Learning From Things That Freak Us Out

Greetings. This summer the eastern United States will host a massive invasion of one of the most remarkable creatures on the planet. No, I’m not talking about humans though they are often pretty clever. The creatures in question are cicadas, those amazing and slightly pre-historic looking bugs who show up once every seventeen years looking for mates. Or should we say “singing” for mates. Talk about the antithesis of speed-dating. Yes these adorable insects sleep underground until they reach an age when most of their human counterparts have already learned to drive, then suddenly appear to serenade several billion suspecting females.

And their song is so compelling that researchers at the U.S. Navy Undersea Warfare Center have been studying cicadas for several years and trying to understand and copy their unique talent as a new and innovative way to enhance remote sensing underwater, communication between ships, and rescue operations at sea. It turns out that the ability of such small bodies to create such loud and effective sounds could provide a real breakthrough in the changing field of sonar.

As long as we aren’t “freaked out” first.

And they aren’t the only insects that we can learn from if we are willing to be more open and curious about the natural world around us.


We win in business and in life when we are open to the ideas, inspirations, and special talents that we often find in unusual places. And when we are patient enough to discover the sound of a brilliant innovation.


Putting Communication in Con-Text

Greetings.  I've finally decided to GWTP (get with the program).  After all, I am keenly aware that YOLO (you only live once) and while I prefer meeting friends, colleagues and customers F2F (face to face) I realize that texting is the way of the present and maybe even the future.  And besides, I have been noticing that our kids are LOL-ing (laughing out loud) whenever I try to demonstrate my growing–but highly limited–competency using a cell phone or mobile device.  Yes, MIRL-ing (meeting in real life) seems to be taking a backseat to quick little messages sent instantly around the globe, down the hall or even across the room.  And while I don't agree that this development is AISB (as it should be), I definitely don't want to alienate myself from a new generation of communicators.  So I'm determined to RTSM (read the stupid manual) in order to learn the essential rules, nuances and acronyms required to compete in our 140 character or less world.

So WML (wish me luck).  And I thought learning Swedish was difficult.  Because if I can't achieve some basic level of fluency, I've be UACWAP (up a creek without a paddle) and the entire effort will be a big WOMBAT (waste of money, brains and time).

And HAGW (have a great weekend) or at least HAGO (have a good one)…and I'll BRB (be right back) next week with some new perspectives on innovation, unlocking genius, delivering compelling value and GMMA (getting my message across).


We win in business and in life when we figure out how to communicate effectively with everyone.  Even when that means using only acronyms.


(Cheers for now!)

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, Amazon.com 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.