Archive for October, 2013

Opportunistic

bikedinaseaurDid you visit a Halloween Store this fall? One that isn’t there all year, but just sort of “popped up” at the right time? How about a fireworks store in late June? The phenomenon of the pop up store has increased in recent times due in part to low occupancy rates in strip malls. Both sides see an opportunity to make a few bucks without the burden of any commitment or long range plans. There is some downside though. It sends a message. To customers the message coming from the store is that we won’t be here so all we’re interested in is a truncation today. And so we drive one more nail into the perceptions of customers that all stores are like that. The landlord sends a message to his other tenants (who have likely signed long-term leases) that he values the occupancy more than the long term best interests of their businesses. And that he specifically wants to make it hard for them to make a change if he believes he can leverage them into committing.

What about loyalty? There are a few forms of loyalty. Convenience can breed some loyalty. Show up in the right place at the right time enough times, making it easy, and people will respond. Or, rather than focusing on creating more satisfaction, you can create barriers to change. You might not want to change your operating system because it will be too disruptive, or your cable provider because new equipment has to be installed (not to mention early termination fees). These forms of loyalty are not very robust. You can have the lowest price, but what if someone else does next time?

Loyalty in personal relationships is just as fragile. How loyal is loyal enough when times get tough, when you don’t get much out of it, or when there is a big divide? Is the loyalty there because it’s deserved and warranted, or because there are rules we play by? Religious rules. Societal rules.

When the value is low the customer or partner is considering options. There may be some barrier to change, but that doesn’t mean they are satisfied. It’s a false economy, and it eats away at everything in time.

Real loyalty flies in the face of opportunistic.

The kind of loyalty you really want is for someone to value you so much that they aren’t looking. This cannot be easily manufactured.  It has to be earned over time with consistent actions day in and day out. When both parties come through consistently it creates a rising tide. A synergy that’s greater than the sum of the parts. Limits and barriers (most of which are self imposed and artificial) fall away. That’s where the real opportunity is.

Beyond the Ante

pokerchipsculpture

Quality and/or good service used to be enough to win. Today it’s just the ante.

Whether you’re an individual carving out a career or an organization carving out market share, creativity is the only sustainable advantage. No matter the field of endeavor it’s really the only thing that can’t be outsourced or commoditized.

The Drain of Friction

ballandchainwomanEvery system has at its outputs results that correlate to the inputs. When riding a bike your forward motion is the sum total of your pedaling energy, plus a wind vector, plus a gravity vector, minus energy lost to friction. All of these are necessary evils, but only friction is always and completely a drain. Wind and hills being what they are, your ultimate battle is against friction. Anything you can do to eliminate friction on your bike (inclusive of the friction of air passing by) will pay long term dividends in results (unless your goal is only to burn energy), and thus professional cyclists spend staggering amounts of money on technology to make bikes waste less of their energy.

Likewise life has its obstacles (wind) and hurdles (hills) that must be overcome. However hard they may be you can be assured that you’re also facing a certain amount of friction in your endeavors. Who and what is holding you back or making things that little bit harder than they should be? Is it necessary?

Like a professional cyclist you owe it to yourself to take an honest look around and assess the affect the components of your life are having on you. Anything or anyone that’s too much of a drain with too little positive input should be de-emphasized or otherwise moved out.

Easy to say in a vacuum, but sometimes we owe people, have commitments, or we just feel like we need to ‘take one for the team.’ That’s certainly part of what must be factored in, but as you do that be mindful of the truth that in many cases you’re allowing these things as part of your own baggage, to make you feel better, or to avoid something difficult, etc.

If possible, start the search in your business (that’s an easier place to be objective). Find the person, philosophy, or process that’s a drain. Get rid of it. There may some positive contributions, but if the net input is negative cut it out. Just try it. You’ll usually find two more drains hiding in the shadows behind it that you never could have seen. When you see how much better things work without the unnecessary energy drain you will be inspired to look for more opportunities.

Only then can you begin to fight off the fear of change and start to see it rationally.

The Text Machine

tty phone dataTelephony as we have known it is just about dead.

Dana Brownlee, a corporate trainer based in Atlanta, says the issue of phone aversion frequently comes up in her project management training sessions. One of her clients, a manager at a large utility company, recently had to teach his young employee what a dial tone was and explain that desktop phones don’t require you to press “Send.”

That’s predicable, but not the half of it. No, the idea of voice (audio) communication in general is dying. Apple had it right when the iPhone’s weakest feature was the “phone application.” I have it on account directly from teenagers that calling, while sometimes a necessity taken on begrudgingly, is definitely not cool…which in teenage speak means not acceptable. It is considered an annoyance. An interruption. If you want to communicate with someone in a polite way that respects her time you must use the written word. E-mail, if you’re older and that paradigm is comfortable, is acceptable (currently), although for teenagers it has its own stigmas attached to it. Text messages or messaging through an accepted portal is becoming the new norm.

Many other things get communicated through the nuances of HOW you actually communicate. Relevance is as important as it is difficult to quantify.

On the other hand…voice calls can still be quite effective if you don’t mind the cultural stigma that comes from that style of communication.

Evolution of Skill

cycling-evolution_of skill

As human skills evolve and improve we change what things mean to us. The guitar was once a relatively unimportant part of an orchestra. The Beatles made it a vital part of their sound, but it was still just a guitar. Then Hendrix came along. He was the first player to approach the guitar as a control surface for an analog synthesizer (the amp). Everything changed.

This is how true innovation leads to tectonic shifts in our understanding, which leads to changing the world.

To most people a computer is now an appliance for connection. It, and the associated skills, enabled us to change the world.

Imagine how the world could change if each of us became experts in human understanding — in understanding ourselves.

The Power of Music

YanaReznikNearly all of us know what it’s like to be moved by music. In case there is any doubt watch a movie sometime with only the dialog track working (can be accomplished by disabling your left, right, surround and sub speakers, leaving only your center channel). The difference in how you perceive the story and overall impact of the movie is profound. Reletively few of us know the power of music from the side of the performer, but trust me it is even more powerful.
Consider this recent post on facebook from a pianist I know, Yana Reznik.
When I was 10, I heard Rachmaninoff 2 concerto for the first time. When I was 15, I got the cd and boom box as a present. I planted myself on the floor, ears between the speakers, hearing it every night over and over and over again, imagining that some day it would be me making that glorious music with orchestra. 22 years later that dream is coming true. I feel like a girl on her wedding day! I am overwhelmed with emotion, excitement, tears and impatience. I cannot believe how supportive all of you have been, some drove for 8 hours, some from LA and surroundings, all the incredible letters of encouragement and wishes, from all over the world. I don’t really know how to thank you all enough for making today so incredibly meaningful and special for me. I’m overflowing with love for you and for the music I’m about to make. Tonight, I play for YOU, my incredible friends, who got me to be who I am and where I am today. Thank you!!!
This is a glimpse into the love and passion that provides the fuel for the dedication required to get really good at something. When you are moved by someone’s art be mindful of the sacrifices it took for them to get there, but you can also take comfort that for the true artists it’s what they must do. They don’t know any other way than to suffer for what they love. Indeed, it’s often not even perceived as suffering.
Still, we owe them a lot. Imagine how dreary this world would be without them.


%d bloggers like this: