy curiosity, an inquisitiveness among the team. “Who ARE you…?”

Leadership / Mentorship

Those who feel fully Heard are far more likely to Listen and Learn. Listening first, hearing one out, offers the listener the opportunity to see through new lenses and gives the other a sense of validation and trust. Defenses evaporate and true collaboration is more likely to ensue. When people don’t feel pressured to Prove, they improve.

And this, I believe, is our key to success from here on out. We must embrace these folkx for who they are and bring them along through collaboration as we address challenges together that will make them the leaders of the future…and ensure the best future for our industries.

If we Listen…really hear who these folkx are as we bring them onboard, we can create an almost immediate symbiosis. For having been fully heard engenders confidence, self-respect and respect for Leadership. Taking the time, up front, will pay off in massive dividends, creativity and loyalty…teamwork.

When I add new people to a team, my process is:

  • lay out the responsibilities of the job and get agreement
  • agree on schedule, milestones, deadlines
  • share my own methodology and how I would do it, then say
  • “you don’t need to do this ‘my’ way; I’m just showing you what I know works. If you have another way or idea, do that…just be sure to keep your eye on the ball and let me know if things seem to be going awry. Don’t hide errors or mistakes. Your way is fine; as long as it’s successful…”
  • more often than not, some effective hybrid evolves that we both embrace
  • then, if s/he comes to me with a problem, my first question is “what do you think we should do?” And chances are that I’ll suggest we try that; this person is closer to the problem – and solution – than I am.

Y’just gotta have their backs.

Thus empowered, these folkx grow fast…and may be more likely to realize their aspirations without the years of apprenticeship heretofore seen as necessary.

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Learning Leadership – Listening & Respect: Respectful Listening

As Leaders, we must be willing to learn. The world is moving fast; and these folkx (loving this word!) think very differently than do we. While the physics of a given problem may remain pretty much the same, solutions can evolve from new perspectives, experiences, points of view, technological familiarity…

Our “tried and tested” are not the only options. All are models from past experience that have worked well; though not the be-all or end-all. Everyone can evolve; even we old guard…and this exercise in Listening creates trusted bonds as all parties discover one another.

Being in positions of “power,” it behooves us to take the first step.

Before we reveal or share what they don’t know; we must learn and acknowledge what they do know.

Some of our most progressive companies have recognized and embrace this philosophy and methodology; some have not quite, yet. It’s the ego-free way of the future.

Beware; it is ever so subtly easy for the Visionary to become a Dinosaur virtually overnight. Stay current, be open, be welcoming, share.

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Remember “Don’t trust anyone over 30”?

Well, then. We must authentically, genuinely share and show that we can be trusted and that we trust. I’m telling you, it’s freakin’ exciting, surfing the surge of evolution with teams of disparate ages and open minds.

IMHO.

* (ht: to Clara Rice of Jack Rouse Associates for introducing me to this new, pangendered word.)

** (Shout out to Durk Snowden; an amazing, brilliant, powerful and supportive man and our kickass Flagship Store Manager at Apple SoHo.

IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” is still a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Can you believe it? STILL Free. Read it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/imho/id555219645?mt=11 ]