The Power of Technology

Greetings. We all know that technology has the power to change everything…which makes it important for all of us, no matter what business we are in, to be continually paying attention to a range of “technologies” that are reshaping the world we live in. Here are five “technologies” that should be on all of our radar screens. And it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about how you and your colleagues (i.e., the geniuses you work with everyday) might capitalize on them in creating more valuable products, services, and solutions, and delivering more remarkable customer experiences.

Mobile. Think smart phones and tablets, but more importantly think about how central they have become to all of our lives and how you and your organization can leverage mobility and create mobile applications to better engage all of your employees and inspire and empower all of your customers.

The Cloud. Think about new and more remarkable IT capabilities without costly investments in infrastructure, people, training, or even licensing new software. No matter how large your company or organization is, you now have the ability to redefine your business model and deliver and support almost any solution you can imagine.

The Internet of Things. Okay, so more and more everyday objects are being connected to the internet. Objects like cars, homes, security systems, and a growing variety of household appliances. And while your business might not have anything to do with “objects,” it does have everything to do with enabling employees and customers to control and make better use of their most important information.

Wearable Tech. A lot of people think that the next stage of mobility is wearable technology. From Google Glass to Nike Fuelbands to the rumored Apple Watch to diagnostic clothing. In the future many of us will be “wearing” a lot more technology and it is worth thinking about the real power of driving greater knowledge and diagnostic ability to our team members and those we have the privilege to serve.

Social Media. How well do you and your organization use social media to connect with, deliver value to, and gain insight from your employees, customers, and partners? Even the most traditional businesses understand the growing influence of social media as an essential tool in their success.

cutting-edge-strategies

We win in business and in life when we are open to new ideas and new technologies. And when we try our best to continually get with the program.

Cheers!

Employees and Customers

Greetings. Many of you know that I’m a big fan of the Container Store, a company that has built a remarkable business and a powerful brand by helping all of us to be better organized. It’s a company with thoughtful and energized employees, attractive stores, and a wide range of products all intended to enable us to get our “stuff” under control. They even have simple and user-friendly storage design tools that take the guesswork out of planning. And also being a big fan of the late comedian George Carlin, who was a passionate and humorous commentator on the notion that all of us in America have way too much stuff, I am continually amused (and even frustrated) by the role that stuff plays in our lives.

But I’m also impressed with how passionate the employees of the Container Store are about their mission and how much the company seems to love and value its employees. In fact, it places employees first in all of its decisions and actions…believing that happy, engaged, and empowered employees are the best way to make customers happy. And this approach raises an important issue…

Who should come first in all of our businesses…customers or employees?

For a while, the popular notion was that organizations placing customers first were more likely to be successful. After all, customers are our raison d’etre. But companies like the Container Store, which win high marks for being great places to work, are making a powerful case that hiring, supporting, and inspiring the right employees is the best way to deliver a great customer experience. And it seems to make a lot of sense, because all too often businesses claim to care about customers but treat their own employees with so little regard that even the most customer-centric ones are challenged to keep doing the right thing continually.

In an era when the average tenure of a new hire is less than a year according to Fast Company magazine the experience of the Container Store, and other businesses like it, should challenge all of us to make sure that we are finding and nurturing the very best team members as the best way to ensure that we are building the very best customer relationships.

container_store

We win in business and in life when we hold our own people in the highest regard. And when we give them the encouragement and tools to bring real magic and even a bit of organization to the customers we have the privilege to serve.

Cheers!

The Gift of Pete Seeger

Greetings. Pete Seeger was an American original. Truly American and truly original. A man whose music and life struck at the heart of what has made our country remarkable and struck at the gaps that keep us from reaching our full potential. His passing leaves a void, not just in the world of folk music in which he was one of its most popular and hopeful voices, but in a society striving to be as caring and hopeful as possible. Many of you will remember some of the songs he wrote including “If I Had a Hammer,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” which have found their way across the world.

Pete Seeger believed in the power of music to bridge divides between people and places. He also believed in the dignity of every person, the importance of protecting the environment, and the necessity of conscience in standing up for the things that matter. I’d like to think that whatever our politics are, we all see these as essential (American) beliefs in our civic, social, and business lives.

In fact, I would guess that all of our companies and organizations would be much better off if more of us viewed life and the world with the gift of Pete Seeger. More people who believed in:

The value of every employee.

The need to appreciate and protect all of the resources we use.

The importance of standing up for what is right and holding ourselves to a high standard.

The necessity of finding the right song to bring people together in order to make a difference.

pete090504_250

And I would also guess that all of our companies and organizations would be much better off if they had more people who brought new ideas and perspectives to the work we do and the challenges and opportunities we face. Ideas and perspectives that would cause us to cast a wider and much more inclusive net, stretch our thinking, and imagine more powerful and more collaborative possibilities.

We win in business and in life when we dare to sing together. And when our very nature is to stand up for the things we believe even when it isn’t always in our own best interest.

Cheers!

The Gift of Laughter

Greetings. The Navajo have a remarkable way of welcoming a new child into life. By holding a “First Laugh Ceremony.” According to Navajo tradition, a baby is considered to be part of two worlds…the world of the holy people and the world of the earth people. From the moment of its birth family and friends watch over the child waiting eagerly to hear its first laugh which is viewed as a sign that the baby wants to join his or her earth family and the broader community. It is also believed that the baby will take on the qualities of the person (or persons) who witnessed its first laugh. A first laugh that also gives the witness the honor of preparing a ceremony to welcome the child into the community.

At the “First Laugh Ceremony” guests bring plates of warm food to pass in front of the baby and the baby, with help, sprinkles salt on the food as a first sign of the start of a life of generosity and sharing. And many people believe that the salt is also intended to nurture the goodness in everyone who receives it.

It is a simple and powerful ritual that got me thinking about how we welcome new employees to our companies and organizations, new and prospective customers to our businesses, new students to our schools, new neighbors to our communities, and even new immigrants to our shores. Typically with a bit of hope and even more suspicion. And rarely with a laugh that quickly tells them that we regard them as a vital member of our collective enterprise.

And why not? Why wouldn’t we want to cut beneath all of the seriousness of life to incite and then share the gift of laughter? Why wouldn’t we want to get at the heart of one of the most powerful and positive human emotions to more quickly reach a deeper level of appreciation, acceptance, and connection with the strangers among us? And why wouldn’t we want to invite the person (or persons) who saw or sparked the first laugh to have the privilege of more fully engaging each new employee, colleague, classmate, or neighborhood into the life of our “community?”

The power of a laugh might be our greatest tool in efforts to build greater engagement, collaboration, and meaning in work and the rest of our lives.

Navajo First_Laugh

All of us, and all of our companies, organizations, communities, and nations need a steady influx of new people, ideas, energy, and possibilities. It’s the way we learn, grow, and reach our full potential. But we need a way to break down the barriers that divide us right from the start in order to begin long and meaningful relationships.

A nation of native people in the American southwest with a wonderful lesson to share. No doubt one of many insights in their rich past and present that we could all learn from if we were open to the possibility.

We win in business and in life when we are open to learning from strangers who are different than us. And when we never forget the simple power of laughter and the best of what it means to be human.

Cheers!

With Thanks

Greetings from Maryland where fall has once again brought its beautiful colors, crisp clear nights, a bit of rain, and a moment to reflect on a world filled with great challenges and even greater possibilities. At a time when our customers are expecting us to deliver even greater innovation and value, we must all figure out how to write a new and more compelling song…one that combines the best of what we already know with the fresh sounds and inspirations of strangers and a new generation. A veritable fusion of our greatest talents and our innate ability to be curious and open to new ideas, insights, and perspectives. Which suggests that it might be a perfect time to take a new and exciting look at your business, its potential, and the real needs and dreams of the folks you have the privilege to serve.

Kid's Photo

So round up your colleagues, partners, and even a few new people this holiday season and commit to creating your own new music…music that is tied to your past and firmly rooted in your future. After all, the vitality of your organization depends on it.

And, as always, giant thanks for being part of the life of our company in the past year and for all of your wonderful support for my new book “The Necessity of Strangers.” It’s off to a great start because of all of you! And sincere wishes for a Thanksgiving and holiday season filled with peace, joy, good health, laughter, learning, inspiration, innovation, and the chance to jam with friends and strangers!

Cheers!