Brain Dump

Archive for May, 2012

The Business of Politics

by on May.09, 2012, under Ruminations and Ponderings

Politics has become an accepted means of conduct within government and has also infested most of the business arena as well. What is it really, and is this a good thing?

First we need to look at what it was, and then look at what it has become. In its conception, it was by definition  “the practice or study of the art and science of forming, directing, and administrating states and other political units; the art and science of government;” As time has progressed, its definition has not. In fact it has digressed to now mean something entirely different. Now politics is defined as ” any activity concerned with the acquisition of power, gaining one’s own ends” and might I add that this is often at the expense of others, those whom it was intended to protect.

With this in mind, gone are the days of a government for the people, of the people, and by the people. We now live in the days of a people for the government and the tail is waging the dog. We certainly are not a government by the people as the vast majority of politicians are lawyers. We face the high cost of insurance of every kind for one reason. Lawyers push us to sue each other so they can get a commission. It is to their advantage that we fight amongst ourselves. Nothing is our fault, but there must be someone else we can blame and get them to pay us money.

So someone spills coffee on themselves at a major fast food restaurant and a lawyer convinces them that it wasn’t their fault and wins a major settlement for himself and the person that made the mess in the restaurant. They said that the coffee was too hot and that the cup wasn’t labeled as hot. This same person, would have undoubtedly complained if it had not been hot enough. The other question that goes unanswered is what would have happened had the coffee been spilled at home? Who could be blamed in this case and would they sue themselves?

In any event, this is the mindset that is running the country. We promise the opportunistic parasites of our society “free” stuff for which others will have to pay, in exchange for their vote.

As a result, we will no longer get the best candidate for public office, but instead, only those who are willing to run the gauntlet of ridicule, turmoil and mud-slinging. It’s not about what each candid has to offer and how the country can benefit from what they can provide as much as their ability to eliminate the other candidates while determining what the public wants to hear. After the election, they proceed by working towards their own end. Catering only to those who can benefit them. We have political parties at fighting amongst themselves with very little, if any concern for those whom they were elected to serve.

What does this look like in business? The answer, and definition is much the same “any activity concerned with the acquisition of power, gaining one’s own ends“. It’s not about what is best for the company or even the customers they serve, but what is best for the political individual within the company. Unfortunately, many times this is just to feed egos and satisfy their cravings for power and control. As a side note, many times these are the same people that voluntarily relinquish control to a brown bottle or equivalent libation.

In order for this person to advance within the business arena, they have to eliminate the competition. It is no longer based on professional ability, but more of an act of taking from others. If you can obstruct, or by some means, impede anyone that poses a threat to your getting what you want, you can then paint them in a bad light. This compensates for your lack of professional ability and allows you to start the process of “promoting yourself at the expense of others”. In so doing, you have also reduced the effectiveness of a company asset which is by no means in the best interest of the company. Is this not sabotage?

A little leaven, leavens the whole loaf. Once this culture gets started, it requires everyone to expend energy outside of what the business prime directive is, to stay on top of who trying to promote themselves at your expense. A company should be one team working together for a common goal and that could be to stay in front of, or to get in front of a competing company, or just make the best use of their resources. This would mean that everyone within the same company is on the same team, but in fact with the infection of politics, they are competing with each other. In the New Testament book of Matthew, chapter 12, verse 25, Jesus tells us that “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

We have all heard the old adage of battle “divide and conquer “. This is self-inflicted on many businesses today and while they may survive, they have denied themselves the pleasure and profit of reaching their real potential that can only be achieved through self-appointed teams.  Unfortunately, such teams can not thrive, nor survive within the political environment. The sad fact of the matter is that one person, in the midst of an unsuspecting team, seems to be enough to infect a functioning team and bring it to its knees, rendering it impotent towards greatness.

I used to work for a large company of over 20 thousand employees and the CEO promoted what is referred to as the “Golden Rule” “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is a paraphrase of Jesus sermon on the mount and is found in the New Testament book of Matthew, the 7th chapter and the 12th verse which says “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. . .

This proved to be an extremely valuable business directive which became evident after the CEO retired and the “new guy” took over. This was put aside, along with the practices that fell under this directive, and as a result, it was the beginning of the end. While they are still in business, they will never be what they once were.

The same holds true with the American government. We have tossed aside, or re-interpreted the principles on which this country was founded and as a result, this once great country will never again be what it was. It has become infected with a redefined form of politics.

In essence, politics has been redefined as the advancement of few at the expense of many.

What is the takeaway from this? It’s a changing world around us and that may not be a good thing. We need to be aware of what politics is today. We need to know what it looks like and what it does to our government and businesses. Next we need to make sure that we are not propagating or participating in promoting one at the detriment of others.

We need to treat others as we would have them treat us, even when they aren’t looking, or may never be aware of. We need to look out for the interest of others and not just ourselves. We need to consider how our actions, or the lack thereof affects others. We are all born self-centered but with functional parenting, we are ushered out of our narcissistic state. Unfortunately, too many parents have been more concerned with promoting comfort than character rendering adult children who now promote themselves at the expense of others.

Politics, as it is practiced today, is one of the most destructive forces known to man as it silently cripples governments and businesses.

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. . .A Failure to Communicate.

by on May.01, 2012, under Communication, Ruminations and Ponderings

There is an extremely short list of things in life that do not depend on good communication skills, yet this seems to be a major area of weakness in much of the general populous today. By no means do I think I have this wired, in fact the majority of what is being done on this site is an effort to improve myself in this area.

In any event, like anything else that needs to be improved, we first need to recognize a need for improvement, then determine where to start, and what  we can do. In many cases, it might not be a big change, but minor things that make a big difference.

Imagine having a conversation with someone where you miss one word in each sentence, and in the age of cell phones, this isn’t hard to imagine. I believe, through my own experience, that this is one of the biggest areas of miscommunication. This can be for one of two reasons. The first reason can be that we think the other person knows an important detail already and therefore we see no need to tell them what they already know. The other reason is that we believe that we have already communicated the point which leads to the first scenario. It’s just like the combination to a lock. If you have all but one number, the lock isn’t going to open.

Many miscommunications I’ve seen are due to one small detail being left out. An example of that was someone who was making macaroni and cheese for the first time. They read the directions on the back of the box and got 99% of the directions spot on, they just missed one detail, just one word, the word “drain”. As you can imagine, it didn’t turn out as intended. Now lets say that it takes 200 words to explain this process and you get 199 words perfect but miss this one word, the end result is much different than the directions intend.

There are times that things are left out because we might feel we are insulting the intelligence of the hearer, perhaps this may be due to past experience with a particular audience. If I’m getting ready to jump out of a plane, and you know the ring I’m supposed to pull, the difference between the main shoot, the reserve and the cut away, I would much rather you insult my intelligence than let me jump with an ego that gets me killed. Naturally the gravity of the situation can determine the importance of this.

This leads to another problem often encountered which is just the ego issue. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen or tried to explain something to someone where they were so intent in convincing me that they knew what I was trying to tell them, that they didn’t hear a thing I said and left just as ignorant as they came.

Another common problem is that the hearer assumes they know what your going to say, or what they want you to say, and no matter what you say, they hear a preconceived thought process, and not what is actually said. Our minds are very powerful in this way and can convince us that things are very different from what they really are.

Another common problem is the use of the wrong terminology. Over the years I’ve seen many people transpose words like “then” and “than”, “brought” and “bought”. Context can usually sift this out. I wish I could think of more examples right now, but I’m drawing a blank.

Ambiguity is also a big culprit, once again, this is due to the transmitter of the message, assuming that the receiver knows the rest of the thought process. Many TV and movie scripts have been written based on this and the entertainment of watching both sides of the equation. A classic example of this is the old Abbot and Costello “Who’s on first”, and countless others by which we have been entertained. As entertaining as they are, they are undeniably based on real life situations that we can easily find ourselves in.

Communication is nothing more than a transfer of information. Like a radio, there is a transmitter and a receiver and they both have to share the same frequency and this is another problem with communication. Myers Briggs puts everyone in different categories based on personality and how we respond to the world around us. Some communicate more through feeling, some through sound and some through sight and so on. With this in mind, it is good to know how your audience communicates and one on one this is done by attention to their use of words and what area their vocabulary favors. Do they “feel”, did they “hear” or do they “see”? Now when speaking to a group or crowd, you have to assume that all are represented so there is a need to try and “transmit” in all frequencies so all “receivers” get the signal.

There are many different means of communication. Smoke signals, Morris code, and sign language are just a few besides the familiar oral and written forms. There are other subtle means that are being recognized a little more now days.

We all have neurological reactions to everything and our brain manifests this in physical ways by triggering different parts of our bodies to respond. Without going into this in detail, there are many things that we see every day that tells us how someone is feeling about something. When someone blushes, it is obvious that they are feeling embarrassed about something. There are other  things that we do as involuntary responses such as pacifying behavior. This, in many cases can be different for men than it is for women, but involuntary and often unnoticed. We also display “freeze, fight or flight” responses triggered by our amygdala, the almond shaped part of our brain that processes fear. This communicates our emotional reaction to our environment.

The only reason this is becoming important is that people no longer communicate like they should, making it necessary to use other means of supporting what it is they’re trying to say, or in some cases, trying not to say.

One other communication problem is completely different in that it provides too much information and as a result, the main points become buried under all the other unnecessary stuff. I’ve told people before that a conversation is like climbing a tree. You use the base of each branch to pull you to the next, but there isn’t any need to go out to the end of each branch in the process.

This leaves us with the fine line of transferring enough, but not too much causing the main points to get buried or missed.

When giving instruction to kids, it’s helpful to make them repeat it back to you. This will help them pay attention as well as making sure you are communicating properly too. If what they repeat is not what you thought you said, then something went wrong on one end or the other.

Another way, as the receiver, is to repeat back what you received in one form or another, and hopefully get confirmation that all was understood well.

Going back to the line from “Cool hand Luke”, “What we have here, is a failure to communicate” and this is where many of the problems start. As we go forward, we can try not to assume what is being said but listen for what is being said and hear what is being communicated using more than just the audible channels.

Can you hear me now?




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