Just say “No Straws, Please” [There, That Wasn’t So Hard!]

Image may contain: ocean, text and water
Please, Baby Beluga, don’t eat that 2 litre bottle of not-good-for-you! What an amazing picture, Plastic Oceans!

With apologies to the companies around the world that make straws, we need to break up. Let me explain:

Plastic Oceans gets it. There are Texas-sized gyres of garbage floating around our oceans. That’s our fault. They’re not entirely comprised of straws, but just like sorting our recycling, saying “no straw please” when in restaurants may literally be the least we can do to combat our unhealthy relationship with plastic.

Do you know who gets it beyond Plastic Oceans? Vancouver’s new amazing, inspired social enterprise, Zero Waste Market.

The get it so much that they’re promoting tonight’s screening of A Plastic Ocean in Vancouver. And they’re demonstrating what makes them awesome as a market.

You can RSVP here, it’s free!

Ultimately, when people are harmonizing and optimizing their work-life-vocation-volunteering balance, which is the core of Path Consulting, it’s easy to skip the straws. It’s easy to align our working lives with our values.

And organizationally, when we have a pretty high bar for progressive values that improve the world, through a social enterprise or otherwise, it can be pretty simple to ensure our activities and our broad stakeholder relationships do more than just ensure sustainable economic activity!

It’s easy to be impressed with Zero Waste Market. I was last month. And you will be too.

Go see the screening tonight. And begin the trend among your people to make “no straw please” go viral!

I’m at ebStrategy.org.

(In)secure: the Future of Working, A Tyee/SFU Joint

We're not in Kansas anymore!
We’re not in Kansas anymore!

(In)secure: the Future of Working, a Tyee/SFU joint on May 25 examined the nature of the precariat. I had many thoughts!

As individuals and organizations we need to become far more intentional about the nature of work, relationships, fulfillment and the social contract.

THAT is why I’m a Path Consultant and an Organizational Soul Consultant.

Here are my tweets from last night. Do they resonate with you? Then we need to talk. We need to build a game plan for you or your organization to make this a more intentional century for you. Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll have a real advantage over people who don’t really understand all this yet.

Call me. I’m at ebStrategy.org.

What Are Your Power Anthems?

Regardless of what you do, you are a brand.

Sure, this may sound weird, but with all your hats as employee, innovator, activist, volunteer, expert, mentor, and/or protege, you can’t be unintentional about how you present yourself, just letting others define your scope and relevance in the world.

So you have to manage your identity, integrity, expertise, excellence in all you do at work, among your people [friends, family] and in all your other vocations and passion activities. You are the CEO of the thing that is you. Just maybe without the massive salary and titanium parachute.

Companies have whole teams of people who stickhandle their brands. You have just you, and the people who support you, and those you support. But that’s OK because you’re already pretty good and managing your posture. We have all [perhaps sometimes just inadvertently] developed some skill here. But probably not enough.

And what about your organization? Your business, non-profit, world-changing activist crew, co-op, social/hobby group that enriches so many people’s lives. Organizations also have souls. They cannot be left to drift about. We need to be intentional, and that means finding music that reflects the greatness that comes from everyone’s shared energy, vision, passion and frankly, idealism.

So one of the things we need to do to solidify how awesome we are is designate our fight songs. Our anthems that invigorate us and help remind us that we are pretty tremendous.

I was reminded of this when out of nowhere, Ed Sheeren’s new song “Castle on the Hill,” clobbered me with brilliance, reminding me of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

Castle has a powerful narrative, bold music, a solid baseline, deep human themes, decades of living and the pathos inherent in great literature. So does “Born to Run.”

Some of my other power anthems of awesomesauce and world dominance include Tina Turner’s “The Best” and “Better Be Good To Me” and Kathleen Edwards’ “Change the Sheets,” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ the Free World” and “Crime in the City,” and the Tragically Hip’s “Ahead by a Century.” And that mystical thing that happens in those few precious early seconds when U2 begins to play “Where the Streets Have No Name” in a live concert.

These are the songs on my playlist that fill my ears as I start on a bike ride that involves a 10-20 block uphill.

These are the songs I fill my head on my way into a speaking event.

These are the songs that I play while I’m debriefing my time creating new universes with Path Consulting clients and organizations embracing how to intentionally enrich their souls. After these genius-birthing times when I’m reviewing where we came from, what we did and where we’re going, these songs re-affirm how we can jump and reach the bar. And bar! How we can enter a Spartan Race and not just finish, but beat a bunch of people.

So you.

What are your anthems that elevate you to greatness?

What songs help make you feel whole?

And have you built a playlist that you flick on when you are about to enter the realm of the gods?

In Path Consulting, we build these soundtracks. We play them when we are winning and when we are struggling. We forge new memories of growth and triumph, much like those fond memories you have from childhood when you feel in love with a new song.

We don’t have to struggle with just holding onto past moments of song bliss. We can create new ones that will help define us. For the rest of our lives.

Se get busy!

I’m at ebStrategy.org.

CELEBRATE! The Six Month Post

It’s just after midnight, January 8, 2016.

E~B Strategy is 6 months old today.

It’s been a wild ride as a lean startup, filled with happiness, struggle, some confusion, growth, surprises, many boxes ticked, and much to look back on, as I now look forward.

The Pivot

So despite what Edna Mode thinks, it’s good to look back. Just not obsessively.

Reflecting back, I’m happy to see the community-building and growing relationships from working with…

  1. Someone else’s new lean startup
  2. Non-profit activist, service and arts groups
  3. Boards seeking development
  4. Brilliant social enterprise concepts
  5. People finding the co-op structure fits them
  6. Truly inspiring and motivated Path Consultant clients
  7. Designing and running workshops for professionals seeking enriched vocations
  8. Speaking to groups wanting to get from here to there
  9. Even some pro bono time shared out

And 2016 has more in store along these lines.

So as I gather my people and cut the half-year cake, it’s good to reflect on these first 6 months, note the lessons, celebrate the gains, list out how I levelled-up in wisdom, then pivot…to apply all that to the future, where Edna Mode lives, even though she thinks she lives in the “now.” 🙂

Join me; it’s a fun ride!

I’m at ebStrategy.org.

How to Turn Your Organization into a Social Organism

Jason Wesley Upton: http://ow.ly/WdbX0

There are times at work when your organization flows.

Maybe it’s a crisis, or a deadline, or an exciting project or element of a project.

Maybe it’s the mix of people in the moment.

You may not have a hive mind, but you are all, or mostly all, collaborating at personal peaks.

Then there’s the rest of the time.

We’re not ants. We cannot live in a hive mind or even experience it very often. But there are ways we can increase the likelihood of reaching the state of “social organism.” At the very least, we can strive for it.

Social Organisms and the Ants

Ants live in a social organism. For us, social networking and social media are starting to expand communication from one-to-many broadcast communication [TV, radio, newspapers] to many-to-many. But that isn’t always optimizing anything because SQUIRREL! and clickbait and the temptation of NSFW and whether to follow your mythical competitors who are now allowing unlimited vacation, or dabbling with open offices.

But in the brief decade since the end of life-before-Facebook, we are trying to refine broad communication patterns, SEO or not.

But what about the ants?

  1. They exhibit mutual, positive interdependence.
  2. They demonstrate individual metacognitive capacity.
  3. They exist as a hive, yet are highly individuated while working for common goals.
  4. They can defer their ego, embrace humility, even sacrifice their lives for “the thing.”

“The Thing”

When I write about “the thing” I write about the purpose for which we come together. At work, in our volunteering, in our social circles, in our activist WORLD-CHANGING! pursuits.

I always speak about how “the thing” is bigger than any of us. But often we lose track of that and assert ourselves above it. Some of us do it so badly that it’s transparent to all. It’s a kind of poison. People seek antidotes and immunization from that dynamic. It creates cleavages and kills harmony and potential.

Ants know what “the thing” is. For them.

Pursuing Our Social Organism

And while we perhaps should never be fully ant, we should assess our organizations to see how we can more intentionally design them to be closer to social organisms. Let’s re-frame those 4 points from above into our organizations:

  1. We often explicitly and implicitly reward people for individual accomplishment instead of group success. Ever since being students in school we’ve known the inherent unfairness of evaluating based on group success. But while we may be individually compensated, the organization/organism as a whole succeeds as a group. What kind of internal potential are we missing when we don’t build capacity for trust-building, which is a key element in people voluntarily developing positive interdependence? We can’t even measure that. But we can all sense it is a profound loss.
  2. You don’t have to have a 130+ IQ or spike remarkably high in a multiple intelligences assessment to be capable of metacognition. Being able to think about your own processes requires time to ponder, a safe context and a mutual support community [see the trust element in #1 above] and some facilitation to meaningfully and safely assess how you are working, thinking, sharing, interacting, and growing. When do workplaces stimulate that process and provide that kind of time? While often too busy doing work, workplaces miss opportunities to pursue “the thing” by building capacity for human and social growth–by becoming more of a social organism.
  3. Too often people are disconnected from how their work contributes to the big picture. Myths of the importance of hierarchies, power dynamics, paranoid people–these are some of the reasons why people don’t get to see how their work affects the organization’s whole. That’s unfortunate, and also wastes synergy. Understanding how their work fits in helps people feel the communal nature of their work tasks so that they can feel a better sense of belonging. Not only does this help with recruitment and retention, but it also builds internal social capital and collective good.
  4. Why would anyone at work who does not feel safe, secure, valued and a sense of belonging risk much of anything, or rise above of even try to rise above expectations? So much of how organizations are designed [often reactively] undermine this kind of safe community building. Without this kind of community, when will people even partially abandon personal self-interest and ego glorification for the sake of “the thing”? Pretty much never. Or only tentatively. And only again if someone significant affirms them and encourages it. While usually outside of first responders and the military, work doesn’t require us to give our life for the social organism like ants do, we need to find ways of being selfless at work. People want to give, they yearn to give! We need to provide opportunities for people to give of themselves. Not just their work tasks and other duties as assigned, but to give others some glory, give “the thing” something extra because we believe in it, to do something anonymously even so we can feel the bliss that comes from a culture of giving. Christmas may be getting you thinking this way, right?

So we can’t be ants. We can’t be the Borg or bees. We are us, living in an ignorantly zero-sum, competitive world.

But what happens if your organization, or team, or workgroup levels up to becoming closer to a social organism. What happens if you and your people reach a heightened level of accomplishment, human security, metacognition, collaboration and intrinsic reward. What if you do all this while, forgive me, others don’t. Even in this ignorantly zero-sum, competitive world, would you have a competitive advantage?

Absolutely!

This is how we will bring in the post-carbon energy infrastructure.

This is how we will accomplish massive public, collective and social projects.

This is how we will help people take meaning home from work with their pay cheques.

And if you didn’t know, this is how leaders lead.

I’m at ebStrategy.org.

Nurturing Your Inner Pirate R&D Squad

The rush of excitement of being a startup is not easy to maintain.

Those that don’t fail or fold end up with more work. And work is good, but work, while being “The Thing,” cannot be everything.

The culture and improvisation and organizational norms you developed on the fly at the start need to become systematized with routines that allow you to scale up.

But when people inevitably feel that the soul has shifted or even been lost, “The Thing” can only continue in a worthwhile way if you step back and do the community soul work.

This is true for small corporations, non-profits, co-ops, even local activist groups pushing for community gardens in unused lots.

And while it feels like the point of the operation is “The Thing” you risk losing your soul entirely if you don’t pay attention to it, intentionally and pro-actively.

This doesn’t mean you all have to go off to walk over the hot coals or mandate trust falls at lunch on Tuesdays. But it means mapping what it is that made you spectacular in the beginning, honoring that, tracking what is still awesome, and noting what has slipped.

Then you augment your organizational soul, or re-bake it. With your own new recipe.

A small dose of Appreciative Inquiry, mixed with integrity-filled internal relationship [re-]building, and a pinch of external stakeholder engagement are most of the recipe for your new baked goods.

And while “The Thing” is always the thing, it’s not worth doing if people aren’t growing from being a part of making it happen.

And if you grew up hearing stories of how digital innovation started inside large tech giants, you were infused with the notion of these little quiet Pirate R&D Squads that were given a little building in the corner of campus and told to go make something awesome.

And while everyone didn’t have a Cupertino garage to build something culturally overwhelming, your startup culture retains your own version of the Pirate R&D Squad that you may need to re-capture, update and transform.

You may need to re-boot that squad and mentality. You don’t need the trust falls, but you may need to empower people to get weird.

I thoroughly enjoy working with organizations that are intentional about nurturing their internal community, culture and soul. And I bet you are too.

So before you skip off for your weekend, check in with Startup Canada’s Twitterchat last week on keeping your startup soul. Then reflect on this question:

Some organizations are paying attention to their organizational soul. Most aren’t. Which are you?

I’m at ebStrategy.org.

I’m very excited to announce…!

Last week I started a new project, E~B Strategy: keynote speaking, Path Consulting, organizational design and development, member/stakeholder/employee engagement, and hybrid projects. Find out more at http://ebStrategy.org!

Path Consulting is particularly engaging because it goes past just working on your work-life balance. It is executive coaching for indespensible innovators and visionaries, optimizing your work-life-vocation-volunteering balance.

You work, pursue your vocation, volunteer to make the world a better place. And you need to balance all this with your life. Your Path is all about optimizing all of these facets of your life. When you hit the rapids, that’s when you need to portage.

That’s where I come in.

I’m at ebStrategy.org.