leadership dot #3698: presence

While the internet makes everything accessible in two-dimensional form, there is still nothing like seeing something as its full, three-dimensional, tangible self. Many organizations recognize the limitations that distance creates for people to have this experience, so they have developed strategies to take things to them. Broadway shows have touring companies. Art galleries have traveling exhibits of some of their most famous pieces. The Clydesdales march in parades around the country. Bookmobiles bring the library into neighborhoods. Sports teams travel to other countries (and cornfields).

The State Historical Museum of Iowa has gotten in on the action. A custom-built recreational vehicle now serves as a traveling museum and appears throughout the state. Today, the Iowa History 101 Mobile Museum will be at the Farmer’s Market, enticing people to see over 50 artifacts in person. It will give families the opportunity to learn a bit about the state’s heritage, and perhaps motivate them to visit the full museum on their next trip to Des Moines.

Think about what your organization could take on the road. Whether you go place-to-place or share your resources with other locations, expanding your presence benefits everyone.

leadership dot #3692: steamroll

This weekend was the Sales Tax Free weekend in Iowa, designed to save residents money on back-to-school essentials. It’s always a busy time in stores as people take advantage of the price break and go shopping, whether or not they have school-age children to outfit.

Yet, this was the same time period that the landlord of the shopping center scheduled to have the parking lot re-paved. Half of the lot was cordoned off, including the entire section in front of the popular TJ Maxx. Maybe the crew was free because no other retailer wanted to schedule at that time?

It’s a classic example of isolated thinking. The timing worked for the paving company and the property manager apparently did not consider the whole picture and anticipate this conflict.

Have you been guilty of the same narrow thought — scheduling something without asking about the impact on others or checking to see what else is occurring in your family/organization/community? Before you make your next commitment, take a broad view of potential conflicts before you steamroll over everyone else.

leadership dot #3691: brew

I know that dogs are humans’ best friends, but this new product takes it a bit too far. Anheuser-Busch has developed a new Dog Brew product, a tasty bone-in pork butt broth specifically made for canines. It’s a pricey concoction, $15 for 4 cans, but presumably serves to promote healthy digestion and provide extra nutrients to Fido.

What I suspect is truly behind the brew’s development is a way to utilize byproducts from the making of actual beer. It’s a risky move, in my opinion, as the similarity of packaging could confuse humans and lead them to drink the product (yuck!), or, worse yet, lead people to think that giving real Busch to dogs is acceptable when alcohol is toxic to pets.

Category-jumping may bring in some revenue but completely strays from Busch’s core business. Don’t risk your reputation by grabbing at any bone for a buck.

leadership dot #3687: potatoes

If I asked you which state grew the most potatoes, I’ll bet most could correctly name Idaho. But what’s your guess for what state is number two or three?

Until this weekend, I would have had no idea, but through a very clever partnership, I learned that Wisconsin is the third-largest grower of spuds in the U.S. (Washington State is number two.) The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association helped create this awareness by sponsoring a touring music and dance troupe, the Kids from Wisconsin. The Kids travel the state and perform almost daily for two months, reaching 120,000 people. They end the first portion of the show by having the audience sing along to a little jingle about Wisconsin potatoes, they capture it on an iPad, and I’m sure that someone will post it on social media, reaching an even larger audience.

It seems like an unlikely pairing — kids between ages 15-20 and locally-grown potatoes — but it is actually a smart vehicle to increase recognition among the hundreds of adults who watch the Kids perform. The first step toward changing consumer behavior is raising awareness and the Growers certainly achieved that goal with an ad in the program, t-shirts, and most importantly, active participation by both the singers and the audience. Follow their cue and forge a partnership with a source that can engage your potential users in a tactical and unexpected way.

leadership dot #3686: wet

I have a canvas chair that stays out on my patio. Invariably, wetness soaks through to my pants when I sit on it in the morning. The chair doesn’t look wet. It doesn’t feel wet. It doesn’t matter if it has rained or not. The canvas holds moisture and soaks through with pressure.

Every time, I feel it and think that today will somehow be different — that the problem will have miraculously gone away — and so I sit on it again, only to become wet in inopportune places.

This chair could be an analogy for how many people or organizations address their issues. We know that the problem is unresolved. We know bad things will happen if we do what we have always done, or worse yet, ignore it. We know that nothing has changed. Yet, somehow, we believe that because we can’t see the problem, it is not there. As a result, we behave accordingly and face the undesirable consequences, often again and again.

A problem doesn’t have to be visible to be real. Don’t be fooled into behaving otherwise.

leadership dot #3684: guide

One of the advantages of traveling as a family of twelve is that you become your own group for tours. As a result, we were assigned a personal guide to help us navigate through the Polynesian Cultural Center, a day-long experience that showcases the culture of several Polynesian countries.

Having a private guide meant that we could craft our own itinerary and then have someone to efficiently ensure we saw the parts of the park that were most meaningful to us. Before we started out, Lohan asked us several questions, such as:

  • Did we want to see a little bit about each country or go in-depth with one or two?
  • Would we rather see shows in each area or spend more time on activities?
  • Was there anything in particular that we wanted to be sure to do?

Lohan said that to become a guide he had to memorize a 72-page script and pass tests on the material. While the Cultural Center may have gone to lengths to standardize the witty comments and information the guides shared, allowing each group the ability to tailor their day helped our group have a positive experience and create lasting memories of the place.

Of course, we paid extra for the service, but having someone who could personalize our visit and expertly navigate us through the park without any waiting, map-reading, or getting lost was worth every cent. Disney and other places could take a lesson from the Cultural Center.

Think about whether there is a way for you to offer a guide for the experience you provide. Many hospitals have volunteers who escort incoming patients to their initial intake location, schools could provide escorts to help navigate the entry onto campus or on the first day in classroom buildings, or government centers and large complexes could also utilize guides to help minimize the confusion.

Don’t stop at providing signs or a map. Adding that personal touch makes all the difference.

Our guide, Lohan.

leadership dot #3682: pineapple

If I say “Dole,” it’s likely the first word that comes to mind is “pineapple” and that word likely conjures images of Hawaii. Thanks to entrepreneur James Dole, the brand Dole, pineapple, and Hawaii have been synonymous since the turn of the twentieth century.

Pineapple had been growing in the islands long before Dole arrived, but it was he who recognized that to create a sustainable market, distribution to the mainland was key. As a result, Dole opened massive canneries to package the fruit and conducted recipe contests to help New Englanders see possibilities for how to use this exotic new treat. (The pineapple upside-down cake was a winner!) His savvy paid off, and Dole became one of the largest distributors of pineapple for a century.

It wasn’t enough for Dole to grow the fruit or even package it. He had to champion it from plant to table, overcoming barriers at each step along the way.

Think about your idea and evaluate whether you have continued to nurture it far enough into the process. A great idea at one stage will flounder if you don’t provide the support to see it through to the ultimate user.

leadership dot #3681: toy

At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, radar was available but its capabilities were unappreciated. The military thought radar was “just another toy” and only used it in a limited capacity, notably between 4 am and 7 am which was considered the most likely time for an invasion.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, radar picked up an unusual signal during that timeframe, but it was thought to be a flight of B17s that were due to arrive at 8 am, so the large mass of incoming planes was dismissed with tragic consequences during the 8 am bombing.

I’m sure there was a lot of second-guessing after the attack but one of the lessons learned certainly was that radar was far more than a superfluous gadget and could in fact provide critical intelligence about enemy operations.

I wonder what tools you have available to your organization that you are dismissing as “just another toy.” Maybe you are ignoring the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence, smart controls, new software, Tik Tok reels, data mining, or cyber currency. While it’s easier to devalue something that you don’t understand rather than learn about it and integrate its complexities into your work, don’t ignore the long-term cost to keeping your head in the sand.

leadership dot #3680: sunk

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was a surprise more for how it happened than the fact that it happened at all. The United States knew that Japan, Germany, and most of Europe were at war so the US military took steps to protect its fleet in Hawaii. They trained soldiers to protect the beaches. Lined up battleships in a row so as not to block the channel exit. Kept all the fighter planes parked tightly next to each other in the middle of the airstrip to protect them from external sabotage. Limited their reconnaissance to preserve manpower and planes for when they had to fly out of Hawaii to engage.

Pretty much everything the military did made it easier for Japan to devastate the operation when it bombed Pearl Harbor. The US believed that years of history would repeat themselves and that it was “a well-established premise that any decisive battle would be fought at sea.” And in that area, we were superior — with nine mighty battleships at the base to dominate the Pacific and serve as “the mightiest weapons of war.”

Those in command operated sensibly based on their fundamental beliefs, but of course, we now know that their premise was flawed — and from that fateful day forward, the aircraft carrier, not the battleship, would dominate the military arsenal.

Japan surprised Pearl Harbor by using new types of weapons, traveling 4000 miles under radio silence, and developing a new platform from which to change the method of attack. Your competitors are busy doing the same. Are you acting like the Pearl Harbor officers and plowing forward without questioning your core tenants or assumptions? You might have visible symbols of power — your equivalent of battleships — but if your organization faces a new method of attack your plans could be sunk. Don’t plan tomorrow based only on yesterday.

leadership dot #3677: waivers

One of the best things we did on vacation was to take a helicopter ride — with the doors off! In addition to savoring the incredible views, there was one other aspect that stuck with me from the experience: the casual nature of the operation.

We booked over the phone with no signature ever required. We signed no paperwork when we arrived. The company knew our first names and weight but did not even ask for last names before we took flight!

I don’t know if their lack of waivers was efficient or reckless but it did cause me to pause. This was Hawaii — part of the litigious States as opposed to an island nation with different laws and expectations. If we had crashed, you can bet there would have been a lawsuit. But someone decided that the waivers wouldn’t help them and pressed on in good faith.

Maybe before you kill a forest of trees with your next round of paperwork, you too can consider how much of the legalese is really required. There is a cost involved in producing, procuring, processing, and preserving records — maybe it’s time to reevaluate the benefit ratio of doing so.

I was assigned to be on the outside seat — with only a seatbelt between me and the sky!