In the desert…


There’s a crescent moon rising now halfway up the prayer tower. There’s a cooler quality to the dry desert air and all of the “sand” colors have been muted into invisibility by the dark velvet of night… the twinkling of lights here and there bringing the firmament up close and personal to the senses and everywhere, the din of Farsi mixed with Russian, French, Spanish and other versions of chattering, all blend into a white-noise language unique to the Middle-East.

Surrounded by every size and shape of slick European cars, the sight of a Volkswagen becomes an incomprehensible absurdity as seen through the exquisite dark eyes of imagined beautiful Arab women bent on impacting this world so different and juxtaposed to all else known.

Another long day comes to a close… and with it, the realization that I left shoes at a stall elsewhere in the city. The shoeshine man is from Cameron and over the course of these past few days we’ve disagreed on football superstars, agreed on the fine qualities of Portuguese creole cuisine and his shoeshine skills, solved a fair bit of a number of Middle-East crisis and have become friends.

No doubt my shoes are safe and having their own adventure with other Arab footwear on this magical night. Looking forward to learning all about such adventures in the morning when I’ll make may way back to retrieve them.

One of the doormen to this grand paradise hotel I’m in is named Birry… he is from Kenya. He opened the foreign car door and eased me into the fine scented leather interior for my ride to the office this morning and he opened the door and eased me out when I returned tonight; Birry ‘s pulling over a 12 hour shift so far, spanning temps from 30 to 45 degree C. whilst wearing a long formal coat over a crisp white shirt and black trousers. Birry is slowly cooking day after day with the most amazing bright smile that some of us would pay thousands to get our own choppers to resemble.

Over the past few days, we’ve discussed and came to an agreement on what the ideal uniform for his function ought to be… we’ve had a few laughs over this.

Bisel greets everyone by our correct last name at the Italian restaurant I seem to gravitate to now and then… she is from the Philippines and smiles a lot when she talks about “home” yet, she quickly reminds me about how fortunate she is to be able to stand and greet people 12+ hours day-in and day-out six days per week, in this very large and pleasantly cool marble carved lobby. She taught me a trick she does with her feet and legs to fool them into not cramping.

Her amazing mind shames me for not remembering to pick up my shoes, her smile and attitude teaches me to be thankful… She too is etched into this experience.

Then there is “L”, she is tall and slim, a uniquely pretty Eastern European woman who followed her Eastern European lover from London to here hoping to have a life with him… alas, it didn’t work out as he left and never came back on the second day of arriving; which she claims these things happen for the best; as she wraps the Juicy Couture hoodies I bought as a gift for the girls. She too touched me and, as we wished each other well before leaving the store, I think we both knew we would remember the connection.

Outside, tall and proud Arab men in their long white thobe’s are everywhere, walking in pairs whilst fingering prayer beads or the silk ropes draped over their chests, they generally keep to themselves… but invariably they look at me; dressed in my Ermenegildo Zegna dark suit, crisp white shirt and gold tie, often say; ” As-Salāmu `Alaykum “… this is a thrill and I dare not say anything choosing instead to smile and sometimes offer a polite semi-bow; for fear of shattering their illusion that I belong… my innocent play reinforcing how remarkably alike we all are in spite of our externally perceived differences.

Easy for me to imagine this place with no buildings; nothing but sand and sky void of all further choreography, to “see” those that walk erect on two legs within it take on a different scale; becoming giants – anomalies – the focal point for all action and life itself. Perceived in this manner, it is easier to grasp the natural Arab ethos that to the outside world may seem like pride and aloofness.

Therein lies the fundamental misunderstanding – the rat hole – most Westerners get lost in me thinks… because we simply have never been part of the great womblike void this mother-desert is, we’ve never been that prominent nor the focus of our own selves… we’ve always had background choreography to replace the need for that stark self-awareness.

It is so spirit expanding and good to be an accidental stand-in on such a complex play.

In the Land of the Blind


.
In the presence of so many blessings
there is deep regret
for blinding foolishness…
erroneous beliefs of permanence;

that all will remain as so manifested…

A continuum; definitions
of cause and effect
luring unsuspecting spirits
into ease.

But all is fluid, one discovers
upon awakening.
Such blessings are jewels to be
admired and treasured…

on the moment, forevermore

Gifts; precious and
of immense importance.
Presents,
in spite of our slumbering state.

For blessings
shower upon us all, within
every unquestioned breath
a gift.    Yet…

these things filter through; distorted
as happy coincidences, or
part of a natural order… or
the result of self-efforts

and thus, beyond our ability
to truly grasp their worth…
yet so full of ourselves
we are.

Regrets yes; over such
missed opportunities
to appreciate and fully see,
these remain…

now vivid, clear and stark
all the more…
the wistful regret of slumber
within a awakened state of awareness.

What shall I say…?

Child do not your heart
shield, from the wonders
you’ll find as your eyes open
and your body moves

in such wondrous first light…

Feel them…
as loving kisses; powerful,
sustainable well beyond
the day’s adventures.

Loose not yourself;
too valuable and
brilliant you are… mistrust
and question the blind’s directions.

Be the Cyclops…!

Lindenhof…


There are bits imbedded within our human-ness that wait… dormant-like, for a clue or a scent to trigger the opening to something that is deep and meaningful; the warmth of comfort… of being where one’s subconscious syncs to (at a most intimate level), as familiar and safe.

“Home” as a concept, lies in the depths of such comfort.

This can be disconcerting for roamers such as me, who have grown to know home as where one happens to be. Thus, such experienced warmth and comfort is the more surprising when it awakens deep desires within of permanence and intimate connections which are strange and foreign to our otherwise practical truths.

A longing for conditions one imagines; the ease between self and the newness of such spontaneous urban settings, the smile of strangers perceived so powerfully positive they effectively override our adopted reality with such present moment’s perfection.

Words and images struggle to relate the experience… how may one capture the melodic chirping of fleeting birds weaved through fragrant rustling leaves and the playful giggles of little people all around a couple; so intertwined into a long lustful kiss they meld with the background… now part of the permanence of stone, brick and mortar unfazed by time and sense of space?

Such as experienced on a recent walkabout in Zurich… touched by the dynamism and beauty of the place and its people.

Father’s Day – 2011


My Father and Me…

He was tall, strong, always kind and bigger than life to me – his son; someone he would break his bearing for, to lean over and welcome me into his “space”…

…Which of course I always looked forward to; from as young as I can remember to an early evening in my early 20’s when we unknowingly exchanged our last hug… he died a few hours later, for his fragrance and essence never changed nor waned from my memory over time.

Through all these years since his passing; as I’ve argued, rebelled, mourned, finally settled on the event and just plainly missed him, I find myself returning to those memories for comfort and reprieve, always reaching the same conclusion; that he is my champion and my “hero” still… to hell with the undeniable physics of matter, space and time…

… For that which is vibrant in one’s heart, mind and spirit truly is “real” in a most powerful way; so it is still between my father and me.

His presence remains through powerful memorable moments such as; tagging along for an evening gathering with his friends and invariably dozing-off on his lap – head leaning on his strong chest, small hands holding on to his large thumb – whilst they chatted away or listened to one of his friend’s piano rendition of a Chopin sonata… the safety of his arms combining with his fragrance and the languid melodic sound, told me all was well with our world… the memory does so still.

Whether holding me as a kid and much later, finally relenting and letting me go start my own adventures, my father exemplified rather than spoke the constancy and power of his love for me; the first son of the first son… an unbreakable link regardless of circumstances.

As far as I can tell, my father lived his life as a constant; with authenticity and balance between who he was as an individual; the elder sibling within a long-established clan, the steady head of our family, the creative professional, the wise leader and as my father. Growing-up, he embodied and demonstrated all I eventually determined to be wholesome, bold and desirable for myself… a personal ethos worthwhile striving to mimic and achieve.

This Father’s Day, several decades and much life later, I find that I’m still actively working on understanding and practicing his essence; to reach parity with his deeply rooted baseline – let alone surpass it – as I had aimed to achieve back when I ventured-out on my own.

So you see Dad, albeit everything is different from what you and I thought and knew back when we were together, nothing has changed between you and me. Your essence reaches and holds me still when there’s need for your inspiration, wisdom and love, and you are loved back unequivocally, with a quality and will that perhaps would not have been possible to feel or manifest had we remained within our physicality; the connection’s strength and trueness somewhat diluted by mundane events and circumstances.

I celebrate your name, your life and your memory father, may you rest in peace and know you are loved well.

* Published in the Good Men Project: “Between My Father and Me

Because they said so…


We can all think of several authors and other sources of “wisdom” focused on distilling complex situations and ideas into catchy headline statements; simplistic and easy for all to remember. Such is the case with one that I recently came across proposing… “Pissed-Off People Are The Single Best Source Of Innovative Ideas”.

The good news is that; blended within the bold graphics and bolder bullet point statements, one can sometimes find jewels of sound logic and truths to be discovered and extracted if one is willing to think-through them and probe. The worry however, is that some may take these headlines at face-value and thus, miss the subtle truths (if any) that may have been intended and/or buried within them.

In the case above, the proposition may make a good headline but it simply isn’t factual or logical. Listening to “Pissed off” (PO’d) people may be a good and fast way to “get the drift” on a topic this person obviously “rants” for attention, but that doesn’t mean such topic is worth half of the commotion it raises… this PO’d person may be an idiot, or someone who likes to find fault with most things and forcefully complain about them… this is a far-cry from such condition being “the single best source of innovative ideas” me thinks.

Frustration and anger (expressed and otherwise) can be powerful motivators to change any status-quo, but so can altruism and community, intellect and responsible values; as well as many other conditions and choices nowadays… which may or may not lead to one getting PO’d, which may or may not lead to anything else.

Ideas – let alone innovative thinking – deserve better than this. They fit and squarely belong within the realm of our curious human nature and ingenuity… as ably inspired by the blossoming of a blade of grass as by one thousand raised voices.

To be fair, perhaps the author meant that it is necessary to reach a PO’d state in-order to truly explore new directions. Perhaps he believes that such anger is the byproduct of being convicted about a solution and as such, should be regarded as a positive force for change. Maybe the author meant to express that apathy is creativity’s own sedative and anger its natural antidote; the result of one’s amplified understanding of what is wrong… thus, a natural trigger for action to make it right. That maybe a PO’d state is a necessary agent for creative innovation to happen… (Such interpretations as offered by several colleagues (1) discussing the topic.)

Two people in a heated argument...

Image via Wikipedia

But we truly don’t know this from either the catchy headline or the body of the material and can only speculate about what the author meant, or accept the statement as is because they said so.

Whilst it is true that humans were not designed to flat-line our emotions; that there is benefit in expressing and getting to know such emotions and their source intimately so that we may decide what is valuable to explore and further pursue and what is not… most often, what generates anything “innovative”, is this process of facing, admiring and exploring such strong swings within ourselves first, which will most often bring our minds and spirits into a more calm, balanced and creative analysis state.

When that happens… people, as well as our selves, will be generally more receptive to listen and actually act on such considered change.

Our mind, spirit and the quality of our conversations are “the source”; all that has ever been needed to bring our species from cave-dwellers to cosmic travellers within a relative blink of an eye. No one’s statement (inclusive of this monologue) should be accepted as definitive or replace our individual responsibility to think, reason and decide what is right for ourselves.

This I believe…

(1) – Lene, Frank, Steve, Colleen, Vlad and Tina

On Age and Usefulness…


Beyond Stereotypes

Social demographic studies show – for all of the improvements and advances achieved over time and still evolving within “developed economies” – that society’s focus (value perception, investment, etc.) continues to be on what generally is perceived to be the most active and productive segments of populations.

A graphic representation of this would be similar to a classic bell-curve where; the Y axis=productivity and the X axis=age demographics map such “active and productive” focus at the upper mid-third of the chart.

In short, both EARLY developmental and LATE experiential rich societal stages receive peripheral attention and such, mostly to help “feed or compensate” for variations within the hi-productivity stages… We’re under-estimating /preparing our youth for global competitive challenges, under-supporting /over-stressing those within the hi-productivity cycle, and under-valuing the contribution of those on the downward slope.

Plainly, the “developed world” has done a mediocre job at preparing, supporting and valuing its population’s contribution holistically… However, this isn’t surprising in-light of the economic and cultural complexities and pressures at-play within such “developed world” and the general morose (the belief that things are the way they are and will always remain so) of those most affected by such imbalance. Nevertheless, this focus isn’t efficient or sustainable as the “effective distance” between economic needs /demands (productivity) and established population usefulness-cycles continues to diametrically polarize and grow.

As I see it, it is myopic to not fully support and tap into the early innovative / late experiential rich potential that is fueled by the power of the human spirit and growing from population’s exposure to wider educational accessibility, ubiquitous information technology and life-sciences efforts that effectively are driving a rise in “quality longevity”…

Image via Wikipedia

Blue=Developed - Tan=Emerging - Red=Underdeveloped

Thankfully, this is beginning to happen and several efforts are now underway within developed economies currently experiencing “insufficient new talent-pools & rising productivity pressures”, aiming to improve such educational inefficiencies and counter-productive displacement (retirement) policies, which in-time should ease the slope (as a more gradual curve) into and from the hi-productivity segment of population life-cycles, but these efforts; which carry yet not fully understood /vetted financial consequences and benefits, cannot succeed without the desire, awareness and the inclusion of productive “voices” from those of us within either end of the current productivity scale to the discussion.

As intelligent humans, we must be less accepting of default stereotyping and instead; truly WANT, DESIRE and DRIVE CHANGE… first within ourselves, then within society as in; developing and assuring wide access to comprehensive/innovative educational curriculums and meaningful productivity options whilst committing the time and ourselves to really engage whilst continually learning and contributing. As well as, shed our all too common malaise… prejudices and “been there done that” experiential staidness that subconsciously keep us from remaining actively engaged, curious and collaborative… looping back often to guide, mentor and facilitate those in the earlier two productive stages even if it isn’t mainstream or “cool” to do so.

To be successful and lasting, Big, Bold Shifts; insofar as “age”, “productivity” and “usefulness” stereotyping must begin first within each of us thus, exemplifying and leading the way to a more efficient, valuable and balanced alternative.

This I believe…

Rites of Passage…


There once was a rabbit named Oreo and a guinea pig named Qupid…

They were a physical part of this extended family until recently; when both passed-on quite unexpectedly and within a few days of each other.

Their life and passing a paradox; between the love and companionship exchanged daily with the girls and their painful loss, bringing with it a yet unrecognized release from the endless reminders about duties and responsibilities of caring for their pets now no longer necessary.

These were “rescue” animals… they were unique, loved well and will be missed by the girls; especially during those times when there’s a need for deep secrets to be shared, when nothing but a private intimate cuddle with them can soothe the heart, when the night is too quiet and the mind too restless to be useful.

I’m not a “pet person” but, I willed the acceptance of these animals’ usefulness because of the creative cases the girls persistently made, which led me to think this may be one way a young heart could learn about dualities; fun(?) and responsibility, love and apathy, happiness and sorrow, life and death…. a way for them to experience the rites-of-passage that many “adults” have yet to fully synthesize.

The experience; witnessing my daughter’s traverse joy, aggravation, love and the pain of departure in a full un-disguised manner as kids do; to emerge from it with their aching hearts intact, still caring and strengthened by the process, is well worth the duress of having too many breathing “things” under one roof.

As a steadfast proponent of “natural habitats for animals, houses for people”, I now think that there is a time and a place for “house pets”; when animals become living bridges that relate how caring knows neither bounds nor limitations, how we – all species – seek to connect in a positive way and need this as the air we breathe.

There once was a rabbit named Oreo and a guinea pig named Qupid… their lives mattered and made a difference.

The End of Architecture…


I came across an article about design and the practice of architecture which noted that; with unemployment rates in the profession at greater than 45%, serious global strife and the decline of real estate development activities plus a rising general view of architecture as a commodity, there would likely be a reduction of graduates in this field over time and the few would be generally educated and ill-prepared to face increased professional complexities. Thus, the article asked; “Have we come to the end of architecture as we know it?

Whilst I believe these to be genuine observations and concerns, Architecture and Design cannot end. They will remain robust, strong and vibrant in direct proportion to the robustness, strength and vibrancy of our God inspired imaginations and hearts.

Economies do not “drive” Architecture and Design. The respective professional practices are impacted by these realities yes, but they are not ruled nor drowned by them. Instead, like a surfer, they ride the circumstantial waves – albeit not always gracefully – brought on by the social-economic fluidity of the times.

What moves one’s heart and imagination to subject themselves to 5+ grueling years of study and the untold hours invested over drawing boards and computers, the transference of “fun” into endless discussions, arguments and meanderings, the dark circles under all-nighter eyes, the abuse taken and given from/to those of lesser heart… the angst from musing over conceptual problems, the all-or-nothing preoccupation over some aesthetic characteristic that only a “creator” would appreciate and truly understand… is a love that is lasting, not a condition that is nearing its end.

Even if the established social-commercial world as we know it were to end tomorrow and we would have nothing but dirt and a couple of half-dead twigs, Architecture and Design would spring forth and persist because it LIVES in us. It is imbedded in our DNA by a creator that may have screwed-up on some things but made-up for it multi-fold in others like our unending capacity to generate and appreciate Beauty and Love; our Imagination and Free-Will. How awesome and truly impactful are these?

The danger that does exist and always has is not in the process or the result of bringing Architecture and Design to life, the danger is in one’s interpretation of what these ought to be like…the judgments (societal and otherwise) over what is good or right and bad or wrong. These are all subjective, flawed and must only be considered with a great deal of caution.

NYC - MOMA - Le Corbusier's Urban Planning for...
Image by wallyg via Flickr

Architecture and Design is not ending or dying. The institutions charged with teaching it’s foundations may make mistakes and be misguided at times but, they are not THAT flawed… they are not meant to assure that students that come out degree in-hand from its halls will be successful (it’s illogical to believe this), these institutions are just responsible to light little flames of knowledge and basic understanding on these immense matters, that each individual will carry and some; over an experiential lifetime, will transform into bonfires of sheer wonder for many to admire, use, hate, and enjoy.

Architecture and Design will not die because they are not the by-products of a “production process”. Architecture and Design springs from the human spirit and its imagination in a manner foundational for beauty wonder and hope to rise from a future of our own making.

This I believe.

Easter and me…


This important celebration usually brings me to a funk… a mix of sadness, embarrassment and shame for what we humans did some time ago to another human… someone who was of us albeit, different and timeless – transcending our limitations – on whom; in-spite of all myopia, we trust and rely on with all of our deepest hopes.

But this year it was different for me… I did not dwell on His pain & suffering, I did not dwell on the past event. I know I am of Him and with Him and perhaps this year’s “disengagement”, marks a time of self-forgiveness and moving on and up with our relationship from the quagmire of guilt over the imbalance of an all-Knowing, Forgiving and Love-steady God… and us; as significant in the big-scheme of things as grains of sand… cozy under His mighty feet, bearing His weight, blessed by the loving touch.  JP

Inspiration & concept notes on transcendence… © JP, 1990-2011

Am I important…?


I wake-up most mornings; at times excited, but mostly curious about the day ahead.

I have a cup of coffee whilst scanning the paper, exercise, take a deep breath when I browse the email that arrived overnight, get dressed for another day at work or play and eat breakfast.

I go outside, greet the people I know and sometimes along the way – when all is at-peace with my world – I share a smile or a nod or a “g’morning” with folks that are complete strangers.

The world is real, exists and supports me every single day through my eyes… it is my perception of how bright the sky, the sun, the moon and the stars are, my interpretation if it is as hot or cold as the weather person claims… my determination of someone as beautiful or brilliant or good, or friendly, or not.

It is my choice to love or hate, to care or be indifferent, to aim for quality over mediocrity… about everything that crosses the path as seen through my eyes; interpreted through my mind and spirit. And… I make these choices many times in a day; sometimes deliberately but most often instinctively.

I am the “connector”, the natural end-result of the symbiotic relationship between Creator and Creation; brought about with purpose by the will of a spirited and awesome God and the choices of countless men, women, children, fauna and flora that have held, befriended, nurtured, taught and loved me along my way.

All the World Is A Stage

acting ones dream

I have the ability to learn, adapt, interact, love, procreate and survive… yet, as informed by all as I am, I can not be someone other than what I choose to be. I can not truly see and interact with the world in any other way than through my own eyes, mind and spirit.

I am responsible for all that I see, say and do. I matter to myself and to all that I interact with and touch… I am purpose built.

Thus, I am important.

NOTEWORTHY – with a few personal/belief substitutions here and there, I believe this is the basic “script” WE ALL – individually – follow; each a principal player acting it out in this world’s stage.

And so it follows that we all are valuable and important individually to this greater play we call “life”… wherein we all lose a little by the marginalizing or demise of a single one of us.

This I believe

Is the workplace the culmination of our attitudes and behaviors?


Can the workplace foster one’s courageous spirit…? Is this a “Design” question…? (1)

courtesy of OverTheMoon Productions

Yes, I believe this is a Design question and a “special” one at that… as Design, foundationally permeates all we are; all we think, do and recognize plus all else we may be too preoccupied or blind to consider.

Thus and within this context, the workplace – like a passive mirror – will only ‘reflect’ our attitudes and behaviors but… it could ‘become the culmination’ of such if/when ‘by Design’, it intentionally seeks to influence the quality of such attitudes and behaviors and thus, no longer is a “passive” element but rather becomes an interactive contributor to the very human engagement that generates them.

Not unlike the ‘uplifting’ one experiences when attending a well conceived play where; the script, the actors and the stage-set, all combine to produce an intended reaction impactful to both; the audience (aka company or organization) and the play itself (aka desired results).

This is a small but important distinction which I think begins to address main query… Although important, the ‘workplace’ is but one of the key elements essential to foster the unfolding of a courageous spirit.

It takes ‘us’ (aka the actors), the truth & comfort with our selves; recognizing that which is deeply imbedded within our spirits… our foundational ‘North’, to enable us to interact with others and explore new directions and roles without fear of getting self ‘lost’. It takes a well thought-through and collectively endorsed ‘script’ (aka vision & objectives), to be a directional ‘map’ enabling us to understand, coalesce and improvise our actions and thus, to ultimately give such ‘script’ form.

Finally, it takes a powerful and well conceived ‘stage-set’ (aka workplace), a necessarily fluid and emotive environment that responds to our needs enhancing our performance and is designed to evolve on-the-fly in-sync with the nuances of the play.

When these three key elements are present and in-sync, the play will be memorable and successful; it becomes natural and ‘easy’ to deliver its objectives whilst being our-selves… speaking and acting transparently from within and without fears. When they are not; when one or more components are inappropriate or missing, the results will not be stellar and both the audience and the play will be left wanting.

This I believe.

(1) Questions posed on a B.B.S. discussion by Alan Colley

Thinking and acting creatively…


courtesy of Monsanto

I would have a hard time imagining how a company or an individual would go about achieving anything without implementing something aimed at producing or delivering the desired outcome… whether this would be a tangible thing like bringing a new idea/product to market, or intangible like fostering a company’s culture to be innovation driven.

Some organizations will be more comfortable and effective at idea generation, others at implementing them… few will do well integrating both into a creative/productive loop.

The later is where I think the ‘new focus’ for organizational opportunity lives especially in organizations that want to innovate… by establishing and fostering loops of continual learning and improvement like; generating ideas, implementing them, observing, enhancing or generating newer ideas.

An integrated approach will make the ‘what comes first’ question irrelevant… it is much more powerful because; by its corkscrew-like cycle, it allows the introduction of bits of learning (new ideas) and implementation improvements at any point in the loop thus, short-cutting the cycle and speeding improvement and hopefully innovation.

This is much easier to ‘conceive’ than to effectively ‘do’ or ‘instill’ in most complex organizations as it does require all stakeholder’s to have a healthy comfort with a “change management” mentally as a way of organizational life… How many companies talk about supporting an environment where experimentation is encouraged and failure is permitted… but how many boards will support this ‘stress’ to the bottom-line beyond giving it lip service?

This is what must be considered and ultimately changed if a company is truly committed to innovate me thinks.

Big, Bold Shifts…


courtesy of Haworth

…the willingness to “go” beyond our comfort zones.

I have learned (probably not as well as I should), that there is little attainable value in being conceptually so far ahead of mainstream practices that one cannot possibly and effectively construct a quantifiable knowledge bridge between reality as we know and understand it, and possibilities as we see and/or imagine them.

Perhaps… No, no-doubts that BIG, BOLD SHIFTS must first occur within ourselves; not necessarily about our ability to think, explore and create per se (we’re probably all very good at this or wouldn’t be reading this), but about enhancing our abilities to patiently, efficiently and quantifiably build these bridges of understanding.

Although today’s script isn’t dramatically different from the one we explored and read from 20 years ago, the “stage-set” for the play – the current geo-political, economic and societal reality – is fresh, unrecognizable and fertile to receive all well conceived ideas.

What an opportunity for us… What exciting times… What a privilege to breathe and play that which resonates and is at the core of our professional selves.

Poems in Song and Prayer…


IF IT BE YOUR WILL…   sounds from the heart of Leonard Cohen as interpreted by Anthony.

Education informs… individuals decide.


courtesy of Monsanto

Notwithstanding the necessity and correctness of fixing and improving all aspects of the educational system, ultimately it is the “passenger or receiver” that must overcome all faced challenges so as to translate one’s experiences into something useful and lasting…or not.

Few things are definitive or everlasting save for our individual decisions to accept them as so.

Life (in its entirety) is for learning and the educational system an important component meant only to give us a formal foundation; to teach us the fundamentals of “flight”. It is up to each one of us to receive these lessons, practice and learn well or not… then to desire and have the courage to cut-open a window through the wall of our individual limitations through which we may take these learned basics and adapt them to create our individual lifelong learning choices and paths.

I believe it is impossible to over-emphasize the bearing and importance that “family” has on any discussion about formation, learning and passion, but equally, should we not disregard that it is the SELF…the individual that ultimately determines how to collate and weave their past and present experiences into a useful life in an ever evolving spiral.

The role of business…


courtesy of Herman Miller

Businesses are not responsible to make the world a better place for everyone. The role of businesses is to stay true and deliver to their purpose… their “raison-d’être”; the vision, the planning, the investment that gave them form, and the staff that makes it all work by creating, managing and delivering its goods and services profitably… without which businesses would not prevail.

However, few things in life and these fluid times are strictly black or white… businesses and individuals are not islands; they do not operate in a vacuum under the rules of a once-upon-a-time private and “sanctioned” plan. Businesses are members and play a key role within a larger society, as such, they have responsibilities and options they legally subscribed to and must choose to take respectively, whilst going about achieving their promised commitments and intended purposes.

Society Sketch

Image via Wikipedia

Long gone (thank God) are the days when businesses and the individuals that work in them, could exist and act independent of all other factors…that the condition still exists in pockets of “darkness” throughout the world, is an aberration hopeless in its persistence, rather than any sort of validation for its myopic and outdated practice.

It is unavoidable and in everyone’s best interests for governments, businesses and individuals to govern manage and act responsibly, taking into account and benefitting from their roles, influence and wise interactions with all other factors crucial to make society within our inter-connected global economies work effectively and sustainably.

This responsible and cooperative approach does not contradict in-the-least the “grow and prosper” purpose of a business as expressed here… the approach will prevail in spite of all examples one may point to; of excesses, apathy and greed still all-too-real nowadays. Yet, these negative examples are waning… as the demarcation lines between business, environmental, societal and individual interests continue to blur by their obvious and increasing inter-dependency. In its place, we are witnesses to a gradual global rise of ethical practices and social consciousness at all levels and in many cases, being led by the very businesses one could argue have “no business” in doing so.

All of us can fill several pages with corporate examples of responsible stewardship AND business growth; whether the practices are still in their infancy or already imbedded as “mature” corporate governance… perhaps we all should if for nothing else to remind ourselves that all is not doom & gloom.

Collective responsible and ethical actions are what will make this world a better place AND… they are good for ALL including businesses… their prosperity and our collective survival is absolutely dependant on it.

Further Thoughts on Org Structures…


…as enablers of PERFORMANCE and CULTURE

MATRICED ORGANIZATIONS – have distinctive multi-stakeholder intersections and, better than any other structure, help institutionalize the mitigation of corporate and operational risk. The very distributed lines of accountability and responsibility, the root of this mitigation; as anything flowing through the system will require multiple layers of assessment, input and approval… a necessity for organizations and industries that are heavily regulated and under close scrutiny, a counter-intuitive process for those businesses that require lesser levels of internal control.

HIERARCHAL ORGANIZATIONS – are human instinctive and thus, the most common form of structure; where one person or a group of individuals, set policy and direct the goods and services produced by such entity through employed or contracted others. Consequently, such organization will naturally consolidate or compress “power” at or near its top levels which, although operationally efficient, often result in much lesser corporate transparency and can more easily become the stage-set for dangerous governance behavior. The concentration of power-at-the-top is not a “bad thing” per se…but it certainly is a “volatile thing” both; when it is “real” and more so when it is “perceived”; especially without a robust set of independent and effective checks & balances.

FLAT ORGANIZATIONS – aim to streamline their structure as close to one dispersed leadership layer as possible… a continuum of functional responsibility and/or accountability which is governed by consensual majority. These too have their place in the organizational puzzle; there’s more opportunity to explore the serendipity in-between people and ideas, whilst events and projects do flow faster through the system… however, such structure; which necessitates a great deal of stakeholder self-discipline and confidence (if not downright boldness), is not for the faint-at-heart, can easily lead to excesses as well as governance lapses and often is harder to manage than the challenging matrix format.

In the end, all organizations should adopt a structure that best supports its objectives after a “balanced” analysis of the good and not-so-good traits and aspects of each format, as very few things are all good or all bad. BUT…

We all should be mindful that; organizational structures provide only a background to facilitate interactive protocols, no structure will actually achieve or deliver anything… only PEOPLE; performing within the context of these structures (and sometimes stretching their envelopes), can actually make them work effectively or not… which very naturally leads to;

VISION, DIRECTION AND CULTURE – by “Vision” I do not mean the average corporate statement all of us at times snicker about. Vision statements should be lofty and bold, slightly out-of-reach and a powerful reflection of what an organization truly aspires to be and/or achieve… thus requiring the continued building of organizational “bridges of understanding” to translate and link them to specific and measurable objectives and actions throughout the organization. This is a key aspect and responsibility of Leadership regardless of org structure format; to embed, defend and drive (thus making it “real”) the vision of an organization into becoming a key part of its daily ethos.

Management Teams, when aligned and either enlightened or within enlightened organizations, tend to achieve this through a collaborative and informed effort, taking on-board their own intellect and experience, the input from benchmarked competitors, customers/markets, and the voices of the whole internal organization not necessarily in that order. All of it… working together and in-synch become an enterprise’s “Culture” me thinks; the foundational component that binds and supports all people interact, govern and out-deliver consistently.

Fluid times, Org Structures and Leadership


courtesy of HMI

For as long as we can imagine and regardless of structure, most organizations have applied autocratic methods when selecting or appointing new leadership… in general, these methodologies aimed for the new appointments to follow and reinforce established corporate views and/or culture and deliver to a largely pre-determined agenda.

Nowadays, dazed by nearly two years of relentless economic and financial breakdowns and increasing regulatory and market scrutiny, there are views that continuing and anticipated further challenges over the coming decade will demand a new breed of networking and collaborative leadership, and drive a rise in flat/leaner organizations over matrix bound ones, which on the later, some believe will falter and in-time disappear altogether.

However, I do not consider this a logical view… matriced structures are designed and especially apt at mitigating risk by imbedding balanced planning, collaborative if not aligned decisions and consistency of outcomes into an organization.

Albeit cumbersome and at-first awkward to grasp and manage, in instances where ad-hoc creativity or unstructured experimentation could be viewed as “liabilities”; like within process driven organizations or heavily regulated public and private sector practices, they are remarkably effective at driving organizational cohesion and controlled outflows.

“Power”, with all its good and bad permutations, is within matriced structures much more diffused throughout the organization (a “good” thing) than in their “simpler” cousins; the nearly ubiquitous hierarchical driven pyramid structures, which in-fact end up concentrating “power” (and sometimes shielding it) at its peak and from there “directing” the rest of the organization.

Flat structures on the other hand, were “built-for-speed”…they promote and generate “culture” driven, shape-shifting fluid organizations where many good things like creativity, learning and experimentation can broadly happen, evolve and mutate very rapidly. However, they can also suffer from or be exposed to some not-so-good consequences like; organizational confusion (who’s on first?), the adequate protection of its intellectual property, judiciously balancing and tweaking its costs/income/investment ratios, establishing a vision and staying focused on it…etc.

Essential to all of these (and all of the many variations in each model), is Leadership… in its finest form, the provision of vision and direction; instilling what is good, excising what isn’t, being disciplined to lead by example and becoming the glue that binds the tribe. There is no greater calling than this, it is paramount to all organizational structures and levels and it is timeless.

It isn’t leadership for the future or of the past, it lives in the “now”… it also isn’t defined by style…True Leadership just is that and can be effective in any type or form of structure because it isn’t bound by such rather, it manages and extracts value from each model and variation and fosters like actions in others.

In my opinion, the next decade will see organizations structure themselves in ever evolving variations of one of the three models noted here and paying closer attention to fostering, developing and evolving leadership from within… for if there is anything that is dying fast, it’s the concept of the charismatic “lone warrior” breezing-in from afar to save the day.

– conceptual excerpts first published by the author in Feb’10 on Leaders Cafe 2020

Has “thinking outside the box” become an oxymoron?


… if so how would one describe original thinking? (1)

Blue-Sky or Open Thinking

It’s nearly impossible to predict the intent behind all of the ways people use/abuse this phrase… To me “thinking outside the box”; when applicable to a situation or problem, doesn’t mean “unorthodox” thinking, it means “thinking w/o constraints” and represents only an early step in a process… as the results from such limitless exercise should be deemed “preliminary” or “suspect” until they can be tested and validated through the reality (aka; constraints) that any situation or problem statements we’re aiming to solve will likely have.

I wish that another way to express “thinking w/o constraints” would be to say “original thinking”… after all, “thinking” per se, is part of an automatic sequence triggered in all of our complex human organisms from an early age… we start to develop through our senses (sight, sound, taste & touch) which evolves us to question and so, we begin to think; simply and w/o constraints at first (original thinking) and in more complex (learned and societal influenced) ways a bit later which, unbeknown to us, will lead us to become a highly unpredictable species.

Assuming we’re not children (being one at-heart does not count…), we will find it hard to think “originally” which is why phrases such as the “outside the box” one get so much overplay me thinks. As we wistfully desire to do so.

Houses of Parliament series (Monet)

Monet - Houses of Parliament

Original or un-restrained thinking is a delightful experience…every time I have the opportunity to watch children in their early discovery years, I find myself admiring their raw creativity and wondering how powerful it would be if only we could regress and/or tap into it in meaningful (read: grown-up useful) ways. But alas, except in rare cases, as long as we have lived and still co-exist in a formal society, we have had – by necessity – to learn to place ourselves within it and by the process, forever loose the innocence required to admire things as they seem to be rather than as they are.

But I am hopeful…for there are some folks whose curiosity level, attitude and Spirit have allowed them to push through the reality and constraints most of us live with on a daily basis. Some are the artists we either admire or don’t understand, others we disregard as unpractical…as being too “out-there”. But I wonder…

Before ending this I would like to reference a poem by Lisel Muller that has deeply touched me and that I re-read on a regular basis. It is titled; “Monet Refuses the Operation” – hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

(1) Question posed on a TED discussion by Spencer Holmes

2011: Year of the Rabbit


Are you expecting more from 2011?

courtesy of Monsanto Life Sciences

I’ll continue to work at learning to welcome and grow from all that comes even if unexpected but…

I’m hoping for peace; both the inner and outer kind, realizing that it may take many a struggle within and between all of us to achieve it let alone sustain it.

I’m hoping for increased physical and economical well-being for all; those who have nothing, we who have much and the handful with the most… but realize that to achieve this we will need to stretch our thinking beyond our current comfort levels and redefine acquired concepts that no longer serve us as a species.

I’m hoping to continue to dream and believe that there is a purpose greater than our ability to fully perceive it, which continually unites and focuses our daily lives… even if this purpose stems from within each one of us.

I’m hoping we’ll get better at recognizing and cherishing joyous moments and becoming more tolerant of just as memorable painful passages… for there is “much” to learn from this duality.

I’m hoping we all may continue to exchange love; physically, emotionally and in all of its wonderful manifestations… for without it, all else means little.

I’m hoping that all of us may strive to hope less and action more from this point onward…

– in response to a question posed by my good friend Ian Berry…

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