"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I donÕt know."
Mark Twain

Good morning and I hope your world is a beautiful as the weather is here in Vancouver this week.

It’s Pride Week in Vancouver. Like cities in the rest of Canada, Vancouver ranks as one of the most inclusive cities on the planet. 10's of thousands of people will line the streets in the West End on Sunday for the Pride Parade. And this week's festivities were ceremoniously opened by Mayor Gregor Robertson at City Hall on Monday. Politicians from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the city were on hand, all wanting to get pictures with each other!

Deep down, I see Pride Week as evidence of transformation. A transformation of a whole city. People point to various moments in the life of this amazing city as pivotal in our journey towards inclusiveness; the shameful  Komagata Maru incident 100 years ago this year when a ship full of Sikh men was refused entry to the port after a perilous journey from India, the internment of Japanese families during the 2nd World War, the ‘hippies’ camped at Coal Harbour, the AIDS crisis, EXPO '86, and even more recently, the 2010 Winter Olympics.

I suggest a different metaphor. We ‘wrestle’ with inclusiveness in our social and corporate lives. It is not because of a specific moment in history, rather it is a constant wrestling match between our selfish egos and the other. This week in Vancouver we celebrate the inclusion in our social networks, of our Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Two Spirit, Questioning sisters and brothers. And we now wrestle with how we might move to a broader and then healthier city that values everybody, regardless of their income or their mental or physical health. Or in organizations, how do we include the outside thinker, the person who does not want to go on the company picnic, or who challenges the status quo ideas? How do we open ourselves to including those who would have us change, would have us transform? We have come a long way, and the road is long.

In this month’s BC Business http://www.bcbusiness.ca/ in the “Visual Learning” section, there are some very funny lines about ‘Creating a Company Vision’. One really struck my eye; “Gather the oldest, whitest males from the company, put them in a boardroom and let the magic fly.” And I thought, ‘hmmm, I’m in my mid-fifties, I’m white, I facilitate these things, often with men who are older than me in board rooms. What is this saying to me?” Inclusiveness is difficult in the workplace. We may see and hear ideas that don’t make sense to us. We may get defensive (always dangerous). We may say, ‘well that may be fine in your happy little hipster world, but here in the real world…” We may say or do any number of things to edit the ideas into something we think is palatable. And we may be exactly right in doing or saying any one of these things. Or we could be completely wrong. Inclusiveness is vital for creativity and innovation. It is the way we learn, it is the way we grow, it is the way new possibilities emerge. It is through inclusiveness that we grow up.

Just like each and every one of us, as we face life's difficulties, and as this city has learned over the last 125 or so years, we grow, we change, we become different. Our selfish egos wrestle with ideas and possibilities in the other and become bigger, stronger more inclusive minds and hearts. May that growth  continue for each and every one of us.

I’ve been thinking and talking with people about change a lot recently.  And then my dear friend David J Smith, the author of “If the World Were a Village” and “This Child, Every Child” http://www.mapping.com/resources.shtml gave us an advance copy of his wonderful new book, “If; A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking and Big Ideas and Numbers” to be in book stores on August 1st. It is a wonderful book, I can highly recommend it.

The first page I opened to was one that said, “ If all the inventions and discoveries humans have made were laid out on a measuring tape 36 inches long….” So here are some of the items. Fire would be at one end, representing about 780,000 years ago. At about 18 inches, humans first build shelters. The bow and arrow is first used about 33 inches. The wheel, 35 ¾ inches.  David then notes, “In the last 1/10 in. come all the inventions in the past 2000 years, from the number zero, to paper and plastics, telephones, cars, computers and satellites.” 

What is both exciting and unnerving, is the next 20 years. The next tiny, tiny sliver of this measuring tape, will likely change our world (positively and negatively) as much as the last 2000. For example the first Blackberry Smart phone appeared 11 short years ago. The first iPhone was released in 2007 (and discontinued in 2008 when the iPhone 3G appeared) Might this new mobility be the Gutenberg printing press of our time? Certainly the financial services business is working very hard to keep up with a concept unheard of five years ago; mobile payments. Our technology systems are getting smaller and smaller, and will soon be more than handheld, they will be embedded into us; ‘google glasses become google contacts?!” We are already noticing that people born say after 1985 in the West, appear to think at least a little differently. Consider the difference for example between technology natives and technology immigrants. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/april-rudin/life-on-a-social-media-is_b_4600429.html.

 A few weeks ago, I wrote about exponential change, http://www.alisdairsmith.com/index.php/leadership-notes/260-change. I suggested there that there were three main practices to focus on for leaders at this time:
1. Keep learning. Assume that you too need to be growing your intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligence exponentially just to stay ahead of the curve.
2. Practice collaboration. In an increasingly connected world, the lone hero is increasingly irrelevant. You cannot do it all anymore.
3. Practice inclusivity. There will be huge opportunities to learn from other cultures, other philosophies and ideas in the coming decades. Just as there will be no more room for the lone hero, the idea of a single way, will becoming redundant. We will not be competitors but co-operators.

The one thing I’d like to add to this focus list this week, especially for the ‘Boomers’ who are ‘in charge’ now, get digitally connected. Yes face to face dialogue is important for us, and, (and this is a big and) the digital revolution itself is creating possibilities we have not yet begin to imagine. If you think the last 200 years has been crazy, welcome to the next 20!


I’ve been thinking about hope.  I have a good friend, a very gifted consultant, and one of the readers of Leadership Notes who famously said once, ‘hope is not a strategy.’ And she is right. If your corporate strategy involves hoping that the big employer comes to town, hoping that more customers will buy a certain product, or even on a personal level hoping that a lottery will look after your retirement, you’re likely in for a rude awakening.

That said, hope is in our DNA; it motivates, invigorates, pulls, pushes and cajoles. It inspires, comforts, and tickles us. And hope is entirely intrinsic; there is no pill, there is no button to press. The phrase “gives me/us hope” suggests it is a gift from someone or something, but it is entirely up to us to use or discard it.

And this raises the question, what is it for which we hope? We might hope that the attractive person at the next table notices us too. We might hope that our team wins the big game, or that we get a raise? Above all, we hope that our existence has some meaning, that our presence is valued and that we have made a difference.

The most effective leaders know this. The most effective leaders create environments where others find meaning, where other’s presence is valued and where others can make a difference.  Think about the teachers, the coaches, the managers you’ve had in your life; the best ones had confidence in you and your skills and abilities. They gave you hope and you then chose to build on it. One example from my career was Linda Archer asking me to go to a client site to teach a course on a subject I was only just learning myself. I remember standing between the two beds in the hotel room, the overhead transparencies (yes that long ago) spread out on one of the beds, as I rehearsed and prepared for the gig. She had confidence in me, she gave me hope and I haven’t looked back since. You can do that too. You can give hope to one of your team and make a difference for someone.

Thanks Linda, you made a difference for me and for many others.

May this week be one of giving and receiving hope for all of us.

I was reminded this morning of a great parable, usually attributed to one of the North American First Nations. I first came upon it in Olivia McIvor’s great book “Turning Compassion into Action”  http://store.fairwinds-press.com/do/ppa/30/Turning_Compassion_Into_Action_a_movement_towards_responsibility_by_Olivia_McIvor.html

The parable goes like this…

A grandfather says to his grandson, “I feel as though I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is angry and hurtful and the other wolf is loving and compassionate.”

The grandson thought for a moment and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight?”

The grandfather said quietly, “the one that I feed.”

There is a sense in some circles that the loving and compassionate wolf in each of us is the weaker one. People who are loving and compassionate are often portrayed in our stories as “nice” but not the one you count on in a fight. Or they are portrayed as martyred so that the angry and hurtful wolf can revenge them. My experience, and I note a growing body of evidence from places like Stanford, http://ccare.stanford.edu/tag/ccare/   that the loving and compassionate wolf is definitely the stronger and actually the one who makes a difference in organizations and communities. The key factor is that  love and compassion actually hold people accountable.  The compassionate wolf demands honesty, commitment and team work of herself and others. It is the angry and hurtful wolf in us that most often shies away from conflict and accountability (unless is can see a chance for swift and hurtful victory) and so that wolf has us take on work that others have left aside, or say they ‘can’t do’, or ‘don’t know’. And then the angry and hurtful wolf complains about how bad their team is. The loving and compassionate wolf knows how powerful learning and empowerment can be and holds his/her team to that learning and empowering ethic. In fact, the compassionate wolf in each of us can really make others uncomfortable in the moment. In the medium and longer term of course, that same wolf gives us and our team strength and courage.

May this week be one of feeding the loving and compassionate wolf in each of us.


A very Happy Canada Day to all of you, whether you live in Canada or not! This is a country filled with hope, optimism and a sense of inclusivity not found in other parts of the world. And so it was lovely to see the Christ the King statue in Rio lit like the Canadian flag yesterday during world cup! http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/in-canada-day-first-rios-christ-the-redeemer-statue-lit-up-like-your-flag/article19408620/

There is hope in this world.

My Canada Day weekend was also spent in part reading. I’ve been reading Ian Morris’s “Why the West Rules for Now” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9491855-why-the-west-rules-for-now . A giant historical review, Morris takes the reader in the end to some amazing extrapolations about the future. He talks of gigantic forces shaping human development; the relationships between biology, sociology and  geography. And within sociology, that is the how human development rises or falls, is technology.   Consider, he suggests, Moore’s Law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore's_law which states essentially that the computing power doubles and computing cost halves every two years.  There is an exponential growth in how we use technology in the last 50 years that is having an unprecedented impact on how we might operate as a species in the next 50. If these trends continue, by about 2030 (according to some) computing power will be able to host human minds. And by mid-century, “computers will be able to host all the minds in the world, effectively merging carbon and silicon based intelligence into a single global consciousness. This will be [what Ray Kurzweill calls] the Singularity.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Singularity_Is_Near

And what will leadership look like then?! What will the dominant voices be in that singularity based mind, assuming that is the direction we’re headed?!

Massive questions I know, but their size should not frighten us off them. They need to be explored. I offer three small places to start as leaders looking into the future:

1. Keep learning. Assume that you too need to be growing your intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligence exponentially just to stay ahead of the curve.
2. Practice collaboration. In an increasingly connected world, the lone hero is increasingly irrelevant. You cannot do it all anymore.
3. Practice inclusivity. There will be huge opportunities to learn from other cultures, other philosophies and ideas in the coming decades. Just as there will be no more room for the lone hero, the idea of a single way, will becoming redundant. We will not be competitors but cooperators.

I look forward to continuing this conversation, so send me a note with your thoughts and comments. I look forward to learning with you.

May this week be one of learning, collaboration and inclusivity for each of us.


One of the things that has struck me over the past week or so is hope. I have seen it, I have experienced it. Hope.

I learned of a lunch between an estranged father and son. I watched a leader quietly ask a young boy how he pronounced his name, and then returning to him a few moments later, pronouncing it as he had. I have sat with a young woman as she wrestles with mental illness and shows up every day.

I have seen hope and I trust that it is in us. It may not always be evident, but it is there. And I believe it is a fundamental role of leaders, in any sector, to articulate and inspire hope. “It may be difficult today, and there are new possibilities tomorrow.” “We may not be able to do ‘x’ now, but your ideas are great, keep them coming.” “Outstanding job, you’ve done great work here. You’re becoming a real master of this” And even simply listening, and giving someone the space to grow; “you’re the expert, let’s do it your way.”

It saddens me to see how much fear fills our minds and stories these days. Fear is a healthy response to a bad situation; it is absolutely dangerous if it becomes our daily experience. We cannot move, we panic, we aren’t able to use the thinking parts of our minds. So, step up to hope, it is what moves us all forward.

May this week be one of hope for each of us.