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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 31 May 2014

Haters Gonna Hate

haters gonna hate stormtrooper - they hate me for being me at least i don't hate myself.

I know some Holocaust survivors.  Jews, Poles, communist Germans, Danish policemen, people of every rank, station and affiliation.

Every last one of them goes out of their way not to hate - not the people who tormented them and killed their families, not people who disagree with them today, not anyone.

Having been exposed, up close and personal, to the consequences of hate, they know all too well that it ain't worth it.

I think about this as I watch the increasingly personal political attacks happening at three levels of government in Canada and, of course, in so many hot zones around the world.  This is what the Canadian "War Room" people don't get - by dehumanizing their opponents so as to justify treating them inhumanely, they are dehumanizing themselves as well.

It doesn't matter to me whether you're Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Horwath or Hudak or Wynne, John Tory or Olivia Chow or backroom folk or pundits or petty warlords with too many guns and not enough sense.

Hatred is justification for inhuman acts, pure and simple.  When you allow yourself to hate, you lose yourself.  Whatever else you win, your soul withers with each attach you make against your fellows.

Justify it however you want, confabulate your rationale all you want.  

Hating is poisoning yourself and hoping your foe dies first.  This is not how you win - this is how you lose your way.

If you really want to win, don't dehumanize your foes so as to crush them like bugs - understand them.  

Knowledge is not power - empathy is power.  This is why the wise don't self-promote; don't belittle nor fight against.

Friday 30 May 2014

Radical Management and the Peaceable Revolution

What's fascinating about the process Steve Denning describes is that it sounds an awful lot like Westminster government between Magna Carta and the Reformation.  Parliament was called periodically, but wasn't a permanently present entity - it was called only when it had to be.

As our system of government slides past its best-before date, all kinds of changes are necessary - and all of which will involve a certain level of empowerment and relationship-building with external entities.

That corporations might be now where government was then is pretty interesting, especially as there's a growing voice suggesting old-school capitalism is also past its best-before date.

Change is coming - like a snake shedding its skin, there will be some friction, but in the long run I believe we're going to see government becoming more of a coordination service, the private sector being more pro-social and investing in CSR partially as a way of gaining loyalty by filling the gap left by government.  

To complete the change, people are going to be more engaged - that is, more engaged themselves, but more invited to engage by the people at the top.

Such as is happening already with the Open Community.

It's easy to lose hope, but we're getting there.  Leadership is all about perseverance, after all - it's as true when the people are themselves the leaders.

Tim Hudak and Darwin

It's true - Hudak has a long track record of being obstinate.  He's very consistent that way.

Clearly, for him, the strong survive - the strong hit hard, never waver, maintain traditions unbending.

Too bad Hudak's an economist, not a sociologist - were that the case, he might realize that in evolution, intransigence is a weakness.  It's the ability to adapt that leads to survival.  

#WeAreOpen to Memes!

The endlessly creative Richard Pietro has put together some Open Gov/Open Data memes.  They're pretty funny.

Funny + creative = inspirational.  It makes you feel like sharing, maybe even adding your own spin.

Which is why I'm throwing these into the mix, too:

This Is Sparta Meme -  #WEareopen!!!

The obvious.

Silence of the Lambs - it will make its data machine readable

What? It's got a cute puppy in it...

the hills are alive - the web is alive with open data

You don't need to pin a cloud - you can join in it!

one-does-not-simply-a - one does not simply keep public data closed

Government should not be like Mordor.

I Dont Always - open government? now that is interesting.

We don't always open our data... but we should.  And make it machine readable.

han solo pointing it out - alright govenment let's open this data -  it shouldn't take a rebellion

Or a Peaceable Revolution, if you'd prefer...

Casablanca2 - i think this is the beginning of a beautiful, open government

It's happening, one way or another, so -

Prepare yourself - brace yourself for open government

After all, it's Spring.

See? Nobody Cares - omg!! they're opening up public data! see? they're not worried - why are you?

Will there be some uncomfortable truths revealed?  Yeah.  Be open, be honest, and invite people to be part of the solution - you'll be surprised how well people respond to actual leadership.

Success Kid - got open data solved your problems for you

'Cause no one person, Party, ideology or department has all the answers.  Create entertaining platforms for people to participate in, they'll bring the options to you.

lostlo - systems = live together                                                      silos = die alone

To paraphrase Jack Sheppard - we are all here and we're going to be here, together, a long, long time.  If we can't learn to do the open and collaborative thing, we will keep cycling back to the same problems of economic instability, poverty, bad decisions made with poor data in closed rooms, so on and so forth.

Strong individuals for a strong society.

Open Government supporting a Responsible Society.

These aren't the droids - #Weareopen the change we are looking for

Life on MaRS 1 - Cheap-Seat Politics

A couple easy questions for Tim Hudak, which he'll be no-doubt happy to answer:

1) Which seat would this save?  I'm pretty sure Glen Murray's riding won't be saved (or lost) by whatever happens with MaRS

2) Is the implication that any cabinet-level transaction should either not happen or happen in real-time transparency in the lead-in to an election (that was triggered by the NDP?) - or is Hudak suggesting that the business of Cabinet should always be real-time transparent?

We haven't heard about #OpenGov yet this campaign - Hudak's opened the door to that.

While both the gas plants and MaRS involve real estate, none of the other details match up.  Hudak is counting on people ignoring this fact and only paying attention to his argument.  It's kinda like how he's still solidly behind his discredited Million Jobs Plan.

Nuance doesn't matter where he's concerned - only messaging does.  Messaging he thinks will help him win.

Whoever he tars and feathers along the way is simply collateral damage.

We can break this down into two sections - one, real estate and two, the "bailout."


I myself am not opposed to an entity with more resources helping one that's falling through the cracks, be it a school and a student or a province and a community.

When I was working for MPP Jim Brownell, the major city in his riding of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry, Cornwall, had lost much of its manufacturing base to emerging economies.  The City itself was suddenly lost significant tax revenue and was in a bit of an identity crisis.  They came to Jim Brownell for help.

Jim arranged for a loan the City had received from the province to be forgiven - but to do that, he had to ensure that the same loan package (for downtown revitalization, issued in 1976) was forgiven for every municipality still owing.

It was a big deal - the Premier came down to announce it himself.  Cornwall breathed a sigh of relief - they had a bit of wiggle-room to help them get back on their feet.  That and the Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF, also one of Jim's good deeds) have helped bring some measure of stability and even vitality back to Eastern Ontario.

I'm sure Tim Hudak would call that a seat-saving bailout.  He could even hint at the manipulative back-room dealings of people like Jim and I, working our asses off to advocate on behalf of his constituents.

At the same time, if we take a look at the consulting firms that got contracts - or, should he somehow eke out a win, get contracts while he's in office, it would be unfathomable to suggest that he's favouring partisan stooges with massive contracts.


It's casually hilarious what a big deal the Political Right makes about government owning land.  They seem to feel government should go back to its original size - as in, existing solely in the Legislative Building itself.

That's how it started off - Members didn't have offices, they had closets.  Ministries had minute staffs that filled the elegant but small rooms that are now Member offices at Queen's Park.  The reason for this is that Ontario has grown, as have public expectations.  

Could you imagine the Ministry of Health consisting of ten people squished into a small room with poor heating doing analysis on the potential of new drugs or coordinating service delivery across the province?

As it stands right now, a lot of Ministry offices are located in buildings away from the downtown core of Toronto - primarily because of the effort to find cheaper real estate.  Of course, this means that for meetings, presentations and the like, public servants spend oodles of time in transit on Toronto's clogged roads - using taxi chits, by the way, because it's their job to commute back and forth.  The chits are a necessary tool for them to perform their function.

MaRS is walking distance from Maconald Block, where most Ministries are located, and Queen's Park proper.  If you take the subway, you can even get there underground.

If you can consolidate government offices in one, accessible space, reducing the need to pay rent elsewhere and get rid of all the chit-problems, there could very well be value in this.  I don't know one way or the other what the fine print of the deal or the cost offsets are, because I haven't looked at it.

Neither has Hudak, but that's not stopping him.  He has proven, time and again, that the facts don't matter - only his argument does.

This isn't the first time - not even in this election - that Hudak has jumped on a talking point he feels serves his partisan interests without stopping to check the facts.  When he's proven to be wrong, as happens a lot, he doesn't stop, consider, apologize and adapt - he bristles and attacks.

With so many contentious, even volatile issues emerging in Ontario right now, it doesn't take much to guess what kind of public response his my-way-or-the-highway leadership would have. 

Hudak can keep on tilting at windmills and raging against MaRS - when he comes to his sense, we'll be waiting for him back here on planet earth where real problems still require real solutions and leaders with the common sense to think solutions through.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Ignore the Present at your Children's Peril

There's no limit what we are capable of committing - or ignoring - when we refuse to take ownership and we allow ourselves to dehumanize others.

Why does this come to mind?

Get informed, people.  Get engaged.

If we do nothing, we have learned nothing - and we will own that for all time.

Just ask Rainer Hoss.

The Peaceable Revolution is Catching

Reporting the Near Miss: What Politics Can Learn From E.J. Ajax

In competitive sports, you either measure up or you get left behind.  It's as simple as that.  If a top-seed tennis player twists an ankle, too bad - they lose out.  Being fit and competitive is the only thing that matters.  There is zero room for weakness.

To a degree, business works like this too - people only have so many dollars to spend and you want to be sure they're spending it on your products or services, not someone else's.  The culture's slowly starting to change, but there's a still general management focus on employees as disposable tools that, if they can't perform to expectations for whatever reason, become unwanted burdens.

There are few fields shy of sports and war, though, that are as competitive and narrowly-focused as politics.

In politics, you don't just stumble - you open yourself to attack by opponents.  No one wants to be attacked by opponents, which is why picking fights proactively and maintaining as closed a profile a possible is so popular.

Mistakes are not allowed to air, or if they do, get spun as being something other than mistakes. Dissension from within, even if it's constructive criticism, really isn't welcomed - it becomes a distraction from existing narratives.

Think about this for a second.  Everyone, whatever their ideological bent, gets really really worked up at one piece of government ineffectiveness or other.  Is this an indication of "doing something right" because you've clearly found the middle ground?  Well, no - avoidable strikes, wasted dollars, fruitless programs, inefficiencies that stem from poor management and silo-based system structure, facts ignored in favour of ideology, etc, etc. undermine the efficacy of government.

The system works the way it was designed to work, but it was designed centuries ago.  A few things may have happened since then.  

Instead of focusing on the structural challenges facing government, though, we stick it to political parties.  This leader is the worst person ever, that one is the only one to right the ship.  One narrow approach replaces another while whole hosts of problems are allowed to fester.

You can't solve a problem using the same logic you used to get into it.  This is where we stand - it's not the Parties that are the problem, but the system itself that's in need of an overhaul.

The sad part is, so few people at the top of the chain are listening.  They're too busy tip-toeing around near-misses to pay attention.

Kathleen Wynne: Leadership is Resilience

Campaigns are races - they have ends in sight.  Competitive campaigners are often as much committed to tripping up their foes as they are about being faster themselves.  After all, what matters when the race is over except victory?

Politics, however much it gets treated as such, is not a race.  Unless a leader has some avoidable losses under their belt (like, say, Tim Hudak), not forming government doesn't eliminate you from the playing field.

That means the people you're running against now will be the same ones you need to work with later.

When you get your back up, when you cast the Other as evil, or stupid, or in any shape and form as impossible to reason and work with, you're not putting them in a corner - you're putting yourself in a corner.

As a couple prominent political operatives have discovered of late.

It's awfully hard to lead when you're being left behind.  Leadership isn't about leaving behind, or moving on without - it's about moving forward together.

That has always been Wynne's objective.

I first met Kathleen Wynne prior to the 2003 election - I've had the pleasure of bumping in to her a number of times since then, and have always found her the same authentic, committed, results-focused person she was when she started at Queen's Park.  That's a rare thing.

The reason why Wynne has avoided becoming cynical, mean-spirited or intransigent isn't because she's "weak" - quite the opposite.  Kathleen Wynne is resilient.  She knows she's resilient.

Whereas her opponents will dehumanize her to justify harsh treatment in their attempt to win - essentially, poisoning themselves and hoping she'll keel over first - she tends to focus on achievement. That means collaboration, shared solutions and facilitation.  How might we achieve systematic best outcomes with an eye towards sustainability?

It's common sense, really - it's that which adapts that survives.

What Tim Hudak has in Common with Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was really good at getting his teams to drink his Kool-Aid.  Whatever the market reality was didn't matter - through charisma, condescension, sheer force of will and whatever other trick he could muster, Jobs got his way.  

It didn't always work in Apple's best interests, which is why he lost the company in 1985.  The devastation of this experience would teach Jobs a valuable lesson, enabling his future return to grace.

Tim Hudak is faced with an interesting challenge; once again, the facts that he's sticking to are being picked apart by professionals as not supporting the policy benefits Hudak's shilling.  

Hudak has built his entire campaign around the Million Jobs Plan - which demonstrably doesn't add up to a million jobs.  It's possible Hudak figures the market will produce that many jobs regardless of what he does, and can claim victory for gravity, but I would suggest Hudak's not quite that cynical (though some on his team definitely are).

When recently asked about the deficit left by the last Conservative government he was a part of, Hudak said it never happened.

When faced with tough questions at his campaign launch, he walked off stage rather than answer them.

What has he ever done when challenged on the veracity or feasibility of his plans?

He's stuck by his messaging, tuned out the questioner and bullied or fired the person challenging him.

For his part, though, Hudak never wavers, never questions himself, never accepts that maybe he's got it wrong.

Which, frankly, is delusional.

Hudak has a distorted view of reality that he demands those around him see, or gets frustrated with when they can't.  He refused to accept Peter Shurman's requests to run where he lives; he canned Dave Brister for criticizing the Right To Work plan, which Team Hudak ended up moving on from anyway.

Before this election, there were many in the PC Party who were waiting for the post-election opportunity to turf Hudak as a liability - much as what happened to Jobs.  Politics tends to be a bit less forgiving than business, though - once gone, it's unlikely Hudak will ever be back.

Give the tightness of the race, I would imagine even those PCs that are fed up with Hudak are holding out hope he can eke them a win - but what then?

Hudak has been dismissive of his own, elected Caucus - he is, after all, the boss.  He's made moves and taken steps that have left egg on their faces unnecessarily, like leaving a Northern candidate to defend Hudak's dismissal of the Northern debate.

What happens if he becomes Premier?  What if it's public servants with facts, experience and expertise who are challenging Hudak on his ideologically-driven policies?  What if it's a First Nations group that gets defensive because Hudak decides to crack down on cigarette smuggling without "committing sociology?"

It took a massive defeat and some damage to the Apple brand for Steve Jobs to burst his bubble of delusion, even to a small degree, and step put into this reality-based world of ours.  

The same will ultimately hold true for Hudak - the only question is how much collateral damage he inflicts before then, and if it will be just the Ontario PCs or the whole province that's on the receiving end.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Tim Hortons Develops the TwitterChat PowerAisle

  1. Post grab a beverage or treat before heading home. 33 University Ave. Located near Union station.

Canada's #1 Marketing & Innovation Conference wrapped up for today at around 5pm.  The Twitter chatter - which had been going at a frenzied rate all day as ideas excited interest and tweeters starts to connect with each other was coming to an end.  It was time to go home.

When out of the blue emerged a sudden tweet, almost like an enticing signal to end the day with a cup of java to digest ideas over.

This was sheer brilliance by whoever is running the Tims Twitter account or is planning overall strategy.  In either case, a tip of the hats is due for the brilliance of this.  Subtle hints: we're on your route, we have treats.  And it's Tims.

I don't know if they got traffic as a result of this, but they certainly got props from folk like me.

I instantly dubbed this the #TwitterPowerWall, because a while-departing tweet like this is like offering those last tasty/necessarity tweets next to the cash - knowing you're about to leave, pressures's on to get what you can before you leave the store behind.

Just imagine what TimHortons could do if they had access the timing and hashtags of other events. 

That's how Open Data works.  It worked for Tims - hopefully, int'll benefit other companies down the road.

Spin-Based Community: Tim Hudak Cribs Dick Cheney

There's this thing about being focused on the win to the exclusion of all else - the closer you get to it, the more likely you are to dismiss all else.
Perhaps this makes sense if you're running a race and are trying to channel your energy towards a finite point in time - but it isn't leadership.
Leaders realize the landscape changes and that the people you're at odds with are still going to be there when the race is over. 
Tim Hudak, however, is not a leader.  He sees himself as the boss.
When you're the boss, you make the rules and write the history books.  You're history's actor; you shoot from the lip.
That's how Dick Cheney did it for George W Bush and you know what?  It worked out brilliantly for all concerned, especially the GOP.  It's what Harper is doing with Canada at large, as evidenced by his attacks on facts that disagree with his view of the world.
At least now we know why Hudak's such a fan of the manufactured economy.

The Perfect Leader: Why Black/White Politics Doesn't Work

- Dr. Brian Goldman

There are political campaigns going on right now; federal by-elections, a provincial election and council campaigns.  Key to each narrative is corruption, poor decision making, flip-flopping, all the attack terminology political people tend to use against each other.

For each campaign, the flip-side to this "they are bad or weak" argument is "we are infallible."

Only we and our flawless leader can save the world - they will destroy everything you hold dear.  Are you willing to risk that happening?

Of course, it's not true.  Much as overworked and sleep-deprived doctors will make mistakes, so too do untrained political staff with lots of pressure not little experience, or politicians who need to communicate in sound-bite messaging and yet are drowning in policy files.

Constant pressure doesn't keep people sharp - it narrows their focus, meaning more things we can't afford to fall through the cracks do.

It's inevitable that the people in charge (or people for whom they are accountable) will make mistakes. 
Our systems are designed to penalize mistakes, punish those who make them, take the weeds out of the corporate/pubic sector lawn, leaving only the perfect seeds left.

It's a fallacy that pervades our downward spiral in civic functionality and economic success.

People are not perfect.  We are not automatons.  Those that tell you otherwise, well - guranteed they're trying to sell you something.

People are organs in a system - companies have differing roles that are inter-dependent in the same way corporations have departments or government has ministries.  Society on the whole works the same way - success isn't defined by removing the weak, but by strengthening the whole.

If you laugh at that notion, ask yourself: do you wear glasses?  Do you get sick?  Have you ever forgotten something for work because you were distracted by a family-related concern?  Do you deserve to be shot and cremated for these weaknesses?

We have placed confidence and polish over substance, meaning we're ending up with a lot of fresh paint masking internal rot.  It's not sustainable.

People aren't the problem - people are the reality.  When we have systems that, by design, mask "weakness" at the same time as it exacerbates them, we have a problem.  Sustainability comes when systems work in cohesion, not as silos.  

I guarantee you that whoever wins the next election will make mistakes.  That doesn't make them weak, it makes them human.

There are no perfect leaders; that's what makes them leaders.  It's not about them, as individuals; for leaders, it's about us, all of us.  That whole "move forward together" thing means leaving no one behind.  Leaders know they are neither infallible nor omniscient; that's why they lead - they recognize that the whole is stronger, more adaptable and more sustainable than the sum of its parts.

If we're committed to culling the weak, we'll end up with no one left.  Maybe that's in the best interests of the rest of the ecosystem, but it's not such a great plan for human animals.

It's time to rethink what our priorities are.  A bit of humility, empathy and patience will go a long way in achieving that.

Do You Remember? The Importance of Time and Recognizing Mistakes

True story.

I was having a chat with this senior political adviser guy one time when he breaks out this story about an interview he'd done with a reporter.

This guy, he's built businesses, advised leaders at all three levels of government - he's one of those go-to types with high-brow networks the likes of which most people will can't even fathom.

Back to the interview.  It wasn't going well, the guy told me; for whatever reason, the reporter, a woman in her 30s, seemed to have a dislike for him.  He couldn't place it.  It wasn't until after the interview was over that he found out what was up.

"You don't remember me, do you?" the reporter asked.
"Um, no, why, should I?" the guy queried back.
"I worked for you for years.  Then you fired me."

The moral of the story, according to the consultant, was that he's always happy to see people who'd worked for him succeed doing whatever else.  That was his takeaway.  I asked him how the story turned out; he rolled his eyes and, essentially, said that reporters will write what they want to write regardless.

That story stuck with me.  It reminded me of the countless, hard-working staff I know that engage tirelessly in political work during and between elections.  It reminds me of the countless "faceless bureaucrats" who toil away, considered little more than cogs in the wheel by many of those who work above them.

There are reports about how this faceless, black-hole culture is a massive problem impeding efficacy in our public sector.  The same holds true for countless private sector corporations, too.  I once did a time-audit of a consultancy that makes ridiculous amounts of money, but has ridiculously poor internal organization.  

It turned out that, by improperly aligning internal work schedules and a boss culture that felt meeting times were flexible for them (but not their staff), tens of thousands of billable hours were being lost.  A high price to pay for being too busy (or too important) for your staff.

Money isn't the only thing that gets lost when managers don't take their teams seriously.

One service I offer (currently through Wakata Inc, if you're interested) is internal/external organizational management; making sure that work flow, responsibility, communication, transition and knowledge transfer are all properly designed for efficiency and maximum value add.  My area of particular interest are smaller organizations that otherwise wouldn't have the resource capacity to get organized themselves (being too busy).

What find, consistently, is that where staff turnover is taken for granted (often leading to a focus on lower-wage labour and less training), important institutional memory gets lost without its loss even being recognized.  New staff will develop their own filing systems, ignoring old ones they don't understand, only to abandon their work when they get rotated out and someone else gets rotated in.

When managers take a "someone has to bell the cat" attitude - essentially, putting leadership responsibility on low-wage staff without giving them official mandates as such - they will repeatedly get upset at new staff unable to meet the unclear expectations set by the person in charge.  It becomes clear to these managers what the problem is - a lessening quality of staff.  If it weren't for inept staff, their lives and works would be so much easier.

And the problem only deepens.

I've seen a lot of small Not-For-Profits that do important work fold because they simply didn't have the resources or managerial capacity to get past the moment or, quite frankly, because the people at the top couldn't get over themselves.  These services disappear and don't get replaced, meaning more and more people of the people who relied on these services - battered women, new Canadians, youth with mental illness, etc. - go without.

Meanwhile, more cracks are showing in the services being offered by the public sector.  More blame is being placed on "entitled" front-line staff or the odd Minister or Administrator who double-dips or under-produces, but the focus is always on the individual - get rid of them, put greater restrictions on their replacements and carry on.

This brings us back to Brian Goldman's example.  A busy doctor - too busy and mentally over-saturated to keep track of every single patient made an avoidable mistake and a patient died.  Could he have done something?  Could he have saved her life, if he hadn't rushed her out the door?  What of the second patient - what if Goldman had taken the time to talk with that patient a little more, come to understand the nature of his ailment a bit better?

Goldman is a doctor in a culture that is all about churn - working through a massive patient flow as quickly as possible, seeing as many people as possible.  He has no control over that culture.

My friend the senior consultant guy is not a doctor; what he does is high-level, has no impact on the direct lives of individuals, right?  He's a businessman making money, period.

The people he works with are policy makers - their job isn't to get into the weeds, either; they're too busy for that.  Their job is to make efficient, cost-effective policy at the high-level and punt implementation responsibility down the chain.  When something goes wrong, well, blame is one of those things that rolls downhill.

I know countless people like my friend who are "too busy" to engage with their teams - they expect their staff to come to them, full of piss and vinegar, or go out and find them on the golf links.  

They are the bosses.

These are the people who define the cultures of our emergency rooms, our service centres and, where it comes to managers, our work cultures.

When the people in charge don't recognize the value of taking the time to know their teams, to respect their teams as individuals rather than assets, they are weakening the strength of their own institutions. 

If you can't make the time to remember your team, can you expect them to take the time to fill in blanks for you after they're gone?  Will you be able to recognize growing structural rifts within your own organization?  What about that one client that is back at you with a request, or a complaint, that you know nothing about?

Perhaps there's a lesson in this worth remembering.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Why REAL Alpha Males Should Love #YesAllWomen

Sure enough, Emma Woolley's piece has already received its share of vitriol from men who clearly feel defensive.  She's touched a nerve, apparently.

My question is, why?  Seriously - why on earth would a confident man feel any threat in a woman speaking her mind?  Why would you feel the need to justify the fact that not all men are Elliot Rodger or Oscar Pistorius or Marc Lepine?  You might as well be justifying the fact that not all men are Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein.

Take it the other way - as Toronto Mayoralty candidate John Tory said (infamously), men have a tendency to get ahead in business because they stand up for themselves.  We want people to stand up for themselves, to be successful, to reach higher and take no guff- right?

We have a generally laissez-faire system of capitalism that promotes those who promote themselves. Lots of people who are great at sales, but nothing else, rise to the top because they bend ears. Top dogs don't have to do anything proactive like talent-scout or nurture talent; they want all the work to come from someone else, so they simply have to check the box that stands out the most for them.

The same, I would argue, holds true of any man who favours laws that force wives to have sex whenever their husbands want or forces girls to marry when they're told to.

This is abject laziness.  Men who expect the world to revolve around them, whether it's because of a sense of entitlement or because they lack the actual skill to nurture the results they want aren't alpha males, they're parasites mooching off of the efforts of others.

Really strong people out there are dynamic, vibrant and adaptable.  They want to be pushed and tested; they want opportunities to learn new skills and become better or better suited to the tasks they want to accomplish.

Women don't reject men romantically because they're mean any more than an employer rejects an applicant because they're cruel.  If you're not what someone's looking for, that's not their problem.

The best leaders I know are confident, determined and seek the best out of everyone - not because it makes their lives easier, but because it serves the causes they believe in.  Women leaders like Terri Chu, Susanna Kelley, Bianca Wylie, Trish Garner, Jenn Chan and countless others put themselves last, put their mission first and push everyone to be their best - so we can all reach higher together.

My business partner, Jen Li, is phenomenal at this.  She challenges me constantly to hone my messaging and target my activity.  It's tough, but that's a good thing, not a bad thing.  

I don't feel threatened by any of these women, frankly, because I'm not worried about my own limitations.  Since I don't feel threatened by them, I feel no reason to intimidate or attempt to power-trip them.

If you're a man confident in yourself, #YesAllWomen doesn't present a threat, but an opportunity.  The stronger everyone is - be they allies or competition - the more they can challenge you to grow and vice-versa.  

If you do feel threatened by #YesAllWomen and voices like Emma Woolley, you've got to ask yourself - if you find them intimidating and feel the need to lash out in response, what does that say about your own confidence in your ability?

The Problem with Competitive Politics: Why Position is not the same as Power

This isn't just Kinsella's opinion - it's common sense in political circles.  I cannot count the number of times I have been told by senior Liberal and Conservative advisers (I don't know any NDP advisers, but have seen them operate this way, too) that to be effective in politics, you need to pick fights.

Not pick your fights, but proactively go out and start fights.  It's the whole "define or be defined" thing - if you wait until foes come at you, as they inevitably will, then their line of attack will shape your public image.  On the other hand, if you go out and pick fights yourself, you will define yourself by making it clear who it is you stand against.

Mike Harris stood against teachers, nurses, First Nations groups.  Vying for a seat in Kitchener-Waterloo, the last iteration of Team McGuinty decided picking a fight against teachers would brand them the right way, too.

People who have been friends and colleagues, when they find themselves in different camps, will burn their bridges and end friendships because that's simply how they see the game being played.  You have to stab a couple people in the back to make it to the top of the heap, right?

After all, in the game of thrones, you win or you die - and there are only so many chairs at the top.

I will argue, as I have always done, that these die-hard political scrappers are mistaking power with position.  

If you want to be Premier, or a right-hand adviser, or a pundit on TV, yeah - you tend to make your name by breaking others.  Attacks make good headlines, etc.  If it's your goal to have the car and driver, the "Honourable" title before your name and access to the most exclusive events, by all means, go be a political warrior.

When you commit to defining yourself by your enemies, though, you've just handed them the keys to your brand.  They will define you in perpetuity, not your own achievements.  

That's not power - that's dependence.

During my time at Queen's Park I worked for a humble, hard-working MPP who was loved and respected by all.

Even when he frustrated people in the Premier's Office or on Opposition benches - which, rest assured, he did - Jim Brownell was always his own man, committed to one clear purpose.

That purpose wasn't power - it was empowering his constituents.

Jim was never a Minister, never had a car and driver, was never a sought-after pundit.  He never worked for those trappings of position and therefore never got them.  In traditional political terms, you could say Jim never amounted to anything.

Yet Jim's record stands head and shoulders above most of his colleagues, whatever their title or position.  His accomplishments aren't a laundry-list of things the Centre decreed for his Riding, as is the case for many pols; these were things he fought, negotiated and charmed his way into delivering for his constituents.

A couple of my favourites:

- Downtown loan forgiveness for every municipality in Ontario that had a loan to pay back

Jim wanted the Province to forgive Cornwall's loan to give them relief after some prominent mill closures; the Province replied they couldn't just do it for one community.  Therefore, Jim personally advocated on each municipality's behalf to get it done.

- Early Works development for the Cornwall Community Hospital

There was a five-year hospital development plan, and the CCH wasn't on it.  Instead of fighting or yielding, Jim found a third-way solution that created wins for everyone.  

- Eastern Ontario Development Fund

Not just Jim's accomplishment, but one he worked on with Eastern colleagues that continues to support economic growth in Eastern Ontario today

- The Premier's Gravesites Program

Jim was ridiculed for thinking history and recognizing Ontario's past leaders mattered, but he did.  Now, there's a program that ensures each burial place is recognized with a plaque and a flag.  Every future Premier of Ontario owes Jim for that.

- Riding Days at Queen's Park

Jim hosted the first Riding Day at Queen's Park by bringing community partners up from Stormont Dundas and South Glengarry for a day of meetings, attendance at Question Period and a reception at the end of the day.  It was a great hit; people at QP really got a sense for the culture and vibrancy of the region at the same time as Jim's stakeholders got to see just how much clout their MPP had at Queen's Park.

It's no surprise that many a Member have since copied Jim's model.

and finally - Brownell Night

This last might seem strange, but to me is none-the-less important.  Jim started a monthly gathering of Liberal staff, the first time such a thing had happened.  Suddenly, people who'd known each other by phone alone got to know each other as individuals.

Brownell Night became an opportunity to build community, cohesion and a sense of team within the Liberal Party of Ontario - something which, from what I hear, doesn't exist any more.  As the man who knew staff in every Ministry, he unsurprisingly became very popular.

Jim never once picked a fight, but he ended several.  My favourite also goes back to John Tory, who was accusing him of inactivity on hospital development in the riding.  Within minutes of Tory blasting Jim in the Legislature, he had a hand-written note from Jim on a picture of the development project at CCH on his desk.

People quickly learned not to misrepresent Jim's activity.  That didn't earn him enemies; it earned him respect.

Maybe Jim's name won't be recorded in the history books or ignite conversations decades hence - but he will be remembered fondly by each and every person he interacted with.  People still seek him out for advise today, and tend to regret it when they don't mind his wisdom.  Not because he attacks them, of course, but because he's got a habit of being right.

Oh - and he does have a road named after him.

This is the lesson that too many political pros don't want to hear because, truth be told, they enjoy the fight.  They see power as something to be held over others and relish bringing others down to increase their own stature.  In their minds, they're front-line soldiers, keeping the other tribe at bay.

Perhaps the most "successful" political people want to be judged by the enemies they have made. That's their choice.

Leaders, however, are judged by what they accomplish.

Note on the picture topping this post - it's taken from a Swerhun consultation.  

Haven't heard of Swerhun? That's probably because they're not big on the self-promotion thing.  They, like a growing number of virtuous schemers, are quietly working behind the scenes, building community, creating partnerships and establishing trust where none previously existed.

These people don't really care if you know who they are - they know they're changing the system regardless.

Monday 26 May 2014

Autism Genes and IDIC

I suppose we could go the GATACA route with this information, but hopefully we take the other route.  
When we recognize cognitive conditions like bipolar disorder or autism or even ADHD as genetics, not some sort of infection, maybe we'll realize we're trying to solve the wrong problem.

The goal isn't to "normalize" the sinistra out there by making them dextra - it's to empower everyone to be the best unique contributors they can be in collaboration.

Just imagine the possibilities.

Partisan Zombies: Why Rob Ford Isn't a Political Outlier

This is how partisan politics works, people - especially at campaign time when Political Parties are hell-bent on winning votes or decreasing voter confidence in their opponents.  Of course, campaign season tends not to end these days.

The other guys are incompetent, indecisive, fundamentally dishonest, dangerous.  They're reptilian kitten eaters, they want to put soldiers on your streets - they are the zombie hoard.  Only (insert leader's name here, but really mean their backroom teams) can keep the barbarian tide at bay.

In any sphere other than politics, this would all come across as childish bullying, the kind of thing politicians purport to stand against.  So why is it unacceptable everywhere else but perfectly legitimate in politics?

Well, you know - because the stakes are so high.  The other guys will rape, pillage, salt the fields, so on and so forth.  They must be stopped at all costs, meaning whatever means are justified.

This sort of thinking is just this side of gang warfare, which is appropriate - at its core, politics has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with tribal dominance.

Imagine calling a respected journalist a liar because they brought forward an uncomfortable truth about your Machiavellian positioning.

Imagine intentionally misrepresenting numbers to suit your purposes, hoping the fabrication will score you a win without considering the long-term consequences to both the economy and public trust.

Anywhere else, this would be frowned upon; in today's politics, it's business-as-usual.

What's really sad is how this mindset, once entrenched at the top, starts to infect the Party and Party loyalists all down the chain.  

This is how populism works - stoke the fires, put enemies in your crosshairs and feed simple solutions that appeal to base instincts.  Do it loudly enough, rapidly enough and exaggerate the stakes enough, your hoard will ignore all else and become a partisan mob.

Isn't this the MO of Rob Ford and Ford Nation?  More on this later.

This morning I had a back-and-forth on Twitter with Carolyn Hudson, an NDP supporter.  I only know Carolyn through Twitter, but we've had some good debates in the past; we've disagreed on issues and agreed on issues, but always, I felt, in a respectful manner.

Which is why I found this particular interaction surprising:

. You have accused me of "disparaging others" .. I have tweeted facts; why should I engage with you? ..

You're more than welcome to go back and check out our twitteraction; I can only record my own impressions here.  

Carolyn was, as partisans do in the heat of battle, throwing down talking points like they were gospel. She was citing poll numbers as if they were scientific truths and, worst of all, implying the moral superiority of her team vs the fundamental dishonesty of the other guys.  We should be trusted, the base-line argument goes, because we're better than they are - they are evil, we can do no wrong.

Having seen numerous times how an assumption of moral superiority leads to an assumption of superiority, period, I consider it a moral duty to remind people that we all come from the same place and are capable of the same egregious behaviour.  Dehumanizing others in any shape or form allows us to rationalize doing unto them what we wouldn't do unto others of our own physical or ideological "race."  

I called her on this and tried to engage a thoughtful conversation that deconstructed messaging and spin and draw focus to the fact that it's not one party or other but the nature of the system as-is that fuels poor decision-making.  By setting themselves up as morally superior, the NDP (should they win) are really just setting themselves up for a greater fall, fueling civic mistrust of our entire political system.

Instead of counter-arguments, reflection or expansion, Carolyn tried to brand me as an Other by pointing out my career history and then, eventually, found the quickest way to disengage with me all together.

If I'm not with her, I'm clearly against her and her Party, meaning I'm not worth her time.  Whatever people like me have to say can therefore be dismissed without consideration for validity.

That kind of confabulation is dangerous.

Whatever helps us win, matters; whatever doesn't isn't relevant.  Can't have too many priorities, etc.  

We are the future, not them - they no longer matter.  We're an empire now.

Which brings us back to Rob Ford and Ford Nation.

It doesn't matter what Rob Ford does - he has a die-hard base that will not waver.  Ford validates their anger and bitterness against; that's what matters.  

Rob Ford can break the law, take drugs, verbally abuse women, physically abuse his friends, do drugs with gangsters, put the lives of others - including his own children - at risk, but none of it matters.  The facts don't matter; instead, their revelation feeds the narrative of Ford as a modern-day Jesus, a martyr being picked on by snooty elites and their spin.

If someone challenges Ford Nation's view of Ford, this is justification enough to tune them out, no matter how valid their arguments.

People who disagree with you, after all, aren't worth your time.  In fact, they are dangerous and untrustworthy and need to be ignored, contained or destroyed.

It's true that Ford is an exception in the extensiveness of his bad behaviour and complete disregard for evidence, the truth and consequence, but he's really on the same spectrum as everyone else.

How easily do any partisans ignore facts that disagree with their arguments or support the simplified talking points issued by their tribe?

The more heated the contest becomes, as it is during Ontario's current tight election race, the more extreme become the tactics people accept as reasonable.

So what happens if this election produces another minority government, which seems rather likely? How does the heightened, anything-goes mentality get toned down so as to allow Parliament to function?

If you're a partisan, the hope is that after the election, at least one of the existing leaders will step down, eliminating that iteration of your oppositional Other as a threat.  Then you simply reload your bazooka and get ready to blow off the head of the next version.  In perpetuity.

They keep coming, those inhuman Others, and how else do you kill a zombie except by cutting off its head?

The big thing that rabid partisans are missing is that, by dehumanizing opponents, they are equally dehumanizing themselves.  When we start to blindly accept partisan spin and relish the opportunity to focus solely on the faults of those we dislike we become mindless, flesh-hungry partisan zombies ourselves.

Most Canadians/Ontarians/people aren't rabid partisans; they want society to function and are increasingly frustrated with anyone they see as part of why it doesn't.

If and when they become reactive enough and fully assume that all politicians are one mindless, faceless Other, it won't be one Party's head they come for.