Archives: July 2005

Rummy in Philly …

Mr. Rumsfeld yesterday warned the Iraqis to get their shit together on this Constitution writing bit. He later told reporters, "We [Americans!] don't want any delays. They're simply going to have to make the compromises necessary and get on with it."

Maybe it's because I recently read David McCullough's 1776 and have been pondering the revolution, but the image came to mind of Rummy prancing into Philadelphia in the muggy summer of 1787, and bearding the participants in the Constitutional Convention: "Damn it, George, for gawd's sake, Ben, oh, c'mon Madison, and you, Alex ... just quit the carping and write the damn thing and be done with it."

And ...

First Birthday Greetings (and Thanks)

BDayCake1candle.jpgWhew! One year!

Yup, it was one year ago today ... 27 July 2004 ... that I made my first Post at

What a year! Blogging, as I've said before, has become the Epicenter of my professional life. Better said: You (Our Community!) have/has become the epicenter of my professional (and, sometimes, personal) life.

I have learned so much from you! And I, a "professional communicator," have learned so much about communication—ahem, make that "conversation," a different kettle of fish.

I've learned that it's fun to rant ... just to see what comments it attracts. I've learned that we can have fun ... and be deadly serious. I've learned that that overused word ... Authenticity ... is incredibly important in a Blogging Community (phonies and egocentrics are revealed as such pretty quickly). I've learned (the mellow version of being "Dan Rather-ed") that if you get your facts wrong, you'll hear about it ... quickly. I've learned that if you let your biases show, which is part of the idea, you'll nonetheless be reminded of it, for better or for worse.

I've learned that many of us are not afraid to share some pretty personal stuff. I've learned that we're ready and able to express strong opinions, but that 99% of the time we are respectful of opinions we think are all wet. I've learned/re-learned that principled, thoughtful, even if noisy, disagreements make the world go round ... and often lead to learning as we process a thread in our individual fashions. I've learned that a "community" knows far more than even the most expert of its members ("the wisdom of crowds" ... or some such).

I've learned how much there is to learn!

I've learned that when I suffer "Bloggers' Burnout," you'll tolerate my retreating into a shell for a while ... and that if I do retreat from time to time it ups the odds of doing good work over a longer span of time, rather than feeling I have an obligation to crank out crap just to get a Post up. (And in those "time outs," I've especially learned how dependent ... mostly in a good way ... I've become on our Community & Conversations.) (I've learned that our community is so potent that it can help me, by its very existence, cope with personal and professional irritants and setbacks.)

I've learned that all sorts of people from all sorts of places ... who don't Comment ... nonetheless follow our threads avidly (which is fine). I've learned/re-learned the age-old truth that the more you give away the more you get in return. I've learned that often short, controversial Posts generate more discussion than lengthy, essay-like Posts.

I've learned, that as in life, people join a community and drop out and then sometimes return (or not). I've learned that, as in "life," we are especially indebted to a few members, like Trevor, who take Our Little World seriously ... and devote a lot of time and thoughtfulness to making our little world a better/more interesting place. I've learned that "news" gets old ... fast; but that truly wise thoughts remain timeless. I've learned/re-learned, in that regard, that most of "wisdom"/learning actually emerges from everyday occurrences/exchanges, not Oceanic Struggles over Grand Issues.

I've learned how Incredibly Great and Educational & Fun it is for me (and presumably all of us) to have such a geographically diverse Membership!! I've learned that, time-zone differences notwithstanding, there are a lot of fellow insomniacs out there!

I've learned that although the "big idea" is freeform, stream-of-consciousness Conversation ... it takes a devoted team (think, in our case, Cathy & Erik & Halley & Phoebe & Shelley & Steve Y ... to mention but a few) to "manage" and maintain and facilitate and constantly improve "all this" ... and make it feel seamless. Mostly, I've learned how Cool & Enlightening & Fun & Emotionally Engaging & Mega-important "all this" can be/is!

There are surely bigger Blogs than ours, but there are none that are more serious about debating and engaging and adding wisdom to a set of issues that are in fact important to the way we deal with and contribute to the World around us. Yup, this is a joy and a hoot ... and actually damned important!

Happy Birthday #1 ... to All of Us! (And a Big Thanks from me to you!)

How Old Are You?

I asked someone a very simple question in email today, "How old are you?"

This was after they had literally wasted months of my time setting up an appointment, cancelling it, rescheduling it, recancelling it, attempting to ask all parties involved (4 of us) when we could reschedule again. We offered more times and dates. They accepted the offers, then rescinded—asking again if we could push the meeting off another week. This meeting was supposed to take place in May. It's nearly August.


Breathe Deep

I've had a strange month of next to NO exercise after a painful fall on my coccyx in early June thanks to rollerblading. I was forced to rest and be off my feet during the first few weeks (very difficult for me) and even then, in the weeks that followed, I was going through a lot of pain every day and had to take it easy. Today for the first time in more than a month, I did my Rodney Yee AM Yoga class and started back on a routine of working out ... every day ... I hope. I've done his yoga class on my living room floor for a few years, and I'm always glad to start the day with it.

In the meantime, Rodney Yee's been a lot busier than I have, doing yoga, teaching yoga and now ... he's blogging! He's just launched a new blog over at Yahoo Health Expert Blogs. I think healthcare and blogs go hand-in-hand and that we will see many more communities of wellness using blogging as a natural way to connect.


And One More Thing …

Tom is mentioned again here, in an article about passion. What a surprise.

Putting People First in Business

Well, it's about time that someone is getting it right! We recently read Tom's blog about Phil Purcell getting a $106 million separation package. Now, meet Jim Sinegal, chief executive of Costco Wholesale, whose annual salary is a mere $350,000.

In a recent article in the New York Times (17 July 2005, "How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart"), we see that Costco puts their customers and their people first. They pay the bulk of health care premiums, offer benefits after only 6 months of employment, and they believe that "a happy employee is a productive long-term employee."

Some analysts think that Jim Sinegal is too benevolent, that he gives his employees too much, and that his prices are too low. Yet, Costco has about half the warehouse retailer market, and their stock price has risen more than 10% in the last 12 months, according to the New York Times.

Jim continues to go to bat for his employees, has negotiated favorable terms with the union, and still manages a booming business. Hats off to you, Jim Sinegal, for not following the crowd and for re-imagining how business can really be run!


We've been thrilled with the feedback we've been getting about the Essentials Series. Everybody who's written to us about the books appreciates their portability and getting a smaller dose of Tom's message in each one. Writing in the Miami Herald (18 July 2005. Note: Free registration is required), Richard Pachter gives them a great thumbs-up! Thank you, Richard.

Beating Wal*Mart (Starbucks, etc) Is a Lark!

I had an interview with execs from a financial services trade association I'm going to address in a couple of months. The topic: Can the small player compete in a world of Citigroups and Bank of Americas? I said it was a lark. And I more or less meant it. That is, among other things, giants— "new tech," CRM, etc notwithstanding— will always be clumsy and impersonal relative to an "intimate local" who is really out to make a dramatic difference. Here's my "WallopWalmart16" list of "musts" if you are a "little guy" (one-person accountancy, restaurant, community bank, etc) out to eat the Big Guys' lunch:

*Niche-aimed. (Never, ever "all things for all people," a "mini-Wal*Mart.)
*Never attack the monsters head on! (Instead steal niche business and lukewarm customers.)
*"Dramatically different." (La Difference ... within our community, our industry regionally, etc ... is as obvious as the end of one's nose!) (THIS IS WHERE MOST MIDGETS COME UP SHORT.)
*Compete on value/experience/intimacy, not price. (You ain't gonna beat the behemoths on cost-price in 9.99 out of 10 cases.)
*Emotional bond with Clients, Vendors. (BEAT THE BIGGIES ON EMOTION/CONNECTION!!)
*Hands-on, emotional leadership. ("We are a great & cool & intimate & joyful & dramatically different team working to transform our Clients' lives via Consistently Incredible Experiences!")
*A community star! ("Sell" local-ness per se. Sell the hell out of it!)
*An incredible experience, from the first to last moment—and then in the follow-up! ("These guys are cool! They 'get' me! They love me!")
*DESIGN! ("Design" is a premier weapon-in-pursuit-of-the sublime for small-ish enterprises, including the professional services.)
*Employer of choice. (A very cool, well-paid place to work/learning and growth experience in at least the short term ... marked by notably progressive policies.) (THIS IS EMINENTLY DO-ABLE!!)
*Sophisticated use of information technology. (Small-"ish" is no excuse for "small aims"/execution in IS/IT!)
*Web-power! (The Web can make very small very big ... if the product-service is super-cool and one purposefully masters buzz/viral marketing.)
*Innovative! (Must keep renewing and expanding and revising and re-imagining "the promise" to employees, the customer, the community.)
*Brand-Lovemark* (*Kevin Roberts) Maniacs! ("Branding" is not just for big folks with big budgets. And modest size is actually a Big Advantage in becoming a local-regional-niche "lovemark.")
*Focus on women-as-clients. (Most don't. How stupid.)
*Excellence! (A small player ... per me ... has no right or reason to exist unless they are in Relentless Pursuit of Excellence. One earns the right— one damn day and client experience at a time!— to beat the Big Guys in your chosen niche!)

FYI: Two of my favorite examples, masters of all the above (albeit not midgets), are Canada's London Drugs (up against Wal*Mart) and the East Coast's Commerce Bank.

My Kinda Guys!

My pal Erik Hansen got me started on James Lee Burke. His newest potboiler is Crusader's Cross, featuring the crusty Cajun detective Dave Robicheaux. My primary source of relaxation is a steady stream of mysteries and spy novels.

It suddenly occurred to me that the James Lee Burke, John Harvey, Ian Rankin et al. protagonists have an incredible amount in common; moreover, what they have in common is a worldview that I share. I genuinely identify with their misfit, flawed heroes. (Though I hope not 100%—see below.) At any rate, here's my take on Dave Robicheaux et al.:

"Do" vs "Be"* (The task, not the title, is important.) (*Military strategist extraordinaire Col John Boyd: 2 kinds of people. "Do" ... focus obsessively on "the work itself"—and damn the torpedoes. "Be" ... obsess on the politics, the rank, the next promotion or assignment.)
Intuitive > Purely logical (routinely make strange connections)
Incredible passion for the work/Lingering idealism (though also cynical—paradox)
Persistent/Relentless (to a fault)
Like the long shots (Don Quixote-ish)
Stay on the case long after being ordered to drop it
Cases no one else wants (hot potatoes, dead ends, political nightmares, "unimportant" victims)
Constant thorns in the side of bureaucracy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Repeatedly exiled to professional "Siberia" (so annoyingly good and so annoying per se that others try to do him terminal professional harm)
Little in the way of career prospects
Have a "Godfather" (need internal protection—though even protectors lose patience)
Work mostly solo (Secretive)
"Work" "old pals network" to get info-leads beyond their charter
Master of the End Run!
Mentor (often to an incredibly talented young woman fighting the sexist culture)
Often their own worst enemies
Drink too much
Don't work out enough
Sneak fast food
Excessive work has estranged them from family
More or less shabbily dressed
Drive shabby cars
Carry a secret/hidden motivator in their kit (e.g., someone close he feels he let down, leading to their death)
GET THE DAMN JOB DONE! (and don't expect/get much appreciation)

So what's the point, you ask. Not sure, really. Just struck me as interesting. With all the incessant talk about "leadership," how about a nod to curmudgeonly "doer-ship"????

Lucky Me (Again)

Got an early look at IDEO thought leader Tom Kelley's brilliant new book on innovation, The Ten Faces of Innovation. (Pre-order.)Tom calls it a screed against "devil's advocates"—those relentless innovation quashers that lurk 'round every corporate corner! The books intellectual centerpiece is a typology of ten types of folks one needs to foster innovation and an innovative climate:

*The Anthropologist. Master of human behavior ... "gets" the user.
*The Experimenter. Mr/Ms Fast Prototype.
*The Cross-pollinator. Explores odd connections.
*The Hurdler. Master remover of B.S. roadblocks.
*The Collaborator. Brings intriguing combinations of people together.
*The Director. Brings out the creative best from an odd mix of talents.
*The Experience Architect. Turns "products" into "performances."
*The Set Designer. Creates fabulous office environments that foster constant innovation.
*The Caregiver. Anticipates customer needs like a magician.
*The Storyteller. Creates narratives that capture the spirit of the group and its

Fantastic! (Hey, I wrote one helluva "blurb.")