Sunday, December 6, 2015

We need more walls!

For the last two years, a team of contractors, faculty and global collaboration experts have been working to create an incredible new space: HBX Live, a virtual classroom that connects students from anywhere in the world to a Harvard School of Business professor in Boston for a dynamic and engaging HBS-style discussion.
How does it work?  Participants from around the globe can log in and join real-time, case-based sessions with HBS faculty, who teach from the HBX Live studio on the Boston campus of public broadcaster, WGBH.  In the studio, high resolution monitors are arrayed to mimic the tiers of an HBS classroom. Sessions are expertly “produced” using still and roaming cameras—so realistically that we have had participants break out in a sweat as they experience a professor moving toward them. 
You can see this AMAZING technology in action in this 3 minute video:
And then, it hit me.
After Paris. After the San Bernardino shooting. After all of the talk of BUILDING MORE WALLS - building walls to keep people out, building walls to keep us safe. YES! We DO need more walls!
HD Video Walls.
Why can’t this same amazing technology be used to BREAK DOWN barriers? Why not use this amazing global collaboration technology to meet our neighbors? Truly meet them - deeply get to know our GLOBAL neighbors, no matter where they might live, no matter where they were born.
Strangers have been coming together for years, living on college campuses. Sharing dorm rooms. Joining fraternities, playing on sports teams. Sharing meals in cafeterias. Lifelong friendships have been formed. Strangers from around the world, people from the most diverse cultures, all becoming friends and colleagues. We have done it for years. It can be done.
It is so easy to hate people you never met. It is easy to be afraid of cultures we have never experienced.
Technology like the amazing video wall at Harvard Business School was built for a reason: it works. It allows people from around the world to work together and collaborate as a unified team. If this amazing technology works for the world of business - why would it not work for the world of…..well just THE WORLD?
I agree that we need more walls.  We need walls that unify. Walls that bring us together, not walls that keep us apart. Did you see the video from the International Space Station this week? We all share a single home, we all share this one tiny, fragile planet.
We need more walls. We need lots and lots of walls. We need enough walls so that we can allow ALL of the children to get to know each other. Let them learn together, let them play together. Let them form friendships. Hatred is learned, we are not born to hate. We are taught to hate.  Well, then we need to un-teach it. Classmates, emphasis on the two combined words: Class and Mates.
It will not happen overnight, but it will happen. It must happen. We are smarter than this, right? We are smart enough to make a video like the one below, and we cannot address this issue? How many HD Video walls can we build and deploy around the world, for the cost of just one trip to space?

 We all share one planet. Why not share one global classroom? 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

We're Bugging Out!

A bug-out bag is a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours, when evacuating from a disaster, however some kits are designed to last longer periods of time than just 72 hours. The focus is on evacuation, rather than long-term survival, distinguishing the bug-out bag from a survival kit, a boating or aviation emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supplies kit. The kits are also popular in the survivalism and prepper subcultures.

The term "bug-out bag" is related to, and possibly derived from, the "bail-out bag" emergency kit many military aviators carry. In the United States, the term refers to the Korean War practice of the U.S. Army designating alternate defensive positions, in the event that the units had to displace. They were directed to "bug out" when being overrun was imminent. The concept passed into wide usage among other military and law enforcement personnel, though the "bail-out bag" is as likely to include emergency gear for going into an emergency situation as for escaping an emergency.

The primary purpose of a bug-out bag is to allow one to evacuate quickly if a disaster should strike. It is therefore prudent to gather all of the materials and supplies that might be required to do this into a single place, such as a bag or a few storage containers. The recommendation that a bug-out bag contain enough supplies for seventy-two hours arises from advice from organizations responsible for disaster relief and management that it may take them up to seventy-two hours to reach people affected by a disaster and offer help.  The bag's contents may vary according to the region of the user, as someone evacuating from the path of a hurricane may have different supplies from someone who lives in an area prone to tornadoes or wildfires.

Where you going with this, Tom?

In today’s “living in the cloud” workplace, we are all connected. We all have email. We all have social media, smartphones, Facebook pages, LinkedIn, voicemail, Skype, VoIP. We have laptops, iPads, portable WiFi and the ability to be connected anytime, anywhere.

Scenario A: Bad Weather is Coming Soon!
If you KNOW that a (snow storm, hurricane, typhoon, etc.) is on its way, did you prepare your “Go Bag” in the cloud? Did you pre-record an updated voicemail message? Do you have a storm related autoresponder email vacation/away message all set and ready to go, at the click of a mouse? Can you re-route or forward your business phone lines, or change your phone tree greeting in seconds? Do you have a social media strategy all set and ready to go? Can you alert clients, vendors, suppliers and staff “via the cloud” and via your perfected “checklist” that you can activate in seconds?  If not, you have work to do. With today’s cloud technology, what is your excuse to NOT have such a strategy in place, ready to go with a click of a mouse?

Scenario B: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Not everything comes with an advanced warning - but very few things in life are truly a surprise. Sadly, family members will have accidents. Sometimes minor, sometimes serious. Our children will cut their finger bad enough to need stitches - without any warning. In today’s always on, globally connected world, at any moment there can be an event that we “did not see coming.” But, were we really so completely and totally surprised? When it happens “to us” should we be so shocked that SOMETHING happened that caused us to change our plans for the day (or our plans for the week or the month)? If you never saw it coming, you were not looking very hard.

“Common sense is not very common.” We hear this saying all too often. Earthquakes have a way of sneaking up on us. Hurricanes, not so much. A young puppy who gets into the holiday candy might need an emergency trip to the vet. If you have “kids” (human or otherwise) you know that at any moment, your Monday Morning plans can change. If you are the primary caregiver to an elderly family member, and you are still trying to manage a career, a job, a life - did you take the necessary steps to prepare for the inevitable “Boss, I need to take a few days off” conversation? 

Did you properly prepare your “Bug-Out bag” out of respect for your boss, your clients, your vendors, your co-workers?  

I tell my global remote staff to think: how does a hospital, airport or even busy restaurant run? How does a grade school teacher “call in sick” without causing total chaos? They prepared for the inevitable. Teachers, waiters and even air traffic controllers can all get the flu. Everyone has parents, many of us have children. We all need to prepare to be prepared. It is our DUTY as responsible adults - it is our duty as global citizens to be prepared. Very few things in life are truly unforeseen. When we say that something hit us “out of the blue” it makes us look foolish for not being prepared for the inevitable. It’s called life people. Blaming it on being surprised, while knowing what we know about life on planet earth is never going to cut it.

Having our “bug-out bags” ready to go at all times is our responsibility. Technology can certainly help us to be more responsible citizens, but it starts with us. The tools (both physical and virtual) are there, but we need to pick them up and use them - before and during the storm.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

World Peace or Cash?

Surveys and focus groups

It doesn't matter what people say. Watch what they do.
The story is told of a focus group for a new $100 electronic gadget. The response in the focus group was fabulous, people all talked about the features of the new device with excitement.
At the end of the session, the moderator said, "thanks for coming. As our gift to you, you can have your choice of the device or $25."
Everyone took the cash.
Surveys that ask your customers about their preferences, their net promoter intent, their media habits--they're essentially useless compared to watching what people actually do when they have a chance. The media wastes their time and ours handicapping politics based on polls, on changes in polls, on expectations based on polls—it's sad. Polls are always wrong.
The best part of show & tell has never been the telling part.
~ Seth Godin

My blogs are normally about technology, knowledge and talent. I usually try my best to tie news stories and popular culture to how they impact the world for eCommerce, and collaboration, and how we “learn, work, live and play in the clouds.”

Seth’s words above were written for a marketer, or for someone targeting the business community and a financially motivated audience.

And then, Paris.
It doesn't matter what people say. Watch what they do. ~ Seth Godin
I read this again, and then again. These words seem to be more about the world in general, than marketing or business or sales. Seth’s words seem to be more about Politicians. Governments. Corporations. Leaders.
It doesn't matter what people say. Watch what they do. ~ Seth Godin
The entire world can now see in seconds: murder, torture, beheadings. Drone strikes, refugees, human rights being violated. It is now - right now, right here, in our homes, in our living rooms in HDTV. Because of the cloud, it is on our smartphones and via our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. You cannot hide from it, you cannot look away. You cannot say you did not know. We shall all talk about Paris. We shall comment on it, post on it.
It doesn't matter what people say. Watch what they do. ~ Seth Godin
What’s next? What do we (all of us) DO next?
It doesn't matter what people say. Watch what they do. ~ Seth Godin
I paraphrase my friend Seth's words......
At the end of the session (our lives - our short time on earth) the moderator (God) said, "Thanks for coming. As our gift to you, you can have your choice of world peace or cash."
Please God, help us to choose wisely. Please give us the knowledge, technology and talent to choose wisely for our children, and for every child on earth.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Great Costume! You're fired!

The US economy is pretty scary right now, and we’re all watching our spending pretty closely. So what’s the one thing Americans are willing to shell out for in this economy? Costumes, decorations and entertainment designed to scare us even more.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $6.9 billion in 2015 for Halloween. To put that number into context, the same NRF survey found that Americans spent $3.3 billion as recently as 2012.

This biggest chunk of this money — $2.5 billion of it — will go to costumes. Of that total, a little more than $300 million will be spent on costumes for pets. We’ll also drop $2 billion on candy and just under that on decorations.

By contrast, the much larger holiday season spending category isn’t growing as quickly. We were projected to spend $447 billion celebrating Christmas 2015 and other end-of-year holidays last year, but that figure was a measly 2.3 percentage points higher than what we spent in 2014.

Current political and economic events generally put a crimp in our festive spirit. So what makes Halloween the exception?

Well, it appears that troubled times drive our zeal for escapism; romance-novel sales boomed during the last recession, just like extravagant musicals that were popular during the Depression. Add to that the fact that Halloween has undergone a shift from a sort of silly, kid- and candy-centric affair to a full-blown event for adults. This year, the NRF says nearly 70 percent of adults plan to celebrate Halloween. Bars all over the country hold parties for the 21-and-up crowd and manufacturers crank out costumes that definitely aren’t meant for family trick-or-treating.

Modern-day Halloween traditions are said to derive from ancient rituals intended to protect people from ghosts, harsh winters and crop failures. These superstitions seem primitive today; and yet, putting ourselves in control of scary motifs seems to provide a measure of security even now.

Great Costume, Dilbert! (Boss says to himself....oh, he is so fired!)

Here is the “Great Pumpkin” business lesson buried deep inside a witch’s cauldron: Oh, such Creativity! Energy! Passion! Hard Work! 

Congratulations! You won the prize for the most creative costume! I love how you converted your dog into Darth Vader! Look how you made a Millennium Falcon out of a baby stroller! It must have taken you 100 hours to create that robot costume!

Yes, today is the day AFTER the big national party, and many of us are recovering from the self-induced “sugar coma” we entered from eating “just one more” Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (my weakness).

Just remember: when you go into work tomorrow, your boss has you all figured out.

Yes, you who made an aircraft carrier out of paper mache and tin foil. You who searched the Internet for weeks to find just the right accessory for your costume. And you who “found the time and money” to make the most creative, most amazing, most impressive Halloween Costume of all time!

Ah yes. You - the winner for “BEST COSTUME EVER” cannot figure out how to: log into or find the time to get “The Penske File” finished. You who never shows up on time for the staff meetings, or cannot find the typos on the company website, or... (shall I go on?)

Just remember America, as you post your amazing Halloween costumes on Facebook and social media, your boss is watching you. Ah, now the boss KNOWS the real you. Your supervisor just saw how creative, and passionate and hardworking you CAN be. Just not for them.

Now, that’s scary.


George Costanza working on “The Penske File”

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Let's Play Follow the Leader has an amazing new vendor - sponsor:   

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The NYDLA community believes that leadership is not reserved for those people with a ‘C’ in their title. We need better leaders in our communities, businesses, organizations, and in homes across the world. Leadercast exists to serve individuals and organizations across all sectors who want to become intentional about raising their standard of leadership.

Leadercast is constantly thriving to inspire and equip this global community, cutting through the noise and bringing realness to the leadership development space. Via innovative events and digital content the NYDLA global community can take immediate measurable actions that impact the lives of those they lead.

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How the community will engage with Leadercast:
Leadercast Live — Each year, Leadercast facilitates the largest one-day convergence of leaders in the world by creating an epic leadership experience.
    • NYDLA members are invited to attend live in Atlanta. Georgia in May 2016.
    • Or, view an HD simulcast at one of our host sites (hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide).
    • NYDLA vendor sponsors will be hosting their own in-house events at their corporate location. Leadercast happens inside companies such as Apple and Amazon and in communities from Kuwait to Kansas!
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Email to learn more.

Leadercast May 2016 - LIVE from Times Square NYC

Sunday, September 27, 2015

There be Wizards

I live in a magical place. This month the visited Edison’s Laboratory and Bell Labs here in New Jersey. I felt like Indiana Jones exploring temples.

Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Edison. Without these men, there would be no Google, no Microsoft. There would be no computers, no cellphones, no Internet. From these two men our world - our entire planet - was changed. In far less than 200 years, EVERYTHING has been engineered, rebuilt, reborn due to their technology - due to their lives.

The community went to the old Bell Labs complex two weeks ago, to watch drones fly (indoors) via the two million square foot complex (former home of Bell Labs). Last week, we had a luncheon at Edison’s Laboratory, which is now a National Park. Then members were once again back at the old Bell Labs complex, this time to see autonomous self-driving cars.

The Bell Labs facility was built in the 1960’s through the vision of Eero Saarinen, architect. I will not waste words here in this blog on the history of Edison’s Lab, or Bell Labs. There are links below that are certainly worth a read if you are so inclined.

What I WOULD like to say in today’s blog is this: get out. Get away from your desk, get away from your computer, and get into your car. Get out of your office (or co-working space, or coffee shop) and visit Edison’s Lab. Visit Bell Labs.

In less than 200 years, all of “this” happened. Both men were born in 1847. One hundred and sixty eight years since their birth, so I figure 140 years (plus/minus ten years) for their genius to take hold.

Google: “How many days since March 3rd, 1847 or since February 11, 1847” That number will stun you. In the blink of an eye, our entire planet was changed.

If you spend some time in the buildings where history was made, you will be inspired. You will be moved. Your brain’s chemistry will be altered. I firmly believe that one cannot enter these buildings, and not be motivated, energized, consumed. New Jersey is known as “The Garden State”. Truly, I had no idea what our garden grew.

Alexander Graham Bell (March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922)
Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931)

Bell Labs - Holmdel, New Jersey

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Less Filling! Tastes Great!

Point: I was born in 1960 so this blog makes sense to me. Millennials, please try to keep up.

Miller Lite's long-running "Great Taste...Less Filling!" advertising campaign was ranked by Advertising Age magazine as the eighth best advertising campaign in history. The campaign was developed by the advertising agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide. In the prime of the campaign, television commercials typically portrayed a Miller Lite drinker noting its great taste followed by another who observed that it was less filling. This usually led to a parody of Wild West saloon fights in which every patron got involved in the dispute for no real reason, though in this case it was always a shouting match, and blows were never thrown. The commercials were closed with a voice-over from actor Eddie Barth, who read the slogan, "Lite Beer from Miller: Everything you've always wanted in a beer. And less."

To attract 'Joe Six-pack' to a light beer, these commercials started to feature both elite ex-athletes such as Ray Nitschke, Ben Davidson, and Bubba Smith but also oddball cultural figures such as Mickey Spillane (accompanied by a blonde, Lee Meredith, who is better known for her role as Ulla, the secretary in The Producers), and comedian Rodney Dangerfield. As the series of commercials went on, it began featuring athletes and celebrities of all sorts. Some commercials from this era include:
  • Former Major League catcher and Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker being rousted from his good seat at a ballgame, and escorted away by an usher. Uecker comments, "I must be in the front rowwwwwww," but ends up in the last row of the nosebleed seats.
  • In 1978 Joe Frazier, famous heavyweight boxing champion but on-screen caption says "Joe Frazier, Famous Heavyweight Singer", as part of a barbershop quartet walk into a full bar and sing to "do like Smokin' Joe" and go on to sing about its advantages. There is then a moment's silence which follows with a roar of applause.
  • Marv Throneberry, who was one of most famously hapless members of the 1962 New York Mets, wondering over and over, "I don't know why I was asked to do this commercial."
  • Former Baltimore Orioles first baseman Boog Powell and former umpire Jim Honochick doing a spot together, with Honochick totally unaware whom he is standing next to, until he puts his glasses on at the end, and exclaims, "Hey - you're Boog Powell!"
  • Pro footballer/actor Bubba Smith proclaims at the end of a spot, "I also like the easy-opening can," then proceeds to tear off the entire top third of an aluminum Miller Lite can. In a later ad, pro bowling legend Don Carter laments that bowlers are athletes too, and attempts to prove it by repeating Smith's feat. But he struggles to do so.
  • And perhaps most famously, when Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner were in the middle of their legendary 1970s era feuds, they did an ad with Martin saying, "Tastes great, George", and Steinbrenner replying, "Less filling, Billy!", back and forth until Steinbrenner finally says, "You're fired!" (changed to "You're hired!" when Martin was re-hired by Steinbrenner in real life). Martin replies, "Not Again!"

As the popularity of the ads and the number of athletes and celebrities that appeared in them grew, Miller produced occasional "alumni" ads featuring all of the stars, generally in some sort of competition between the 'Less Fillings' and the 'Taste Greats'. The ads usually ended with Rodney Dangerfield somehow being the goat of the losing team. In one of the last spots to feature Dangerfield, the Miller Lite alumni are competing in a bowling match. It is the last frame of a tie game, and Ben Davidson grumbles to Dangerfield, "We only need one pin, Rodney." Dangerfield rolls the ball down the lane, only to have it bounce horizontally off the head pin and into the gutter, knocking down zero pin.

Where are you going with this, Tom?

Well, how is this even a debate? If the beer tastes terrible, no one will care HOW less filling it is, right? Yeah, it’s less filling all right - because no one will drink it! The fact that it is less filling - AND that you WANT to drink it, that is the key. You need both.  No one is going to buy a crappy tasting beer just because you can drink more of it due to its less filling properties!
Works Great! Easy to Use!
In the world of technology, if you have an app or software or “anything” that WORKS GREAT but is difficult to use, you have a dud. If it is super easy to use, but it does not improve the results, if it does not make life better, if it does not change the game - it is a dud.  A pencil is super easy to use, but today most people prefer something a little more technically powerful.

The Miller Lite commercials made it sound like there were really people out there ready to get into a fist fight over their passionate position: LESS FILLING!
Really? That’s your position in the debate? You think this beer sells like crazy because you can drink more of it without feeling bloated?  
TASTES GREAT! (Yeah, I can get behind that)
LESS FILLING! (Oh boy! Let’s drink more of this crappy tasting beer, just because we can!)
I don’t care how easy some piece of technology is to use: if it does not make my life better, if it does not change my life, my business, my world FOR THE BETTER, the fact that it is EASY TO USE does not sweeten the deal.
First question: will this make my life / my business better? Second question: do I need a PhD in computer science to use this thing?
EASY TO USE! (Second)
Both are important, but one is certainly more important than the other. If something is not great, nobody cares how easy it is to use. Both are very important (ala Apple) but clearly one position must come first.
Be great, then make sure the greatness is easy to use. No one needs something to be easy for the sake of being easy.