Archive for December, 2010

h1

TOGETHER WE’RE BETTER

December 15, 2010

It started with a passage in “The NEW Social Learning” this weekend…

The 21st century mind is a collective mind where we access what we know in our friends and colleagues brains.  Together we can be smarter and can address ever more challenging problems.  What we store in our heads may not be as important as all that we can tap in our networks.  Together we are better.

And someplace in the depths of my brain, a switch turned on…”Together we’re better; we’re better together…There’s just no mountain we can’t move” and try as I did, the melody just would not go away.

So five days later, I caved in and this morning, searched everywhere for NARRATIVE BEDS – which I was sure I would have more luck locating than “BB plays CMG” or a box of show tapes packed away for the last 25 years. I did find it, and have now been on a mental tour that began in South America and progressed across the US from sun-up in Florida to sun-down in Seattle as I listened to the Minnesota Orchestra play Billy Barber in the longest opening mod I have ever heard or seen. And along the way, images of dewdrops on an orange, and coffee beans and light trails of semis at a distribution center on the west coast merged with a barbecue at the farm, entertaining the client in our box at the Dome, no air conditioning in our hotel as fear of “slide amebas” grew, freeze-frames from 16mm to slides, two green-sprout girls on their first show, as we taught them to steal hotel furniture for stage props,  and after an aborted balloon drop, a crazy creative director jumping into the middle of a net stuffed with inflated balloons. Oh my.

And of course, once I was playing the CD, how could I resist the 9370 Reveal or the Navistar Open/Fit and Finish and more images…from that gorgeous silver 9370 coming over the hill, to the shots of a red logging truck coming down the mountain trail as Al hung in a harness from the helicopter in the rain to shoot it, to over a thousand giddy grown men crawling like ants over and under and into the new trucks.

And then there was Billy and Hollywood calling from New York to announce they were recording the Navistar track on a synthesizer (a what?) and trying to convince me I would love it; we did not need the MN Orchestra for this one.  They fought hard, and finally we compromised.  Record it; bring it back for the client to hear, and in the meantime we would hold the sound studio and orchestra – just in case.  And I wasn’t paying, if the client didn’t like it. From there, a whole new menu of “firsts” was launched: machine-made musical tracks, graphic laser effects mixed with atmospheric lasers, and a stage that parted to reveal not a truck but the orange diamond road…at the dawn of a new beginning. And somewhere along the line, we even let video replace the superior 16mm!

Wow! We had an innovative and creative group producing great meetings for great clients. And all before we even knew what a pectin was!  Lots of good memories of all the team.  Al and Hollywood, I am missing you today and all that you taught me! Together, we WERE better!  Wishing you and all those that survived us a very happy holiday!

(I should have skipped the CMG Prism track however….good images of that Dayton meeting? Not so much. Although, that is where, over a bloody mary, Wikstrom and I dreamed up the product expo concept so we would never again have to be breakout speakers at the national sales meeting-especially with Daytonians in the audience.)

h1

SOCIAL LEARNING

December 14, 2010

A new term in my vocabulary, and perhaps in yours…and if so, make note of it; remember it; seek out more information because I am convinced, we will all hear much more about this as we move forward into the second decade of this century…some of us still dragging our feet and holding on desperately to the familiarity of what we know and excel at in our past.

Thanks to the big winter storm here in MN, I was given a precious gift-two “found” days this weekend to lose myself in “The New Social Learning”  -with a short break once in a while for a peak outside or a quick escape into the world of Tom Clancy, to allow my mind time to process what I was discovering.

When I read the forward by Dan Pink, I knew I had found a gem…”Twitter, Facebook, and their social media kin are not all about marketing.  They’re equally if not more so, about learning….”  YES, finally a resource that positions social media not as a personal or corporate marketing tool but as a collaborative aid to facilitate learning! 

With that to peak my interest, I delved right in and before I finished the introduction, I was impressed with the authors’ realistic and thoughtful approach to this topic.  After an opening chapter on trends reshaping the workplace, the challenges and opportunities of these shifts and how social learning fits in this environment, the authors address, chapter by chapter, a specific social media category, its application, how these practices overcome business challenges, and how to address the critics of each.

Criticism.  Now that is a phenomenon I have encountered most of my life, and certainly recently as I have used this blog to contemplate ideas gleaned from industry thought-leaders  re adult learning, alternatives to consider when structuring conferences going forward, and possible options to minimize ineffective general session costs.  I recognize that criticism is a normal reaction to defend the familiar status quo, and generally, after the first sting, adds value to the innovation process, as it points out weaknesses to be overcome, or sometimes simply prepares one for that natural phenomenon of naysayers that are lurking in the wings.  But Bingham and Conner reassure the reader that the criticism generally falls into 3-4 predictable categories; then they build the case of how to dismiss its negative impact, and offer up success stories of those national and international organizations that have already forged ahead to embrace the change.  They even include top-notch examples of Governance of social learning use within some impressive corporations.

And best of all, they did not write this book frozen in time, but as two of the most respected names in training and development, they recognize that the tools discussed in the book may have dramatically changed by the time the book is read, so they created a complimentary website to keep the conversation current; provide more about applications of interest to each of us, and even “getting started guides”.

All that and I had not even started the book yet!   Needless to say, by the end of the weekend, the book was filled with margin notations and my ideas journal reflects a long list of action items; including some quality time devoted to that website! Today, let me end with some memorable thoughts put forth in the Afterward of this new treasure chest of ideas:

Once you move away from the push of information to the pull of learning, you liberate creative powers  in your people to succeed in this rapidly changing environment…once you make it easy for people…and you create an environment where people are not afraid to fail, you allow them to ask the really hard questions. …It’s about making learning a priority and using the tools of social media to facilitate a culture where we get better at getting better. It’s no longer about just being a better competitor.  It’s now about being a stronger contributor and a savvier learner. 

AMEN to that.

h1

HOLIAY TRADITIONS LOSE TO MN WEATHER

December 11, 2010

With three holiday gatherings of my own, a few fun celebrations hosted by friends, and a host of organizational  events that varied from blah to inspiring behind me, I was SO looking forward to the traditional experience of the “Black Nativity” at Penumbra tonight.

I was counting on it to refresh and invigorate me for the last two weeks of this, my favorite time of the year.  I needed the magic of this performance for renewal and inspiration to carry me through  a quick site visit to Vegas of all things so that I could arrive in Rochester on the 23rd still filled with the holiday spirit- and ready to enjoy a reunion of college friends and of course, precious time with my family.

Not so fast, sister.  After all, I live in Minnesota and today at 2PM we have long passed the prediction that the storm would taper off by 11am and turn cold.  I went for a short walk at noon (and wasn’t it nice that two different cars slowed down to ask if I needed help when they saw me?) and although I made good progress outbound for 15 minutes, the return- walking straight into the north wind -took 35 minutes with scarf and hat quickly encased in ice within just a few minutes.    In the meantime, Penumbra cancelled tonight’s performance.  I am so disappointed.

So after shoveling a little “escape route” if necessary away from my porch, I’m back inside and here for the duration I guess. 

I should consider the rest of day and evening “found” time – maybe even get my house cleaned – but that seems like more punishment on top of the weather, so instead, I think I vote for some quality time with that stack of books I see piled next to my desk.  Will it be finishing Erdrich’ “The Painted Drum” so I can return it to Cindy, or Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From”, Binger/Conner’s “The New Social Learning” or  will I just snuggle up in my reading chair and escape with Clancy’s latest – “Dead or Alive”?

h1

FIGHT VS NURTURE

December 11, 2010

As many know, as election time arrived, I had not been able to resolve my personal concerns I had about Mark Dayton; hence after much angst, I cast my vote for Tom Horner who represented to me, the pragmatist in the middle.  No, I had not converted to a Horner disciple, I merely thought his stand on issues gave us the best chance to move forward in consensus-building to save our state and get us back on track.  I expected Dayton to win, but voted my beliefs and hoped Dayton would then find a place for Horner in his organization.

Through the recount, both Emmer and Dayton behaved as adults – despite Republican Tony Sutton’s diatribes and finally, reprehensible behavior in leading his party to vote several great Minnesota statesmen and former Republican leaders “off his island”.  Ugh to that brand of any political stance! On one hand, it most likely makes Tom Horner ineffective as he is now deemed the spoiler by the Republicans, but at same time, it opens up to Dayton  a wealth of knowledge and advice of those that have been marooned!  The time to fight is over; the time to nurture is upon us.

So now it is official; Dayton is Governor-elect and so far, so good.  Dayton pragmatically reappointed Pawlenty’s Transportation head so that Minnesota did not lose his knowledge, insight and plans to fix our badly eroding infrastructure (and hopefully his influence on federal transportation dollars despite the Oberstar loss?)

And then today, his appointments made me smile, as led by Tina Smith, his key top aids are all women! YES!

No, I am not a feminist.  But early on in my corporate career, I learned that a man’s reliance on caveman “fight or flee” mentality generally resulted in more power struggles than positive results- as so much time gets lost in pontificating and lining up allies and too little time is spent in strategy.  Somehow, as a young green spout, I sensed that I needed to recognize, understand, and learn how to quietly circumvent that men’s club-not take it on head to head. And so my own competitive spirit, stubbornness and tenacity led me in another direction.  During the 20+ years I played in the corporate arena, I tried hard and generally succeeded, to depend on strategy and consensus–building (despite never being able to conquer that female “emotional” trait).  And surprise, despite not having the “power”, I got things done-and spent very little time assessing whether I had “won”. I tried to live by a mantra of “I have not failed; I just have not yet achieved success”; and slowly, slowly, I moved forward.  When I left that world, I left behind me, a whole new generation armed with the knowledge and tools to push forward in the continuing evolution of change that should occur in any organization. And I have watched with pride as they did just that and trumped my successes over and over again.

And so, as I have watched Mark Dayton in the last six weeks, I’ve been encouraged that we just may have a chance to recover…and show the country that purple states- when they put aside their childish antics- not only excel but can become role models for others.  It’s time now to put the fight behind us and after these long dark years of Republican/Democratic impasse, refocus to nurture and help our state grow.  Minnesota has done it before in many arenas; and I am looking forward to working together to do it again!

 POSTSCRIPT:  I realized this morning I did not get this posted yesterday, and reading it over in a different frame of mind, I was struck by how applicable these thoughts are in other avenues of my life as well.  As men ,and women both, experiment, learn and meld together those old cavemen instincts of fight or flee vs. nurture and grow, we cannot help it…our instincts oft-times won’t let us “let go”.  We all need a reminder – what we have fought to build needs the same chance we had – to experiment , change and grow – generally not in our likeness, but in an innovative and improved direction…and if we cannot do that, we become the poison that kills the growth.  A lesson I’ve needed to learn over and over again- in business, in organizations to which I belong, and in my volunteer work – how about you?

h1

KUDOS!

December 9, 2010

Perhaps it was just the mood I was in…but my copy of the December/January Issue of Event Solutions Magazine  that arrived last week is filled with my notations from cover-to-cover.  Notations of things that are new to me that will support my events and help me convey a client’s message; notations through-out a feature called Trend Report that were indeed new trends…”moving with the culture”…immersive…augmented reality…maturialism…next-besting…social gaming; a great use of QR codes; a feature on Jeremy Gutsche whom I just recently added as a personal source on emerging trends; a right-on column by our friend Steve Simmons on the New Digital Learning Environment; some good suggestions from Lara McCullough-Carter on connecting and of course, Ryan’s Design Column was fun, as many of the things he suggested were things that he, Chris and I have experimented with here in our market that yielded great results for our clients!  I finished the magazine smiling.

In interest of disclosure, yes, I sit on the magazine’s Advisory Board, and have been watching in the background as the magazine is being transformed through new ownership and leadership to meet the needs of the emerging world of events in the 21st century. 

Oh yes, like life itself, there are some things in the issue I shook my head at-and added to my list of “Is there a way to work on that”…but overall, I think this issue moved Event Solutions from a “brag book” and industry ads (both elements needed and welcome) to a magazine with a promise to us all that it is a source for new ideas that will help move our industry forward. So my congrats to all the staff involved – “ya done good” and please, keep on pushing the envelope!

h1

DAY OF INFAMY; DAY OF HOPE

December 7, 2010

Sixty-nine years ago today, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and changed our world as we knew it.

Thirty-two years ago today, I was in Honolulu, standing in front of the Sheraton Waikiki watching a sea of Japanese – just arriving on the daily 747 from Tokyo-walk to the hotel from Kalakaua where their buses had dropped them.  We joked that we were witnessing the second invasion of the Japanese-this time as tourists, immigrants, and future business leaders whose influence would be more lasting than that day in 1941 when they staged their surprise attack and launched the Pacific Theatre of WWII.

Since today is also my older sister’s birthday, December 7 is a date that does not slip by unnoticed for me; and today is no exception.

As I was reminded of Pearl Harbor (and Pearl City and my favorite hang-out, the Pearl City Tavern) and that day I witnessed the crowd of 300+ Japanese tourists slowly moving en masse up the side street, blocking all traffic, I was suddenly struck with another thought.

I was in Honolulu December 7, 1978 on a site visit with my BFGoodrich client…waiting for Dusty Rhodes to pick us up for a meeting to finalize the BFG incentive program  that included a one day “experiential marketing event “– the first ever BFGoodrich “Buying Opportunity” for dealers.

A new idea; a gamble; a shot in the dark with no knowledge of how it would turn out; simply a gut feel hatched between the client team, our account executive and me…that changed MY world long before Events became an industry.

In February, 1979, as part of the “Great Life” dealer incentive trip, we instinctively engaged the BFG dealers on the lawn between the Sheraton and the Royal Hawaiian and that afternoon, they were motivated to buy sufficient quantities of TA Radials to finance the entire annual incentive program for a year – including the diamonds they won, based on points earned on purchases-as gifts for their spouses!

Back then, it was proof that Motivation 2.0 worked and was the beginning of a reroute in my career from incentives to performance-improvement meetings to interactive product expos that emerged as our point-of-difference in Carlson’s Meetings Division in the 1980s and led to Carlson’s first attempt at Event Marketing in the early 1990s…and eventually led me to leave that corporate world and launch Creative Events in 1993.

The pioneering journey took 15 years of trial and error with no supporting industry to tap into to learn how to do it, why it worked, or how to do it better.  We simply instinctively continued to build on past experience –with results improving little by little throughout the years.

So why then am I surprised that as the industry was born and grows up, it is taking what seems like a lifetime to move from adolescence to adulthood?

It was 37 years between the Day of Infamy and that first BFG inspection trip where we witnessed the “second invasion” of Honolulu by the now-friendly Japanese.  We marveled that day on what a significant change had occurred in such a short period of time!

So, I guess that means, I should have patience – it may take the events world 37 years as well to accept the power of experiential marketing and move forward with us into the 21st century.  Instead of the Day of Infamy, I should look at today as a Day of Hope!

h1

SMASH THE STATUS QUO

December 5, 2010

This past week, a favorite commentator of mine from News Hour, the conservative David Brooks, wrote a column in the New York Times in which he shared his vision for how Obama could take charge of the tax code discussion and move our country forward.  As I read it, I marveled at its simplicity…and how it would help us re-think our nation’s debt and future – not through the disheartening process of compromise, but through consensus building.

Basically, he suggests that Obama issue a simple statement that positions it is not worth having a fight over a tax code we all hate…but instead, we give ourselves one year in which the Bush tax cuts remain in place, as do unemployment benefits.  But in that time, we commit to engaging in a comprehensive tax reform plan where throw out the existing code and build a new one. We eliminate loopholes, take on special interests, lower rates, and from scratch, build a tax system that works, is understood, and lowers taxes and creates jobs.

Brooks contends that this would shift attention from the big-government vs. small-government debate; shift resources from unproductive consumption to more productive investment, shift money from the affluent elderly to the struggling young, and eliminate parts of tax code that erode personal responsibility and emphasize parts that encourage responsible risk-taking.  Makes sense to me!

Brooks sealed it and earned my support when he said “…the president would lay something like this at the feet of the Republicans and ask:  Are you ready to have a conversation, or are you the party that can’t say yes?”

He ended the column with a wish for action: “Some days, gridlock seems permanent and fatal.  If only Obama would grab tax reform and use it to smash the crust of the status quo.”

WOW!   

Again, I am left thinking of other applications…maybe this is the real “trickle down” effect – from national to state to local; and along the way, we include our industry and our own personal, sometimes rigid, thinking!  That concept of Status Quo feeds right into my last conversation, doesn’t it?  I think it is the gate-keeper behind which lurks both Hubris and Fear of Change.  As I ponder this, I realize, it doesn’t matter which feeds the inaction-the real barrier is Status Quo.