Curiosity – Vital to Businesses of All Sizes

Greetings. Last Thursday I had the pleasure of giving a relatively short presentation on innovation, curiosity, and the importance of strangers for the Small Business Network here in Maryland. The audience was an interesting and quite diverse group of business owners and potential entrepreneurs who were engaged, enthusiastic, and eager to gain some new ideas about how to deliver greater value and jumpstart their own success.

Needless to say, I was excited to share and exchange ideas about why the most successful companies are the ones that inspire all of their people to consistently take a fresh look at the world around them. I was also excited to challenge everyone to think about how their companies and organizations could be different in ways that really matter, and how they could consistently bring the best new ideas, products, services, solutions, and business practices to their customers. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practices that would make customers smarter, more capable, more effective, more efficient, more complete, more inspired, and more innovative themselves. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practices that would make their customer’s world more “awesome” to quote my favorite song from the original Lego movie. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practice that were most likely to be sparked by looking at the world around us with fresh eyes and by being curious about the wisdom and best practices of folks in other industries, other walks of life, other places, and even other cultures.

And as many of you have asked to see one of my talks, I thought you might find this one interesting and quick. It is just a bit more than 20 minutes…which is all the time they gave me. A constrain that forced me to be focused and probably talk a bit faster than I might normally.

In any event, I hope that you find it useful and (if you do) please feel free to share it with friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even strangers as I am continuing to spread the word, especially in these confusing times, about the essential value of outsiders in driving innovation and enhancing our ongoing success as individuals, organizations and nations…


With Thanks

Greetings from Maryland where fall has once again brought its beautiful colors, crisp clear nights, a bit of rain, and a moment to reflect on a world filled with great challenges and even greater possibilities. At a time when our customers are expecting us to deliver even greater innovation and value, we must all figure out how to write a new and more compelling song…one that combines the best of what we already know with the fresh sounds and inspirations of strangers and a new generation. A veritable fusion of our greatest talents and our innate ability to be curious and open to new ideas, insights, and perspectives. Which suggests that it might be a perfect time to take a new and exciting look at your business, its potential, and the real needs and dreams of the folks you have the privilege to serve.

Kid's Photo

So round up your colleagues, partners, and even a few new people this holiday season and commit to creating your own new music…music that is tied to your past and firmly rooted in your future. After all, the vitality of your organization depends on it.

And, as always, giant thanks for being part of the life of our company in the past year and for all of your wonderful support for my new book “The Necessity of Strangers.” It’s off to a great start because of all of you! And sincere wishes for a Thanksgiving and holiday season filled with peace, joy, good health, laughter, learning, inspiration, innovation, and the chance to jam with friends and strangers!


Once in a Blue Moon

Greetings.  It seems fitting that only six days after the death of Neil Armstrong we should have a "blue moon."  This is a somewhat rare occasion when the moon becomes kinda sorta not exactly blue.  In fact, the idea of a blue moon really has less to do with the moon changing colors than with the fact that our calendar isn't perfectly aligned with the 29.5 days that it takes the moon to orbit the Earth–also know affectionately as my favorite planet.  Given this, there are times–slightly less than every three years on average–when a single month ends up having two full moons, with the second one being called the "blue moon."  And tonight is one of them.  August 31st, 2012.  The next time a blue moon occurs will be in 2015.

And while this scientific phenomenon is relatively cool, it should cause all of us to think about the phrase "once in a blue moon."  It's a phrase that has come to mean an event that is exceedingly rare…like a company coming up with a truly profound and valuable new product or a truly remarkable customer experience, a help desk solving our problem in less than a minute or a seventh grader keeping his room clean.  A phrase that we often use to suggest something that we would love to have happen regularly but simply don't expect to be a standard operating procedure.

And yet they could be.  

Which begs the simple question:  "What are all the 'once in a blue moon' things that you and your organization do that really matter to the customers and citizens you serve?"  And, which ones would be more powerful if you did them consistently? If you and all the geniuses you work with could somehow figure out how to make them a habit.  Because they might be a key to greater personal, team and business success.

Blue Moon

We win in business and in life when we understand all the things that really matter.  And when we commit to getting them right every day and by the light of the moon.


A World of Entrepreneurs

Greetings.  According to a new study by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the world is becoming even more entrepreneurial as a growing number of people everywhere are taking the initiative to start new companies.  In some places they are doing this as the only way to earn a living, while in other places entrepreneurs are creating businesses around entirely new products, services and solutions that fill a new market need.  And they're even starting new manufacturing companies which seems to run counter to popular perceptions.  In fact, there are now more that 400 million entrepreneurs in 54 countries that were part of the study and in several countries the number of women starting businesses is now equal to the number of men.

We all have the potential to be entrepreneurial, even if we decide to stay in jobs in established companies or organizations.  Because we all have the ability to see new opportunities to deliver greater value to the internal or external customers we serve.  And we all have the ability to take a fresh look at our areas of responsibility and figure out how to do our work smarter, better, faster or just plain differently in ways that achieve a better result.  

By thinking and acting like entrepreneurs.  And in the process becoming one.  In fact, it's the best way to remain relevant in today's fast moving economy.

The world is becoming even more entrepreneurial.  And that's a very good thing.  Because more and people are tapping their unique potential to innovate and create economic value.  It's clearly a bright spot in a world filled with challenges.


We win in business and in life by being more entrepreneurial.  Maybe it's your time to follow your dream.


Just as Good

Greetings.  All of us in business today face the challenge of getting customers to buy our products, services, and solutions.  And to do this, we have to figure out a way to stand out from the pack.  To be better or more valuable to customers and potential customers than all of our competitors.  But is it possible to be better, or more valuable, by simply being the same?  This intriguing question was raised during the latest "Snowmageddon" here in D.C. when several hundred thousand homes across the area lost power and their happy tenants scrambled to figure out how to keep warm and manage the essentials of everyday living.  And as our local utility, Pepco, tried to figure out how to restore power after once again being poorly prepared for an annual occurrence affectionately known as winter.

But the real topic of today's post is portable energy and more specifically batteries–the things made by the folks at Duracell, Energizer, Rayovac, and other companies whose offerings were now prominently displayed on a table at our local hardware store.  And as I reached for several packages of Energizers, my personal favorites, I noticed a curious claim on the packages of Rayovacs which read:




A claim that smacked of:  "Take that you annoying rabbit" (as in the well-branded Energizer Bunny)!

Our product is just as good as yours and that's why customers should buy it! Though I now realize that their product is also somewhat cheaper…which means that you get a few extra batteries for your money.  No, it's not any better.  But that's just fine for the folks at Rayovac, who can't seem to figure out how to just be better and failing that have decided that being just as good is their best strategy.  A strategy that apparently condemns them to being cheaper forever unless they can figure out some other way to add value and increase market share.

(HINT: Why not try product or customer experience innovation?)

And being cheaper is a predicament you don't want to be in if you don't have to. That is unless your business model enables you to produce your offerings much less expensively than your competitors.  Or you're selling to government agencies or large corporations who are explicitly looking for the lowest responsible bidder. But even then, you owe it to both yourself and your customer to make your service, solution, or product stand out from the herd.  After all, there's a way bigger upside to having offerings that are better and that help customers achieve a better and more valuable result.

So as you begin the week ahead, take a few moments to think about whether or not your company or organization is just as good as its competitors or if you really are better in ways that matter to those you serve.


We win in business and in life when we challenge ourselves to be the best at something that really matters.  And when we believe that being "just as good" is never good enough.