Genuine Insights

How to Positively Disrupt your Organization’s Culture

We spend 50 percent of our waking lives at work and the rest of our lives sleeping, eating, playing, and caring for others. If half of every day is spent at work, why don’t we try harder to make it the best experience we can afford ourselves?

As a self-proclaimed organizational culture hacker who loves to flow in and out of large organizations coaching, problem solving, and instigating change, I’ve learned a lot about how to make an impact on workplace culture.

Workplace culture consists of a group of norms and behavior, which creates underlying shared values that help keep those norms in place. Let’s look at how to bust up the norms a little to enrich the culture for yourself and everyone you work with.

Identify the cultural pain points
The first step to changing your everyday experience within the context of your work environment is first to become an active observer of the behaviors, norms, patterns, expectations, or interactions that are not adding value to your work experience. These may have been unrecognized or invisible to you until you brought them to a conscious level, but they are the pain points of your workplace culture.

If you are stuck in your routines, in order to really understand where you stand, you have to slow down and scrutinize everything about your work experience that drives you crazy-everything that negatively pokes at your mood, productivity, attitude, and quality of work.

What sucks about culture is that everyone follows the group mindset and group norm and if there is something not working within the norm everyone continues to follow it, and there is a perpetuation of negative behavior. For example, email trumping face-to-face conversations, using decks to communicate through slides, or eating your lunch at your desk instead communing around a meal with others. These are no-value-add behaviors that go unacknowledged and unaddressed until someone calls them out or something bad happens as a result of these behaviors. So here’s the most important question to ask yourself:

What’s the added value?
For example, if you inhabit a culture where there are conference calls and meetings to discuss every little decision, next time you’re getting on one of those calls or stepping into one of those meetings, ask yourself “What is the added value in what we are doing?” Are we meeting because we know we will benefit from constructive diverse or cross-functional perspectives? Or are we doing it because that’s just what we do?

One of the great outcomes in asking “What’s the added value?” is that it can lead to new ideas, new perspectives, and new innovations that can directly impact the quality of everyone’s experience as well as the business.

Now hack your organization’s culture
Once your personal observations are made and your assessment of which particular areas of the culture are negative triggers, it’s time to take action. In order to hack your organization’s culture-to really disrupt the norm-you have to get creative. Being creative is risky business, though, and takes courage and passion. It’s through exercising your creative muscles that you’ll be able to develop alternative approaches to pain points and identify new solutions to old workplace experiences, standards and processes to accomplish your goals.

For example, I have a dear friend, Nilofer Merchant, a true hacker of culture who refuses to take meetings in an office and goes on hike meetings instead. Clients, investors, partners, and vendors all have to go on long walks with her in exchange for her time. This fresh, unlikely approach to meetings often knocks people a little off kilter at first, but invariably opens the door to new relationships and innovative thinking.

Share your vision
My grandmother a woman who never learned to read or write always said, “we are our stories.” Hackers of culture must share their stories, share what they envision for change. Think of it as a campaign. Tell everyone up, across, and down the organization what you are up to as if your intention is to convince them to follow your lead. The more you speak about creative solutions and demonstrate change, the more change will happen.

For example, I have a client who hates weekly reports and started creating short videos instead of writing up his weekly report. He used visuals, sound effects, and personal narrative to share the story of his results, challenges, and opportunities. His boss was shocked at first and a bit resistant, but then found himself looking forward to receiving his weekly video report, and his video recaps have gone viral across the organization.

It’s on you to be the champion for change in your workplace culture. Step away from the groupthink and challenge others to participate with you to improve some aspect of the culture. Remember: some of the most remarkable and meaningful changes come from the bottom. Change from the top is usually how change is imposed upon us, but sustainable change- big and small -starts from the bottom, one person at a time.

To paraphrase the mighty Gandhi, “Be the change, hack the culture.”

Great Reads about Organizational Culture:

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

Watch Nilofer Merchant’s TED talk, “Got a meeting? Take a walk,” here.

Posted Jun 29, 2014 Tagged under: uncategorized

Want to start your own business and don’t know where to start?

The nation’s economic future hinges on entrepreneurship. Women all over the country are leaving their corporate cocoons and leveraging their skills and passions to become the entrepreneurs and innovators leading us into that future. An estimated 10 million women in this country own their own companies and the number continues to rise. As women face advancement and wage gap issues they are taking their careers into their own hands and are launching businesses at a faster rate than any time before.

In support of the entrepreneurial success of women, Mattel has released a new Entrepreneur Barbie. It’s Barbie’s 150 career and I am happy to be the chief inspiration officer of this initiative.

In celebration of Entrepreneur Barbie, here are my all-time top-10 tips for moving from vision to venture with your idea.

Tips for Starting a Business

1. Identify the right business for you and listen to your gut—she’s always right.

2. Test your Idea before you quit your day job.

3. Volunteer and pilot a product with your target market.

4. Find a mentor:,, or
Speak with someone who has done something similar. Women contact me all the time with questions and I respond to every time with advice. You would be surprised how many women business owners will help you.

5. Your business idea must fuel both your heart and your mind—it must leverage your skills alongside your passions. Starting a business just for the money is never sustainable. It takes a whole lot of sacrifice and hard work (heart) for a business to succeed and money a) takes a while to materialize and b) is not the best measure of whether your venture is succeeding.

6. Business planning improves your chances for success. A biz plan will help you gain clarity, stay focused, and create a path that helps you stay on track .

7. Know your target audience before you do a single thing. Who is going to buy your service or product? What is the size of that market? Why do they need you? Do you know them? Do they know you?

8. Always be sure that your product or service answers a pain point or need. People spend money on products or services that answer a need or relieve pain. The greater the pain you are relieving, the greater the chances your business will succeed.

9. All businesses need funding at the start. Figure out how you will raise the funds for your big idea. Look at crowd funding opportunities like Also have a detailed understanding of your finances. Know how much you will need and how much you need to live on.

10. Surround yourself with successful entrepreneurs who can be advisors, partners, and champions. *It takes a tribe to raise an entrepreneur and participating in groups and meet-ups and attending entrepreneurship conferences will help you as you begin your journey.

Posted Jun 23, 2014 Tagged under: business, entrepreneurship, ideas and innovation, lists

Tripping on Mindfulness

Going off the grid for three days is both a challenge and an opportunity. For my eight year old, it seemed impossible. “No internet service for how many days, Mommy?” Leaving his X-box, iPad, DS, and laptop behind meant he couldn’t check on his dragons, watch his favorite Disney shows, or expand his houses in Minecraft. What is a tech-addicted child to do?

What started out as a daunting endeavor ended up being an unforgettable experience of mindfulness for my husband, son, and I..

Nestled on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific, we set up camp for our first off-the-grid family experience. Of course, we overpacked and prepared for every possible scenario and upon arrival set up an impressive campsite with stations for washing, cooking, reading, creating. and sleeping.

Unplugging is what I preach to all my clients, but doing it for myself and my family in such a pointed way was an awakening of sorts.. I don’t know if it was the fresh air of the outdoors or the energy transferred from the ocean, but after 24 hours of no electricity, mobile service, or even running water, each of us experienced an openness and presence in our experience that can only be described as mindfulness.

As I write this, I am watching prairie dogs and rabbits play in the grass in front of our picnic table. What a blessing to be writing near a field of purple flowers, to the sound of waves and small animals frolicking about. Did I just write word frolicking? Funny how new words become a part of your vocabulary when you have a new experience.

You slow down, observe, take in, and enjoy. That’s the formula: slow down, observe, take in, and enjoy. Whether it’s appreciating the mint flavor of your toothpaste in the morning or the smell your child’s hair as you hug him off to school in the morning, take time to literally smell, taste, hear, and feel how your day unfolds. Our pleasure-oriented senses are natural gifts from God and it’s a shame how we underutilize these life-enhancing tools.

Tapping into our senses together as a unit, one night we laid on mats outside of the tent to watch for shooting stars, constellations, and aircraft traveling by. “We have our own planetarium, Mommy,” Lucas exclaimed as he realized this was the largest screen he had ever seen. Priceless moments unfolded for each of us that night.

Three days without a ping, tweet, update, text message, or phone call allowed us to reorient ourselves around the essence of our lives rather than the millions of mere activities that seem to propel us forward every day. My son began to journal and to treasure hunt in the woods, My husband created rock art and got his creative on, while I meditated, played with my watercolor set, read, and journaled of our extraordinary experience.

Sitting around the campfire in our beach chairs roasting marshmallows and looking at the stars was heaven on earth. The sound of the crackling fire, my son doing his impromptu dance to the fire gods, and my husband joyfully assembling s’mores made us feel complete—at one with each other and with the universe.

You don’t need to “retreat” to the wilderness to discover how to slow down, observe, take in, and enjoy. Start by giving your technology a bedtime before yours and reclaim the media-free time for yourself and your family to bond in a new multisensory way. Without a glowing computer or smartphone screen or other distractions, you will begin to realize your mindful potential together.

Go for it. You won’t be sorry.

Posted May 3, 2014 Tagged under: balance, inspiration, motivation, places, self-awareness, travel

It’s All About Karma

Three Lessons from Bali, the Land of the Gods

My husband and I recently spent a week in Bali in celebration of 10 years of marriage. Strong in its traditions and daily Hindu ritual, the lifestyle in Bali is an experience of spirituality like no other place I have visited. The island hacks culture in the most extraordinary way, embracing its traditional identity while continuously adapting modern expressions of art, technology, music, and design to create an environment and energy of balance and harmony.

As we moved around the island it seemed like we were traveling through time. We began in the north in an area called Pemuteran Bay, which was our favorite part of Bali, culturally intact and not over populated with tourists. From there, we went to the cultural center of Bali, Ubud, which is teeming with hipsters, expats, and artists melding to create a robust collision of East meets West.

We meditated in century-old temples, swam with over a hundred different species of fish, observed the progress of a coral reef restoration project, and participated in a full moon ceremony which just happened to fall on our anniversary—Feb 14th—a day dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of art and knowledge. We bonded with the Balinese Hindu people wherever we went, visited the amazing environmentally-focused expats’ Green School, absorbed the culture and art of Ubud, slept on the edge of rice paddies, played with monkeys in a monkey forest, and ate our way through the island, enjoying as many native Balinese dishes we could discover.

In between all that, we learned three extraordinary things:

It’s all about karma
Hindus believe in karma and reincarnation and if you want to return in your next life to a better life you better have good karma. To achieve good karma, you have to do right by others, take good care of yourself, actively participate in Hindu rituals, and meditate and pray daily. This made brilliantly good sense to us and we committed to try to adopt this approach.

You don’t need to be religious to appreciate this lesson, which is really just about cause and effect. For us, participating in prayer, ritual, and flower offerings created a great ripple effect of luck, which was a nice reminder of how much of life experiences are created by the energy you put out into the universe.

For example, upon arrival to the Denpasar airport, Stephen left his camera somewhere between the baggage area and customs, and when we realized it was gone, we assumed it was lost forever. At the airport eight days later, preparing to head home, we decided to visit customs to see if our camera had been found. After a few phone calls, a customs agent delivered our camera back to us. Apparently another customs agent had taken it, brought it home, and returned it because he didn’t want bad karma. Crazy but true—karma is a great accountability measure to live by. Remember there is a divine justice in life and the more good you do, the more good you will experience.

Tat tvam asi (I am you and you are me)
In Bali, all things are seamlessly connected and there is a feeling of togetherness and oneness that creates a calm, raw kind of happiness in people. This gentle bliss is felt in everyday life and informs the way people treat one another, as well as how they treat visitors, animals, and the environment.

Next time you are being challenged by someone—a colleague at work, a family member, or even a stranger—repeat this mantra to yourself, “I am you and you are me.” You will find that where your focus had previously been on your own discomfort or aggravation or anger, it is now on what the other person is feeling or thinking. Empathy is one of the most powerful human forces (second only to love, I think) and this simple perspective—I am you and you are me—allows you to tap into that force in all of the everyday moments that so often drag us down.

Don’t bring bananas to a monkey forest
We visited a sacred monkey forest in Ubud and upon entry bought bananas to feed to the monkeys. Looking back on it, I can see that this was a bad choice! Twenty seconds after putting bananas into our backpacks, a monkey jumped on Stephen’s back and stole his entire bunch. While my bananas remained safe underneath my shirt we continued on our hike to the monkey temple. Once we reached the temple, I decided it was there that I would share my fruit as an offering to these sacred animals. I had no sooner begun to take the bananas out when I was descended upon by monkeys from all sides. It was a little dicey for a minute there, but I managed to share the bananas with several monkeys. When I got to my last banana, I reached out to offer it to a big monkey, who gracefully, almost shyly accepted it.

Once he was done enjoying his banana, however, his demeanor quickly changed from cute, cuddly monkey to feisty, angry monkey and he jumped on my leg and dug into my pockets looking for more. Frustrated not to find the bananas he suspected I was hiding from him, he bit my leg. That quickly ended the fun and I had to go to the First Aid station to clean and dress my small wound. It all turned out fine, but you see why I can’t ignore the oddly profound lesson I learned—don’t bring bananas to a monkey forest.

Join me on a trip to Bali in February 2015

Stephen and I loved Bali so much we have decided to curate a multi-sensory group retreat for 12 days of personal growth through travel. If you are interested, please email me directly for details at

Ecco Hotels We Loved
Taman Sari Bali Resort & Spa
Wapa di Ume Resort & Spa

Read the rest of "It’s All About Karma"

Posted Mar 12, 2014 Tagged under: uncategorized


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