Monthly Archives: April 2012

Growlers – How Do You Adapt to Change?

Well, today I learned even more about Growlers. I had the spelling all wrong, but pronounced correcty. It seems that it is an evolutionary thing (in both species and language).

Growlers - Grolars - Grolar Bears -

Q- What do you get when you cross a Grizzly bear with a Polar bear?

A- a growler! (...which apparently sounds more menacing than a pizzly).

bear 1
Grizzly airport

The result of Grizzlies following the caribou further north (now that recent years have been warmer), and the polar bears (left without summer ice to hang out on the way they used to).

BUT WAIT - before anyone gets their global warming nickers in a twist lets consider this:

The grizzly bear is thought to have descended from brown bears that came from Russia to Alaska. According to wikpidia this happened 100,000 years ago, and they lived in the north for 87,000 years. Somewhere along the way they evolved into grizzly bears and moved south 13,000 years ago.

So here we are many years later and the grizzlies have come back to visit their relatives who stayed behind and evolved into polar bears. The two meet again and apparently hit it off quite well.

The real question is "where were the environmentalists 100,000 years ago when we needed someone to prevent the Russian bears from crossing over as a result of global cooling?"

Perhaps they should have also been around 13,000 years ago to capture and isolate these odd offspring before they migrated south?

With all this ice disappearing, the polar bear is adapting by selecting a mate that gives them brown paws like a grizzly and white coats like a polar bear. Presumably this will be an advantage when it comes to hunting the offspring created when ringed seals from the west meet harp seals from the east for the first time. 

Things change. The real question is how do you adapt to change? In the corporate world as in nature, things do not need to continue to exist in their current form simply because they always have. Sometimes new entities are created that are better suited to the current environment than are the old form that they replaced.

Posted in Adapting To Your Surroundings | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

The Franklin Expedition


I am writing this week from Yellowknife, in Canada's North West Territories. The picture below was taken on my last trip mid winter at 11:30 AM (Yes you read that correctly 11:30, as in 1/2 hour before lunch. The sun was just coming up, and would soon set again at 3pm, a little over three hours after it came up for the day).

Aside from the decorations and the snow, this same picture could have been taken this week after 10pm. The long days are beginning this month in the land of the midnight sun.


If you could make out the street sign you would see that it marks Franklin Avenue, named after the early explorer Captain Sir John Franklin, a British Royal Navy officer and experienced explorer. Franklin and his crew perished as they attempted to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage.

This next picture was taken from the top of Pilot Monument, an outcropping of rock overlooking the city. It is dedicated to the bush pilots who lost their lives servicing this area in the 1920s.

pilot monument
From Pilot Monument 6pm December.

In the picture above, far off in the distance you can see lights on the hill to the right of the main street lights. At 9pm I just took the picture below on this trip from that location looking back at the monument. It is the highest point just left of the island in the picture below.

pilot monument3
Pilot Monument off in the distance - taken at 9pm April

 Yellowknife is a mining town with an interesting past. 

As Tom Cochran sang:

Where the shore-fires burn out on a new frontier, where the past don't haunt you and there's nothing else to fear. Baby don't hold out too long...they might not let you be!

Movin on, feel the wind in your hair.
The sun shines at night, I can take you there

To the land of the midnight sun...ragged ass road


Ragged Ass Road, named after the dirt poor struggling miners trying to strike it rich.

Posted in Heroic efforts | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Change Management – the organizational kind

 One of the key elements of any change initiative is to create a sense of urgency.

Without urgency, two things tend to happen:

1. People tend to focus on things that are higher priority in the short term

2. Workers who do not fully agree with the new direction, or who have self interest in seeing the status quo prevail will chose to “wait out” the change initiative, believing that this too will blow over and they will have saved themselves all kinds of work.

You could name five other things, but in my consulting work I frequently see these two. You may correctly recognize these two issues as leadership issues. Strong leaders with experience in change know how to overcome these and other obstacles; however, I don’t fault the leader if they themselves have been rewarded for years for maintaining the status quo. Where would they get the experience leading change, or how would they keep their skills sharp if those skills are never needed? As a consultant I am at a distinct advantage because in working with different clients, I am able to practice these skills everyday. In my experience a leader who is good at managing stability is not as well suited for managing change without some assistance.

It is also easy to blame the workers for not wanting to change, but again, how often have they had to change? They must have received some reward for functioning the way they do, or they wouldn’t be doing things this way. True, the rewards may not be the officially sanctioned rewards identified by the business, but rather emotional rewards of some sort, but no less rewarding to the worker. Finding these hidden rewards and assessing their impact is challenging but it is part of creating change.

The real question boils down to why do people do what they do, and how can you get them to do something differently when the old way felt successful, and the new way represents an unknown leap of faith?

Posted in Leadership, Moving to Work of Higher Value | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

The Experience Pipeline

 I have created this process visual to demonstrate how new experiences can be used to flush out old experiences thereby creating a better outlook for the future. 

If you don't seek new useful experiences, you will be stuck with the ones you have already had. If they were good experiences that you hold on to, that may not be that bad particularly when it comes to predicting the future, but if they were bad, that's really bad...

Experience pipeline
Experience pipeline

The current lens
Psychologists believe that one will tend to view that which is currently being experiencing as well as very recent experiences, through a lens determined by past experiences. If past experiences are all bad, then one is likely to predict that future experiences will be bad as well. In fact, even current and very recent experiences that may well have been positive can become tainted. The lens becomes murky and one may perceive otherwise good experiences as bad or negative.

Polishing your outlook and that of your employees
You’ve probably heard the expression that pessimist see a glass as half empty and that optimists see a glass as half full. In my first job I was told that realists know that if you stick around long enough someone is going to have to clean that glass.

What we need is a tool for keeping that glass clean. Psychologists have tools for helping people through past experiences, and the skills to employ them in ways that can help people deal with negative or traumatic experiences of their past. If you truly have something that is holding you back, traumatic or otherwise, these are good people to talk to, and my simple model does not attempt to replace them. It simply takes the work of good people such as Dr. Martin Seligman, and others, and depicts one of the key concepts into something that can be understood quickly and easily.

My view is that if our brains are computers, we need to flush out the memory buffers. I believe that on a daily basis we can maintain our own looking glass. While preparing for day-to-day interactions, a person can benefit from simply stacking the deck in their favor by lining up enough sure-fire successes and positive experiences intended to displace past experiences of negative outcomes.

Simplistically this means that in addition to our regular routines, planning in advance a few things that are easily achievable, and then reflecting on the positive aspects of each event soon after. From a management perspective this may mean moving away from compliance metrics (perfect or not) and towards progress metrics (are we moving in the right direction).

The goal is to pad the past with positive experiences thereby flushing out the bad. As more challenging things come along, the likelihood that one will predict their outcome as negative, will be reduced, and we can take on more challenging situations more readily.

As we continue, in addition to no longer spinning otherwise good experiences as bad, I maintain that even the negative events will be perceived as not so bad. You can’t do this easily if your past experiences are all negative. The dog that was rescued from an abusive owner may no longer remember why it flinches when a hand is raised, but eventually that negative subconscious memory in the distant past just might be flushed from the queue to make room for the positive experience of an outstretched hand containing a treat.

If you are a manager it might just be worth looking at how your outstretched hand is perceived. People don’t need treats to perform, but they do need positive experiences. Are people moving towards or away from the outstretched hands in your workplace?

Posted in Leadership | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts