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Getting Away from Group Think

When was the last time you had a team meeting with someone outside your usual circle of colleagues?

This is a question – and a challenge – laid down by Peter McDonald, a collaboration expert that I met with last week.

Peter works for a consultancy that focuses on helping people collaborate. And they go about it in a pretty radical manner.

One of the things they do is run workshops with people with different profiles, roles and jobs  (and often diametrically opposed perspectives). Many of their workshops involve going into charities and finding solutions to their most challenging business problems.

The results are fascinating. Given often really difficult and complex challenges to resolve, often the more diverse and potentially conflictive the group is, the more disruptive the thinking. And the more creative and interesting the ideas, suggestions and solutions are.

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Until Justice Rolls Down…On Martin Luther King Jr.

January 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm PST
civilrightsmem

Maya Lin, creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was commissioned to design the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Lin found her inspiration in the words “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” a paraphrase from the Book of Amos that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used in his “I Have a Dream” speech and at the start of the Montgomery bus boycott. Photo used with permission from this source.

It was a printer jam that made me realize the full power of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech.”  Growing up in the United States, I had studied Martin Luther King Jr’s  outsize impact on civil rights and American history.  That said, I had never heard the entire speech he gave in 1963  to 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Then, a few years ago, the printer at work jammed.  I pulled out the crumpled paper and power cycled it.  While I was waiting, I started reading the poster hanging in the hallway.  It was the full text of the “I Have A Dream” speech.  I was truly moved by the strength of the writing and the ideas it put forth.  I couldn’t believe that I had missed out on this powerful work for so long.  Kudos to people that put up guerilla art in offices!

Nancy Duarte does a great analysis of why the speech is so powerful.  I love her line about the speech “traversing back and forth between what is and what could be, and ending by describing what the new bliss of equality looks like.”

One of my favorite quotes from the speech is this: Read More »

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How Does Corporate Culture Impact a Company’s Success?

Culture exists in any organization, whether created through careful design and implementation, or through natural development as a company grows.

What exactly is “corporate culture”?

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Redefining Disability

This week the world celebrated the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

So let me ask you a question. What does disabled mean to you?

If you say the word aloud, what comes to your mind? Wheelchairs, white sticks and hearing aids, maybe. Go a little deeper and you might think of less visible disabilities – autism, learning difficulties. I’ve heard disability described as a “long-term impairment that makes it hard to accomplish daily tasks.” If you think about it this way, then conditions as varied as depression, asthma or eating disorders might be described as disabilities.

How many people do you know that might be considered disabled in this sense? My guess is that that number is much greater than you might initially have thought.

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My experience at the Grace Hopper Celebration 2012


My first encounter with Anita Borg Institute (ABI) was hearing Telle Whitney, the CEO of ABI; speak about the need to empower women in technology at the Cisco Women in Technology Forum (WITF). I was impressed by her talk and the years of research and work in this important area. When I was invited to attend the ‘Women of Vision’ Awards by ABI, I was thrilled to reap dual benefits of getting inspired and charged by the award recipients and their stories and at the same time doing my bit of being a role model for graduate students eager to join Cisco. Attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), this year held in Baltimore, MD, seemed like a natural course of action for me.

The theme for GHC this year was “Are we there yet?” a question that everyone should ask themselves whether for personal goals or a larger cause.. GHC did a wonderful job to address this theme and spread it across many seminars and talks. There were multiple sessions aligning different tracks like Industry, Security, Academia, Early Career and Social Collaboration, happening at the same time, so the GHC app on my smartphone came in very handy to pick out the sessions of my interest. The app also provided details on schedule, location and bios of the speakers.

Here are my key takeaways:

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