Archive for the ‘The Next Decade’ Category


The Millennials

October 27, 2012

Yesterday, the STRIB Business Section featured Coco as the “office” of the future. The accompanying photo caught its “visual” essence superbly; but only if you stop in for a visit, does one catch the positive vibe! I’ve mentioned in the past how much I admire the concept and rennovated space; in fact, if I was not sitting in my home office (read: free space) only 3-4 blocks away, I’d like to think I’d be composing this from there!

However, I think the article focus conveyed a more important message:…the Millennial workforce and the changes they are bringing to the business world.

I have aired some thoughts on this in my August 30 blog, and again last week, I mentioned an inspiring “breakfast with a Preservationist” meeting led by a panel of the “Under 30s”.

Nevertheless, I think Don Jacobson nailed it in his article featuring Coco and why it is appealing to the Millennials. It is because, these Millennials, like the transitional early Boomers, have a very different view ofthe world in which they find themselves…and are clamouring for change. No one my age can honestly say they cannot relate, so my suggestion is we hang on, listen and learn!!

Ponder on these comments by Jacobson and the message from Thomas Fisher, Dean of UM College of Design to a gathering of commercial building owners :

That highly covered corner office may just be more passe than powerful.

Thanks to profound social and economic changes brought on by the Internet, millennials are reshaping the so-called office. They want to do away with the hierarchiacal layouts of the past and build collaborative spaces where they can rub elbows with clients and colleagues.

Millennials…see privacy as a negative…by 2025, “the office” as we know it will probably be gone.

How they use space flips what we have today: Most of an office will be open, flexible and fluid in its use, with only occasional need for private space.

The transformative power of the the Internet on how young workers will do their jobs, has, if anything, been underestimated.

…millennials preferences for live-work hybrid spaces that combine not only apartments and offices, but also small manufacturing functions….

Yes, this paradigm shift poses challenges and threatens city zoning codes, but we cannot rigidly hold on to the past if we want to succeed as a country in present times.

For the millenials, the office space isn’t necessarily a place to do work, it’s a place to network. It’s a place to be with other people and generate as much creative activity as possible.

The audience was also cautioned that places of work within 15 years will need to be accessible by bicycle and mass transit. Firsher cautioned the audience that “If you’re only accessible by car, you’re going to find people starting to look elsewhere.”

These comments so reinforce what I have been observing and commenting on. My regret? I won’t live long enough to see where this generation ultimately steers our world-and I know that will be a bold new world led by Americans fueled by innovation and collaboration and not restricted by the rules and regs we Boomers have adjusted to…that created the stalled and divisive state in which Americans live today.



September 17, 2012

Voters over 65 represent the age group least supportive of Obama in the upcoming presidential election, rather than following the 20th century Democratic model of the traditional Medicare advantage.  The Press continues to paint this a “paradox”…sometimes with an implied,” what do they know that we don’t know” undertone that speaks loudly of “Father (read: Elders) Knows Best.”

And once again, I say, older voters represented by traditionalists and the first boomers to retire are far too engrained in twentieth century thinking to be the “trusted” resource on this issue.  That is what they learned; that is what they know; that is how they excelled; that is what they expect the world to be going forward.  And therein lays the dilemma.

Changes in the world that began in the 1990s and rapidly accelerated exponentially as we transitioned into the new millennium are challenging all those familiar axioms of our comfortable past.  And change is the least comfortable (and more threatening) the longer one has been vested in something.

So it should be no surprise to press or knowledgeable politicians that this is the case.  It is a natural phenomenon and reaction to change that often destroys the comfort of foresight based on experience.  Experience, although important, will not be what steers us forward safely into the future.  

The Obama administration originally campaigned on hope and change…..I saw that change not as the insignificant- by- comparison personal change but the all-encompassing world changes from the growth in the digital world to collaboration and sharing not brute power, to the rise of radical Islamists, to a new world that replaces the Industrial Century with new challenges, just as the industrial world replaced the agrarian culture of the century before.  In the age of globalization, we needed to change as a country in order to build the second American century – not by brute force, but by emerging new values and skills and ways of leading the transition with thought and understanding, not guns. 

I still believe that this is, indeed, the change needed for the United States to move triumphantly into the future.  But today, I recognize that I was naive to expect that the first explorer of this new world that lies before us, Barack Obama, could facilitate this change painlessly and all by himself.  Columbus may have changed the world of the Americas when he “discovered” us, but it took many more courageous explorers before we amassed the knowledge we have of the earth today!

And, yes, the Obama promises included plans to better the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a host of other things…some accomplished, and some not so much.  And so, like many explorers that have gone before him, Obama has been questioned incessantly.  We often ignore he  had a BIG SURPRISE waiting for him that had not been revealed when he developed and delivered that campaign strategy….a dirty little secret from the first decade of the 21st century was about to explode….economic practices run amuck were about to wreck havoc on America and the world, and create the greatest financial crash since 1929! 

So while I understand the hesitancy of that elderly group, my only question is why do I – a member of that demographic – see things differently?!!  Maybe I just wasn’t as vested in our unsustainable future, but more realistically, realized it could not last; maybe I was just too against a war we did not need to be fighting in Iraq; maybe my research in experiences, engagement, the impact of technology on my own little world of meetings and events gave me the “cushion” I needed to anticipate world changes as well; or maybe through that research, I was beginning to see the cracks in what had come before, and simply recognize, from living through it, that there had to be a better way. But deep down, I think I got it because I was open to the thinking of the generations coming after me, found them inspirational, and had already experienced I could learn from them as Obama emerged on the scene….so maybe not being so invested in ME, I was open to the change that he envisioned.

And maybe, understanding the changed playing field he inherited, and the fight to save our country he had not planned he had to take on, I gave him a little slack.  That and the knowledge, that even with 20/20 hindsight, I have yet to see anyone always have all the right answers.  Whatever, I still stand with the man – even if that means I stand against my own generation.





December 16, 2010

Last night I listened in amazement to news commentators question why TIME named Mark Zuckerberg PERSON OF THE YEAR…not because they questioned the impact of Facebook on our lives, but because he was so young…and weren’t there older people that should have been honored?  Really?

We talk daily about the exponentially changing world in which we live and what that means…do we really think that growth is driven by Boomers for goodness sake?

So I say “hat’s off “ to TIME – and to anyone reading this over 35 years old, my message is: get over it and move on.  Worthwhile ideas that change the world most likely will come from Millenials and younger, so act your age and let it go.  You might learn something.

And speaking of amazing, I was reminded once again of another amazing practice that still is followed, despite the emphasis on clean air, pollution, no-fragrance policies  in the workplace, CSR policies, and just general awareness of food and smell allergies. 

This morning, when I leaned down to pick up my paper at 5AM, I immediately sneezed.  Before I even dissembled the bundle of papers, I knew…somewhere lurking within would be a poisonous perfume advertisement.  And sure enough, Macy’s “Believe” was the polluting culprit.

After I carefully recovered it, sealed it in a bag and disposed of it, I sat down with coffee and paper and once again thought, “I am amazed”.  Why in the world do we continue to tolerate this dangerous and disruptive marketing practice?  We’ve been talking clean air since the 70s, folks-you’d think by now, we would have eliminated this.  Or isn’t anyone but me impacted by this selfishness?

And finally, I read with amazement yesterday that employment opportunities for meetings and event planners are expected to grow at a rate of 16% over the next decade or so – faster than the average of all professions.  This was attributed to the growing importance of meetings in increasingly global companies.  Say what?  What happened to all those industry complaints and whining over the last 2-3 years …or was that just a good cover-up?  Here I thought I was the only one that had the two best years in the two decades since I founded Creative Events. It’s amazing….isn’t it?



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?



November 13, 2010

The Republican two-year campaign to win the 2010 elections was effective; yet, it has been made to seem more ominous and a sign of the times than it was.  Remember, it is a relatively normal cycle that has been repeated in some fashion throughout our country’s history – a contribution to the over-arching system of checks and balances as effective and important as the interplay among the branches of government the administration, the congress and the courts.  It was neither a great country-changing victory nor a life-threatening disaster.  It was an adjustment and should be treated as such. Learn, integrate the impact, and move on.  For me, I hoped this would signal  a return to sanity as we eliminate the extremes so that some measure of collaboration could be introduced into the way we govern ourselves…and perhaps as time healed the campaign wounds, together we could have an honest discourse of what we need to do to move forward.

This week, an Obama-appointed bipartisan deficit commission released a preliminary report on what needs to be done to get the country on track – to recover from the expense of the 21st century wars and the emergency actions to stop the 2007-2008 slide into a repeat of the Great Depression.  It laid out options – some favored the right; some favored the left – but the report in general clearly laid out the over-arching problems this country is facing and some options that need to be considered in order to move forward.  The conversations on TV and on-line over the last two days seem to show a general consensus – this will be hard; there are some things I as a Democrat, a Republican, a Tea Party member, or simply a independent-thinking American individual would not wish to happen, but in general, most of the feedback thus far indicates those that have read the initial overviews feel it is a realistic assessment of the problems we are facing and a realistic assessment of what kinds of things need to be addressed to get back on track.  And most feel it is a starting point for discussion and reassessment of needs and values that will form the basis of the actions that may take ten years to cement.  And although I naively wish for a quicker relief, it did take decades of dangerous thinking to get us to this place of pain, so I should be happy it might only take ten years to recover.

So, for me, there was a sense of relief to hear that perhaps sanity will prevail.  Just like the American public that made hard decisions and sacrifices to individually whittle down their own personal debt in the past 2 years to the tune of $ One Trillion, so must the government.  Some changes I will be happy about; some things I will be less so – but none will be life-threatening – nor will they place this country in a place where we are worse off than the rest of the world inhabitants – we will still live a good life.

And yet I fear in today’s world of internet and cable TV connectivity, the negativity and our new tolerance for half truths and outright lies in this election may have a broader and deeper consequence. 

And this morning in the Strib, I saw proof of that fear.  A letter to the editor demonstrated for me that not all the public saw the Deficit Commission preliminary report as a ray of hope.  One reader called it a doomsday scenario, a dog-and pony show led by Bowles and Simpson to scare Americans into an austerity program aimed at further injuring the middle class.  For him, since it did not support his own ideas, it had to be a Republican plot.

It was troubling to read that proof that the polarization and negativity continues and needs to be fixed – another task for our system of checks and balances – and one, that although it starts in state capitals and Washington, must also be supported by the media self-correcting its own actions.  Put the country and its citizens first over ratings. Give the country a fair chance to let the checks and balances work!



October 26, 2010

“Only one more week, but first comes Halloween” was my mother’s response when as I child, I would ask in anticipation, “Is it my birthday yet?” Unfortunately, because a week’s time was not an easy concept to grasp at that age, I focused on Halloween as the culprit. If there was no Halloween, it would be my birthday. And so I grew up disliking Halloween – an attitude that still has impact as it is my least favorite of all holidays!

In my 20s, birthdays moved from thoughts of cake and presents to celebratory drinks…and once again I thought I was cursed because early November birthdays meant the celebration was “always” (maybe twice in a decade) impeded because of election day and at the time, the “no selling of alcohol until the polls closed” rule. So not only Halloween, but Election Day interfered with my celebration.

Today as I sat at my desk and thought “only one more week”, I had to chuckle. Yes, one more week until my birthday, but what I was actually thinking was we only will be subjected to this incessant madness of negativity, disrespect, shouting, twisted truths and misjudgments one more week and then the elections will be over.

Most think of this as a mighty struggle between two political parties that both think they have the “right” answers and the right governing philosophy. I think of it as a mirror of my frustrations with my industry. Both reflect symptoms of human nature-and our difficulty in accepting change.

Both our government and our industry, I expect, are caught in the classic struggle of stick to what we know, judge based on history, protect the past and our old “truths” vs. exploring, moving forward, experimenting, and searching for new ways and new truths because those old truths have failed us.

The Cityscape in MinnPost yesterday featured an interview that caught my eye, in which Dean Tom Fisher, Uof M College of Design, indicates we are in an exciting time, at the cusp of a renaissance …the problems we face in the 21st century are profoundly different than those we faced just a few years ago.

Fisher suggested that the meltdown of 2007-2008 brought us into an entirely different era while the political arguments remain the same – and from my perspective, mostly irrelevant! And yet we accept this tremendous cacophony of the 2010 Elections and governing cycle as just the way it is.

A glimmer of hope, however, as Max Lenderman in his blog this morning pointed out a new trend in Advertising –when after their marked loss of revenue as a result of old thinking, a few are now venturing forth to reinvent themselves to become relevant again, and even using experiential campaigns as TV spots with good success.

If Ad Agencies after 50 years of “reigning supreme” can recognize this new world we live in, perhaps there is hope for politics (and our own Event industry) as well. Perhaps by 2012 Election Cycle, we will have moved to authentic discussions that demonstrate innovation, interaction, engagement and collaboration. To quote Dean Fisher, “this is no longer about managing situations. It’s about finding leaders who will tell new stories about the reality we’re in….we operate as if we’re still in an age of survival of the fittest, of competition, of setting up political enemies and polarization, about Democrats and Republicans when the real world now depends on mutual support and cooperation. ”

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that for all of us to recognize this will take much more than “one more week” !



April 14, 2010

Today’s issue of Special Event Eventline definitely hit a hot spot for me. So forgive me, as I vent.

No, I am not here to agree with Andrea Michaels about how rough things are. I am writing to say KUDOS to Nancy Shaffer of Bravo Events by Design for understanding that the best thing about the “Great Recession” is that it is proving to be a wake-up call in all industries and for us, I would say, Thank Goodness – there is FINALLY some that are seeing the light!

Yes indeed, the appearance of not being “lavish” is and should be a high priority. However, I would strongly disagree that it is a higher priority than staging an effective event…unless our definition of “effective event” comes only from our own perspective. Did we get to use the latest supporting tools of the trade- trends in color, floral, entertainment and furniture? Did we get some great photos that will help up win awards and promote our celebrity? Did we get to take some time away from the office to travel to the proposed site, be wined and dined and treated as a VIP as we made a value judgment on whether the destination or venue would work for what we had planned? Did we work hard? Did we make lots of money?

For those among us that think that way, that world was allowed to flourish for a short length of time only because we were a new and exciting twist in an industry that catered to clients inexperienced in the world of events. That bubble has burst and rightfully so. Again, this latest scare should be considered a reset in our thinking-a wake-up call to evaluate what we do, how we do it and what benefit and value we provide. In the corporate event world, our mission is not that illusive WOW-factor; it is to facilitate delivering a message. That WOW-factor is only a tool to help make the message memorable and deliver a call to action.

An effective event is a two-way street; if it did not deliver to our client the results it was designed to do, it was not effective. We offer a service, friends, not an opportunity for our clients to spend money. At the same time, because we have the expertise to design the on-target experience that delivers a client’s desired outcomes, we can demand respect and adequate compensation for our efforts. But we have to earn it. In the future, we may need to work smart instead of hard.

If we think we are being mistreated, now might be a good time to look at ourselves. Why is that happening? I expect more of us will do as Bravo Events by Design concluded….the change in the business climate means we have to change the way we do business – as well as our attitude.

Nancy Shaffer is absolutely correct. Effective events are achieved not thorough an adversarial relationship, but by partnering with the client. “We are not just party planners. We are the producers of the live elements of a company’s marketing and communications campaign.”

Once again, I end with an oft-paraphrased thought from Joan Eisenstodt: What we have accomplished in the past and know today means little. It bears no relationship to skills we will need to be effective in the future – whether or NOT the budgets available increase. That NEW DAY is fast becoming the NEW WORLD. Get used to it.



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.