Tuesday, 7. August 2012 15:30 | Author:

Check out my new site and blog!  |  Do Work DIFFERENT

What if you could?  Would you?
Dare to Do    Dare to Be You

Category:Announcements, Catherine Adams Lee | Comment (0)


Thursday, 7. July 2011 20:41 | Author:

We live in a roller coaster world. One day you’re up and the next day you’re down 1

  • Countries destinies are determined by social media crowding-sourcing and opinionating of the moment, devoid of plans for ‘now-what’ let alone the future.
  • Company stocks are traded by computer super algorithms that disregard a company’s performance and just bet the odds, yet distinctly affect a company’s profits.
  • CEO longevity is now an average of three years, hence the ballooning of compensation as hazard-pay reward for being the corporate shooting-gallery duck.

With this constant flux, every company needs an Elasticity strategy. They must be able to expand and contract, be flexible, agile and mobile – on a day-to-day basis. There probably isn’t anything more static and unmoving than the bricks and mortar part of the business – the physical work environment. The workplace facility and its equipment, fixed assets that are the second to third highest consumer of company monetary and other resources, is in dire need of more than a face lift.

Looking for a plug-n-play formula for Elasticity? There isn’t one. Nor are the answers found solely in more or new CRE/Facility investments. Elasticity is a mix and balance of components that span all operational and enterprise entities, intrinsically determined by the uniqueness of each company. And that mix, in and of its self, needs to be changeable on a dime. Hence the need for variable movement – elasticity at all levels and categories of the organization.

Is there a bit of the Ouija Board or witch craft in this? Maybe. More accurately, elastic strategies and plans are proactive maneuvers based on intuition and trending – moving on the aggregation of multiple data points available at the moment. For the workplace, the foundation is no longer made of concrete, rather a quicksand mixture of risk and experimentation, micro-markets desires, niches and a plethora of options. (See Pluralism)

If the ups and downs of the world are constantly volatile and ever-changing, then the solutions aren’t perfectly pre-determinable or static. They breathe, like a workplace diaphragm that expands and contracts and pumps oxygen equal to the extent of the corporate exertion and the varied, proportional and variable needs of its organs and limbs, at any moment in time.

1 As so now famously expressed by Heidi Klum on the Project Runway TV show.

Category:Business Process, Catherine Adams Lee, Innovation, newworkplaces, Trending, Vision | Comment (0)


Friday, 1. July 2011 1:09 | Author:

QOTD: What attributes make a workplace FANTASTIC instead of just “average”?

My thanks to Rachel Permuth-Levine, PhD, MSPH  for posing this question on our LinkedIn Work Experience Group and to
Thanks go Tim Springer for moderating the on-going discussion. This question has been live for over two months with much good input. It also led me to look at the workplace dialogue from a different point of view. And to pursue one of the key ingredients I feel is mandatory for making workplaces as success.

Also a great thanks to Tim and Pauline for showing their support (see below).

Here is my contribution to the discussion.

Catherine Adams Lee • I applaud the thread developed around what message the workplace sends. I call this congruence – when the message and the actions are in sync. Does the workplace delivered follow through on the business’ value message? Does it walk the corporate talk and put its money where its mouth is? Too many don’t.

Unfortunately, examples of negative congruence and mixed messaging abound. Companies that espouse diversity but present a workplace that is bland, banal and same; ones that manufacture technology but either bar employees or internal investment in successful usage; ones that say they value their people but, as mentioned keep a messy, even filthy, facility. Too long the workplace industry has opted out of its responsibility in acknowledging its strategic role and ensuring that what it designs and delivers is truly affecting the appropriate culture and is in alignment with the messages from other parts of the business.

For positive congruence to occur, hard discussions need to be had around what is the real culture and what is actually being delivered. Workplace’s part is to understand, acknowledge and translate what it builds and what that truthfully represents. Additionally it needs to engage in delivering more than just a passive environment or corporate image – to accomplish not just the sizzle but also the steak.

A congruent workplace where all of its business parts, including the key player of the physical environment, work in concert to achieve, support and sustain a culture of diversity, respect, health, trust, choice, accomplishment and profit. Now that would be a FANTASTIC workplace!


Tim Springer • Catherine

Pauline Mok • well said, catherine! and great to see you here!

Category:Business Process, Catherine Adams Lee, Innovation | Comments (1)

Change Management – the Oprah Way

Thursday, 16. June 2011 19:51 | Author:

Change is hard enough for the average person, CEO or company. But for Oprah and her Harpo Productions it has to be monumental. But she is doing it anyway – changing her life by dropping her talk show, the mainstay of her company and reinventing her company with her OWN television network. Pretty amazing. Just think how many people are invested in having Oprah stay exactly as she was.

  • There is the audience who has watched her every weekday for 25 years of their lives. They will experience a loss, missing the comfort of this steady relationship and a repeated life pattern.  

  • There are the ABC network, affiliates and the advertisers that make so much money from her audience’s attention. They will most certainly experience a large loss of revenue as she changes to Cable with a currently smaller outreach. 

  • There all the employees who rely on her for employment to feed themselves and their family.
    She has said they will all come with her on the new venture. Hopefully that’s true. 

  • There are the friends, especially Gayle, who have so much invested in their relationships staying just the way they were, good or bad. Gayle has a new role. Will it keep her satisfied and supportive? 

  • Then there is Oprah herself and all the personal things Oprah has garnered from her success – all the trappings (the home, clothes, and celebrity), the pride of accomplishment, the ego gratification and the power. She has said these are secondary to her good works and influencing of her fans’ lives.

Human beings rely on others for a sense of self. Take away those relationships and we feel great loss. Oprah and everyone connected with her has been spoon fed love, comfort and empowerment in abundance over the years. Will everyone survive the loss, bridge the gap or will they fall into the chasm?

The Oprah Way – Something for Everyone
Oprah’s management of this transition is perhaps the best example of corporate change management to come down the pipe, ever. In this case, Oprah, the CEO, chose the change. Everyone else had the change thrust upon them.  Her strategy to ease the pain – create a very public, year-long process, providing something for everyone.

Audience: First of all she didn’t just announce, then do. During the final year, the bulk of the process was devoted to a celebration of the past and all things wonderful contained within. Episode after episode was a last hurrah enabling her audience to relive, then applaud and laud, all of the good, albeit a carefully selected and scripted, past. .

Advertisers: I am sure, though not certain, that each one will be given the opportunity to accompany her. Whatever their choice, she has made great effort to offer them final opportunities to promote themselves. Through her free giveaways and ever-growing final audiences, she gave them their own last hurrah. It is rumored that the cost of ad spots for her final shows rivaled that of the Super Bowl’s.

Employees: By not quitting, retiring or taking a break and continuing to work in a similar but different aspect of her industry, she keeps opportunity of employment for her employees. They don’t all suddenly lose their jobs. And if some do, she has given them a longer, softer, certainly less painful transition. Complete with a huge thanks for past work, instead of the typical ‘too-bad, that’s life’ boot on the backside as they go out the door.

Friends: Gayle is perhaps the best example. With her own show on the new OWN, she continues with a role, perhaps even a better one, in Oprah’s life. She has been given a new opportunity and her own set of risks and challenges to accomplish or fail.

Corporate Translation
Companies going through transformative change should adopt Oprah’s process. Examples of botched corporate reinventions laden with lead balloons of bad press, failed spin PR, golden parachutes and legions of never fading ill-will abound. Hers is a framework that translates into a positive strategy and plan for any company.

Customers and clients = her audience: If you make any large scale change – tell them, explain, be open and honest and give them a long time to transition. Oprah’s was a full year. Your customers are not your enemy. They are your biggest fans. They fill the stands that are the coffers of your revenues. They, like Oprah’s millions of followers, are number one. It’s not about what you make. It’s about who makes you. They know if you are lying and spinning and will jump ship to the competition, fast.

Vendors, outside service providers = her advertisers: Think up and give them other opportunities to come along on the new wave. They are your biggest cheer leaders.

Employees = her employees: Don’t cut your costs here. Get creative instead. Invent a vehicle, any vehicle, to take them along and keep them. The vehicle that saves them may just become your best, new business product or service.

Share holders, investors = friends: Ensure they come along by giving them a role to play in the next phase.

This isn’t really a change management (CM) plan. It is a business plan involving change, devised at the highest level of the company. Most CM plans are low-level, one-off initiatives designed to spin, keep employees contented and control fall out in order to make the change “easier” on management. Oprah’s plan, whether conscious or instinctive, is not a reactive, add-on, change management plan. It is a proactive business plan with integrated business priorities. This is what really has made Oprah so successful. She knows how to run a business well.

Bottom Line
A change management of this type is not a keep everyone ‘happy’ HR retention plan. Rather as an integrated business plan, every level of the organization is engaged to drive the business reinvention and next success. Oprah dug deep and invented a new business to grow in a new area and in new ways. Reaching beyond the short-term and the easy obvious, the new business retains its most valuable assets – its people – the customers, product and service providers, employees, investors.  An intentional mandate of full retention and inclusion strategy drives of the new business type. Collateral damage is not an option

Just as People made Oprah’s past success, it makes all companies’. People want their company to succeed again. The business’ success is their success. It has a value to them too whether spiritually, monetarily or otherwise. If change is planned and executed with taking everyone along on the journey as the number one, the right next thing will be invented. They will actively and voluntarily make the next success again, no matter what it is.

The bottom line business strategy:
Celebrate the past. All in it was relevant, useful and valuable.
Now let’s all move on and make the next succes


Coda and Kudos

Dear Oprah,

At first I thought this new venture was more of the same and thus easier for you. That after 25 years you were really just afraid to take a break or retire, a common fear for hyper-accomplished people. Upon fuller examination, I now understand it would have been easier to just walk away, or stay exactly the same while watching your audience and success dwindle.

Instead you chose to work really hard at re-invention. No golden parachute, no mass layoffs, no blaming others, no quitting at the ‘top of your game’. You choose to climb the next mountain; to continue to innovate, create and develop something more and larger, not for just yourself, but for all others. This way is the hard way, and yes the nobler way. This way takes real guts. This is real corporate leadership. You continue to break new ground. I am in awe.

Best wishes and may you continue to reap rewards,
Catherine Adams Lee

Copyright © 2011. Catherine Adams Lee Consulting. All rights reserved.

Category:Business Process, Catherine Adams Lee, Change, Innovation | Comment (0)

The Ketchup Conundrum – Workplace Edition

Friday, 27. May 2011 21:58 | Author:

One size doesn’t fit all. I have said this so many times that I’m even getting tired of hearing it. So I am going to let some else say it – Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm, in his book What the Dog Saw, has an essay entitled The Ketchup Conundrum. Buried within this story is a sub-story about Howard Moskowitz, Diet Pepsi and spaghetti sauce.

Howard Moskowitz, now a legend in his industry, is the owner of a food-testing and market-research company. In the seventies, while trying to find the perfect sweetness mix for his client Pepsi’s new Diet version, he noticed all the data from his testing research was wacky. There was no clear winner. As Malcolm writes it, Moskowitz had an epiphany. “They had been asking the wrong question. There was no such thing as the perfect Diet Pepsi. They should have been looking for the perfect Diet Pepsis.”

Malcolm relates that Moskowitz spent years trying to get the food industry to understand “his idea about the plural nature of perfection.” Then in 1986 the Campbell Soup Company called. They were in huge competition against Ragu with their Prego brand of spaghetti sauce and losing. Moskowitz created forty-five varieties and, instead of just relying on professional food tasters, he took them on the road. Because, Gladwell quotes Moskowitz, “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.” Consumers don’t “know what they desire if what they desire doesn’t exist yet.”

What did the perfect competitive sauce turn out to be? It seems, after sifting through mounds of data, not one but three broad patterns emerged – “plain, spicy and extra-chunky.” Extra-chunky, the new version, brought “hundreds of millions of dollars to Pepsi” over the next decade. Thirty years later multiple flavors of spaghetti sauce is the expected norm.

Since the transition from factory work to office work, workplace designers have also been looking for perfection. They have engaged in a century-long effort to design that one, perfect place where everyone works full-throttle – happy, productive and efficient. The result is our current incarnation of supposed perfection – one-size-fits-all facilities. You know it, Dilbertville® on steroids.  Rows and rows, floors and floors, buildings and buildings of the same types of offices, varied only slightly based on hierarchy. Non-descript workspaces for a non-descript workforce of human cogs in the great corporate machine – modern age perfection.

The workplace’s parallel conundrum is that the workplace industry, from corporate real estate and facilities managers to architects, designers and furniture manufacturers, also has been asking the wrong questions. There is no such thing as the perfect workplace. They should be looking for the perfect workplaces. Because, as not everyone liked plain or spicy, not everyone works well in an office or cube.

Over the years, every time a new version of workplace is created, such as the original switch from offices and the typing-pool sea to offices and the system furniture cube-farm, or the current switching from four-sided, high cubes to low or sometimes even no-sided cubes, the same old pattern is followed. Everyone gets them. This is akin to totally dumping plain and spicy and offering only extra-chunky. A new group is now satisfied but the others are left out in the cold.

If the answer is found in pluralism, as Moskowitz, Gladwell and I believe, what are the perfect workplaces? I have my own thirty year study and I guarantee that it is not just some new combination of office workspaces. With the discovery of extra-chunky, that version was just one of forty-five tried that seemed to rise to prominence. Today there are even more flavors fulfilling every niche. For workplace, most companies and the workplace industry have yet tried only a few variations on the same theme.

Also key is another concept Moskowitz espoused – his mind-tongue ambiguity. That people don’t know what they don’t know is especially true for workplace. Having only been presented with two choices in their worklife, they don’t know what other types of workplaces really might be the right ones for them. Again, it comes back to asking the right question. The right question is not “What is the perfect workplace?” The right question is “Where do people work best?”

From my years of research and experience, I see there are also three strong patterns emerging. Most likely they are not the ones you think. Given the heavy industry pursuit in a single direction, you may never have been presented other choices to try. Try some, you might like them. But don’t just try one, try many. The plural nature of perfection is about choices.

Gladwell at TED, talking about Ketchup, makes the larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.  “Embracing the diversity of human beings is the path to making them truly happy.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Copyright © 2011. Catherine Adams Lee Consulting. All rights reserved.

Category:Change, Creativity, Innovation, newworkplaces, Productivity, Trending, Vision | Comment (0)

Face-to-Face – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Monday, 9. May 2011 22:30 | Author:

A tug of war is occurring in the workplace between face-to-face interpersonal relationships and those that occur at a distance over technology. As the old saying goes, if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “Fact-to face is important”, I’d be rich. And I‘d agree. But the proverbial barn doors for work and interactions over technology have been open for over fifty years. To stay firmly planted and safe in the barn when the larger world is changing so rapidly is hard for everyone.

People of all ages and genders find themselves heavily guarding their comfort position, most often driven by the fear they won’t find a place in the new world outside the barn. This new world may not be better, or worse. It just is. And it’s different. Besides, face-to-face (f2f) is not the win-all answer. Face-to-face has always been a multi-edged sword. There is the good, the bad and the ugly of it.

The good – humans need to be around other people. The new, seemingly daily, discoveries in cognitive neuroscience appear to reinforce this as true. Proximity dynamics of the transfer of energy, brain waves, and pheromones enable accomplishment and exchange of ideas that don’t happen over technology – for most people. There is a qualifier. The jury is still out for future generations as to whether nature or nurture will overcome the f2f ‘deficiency’. Or if, like a blind person compensating with increased hearing abilities, people will develop a new normal – other skills to fill the void and accomplish the same thing in different ways. Not better, or worse, just different.

The bad – those who abuse and misuse f2f to influence. Not the charismatic speaker (good, hopefully), but the boss or other authority figure who demands compliance and obedience reinforced by the threatening, intimidating or bullying use of his or her physical presence (the bad). According to Wikipedia, research by The Workplace Bullying Institute suggests the #2 highest tactic used by workplace bullies is “stared, glared, was nonverbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility (68%).”

This is bad f2f. Included are the team members who dominate to control the outcomes their way versus team agreement, consensus or thought-out business intent. And the people who get included or excluded, rewarded or punished, promoted or passed over, liked or shunned, based on physical attributes – biases of gender, race, size, age, good looks, et al, not capability or value of accomplishment. All stereotype characteristics, the knowledge of which is gleaned mostly through visible, face-to-face interaction.

The ugly – the extreme verbal and physical abusers. People who overtly intimidate, scream, threaten, even physically hit and accost to get you to perform as they want or keep you “in line”. Yes, I have experienced pretty much every one of them. I even had a client who experienced a workplace shooting. So traumatic was the incident they disbanded the company. An extreme example of how f2f can be bad for business. OSHA statistics state that homicide is the second highest cause of death on the job, after motor vehicle accidents.

Distance and distancing can be a tool to ameliorate these bad and ugly situations. That’s not to say that you can’t be screamed at over the phone. But the verbal threat may be diffused with greater ease with a sort of distance-enabled ‘time out’, than a threat accompanied by physical presence. The physical gap allowing for a cooling off or cooling down period and faster reengagement when calmer heads prevail.

Finding success in this new world of work is about finding the right combination of f2f and non f2f. To do so, you need to:

  • Learn to look at each with eyes wide open.
  • Understand the role and the possibilities contained within each as a tool for the future and healthy growth both monetarily and psychologically of the business.
  • Recognize and employ their attributes and avoid their faults.
  • Open up room for positive opportunities brought by non f2f – like a more level playing field, increased productivity for both on-site and off-site or distributed employees.
  • Develop a combination of all forms of relationship interactions that works for each individual, team or group performed at the micro-level.
  • Reap the rewards of greater full-immersion diversity and accessibility brought by good ideas and innovations that come bubbling forth in a safer environment.

Work over technology at a distance is not a panacea for all corporate relationship ills. But neither is it the devil it is so often made out to be. I have been on global teams that functioned very well for extended periods of time. We invented new processes like global, round-robin brainstorming and time-zone IMing to deal with the asynchrony. When achieving consensus was needed or we felt alignment was slipping, we then came f2f, usually about once a quarter.

Conversations and work over computers may not be your preferred world, but this is the way of the new world. You just may not be living in it yet. You can choose to accept this as true, reject it or escape it. Just remember, the new world of relationships over technology may not be better, or even worse, but it is different. And it’s here.

Catherine Adams Lee is a workplace business strategist and organizational innovation coach helping businesses build their bridge between old and new work places. Catherine encourages businesses to engage in distance in order to make NewWorkPlaces work and become a 21st century business success story. To find out more about Catherine and NewWorkPlaces go to

Copyright © 2011. Catherine Adams Lee Consulting. All rights reserved.

Category:Business Process, Catherine Adams Lee, Change, Innovation, newworkplaces, Productivity, Trending, Work/Life Balance | Comment (0)

Is your workplace old or new?

Thursday, 21. April 2011 20:36 | Author:

Before you answer that question, let me ask you another one.

Which kind of player do you use to listen to music – MP3 player, CD player, computer, cassette player, 8-track tape player, record player, radio?

If you entered MP3 player, you are up-to-date, new. If you entered record player, you are old school. But the question isn’t about what you use. The question is about having your brain look at the idea of  using old or new things that were built to essentially do the same, one thing – listen to music. Let’s think about it together.

Things that play Records are:

  1. Large
  2. Cumbersome
  3. Attached to the wall
  4. Fixed in one place
  5. Can only be heard from where the speakers and you sit
  6. Need to be plugged into an electric wall plug for power
  7. Scratch and ruin the record if moved while playing
  8. Only play a prescribed list – the songs on the album

 Compared to say – MP3 players, MP3 players are:

  1. Small
  2. Light and portable
  3. Attached to nothing but you
  4. Easily operated anyplace
  5. Can be heard anywhere
  6. Power moves with it
  7. Designed to be mobile
  8. Play list is customizable to your wants and needs

There are more comparisons I could make, but you get the idea. So let’s take this process and apply it to the workplace.

Old workplaces are:

  1. Big
  2. Cumbersome
  3. Is and is full of attached things that take a small company fortune to move
  4. Takes another small army to keep operating in that one place
  5. Seemingly can only be heard/managed if you are located right there
  6. Everything needs to be plugged in right there to operate – equipment, technology, people
  7. Moving any part takes 3 and 4 above
  8. Can only used in a prescribed way, usually as determined by Facilities, HR and IT

You see where I am going with this. Does your old workplaces list match mine? It doesn’t matter if it does. Just like it doesn’t matter which thing you choose at the beginning to play music. Any answer is valid. If you play records, or tapes or digital media, all is okay. But pretty soon you can’t get the right or new music on the old media. When the records become unplayable, scratched, you can’t buy new ones. When the record player breaks you can’t repair it. If it works for you right now, that’s fine. The question is – will it work for you later? And if not, when is later? I think later is today.

So it’s not about right or wrong. It’s about saying out loud, truthfully what the ‘As Is” is so you can accurately and successfully plan what you want the “To Be” to be for you, for your company. I call this congruency – when the thing and the need are in sync. How does it work, here is an example.

Vision:   Play beautiful business music. 
Strategy:   Become a 21st century business player of new business music.
Plan:   Be a  21st century business.
Road Map:   Innovate to be a NewWorkPlace.


My “New” WorkPlaces list:

  1. Small
  2. Light and portable/agile
  3. Attached to nothing but you, the employee
  4. Easily operated anyplace
  5. Can be heard connected anywhere
  6. Power moves with it
  7. Designed to be mobile
  8. Play list is customizable to your needs

Yes – this is the same list as the MP3 player. Think about it. It works.

Copyright © 2011. Catherine Adams Lee Consulting. All rights reserved.

Category:Business Process, Change, Innovation, newworkplaces, Vision | Comment (0)

I am now a CSM

Thursday, 6. January 2011 22:18 | Author:



I am now a Certified Scrum Master -
as certified by the Scrum Alliance,
“a not-for-profit professional membership
organization created to share the Scrum
framework and transform the world of work …
Scrum is an agile approach to managing complex projects.”

The Scrum and Agile movements today are moving beyond the software development venue. Those involved, I included, see the need and application in many parts of the company and for any business type that wishes to be creative, innovative or just ensure that true collaboration is occurring.

For me, this has been a circular journey, having operated in a similar manner with my own design business. Much of its success was built on such things as fast track (scrum translation = sprints) and having my designers meet directly with the client (scrum = product owner and team interaction, backstory creation), just to name a few corollaries.

I was introduced to the word Scrum about 4 years ago by a client whose new style of workplace I was creating.  As a VP of Software Development, he wanted rooms for virtual daily scrums. Daily scrums are quick, fifteen minute meetings meant to set up the framework and context for the day’s work. The virtual part was to enable these meetings between team members in California and India.

As the project progressed, I found that this VP and I similar work philosophies. The project was fast, tasks given were completed in a timely manner, input supplied was relevant, prompt and appropriate and key stakeholders participated in the design process and solutions. Though there was heavy pressure from outside, we both worked hard to follow Agile principles and not become a tops-down, hierarchical, isolated process. Ideas abounded and positive creative tension resulted in innovation and a design strategy that supported the work of the business line, not singly the demands of finance or real estate.

I ran across the term Scrum later while attending an Organizational Development conference. Their emerging interest was as a new change management process. Seeing Scrum start to move beyond software development motivated me to dig further, which eventually led to my training and certification.

Upon critical reflection, I have come to realize that the success of that original project resulted from all parties, the business VP (scrum=product owner), me (scrum=master/facilitator) and the team (scrum=broad, cross-represtational, horizontal, non-siloed), being truly invested in:

  • the real concept of team and team responsibility, both as a group and as individuals
  • invention and out-of-the-box problem solving, even if it has not been done before
  • people and the work produced first, process and tools second
  • the courage to truthfully define the problem and a willingness to find real, workable solutions

All results supported and facilitated by Agile and Scrum and, as evidenced by the exploding growth of Agile in the  software development industry, hugely successful when allowed to work freely, unencumbered and supported.

I look forward to continuing my facilitation under this framework and to helping people, teams and company’s to capitalize on their internal creativity and innovate to make workplaces work.

Category:Announcements, Business Process, Change, Creativity, Innovation, newworkplaces, Trending | Comment (0)

NewWorkPlaces – are REAL in the Red Cross!

Wednesday, 17. November 2010 21:49 | Author:

I was on a Mass Care conference call given by the American Red Cross Disaster Services from their headquarters in Washington D.C.

Right before the start of the call there was a fire alarm evacuation of the building. Instead of canceling the call, the participants conducted it outside on the sidewalk via their cell phones. They did a great job.

Good cell phones and noise cancelling head phones worked well so that the street noise was not a major interrupter or distraction. The transition between the presenters went smoothly as each had called separately into the Web Ex conference phone number instead of convening together around one speaker phone. While one person was talking another was able to multi-task and check on return status, which changed more than once. I believe we even remained connected while they were on the elevator back to their desks.

Most importantly was the calm and professionalism demonstrated by these Red Cross people in a crisis. Hey, they don’t let a little thing like a fire alarm stop the emergency business at hand. This incident is a good indicator of what is needed by good Red Cross staff and volunteers – the ability to be flexible, mobile, punt, adapt, think on their feet, include technology as a resource to facilitate – to respond and work well in a crisis or under pressure. Kudos colleagues!

 More companies need to understand the mindset and skills that result in this behavioral ability. In an area such as the Silicon Valley, reputed to be fast paced and progressive, I have unfortunately seen more than one person/group/division/company freak out at the slightest change in – routine, outlook, space, facility, place, technology, time, work, work arrangements, ad infinitum.

Here we have somehow groomed a workforce of drones unable to adapt or incorporate change without great pain and panic. Unable to work in any other place than their cube; unable to manage anyone not within line of sight; unable to lead any company without the symbolic full parking lot indicator that all are in attendance on site; unable to work anyplace, in any workplace.

Yes, there are the infamous “innovators” and even “early adaptors”, terms from Everett Rogers’ theory on the Diffusion of Innovations. But more often than not (as in mostly always) if the innovation is social it slides back down into the chasm between these two first stages. Momentum never to be recovered and forces lost that would push the innovation, the change, over the top into critical mass adoption by the majority.

I believe a mindset change is required, or rather a mind shift – a change of perspective, priorities and precedent in order to achieve work in anyplace. To do so, emphasis shifts from rote and repeatable to different and flexible/agile/mobile. Plug and play is replaced by try and progress. One size fits all instantly is replaced by the understanding of the various relational stages of transition such as knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation, to name a few. And that people are in different stages at different times.

Change, transition, movement is a process – a dirty word in some companies with short, quarter-driven spans of sight. Like thorough-bred race horses, their blinders keep them running fast around the track, but unable to see the speeding train coming at them from the side and thus, unable to jump to another track to survive.

The more I learn and am involved in the Red Cross the more I respect and admire the organization. They are a learning organization, from others and their choices, the bad and the good ones. They see the need to adapt and adopt new process, procedures and tools to meet their goals and mission, which ever remains solid and constant.- helping people in times of crisis and disaster. They are unafraid to say “no” when the world at any given time is not in accord or puts up road blocks and leap forward when and where the paths suddenly appear. Corporate American can learn a lot from this organization. I am proud say I am a volunteer.

Category:Business Process, Innovation, newworkplaces, Productivity, WorkPlace Preparedness | Comment (0)

Washington D.C. – Science and Engineering Festival

Friday, 12. November 2010 22:23 | Author:

I am once again returned from my travels, this time from Washington D.C. The main reason for the trip was an invite from Kennan Kellaris Salinero to participate in her first “UnSummit”. She gathered thought leaders from science and various other professions and industries to advance the mission of her non-profit Yámana Science and Technology  and “bring together the ideas, people, and resources alongside new trends in workplace practices to bring out the best in science”. It was an honor to be invited and participate. Thank you Kennan! More about the UnSummit in a future blog. 

 Kennan timed her Science UnSummit 2010 to coincide with Larry Bock’s USA Science and Engineering Festival in D.C.  They closed off blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue on the National Mall, put up rows of booths and drew a huge crowd.

 D.C. Science Fair Crowd 1

D.C. Science Fair Crowd 2

Each booth involved some form of Science. Represented was anything from genomics (there was a traveling RV exhibit), to earthquakes (kids were tumbling blocks), to space (you got into a real space suit) to robotics (a small remote vehicle was traveling around). And all were mobbed by kids. My first thought was “how was this going to work?” You couldn’t just stroll down and see what each as about. You had to stop and participate – become involved. That, it turned out, was the real genius and success of the event.

Kids at Booths 1

As I wandered down row after row of booths, there wasn’t a single one that didn’t have at least 4 -5 kids with their hands active or mouths agape, brains raptly engaged – and parents beaming. Kudos to Larry and his small group! I heard that he and only three other people pulled this off. Talk about what a small group can do. If anything should become viral, this is it.

What a way to teach …

Kids at D.C. Fair 2

….. by and for all people of all ages.

Science Faif FDA RV

At one point I was strolling down a whole row of NASA booths and looked up to see the signage above the booths. Each had a slogan that was individually and collectively inspirational. I was so taken by the words that I was about to snap pictures of each. Then I spotted a NASA literature booth so I went up to it and asked one of the young women if they had all of the words printed on something I could take with me or could be emailed to me.

                                                                                Science Fair NASA Slogan - Create            

She smiled and said no, but they were thinking of posting them on their web site. I exclaimed how much I like them and she answered with a thank you, I created them. Talk about fortuitous serendipity! I happened to go up to the one person that developed them. I think I made her day, as she seemed surprised that anyone noticed them let alone would want more info. Creativity and curiosity, the underpinnings of scientific and other kinds of discovery, comes in many forms. This reminds me that I have to find her card and email her at NASA.

 Science Fair NASA Slogan - Become

Here are some more of her inspirational words.

Learn it. Engage it. Build it.

     Invent it. Pursue it. Code it.

            Know it. Brainstorm it. Try it.

                        Dream it. Imagine it. Find it.

                                    Define it. Invent it. Try it.

                                                Boost it. Encourage it. Form it.

                                                            Style it. Provoke it. Own it.

                                                                        Share it. Inform it. Plan it.

                                                                                    Find it. Create it. Engage it.


A couple of months ago I was talking with a business associate. At one point she exclaimed that I was so much like a child in my enthusiasm and curiosity.  At first I was sort of insulted. She seemed to imply I was acting like a child. She assured me that she meant it as a compliment and I thanked her.

Afterward it occurred to me how sad it was that the only way we have to describe joyful curiosity and the extensions of creativity, exploration and discovery was “childlike”. Implied is the expectation that after the age of say 6 or 7 we would, and should, lose that, and grow up, become what – dour and serious? How unfortunate for us as a society and the world. And does the latter behavior really produce creativity and innovation? I don’t think so. Something to think about next time you try to crush that energy – from any age.

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