To a New Year of Dreams and Dreamers

Greetings. After a bit of a sabbatical from blogging, I am delighted to be back with a new sense of energy and focus about writing and business. In addition to dealing with a couple of pressing family matters, I have spent the past nine months continuing to think about the importance–or should I say the “necessity”–of strangers, the real keys to unlocking the genius that exists in everyone in our companies and organizations, and the value of stretching our thinking in order to live lives of meaning and make a real difference in the world around us. I have also been thinking about the value of dreams and why daring ourselves and those around us to dream is a vital ingredient in innovation and success.

As I begin to write a new book about how we can all discover and leverage our greatest abilities in today’s fast-paced economy, I am inspired by people from all different backgrounds and walks of life who dared to dream about what could be possible. The brothers Wright from Dayton, Ohio, who turned their skill as bicycle mechanics into a compelling passion for empowering humans to fly. Martine Rothblatt, a renowned telecommunications entrepreneur in Silver Spring, Maryland, who changed fields in the middle of a remarkable career in order to find a cure for her daughter’s seemingly incurable respiratory disease. In the process, she created one of America’s most successful biotech companies. Shahid Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan who bought a small auto parts supplier named Flex-N-Gate from his employer and through hard work, vision, and innovation turned it into a global company with more than 24,000 employees based in Warren, Michigan. It is worth noting that he is also the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League.

The list of people who dreamed about a different and better life and world is one of my favorite lists, and a constant inspiration to continue our work with our customers and in the local community. Work that we hope inspires people discover their own potential and imagine what is possible. Because it turns out that there are powerful and important dreams in all of us. Yet sadly, too many people lack the opportunity to make their dreams come true. People struggling to simply get by. People stuck in cities and towns that have been hit hardest by economic and technological change. People fleeing countries devastated by natural, economic, or political disasters. People discouraged from believing in themselves and their ideas. People who lack the financial resources or legal status to continue their educations in search of a better life.

Dreamers of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Dreamers with the promise to innovate and contribute in so many different ways if simply given the chance.

Throughout our history America has, at its best, been a place to hope and dream. Which makes it especially troubling to see how quickly we have changed our view of people, opportunity, immigrants, equality, and what is right. Throughout our history America has, at its best, been a place where anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules had a chance to make a meaningful life or even make it big. Which makes it especially troubling to see how quickly we have changed the rules to limit so many of our greatest assets from dreaming because of fear, ignorance, politics, or racism. Let’s hope that this is simply a blip–and a call to action–on the road to being more caring, enlightened, and prosperous. And let’s all commit during the year ahead, beginning with this week when we pause to honor the legacy of Dr. King, to dream dreams of kindness, innovation, and growth, and to support everyone among us who dreams of making a difference in our workplaces and communities.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15:  Dozens of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally outside of  Trump Tower along Fifth Avenue on August 15, 2017 in New York City. The activists were rallying on the five-year anniversary of President Obama's executive order, DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Security throughout the area is high with President Donald Trump in residency at the tower, his first visit back to his apartment since his inauguration. Numerous protests and extensive road closures are planned for the area.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

We succeed in business and in life when we dare to dream, and when we nurture the dreams in those around us.

Cheers!

Dreams and Innovation

Greetings. If you happened to read the New York Times last Wednesday, you might have noticed a fascinating article about a new idea that could save the lives of countless newborns in developing countries and significantly reduce the number of births by cesarean section in affluent ones. An idea that also tells us a lot about the process of innovation and role that casting a wider net and then making powerful connections plays.

The idea is called the “Odon Device” and it is designed as a tool for those times in childbirth when babies get stuck in the birth canal. But it wasn’t created by a doctor or a leading medical device company or research lab. Instead, it was developed by an Argentine automotive mechanic named Jorge Odon who was inspired, subconsciously it seems, after watching a YouTube video of someone extracting a cork stuck in a wine bottle. It was a simple trick that led him in a dream (or waking from a dream) to make a direction connection with the challenge posed by obstructed labor “when a baby’s head is too large or an exhausted mother’s contractions stop” and baby and mother are quickly at great risk. Using his device, “an attendant slips a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the head, inflates it to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges.” It is a very promising alternative to the more traditional and potentially hazardous use of forceps or suctions cups or simply doing nothing in cases and places where C-sections are not an option.

You can learn more about this breakthrough in the NYTimes article. And you and your colleagues might also use this story as a powerful reminder that we all have the ability to be curious, make new connections, and put ideas together that at first blush don’t seem to belong. Ideas sparked by strangers in another aspect of life that might cause us to think in new ways about the challenges faced by us or others.

Ideas that matter.

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We win in business, healthcare, and life when make powerful connections…even when those connections are in our dreams.

Cheers!

The Power of Imagination

Greetings.  Even today the very thought of sending a person to the moon seems somewhat amazing–a bold idea that became a reality forty-three years ago when an awe-struck Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the dusty, imperfect surface of our closest friend in the universe.  An odd and unassuming place that helped to create our calendar, influence our tides, affect our moods, cause women and many other mammals to go into labor earlier than they might otherwise, and inspire legions of stories about love, possibilities and even jumping cows.  

And then to welcome a guy stepping out of a silly and remarkable spacecraft.

The passing of Neil Armstrong should give all of us reason to think back to a time when anything was possible and to think ahead to what might be possible in the future.  A time to think about whether or not our hopes and dreams are big enough as people, organizations, nations and a collective world.  About whether you and your company are really living up to your full potential by combining vision, spirit, technology and hope in a way that might deliver much greater value to customers in addressing a problem or need that really matters.

So if you do nothing else in remembering Neil Armstrong–and all of the men and women who made his journey possible–at least take a few minutes to imagine what it would take to become more remarkable.  

Then set a goal, a timeline and a star or a moon to guide you.

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Cheers!

Noah-isms: “The Most Important Dream”

Greetings.  On a recent dog walk around the neighborhood, our son Noah asked me what my "most important dream" was.  It was an interesting question and one that sparked my curiosity.  "I'm not really sure," I replied–quickly trying to unlock my memory.  "I have had a lot of very interesting dreams," I suggested, "but I'm not sure which one is the most important."  "You know," he continued, "the dream that changed your life the most.  The one that you did something about.  Like dreaming about meeting Mamma, or having children, or getting a dog, or starting your own business, or making the world a better place, or something like that."  "I guess that I did dream about every one of those things," I answered with a smile.  And all of a sudden I began to understand the even bigger idea that he was getting at.  That each of us has a special power to dream an important dream and then be so inspired that we make it come to life.  Rather than simply letting our dreams fade with the harsh sound of the alarm clock or the pressing demands of an urgent priority.

That we could be the superheroes of our dreams.  With the special powers to make them happen against all odds!

And even if you can't remember your most important dreams from when you have been asleep, you can definitely recall your dreams from when you've been awake. That is, if you have ever taken the time to dream.  To recall the dreams that once (or more than once) captured your imagination but somehow never came to be. The moments when you dared to envision a more perfect world, a more impactful enterprise, a more engaged and collaborative workplace, a more meaningful and complete life, or a more significant contribution to a problem worth solving.

So what is your most important dream for your company or organization?  And, how willing are you to use your genius and the brilliance of those you work with in order to make it come true?  To create a clear and inspiring vision, craft a clear and innovative strategy, and then act to bring the dream to life.  With a keen sense of focus…and a dog at your side.

Noah Studying

We win in business and in life when we are invited to recall our most important dreams.  And when we strive to make them come true.

Cheers!

Celebrating “Youth”

Greetings.  Today is "Youth Day" in South Africa, a holiday that commemorates the pivotal events of June 16, 1976 when 20,000 students from Soweto marched to demand a better and more equal system of education.  Their march would lead to clashes with police, riots, the loss of many lives, and gradual change that is now being seen as many of us watch the World Cup.  Other countries around the world also celebrate their own version of Youth Day–some marking the sacrifices made by young people in the histories of their nations, and some using the day to honor the important role that young people play in their national life.

Thinking about these holidays suggests a worthwhile connection with success in companies and organizations.  A connection that is all about the value that young people could bring to our efforts to innovate and serve our customers in new and remarkable ways.  Unfortunately, many workplaces fail to appreciate or even ask for the ideas and potential contributions of their newest or youngest employees. Instead, they rely on age, position, and seniority as the only suitable criteria for setting direction and offering real wisdom.  And they assume that employees can only make a difference once they have learned the ropes, paid their dues, earned their stripes, climbed the corporate ladder, and fully understood the way things are done.  Not seeing the merit of combining the perspectives and insights of young and old, new and experienced.  And not fully (or even partially) appreciating the reality that young people are often the ones who bring the freshest ideas, the greatest energy, the most inspired optimism, and a willingness to take chances. In fact, they are often the ones who are willing to risk their futures quite literally to do what they believe is right, just, and really matters.  Yet we often fail to appreciate their commitment or give appropriate credence to their dreams, genius, and potential for innovation.

So maybe it makes sense to establish a "Youth Day" in your company or organization.  A day each year–or even more often–when you honor your company's most recent arrivals.  By asking them to share their best thinking, by encouraging their suggestions for the things that should change, and by letting them take the lead in bold new efforts to make your organization even better than it already is.

Soweto 1976 

We win in business and in life when we encourage young and old to share their dreams and gifts.  Maybe your newest colleagues have real brilliance to share if you are willing to give them a chance to shine.

Cheers!