For our Foodie Friday topic today, let’s have a cup of coffee. Actually, let’s get some inspiration from one – specifically from Jerry Seinfeld‘s new web series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. If you haven’t seen it, Jerry goes out for coffee with another funny person – Michael Richards, Carl Reiner, and Larry David among them. It was in the Larry David episode – Larry Eats A Pancake – that we get today’s food – and business – point.
Jerry remarks that as a pancake gets cold it becomes less appealing “Once it cools off it loses its allure.” Why is that? “Heat doesn’t have any flavor…what does it do?” Larry’s response – “it warms you” is very Kramer-ish. But it’s true – heat doesn’t have any flavor although it certainly does affect the things that do. Many dishes are best served at or near room temperature while some foods are disgusting at that temperature. Food that’s too hot loses flavor, as does food that’s not quite warm enough (putting aside things such as ice cream, of course). It’s not just the intrinsic flavor of the food that affects the perceived quality. It’s also the intangible value of the right temperature.
The same holds in business. It’s the difference on the customer experience on Jet Blue vs. that on Spirit air. Two discount airlines with many of the same features and requirements (there’s a charge for everything!) but the “heat” of one is perfect and make it delicious while the other is served cold and isn’t something I’ll go near again.
We need to pay attention to the “how hot” as much as we do to the “what.” Heat can “warm you” or it can burn you. It can mask flavors or enhance them. Focus on the “heat” factor you’re generating and you’ll be surprised how appealing the same old stuff can seem.
Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday, it concludes the 10 day period at the start of the Jewish calendar – Rosh Hashanah – head of the year – during which all Jews are supposed to reflect upon the past year and examine how they’re going to change their lives going forward. One also seeks forgiveness from those against whom he has transgressed – both those of this earth and higher powers. There is a lot of other imagery connected with the period – inscription in the Book of Life being a big one – but I think there’s something each of us can take as a business lesson in a non-denominational way.
We all get off track. Sometimes it’s in little ways like eating badly or drinking too much. Sometimes it’s in big ways like alienating our families or hurting friends who love us. The concept in Judaism of repentance is called Teshuva which means “return”. I love the notion of coming back to one’s self as well as to the basic human tenets that are common to all religions and peoples.
We can take a period of reflection and “return” in our business lives as well. The most obvious way is for us as individuals Whom have we alienated this year? What client have we taken for granted? But it a bigger opportunity. How has the business diverged from the mission? Why have we stopped getting better and are just marching in place? What can we be doing to grow our people but are ignoring?
We ask those kinds of questions from time to time but I guess I’m suggesting that it become a more formal process. Set aside a period every year for “return” thinking. A period of repentance? Maybe, in some cases. But in all cases a chance to change. A chance to regret past bad actions and to vow not to repeat them. Most importantly (this is true in the religious sense as well), to correct the transgression. To apologize. To make restitution. Whatever is right and lets everyone move forward with a clear conscious and a vow to do better.
Sound like a plan?
This may be a bit more incoherent than usual today.
Common cold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have a foggy brain, a stuffy nose, and body aches. That’s right – a common cold. Not unusual, you think, but it really is for me. Since I stopped commuting to work and flying all over the place, I’ve been sick exactly one other time. That’s right – one cold in five years (until now).
I’m not sure where I got it although I was in a lot more large crowds over the last week than normal. Maybe the guy with whom I slapped palms at the Springsteen show last week had a cold. Maybe it was someone I greeted at the wedding we attended. Maybe it was someone I was near at the market. Who knows? However, it’s good business point.
You can’t (and don’t want to) avoid interacting with other people. I’m not sure how you do business without doing so. However, it turns out about 80% of contagious diseases are transmitted by touch. That’s right – the best protection from the common cold and flu is frequent hand washing.
Our businesses run the risk of infection – something that disrupts their normal functioning – if we don’t take the time to make sure they’re “clean” – that we’re not off-track, that the team is all in sync, and that the contact with outsiders hasn’t done something to disrupt that. Think of staff meetings or check-ins with your team as a good hand scrubbing. That sort of communication can prevent a lot of what ails many businesses.
Now I’m going back to bed. After I wash my hands….