The Magic of “Fast” Food

Greetings.  Who would have ever imagined that one of the world’s most renowned and “high-end” hotel companies would decide to offer its guests fast food?  Not fast food like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, or Taco Bell, but “fast” food nonetheless.  Well that is exactly what the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts are doing in all ninety of their properties around the world.  Offering their guests special locally-inspired room service menus with food they can have in a mere fifteen minutes…which is super-fast by luxury standards.

And here are a few examples of meals that guests can order and have delivered in only fifteen minutes…all of which sound slightly more appetizing than a Big Mac, a Whopper, a Crunch Wrap Burrito, or a bucket of slightly-crispy and slightly-greasy wings:

At the Four Seasons Maldives resort, guests can quickly enjoy chilled shrimp with Marie Rose sauce, Arabian spinach pastries, and handmade chocolate truffles.

At the Four Seasons in Bali, guests can hastily taste curried prawns.

At the Four Seasons in Hong Kong, guests can rapidly dive into a bowl of wonton noodle soup with fresh greens or burrata cheese and heirloom tomatoes on a freshly-baked baguette.

At the Four Seasons in Budapest, guests can speed to a wonderful bowl of traditional Hungarian goulash along with their favorite beverage.

And, as an encore, they are also offering fifteen-minute “to go” menus for those guests heading out to town or the airport.

It turns out that “fast” matters to a lot of people.  And not just to adults on the go at their local drive-through, or twelve-year-olds craving calories after a basketball game.  It turns out that fewer and fewer people have the time to wait for food, service, or even a new web page to open.  We are, sadly one might suggest, increasingly driven by the need for speed.  And all of the companies that understand this and are willing to offer faster alternatives are more likely to win.  Or more likely to be viewed as responsive by their customers.

So here’s your challenge.  Take a lesson from the new world of fast food and try to imagine those areas of your business in which speed really matters.  The answers might surprise and delight you and those you have the privilege to serve.

Four Seasons

We win in business and in life by being fast when it matters.  And by taking the right page from the same fast food restaurants we love to criticize.

Cheers and have a great weekend!

Taking a Stand

Greetings.  Today would have been Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday and it offers an opportunity to think about not only her courage in the face of bigotry and narrow-mindedness, but the keys to  creating a world in which we value the contributions of everyone.

In December of 1955 Ms. Parks, a forty-two year-old seamstress on her way home from work, changed the course of American history when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  At the time, local law stated that the first ten rows of the city’s busses were reserved for white people and that black people could sit in the remaining rows…but only if a white person didn’t want their seat.  In laying claim to her dignity, Rosa Parks sparked a 386-day boycott of Montgomery’s transit system by the city’s African American citizens who were 75 percent of its riders.  It’s hard to imagine that this was our world only 58 years ago, and even harder to imagine that so many prejudices still persist today.

And that includes prejudices that exist in many workplaces.  Prejudices that keep us from ever tapping the ideas and real talents of all our colleagues.  Because whether we realize it or not, our companies and organizations treat lots of people like second-class citizens…assuming in an instant that their roles, backgrounds, training, and experience limit their ability to make a real difference.  Assuming that the big challenges we face can only be solved by the smart folks in the big offices and the clever people from the best schools with the most important degrees.  While ignoring the input of people who might have a very different and potentially powerful take on the things that matter most.  People who might see things in new and more valuable ways if only we took the time to ask and involve them.

All of us have rules–written and unwritten–that we choose to follow until someone stands up, or sits down, and asks to be heard.  Or that we choose to follow as the people who could make a difference simply decide to get up and leave.

But what if instead we committed to creating organizations that challenge all of our people to take a stand?  And that were willing to be more open to the different roles, backgrounds, training, and experience they brought to the table.

Wouldn’t we all be more innovative and better off?

We win in business and life when we stand up (or sit down) for everyone’s right to be heard and to be viewed as someone who matters.  And when we seek to find the genius in everyone around us.

Cheers!

To a Year of Innovation and Strangers

Greetings.  The start of each new year is a great time to stretch all of our thinking about a world of new possibilities.  A time to imagine new initiatives and offerings that will deliver even greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve.  A time to challenge conventional wisdom and even reinvent the way our businesses or industries operate.  And a time to reach out and connect with people and organizations that are very different than we are–people and organizations with very different ideas, perspectives, ways of doing the things that matter most, and even different dreams.

In September my newest book titled The Necessity of Strangers will be coming out, and in the year ahead I’d like to challenge you to make strangers–i.e., people you don’t already know and who could be very different than you–an important part of your learning and action.  To connect with people around the corner and around the world who might hold the key to innovation and your greater success. To step out of your comfort zones and look across disciplines and cultures for new insights into the big questions, challenges, and opportunities your business faces. To look to make even stronger connections with the customers and colleagues you might not know very well.

And to approach each day with sense of curiosity and greater openness to finding new and more powerful sources of inspiration.

In a world filled with strangers and remarkable possibilities.

I always begin each year with a bit of inspiration from our children–Sara, Carly, and Noah (shown below outside Fiskekyrkan or “The Fish Church” in Goteborg, Sweden)–who continually remind me of the value of being open to new people and new experiences.  And I recall fondly one time when Carly was in fourth grade and we were taking our morning walk to the school bus stop.  On that particular day a fellow walked by who seemed somewhat odd and more than slightly disheveled.  A fellow we had never seen in our quiet neighborhood before.  And once we were out of listening distance, I quickly turned to Carly and reminded her of the importance of not talking to strangers.  It was sensible advice my parents had given me in far less uncertain times.

To which Carly quickly replied:

“But Papa, if I don’t talk to strangers how will I ever make new friends?  And, how will I ever learn new things?”

They were words that I now think about nearly every day, and words that inspired my new book and my ongoing commitment to help our customers and my readers to find value and even genius in people they don’t yet know.

With a bit of (appropriate) caution.

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We win in business and in life when we explore and connect with new people, new ideas, and new possibilities.  So here’s to your strangest and most successful year yet!

Cheers!

The Importance of Different

Greetings.  There are not a lot of advantages to living in a place with plenty of traffic, especially when it can take two hours to drive twenty miles during rush hour.  But there are definitely a few.  One is the chance to listen to a book on tape or a favorite channel on SiriusXM.  Yes, I’m hooked on satellite radio after only a month and a half of my free trial.  Another is the opportunity to have some “alone” time after a busy day, surrounded by thousands of one’s closest strangers who are in various stages of enjoying their own “alone” time.  And a third is the chance to see, and think about, some odd but occasionally inspiring bummer stickers.  It’s a perk that is particularly engaging when stuck in bummer-to-bummer traffic.

So yesterday as I got stuck rounding the Capital Beltway, I happened to notice the following idea:

DIFFERENT IS NOT ANOTHER WORD FOR WRONG.

Simple enough.

Yet an important reminder of the real challenge of reaching our full potential as companies and individuals.  Because, try as we might, most of us–and most of the organizations we work in–have a real aversion to “DIFFERENT.”  Different people. Different ideas.  Different ways of doing things.  Different opportunties.  Different points of view.  As a result, we tend to hang out with roughly the same people–i.e., people who are a lot like us.  And we tend to be most comfortable with ideas that fit our current understanding.  And we tend to prefer to do things the same way we’ve always done them–with a few minor tweaks or a few incremental changes along the way.  And we tend to be most interested in new opportunities that are just like the opportunities we’ve pursued in the past–similar jobs, similar collaborations, similar investments, and so on.  And we tend to be less open, the older we get, to different perspectives and points of view.

All because we equate “different” with being “wrong” or at best “less than equal.” Even when we should realize that different could be the real key to our success.

It turns out that no one ever did anything remarkable by being the same.

And no one ever stood out from the pack by fitting in.

And no one ever changed the world by daring to not make waves.

In fact, as we begin 2013, DIFFERENT should be our mantra.  Being different in ways that really matter to our companies, organizations, and the customers we have the privilege to serve.

Zeebs

We win in business and in life when we choose to appreciate people who are different than us and ideas that are different than the ones we hold dear.  And when we take the time to notice a bumper sticker on the car and the world right in front of our eyes.

Cheers and have a great and different start to the year ahead!

Remembering 2012

Greetings.  As 2012 winds down, it’s fun to look back at a few of the year’s most interesting innovations…

While I tend to focus my work and writing on new ideas in the worlds of business and organizations, I would be remiss if I didn’t begin with the government-based innovation that has captivated America for the past several months–affectionately known as the “Fiscal Cliff.”  It’s a political innovation so powerful that it threatens to throw the U.S. and global economies into a new recession.  And, at the time of this blog post, the very people who had created the cliff and were waiting until the very last minute to come up with a less than satisfactory solution, were also hard at work trying to look thoughtful, caring, and busy.

On the technology front, 2012 was a year marked by the ever-growing promise of mobility and the increasing power of the internet.  New and cooler mobile devices seemed to be announced almost every week–highlighted by the arrival of Apple’siPhone 5, a bunch of new, more powerful, and more interactive Android phones, the iPad Mini, and the Microsoft “Surface.”  And the number of totally or at least partially, amazing apps for these devices seemed to expand at a faster rate than the universe itself.  In fact, many people began envisioning lives based almost entirely on the use of smartphones and some futurists even suggested that we were getting close to the day when these devices would actually be implanted into our bodies. Until then, however, we might have to be content with serving as guinea pigs in the personal assistant battle between the totally frustrating and over-hyped Siri and the promising new Google Voice Search.

As for the web, it continued to grow as a place for commerce, managing business processes, and living our social and personal lives with companies like Amazon, Salesforce.com, Pinterest, and Instagram capturing even greater market share and attention.  And a growing number of leading retailers and other brick-and-mortar businesses spent much of the year trying to figure out how to compete in a world turned upside down by the ease of clicking and the availability of nearly complete information.

On the automotive front, electric cars were all the rage even if very few people were buying them.  The one exception was the long-awaited all-electric Tesla Model Ssupercar which made its debut to rave reviews.  It proved to be a wonder of design and technology and as soon as I find an extra $100,000 under the mattress I will sign up to buy one.

Other innovations that caught our attention this year include Izhar Gafni’s $20 cardboard bicycle, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, LiquiGlide, advances in 3D printing including the Formlabs’ Form 1 and the MakerBot Replicator 2, the Black & Decker Max Gyro motion-activated screwdriver, the Eliodomestico solar water distiller, Goodyear’s new self-inflating tires, and the NASA Curiosity Rover.

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Have a wonderful New Year wherever you are and we’ll see you in 2013…

Cheers!