How To Encourage Innovation In Government

Lego Ballista 3

The other day I was urging that we do something or other and got the response: "You're so cutting-edge."

It wasn't a compliment.

In the government, innovation can be scary. But we can do it if we focus on the "how" - meaning the technology platforms we can use to move us forward.

Thinking about technology, rather than the amorphous term "innovation" - which sounds like "new" and "scary" and "untested" and "change" - can help bring people together.

Further, using technology to mediate brainstorming can enable the sharing of new ideas and comments on those ideas. It can help us think scientifically and generate pilot testing rather than leading us down the road of endless whiteboard exercises.

Focusing on technology helps to overcome some of the obstacles that have bogged us down thus far:
  1. We can all agree on the process issue (need to find methods for innovation) but we don't all agree on the specific innovative ideas - eliminates a hangup
  2. Commenting to a computer (and receiving comments via reading a screen) depersonalizes the experience and allows for more objectivity and rationality on both sides - vs. in-person sessions can get hostile quickly if someone dominates the room with ideas, or face-to-face shoots down ideas they think are unworkable
  3. It helps us stay grounded in reality - it's not about the ivory tower of ideas but about progress on the ground
In addition, beginning with technology helps us get around the underlying challenge government has with innovation: The latter is inherently individualistic and therefore disruptive to the large, stable, orderly bureaucracy that government is. In fact individualism is a challenge to any social system that is designed specifically for the masses to rely upon.

The result of a structural framework that encourages stability is that employees who exhibit conservatism and throw up obstacles to change are promoted and rewarded. While those who are impatient with old-fashioned rules are viewed with suspicion.

The logic follows that if you want government reform, you have to create a reform-oriented social environment. For example:
  • Encourage work in small, decentralized units close to the action.
  • Reward innovators through recognition, promotion, bonuses, incentives, speaking opportunities, etc. - hold them up as an example.
  • Give a special award for the best failed experiments each year.
  • Set up Apple-store-style training labs with "Genius" bars where people can drop by for training.
  • Set up reading areas, temporary workspaces, encourage telecommuting, etc.
  • Rotate staff around for professional growth.
  • Design public-private-academic partnerships, etc.
  • Encourage volunteering and participation in community life - it adds to one's sense of personal responsibility and empowerment and reinforces the values of public service.
  • Encourage social networking and social media for productive purposes (in a manner consistent with cybersecurity).
  • Give people time each week just to go off in the woods and think. Or to the gym.
  • Put a suggestion box on every floor.
  • And generally encourage people to be simple, honest and direct about their thoughts and opinions.
Like always, it comes down to the kind of culture you set up and reward.

___

Note: This post is adapted from a comment I posted on a blog post by Pat Fiorenza at GovLoop. The post was a comment/recommendation of an article on brainstorming at The New Yorker, "Groupthink." Photo by Creative.Paradox via Flickr.
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28 Things I Should've Known Earlier

"Neuron" by Roxy Paine
The neurons in my brain connected a few dots this weekend, so here you go. What do you all think of this list? How would you add, change, modify?
  1. The Creator of the Universe is not a man (or a woman), but the perfect synthesis of love and justice.
  2. Suffering is not to accept but to strive to overcome.
  3. Poverty is a human invention and humans could end it now if we wanted to.
  4. Blind faith is sometimes necessary, but only if it's truly impossible to get the facts.
  5. Hatred from others is a form of feedback.
  6. If we can't solve a problem often it's because we begin with the wrong assumptions.
  7. The worst kind of discrimination is the kind people level against themselves.
  8. Giving charity is selfish for a lot of reasons, but letting that stop you is just an excuse.
  9. People intuitively know how to find your flaws, so you may as well laugh about them.
  10. Marketers distort the truth only to the extent that customers want them to.
  11. Rarely is there a problem so unique that you can't find an example of it on the Internet.
  12. Some personality traits are best viewed online, especially bluntness and transparency.
  13. All significant trends start locally, spread sideways, and then funnel up.
  14. Most meaningful things in life are undiscussable in words.
  15. Strategic planning is a process exercise not a journey toward an end state.
  16. The more influential others think you are, the more legitimacy you will actually have.
  17. About 50% of your career success will come down to how you dress, 25% to how you speak, and 25% to your awareness of what the real influencers really want.
  18. Other people know a lot more than you may give them credit for.
  19. Karma is real - the energy you give out, is the energy you will receive in return.
  20. Family is made, not born.
  21. You can give up a lot of things but never your integrity.
  22. Wearing black all the time is a cop-out not a clothing strategy.
  23. Friends who make you laugh are priceless.
  24. Blaming others is a way of making a choice.
  25. Chasing meaning will make you happy but the reverse is not true at all.
  26. If you want to live forever, only eat food that you can identify without an ingredient list.
  27. You can get endless good advice but it is worthless unless you act on it.
  28. Rarely will anybody give you 28 pieces of good advice unless they want something in return.
Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

_________

Image credit: Christopher Neugebauer via Flickr

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5 Rules to Market an Unknown Technology (From Redbox To Roku)

English: Photograph of Roku XDS player with re...
Image via Wikipedia
Blame Woody Allen.

I was walking around the office generally singing the praises of Midnight In Paris.

I said, "I can't believe you can get all these movies for just $1 from Redbox." (Well a tiny bit more with tax.) I was bragging of course. Going to the machine to rent and return was a bit of a pain. But I didn't talk about that. It's about crowing about the money you save without spending up to ten times as much in the theater - and that is per ticket!

Somebody chimed in, "You can get Netflix from the computer. My sister does that and it's great."

Damn! One-upped again! I had to find out who was getting a better deal than me.

Rule #1: Nobody wants to be the idiot who overpays. Make me compete!

So I went on the Internet to find out more about this.

Rule #2: Emotion gets them in the door, but rational thinking is what keeps them. Rational = Internet comparison shopping.

I went to the Netflix website, because I know the Netflix name in addition to hearing about it in the office. I also related the color of Netflix to the color of Redbox (both are red-dominant) so it felt like a "safe" transition to me.

 Also did a Google search with the keywords "watch TV online". Then went to Amazon.com to look up online video players. Found the Roku. With a detailed explanation. And pictures.

Of course, I looked up product reviews on places like Cnet.

Rule #3: Trusted brands are the gateway to unknown brands. And the more they hold your hand and explain it to you, especially visually, the better.

I called Netflix customer service to find out how the service worked. Could it really be just $7.99 a month? What do you get for that? They picked up the phone right away and explained. I called Roku. They had a comparison chart of the different players online, and I wanted a little more information. I got it fast.

Rule #4: Rapid-response, well-informed, friendly customer service is part of the equation. It is about making the customer feel comfortable risking the purchase, not just providing information.

I bought the Roku from Amazon and it arrived fast. My daughter set it up. We didn't use the manual, really. She only needed help briefly. The equipment was small, manageable, easy to use.

Rule #5: Make the technology so smart it's simple.

We are having fun with the Roku and Netflix now. It is a little daunting, but it's also fun. And it feels like we are moving toward saving money and getting more out of our TV. Which will contribute to some hopefully relaxing times.

Bottom line: In technology you start with marketing - creating a customer - not branding, which is only about adding a price premium to something a person already wants.

You get people moving emotionally, by harnessing their inherent competitive drive, greed and curiosity.

And you turn their awareness into trust through expert opinion, trusted vendors, simple design, and great customer service.

Consider this: After years of awareness I haven't yet developed an interest in TiVo. But I bought a Roku and Netflix in the space of a couple of days.

Have a great day everyone, and good luck!

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You Don't Really Serve Your Customers At All

Golfers at Shoreline Golf Course

Most important decisions are made informally as a result of conversations between influencers. They're the ones you should keep in mind before you do anything with respect to your career.

If you don't read anything else in this post, remember that. 

Core Group Theory: Who Needs It?

Right now I am reading Who Really Matters, by Art Kleiner*. It's hard to believe that 2003, the book's publication year, is almost a decade ago because the content is extremely relevant today.

This well-researched work talks about what really makes organizations tick and how you can use that to your advantage. (If you like the work of Edgar Schein, Peter Senge, Peter Block, Elliott Jacques or Chris Argyris you will definitely want to read it.) It's useful if you want to:
  • Get a job, advance in your job, or understand why you can't advance at work
  • Help an organization get past its dysfunctional behavior and achieve transformational change
  • Market your product or service to a particular organization or target audience
  • Influence the policies of an organization or group of organizations
  • Further your academic understanding of the underlying principles of organizational behavior
It's Sort of Like "WWJD"

The basic idea is very simple: All organizations serve their "core group" of influencers first and foremost. It's sort of like the saying "What Would Jesus Do?" Except that the question goes more like this:

"What Would (Influencer Names) Want?"

This is all bound together into "Core Group Theory" - a fancy way of saying that everything an organization does boils down to serving a few people that people go to great lengths to serve. Or we serve our imaginary version of those people - "we carry our bosses in our heads." (p. 51)

Core Group Theory explains why organizations usually fail at their stated purpose - to serve the customer, public, shareholder.

It's not that organizations are "bad." Nor are the people in them incompetent.

Blaming the Bureaucrats: A Great Example

Kleiner goes out of his way to point this out with respect to government, citing research by James Q. Wilson published in the book Bureaucracy (quotes are by Kleiner):
  • "If great government agencies are rare in the U.S., it's not because government people lack dedication or intelligence." 
  • Rather, the problem has to do with lacking a "leadership team (empowered) to take charge of an operation and make it work." (p. 165)
When you combine an empowered leadership team with a clear mission (or "influence mandate" - my term) you have the building blocks of success because then you can hire people, provide them with a goal, and let them reach it.

Can A Higher Purpose Exist In Organizations?

From Kleiner's perspective, the mission doesn't have to be meaningful on a spiritual level (e.g. in Margin Call, the main character happily leaves rocket science for the financial rewards of Wall Street) but if it's clear, and there is someone in charge, people can effectively achieve it.

Of course, if the mission is both clear and meaningful and the Core Group is mentally and behaviorally dedicated to it, then you have the makings of a world-class brand. Because then you have aligned people's desire to be part of something more, higher and better with their practical need to put food on the table and their dependence on leadership to tell them what to do so as to make that happen.
 
Branding, "Personal Branding" and Core Group Theory

Kleiner doesn't talk much about branding in the sense of how an organization can use it to succeed. His focus is on the individual and how to survive given the fact that Core Groups are real and routinely hurt the careers of qualified people.

So when he does mention personal branding (pp. 61-62) it is to offer an alternative to the Tom Peters "Brand Called You" strategy - befriending the Core Group for mutual self-interest rather than promoting yourself shamelessly to its exclusion.

Core Group Theory and Human Nature

In fact, Kleiner doesn't think much of Core Groups at all. To him they are inherently self-serving.
  • In the opening section of the book he talks about a devoted employee slighted thoughtlessly by a Core Group member, whose career at the organization is gradually destroyed despite his valuable hard work. 
  • He cites a study by William Whyte (of Organization Man fame) showing that despite seemingly objective studies, inevitably corporations tended to relocate their headquarters amazingly close to the home of the CEO: "average distance...was eight miles." (p. 38)
I recognize that I am stubbornly idealistic, but my perspective is more like the one expressed by Anne Frank. Her beautiful optimism in the face of sheer hatred may have been a survival tactic but it continues to humble me:
"I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." - Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
This is a whole other conversation, but the fact that Kleiner even wrote his book; the vitality of social media, which has no real purpose other than to give; the fact that people give away their lives to feed their families, run into burning buildings, take responsibility for the lives of millions - it can't all be greed and ego.

So I do think that Core Groups can be selfless, at least for a time, and value contributions by their team members above the personal egos of those in charge. And these are the groups that inspire genuine commitment from their followers, and that therefore have the greatest value and stand the greatest chance of long-term success: because they are truly functional.

Adapting to Reality

Yet even if a Core Group is ideal for awhile, because people are people, even those can't last forever.  So most people will find themselves at one point or another with a conflict between the mission and the influence wielded by whoever has legitimacy among the workforce.

(Note: I realize that this blog has a classist bias toward the elite knowledge worker who has choices and is not functionally or actually enslaved).

The conflict is essentially psychological in nature:
  • On the one hand we feel pressure to serve the mission: Consciously we come to work looking for meaning, not just a paycheck, because serving a higher purpose makes us happy. If we can't find meaning, at least we want to add value in a way that seems objective and justifiable. So we try to do "objectively valuable work" in the service of "the customer."
  • On the other hand we feel pressure to serve the influencer: But somehow we end up breathlessly trying to find new and inventive ways to serve the often-irrational demands of people we don't even personally know, whose wants and mandates we may not even fully understand. Bias toward survival.
If there is a clash between the mission and the influencer, how do we psychologically adapt and behaviorally survive? I did not see it in the text but would understand from the theory that we tend to choose from among the following:
  • Unquestioning and passionately committed allegiance to influencer group: The benefit of this is that you are seen as committed. The downside is that you'll do things that don't make sense or are even illegal if it means taking care of the boss. 

  • Conflicted but committed service to influencer group vs. mission: Tell ourselves we're committed to the mission, but unconsciously serve the influencer group first, try to work mission priorities in, and when that doesn't work, rationalize that the influencers know what they're doing. The benefit of this is that influencers see you as having integrity. The downside is that they don't fully trust you.

  • "Give me liberty or give me death" approach: Focus on the mission and more or less ignore the influencers. The benefit of this is that you're seen as functionally valuable. The downside is that you're furthest from the "circle of trust" and therefore most expendable in a pinch, unless you truly have skills that nobody else does.
All of this sounds so bleak - like you can't really win. While it's understandable why someone would adopt a mission focus, what are the psychological rewards of being a brown-noser? Or, in Kleiner's words, "If commitment and legitimacy are so important....Why do we legitimize bosses who don't really deserve legitimacy?" (p. 49) Three reasons:
  • We need the money: "We tend to do what we think we're supposed to do, because....We believe our jobs, incentives, and rewards depend on it."
  • Our brains prefer simplicity: "It is terribly hard to make all the decisions. Most of the time, most of us would rather just act in favor of those who have legitimacy in our minds, even if we feel antagonistic to them." (Which is why I continue using Microsoft Word, an annoying word processor I detest, even though I have alternatives.)
  • There is the possibility of becoming one of them: It feels blissfully good to be part of the inner sanctum, in which the organization "is chivalrous toward you and dismissive of all others." (p. 37)
A Healthier Way to Survive

I don't want to spoil the experience of reading the book and gaining from the tons of wisdom, research and valuable advice there. So here are just a few key points from the book that may be helpful. All of them apply no matter what your interest in career growth and organizational functioning is:
  • Organizations are not necessarily "bad": You may read this and instinctively decide (or reinforce your innate belief that) "Hell is other people." However, especially in a social media world, that's probably not going to work. So Kleiner urges win-win coexistence ("be friends" on "equal footing" (p. 62). See Chapter 16.
  • Ignorance may feel good but failure feels bad and is costly: If you don't understand the way organizations really work, including who the influencers are, what they want, and what constitutes an unforgivable offense to them (whether or not it is written anywhere), you are at risk and your efforts to function effectively within them will likely fail.
  • Don't walk into the boxing ring untrained: This should go without saying but I'll repeat it just in case, especially since Kleiner makes the point: Core Groups can be dangerous. So don't do dumb things like try to verbally attack, gossip about, insult, or "start a revolution" (on the aggressive side) or "put yourself down" or submerge your efforts (on the self-punishing side). (pp. 190-101) Chapter 23 has some suggestions that seem like they might be more effective.
All in all, this is one of those books that I plan to read very slowly in the hopes of absorbing as much of it as possible. What's nice also is that it has a number of simple exercises and tools you can use to help yourself using the principles of Core Group theory.

If you read this book and experiment with the theory, please let me know how it goes. And if you are an influencer or eventually join some sort of Core Group, I hope you'll remember the power of your microphone, and use it wisely and and well.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!
____

* I learned about this book via a post by Steve Davies mentioning another book, The Age of Heretics, also by Art Kleiner.

Photo by Don DeBold via Flickr. I was not asked or paid to read or endorse this book, and as always, all opinions are of course my own and do not imply endorsement by any organization. Originally posted to my blog, Think Brand First by Dannielle Blumenthal, at www.dannielleblumenthal.com. Permission is granted to repost with attribution.
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Should You Speak Up To Your Boss?

It can be a tough call. Here are seven things to keep in mind:

1) Power: Bosses intensely dislike hearing the word "no." They generally value "team players," "problem solvers," people who will jump right in and take the assignment even if they don't know what they're doing. As long as their heart is in the right place. Part of giving you an assignment you can't handle is to see what you do under pressure from them.

2) Organizational culture: Does the organization expect you to be a straight shooter or are you supposed to diplomatically say "yes" to everything and then figure it out later? Do they expect you to grow by taking "stretch" assignments and learning as you fall down? Then you may have had a mis-impression about your true job scope. I believe I once found the description for my current job in my files, and then I promptly lost it and forgot about it, because the scope is always changing. I like that. Not everybody does!

3) Your personality:  Are you like a vacuum in that you can can inhale a lot of toxic dust and then empty out the dustbin at home? Or will you carry it around like black smoke all day unless you express yourself right then and there? If your personality style is to be more direct and upfront then it is probably unhealthy for you to be something you are not - and that can hurt you later on.

4) Resources: Are you being asked to do something you absolutely cannot do, or that you can do with some training and support? Maybe the thing to do is to say, "If you give me XYZ training, staff, etc. I can do a great job with this."

5) Personal ethics: One can feel it is unjust to be hired for A then asked to do B. In my mind, for a full-time employee this is normal since nobody can predict what the financial needs of the organization will be and you sort of have to be flexible. Then again, if you've been truly misled and committed yourself to a full-time job on overtly false premises that's something else. (Note: this is not legal advice.)

6) Generational communication style: I will be very broad brush about this and share my impression that:
  • Gen Yers tend to be more focused on needing to know exactly what to do in order to succeed. (Gen Z, younger than Gen Y, is not like this - they care a lot less about the rules and tend to make them up as they go along.)  Gen Y also tends to feel more entitled to rewards, advancement, etc. 
  • Gen Xers tend to be more focused on getting things done - result matters more than process and they work more autonomously. 
  • Baby Boomers like to solicit input but in the end want to have the final say. 
  • Matures just expect you to listen. 
7) Boss's Psychological State: Is the person you're talking to rational, or nuts? I am really not kidding about this: If they are rational you can have an honest conversation. If they are irrational, neurotic, psychotic, deluded, paranoid, sadistic, narcissistic, etc. then they are carrying around a personality disorder all the time. So your presence in the room gives them a chance to let off steam in your direction - and they don't even see you. Fortunately I don't deal with people like this 99% of the time, but the other 1% of the time, my best advice is to run in the other direction!

Bottom line - 3 lessons:
  1. If you want to earn a living you sometimes have to go outside your comfort zone. 
  2. The one who has the pocketbook generally makes the rules. 
  3. No matter what, be true to yourself because otherwise you'll be miserable anyway.
If it's not a good fit between you and your employer, it's about more than a single conversation. There is always another job - or you can start your own company.

Why Social Media Belongs At Work

A common misconception about social media is that it wastes employees' time by "distracting" them from "work."

Whoever had this idea must have been thinking that workers are still sewing buttons on shirts all day or herding farm animals.

In those situations social media doesn't help. Mostly everywhere else I am for it. Because in fact social media saves money, boosts morale, increases team spirit, and enhances employee productivity and value.

That is why people who aren't allowed to access social media at work will viciously grind the keyboard of their "Crackberry" all day, sending mindless email after email.

They want to hear something back!

So while I am NOT an advocate of opening up the corporate firewall to YouTube and such - cyberattacks are pretty nasty - I am in favor of providing or facilitating access to standalone computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.

Here are 10 benefits to productivity that result from encouraging employee use of social media at work:

1. They solve problems independently rather than using corporate resources to obtain them

2. They import best practices that can save the company time, money, and frustration

3. They receive advice and support regarding issues at work that could otherwise cause them to disengage

4. They learn to write more effectively as this is the primary online communication tool

5. They discover ways to innovate that go beyond trying to fix currently recognized or obvious problems

6. They become more adaptable and flexible regarding change and thus more likely to welcome new directions from leadership

7. They wind up engaging in continuous ongoing professional training rather than asking you to pay for costly weeklong seminars as their "once a year learning opportunity"

8. They independently compare themselves to their peers and discover areas needing improvement - helping you avoid difficult conversations that introduce resistance to you as a factor

9. They discover and import new technologies that can help you serve the customer faster, better, cheaper

10. Most important they build relationships with peers and customers internally and externally - enhancing your corporate brand

So as Wayne Dyer might say, don't fight the flow of the river - just harness its energy to help it flow safely and energetically.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

The Five Stages of Brand Maturity

Ecosystems - Flourish Everywhere
Image by Jeff Arsenault via Flickr

One of the central problems with developing a systemic approach to branding, historically, is that we have trouble defining what a brand is.

The reality is that there is no one definition. Actually, brands can be defined in different ways based on their level of maturity - just like people at different ages and stage of their lives. While it is true that babies and Baby Boomers are both human, there are different norms for interacting with them at an optimal level.

Similarly with brands - depending on the stage the rules for effective branding differ. I won't get into those here, but what follows is a rough sketch of the five stages:

1. Linguistic and/or visual icon: "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." - American Marketing Association via Wikipedia

2. Image: "A successful image is the foundation of every successful company. The image of your brand determines your credibility in the mind of new clients, and establishes the value of your products and services." - Sales Creators

3. Relationship: "It is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers." - The Marketing Blog

4. Community: "Your brand...is represented by your entire organization: employees, business partners, shareholders, all the members of your supply chain, and even your customers. That's why a strong brand requires complete understanding and expression of your brand promise by everyone in your brand community." - Reach Communications Consulting

5. Ecosystem: "The best youth brands in the world know that it’s essential to create a BRAND ECOSYSTEM (sic)…a living, breathing organism that is all about stimulating and feeding off conversations that happen within it, then using that to build further brand stories." - Dan Pankranz

The difference between these stages has to do with control and comprehensiveness.

The least mature and most prevalent brand is created by someone who then tries to control it.

As understanding of the meaning of brand grows, the brand creator realizes that its meaning has more to do with the perception of the user than the intention of the producer.

At still the next stage, there is an understanding that branding is about a continuing interaction between parties rather than a static formed image.

Beyond that, there is a sense that the brand has gone beyond the individual level and ideally functions as a group that is all singing from the same song-sheet.

Finally, at the last stage, the brand creator takes their hands off the steering wheel and lets the participants in the brand process take control. This is the most genuine, spontaneous, but also self-sustaining form of branding there is and the one that is most likely to result in sustainability as the members of the community "police" themselves to remain true to the brand's core values. Values that include respecting themselves, each other, and the environment.

It's an interesting conversation. I look forward to hearing what others think.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!



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Personal Branding and Your Moral Code

freedom ... !

How I ended up recently at a Reform Jewish prayer service - when my community of origin would have urged me not to go - doesn't matter.

What matters is that for me it was a small but hugely significant step toward taking back my own religion. Rather than letting other people define it for me.

Disillusioned once, I told my aunt that I wanted to walk away from Judaism altogether. She responded quickly, "It's your heritage. You owe it to yourself to explore it and find your way."

My spiritual journey is not relevant to your life. What matters is that, on a quest for your personal brand, you are really dealing with who you are as a person, your identity. (As Jack Shaw stated in a comment to one of my blogs on GovLoop.com.) So you can't get away from the question of your moral code. As in: must have one.

"The promise you make is the promise that you must keep," they taught me at The Brand Consultancy. That's a moral thing. So when you are building a brand, the way you treat employees matters. The way you treat the environment matters. And of course the way you back up your product matters as well.

Can't have a logo without a corporate Ten Commandments.

Another time I encountered someone who knew me years ago, before my spiritual evolution had started. We had a brief interchange ending with her comment: "So you used to be Orthodox and now you are...nothing?"

I have to laugh as I write this. Wince even as I laugh. "Nothing?"

That's a matter of how you look at it. I feel at peace, close and connected more than ever. But she operates according to her moral code. It wasn't meant personally, more as a description of how a certain group would categorize me.

Here's another incident.

Recently I watched the South Carolina Republican debate. (Note: this is not an endorsement of any candidate or person and all opinions are my own.) Four men talked vociferously, each arguing that they were more "pro-life" than the next.

It was such a disturbing sight, watching them talk about the morality of a choice that is widely understood to belong essentially to the person who is carrying the fetus. Every abortion is a tragedy, and nobody is in favor of enabling people to irresponsibly go on fetus-killing sprees, but the labels here still seem a bit mixed up to me: "Pro-life" should mean taking care of all the lives affected by an unwanted pregnancy. Particularly the mother, who is already born and for whom the carrying of the fetus affects her physical and emotional health irrevocably.

Still I tried to ignore it and only focus on "the major issues." Then one of them said that the upcoming election would be an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It was a shocking moment. I realized then and there that in every single circumstance you are making a moral choice. You can never separate "running a country" from "establishing a moral code." And you cast a vote in favor of one agenda or another.

It would be so easy if we could talk about personal branding as a matter of platform shoes vs. flats, or the right way to answer a set of interview questions. But the truth is that it comes right down to your own core values and how you practice them, or don't.

Doesn't mean that you have to be the nicest person in the world. Does mean you have to grapple with the question of ethics. And come out someway, somewhere on the other side.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck in your own personal journeys.

_________________

Image by Kalyan Chakravarthy via Flickr
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