Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

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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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ENTREPRENEURSHIP

October 2, 2012

I know I am only seeing the surface and a controlled story, but I like what I am seeing and hearing from the University this morning.

“We were established to serve the needs of the people,” explained President Kahler, when meeting with the US Department of Commerce regarding a new program at the University of Minnesota.

Kahler’s message of “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University:  Higher Education, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in Focus” explained turning campus research into community business as it fits in a land grant university’s mission.

I like that.  It does indeed, seem to reinforce the mission from whence we came.  I, too, applaud Minnesota’s use of business people, not academics, to staff the Office of Technology Commercialization and a program designed to streamline the sale of intellectual property right to commercial companies; I’m impressed with the success ratio of the U’s start-up companies; and I like the experimentation with “entrepreneurial leave”.

It is only one article about the attention our University gained in Washington Monday…but it feels like a peak at some 21st century thinking and how we can reinvent ourselves to remain leaders in the world as we move forward.

That is refreshing after this long, long year of political debate about “hanging on” to what we once excelled at.

And just a fleeting thought crossed my mind as I finished the Strib article….I’m sure the “Ultra Entrepreneur” Mr. C would be pleased with this news.

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EMBRACE THE FUTURE

August 7, 2012

Just last week I was reminiscing with a few old CMG friends about the mid ‘80s and the time I spent traveling to Cupertino to meet with those Apple people I thought were a “cult”.  After all, they thought they could change the world and conquer IBM…and they were trying to do it through a K-12 program in schools … influencing our kids when they were young and most vulnerable! 

And even more out there for a time when we all were “suits with a Hartman Briefcase”, their world was one of casual dress, glass-walled conference rooms, backpacks, and keggers every Friday afternoon as a way to say thanks to their dedicated employees for a good week of work.

Of course, I was a non-believer-after all, none of our Fortune 500 clients were acting this way….in fact, I not long before, I had been part of a long gruesome design study with IBM to develop a single travel application that cut across all of Carlson’s needs- from CMG Travel to Carlson Travel across the country and across the world– agencies and tours, and all the ancillary travel products.  To do what we envisioned, we needed $millions and a major mainframe upgrade….how could Apple even THINK their strange little “box” was the wave of the future? 

Today I look around at the Millennials – those innocent kids in school that Apple was targeting to build their “cult” – and I am envious, as well as inspired by the way they think…let alone, how quickly they adapt to each NEW Apple product!

Last night, having overdosed on too much NBC blather that accompanies the thrill of watching the athletes perform, I took a break from the Olympics and watched “Globalization” with Thomas Friedman – an address taped in 2006, I believe, that predicted not only the world we live in, but also the “jobs” problem we are struggling with today.  So RIGHT ON, and yet, I was reminded of what I thought when I read “The World is Flat”…mostly it was, not so fast, Friedman…normally I track with you, but this time…you might be over the edge.  Ya, sure…just 6 years later, and I can relate to his message.

This morning, a headline in the business section triggered another 1980s memory…the friendly neighborhood ATM.  Flash back again to early 1980s…this time I am in midst of building a cutting edge  “CMG sales tracking system “ to help us better project almost a billion dollars of sales; and we are using a WANG word processing system to host it.  Ugghh!

 Meanwhile, my friend Sharon Wikstrom was leading a marketing team whose client, Security Pacific, was trying to launch a relatively unknown innovation in the banking world– the Automatic Teller Machine.   And once again, if asked, we all thought – whatever – this is not a smart idea…who in the world is going to trust a machine and a “charge card” to give them money.  None of us could imagine giving up the interaction with our friendly bank-teller for the coldness of a machine.   Enough said on that one.

As I sit here drinking my coffee, all kinds of thoughts are racing through my head….typically, new changes coming have me worried….Windows 8 for my laptop and for my phone?  Outlook.com?  But I’ve accepted there is still a bit of fear of change in my attitude, so I can deal with that, get over it, and slowly more forward-accepting,  in most cases,  I will not be the disciple spreading the good news-but I will try to keep an open mind.

But more important on a larger scale, in aggregate, why do we resist new ideas and take on that “Show Me” attitude when at the same time, we are a country of people that have grown, thrived, and led the world in innovation and change?   I get it that it is a result of lack of understanding and a need to be comfortable, but why do we “doubt” instead of embrace, celebrate, and learn?  And why, when half of us are pushing forward, does the other half cling so desperately to the familiarity of what we know and are comfortable with? 

 

 

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OPENING CEREMONIES IN LONDON

July 28, 2012

Like the rest of the world, I look forward to the Opening Ceremonies of each of the Olympic Games. 

I look forward to how each host country captures its own essence and tells its story to the world.  Sometimes I can relate, because I have been there; sometimes, I am looking for the story of WHO they are.

And because of my chosen occupation in the Events World, I also look forward to identifying the tools used to tell that story.  I keep an eye out for new technologies and tools used to communicate the story of the hosting nation.  What can be adapted? What techniques used contribute to a memorable moment in the Ceremonies themselves?  What might be setting a new trend and adaptable in my own world…and what are the “lessons learned”?

And I admit, along with anticipation of the opening and the lighting of the cauldron, I dread the middle…so I plan what I can do as the Parade of Athletes begins.  I understand why it is included and what it means to the athletes, but as a long-distance viewer , it cannot keep my attention, no matter what.  It is as boring to me as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Rose Bowl Parade.  Over the years, I have come to believe you have to BE THERE- It can only  be appreciated as a live event.  No way is it transferable.

Last night, as I settled in, I, too, had some apprehension.  I’d heard nothing from the Press coverage, but questions of how was Britain going to top Beijing.  Over and over I heard that economically, Britain is struggling.  How could they beat the magnificence of the 2008 Opening Ceremonies?

 Beijing was awesome minute by minute but troubling, at the same time.  I loved the spectacle, but not what I perceived to be the message and story.

(I admit, I have trouble with China.  My memories reflect the one time 30 years ago that I visited.  I was moved by the antiquities, encouraged by small growing signs of modernism in the cities, but appalled by the squalor, bad sanitation, and fear that permeated the countryside.  Masses of Chinese in gray “pajamas” on bicycles jammed city streets, and country lanes where harvesting was still being done by hand.)

Without the personal experience of witnessing the new emerging China, the Olympics there for me was a façade….spend money needed to take care of the people to create a spectacle that broadcast a message I read as WATCH OUT!  The sleeping giant has awakened.  Pay tribute or we will use our might and our disregard for human life against you. (Ok, I admit, most of the world did not see it that way: I am just trying to explain my own perspective and why I felt the way I did.)

Add to that the incongruence of comparing a spectacle in a time of unsupportable opulence worldwide  that was about to crash into the worst downfall the world had seen since 1929, and a time four years later, when not only Britain, but all of Europe and the US are struggling, and one can understand where we were headed when comparing the spectacle of Beijing to the story shared by the Brits.

 So, I was encouraged to hear the producer, when asked by US press,” how ya gonna top it” say.. We cannot top it and that is a good thing as it allows us to wipe the slate clean, reset, and focus on telling OUR story.

And for me, that’s what they did.  

From my perspective, based on a love of history that included a year-long course at the U about the European Theatre of World War Two, and a love of literature, I had a good platform to understand the story of Britain as a country; and in my past corporate life, I learned to appreciate them as people…strong, understated, and with a sense of humor that always catches one unaware.  So, those were my expectations.

As I watched and listened, I was flooded with good memories…not just of a second grade class watching the Coronation of the Queen, but of a wonderful week in Bermuda at a Baxter Labs Symposium, where I made friends with Sir Hans and Lady Krebs of Great Britain.  Sir Hans Krebs “discovered” the Theory of Metabolism and was invited as a guest speaker.  They were traveling from Britain a little early, to give themselves time to adjust to the “jet lag”, so I, too, flew in to Bermuda early to greet them and get them settled in.  As we met for dinner, with tears in his eyes, the elderly Krebs shared how honored they were to be given the VERY suite that had been used as the meeting place of Roosevelt and Churchill during WWII.  They truly felt they did not deserve the honor.   Likewise, I was amazed at Lady Krebs, who at 80+ years old did not think she would risk the moped tour…but not to worry, on her own, she had researched the bus schedules, and she thought she could make each stop we were making…so keep her in the counts for lunch and tea!  In those 10 days, that awesome couple became my friends.

And certainly great times in Britain when I was at Carlson….including  a Goalmakers trip in 1980, many client trips, and certainly wonderful  experiences with the Brits that made up the CMG London Office… not only on their home turf, but around the world with Goalmakers, and in Minneapolis in 1988.

So, for me, my expectations were met; I enjoyed the many subtleties in the story; I enjoyed to a return to telling the story of the host country in hopes we as a world will learn to understand each other…and in keeping with the goals of the Olympics in the first place…hope and peace.  I so appreciated that although it did not shout opulence, a big investment was made judiciously…the location picked to stimulate some badly urban renewal,  the parade of countries became an interactive experience as every nation represented helped build the Olympic cauldron- one leaf by one leaf… the lighting of the cauldron itself continued the story as it paid tribute to the laborers, and a new generation of Brits to “carry on” – as they always have.

For me that was the message to the world. Woven into the Brit story, I definitely heard….hang in there; we will get through this economic reset, we and the world have done it before but it takes some grit and a little humor…keep your eye on innovation and the promise of the upcoming generations.  To me, it was a message we needed – good advice and actions from the elder statesman.

So I was a bit taken aback this morning to see several friends on Faceback were so disappointed.  That certainly has given me some food for thought. 

Was I wrong?  Is this ritual not about telling the story, and commitment to hope and peace, but instead is about TOPPING what came before in a like manner?  Was I wrong to think “spectacle“ for spectacle’s sake would be in poor taste? 

Was I wrong to adjust my expectations when I learned the producer was a film-maker?  I was intrigued with some of the projection techniques he experimented with, and saw several examples of rethinking how to engage the audience in creating the experience.  Was that just wishful thinking on my part? Was that just a reaction that at LEAST it was not a talking head and powerpoint…a different communication medium was used that told a story?

Could the event have benefitted from what most of our own events need…a bit more engagement pre-event to mold the expectations to the event?  I do see that as a lesson to be learned for all of us.

 I need to noodle all this a bit, but for now, I’m feeling good about London meeting my own expectations – but disappointed and sorry it did not meet those of my friends.

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ECONOMIC ‘RESETS”

June 18, 2012

It is only June and already, I am tired of the political discourses that fill the news about the economy.  One day Chicken Little is forecasting the “Sky is Falling” and the next day, we read about economic optimism as Neal Anthony reported this morning. 

 And in the back of my mind, there is a nagging thought about our response when it happened….dimly I remember the honest dialogs that shared the viewpoint that this should have been expected; the prosperity of the previous decade was unsustainable and we were in a historical adjustment that we should have expected and planned for. Terms like “A New Economy” and “Economic Reset” filled the news and many of us agreed that the first decade of the 21st century was reminiscent of the “Roaring Twenties” – our thinking was flawed, it was not sustainable, and we needed to adjust.

For all of us, I think, that message has faded.  For some, It’s a childish battle between the political parties driven by the single goal of Republicans to oust Obama and regain power at all costs, paired with  Democrats  who foolishly cling to the idea that this new generation of leadership should be able to walk on water and accomplish dreams  despite the absence of collaboration.  In either case, it is finger-pointing of children.  It’s George Bush and the Republicans fault; It’s Barack Obama’s fault – he said he would fix it and it’s not fixed. 

 As for me, I have continued to focus on the uniqueness of the changes we are going through due to the rapid arrival of the digital age, and have lost sight of the historical perspective that indeed, this is a reset-  created because we as a country have gotten off track.

Richard Florida’s the GREAT RESET, kept coming to mind, and after a thorough search of my library so I could refresh my memory, I realized the book must have suffered the fate of so many others when I moved….it was in my office, not my library, and so did not make the cut when I packed last October.   So recently, when I saw the paperback copy at B&N, I grabbed it, and yesterday, sat down to re-read, and discovered a new preface written last year for the paperback edition.  Those few pages brought it all back….

It will take many years to replace the jobs that were eliminated by the crisis and its aftershocks.  The deep economic and financial trauma that hit America represents a crisis of epochal proportions that reflects a deep structural transformation of the economy…

Florida then went on to categorize our “Great Recession” as a Great Reset similar in characteristics to the Long Depression of 1873 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, and together he named them “generational events”.   It took 30 years to recover from the Crash of 1929; adjustments of this nature cannot be fixed overnight, but more important, lasting recovery hinges on four key factors:

  •         Technological Innovation:  Crises reset the innovative engine of the economy
  •          New Systems of Innovations:  Crises create the impetus for building of broad systems of innovation and infrastructure that undergird long-run growth
  •         Educational Changes:  Crises lead to substantial upgrades in our educational system in ways that increase worker’s skills and improve the human capital that powers the economy.  [They] make us better at using our most precious and critical economic resource – human talent.
  •          A Spatial Fix:  Real recovery hinges on major changes in the very way we live (Move from farm to the city; move from city to suburbs, etc.)

 

Basically, Florida maintains that these changes are not initiated by top-down policies and programs from either political party in power, but happen gradually as millions of people respond by changing the way they live.   The lessons of this crisis should remind us that we need to live within our means, reject defining ourselves in terms of material goods and strive for a more meaningful and sustainable way of life.

Yes! This aligns with my own thinking but I mistakenly have attributed it to a perspective based on age. 

Not so, says Florida:

Individual Americans of all ages have already begun resetting their lives and changing the way they live and spend but our political and business leaders have utterly failed to appreciate and engage this economic transformation.  They continue to look backward, with futile attempts to resuscitate the dysfunctional system of banks, sprawl, and the inefficient and energy-wasting way of life that was the underlying cause of the crisis.

Our leaders just aren’t getting it; their mental models are so determined by the old order that they can’t acknowledge that [that order] has already passed.

We need to break with the past and engage the future that is already upon us.

From my own perspective, let’s also add the PRESS to the list of culprits and then try to move forward together in the LONG FIGHT BACK, recognizing we need to address the underlying problems we created that caused this…and neither Romney nor Obama can provide a quick fix.   But as Florida indicated, if we break with the past and engage the future, there is hope we can speed up the recovery so it does not take the 20-30 years of past Resets of a similar nature. We as the people need to fix this; the politicians cannot-no matter whom we vote into office in November.

 

 

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THE DECLINE OF CREATIVITY

November 6, 2010

Yesterday, driving home from yet another eye appointment, I was listening to MPR Midmorning Show with Kerri Miller.  Guests were Po Bronson and Shelly Carson discussing the lack of teaching of creativity in schools. The experts gathered in the studio and contributing callers via phone once again reinforced a position I have been studying and following for the past few years.  Brain and learning research over the last twenty years has changed how we should be thinking about education of our children.  Creativity  quotients (think innovation) have been decreasing in public schools since sometime in the late 1950s and we continue to rest on our laurels of American successes gained during the first 2/3 of the 20th century – with minimal progress since.

Right Brain/Left Brain theories are out the window.  One can be taught creativity and innovation if the focus of education includes problem-solving, not just high scores on tests.  This is not a movement led by a single person trying to revolutionize the world to his way of thinking.  This is 20 years of amassed facts by a growing body of experts with not only research but case studies to back up their theories.

Just last week, I was enjoying breakfast at the Nicollet Island Inn and overheard (and I confess, then eves-dropped) on a conversation at the next table.  Two gentlemen were discussing break-throughs in bringing design method of learning to K-12; teaching collaboration, socialized learning, and patterning learning found in Design Schools such as the School of Architecture with good results – as they explored how they could work together to bring these results into the forefront in the Minneapolis community. 

And yet, the public discourse on the topic remains tightly held in the hands of politicians wrestling with teachers, administration, parents and the teachers unions over old-school methods , using historical 20th century results  and disproven truths to support why they are RIGHT in their antiquated thinking.  

Surely, education experts focusing on what we know today about learning and innovation should get their chance on the stage soon – but I am not optimistic.  We are so caught up in preserving the 20th century “America Rules” mentality that we cannot open our minds to how we can move forward –despite all signals pointing to the wave of American world dominance is over.

As for me, unfortunately, since I was driving and somewhat distracted by my eye issues, I do not recall all the details of the MPR discussion…so two new books are added to my “Must Read” list – Carson’s “The Creative Brain” and Bronson’s “NutureShock: New Thinking about Children”. 

 So like it or not, expect to hear more on this topic in the future!

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DICHOTOMY OF THE RECESSION…

March 23, 2010

Over the last 15 months, I have continued to be puzzled about what seems to be a dichotomy inherent in this recession we are all moving through.

Early in 2008, I tried to counter the sad faces at my-then place of employment with facts to support that with some innovative positioning, one could weather the downturn, grow as a company and increase on the other side of the schism with increased market share. With a flicker of hope, we then authored a white paper – “Do or Die” which you most likely can still find posted on that company’s website. Nevertheless, within a month or two, survival of that employer meant lay-offs, re-orgs, and a start-over marketing story.

And yet, as one of those displaced workers, I started hearing within a week of my departure of new opportunities in our marketplace and would I be interested in helping with this or that project. So as I continued my job search, I free-lanced where I could, and survived quite well in this economy– without a company, website, marketing plan or even a business card – after I had been out of circulation as an independent event designer and producer for about three years.

I’ve previously shared my experience of a small event that went viral in July 2009, and the corporate anniversary last September with a long-time client whose budget was cut 50%; and yet we produced the best customer event to date.

All around me, the meetings and event industry was hit hard. Industry trade publications seemed to write about nothing else; every industry discussion focused on how to cut costs to retain clients; The Special Event Conference and Show lost exhibitors and attendees; and even a recent ISES chapter meeting report on the State of the Industry survey was bleak, with reports of planner vs. vendor discussions on how to best lower client budgets. The message of nothing left to give was heard loud and clear.

And yet, the Catersource/Event Solutions Conference grew and the energy there was phenomenal. In spite of a 60% reduction in budget for the evening event we worked on, the attendance increased almost 40% and vendor generosity was overwhelming as we worked together to accomplish our goals.

As I continued through the months to ponder these apparent misconnects, I wrestled with several theories, but for the most part I was stuck in the “just keep pushing forward and you will emerge at the head of the class.”

Until this morning, that is. Then reading through three different approaches in the Second Opinion column of Corporate Event Magazine, I finally put it together – I think.

The question was posed by a corporate planner concerned that “pinching pennies” was not sufficient so was looking for effective budget cuts that would not endanger the brand or lose customers to competitors. The magazine responded with three widely different approaches all demonstrating non-traditional, innovative and collaborative thinking to create win-wins for all involved.

• One levered the power of a single venue across three previously separate events. Although they remained separate events, they took place in the same city at different venues, and shared a single evening venue, creative, thematic, entertainment elements over course of three days. The result was a savings of $80,000.
• Another chose not to cut costs, but to add new revenue streams – all nonintrusive to attendees, inexpensive to implement, and all improved the attendee experience.
• And the third used an approach of cutting behind the scenes – one step eliminated the conference binder but posted it for download and supplied a free CD on site. Those that wanted a binder, purchased them online for $45-$75 each – creating a savings of $100,000. Another step dealt with almost invisible changes in the meal inclusions to cut per person meal charges up to $20 per person per day. One example shared did not cut items, merely restricted the number of a specific item to choose from.

In all cases, each response represented value as the responders found a way through innovation and collaboration to break through the barriers of traditional thinking. Each set out to approach their situation in a new light, put aside old paradigms, take risks, and break the rules in order to accomplish their goals, provide value and carefully balance audience needs with that of their internal or external client.

I submit this challenge to all of us: If we find ourselves consistently offering variations on a theme that worked ten years ago, we need to stop and self-police ourselves. Only if we can respond that our proposed reworked solution is still viable, applicable, and will yield desired results, should we go forward. If we proceed because it is comfortable and easy to implement, we do not produce value in the marketplace. We need to tirelessly pursue every option open to us as we look at our world differently.

As this economy continues to slowly improve, we will not find ourselves back in the familiar world of excess of the late 90s and early 2000s. This is not a RETURN it is a RESET. Those of us who cannot invent, discover, and implement new approaches during this time of experimentation will not be long-term players in the future.