Archive for April, 2012

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2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

April 29, 2012

I am passionalte about collaboration as the winning direction of the 21st century.  I have spent five years reading, thinking, and testing what that means and how to best make collaborative thinking the standard approach in my world.

So today, I tried to LISTEN impartially to the political discussion on Meet the Press.

And yet, I am sitting here totally stressed- almost sick to my stomach-having just witnessed a microscopic preview of the next six months.

Historically, I know there have been similar times, and we, as a nation, adjusted and grew.

But today at least, I am thinking that the best way to personally survive the next six months is to do as Meet the Press did this morning, when they ended the hour with the focus on the SNL version of the two candidates.

Hopefully, then, I will be able to at least LAUGH about how ridiculous and out of touch with facts and reality this all is!.

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PLAN-IT HENNEPIN

April 28, 2012

Yesterday, Plan-It Hennepin truly went public…via the interactive billboards on Hennepin Avenue.  Did you notice them?  Do you have suggestions for preservation, improvements, additions, or revitalization along Hennepin Avenue from the Mississippi River to the Walker Art Center?

This is your opportunity to help visualize what could be.  Take advantage of it!

BACKGROUND

Early this spring, the history/city planning interests of my youth that have kept me an active volunteer for over fifteen years in the revitalization of the Central Riverfront, led me in a slightly different direction.

The Downtown Council’s 25 year plan piqued my interest, with the vision of Hennepin Avenue as a renewed gateway to the river.  And even more important, their revision of the downtown boundaries to now include the University campus now makes Minneapolis a city where “a river funs through it” rather than just a city of lakes.  What a wonderful positive example of rethinking!

And so, when I heard about “Plan-It Hennepin”, I knew I had to participate.  Little did I know I would become part of an engaging, interactive experience that surpasses what our own collaborative team has been doing over the past five years in the corporate world, but they are doing it NOT only with technology and social media, but with an emphasis on the arts!

In fact, you may hgave heard that the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Hennepin Theatre Trust a $200,000 grant (supplemented by an additional $50,000 from the City of Minneapolis) to transform Hennepin Avenue into a “cultural corridor” that stretches from the Walker to the riverfront.

Plan-It Hennepin is the result.  It is a year-long project which began last September; then added public conversations and workshops stretcvhing over March-June this year as part of the overall process for re-imagining Hennepin Avenue.

HONORING HISTORY:  THE AVENUE THROUGH THE AGES; PUTTING OUR STORIES ON THE STREET WORKSHOP

The first public meeting of Talk-It Hennepin began with apanel review of Hennepin Avenue history-tracing back to a Navtive American footpath and ending with the late 1950s “urban renewal” that saw the demolition of the Gateway District.  Two days later, we met again for an amazing two-hour workshop entitled “putting Our Storeis on the Street”.

Four Minnesota aartists – Ta-coumba Aiken, Mankwe Ndosi, Leah Nelson and Harry Waters – each led a breakout.  Each used their art form to engage their team.  From a unique exercise to create each team to the close, this event taught me two hours of new wyas to start dialogues, collaborate, and share stories and dreams.  A different approach than I am used to, but with marvelous results.

CREATIVE URBAN INTERVENTIONS; CREATING URBAN VISIONS

Thursday evening we gathered at the Walker for a dialogue with Candy Chang, a TED Senior Fellow, an Urban Innovation Fellow, and a “Live Your Best Life” Local Hero by Oprah MagazineThis was another amazing experience – this time not in style of presentation (very traditional) but her sharing of what she has done amazed and inspired us all.  I Wish This Was stickers allow people to share what they want in place of vacant storefronts around the world; with Before I Die, she transformed an abandoned house in New Orleans into an interactive wall where residents could share their dreams.

Her automated system, Neighborland.com, helps communities shape their cities…and yesterday, in conjunction with Forecast Public Art and Chear Channel, it was launched as a public art experiment on Hennepin Avenue via nine interactive billborads flashing Neighborland messages.  Street Art in today’s world.

Before I Die was also launched Thursday as part of “Artists in Storefronts” in the WHittier neighborhood.  You will find it at the Fallout Gallery at 2609 Stevens Avenue. The WHittier project hopes to reanimate the streets, spur the economy, and have fun.  The Opening Night Party yesterday kicked off the project which will close on June 9.

MORE TO COME

Saturday’s workshop, Creative Urban Visions, again using words, drawings, sculptures, theatre and dance is sold out but there are still opportunities to get involved in several activities the week of May 7, and in the closing sessions at the New Century Theatre in June.

Check it all out at www.hennepintheatretrust.org/plan-it-hennepin.

Meanwhile, I am off to start “The Art of City Making” by Charles Landry, international authority on the use of imagination and creativity in urban change.  He is featured at engagements through-out the Twin Cities the week of May 7.

I am not sure if Dr. Borchert would be pleased or distressed to see that I am returning to my roots after all these years, but I am sure he will be listening in to the “Connecting Cities, Connecting Cultures” neighblorhoods dialogues about the Central Corridor Light Rail Line from Hennepin Avenue through the U’s East Bank to Lowertown, St Paul. And so of course, I’d best do my homework and Be Prepared by 10AM Monday, May 7 when I arrive at Cowles Center to hear what Landry has to say.

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REST IN PEACE, Tom Langlais

April 27, 2012

Forty years ago, I met a hotel man that  inspired me to become who I am today.  This morning, I am saddened to learn of his passing. I am flooded with memories of what I learned from him-not only about hotel operations- but more importantly, he taught me to follow my instincts, deviate from expectations, and most of all, have fun!

We shared some great success stories at the Radisson South, beginning in the early 1970s with Winnebago Dealer Days and continuing well into the 1980s when I returned to Minneapolis and was employed at Carlson Marketing Group. The Radisson South was still the flagship hotel at Carlson Hospitality in those days, so our paths crossed frequently from company and departmental  holiday parties to internal meetings, and of course, the South was the preferred site to house and entertain visiting clients.

One ocassion in particular stands out.  We had just been awarded the Control Data 100% Club – a long-time client of another local incentive house (and my first travel coordination project as I began my journey in the world of incentives and performance improvement when employed by that same competitor).

So I knew the client personalities well, had hosted them in that favored suite overlooking the pool, and was not looking forward to more of same to celebrate not only the holiday season, but also the signing of a three – year agreement with them. I instinctively knew the client would not be looking forward to yet another cocktail hour mingling on best behavior with their new vendor any more than I was going to enjoy it.

So off I went to meet with Tom, having explained I was on a mission to find someplace NEW and EXCITING to hold this celebration.  We started at the top of the hotel, in what was once Mr. C’s, and looked at every empty space, every restaurant and bar, every ballroom and meeting room from the main building to the newly opened annex and “new” lobby area. Since chef’s tables in facility kitchens were an emerging trend at the time, we even wandered through the kitchen.  Nothing was clicking.

We finally sat down for coffee, to discuss how we might be able to make the new lobby area work, and yet still have some privacy…and in the course of the conversation, I mumbled something about I wanted this to not be the same old, same old – that  I wanted the evening to demonstrate that CMG was different, good things were ahead, and I wanted to demonstrate we were starting with a clean slate.

That triggered an “epiphany”…I believe it was Tom who mentioned the hotel laundry room and as they say, the rest is history!

We were off to tour the space and within minutes “The Clean Slate” Laundry Room party was born…we quickly had a plan and both of us had some work to do – to sell the idea at the hotel, and at CMG. On my end, this was no easy task…the account executive agreed, but the CMG president, although he followed my logic, was not totally convinced.  So permission came wrapped in a threat – if this was not a success, I would no longer be a CMG employee!  Undeterred by the doubts, and with Langlais encouraging me, we went forward.

Invitations went out for holiday cocktails at the Radisson, and as expected, we got the RSVPs- most with caveats that the person would “stop” but had another commitment that evening.  This fed into my original  instincts and encouraged both Tom and me to do all possible to make this surprise location become the background for an experience all attending would long remember.

And yes, considering it was the 1980s, it was a little too “themed” but it communicated our message – CMG was not going to be content with the same old, same old  and we would be a great partner for CDC.

Did it work?  I can only say that at midnight, Tom had to ask me to shut down the 6 PM gathering so that the hotel could get the laundry done and be ready for business the next day!  Who knows what happened to all those commitments our guests had for later in the evening.

Was it memorable?  Many of the 30-40 guests assembled that night in the laundry room at the Radisson still are in town, many still in the business, and whenever we cross paths, once the greetings are over, the first topic of conversation continues to be the Clean Slate holiday party!

And yes, the event’s success ensured we both kept our jobs at Carlson Companies!

Thank you Tom Langlais for the memories.

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THE DIGITAL WORLD IS GREAT…

April 17, 2012

Until the Hardware Fails!

On March 6, as I had assumed the temporary role of taking notes at the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership Board meeting, my 10 month old ASUS Laptop failed. I lost two hours of note-taking; and began a slow meltdown that culminated with a total hardware failure the following week.  Eventually, the machine was shipped off to theGeekSquadHospitalinChicagofor major surgery….with an expected return last week.

So I limped along….with my phone as my only connection to the world – and only resource to frequent phone numbers or frequently used e mail addresses.  Inconvenient, but manageable for about a week…and then the final week before an event delivery became a little stressful…but we survived.  Event day came – we set up; we had an audience for two hours; we tore down…in spite of no technology.

The arrival of April 1 and all new challenges:  how does one check balances, pay bills, etc….when access to all the data is via a sick machine in Chicago or in a single file on an external hard drive (with nothing to plug it in to except a pay per minute of use computer at Kinko’s?)  Ugghh.  But after hours and hours, I figured it out, and I THINK I met all obligations on time….except for a credit card bill…which was having its own technological hitches.

 Yes, in the midst of my own challenges, in late March, my credit card company in an attempt to make our data safer, asked us to change passwords and update security questions  –  Ok, handled via phone, and let’s move on…..well, not so fast.

I got the e-mail – payment is due….for two days, I could not get into the system because  it thought I was using the wrong password, but eventually it worked….until it started insisting I had answered the question “In what city were you born” incorrectly.  Three more days of trying intermittently without any luck, and now I was pretty frustrated.  After all, who was right – me or them on where I was born?!!! But chalking it up to perhaps I typed it wrong when I updated the security question, since all I had was a tiny phone keyboard, I kept trying, to no avail.

Time to move on and try to reach a real person, as I don’t know my balance nor an address for the credit card company.  I prepared myself for a long wait….but did not prepare myself for after 15 minutes, a recorded voice would come on to report that no trunk lines were available-call later, and then would disconnect me…over and over and over again.

 Eventually, I persevered. I talked to a real person, trying hard not to take out my frustration on him…and he shared that there was a glitch in THEIR system when they switched to the newly input security …and NO cardholder that had updated passwords or security questions could get access and ALL OF THEM had been calling!  Oh my.  No wonder the Trunk Lines were unavailable!  More joys of the new world in which we live! 

Nevertheless, I have been limping along; trying to be patient until last Friday when my machine was scheduled to be back in Mpls.

No so fast…parts on order; could be another two weeks.  But don’t worry, if total time in theGeekSquadHospitalexceeds 30 days, I win!  I get a NEW 2012 model ASUS off the floor at Best Buy.

Somehow that is little consolation when here I am – a month after the problem started, still without a machine and another week or so to go before I can go pick up something new.  

The good news is that I am not in the middle of project.  The BAD news is that I am not in the middle of a project…as I will soon be out of money and among the destitute because without that miracle little machine, how does one market, find new opportunities and keep the cash flow balanced? 

So that’s my excuse and sticking to it for why you cannot reach me, have not heard from me or even seen me!  Hope all of you are alive and well….and I will be, once I can figure out how to triumph over the hardware!

April 17: A GOOD ENDING:  The patient is home from Geek Hospital and doing well…the operator is being challenged a bit, but finally, this morning, I made a connection to internet and am in business…the home page is changed; the search engine is changed and all is well.  Now if only I could figure out why the PRINTER is still asleep, all would be good in my world.

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NOURISHING CONNECTIONS; FOSTERING TOLERANCE

April 8, 2012

This morning the STRIB featured a family celebrating Seder with not only their Jewish friends, but also Christians and other non-Jews.  For them, sharing of the Passover ceremony with other faiths is a pathway to promote understanding and tolerance.

 

Reading the article, I was flooded with memories of my childhood, growing up in Rochester, MN, as a member of s small church that taught us there were many pathways to faith and for worshipping God. 

 

In Sunday School and Summer Bible School, we learned the principles, not only of our own church, but of those churches and the synagogue within walking distance of our own building – because as part of our religious training, we visited them, learned the basics of their doctrines of faith, and were welcomed into their worship services.  Most importantly, as we were encouraged to listen and to question, we learned those churches were home to other kids just like us. Humanizing a different culture or faith goes a long way in fostering tolerance and ultimately nourishing connections.

 

That, and I think a deep-seated love of history that provided the “whys” of the splintered Christian faith, and its emergence and growth from Jewish roots, instilled in me not only a curiosity for doctrine differences, but also an understanding for other religious points of view.  It certainly explains why I remain, to this day, a member of that body of Christians that celebrates ALL Christians, and insists that doctrines and human differences should not be allowed to divide believers from one another.

 

The recent letter to the editor by Dick Croft sums it up well in a quote from Helen Keller:

 

“The highest result of education is tolerance.  Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage,-the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience.  Tolerance is the first principle of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think.  No loss by flood and lightning, no destruction of cities and temples by the hostile forces of nature, has deprived men of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed.”