Archive for February, 2014



February 28, 2014

Today, as I was cleaning out a file, I found my scribble from a meeting where I was told by a client contact they had $400K available in 2013; and $400K available in 2014 to fund a meeting to be held in the second quarter of 2014.

My original estimate for what they were looking for was $227,000 to cover 700 hours of time needed to deliver eleven-to be determined deliverables of communications/interactive elements.

My most recent quote to them for those very services still to be defined despite 430 hours of discussion is $182,750 for an expanded list of deliverables.   That is a savings of $44,250 over the original or almost 20%.

In this new century, did I miss a change in rules?  Is saving dollars now frowned upon?  Does coming  in  OVER budget signal success?

In fairness to them I reminded them at the same time and ONCE AGAIN that my hours continue to grow (monthly time tracking began October 31 so that situation had been reported in writing monthly ever since.)  I offered several options- two of the four would keep us within the 700 hours originally presented and all four options yielded at least a savings of $24,000 over the original estimates. 

And then began one of those bad dream scenes from a movie.  They did not like any of the ideas presented to date and felt they would get better alternatives from the team, so they would be working with them directly in the future and did not need me any longer.

That’s ok, but the ideas presented were from the very people with whom they are now working directly.  I am not opposed to one on one discussions.…in fact, they were already doing that in subcommittees.

Nevertheless, along with those statements, was the fact that early on they sent me an e mail about 26 brainstorm ideas we had sent them to try to get some feel for what they were looking for, as they were having trouble defining what the “what” was.  They rejected all 26 and told me they questioned my thinking in suggesting that anything would happen in cafeterias “when only 5% of employees” ever go to the cafeterias.

Guess what they decided in the midst of all this brouhaha?  You got it!  All the “interactives” will be staged in the cafeteria.  (Forgive me, it’s their word not mine….somehow the use of interactive engagement to reinforce a message, achieve a goal has morphed to something called “interactives” that  IS the goal of the meeting.  Even my computer knows this is not a word as it continues to signal in red that something is wrong J)  But I digress; my point was the cafeterias have morphed from how stupid we were to suggest using the cafeteria  into their location of choice.

The point is, I don’t think I had a stroke and didn’t know it between May and October when I donated over 100 hours of time; nor do I recognize that I’ve had one sometime between November and today, but either I did, they are crazy, or the moon wobbled; we didn’t know it and its thrown us off kilter.


All I know is after 310 hours of recorded time of which they paid me for 200, I told them I would not work for free for the remaining 3-3.5 months and they opted to set me free.  YES!  Much better to have this be THEIR decision than for the first time in my career, to walk away from a job without finishing it, no matter how bad it is.  Even with MRP, I did not quit the project; I merely refused to attend meetings where a local resident was allowed to scream at me every week.

So all is well that ends well and I prefer not to question a good thing!  Whether it’s me, it’s them, or the moon wobbled, I am happy and smiling again.   And I am sure they are too! J

And yesterday I started a new paying project.  My very first corporate client assigned to me back in 1970 was Control Data.  CDC remained an entity in/out of my first career at BI/CMG, as well as in my second career as the owner of a small business (CEK) that is coming to a close in June.  That variation on a theme has resurfaced THIS WEEK as a possible bridge to a third career and I take that as a good sign.

If nothing else, it’s continuity…even if the moon did not wobble and I AM the crazy one!




February 23, 2014

First the fall on Friday returning from the ENVISION seminar; then today’s walk via skyway to Target to pick up a few things turned into a real disaster.

The Skyway is always my last resort – I prefer the walk outdoors or at least the walk over to Nicollet to pick up the free bus at the library to take me down to 10th street and back…but it was cold and road/sidewalks still a total mess from the storm so off I went in the indoor maze…no hat, no scarf, no mittens, no boots, no winter coat– just a light jacket over my sweater.

All was well, although two 12packs of Diet Coke were a little heavy on the way back…until all of a sudden at Century Link, the skyway door would not open…people trying on both sides to no avail. Slowly but surely we each realized we would have to backtrack (at least 3 blocks for me)….so I foolishly  decided to head to ground level – keep moving in the right direction toward the river and reenter at the next building.

Unfortunately I was not even thinking it was Sunday, not Saturday, and street level entrances to reconnect may not be open….and once out , one cannot get back in.

I was freezing but I almost made it despite the biting wind and treacherous sidewalks  …when at the Crossings Bldg and Second –just BEFORE I stepped out into Washington Avenue, thank goodness, I had another fall….Unbeknownst to me, the cart I was pulling had lost a wheel a few steps before, the cart tipped, and I lost my balance…and soon lay sprawled for a second time in three days on the sidewalk.

Fortunately, I keep a couple Lunds bags in that cart- so had to transfer the groceries to bags; abandon the broken cart on the Crossings steps (not a trash can in sight) , and head out once more now lugging 2 12 packs of soda in one hand, and all the remaining items in the other.

Not good…those last 4 blocks took me forever.  I hurt and I was tired of the cold, and the snow, and trials and tribulations life has sprinkled upon me in recent months.


But as I am sitting here wrapped in heating pads and hot packs, making a list of things I thought of on the walk that I need to take care of, I am generating the “To Do before the Move” list and realized I have already made that March 31 decision.  I am over it applies to a lot of things in my life right now. 

I so want the stars to align correctly so that perhaps all these decisions will be made, the Friends of Hennepin Country will have inherited my personal library, and I can head off quietly with no fanfare in early spring to a new life, new friends,  and a third career waiting for me there.






February 20, 2014

Brace yourself! We’ve had the invigorating respite now that reminded us Minnesota is not just snow, ice and the devastating north winds. And just in case we were outdoors too much and smiled too much over the last 48 hours, the misery is returning.

Personally I am not sure two days was a sufficient recovery time but we have no choice in the matter. Here we go again into Round Two and as I remember well, March and early April are often the real tests of our resilience.

And today is no exception….ISES at 11:15; the Guthrie by 12 noon for the East Downtown Business Forum and a client subcommittee meeting I wanted to at least call in for that also conflicts in time. I don’t know if I will be glad I am walking/running thru the streets to ensure I fit it all in, or if I will be cursing the decision to get rid of the car!


I, too, remember Lake Minnetonka of the 1950s…home to our summer “church camp” and the magical weeks I spent there every summer through my youth.

I, too, am unimpressed with what “progress” has yielded in the area …and am having a hard time imagining what the new “push” for increased “tourism “ will do. I feel like they are trying to return to their roots; but the “good old days” is not that easy to recreate!


I liked a good bit of the plans for the Nicollet Mile that I saw last night, but someone should tell those folks we already have a Nicollet Island. It is a key point in the native people’s story of Creation and Rebirth so tied to the Mississippi River. And a lot of folks LIVE on that island that I am sure do not want to be thought of as living on 7th and Nicollet!

So although the redesign of the 7th street intersection is great (and helps as best it can for taking away my once-favorite event space in downtown – the surface lot that became Block E) the new gathering area should not be called Nicollet Island!

And even though we are only “8% into the design phase”, why have those local folks working with the design team not pointed this out to them before it was presented to a large audience last night?


The first two things I saw this morning before I even opened the Strib were TWO illustrated presentations.

One covered a topic I’m not even interested in…but I was totally hooked on the METHOD within the first couple seconds, watched the whole thing, and even found myself taking notes!

So one more time, I am convinced we are on the right track with our illustrator approach presented to a recent client. Unfortunately our client is less concerned about retention, proven learning methods, and changed behaviors than they are for the quest for a 1990s “WOW Factor”…long since proven to spike one’s BUDGET, but not retention , engagement nor learning. Of course, at the same time, they are also questioning why 19 general sessions in 4 different spaces with 15 different keynote speakers for 5000 people is going to cost $200,000!

Nevertheless, that did not stop my brain. Just now, it immediately started signaling to me we have missed an important interactive piece in our plans! We should include “doodle boards” for employees themselves to tell us what they thought of the meeting, to gather additional input for client use going forward, and to help measure impact. It would complete the illustration circle and provide meaningful data.

So the truth is, I guess we should not be questioning them, but should be questioning ourselves and why we even thought we would be a good fit for this project! Just proves what you don’t know ahead of time can hurt you! For me, there may be an escape route; but what did I do to the team when I got them involved in this?

Nevertheless, whatever the outcome for all, it is encouraging to see we were not off-base with our creative approach, and I think I can leave this world in June with no regrets. Creative Events had a good run in MSP for 21 years; built upon on a strong foundation laid during those first 23 years in the corporate world. I am just sorry that circumstances beyond my control have led to a messy ending. Nevertheless, I am done here and my brain has indeed moved on to start noodling (and doodling) about how I mold that third career of the future!



February 12, 2014

In the real world, we have a judicial system that determines innocence or guilt by judge and peers. Many are accused and found NOT GUILTY; likewise many are found GUILTY and sentenced to the appropriate punishment as determined by the laws of our country.

The system pertains to all citizens including leaders of all faiths….except, apparently, the Catholic Church.

Nienstadt maintains that priests “falsely accused of abuse could have their reputations tarnished”…and thus, disclosure of the accused is unreasonable. Hmmm, I say, and why is this any different than leaders of other faiths…or for that matter, every citizen of the United States that is accused of a crime?

He then proceeds to set himself above all laws. Since he and the Archdiocese have not determined yet if ANY case of child abuse by priests reported since 2004 is, in his judgment, “credible” yet, no names of offending priests for the last TEN YEARS have been released.

I am pleased to see that Judge Van de North has ordered both Nienstadt and Kevin McDonough to create a list of all accused and both men will be required to personally testify – although not exactly under the same rules of the rest of American citizens including mayors, governors, presidents and heads of every other religious organization in America. Nevertheless, special circumstances or not, it still will happen, and they will be held accountable under the law of the land.

Hopefully, the results will clear up some doubts and show the Catholic Church in Minnesota has indeed moved to stop these crimes against the children of our state.

If not, perhaps there will be enough of a crack in the “infallibility” of this organization to at least demand monitored change and oversight.



February 12, 2014


February 10, 2014


A Little Background

Once upon a time in corporate America, we used a communication tool called the overhead.  We typed up a narrative or developed a detailed spreadsheet, magically printed it on acetate, and headed to the Executive Staff Meeting to “share” via an overhead projector.  We stood at the projector, pen in hand to use as a pointer, as we walked through our message and presentation.  

 Time permitting,  we translated those long messages to key points for the overhead.  If we were communicating in a larger meeting, we went one step further:  we created a 35mm slide as speaker support and communication modules.  They were expensive, so we definitely conserved on the words…one word or phrase did it and we spoke to that talking point or took notes of what was being said. 

Along the way, we learned that RETENTION  improved when lectures/speeches and discussions were reinforced  with slides or overheads and jumped significantly as we added images in addition to words, and occasionally, interspersed film. 

 I headed a pioneering group called the Meetings Division at Carlson Marketing Group that became part of those that were setting new standards and by the mid to late 1980s we were well on our way as we added theatrical sets, singers and dancers, car reveals , and “WOW FACTORS”.  Eventually the industry quadrupled product cost, but retention of the message got lost in the shuffle.

Meanwhile, new, less expensive, inventions came to be – the PowerPoint and Video- and slowly but surely we lost our way.  We morphed into a world where good communication was defeated by our own success.  On one hand, costs were escalating; but retention was not; on the other hand, we reduced costs, but retention was overlooked as the PPT deck became a book!  And really, reading a book to the audience instead of engaging in a dialogue does not produce engagement!

A Communications Revolution in the 21st Century

In the mid 2000s, a whole new way of thinking began to emerge about how we communicate with one another.  By 2005, we were learning about “A Whole New Mind” and “Experiencing the Message” and moving towards “An Age to Engage”.

And as I was recovering from my 2002 fall and not yet back to work full time, over the next few years, I filled my bookshelves with epistles about this new wave of thinking.  Communications were tied to real research on how the mind works and how people retain messages, learn, and change behaviors.  John Medina’s “Brain Rules” became my new bible.

By 2010, we lived in a world of engagement and interaction and slowly, our world began to understand  that we still were not on the right track.  Engagement and Interaction created learning; not general sessions with talking heads and PPT.  Some of us have had the great fortune to be able to experiment with new ideas, and most importantly see the retention results improve significantly and be recognized for the successes we have had.  I’m a great believer today in doing away with those General Session massive meeting productions that once upon a time, I helped invent!

Pictures vs Words

What’s that old saying?  A picture is worth a thousand words?

In 2008, I purchased a book done in comic book style called “Johnny Bunko by Daniel Pink, as well as the Dan Roam book “The Back of the Napkin- Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures”In 2009 cameChange by Design” by Tim Brown, CEO & President of IDEO, and along the way, Cathy Davidson, Richard Axelrod, Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham, Jonah Lehrer and Richard Florida contributed their wisdom of how to improve our learning and retention efforts-many of them through the use of illustrations, not words. 

 Sitting on my desk as I write this is yet another book entitled “Business Model Generation”.  It is a “handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow’s enterprises.”  It was co-created by 470 practitioners from 45 different countries.  As I look through it, there is not much space devoted to printed words but page after page of illustrations that tell the story.   It is totally inspirational!

It, too, was part of what led me to suggest to a client that we dispense with PPT and use illustrators to help them tell their story to their employees.   They agreed, but…..

Unfortunately, this is a client that lives by the corporate PPT at its worst.  In their world, the old overhead memo reappears as PPT in mono-color with landscape orientation – even for a phone conversation between 2-3 people!  And yes, it creates glassy-eyed meeting participants pretending engagement while at the same time they are mentally making the “stop at the store on the way home” grocery list.

I think 21st century communication techniques may be wasted on this group, but nonetheless, the juxtaposition between this client and all I see coming from the DMCC Mayo Clinic and Rochester  reinforces the wave of the future and pictoral communications seems to be percolating there in SE Minnesota, much better than here in MSP!  And I want to be a part of that next innovative wave!





February 10, 2014

Viking seat licenses/ticket prices per game will run as much as $12,700 per seat per game for the Opening Season – not counting parking; food and beverage and of course the obligatory purple “costume”. This just makes me shudder.

But not to worry; they did not forget the little guy. At Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the commoners known as stinkards and groundlings stood in the Yard. I guess one should consider it progress that in our new stadium we have reserved 25% of (mostly) undesirable seats up at the top for today’s peons…without a seat license.

I only have one question: How many of the $4,400 – $12,700 per ticket per game folks are champions of the cuts in food assistance for the poor that was just passed as part of the Farm Bill? You know, the argument that said “we can’t afford to feed the hungry amongst us?”

Looks like they ‘ve voted for Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat Cake” attitude. I hope I am wrong



February 7, 2014


Hats off to Red Wing, MN…Finally, a recognition that Columbus was NOT a hero, enslaving the indigenous peoples was not an admirable thing, and the birth of white “supremists” in the Americas was not really a good thing, nor is it worth celebrating….as surely, US historians can attest to.

As we continue to learn more of the ancient indigenous settlement on Prairie Island and its position as a central gathering place at the Crossroads of North America, it seems only appropriate that Red Wing today recognizes the native peoples as they take a lead in Minnesota with rejecting “Columbus” Day.

After all, thousands of years ago in those treks from Alaska, New Found land, Florida and Mexico to Prairie Island, the indigenous peoples “discovered America” far more impressively than did Columbus!


Further, Columbus was following ancient legends of wealth and search for gold.  For hundreds of years he and other explorers stripped the Americas of its wealth – shipping it back to Europe and the Middle East to support their Kings and Queens, the ever-expanding Vatican and the Catholic Church.  Thus began the “Pay us enough money and your sins will be forgiven” twist to religion invented by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.

SO AMEN to the United Nations!  From many perspectives, their recent rebuke of the Vatican is right on and they should continue to push for righting horrendous wrong done by the Church to the world’s children.

This is not a faith issue; this is a pretty black and white moral issue and the Catholic Church represented by the Vatican has connived and hidden it away for generations as they-to borrow a term from the wiser indigenous peoples-spoke with forked tongue.  I’ve said before, they are not a model based on the life of Christ.  Along the way they chose to protect themselves and sacrifice the flock.

Apparently the Vatican is particularly irritated for the UN criticism as it pertains to the Vatican stand on abortion and contraception.   As for that, I chose to fight my battle for equal rights for women in the business world, not the religious world ; although I strongly disagree with the Vatican’s stand on both and see it only as an issue of control, power, and wealth-long a motivation for Vatican actions in many issues over the centuries.  So I’ll save my comment on women and their treatment by the Catholic Church for another time.


The closing of the Upper Harbor Terminal seemed so far in the future when I first became aware of the issues back in the mid-1990s at gatherings of the Mississippi Mile.

And now the year of change is upon us.  It’s a good thing as it comes to an end and “new” plans for transforming it into a place for public access to the river, new businesses and a link to the Grand Rounds have been established and stand waiting for implementation as outlined in the latest “above the Falls” plan so many of us have been involved with in one capacity or another over the last few years.

Nevertheless, there remains a couple nagging thoughts in my mind, We will celebrate when the Terminal is closed and we will explain it away as another bad idea of the 1960s motivated by sibling rivalry among the two sister cities….but will we race headlong into another 50 year mistake  or move forward cautiously?

Will we allow time to “discover” what was there BEFORE the Terminal or before the white man invaded and claimed this ancient part of the river as their home?

I understand from my friends this once was a battleground as Chippewa migrated south and the Dakota fought to protect their homeland.

Will we take the time to test excavations before we unknowingly teardown the terminal and rush to build anew?