America Has Spoken. Who’s listening?

The Power of Empathy (video link)

Post-election, some of us are grieving, and fall somewhere in this spectrum:
denial > anger > bargaining > depression > acceptance

I think election night was proof that the Coasts, and a few other states are out of touch with the needs and concerns of majority of the nation.

Though the outcome sent shock waves through the U.S. an the rest of the world, if we can lay our own biases aside and lean in with what empathy we can muster, I think we will find that some Trump voters weren’t voting to undo progress. I do think voters were determined to send a clear message, using the best vehicle they had, to say “while aspirational goals are well and good, it’s time to put me first.”

I am what you might consider a “gritty optimist,” and, I do think there is an opportunity here to have a new dialogue rise from the ashes. We have the technology to support new conversations and collaboration, starting first where values align, then moving to the more contentious issues.

Many would say that our parties are not effectively reflecting the priorities of the citizenry. I would encourage Republicans and Democrats to go on a listening tour. Be curious — why did democrats vote for Trump? What were they voting for/against? Before taking action, learn what your constituent’s priorities are.

As a nation, we need to find a middle way. Perhaps this is that opportunity. Let’s have empathy for each other and lean into the other side. Identify the pains and fears that were not addressed and experiment our way forward. Perhaps we can find a way to have this outcome join rather than divide us.

America is great. Let’s use our ingenuity to disrupt ourselves and seize this opportunity to fix what’s broken.

What’s Design Thinking Good For?

Let’s face it. If we know what problem we need to solve, like figuring out how to make a piece of software do what we want, or fix a leaky tap, we are experts in searching and finding the answer. It might take the form of a YouTube video, a friend or family member, an online class, or someone we hire to make the problem go away.

When we face a more ambiguous challenge, we can’t just leap to solution. Our focus changes from problem-solving, to problem-finding. We need to examine the problem and learn why it occurs to solve the job we, or the customer is “hiring” the product or service to do. This may go beyond the immediate, visible pain to also include deeper motivations and the meaning this solution in the context of our, or someone else’s life.

What kinds of challenges is design thinking good for?

In the context of business, good challenges are ones where an executive leader has a high priority challenge, where the problem is somewhat ambiguous, and there is no clear person or team accountable for the outcome. This can happen when the solution requires cross-silo collaboration, or if this is a new area of business and no formal organization exists.

It’s unlikely you’ll learn what you don’t know from a customer survey.
Stop wasting time and #getoutofthebuilding

How to Break the Grip of the Rip

Years ago, at a beach resort in Dubai, I ran out into the surf, and was suddenly caught in a rip current. Having been a lifeguard for years back in high school, I told myself, “don’t panic, you’ll figure something out.” After struggling for a number of minutes, with the current sweeping me toward an extremely rocky jetty, I finally panicked.


As it turned out, I wasn’t far from the edge of the current. A nearby swimmer pulled me over a few feet, far enough to escape the most severe current. With help, I escaped the grip of the rip. Just in time, too. Back on the beach, the lifeguard saw what was happening and was ankle-deep in the water, rescue tube in hand. Apparently four other tourists had washed against the jetty the previous day.

The norm in most companies is “when you’re stuck, think harder.” This solitary activity requires a lot of time and energy. Worse, it may not result in a viable solution. This is because we get stuck in a fixed way of viewing the problem. We can’t see our own blind spots.


Since it’s summer here in California, and many of us are at the beach, I thought I’d use the analogy of a rip current to illustrate how to escape a rip mindset. Following are a set of steps to help you “break the grip of the rip.”

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Roger Ebert, on Empathy

“We are who we are: where we are born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy.”

From the introductory voiceover for “Life Itself”

The Beauty of Story Telling

Sharing each other’s stories helps us understand our own.