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.
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 award–winning 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’s 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.To solve big problems, we have to work together at scale. Click To Tweet
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 husband–wife 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 cross–sector partnerships. You have real–life 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, “I’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.” 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’s hard to get into. What I tried to do is write a book that spoke to this idea around cross–sector 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 low–cost 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 low–cost 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.
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’s 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, “Oh my God.” 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’s 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 must–have. 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?Climate change is the number one issue we're facing as a society. Click To Tweet
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, “Is that a jargon term for your industry? If so, let’s unpack it.”
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’s 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, “This is the value that this partner can bring.”
To your point about curiosity, it’s 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’s 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 real–life 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 real–life stories from any of the companies you have worked with?
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 decision–making 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 www.ResonanceGlobal.com. That’s our website. I have a separate website, for me, that’s SteveSchmida.com. 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.So much is lost in translation if you're not authentic; it amplifies the problem. Click To Tweet
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, “If we’re thinking like this, we need to showcase what others have done to try and look at this because the world’s changing.” 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 dot–com 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.
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 decision–making 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, “Spiritual 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?”
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, “What a beautiful painting so serene and peaceful, a beautiful blend of man and nature.” The man commented in response, “That barn looks like it’s in dire need of a paint job.”
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’s 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.We have to see if we're allowing our culture and society to dictate what we're thinking and perceiving. Click To Tweet
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’s 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, logical–mathematical, 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’s 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, “To make life extraordinary, you have to make a difference, you must see things differently.” 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, “I would have never looked at it that way.”
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. Decision–making can be challenging. I love that quote by Deepak Chopra, where he says, “If 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.” 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. Brené 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, “This is how I am at this,” 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?
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 DrDianeHamilton.com 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 drop–down 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 DrDianeHamilton.com. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Partner with Purpose
- National Democratic Institute
- International Republican Institute
- Nazgul Abdrazakova
- Eurasia Foundation
- The Silo Effect
- Dr. Maja Zelihic
- Forbes School of Business
- The World is Flat
- The Power of Perception
- Joe Lurie – Previous episode
- A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures
- Beau Lotto – Previous episode
- Amy Edmondson – Previous episode
- The Female Brain
- The Male Brain
- Tom Peters – Previous episode
- Mike Krzyzewski
- Howard Gardner
- Daniel Goleman – Previous episode
- Paul Ekman – Previous episode
- Cracking The Curiosity Code
- Kevin Kruse – Previous episode
About Steve Schmida
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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