What Are You Amplifying?

What are you amplifying?

All that is “wrong” with the world?

All that is “right”?

All that you want?

All that you don’t?

Oneness or separation?

Love or hatred?

Joy or sorrow?

It’s become clear, to me at least, that it’s time to become mindful and careful about what we are amplifying.

We have been seeing it in the conversations around Facebook, “fake news” and “deep fakes.”

We see it in our Amazon experience.

We see it in the ads that are served to us as we surf the Net.

Each time you click something, buy something, watch something, pause on something – you are amplifying.

Artificial intelligence and quantum computing algorithms begin to shape your world based on what you are paying attention to.

Complicating matters, we are hard-wired to focus on the dangerous and negative. Marketers and those who wish to spread their message know this and act accordingly.

We’re easily manipulated, even when we are doing our best to be mindful.

Think about a time that was traumatic and dramatic.

Now try to remember a time where all was well in your world and everything was peaceful.

How quickly did you remember the trauma and the drama?

How hard was it to remember a peaceful time?

Think about the news? How much of it is trauma and drama?

How much of it is positive?

So much is competing for our attention and doing so in ways that are noisy and negative. Our brains like that.

We are going to keep being fed the noisy and negative – because that is what we are amplifying.

What do you want to do to break the cycle? Change what gets amplified?

What we pay attention to is going to shape our world.

What world do you want to live in?


I find that when a topic begins to cross my path repeatedly, it’s time to pay attention. Quantum computing, recently, has been that topic.

What makes Quantum Computing so interesting, and scary, is that it potentially takes information and either amplifies or cancels it. We are seeing this work in current AI algorithms using binary (classical) programming and current technologies.

Introduction to Quantum Computing (Lynda.com – non-affiliate link, 60 minutes) This is the Lynda.com tutorial that got me thinking about Amplification. Mid-way through, one of the experts mentioned waves, troughs, and how they amplify and cancel each other. She mentioned that this concept is being leveraged in Quantum Computing and AI applications.

The Grand Challenge and Promise of Quantum Computing (GoTo 2019, 45 minutes) A clear explanation of what quantum computing is and potential applications.

Tristan Harris – How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds (Medium article) Tristan Harris was a technology ethicist at Google. He describes the “behind the scenes” of how technologies are being leveraged to take over our attention.

Looking at the Altitude Dimension

I see altitude as scale and scope.

I > my immediate environment > my family and/or department > the organization > the neighborhood and/or market > the nation > the earth > the universe > ?

We only have control of the I (and some days, for some of us, even THAT is dodgy).

We may influence our immediate relationships and environment.

Everything else, we need to observe and work with (or move on – if that is an option).

The small-scale and the large-scale influence each other.

Many of us are comfortable thinking at one particular level.

We’re being invited to look at how our actions influence, and are influenced by, different scales of our environment.

A way to think about this is through the language of business.

Our tasks influence our projects. Our projects influence our programs. Our programs influence our portfolio. Our portfolios influence our business and how our business engages with the market and, therefore, with the world.

Meanwhile, what is going on in the world influences our chosen market. What we see in the market influences our enterprise business strategy. Our enterprise business strategy influences how we organize our portfolios and what we are trying to accomplish in these portfolios. Programs are then developed and projects get funded based on what we are trying to accomplish at the higher levels (in an ideal world).

Think about what is on your plate.

What is the influence on you?

How are your actions influencing your immediate environment?

What might be the impact locally? Globally?

Details disappear at higher altitudes.

The north star is seldom glimpsed in the forest.

Can you see your impact at a level that differs from the perspective you usually take?


Definitions of presence (noun) – according to Google

  • The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Synonym: existence.
  • A person or thing that exists or is present in a place, but is not seen. Synonym: spirit, specter, ghost
  • A group of people, especially soldiers or police, stationed in a particular place.
  • The impressive manner or appearance of a person. Synonym: charisma

Interestingly, “the state of being right here, right now” is not a definition recognized by Merriam-Webster. Look in the Urban Dictionary.

I’m not sure what it says about our culture that presence as “charisma” is “officially” recognized and presence as “right here, right now” is not.

“We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one’s preconceptions and historical ways of making sense.” 

Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers, – Presence
  • What is happening right now?
  • What biases and assumptions am I bringing to this obsevation?
  • How do I choose to respond to this?

This definition speaks to the relationship between self and the environment. 

Senge and Co.’s definition of presence includes two of the three pillars of mindful training (as defined by Daniel Siegel): focused attention, open awareness, and kind intention.

  • What am I paying attention to?
  • What else is there?  Is there a different way to frame this?
  • How can I frame this with kind intention? Mine and others?

Presence, to me, is the skill that underlies the ability to listen, ask questions, and make change.

It’s also the most challenging skill (for me) to practice.

There are so many distractions.

We are encouraged to evaluate the past, plan the future, and be anywhere but right here, right now.

Looking at lessons learned is good, in its place.  Planning for the future is good, in its place. Escapism can be useful, in its place.

I’m learning that I need to bias the right here, right now. Be more focused on who or what is right in front of me. Be more open to what surfaces. Approach it all through the framework of kind intent and assume kind intent in others (since that has been true in my life at least 75% of the time).

I’m more adaptive and agile if I am present and not looking so far ahead or hewing so closely to my plan.

My relationships improve when I am present – focused and open to the other.

Presence makes practicing the other 5 skills easier and more effective.

Observation and Pattern Recognition

Observation allows us to see what is going on.

Pattern recognition helps us to make sense of what we are seeing.

Being busy is valued in today’s society. As a result, we forget to stop and watch what is happening around us.

Are we seeing what we expected to see? Does what you are seeing map to a pattern you have seen before? Is there a variable in this context that has not appeared in prior encounters with similar scenarios?

From my understanding, the readers of this blog have been around the block a few times. 30-60, college-educated, 10-30 years in their careers.  

At this stage, you have probably seen at least one cycle of trends. Centralization / Decentralization, Onsite/Remote, Hierarchical/Networked, Independent / Teamwork, or whatever polarity tends to dominate your field.

You have also seen what works and what doesn’t, and have likely formed strong opinions based on this experience. 

You have also formed clear mental models and frameworks.  Mastery is built on these models and frameworks. There’s significant value in these models and frameworks and, in most instances, they work well.  Models and frameworks help you make sense of what is going on around you and help you integrate new information as it comes in.

It may be worthwhile to get clear on the assumptions you are using when you observe what is going on around you. Are these assumptions accurate for this context?

Often, the answer is “yes,” but there are still surprises, and it’s good to be aware of the assumptions you are making when you are making judgments and decisions.

Is there something in the environment that you have not seen before that may impact the patterns you recognize?

Many of us have been trained to write off these anomalies.  How often has the thing you wrote off returned to bite you?  What does the pattern look like when you account for the anomaly?

I invite you to spend some time observing your surroundings, looking for patterns, and questioning your assumptions.

Spicy Octopus Dumplings and Risk Mitigation

In an earlier video – I mentioned that I purchased a bag of spicy octopus dumplings.

Let’s say that I want to serve spicy octopus dumplings to my friends – Mary, Dave, June, and Mike.

The Spicy Octopus Dumplings are the change. Mary, Dave, June, and Mike are the people in the organization.

If we want to serve Spicy Octopus Dumplings to our friends (or…make a change to the org), it helps to figure out whether the people in the organization (or my friends) are ready for the change (or, in this case, for the spicy octopus dumplings).

I am going to assume that none of my friends have ever had spicy octopus dumplings before.

To evaluate the potential success of the meal, I am going to break down the components.

For spicy octopus dumplings, we need to ask whether:

  • The individual likes (or can at least tolerate) spicy food.
  • The individual has tried, likes, or can tolerate) octopus.
  • If they haven’t tried octopus before, do they like seafood?
  • The individual has tried and likes dumplings.

I’m going to add whether the person has tried and liked other forms of Korean food to this questionnaire. If the person is familiar with the flavor profile of Korean food, they are more likely to accept the change.

Mary – loves spicy food, has tried and liked octopus at the local sushi joint, and thinks dumplings are awesome.  She hasn’t had Korean food before, but she’s an adventurous eater.  The spicy octopus dumplings shouldn’t be a problem.

Dave – likes spicy food and loves dumplings.  He’s never had octopus before, but he likes other forms of seafood. And he’s never tried Korean food, but he’s willing to try. He also has a high likelihood of liking the spicy octopus dumplings.

June – likes dumplings and is OK with some forms of seafood – white fish is ok, but things like clams, oysters and strong tasting fish are not. She also doesn’t tolerate spicy food and thinks that octopus is disgusting. She’s also very suspicious of Korean food and is not going to try it voluntarily. Spicy Octopus dumplings are going to be a harder sell.

And Mike’s entire diet is hamburgers, fries and diet cokes.

If the organization is mostly filled with Marys and Daves as we attempt to implement the spicy octopus dumpling change, you are likely going to be ok.

You can reduce some of the risk of rejection by introducing them to Korean food and Octopus.

And since Mary already enjoys octopus, she can help Dave with acceptance.

It helps if YOU have experience with and are a fan of Korean food if you are trying to implement the spicy octopus dumpling change.  This will help guide the rest of the organization with NO experience and provide a safe space for trying out this new thing.

But what if your organization is filled with Junes and Mikes?

You have a mismatch between your organization and the change you wish to create.

You will likely need to adjust.

Maybe you can have leek dumplings as your change instead?  You are still serving dumplings – but it is not spicy, not octopus, and generally pretty mild.  And if June likes Chinese food, you have a much higher chance of succeeding.

But you still have Mike. How much do you need to accommodate Mike?

  • Is he a senior executive or CEO?
  • Can you provide an alternative that does not impact the baseline change you need to make?
  • Do we even have to dis-invite Mike to make this change happen?
  • Or do we have to give up on the change altogether?

The answers and solution depend on your circumstances.

No matter what – keep an eye on WHY you are making the change.

If your goal is to have a nice dinner with friends – maybe a burger and fries will work after all.