Greetings. There are so many reasons to think about and remember the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, but three things in particular strike me as I imagine what is possible in our work, personal, and civic lives. First was his remarkable resilience in the face of unthinkable adversity. Second was his firm conviction to the need for, and necessity of, reconciliation as a foundation for building a new South Africa. And, third was his unwavering belief in the value of everyone.
Few of us will ever confront the challenges Nelson Mandela battled, yet all of us will at some time confront adversity in business and in life. Will we have the courage and clarity to stay focused on what truly matters and move forward with strength?
Few of us will ever be called upon to reconcile with a government that imprisoned us and limited the rights and dignity of our people, yet all of us will at some time have the opportunity to repair business and personal relationships that went astray. Will we have the strength and willingness to forgive and make a fresh start?
Few of us will ever be called upon to empower an entire nation, yet all of us, and all of our organizations and communities, can only reach our full potential by appreciating and nurturing the talents and promise of everyone around us. Will we be a force for valuing and developing those in our midst?
One of the most remarkable people on earth has passed on. And while he was a stranger to most of us, other than from what we learned by reading about him or hearing his words on TV, radio, in movies, or the web, he is part of our lives if we choose to do more than simply pause for a moment of silence on his behalf. In leaving a legacy of wisdom, courage, compassion, and action, Nelson Mandela’s life should inspire all of us to commit to being better colleagues, leaders, citizens, and strangers.
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.
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!
Greetings. If you happened to read the New York Times last Wednesday, you might have noticed a fascinating article about a new idea that could save the lives of countless newborns in developing countries and significantly reduce the number of births by cesarean section in affluent ones. An idea that also tells us a lot about the process of innovation and role that casting a wider net and then making powerful connections plays.
The idea is called the “Odon Device” and it is designed as a tool for those times in childbirth when babies get stuck in the birth canal. But it wasn’t created by a doctor or a leading medical device company or research lab. Instead, it was developed by an Argentine automotive mechanic named Jorge Odon who was inspired, subconsciously it seems, after watching a YouTube video of someone extracting a cork stuck in a wine bottle. It was a simple trick that led him in a dream (or waking from a dream) to make a direction connection with the challenge posed by obstructed labor “when a baby’s head is too large or an exhausted mother’s contractions stop” and baby and mother are quickly at great risk. Using his device, “an attendant slips a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the head, inflates it to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges.” It is a very promising alternative to the more traditional and potentially hazardous use of forceps or suctions cups or simply doing nothing in cases and places where C-sections are not an option.
You can learn more about this breakthrough in the NYTimes article. And you and your colleagues might also use this story as a powerful reminder that we all have the ability to be curious, make new connections, and put ideas together that at first blush don’t seem to belong. Ideas sparked by strangers in another aspect of life that might cause us to think in new ways about the challenges faced by us or others.
Ideas that matter.
We win in business, healthcare, and life when make powerful connections…even when those connections are in our dreams.
Greetings. In the latest issue of The Atlantic, writer James Fallows shares a less than scientific but totally fascinating list of “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel.” It’s a fun and energizing journey through much of human history and the moments when people have been at their innovative best.
Let me share the Top 10 list based on the recommendations of a panel of leading scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, historians, and others, and then suggest that the entire list is likely to spark your own innate curiosity and the genius of all of your colleagues. And let me also suggest the value of thinking about what made each invention so influential in our lives, and the value of thinking about how you might make your company or organization’s offerings more valuable and meaningful to the customers you have the privilege to serve.
1. The Printing Press – 1430s
2. Electricity – Late 19th Century
3. Penicillin – 1928
4. Semiconductor Electronics – Mid 20th Century
5. Optical Lenses – 13th Century
6. Paper – Second Century
7. Internal Combustion Engine – Late 19th Century
8. Vaccination – 1796
9. The Internet – 1960s
10. Steam Engine – 1712
It’s also interesting and encouraging to note that most, if not all, of the fifty innovations were created by people learning from, and building on, the ideas and insights of strangers around the corner and around the world.
Rarely do we have to go it alone.
We win in business and in life when we change the status quo in some compelling way. And when we learn from the brilliance of others in other places and other moments in time.
Greetings. Many of you have asked if you can listen to some of the ideas in “The Necessity of Strangers” and I’m glad to share this brand new and downloadable podcast from Vistage, one of the world’s leading organizations of CEOs and business owners. The podcast explores the importance of strangers in business success and suggests some fun, easy, and practical ways to connect with, and learn from, people (and organizations) that are different from us as a key to greater innovation, collaboration, employee engagement, and creativity.
Let me know what you think and, if you find the conversation valuable, please don’t hesitate to share it with all of your friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbors, customers, professionals you do business with, clergy, college roommates, yoga instructors, personal trainers, other parents on your child’s soccer, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, or swim teams, and even total strangers.
And here’s a smiling picture of me to look at while you listen…
And many thanks to Vistage and to Srinivas Rao, thoughtful host of the Vistage podcasts, for giving me the opportunity to be part of this great series.