The Hedgehogs' Dilemma

The Hedgehog’s Dilemma is a metaphor for the problems we have developing relationships. Look around our professional and personal lives; examples are everywhere.  My friend and colleague, Ian Gonsher, uses design thinking to solve the dilemma with applications for humans of all ages.  I bet you can think of ways to make it apply to you – at work and elsewhere.

HedgeHog's Dilemma by Ian Gonsher


Mills-Scofield, LLC

Ian Gonsher does research and teaches at Brown University focused on the design process and creative practice, including Design Studio and Entrepreneurship Engineering Design projects in the School of Engineering and Designing Humanity-Centered Robots in Computer Science with Michael Littman where Legos are prototyping tools.  Ian was instrumental in the development and expansion of Brown Design Workshop and several cross-disciplinary projects spanning the humanities, sciences, Medical School and RISD such as The Creative Scholar’s Project and the Creative Mind Initiative.  Some of his very cool projects have been in Make Magazine, he’s been published in Harvard Business Review and is the co-founder of Critical Designs-Critical Futures on how design thinking and activism can spur social innovation.

Digital TMI: The Killer of Your Second First Impression

This is a guest post by Mark Babbitt, who I just spent 3 days with at #BIF10, who also founded YouTern, one ofTHE best sites for career info. Read, enjoy and apply!!!! And get his book (with Ted Coiné) "A World Gone Social".

You are a Social Age job seeker. A digital native.

Your value proposition is clear. Your resume is immaculate; the LinkedIn Profile: perfect. Your cover letter could have been written by Shakespeare (well, except for the use of “thou” and “leadeth”). Based on these points alone, every recruiter in the universe should want to interview you.

So why aren’t you getting any calls?

We all know it’s important to make a good first impression. Few, however – despite all the advice to the contrary – have grasped the importance of passing another test: the “Second First Impression”.

As we discuss at length in A World Gone Social: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – even Instagram and Pinterest and the very blog you created to showcase your talent – are being thoroughly reviewed by recruiters, hiring managers and HR.

What you may still not know is: these filters are engaged long before the recruiter contacts you. You will never know you were ever seriously considered; you’ll never receive any feedback.

Just silence.

Sadly only 50% of entry-level talent will make the cut. Not due to those red solo cup pictures. And not because you are human and like to have fun once in a while. Except for the social puritans, most recruiters, when they see this stuff, think, “Who doesn’t like to have fun?”

No, those candidates that go from “Wow, this candidate looks really good” to “Um, no… Next!” fail due to one problem: Digital TMI.

Most recruiters define the digital version of TMI as any tweet or post that includes:

  • References to excessive partying or illegal drug use (or the after-effects)
  • A post that portrays you as an immature high school student (including remarks of a sexual nature)
  • Racially-motivated comments (even when directed at your own race)
  • Content that denigrates either gender (and “jk” and “lol” does not make this okay)
  • Excessive swearing (only the hottest celebrities and most successful bloggers can pull that off)
  • Any negative comment about your previous employers
  • Entries that display a lack of passion at work (including the all-too-common and innocent-enough sounding “God, I can’t wait for Friday!”)
  • Public venting just to make yourself feel better
  • Excessive whining, troll statements or diva-like comments
  • Victim statements of any kind

Depending on the recruiter, you may get away with one or two of these TMI mistakes. In the long run, however, recruiters are ultimately looking for someone who not only meets minimum qualifications –  but is also a fit for the company culture.

And a party-animal whiner who never chose to grow up and then blames everyone else for their insensitive outlook on life is typically NOT a good fit.

(Okay, that’s a harsh example – although I would submit that those entering the workforce leave recruiters with this impression far too often.)

Self-assess your current online brand. Work just as hard on that as you did your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter. Then take a look at the culture of the companies where you’ll be submitting an application, and ask yourself:

Would my current online presence create a positive “second first impression”?

The original version of this post was published on January 25, 2013 on by Mark Babbitt.


Mark Babbitt is the CEO and Founder of YouTern, a talent community that enables college students, recent graduates and young careerists to become highly employable by connecting them to high-impact internships, mentors and contemporary career advice. Mark has been featured as a keynote speaker and workshop director by the Tiger Woods Foundation, Smithsonian Institute and National Association of Colleges and Employers. He is an in-demand speaker at colleges and fraternities, including UCLA, the California State University system, New York University, Delta Sigma Pi and Alpha Kappa Psi.

Together with Ted Coiné, they will be releasing their book A World Gone Social on September 22, 2014.


Does the "Practice Mastery" Rule Apply to Trust?

Yes! Thank you Barbara Kimmel for sharing some of my chapter in Trust Inc! 

"Deb Mills-Scofield shows how Menasha Packaging Corp proved “You Can’t Take 164 Years of Trust for Granted.

Menasha Packaging Corp (MPC), a 164 year old, 6th generation family business, has grown from making wooden pails in 1849 to a design-oriented packaging company that today delights customers, employees and their communities with over $1 billion in revenue.  How? By leveraging their culture of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and autonomy based on trust and faith in each other..." Read more...

Trust Inc. to be Released November 1st!

Very humbled and honored to contribute to the new book Trust Inc., edited by Barbara Brooks Kimmel.  This book is a collection of essays by internationally known thought leaders on leadership and trust...and then me! I share the story of one of my incredible clients, Menasha Packaging, who epitomizes integrity, character and trust in all they do.  Please order it - read it, share it, but most importantly, live it!!!

Respect, Power & Knowledge

In watching the debate, if it can be called that, last night, 3 things hit me – Respect (or lack thereof), Power (or illusion of) and Knowledge (or lack thereof).

Respect & Civility:  Throughout the presidential, vice presidential and even the Ohio senate race debates, the candidates have shown little to no respect for each other, for the moderator and for the audience.  They talk over each other, ignore time limits, and answer the question they wish had been asked instead of the one that was asked.  Where has common decent civility gone? The abject rudeness and disregard for another’s opinion and time is horrendous.  If we want this behavior to change, it has to change with us first.  So…

What are we like in our own organization? How do we really treat each other, not how do we think we treat each other?  At your next conversation or meeting, observe your behavior and those with whom you interacting.  Try asking yourself:

  • Am I really listening to what the others have to say or am I preparing my response as they talk (the ‘pre-emptive’ strike)?
  • Did I show up on time (e.g., a few minutes early) and what does that say about how I view the others’ time, hence worthiness and importance?
  • What tone of voice am I using? Do I undermine what I say by how I say it?
  • If my kids behaved like me, what would I do?

Power:  Obama and Romney talk about what they are going to do, without many specifics, as if it were all in their control.  They are going to reduce the deficit, change the budget, cut taxes, increase taxes, send aid, change trade treaties, etc. etc.  Last night, my 15 & 12 year old children asked me how the candidates can say all that when they don’t have the power to do it – when it’s really congress’s power to set the budget, legislate, ratify treaties etc.   While the president can influence these decisions, in essence, he is  ‘powerless’ given the constitution (which demonstrates the power of influence).   This is why our votes for the House and Senate are so critical.  Many of us have confused the roles and responsibilities of the executive, legislative and judicial branches – and so have those in those branches!  So…

In your organization, take a look and see if you’ve given those with the responsibility the actual power and authority to be responsible.   Have you empowered teams to actually accomplish their objectives? Do you hold people accountable for things they cannot control or direct? When you give someone the “power” without the tools and teams to make it real, frustration and anxiety increase which decreases morale, productivity and of course passion.  Would you want to be in that position?

Knowledge:  It’s virtually impossible to sift the fact from fiction between the candidates and facts can be in the eye of the beholder - context matters.  Few U.S. citizens do as much due diligence into the candidates they vote for as they do into the new TV, smartphone or car they will buy.  Part of this has to do with lack of interest, lack of understanding of the ramifications, and lack of education – and I don’t mean K-12 or college.  I mean lack of true education of what it means to be a citizen of the U.S.A. and our responsibility to maintain our freedom.  Thomas Jefferson wisely stated, “An educated citizenry is a vital request for our survival as a free people.”  We risk losing our freedom by abdicating our role to the politicians to decide for us.  So…

In your organization, do you provide, educate, train, and teach your people the knowledge they need to really do their job? To understand and embrace the mission and purpose? To identify with your customers’ issues and challenges that you are trying to solve? Do you view them as “career-long learners” who want and need continuing education on matters directly and indirectly relevant to their responsibilities, now and in the future?  Do you have an educated ‘citizenry’ of employees who can do their jobs and delight your customers excellently?

Let me challenge you this election season to not only go vote – our duty and our incredible right - but to look at your organization and assess how you are doing in supporting and encouraging it’s Respect, Power and Knowledge.  Be grateful for our rare and incredible freedom – and give that to your people as well.