Archives: December 2008

Radically Thrilling.
Lickable.
Recession Cure.

Tuf-E-Nuf hammer

Steve Jobs says that the definition of a perfectly designed product is one you want to lick.
BMW claims that one of its models is radically thrilling.
Economists agree that inducing people to open their wallets is the cure to the recession.
And I claim it all boils down to the right kind of hammer.

A hammer you want to lick.
A hammer that is radically thrilling.
And a hammer that induces you to make an expenditure that you hadn’t intended to make.

Hence: See the photo above of the Tuf-E-Nuf hammer.

This gorgeous little hammer is a true innovation, even an earth-shattering innovation. The head is the head of a [normal] heavy hammer. But the handle is only five inches long, half the standard length. And the grip is great, up to the OXO standard. The net result is the ability to maneuver in tight spots while retaining almost all the power of a full-size hammer. And, as a bonus, owning a piece of sculptural art. So I ended up buying six of the bloody things for Christmas presents—including, Christmas spirit be damned, one as a present to myself.

Great design rules!
Innovation is king!
Functionality scores!
Lickability and Radically Thrilling are the standards worth shooting for!
There is more to life than iPods!
Beating the recession occurs at the checkout in the R.K. Miles hardware-home-building supplies store in Manchester Center VT!
Excellence knows no bounds!
Happy 2009!

100 Ways to Succeed #149:

Excellence!
Now!
More Than Ever!
Happy New Year!

Excellence is the best defense.
Excellence is the best offense.
Excellence is the answer in good times.
Excellence is the answer in tough times.
Excellence is about the big things.
Excellence is about the little things.
Excellence is a hammer.
Excellence is a relationship.
Excellence is a philosophy.
Excellence is an aspiration.
Excellence is immoderate.
Excellence is a pragmatic standard.
Excellence is execution.
Excellence is selfish.
Excellence is selfless.
Excellence keeps you awake.
Excellence lets you sleep well.
Excellence is a moving target.
Excellence knows no bounds.

Excellence2009!
What else?

Now!
More than ever!

Brand You: Ten Years Later, Needed More Than Ever

[Julie Anixter was a key part of the Tom Peters team behind the Reinventing Work books. His R&D gal, Tom called her "Official Muse," as she had the passion and stamina to go toe-to-toe with him on these ideas and then take them out into the world and crusade for them. She can currently be found as CMO of the design firm Brandimage - Desgrippes & Laga and blogging at www.thinkremarkable.com.—CM]

If year-end is good for reflection, this year-end has got to be one of the most poignant in a long time, as we watch and wonder and slide between the chaos (Wall Street, Detroit, our 401Ks) and the promise (an Obama & crew heading towards 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and clean green technologies poking through the haze of unconsciousness thanks to Thomas Friedman and others.)

Each time my own heart breaks a little for every laid-off worker, every ravaged “everyman and everywoman” whose non-Wall Street career adds up to a whole lotta loss despite loyalty and hard work, the next thing I know my neural networks careen toward the idea that Tom dropped like a big stone in our cultural pond, in August 1997, with the now-famous Tide “kapow-take-that!” Fast Company cover story “The Brand Called You.” A year or so later, I was challenged to the hilt myself, collaborating on three books and educational programs with Tom, and his inner circle of creatives, three great little lists of 50 calls to action: The Project50, The Professional Service Firm50, and The BrandYou50.

Tom called these three topics “The Work Matters” movement, and we, like elves before Christmas, had an incredible sense of urgency about getting these ideas out to the world because dot-com mania and outsourcing were making it clear that white collar jobs were going to decline and anxiety was beginning to twist in the air. In retrospect, perhaps we—the collective we—weren’t … anxious enough.

Perhaps the idea that you too could be your own box of Tide, ready to be grabbed off the shelf (which would in fact make you one of the best loved, most valuable franchises on the planet), of branding yourself—like most big ideas—was a bit hard to swallow at first. Perhaps just a little too ahead of its time. Tom claims he always wants to be five minutes ahead—but this idea of “being a brand” and all the self-focus (aka self-care) was extremely ahead and is still not well embraced … particularly in many leadership suites where individual brands were viewed as big recruiting targets and a pain in the ass.

Just think, if the brand-centric idea of doing work so well, so remarkably, so worth noticing, had become inherited wisdom, if it had become a survival strategy that any self-respecting job holder-careerist, blue, white, or green collar had to hold on to … this season’s sheer human greed and destruction would be a little easier to swallow. Because we’d all just pick up our tools, our resumes, our reputations built on our WORK, and move to the next team, job, town, or wherever, that we were “in demand.” Come to think of it, it’s not a bad idea now, today, circa 2009, to try on that remarkable thinking for size.

Maybe the most profound learning I had through that whole wonderful project was that we are all, already, walking brands. We just have to polish them so that we can see them shine. So read the book, take it to heart, or just check out Tom’s challenge from the article:

The real action is at the other end: the main chance is becoming a free agent in an economy of free agents, looking to have the best season you can imagine in your field, looking to do your best work and chalk up a remarkable track record, and looking to establish your own micro equivalent of the Nike swoosh. Because if you do, you’ll not only reach out toward every opportunity within arm’s (or laptop’s) length, you’ll not only make a noteworthy contribution to your team’s success—you’ll also put yourself in a great bargaining position for next season’s free-agency market.” (Tom Peters, “The Brand Called You,” Fast Company, August 1997)

Christmas 2008

So, a Christmas post is in order. I have been thinking about it for days, no kidding, and have had no success in the arenas of Big Ideas. Or little ideas. And I am ever so fearful-horrified of glibness at this particular moment.

Let’s start with the fact that a lot of people who deserved better (or didn’t, for that matter) are having truly crappy-rotten Christmases. And it pains me personally—one case at a time ad infinitum. Sure, the auto industry made its own mess by and large, but I honestly teared up yesterday listening to a little (“little”?) NPR story about a 15-year-old family-run restaurant-tavern directly across from the main gate to a GM plant that closed down indefinitely last night. Sure it’s a “big world out there,” and sure such things are always going on—but this one got to me as I went about my Christmas shopping, modest though it is this year. And then that led me to my frighteningly rare thoughts about the roughly two billions of my “global village” neighbors trying to make it on a buck-a-day …

And then I stopped for papers—and picked up the New York Post (I have a longstanding penchant for tabloids), and said in an inappropriately loud voice that turned heads, “You f#%^ers.” I had just seen the big photo on page one of Bernard Madoff’s son Andrew and his wife, laden with conspicuously high-end shopping bags as they went about their holiday shopping in Manhattan. Just got to me. Should they not buy gifts? Or go to Wal*Mart? That’s not the point (for me); the point is Total Incredible Inexcusable Nauseating Pathetic Insensitivity, of the sort we saw from the Big Three Beggars flying in their corporate jets to D.C. a few weeks ago. In my head the words “Have they no shame?” run around and around and around.

And then my hair shirt starts to itch. I’ve asked myself 100 times, or a hundred hundred times, “Tom, what could you have done differently?” While I cannot bear the entire burden of human greed run amok, I can find plenty of fault. I ceaselessly preach the basics and people first. Yet I did not in any way, shape, or form scream often enough or loud enough about the obvious wretchedly wretched excess of the last several years. Like Greenspan, I definitely believe that I took my Silicon Valley lessons a bit too seriously and drank the “self-regulating unfettered capitalism” Koolaid. I remain a capitalist (it works) but I shall go to my grave beating the crap out of myself for not having seen the obvious and for not having used my not inconsequential bully pulpit. (For God’s sake, I routinely call health care professionals killers for not washing their hands; surely I could have shouted “Enough!” upon regular occasion regarding the growing absurdity of demonstrated greed and the lack of any semblance of accountability.)

So, we’re in for it. And may be in for it for the foreseeable future. And the bottom may—or may not—be in sight. This is beyond any shadow of doubt the biggest financial crisis in 75 years. And despite my advanced age, even I have Zero Experience with anything like this. Hence, how does one give serious advice, or play expert with a straight face?

Then there’s the glib stuff galore that is the current staple of the shameless self-help gurus. E.g., get up with a smile and get on with life! Or, remember it’s your family and friends who are your anchors! Both things are true, but hackneyed to say the least.

So here is my effort, probably futile and surely inadequate, to be a little less hackneyed than I otherwise might:

***Feel the pain. Feel free to hurt and hurt badly for every single person laid off or fired, maybe even the Lehman gang. (I admit I can’t personally go as far as Lehmanites, but I do feel that I should—they are, after all, more or less human beings.) There is a lot of hurt “out there” and it is inappropriate not to feel it; that’s my view. It shouldn’t paralyze you, but it should haunt you.

***Be of help. Feel the pain—and do something about it. Whether it’s a $100 bill dropped in the Salvation Army bowl, or some hours serving in the soup kitchen, help out. Sure, it’ll make you feel better, but that’s not the point. There are a lot of people who need help. Period. So help. And keep helping. This is not a rich man’s-woman’s blog, but the average peruser of tp.com has a little room to spare—or more. Give until you are half poor—money and time.

***Kind words or no words. Go gentle in the world. Period. A little kindness goes a long way. Especially when the fans are all covered with crap. I said “action” a minute ago, but now I’m saying attitude. No, not some ginned up “positive mental attitude”—just human grace and thoughtfulness and gentleness and decency roughly 100% of the time.

***Say “Thank you” to anyone who goes even a quarter-step, eighth-step out of their way to be helpful or cheerful. Most everyone is under great pressure—and positive acknowledgement of their being is a true and enormous gift.

***In your professional lives, work on your thoughtfulness as if your life depended on it—it does in the sense of your Final Exam with St Peter. (Or whomever.) You may have to make tough decisions, but you can streeeeetch to ameliorate the pain and, per the above, exude decency 100.00000% of the time.

***Re-assess your needs. From an economic standpoint, we do, in fact, have to spend our way out of this bind—banks must offer credit for new car purchases, etc. On the other hand, many of us could use a hearty dose of newfound simplicity and thriftiness in our lives longterm. This is a matchless, if painful, time to reassess what it’s all about.

***People have long memories. To be “P&L” focused, those to whom you extend kindnesses in tough times will likely reward you 10-fold in the long term. (Make that 100-fold.) “Thoughtfulness pays” is a fact of life in business or “the rest.”

***Get outdoors. Exercise and good breathing habits are gifts from the Gods when it comes to longevity or equanimity or stress reduction. But do your exercise outside—”close to the soil” is not reserved for those of us who live on farms in the likes of Vermont. Up your daily exercise regimen to at least an hour—outdoors. Being in touch with the soil, including urban asphalt, is good for the soul and sanity and those around you.

***Basics #1. “It’s always ‘the people.’” It may be glib, but in this instance I don’t care. Network, keep your promises, behave decently. You are as good as your relationships. Period. Short term. Long term. Good times. Tough times. This is the time (though all times are, in fact, the time) to “over”invest in relationship building and maintenance.

***Basics #2. Execution is king. I arrived at a retail shop at, literally, 4:57 p.m. three days ago. It closed at 5 p.m., and the doorcloser was poised by the door, hovering by the door, whatever. Open early, stay open late—even if the traffic is approximately zilch. For God’s sake ……
(Why o why o why o why should I have to write this???)

***Basics #3. MBWA.* (*Managing By Wandering Around.) To be present is to care. To be absent is broadcasting contempt or disregard or shameful insensitivity.

***Basics #4. Keep growing. Learn new stuff. Have lunch with new people. Get better and better at what you do. Glib or not, we’re either growing or contracting—and it’s not your 401(k) I’m talking about. I’m off on a new sustainable architecture jag. I indulged in a mini-library of about 10 books—and I’m about to dig in.

***Basics #5. Be accountable. You must take absolute & unequivocal & total responsibility for the stuff you promise, real or implied—especially the accumulation of so-called “small stuff.” (Five minutes late to a meeting is late, not “a little late.”) The current mega-crisis is to a significant degree an accountability (lack thereof) crisis—sure, Mr Rubin, you had nothing to do with the Citigroup implosion; sure, Angelo-I-screwed-the-world-and-took-home-$100,000,000-for-my-efforts-as-a-walkaway-reward (Countrywide), you were jus’ helpin’ people buy homes.

***Basic #6. Become a better listener-hearer. Practice. Practice. Practice.

***”You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”—Gandhi. (Talk about glib!!!!!!) “Make each day matter.” (Talk about glib!!!!!) This is your life. You have neither yesterday. Nor tomorrow. Only today. (Talk about glib!!!!!!)

In summary, as I try to sort all this out:

Graceful.
Decent.
Kind.
Caring.
Attentive.
Thoughtful.
Accountable.
Helpful.
Close at 5:05 p.m.

Sorry, it’s the best I can do.

Christmas Greetings and Thank You

To …

Non-officer members of the U.S. armed forces serving abroad at Christmastime (written as an American) (not that I have anything against officers—I was once lucky enough to be one)

99% of cops—who are routinely in harm’s way

Firemen who do insane things to save lives

Community bankers who lent only to those who could pay back their loans—then kept the loans on their books

Small business owners who come to work every day with a PMA-damn the torpedos philosophy

Airline employees who do their damndest despite the odds

My fellow Vietnam Vets who were “in country” with me for Christmas 1967 (and to my C.O. for giving us a half-day off on Christmas Day—I’m not being sarcastic, we were there to get the job done)

Historical figures like Grant and Nelson who inspire me

My friend and former boss Walt Minnick who passed up a lucrative CEO job to run (successfully) for Congress at age 66 and be of service

America’s revolutionary privates and corporals in the winter of 1776

Herb Kelleher, who founded and put in 37 years at Southwest Airlines

Workers in Mumbai who reopened the Taj and Oberoi in short order

Larry Janesky, Basement Systems Inc, who created a star out of the most mundane activity imaginable

Employees who smile

Authors (and I don’t mean me) who labor for years to have their say about an idea they think is worth broadcasting

Founders of the Weather Channel—who were held up to relentless ridicule, but who beat the odds

Nurses, the superstars of the healthcare world

Those small business people who beat Wal*Mart or Starbucks by producing matchless local Excellence (though I have no gripes with Wal*Mart or Starbucks)

All Olympians for their insane dedication to Excellence

Any manager who practices MBWA with reckless abandon

Anyone who says “Thank you”

Anyone who accepts accountability and says “It’s my fault”—when it more or less is

Florists who add color to our lives (especially those of us in cold, gray climates)

My stepson Max, who truly believes he can improve our environment and change a nation’s behavior in the process (and for his 4,000-mile solo bike ride across the U.S. to demonstrate his commitment to a more gentle way of inhabiting the planet)

Those under 25 who voted in our presidential election—not for their choice of candidate, but for showing up and exercising their precious franchise

Kids in the ghetto who avoid peer pressure and go on to accomplish great things

My late Mom who Mommed with a passion as representative of so many Moms

Those who hold three jobs to make ends meet

Those who go to college at night at age 35 despite a grueling daytime job

Charming rascals

The players at Cirque du Soleil, who deliver Excellence every time

Comedians—we need ‘em right now

Theatrical bit players who bust their buns to make their 45 seconds unadulterated Excellence

Startup CEOs

Women business owners

Steve Jobs who is relentless in pursuit of Excellence again and again and again

Those who live and die to pursue Excellence—and inspire us

George Bush and Dick Cheney, whom I didn’t vote for twice and am furious at for the damage they’ve done to my country’s reputation—but who, excesses notwithstanding, have helped us avoid a sequel to 9/11/01

Barack Obama with selfish prayers for your forthcoming service—and for lifting our spirits and aspirations

And so many others who anonymously do vast quantities of good work for their communities without a shred of recognition

Not. Bernard Madoff—not for his fiscal malfeasance, but for screwing his longstanding friends
Not. Robert Mugabe

A Penny for Your Thoughts!
A Penny for Your Custom!

How horrid! Recommending that someone buy one’s book/s! I avoid self-recommendation like the plague. But, alas, I’m going to make an exception.

While trapped at home during a 2-foot, 2.5-day VT snowstorm and doing an intense winter cleanup, my “brand you” book reared its dust-covered self from underneath a bed. It was part of our 1999 3-book set published under the rubric of “Re-inventing Work”:

The Project50: Fifty Ways to Transform Every “Task” into a Project That Matters!

The Brand You50: Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an “Employee” into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!

The Professional Service Firm50: Fifty Ways to Transform Your “Department” into a Professional Service Firm Whose Trademarks are Passion and Innovation!

The idea, as the Age of Outsourcing descended in the late ’90s, was that the best & sole defense against a global labor market was: Do Great Work!

That is:

(1) Turn every task into a project of distinction worth bragging about 5 years from now—if not 10. (“Wow Project” was our moniker—and Steve Jobs’ “insanely great” was the benchmark.)

(2) Turn your run-of-the-mine “department” into an indispensable, value-adding superstar professional services firm in the tradition of IDEO, Chiat Day, or McKinsey. (“Gamechanging PSF” was our shorthand here.)

(3) Turn yourself into a businesswoman sporting a project portfolio to die for. (“Brand You” was the tag line.)

Fact is, as The Deep Recession deepens by the day, these ideas are more, not less, timely than a decade ago. While nothing will make the current rocky road smooth, the fact is that Truly Inspired Work—the basics and innovation alike—is the best defense and the best offense in very tough times.

So in a departure from tradition, I recommend these three books; and in the name of modesty, I can report that each one is available used at Amazon.com for One Cent!

Does God Hate Detroit?
(Or: Why Does God Hate Detroit?)

What did the folks in Motown do to make the Big Guy sooooooo mad? Two of the “Big” Three come within an inch of bankruptcy before President Bush, with a little help from us taxpayers, became Detroit’s one-man Salvation Army. Then, yesterday, the Detroit Lions became the first NFL team in his-to-ry to go 0-15 courtesy a loss that was waaaaaaaay beyond embarrassing.

We Don't Do Movie Reviews at This Blog!

SlumdogMillionaire.jpgAll rules are made to be broken. You must see Slumdog Millionaire. That’s an order.

[Or buy the book it's based on.—CM]

We Don't Do Movie Reviews at This Blog!

(While I’m at it, this is the perfect year to put It’s a Wonderful Life on your “must see” Christmas viewing list.)

Christmas Giving

Here are three charities that support our troops. Instead of the normal gifts you might give friends, perhaps consider a donation in the name of friends to:

www.childrenoffallensoldiersrelieffund.org/;

www.woundedwarriorproject.org/;

or the old-but-good-as-ever standby, www.uso.org/.

(These proven suggestions come courtesy my-our colleague Abbey Bishop, whose husband Keith is an active duty Army Ranger.)