Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Six Pillars of Character, by Michael Josephson

The Six Pillars of Character:

I've talked before about the importance of making moral judgments. The idea is not to encourage categorizing or labeling the character of others but to clarify personal moral obligations in terms of specific values and attributes that make us better people and produce a better society.

The most effective framework I know is built on six core ethical values called the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

If you want to be a person of character:

First, be worthy of trust; live with honor and integrity; be honest, keep your promises, and do what's right even when it costs more than you want to pay.

Second, treat others with respect; live by the Golden Rule; and avoid physical violence, verbal abuse, prejudice, and all other acts that demean or offend human dignity.

Third, be responsible; exercise self-discipline and self-restraint; do your best, be self-reliant, and be accountable for the consequences of your choices.

Fourth, strive to be fair, don't cheat, be open and consistent, don't jump to conclusions, and be careful in making judgments about others.

Fifth, be caring, kind, empathetic, and charitable; avoid selfishness; and do what you can to improve the lives of others.

Sixth, be a good citizen, do your share to make your community better, protect the environment, participate in democratic processes, play by the rules, and obey laws (unless you have a compelling conscientious objection).

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Recommendation: Eating Animals, by Jill Richardson

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Book Recommendation: Eating Animals

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 13:00:49 PM PDT

When I finished reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, I felt sick to my stomach. And that's the way one should feel about any accurate account of the way most meat is produced in this country. That said, I don't want to lead would-be readers of this book to say "I don't want to know" and then avoid reading such a complete and nauseating account of where most meat comes from. If you eat meat -especially if you eat meat you didn't raise and slaughter yourself - it is your responsibility to read this book.More below.
Jill Richardson :: Book Recommendation: Eating Animals
Eating Animals is unique among foodie literature. It crosses the line between two types of books. First, there are of course all of the exposes of modern industrial food production and the better alternatives. That includes books like The Omnivore's DilemmaFast Food Nation, and even my own book. Second, there are books out there - and I admit I haven't read many - asking the philosophical question whether humans should eat animals, or just plain arguing that we shouldn't (or that we should). This book is an important convergence of the two.It's important, first of all, because it distinguishes between factory farming and more ethical, humane ways of producing animal products. And thank goodness for that. I get upset when I see meat painted with a broad brush because, although most meat comes from horrific factory farm conditions, anti-meat activists diminish their own credibility by forgetting to mention (and thus pissing off) the ethical farmers out there. This book doesn't do that. In fact, it goes in depth describing the farming practices of Niman Ranch and a pastured poultry farmer. It even covers the lack of small, independent slaughterhouses and how that limits ethical farmers' ability to bring more humane meat to the market.
Second, this book is important because it tackles - in depth - a topic that foodie literature often skips. And that is animal cruelty. This is a subject I included in my own book because I wanted to be "complete" in my review of the problems and solutions in the food system. Surely, no book that glosses over the vast amount of often perfectly legal cruelty to farm animals in this country is complete. But I stopped short. I was afraid readers would be so turned off by the accounts of animal cruelty that they would miss less controversial arguments in my book (like calling for safe food and healthy school lunch). But Eating Animals doesn't do that. It lays it all out there, until the reader is literally ready to vomit.
Most people, I think, have an idea - a rough idea - of what goes on to the animals they find on their plates. And just like I don't need to know exactly what horrific acts occurred in Nazi concentration camps to know they were awful (and that I'd probably be quite unsettled if I got the details), people know just enough about meat production to say "Don't tell me. I don't want to know." If they knew, they wouldn't be able to continue eating factory farmed meat with an almost-clear conscience. And that's just not good enough. We need to know. All of us need to know, and then we need to decide whether or not we can take part in that system. (And, unless you're a sadist or a sociopath, I think you know the answer to that.)
Jonathan Safran Foer does all of this in a very unique way. One section of the book is entirely set up as a glossary of definitions, in alphabetical order. He's simply brilliant to be able to use this section to tell a clear story and to still manage to stick to alphabetical order. He also includes the first person accounts of an animal rights activist who breaks into factory farms at night, a vegan who designs slaughterhouses, a vegetarian rancher, a non-vegetarian rancher, a factory farmer, an ethical poultry farmer, and someone from PETA. If there's one thing you must give him credit for, it's being fair.
Another area where he deserves credit is for going beyond labels, slogans, and black and white ideas about eating meat or not eating meat. Because the book is written as his own quest to decide whether or not to eat meat (and to feed it to his family), it is not preachy. He's not telling you, the reader, what to think or do. But he also recognizes that, while factory farming and large scale slaughterhouses are nightmarish, cruel, and immoral, there's a gray area of ethical meat. Some people - who he fully respects - eat it, and others - who he also respects - do not. Is one right and the other wrong? Not necessarily.
The last thing I'd like to give Eating Animals credit for is its brilliant coverage of seafood - both aquaculture and wild caught fish. When I say I'm a vegetarian, people often ask if I eat fish, as if it is some sort of middle ground. It is not. In fact, the way fish is produced is in so many ways far worse than meat is produced. I can easily get ethical meat from a number of sources. It's far more difficult to get ethical fish. It's fairly easy to get fish that is labeled in some way to make you think it is ethical, but is it? In most cases, no. When a slaughterhouse kills a cow, they don't accidentally kill 10 lbs of other species (including endangered species) for ever 1 lb of beef. But fishermen do. All the time.
Here are a few quotes from the book I'd like to share.

The question, for me, is this: Given that eating animals is in absolutely no way necessary for my family - unlike some in the world, we have easy access to a wide variety of other foods - should we eat animals? I answer this question as someone who has loved eating animals. A vegetarian diet can be rich and fully enjoyable, but I couldn't honestly argue, as many vegetarians try to, that it is as rich as a diet that includes meat. (Those who eat chimpanzee look at the Western diet as sadly deficient of a great pleasure.) I love sushi, I love fried chicken, I love a good steak. But there is a limit to my love.Since I encountered the realities of factory farming, refusing to eat conventional meat has not been a hard decision. And it's become hard to imagine who, besides those who profit from it, would defend factory farming.
But things get complicated with a farm like Paul Willis's pig farm or Frank Reese's poultry ranch. I admire what they do, and given the alternatives it's hard not to think of them as heroes. They care about the animals they raise and treat them as well as they know how. And if we consumers can limit our desire for pork and poultry to the capacity of the land (a big if), there are no knockdown ecological arguments against their kind of farming. - p. 196
And the second quote, from Nicolette Hahn Niman:

And the world doesn't, by the way, need to produce nearly as many animals as it's currently producing. Factory farming wasn't born or advanced out of a need to produce more food - to "feed the hungry" - but to produce it in a way that is profitable for agribusiness companies. Factory farming is all about money. That is the reason the factory farm system is failing and won't work over the long term: it's created a food industry whose primary concern isn't feeding people. Does anyone really doubt that the corporations that control the vast majority of animal agriculture in America are in it for the profit? In most industries, that's a perfectly good driving force. But when the commodities are animals, the factories are the earth itself, and the products are physically consumed, the stakes are not the same, and the thinking can't be the same...Factory farming is the last system you'd create if you cared about sustainably feeding people over the long term.
The irony is that while factory farms don't benefit the public, they rely on us not only to support them, but to pay for their mistakes. - p. 209

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to Drive Change the IDEO Way, by Andrew Winston

Earlier this week I enjoyed listening to Bruce MacGregor, Managing Partner of design giant IDEO, at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Monterey, CA.
His talk was focused on how you drive change. He name-checked Nudge, Predictably Irrational, and other recent, important books on changing behavior. Some fun examples included this crowd favorite: Airports that etched a little fly into urinals for men to aim at saw an 80% reduction in, well, pee on the floor.
MacGregor demonstrated how hard change really is with one shocking statistic: Only 10% of people facing a life-threatening situation — as in the doctor says change your behavior or you die — make the changes necessary.
Here were his three principles on driving real change:
  1. Speak joy, not fear. Example: The Wii Fit gets people playing and exercising without guilt; instead of focusing on a message of fear ("get up off the couch or else!"), the Wii promised fun — and fitness was a side benefit.
  2. Use judo: harness existing momentum towards a new goal. Example: Bank of America's "Keep the Change" program, which rounds up your debit purchases to the nearest dollar and puts that extra in a savings account. Customers have saved $2 billion so far.
  3. Create the crowd. Example: Japan's Cool Biz program. When the country wanted to get companies to raise the thermostat in the summer (it was so cold in most office buildings, that you needed to wear your jacket), it had the Prime Minister come out in public in short sleeves with no tie. They also held a fashion show with execs wearing no jacket or tie.
These ideas have important meaning for the sustainable business (and social) movement, particularly the principle of creating joy, notfear. For forty years of Earth Days and ever since the iconic "crying Native American" ad that disparaged modern environmental recklessness, "doom and gloom" has dominated environmental messaging (often for good reason: the Gulf spill is exhibit 1). Advocates for environmental awareness have often played off fear to create a sense of urgency in the general public.
But companies and environmental NGOs need to paint a picture of what a sustainable world could look like and describe how much better, healthier, and profitable our lives and businesses could be.
Successful eco-products follow the pattern of the Wii story. The Toyota Prius — putting aside for the moment the recent safety issues — has been extremely successful because it's an exciting new technology that people have fun using. And as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Pepsi is trying to make recycling more fun with its new "Dream Machines"that take your bottles and give you points toward rewards.
The three IDEO concepts are deceptively simple, but powerful reminders of how to drive real change. Focus on what brings real fulfillment and joy, leverage momentum, and gather a crowd to build more profitable, lean, and yes, fun, organizations.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whiteboard Magic about Motivation, by Daniel Pink

Whiteboard magic:

Above is a remarkable 10-minute animated video about Drive. Over the past few weeks, several people who’ve watched it have asked me how I created such an elegant and compelling piece. Today I provide the answer: I had almost nothing to do with it.

In January, I talked about the book at the RSA in London. A few months later, the RSA carved out some sound bites, commissioned Cognitive Media to add some groovy whiteboard cartoons to accompany the words, and then posted the video on YouTube. That’s it.

I didn’t know it was in the works or even see the final project myself until a couple of weeks ago, after it had gone live. But now, to my amazement, it’s been viewed more than 1 million times. (That’s, er, slightly more views than my video travel tips.)

Thanks, RSA, for being so innovative. And thanks, Cognitive Media, for such amazing work and for scaring the crap out of the UPS whiteboard guy.


Monday, June 7, 2010

The Wooden Pledge, by Michael Josephson

The Wooden Pledge

The tidal wave of praise and tributes commemorating Coach John Wooden's passing makes it hard to add something new. My effort is the following pledge derived from his Pyramid of Success and some of his favorite maxims. I invite you to take the pledge and pass it on to others.

(Learn how Coach Wooden helped launch our Pursuing Victory With Honor campaign and see a video of him talking to Institute president Michael Josephson here.)

I pledge to improve and safeguard my character and to myself be true

being faithful to my convictions in all I say and do.

I will strive to do what's right and let my conscience be my guide

knowing my worth is measured by what I am inside.

I'll take on each day enthusiastically and give every task my all

I will not whine, complain, or make excuses, even if I fall.

I will live my life with purpose, thinking ahead and having a plan

I will never allow what I can't do to interfere with what I can.

I will find opportunity in adversity and do things right the first time through

and never be afraid to change or to try something new.

I will be patient, poised, and confident, working toward each goal

being sure to govern my emotions and demonstrating self-control.

I will count my blessings daily and be grateful for what I possess

getting joy from moderation and avoiding all excess.

I will work hard and take initiative in order to excel

and I'll make big things happen by doing the little things well.

I will pursue victory with honor, not letting praise or criticism change how I act

and I'll strive to be worthy of pride and emulation, in reputation and in fact.

I will be sincere, honest, and loyal, worthy of other's trust

I will be respectful and responsible, doing what I must.

I will always act with fairness and show others how much I care

and I'll be a good citizen and always do my share.

I will live my life with dignity, passion, and fun

and make each day my masterpiece when all is said and done.

*Derived by Michael Josephson, of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, from the writings and philosophy of Coach John Wooden.


Friday, June 4, 2010

The end of busy, by Leo Babauta

The end of busy:

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” ~Lao Tzu

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

Stop being busy and your job is half done.

Think about how busy we are, and how it has become a way of bragging: I’m so busy, I must be important.

“I have a million things to do! I never have time for anything! I can’t slow down — I’m too busy.” This is thought to be a good thing in a society where we must be productive, active, occupied.

But it’s a fool’s game. Busy is simply noise, action without meaning, lots of little unimportant things rather than a few important ones.

Stop being busy. Just decide to stop, today.

Now you’re halfway done. You’ve decided to slow down, and to focus on what’s important. All of a sudden, your schedule clears up, and your to-to list shrinks down to almost nothing.

Now you just have one or two things to do, instead of a million. You clear distractions, and focus.

But how can you stop being busy? It’s a simple change of mindset: you say, I’m not going to be busy anymore. Even if you have little control over your schedule, you can decide that you’ll slow down, and pick the important things to work on, and if necessary, talk to your boss about doing this. If you control your schedule, you can drop all the busywork, and just pick the high-impact tasks.

It might seem impossible, but once you decide to put an End to Busy, you have taken the biggest step.

You can now make time for work you’re passionate about, for work that matters. You can make time for solitude, for creating. You can make time for contemplation, for yourself.

Stop being busy, and your job is half done.

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” ~Jane Austen

If you liked this guide, please bookmark it on Delicious or share on Twitter. Thanks, my friends.

If you’re interested in a life of minimalism, check out my new ebook: The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life.

Or find more of my other books and ebooks.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some Bosses Live in a Fool's Paradise - The Conversation - Harvard Business Review, by Robert Sutton

Some Bosses Live in a Fool's Paradise - The Conversation - Harvard Business Review

Last week, I posted a list of 12 Things Good Bosses Believe. I didn't explain any of them, but promised that I would in a series of posts over the coming weeks. So this post is about the first belief: "I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me."

One thing that makes organizations dysfunctional is that bosses so often lack self-awareness. They're out of touch with their effect on their people and not in tune with what it feels like to work for them. But is it really their fault? Doing the research for Good Boss, Bad Boss over the past few years (and drawing on ideas Jeff Pfeffer and I explored in Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense), I've come to appreciate why it's so hard to lead a team. This is a blog post and not a dissertation, so I can't tell the whole story. But here are three of the biggest, and most deeply human, forces conspiring to make people in charge so clueless.

  1. Bosses are, like everyone, self-deluding. All human beings tend to be poor judges of their own actions and accomplishments. We suffer from "self-enhancement bias," whereby we believe we are "better than the rest" and have a hard time accepting or remembering any evidence to the contrary. In one study, for example, 90% of drivers reported that they had "above average" driving skills. In a US College Board survey of nearly a million high school seniors, 70% claimed "above average" leadership skills; only 2 % believed they were "below average." Worse yet, research by Cornell's David Dunning and his colleagues shows that it's the most deeply incompetent people who make the most inflated self-assessments. Bosses aren't immune to this. It turns out that followers, peers, superiors, and customers consistently provide better information about a boss's strengths, weaknesses, and quirks than the boss him or herself. This showed up in a study of naval officers, where peer ratings were found to be good predictors of which officers would receive early promotions — but self-evaluations did not. Fancy yourself as the rare boss who sees yourself as others do? Beware: most people are confident that they make more accurate self-assessments than their peers. Unfortunately, that's just another form of self-aggrandizement.
  2. Bosses are naturally heedless of subordinates. When someone is put in a position of power, subordinate members of the group watch that individual very closely for any sign of a shift in behavior or mood. (Research shows this begins with baboons, as this post explains). But the attention is not reciprocated. To the contrary, the leader turns remarkably oblivious to what the underlings do, and instead, attends to personal needs and desires — and to the next rung of the hierarchy, focusing on what the next higher boss is saying and doing. Elsewhere, I've called this combination of overattentive subordinates and inattentive bosses "the toxic tandem." As Susan Fiske discovered in her workplace research (reported inAmerican Psychologist), "Secretaries know more about their bosses than vice versa; graduate students know more about their advisors than vice versa." Fiske suggests this happens because (like our fellow primates), "People pay attention to those who control their outcomes. In an effort to predict and possibly influence what is going to happen to them, people gather information about those with power."
  3. Bosses are insulated from reality. As Jeff Pfeffer and I reported in Hard Facts, extensive research proves that people routinely "shoot the messenger." Bearers of bad news, even when they aren't responsible for it in any sense, tend to be blamed and to have negative feelings directed toward them. The result is the "Mum Effect": subordinates with good survival instincts soften bad news to make it sound better, or avoid passing it along to their bosses at all. Therefore, in a steep hierarchy it is a happier and happier story that reaches the top ranks. Our most disturbing example came courtesy of physics Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman after his investigation of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. He said he'd asked a group of engineers to estimate the probability that the shuttle's main engine would fail, and their estimates ranged from 1-in-200 to 1-in-300. But when he asked the head of NASA to make the failure-rate estimate, the answer he got was 1-in-100,000. Feynman pointed to this as an illustration of managerial isolation from reality, a problem he believed to be rampant throughout NASA.

When you consider just these three tendencies, you begin to appreciate how easy it is to be a terrible boss. At the same time, you glimpse one of the keys to leading well. A hallmark of good bosses — and I define those as bosses who get stellar performance from their teams while displaying great humanity — is that they are highly cognizant of these dangers. They realize their followers watch, analyze, and react to just about everything they say and do. And they devote real energy to reading expressions, noting behaviors, and making constant adjustments to help their people think independently and express themselves without reservation.

IDEO Chairman and founder David Kelley, a boss I have studied, worked with, and watched for years, strikes me as someone who is very aware of the effect of his presence. Although no one would accuse him of being pushy or arrogant, he realizes that because he is the boss — and even beyond that, a renowned design thinker and industry leader — too much of the attention in a room threatens to come his way. His mere presence can stifle his people's contributions.

I have seen David do a very clever thing to counter this. In meetings he takes part in, whether they are brainstorming sessions, client meetings, or a work-related gatherings of any kind, he'll start at the front of the room, as expected. But once he's covered the preliminaries — introducing people, setting the tone and goals — he pulls in others to talk and lead, and moves to the side of the room. He jumps back in if the ideas stop flowing, or if some uncomfortable moment needs to be covered, perhaps by telling a little story or joke, but if he's confident the meeting is going well, he drifts to the back of the room and remains silent. Usually, well before the meeting is over, he is able to slip out without saying good-bye.

Of course, David Kelley doesn't leave because he has some higher priority — he does so because he wants the meeting to be as productive as possible. His brilliance is that he is so intensely in tune with the context he has set, and how his words, actions, and little facial expressions affect the room. He keeps making adjustments with the goal of getting the group interacting so well that his presence becomes an unnecessary distraction.

It's a simple example, but a telling one. I would argue that, in general, the best bosses are people who realize that they are prone to suffering blind spots about themselves, their colleagues, and problems in the organization — and who work doggedly to overcome them.

I wonder, what are your thoughts? What have you seen bosses do to counter these potent forces and focus on how their moods and moves might affect their people's performance and well-being? What are the signs of a boss in tune with reality — or alternatively, a boss still living in a fool's paradise?