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.

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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 Magic of Connecting With Strangers

Greetings. I spend most of my time helping companies and organizations to think and act in new ways in order to deliver more compelling value to the customers, members, and citizens they have the privilege to serve. And a big part of my work involves teaching leaders and employees at all levels to step out of their comfort zones in order to connect with strangers, from around the corner and around the world, as a wonderful way to stretch their thinking and possibilities. Strangers who might know something we don’t know or might be the missing piece to our most important puzzle.

As it turns out, connecting with strangers is also a great way to learn and grow as human beings, beyond the confines of our workplaces. And we can all do this simply by making a new connection with someone else based on a sense of curiosity and openness and a belief that we can be enriched, and even build a powerful bond, with practically anyone else on the planet.

So I was touched by the following video of a project that connects seniors in a Chicago retirement community with Brazilian students eager to learn English. A simple initiative that ends up creating even more important and magical outcomes. And while it has powerful implications for our social, civic, and work lives, I’ll simply suggest that it is a great way to start the week and leave you to find your own meaning in this three-minute story…

Just click the picture…

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We win in business and in life when we discover the magic of connecting with strangers, and when we allow ourselves to make an unexpected difference in someone else’s life.

Cheers!

The Truth About Creativity

Greetings. As many of you know, I spend a lot of time giving presentations and leading seminars on innovation, creativity, and unlocking the real genius in people at all levels of companies and organizations. And I have a strong belief that all of us have the innate ability to be way more innovative simply by being a bit more curious and open-minded about a world around us filled with remarkable people and awesome ideas and possibilities. In fact, this notion is at the heart of my newest book “The Necessity of Strangers.” So I was delighted when David Burkus invited me to be one of 30 guest “experts” in the upcoming “Truth About Creativity” virtual conference that begins on June 2nd at a computer or mobile device near you.

In the conference you will have the chance to discover insights for enhancing your own creative ability and driving even greater innovation in your company or organization through a series of fun and engaging 30-minute video interviews.  It promises to be a great learning experience that you can enjoy at your own pace and schedule.

You and your colleagues can sign up for this FREE (yes, FREE) event by simply following this link:

https://www.entheos.com/The-Truth-About-Creativity/Alan-Gregerman

I hope to see you there! Virtually, that is. And then I’ll look forward to having the chance to follow up and compare notes afterwards.

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And please feel free to share this link with any and all of your closest friends, colleagues, family members, neighbors, the folks on your softball team, the other parents on your childrens’ soccer and swimming teams, and even some total and partial strangers who might benefit from some of the latest thinking about innovation.

Cheers!

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!

Finding Insight in a Box of Matzah

Greetings. For most of us in business today, selling our products and services is one of the greatest challenges we face…even when we have pretty darn remarkable offerings. After all, most customers have lots of choices, plenty of information, and only so much money to spend. Yet, in our wildest dreams, we fantasize about our ability to create products and services that will literally sell themselves. Products and services that are so unique, so intrinsically valuable, so totally cool, so compelling, and so essential to life on the planet that our customers simply can’t live without them. Products and services that seem, up to a point, to defy the laws of cost, competition, and even nature.

Yes these products and services do exist, but they are few and far between. Still we marvel at the brilliance of companies like Apple, Tesla, Airbnb, Under Armour, and even Lululemon before we could see through their clothing. Companies that inspire us to think that we, too, might also reinvent our industries in ways that really matter.

So imagine the challenge of trying to sell a product that is not only very old but hasn’t really changed much since the time it was invented. And when I say old, I mean really old. Like 3,500 years old. And as for innovation, which most of us assume to be a vital ingredient of business success, the only major change has been its production methods which were initially quite crude and crafted more out of necessity rather than a carefully developed plan.

Then let’s add to the equation the simple market reality that most customers only buy this product for seven or eight days a year. And that the folks who buy it represent one of the smallest market segments on earth. Now add to the mix the fact that there are plenty of competitors fighting for this modest market and using the same exact ingredients to make products that few customers would ever suggest was awesome.

Okay, so I’m talking about matzah. A product that is somewhat popular during this spring holiday season. The “bread of affliction.” An edible tribute to the exodus from Egypt in roughly the year 1,500 B.C. (or B.C.E.). A staple of the Jewish holiday of Passover that only a limited number of people have been chosen to eat. Sure anyone could buy it, and you could certainly eat it the rest of year. But let’s be serious. In a world filled with freshly-baked bagels, pumpernickel, croissants, brioche, baguettes, and even English muffins or Martin’s potato rolls, who (in their right mind) would opt for matzah?

And yet, the folks at Yehuda Matzos have somehow managed to be voted Numero Uno in the world of whole wheat matzah. And one taste of their crisp, beautiful, and rather ancient-looking treat confirms that they have magically figured out how to turn whole wheat flour and water into a veritable taste sensation. In fact, their matzah is different and each year compels me to imagine what it must have been like wandering through the desert with Moses hoping only to find a bit of advice from God and an oasis where they sold premium quality peanut butter.

Which leads to one simple idea. No matter what you do, commit to being the best you can be! Because every company, product, service, or even individual has the potential to be remarkable in ways that really matter. Even if the heart of your “offerings” is all about authenticity or a certain biblical requirement. The most enduring businesses, offerings, and people are the ones that consistently figure this out.

Yehuda Matzos

We win in business and in life when we commit to being #1 in something worth doing. And when we understand what is truly possible for our products, services, and customers, more deeply than anyone else.

Cheers!