Our Search for Truth in Alberta: Let’s Unite and Restore Debate

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In the comments of daveberta’s blog, ministers mel knight and luke ouellette crash landowners rights meetingpeople object to this video “intentionally spreading misinformation to conjure up fear and confusion.” In other words, they want the truth.

I was at this meeting and although the video is edited to show the Ministers in a bad light, I can confirm that Luke Ouellette did admit to not understanding the bills (“I have one heck of a time understanding a lot of the real legal stuff within bills and how it works.”) This comment was not taken out of context and Ouellette answered no questions pertaining to the bills. Mel Knight, although obviously more well-versed in the bills, also did not answer questions from the landowners in the audience.

Joe Anglin presented one side of the story and willingly gave the uninvited Ministers an opportunity to share their side of the story. Unfortunately neither Minister chose to articulate the valuable and important parts of the legislation that benefit Albertans. Instead they went on the defensive, shut down questions from the audience and visibly showed their frustration.

As a 2011 Alberta Party leadership candidate I attended this meeting, as well as the debate in Eckville between Keith Wilson and MLA Ted Morton, with an open mind. I gained little insight from the PCs at either meeting. Some of the most de-politicized conversations I’ve had have been with people who were part of a Regional Advisory Committee (RAC). From their perspective there is a lot of great planning and collaboration that will be lost if we repeal the bills.

My search for truth in this situation has been a frustrating and time-consuming effort because politics, at every turn, has gotten in the way.

The question I’ve been asking along with my fellow Alberta Party leadership candidates, Randy Royer and Lee Easton is:  “How do we restore in Alberta productive debate that elevates the conversation, seeks and discovers the truth, and moves our Province towards its full potential?”

Good debate in Alberta sometimes happens in different blog comments or over a pint, but we need to unite and get each debate in Alberta that matters in one place online. Albertans need a place to go to find both sides of every issue presented. We need a community that thinks critically, speaks from the heart and is motivated by a search for truth, not votes. (Perhaps this already exists somewhere? If it does, please let me know so I can start contributing to the conversation. I have notes that give the pros and cons of many different issues that I would love to share.)

If it doesn’t, there are people willing to invest in getting a “One-Stop Alberta Debate Shop” going online. This could be coupled with face-to-face discussion groups, research and formalized debates between citizens, not politicians. Across the province we could use this as a tool to become informed, learn how we personally feel about different issues and explore bold ideas.

In the grandest vision, it could evolve to crowdsourcing solutions that reflect the majority of Albertan’s values and beliefs. This could move us away from the divisive nature of partisan politics towards a place where politicians/public servants spend their time facilitating collaborative and responsive efforts between our civil servants and communities that move Alberta towards a shared vision of greatness.

When I lived in Europe and Nigeria, I participated in true debate daily. After being home for over 2 years I’ve come the conclusion our quality of life and our ability to address social issues is being seriously affected by our inability to openly debate without being persecuted for our opinions. This is perhaps why we are behind Europe on many fronts. (For example, social entrepreneurship, micro-financing, appreciation of architecture etc.)

I may be a member of the Alberta Party, but the reason I joined a political party for the first time was so I could go beyond ideology and safely explore all sides of an issue. After 8 months, I have come to the conclusion that people currently won’t allow a political party to remain non-partisan. I therefore want to be a part of something outside of a party that restores debate and discovers our Province’s truth.

We are getting Alberta nowhere closer to its potential attacking each other in Twitter, so let’s unite and get a real conversation going. Let’s build a community where we can freely talk about taxes, royalties, land use bills, economic diversification, pros and cons of carbon capture and storage, reviving our film industry (or not), reviving our natural gas industry (or not), homelessness, the value of triple bottom line approaches … a community where you name it, we can freely talk about it … where we can figure out when deregulation helps Albertans and when it doesn’t … where we can safely explore both public and private healthcare solutions that work and those that don’t … a community where we use a collaborative and holistic approach and blend knowledge, ideas and expertise from all sectors and all walks of life.

Let’s unite and build a community outside of the political realm that seeks to understand, not to be understood. This simple shift is the key. If you agree and want to be a part of a group that creates a “One-Stop Alberta Debate Shop” going, please send an email to seachange4alberta@gmail.com or write a comment on this blog.

As an Albertan that cares deeply about our Province, all I want is the truth … and I know I’m not the only one.

Tammy Maloney

Our Move from Consumption to Community

“No, not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.”

 Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

One of the most enlightening moments during my MBA was when I put together a panel discussion for the 5th Annual IESE Doing Good and Doing Well conference. The name of the panel was “Investment in Africa: Risks and Opportunities”

One of the panel members was Nicholas Nesbitt, a Kenyan entrepreneur who was educated in the US and returned home with a dream of Kenya becoming the next India. With this in mind, he started Africa’s first call centre. Throughout the absorbing panel discussion many things were said, but the comment I remember the most came from Mr. Nesbitt. In describing the economic advancement of his employees, he mentioned that they now show up to work wearing their backwards caps, baggy jeans and iPods.

To be quite honest, I was deeply concerned by the discovery that the world does indeed aspire to our consumption-driven economic model.

Upon graduation from the MBA, I joined the Clinton Foundation in Nigeria. I observed that they too are trying to replicate our economic “success” through consumption, but I made another surprising discovery while living there that led me to ask:

Why do they want what we have?

In Nigeria you can feel the connection to spirit and community everywhere. Their level of faith in God knows no bounds. God and community are relied upon for protection in a land that is suffering.

In Calgary, Alberta, Canada you can see the individualistic and island-type behaviour all around you. Our level of faith in the almighty dollar knows no bounds. Money and government are relied upon for protection in a land that is also suffering.

In the absence of financial security and an effective government ….  faith, relationships and community are required.

In North America we have created a set of systems that allow us to avoid the blood, sweat and tears needed to build healthy relationships. Getting along with one another isn’t easy, so we focus on strengthening our bank accounts instead of our communities. Valuing financial security above relationships is to the detriment of our health and leads to an increasing need for government to fill the gaps created by our lack of community.

(And it should be noted that donating money to charities isn’t the best example of community because there is a power imbalance that reinforces the inequality between the rich and the poor. Strong, resilient communities would negate the need to geographically isolate people experiencing homelessness or poverty because we would rally behind families in our communities that are struggling, rise up and take care of our own …. but I digress.)

I heard the other day 25% of Canadians will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. I actually thought this sounded low, but the nursing student said the key word is diagnosed. How many people are walking around feeling unhappy, imbalanced and/or depressed and are not seeking help?

The majority of us may not live in financial poverty, but I believe the majority are enduring a spiritual, emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and/or mental poverty caused by the cataclysmic separation from the whole we suffered during our historic economic rise.

We sacrificed our connection to community in order to create jobs faster. This is a root cause of our overburdened healthcare system.

We source our security from money and we depend on government for the rest. We race towards Freedom 55 and if we are lucky enough to reach it we try to fill the emptiness inside by becoming philanthropists or changing careers to something we enjoy. We live the life of hares, when we were born to be tortoises and enjoy every moment … not just the finish line.

When I returned to Canada and spent a year working directly with the homeless community, I ironically had never felt so at home. Similar to my experience in Nigeria, people experiencing homelessness source their security from their faith and their community. They accept their fate with grace and courage. They don’t wear masks. They are honest about their needs and who they are. They are grateful, loving and open. When I’m with them, I’m at peace.

What a world it would be if those living above the poverty line accepted their fate with grace and courage and lived without masks and with honesty. What a world it would be if we stopped competing with our neighbours, came out of hiding and admitted we are in pain and in need of relationships and community.

In my experience there is more joy and happiness in poverty-stricken communities because there is more honesty, openness, faith, trust, and hope. There is suffering yes, but their survival is dependent on relationships and community which comfort the heart. In financially secure communities there is also suffering, but our survival is dependent on money which comforts neither the heart nor fully relaxes the mind.

Joy and happiness spring from community.

My heart therefore breaks for my neighbour … that I’ve never met … that lives with 6 foot fences around them. They opted for a big backyard deck over a porch in the front yard with rocking chairs. They go from their house, to their garage, to their work and back again. They drink or eat or medicate or otherwise addict themselves. They struggle to fall asleep every night wishing someone cared, but refuse to ask for help because they know from the outside looking in it appears they have it all.

My heart therefore breaks for me … I have financial security … I’m completely independent and not a burden to society … I have family and friends who love me … I am intellectually stimulated …. I know my neighbours, local business owners … I’m fuelled by passion … but I’m lonely. When I’m not with my friends and family or in a conversation on how to solve the world’s challenges, I rarely experience joy. I’ve come to the conclusion that my capacity for joy is limited by the imbalance in our systems. I’ve come to accept that until we strike a balance between competition and collaboration and the individual and community that I may always feel unrelaxed and unsupported. I therefore spend every waking second in service to my community in an effort to catalyze a balancing of our systems, but can’t find peace within my soul. I was raised to be independent and rely solely on my effort and hard work. This has manifested itself as walls built up around my heart so that I can control my environment and keep myself safe. I find it easy to give and hard to receive. I am uncomfortable with being vulnerable and I’m uncomfortable asking for help from everyone around me because they all appear to have it together and figured out. Everything I do is to for my future security, but ironically I don’t feel safe.

The time has come to courageously admit we need each other. We tried replacing community with an over-dependence on money and government and the result is our overburdened healthcare system. Our societal state can only be transformed through healing our relationships with ourselves and each other and by rebuilding our communities.

A simple place to start is to WISH YOUR NEIGHBOUR WELL.

You are not in competition with them. There is enough for everyone. Our identities should no longer be sourced by the size of car in our driveway, but rather through the quality of our relationships with our family, friends, neighbours, ourselves and our faith. The time has come for quality to trump quantity.

Just because we can’t quantify and measure the impact of relationships and community, doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.

Our competition-driven systems have drained the trust out of our society. It can only be restored one relationship at a time. Give trust and you will get it in return. Trust is the foundation of relationships.

Trust your neighbours will be there for you in a pinch and watch our communities flourish.

It’s not US vs THEM. People aren’t out to get you. People were born with a desire (and a need) to give and receive in equal measure. We enjoy helping others, but we must also push ourselves to ask for help. I am trying to ask more people for help. It’s scary. I hate it. In many cases, it makes me cry. But I force myself to do it because we aren’t supposed to be going this alone. We are supposed to balance our independence and self-reliance with a dependence on each other and our communities.

Our return to community will help us overcome our over-dependence on money and government. Our return to community will help our society be a reflection of what we actually value …. each other.

Deep down we know we are all in this together. Deep down we want healthy relationships. Deep down we are starving for community. Deep down we have faith in each other and our world.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and repeat after me ….

“WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.”

“I WISH MY NEIGHBOURS WELL.”

“I NEED STRONG, HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS BEYOND MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.”

“I VALUE COMMUNITY.”

“I TRUST I WILL ALWAYS BE TAKEN CARE OF.”

… and then open your eyes and watch our move from consumption to community advance.

Author’s Note: Our Return to Community = Prevention in Healthcare

Our Move from Job Creation to Wealth Creation

“Extrinsic rewards (as presumed by the theory of self-interest) lead to poor performance in every situation except where (a) the rules are clearly defined and (b) the outcome is known in advance. The challenges we face are NOT this kind of problem.” ~ Joe Brewer, Cognitive Policy Works


In this video Daniel Pink discusses the “surprising science of motivation” and why the issues of today require people to be employed in meaningful careers (not just jobs) that are built on 3 principles of intrinsic motivation (a) Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives, (b) Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters and (c) Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I hope you will grant me the license to speak in general terms in order to make my point :) . I am very aware of all the great businesses that have already discovered and started to incorporate Daniel Pink’s “Surprising Science of Motivation” into their strategies, but they are not the majority … and they should be.

The time has come for the way we do business to be a reflection of our own personal values.

But what do we value?

Ask an individual and they would probably answer family, freedom, community, friends, creativity.

Ask Daniel Pink and he would say we value autonomy, mastery, purpose.

Ask a CEO what society values and I believe their answer would be money and competition.

If we as humans have such a diverse set of values, why is it then that our economic system assumes we only have two?

My interpretation of Daniel Pink’s talk is that business today needs to update the motivation and innovation assumptions that were used to drive our economy’s phenomenal growth to be a better reflection of what we as people actually value.  The time has come for an economic mental shift from a focus on job creation to a focus on meaningful career creation.  This shift is the key to discovering the solutions to the complex societal challenges we currently face. This shift will create wealth (in all its wonderful forms) for all people.

We have reached a point in history where we can no longer afford to leave our society’s naturally inherent compassion and creativity untapped.

Time to Update our Economic System’s Motivation Assumption

The main motivation assumption used in businesses today is that people are best motivated by money. This is outdated and Joe Brewer from Cognitive Policy explains why. “Extrinsic rewards (as presumed by the theory of self-interest) lead to poor performance in every situation except where (a) the rules are clearly defined and (b) the outcome is known in advance.” ~ Joe Brewer, Cognitive Policy Works

The reason money as a reward leads to poor performance in most cases is because people are not one-dimensional.  We are multi-dimensional. We are motivated extrinsically, yes, but also intrinsically and transcendentally as well. How often have you heard someone say:

“There is more to life than just money.”

During the MBA we were taught to design carrot and stick incentive systems that forced the behaviour desired by Management. (And when I say Management, I mean Management as controlled by invisible shareholders, as well as an economic system that is held hostage by quarterly reports and forced into valuing short-sighted reactionaries higher than long-term visionaries … but I digress. Read “Is this Freedom?” for full version of digression)

My point is that within in the current economic system the majority of people cannot live up to their full potential because it is not in the best interest’s of Management to develop the gifts that are intrinsically and transcendentally inside of them. Daniel Pink sites Google as an example of a company that gives their employees 20% time.  This means one day a week individuals get to work on whatever they want. This has led to innovations such as gmail and many others.

I agree 20% time is a good start for existing companies. For entrepreneurs looking to start something new, I believe they should be launching businesses and designing business models that are fuelled by employee creativity and individuality 100% of the time. What I mean by this is  … don’t hire people into positions unless those positions are a reflection of who they are and what they are passionate about.  You will get more out of an employee if they’re more than motivated by just a paycheck.  If they believe in what you are doing and you are leveraging their strengths and gifts rather than forcing them to do what you want them to do then I believe Google type profits would easily be in your grasp.

The dead-weight and inefficiency I observed during my career was a function of people working solely for a paycheck. Businesses today need to create an environment that encourages people to explore, experiment and discover who they are. This will inspire people and the profits will come.  I guarantee it!

Time to Update our Economic System’s Innovation Assumption

In addition to an outdated motivation assumption, our economic system is driven by an outdated innovation assumption. Right now it is believed that innovation comes from individuals competing against other individuals. In my opinion, competition is a must in any system.

Unfortunately, when you separate it from collaboration and add manipulative marketing into the mix, what you end up with is useless innovation that adds no value to society. Yes jobs are created, but they are jobs for automatons and this leads to a world filled with depressed, dissatisfied, unhappy and unhealthy people because their work isn’t meaningful (watch for future post on my ideas for improving the healthcare system).

Pharmaceutical companies offer the perfect example of why this innovation assumption based solely on competition is outdated. Pharmaceutical companies spend more on how to cure erectile dysfunction than HIV/AIDS because the consumer for erectile dysfunction is rich and the main consumer for HIV/AIDS medication is poor.

Even more horrifying from a healthcare innovation perspective is that they also spend more money on marketing to manipulate people into buying their drugs than they do on Research & Development. There are those that believe the conflicted incentive system and complex patent system driving the healthcare industry have significantly delayed the discovery of cures for cancer and others (again … watch for future post on my ideas for improving the healthcare system).

The dynamics of the pharmaceutical industry prove that our economic system in its current state is not the best way to foster innovation that adds value to society and find solutions for the complex challenges we face. But they aren’t alone.

Our best and brightest minds are being lured to work at Proctor and Gamble in order to invent razors with 52 different blades or Goldman Sachs in order to use their intelligence to manipulate numbers and create money out of air. And who can blame them? We can’t all work at Google. Bottom line is …. Competition when separated from collaboration adds up to an economy that requires the printing of money to sustain itself.  Thank you China!

On the other side of the coin, the open source movement is challenging the theory of competition by developing excellent products and services using a collaborative approach. Rather than rewarding people with money, they tap into their internal desire to be a part of something larger than themselves.  Wikipedia is a good example of a pure open-sourced model that proved collaborators could also be innovators, but their model does face fund-raising challenges. This proves that collaboration on its own isn’t the path to the greatest innovation for society.

True innovation comes from the tension that is created when you are trying to compete and collaborate simultaneously.

If entrepreneurs could develop models that balanced competition with collaboration, the majority of innovation would be beneficial rather than harmful and useless. Think eBay. Trust is required for collaboration and trust flows through their competitive and highly successful model.

The Move from Job Creation to Wealth Creation

Our societal values have changed, but as with all systems business is slow to change. To accelerate the change I believe we need to actively challenge the system in its current state.

Capitalists use the one lone societal benefit of job creation as an excuse to maintain the status quo, but the jobs they have raced to create have left hidden a wealth of compassion and creativity inside the majority.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a capitalist and I have respect for the one-dimensional brilliance of Milton Friedman. I just believe that our system in its current state has served its historic purpose and is ready to evolve. It is great at creating jobs for the majority, but I believe it has the potential to create wealth and opportunities for all people. And I am not the only one.

The latest financial crash has created an amazing opportunity for new business models to emerge. More people than ever before are skeptical and starting to question the system in its current state. With the internet at our disposal we can connect these entrepreneurial-spirited people to create a movement to catalyze a sea change for business; a way of doing business that has rock solid values that are continually reinforced and strengthened by innovative business models … where the people whose blood, sweat and tears have gone into the business are empowered to make decisions … where creativity and passion are the fuel for the system, not money … where competition is held in check by never being separated from collaboration.

I had a quick grasp of the secret to sanity, it had become the ability to hold the maximum of impossible combinations in one’s mind. ~Norman Mailer

Let’s get sane! A sea change for business awaits. Humans are multi-dimensional and competition and collaboration aren’t mutually exclusive concepts.  If we tap into the hidden creativity that exists inside of everyone and then channel it into making the world a better place we can create opportunities for wealth and meaningful careers for all people.

The time for a focus on job creation has come to an end.

Wealth and meaningful careers for all people can be created by selfishly serving others.