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!

To a New Year Filled With Success

Greetings. While it is hard to believe that 2017 is already here, the start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to reconnect and thank you for being part of the life of our company in 2016.

It also seems, in these less than certain times, like the perfect moment to start a new conversation about the importance, or rather the “necessity,” of being curious and open-minded in the year ahead—a year that will be filled with remarkable possibilities for innovation and growth if we are able to see the best in everyone around us.

In a world in which new ideas and business models are quickly changing our industries and organizations, we will all need to step outside our comfort zones in order to re-imagine how we can deliver greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. And the best way to do this is by being more open to the world around us and more willing to connect with, and learn from, people with different ideas, insights, backgrounds, and points of view.

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So here’s hoping that you and your colleagues will take the time to explore and connect with new people and new ways of thinking in the year ahead. And if you could use a little help in sparking a new conversation in your company or organization, please do not hesitate to ask.

But most importantly, giant thanks again for everything you have taught me during the past twelve months and best wishes for your most open and successful year yet!

Cheers,

Alan

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!

Seven New Year’s Resolutions

Greetings. As I head back to the gym and grab a quick salad after a holiday season filled with lots of family, friends, food, and an occasional premium-quality malt beverage, I am keenly aware of my resolutions to exercise more, eat less, focus on the things that matter most, avoid taking on too many extra projects and volunteer assignments, live in the moment, and stress less about the things I can’t control. It must be a pretty good list, because it is almost identical to the list I made last year and at the start of every new year. And, with a bit of luck and a bit more effort I am guardedly optimistic about making real progress in the next twelve months.

The way I see it, resolutions are incredibly valuable…even when we can’t achieve them as completely as we would like to. Valuable in focusing our attention and best efforts on the important stuff. Valuable in giving us a better understanding of our real potential. And valuable in enabling us to better appreciate our own strengths and humanity as well as the strengths and humanity of others who are often very different than us.

Which suggests that making New Year’s resolutions might also be a good idea for leaders and organizations. Resolutions that focus our attention and best efforts on the most important stuff in our world. Resolutions that give us a better understanding of our full potential as enterprises. Resolutions that enable us to see the strengths, humanity, and value in all of our colleagues, associates, members, partners, and customers.

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So here are my suggestions for seven important corporate resolutions that will, with the right attention and effort, drive greater innovation, collaboration, growth, and business success in the year ahead…

Resolve to:

1. Be more curious about the world around you.

2. Be more open to the ideas, insights, and perspectives of others, including strangers.

3. Imagine how your company or organization could become much more meaningful and valuable to your employees, customers, and anyone else you have the privilege to serve.

4. Take the time to know your colleagues better, discover their real talents, and find more opportunities to share knowledge and possibilities.

5. Take the time to understand your customers more deeply and find more opportunities to make them smarter and more successful even when they aren’t paying you to do it.

6. Communicate more effectively and more often with those around you.

7. Make an even greater commitment to the health and well-being of your community.

We win in business and in life when we resolve to be more thoughtful, innovative, caring, and remarkable in the year ahead.

Cheers!

The Power of Teaching

Greetings.  Today is "National Teacher's Day" here in the U.S. and a chance to pause and honor a group of people who don't always get the credit they deserve.

Teachers.  People who play a vital role in the learning and eventual success of our nation's children.  People who also play a vital role in unlocking the passion and potential in every student at a time when our system seems so preoccupied with testing as opposed to nurturing a love of learning and growth.  Which leaves even the best teachers with a difficult balancing act.

Recognizing this, I had the privilege last week to lead a seminar on innovation for high school teachers in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.  It was a chance to gain their insights and share ideas about how to bring out the real genius in kids.  It is genius that I believe comes quite naturally to all kids with the right guidance and encouragement from teachers who care.  And in the course of the session I shared seven things teachers can do to continually spark innovation and possibilities…

1.  BE CURIOUS and encourage students to be curious.

2.  ASK BIG QUESTIONS and encourage students to ask big questions.

3.  VIEW LEARNING AS AN EXPLORATION of ideas and perspectives and encourage students to view themselves as explorers with their eyes wide open.

4.  PUT THINGS TOGETHER THAT DON'T BELONG and challenge students to create unexpected combinations.

5.  CAST A WIDER NET in search of insight and possibilities and challenge students to spin the globe in their quest for knowledge and understanding.

6.  BELIEVE THAT THERE IS ALWAYS MORE THAN ONE ANSWER to any problem worth solving and encourage students to never be satisfied with their first answer.

7.  DEMONSTRATE PASSION and help every student to find their passion as the basis for learning any subject.

Seven simple ideas for making innovation part of the lifeblood of our schools.  And for making sure that learning and growth are the real results of education.  Seven things that great teachers seem to do quite naturally.

Which begs the question:

Is there a more important role in our society than teaching?  

It's hard for me to imagine one.

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We win in business and in life when we appreciate the powerful role that teachers can play in the lives of our kids and our communities. And when we work together to unlock the genius in every single child.

Cheers!