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Service? What service. June 21, 2012

Posted by wooddickinson in 1st National Bank of Omaha, Change, consulting, executive coaching, executive leadership, Flo, KitchenAid, Life Coach, Progressive, service, Systems Thinking, Thermador, Tom Peters.
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For the most part customer-service has become an oxymoron(1). As of late when I call customer-service the answer is “no way.” For example, we have a KitchenAid trash compactor sort of for the last five years. I say that because we’re on our third one. In five years I remind you. For the last of those five years the compactor has worked about 20% of the time. That’s probably generous. The same part would break and the unit wouldn’t stop trying to work when it was supposed to. It would crush the trash then the Ram would come back up but it would never stop. We’d have to jerk the door open to stop it. Beyond that if we put trash in and close the door it would start up on its own. I would finally switch it off and get our huge trash can from the garage. It looked good in our remodeled kitchen.

We’d call the service man and after the customary wait of 3 days he’d show up between 9 and noon. Say the same part needed repair, call and leave while we all waited for the part to come in. What I thought was a hoot was instead of the serviceperson returning to the shop to get the part it would be mailed to our home! We’d have to call the service company and do all this again. He’d put the part in and with in 2 days it would do the same thing.

Finally after a year they seem to have fixed the stupid compactor. I called “customer-service” and told them I’d paid for a service contract for the last year and had virtually no use of the compactor so now that it is “fixed” I wanted a year service-contract for free. Does that sound like I’m asking too much?

I was. I got told by everyone up the chain of command, “No way.” In those words. Really, that’s what they’d say. I finally got ahold of a person in the corporate office and repeated my request. I asked if Mrs. KitchenAid would mind having this unit in her house? I’d pay the shipping and installation. The response was I’d get my free year service-contract. It took me hours to accomplish this so I wouldn’t recommend KitchAid for anything.

Now I’m going through the same things with Thermador for a gas range and freezer. They haven’t worked properly since day one. Now 5 years down the road I offered the same deal. I’d pay shipping and installation to see if Mrs. CEO of Thermador was happy with these products. Of course she wouldn’t so some repair company is coming out today to “evaluate” the units. In the words of Queen Victoria, “We are not amused.”

This week my online banking with 1st National Bank of Omaha stopped working. Calls to customer-service only told me I had lost several accounts and my wife could not talk to anyone because she didn’t have my social security number. She is on all the accounts by the way.

Again I just asked for the president. I got the ubiquitous “someone” in the president’s office. I find that so funning. When I was president of Dickinson Theatres that someone in the president’s office was me. I didn’t have any “people.” I asked this women where the president was and she said she didn’t know! You think I was really talking to someone in the president’s office? I don’t think so. How insulting. She did fix my online banking though. I’ll give her that.

Okay so that’s KitchenAid, Thermador, and 1st National Bank of Omaha. All with no can do customer-service that required hours on the phone and requests to speak to the presidents but the presidents were all to busy doing something more important. Maybe playing golf.

Now it is Progressive Insurance (thankfully not my insurance company). Anyone know Flo’s number?

The point here is simple. The most important person in all of these companies isn’t the CEO or President. It’s me. The Customer. If I wasn’t around where would they be? Mr. And Mrs. KitchenAid wouldn’t have a job. You get my point! I’m so over this kind of “customer-service” I’m sick. It’s everywhere. No one can answer a phone, no president of any company will talk to a lowly customer. I guess that’s like getting your hand’s dirty. Oh god not another customer!

Help me Tom Peters. You’re my only hope…


1 a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements (military intelligence) – Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

And John Said… April 22, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, executive leadership, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, shared vision, Systems Thinking.
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I think you’ll see that the steam is running down so I work to bring this to a close. It’s very difficult to debate philosophy via the internet! What I do hope is that these divergent views can be freely explored without anger or malice. I don’t think we got to a true dialectic here but much closer because neither John or myself closed the door saying your flat wrong. I know I learned and he gave me something to think about. All of this reinforces the wiring in the brain to build more pathway for understanding not fighting.

Greetings to Wood Dickinson.

I suggest that proactivity is as I have experienced it and how I have observed everyone else experiences it. I am not here to support or deny Stephen Covey. My response is therefore based upon my experience of observing Coveys ideas in action. I have not previously gone out of my way to look for flaws in his practice (as opposed to the principles I believe he is attempting to communicate.

Personal experience, not Covey, shows me at all times, that provided only that I do not let my monkey brain get in on the act, I am always able to respond in a good, true and beautiful manner. The extremes of these three parameters can also be expressed as subjective specification, objective evidence and subjectively and objectively aligned conclusions, each versus its complete opposite. It is these hopefully subjectively and objectively aligned but more often misaligned conclusions that provide the ongoing minimal adjustment to each person’s proactivity. In other words, each person relies upon the fixities of their infancy, childhood and adolescence instead of at all times questioning as to the alignment of their beliefs (expedient) and their actual experience (honesty).

Personal experience, not Covey, also shows me at all times, that provided only that I do not let my monkey brain get in on the act, it is awareness (not limited self-awareness but rather cosmic self-awareness) and intention (not selfish limiting stupidity, but rather cosmically responsible will) that is the basis of consciousness. Total consciousness would be total certainty on all things. This would be the ultimate (an absolute) proactivity.

Personal experience also shows me that the reactions for which we need to take responsibility are the consequence of our belief systems, each of which is stuck in infancy, childhood, adolescence and possibly young adulthood. By transferring from the use of belief system nonsense to reliance on personally verified universally applicable principles, we shift from illusion (the school, subjectivity and cramming) to certainty (the farm, objectivity and pragmatic behaviour. The more we operate as a farm, the more proactive we become. Covey’s four endowments to me seem somewhat out of alignment. Aware-Will most certainly, through their paradoxical mutual opposition and mutual support evolve into Aware-Will-Consciousness (another way of describing proactivity)

Imagination is a tool, created by aware-will (along with the other tools of Requirements and Expectations) for the purpose of playing around with the materials of Belief Systems (Beliefs and Attitudes, Feelings and Thoughts, Options and Decisions). In the absence of intentional ongoing honesty, these nine components of belief systems are the nearest to proactivity we ever get. However, through systematic honesty we can question everything that we experience as negative and turn it from shit (bad, untrue and ugly) into proactive fertiliser (good, true and beautiful).

I do not have the Facilitators’ Manual, so I am unable to comment on that. I use the Pythagorean Enneagram as a universal flow diagram. Having applied it to many superficially very different natural processes I have never been able to find any flaw in its predictions. The underlying 7 habits, plus 2 more (subjective quality assurance or the school, after habit 3, and objective quality control or the farm, after habit 5) provide the entire circuit. It is actually the systematic alignment of Quality Assurance (as pumped into us at school) and Quality Control (as experienced in our actual lives) that leads to Quality Leadership (the honesty based integration of subjective and objective experience.

 The feedback loops are shown on the enneagram as arrowed lines. Going with the arrows leads expediently (like the school cramming) into less and less proactivity. This is when you are your own worst enemy. Going against the arrows leads somewhat more effortful alignment (i.e., into proactivity and consciousness) . This is when you are your own (and also everyone else’s) best friend.

Dr. Siegel is absolutely correct. In the infant mother relationship there is a mutual “tuning” of psychobiological states between mother and child. It seems that this early bonding is central to the creating of secure attachments later in life. Biological, psychological and social domains do begin to lose meaning and mostly do disappear completely in reference to developmental and cognitive neuroscience.

Visit Helen Palmer’s website at http://www.enneagram.com/. It is rich with details of how actuality loses its hold as subjective beliefs systems take over and how self knowledge can eventually lead not just to self-knowledge but on to interpersonal knowledge and eventually pan determinism.

Questioning the 7 Habits April 20, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking.
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I wrote a small comment on a LinkIn group for 7 Habits that challenged two of the core ideas Dr. Covey teaches. First the theory of Determinism and second that Habit 1 “Be Proactive” isn’t real. This started with a question posed by Phyllis, the leader of the group.

It took me a whole year to read and digest the book–7 Habits of Highly Effective People. How long did it take you and what did you learn from it?”

What I wrote was this: I read the book in 1993 and started teaching it in 1994. I’ve come to the realization through a continued study in human behavior, psychology and neuroscience that much of what the 7 Habits proposes is false. Indeed there are some great common sense ideas in the book but there is no such thing as “Be Proactive” and deterministic psychology was thrown out 10 years ago. Sad that success forces one to forsake continued research and hold to poor behavioral models just because you can’t say, “I was wrong, here’s how it works. I think. We know so little about the true functioning of the brain that saying you understand how the mind works is just a joke. Let’s be serious. Just the minds consistent use of metaphor through language cuts us off from The Real. We can never see anything as it really is. If we could we couldn’t withstand it and surely we’d die. Read the book “Into the Wild,” for an example.”

Then I received a message from a member named Ravi: On 04/18/11 10:05 PM, RAVI GOROWALA wrote:

Wood Hi,

Would you like to elaborate on  “but there is no such thing as “Be Proactive” and deterministic psychology was thrown out 10 years ago.” For me this is important as I have never come across this kind of criticism and being open minded I would like to explore this further.”

I started to answer his question and I found it was going to take a bit more space than what I usually use on LinkIn. I decided to answer with a blog post so everyone can ponder it. I might mention that I am working on a book that will update the 7 Habits type framework into modern day theories and practices. The ideas here are part of that work.

Dear Ravi,

I’d be glad to explain my views. I was very deep into using 7 Habits personally and in my company. I started my own journey in 1993 and have read and listened to the 7 Habits probably 50 times then in 1994 I started teaching  it. I taught 100s of people.  I helped in designing and implementing what is now called “7 Habits for Associates.” I was profiled in Dr. Covey’s book “Living the 7 Habits.” Now to your question, I have kept up on changing psychological models over the years. I do this to advance my own development.

The theories of determinism are really poorly represented in the 7 Habits. Dr. Covey talks about 3 of them, Environmental, Genetic, and Psychic. In the study of human behavior there are at least 9 major deterministic theories. The basic set is:

Causal Determinism: This psychology is based on the assumption that there is an antecedent for every event to happen.

Logical Determinism: This is the outcome of the notion that whatever is proposed about the past, present or future fall in either of the categories: True or False.

Metaphysical Determinism: As per this determinism, every event is caused by necessity and for a reason.

Biological Determinism: This thesis is based on the belief that all behavioral patterns and desires are controlled by nature through factors such as genes.

Nomological Determinism: As per this psychology, the future events are to some extent propelled by the combination of nature’s laws and events factoring the past and present.

Psychological Determinism: This is a view that is purely based on rational thinking and human instincts that control our desires.

Behavioral Determinism: This ideology is purely based on the reflex actions that have been governed by the environment and surroundings.

Environmental Determinism: This psychology is based on the theory that physical conditions of an environment determine the culture of a region. To be precise, every human instinct is controlled by the stimulus response theory.

Fatalism: This is a significant determinism psychology that says everything in the universe is governed by fate and there is no control over it.”   quoted from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/determinism-psychology.html

Beyond these theories you also need to factor in Reciprocal Determinism Psychology and Free Will Determinism Psychology. I’ll let you dig those up on your own.

Now to tell you why these models fail I’ll quote a blog entry I came across that I thought was particularly insightful. You have to remember that determinism on the surface is a philosophical question. The scientists can try to quantify it and catalog it but at the end of the day it’s still philosophy. I can just as easily build a case for Jacques Lacan’s philosophy of psychoanalysis and philosophy as explained by Slavoj Žižek, who translated Lacan’s work and added to it by using popular culture.  Language itself serves a need for building metaphors of real objects so when we look at the world we see it through a screen of language.  Artists many times attempt to pierce this screen and peek into “The Real” and bring a bit back in their work for the rest of us to learn from. To live in “the real” would kill us. Again, I reference “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

Arguments Against Determinism

Determinism for me is irrational. Here’s why.

Published on February 9, 2004 By EFalgui In Philosophy

I have been thinking about the reasons why I am so against determinism. For me determinism is just plain wrong in the sense that we have no choice in anything that we do. Another thing is that if everything is already plotted out then doesn’t that destroy the point of taking responsibility for our actions.

People argue that if God is all knowing then how would it be possible for people to have free will. My response to this is that God knows all the paths that are possible. Because there is more than one possible path to life, we have the power to choose our own way without taking Gods omniscience into question. Anyway I have been thinking of some more arguments and these are a few I found against determinism.

Determinism is self-defeating. A determinist insists that both determinists and non-determinists are determined to believe what they believe. However, determinists believe self-determinists are wrong and ought to change their view. But “ought to change” implies they are free to change, which is contrary to determinism, since how can one change what is already determined. =P

Determinism is irrational. C.S. Lewis argued that naturalistic, complete determinism is irrational. For determinism to be true, there would have to be a rational basis for their thought. But if determinism is true, then there is no rational basis for thought, since non-rational forces determine all. So, if determinism claims to be true, then it must be false. Do you get it?

Determinism destroys human responsibility. If God is the cause of all human actions, then human beings are not morally responsible. One is only responsible for a choice if there was free will to avoid making it. All responsibility implies the ability to respond, either on one’s own or by God’s grace. Ought implies can. But if God caused the action, then we could not have avoided it. Hence, we are not responsible.

Determinism renders praise and blame meaningless. Similarly, if God causes all human actions, then it makes no sense to praise human beings for doing good, nor to blame them for doing evil. For if the courageous really had no choice other than to show courage, why reward it? If the evil had no choice but to commit their crime, why punish them? Rewards and punishment for moral behavior makes sense only if another did not cause the actions.

Determinism leads to fatalism. If everything is determined beyond our control, then why do good and avoid evil? Indeed, if determinism is right, evil is unavoidable. Determinism destroys the very motive to do good and shun evil.

Determinism is unbiblical. Theistic opponents to determinism offer several objections from Scripture. Defining free choice as “doing what one desires” is contrary to experience. For people do not always do what they desire, nor do they always desire to do what they do (Romans 7:15-16)”  Source Located at – http://boogerschnot.joeuser.com/article/7155

This is all philosophical of course but it does show the common sense reasons why determinism is a failed concept. It’s easy to google the decline of determinism and read about the current state of affaires. I’d recommend google scholar so you can find credible sources of information based on research.

Now, Habit 1 Be Proactive. Before there was 7 Habits this word was rarely used.  The first time it appeared was 1933. Now it’s a cliché.  Proactive as it’s really defined refers to some form of anticipation of actions before they happen and this anticipation can guide choices that improve the chances of more effective outcomes. A proactive choice is installing a sump pump before the rain floods your basement or planning what you’re going to do when on your next vacation now, not when you get there.

To act with proactivity as Dr. Covey explains it is tied together with the idea of stimulus and response. If a certain event happens you don’t react instead you create a space between the stimulus and your response where you make a choice as to what your response will be. I’m not saying that certain people have the capacity to think before they act but I don’t think it is a learnable skill.

According to psychologistWorld.com:   Stimulus Response Theory

“Stimulus Response Theory is a concept in psychology that refers to the belief that behavior manifests as a result of the interplay between stimulus and response. In particular, the belief is that a subject is presented with a stimulus, and then responds to that stimulus, producing “behavior” (the object of psychology’s study, as a field). In other words, behavior cannot exist without a stimulus of some sort, at least from this perspective.”

Now please note that in this citation the comment “at least from this perspective” is used. That’s because there isn’t any hard evidence that a specific stimulus will produce a specific response. I’m not talking about things like, you smell good food and you suddenly want to eat or you are drowning so you fight and flail around even hitting rescuers. Certain actions or say reactions are part of the brains Default Network. This network kicks in to help moderate certain actions. You see two 5 year olds playing tug of war with a bottle of ketchup and don’t think twice about it but if it was two 25 year old males you would become alarmed. The Default Network doesn’t start functioning until about age 13.

Reactions that happen outside of this Default Network happen because of special circumstances in a persons life. Look up B. F. Skinner and the Skinner Box. Back in the 60s this was the truth. Like Pavlov, you ring the bell and the dog drools and comes to eat. The problem with this is, sometimes they don’t. Why? Well Skinner et. al. really didn’t want to deal with that issue so they relegated these events to error. But there was a reason that it happened. It’s cognition.  The rat thinks, “I don’t want to run this maze right now.” The rat has no self-awareness so it can’t tell you why but we do.

Back in the 70s and 80s maybe later the feeling was the rat was making a choice. This proves a connection between stimulus and response. But that’s not true. Everything is a choice, after a fashion, but the reason for the choice may have nothing to do with the stimulus itself. It just appears that way. I hear a tornado siren and run to the basement. Another person hears the same siren and ignores it while a third person runs outside to see if there really is a storm. None of these actions are a direct response to the siren. They’re a response to an emotional state that is hard-wired into the brain due to past experiences.  I may not be able to do anything but run to the basement. Events in my life started the wiring in my brain that built a pattern of behavior and all the proactivity in the world won’t change it. If this is predicated on an unnatural fear of storms then I have to make a decision that this reaction bothers me and I want to change it. Then I probably go through exposure therapy to ease the emotions, allowing me to clip the wires and put in new ones. Once that’s done I don’t run to the basement unless I want to.

Neurobiology is showing us that the brain has a lot of plasticity and this process of rewiring is possible.  Dr. Covey tells us to use our imagination to grow proactivity then use that proactive muscle to change how we respond to events around us. Ask yourself this question, if I smoke can I make the choice, at the moment when I want a smoke, to not have the cigaret? Ask any smoker. I used to smoke and I’m here to tell you I decided to cut all the wires connected in my brain that brought on the urge to have a cigarette. This had to happen well before I was in the heat of the moment and it hurt. It took two years to get over the habit. I didn’t smoke during that two years The nicotine addiction was nothing compared the the brain rewiring I had to do so I’d never smoke again.

Enough examples, I hope you get the point. There is no being proactive. What there is initiative. Through the use of my initiative I was able to stop smoking. What I do is look at the current theories of human development, interaction and actions that are supported by science not opinion. For instance one of the mainstays of 7 Habits is the “Maturity Continuum.” The idea that we mature along a continuum which begs the notion of growth is a major part of the material. But I challenge that because we are born into the most important interdependent relationship of our lives. Babies are dependent and independent and interdependent and it happens all at once. No continuum.

There are a lot of good ideas in the 7 Habits but it is rusty and today you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. For a lot of people that isn’t easy. I commend you in seeking beyond and growing as an independent thinker.

I’m sorry but… April 14, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in Change, Hope, shared vision.
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I listened to the news today and that, along with the speech made on April 13th by Obama, leaves me feeling very pessimistic about this country. Once again the Democrats wage war on “wealthy” Americans. The problem as Obama sees it, we don’t tax enough and we can keep spending at the current rates as long as we justtax people more.

OK…tax those that own small businesses and tax those who invest in the economy and take the risk, monetarily, to help drive the economy (that ultimately creates jobs). Just have the Feds create more jobs instead. Let’s just ramp up the old class warfare argument. I have to ask, where is the bipartisan? When did it become a crime in the USA to make money? Don’t people who make money spend it? If they don’t then aren’t jobs lost and local economies hurt?

Call me stupid but I don’t see how raising taxes on anyone works. It promotes the idea that middle class people and poor people (especially those who are unmotivated to work) should get part of the success of hard-working Americans who have made a few bucks.  I’m not talking about our billionaires in this country or even those with 10 million and up in assets. Does anyone really think a person who has saved up 2 or 3 million dollars through hard work are “the rich!”

Why oh why can’t we just for this one time seriously cut government spending. Roll it back to pre 9/11 levels. Defund all non-essential and repetitive programs. Yes, The National Endowment for the Arts and NPR are non essentials. I’m an artist, writer, filmmaker and I have never used any federal money. States can offer tax credits (again back to NOT paying taxes) to attract filmmakers.

I do believe that true solutions to problems are usually simpler than the solutions dreamed up and implemented. The same is true here. End the IRS, stop federal taxes both personal and corporate, institute a national sales tax and I bet you’d have more than enough money. I know, the problem is EVERYONE would pay tax now. This would hurt the poor. Right? Well they are being hurt now with state and local sales tax. Exempt food and other essential items. This way everyone pays even all the gray market workers. Even the criminals!

Taking away the deduction for giving to non-profits by really wealthy people will hurt all those agencies trying to help society. Giving is already down. Go ahead and remove an incentive. You might say the rich should give regardless the deduction. Do you? The government by its tax rules shape how we act. They want us to save they create IRAs and 401Ks. They don’t want us to buy a house, remove the mortgage deduction.

Just think about it. Republican or Democrat I don’t care. I’m an independent and I’m sick of the excuses.

Union Woes February 23, 2011

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A rally of the trade union UNISON in Oxford du...

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According to Yahoo! News (HERE) The governor of the state is trying to save $165M.  I’m sorry but we must face facts.  There isn’t enough money and enough taxes to counter this kind of problem.  It runs ram-pet through all states and the Federal Government.  The current answer is Tax more, Spend more, pass the buck to our children.

I’m not speaking a political opinion just recounting facts.  Now the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on 1/21/2011 the union membership information for 2010.

I’ll quote:

“In 2010, 7.6 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with 7.1 million union workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers (6.9 percent). Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 42.3 percent. This group includes workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. Private sector industries with high unionization rates included transportation and utilities (21.8 percent), telecommunications (15.8 percent), and construction (13.1 percent). In 2010, low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (1.6 percent) and in financial activities (2.0 percent). (See table 3.)” Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

What is obvious is more of us are not in a union than those who are.  No one cares much about private sector unions even though they do effect the cost of goods, it is the public sector (government workers) that the voting public should be worried about.

Public policy has been to bend over for public sector labor unions thus driving the cost of government into the stratosphere. Now unions are not the only reason we have out of control spending on the local, state and federal level but it is a significant part.  Here again we have a minority holding a majority hostage for political gain.

I understand we are talking about peoples lives but consider the fact that all the non-union workers, employers and corporate risk takers that drive business growth have no such protection.  They are villains and takers.  Especially management even though these people create the jobs the union folks fill.  When the unions should be supporting management so the company is successful they act as a drain possibly driving the company out of business. All that happens to the union employee is lay off or getting fired.  The business owner’s life is ruined by a business failure.

I’m not going into the corporate greed argument always pulled out of the hat because almost all businesses run honestly.

Now, what does all this mean?  Looking at current trends in societal anger about tax and spend I can for see a revolt against the public sector employees and the politicians who support them.  This could get bloody because unlike taxes where workers say, “Let the rich pay,” this will be their own jobs on the line. The workers will have to pay.

It’s obvious to all of us that state and federal governments are bloated.  Departments are too large, spending is out of control and staffing to expansive.  When a politician tries to get a grip on this just look at Wisconsin to see the reaction.  All unions rally behind government employees even though we as a nation can’t afford them.

This country is on a collision course and many people are living in a fantasy world when it comes to this issue.

Hope January 14, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, executive coaching, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology.
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I’m writing a new workshop that’s primary task will be teaching Hope. I know that it seems natural for people to be just hopeful or not but that isn’t really the case. As it turns out science has been able to displace malformed ideas and misunderstood concepts about why we do what we do. Hope falls into that category.

If the idea that genetic determinism has much impact on our daily actions and decides major overall traits such as intelligence, then eugenics would have proved to have been a successful experiment. As we know all eugenics did for us was pave the way for the Holocaust of WW II.  I say that but must also mention eugenic experiments were also tried here in the USA before WW II through the sterilization of certain groups of individuals mostly those perceived as under privileged and unintelligent. To learn more about this blot on US history read the book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black.

Genes determine the shape of a jaw or the color of the eyes and may indicate some possibility for future illness but it does not make us who we are. Environmental determinism plays a much larger role in two ways. First the physical location where people live brings with it environmental factors people have to adapt to. Climate, geography and even political realities set up a situation that will bring on certain actions by the people impacted. Eskimos have distinct differences from Arabs and a large part of that difference is caused by environmental conditions.

The second type of environmental determinism includes the smaller family unit. As a child grows patterns are set in a neurobiological way that may cause the child to live out certain choices when she grows to adulthood that may be positive or negative. This is especially true for what happens to a child during its first 18 months of life.

So if environmental determinism creates a negative impact we are told building a proactive nature will eventually cause change in our way of life that creates a positive impact. I don’t think so. Like a smoker, the quitting of smoking is a very difficult things. Seemingly impossible for some. Why? The nicotine addiction is over in two weeks but the wires in the brain are still there telling the smoker to have a cigarette now. What has to happen is the cutting of the wires in the brain that drive smoking and putting in new wires for non-smoking. This is a very painful and difficult task.

We call it a smoking habit and like any other habit we have wiring in our brain that reinforces our actions. Wearing a nicotine patch doesn’t solve the problem. I think you’ll find that in smoking there isn’t enough proactivity in the world to help a person stop. I know. I’ve been there.

Dr. Norman Dodge suggest in The Brain That Changes Itself that that the process of rewiring our brain is not only possible but can be controlled. Only through this effort can a habit be changed. How this relates to hope is coming…

Time to start thinking for ourselves December 24, 2010

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking.
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Over the last several months I have develop quite a problem with Franklin Covey. Let me tell you a story.

Recently there have been discussing here about walking the talk. How important is it? The idea is we can just teach this material but don’t really have to live by it. We all know that’s insane.

If I’m going to deliver a workshop everything I teach must be material I believe is true, has scientific backing and also I have integrated it into my life. With this highly personal type of workshops, integrity is essential. If the participants sense you don’t believe what you are teaching and/or don’t live by it they will get nothing from your presentation.

We have to be committed body, mind and soul. Does that me we are perfect? No. Last time I check the only perfect man lived about two thousand years ago and we are about to celebrate His birth.

I find my stories of my failures and success make great material for the workshop. The participants learn I’m human just like them. I work hard, and get it right and get it wrong. These personal stories seem to touch people more than anything. I shows how I struggle but don’t give up. It shows I practice what I’m preaching warts and all.

Just to give a very short bio, I started teaching in 1994 when they were the Covey Leadership Center. Those were the days. I have lived through three major upgrades of the three day workshop. I lobbied endlessly for the creation of a one day workshop with one new stunning video. This would be aimed at frontline workers. I ran a large theatre chain at the time and turn over of frontline staff was common. Training dollars had to be spent well.

I beta tested the class and help fine tune it into its final form. McDonald’s was involved as well. A wonderful video was made. Legacy. How to Live, Learn, Love and Leave a Legacy. It was so good I worked with the Covey Leadership Center to transfer it to 35mm film and ran it before the show in all my theatres. No charge!

I won an award that was for employees of CLC only. It is the “Principle Centered Leadership Award from the Covey Leadership Center. It is a wonderful compass and I collect compasses so it was just wonderful. I was so glad my efforts were not going unacknowledged.

I was profiled for Stephen’s book Living the 7 Habits. My company was included as well with examples of how we used the material to improve relationships and create a better product.

In these days there was no Covey Planner. Franklin had that market. Their time management system was different so I’m sure Covey looked at them as a real roadblock to growth. I have no problem with growth but I have to ask, were the real ends in mind really thought out where this merger was concerned? Were all scenarios considered and the negative ones pushed very hard.

In business these kinds of moments are not for the faint of heart, wishful thinkers or those who “believe” it will work out. We all believed in Santa once didn’t we? Where was the empirical evidence.  All we had was anecdotal reports, vague answers from our parents and the pressure of a societal belief system. We would try and perform our own experiments. Leave notes, bake cookies, try to wait up; you know the drill. With all this I swear I heard the reindeer on the roof! Belief is a powerful elements behind our actions.

So needless to say I have a long and involved relationship with what is now called Franklin Covey (FC). I really though we had a truthful relationship. I believed FC walked the talk. When I sold my company I was granted a public license through my foundation that allowed me to continue teaching at will. I worked hard to get the program in public and Catholic schools. I tried to show how these principles could be used to solve public policy issues in city governments and was involved with the effort to turn Kansas City into a “Principle Centered Community.” Oh, and I’d meet Dr. Covey several times.

Recently I found all this doesn’t matter anymore. I also am a writer and producer of feature films for cable TV and direct to video sales. I have learned that it is impossible to make a feature film then get it released through Stars or Lionsgate but I’ve done it 4 times. Not bragging just making the point no dream is too big.

My problem with FC and the 7 Habits is the science. Current science doesn’t support the concept of stimulus and response. It dawned on me that proactivity only exists in our minds. We can’t be proactive except in the realm of remembering to change The car oil, set the home alarm, buy insurance, etc. and that all still reeks of simple control. If you are in an emotional conflict with someone finding a place to interject proactivity can be impossible. Determinism can’t be blamed because it has been discredited too. If you get made when Bill comes around bragging about all the new accounts he’s brought in and you want to stand up and break his nose, that’s driven by neuro-wiring. When the neurons follow a time worn path to the same conclution it is because we can’t help it. To override that programing is like hacking into Nasa. You can do it but it isn’t easy and unless you understand system architecture the access to Nasa will be blocked forever.

Now that I have your attention I want you to take a deep breath, calm yourself and just think about it. Change the wiring you change the reaction. It isn’t “Be Proactive” it is “Take Initiative.” You must want to change (like a smoker) then retrain your brain to truly respond differently because the new wiring works that way!

What got me to thinking about this is how FC has treated me lately. I was doing fine and then approached by a FC employee. He said they didn’t have a facilitator in the Kansas City (mid-west) area. Would I like to do that? I said yes if I can solicit and present public programs. That was OK. Now, I’m humming along getting re-certified on both the new 1 day and 3 day workshops. Things have come a long way since 1994. I got info up on my website. I used FC verbiage so as not to misrepresent anything. My biggest stumbling block was cost to participants. The American Management Association (AMA) now runs all of the FC public workshops. All of the facilitator work for FC but the AMA administers the programs.

Needless to say I set up m website with FC stuff and sent out mailings and all and what I got for my money and time was a nasty letter from the FC legal department telling me to “cease and desists” any use of 7 Habits. Now I could teach but I could tell anyone I could.

To cut a long story short, when I finally talked to the regional manager of FC I used my Dr. GRAC to start working toward a synergistic solution and FC would even talk about going there. Sure they kept saying win/win as long as I lost and they won. So I finally went for the lose/win to get it over with.

I truly was aghast. FC couldn’t even use the material they sell with in their own organization. That is very sad.

Well, this all made me mad and when I get mad I like to channel my energy into something productive and positive that might hurt the company I’m dealing with.  So I did. I’m still deep into the study and research but after a serious survey of the 7 Habits compared to current scientific facts (and I’m reading scholarly publications and books, no pop culture junk, there are some gaping wholes in Dr. Covey’s ideas. These are flaws I saw a long time ago but just passed it off as people being upset when they are told they are responsible for their lives.

That’s about all I’m going to say about this for right now but I have assembled a team of professionals that are helping me because they desperately need to be able to explain neuroscience in a simple and direct way. We’ll get there and you will be amazed.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year


Why Learning is Important November 5, 2010

Posted by wooddickinson in Change, consulting, executive leadership, Systems Thinking.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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I have people ask me what I mean when I say Learning Organization.  Everyone feels like they learn every day but I ask you to stop and think about it. Does your organization allow teams to fail? Does your organization examine the actual systemic forces acting on it? Does your organization capture information useful across team lines and store it and share it in a truly useful way?

Usually the answer to these questions is no but why should I care what other teams are doing? If you haven’t noticed we are living in chaotic times. Jobs seem iffy, company survival is being tested to its fullest. If there ever was a period of uncertain times, chaotic change and second guessing going on I don’t know when its been. Not in my lifetime.

With the workforce of companies shrinking due to uncertainty employees are being asked to shoulder more responsibility which brings with it a greater chance at failure and ultimately unemployment. This is why you care about ALL the teams. We are in this together and I don’t mean just organizations in isolation. Wholesalers must talk to store owners who must talk with manufacturers so a complete picture can be gained and knee jerk reactions minimized.

The best way to do this is to delve into systems. Learn what is really going on. Look at what the principle stock is then what are the balancing feedback loops and what’s in the reinforcing feedback loops. You need to identify the driving variables so the shifting dominance in the system can be studied.

Dynamic systems research doesn’t predict the future it explores what might happen. This gives you valuable information that will affect decision-making. When all teams are working this way and you extend the systems out toward all companies that have an impact on your product or service then everyone learns what may be coming and can make better use of what little time we have to do the right things.

This sounds oh so difficult but it isn’t really. A systems thinker can look at a situation and from even a small amount of data make predictions of what might happen if the organization keeps to its current course without regard to the systems operating around it.

I saw a situation unfold in one North Face retail store that spoke volumes to me. From the limited information I had I predicted trouble was coming. I could tell they didn’t understand retail operations and were making choices based on personal loyalty regardless of what the store employees were telling the company. They completely failed at delving into systems having an impact on retail operations and I saw failure in their future with the closing of all retail outlets with in five years.

North Face makes a tremendous product but they need to leave selling it to outfitter and other retail operations that know what they are doing. The environment that has been created in their own retail stores is one which has pitted floor employees against management. No learning going on here. Check them out and see where North Face is a year from now.

Just think about it. We are all in this together. There’s enough competition without creating more with in the walls of your own company.

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