Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MBA Students and Design Thinking

I was given the privilege of sharing insights about management specifically regarding the innovation based organization gordongroup. The companies team of fifty dedicated communicators has just entered our 25th year of operations. The intent was to share with students who are underway engaged in research and study about the science of management points of view from a practitioners background.

The MBA students at the Telfer School of Management extended to me an engaging reception and through this encounter I shared 16 Constructs of my journey over the last quarter century.

Management has many facets today and technology has emerged as a central focus in much of what is being pronounced about ways to create innovation, leverage user patterns through algorithm and other binary code based references. I believe equal emphasis and sharpening of the lens is needed on the human side of management. People after all remain at the core of leading business enterprises.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Over two decades providing communications support to the James Bay Crees of Eeyou Istchee has resulted in many great experiences. gordongroup has been witness to their formidable emergence as a powerful nation.
In July of 2012 the James Bay Crees established a new agreement forming the first of its kind Regional Government within partnership with the province of Quebec, Canada. The journey continues, upon reflection I have offered the following about the James Bay Crees and what I’ve discovered about their approach.

Striving for leadership presents a challenge for an individual, organization or a nation. Defining the hallmarks of what makes for great leadership is useful when engaging in branding, or marketing. The James Bay Crees of Eeyou Istchee have been trailblazers in their efforts to preserve their traditions, culture and way of life. 

By their example many lessons can be learned.

Leadership, as a management construct can be defined in many ways depending on the act or methodology and how this impacts on others. Leadership is often characterized based on the degree of followers the leading individual, organization or entity attracts. Leadership is judged based on records being established or the degree to which obstacles are overcome. Leadership may also be defined through invention, someone who discovers a cure, a planet or invents a new technology all these examples define leadership. Many different categories can be ascribed to leadership, including areas such as sport, vocations, military might or activities like knitting or carving. The principle characteristic of leadership is an act performed by an individual that defines a transformational outcome however large or small.

The James Bay Crees have been described as trailblazers. Over the last four decades many examples of Leadership are evident, from the time before signing the first modern day treaty in Canada to the most recent example in Quebec, the Regional Government Agreement. The Cree model of leadership has established for the first time in Canada a relationship between provincial, municipal governing entities in relationship to the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and their societies jurisdiction over vast territories of land.

An example of Aboriginal leadership and a component of Canadian history which provides context to the countries identity relating to indigenous relations includes the time during the late 1960’s when the “White Paper” was introduced by the governments of the day. The policy at the time was intent on assimilation of Canadian Indigenous society within the general population of Canada by extension blending or assimilating the Crees society and other Indigenous groups along with their rich cultural diversities within western civilization, essentially casting away any notion of preservation or acceptance of aboriginal identity. A form of dissolution of culture within a broader mainstream ethos was planned as policy in Canada. Through the proposed assimilation priority the traditional practices, heritage and values that form the mosaic of indigenous society would have been further marginalized or extinguished. The White Paper was opposed and eliminated through massive opposition and overwhelming negative response from Aboriginal Society in Canada and others, not long after this episode in Canadian history the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and Inuit of Nunavik through their leadership defined a new model for Treaty making. Two ancient civilizations within the far reaches of northern Quebec in collaboration with Provincial and Federal Governments forged the First Modern Day Treaty in Canada into existence. This positive milestone within a decade of the archaic thinking attributed to the White Paper. Treaties in Canada remain the normative instrument for striking agreements and by extension, defining the structure of relations between Indigenous people and the national governing administrations. The James Bay Crees since the signing of first modern day treaty have demonstrated four decades of leadership, through their example they’ve introduced a brand of leadership that remains a model for indigenous societies globally.

Corporate Social Responsibility in Action

Canadian Royalties Inc. Nickel Mining in Nunavik

An investment in relations with those who may contribute to the companies’ growth or those who may simply be in the region where the company activities take place is an investment that cannot be overlooked today. Relationships are at the core of successful business practices and the importance placed on reputation, job satisfaction, advancement among the spectrum of many other people related issues is what supports the companies vitality and longevity within the community where operations happen. Those people who stand behind the organization and participate in making decisions have influence over how the company will perform but also of equal importance in the age of instant communications and distribution, the management of how the company will be perceived. Building the companies’ brand through leveraging best practices in CSR is a winning strategy that has considerable upside for companies facing levels of scrutiny unheard of in just the last decade.

Meaningful contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer a policy concept that is essentially on the record. Proactive demonstration of actual steps toward implementation and follow through have become mission critical today in the resource sector where so much is at risk toward ensuring the proper flow of activities toward profitable outcomes.

The risk associated for those organizations proceeding without consideration to informing their stakeholders in a meaningful way about the values and principles that extend from the corporations leadership brings a downside. Planning, and development of CSR strategies combined with proactive implementation is a robust strategic management function that will support more meaningful and positive impact especially during times when unexpected circumstances emerge and hold the company accountable or blindside the company due to lack of planning and community engagement.

This investment goes to the heart of building the organizations brand and by extension goodwill across the organization and externally among the many people in the community who one day may influence the companies growth. Moreover, the company may need the support particularly when facing obstacles or potential barriers. Not making the commitment places the corporation at risk of losing valuable goodwill among stakeholders who extend well beyond the local region and include a global audience today as information is rapidly shared. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jeffrey & Donald

The flight to Zurich took about 10 hours once the Airbus lifted off the ground in Toronto. Zug is about 30 minutes outside of Zurich on the edge of a lake surrounded by mountains. The place is very picturesque and my first day has been quite special having flown over with Dr. Oxford York, then being greeted at the airport by Dr. Henderson with his associate Marcel from Monarch Business School of Management.

Marcel drove us across Switzerland to our destination in the remarkably manicured Zug. I will include a few images of the town.

The reason for being here is to take part with my student cohort and faculty in a workshop about preparing the doctoral thesis. I’ve been asked to give a presentation about my area of focus. This will include a video presentation along with a few slides that depict the engagement gordongroup has had underway documenting the James Bay Crees of Eeyou Istchee over the last four decades including all the individuals and stakeholders who have contributed to their Nations phenomenal growth within Canada.

Taking the path to higher education has returned many great experiences and Zug is just the latest opportunity that has unfolded along the pursuit.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Planes, Boats and ATVs

I’m back here in the community of Whapmagoostui, Northern Quebec on the coast of Hudson Bay. Around 2000 people live here including both Crees and Inuit. My last experience here was in the 1990’s while underway working for the Crees educational system.

This trip includes introductions to people from different cultures. The plane from Nemaska did a stop over briefly in another Cree community Waskaganish before beginning the northern trajectory past James Bay further into a region known as Ungava bordering Hudson Bay.

While onboard the aircraft I struck up a conversation with Alux an Inuk who during the trip north was looking out the window at the clear view of the coastline below. He let me know that he was on the look out for Beluga whales. The Beluga is a primary source of food for the Inuit people. The tradition involves a crew of men who travel to the whales off the coast aboard their boats; they harpoon and shoot these sea creatures for provision of food for their communities. My idea of seeing these animals cruising the surface shifted to thinking about what the slaughter might be. My introduction to people from distant lands is rich learning and hunting is a way of life foreign to urban societies.

Our stay in Whapmagoostui (Great Whale) has included introductions to many people and visits to many locations. A coastal community Whapmagoostui has the magnificent Hudson Bay ever present as a backdrop. The region includes beachfront, sand dunes combined with hilly terrain mixed with lakes and rivers. The natural terrain has a landscaped look that is picture perfect. A natural splendor, groomed well beyond any man made garden. We’re here in summer and we’ve been afforded almost temperate conditions with fresh breezes purging biting flying insects. Breeze coming from across broken ice flows, over the vast waters of Hudson Bay. This weather is an easy adjustment for our crew of urbanites by comparison to the extreme cold served up for most of the year here in the north.

Another primary mode of transportation here is the ATV (All Terrain Vehicle). These torqued up dune buggies have been used for about twenty years. They’re a multi-purpose utility that provide riders and passenger’s transportation across the spectrum including recreation, hunting as well ATV’s are good for getting the groceries or Sunday driving. A compact personal vehicle with rock proof suspension frames and highly efficient engines make the ATV design the transportation of choice for those living in the community.

Getting from point A to point B is a common aspect of life in the North and different modes of travel keep people together. The ATV provides an exhilarating driving experience, a great option of mechanized travel that further enables living on land.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Ancient Civilization does Corporate Social Responsibility

Inuk Ancient Dwelling at Deception Bay, Ungava Penninsula, Quebec, Canada

Looking at how organizations today promote sustainability and corporate social responsibility becomes interesting when we draw a parallel between 21st century thinking on this subject and what we know about ancient civilizations and their point of view from centuries past. Modern society can look to indigenous culture to find pathways for more environmental stewardship, governance, preservation and other guiding concepts.

One of those principles is the idea of collaboration and the importance of everyone contributing with the interest of achieving the best possible outcomes. Much is being discussed today about the rise of employee involvement. Specifically through empowering all members of the organization greater levels of success are realized.

Indigenous society practiced democratic values that included all members within a group relying on a Speakers Stick. The Speakers stick was used as a prop to let others among a group including Elders or Leaders know that the individual who held the speakers stick was given the opportunity to express their point for the benefit of everyone without interruption or presumption. The structure and attachment to rank and file in our contemporary office environment traditionally has not empowered lateral free expression, moreover, this results in a cost that companies are burdened with. Using the speakers stick to bring forward the best solution or consensus today is certainly a good thing, it occurs to me the stick forced everyone to just listen, we should look to indigenous cultures for lessons about how to empower all members of the team.

Sharing remains a vital aspect of how Indigenous culture harmonized their communities and ensured all people were cared for. By way of thoughtful consideration about not overharvesting wildlife or hording fish stocks, food was made available to all those who were within the group. Preservation specifically regarding the land and how the land provided the bounty of food through hunting, trapping and fishing established a form of governance among indigenous culture that ensured that only enough was taken so that ample food supplies were in place for at least seven generations into the future.

Storytelling in oral societies remains an integral aspect of how knowledge and wisdom was taught and passed from generation to generation. The importance of stories and the spoken word in context with survival or for the purpose of expressing ways to reduce risk knowing the extreme circumstances people were accustom to enduring. Stories remain a powerful method of education that brought meaning and context to the listener to help broaden and expand perspective on many different levels. Elders among multi generational family units often expressed stories, through repetition and emphasis about characters and metaphors, their stories emphasized the many extraordinary unique elements of a rich and vibrant culture. Storytelling remains a core aspect of expression among indigenous societies and through this expression another example of sharing is demonstrated. 

How stories are expressed today is evident in a myriad of forms, the opportunity exists for corporations to do a better job expressing how they’re making a difference through practices such as corporate social responsibility and what their doing to lighten the impact upon those in their path.

Gordongroup has had the benefit of working directly with the Crees of Eeyou Istchee for the last three decades. Our experience, learning and time-shared together with our clients and friends  has been a tremendous privilege that we are truly grateful for.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Keith Marble in conversation about Design Thinking

Keith an engineer has considerable experience in design here is an excerpt from his biography:

Design was the common thread running through product development and later project management across health care, automotive and medical device products. Working across different design environments from custom design to high volume production, from the obsessive cost consciousness in the automotive field to the highly regulated medical device field has given me a unique perspective on design. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Design Thinking with MBAs

In conversation with MBA students about the important nature design plays and its impact in practice, creating access, integrated into culture.

The emergent Design Thinking management narrative bringing innovation to organizations.

By giving each person and group continual opportunity to participate, in his or her own unique way, in decision making and in the work of providing for the welfare of the larger group and community, Native cultures provided each person and social unit the freedom, sense of purpose, and opportunity for self-actualization and development necessary for their own realization in the ways that directly provided for the needs of the community. As we are beginning to learn in the contemporary workplace with the rise of employee involvement and team process, this method of harmonizing individual freedom with social purpose is exceedingly efficient, effective and productive. (LaDonna Harris, 2011)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A New Direction