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!

Re-Imagining College

Greetings. After a week of college visits with our middle daughter Carly, I am quite a bit more optimistic about young people, education, the value of college, and even the future.

I just have to figure out a way to pay for it.

But a couple of ideas strike me that might make the entire experience of going to college even more compelling for all of our kids and the world we share…

First, wouldn’t it be a great idea if every high school graduate were required to work for at least a year before starting college? A year or more in which they could get a better sense of what the world of work is like, imagine and even explore future career options, take a “break” after thirteen straight years of school, and even make a bit of money that they can use to contribute to their education. All of which would make going to college a lot more meaningful (and possibly more focused) when they arrived. I sense that this is not a particularly popular idea among most students, their parents, and colleges who worry that kids will somehow get “off-track” by interrupting their studies…even though it would benefit all of them.

Second, wouldn’t it be a great idea if every college student was required to spend at least one semester studying, learning, and living in another country and culture? A semester or more in which they could get a much deeper understanding of just how similar and different people are in other places, become more open-minded about other people and the world they live in, and stretch their abilities to adapt and grow in new and unfamiliar places. All essential skills in their lives as global citizens. I sense that this is a slightly more popular idea but that not enough students ever take advantage of the opportunity for any number of reasons.

College should be a time of remarkable learning and personal discovery. A gift to be welcomed and appreciated. And I sense that Carly and most of her friends will make even more of the opportunity if they see its even greater connection to their lives, careers, the broader world, and their own unique potential.

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We win in business and in life when we view learning more broadly than simply going to college and getting a degree. And when we imagine our own amazing potential to learn and grow.

Cheers!

The Power of Making Things

Greetings. On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Silver Spring “Mini-Maker Faire,” a brilliant event created by Kid Museum…a new museum in the Washington, D.C., area that is dedicated to “cultivating creativity, curiosity and compassion.” Three things that are near and dear to my heart and work. The faire offered proof that science, technology, engineering, and math can be fun and compelling for a new generation of young people who will, with the right encouragement, be vital to the future of scientific discovery and entrepreneurship. Kids who have an innate gift for imagining a world filled with possibilities and making super cool stuff. It turns out that “making stuff” that matters is a simple and very powerful way to think about engineering.

As part of the day, I had the privilege of facilitating a panel of creative kids (which is kind of a redundant phrase), public sector and nonprofit leaders, and entrepreneurs and innovators as they talked about the importance of coming together as a community to make things. And I was encouraged by the wealth of talent, energy, and insight that exists in our small corner of the world. In wrapping up our session I took a moment to share six ideas that can help all of us to unlock our real genius and thought they might be fun to share them with you…

1. Never forget that 99% of all new ideas are based on the ideas and work of others. In other words, we don’t have to have a totally original idea to make a difference. We simply need to combine what we know best with the wisdom of others.

2. Curiosity is a gift we were all born with, and we can rediscover it by changing our mindset and deciding to engage the world around us head-on.

3. Everyone matters. I can learn something important from everyone else on the planet.

4. Anything is possible. If I can imagine something I can, through hard work and openness, figure out how to make it happen.

5. Always carry a small notebook or journal with you as one simple way to capture your ideas, inspirations, and anything else that seems remarkable. And create a habit of writing, drawing, doodling, and imagining.

6. Each day we pass one hundred people, places, and things that could change our lives. But in our haste to get from Point A to Point B we rarely take the time to notice or connect with strangers. As a result, we limit our potential to build new relationships, learn new things, and make a greater difference in the things that matter most. Commit to connecting with a sense of curiosity and openness!

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We win in business and in life when we rediscover the power of using our hands to make simple and important things.

Cheers!

Inspiration Unlimited

Greetings.  If you happen to live just about anywhere in the U.S., tomorrow is a great day to test your innovative might.  Because it happens to be the 6th annual "Museum Day," an event sponsored by Smithsonian magazine in which more than 1,000 great museums in almost every corner of the country are open for free. And all you have to do is follow this link to find a museum of interest, download a pair of free tickets for you and a friend, relative, or colleague, and set of for a day of discovery.  Rarely has the chance to be inspired been so easy!

You can visit the…

  • Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City
  • Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore
  • CDC's Global Health Odyssey Museum in Atlanta
  • Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
  • Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
  • American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain, S. Dakota
  • Alaska State Museum in Juneau
  • American Jazz Museum in Kansas City
  • Adler Planetarium in Chicago
  • Buddy Holly Museum in Lubbock, Texas
  • Pacific Aviation Museum in Honolulu
  • World Kite Museum in Long Beach, Washington

Or any one of an almost unlimited number of other great museums, all with the potential to help spark your innate curiosity, thinking, learning, and genius.  So this weekend, why not challenge yourself to have fun by exploring, learning, and thinking in new and exciting ways?  Who knows…you might even discover some powerful ideas for improving the performance of your company or organization.

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We win in business and in life when we look for ideas and inspiration in the world around.  And when we commit to spending a day in a great museum.

Cheers and have an exciting weekend of exploration!