Sustainability Strategies: Why The Government, Private, And Nonprofit Sectors Should Work Together With Steve Schmida

Climate change and source depletion are two of the biggest issues we face as a society. These issues will force industries to fundamentally change in order to adapt sustainability strategies like reuse and repurpose. Dr. Diane Hamilton’s guest today is Steve Schmida, Chief Innovation Officer at Resonance and author of Partner with Purpose. In this episode, you’ll learn why the government, private, and nonprofit sectors should work together to solve big problems, such as climate change and source depletion. Steve explains how each organization has its unique strength to bring to the table. Tune in and discover how people can come together and solve problems.  

TTL 842 Steve Schmida | Sustainability Strategies


I’m glad you joined us because we have Steve Schmida. He is the¬†Founder and¬†Chief¬†Innovation¬†Officer at¬†Resonance.¬†He¬†is the author of¬†Partner¬†with Purpose.¬†It’s going to be a fascinating show. I’m¬†anxious¬†to hear about his new book.¬†

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Sustainability Strategies: Why The Government, Private, And Nonprofit Sectors Should Work Together With Steve Schmida 

I am here with Steve Schmida, who is the¬†Founder and¬†Chief¬†Innovation¬†Officer of¬†Resonance. An¬†awardwinning global development and corporate sustainability consulting firm where they have more than 100 consultants¬†and¬†offices in Vermont, Washington DC,¬†and Seattle. Their¬†clients include Microsoft, Unilever, PepsiCo, The Gates Foundation, US State Department, the World Bank, and many others. What‚Äôs interesting to me is he¬†got a¬†new book, he is the author of¬†Partner with Purpose. I’m happy to have you here,¬†Steve, welcome.¬†

Thank you, Diane. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.  

[bctt tweet=”To solve big problems, we have to work together at scale. ” via=”no”]

I was looking forward to this. It sounds like you have quite an interesting company. I also read your wife is the CEO. 

That’s correct. We are a husbandwife business team, which is probably¬†broadcast in its own right.¬†

Good for you because that would be hard. I’d have to be the CEO. You guys haven’t set up the way? I would have it set up because my husband is much better¬†at¬†innovation than I would be. That’s quite¬†an interesting background. To be¬†the chief innovation officer, you should¬†have a variety of experiences¬†to do that.¬†I want a little backstory on you.¬†

I was a Russian literature major in college,¬†so it was set up to be gainfully unemployed. In the early¬†1990s, the Soviet Union collapsed.¬†I had to intern for a congressman,¬†so suddenly,¬†I¬†was eligible to promote democracy in that part of the world. I was hired by¬†the¬†National Democratic Institute. It’s the international wing of the Democratic Party. For those readers, there is the¬†International Republican Institute¬†and the two¬†institutes¬†work together overseas.¬†I was sent to Kyrgyzstan, which was a new country at that time¬†and¬†had barely been in existence for more than a couple¬†of¬†years, to promote democracy. That‘s where I met my wife,¬†Nazgul. I later went on to work in Kazakhstan for¬†a number¬†of¬†years for an American foundation called the¬†Eurasia¬†Foundation, and then went on to Russia for another period.¬†I was in the region for a total of eight years, it was¬†an¬†incredibly fascinating time.¬†Watching a society go from a command economy to a market economy was pretty amazing.¬†

We¬†relocated back to the US.¬†I hung my shingle in 2005.¬†I¬†started working¬†with a mixture of clients,¬†corporate clients¬†mainly in the mining oil and gas sector. Working with the US government and other donor agencies around the world on how to come together around big problems,¬†how to bring governments, NGOs, companies, communities together around big problems. At that time, that was a crazy idea. It wasn’t¬†thought of as a thing.¬†What¬†happened over time is¬†there¬†has been a general recognition both in the private sector and in government that to solve¬†big problems, they¬†are going to have¬†to¬†work together and work together at scale. That’s a little bit of my background. On the innovation side, a¬†lot of the¬†innovation we focus on is in emerging markets.¬†We have a couple of methodologies.¬†One is around inclusive innovation.¬†How do we bring in previously marginalized groups to help innovate new products and services?¬†We have¬†a number of¬†open innovation tools as well. That’s a little bit about my background, a little bit of the journey I¬†have been on.¬†

You had¬†a fascinating background of what you¬†have accomplished and where you¬†have lived.¬†I imagine you¬†are a highly curious person since I studied curiosity.¬†I’m always fascinated by people who will¬†go out there,¬†explore and do the kinds of things that you did. This led to you¬†writing the book,¬†Partner with Purpose, which I understand is a step-by-step¬†guide to¬†planning, launching, managing,¬†and growing crosssector partnerships.¬†You have reallife stories from your work. You¬†probably imagine what you¬†described of your experience around the world. What led to your interest in writing this book?¬†

It’s an interesting story, Diane.¬†I¬†have been involved in building these partnerships, sometimes¬†on behalf of clients who are¬†companies or the US government¬†but with foundations and NGOs.¬†A few years ago, one of our corporate clients came to me and she said, ‚ÄúI’m a big believer in¬†this. This is¬†working for us,¬†but¬†I have¬†a hard time explaining it¬†to folks who aren’t¬†deeply involved in things around sustainability,¬†climate change and¬†these global issues. It’d be great if we had a book on this.‚Ä̬†At that¬†time, the only books on these types of partnerships were¬†written to either academic audiences or government audiences, which meant they were pretty boring or very dense. It‚Äôs hard to get into. What I tried to do is write a book that spoke to¬†this idea around¬†crosssector collaboration¬†through the lens of the business¬†professional. Through somebody¬†running a division of a company or¬†running the marketing team and¬†the sustainability team or the supply¬†chain¬†team in a company¬†to¬†put that lens on¬†this type of work¬†to¬†make it accessible and hopefully practical for folks.¬†

You mentioned tackling a difficult problem like climate change, but you have also dealt with companies, partnerships and things with human trafficking. Give me that story. 

Forty¬†million people worldwide are trafficked every year. A lot of them are involved in¬†the¬†supply chain. One of the most common areas is in fisheries and seafood. If you’ve stopped¬†and thought¬†about it, it makes sense.¬†These boats go out to sea for long periods.¬†There’s no oversight.¬†They’re out of communication. Because of that, the seafood¬†industry has gotten a lot of bad press¬†and justifiably so. This is a big problem. A¬†few years ago,¬†a number of¬†folks came together, a couple¬†of the companies involved in the pet food business¬†because cats eat¬†a lot of fish,¬†a¬†couple of¬†NGOs and the US government¬†designed a partnership that essentially enables workers at sea to have access to very lowcost satellite communications,¬†so they could report if they were having a problem.¬†¬†

Often,¬†folks will be kidnapped and held¬†aboard¬†a¬†ship.¬†If you¬†are out at sea, your cell phone doesn’t work past¬†a couple of miles. This is a¬†very lowcost system. Satellite technology is generally pretty pricey, but there¬†are¬†new technologies available. This¬†system is being piloted in Southeast Asia and¬†the hope is that if it works,¬†it can be scaled up. That’s an example of a company¬†that¬†couldn’t¬†solve this on¬†its¬†own.¬†The NGOs and the US government,¬†there’s no way they could solve it without having the companies engage. It’s an example of this collaboration.¬†

This is probably a naive question.¬†You¬†are saying these pet food companies have this happening without their knowledge or somebody¬†works for them?¬†I’m trying to figure out who’s doing the trafficking.¬†

TTL 842 Steve Schmida | Sustainability Strategies
Partner with Purpose: Solving 21st-Century Business Problems Through Cross-Sector Collaboration

For example, the pet food companies are not sending¬†out their boats. They¬†are usually buying at the dock,¬†but the boats are independently owned. There’s this history¬†in this space.¬†Most of the workers on¬†these boats are migrants.¬†

That’s the problem.¬†It‚Äôs¬†who¬†they¬†are partnering with¬†that is doing that¬†stuff.¬†

It’s not¬†the companies themselves.¬†The companies are¬†trying to stamp it out. The companies don’t want it easily.¬†

They wanted a way to track if people¬†can¬†call out and report it.¬†We¬†never have talked about this. I thought I¬†talked about everything in 1,400 shows but not that. It’s such a sad¬†thing.¬†Did it¬†stun you when you got into this¬†of how much of this is going on?¬†Where is¬†it¬†the worst? What part of the world?¬†

It is shocking¬†because most of us don’t even think about it.¬†It’s¬†shocking when you look at it. The places¬†where it’s most prevalent is in Southeast Asia. It’s a big issue,¬†particularly¬†around fisheries.¬†In the Gulf states,¬†there are a lot of forced labor issues¬†that¬†are¬†mostly things like construction.¬†Folks coming from Pakistan,¬†Bangladesh,¬†South Asia, and¬†Nepal.¬†These folks arrive.¬†Often, the first thing that happens is their passports¬†are¬†taken from them.¬†Sometimes,¬†employers will withhold pay¬†or make them pay like the finder’s fee,¬†whatever the search fee was to find them in the first¬†place.¬†

It is a big problem that’s fixable. It’s something that most companies once¬†they¬†are¬†aware of it.¬†Nobody wants it. Once they realize this is going on, they go, ‚ÄúOh my God.‚ÄĚ Now,¬†there’s starting to be more and more legislation with real teeth. If you¬†are a company that does any business in the UK and you get caught up in this stuff, you can face pretty significant penalties. The US¬†has¬†some legislation, that¬†has¬†bipartisan support but slowly making its way through Congress¬†to update US¬†laws on this because our laws are a bit tainted.¬†

These are¬†all about corporations¬†and¬†organizations¬†being able to overcome¬†the most challenging issues of our time and you¬†are talking about sustainability.¬†You¬†are building sustainability strategies.¬†What¬†exactly is important about¬†corporate sustainability? I want to discuss why it matters for those of you reading that haven’t¬†worked on a sustainability strategy.¬†

Let’s zoom way out for a minute. In 2050, there¬†is going to be ten¬†billion¬†people on this planet. Climate change will be probably the number one issue¬†that we¬†are facing as a society.¬†At the same time, we¬†are facing a lot of¬†resource depletion.¬†Industry¬†after industry¬†is going¬†to¬†have to¬†change fundamentally.¬†It’s not going to look the same. They¬†are going¬†to engage in better environmental practices, more circular business models,¬†less of pulling stuff out of the ground,¬†using it and then throwing it into the dumpster.¬†It‚Äôs more of reuse and¬†repurpose.¬†¬†

Sustainability, the way I look at it¬†and the way folks should think about it,¬†is¬†probably the single largest secular business trend of¬†the¬†future. It will not go away.¬†It will be countercyclical because the problems are only getting more challenging with each passing year. It’s one of those things that¬†has gone¬†from being¬†a nice to have to¬†know¬†it’s a musthave.¬†Within 5 or 10¬†years, it¬†will be central to corporate strategy. You won’t even be able to tell the difference. Sustainability and corporate strategy will be essentially fused¬†within¬†many¬†years¬†in many industries, not¬†all, but in a lot¬†of industries, they¬†are going to come together.¬†

You mentioned Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, but you also write about how companies can partner with governments, nonprofits, communities to tackle this. Did you have experience with partnerships with governments? What led to that part of what you wrote about? 

The private sector brings a whole range of capabilities like marketing,¬†technology, manufacturing, distribution,¬†but governments can bring things.¬†They often have funding.¬†They have policy resources.¬†They¬†can¬†bring actors together in some cases. Government can be a natural partner on¬†some of these things. The nonprofits often bring things like legitimacy.¬†They¬†often bring the sort of¬†on-the-ground expertise and knowledge of what’s happening.¬†The human trafficking as an example that I was talking about.¬†There are¬†several¬†local NGOs involved¬†in that partnership. They¬†are working with these fishing communities and they know on what’s going on,¬†which is hard¬†for a big company or a government to¬†get¬†a handle on¬†at any granular level. When you think about the relative strength of each of these¬†and when you¬†are trying to tackle a big problem, you can start to get¬†a much bigger flywheel effect if you work together¬†as opposed to trying to work in silos.¬†

That comes up quite a bit in the courses that I teach about getting out of The Silo Effect, which is a good book and how we share and do different things. As I was noticing in your book, there is a lot about understanding the different vocabularies. You have got different assumptions and all that employed by nonprofit leaders as compared to other industries. How challenging is it for one group to know how the other speaks? 

[bctt tweet=”Climate change is the number one issue we’re facing as a society. ” via=”no”]

It can be shockingly¬†challenging. We do this day in day out. What we see is often is that¬†the translation issue is hard. In government and international development, there¬†is a whole very esoteric vocabulary that’s emerged. The¬†global¬†development¬†and foreign¬†assistance world is about¬†a¬†$100 billion industry in its own rights. It has its little universe and own language. Often, they¬†will use terms that make no sense¬†to the private sector, instead of¬†training its capacity building. Instead of¬†procurement, it’s a value chain.¬†There¬†will be all of these differences in terminology that¬†you should¬†help folks unpack and¬†get folks to¬†be intentional about like, ‚ÄúIs that a jargon¬†term for your industry? If so,¬†let’s unpack it.‚Ä̬†¬†

Let’s make sure we unpack it and create a common¬†that we can try to understand each other.¬†For example in global development,¬†they love acronyms. Everything¬†is an acronym. It’s an acronym soup. It‘s easy for somebody¬†coming from the commercial¬†side to get lost in it.¬†We do a lot of work with partners on both sides to help unpack all of this. Take the implicit and try to make it explicit¬†so that folks can understand each other. See the common value or in some cases, not.¬†Not¬†everything¬†comes together the way you hope, but at least if they can discover that early, the costs¬†are low.¬†Whereas if you get into a partnership, and you didn’t¬†understand what your partner wanted, it usually doesn’t end well.¬†

I’m glad you brought up the acronym thing because I always post these in my classes. My students often think that some of the abbreviations are acronyms. Just¬†a lesson for those¬†who are reading, the acronyms are¬†like¬†radar, if it sounds like it looks, then it’s an acronym.¬†If it’s CRM, then it’s an abbreviation. It‚Äôs¬†something that you can’t say¬†as¬†it looks. They do both acronyms and abbreviations¬†in so many industries. In one industry, it can be¬†one thing and then another one, it’s the same acronym or the same abbreviation.¬†You think¬†you¬†are talking one language,¬†but¬†you¬†are talking two different languages.¬†I’m glad you brought that up.¬†I saw some articles you wrote on your website.¬†You have question marks about¬†questioning different things for collaboration and partnership. Since¬†I write about curiosity, I’m¬†glad that you promote that questioning.¬†I think a lot of people have the question,¬†how do¬†companies start or build these strategies? Isn’t your book a kind of a step-by-step guide for that?¬†

It is.¬†A¬†couple of things to think¬†about to get started,¬†first, being¬†clear on the problem you¬†are trying to solve.¬†By problem,¬†I mean¬†it could be a negative thing¬†like an environmental problem you¬†are having¬†or it could be a positive thing. It could be a market opportunity that you¬†are trying to unlock, but you¬†are¬†struggling.¬†Trying to figure out who else would care about it and why,¬†once you’re crisp on the problem, start¬†to figure out who else could be interested. Start also to map¬†out what you would bring to the table and maybe what other partners could bring to the table?¬†Sometimes it can be rather surprising. Sometimes companies¬†go to¬†partner with governments thinking that the¬†government funding will be the big unlock for them.¬†It turns out that¬†because the government may have a policy issue¬†that¬†it’s the policy piece that’s¬†more profound. Sometimes as you get into those discussions, you uncover things and go, ‚ÄúThis is¬†the value that this partner can bring.‚Ä̬†

To your point¬†about curiosity,¬†it‚Äôs¬†about putting forward the right folks to do this type of work. In the book, I talk about empathy¬†as a key characteristic of the folks who are¬†good at this.¬†There¬†are many¬†who lost in translation problems that if you¬†are not¬†authentic, it¬†amplifies¬†the problem. There¬†is this idea of contextual intelligence, which it’s very similar to some of the things you¬†have done around curiosity, where folks can place themselves in their work in a broader context to help others understand. Those are some of the skills that¬†folks need. This is a service we also provide¬†as a company at Resonance. We have a lot¬†of tools and capabilities¬†that we can bring. The book is a great place to start.¬†The main thing to your point is to be curious, engage,¬†and explore a little bit beyond¬†your typical comfort zone.¬†

You brought¬†up some good points about¬†what I wrote about with my curiosity book and in my perception book.¬†Empathy is such a big part of all of getting along in the workplace.¬†If you’re asking questions about other people, you¬†are developing that sense of empathy because¬†of¬†your understanding of another person’s perspective.¬†That‚Äôs¬†tied into my work with perception. All¬†of¬†this¬†keeps coming back around. We got to¬†start by asking questions.¬†I know you give examples in your book¬†of¬†reallife stories to¬†paint this picture in people’s minds of how to do what you¬†are trying to help them with to¬†Partner with Purpose. Any examples you want to share about any reallife stories from any of the companies you¬†have worked with?¬†

TTL 842 Steve Schmida | Sustainability Strategies
Sustainability Strategies: If we can monitor our perceptions and understand what other people believe, we can see where they’re coming from.


There is a good example in the book that gets started in the book but only came to life after the book was published. That is PepsiCo, which is a company we all know. It has products we all use. They want to improve the sustainability of their agriculture. The products they buy like potatoes or cane sugar, palm, whatever it is that they are buying. In part, this is in response to climate change. As climate change is taking hold, yields are going down in many geographies. That was their problem. They were able to partner with the US Agency for National Development, which is an arm of the US government on a program to improve the productivity of smallholder farmers in their supply chains in places like India, Colombia and a few other places. The interesting nuance here and this only became clear as the two partners negotiate the partnership was that the big unlock for this was going to be empowering women. It turns out in smallholder farming if you give women greater decisionmaking on farms like if they have greater authority to make decisions, the single largest productivity unlock that we know of, that we have evidence for. It increases productivity on these small farms more than anything. 

Why is that do you think? 

There¬†are¬†a¬†few things.¬†One,¬†not to¬†stereotype my gender too much, but men tend to make sometimes some rash decisions, perhaps drink away¬†their savings. Why women?¬†They¬†are the caregivers for children and tend to be¬†very focused on making sure those resources are available for the children.¬†The partnership that has been formed was¬†a $25 million partnership where they¬†are going to work in about five countries to empower women on these farms. If they can prove that this works and¬†if they can show that it increases yields and productivity, PepsiCo is going to work to roll it out across¬†its global supply chain,¬†which is about $8 billion of spend. They¬†are also going to promote¬†it in their industry. If you¬†are¬†looking at it from PepsiCo‘s¬†standpoint, they get a big win out of this if it works¬†because they get a problem solved.¬†¬†

If you¬†are the US government, it’s a pretty good deal.¬†It’s¬†like¬†$10 million¬†because it’s a partnership.¬†They¬†are each putting in resources.¬†If PepsiCo then changes its entire approach to how it is¬†sourcing from these¬†smallholder farmers across $8 billion¬†of spend every year, you¬†have had a huge impact far and away above your original investment. You¬†have¬†been impacted¬†by¬†hundreds and thousands¬†of people. That’s an example of how these partnerships can come together. That partnership took a while.¬†It took about a year to eighteen months to negotiate. It’s not easy.¬†

The win-win¬†scenarios that can occur based on¬†how we partner and the background behind it.¬†I was very interested in your book because¬†of¬†the purpose behind it.¬†You¬†are thinking about¬†the big overall picture and¬†what’s in it for everybody. That’s¬†an important way to come at these major goals like this. I was very interested in¬†sharing what you were working¬†on with everybody.¬†A¬†lot of people want to know how they can find out more about your book and you.¬†Is there something you¬†would like to share?¬†¬†

If you want to find out more about our work, that would be¬† That’s our website.¬†I have a separate website, for¬†me, that’s¬†¬†You can find information about the book and some of my writing. Those would probably¬†be the two best resources. We¬†would love to hear from folks who are¬†always curious to learn more.¬†

This has been interesting. Thanks for tackling some of these challenging problems. I hope everybody takes the time to check out your book. Thank you for being such a great guest on the show. 

Thank you, Diane. This has been so much fun. I enjoyed it. 

[bctt tweet=”So much is lost in translation if you’re not authentic; it amplifies the problem. ” via=”no”]

I did too. 

I get¬†many great guests on the show. Sometimes I want to take¬†a¬†little bit of time to talk about some of the research I do. I’m going to talk to you about perception and some of the work I did with¬†Dr. Maja Zelihic,¬†who is also one of¬†the¬†people I’ve worked with at the¬†Forbes School of Business. She’s been¬†great in this process of researching, how perceptions process in our mind,¬†our opinions and our version of the truth, our biases,¬†and how we live. What’s in a rose,¬†would it smell as sweet¬†by any other name and all¬†that we read about?¬†

We looked at what¬†we can¬†do with the perception in the workplace to discuss it because we kind of looked at it as a combination of IQ, EQ, CQ for cultural quotient,¬†and CQ for curiosity quotient. We thought¬†that this is something that they’re not talking about enough in the workplace.¬†Did we talk¬†about perception reality and to what extent¬†our perceptions true? Well, they‘re our perceptions, but¬†what is¬†a¬†reality to us may not be¬†a¬†reality to them. There is a truth to some extent, but what’s real and all that we start to get into this analysis, paralysis, thinking about it.¬†

We thought,¬†‚ÄúIf we’re thinking like this, we need to showcase what others have done to try and look at this because the world’s changing.‚ÄĚ We’ve seen¬†The¬†World is Flat¬†by Thomas Friedman. A¬†great¬†book.¬†We know that what we used to think is the reality of everything that we¬†thought we could do. Now,¬†it’s different, we’re becoming more connected. We know that there¬†are¬†a lot more issues with the recent global tragedies. As companies are trying to do work in a¬†global dotcom¬†Industry, it’s¬†a lot different of how we look at things than when I originally got into the workplace or when my head got into it.¬†

We’re looking at some of¬†our belief systems,¬†of what shaped¬†us¬†both consciously and unconsciously.¬†If we know that,¬†we can be more responsive and respond to this multiple multicultural,¬†multi-language¬†world in which we’re living. If we can monitor our perceptions and guide them towards where we¬†want to go or where we don’t want to go and¬†understand what other people believe, and maybe not necessarily agree with everything that they believe in. We can understand that and¬†see where they’re coming from¬†in¬†that way we manage our¬†perceptions. We¬†are able to build empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence. You can’t walk a mile¬†in my shoes, but we can¬†have a better appreciation for what it would be like to do that.¬†We¬†looked at what was available in terms of assessments out there, how¬†we can¬†test and validate and¬†do all these things with that. We came up with a¬†Perception¬†Power¬†Index, which goes along with the book,¬†The Power of Perception, and those are the kinds of things that¬†we¬†are going to talk about.¬†

We come into this world with this predisposition of how we view¬†and interpret things. Imagine if you¬†were born where you are now, compared to if¬†you were born somewhere else. We know that with twins, they¬†are different if they were separated at birth, there’s a different upbringing. We have this cultural impact on how our behaviors, our beliefs, and everything that we relate to,¬†it’s impacted by our social, ethnic, age group,¬†and everything. We¬†are seeing that there’s a lot more conflict right now in the world and¬†a¬†lot of it is because we don’t¬†understand each other that well.¬†Something that we¬†don’t even think about is acceptable or not questionable here in the United States might be something very questionable¬†in another culture. If you¬†are wearing a miniskirt in Brazil is a lot different than if you’re wearing that in¬†Saudi Arabia, for example. We have to appreciate where other people are¬†coming from and see where that¬†we¬†are allowing our culture, our society dictate what we’re thinking and what we’re perceiving.¬†

I’ve had¬†Joe¬†Lurie¬†on the show.¬†He got a great book,¬†A Mind-Opening¬†Journey Across Cultures, where¬†he writes about¬†all the different¬†perceptions of things that he¬†found in different cultures,¬†and maybe¬†eye contact in Western cultures is¬†candor and confident. You go to Africa.¬†They don’t want to do that because¬†of¬†your eye contact with a¬†person of authority. You¬†got to worry about respect. There’s¬†a lot of different issues when you¬†are talking about¬†the¬†Western culture of¬†risk versus other cultures. An Asian culture¬†might use a calculator to negotiate¬†the¬†price of things, but you might not want to do that in¬†some other areas¬†because¬†it may seem disrespectful. Looking at different areas is fascinating, just even how certain hand gestures mean one thing.¬†It¬†might¬†mean¬†okay in one language and maybe¬†insulting in another culture.¬†

TTL 842 Steve Schmida | Sustainability Strategies
Sustainability Strategies: You have to learn from failure. If you don’t, you’ll end up being the half-empty-glass kind of person, and you won’t move forward.


A¬†lot of studies look at Western culture versus other cultures and¬†that is worth¬†reviewing.¬†We know now that¬†there’s a lot of stereotyping going on.¬†We¬†are trying to get away from that.¬†We¬†are trying to get away from biases that we have.¬†Beau¬†Lotto¬†talked about that on my show, I hope you read¬†that episode of how you need it. You can’t live without some kind of bias to give you¬†some decisionmaking ability, but we have to pay attention to unconscious bias. We got to be careful that we don’t come across¬†as¬†this¬†arrogant or condescending. Just saying something, keep it simple, stupid might mean one thing in one language. We have that as a saying.¬†It’s not meant to be insulting, but if you tell it to somebody else, it could be very insulting.¬†

These are the kinds of things that we were looking at when we decided that¬†we needed to¬†look at cultural quotients, IQ and CQ and¬†our drive,¬†motivation, knowledge, cognition, metacognition to look at how we come up with these actions or behaviors. Do we have to adapt to customs,¬†should they adapt to ours, or should we be more tolerant of differences? Change is a big thing that we teach in business classes, and being proactive¬†to¬†it is also important. We know that¬†we have these teams where there’s in¬†groupers or out groupers. We want to try and¬†get people to get along¬†well.¬†

I’ve had¬†Amy Edmondson¬†talking about teams,¬†teaming,¬†and how people get along.¬†Collaboration is about having¬†the¬†curiosity to ask questions¬†and learn from each other. We want to look at the path that we¬†are on that similar but also understand the path that we¬†are on that’s not so similar.¬†Some¬†of the things that impact that¬†are things like spirituality, whether you¬†are religious or not, it can be different, but some people¬†have this impact of how important their spirituality or their religion is to them.¬†

Where other people¬†might be agnostic or atheist and that could completely shape your whole perception of the situation at hand. Where you might accidentally insult someone without even realizing¬†how important something is to them,¬†I don’t think a lot of people give a lot of thought to the differences of how¬†much strength that can have in¬†their ideas and their things that¬†they question or don’t question, but it can have a big impact.¬†We inherit a lot of beliefs from our family.¬†We personalize our beliefs.¬†We take things that work for us that maybe don’t work for us.¬†We make something around what works¬†in our situation and that can make us think we¬†are right and they¬†are wrong, and vice versa.¬†

That is a problem in the business world if we don’t examine what¬†is shaping what these people are coming up with¬†or not coming up with. Having¬†personalized beliefs are fine, but we have to recognize that. Even though Stephen Covey says, ‚ÄúSpiritual renewal is one of the habits that are essential to effective leadership,¬†we have to look at¬†what’s your greater purpose? What do they think is their¬†greater¬†purpose? What are our values or our ethical principles and what are theirs? What will our legacy be and what is theirs?‚Ä̬†

Those are the kinds¬†of things that we¬†researched in terms of¬†how people use their religion, spirituality in that. It was also fun to look at genders¬†to see the differences¬†of¬†how people look at paintings. There was a comment we put in the book. Two strangers, a¬†man and a¬†woman were visiting an art gallery and found themselves standing next to one another, staring at a painting of an old country estate, replete with an elderly man sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch of a mansion, and with various barns and outbuildings and serving in his background.¬†The woman without prompting, commented,¬†‚ÄúWhat a beautiful painting so serene and peaceful, a beautiful blend of man and nature.‚Ä̬†The man commented in response,¬†‚ÄúThat barn looks like it’s in dire need of a paint job.‚Ä̬†

We both look at the same thing, but we see different aspects.¬†There¬†is not that one’s right, one’s wrong. It could be the opposite way¬†around.¬†It could be the man saying the great thing, the woman saying the opposite. We don’t want to¬†stereotype necessarily, but it’s interesting to see that when men and women do see things a little bit differently. There are psychological differences. These have been documented including differences in their brains.¬†We hear gender bias.¬†We know studies show women viewed differently, treated differently, paid differently. We know there’s a¬†predominance in the number of men compared to women¬†in executive positions. Those are the kinds of things that are¬†important to leaders to recognize. We have to know the origins of all this and why we see things¬†through these different lenses. We know that men’s brain is structurally different than the female brain. That’s a fascinating¬†thing to look at in itself.¬†

We’re not going to¬†see things in the same way exactly and there is a book,¬†a New York Times bestseller called¬†The Female¬†Brain¬†by Dr. Louann Brizendine. She’s a neuropsychiatrist and she also later wrote¬†The Male¬†Brain. She guides you through¬†how the brains of each gender differ and how they shape our behaviors from the time we’re infants¬†into adulthood. The women’s perceptions and behaviors are¬†different demands, mostly¬†she says due to hormones, which¬†we¬†do have different hormones. We know that women have more estrogen, progesterone and¬†even though we have testosterone, not as much as a man. It¬†goes back to¬†these hormones from¬†how¬†we are influenced by them.¬†

I talked to¬†Tom¬†Peters¬†on the show.¬†That’s a great show if you get a chance to look at it. He talked about the female brain and he recalled an article¬†from Duke University basketball coach,¬†Mike¬†Krzyzewski.¬†He was¬†in¬†the Sunday Times Magazine section.¬†He described how that coach often referred to as Coach K,¬†would bring his wife to all the team meetings.¬†He said the reason was that she¬†would see what was going on in¬†the¬†player’s life that he didn’t notice. She would notice the smell of a problem of a girlfriend 100 miles away or some kind¬†of distraction. He didn’t think men psychologically saw those things. He found it¬†fascinating as an observation.¬†

There are differences.¬†If we pretend that¬†we’re not different, that doesn’t work. We get uncomfortable. If we look at that¬†as one thing¬†is¬†better than another, that’s also uncomfortable. It‚Äôs¬†important to¬†recognize that these things are part of us and¬†that was¬†intended to be different. We¬†are not intended to be the same, and wouldn’t be life be super boring if it was that way?¬†That¬†would be something that you talk about in the workplace of what we can get.¬†We know that the percentage of women in¬†the¬†workplace is increasing. We know that the rate of women occupying key roles in¬†the workplace is on the rise and¬†we also¬†know that women being hired into leadership roles more often¬†than they were CEOs at¬†an¬†increasing rate. We¬†would like to see it higher. We know that women are bringing in different perceptions into the workplace, and then those are just different aspirations.¬†

[bctt tweet=”We have to see if we’re allowing our culture and society to dictate what we’re thinking and perceiving. ” via=”no”]

It is an interesting thing to look at¬†how genetically wired we are¬†differently right from birth. These differences are spawning this ground for this history of beliefs and stereotypes of how we’re taught to view each other. We¬†are carving a different road for ourselves, the women versus the¬†men. It‚Äôs¬†important to know that we’re evolving. When we¬†are doing that,¬†we’re impacted by our intelligence in this process. If we look¬†at intelligence, we talked about IQ and EQ. If we¬†are thinking of intelligence as what we know, and how we apply what we know, we know that we need to be able¬†to use our intelligence to¬†understand how to relate with one another. We know that¬†our intelligence evolves in different ways, and our perceptions evolve in different ways.¬†

There is this perceptual intelligence of fluid versus crystallized intelligence comes about. There is some great work by Raymond Cattell, who talked about that. If you ever get a chance to read some of his work, there are all these different types of what we learn, and how it changes over time is a very important thing to look at. Also, Howard Gardner is very heavily cited in the area of these types of intelligence and used to be, we thought we only had one kind, but he studied all these different types of abilities that we have. 

You could have naturalistic, music, logicalmathematical,¬†existential intelligence,¬†body, kinesthetic, verbal, linguistic, intrapersonal, visual,¬†spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and¬†the list goes¬†on and¬†on.¬†To say somebody is smart is¬†a hard thing to do because there¬†are¬†these different types of¬†ways of being smart. How do you value that intelligence?¬†What’s important in your culture for that type of intelligence? That was interesting to us as we went through all the different¬†ways that we grow and learn and¬†apply what we know.¬†

We also looked at emotions as in emotional intelligence and that aspect as well, because¬†I had written my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence, and that’s such a huge area.¬†It was¬†great to have¬†Daniel Goleman¬†on the show to talk about emotional intelligence. If you haven’t read¬†that, I highly recommend it. Emotions play a big part of¬†how we make decisions. If you want to talk about empathy is a big part of emotional intelligence and if we have empathy,¬†sometimes¬†that ties into¬†the¬†curiosity¬†that we¬†are asking questions to learn more about each other. Our emotions can be different across cultures. If you have¬†different studies between Japanese and American subjects,¬†they found facial expressions and nonverbal behaviors vary significantly between them.¬†¬†

I had¬†Paul Ekman¬†on¬†the show. The TV show Lie¬†to Me¬†was based on his work. There¬†are¬†certain expressions that we all make that are the same, whether you¬†are blind or not. I thought that was¬†fascinating. My father was¬†born blind. It’s interesting what things we have similar and then other things that¬†are completely different. It’s¬†conceptually different based on¬†the way you grow up, and the influences around you of how you¬†respond to your emotions. Your emotions can make you perceive failure differently, either. Some of us have the fight or flight response, some of us¬†run from it, or some of us will run to it. Most of us have that sense that failure is¬†not our favorite thing. Our perception of failure can¬†influence how much we explore things and ask questions, it¬†gets back into curiosity again.¬†

I write one in the book about¬†different experiences, where sometimes you¬†are in a sales presentation, where you get your rear¬†end handed to you.¬†You might be on a call with your partner and your partner thinks it’s the worst thing in the world. Where you might think it’s the best thing because you¬†have learned everything you need to know now,¬†to fix your next presentation. If you don’t learn these things, sometimes your perception will get you down and you¬†will quit.¬†You have to¬†learn from failure. If you don’t, you’re going to end up being the glass-half-empty kind of person and you won’t move forward. You’ll just stay where you are, move backward. That’s what we¬†are trying¬†to avoid by understanding perception.¬†

The other things that we looked at when we were looking at perception were¬†whether if it’s your reality or not. Looking at some of¬†the perception experts, especially Beau Lotto, I¬†love his TED Talks. He was on the show.¬†He talked about a lot of¬†great things on the show. If you’re wanting to know perception versus reality, I would look at some of that¬†because it’s¬†fascinating. Talking about perception, you¬†need to talk about collaboration because collaboration is a¬†required skill set right now in the workplace. If you¬†are being hindered¬†by your perceptions, there¬†are¬†many variables. Think of the questions we ask ourselves, does this project intrigue us? Does it motivate us? Do we like our teammates? Do we like our leader? Do we like¬†the role we¬†have been given? You look at all this¬†and if you’re getting mixed reasons for why you like something or don’t like something, a lot of it could be your perception of it.¬†

When we talk about collaboration, I always think about¬†Amy Edmondson‚Äôs¬†TED Talks because that¬†ties into how they got the Chilean miners out in that disaster. These people were able to work together and¬†collaborate because they had different perceptions, but they¬†knew that it was life or death literally in¬†this case, to help people get out from under that rock. Understanding that perception is¬†critical to collaboration and to getting people to work together and being innovative and creative is interesting.¬†Now we¬†are talking about how much we have problems.¬†Gallup¬†says we¬†are losing¬†$500 billion a year on engagement. We know that people want to be collaborative¬†and if we don’t¬†have this ability to get along that’s going to be huge. We want people to be creative and see things differently.¬†

In the Dead Poets Society movie, Robin Williams¬†had the students get on top of their desks¬†to¬†look at life in a different way. He said,¬†‚ÄúTo make life extraordinary, you have¬†to make a difference, you must see things differently.‚ÄĚ That’s a¬†key point that a lot of people always are looking at things from their vantage point, they¬†don’t get on top of their desk and¬†they don’t look at things from another way.¬†I’ve done a lot of training classes where we’ve given Legos and we’ve had people build things as teams in collaborative ways. It’s¬†fun to see them get ideas from each other and go, ‚ÄúI would have never looked at it that way.‚Ä̬†

If you¬†aren’t a big fan¬†of teams, sometimes it’s¬†helpful to get on a team with people who are completely different¬†from you.¬†If everybody thinks the same way, life will be boring. It helps to look at things from a critical thinking standpoint to do research, how do these people do this? How have they made it successful? What facts support their argument? What’s the¬†source of their information? How they come to that conclusion?¬†We’re back to curiosity again.¬†Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves.¬†I don’t think we get enough of that. There’s a lot of people who want to take things at face value based on what they¬†have always known and what supports their values that they’ve always had. That’s common for people. You watch the same either CNN or Fox or whatever that supports your values because it makes¬†you comfortable. It¬†is important to get curious and get outside. Our perception suggests we know something, but our curiosity proves that we don’t. We need to know what we don’t know.¬†

A¬†lot of people aren’t asking enough questions and that’s the kind of thing that in the book,¬†Cracking The Curiosity Code¬†is a huge part of changing the culture in organizations.¬†I often talk a lot about that to groups, because if we can ask more questions, we can get better at decision making. Decisionmaking can be¬†challenging. I love that quote¬†by Deepak Chopra, where he says,¬†‚ÄúIf you obsess over whether you’re making the right decision, you’re assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.‚Ä̬†If you think about that, you always think you have the right or the wrong thing, but it’s not necessarily the case. There¬†are¬†shades of gray, not everything is black¬†and white and that is what I find¬†fascinating in the research that we did.¬†

For trying to fix all the things in work, we’re trying to fix engagement. I mentioned¬†before that you’re losing 500¬†a year, according to Gallup. When people are financially invested, they want to return. When people are emotionally invested,¬†they want to contribute. That’s what we need to do. Get people emotionally invested at work and contributing and part of that is to ask questions and to understand each other better. If¬†you¬†are asking questions, again¬†we¬†are back to empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence,¬†we¬†are getting that perception of the other person’s ideas. We’re seeing it not from our standpoint but from theirs.¬†

Some of the questions that we need to ask to improve engagement to my employees are, are they¬†growing in their work? Are they being recognized for their work? Do they trust¬†the company is on the right track? Those are some of¬†the things that lead to¬†great communication. I had¬†Kevin¬†Kruse¬†on the show¬†and he has a great book and¬†information about engagement and that’s helpful. All this is for us to¬†be¬†better leaders¬†and better employees both. We have to sometimes suspend our beliefs and be¬†agile, and¬†look in some of the words that we hear a lot about vulnerability.¬†Bren√©¬†Brown made a lifelong career out of that and a¬†lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing that.¬†

That’s what led to our interest in¬†looking at what the perception process is and how¬†we can¬†manage our perceptions. Creating an assessment would be important and an epic decision of¬†how can we help people understand that what they go through? What¬†does the process look like? We found that¬†it’s about evaluating, predicting, interpreting,¬†reshaping and¬†correlating one’s perceptions. The epic acronym we came up with is evaluation, prediction, interpretation,¬†and correlation. Those are the things that if you take¬†the¬†Perception¬†Power¬†Index,¬†you will find out, how are you doing in those areas? What could you do to improve your epic¬†process?¬†

It’s very similar¬†if you¬†have taken the Curiosity¬†Code Index, it is very simple and¬†you get your results right away. You can find out a lot more about how well you go through this process and what kinds of things are helping or holding you back.¬†If you get a baseline of, ‚ÄúThis is how I am at this,‚Ä̬†then you know¬†how to move forward, let’s¬†look at some of these because evaluation,¬†you’re going to examine, you¬†are going to assess, and you¬†are going to do a lot of these¬†different¬†things that you can recognize. If you¬†are open to thoughts or ideas that you kind of look at it from your own perspective of your¬†self-awareness, I¬†think of this one as¬†more¬†in that respect.¬†

If you apply this element of emotional intelligence, this¬†self-awareness, then you¬†are going to get along better, and you¬†are going to be¬†more aware of how you come across to other people because that’s a lot of problems.¬†I see a lot of people¬†don’t recognize body language, issues,¬†tone, or¬†if they¬†are typing in all caps. There¬†are¬†all these different things they can do, how they come across, and they don’t realize it. They¬†can predict¬†how the other person is going to ask them¬†and then they¬†act in a way.¬†Another part of emotional intelligence is their interpersonal awareness of,¬†are they able to understand the other person where they¬†are coming from? What their perception is,¬†their capabilities,¬†and their abilities? How they make decisions?¬†¬†

That is¬†challenging to predict,¬†what other people are going to do if you don’t look into what they¬†are doing and have empathy and ask questions,¬†and¬†have that sense of¬†emotional intelligence. Only then that you can make your interpretation, your interpretation¬†has¬†to consider how all of this impacts their decision¬†and¬†how¬†curiosity comes into this.¬†You¬†are making assumptions and¬†you¬†are looking at how their fear is impacting them.¬†This¬†ties back into their culture of how they were raised. We know that behavior¬†and different things are rewarded or are not rewarded in certain systems. We need to look at that,¬†how did¬†their culture shape them? How did¬†the company culture shape them?¬†

TTL 842 Steve Schmida | Sustainability Strategies
Sustainability Strategies: When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.


It’s about assessing and understanding your own emotions for the epic part, but the I part¬†is more about putting it collectively together to interpret what you know. You end with your conclusions.¬†Your correlation is your final see of the epic process. Because now that you have all this, you can come up with your solutions, your conclusions¬†after researching¬†your facts, this is¬†the critical thinking¬†aspect of it all. We know that¬†many great ideas¬†come out, but if¬†you don’t go to the part where you end it with coming up with the idea,¬†with actually taking what you¬†have learned in this group setting and changing a little bit of your behavior¬†so you can have a win-win situation.¬†¬†

You haven’t come to any kind of conclusion that’s going to be good for everybody.¬†Those are some of the main points that we make in what we’re talking about in this epic process¬†and this power of perception.¬†I thought that¬†this would be something¬†critical to share, you can take the Perception Power¬†Index at¬†¬†and all the assessments are there. You can take the Curiosity¬†Code Index, take the Perception Power Index, you can even take¬†DISC¬†and emotional intelligence tests. A lot of that is all there. If you don’t see it in the dropdown menus at the top. There¬†are¬†more menus at the bottom.¬†I hope you contact me if you have any questions and I hope that this helps you understand perception a little better.¬†

We’re¬†out of time.¬†If you¬†have missed any¬†past episodes, please go to¬†¬†I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.¬†

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About Steve Schmida

TTL 842 Steve Schmida | Sustainability Strategies

Steve Schmida is the Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Resonance, award-winning global development and corporate sustainability consulting firm with more than 100 consultants and offices in Vermont, Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

Resonance clients include Microsoft, Unilever, PepsiCo, the Gates Foundation, the US State Department, the World Bank, and many others.

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