Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#1216 for the taking

While I was out walking, I came upon a house that had about eight items set outside on the lawn with a rudimentary sign that read "free."  One of the items was an old wash bin that I thought would make a great planter.  As soon as I walked home, I hopped in my car to retrieve it.  Gone.

So were the pair of crutches, a couple of old pails, a trellis and flower pots.  In the span of maybe 15 minutes.

I wonder if there would have been such interest on the part of myself or the others had there been a price tag on the items.  Would I have raced back to pay $2 or $5?  Not nearly as likely as wanting it for nothing.

Free is a magic word.  It makes people interested in things that they may not be interested in for any other reason.  How can you sprinkle some of that fairy dust on the products or information in which you hope to spark interest?  

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#1215 the nose knows

The other day I was picking up a "deposit" that my dog made while out walking.  I said to the person I was with: "Of all the senses that could be enhanced, I would pick smell the last."

She proceeded to tell me about someone she knows who has no sense of smell.  The woman has spent her lifetime working in maintenance doing jobs that can have offensive odors to some.  She has also served on many trips as a missionary, going to places that can be olfactory-challenging to tolerate.  In short, she has capitalized on her reality and turned something that could be considered a limitation into an advantage.

Can you smell a lesson in all of this?  Try to sniff out another perspective on something to turn a downside into an upside instead of turning your nose on the problem.  

-- beth triplett

Monday, September 28, 2015

#1214 deliver

Our regional grocery store has just launched on-line shopping, and done so in a big way.  Each of the stores has hired several full-time people to pluck things from the aisles to fulfill electronic orders.  Customers can schedule pick-up times or delivery.  Elsewhere, Twitter ads are looking for "an amazing team" to shop for or deliver groceries for in Minneapolis. Suddenly, it seems so "yesterday" to actually stroll through the grocery aisles and load up your own basket.

Has on-line grocery shopping finally reached a tipping point where it is common instead of a novelty?  If I listen to several of my colleagues, I would believe that it is.  They are walking commercials for the service, touting its convenience, savings from avoiding impulse/junk food buying, and ability to stay in the car with the kids.  And all this is before the weather even turns nasty!

I am delighted that many of my neighbors will be shopping from home.  It means less traffic in the store for me.  I want to be able to thump the watermelons myself.  I turn my nose up at lots of the produce, but load up on what looks good.  I want to be there to see if the pears are soft and the grapes are hard.  I want to look at the ham in the deli and pick up the bunch of flowers that is not yet fully blossomed.  I guess I am a visual shopper more so than an efficient one.

But how great is it that we have the option?  There will be a portion of the population that will love your organization if you can provide a more efficient service.  Another sub-set will want high touch.  Still others will favor the cheapest route, while a different group will place a premium on choice.  

The key is delivering good service: whether you deliver it in person, to your customer's car or to their home.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, September 27, 2015

#1213 forward

As you are watching football today, think about this perspective about the game.

Jordin Sparks' dad gave her this advice when she was preparing for her American Idol audition:  "It's like football.  There's always somebody coming up behind you that's bigger, faster and stronger.  You just need to focus on what you're doing and not worry about them."

When you look over your shoulder, what are you fearing?  Are you evaluating yourself against others rather than making the most of what you have?  Do you worry more about what others are doing than the magic you could be making?

Take the advice from Jordin's dad and look at the goal line instead of behind you.  The only way to score is to move forward.

-- beth triplett

As quoted in an interview with Jordin Sparks by A.J. Jacobs in People magazine, September 14, 2015, p. 32

Saturday, September 26, 2015

#1212 vote

Our town recently had a school board election that initially ended in a tie.  Literally 1,589 votes each.  Eventually, corrected counts from one precinct and the absentee ballots brought the total to a margin of 65, but that was a day later.  They left Election Night in a dead heat.

At least they received votes.  Elsewhere in Iowa, a candidate who was running unopposed for a school board seat did not receive any votes, not even his own.  He farms and works another job and was "too busy" to vote that day!

Votes are like dots -- one doesn't usually seem to make any difference, but almost always they do.  Never have the illusion that you are only one person and your vote doesn't matter.  In two cases this month alone, you could have determined the winner.

Always cast your ballot, metaphorically or literally, and use the voice you have been given.

-- beth triplett

Friday, September 25, 2015

#1211 overseeding

I just had my lawn aerated and overseeded in preparation for next year.  With two large dogs, my grass needed some help just to stay even!

The instructions that came with the overseeding were simple: keep it watered and let the grass grow!  I cancelled my lawn service for the rest of the season and hope that Mother Nature continues to cooperate with the hydration. 

I have only missed one regular mowing, but already I am antsy about it.  The existing grass is growing too, and I hate having a shaggy-looking lawn. I have to resist temptation to cut it now so as not to roll over and then cut down the fragile new seedlings.

I think my lawn is a metaphor for other activities that require patience.  We can't see the planning that goes on behind the scenes in our organization, so we change course and don't let the original plans take root.  Maybe we plant seeds, but don't water them and wonder what went wrong. Or we don't see instantaneous success from our efforts and declare the project to be a failure, or perhaps the grass doesn't grow because you skimped on the seeds.

Twenty percent of the earth's vegetation is grass, and there are some plants from 1000 years ago that are still living today.* Don't mow over your organization's plans or values too easily and they may grow to similar stature and longevity.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Turf Talk from Lawn Doctor, Fall 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

#1210 marks

Today is National Punctuation Day, further proof that there is indeed a day commemorating e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.  In addition to being a tribute to the grammar purists, today also brings attention to the evolving nature of punctuation.  As our methods of communication become less formal and more concise, the role of commas, periods and exclamations take on new roles as well.

Punctuation serves many purposes that were unheard of twenty years ago.  Parentheses and colons were the precursor to emoji icons: (-:  Of course the @ symbol has become ubiquitous in email addresses and Tweets rather than on store invoices.  The pound sign or number symbol has gained a new name as a hashtag to connote its prominence in social communication.  Excel gives special commands to the use of $ and the apostrophe.

I wonder what meaning punctuation will have in the future.  Will the % become the new identifier for the yet-to-be-invented app?  Will & signify a shortcut for communicating a whole new message?  Will the caret ^ perform a command and replace function keys?

Punctuation is one of those things that we take for granted, and ignore, until something goes awry.  If only for today, pay attention to those little symbols that are interspersed on your pages.  They are the road markers in the sentences of life, and you'd have a lot harder time navigating without them.

-- beth triplett


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#1209 nimble

The phone system at the local high school was recently hit by lighting.  This caused a wholesale outage -- outage as in RIP; the entire phone system was permanently dead.

The school board had already signed a contract with a new provider to upgrade the phones in the whole district, but implementation was planned to begin in one of the smaller schools.  The high school wasn't on the docket for awhile.

All that changed when the system failed.  Instead of investing in a repair, the district changed its plans and the high school was the first to receive the upgrade.  This took some heroics by the vendor and the technology staff to begin installation with the largest building and to do so over a weekend, but they pulled it off.

Does your organization display similar nimbleness?  Is your culture such that you can modify plans when the situation warrants, or are you beholden to the original schedule?  Is your leadership such that decisions can be made quickly enough to reap the advantages of being flexible?

It certainly would have been easier, and understood, for all involved to proceed with repairs instead of new installation.  And it would have been thousands of dollars more expensive to do in the long run.

The next time you need to call an audible, keep the school district in mind as a model.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Mike for the observation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

#1208 packages

While out shopping, I was struck by the plethora of items that are packaged with seasonal themes.  It is one thing for manufacturers to offer seasonal or holiday flavors (such as the wildly-popular pumpkin spice), but I wonder why others feel that they need to embellish the packaging without changing the product.  

Are fall leaves on cases of water supposed to entice me to purchase that brand over another, even though the water and the individual bottles are exactly the same as they were in July?  Do pictures of footballs on cases of beer matter? Will sales of M&Ms increase when the same product is put in harvest colored bags?

It seems that recently time-sensitive packaging has infiltrated the supermarkets.  I suspect that some psychological research determined that consumers are more likely to buy something that appears new.  An increase in sales would have to outweigh the downside that specialized packages would make the product appear to be out of date more quickly (do you want to buy pumpkins on your plastic bags in December?).  

Before you just grab for that package because it is the color of the season, think about whether you would normally purchase it.  Look past the package and see the unchanged product inside of it.  

A fancy outside shouldn't be an incentive to purchase an ordinary inside.  It's advice that applies to more than groceries!       

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Amy for triggering the observation.

Monday, September 21, 2015

#1207 consistency

I was never a fan of Mr. Rogers, but I did appreciate one of his quotes:

"I like to swim, but there are some days I just don't feel much like doing it -- but I do it anyway!  I know it's good for me and I promised myself I'd do it every day, and I like to keep my promises."

I can certainly relate his swimming to my blog writing.  If I only wrote on the days I felt like it, I would have far fewer postings than I do now.

I wonder why it is that I keep to the discipline of writing a daily blog, but don't always have the same tenacity with other intentions that I have.  Could it be because the blogs are public, or more likely because they are numbered?  Perhaps it is because I have not missed one day in over three years so hate to break the 'streak'?  Maybe it is because I don't ask myself if I 'feel like it', because I hardly ever do.

Think about a positive behavior you have that you wish to replicate in other areas of your life.  What characteristics make up that pattern which you can apply to other tasks or habits?  If Mr. Rogers could swim daily and I can write for 1206 days, maybe there are things we all can learn from that kind of consistency.

-- beth triplett

Source:  The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers, Hatchette Books, 2003

Sunday, September 20, 2015

#1206 overcoming obstacles

I had never heard of parkour before, but the picture on the front page of the Telegraph Herald caught my attention.  This woman was practicing for the National Collegiate Competition in a sport that was unknown to me.  I had to learn more!

A version of parkour has been around for more than a century, starting as a training program for the French Special Forces.  It is a sport with a focus of "obstacle passing", emphasizing military style discipline that allows participants to overcome hurdles in a timed environment.  Parkour can be a competition, but also can be a training regimen practiced alone.  

What I liked about it is that it is about perspective as much as it is about fitness.  "Parkour involves seeing one's environment in a new way, and imagining the potentialities for navigating it by movement around, across, through, over and under its features."

It sounds like a lesson for life.  Maybe parkour can be the official sport of leadershipdots!  Seeing the interrelationships between culture and environment can often be the difference in connecting the dots and making sense out of our world.  Perhaps you can try to move literally through the world with parkour as well as mentally navigating new paths through dot lessons.

Either way, enjoy overcoming obstacles.

-- beth triplett


Photo by Nicki Kohl in the Telegraph Herald, p. 1A  September 10, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

#1205 transference

If you know anything about recent Broadway musicals, you'll know that Wicked was a mega-hit.  It has been performing to crowds on Broadway for 12 years and has nine touring companies around the world bringing in even more cash. Wicked has grossed over $3 billion and been seen by over 40 million people -- many (like me!) seeing it multiple times.

And, yet, it did not win the Tony Award for Best Musical*.  

Another musical, Something Rotten, is trying to play off of that fact and benefit from a concept known as transference, where people shift emotions associated from one thing to another.  As the theory goes, if Wicked lost but was still that good, I guess Something Rotten could be good too even though it is a self-proclaimed loser.

Transference is in play with celebrity endorsements, the use of puppies in commercials, people who flaunt branded fashion or cars, and many other settings.  It's a natural part of our make up, but something that you would do better to keep in your consciousness instead of sub-conscious.  

Think about how your organization can benefit from transference -- and how you personally attribute traits to others who may not actually possess them.  Don't automatically assume that other readers of leadershipdots are smart and savvy (even though they very well may be!!!)

-- beth triplett

 *Avenue Q won in 2004


Thanks Emily!

Friday, September 18, 2015

#1204 rewards

I was part of a conversation yesterday about Box Tops for Education.  For the uninitiated, these are little icons on selected General Mills products that people cut out and save for schools, which in turn can redeem them for 10 cents each.  The value adds up quickly, especially with (theoretically) a whole school saving them.  Over 80,000 elementary and middle schools participate.

I recently began collecting these for my niece and nephew's school, and I was struck by the inconsistency in them.  Some are on paper, others cardboard.  In my limited sampling of what is in my house right now, I found at least six different sizes of box tops.  What a nightmare to collate and redeem these things, never mind that you have to carefully cut out the minuscule icons on the line.

The current system seems to be more archaic than even the 1950's iconic S&H Green Stamps which were of uniform size and came pre-cut. It makes me believe that General Mills wants you to buy the products because of the Box Tops, but not really to redeem them. If the company really wanted to facilitate a process, couldn't they put bar codes on the inside of packages instead and create an app to scan them with instantaneous credit to the school?

There are many other loyalty programs that are more arduous than Box Tops (Pampers and Coca Cola with their multi-digit codes that need to be entered into the computer come to mind), but there are others that are much more seamless too (Target's automatic donations to schools or Walgreens rewards at the registers.)  If your organization has a loyalty program, take a moment to evaluate it to see whether it is engendering loyalty or just aggravation.

-- beth triplett

Box Tops 4 Education

Thursday, September 17, 2015

#1203 idea to action

As the new academic year starts and committees get underway, I am always struck by the fear many have that they will be unable to generate enough ideas for the work ahead.  I believe that gathering ideas is the easy part; translating them into action is what takes work.

To facilitate that process, I like to lead participants through an Idea Funnel.

The top of the funnel represents Ideas.  Everyone will have far more ideas than actions; that is actually the point.  The goal is to generate new thoughts through talking with constituents, conducting surveys, having discussions at meetings or linking personal experiences.

Then ideas are narrowed in a process of Refinement.  This occurs through research, cost estimates, vetting the idea with constituents and doing background work to assess the true pros and cons of a shorter list of ideas.

Following Refinement comes the process of the Proposal, where the multitude of ideas is narrowed to one that you wish to advance forward.  A proposal need not be lofty, but it always in writing and includes specifics.

The Proposal leads to a Motion or Decision -- so be sure to provide clarity on exactly the action you are seeking.  Precision is much more likely to receive a definitive answer and the ultimate goal of Action.

Moving ideas through the Idea Funnel will help people stay focused on achieving resolution of the idea as opposed to spending all their time generating more and more ideas that go nowhere.  Try it as a framework for your organization the next time you want brainstorming to result in action instead of just lofty thinking.

-- beth triplett

If you want me to send you a PDF handout, contact me at the address above. 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#1202 order

I have heard a lot of talk recently about professional organizers.  My sister is using one (and loves it) and others have shared tips from those in the field.  This area is not one of my challenges; in fact, I am more likely to become a professional organizer than to use one!

I read the tips from the pros about habits they do every day.  These included such basic things as make the bed, write out a to-do list, tend to clothing as soon as you take it off, wash the dishes, etc.  I do all these things, but it has never occurred to me that they are habits that are keeping me organized.

I thought about what I would say if asked to give organization advice.  Here is my two cents:

1.  Make it easy.  I laugh when I see these pristine organizing systems that have clothes or crafts in elaborate configurations.  What I believe is more practical is to have easy access to a place to put things that you use frequently.  Have a box on the eye-level shelf where you automatically toss all of your receipts.  No thinking; that's just where receipts go.  Have a spot in your office where all the magazines/newsletters/stuff to read later is placed.  As soon as they come in the mail, it's to the spot in the corner for them. The recycling should be right next to the wastebasket, not off in a place that requires extra steps.  A glass on the front of the shelf in the pantry can hold the Box Tops for Education.  If any manipulation or thinking is required, it's too obscure or complicated.  

2.  Keep the main area clear.  I think it is parallel to the broken window theory -- when there is a broken window in one building, others frequently follow.  When there is a stack of "stuff" on the counter or table, it is like a magnet for other piles to gravitate towards.  If you keep the place clear where things are most likely to accumulate, it sets the tone that things should be put away (in that easy spot where they belong!)  Maybe for you it is the stairs leading up to the bedroom, the laundry room or the table in the den, but deal with wherever is the prime gathering spot for things, and I believe you'll see a ripple effect of organization elsewhere.

I don't disagree with the other tips from the pros, rather add my thoughts to them.  The bottom line:  it's important to do what works for you.  Whether that is hiring an organizer, following your own method or putting some of these ideas into practice, develop a system that helps you feel in control instead of controlled by your possessions.

-- beth triplett

Thanks Eddie for the article!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#1201 yes or no

At work, we were approached by an organization who wanted us to engage with them to deliver a service in a way that is a real paradigm shift about how we manage and think about one of our core processes.  The question facing us is whether we should get in on the ground floor or wait until the idea is tested to see if consumers buy in to this new way of doing business.

How do you know when something is a fad or when something is the initial phase of a trend destined to change the way we operate?  Is being engaged in the beginning a good thing or a waste of precious resources when you are paying to offer something only early adopters are utilizing?  

I asked three of my staff members and received the following replies: a resounding yes, a definite no, and a considered maybe.  I myself could make an argument as to why we should -- and should not -- participate in the venture.  It is really just too early to know.  

If you find yourself in the situation of being courted by opportunity, you need to weigh the investment and risk vs. potential benefit and just decide.  When the scales are so evenly balanced, you'll get motion sickness if you to sway back and forth with the slightest change.  Jump onto one side and be content with the leap you make.

-- beth triplett

Monday, September 14, 2015

#1200 misdirected

One more lesson from my trip to John Deere: their headquarters has a display case that runs the length of the visitor's center.  It is a chronology of the company and contains hundreds of artifacts to help guests place Deere achievements in historical context.

While I was looking at it, an employee came up to me and said: "This has been just like this since the building opened 50 years ago.  The lights don't work and you'll see that some of the items are falling down.  I wish they would do something about it."

I'm not sure that I would have noticed it before his comments, but he was right.  It was darker than ideal in the case and several items were lopsided.  I had been so impressed with my Deere experience, but this tarnished the illusion that Deere pride tended to every detail.

But why did he mention this to me? Certainly there is nothing I can do to fix the display.  I wonder if he has shared his comments with someone who can.  The company prides itself in listening to its customers, but has it made it easy to hear from the front line employees?

Think about the vast knowledge that your employees have about how things really work at your place.  Have you mined their data and sought their input on what needs attention?  Have you cultivated them to become a brand ambassador, not just an employee?

Work hard to create an environment where your people take the initiative to fix things themselves or at least tell you and not the customers what is on the to-do list.

-- beth triplett


Sunday, September 13, 2015

#1199 no place like home

Football season is underway, and with it comes a frenzy of supplies for the fans.  Team apparel displays are everywhere and the grocery aisles are packed with football-themed snacks for all to enjoy.

Tailgating has always been a big draw for fans and retailers alike, but the vast majority of people watch the game on television instead of in person.  Target has capitalized on this trend by promoting supplies for "homegating" -- celebrating the sporting event from your own home.

Homegating is a great way to generate excitement (and sales) by making something that seems routine into a special event.  It acknowledges the way that most consumers actually view sports and implicitly gives them permission to expand the experience beyond the game itself.

Is there something like homegating that applies to your organization?  Can you encourage people to replicate an experience at home without having to attend the event?  Are there ways to make a routine function into something special?  

Homegating isn't the same as being there, but depending upon the weather, it may even be better.  Pass the remote please!

-- beth triplett


Saturday, September 12, 2015

#1198 stumping

I wonder why so many people are running for President this year.  I know that there are always many candidates before the caucuses/primaries get into full swing, but this year it seems that the number exceeds any previous election.  I am curious as to what is prompting the multitudes to throw their name into the hat. The campaign circuit has become a Tower of Babel with so many voices drowning out any meaningful dialogue.

I think of all the time and money that is being spent on these preliminary campaigns.  We could probably make a dent in the national debt if all the funds from the candidates and PACs were directed to the Treasury instead of to the media, pollsters and political infrastructure.  All but two of these people are spending millions of dollars and thousands of hours in a losing effort.

It is 2015.  Do the early candidates really need to stump around Iowa in person, attending the State Fair and posing for photos?  Does this popularity pitch really serve us well when determining who should next lead our great nation?  

It is hard to pin someone down because the problems the president faces don't have sound bit solutions.  Even a debate doesn't lend itself to meaningful discussion when 10 candidates are vying for their minute with a live microphone. I wish there were ways we could engage the candidates in an extended forum to see how they would truly approach the job when they weren't angling for it.

If the candidates were trying to be the one to run your company, would you want more substance from them?  Would you do more research and pay more attention to their take on meaningful issues?

Don't forget that this person isn't going to lead your company, but they are going to lead your country.  Work hard to get past the hype before you make your choice.

-- beth triplett


Friday, September 11, 2015

#1197 patriot

I have one more John Deere story to share, but it did not seem right to have an ordinary blog topic on 9-11.  With each passing year, the memories of the terrorist attacks become less vivid and more people are "of age" who do not remember them except from history lessons.  This blog is a token effort to remind us to stop and reflect on the impact of this event on our country.

I recently wrote* that I visited the 9-11 mobile exhibit that was staffed by retired New York City firefighters.  One of them was asked about his feelings on the memorial that was built on the site.  "I was not for it in the beginning," he said.  "But now I see it as a way for people to remember what happened there."

I am all for whatever helps people remember what happened on this day. Maybe it is because I was in Manhattan while the site was still raw with twisted steel that this event had such an impact on me.  Perhaps it is because of the scope of damage or the vulnerability I felt because of an attack on our soil.  But this day makes me think of all the men and women who served as first responders, all those who still function in that role across the country as well as the thousands who have defended our freedoms through service in the armed forces.

Take a moment today to remember, and especially on this day, strive to be a patriot yourself.

-- beth triplett

*See Blog #1184, August 29, 2015:


My photos from November 2001 at the Trade Center site

Thursday, September 10, 2015

#1196 acknowledgement

After visiting the John Deere Pavilion, I also went to the John Deere World Headquarters.  This is a gorgeous corporate campus, with lakes, swans, walking trails and (of course!) acres of woods for the deer.

The HQ building itself was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, also known for the St. Louis Gateway Arch and Dulles airport.  I know that other buildings have a plaque inside them crediting the architect and builders, but Deere chose a more personal way to commemorate Saarinen's work.

Outside the main entrance is a tribute which reads:  While selecting the site for these buildings Eero Saarinen was impressed by the trees he found here.  This oak was his favorite.  Today it is gratefully dedicated to his memory.

I am sure that Saarinen would have smiled at knowing that his favorite tree became known as "the Saarinen Oak."  It was much more meaningful than another plaque, trophy or award to add to the pile of accolades.

The next time you want to give an acknowledgement that really matters, listen to the person you are trying to thank.  I'll bet you'll learn of their favorite ____, and then it's easy to take it from there.

-- beth triplett


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#1195 massive

I was inspired from hearing (CEO) Sam Allen to visit the John Deere Pavilion -- a public showroom for the company's products and venue to tell the Deere story.  The word that comes to mind to describe it is "massive" -- in the literal size of some of their equipment and the scope of what Deere is trying to achieve.  Both were impressive.

John Deere's mission is to be "committed to those linked to the land."  As such, they are acutely aware that land is a limited resource and as the population grows, we will be stressed to provide "food, fiber and fuel" with the same land and less water.  It is a daunting challenge, but one that the company is attempting to meet through innovation.

Their products are modern day Jetsons.  Tractors and lawn mowers that run with autonomous tracking (no driver).  Agricultural combines that harvest 20 rows at a time and link via GPS to the vehicle next to it -- allowing both to move in perfect synchronicity through the fields.  Forestry equipment that "walks" instead of rolls through forests to preserve the undergrowth.  Tractors that look like jetliner cockpits with computer-controlled applications and real-time monitoring of conditions via field-installed probes that measure moisture, temperature and crop yield.  Technology that provides a previously unthinkable level of precision and efficiency.

Deere defines it as invention + application = innovation.  The entire Pavilion was a testament as to how they live this core value and how the results are helping improve sustainability for future generations.

Where are you stuck in the innovation process: are you without new ideas, are you missing a compelling application, or have you failed to link the two?  John Deere has dedicated its company to innovation on a massive scale to meet the needs of global population growth.  What inspires you to innovate in your organization?

-- beth triplett

See person standing outside the cab -- they are dwarfed by the machine

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

#1194 advice

Sam Allen, the CEO of John Deere, was our commencement speaker this year.  The man runs an international company with sales in excess of $30 billion, but there was nothing lofty or pretentious about his visit or address.

Mr. Allen offered two pieces of advice to our graduates that I think apply far more broadly than to those who were wearing the mortar boards.

First, he counseled people to "seize opportunities" and to volunteer for projects and tasks that will allow for growth and personal challenge.  Mr. Allen worked in a wide variety of Deere divisions and served on four continents over 34 years before being named CEO, and saying yes to very diverse experiences allowed him to have the breadth of knowledge that landed him in the top job.  He urged graduates to seize opportunities and learn from them rather than following a straight path.

His second piece of advice: pay attention to The How.  How you do things matters.  Having integrity matters.  It is not only important to get things done, but How you get them done will determine your success.  John Deere's core values: integrity, quality, commitment and innovation are How the company strives to do its work.  Mr. Allen advocated following your values and focusing on The How.

Seize opportunities and The How are very simple concepts, but powerful thoughts when put into practice.  You don't have to be a graduate to apply these lessons in your life today.

-- beth triplett

Monday, September 7, 2015

#1193 mall safari

I was out of town over the weekend and stopped into the mall.  As I was walking down the main aisle I was almost run over -- first by a rhino and then by a panda!  

As you may have guessed, these weren't real animals, rather "Animal Riders" -- apparently the newest craze to hit the shopping circuit.  For $10, a person can have 15 minutes of joy riding on an electronically powered giant animal -- cruising up one mall aisle and zooming around another.  I am not sure how long the novelty will last, but at least at this mall they were quite popular.

For many malls, the main thoroughfare is far more barren than it used to be, and the Animal Rider kiosk took advantage of the long, straight, empty corridors.  Where one person saw gloom in the unused space, another saw opportunity.

Malls everywhere are rethinking their purpose of being just a shopping destination and branching out into all types of entertainment offerings.  The Mall of America has an entire amusement park inside.  Others offer museums, ice skating, a carousel, movies, restaurants, arcades, batting cages, and now rhinos.

Think of what is in your organization that you see as a liability now but could be repurposed into a valuable new use.  If electric pandas and shopping malls can pair up, surely there is a way for you to tame your unused capacity.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, September 6, 2015

#1192 supplies

For most students, the new school year is now underway.  I imagine that it won't be long before my favorite "school supply aisles" will be reduced through clearance and then moved out to make room for Halloween and Christmas merchandise.

Growing up, shopping for school supplies was one of the great thrills of the year.  I labored over which perfect lunch box or folder to purchase, and treasured each new writing implement even way back then.

Good thing I got my fix when I did, because the contemporary student supply list barely resembles mine.  Never mind the technology, now parents are expected to foot the bill for a host of communal supplies that were never even remotely considered a family expense back in the dark ages when I roamed the elementary classrooms.  Today's students are required to buy reams of copy paper, garbage bags, resealable bags, white board markers, tissues, sanitizer, wet wipes and paper cups, just to name a few.

Worst of all, children no longer get to pick out their favorite character on folders: now it is "6 two-pocket folders without fasteners; 1 each in red, yellow, green, blue, purple and orange."  BOR-ING.  No wonder we lament about stifling children's creativity when this is how we start them out -- sharing a pile of plain folders instead of expressing their own individuality with their personal supplies.

I am sure there are psychological reasons as well as economic ones behind the evolution of the lists.  (And I suspect my school district friends will point them all out to me!)  But from a school-supply-junkie Aunt, there is something missing when a care package to my nieces and nephews needs to be tissues and Ziplocs or supplies they can only use at home.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, September 5, 2015

#1191 acquisition

Recently I was talking with a former colleague who is working at a company that just acquired their main competitor and is in the process of merging the operations.  Unlike a company that sells the same a tangible product, these are two service firms who have (had) a very different approach to their business.

One firm relied on utilizing past data to develop trends. The other company specialized in modeling future scenarios and preparing predictions.  Now they must meld the two philosophies together into a coherent service for their current and past clients.

My friend said that some of the other company's ideas really were best practices and they are creating a new approach rather than continuing wholesale with the path of either organization.  Still, it is a significant shift in practice for all involved.

I imagine some of those initial consulting appointments could involve a few tricky conversations: "Yes, you went with us and we have approached things one way, but now we're a new company with a new line of thinking.  It's better; trust me."

Whether you are the same organization or the merged by product of another, it is important to be open to new ideas and to evolve your thinking.  Just because the one with a different way of doing things is your competitor doesn't automatically make it wrong. Be willing to embrace the best idea whenever you find it, even if the name on the letterhead doesn't change.

-- beth triplett