To a New Year of Dreams and Dreamers

Greetings. After a bit of a sabbatical from blogging, I am delighted to be back with a new sense of energy and focus about writing and business. In addition to dealing with a couple of pressing family matters, I have spent the past nine months continuing to think about the importance–or should I say the “necessity”–of strangers, the real keys to unlocking the genius that exists in everyone in our companies and organizations, and the value of stretching our thinking in order to live lives of meaning and make a real difference in the world around us. I have also been thinking about the value of dreams and why daring ourselves and those around us to dream is a vital ingredient in innovation and success.

As I begin to write a new book about how we can all discover and leverage our greatest abilities in today’s fast-paced economy, I am inspired by people from all different backgrounds and walks of life who dared to dream about what could be possible. The brothers Wright from Dayton, Ohio, who turned their skill as bicycle mechanics into a compelling passion for empowering humans to fly. Martine Rothblatt, a renowned telecommunications entrepreneur in Silver Spring, Maryland, who changed fields in the middle of a remarkable career in order to find a cure for her daughter’s seemingly incurable respiratory disease. In the process, she created one of America’s most successful biotech companies. Shahid Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan who bought a small auto parts supplier named Flex-N-Gate from his employer and through hard work, vision, and innovation turned it into a global company with more than 24,000 employees based in Warren, Michigan. It is worth noting that he is also the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League.

The list of people who dreamed about a different and better life and world is one of my favorite lists, and a constant inspiration to continue our work with our customers and in the local community. Work that we hope inspires people discover their own potential and imagine what is possible. Because it turns out that there are powerful and important dreams in all of us. Yet sadly, too many people lack the opportunity to make their dreams come true. People struggling to simply get by. People stuck in cities and towns that have been hit hardest by economic and technological change. People fleeing countries devastated by natural, economic, or political disasters. People discouraged from believing in themselves and their ideas. People who lack the financial resources or legal status to continue their educations in search of a better life.

Dreamers of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Dreamers with the promise to innovate and contribute in so many different ways if simply given the chance.

Throughout our history America has, at its best, been a place to hope and dream. Which makes it especially troubling to see how quickly we have changed our view of people, opportunity, immigrants, equality, and what is right. Throughout our history America has, at its best, been a place where anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules had a chance to make a meaningful life or even make it big. Which makes it especially troubling to see how quickly we have changed the rules to limit so many of our greatest assets from dreaming because of fear, ignorance, politics, or racism. Let’s hope that this is simply a blip–and a call to action–on the road to being more caring, enlightened, and prosperous. And let’s all commit during the year ahead, beginning with this week when we pause to honor the legacy of Dr. King, to dream dreams of kindness, innovation, and growth, and to support everyone among us who dreams of making a difference in our workplaces and communities.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15:  Dozens of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally outside of  Trump Tower along Fifth Avenue on August 15, 2017 in New York City. The activists were rallying on the five-year anniversary of President Obama's executive order, DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Security throughout the area is high with President Donald Trump in residency at the tower, his first visit back to his apartment since his inauguration. Numerous protests and extensive road closures are planned for the area.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

We succeed in business and in life when we dare to dream, and when we nurture the dreams in those around us.

Cheers!

New Insights on Innovation and Creativity

Greetings. Looking for new ideas and insights on innovation and creativity? If so, the “Innovation & Creativity Summit 2017” might be a valuable (and free) resource. Organized by UK consultant Nick Skillicorn, the Summit is a collection of 45 thoughtful conversations with global innovation leaders…each with their own unique perspective on how to unlock brilliant ideas and bring them to market successfully.

Let’s face it, innovation is essential if our companies and organizations are to remain vibrant and relevant. But it is also hard to do, especially in established companies and organizations. In fact, more than 90% of all new ideas fail. Not only that, recent studies have shown that most people do not consider themselves to be creative and that people are becoming less creative than they were only a couple of decades ago. Kind of a scary thought given all of the tools, resources, and technology at our disposal. But you and your colleagues can improve the odds of innovation success dramatically…or at least do a better job of picking opportunities…by understanding how the best ideas actually happen, how to rediscover your own innate creativity, and by learning from others who have cracked the code.

Here is a short introductory video that will give you a better sense of what the Summit is all about in case it might be of interest…

And in the interest of full disclosure, I am glad to say that I am part of this online event, and that I will be sharing some of my latest ideas on the necessity of strangers, the “99% rule,” and the power of exploring the world around us in order to discover new connections that can spark our best thinking.

In terms of logistics, the Summit will run from April 2nd to April 11th, and each of the 45 sessions will be available at no cost for three of those days. My session will be up and running (for free) from April 3rd through April 5th. And once you sign up, you will get a schedule with all of the sessions and topics. You will also have the option of purchasing unlimited access to all of the sessions until the end of time, or at least some date in the distant future, at what appears to be a pretty darn reasonable price. And if you decide to watch my session, I would welcome your feedback and your latest thinking about innovation as I am continually trying to get way smarter.

Cheers!

Curiosity – Vital to Businesses of All Sizes

Greetings. Last Thursday I had the pleasure of giving a relatively short presentation on innovation, curiosity, and the importance of strangers for the Small Business Network here in Maryland. The audience was an interesting and quite diverse group of business owners and potential entrepreneurs who were engaged, enthusiastic, and eager to gain some new ideas about how to deliver greater value and jumpstart their own success.

Needless to say, I was excited to share and exchange ideas about why the most successful companies are the ones that inspire all of their people to consistently take a fresh look at the world around them. I was also excited to challenge everyone to think about how their companies and organizations could be different in ways that really matter, and how they could consistently bring the best new ideas, products, services, solutions, and business practices to their customers. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practices that would make customers smarter, more capable, more effective, more efficient, more complete, more inspired, and more innovative themselves. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practices that would make their customer’s world more “awesome” to quote my favorite song from the original Lego movie. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practice that were most likely to be sparked by looking at the world around us with fresh eyes and by being curious about the wisdom and best practices of folks in other industries, other walks of life, other places, and even other cultures.

And as many of you have asked to see one of my talks, I thought you might find this one interesting and quick. It is just a bit more than 20 minutes…which is all the time they gave me. A constrain that forced me to be focused and probably talk a bit faster than I might normally.

In any event, I hope that you find it useful and (if you do) please feel free to share it with friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even strangers as I am continuing to spread the word, especially in these confusing times, about the essential value of outsiders in driving innovation and enhancing our ongoing success as individuals, organizations and nations…

Cheers!

To a New Year Filled With Success

Greetings. While it is hard to believe that 2017 is already here, the start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to reconnect and thank you for being part of the life of our company in 2016.

It also seems, in these less than certain times, like the perfect moment to start a new conversation about the importance, or rather the “necessity,” of being curious and open-minded in the year ahead—a year that will be filled with remarkable possibilities for innovation and growth if we are able to see the best in everyone around us.

In a world in which new ideas and business models are quickly changing our industries and organizations, we will all need to step outside our comfort zones in order to re-imagine how we can deliver greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. And the best way to do this is by being more open to the world around us and more willing to connect with, and learn from, people with different ideas, insights, backgrounds, and points of view.

2017 image

So here’s hoping that you and your colleagues will take the time to explore and connect with new people and new ways of thinking in the year ahead. And if you could use a little help in sparking a new conversation in your company or organization, please do not hesitate to ask.

But most importantly, giant thanks again for everything you have taught me during the past twelve months and best wishes for your most open and successful year yet!

Cheers,

Alan

The Power of Similarities and Differences

Greetings. In the two years since “The Necessity of Strangers” was published, I have been struck by the willingness of audiences around the U.S. and the world to embrace a simple and (I believe) important idea…

That our similarities are the glue that should bring us together, and our differences are the raw materials that should enable us to learn, grow, innovate, and do remarkable things.

But recent news, and the responses of some politicians to it, suggests that we still struggle to value and appreciate people who are different than us. People with different religions. People of different colors. People from different parts of the world. People of different generations. People with difference sexual orientations. People with different knowledge and training. People who look at the world, or at least some important aspect of it, with different understanding. Even though almost all of them wake up each day with same hopes, dreams, and fears that we have.

We seem programmed to hone in on differences as though they are way more essential or predictive of someone’s worth than our similarities.

But what if we were to focus on the essence of what makes others who they are? People who care deeply about family and community. People who are working hard to create a better life for their children and themselves. People who desire to make a positive difference and live lives of meaning. People who find joy in simple and important things. People who believe in finding the goodness in others. People who believe in a god (or gods) that is (are) just. The overwhelming majority of people who are a lot like us when we dare to be at our best.

So I was struck by the following video that our daughter Carly shared today titled “Meet a Muslim.” A video that strikes at the heart of what it means to be human. A video that is really about all of us and what is possible if we choose to look at others based first on what we have in common.

It turns out the biggest challenge facing all of our companies, organizations, and societies is not a lack of knowledge or expertise. It is a lack of openness to other people, their ideas, and their humanity. And a lack of appreciation for the necessity of strangers and the power of what we can accomplish together when we dare to think differently.

Cheers!