There is a lot of frustration and anger in the world. This has led to the election of Donald Trump, to the Brexit vote in the UK and to the Catalan independence movement here in Barcelona.

On the declaration of independence here in Catalunya, I made this video reflecting on the last 18 months of politics.  I believe that there is anger and frustration…  some is just rebellion…  but there is a lot of understandable frustration with a growing inequality in our societies that we must deal with.

My worry is that the current politics are polarising the different views… Trump causes extreme emotional reaction, Brexit causes emotional reactions… and Catalan independence causes emotional reaction.  It is not an environment where we can work together to create a better structure for living together.  What can we do?

I think we can each make an effort to engage openly in understanding the lives, hopes, dreams and frustrations of others, particularly those who are different from ourselves.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-14-37-14I was listening to the Very Bad Wizards podcast episode #97 on how we really change our minds.  They discuss a manifesto for a new virtual country called Rationalia that was initially shared on social media by Neil Degrasse Tyson.  Here’s a very good reflection from Neil on the controversy triggered by his suggestion.

In The Land of Rationalia

In Rationalia, all decisions are taken because scientific data is collected and the evidence supports the law.  If you want to change a law, you suggest an experiment.  If the experiment produces evidence that the new law improves the conditions of Rationalia, then the law is passed.

In this land, reason wins.

This is not a country that we are living in now.  

This post is not going to get into the pros and cons of the nation of Rationalia.

 

How Do Politicians try to Change our Minds?

If I listen to political debate (Trump vs Hillary, UK Labour party, Brexit referendum) I do not hear rational arguments being put forward for a range of proposed policies.

I hear arguments that go to credibility (or Ethos, for those followers of Aristotle amongst you):

  1.  “You can’t trust her”,
  2. “She doesn’t have the energy”,
  3. “It was just locker-room banter”,
  4. “He says it does not represent who he is, but I think we all know that it really does represent exactly who he is”

There is nothing here about policies.  There is nothing here about the danger of the other’s flawed policies.  There is only raising of my trustworthiness and decreasing of the other’s trustworthiness.

Why has Reason disappeared from political debate?

I understand this shift.  I see three big reasons:

  1. People hold a wider range of beliefs
  2. more sources and types of data and
  3. more channels for experts to spread their views.

There has been such a broadening of accepted beliefs over the last half-century that there are few value systems that can be assumed to apply to the whole electorate.  There are few symbols that represent the same value to the whole electorate.  There are few bases for logical argument that starts from a widely held truth.

There is much more data, in many more forms (graphics, reports, video, analyst reports…), there are many more experts, there are many more sources for information.  The experts come at us through new channels – online, cable, satellite, podcasts, blogs, facebook, twitter…

It is confusing.

What do we do when we are Confused?

In this environment we seek voices we can trust.  (Check out The Trust Equation for an in-depth analysis of the 4 components of trust in relationships)

It is only a trusted voice that can open our eyes to a new perspective.

If you want to persuade someone, build a relationship. If there is no relationship, there is little chance of persuasion.

We only really change our minds when a trusted friend who knows us finally asks a question in a private conversation “Hey, why is that so important to you?  What effect do you think it is having on your life?  on those around you?…”

Who are your trusted friends?  Who do you allow to have influence on you?  

Three wonderful short videos from The School of Life youtube channel, total duration 27 minutes:

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How to Make a Country Rich

If you were setting out to make a country rich, what kind of mindsets and ideas would be most likely to achieve your goals? We invent a country, Richland, and try to imagine the psychology of its inhabitants.

Would you want to live in Richland?

How to Make an Attractive City

We’ve grown good at making many things in the modern world – but strangely the art of making attractive cities has been lost. Here are some key principles for how to make attractive cities once again. Please subscribe to our channel.

Does your city have the political will to create beautiful spaces?

How to become a better person

It sounds normal to say one’s out to become a fitter person; but it sounds weird to say one would like to be a nicer or better person. It shouldn’t – so here is a guide to 10 virtues of a nice person.

Are these your 10 most important virtues?  Which are the easiest for you?  Which are the hardest for you?

These videos come from the School of Life youtube channel, you can subscribe to new videos here.

De duodecim abusivis saeculi “On the Twelve Abuses of the World” is a self-help book written by an Irish author between 630 and 700AD.  You could say that it was the earliest precursor to Steven Covey, Brian Tracy or Jim Rohn.

The work was widely propagated throughout Europe by Irish missionaries in the 8th century. Its authorship was often attributed to Saint Patrick (the general view today is that it was not his work).

Duodecim abusivis saeculi

De duodecim condemns the following twelve abuses:

Collectio_Canonum_Hibernensis_Domkapitel_zu_Köln_Codex_210_15v
*Collectio Canonum Hibernensis
  1. the wise man without works; sapiens sine operibus
  2. the old man without religion; senex sine religione
  3. the young man without obedience; adolescens sine oboedientia
  4. the rich man without charity; dives sine elemosyna
  5. the woman without modesty; femina sine pudicitia
  6. the nobleman without virtue; dominus sine virtute
  7. the argumentative Christian; Christianius contentiosus
  8. the proud pauper; pauper superbus
  9. the unjust king; rex iniquus
  10. the neglectful bishop; episcopus neglegens
  11. the community without order; plebs sine disciplina
  12. the people without a law; populus sine lege

Background

This form of document is part of a broad category of medieval literature called “Mirrors for Princes”.  They were developed to educate future kings in the leadership qualities that would be needed in their role as king.  The best known of these works is The Prince by Machiavelli.

This list was shared via email by my Dad today:

Bertrand Russell’s ten laws of teaching

"Russell in 1938" by Unknown - http://www.personal.kent.edu/~rmuhamma/Philosophy/Russellimages/br-images.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russell_in_1938.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Russell_in_1938.jpg
Bertrand Russell in 1938; Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

About Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell was a Nobel prize-winning, British, anti-war, analytical philosopher who lived from 1872 to 1970. Russell argued for a “scientific society”, where war would be abolished, population growth limited, and prosperity shared.  Read more at wikipedia.

Communities are Conservative, Business is Progressive

"J S Mill and H Taylor" by http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:J_S_Mill_and_H_Taylor.jpghttp://www.nzz.ch/aktuell/feuilleton/uebersicht/freiheit-und-gleichberechtigung--der-erste-band-ausgewaehlter-werke-john-stuart-mills-1.18025974#. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:J_S_Mill_and_H_Taylor.jpg#mediaviewer/File:J_S_Mill_and_H_Taylor.jpg
John Stewart Mill and H Taylor, they thought deeply about these questions of society, freedom, markets, power in the 1800s.  Photo licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

There is an inherent conflict between communities and companies.  Communities (family, neighbourhood, tradition) try to maintain stability.  Companies are driven by the nature of the capitalism market system to innovate and change. (See Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” on wikipedia) .

Stability vs Destruction

Companies close their factories and replace deeply experienced craft men with young computer geeks who can build the model inside a CAD/CAM system.  Companies move accounts payable from outside of town, to outside of the continent and 25 middle managers who have spent 25 years working in accounts no longer have a workplace to go to.  The community is hit by this loss of incomes and hope.

What is the right balance between Creative Destruction (Capitalism) and Stability (Community)?

This may be a moot question – Creative Destruction is an international, intercontinental force.  A community has little power to decide “we will step outside of this cycle”.

Europe is facing this on a brutal scale.  These two forces are pulling the euro project in many directions, testing political will, raising emotions.  Karl Marx predicted that capitalist society would come to this point – debasement of the money supply (otherwise known as Quantitative Easing), greater and greater proportion of profit going to the owners of capital (not labour), monopolistic tendency in industries.  His view was that capitalism would inevitably collapse under its own success.

Community has provided the softening balance that has kept capitalism from collapsing under its own successes.  However we face an intense conflict.  We don’t have free markets, we have crony capitalism.  The banks that should have failed, were not allowed to fail.  The bankers at the center of the capitalism disaster turned to community to save themselves – and community did.

Capitalism is needed to innovate, but Community is needed to soften the harsh blows and to save capitalism from its own failings.

Changing and Caring

  • Entrepreneurship is needed in society, in public service, in schooling as much as it is needed in business.  The modern world needs a continual updating mechanism – otherwise our nation will be left behind.  We have found no other comparable mechanism than the market to continually improve products, services and people (evolution is a sort of market mechanism).
  • Society needs a balancing function.  The brutal consequences of competition – loss of jobs, loss of value of skills, unemployment, increasing cost of debt servicing…  need people who can support us in tough moments.

This conflict is always going to be there.  Society wants stability.  Global markets force change.

How can society cope with the ever increasing speed of global change?  What happens when companies innovate fast?  How can we help communities accommodate the increased pace of change?

It is Messy, isn’t it

I don’t have any simple answers.  I am currently taking the course “Moral Foundations of Political Systems” on Coursera with Yale Professor Ian Shapiro.  Over the past 5 weeks we have moved through Enlightenment, to Utilitarianism, to Marxism and this week onto Social Contract theory.  I love several moments in the course where Shapiro asks a simple question to the partipants…  they give a go at what seems a simple enough question…  and then he smiles and says “it is messy, isn’t it.  You can’t take the politics out of human decisions.”  

Photo Credit: John of Dublin via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: John of Dublin via Compfight cc

70% of organisation change efforts fail.

John Kotter has an 8 step process that can reduce the likelihood that your project of organisational change (and all leadership projects mean some form of change the the existing status quo).

A big source of failure is starting action before you have put together a solid base of support and understanding before acting.

The 8-Step Process for Leading Change

  1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency – Help others see the need for change and they will be convinced of the importance of acting immediately.
  2. Creating the Guiding Coalition – Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and encourage the group to work as a team.
  3. Developing a Change Vision – Create a vision to help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision.
  4. Communicating the Vision for Buy-in – Make sure as many as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.
  5. Empowering Broad-based Action – Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision, and encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.
  6. Generating Short-term Wins – Plan for achievements that can easily be made visible, follow-through with those achievements and recognize and reward employees who were involved.
  7. Never Letting Up – Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision, also hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision, and finally reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.
  8. Incorporating Changes into the Culture – Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

There is an excellent resource that goes into more detail for each stage at John Kotter’s website.

I just watched Thomas Hyunh speak about his lifetime obsession with Sun-Tzu, the 2,500 year old Chinese General, at Authors@Google (video at the bottom of this post).   Sun-Tzu was only 30 years old when he led the smallest region of China to victory over the largest region.  This victory made him famous, and made his book “The Art of War” into the widely read book that it has become.

What makes Sun-Tzu’s Art of War relevant to us today?  Conflict is part of our lives.  Personal relations, company market share battles, political struggle – how can we approach these challenges in an effective manner?

Whether it is military conflict or politics within an organisation, Sun-Tzu’s guidelines are relevant.

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Photo from Wikimedia

Sun-Tzu In a Nutshell

  1. Control yourself.  Thus you can influence others.
  2. Adapt to your environment.  It accentuates your strengths and ameliorates your weakness.
  3. Never sell out your principles. “The general who does not advance to seek glory or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people’s security and promotes the people’s interest is the nation’s treasure”

“Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win” Sun-Tzu

#1 Principle: Control Yourself

Number 1 is Control Yourself.  Sun-Tzu is very deliberate about his guidelines of separating out Ego and Emotion from decision making.   Thomas quotes him in his talk “Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win” – take decisions away from field of combat.  As in combat, so in life.  Life decisions taken under high emotion or driven by ego desire are dangerous.  They need reflection in the light of a meditative peaceful pose.

“Those angry will be happy again, and those wrathful will be cheerful again, but a destroyed nation cannot be brought back to life” Sun-Tzu.   Strong emotions will go away, but actions can never be undone.   Battle that is driven by revenge, by anger, by frustration is not good battle.  Personal conflict that is driven by anger, revenge is not good for either party.

The 5 attributes of a Great General (Leader)

Sun-Tzu
Sun-Tzu
  • Wisdom
  • Credibility
  • Benevolence
  • Courage
  • Discipline

The 5 Factors for Victory

  • Way – Your personal connection to other people
  • Heaven – Environment outside your control
  • Ground – Environment under your control
  • General – Ability and Attitude
  • Law – Discipline and Commitment

Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osQ2bLUd0UA&list=TLp3MFP1RQA6E

Leadership: You Have to Go First.

I love this little Dilbert storyline from Scott Adams:

Employee: “I find it rather demotivating that you never praise me for a job well done.”
Boss: “You’ve never done a job well.”
Employee: “That’s because I’m demotivated.”
Boss: “You have to go first.”
Employee: “Wouldn’t that make me the Leader?”

Dilbert.com

The 1-minute Leader

Ken Blanchard’s popular and accesible book The One Minute Manager suggests that a leader does 3 things, in the following order:

  1. 1-Minute Praising: Hunt for something the person does well, and publicly praise them – immediate and specific positive praising on actions.  Praise the Person.
  2. 1-Minute Goal-Setting: Agree on goals (no more than 5) with staff. Make sure each goal is clearly written on a separate piece of paper and kept visible daily. Keep Goals limited and focussed.
  3. 1-Minute Reprimand: If the person has the skills to do something right, and it is not done right – in private let them know “I know you are a great person, but this behaviour/result is not up to your talent. Reprimand the Behaviour.

The 4 Most Important Traits of Leaders

Jim Kouzes has spent over 30 years asking millions of people “what do you admire in the leaders that inspire you?”.  He has compiled the information over many years into his bestselling book: The Leadership Challenge.

The top 4 traits that followers seek in leaders are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Competence
  3. Inspiring
  4. Forward Looking

Work harder on honesty

Honesty is 3 times more important than the rest of the top 4 traits combined.  There is no point in working on competence, inspiration or forward looking if people don’t now perceive you as honest, as trustworthy (Read: What is Trust?).  People hate it when a leader doesn’t play it straight with them.  People hate it when a leader doesn’t have the courage to speak the honest truth about their performance, about the state of the organization, about what is going on in the team.

Credibility is the Base

The traits honesty, competence and inspiring are really about perception more than any absolute.  It is not enough to just be honest, you need to be perceived as honesty by the group.  It is not enough to be competent, you need to be perceived as competent by the group.  It is not enough to spray out messages that you think are inspiring, you really need to be perceived as inspiring by others.

Forward Looking is the Leadership Differentiator

Credibility gives you the permission, but that alone does not make the leader.  You need to build an ability to create a shared vision of the future, a forward looking but real-feeling sense of direction for the group.  How can you do this?

There are 3 aspects to being able to share a forward looking vision.

  1. WIIFM: I show others how their long term interests can be realised
  2. Connect: I appeal to others to share an exciting dream
  3. Storytelling: I describe a compelling image of what our future could be like

The key here is not the ability to see the future, it is the ability to communicate it meaningfully and tangibly to the people around you.  The crystal ball is not as valuable as the ability to communicate persuasively.   (My free online course “Speak as A Leader” can help http://bit.ly/practicespeak )

Getting Started on Vision

How can you get started on the path to a better visionary leader?  If you do nothing more than go around you asking people these 4 questions you will become clear on what you can do to contribute.

4 questions for people around you:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What can be done?
  4. What else is on your mind?

If you do nothing more than ask these 4 questions repeatedly and reflect the answers back to the group, you will be leading.

Further Reading:

The Words, the Meaning, the Effect

JL Austin’s short book

As we communicate, there are 3 separate processes at play:

  1. what we say,
  2. what we mean when we say it, and
  3. what we accomplish by saying it

A rhetorician would call these 3 separate processes: 1) locution, 2) illocution, and 3) perlocution.  In my courses we use the shorthand “Point X” to refer to the perlocutionary effect.  This is where effective persuasive communication must begin.


Speech Act theory was laid out by the philosopher J. L. Austin in his small book “How to do things with Words”.

Words that Change the World

One difference between gods and men is that a god’s words directly change the world, whereas the words of men depend on action of others to cause the change.  A god might say “let there be light”, and the sun appears.  A man might say “can you turn on the light?” and another person hears, understands and reaches his hand out to the switch.

However, we do have occasions and rituals in which a man’s words do cause a change in the world.  These occasions the speech is called “performative”.  Consider the following statements:

1a) Conor says, “James and Sarah are married.”
1b) A judge says, “James and Sarah, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

2a) Conor says, “That ball was on the line!”
2b) The umpire says, “Point to Rafa Nadal.  Game.”

The a) statements communicate information.  These are non-performative utterances.  The b) statements directly change the state of the world.  The statements of the judge or the umpire are performative utterances.

Performative utterances are not limited to judges, umpires and gods.  Consider:

3a) Conor says, “I would bet on New Zealand to beat England”
3b) Conor says, “I bet you €10 that New Zealand beat England today”

This third examples show the establishment of an verbal contract.  Legal codes in many nations hold these verbal contracts as valid on a par with written contracts.  Performative Speech acts include promising, ordering, greeting, warning, inviting and congratulating.

Types of Meaning

John Searle gives the following classification of illocutionary speech acts:

  • assertives = speech acts that commit a speaker to the truth of the expressed proposition, e.g. reciting a creed
  • directives = speech acts that are to cause the hearer to take a particular action, e.g. requests, commands and advice
  • commissives = speech acts that commit a speaker to some future action, e.g. promises and oaths
  • expressives = speech acts that express the speaker’s attitudes and emotions towards the proposition, e.g. congratulations, excuses and thanks
  • declarations = speech acts that change the reality in accord with the proposition of the declaration, e.g. baptisms, pronouncing someone guilty or pronouncing someone husband and wife

Political Speaking

Politicians often speak in a manner that treads a fine line between performative and non-performative speech.  They make statements that sound like assertive promises, but if you listen exactly to the words, they avoid the full commitment.  We hear the promise, but if later their statement is fact-checked, it can slide by as a non-performative.

This has led to a great distrust in any sort of vague speaking.  If you mean to make a promise, it is important in today’s environment to state it in clear and non-ambiguous terms.

Remove “maybe”, “try” and “might” from your vocabulary.  They turn a performative utterance into a vague, grey mush.

For your words to change the world, be concise and direct with your performative statements.

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