I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization. The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.
Here’s an excerpt:
You might think that disruptive, forward thinking, companies like Uber and Google would have addressed inclusion and diversity. But Uber has faced a slew of recent challenges: including well-documented allegations of sexual misconduct throughout the company. Meanwhile, Google, is facing Department of Labor allegations about extreme gender pay disparities. Outside of technology, too, this problem is pervasive. More cases of sexual harassment, in fields ranging from journalism to government, are becoming public with increasing regularity.
Diversity and inclusion issues range well beyond gender and include discrimination related to race, religion and disability to name a few. Companies need to be open to listening to employee concerns about inclusion, and fostering environments that encourage dissenting viewpoints. Organizations should strive to create environments in which people can thrive.
Diversity and inclusion are complex concepts, and a full discussion of their impacts exceeds the scope of this book. What’s relevant for Responsive organizations is that diversity of opinions can create higher-performing teams, and that diverse populations continue to experience discrimination and exclusion.
If you’ve enjoyed this chapter of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.
I’m excited to share a chapter of my book, Responsive: What It Takes to Create a Thriving Organization.
The full audiobook version of Responsive comes out in late September 2018, but in the meantime, I am excited to share it in podcast form.
Here’s an excerpt:
In the past there were big and complex tasks that required many people working on them. The ‘transaction costs’ involved to get coordination between people was high, so the concept of a Manager was introduced. As the number of Managers increased, a Manager of the Managers was created… and hierarchies formed.
This resulted in order, clarity of authority, rank, and power. They reinforced a single primary connection: manager to worker, and enabled a command and control style of leadership that was terrifically successful during the industrial era.
If you’ve enjoyed Chapter 4 of Responsive, you can purchase a Kindle or print version of the book on Amazon. And be sure to check out the Responsive Conference, coming up September 24-25th in Queens, NY.
This video was recorded live at the 1st Annual Responsive Conference in 2016. Come see Adam Pisoni live again this year at the 3rd Annual Responsive Conference on September 24 and 25, 2018 in Queens, New York.
Adam Pisoni (@adampisoni) co-founded Yammer (which sold to Microsoft for 1.2 billion dollars). He recounts how he learned about about Conway’s law. “At Yammer, we believed in rapid product iteration. Once we realized the organizational structure was part of the product, we then had to believe in rapid organization iteration.” The engineering mantra at Yammer became: “We’re not smarter than other people. We just iterate faster.”
This insight led Adam to recognize that he and the engineering and product teams at Yammer were not just building a product but building a company (at least, if they were going to be effective). He began to investigate what it would mean not just to rapidly iterate on Yammer’s product but to iterate the organization’s structure itself.
In other words, he began to explore whether Yammer could become more Responsive. What Adam was clear on, was that their product didn’t exist in isolation. Yammer, as a communication platform for enterprise businesses, was particularly well placed to recognize the challenges of the current working world. Eventually, Adam put these thoughts into a manifesto and shared them with CEOs and C-level executives. The response was an enthusiastic affirmation of their ideas. The result of this thinking led Adam to co-found the Responsive Org movement.
Experiments in Education
Adam realized the education system in North America is largely still reliant on an assembly-model way of teaching and thinking. Consider the structure of most schools: there are grades, segregated by age; there are alarm bells which tell students when to move from one classroom to the next. The most common form of learning is to passively sit and absorb lectured lessons.
More subtly, subjects are taught according to a linear progression. Math education in the United States, for example, moves from algebra, to geometry, to advanced algebra, to precalculus, to calculus. This progression to trains students to think about math in a way that only entrenches a hierarchical, linear view of how to how the world works. School in the 21st Century is still designed to produce people to work in factories.
Adam was bold enough to tackle revitalizing the education system, by optimizing administrators’ time and budgets. He founded Abl Schools, a collaborative platform for administrators and teachers. Abl has re-envisioned how principals relate with their teachers and facilities and how schools use their time. The idea is to help schools better manage the day-to-day to be able to achieve its educational goals, starting with the company’s first product, a cloud-based master scheduler.
Exciting possibilities emerge when we reconsider even behemoth institutions like the U.S. education system and experiment with new approaches that leverage technology and new models of collaborating. What is necessary, is the willingness to experiment.
A Diverse Founding Team
Adam Pisoni has been open about the challenges of creating diversity in founding his company Abl Schools. He writes:
“If your founding team is homogenous, it will likely develop a narrow culture which is well suited for that narrow group of people. That culture won’t be as self-aware of the lack of inclusion in the culture, but it will feel inclusive for everyone within the tight knit founding team. As new employees with different backgrounds join, they will be more likely to reject or be rejected from the culture than to add to it. While you may be celebrating how strong a culture and tight a team you have, you may also be unaware of the ways you’re actually reminding that new employee that they don’t belong.”
While there is a lot of conversation about fostering an inclusive company culture, very few Silicon Valley companies have an equal gender split between male and female employees, and even fewer have women or underrepresented groups at the highest levels of leadership.
As Adam explains, this doesn’t actually mean teams of straight white men can’t produce great companies. He argues: “I believe diverse founding teams can produce better outcomes. A team of white men can come up with good ideas. But I believe a diverse team can come up with better ones.” The curiosity and perseverance Adam has demonstrated at Abl Schools is an example of what can be done in any number of genres by founders just starting out.
If you enjoyed this episode of the Robin Zander Show, you might also enjoy hearing me and Adam in conversation, recorded at the Responsive book launch party last November.
At Responsive Conference 2018, Adam will be joined onstage by Anthony Kim (Founder, Education Elements) to dive deeply into the problems facing our current educational practices, and what can be done to improve them.
D. Cody Fielding is a professional coach who has worked in the fields of fitness, wellness, and performance enhancement for more than 20 years. I met Cody in 2008, shortly after moving to San Francisco, just as I began my own career as a personal trainer, and he had a profound impact on my own thinking about movement and the body.
We conducted this interview in Cody’s private studio in the Mission District of San Francisco. Cody’s backgrounds includes the study and practice of biomechanics, posture, nutrition, evolutionary biology, psychology, and physics. He has worked with and studied the works of everyone from Joseph Pilates, Moshe Feldenkrais, Scott Sonnon, Mel Siff, and many others.
I’ve been consistently impressed with Cody’s diligence and examination of how to improve performance, but also the subtler elements that make a peak performer. Once, over coffee, Cody interviewed me with a quality of complete focus that contributed to my own desire to learn to conduct interviews. Similarly, over the course of one memorable hour Cody taught me how to throw a football, which is something I had never done previously. His thoughtfulness and thoroughness made learning to throw a football effortless, and for the first time, fun.
Cody and I delve pretty deep into what he calls “physical culture,” which is to say the study and practice of movement and the human body. I have learned an enormous amount about performance, movement, and the body from Cody and I hope you enjoy this interview.
Several years ago, as a result of a conversation with Karen Cheng, I taught myself how to draw. Mostly by following the steps played out in the book You Can Draw In 30 Days I learned all of the incremental components to be able to draw circles, increasingly complex perspectives, and eventually my own hand. But even more interesting that specific techniques, I was interested to explore perception, even without the ability to produce photo realistic drawings.
So, when I met Virgil Wong (@virgilwong), I was equally intrigued by his company Medical Avatar and by his artistry.
Anytime someone is completely fixated on a specific outcome, they are doomed to fail. I recently found this to be true when a broken toe severely limited my ability to turn in ballet, but we see examples across the board – from special needs to athletic performance to business successes. When someone is fixated on things going a certain way they are much more likely to go in the opposite direction. This post picks up where we left off last week: on some solutions for being attached to the outcome.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
Though we use the word failure, what we mean is more complicated. We have a stigma around failure. We believe that failure is bad, never mind how many times a child falls down before he learns to walk. Actually, failure is a fundamental part of learning. We are built to try and fail many times for each success. This didn’t help on the day I was determined to ride a “broken” motorcycle but embracing the concept of failure as part of any growth is the simplest pathway to overcome the limiting belief that failure is bad.
The most common situation I see is someone wanting a specific outcome, and thus getting committed to that outcome regardless of the path necessary to get there. One of my favorite shortcuts entails circumventing the attachment by reorienting the outcome. If I still want to train my ballet turns while recovering from a broken toe, I can strengthen my non-dominate side and visualize turns on my dominant side. Trying to force myself to turn on my broken/dominate foot doesn’t work. What happens if we come up with several more variations? Greater flexibility.
5 New Routes Challenge
I have a challenge which I call the “5 New Routes” challenge. When I drive I usually have a systematic route that I take to my destination. To add some variety I visualize 4 other entirely new routes to the same destination. These might be routes that I will never actually drive (like from San Francisco to Mexico on my way to visit family in LA). The point isn’t the routes themselves, but to expand the current realm of possible options. When I began this exercise years ago I would map out routes on paper. These days, I just visualize the trajectories beforehand. Build the skill of flexible thinking before circumstances demand it.
I ushered in the New Year on the social dance floor – until 5am. There is nowhere I would rather have been and no people I would have preferred to be with. 2012 has been the best year of my life, so far. In the last year I’ve formed more close personal relationships that I’ve ever had before, trained myself to a higher level of physical condition (and founded a dance company), been consistently more joyful in my life while doing more. My experience upon waking today was a combination of thrilled and humbled – I am profoundly grateful to be living my life. All this has me thinking about where I’ve been and what’s coming next. To start off, here’s where I was in December 2011 (this from my introductory SF Toastmasters speech)…
Four Things I’ve Learned in 2012:
1. Play to your strengths. Though I’ve had people hinting at and hitting me over the head with this idea for years I’ve just begun to apply this concept in the last few months. The best discussion of these principles I’ve seen is the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. In the simplest form, examine what you are good at and master that. Ignore or delegate the rest.
2. Attitude is Everything and Attitude is a Choice. Earlier this week, as a complete novice I tried 15 types of Ballroom Dance for the first time. You might not believe me but one of biggest fears in 2011 was social dancing! Last month when a little autistic boy adjusted himself and then pressed himself against me, I judged him, quickly got over it, and went on to make amazing progress with him. What I’ve come to see is that I’m in control. I’ve just begun my study of what I call the Attitude That Works. What I’ve learned so far has radically improved my life and I’m thrilled for more. Take aways: Act from love. Be more grateful. Accept yourself and others. Ask questions.
3. Really Good People Matter. I’ve heard it said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. In the last year I’ve cultivated many remarkable people and I am continually in awe of each of them. I still think I have to solve some problems myself but more and more I’m relaxing into the recognition that we are in this together. There’s no shame in developing relationships that compliment your own strengths. Be the friend, lover, spouse, family to those you want and they respond.
4. Do the work your love. In the last eight years I’ve built an amazing set of skills to help neuro-challenged kids and improve the performance of high-level athletes. I don’t start work at 9am and finish at 5pm. I never will. I don’t ever stop practicing, and I don’t ever start, because ever moment I live my practice. If you haven’t discovered something you love that will support the lifestyle you want yet, keep looking.
Two Things I’m Going Towards in 2013:
1. Business. I want more. I currently have a lot of projects underway. As my housemate said: “Give 175%. Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. Prune from there.” I am writing a book, putting on a workshop, running a practice, building an educational product (more on this very soon!), and in my spare time performing dance and studying practical philosophy. This year I want a steady stream of clients in my private practice (an average of 40 lessons each month) and an equal portion of my income from product sales. I want to teach workshops in 2013 and put into practice the public speaking practice I’ve accumulated in 2012.
2. Humility and Gratitude. Over my life I’ve flip-flopped between bouts of depression and thrilled euphoria. Remember that scene in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? with Babyface Nelson?
I have days when I don’t want to get out of bed and other days that I get more done than most people do in a week. This is me. And I am slowly, slowly learning to love myself throughout. At my best I celebrate the highs and apologize when I bump into other people, on and off the dance floor. I am going to continue practicing gratitude, even for my low moments, and humility, even during my highest of highs.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me and here’s to an even better 2013!
Gratitude works. What I mean by this is if you want to have a good life – be grateful. Try this short exercise: think of one thing in your life – be it a friend, an object, or an experience – that you are grateful for. Picture that thing clearly. I find it helps to write out a short paragraph. I guarantee that as you describe this thing that you are grateful for you will feel good. It is not possible to feel bad while simultaneously experiencing gratitude.
So here’s your homework. Three things each day that went well for ONE WEEK. That’s it. If you do this for five days you will have an amazing week. If you do this every day for the rest of your life your life will improve beyond recognition.
You might be saying: “That’s a nice idea Robin. But come on…”. In this I have clear scientific evidence to back me up. Remember last week when I was reading Marin Seligman‘s Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being? Next time I see Marty shopping at Whole Foods I will shake his hand. He has conducted exhaustive research proving that as little as three statements of gratitude written each day substantially improve many different aspects of well-being. (Well-being, in this case, is a technical term.) And I have a couple of extra bonuses, even more exciting. One of my concerns is about building the habit. I might do an exercise for a week but who’s to say I’ll continue? Marty addresses this by discussing how a vast majority of tested subjects from universities, middle schools, and the US Army all maintain the practice of writing down statements of gratitude because doing so is extraordinarily implicitly rewarding. Best of all Marty has done the work for me of coming up with an acronym that I will never forget. WWW stands for What Went Well. Write three things that went well during your day just before you go to sleep at night. You’ll get a profoundly better outlook on life.
I wrote the following in preparation for a speech I gave on the usefulness of choosing beliefs. This is philosophical approach I subscribe to because I find it useful and I’ve often been surprised with how violently people respond when I put it into action! I’m not endorsing being happy all the time (though that is an option). I think we get to decide all the time how we want to feel.
While you read this consider: how would your peers respond if you weren’t upset at a funeral?
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
This quote is from Viktor Frankl, a medical doctor and psychiatrist who survived the holocaust by keeping his spirits up. He regularly gave speeches in front of imaginary audiences as a way to validate his own importance!
What is a stimulus? A stimulus is anything, in our environment, internal, external, person, place, thing that we are aware of, react to, interact with. Our response: how we respond to that stimulus.
I find it useful to believe that in between a stimulus and our response there is a space, and in that space is a belief. We form beliefs and change beliefs all the time. Raise your hand if you have believed in an imaginary figure? In Santa Claus, in elves, in fairies, in the Easter Bunny? How many of you believe in those today? Everyone here has believed in an imaginary figure and nearly everyone no longer does. We change our beliefs! Where do they exist? If you cut me open you don’t find beliefs floating around inside of me! Beliefs are make-believe anyway.
If I come up to a beautifully dressed woman and say “you are a terrible dresser” she might take offense! If I come up to a man who appears to have brown hair and say “I can’t stand your bright pink hair,” is he more likely to be confused or angry? What determines these responses?
I think that it is a belief that they hold about themselves. This woman might be dressing up because she cares about her appearance. She comes to a speaking club and want to look good? She is perhaps believing that it is important that she looks good. So if I say that she has bad taste, and she reacts, she is reacting to her own beliefs about her appearance. However, he believes with some certainty that he doesn’t have pink hair. There’s nothing in my statement of pink hair that lands on him. He doesn’t judge himself as a pink-haired individual.
If we lived in a stimulus – response world everyone would react to the same stimulus in exactly the same way. If I tell everyone in the room that “I love you!” everyone would experience the same feelings and respond in the same way. My experience is that if I tell two people the same thing I am more than likely going to get two very different responses.
We make up beliefs moment, by moment by moment. The job of the brain is to make sense of our environment, to make sense of the world that we live in. We do that through the creation – moment by moment – of beliefs. And these made-up beliefs affect every aspect of what we perceive and what we respond to. And this is great news! This means that we are not bound to our responses. We are not determined – fatalistically – to respond forever in the same way. We have seen that we have all changed beliefs at some point in our lives. Given different information, different evidence we change beliefs all the time!
Feeling whatever we experience: responding with anger, with sadness, with frustration, with joy. These are choices based on how we view the world. Based on specific belief. “Santa Claus isn’t real?” “You are very poor dresser.” “I love you!” How we respond is based on the beliefs we hold. By examining our beliefs we can change our responses and change our life!
Viktor Frankl celebrated the space between stimulus and response. I find it useful to identify that space as a belief. Frankl survived the holocaust by internally validating himself, by making believe that he was talking in front of imaginary audiences of thousands. He survived to go on to do so! Frankl survived the holocaust by creating inside himself a feeling of importance. How might we examine our beliefs, change them – if we want to – and thereby fundamentally change our responses, and improve our lives?