Sunday, May 31, 2015

#1094 brilliant

I use the TripIt app to coordinate the logistics of my travel.  It recently had an upgrade.  Typically after you install something like this, a button appears and you click "OK".  

Not so with TripIt.  Their post-install page listed the new features and the button said "Brilliant".  Sure, it's a minor and subliminal thing, but nonetheless, you are acknowledging that the upgrade you just did was a good one.

Why don't more of us utilize routine functions to set ourselves apart and be memorable?  The next time you are doing a form or implementing a process, try to be 'brilliant' instead of just 'ok'.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, May 30, 2015

#1093 prize inside

Want a good example of how a product can adapt with the times?  Look at Cracker Jack.

The product once known as "candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize (...that's what you get in Cracker Jack)" has come to describe itself as "caramel coated popcorn", apparently a more PC term for the health conscious.  

The boxes still contain a prize -- in my case, an Atlanta Braves sticker -- a far cry from the actual 3-D prizes of my youth, but a nod to brand names and the allure of something recognizable.  

It also allows you to "download fun, authentic Cracker Jack prizes to your smartphone" (at  Actually, what you download are two different games you can play on your phone.  Cracker Jack has always been associated with games, originally little plastic mazes that you rolled a tiny bearing through, so it seems appropriate that they morph into sponsoring electronic games now.

So here they are, 120 years later, still with popcorn coated in sugary-stuff, peanuts and a game-related prize.  They have evolved, but no so much that the surprise inside is inconsistent with who they are or what you would expect. All in a box that brings back all the feelings of nostalgia for everyone who grew up with the sailor and puppy as a treat.

If someone saw your organization in the past and then looked at it now, what would be the same and what would be different?  It is a good thing for there to be some of both.

-- beth triplett

Friday, May 29, 2015

#1092 pushing limits

As I wrote yesterday, Twitter may be having impact on service transactions across the land.  It also is influencing the type of creative output that is produced.

Josh Groban, known for his easy listening vocals and opera, recently released a new album of showtunes and pop hits.  The lineup even includes a duet with country star Kelly Clarkson.  He deviated from his normal fare in part because of Twitter.

"There needs to be more risk taking out there," Groban told Time. "Things like Twitter and the blogosphere are so instantaneously critical that it's actually created a culture of artistic fear to branch out too much because you don't want to be slammed."

Not all of us have work that is noteworthy on Twitter.  Our next project likely won't come with a release party and media reviews.  Yet we are often as cautious as if they were.  

What can you do today to take some risks in your work? Can you take some incremental steps to push your thinking in a new direction?  Take advantage of the relative anonymity that you operate in and try something different today.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Quick Talk with Josh Groan by Nolan Feeney in Time, May 11, 2015, p. 60

Thursday, May 28, 2015

#1091 fast

It appears that it is not easy enough to order a pizza by phone or to fill out a quick form on line.  Now Domino's is offering a service where customers can tweet their order, and if you are a regular customer you can just tweet the pizza emoji and your favorite pie will be delivered to your door.

Domino's is the first to experiment with emoji-ordering, but not the first to use tweets for transactions.  Twitter is intentionally trying to move itself from a social network to a place where commerce is conducted.  Old Navy and AMC Theaters have tested using tweets with a "buy now"option. Charities have already used texts to accept donations after tragedies.  

Think of the service implications this could have for you.  Students, the target of  Domino's ordering system, already don't want to fill out the 20 questions on an admissions application or even the 5 questions on an inquiry card.  Maybe instead they will now just want to tweet us the graduation cap emoji and have us count that as an intent to enroll?

You may not be in the pizza business, but Domino's foray into emoji-ordering could put pressure on you to simplify how customers access your services.  You may not be able to offer a customized emoji (yet), but you may want to modify your processes to more closely replicate that option.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Domino's to roll out tweet-a-pizza by Bruce Horowitz, USA Today, May 14, 2015, p.5B

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#1090 assembled

A friend was telling me about a new cupcake store.  Instead of a large selection of flavored cakes, they offer a modest sampling of the staple offerings. Their niche is that you get to choose from among the many flavors of frosting, and then move down the line to determine whether to adorn your cupcake with sprinkles, etc.

It caused me to think about the evolution of the assembly line.  When Henry Ford first deployed it, the goal of the assembly line was to standardize things.  Today, many businesses utilize a modified assembly line to allow customers to personalize things.

Think about all the ways we move "through the line", giving individual choices at each station.  The cupcake example mentioned above.  Chipotle and other design-your-own Mexican restaurants.  Subway and their sandwich artists.  Build-a-Bear Workshops with personalized stuffed animals.  The virtual assembly lines of designing a computer for on-line purchase or even choosing elements of your next car.

More and more transactions are able to be customized through you giving step-by-step preferences to someone assembling the item for you.  And the more people design their own burrito, the more they will want input into how they design what you offer.  Henry Ford's adage of cars being available in "any color you want, as long as that color is black" is as outdated as the Model T.  

How can you incorporate this trend into your organization?  Can you provide an element of choice at several "stops" along the way?  The assembly line is moving; you need to be in motion too.

-- beth triplett

Cupcakes @ Molly's Cupcakes in Iowa City

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

#1089 weeds

A few years ago, a well meaning Eagle Scout candidate installed landscaping around the sign welcoming people to our city.  It looked beautiful and was a great improvement over the sign which had been sitting solo on a plain concrete base.

Fast forward to now, and the rock area in front of the sign has as many weeds as rocks.  The plants around the base are interspersed with overgrowth, and, all in all, it looks pretty shabby.

This sign project, as with many similar propositions, took all the details of the present into account but forgot to plan for the future.  Nothing lives on without attention and care: not sign landscaping, an organization, a democracy or any project you spearhead.

"The end" only happens in fairy tales. Keep the weeds in mind the next time you make plans.  On-going maintenance isn't sexy, but it is what keeps your project living on in glory after the initial roll-out phase.

-- beth triplett

Monday, May 25, 2015

#1088 divert your course

Someone recently shared with me this transcript of an actual radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the cost of Newfoundland in October, 1995.  It seemed to fit both the leadership and Memorial Day theme:

Americans:  Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians:  Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid collision.

Americans:  This is the Captain of a US Navy Ship.  I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians:  No...I say again, you divert your course.


Canadians:  This is a lighthouse...Divert YOUR course.

How many times have you acted like the Captain and failed to listen or ask questions?  Before your words or deeds become the equivalent of ALL CAPS, take the time to understand the perspective of the other person.  Humble Pie tastes much better than Crow.

-- beth triplett

Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operation 10-10-95 as shared by Bill Mauss.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

#1087 pawn

I recently saw a sign for a pawn shop that has been in business since 1941. That is a long time for any establishment these days, but I was especially struck by how the world has changed for that line of work.

Think about how this market has changed since 1941.  Craigslist, eBay and a host of other sites offer options to sell goods, but only the pawn broker treats the transaction as a loan.  It is probably what has allowed it to survive for 75 years.

At their core, pawn shops are a loan business -- giving cash while holding personal property as the collateral.  I wonder how many people come to reclaim/repurchase their items -- or how many even intend to.  Is it just a service to sell items or do people really see it as a short term loan?

Think about how your business or organization will adapt to survive far into the future.  You can't even imagine the changes, but you can keep your core in mind.  There will always be someone that needs to put his treasure in hock for a short period.  Will there always be someone who needs what you provide?

-- beth triplett

Saturday, May 23, 2015

#1086 what's the point?

If you're like many people, you will make a trip to Walmart or Sam's Club this weekend.  Both establishments have a position that is officially known as a "people greeter", but they also have the task of checking receipts of those exiting.

In theory, this is a good idea.  In practice, it is a waste of my time and their money.

Earlier this week, I visited Walmart and my cart contained items from three totally separate orders.  We handed the clerk a receipt for only one. Just out of convenience not malice, it was the one with the fewest and smallest items on it.  We passed without a query.

Look at this cart: cases of pop, multiple bags and yet a receipt with insoles and Gatorade gets us a free pass out the door.  What sense does that make?

I am all in favor of monitoring purchases to keep everyone's prices down, but a quasi-check without any diligence is just adding to costs, not loss prevention.

If you are going to add a step to your processes, make sure that it adds value -- in reality, not just in a policy manual.  

-- beth triplett

Friday, May 22, 2015

#1085 bid adieu

If, as I described yesterday, your charity of choice doesn't hold a fund raising event, it seems that the next most preferred option is to host a silent auction.

For as many of these as I have attended, you would think I would have learned by now that these two things are mutually exclusive:
a) you can bid low until the very, very end and think that you are going to get something for a bargain
b) you can bid high and be the winner to actually obtain the item

I have come to believe that you can't bid low and win, even if you are lured into thinking you can for all but the last minute of the event.

Silent auctions are a metaphor for organizational change. You strategize. You plan. You have the best of intentions.  And in the end, change often happens in a way that you did not expect.  More often than not, some external force intervenes and you have a different outcome than you prepared for.

It helps to know this, and to adjust your mindset -- and your bidding -- accordingly.  

-- beth triplett

Thursday, May 21, 2015

#1084 raising

Today is Red Nose Day -- a day designed to "use fun and laughter to raise money for children living in poverty throughout the world."  It is being dubbed as "fun-raising" (vs. funD-raising) and features a series of events to help encourage donations.

Examples include Walgreens, a major sponsor, selling red clown noses for the charity; restaurants such as Tony Roma's contributing funds for each full rack of ribs sold, and even NBC running a live broadcast for the event.  I wonder if it will catch on and we'll see people about town today sporting clown noses or laughing more.

It seems that fund-raising has taken on a whole new dimension these days, with each charity trying to come up with a unique gimmick to grab the attention of social media and donors.  The Ice Bucket Challenge, of course, and now Red Nose Day. Then on October 16 it is Be Bold, Be Bald! where people are encouraged to wear a bald cap in support of those with cancer and to solicit donors for the cancer charity of choice.  

The bar in fund raising has been raised.  

It will become increasingly difficult for a plain annual fund appeal letter to stand out and attract the attention of younger donors. What can you do to get your message out in a way that is creative, but keeps donations at the heart of what you are doing?

Take care not to become a fund-spender as you advertise and host events to get the word out about your fund-raising event.  

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#1083 pay attention

Yesterday I wrote about geocaching and yet one more amazing use of your smartphone.  Thousands of people are participating in the adventure, on the hunt for one of the 2,627,748 geocaches hidden around the world.

Once you start paying attention, a whole new world opens up to you. You see places (crevices, inlets, hiding spots) that you never noticed before.  You learn the history of old buildings and landmarks.  You explore different neighborhoods and parts of the city you may not have seen previously.  

It all feels new, only all these places existed before you paid attention to them.  You may have even walked by many spots, but just "never noticed."

The same is true in our organizations.  I'll bet that you walk by buildings and people without  minding them, and on your routine path you take things for granted or don't see them at all.

Whether you go geocaching or not, try to see your world with new eyes as if you were hunting.  There really is treasure to be found, much of it compliments of Mother Nature instead of another geocacher, if only you focus in on what is around you.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

#1082 hunting

When we were walking home from the recent association board retreat I just attended, one of my (much younger) colleagues stopped us so she could look around for "a cache."  Turns out, she was "geocaching," a modern day treasure hunt aided by GPS coordinates on your phone.

Through, you can discover clues to find one of the caches that is probably right around you. There are over 2 million caches hidden in the world, all waiting to be discovered.  Once you crack the code, you can record your conquest on the log located with the cache, document progress on your phone and be off to the next adventure.

It is surprisingly addictive.

We found remnants of one cache at our first stop: a key chain on a sewer grate with no log or trinket.  Next, members of the group were climbing into the woods, looking for a capsule stuck in a rock wall.  Darkness came before the cache did.  On night number two, we had success -- a magnetic tube stuck in the drainpipe of an abandoned emergency training building.  And on night #3 we located the sign that gave us a clue, but decided against going further and using the key we found, just in case it wasn't part of the chase!  So another "NF" (not found) for us.

Apparently caches can be large or small, realistic or fairy houses, easy or hard and either an end to themselves or just a clue to send you on an even longer adventure.

Think about how you can apply geocaching to your organization or next event.  Can you leave clues about your group and engage the delegates at one of your functions?  What about hiding a cache near your HQ or in a place that has significance for your organization (it's a great way to describe your mission or history as you give the description/clues).  Could you use it at a company picnic or event to occupy a group of children?

The possibilities are endless, and it is great exercise as well as mental stimulation.  

See you on the hunt!

-- beth triplett


or for a beginner's step by step guide

The black tube with orange top is the "cache" we found in the drainpipe

The log that was inside the cache to be signed and replaced in the tube
Note how many others have done this hunt!

Monday, May 18, 2015

#1081 hospitality

I just returned home from a trip where I flew Delta Airlines.  Normally there is nothing remarkable about doing so, but on this trip there were several occasions that gave me pause -- in a good way.  

Some examples:
> When I checked in, there was a notice that the trip was oversold and I could check a box if I was willing to be on a list to give up my seat for a voucher.  This makes far more sense than having the bidding wars at the airport, but it was new to me.

> Before I got to the airport, I got a call from Delta asking if my travel plans were flexible and if I could take an alternate flight.  When I said no, the caller was quite pleasant and "looked forward to seeing me at the airport soon."

> At the airport, there was a "Have one on us" cart waiting at the gate.  Passengers could take a bottle of cold water or a bag of snacks for their enjoyment on the plane or in the waiting area.

> The person who took my bag said he would be "happy to get that bag for you, sweetheart."

> When we landed, there was a popcorn cart in the baggage claim area with free popcorn while you waited for your bags.

> On the return trip, there was a cart of complimentary coffee and a handwritten note thanking us for our business.

> The pilot used the words "thank you for your loyalty," a subtle but important distinction in the airline wars.

None of these incidents was monumental, but it caused me to pause and take notice.  And then I learned that Delta employees had recently undergone hospitality training with Danny Meyer, CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York.  Danny has written several books on hospitality* and is one of the gurus in the field.  

And it occurred to me that was the distinction.  Delta was actually providing a level of hospitality, not just service.  The change was noticeable.

There is a world of difference between a customer and a guest.  How can you treat those you serve like the latter?

-- beth triplett

*See Blog #92 Salt shaker, September 1, 2012
from Danny Meyer's Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

CAE = Columbia, SC airport

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#1080 collecting

'Twas 225 days before Christmas, and all through the Hallmark house, every clerk was stirring, even the mouse.

Even though most people are celebrating the arrival of spring, some retailers are gearing up for the holiday season already.  It was the Dream Book Party at Hallmark this weekend, giving customers their first look at Keepsake Ornaments.  Ugh!

I don't want to look at Christmas decorations in May.  I want tulips and sandals and bicycles.

But Hallmark has capitalized on that magic word: "collectibles".  Those who turn in their Wish List early will receive access to a special ornament available only to collectors.  Oooh!

I think about all the beautiful ornaments that never leave their boxes so as to preserve their value.  All the Barbies, Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Dolls that never were played with or enjoyed.

Before you collect something for the sake of collecting it, think about what you are giving up in the hopes of gaining something more someday.  There are a lot of well-loved items fetching a nice price on eBay, and many unloved items collecting dust in closets.

Let your collections increase in value because of what they mean to you, not to a potential future buyer.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, May 16, 2015

#1079 amenities

Have you ever noticed that the more expensive the hotel, the fewer amenities they offer for free?

I recently was at a luxury hotel, where my $200+/night got me a room and shower.  Internet was extra.  Parking was exorbitant.  Breakfast was in the restaurant at the regular rate.

Contrast that to a mid-range hotel at half the cost -- that offered free parking, a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport, a full hot breakfast in the morning, happy hour in the afternoon and internet access without charge.

Do the high end hotels believe their clientele can afford to pay for the amenities so they charge for them?  Or do the lower range hotels feel they have to provide the services to compete?  Are people who are willing to pay extra for the prestige and luxury also accustomed to paying a la carte for extras or it is worth it for the brand?

I am not sure of the rationale, but it is an interesting paradox to me.  Do you want to be the one who charges less and offers more or the one who charges more and believes they are worth it?

Either is right.  What is wrong is falling into that position instead of intentionally claiming it.

--- beth triplett

Friday, May 15, 2015

#1078 outside the box

My sister recently attended a conference in Austin and sent me the following picture:

A suggestion boot.  What a great way to leverage the theme of the conference and provide an incentive to get feedback from participants.

In what other ways can you use a non-traditional collection vehicle?  Firemen collect funds for Muscular Dystrophy in their Fill the Boot campaign by encouraging motorists to toss coins into their boots.  Sam's Club customers could toss coins over a net into the center of a trampoline.  Ushers pass a giant Dr. Seuss-like hat to collect donations at an outdoor concert.  Raffle tickets can be placed in a piggy bank.  

The next time you are tempted to use a standard ballot box or collection basket, pause to consider what else you could use to make the experience more memorable.  The details make all the difference.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, May 14, 2015

#1077 gold star

It has been said that what gets measured gets done.

How can you take this further and celebrate what gets done?

I have a FitBit fitness tracker, and by the mere measuring of my steps, I am far more likely to walk 10,000/day.  Oftentimes I make one final effort to get those last steps in so I hit the goal and get my smiley face.  

This week I received my Japan Badge, telling me I walked 1,869 miles in my (FitBit) lifetime, the length of Japan!  I did not know this was a milestone; I was not working explicitly toward it, yet it brought a smile that I had achieved it.  

It is the same technique as the gold stars in grade school; internal motivation is fine, but it is kickstarted by that motivation to get the external evidence.

What can you do to give some recognition when a goal is achieved -- either your own or by those in your organization?  Can you set some intervals, either randomly or logically chosen, where extra praise is given?  What is an equivalent to a Japan Badge that you could hand out?

Praise costs so little and means so much.  If you take the time to measure, make time to reward.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

#1076 robots

The other day, I went to dinner with a friend.  He gave the cashier two ten-dollar bills for a $19.54 ticket, and received $10.46 in change.  The cashier mistakenly punched in $30.00 as the cash given, and so the computer said $10.46 in change which he gave without thought.

When my friend asked if he had given three ten-dollar bills in error, the clerk looked at him like he was crazy.  I'm still not sure the cashier knows why we gave a ten back to him; after all, the register said it should be our change.

Following dinner, we went to get ice cream. There our total was $4.26.  We gave the 26 cents after the clerk had punched in $20.00 as the amount tended.  Literally, she had to ask the manager how much change to give us since the register said $15.74 and now she had this extra change to contend with.

My friend's comment: "I weep for the future."

How can you help young people develop critical thinking skills or even common sense?  I fear that they are becoming totally dependent on what the machine or someone else says, without any ounce of thought for themselves.

We live in the land of the free, but fewer and fewer people are capitalizing on their ability to think for themselves. Every chance you get, reward people for thinking on their own.  Only this way will 1+1 = 3 in a wonderfuly creative way.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

#1075 outside inside

For the next few days, I am attending a retreat for the national association where I serve as a guest elder.  My involvement in this role has been one of the most enjoyable professional experiences I've had, and I believe that it has been of value to the association as well.

I know enough to be helpful, and am far enough removed, well, to be helpful.  I can see things from a neutral perspective, without the political drama that is often attached to some issues.  

I can have an outside inside view.

The ability to understand an issue without being vested in it can be a very helpful position to be in.  I can understand the nuances enough to ask probing questions without having a territory to protect.  I can observe practice and make observations that others may have grown accustomed to and no longer see.  I know enough to be able to ask "why" about the hard things without annoying people by asking about the basics.

An outside inside advisor would be a valuable addition to any organization. Think about who you could enlist: someone who used to work in your industry but is now retired, a person previously on your team who has moved to a new division or branch in your company, or a former employee or ex-competitor may even be a resource.  

We all get so caught up in the details that we are often unable to see the whole picture.  Let someone else hold up a mirror so you can reflect on what is.

-- beth triplett

Monday, May 11, 2015

#1074 rear view

I was sitting at a stoplight and looked in my rear view mirror, thus was able to clearly see the person in the car behind me.  

And it occurred to me that I couldn't see the person in front of me at all, but they could see me. 

It seemed an apt metaphor of why we benefit from working in teams.  Everyone has a different viewpoint and no one person can see the whole picture.

It's not just looking in the rear view mirror that brings perspective, but being seen in another mirror is an important part of the equation as well.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, May 10, 2015

#1073 think small

Last weekend was TorqueFest at the fairgrounds.  Acres of cars from a bygone era filled the midway, track and buildings.  It was a car person's feast.

But many of the people at the event weren't dressed in jeans and t-shirts; they fully embraced the spirit of the era and dressed in 1950s attire.  Girls in full skirts and curl haircuts.  Vendors who offered attire and hairdos of a long ago time.  Music that fit with the generation that originally drove the featured cars.

TorqueFest wasn't for everyone, but many who were there took it quite seriously.

What is that niche in your world that will appeal deeply to a small sliver of the market?  Can you find a unique product or service that resonates with a few, but ubber-loyal and devoted fans?  

More is not always better.  New is not always preferred.  Appealing to the masses is overrated.  

How can you think small today?

-- beth triplett

Saturday, May 9, 2015

#1072 diverge

Regular readers know that I am a Sharpie addict.  In my humble opinion, they are the greatest writing implements on the planet.

Sharpies have become known for their large color palette: they feature neons, metallics, an 80s Glam series and most colors under the rainbow. 

I was surprised when I walked into the hardware store and saw a large display of them -- one with only four colors featured: red, black, green and blue.  I thought it was back to the basics for Sharpies.  Only it wasn't.

Sharpie now has expanded into a "PRO" series and an "EXTREME" series of pens.  The PRO features high heat resistant ink, able to withstand temperatures of 500 degrees.  The EXTREME is fade resistant, designed to last far longer than the original pens.

This line for the construction trade comes at a premium price, of course, but could service the industry or DIY enthusiast quite well.  It is a logical line extension of their product, and (much to my dismay) one that will take them in a whole different direction than an ever-increasing color array in the office supply aisle.

Think about the product or service you offer.  Instead of more of the same, is there a different path you could follow?  Can you take the core of what you do (pens) and think of other ways for it to evolve (color, heat resistant, fade resistant -- or glow in the dark, transparent, blendable, white, -- or thick nubs, small pens, click tops, etc.)?

Our thinking often follows a linear path.  Try to think like Sharpie and draw a new angle.

-- beth triplett

Friday, May 8, 2015

#1071 hard

A consultant once described paying for college like creating swiss cheese out of a solid block of cheese -- you take one piece at a time: a scholarship here, campus employment there, a loan, a grant, etc. -- until the block is full of holes and is manageable.

I think about this analogy when it comes to hard issues.  A prudent path would be to direct your attention to breaking down the big block, tackling it piece by piece.  Alas, this involves hard work where the results are not evident for a long period of time.  

So instead, people often spend their energy on smaller problems, pecking away at issues that aren't moving the organization toward a solution or "conquering" of the big problem.  The attention is diverted to items with a short term payoff, but they are devoid of the long term gains that could come if the hard stuff was truly addressed.

Hard issues are hard.  If it's easy to fix, there is probably an underlying message in that.

-- beth triplett