First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Dominant Companies of Yesteryear, No Longer With Us – a Hidden Warning in Walter Cronkite’s 1967 Home Office of the Future

When you’ve been at it for decades, you’ve seen the companies disappear. I bought my first stereo at Montgomery Wards. I used to eat at Wyatt’s cafeteria. I won’t even describe the pants I wore briefly in the 1970s, or my permed hair that same decade (my wife told me to leave that detail out of this post)….

So, I saw this fun 1967 video – made the year I was a Junior in High School. Walter Cronkite is introducing the home office of the future. By the way, I am writing this at my home office. I can do all of the things he pictured. With much smaller machines.

But – here’s the big detail to notice. Philco is prominent in the video.  Not one of the machines at my home office – not the computer, not the phone or tablet, not the printer, not the fax (actually, the 3 in one) machine, says Philco on it.

Mr. Cronkite’s home office had Philco products. In my home office, I’ve got three Apple products two Brother products, one AT&T land-line telephone, and one neat product.. (And, by the way, I do not print out a one-page news feed sheet each day). Not a Philco product to be found…  As close I can tell, none of the well-known products of today are in any way descendants of the original Philco (although, of course, the lessons learned and the breakthroughs made at Philco are all part of the technological past that all companies, in some sense, have built on).

Can you imagine the pride Philco felt when Walter Cronkite described the future home office they were designing?

Philco Cathedral Radio ()My current home office radio is in/through my iMac

Philco Cathedral Radio (My current home office radio is in/through my iMac)

How dominant was Philco?  From the Wikipedia article:

By 1930, they were selling more radios than any other maker, a position they held for more than 20 years.
Philco built many iconic radios and TV sets, including the classic cathedral-shaped wooden radio of the 1930s (aka the “Baby Grand”), and the very futuristic (in a 1950s sort of way) Predicta series of television receivers.
Philo Farnsworth, who invented cathode ray tube television, worked at Philco for some time.

Now, you know that there were meetings of smart people at Philco planning their next future business innovations. But, something happened along the way. And, now, Philco is a memory from the past, along with Wyatt’s and Montgomery Wards. And a long, long list of other products and companies.

The simple message/warning? – Staying the company of the future is a whoppingly big challenge!

(And, here’s another sobering note — my current students do not know the name Walter Cronkite.  I really do feel old at times…)

Here’s the video:

Thursday, October 23, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

If creativity, change, and innovation were easy… – Do You Need a Jump-Start? We might be able to help

If creativity, change, and innovation were easy…

There has been no shortage of books and articles and case studies and blog posts to read about this…

But, the reality is, change is hard. Creativity is harder.

And, you don’t learn to be good at change, you don’t become a creative genius, by reading one book or attending one workshop.

But, enough input, over the long haul –with maybe a jump-start to get you heading in the right direction … this may be the value of a good pull-away workshop.

So, give our public workshops on change, creativity, and innovation (November 12-13) a good look. We might provide just the “jump-start” you need.

Click here for all the details.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Extreme Clearness – Simple and Clear Communication Advice from The Earl of Chesterfield (from Shannon Camberlain)

(a couple of posts about communication issues today. Here’s the second).

So, this one’s a little shorter. I read this terrific article from The Atlantic: How to Write a Business Letter: Advice From the 18th Century – You too can sound like a rich, proper, old English gentleman with guidance from their charming correspondence manuals by Shannon Chamberlain. The whole article is terrific – be sure to read it! But, here’s a key excerpt:

The Earl of Chesterfield, the 18th-century British statesman and patron of the arts, had a number of concerns about his illegitimate son Philip, but one he revisited often in his posthumously published letters to the boy is about Philip’s correspondence. This species of worry ranged from handwriting (“shamefully bad and illiberal; it is neither the hand of a man of business, nor of a gentleman, but of a truant school boy”) to the boy’s prose style (“one principal topic of our conversation will be, not only the purity but the elegance of the English language; in both which you are very deficient”).

The latter became a particular concern after Chesterfield went to the trouble of setting the boy up in the world. In December 1751, he offered Philip some delightfully modern-sounding advice on his business correspondence:

The first thing necessary in writing letters of business, is extreme clearness and perspicuity; every paragraph should be so clear and unambiguous, that the dullest fellow in the world may not be able to mistake it, nor obliged to read it twice in order to understand it. This necessary clearness implies a correctness, without excluding an elegance of style. Tropes, figures, antitheses, epigrams, etc., would be as misplaced and as impertinent in letters of business, as they are sometimes (if judiciously used) proper and pleasing in familiar letters, upon common and trite subjects. In business, an elegant simplicity, the result of care, not of labor, is required.

An elegant simplicity. Clearness. Able to be fully understood – at the first (and thus, only) reading.

Artists can be obscure, symbolic, mysterious – their purpose is different.

But most communication is for the purpose of direct communication. “Understand this; do this.” The “this” has to be crystal clear.

So – clear! Simple! To the point! Very good advice indeed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Write Your Speech Out Word-for-Word – The Case for Manuscript Speaking

(a couple of posts about communication issues today. Here’s the first).

If you read many articles about different approaches to take for speeches and presentations, you find a lot of people in favor of not using a manuscript.

But… maybe you should.

Here's a page of a manuscript with President Reagan's edits

Here’s a page of a manuscript with President Reagan’s edits

Here’s my thinking. First, quick: name the greatest speeches you know of. Pick your favorite: The Gettysburg Address; Kennedy’s Inaugural; I Have a Dream… Reagan’s speech after the Challenger explosion. They were all scripted. If you carefully watch I Have a Dream, Dr. King reads from a manuscript until he gets to the I Have a Dream portion (which, though appearing “off the cuff,” had actually been written for an earlier speech).

Here’s what might happen when you don’t write out a speech in full. You might ramble; you might go off subject; you might “skip” sentences, and lose your audience in the process.

To write a speech in full, and then to read it aloud (a number of times!), lets you know if you succeeded in creating a message with effective “flow.” This is what I mean:

I am saying this sentience now.
Now, this sentence is the sentence that should follow the sentence that I just said before this one.
Now, this sentience is the logical next sentence.

Each sentence builds on the prior sentence, and it all “flows” together.

A number of years ago, my colleague Karl Krayer told me I was weak on transitions. He was right about that. After a while, I finally got what he meant (I can be pretty slow to learn), and now I pay attention to my transitions.

You might ask, “Randy, do you write your speeches and presentations out word for word?” No… I speak very often. But I do use extensive notes – much more than just bullet points/talking points.! And, I am quite mindful about issues of flow.

And, I listen to student speeches. Speech teachers generally teach students not to speak from manuscripts. And, yes, a manuscript can really negatively effect eye contact. (The key is practice, practice, practice)…

But I’m always amazed at some “common wisdom.” It appears to be “common wisdom” to teach against the use of manuscripts. And yet, when we show exemplar speeches, they are practically all manuscripted speeches. Kind of a disconnect, don’t you think?

And, let’s be honest – I’ve heard some nearly incoherent student speeches because the students did not write them out in full.

Incoherence is not good when speaking…

Surely, it is not a bad idea to write out a speech in full. Reagan did it; Hillary Clinton does it; every President speaks from manuscripts (yes, they do use teleprompters – that helps).

But, any negatives in using a manuscript can be outweighed significantly by the positives. A manuscript helps you say:

what you intend to say,
all that you intend to say,
only what you intend to say,
and nothing that you don’t intend to say.

That sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Years ago (in my preaching years), I got to know J. Daniel Baumann. He was a Pastor, and a professor of preaching. And he wrote a terrific book called An Introduction to Contemporary Preaching (now out of print). I asked him if he thought a preacher should write out sermons in full manuscript form. He said yes – for the first ten years. After that, he said, you won’t have to. You will have developed the discipline of choosing the right words, putting them in the right order…

I did not fully follow his advice. But I did a fair number of times – and I especially did in some “big” speaking assignments. Manuscripting helped me a great deal, I think…

Now, feel free to reject this advice.   But, if you do, ask yourself:

Do you ever say anything you wish you had not said?
Do you ever leave key thoughts out?
Do you ever not quite make sense – are you skipping needed transitions?

Manuscripting can definitely help.

I spend part of my time writing speeches for others. I write them in full. I do my best to put them in “their words,” certainly with their stories, and their tone, and their personality. But, they are full manuscripts. Bullet points/talking points don’t quite accomplish the same thing.

So, if you have a speech to give (especially an important one), write it out in full.

Then, refine it. Write it for the ear. It’s not an essay – it’s a speech.

Use a lot of punctuation to remind yourself to pause, and verbally punch key words and phrases. It doesn’t have to get an A for proper sentence structure in English class. But it has to flow well, and not ramble, and make sense.

Practice the speech over and over and over again – so that you know the speech, and you don’t have to “look down the entire time” at your manuscript.

And, if it is written word-for-word, as you practice your speech, you will know exactly how long your speech is. Not an unimportant consideration!

But, I think you will have more complete, more effective presentations, if you write them carefully, word-for-word, before you present them.

That’s what I think…


(for our next “common sense” discussion, maybe we ought to tackle this. Many speech teachers teach students to speak from 3×5 cards. Quick, name the last time you saw a great speech delivered from 3×5 cards. You remember President Reagan holding his 3×5 cards, don’t you? Thought not!)

Thursday, October 23, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 1 Comment

We All Start at the Beginning – The Question is, “How Far Along are You?”

Do you know what to do when you show up to work?

This is not a small point.

We all start out playing a little "mob ball"

We all start out playing a little “herd ball”

Have you every watched the youngest youth team play soccer? I’m talking sbout really young? About the only comparison to actual soccer is that they play on a field, with nets… I’ve heard it called “herd ball.” The players move in a “clump.”  It’s herd against herd… They don’t yet know what they are doing. They’re not ready for real soccer – yet.

The only way to get ready for real soccer is to start before you know what to do and how to do it.

But… it is expected that they will learn how the game is played, and how to fill their roles. As they get older, they add a little more knowledge, a little more expertise – and a lot more confidence.

I once knew a girl – you have to read this carefully – who was playing third base on her softball team. She was playing third base; out in the field, at third base, glove on her hand. Someone at bat hit the ball to the outfield. This girl scored on the hit – ran to home plate, and scored.   (Did you get it? She was playing defense and scored for the other team). Not yet knowledgeable!

So… what makes me think about all this. In addition to my business and other speaking, I also teach speech to first year college students. They do not yet know a whole lot as they begin the semester. When they first get up to speak, they don’t walk up with confidence; they don’t greet the audience with their eyes and body language, from their appropriate speaking spot, before they begin speaking. They don’t know the “things to do” when speaking – many speak in a monotone, too softly to hear, with few gestures…. Thus, they don’t demonstrate much self-confidence.

I suspect this is pretty universal, for practically any and every job. (I remember Barbara Ehrenreich describing how incompetent she felt as a server in a restaurant in her classic book, Nickel and Dimed). For example, I suspect that the first time a medical student practices incisions on a cadaver, they’re a little unsure of themselves.

The process is this – learn the process. Practice and drill. Master the process. Then, you’ll develop self-confidence. Then, you’re truly ready to work.

How far along are you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Rod Pyle: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Pyle, RodRod Pyle is author of multiple best-selling books on space exploration and innovation for major publishers including Smithsonian, McGraw-Hill, HarperCollins, Prometheus/Random House, Sterling and Carlton. His most recent books are Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success for McGraw Hill (March 2014), which the Library Journal called “A gripping history of NASA… riveting… [the] writing is superb,” and, Curiosity: An Inside Look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made It Happen, published by Prometheus/Random House. It is listed as a “Top Ten Science and Tech Book for July” by The Guardian. Rod wrote and co-created The Apollo Leadership Experience for NASA and The Conference Board, which he taught at the Johnson Space Center for C-suite executives from companies like Michelin, Conoco-Philips, Ebay and The Federal Reserve. He continues to give keynotes and seminars on innovation and leadership.

His 2012 Destination Mars (Prometheus) was heralded as “The best recent overview of Mars missions” by the Washington Post, and was selected for Scientific American’s book of the month club. Rod has produced and directed numerous documentaries for The History Channel and Discovery Communications, including “Modern Marvels: Apollo 11” and “Mars: 100 Years of Discovery.” Rod is a space journalist, writing frequent articles and creating videos for, LiveScience, Huffington Post, NBCNews Online, the Christian Science Monitor and the Daily Telegraph. He is a graduate of Stanford University and the Art Center College of Design, and taught communication studies at the University of La Verne for ten years.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read all of part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing (in Part 2) Innovation the NASA Way, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Pyle: Honestly, the entire cadre of Gemini and Apollo astronauts. While my friends memorized states and collected cards for football and baseball players, I was studying NASA’s best. These guys were going to the moon, and I wanted to be with them! Alas, that was ultimately less likely even than my buddies joining the NFL…

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Pyle: There are so many, but Gene Kranz, the flight director for most of the Gemini and Apollo missions, was a major influence. His tough but fair approach to managing Mission Control teams, and his unashamedly “Gung Ho” attitude is inspiring. But I think the ultimate inspiration was the “Kranz Dictum,” as it came to be known; the speech he gave to his teams after the Apollo 1 fire. He was not even in charge the day of the fire, but it was Kranz who made the seminal speech, and it is posted all over Mission Control to this day. At its core is being “tough and competent,” and making Mission Control “perfect.” His people came as close to that demand as any organization can.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Pyle: Calculus! After encountering differential equations (with a less than stellar result), it occurred to me that astronomy at UCLA might not be my best option. My next choice was to tell science stories via visual and print media… and that’s turned out to be a lot of fun. Film and TV was my final undergrad major, and at Stanford I had a blast studying the more theoretical aspects of communication. Since then it’s been books, articles and TV work, and I hope to never stop.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Pyle: In the media business, excepting to some extent journalism, degrees don’t mean very much. In TV they mean nothing at all. So any progress I’ve made in those areas was fueled primarily by passion and tenacity. On the other hand, I did teach in various colleges for about twelve years and there, of course, the masters degree was everything. And I enjoyed teaching quite a lot.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Pyle: Success is as much about instincts, drive and dogged persistence as it is about brilliance or intellect. Determination to achieve a goal – often to the exclusion of anything else – seems to be critical. In NASA terms that equates to having the tenacity to sell a flight concept or a scientific goal, then pursue the accomplishment of that mission. We see it over and over again, how an individual voice makes all the difference in a project, science instrument or flight plan. And that’s great.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Pyle: There are a few classics that relate here… but Casablanca is one, in which personal passion and individual needs are secondary to duty and honor. Along the same lines, the original Star Trek TV show had some things to say about duty, persistence, honor and success, but always with a cost. I think that these apply to business success on a personal level, decisions that you live with long after the company has moved on to other concerns. Finally, Patton demonstrates the drive and brilliance often needed to succeed against great odds, and the personal costs that often come with it. As George C. Scott quoted “All glory is fleeting…”, a worthwhile sentiment to remember.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Pyle: Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Here is a man, Doc Ricketts, to whom business success, always elusive, was subsumed by, then buoyed by, the beauty in his personal existence. He maintained the former and grew the latter like a bloom. Together they made for a whole life, though marriage and the consummation of his inner desire for love remained somewhat elusive. But the longing within us often makes for a far greater motivator than achieving.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Pyle: Lao-tse was a smart man. I took a class at UCLA years ago in the Chinese mystics – this reminds me how insightful they could be. Human needs and behaviors have not changed much over time (anyone who has read Greek mythology knows that the core emotions discussed have not changed one iota). To the point: an inspired leader would do well to give his team a voice and a tangible stake in the process of building and succeeding. I address this in my innovation book and leadership seminars: give your team members a sense of ownership, a stake in the process of innovating and making that innovation into a success. I think it’s critical – in many cases, the passion of that person, or team, is the core force, the engine driving the process. Then, in a perfect world, the team shares the sense of accomplishment.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Pyle: I’ve always loved that one. Ask John Houbolt, a mid-level engineer in the Apollo program, who had to jump all the way to the top of NASA’s management chain to get his ideas about Lunar Orbit Rendezvous heard (it was the solution to the puzzle of how to land on the moon). Top minds like Wernher von Braun, who favored another method, finally saw the wisdom of LOR. This was certainly an example of one man forcing the organization to accept his excellent idea, despite much resistance at the top.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Pyle: Yes, or “That’s interesting…” or perhaps, as John Grotzinger, the Curiosity Mars rover’s chief scientist said when looking at some new and exciting data, “That’s one for the history books!” So often it is the surprises, the results that surpass our expectations, that foreshadow developments and discoveries far beyond what we had planned for. It’s a bit of scientific serendipity… the universe playing with us, deciding what to release at this moment, and providing discoveries beyond, or at least perpendicular to, our expectations. And since all great science is to a certain extent magical, that is often where the magic lies.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Pyle: Yes, GM built the Chevy Cobalt with great efficiency just before they went BK. And while millions of those Spartan autos served people for years, I think we would have all been served better had the car never existed (if you ever drove one for any distance, you know what I mean). This is a very basic and prosaic example of a great thinker’s ideas placed onto the road, but it’s certainly an expression of this loftier thought.

* * *

To read all of part 1, please click here.

Rod cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

His LinkedIn link

His Amazon link

Huffington Post link

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Modest Suggestion for Peyton Manning When He Retires (at, probably, the age of 75) – Become the Health Care Drill Instruction Czar

It’s sort of hard to miss the big news of the last few days.

News item #1 — Hospital health care personnel were not “ready” for the Ebola crisis to arrive.

News item #2 — Peyton Manning threw for four touchdowns, and broke the all-time touchdown passing record.

Both, pretty big news items.

So, I got to thinking…

Do you know what Peyton Manning is really good at? Here it is. He is really good at “drilling until he gets it just right.”

In Outliers, and Talent is Overrated, we learn a lot about the 10,000 hour rule, and the idea of “deliberate practice — practicing for the purpose of, with the intent of, getting better.” Such practice requires drills – going over and over and over an action time and time again until one gets it right. And, someone is watching, and correcting every little misstep along the way, so that each practice action is closer and closer to perfect.

Peyton Manning is really good at deliberate practice. It is work ethic, yes – but it is also mastering the skill of drilling for the purpose of getting better.

There have probably been other athletes who have worked as hard as Peyton Manning. But not many. And, probably, none have worked any smarter… Here is what a defensive back and a columnist had to say, from Broncos QB Peyton Manning works “as if he never had a penny” by Benjamin Hochman:

Rahim Moore talked about Manning having some fun in his off time, but that “we know when he gets on the field, he’s going hard — like as if he never had a penny. That’s how hard he works. You would think he never had done a commercial, none of that. He’s training like he’s a free agent.”

Let it sink in. What a quote, right? Peyton Manning, one of the best talents of his generation, attacks practice as if his career is on the line, as if one bad day at the office and he’s coaching high school, telling stories about once going to an NFL camp with Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning running drillsSo, let’s say that I’m right. Peyton Manning is the best ever at getting better at what he does by drilling over and over again.

And, let’s pay attention to the other news. Health Care workers have to drill, over and over again, to learn how to flawlessly put on and take off protective clothing. Atul Gawande has written, in The Checklist Manifesto and other places, about the importance of getting things just right when it comes to health care. One slip up, and the patient can literally catch a more life-threatening illness while receiving treatment for something else.

As much as I like football, I think health care workers need to learn to run drills at least as well as football players do. The stakes are a little higher!

So, my suggestion – after his retirement (at about age 75, it looks like), Peyton Manning needs to become the health-care drill instruction czar.

That’s my modest proposal. And, really, I’m not quite kidding – I suspect that Peyton Manning could watch film of people drilling to put on the protective attire, and recommend specific improvements in how they run those drills. And if he could not quite do so right now, with his attention to detail and his work ethic, he could improve those drills pretty quickly…

(Or… to put it another way, maybe health care workers need to study drill techniques from Peyton Manning. It turns out there are a few videos available to watch)…

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

“Now is the Time” is the Appeal – But “The Time” is so Slow in Coming – (Thoughts prompted by Jorge Ramos’s book, A Country for All)

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all.
Elis Wiesel, Night

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. 
Martin Luther King, Jr.


(Let’s call this a social justice lament…)

Let’s pause a minute…

We seem to be a “behind the curve, behind the time” people.

Something bad happens. It was predictable. All we had to do was read the signs, and pay attention to the words, and then we would know the bad is coming.

In fact, people are yelling pretty loudly that the bad is coming. But we do not listen… And because we do not listen, we know not what to say. And so, we are silent.

That’s pretty much true with any oppressed people group…

So, check the numbers – more African Americans are in prison that any other group in America, by far (not “actual numbers” – percentages). Something has happened in our culture that has led a massive percentage of African American men to spend the better part of their lives in prison.

And, we have been talking, and avoiding, and talking, and avoiding immigration action for so long.

And, the most eloquent voices on behalf of the “oppressed” are always people among the oppressed. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like Elie Wiesel. And, like Jorge Ramos.

A Country for AllThere are not many like Jorge Ramos. A knowledgeable journalist (Emmy award winning News Anchor for Univision), but also an activist voice. I’ve read one book by him, and I’m working my way through another. There are a few more to go.

Here are the opening lines of his book A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.

Now is the time.
For millions of immigrants in the United States, their worst nightmare is becoming a reality.

It is reminiscent of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech. Here’s the key paragraph:

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

“Now is the time” said Dr. King and Mr. Ramos, for “all of God’s children.”

But, the time came, and now in many ways progress has been lost, and we have taken steps back, when it comes to equality for all.

Jorge Ramos included the above quote from Elie Wiesel at the front of his book A Country for All. “Now is the time,” he wrote. The book was published in 2010, in the midst of hope for the DREAM act to pass. The DREAM act would have benefitted many, but not all. It made it though the House. The President was ready to sign it. A majority in the Senate was ready to pass it. But it was blocked…. And, it turns out, “now is the time,” I guess was not yet actually the time.

And, so, the immigrants continue to live some kind of “invisible life.” From the book:

They live in the shadows. Being seen is a great risk and could mean deportation from the country that they have called home for years, the country where their children were born and, for many, their grandchildren too.
They live in silence.

It’s tough to make your voice heard from the shadows…

We do await action. And, probably, action will come when the crisis is big enough that action can no longer be avoided.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could act in advance of crisis?

And, so, we await action – in the midst of the silence of the many…

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Greed is Good; Greed is Not Good — Some Thoughts about a Pretty Big Issue

GreedisGood-300x241Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.
Fictional Gordon Gekko, in the film Wall Street, 1987

The fact is that solving problems is hard. If a given problem still exists, you can bet that a lot of people have already come along and failed to solve it. Easy problems evaporate; it is the hard ones that linger.
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Think Like a Freak 


Is it possible to be too greedy?

Of course it is.

Is it possible to be blind to one’s own greed?

Of course it is.

But… it is also possible to not be “tough enough” on people who need to be more disciplined, more diligent, more focused?

Yes… this too is possible.

Call this a “big question” that I am thinking about…

I think there are some people, and some companies, that are too greedy. Don’t you?

{Is it possible to have the right amount of greed? I don’t know. “Greed” is one of the seven deadly sins. From Wikipedia — Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess.”}

And, by the way, I don’t think I have ever read or heard a genuinely greedy person admit “I am greedy – and such greed is bad.”

But, I am also coming around to a couple of other realities. Like:

A boss can be too soft on people, and thus, end up losing – losing money, losing market share, losing on deals and money to be made…

Recently, I’ve noticed a few articles on how a boss needs to toughen up. Here’s one: Why I Regret Being a Nice Boss – If I could have a do-over, I would set tougher boundaries with my employees by Laura Smith. From the article:

The idea that we must tell adults what to do and exactly how to do it is a hard pill to swallow for most.

And, though I liked the book, and learned much, I confess to being bothered by Peter Thiel’s Zero to One in one very specific way. If you read it carefully, it is a strong argument in favor of monopolies – monopolies that crush the competition. And, if that approach is the one to adopt, then the greater good for Company X inevitably comes at the cost of jobs and security and general well-being for people in companies A through W…

So… how to think these days.

Recently, I heard another strong and well stated defense of “Servant Leadership.” But, even though I am big, big fan of Robert Greenleaf and Servant Leadership, sometimes I get the sense that people adopt the approach because it is good for all the people, but because it is a better way to get ahead and crush the competition. You know: “I’ll treat my people well in order to leave the other folks out there in the dust…”  (This speaker did not leave that impression — but others have…)

I guess I am asking how a company pursues a dominant, truly financially healthy position — the top spot — without it hurting the people who work at all the number twos out there.

I don’t know the answer to this…   but I’m thinking about it.

Or, to quote Paul Krugman, in his provocative takedown of Amazon today, Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.:

The robber baron era ended when we as a nation decided that some business tactics were out of line. And the question is whether we want to go back on that decision.

Monday, October 20, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

There Are Times When a “Pull-Away” Learning Experience Can Make a Huge Difference – We’ve Got Some “Change and Innovation” Workshops for You to Consider

How long has it been since you devoted a chunk of your time for a serious learning experience?

Yesterday, I heard Ken Medema sing at church. Blind from birth, Mr. Medema has been singing to groups for decades. He is…unique. A good singer, accompanying himself on piano, what he does is write songs “on the spot.” He listens to a speaker, and writes a song about the speech (in this case, sermon) as he listens. And, then, he sings this song, capturing the essence of the message we’ve all just heard. He really is unlike any other singer I’ve ever heard.

So, I walked up to Mr. Medema, and told him I had heard him years earlier at a national speakers conference. He appreciated the memory…

And, as I drove home, it hit me. I haven’t been to enough conferences lately.

Training-workshops-for-you-610x393Call them what you will; choose the kind you want; workshops, conferences. (In my preaching days, I attended “Bible Lectureships.” Yep, they were just conferences with sermons instead of speeches or presentations).

Here’s what these offer. A “pull away” time – to pull away from the phone, the office, the daily routine — all for the purpose of focused learning. With great networking and conversations included.

In other words, such experiences provide genuinely focused learning experiences. And I think we need more of these in this much-too-hectic, overly-scheduled era.

I love books, articles, blog spots, TED Talks…  But to actually go away for the purpose of learning is a deeper, more-lasting experience.  It can make a big difference — if you actually learn, and then implement…

So, part 1 of this blog post – you really should consider going to a “pull-away” learning experience.

Now, part 2 – we’ve got just such an experience for you. It’s not a “big conference” – it’s a smaller group, intensive learning experience. For two days in November, November 12-13, we’ve got two half-day workshops, and one full-day, all built around the challenge of Change and Innovation.

I will lead some of the workshops; and Karl Krayer will lead the other.

So, if you are already the ultimate master at change and innovation – find another pull-away learning experience. But, if you’ve still got some things to learn in these departments, then please give our workshops serious consideration. I think you’ll find some genuine, future-shaping help for you and your organization.

Click here for all the details. I think it could be worth your time and investment.


Monday, October 20, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment


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