Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tornado Client Bonding…

Tornado Map

Image by Just_Tom via Flickr

In The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley (one of IDEO’s bigwigs) advocates that one of the way to unleash the “collaborator” persona is to strengthen team bonds through shared experience.

Some teams have prepared gourmet meals together and his example of “radical collaboration” is a team that built mutual trust by competing in a triathlon together.

Well, I was in Milwaukee the other day visiting my awesome client, Pinstripe and Michelle (she of the “I love you are yelling at me” and “appreciate the ass-kicking”-video) was kind enough to invite me to her house for dinner (her kids are really cute).

So, we are hanging out, talking with her husband, his friend, and drinking beer (it is Wisconsin, after all) and a storm starts.

Well, soon thereafter a Tornado Warning flashes across the bottom of the screen of their TV which (as opposed to a  mild Tornado Watch) means that you need to go to the basement NOW!

So, we did.

And, I ended up staying in their basement with their exhausted kids for close to an hour, experiencing my first midwestern Tornado warning.

Fortunately, they and their house emerged unscathed, but it’s safe to say, our relationship is at a new level of trust and shared experience.

I’ve said before that whenever I travel on business, I try and make time to do something to experience the place so it’s not just “another business trip.”

Suffice it to say, I’ve got my Wisconsin street cred now.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Burn the Phone

You may be familiar with the legendary story of the Conquistador, Hernan Cortes who, upon landing in Mexico/Aztec territory, wanted to motivate his men to go forth to victory.

How did he do it?

By burning the boats! 

There would be no return to Spain for these men.

Innovation is, I think, sometimes similar. You just have to force yourself into a situation where innovation is required.

After finally seeing the light with a hand me-down iPhone, I decided it was time to upgrade from my Samsung Blackjack 2, a sturdy email workhorse of a device running Windows Mobile. A Blackberry clone, it was reliable, dependable and I was blazingly fast on it when typing.

Surveying the landscape of smartphones, however, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that the physical keyboards were going the way of the horse and buggy. Sooner or later, it would be all virtual keyboards.

Frankly, I’d had a hard time with the virtual keyboards. I made a lot of mistakes. It was frustrating.

But, this was an inflection point.

I’m at the age where it is easy for me to say “well, this is how I like it” and not adapt to change.

But, in my opinion, that attitude would land me in a position of “out of touch/irrelevance” down the road.

So, when it came to my phone, I “burned the boat” and after careful consideration, ended up with the Sprint EVO 4G phone (more on this decision later).

Day 1 was tough, but once I realized “this was my phone and I’m stuck with it,” I sensed a mental change in how I approached it. Instead of frustration, I now had patience. (I suppose this attitude also explains how my wife tolerates me, but I digress).

Like my 6 year old with her “hand me down” iPhone, I looked at the challenge of the new tool through eyes of wonder and curiosity. I discovered new things because I was exploring, not trying to do the same thing on a new device.

Was I less productive for a day or two? Sure.

But, am I more liberated and capable now? Hell yeah!

So, what boat will you burn today?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Newsflash! Consultants Validate God

The icon used by Apple to represent Podcasting.

Image via Wikipedia

I really enjoy listening to the HBR Ideacast podcast on my iPad (though, frankly, the Knowledge @Wharton series is, imho, of higher quality.)

I’ll just have them playing while I’m doing something like washing dishes, packing for a trip, etc.

The other day, I listened to one called “Making Time Off Predictable—and Required”

After a few minutes, I couldn’t help but start laughing.

The Boston Consulting Group had done a study with a client (and presumably made a lot of money in doing so) to prove the point that when people take regularly scheduled time off, they are better, more productive people.

As the interviewee went on and on, however, it became obvious to those who are familiar with the rules that Sabbath-observing Jews follow that she was basically describing what they/we/I do every single week.

I thought, “this is great. We’ve got one of the world’s largest and most respected consulting firms validating what God told Moses on Mt. Sinai."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My 2 year old on an iPad

While she’s clearly not a Jedi Master, if you still think this isn’t a big deal, think again.

Here’s the video

Friday, June 25, 2010

Do it now!

Those of you who know my mom, know that she lives the mantra “never stop marketing.” You can call her at midnight and she’s just warming up. That’s why she gets pay to do what she does.

One of the things she taught me growing up, in her whirlwind style of making stuff happen is “do it now!” (She’s not call the Ueber-Yenta for nothing, you know)

What this usually referred to was homework assignments.

I was the annoying kid who had his essays and projects done a few weeks in advance and rarely had to stay up the night before to cram it in.

You know what?

That skill has been serving me REALLY well, as of late.

June has been, by far, the busiest month in the history of the company.

Two BIG presentations as well as the usual flurry of activities and proposals.

Thanks to my mom, however, I saw this tidal wave looming and at the end of May, I sat down and said, “I don’t necessarily feel like doing this now, but I know that if I do, I’ll feel less stressed, deliver better results, and, most importantly, be prepared for the unexpected surprise.” (the only thing expected, of course, is that it will come, just don’t know how.)

And thanks to that strategy, this month (though certainly trying and tiring) has been nowhere near as stressful or difficult as it could have been.

Plus, it’s given me the flexibility to handle other things that have popped up.

Thanks, mom.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Each kid is different

One of the more interesting nuances to being a parent, it seems is reminding yourself that each kid is not a clone of the other and will forge his/her own way.

Maybe it's the recent "graduation" from nursery school or the fact that Nadia/Lakkanen is going to school now, but I've started to have these moments of insight where I view each kid as an individual and not in relation to/in comparison to Tonka/Tikkanen.

Take her out of the picture and we would marvel at their development and their inquisitiveness. But, since we have "been there before," the novelty is a little less stark.

So, I've been forcing myself to appreciate each kid at his/her own stage, independent of the others.

I don't always succeed, but it has felt enriching.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What a son remembers...

Back in the days of the USFL, my dad took my brother and me to a Washington Federals game.

(For those of you who know what the USFL is, you know it was a long time ago. For the rest of you, just take my word for it!)

Afterwards, he took us out for ice cream.

Why I remember that otherwise uneventful Sunday (the Federals lost) I am not sure.

Still, it has stuck with me as a moment (of many) of father-son bonding.

The other day, when Paco was out of school, I decided I would take him on the errand to get a new phone.

We went to the store and he was SUPER patient as I asked questions and ultimately purchased a new phone (the Sprint EVO 4G). They gave him a balloon, but even I will admit, it took a LONG time.

He was a trooper, so I decided to add on a date and took him to Starbucks.

He got a strawberries/cream Frappucino (no coffee) and he asked if we could sit in the store for a few minutes. We did, just chatting, having a "coffee date," as it were.

It was a unique moment for me. He had just "graduated" from nursery school and would be starting camp the next week and kindergarten thereafter.

The joy in his eyes at having the ridiculously sweet drink was so evident and, if only for a few moments, we cherished the solitude of not having to share each other with any other family members.

I will certainly remember this moment. Hope he does.

Update: My brother writes in, "I remember the federals game too. The feds actually won 28-21 we left when they were down 21-0 against the new jersey generals with hershel walker. I didn't remember stopping for ice cream though. "

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blind Trust In Your Doctor…

Hippocrates: a conventionalized image in a Rom...

Image via Wikipedia

I suppose I am naive, but somehow, when it comes to most things medical, I tend to automatically defer to the judgment of a physician.

I should know better, but I tend to think “hey, s/he’s a doctor, I can trust him.”

Well…I don’t think that anymore.

Back on September the 18th, I went to see Dr. Robert Sher of Urological Associates and was diagnosed with prostatitis.

Dr. Sher prescribes me an antibiotic (it cost $130) and tells me to cut back on spicy foods and coffee.

So far, so good.

Then, I had a follow up appointment on October 14th, in which he suggested that I start taking a nutritional supplement called Prostate SR from a company called Theralogix.

He gave me a piece of paper (it kind of looked like a prescription form) with a code on it and said “just make sure to put in this number when you order.”

I didn’t think anything of it (I know, I’m a marketer and I should have) and went ahead and ordered it.

About a week or so later, I asked myself, “why the number?”

I started digging around the Theralogix site and, though I couldn’t get a clear answer from it (and when I called to ask, I felt they were a bit shady about it), got the distinct impression that the code I had received was a way to track commissions and referrals.

As a marketer, that’s what I would do.

Then, I called Urological Associates…four times over the course of a few weeks and asked to speak with the Office Manager, looking for clarity.

Each time, the message was “she’s not available, I will pass it along.”

No one ever called me back.

I kept getting bills from them, but in one of my messages I said, “look, I’m happy, more than happy to pay the bill, but I’d like to get an answer from you about the nature of the relationship between Dr. Sher and Theralogix. I just kind of feel like your incentive to tell me is much higher BEFORE I pay you.”

No one called and, as life goes on, I kind of forgot about it. I got used to ignoring the bill as well.

Then, last week, I get a call from a Collections agency.

That ticks me off big time.

I call the office again and DEMAND to speak to the Office Manager (passing through yet another gatekeeper). She finally calls me back and I explain my concerns.

Two or three days later, Dr. Sher calls me and says, “I’m sorry. I usually tell people that I have a relationship with Theralogix. I guess I was caught up that day.”

I ask about the nature of the relationship. Does he get a commission?

“I make pennies on each order,” he says, “but I’m actually an investor because I believe in the products.”

Now, let me say this… I have NO problem with people referring people and getting commissions or promoting companies in which they believe, but I kind of feel like when those referrals sit at the center of your day to day activities and are based upon the trust that a patient puts in you, you MUST disclose that relationship.

It’s great that he believes in the product and invests in the company, but the fact is, he didn’t tell me.

And, so I wonder: “did I really need it? How do I know if I really needed it?”

He said, “well, you haven’t been back here, so I guessed it is working for you.”

Of course, that’s not the point at all.

The point is…the trust which I had placed in him is now called into question.

Did he prescribe the $130 medication because I needed it or because there was something in it for him?

Interestingly enough, I blogged about an experience in his office where I observed his interaction with a Cialis sales rep.

My first analysis was that she was attempting to manipulate him (see post here: Now, I am curious if he knows how to play the game and somehow benefits from all of this.

For all I know, he’s the greatest Urologist of all time. Maybe it was an honest mistake. I really have no way of knowing and the point is NOT to say “he’s evil, this is malpractice.”

But I do know how I feel.

I’m upset that I feel like my trust was taken for granted.

And I’m upset that the Dr. and his staff didn’t seem to take my concerns too seriously.

Monday, June 21, 2010

No toilet paper, no electricity- NO Impact Man is a winner.

No lights, no refrigerator, no Starbucks coffee…and more. What if you voluntarily chose to give all of that up for a year?image

Well, that’s what No Impact Man: The Documentary is all about.

A writer, who lives in New York City, decided that he, his wife and their 2 year old daughter would try to live for 1 whole year and create NO environmental impact whatsoever.

No heat, no air conditioning, no carbon-based travel, no food from more than 150 miles away.

Intense indeed.

But, this wasn’t a movie about a fringe lunatic, it was about going to the extreme in order to recalibrate to a more sustainable, balanced middle.

And about appreciating the interconnectedness of the world’s eco-system.

I found it moving and inspiring…as well as being a significant wake-up call.

What’s more, it motivated me to buy this composter (which hopefully will work-even though I am a bit nervous about it) to at least give it a shot. I had been holding off, but the movie made me feel like I needed to act today.

Bottom line: this movie was an important step for me in my growing consciousness of the impact of the consumer society in which we live and, more importantly, motivated me to take a concrete step.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque Debate…

I had never heard of this guy before and quick look at his website shows him to be an atheist, anti-religion, comedian of sort. I’ll admit, his FAQ section is pretty funny.

I hadn’t even heard about the proposed Ground Zero mosque and, while I know it may appear to be “un-PC/bigoted” of me, I think his analysis is fairly accurate.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It’s how you bounce back…

Speaking of sports, one of the things I find most inspiring and analogous to life is the lessons in mental toughness that it teaches us.

In life, there are days when things just don’t go our way. We lose a deal. Our boss is unhappy or demanding (mine always is!), we have a disagreement with a loved one….

but the key, it seems to me, is how you bounce back.

If you play a game and your team loses by 4 touchdowns or 30 points or whatever, you can naturally think “man, we’re a bad team.”

But, as they say, you can’t “let that get inside your helmet,” or it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The great athletes/teams recognize that these things happen, grieve about them appropriately and then just put it behind them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I know what I am capable of….

A few weeks ago, Albert Pujols, one of the best baseball players in the world, hit 3 homeruns in one game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Prior to that, he had been “in a slump” for quite some time.

I wish I could find the video interview to share it, but I was so impressed with his attitude afterwards.

He said (paraphrased), “I don’t get upset when people make comments about my slump or how I am not performing. What upsets me is that I know what I am capable of and am not doing it.”

I thought…”wow, what a refreshing attitude!”

He wasn’t arrogant about it at all. He just knows what he can do and expects that from himself.

It seemed to me that this approach is all we can ask of our kids and ourselves. Do what we know we are capable of.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If you can’t fight with facts…

Fight with satire.

Few care to believe the facts of Iran’s nuclear ambition or the Gaza Flotilla. Why bother, when you already know the conclusion, right?

Well, at least have some fun with it instead of bemoaning it. Here’s a nice satire from my friend Adam on Iran. Below, one you’ve probably seen, but just in case…an instant classic.

Gaza Flotilla Choir


Monday, June 14, 2010

Your Future Wallet…

I had heard about this, but hadn’t gotten around to installing it myself, but it dovetails nicely with my increased excitement for the potential of mobile marketing.

Here’s where commerce is headed (other evidence here).

No more wallets, all on your phone. (see the video here or below)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Life: Leaving it all on the field…

This little poster which I saw on the wall of an artist studio at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA really summed it up well for me.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Celebrating Southern Martyrs…

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but I did take notice of this sign commemorating the death of the “first martyr to the cause of Southern Independence” that I saw in Alexandria, VAIMG_0044

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Trashcan Marketing…

Love how the town councilman in Alexandria does his marketing. That is true NSM material.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Diaper Life Milestone…

There’s an outside chance that Nadia will be potty-trained by the time Tikkanen’s birthday rolls around in December.

If that occurs, it would mark 7 years of non-stop diaper-related activities coming to an end.

Life has all types of milestones, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

You know, I missed them…

As I mentioned yesterday, I was solo for 24 hours over Memorial Day weekend and had the freedom/flexibility to attend a friend’s housewarming party with no logistical considerations whatsoever.

I exercised, did some work, went to the party, watched a part of a movie and slept late.

It was great.

But, you know what?

I really missed the team.

Walking around the empty house, I realized just how much my life had become intertwined with the 4 others who share the same living space with me.

I really missed them.

(Well, not at 7am in the morning, when they didn’t wake me up, but you know what I mean. Actually, I even missed that, but just a wee bit!)

Monday, June 07, 2010

Solo Dad…Forgot How It Felt

Over Memorial Day weekend, the NFO took a few well-deserved days for herself and go to a dance camp. She set us up for success by preparing meals and more. From Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, I was solo with the team.

Then, in the afternoon, Tikkanen and Jokkanen went to a “sleepover” at my sister and her husband’s apartment (with a big assist from my other sis) and Lakkanen/Nadia had a sleepover at my parents’ house.

I was alone for 24 hours.

A few weeks prior, I had received an e-Vite from a college friend to her housewarming party in Alexandria.

Now, normally, this type of event would, to be frank, just fall low on the priority scale. Not because I didn’t like her (I do), but because the logistical, political, and/or financial implications of the event would make it prohibitively expensive to attend.

So, my first reaction was “bummer, I can’t go.”

Then, I looked at the date and time and realized that it coincided with my 24 hours of solitude.

“Holy goodness! I can go…and I don’t have to coordinate anything with anybody!”

I had completely forgotten what that feeling was like.

Bachelorhood seems like another epoch indeed.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

If you give your 6 year old an iPhone…

She’ll probably end up doing something with it that you didn’t expect.

I’m upgrading my phone (more on that later) and decided that I would give the iPhone to my 6 year old (aka Tikkanen).

She checks the weather on it, listens to her own Pandora station, knows how to navigate the iPod music, does math drills, takes pictures, and sends/responds to email.

Of course, when you empower people, you have to be prepared that they may use technology in a less than desirable way.

She came in my room the other morning, took a picture, and then proceeded to email it to all of her contacts (she has 6 right now—her 2 grandmothers, her parents, and 2 of her aunts).

I can’t be upset, since I created this monster ;-)

Professional note: Some of you will say “how could you post this online where potential clients might see it?”

My answer: if a potential client decides that they don’t want to hire me because of the fact that I sleep with a fleece cap and sometimes without a shirt (and I’ve given my 6 year old an iPhone), then that’s not a good client for me.

On the other hand, those that appreciate when I yell and swear at them are.

Bonus points if you get the book reference in the title (before looking at this link).


Friday, June 04, 2010

Switch to Change…

If you are interested in trying to change yourself or your organization for the better, you should pick up a copy of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

I’ve been so busy integrating and implementing the ideas and lessons of Switch by Chip and Dan Heath (authors of my oft-mentioned and much beloved Made To Stick), that I haven’t had the proper time to write the book review.

My bad.

What the Heath brothers do so well (in both of their books) is take the science around some body of knowledge…in this case, how to create sustainable and meaningful change (for yourself or your organization) and provide a practical framework for implementing it.

That’s why it is worth your time and money.

Mine is so marked up and dog-eared that I feel like I am once again an eager college freshman who hasn’t yet realized that you don’t need to read every word in the textbook.

Why is Switch so good?

They break down change management into three components

  1. Direct the Rider”-what are the analytical elements that may be causing people to hold back on their innovation thinking? This is how we typically think of persuading people (by facts), but the Heaths say this is only 5% of the battle.
  2. Motivate the Elephant”-what are the intrinsic motivational factors that, if we can find them, would allow folks to find their passionate/creative selves and then direct the energy for innovation in the right way? This is the biggest key…if you aren’t motivated (emotionally) to actually do it…then, no amount of logic will help.
  3. “Clear the path”—are there systemic elements in the way your organization operates that are preventing people/causing frustration for people to innovate?  I loved this part because it expands your perspective on what needs to be done to make change feasible.

Again, the real value of this book is in the practical, tangible ideas they provide to help make each of these elements possible.

If I had a 5-star rating system for business books, this one would get 5.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

It comes out of my salary!

I met someone the other day following a presentation who asked if I would speak to her class.

I said I’d be happy to do that, but that speaking is part of my business.

“Well, if I pay you, that comes out of my salary!” she protested.

I shrugged and thought, “so…it should come out of my salary?”

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Playroom Irrelevance…

I was looking around the playroom in our house the other day, surveying the toy landscape.

Just started to wonder about when the day will come when the kids no longer enjoy playing with the toys in there.

These days, Tonka is already more interested in reading American Girl doll books than playing with them.

Another one of those “days are long, years are short” type moments.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gossip and the Internet Age…Israel and Gaza

There’s a classic parable (sourced from here) told about a man in a small village was a terrible gossip, always telling stories about his neighbors, even if he didn't know them.

Wanting to change, he visited the Rabbi for advice.

The Rabbi instructed him to buy a fresh chicken at the local market and bring it back to him (the Rabbi) as quickly as possible, plucking off every single feather as he ran. Not one feather was to remain.

The man did as he was told, plucking as he ran and throwing the feathers every which way until not a feather remained.

He handed the bare chicken over to the Rabbi, who then asked the man to go back and gather together all the feathers he had plucked and bring them back.

The man protested that this was impossible as the wind must have carried those feathers in every direction and he could never find them all. The Rabbi said, "That's true. And that's how it is with gossip. One rumor can fly to many corners, and how could you retrieve it? Better not to speak gossip in the first place!"

And the Rabbi sent the man home to apologize to his neighbors, and to repent.

imageI thought about this story today as I reviewing Twitter and saw a Tweet from one of my friends (for whom I have a great deal of respect), Brent Leary, suggesting that Israel had (somehow) censored Twitter during the naval incident near Gaza.


Naturally, I thought this was preposterous and tweeted back


Brent then updated saying “it looks like it was a glitch", not censorship.


The conversation then went on one more round as I asked him “well, how can one ‘take it back?"’ and, basically, Brent said that it’s just near impossible to do today.

Brent is a smart guy and I would like to think that the reason he tweeted this was because he lives in the world of social media and, admittedly, it’s a sensational headline that grabs your attention.  It’s possible that it reinforces a worldview of Brent’s that the “Jews/Israel control the media,” but knowing him as I do, I highly doubt that.

I can’t say the same for the Guardian, however.

Now, at least they did update the article afterwards to say that it was a glitch, but the original sub-title:

Users of the microblogging service complain at apparent censorship as discussion grows around deaths on convoy - but it isn't justified (updated)

is what gets me.

imageWhy is the default reaction “apparent censorship?” Well, I know why, of course. It’s part of the ongoing attempt to delegitimize Israel. But, it’s almost “headline baiting” so that people without an agenda (Brent) will be more likely to amplify the message of those with an agenda (The Guardian.)

I’m not going to decry the advent of technology and wish that newspapers could be saved (see a great piece by Jeff Jarvis on this topic and why the FTC is harming us, not helping us).

Still, it’s a big challenge of today.