Friday, 9 November 2012

Celebrating Veterans' Day

With November 11 approaching and knowing that at least one of my colleagues has a holiday on Monday, my thoughts turned to the occasion of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that marked the end of World War I.   I wonder if perhaps we should do even more to celebrate the end of wars, at least the 7 or 8 that I recall in my own lifetime.  I recall a number of people, including MLK, Jr. saying that if we want peace we should work for justice. 

Laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery is a symbolic but meaningful gesture as it is a visual reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by so many on our behalf so that we can continue to live in a country that continues to assert its freedoms upon which it was founded.  What are we to make of the most recent 4400 deaths and 32,000 wounded in Iraq, the 2000 deaths and 18,000 wounded in Afghanistan?   How do we honor those lives? 

Our nephew has been deployed to Afghanistan twice and is probably going back a third time to help clean it all up as he rides in one of those advance mine-sweepers that look for APD's (Anti-Personnel Device) or an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).  Just this past Thursday, 20 people were killed by such devices in Afghanistan.  (  When will it end and what can be done to stop the mayhem and man's inhumanity to his own kind?   We must truly be one of the few species who set about intentionally to destroy ourselves.

As an 8-year old child, I was convinced that the end of World War II was the end of all world wars and then discovered later how absolutely wrong I was.  I felt deceived, betrayed and misled. I wondered then what the veterans thought and felt that I knew, those who had returned alive and who had watched their friends die in battle.  Had they all fought in vain to end a war only to see it all start up again too soon afterwards?  

Here is the list of those in which we have been involved and I won't even try to enumerate the cost.  Let's just agree that it's simply way too much and you have to love some of the names, even calling the Korean conflict at one point a police action! And then wars became Operations?
For the US: Korean War (1950-1953); Vietnam War (1961-1975):
1. Operation Urgent Fury-Grenada (1983)
2. Operation Just Cause-Panama (1989)
3. Operaton Desert Storm-Iraq (January and Febuary 1991)
4. Operation Restore Hope-Somalia (1993)
5. Operations in Europe-Bosnia (1990's)
6. Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan (2001-present)
7. Operation Iraqi Freedom-Iraq (2003-present)

Find a way to pause on Sunday and give thanks, perhaps with a moment of silence at 11 AM and remember those who have served and sacrificed.  And maybe do it on Monday too!  Lest we forget.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

PEST - Post Election Stress Thoughts

Waking up this morning to yesterday's election results shows what we all know, that this is a country that is polarized, divided and fractured.   The political divisions are significant because they are along race, class and ethnic lines, they are clearly socio-economic, and these differences must be bridged somehow if we are to become what we call euphemistically these United States.  Red and blue should perhaps be changed to green and yellow, since white isn't a color but the lack of same.  Otherwise from some perspectives, the colors might be black and white.  Let's forget colors and find a way to put the divisions that separate us behind us so that we can find the common ground to move forward.

We endured an obscenely expensive campaign, some estimates just over 2 billion dollars spent, hundreds of thousands of ads that were negative, discouraging, and far more against rather than for anything.  And the cost was not merely in dollars.  There was also a price paid for human dignity.  Now is the time to restore our faith in the principles on which this country was built and on which it can stand in the future - these self-evident truths, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We need a shift in attitudes and behaviors from negative to positive, from intentions to destroy to designs to create, from verbiage to constructive action.  Too much rhetoric, too little reality, too much theater of the absurd, too little rational and logical action.  It is time for a paradigm shift in many areas instead of continuing the same behaviors and expecting different results, the definition of insanity.

Etched in stone on the F.D.R. Memorial in Washington, D.C. are these words: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little."   That is true globally as well as nationally and locally.  Perhaps we could come together around the most pressing priorities facing all of us and take constructive, creative and responsible actions to solve those most troublesome issues.  Then we would be much more united and stand together, with bonds that strengthen rather than divisions that separate.  Maybe and hopefully, the next four years will see a positive change in the will and ability to work together for the common good, not merely partisan interests.  This is the message that each of us needs to send to those who represent us at every level.

In the meantime, we must take every opportunity we have to help heal the divisions that separate us, to share the visions that can unite us and to exert whatever influence we have to demonstrate that we can and will work toward a common purpose with common goals.  All of this is for the commonwealth of our future that can be so much better than it is.  If you believe that, today marks a new beginning for what lies ahead.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Some passing thoughts on creativity, innovation......


We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies… But the moment the action is over, try to return to the "open" mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is needed to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent."    John  Cleese



Of course, you will know once you have crossed the chasm whether or not you made it successfully.  And if you have, you can review how it went, whether or not it could have been better, easier, more efficient, and this is why feedback is so valuable.  There will be a next time and what we can learn from having an open mind set (see Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset) may well lead to a more innovative and creative approach, whether solving problems or introducing something new.   

Photographers know that one way to get a good picture is to take a lot of pictures.   It is the same with ideas.  One way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.  This is why brainstorming can be a productive activity, especially if you value the thoughts, ideas and experiences of others in your department or group.  Rearranging the chairs, or the schedule, is unlikely to have a major impact.


Here are several questions that you might contemplate that could help clarify your understanding and potential application of innovation and creativity.  I am not even sure they belong together but that’s another discussion.


1.  What are the roles of innovation and creativity in your work with your colleagues?    Are they the same?  Does one lead to the other?  Are they merely complimentary?


2.  How open (or closed) is your organization’s culture to innovation?  Who are the innovators?  What are their characteristics?  How has it worked previously?   What are the obstacles to new ideas?


3.  If you had a blank sheet and were given the opportunity, how might you create or re-create your department or dividion?  What would you look for in the people whom you want to hire?  What methods would you use to deliver the optimum experience for both colleagues and customers?    How would you measure or assess your effectiveness overall?