#183: The Dirty Bird Theory of Superior Organizational Development

I can’t believe I had never heard of the Dirty Bird Theory of Organizational Development until a couple weeks ago. It was explained to me by a retired policeman who also served in the military.

Dirty Bird

As soon as I heard the Dirty Bird Theory, I realized it applies to every organization I have ever been a part of.

The Dirty Bird

Here’s how it goes…

You are a leader with 10 soldiers in your unit. Four of the soldiers are outstanding, three are pretty solid day in, day out, and three are less than satisfactory. Of the three poor performers, one is a hot mess; always deficient and always causing trouble for the unit.

If the leader chooses not to do anything about the screw-up, the other two marginal performers decide there is more fun to be had in following the example of the screw-up so they too become complete screw-ups.

Now the leader has four outstanding soldiers, three solid performers, and three screw-ups.

After a little while, the three solid performers realize they are working hard but the screw-ups are doing nothing. Since nothing is happening to them the three solid performers decide it’s no longer worth expending the effort to be a great performer.

Now the leader has four outstanding performers and six soldiers who are screwing up on a regular basis.

When it comes time to re-enlist, the four outstanding soldiers are fed up and decide to leave the unit because they don’t want to be associated with a group of slackers.

Now the leader has to replace the four outstanding soldiers with new recruits. The four new recruits are surrounded by six screw-ups and quickly learn to perform at sub-standard levels.

The leader who had one screw-up now has a full unit of ten screw-ups all because he refused to take action with the one original screw up.

This is the Dirty Bird Theory of Organizational Development.  The result of not attending to the one “dirty bird” eventually yielded an entire unit of screw ups.

Change the Narrative

If we flip the narrative around, we see a completely different outcome.

Assume once again you are a leader with 10 soldiers in your unit. Four of the soldiers are outstanding, three are pretty solid day in, day out, and three are less than satisfactory. Of the three poor performers, one is a hot mess; always deficient and always causing trouble for the unit.

Instead of ignoring the screw-up, you reassign him to a position that is more aligned to his skill sets or you get rid of him completely.

Now you have nine soldiers; four are outstanding, three are pretty solid, and two that are less than satisfactory. But, the two poor performers see what happened to the screw-up and they work harder because they don’t want to be the next one shown the door. Now you have four outstanding soldiers and six who are pretty solid.

You bring in a tenth soldier and he hears what happened to the screw-up. He doesn’t want that to happen to him so he works hard emulating the four outstanding soldiers.

Now you have five outstanding soldiers and five pretty solid soldiers. The five pretty solid soldiers see even the new guy succeeding along with the other outstanding soldiers and they work harder to be better.

The odds of all five of the pretty solid soldiers all becoming outstanding soldiers is low but they are all working harder than ever and reaching goals they never thought possible before.

The leader who attended to the lone dirty bird right away now has a high performing unit of five outstanding soldiers and five who are trying harder than ever to be the best they can be.

It Happened to Me

At the mid-point of my career at Procter & Gamble, I was offered an opportunity to switch from sales management to marketing management. I attended my first quarterly meeting of marketing managers even before I was officially in the role.

At this meeting, our executive vice-president of marketing stood up in front of a room of 140 or so marketers and said, “If you don’t love this work, leave, and go find something else to do. In fact, leave now.”

I was shocked. Never before had I heard any manager, let alone a senior executive, tell people to get with the program or leave, literally right now.

But, he went on to explain that life is too short to short-change yourself by doing work you don’t love. So for your own sake and the sake of the organization, find work you love and go do it!

This executive was putting an important Biblical principle into practice. Paul, writing to the Colossians admonished them saying, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Whatever work you are doing, work with all you heart because you are working for the Lord. Your example to other workers is one way you can honor the Lord for the blessings and talents He has given you.

If you are a leader, it is your duty to the organization you lead to make that organization as highly skilled as possible. You can’t do that if you let one “dirty bird” bring down the performance of the rest of the group.

Paul said it well when he told the Galatians, A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough” (Galatians 5:9). One “dirty bird” can end up ruining an entire organization.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked in an organization where one “dirty bird” brought down the performance of the whole group? If so what happened?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development

#180: Time Pirates

Tips to Reclaim the Time in Your Life

Suppose that someone was to offer you a deal: every morning when you get up, $86,400 will be credited to your checking account. You may spend the money any way you like, but there is one catch: every evening when you go to bed any unspent money will be taken away.

Time Pirates

Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? You would probably think of many ways to spend the money, but one thing is sure, you would try not to let any slip away unspent.

Someone has made you just such a deal. Every day you get up God has put 86,400 seconds at your disposal. You may use them however you wish but there is no savings account; at the end of the day, those seconds are gone forever. You cannot “bank” your time and draw interest on it. The two minutes it took for you to read this far were in the future just a moment ago, and now they are in the past, never to be reclaimed.

Sadly, many people use their time as though there was a never-ending supply. James admonished the Christian Jews not to put off the good work they could do today: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city…’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14 NAS).

Today may come to a sudden end, tomorrow may never come. It behooves every one of us to use the 86,400 seconds that God has given us today to the very best of our ability.

What follows is a list of ideas for reclaiming the time in your life. Some will reclaim only a moment; others may reclaim an hour or more per day.

DO what works for you. Any time you reclaim is yours to use doing something else! Begin reclaiming your life by understanding where you are today and where you want to go. Get focused on what is really important to you. Then develop short and long-range plans to accomplish your goals. Lastly, do the work to accomplish your goals.

Practical Hints

Having a framework for your life’s vision/mission with well-defined strategies and tactics is important, but what about the day-to-day time management difficulties?

Here are a few tips guaranteed to put you back in control of your time.

“To Do” List

Develop and use a “To Do” list every day. Make sure your list includes headings for the activity, the time required, and priority.

Write a “Not to Do” List

Ask yourself the question, “What would happen if this job didn’t get done, or if it was done by someone else?” If the answer is nothing, then put the job on your “Not to Do” list. Free yourself from as many of these jobs as possible by delegating them to others or not doing them at all.

Learn to say “NO”

Perhaps the most effective yet underutilized time management tool is the word “No.” Many of us want to be helpful, we want to be team players, so we say “yes” whenever someone comes along and says, “Can you help with…?”

You can also redirect the decision to someone else. If you’re not the right person to make the decision redirect the question to the right decision maker.

If the request really is something you should do, then plan accordingly by scheduling the project on your calendar.

Simplify Your Life

We are sometimes so busy we don’t have time to get anything done. There are so many wonderful things to do and we want to try them all, don’t we? When we’re not shuttling kids back and forth to soccer games and ballet lessons, then we’re going out for a business dinner, or joining another club, group, or association.

No doubt about it, we can fill our schedules to overflowing. But are we filling them with the right things? Go back to your vision/mission statement, review your strategies and ask yourself, “Are these activities helping me achieve one of my goals or are they keeping me from them?”

Avoid Procrastination

I used to hate fried parsnips. My father used to tell me to eat them first, then I could enjoy the rest of my meal. Jobs are just like those fried parsnips; get the one you dislike the most out of the way first. The rest of your day will seem easy. Are you dreading a call to an angry customer, or having a performance review with a marginal employee? Do them first. If you don’t, you will spend precious time worrying about the uncompleted job. Those parsnips don’t look any better at the end of the meal than the beginning, so get them off your plate first.

One Final Thought

Time pirates are insidious little creatures. They sneak up on you in the most innocent forms and suddenly you find your life is out of control; the time pirates have won.

Think about where your time goes. Here’s a fairly common routine: work 8-10 hours per day, commuting 0-2 hours per day, eating 90 minutes per day, sleeping 8 hours per day, and family time 2 hours per day. This is just the routine stuff and that only leaves 90 minutes per day for everything else! No wonder reading the Bible and spending time in prayer about your schedule gets a few minutes as an afterthought.

Get your priorities straight. Start with God’s direction in your life, and make sure you stay on track through regular Bible study and prayer time. It’s amazing how clear the priorities of the day will become when you start by placing your day in His hands.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled Time Pirates—Tips to Reclaim the Time in Your Life.”

This whitepaper is a broader discussion of how you can reclaim the time in your life from the time pirates:

  • Get Focused. Develop a personal “business” plan for your life.
  • Develop strategies to accomplish your goals.
  • Develop prioritized task lists—what to do and what not to do.
  • More Practical Tips to win the war against the time pirates.

You can download the free 5-page whitepaper here: Time Pirates—Tips to Reclaim the Time in Your Life.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. How do you fend off the time pirates in your life?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Time Management


#170: 7 Surprising Things I learned from My Gen Z Students

Stand aside Millennials, the Gen Z’s are coming! This year’s college graduating class marks the beginning of the wave of Gen Z students entering the workforce that will continue for the next fifteen years.

Gen Z Class of 2016

Gen Z kids grew up post 9/11 and lived through a recession that saw a quarter of American kids living in poverty. At the same time, mobile technology continued to expand. These and other factors contribute to the Gen Z’s being different in many ways from their Millennial predecessors.

As a result, leaders will need to be prepared. Forewarned is forearmed!

7 Surprising Things I learned from my Gen Z Students

I was invited to teach a class in sales and sales management at a local university this spring. Three years and they keep asking me back! Go figure!

My class this year was composed of 21 students; about half juniors and the rest seniors. All Gen Z’s! While outwardly they look a lot like prior classes of Millennials, I found there are a number differences.

  • They are screen-obsessed. Millennials grew up with chips in their cribs and got used to using three screens. Gen Z’s are even more screen dependent using an average of five screens: smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and an i-Pad. A full 79% of Gen Z’s suffer distress when kept from their electronic devices!
  • They have the attention span of an excited puppy. Scratch that. Puppies have a longer attention span! Studies show the average attention span of a Gen Z is about 8 seconds!
  • They are socially aware and engaged. Gen Z’s are aware of social issues and even more focused than Millennials on having jobs that impact the world.
  • They expect their careers to span several companies. Like Millennials, Gen Z’s expect to work for an average of 4 companies over the course of their careers.
  • They have an entrepreneurial mindset. Nearly three-fourths of Gen Z’s want to own their businesses.
  • They like to self-educate. Ask a question and Gen Z’s will dive for their favorite device and Google the requested information in seconds. If they need to learn something they have no qualms about using internet resources to teach themselves.
  • They are aspirational but skeptical. They know they will have to work hard to succeed and about one-third would like to retire by the time they are 60-years old. But, less than 20% think that is achievable.

I saw and experienced all these characteristics play out in my class:

  • I think the average student carried two screen devices with them at all times. Their smartphone was the go-to device for convenience but they would break out the iPad or laptop for serious research.
  • I expected the short attention span issue because I saw it last semester. I tried to break up my three-hour class into shorter chunks that included a mix of lecture, role-plays, Q & A, quizzes with discussion, and a break. Even so, I could sense I was stretching their ability to focus. I thought about taking the class outside on the campus lawn, but figured I’d lose them even faster!
  • I noted that several of the students were already involved as volunteers in a variety of social causes. As I discussed potential companies for careers with several students it was clear they were most interested in companies who had a strong social responsibility presence.
  • The entrepreneurial versus the big company career question did not seem to cause a concern. Several of the students expressed an interest in working for a large company or two to learn certain skills and then strike out on their own. Whether as leaders in big companies or as owners of their own smaller businesses, it was clear these folks want to be in a position to influence others!
  • I split the class into small groups and asked questions for a case study that required internet research. Within minutes, these folks had divided up the task, visited a variety of relevant websites, gathered information, and synthesized it so that it could be reported back to the rest of the class.
  • The one somewhat somber point that arose during the semester with some students is the fact that they see themselves as having to work harder to be successful than their predecessors, with a low likelihood of being able to enjoy a long retirement.

Lessons for Leaders

Some of the lessons important for leading Gen Z’s are similar to those I noted last year for the Millennials:

  • Short attention spans mean leaders need to be careful to design work for Gen Z’s that will keep them engaged and productive.
  • Given Gen Z’s fondness for any electronic device with a screen, it makes sense to leverage this skill set for research and learning tasks.
  • Large companies need to offer a variety of career paths to keep the Gen Z’s happy. Convince them they can get all the experience they need right where they are or pretty soon you’ll be looking for their replacement.
  • Large companies also need to integrate social responsibility efforts where it makes sense and give their employees a chance to contribute as volunteers.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of these seven insights resonates with you? What advice do you have for leaders of Gen Z’s??

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Human Resource Development







#167: 6 Keys to Making Important Changes in Your Life Stick

Most of us realize that we are not perfect. In this imperfect state we recognize the need to change; to refine ourselves in some way to become better. But what is better? And how do we make changes in ourselves that will stick over time? While the answers to these questions aren’t hard to get, making the changes stick is hard.

Rowboat, Changes

6 Keys to Making Important Changes in Your Life Stick

1. Looking Backward to See Ahead

There is a Japanese proverb that may be roughly paraphrased, “A man in a rowboat looks behind to see where he is going.” If you’ve ever tried to maneuver a rowboat you know it is a constant exercise in turning around to see where you’re going and turning back around you to see where you’ve been. By picking out a point in front and behind you can draw an imaginary line between the two that helps keep the boat on course.

The first step in making positive, lasting change in your life is to understand where you have been. Like rowing the boat, it is important to look back at where you’ve been to help understand where you are going.

2. Behavior Reflects Values

Another thing we can learn from our past is what our values are (not what we would like to think they are). Our values are reflected in our behavior. For example, you may say you value persistence but you frequently quit projects before they are completed. So your behavior reflects your true values. If you don’t like what you see in the values mirror, there is a behavior you need to change.

Values that are important in the world are not values that are important to God. Men value power, possessions, and prestige. But these are not God’s values, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (I John 2:16).

3. Develop A Values Based Vision

One author described vision as what you hope would be said at your funeral: “He was a man of great integrity” versus “He was an inconsiderate, self-centered jerk.”

A vision is a picture of what you want to achieve by the end of your life. Paul writing again to the Romans said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Our personal vision should be based on the values that we have established for ourselves.

When we have a values-based vision firmly in mind we can put into place the changes we want to make in our lives. As the change is enacted we gain strength from our relationship with God, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

4. Surround Yourself with the Right People

Making change stick is tough, but you can enhance your chances significantly if you surround yourself with the right people. Solomon wrote, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17).

We need to surround ourselves with people who understand what we are trying to do, who will challenge us, hold us accountable, and encourage us. These people may be part of our work team, peers, mentors, or members of a more formal accountability group. Whoever they are and whatever role they play in our lives, we need to enroll people who can aid our change process.

5. Prepare Yourself for Adversity

The change will not come without difficulty. Work habits and social habits are learned over a long period of time so don’t expect to change without struggling. We should not avoid trying to change because of worry, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). So in the midst of your struggle to change, keep God involved through prayer.

When the time comes that you suffer a setback, remember that even in our difficulties God will bring some good, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

6. Trust in God

Here is the most difficult step in making a lasting change. Trusting in God. Especially at work, we want to believe that we can control everything and don’t think about needing God’s help, but nothing could be further from the truth. God wants us to trust in Him to help make these changes, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

God is not, as some people fear, a cosmic killjoy. He wants us to lead good lives that honor Him, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).

One Final Thought

Deciding what to change may be laborious but it is not particularly difficult. Making the changes in our lives and making them last is the really hard part.

There is one over-riding principle that we must keep in mind throughout the whole analysis and change process, and that is we need to make changes that honor God. Don’t worry about making changes in your life that make you more acceptable to the “world.” Rather, focus on making changes that make you more acceptable to God.

Paul writing to the Galatians said, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want (Gal 5:16-17). If you struggle with the change that you know is from God, then recognize that it is your sinful nature. Keep your attention focused on God and His plan for your life. When you do, you will have God’s power to help you, and who could possibly be a better mentor than God?

Bonus WhitePaper

This week’s post is excerpted from an 11-page whitepaper entitled “Under Construction–How to make Changes in Your Life.”

This whitepaper is a broader discussion of how to make important changes in your life, including:

  • 5 practical things to focus on as you begin to make important changes in your life.
  • 3 steps to help clarify your values.
  • a case study.
  • meeting notes to help employees identify what they want to change.
  • 10 tips to help you determine what and how to get started.
  • some great quotes to keep you motivated.

You can download the free 11-page whitepaper here: “Under Construction–How to make Changes in Your Life.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What barriers have you have struggled with to make important changes in your life stick?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Change

#166: What Does it Mean to Live Intentionally?

Picture a beautiful river flowing lazily through a mountain valley. Standing on the bank, you throw a stick into the middle of the river and watch as it floats away downstream.

Intentionally, Canoe

Now imagine you are in a canoe. On the banks of the river are the most picturesque sites imaginable. You have two options. You can float along downstream looking at the sites as you go. Or, you can paddle up close and explore a site before continuing your journey down the river.

That river is like the time in our lives. It has as beginning and an end, just like our lives. And it moves steadily along whether we like it or not! Each of us is on a journey down the river of life.

It is a unique journey, created by God just for us. Your journey is different than mine. My journey is different than yours. Each of us is on a journey God made just for us.

The sites along the way are opportunities.

Here’s the thing, though. There are different kinds of opportunities.

Some of the opportunities are bad. They will take you away from the journey God designed for you.

Some of the opportunities aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they will distract you and keep you busy so you don’t have time for the opportunities God made just for you.

Some of the opportunities are the ones God made just for you. These are the ones that, if pursued, will enable you to live the kind of intentional, purpose-driven life God intends.

To live intentionally, you must be willing to paddle to the side and take a closer look.

You must consider each opportunity and decide: Is this an opportunity that will take me away from God’s best for me? Is this an opportunity that will distract me from being able to pursue God’s best for me? Or is this one of those precious opportunities God has given me to live the intentional life He designed just for me?

Paul, writing to the Ephesians, exhorted them to be careful to live their lives as wise men who make the most of every opportunity.

“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Then Paul admonished them not to live foolishly, but to live according to the Lord’s will.

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:17).

Paul’s point is the wise man is discerning, not foolish. The wise man will seize the opportunities God brings to live the powerful, intentional life He intends for us.

The question is, are you floating down the river in your canoe passing by the opportunities of life? Are you letting the river carry you wherever it will?

Or are you living intentionally as God intended by paddling over to explore the opportunities?

As you consider each opportunity, do you reject those that take you away from God’s best?

Do you avoid those that are distractions that keep you from God’s best?

Do you take full advantage of every opportunity to live the intentional life God intended for you?

Are you making the most of your journey down the river of life?

Moses realized that even if we live 70 or 80 years our time in this life is short and we need God’s wisdom in our hearts to live the kind of life God intended for us (Psalm 90:10, 12).

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. How do you feel when you are living intentionally, on the journey God designed just for you?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?



Category: Skills | Time Management




#162: How Distrust, Conjecture, and Hasty Actions Lead to Disaster

It seems like every day reading my news feed I see a story about some executive who acted impulsively and their actions led to disaster.


You know the type. They are the “Ready, Fire, Aim” guys. The “Shoot first and ask questions later guys.”

It turns out this is not a new phenomenon among leaders.

While reading Joshua 22, I noticed how some “Ready, Fire, Aim” leaders combined with the unholy trinity of distrust, conjecture, and hasty action nearly led to civil war between the Israelites.

The Israelites had driven out the inhabitants of the Promised land over a period of several years. When they were done, the eastern tribes left the western tribes to journey back across the Jordan River to occupy their land.

The eastern tribes built a large altar after they crossed the Jordan and when the western tribes heard about it, they all assembled to go to war against their eastern tribe brothers.

They assumed that the eastern tribes were planning on making sacrifices at the altar. This was in direct violation of God’s command to only offer sacrifices at the Tabernacle.

We’re not told who, but someone decided to assemble a delegation of leaders from the ten western tribes and go talk to the leaders of the eastern tribes.

They immediately accused eastern tribes saying the altar they built was a sign of their rebellion against God. They assumed the altar was built to offer sacrifices in violation of God’s command. They concluded that God would be angry and judge the entire nation of Israel because of their rebellion.

The eastern tribes explained the assumptions and conclusion reached by the leaders of the western tribes were all false. They built the altar, not for sacrifices, but as a witness between their people of their special relationship to God. It was to serve as a reminder to future generations how they shared in the great blessings of God.

The situation between the western and eastern tribes of Israel reveals the deadly nature of distrust, conjecture, and hasty actions, and how a decision to ask questions and listen avoided disaster:

  1. No one sought God’s counsel. The western tribes were greatly concerned when they thought the eastern tribes were rebelling against God. Nowhere though do we see that they sought God’s counsel.
  2. Distrust and conjecture are a dangerous combination. The western tribes had been fighting alongside their eastern brothers for several years, yet they immediately distrusted them when they heard about the altar and assumed the worst.
  3. Based on incomplete information they hastily prepared for war. Having concluded the eastern tribes were rebelling against God, the western tribes prepared to go to war against their eastern brothers.
  4. Cooler heads prevailed. A summit between the western and eastern leaders was held.
  5. Someone finally listened. The western tribes immediately made their accusations. As the eastern tribes explained their reasoning behind building the altar, the western tribe leaders finally understood and returned home in peace.

A civil war was nearly fought between brothers all because of a lack of trust, wild conjecture that led to false assumptions and conclusions, followed by a hasty decision to act.

The wisdom of Proverbs 18:13 comes to mind, He who answers before listening– that is his folly and his shame.”

As Christians who bear the responsibility of leading, we should never assume we have all the facts in a given situation. Basing actions on incomplete information, assumptions, and conjecture will almost always be to our folly and shame.

Mr. Covey was right when he said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you encountered situations in which leaders made hasty decisions based on inaccurate or incomplete information? What impact did it have on the organization?


I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Communication Skills





#159: The Temple Moneychangers–A Guide to Biblical Marketing

Business people in Jesus’ day did not have government organizations to watch over the way they marketed products; the labels used on food products, or claims made about the products they sold. But that certainly doesn’t mean the Bible is silent on the subject of biblical principles for marketing.

Temple Moneychangers Marketing

Jesus took offense to men who were selling animals for sacrifice at the temple for usury prices. He strode up to them, overturned their tables, and drove them out of the temple area saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’” (Matt 21:13). Even in those days, there were marketers anxious to take advantage by making false product claims to make huge profits at the expense of others.

Before we get too far, we should understand what role marketing has in business. Ask the person on the street, and the answer you’ll get is often “selling” or “advertising.” More than a few corporate employees will offer the same answer.

While these answers are not completely incorrect, they are only a part of the marketing function. Simply put, marketing is the sum total of the efforts needed to bring a product to market. The American Marketing Association established a more formal definition:

“Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promoting, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges which satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

Clearly, marketing is more than just “selling” or “advertising.”

Getting Started

The best way we can meet God’s standards is to understand the basic Biblical principles that apply to marketing. Here are twelve principles you can use as marketing guidelines:

Love God and Serve Him. The primary question we should ask ourselves is, “Is what I am doing bringing honor and glory to God?”

A Pharisee lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” To which Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and all your heart. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matt 22:36-37).

Obey the Law. Many scriptures relate to the way we are to obey man’s law. Paul instructed the Christian church at Rome to submit to the governing authorities because “they are also God’s servants.” Paul went on to say that we should pay taxes if we owe them, and to give respect and honor where due (Romans 13:1-7).

In the Sermon On the Mount, Jesus said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt 5:41). It was the custom in those days that a Roman soldier could require a citizen to carry their loads for a mile. Jesus is saying that we should not only accept this first mile but go an additional mile.

Love Others. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:6-7).

Paul does not make an exception for customers or clients. We are to love everyone. And that love should manifest itself in the way we treat others. Customers should be able to trust the claims we make for our products. They should have faith in our guarantees.

Finally, love perseveres. This means that you should care about the people you do business with not just at the moment of sale, but all the time, for the long-term.

Be Honest. Leviticus says clearly, “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” (Lev 19:11).

The commandments not to steal or lie are pretty clear and come as no surprise, but the area of deception is a little tougher to deal with for the marketer.

For example, we should not make claims that are difficult for our customers to understand.

We should not downsize the weight of a package of goods while leaving the package the same size. This practice has become very prevalent in the food industry. Haven’t you ever wondered why that bag of potato chips doesn’t serve as many people as it used to? Simple. The product weight keeps getting reduced to keep the retail price at a certain point.

Don’t Show Partiality. Proverbs 28:21 says, “To show partiality is not good.” Paul commands Timothy to “keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism” (1 Tim 5:21).

For the marketer, this means allowing all customers equal access to product and making sure that promotions are available to all customers on fair and equal terms.

Be at Peace With Others. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “Live in peace with one another” (1 Thess. 5:13).

For the marketers, this means that we should do all we can to resolve differences between us, our customers, and our suppliers.

Fill Others’ Needs. Ephesians tells us to be “imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). Jesus instructs the disciples saying, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt 6:8).

As marketers, we should try to fill the needs of our customers. Not perhaps the wants, but certainly the needs. That means that we should build safety into products: seat belts, 5-mile per hour bumpers, airbags, dolls without metal parts, etc.

Be Compassionate. Colossians 3:12 tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

As marketers, we should be sympathetic to our suppliers and customers’ situations. We should not, therefore, take advantage of the difficulties of our suppliers or our customers. If a company is struggling financially, we should not take advantage of them, but deal with them with a heart full of compassion.

Don’t Love the Things Of The World. John writes, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:12).

As marketers, we need to consider the role we play in developing and preparing products for the market. Are we making products that meet people’s needs or are we developing products that influence customers to store up treasures on earth rather than in heaven?

Develop A Ministry. Paul wrote to Archippus, “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord” (Col. 4:17). Jesus commanded the disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).

Jesus granted no special exemption to marketers. The Great Commission applies to all of us.

Therefore, we should make our work our ministry. As business people, we have the opportunity to do the work that the Father gave us every day as we provide a living testimony of our faith.

Ask for Wisdom. There are many areas of business in which it is difficult to know how to apply a Biblical principle.

In these cases, we need to ask for God’s wisdom. James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). The verse does not say you will get wisdom sometimes or occasionally, but that God will give it generously to all who ask. What a comfort it is to know that even if we have gotten ourselves into trouble, we can ask God for wisdom in dealing with this and every other situation.

Have a “Right Heart.” James writes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). While the world may suggest that you should always look out for number one, the Bible provides many exhortations against being selfish, lovers of self, or double-minded.

As marketers, we must avoid worldly values and focus on being selfless, lovers of all people, and doers of the word.

One Final Thought

Christian marketers have a responsibility that goes far beyond man’s law and the rules of professional associations. It is incumbent upon us to always be a light to the world. We must consider everything we do and the impact that action has on all the people around us. It is an immense responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly.

But there is satisfaction knowing that we run our business being responsible to God for our results and it is this thought that should guide us through every day.

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the free 5-page whitepaper, The Temple Moneychangers–A Biblical Guide to MarketingIt includes a bonus discussion of seven important areas in which biblical principals can be applied to our marketing.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you encountered deceptive or unbiblical marketing? How did it make you feel as a professional? As a consumer?

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Category: Skills | Quality/Excellence


#154: Are the Best Executives, Leaders or Managers?

Are the best executives, leaders or managers? The quick answer is “no.” The best executives are neither managers nor leaders, but possess a unique blend of skills of both the leader and the manager.

Leaders, Executives

Mr. Webster defined management as “the act or art of managing”, and he defined managing, “to handle or direct with a degree of skill.” Peter Drucker took eight pages to provide an overview of the terms, manager and management, in his book Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. Simply stated, Drucker defined the work of a manager as “planning, organizing, integrating, and measuring.”

Turning to Mr. Webster again, he defined leadership as, “the office or position of a leader, the capacity to lead.” He defined lead as, “to guide on a way, especially in advance.”

None of these definitions create a very clear sense of the difference between managing and leading. They do not even give a good sense for why a distinction is important.

A look at the “activities” of a manager versus a leader provides a clearer distinction between the two:

A manager is concerned with planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. A manager is responsible for getting things done on time and on budget.

A leader sets direction, creates vision, communicates to and aligns constituents, and motivates and inspires the group. A leader produces dramatic, significant change.

Being a good manager certainly doesn’t make someone a good leader, just as being a good leader doesn’t make someone a good manager. The reason is the skill sets are completely different!

Think for a moment about the training you have received in your career. Was it focused on management activities or leadership activities? Only a very fortunate few have had any leadership training at all. Our educational systems and our corporate training focuses on building management skills not on developing leaders.

Mr. Drucker noted in Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, “There are, in developed society, thousands, if not millions, of managers––and leadership is always the rare exception and confined to a very few individuals.”

But so what? Does it really matter if we don’t have many leaders as long as we have lots of strong managers? A recent survey of top executives showed that there were far too few executives who were strong leaders and managers, far too many who were strong managers but weak leaders, too few who were strong leaders but weak managers, and too many who were weak leaders and managers.

A company trying to succeed in the future will have difficulty if the organization is comprised of anything but employees who have strong leadership and management skills. The effect of these skill imbalances in business is easy to spot:

Strong Management, Weak Leadership. The company with an excess of this type of executive is known for their high levels of bureaucracy, and a work atmosphere that stifles initiative and creativity. Some of our older companies fit this model; our steel and automobile industries, some computer companies, and several household goods companies.

Many companies with strong management and weak leadership are the ones you’re reading about that are restructuring and reengineering in a frenzied effort to survive. Many have already gone by the wayside.

The employee who is a strong manager but a weak leader is best described as the “Seagull”. The “Seagull” manager flies into town, flaps their wings, squawks a lot, eats everything in sight, marks their territory, and then flies back from whence they came. In a word, the “Seagull” manager is an expert at “over-control.”

Strong Leadership, Weak Management. This company has a strong vision, but lacks a grip on reality. Entrepreneurial startups most often fit this model. The vision is supplied by the person who started the company; a dynamic inventor who created a product, developed it, and succeeded in bringing it to market, but who lacks an understanding of how to monitor and control work processes.

An employee who is a strong leader but a weak manager can be described as “highly motivated chaos”. They are the “ready, fire, aim” people. They expend lots of energy, but often achieve little in terms of results. Simply put, they are “out of control.”

Somewhere between these two extremes of “out of control” and “over-control” is a highly effective executive who is a strong leader and a strong manager.

Getting Started

Building an executive that is a strong leader and strong manager is not easy but it can be done. The natural leader must learn how to manage, and the natural manager must learn how to lead. Each must combine the other into a balanced style. Here are six traits of an executive who manages by leading:

Sets Direction. Before setting direction, the executive starts by getting input from customers and key corporate functions. Direction is then set that focus’ on the end state, challenges the status quo, is flexible, and considers the systems that will be needed to complete the work.

Enrolls Others. Customers and employees need to be enrolled. This is done by communicating the end state, securing commitment, developing role models, removing systemic barriers, developing the capabilities of the organization, and maintaining open communications.

Planning. A good plan will create order even in the midst of chaos. Plans need to consider the allocation of resources, who will do what work, the establishment of objectives, and setting budgets.

Organizes. The workplace must be organized in such a way that it contributes to the accomplishment of our goals. Systems to monitor results are needed, the organization must be staffed, and policies and procedures to control the processes need to be in place. Systems, policies, and procedures must all be clearly communicated to workers, and line up with customer objectives.

Enables Others. This is power the step. Organizations who succeed in enabling their workers have a competitive advantage. Barriers of all kinds need to be eliminated; people must be empowered to work in the best interests the organization. We need to encourage risk-taking, leverage diversity, motivate and inspire our workers, and recognize and reward success.

Measure Systems. Monitoring results will help identify systems that are out of control and provides an opportunity to solve problems. Measuring the effectiveness of our systems allows us to direct our energy and resources at critical parts of the system and provides an opportunity to predict results.

The six steps listed above provide a balanced approach to managing and leading. Most executives have a tendency to do what they are comfortable with and pay little attention to the rest. That kind of short-sighted approach will not work in the future. We must become strong leaders and strong managers to be successful.

One Final Thought

The world is a global market. We no longer think about products that can be made and sold only in our home country. Rather, most successful, growing, vibrant companies consider how to build manufacturing and distribution systems on a global basis. This globalization of business has increased competition tremendously, and competition is the engine that drives change.

Managers, with their sense of control, are not well suited to manage change, but leaders are. Leaders are the people who will create new visions; who will create alignment within the organization; and who will motivate and inspire employees. Once this has been done, management skills will keep the organization in a state of control running efficiently.

Which boss would you rather work for? Which would you rather be; the manager or the leader? Hopefully, you said neither. Neither one is capable of running and organization effectively. Hopefully, you want to work for and be a person who has well-balanced skills at both managing and leading. If you don’t have these skills now––get them.

The most valuable employees in the future will be the ones who can lead people to aspire to new heights while creating and managing the systems needed to help them get there.

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the free 5-page whitepaper, Are the Best Executives, Leaders or Managers?It includes seven steps you can take to encourage leadership in your organization.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for executives who were unbalanced in their strength as either a strong leader or as a strong manager? What was the effect on the organization?

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Category: Skills |Leadership Development

#153: Leaders are Readers: My Book List for 2016

You may be familiar with the quote by Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States; “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Leaders Readers

I like to read, but often my reading list gets pushed down on my to-do list. It doesn’t seem like sitting and reading is actually “doing” anything. So I decided to do some research to see if reading really is important for leaders.

Of course, it took only seconds for Google to bring me an article from the Harvard Business Review that supports the thesis that leaders are readers. In this article, For those Who Want to Lead, Readauthor John Coleman, cites 10 purported benefits for leaders who are readers. Among them:

  1. Reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight.
  2. Reading builds your vocabulary.
  3. Reading increases abstract reasoning skills.
  4. Reading is an efficient way to acquire and assimilate new information.
  5. Reading across fields is a good way to increase creativity.
  6. Reading increases the likelihood that you will be innovative.
  7. Reading can make you more effective in leading others.
  8. Reading can increase your verbal intelligence making you a more adept and effective communicator.
  9. Reading can improve your empathy and increase your organizational effectiveness.
  10. Reading can help you relax, reduce stress, and improve your health.

I’m sold. Reading is important for leaders. Reading more will help me be a better leader. It seems what you read, in terms of genre, is not nearly as important as just reading!

I’m going public with my reading list for 2016. My goal is to read at least 10 books during the year. I’ve got 14 books on my list so far, and I hope to get some books recommended to me that I can add to my list:

  • “Turn the Ship Around—A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” by L. David Marquet. Marquet is a Navy submarine captain who tells how he turned one of the worst performing submarines in the fleet, into the best.
  • “The Obstacle is the Way—The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday. This book was recommended to me by a reader of this blog who leads every day in his role as a police chief (thanks, John!).
  • “Quarter Life Calling—How to Find Your Sweet Spot in Your Twenties” by Paul Sohn. OK. Full disclosure, I have already read this book twice. The first reading was Paul’s draft. The second reading was the galley proofs. The finished print version released January 18, 2016 and I can’t wait to read it again!
  • “Will it Fly—How to Test Your Next Business Idea so You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money” by Pat Flynn. I am a Pat Flynn fan. He is a wonderful young man who is among the most successful internet business men around. The book will be released in February 2016.
  • “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics” by John Maxwell. I admit, I am a Maxwell fan. I’ve read several of his books and enjoyed them all immensely. A book on ethics seems like an especially important read after some of the news this year.
  • “Marketplace Christianity” by Robert Fraser. I started this book some time ago, and for some reason set it aside so I’m going back to chapter 1 and starting over.
  • “Do Something—Make Your Life Count” by Miles McPherson. Miles delivered a powerful sermon as a guest pastor at our church. When I found out he had written a “motivational, get yourself in gear” kind of book I ordered it. Sometimes I need a little motivational kick in the backside!
  • “Leadership Beyond Reason—How Great Leaders Succeed by Harnessing the Power of their Values, Feeling, and Intuition” by Dr. John Townsend. I received this book as a gift after Dr. Townsend spoke at gathering of business people at our church. After hearing him speak I can’t imagine this book will be anything short of fantastic.
  • “Business as Mission—The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God” by Michael R. Baer. Baer’s premise is Christian businesses have an opportunity to impact the world for Christ in a remarkable way. I agree wholeheartedly and I want to learn what he thinks about how this can be achieved.
  • “The Gospel Goes to Work—God’s Big Canvass of Calling and Renewal.” by Dr. Stephen Graves. I’m not sure how I came to hear about this book, but since I am in the middle of rediscovering God’s calling on my life I am looking forward to what I learn from this book.
  • “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years—How I Learned to Live a Better Story” by Donald Miller. I first learned about Donald Miller when I watched an interview Michael Hyatt did with him. The interview was fascinating and I expect the story he tells in this book will be exceptional.
  • “Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. This book has been recommended to me by friends at least 4-5 times over the past year. Perhaps my friends are trying to tell me something! Anyway, this book comes with rave reviews so I am looking forward to reading it.
  • “Start with Why—How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. This is another book that came to me via recommendations of friends. I watched Simon’s TED talk, and I was enthralled like millions of others who have watched it on YouTube. A quick look at the jacket cover suggests this could be a life-changing read.
  • “Dance Until It Rains—Inspiring Stories of Everyday Persistence” by various authors. This book is a compilation of stories written by a variety of authors telling someone else’s inspiring story. This could be a tear-jerker.

Well, that’s it for now. My list of books to read in 2016. I suspect if this year is anything like last year, I will add several books to the list during the year. If I don’t get them all read this year, they’ll roll-over to next year. It’s all about being a learning leader who reads.

If you have a favorite book that you’ve read recently let me know!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Never was that more true than this week. I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read recently that you really enjoyed.


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Category: Skills | Leadership Development |

#150: How to Identify Paradigm Shifts and Explode Your Business

Horses as the primary mode of transportation, candles used for lighting, wood used for cooking and heating, windmills for pumping water, wind-up mechanical watches, mimeograph machines, are all extinct. These were not bad products, but none the less they are gone.

Paradigm Shifts

What happened? Paradigm shifts occurred. Technology made new products possible, new products replaced old products, and in some cases, created whole new markets.

Consider the Swiss. Up through the 60s the Swiss were world renowned for their prowess at making mechanical watches. The Swiss invented the minute hand and the second hand. They were the undisputed leaders in gear and bearing technology. It was the Swiss who first developed the waterproof watch and the best self-winding watches. The Swiss were innovators. By 1968 they had a remarkable 65% of watch sales in the world. No one was even a remote second.

In 1967 the Swiss developed the first electronic quartz movement. Even though the Swiss manufacturers decided the new watch wasn’t noteworthy they displayed it at the World Watch Convention. A small Japanese company named Seiko liked the idea of an electronic watch, and the rest as we say is history. By 1980 the Swiss share of watch sales dropped to below 10% worldwide.

The electronic watch revolutionized watch production; they were more accurate, more durable, and less expensive to manufacture. A paradigm shift had occurred. All the conventional rules about making and selling watches were changed in a matter of two years.

The greatest paradigm shift of all time came when Jesus preached the gospel. The impact of that simple message has been felt throughout the world for over two thousand years. People changed, societies changed, and governments changed, all because of one man and His message.

Leveraging a Paradigm Shift

The trick leveraging a paradigm shift is to 1) forecast the paradigm shift, 2) recognize its development in the early stages, and then 3) position your company to take advantage of the shift. To illustrate this three-step principle, let’s review the history of transportation:

In the beginning man walked. Probably for hundreds of years there were no paradigm shifts. But there were problems with walking; your feet got sore. Once the problem was identified someone went about finding a solution; sandals to protect the feet. There were still problems with walking however; you get tired walking all day long carrying heavy loads. Another problem identified. Someone realized that if they could get a donkey to carry the load they could walk a lot further. Another problem solved. But you still couldn’t get very far in a day; donkeys are not speed demons. Someone tamed a horse to ride and another problem was solved. For hundreds of years man’s primary mode of transportation was horses. Industries developed around the breeding of horses, making tack, wagons, etc.

Eventually, someone realized that horses and wagons just didn’t make sense to cover the long distances across countries. A wagon was fitted with a steam engine and laid on rails, and another problem was solved with the birth of the railroad. Railroads solved many transportation problems. They were able to carry enormous loads across great distances at high rates of speed, but they were confined to those tracks! To get to Aunt Mae’s house across town you still had to saddle your horse or hitch up a buggy.

Someone decided to put a steam engine on a wagon with steerable wheels, and the automobile was born. The automobile solved lots of problems; it was personal, you could go wherever there were roads, and whenever you wanted. As reliability increased, popularity grew and the automobile evolved into the remarkable piece of modern day technology that we enjoy today. As revolutionary as the automobile was it still took a long time to get across the country, they didn’t work very well in the snow, and you certainly couldn’t get across the ocean in one!

Then of course the Wright Brothers bolted an internal combustion engine onto an airframe and the aviation era was born. Airplanes solved the problem of covering great distances at high rates of speed. They could be small enough to be personal, or big enough to carry the whole neighborhood. More problems solved.

Do you see the pattern above? There are known needs and unknown needs, paradigm shifts occur when someone meets these needs with a new product that solves the problems of the old product. There are the minor shifts like sandals and then shoes.

And there are major shifts. A major shift occurred when man moved toward the donkey and the horse to replace walking as the primary mode of transportation. Another shift occurred with the development of railroads, another with automobiles, and another with airplanes. Another major shift will occur when we can say, “Beam me up Scotty,” and be instantly transported from LA to New York.

Each of these major shifts solved some of the problems of the previous product, but they also created a new group of problems to solve. These new groups of problems led to the next major paradigm shift.

In many cases paradigm shifts occur because new product technology creates new, previously unknown, needs. But the lack of “known need” didn’t stop someone from creating a product that created “new needs”!

Getting Started

If you are a leader and you want to develop an organization capable of forecasting, recognizing, and taking advantage of paradigm shifts then the following five points will be helpful:

1. Don’t trust the experts!

Experts who develop technology often don’t even understand the import of their actions. Simon Newcomb, a noted astronomer, said in 1902, “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” In 1913 the American Road Congress reported that, “It is an idle dream to imagine that…automobiles will take the place of railways in the long distance movement of…passengers.” Thomas Edison said in 1880 that, “The phonograph…is not of any commercial value.” If you want to recognize paradigm shifts you might want to look to someone other than the “experts” for answers.

2. Forecasting

Get a group of individuals together and have them write “future” scenarios. What will this industry look like in 20 years, 50 years? These “future” scenarios will help you see major paradigm shifts. If you’re in the home building business you may see the concern for the environment as a precursor to a major shift in home building technology; new heating systems, new building materials, new super insulation materials, etc.

Get another group to write about what problems exist in the industry today, and to forecast future problems and needs. For example, if you’re in the plastics business you might consider oil supplies as a future problem. You might see pollution control legislation as a problem. You might see a need for a new type of plastic that will meet certain consumer needs, etc.

3. Flexibility

As leaders we tend to focus on problem solving. In the crush of our workloads we tend to be very comfortable with current solutions to problems. What we don’t realize is that there are some new ways of doing old things and that we must be willing to accept these new solutions, even while the old solution is still working.

4. Search and Reapply

This is a big opportunity area for most businesses. One department gets a good idea and uses it to solve a problem, but nobody else in the organization ever hears about it. We need to create systems for publicizing ideas throughout our organizations. Once this is being done we need to teach people to constantly look at the way other people do things as fertile ground for ideas that will help them do their jobs better.

5. Listen

As a leader you need to understand that the people who have the ability to spot paradigm shifts are probably working for you right now:

  • They are the young people who have not been so socialized by years of experience that they are capable of seeing things a different way.
  • They are the experienced people who just took on a new job.
  • They are the odd ducks who are always challenging the status quo, never content with the way things are, they are forever trying to change things.
  • They are the inventors who get ideas and build prototypes. They often don’t even realize how valuable their ideas are in terms of solving other problems.

Now that you know who is most likely to spot paradigm shifts, listen to them and record their ideas. You never know when what seemed like a silly idea for one project will turn out to be a brilliant solution to another project.

One Final Thought

Any organization that wants to be successful in the 21st century will need to be: 1) future oriented; capable of anticipating changes in technology and consumer needs, 2) innovative; not only in the way they apply technology but in the way they approach it, and 3) focused on quality; total quality will be the bare minimum in the next century.

To be successful, you will need all three of these components; not one or two, but all three. Getting to the point where your organization has these attributes may represent a major paradigm shift, but you might as well start right now.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What paradigm shifts have occurred in your business in the last 50 years? What might happen in the next 50 years?


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Category: Skills |Innovation Change