Thursday, December 19, 2013

Positive Psychology & Motivational Interviewing

A brief look at two powerful frameworks for change: Positive Psychology and Motivational Interviewing

"We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise, which achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving individuals, families, and communities." -Martin Seligman & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Positive psychology is focused on making normal life more fulfilling by nurturing latent genius and talent. It focuses on the values, strengths, virtues, and talents of a client, and promotes them. It is a neuroscientific approach to understanding happiness. Through the humanistic lens pioneered by Maslow and Rogers, positive psychology explains development and motivation through hope, growth, and resilience.

The field has seen significant growth over the past twenty years, and it's field of research aligns with "purpose" driven life. "Mindfulness" psychology, and inquiry into a "meaningful life" have contributed greatly to the field of research.

Motivational Interviewing is "... a collaborative, person centered form of guiding to elicit and strengthen motivation for change."

The MI approach is:
  1. A conversation about change
  2. Collaborative, honoring autonomy - not experts delivering to recipients
  3. Evocative, calling forth an individual's own motivation and commitment

The 'spirit' of Motivational interviewing has three elements:
  1. Collaboration (vs. Confrontation) - the client is the "expert"
  2. Evocation (Drawing out, vs. imposing on)
  3. Autonomy (vs. Authority) - the power for change lies within the client

The guiding principles of Motivational Interviewing are:
  1. Express empathy
  2. Support self-efficacy
  3. Roll with resistance - avoid the righting reflex
  4. Develop discrepancy - gap analysis
I find the overlaps of these disciplines fascinating, am curious about their implications on emergent leadership and change management. Stay tuned!

Organizational Development: Polarities

"Improving organizations requires understanding them. Understanding anything as complex as modern organizations points to the importance of good theory. While this may sound academic to those who labor in the organizational trenches, good theories are pragmatic and grounded. They explain and predict. They serve as frameworks for making sense of the world around us, organizing diverse forms and sources of information, and taking informed action." - Joan Gallos

As I reflect on the learnings I've gleaned this year in Management and Organizational Leadership, I start with the obvious:
A plethora of tools, stakeholder analyses, asset maps, situational analyses, communication plans, project management plans and strategies, etc.
Theories to understand their application: Systems thinking, Morgan's organizational metaphors, Galbraith's Star Model, Hanna's Organizational Performance Model, Learning Organizations, Human Resource strategies etc.

All of these allow us to observe an organization through a particular lens. They give us a framework to look at the nuts and bolts of what's happening with an organization.

In a human metaphor, each tool gives us insight into particular aspects of any individual. We could study the structural skeleton of an individual, or their circulatory system. We might look at their cultural and anthropological history. If we're particularly adept, we seek to understand how each of these systems interacts with each other.

Every individual/organization is extremely unique. And at the same time, we are all of the same essence. Working with this polarity is fundamental to understanding universal truth.

Effective organizational development is founded in polarity management:
  • Horizontal or vertical growth
  • Parts or the whole
  • Conformity or creativity
  • Heuristic or algorithmic
  • Process or results
  • Feeling or thinking

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Change Management

The ability to manage change is critical to an organization's ability to thrive in a dynamic world. Often times, the need for change is reactive, discontinuous, and often triggered by existing organizational crises (Luecke, 2003). Given this tumultuous context, it's not surprising that 70-80% of all organizational change initiatives fail (Balogun & Hope, 2004).

This staggering factoid launched me into research around best practices for change management - of which there are hundreds of articles. Probably the most interesting article, was that compared several of the most prominent change management theories, those of Kotter, Kanter, and Luecke.

Immediately after diving into this content, I attended Hunter Lovins' and Kevin Wilhelm's seminar course on "Managing for Sustainability". Wilhelm has content specifically on change management and implementation; I was particularly impressed with these visuals.

Still feeling unsatisfied about practical strategies around change management, I asked the question, "Recognizing the importance of change management, and the importance of these frameworks - what's the missing element that drives success?"

According to Wilhelm, Lovins, and many other authors, there is no easy answer. No silver bullet.

So what's the tough answer?

I noticed a recurring theme around best practices. The theme of intuition, cultural engagement, relationships, and soft skills. Metrics rarely capture these themes effectively. It makes sense, if we only speak to half of our stakeholders brains(the numbers side), and don't effectively engage them fully, there's still a high chance that they won't change.

I'm reminded of the Education team project last year, where we researched the effectiveness of curriculum implementation in public school districts. Often times, school districts would attempt to adopt a new curriculum, not give the faculty the appropriate on boarding, and when metrics slipped, shifted to yet another new curriculum. They didn't give appropriate training, nor did they give it enough time. School districts became so obsessed with their metrics, they forgot to talk to their people.

This is also a common theme in business. I've heard over and over, "Our management keeps changing the rules, every six months there's a new "strategic initiative". We all just duck our heads and ignore it, waiting for the next change to come." Sound familiar?

One of Michael Porter's key pillars around strategy is Continuity. Stability is the core of strategy, strategy emerges and evolves, working with uncertainty.

What if we operated with three brains? Dr. Robert Cooper highlights some science that we're all intuitively aware of. We have three brains; Our head brain, our heart, and our gut. People who have worked with the enneagram may be familiar with this concept. For change management to be successful, we must both use all of our brains, and engage all of them as well. Change management around sustainability is a great place for this to happen.

As I begin my work in helping craft and communicate Seattle Children's Hospital's master strategic sustainability plan, I'll lay my foundation down in numbers. But my real work will be in the stories and relationships.


Balogun, J. Hope, H. Exploring Strategic Change, 2nd edition. London, Prentice Hall. 2004.

Cooper, R. The Other 90%: How to unlock your vast untapped potential for leadership and life. New York, NY. Three Rivers Press. 2001.

Luecke, R. Managing Change and Transition. Boston, MA. Harvard Business School Press. 2003.

Wilhelm, K. Making Sustainability Stick: The blueprint for implementation. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Education Inc. 2014.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Global Warming Language

When we talk about about global warming, what language are we speaking?

At BGI we learn a lot about effective communication. We learn the language of accounting, finance, marketing, strategy, and operations so we can make a business case for a new venture. How effectively we can tell a story truly impacts the outcomes we experience. We've learned specifically how to communicate aspects of the triple(or quadruple) bottom line. 

Effective communication depends on understanding your audience. Are we talking to investors, family, friends, or strangers? When we talk about climate change and global warming, what language is most effective? Science jargon? Business? "Layman's" terms?

When it comes the issue of global warming, it's imperative that the message is clear.

The Sightline Institute has been running a project entitled "Flashcards", designed to showcase effective communication tools using values-based strategies. In this post, I'll try to capture some key takeaways.
  1. Communicating the Science of Climate Change (Somerville & Hassol)
    1. Focus on what we know - Stop leading with caveats and disclaimers
    2. Start with the bottom line, then provide the details. 
    3. Use plain language that communicates the message you want
      1. "Theory" sounds like a 'hunch' or 'speculation': "Scientific understanding"
  2. A Guide for Engaging and Winning on Climate Change and Energy in America (Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions LLC.)
    1. Threat: Talk about extreme weather and protecting our kids: Value of Responsibility
    2. Solutions: Talk about American ingenuity: Value of Patriotic Pride
    3. Villains: Talk about fossil fuel stranglehold on government: Value of Accountability
  3. Two Rules for talking about Climate Change
    1. Talk about it. People love to talk about the weather. Not acknowledging climate change is irresponsible. 
    2. Keep it simple.
  4. Climate Change in the American Mind (Leiserowitz, Yale & George Mason University)
    1. There's also a great video to watch here: Bill Moyer's interview with Anthony Leiserowitz
    2. Identifying the audience (Six Americas)
      1. The Alarmed - 16%
      2. The Concerned - 29%
      3. The Cautious - 25%
      4. The Disengaged - 8%
      5. The Doubtful - 13%
      6. The Dismissive - 8%
    3. Simple message and make it personal(to your specific audience)
      1. Climate change is happening, and it's a big deal.
      2. It's personal - not partisan.
      3. There's hope!
  5. A Public Health Frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change(Nisbet, Maibach, et. al.)
    1. Comparative study of three frameworks:
      1. Environmental consequences - "Do it for the planet!"
      2. National security - "Fossil fuels = war!"
      3. Public health - "Keep our families safe!"
        1. Most likely to elicit emotional reactions with support for climate change mitigation and action
        2. Connects on a personal level

Now that we've been given some useful frameworks and tools around the language of global warming, let's use them.



Jill Bamburg, part of BGI's core faculty team, led a fascinating discussion around strategy at our final intensive of the year. The June 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review ignited the conversation as they published three articles oriented around the evolving world of strategy.

  • Transient Advantage: Achieving a sustainable competitive edge is nearly impossible these days A Playbook for strategy in a high velocity world
  • What Is the Theory of Your Firm: Focus less on competitive advantage and more on growth that creates value
  • The New Dynamics of Competition: An emerging science for modeling strategic moves
As technology has moved from waterfall implementation to MVP and Agile processes, companies that are most nimble are the ones succeeding. What sort of implications does this have for strategy? The argument is that as business evolves, so must strategy. 

I hold that perspective that good strategy includes evolution. I also appreciate my classmate Emily Kanter's stance on growth, and recognizing the cyclical nature of the world, also appreciates how businesses can exit the marketplace(Also a shout-out to Cameron Miller "To grow or not to grow"). In the HBR article "What is the Theory of Your Firm", they capture this concept well:
...To make matters worse, attempts to grow often undermine a company’s current market position. As Michael Porter, the leading proponent of strategy as positioning, has argued, “Efforts to grow blur uniqueness, create compromises, reduce fit, and ultimately undermine competitive advantage. In fact, the growth imperative is hazardous to strategy.” Quite simply, the logic of this perspective not only provides little guidance about how to sustain value creation but also discourages growth that might in any way move a company away from its current strategic position...
Aside from changing paradigms around growth strategies, this point illustrates to me how effective our old theories can be. Porter's theories around competition and strategy evolved around the concepts that "Zero-sum is ho-hum" and effective strategy requires working with uncertainty. To me this speaks to our conversation around Purpose in Business. 

John Boyd's OODA loop theory on strategy truly captures working within a dynamic environment. Moving quickly through this loop is essential to learning, and ultimately, surviving. Their are some powerful parallels between this theory on strategy, and how we move through our own lives. Boyd comes from a military background, where strategy in war truly determines the impact on human lives. Even the new theories on startup strategy, with Eric Ries and the lean startup embraces the OODA loop. The purpose of the minimum viable product(MVP) is primarily in moving through the loop quickly.

Good strategy lasts through the ages, whether it's Sun Tzu's Art of War or Musashi's Book of Five Rings, it comes down to the application of strategy.

What variables affect the application of strategy?

The largest barrier that I have seen, and which also resurfaced during our conversation, is the effective application of strategy in super-sized organizations. The bigger the ship, the harder it is to turn. This isn't an argument against growth or large organizations, it's simply the acknowledgment that more challenges around adaptability arise the larger an organization is. I wonder what implications organizational design theory has around this. Can we use fractal design processes to allow all elements of an organization change at once? What about biomimicry? There are countless examples of a cluster of organisms dynamically shifting together. Schools of fish that can turn on a dime, or insects who lead from the rear.

What opportunities do we have to allow effective application of strategy?

Patent Trolls or Goals?

"Congress shall have power...To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." - United States Constitution: Article 1.8.8.

How do we track how well we are "promoting progress" in the United States? How do we measure innovation? I might suggest that tracking patents could be a great measure of innovation. Unfortunately, patent law and the politics surrounding it are a mess right now. The White House just published a fascinating piece entitled "Taking on Patent Trolls to Protect American Innovation". They analyze the impacts of patent litigation on the economy and on innovation. Over the past 10 years, as technology has exploded(for better or worse), so have patent filings. In fact, the number of patent cases filed over the past decade has doubled, from around 2500 to 5000 since 2003. Impressively, "patent trolls" account for over 3000 of these cases, much more than the couple hundred they were 10 years ago.

Coincidentally(maybe?), This American Life broadcast a part-two on their story on patent trolls. Fascinating, as Intellectual Ventures - the local (Bellevue) company - is the star of the story, as well as a major player in the study shared by the White House.

I encourage everyone to hear Intellectual Ventures perspective as well, and draw your own conclusions. They have three pertinent articles:
I agree wholeheartedly that our current system of patent law is flawed, and that massive amounts of litigation don't inspire innovation. For me, it hinges upon intention. Are we rewarding innovation or just trying to make a buck?

Coming from the perspective of positive psychology, I offer a reframe to the discussion. How do we(as a society) go back to square one and "promote the progress of science and useful arts"? The top line in the White House's patent report executive summary says, "Some firms that own patents but do not make products with them play an important role in U.S. innovation ecosystem, for example by connecting manufacturers with inventors, thereby allowing inventors to focus on what they do best". 

What practices can we implement to encourage this type of behavior?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cost Structure & Revenue Streams

Costs  Revenues and Benefits 
(What you give) (What you get)
Hard costsNormal benefits
     Money      Money
     Time      Insurance
     Energy "Soft" benefits
"Soft" Costs      Increased satisfaction
     Sanity...      Social contribution...

This is the final entry for Business Model You! Interestingly, the book has the least amount of content around these parts of the canvas. 

The "Soft" parts of the above definition led me down a ridiculously long rabbit hole of research into soft-skills.

As part of a side project I'm working on involving "green staffing", soft-skills have come up over and over. As the research around this topic is pretty elaborate, I'm going to make this a two-part post. This week, I'm going to define soft-skills, and next week, I'll present my thoughts on why they are particularly important, and how to bring them to the table in business.

What are Soft Skills? <- Awesome link to the most comprehensive aggregation of information I've ever seen. and Wikipedia seem to agree, soft-skills are traits and interpersonal skills that characterize an individual's relationship with other people. Sociologists use the term EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) in parallel with soft-skills. 

The challenge with this definition is that "traits" and "interpersonal" skills feel ambiguous to many people; most people "get it" - they're just not sure what they're getting.

On the other hand, Hard Skills are easy to define. Here's Investopedia's definition.
 Specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured. By contrast, soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify... In business, hard skills most often refer to accounting and financial modeling.
How amusing is it that the 2nd sentence in their definition names the challenge of soft-skills?

In the blogosphere, Forbes, Fastco,, etc. there's a lot of disagreement on what the critical soft skills in business are. Here's my bulleted takeaway:

  •  Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking
    • Adaptability 
    • Organizational Learning
    • Creativity
  • Communication
    • Listening
    • Presenting
    • Story-telling
  • People Management
    • Conflict Management
    • Leadership 
    • Teamwork 
  • Self-Management
    • Emotional Awareness & Control
    • Resilience
    • Confidence
    • Professionalism

I would argue that BGI empowers students by developing soft skills(as well as understanding the languages of the hard skills), and students need help presenting those soft skills as a "tangible" asset. The hard data and research is out there, I'll link to it next week as I dig through it - just as there is a "business case for sustainability", there's also a "business case for soft-skills". 

I'd love some input for my content next week around soft-skills, please post your thoughts/questions! Thanks!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Customer Relationships & Channels

  • Customer Relationships - How You Interact
  • Channels - How They Know You/How You Deliver
This week, I brought in some outside help, Jo! So many of our conversations, particularly around modifying and changing behaviors have overlapped. It's fascinating to think about how some of the concepts we're learning in an MBA program, parallel with the scientific rigor of behavior therapy. Here's our edited and paraphrased conversation.

[Jo enters - stage left]
As a speech-language pathologist, my job is to analyze behavior and break it down into steps to be changed and shaped. This week, I was reading over Aric’s shoulder while he was looking at the Business Model You “Channels” component and I saw the “marketing process,” a series of five questions laying out how to define the conduit of information and products to customers:
  1. How will potential Customers discover how you can help them?
  2. How will they decide whether to buy your services?
  3. How will they buy it?
  4. How will you deliver what Customers buy?
  5. How will you follow-up to make sure Customers are happy?

I immediately thought, “oh, I know this, it’s the ABCs!” Not the alphabet song, mind you, but the chain of events surrounding human behavior that I examine every day: the antecedent (A), behavior (B), and consequence (C) of decisions that people make. These small actions are governed in large part by surprisingly simple rules, rules that are also surprisingly simple to influence.

So, let’s break it down, analyst style. The above questions target three steps in a behavior chain: what happens before the behavior, provoking or preventing its occurrence. This is called the antecedent and includes components of the environment or conditions such as where, when, who is involved.

Then, the behavior itself: the target behavior, it is called, the behavior that you want to change or modify. The crucial aspect of identifying the behavior is creating a definition of the behavior that is observable, measurable and specific.

Finally, what happens after the behavior: the consequence, which can either reinforce or increase the frequency of the behavior or punish and decrease the frequency of the behavior in the future.

Implementing changes in channels, then, becomes a scientific process instead of a guessing game. We manipulate the antecedents – the environment and conditions – and the consequences to change the behavior. Just like the behavior has to be specific, measurable  and observable, so too do the changes. Step back, look at the variables currently influencing behavior. Decide on a small change. Make one change at a time. Observe and record data. Measure outcomes. Repeat and refine as needed. Or, as Gerald J. Langley et al. say in their book The Improvement Guide, Plan-Study-Act-Do. They set out a systematic way to approach system changes that can be universally applied.

Many business problems have already been tackled and analyzed in this way, for example:

Being able to identify the decisions and choices we make can feel overwhelming. That creative tension I mentioned before - is easier to manage, when we can recognize that it's there. I'm reminded also of the LPD discussions around "Big Assumptions" - and how we try to live with them, and not "conquer' them... See you all at intensive! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Key Resources & Key Partners

  1. Key Resources
    1. Your Interests
    2. Your Abilities and Skills
    3. Personality and what you have.
  2. Key Partners
    1. Those who support you

There are a plethora of tools out their that help us identify our interests, strengths, abilities, and personalities. At first, I thought I might link and post about a variety of them; Meyers-Briggs Type Inventory, Enneagram, Strength Deployment Inventory, coaching sessions, surveys etc.

Amusingly, in my search for useful resources to share, I ended up watching yet another TED talk, by Martin Seligman. He introduces his research into the field of Positive Psychology. I found his talk fascinating, and ended up doing further research into his work, and was amused when his website, was oriented around "happiness."

Essentially, Positive Psychology is about using the science of Psychology to help people move forward, to build thriving and fulfilling lives, as opposed to treating deficits. It's a shift from the "disease model" to a generative model for health and well-being.

While perusing through the information around positive psychology, and looking for tools for identifying "Key Resources", I stumbled across a parallel and common theme, one I've tried to embrace for a while.

The more we understand the context of our strengths, we can understand our weaknesses as well, and knowledge of both of these, is power.

Harvard Business Review states, "In cross-training, the combination of two activities produces an improvement—an interaction effect—substantially greater than either one can produce on its own." For me, I've also applied the 80/20 rule and Pareto principle, to my own "strength training". 

In a not so surprising connection, Key Partnerships seemed to apply well within positive psychology as well. Early in the TED talk, Dr. Seligman suggests that social interaction is one of the most important indicators for health and happiness. For me, this is taken within the context, recognizing that we have many social networks. One of the first exercises around identifying Key Partnerships, is drafting a venn diagram/nested circles diagram on the people around us, and how they impact us. 

I think this exercise is particularly useful, just like doing a systems diagram. The more we understand the elements that surround a variable(ourselves), the stronger we can develop our opportunities for improving that system.

On a final note, Dr. Seligman is currently advocating for his concepts to be used in a similar fashion as Gross National Happiness. He argues that the capacity for citizens to fill fulfilled should drive governmental policy.  In an interview(likely paralleling our coursework next quarter- Means and Measures),  he says, the first step towards designing policy that aims to improve people's well being, is designing the appropriate measure, and that perhaps GDP isn't very effective.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


"Whatever a person's mind dwells on intensely and with firm resolve, that is exactly what they become." - Shankaracharya

This is most definitely an iterative process. I decided to start with the more intricate topic of "Purpose" for a variety of reasons:

  • Our recent Values exercise - and the fact that we're in "Values and Value Creation"; Should help fill in the Value Prop section.
  • Just got back from TEDxBGI, and the theme was, "Purpose", which seems to align with value prop somehow - although might align with the Business Model Canvas(BMC) as a whole...
  • I think it will require the most iteration, so better to start early!
To assist me, I'm going to use the following rubric as provided in the book. I'll also upload/post the exercises I'm using somehow, for readers to follow along with.

Value-Prop: "How you help." What benefits do Customers gain from me?
Customers: "Who you help." Who benefits from your actions? Who do you serve? Who depends on you?
Key-Activities: "What you do." What are the critical tasks you perform regularly, physical, mentally, or emotionally?

Purpose Statement:
"I value-prop(verb) customers(noun) by doing key-activities(verb)."
e.g. I heal families by providing counseling.

  1. Value Prop:
    1. Empower
    2. Support
    3. Inspire
    4. Love
  2. Customers 
    1. The disenfranchised
    2. People unaware of their own value
    3. Specialists
  3. Key-Activities
    1. Communicating
    2. Empathizing
    3. Holding diverse perspectives

What's on your list?

During Jill Bamburg's presentation at TEDxBGI, she offered that a company's end goal is actually "Purpose", not "Profit". 

When she offered this viewpoint, one that we hear often at BGI, I was reminded of an old RSA Animate featuring Daniel Pink. At around 7 minutes into the video, he begins to talk about volunteer think tanks, and why these highly qualified thinkers would offer their limited time to some "greater" cause. He argues that when people are driven by Purpose, they are truly able to achieve more. Jill, and several others during TEDxBGI, expanded on that, offering that when companies and organizations are driven by purpose, they truly achieve more.

This concept, reminds me of our school. It also reminds me of all of our CAIR's, e.g. Darcy Winslow and her contemporaries working together on the Academy for Systemic Change. Or Hunter Lovins and Donna Morton and the Unreasonable Institute.

Really, everything boils back down to "Why?". Why do you do it? 

Howard Thurman offers, "Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive...then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive".

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Business Model Me

This quarter, I'm orienting my learning blog around personal learning, and I will be going through the spin-off, "Business Model You". To keep things moderately entertaining, I'll also  try to integrate interesting ideas/tools for you to use.

In an effort to keep myself accountable to this task, I'm going to apply the Fogg Behavior Model.

My last blog post, "Changing Behaviors!", seems a perfect segue into a "New Years Resolution" type post.  I was semi-inspired to write this post because of a the YouTube Channel: PBS Idea Channel: "a PBS show that examines the connections between pop culture, technology, and art."  According to the show, New Years Resolutions have a success rate of about 12%. This is not due to a lack of willpower or discipline; It's in the creation of the New Years list. This is referencing the book, "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength" by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney. 
"Put the blame where it belongs, on the list. Noone has enough willpower to for that list". 

 This idea sounded extremely familiar, in fact, for any who enrolled in Brian Weller's: Ultimate Study Skills course, it's based on the same principle. Essentially, in our personal quests for improvement and learning, we often set expectations that are so high, they end up becoming a barrier to our own improvement.

The concept is this, we can utilize creative tension to grow and expand our boundaries. In fact, we perform at our best with this tension. However, if the boundary we are reaching for is too far away, the tension snaps, and no progress is made. 

Once we're able to set realistic expectations for ourselves, that still push our boundaries, we are more effectively able to embrace change. Instead of reaching immediately for our future vision, recognizing the steps that are required can be a beneficial strategy in reaching that future vision. 

We briefly looked at backcasting strategies last week, which provides an excellent example of incrementalizing procedural steps towards sustainability. 

In another fascinating parallel, in many behavior modification studies, they've found that most people increase their behaviors in incremental steps, as opposed to gradual adoption. 

In this great marketing strategy video BJ Fogg, Director of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, makes the argument that high motivation is not the most effective driver of behavior change; it's making things easy to do.

So, my realistic goals? Each week, I'll break down one section of the Business Model Canvas, write about how it relates to personal development, and provide at least one tool related to the content.

If any readers are interested in any behavior modification, or accountability to a New Year's Resolution, I will also commit to following up with them.

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