Thursday, February 28, 2013

#272 this or that

A fun exercise that can illustrate the importance of knowing criteria in advance is called Pins and Straws.

Groups are each given 200 plastic straws, 100 straight pins and instructions.  They are allotted about 20 minutes to build something using just the supplies that were provided.

What groups don't know is that the instructions are different for the groups.  One group is told to build a structure that will be judged on its height.  Another learns that they will be judged on its beauty.  A different group believes they will be judged on their structure's strength.  

When the time is concluded, groups share their construction with the whole room and proudly show off their designs.  The differences in instruction are still not shared, so people look on with puzzlement and giggles.  For example, the "tall" structures often reach to the ceiling, but are most fragile and precarious in doing so.  People in the "strong" group have a hard time giving any credence to such an obvious flaw, and the "tall" builders fail to see how a small structure matters even if it could be thrown across the room and survive.

Finally, when the true purpose of the exercise is revealed, light bulbs tend to go on in participants' heads about the elementary lesson that they failed to see.  We use this to set up groups to do a more substantial project later in the workshop, and almost all spend time clarifying their goal before just jumping in to start.

In most cases, there is no right or wrong.  It all comes down to which option is more closely aligned with what you value.  Try to be as clear about what that is before you start making decisions and choices.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

#271 criteria

The Wall Street Journal reported that for the past 22 years, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in the United States.  Yet, in all 136 years of the Westminster Dog Show, it has never won Best in Show.

It appears that the criteria for judging a winner and picking a pet are different.  Judges look for adherence to a standard (e.g.: "a clean-cut head with broad back skull"), etc.  Dogs compete against that standard rather than against each other in the category.  

Contrast that with families picking out a pooch to call their own.  In this case, dogs are absolutely vying for attention vs. their siblings, kennel mates or other breeds.  Families are looking for a sweet temperament, loving eyes and wagging tail.  I doubt any family pet has been picked because of its broad back skull.

The lesson in all of this is to know what the criteria are before assessing a value judgment and making a choice.  If you need a candidate that is good with detail work, don't be swayed by someone who is gregarious in the interview but can't sit still.  If you need a durable car, don't fall for the one that is a great bargain.  If you value innovation, don't set standards that rigidly monitor resources.

For the thousands of families who have a Lab as a pet, on most days, their dog is a true winner.  Those who want a trophy instead of a big, sloppy kiss will have to wait for their reward!

It is important to know what is important before working toward that criteria.  Tomorrow, I will share an exercise that can be used to illustrate this concept. 

-- beth triplett

Source:  Wall Street Journal, "Everybody loves Labradors, so why are they underdogs?" by Ben Cohen, 2/11/13 
Thanks to Colleen for the idea!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

#270 big business

I receive a newsletter from the Independent Educational Consultants Association (consultants who help coach families on selective college admission.) This month's newsletter included a full-page ad touting the Girl Scouts Gold Award and how "Girl Scouts add Gold to a college campus."

I doubt you would ever see such an advertisement for the Boy Scouts.  The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest achievement in scouting, yet it does not have the anywhere near the status or recognition that the parallel award has for the boys.

When I say "Boy Scout", many people think "Eagle Scout", but when I say "Girl Scout", most people think "cookies".  What is unfortunate is that they think "cookies" as in home economics, rather than as in big business.  The Girl Scout Cookie Sale markets, sells and delivers nearly 200 million boxes of cookies each year and has net proceeds of about $700 million. Girls are involved in developing incentive programs, financial management, resource allocation strategies and planning.  Each year in a Council, girls gain experience and growing levels of leadership in managing a complex business operation.

The Girl Scout organization calls the Cookie Program "America's leading business and economic literacy activity run for and by girls."  But they don't sell it that way.  Personally, I think it is time that the girls stop wearing cute little cookie costumes outside the grocery store and start sharing the seriousness of their enterprise along with the Thin Mints.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your employees is to help them articulate their value.  Take a moment to help people reflect on what they are adding to your organization and how they are growing because of it.  The intrinsic feeling of learning valuable skills is delicious.

-- beth triplett


Monday, February 25, 2013

#269 restoration

Last week I was fortunate enough to be part of a group that was given a tour of a warehouse that is being renovated into living and community spaces.  This is a block-long building that was built in 1860, served as a factory for doors, sat vacant for 40 years and is now one of the most desirable places in town.

If I was not already in love with my two non-apartment-compatible golden retrievers, I would have signed a lease on the spot.  The owners have done a magnificent job of restoration; preserving the character of the original and enhancing it with efficiencies that were inconceivable when the structure was built.

This is no longer a dilapidated, empty shell in a blighted neighborhood; instead it is becoming a showcase and hub for the arts, community gatherings, and hip young people to call home.  In my opinion, it is far better than any new construction could hope to be at that site, and their early occupancy rates bear that out.  Preserving the past has added dimension and character in a way that provides a distinctiveness and individuality unavailable in standardized new buildings.

What element of restoration can you provide in your organization?  Everything does not have to be new.  How can you resurrect some of the grand elements of the past to bring your heritage to the modern times in a way that actually adds value to your work?  Are there traditions, facilities, stories or practices that you can claim as a bridge from the past to the present?  

In a world that has so many elements of sameness, remember to look to your past as you envision the future.  You may find a forgotten treasure there.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, February 24, 2013

#268 batter up

Tee ball, the first level of organized baseball for kids, has rules that sound much like casual, schoolyard play, but Tee ball estimates 2.2 million players participate in an organized game.  

Examples include:

> The website lists "recommended" rules and typical modifications of them
> Even things as fundamental as what constitutes an inning can change (either three outs or a "bat around" where each player bats one time before sides switch)
> Rules can change with each inning or batter
> The inning can end with 3 outs or 5 runs
> The batter hits the ball off a stationery T, swinging as many times as necessary to make contact
> Teams may not keep score, but if they do, they can elect to end the game when "that's enough"
> The final decision on rules is made at the local level

The group knows its purpose (teach primary baseball skills without fear) and adapts its practices to fit the needs of its community.  Participants and organizers go into the game with a sense of adaptability and change.  

There is a lot that organizations could learn about flexibility from Tee ball.  When the situation warrants creativity or new thought, think about playing by the Tee ball rules and see if the added freedom helps you score a home run.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Scott D. for the idea

Saturday, February 23, 2013

#267 nickel and dimed

According to, consumers paid $3.6 billion in 2011 for baggage fees alone.  This statistic is even more staggering when you consider that bags all flew free until 2007.  But baggage fees were just the beginning.  Now airlines charge for pillows, snacks, movies, Wi-Fi, seat selection, booking changes and in-person ticket purchases.  

Never mind that airlines and fees are fodder for comedic ridicule and cartoons; in four short years the industry found a way to develop a large and lucrative revenue source that, for them, outweighs any consumer backlash.

I think that, in general, people hate fees.  They would rather have a comprehensive price up front so they can weigh the information and make an informed decision.  With all the on-line booking tools, I wonder how many consumers took their portion of the $3.6 billion into account when comparing prices.  Did they really get the best deal?

There are many other industries that are fee-laden.  Real estate with its myriad closing costs.  Hospitals, with a la carte pricing for each individual item used in complicated surgeries and emergency visits.  Rental cars, the base price of which can double with additional charges.  I work in higher education, an environment that is also known for its fee structure beyond the primary price.  It is tuition plus fees at every school in the land.

There are many reasons for industries to establish price structures as they do.  On one hand, it is a more fair system because those who use the extra services pay the increased cost.  But it does make true price comparisons difficult until very late in the process.  

Look at your pricing as if you were Jay Leno and see if there is material there for a laugh.  If there are hidden charges, nonsensical fees, unexplained surcharges or it is impossible for you to know the true cost, you flunk the transparency test and need to regroup.  On the other hand, if your charges are relevant, published and clear then you pass the Leno test and shouldn't have your customers laughing at you.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Real Simple Moneywise, March 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

#266 no grumbling allowed

Our mayor has declared today as Complaint Free Day for the city (seriously).  Even if you don't live here, I think you should take on the challenge of going the entire day without lamenting about anything.  

No yelling at the person who almost cut you off.  Being nice to the person in the Express Lane with a basket full of groceries.  Accepting whatever Mother Nature delivers for the weather.  Smiling at yourself in the mirror.  Working cheerfully side-by-side with that colleague who drives you nuts.  Taking what the puppies destroy in stride.

I think that being complaint free will be harder than it seems.  It is part of our nature to focus on what isn't working, rather than what is.  But for today, give it a try.  Take on the individual challenge of seeing the positive side of life.

If you make it 21 days without complaining, you can even receive a Certificate of Happiness at! 

Here's to the glass being half full.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, February 21, 2013

#265 little things

Continuing the thought from yesterday's blog, there is much in Charles Handy's The Age of Unreason that shaped my thinking.  My favorite Handy quote: "It is often the little things in life which change things the most and last the longest."  

Yesterday, I shared the examples from the book of the chimney and the telephone line.  Two others (not from the book) that have had a disproportionate impact for their size:

> The UPC code.  A simple concept, based in part on the Morse Code, was developed to expedite the grocery store check-out process.  It spawned an entire industry to do coding for inventory, tracking, bee migration and product identification.  It is estimated that the UPC code is scanned 5 billion times a day!

> The research mouse.  The tiny lab rat has been used in science experiments since 1909 and has been instrumental in research involving polio, rabies, cancer, transplants and genome mapping.  The little rodents have similar gene structures to humans and in a year, "a pair of mice can produce the equivalent of a century's worth of human descendants."  

The beginnings of change do not have to be lofty.  Almost always, significant changes begin with new applications for existing things.  The next time you have a problem, evolve your thinking to include adapting ideas from other uses to help you create the change you need.  It could just be the start of something big.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Fast Company, Agenda Items, June 2001

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

#264 chimneys

One of the books I read that really made me think was The Age of Unreason by Charles Handy.  I read this in 1989, but his concepts about change have stayed with me all these years.

One of his first examples was about something we see every day but ignore.  He stated, "the chimney may have caused more social change than any war."  

Handy theorized that chimneys allowed spaces to grow beyond a room with everyone huddled around a single fire, and allowed for the expansion of individual units, then "dwelling units into the sky" that allowed for modern day cities and buildings as we know them.

Today, technology has advanced so much that homes such as mine don't even have a chimney, but the evolution of this piece of architecture altered the structure of communities away from cohesive tribes.

Handy also foresaw other changes we now experience: "The telephone line has been and will be the modern day equivalent of the chimney, unintentionally changing the way we work and live."  Maybe the telephone line portion is a bit off, but his assessment is spot on accurate about the phone.

He laments that central heating (derived from the chimney) and telephones now allow people to be more isolated and scattered, instead of being forced together by necessity.  

What is your organizational chimney -- the fundamental shift that may alter how you do your work?  How are you striving to maintain community as the social environment shifts due to this change?  Today, more so than in 1989, it is the age of unreason and leaders would be wise to pay attention to the beginnings of trends.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

#263 regrets

Sunday was Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, so the airwaves were filled with the "50 Greatest MJ Moments" and other tributes.  I grew up outside Chicago, with a brother who was one of His Airness' many adoring fans, so I watched my share of Bulls games.  Somewhere along the way, I became a fan myself.  I watched in awe as Michael performed his heroics on television night after night; but more than that I admired his focus, drive and astonishing consistency.

One of the few regrets I have in life is that I did not ever see Michael Jordan play in person.  I had proximity to a legend, and I did not take advantage of it.  I could have seen a game without hardship or travel; I just didn't make the time to do so.  And now the opportunity is lost forever.

I think that we all get complacent, thinking that things we see on television, watch in a theatre or hear on the radio is the real thing, even though we know it isn't.  

Don't let a screen be a substitute for seeing someone you admire in person.  Whether it be in an arena or field, on Broadway, in a concert hall or at a TED taping, breathe the same air as someone you revere.  I'll bet you'll regret not doing it far more than if you did.

-- beth triplett

Monday, February 18, 2013

#262 presidents

Today is President's Day; for many an excuse to miss school more than it is a day to pay tribute to the nation's leaders.  President's Day began in 1885 to pay tribute to George Washington's birthday.  Lincoln's birthday was celebrated this month as well, so the Uniform Monday Holiday Act combined the two in 1971 and declared the third Monday in February as a day to pay tribute to all U.S. presidents.

I would bet that the vast majority of people will not even give our former leaders a second thought today.  The markets and banks are closed; mail is not delivered, and the focus on most minds is sleeping in or bargain sales.  

It may be an impractical and lofty notion to think of paying tribute to government officials.  President Obama has access to invite the four* living former presidents to lunch (as he did in 2009), but most of us are limited in our ways to say "thanks for serving" even if we wanted to.  

So, today I propose that you use this as an opportunity to acknowledge the sacrifice that leaders in your world have made, and thank them for having the courage to stand up to the podium.  Surely you know a president: of your company or organization, the school board, Little League, church board, professional association, a trade union, neighborhood cooperative or Girl Scout troop.  All these presidents have made sacrifices to move your group forward.

It may not be what Congress intended when they declared today a national holiday, but take advantage of their thought to add meaning to those in your circle from whose leadership you have benefited.  It's lonely at the top and your appreciation is sure to go a long way.

-- beth triplett

* George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton

Sunday, February 17, 2013

#261 for sale

I have been thinking about the changing nature of vending machines.  For decades, the machines dispensed just beverages and snacks.  There was great variance in the array of beverages distributed (for example, in Spain I saw one that sold "cerveza" [beer] in a parking garage of all places!), but pretty much it was limited to pop and chips.

The technology then evolved to allow greater control and security so other items could be sold in this manner.  Credit card technology also made bigger purchases possible.  Now the tollway oasis and airports sell Apple products and electronics through machines.  Clinique, Proactiv and other cosmetic companies cater to those on-the-go with vending kiosks.  RedBox has made an industry out of dispensing DVD movies on demand.  Now our grocery store has a book vending machine from the library and I have also seen a machine that provides 24/7 access to live fishing bait.

Fast Company magazine recently ran a feature of three new vending evolutions:  pizza slices, cupcakes and wine bottles!  Let's Pizza in Atlanta uses infrared rays to custom cook slices; Cupcake ATM offers a dozen flavors in several cities, and, if you scan your ID and pass a Breathalyzer test, you can buy a bottle of vino in Pennsylvania grocery stores!

What's next?  Gallons of milk outside office buildings instead of "stopping on the way home"?  Socks at a bowling alley in warm climates where sandals are the norm?  Sunscreen outside festivals and sporting events?  Umbrellas at subway stations?  Treats for Fido at dog parks?  Printer cartridges and art supplies in residence halls?

Is there a way for your organization to take advantage of the technology to provide your product to customers in a convenient off-site way?  Don't limit your thinking to what vending used to be.  If you can sell it, today you can vend it.

-- beth triplett

Fast Company, February 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

#260 pick one

The temperature hit 40 degrees this week, and after our stint of sub-zero wind chill, it has given many people a touch of Spring Fever.  One of the symptoms of this ailment is a sudden focus on fitness and interest in appearance.

I think this simple mantra sums up the dilemma that most face:

You can eat what you want 
Look how you want --
You pick.

After a winter of choosing comfort foods and wonderful holiday delicacies, for many it is time to reverse where to say yes. 

-- beth triplett

Friday, February 15, 2013

#259 a symphony

Earlier this month, the 25 billionth song was downloaded from iTunes.  Yes, you read that right.  The music service was founded in 2003 (two years after the launch of the iPod) and a decade later has recorded this staggering statistic.  Apple reports that an average of 15,000 songs are downloaded every minute.  

Just as it is hard to get your head around how many 25 billion really is, it can also be challenging to remember record stores or where we purchased music when we had to leave our homes to get it.  I wanted to get someone an actual CD for Valentine's Day and my first thought was "Amazon", another from-the-comfort-of-your-living-room vendor.

In addition to the convenience, I like iTunes for what it represents in collaboration.  There are more than 26 million songs available on iTunes -- representing thousands of artists, record companies, songwriters and producers.  After years of lawsuits and attempts to preclude on-line distribution of music, iTunes finally represented a win-win product that allowed consumers to legally obtain music at a reasonable price and artists to be compensated for their work.

Steve Jobs personally pitched the idea to record executives and major artists to gain approval to include their music in the on-line store.  It wasn't easy work -- trying to explain why they should sign on to something that, if it resembled anything they knew, was most like what they had been fighting against.  But passion, vision and illustrating the shared benefit finally won out.

When you think it is hard getting your project off the ground or getting a few parties together to agree on something, think of the task that Steve Jobs faced in 2000, and then look at where iTunes is today.  Even the Beatles joined the party!  Surely you can convince some colleagues to join yours.

-- beth triplett

Steve Jobs' Music Vision by Steve Kopper, Rolling Stone, October 7, 2011

Thursday, February 14, 2013

#258 warm my heart

Happy Valentine's Day!  Happy if you are a florist, cashing in on the 110 million roses that are expected to be sold this week.

What is more surprising to me is that, according to the Greeting Card Association, one billion Valentine's Cards are sent each year.  They must be counting every 3x3 perforated salutation that school children exchange in classrooms across the continent!

Long gone are the days of giving valentines only to those you love.  Today, children who wish to exchange cards must do so for the entire class.  I wonder what is worse for the classroom misfit: being left out of the greetings, or receiving those that are surely insincere.

Instead of distributing superficial cards or feasting on heart-shaped treats, take today to tell one person that they truly have touched you in some way.  You'll make their heart smile in ways far bigger than chocolate or roses ever could.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#257 amen

We have all worked around colleagues who take on the role of martyr.  They claim to work too long or too hard; in general doing tasks that cause them duress.  It is hard for many of these people to say "no", so they take on Herculean workloads by default.  

I hope these people take a lesson or two from someone who actually knows about real martyrs, Pope Benedict XVI.  For the first time in 600 years, the man in his position resigned.  He recognized that the health and energy level of his 85-year old body was not sufficient to "adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."  In short, the Pope said "no more".

I am sure that it was not a decision made lightly.  His appointment to the job was as close to an Act of God as it gets in the employment world, and the expectations of the 1.18 billion Catholics were that he would remain in the position until death.  But if Pope Benedict could see that the Church would be better served without him in the role, surely your organization can survive if you say no or step back to a more humane pace.

The Vatican and the Pope have not been without controversy in recent times, but acknowledging personal limitations and admitting deteriorating strength are examples from His Holiness that people of all faiths can follow.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

#256 overflowing


The Missouri River flooding in Omaha, Nebraska. That is Interstate 29 underwater. Photo by Larry Geiger.

As you can see in the picture above, the Missouri River flooded in July, 2011. 

Today, it is 14 feet below normal. Other rivers throughout the Midwest have similar stories.

At the time of the flood, it was probably inconceivable that there would be drought and prayers for rain.  But here we are, tolerating, if not welcoming, snow because it is replenishing the water supply.  

While there is little we can do about the whims of Mother Nature, most of our organizations have more opportunity for planning.  If we experience largess, it is easy to become complacent and think that it will always be that way.  We forget to take the steps that brought us bounty in the first place.

But, like we see with the Missouri River, one year can make a world of difference.  Do what you can today to preserve and replicate the treasures you have.  The waters can recede quickly.

-- beth triplett

Sources: (picture)
NE Radio Network

Monday, February 11, 2013

#255 CPR

One of the most helpful frameworks I have ever learned came from a workshop conducted by Bob Pike.  He advocated for deploying a three-step process in training design using the easy-to-remember acronym of CPR. While the steps don't stand for something that would literally save a life, following them has undoubtedly saved me from numerous missteps throughout the years.

C = Content
FIRST start by figuring out what message you wish to convey.  What is the content or objective of your workshop or message?  

P = Participation
THEN think about how you can incorporate a participatory element to your presentation.  You would be surprised at how often people intuitively want to start with this step.  They have a "cool idea" of how they can do things or start putting together a schedule without regard to step one.

R = Review
There are many ways to include this component: a literal review of concepts at the end; a handout for participants to self-review later; a follow-up email, or an exercise at a subsequent meeting to discuss applications of the concept.  

Consciously applying these three steps -- in this order -- will serve you well when developing a workshop, event, retreat, meeting, etc.  While I hope you never have to use the Red Cross version of CPR, I do hope you deploy the training version every time you are gathering a group.  You'll be amazed at the congruency that those three little steps bring you.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#254 Year of the...

Happy New Year!  Chinese New Year that is.  I saw it on my calendar, and while my mind was trying to fill in the blank  for "Year of the _________", I came up with several other options before I landed on the correct answer of Snake.

The year of the Snake "is meant for steady progress and attention to detail.  Focus and discipline will be necessary for you to achieve what you set out to create."  This sounds like my kind of year!

If you aren't a believer in the Chinese zodiac, could you adapt the "Year of the..." idea and focus your efforts in a different, yet meaningful way?  What if you made it the Year of the Volunteer -- and did special recognition for all those who donate time to your organization?   The Year of the Legislator -- and you focused on informing government officials at all levels of your benefit to their communities?  The Year of the Alumni -- where you reconnected and acknowledged the foundation that those who came before us contributed to the organization?  The Year of the Teenager -- to prepare the next generation of leadership and make them aware of the challenges in the world around them?  Or the Year of the Neighbor, taking special steps to build community with those who live and work near our organization's home base?

You may not have kept those resolutions you made on January 1.  Here is your chance to start the New Year fresh and make steady progress in one focused area.  It could really make a difference for your organization this year.

-- beth triplett


Saturday, February 9, 2013

#253 makes cents

Earlier this month, the Canadian Royal Mint announced that it had ceased distributing pennies.  Even though the one-cent coin was a standard denomination for over 150 years, production has stopped.  Retailers are expected to round all transactions up and down to the nearest nickel increment.

The move by Canada is expected to save their taxpayers nearly $11 million.  

A similar move has been discussed (and discussed, and discussed) in America for years.   A West Wing sequence even made fun of the idea in 2001.  But, obviously, nothing has happened.

I think the penny debate is symbolic of the kind of thinking that caused our fiscal mess.  Even though there is a Super Committee specifically charged with cutting expenses, it failed to abolish a practice that loses money with each coin minting.  

In some ways, it is inconceivable to think of our country enacting such a change.  We are very "cent-imental" about our way of life and reluctant to have someone (let alone the government) mandate something new. 

Yet places like Canada -- and Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Mexico, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sweden and the United Kingdom -- who have all eliminated their lowest denomination coin -- seem to have more economic "cents".  

Is your organization holding on to the equivalent of your penny -- embracing something that is costly and outdated just because you have been doing it forever?  If it seems impossible to change that practice or policy, just look at the list above of countries who impacted every citizen and the economic structure of the nation -- and somehow still survived.  

What penny can you stop minting today?

-- beth triplett

sources:, and

Friday, February 8, 2013

#252 decision roundup

I own a pair of cowboy boots.  When I decided that I wanted them, I knew I wanted red.  I tried on one pair in red; they fit, and I wore them home.  

Contrast that with someone else that I know who decided that she wanted cowboy boots before Christmas.  She went on-line to research them, and for several conversations after her due diligence, she talked through her findings with others as she processed the information in her mind.  She knew she wanted the "R" toe and not the "J" toe; the Ariat brand was desirable but pricey; the shaft height had to be a certain level, etc.  To this day, I have no idea what the differences are!  Finally she narrowed it down to a Legend or Heritage and ordered two from Zappos to try on.  This involved having a "fashion show" at work and soliciting the opinion of a dozen or so people as to which look they preferred.  She took that feedback, but still wanted try them on at home with jeans and walk around the house for awhile.  I am not sure if she has yet to make a choice.

The thing is, she is having as much fun shopping for boots as she will from wearing them.  Her email about it even said "thanks for giving me something to hunt for".  There is nothing right or wrong about either style of decision making, especially when it is for pure personal pleasure.  

The lesson here is that different people inherently have different styles of decision making. If you work with or for someone who is more comfortable with a robust context and facts, it is better if YOU do your research before presenting a proposal that is the equivalent of "red".  But if you work for/with someone who expects you to evaluate the options and then present one, it requires a different approach on your end.

Decisions, on big things and small, are hard enough to make.  Tailor your style to the decision maker so that they are as comfortable as possible as they ride into the rodeo.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, February 7, 2013

#251 trade-offs

As a continuation from yesterday's thought...I am convinced that the need for compromise is more important than ever.  I had a recent conversation with someone who is very connected with national politics, and she described the country's situation as "scary".  "Our country is built on the premise of compromise," she said.  "But now, instead of putting the interests of the country first and working out a way to move us forward, politicians of both parties are too focused on their own interests."  

Yesterday's blog gave the telephone and music as two examples of growing independence, but there are hundreds of others.  Not sharing rooms with siblings, or even college roommates.  Teenagers having their own car instead of coordinating elaborate drop off and pick up rituals.  Streaming of movies so people can watch what they want that evening; the blockbuster hit is never "rented out".   Buying now on credit instead of figuring out what you can afford.  The list is endless.

How do we teach our next generation how to compromise?  Where do they get practice at it in today's world full of options and choice, and where there are few role models in the daily news?    

A compromise requires an adjustment of differing positions.  It is a co-promise to a joint settlement.  At your next opportunity, try to publicly role model the art of compromise.  Not just to move your organization forward, but to inspire others to follow suit.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

#250 independence

Think about the evolution of telephones:
From picking up the phone and asking the operator for whom you wish to reach
To party lines (where several units were all connected to the same phone number)
To one phone in the house
To extensions so you could have a phone in your room
Now to personal cell phones where everyone in the house has their own phone number

And with music:
Once only performed publicly in group settings
To radios that people gathered around in stores or living rooms
To personal stereos in a home or car
To Walkmans that made that stereo portable
To iPods which put "a thousand songs in your pocket"
To Pandora and other services that now give you a personal music station

While there is certainly convenience in having your own phone vs. waiting for your chatty neighbors to free up the party line, we also lose some practice in the art of compromise and patience in the process.  

The telephone and music are just two examples of a plethora of ways that we operate more independently than we did before.   While growing up, I gained lots of practice in compromising during "negotiations" over phone usage rights and the car's radio station selection.  Today, try to find other ways to practice your skill in accommodating others' needs and tastes.  Your community will be better for it.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

#249 wow

While many spent their Sunday watching the Super Bowl, I know someone who was actually THERE.  He spent four grand for a complete package, and bought himself a memory that will be with him for a lifetime (especially with the power outage!).  

If you would have asked me last week, I couldn't have told you who was even in the Super Bowl, so I have no jealousy about his status.  I do have great admiration, though, for someone who knew his passion and acted on it.

I felt the same way a few years ago, when a colleague paid a princely sum to attend an intimate black tie event with her beloved Bears players.  Again, I had no desire to accompany her, but did appreciate her willingness to sacrifice on almost everything else to create this memory for herself.

I am reminded of a children's book, Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst.  It is a delightful tale of Alexander, who dwindles away his dollar with little to show for it when it is gone.

I think many of us are like Alexander -- we buy fast food meals, assorted items of clothing, daily lattes and impulse goods in the checkout line -- but have little of impact in the end.  Organizations act like Alexander, too.  We serve our clients with Alexander-esque economics and it all feels very ordinary.

I applaud those who save up their treasures and then plunk down a wad on something that will create a thrill.  Here's to creating a WOW experience -- for yourself, or for your customers.  In the end, it could be the best money that you've spent.

-- beth triplett

Monday, February 4, 2013

#248 quiet strength

I have always admired Rosa Parks for the humble and unassuming way that she made her mark on history.  A seamstress in Alabama, her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott that became a key event in the quest for civil rights.  She was born 100 years ago today.

I had the privilege of seeing Mrs. Parks in person at a benefit concert where then Vice President Al Gore presented her with her Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1999.  Four decades after she was arrested for violating a city ordinance, she seemed not to understand what all the fuss was about.  

I would speculate that if Rosa Parks had thought her action would put her in the national spotlight, she would have been too afraid to do it.  But on that day*, she utilized what has been called her "quiet strength" to stand up (er, to stay seated) for her convictions.

Rosa Parks is a reminder that you don't have to be gregarious, flamboyant, extroverted or outspoken in your message.  You just need to act.

-- beth triplett

*December 1, 1955

Sunday, February 3, 2013

#247 measurement

What weighs more:  an ounce of gold or an ounce of lead?

Most people tend to answer, "they weigh the same" or they intuitively think that an ounce of lead weighs more because lead is perceived as something heavy.

In all likelihood, an ounce of gold actually weighs more.  This is because gold is typically weighed using the troy scale, and an ounce on the troy scale is about 10% more than an ounce on the standard scale.  [One troy ounce (ozt) = 1.0971 ounces (oz)]  

The troy scale is a remnant of the Roman system that retained the troy measurement system for gold, silver, platinum and gunpowder.  So should you find yourself buying or selling any of these commodities, it would be helpful to understand what scale is being used.

The same applies in the organizational world.  Before you make assumptions that the numbers you are looking at are comparable, it would be behoove you to understand the context and scale of your data.  Whenever you are weighing things -- be it measurements, values, alternatives or costs -- check to see that the scale you accept as standard is the one the other party is using as well.

-- beth triplett

*thanks to CLK for the factoid and inspiration

Saturday, February 2, 2013

#246 Phil

Today is Groundhog Day.  It sounds like one of those obscure events that I referenced in Blog # 243, but it is actually widely celebrated.  Why is that?  Because of Phil, of course.  Punxsutawney Phil in the lovely hamlet of Punxsutawney, PA.

Phil's descendants became the focus of a cabin-fever party way back in 1887 and the revelry has been growing in popularity ever since.  Whether or not Phil sees his shadow seems to be incidental to the festivities.  

Over 35,000 people are expected to descend on this town (normal population 5,935) to watch a rodent come out of a hole.  It is marketing genius.  

What can you brand within your organization like Punxsutawney celebrates Phil?  Think about it.  If a remote town can attract seven times its population to watch an over sized ground squirrel and get 20 million (!) hits on its website -- well, surely you should be able to come up with a festive little ditty of your own. 

Give it a try.  Especially if Phil sees his shadow and you are burrowed in for six more weeks of winter and have lots of time to think about it.

-- beth triplett