Health, Happiness & Smartphones

As technology continues its tsunami-like assault on society, how do we adjust and adapt? How do we create a happy place in our heart that sustains us in life? I believe this is an important consideration at this time, as our society moves through this turbulent time. Allegedly, the silicon world of bits and bytes, of chips and devices, was here to make life easier. And yet, here we are, drowning in a sea of information.

How did we let ourselves believe that those who create chips and laptops and phones were also equipped to understand and cope with the disruptive social revolution that was to come. They are techies, not social engineers. It is we who must learn to surf the waves of this new reality, and make changes if need be.

So what do we know now? For one, there is simply too much information to keep up with. Let's look at photos. Since the arrival of the digital photo era, we've become happy snappers of everything that moves, caring less about what makes a good photo. Wh…

The most valuable human skill

After completing an undergrad degree in public relations, I worked at HP and gained experience in this field. Everything that followed in my career, including a masters in counseling psychology and a PhD in organizational psychology, benefited from my foundation in communications. If I was given a magical redo in life—not that I want one, the one thing I would not change is my education in communications. The ability to communicate, I believe, is the most valuable human skill.

Communicate is a narrower definition than what I'm really talking about here. Let me clarify. In my public relations program, we were taught to communicate, true. More importantly though, we were taught to relate, which is to say connect. We were taught to understand relationships and the human condition, as well as the engineering of consent. What I've come to realize is that no matter what we do for a living, what we do mostly is communicate and relate with others.

Learning to connect and communicate…

Happiness is now

Like most people, I like to be happy. And like most people, I look for moments of happiness in my day. But what if looking for happiness is what leads us away from it. What if it only exists right here, right now.

Thanks to Marshall Goldsmith, I have a better sense of where to find it now. Goldsmith is an executive coach who practices Zen.  His philosophy is simple: be happy now.  His point is this: happiness is not somewhere in the future or in the past. It is here in this moment, in the now. 
Be happy now. Like a Zen saying, this message sounds simple, and yet the more you contemplate its meaning the more you uncover.  To understand these three words, we must look deeper. To "be" is to be our true nature, devoted to listening to our inner voice. Happy is simply being our true nature in the moment, not trying to be anything or grasp anything. Now is living in the present moment with each breath of life.

What keeps us from being happy now? For one, as Marshall points out, o…

Architecture for Living Systems

It is curious to me how we have architects for buildings and technology systems, for a lot of things, yet, not so much for the design of organizations? The structure of an organization, for an organizational psychologist like myself, is about the structure of relationships around a vision, strategies, and activities, and about how to bring all that to fruition. 

This blog space is for conversations about the living systems we call organizations. It is a place for talking about design and learning, culture and change,  process and structure, space and reflection, systems thinking, patterns and relations, behavior and communications. If you have an interest in organizations as living, changing systems, my hope is to engage you in a discussion where we can all learn and have some fun in the process.  Zen teaches us that everything changes, everything is connected, and everything is impermanent. So it makes sense, then, that all these topics are related. This is a living space for playful…

The Cost of Social Comas

We tend to think of comas as an individual experience. Yet, societies and organizations experience comas too. I refer these as social comas. In a sense, social comas are the extreme opposite of mindfulness—being fully aware of ourselves and our environment in the present moment. Social comas—periods of apathy, indifference, unconsciousness, can be costly.

Voting for the president is a good example in the U.S. Even though people—the people’s vote—does not elect the president, every four years they stroll down to the voting booth and vote, as if it does. This behavior is down right apoplectic. Let’s take advertising as another example of social comas. We know many people record their favorite TV programs at home, and then fast forward past the ads. Though few people watch the ads, companies keep paying for them. Why?

When the Internet came along, we gained the ability to search for products and services whenever we had the need—think Amazon. At that moment, the need for advertising inst…

Selling Yourself: Long or Short

Public relations is the art and science of influencing behavior, and I learned it from the best. These days I've moved on from that profession but the skills continue to stay with me like a best friend. We could all use some of the wisdom of how to do this well because we spend a lot of our time each day influencing someone to do something, even if it is to do nothing. Doing nothing, by the way, is always one of at least three choices in decision-making.So what is this art of influence really about? It is about credibility. In the end, our credibility is the one thing we must build and protect, because it represents our perceived trustworthiness. As they say in PR: you spend years building credibility—your reputation, and you can lose it all in a day. Losing credibility means losing our ability to influence. It's all about truth. As a PR practitioner, for example, you could tell a publication editor some false stuff about your company, and they may even print it. But once t…

Leadership and Legacies

I'm a believer in the idea that when we finally let go and stop trying, it's remarkable what the universe can bring. In those moments, the gift is often timely, coincidental, and even strangely familiar. The untimely death of Dave Goldberg, for me, was one of those moments. Dave was a family man, a friend to many, and the CEO of SurveyMonkey.From all accounts I've read, Mr Goldberg was a human being—I'm using this term as defined by native Americans. I say this having never met him. The online sharing after his passing was my chance to know him, albeit just a little.According to stories, Dave was a true sports fan. He stuck by his team no matter what. If they were down, his support grew. Loyalty mattered. He was the kind of leader we want in our organization, and the kind of partner we want in life. One characteristic of such leaders is their focus on others. Dave was known for his praise of others, even beyond what they felt was deserved. Leaders like Dave are suppo…