A Tale of a Twentysomething: How I Got Started as a Development Coach

My professional journey began the Spring of 2009 after I had transferred from an upper-class, private university to a working-class, regional public university on a basketball scholarship. Our head coach was rumored to be on the chopping block, leaving players and staff alike to consider their next steps.

I was 20 years old and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I told people I wanted to be a doctor — I was a Health and Human Sciences and Biology major at each university, respectively — but I had no interest in really pursuing medicine. I wasn’t serious about basketball. I got a job at Abercrombie, but never showed up. I did, however, take a psychology course that developed into a healthy fascination with the subject and subject matter...

It was the tail end of one developmental phase of my life and the opening act of the next.

I came back that Fall and took the semester off. Quasi-shacked up with my girlfriend, herself an infinitely restless soul, I expressed my discontent with a medical future. She agreed — that world was for suckers, I could being doing something more fulfilling.

Throughout this time, the slow drum of what would I eventually come to recognize as my mind’s particular brand of anxiety began realizing the unique position I found ourselves in: I was lost. 

I was far too immature to grasp this reality head on, so ego triumphed. I shoved the uncertainty down deep and enrolled back in school. As fate would have it, I would eventually graduate with my original pre-medicine degree, but the love for mind and behavior had taken root.

In early 2012, I started lecturing and mentoring young men on general life and leadership development as a part of a program within the local school district I graduated from. I would catch the bus from right around LAX to get down to Long Beach and spend the day teaching, reading, and engaging in dialogue with people I’d meet along my commute or staff members at each high school. I found myself in a world of perception and nuance and each question answered only gave rise to new more fantastic questions.

On days I wasn’t teaching, it wasn’t uncommon for me to wake up around 7AM and read whatever I could get my hands on until 11 or 12 that night. 

I was slowly finding my way.

A particular event happened in early 2014 that solidified my next step. A student in one of the school’s restricted learning programs (for students with learning disabilities or require accommodations) answered a particularly abstract philosophical question with real-world application quickly and accurately. It struck me as odd: how can someone have a learning disability, yet process with such ease?

I spent 6 months looking for the right type of practice and the right type of clinician to take me as a intern, eventually landing a position at Southern California Neuropsychology Group, owned and operated by Michelle Conover, Ph.D. Dr. Conover’s specialties are clinical and forensic neuropsychology, so I instantly found myself immersed in a world of incredibly detailed understanding of behavior and the mental correlates she worked with.

At first pass, clinical work was not for me. I was too impatient, too distractible — too me — to appreciate the work being done. So, I ran the business side of the clinic, continuing to study behavior from the lens of management, rather than symptamolgy or legal status.

After some time, I couldn’t escape the inescapable: I was fascinated by what clinicians knew and I needed to find my own way of doing it. Taking my insane background of grassroots consulting and overdeveloped street savvy and pairing it with what I picked up studying under Dr. Conover, I began building the Conover+Brown service platform Summer 2017.

I would take all kinds of meetings with all kinds of people and pitch all kinds of ideas. I wasn’t too concerned with people purchasing yet, but rather how they oriented to the style and approach of the work I was designing. 

My basic tools, frameworks, and services emerged and development planning was born. As a planner and coach, my work is very similar to life coaching or business coaching. I use tools and techniques I picked up from the clinic, which is the primary difference between my practice and many coaches offering similar services, but those are technical details. My work focuses on personal, career, developmental, performance, and executive growth: all common aims for practitioners operating under a variety of titles.

I work with clients all over the country helping them through their various life and work challenges and to think, this all began as a sideline realization that my life course was changing.

This life can be crazy!

Cheers,

Bryce Brown
Development Coach, Partner — Conover+Brown

What is Development Planning?

Hey,

A question I get pretty often is what do you do? I’m a Development Coach, which means I specialize in helping working professionals meet their personal and professional development goals. 

My work centers around a process, development planning, where my clients and I work through their current — usually annual or biannual — goals and take inventory of the internal and external factors critical to meeting those goals. With this information we build out a development plan, a physical document organizing the insights and action steps the client will take to accomplish their desired goals.

Development Plans are about a client owning their success: we explore what’s next for them, how they’re going to get there, and why that growth is important.

My plans come in 4 flavors: Personal, Professional, Executive, and Entrepreneur, but all share a common underlying structure:

Development Plan Components:

1. Internal Assets:

This section look’s at an individual’s strengths, areas for growth, and levels of self-awareness. Internal assets are critical for both professional and personal development as advances in career and general satisfaction require growth mind sets, commitment to action, and active learning.

2. Environmental Dynamics

This section analyzes the environments an individual is affected by. Organizational dynamics, industry norms, experiential history, and various leadership influences are considered. As many goals and objectives involve organizations and leaders, this section helps clients understand their contexts in deeper detail. 

3. Goals

This section brings Internal Assets and Environment Dynamics together to achieve goals. Following the Evaluation, Exploration, Action, Feedback method, robust goals can be broken down into manageable phases and steadily pursued.

Goal Kinds:

My clients come to me for different specific reasons, but here are some common types of development goals:

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  • Meet Performance Goals
  • Career Clarity and Career Advancement (Promotions) 
  • Confidence Building  
  • People Managing (Social/Emotional IQ)
  • Time Management
  • Getting Organized
  • Getting Motivated
  • Managing Stress  
  • General Development
  • Communication Skills
  • Taking on New Project
  • Career Transisition  
  • Coach the Coaches
  • Personal Growth

And a lot more!

 

The approach I specialize in is deep development, which blends personal growth with professional growth borrowing techniques from the psychologies and business skills. Deep Development is a part of the larger organizational neuropsychology approach my partner, clinical and forensic neuropsychologist Dr. Michelle Conover, and I are pioneering. With this incredible toolkit, I’m helping professionals all over the world design their development and fully own their success.

Bryce Brown
Partner, Conover+Brown

The Young Professional's Mindfulness Guide

In a lot of ways, mindfulness is about plugging into your own mind and calibrating it. There are many, many approaches to mindful meditation, but the desired results are always the same:

  • Sense of connectedness to the moment
  • Mental clarity and focus
  • Motivation and inspiration
  • Feeling grounded, stable, and whole

For goals group. and the coaching programs I facilitate, mindfulness is about a simple daily activity that brings your focus to the moment without judgment or anxiety and then a visualization of a successful morning, afternoon, or evening.

10 minute mindfulness -- Conover+Brown style:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. You can sit with you feet flat on the floor or in a cross legged position. Keep your posture straight but relaxed and begin taking deep breaths opening up your lungs and chest. Stretch your hands towards the ceiling, open your palms as wide as you can, taking your time with each breath.
  • Once you're in the flow, close your eyes and turn your attention to your nose. Listen to each breath (4 counts breath in, 2 counts out). repeat for a few minutes.
  • Now, turn your attention to what you're sitting on. Is it cushioned or firm? Cold or warm? What does it feel like at that exact moment.
  • Focus on the room you're in. Detect any smells? Faint sounds? 
  • Take inventory of you in the room. Think about you, right here, right now, focusing on right now.

This should take about 5-6 minutes. For avid mindfulness practitioners, getting into the moment can be instant, but if you're just starting out, it will feel unnatural. Relax and keep going. You are training your mind to focus. 

While still breathing deeply:

  • Turn your attention to your goals. group concept. How do you feel in the moment with regards to it? Are you inspired? Exhausted? Unsure? Energized?
  • Have your recent thoughts and behaviors been aligned with your concepts and goals?
  • What might your day bring? Can you visualize some tasks you need to tackle or a conversation you need to have with a client or coworker?
  • How do you feel about your goals? Are they accomplishable?

After 10-15 minutes, slowly come back to your normal morning routine. The aim of this activity is create calm and focus; think things through, focus your attention, and attend to the smallest details. 

Happy growing!
Bryce
Development Coach

 

Bryce's No-Fly List

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Hey guys,

I'm one of the partners here at CB and I think most of my team would describe me as maniacally obsessed with small details in language and communication, especially when it comes to defining concepts.

As far as I'm concerned, 100% of human problems source from slight differences in how human agents interpret, associate meaning, and ultimately act on information. 

So I decided to assemble a working list (check back frequently for updates) of business concepts, jargon, or phrases that are guaranteed to send me into a philosophical rage:

  1. "Trusted Partner" - lets face it, conducting business can be treacherous. While no reputable firm intentionally misleads or misstates out of malignancy, business is based on market opportunity: trusted partners are as useful as the market allows. 
  2. "We don't have the bandwidth" - translation: we can't afford it. Business jargon is excessively euphemistic because who likes admitting they're $10k short of a critical investment? 
  3. "Authentic Leadership" - a noble concept, but predictably one-dimensional in the hands of managers and bean counters. Leadership is about social cognition and understanding when to be authentic and when to be strategic.
  4. "Alignment" - this one I begrudgingly use because people mostly understand what it means. However, when we stop dancing around the fire and define "alignment" I usually end up in a rage yet again.
  5. "Empowerment" - another term that one might find on CB promotional material, but is also far too vague.
  6. "Millennial" - the digital revolution of the late 90's early 2000's brought about unprecedented change, "disruption", and social dynamics. 

Raw Entrepreneurship: My List of Commercial Failures

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I have been in business for myself for a little over seven years. They say that the average entrepreneur fails seven times before they get it right. Here is a list of the times when I did not get it right:

  1. Summer 2010: Skillz Basketball Camp (cost me $1,000)
  2. Winter 2010: CollectiveCreativity show (cost me $5000)
  3. Summer 2011: MTV Movie Awards After party (cost everyone nearly $10K)
  4. Fall 2011: Passion Conference (cost me $3000)
  5. Summer 2012: Evicted from my penthouse in Marina Del Rey ($10K)
  6. Winter 2012: Summer 2014: 2 broken business deals (total cost about $20k)
  7. Summer 2015: The integrated Learning Annex is open but vacant for 10 months (rent $50k)
  8. Summer 2016: The integrated Learning Annex Livestream ($10K)

So, summing the math, my learning curve has cost approximately:$110K

Factoring in my private school undergrad education (which had its fair share of meteoric fails): ~$250K

Why make this post? Because entrepreneurship is dressed up as sexy when it is demeaning. If you just started out as an entrepreneur and you don't feel like your ass is being handed to you every day of the week, you are incredibly dense, incredibly skilled, or incredibly lucky. Either way, kudos to you and I hope you pass on some of that elixir to the rest of us. For us mere mortals, entrepreneurship is grueling. Even when you reach a plateau another summit summons in the distance challenging you to get back on your feet and put everything you've got into scaling it.

I made this post for the entrepreneur that saddled up and fell off. For the woman that tried her hand at her own e-commerce business and sold approximately 2.5 shirts her first week. For the guy frustrated that none of his friends support his new restaurant. 

Life is about 'getting shots up.' In basketball, we "put up shots" when we want to get our jump shot right. In a training session, a player might put up 1,000 shots (or make 400 before they leave). This is because in the fast-paced game like basketball, you gotta come into the game ready to light it up. You gotta take shots... And when that dry streak comes (or to make this metaphor work, you're a rookie entrepreneur trying to find their way) you have to keep shooting. The truth is, you should seek out the no's and get it out the way. 

In short, here's my guide to failing fast and hard and moving on:

  1. Get shots up everyday. Cold call, walk into a new office, find a buyer and just see what happens
  2. As you get more sophisticated, do your homework. Cold call after you've done some digging, get a Hubspot or equivalent inbound marketing tool and get meetings going.
  3. Take nothing personal. If someone ridicules you or your idea, take the parts that improve what you're doing and leave the rest.
  4. Try on the 10/10% rule. When it comes to putting up shots, do 10 more for numbers less than 100 and 10% for numbers over 100. Ex. if you need to make 20 phone calls a day, make 30. If you need to make 200 phone calls, make 240.

Good luck!

The Precision Economy

As technology advances, human beings will have unprecedented opportunity to do impactful work.

Over the last few months, I have become increasingly interested in the future. Perhaps it was the birth of my son or just my unbridled obsession with human progress, but my thoughts have orbited what tomorrow (or 100 years) could bring and how we might prepare ourselves and our progeny to capture opportunity.

In developed nations, low-skilled wage labor has been on the decline for quite some time. Some decry this trend as the result of nefarious tehnocrats; however, a brief audit of history shows that economic change always rides in the wake of technological innovation. We shouldn't fight against the tide, but instead learn to harness its power.

Humans are terrible at most work. The history of management (and military strategy) is a testament to this. While we excel at finding solutions in novel scenarios, when tasks become repetitive and commoditized performance, productivity, and sentiment all tend to trend down in lockstep.

We evolved to survive in ecological niches, not rubber stamp stacks of papers.

Not to be another lame academic trying to coin a catchy phrase, but the Precision Economy is an idea I've been weighing as a possible successor to the Knowledge/Gig or Shared/Information economic cluster we currently exist in. The Precision Economy adopts important elements from these three, but adds an important twist: opportunities and configurations that highlight individual differences in individuals, communities, and societies.

Education and career paths are easy examples to illustrate how the Precision Economy might work. As data is collected from childhood, school systems spend less time on traditional administration, which can mostly be automated, and focus on developing education and career plans that amplify a child's talents, interests, and post-secondary opportunities. Rather than a one sized fits all process, students are permitted to learn at paces that suit them and measured against course tracks that fit their future rather than the backwards methods we see today.

The Precision Economy is about maximizing individual contribution to societal and economic development through the automation of mundane tasks and the development of human-only tasks found in many of the professional services. Rather than stocking companies full of wage-workers, economies would be responsible for training humans to take on tasks that require human nuance -- career paths that tend to be higher earning.

With companies like Amazon revolutionizing grocery stores, the natural question is, "what happens to the clerks?" Well, organizations like Amazon need expertise across the board and those wage-working jobs can easily be translated into management, legal, engineering, community outreach, and even political positions. Creative positions endemic to marketing, product development, and human-human resources are high opportunity targets as well.

How do we win in this new economy?

Post-capitalism will be a renaissance of human ability and ingenuity; therefore, putting humans in the best possible positions to succeed should be at the top of every social stakeholder. Rather than shunting our kids off to be chattel in an irreparable system, we should be investing in the individualized tracks aforementioned. Teachers are less responsible for the impossible job of instructing 270 kids and allowed to be knowledge guides. Colleges are no longer about stifling innovation or producing carbon-copy workers, but become locuses of imagination and possibility: their role becomes more idea-incubator and research specific.

Entrepreneurs and big business alike profit from the Precision Economy as well as entrepreneurs drive innovation and tailor products and services for niche markets creating jobs and big businesses serving large swathes improve efficiency, reduce human rights violations and human capital liability, while employing educated, informed, skilled labor across nations, regions, and cultures.

While we are not in the Precision Economy yet, I believe we will be in my lifetime. Organizations engaging in Precision Medicine, genetic treatments, Big Data marketing, MOOC's, curated content, self-driving vehicles, and the like are all leading the way. With even more advanced computing, digital ledgers that are publicly available and unalterable (blockchain), and innovations in neuroscience, I truly believe the world of tomorrow promises even better quality of life than imaginable.

Hopefully bad politics and global unrest don't grind these promises to a halt.

Bryce

Time Travelers

Time Travel: An Advanced State of Being.

 

Physicists opine that time travel is physically possible if you build a machine that can accelerate to the speed of light. However, even if scientists are able to build one that can sustain a human body (without death) it would not be helpful since the human has only progressed through space and nothing more. So showing up in the future, with nothing in hand, only proves a basic scientific point that, “yes, it can be done.”

However, time travel (with a purpose) is possible today in a form that most of us know about but don’t use enough of; mentality. Mentality is the capacity of intellectual thought. It is achieved with the right combination of elements, much like an algorithm, which is a process or a set of rules to be followed. For instance, if you take a young mind and infuse it with specific knowledge that is selected in order to expand consciousness then you have just accelerated or updated your “software” so to speak.

The creation of future thinkers is possible. The better minds are the ones that are distracted and bored, looking for something better and more exciting to feast upon. Unfortunately, it is too often the case that boredom leads to negative actions with punishment or containment that soon follow.

The brain is the essence or central component of the human being. It knows what we need before our consciousness catches on. This is why most of us don’t fully comprehend why we behave, think or feel they way we do. However, what if we teach our youth of today the most salient lessons in order to expand their consciousness, promoting an advance state of being where most things are possible? That future is not only brighter for them but better for us.

Profexistential Crises: The 'what the f#*! am I doing?' moment

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I remember about three years ago, I was pitching a real estate client with my partner at the time on some social media services. In true consultant form, I had no real expertise in social media marketing, but a consultant never admits he is out of his depths. I spent 72 hours giving myself a crash course in the basics of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the newcomer, Instagram, then designed up a nice PowerPoint to drive home our offering.

I was flat-out awful. My voice quivered, my mind went blank no less than five times, and I knew that the client was never actually interested in us in the first place. However, the deeper concern was that I didn't know what the hell I was talking about and it caused me to overcomplicate the situation. I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I didn't know how anything in the world worked.

I was in a perpetual state of panic -- I had been in one since 2009 and I this would continue clear through 2016...

My problems then were no different than the problems hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of young people go through everyday: the "what the f#*! am I doing" or "profexistential crisis". You think to yourself, "what am I even good at?" or "why am I doing this job?" Neither question yields the answers that provide comfort and problem either intensifies or one gives in over time. 

When I got to Southern California Neuropsychology Group in 2014, I was in the midst of an extreme profexistential crisis. I was up to my 7th chakra in debt with no solid technical skills and an ego that wouldn't bode well in most entry level jobs. Moreover, I had spent the prior three years as a self-professed consultant; working in a traditional environment would be a stretch. The real problem I had was that I didn't really understand what business was or how it worked and consequently limited my options severely.

If you're panicking, don't

Profexistential crises appear hopeless. Camus said of existential crisis that many look into the relentlessly neutral abyss of the universe and simply can't cope; I'd wager the same is true for career paths. As social organisms, we rely heavily on support and direction and sometimes it appears that the business community does not provide such luxuries. We have all these personal life experiences and informal skills, but businesses look for licenses, certificates, and degrees, few of which are appealing and of those, most seem impossible. 

Breathe

Businesses are rather simple systems founded on supply and demand. Over time, these systems appear to grow more complicated, but they aren't: you need to be where something is needed. That's it. As a young consultant, I was constantly trying to create these fanciful models and frameworks for getting client interest because I was scared they wouldn't want what I had to offer. I couldn't code. I couldn't do multivariate analysis. I didn't have an MBA. What the f#*! what I good for?!

Moreover, I didn't really know what I wanted to do; sure I had vague notions of the kind of legacy I wanted to leave behind, but I didn't know what kind of technical process went with this. I was never a con man, so I was unwilling to fake it until I made it.

What I started to do was breathe and take a top down perspective of the industries I found interesting. I would look at companies' websites, read about them in the news, and eventually started looking at their job postings. I had picked up the internship,  permitting me a little professional legitimacy. I relentlessly studied business proper and the types of roles that drew my attention.

Profexistential crises should not be seen as negatives, but signals that your mind is picking up on inconsistent patterns in your work and behavior. When you start hearing those internal alarms, its time for you to start reading, studying, and immersing yourself in the experiences that fit your fancy. 

Life is not a race; it doesn't matter if you're 25 or 75, profexistential crisis happens to us all. Those that heed its warnings, do their due diligence, and commit to executing a personal strategy find themselves on greener knolls much faster than those that freeze up, shut down, or straight up ignore.

Bryce Brown
Partner,
Conover+Brown

 

The Curious Case of Gavrilo Princip

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"I am a Yugoslav nationalist, aiming for the unification of all Yugoslavs, and I do not care what form of state, but it must be freed from Austria." - Gavrilo Princip

If you can remember 9th-grade modern world history, then Gavrilo Princip might ring a faint bell. Young Princip is often described as the individual that initiated World War I when he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Dutchess of Hohenberg. Princip was fed up with the Austrian domination of the region and decided to take action alongside other revolutionaries. The result of their determination is literally history.

One man's terrorist is another man's revolutionary; one man's criminal is another man's breadwinner -- the deciding factor is always the perspective one chooses to take. The American revolution was surely revolting to the aristocracy of England; the Black Lives Matter movement is abhorrent to conservation Americans. 

As a consultant dealing with the dynamics of the mind and behavior, I've learned that perspectives of actors are vastly more important than actual occurrences. Since childhood, I have been fiercely independent and neutral, usually only taking "sides" as under extreme circumstances. Extreme circumstances are few and far between; therefore, I naturally grew more nonpartisan, preferring to make sense of dynamics under perspectival considerations rather than moral ones.

In business the same factors play out. Many of my struggles as a young consultant were because I tried to wedge searches for objectivity into fundamental strategy dynamics; however, most decision-makers are unaware that their side is little more than perspective. We all pay lip service to being neutral and objectively weighing facts, but we turn around and swear by our preferred ways of organizing ideas and acting upon them, rather than treating them as subjectivities.

Gavrilo Princip might go down in history as an integral figure in international geopolitics; however, he is just another individual acting upon his convictions. Right and wrong are impossible to gauge: on the one hand, he acted to oust an oppressive regime; on the other, he murdered a father, husband, wife, and mother.

The work at Conover+Brown tries to work around inconvenient subjectivity by tackling it head-on: we take direct aim at the agents of perspective and their underlying factors: the mind.

Bryce Brown

Deescalation

De-escalation was a word first introduced in 1965 by Herman Kahn who was writing the book “On Escalation”, which talks about how the threat of nuclear war could more effectively be used to further national policy. The events in 1965 seemed to run on emotionality, one of which happened in our own back yard with the Watts race riots in Los Angeles, which was triggered by police use of force to arrest an African-American man for drunk driving.

Now, 50 years later we are faced with a new dilemma where many people are dying at the hands of those committed to protect us. Here we are again, regardless of the passage of time, looping around like a human fractal or ever-winding pattern of mentality. To break a pattern mental or otherwise, which gains momentum overtime, you first need to introduce a new idea and methodology. Through words, which are much more effective weapons, we can counter these events so that a shift can begin. I believe if we focus on conflict resolution we have a more balanced and equal playing ground.

Conflict resolution addresses the undertone of resentment on both ends not just on the community side. I believe if we collectively take responsibility for the actions of man then we can resolve them more effectively than placing blame and assigning guilt. Community members should understand that the officers are doing their best to do their job. However, we don’t think about community doing their best to do their job too in regards to cooperation.

What lacks on both sides is knowledge and understanding.

Knowledge is gained through training, instilling a new method on approach (refer to POP / SAFE Protocol). The officer’s training has focused more on firearms and defensive tactics rather than de-escalation (Police Executive Research Forum, Washington DC), which is something that the officers admit to. Understanding is the ability to integrate new information into the act of being, which changes the emotionality itself.

Despite that officers are faced with more mentally ill individuals, given that mental health services are no longer as available, there is an expectation that the community has, that the officers obliged themselves with the task of helping a person in need as well as ensuring their safety.

To reduce a potential negative interaction with law enforcement both the community and officers should follow these three steps: 

1. Remain calm; when anxiety is low you can think better

2. Listen and watch; body language and tone tells you more than the words themselves.

3. If instructions are not followed, assess for other variables/interference that are contributing.

These three steps get you back to basics and are purposely simplistic so that anyone can follow and remember. There are multiple factors present to discern when you’re at a standstill but anxiety is heightened when dealing with someone who lacks rational thought. Hostility is triggered by desperation or the perceived loss of control over the situation. One way to resolve any conflict is to get additional help so that they can shoulder the burden and offer another perspective, whether the officer needs to call their supervisor or if the community member needs to call their mom. This is no longer a one-on-one situation. This issue has now become bigger than all off us and so it will take all of us to remedy the problem.

Michelle Conover, Ph.D., Q.M.E.

Neuropsychologist/ Brain and Behavior Specialist

Southern California Neuropsych Group

POP Protocol Board Member

Endonomics

Endonomics - endo-: within; -nomics: laws of. 

Endonomics is a term that I use when discussing how organizations behave and operate. Rather than saying organizational development, organizational design, individual psychologies, group dynamics, and all of the other social & behavioral science terms necessary to understand the functioning of humans pursuing individual and collective ends, I use this concept of endonomics.

Humans are fascinating creatures as the apparatus we employ to make sense of the world is fine-tuned by selective pressures outside of our control and intentional pressures within our control. The result is a collection of histories -- "us" -- that are forced to interact and bring about various civilized phenomena.

These phenomena, automobiles, skyscrapers, buildings, irrigation ducts, field equipment, and computers are upheld by the knowledge bases we've spent millennia refining. Mathematics, logic, physics, law, medicine, and the like are the blocks by which we erect literal and metaphorical towers to our accomplishments.

However, something that has plagued me since undergrad was why the proliferation of fields, subfields, and interdisciplinary departments existed in the first place? Why were there so many hermeneutical schisms, so many interpretive wars, and so many fallouts regarding how knowledge should be applied?

The answer, of course, lay in the fact that we are humans, but more useful, it lay in how we conceptualized cause-and-effect. Causality, much like anxiety in psychology, is an extraordinarily powerful concept that sheds floodlights on individuals and their interactions. When people are asked about temporality (time), ordinality (ordering), and spatiality (space), their understanding of dynamics reveal the peculiarities that make us such fascinating creatures.

Our brains are computers, but not the kind of computer found atop your workstation. It is a computer, an information processor, that tunes synapses to respond to environmental stimuli relevant to our biology. I read a piece by Steven Pinker recently where he put forth the idea that natural selection gives you organs of your ancestors; ergo, we have brains that were fine-tuned for life as hunter-gatherers and potentially early agrarians, but certainly not one where the brute crunching of numbers or technological wizardry were norms.

As challenging as it may be for us, when understanding the "laws of within", that is, within organizations, institutions, and other macro systems, we cannot lose sight of this truth. Our computing apparatuses are "natural". They were formed and fashioned by nature.

This should put things like "interpretation" in order and reveal why empirically based methods found in science should dominate collective efforts, while intuitively based efforts will continue to dominate individual efforts. Empiricism is far too costly for most individuals, we simply don't have time to painstakingly double-check every single observation, while collectives can distribute this task across all capable bodies.

What we have, then, is the classic people/policy dyad. People represent intuitions, policy represents empirics; one is not more important than the other, but neither are less important either.

Endonomics seeks stabilities between micro and macro considerations. From individual decision making to nationwide policy efforts, it tries to follow the bread crumbs from the few humans that first introduced the policy, all the way down to it implementation.

Furthermore, and more relevant to our work, endonomics seeks the stabilities between individual histories (individual persons) and the collective process that we call having a job.

Its fun, exciting, and challenging work, but I think there are many groundbreaking discoveries to be made.

Bryce Brown
conover + brown

What Does It Mean To Be Human

I started my career in systems thinking long before I realized I was, in fact, a systems thinker. In the spring of 2013 I started asking my students in Long Beach Unified School District a superficially simple question, "what does it mean to be human?"

The answers read off like a late-night infomercial. Humans create. Humans think. Humans communicate. Humans build things. Humans suck. Humans have outsized potential. Humans have evolved. Humans are God's figurines. 

The variation in response and the tone each student struck fascinated me to no end. At the time, I knew nothing about systems analysis or nested hierarchies, but I know that what I felt were the creeping tendrils of passion gripping my mind. Twenty-five years young, I knew this would be my life's work. 

Philosophy notwithstanding, I truly wanted to know what did it mean to be human? The question beckoned me as I tore through tomes upon tomes of literature spanning science, history, and art. The greatest thinkers of our fledgling species have offered up their answers for millennia and every culture the world over has had plenty to say about our purpose and position in the cosmos. But, were the answers forthcoming?

Yes, if you knew how to look for them...

Before I truly considered myself a systems thinker, I obsessed over finding facts and reality-proper structures as they pertained to human interaction. I have been content with seeing many of the world's phenomena as factual: physics offers up more than sufficient evidence for stable bodies and their properties to be categorized as extant. They exist. They are real. There are jobs to be done with them. Medicine, construction, and technology all require that phenomena operate upon factual lines.

But, what about those fields that hinged heavily upon interpretation? Law, education, and psychology? What about all those fields that pivot on social structures rather than physical ones? Did they render facts or stable observations that did not vary through time and space?

More to the point, what about those structures that straddle physical and social understandings? In these worlds, facts and fact-finding are not as simple as identifying this and that; they are not purely lexical-semantic. There are meanings, motivations, drives, and biases that operate as engines. Therefore, truth in these contexts is anything but stable. It is necessarily constructed, nuanced, and requires attention to a level of detail stretching beyond conventional analysis.

Analysis in most settings is granular; an analyst gathers data, which might be consumer behavior, industry or sector trends, or central planner announcements. Reports are written, graphs are designed, and presentations made championing this strategy or that. 

The curiosity is this: employees, managers, and consultants are more than their data. These professionals hide behind data because an executive needs tangibles in order to justify a decision. Humans enjoy facts and reality-proper structures; however, a great deal of our exchanges are intangible dynamics like "who we know" and "what we prefer". 

Within systems such as ours, it is a beginner's mistake to proffer naked advice. You must dress up hunches and friends in the finest data-intensive regalia. 

One major piece in "what does it mean to be human," is the rapid exchange of information and the need to establish exchange rates that make information about these exchanges as obvious as possible. We do this through words and behaviors: I call this meaning. When something means something, it will cause behaviors unique to a particular system. 

The rate of exchange, the accuracy of the information, and how fast the system updates that information gives rise to information quality (InQ). InQ helps thinkers and designers like myself troubleshoot more effective responses to system problems with minimal negative aftereffects. 

So, what does it mean to be human? It means that we integrate physical facts with special psychological programs to create the endless -ologies and social systems we know to be society, technological prowess, and the rest. 

In my work with executives, their teams, and their teams' teams, it is not my desire to tell them how to do their jobs better. I do not believe I am qualified to tell CEO or CMO how to do something they have been doing day-in and day-out for years better. However, I can help them evolve into better thinkers by showing them the underlying, unspoken, and hidden dynamics that give rise to the all the systems they are a part of. 

This is my job as a thinker and designer. To help people understand the meaning of the human condition and translate those insights into assets useful in meeting organizational objectives. 

Bryce