Posts Tagged culture

Just yes or no, thank you.

Posted by on Friday, 20 December, 2013

binary_mcclanahoochieIs social media reducing our critical thinking skills to mere binary this-or-that type choices?

Whether it is gender roles, politics, or any other topic of human conversation, it seems to me that the way in which social media allows us to share our views has relegated the conversation into two buckets: I agree, or I disagree. Through the binary “likes”, we are encouraged to think in simple terms; a single click if I agree, or a comment to explain why I don’t. What is discouraged by virtue of the tooling features is deeper or more complex thought. While many of us retain the desire to engage in this complex discussion, the single threaded nature of commenting serves to drive conversation down a single path which encourages one-dimensional thinking. Lateral thought or more critical thinking processes are being diminished in importance to the deference of group-think and soundbites.

I don’t know if I’m right, wrong, or in-between on this, but what I sense in the social spaces is a growing frustration and chasm split between us and them.

We are in an epidemic of one-dimensionalism and binary thought. That is to say, our society is being torn asunder by our inability to attribute more than a black/white view of each other within conversational contexts. Too often have I seen conversations in social channels quickly veer into a this-or-that discussion: you’re either for or against, pigeon-holed with no grey areas regardless of how deeply we try to clarify. These social conversations only serving to strengthen an us versus them mentality, widening any small divide from mere cracks to broad chasms of perceived ideological differences between people.

Mark Judge touches on this singularity, this one-dimensionalism perfectly in his call to boycott the next Star Wars Film in his blog post here: , (with my own hat tip to Mrs.Campbell for the share on Google+). In his post, Mark discusses how geeks are falling into this trap of only being interested in one thing; that we have lost our broader scopes of interest to the deeper focus on one.

Similarly, Matt Walsh blogged about the power hierarchy fallacy in the way people talk about their spouses (with another hat tip, this time to Suzi Meiger for her share on Facebook):

While I don’t fully agree with Matt in his post (I don’t think he takes it far enough and falls down a bit when basing his post from an assumption of male leadership and two-gender marriages) I think his ideas and intent is closer to being palatable by the majority than most other posts I’ve read on similar topics; that treating people as people, as equals in a partnership where power dynamics can shift and sway, where respect for the individual is tantamount to any societal pressure to behave in a certain way is critical to our future success as a culture.

Like I said, I don’t know if I’m right, wrong, or otherwise, and I don’t know what the answer is to the question at the beginning of this post, but what I do know is that more complex thought and conversations are necessary in order to save ourselves from the pigeon holes and land mines of conversation and interaction via social media. And, if it wasn’t already evident, let’s drop the name-calling, shaming, and dehumanizing words when disagreeing with others. It serves no other purpose than to diminish ideas without actually addressing the problems with the ideas presented.


image credit:  Some rights reserved by mcclanahoochie


Reducing meetings and influencing people…

Posted by on Friday, 21 October, 2011

  … to do the same.

Last March I published this blog post over on the NFRS blog I contribute to for work. Today I am going to reprise that same content here in an effort to raise awareness via new venues, and in grandiose yet dire hopes of helping shift corporate culture towards respect for people’s time and efforts.

I’ve tried  leading by example, running my own meetings in the same fashion as I’ve outlined below (sometimes failing to abide 100%, but still, improving each time). Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be catching on; likely because the meetings I host are for audiences who don’t typically host meetings of their own. So while I may be a good example, I don’t think I’m reaching the right audiences. Perhaps blogging and sharing via social sites will help me improve that reach and perhaps, just perhaps effect some change in how we schedule and run meetings for the benefit of all.


 Ineffectual meetings. Meetings that take longer than they should. Meetings that don’t start on time. Meetings that go over the allotted time. Too many meetings. Meetings that consistently sound like this five-minute video… “The Conference Call” by David Grady.


  1. Don’t go. No, really… hear me out on this. If meetings are ineffectual, then no one will look at you poorly for bowing out. I can assure you, if you think the meeting is ineffectual, your colleagues likely do too. Now, I don’t mean “just don’t go” (this isn’t “Office Space” after all), I mean respectfully decline the invitation noting your inability to attend and make yourself available to the host to discuss why. Don’t make excuses, be clear about why you’ve declined, but choose the right setting for that discussion; a meeting invite decline with comments is not the right venue.
  2. Speak up and help drive the meeting focus. Don’t let the meeting get bogged down in the minutiae of “solutioning” when discussing a high level problem. Only solution issues when that is the specific purpose of gathering together. If you sense that the meeting is taking a turn for the worse, speak up and refocus the group. If you’re becoming annoyed with the spiraling, more than likely the other people on the call are as well.
  3. Having too many meetings on your calendar will likely take care of itself if you effectively implement the first two suggestions… divesting yourself from the ineffectual meetings, and more effectively participating in the ones you do attend will magically see your time slots open up to a point where you can easily and effectively manage your meeting AND work time. Imagine that!
  4. Only call meetings when it is critical to have all individuals present, or when a quick solution is critical to success. Don’t call meetings to ‘keep people informed’. Share results, but demand participation from the attendees in the form of calls to action or direct unfettered discussion.

But what about those meetings you HAVE to attend just in case something comes up, or to stay informed about developments and progress on projects or programs? Easy. That is what wikis, discussion forums, blogs, and RSS feeds are for; staying informed when it matters!

Collaboration does not mean scheduling a one hour meeting. Collaboration can be done at any time of the day, regardless of your colleagues’ availability. Using internal wikis, blogs, and discussion forums, you can not only collaborate more effectively and have written record of your progress, but you can do so across time zones and geographic boundaries. Using RSS feeds, you can keep an eye on any updates from a single location across communities and functional groups.

(Ooooooh, here comes the work plug! In the interest of transparency, yes, I work for IBM, and yes IBM owns Lotus. That said, I honestly do think the tooling I am about to discuss is effective and worthwhile, and I don’t say that about much!)

Using Lotus Connections, you can build communities to support collaboration and reduce the number of “essential” meetings you attend. Because Lotus Connections has wiki, blogging, discussion, bookmarks, file storage, and many other capabilities, the online collaboration can take place at your discretion. Priority management can now be more effectively accomplished as you no longer need to balance those silly meetings with getting actual work done. And because Connections is built with RSS features, you can set up your feeds in the tool of your choice to stay up to date with all the items YOU care about and participate on your own terms.

While I use Lotus Connections for a wealth of reasons in IBM, I find the most beneficial part of it all is the RSS capabilities. The RSS feeds I watch for the various communities I participate in allow me to quickly glance at updates and determine if the information is something I need to focus on now, if it can wait, or if I need to pay attention to it at all. Information triage, as it were, in milliseconds. This has truly been the single most effective tool to combat information overload I have used to date.

So, now that you’ve divested your self from those ineffectual meetings… are driving the meetings you do attend with a new vigor and granular focus based on specific agenda items posted to your wiki (and updated later with details of the discussions)… and are globally collaborating with colleagues across time zones, what more can you do to reduce meetings and influence people? The answer: Work on your meeting etiquette.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way…  and I’ll say right up front, I have broken every single one of these at one time or another, so don’t think I am throwing stones in a glass house here:

  1. Mute. Use it.  As a participant, use it immediately after you dial in (*6 on our system). Stay on mute unless you are speaking. When you’re done speaking, go back on mute. As a host, use “mute all” (*78 on our system) and use it often. There really is nothing worse than a great meeting being derailed or sidetracked by an accidental un-muted interruption.
  2. For larger meetings/conference calls, turn off the dial-in beep notifications (*33 on our system) when callers join or hang up. These beeps are the downfall of almost every conference call. A late party will invariably interrupt the speaker (who likely has already started late waiting for people to join) resulting in a five to ten minute loss of productivity over the start of the meeting.
  3. Get to the meeting on time. Seriously. Showing up late is disrespectful to everyone else on the call who arrived on time. When you show up late, you’ve wasted their time. Once or twice are forgivable, but when it happens consistently, those three or four minutes start adding up quickly. Imagine if everyone showed up on time, a meeting could start when scheduled, and END when scheduled, or gasp, maybe even early! Show respect for everyone else, show up on time.
  4. Know your audience. When speaking, whether hosting a call or just talking during someone else’s meeting, know when it is ok to joke around and when you need to stay focused on the task/topic at hand. There is a fine line between joking around but staying professional (call it casual professionalism) and wasting time joking when there are better things to discuss. Don’t make a long meeting longer by joking around. Laugh, and move on; we all have better places to be and better things we could be doing.
  5. Don’t multi-task. Actually this could have gone above as well as an indicator of an inefficient meeting: are you multitasking during it? Then you can probably divest yourself from it. If a meeting doesn’t require your full attention, it is a meeting you shouldn’t be attending. Conversely, any meeting you attend should be given your full attention, and by virtue, your participation as well.

But don’t take my word for it all… check out “The 22 minute meeting” a six-minute iGNiTe video presentation by Nicole Steinbok. Here’s the link to the instructional poster too. Nicole makes some stellar points via some very amusing fashions.

I truly hope this has given you some good tips, tricks, or tools to use to make your day-to-day job more effective and efficient. If for nothing else, I hope it gave you pause to think about what you can do as an individual to help make sure your meetings are run as crisp and concisely as possible, with few distractions, clear goals, and shorter run times.

After all, if you can make a small difference, imagine what we can accomplish if we ALL make those small differences….


image credit: (cc) flickr user Ha-Wee

How do you change culture? An honest question with no answers, yet…

Posted by on Friday, 12 March, 2010

A friend of mine tweeted earlier today about a conversation she had regarding the concept of love, and how it is being a bit twisted by the Twilight novels… specifically she’d noted that a friend intimated that “it’s really unselfish love, he’s controlling because he’s concerned for her”. This not only disturbed her, but me as well. She summed up her frustration as: “So, a guy treats girlfriend like a child, or a possession, & young girls are reading this and thinking it’s romance?!?!”

Now, tell me; how as a human being is this ever an appropriate lesson or example to be teaching to -any- person regardless of age, race, orientation, or gender? *

While I realize that my personal views may not always be 100% correct, or right for everyone, but shouldn’t we be teaching and exemplifying good and healthy relationships? When the divorce rate in the US is so high, and domestic abuse is a common theme in our judicial system (for the minority of cases which are actually reported…) HOW, I ask you, can we condone books and movies which romanticize dangerous relationships? If the lessons provided in these media shine above all else, how can we ever change the culture to nurture healthy successful relationships? How can we teach and ensure the lessons are heard: that we all deserve to be treated as humans, each one of us worthy of love, and not as possessions to be controlled and manipulated for others’ selfish desires? Does this all really just boil down to more responsible marketing? Or is there more to it?

Aside from any sort of government control (which I will state for the record I am very opposed to), are we destined to simply play Sisyphus and continue pushing this boulder up the hill, only for it to roll back down upon us time and time again? Or is it indeed possible to make headway with culture change and see some success in building solid healthy relationships?

How can we change culture when healthy living is drama free and uninteresting to society’s school of mass-media? I am hopeful that there may be some good discussion in the comments to this post soon, as I am honestly stumped as to how we can effect any change against such popular items which simply reinforce the wrong message… Of course I am also open to discussion which disagrees with me, as I crave that other point of view to help convince me or further solidify my own position.

More importantly, how to we quell that which we find truly wrong, but still allow for revolutionary ideas and change to still mete its way through the culture and effect more change to better us all? Can we really drive what we believe is right and proper and see it take hold without resorting to tactics of controlling opponents’ right to disseminate their opinions?

Alas, the most important question of all…. can I HAVE any more question marks in this post??? (apparently the answer is yes!)

*It should be noted here that I am all for any kind of relationship that is healthy, regardless of what that actually entails. So long as it involves adults who act in a consensual and informed manner, I can bear no judgment.  A relationship based on control and misinformation is not healthy, as at least one party involved is likely unaware of any other choices available.