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Why I Wrote My Third Book, OPEN TO THINK

While writing my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively and Make Better Decisions, I discovered that many people are suffering from their thinking.

Whether via the pressures and stresses at work, a state of freneticism, the distractedness of social media and notifications, or overburdening time constraints, many of us are no longer capable of doing the heightened thinking required to be sane, engaged, and happy.

That got me down a little, to be honest.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

During my journey of research and interviews, I came across many people who had sorted out the secret sauce of thinking. Whether for themselves or including a team or organization that they were leading, these were indeed the “Open Thinkers.” These people had sorted out a way in which to balance the realities of today’s busy world with the absolute need to have space to creatively think while having the time and methodology to make better decisions.

One of my favorite discoveries was when I entered a hat millinery. I did not expect to get a hat made. I just wanted to see how milliners operated.

What I stepped into was a hive of Open Thinking. There was simultaneous Creative Thinking (brainstorming, discussions, what if’s and why not’s) with Critical Thinking (don’t do this, do this) alongside Applied Thinking (sewing, stitching, ironing, and steaming). I learned so much I decided to get a custom hat, to go through the process and experience their world first-hand. It was a glorious, hands-on experience.

The millinery was an incredible metaphor and example of Open Thinking. It was a sublime example of light, where all the dots of my research began to connect.

OPEN TO THINK highlights not only what’s going wrong with our thinking; it provides an antidote for better thinking. It gives you the license to analyze how you currently approach your thinking and makes recommendations on what to alter.

Why did I write it?

Like with any book that I write, I too want to learn, but I also want to help.

When I noticed leaders and team members in the organizations I work with were complaining about various pressures and stresses, I began to inquire about their cause. Some of those factors led to a lack of Open Thinking.

There are far too many people who are stressed out at work and life, in part because of an incredible imbalance that they place on themselves, and an imbalance that has been placed on them, too. Time has become the enemy. We no longer use it to our advantage.

What I learned is that people who appropriately balance their time through improved Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking with the need to get things done (Applied Thinking) end up being more engaged, innovative, productive and generally speaking, happier.

It is possible to win back your time, your thinking, your life.

The model found in the book is a simple one. It serves as a reminder that when we balance the three categories of thinking, we are far better off.

As I write in the book:

Dream, Decide, Do, Repeat.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. More importantly, I hope it provides ideas, solutions, and techniques to help you (or your team) to become better at daily thinking. <Visit the OPEN TO THINK website>


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Download And Share The OPEN TO THINK One-Page Book Promo

On September 11, 2018, my third book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, will publish.

If you’d like to spread the news of the book there is a one-page promotions document that can now be downloaded and shared.

Click here to download. To see a preview of the document, scroll down.

It’s also the first time to announce one of the book’s endorsements, from none other than Daniel H. Pink, author of such best-selling books as WHEN, DRIVE and A WHOLE NEW MIND.

Daniel writes:

“OPEN TO THINK gets down to the basics — providing a model for how to optimize your thinking to become more creative, more efficient, and more effective. With this  book, you can reshape your thinking to eliminate bad habits and strengthen your mind for the challenges of today’s business world.”

Thank you in advance for helping to spread the word about the book.



Download the document.



Don’t Be An Elitist Jerk When Saying No

Like you perhaps, I have had my fair share of professional failures and rejections. While we can convince ourselves a “growth mindset” will help us learn and get better as a result of the various calamities we suffer, the reality is when we fail or get rejected it always tends to sting. It hurts. 

As a leader, I have also been in situations where I rejected someone else’s idea or had to serve up a failing grade, be it an academic paper, coaching moment, or the blasted annual performance review. For me at least, it can be an equally troubling situation. Delivering bad news is not something I wake up itching to do every day. It too can hurt.

However, there is a right and wrong way to deliver rejection or to inform someone of their failures. There are two pointers to mention.

Tip #1

Never be condescending.

By default, a leader assumes a position of power. They hold the cards, the meal ticket to potential success. The individual who has put forward the idea for consideration to the leader is—by default—at the whim of the leader’s decision. It is with bated breath—nervously wondering if the proposal will pass the test—that the individual awaits that leader’s decision.

The decision arrives. It is in the “no” column. Now comes the communication back to the individual.

Whether by email, telephone or face-to-face, the leader who has to deliver the news should be specific, diplomatic and (ideally) constructive. The latter has to do with ways in which to potentially improve the individual’s next idea. If the leader chooses to exert their hierarchical power and make fun of the idea or the person, it smacks of elitism. It is a ridiculous way to treat anyone. Leaders that deliver terrible news coupled with ridicule are choosing not to be leaders but bullies.

Tip #2

Never, ever, post your display of condescension on the internet.

It was one thing to be a bully by treating people condescendingly; it is another to publicly share your decision on social media feeds such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

While I am a proponent of working out loud—and if you need any guidance, do check out the work of John Stepper—there is no reason to air your dirty elitism and disdain for empathy via a publicly available status update. It not only smacks of a lack of judgment, but it is also an utterly classless act.

The individual who put forward their idea has now become a public victim of your bullying. Not only will they feel shame, but you will also come out less a leader than your title suggests.

It happens more often than it should.

Real-World Example

The latest example to cross my desk concerns a managing director of editorial services at a rather large book publishing company.

In this case, the managing director chose to violate both tips #1 and #2.

The first violation came in a rejection letter/email the managing director sent back to a prospective author. I suspect the author was merely shopping around a manuscript, but the leader now in possession of the idea exerted power and chose an incredibly condescending response. The leader writes:

“To write a book directing the course of all humanity is ambitious at best, but also a bit of a challenge because, well, in a world where everyone has their own view of how things should be, why should anyone listen to you?”

The managing director continued:

“To put it simply: who are you to write such a book? Stephen Hawking or someone like that could write such a book because he is very famous and well known, but what about you? I hope you see my challenge here.”

How did our elitist managing director break tip #2?

In their infinite wisdom, they decided to post everything to Facebook for the world to view.

In Summary

If you find yourself in a position of leadership where you have to reject someone’s new idea—be it a manuscript or otherwise—never, ever do so in a condescending manner.

Moreover, whatever you do, never, ever air your elitism on the internet for the world to view your complete lack of dignity and respect.

It’s Canada Day, America

<originally published to Forbes>

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Dear America,

At what point did you think the mouse might have to stand up to the omnipresent elephant?

Being a Canadian and living my entire life in the country, I—like so many of my Canuck comrades—love having you as our neighbor. You are like a big brother that has always looked out for us. You are the caring sister also blessed with gumption and bravado. Indeed we are fortunate.

We even put up with your craziness. Canadians are polite, overly nice, and we say “sorry” way too often. The Economist refers to us as “Irredeemably dull by reputation, less brash and bellicose than America.” In our view, however, America is the party that never sleeps. The hustle, the bustle, the endless chants of “U.S.A.” Your country is just so fantastic. Comedian Robin Williams perhaps puts it best, “Canada, you are the kindest country in the world. You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.”

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau once commented to the Press Club in Washington D.C, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

It was a tongue-in-cheek remark, but an effective one nonetheless. We are always mindful of your sheer size.

That observation by our prime minister, however, was delivered in 1969. Fun fact: it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau who said it. Fast forward almost fifty years later to 2018 and his son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—and all of Canada for that matter—are now feeling the sobering effects of the most recent twitches and grunts of the elephant.

Those sounds and movements have us all a wee bit, how shall we say, perturbed.

Canada recently held the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, a chance to gather leaders from Japan, France, Italy, UK, Germany, U.S. and of course the host country to discuss files related to trade, the environment, women’s rights, world safety, and so on. It did not end well.

In the most brazen public attack on a Canadian leader—perhaps ever—President Donald Trump not only withdrew support for the previously agreed upon communiqué after departing the Summit early but he also launched Twitter grenades on Trudeau’s character.

For decades upon decades, Canada has been a phone call away for support. 9/11? You bet, just ask the thousands of families put up in Canadian cities when flights were grounded, including perhaps the most touching stories emanating out of Gander, Newfoundland. I know of over 6,500 people who are thankful for Canadian hospitality in Gander.

We were there in 1958 when you wanted us to sign on to NORAD. We even sent you NHL out-of-this-world star Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles in 1988.

Trump labeled Trudeau “indignant,” “meek and mild,” and accused him of making false statements. Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested Trudeau “stabbed us in the back” while trade adviser Peter Navarro said that there’s “a special place in hell for Trudeau.”

Those are not the words any leader ought to be used in a public forum to describe another person. For the comments to come from—and be approved—by Trump, the leader of a country that enjoys a relationship like no other country in the world is unfathomable.

The issue that has Trump’s knickers in a twist is of course trade or his perceived imbalance between the two countries. Statistics, perhaps ironically, outlined by Trump’s own Office of the United States Trade Representative indicated in 2017 the U.S. had an $8.4 billion trade surplus with Canada for goods and services, exporting $341.2 billion and importing $332.8 billion. These are facts, not opinions or hearsay.

Trump’s most significant trade issues seem to be the dairy industry and the 270% tariff the Canadian government places on any incoming dairy product. Dairy was roughly 0.2% of the total value of goods exported by the U.S. to Canada in 2017. Why a 270% tariff? The Canadian dairy trade balance deficit has been—and always will be—massive. In 2016 alone it was a $733 million imbalance.

Name calling and exhibiting bullying behaviors toward what was your best friend is moronic. So too is the action if facts are ignored altogether. For example, the U.S. exports more in agricultural products to Canada than it receives. As reported in the Washington Post, the U.S. exports more than five times as much dairy as it imports. It also exports twice as much in services as it imports.

Put differently, if one does not possess (or understand) the facts and analyze the situation with a panoptic lens, name-calling and bullying become the only tactic to apply. This is where Trump has landed.

Between the Twitter tirade, the name-calling, the bullying, the lack of facts, and the incredulous issuance of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum—which may cost 400,000 American jobs—it has ignited the donut eating and beer swigging underbelly of all Canadians.

Some people in Canada are calling for a Boycott Trump movement.

Others, like former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has become more helpful. He lost the last general election in Canada to Trudeau but put down his differences and appeared on Fox News to help calm the choppy waters. He said, “It seems to me that this [steel and aluminum tariffs] is the wrong target and, from what I understand of American public opinion, I don’t think even Trump supporters think the Canadian trade relationship is the problem.”

This is the Canadian way. We stick up for our own, regardless of religion, race or political stripes. There is no left, center or right in Canada when we are backed into a corner. There is no me in Canada. We all bleed red as a nation, coast to coast to coast.

Petulance, bullying, and deceit are unserious and unworthy behaviors for our people. We do not stoop to levels of such disgrace.

We are Canada. We might be the nice apartment over a meth lab, but we will not tolerate insolent, noisy, injurious neighbors. We stand on guard for thee.


By 2020 You Better Be Able To Problem Solve, Act Creatively, And Think Critically


You are in rare company. You have taken the time to stop by and read my thoughts. The key word is time.

Many are wasting away their time. We have become so busy in our lives and at work that we have completely forgotten how important it is to protect our time, to use it wisely. The consequences are beginning to pile up.

We try to cram more into our calendars than is humanly possible. We think multitasking will fix any situation in which we need to get two deadlines accomplished. Distracted driving injuries, accidents, and deaths now outpace those that occur via impaired driving.

When was the last time you saw strangers talking to one another—saying hello even—in an elevator, subway or bus stop? When was the last time you did it? Not when there are distractions to distract our distractedness via mobile phones.

Technology is merely the catalyst. What I have seen over the last few years is an adverse behavior change of epic proportions. It has invaded our entire society.

Time has become a four-letter swear word.

Our once normal behavior has become erratic, frenetic, stressed and frantic. In the 21st century era of “do more with less” we have displaced a time-conscious and patient behavior for one of nonsensical, always-on, hypertensive busyness.

This disdain for patience and addiction to busyness is beginning to catch up with us.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report titled The Future of Jobs. To craft the research and get to its findings, WEF worked with leading experts from academia, international organizations, and professional service firms as well as with the heads of human resources of major organizations. One of their significant discoveries is frightening.

WEF outlined a list of Top 10 skills that society needs to embrace (and improve upon) by 2020 if we are to combat what is coined the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the mega-trend family of innovation consisting of artificial intelligence, machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, genetics, and biotechnology.

It’s the top 3 skills from the WEF list that we should be paying attention to:

  • Complex Problem Solving;
  • Critical Thinking; and
  • Creativity.

At the rate we are heading with our nonsensical, always-on, hypertensive busyness, we will never hit a critical mass of people who possess these skills to achieve the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

However, it’s not solely the Fourth Industrial Revolution that I’m worried about. In fact, that’s way down the list.

Civilization is stressed out. Parents cannot keep up, employees have too much on their plate, leaders are working more hours than ever, obesity is through the roof, mental health issues are rapidly on the rise, and most importantly bi-partisan echo-chamber thinking has a vice grip on society.


In part, it comes down to time. We have lost the importance of protecting our time, of balancing our time, of adequately and effectively using our time.

We have become time bankrupt.

This epoch of consideration insolvency is fast becoming the end of what it means to be human, or at least humane.

On September 11, 2018, my next book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively and Make Better Decisions, publishes. It explores the vanishing act of time, among other maladies to affect our thinking.

Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, and Applied Thinking are the vital pieces of the “Open Thinking” mindset that I have formulated in the book. You cannot be an Open Thinker unless you can return to the place where problem-solving, creative thinking, critical thinking, and decision making are balanced and thoroughly understood.

We need to get things done. That goes without saying. Action has to occur. However, the critically important tactic of reflection—of balancing the need to dream, to make decisions, and to do—in concert with our management of time may be the biggest challenge of 2018 and beyond.

Indeed, dream, decide, do, and repeat.

The manner in which to get back to such a place is to, in part, remember how valuable our time is to our thinking.

Lao Tzu once wrote, “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”

Do you want to win back your time? Do you want to become an Open Thinker?

You can pre-order OPEN TO THINK now. Click on the links below. Tell your friends, colleagues, and family members, too.


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Dan Pontefract June 2018 Playlist

The month of June saw me turn 47, while goats #1, #2 and #3 completed grades 9, 7 and 5 respectively.

The new tracks from Paul McCartney and Dave Matthews Band were in heavy rotation this month. So nice to see them both back on their music game.

The 2006 track from Johnny Cash (God’s Gonna Cut You Down) had me thinking Johnny wrote it for 2018 and some of the nonsense going on in this world with certain leaders, be it public sector or corporate.

Spoon the band and “Spoon” the song was a nice one-two punch.

Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” is just plain fun, and one of the goat’s favourites.

The Trews are a magical band from Nova Scotia, and “Downed” from their 2018 release does not disappoint.

“Closer to Fine” is needed these days, “Nightingale” by Royal Wood, another Canadian, is wonderfully delightful, while I was reminded at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Russia how entertaining Robbie Williams can be.

Now What?

“Now what?”

It’s an expression many of us use. Perhaps you have employed it yourself whether contemplatively when at the crossroads of a potential change at work or through some life-altering event.

You suffer a flat tire, and there is no spare in the trunk. Now what?

A noisy neighbor moves in next door, who smokes cannabis on their balcony every night. Now what?

A larger firm acquires the company you work for. Now what?

Your boss stiffs you with an unreasonable project deadline. Now what?

There are countless “now what” situations and circumstances that can affect our daily mood, our engagement, and even our happiness.

We may not always be able to control what happens before a “now what” scenario presents itself, but far too often—in my experience working with leaders and team members—we tend to lose sight that we have control of what happens after.

If a tire on our vehicle suffers a puncture, we did not have much power to control the situation in advance of it happening. Neglecting to put a spare tire in the vehicle’s trunk is foolish. However, we have complete control in the manner in which we control what happens next. We can choose to be miserable, or we can remain positive and look at what we might learn, who we might meet, and how we can do things differently the next time a tire may go flat.

Any time we face the challenge of a “now what” moment, it’s our attitude that can make or break the situation. There will be more flat tires in the future, but how you handle it attitudinally might predicate future success and happiness.

In our organizations, we face “now what” moments on a daily basis. As employees, it is to be expected. How are you handling them? What sort of behaviors are you exhibiting?

In part, we ought to know ridiculous situations are bound to pop up. A colleague forgets to send in a graphic or piece of research by the end of the day as was requested. Did you build in a time buffer? Did you establish a reminder in your calendar system to follow up? Did you have a backup plan? These are all proactive “now what” behavior changes for you to consider.

Let’s assume none of those behaviors were enacted. What can you do after this scenario unfolds?

You could choose to berate your colleague, send a nasty email or text, or “manage up” and report to their direct manager that the deliverable was missed. What would that accomplish? You might feel good for a moment—even gleeful that you got the delinquent into trouble—but your venomous spite did nothing help you the next time. You ended up exhibiting behaviors that make people cringe, for which word will eventually get around that you are a bit of a bully if not a corporate clown.

Instead, what if you took a moment to professionally and tactfully discuss with your colleague the importance of that missing piece.

What if you chose the “glass half full” approach, and waded into the situation with positivity and empathy.

Sure, you may have missed your deadline, but at that moment you have risen above the scenario, acted with the utmost professionalism, and demonstrated a far more constructive manner in which to be known. It may not help immediately but think of it as planting a seed. In the future, a flourishing garden of goodness will inevitably be harvested.

There is one additional “now what” concern to ponder in the workplace. It has to do with your role.

When the “now what” questions of your role go unanswered, it is time to consider making a career change.

For example, if your direct leader places too many demands, too many bewildering requests, and too few opportunities to be creative or inventive, it’s no longer a case of answering the “now what” question about your current role. The quick answer to “now what” is to find another role.

If the organization stagnates your growth, does not operate in alignment with your values or personal purpose, or treats you and others disrespectfully, the answer to “now what” is to find another role in another organization as soon as is possible.

If your team is full of narcissistic bullies, employing selfish tendencies, and acting myopically without any concern for sharing or collaborating, your “now what” answer is to find another team, perhaps in another organization altogether.

In summary, we face “now what” situations in both life and work.  They are a constant. We may not be able to control what happens before these circumstances present themselves but can be in charge of what occurs after.

So go ahead and ask yourself, now what?

The Lost Trust Of Millennials With Big Business

In the most recent Deloitte Millennial Survey released May 15, 2018—where the firm surveyed 10,455 millennials and 1,844 Gen Z youth from around the globe—there is a dark and foreboding pattern emerging.

According to the results, “opinions about business’ motivations and ethics, which had trended up the past two years, retreated dramatically this year, as did their sense of loyalty.”

Indeed it is worrisome.

Instead of organizations shifting the way in which they run such that they do so with a “purpose mindset,” the majority of millennials and Gen Z youth believe they are going in the opposite direction. Respondents feel there is now a significant gap between a purpose-driven business and how they are in fact operating. They expect more than what is currently being delivered from their leaders.

Note the following changes in perception:

  • Do businesses behave ethically? (48% in 2018 vs. 65% in 2017)
  • Are business leaders committed to helping improve society? (47% in 2018 vs. 62% in 2017)

Those are massive drops in millennial and Gen Z opinion in just one year.

If that weren’t grim enough, two more key statistics further paint a picture of gloom:

  • 75% believe leaders/business focus on their own agendas rather than considering the wider society
  • 62% think leaders/business have no ambition beyond wanting to make money

If it’s not a wakeup call for a company, I am not sure what is. This comes at two points of inflection.

First, both of these age brackets are consumers. They have wallets, and they are unafraid to part ways with their money solely to companies that act ethically and within a purpose mindset. Ultimately they have no problem voting with their wallet.

Second, these age brackets are the future of work. That is, they are the pipeline of talent not only for your organization today but for future leadership roles. Pretending that they do not care about a purpose-driven organizational mindset is naïve and terribly backward thinking.

If millennials and Gen Z employees want their employer to be measured regarding more than financial performance, why has it become so difficult for senior leaders to see this trend?

I argue that an organization ought to be functioning with a much greater purview than merely financials and profitability. An organization’s operating purpose should focus on five key areas:

  • Customers: customer satisfaction scores through various factors including reliability, responsiveness, and relationship.
  • Team Members: engagement scores and sub-drivers, diversity breakdown, acts of internal recognition, positional changes/promotions and learning and development expenditure.
  • Community: team member volunteer hours, organizational philanthropic investment, in-kind donations, number of community members impacted, etc.
  • Society: CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, water utilization/reuse, energy consumption/redesign, material consumption/lessening. Other examples from the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) could also be utilized.
  • Owners/Shareholders: Profitability, revenue and shareholder return (if publicly traded), but all metrics set to levels that are appropriately fair.

Only when senior leaders look at their real purpose within this lens will millennials and Gen Z employees be satisfied.

These age brackets are disappointed with what senior leaders are currently serving.

The shift that is required is to move away from a profit-only focus to one that encompasses a much higher purpose.

We are on this planet for a short time. We are all human.

It seems millennials and Gen Z have already figured this equation out. If a business is not careful, these two age brackets are likely to walk right out of their roles and join (or start) organizations that balance purpose with profit.

Not only will they leave, but it is also more and more likely they will eventually skip over purchasing your goods or services.

There is time to act. The question is whether your business will heed the call and the irrefutable data that sits at your fingertips.

Analyzing The Starbucks Training Plan Devoted To Racial-Bias

In late May, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores across the United States for racial-bias training. It involved nearly 175,000 employees. Think about that for a moment. It is the equivalent of the entire city of Fort Lauderdale heading out for a day of classroom training. The intervention came as a result of a Philadelphia-based Starbucks store manager who, on April 12, called the police after two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, refused to purchase anything. The police subsequently arrested the men and a public backlash ensued.

The full-day training class was— somewhat coincidentally—conducted on the same day TV star Roseanne’s eponymously titled sitcom got cancelled by ABC. Due to a vitriolic, racist tweet by Roseanne—aimed at former Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett—the company chose instead to put values ahead of profits. It boggles the mind why specific clusters of people erect stupendously moronic, racially biased walls in their lives. People are people, let’s move on. It’s 2018.

Back at Starbucks, Bloomberg estimated the cost of lost sales due to the one-day training event was $16.7 million. Adding insult to injury, Apex Marketing Group suggested Starbucks suffered the equivalent of $16 million in negative press as a result of the incident against Nelson and Robinson. This was on top of what Starbucks had to invest to develop and deliver the training itself.

After the morning commute and human rush for caffeine, most of those Starbucks shops placed a sign on its front door that read as follows:

At Starbucks we are proud to be a third place — a place between home and work where everyone is welcome. A place where everyone feels that they belong.

Today our store team is reconnecting with our mission and with each other. We are sharing our ideas about how to make Starbucks even more welcoming.

We look forward to seeing you when we reopen at 5 a.m.

One can argue Starbucks had no choice in the matter. In an enormous public relations nightmare—instituted by a singular manager in a singular location—the company had to act. For its CEO, Kevin Johnson, and its chairman, Howard Schultz, to do nothing would make them complicit. It is tantamount to ABC president Channing Dungey deciding to take no action on Roseanne. Thankfully she didn’t, Dungey acted swiftly, and the rest is history.

In the case of Roseanne, perhaps it’s a singular and sweeping act that needs no follow-up. Time will tell if there are other racist employees or cast members at ABC to terminate.

However, at Starbucks, there is another question to raise.

Is the single day of racial-bias training enough? Does it materially move the needle on racial-bias?

You have to tip your hat to Starbucks. It did something. It cost the company millions, but they acted. Kudos to everyone behind the decision to take action.

Some who work in the training profession, however, will look at the day of learning that Starbucks provided its employees and name it “spray and pray.” Some will coin it a “one-and-done” session. Others might refer to it as a “sage on the stage” exercise.

The good news? Starbucks employees are more knowledgeable about racial-bias than they were at the beginning of the week.

I hope the company is keeping in mind that skill development and behavior change only occurs when an employee’s new-found knowledge gets reinforced over and over again. It’s performance development 101.

Put simply, if Starbucks desires racially-sensitive and unbiased employees going forward, a one-day course is but the first step in the journey.

What else is required? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Job aids: whether physical or online, racial-bias and sensitivity job aids can be created for employees to refer to as needed. (e.g., a card or poster found in the backroom)
  • Online learning nuggets: available off the Starbucks intranet (and accessible through mobile devices) these are short reinforcement options such as videos, audio interviews, and podcasts.
  • Gamification: why not put employees in certain racially sensitive situations through an online game that further develops empathy, understanding, as well as dos and don’ts? Racism is not a game, but gamifying the transfer of behavior change could do wonders.
  • Huddles: store managers could start each shift with a 2-3 minute huddle—perhaps done two or three times a day—that reminds everyone about the company’s intolerance for racism and so on. It builds off of the one-day training class that was conducted.

The critical component is time. Starbucks employees are baristas. Their job is to serve the customer, so they cannot spend hours on end doing things contrary to this function. However, like with any call center environment, the time has to be booked into an agent’s calendar for learning to occur. But many call center agents not only learn in face-to-face situations, but they are also given tools—like those mentioned above—that allow them to reinforce the learning, thus the knowledge acquisition.

It does not have to be another full-day of classroom training, rather short bursts of learning, perhaps in 10-15 minute blocks.

If I were the Starbucks CEO, I would be demanding the development and delivery of a racial-bias learning plan, not just a one-day event. In academia, it is referred to as the pedagogy or curriculum That learning plan must consist of formal, informal and social learning components. It must illustrate how vital reinforcement is to actual behavior change.

While the company did publicly post the training guide and associated videos that were used in the one-day training plan, there was no evidence of a full-blown curriculum.

Some might suggest that the one-and-done, all-day, face-to-face training session that Starbucks held stands a good chance at being forgotten by its employees as quickly as it was for ABC to (thankfully) fire Roseanne.

Book Review: Friend of a Friend

Network. It can be such a loaded and overbearing term.

On the one hand, it’s a noun. Among other definitions, it can denote a group of people connected by some commonality. Maybe it’s your personal network of acquaintances. Perhaps it’s a subset, such as a network of gamers, artists, or musicians who gather to share expertise, even trade secrets. The network could meet face-to-face or in an online community. I’m old enough to remember being a part of various networks via BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) in the 1980’s and 1990’s. My favorite was Purple Ocean, namely its Trade Wars community.

On the other hand, it’s a verb.

In this case, it is often where people love doing it—tending to and building their network of contacts—or they loathe it, running for the exit door as soon as the term comes up.

As a verb, to “network” is also to interact with others in hopes of maintaining a relationship for the future. Maybe it’s a professional relationship; perhaps it’s personal. Either way, when we network we are cultivating a bond with the hope of preserving it for (ideally) mutual purposes.

I thought I knew how to network, and how to not only tap into it when required but to maximize my connections in both my professional and personal life.

It turns out I had a lot to learn. How?

In his third book, Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career, author David Burkus debunks what we ought to think about networking. Furthermore, he masterfully provides you with the insights and expertise so you can become more effective at creating and strengthening the critical connections that will improve your life, be it at work or personally.

Burkus sets us straight in the very first chapter distinguishing the difference between weak ties and strong ties. The latter is who we regularly turn to—be it for counsel, advice, a hug, and so on—while the former are those types of contacts and connections we rarely interact with, but remain within our network.

Both types of ties are needed (and to be understood better) if we are to become better at networking. However, weak ties end up becoming “our best source for the new information that we need to resolve our dilemmas.”

Burkus further digs into the concept of “dormant ties,” those connections that have lied dormant for an extended period. The good news is that the relationship is still there, but it’s up to you to rekindle it, to use to your advantage.

The point is that between strong, weak and dormant ties, they are the people with which you have a previously existing (or currently existing) relationship and who may help you the most. You have already done the hard bit! The network exists to fuel your growth however that growth may be defined. As Burkus rightly points out, “It’s those weak ties that give you the best chance of finding new information and learning about unexpected opportunities.”

As you continue through the book, Burkus weaves in fantastic stories from multiple cross sections of our planet. There is one that outlines how Michelle McKenna-Doyle, SVP, and CIO of the NFL landed that role through—yes, you guessed it—tapping into her not-so-strong network ties. Another story details the super-connected habits of Brian Grazer, producer of films such as Apollo 13Liar LiarA Beautiful Mind, and 8 Mile. For example, Grazer instituted a personal habit called the “curiosity conversation” where for more than 35 years he seeks out conversations with people he has never met, be it President Bill Clinton, Carl Sagan, and even Princess Diana, just to learn and to potentially pass that knowledge on to others.

Moreover, if the advice and guidance within the chapters were not enough, Burkus ends each one with a “From Science to Practice” summary where he highlights vital tasks for you to improve how you are using and building your network. Furthermore, he has provided online resources for you to practice and grow further.

In summary, the book is somewhat antithetical to the 1,000-plus networking books that are already in the market. There are far too many “how to network better” books, all that prescribe the same transactional actions. Most of them feel autobiographical, too.

In Friend of a Friend, Burkus provides an abundant wealth of stories, suggestions, and scientific research that proves when you tap into and nurture your existing network—be it strong, weak or dormant—you will have a much more affluent network altogether.

As he justly states in the book, “Knowing how networks come together is the secret weapon behind a powerful networking strategy. It works better than the entire collection of tools.”

Has Tech Forgotten About Ethics?

“Never before in history have such a small number of designers – a handful of young, mostly male engineers, living in the Bay Area of California, working at a handful of tech companies – had such a large influence on two billion people’s thoughts and choices.”

Those are the words of Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and founder of Time Well Spent, a not-for-profit initiative to help educate businesses, users, and designers about morally acceptable technology design choices.

Tristan is spot on. However, he and the entire high-tech industry may not be going far enough, or fast enough.

Take for instance Google, Tristan’s former employer.

Recently at their annual, I/O conference, Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated the company’s “Duplex” technology nested within the Google Assistant project. Google describes it as “a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out ‘real world’ tasks over the phone.”

In the demonstration, Pichai asked Assistant to book a haircut appointment and in another a restaurant reservation. In both cases, Google Assistant acted as a human might, delivering “umms” and “ahhs” in the speech while conducting a conversation that seemed as natural as two people might. Both humans on the other end of the phone had no idea they were interacting with a machine.

It was both compelling and terrifying.

Compelling in that artificial intelligence has progressed to the point where most of us are utterly astonished such a conversation can now play out between man and machine. Although it was just a demo, Google indicated it plans to test Duplex in the Assistant technology this summer.

Duplex is not only compelling but equally terrifying because, well, there are plenty of reasons.

However, there is one issue in particular that organizations need to start doing something about, and that is the need for a Chief Ethics Officer role and an in-house ethics office in general.

When you search (yes, in Google) for “Google Chief Ethics Officer,” the first few results highlight Andy Hinton, Google’s “Vice-President and Chief Compliance Officer.” Most companies have such a role. However, there are rarely any Chief Ethics Officers. Why?

Microsoft is also in on the act. It recently announced that all developers at the company would become “AI developers.” There is caution in the wind at least. Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, said, “These [AI] advancements create incredible developer opportunity and come with a responsibility to ensure the technology we build is trusted and benefits all.”

Whether Google, Microsoft or any other high-tech company found in Silicon Valley or elsewhere, it is time they created a separate role and office—outside of compliance, regulatory and the lawyers—to make ethical recommendations on whether or not a particular technology ought to come to market.

We require teams of differing minds debating the pros and cons of whether or not a technology is good for society. If Silicon Valley has turned itself into one massive case study of groupthink—swimming in sinkholes of cognitive biases—who is standing up for those of us in a society that may not want such advancements? Who becomes the judge of society’s ethics?

There is an example to look up to in these confusing times. The medical community.

Patrick Lin, Associate Philosophy Professor and the Director of the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, and Evan Selinger, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, wrote in Forbes four years ago, the medical community has been at the forefront of ethics for years. They write:

“In-house ethics committees have been a mainstay in medicine for the last 30 years when a US Presidential commission recommended it in 1983. Those committees are composed of lawyers too, but also doctors, nurses, bioethicists, theologians, and philosophers—a much more capable approach than mere risk-avoidance to tackle controversial procedures, such as ending life support and amputating healthy limbs.”

In Canada, the Canadian Medical Association first produced its Code of Ethics in 1868 and is considered the Association’s most important document. The Code is updated every five years—from a wide range of representatives—and focuses on areas that include “decision-making, consent, privacy, confidentiality, research and physician responsibilities.”

It is from the medical community that the high-tech community may learn its greatest lesson.

Create a Chief Ethics Officer role, and an in-house ethics team made up not only of lawyers but educators, philosophers, doctors, psychologists, sociologists, and artists.

Furthermore, as universities such as Carnegie Mellon University begin introducing undergraduate degrees in artificial intelligence, ensure the program has a strong ethics component throughout the entire curriculum.

Only then—when ethics is outside of the compliance department, and it is woven into academic pedagogy—will society be in a better place to stem the tide of potentially unwanted, technological advances.

I am all for technological advancement. I have even started to use Siri on occasion. But when I visit my doctor, I trust that the ethics of her decision-making and use of technology have already been vetted by a mixed group of professionals weighing the pros and cons.

Now more than ever our technology companies (and faculties) need to employ the same type of thinking.