Digging Deeper for Innovation and more


Digging Deeper for Innovation

Greetings. It’s hard to resist writing about what appears to be an important breakthrough in antibiotics that was reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature. After all, antibiotics are vital to our ability to fight infections. Yet many bacteria have become increasingly clever and increasingly resistant to the drugs we commonly rely on. So reports of a new drug called Teixobactin, that is potentially resistance-proof and seems capable of curing very severe infections without worrying side effects, is very encouraging news.

It is also exciting because it once again suggests the power of stretching our thinking to new places and new terrains in order to unlock breakthrough ideas. Terrains that include dirt or more specifically microbes that were discovered in “soil bacterium just beneath the surface of a grassy field in Maine.” These microbes are in a constant battle to survive and their unique skill in fighting could be the key to successfully battling many of the illnesses that threaten us including some seemingly intractable diseases. And while Teixobactin has not been tested in humans yet there is real cause for optimism about its potential.

As reported in the New York Times, researchers believe that the key to Teixobactin’s success is its ability to attack bacteria “by blocking fatty molecules needed to build cell walls.” This is a very different approach than current antibiotics which target the proteins in bacteria. These proteins, and the genes that encode them, seem quite capable of adapting and eventually resisting medicines designed to control them.

For most of our companies and organizations, our success is also dependent on our ability to continually look for new and better ways to respond to threats, opportunities, and the challenges of new and existing competitors. Competitors who are always looking to get around our best efforts by creating new offerings, experiences, or business models. And our ability to respond and innovate requires us to cast a much wider net and to seek new ideas and approaches from other industries, walks of life, strangers, and even places where we might have to get a bit dirty.

Antibiotics from Dirt

Which begs the question, where will you look for new ideas and possibilities?

We win in business and in life when we dare to dig deeper in our quest for new ideas that can change the lives of those we serve.

Cheers!

The post Digging Deeper for Innovation appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.

           

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 post Seven New Year’s Resolutions appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.

           

Giving Thanks

Greetings. Another Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and another chance to pause, if only for a weekend, to think about all of the people who have made a difference in my life during the past year. Needless to say, friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and customers are high on my list this year and every year. You are the anchors in so many parts of my work and my personal, social, and civic life. You are the folks I count on for support, encouragement, good humor, thoughtful conversations, new opportunities to learn, grow, and make a difference, as well as great suggestions for the best books, articles, and blogs to read, the most compelling movies, plays, and concerts to attend, the coolest new restaurants to check out, and the best places to visit across town and around the globe. And you were particularly important to me during the second half of this year while I was recovering and re-energizing after my hiking accident in Canada. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank a lot of strangers for making this year so meaningful. New neighbors I met while taking our dog Vincent for a walk. New customers who welcomed me into their organizations to exchange ideas and spark fresh thinking together about the power of innovation. New nonprofit organizations that gave me the opportunity to volunteer and play a very small role in their important efforts to change the trajectory for kids and adults in our community. New students who shared their energy and curiosity in the classes I taught at the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, and a wide range of corporations.

Walking-with-Vincent-225x300

I was truly blessed this year to have lots of awesome people enter my life and stretch my understanding and sense of possibilities.

And, of course, another giant thank you to some wonderful strangers who came to my rescue in the Rockies at the beginning of June and whose kindness and skill turned a difficult situation into new friendships and a wonderful affirmation of humanity at its best. I’m delighted to report that I am back on two feet again and will never again taking walking for granted.

Friends + Strangers = Greater Success

Friends and strangers. Just the right combination to help us learn, grow, innovate, and try our best to make a difference in the things that matter most.

Cheers!

The post Giving Thanks appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.

           

Finding Insight from “Random” Events

Greetings. Two noteworthy events occurred this week that should cause us to think in new ways about our work, our companies and organizations, and what it means to innovate and make a real difference in the lives of those around us.

The first was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Jonas Salk, medical researcher and virologist, who created the first vaccine against polio in 1954. Within a few years his genius would come close to eliminating the spread of this disease in the U.S. The son of Russian immigrants, he was the first member of his family to go to college. Salk initially worked as part of a team developing a vaccine against influenza, but in 1947 turned his attention to the fight against polio. Though unlike other researchers who used “live” and weakened forms of the virus, Salk took a controversial approach using a “killed” or inactivated form of the virus. His vaccine would be replaced by Dr. Albert Sabin’s “live-virus” vaccine which was cheaper and easier to use, but in 2000 a new, improved, and safer version of Salk’s vaccine would become the only one used in the U.S. to prevent polio.

jonas salk

The second event was the final concert of the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theater in New York City. This classic American band, started in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969, won a worldwide following and is credited with inventing “Southern Rock” and bringing to its music a unique and powerful blend of rock, jazz, blues, and country music. In the course of their forty-five year history, the Allman Brothers also showed us how enduring bands (and enduring entities in all walks of life) must continually adapt to difficulties and change in order to survive and remain relevant. Beginning with the death of Duane Allman, the group’s first leader, in a motorcycle accident only two years after the band formed, the group kept evolving, coping, bringing on new members, breaking up, re-forming, breaking up again, and then starting over again. And through it all they kept making meaningful music. Though they will be best remembered for many of their early songs including “Ramblin’ Man,” “Whipping Post,” “Melissa,” and “Midnight Rider.”

allman-brothers-capricorn-a

Two very different events from two very different walks of life, yet each begs a vital question…

The work of Jonas Salk suggests that all of us have the potential to (a) figure out how to stand conventional wisdom on its head and (b) how to “inoculate” those we serve against the dangers they face in their business, social, or personal lives.

The music and life of the Allman Brothers band suggests that all of us have the potential to adapt and reinvent the work we do, and the people we do it with, in order to continue providing meaning and value for those we serve.

Two big possibilities that might be the key to your personal and business success, sparked by people and events from the past that might resonate with your future.

We win in business and in life when we look for inspiration all around us. And when we dare, if only on occasion, to be controversial and ramblin’ men and women who aren’t afraid to step out of our comfort zones.

Cheers!

The post Finding Insight from “Random” Events appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.

           

Strangers in the Workplace

Greetings. Most of us enter the workplace as strangers, unless we were one of the founders of a brand new company or we joined an established organization where we already had a number of friends. As strangers we faced the challenge of getting comfortable, fitting in, and, we hope, making a difference. And our organizations faced the challenge of helping us to get comfortable, fit in, and, they hope, make a difference. But they also face the opportunity of quickly creating involved and committed team members. And if they understood the real power of strangers, they would be way more successful.

I remember the first day when I arrived to start a strategic planning project with a brand-new customer who was trying to figure out how to stand out in a very crowded marketplace. I was certainly a stranger there, except to the people who had interviewed and hire me. But as a consultant, I typically begin every assignment as a stranger, and one of my initial goals is to quickly understand the customer’s world as I build a set of meaningful relationships. I have a real advantage because my role gives me access to almost everyone, which isn’t the case for most new employees.

While I was waiting in the reception area prior to my first set of meetings, I met a young man named Jeff who was there on his first day to start a new job. After signing in, he was met by someone from human resources who gave him his employee badge and laptop and took him to his full-day new employee orientation—the first stop in what he hoped would be a long and successful career. And maybe it will be. But I recall seeing him several times in the weeks that followed—passing by his workspace, or running into him in the break room, on the elevator, heading out to lunch, or sitting at the back of the room during an “all-hands” meeting. Each time I asked him how things were going, and each time he gave me the same answer: “Okay, I guess, but I don’t feel very connected here. Maybe it’s just something that will take a while.”

“Kind of strange,” I thought to myself. I had found him, in our brief conversations, to be friendly and interesting, if somewhat reserved. But he had apparently been left on his own to accomplish the work he’d been hired to do—work that he might be uniquely qualified for but that certainly did not get at the heart of who he was and his full potential to make a difference. And I started wondering a few months later if he and his company had missed the chance to connect in some meaningful way, and whether we allow too many of our colleagues to become strangers in our companies and organizations. Strangers because we choose to treat them that way. This may not happen in every workplace, but it does in many of them, and especially in larger organizations where it’s easier to get lost in the shuffle.

I also thought about the reality that we don’t always find the time to let everyone know that they really matter. That we will never reach our full potential without them. That everyone’s job is just as vital to our success—no matter how long they’ve been here or what they do. And that everyone has a lot more to contribute to our success than simply going through all of the awesome stuff in their in-boxes.

And that in order to build organizations and cultures that can consistently innovate, collaborate, and bring real excitement to the customers we have the privilege to serve, we must find better ways to engage and inspire all of our people from the moment they arrive. And better ways to discover their real gifts and passions.

Corporate employee

We win in business and in life when we make the effort to welcome and connect with, and learn from, all of the strangers who enter our lives on the lonely and awkward day when they arrive.

Cheers!

The post Strangers in the Workplace appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.

           


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