Archive for December, 2010

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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?

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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!

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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!

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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.

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FEAR OF CHANGE vs. HUBRIS

December 5, 2010

Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell

Once upon a time, I would have called out a “maverick” John McCain as my favorite Republican…and then he ran for President and his self-importance and self righteousness was exposed.  After his failure to win. I saw a vengeful and unprincipled man. So in the last two years, I’ve continued to marvel that we as a country were saved from his churlish, childish selfishness.  Just think what damage to our nation he could have done on an international scale if, when the world did not agree with him, he threw similar tantrums…a fate worse than the Bush years, I think.

But his “I know best” because he was a military hero 50 years ago has gone one step too far.  The issue of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” is not about the military and those who served in the 1960s.  It is about forcing men and women who have served honorably through-out our history to continue to lie in order to continue to serve their country.  No, it is not about a straight person showering at the same time as gay person…that was happening in Vietnam, and WWII, and WWI, and before-just as it is happening today. For those same bigots, if we allow gays to be “truthful” the sky will fall.  And, let’s not even discuss those who prefer they serve (but silently) because that saves our own privileged sons from having to do so.

McCain is not a mindless person, so my question is:  Is it Fear of Change or Hubris that turned him into  Chicken Little?

The Deficit Commission

Despite receiving 60% vote, the Deficit Committee recommendations did not get sufficient backing in committee to move the discussion to the full Congress for consideration.   Yes, this was not a vote to take action; it was only a vote to honestly discuss the issues we are facing and determine if there were possible actions upon which we could all agree- as Americans, not politicians- to at least discuss further.  Yet, even that was too risky personally to some members of that committee.  So instead, we applaud the efforts, and excuse the inactivity with suggestions that perhaps Obama could act on the recommendations independently (have we forgotten the   ”Just Say No” movement of the Republican Party?)

Although this was predicted, and expected, it saddens me to see that even on a brink of national crisis, our elected “leaders” put themselves first and simply cannot even commit to an honest discussion of where we are, what needs to done to right ourselves, and what of those actions would be supported by the American people in order to save our country. 

This too, I do not understand.  Is this yet another case of Fear of Change or simply Hubris?

As I ponder these examples on the national stage, I am reminded of others – the threats of more action by the Minnesota Republicans once the recount certifies the winner of our Governor’s race, the boomers of our world that continue to cling to their “new world” of the 60s – 80s dismissing over and over the contributions of those that have come after us, the emotional but outdated education discussion, much of which is based on “facts” that have been disproved with recent research,  and of course, the difficulties we are having in our industry moving forward and incorporating the thinking of this century.  And finally, I can think of some personal situations on which I am stalling that if I am honest, I need to add to this growing list.

I would so like to lump them all into the Fear of Change category as then one could sympathize with the naysayers  but I have this nagging doubt that fear is being trumped by Hubris.  And that is discouraging – as we then move from a treatable disease to a life-threatening prognosis.