leadership dot #2133: scheduled

At a mall in Minnesota, they literally tore down the JC Penney anchor store to make room for a new fitness center. It is a sign of the times – not only that brick and mortar retailers are struggling – but that gyms are thriving. There seems to be one on every corner.

I don’t think that “back in the day” we had any gyms, save for a sweaty little place where weightlifters and aspiring boxers went to work out. They certainly were not for the average person.

As a kid, our exercise was sunlight-driven or when-mom-calls-you-home driven. We got our exercise through play. Now children seem to get the majority of their exercise through structured activities that are calendar-driven: when there are practices or games. Our exercise came through goofing around with kids in the neighborhood, pick-up games of basketball or kickball in the street; today it comes through sports.

I think that gyms provide that structure after high school or college when the organized athletic events end. Gyms allow exercise times to continue to be scheduled – through classes at the gym or appointments with a trainer — and keep “exercise” as a defined event rather than an outcome of other activity.

Think about how your calendar dependency has evolved. Are there things besides exercise that need to be scheduled on it – time for friends, time to be alone, time to read or meditate? Do you need to self-impose a membership plan (like at a gym) where you make that commitment to do an activity that you know is good for you? Very little “just happens” anymore; we don’t just go out and play. Reserve time on your calendar for the things that are important.

 

leadership dot #1995: Gen Z

There is a lot of attention being paid to the Millennial generation right now when in reality, it would behoove organizations to spend as much effort preparing for Generation Z. Gen Z, as it is lovingly known, represents the generation born between 1995-ish and 2010 or so. They are the college students of today and the leaders of tomorrow, representing a quarter of the population and soon will have a significant impact on the workforce.

Gen Z grew up with technology and social media integrated into their lives. They have communicated all their lives through screens and will expect the use of technology to be pervasive in their organizations. Gen Z uses this technology to make their lives easier and to receive information/action on demand. Gen Z wants a work/life blend – and the ability to use the resources available to them to work from anywhere at anytime. They are more interested in the community than just themselves and also have a strong interest in entrepreneurship.

Think about the world in which Gen Z grew up: they never had to learn how to use technology – it was omnipresent since they were born. They carry this expectation onto campus and into the workforce, requiring organizations to rethink how they handle processes and transactions of all types. Yet Gen Z is not looking to automate everything; they value experiences, one-to-one interactions and being involved in decisions.

Gen Z employees or entrepreneurs will be the ones to lead efforts on 3D printing, wearable technology, driverless cars, artificial intelligence and workplace inclusion. They will continue the movement to integrate smart learning into every facet of life and become active designers of both social and economic change.

As an organization leader, you can embrace their thinking and be inspired by Gen Z or try to hold on to more established ways of operating. Succeed by articulating and providing value, creating experiences that allow them to interact and paying attention to the user experience. Ready or not, Gen Z is coming and bringing a wave of optimism and motivation that will benefit us all.

leadership dot #1987: binge

Tonight is the 300th episode of the television drama Grey’s Anatomy. If the average episode is 42 minutes, that means I have already spent almost 210 hours as a couch potato because of this show.

OMG.
I could have written a book in that amount of time.

While some have spread their 12,558 minutes over the course of 14 seasons, I came late to the Grey’s party, but thanks to the marvel of Netflix, I was able to catch up. In a few months. Watching far more than 42 minutes at a stretch.

Binge watching has changed the landscape of how television is consumed. It is becoming increasingly rare to watch just one show and to watch it as it originally airs. Even people who could do that often save up a few past episodes so that they can watch them as a set – somehow making it more of an experience than an individual event.

Binge watching has implications far beyond television though. People are getting accustomed to (or should we say “being trained”) to consume things on an on-demand basis and to receive an on-going feed of content they desire. Membership sites with monthly fees are available for delivery of almost every product imaginable. Sites like Netflix and Hulu have vast repositories of content that extend lives of television shows and movies. Now if a show gets a good buzz as the series builds, they can still capture an audience. People want to be able to go back and “catch up” rather than being told they missed their opportunity.

Has your website and content delivery been repackaged to allow for “binge-access” for your clients? It’s no longer enough to just have information about the event: now you need to record it, share it and archive it forever. Have you preserved your newsletters, magazines and other content for someone to retrieve at any point so they are able to meet their need at the moment? Do you provide an easy way for someone to dive deep into your organization and learn about your services, such as when preparing for a job interview or to hire you as a client? Do you have educational resources available for customers to learn all they can about a topic when a specific problem arises?

Binge watching is the new norm for entertainment, but I predict it is going to spread over to consumption of educational content as well. Think about how you package your content so you don’t need a crash cart to resuscitate your brand.

leadership dot #1978: too far

It used to be that every house on the block offered candy to trick-or-treaters, but then allergies and health consciousness kicked in and the candy bars were no longer standard. I am all for offering a variety of Halloween treats to avoid overloading children with excess sugar, and for offering non-candy treats as an option. (See the dot from last year about the teal pumpkin project)

But Dole has taken the healthy-holiday idea too far by offering mini-salads as an option for those who come to your door. I doubt that most would see it as a trick instead of a treat!

What’s next? Pumpkin Spice Lettuce? There is a limit to how much nutrition you should promote on a holiday centered around sweetness.

Keep the context and your audience in mind when planning advertising or product launches. You don’t need to insert yourself into every holiday or fad.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #1906: old school

There are some days when I wish I had a warehouse to store everything I have ever owned so that I could cash in on things when they come into vogue the second time around. Such was my feeling when I saw the display of “decorative felt boards” at the craft store.

Back in the day, these old school felt boards were called “spaghetti boards” because the rows of felt look like the pasta all laid out end to end. Organizations had cases of those little plastic letters that the unfortunate person using the board first had to locate, then stick into the ‘spaghetti’ one by one. The letters were never even, they often fell out and overall the boards were a pain in the neck to use. We were more than thrilled to toss all of it when computerized signs became an option. I can’t believe they have returned!

But there they are — in a glorious end cap display — featuring the nasty pull-apart letters and the felt boards just waiting for those who want a low tech option for decorating.

Retro is all the rage these days. Typewriters, turntables and now spaghetti boards are around again. What lurks in your attic or the bowels of your building that you could revitalize and give a second life?

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observations with others.

leadership dot #1881: mix

One of the traits of Generation Z (those born between 1995-2012) is their desire to customize almost everything. The book Gen Z @ Work labels it as Hyper-Custom and it has become an expectation for those in the younger generation to want to have a choice in places where none was offered before.

I thought about Gen Z when I was at O’Hare Airport and saw the Garrett’s popcorn stand.  Garrett’s has been a Chicago staple since 1949. At first, they offered plain, caramel corn and cheese corn. Then they combined caramel and cheese and became famous for their mix. Later versions with nuts were added, but it still meant about six choices on the menu.

But six isn’t enough for today’s consumers. Wisely, Garrett’s has taken the mix concept further and is trying to respond to demand. The company now features “Which Mix is Your Fix?” and encourages customized combinations in any format that you desire. Combine caramel and butter for the Buttery Goodness Mix or cheese and butter for the Gold Standard Mix. Or any flavors you wish shook together in the bag for a delicious snack.

It is no longer enough to offer just your famous mix that has been popular for half a century. Gen Z wants to create its own mix. Just like they want to create their drink from one of the thousands of combinations in the new Coke fountain machines or read only from a media feed of sources they chose.

Burger King has been saying “have it your way” for years. It’s time that your organization began embracing their slogan as your own. Gen Z wants to mix it up — in more ways than one.

Gen Z @ Work by David Stillman and Jonah Stillman, 2017.

 

leadership dot #1877: cast aside

There is a buzz about how Artificial Intelligence is going to change the landscape, but I think the true game-changer is going to be 3D printing. The magic of 3D is becoming more accessible to the masses and transforming things on a daily basis.

The latest example of 3D in action replaces medical casts with plastic ones: custom fit, waterproof, lighter, more airy and even fun with personalized words and messages. No more signing of the cast: now yours comes with motivational sayings printed in. How much more fun is that than the traditional plaster versions?

In the 1967 movie Mrs. Robinson, Dustin Hoffman’s character was told “there’s a great future in plastics.” And with 3D printing, it is even more true today. It’s hard to wrap your mind around all the things 3D printing can do, but once you have that vision, implementing it is only a matter of time.

Think about what you could cast away that is currently done in a clunky or generic manner and head to your local library Makerspace to see if you can’t take your idea to a new dimension in 3D plastic.