What’s Diplomacy Anyway?

What's Diplomacy Anyway?

This was a humorous engraved stone that I found in a gift shop today.

It is a Concord “Words From The Wise,” engraved paperweight, crafted in England.

Diplomacy is generally associated with negotiation, persuasion, consideration, tactfulness, etiquette, and respect. However, this engraved paperweight has a little bit of a different view of it–“The art of letting someone have it your way.”

Diplomacy has traditionally been differentiated from the use of military power in that diplomacy relies on “soft power” (co-opting or winning over cooperation), whereas the military employs “hard power” (coercion). Both are ways of handling relations and resolving conflict.

More recently, some foreign affairs experts have started to use “smart power,” which is situational-based–leveraging alliances and partnerships in some cases and a strong military in others.

In any case, it’s all about working together to bridge differences–and like the “Easy Button” the best way is to maintain a strong relationship, whether you get your way or not. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Go Safe or Go For It?

In_it_to_win_it

I came away with some thoughts on risk taking watching this scene from the movie “Lies and Alibis.”

The girl says: “Simple is boring.”

The guy answers: “Boring is safe.”

The girl responds: “Safe is for old people.”

(Note: nothing personal here to the elderly. Also, hope I didn’t get the who said which thing wrong, but the point is the same.)

Take-a-way: Very often in life we aren’t sure whether to take a risk or not. Is it worth it or is it reckless? And we have to weigh the pros and cons, carefully!

– We have to ask ourselves, where’s the risk and where’s the reward?

We have to decide whether we want to try something new and accept the potential risk or stay stable and go safe with the status quo that we already know.

At times, staying with a bad status quo can be the more risky proposition and change the safer option–so it all depends on the situation.

– We also have to look at our capabilities to take chances:

For example, in terms of age appropriateness–it can be argued that younger people can take more risk, because they have more time to recover in life, should the situation go bad.

At the same time, older people may have more of a foundation (financial savings, built-up experience and education, and a life-long reputation) to take more chances–they have a cushion to fall back on, if necessary.

– In the end, we have to know our own level of risk tolerance and have a sense of clarity as to what we are looking for and the value of it, as well as the odds for success and failure.

It’s a very personal calculation and the rewards or losses are yours for the taking. Make sure you are ready to accept them!

Finally–always, always, always have a plan B. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Dumbest Parent, No Really

So we took our daughter out to shoot some arrows.

She was really good, shooting off one after another and hitting the bullseye way down field.

Of course, when I gave it a try, I couldn’t even hit the side of a barn.
Next to us, at the range, where two girls and their mother.

The girls were jumping around with their bows, grabbing the arrows, and popping off shots at a target set at a distance appropriate for their age.

What comes next is the dumbest and most irresponsible parent I’ve seen for some time.

The mother yells out to the girls–“Hey, I’d like to take a picture of you guys!”

Then she goes over to them and pulls them off the range and faces them at each other about a foot apart–with their bows and arrows pointed at each other!

The girls not understanding the danger they are in and playing around as kids do–pull the strings on the bows back to pose for the shot–literally, and with the mother egging them on.

I am feeling like I am watching a horrible accident about to unfold in front of my eyes.

I say politely, but with obvious fear and concern, “Stop!–the girls are pointing the arrows at each other–that’s dangerous!”

But the mother, puts her finger up as if to hush me, and says emphatically that she just wants to take a picture and “it’s so cute.”

I am watching what appears to be the younger of the girls–the one on the right–start dancing around with the bow and arrow, pulling back and pointing right at the other girl–who in turn mimics her and does the same back.

At this point my wife joins me, and we are not sure how to stop this or whether its time to take cover, while the mother continues to ignore any semblance of safety and refuses to pull back from her cherished photo op of the children.

This mother was not just dumb, but completely irresponsible–for the safety of her kids and everyone else around on the court.

When the “photo shoot” was over–and the kids let the strings go and ran back to the range, we sighed a sigh of relief that nothing worse had happened.

A number of days later, I found myself doing some strategic planning and using the Force Field Analysis tool.

In the Force Field Analysis, we try to identify and examine the driving and limiting forces for and against change, and more importantly the actions we can take for influencing each force.

Usually, we view the forces for change as something positive, and the limiting forces as a hinderance, blocking our goal achievement. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while change can be positive when undertaken for the right reasons, there are times when restraint is necessary as well.

For example, in applying this to the situation at the archery range–the parent is hell-bent on taking the photo no matter the forces for restraint to prevent a serious accident happening to her kids or to others around them. In this case, some parental restraint would have been appropriate. From an influencing perspective, probably some much better supervision at the range would have been in order.

To me, it was interesting to think about it in this context and contemplate how to tip the forces for change or restraint to where they need to be depending on the situation–whether it is a good goal and a good time to pursue it, or not.

Also, it is worth noting how challenging it can be to influence driving and restraining forces, especially when dealing with ignorance, foolhardiness, or people who may just refuse to listen to reason.

As leaders, the Force Field Analysis can be a useful framework not just for planning, but for trying to understand our environment and how best we can shape the events around us–no matter how quickly or dangerously they may unfold.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Situational Success–You Will Have Yours

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New article in Public CIO Magazine by Andy Blumenthal: Aligning Your Stars: Leadership Success Often Depends on Finding the Right Situation (February 2011)

>Architecting A Secure Society

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Once again, we are confronted with the basic security question of how much is the right amount?

It’s a classic catch-22 that requires us to architect security to meet opposing ends: we expect security to be as much as necessary to stop the terrorists, but as little as possible to ensure efficient travel and trade and maintain people’s privacy and equality.

In the last decades, we have behaved schizophrenically, calling for more security every time there is an attempted attack, only to withdraw and demand greater privacy protections, speedier security processing, and only random checks when things cool down.

The Wall Street Journal reported in the January 9-10, 2010 edition that the U.S.’s handling of security nowadays is an ever-losing proposition. The article calls it a virtual game of “Terrorball,” in which we cannot win, because there only two perpetual rules:

· “The game lasts as long as there are terrorists who want to harm Americans; and

· If terrorists should manage to kill or injure or seriously frighten any of us, they win.”

Based on the above, I believe that we can only win the game by changing its rules. Rather than being reactive to every terror scare, we are prepared with one approach—one that delivers an optimal level of security based on the current level of risk.

I recall when Michael Chertoff was Secretary of Homeland Security. During that time, he was a strong advocate for a risk-based approach that was multilayered, strong yet flexible enough to accommodate changing circumstances. From that perspective, which I think made a lot of sense: security decisions are made on the basis of objective criteria. These include technical feasibility, maximum effect, cost-benefit analysis, and so on.

A risk-based approach, or what I call “optimal security,” clearly makes a lot of sense. Yet it is tempting, when a security situation actually occurs, to let emotions get the better of us. On the one extreme, sometimes hysteria takes place and everybody seems a potential threat. Other times, we get angry that anyone at all is subjected to scrutiny or questioning.

In order to save the most lives and change the terror game, we have to decide to become more rational about the threat that faces us. This doesn’t mean being cold and calculating, but rather rational and proactive in developing a security architecture and governance that seeks to protect the most with the least negative impacts—but not trying to plug every possible hole at all costs.

In optimal security: sure, there is the ideal where we want to protect every American from every possible threat. However, there is also the reality where, because of competing priorities and scarce resources (to address everything from the deficit, health care, education, social programs, energy, science, defense, and more) we cannot—no matter how much we genuinely want to—prevent every terror instance.

So the terror playbook can and should be transformed. We can recognize there will always be terrorists—enemies of the state—who want to harm us and given enough attempts, no matter how optimal our security, they will occasionally get a sucker punch in on us—and we must be prepared for this. Moreover, rather than “freaking out” about this the terror threat, we can grow and commit to doing the best we can and accepting that we will increase security when information is there to support that need, and we will relax when that becomes possible.

Bottom line: We must move away from hysteria and any other factor that prevents us from being objective and make rational choices to deploy protections that are most effective and simultaneously safeguard our liberty.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” captures the security debate well. We want to safeguard lives, but at the same ensure liberty and we want to be happy and not afraid all the time.

To accomplish this balance, our optimal security realization should be based on highly effective intelligence, supported by the very best technology, and a security platform that adjusts to threats in real time.

While our intelligence continues to strengthen and our technology continues to improve, the greatest challenge is our ability as a nation and as individual human beings to cope with the distress caused by terrorism.

We are ambivalent emotionally about the threat and what needs to be done to combat it. However, once we look inside and understand the emotions that this issue raises, and come to terms with reality we face, we will as a nation be more at peace and less likely to jump from one extreme to another in terms of our demands and expectations from those who protect us every day.