The future is trust

I had the chance to attend Startupfest in Montreal last week and I have to say that it was truly a world-class event.  They turned Parc Jean Drapeau into a business festival, complete with tents chock-full of incredible and diverse speakers, booths representing companies and places from across the world and a food truck alley.

My biggest take-away was the number of times I heard people talk about trust.  Often, when we hear about business in the media, we hear about mistrust – about people being taken advantage of, or, profits at all costs.

It seems to me like the new era business is focused on trust.  A few nuggets of wisdom I managed to capture:

  • ‘Trust is critical in influence’.  – Amber Mac (technology influencer)
  • ‘You’re always selling trust’. – Laura Behrens Wu (CEO, Shippo)

The businesses of the future – the ones who succeed – know that trust is their greatest asset.  If people don’t trust you, they won’t come back for repeat business.  If you’re not worried about repeat business, then it might be referrals.  Either way, trust is critical to your bottom line.  The Coveys have known this for a long time: Speed of Trust.

More than 20 years later

On Monday, I had the chance to talk to the Galifax Summer Camp about Amplify, feminism and power posing (sharing Amy Cuddy’s science).

We opened with a great discussion on their impression of feminism.  I asked them what feminism meant to them, leading into the messages they’ve received – whether directly or indirectly – about being a girl.

I was so impressed by how articulate they all were, and what they had to say on the topic.  They all had a pretty deep understanding about the messages girls receive because it’s such a lived experience – the messages have been received since before being born.  I was struck by the fact that the messages they told me about were the same ones I had received when I was their age – more than 20 YEARS AGO.

Things like: girls don’t excel at sports (Serena Williams, anyone?!), that they shouldn’t play video games (here’s a great article on the video game industry waking up to the lack of women – gave me shivers, actually), that their priorities should be taking care of children, and that they should identify with pink and not blue (so arbitrary).

20 years later, and those messages are still being sent out.  This is why we need feminism and why we NEED to talk about gender representation (and more importantly, about intersectionality).  It’s also why we need to talk about it with boys and men too – so that we can all move towards a future where we’re free to be ourselves.

I hope I can reflect on this in 2038 and look back on all of the progress we’ve made. One step at a time.


Amplified Galifax.jpg Me, power posing at Galifax.  They practiced afterwards and rocked it.

What happens on a bus

I spent 15 hours on a bus yesterday to get from Moncton to Montreal. That is a LONG ride.

It wasn’t your usual bus though – there were 36 of us from across the maritimes interested in innovation and business all on our way to Startupfest. People are investing in us to come here – both a privilege and a responsibility.

We’re all at different stages of our journeys and at different stages of our lives, though there’s a certain magic when you find yourself in a group of like-minded people.

Curating a group of like-minded people is magic. It’s also surprising how, with the right ingredients, people can connect so quickly. I’ve had the opportunity to experience this a few times in my life so far: with 21inc – a leadership accelerator in Atlantic Canada where we spent a WEEK on a bus together, which was amazing – on this bus to Startupfest, and in an online fellowship program I’m currently participating in (no bus required).

There’s magic of finding your tribe, and a magic in realizing that each of us has more than 1 tribe to find or build.

The bus isn’t the magic part of the equation here. The tribe is.

If it’s not a supply problem… is it a demand problem?

Amplify‘s tagline so far has been ‘because remarkable women aren’t a supply problem’. So does this mean it’s a demand problem?

Hidden in our mindsets which shape our language are the ways that we’ve constructed manhood and womanhood. That women aren’t ‘demanded’ (asked, encouraged, told from a young age, etc) to run for the highest political offices around the world is a threat to all of us.

It’s a threat because, with the rise of the #MeToo reckoning, we’ve also seen the rise of the anti-#MeToo movement – the one that’s always been there, persistently telling women to just ‘stop being so hysterical, just calm down’.  With the President of the United States openly mocking the #MeToo movement, it can feel at times that equity is a long ways away.

There are places in this world where women aren’t even considered people – where they are told from birth that they don’t have thoughts unless a man tells them what to think. This is argued as biology, when we’ve shown that in fact, it’s not a biological fact at all.  It’s a story.  It seems like the battle for the last bit of this decade will be the battle of facts and truths vs. fake news and propaganda.  And it’s important to note that facts, truths, fake news and propaganda all come to us via stories.  It’s just a matter of determining which stories we want to buy into.

Look at Malala and what she’s been able to accomplish – from a Nobel peace prize, to significant influence around the world – and who has always stood behind her, telling her that she was just as capable as any man? Her father. Because he knows stories HAVE to change – he started by changing his daughters story about what was possible, even when the world around her told her that she didn’t matter. Our stories, institutions, and organizations – and the people in them and running them – matter a great deal.

Hollywood has been working to change the conversation on this, and while I like the occasional celebrity gossip, I’ve never followed Hollywood so closely until this past fall.

At Cannes this year, 82 women staged a protest representing each of the 82 female directors who’ve been in competition in Cannes’s 71-year history—compared to the 1,688 men (that’s less than 5%). I’m not quite sure how we can say equity NOT a demand problem.  Are there really no women directors out there?  Hard to believe.  So, it seems as though in many arenas, supply has not been the issue.  And if it’s not a supply problem, then perhaps demand might be the source of the issue.

Equity is a demand problem in the sense that women’s accomplishments can be invisible – because of where the balance of power sits. (And I don’t think this is only true re gender – we’re seeing the same type of thing playing out right now in the US in regard to race)

The Harvey Weinsteins / Bill Cosbys / Jian Ghomeshis of the world were able to get away with what they did for years ‘because that’s the way it’s always been’. This is shocking and yet, not shocking all at the same time.  Shocking because it’s now visible after years and year and years of abuse.  Not shocking because we all let it happen because it part of the stories we told ourselves about how the world works.

It’s only been 100 years in Canada that women have been able to vote – aka, be considered people under the law. And relatedly – own property, control their finances, and most importantly, control their bodies (still not fully resolved). Our institutions, organizations and the people who run them matter a great deal. Changing our stories is MONUMENTAL and, I think, the hardest part.