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.
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.”
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.
The post Finding Insight from “Random” Events appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
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.
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.
The post Strangers in the Workplace appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
Greetings. On a recent visit to a veterinarian’s office a bright red brochure caught my eye. A brochure that promised to solve one of the most important challenges of dog ownership…keeping Fido’s, or in our case Vincent’s, teeth as clean and healthy as possible. For while we have taught Vincent to sit, stay, lie down, be gentle, pick up the Wall Street Journal from curb, stay off of the furniture, watch English Premier League soccer games with focus and passion, and remain calm when the mailman or UPS driver knock on the door, we have somehow failed to teach him how to brush his own teeth. And, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure that this skill was within his grasp.
So when the folks at Milk Bone promised to solve this problem for us, my ears jumped straight up as though someone had just offered me a peanut butter-coated biscuit or the world’s largest squirrel had just appeared outside the back door. And I quickly imagined placing a new soft bristle brush in his furry little paw and then demonstrating the proper technique for keeping his adorable canines all pearly white. (Yes dogs and humans have “canine” teeth!…but I digress.) I also imagined taking Vincent to CVS where he could pick out his favorite brand of salmon-flavored toothpaste along with a spool of rabbit-flavored floss. That is until I actually opened the brochure and discovered that the innovative folks at Milk Bone were simply being clever marketers of a clever new dog treat designed to remove tartar, plaque, and halitosis (a.k.a., dog breath). Simply by chewing on. And that these benefits had somewhat miraculously been “proven in clinical trials.”
Not quite as impressive as teaching a world of dogs to actually brush their teeth. But it got my attention.
And it struck me that all of us, and all of the companies and organizations we work for, have the same ability to make remarkable promises that we could keep in slightly less remarkable but “clinically proven” ways.
So why not spend a few moments thinking about a new and bold promise that would really matter to the customers you have the privilege to serve. Then follow it up with a very creative and engaging way to solve it that gets their attention and inspires them to want to know more. After all, a big part of marketing and business success is the act of starting a conversation.
We win in business and in life when we get the attention of others. And when we use that attention to deliver on a promise that really matters.
The post How Amazing is That? appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
Greetings. Apple is in the news again with two new iPhones and the long-awaited Apple Watch. In today’s world, “long-awaited” seems to mean something that has been imagined about for a year or two. Talk about resetting our notion of time and the speed at which all of us need to bring new ideas to market. In any event, the early buzz for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch seems pretty positive, though it is hard to sort out whether these new products…and the watch in particular…will be the next game changers for this remarkable company.
But there is an important lesson to learn from innovative companies like Apple that flies in the face of conventional wisdom about how the most successful companies innovate. The notion that they are filled with exceedingly clever people who, in the confines of their exceedingly well-designed workplaces, figure everything out by themselves. In fact, Apple owes much of its success to the ideas and insights of total strangers.
Think about what makes the iPod media player, with its dominant market share, so ubiquitous and successful. Certainly cool design, ease of use, and simple and elegant functionality have a lot to do with it. But Apple didn’t invent the concept of personalized music…that was Sony way back in 1979 with its then-revolutionary Walkman. And Apple didn’t invent the technology platform the iPod relies on…that was audio engineer Karlheinz Brandenburg and a German company named Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft, which developed the MP3 standard and received a patent for it in 1989. Ten years later, the first portable MP3 players hit the market, two years before the first iPod. And Apple, with its wildly successful iTunes store, certainly didn’t invent the notion of creating the greatest single source of content in the world: that was the Egyptians, who roughly 2,300 years ago built the Great Library of Alexandria…a library that contained more than four hundred thousand documents long before there were printing presses. Though its music and video collections left a lot to be desired.
What Apple did was combine its own brilliance with these inputs from strangers, along with the skills of a number of equally clever outside partners, to create the most compelling offering and product ecosystem available.
And the story is the same with the latest iPhones and iWatch.
Which suggests that all of us, and all of our companies and organizations, would benefit greatly from creating stronger connections with a network of very creative strangers who might provide a powerful foundation for our newest and best ideas.
We win in business and in life when we come to appreciate the brilliance of those who have come before us and those around us today whose ideas provide an essential piece to the puzzle of our success.
The post A Surprising Lesson From Apple appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
Greetings. This month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tove Jansson, the Swedish-speaking Finnish author, artist, and creator of the wonderful and popular Moomin books. Books that have delighted children and adults in Europe and around the world with their whimsical and profound tales of a family of hippopotamus-looking creatures (a.k.a., Moominmamma, Moominpappa, and Moomintroll) whose lives are filled with remarkable adventures and quirky and colorful friends like Snufkin, Snork Maiden, Sniff, Too-Ticky, and Little My. Adventures and quirks that in their fantasy world turn out to be spot on in giving us a window to our own very human inclinations and the keys to unlocking our full potential.
While her books never received as much attention here in the U.S., Tove Jansson has created a real gift for kids and adults of all ages. And they are a joyful and powerful resource in our efforts to grow as individuals and even organizations. (Not that most of you would consider reading a children’s book at work.)
At the heart of her stories is an abiding belief in the importance of family, the value of friendship and friends who are different than us, the necessity of being yourself in a world that too often rewards conformity, and the simple joy and value of being adventurous. Ideas and themes that have great meaning for all of us. And I might suggest that you find the time to read at least one of her books with your own family or co-workers then challenge yourself to think about how you might create even more compelling results by:
- Building stronger relationships…
- Broadening your circle of quirky friends and colleagues…
- Inspiring those around you to be themselves…and
- Stepping outside your comfort zones to seek adventure…
We win in business and in life when we find wisdom in the world of fantasy. And when we take the time to appreciate the things that matter most.
The post Learning from Trolls appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.