leadership dot #3886: cooking

In the competitive hotel market, there is a continual quest to have the latest feature to set a property apart from others. As a result, such amenities as free breakfasts, streaming services, workout rooms, and internet connections have become standard in many chains. Now, it seems, the attention has turned from focusing on the bedroom component of your stay to upgrading the kitchen as well.

As part of this niche, Marriott’s Townplace Suites promotes a “Something Borrowed” campaign where guests can borrow various tools to help with food preparation on the property. The hotel prominently features grills near the entranceway and facilities now offer grilling seasonings, a Suite Eats cookbook, mixing bowls, slow cookers, rice cookers, and blenders. You can check out supplies to use in your in-room kitchen and have a home-cooked meal on the road.

There is only so much a chain can do to distinguish itself when it provides a narrow service so Townplace broadened its definition of what they offer. Maybe your organization can cook up a new way to serve your clients.

leadership dot #3867: bandage

Everyone has heard how medical debt can be as debilitating as the disease and wreak havoc on a patient’s finances. While there have been many efforts to curb the cost of health care and to provide insurance coverage to more Americans, the problem persists. It is estimated that over $100 billion of medical debt is in the collections process.

An organization, RIP Medical Debt, has taken an unusual approach to help alleviate the burden for low-income patients — it utilizes donations to buy medical debt from hospitals and collection agencies for pennies on the dollar and then randomly relieves debt in bulk. Since its origin in 2014, it has relieved more than $8.5 billion for patients. CEO Allison Sesso noted that many of the debts are between $500-$5,000 — incurred by insured clients who cannot cover the deductibles. Not only does she reduce the patient’s financial burden, but the organization also reduces the stress that comes with being in collections or having unpaid obligations.

This strategy isn’t going to fix the problem or address the source of anything that causes it, but for the people RIP Medical Debt helps, it can be lifesaving. Is there a new point on the spectrum of a vexing issue that you can focus on? While you’re working on the root cause maybe there is an innovative way to temporarily provide some relief for those impacted by what you’re trying to solve.

Source: Buying Medical Debt to Forgive it, Interviewed by Tom Murphy, February 12, 2023

leadership dot #3855: links

Over the weekend, I was fortunate to see Six The Musical — a modern telling of the story of the six wives of Henry VIII. It’s more like a pop concert than a stodgy history lesson and, in addition to being enthralled with the music, color, costumes, and dance, I was so in awe of Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss who wrote it. Never once in my history class did I think that the story of “divorced, beheaded, died” could be so uplifting!

While an undergraduate at Cambridge, Marlow was selected to write an original musical to be performed at a fringe festival and Six became his submission. He had the inspiration while in a poetry class, which reminded me of Andrew Lloyd Webber who turned T. S. Eliot’s poetry into the Cats musical. Webber also turned Bible stories into Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Lin-Manuel Miranda turned Alexander Hamilton’s biography into a cultural phenomenon.

Do only geniuses make connections? No.

I remember sitting in a restaurant with a friend who was lamenting about her lack of ideas for a column she had to write, and I know I face the same dilemma every day about where to find a topic for a dot. But the answer lies in Six, or Hamilton, or Cats. Inspiration is all around us: in what we read, what we watch, and what we experience in our everyday lives. The geniuses have strengthened their “connection muscle” so that they recognize and embrace concepts or relationships that are just waiting to be linked together, but everyone can (and should) seize the opportunity to do so.

You never have to generate an idea from a blank piece of paper or screen. Look at what already exists and challenge yourself to see how it can evolve into something else. You, too, can create links to make something new.

(And go see Six if you have the chance — 80 minutes of high-energy fun!)

The six wives of Henry VIII in Six

leadership dot #3844: heart

I received a coupon for a free breakfast biscuit so of course I went to redeem it. It was a surprise that it was not only free but it came in the shape of a heart. I know that some pizzas and pancakes are also being made in that shape this month.

I love it when companies give a nod to holidays or current events. It’s a simple adjustment but an easy way to wow your customers without additional cost. Branded products certainly capitalize on the holiday themes, but it is a missed opportunity for in-person services.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are many holidays throughout the year. Experiment with adding some serendipity to your offerings to surprise and delight your customers. They will <heart> it!

leadership dot #3831: librarians

I recently read a Facebook post that said: “Do not mess with librarians. The inner strength required to meticulously care for history’s greatest works of literature and then just let total strangers borrow them willy-nilly is Jedi level stuff.” I think they are even more amazing than that!

I’m not sure where the stereotype of a buttoned-up old librarian came from because today those who work in libraries are some of the most innovative people around. Every time I go into our main library there is a different display around a new theme (this month: A Decade of New York Times best sellers) and books are also arranged to correspond to current events or holidays.

In addition, our librarians seem to go the extra effort to make it easy for people to utilize materials. They have created several series of bookmarks that help readers narrow down the available choices and direct them to resources or books of similar themes. One series is themed around New Year/New You and provides bookmarks for Building Habits, Cleaning, Starting a Business, Travel, Learning a Language, and more. Another series highlights Recommended Reads in multiple categories: Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, etc. All these free bookmarks are handy ways to encourage additional library use.

Instead of letting your customers fend for themselves or become overwhelmed with all that you offer, follow the lead of the librarians and continuously help others narrow down your services to what is most helpful to them. Creativity and curation go a long way in making something useful.

Facebook Post by Jonathan Edward Durham @thisoneOverhere

leadership dot #3808: wonderful

Over the weekend, I saw It’s a Wonderful Life in the theater. I’ve seen the film countless times but there is always something, well, wonderful, about seeing a movie on the silver screen.

Because it was a classic film presentation there was a special introduction with some trivia and tidbits about the movie. I learned that the film is based on a short story, The Greatest Gift, written by Philip Van Doren Stern. He had tried to sell rights to his tale, and when unsuccessful, self-published a 24-page pamphlet and sent it to 200 friends as his Christmas card in 1943. The story found its way to Cary Grant’s agent and through a circuitous path, to Frank Capra who bought the rights to adapt it. The movie premiered in December 1946.

Not only do I love the story itself, but its origins serve as an encouragement to put your work out into the world. No one wanted to buy Van Doren Stern’s story but he shared it anyway. You don’t need money or a huge audience to use your voice. Keep creating!

It’s a Wonderful Life George Bailey (James Stewart), Mary Bailey (Donna Reed), and their youngest daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes)

leadership dot #3792: bananas and paint

What do bananas and glow-in-the-dark paint have in common? They are two more examples of new ways of looking at things that you are familiar with — shared to help you stimulate your creativity about what you can do differently with what is in front of you.

Bananas in South Korea are packaged in an array of progressive ripeness. Rather than have a bunch of bananas all ready-to-eat or needing-to-be-ripened and then all ready all at once, they come as a set to be eaten over several days — the way people actually eat the fruit!

One-a-day bananas — image from @Fasc1nate on Twitter

Another new application of a pre-existing product comes from Australia where they are testing the use of glow-in-the-dark paint to make the lines on highways. This photoluminescent marking should make the dividing and shoulder lines easier to see — and thus, safer to drive. Seems like a natural use of existing technology!

Picture by @Fossbytes14 on Twitter

Novelist Marcel Proust said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” If someone can have new eyes about bananas and highway paint, think of what you can do in your organization. The components of innovation are already there waiting for you to see them.

leadership dot #3777: memorable

I love it when someone improves something simple and sees an ordinary object in a new way. Such was the case with the new batch of business cards. The box was designed to serve a dual purpose to hold cards that are received in exchange for the ones handed out. It came with three simple tabs: Call ’em up, Must Meets, and Wine & Dine. Presumably, the owner could prioritize the cards they received and use the box as a low-tech customer management system.

Almost all the business cards that are printed come in a box that is ultimately thrown away. What a creative touch to add these tabs and provide an extra piece of value.

Is there a similar enhancement that you could provide your clientele? It doesn’t take much to stand out in a world that too often does things as cheaply as possible. Pay those extra cents and make your work memorable.

leadership dot #3749: directory

The SOWA neighborhood of Boston is an art and design district with several art studios and galleries in reclaimed warehouses. You would expect these buildings to have a creative vibe but the thing that really caught my eye was their directory.

Instead of the typical and stale alphabetical listing of tenants, the SOWA directory provides a visual for each studio along with their suite number. It made for an attractive piece of art by itself, but also served as a handy reference for visitors to know which studios may be most appealing to them.

I think about the adaptation of this idea in other settings. Could you make your directory more visually appealing by including symbols or icons of the service provided in each office (I think of colleges that could have a $ sign for financial aid, a picture of a transcript for the registrar, etc.)? Maybe you would want to include pictures (perhaps at a medical center so patients could recognize their doctors)? Or larger stores could have a visual directory of what is available in each department (saving customers from guessing what is considered a soft good)?

Visuals help reduce language barriers and make it more aesthetically pleasing for everyone. Direct your energy to your directory and find ways to incorporate the SOWA concept in your organization.

leadership dot #3735: fat bears

Need a smile for your weekend? Take a minute to vote for the fattest bear as part of Fat Bear Week.

Katmai National Park in Alaska sponsors an annual contest where people can vote for which bear is the fattest after eating loads of salmon in preparation for hibernation. There are no criteria — just before and after photos to help influence your vote. There are even brackets and matchups, all culminating in the crowing of the Fattest Bear title.

Fat Bear Week is a perfect use of the internet. It would be hard to generate interest in conservation efforts or animal endangerment at one of the most remote places in Alaska, but people can rally around a fun contest that has no real consequence. It is brilliant — and should inspire you to think about how you can use the power of the internet to garner interest in your own organization.

Until then, you can vote every day between October 5-11and even download a bracket to see if your brown beauty is still active in the contest. Go Otis!!