Archive for January, 2010



January 28, 2010

For several years, I’ve been intrigued as I watched the 20th century business model become diminished.

First, more and more employees took advantage of technology and flex-time opportunities in the workplace. Slowly, we rethought business practices to include intelligent partnerships; and a culture of collaboration emerged where not only within a business organization but between small business, success came from working together with all voices heard. Then, the impact of Web 2.0 combined with the Millennials gaining a voice in the workplace gave rise to a whole series of new changes. We’ve watched a new paradigm of leadership in organizations emerge that is authentic, inclusive, respectful and collaborative – and it moved the emphasis away from control and pushing employees to influence and pull. That thinking was applied to relationships outside our own organization as well, as we struggle with marketing “with” rather than marketing “to” our customers – no matter what media we use to do that. And, most recently, as I shared in a past blog, existing theories of motivation are being challenged and a call has gone out to remake our business world with autonomy at the center.

As new ideas materialized – particularly in terms of collaboration, I have tried them out and for the most part, met with success, learning a lot along the way.

So, last week, Sue Peltier’s face2face blog in MeetingsNet definitely caught my attention. She was responding to an article in the Boston Globe called “The End of Office and the Future of Work”. The basic premise of the article was that as we move away from the old business model and into one where jobs change and the freelance world grows, you lose security, benefits, and the sense of belonging to a community.

And that creates a new need – that harkens back to before the world of corporations, big business, and unions – when workers, united by a common set of specialized work skills, combined elements of a social club and mutual aid society, in what was known as a guild. I would argue there are inklings of that thinking in our local ISES chapter – although still a little rough and not to the extent we include benefits.

Check out

More Food For Thought!



January 22, 2010

As can be expected at this time of year, trade publications are filled with predictive event trends, and industry conferences and local meetings focus on the same.

Each year, with anticipation, I try to absorb which colors will be hot, which décor elements will emerge, which new entertainment will be the hit. And yet, as I look through the tips and advice, I am usually disappointed. I find myself thinking to myself, over and over – “that’s not new; it’s a best practice we have been using for 12-15 years”…”What? Celebrity Chefs were a key element in our selling approach before the RNC!” …”Small portions and spoons, room temp food, and food stations instead of buffets–and the new twist to that is what?”

What does this feeling of “Been There, Done That” mean? Am I so old, everything is coming around again? Is my global background and experience from a past life still coming into play here? Is our industry in the Twin Cities really that parochial? Are we still battling that phenomenon of lower expectations on the home front? Is it worse today because of a perceived need to operate under the radar in a struggling economy? Am I a trend-setter instead of a trend identifier or follower? Does this have nothing to do with me? Is the answer a mix of all or some of the above? Or am I missing the point entirely?

Every year I ruminate about this, and never come to a firm conclusion. But this year, just maybe, a theory is beginning to crystallize. I think it is the difference in outlook between the strategic planner of corporate events and the tactical vendor that serves the multiple markets of corporate, social and non-profit.

Generally, I DO look at things differently than most of my friends in the industry. An event to me is not primarily about the WOW and what’s new. It is a strategic tool in the bigger world of marketing and communications. I need to get the attention of the audience, engage them, and deliver memory joggers that move them to remember the experience after the fact so that they ACT ON message. So, I include tactical trends that help me get their attention and tell the story. Likewise, I need to gather the message from the audience for further action on the part of my client. Those things can’t be the same elements seen, heard or served at an event the guest attended last week. So I am often looking outside our Midwestern world for ideas that have not yet made their way here, and then working with my event vendors to adapt ideas and inventory and to try new things not done before.

That, together with a commitment to budget and to guest comfort, is what drives the concept and design of my events. I expect that those in the industry that play the role I play in the event can relate; while those that provide the needed tactical elements of food, décor, linens and entertainment think I am nuts.

Nevertheless, our local press tends to reflect the tactical trends, and so I will continue, I think, to yearn year after year for an article based on how we in the event world tap into emerging trends such as “Urbany”, (F)luxury, “Mass-Mingling”, “Embedded-Generosity” and use them to enhance our event efforts. Until then, I’ll continue to subscribe to Iconoculture and TrendWatching and try to interpret, integrate and move forward without help from our press or our industry organizations.



January 19, 2010

Sunday’s paper had a review of Daniel Pink’s new book DRIVE; then on Monday morning, the STRIB had more.

A tiny paragraph reported that the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reinforces the “self-determination theory” upon which DRIVE is based. Their study found that people feel better on weekends because they love the freedom and feel more competent. They conclude that “well-being is based on one’s personal needs for autonomy, competence, and social relationships.”

It appears the debate between traditional Motivation 2.0 and Motivation 3.0 is gaining legs.

As for my own thoughts, a little processing over the past few days had led me to open up to much of what was being said-particularly in terms of the need to connect, engage, and be heard. I’m definitely a proponent of “marketing with, not to” our customers and the fact that the world has changed-a new paradigm of leadership is evolving based on influence, not control. That coupled with my own personal experience in the corporate world where I often felt out of step because I was not working for my bonus or to be a Goalmaker – but because I loved what I did and was driven to do it well…for my company and for my own well-being and growth. And, as I look back, for most of my working life, I have been blessed with leadership that has allowed me to do that. And when I did not have that, I had to move on.

So I looked forward to the gathering at Barnes and Noble last nite to listen to Pink, get answers to my questions, and hopefully meld the two theories into something with familiar roots, and an exciting new future.

Off I went, book in hand, along with a list of questions/comments scribbled in the margins of the book as I read it. Arriving about 6:15 so I could claim a good seat, have time to browse through the B&N design section, and still be in place and ready at 7, I was met by a young lady with bad news.

Pink’s flight out of Portland was cancelled; the appearance was cancelled.




January 11, 2010

Once again, my world has been turned upside down by Daniel Pink. In his latest book, DRIVE, he refutes the entire industry that has been the basis of my business successes and travel around the world in the last forty years. He states the world of motivation which I knew and loved, (known as Motivation 2.0 to Pink), has now been replaced by Motivation 3.0. This is pretty unsettling! But at the same time, he put forth answers to all those nagging questions I have had through a lifetime in the Motivation Industry – so once again, he got my undivided attention-if not my immediate buy-in.

A long time ago (back in 2005) I went to hear a speaker at the Ted Mann…and my outlook on the world was altered. I heard about Right Brain Rising, the Creative Class, and why Minneapolis was a great city. I rushed out and bought the book, A WHOLE NEW MIND to learn more, and that I did. The new senses of design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning would rule in the Conceptual Age which already was upon us. As added bonuses, I also finally grasped the concept of negative space as I saw the arrow in the FedEx logo for the first time, was introduced to laughter clubs, and saw my early dyslexia tendencies-not as a problem-but as an advantage. I was hooked on the thinking of Daniel Pink.

A couple years later, he reappeared with the first business book in Japanese comic format – a career guide entitled THE ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY BUNKO. Great advice quickly summarized in just six salient points. I have been looking for a creative application of “Jap-animation” in my world of events ever since!

And today, I have finished reading DRIVE in which Pink asks me to put aside Maslow’s Theory, the theory of motivation I learned in the early days at Business Incentives, and practiced for years at Carlson Marketing Group. Yes, that theory whose residue surrounds me in my office as I am writing this- those clocks and crystal bowls and memorabilia from incentive trips to London, Rome, Israel, Rio , China, and other points around the world. It has been my life forever, but Pink is asking that I take up new banners of autonomy, mastery and purpose and help close the gap between what science knows and what business does to “rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.”

Yes, I’ve read the book, but as a proponent of “no blind faith” – I need a bit of time to process and then re-engage with this revolutionary idea next Monday nite at the Barnes and Noble in Galleria where Pink will be making an appearance. By then, I hope to have my thoughts sorted out. Will you join me? 7PM. Don’t be late.



January 11, 2010

An OP ED in this morning’s paper, aimed at taking an honest look at Afghanistan situation ended with a real thought jogger:

We are becoming very good at uncovering what went wrong—on 9/11, in Iraq, at Tora Bora, on Christmas Day 2009. We are not good at figuring out what the rapidly evolving terrorists who hate us are planning next.

That summary of the “what”, with little thought spent as to the “why” and the “what next” seems to me to be systemic throughout our world today. We focus on hind-sight, past experience, the proven truths of the 20th century and self-righteously make judgments in the context of our “glorious” past rather than the future – let alone the present.

This brought me immediately back to the Harvard Business Review “Spotlight on Innovation” I wrote about in my Dec 13, 2009 blog. Just a month ago, I made a commitment to reorient and look to the future…trying not to protect the status quo and to move forward to embrace a mission for change that would allow me to take risks and give me permission to make mistakes along the way.

I’ve spent most of the intervening month battling a lengthly illness, snow, ice, and cold, doctor appointments and an out-patient surgery. So have spent very little time figuring out how I was going to accomplish this change in thinking and move away once and for all from the tendency to protect the good accomplishments that have come before and focus on what lies ahead.

Despite minimal progress, I remain committed to this however, and think it is a worthy goal, not just for me personally, but for our industry, for our politicians and pundits, for our state, and for our American life. So I am recommitting to Associating, Questioning, Observing, Experimenting and Networking in order to improve my Innovative Abilities to better prepare for life in the 21st century.

Future success will be easier, I think, when there are more fellow travelers on this pathway.



January 2, 2010

It’s New Year’s Day and instead of taking time to make yet one more list of New Year’s resolutions to be broken before February arrives, I just finished reading David Plouffe’s The Audacity to Win – the story of the campaign that put Obama in the White House. As interesting as the story of that success was, perhaps more note-worthy was the summation in the Epilogue.

Whether you are part of the Obama movement, a member of the opposite party just trying to glean information, or simply an innocent bystander, I recommend those last twelve pages to everyone. As I read them, I was transported AWAY from the divided political scene in America today, back to my beginnings in business in the 70’s, and forward through almost three decades of learning guiding principles in the corporate world, and then applying those principles to my own start up business and its growth through the last almost 20 years. And without much effort, I can apply the stated principles to the design of any event that I do today.

See what you think:
• With no equipment, experience or relationships, the start up of a business is the formative period that creates its identity.
• With a mind set of idealism and pragmatism, one’s optimism is closely connected to understanding that a narrow pathway to success lies ahead.
• Develop a clear message and single strategy at the outset. Commit totally to that path, and weigh every decision against it.
• Use that strategy to drive all decisions; minimize the impact of outside chatter, and establish your own metrics -not those of critics or pundits- to measure success.
• Understand that technology will play a key role in your success.
• Define your audience, how you find them and get them involved. Use technology to meet people where they live instead of forcing them to deviate from their own habits and lifestyle.
• Recognize that balanced communications across all mediums is critical in any messaging effort in today’s world.
• Measurement takes discipline and the use of the “right” metrics. Organizations thrive when the analysis of job performance is based on clear standards. Corrective action is not subjective, but based on well-defined objectives.
• An organization is a collection of human beings whose greatest achievements come when clarity, calmness, conviction and collegiality can be found through-out the ranks.
• Success is achieved through people who believe in the culture and authentically embrace it. Bonds of trust among individuals are stronger than traditional tactics.

Throughout the epilogue, I connected. Shun conventional wisdom of why something can’t be done… look at things differently… don’t let critics alter your game plan…see both sides of an issue…learn to give measured responses…so many pearls of wisdom I’ve heard from my own mentors and have come to believe through my own experiences.

But perhaps most impactful, was the Obama campaign’s belief in their young staff and volunteers and their desire to look globally beyond themselves to a better world. I was reminded of a time in the mid-80’s when I spent a good bit of time in Cupertino with a client comprised of impassioned youth who believed they would change the world with their Apple Computer. I irreverently referred to them as a California “cult” … until they proved me wrong.

Today, I, like David Plouffe, look forward to the years to come when we experience the leadership and vision of those under 30 today. The next decade will be in their hands.