Saturday, November 30, 2013

#547 a rose...

When did the unique spelling of names become so popular?  Our applicants include a Kelcee, Caitlyn, Caitlin, Ashliy, Morgin, Patryk, Maddison, Rubi, Kala, Cierra, Ciera and Joshlynn -- as variations on a more traditional spelling.

These personalizations are in addition to other names that are less frequently seen:  Khiree, Jessenia, Yesenia, Amaree, Paola, Mutiat, Safiyyah, Cardazure, Quari, Breshay, Anfernee and Anesha.  

The spelling of names is just one aspect of ways people try to craft a unique presence for themselves.  Companies do it all the time:  Kwik Trip, Toys R Us, Kum 'n Go, Quik Stop, etc.

In his book, Insanely Simple, former Apple marketer Ken Segall gives examples of how Apple's culture of simplicity allows it to triumph over complexity. Segall is the guy who suggested the "i" for the iMac, the first in a long line Apple's naming protocols.  He contrasts the iPhone to the HTC Thunderbolt or Motorola Citrus or any one of the multitude of names each generation of phone receives.

"Product naming is the ultimate exercise in Simplicity," writes Segall.  "The naming structure across Apple's major product lines is easy for current and potential customers to understand."

I think that goes for child-naming and business-naming too.  No one asks you to spell Mary or Target.  

As you name anything -- from your organization, to your new program, to your dog -- keep in mind that the more unique it is in the beginning, the more you will need to spell it for the rest of its lifecycle.  Be intentional about the trade off you are making when you decide what to call it.

-- beth triplett

Friday, November 29, 2013

#546 20 and counting

A colleague shared an article about 20 things every Twentysomething should know how to do.  While the author first advocated for the twenties to be a time of exploration and growth, he believes that there are certain things that are essential skills.

Some I agree with.  (I also know many people who are well past age 29 and have not mastered these skills!):
> Say "I was wrong."
> Be alone
> Prioritize the important over the urgent
> Bite your tongue
> Parallel park

But, as with any list, there are some that I would not have included on mine:
> Brew a great cup of coffee or tea
> Recommend a book, movie or album
> Approach a stranger
> Defend your media choices
> Make a great breakfast

I would have included:
> Know how to dress professionally for work
> Open a retirement account
> How to craft a well-written thank you note
> How to propose a new idea to your boss
> How to navigate a new city

What would you include on the list of what you'd like to see twentysomethings master?  I'll bet that there are some people in this age group in your life.  How can you help them learn the skills that they don't explicitly teach you anywhere?  You'll be doing them a huge favor in the long run.

-- beth triplett


Source:   by Tyler Huckabee, October 8, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

#545 inside understanding

One of my colleagues told the story of her young nephew who had a pet bunny.  The bunny roamed freely on an enclosed porch when the family was home, but had to be put in a hutch when they were out.

One day the child was trying to put the bunny inside, but the animal was not cooperating.  "Get your a$$ in there!" he said to the rabbit.  His mother overheard him and said, "WHAT did you say?"

"Come here little bunny," he replied.

This phrase has become shorthand in the family for "get moving!" and is part of the lexicon that each member knows well.  

May you give thanks to those who know your insider language and who laugh beside you.  I hope today you create new memories together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#544 stay home

I was recently at a National Day of Philanthropy luncheon.  This is an event not only to acknowledge the fund raisers in our community, but it is also an opportunity for the development professionals to thank donors.  

I suspect that the timing of the event originated so that it could coincide with Thanksgiving, but the keynote speaker asked: "Did we miss Thanksgiving?"  It seems that the focus went from Halloween directly to Christmas, with both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving lost in between. 

Marketing professor Roger Beahm predicts that "people will turn Thanksgiving Day shopping into a tradition as they historically have on the day after Thanksgiving."  I think that he is right.  Walmart is open 24 hours and hosts of other stores are open for at least some part of the actual holiday.  "The floodgates have opened," Beahm said.

This seems to be a classic case of letting the camel's nose under the tent.  Once there is a little movement, pretty soon there are no parameters to keep more and more from happening.

Are there sacred traditions in your life or organization that you should fight to preserve?  Events, practices or norms that should not be altered?  It is so easy to make exceptions and to give "just a little bit."  Know what you need to honor in spite of the temptation.  

I hope staying home and avoiding the stores on Thanksgiving Day is one of those things.

-- beth triplett

Source:  All day shopping frenzy on Thanksgiving? by Anne D'Innocenzio for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, November 13, 2013 p. 3C

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#543 subtract

I was reading my Sunday newspaper inserts and for a moment thought I was confused about what I was seeing.  One ad featured a turkey and all the trimmings, and another showed a bed, sheets and a beanbag chair.  One flyer was from a grocery store and the other from a department store so that made sense -- except that it was Target promoting the food and our grocery selling sheets, blankets and beanbag chairs.  Huh?

Why do retailers today feel that they have to be everything to everybody?  It's not just shopkeepers who are afflicted with please-everyone-itis.  Schools, hospitals, entertainment venues -- everyone is trying to expand and offer things that deviate from their core.  

In efforts to try and offer everything, I think they dilute it all.  I can't find the brands of food I want at the grocery because they have allocated space to hair dryers, scent warmers and sherpa throws.  Target cut out aisles of "hard goods" to squeeze a mini-grocery store in the same square footage and now neither carries a robust selection.  

Don't succumb to the temptation to follow their lead.  What you don't do speaks volumes.  Saying no is often the most strategic answer you can give.

-- beth triplett

Monday, November 25, 2013

#542 down the rabbit hole

"There is no use trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things."  

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen.  "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast".   

-- Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published on this date in 1865 -- quite the radical and forward thinking publication for the era.  Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Dodgson -- a mathematics professor at Oxford.  I guess his day job of working with the literal inspired him to express his creativity in other ways.  

All of us have aspects of our work that requires being grounded in reality.  For many, this occurs for the majority of our time!  

How can you take a lesson from Dodgson and find an alternate outlet for your creativity?  Even if it is nothing more than lying in bed for a few extra minutes in the morning or pushing your mind while in the shower, can you set your imagination free at least once a day?  You may just dream up a character that becomes a cultural icon.  

-- beth triplett

Sunday, November 24, 2013

#541 the hook

If he were still alive, today would be Dale Carnegie's birthday.  Even if you are not one of the millions who have participated in his training, it's likely that you know his name and could even associate it with his best selling book: How to Win Friends and Influence People.  

Dale Carnegie Training is still offered today as a way to increase self-confidence and strengthen communication skills.  Those sound like quite contemporary topics, but what is astonishing to me is that he began his training in 1912!  Carnegie was born in 1888 and was way ahead of his time in offering self-help before there were hundreds doing so.

Much of Carnegie's work is centered around being focused on the perspective of the other person, rather than yourself.  One of his quotes to illustrate this:

"I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms.  So when I went fishing, I didn't think about what I wanted.  I thought about what they wanted.  I didn't bait the hook with strawberries and cream.  Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish."

Take Carnegie's advice to heart today and win some friends of your own.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Wikipedia

Saturday, November 23, 2013

#540 second chance

There are five Saturdays until Christmas (including today!), so the malls and big box stores will no doubt be packed with shoppers.  Where are a growing number of people going, either for gifts or that holiday outfit for themselves?  To thrift shops.

A recent research report estimates that the annual revenue of resale stores is $13 billion, and growing.  Shoppers have motivations that "are partly environmental, partly frugal, partly thrill-of-the-hunt fun."  And the plethora of consignment shops provide ample shopping experiences for those who fall into any of the categories.

My good friend is a thrift store aficionado.  When she comes to town, we do the "circuit" of bargain stores in our area.  She has even found stores in my town that I never shopped before, but do now based upon her recommendation.  For clothing, household decor or even Christmas decorations, it is a sensible way to outfit yourself with what you need.

It is reported that almost 20% of U.S. adults have shopped in a secondhand store in the last year.  Maybe as you are heading out today, you should add yourself to that number.  Reduce your expenditures, your carbon footprint and your wait in department store lines by shopping where the goods are just waiting to be loved -- again.

-- beth triplett

Source:  "As shoppers' attitudes change, secondhand shops thrive," by Claudia Beck for the Sacramento Bee in the Telegraph Herald, August 4, 2013, p. 4B.

Friday, November 22, 2013

#539 puppy love

I take my dogs to a practice where there are three veterinarians.  All three are competent and nice, but I rearrange my schedule so that I can have my appointments with Dr. Hensley.  She offers the same services as the other vets, but the way in which she provides her care sets her apart from the others.  

Recently I visited the vet when my Iris had an ear infection.  Dr. Hensley never put Iris up on a table; instead she crawled down on the floor to examine the ear.  "Ohhhh, poor Pookie," she cooed.  "We're going to make you all better."  She treats my "babies" as if they were her own, and treats me like I think she would want to be treated.  Dr. Hensley sets the dogs at ease with her loving manner, and assures me by providing just the right amount of information.

Dr. Hensley also always takes that extra minute to tell me how beautiful my dogs are or how she likes seeing one of the "Triplett Girls" (as she calls them) on her schedule.  She may say something similar to all of her clients, but she makes me feel like my dogs are her favorites.  

In Good to Great, Jim Collins talked about creating a pocket of greatness wherever you are in the organization.  Dr. Hensley has certainly done that in her role at the pet hospital.  I know if my girls could talk, they would ask for her too.

How can you deliver your service in such a way that makes your clients want to have their appointment with you?  Dr. Hensley is a model of how to go beyond the basics and add in some love.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Murphy's mom for the idea!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

#538 illusion

There was a white blur moving around just outside my backyard fence.  The dogs were going nuts barking at it.  It would get closer, then move along the fence then back away.  The dogs were wild.

When I came out to see what was causing the ruckus, I realized that it was just a plastic grocery bag floating around in the wind.  I was able to eliminate the distraction with ease.

Sometimes, what has you upset is really only an illusion.  Look closely at what your perceived problem is before you get riled up about it.  Maybe it's not at all what you think it is.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

#537 compliance

For the past several days, we have had six peer evaluators on our campus as part of our decennial accreditation.  This is a process that we must successfully complete in order to allow our students to receive federal financial aid, or, in other words, to remain open.

Throughout the 18 month process and preparations, we have compiled countless documents and submitted a 200 page reflective assessment of where we stand.  This week, many configurations of committees and individuals have been interviewed to allow the evaluators to assess whether we actually do what we say we do and whether there is evidence to support our analysis and report.

It is interesting that nowhere in this process are we asking the question of whether we like the process, governance, rules, policies, etc. -- the aim is ascertain whether we are in compliance with the regulations.  

This is the exact phrase our human resources director used last week when informing the staff about new health care regulations.  "It's not about whether you like it or not," she said.  "It's the law."

I am a big proponent of continuous improvement, assessment and modifications based on evaluation or feedback.  But I am also a pragmatist who knows that dedicating energy to buck national regulations already in place is a futile effort.  This is not the time to advocate for new laws or policy changes, just as during an audit it is not time to challenge the GAAP accounting standards.  

Sometimes, you have to play the game with the rules as written.  At other times, you can make your own rules.  Know the difference so you use your energies wisely.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#536 it's a comin'

A recent article in Fortune reported that Wells Fargo is investing heavily in horses -- not as an investment commodity, but as an advertising strategy.  The brokerage firm now has 200 horses and 14 drivers who will make 450 appearances this year, pulling the Wells Fargo stagecoach in parades, rallies and community events.  (The famous Clydesdales only have 122 events.)  

In this day of high tech, digital-everything and pervasive messaging, it seems that Wells Fargo thinks a return to simplicity will be most effective in breaking through the clutter.  Live horses and a stagecoach certainly will be a novelty and garner awareness of the firm; whether it drives anyone to use their services is another question.

But is there a lesson you can take from Wells Fargo's attempt to return to its roots?  Do you have an iconic logo that you can capitalize on?  Can you add a live mascot or other attention-getting vehicle to your marketing strategy?  

In these media-saturated times, hearkening back to your roots may be an effective way to reach audiences.  It may seem old-fashioned, but real often trumps virtual in creating a "wow factor" about your organization.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Battle of the Corporate Steeds, by Daniel Roberts, Fortune, November 18, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

#535 merging traffic

I was talking to a friend who just learned that he was going to be a parent for the first time.  In addition to the euphoria over the news, there is a twinge of panic when he considers what lies ahead.  Specifically we were talking about how his life seems busy now, so it is hard to imagine how will he add in the additional responsibilities of fatherhood.

I may be way out of my league in dispensing advice in this area, but I believe anytime that something major is added to our plate the best way to retain sanity is to attempt to merge instead of add as much as possible.  As a new dad, can he push one of those aerodynamic strollers when he is out for a run?  Bring the baby to sporting events that he attends?  Watch the movie at home while tending to the child instead of in the theater?

If you add new responsibilities at work, can you find a way to combine or eliminate tasks instead of simply adding more to your plate?  Perhaps by making reports serve dual purposes instead of two reports; combining agenda items instead of two meetings; saving items to discuss with others until you have several?

Multitasking is not ideal, and is certainly not the solution for all time management overload.  But first thinking of ways to merge is a step in assessing what must stay and what can go -- and that often leads to a prioritization that keeps life sane.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, November 17, 2013

#534 poison apple

Yesterday I wrote about the new line of Disney paints.  And where is this high-end magic available?  Only at Walmart, the low-end discounter.  Not what I would have suspected.

Disney's mission is "to be one of the world's leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.  Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world."  

Does it sound like a line of paints fit with that mission?  Is paint an entertainment experience or "related product"?  I think the word profitable is what is driving this business decision.  

In Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote that successful companies will have more opportunities than they can handle, and the trick will be sticking with only those that fit with their core mission and goals.  I think Disney should have let Glidden market black paint as black paint, not as Mickey Ears, and stayed in the entertainment field.  

Be wary of letting opportunity or profit drive your expansion if it takes you away from your core.  Like the witch's apple for Snow White, giving in to temptation can have its consequences.

-- beth triplett


Saturday, November 16, 2013

#533 painting a picture

For a long time, the number of available paint colors has been expanding so that you can find latex in every color imaginable.  Now Disney has taken this to a whole new level and developed a line of paint with many of the colors that they have imagined and people have come to love.

Instead of black, you can now buy a paint called Mouse Ears.  Red is Lightening McQueen, the star of Cars.  There is an aqua Sulley's Fur.  Orange is So Goofy.  A light green is Tinker Bell and the grey is Blustery Day.  It is an entire pallet of colors that fit their tag line "every color tells a story."  Even without my identification, you would instantly know that Silly Old Bear was a yellow, A Shirt for Pooh was red and Eeyore's Rain Cloud was a dark gray.  

Of course Disney wouldn't be satisfied with ordinary paint -- they had to add some magic to it.  So you can buy a glitter topcoat (that makes the wall "a flourish of shimmering glitter"), a confetti topcoat for more pronounced sparkle, metallic paint, chalkboard paint and glow in the dark colors.  All of these are necessary to recreate the elaborate designs that are suggested -- such as Pixie Hollow with glowing Tinker Bells and princess gowns that sparkle.

It is another example of brand extension -- taking one aspect of your business or organization and parlaying that into an entire new line of offerings.  On one hand, it makes sense to capitalize on selling black paint for a premium by giving it a Mickey label.  On the other hand…

See tomorrow's blog for part 2

-- beth triplett

Friday, November 15, 2013

#532 silence

I try to patronize local businesses as much as possible, so tonight we had dinner at the local* Eagles Club for Pizza Night.  This is normally a members-only club, but they occasionally open their doors for local organizations to do fundraisers.  We have been there many times for Burger Night and the sponsors are always most appreciative of our business.

Tonight the Eagles themselves ran Pizza Night and it was a totally different atmosphere.  We were ignored at the bar for a several minutes before seeking out someone else to order the pizza.  It seemed like a burden to put in another order, and only after we had ordered and paid did she tell us it would "be awhile" since they were "behind".  Translated, that meant we should have left, but did not, and instead we waited an hour for our pie to arrive.  All evening I felt like an intrusion -- that we weren't welcome there even though they had advertised it publicly, and that we were a bother to serve.

All of this came not from anything that was said, but from what wasn't.  No greeting or welcome.  No apology for the delay.  No thank you or appreciation for supporting their organization.  It was striking to me how uncomfortable the silent treatment could be.

My takeaway (besides never to go to Pizza Night ever again):  pay attention to visitors and others with whom you interact.  A hello goes a long way in setting the tone.  An acknowledgement that you made the visitor/customer/client wait is important.  And a word of thanks is always welcome.  

Saying nothing is just as bad as saying the wrong thing.

-- beth triplett

Note: the Asbury Eagles Club (not Dubuque)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

#531 thinking in dots

Yesterday I received an email from a friend with the subject line: "Starting to view the world through a "how might she blog about this" lens.  She went on to say that she was listening to the sound of endless leaf blowers for the umpteenth day in a row and it got her wondering if people even use rakes anymore -- or in my area if they use shovels instead of snow blowers -- and how technology has changed yet another aspect of our lives.

I previously received an email from another former staff member who commented that he saw lots of FedEx trucks and thought about the arrow in their logo (as I described to him as part of a workshop I did a decade ago). He wondered how THAT could be a dot about how you could use branding to solidify your message or how once people see things it makes it hard NOT to see them (e.g.: he can never NOT see the arrow embedded in the white space of the FedEx logo).

In the keynote I just gave I said that if you want to be more attentive to the world around you, you should start writing a daily blog.  Apparently, just reading a daily blog sharpens your observational and analytical skills!

Readers know that my sister was going to write my blog if she lost a wager we had.  She won, but I really wonder what she would have written about.  I have no doubt that she would have come up with something great; I think all the readers would have something to write about.  Once you start paying attention, there are ideas everywhere.

Try it for today.  Pretend that you have to go home from work tonight and write a blog entry about something.  What would your observation be?  What lesson could you derive from it?  What organizational advice would you give?  

Whether you ever write a blog or not, make it a habit to keep learning from what is around you -- every day.

-- beth triplett

[Want to share your blog idea? Post them as a comment or mail them to me at leadership dots@gmail]

Thanks Wendy and Brian!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#530 not so happy trails

I received a large envelope in the mail today containing information about enrolling my mom in a new retiree healthcare plan.  All of the State of Illinois retirees must choose a new plan to continue their coverage past the new year, so for weeks I have been receiving postcards telling me that it is coming.  Today was the lucky day.

Enclosed was a 16-page booklet that attempted to explain my options, a letter, an 8-page form that I must fill out and return (in my own envelope) and 8 pages of locations where I can attend a seminar to try and make sense out of this decision.  I think I am relatively intelligent, and to me it looked like alphabet soup.  If my mom were to see this, she would say that you "couldn't make head nor tails" out of what it says.  

I am sure that a lot of effort went into designing the packet.  It even comes with a special logo and (yet another) acronym:  Total Retiree Advantage IL or TRAIL -- my TRAIL to better health.  I am warned to watch only for mailings with the friendly TRAIL logo to avoid being confused by companies who are "not affiliated with the official MA-PD plan available to me through the CIP".  If they write their brochure without jargon, I think they have a chance to corner the market anyway!

No doubt that the people who wrote this did so with the best of intentions and in a way that they thought would be clear to those receiving it.  But I suspect that the authors were IN the business and understood what all the acronyms meant.  The next time you need to communicate complicated information, ask someone who is NOT familiar with your industry to read your piece.  See if they can give you pointers on what could use clarification from the point of view of those receiving it vs. producing it.

EOB* anyone?   (Explanation of Benefits -- one of the new things that will come with each of my statements.  I can't wait!)

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#529 raise your hand

Long ago I learned from a mentor that there are five primary reasons that people volunteer for student activities in college.  She utilized the acronym of GRAPE to indicate Growth, Recognition, Achievement, Participation and Enjoyment.  Over the years, some of us have morphed her acronym into GRAPES and added Service.

Think about the reasons that you donate your time to something.  I'll bet that the reasons behind your altruism fall into one of these categories, even if you are far beyond the college age.  You believe in a cause so you volunteer, but as Sara's theory indicates, you also receive some good things in return.  Maybe you learn a skill, meet some new people, get kudos or a pat on the back or just have some fun.

Almost every organization needs someone to give of their time for something.  Point out the benefits of volunteering to those who may assist you and make the time to contribute to an organization yourself.  What you learn as a volunteer may provide valuable lessons to feed back into your organization -- about how to treat both your volunteers and your staff.  After all, don't they want the benefits of GRAPES too?

-- beth triplett

Source:  Sara Boatman

Monday, November 11, 2013

#528 yin-yang

Yesterday's blog referred to a conversation about Christmas wish lists -- which led to Legos -- which lead to a whole other conversation about Legos themselves.  I have previously* lamented how Legos have become "kits" instead of free form creativity.  Little did I know that there is a whole enterprise revolving just around the mini-figures that are used with the Lego blocks.

Over 4 billion mini-figures have made for Legos -- if they were people, they would be the world's largest population group.  If you visit you will see the millions of ways that Legos and mini-figures have been used to create amazing scenes and art.  It is estimated that every person on earth owns 86 Lego bricks -- but my nieces and nephews are striving to bring that average waaay up!  

Legos are produced at a rate of 5.2 million per hour -- so 45.7 billion bricks were made last year alone.  Yet despite the volume, mini-figures, kits and uses for the bricks far beyond what the creators ever imagined, all the 2x4 Lego bricks manufactured since they began in 1958 use the same measurements and connect together.  

Legos and Oreos are great examples of what Collins and Poras referred to in Built to Last as "preserving the core while stimulating progress".  These are the Yin and Yang of a delicate balance that allows for innovation without abandoning the original values and philosophy.  

What lessons can you take from products like Legos and Oreos -- who have been changing and adapting to meet new market conditions, yet preserve the essence of who they are?  Think about what elements are at your core and what you need to maintain as sacred trusts before you strategize about how to change things.

--- beth triplett


*See Blog #160, November 8, 2012

Sunday, November 10, 2013

#527 Santa economics

I asked a friend who has young children what the hot gift was for the kids this Christmas.  He replied that his young daughter wants a special Lego kit -- that costs $130!  When she told him about it, she said: "I would never ask you and Mom to buy it because it costs so much, so I am asking Santa for it!"

Do you have things in your organization where it seems like people are asking Santa instead of Mom and Dad?  Things that come out of a capital fund seem more like they are from Santa instead of operational expenses out of your budget.  Leases or long-term contracts seem easier to swallow than paying a six-figure sum up front, but it still costs that much in the end.  When building a home, it somehow is more palatable to add in a thousand dollar enhancement, but if we paid $1000 out of our checking account it would be painful.

Economists have shown that the more direct link there is to the cash, the smarter people are with their expenditures.  What steps can you take in your organization to help your employees understand that Mom and Dad are paying the bills and not Santa?

-- beth triplett

Thanks Grace!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

#526 world's favorite

It seems ironic to me that after doing a PowerPoint about 30+ kinds of Oreos that none of them were lemon.  Yet as early as 1924, the bakers were extending their brand to include cremes and lemon meringue.

Now the cookies are produced around the world in flavors to fit with the local culture.  In China, you can purchase Oreos with green tea ice cream flavor creme or double fruit with orange and mango.  In Indonesia, enjoy Blueberry Ice Cream or Strawberry.  Argentinians can eat Oreo Due with banana and dulce de leche or Oreo Alfajor -- three layers of cookie and creme!  

Oreos are available in more than 100 countries and is the best selling cookie in the world.  The Oreo Facebook page has more than 23 million fans (!!) and ranks in the top five Facebook pages in the world!  

As if the $1.5 billion in revenues wasn't enough for Kraft, there is an entire after market with supplemental Oreo products and uses.  There are entire sites dedicated to using Oreos in teaching, the History Channel has done a segment on how Americans eat more than 20 million Oreos a day and there are more recipes than you can imagine.

What are some lessons your organization can take from Oreos?  Even though they have been around for 100+ years, they have embraced social media and actively promote the brand on Facebook and Twitter.  They keep their advertising sharp and relevant (e.g.: ads about the Super Bowl black out and arrival of Prince George).  They introduce new flavors, contests, taste testing and promotions.  In short, they don't rest on their biscuits!

Open up a pack of Oreos, pour a glass of milk and check out some of the many websites about this product to see what you can learn for your organization.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Oreo 100th Birthday Global Fact Sheet
Oreo cookie moon phases image from

Friday, November 8, 2013

#525 crumbs of insight

Earlier this week, I gave the keynote address to a conference of financial aid administrators.  I was asked to speak on the topic of customer service from a student's perspective and so I was able to refer to many of the examples that I have written about in this blog.

In addition to that, I also shared a visual display of 30 different variations of Oreo cookies.  If you had asked me before I started my "research" in this area (which turned into an obsessive quest to find even more varieties!!), I would not have guessed that so many kinds existed.  But they do.  I wrote about some of them before* when I received Watermelon Oreos for my birthday, but it was nothing like what I shared in my keynote.

I likened Oreos to the different kind of scholarships that schools have available and said that from a student's point of view they were all the same brand of cookies.  Thus, it was daunting to them and hard for the financial aid officer to explain the variations -- especially when one tried to explain in print or via the web.  I think it made the point.

Maybe you could do a visual display of Oreos when you need to make a point to your staff.  Do you have too many forms or products or policies that are hard for the outsider to differentiate?  Do you need a lesson on the proliferation of brand extensions?  Maybe you could you do an exercise at a meeting and ask participants to describe how their Oreo is different than the person's next to them -- trickier than it sounds when comparing a Golden Oreo to a Golden Birthday Cake Oreo.  Or serve Oreos and milk to discuss how to make your product (original Oreos) different from all your competitors (who are now Heads and Tails Oreos or Mega Stuff Oreos or Candy Corn Oreos, or Raspberry Fudge Cream Oreos, etc.)

There are lessons all around us -- even those that are good enough to eat!

-- beth triplett

*Blog #389, June 25, 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013

#524 classy

We always encourage people to be good losers, but here is a story about a good winner.  Regular readers know that I was quite interested in the World Series this year.  My sister (in Boston) and I had a fun wager and she was a gracious winner when my Cardinals lost.  Turns out, she wasn't the only one.

The Boston Red Sox as an organization ran this full-page ad in the St. Louis newspaper this week:


Their message:
From one great baseball town to another

On behalf of our partners and the entire Red Sox organization, thank you St. Louis. The warm Midwestern welcome you extended to our team and our fans during this year's hard-fought World Series is truly appreciated. Your region, its people, and the entire Cardinals organization represent everything that's great about baseball.

We share the same colors and rich, storied baseball history that stretches from Musial and Williams, to Molina and Pedroia. We're both home to the most loyal, passionate fans in the game. And the four World Series in which we've gone head-to-head are all etched in the memories of those who love our sport.

So we tip our caps to each and every one of you. We look forward to seeing you again next August. Let's hope that it's just a prelude to meeting again in October.

John Henry, Owner;
Tom Werner
, Chairman; Larry Lucchino, President/CEO

It was a great Series; how nice that it had a gracious ending too. 

Can you take a lesson from the Red Sox and provide a classy gesture to one of your competitors or even to a colleague?  Such a move on your part leaves an important impression not only on them, but it makes a statement to those inside your organization about how to model your values. 

-- beth triplett


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

#523 home-work

I recently had lunch with a former co-worker who is now working as a consultant.  She works for a firm headquartered in another city, but is based out of her home here.

I asked her how she liked working from home and she listed a host of pros and some cons about the situation.  I told her that I would not like to have a job with such an arrangement, and she commented that she didn't think it would be much different than the work I do from home now.

The thing is, I rarely do office work at home now. While that was surprising to her, it is an intentional strategy for me.  Every day I come in early and stay about an hour after people leave which allows me enough time to do what needs to be done within the office setting.  Often I attend events or sporting contests or do something else work-related in the evening, but hardly ever is it paperwork or computer work at my house.

I think some people would be reluctant to admit that -- it seems to be an expectation that to be successful you need to be busy and connected all the time -- but I think that because I have this separation I am able to be more productive when I am in the office. I am able to read, relax and think -- and all these things contribute to the quality of my work when I am working.

If you are leaving every evening with a briefcase full of projects or you never really disengage from your computer, try a more humane strategy for a week or so. See if you can't increase your efficiencies while you are in the office to allow you the pleasure of having some actual downtime outside of it.  They call it Home Sweet Home for a reason.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

#522 responsiveness

On Sunday night, when I ate at Culver's, I received a survey about my experience.  There was a mistake on our order and so I called the 800 number and registered my two cents.  The survey asked if I would be willing to take a follow up phone call to provide feedback on my problem.  I entered my number.

Yesterday (aka the very next day) at 10:20am (aka before the restaurant even opened, less than 24 hours since I took a national survey), I received a call from Heather the local restaurant manager.  In addition to apologizing for my experience, she spent most of the phone call thanking me for letting them know about the problem.  "I am so thankful for your call," she said.  "It helps us make it better.  I know you work hard for your money and we will work on better training so that you can have the kind of experience that you deserve."  

I would have been delighted if the call ended there, but Heather asked for my address so she could "get something out to me" to thank me for my feedback.  It was impressive.

So many times I take surveys and wonder if they have any impact at all.  What a great idea to close the feedback loop -- in person no less -- and in such a timely manner.  That kind of responsiveness can be a model for my organization, and likely yours too.  Learn from Culver's and Heather about how to turn a bad situation into a gem.

-- beth triplett

Monday, November 4, 2013

#521 hijacked

Over the weekend, I saw the Captain Phillips movie about the true story involving the hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship.  Four armed Somalian pirates in nothing but a small motor boat are able to hook their ladder on the side of the multi-ton vessel, board it, and take the captain hostage.  What ensues is a Naval rescue operation involving SEALS, helicopters, surveillance aircraft, war ships and more.

Before the plot developed, I really couldn't conceive of how these four teenagers in skiffs could disable the entire container ship full of 17,000 metric tons of cargo and its crew of twenty.  But as it unfolded, I could see how this really did happen.

It was a very engrossing movie, but my point is not to do a cinematic review.  I use the analogy to think about a time in your organization where a very small group of individuals, seemingly without power or stature, "hijacked" your plans or ideas.  Oftentimes in organizations, we dismiss those on the periphery and do not proactively strategize on how to prevent them from propelling their ideas onto the center stage.  A stand off may ensue where time and energy is lost trying to "negotiate" with those who have a different route in mind.  If they do take over, all the attention is diverted to them, instead of to the original idea, and often times a large scale "rescue" effort is needed to get the plan back on track.

Do not discount the power -- either positive or negative -- that a small group of people can have.  As the pirates proved with the Maersk Alabama, might does not always mean you are in control.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Wikipedia, Maersk Alabama hijacking