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3 Keys to Preventing Another Ferguson: Respecting Individuals, Their Rights and Truth

At some point, after the constant barrage of information and opinion relating to current Ferguson crisis subsides, it will be time for reflection on how to prevent the next one from happening.

There will be plenty of tacticians who will want to weigh in with to-do lists for one group or another. Specific things that people will expect the police, or community leaders, or voters, to do more of.

Aside from whatever those things are (some will be legitimate recommendations and some will simply be veiled attempts at further finger-pointing), the real key to preventing the next Ferguson is for everyone, all of us, to do a better job of respecting three things: individuals, individual rights and truth.

Respecting individuals
One of the biggest hurdles to breaking up the tension in Ferguson has been the desire of everyone to identify with, and stand by, a tribe, without separating the actions of individuals from groups.

The police see protesters, media and public as groups to manage. The protesters see the police as part of a larger entity trying to repress them. The media see themselves as part of an elite class that must stick up for each other.

The truth is, there are good cops and bad cops, good protesters and bad protesters, and yes, good media and bad media. 

When we respect individuals, we have empathy and respect for their individual viewpoints. When someone gets out of line, we can then correct the problem by correcting that individual, not trying to apply an impossible one-size-fits-all standard of evaluation to an entire group.

Respecting individual rights
When we better respect individuals, we better respect individual rights. The guy with the camera is no longer just part of a larger media group to be managed, but an individual with the right to report on the story. Protesters become individuals with a personal message that is protected by the First Amendment.

Just as importantly, an accused police officer becomes an individual with individual rights. If charges are warranted, he or she has the right to a fair trial. If charges are not warranted, the officer has an individual right to not be prosecuted. Putting things in the hands of a jury just because one doesn't want to be the one to "not prosecute" isn't how this country is supposed to work.  This decision is easier for prosecutors when everyone respects individual rights.

Respecting truth
Something happened in Ferguson, Missouri when Michael Brown was shot. Was it a cold-blooded murder? Was it a heat-of-the-moment shooting that still rises to a criminal act? Was it a justifiable homicide? Thousands of people supporting the police officer's prosecution have lined the streets demanding the police officer be arrested. Others rally behind the police officer on social media convinced the officer did what he had to do.

Yet, as of this writing, there are only a few people who know all of the evidence. There are only a handful of individuals who know enough to make an informed decision about what truly happened and whether charges should be filed.

This isn't to say that protests have been without merit. People have rightly demanded a fair investigation to insist that this shooting not be swept under the rug. The police have an obligation to respect the truth, and when someone falls prey to a shooting, a thorough and transparent investigation must take place, and police officers must be held accountable when they cross the line.

Protesters also have an obligation to respect the truth. Should the evidence show the Ferguson officer in question was justified in his use of force, they owe it to themselves and the community to accept it.

Moving forward

It is not an overstatement to say that some will have a difficult time accepting the outcome of the Ferguson case regardless of how concrete the facts turn out to be in the end. For those who are certain today about what the outcome should be tomorrow, let's encourage them to stand for what is right and not let hurt pride contribute to further strife. 

For the next community in line to face a seeming injustice, a better respect for individuals, their rights and the truth will go a long way towards preventing the chaos that will never be forgotten from the Ferguson story.

Related: 23 Things I Hate About the Ferguson Story. 

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23 Things I Hate About the Ferguson Story

This Ferguson story is awful. Watching an American city turned into a warzone, night after night, takes its toll. Here are 23 things I hate about the Ferguson story, in no particular order.

  1. I hate that a young kid lost his life..

  2. I hate that his family is grieving.

  3. I hate that this is happening right down the road from me. 

  4. I hate that the Ferguson police department has refused to release information unless it makes the young man who lost his life look bad (don't say that you don't want to spoil witnesses but then make an attempt to spoil witnesses).

  5. I hate the fact that, although the timing of it's release is suspect, people want to try to pretend that the video showing the shooting victim robbing the store is irrelevant (goes directly to his state of mind and charachter).

  6. I hate the fact that the local police response to the resulting protests have sometimes been heavy handed without cause.

  7. I hate the fact that the police have sometimes been heavy handed, with cause, because they've been shot at.

  8. I hate that some are taking out their frustrations on all police officers.

  9. I hate the fact that the police officer's life is being threatened. 

  10. I hate the fact that people are blindly assuming that the police officer committed murder without knowing all of the facts.

  11. I hate the fact that people are blindly assuming that the police officer's actions were justified without knowing all of the facts.

  12. I hate the fact that people are protesting without knowing all of the facts.

  13. I hate the fact that we are slow to get all of the facts.

  14. I hate the fact that business owners are losing property and quite possibly their business.

  15. I hate the fact that innocent employees have feared for their lives while looting has taken place.

  16. I hate the fact that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are quick to come into town and make quick speeches, but are nowhere to be found after dark to try to calm down restless crowds.

  17. I hate the fact that there seems to be no calming down the restless crowds that appear after dark; maybe that's why Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson don't bother to show up.

  18. I hate the fact that journalists have been bullied by the police.

  19. I hate that journalists are in some ways just making the problem worse.

  20. I hate the fact that, "Let's find out the truth," has been replaced with, "We want an arrest right now."

  21. I hate that people will interrupt a press conference being held by the governor to demand an answer as to why he hasn't charged the cop with murder when, in fact, he can't charge anyone because he doesn't have that authority.

  22. I hate the fact that local authorities can't seem to figure out how to solve this crisis and allow peace to prevail.

  23. I hate the fact that I don't have an answer either.

This whole thing is a mess.

At some point, the good people of Ferguson need to realize that America will have to move on. Whatever point someone was able to make on whatever side will be inconsequential to the vast marjority of people paying who are giving Ferguson its 15 minutes of fame. Yet Ferguson will have to live with the consequences of whatever mess it's made for years to come.

I'm tired. It's time take a break from watching this and move on.

Ferguson, here's to hoping that your future looks brighter tomorrow.

Follow up: 3 Keys To Preventing Another Ferguson: Respecting Individuals, Their Rights and Truth. 

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Have Fun Talking About Your Craft

Scene from Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee can be called a lot of things.

Entertaining - it's hilarious.

Groundbreaking - here's a guy producing a program everyone is talking about, and it's solely for the Internet.

Hip - what's more hip than people getting together for coffee in trendy urban environments?

How about adding this word to the list: inspiring.

The great thing about Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is that it's so much more than Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian, getting together with other comedians, and talking about careers and comedy. It's a passionate discussion about the craft, and you're along for the ride.

To say the show is funny is an understatement, but it often goes beyond funny and talks about funny, and that's where the inspiration comes in. When the conversations steer towards what makes good comedy and bad comedy, or what a perfect bit looks like, they are talked about with such passion and enthusiasm that it draws you in and makes you feel like an industry insider.

So often when you watch the show, there's nothing you would rather be doing than participating in that conversation with them, going to work in that industry yourself and striving to create something amazing.

The show is a great reminder of how much more fun business is when you are around people who are passionate about it. 

  • Car dealers that are the most fun to talk to are the ones that love cars
  • Graphic designers that are the most fun to talk to are the ones who love art
  • Accountants that are the most fun to talk to are the ones who love to talk about accounting

And those are the people you want to do business with.

Going beyond simply how employees perceive and talk about their specific company, it is a key responsibility of a business's leadership to set the tone for how passionate they are for their industry and craft as a whole. Starting, participating in and encouraging passionate, fun conversations about "the biz" are sure-fire ways to draw your employees in and get them engaged in the business in ways they've never been before.

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Are You Caring for the Person or Just Treating the Disease?

Today, we hear two wildly different stories of the same event. 

A man, suffering from chest pains, has his wife drive him to the ER. The way the patient and his wife perceived the event is entirely different from the medical staff that treated him. According to NPR, the perspecitve of him and his wife:

When the man arrives in the ER, he is told to take off his shirt. He lies in the hallway, in pain, naked from the waist up. Strangers surround him. They don't introduce themselves, and they talk over him, at each other.

Pagers ring and there's a lot of beeping. Someone else must be really sick, he thinks; that must be why no one is paying attention.

After a few minutes, he signs some forms and finds himself being wheeled into an elevator. Masked figures enter. He feels a cool liquid flowing into his veins. The lights go out.

He wakes up hooked up to machines, uncertain what has happened. It takes several hours for the staff to find his wife, who is still waiting in the ER lobby and has no idea why her husband is in intensive care.

They are both surprised when they find out, two days later, that he's had a heart attack. As soon as they get home, they file a complaint with the hospital about their terrible experience.

The hospital's point of view? Within 3 minutes of arrival he's been given an electrocardiogram that determines he's having a heart attack. An emergency heart team is immediately paged, and 22 minutes from arrival he's been given a catheter in his heart (that's 20 minutes ahead of the national average). He's back at work in two weeks, even excercising, and the medical team considers his medical treatment to be a resounding success.

Leana Wen, who wrote the story for NPR, is an emergency physician who also advocates for her patients. Her thoughts on what may have caused these two very different perspectives? She says that sometimes medical teams get so caught up in treating the disease that they forget to care for the person. The patient, in this case, was receiving excellent care; it just seems nobody took the time to really let him know what was going on.

We can all take a lesson from this story. In business, it's easy to get so caught up in the technical details of performing a scope of work that we forget we're doing it for real people with wants, desires, needs and insecurities that go beyond the simple performance of a task.

Think of the bad stereotype of the IT guy Jimmy Fallon played on Saturday Night Live that simply tells you to, "Move!" before fixing your computer. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of that kind of service, so it's important to never be the kind of person who provides that kind of service. 

That means listening when it's time to listen. 

That means walking people through things on their terms at their level when they aren't understanding.

People need to have buy-in. They need to know what's going on. They need to be cared for.

As people.

Do that and they'll think so much better of their experiences with you.

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Post-Mortems Benefit Everyone But the Dead Guy: Why You Should Pre-Mortem Your Next Project

Hat tip to the good people over at Freakonomics for an idea that can benefit everyone before you start your next project: The pre-mortem.

In an interview for the Freakonomics podcast, Gary Klein, a cognitive psychologist who specializes in decision making, recommends talking about what could go wrong before the project starts.

How do you do it? The process Klein describes in his interview  is pretty simple.

1) Ahead of the project launch, gather project participants in a room.

2) Have the participants imagine that it's the conclusion of the project and things have gone horribly. So horribly, in fact, discussion of the project is a huge taboo. Team members don't even make eye contact with each other as they walk down the hall.

3) Have the participants write down everything that went wrong. Keep a time limit. 

4) Aggregate and discuss responses.

The real benefit? Reducing overconfidence before the start of a project. Klein feels that people are usually too confident about a project before they begin.

You can listen to Mr. Klein describe the process himself on the Freakonomics podcast. The part of the podcast featuring his interview begins at 20:02.

In the meantime, start planning your next pre-mortem today. Although everyone benefits from a post-mortem as well, it's important to remember that it's everyone except the dead guy.

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