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!)

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.


Greetings from Finland

Greetings.  Do you ever wonder if you have the best business model to win in your industry?  If so, you're not alone because technology–in particular the internet–as well as changing demographics, and a host of other economic, political, cultural, and social factors, are forcing many companies and organizations to rethink the way they operate.  And some of the smartest ones are actually looking outside their comfort zones for new and more effective approaches to deliver compelling value. But what about public schools which often seem trapped in the race to leave "no child left behind."  A race, driven by "high-stakes testing" that seems to be leaving a lot of kids behind.  And, certainly hasn't put the American education system at the top of the heap or created a brand new generation of inspired and passionate learners.  Could it be that this effort, and the "business model" that supports it, don't really make sense in today's world given the results we need to achieve?    

Which leads us to a country whose kids are consistently rated the best educated in the world, and which has a system that is very different than ours.  Finland.  The land sandwiched between Scandinavia and Russia where the literacy rate is just about 100% and kids actually seem to enjoy going to school, reading books, and learning.  The home of Nokia, Marimekko, and the great composer Sibelius.  The land of great architects and architecture, including the brilliant Eero Saarinen. The birthplace of the LINUX operating system.  And, possibly most important, the people who invented the sauna.

But what accounts for their remarkable educational achievement?  In Finland:

  • Kids start school later (at age 7).
  • There are no standardized tests.
  • There are no gifted and talented programs–everyone learns together.
  • The kids who really understand a subject help the kids who don't.
  • Teachers create individualized lessons plans for each student.
  • There are no honor societies or school valedictorians.
  • There is little or no competition among peers.
  • No one is reprimanded for being late.
  • Teachers are highly-trained and given a lot of freedom to be teaching "entrepreneurs."
  • There is very little technology used in the classroom.
  • A love of reading is encouraged almost at birth.
  • And, no one seems to worry about getting into, or paying for, college.  

Clearly a different business model than our highly-competitive, high-stakes, high-stress approach to teaching kids–our most valuable resource.  Granted, Finland is much less diverse than the U.S.  But it's approach to education should still warrant our curiosity and interest. 

Finland Classroom

We win in education and in business by producing results that matter for those we have the privilege to serve.  Could your business model use some fresh ideas and genius from outside your comfort zone?  Or a bit more time in the sauna?  


Who Do I Work With?

Greetings.  Have you ever taken the time to really get to know all the people you work with?  Not just your closest friends at the office.  Or the people on the other side of the wall or cube right next door.  But the absolutely remarkable folks in all the other departments who often seem to exist just to make your life miserable, or are simply names and titles posted by a door?  If you did, you might find that:

A.  You actually like them.

B.  They have interests and talents beyond their job descriptions.

C.  You have something important in common.

D.  All of the above.

No, this question isn't on the SAT, Myers-Briggs, or any other widely-used test. (Though I'm reminded by a small voice that the Myers-Briggs is not a "test.")  But for the past several years, I have been challenging companies around the world to create a "culture of conversation" in which they commit to discovering all the genius and possibilities in their organizations.  Two people at a time.  Making a simple human connection through a very simple exercise.

And it goes like this…

Once a week ask everyone in your company or organization to identify a colleague they don't know very well.  Then ask them to make time for a "conversation"–over lunch, coffee, tea, or on a walk outside.  To get to know each other as people with skills, interests, and passions.  Not as titles, job descriptions, stereotypes, or the signatories to less than popular memos.  To find out what makes us tick.  What we love to do most.  What we have in common.  What we hope for the future.  And, in the process, how we might work together to unlock new opportunities, share ideas and information, collaborate across organizational boundaries, and innovate in order to improve business performance and deliver more compelling value to customers.  All through a simple exercise.

Cubicle Image

We succeed in business and in life by scratching below the surface, and by getting past the cubicles that divide us.  When was the last time you made a new friend at work?  Or created a new opportunity by sharing a conversation with a colleague?  Maybe the time is right.


Invisible Fences

Greetings.  Ever wonder about invisible fences?  Those marvels of science and technology that magically keep the family dog from racing into the street to chase a car or a cat, or simply to mark his or her territory.  It turns out they're all around us, protecting more than one million pets from their innate desire to do something stupid and potentially life threatening.  And yet we rarely notice them.  Unless, of course, we see one of those oddly amusing signs in the neighborhood that says: "Invisible Fence."  I guess that no one has figured out how to create an invisible sign yet.  Sounds like a pretty cool assignment for a summer intern.  

But why would I write about "invisible fences" in a blog on unlocking genius and delivering compelling value?  Is it because I've found–in more than twenty years of consulting–that they are such an integral part of so many leading companies and organizations, protecting us from our innate desire to do something brilliant?  Is it because they're all around us in…
  • The history of how we've always done things.  
  • The way we frame and evaluate problems and opportunities.  
  • The way we think about our customers and their needs.  
  • The way we find and share information.  
  • The way we develop plans and budgets. 
  • The way we set goals and attempt to meet them. 
  • The way we handle new and different ideas. 
  • The way we provide incentives for performance. 
  • The way we hire and orient new people who are, all too often, just like us. 
  • The way we lead and are led. 
It turns out that these invisible fences are our biggest obstacles to real genius and greater success.  And, our biggest obstacles to delivering more compelling value to those we have the privilege to serve.  Yet just like the family dog, far too many of us have been conditioned to avoid them out of fear that we might get ZAPPED.  

Invisible Fence

Maybe its time to put a sign in your workplace that says: "Beware of the Presence of Invisible Fences."  Its time to run out in the street in search of new ideas and possibilities.