Sustainable Business Learning Community Conversations, Jan - Feb 2013

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February 21, 2013 Topic: Building a Team

Comments from our last discussion about Creativity:

  • Tunde: There is always room and capacity for creative thinkers, no matter where you are in your process.
  • Denny: A leader needs to encourage a culture of change in an organization and be open to new ideas. One of the objectives of a business should be to allow people to create and innovate.
  • Matt D: Be aware of opportunities that lend themselves to creative thinking. The group Anonymous hacked into the Burger King twitter account and they immediately got thousands of new followers. But BK didn't take that opportunity to do something creative with their account; they just went back to tweeting the usual stuff. Big missed opportunity.
  • Adrienne: She strives to be creative when she is working with creative thinkers - these are the kind of people who inspire her.
  • Denny: How do you measure whether a new or different idea is necessarily better? Is there a way to evaluate and measure?
  • Value of creativity is balanced by the effectiveness of what is working well right now.


What should you consider when building a team for your business?
What should you consider when building a team for your business?

Today's Topic: Building a Team

When you're managing a business or a project, you are responsible for hiring those people who have the skill sets to make your business successful. How do you do that?

Things to consider:

  • Who should be in that meeting? What decision do you need to make? Build a team around the decision that needs to be made, or the work that needs to be done.
  • What about the people who are not going to be full time? Should you view them as less important than the full time employees? No, you should spend just as much time identifying those people who will work with you part time or in an advisory role, because their work is equally important. Draw the circle wide enough to include these part time people. "It's always the 3rd bookkeeper that's the good one."
  • Hiring the right person is really difficult! Peter Drucker, father of the science of management, inventor of the concepts of "management by objectives" and the "knowledge worker." He observed that, if you're responsible for hiring a new employee, the chances of you hiring the right person for a job is about 30% (that is, if you're good at it). The biggest problem with management is that they don't admit that they've made a mistake and don't move on - they stick with people that aren't working well because they don't want to admit that they hired the wrong person Be prepared to fix the problem right away. Don't waste time on the wrong employee. This might explain why so many organizations go with family and friends, because they feel they know them so well. (Cory)
  • You might be great at leading a team, but what if you're not good at picking people (recognizing real talent in a specific area)? Be sure to have a capable talent scout to help you build teams. People who are good at this know deep talent - it's rather intuitive.

Adrienne says that, in thinking of the people she chose to help her develop her retail pet business model, she chose not only pet owners and lovers, but people she respects who think very differently from her. She feels she'll get a wider diversity of ideas this way. She wants to work with people who have critical thinking skills and puts groups together based on personality, motivation, and diverse skills.

More things to consider:

  • What skill sets are needed to do the job?
  • What are your team members going to need to know when they get there?
  • What will you be able to teach them?
  • How much time do you really have available to train and teach team members?
  • Motivation and interest are important. There are many skills one can learn if properly motivated. But if a team member doesn't have an innate ability to perform a certain task, they may be able to learn the "workarounds" and techniques to adapt.
  • However, if you are going to attempt to teach someone a certain skill, you have to have a good understanding of how different people learn. That can be tricky - the human brain is very complex!
  • Clearly, the person you hire is going to have to have the basic skills necessary to do the job: you wouldn't ask someone who is not trained as an engineer to design a bridge, for example.
  • If you have a weakness in a certain area, by all means augment your team with a person(s) who is good in that area, but the majority of your team should be formed around the job or goals you are working to accomplish. It's about the work that needs to be done - filling in for your weak areas is secondary.
  • Having a positive relationship with someone can help you to work with them better, even if the fit isn't perfect. If you get along well and can communicate well, working out glitches is easier.

It can be tricky bringing together a group of subcontracted employees to do a job because each business has its own culture, but they must all come together in a way that allows you to run your business effectively.

  • Can you transfer your culture and values to those other businesses (answer: probably not)?
  • Ask yourself: Do we share vision, values?
  • What is our size relative to the size of the company I am partnering with?
  • How can I build relationships within the other organization so that I can more easily get work done?

Interviewing skills:

  • How do you develop the kind of skills necessary to evaluate a persons skills accurately in a short amount of time? More companies are starting to do trial periods when hiring new employees. It allows you to evaluate them live, in a working environment for a month or so. That way you know what they are really capable of doing.
  • With a prospective employee, share your vision with that person and then have that person respond. Do they share your values/vision? Do they understand the nature of your business? If your business is of a different type or model, does that person fit?
  • What does your first intuition about someone tell you? For some people, intuition plays a larger role than for others.

Create a"lineage of knowledge", a body of information about the job that can be passed on to the next person, if you have to turn over the job to someone else.

Costco vs. Walmart: in building a team, ethics matter.

February 14, 2013 Topic: Workplace Environment & Culture

Notes on last week's conversation on Creativity:

Inspiration and creativity: Where do ideas come from? Having an environment where there are interesting things to inspire.

Collaboration: One person can have an idea and others will help to complete that idea. We have a false model of creative people working alone to develop their ideas when, in reality, they are collaborating with others.

Absence of creativity may be due to fear: fear of taking a risk, fear of failure, etc. Try to put your insecurities aside so you can let the "creative juices" flow.

Conformity and systemization is the antithesis of variety in invention. How do you balance the need for consistent product and delivery and still have room for creativity?

Writers and structure: Writers are often very disciplined with their time and routine. This allows them space for creative thinking. We need structure in life, but where do you implement it?

Recognize your routine - know what works for you in your everyday habits and routine so that you know what works best for you to allow you to be creative.

Creativity can also be related to your physical state. The "outside the box" test by Suntae (waiting for link to information on this)- test subjects outside the box were the most creative.


What is your role in creating a workplace culture?
What is your role in creating a workplace culture?


Topic today: Work Environment: What is your leadership role in creating your organization's culture and work environment? How do you create a work environment/culture that will lead to a successful business?


The Culture of an Organization: Tom's story Tom was talking to a contractor who was employed in the deconstruction of a building. He was working on one of the upper floors and was jackhammering a concrete floor that was, strangely, very soft. So he put a pan of water down on the floor and watched the water while they were driving a bobcat around. In a stable structure, the water would bounce up and down, but in this case the water was swirling around indicating an instability in the structure of the building. He brought this to the attention of the general contractor who basically told him to "shut up and get the job done." The capacity to handle bad news is a signal of the emotional maturity of an organization. Knowing how an organization deals with problems, glitches, crises can give you a good understanding of the culture of that organization. If the culture is creative, you should be able to tap into the creative force of your group and problem solve more quickly and efficiently. Bad news early is bad news, bad news late is bad news.

Panic is bad: When something goes wrong, try to contain your stress or panic. It's contagious and doesn't do any good or help you to problem solve. No one makes good decisions when panicked or distressed. Also, empower your employees to try to solve problems before they come to you. A good leader will have confidence in the rest of his team.

There needs to be a sense of safety within an organization so that your team members feel free to come up with solutions when problems arise.

In almost everything, there's a time for creativity, then as time passes and you're moving toward outcome or result, your range of scale of creativity shrinks. But the importance of creativity at the beginning or the end of a project doesn't have to be different in value, perhaps just in scope. As a leader you should be able to identify the range in which creativity can occur. For example, there may be creativity in terms of process, but not in outcome.

Role of leaders:

  • The leader is the person who has the most impact on the culture of an organization.
  • Each leader has a strengths and a weaknesses, and it's good to recognize that. If there's a need for vision, you won't have the energy to cover both vision and details, so you get someone to do the details for you.
  • An effective leader will build a team of people who have the skills to do the work that needs to be done (that is, a leader won't look at his own areas of weakness and just fill his team with people who can cover those areas).
  • While developing a business, a leader knows what they should be spending their time on (regardless of what they're good at) - the tasks necessary to build a healthy business.
  • Recognize that you will need to rely on your team - you simply can't be involved in everything: details, customer relationships, HR, etc.
  • As a leader, be thoughtful of the process and steer the boat, even if you're not the guy who's going to do all the work.

February 7, 2013 Topic: Creativity

The party consisted of BBQ, salad and cake, of course!
The party consisted of BBQ, salad and cake, of course!

Happy Birthday to the Sustainable Business Learning Community, celebrating one year of sharing and conversation! Our sincerest thanks to everyone who has participated!

  • Businesses have gotten away from inserting creativity into their processes - We need to move back to that.
  • We do things in business and politics because we've always done it that way, but times have changed. Why do we have to do things the same way today? Be creative - open to possibilities.
  • Role storming vs. brain storming: you take on a character and have to present your ideas in the voice of that character.
  • When you try to implement something new, many people will put up walls and not even want to hear it. Creativity can be stifled. What about having some fun with it?
  • Purple Cow, by Seth Godin. A book about making your product or service remarkable from the beginning. It takes a lot of creative energy to accomplish this.

  • Southwest Airlines: In order to encourage people who fly with them to dress better, they implemented a policy that the best dressed person on each flight would win a free ticket. Example of thinking outside of the box - having fun with their customers.
  • Read journals from a variety of industries and study them a bit for the germ of a new idea. McDonald's, and the fast food industry as a whole, is the product of Henry Ford's idea of the assembly line. The idea of applying Ford's low cost mass production methods to food is not revolutionary, but evolutionary. A creative adaptation.
  • Creativity = simplicity. Sometimes creativity is just looking at a problem and being able to see that simple thing that no one else saw before. Some creative ideas seem so obvious to others once you come up with it. Then taking a great idea and applying it to some other product or industry.
  • You, as a leader, should try to define the space and time for creativity to occur within your business. From a leadership standpoint, this is where ideas can be shut down because no time was ever allotted to cultivating new ideas and creative thinking. We need time, space, and a span of creativity. Efficiencies, refinement. Clearly define the space that you are allotting for creative thinking, and where the limits are for that as well.
  • All creative thinking isn't necessarily good or helpful, but you want to incorporate a positive environment that encourages creative ideas (within reason). All ideas can be looked at, but only a select few will be implemented.
  • Surround yourself with creative thinkers, both within your business and among your customers!
  • Sara Davis: As a writer, she needs to structure her time (that is, not be creative with her time) in order to allow for creativity to flow in her writing.

January 31, 2013 Topic: Perseverance

Comments from last week's discussion on Evaluating Goals:

  • If you push to achieve a goal before you are ready to, it can cause you problems and cost you money. Let things evolve more naturally; take a step back and think about what you are doing and whether or not you are ready to move forward.
  • Are you chasing dollars but not chasing your goals? Are you allowing money to drive your decisions rather than following your original goals/objectives? Try to find a balance between decisions that are driven by money and those that are aligned with your business philosophy.
  • You have to be clear with the overall direction (values - "heading north") of your business before you can be specific with any particular goal. Be sure to know where you're headed first.
  • Process-related goals vs. outcome related goals: Get back to processes that work and shorter term goals that are process-related that form the foundation from which larger things can come about. Set goals that are small steps that move you in the right direction. Goal setting can be helpful - but it's better to focus on actions that are process-related rather than outcome-related.
  • A goal that you set should become a criteria for your decision making process.


Today's Topic: Perseverance

How do we harness perseverance so that it is a positive thing? At what point does it become a negative thing?

Tunde's story: Tunde and his brother opened a grocery store. The store was losing money and Tunde wanted to close it and move on to something else. His brother, who he describes as having a "ninja grip," wanted to stick it out and make the grocery business work. Tunde saw the effect this level of perseverance had on his brother as he was becoming stressed. Tunde wonders, where is the balance between sticking it out and letting go, being more flexible? How do you know what is the right thing to do? He feels that if you have a broader, less specific goal, it is more easily reached because it can be adapted to changing circumstances.

Being competitive is a huge motivator in perseverance.


Thoughts on perseverance:

  • Drive or energy to move forward with a vision. Have to recognize that there are many ways to get to a vision. Open yourself up to other possibilities that are out there rather than focusing on that "one track" that you're stuck in and that's not working for you.
  • You have to be able to adapt because there are variables that you don't even know exist that you need to account for.
  • You must have realistic appreciation of your chances for success. Just because Henry Ford founded 3 companies and went bankrupt before he started Ford Motor, doesn't mean that the same will happen for you.
  • Perseverance is not giving up on your original goal/idea/aspiration even though you will go through many downs, pitfalls. You may experience problems but you shouldn't give up on your original goal.
  • Ego and being viewed as having made a bad decision are often factors in perseverance. People don't want to be seen as a failure. Also some people don't want to give up because they just feel that they are "right" and that it doesn't matter if the whole thing goes off the cliff because being "right" is all that matters. Ego can be a big problem. Ask yourself - am I persevering to be right or am I persevering to achieve that larger goal?
  • We are given models to emulate (titans of industry): Henry Ford was a successful business man, but failed family man. What are you really trying to achieve? Is success just in business and money? What about your relationships? We have many examples of very successful business people who were failures in their relationships. What role do you want to play? Self-awareness is key: know what is important to you.
  • Do you have a good understanding of the relationship between your personal goals and your business goals? Is your goal to be rich? be a revolutionary? to be something completely new? What role do you want to fill? What you decide your goals are will drive what decisions you make for your business.
  • When is it time to give up? When what you're doing isn't moving you in the direction you established for your business and is not in line with your values. If persevering will sync with your values and move you toward your goal, then keep trying. Otherwise, move in another direction.
  • We often see in people glorified in films who persevere against all odds, but how close to reality is that? There are many smart, talented people who try their entire lives to achieve a goal and never attain success because of many factors beyond their control; they may be in the wrong place, it might not be the right time, or perhaps they don't have access to the necessary resources.
  • Recognize what your values are. Are you willing to put in the 10,000 hours (see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell)? Can you afford to? What are you willing to do or sacrifice?
  • Sometimes the decision of whether or not to persevere toward a goal is not that obvious. Just because you don't finish one thing doesn't mean that you have failed. You might have made a decision not to persevere in one area, but that decision could lead you in another direction that is ultimately better for you. These are learning experiences, not necessarily negative. Your mind tells you that you have spent so much time, money and energy in pursuing a goal that it would be wrong somehow to give it up.
  • Perseverance is connected to failure: you can only persevere if you fail first. Take in the failure, learn from it and make something else happen.
  • Our culture teaches that to persevere is good, that you should move forward - but is it always? The Japanese have no problem going backwards in order to go forward. Forward doesn't always have to be the direction you move. Perseverance can sometimes be in a form that you don't recognize or think of.
  • Success doesn't exist in a vacuum: An individual may fail, but, in doing so, may lay the groundwork for future generations to persevere.
  • Nurture relationships with people who think differently than you, but who know and support you. They can help you to work out what you're trying to do. They can give you valuable feedback and allow you to escape your own little world.

January 24, 2013 Topic: Evaluating Goals

Comments from last week's discussion on Intuition vs. Logic in Decision-Making:

When you have to make a decision at a rough period, rely on your support group and your inner self.

Decisions are rarely just one decision. Ask: How much of this decision has to be made right now, how much can be decided later? What's the smallest decision I can make right now and what can I move to later?

Even when things are going well, make sure to not be overconfident to the point where you don't think things through and then make a bad decision. Note to self: Things are never as bad as they seem to be, nor are they ever as good as they seem to be.

When you make a mistake or a bad decision, recognize that you've messed and don't make more bad decisions to overcompensate for it.

When all your options are bad, try to choose the least bad outcome you can tolerate.

A lot a preparation (repetition or practice) in advance can help you to make better decisions. Like doctors, for example - They have to be very well prepared and sometimes a bit disconnected in order to do their job well and make the proper decisions during difficult circumstances.

The necessity of errors: Errors are an essential part of growing and improving. Recognize the opportunity that errors present to you for learning and growth.

Evaluate your thought processes immediately preceding a bad decision that was made. If you can recognize these early thoughts that led to bad choices, you might be able to avoid them. These same kind of processes exist in business - we just go along with how things are done without really thinking about what we're doing and whether or not it is the right thing to do.

Should nothing really be not negotiable? In any situation, opposites exist and they can both be true. Some things truly are not negotiable (i.e., no smoking in the GG). Other things should be negotiable. If everything were not negotiable, that's a bad thing, and if everything WERE negotiable, that's also a bad thing. You have to find a balance. Even in nature, there are limits - if its warm in March and freezes in April, you can't have cherries in July. You operate within a system and you always have a choice, but every choice has its own consequences.


How do you know which goals for your business are really meaningful?
How do you know which goals for your business are really meaningful?

Topic Today: Evaluating Goals/Objectives for Your Business

How do we go about setting goals for our business? Sometimes goal-setting can be an intuitive process, but how do you set goals for something or in an area that is not intuitive for you? How do you know what might be a real and meaningful goal, and what is just a passing whim? What methods or processes do we use for setting goals?

Cory: Keep your goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).

What about goals that you will never reach, but you will always strive to attain? Can you still call them goals or is it more accurate to call them a value or aspiration instead?

Ask your clients what they want from your business. Two-way communication with your customers/clients should be part of the decision-making process for your business.

Who is impacted by your goals? You can set up your own personal goal, but does that effect the group? Is your goal related to all activities or just some of the activities? Is setting a goal the most important thing that you are doing? You can go through a goal-setting process, but it can be messy if you don't really understanding the implications of what you are doing.

Every business has 2 sides: you have to serve your customers well, but also have to serve yourself well. If your business doesn't provide you with what you need, you could end up hating your business. You have to really find that balance between customer and self.

Tom's lesson: Your business goals have to be tied to the strategy of the company. But first:

  • Determine what you're measuring and what significance this has to the company.
  • Mature processes: The decisions you make and the work that you do must sit on processes that are mature. If processes aren't balanced, you will overcorrect (tilt) and you'll just keep making mistakes. So focus on the processes and get those under control before you even begin to set goals. If you don't, you will not only destroy your business, but you'll destroy the people working for you because they will be trying to do something that the processes aren't set up to do.
  • Then, capture the actual. If you don't do that, then you are analyzing incorrect information.
  • Learning/continuous improvement - You need a learning process in place that allows you to improve continuously, refining tasks, skills, goals, and lets you achieve a new level of learning.

When you're starting out, your initial goal we could call an aspiration. You don't put any measurement on it because you haven't even designed your processes yet. Your aspiration gives you direction without being specific (as is a goal) - kind of like the "heading north to sustainability" aspiration for the GG. If you have an immature process and you force people to meet a goal, they WILL fudge the numbers so that it appears that they have met their goals. But then, of course, none of this will be real.

When do you accept that a goal you've set is unattainable and move on? In goals, sometimes our ego can get in the way. How do you know when to leave it alone and when to persist?

When do we examine the value or validity of the goal itself?

  • You might start to sense (intuition) that things aren't going as well as you'd like.
  • Realize that goals are a man-made construct, not something that's naturally occurring.
  • Immerse yourself as closely as you can in the reality of the thing - listen, observe. See whether the goal that you've set is connected in any way with what is really happening. Examine your goals and ask yourself, do they really matter?
  • Are the goals that you set a result of your operating out of fear and anxiety? Are putting up a wall that is keeping you from achieving what you truly want?

Perseverance: There's a trade off in persevering, because if you take the time to persevere in the pursuit of a particular goal or objective, you might be losing time in which you could do something more interesting or valuable to you. Is this the right moment to do be investing this kind of time? When does perseverance turn into stubbornness?

January 17, 2013 Topic: Decision Making: Logical Process vs. Intuition

Comments from last week's conversation on Dissent:

  • Change is often a trigger for friction or dissent. Be aware that some people embrace change while others find it difficult to deal with, especially if they don't understand what the change means or how it will affect them. You will have to work through these dissenting opinions if you mean to effect change in your organization.
  • Some of us are afraid to implement change because we don't like to upset others.
  • Dissenters need respect and a place at the table.
  • Seek out dissent. Be proactive, encouraging differing perspectives.
  • It can be the role of a facilitator to bring to a discussion the positive value of dissent.
  • Dissent can be connected to cultural bias; because things are the way they are, we seem to agree that this is the way things ought to be, but right and wrong can be fluid depending the culture you are coming out of. Change is uncomfortable sometimes - challenge yourself to look outside your comfort zone.
  • Ability to listen is so important; it's good to be quiet and really hear what the other person is saying.
  • Bring dissent back to the workplace. Few people are right all the time, so dissent is crucial in order to have a truly broad perspective, and should be encouraged. An office should be a community. Having an environment where dissent is encouraged allows visionaries to float some ideas and bounce them off of their co-workers.
  • It's important to have people whose opinions you can rely on.


When you make a decision, do you trust your head or your heart... or both?
When you make a decision, do you trust your head or your heart... or both?

Topic today: Decision Making - Intuition vs Cognitive or Logical Process

Questions: How do you decide which path you want to take? How do you tell the difference between which thoughts are just thoughts, and which are real and valid ideas? How do you balance logical analysis with intuition?

  • Intuition: A bad decision can be revealed intuitively - you just feel that it isn't the right thing to do. Verbalizing it might just be enough to clarify your opinion on a direction you are considering.
  • Some of us need a lot of time to make a decision. But what if you don't have a lot of time? Stay true to yourself - know yourself so if you make a decision, you have a foundation from which to work.
  • When logic tells you one thing but your feelings tell you something else, what do you do? Go back to the essence of yourself or your work. Ask yourself, does this choice for my business actualize my personal goals, the seed of the idea for my business?
  • Tilt (poker term): Make sure that you don't take actions when you are in "tilt" mode (frustrated, angry), actions that overcompensate for problems you might have in your business. They will probably be the wrong decisions. Learn to recognize this state of mind and avoid making decisions when you're in the middle of it.
  • How much of good decision making is because you're in a good mental place? How do people make a habit of making good decisions? How does it become easy?
  • Don't play out scenarios - they clog your brain with meaningless stuff and are unhelpful.
  • Limit the number of decisions you make in a day. The fewer decisions you have to make in a day, the better quality of decisions you will make. Put the decisions in front of you that you want to make, not the ones you hate to make and eliminate those decisions that are really trivial. Save some mind space - clear your brain a bit :)
  • Look at decision making as a process rather than a one time right/wrong thing.
  • Recognize which decisions are important vs. not important. You can get clouded in immaterial choices or decisions. How do you tell the difference? If you know yourself and know the path your on, telling the difference will be easier. Choose where you want to fill up your mental real estate and let the rest go.
  • Practice making decisions so that you can better recognize how you make decisions, what works for you and what doesn't. That strengthens the value of the decisions that you do make. Indecision is a decision.
  • Ideas - seeds - should come from love/passion/real needs - keep reflecting back on that. Be sure to identify what you DON"T want to do.
  • When you're told something is non-negociable flags should go up. You made a wrong turn somewhere.
  • How do you know when you're ready to make a decision?
    • Sometimes you're forced to make a decision (you're let go, have to find a new job).
    • If you've set a goal, then the decisions fall into place and will feel right.
    • Remember that all decisions, good or bad, are just part of the journey. If you've made a decision that didn't work out well, recognize it and learn from it.
    • You're ready to make a decision when you are ready to accept the consequences of it, when you're at peace with it.
  • Look inward: Our tendency is to look outside ourselves when we're trying to make decisions, rather than looking inward. What do other people do? What will other people think?

January 10, 2013 Topic: The Language of Dissent

Comments from last week's conversation on New Year's Resolutions:

  • Recognize your skills and what you do well; make sure that you're using those assets fully.
  • We have a natural energy that is already in motion and will evolve in its own time. Are we superimposing a "plan" or "vision" over that natural energy that doesn't sync well with it?
  • Having too many "shoulds" in your vocabulary when talking about a business isn't helpful. It imposes too much expectation, obligation, guilt. "Should" almost implies a moral imperative, when what you often mean is that you would "like" to do something, but it isn't an imperative. Change "should" to "could." "Could" can more easily translate into "I will" or "I can."
  • Evaluating our progress: When we judge our own progress we can often be negative and harsh. We are creating something beautiful, but then apply analysis, evaluation, judgement with negative effect. How do we balance finding a way to make our idea better without destroying the beauty of the initial concept? Instead of trying to critique a situation, you want to think about a problem and say, "I recognize that this is a problem, but what does this mean?"


What is the value of dissent in an organization?
What is the value of dissent in an organization?


Today's topic: The Language of Dissent

How do you create an environment where dissenting views are encouraged and welcome? How can dissent be institutionalized in an organization? Does your business create opportunities for dissension?

  • It's imperative that we have an openness in the sustainability discussion to dissenting opinions. Sometimes a dissenting opinion could simply be a difference in priorities - "This is more important right now than that."
  • What's the difference between dissenting views and defiance? Is defiance the voice of dissent that is not heard?
  • The word "dissent" can have negative connotations. Is it OK to ask for dissent? Or, is it better to say something like, "Do you have any concerns about this? Any alternatives?" An "alternative" can exist side by side in a non-hierarchical way with the main plan and not contain any negative meaning.
  • We exist in a culture full of competing ideas and those ideas that come out on top are the ones that are then considered "right." But in many cases, there aren't always rights or wrongs, just different cultural values. Are we open to these differences?
  • Is there something at work that you don't like or you disagrees with but you don't know how to resolve? It is a fallacy that you can't criticize something if you don't have a solution. You have to be able to talk about things that you don't agree with, even if you don't know how to fix them. Otherwise, there won't be many avenues to open discussion for alternative thinking or ideas.
  • What happens when there's somebody in the group that hasn't moved past dissension and the only voice in their head is a voice of dissent? How can you meet them where they are, without bringing in any negative language, and help them move beyond dissension?
    • Language matters. The more we limit our vocabulary, the more we limit our honesty. How can we be honest and express our dissent using the "right words" without being hurtful or insulting?
    • Let the other person use the language they need to use so you can understand them and their point of view (can walk in their shoes a bit) - that's them being more honestly themselves - you can better understand them if they're being more honest about who they are.
    • Recognize that language is very powerful.



January 3, 2013 Topic: New Year's Resolutions

Ok, sometimes it's hard to admit that there's room for improvement...
Ok, sometimes it's hard to admit that there's room for improvement...

Topic: New Year's Resolutions for our Sustainable Businesses

Several members of our Sustainable Business Community share below their resolutions for 2013 relating to their work in bringing sustainable businesses to Detroit.


  • Stay focused, but don't expect to get things done sooner than they can be done.
  • Be thankful: Be appreciative of the support of others, those who have helped you, have worked with you, have talked to you. Be aware of what is already around you, rather than focusing on what is not there. Be present in thankfulness.
  • Be comfortable with your pace of learning - don't expect to know everything right now. Understand that there is no expiration date to learning. You will continue to learn throughout your life - embrace it!
  • Spend time thinking about things before you act. It's better to do nothing than to do something you haven't thought through. "You gotta go slow to go fast."
  • Spend energy problem-solving rather than "Pivoting." Learn to recognize when to problem-solve (stick to your goal and work through problems) vs. when to pivot (recognize that your goal cannot be achieved and you need to rethink your path).

Inspired by the book The Future of the Past, here are some of Tom's thoughts:

    • Become more aware of what the changing spirit will be for Detroit and try to find his place in it and understand what his contribution can be. There are so many threads to this spirit that need to be understood, social change, history, etc.
    • Balance: In his present study of ecology, Tom has learned that more of a good thing isn't necessarily better. There needs to be a proper recipe, a proper balance in order to find the best result. As the city is undergoing a profound change and he is finding himself in the middle of it all, he is trying to find the natural "chemistry", the biology of this changing spirit and where he fits in. Quote from Tunde's mom: Just because you are rich doesn't mean you should pour a lot of salt into your soup. (More salt is not a good thing - there has to be a balance)
    • Recommended: Detroit City is the Place to Be: At the end of the book, the author expresses a hopefulness about the future of the city.
    • Recognize that it's ok if we are NOT really seeing the changing spirit of Detroit very clearly right now. As with most things, we will probably understand it better in hindsight. Example: The Alley; Tom didn't realize how deeply individuals would be affected by changing the alley.
    • Look back and remember to be thankful.
  • Michael: Wants to evolve in his role as a leader. He's in the process of developing a model to use story-telling as a means to advance social justice. In doing this, he wants to create a space for creative people to do really good work without his having to be involved in every detail.
    • Why is this important?
  1. He wants to gain experience in a new kind of role.
  2. Wants to create something that will be self-sustaining
  3. Wants to challenge his tendency to want to control everything and allow himself to give over control to others.

For those of our group who do research writing:

  • Be mindful in the present of how their work will impact people in the future. Are you writing a paper for peer-reviewed academia or are you writing it to make an impact on people in the future?
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