Sharks Stun But Pigs Kill

“More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks, which shows you how good we are at evaluating risk.” – Bruce Schneier author of Beyond Fear.

Seth Godin’s recent Shark Attack! post reminded me of the Bruce Schneier quote above. Schneier’s ITConversation’s interview is a fantastic discussion on risk and decision making.

His point and Seth’s are the same – it’s not the infrequent and spectacular events that will impact us the most. It’s the common and banal ones. The old frog-boiling myth comes to mind here.

Part of the issue is one of storytelling. Shark attacks, because of their infrequency, make good stories. Stories that spread quickly. Stories worth a couple of news reports and least one theatrical release. Unfortunately, the educational value (“how is my life better now that I know this?”) is proportionally inverse. As always, there are a couple exceptions.

Going back to Seth’s analogy, here in the upper Midwest, we do have a fair number of Deer Crossing signs on our back roads. I suspect a deer accident story wouldn’t be met with cries to blockoff the roadways.

If You’re a Guru, You Need a Podcast

There are a handful of vocations ideally positioned for connecting with customers on a regular basis via audio (podcasting):

  • Politicians
  • Motivational Speakers
  • Professional Consultants
  • Musicians
  • Poet, Author, or other Professional Writers

If your vocation is in that list, find a speech or presentation and hit record. Then send it to your most passionate customers. It’s an easy way to effect them on a different level than just text – more along the lines of a telephone conversation or a voicemail. At a most basic level, audio is better than text for addressing many people at once (that’s why we talk – Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language).

Despite your reservations, marketing guru Seth Godin, you should podcast. Whether or not you charge for it that’s an entirely different conversation.

How to Stifle Teamwork – Part 3

The news reports that US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfled had an opportunity to inspire, motivate the US troops during a recent question and answer session in Kuwait.

Based on this exchange, I can’t say he succeeded in addressing the troops concerns let alone inspire them to go back into battle. That is unfortunate.

“Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?” – Army Spc. Thomas Wilson

Rumsfeld replies, “You go to war with the Army you have.”

More at: [MSN] Troops put tough questions to Rumsfeld

5 Organizational Tips from Academia

This semester I’m one of the coaches in the excellent Visualization program at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. As part of that involvement, I attended their recent new faculty orientation. I’ve culled 5 organizational tips from that meeting.

  1. Have a Warning Sign for Poor Customer Relationships: Each faculty member is asked to contact the Academic Affairs department when any student’s performance falls below a ‘C’. Students are paying for the MCAD experience, and ‘C’ grade is one of the most visible warning signs that something isn’t working. A signal that MCAD needs to try something else with this customer, er student. Does your organization have a warning sign for poor customer relationships? (StoryBlog offers another approach)
  2. Institute a 3rd Question Person: The VP of Academic Affairs introduced himself as the ‘3rd Question Person’ – i.e. if you ask someone a question and they direct you to a second person, and this second person directs you to a third, contact the VP of Academic Affairs. He wants to know both the question, and that it was left unanswered.
  3. Know Your Capacity: Though professors can add as many students to their class as they can personally support, there is a limit to how many students the class itself can support. For example; if there are 20 computers in the computer lab – only 20 students can be in the class without negatively impacting the learning experience. For years, O’Hare Airport wasn’t honest about their capacity – believing they could support >120 take-offs / hour.
  4. Each Organization Needs a Well-Run Off-Stage & an On-Stage:Documentation, research, and internal policies may not be the favorite parts of the job. Though, without them the classtime and student work will not be as successful.
  5. Vendors are not Emergency Response Teams: Include vendors and partner organizations as early as possible, especially when you don’t need there help immediately. A quick phone call or email months ahead of time saying, “We’re thinking of using you for this.” will be better received than a call saying, “We needed you to do this yesterday.” The early communication will provide a higher quality of service.

Pushing the Envelope of Business Requires a Strong Identity

“Hardball involves playing the edges, probing that narrow strip of territory—so rich in possibilities—between the places where society clearly says you can play the game of business and those where society clearly says you can’t.”

An exerpt from the Harvard Business School’s The Hardball Manifesto.

The article’s examples of Hardball companies – Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Toyota – are examples of companies that have clearly defined their identity and by-proxy their reputation. Once a compelling and engaging identity is defined, it provides a framework for making decisions. Without that framework, you can’t stand firm in a decision and can’t play ‘hardball’.

Thanks to Rob at Business Pundit

Taking Ownership

Clients, customers, collegues don’t care why there’s a problem. They just want it fixed and to move on. To do that, each person approached with a client issue needs to take ownership of problem and feel they have the authority to deliver a satisfactory solution quickly.

Take this Ritz Carlton experience for example:

At exactly 7:00 p.m. I returned. I was there, but dinner wasn’t. At 7:11 I called Gloria…she immediately apologized and said a rush would be placed on my order. At 7:22 there was a knock at the door….”Mr. Blackman, Gloria and I once again apologize that your dinner has arrived late. Tonight, your meal is compliments of the Ritz.”

Gloria didn’t need to check with her manager – the Ritz trusts each and every employee to solve their guests issues effectively. All organizations need to trust their employees to take this level of ownership.

Lunch is the Most Important Meal – Redux.

As a follow-up to my earlier post on lunches, I submit this announcement from Duluth, MN’s mayor Herb Bergson.

Bergson plans to visit one classroom each Friday and take a tourist to lunch that day. He also wants to meet with different small-business owners each Friday to see how the city can help them grow.

A very public effort to see his city through its citizen’s eyes. Kudos. If you’re planning a long weekend in Duluth, give Mr. Bergson a call.