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!

Learning from Trolls

Greetings. This month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tove Jansson, the Swedish-speaking Finnish author, artist, and creator of the wonderful and popular Moomin books. Books that have delighted children and adults in Europe and around the world with their whimsical and profound tales of a family of hippopotamus-looking creatures (a.k.a., Moominmamma, Moominpappa, and Moomintroll) whose lives are filled with remarkable adventures and quirky and colorful friends like Snufkin, Snork Maiden, Sniff, Too-Ticky, and Little My. Adventures and quirks that in their fantasy world turn out to be spot on in giving us a window to our own very human inclinations and the keys to unlocking our full potential.

While her books never received as much attention here in the U.S., Tove Jansson has created a real gift for kids and adults of all ages. And they are a joyful and powerful resource in our efforts to grow as individuals and even organizations. (Not that most of you would consider reading a children’s book at work.)

At the heart of her stories is an abiding belief in the importance of family, the value of friendship and friends who are different than us, the necessity of being yourself in a world that too often rewards conformity, and the simple joy and value of being adventurous. Ideas and themes that have great meaning for all of us. And I might suggest that you find the time to read at least one of her books with your own family or co-workers then challenge yourself to think about how you might create even more compelling results by:

  • Building stronger relationships…
  • Broadening your circle of quirky friends and colleagues…
  • Inspiring those around you to be themselves…and
  • Stepping outside your comfort zones to seek adventure…

 

Moomin_kuva

We win in business and in life when we find wisdom in the world of fantasy. And when we take the time to appreciate the things that matter most.

Cheers!

The Genius of Maya Angelou

Greetings. Maya Angelou was a remarkable gift to all of us. A woman whose early life was filled with adversity, she would become not only a renowned and revered poet but a person of rare vision whose words and sense of humanity would inspire people of all backgrounds, ages, and beliefs. At the heart of her writing was a powerful understanding of the importance, meaning, and dignity of everyone. An understanding that is essential to reaching our full potential as individuals, communities, nations, and even companies and organizations.

maya-angelou-dies

Maya Angelou also understood the value and power of connecting with strangers and of being more open to people who are different than us. In writing the closing chapter of The Necessity of Strangers, which is about the “power of travel,” I was inspired by a quote from her 1994 book Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

And we might even become remarkable collaborators and innovators.

As humans we are so similar, yet all too often we decide to focus on our differences as the reason (or excuse) for not connecting, learning, and working together in remarkable ways.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t share one of her poems titled “When a Great Tree Falls.” It is a poem filled with added meaning this week as our family attended memorial services for friends whose lives ended way too soon…

“When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

We win in life and in business when we see the value of everyone. And when we commit to keeping everyone’s memory and special gifts alive.

The Power of Resolutions

Greetings. It’s the end of a very interesting year and time once again to make a bunch of resolutions that I’m not likely to keep. Resolutions that I know are really good for me but are likely to fall by the wayside in the press of a world filled with day-to-day responsibilities, pressing concerns, and new opportunities to learn, grow, and get over-extended. But at least I’ll begin the new year with a relatively clean slate and a renewed determination to eat less, go to the gym more often, get more rest, avoid unnecessary stress, spend less time in front of a computer screen, send fewer emails and have more real conversations, put my iPhone away when other people are around, be as nice as I can be 99.5% of the time, attend more social events, get involved in more causes I believe in, and make a conscious effort to connect with more strangers. I’m probably missing a bunch of things, but we’ll start with these.

I’m guessing that most of you are also likely to make your own resolutions. And I wish you good fortune as you work on the ones that really matter. And while I won’t ask what’s on your list, I’m hoping it includes a real commitment to connect with, learn from, and understand, people who are very different than you as a key to your business, civic, and personal success. After all, it’s the best way to stretch our own thinking and reach our full potential.

And if you’d like a bit more guidance on how to make this happen in the year ahead, I’d be honored if you found the time to read “The Necessity of Strangers.” I’d also be honored if you were willing to read it in an area of high visibility…where the likelihood of meeting an inspiring stranger is increased.

But most importantly, realize that there is real power in the act of making resolutions and beginning each year with a renewed commitment to do better, work smarter, care more deeply, and be more curious and open to the world around us.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Connecting With Strangers

Greetings. Many of you have asked if you can listen to some of the ideas in “The Necessity of Strangers” and I’m glad to share this brand new and downloadable podcast from Vistage, one of the world’s leading organizations of CEOs and business owners. The podcast explores the importance of strangers in business success and suggests some fun, easy, and practical ways to connect with, and learn from, people (and organizations) that are different from us as a key to greater innovation, collaboration, employee engagement, and creativity.

Let me know what you think and, if you find the conversation valuable, please don’t hesitate to share it with all of your friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbors, customers, professionals you do business with, clergy, college roommates, yoga instructors, personal trainers, other parents on your child’s soccer, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, or swim teams, and even total strangers.

Vistage Podcast – The Necessity of Strangers

And here’s a smiling picture of me to look at while you listen…

ASG New Photo 2013

And many thanks to Vistage and to Srinivas Rao, thoughtful host of the Vistage podcasts, for giving me the opportunity to be part of this great series.

Cheers!