Wrestler with a black eye

Jordan “Heartless Hart” initiates into manhood.

“I’m going to try my first cage fight—it’s MMA, mixed martial arts,” my 21-year-old college son said to me over the telephone.  “I know you won’t like it, but I thought you should know.”

I grabbed my gut and doubled over, like I’d been kicked in the stomach.  I recovered just in time to offer my son a weak response, a whisper.  “Thanks for telling me your truth,” I said, tears stinging my eyes, and quickly hit the “end” button on my iPhone.

The relationship I share with my two grown children has always been based on telling the truth, regardless of how painful the words might be.  It’s an explicit agreement I made with them when they began to walk, as toddlers.

“Tell mommy the truth, don’t worry if I won’t like it.  I will never punish you, okay?”

But this—cage fighting?  Brain damage.  Broken teeth.  Ruptured spleen. Dislocated shoulder.  Shattered tibia. Should I go on about potential injury?  For now, I’ll stop.

What does this personal story have to do with the business world?  Let me explain the similarities.  My son is entering the world of cage fighting as an initiate into manhood, a time-honored rite of passage which is present in all cultures, even the good ‘ole U.S.A.    He is transitioning from an immature adolescent into a man—even if his means seem maniacal—it’s still a rite of passage.

As business owners, or managers, we also we must ask ourselves the same question, what is the initiation rite we must fulfill to manage a mature business? The answer varies for every owner or manager, but ultimately it’s about returning profits to the community and making your mark on the world by this contribution.

The immature business is in survival mode—borrowing money to make payroll, struggling with market share, unclear about purpose. The mark of a mature business owner or manager is when your company has enough cash flow to satisfy your own requirements and recognize that what’s left over will benefit others and so you set aside this extra money to support your community.

Some points to ponder: Is my business mature or immature?  Have I initiated the rite of passage to become a mature business owner or manager, or am I stuck in perpetual adolescence?

If you’d like help sorting this out, I can support your process.  Just don’t expect me to watch you cage-fight, I’ll leave that to my son “Heartless Hart.”

Four Stages of Innovation

October 19, 2012

Man flies airplane while group looks on

The only constant is change — Blu Bubble offers innovation strategies for their clients.

I admit it, I like change.   As long as it’s part of a structured process that I can understand, then I’m comfortable taking a gamble on a new way of doing things.  Some people lack this adaptability gene and are ruled by fear and anxiety. There’s a fancy word in the business world for change: innovation.Last night I attended a Women in Consulting meeting in Menlo Park and briefly met the founder of Blu Bubble, a firm whose specialty is innovation.  Although we didn’t talk for long, I was curious about her company, so I visited their website.  What captured my interest was a candid picture of a group doing something creative—I could tell because the people were smiling and having fun.   The focal point of the image was a man holding a make-shift airplane above his head, ready to launch it.  The look of confidence on his face, combined with the hand on hip power position was empowering and triumphant—Blu Bubble must be doing something right for that cognitive and emotional response to shine through in the photograph.

As we all know, the only constant is change or in business-speak: innovation.  To prepare you and your company to remain in this gentle mystery of life, here are the four stages of innovation as seen through the eyes of nineteenth-century mathematician Jules-Henri Poincare:

  1. Preparation: immersing ourselves in the problem, gathering a broad range of data
  2. Incubation: placing the possibilities on the mental back burner—a time for daydreaming
  3. Illumination: thrilling in the “aha” moment when the insight emerges
  4. Execution: following through with the action, bringing the change into fruition

mending a broken heart  As a graduate student at Holy Names University in Oakland, I’ve been part of many wisdom circles.  One of the most intense circles was this weekend when our course of study was restorative justice which supports victims in taking an active role in the healing process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing.

Ericka Huggins told us her restorative justice story and how it supported her healing and that of the offender.  In 1969, her husband was gunned down at the age of 21 at UCLA Campbell Hall.  He left behind their three-week old infant.  “I wanted to throw myself into the casket with my husband, I was so grief stricken,” said Huggins.

After many years, she began a correspondence with the man responsible for her husband’s death and eventually, they met in San Quentin State Prison with a facilitator and entered into a victim/offender dialogue.  Huggins said she wanted to understand what it was like at the scene of the crime and the offender was able to offer her this closure.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then waiting for your enemy to die,” someone said in the wisdom circle in response to Huggins’ heart-wrenching story of forgiveness.

How does this story apply to the world of business?  Perhaps one way is by offering a new method to structure conflict resolution—restorative justice.   If there are some unresolved hurts that are causing your organization to suffer, it’s time to bring both parties into the room and allow them to air out their grievances.  Thomas Berry, cultural historian and ecotheologian said it best, “we must reinvent what it means to be human.”  As the paradigm shifts away from the traditional workplace, something new and fresh must replace it.  I can help your organization by facilitating this process of restorative justice.

  What’s the difference between change and transformation?  As Mark Twain said: “it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”  At the core of it, change is directed by the ego and transformation is led by the psyche, a deeper intuitive wisdom.  Recently I published a story at Open Exchange–a San Francisco Bay Area magazine with a 300,000-plus circulation.  I paid $189 for an advertisement and also for them to publish my story on transformation as part of my outreach strategy.  In summary, here are the three steps:

  1. Remain Present For The Experience
  2. Seek And Accept Support
  3. Recognize That Experience Becomes Wisdom

My question for you is this:  Where are you in the process of transformation?  Can I support you through this transition?  I’d like to try.