Saturday, January 31, 2015

#974 do them anyway

We hosted a scholarship event last weekend, and, as always, I was in charge of facilitating the icebreakers.

I know a lot of icebreakers.  I have been facilitating them for literally 30+ years and am very comfortable in doing so.  

I make it look easy because I have had so much practice, but in reality I put thought into which ones I do at which event.  Low risk, non-threatening questions to start.  Sharing of more information in settings where the participants will see each other again.  Involvement of the parents as well as the students when the occasion warrants.  Higher risk sharing when I want teams to form.  Silly whistles or tambourines to signal a transition instead of shouting for the group to stop.  Intentional topics depending on the event.

In the big scheme of the program, icebreakers may be considered insignificant, but doing them right can often set the tone for the whole day.  

Don't overlook the importance creating energy in the beginning.  People may roll their eyes at you and say that they hate doing them, but if done well, the effect of icebreakers will impact the entire experience in a positive way.

-- beth triplett


Friday, January 30, 2015

#973 up in the air

Last weekend, I saw The Imitation Game, a wonderful movie about breaking Germany's Enigma Code in World War II.  In the movie, Alan Turing (Benedict Chamberlain) laments that all the information they need to end the war is out there, just floating around, if only they could decipher it.

It reminded me of an observation my sister and I had as we were driving along on one of our many road trips.  We thought about all the information that was whizzing past us: radio signals, wireless bandwidth, data, radar, etc.  We were able to receive it and translate some of it via the instruments we had in the car, but certainly there was far more out there.

What exists in your organization that is there, but can't be seen without intentionality?  Your culture goes unnoticed unless you specifically pay attention or ask questions about it.  The communication hierarchy is in the air space, but often undefined.  Ill will, morale issues and resentment often float by without detection for long periods.  

Try to crack the code of what is really going on in your organization.  Like with Turing, it may take many attempts at doing so, but the end result will be worth it.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, January 29, 2015

#972 chuckle

I wrote yesterday about my new Whirley Pop pan.  It comes with a 25-year warranty -- if you register on line.  

This isn't something that I would normally do for a $20 item, but to incentivize me to complete their form (and, I'm sure, to receive future emails with products for me to buy), they offered "all kinds of FREE* extras."

Note the star on the word free.  

To receive my warranty, 2 Real Theatre All-Inclusive Popping Kits, Tips and Tricks Guide, Complete Popcorn Party Guide and 4 Individual Authentic Popcorn Serving Tubs, I needed to pay "minimal shipping charges."  Groan.

I guess they knew I would balk at that part as the notice reads: "For some, you might be thinking here comes the catch -- nothing is "Free" anymore.  We truly are giving you our products at no cost; but unfortunately the Post Office won't ship it for free (we asked, but they said "no").  The only thing you will need to pay is their minimal shipping cost.  We promise!"

may feel like I have been had when the "all kinds of FREE stuff" arrives in the mail, but I felt compelled to reward them for their marketing efforts.

Do you have something that you suspect will cause your customer to groan -- and is there a way to address it with humor and good will?  Can you overcome an objection in advance in a manner that will lead your client to do what you want them to do, but feel good about it?

Take a lesson from Whirley Pop and make your clients chuckle their way into compliance.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#971 pop

Popcorn is one of my very favorite foods.  I have written before about the awesome kernels they sell at our local independent movie theatre and how I have been unable to replicate the taste at home.

That is, until now!

Thanks to a friend's recommendation, I bought a Whirley Pop popcorn pan.  This could turn out to be a very BAD thing -- as the popcorn is very good.  As in VERY GOOD.  I may have to restrain myself from eating a whole pot every day, something that is difficult when the house is full of the delicious scent.

Their brochure reads: "Remember when the appeal of homemade popcorn was as much about the cooking experience as it was about the fluffy, crispy, tasty snack?"  I had forgotten how much better popcorn tastes out of a pan vs. from the microwave.

Is there something that you can do to let your customers participate in the creation of your product vs. just giving it to them in a sterile way?  Can they utilize all of their senses in a manner that adds to the enjoyment vs. always taking the quick and easy path?  Is there a way you can deliver your product that will enhance the experience?

I think the Whirley Pop has done a good job of making their product be part utensil, part event-maker.  If they can do that with a pan, surely you can create something that pops in your organization.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#970 in a blink

One of the digital highway signs warns: "In the blink of an eye, you could die."  I'm sure it is meant as a deterrent to texting while driving, but it is a sobering thought none the less.

It seemed an apt topic for today's blog as the news in our region yesterday was that a private school in our conference is becoming a branch campus of the University of Iowa.  Apparently the majority of those at the school learned about it just before the press conference, turning their world upside down.  There are far more questions than answers at this point regarding just about everything.  In the blink of an eye, their stability was rocked to the core.

And I'm sure for those in the Northeast, it took more than a minute, but not much more, to turn their productive world into a standstill due to the snow.  My sister lost power at 9:00 last night, so in that moment the "let's-have-fun-burrowed-up-inside" changed focus to "how-can-we-save-our-food-and-our-heat."  The world is very different with no electricity.  So much for being productive or content on the extra day off.

Permanent change can happen in a minute too.  I have been touched by four deaths already in 2015, two of whom were going about their daily routine when stricken with a heart attack.  For their families, everything changed so suddenly.  Those who had just gathered from out of state for the holidays were back together, only this time for much more somber reasons.

We can't live life with a shadow hanging over us, waiting for fate to taunt us with trouble.  But we can't take the good things for granted either.  Try to appreciate the ordinary, the routine, and the same old same old.  There truly are times when "nothing happened today" is a welcome outcome.

-- beth triplett

Monday, January 26, 2015

#969 unbalanced

I received a $50 gift certificate for Christmas and used at it a store this weekend.  I felt like I was getting a great bargain on my purchase.  But I had given a $50 gift to the original giver, so in the end, it wasn't "free money" at all.

The same thing happened with a $20 rebate on my dog food.  When the rebate card came, I felt like I had a bonus $20, but it was really reimbursement for my own money that I had already spent.  The same way a tax rebate feels like a windfall, even though it isn't.

The more removed we are from money, the more distorted our view of things becomes. Paying 50 cents/hour cash at the parking meter feels like a lot, but $7/day at the airport doesn't after living in a major city.

Would we spend differently if we had an immediate cost to payment ratio?  Would we use energy-hogging appliances if we had to pay cash in the plug every few hours?  Would we run as many copies if we had to drop dimes in the meter for each one of them?  Or would we drive on short errands so frivolously if we had to pay the cost of gas and ownership at the end of each trip like with a taxi?

It's easy to become comfortable with expenses when we only focus on the short term. Think about your real financial picture as you go through the next week.  Time displacement may have your true ledger a bit unbalanced.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, January 25, 2015

#968 pinching pennies

Hangars from the dry cleaners used to come with paper liners, often advertising the name of the cleaning establishment.  It was a way for the cleaners to show their brand (or appreciation for their customers) as well as to add stability to the hanging garment.  

I use quite a bit of these services, so have accumulated many hangars throughout the years.  I still have some from the cleaners I used in the previous cities where I lived, and when I take a blouse off of them it brings back memories of my time in that town.

A few months ago, I noticed that the paper liner was no longer included.  I would guess it was in an effort to save money or to be environmentally conscious, but the hangars seemed more flimsy without them.  My cleaners switched from liners to a paper tube, but this week they went even more low-budget and now only have half of a cardboard "tent" over the bottom rung.  It is all but worthless.

Have you made similar cost-cutting measures that saved you money but also cheapened your brand?  Think about the image you project before you lose the liner.  The pennies you pinch that directly impact the customer may not be the best ones to save. 

-- beth triplett

With special fondness for MM and West Oak Cleaners!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

#967 the right mix

The stylist who cuts my hair sports a new haircut and/or color almost every time I have an appointment.  I guess it's part of her profession to experiment with new styles -- or maybe she is just more brave than I am!

Her current look includes a 3-inch streak of bright green across the front of her auburn hair.  I would look like someone dumped paint on my head, but it makes her look hip and wonderful.

It was to this woman that I gave permission to cut and color my hair, and even to add "a little color" to the mix.  I did so with total confidence, because I know that she knows what I mean by "a little color" is not remotely related to what she would choose for herself.

Try to use Jen as a model for your next communication encounter.  She is able to listen to what I say, make an appropriate translation for what fits my situation, and deliver it with aplomb, all while preserving her own opinions and flair.

You needn't be the same to work well together, but you do have to listen and understand the perspective of the other party to honor their intent.  Make it your job to make others the best they can be, rather than a replica of you.

-- beth triplett

Friday, January 23, 2015

#966 countdown

I am teaching a leadership class this semester, and as part of that experience I conducted the Marshmallow Challenge as an exercise.  You can learn more about it at the link below, but in summary, groups have 18 minutes to build a structure with only sticks of spaghetti, string, tape and one marshmallow.  

As part of this, I projected on the screen a digital timer that counted down the 18 minutes.  It seemed to go exceedingly fast as we watched the seconds and then minutes tick by. 

And then it occurred to me that this was a timer in "real time" -- it wasn't an accelerated speed, rather the 18 minutes did truly elapse in, well, 18 minutes, even though it felt like much less.

Would we live life differently if there was a giant countdown clock always before us?  I think we would if we knew that we only had X days/hours/minutes left to live, but I'll bet it would influence our behavior if we just became more conscious about the time we had left today or until a major project was due.

Time is the most precious thing we have.  Don't let yours tick away without intentionality.

-- beth triplett


Thanks to B'Ann for introducing this activity to me.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#965 ostentatious

A speaker at a conference on campus recently shared this perspective:

When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, there were approximately 20,000 words in use.

When Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address, there were 60,000 words in our language.

Today, there are approximately 1 million words available to us.

Yet has the expansion of language done anything to help improve communication?  No.

Dr. Seuss began wrote Green Eggs and Ham after his publisher (Bennet Cerf) bet him that he could not complete a book using just 50 different words.  Obviously, he did, and the tale of Sam's eating habits went on to become the fourth-best selling English-language book of all time.

It does not require fancy words and complex structures to share your story.  In fact, your message often gets lost in the rambling.

I do not like oblique and labyrinthine writing.  I do not like it beth I am.

-- beth triplett


William Mayo former VP of Caterpillar at Streamlines Conference, November 2014

Wikipedia, Green Eggs and Ham

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#964 two sides

So far this winter season, we have received a total of 8.3" of snow.  Last year at this time, we had shoveled 24.1" of the awful stuff.

The gas prices in our area are at $1.89 -- about 60% lower than the $3.19 that we were charged a year ago.

Both facts and the information they represent are cause for great glee in my neighborhood.  One represents a huge savings of time and mental stamina, while the other positively impacts the pocketbook...

...and yet, I know that we will soon be hearing about the negative implications of both.  It took the multiple-feet of snow last year to get us out of the drought.  I fear that the lack of piles to slowly seep into the water table will come back to haunt us in other ways this spring.

And we know that the drop in oil prices is impacting investors and businesses throughout the global economy.  The United States both exports and imports oil, leading to mixed impact overall.  Oil production jobs, and the states that house them, are at jeopardy of declines, while other areas benefit from increased spending by consumers.  Other countries are looking at reduced subsidies, revenue shortfalls in exporting nations, deflation and forecasts of recession due to lower growth.

There is no such thing as all good news or all bad news.  Just as we know there are always two sides of a story when someone is telling it, there are also two sides of the issue on a more global scale.

So enjoy the low prices and the minimal snowfall while you can.  You'll pay the price for both later!

-- beth triplett

Schnack's Weather Blog by Mark Schnackenberg on -- snowfall as of January 14

Here are the big winners and losers of low oil prices in by the Economist on on October 26, 2014

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#963 forecast

For the first time since 2000, the National Weather Service will significantly upgrade its technological capacity.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will spend about $45 million to triple its computational ability in January, and then again by the end of the year.  And as a result: the weather people predict greater accuracy in their forecasts.  

It seems ironic that the people in the business of making predictions would add another conjecture to an already imprecise line of work, but they have done just that.

Think of how different things would be if they were right and future weather patterns could be determined with relative accuracy.  People would have more notice in emergency situations.  Concerts and weddings would no longer be "rained out" because they could have moved indoors with proper planning.  Social events could be arranged around suitable weather: no sledding days scheduled without snow nor pool parties in a storm.  The guesswork would be out of the age-old question as to whether to carry an umbrella or to wear boots.

I think people would be more accepting of the weather, whatever it may be, if they knew the forecast with relative certainty in adequate time to plan for it.  I hate winter, not so much for the cold, but because it is a season of plans in limbo.  You never know what the weather will "allow" you to do or how much time it will take to do it due to travel restrictions and snow.

This month, we enter a new age where enhanced computational power tries to predict the next moves of weather patterns.  As the old commercial said: "You can't fool Mother Nature," but I'll bet even with the 5,000 trillion calculations/second, she can still fool us.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Prediction: better accuracy by Erik Hogstrom in the Telegraph Herald, January 11, 2015, p. 8B, 10B.

Monday, January 19, 2015

#962 join hands

It seems that sometimes the further away from something we get, the more affinity we feel toward it.

If I see someone wearing a sweatshirt with our school's logo on it on campus, I don't give it a second thought.

If I see that same person in the same shirt in a downtown store, I notice it, and feel an immediate connection to them even if we are strangers.

If I encounter that same person in another state, I may have to stop and point out the common bond that we have.

And, surely, if I ran into that person while on vacation in Europe, we would have a conversation with lots of exclaiming and maybe even pictures or hugs.  Suddenly we would feel like kindred spirits instead of strangers.

Why do we have to traverse the continents to see what we have in common?  Wouldn't we all be better off if we celebrated our shared humanity everyday instead of fighting over differences?

As you recognize Martin Luther King Day today, visualize the people you see as wearing sweatshirts -- with the logo of "all God's children" joining hands -- including yours.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, January 18, 2015

#961 your way

In case you haven't heard, McDonald's is in business trouble.  They are laying off people at headquarters, cutting its menu and changing tried and true cooking methods in an attempt to overcome lagging sales.

Analysts say that the quintessential American chain has failed to adapt to consumer demand for more upscale and healthier food, and it has fallen behind in the trend toward customization, where people select the precise combination of food and toppings of their choosing.

To combat this, McDonald's has developed the "Create Your Taste" program, which allows customers to select their style of bun and list of toppings for their burger.  I am sure someone had to bite their tongue to keep from saying it allows consumer to "have it their way."

The Burger King folks have to be amused by this turn of events.  They took a jab at McDonald's new plan with the following slogan emblazoned on their bags: "Freshly prepared for you since 1954."  

I think the McDonald's idea is a bad move.  Once the stalwart of consistency and efficiency, McDonald's is now promoting special orders -- something their standardized delivery model is ill equipped to handle.  They are predicting a 5 to 7 minute wait to accommodate personal choice, so future customers can add "poor service" to the list of what ails the McDonald's business model.

Burger King has been doing personalized orders with speed for decades.  For McDonald's to jump in the game at this point doesn't make sense to me.  

If you are struggling, improve what made you great or develop something new to reinvigorate you.  But don't copy the strategy of your chief competitor who has a 60 year head start on perfecting your foray into their area.

-- beth triplett

McDonald's to trim menu, examine ingredients by the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, December 14, 2014, p. 2B
McDonald's laying off 63 people at headquarters in Oak Brook by the Chicago Tribune in the Telegraph Herald, January 11, 2015, p. 2B

Saturday, January 17, 2015

#960 drive in

A local car dealer advertised that they are having a "garage sale" every weekend in January.  But instead of selling used trinkets and treasures, what they mean is that they are putting 20 new cars inside their "warm! dry!" garage/service area so that customers can shop inside.  Better yet, if you find a used car listed in their online site, you can call ahead and they'll bring that car inside for you too.

I love examples like this where people are doing something to provide good service just by seeing things differently.  Every car dealer has a garage, and potential customers who don't want to brave the elements to shop, but this dealer paired a need and an existing resource to come up with this promotional tactic.  I hope it works out well for them.

Is there something your potential clients would like -- ideally that you have already and could offer for free -- if you packaged it differently or let them know about it?  Think about what is holding people back and see if you can't find a way to overcome that challenge, and turn your empty garage into an advantage.

-- beth triplett

Friday, January 16, 2015

#959 polar

Yesterday I wrote about one city and its recent almost-all-ban on sledding.  This town shares a western border with another city, governed by the same state laws that leave them unprotected.

Instead of implementing a ban or restrictions on sledding, they have chosen another path.  This year, as in previous years, the city will sponsor a sledding day, complete with hot chocolate and cookies.

It is an interesting observation that two organizations, faced with the same external factors, have chosen different directions for action.  One prohibits the exact same activity that a neighboring city embraces.  One council wants to protect the city from liability while another council believes that a regulation doesn't really serve as protection anyway.

It is like this with many lesser issues, but happens in situations large and small.  One person (or organization) has a perfectly rational view -- that is polar opposite from another individual with the same data.

Keep the sledding question in mind the next time you are facing a conflict.  Just because you believe something is right for you, doesn't make it right for all. 

-- beth triplett

Another great observation from Amy!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

#958 downhill

Our town has made the national news lately for the most unexpected reason:  the City Council banned sledding in all but two of the city's parks.  

In their mind, there was a logical reason for this restriction: other municipalities in Iowa have been faced with multi-million dollar lawsuits for injuries sustained by sledders and the councilmen were trying to limit the city's liability should an accident occur here.  But the issue has, dare I say snowballed, and taken on a life of its own in the media.

The Council had good intentions by trying to provide some options for the outdoor activity, but their benevolence just has made the matter worse.  Why those parks and not others?  If it is safe some places, why not everywhere?  If we can absorb some risk, why not more? And on it goes.  In an attempt to lessen the pain, I think they kept the ill will alive.

It reminds me of columns from my favorite syndicated parenting expert, John Rosemond. He says often that once you start explaining to the children, you will lose. There is always one more question, another excuse or a justification desired to address a new loop hole. The council would have been better saying: "no sledding until the State legislature protects cities from the liability, period."  People wouldn't like it, but they would understand it more than the seemingly arbitrary ruling they have now.

People don't like bad news, but they like decisions they don't understand even less.  If you have to deliver the bitter pill, don't deliver it with explanations and apologies.  There are times when the equivalent to "because I said so" is the better answer, and it is best left at that.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Telegraph Herald

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#957 carded

Sy Berger died a few weeks ago.  Who is he you ask?  Mr. Berger was the genius behind the baseball card.  He built a business linking the cardboard profiles and piece of gum to the joys of collecting.  

Thousands of boys exchanged and collected millions of cards throughout the decades.  Technology has taken away some of that thrill, but baseball cards were some of the earlier crazes to dominate childhood.

In the space of a few square inches, it included a photo, resume, career highlights and team affiliation.  The baseball card was the professional athletes' rudimentary LinkedIn. 

Think of what you would put on your baseball card if you were to design one today.  What would be the highlights that you would share in your limited space?  

Designing your own card would be a great icebreaker or introductory exercise for a new team to take on.  I have also heard of workshop leaders creating cards of participants and handing them out at the door, so you seek out the person on your card, but don't have to start the conversation cold.

Mr. Berger was on to something -- not just to promote America's pastime, but as a format to facilitate sharing and introductions of all kinds.  Don't let his passing stop you from reviving the tradition to use in a more modern way.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Died: Sy Berger, creator of the modern baseball card by Josh Wilker, in Time, December 29, 2014-January 5, 2015, p. 24

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#956 extra

I often go out to breakfast on the weekends, and recently started going to a new place.  I was struck by their menu which lists an "extra charge" of 20 cents if you want raisin toast or an English muffin instead of the usual white or wheat toast.

It seems odd to me to make a distinction for such a small amount.  If hardly anyone eats the raisin bread or muffins, it would be a minimal expense to absorb.  If many people choose those options, why not add it to the cost overall for everyone, or add 15 cents and let it even out?

Technology has enabled us to track usage at an ever-growing level of precision.  But just because we know that one person uses something that incrementally costs a bit more, does not mean we automatically need to adjust our pricing structure to account for that distinction. 

Before you add minor fees or charge things on a differential per-unit basis, ask yourself whether the distinction matters.  You may find that the aggravation and accounting cost more than the two dimes.

-- beth triplett

Monday, January 12, 2015

#955 neighborly

Last week, my next door neighbor passed away.  He was retired, and passed many hours sitting in a chair in his front yard, greeting everyone and keeping an eye on things.  We referred to him as the "neighborhood watch."

My neighbor across the street summed it up best when she said that what she will miss most about Lloyd is him calling to tell her that she forgot to close her garage door at night.  Lloyd created that sense of community; he showed that someone was looking out for you, and that you were not alone.

Lloyd helped out his neighbors in ways large and small, but, once again, it was the little things that matter the most.  

Keep in mind that you don't need to do extravagant things to have an impact.  It is enough to acknowledge other people and show that they matter.  Take a moment to be a good neighbor today.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, January 11, 2015

#954 gradual

The hardest part of my day is getting out of bed.  A friend of mine says that the hardest part for him is putting his boots on.  It's the same idea: once you are ready to go, the "going" doesn't seem so bad, but it is hard to motivate yourself to get to that point.

What can you do to make getting started easier on yourself?

> Throw the covers off you as soon as the alarm goes off so you're not tempted to roll over and snuggle in them?

> Have your notes and supplies set out and write a few thoughts in advance so you're not starting your proposal by staring at a blank page? or plan out the list of blog topics for the week instead of sitting down and scratching your head about what to write about?!

> Have your shoes and exercise clothes with you so you can change in the office and not be tempted to skip your work out and head home?

My screen saver says (and I have written about before): "the hardest part is getting started."  Find ways to merge onto the ramp instead of tackling the task from a dead stop.  

-- beth triplett

Saturday, January 10, 2015

#953 visuals

For Christmas, I received a package of stickers featuring all of the emoji icons.  I see them on my phone, but in tiny versions, and have never really looked at the set on a larger scale.

I understand this computer language was developed in Japan so there are some cultural differences, but it is a strange assortment of characters.  If you had to think about the 172 icons you would most use in text messages, would you include: an eggplant, a circus tent, an ATM machine, three versions of cows, two camels, a bomb, a shower head, a cactus, a floppy disk, the Statue of Liberty, a lollipop and an octopus?

I am surprised companies haven't found a way to have their logo included in the list of options.  You could type a text:  meet you at [Starbucks logo] or [McDonalds] or [the Gap].  I think it opens up a whole new marketing opportunity!

It would be interesting to me to learn what the most used emoji was and what others think is missing.  (I could use a turkey that I wanted when I sent a Happy Thanksgiving greeting, a bone or more dog icons, a car and more visuals for weather instead of all the phases of the moon.)

Think about the symbols you use, whether via phone, in your email or through little doodles on notes.  Is there an icon you can develop that signifies "you"?  Just as a company has a visual identity, you could develop one of your own.  And maybe someday, pay to have it included as an option in your emoji choices.

-- beth triplett

Friday, January 9, 2015

#952 candles and flares

A friend and I went to one of our favorite restaurants last week, and at one point during the meal, I believe we were the only customers there.  This is quite the change from their initial opening, when for the first month or so there were long lines and waits for any table.  I know several people who went once and never went back because it took too long to get in.  Every time we go, I wonder if they will still be there.

Now a bakery just opened in town, accompanied by the new-place hype that adorned the restaurant above.  The bakery was eagerly anticipated, and apparently they ran out of product and closed early during some of their first days.  I have not yet been there, because I am hesitant to drive across town in case they won't be open or well-stocked.

I fear that this is the start of a vicious cycle for them, one that befalls many new ventures.  The grand opening brings lots of publicity, word of mouth, and a paid advertising push -- and, as a result, a rush of customers.  But when the initial demand exceeds the capacity or supply, it creates an irrevocable black mark on the establishment and drives away clientele.  

If you are starting something new, be it a restaurant, bakery or more modest project in your organization, take care to modulate the initial hype.  'Tis better to build your reputation with gradual consistency like a candle than to be like a flare with intense brightness that flames out quickly.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, January 8, 2015

#951 a grape

In the wild, hunters are known to catch monkeys through a simple scheme.  They drop a grape into a bottle and tie the bottle to a tree.  Then the monkey comes along, and reaches in for the grape.

The monkey's arm slides easily through the neck, but in the process of grabbing the grape, the monkey makes a fist, preventing him from pulling his hand out of the bottle.  The monkey doesn't know enough to drop the grape; thus, he is essentially trapped in the bottle and easily captured.

Are there times when you act like the monkey and hold on to something past the time when it is prudent for you to do so?  Have you focused so much on the task at hand that you failed to see the big picture and longer term impact of what you are doing?

Sometimes it really is better to follow the advice from Frozen and "let it go."  Don't be a monkey.

--- beth triplett

Thanks to Curt for the story.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#950 in ink

In Sunday's paper, in addition to a coupon for Bic writing implements was a call to join the Bic Fight for Your Write campaign.  It is Bic's mission to "save handwriting", and toward this end they have a web page full of facts why handwriting matters.  A sample is listed below.

> improves cognitive development
> helps reading skills
> sparks creativity
> increases memory recall
> sharpens critical thinking skills

Yet, despite the many benefits of handwriting, many children are not practicing the skill on a regular basis.  Smartphones, keypads, computer and technology are replacing the pen and pencil and the benefits that flow from them.

Bic also points out that "writing is an important vehicle for communication because it distinguishes us and promotes individuality." It also assists in helping children become better readers and writers, one of the most important predictors of academic success.

According to the site, experts recommend at least 15 minutes of handwriting each day for students.  The Bic ad shows a young boy holding a pen, and I doubt that he comes even close to writing that much.  (I am not sure that I do, and I write more than most!)

The site provides a host of tools and tips to inspire writing and to help people overcome writers block. It is true: sitting down with a blank page, a set of colored pencils, markers and stickers is much more stimulating than staring at a blank computer page.  Maybe you can try it the next time you're stuck.  In addition to helping the ideas flow, it will help you recall what you do write and sharpen the thinking around your message -- even if you do start out in orange ink!

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

#949 together

Need more evidence that pets are being considered as a member of the family?  Now Target is selling pet-specific medication through their pharmacy, and even offering rewards credit for each prescription.  I guess they decided to capitalize on the lucrative pet meds market, all under the guise of convenience and service.

It makes good business sense.  Many pets take monthly medication; people pay full price for it; there are no insurance hassles, and a lot of households have more than one pet who needs doctor-ordered scripts.  They have an existing infrastructure to dispense drugs; why not make the most of the labor-intensive aspect of their business?

Is there a way for you to expand the offerings of your organization as Target did with their pet pharmacy?  Think of an existing service you offer that could be adapted to service the needs of another constituent group.  Newspaper delivery to include mail delivery every morning before you rise?  Hair salons to include pet grooming so you and your pet can be coiffed simultaneously and save two trips?  Lawyers, accountants and estate planners all in the same suite so you could make one appointment to handle your affairs?

Think about the investment you have made in your core infrastructure and challenge yourself to identify who else would find that valuable.  Maybe the new year holds new partnership opportunities for you.

-- beth triplett