Today shares another observation from my visit to the World of Coke. One of their movies asked the question: “What makes Coke Coke?” In the end, they came up with three answers: unparalleled taste, uniform quality and universal accessibility. I would have guessed something similar to taste and uniformity, but until my visit I had not considered Coke’s distribution system. Bottlers and distributors take Coke products to some of the most remote places to ensure that you can get a bottle of the beverage almost anywhere. Even today, Coke is delivered by dugout canoes, bicycle cart, dogsleds and wagons. This commitment to accessibility has been a mantra of the company since the 1920s when then-president Robert Woodruff “vowed to put Coca-Cola ‘within an arm’s reach of desire.'” They were the first to go beyond the soda counter to gas stations, sporting events and businesses, and invented the first “six-pack” carrying case to facilitate the product’s mobility. It has served them well as they hold market share in most major venues. Most people spend all their time trying to make a better product, but I think there is a lesson here from Woodruff and Coke. Your product/service needs to be accessible in order for people to experience it. Put some thought into your distribution system and consider whether improving that will take you further than enhancing the product itself.
As you can tell by yesterday’s blog, one of the places we visited on vacation was the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. It is the mother ship, and over a million people per year pay money and spend a few hours to become part of a 100,000 square foot commercial. For many reasons, I loved it. The World of Coca-Cola is a well-orchestrated branding machine. From the moment you are within sight lines of the museum, you can see a giant Coke bottle in a glass tower above the entrance way. The information desk is shielded from the sun by a giant “bottle cap.” While waiting in line, that distinctive sound of a bottle being opened and liquid being poured is piped in the background. The seats in the theatre are arranged in the trademarked “red ribbon swirl” formation instead of in straight lines. Even the elevator has the Coke ribbon in raised metal to line the interior. Instead letting guests become bored while waiting, attendants counted the number of hits people in line made to keep an inflated football in the air, always trying to beat the day’s best. The Coke Bear “ate” Cubs hats and entertained those in line as well as the guest who was being photographed. Visitors could make their own Coke ads with special design computers, read stories others had written about their experiences with Coke or write their own memories. And then there was the free tasting of over 100 Coke products from around the world. By the time you left, through the store (of course), you had been subliminally indoctrinated by Coke for the last two hours and were willing to wait in a significant line so that you could take some of the magic home with you. The Coke people have got it mastered in a tasteful (but certainly not subtle) way. Anyone who has anything to do with hosting visitors or telling their institution’s history would be well served to visit Atlanta. It’s the real thing.
— beth triplett leadershipdots.blogspot.com
Information Desk on grounds My Coke Story display and kiosks
I just returned from being a tourist and noticed that there is nothing like vacation to inspire photography. I am sure that I took more pictures in the past week than I have in any similar time period all year. I also realized that I am IN more pictures on vacation than at any other time. I remember ‘back in the day’ when everyone had actual cameras. Finding someone else to take a picture of you and your traveling companions was always a chore. If you spotted a willing volunteer, the next five minutes were spent in giving camera lessons. Today, you can hand anyone your smart phone and they know how to work it. Phone-based cameras have become ubiquitous. Everyone knows how to take pictures vs. fiddling with the uniqueness of each model of camera. Ironically, even though the pool of knowledgeable photographers has increased, the need for them has decreased. Now people often take their own group shots via selfies or with the dreaded selfie stick. More people know how to point and shoot, but less are asked to do so. Instagram reports* that 40 million photos are posted daily to its site! That’s a lot of vacations and probably even more selfies. A picture is worth a thousand words. Use your camera, and the shared understanding of most people around you, to capture visuals that convey your story better than words can.
Even though Dr. Seuss died nearly a quarter-century ago, today you are able to purchase one of his new books. What Pet Should I Get? was found in a box by his widow — complete with text and drawings. It is believed to have inspired the famous One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish that was originally published instead (in 1960). Can you imagine finding a brand new Dr. Seuss story? Even if you were his widow and secretary doing the finding, it would still be a thrill. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) published 44 books during his lifetime, and yet he personally never saw fit to bring out the box that held this one. I wonder why. Was he such a prolific writer that he forgot about it? Did he think it was too similar to the One Fish story? Or, if he was like most people, more likely the reason is that he didn’t think the book was “good enough”. What is lurking in your desk drawer or on your flash drive? As these blogs prove, your writing does not need to be perfect in order to be shared. If you have “content”, put it out there for the world to see. It may be the stepping stone that someone needs to launch on to other ideas. It could be the inspiration someone requires at the moment. Or it could be mediocre. But let the world decide. Don’t leave your thoughts unshared for decades or until after you are gone. Use your voice while you have it.
— beth triplett leadershipdots.blogspot.com
*Source: One draft, two draft, old draft…new Dr. Seuss book by Sarah Begley, Time, August 3, 2015, p. 63
Today is the last day of work for one of my favorite employees. I hate to see her leave. I met her at a pre-interview at a diner, during one of those times I have described before where a drive to meet a candidate in person is warranted. I needed to do a “chemistry-check” before I invited her to campus, and it was well worth my 6 hour trip to verify that we had the rapport necessary to work together. There are two things I have appreciated most about Emily. First, is that she has served as my “utility infielder” since she arrived. I think every office needs one, and every boss should take steps to carve out that role for someone to play. There are invariably special projects and one-time tasks the come up, and having someone with the skill, willingness and capacity to take them on allows everyone and everything else to run more smoothly. The other thing that I will miss about Emily is her candor. At times, I know it could be off-putting to some, but I have welcomed the ability to speak the hard truths to her and be heard, and to hear things from her that no one else would say to me. She has enlightened me, challenged me and pushed us all during her time here. I wish for every supervisor to have a truth teller. I am glad that the ease of the Internet will allow her to continue to fill my inbox with articles and ideas, and hope she does so. I also hope that someone among those who remain or those new to join us will fill the roles she vacates beyond her job description — both of making it comfortable for us by taking on some projects and making it uncomfortable for us by taking on some of our assumptions. Lucky is the office that has both.
I recently saw the movie Inside Out, an ambitious Pixar flick that tackles the subject of emotions and how the brain works in an animated feature. The main characters: Joy, Sadness, Anger and Disgust rotate their positions at the “controls” of Riley’s brain and manipulate how she is feeling at the moment. The movie makes it appear that emotions happen to Riley: because Joy is in charge, Riley is happy and so on. But in reality, you are the one at the console. You can choose how to respond to events and what emotions to express. Inside Out is a delightful and entertaining film. Just keep in mind that it is a movie, and that you can direct your own story as you wish it to play out.
What’s the best part about doing laundry? Taking things out of the dryer, of course. Charles Schultz said that “happiness is a warm puppy,” but I think that happiness is being enveloped in a load of warm laundry. Regardless of the outside temperature, things just out of the dryer feel cozy and wonderful. Somehow, a fresh dryer load is the perfect temperature even if it only lasts for a fleeting moment. Think about the moments you create in your organization. Is there a way you can capture a prized experience even for a brief time? What about a smell that your clients soak in as they enter? Or a sound of soothing music as they wait? Or an unusual work of art that lights up their eyes when they first see it? The just-out-of-the-dryer perfection does not endure, but it does delight while it exists. Stop for a moment and forget about on-going customer enhancements and ponder if you can wow for just a brief experience.
There are certain things that you can just never seem to get rid of, even though you never set out to keep them:
> Easter grass
> Stickers put on by the moving company
> Cubes of glass from a broken car windshield
> Pieces of evergreen from Christmas garland
I’ll bet that you have found remnants of these items long after you believe you “cleaned up” from using them originally. I moved eight years ago and just found another moving sticker on the underside of a table. There is constantly glitter from the “ruby slippers” on my bookshelf, and it always reminds me of the giver of that gift. And if you have ever had a broken car window, you know that glass remains in the air vents and every nook and cranny for the rest of the time you own the vehicle.
These are all things that we wish to be rid of, yet they prevail. How can we apply that concept to things that we hope would be preserved? You don’t have to be as drastic as the prank of mailing people a box full of glitter, but can you add some sprinkles to your next mailing with a message to intentionally extend the sparkle? Can you ask people to share pictures on Facebook of holiday remnants long after the season is over (e.g.: evergreens in July)? Or hold a contest to guess how many moving stickers will be used by an exiting employee? Or just smile when yet another shows up.
There are things that have staying power. Instead of being annoyed, how can you see the humor in their seemingly endless presence?
The way you can make things your own is often in the details instead of the big things.
Jelly Belly entered a crowded market of candy and claimed their spot by becoming the purveyor of unique flavors. There are over 50 of them, including draft beer, buttered popcorn, cappuccino, cantaloupe, Tabasco, pancakes and maple syrup, pina colada and chili mango.
Now they have taken their niche and expanded it through clever packaging. For example, you can pay $1 for 1 oz (about 10) Jelly Belly beans in a Frozen Olaf Icicle Mix and have their same beans at an even higher premium price.
What I like about their packaging is that someone paid attention to every detail, including the UPC code. Instead of the standard code like every other package on the shelf, Jelly Belly’s is in the shape of a bean:
What assumptions are you making about what you produce or publish? Do you assume your mailing has to be in an envelope?* Do you think the UPC code has to be rectangular? Do you think the stamp has to come from the Post Office instead of being personalized?
You probably have a lot more latitude than your are using. Question the details and see if you can put your own mark on them.
What I did not know when I started writing a daily blog is what it would teach me. I thought that I would impart lessons to others, but I did not really expect to reap benefits myself. Wrong. In addition to strengthening my discipline (required to write one of these buggers every dang day), and heightening my observational skills (so I have topics to write about every dang day), it has caused me to reflexively think of implications of what I see. In an environmental scanning workshop I attended, the example used was about a hurricane hitting the Gulf. It is one thing to know about the event, but the next step is to make meaning out of the occurrence: A hurricane means that homes are destroyed so the demand for building supplies increases; businesses are disrupted, so employees are displaced; the oil refinery must close so oil tops $70 barrel, etc. The scan is irrelevant unless implications are considered. The same is true with blog writing. It is one thing to see a hawk or a snake, but another to turn those events into a lesson that may have applicability to others. You don’t have to write a blog every day to intentionally strengthen your meaning-making muscle. Push yourself to think about the implications of what you observe and to ponder the impact in the larger system. Leadership is about making connections with your dots, not just collecting them. Try to draw some lines with your thinking today.