Day 25: Truth

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A  few years back, I took a course in qualitative methods with about 20 others. During one particular session, we all sat around a very large table and were asked to close our eyes. The professor then placed a dozen items on the table – statues, books, artwork, knickknacks, etc… We opened our eyes and were asked to record what we saw. Thinking the exercise was about observation techniques, we got busy quick, doodling, scribbling, creating systematic diagrams. When we were done, she had us change positions, eyes half-closed. We scrambled a bit, politely pushing our way to another seat far away from the first. And then we gasped.

It turned out that many of the objects looked different from the other side of the table. And in some cases, certain items previously invisible suddenly appeared. Truth.

When Comey recalled his nine meetings with Trump yesterday, whether you believed him or not, what likely mattered to Comey is that he was telling his truth. When he explained why he took notes after many of the meetings, he pointed to three factors: the context, the content and the nature of the person. And as a CNN commentator commented, life happens in context. It makes little sense to focus on one word, or one sentence, because stuff is said before and stuff is said after.

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So Comey told his truth. Which some believe and others don’t. Because truth is so personal, created over a lifetime, but never really defined. We cannot hold it in our hands. It just hangs in the air, changing shape as things are said and done, ignoring contradictions, gobbling up new ideas, spitting out those that taste bad. And when one person’s truth challenges another, it’s messy, confusing, and sometimes painful. Because oftentimes we are sitting at opposite ends of the table, and it takes a lot of effort to stand up and change seats.

 

 

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Day 23: Comey

It takes 21 days to create a new habit (or replace an old one). 21 days. Three weeks. I wanted to write a blog entry every day. But as I neared Day 21, I froze. I do actually write every day, but not always here. I write long-winded emails about ice being the gold currency of the local ringuette organization, or lists of family rules that start with “Hang up your towels.” I can write text messages in paragraph  form, capitals, periods, semi-colons and all. And I write pages and pages of research, throughout the day… in my head, and sometimes dictate my writing out loud while driving.

So as I worked my way through today’s morning, wondering how I failed to blog every day, I decided to google the evidence. And learned that the 21-day rule is not much of a rule at all, but a manipulation of research results on a somewhat similar but not exact phenomenon. Off the hook.

And then I thought about other habits that take only days to manifest. Comey. I am hooked. Comey is testifying tomorrow. It’s in my calendar. I have put aside all other work, all other family commitments. I will be glued to my screen, and glued to the unfollowtrump twitter account. It’s a habit I cannot break.

I remember where I was the day that the Challenger blew up, where I was standing – the table, the position of the tv in the McGill library, where I was positioned around that table. I remember exactly where I was when I read a magazine article about MRI machines in the early 80s and thought, “I should buy stock in that” (I never did). I remember sitting in a restaurant with hubby, when a friend rushed in to meet us, blurting out, “Princess Di was killed in a car crash.” I remember shooing soccer players off the field during a lightening storm, and a parent scooping up her daughter while yelling out the window, “Michael Jackson has died.” And I remember delivering 30 newspapers that reported the death of my favourite actor, Peter Sellers.

And I remember precisely the moment that I learned that Comey had been fired. Within seconds, my Comey habit was formed.

Day 19: Embeddedness

Picture1Embeddedness. A word that gets used a lot in academia and a lot by me. I teach strategy and claim, repeatedly, that firms are embedded within industries, which are embedded within a global context. You cannot escape it.

And it’s there in every day life. Yesterday’s early morning news hour reported that Karla Homolka had been volunteering at a local elementary school, Premiere Couillard announced plans to relaunch the constitutional debate, and Trump walked on the Paris Agreement. Montreal. Quebec. Canada. World.

Embeddedness. We cannot escape it. But it’s tricky. Because the further out the issue, the less control we have. Homolka volunteering at a local school? Avoid the school, protest, shout loudly and you will be heard. Couillard’s constitutional pursuit? The long and winding road of elections. The Paris Agreement? Become a US citizen, vote against in 2020?

Our reach is limited. We sit squarely in our community, but as we extend our arms to the outer edges, there is little to grab. But we are touched. What happens on the other side of the world finds its way back, always. In exchange rates, the price of food, the temperature, our basic human rights.

The Internet of things is turning everything into a device. Cows. Snake-eating snakes. Food in fridges. Soon we will be able to track every movement of anything that moves, and will find ourselves swimming in a world of data. Awesome.

But it will take time to attach all of those things. So in the meantime, using the things that are on the Internet today, those things that allow a young girl, one voice, to send a message to one of the most powerful leaders of the free world, is one way to reach the outer edges. The Internet amplifies. It helps us extend our reach, to touch those outer-edges, to affect change.

Day 16: Covfefe

If you are of a certain age, your Glory Days are locked away in memory. You may have one or two photo albums, loosely bound, pictures MIA, and those that remain, burnt from the sun or the rotating flash of your Kodak camera. When you went out, stuff happened, and the next day, broken telephone ensued. The truth was debatable. Denial worked.

Today, not so much. Even staffers have to sleep at some point, leaving those perched on the highest of perches to their own devices. Those things on the Internet propagate gossip at an alarming rate. What was said requires no interpretation, it is simply photographed and handed over to two friends, who tell a zillion. And so, we wake up in the morning, check our things, and find ourselves in a fit of laughter that persists throughout the day.  Covfefe.

Presidents, however, have some leeway. Even when the one paid to keep their eye on the ball does not, the staffer eventually wakes up, checks things on the Internet, faints, gets up off the floor, and makes a desperate call, screaming “DELETE LAST TWEET!” And the PR machine kicks into gear.

Teenagers, not so much. Their staffers are not even aware that there was a party or there are things on the Internet upon which an eye must be kept. Teenagers tweet, retweet, emote, in the heat of the moment (like those perched in high places), but unlike the famous ones, they fly solo. No net. No lit pathways to the emergency exit. No safe landing.

Day 15: Things on the Internet

Image result for screen beansAsk a kid when the Internet was invented and they might give you a quirky look. Ask them when Facebook was invented and they will likely say, “Ages ago.” To them, there is no Internet, just a bunch of things on a phone that they never answer. What sits behind all of those things – fibre optic cables that run under oceans, gateways, servers, hardware, firmware, software, protocols, security, base stations, wireless access points, radio waves, some satellite – no matter. Who needs to know how the engine works to drive the car?

Ask someone around my age, different story. The Internet has been around for decades, spurred by American military and academic funding, yanking devices into its fold during the eighties and nineties. It was like someone threw a bunch of carrot seeds across a garden. Networks of devices sprouted up everywhere, someone sewed them all together, and the web was born.

I was introduced to the computing world while in university. I was sitting in the computer lab when the mainframe suddenly crashed. A friend of mine handed me a 5¼ inch floppy disk and said “Boot from here.” [Stunned look.] I grabbed the floppy, jammed it into the drive and waited. Up popped the command prompt and the flashing cursor [stunned look]. Friend leaned over, typed in a few commands. My introduction to DOS was complete. I ran to the bookstore to buy myself a desktop. Orange characters, greyish keyboard, loud hard drive. And a dot matrix printer. I was hooked. Out went the type writer and white out, in came backspacing.

My first job was in the IT organization at Nortel, in networking. I pulled cables, bixed wires, rebooted computers and printers, walked the shop floor, changed keyboards. I tracked my work on a mac, with a mouse, using email and voice mail, on day 1. A flash introduction to the high tech world. A company of thousands of employees, working all around the world, connected through an internal email system and voice network (7 digit call to anywhere). Automation, efficiency, speed. I fell in love with it all. Lots and lots of things, and some people (see Day 12). And as the years went by, it just got better. Instant messaging, laptops, video conferencing, personal voice conference bridges (oh yes), teleworking. All of which ran on the Nortel equipment.

By 2000, the developed world was so enthralled with the Internet that demand skyrocketed. The Internet was going to transform everything. We would never enter a store again, groceries would magically appear on our doorstep, we would wake up in the morning with new clothes on our back. Babies would be born remotely. And big business set aside bucket loads of money to make it all happen.

Now, as we know, it didn’t quite happen that way. Interoperability of technology and applications required people to actually work together. So it wasn’t until competition became co-opetition that plug-and-play became a reality.

But all the while, something unexpected happened. Things started popping up on the Internet. Unexpected things. Things like facebook, snapchat, exchange-o-gram instagram, blogs – all sorts of things. Things that snuck into our day, and sucked our day away. Things that make my kids late to the dinner table, pull students’ eyes towards the ground, yank adults away from conversations. Things that drive me crazy.

But then this morning, as I got into my car to go to work, I peered down at my phone to read, “Traffic light. 30 minutes to work.”

I love those things on the Internet.