We Heart You

February 14th, 2012

From Dossier, with love

Up, Down, and Sideways

From all of us at Dossier, we wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

We hope that instead of this day being the only day to show love, that we all challenge ourselves to let it be the beginning of a culture of giving generously, selflessly, and courageously.

Valentine Eyes

February 14th, 2011


British philosopher, Alan Watts said,

“the loss of paradoxical thinking is the great blindness of our civilization”

A paradox is something that initially appears to be inconsistent or contradictory, but might not be a contradiction at all inside of a different frame or seen with a different eye (from the Naked Now by Richard Rohr)

So we must learn to accept paradoxes, or we will never love anything or see it correctly.
A Loveless World is a Sightless World…..


February 3rd, 2011

Any parent of a teenager today can likely relate to receiving their fair share of absurd text messages making pleas for rides, food and money. Some of them are so ridiculous and humorous that I’ve started to collect them for future laughs…maybe a wedding roast in the distant future. But last night, I received one of those texts from my 20 year old son on his way home from university which jolted me from my usual end of the day fatigue. Here it is:

I think u should buy me a

new scarf. Because I just

gave mine to a homeless


Shamefully, he does not come by this nature from his parents. I went to university in the self-absorbed 80’s: my degree was about making money, and my public speaking event was entitled “Yuppies”. In contrast to my son, my modus operandi as a boomer university student was to see how many homeless people I could avoid eye contact with.

Today the university landscape and the student mindset is much different. Social innovation, sustainability and design thinking are beginning to weave into many faculties. My son attends one of few undergraduate programs in North America where he’s taught design and design thinking curricula mixed with math, english,  computer programming and the typical Bacheolor of Arts and Science subjects. As a parent, the massive difference I’ve observed in his program at SFU (SIAT) in  one word is – openness. Not just openness in the typical liberal minded, cerebral meaning; but openness to feeling, seeing, collaboration and most importantly, openness to respond. As a design firm owner, it’s super encouraging to see the combination of social innovation and design thinking being embraced at our universities. But as exciting as it is to witness this shifting emphasis  and what it means for this new generation, it’s even more incredible  to see it at the level of individual response – especially when it hits home.

To check out some of this new thinking at universities, here’s a couple of upcoming webinars:

Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Management at UofT: Free Webinar Feb 10, 2011 on Design Thinking: The Next Competitive Advantage


Stanford Social Innovation Review & IDEO: Webinar Feb 10, 2011 on Design Thinking for Social Innovation


Acupuncture for the world

January 24th, 2011


I don’t know much about acupuncture, but when I heard David Green use this analogy recently, my interest was piqued. Speaking on the topic of Social Innovation and Finance, he was basically suggesting that the world’s capital markets are out of alignment, with too much energy being channelled in some places, and too little elsewhere. The challenge, he suggests, is to ‘humanise capitalism’ – to use the power of the market for social good, and not simply to bolster shareholder profits. David outlined his own experiences of doing just that as he has sought ways to produce, distribute and service high-quality, affordable health-care products for people in the developing world.

I say ‘experiences’ because he has done this on numerous occasions, with more plans underway. Perhaps his most striking success to date has been working in partnership with Aravind Eye Hospital, India, where he and his company, Aurolab, have succeeded in making cataract surgery and eye care products available to all. By taking an innovative look at the production and distribution of intra-ocular lenses, he has reduced the cost from $160 per pair, to less than $2, while maintaining the highest international standards on quality. His success has led to increased competition, driving the costs down still further. For the world’s poorest, however, even this would be beyond reach. Which is why approximately 1/3 of Aravind’s patients receive treatment free of charge; a further third pay a proportion of the true cost; while the final third pay more than the actual cost. In this way, Aurolab have succeeded in completing more than 3 million surgeries to date, with annual profits exceeding $8 million.

There’s much that’s impressive about this story, not least of which is the capacity for smart business thinking to really serve the world’s poor in a way that is profitable and hence sustainable. What impacted me most, however, was the realization that ordinary people really can make a difference. The challenges can be so overwhelming at times that we falter before we begin. But David was just an ordinary guy making a difference, one innovation at a time.

David is an Ashoka fellow, and you can read more about him herehttp://www.ashoka.org/node/3146; he spoke in conjunction with other excellent speakers Vickie Cammack (CEO of Tyze), Stuart Yasgur (Ashoka Managing Director) and Tim Draimin (SiG Executive Director) – for more info see http://bit.ly/eeKTlQ

Glad, generous giver seeks grateful receiver

December 22nd, 2010

The joy of gift giving can be overshadowed at this time of year by the thought of busy shops, frustrated shoppers, and a world that’s falling apart due to the unremitting demands of human consumption. I find myself caught between the desire to be generous, and the impulse to opt out of consumer culture and its false promises. Thinking about this, I came across a quote recently from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English mystic. She (don’t be fooled by her name) reminded me that the joy of gift giving is not found primarily in the gift itself, but in the relationship that exists between giver and receiver. She has in mind a more profound gift than any will we give this Christmas – the gift of life itself – but it seemed appropriate nonetheless:

A glad giver pays little attention to the thing he is giving, but his whole desire and intention is to please and comfort the one to whom he gives it; and if the receiver values the gift highly and takes it gratefully, then the generous giver thinks nothing of all the hardship and the price he had to pay, because of the joy and delight that he feels at having pleased and comforted the one he loves.

Debt of Love

December 17th, 2010

Isn’t it interesting that the week before Christmas as many of us are blindly slapping down our credit cards, that Bank of Canada Governor, Mark Carney, has some stern warnings for Canadians about our ballooning consumer debt. While Carney sounds the alarm in hopes of convincing us of our dire financial state before we rack up even more debt before Christmas, one does have to wonder how we’ve gotten here? Is it really simply due to low interest rates and ease of credit? Or has something more fundamental happened to our thinking? And how is it that Christmas has become synonymous with debt?

I’m reminded of another warning made two thousand years ago to the people of Rome on the topic of responsible citizenship: ‘Pay your taxes, pay your bills…don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other’.

Funny that this passage precedes one of the most famous quotes of all time… ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Seems that the latter was the stickier message over history. Perhaps it’s time to stitch the messaging back together and realize that loving your neighbour as yourself involves paying the debt of love we owe each other, not running up debts.

Who’s Making an Impact?

December 10th, 2010


At this time of year, many of us will compliment our own feasting and gift-giving with small gestures towards those less fortunate than ourselves; perhaps contributing to office collections, or donating food hampers for families in need. What a great way to ‘make an impact’, and think – and act – outside of ourselves. Sometimes I wonder though, who really impacts who? Don’t get me wrong – it’s appropriate that we should help those who’ve lost their footing in a society designed to benefit the rich. But it struck me this week that often it is precisely these people to whom we seem to have so much to give, who in fact might have even more to give to us.

I was on my way in to work on public transit through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I’d had a tricky weekend with moments of frustrating relational conflict; and was heading in to some urgent tasks that should have been undertaken many days earlier. It was not one of my best Monday mornings! Just as I was trying to jolt myself out of my malaise, a precious woman with whom I’d previously exchanged brief pleasantries, got on the bus. Immediately upon seeing me, her face lit up and she exclaimed loudly to everyone on the bus, ‘I recognise that face,’ and we entered in to conversation. I asked how she was, and she said she was well, and launched in to a story about her father who had come through serious surgery, and the son who had saved his life twice and of whom she was very proud.

This lady, apparently ‘in need’ in so many ways, had the most extraordinary impact on me. She was pleased to see me, and I her. From a place of vulnerability, she shared her great delight in the important things in life – of family, and good health. As she did so, I realised that we are not so different after all. For a few brief moments, we shared our common humanity – me on my way to the studio; she on her way to a government-run program. She reminded me of the importance of relationships. She reminded me of what it means to love.

Jack Welch on Saying What you Believe

September 7th, 2010

Another recent takeaway I learned from Jack in his interview on leadership was his unique perspective on candor… my interpretation, ‘openness on steroids’. Jack explained the importance of candor in an organization and that companies must do everything to stop the ‘meeting after the meeting’ syndrome… you gotta love that! He advised that this is so destructive and acidic that you must do everything to make this an unacceptable policy in your organization.

While it’s not easy to speak one’s mind – as Jack further explains in his bestselling book Winning, he points out that philosophers argue that not being open is actually about self interest (self love) more than not wanting to hurt others. So an interesting thought might be that a little more candor, a little more openness and a few more wide eyed discussions in business organizations… could enhance our collective ‘seeing’, result in more clarity and a little self love (self preservation instincts).

Jack Welsh on a Love Gene

September 1st, 2010


I recently attended a leadership conference where Jack Welch (former GE chairman and CEO) was asked to describe top people… i.e. top leaders.

In Jack’s characteristically unique style, he answered ‘they have a gene which says’

…I love to see people grow

He went on to explain that while they also have good values, energy and can excite people, most of all they celebrate their people. Top leaders have a generosity of spirit – they’re not mean spirited or stingy, they don’t have a lot of envy, and they celebrate others’ successes.

Well said, Jack.

Love Begins at Home. Part II

August 26th, 2010

Further to the notion of Love Begins at Home… there is a troubling stat – 29% of our nation’s home experience domestic violence.

Just this month a female chief of police in Ontario shockingly went public that she herself is a currently a victim of domestic violence.

There are groups and scholars working on this issue and on exposure and education. Blatantly, more must be done. My design team is currently working with one such group, and so I will continue to post on this subject.