Learn 4 ways to be positive in the midst of a world gone mad from Tony Swartz (via Fast Company)

If there is anything this nasty, fear-driven, dispiriting political season has demonstrated, it’s that no politician—Democrat, Republican, or otherwise—has any compelling solutions to what ails us. Even as partisan a figure as Jeb Bush is suggesting voters are feeling “disgust with the political class.”

We live in a world that has grown increasingly complex and contradictory, angry and fearful, polarized but utterly interdependent.

How, then, to feel more control over our destiny amid so many daunting challenges and so few clear answers?

Here are four very personal behaviors to consider, offered in a spirit of hopefulness and humility:

1. Practice Realistic Optimism.

There is a powerful principle in psychology called “bad is stronger than good.” We’re quicker to notice threats to our well-being than we are to focus on what’s working well. …

2. Build More Bridges

In an era marked by fractiousness and extremes, what connects us rather than divides us? Where can we find common ground? Certainly, there are universal desires we all share: a safe and secure world, people we can love and who love us, a hopeful future for our children. …

3. Add Value Every Day

After three years of a recession that shows all too few signs of abating, it’s no surprise that people are feeling the full range of negative emotions from terror to rage. But to what end? …

4. Give Yourself a Break

The greater the performance demand, the greater the need for recovery. As the world speeds up, we need to keep a balance between doing and not doing. By building in a true renewal break at least every 90 minutes, you’ll feel better, think more clearly, be less reactive and ultimately you’ll get better, more considered results. …

Reprinted from TonySchwartz.com

Duh? Lego is the most popular toy ever made with Barbie making a strong showing among women (via Fast Company)

If you grew up thinking Lego was the bomb, better than any other toy in your collection, turns out you’re not alone: A new broad-ranging survey of over 3,000 folks has revealed it’s the most popular toy ever manufactured, even more so than Barbie, Game Boys and a dozen other pretenders.

Learn to tell your story …

We live out a stories about who we are, not a list of propositions. This may not seem obvious to some of us, but its true. Kaihan Krippendorff, one of Fast Company’s Expert Bloggers, noted the following in a post yesterday about the power of narratives:

When humans first started to communicate with each other, they did so by sharing stories. They kept their history and traditions alive by spinning a tale to connect a sequence of events. Because this has been going on for so long, there is something instinctive in our brains that makes us attuned to narratives and stories.

Stories are how we learn. As Iacoboni explains, “Early on in life we learn a lot of things through stories. As a child, you listen to your parents and teachers and you learn lessons from their stories about right and wrong. When you go to bed, you are told stories. There is something almost primal about our evolution and development that leads us back to listening to stories.”

So to be a great communicator, a person needs to understand the importance of using narratives. To get people excited about a new idea or thought, he or she needs to be a great storyteller.

I appreciate that Krippendorf left us with homework.

1. Does my company have a story? Where did we come from and how did we get here?
2. Can I craft my company narrative in a way that other people can relate to?
3. Can reliving my company narrative on a daily basis make my business stronger and more focused?

I got to get to my homework now, so why are you still reading?

Leadership Is Exercised in a Context

Norman Wolfe, over at Fast Company, commented today on a colleague’s blog about the context of leadership. His colleague, Paul Walker, looking on the current situation in the USA observed that our nation needs a giant team-building exercise. Wolfe counters that while the intent seems good, we need to pay attention to the context of our life together as a nation state. We exist in a system of checks and balances that create a different game than often happens in successful companies. The following fleshes out his point:

Our government was set up to achieve certain ends; it was designed primarily for control of power. Our three divisions, executive, legislative and judiciary were purposely designed to ensure no one function could gain complete control of our nation. Checks and Balances was the designing objective.

And as for organizations who “explore ideas to find the best way instead of playing win/lose games” I have to remind you that our whole society is based on the adversarial principle (a win/lose game). Our founding fathers recognized that we were unlikely to find A Solomon the Wise to discern the truth or the best solution so they set up our system based on the idea that the truth can best be is discovered by opposing views being voiced and through the “jury of one’s peers” truth would emerge. This is the basis of our legal system and it is also the foundation of our Two Party System. It was once said that the political extremes define the issues and the moderates pass the laws. We need a return of the moderates to act as “jury of one’s peers.”

The problem we have is not one of team building but organization design. We designed it to have opposing positions compete with the belief that the best solution would emerge from the conflict. We could of course redesign our system and create one that relied on the same principles of business. However business is governed as much by market forces as they are by leadership team dynamics.
Government was never designed to run efficiently, it was designed to control misuse of power and given that we are dealing with humans playing with immense powers, I am not sure I want to change the design.

As I read his post, I pondered the intricacies of most church structures and find myself asking “do we have clarity about what our decision making structures will produce? Do the rules of the game allow us to align ourselves with God’s kingdom purposes? Where can we learn (and unlearn) from business and government organizations?” More importantly to me, what questions am I not asking?