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 Snowball Effect

Greetings. Many of us were either shocked or amused a few days ago when Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe brought a snowball to the floor of the United States Senate, threw it to a colleague, and offered this simple act as proof that climate change was a myth. How else might one explain that it was still cold enough to snow in late February right here in the nation’s capital? The fact that Inhofe is a long-time denier of climate change is not surprising to those who follow American politics. The reality that he is now chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee should be cause for greater concern as he is in a rather influential position when it comes to U.S. environmental policy.

But this isn’t really a post about climate change or the political and/or personal views of a senator from a state that’s economy relies heavily on fossil fuels. Or one man making a confused connection between the weather in Washington, D.C. on one particular day and the evolving climate around the globe. Rather it’s a post about how leaders and organizations too often think and act based on their own misguided beliefs and an unwillingness to understand and acknowledge the facts. Facts about the market, the changing needs and desires of current and prospective customers, the quality and value of their products or services, or the quality and value of the customer experiences they provide. Facts about innovation, how it occurs, and how to unlock the real genius in people at all levels of their enterprises. Facts about technology, the internet, new and emerging business models, and how easy it has become for clever folks from different industries, backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life to literally change the game in all of our industries overnight by figuring out how to create significantly greater value at significantly lower cost.

In turns out that Inhofe is not alone in denying what is really happening and, while we can’t easily change his worldview, we have to be willing to change our own views of the world. Continually. By paying attention to the marketplace and the offerings of our best and newest competitors. By embracing and capitalizing on the power of the Web, the Cloud, mobility, social media, and a range of other transforming technologies. By being open to a much wider set of ideas and inspirations from a much wider set of people…including people who don’t really understand or appreciate the way we’ve always done things and how our world has always operated.

The days of hiding behind “business as usual,” of milking the cash cows we know best, and of thinking that we can keep believing in our own outdated beliefs, are over for practically every business on earth. And if we need more proof we can simply look at the once-remarkable firms in our own industries that failed to keep up with the times. Or we can look at once remarkable companies like Borders, Blockbuster, Radio Shack, and even McDonald’s that refused to accept the fact that the world around them was changing and it was time to change along with it and place new bets on a new and evolving future.

A senator, a snowball, and a sad but urgent wake up call for all of us to get our facts straight and our actions right in order to thrive, prosper, and remain relevant.

It turns out there is a not-so-subtle difference between being innovative based on the facts and being innovative with the facts.

Senator Inhofe CSPAN

We win in business and in life when we pay attention to the world around us. And when we use facts and reality to guide our most innovative and inspired thinking.

Cheers!

The Genius of Maya Angelou

Greetings. Maya Angelou was a remarkable gift to all of us. A woman whose early life was filled with adversity, she would become not only a renowned and revered poet but a person of rare vision whose words and sense of humanity would inspire people of all backgrounds, ages, and beliefs. At the heart of her writing was a powerful understanding of the importance, meaning, and dignity of everyone. An understanding that is essential to reaching our full potential as individuals, communities, nations, and even companies and organizations.

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Maya Angelou also understood the value and power of connecting with strangers and of being more open to people who are different than us. In writing the closing chapter of The Necessity of Strangers, which is about the “power of travel,” I was inspired by a quote from her 1994 book Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

And we might even become remarkable collaborators and innovators.

As humans we are so similar, yet all too often we decide to focus on our differences as the reason (or excuse) for not connecting, learning, and working together in remarkable ways.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t share one of her poems titled “When a Great Tree Falls.” It is a poem filled with added meaning this week as our family attended memorial services for friends whose lives ended way too soon…

“When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

We win in life and in business when we see the value of everyone. And when we commit to keeping everyone’s memory and special gifts alive.

The Truth About Creativity

Greetings. As many of you know, I spend a lot of time giving presentations and leading seminars on innovation, creativity, and unlocking the real genius in people at all levels of companies and organizations. And I have a strong belief that all of us have the innate ability to be way more innovative simply by being a bit more curious and open-minded about a world around us filled with remarkable people and awesome ideas and possibilities. In fact, this notion is at the heart of my newest book “The Necessity of Strangers.” So I was delighted when David Burkus invited me to be one of 30 guest “experts” in the upcoming “Truth About Creativity” virtual conference that begins on June 2nd at a computer or mobile device near you.

In the conference you will have the chance to discover insights for enhancing your own creative ability and driving even greater innovation in your company or organization through a series of fun and engaging 30-minute video interviews.  It promises to be a great learning experience that you can enjoy at your own pace and schedule.

You and your colleagues can sign up for this FREE (yes, FREE) event by simply following this link:

https://www.entheos.com/The-Truth-About-Creativity/Alan-Gregerman

I hope to see you there! Virtually, that is. And then I’ll look forward to having the chance to follow up and compare notes afterwards.

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And please feel free to share this link with any and all of your closest friends, colleagues, family members, neighbors, the folks on your softball team, the other parents on your childrens’ soccer and swimming teams, and even some total and partial strangers who might benefit from some of the latest thinking about innovation.

Cheers!

Encouraging New Connections

Greetings. In Brazil, a country that is filled with great potential, great challenges, and large disparities in income and education, the government has launched a bold initiative to increase access to culture. It is an idea intended to make art, music, dance, theatre, films, and books a more important part of the lives of the country’s lowest-income residents. The program is called “Vale Brasil” and it provides people with $20 a month in the form of a “coupon” or debit card that can be used to go to movies, learn to dance or play an instrument, buy a book, visit a museum, or anything else that will stretch their interests, abilities, and cultural appreciation.

Brazil Music

Vale Brasil is an intriguing idea that merits all of our attention because it imagines the possibility of opening peoples’ eyes to the wonder all around them and the genius in themselves. Possibilities that are essential if countries like Brazil, and even the U.S. and other “developed” nations, are to ever unlock their full potential and the full potential of all of their citizens.

Clearly there are at least three powerful benefits if this social “innovation” works. First, it will broaden the reach and sense of what is possible for Brazil’s poorest people. Second, it will increase the amount of funding and investment necessary to spark greater development of culture and the arts. Third, it could be a ticket out of poverty for those who use their card to discover and develop their own remarkable gifts in this nation of over 200 million.

Which begs the question of whether it is another government “handout” or a thoughtful and brilliant gift?

And if it does work it could inspire other nations to invest more creatively in their own people.

It might even inspire all of us to re-imagine how we invest in the artistic interests and talents of the people in our companies and organizations as a key to their personal growth, business engagement, retention, and innovation.

Vale Cultura

$20 a month to open minds and hearts about a remarkable world that seemed just beyond grasp.

Certainly an idea worth paying attention to…and pulling for. And an idea that should cause all of us to think in new ways about our work, civic and personal lives, and the investments we make in ourselves and others.

We win in business, government, and life when we commit to unlocking the curiosity and innate gifts of those around us. And when we see the magic of the arts as an essential part of learning, growing, and making a compelling difference.

Cheers!