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Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

We live in dangerous times. Just how critical is the U.S. role in maintaining world peace? Is it not likely that another world war will incinerate much of the planet? Is isolationism even an option any more? If the U.S. does not step up and lead the world with unifying ideas, then who will? And will we like the answer?

Here’s the problem. A “me first”stance in any communication creates division. It also creates division in world leadership. And when presidential rhetoric is embarrassingly self-congratulatory, the result can be a permanent barrier to any genuine collaboration. This is simply how communication works.

Allies will react defensively. They will eventually look for and find new collaborators. Lasting leadership requires win-win strategies. Liberty and justice for all are win-win ideas… as are individual freedom, equal opportunity, and world peace. But these are not compatible with ego-driven leadership.

The fact is that both institutions and nations share similar brand identity characteristics. Pride in association is the essential motivator. Win-win initiatives are basic to sustainable success. Unifying brands don’t just fall out of ego-driven heads. To endure, everything must be authentic.

Bottom line: The founding “idea of America” is authentic… and the world needs it now more than ever. But arrogance and isolationism have us neutralized, and any declared win with regard to North Korea will not mean we can sleep better.

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If you are leading anything today, or aspire to lead something, or just want to be a more informed follower, it’s not very complicated to set up a home study experience… and if you wish, invite a group of fellow travelers to join you. This is not neuroscience!

Looking back over 50 years of seeking to understand, teach, practice, and write about communication, I believe that serious discussions and internet searches of topics similar to those below can yield the necessary knowledge and insights for leading in today’s world. Here’s my list:

  1. Describe why communication always seems to fail… and what (if anything) can be done about it.
  2. Search the internet for insights from communication and media research.
  3. Describe ways media revolutions significantly changed society, individuals, and audiences.
  4. List ways to intelligently consume and use 24/7 journalism.
  5. Identify the many troubling characteristics of the ever-pervasive new media ecosystem.
  6. Describe ways that media have become weapons, and fake news.
  7. List personal benefits and hazards of social media.
  8. Describe best ways to use digital media for direct and interactive communication.
  9. Identify ways to make sure brand identities are authentic and clear.
  10. Describe processes for orchestrating one-voice messaging.
  11. Show how to use small groups for problem-solving.
  12. Identify the essential elements of productive meetings.
  13. List common internal politics issues and ways to address them.
  14. Clarify best methods for resolving conflicts.
  15. Find examples of using soft-power in local and foreign relationship-building.
  16. List the requirements for effective partnerships and allies.
  17. Write rules for constructive speech in a new media world.

It is absolutely essential to have enough informed, talented, articulate, values-driven, and courageous leaders and followers ready, willing, and able to help save the day when it’s needed. With our current media clutter, endless confusion, and total political chaos, that day has come.

Last weekend we may have witnessed the next generation getting ready to take on dramatic change. And these young people are also born searchers and tweeters. So either the weekend was just another mass march, or it was an entire generation suddenly awakening to the real possibility that they can make history. Indeed they can… but only if they really have the will.

In retrospect, I decided to bet on them. How about you?

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“Out of control” is picking up steam in Washington, and it’s worse than reality TV. It’s using social media to confuse, not communicate. It’s about a president who believes that keeping people guessing is a legitimate leadership strategy. And it’s turning out to be the best example yet of how communication and media chaos can destroy any sense of social order and well-being. Make no mistake. Words really do matter. And the words of top leaders matter a lot.

Just think about it. Periodic bi-partisan White House meetings repeatedly turn out to be no more than reality TV. Twitter feeds always follow to disrupt and create chaos. Then more surprise pronouncements add to the chaos. And in the midst of this mess cabinet members and staff are doing high security work without clearances and squandering taxpayer money on luxury travel and purchases. And this is a White House where complete loyalty is demanded by the person who is creating the mess. No wonder resignations are rapidly mounting up. Constant turmoil eventually becomes unbearable.

Sometime around mid-career I found myself teaching management communication in banks, manufacturing companies, public utilities, and all manner of institutions. We frequently talked about crisis management. But I must admit it was always in the context of a rational CEO with a team of experienced managers developing responses so that the organization would be legitimately seen as knowing what it’s doing! When the purpose of the leader, however, is to create chaos… all rational bets are off!

Ethical leadership and honest teamwork “earn” loyalty. No need to demand it. But when loyalty is demanded and communication is in disarray everyone ends up focusing on their own survival. In private business, trustees can fix such situations. In today’s Washington, there are no rational fixes

In the past, I wrote that city leaders usually become bipartisan and pragmatic because their citizens are right there in their face demanding action. When all is said and done, immigration, homegrown terrorism, police-community relations, drug problems, air pollution, clean water, healthcare, election districts, industry closings, and unemployment, all end up playing themselves out locally.

In the end, maybe the bottom-up pragmatism of cities and NOT the top-down chaos of Washington is our best way forward. If so, when cities show they can produce results, we should pressure Washington into giving them the resources they need.

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The simple laptop accelerated the development of global markets and enabled those who knew how to use technology to become competitive from any place in the world. As a result, globalization has become an established fact, and political ideologues have had little to do with it. It’s mostly about technology and economics.

  1. The digital technology revolution changed the speed and direction of the international economy which rapidly changed the dynamics, relationships and opportunities of businesses, institutions and nations.
  2. Even the smallest businesses and institutions now could easily find foreign customers and clients… and thereby become global enterprises that are not limited by borders.
  3. Admittedly many companies that move operations and plants to other countries are seeking cheaper labor. But many are also becoming global businesses, ones that operate beyond the boundaries of their countries.
  4. As a consequence most of these companies will not return. And those that do will automate rather than replace lost jobs.
  5. Like it or not, governments and institutions are already operating in a global economy. Their futures will be shaped more by unavoidable economic forces than by the whims of individual autocrats. Professional diplomacy between governments and public diplomacy between citizens and organizations are absolutely essential in such a world.
  6. It is true that President Trump’s base has not benefited enough from this global economy, and this has been ignored by the majority of a polarized and politicized Washington.
  7. But more focus on community college education and better training programs for a technology driven world are the only viable solutions. Therefore, supporting training and education budgets with adequate resources is the most productive thing Washington can do now.
  8. As higher education becomes a global industry, international leadership development, better cross-cultural understanding, and the soft-power of citizen diplomacy will gradually produce a wiser world. Many institutions will also find themselves focusing more of their research and consulting talent on solving global problems… big problems such as poverty, disease, climate change, clean energy, water shortage, space exploration, nation rebuilding, and many more.

Reopening old coal mines, bringing back assembly lines, expanding offshore oil and gas exploration, eliminating clean air and water regulations, closing borders, selling off national parks, and restricting trade… none of these are viable solutions in a technology driven world. Rather the future will be in preparing, educating, and training American citizens for a completely new and digitally transforming world economy.

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Most every international, national, or community issue has a very strong local component. Be it political polarization, terrorism, or neighborhood school effectiveness, every solution begins with thoroughly understanding the audience.

Politicians must understand their voters’ needs, and those of their donors. Each is a separate audience. Education officials must understand the neighborhoods and families that shape each student. And understanding terrorists begins by understanding the neighborhoods that provide them psychological safety and time.

You will therefore find political polarization in districts that have been designed to embrace it. You will find school success stories in schools that understand their neighborhoods and families. And you will find various stages of homegrown terrorism in neighborhoods that provide them shelter.

It simply follows that if you want to bring broader choice back to elections you must work locally to change how political districts are designed. For example, you might try launching an organization something like “Citizens for Fair Elections,” raising awareness for the problem while focusing on changing those districts. Or if you want to improve the public schools you might try launching a project to better understand the neighborhoods and cultures that surround each school. And if you want to end home-grown terrorism you might try learning more about the neighborhoods and local cultures that end up sheltering it.

First, thoroughly understand the audience. It’s always the point of departure for finding real solutions. And most big issue solutions are very local.

 

 

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Have you ever worked in an organization where expert researchers were doing important scientific work and their bosses banned their use of words customarily used in their field when reporting findings? What could be the point of this, unless it is to muddy their conclusions?

The Washington Post recently reported that the Trump administration informed the Center for Disease Control (one of the world’s foremost public health research organizations) that its researchers could not use certain words in their reports. These words are: diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgender, and vulnerable.

Can you imagine researchers investigating the impact of the West Nile or Zika Virus on fetuses not able to use word fetus in a report?  Or a researcher investigating the impact of pest control chemicals on humans and animals not able to use the terms science-based or evidence-based? Certainly smart people can find their way around such censorship, but can they do so and keep their jobs in such a political environment?

Is this an attempt to discredit important scientific investigators?  Or is it actually the beginning of an attack on the integrity of science itself? Put another way, why should scientists ever have their report vocabulary freedom taken away?

When increasing numbers of highly qualified professionals depart government service out of frustration only plutocrats and politicos will be there to oversee diplomacy, education, health, housing, energy, clean air, disaster recovery, and many other critical programs? And if gutting institutions and programs continues in this way, soon there will be no experienced experts or talented new graduates willing to consider government service as a career?

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Communication lessons learned:

Experience and research teach that intended messages are often not what audiences receive. Therefore, what a monument communicates will depend on what its’ various audiences want to receive. And even then, that will likely change when situational, historical or political circumstances change.

When a monument is intended to mark a historical event, it should best be placed in a museum-like environment where context can help reinforce its history lesson purpose. A clearly defined indoor or outdoor museum space with historical captions and explanations is the best approach. Otherwise, any monument will mean different things to different people, and there is no way to change that.

So in the case of today’s monument controversy, unless they are already located in a museum-like space, some people will be thinking either positively or negatively about a divided country, white supremacists and Nazis will have racist and pro-slavery responses, others may simply see a message of hate, and only a very few will see the monuments as purely historical. And the strong emotion produced by all these different responses will very likely lead to hostile demonstrations, and some of those certainly may turn violent.

For better or worse? Simply put, context clearly helps define how most messages are received. If a statement is intended to be historical, a clearly defined historical context is essential. Otherwise, most people will only “hear what they want to hear.”

 

 

 

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