The Power of the Unexpected

Greetings. We often think about libraries as very quiet places for contemplation, exploration, discovering new ideas and new possibilities, and sparking our true imaginations. But what if we also think of them as places where loud and dramatic learning comes alive as it literally jumps out of the pages of a new or classic book?

Such was the case at the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia this past Saturday when the DancePhiladelphia Argentine Tango group led a series of “pop-up” performances throughout the library tied to the publication of Carolyn Merritt’s book Tango Nuevo. And in the process a building filled with people of all ages and backgrounds received a wonderful lesson in the magic and passion of the tango (a dance that had its origins in mid-19th century working-class neighborhoods in Buenos Aires)…and a wonderful reminder of the joy of learning and the power of the unexpected.

All of which suggests two very simple questions:

1. “How well do we make learning come alive in our companies and organizations?”


2. “How do we make our most important written documents (i.e., our visions, strategies, and even websites and blogs) as passionate and engaging as a tango?”

Because if we can’t figure out how to bring learning and purpose to life for our employees and customers, we will never get them to lift their heads, really take notice, and achieve the level of commitment and collaboration needed to do remarkable things.


We win in business and in life when we make learning come alive. And when we realize that we all have the potential to dance with great energy and purpose.


Creating an Idea Library

Greetings.  Libraries have been around for more than 3,000 years with the oldest one being discovered in what is now Syria–a country with a rich history that today is continually in the news but not because of its vast library of important texts and ancient poetry.  Several centuries later the library of Alexandria, Egypt, would be built and gain renown as a great center of learning and a totally hip place to hang out (as depicted below).

Fast forward to 2012 and libraries continue to be essential centers of knowledge in nations and communities around the world though they are having to change in response to the internet and new ways of finding and sharing information.  But the fundamental notion of libraries as repositories of information and collective wisdom remains.  And the concept of libraries has also broadened to include a much wider range of "shared" materials.  In fact, most communities are now likely to have a wide range of "libraries" with books, e-books, magazines, newspapers, music, films and even artwork, tools, assistive devices, sports equipment, toys, computers, software, formal wear, costumes, puppets and a bunch of other things that I've never even imagined.  All items that can be readily shared by two or more people who each derive real benefits from their temporary use.  

Which makes libraries a clever resource especially when we don't need something forever or even very often.

Which brings me to the very simple notion of creating a lending library for ideas in your company or organization.  A place where your best ideas can be shared by anyone who might find a use for them.  Or a place where ideas that haven't quite seen the light of day might find a new use or a new home.  All because they were made available for others to peruse, think about and apply to the challenges and opportunities they face.  Ideas that might otherwise be lost but could lead to new and powerful innovations for customers and colleagues.

And all they require is for someone to take the time to pull them together and make them accessible in an ever-evolving collection of possibilities.


We win in business and in life when we share knowledge and ideas. Especially ideas that have yet to find the right home.


Finding Magic in a Library

Greetings.  They are almost forgotten in this era of instant information that is driven right to our desks, PDAs, or phones.  In fact, we probably walk or drive by at least one library every day without giving it a second thought.  In a time when professionals in so many fields are satisfied with brief snippets of information, and students are allowed to do most of their research on line, we seem to have less use for them.  After all, it's a Wikipedia world–not that this brilliant idea isn't a valuable tool.  And a growing number of avid readers are now downloading books, MP3 files, and a host of other information onto their Kindles or other "reading" devices.  Again, very clever and valuable tools for people on the go who don't want to be weighed down by a bunch of hard copy.  

No, the sad truth is that we all seem way too busy to pause long enough to visit a library and read, relax, explore, and learn.  To discover today's genius and the genius of every generation before us.  To walk in without a destination in mind, only to be captivated by a book, or a magazine, or a film that we never anticipated or planned to find–but one with the power to transport us to a different world filled with new ideas, inspiration, and possibilities.  Libraries are places filled with magic, and as we race to forget that essential fact we lose a unique and wonderful opportunity to unlock our individual and collective curiosity and genius.  Curiosity and genius that could help us to be more remarkable at work, in our civic lives, or at anything worth doing. 

So this weekend, or any weekend when you aren't so overscheduled and overwhelmed, find an hour or two to visit a library near you.  It doesn't have to be the Library of Congress–though just walking in there makes me feel smarter and more inspired.  Or the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt, founded in the year 228 B.C. and a place where brilliant thinkers like Eratosthenes and Euclid use to hang out.  Or the the Yunju Temple in China that dates back to the 7th Century.  Or the British Library in London.  Or the New York Public Library. Any library will do.  Just as long as you commit to wandering the aisles, exploring the new and old book corners, and giving yourself the freedom to be taken on a journey to discover new places, perspectives, questions, and answers.


We have the greatest chance to reach our potential as people, organizations, and communities when we open our eyes to rediscover the wonder of learning.  Maybe your remarkable story will be written in even more compelling ways by a visit around the corner.

Cheers and have a magical weekend!