Good to Great + more


This week, we continue our journey on building high performance teams, but first, some (mostly tech) news:

I was sent an article about Magic Leap by my brother a few weeks ago and the article’s title claims that the company is changing computing forever.  I first talked about Magic Leap a few months ago when I was covering the various virtual/augmented reality companies out there, but this article by Forbes goes quite a ways further in exploring this company than anything that was available at that time.  Magic Leap is getting a glut of venture capital money, and with good reason it seems, as their product, a next-generation interface for working with computers, could be what we use for decades to come.  Their new interface, in essence glasses, completely changes how we interface with our world by mixing virtual and augmented reality in a way that creates a mixed reality experience that overlays your real world experience by projecting imagery directly on your retina through an optics system built into semitransparent glass.   If you skip everything else this week, don’t skip this – this technology, if it comes to market, will change everything about how we interact with our world.

Speaking of change, Fortune this week had a great one on Satya Nadella over at Microsoft.  I know, I often write about my former employer, but I got to work with Satya while I was there, and while at first I had my own doubts about an insider being chosen to chart the new course for the company, he continues to impact the company, it’s culture, and it’s people in ways that are transforming them into the multi-national change agent they have the potential to be.

There are a few articles from Harvard Business Review worth checking out around Artificial Intelligence and teaching algorithms right from wrong.  Additionally, they discuss the competitive landscape of machine intelligence and how to make your company ready for machine learning.  Along with that is this video with Hilary Mason on the impact of AI technologies from O’Reilly media.  Last, this article from TechCrunch digs into how we define our relationship with early AI.

Strategy+business rightly digs into the shift in industry from products to programming, tracking how research and development dollars and the impact that early investment in software has on revenue growth.  It’s going to make for an interesting future state when artificial general intelligence creates greater access for all companies (and individuals) to create software in novel ways.

Another article from s+b this week I think is worth sharing: we’re told that smartphones are “bad for our health” and that of our employees, but the reality is our bad management is the root cause.  Just because we have the ability to be connected (to our people) 24/7, doesn’t mean we should be.  Here’s an interesting idea: that constant access to our people has an adverse impact on their productivity and engagement.  But  don’t take my word for it.  “Smartphones are not the problem. But the endless connectivity they provide means that work time is no longer finite. In many organizations, the result is that managerial incentives to use employees’ time effectively are at a new low.”

Now that next step on the high-performance team journey, in the form of a book report of sorts:

Good is the Enemy of Great

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins hits it on the head by starting with the premise that by settling for good, many companies never position themselves for greatness and even if they have “great” leaders, when that leadership goes away since they were only good companies to begin with, the ability to sustain “good-ness” is difficult and many companies slide into mediocrity.  The intent of the book, however, is to identify what took certain businesses from good to great.

He places an emphasis on how a good company can be transformed to a great company through research of certain companies he considers great and comparison companied from similar sectors.  The performance of the companies was based on the performance of their stock versus both the stock market as a whole and the specific comparison companies.  Through their research, Collins’ team discovered the following insights:

  • Larger than life: Companies that were run by larger-than-life CEOs were much more likely to fail either while that CEO was in power or immediately after. Most of the celebrity-led companies show the positive correlation with taking good to good or mediocre.  Good to great takes a leader who is humble.
  • There is no linking between executive compensation and the process of going good to great
  • Both good to great and comparison companies  had strategic planning
  • Mergers and acquisition has no impact on the movement of a good to great company
  • The good to great company didn’t necessarily have people trained in managing change, motivation or creating alignment
  • There was also a lack of awareness of any official “launch event”  for the transformation – it was organic
  • It is not necessary for good to great companies to be at large or in an industry that is at an advantage due to innovation/newness – in fact, all of the Good to Great companies were established in the 1960s or earlier (mid-1800s for one)
  • Most of the good to great companies focus on what they should stop instead of what they should do
  • Technology was not cause for transformation in the good to great companies – many times, technological advances would happen after or along the way but were never the impetus

So what was the impetus for change?

Level 5 Leadership

Collins identifies that what he calls “Level 5 Leadership” was the driver for the transformation from good to great.  SO what is Level 5 Leadership?

Level 5 leaders do what they do for the success of the company, not individual recognition.  These leaders demonstrate humility and a professional will that reveals a fierce resolve to do what was best for the company, no matter how radical it might be – as Collins puts it, an unwavering resolve to do what must be done.

  • Level 5 leaders set their people up for success by putting a culture in place that supports succession
  • Level 5 leaders are quiet and dogged by nature, relentless in their pursuit of the core purpose they’ve identified for the company
  • Most companies have (and are successful with) Level 4 leaders, but they won’t realize the market outperformance of their competitors who have a Level 5 leader
  • They were more than just “clock builders”, they had unique characteristics such as humility and professional will towards excellence. This type of a leader is known for taking credit for bad performance while giving credit to others when things go well
  • Conceptually it’s a shift to think about the simple desire to produce sustainable results through a dedication to doing whatever it takes, big or small, to achieve greatness versus the quick fix mentality prevalent today


Professional Will Personal Humility
Creates superb results, a clear catalyst in the transition from good to great. Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.
Demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult. Acts with quiet, calm determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
Sets the standard of building an enduring great company; will settle for nothing less. Channels ambition into the company, not the self; sets up successors for even greater success in the next generation.
Looks into the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck. Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company – to other people, external factors, and good luck.


First Who, Then What

Collins talks about that, while people are important, it’s making sure you have the right people in the right roles that creates value.  In essence, people are not our most important asset – the right people in the right roles are.  As he says, you have to make sure not only that you have the right people on the bus, but that they are in the right seats.  Foundational to this is making sure we hire people whose personal values match our business values.  Whether someone is the right person has more to do with their character and abilities than what they know or have done.

  • Hire people with characteristics you cannot easily instill and focus on who you are paying
  • Analyze a potential employee’s character, work ethic, intelligence, and dedication to their values before deeply analyzing credentials and practical skills
  • A core difference between Level 5 and Level 4 leaders is that a 4 will look first at what they want to accomplish and then determine who they want to hire.  A 5 leader focuses on the who, including building a superior executive team, before considering what the path to greatness is

Great companies are a rigorous culture and if you don’t have what it takes to succeed, you won’t last long, but not in a ruthless manner.  This, to me, it a key differentiation that people should consider when they are looking for companies to work for. Most people simply look for a job, not something about which they can be passionate – this is a key difference about success.

  • When in doubt, don’t hire – keep looking
  • When you know you need to make a people change, act immediately
  • Don’t churn for the sake of churn, churn because you need to and churn better
    • At the same time, you may have someone who is a great fit to the culture but not their particular job – the responsibility of a leader is to get them in the right job/seat
    • Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems

As Collins says,  “good-to-great management teams consist of people who debate vigorously in search of the best answers, yet who unify behind decisions, regardless of parochial interests.”  It needs to be a team that can confront brutal facts that face a company, but will never lose faith in the company.  Many time, we expect a quick fix to solve a problem, but breakthroughs occur because of a series of good decisions that are diligently executed on and accumulate one on top of the other.  As a leader, charisma can be a disadvantage because your subordinates will hide facts from you because they want you to like them or don’t want to disappoint you with bad news.  This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this, as Lencioni makes this point as well.

The key isn’t to motivate people, but to not de-motivate them – when you have the right people on the bus, they will be self-motivated.  To do so, we need to create a climate where the truth is spoken AND heard and brutal facts are confronted.  To that end, we lead with questions, not answers and have the humility to grasp that you don’t know everything nor do you understand enough to have all the answers so you have to ask questions that gets you to the right insights.

  • Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion
    • You have to have a desire to have intense dialogue and rigorous debate – engage in a search to find the best answers by questioning a premise, not the value of people
    • Always keep it about the situation at hand, never about individuals
  • Conduct autopsies, without blame
    • As the leader, you are always in the end to blame for failures and you have to take responsibility for it but you also have to extract the maximum learning you can from the situation
    • With the right people on the bus, you’ll never need to assign blame but only search for true understanding and learning
  • Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored
    • Good to great companies have no better access to information than any other company. They simply give their people and customers’ ample opportunities to provide unfiltered information and insight that can act as early warning for potentially deeper problems

Collins wraps all this into what he calls the Stockdale Paradox:

Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. AND at the same time Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.


The Stockdale paradox is named after Admiral James Stockdale who was held as a prisoner of war for eight years during the Vietnam War.  Stockdale was tortured and beaten during this ordeal and never had any reason to believe he would ever be able to leave, let alone see his wife again.  But through it all, he never lost faith.  “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Here is the paradox:  While Stockdale had unbelievable faith that things would work out, he said that it was always the most optimistic of his fellow POW’s who actually were the ones who failed to make it out alive.  “They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go.  Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”  By setting unrealistic, fantasy-based expectations, it was easier for them to give up, and in the end, many of them did.

The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles)

Next we explore the Hedgehog Concept, or, the “one big thing” for our organizations to understand and stick to. The question we need it as is what does or can your organization do, understand, or use as your core solution to competitive threats and changes in the industry?

  • The concept itself is similar to your core ideology (which never changes), differing only in the sense that it can be slightly less permanent.
  • Crucial distinction is that this isn’t a goal, strategy or intention – it is an understanding of what you can be the best at which is a crucial distinction
  • Your hedgehog concept must be something you are deeply passionate about, best at in the world, and are able to make a profit by doing.
  • Figure out what falls into all three of these categories, and obtain an understanding and strategy based on it.

Passion:  Good to great companies did not pick a course of action and then encourage their people to become passionate about their direction. Rather, those companies decide to do only those things that they could get passionate about. They recognized that passion cannot be manufactured nor can it be the end result of a motivation effort.

What you are best at:

  • Goes far beyond core competence.
  • Just because you possess a core competence doesn’t necessarily mean you are the best in the world at that competence.
  • Conversely, what you can be best in the world at might not even be something in which you are currently engaged.
  • The Hedgehog concept is not a goal or strategy to be the best at something, it is an understanding of what you can be the best at and almost equally important on what you cannot be the best at

What makes a profit:

  • Search for the one dominator that has the single greatest impact
  • Sometimes quite subtle, even unobvious but the key is to use the question of the denominator to gain understanding and insight into your economic model
  • Even if you can’t find a single denominator, the challenge of the question will drive you to much deeper insight which is the purpose of having the denominator in the first place – that it ultimately leads to more robust and sustainable economics

You have to be willing to “transcend the curse of competence” and avoid doing many things simply because you can but instead focus on that one piece that you can do best.  It’s an iterative process that is not the result of an individual but a council:

  • Exists to gain understanding about important issues facing the organization
  • Assembled and used by leading executive and consists of 5 – 7 people
  • Each member has ability to argue and debate in search of understanding but not from ego or to protect an interest
  • Respect is maintained without exception
  • Come from a range of perspectives but each member has deep knowledge about some aspect of organization
  • Includes key management team members but is not limited to that group nor is everyone from management team a part
  • Standing body, not an ad hoc committee assembled for a specific project – it has longevity
  • Rhythm of meeting determined by situation at hand
  • Does not seek consensus, recognizing that consensus decisions are typically at odds with intelligent decisions – in the end, the final decision rests with the leader
  • Informal body, not listed on any formal organizational chart or document
  • Usually have innocuous or benign names

The hedgehog concept is not a goal, strategy or intention; it is an understanding that good to great companies use to find their “one big thing” and stick to it.

A Culture of Discipline

Collins then explores  how we create a culture of discipline.  He makes the point that we need to hire people who are disciplined in their own right. The second you need to manage someone, you have made a hiring mistake and we should focus on managing systems, not people. Collins believes this is superior to managing people because:

  • When you have disciplined people, you do not need hierarchy.
  • When you have disciplined thought, you do not need bureaucracy.
  • When you have disciplined action, you do not need excessive controls.

To that end, we need to build a culture full of self-disciplined people who take disciplined action, fanatically consistent with the three circles and the hedgehog concept.  We need to give our people freedom and responsibility within a framework — build a consistent system with clear constraints, but give people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system. When bureaucratic culture arises, it is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which arise from having the wrong people on the bus in the first place.  Therefore, we build a culture around the idea of freedom and responsibility, within a framework and then fill that culture with self-disciplined people who are willing to go to extreme lengths to fulfill their responsibilities. They will “rinse their cottage cheese.” That said, we must be careful not to confuse a culture of discipline with a leader who is a tyrannical disciplinarian.

All in all, G2G companies have the courage to say no to big opportunities that stray outside their three circles, even if it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – in fact, the more G2G companies stayed within their three circles, the more they had opportunities for exponential growth

Technology Accelerators

So what about technology?  Collins notes that with Good to Great companies, technology is an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.  Great companies use it to execute better, but it won’t save a mediocre company.  They also avoid technology fads and bandwagons but they become pioneers in the application of carefully selected technology.  None of the G2G companies began their transformations with pioneering technology, however they became pioneers in the application of technology once they grasped how it fit with their three circles and after they hit breakthrough.

Great companies respond with thoughtfulness and creativity, driven by a compulsion to turn unrealized potential into results, mediocre companies react and lurch about motivated by fear of being left behind

Technology is never the source of either greatness or decline for a company, it all comes down to culture.

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop

This refers to the idea of momentum – keep pushing in one direction and you’ll build up the momentum needed to help you to overcome obstacles.  By using the flywheel as a metaphor, Collins stresses how momentum is built a little bit at a time – it’s not a dramatic, revolutionary change, but constant, diligent work over years.  While good to great transformation often looks like dramatic, revolutionary from the outside, internally they feel like organic, cumulative processes. The confusion of end outcomes (dramatic result) with

While good to great transformation often looks like dramatic, revolutionary from the outside, internally they feel like organic, cumulative processes. The confusion of end outcomes (dramatic result) with process (organic and cumulative) skews our perception of what really works over the long haul.  No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformation never happened in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment.  Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough. Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed the way transition looks from the outside to drive how we perceive

Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed the way transition looks from the outside to drive how we perceive change in a company when in reality the process is much slower and, in a sense, the result of a million turns of the flywheel as it builds up momentum.




When Collins looked at comparison companies, he noted they followed a different pattern, the doom loop.


Rather than accumulating momentum-turn by turn of the flywheel-they tried to skip buildup and jump immediately to breakthrough. Then, with disappointing results, they’d lurch back and forth, failing to maintain a consistent direction.  Comparison companies frequently tried to create a breakthrough with large, misguided acquisitions whereas G2G companies, in contrast, principally used large acquisitions after breakthrough, to accelerate momentum in an already fast-spinning flywheel.

  • In “doom loop” company, every time a new executive comes in, a new fad for management/vision/goals grinds the flywheel to a halt and results in doom loop. In contrast, with each new leader the flywheel keeps turning in G2G companies
  • G2G companies had same short-term pressures for returns on them as their competitors, however they had the patience an discipline to follow the buildup-breakthrough flywheel model despite this external pressure – similar to how Wooden took years to build a program that would eventually create a dynasty of winning for more than a decade at UCLA
  • G2G companies did have incredible commitment and alignment, but they didn’t think about it – they focused on the fundamentals and let the momentum over time do the rest – it was transparent to them and in that, came the commitment, alignment, motivation and change that just made problems melt away – they first learned how to put on their socks and built it from there


How to tell if you’re on the Flywheel or in the Doom Loop

Signs that you’re on the Flywheel Signs that you’re in the Doom Loop
Follow a pattern of buildup leading to breakthrough Skip buildup and jump right to breakthrough
Reach breakthrough by an accumulation of steps, one after another, turn by turn of the flywheel; feels like an organic evolutionary process Implement big programs, radical change efforts, dramatic revolutions; chronic restructuring – always looking for a miracle moment or new savior
Confront the brutal facts to see clearly what steps must be taken to build momentum Embrace fads and engage in management hoopla, rather than confront the brutal facts
Attain consistency with a clear Hedgehog Concept, resolutely staying within the three circles Demonstrate chronic inconsistency – lurching back and forth and straying far outside the three circles
Follow the pattern of disciplined people (“first who”), disciplined thought, disciplined action Jump right to action, without disciplined thought and without first getting the right people on the bus
Harness appropriate technologies to your Hedgehog Concept to accelerate momentum Run about like Chicken Little in reaction to technology change, fearful of being left behind
Make major acquisitions AFTER breakthrough (if at all) to accelerate momentum Make major acquisitions before breakthrough, in a doomed attempt to create momentum
Spend little energy trying to motivate or align people; the momentum of the flywheel is infectious Spend a lot of energy trying to align and motivate people, rallying them around new visions
Let the results do most of the talking Sell the future to compensate for a lack of results
Maintain consistency over time, each generation builds on the work of previous generations; the flywheel continues to build momentum Demonstrate inconsistency over time; each new leader brings a radical new path; the flywheel grinds to a halt, and the doom loop begins anew

In all of this, there is only one area I disagree with: Collins’s belief that the flywheel doing all the communicating you need (I exaggerate) – I think a key component of any leader’s role is to communicate even the simplest of goals again and again and showing the employees where along the track they are.   Why?  Well, because no matter how simple an idea, when you start to work on anything you can get so augured in you can only see the weeds, not even the trees or the forest.  It is critical that the leader bring everyone back up for air with regularity and also be a source of inspiration (not in an ego-based way) to the entire workforce.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’re likely expecting a TED video about some topic.  We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, contrary to everything else I’ve been writing, there’s a funny piece from a while back by Geekwire about the top ten reasons why Darth Vader was an amazing project manager.

Right, so in parting this week, I leave you with this TED talk by  Dan Ariely where he discusses what it is, in his mind, that motivates us to work.

Innovation (revisited)


Innovation is one of the ways by which we add value for our customers, however it is elusive to find at times.  When we look at the levers we can control when it comes to justifying our cost, we can improve quality, mitigate risk, reduce cost, or we can innovate.  You can’t reduce costs while improving quality and mitigating risk (typically), nor can we innovate while we’re in a cost cutting phase.  However, all three of those efforts can lead to a reduction in costs longer term.  Innovation usually has the most return for investment when successful and can lead to greater investment overall because of realized savings or increased revenue down the road.

There are many barriers to innovation that we have to overcome: Intrinsic (fear of failure, uncertainty, lack of talent), Managerial (maintaining status quo, risk aversion, rewards discourage innovation, limited resources), and Institutional (threat to career, territorialism, hard work).

Some ways to pursue innovation include out-operating for competitive advantage and executing in a totally different way.  Removing organizational barriers to innovation is key as well, but how do we do so?  From an operations standpoint, eliminate a business culture that undervalues operations, one in which operations is out of sight/out of mind.  Then you’ll be able to promote operational innovation by :

  • Benchmark outside of your organization
  • Identify, then defy constraining assumptions
  • Makes special cases into the norm
  • Rethink critical dimensions of work
  • Practice fast-cycle iteration with feedback

Critical to imbuing innovation throughout an organization is building the high performance team to go with it.  So how do we build high performance teams and take those teams from good to great?

First off, what are the characteristics of a high performance team?

  • Structured for results
  • Manage and improve group processes
    • Have a purposeful way to make the team better – stop and take a look at what’s working well and what isn’t so they can make improvements
    • Leverage start, stop, continue exercises where you discuss what needs to stop, what needs to start, what should be continued
  • Intentional about developing  a high performance team culture (culture describes the practices, traditions and values of the team – the environment in which we work)
  • Have results-oriented meetings
    • Have a purpose behind the meeting, an intent
    • Every once in a while need to do something with the team to have some fun
  • Achieve a high level of performance
    • Have goals and achieve goals
  • They have alignment between formal and informal group norms

Who are the people we look for on our teams?  People who are hungry, humble and smart.  Ok, but what does that mean?  People who are hungry are committed to results and willing to do whatever it takes to help realize success.  This isn’t about working eighty hour weeks and never having vacations, but more so about how when everyone needs to lean in, no one hesitates.  Humble people aren’t driven by ego.  It’s what behavioral questions like what’s your biggest career failure to date” or “Tell me about someone who is better than you in an area that really matters to you” are about.  Humble people share credit, emphasize team over self and define success collectively rather than individually.  Smart speaks to people smart, not book smart.  We have to have common sense about people. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They have good judgment and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions. A lot of discord is created in organizations when

Once we have the right people in the right roles (or have coached our existing team to a state of hungry, humble, and smart), we’ve taken the first step in building a high performance team.  Here are some others:

  • Focus on different aspects which are observable and addressable
    • Structure, Processes, Culture, Meetings, and Results
    • Within that structure, dissect different areas where there are gaps and address
    • In order to have proper structure, have to be willing to work as team and not as group of individuals towards a common end.  Not feasible to have sustainable structure without clearly defined rallying cry
    • From a process standpoint, teams will frequently shut out those people that aren’t in favor or held in high regard.
    • Frequently radio station WIIFM gets in the way of a strong commitment to success of the team – we have to engage our teams at an individual level so that they:
    • Are aware of the need for change (and their own why)
    • Desire to participate and support the project
    • Have the knowledge of HOW to accomplish the unified vision (and how they fit in)
    • Have the ability to impact the project on a daily basis (through empowerment)
    • We reinforce the need for the broader change/project/program/rallying cry of our customers
  • Team norms need to be developed in the open, not in a vacuum
    • Once established, norms need to be maintained and nurtured; one has to establish a culture of “calling out” when people violate norms but needs to be in a compassionate way (i.e. when they aren’t being hungry, humble, or smart)

Clearly this is simply scratching the surface on innovation, and next week I’ll get back to more of a digest form.  In the interim, check out these articles from HBR on innovation and this talk from Jack Levis about the hardest step in innovation being looking like a fool in front of a crowd.

The Psychology of Fear in Organizations


Good morning all!  After re-visiting Wooden,  I wanted to go a little bit broader when it comes to fear and the impact it has on an organization.  While some studies out there discuss and prove to a degree the NEED for fear as a tool in some organizational settings (consequences), for the most part I think we all agree that our teams are much more productive in an absence of fear than when it is the default environment.  Often, though, we don’t talk about fear and this creates issues in and of itself.  Why should we talk about fear?

  • Fear is the elephant in the room. In this time of rapid change, austerity and uncertainty, fear is the specter that haunts us the most, as individuals, organizations and society – whether we acknowledge it or not.
  • Fear has many faces – the fear of loss of face, prestige, position, favor, fortune or job
  • The dominant fear at present is the fear of the unknown

But what effect does fear have on our everyday lives and our working lives, and our ability to foster innovation within our organization?  Fear within organizations leads to:

  • Frustration
  • Powerlessness
  • Lack of control
  • The frenetic pace of life
  • No time for reflection
  • ‘Doing’ not ‘being’
  • Alienation
  • Toxic environment
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Loss of identity
  • Disengagemenent

Along with this, fear breeds a need for control, whether it is hierarchical control, target control, or control through withdrawal or working to the rule (and not innovating).  Innovation rarely thrives in this kind of environment and there is an alternative to managing by fear and control.  Instead we should focus on creating an environment of trust, engagement, and motivation to create an innovative culture.  These all seem very intuitive, no?  However, research indicated that trust in organizations and leaders is at an all-time low and we know that employees that have high trust in their organizations stay with those organizations longer, put in more effort and work more cooperatively.  Employees with low or no trust often reduce the effectiveness of their work and often engage in behavior that is counter-productive.  To that end, to remove fear and that negative behavior, we need to focus on creating a culture of trust, and in some cases that is an uphill battle given that we’re often dealing with the culture of our customers which is out of our control.  That means we have to remain hyper-vigilant to maintain our core values and strive for a culture of trust amongst our teams.  How do we do that?

A few initial ideas around this include:

  • Foster organizational cultures in which greater individual autonomy and small organizational risks are part of everyone’s jobs
  • Encourage people to think independently
  • Make it so everyone is responsible for the development of innovative thinking, whether it’s true innovation or innovation around ways to increase quality, mitigate risk, or reduce costs
  • Change the nature of conversations in organizations to empower an innovative mind-set and performance breakthroughs
  • Encourage healthy dissent, diversity and challenge; new thinking grows out of bringing new ideas together
  • Encourage trial and error – learn from failure
  • Don’t overdo targets and performance monitoring

If you are interested in reading more about this, Keegan has written The Psychology of Fear in Organizations: How to Transform Anxiety into Well-being, Productivity and Innovation which is a great starting point along with the attached article on 8 Ways to Decrease Organizational Fear.  For the counterpoint to this, I’ve attached an article of how fear can be appropriately used in organizations to address short term behavior changes.  That said, fear stifles creativity and kills innovation as it makes risk taking unpalatable to all.

Wooden On Leadership


As I am on vacation this Friday and next, I’ll be recycling some materials that I think are good to revisit, this week starting with Wooden’s On Leadership.

Wooden’s philosophy and approach to leading both in basketball and life has caused me to pause in my own approach and take stock in how I lead others.  At first, I didn’t think that I would enjoy the text that much simply because I’ve never been that interested in sports unless I’m playing them and that happens rarely (classical singing is athletic enough as is raising two girls under six).  After reading, however, I’d gladly recommend it to any leader or potential leader I know.  To be honest, I felt that just the materials regarding the pyramid of success were “good enough” in my mind for a book, but they certainly weren’t good enough for Wooden which is both an illustration of how committed a leader Wooden was and how thorough a resource this text is.  To me, while Wooden’s foundation is strong, I also believe that trust is essential at that base level in an organization.  I would also add healthy conflict with intent and purpose (strive for what Lincoln achieved in his cabinet), accountability and a results focus to the pyramid in addition to what Wooden highlights.

The Pyramids or Success

While I note above some additional areas that I would add to the bottom layer of the pyramid in an organization, I think that Wooden is spot on with the other components of his foundation.

  • Industriousness: In my own career I’ve many time seen not only the impact of hard work on the organization but also on the individual.  While the entire pyramid results in competitive greatness, this is one of the hardest to realize not because it is difficult to work hard, but because of the difficulty around working in balance, a concept still evolving in my own mind.  Wooden later in the book speaks of how he only has a total of 2 hours a day through the course of the season – that seems more reasonable “long-term” (i.e. only over four years) than the 5 – 6 days a week we’re now working, 10 – 15 hours a day.  When you are working, yes you have to work hard, however as a leader you also have to set the right pace and tone for your organization and remind people to find balance when work pulls it out of whack or to be intentional in how you balance so it is net in balance.
  • Friendship:  I find that I treat friends at work similar to how I treat friends in the rest of my life as many of us do, and while the foundation (mutual respect, esteem, and camaraderie) do create essential “infrastructure,” the tendency is to reveal too much, be too casual or informal in work.  There may be a coworker or two with whom you long-term develop that relationship, but the reality is that if you lead or intend to lead an organization, there is a degree of distance that must be built into your friendships.
  • Loyalty:  Loyalty to yourself in this day and age is something that seems the inverse of what organizations demand.  By that I mean that companies today tend to want you to be assimilated into their culture and to be loyal first to the company and then to all other parts of your life.  I agree with Wooden that first you must be loyal to yourself – not selfish, but loyal to the standards and ideals in which you believe.  In looking for an organization to work in or lead, the first thing one should do is evaluate the mission, vision and values of the organization to see if they align with your own.  If leading an organization, the hard call to make is if and more likely when to change those fundamental aspects so that either they are in alignment with your leadership or you are in alignment with them.
  • Cooperation:  This is the area of the foundation that I think tells more of one’s leadership potential and capacity than any other – many times, people who are viewed as “leaders” are simply strong individuals with a unique vision but lack the ability to hear the voices of others.  To this end, a leader needs to be able to not only actively listen what others are saying when possible (and it should most often be possible), but also encourage healthy conflict and debate within his or her organization so as to make sure every voice is heard.  The concern needs to be, as Wooden puts it, for what’s right, not who’s right.
  • Enthusiasm:  Enthusiasm in my view is one of the key defining differences between a job and a career or avocation.  When you do something because you have to it’s an onerous task.  When you do something because you are passionate about it, engaged, involved and committed, it becomes not only an inspiration to yourself but others as well.


The Pyramid’s Second Tier

  • Self-control: One key to lead a team with consistency is through self-control, but not just in the way you interact work with others, but in every aspect of your life.  I’ve observed that strong leaders lead by example, and part of that example is by how they treat their physical self.  While it is augmented in Colorado because of how outdoors and health focused the populace is, wherever I go and interact with other leaders, the majority of people are very fit – it’s simply a part of their nature.
  • Alertness: While good to strive for, I think that we have to be careful on how hard we push for alertness, at least in the context of how Wooden describes it.  I definitely agree that observing, absorbing and learning from the world around you is a critical component of a leader or team’s make up, pushing yourself to an extreme in this area can be harmful given that in a sense it could result in a degree of sensory overload – best to build up this competency over time.  In a sense, I equate the risk here with being a performer who is “on” all the time or an extrovert who is never allowed to have any down time – just like any muscle, ability and strength has to be added incrementally over time.
  • Initiative: To me, this is also known as failing fast – in essence, lean forward, get things done so that in the end if we are going to fail, we fail faster so that we can learn from the experience and move on to the next possibility.  As Wooden notes, a strong leader can’t be afraid of mistakes nor can he or she be hesitant, indecisive or vacillate.  An approach of failing fast makes sure that when we make mistakes, we make mistakes of commission, not omission
  • Intentness: Acting with determination and purpose is core to any leader and organization.  If you look at what Patrick Lencioni with The Table Group has written with regards to the need for every employee to identify how what they do is relevant and has an impact, taking it to the next level speaks to intentness.  Once you figure out what makes you relevant in your organization, you can then act with intent in whatever you do.  For me personally, this means continuing to refine what I excel at and making a conscious choice of that which I am not only going to focus on but also those areas where I am going to push/force growth within myself.

The Heart of the Pyramid

  • Condition: Physical conditioning is an essential aspect of being a leader, but conditioning also applies to mental and moral strength but also emotional and relational conditioning.  This is perhaps one of the hardest components of the pyramid to master simply because of the commitment and intent it takes to accomplish, especially with the personal histories that are in conflict with these very requirements of a leader.
  • Skill:  The individual and the team need to be well-rounded and know and be able to execute on all facets of their job, not just one that they excel at.  I know many developers who are great at hacking together code but create code that is very buggy.  Because they are able to create solutions to complex problems, we frequently ignore that the code often takes many hours after the initial development phase to work out all of the bugs, which typically falls on the shoulders of another member of the team (to clean up the mess) after the “hero of the moment” goes off and works on the next shiny problem.  To truly excel, however, that individual should be looking at their own code and not only cleaning up after the fact but learning to balance the skill set so that while they may be great at one thing, they are good at all things required of their job and if they aren’t, they push themselves to get there.  For leaders this means continuous learning and improvement, with a desire to identify all of the blind spots within their personality and fill them in and then communicates and enacts it throughout their organization, including putting the mechanisms in place to enable and ensure this is the case.
  • Team Spirit:  There are many cheesy sayings around this point, my favorite being “there is no I in team … but there is meat.”  That said, and as much as our current organizational culture may ridicule and push back on this concept given how our society is now driving the individual over the organization, it is still a fundamental truth.  Teamwork is critical and essential to any organization, but what does it mean?  It is an eagerness to sacrifice personal interest for the glory of all (a different intent than willingness) and to that end the individual must be enthusiastic in their desire to put the needs of the organization ahead of their own personal agenda.  The crazy part of this sacrifice is that when you have a group of individuals who truly function as a team, they realize personal success as the team or organization is successful, and many times are viewed as “mystical” given their working methods and what they are able to accomplish.  People try to make their success be based on something very complex or some unknown or some political connection but in the end it comes down to the simple act of self-sacrifice and commitment to the team with an eagerness and joy in the approach.


Getting to the Top

  • Poise: I really appreciate how Wooden has ordered the layers of the pyramid because not only are the lower layers essential for the upper ones, they also lead to competence and enable those layers above them.  Case in point is poise.  If you excel at the base and middle tiers of the pyramid, poise becomes a simple trait to embody.  Without them, and without the maturity that they bring about, it is difficult (if not impossible) to achieve and maintain.  The ability to be true to oneself and not get thrown off is a tough one in today’s business climate because of how often organizations and industries change.  No one thought five years ago that Apple would be the most valuable company on the planet, nor that the iPhone would be such a disruptor of the technology sector (especially given the abject failure of Apple’s previous forays into the area, the Newton and the Rokr).  That, however, is a testament to the volatility of capitalism and how quickly industry to turn to a different direction.  Having the wherewithal to be true to yourself when all others are blaming or scapegoating you in bad situations and worse.  Poise is, as so aptly stated, being able to meet with both triumph and disaster and treating both the same.  The outside world doesn’t throw you, doesn’t cause you to second guess or question your own choices nor get panicked when the unexpected happens.
  • Confidence: Confidence, to me, is quiet and quieting (just as poise).  It is a belief in yourself that is unassailable, however at the same time it can’t be false or out of place.  Confidence builds on a constant need for growth and learning, being intent, taking initiative, being alert and other parts of the pyramid.  However, the risk we run is one of false or fake confidence or arrogance.  That is what makes confidence quiet and quieting – the individual who has to proclaim to the world what they know isn’t confident but arrogant and the individual who puts on airs of false confidence isn’t a leader but is a fool.
  • Competitive greatness:  “A real love for the hard battle, knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required.”  What more does one need to say than that?

Good Values Attract Good People

This point is where leading by example comes to the front – if you don’t lead by setting the example of the values you desire and tolerate values that you don’t, you simply won’t attract the talent that will unify your organization and help you realize success long term.  Values always have to come first, and with good reason.  Without the right value system at the core of an organization, hardcore resisters are bred, born and hired and a culture of blame evolves.  Accountability isn’t reasonable if you don’t have good values at the core of your business and they must come first.  Character is innate, rarely something that you can coach or help an individual to adjust, adapt or realize and it starts with the little things, the attention to small details and one should never value the one who will do anything to win, at any cost.  However a part of good character in a leader is realizing that sometimes people simply make mistakes – the tough call is determining if it was truly a mistake or a part of character.


Use the Most Powerful Four-Letter Word

It’s refreshing to see a leadership system that not only views itself as a variation on parenting but also at its core has is based on love.  Having love in your heart for all people in your life and in your organization radically shifts your outlook and approach with those individuals.  It also impacts how they perceive you as approaching someone with an attitude of agape love is something that anyone can perceive and will find hard to resist.  However, even though Christ loved all of those around him and treated them as such, he still asked hard questions and had great expectations for all people.  Part in how you get your employees to engage is by knowing them, by making them feel valued through your intention and how interact with them.  At a certain point, however, an organization will grow too large to feasibly know every employee that works for you and while you still strive for this ideal, approaching people from a position of love results in a completely different experience than any other.  This doesn’t mean, however, that you like everyone with which you work or don’t hold people accountable, nor that you are any less demanding in your expectations – it has to do with the quality of your relationships with the people around you.  However, even with this love and the charity in your heart that comes with it, there is a need to keep yourself apart from your team and employees.  This doesn’t mean being aloof or doing it for its own sake, but in essence is for the sake of objectivity.  With all of this, you have to know when it is time to be flexible and when it is time to be firm – never be flexible on those rules or expectations that speak to your core values or philosophy, but remain soft hearted in everything else.

Call Yourself a Teacher

There’s a great quote out there from the CEO of a local company who, when asked why he doesn’t have his title on his business card he replies with “because every day this job is different and the title doesn’t matter – today, I’m the janitor” or something along those lines.  I think that many times we can get caught up in titles and status that is conveyed by them.  That, however is just a part of Wooden’s intent in in calling yourself a teacher and not really an explicit one at that – in fact he states that you should put teacher on your business card.  His view is that you should first and foremost always view and call yourself (at least internally) a teacher.  But why?

Viewing yourself as a teacher shifts your approach and view of the world and those around you drastically.  Not only do you attempt to perceive more and find six different way to explain a concept or hold a conversation, but also how to enable those under you to perform at their very best – not THE best, but THEIR best.  In that process, you must also know how to teach and be teachable.  Part of teaching, however, is patience, which for many is a talent that must be developed and learn to differentiate between simply telling someone how to do something and teaching them how to do it.  You also have to get used to wearing many different hats through the course of the day and be able to move adeptly between them.  Don’t fall into the trap of presuming that your professional competency equates to an ability to teach, nor into the belief that your answers are always right as that will lead you to stop asking questions.  Back to the poem I quoted in class, I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day, I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way.  The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine counsel is confusing but example is always clear.

Emotion is Your Enemy

There is a clear difference between emotionalism and intensity – intensity leads to consistency whereas emotionalism derails it.  When you let emotion take over the conversation or interaction, even if for show (which calls into question honesty) or an intentional purpose, it not only takes the focus away from the content of the situation but calls into question your maturity as a leader and derails your (and others) ability to do your best.  Emotionalism also throws a leader off track in having consistently maximum performance – having intensity with emotional discipline, on the contrary, allows you to stay on track and on target, allowing you to bring intense calmness and reason to any situation.

It Takes Ten Hands to Score a Basket

Ten hands to score a basket is about understanding the big picture and realizing that when the team wins, you win … and the team winning can lead to you winning much bigger than you ever could on your own.  You continue to push the team to grow by sharing information, ideas and more across the board.  This also means to recognize the players who don’t have their hands on the ball during the game and the members of the team who never even touch the ball.  In other words, recognize the assist as at least as valuable to the success as the hero of the moment.  In fact, if you’ve built a team based on a value set that vectors towards this, the people on your team who are the “star performers” likely will be of a character where they would rather see those given the assist recognized in public while you make the time to congratulate and validate them in private (because positive validation is part and parcel of “good parenting”).

Little Things Make Big Things Happen

Focusing and perfecting the details are critical to seeing broader success.  In part this is because it allows you to enjoy small successes upon which you can build, but also it keeps the trivial from derailing your success.  We frequently set the big, hairy audacious goals (as we should) without a clear path on how we get there, or what the intermediate steps are.  Other times, we continuously shift our focus on the newest bright, shiny object to hover in our periphery.  The reality is that while you need to set those distant goals, by focusing your attention and intent on the trivial or smaller steps, it will both lead you to those goals and allow you incremental successes to track and leverage to motivate your team.  It’s certainly not about being a perfectionist, but about doing your best in any given moment while not allowing the quest for perfection to pull you out of balance.  In the end, it is the accumulation of many different little things that get you from here to there – focusing on those will help you organization get from point A to point B no matter what shrapnel may be flying from the sides.

Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

Time management is a constant struggle for any leader and one which I’ve faced personally and am currently coaching another leader on to help resolve the lack of balance in his schedule.  The catch, however, is that time is something that is completely in your control and one just has to learn to not only get the most value out of every minute in a given day but also make sure your day doesn’t dissolve into nothing being accomplished because you’ve committed to too many things.  Along with that, while a failure to prepare destines for failure, you always have to remember that there is only so much of you that you can give before you burn out and at the same time can’t make up for a lack of effort today by giving more effort tomorrow.  An effective (although tedious) way to gain control back over your schedule is to divide your week out by a percent of time to spend spread across the total hours you typically work.  This does two things: it sets stated limits to the number of hours you work in a week and how many hours you can spend working on any given thing.  Then you have to have the discipline to punt things to the next week or to someone else when they don’t fit into that structure.

The Carrot is Mightier than the Stick

This, more than any other portion of the book, is one that I want to incorporate immediately into my parenting at home.  I frequently find myself both limiting options and using a stick more often than a carrot – in part because the carrot my daughter prefers is more like carrot cake – we’ve gotten into a habit where rewards are equated with food and not necessarily food that is healthy.  I’ve in the past tried to “establish boundaries” for my oldest daughter as so much of the literature calls for and yet the idea of making firm suggestions is much more appealing because it then gives you flexibility and also empowers your child to make their own decisions while you teach them through discussion and allow them to fail from time to time.  At work, this is equally as applicable, and we should leverage rewards systems that make sense versus ones that are arbitrary or not aligned with the effort or focus.

As a leader, you also have to vary wary of how you use both criticism and praise – you don’t want hollow praise to be part of your vocabulary, or praise for praise sake and you want to make sure that if all possible you criticize in private and at all times attempt to be positive in your criticism.  How is that accomplished?  By using a positive performance by an individual or a team and relating that praise to an area that needs improvement.  There’s also a theory in performance management that states that you should have people work on the things they excel at and reassign the things they don’t to people who are passionate about them, therefore setting them up for success.  While I see the intent behind that and to some degree agree with it, I believe it has more to do with the role they excel at, not the specific items of work.  If someone is better with tactical planning and action, don’t stick them with strategic unless they desire to grow in that area.  I also believe that only the leader should give criticism.  Too often you see colleagues who are either trying to be helpful or spiteful who tear others down without a plan or the authority to create one on how to build them back up.  Leaders don’t tear down (except in specific circumstances like hardcore resisters) and all of the criticism they offer is both aligned with the organization’s needs and the individual or teams ability.

Make Greatness Attainable by all

Making greatness attainable by all means that you identify what greatness is in every role and then enable each individual to attain it for their specific role, in the end creating a “great” organization through empowering individuals to be their best.  That, however, is the measure – doing the job to your very best, and then sticking to that being what is best in that moment for that individual.  You have to instill the belief that there is an opportunity for greatness in any and every job.  Greatness can be a supporting role, as noted before – it doesn’t mean that you are the star or the hero.  As the leader, you have to encourage ambition and make it clear that any advancement is dependent on the mastery of current roles and assignments.

Seek Significant Change

As a leader, you need to look for the excuses that are keeping you from success; doing so may be incredibly challenging as those excuses at times can be so ingrained you won’t realize them for what they are.  To that end, look for yes men who will say no; individuals who are there for the success of the organization but are willing to ask hard questions when they need to be asked.  This doesn’t mean asking questions for the sake of questioning, but to make sure that nothing is left unexamined.  Encourage a culture that doesn’t say no but
instead asks how.  As a leader, you have to be an excellent active listener to both empower the culture and make sure you fully understand the points and positions of those around you.  Most people think that by its very nature that conflict is negative, but in reality conflict can be positive, as long as it doesn’t get personal and isn’t for the sake of being a contrarian.  In all of that, be wary of being satisfied with the work delivered, for satisfaction can lead to failure.

Don’t Look at the Scoreboard

Once goals are set, focus on the near term steps that it takes to achieve them.  Forget about the future – the future and the bright and shiny can make you lose your focus on what lies right in front of you.  As you work against those incremental steps you must also hold your competitors with the respect that should be accorded to them.  To do otherwise leave you vulnerable.

Adversity is Your Asset

When I was living in Kitty Hawk, NC after I graduated from college and had my first “real” job (as a real estate agent), I faced a lot of financial adversity and had no support whatsoever – that adversity was due to irresponsible decisions that I (and many others) had made in college around credit cards and debt.  Even in the face of that, however I always believed that God wouldn’t put any challenge in from of me that I wasn’t strong enough to conquer – I viewed it all as a test and as a challenge for me to overcome.  And overcome is exactly what I did, taking the lessons I could learn away from it and carrying them with to today.  In that vein, while fate may throw a wrench in our lives from time to time, we can’t control that – we can’t control others or what may happen in the world as we can only control ourselves.  How do we control ourselves, though?  We can control how we react to those situations and respond to it; if we can’t we can push ourselves to grow in that area and build that skillset.  You have to live with the circumstances dealt and make the best of them.  At the same time, never give your word unless you intend to keep it, as not only are you as good as your word, by setting expectations and committing to actions you can’t realize, you are setting yourself up for a swift kick in the pants by fate.  Failure, though, is never the fault of fate – it is the individual leader who determines how to deal with adversity and whether to view it with the right attitude and spirit and turn that adversity into advantage and success.

And now for something completely different: a buddy of mine is on the TED landing page once again and it’s a fascinating talk.  Balise Aguera y Arcas is one of the smartest people I know and he always gives engaging and evocative talks.  In this TED talk, he shows how neural nets that are trained to recognize images can be run in reverse to create them.  As Blaise says, “Perception and creativity are very intimately connected.  Any creature, any being that is able to do perceptual acts is also able to create.”

The New Economics of Cybercrime, Entertainment & Media: A World of Differences, Why Is Chick-fil-A’s App Number One in the App Store? + more


As we’ve seen ransomware in the headlines and gaining prevalence when it comes to cybercrime, it’s good to take a look at what progress has been made and as well some of the new dangers that are out there.  This week The Atlantic looks at how we’ve progressed over the past decade and the rise of ransomware and then there is a companion piece from Euronews in February about how the Internet of Things is being impacted by cybercrime.

“Code wins arguments,” “Move fast and break things,” or “Done is better than perfect.”  Those are some of the mantras that ring in the halls at Facebook and it has led to their ability to get to market faster and build dominance through their open environment.  Zuck has done everything he can to pummel Google Plus into the ground, and now that open culture may lead to Facebook’s dominance in AI.  As well, there’s this piece on how AI is changing SEO.  Speaking (orthogonally) of machine intelligence, Steven Sinofsky has a good read out on the rise of it at this year’s code conference.

If you’ve not really taken the time to consider the Maker Movement and its impact and influence, take a moment to check out this article to get a start.

You may recall Marc Andreessen’s famous “Why Software is Eating the World” essay from the Wall Street Journal, (and if you have a chance, catch the recent Tim Ferriss Show podcast featuring Andreessen), and this week TechCrunch follows on with how software is STILL eating the world five years later.

For many, print media, especially newspapers, have become a thing of the past.  This week, The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy explores how that’s not true for the Washington Post, how Jeff Bezos is reinventing that beleaguered news institution, and what others in the newspaper business may learn from it.

One thing I missed last week when talking about Uber was the news that they’ve joined a partnership with Saudi Arabia to provide transport for Saudi women, which many view as a major setback in the twenty year campaign to allow Saudi women to drive themselves instead of having to hire male chauffeurs or rely on male family members.

If you’ve not heard, Apple made some major changes to how the App Store functions recently.  For a summary, take a look at this blog, and for analysis into it, we can turn to The Verge.  There’s also this piece on how Apple has lost its simplicity, and whether or not that is a good thing.

strategy+business has an in depth look at the Entertainment & Media companies and how they are striving to pivot to serve digital consumers around the world.  This breaks into five shifts that are roiling the industry: demographic shift towards serving younger users, content is still king with regards to competition, the relevance of bundling even in light of everything we hear/read, growth markets, and the ability to build trust.  To that last one, historic shifts are now under way forging the creation of new business models, and perhaps even new industries. Those that are able to integrate the capabilities and approaches that create value for customers will continue to thrive and continue to build loyalty and trust in their customers.  While we think that long range planning for E&M firms may seem nonsensical with as much as the industry has been disrupted and continues to be, there’s also a truth to the staying power of many of the E&M companies due to their ability to pivot while focusing on the power of youth, the primacy of localized content, the resilience of a new kind of bundle, the deepening of developing markets, the potential for new business models.

Wondered how much money Hamilton is making on Broadway and where it’s all coming from/going to?  This piece from the New York Times goes deep into that.  Needless to say, the show is well on its way to becoming a billion dollar phenomenon.

Not that this is news we want to hear, but George Soros is back at it trading again.  Why, you ask, do we not want to hear that?  Because he is incredibly bearish on global markets, betting heavily against China and stating that China’s financial system right now “eerily resembles what happened during the financial crisis in the US in 2007-08.  Looking for more behind the why of China’s fall?  Read here.

Mike Curtis has led engineering teams at Facebook and Yahoo and is now a VP of Engineering at Airbnb.  He started out, however, knowing zero code and in this article looks back on the most important lessons he learned on his journey, including treating engineers like business owners and when to adopt a new technology stack.

When we think of Microsoft, we don’t think open source given the history of the company and how closed the platform has been.  Well, the times they are a changing, a good example of which is this article that starts by delving into Microsoft’s purchase of Xamarin, which makes tools that allow developers to use a shared code base to create “native” applications for mobile operating systems made by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

It’s a bit out in left field for what I usually dig into, but this week we saw Chick-fil-A’s app become #1 at the app store.  How did a fast food chain climb to the top of the charts so quickly?  Well, in part because they told anyone who downloaded the app that they’d get a free chicken sandwich, and in part because of how they’ve targeted their demographic.  Chick-fil-A has gone above and beyond to secure the loyalty of families and even when there have been the occasional media black eyes, the company has survived and even thrived because of the audience it targets.  How do they do that?  Well, I think it all ties back to how they stay true to their ideals, and while you may not agree with those ideals, you can see the power of that and the loyalty it stokes.  It’s a good lesson for us all.

Along with speaking about culture and values, my brother shot me an article this week about giving away your legos.  This is, in essence, a metaphor for how you have to be willing to let go as you scale your start up.  Another great one from First Round is about the principles of quantum team management.

Fintech continues to be dominating the news cycle, and with good reason.  Most people inside the traditional Financial bulwarks of today despise fintech without even understanding it, and more and more excitement is being generated in the startup world by any number of companies out there.  This article from TechCrunch explores how fintech is playing the long game.

It you’ve got some time to kill this weekend, head over to watch the full Elon Musk interview from the code conference.

My youngest has a tendency to declare that every moment, every thing, every experience in her life is awesome, and while I pretty often agree that that is the case, a few conversations with her this week reminded me of this TED talk.  We’ve seemed to lose sight of what awesome truly means, and by using it in excess, we lessen the impact of that word.  Mind you, I’ll still argue that through my five year old’s eyes, everything does seem pretty awesome.

The Stanford Rape Victim’s Letter

I post this letter for two reasons: I don’t think that it can be shared enough and I also believe that we, as a society, need to have zero tolerance for what’s unfolded this week in California.

Your Honor, if it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly.

You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.

On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama”, because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.

The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.

Then, I felt pine needles scratching the back of my neck and started pulling them out my hair. I thought maybe, the pine needles had fallen from a tree onto my head. My brain was talking my gut into not collapsing. Because my gut was saying, help me, help me.

I shuffled from room to room with a blanket wrapped around me, pine needles trailing behind me, I left a little pile in every room I sat in. I was asked to sign papers that said “Rape Victim” and I thought something has really happened. My clothes were confiscated and I stood naked while the nurses held a ruler to various abrasions on my body and photographed them. The three of us worked to comb the pine needles out of my hair, six hands to fill one paper bag. To calm me down, they said it’s just the flora and fauna, flora and fauna. I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.
After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.

On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life. Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information. They gave me huge hugs and I walked out of the hospital into the parking lot wearing the new sweatshirt and sweatpants they provided me, as they had only allowed me to keep my necklace and shoes.

My sister picked me up, face wet from tears and contorted in anguish. Instinctively and immediately, I wanted to take away her pain. I smiled at her, I told her to look at me, I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here. My hair is washed and clean, they gave me the strangest shampoo, calm down, and look at me. Look at these funny new sweatpants and sweatshirt, I look like a P.E. teacher, let’s go home, let’s eat something. She did not know that beneath my sweatsuit, I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak. That I was also afraid, that I was also devastated. That day we drove home and for hours in silence my younger sister held me.

My boyfriend did not know what happened, but called that day and said, “I was really worried about you last night, you scared me, did you make it home okay?” I was horrified. That’s when I learned I had called him that night in my blackout, left an incomprehensible voicemail, that we had also spoken on the phone, but I was slurring so heavily he was scared for me, that he repeatedly told me to go find [my sister]. Again, he asked me, “What happened last night? Did you make it home okay?” I said yes, and hung up to cry.

I was not ready to tell my boyfriend or parents that actually, I may have been raped behind a dumpster, but I don’t know by who or when or how. If I told them, I would see the fear on their faces, and mine would multiply by tenfold, so instead I pretended the whole thing wasn’t real.

I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone. After work, I would drive to a secluded place to scream. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone, and I became isolated from the ones I loved most. For over a week after the incident, I didn’t get any calls or updates about that night or what happened to me. The only symbol that proved that it hadn’t just been a bad dream, was the sweatshirt from the hospital in my drawer.

One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. That’s when the pine needles in my hair made sense, they didn’t fall from a tree. He had taken off my underwear, his fingers had been inside of me. I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me, this can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. I kept reading. In the next paragraph, I read something that I will never forgive; I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings.

It’s like if you were to read an article where a car was hit, and found dented, in a ditch. But maybe the car enjoyed being hit. Maybe the other car didn’t mean to hit it, just bump it up a little bit. Cars get in accidents all the time, people aren’t always paying attention, can we really say who’s at fault.

And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.

The night the news came out I sat my parents down and told them that I had been assaulted, to not look at the news because it’s upsetting, just know that I’m okay, I’m right here, and I’m okay. But halfway through telling them, my mom had to hold me because I could no longer stand up.

The night after it happened, he said he didn’t know my name, said he wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup, didn’t mention any dialogue between us, no words, only dancing and kissing. Dancing is a cute term; was it snapping fingers and twirling dancing, or just bodies grinding up against each other in a crowded room? I wonder if kissing was just faces sloppily pressed up against each other? When the detective asked if he had planned on taking me back to his dorm, he said no. When the detective asked how we ended up behind the dumpster, he said he didn’t know. He admitted to kissing other girls at that party, one of whom was my own sister who pushed him away. He admitted to wanting to hook up with someone. I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else. You were about to enter four years of access to drunk girls and parties, and if this is the foot you started off on, then it is right you did not continue. The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub.

Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub. One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it.

I thought there’s no way this is going to trial; there were witnesses, there was dirt in my body, he ran but was caught. He’s going to settle, formally apologize, and we will both move on. Instead, I was told he hired a powerful attorney, expert witnesses, private investigators who were going to try and find details about my personal life to use against me, find loopholes in my story to invalidate me and my sister, in order to show that this sexual assault was in fact a misunderstanding. That he was going to go to any length to convince the world he had simply been confused.
I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but we don’t know if it counts as assault yet. I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.

When I was told to be prepared in case we didn’t win, I said, I can’t prepare for that. He was guilty the minute I woke up. No one can talk me out of the hurt he caused me. Worst of all, I was warned, because he now knows you don’t remember, he is going to get to write the script. He can say whatever he wants and no one can contest it. I had no power, I had no voice, I was defenseless. My memory loss would be used against me. My testimony was weak, was incomplete, and I was made to believe that perhaps, I am not enough to win this. His attorney constantly reminded the jury, the only one we can believe is Brock, because she doesn’t remember. That helplessness was traumatizing.
Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers. Instead of his attorney saying, Did you notice any abrasions? He said, You didn’t notice any abrasions, right? This was a game of strategy, as if I could be tricked out of my own worth. The sexual assault had been so clear, but instead, here I was at the trial, answering questions like:

How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? Okay, well, we’ll let Brock fill it in.

I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.

And then it came time for him to testify and I learned what it meant to be revictimized. I want to remind you, the night after it happened he said he never planned to take me back to his dorm. He said he didn’t know why we were behind a dumpster. He got up to leave because he wasn’t feeling well when he was suddenly chased and attacked. Then he learned I could not remember.

So one year later, as predicted, a new dialogue emerged. Brock had a strange new story, almost sounded like a poorly written young adult novel with kissing and dancing and hand holding and lovingly tumbling onto the ground, and most importantly in this new story, there was suddenly consent. One year after the incident, he remembered, oh yeah, by the way she actually said yes, to everything, so.

He said he had asked if I wanted to dance. Apparently I said yes. He’d asked if I wanted to go to his dorm, I said yes. Then he asked if he could finger me and I said yes. Most guys don’t ask, can I finger you? Usually there’s a natural progression of things, unfolding consensually, not a Q and A. But apparently I granted full permission. He’s in the clear. Even in his story, I only said a total of three words, yes yes yes, before he had me half naked on the ground. Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. You couldn’t even do that. Just one coherent string of words. Where was the confusion? This is common sense, human decency.
According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan.
Next in the story, two Swedes on bicycles approached you and you ran. When they tackled you why didn’t say, “Stop! Everything’s okay, go ask her, she’s right over there, she’ll tell you.” I mean you had just asked for my consent, right? I was awake, right? When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen.

Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we don’t know exactly when she became unconscious. And you’re right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasn’t completely limp yet. That was never the point. I was too drunk to speak English, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place. Brock stated, “At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately.” Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?

You said, you would have stopped and gotten help. You say that, but I want you to explain how you would’ve helped me, step by step, walk me through this. I want to know, if those evil Swedes had not found me, how the night would have played out. I am asking you; Would you have pulled my underwear back on over my boots? Untangled the necklace wrapped around my neck? Closed my legs, covered me? Pick the pine needles from my hair? Asked if the abrasions on my neck and bottom hurt? Would you then go find a friend and say, Will you help me get her somewhere warm and soft? I don’t sleep when I think about the way it could have gone if the two guys had never come. What would have happened to me? That’s what you’ll never have a good answer for, that’s what you can’t explain even after a year.

On top of all this, he claimed that I orgasmed after one minute of digital penetration. The nurse said there had been abrasions, lacerations, and dirt in my genitalia. Was that before or after I came?

To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by Swedes for reasons unknown to you is appalling, is demented, is selfish, is damaging. It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity of validity of this suffering.

My family had to see pictures of my head strapped to a gurney full of pine needles, of my body in the dirt with my eyes closed, hair messed up, limbs bent, and dress hiked up. And even after that, my family had to listen to your attorney say the pictures were after the fact, we can dismiss them. To say, yes her nurse confirmed there was redness and abrasions inside her, significant trauma to her genitalia, but that’s what happens when you finger someone, and he’s already admitted to that. To listen to your attorney attempt to paint a picture of me, the face of girls gone wild, as if somehow that would make it so that I had this coming for me. To listen to him say I sounded drunk on the phone because I’m silly and that’s my goofy way of speaking. To point out that in the voicemail, I said I would reward my boyfriend and we all know what I was thinking. I assure you my rewards program is non transferable, especially to any nameless man that approaches me.

He has done irreversible damage to me and my family during the trial and we have sat silently, listening to him shape the evening. But in the end, his unsupported statements and his attorney’s twisted logic fooled no one. The truth won, the truth spoke for itself.

You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty ¬six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt. And I thought finally it is over, finally he will own up to what he did, truly apologize, we will both move on and get better. Then I read your statement.

If you are hoping that one of my organs will implode from anger and I will die, I’m almost there. You are very close. This is not a story of another drunk college hook¬up with poor decision making. Assault is not an accident. Somehow, you still don’t get it. Somehow, you still sound confused. I will now read portions of the defendant’s statement and respond to them.

You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.

Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.

You said, If I wanted to get to know her, I should have asked for her number, rather than asking her to go back to my room.

I’m not mad because you didn’t ask for my number. Even if you did know me, I would not want to be in this situation. My own boyfriend knows me, but if he asked to finger me behind a dumpster, I would slap him. No girl wants to be in this situation. Nobody. I don’t care if you know their phone number or not.
You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around me was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.

Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.

You said, During the trial I didn’t want to victimize her at all. That was just my attorney and his way of approaching the case.

Your attorney is not your scapegoat, he represents you. Did your attorney say some incredulously infuriating, degrading things? Absolutely. He said you had an erection, because it was cold.
You said, you are in the process of establishing a program for high school and college students in which you speak about your experience to “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”

Campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to people about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.
Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexual Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide. Rest assured, if you fail to fix the topic of your talk, I will follow you to every school you go to and give a follow up presentation.

Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.

A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.
See one thing we have in common is that we were both unable to get up in the morning. I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All¬ American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something.

My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see. I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you. The pain became so bad that I had to explain the private details to my boss to let her know why I was leaving. I needed time because continuing day to day was not possible. I used my savings to go as far away as I could possibly be. I did not return to work full time as I knew I’d have to take weeks off in the future for the hearing and trial, that were constantly being rescheduled. My life was put on hold for over a year, my structure had collapsed.

I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.

I used to pride myself on my independence, now I am afraid to go on walks in the evening, to attend social events with drinking among friends where I should be comfortable being. I have become a little barnacle always needing to be at someone’s side, to have my boyfriend standing next to me, sleeping beside me, protecting me. It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.
You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. It took me eight months to even talk about what happened. I could no longer connect with friends, with everyone around me. I would scream at my boyfriend, my own family whenever they brought this up. You never let me forget what happened to me. At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself. Every time a new article come out, I lived with the paranoia that my entire hometown would find out and know me as the girl who got assaulted. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and am still learning to accept victim as part of my identity. You made my own hometown an uncomfortable place to be.

You cannot give me back my sleepless nights. The way I have broken down sobbing uncontrollably if I’m watching a movie and a woman is harmed, to say it lightly, this experience has expanded my empathy for other victims. I have lost weight from stress, when people would comment I told them I’ve been running a lot lately. There are times I did not want to be touched. I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.

When I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over again she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you. That night I had called her to try and find her, but you found me first. Your attorney’s closing statement began, “[Her sister] said she was fine and who knows her better than her sister.” You tried to use my own sister against me? Your points of attack were so weak, so low, it was almost embarrassing. You do not touch her.
You should have never done this to me. Secondly, you should have never made me fight so long to tell you, you should have never done this to me. But here we are. The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.

Your life is not over, you have decades of years ahead to rewrite your story. The world is huge, it is so much bigger than Palo Alto and Stanford, and you will make a space for yourself in it where you can be useful and happy. But right now, you do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You have been convicted of violating me, intentionally, forcibly, sexually, with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.

Now to address the sentencing. When I read the probation officer’s report, I was in disbelief, consumed by anger which eventually quieted down to profound sadness. My statements have been slimmed down to distortion and taken out of context. I fought hard during this trial and will not have the outcome minimized by a probation officer who attempted to evaluate my current state and my wishes in a fifteen minute conversation, the majority of which was spent answering questions I had about the legal system. The context is also important. Brock had yet to issue a statement, and I had not read his remarks.

My life has been on hold for over a year, a year of anger, anguish and uncertainty, until a jury of my peers rendered a judgment that validated the injustices I had endured. Had Brock admitted guilt and remorse and offered to settle early on, I would have considered a lighter sentence, respecting his honesty, grateful to be able to move our lives forward. Instead he took the risk of going to trial, added insult to injury and forced me to relive the hurt as details about my personal life and sexual assault were brutally dissected before the public. He pushed me and my family through a year of inexplicable, unnecessary suffering, and should face the consequences of challenging his crime, of putting my pain into question, of making us wait so long for justice.
I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars. The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft time¬out, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women. It gives the message that a stranger can be inside you without proper consent and he will receive less than what has been defined as the minimum sentence. Probation should be denied. I also told the probation officer that what I truly wanted was for Brock to get it, to understand and admit to his wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, after reading the defendant’s report, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of “promiscuity.” By definition rape is the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.

The probation officer factored in that the defendant is youthful and has no prior convictions. In my opinion, he is old enough to know what he did was wrong. When you are eighteen in this country you can go to war. When you are nineteen, you are old enough to pay the consequences for attempting to rape someone. He is young, but he is old enough to know better.
As this is a first offence I can see where leniency would beckon. On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.

The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.

The Probation Officer has stated that this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication. It felt serious. That’s all I’m going to say.
What has he done to demonstrate that he deserves a break? He has only apologized for drinking and has yet to define what he did to me as sexual assault, he has revictimized me continually, relentlessly. He has been found guilty of three serious felonies and it is time for him to accept the consequences of his actions. He will not be quietly excused.

He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.

To conclude, I want to say thank you. To everyone from the intern who made me oatmeal when I woke up at the hospital that morning, to the deputy who waited beside me, to the nurses who calmed me, to the detective who listened to me and never judged me, to my advocates who stood unwaveringly beside me, to my therapist who taught me to find courage in vulnerability, to my boss for being kind and understanding, to my incredible parents who teach me how to turn pain into strength, to my grandma who snuck chocolate into the courtroom throughout this to give to me, my friends who remind me how to be happy, to my boyfriend who is patient and loving, to my unconquerable sister who is the other half of my heart, to Alaleh, my idol, who fought tirelessly and never doubted me. Thank you to everyone involved in the trial for their time and attention. Thank you to girls across the nation that wrote cards to my DA to give to me, so many strangers who cared for me.

Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.

And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.

A few more thoughts on management and Best Tech Stories of 2015

I hope that everyone has been able to take some time around the holidays to reset and refuel as we head into the new year.  To close the year out, I just had a few more thoughts on management and leading people:

  • Being a manager takes a set of skills that are clearly identifiable and trainable; leadership skills, while straightforward, are not as natural or “simple”
    • That said, while leaders need to create the vision, they must also get results
  • Leadership is a combination of caring, comfort with ambiguity, persistence, communication, negotiation skills, political astuteness, humor, level-headedness, engaging, challenging, self-awareness & future focus
  • Observation of how a leader acts will tell you as much if not more about that leader than who they say they are or what they believe – again, coming back to leading by example
  • Organizational tension is a part of every business, so how do we manage?
    • Competitive urge: redirect the urge to compete into productive channels
    • Group decision making vs. decisiveness: a leader needs to seek counsel when making most decisions but also needs to balance that with when a decision just needs to be made
    • This won’t be an issue as long as it is rare and the team’s input is consistently sought otherwise
  • If a vision is something that resonates with our followers and creates a deep yearning in them, what does that mean for you organization?
    • Is it “people using our service” as a default for most companies today?
    • Do industry pundits need to acknowledge your for it to be the best?  Or is it the best because it fits your culture and your overarching values and mission?
    • What is it between the different personality types that will inspire?
  • When does a company outgrow its own vision statement?  How often must it change?
    • At one point Microsoft’s was much simpler: a pc on every desk in every house around the world.  It became to help people and businesses around the world to achieve their full potential.  Is the simpler version better?
  • How do you create a vision statement that is actionable at every level of an organization?
  • Does a vision statement need to be more concrete, less inspirational, to be truly effective?
  • In the end, to be a leader you must not only create a vision, but have it be a powerful one that you can articulate clearly.  You have to:
    • Create awareness of the need to change to achieve the vision
    • Drive desire in those impacted by the change
    • Give them the knowledge to implement the change
    • Make sure they have the ability to implement the change on a day to day basis
    • Reinforce the change again and again

The Role of a Manager and Leader

  • The minimum is to lead by example and from the front – but be real/human.
  • Be contagious with your attitude
  • To define success, you have to have a clear connection to where you’ve been, where you are, and where you need to go
  • Share the development of plans amongst the team so that you end up with a vision that is shared by all
  • How can you possibly expect people to excel and take on training/growth if you don’t enable it?
  • Part of an action-oriented, empowering culture is one that is fun
  • While there is a need to manage from the top and empower the bottom, be wary/pay attention to the sides
  • Part of your reality is that you are the impetus behind and the champion for organizational change
  • Focus on the customer and the rest will follow … and all of your employees are customers
  • Never settle for less than that which is possible, even if it seems improbable
  • The unspoken part of empowering your people to grow and learn and leading by example is that you push yourself out of your comfort zone constantly through your own growth/learning
  • Know what you want, how to measure it, and have the courage to make change when change is needed

Last, Forbes has a great article this week that captures some of the best technology stories of 2015 – a few I’ve already talked about, other are new, all are worth a look.

Happy New Year!

Knowledge Management vs. Information Management

Don’t ask why, however knowledge management vs. information management came up in a conversation this week and it dawned on me that we’re frequently dealing with partners who may have a base understanding of what these systems are, however we are often in a position where we need to further expand on that knowledge.  To that end, I thought I’d share some information that will help with that dialogue – I’m by no means a master in this domain, but this is a starting point.

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organizational knowledge.   It refers to a multi-disciplined approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge. Knowledge management efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement of the organization.

Knowledge management systems refer to any kind of IT system that stores and retrieves knowledge, improves collaboration, locates knowledge sources, mines repositories for hidden knowledge, captures and uses knowledge, or in some other way enhances the KM process. Arguably, this is a very vague definition and is so purposefully.  This is because knowledge management systems, like knowledge management itself, have no consensus definition.  Instead, the focus should be determining the functionality of the IT systems that are required for the specific activities and initiatives within the firm.  Knowledge management has always delivered its real value when applied to “Know-How” – to improving the competence of the organization by giving people access to the knowledge they need to make the correct decisions.

Key components of a knowledge management system include:

  1. Determining the objectives of your knowledge management implementation
  2. Planning a successful implementation strategy
  3. Designing a robust knowledge base
  4. Developing useful content
  5. Optimizing the agent’s experience
  6. Constantly improving knowledge

What is a Knowledge Management Framework?

A knowledge management framework is a complete system of People, Process, Technology and Governance, which ensures that knowledge management is applied systematically and effectively to improve business results.

  • People: knowledge management roles have to be established in the business, communities need to be set up to share and reuse tacit knowledge, behaviors such as seeking for and sharing knowledge need to be incentivised, and to become ‘the way we work’
  • KM Processes: there has to be a tried-and-tested process for capturing, distilling, validating, storing, applying and reusing knowledge, and also for innovating.
  • KM Technologies: the people and the process need to be supported by enabling technology, which allows knowledge to be found and accessed wherever it resides (in databases, on the Intranet, in people’s heads). IT plays an important role in KM, by providing the technology to allow people to communicate.
  • KM Governance: without a governance system that promotes and recognizes sharing and the re-use of knowledge, any attempts to introduce KM are going to be a hard struggle.

The depth and robustness of KM systems is not currently within the scope of what many companies provide.  Instead, they provide Information Management, the “know-what” of an organization.  Information management (IM) is the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences. This sometimes involves those who have a stake in (or a right to) that information.  Management means the organization of and control over the planning, structure and organization, controlling, processing, evaluating and reporting of information activities in order to meet client objectives and to enable corporate functions in the delivery of information.  The focus of IM is the ability of organizations to capture, manage, preserve, store and deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.

I promise we’ll get back to our regularly programmed schedule next week – innovation.


The Psychology of Fear in an Organization

Good morning all!  As I said last week, I wanted to go a little bit broader when it comes to fear and the impact it has on an organization.  While some studies out there discuss and prove to a degree the NEED for fear as a tool in some organizational settings (consequences), for the most part I think we all agree that our teams are much more productive in an absence of fear than when it is the default environment.  Often, though, we don’t talk about fear and this creates issues in and of itself.  Why should we talk about fear?

  • Fear is the elephant in the room. In this time of rapid change, austerity and uncertainty, fear is the specter that haunts us the most, as individuals, organizations and society – whether we acknowledge it or not.
  • Fear has many faces – the fear of loss of face, prestige, position, favor, fortune or job
  • The dominant fear at present is the fear of the unknown

But what effect does fear have on our everyday lives and our working lives, and our ability to foster innovation within our organization?  Fear within organizations leads to:

  • Frustration
  • Powerlessness
  • Lack of control
  • The frenetic pace of life
  • No time for reflection
  • ‘Doing’ not ‘being’
  • Alienation
  • Toxic environment
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Loss of identity
  • Disengagemenent

Along with this, fear breeds a need for control, whether it is hierarchical control, target control, or control through withdrawal or working to the rule (and not innovating).  Innovation rarely thrives in this kind of environment and there is an alternative to managing by fear and control.  Instead we should focus on creating an environment of trust, engagement, and motivation to create an innovative culture.  These all seem very intuitive, no?  However, research indicated that trust in organizations and leaders is at an all-time low and we know that employees that have high trust in their organizations stay with those organizations longer, put in more effort and work more cooperatively.  Employees with low or no trust often reduce the effectiveness of their work and often engage in behavior that is counter-productive.  To that end, to remove fear and that negative behavior, we need to focus on creating a culture of trust, and in some cases that is an uphill battle given that we’re often dealing with the culture of our customers which is out of our control.  That means we have to remain hyper-vigilant to maintain our core values and strive for a culture of trust amongst our teams.  How do we do that?

A few initial ideas around this include:

  • Foster organizational cultures in which greater individual autonomy and small organizational risks are part of everyone’s jobs
  • Encourage people to think independently
  • Make it so everyone is responsible for the development of innovative thinking, whether it’s true innovation or innovation around ways to increase quality, mitigate risk, or reduce costs
  • Change the nature of conversations in organizations to empower an innovative mind-set and performance breakthroughs
  • Encourage healthy dissent, diversity and challenge; new thinking grows out of bringing new ideas together
  • Encourage trial and error – learn from failure
  • Don’t overdo targets and performance monitoring

If you are interested in reading more about this, Keegan has written The Psychology of Fear in Organizations: How to Transform Anxiety into Well-being, Productivity and Innovation which is a great starting point along with the attached article on 8 Ways to Decrease Organizational Fear.  For the counterpoint to this, I’ve attached an article of how fear can be appropriately used in organizations to address short term behavior changes.  That said, fear stifles creativity and kills innovation as it makes risk taking unpalatable to all.

Ten Essentials for Getting Value from Values

HBR has an excellent article  on exactly this topic, but it’s a constant question in a leader’s mind: how do we embody our core values? The question is, how do we get the most from those values?  In that HBR article, the author walks through ten ways to do just that and the most salient point, to me, is that the best way to really enable our coworkers, our managers, our leaders, our TPs and our customers is through conversation.   This all came to mind the other night when I was picking up a pizza for my kids and saw this on the back of the employee’s t-shirt:


Every day those employees literally wear their core values on their backs, and yet when I asked them about those values, they had a bit of a blank stare on their faces.  Why?  Because they were lacking a conversation around it.

Side note: I think it’s pretty amazing that they both limit their core values to two word statements and that “accelerate innovation” is among those values.  At a pizza joint.