The Magic of Stepping Back in Time

Greetings. Ideas and inspiration often come from unusual sources. Like a warehouse filled with old furniture and memories. And this was exactly the case not long ago when our daughter Sara went searching for a few items to furnish her new apartment. In her search she came upon an old stamp album, published in 1928, and belonging to a gentleman from Westfield, Massachusetts, named Edward Pomeroy.

Stamp Album Cover

Now I should probably backtrack as some readers might not know that I am an avid and enthusiastic stamp collector, or “philatelist,” and have always viewed stamps as wonderful little journeys into the lives, cultures, histories, and geographies of other places and people. In fact, a few years ago I wrote a blog post suggesting that the world might actually be a better and more understanding place if its leaders collected stamps and in the process gained greater insight about other countries. So finding an old album filled with lots of intriguing stamps from around the world was a source of real delight.

But back to Edward Pomeroy who it seems was the secretary of a local stamp club and, as such, left in his album a wide variety of handwritten notes, news clippings, and meeting minutes describing the workings of the club, stamps and topics that were of particular interest, presentations made by various members about their interests and expertise, and an explanation of the club’s 10 cent monthly dues.

And while I found all of this fascinating, one note was especially remarkable. It explained how Edward was able to send himself a letter that flew on the Graf Zeppelin’s maiden flight to the United States. The note read:

For the Graf Zeppelin I had to send (my letter) to the Postmaster of New York City asking him to put it on a boat in time to reach Fredrichshafen by April 18, 1930. After reaching Germany it was put on the ‘Graf’ which went from Germany to Brazil then to United States which was delivered to me day after.”

And in his letter, adorned with a $2.60 Graf Zeppelin stamp, he enclosed the postcard pictured below that read:

He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.”

Words that strike at the heart of what it means to be human. Words that underscore the central challenge in all of our efforts to create organizations and cultures that consistently learn, grow, and innovate. Words that, in 1930, literally flew across the Atlantic as part of a history making voyage when the world of commercial aviation was in its early, daring, and formative years. And words that might have been lost in the dust of an old building had Sara not discovered Mr. Pomeroy’s stamp album and a small part of his life.

One more powerful reminder of the power of curiosity and the potential to find ideas and inspiration in the most unexpected places.

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We win in business and in life when we wander through old warehouses and age old lessons about innovation, progress, and community.

Cheers!

To a New Year of Curiosity and Growth

Greetings. While it is hard to believe that 2016 is already here, the start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to reconnect with all of our friends, colleagues, customers, business partners, and blog readers, and to thank you for being part of the life of our company in 2015.

It also seems like the perfect time to start a new conversation about the importance, or rather the “necessity,” of curiosity in the year ahead—a year that will be filled with remarkable possibilities if we are willing to stretch our thinking about the best ways to innovate and grow our businesses and organizations. Always remember that curiosity is a gift you were born with and it is your most useful tool in making great things happen! And while it might take a bit of practice to retrain your curious self, it is a lot easier than you think.

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In a world in which new ideas and business models are quickly changing almost all of our industries, we will all need to step out of our comfort zones in order to re-imagine how we can deliver even greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. And the best ways to do this are by being humble about what we know and don’t know, paying closer attention to the world around us, asking our share of thoughtful questions, and being more open to connecting with and learning from people with very different ideas, insights, and points of view.

So here’s hoping that you and your colleagues will take the time to explore and connect with even more new people, new ideas, and new opportunities in 2016. And if you could use a little help, or simply a few words of encouragement, please don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me a quick note. In the meantime, I will try to be even more diligent about sharing ideas and insights from around the corner and across the globe that you can use to spark your best thinking yet.

But, most importantly, great thanks again to all of you who have shared your genius and taught me so much during the past twelve months.

Keep those cards, letters, calls, and emails coming, and best wishes for your most curious and successful year yet!

Cheers!

The Greatest Innovations Ever

Greetings. In the latest issue of The Atlantic, writer James Fallows shares a less than scientific but totally fascinating list of “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel.” It’s a fun and energizing journey through much of human history and the moments when people have been at their innovative best.

Let me share the Top 10 list based on the recommendations of a panel of leading scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, historians, and others, and then suggest that the entire list is likely to spark your own innate curiosity and the genius of all of your colleagues. And let me also suggest the value of thinking about what made each invention so influential in our lives, and the value of thinking about how you might make your company or organization’s offerings more valuable and meaningful to the customers you have the privilege to serve.

Atlantic November 2013

1. The Printing Press – 1430s

2. Electricity – Late 19th Century

3. Penicillin – 1928

4. Semiconductor Electronics – Mid 20th Century

5. Optical Lenses – 13th Century

6. Paper – Second Century

7. Internal Combustion Engine – Late 19th Century

8. Vaccination – 1796

9. The Internet – 1960s

10. Steam Engine – 1712

It’s also interesting and encouraging to note that most, if not all, of the fifty innovations were created by people learning from, and building on, the ideas and insights of strangers around the corner and around the world.

Rarely do we have to go it alone.

We win in business and in life when we change the status quo in some compelling way. And when we learn from the brilliance of others in other places and other moments in time.

Cheers!

Garden of Your Mind

Greetings.  Many of us grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood at a time when television was a lot simpler and more positive.  And while Fred Rogers died in 2003, the program and his ideas and guidance for children live on.  

And now there's a fun, new and musical "re-mix" of Mister Rogers' thoughts on imagination, creativity, innovation and giving ourselves time to look at the world around us with openness and a fresh set of eyes.  It's an important message that might give you a few ideas for how to spend your weekend as well as the summer ahead.  Plus, the notion that our minds are "gardens" with unlimited potential for growth is a very helpful idea…

 

We win in business and in life when we follow our curiosity.  And when we realize that everyone around us has insight to share.

Cheers!

How Strong Are You?

Greetings.  If you've ever tried Altoids you know that they are "curiously strong mints."  It's a boast, and a marketing concept, that's printed right on top of every box.  

But how strong are they?

Well…

"If you sail to an island, defeat a giant, and scale a mountaintop, Altoids are still stronger than you."

Now that's strong!  And it's also a fun way to get people to spend a little bit more time thinking about a product that they use but take for granted.  A simple product that is trying to leverage the power of curiosity as a way to generate more interest and buzz.  In fact, the Altoids website contains a "Hall of Curiosity" where you can learn more "curious" and ever changing facts about the mint "so strong it changed the course of history."

Which begs the following questions:  "How strong are you?"  "What strengths do you have that really matter to those you have the privilege to serve?"  And, "What are you doing on a consistent basis to invest in your strengths and genius so you can deliver even greater value and possibly change the course of history?"

Because if a breath mint is that important, your company or organization must have a pretty impressive upside too!

Altoids

We win in business and in life by accentuating our strengths in a way that is upbeat, helpful and even silly.

Cheers and have a great weekend!