How to be a Woman (and an inclusive feminist)

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“The best thing to do is to choose what you think is right and then just make it look cool… With writing a book about feminism, I was like ‘I could write a real ball aching book and just go ‘you must believe women are equal to men because it’s like a fact of science’, or, I could just write a funny book where women go ‘oh, I’m having fun reading this. It’s making me happier about myself and now I’m just going to buy myself a more comfortable pair of pants’.”

Caitlin Moran on how focusing on the positive (and humorous) can be a much more fruitful approach to engagement and change than acting righteous or having a rant. From a male perspective, I find her disarmingly funny, articulate, passionate and very intelligent. There is something about her style that makes me feel included as a feminist, rather than adversarial as a man. I suspect this comment about her positive focus goes a long way to explaining why. Her book, “How to be a Woman” has (as of July 2012) sold over 400,000 copies in 16 countries. For more funny, articulate, disarming feminism (including how to teach your children to pity Rhianna despite her beauty, wealth and power), listen to her interview with Tim Minchin 

A Generation Inspired

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“It’s a complex, cluttered world we live in… But the oasis of sanity is often the Olympic Games.”

Lord Sebastian Coe

If you read this quote before the Olympics began, you could have been forgiven for questioning Lord Coe’s own sanity. Between G4S’s project management woes, missiles on residential buildings and frenzied taxi drivers; with all the cynicism and the hype and the back-biting and the worry, the Olympics looked anything but an oasis of sanity.

And yet the last two weeks of breathtaking competition and raw human experience have served as the best possible remedy to the pre-games angst. They have been a timely reminder to any of us who underestimated the magical, unifying, inspiring nature of the Olympic games.

It has, hands down, been a show case of all humanity at its best – and not just mind-addling physical achievement. Has there ever been a more perfect display of parental pride than Burt LeClos’ interview with the BBC after his son beat Michael Phelps to gold in the 200m fly; or Michael Phelps’ grace in defeat in the same race? Oscar Pistorious’ may not have won the 400m, but his stereotype-smashing presence was a huge step forward in the way disability is viewed. Likewise, the crowd’s heart warming support for Caster Semenya  has hopefully begun to redress the disgrace of her public humiliation over the last three years.

Olympic athletes continually redefine what is possible for the human body to achieve and showcase the irrepressible strength of the human spirit. What’s more, by showcasing our common humanity; for two weeks speaking in a Universal tongue to the potential of the human when we are courageous, and dedicated and selfless and heroic, the Olympic games unites us and offers a glimpse of what we, as a society could be. So yes, the Olympics brings mania, and hyperbole, and many, many tiny flags; but if a positive vision, a positive demonstration of humainty at its best is not the epitome of sanity then I don’t know what is. Thanks your London 2012 – a generation inspired.

Sachs on business

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“I deal with a number of businesses that I admire because they are better diplomats than the state department as they are actually doing things rather than talking about them. They are getting real things done.
“The other face of businesses is that they are too powerful in our societies. They write the rules, they pay the politicians, sometimes illegally and sometimes, via what is called legal, which is financing their campaigns or massive lobbying.
“Billions of dollars are spent and this is horrendous because if business writes the rules, it is not true their shareholder value is their value to society. It can reflect highly destructive practices which the politicians turn their eyes away from because of the political power companies hold. This has got completely out of control and is leading to the breakdown of modern democracy.”

– Jeffry Sachs

A concise summary of the potential and barriers to business’ current role in society. Its pertinence is highlighted by Barack Obama’s current messaging about his fundraising. The quote comes from an interesting article by Jo Confino in the Guardian. Whether you love or hate Jeffry Sachs, its worth a read.

Don’t burn the platform – light the way

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“We will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea: Yes We Can”

Urgent! Urgent! Everyone be urgent! Our iceberg is melting, because our platform is burning. And even if that’s not technically true, we will tell you that anyway, and find data to support that argument, because good change management starts with a sense of urgency.

Sound familiar? Conventional wisdom has stated that any change effort needs to start with urgency: From Lewin’s “unmelting” phase (which Schein has expanded to include “disconfirming the current model”); to Kotter’s stage model – beginning with (you guessed it) stage 1: Create a sense of urgency. Steven Elop – Nokia’s CEO offers a textbook example of this approach – even starting his employee communication with the fable of the burning platform.

But is it really the right approach for every situation? Urgency gets things done – no doubt about that – and jumping off a platform into icy waters can be a sensible approach if your life is in imminent danger. But if the platform isn’t actually on fire, then people are going to see through the lie sooner or later.

There’s an unsaid assumption in this approach that in change, people need to be forced to do things that they don’t want to do. Kotter himself has started addressing this by talking about the importance of winning hearts as well as minds. It goes without saying that only exaggerating the negative aspects of what has gone before is going to win few hearts.

As an alternative – could co-creating a positive vision of the future bring about a more sustainable sense of urgency? David Cooperrider suggests that hope and a dream of a better future – a “burning vision” can catalyse action just as effectively. Moreover, there’s no “change fatigue” and a lot less resistance with hope as a foundation. Nobody has exploited that fact better in recent history than Barack Obama. And while there was no shortage of fuel for him to light a burning platform, his choice to focus on hope, and utilise relentlessly positive imagery led to one of the most impressive election campaigns in history.