Tag Archives: United States

Making The Dream A Reality

This was the post I wrote in 2009 on Dr. King’s birthday, which we celebrate today.  It’s interesting how over the last 7 years much of what I was feeling at the time about the possibilities that were presenting themselves have yet to become a reality.  In some ways, we’ve gone backward despite some of the progress.  I’m not sure race relations in this country are at the place I recall back in the 60’s but it’s good to have a day dedicated to the man that moved us all forward so we can reflect on the topic.  The business point in the post hasn’t changed – some things, such as Dr. King’s message – are eternal.

Last week was actually Dr. King‘s birthday but since we’re celebrating it today I thought I’d add my two cents. I’m old enough to remember him and while he didn’t light the fire of the civil rights movement in the US (I’d say Rosa Parks is that hero), he certainly brought the fire to life and tended it well until his assassination (and I remember that as well – how horrible a day it was!).

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What inspired me, a young (then) white kid was his notion of bringing a dream to reality. OK, the words and delivery were pretty inspirational too, even when you read them off a page. Yesterday the Inauguration Committee had a concert on the very place where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech to celebrate, nearly 46 years later, a big piece of that speech coming to reality. One can’t help but wonder what Dr.King would have felt and said – he certainly should still be alive – he’d just be turning 80.

Robert Kennedy said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  I think that’s great business advice as well, even if George Bernard Shaw had the notion before Bobby.  Mark Twain wrote that Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

So today, I celebrate Dr. King’s dreaming of a better world and making it happen.  Tomorrow, we can watch it become real.  What are you dreaming of?  Can it be real?  Why not?  Or better – why not!!

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September 11

This is the post I wrote on the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11.   While I try not to repeat posts too often, my thoughts of the day haven’t changed very much in the subsequent two years (maybe they’ve intensified on the latter portion of the post).  You might also know I don’t bring political discussions onto the screed either.  I broke that rule too.  Anyway, I’m posting it again with a couple of minor edits.

Today, this isn’t about business. If you want to skip it and come back in a couple of days, I understand.421621_639685039032_1897023870_n

I’m publishing this on 9/11, 10 years after a horrible day changed the world forever. I’ve spent a good part of the day thinking about the subsequent decade and how it was so very different from the 4 others in which I’ve lived that preceded it and I want to use today to share some of those thoughts. I also know we don’t do politics here – I think today we will, although hopefully in a non-partisan way.  So here are a few things I remember most about 9/11/01.

First, how beautiful the weather was that day. My commute brought me into Grand Central Station and as I walked into the sunlight and smelled the air with the smallest traces of Fall in it, I thought about how the weeks after Labor day are the best time to come to NYC. I now think about 9/11 every time it’s a really nice day.

I also thought how nice a day it was going to be for flying. A few work colleagues and I were going to San Francisco that afternoon out of Newark. We were originally going out on a morning flight but realized our meetings were later the next day so we changed flights a week earlier. Spooky.

Finally, the main thing I recall about 9/11 was 9/12.  And 9/13.  And many days thereafter.  It was about how for one of the few times in my life, the entire country came together as one.  No Democrats, no RepublicansAmericans.  I felt it in the emails and calls I received from concerned folks from all around the country and from other countries.  As a New Yorker, you saw it in all the folks who came to help from all over.

That all changed later and was, in retrospect, probably only a Band-Aid on some wounds that began to fester some time in the 90’s.  But MAN, it felt good.

That’s what struck me today – how those wounds have turned gangrenous and how utterly incapable we as a people seem to sit together and discuss how to clean up the economic and social messes around us, much as we cleaned up that other mess 10 years ago.  The memorials today showed me that we still have the ability to unite in a common good under a flag, but only if we stop yelling, start listening, and try to feel what we all felt after the unspeakable horror of that day:  that we have to find a way to clean this up and fix this.  Not as Democrats or Republicans – as Americans.

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Having A Dream

Today is the 50th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream speech Dr. King gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  I began to write about him and my memories and then I realized I had already done so in 2009.  In reading it again, the thoughts seem appropriate to today as well so here is it once more, albeit slightly edited.

I’m old enough to remember Dr. Martin Luther King and while he didn’t light the fire of the civil rights movement in the US (I’d say Rosa Parks is that hero), he certainly brought the fire to life and tended it well until his assassination (and I remember that as well – how horrible a day it was!).

Martin Luther King, Jr.

What inspired me, a young (then) white kid was his notion of bringing a dream to reality. OK, the words and delivery were pretty inspirational too, even when you read them off a page. Yesterday the Inauguration Committee had a concert on the very place where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech to celebrate, nearly 46 years later, a big piece of that speech coming to reality. One can’t help but wonder what Dr.King would have felt and said – he certainly should still be alive – he’d just be turning 80.

Robert Kennedy said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  I think that’s great business advice as well, even if George Bernard Shaw had the notion before Bobby.  Mark Twain wrote that Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

So today, I celebrate Dr. King’s dreaming of a better world and making it happen.  Tomorrow, we can watch it become real.  What are you dreaming of?  Can it be real?  Why not?  Or better – why not!!

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The Four Minute Mile

Late post today so I’ll make it brief.  I was returning from some morning meetings (hence my lateness) and I heard someone talking on the radio about one crisis or another – geopolitical, financial – who knows.  They kept saying that a fix was “impossible” and spent the better part of the segment explaining why that was so.  I, of course, immediately thought of Roger Bannister.

 

IMG_3913

(Photo credit: I am I.A.M.)

 

Right up until that day in May of 1954, it was thought that running a mile in under four minutes was not humanly possible.  I’m sure there were a lot of sportswriters who pontificated much as did the person on the radio this morning about why that was so.  15MPH for that period of time?  No way.  I’m sure they were doing so right up until Bannister crossed the finish line in under four minutes.  To show it wasn’t some superhuman feat, John Landy finished right behind him – also under four minutes.  Suddenly, the common knowledge – and the mental barrier it imposed – changed.  Miles have been run hundreds of times under that barrier now and the record is 3:43, closer to three and a half minutes than to four.

 

We often do the same thing in business.  A sales goal is not achievable   A product can’t be built.  The person with the qualifications we really think are required for the job can’t be found so we settle on someone lesser.  Four minute barriers we can’t break.  Until we do.

 

I’ve used the Bannister example with groups before to get them to think about how our mental barriers hold us back.  What do you think?

 

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Me Or Your Own Eyes?

You’ve probably heard some version of the 18th century joke about a wife who, caught by her husband in bed with a lover, denies the obvious and adds: ‘Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?’ The Marx Brothers used a variant of it in Duck Soup when Chico, dressed up as Groucho, asks “who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” Obviously people believed their own eyes since the quote is usually attributed to Groucho.

Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

I thought of that quote as I was trying to explain a report to someone. They kept telling me the same story about what was going on in their business even though the data was saying something quite different.  Who was I going to believe: them or my own eyes?  Or my own data?

One of the big trends these days is a discussion of “big data.”  In a nutshell, almost everything we do these days in business generates data, and most of the managers I know are drowning in the stuff.  Despite that, most of the companies in which these managers work are not what I’d call a data-driven culture.  In fact, they suffer from the same issue mentioned above.  The will often fit the data to the story instead of letting the data help them solve the questions raided in the telling.  McKinsey stated in one of their reports that:

By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.

What’s needed is change management with a goal of developing a data-driven culture. Maybe that’s too strong – how about a culture in which data isn’t subordinated to the role of being used selectively to reinforce or justify bad decision-making?  At some point, people have to learn to trust their own eyes – the data they see – and not the stories they hear.  That’s what I think – you?

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Who ARE These People?

I consider myself to be a friendly guy. Maybe my gregarious nature is what helped me to be successful in sales; maybe it’s what helps me play golf or hang out at a party with total strangers and be comfortable. But I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’ve over-reached a bit.  You see, lately when I look at my LinkedIn connections or even some of my Facebook friends, I wonder who they are.  Why that’s a little scary to me is that I’ve really tried over the years to keep Facebook to my personal friends, not business connections or people who know others that I know but whom I’ve never met.  I used to have a LinkedIn policy that I had to have met the connection in person but that went out the window a long time ago.  Still, I try not to accept random people as connections and yet I’ve got a few dozen that I can’t place at all.

Turns out I’m not alone.  This is from the Pew Internet and American Life study:

Social network users are becoming more active in pruning and managing their accounts. Women and younger users tend to unfriend more than others.

About two-thirds of internet users use social networking sites (SNS) and all the major metrics for profile management are up, compared to 2009: 63% of them have deleted people from their “friends” lists, up from 56% in 2009; 44% have deleted comments made by others on their profile; and 37% have removed their names from photos that were tagged to identify them.

That’s less of a big deal to businesses than this:

Privacy appears to be the new preference of social media denizens. The majority of social network users (58 percent) have set their profiles to private, and just 20 percent of adults said their profiles remained public.

Marketers have a vested interest both in networks being large and users being discoverable.  When we all start to contract those networks – who ARE these all these “friends” anyway? – it runs contrary to those interests.

The above two items gave me pause.  You?

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The Easy Way Out

I read something this week that fits our Foodie Friday theme and ends the week with a stimulating thought. There is an ongoing flame war between Mark Bittman, a well-known food author, and Josh Ozersky, who is an award-winning food writer as well. The battlefield is Time Magazine and the subject is “industrial food.” If you’re interested in the blow-by-blow, you can read the articles here, but their conversation about our food system makes a broader business point in my mind. Continue reading

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