On Inauguration Day

Greetings.  Today marks the 57th inauguration of a United States President.  It also provides an opportunity to think about the history and promise of our country, and the challenges we face living up to our ideals in a way more complicated world than our forefathers (and our foremothers) ever imagined.  And regardless of your political persuasion, the nature of our presidential inaugurations speaks volumes about the stability of our democracy–and the unique potential of our increasingly diverse nation.

Today also suggests the possibility that each of us can periodically (in this case every four years) take stock of where we have been, where we are trying to get to, and the best path for reaching our goals and dreams as companies, organizations, and individuals.  To reflect on the powerful stories and rich histories that have brought us to where we are today.  To take account of our real promise and the challenges we face in making it a reality.  And to imagine a newer and more optimistic set of priorities that would challenge us to reach our real potential by working together with colleagues, customers, partners, and even competitors.

Who knows what the next four years will bring in Washington.  We can only hope that our leaders on both sides of the aisle will seek to find meaningful compromise and even innovation in addressing the biggest issues we face as a nation.  Because whether we are willing to admit it or not, their actions and inactions have a great impact on almost all of our enterprises…and on our ability as a nation to continue to be a remarkable source of energy, imagination, creativity, invention, hope and opportunity.


We win in business and in life when we decide to inaugurate our own fresh starts.  And when we find the courage to get beyond old thinking in building a more compelling and shared future.


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.



The Genius of Imagination

Greetings.  I've often led leadership teams in dramatic readings of "Where the Wild Things Are"–Maurice Sendak's classic children's book about overcoming our fears and the power of our imaginations.  So his passing this week provides a reason to think about his special talents for storytelling, illustration and inspiring kids of all ages to imagine new worlds filled with possibilities where demons (and challenges) can easily be tamed.

I could write a long blog post about him, and maybe someday I will.  But for now, I'd simply like to suggest that you and your colleagues do your own shared reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" or another one of his stories.  Then imagine how you might work together to break through the barriers that separate your company or organization from reaching its full potential.  And how you might endeavor to tame the wildest creatures in your world before returning to the comfort and safety of home. 

Wild Things

We win in business and in life when we dare to use our imaginations. And when we discover that we're never too old to learn from the magic of a children's story.


Closing Our Eyes

Greetings.  This past week, during one of our Team Learning Adventures, I took twenty executives from one of the companies we work with to a new exhibition on invention at the National Museum of American History.  The exhibit, titled "Invention and Play," provides a wonderful and hands-on understanding of the innovation process and the role of play in sparking new thinking.  In the process it profiles some remarkable inventors and ideas including:

Newman Darby, inventor of the "sailboard" and the sport of windsurfing.

Sally Fox, inventor of naturally colored cotton.

Luis Alvarez, Nobel Prize winning physicist who received more than 40 patents and is best known for his invention of a radio distance and direction indicator.

Stephanie Kwolek, a DuPont chemist who invented kevlar.

And Garrett Morgan, inventor of the gas mask, the "caution" signal in traffic lights and a wide range of other innovations.  While Morgan had only a formal sixth grade education, he was an avid learner and had a special gift for invention, solving problems and fixing things that would lead to a successful business career in his hometown of Cleveland.  Upon hearing of the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, he invented a safety hood and fire protector that he would use in 1916 to rescue two men from a tunnel fire under Lake Erie.  He also invented a three-color traffic signal that provided guidance to vehicles coming into an intersection.  When asked about the secret to his success in coming up with important innovations, Morgan's niece replied: "Some of these things just came from closing his eyes and using his imagination."

Garrett Morgan

Which begs the question:  "How often do you find time to close your eyes and imagine a more compelling solution to a problem your company or organization is facing?"  Or simply take the time to imagine a new and powerful idea that might make a real difference in the lives of your customers.  In the press of our in-box and day-to-day responsibilities, most of us rarely take the time to imagine.

We win in business and in life when we use our imaginations.  And sometimes all we need to do to get started is close our eyes.


Finding Insight at the Movies

Greetings.  Looking for a fun summer movie that might also spark your sense of curiosity and innovation?  If so, you might really enjoy Woody Allen's newest film "Midnight in Paris."  It's a delightful journey to the Paris of today and yesterday and, while I don't want to give away the story line, it does resonate with the theme of this blog and my books.  Because one of the real keys to our success is the ability to cast a wide net in search of ideas and inspiration.  And sometimes those ideas and inspirations come from remarkable thinkers, artists, and innovators in other disciplines and from other periods of history.  People whose unique insights and perspectives are still compelling and cutting edge today.

So grab your colleagues and a few boxes of popcorn…and I'll leave the rest to your shared sense of curiosity, imagination, and wonder!

And here's the trailer which, while it does not really do justice to the movie and the big idea that I'd like you to think about, should at least get you in the mood to take a corporate "field trip" to a theater near you…


We win in business and in life when look for ideas around the corner, around the world, and even back in time.  And when we see a trip to the movies as a great way to energize ourselves and our organizations.