Archive for December, 2009


ZERO GAINS: 2000 – 2009

December 30, 2009

“The aughts pass; essentially for naught…” said Paul Krugman in his New York Times column reproduced in the Strib this morning. Initially, as I reflected on my own path thru the decade, I had to agree that I would not like to re-live or re-experience most of those ten years.

Recessions, terror attacks, misguided wars and mean-spirited politics on a national level; deaths of friends and family members; personal illness-from a serious back injury to cancer scares, and certainly resulting financial difficulties on a personal level – so no, I don’t hope for a repeat!

And yet, friends, family, great clients, some fabulous events, a few industry awards, a rebirth of Creative Events, a whole new world of emerging technology to explore and apply, a new generation of politics and governance…as I think about it, many good things came forth in the last ten years as well.

So, I , too, welcome the end of this decade but at same time, as the Iconoculture newsletter today points out, it’s now a start of a new landscape, filled with opportunities for those willing to seek them out . Since I hate to think the painful parts of the aughts were for naught, I’d rather think that we learned from the mistakes and are ready to move forward putting this transition between very different centuries behind us.

I’d say we are lucky to be where we were at the dawn of the new millennium….it could have been much worse!



December 25, 2009

A THOUGHFUL FRIEND said the Peanuts cartoon this morning as it wished its readers “Merry Christmas”.

And indeed, thoughtful friends made my day yesterday, as I drove back from the Rochester Christmas through the storm and prepared to spend the first Christmas Eve of my life alone.

So Merry Christmas, Marylou, and thank you for the phone time last night and the offer to spend Christmas Day with the Krallman clan.

And, a special thanks to Kimberly Cantlon (even though you were calling from a sunnier site) and to KJ (my favorite Forms Queen ever) for the wonderful messages you left on my phone yesterday.

You three made my day and the happiness carried over today as I also missed Christmas with the other side of my family. I’m hoping all three of you had the best holiday ever!



December 22, 2009

My gift shopping was done in October… my decorations and trees were up in November… my holiday party was held the first week of December…my year-end financials are in order and I have checks ready to go for fourth quarter taxes. This year I was determined to avoid that holiday/year-end meltdown with some focused pre-planning!

And then it began.

A routine car maintenance appointment uncovered a sick transmission. We are rolling the dice a bit as it could go tomorrow or in six months – who knows for sure. But when it does, I want to be near Auto-Truck – that means out-of-town excursions need to be limited. So a decision re rental car vs bus to Rochester for the holidays got added to my lists of to-do’s.

The computer upgrades planned for this month were installed last week. New software, new docking station, new connectivity, new monitor, new laser printer and an old brain led to computer failure by Saturday.

A medical situation arose and after doctor appointments and ultra-sounds and inconclusive tests, I am en route to a pre-op for some minor surgery scheduled for Monday…all making that pick-up and drop off of a rental vehicle more complicated.

And of course, there is the weather – with a major storm en route as I contemplate driving in an unfamiliar rental car through a major storm TWICE to get to Rochester and back for the holidays.

So far, so good; I am calm. And then….

As I was pulling the gifts from under the tree to pack for the trip, I was a little “fuzzy” about what was in each, (am I losing my mind?) plus the bows were all falling off. That did it. I had the annual holiday meltdown! Fortunately, I was here by myself, so friends and family were spared. And now that it is over, I can relax, roll with the next week and whatever it brings as I enjoy my favorite time of the year.

May you all have safe journeys and a Merry Christmas whatever your plans. Peace and good will to all!



December 20, 2009

Hour after hour for a couple days now, we have heard on major networks and cable TV about this devastating snowstorm that has crippled the East Coast. I’ve watched or listened in sympathy, as those who aren’t acclimated to this phenomenon, have struggled with road, airport, businesses and mall closings and for some, with the experience of being stranded along the roadside. But little did I realize how much the media reporting was influencing me!

A few minutes ago, I looked at my lengthy list of pre-holiday and year-end tasks to be done today and thought to myself…”maybe I’ll just curl up with the paper and a little music and wait ‘til the snow stops blowing and the roads are plowed.”

That was great demonstration of the power of the press because it is not snowing here in the Midwest! And yet, the commentators, without trying to, through constant repetition and hype about a storm out East, convinced my brain that the storm was happening to us! How scary is that?!!! Of course, it could be a symptom of my own mental state, but I prefer to think of it in broader terms.

The Fourth Estate was, at one time, our source for the verifiable truth via network news programs. Kronkite, Huntly-Brinkley, Brokow and others didn’t share opinions – they gave us the facts as best they knew them, and we trusted them. Is it any wonder then, that as we added cable to our viewing experience, we took with us an attitude of trust and so have difficulty comprehending that what we hear often is opinion and not necessarily researched truth?

We add that pre-disposition to believe to a second pre-disposition to HEAR that which supports our own opinions and MUTE what might make us give pause and think, and we may have at our fingertips the reason we as a country are so polarized. We still trust that those we turn to for input are the replacements to the trustworthy news anchors of the past. We can’t accept that at least in the entertainment world of cable TV, what we hear is driven by strong views and competition for ratings. The sound-bytes validate our own attitudes and before we are even aware of it, we absorb the opinions as the TRUTH. And most of us are not even aware that all the truths being told are not in sync with each other. Amazing.



December 16, 2009

Thanks to the Strib, I started the day with a smile when they included a brief article in the Variety Section about bludot’s “ A REAL GOOD experiment” .

If you don’t know this company, check them out at They are quirky, fun and REAL GOOD.

My infatuation with them began when I first noticed their furniture in European design magazines a few years ago and realized they were home town peeps. At the time, they had done little in marketing in the Twin Cities and were not a familiar name. From a visit to their website, to a visit to their headquarters, to their annual sales events, to exploring a collaborative partnership for a bludot lounge for the press during the RNC, to frequent visits to their retail outlet, Roam, to see what’s new, I am a REAL GOOD fan! Trust me, learn who they are, and you may become one too.

And today? Today I learned that one of my favorites, the REAL GOOD chair (I want two for my office in red) was the focus of a “REAL GOOD experiment” in NYC. Twenty-five chairs, some armed with GPS, were dropped at locations through-out New York City. As they were “curb-mined”, bludot followed their travels through out the city. Check out the results on their web – it will make you smile too, as you witness this innovative example of experiential marketing!



December 13, 2009

There are those that recognize my creativity and think of me as right-brained. And there are those who know me for process and financial acumen and think of me as totally left-brained. I have always struggled with what might be amiss that I seem to have moments throughout my life when I demonstrate strengths in both; confusing those around me because all of a sudden I do not “fit” in the category in which they have placed me.

For years, I have bristled at those that use the terms creativity and innovation interchangeably. To me, creativity was just an innate ability to come up with something different; while innovation was the ability to apply that creative idea to meet an objective and accomplish a purpose. So when clients did not praise our “creative ideas”, I was usually the lone wolf preaching that no, the client wasn’t the problem, we had somehow missed the mark. For most of my life, that has been met with blank stares and if anyone agreed, it was only to humor me or to get me to shut up!

So when I saw the December issue of the Harvard Business Review and its cover advertised this issue was a “Spotlight on Innovation”, I bought it, thinking – finally I am going to be vindicated and my way of thinking validated.

And with that, a whole new way of thinking opened up before me!

Innovators engage both sides of the brain as they leverage the five discovery skills to create new ideas…creativity is connecting things…Innovators question, observe, experiment and network. Then they associate those four patterns of action to cultivate new insights. And best of all, this is not necessarily an innate skill – it can be developed and strengthened with practice. Innovators question, observe, experiment and network more than typical executives because they are motivated by two common themes- they actively desire to change the status quo rather than accept the tendency to prefer an existing state of affairs and they embrace a mission for change which makes it easier to take risks and make mistakes.

Wow. All that in the first article! I’m not sure I will have enough time to accomplish all the things I have just added to my “to-do” list that will lead me to become an innovative entrepreneur, but today, I shall start down that path to see what I can learn.



December 7, 2009

Just before Thanksgiving, I completed a lengthy project assisting Lawson Software in vendor reviews and selection for both their annual user’s conference, and for their annual incentive program.

It was a great experience, first of all, as it exposed me to a first-class organization and two teams of stakeholders that were passionate about improving their programs. They were committed to the process, readily available, respectful of the process and each other, and open and willing to push to move their respective programs forward to better serve the needs and objectives of their organization.

It allowed me to use a lifetime of experience accumulated over 40 years with incentive programs, meetings, conferences and events. At the same time, the process pushed me to focus on the latest engagement tools from new technology applications to a changing adult learning model to new ways to look at customer feedback. Along the way, I encountered what’s happening in the meetings and events industry in EMEA and APAC and learned that some cutting edge things are developing out the world that we here at home should be taking a look at.

And probably equally important for me personally, through this project, I am beginning to understand that social media is a misnomer. The term “social” should be replaced with “virtual” and viewed as a new powerful means of communication that expands our reach, our input and our understanding. It’s not a question of either live events or virtual; it’s the emergence of “hybrid” that at some point in time in the future will become the norm for all of us.

Equally rewarding, Creative Events received continual positive feedback from both the client and industry peers in the process we used. Some years ago, I was part of the APEX Best Practices review teams and specifically addressed the RFP process. So our process at Lawson started there and expanded the basics to include a comprehensive brief on the existing programs and their desired outcomes, clearly outlined not only the review process but also the specific information to be addressed and finally, included an Innovation Challenge that tested each vendor’s understanding of the client’s desired outcomes and how current trends might have a positive impact on accomplishing them.

Who among us could ask for more: to work with great people; to use the experience one has accumulated, to learn good things along the way; and to earn recognition and praise from our peers? And to get paid a fair price for our expertise as well!

So thank you Carolyn Vinup at HPSS for recommending me to this client; thank you Lawson CUE and CLUB teams for the great learning experience, and thank you to all the vendor finalists. It was a revitalizing experience. I’m renewed, inspired and ready for more!



December 6, 2009

In November, I had a birthday. And within a week, I was flooded with mailings from a variety of heath insurance companies and others asking me how my retirement plans were coming. What a disconnect!! Hasn’t the world out there heard me say I want to mirror Ruth Code and still be doing events when I am 80 years old?

After raising her family, Ruth began her event career. From her days as a step-on guide, she grew to a full-fledged event planner and a resource for sophisticated, tasteful and authentic décor. Ruth and Leisure Code epitomized event excellence. This classy lady mentored several of us as we found our way in a fledgling industry in the early 90’s-and for that, I have always been grateful.

Debilitated with rheumatoid arthritis at 80, she fought hard to overcome the issues surrounding that. But when climbing ladders to set an event became too difficult, she succumbed and retired. With her clients’ interest at the forefront, she matched their profiles and needs with strengths of some of us and then asked us to care for them. From Ruth, I inherited a division of General Mills.

A couple years ago, I saw Ruth at the grocery store. She was 85 then, and frustrated that she hadn’t found a new career replacement to stimulate her like the event world did – but she was still looking because she did not want her brain to stop working!

Her enthusiasm and inspiration continues to motivate me to keep up and keep going and I thank her so much for being the role model to demonstrate that it is possible.

I confess, there are days, in this current world of exponential change, that I wonder if my passion for this industry will be sufficient…and then I remind myself – I am doing this not only as a career, but like Ruth, I need the Brain Food!