Is Your Business Working on Purpose?

By Shawn Parr, Guvner and CEO of Bulldog Drummond

When I misbehaved as a young lad, my mother was the one who almost always reprimanded me. After lecturing me on the rights and wrongs, she’d ask, “Did you do that on purpose, son?” and then hand out the punishment. My actions were almost always spontaneous episodes of teenage stupidity—not premeditated acts of dissent. While I was definitely a rebellious teenager, my mother’s inquisition always made me think about my actions, and to this day, “Are you doing that on purpose?” is a question I ask myself regularly about my impact on others.

Purpose and people are the new frontier.
For most businesses today, the most valuable asset they manage is their people—and employee engagement and satisfaction are strategic imperatives that every leadership team should understand. People who turn up to work each day and aren’t actively using their talents to pursue or connect to their purpose don’t operate at their full potential. People who find their reason for being, who uncover their purpose and connect with it passionately, become more engaged and significantly more effective at work and in life because of a clear sense of fulfillment. Helping your employees discover and define their purpose represents a significant opportunity to improve “people” engagement and, therefore, overall business performance.

Companies that find their purpose are no different when they define or rediscover their reason for being. Working closely with executive teams at large corporations to reposition and refresh their brands, we encounter many who ask for our guidance to explore and define their purpose. This is not just vision and mission work, it is deep strategic work that can impact every facet of a business, both inside and outside of a company. Read More…

The Future Of Crowdsourcing


CrowdsourcingI am a believer in the power of exploration. It is often in the seemingly random corners of life that we find opportunity, brilliance, and possibility. In an effort to open the door to possibility for myself, I spent some time with the producers and participants of Crowdsolve Seattle– a first-of-its-kind event bringing together law enforcement, a variety of experts, as well as several hundred “regular people” from around the world who share an interest in true crime and a passion to contribute in a meaningful way.

Designed and produced by the team at Red Seat Ventures,this event extends upon the team’s prior work producing CrimeCon, a variety of events throughout the year that attract flocks of true crime fans from around the globe. “CrowdSolve came mostly out of attendee feedback over our first three CrimeCon events. Fans told us they wanted to go much deeper into a single case file for the entire experience,” says Kevin Balfe, co-founder of Red Seat Ventures.

CrowdSolve uses a process known as crowdsourcing, an open collaboration process intended to help solve problems, has gained a great deal of popularity in the last decade. Application of crowdsourcing principles have been introduced to a wide variety of situations ranging from medical research, to navigation (think Waze), and even how you book travel accommodations through Airbnb. Crowdsourcing offers an opportunity to bring together large groups of diverse individuals to solve problems with the assumption that diverse groups bringing a variety of opinions and backgrounds can make higher quality decisions than a small group of “experts”.

Types of crowdsourcing.

There are a variety of specific methods that crowdsourcing processes can take including crowd creativity, crowd voting, crowd complementors, crowd contests and challenges, and crowd innovation to name a few. While many methods of utilizing crowdsourcing are focused on microtasks, or small, repetitive tasks such as interpreting handwriting or street signs, crowdsourcing presents a promising future in helping businesses think about solving some of their most complex problems.

What does it take for crowdsourcing processes to be most effective? 

When I think about my experience designing crowdsourcing processes for my clients who are working to solve some of their most complex business challenges, three fundamental things come to mind- the crowd, the tech, and the experts. The crowd is pretty self-explanatory. They provide the new perspectives. The experts can provide valuable insight to help guide the journey for the participants. Where I, and others, see interesting opportunities to support crowdsourcing efforts is in figuring out how technological advances may aid groups in scouring large amounts to data to find clues and patterns that people may miss.

During my recent visit to the Crowdsolve event in Seattle, I had an opportunity to meet up with Sukrit Venkatagiri, a computer science doctoral student at Virginia Tech’s Crowd Intelligence Lab. Sukrit and his colleagues were at the event trying to understand how technology can best be utilized to facilitate crowdsourcing efforts in ways that help speed up the work in ethical and effective ways. Through their research, the team at Virginia Tech supports law enforcement, journalists, and human rights investigators to better integrate technology into their crowdsourcing processes in order to help them drive results. Sukrit summed it up nicely, “The future will be about combining human thought and creativity with AI’s ability to see patterns in large sets of data.”

Tips for considering crowdsourcing for your business. 

Seems simple enough. Toss a bunch of people in a room and let them have a massive brainstorming session, right? Wrong. Ensuring that you have taken the time to design your process correctly will:

  1. Clearly define your goals before you start. Since crowdsourcing requires the participation of well, crowds, you must be very intentional about clarifying and putting boundaries around your goals before you get started. In addition, figure out what success looks like for everyone. This helps narrow in on a set of goals that meets the needs of all of the participants.
  2. Ask the right question. Many people underestimate this simple concept but the ability to ask the right question at the right time is a true art. Being extremely thoughtful about the question you are trying to answer with your group can make or break the success of your crowdsourcing process.
  3. Bake in safeguards to ensure ethical and productive work for all parties affected by the process. This is something that should always be considered regardless of topic but when bringing together a crowd to work sensitive challenges like those attempted by the participants of CrowdSolve (solving actual cold cases) it is absolutely imperative that safeguards are in place to protect people, evidence, and even the potential suspects. The leaking of case files, vigilantism, or inconsiderate behavior in front of the victim’s family members (who were present during the event that I observed) can all have significant negative effects and damage your ability to crowdsource in the future.

It is not lost on me that this type of process requires a lot of trust on the part of law enforcement to open up actual case files to participants. Therefore, guardrails must be in place to ensure that confidential information is not leaked to the public or that vigilantism does not become a reality.

When I asked about what it took for law enforcement to agree to open active case files to participants, Balfe added, “Trust does not come easily (nor should it) but I think we’ve proven to law enforcement, families, victims’ rights groups, and content creators that we do things the right way. I hope we’ve shown them [law enforcement], and other jurisdictions watching, that our sole interest is in hosting an event that brings together smart, passionate, and engaged attendees with world-class experts and [that this] has the potential to provide law enforcement with new directions, leads, and ideas.”

  1. Provide a clear process. A lack of a clear process and expectations to guide the crowd makes you run the risk of losing focus and getting off track. Ensuring that the experience is intentionally designed helps to ensure that you are as productive as possible.
  2. Ensure that experts are involved in the design and facilitation of the process. Having experts present to guide the crowd through the process helps keep people focused and productive and helps mitigate any risks associated with sensitive information. In addition to having experts supervising the design and facilitation of the process, identify subject matter experts to help provide valuable perspective that will help move the crowd forward.
  3. Provide data that supports the process but nothing more. One of the benefits of crowdsourcing is bringing diverse people together who aren’t experts to create new ideas to consider.In order to maximize the limited time that the crowd has to work together, provide them with the information that they need to be most effective.
  4. Provide feedback to participants. If people are going to give you their time, attention, and ideas you owe it to them to keep them looped into the outcomes of the process.
  5. Create a safe space where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas. There are many factors that may make participants feel uncomfortable opening up during your process- not being clear or transparent about how peoples’ input will be used, who will own the rights to the outcomes of the process, etc.  This is another reason it is critically important to be very intentional about the environment you create.
  6. Keep an open mind. Regardless of the process that you design, you never know what you might get from working with a crowd. Don’t discount ideas or input that you didn’t expect. One of the real benefits of this type of process is that bringing together a diverse group can lead to some really “out of the box” type solutions. Be open to letting the dialogue go where it goes. You never know what might come out of it.
  7. Check the governing law regarding intellectual property rights. One thing to be sure of before attempting any sort of crowdsourcing process for your business is to make sure that the laws pertaining to intellectual property rights are aligned with what you are hoping to get out of the process.

The business implications of crowdsourcing in the future of work. 

Many clients ask my opinion on the future of work and how technological advances such as artificial intelligence and machine learning may impact their people. This is not an easy question to answer. In my opinion, some jobs will become irrelevant, completely taken over by automation. Most jobs will continue to integrate technology in ways that make people more productive and where technology is capable of handling the more mundane and routine tasks, freeing people up to do what computers can’t. This would include freeing people up to do things that computers can’t like creativity.

In a world where the challenges we face become increasingly complex, finding methods of bringing together crowds, experts, and technology in ways that facilitate creative and beneficial solutions presents exciting opportunities where a great many “laypeople” can engage in activities that they enjoy while solving real-world challenges.

This article originally appeared in

The Art Of Unlearning What Works


As an organizational psychologist and a firm believer in continuous development, I have often found myself in the position of advising people on creative ways to keep learning throughout their careers. I have worked with clients seeking to become “learning organizations” – where individuals and teams are continuing to figure out what works through learning in order to outperform their competitors. Research, experiment, succeed, fail, learn, improve, repeat.

As someone who has dedicated his professional life to the topic of organizational culture, I realize that groups of people, over time and through collective experience, figure out what works and what doesn’t. Doing so allows them to begin to bake into their organization’s systems and processes methods for repeating successes and minimizing failures (or they cease to exist). Doing so allows members of these organizations to routinize processes and behaviors that lead to success so they can utilize their mental capacity on other things. Easy enough in theory. 

The real challenge presents itself when the old ways of doing things that once yielded success stop working (or stop working as well as they once did). It is during these times that I often get people reaching out to me to help them figure out what to do in order to right the ship before things go too far afoul. In all of these situations, some common realities have bubbled up that are important to acknowledge.

Reality #1: You don’t operate in a vacuum. 

If we all operated our businesses in an alternate reality where outside influences didn’t affect us we would simply need to figure out the most effective way of delivering our products or services, optimize those processes, and watch the billions roll in. Unfortunately, the world has a funny way of “rewarding” companies that operate without adapting to external changes in the market. Just ask those typewriter manufacturers. Or Kodak. Or any of the countless other companies that were leaders in their fields until the world evolved around them and they had their lunch eaten (technical term) by a competitor who evolved faster than they did.

Reality #2: Technology will force you to evolve faster than you may want to. 

No other external evolution has rocked the worlds of so many businesses as the advances in technology that we have seen in the last decades. To make matters worse (if you’re on the lagging side of things technologically speaking) is that the pace that technology continues to innovate and evolve is getting exponentially faster over time. 

This reality means that organizations that may have been comfortable having mastered life in a more static environment can now be quickly stymied or disrupted by competitors who are able to adapt more quickly or by a pesky startup that can nimbly adapt to changes to better meet customer needs and expectations. 

Reality #3: The networked nature of our economy means that incremental change is increasingly being replaced by exponential change. 

While this is largely due to the advances in technology discussed above, it warrants its own call-out here. Mark Bonchek suggests in his article in Harvard Business Review that, “Companies like Google, Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook focus on how to remove limits rather than set them. They look beyond controlling the pipe that delivers a product and instead builds platforms that enable others to create value.” It is precisely this approach that unleashes the possibility of massive change. 

Reality #4: Ignoring realities #1, #2, and #3 won’t make them go away. 

You can certainly take the “head in the sand” approach and argue that Realities #1 and #2 don’t apply to you or your industry for one reason or another. Your market share is significant or your balance sheet has never looked better. Famous last words.

Ignoring reality doesn’t inoculate you. You have spent years learning what works and your customers have rewarded you by doing business with you. Yeah, things are changing around you but your performance is still strong (for now). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sound familiar? 

Reality #5: There is a way out for you and your teams. 

The good news is that there are ways to position yourself for future, long-term success in this fast-paced operating environment but it involves doing something that comes very unnaturally to us from an organizational culture perspective. We must learn to “unlearn”. 

Those organizations that are able to outperform their competitors will be those that are able to see an impending change in the environment and unlearn what works today in order to adapt quickly to what requirements the new operating environment will hold. 

And therein lies the real problem. We have forever focused on the importance of learning. What we’ve failed to master is the power to unlearn – our ability to take an honest look at our mental model and make the conscious decision to work outside of it. Destin Sanlin does a great job of demonstrating how difficult it can be in this TEDEd video. But how, exactly, do we master the art of unlearning in ways that drive long-term performance? Here are a few things to think about.

  1. Continually prove that what you believe to be true actually is. 
  2. Force yourself to ask, “Is there another way?” 
  3. Acknowledge that you may, in fact, not actually know what’s best.
  4. Challenge the beliefs and assumptions within your organization and be open to letting people challenge the beliefs and assumptions you, personally, hold to be true about what ‘right’ looks like.
  5. Give yourself time and space to master new ways of thinking and behaving.
  6. Ask a trusted third party to give you feedback on their observations of your mental model and how it shows up in your interactions with others. 

Those individuals and organizations that will excel in the dynamic markets of tomorrow will be those who are able to knock themselves out of the “rut” of success and challenge themselves to unlearn what has always worked for them in order to test their assumptions and beliefs. Only in doing this will they be able to identify areas where their “usual way of doing things” may threaten their future success.

This article originally appeared on

How People Analytics Informs HR Strategy

People Analytics

Let’s face it- technology has our brains inundated with unprecedented amounts of information. As a result, we’ve developed countless platforms and pieces of technology infrastructure that keep us organized, efficient, and profitable. The advent of technology in the business world combined with its future potential makes this an exciting time for us all. Technology can rapidly access troves of data in seconds, enabling us to make decisions that are much more informed than those of yesteryear. However, we should think of these technological capabilities as tools to help us make more informed decisions, not as mechanisms to make decisions for us. Although this advice can be applied in several domains, it’s no more relevant than in the world of people analytics.

So what is “People analytics”?

People analytics, in layman’s terms, refers to the analytical method used to make decisions about human resources and human capital in an organization. People analytics informs HR strategy, hiring/downsizing efforts, and selecting the right candidates (to name a few). Fortunately, we’ve developed technological platforms that can assess and analyze certain variables to “predict” an employee’s success in his/her role. This can be done through simple correlation tables, more complex regression models, or even through advanced predictive modeling. Regardless of the method of analysis, organizations want to know they’re hiring the right person for the right role. They also want to know how to keep these people while understanding what contributes to longer tenure, or on the flip side – higher turnover.

Organizations that use people analytics to inform hiring decisions have the ability to remove objective bias. McKinsey Quarterly’s article brilliantly sums this up with, “The important advantage of the new analytics techniques…is that they are predictive, rather than reactive, and they provide more objective information than the more qualitative findings of a one-on-one discussion.” When combining skilled HR hiring professionals with the proper analytics platform, organizations can reduce bias, increase accuracy in job placement, reduce the risk inherent to hiring new people, and decrease retention expenses in the long run (as evidenced by the aforementioned article’s examples). Although people analytics is helpful to the hiring process, the data can tell you more than just the best candidate for a job.

When organizations apply people analytics to their existing workforce, they gain insight into motivates them, what leaders should continue doing, and how they might improve. For example, Fecheyr-Lippens, Schaninger, and Tanner used people analytics in a study to understand employee retention. Their data indicated that “a lack of mentoring and coaching and of ‘affiliation’ with people who have similar interests” were leading drivers of those considered a “flight risk”. Additionally, the researchers point out how predictive analytics within the realm of human resources helped organizations understand what their employees value while reducing the costs associated with turnover.

Although people analytics and predictive modeling have become more advanced, we must remember the human element in all HR decisions. Our technological capabilities should do nothing more than provide decision-makers with the most accurate and relevant data possible so they can make an informed decision. There are several risks associated with “over-datafication” when people rely too much on data and technology, but that’s a topic for another day…

Are Your Employees Ready For The “Superjobs” Of The Future?

I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of David Epstein’s Range, his 2019 counter punch to the drive for specialization, often represented by the 10,000 hour rule, as the best path for achieving future success. In his book, Epstein pushes back against the idea that deeper and deeper specialization is the best way to achieve success, especially in rapidly changing and unpredictably complex environments. “We are often taught that the more competitive and complicated the world gets, the more specialized we must get,” Epstein notes, but according to his research, given that most business environments today are not governed by standard rules and predictable patterns, maintaining a competitive edge will require organizations to hire or train generalists who are often more willing and better able to find solutions to novel challenges.

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends, many business leaders see the trend towards needing more employees who are capable of taking on diverse and varied job tasks. According to the report, a vast majority of respondents expect that the increased adoption and use of technology will mean that jobs in the future are far more multi-disciplinary than they have been. And that as artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies, and robotic process automation take hold, there will be a trend towards “superjobs”, or jobs that combine parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles – these jobs will span the hyper-specialized areas of expertise of many current workers.

These same leaders are keenly aware that their current approach to learning isn’t well suited to training the generalists that will drive their business in the future, with 86% of respondents reporting they must reinvent the way their organization learns to maintain a competitive advantage. If you are charged with reinventing the way your organization learns, here are three key features that should be part of your new learning strategy:


  • Create learning environments where it’s safe to fail – While generalists are often the source for innovation, their application of novel mental models to solving emerging challenges means that failure will always be a part of the path to success. Corporate learning & development functions must drive cultures where failure is seen first as a learning experience and find ways to encourage failure that’s in alignment with the risk tolerance of the organization.


  • Provide ample opportunities for employees to explore new disciplines – In Range, Epstein notes that elite scientists are much more likely to have hobbies in the performing arts than their “average” counterparts.  He argues that having an avocation that exercises different ways of thinking and being than their vocation provides the high performing scientists with the opportunity to see new patterns, develop new schemas, and expand the solution sets they bring to their core discipline. So, while offering a class in acting or modern dance may be a bridge too far in the corporate world, L&D leaders need to look for ways to expand the horizons of their staff beyond building the traditional technical skills that are seen as essential for job performance.


  • Aggressively promote learning in all its forms – The success of your L&D function and, arguably, of the organization overall relies on continuous learning through both formal and informal means. Whether your encouraging generalists to continually broaden their horizons or helping specialists deepen their expertise, your primary role as an L&D practitioner should be to drive a culture where all employees see themselves as lifelong learners – consistently working to build whatever capabilities they need to create value for the organization. So, along with building programs and learning opportunities that drive progress toward organizational goals, L&D professionals need to constantly look for ways to promote and incentivize all employees to transform themselves as a path for transforming the organization.


The cost of ineffective training is high. In fact, Grovo, a division of learning management system provider Cornerstone, estimates that ineffective training costs organizations $13.5M per year per 1,000 employees. But the cost to organizations that fail to adapt their learning & development approach to meet the changing demands of the workforce will be much higher. What are you doing to transform your corporate learning function today to deliver the resilient workforce you’ll need to thrive tomorrow?

Managing Military Millennials

Managing Military Millennials

Let’s face it: Millennials and Generation Z are taking over. They account for more of the talent pool every year and, as every organization should know, they are motivated differently than previous generations.

Unfortunately, many senior leaders in the business world don’t understand what younger team members value and how to get the most out of their younger professionals. This causes high turnover rates, more expensive employee retention efforts and less pro-organizational behavior. Some perceive the frequent job switching of Millennials and Gen-Zs as irrational or impulsive, but many times they simply lack leaders who can adequately motivate and challenge them.

Ironically, one of the world’s most rigidly bureaucratic organizations – the United States Military – discovered effective ways to motivate Gen Z. The US military is at the forefront of understanding younger generations because it hires, onboards and trains more than 150,000 young people from all over the country every year. Their leadership has helped maintain an unparalleled force of readiness and provides several lessons for civilian leaders of every organization.

Military leaders seek to understand their people, learn what they value and use their talents to accomplish missions. After briefly considering what makes Gen Z different, we’ll explore organizational and individual approaches the military uses to effectively motivate Gen Z and provide a few concrete examples that business leaders can emulate.

Who Are These People?

First, it’s key to understand younger generations. Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) have experienced a lot in a short period. They saw the “dot com bubble”, 9/11 started two wars, and the housing market crashed right when they were trying to build wealth. Not to mention the technological revolution redefined how they engage with their colleagues, social circles and the market. As a result of their experiences, it makes sense Millennials are confident and self-reliant and value collaboration and career advancement (Özçelik, 2015).

Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2015) are unique since they’re the first generation to be bombarded with technology from birth. They never had to get a ride from their parents to the skating rink or arcade to see friends. For Gen-Z, technology has replaced the clunky old ways of socializing and made it largely internet-based. As a result, one study found that they’re less likely to get a driver’s license, go on a date or go to the bar with their friends than previous generations. Since the average Gen-Z member will see 200,000 online and TV advertisements before graduating high school, they value authenticity and purpose more than any other generation (Reid, 2018).

As a result of how these two generations came to fruition, they have distinct values that leaders can understand and use to benefit an organization. Millennials are collaborative, driven to succeed and want to experience all that life has to offer. Generation Z values authentic environments and an organization’s mission. Also, both of these groups value company culture, a strong sense of identity and purpose, and they are basically intent on saving the world. This is crucial to understand. Cash may still be king, but culture is in command. The military understands this, and they’ve been able to create an attractive environment for younger generations at both the organization and personal level.

Innovation Through Dissent

One critical way the military motivates younger generations at an organizational level is through its recent emphasis on allowing individuals to pursue truth through innovation-focused organizations. While there are examples of individual innovation peppered throughout military history, innovation has been less organizationally encouraged until recently. For example, disruptive thinking Millennial junior officers returned from deployments overseas and refused to accept stale answers and sub-optimal solutions to some of our nation’s critical security challenges. Their writings and actions spawned a slew of innovation organizations and competitions including DoD’s Hack the Pentagon, the Air Force’s Spark Tank Competition, the Navy’s Athena Project and the Marine Commandant’s Innovation Challenge. Not to be outdone, the Army exerted significant organizational resources to establish a permanent innovation lab (Army Futures Command) to modernize the Army.

Companies that deliberately foster employee innovation can harness the inquisitive, purpose-based outlook of Millennials and Gen-Zs while focusing their efforts to improve the organization. Corporate leaders can learn from the military’s willingness to foster innovation, especially if their current approach is not working. At their core, innovators like our younger professionals are creative truth seekers. They want to be able to make meaningful contributions that improve the world around them.

Culture In Command

At the individual level, the military created an atmosphere of shared accountability, teamwork and a sense of identity that resonated well with our younger generations. Marine Corps leaders build cohesion and identity through knowing what motivates their people, creating challenging scenarios and inducing competition.

Military leaders know their people and what motivates them. They leverage talents and interests to accomplish a mission instead of relying solely on scores and observation, which boosts morale and productivity. The second-order effect here is reciprocity, where the team members feel a sense of gratitude and indebtedness to their leader. There’s little translation needed here – get to know your people and what they want and be creative on how to provide that while meeting a company goal. You’ll be surprised at the kind of response you get from our younger generation.

Another way military leaders have been able to build purpose, identity and commitment in younger generations is by creating challenging scenarios to train them. Challenging scenarios spark creativity, force individuals to rely on others and build leadership skills among their subordinates. It also provides a great opportunity for an individual to showcase unique skillsets. A close friend is a Marine Reconnaissance Company Commander and described his approach:

“The first critical step is figuring out where you want your team to be better. Define the ideal state, then challenge the team to achieve it through adversity like inability to talk, restrictive timelines, etc. Get creative on this adversity you’re building. Continue to change one variable at a time as they get better through multiple training iterations. Finally, make sure you create scenarios where the team cannot succeed without working together.”

His last point is the most important: When you create a challenging scenario where individuals must rely on one another to succeed, you force them to ignore biases and opinions. The team members learn how to contribute their special skills, engage in groupthink and experience how their teamwork has an exponential effect on their collective performance. As a result, their in-group tribalism grows in a healthy way and the team builds vital intangible traits like implicit communication and empathy to understand one another. Ironically, individuals build self-confidence and social capital despite it being a team environment. One business example is to have your team complete a project while relying only on message boards and chat rooms without being able to speak to one another verbally. Introducing a time restriction can also add training value.

Finally, inducing competition is another great way military leaders motivate young generations, especially those collaborative Millennials. For example, Marine units often compete with other units to see who’s stronger, faster or can shoot better. When preparing for competition, Marines within the unit become closer and are united through their hatred for losing and their temporary disdain for the competition. This fosters a sense of what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls pathological dualism, where the Marines develop an “us vs. them” mentality. During the competition, individuals are extremely dedicated to one another and work to defeat their opponent. Communication improves, skills are sharpened and morale skyrockets. This also drives the concepts of identity, meaning and purpose further home – which was the intent the whole time.

Creating friendly competition between teams in your organization can bring team members closer together, build camaraderie and morale and give your people a chance to shine. You’re giving a young Millennial or Gen-Z’er the chance to showcase their talent, learn something new, contribute to something greater than themselves and potentially reap a reward. Also, if you get creative with the incentives, you can provide a way for your teams to contribute to a charitable organization, improve the community or benefit the environment. It’s just like the first rule of economics: People respond to incentives. In this case, pick the ones your young team members value.

Millennials and Gen-Z’ers will continue to expand their influence in our business world. They don’t solely value money. They value intangibles such as purpose, company identity, improving the world, collaboration and overall experience. These factors have a strong impact on their decision to join (or stay) with a company. Leaders should seek to understand what younger people value and how to provide that, both inside and outside the workplace. We can also get creative in teambuilding since happy hours or bonus metrics aren’t the main motivators for younger folks.

Challenge them to work together. Give them the chance to prove themselves through competition. And finally, get to know them so you can provide value beyond the paycheck.

This article originally appeared on

gothamCulture Welcomes Tim Bowden as Partner in Washington D.C.

October 7, 2019, Washington D.C. – gothamCulture LLC announced the addition of Tim Bowden as a Partner in the firm’s Washington D.C. office. Bowden was formerly Partnership Advisor and Measurements Lead at the Stand Together Foundation in Arlington, VA.

“Expanding our government consulting practice on a national level is a strategic priority for the firm,” said Chris Cancialosi, Managing Partner and Founder of gothamCulture. “Tim brings an impressive array of skills as an organizational development professional, especially in the government space, to our team, and we are delighted that he’s joining us.”

Bowden focuses on providing data-driven, individual and organizational performance improvement solutions that put people first. He consults with clients to address critical organizational development and human capital challenges in the areas of Organizational Culture, Leadership & Workforce Development, Learning, and Performance Improvement.

His diverse experience includes developing leader development strategies to drafting policy and guidance documents for integrating human considerations into the design of complex military systems. Combining business unit leadership success with core technical expertise he delivers practical performance improvement solutions that have measurable impacts on organizational goals.

Bowden earned his MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at University of Central Florida and his BA in Psychology at Rollins College.


Tim Bowden | 321.438.8950 |

Occam’s Razor or Beware of the System Complicators


I bought a disassembled propane grill one time.  There were at least a thousand parts (well, maybe not that many) and the directions were about 20 pages long.  I began a long, tedious process of following each step and carefully assembling every subcomponent.

About an hour into the assembly, the idea slowly dawned on me that something was missing: simplicity and common sense.

The factory technical writers might have thought they were helping the consumer build the grill, but they had focused so much on the minutiae of the assembly process that no one told me that there were only perhaps five or six basic steps.  What I call a “Systems Complicator” had somehow infiltrated the factory and had written the instructions. They had focused on so many details and the “micro,” of the assembly that they never told me the “macro,” or what we all call the big picture.

They forgot good old Occam.

Occam was a 14th-century Franciscan friar who posited that “More things should not be used than are necessary.” The corollaries for this abound, including the idea that the simplest explanation is the most likely one when encountering a problem or dilemma.

I’ve often expressed this philosophy in business and in life.  Occam is too often overlooked (as are Ptolemy and other philosophers who first presented the idea).  While some people’s brains seem to key on details, it invariably helps any project or challenge to first define the goal or objective and some of the key steps that need to be taken to get there.  Without that framework, we all can get so focused on the minutiae that we forget the goal. 

By complicating things with detail, we lose clarity, focus, and simplicity.  We can needlessly overload ourselves and in the process even forget why we all got together. 

Each of us takes turns being systems complicators.  It can often stem from our particular focus that day or even our basic approach to life.  Sometimes it can emerge from resistances that we feel about moving into the unknown area we call change.  By spending time with endless details in the meeting, we can effectively buy time for ourselves by continually presenting enough small challenges that we stop the idea dead in its tracks.  We can complicate the simplicity and clarity of the idea to such an extent that we lose the momentum and the big-picture view of the challenge. We system complicate it.

A key step in identifying ourselves as system complicators is to work on our own awareness of how we are really feeling about the idea.  Ask some basic questions about change next time you hear an idea:

  1. Do I understand the concept?
  2. Do I like it?
  3. Do I want to do it?
  4. Am I able to do it?

If we can honestly answer these threshold questions about our own possible resistances, we can then focus on the merits of the idea and to allow ourselves to see the overall concept rather than the details.

A fellow senior vice president at a former company once listened to an endless conversation in a senior meeting one day.  A major initiative had been proposed, with initial thoughts about goals, objectives, and frameworks. The conversation abounded about “what ifs” and “what about this?” and “we can do it this way,” for hours.  By the end of the meeting, we were all exhausted and barely remembered why we had come to the meeting.

My friend looked around the room, surveying the wreckage of an idea that had been killed by System Complicators, ruefully smiled and said, “Well I guess that’s enough reminiscing about the future.”  

Occam would have understood.


Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches is a former senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout American industry.  Dave is also a Senior Associate with Gotham Culture.

Focusing On Customer Experience Is No Longer Optional

Customer Experience

Ready or not, the customer experience (CX) game is on. No matter what size or industry you may play in, you are now competing based on the experience you provide to your customers. Government agencies, this applies to you as well. So, if you’re not thinking that customer experience is something that you need to be concerning yourself with, you may be digging your organization into a hole that you may not be able to climb out of.

Why has CX become such a fundamental component of brand success?

While certain brands that have understood the power of the customer experience for many years and have continued to refine their CX delivery in new and profitable ways, the notion that all organizations need to consider the experience that they provide to their customers as a competitive driver has really only become something of note over the last decade. One primary reason for this is due to the great leaps and continuous improvements that these CX leaders make to their customer experiences which continue to raise customer expectations.

Brands like Amazon, Apple, and even Uber Eats have provided customers with the ability to engage in experiences that are designed around their specific needs and wants- and they like it. As expectations around experiences evolve those brands that are unable to deliver will undoubtedly lose the affection of their customers. This reality creates the need for organizations in all sectors and industries and of all sizes to ask themselves what they are doing to both understand what their customers want and need and what steps are they taking to be able to evolve their experiences to deliver on those expectations.

The experience that a customer has with your brand, positive or negative, can have a significant impact on your organization. Several years ago, I wrote a column about my experience at Walt Disney World- a trip that I was not looking forward to. To my great surprise, the experience that Disney created at every touchpoint that I had with their brand completely won me over. Since this experience and my reflection on it, I find myself continuously taking mental notes of the way in which my experiences with other brands live up to my expectations (or fail to do so).

A study published in 2018 by Forrester Research compared the stock prices of a sample of CX leaders and laggards to the S&P 500 and found that leaders significantly outperformed both laggards as well as the S&P. The message is clear, those organizations that are better positioned to meet and exceed the experience expectations of their customers in a consistent and repeatable way and those that are best able to adapt to the changing needs of their customers are those who will continue to outperform the competition.

The performance benefits of improving CX make it hard to ignore. From increasing customer engagement, trust, and likeliness to forgive a brand for making a mistake, to improving voluntary compliance to requests, CX has been shown to make the delivery of services more cost-effective. Oftentimes, in fact, the savings gained by improving CX delivery can make the financial arguments against the investment moot. Many organizations that embark on improving their CX delivery find that the effort becomes, in effect, a “self-funding” activity where the savings they see from improving CX delivery outweigh the investments to improve.

Who is your customer?

For many, day-to-day contact with end-user customers is rare. If this is the case for you, it doesn’t mean that CX is not important. Support, or back office, personnel may find themselves serving multiple customers though they may be internal customers. The same principles that serve organizations well when enhancing the end-user customer experience can be applied internally to your internal customers to help facilitate your interactions.

I asked David Hicks, CEO of CX advisory firm TribeCX to weigh in on what differences may exist between improving CX delivery for end-user customer versus internal customers. “There really aren’t significant differences, CX is a way of thinking. Seeking out, what is it that I do in my job that really makes a difference for colleagues/customers and then being fanatical about persistently and consistently improving on it and delivering it can benefit customers regardless of who they may be,” Hicks suggests.

CX in government agencies.

Recent research by McKinsey & Company shows clearly that government agencies, particularly those in the federal government, are lagging behind when it comes to the level of customer experience that they provide. Government organizations have their own, sometimes unique, challenges that make delivering high levels of consistent CX a challenge without a doubt. Many subject matter experts are retiring, draining critical institutional knowledge. Legislative and regulatory rules can make collecting data from customer difficult. Agencies may collect a great deal of data but a lack of integration of legacy systems can make drawing insight from this data a real nightmare. In addition, the role of CXO seems to still be something akin to seeing a unicorn in the public sector indicating that CX has not been at the forefront of managers.

What the most successful organizations do.

McKinsey’s (2018) research on the topic found that the most successful organizations do three things exceptionally well and consistently:

  1. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers. Really, truly taking a hard look at the brand experience through the lens of the customer can be tough but opening the curtain to understand the realities that exist is critical to understanding the opportunities that exist.
  2. They understand their end-to-end customer journeys.
  3. Isolate the moments that disproportionately shape the experience.

Where do you start?

Understanding that you have an opportunity to take a long, hard look at your current customer experience and committing to improve that experience over time is a good first step. David Hicks suggests that leaders begin by, “… buddying up with a front-of-house colleague for an entire day and to listen carefully to them and to the customers with whom they interact. Ask them what the single most important thing is to focus on first. This sends a powerful explicit and implicit message to your staff.”

Regardless of your sector or industry, customer experience is a factor of organizational life that is here to stay. Those that are best able to adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers and that are able to continuously increase the ease of interacting with their brand at key touchpoints are those who will enjoy a substantial and sustained differentiator over their competitors. As customer continue to get comfortable with their newfound new-found power to choose when and how they interact with brands, those that are unable or unwilling to make the effort to truly understand what their customers want and need run the very real risk of becoming irrelevant.

This article originally appeared on

8 Books That Will Inspire Your Workplace Culture

The team at gothamCulture recently put their heads together to curate a list of book recommendations that will inspire your workplace culture and leadership development. Consider choosing one of these for your office book club. We hope you find these helpful!

The Culture Code: Daniel Coyle explores the question, “How is it that some groups add up to be greater than the sum of the parts, and others do not?” The book is based on research over a period of four years, looking at some of the best/most successful team cultures. The discussion is organized into a presentation of three skills known for generating high-performing groups: (1) Build safety, (2) Share vulnerability, and (3) Establish purpose.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:  a book about how to change things when change is hard. It can be about you, a job, friends, or even family. Change is very difficult and hard to do without a little motivation. The book helps you to look at things in a different way than you had before. Seeing the good things about why you should change and why it was better before.

Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution:  Successful business strategy lies not in having all the right answers, but rather in asking the right questions, says Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons. In an excerpt from his book Seven Strategy Questions, Simons explains how managers can make smarter choices.

Conversations Worth Having: ‘Conversations worth having’ are affirmative, appreciative-based conversations that add value, as opposed to ‘critical’ or ‘destructive’ conversations that are statement-based (and devalue).

Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World: Developing professionals, especially leaders, who can understand and effectively navigate the complexities of twenty-first-century organizational life—a central aim of many adult educators, school administrators, professional coaches, and organizational consultants—is a daunting and critical task. In her book Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, Jennifer Garvey Berger explains how attending to one often-overlooked dimension of human diversity—what she calls form of mind—offers the potential to increase the impact, reach, and longevity of programs and practices aimed at promoting such development.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success: Adam Grant emphasizes the importance and impact of interaction, and how different interaction styles can either enhance or take away from productivity or performance. He encourages outwardly-focused, positive interactions, but recognizes the need to balance the roles of “giver” and “taker.”

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover: Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonders if she’d traveled too far if there was still a way home.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity: Radical Candor is a simple idea: to be a good boss, you have to Care Personally at the same time that you Challenge Directly. When you challenge without caring it’s obnoxious aggression; when you care without challenging it’s ruinous empathy. When you do neither it’s manipulative insincerity. This simple framework can help you build better relationships at work, and fulfill your three key responsibilities as a leader: creating a culture of feedback (praise and criticism), building a cohesive team, and achieving results you’re all proud of. Radical Candor offers a guide to those bewildered or exhausted by management, written for bosses and those who manage bosses. Taken from years of the author’s experience, and distilled clearly giving actionable lessons to the reader; it shows managers how to be successful while retaining their humanity, finding meaning in their job, and creating an environment where people both love their work and their colleagues.