Tuesday, March 31, 2009


G.M.'s CEO Rick Wagoner leaves after 9 years of struggle. Under his leadership since 2000, G.M. stock has gone from $70 per share to $4. Their brand is perhaps tarnished beyond repair. In the New York Times article, "The Steady Optimist Who Oversaw G.M's Decline", Michelene Maynard describes Wagoner address to company employees just six months ago at G.M.'s 100 year celebration:

"Dressed in a gray suit and a yellow, blue and white striped tie, Mr. Wagoner said: “So, what’s our assignment for today and tomorrow? Above all, it’s to demonstrate to the world that we are more than a 100-year-old company. We’re a company that’s ready to lead for 100 years to come.”

So, he had the right idea - to build upon a great tradition and great hundred years of performance and to heed the lifeblood importance of leading for sustainability, so where did he go wrong? I can't help but feel sickened by the tremendous costs of mismanagement, no matter how well-intentioned that it was.

Were they paying attention?

Where was GM when the gas crunch of the 70s happened. You remember? The one where Toyota entered the market with the marveled Corolla? Even John Updike's hero Harry Angstom bought one. Didn't GM suspect that consumer preferences might be driven by gas prices then? GM seems to be really incapable at anticipating market trends and customer preferences and delivering products that satisfy need.

Did they value innovation?

I have always heard about all the great car innovations being worked on in Detroit but the roll out schedule is something like 5 years on a product. Markets change completely in that amount of time and for the life of me, I can't understand why they have always taken so long to get to market with a sexy, innovative, in current demand product. Innovation experts all agree: get a product to market fast and innovate after launch based on user feedback. Seems to me GM has a daddy-knows-best hubris in their product selection and no sense of urgency in putting desired new products out. In fact, seems like they would tweak a design, brand it, and expect customers to not notice that it was not that different from past models.

Can't they add?

I cannot understand how GM over the years has allowed their labor costs and their unfunded future liabilities to get SO out of control. They torpedoed the company. How sad and paradoxical for all the people pushing for those untenable wages and benefit packages because with G.M. broke, the jobs and pensions disappear. I am shocked at the self-interested and short-term thinking of all of the masterminds involved over the years.

Sustainability for G.M. is a joke because of the preponderance of issues that they keep solving in the same way as before. Re-considering and re-thinking all aspects of their business with a blue sky vengance is what they need. They are bound by a fixed, insular, corporate mindset that has strangled them.

Saving them? At what costs? Seriously, imagine the continued years of costs of carrying them for a 100 years into the future, especially if they don't change their thinking.

Hey G.M.: the market wants an affordable, efficient, green car with a sexy design and a pleasant sales experience that is respectful, honest, and transparent, and they want it yesterday.

Take note of the Fiat 500, Smart car Passion for Two, and Tata Motors little number. They can do it, why can't you? seriously?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Diet Matters to the Brain

'Look Dad! It's everywhere' my son said with a smile as he showed me the most recent issue of Wired and the article in it about the brain. Often he sees me reading something in the popular media about the brain and the efforts of our science community to figure out how this organ works. Sometimes those articles are about how to supercharge the brain by doing something like the following simple actions:

Brush your teeth with the opposite hand.
Learn to read upside down.
Learn to play a musical instrument.
Eat an ounce of nuts every other day.

I also frequently reference one of my most battered books: SuperFoods by Stephen Pratt and Kathy Matthews. This book has become my guide book to eating to change my biochemistry and slowing down the aging process. I try to eat healthy food including what might be good for my brain. Considering my interest in the subject, I jumped at the chance to attend the following lecture recently at The Urban Child Institute:

"Food For Thought: What to Eat for a Better Brain"

This presentation sponsored by The Urban Child Institute and the UT Neuroscience Institute consisted of two talks:

"Nutrition and the Developing Brain" by Dr. Patricia Wainwright, Professor Emeriti in the Dept. of Health Studies and Gerontology at the University of Waterloo in Canada

"Eat Smart: Your Brain Reflects What You Eat" by Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Professor in the Dept. of Neurosurgery and Physiological Science at UCLA

The lesson from these two speakers: Diet matters.

Wainwright stressed that diet really matters during gestation and the first few years of life when the majority of brain development occurs. Seemingly insignificant dietary omissions during pregnancy and early childhood may cause brain malnourishment that may having lasting effects that do not surface for years.

Gomez-Pinilla talked more about the importance of certain micro nutrients and exercise. He believes certain foods lead to a healthier brain. He mentioned several of the superfoods including salmon. He said that he didn't think organic foods were worth the price. He preferred eating the right foods rather than taking supplements.

Hearing these two scientists talk makes me realize that while much is being learned about the science of the brain, even more is unknown. The brain is a vast frontier. It also occurred to me that if I had to rely on what I had learned in school about nutrition, I would be eating a lot of the wrong foods. With regards to diet and nutrition, as with many things where our world's understanding is significantly changing, continuing to learn is paramount. Life-long learning is important.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend Update

What I did this weekend:

The weekend effectively started on Thursday morning with extraction of eight wisdom teeth. Check off another milestone in the journey of parenting twin daughters. It was a great opportunity to reflect on that journey while the two usually high energy kids lay like sleeping lions after a bull's eye hit from a dart gun fired by Marlon Perkin's trusty sidekick Jim Fowler. The house was indeed unusually quiet. My two almost 18 year olds don't seem to have much wisdom. I wondered how wisdom teeth got that name? Wikipedia explains that it is believed to be because they appear at a wiser age than the other teeth. No real surprise there but interestingly, Wikipedia also references an article about the successful harvesting of stem cells from wisdom teeth last year in Japan. I don't think wisdom comes at the same age those teeth appear. Rather it is accumulated along life's path. There is a lot of thought lately about life's path in our house. The two dental patients should know where they will attend college in the next few weeks.

So while the patients recovered, Jamie and I went to hear words of wisdom from someone that is a bit further down life's path: Jane Goodall. It is not often that I get a chance to hear a lecture by someone that I remember reading about in a 3rd grade textbook almost 40 years ago. As is becoming the norm for me, I heard the familiar encouragements about following your passion and questioning the norms, success achieved from outside the establishment, challenges to the traditional roles of women, sustainability. When you start looking for them certain themes are everywhere. As humans, we notice such a small percentage of what is there to see.

Goodall spoke as part of the Vanderhaar Symposium at Christian Brothers University. Congrats to Anthony Siracusa on the Student Peace Award he received prior to Goodall's lecture. This award was given to Anthony for his work at Revolutions Community Bike Shop. Along with that work Anthony has generously shared his passion for biking by mentoring my son as a bicycle mechanic. Anthony departs soon on a year long trek to study biking cultures around the world as a Watson Fellow. Anthony has become a leader of the Memphis biking tribe. Anthony's blog about his trek.

Speaking of tribes, I wrapped up the weekend by learning about another huge tribe. I took my mom (and dad) to see Hats. Hats is the musical about the Red Hat Society. A few years ago my mom told me about a group that she had joined: The Red Hat Society. The RHS is a fun loving social organization for women over fifty. I had never heard of it and didn't give it much thought at the time. Recently I received a direct mailer about the performance and thought my mom would enjoy it. When we arrived for the show most of the audience were elderly women wearing red hats. A Google search reveals that this tribe is 1,500,000 strong. Each member pays a $20 annual membership fee. I marveled at the marketing genius of the musical. This is certainly geared at a specific niche. Come to find out the society commissioned the musical. RHS has numerous other money generating products and ventures but the Google search did not reveal much about the Red Hatters from the traditional business media. I am reminded that I need to always pay attention. You never know where the next inspiration is coming from.

That Google search did reveal that researchers at Penn State University are conducting interviews with Red Hatters as part of a study that is researching the link between play and happiness. 'Play' is one of the 'six fundamentally human attributes that are essential for professional success and personal fulfillment' outlined in Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind. Pay attention.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Something to Ponder

I am not sure where I read this last week - (that is one of the problems if you read a lot, not being about to pinpoint everything) - but I have been thinking about it a lot. So, I share this as something to ponder in a big way as it relates to big things, and in a big way, as it relates to the little things in daily life.

Here is the thing: "These days the medium is the message."

What do the many mediums that I utilize personally and professionally and even intimately express about who I am, how hip I am, how knowledgeable I am, how intentional I am, how caring and sensitive I am, how interested in a relationship I am, how dedicated to quality I am, how disciplined I am....I could go on and on. These are the questions I have been asking and answering across my own life spectrum. It has been a rich and enlightening thinking experience.

I suggest you take this found and profound statement, and do the same. See what happens.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

High School Newspapers Going Social

Tomorrow's newspaper editors, in whatever form newspapers survive, are in high school or college today. That is interesting to think about. So, the short of it will be this: the goal and passion to do good quality journalism will stay the same, but all aspects of the delivery format and the whole sense of timeliness will, or really has, changed.

This article in the St. Louis Dispatch, available for me on STL.com, talks about the shift that is starting to happen in high school journalism:

"There's no doubt that's the trend for youth journalism, to both post and consume online," Mitsu Klos said. "This is obviously the next and necessary step for them, to make the information available where (students') social networks are."

Know the audience and meet them where they are? Uhh........what is new about that? I mean, really?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guy Kawasaki on School Innovation

In his keynote address at the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference in Chicago, Guy Kawasaki offered one of his famous 10 Things lists. Explaining that schools should prepare young people for living, not just for entrance into college, below is what Kawasaki wishes schools would teach kids so that business people won't have to once these young people enter the world of work and the reality of life. This list might serve as a Reality Check for schools!

  1. Teach students how to figure out anything by themselves.
  2. How to explain anything in 30 seconds.
  3. How to do a one-page report.
  4. 10-20-30 rule of PowerPoint (see above).
  5. Optimal length of an e-mail is five sentences, without an attachment.
  6. How to survive a meeting (basically you get what you want out of the meeting and then you park your brain).
  7. How to run a meeting (start on time, end on time, involve as few people as possible).
  8. How to work as a group (the solo brilliant person doesn’t work in business).
  9. How to negotiate win-wins.
  10. Learning is a process not an event. It’s a lifelong process that is not limited to school.
What would be in the harm in preparing kids for their futures instead of perpetuating the traditional notion of school? Is it just our discomfort with changing, doing something different from what we have always done? Be honest!

Guy Kawasaki on Innovation

Guy Kawasaki, plain-spoken serial entrepreneur and legendary venture capitalist recently gave one of the keynote addresses at the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference in Chicago. Drawing from his books The Art of Innovation and its newer iteration Reality Check, Kawasaki outlined 10 things to realize and incorporate into one's habits, mindsets, and behaviors to be innovative. To fully appreciate Kawasaki and his work, one has to understand the tacit assumption from which he operates (it may be tacit but it is loud and strong: INNOVATE OR DIE!)

Strive to do the following:

  1. Make meaning. "The people who wake up in the morning wanting to make meaning usually succeed. The people who want to make money usually fail. Those who perpetuate good things, cause good things, or end bad things – those are the innovators." Kawasaki illustrates this with the Nike ad aimed at women. The ad sells the idea that when you exercise, you empower yourself. Nike turned two pieces of cotton and rubber (shoes) into efficacy, liberation, and power. Nike is making meaning out of shoes. They are selling self-empowerment, not shoes.
  2. Make a mantra. "Most organizations make mission statements and most mission statements suck!" By contrast, a mantra is no more than two or three words." Kawasaki's offers examples of mantras he would adopt based on places he frequents. Wendy’s should be “healthy fast food;” Nike stands for “authentic athletic performance;” eBay represents “democratization of commerce;” and Target could be “democratize design.” Kawasaki suggests that a bad mission statement creates a bad company vision.
  3. Jump to the next curve. "Don’t be satisfied battling it out on the same curve as all of your competitors." Kawasaki suggests doing what they can't do. Macintosh created a whole new curve, not a slightly better DOS computer. The telephone was not a slightly better telegraph, it was a whole new curve. Most organizations define their business on the curve they’re on. If you truly want to be innovative, it’s not about doing things 10 percent better – jump the curve to do something 10 times different and better!
  4. Roll the DICEE. All innovations share the following elements.
    Depth: Create great products and services that are revolutionary
    Intelligent: Someone has anticipated what’s necessary
    Complete: Not just the leather and steel and glass of the car – it’s the totality of the experience, it’s the Lexus experience.
    Elegance: The beauty of the industrial design.
    Emotive: Generate strong emotions – people love what you do or hate what you do, but they are certainly not indifferent. The worst case is that people don’t care about what you do.
  5. Don’t worry, be crappy (which Kawasaki readily admits is a blatant rip off of the Bobby McFerrin song). If you wait for perfection, you’ll never be ready to act. Act first, improve later. Too many organizations and people have analysis paralysis which costs us time, money, creativity, and market share, all of which lead to a death trap.
  6. Polarize people (emotiveness). Many organizations try to be all things to all people, which inevitably produces mediocrity. Don’t try to anger people, but do not hesitate to alienate a group that you can do without.
  7. Let 100 flowers blossom ("stolen from Chairman Mao"). For example, Apple's original goal wasn't to spark a new desktop publishing industry, but it did encourage many software companies to write programs for the Mac. Apple Computer would have died if the Aldus Corporation hadn't developed PageMaker for the Mac in 1985 – thus expanding the Mac beyond a simple word processor or spreadsheet tool.
  8. Churn, baby, churn (yes, another song rip off – thank you to the Trammps!). To be an innovator, you need to be in denial. Ignore the bozos who keep telling you it cannot be done. Then listen to customers to see how to fix your product. Fix it, ship it, listen. Then, start again: fix it, ship it, listen. It is a never-ending process.
  9. Niche thyself. You want high uniqueness and high value. If you’re a great value but not unique, then you always have to compete on price (i.e., Dell Computer). If you’re only unique without value, you’re just a clown – you own a market that doesn’t exist. If your product/service is neither unique nor valuable, quit! You want to produce something that is unique and of great value to the customer, like the Smart car, which can park perpendicular to the curb, among other things. Determine what is unique about youand make sure your uniqueness is of value.
  10. Follow the 10-20-30 rule. Create a maximum of 10 slides in a PowerPoint presentation; deliver it in 20 minutes; the optimal size font is 30 points.
  11. Don’t let the bozos grind you down. Rich and famous parses to “lucky” not necessarily smart. "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at who he gives it to." So watch for Bozosity. Take a shot of Bozosity to inoculate yourself against it.
So, now you have the list. What to do with it? How to use it? My suggestion is to sit down in a quiet environment. Close the door, or better, go to a new place where you can be free of all distractions and have a serious one-on-one conversation with yourself. Ask: what is keeping me from believing or embracing this suggestion? Where am I on a scale of believing this and how can I influence a stronger understanding of this concept? In other words, take a serious inventory of where you are and what you need to do to move forword. Why? Remember: Innovate or die. That applies to us as organizations and us as individuals in organizations.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


March Madness! We wait for it every year at our house. Even though we don't really pay attention to basketball, until about the first of March, my three children, my husband, and I look forward to picking names out of the hat to see who has what teams and how they will fare, playing through the brackets.

The NCAA Division 1 Men's Tournament is the best kind of bracketology - 65 select, highly capable teams competing via an exciting process of elimination. Winner takes all.

You might ask what kind of other bracketology is there? Bracketology is actually a synonym for reductionist thinking, and it was featured in a 2007 book, The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything. I thought this was an exciting concept and went to the bookstore intending to buy this book. Upon looking at it, even thought it was well done and fun, I did not purchase the book because narrowing anything down to a single best, only one winner is antithetical to what I believe in and how my mind works.

Reductionist thinking is logical, scientific reasoning. It is binary, built on either/or, better or worse. It is the process of winnowing. Too often we consider reductionism as the only true logic and the only sound way to make decisions.

Reductionism lacks imagination and intuition. Reductionism does not make room for ambiguity and paradox, both of which are more apt and reliable in explaining and understanding complexity. Therefore, reductionism, as I see it, provides not only a false sense of security, power, and progress, it develops a false picture of a situation because it over-simplifies.

I favor a more radiant, imaginative thinking process that embraces both/and, sometimes, in this case, and for right now as descriptors. Radiant thinking seeks to make connections and associations, to spread out ideas and assumptions in order to expose gaps and create space for invention and innovation between structures.

When does bracketology work? Only after a long season of practice and play, as each team that makes the tournament knows. Their season record and conference play earns them a Bracket invitation. In working with ideas and concepts, use bracketology only after a long season of play and practice in expanding and experimenting. Don't narrow or rush the important imaginative work of problem-seeing and solution creation.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Manage your Word of Mouth

Jackie Huba of The Church of the Customer blog posts an interesting question regarding the economic value of word of mouth referrals from existing customers. She asks, "Do you know the referral value of your best customers? That is, do you know how much revenue is generated from customers who refer you, and how much revenue is lost from those who recommend against you?" Huba offers research Satmetrix has conducted in the wireless communication industry. It is great to be able to get specific.

Here, however, is my specific enough answer to her question:

Your best customers' referral value is priceless! Learn to harnass it!

Paying attention and managing your word of mouth is worth a lot to your business, regardless of what sort of business you are in. Knowing your influencers, evangelists, and promoters is vital to spreading good will and making the case of your value-added. These people are in effect your volunteer sales force. They can promote and validate from the user's perspective. In addition, they can create positive conversations to diffuse or neutralize any negative word of mouth that is swirling.

Once you know who your influential customers are, engage them, educate them, include them, marshall them, appreciate them, validate them, reward them, support them, etc. etc. etc. - get the picture? If you have to ask why, start at the top and read this post again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Schools Are Boring Because We Designed Them To Be Boring

Denizen Hotels will become a cultural epicentre at each of its destinations, cultivating community within its walls. Eclectic, social and humbly authentic, each property within the brand will be smart in design, cultural in character and sensitive in service delivery. Developed as an international intersection of business and pleasure, Denizen Hotels will redefine how guests stay and play. With innovative check-in technologies and in-room comfort controlled at the touch of a button, Denizen Hotels destinations will harness the best and brightest design and technology to provide a seamless guest experience for the modern traveler.

The above description is from an email I received from Hilton Hotels announcing their newest brand, Denizen. A denizen is an inhabitant, or someone who has been granted residence in a foreign country, or, more casually, someone who frequents a place, like a bar would have its local denizens.

What struck me in reading this hotel description was how schools should strive to accomplish the same end goals in their environments. Below is my re-write for a school. I am naming my school Right On! because that is what a school should feel like to the kids and parents that experience it.

Right On! School will become a cultural epicentre in each of its classrooms at every grade level, cultivating community within its walls and outdoor learning spaces. Eclectic, social, and humbly authentic, Right On! School will be smart in design of its learning practices and learning spaces, cultural in its learning focus, and sensitive in its service delivery to both students and parents. Developed as an international intersection of work and play, Right On! School will redefine how students learn, play, and build relationships that span the globe. Right On! School will define how parents and teachers learn, support, and guide children. With innovative technologies and in-room physical and emotional comfort controlled as determined by the needs of each individual learner, Right On School classrooms will harness the best and brightest design and technology to provide a relevant preparatory experience for the modern learner and his or her parents.

In the top right corner, the circled exclamation point, would be their logo because, even though children have to be in a contained place that we call school, it should and can and is most effective when it is exciting!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Upholding Catholic Values After Conversion to Charter Schools - NYTimes.com

Charter Schools could find themselves in greater numbers and offering more value because of the values they can offer and can teach and live out. Great to see!

Posted via web from jamiereverb's posterous

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Aid Critical to Fulfill New Jersey’s Public Preschool Plan - NYTimes.com

If we were to have a universal, high quality, enriched experience for every child to develop learning readiness and effective social skills, just think of the potential and capacity we are developing for all of our schools, all of our communities, and all of our futures. Just imagine!

Posted via web from jamiereverb's posterous

Review Site Draws Grumbles From Merchants and Users - NYTimes.com

So, what won't we Yelp given a little more time and more saturated mobile tools? We as consumers yelp about our experiences all the time, but our current megaphone extends to our play lot, our email list, our coffee group. Add high speed global connectivity, no filters except your personal idea of civility, and unarticulated criteria and you have a management nightmare for any business trying to deliver a high quality experience, service, or product. Tomorrow's question, that will be here in just a few minutes is how can we develop some positive Yelp? Or, just pretend Yelp doesn't exist, and that will develop its own category of Yelp.

Posted via web from jamiereverb's posterous

Beale deals with latest drinking problems — blitzed birds : Local News : Memphis Commercial Appeal

Be ware of drunk flying birds! I see them everywhere near where we live downtown!

Posted via web from jamiereverb's posterous

Monday, March 2, 2009

In Denver, Residents Lament the Closing of a Newspaper - NYTimes.com

Is this the first domino? How fast will they fall? Why couldn't they see it coming?

Posted via web from jamiereverb's posterous