Keeping Customers Waiting

Greetings.  I'm normally a very patient person, but after the latest round of delays in getting my Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" I'm starting to get a bit frustrated.  I realize that creating a state-of-the-art airplane is a difficult thing to do.  It involves lots of innovation in terms of design, technology, collaboration and production.  But let's be serious, we were promised this product originally in the beginning of 2008.  

Now, roughly three and half years later, most of us are wondering when ours will arrive.  And, some of us, including China Eastern Airlines have decided to cancel their orders and move on with older and less energy-efficient aircraft as Boeing tries to figure out how to ramp up its output.

Okay, so I'm not really holding my breath waiting for my plane to arrive.  Sure it would be slightly cooler than continuing to drive my Volvo station wagon…even with its pedestrian-sensing capability.  But the highly-publicized case of the 787 raises some very important questions for companies, government agencies and organizations of all shapes and sizes.  These include whether or not we can ever afford to keep our customers waiting?  Or, whether we have the right to waste their time as we get our act together?  Or, whether we should ever make promises that we can't keep (when we probably know we can't keep them)?  Not by a hour or a day.  But by three and a half years or any other amount of time that really matters to them as they go about their lives.

In a sense, Boeing is very lucky.  Airplanes are a big purchase and customers have very few choices.  So most are willing to wait through lengthy delays because they have limited options.

The rest of us aren't so lucky.  Our customers typically have lots of choices and our ability to deliver on our promises is essential to keeping them engaged, happy and successful.  We need to make compelling promises and be committed and organized enough to meet them.


We win in business and in life when we don't keep our customers (or anyone) waiting.  Because time is the one thing that once lost can never be found.


Cranking Up the Volume

Greetings.  Communication.  In my work with companies across a wide range of industries poor "communication" is regularly cited as one of the biggest and most perplexing challenges.  And one of the greatest barriers to improved collaboration, innovation and business success.

"We don't communicate well," is a common refrain.  Or, "We don't communicate often enough."  Or, "We're rarely on the same page."  Or, "We seem to be getting mixed messages."

All because communication isn't clear, engaging and consistent across the organization.  And, in the face of these concerns, many companies simply decide to increase the volume of their communication as though this will resolve the problem or problems. 

The challenge of communicating effectively became even clearer on Friday night when our daughter Sara and I went to a concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington. We went to this popular stop on the national music circuit to hear Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit–a southern rock musician who is currently on tour promoting his newest album titled "Here We Rest."  While he's probably not a household name for most of my blog readers, his well-written and at times edgy songs about home, life, relationships and returning from war might be of interest–and you can check them out on iTunes, YouTube, or his website.

The lead act was James McMurtry. He's the son of author Larry McMurtry (of "Lonesome Dove" and "Terms of Endearment" fame) and an artist who has had a long and successful career writing and singing songs with real meaning.  So I was certainly open to hearing him and his band.  That is, until the first song began to play.  Because that's when their electrified guitars and basses, pounding drums and cranked up amplifiers made it almost impossible for me to understand a single word he was singing during his 75-minute set.  Though it was fun to see his loyal fans sing along with great energy and conviction (fueled in part by the availability of beer).  

And it dawned on me that this was how many organizations communicate.  Too loud and too unclear.  And with only a few insiders really getting the message and the meaning.  Add to this the fact that very few performers or companies ever ask their audiences if they can hear or understand.  Even though these are simple questions that would enable them to adjust the volume and make everyone more engaged and more likely to spread the word.

And when Jason Isbell and his band finally came on stage after 12:30 a.m. it was only slightly better.  But since I knew the words to many of his songs I was at least able to sing along with interest.


We win in business and in life when we communicate clearly a message that matters so that everyone in the audience can hear, understand and get engaged.  And when we never stop going to rock concerts–with earplugs.

Cheers and have a communicative week ahead!

P.S.  I downloaded several of James McMurtry's songs on iTunes today and, sans amplifiers, they're definitely worth a listen.

Politics as Unusual

Greetings.  It's mid-term election day in the U.S. and a chance for citizens to give their feedback to elected leaders.  It's kind of like getting a performance appraisal every two years for a host of things that are and aren't totally within your control. This includes a wide range of seemingly intractable challenges that require real leadership, innovation, collaboration, curiosity, open-mindedness, and even a bit of genius to resolve.  Skills that are in less than abundant supply judging by the behavior of most members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.  But, then again, nobody's forced to be a politician.  Though the picture below did give me reason to pause and question the central premise supporting this blog and all of my work to help companies and organizations to unlock the brilliance in all of their people.

If you're a regular reader of the Surrounded by Geniuses blog you know that I believe everyone has the potential to be a genius.  But our current state of political discourse makes me wonder if this notion needs to be amended.  

In a very basic sense, politics should be all about customer service and delivering compelling value in meeting the vital needs of constituents, the nation as a whole, and the world we must figure out how to share. And, it should be about acting responsibly in using limited resources to address these needs in new and better ways.  Because politics as usual isn't helping us at all.  And the folks who sign up for the job–and the egos and special interests that drive them–rarely have this purpose in mind.  In a place that should be all about servant leadership, it's striking that we find so few thoughtful leaders.

Politicians are geniuses
We win in business and sometimes in politics when we focus on doing the right things with a spark of genius.  And when we never forget what really matters to those we have the privilege to serve.

Cheers and please make sure to vote!

Enlightened Business Summit

Greetings.  On October 25 – 29th a unique and exciting business conference will be taking place with over 20,000 attendees from around the world.  They won't be gathered in a big convention hall or hanging out in a gigantic virtual lecture hall. Instead, they'll use the innovative Maestro Conference platform to participate live and interact with each other and 40 top CEOs, bestselling authors, pioneering entrepreneurs, and business thought leaders–all for free.  And since I spend most of my time thinking about innovation, learning, collaboration, and creating truly valuable experiences for customers, it sounds like a very interesting idea.

I'm also delighted to have been asked to be one of the Summit presenters alongside leaders such as Tony Hsieh of Zappos, John Mackey of Whole Foods, Bill George (the former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic and now a Harvard Business School professor), Tim Ferriss (author of "The Four-Hour Work Week"), George Zimmer of the Men's Warehouse, Christine Lynch, Casey Sheahan of Patagonia, Roxanne Emmerich, Stephen Covey, Chip Conley, and Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi.  Why they picked me is anybody's guess, but it should be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to share and exchange ideas on leadership, innovation, and unlocking genius.  

The Summit itself is designed with mainly 30-minute talks interspersed over five days, including my session on October 26th at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, so you can still take care of all the really exciting stuff in your in-box while gaining insights from some very interesting people.  And you can participate live on as many calls as you like and interact with both the presenters and the other participants.  Or, you can listen to all of the sessions after the event by accessing the full library of recordings.

To learn more about this unique learning experience CLICK HERE


The Genius of Collaboration

Greetings.  It's Nobel Prize season and recently announced awards for physics and chemistry have a lot to teach us about genius, innovation, and collaboration. Let's start with the 2010 physics prize which was awarded to two Russian-born scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, for their groundbreaking work with a new and ultra-thin form of carbon called graphene.  This material, thought to be the thinnest and strongest ever discovered, is almost completely transparent but so dense that nothing can pass through it.  It's also an excellent conductor of electricity which suggests the real possibility of revolutionizing not only the world of electronics but also the materials used to make airplanes, satellites, and even automobiles.  And in an amusing twist, they used a simple piece of scotch tape to isolate a flake of carbon that was only one atom thick.  Their collaboration began in the Netherlands and continued in the United Kingdom where the two are now professors at the University of Manchester.    

The 2010 chemistry prize was shared by American Richard Heck of the University of Delaware and two Japanese colleagues Ei-ichi Negishi, at Purdue University, and Akira Suzuki at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, for their important work in the development of "palladium-catalyzed cross coupling."  This chemical "tool" has the potential to enable scientists to bind carbon atoms together in order to create far more complex chemicals that can aid in the research and production of new and better pharmaceuticals.  And, it might also be valuable in building molecules used in electronics.

Both of these awards speak to the genius of collaboration, the value of unlocking and connecting a world full of smart and inquisitive people, and the potential of science to improve the quality of life.

Nobel 3

We win in science, business, and life when we discover the power of collaboration.  And when we work together with colleagues from near and far to push the limits of knowledge and possibilities.