Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

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MEETING DESIGN: The What, Why and How

August 15, 2013

Yesterday, I received the advance copy of the MPI launch of their new initiative – a focus on Meeting Design.  It, along with a supporting case study based on our own collaborative efforts in conjunction with Boston Scientific and the CRV All-employee meetings of 2010-2011, will be introduced to 71 chapters of MPI around the world over the next several months. 

On one hand, I feel like the proud mom, to be even a small part of the movement that grew out of the mid-2000s, that I was experimenting with here in Minneapolis in 2007-2008 with some good successes surrounding the Republican National Convention.  As I was reading and researching and re-thinking the world of “meetings”, Maarten Vanneste was doing the same thing – “popularizing it in his book,  Meeting Architecture, a manifesto (2008)”.

Slowly, the interest and understanding of a new approach to our business grew; the successes happened and were acknowledged in trade press; fortunately for me, a colleague in the industry here in the Twin Cities was also following the transformation and change in thinking and opened the doors to us at Boston Scientific so that we could become the case study that is included in the MPI international launch.

Although I am tempted to use the cliché, “The Rest Is History” – it really is not.  It is only the beginning.

I have associations with several professional organizations – two of which seem to be launching the new approach Big Time this year…and that is a good thing.  Nevertheless, it will not be an easy transition.

I myself am currently working with a client that daily reminds me of the great task ahead as we move forth to try to modernize our own industry.  I have been working with this “Event Team” for 6 weeks now; and long ago lost count of the number of times I have been challenged by two members of this mini-steering committee (who in their professional lives handle meeting logistics for their own organizations).  I have no doubt they are passionate people; that they are passionate about logistics; and they are passionate about being right and doing it their way.  They are not so passionate about collaborative thinking, however – which is, indeed, the very key to the successful transition into the new world before us.

That first step –the Principle of Collaboration is an elusive one for many people. MPI describes it and its importance well:

Tap into the collective intelligence of the group to better understand its needs, generate new ideas, determine best solutions and put plans into action….the wisdom of the crowd is an invaluable resource.  Inherent in every meeting, is the opportunity for change, progress and innovation.”

And so, as I proudly read the final version of the MPI Meeting Design initiative, and the final version of the accompanying case study, and forwarded it to the rest of the team, I was quickly brought back to reality.  

Yesterday was a baby-step forward.  The rollout in MPI Chapters internationally will be baby-steps; the fight for successes in this new world will be baby step after baby step.  The work is not done in modernizing our industry and pulling it – screaming in protest- into the 21st century.

 PCMA is doing a great job in moving forward leading the industry as they have done with forward thinking since their first publication of the book “Professional Meeting Management” in the 1980s that led to the CMP certification process. (And yes, I am as proud to say that I was one of first five CMPs in Minnesota, as I am to say, I am proud to be one of the 5 founders of  the ISES chapter in Minnesota, and proud to be working with MPI to launch the Meeting Design approach all these many years later).

 MPI has now made the initial move; I think ISES is trying to do the same with their new educational approach.  But none of us have learned to walk yet, let alone RUN with these new ideas.  With time, we will get better – just as over time, we got better with the logistical end of our business.

In the meantime, I am comforted to read in the new initiative:

Meeting design challenges the status quo.  It represents a paradigm shift-a profound change in the fundamental meeting model that sees every meeting as a nail for the proverbial hammer of logistics. Logistics is building a house; meeting design is making that house a home….meeting participants needs are evolving beyond satisfying their basic needs for food, shelter, safety, proximity to others and  exposure to others.”

Basic needs:  food, shelter, safety, proximity to others and exposure to others.  Taken out of context, that conjures up man’s move out of the cave and exploration of the world around him, doesn’t it?  Those that were afraid to leave the cave and explore for new opportunities died.  And that’s what makes this exciting! 

“Attendees want innovative, unique experiences that challenge their senses, their expectations, their knowledge and their ideas.  Fulfilling on that is the ultimate value of meeting design.”

 

 

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COLLABORATIVE PRINCIPLES

April 15, 2013

I often refer to the world of the 21st century as the world of collaboration-rather than the world of hierarchies we knew and understood in the 20th century.  Within my own world of events, we have been experimenting with the collaborative process for almost a decade now, and many of us are convinced that although it is “messy”, it yields better results for our clients because we pool all perspectives to come up with a single vision and action plan to move forward to accomplish the client’s defined goals.  Working together, listening, challenging, and gaining consensus on an action plan has served us well-whether we are addressing desired outcomes, design, production, communication, learning applications or a social media plan within each event.

Meanwhile, slowly but surely, “collaboration” is being kidnapped by the technology world, as its definition has been applied to the emerging world of technology and social media.  When one sees “collaboration”, one can expect to hear/read about how best to integrate social media into an organization.  So I often find myself scanning an article quickly, but a recent article in Tech Republic entitled “The 12 Habits of Highly Collaborate Organizations” caught my eye.

The author, Jacob Morgan of Chess Media Group and author of The Collaborative Organization outlined several principles that I think are applicable in any situation-not just when building a social media platform to facilitate better communication and collaboration within a specific group.  I offer them here as food for thought.  Note that I have used the term “employee” as Morgan did, but I think this is applicable for customers, vendors and partners as well.

  • ·         Individual benefit is just as important as the overall corporate benefit (if not more important):  Don’t focus on why this is important to your organization; focus on what the employee is looking for-how will this make their jobs and lives easier.
  • ·         Strategy before Technology:  Although this is self-explanatory I think, I also know how often we jump from a problem to a popular solution-technology or other-without taking the time to clearly think it through, develop a strategy, and THEN select a best solution that can be monitored and refined through-out the process.
  • ·         Listen to the voice of the employee:  Make employees a part of the decision making process from the beginning.  Listen to their ideas, their needs, and their suggestions and integrate their feedback into your strategy.
  • ·         Learn to get out of the way:  Learn to empower and support your employees and then get of of their way.  “Managers need to follow from the front.”
  • ·         Lead by example:  Leaders can facilitate change and encourage desired results if they are visibly part of the process.
  • ·         Integrate into the flow of work:  Collaboration becomes the process; not an additional step to accomplish work.
  • ·         Create a supportive environment:  Recognize and reward collaboration, not just individual efforts.
  • ·         Measure what matters:  Try to measure engagement-how connected and passionate an employee feels about the company and the work they do.
  • ·         Persistence:  Making collaboration work isn’t AN option, it is THE option.
  • ·         Adapt and evolve:  Collaboration is a perpetual process, not a one-time exercise.  We need to adapt and evolve as things change; keep a pulse on the industry; and innovate and anticipate.
  • ·         Employee collaboration also benefits the customer:  Employees are able to provide a better experience and superior support by being able to tap into internal experts, information, and resources which can be used to help customers.
  • ·         Collaboration can make the world a better place:  Yes, it provides better solutions for our clients, but it also allows those who collaborate to feel more connected, reduces stress at the workplace, makes the job easier, allows for more work freedom, and in general makes us happier people.

This all makes good sense no matter where you are collaborating or with whom.  I’ve condensed and paraphrased the twelve habits, but if you wish to read the full article and check out a great and simple graphic illustration, see http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/tech-manager/the-12-habits-of-highly-collaborative-organizations.

 

 

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MORE on ENTREPRENEURSHIP…in the GREAT RESET

October 5, 2012

Did you listen closely Wednesday to how Romney was going to increase jobs?

I hope so, as you might want to compare his plan – based on what he learned as a business leader 30 years ago to the latest reality-start up companies.  Since 1977, there has been a net increase in jobs from businesses other than startups ONLY SEVEN TIMES.  And start-up companies have changed significantly over that same period of time.

Start-ups are hiring fewer people; they are depending more on contract workers.  At its peak in 1999, new start-ups employed 7.7 employees; in 2011, that number is 4.7 or a 46% decline.  That means the numbers Romney knows from times past will most likely not be achieved in times present…despite his claim that from his “experience” he knows he can do this.

This revolution in start-ups and small business started first in Japan in the 1980s when manufacturers learned the value of creating products in smaller batches and refining them more often, according to Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean Start-up”.

Then, in the ensuing twenty years, as the technological impact became apparent, first through tele-commuting, those small businesses learned they are more flexible by using “contractors”.

It is a concept I have personally been experimenting with since 2007….which lead to a new sales high for me of almost $ 2 million annually in 2010 and 2011…with no employees.  But more importantly, it allowed my company to better match the needs of my clients to very specific talents of contractors resulting in far less cost to the client than were I to have maintained a pool of potential skills within my own organization…and all the administrative staff, space and other overhead to support that pool of labor.

Fortunately, I also do not have to be concerned about “stakeholder value” so no decisions need be driven nor dollars diverted from obtaining client satisfaction; all sales dollars can be focused on providing top services at a fair price by the best in the industry….as supported by awards, honors, press, and the recognition we received for our work over those same two years.

This is a 21st century phenomenon now being called the Jobless Entrepreneurship.  It is part of the change we are seeing in this digital, collaborative age of the 21st century. It most likely is partly responsible for slower than desired job growth and recovery since our economy imploded in the previous administration.

In spite of that, I’m proud to be one of the pioneers; and already, I am seeing those that have come after have experimented and tweeked and achieved ever increasing results for their clients.

There is no doubt, today’s entrepreneurs and their clients are on board and continue to push the envelope for better results.  Results for clients themselves and for those they employ as contractors.  If you haven’t spent any time in the “Business” section of a bookstore, you ought to plan a trip….Social Media, Learning, Collaboration and Contracting are front and center, as well they should be….because it is working!

It’s only the Politicians and the Press that are lagging behind.    And I can assure you from experience, the 1980s successful businessman running for President does not have today’s business answers. 

But what about his Governor experience, you say?  Compare Bill Clinton of the ‘90s to Bill Clinton of today.  He may have built on his experience in the ‘90s; but he does not rely on it for his credentials.  Neither should Romney. 

The World has Changed.  Romney hasn’t.

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MORE BUSINESS, LESS TROUBLE

September 10, 2012

Most of my friends and family have converted.  They no longer subscribe to a printed newspaper,  but rely on news input totally from TV and digital sources.  I understand that; it is just one more thing to pay for and fit into a daily busy schedule.  I too, rely heavily on the digital feed – particularly of MNPOST – which I cannot praise enough – for its quickness in letting me know what is going on; for its candor; for its format that allows immediate comment and feedback – as oppose to the STRIB that only allows x number of access per month to their on-line version.

Nevertheless, I love the paper;   it is a resource I count on, as well as a lifelong habit that I cannot imagine living without.  I joke that I HAVE to read the paper before I leave my house in the morning…after all, the world may have ended and I would not know it if I did not read the paper.

(And yes, that reveals another habit.  “Peace and Quiet” in the morning.  No TV, No radio, No phone visiting.  My TV is on only in the evenings – and often only from 5:30 to 6:30 when I get the local and national UPDATE of the news. I need the quiet time to THINK and form my own opinions on issues-not parrot thoses of some news commentator.)

Often  I hear complaints – about the Wall Street Journal insert  or the lack of “breaking news” on Monday.  To me, that is logical.  Most of our business are open Monday-Friday….so Saturday and Sunday, they are not making a big splash to give reporters fodder to feed on – so add the little extra “The Wall Street Journal” – if nothing else, it humors those anxious to be identified as “in the know” as they can walk around bragging that they “read it in the Wall Street Journal”.  As for Monday, yup – there is not much breaking news in the “business insider”, but it has become one of my most valuable resources for new companies, new services and potential vendors that I or my client may need – I like the emphasis on small business and success stories.

Take this morning, for instance. 

I learned that, two war-weary Israelis, both political independents and moderates seeking better relations through cultural, educational and commercial initiatives turned their attention to peaceful initiatives to transcend the political and religious hostilities in the Middle East through a fellowship program at Hamline University called the Middle East Fellowship Exchange.

Each year about 20 Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese-Jews, Christians, Muslims, liberal and conservative-  recruited by the  Zmoras- now both Israeli and US citizens- come to study Minnesota business and non-profits for five weeks.   Many have never fraternized with people from neighboring countries or other faiths, but with program focus on business, it enables the participants to be “Just people-not representatives of their respective communities.”

And as a result, they become friends; they share a respect and love for one another that inspires them to find ways to remain friends and resources for one another when they return home.  They have a better perspective on what the United States is- imperfect, but using commercial and cultural ties to bridge differences.  They do not fear each other, but become multipliers with new and valuable ideas for their community.  The Strib reports these like-minded moderates and entrepreneurs believe they can collaboratively build a stronger economy in the Jordan-Israel-West Bank-Lebanon neighborhood.

I concur, “Without efforts such as theirs, the Middle East will remain hobbled by the religious and political walls that bar a more prosperous future.

That’s the hope I experienced myself and among the people I grew to know in my travels in/out of Israel in the 1980s; it is so encouraging to hear that it still is there and being fed by a program right here in Minnesota.

“I am a big believer in collaboration with our neighboring countries, “ said Nir Hindi, a Hamline Fellow and marketing executive with NegevCo…an incubator for Israel’s alternative-energy and low-water agricultureal industries.  “We can contribute to each other knowledge and experience.  We start with small steps.”

What an encouraging perspective…..perhaps the STRIB should share it with Mr. Romney.

 

 

 

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RECEPTION STATIONS and PRESENTATIONS DESIGNED to the Nines!

June 14, 2012

In the end, what a rewarding experience I had working with Lisa Brenna, MIntahoe, and the Boat Club for the June NACE Meeting!

When Lisa asked me to take part in the program, I was not so sure what my contribution could be, as the unique space, Lisa’s creativity and Mintahoe’s skill at combining their primary event product – the food and beverage- into an outstanding visual experience did not seem to need my help.  Those elements were in good hands with Mintahoe.   And who needs décor, with a view of the river and city of St. Paul behind it?

Time availability on both our parts limited what we could do in terms of some of the interactive ideas I threw out to get the guests to engage and participate…and the things Lisa hoped I could help on did not happen.  How simple should it be for me to get a bongo player for the ceremony circle- or a little soft seating for the program portion of evening?  Well, I didn’t deliver on those either!

So as we went forward, I was feeling pretty useless, until I realized, she had planned her menu around something I said about interculturalism, and that she did not view my response to her request for linens and centerpieces  as laziness when I agreed to source them, but then questioned at the same time WHY she wanted them.  This was a meeting, not an event, I reminded her.  White linens were appropriate, and why did she want to detract from message of the meeting and the WOW of what she was doing, with “cool looking new linens”?  Fortunately for me, she agreed, and as I wandered around fairly anonymously in the crowd, I did not hear one comment from any of the NACE people criticizing the white table covers .  Good, saved again. 

As we were approaching the meeting date, it finally became clear that what she was looking for from me was a few minutes in the program to share my event perspective on a topic of my choice with the audience.

And now, I was really worried.  Oh yes, I have a LOT of thoughts and strong opinions on events…I just hate public speaking and do not do very well at it!  Yikes, now I certainly was in trouble….my logo was all over that invitation as a partner with Lisa…Like it or not, I had to put together 10 minutes of something!

I took what I thought was a gamble, but it nevertheless  reflected my current thoughts on events, and put together a few comments about collaboration, multi-generational events, and most importantly, intercultural audiences and what that means to all of us that represent the event world and the changes we have to start making right now in how we approach our business-if we have any desire to be players in this industry a decade from now..

And off I went to the site to see if I could help with the set (silly me, I KNEW it was in good hands). Other than filling some votives with colored salt to hold the mashed cones,  I had nothing to do for a couple hours but WORRY about what I was going to say, how I was going to say it, would I remember the key points, and would the audience relate, or think Lisa was crazy to have asked me to participate.  I spent  the set-up and event time, mentally  changing what I was going to say – over and over. 

And then, there I was, mike in hand – no podium to help me easily reference my notes, with a room full of people staring at me.  Ask me what I said, and which things I remembered, or forgot, and I could not tell you….but I did start to notice people smiling and nodding …so it appeared a few at least were following what I had to say.  I got a few questions, and a bit of discussion going at the end with audience joining in the discussion, so I knew that I had at least SURVIVED the ordeal.

But the end of the evening demonstrated how really gracious these NACE people are!  I lost track of the thank yous, and the brief comments about the appropriate topic and next step suggestions-I only know however badly I may have delivered the message, this group of people “Got It”!   It was worth every moment of worrying beforehand!

 

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PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

June 10, 2012

It was our final workshop for Plan-It Hennepin, the city-making initiative primarily funded by the National Endowment of the Arts.  Since March, we have Talked It, Planned It, Tracked It, and yesterday, in the workshop at New Century Theatre we did our best at “Putting it All Together-Naming and Claiming”.

Drawing on a past workshop in which we went out on the street with our photographers from FAIR School to record the YES and NO elements currently found along the avenue from the river to the Walker, yesterday we addressed the NOs in the four defined districts. 

As we gathered around our large working model of Hennepin Avenue, we viewed the major zones we have become so familiar with, now marked with pictures and explanations of the NOs we identified in May.  Then, led in song by Mankwe  Ndosi , we returned to the theatre for a final planning exercise that  was designed to address the activity and dynamic mix of people in public space.  Networking to share educational experiences, and vital businesses represented in each group, we then turned to our task – to identify design and development initiatives (stressing function before form) and finally, to define public policies that support a vibrant, equitable public realm in a city.

This week, we were allowed to choose our area of interest, so my May comrades and I gathered around our work table with the dynamic Harry Waters  to start the discussion of HOW we might get rid of the NOs from river’s edge to the LRT; captured our thoughts on flags which were stuck in  small green balls if they pertained to architectural changes, places or ideas and in yellow cones if they pertained to people or events,  Once these visual symbols were complete and placed on the model of the entire street, we  joined together with the other teams to share  results.

 Aside from all the individual projects and thoughts, two things stand out about the day…the link of the three “sisters” – Nicollet for commerce, Hennepin for arts, and First Avenue for dining and entertainment – which all can come together at the Gateway and the river….and at the other end, the ideas we heard to conquer the “divider” of the freeway with remarkable creativity including the vision of disguising it with an amphitheater that turns the vision back upon the city.  Woven through-out was a concern for interculturalism as well as a feeling that a new “community” had been formed- driven first by our own personal interest, and then strengthened by the collaborative process to which we had been exposed.

Gathered together in a closing Declaration Circle, we each were asked what one thing we would commit to do on our own   (and be held accountable for by our co-participants) to keep what we have begun in these last four months  continuing to move forward as the project  moves into final three months of planning.

Talk about engaging…interacting…and being held accountable for our actions!

Again, this has been the most amazing event experience I have ever participated in.  A world of thanks to Tom Borrup and his hometown team of Ta-coumba Aiken, Mankwe  Ndosi, Leah Nelson, and Harry Waters, JR – all  supported by a talented cast of international and local experts  from Seitu Jones, Chancee Martoreli, Don Mitchell this past Thursday  to  Candy Chang, Charles Landry,  and a great group of locals who kicked the initiative off last March and of course, the inspiring  FAIR School students  and the several other youth groups in the city that participated separately and shared their visions.

Borrowing on some thoughts from Landry, we are on our way  to becoming a  world-class city based on cultural literacy, healthy (physically and mentally) urban planning, eco consciousness, and creative city making that empowers people to use their imagination and to rethink  planning not just in terms of hardware, but in terms of facilitation interaction and interculturalism.

Many of us expressed the same thought. We are sorry to see this phase of the year-long project end.  But judging on our Declarations, I am sure I have not see the last of the many new friends I have made as we share our passion for  MSP and its future!

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THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

May 24, 2012

 Every day, our politicians and press fill our newspapers, radios and TVs with short silly sound bites about the Economy and Job Creation….All we hear is the way to lowering unemployment is through creating more manufacturing jobs and putting people back to work in factories….and the sad story of those long-unemployed that have given up looking.  Sometimes those stories focus on the over 50; sometimes they focus on the 20-30 year olds that can’t find that first job.

And certainly, these are issues, and certainly business and government ALIKE, need to work together to improve the situation.  Repairing our crumbling infrastructure (yes, that means spend money to FUND these projects) make the most sense to me – it helps provide jobs and income for both ends of spectrum  of the unemployed.

But the argument never seems to focus on real questions.  Of those recent graduates, what have they been trained to do?  Can they not get jobs in their field, or at their salary expectations?  Have they been willing to look at other fields and lower their salary expectations? Are those that cannot get jobs holding degrees based on 20th century skills?  Are there options available in other areas? Are they being enabled by parents who in trying to help,  allow them to move home, and not contribute in some way?   Or, how many of those unemployed that have quit looking for work have quit because they have become entrepreneurs and are now self-employed?  Have we honestly looked at education and how our next generations are still being taught by a method developed to prepare them for the manufacturing world of the early 20th century?    I am not questioning the problems, nor the numbers, I am just questioning where we are putting the emphasis when we report it.

And I do so because as you have all heard me say over and over – the world has changed.  The paradigms of the 20th century have shifted.  I hear little discussion on this, nor what we as a people are trying to do about it…other than grieve for the “good old days” , blame the “other side” and promise to bring them back.

So  I was pleasantly surprised a while ago to see the STRIB report on the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Yes, this is reality!

The STRIB briefly traced manufacturing history from the first “revolution” in late 18th century  in Britain and the mechanization of the textile industry; weavers cottages disappeared and the factory was born with the cotton mill.  The second phase is one we are most familiar with, when early in 20th century, Ford created the moving assembly line and mass production was born.

And now, what I have been referring to as the impact of technology and digital-everything, combined with customization has created a new environment, that we as a people all live in, use, and push for more of the same…and yet, cannot make the connection with what that means for jobs and education!

The article calls this the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Technologies have emerged with new software, new materials, better robots, new processes and have created a changing definition of Web-based services.    We all know this; we see the impact in each of our lives…and we think it’s a better world for it…we talk about great strides made in our understanding of our environment, our universe and our minds , but no one stops and reflects on what changes occur in the transition – never to be resurrected again. 

 Although this is my passion and my frustration with our transitional world today, I was surprised by one item in the article…”Some carmakers already produce twice as many vehicles per employee as they didonly a decade or so ago”.  Think of that impact without the emotion.  Are we each buying twice as many cars as we did a decade ago?  How does that all reconcile with the expectation that when production goes up/costs go down…and how in the world do we expect that manufacturers will employ the same amount of workers they did even at the beginning of the 21st century-when it takes half as many to do the same job?!! 

 We are balancing on the precipice between two worlds – pushing for the changes and progress of the future, but seeing no connection to what that means in terms of changing needs that made up our 20th century world.    We want the new and we want it cheaper and faster but we still train our kids for a life in the old world; we pick our leaders on who can best argue how they will BRING BACK the old and none of its fits together for a promising future. 

We cling to old educational theories; when we need to think about what we know today regarding how people learn and what the world needs as expertise; then craft a new educational system that works for the challenges that lay before us.

We judge the existing President on what Truman and Eisenhower, Kennedy , Reagan would have done – all of whom lived, learned, and governed in a world very foreign to the one in which we live today; we consider an alternative to run our country whose business experience all dates back to a time when laptops, and notebooks, I-pods and I-pads were not even words in our vocabulary – let alone what they mean and the changes that they have brought to the very “business world” he boasts about.   The list goes on and on.

In all arenas, we continue to give credence to a hierarchical approach that served tribes and families and even businesses well in the old days, but has been replaced.  To quote the title of a book resting on the corner of my desk, “Collaborate or Perish”.  Big Blue had to face that reality and the strides they have made in RE THINKING their world in a collaborative environment put most other major corporations to shame.

And although I know thought-leaders through-out the centuries have all experienced similar struggles as they toiled to bring about change, the difference is that the WORLD is changing at an exponential pace around us.  We do not have time to let the influencers in my generation die off; we need to get with the program.   While we doddle along patting ourselves on the back for what we accomplished in World War II, the rest of the world is moving forward – and soon will be moving ahead without us.  Let’s stop re-fighting old battles of the 1950s and 1960s and focus on how we as the US can contribute and influence the world of the future!

Let’s embrace the Third Industrial Revolution and contribute to it, not try to deny and destroy it!