Excuse me for wanting to stretch Wisconsin’s glorious victory over Kentucky in the NCAA Basketball Final Four into another day. But I can’t resist. There are business leadership lessons for us to learn.
In 1989, the CEO of my global employer allowed me to work from home rather than demand I move halfway across the US to be near corporate headquarters. Two technologies made his decision possible: Overnight delivery and an early fax machine. I was the first distributed worker other than our sales and product service representatives.
Might Martin O’Malley beat Hillary Clinton in the primary?
Not according to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who dismissed the declared candidate’s primary chances. Calling the former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor a “wonk,” Milbank’s March 11 column applauded O’Malley’s many real accomplishments but declared him unable to excite the Democratic base.
Are your customer touch points creating frustration or delight?
How often have you ended up raising your voice with a customer service representative or an automated voice system? It happens to me whenever the specifics of my situation fall outside a company’s “rules” for its software or front-line people.
Welcome to Costco where you feel you are walking through a yellow page directory. A walk down one warehouse building aisle took me past a Lennox furnace for sale, hanging laundry baskets, snacks and piles of men’s blue jeans, eventually arriving at my destination, top brand wines at great prices. Far to my right, I saw refrigerated grocery store items and to my far left, gardening supplies.
Marketplaces as physical gathering sites have a long and rich tradition in all economies. There, buyers and sellers meet to exchange goods for money. Public Markets are especially noteworthy. Madison’s Farmers Market, The Milwaukee Public Market, Boston’s Haymarket Square, Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and The Brooklyn Flee Market come immediately to mind as current examples. So do the local markets I’ve encountered biking through small European towns.
The terrorists who attacked the Paris satirical media organization Charlie Hebdo hoped to silence its voice. Instead, 3 million issues were printed following the attack, compared to 60,000 before the attack. Welcome to the Law of Unintended Consequences. Is this law a reflection of human nature or economics? Is there a mystical comic figure guiding our planet? Or, more likely, do unintended consequences emerge from the reality that every action in a system sets in motion a reaction? What I grasp from observation is that when you push something too far you always generate an unintended and undesired response.
I just spent 10 minutes thinking unkind things about Eddie Bauer. I even shouted an anguished swear word, piercing the silence of my otherwise quiet home. My husband Nick had an overnight guest – our toddler grandson – while I was away and had forgotten to fold up the Eddie Bauer portable crib. Trying to be serious in my home office with a baby crib in my eye’s sight was not working for me, so I decided to take on Nick’s assigned chore and put the crib away.
When I hike a mountain with many paths, I need a map, signposts, or, even better, a guide. Surrounded by too many choices, many leading in the wrong direction, I easily get lost. I need what my talented friend Cricket Redman of Cricket Design Works calls “wayfinding.” Wayfinding solutions like signposts not only help me get to my destination quickly but also avoid all the distractions of paths I don’t want to take. Companies that can help with wayfinding in different areas of our lives are becoming increasingly valuable.
That word was my conclusion leaving a recent San Diego event on cyber-security. My city is exceptionally well organized around this topic, which makes my feeling all the more compelling. We have a non-profit to advance awareness, education, and preparation. But listening to the speakers at the symposium, I observed a passionate group of do-gooders holding their fingers in an increasingly fragile dike. One speaker captured our reality in a single sentence, “It will take one huge crisis – like an attack on our all our water districts” to wake people up.
Can a free offering and a financially sustainable business model co-exist?
Look at the evidence. Wikipedia. National Public Radio. Mozilla’s Firefox browser and the LINUX operating system. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Gawker. The Moodle software platform for on-line educational experiences. All free and all appear to be financially sustainable.
All too often, companies take the scope of their offerings as a given, delaying changes that make the organization ripe for disruption. Kodak stuck with “film” as its core business while competitor FugiFilm Holdings, Inc. accepted the inevitability of digital replacing film. Fugi transformed its business by leveraging its chemical and processing capabilities into liquid crystal displays and beauty products. The change was traumatic -– thousands lost their jobs -– but, unlike Kodak, Fugi company exists and is growing.
A general focuses on the battlefield and where the enemy is coming from, while the soldier in the foxhole keeps his sight within a 10-yard perimeter. In a similar vein, business leaders must understand the lay of a more expansive external environment while others define and execute day-to-day tactics. Leaders supply fresh strategic insights by connecting the dots between things they observe, read or hear about to identify patterns and themes. It’s called conceptual thinking.
The word audacity comes to mind when I think of the fine line brand leaders must walk. Audacious actions can mean bold and courageous, which will build brand awareness and positive feelings. Audacious can also refer to impudent or cheeky, detracting from the brand’s image.
There are so many lessons in the innovative Milo’s Kitchen® “food truck for dogs” campaign, let me count the ways. (Yes, you read my words correctly: a food truck, like the outdoor food trucks that populate downtown streets at lunch and public events, serving dogs rather than people.) Milo’s Kitchen is a popular brand of dog treats from Big Heart Pet Brands, parent of the even better-known brand Milk-Bone®.
First, let me admit my bias. I wear a gorgeous 14k gold Swiss watch everywhere but in the water. The thought of replacing it with an Apple Watch would, for me, feel like replacing a great dinner with brightly colored and beautifully shaped nutritional tablets. Was that why Apple’s share price failed to rise following Apple Watch’s debut today?
The waiter at San Antonio’s Beat Street Coffee Co. Bistro held the large vintage door for a long time while my mother entered with her walker. The restaurant’s hipster ambiance was just what she needed as a meal break from living with 24 other people aged 80-103 at Chandler Estate Assisted Living. Needless to say, neither Mom nor I looked like the other diners. But this waiter treated us throughout the evening as if we were his target market.
Are you losing customer loyalty or competing increasingly on price? Perhaps it’s time to redesign your business model to solve a higher-level problem. I call this strategy “moving up the food chain.” Let’s look at two recent examples in the news: Target and Walgreens.
In this last of four blogs reporting from WTN’s Digital Healthcare Conference 2014, I focus on a realization I came to during the conference: Big Data and the Internet of Things have finally come-of-age in healthcare. Examples of how data, analytics and mobile platforms connected to cloud-based data centers are transforming healthcare were woven into many presentations.
In this third of a series of four blogs about WTN’s 2014 Digital Healthcare Conference (DHC), I’ll focus on three disruptive innovation waves reshaping healthcare. These innovations could lead to better care for less cost. But will they happen fast enough to allow us to channel wasteful healthcare spending into efforts that would make our economy more competitive globally?