What Is Your Preference?

Greetings. This past week I had the opportunity to hang out with my father in the intensive care unit of Holy Cross Hospital.  It was definitely not a trip that we had planned.  But when I went to pick up dad to run some errands at the beginning of the week he looked so bad that it seemed like a good idea to take him directly to the ER.  And, after doing a few essential diagnostic tests, the doctors were so excited about his condition that he instantly earned a free pass to the ICU.  There, among other things, they quickly gave him back a significant amount of blood which his body had somehow misplaced.  My initial thinking, not confirmed by their more rigorous analysis, was that his lifetime of loving vampire books and movies had finally been too draining for him.  But to make a long story short, after a few tense days "Fast" Eddie (or should we say "Not-So-Fast" Eddie) is on the road to a slow but encouraging recovery and will be heading home soon.  And I have nothing but praise for the skill and care of the nurses, doctors, and other staff at this hospital.

But the main point of this post occurred the moment we arrived at the ER to check in and I was asked a simple question:

"Does your father have a religious preference?"

To which I responded:

"Yes.  Whichever one gets him the best care."

And quite reasonably I was then told that everyone who comes to Holy Cross gets the same (high) level of care.  It was something that I assumed, but in my desire to inject a bit of humor into dad's challenging situation it seemed like an appropriate answer.  And once his condition began to improve, I started thinking about this question and about all of the times that we forget to ask those we serve about their preferences.  When we assume that the products, services, solutions, and the ways we offer them are an amazing "gift" to our customers.  When we imagine that they are lucky to have the privilege to partner with us.  And when we fail to understand what really matters to them during each and every interaction.  It is worth noting that the folks at Holy Cross have also been thoughtful and innovative in creating a special emergency room capability focused on seniors and their unique needs and preferences.


We win in business and in life when we continually ask our customers, members, associates, and team members what they really prefer.  And when we tailor our offerings to the things that matter most.


The Genius of Jack LaLanne

Greetings.  Jack LaLanne, a true American original died this week at the age of 96.  A fitness visionary, he devoted his life to demonstrating the power and simple joy of living a healthy lifestyle that combined regular exercise, a sound diet, and a positive attitude.  And decades before fitness became a cool fad and a "science," he promoted a comprehensive approach to well-being that makes remarkable sense even in the face of today's more sophisticated knowledge and understanding.  But he didn't stop there–proving throughout his life and by his actions that age posed no limits to a person's ability to be fit and vital.

His strength, smile, and gentle encouragement will be missed.

A true original with a powerful message that really mattered.  Isn't that what all of our companies and organizations should aspire to achieve?


We win in business and in life when we deliver a unique and important message.  And when we encourage those around us to become healthier and more capable.

Cheers and happy exercising!

Disappearing Act

Greetings.  The front page of today's Washington Post included a fascinating story about the disappearance of an island in the Chesapeake Bay and one man's struggle to save it from the forces of nature.  The place is Holland Island, once a three-mile-long piece of land that was in 1910 home to 360 people most of whom were farmers and waterman dredging oysters in the Bay.  But as a result of the last thunderstorm and continuing erosion from the rising ocean, the one remaining house on Holland Island has come crashing to the ground (or sea depending on the tide).  And with it the end of over 300 years of settlement in this remarkable corner of America.

To many the island's disappearing act comes with little fanfare.  After all, most of Holland's inhabitants left in the 1920's for the mainland of Maryland's Eastern Shore…taking their homes with them on ships, board by board.  But a picture of this place and its last Victorian-era house told a different story and gave reason to think about the world of companies and organizations and how things that once mattered disappear.

In the business world it's all about remaining relevant and continually delivering compelling value to those we serve.  This is an especially difficult task when change occurs very quickly as new technologies, new business models, and new offerings dramatically alter the landscape.  We see it all the time in cases like Blockbuster, a leading company that was overtaken by Netflix, a host of cable TV providers, and the internet.  Or when we read about Sony's decision to finally stop selling the Walkman–the world's first portable and personal music player. "They're still selling those?" you ask, struggling to imagine why anyone in their right mind would choose this now-primitive product from a shelf that contains iPods and other top MP3 players.  And the list goes on in industries as diverse as media, professional services, IT, healthcare, hospitality, automobiles, business services, and professional sports. 

But it's also a very difficult task to stay relevant when change occurs gradually.  When the world lulls us into a sense of complacency and we fail to notice and respond to the gradual erosion occurring on our shores.  When we fail to innovate consistently in the areas that matter most to customers.  Or fail to reinvent our customer experience in order to drive greater knowledge and value.  Or when we stick with a product, service, or solution for too long without ever acknowledging the need to make essential changes.  Until one day a big wind brings our business crashing down.

Much like the final house on Holland Island…

Holland Island 2
We win in business and in life when we adapt to the nature of change. And when we enter each storm with a commitment to be more valuable than before.


Curiosity is the Essential First Step

Greetings.  Not long ago as I was wandering through the “Self-Help” section of a well-known local bookstore I noticed a young woman
who seemed more than a bit perplexed.  Catching my
glance, she smiled and said:  I
know that one of these books could change my life.  I just don’t know which one it is.

I wasn’t sure what to say.  So I smiled back, buying a bit of time
to think through her predicament. 
And then I said, with the half-baked logic of an amateur sage: “You
know, we’re all in that situation. 
Only you’re smart enough to realize it.”
  A response that was more
thoughtful in retrospect than it seemed at the time. 
“Thanks,” she
“I don’t feel quite so foolish now.”

I haven't seen her again and can
only hope that she found what she was searching for.  Maybe it was a book
on one of those shelves.  Or an
idea, or a person, or a story, or a quote, or a lesson from another culture, or
a spark of inspiration from an unknown source that gave her the right direction
to follow.  Or maybe she discovered
it somewhere other than the bookstore. 
On a journey halfway around the world or on a walk through a familiar
park.  During an episode of a
popular TV show or a day spent at an art museum.  In the words of a favorite song or the experience of a
concert held in a grand orchestra hall. 
In a lecture on a subject she knew very little about, or a familiar sign
posted along a busy neighborhood street. 
In the mysterious ritual of someone else’s religion, the best practice
of a renowned corporation, or the daily life of a creature from another species.  The fact that she was looking
curiously was the essential first step.  A step that too few of us ever take as
individuals, companies and organizations, or even communities and nations.  But a step that got me thinking about
how close we all are to unlocking our real potential.  If only we dared to be curious in order to find the
something that could make the difference. 
That could be a starting point for meaningful change and growth. 

Each day we all pass by literally
hundreds of things that could change our lives, but we never take the time to
notice them.  In our rush to get
from Point A to Point B, we walk past strangers who know things we’ve yet to
discover.  We walk past stores,
offices, galleries, libraries, and even billboards with powerful insight to
share.  We observe or ignore
holidays and events filled with meaning. 
We stroll through new or familiar places failing to look below the
surface to figure out what makes them remarkable.  We watch movies, listen to the radio, read a newspaper or a
blog, or search the web without seeing the real brilliance in an idea that
could matter to our life or the success of our workplace or the place we call
home.  All because we have
forgotten how to be curious and, lacking this skill, are unable to believe that
important ideas abound and that we can be more remarkable.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

So this week, as you go about all of the urgent things on your "To Do" list, take some time to be curious about the big and little things around you.  To discover new ideas and imagine new ways to do the things that matter most.


We win in business and in life when we take the first essential step.  A step on the journey to knowing ourselves and the world around us a bit better.


Unlocking Our Own Cells

Greetings.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of casting a wider net in our search for ideas, inspiration, and possibilities.  Ideas, inspiration, and possibilities that can drive meaningful innovation and enhance our ability to deliver even greater value to the customers we choose to serve.

But what if the answers to some of our most important challenges are lurking right under our noses?   What if casting a narrower net holds the key to creating real breakthroughs?  In fact, that's exactly what Shinya Yamanaka, his colleagues at the University of Kyoto in Japan, and scores of scientists around the globe are hoping to prove in their effort to find a cure for ailments like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and Type 1 Diabetes.  Their remarkable work with "induced pluripotent stem cells" or "iPSCs" suggests that it might be possible to rejuvenate our own mature body cells and use them to fight the illness that afflicts us.  In essence reprogramming them to an embryolike state, but without all of the politics that surround the use of embryonic stem cells so that the patients–i.e., customers of medicine–become the source of their own cure with the help of a little outside genius.  If you'd like to learn more about this important research check out Konrad Hochedlinger's fascinating article in the latest issue of Scientific American.

And while you're think about the possibility of living even longer, it might be fun to recall the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon (1474 – 1521) who stirred the human imagination with his quest to discover the "Fountain of Youth."  Almost 500 years ago he conjectured that there was a special spring located in what is now the state of Florida that held the power to stop the hands of time.  Oddly enough, Florida remains a place where many people still go to prolong life or at least wear colorful Bermuda shorts and avoid harsh winter weather.

We win in science, business, and life when we cast many nets in our search for new solutions.  Maybe it's time to look closer to home for your next great idea.  It could be hiding in the very DNA of your own company or customers.