Monday, February 23, 2009

Passion and Story

What did you do this weekend?


Hats off to Brooks Museum and Indie Memphis for collaborating to bring Momma's Man to Memphis. This indie film was touted as well-received at Sundance in 2008.

Attended a lecture by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams ('97 Peace) at the University of Memphis.


Viewed the sell out screening by On Location Memphis of the 2009 Oscar-nominated Shorts and Animated Shorts.

These three events highlight for me two points:

1. Everyone likes a good story. Good stories were plentiful during these events.

2. Success can often be achieved from the outside by tapping into one's passion.

Momma's Man was made outside the realm of major Hollywood studio establishment. This unsettling film is about a man's return to his childhood home and his internal struggle to escape beyond the orbit of childhood and family that he finds himself drawn back to. While that is a thought provoking aspect of this film, the story that I found most fascinating was the actual story of the film's genesis. I like to watch films to see the locale which often becomes a character in itself. The locale for Momma's Man is a 40 year rent-controlled Tribeca loft that was very cluttered. That loft was the seed for this movie. The filmmaker wanted to film there to document this loft because it was his childhood home. Once into the project, he couldn't imagine anyone else living there other than his parents, so he got them to play the parents in the movie. Although fictional, Momma's Man is very autobiographical.

The audience at the Jody Williams lecture seemed as much interested in her story as in the facts or policy details of peace. She was a temp-worker making $13,000/year in 1985. Passion for antiwar movements that she developed in her youth led her down a path to the Nobel Peace Prize. Along the way, she found that she needed a change and was totally unclear about what that might in 1992. Five years later, she received the Nobel award for her efforts which resulted in an international treaty to ban land mines. She did this by working outside the normal governmental and diplomatic channels. While Ms. Williams is well educated, unlike other Nobel laureates that I have heard, the most dominant impression she made was not of her mind but of her heart.

Only one of the ten films nominated for an Oscar in the shorts categories was from the US. That alone illustrates that these films come from outside the Hollywood establishment. This cornucopia of short films by simply being short lack commercial potential. These filmmakers were advertised as the 'up and comers'. They are putting in the required time to master the skills of a trade for which they have passion. Could the ease of availability of the technology required to make a film be cracking the barriers to entry?

So my lessons of the weekend:

Put in lots of hours working on your chosen passion and learn to use the magic of story.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Name this restaurant!

This should be easy if you are a Hoya from way back, like me!

Jamie Feild Baker
Reverb Consulting

Posted via email from jamiereverb's posterous

I'll take the house and the car!

Jamie Feild Baker
Reverb Consulting

Posted via email from jamiereverb's posterous

Benjamin Zander on music and passion | Video on

Here is his marvelous TED talk. Enjoy!!

Posted via web from jamiereverb's posterous

Benjamin Zander | Profile on

People's passion, regardless of the area they are passionate about, is contagious. Benjamin Zander makes me what to really listen and learn about music. He makes me feel capable.

Posted via web from jamiereverb's posterous

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Innovation Block

Writer's block is a terrible thing and it can really zap your overall confidence. The worse case that I ever had (knock wood) lasted over three years and took some serious effort to overcome. This post by Henrik Edberg of the Positivity Blog offers some great suggestions to keep writer's block from invading your psyche: How to Never Get Writer's Block.

I have been subscribing to The Positivity Blog for over a year and highly recommend it for useful advice and tips on how to keep you and your thoughts from from defeating your dreams and derailing your projects.

Here is Henrik's list of things to do to keep from shutting down mentally:

1. Always carry a pen and paper
2. Write everything down
3. Brainstorm
4. To get a good idea, have a lot of ideas
5. Expose your mind to new ideas
6. Expose your mind to stillness
7. Keep your mind open
8. Just start writing whether you feel like it or not

It occurs to me in deeply considering Henrik's list that these are the suggestions that I would give to an organization that is trying to innovate and renew. Similar to what happens with writer's block, organizations can get caught up in the doing of it all to the point of fatigue and numbness. This numbness becomes so solid that creativity and excitement are rooted out. There becomes such a focus on completing tasks that the connection to why we are doing becomes lost, or if many years have past, is not known in the first place to people who have entered the system since the project or event or initiative was started. This driving automaticity can take over just like the realities of managing one's life can dry the well of thought and creativity that leads to writing.

To overcome an innovation block, an organization must become as diligent and intentional as a blocked writer in creating circumstances that lead to creativity and energy directed toward inspiration and action. That means intentionally making routine time to bring in new sources of information, new perspectives, and new ideas. Dedicating a set portion of every meeting to question assumptions, to take the view from 30,000 feet, and to reconnect to purpose can help the picture of the whole come into focus for many and it creates space for improving and enhancing parts of a project or process. It is in improving or enhancing the parts that innovation can take root and value can be added.

Most importantly and most frustrating to the driving do-ers of any organization is Henrik's suggestion that to have a good idea, you have to have a lot of ideas. To have lots of ideas takes time and effort and many will lose interest, or fail to garner interest, and revert to let's do what we know because it is quick and easy, tried and true. And, so it may be. If, however, innovation and continued relevance is your goal, "quick, easy, tried and true" are true innovation blocks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bloggers: Customized Columnists

I am a routine reader of many different blogs and look forward to them like I do some of my favorite newspaper columnists. Actually, these days I am liking the blogs better than my traditional newspaper columnists because the blogs I follow come to me. I get to pick the ones I want to read, so they are in effect customized columnists. And, they are free. They wait for me in my email inbox. They stack up there sometimes, but I don't have to walk over them or carry them to the recycling center. The blog posts that I like can be easily and quickly labeled and filed and shared with friends. Until newspapers can make the switch to sending out their content instead of relying on me to go to them, blogs may continue to gain the advantage.

I have been reading the blog Lyved for about 6 months. I am most impressed with the usefulness and timeliness of what editor Andrew Galasetti posts. And, I am most impressed with the amount of wisdom Andrew has developed despite his young-ish age. As what he writes about exemplifies, I think Andrew is proof of the power of positive and intentional thinking and living.

Take today's post for example: 15 benefits and lessons we now have from the economic crisis
Here is Andrew's list:

Lessons Learned
1. Generosity is alive and well
2. No single person is at fault
3. Patience is a form of action
4. The downturn is natural
5. Many people need to learn about basic finance
6. We're still in better shape than most
7. Can't rely on degrees and "recession-proof" jobs
8. Money doesn't bring that much happiness

Benefits Gained
9. Keeping us from buying crap
10. Allowing us to connect with older relatives
11. Kids are learning their own lessons
12. New opportunities
13. Those that are corrupt and greedy are being taken down
14. Our greates qualities come out and grow
15. Better times are coming

I have had some of these thoughts and noticed some of these patterns from my vantage point. It is a powerful and good thing to curb the unfettered spending and consumption of teenage girls, and this recession has certainly done that to my teenaged daughters. They are starting to learn about the economics of a recession and are paying attention. But, Andrew has really thought about it, observed patterns and behaviors, and served up his post with simplicity and honesty. He does this all the time and I highly recommend subscribing in order to start having his columns delivered to your inbox.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What did you do this weekend?

Yesterday a friend asked me what we did this weekend. Aside from some deep cleaning on Saturday and a little reading, below is a list of the highlights of our weekend activities.

Thursday night: In Search of a Midnight Kiss at the Brooks Museum

Friday night: George Wolfe's The Colored Museum at the Hatiloo Theatre

Saturday night: Abundance: Art in Motion by Ballet Memphis at Orpheum Theatre

Sunday afternoon: The Tribute to Pavarotti at the Brooks Museum

So what is the point? Why is what we did important or significant?

Each of the four events we attended represent time spent with what Seth Godin calls "tribes". A tribe is a group of people that share a passion. With today's technology, it is easier than ever to find your tribe no matter how obscure or geographic disbursed. The four tribes I witnessed this weekend had passion for the following indie films, live theater, ballet, and opera. Seth Godin does a great job explaining the concept of tribes and the value of new technology in finding, leading, and growing a tribe. What I witnessed this weekend makes me think Seth is on to something huge and important.
Free download of the audio version of Seth Godin's Tribes

Reallocation of assets, especially in economic uncertainty
When I initially considered the cost of attending four events in four nights, I thought it might be a bit much. After the whole weekend, I realized that I spent less attending these four events than a dinner for two had cost the prior weekend. (In a way, I spread my Valentine's celebration over 4 nights instead of one!) This weekend I did not eat in a restaurant but I did live an abundant life. Maybe a little attention to resource allocation is a way to make up some of the lost ground of this recession. Consider what value services and products offer. Add value to what you offer so that when your customer considers the question of value, you will fare better. Be able to articulate your value unequivocably. I think that more people are going to be searching for value in these times of economic turbulence.

Increased localization and democratization of production can be game changers
The indie film reminds me how deep in our society the tools needed to produce a film have spread. The film I saw on Thursday night had some rough editing and I never heard of any of the actors, but it was an award-winning film that told a great story. And, it was hilarious and makes me laugh just thinking about it even now. (That's of value!)

The live play that we attended was created with all local talent in a very small, quirky venue. I thought it offered tremendous value when compared to the large touring Broadway productions that come to the larger, more socially accepted theater.

I perceived the ballet as the most old school of the events from my weekend with regards to structure. The ballet company is a labor-intensive operation and performed this weekend in the most traditional venue in town, which I am sure is very expensive to rent. Frequently Ballet Memphis dances in smaller nontraditional venues. It is a local company and, as was the case this weekend, Ballet Memphis often dances to locally conceived and choreographed pieces. It also frequently dances to music that is not traditional ballet fare. I see the use of local flavor and non-traditional elements as an purposeful attempt to remain relevant to the marketplace and open dance more interesting to wider audiences.

The opera film takes the opposing side of local. While Memphis does have a local opera company, I don't think its several performances a year satiate the local opera tribe. The Brooks used technology to offer to the opera tribe a world class performance from half way around the world. I heard talk among the audience of driving over 100 miles to Little Rock, Arkansas to attend opera broadcasts. I remembered reading that The Metropolitan Opera simulcasts in HD its performances to theaters outside of New York.

So, what did you do this weekend? And, what did you think about it? Did you hang with a few tribes like I did, or were you feed creatively as many times over? If not, get with it! Friday will be here again real soon!!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Better Problem Solving

Problem-solving aptitude is the ability to identify and define problems as well as to generate and implement potentially effective solutions. Problem-solving includes multiple phases. It is a process and takes time. Those of us who cannot hold the tension or manage uncertainty over time have trouble with deep problem-solving because they rush to conclusion. Here is how that sounds just give me the answer or tell me what to do. The end result suffers. Peers who value a deep and expansive process suffer. The discovery of what is quite possibly revolutionary for your organization instead of immediate and easy and habitual suffers.

Problem-solving aptitude includes:

(1) the ability to sense a problem and feeling confident and motivated to deal with it effectively.

(2) the ability to define and formulate the problem as clearly as possible by gathering relevant information. This includes the ability to see connections that are not obvious.

(3) the ability to look for the source of the problem by uncovering habits and assumptions that might have created the problem.

(4) the ability to generate as many solutions as possible through brainstorming and other radiant thinking methods. (If you don't know the methods, this ability is compromised. The least effective, even harmful, method at this stage is deductive reasoning.)

(5) the ability to make a decision to implement one of the solutions. This stage includes weighing the pros and cons of each possible solution and choosing the best course of action. Questions still play an important part here: what if I do this? What if I don't do this?

Problem-solving is associated with being conscientious, disciplined, methodical, and systematic in persevering and approaching problems. This skill is also linked to a desire to do one's best and to confront problems, rather than avoiding them.

People who are inherently conflict averse, binary thinkers, micro-focused, reliant on deductive reasoning, impatient and unable to hold the tension of opposites are not good problem-solvers. In organizations, these people benefit greatly from recognizing this about themselves and finding a good thought partner to enhance their problem-solving effectiveness.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

TV for Adult Learning

With the economy in a weakened state, every organization I know is in wait-and-see mode, about everything - new product development, expansion, travel, learning. I propose that wait-and-see mode, while understandable, can be very dangerous. I think there is a better, more creative mode that we need to engage: more-with-less mode.

Doing "more with less" was Bucky Fuller's credo. One of the great American visionaries of the twentieth century, R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) endeavored to see what he, a single individual (the power of one), might do to benefit the largest segment of humanity while consuming the minimum of the earth's resources (early sustainability thinker). He described himself as a "comprehensive anticipatory design scientist," setting forth to solve the escalating challenges that faced humanity before they became insurmountable (solve a little problem before it becomes a big one). Fuller's innovative theories and designs addressed fields ranging from architecture, the visual arts, and literature to mathematics, engineering, and sustainability. He refused to treat these diverse spheres as specialized areas of investigation because it inhibited his ability to think intuitively, independently, and, in his words, "comprehensively." Fuller vehemently believed that all things interrelate.

One of the areas that is easily in danger as we wait and see what the economy will do is learning within our organizations. The world is moving and changing so fast, and new information is being shared so immediately that to get behind in our thinking and understanding is extremely perilous. I believe it is self-sabotage on an individual basis, and organizational sabotage when viewed from the collective vantage point.

How can we continue to learn and improve without expending financial resources?
How can we leverage the knowledge of the individual so that it influences the knowledge of the whole?
How can we make learning easy, fast, fun, part of our culture?

These are all active, better questions that are not paralyzing like wait and see is.

There are many possible answers and directions stemming from these questions. Let me offer one valuable, important, fun, easy, free, exciting, and stimulating resource: FORA.TV.

"The World is Thinking." This is the idea that FORA.TV is founded on. Incredible human capacity is on display at conferences and meetings and forums all over the world and we can't possibly avail ourselves of it in person. So, FORA.TV brings the power of thinking and quality thought to us.

Take a bite here and then go to FORA to find what interests you and what enhances the knowledge base of your organization. And, an added benefit: no commercials.

Malcolm Gladwell Questions the Prodigy Status of the Beatles:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Twitter Trigger

I brew ideas. I find something I like and hold it in my head, waiting to attach it to something else I like. I trust a lot in being open to the knowledge that is in the world and believe that the right things are trying hard to find me. I believe in and love synchronicity. Here are the lines along which I am thinking or brewing today.

A few days ago in a conference call, I was asked to name some things that innovative organizations do that distinguishes them from less innovative organizations. I suggested that you can tell a lot about a organization and its commitment to sustainability planning or creating the specifics of its future by analyzing its meeting culture and the fullness of their group discussions. If I had remembered, I would have added that a more innovative group uses the Google 20% time rule by devoting at least 20% of every meeting to the big picture, the Big Why? of what it is that we do. Toyota calls this always remembering and centering on the objective behind the objective.

I spent most of today reading about two things and trying to find the details of the their intersection. The two things were surviving in a recession and how a good organizational culture gives your company a competitive edge. I finished the final chapter in Ram Charan's Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty. I am always reading Peter Drucker and Charles Handy, one and two pages at the time.

I am trying to get better at using Twitter. This is one of the best things someone tweeted last night (Thanks @redstarvip!)

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

This quote really connected all these ideas for me. One of the biggest challenges for a group that analyzes issues and makes decisions is to get the right group together and to think and decide well together.

Getting the right group together goes way beyond the requisite functional roles or operational departments present at the meeting. Innovative groups value their members for the thinking style and ability as well as the uniqueness of the perspective and experience they bring to the table. As President Obama has expressed in his cabinet selections and in numerous interviews regarding his strategy, the approach that Abraham Lincoln used, a team of rivals, will expand the opinions and options brought before the group to consider. So, first and foremost, the who in meetings is terribly important.

Secondly, expectations and behavior in meetings is important. The most common phenomenon in most meetings is that the real meeting takes place down the hall or in private offices after the public meeting, the one that absorbed a large chunk of everyone's time, is ended. Malcolm Gladwell alludes to this occurence in his book, Outliers, when he writes about social mitigation. I have written about it before, describing it as being grounded in Politeness theory in Evolving Beyond Niceness. "Niceness" prevents important issues and perspectives from getting proper attention. "Niceness" prevent total and expansive honesty from being applied to decision making. "Niceness" also disrupts the ability of the group to develop the kind of trust where contrary opinions are validated and valued, thus the Dr. Seuss quote -- in an incohesive group, there are always those that mind.

As long as the economy is tight, every organization in every industry will be having to address how they create value because all spending will be scrutinized more thoroughly. For groups making decisions, making full and interconnected decisions that address the important, not just the urgent, as Ram Charan says, is critical to their organization's future viability. Paying close attention to your organization's meeting culture will help you learn to make decisions that offer more value.