Society, Leadership, and Fear of the Establishment - David DeWolf

Society, Leadership, and Fear of the Establishment

As a rule of thumb, I stay away from discussing politics, religion, and other controversial topics in any public setting. Simply put, I am no expert on these matters and find that most of these discussions quickly erode into ideological venom.

The reason these discussions become so emotional is simple. Most of society seems to have aligned themselves to a political ideology. Rather than wrestling with individual issues, most folks seem to align themselves to the positions of a political body with whom they identify.

This makes open discourse nearly useless.

Despite my conviction to stay out of these conversations, I have become increasingly distraught by the growing, and very venomous, divide that they are causing.

Over the few months I have struggled to wrestle with these realities. I have felt drawn to enter the conversation and play a small part in leading our society back to common ground.

But I have found that underlying my desire to stay away from the public discourse has been a deep-rooted fear.

In a deeply polarized society, where folks feel a need to pick sides and fight for an ideology, the man who thinks for himself is not safe. He is the ultimate threat to the establishment.

I have been afraid to express my opinions. I am afraid of being ridiculed, of being targeted, and of being “taken down.”

This past week Pope Francis demonstrated what it means to be free, and, what it means lead. In releasing Laudato Si he was unafraid to speak truth and challenge the establishment. He broke from the societal norms. He spoke on a different plane than the political perspective we are so used to hearing.

Pope Francis wasn’t conservative or liberal. He wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He wrote as a free man. He found common ground with “both sides,” and he was unafraid to disagree with both.

Pope Francis led.

May the Lord give me the courage to follow the example of his humble servant, Pope Francis. May I learn to lead, learn to speak up when I’m compelled to do so, and learn to be so detached from the world that I am unafraid to be ridiculed, targeted, or even “taken down.”

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Remember Who You Are Called to Be - David DeWolf

Remember Who You Are Called to Be

A friend of mine has a saying that he uses to keep him grounded: “Remember where you came from.” Whenever he’s under pressure, on the defensive, or at his wit’s end, he reminds himself, and others, of their roots.

This little saying reminds my friend of his early years and the trials and tribulations he’s had to go through to make it in life. It puts things into perspective and challenges him to think back to his humble beginnings. It has undoubtedly helped my friend navigate difficult situations and has been a rallying cry that he uses to challenge others.

But while it’s a great reminder, this little saying also falls short. Our history is only one aspect of who we are and what we are to become. Even more important than our past is who God has made you to be.

I choose a different battle cry: “Remember who you are called to be.” This reminds me to pursue virtue. It challenges me to move forward and strive for something greater than what would come naturally.

By relying too heavily on our past, we can forget the lessons that we have learned and the blessings we’ve received.

The man who’s been blessed with success should not forget that he no longer needs to hoard.

The woman whose parents ran from debt collectors should strive to live within her means and deal with shortfalls head-on with the utmost integrity.

The man who grew up in an alcoholic family should not forget that there is a better way to deal with life’s pain.

Life, especially in times of high stress, is about perspective. It’s important to look back. But it’s also important to look forward. And most especially, to look up.

Remember where you came from and look critically at who you are. But spend most of your time thinking about who you are called to be. Challenge yourself to grow in virtue and become the best possible version of yourself.

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Why Silence is Golden: What I Learned from a Blogging Break - David DeWolf

Why Silence is Golden: What I Learned from a Blogging Break

For the past week, I stopped publishing blogs. I haven’t released a podcast. I haven’t posted anything new in the social sphere. I went dark. I fell silent. I went cold turkey.

Typically I try to keep a backlog of content to post. For months I have been at least one or two weeks ahead, but just recently my well ran dry. My focus on other priorities had eaten into my writing time.

Instead of panicking to pull together content for my typical Mon-Wed-Fri schedule, I decided to fall silent. I decided to use the time to gain perspective and wait until I was ready to restart the engines.

Here’s what I learned.

My blogging break reminded me that this blog doesn’t run my life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the status quo and forget that the processes and routines that we set up in our lives are there to serve us. Sometimes I get out of sorts with blogging. It becomes a requirement rather than a tool.

For me, blogging allows me to thoughtfully digest my life and process information. It also allows me to articulate what I’m thinking and get clear about what’s going on.

It also allows me to put myself out there and stretch my limits. It gives me a platform to reach others.

This break reminded me of that reality. It taught me that it’s OK to miss a week. My blog is not a chore to make my life miserable. It’s a tool to make my life richer.

It gave me an opportunity to think in new ways.

Blogging helps me process and think, but when it becomes a chore, it can steal time from the real thinking I should be doing.

One of my favorite times to write is when I’m on a plane. As my backlog of content reached empty, I found myself on a plane ride home from Australia. I was faced with a choice.

My first choice, and frankly, the comfortable preference, was to use the time to blog.  I had also committed to writing a training course on strategic thinking. I chose to follow through on my commitment and I wrote the entire training on that plane ride.

The 17 hours that I reclaimed from blogging enabled me to do some in-depth thinking. It allowed me to put together a thoughtful course that truly made a difference in others’ lives. It helped me to articulate something I’m passionate about in a deeper way. A blog never would have had me go that far into depth.

What routine are you in a rut on? Do you need to push pause and gain some perspective? Do you feel a need to always talk, post, or publish, or do you take the time to listen, digest and learn? Learn to live an integrated life with humble confidence. Get it Now Join the Discussion

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Software Innovation Product

Why the Product Services Sector is on the Verge of Irrelevance

Over the past several months the Product Development Services (PDS) sector has begun to head down a consolidation path that is pushing many within the sector towards their ultimate demise.

Until recently, the PDS sector has led the revolution of the IT Services space to a large degree. By focusing on the development of software products – those systems that touch customers and drive revenue – the sector has managed to deliver high value services and help companies navigate the transition towards the software based economy.

Because of this lead, investor interest in the sector has hit new highs. Large private equity funds and strategic acquirers are swarming, looking to capitalize on what is expected to be explosive growth throughout the next 3-4 years.

As mergers and acquisitions have begun, two strategies have emerged.

Financial Scale – the first group of acquirers seems to believe that reaching scale is essential. They are combining product development services companies in an effort to gain market share and claim “tier 1” status. Service Diversification – the second group of acquirers seem to value service diversification. They are combining product development services companies with digital agencies.

Challenges exist for both of these strategies.

Those seeking financial scale, in many cases, are combining commodity service provider with commodity service provider. Their pure focus on financial scale tips their bias towards towards the most mature portion of the sector — engineering and quality assurance capacity. While development and quality assurance are undoubtedly the core of the sector, isolated, pure play engineering and quality organizations fail to differentiate from the vast majority of “IT Services” organizations that provide development capacity.

On the other hand, those organizations seeking service diversification are seeking to combine engineering organizations with digital agencies. This is the technical equivalent of combining oil and water. The two cultures simply don’t mix. Industry stalwart GlobalLogic attempted this strategy in 2011 with their acquisition of Method. By all accounts, the company has failed to find a way to integrate the two organizations and realize the leverage the acquisition contemplated.

So what is the right strategy?

Ironically, the Product Development Services sector has overlooked the importance of Product and has become drunk on revenue and enamored with social media and sexy designs. In the process, they are failing to deliver differentiated value and the innovation that the sector truly needs.

A recent report released by Forrester, “Wanted: Digital Engagement Providers”, outlines how five types of firms – digital agencies, management consultancies, mobile boutiques, systems integrators and telecom – are competing with product development firms to own the digital transformation market.

It’s clear that in order to thrive in the digital transformation market, Product Development Services companies must differentiate by providing exceptional Product Lifecycle Management. They must excel at innovation, build a strong product culture, and deliver product results, not just software.

The leading organizations will build a strong product management and customer experience practices that are fully integrated with their engineering discipline. They will deploy lean product methods to go with their agile software development methodologies and will be prepared to mentor clients through the process of becoming a product organization.

The product organizations that do this will not look like yesterday’s IT Services organizations. Their culture, their business models and the way they scale will all be different. This is primarily because product development success is reliant on more than technical capabilities. True innovation and product development success requires a product culture (see the recent research published at

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Meeting table

Choosing the Right Board Members

Building our board early was one of the two or three things I did that turned 3Pillar into an actual business. Because I get asked a lot about building boards, I wrote about five methods for optimizing your boardroom.

However, a recent email made me think of some additional points to add, especially as it relates to building a board as a first-time CEO and choosing the right people.

Bootstrap your board before you expand your board

As you begin to build your board, limit the size. Start by adding two external board members for the first few meetings. Establish a rhythm of communication.  Develop a standard meeting agenda. And learn how to leverage external board members.

The bottom line – learn how to manage and leverage a board before you add too many people.

Find the right people not the big names.

More than anything, you want folks that you can lean on to help navigate the waters of entrepreneurship and leadership. People that can help you scale. Look for people with experience that you respect and can learn from. Take your time to find the right ones, not the names.

One might be a serial entrepreneur that has been through this phase of business before. One might be a product technologist that excels at technology innovation, lean startups, and pivots. Another might be an active industry executive who knows your field very well (or a directly very adjacent one) and can provide insights into where it the current state. Perhaps an experienced marketer would be helpful.

Choose people who will collaborate together.

Sit down, think through the board table and the expertise that would be beneficial to you as a CEO. And then, when you’re choosing members, make sure to pick people who will collaborate well together (not always agree with each other, but collaborate together).

Board make up is essential. It can speed you up, or, it can slow you down. Take the time to put together tie right board, not just a board. Make sure that it becomes an accelerator, not a drag.

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Business relationship

Is empathy enough to create strong business relationships?

Several years ago, 3Pillar inherited several clients through acquisition. Much to the credit of the previous ownership, many of these clients had strong personal relationships with the founders of the firm we acquired. Unfortunately, we eventually learned that a couple of these relationships were built, almost exclusively, on the basis of the personal relationship. The business relationship was more about helping each other out than it was about a strong value proposition.

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