How to understand Trump and his base? Begin by dismissing facts as neither absolute nor relevant.

I must confess that I’m growing weary of hearing Trump’s critics expressing their incredulity at his actions. The refrain from this group is that Trump’s actions are irrational and are almost always at odds with the facts.

I couldn’t agree more, but at some point, it’s important to understand that no amount of fact checking is going to change the mind of an ardent Trump supporter. In fact, the backfire effect would indicate that the opposite could occur – providing contrary evidence to a person with an emotionally held position may actually reinforce the position they hold. [1]

Mooney has written about the concept of how neuroanatomical differences in the brain may influence an individual’s perception of what is fact versus fiction. [2] It’s an interesting mental exercise to try to wrap your head around the idea that “facts” may not be absolute and may depend on the relative activity of your amygdala versus your anterior cingulate cortex. Mooney’s suggestion is that conservatives have a more active amygdala – the brain’s fear center – and as such their actions are driven more by “protecting self” versus openness to experience.

Does that sound familiar? It should. Demagoguery is the bedrock of Trump’s messaging to his base. Fear of migrants, fear of Muslims, fear of skin that is not white. His supporters, driven by their active amygdalas, will not change their views even when presented with clear facts showing they are wrong. [3] Facts are a distraction to these people – they’re in survival mode and all they need is a strong protector to ensure their survival – a strong chief for their tribe.

How did we get here?

Emotions are easy and are encoded in our DNA. If you think about how humans lived a few hundred thousand years ago, emotions were critical to survival. One did not reason with a saber toothed tiger. There were two steps for survival: Identify the threat and react. In that historical scenario, thinking would lead to hesitation and being the tiger’s dinner!

I would suggest that the fear response in humans has not evolved all that much in 100,000 years. At some primal level, our actions are guided by the imperative to survive existential threats. A fact-based, logical approach to human life is relatively new on our evolutionary pathway. We’re still struggling with it.

What’s changed in the last decade is that technology has enabled us to self-select information that reinforces those threats. Haidt has suggested that it is a natural human tendency for humans to take a position based on emotion and then find “facts’ to support that position. [4] With today’s internet and 24-hour self-serve cable, it’s trivial for that to happen. One need only look at Twitter to see how effectively people can self-organize into information cocoons forming highly effective positive feedback loops that reinforce whatever position one wants.

Trump is the inevitable nadir of a world where technology has enabled humans to abandon critical thinking and effortlessly embrace the emotional side of our nature. He is a charlatan who has recognized that facts are irrelevant in motivating a segment of the population and that stoking fears is an effective way to gain support – at least for some. Fear is a formidable adversary in a confrontation with facts.

Influencing the fearful

If one’s goal is to persuade a Trump support they are wrong, then first and foremost – good luck! Second, forget citing facts and figures – even those that unambiguously show that Trump’s policies are hurting them. The only way to influence is to converse and connect on an emotional level. For some of us, that’s nearly impossible when there are so many facts at our disposal.

Save the facts for your social media accounts where they will be enthusiastically received and validated by your like-minded friends, However, if you find yourself wanting to engage with a Trump supporter (good for you), tell them your visceral fears of where America is heading – they will probably relate to your being afraid and you may have a springboard for a discussion.








Trump could make America greater

But only if the country survives his presidency.

CDC ebola virus  angrytrump

It’s possible that Trump may end up making America stronger, but only in the way an infection with a deadly virus can strengthen its host. In both cases, the outcome is binary. One either survives an Ebola infection and gains immunity or one dies.

The same is true of Trump. Either America will allow his ill-informed, bigoted, self-serving actions to continue, or there will be some awakening of a collective consciousness that recognizes that he is destroying the country one ignorant policy at a time.

We are past the prodromal stage of the national infection that is Trump. The signs and symptoms of the malady that is the Trump presidency must be apparent to any observer, but I fear they are not.

Trump supporters remind me of the person infected with Ebola who notices early signs of the disease but ignores them because they seem unimportant at the time. I mean, everyone feels a little sick from time to time and may have a low-grade fever. It’s only after the fever has spiked and the hemorrhagic effects of Ebola have become manifest that the patient realizes the consequences of not taking the early symptoms seriously.

We’re in a similar position with Trump. His supporters are all too eager to dismiss as mere “quirks” his personality disorders, his ignorance of history, his nepotism, his lack of interest in policy, and of course, his pathological lying. To them, these traits are no cause for real concern. In reality they are the low-grade fever that is destined to spike and cause America to experience its own form of hemorrhage.

Left untreated, the Trump infection will cause America to lose its position in the world as an icon of justice and fairness. We will lose our economic influence as Trump realizes he can’t build “THE wall” and instead build walls of economic isolation through absurd tariffs. America will lose any moral high ground as Trump’s supporters accept his statements about shit hole countries, infestations of brown skinned migrants from the south, and separating children from their mothers. While at the same time, the Trump infection causes his supporters not to take pause when he extols the virtues of immigrants from Norway and proclaims moral equivalence in Charlottesville. There are too many signs of the Trump infection to list, but they are there and they are real.

As with an Ebola infection, America is facing a binary outcome with the Trump infection. Either he will stay in power and eventually cause the demise of all that we have held to be American virtues, or there will be a tipping point where his supporters have the epiphany of realizing that Trump is not a common cold, he is Ebola.

Treatment must start soon to avert a catastrophic outcome. The first therapeutic intervention with a chance of containing the Trump infection will be on November 6, 2018. The only question will be if enough people realize the true, lethal nature of the infection that is Trump and vote accordingly.

If Americans actively reject Trump, it will be a sign that our country’s moral immune system is strong enough to survive and we will be better prepared to recognize the emergence of another despotic leader that may try to emerge in the future. However, if the Trump infection continues unchecked, then the America that has been a bright beacon of hope for the world will soon fade into mediocrity.


Remembering Leonard Goldstein – when a life exceeds the sum of its parts.

I have always said that I write these pages not because of any great impact it will have, or that I have delusions of being an especially insightful writer. Rather, it is something I must do. I expect no great readership of these pages, and the lack thereof is liberating because it affords me great latitude to write topics of my own discretion. All my writings are unapologetically of personal privilege, and this one is more personal than most.

Leonard M. Goldstein physically departed this world April 20, 2018, but his essence, his spirit lives on, and he is an indelible inspiration to all people unwilling to accept the injustices they see around them. I think Len viewed social injustice through a monochromatic lens. Some issues, especially issues of justice, are black and white. He never demonstrated any equivocation or hesitation to take a well-reasoned and principled position on any subject.

His partner in the relentless quest for social justice was his wife of more than 70 years, Rikki. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe the contributions this couple made to their community and to society. For those who may not know them well, I’ve included an article from the Fort Wayne News Sentinel at the end of this posting that offers high lights of their contributions. Most people who read the article are humbled.

ACLU photo

“Judaism: The Religion Of Action”

Many people may hold well formulated ideas, but what was special about Len was that he understood thoughts without action would never affect change. I think he would have agreed with Rabbi Ellen Bernhardt when she wrote, “We have been taught that when we are confronted with challenges, we don’t just sigh and resign ourselves to a terrible situation; we must be spurred on to action. Judaism is the religion of action, naasaeh v’nishmah—we will do and we will listen. Not only must we rise up and make our voices heard but we must be cognizant of creating advocates in the next generation and the next.”[1]

In February 2015, Len was quoted in the Congregation Achduth Vesholom Temple bulletin saying “I’ve always felt Judaism is based on justice. Injustice always raised my ire. I could write every day. Rikki calls me ‘the last angry man.’” [2] The same article also clearly identified what drove him to be such a prolific writer and social activist when it stated that “Len said he feels everyone should try this effort at tikkun olam, ‘repairing the world.’ When someone tells me they liked my letter, I thank them and say ‘why don’t you write?’ That’s why we have the politicians we have today because people don’t write.”

No subject off limits

That call to action, to write, to express opinions is as important today as it was when Len wrote his first letter to the editor in 1948 about a local judge who made anti-feminist remarks about women “trolling on the street.” Yes, clearly, he was ahead of his time and that was one of the things that made him special. Who would have expected a man living in Indiana to publicly express a feminist position in 1948?

I don’t think Len would look at that as anything remarkable –his ire was raised and the only thing he could do was to take the judge to task in a public forum. No big deal – for him. I suspect others at the time may have thought the judge’s comments were ill-advised, but I wonder how many took the time to express their opinion. It’s the same today. People may be annoyed by an event, and in some cases may even send a 280 character Tweet. That’s all well and good, but what society needs are more people like Len. People who go beyond superficial social media postings and actually write thoughtful articles that may actually persuade a person to reconsider their position on a topic.


It would be fair to judge Len on the eloquence of his writings, but I think an even better metric of his success is to consider the responses they elicited. To be clear, not everyone agreed with his views and were eager to offer their criticism. But that’s truly the point of his success in life. He was establishing a dialog outside of his own circle of like-minded friends. Breaking out of one’s information cocoon is the only way our society can begin to depolarize.

I feel compelled to offer an example. Keep in mind that Len was 97 when he passed away and less than three weeks before his passing, his letter to the editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette titled “NRA has morphed into gun-industry front” was published.[3] As was so often was the case, a week letter a response to Len’s letter was published by a proponent of the NRA.[4] I have no idea if Len saw the response, but it made me smile to think that at 97 years old, his ire could still be raised enough to write a letter that pissed off an NRA zealot. Well done, Len. Well done.

Do not go gentle into that good night

The poem by Dylan Thomas comes to mind when I think about Len, but not because of the literal interpretation about approaching death in old age. What really made me think of the poem and Len is that it is a metaphor for how Len lived his entire life. His life was not lived gently, but with a rage against injustice. No, he did not go gentle into that good night, but more significantly, he did not go gentle through his good life – he lived it with passion, conviction, and an indefatigable commitment to lending his voice to make the lives of others and society better.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Ripple effect

So enough of that part of Len. I suspect if he were here to read this he would admonish me to stop wasting my time writing about him and write about something more important. What he probably doesn’t know is that he served as an inspiration to me to also make my voice heard. I write this blog, I write weekly to my Senators and representative, I pay my ACLU dues, and yes, I do succumb to an occasional tweet. I do it for the same reason as he did. I simply can’t sit on the sidelines and not express an opinion. I know I’ve never been as effective in my writing as Len, but I’m sure he would say that’s not the point. The point is simply to make the effort to be engaged in the world. Only through engagement and action will change occur. We can not let Len truly be “the last angry man.”

More than a writer

And since this is unambiguously an article of personal privilege, let me just say it was a pleasure to have known the man beyond his writings. I remember vividly the days of walking with him as he played golf at Manzanillo, Ka’anapali, or the Fort Wayne Country Club. It was a peaceful time. It was especially for me since I was unencumbered by the inevitable frustration of trying to hit that little ball. I will also remember him as the person who taught me that the only proper way to store vodka is in the freezer. Yes, I learned many things from the man – large and small.

In the 2015 temple bulletin, Len said he would like his epitaph someday to read:

“I hope I made a difference.”

Yes, Len – Quod Erat Demonstrandum.


Golf Course at Kaanapali

[1] “Judaism: The Religion Of Action” Jewish Voice – October 2017






Quest Club Papers

Len presented six papers from 1980 through 2005 at the Quest Club of Fort Wayne, Indiana (founded in 1911).

Leonard and Rikki Goldstein

2016-09-10 | The News-Sentinel

Sept. 10–Leonard and Rikki Goldstein both grew up in families where giving back to the community and to others was just part of what you do.

The Goldsteins carried that experience with them to Fort Wayne, where they have been active for decades in areas such as women’s rights, social justice, health, education, the arts and more.

“It basically has to do with our religion,” said Leonard, 96, noting justice is a basic belief of their Jewish faith.

He and Rikki, 91, will move soon to Carmel, north of Indianapolis, to be closer to family, but their impact in Fort Wayne will be felt for a long time to come.

“They are icons in the community, and the likes of them are not going to be seen too often,” said Ben Eisbart, a longtime community leader.


The Goldsteins, who met at Ohio State University in Columbus, moved to Fort Wayne in 1945, the same year they married.

Leonard, who was from Cleveland, had taken a job here at Platka Export. The company later went through two sales, the last one to Dana Corp. The death of a colleague pushed Leonard into the role of leading Dana’s international division.

He didn’t enjoy working for a large corporation, however, so he resigned a year or two later and started his own company, Midland Inc., which represented small and medium-sized companies trying to sell products overseas.

At the time, Rikki, who was from Sioux City, Iowa, was a stay-at-home mom, and they had two children in college and two children at home. Leonard’s business soon became successful, however, and he led it until some health problems prompted him to sell it about 22 years ago, he said.


Rikki had been active in Parent Teacher Association and other activities at their children’s schools. After their youngest child started high school, she went to work.

She had helped found what is now the Women’s Bureau in 1976 and worked there for 20 years doing counseling and supervising programs that helped women re-enter the workforce after a divorce or death of a spouse.

“That whole 20 years, we were always doing something,” she said. “One of the most important was we got a federal grant to pay for women who were single parents to get a GED (high school-equivalency degree) or certificate degree in college. We helped a lot of women get enough education to get into the workforce.”

Rikki also helped organize and coordinate volunteer peer counselors, who worked with women who came to the Women’s Bureau, said Harriet Miller, a co-founder and the organization’s first director. Leonard helped the Women’s Bureau raise funds to create an endowment, and he coached Miller on how to approach potential large donors.

Always generous with their time and resources, the Goldsteins made a big difference in her life by being such wonderful role models, Miller said.

In 1996, at age 70, Rikki moved to Neighborhood Health Clinics in Fort Wayne, where she served as director of social work, outreach and other programs for 20 years before retiring in late August.

“As far as patients, she really related to them as people,” said Mary Haupert, Neighborhood Health Clinics president. “She tried to take them where they were … and say, ‘You can’t change where you are now, but you can take small steps to make things better.'”

Rikki, who speaks Spanish, also helped the nonprofit organization’s doctors and dentists by working with patients’ mental health and social issues, leaving the medical staff free to treat their health problems.


In the mid-1970s, Leonard served one term on the Fort Wayne Community Schools board of school trustees. As board president, he led the majority as they pushed FWCS to desegregate its schools.

That was “just a wonderful example of doing what is right,” said Eisbart, a former Fort Wayne City Council member and former FWCS board member.

Eisbart met the Goldsteins when he came to Fort Wayne in 1972 to lead what is now the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne, and Leonard was on the organization’s board of directors.

Eisbart said he and Leonard both worked to help start the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, which has become one of the top programs of its kind in the country. The Goldsteins also were very generous in their giving to Jewish and other causes.

Leonard has stayed active on the Jewish Federation board and its Community Relations Council committee, said Jaki Schreier, the federation’s current executive director. He always is a resource of great ideas that are helpful and doable, Schreier said.

Leonard also has been involved for about 30 years with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU), where he still is a board member. He called it “a natural thing for me” because of his strong passion for ensuring people receive just and fair treatment. That same passion also had made him a frequent contributor of newspaper letters to the editor and guest columns on justice and fairness topics.

Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, praised Leonard as a strong advocate for civil rights, and particularly for First Amendment protections guaranteeing separation of government and religion.


The Goldsteins also have been active in other areas of the community.

Rikki helped found the Fort Wayne Ballet and served on its board of directors. Leonard has served as board chairs at both Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. He also is a longtime member of the board and committees at The Phil.

Leonard had a real passion for the orchestra and led a very successful fund drive in the 1990s to boost the Phil’s endowment, said Eleanor Marine, a former Philharmonic board chair and a current board member. Marine described him as a friend who is a very graceful man who also can be forceful, and someone who “did the hard jobs with dignity and integrity.”

The Goldsteins both served on the board of directors of the local Planned Parenthood organization during its early years in Fort Wayne.

Rikki has served as chair of Fort Wayne’s Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, as a member of the Fort Wayne Board of Park Commissioners and as a speaker for the Panel of American Women, the latter of which provided panels of five women of diverse backgrounds to speak to various audiences about their lives.

The Goldsteins also have been active at Congregation Achduth Vesholom, the city’s Reform Jewish congregation, for more than 70 years, including each serving on its board of directors. The congregation planned to offer a special blessing for the couple at its Shabbat service Friday evening and to celebrate their longtime membership afterward.

Looking back, “I hope our being in the community made a difference,” Leonard said.

People who know and have worked with the Goldsteins answer unequivocally: Yes, it has.

More Information

Special recognitions

— Rikki and Leonard Goldstein each were presented Sagamore of the Wabash awards in 1994. The award is the highest honor the Indiana governor can give, and it typically is presented for distinguished service to the state or governor.

— Leonard is scheduled to be honored next month as one of the 2016 recipients of the Hoosier Jewish Legend — A Hall of Fame award from the Indiana Jewish Historical Society. The city’s two Jewish congregations, Achduth Vesholom and B’nai Jacob, joined with the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne to nominate him.

An open letter to US Senator Todd Young

Dear Senator Young

Let’s be honest with each other. Trump is a shallow pond with no desire to objectively study or understand any issue because he alone already knows how everything works. His ignorance of global economics is yet another manifestation of his stunning superficiality.

Free trade works, and launching a discretionary trade war with China is, as Senator Sasse has had the courage to say, “is nuts.”[1] Mr. Young, I am a native Hoosier and you are my senator. The threat of tariffs on soybeans will hit Indiana hard.. VERY hard. And, the cost of everyday items – the stuff we “common people” buy will also go up. Does Trump know how much a new washing machine or television costs? Do you?

My question to you is how long are you planning to remain silent and implicitly support a president that is pursuing his own irrational, destructive agenda? He is NOT a republican, so why are you sitting on the sidelines as I watch my retirement fund drop on a daily basis.

The facts are the president inherited a strong economy and now he’s screwing it up… and for absolutely no reason except to feed his insatiable, narcissistic ego, and to gin up his white nationalist, xenophobic base. Please tell me you see that for what it is and that you are not a part of his tribal, jingoistic agenda. Yes, Hoosiers tend to be conservative, but we’re not complete idiots either.

People really do vote their pocketbooks, and when they realize how much the president has consistently lied to them, they will vote against those who were in a position to stop him and did nothing. Senator Young, I implore you to get off the bench and get in the game to protect Hoosiers and protect America. Isn’t that in the oath you swore when you took office?

I believe history will show that one of the greatest domestic enemies our country ever faced was Donald Trump. What will you tell your grandchildren you did to protect the country from him?

Todd young CaptureQQ

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.


Fellow Hoosiers, here is contact information for Senator Young. Let him know what you think.

Web form:

400 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
P. 202-224-5623

46 East Ohio Street
Suite 462
Indianapolis, IN 46204
P. 317-226-6700

3602 Northgate Court
Suite 15
New Albany, IN 47150
P. 812-542-4820

101 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Suite 110
Evansville, IN 47708
By Appointment Only

1300 South Harrison Street
Suite #3161
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
By Appointment Only



No, Amazon will not select Indianapolis for its new headquarters.

My fellow Hoosiers;

As much as I would like it to not be true – Amazon will not select Indianapolis as its headquarters.

We have an ideal geographical location, an above average airport, and an able-bodied workforce. But Indianapolis will be passed over because of our intolerant cultural. That’s not to say all Hoosiers are intolerant, but one need only look that the legislative activities and statements by our elected officials to understand the problem.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) fiasco that occurred in 2015 is the highest profile, recent example of the incompatibility between the state’s parochial, judgmental societal attitudes, and the business world. Remember that RFRA caused Salesforce to ban travel to the state[1] and is estimated to have cost us $60 million in convention business.[2] People don’t want to do business in a state that shows such intolerance. Like people, businesses have memories, and the memory of Governor Pence gleefully signing RFRA into law is indelible.

But, it’s not actually about tolerance. Tolerating something implies that there is, well, something to be tolerated – something that is intrinsically wrong. The real issue is acceptance – accepting people for who they are and accepting that someone doesn’t have to look like me, think like me, or believe what I believe. There’s a key difference. People can be forced to be tolerant or laws can make their intolerance a criminal act.

On the other hand, acceptance is not something that can be legislated. It must come from the hearts and minds that make up a culture. It is effortless and natural. And that’s why Indiana will never win the Amazon headquarters bid. Cultures change at a glacial speed and require some catalyst for any change to be possible. No such catalyst exists in Indiana. Sadly, if past is prologue, the electorate will continue to elect officials who believe that it is right and proper to codify their religious beliefs and morals into law.

Indiana will not lose Amazon because of an inadequate infrastructure or unfavorable geographical location. The state is very, very strong in the physical and financial domains. No, Amazon will never come to Indiana because there’s a fundamental clash between the culture of acceptance at Amazon and the prevailing culture of intolerance in Indiana.


Governor Mike Pence signing  the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law.



Weak ties are the foundation of an agile, adaptive organization

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”

H. G. Wells’ quote has wide-spread applicability beyond nature. Whether it’s an ocelot in Paraguay, a night landing on an aircraft carrier, or a business in Kansas, the key to survival in each case is operational agility and the ability to successfully adapt to a changing environment.

The observation that organizations must adapt to changing conditions is neither surprising, nor is it a new concept. The reason one organization thrives through its adaptability while another struggles to survive has been the subject of academic research as well as articles in the lay press. As one example, a discussion that touched on this phenomenon was presented in Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book, the “Innovators Dilemma.” Christensen suggested that companies that had achieved success by the development of an innovative new product often had challenges sustaining that success as the company grew. One factor was that the corporate culture that helped nurture the company’s innovation eroded as the company grew.

Growth is hard and sociopsychology may play just as important of a role in an adaptable organization as having efficient business processes or using Kanban principles as your product development framework.

150 – the magic number

Bill Gore, inventor of GORE-TEX, observed that once one of his factories employed more that 150 or so people, problems inevitably began to develop and productivity fell. He didn’t identify the reason, but quickly learned that it was better to build a second factory than to try to force the larger one to maintain its operational efficiency. It has been reported[1] that Gore believed that once a unit reaches a certain size, “we decided” becomes “they decided.”[2]

Former Netflix chief talent officer, Patty McCord, has also observed that things begin to change at companies once they approach 150 employees. McCord calls it the stand-on-a-chair number.[3] She maintains that it’s time to reevaluate your communication strategy if a leader stands on a chair to address the company and someone yells “We can’t hear you.”

In one section of his book, “Tipping Point,” Malcom Gladwell discussed Hutterite communities and wrote, “At 150, the Hutterites believe, something happens–something indefinable but very real–that somehow changes the nature of community overnight.”[4] Once a colony reached 125, it split to form two colonies. But, why 150?

In his 1992 paper, “Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates,” British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar, argues that the size of a primate’s neocortex establishes a sociopsychological limit on the number of close relationships that can be maintained. For humans, Dunbar set that number at 150.

Strong ties, weak ties, no ties

The “magic” number of 150 may be related to the concept that relationships among individuals can be characterized in terms of the strength of their relationship. In a seminal publication in 1973, “The Strength of Weak Ties,”[5] author Mark Granovetter discussed interpersonal relationships in terms of strong ties, weak ties, and absent ties. In his paper Granovetter wrote, “Most intuitive notions of the “strength” of an interpersonal tie should be satisfied by the following definition: the strength of a tie is a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.”



By Sadi Carnot at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


One might assume that maximizing strong ties is a sound strategy to maximize personal gain. However, there’s that 150 number that may set a theoretical maximum on the number of strong ties an individual can maintain. More important than a possible limit to the number of strong ties is that weak ties may, in some circumstances, be more important than strong ties. Such is the essence of Granovetter’s paper.

It may seem counterintuitive that a weak tie could be more important than a strong tie. To understand why that may be the case, it may be useful to visualize relationships. As an example, the following graph is a social network analysis of one set of Facebook relationships. [6]


Note that there are three clusters characterized by multiple connections among the individuals. In the business world, those clusters are likely to be called silos. Also note that there are a few connections between the clusters and a few connections to isolated individuals.

One interpretation of Granovetter’s work is that weak ties may be more valuable than strong ties because they represent conduits to possible new information or knowledge that does not exist within the strong tie cluster.

A present-day example could be the case of an individual seeking a new job. The thought is that most of the person’s close friends, the ones with strong ties, already know the person is seeking a job. Furthermore, all their likely job leads will be similar because of closed nature of their cluster. The hypothetical job seeker, might have better luck in finding a job by leveraging their weak ties. It could be one of those 500+ connections they have on LinkedIn may have an opportunity unknown within the cluster.

The strength of weak ties in the business world

If silos within a company are based on strong ties, then one strategy to increase information sharing is to recognize the strength of weak ties and develop a strategy that facilitates their development.

At the core of such a strategy is absolute, unconditional buy-in from the organization’s top leadership. The message to all employees must be unambiguously clear that sharing information is key to the organization’s survival. The sense of a shared mission must be ubiquitous within the organization. That is the hard part. Once the sense of shared mission becomes part of the organization’s DNA, then finding technical methods to propagate that genetic imperative becomes almost trivial.

The yin and yang of managing information in the adaptive organization.

yin-yang-ios-7-symbol_318-39098Organizations must have a two-part technology strategy to collaboration. The first part has been in existence for decades in the form of traditional information storage platforms and collaboration platforms. This category would include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems such as SAP, JD Edwards, or PeopleSoft and workflow platforms such as IBM Notes or SharePoint. These systems manage the critical data of the organization and to some extent provide collaboration features. However, the collaboration capabilities tend to be structured that is not conducive to supporting weak ties.

The second part of a successful collaboration strategy of to have a social collaboration platform that facilitates the development and exploitation of weak ties. There is a rapidly expanding number of technology options in this area such as IBM Social, Jive Software, and Slack – to name just a few. The last product on the list, Slack, provides an indication of the popularity of these new generation, social collaboration products. Slack was first launched in August 2013 and two and a half years later had an estimated value of $2.76 billion with over one million daily users. In March 2014, Slack’s daily users had reached 2.3 million and the company value was estimated to be over $4 billion.[7]

To be sure, social business collaboration does not replace traditional information management platforms. An organization needs both. Organizations that devote resources exclusively to improve the efficiency of traditional information management platforms without investing in social business collaboration will likely end up building better silos.

A successful, agile company may never attribute their success explicitly to creating an environment that facilitates the development of weak ties. Nonetheless, behind their success is undoubtedly a social network of employees that have the culture and tools to share information with anyone in the organization. Real-time sharing of information with peripherally known employees is an empowering process and one that ultimately leads to a sense of shared consciousness in the organization.



[2] The Future of Management – Page 94,


[4] Page 181, Gladwell’s interview with Bill Gross, a leader of a Hutterite colony outside Spokane, Wa.


[6] By Kencf0618 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons



Searching for ikigai

The retirement trap.

We’ve all seen or heard of the person that eagerly anticipates and then celebrates their retirement. Then, over the course of a few short years, they seem to deteriorate before our eyes. Admittedly that may be a melodramatic characterization, and it’s certainly anecdotal, but research has shown that deterioration after retirement is more than anecdotal, and that it can impact quality of life in diverse areas.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) published a paper in 2016[1] that quantitated some of the adverse outcomes of retirement.[2] They reported that retirement:

  • Decreases the likelihood of being in ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ self-assessed health by about 40%.
  • Increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40%.
  • Increases the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60%.
  • Increases the probability of taking a drug for such a condition by about 60%.

It’s not just retirement that can be detrimental to one’s health, it’s the length of time that one is retired that may be problematic, which is ironic as people tend to lionize early retirement. The same IEA paper noted the following sequelae of doubling the number of years in retirement.2

  • Decreases the likelihood of being in ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ self-assessed health by between 10% and 30%.
  • Increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by 17%.
  • Increases the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by 22%.
  • Increases the probability of taking a drug for such a condition by 19%.

Ikigai – an intervention to ameliorate retirement deterioration?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that simplistically means believing that one’s life is worth living. One of the best ways to understand what Ikigai means is to study the following Venn Diagram from the Toronto Star.[3]


Ikigai is the confluence of doing something one loves, something they view as important, it’s something they are good at it, and are in some way they are rewarded for their activity. It sounds plausible, but does finding the sweet spot of ikigai improve health outcomes? Actually, that may very well be the case.

Ikigai and health

A paper published in 2008 followed 43,000 Japanese adults for seven years and measured health outcomes and having a sense of ikigai.[4] The researchers’ statistically significant conclusion was “subjects who did not find a sense of ikigai were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality.”

If one accepts that a having a sense of ikigai is beneficial, the next challenge is how to achieve that state. Many people find it through rewarding work or volunteer activity. I suspect very few find it through social media. Although, I suppose avid Tweeters may take exception to that statement.

The nascent retiree

The thing for nascent retirees to understand is that they are entering a potentially challenging period of their lives. The much-anticipated pot at the end of the retirement rainbow may be gold salts – not a pot of gold. Retirement is not a time to kick back and do nothing, It’s a time to explore new interests and new ways you can make a difference in the world.

Playing golf or tennis every day may sound wonderful, but engaging in purposefully activity generates dividends on far many more levels. Retirement is a time to search for your ikigai.