5% Comment on Hate and Bigotry

Do You Know What a 5 Percenter is?

I grew up in Co-op City located in the northeast section of The Bronx.   When I was a teenager I had a good friend named John who lived in the building next to mine.  John was a nice kid and  we had a lot of fun hanging out and running around our area which was called “Section 5.”    One day,  I was walking out of my building and I saw John from a distance,  I waved hello and he put his head down as if to avoid seeing me.   I started walking toward him and he ran into the building and disappeared.

A few weeks later something similar happened and John avoided me.   I couldn’t understand what I did or what was going on and I was confused.   I was walking past our shopping section and John was there hanging out with a bunch of other kids.   I waved and said, “Hello,” and he yelled back, “Devil.”    I thought he was joking around with me so I just yelled back at him and laughed it off.   That didn’t work out for me.    You see, John and his new friends ran down and cornered me.   He said “My name ain’t John … it is Justice and we aren’t friends.. Devil.”    I told him that I didn’t understand, we were friends growing up all these years in the same section.  We ran to Mr. Softee together and played in courts and..

Because I was his friend at some point,  he asked the other kids to let me go without beating me to a pulp.   I was lucky that day, but he told me to stay clear of him and know that he was a G-d and his friends would kill me if needed.

Lasting Memories of Pain

I was walking out of school through the backdoor and my friend Sean and a few other kids were walking out behind me.    I heard, “Hey, Devil! You know what you did to the slaves, Devil?”   It wasn’t long before a few kids turned into 12.   I was about 125 pounds soaking wet and carrying a back pack that was as heavy as me.   A few girls that I was close friends with saw what was going on and ran over to stop whatever was about to happen.    It was too late.   It started with words and one kid that was of Spanish decent started to charge me and circle me like a vulture.   They slapped my bag down and started shoving me.    I was scared, but at the same time, I knew that no matter what I did, this thing was going to happen.   I said, “I’m Jewish, I had nothing to do with slaves.  In fact, my people were slaves too.”   Sean looked at me with great sadness in his eyes and said, “I’m sorry.”  He didn’t hit me, but the fists where flying and all I could see was a mix of hands, light, dark, and … nothingness.    I think sometime during a beating like that,  you go into shock and pain stops.   Everything slows down and you are just living in the moment of trying to figure a way out of the situation or just survive.   The girls were screaming to get off of me, fighting back for me stopped after I realized that I couldn’t hit anyone.   There were just too many people hitting me.    I remember when it stopped and the girls walked up to me as I was laying on the ground trying to get up.   Remember, there were no cell phones, no pictures and no cameras outside, just me and a bunch of kids kicking my ass.    The girls got me to the bus stop and I took the bus home, I must have been in shock for a long time because I didn’t feel pain for a while.   When I got home, my mother took me to the hospital.   My tailbone was damaged and my back was pretty hurt.    The back pain and pain in my tailbone never went away 100%.   I have a reminder of their hate for me and the person they think I was every day.    They were indoctrinated Five Percenters and wore the symbols and changed their names too.    I don’t remember the name Sean took, I was just thankful that he didn’t hit me and sorry that he submitted to it.

The Scars

Growing up in NY,  people were pretty tolerant and generally most people respected each other.  The kids used excuses to hurt each other and hate just needed a reason.    My parents grew up in The Bronx and never did in my entire life did I hear anything negative about a type of people.   In fact,  I learned about hate from people sitting in lawn chairs lined up across the building as I would walk in.   People would call me over to talk and I would listen.  It was Holocaust survivors sitting with Cubans who escaped or WWII veterans and others.    It was black men and women just sitting in the chair enjoying the afternoon with others, willing to share a memory.    It wasn’t long into my teenage years that I started to experience hate against me, however it was the Navy that taught me how much I am hated as a Jew.    I dealt with religious people from different groups telling me how bad I am and how evil the Jewish people are.   I had my sheets cut up and swastikas drawn on them.    The assumption that I have a tail and horns was something that people believed and asked me about.   On my ship until I made a name for myself,  the only group of people that would even talk to me were kids from NY.     I was very alone and the Navy at the time had less than 1/2 of 1% of sailors of Jewish decent.   Let’s say that the chaplain was not a Rabbi.

Pain On

I have pain today from getting hurt and fighting mostly to protect myself from others.   I have pain from stuff I did in the service as well, but mostly beyond the physical pain,  I am sad.    Our world is a beautiful place that we are destroying and we are fighting with each other and creating more division between us than ever.   We are going to a place that we can’t come back from when we kill people.    I imagined a world with much more tolerance and respect, not this.     When I think about people and the world we live in,  I think about how I grew up in Co-op.   I think about my friends in my childhood before I was 13 and how we played and how we didn’t care about color or race or religion.   We just had fun and played or fought because of something stupid, but we worked it out and played again the next day.     I went to high school where I was 1 of 5 kids that were white and I am sure I was the only Jewish kid there.    I was accepted and it wasn’t always easy, but we did it.   The complaint back then as I remember and the quote, “Black on black crime, was way before our time, we need to reach for the heights.”     The name of the school was University Heights.    As I think about how we have created ways to hurt and hate throughout history,  I realize today that there is very little hope for peace.  It will be an act of G-d that will bring us together or destroy us all.   It may very well be that the acts of man will destroy us or our children before then.

As I go through my daily routine reminded by the pain in my back and tailbone of the children that hated me for something that I was not, I think of the only things that I can do to make things better.

  1. I look to do at least one good thing in a day.
  2. I teach my children about reality and how they need to behave better and aim to do what is right even under harsh conditions.
  3. Practice kindness even in the face of those who hate me.

Very Little Hope

I said there is very little, but there is hope.   Even if it is a sliver of a slice,  I will hang on to it.   I hope that Justice / John has changed his mind about me and realizes that I am not a “devil” and I hope that we can find through acts of kindness as individuals the pebbles to fill the jar of love for humanity.     If we do, we can turn hope into a reality.

Someone Left Digital in My Yard


Comcast (Personalized Experience)

Size matters and when companies want to create personalized digital experiences for customers they better follow the bouncing ball.    Everything is supposed to be easier and better right?  The problem is when companies like Comcast invest money in making it easier to have self service transactions which amounts to (saving money for themselves ultimately) they are not dealing with their customer service problems.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said “What unfortunately happens is we have about … 350 million interactions with consumers a year, between phone calls and truck calls. It may be over 400 million and that doesn’t count any online interactions which I think is over a billion. You get one-tenth of one-percent bad experience, that’s a lot of people – unacceptable. We have to be the best service provider or in the end, this company won’t be what I want it to be.”  

That was in December of 2013 where he was quoted in an article about constantly being on the worst companies in customer services list .    That was 3 years ago.. Comcast consistently has the bad rap of being “worst”

Comcast wants to clean up its notoriously messy act, and the telecom company plans spend $300 million and hire thousands of new employees in a bid to improve its awful customer service. 

You Left “A” Digital in My Yard

Comcast dug up my yard, not unusual I know but what they left me with was a horrible digital and physical experience that amounted to me self servicing my own yard.  In other words,  I am having to take care of their mess and pay for it.   I have a nice web interface that I can pay my bill through though.   All this digital strategy and poor customer service feels like I am talking to the television through my old 1985 remote asking for a channel change.   So as I talk to myself I will replace the dirt, grass and holes in my yard.

They Choose

Let’s examine for a moment what they could have done and how the experience could have leveraged a “Digital” strategy effectively without leaving me .. with a hole or in my case a series of holes in my yard.

  1. Notification –  They simply could have their work system tied to their customer systems in the same way they deal with outages.  “Good day, Comcast will be performing some routine maintenance in your area,  if you have any problems or concerns please go to www or dial xxx to let us know.”
  2. Follow Up –  They have contractors perform various aspects of digging and maintenance, probably a good idea to have at least one company representative at least have a quick check on the work.  Why wait for a problem?   There is an associated cost but the savings and the returns due to “world class” customer service will pay off.
  3. Follow Through – If a customer calls you, keep your promises. (They didn’t)

In 2014 Comcast spent 3 Billion on advertisement. I sure wish I was an advertising company as maybe they would pay more attention to me.   The reason a company that in some cases is the only service provider to millions (you get that) has to pay that amount of money in advertising is because something is wrong.

This Isn’t About Digital?

Sure it is…  When consulting companies tell you about the “Digital Experience” what are they saying?


Oh.. yeah.. this is about the “Customer Experience”

Companies are treating and buzzing about this like it is a new thing.  It isn’t a new thing, it is taking care of your customers and striving to be the best at it.   It is leveraging whatever tools and technologies you have in place to make for a better experience so customers stay or come back.  It is working hard to “delight” and “serve” them.   If a wait staff spit in your dinner and threw it at you or ate some of your food, served it up and asked you to pay them more money than what was on the menu, you would walk out.  In this case, you are dining at one of if not the only place to eat in town.   You think it isn’t costly?
Here is my message to Comcast…

Ok, you got me…  funny right?  It is costing me a lot of money to fix what you damaged but it will be my absolute pleasure from here forward to donate my time to anyone who wants to “cut the cord” in fact, I will help people make antennas to get high quality digital signals over the air.

Cord cutting 101: How to quit cable for online streaming video




Talking About Generations

This was a parody but it reflects a lot of discussion.

The Trouble with Kids Today


In Book III of Odes, circa 20 BC, Horace wrote:

Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more

In your face old man…  Our history says that each generation historically complains about the next younger generation.   We are no different with the millennials, generation c, z, next 2020.

The difference today is that we are now going well beyond complaints and into madness.

Of course there is a “comedy response”

While this all seems funny .. sort of.. the traffic keeps flowing on how we need to understand this generation and accommodate them.   We literally assign behaviors to generations.

I think this is a symptom of a larger problem.   We seem to have a strong desire to separate people into groups, it is almost as if we can’t help ourselves.   Our understand of individuals is overtaken by our belief about the group.    What we are failing to do is respect people as individuals.   It is true with no question that people in different age groups have different experiences during their time growing up.   It is true that due to environment conditions and other factor that people in these groups have perspective relative to their experience.   Isn’t that true of everyone?


Pull it Together..

We simply need to stop doing this and turn it off.  It is harmful to the people we work with, it is harmful to this generation and will hurt our younger generations behind them.   This is not helpful to anyone and companies generally spend money on these concepts only to find out that they got it wrong.    What we need to do, is focus on actions and activities to truly engage employees.

Dale Carnegie Tips and Guidebook is a good place to start http://www.dalecarnegie.com/assets/1/7/ee_tips_guidebook_blue_061813.pdf

If we keep up the generation madness we will have to start sub types.

Millennial generation born between x-y , comes from the north east, mixed parents,  went to school in district 9…  then we can find common things about them to make videos about..




The Truth of Human Resources and KM #PracticalHR



Visually Compelling Organizational Development

The work by Kevin Desmond was thoughtful and emotionally charged.      It is tough to be a leader in general, but the world today makes it even more difficult.

Leadership is something I care deeply about.   I strive to be a better leader in the same way that Jascha Heifetz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”

It takes practice and clear commitment, but the results aren’t always as beautiful as a heartwarming tune.   It may result in tough decisions and failure, but you have to strive on and keep trying.

I have a team and they are geographically dispersed.  I care about them as a group and certainly care for them each as individuals.   I am lucky and honored to have this amazing team and I have a responsibility to honor them and give them time to learn more about each other, including building their own relationships.    Finding time is not always easy, but this was something that I chose to do with the support of my leadership.

The compounding factors in team dynamics and collaboration are always moving.  It feels as if we have to hurry to get something going in order to get this snapshot of a moment in time.    This is where Kevin was able to come in and get us started.

The answers aren’t always.. 

Right and wrong aren’t clear concepts as they used to be.  Some would argue that they are clear, but what I would say is that perspective and context are key to a shared determination of what is right and wrong.   In order to share common perspective or context, we must be able to communicate and share our ideas.    Our ideas are born from our knowledge or our perceived knowledge about something.    Regardless, we must level set and to do that “level setting” we must compromise.     In order to compromise we have to have a willingness to compromise.    We have to build trust.   Trust is a critical enabler.   It is THE critical enabler.

Kevin came down and sat in my office a while back, he looked right at me and told me that I may have to do some things that would make me uncomfortable but I would have to trust the process.    We went through some of the ideas and concepts he would use with a clear objective of helping the team baseline or “level set.”    He said, “Howie, you realize this is only the beginning, right?”

We set the objectives and goals,  built in some time for flexibility and discussion and included some primers for thinking.   There was clarity in the thinking and of course what we sought to achieve, but the results were emotionally compelling right from the start.   For the sake of privacy and respect for my amazing team,  I will only share my personal experience and my personal thoughts as part of a similar thought exercise not directly aligned or reflective of anyone other than my experience.

It is the reason for the Cohen tombstone at the top of this post.   If I am to choose a picture of what I want to represent who I am and I am given a controlled group of images, which would I choose?

For the sake of this posting and in practical consideration,  I chose a grave stone with my name on it.   I would preferred it to have said Howard Cohen, Father, Husband, Brother, Son, Time Traveler, Stunt Car Racer, Lover, Fighter,  Good Guy, Bad Guy, Hardworking Guy,  and on the bottom “Crack is Wack” because I think I am funny sometimes.     I mean to say that I consider my mortality.  I consider my life in that I am thankful for it and I am thankful for each day.  I think of death as I understand that it is an end or beginning and I don’t know which, but I know that it can come at any time and that I should be true to who I am and love hard, play hard, work hard, but mostly be the best person I can be.   Not so easy to pick a picture, but is something that we have to do.   Every moment in our lives is like the iPhone video application,  you can take movies, but every once in a while you have to push the button and get that single frame snapshot.

The exercise of taking this image and sharing it with you and potentially the whole world is a little embarrassing I suppose and a bit revealing of some of my weakness and maybe strength, butall  in all, it is important because it is part of building trust through sharing and revealing who I am.    One of my team said “there is the face you show and the face you hold close” the you that you are is a multitude.   Of the many, you are a person and what you choose to show or hide consumes energy.

With one act and one question,  Kevin started an activity that set a course for myself and my team to share and consider the multitudes in each of us.   In my willingness and/or the willingness of the team, we could begin to share start a process of “level setting.”

Measuring the Distance of Knowledge

How do you measure knowledge?   How do you measure trust?   What was the best team you ever had?   Who was the best leader you have ever known?    How do you measure success?  How do you define success?   What if success for you is failure for someone else?  Is that always the case?   Are you running a race?  Is this race with yourself or others?  Why do you jump out of airplanes?    What would make you better and how would you measure that?  How would you be sure that you were better?

** I just started working for Booz Allen and was working on the floor of US Joint Forces Command Integration Directorate.    An old Marine was running part of the military architecture shop, he was a contractor himself but commanded the equivalent of a cell.   In other words, he had his team on lock down and he was no joke.    He called me over to speak with him, looked at me in the eyes (sorta scary) and said “son, what’s your CV?”   I really didn’t know what the heck he was asking me so I just stood there looking at him.  He said, “ok, were you in the service?”   I said “yes sir, I was a Damage Controlman.”    He looked around for a moment and literally stood himself taller almost as if I were to shrink down and he asked “How the hell does a DCMan get here?”    My answer..

“Well sir,  I went(s) to college”    In fact, by that time I had a Masters but it isn’t like you carry it around like a patch on your arm or anything.

We are judged by what we do or what we have done and that is in the realm of someones idea about us in which they (think) they know and/or make assumptions about us.   Even if there is a measure that exists or criteria, these are still open for discussion.    I went to school but maybe the school I went to wasn’t the top school in the nation.   What if I had the best teacher in the nation in one of the lower tiered schools?   Would there be a measure or some condition or factoid that would illuminate that as a fact?    The answer is of course “no.”    The point is that we have to measure what we can, and define success as we can but in order to do this we have to be clear about it in the scope of our activities and relative to a moment in time.

Throwing the fastest pitch consistently over time matters only if these measured factors produce the result that you threw that same pitch during a game and as a result won!

Kevin helped illuminate these points through a series of activities and discussions.   He talked about measures and what they mean’t and the importance of using them.   He also spoke of the context in which they apply.

The Human Resource to Knowledge Connection

I enjoy the thinking that Knowledge Management and Human Resources is tied at the hip and they are their own combination of many things that add up to one.   The idea that we have to be able to have a person in a mode to listen or receive,  and a person in a mode to transmit.   The active listener actually listening and not thinking to rebuke or over take the conversation.    It is the primary condition in communication.    The condition to be ready to listen, learn, read, pay attention and think about what someone else has said or is saying.     If you are reading this right now, you are allowing me the honor of sharing with you and I thank you for that.    It is the precondition for knowledge sharing and knowledge management.   It is also a condition provide though an act of respect.   It may very well be that after you read what I have written that you lose or gain respect for me but under this condition at this very moment, you are providing me a channel in which I can communicate with you.   This is where the organizational development begins but the preconditions and factors must allow for it.   Just as if you are growing something in a garden,  you need the environment, conditions, and factors to all come into play.   Human factors, human engagement and understanding of cognitive, physical and social conditions, are the preconditions for our knowledge connection.


Bring It

I am writing about this because I believe that OD doesn’t get enough recognition.   The words say “Organizational Development” but what it really means is “Factors, conditions and practices, to make people better.”  As a result of helping people, the organization will naturally become better and that results in a domino effect that spreads in multiple directions.   Why?  Because kind acts matter.

If you want the details of how to make all this stuff work,  you could reach out to my friends Kevin Desmond  or Tom Tiberia as they are actually the experts.  I am just sharing the results.   What were the results anyways? 

I walked away with a to-do list of things that I need to work on.   I also have a list of team goals aligned to my organization and organizational goals tied to myself as an individual.  I have a lot of questions that went unanswered but that is good because I never thought to ask some of these questions and I didn’t know how important they were.    I have ideas on measures that matter and I have homework for myself and my team.

Adam Grant Author of Give and Take recently said in a post “We love asking successful people for their secrets. But often, they’re not even aware of what they do differently from others.

Next time you want to learn from someone, instead of asking directly, go to that person’s collaborators. They have the clearest window into unique habits.”

What I had a chance to do here and what Kevin and Tom gave me was a window into my actions through the lens of others.   I can see a glimpse and take action on keeping my strengths strong and working on my legs..   <– that was a joke, you ever see those guys that just lift with their upper bodies?  They look top heavy.. I think you can look that way intellectually or emotionally as well if you don’t round out your work out.


As usual.. questions comments, complaints..




Collaboration Tool Crazy

Digital Fix.jpg

Dazed and Confused -Hammer Blaming

Don’t blame tools for your confusion.   Companies are buying too many tools and trying to implement them thinking that tools will solve their problems.   This is nothing new.  The problem is exacerbated by software as a service driven applications available to everyone.  I heard this termed “Credit Card IT”  where individuals decide that they don’t like the tools their companies provide and they go buy their own.

The buzz today is “Digital” that is all I hear right now.    It is absolutely ridiculous for companies to continue down the path of buying new solutions without rationalizing what they currently have.   The IT spend is out of control in many companies and while they are trying to flatten their budget, they are only spending more.   The only way to offset this is to either lay off employees or “green” the landscape, meaning trade old folks for new younger ones that are cheaper.

With a total focus on tools vs people or actual business needs,  the tools keep getting bought, every one gets “all digital” and they wind up or will wind up with a digital spaghetti mess in the corner.

If you look at this “Elements of Modern Enterprise Collaboration”, it makes sense but most organizations only focus on the technologies portion.


Harsh Words for Dummies

Does this look cheap? Digi_Mktg_Map_Final_April_2015.gif

Came from https://www.gartner.com/marketing/.

Do you understand what the heck these things are?

Do you have any idea of how they relate to each other?

Do you have any idea of how much they really cost?

Do you have staff on site that isn’t trying to sell you something that honestly understands this?

Do you know how all of these are relevant for your business?

Do you have knowledge management practice of any kind?

Do you have enterprise architectures? (not solution but enterprise)

If you can’t answer these questions, you probably should stop buying tools.  Well.. stop buying tools anyway but…  They will wind up in the corner gathering electron dust right near your CRM system that no one cares about.

Stop Spending Money .. Now

Stop spending money… <– yes.. stop spending money.    The first thing that needs to happen is “stop the madness” in spending.

There is no perfect enterprise and their won’t be perfected enterprise collaboration but what is for sure, is that we can do better.    The world is really truly moving towards an application based enterprise.   This means that their will be an ecosystem of tools and capabilities in the enterprise.    There are patterns of collaboration and communication that have people working together through different applications under different contexts.   Just think of it as your smart phone.   The standard is the phone, the applications are put into the app store and you use what you need when you need it based on the needs of the moment.

This is really the way things are going.    When you see Microsoft SharePoint 2016, apps will be a big part of it.   Look at any of the tools coming out, all application focused.

Still, I am talking about the tools.  The real focus should be on the business.   The first three things to do are…  (if you are with a medium or large company)

Grab your best Enterprise Architect, if you don’t have one.. go get one immediately.

  1. Start with Vendor Management and IT security – Between these two groups, you can get a good start on what you have in the enterprise.
  2. Create an EA framework to understand the enterprise portfolio of tools.
  3. Start a formal Knowledge Management initiative.

The results of these activities will start to highlight the “best things you never knew you had.”

  1. The EA activities will highlight tools and spending, it will also help immediately lower your IT and business risk.
  2. The EA framework will provide a starting place to process enterprise capabilities, tools and find reuse.   Companies bleed out money because of a “lack of awareness.”
  3. A KM practice will get your organization focused on the business of knowledge.  Knowledge is your business.  It is that simple.

Of course there are successful companies that don’t have a formal knowledge management practice but chances are they have an informal knowledge management practice and it is part of their culture.

Contractors, Consultants and Experts OH MY!

If you are going to hire brilliant, expensive and knowledgeable consultants, ask to see their enterprise collaboration practices.    When I say ask, what I really mean is get a tour with real people not just partners and senior executives.   Senior leaders will talk a good talk but the truth is most of these companies including the big four don’t use their own collaboration tools well. They don’t generally speaking understand KM either.  The reason why is generally more associated with the business model and practices vs tools.  What I mean by that is large consulting firms don’t get partners in silo cost centers rich by sharing.

Bottom line here is we have to be honest about this whole thing.    Don’t spend the money on all the enterprise tools if you don’t care about the people aspect.  If leadership looks at staff as just a number and doesn’t truly believe in employee engagement, it will be a waste.

Too Much?

This isn’t personal.  Companies have made that clear with the sheer amount of transformation, cost cutting, layoffs, restructuring etc.   They still find dollars to re-tool or add tools to the organization.   This makes little sense.   They let experts in their business walk out the door in exchange for tools they don’t understand.   The stock prices go up with the stories of how they are embracing technology and transforming but the fact remains that most people spend over 6+ hours a day in Email.

Go figure..  rolling all those heads and still email is the most used and most common tool set in the enterprise.    Try shutting that down..

So, lets not blame the tools for our problems or for that matter, the amount of tools that you have in the enterprise that you are allowing to accumulate.

Focus on the business, work with people and engage with them using best practices of Knowledge Management and Enterprise Architecture.   Let the story be told so that you know what actions to take.  Then once you “get it” you can “get all digital” but for now..

Stay analog my friends..

Thanks @Wendy Woodson for helping us “keep it real”





How Can I Help? #Advocate


Three+1 Things You CAN Do

Wake up in the morning, get my cup of coffee,  head to the office to start my day.  Open my email, it is full to the brim, I switch over to the calendar and see my schedule is full.   How did my day become consumed by meetings?   I go through my day,  I eat while I am working, it gets late,  I go home.  I tend to my family and then back to the email, maybe a little book reading and off late to bed to restart the whole thread.

Somewhere in the mix I have to hold on to my humanity.  All the work that I do is electronic and amounts to a pile of nothing, but electrons and virtual transactions.  How the heck can I help anyone?

Take Time to Listen

When someone writes, calls or knocks on the door, make the time to listen.   Sometimes you are standing between two connections and you are the bridge, you just didn’t know it.  Active listening is a great skill to have and it certainly takes practice. https://cohenovate.com/2015/02/22/understanding-conflict-and-knowledge-management/  Listening is good for them and good for you!

Share Ideas, but Don’t Share Answers

Sometimes the answers come easy, but the real solutions are difficult.   In other words,  having an answer on how to fix a problem may create more of a problem.  Sometimes we need to just talk through ideas and come to solutions on our own.  Offer up ideas or thoughts but, offer them as concepts and not answers.

Be a Shoulder, not a Boulder

Being there for a person and helping means you have your attention focused on their needs.  I have found that listening to people and helping them sort through their problems can help me with challenges that I face.   The best thing to do is to stay focused and help them and be strong for them as they need.  Adding your problems to the discussion is a weight added, not a burden lifted.

Recognize and Advocate for Others

They say that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Some suggest that this is not true, but that smiling may cost us less overall energy. http://zidbits.com/2011/09/does-it-really-take-more-muscles-to-frown-than-to-smile/

It may seem that it takes more energy to advocate and recognize others than it does for yourself, but if you practice recognizing others and advocating for others, it will take overall less energy and be helpful to you.  Realistically, we can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but our entire world is built on the foundation of relationships.   Recognizing a contribution or advocating for someone helps strengthen the bonds and the ties between us.   We are better together and we are better when we recognize each other.   It is simple to do.   Be mindful, be courageous and bold, advocate with intent and without fear, the costs are low and the results will always pay off.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Thanks Wendy Woodson for your creative contribution

When Giants Tip Toe #Leadership #Social


Small Actions

We are all tiny giants walking through this world creating ripples with far reaching and unknown impact.

It is a struggle to know if the decisions we make will have a positive impact or a negative one.  We can’t predict the future, but we can realize that we are all giants.    The world is becoming smaller through technology and each of us individually is becoming larger.  Today we have more ability to reach and impact millions of people with very little effort.

In 4 minutes and 4 seconds Candace Payne made over a million people laugh by wearing a Chewbacca mask and laughing throughout the video.  Not only did she do that, she set off a sales and marketing blitz for the retailer Kohls .

Of course this is a good news story for this family and Kohl’s.   It is proof that (if you need any) that social media, the internet, and interconnected media shrinks the distance between us.  It also means that we can get crushed by the same effect.

Big Mistakes by Big Players

Anyone with a connected device could impact millions of people with something interesting, funny, brilliant or otherwise compelling.   If this is the case, why do so many companies make critical mistakes with social media?

These companies are aware of the opportunities to the extent that they experience them but they aren’t aware of the opportunities in the sense of creating them.  Under these conditions they are trying to “tip toe” carefully while using the social digital space as a walking stick.   Under these conditions, they seek to “be social” but with carefully controlled messaging.   The underlying issue with this is that they are already social, but social can’t be controlled, it can only be influenced.   The influence occurs through natural human interaction.   How many CEO’s have I/O psychologists readily on hand?  Instead they look at data and what they call sentiment analysis.    This by itself is a mistake and it is akin to removing a splinter with a hatchet.   Giants think they need giant things and giant solutions, but the reality is they need small solutions and small tweaks.   The reason is that small things in a giant world have large impacts.

Retired General Stanley Mcchrystal said, “I would tell my staff about the dinosaur’s tail: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”

Carefully Well Thought Out Poor Decisions

How much did it cost Kohl’s for the four minute social wave of marketing?   In 2012, it is estimated that Kohl’s spent 1.16 billion dollars.  In 2014, they spent an estimated 1.9 billion.    The underlying reason they spent more on advertising was “weak profitability. It is too early to tell what the “Candace Payne effect” is, but it cost them around $5,000 (they gave Candace $2500, 10,000 reward points, and Star Wars toys for her kids) and that was by their choice.   In other words, Kohl’s was smart to respond but they didn’t have to because they were mentioned as a natural part of the conversation.

There is a lot to think about here.  For example, what if Kohl’s turned their advertising budget into enhancing the customer experience?   What if Kohl’s goal was to “create a shopping experience that made people happy?”    I am not knocking Kohl’s, I am just stating that they are solving the wrong problem precisely.   Another great example to consider is the Giant air carrier United Airlines.

United Airlines sent me a very personalized message signed by their CEO Oscar Munoz.



There are many things wrong with this message.   The message could have been sent out generically without the personalized touch.   Marketing experts may tell you that x percent of people respond better when their names are put in a message, but that is nonsense.   People respond to kindness, honestly, integrity, humility and reality to start.   It is not reality to think that UA cares about my business.  If you think I am being too harsh, consider that United Airlines is ranked worst by a J.D. Power customer survey .   You see “all about the data” can go many ways.    What did Oscar say in his personal message to me that would make a difference?   Can I reach Oscar to respond to his personal message to me?   Let’s find out.. 

United Response “My name is NO.. my number is No”

CustomerCare@united.com <customercare@united.com>

May 20 (2 days ago)

to me
Dear Mr. Cohen:
I am truly sorry for any poor experiences you have recently had with

I know in the past years it has been quite painful to travel with
United.  As an employee I agree with you, but Mr. Munoz has brought
great change. We have been improving the morale of all employees and in
turn have created a wonderful customer experience for all of our
customers.  We do hope you allow us to show you how we improved and
continue your loyalty with us.

Mr. Cohen, we appreciate your comments and look forward to serving you


Matthew Miguel
Executive Services, United Airlines
Corporate Customer Care
Case: 10376324

Original Message:
To: Munoz, Oscar
Subject: Message CX

Dear Oscar,

I received your message today and I don’t think your  message really means anything.  In fact,  I don’t know what you are doing to energize your employee base but I do know this.

Getting to the plane is painful.
Being uncomfortable while waiting for the plane is painful.
Getting on the plane is painful.
Sitting on the plane is painful.
Getting asked to pay extra at every turn is painful.
Moving reservations is painful.
The frustration pouring out of people in the airport and on the plane is

The whole experience together makes it simple for me to travel in that
since airlines don’t differentiate themselves any longer in any way, I
can just choose the lowest cost and be miserable for the duration of my
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out.

Best Regards,
Howard Cohen

My Interpretation


Dear Mr. Cohen:
I am truly sorry for any poor experiences you have recently had with
UnitedI am sorry that we wrote you. 

I know in the past years it has been quite painful to travel with
United.  I have no idea what happened to you or your experience with United but I am just going to tell you that “I get it”  and hopefully that will be enough. 

As an employee I agree with you, but Mr. Munoz has brought
great change.   I agree with you.   I can’t say anything else beyond that because I am in customer service.   Mr. Munoz has brought great change and change is good because change means change. 

We have been improving the morale of all employees and in
turn have created a wonderful customer experience for all of our
customers.  We are improving morale through our efforts of change and we have created a wonderful experience for customers <– in past tense as if this was something that happened and not in present tense as something that is happening. 

We do hope you allow us to show you how we improved and
continue your loyalty with us.  You probably aren’t going to fly with us anytime soon. 

Mr. Cohen, we appreciate your comments and look forward to serving you
again.  Did you actually think in small giant feeble mind that Oscar Munoz the CEO of the company would read your message?  You aren’t even a very frequent flyer, why would you matter?   Thanks for the laugh and enjoy my generic response.  


Matthew Miguel
Executive Services, United Airlines
Corporate Customer Care
Case: 10376324

Only Time Will Tell

In 2010 Forbes Lee E. Ohanian said that “Recent lessons indicate that once an industry starts to get big through mergers and acquisitions, it is hard to change course. And this may well be bad news for both travelers and taxpayers.”   (http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/11/airlines-merger-economy-opinions-contributors-lee-ohanian.html)

The reality though is that airlines are thinking about ways to cram more folks into the plane.   Flying me to Cuba in a box while I am hibernating or strapping my feet to the floor while I stand in the subway isle of the aircraft isn’t going to be interesting to me.    I predict more challenges for United.


Every connected person is part of the digital ecology.   We are giants and our small actions will have long lasting effects.  The days of leadership from the ivory tower are not over but we are moving more towards a complicated hive network topology between corporate employees and customers alike.   What does change really mean?   Consider that whether you walk with a flat foot or tip toe through the network, you will have an impact on the ecosystem, your presence will be felt and we are all “leaders from where we are.”

As an FYI, I did follow up with United after their response and never heard back from them.   I don’t have unreasonable expectations, but it is clear that they are struggling with their social strategy.