Monday, December 29, 2008

What Did I Do All Year?

It seems like a good time to ask that question, right?

  • Spent January and Febuary in India, Singapore and Bali. Taught, watched classical dance, ate great food and spent time with good friends.
  • Was certified in DISC Profiling at Ken Blanchards in San Diego. Totally abused the champagne brunch at the Hotel Del Coronado with Angie, Tomo and John.
  • Was certified in Six Thinking Hats in Phoenix. Visited Taliesen and Sedona.
  • Taught in beautiful Tucson. Hiked the desert country.
  • Was certified in Leadership Challenge at Sonoma Learning Systems in Sonoma, California with Brent and Ken. Drank a little wine.
  • Taught a number of sessions in Yokohama, Japan. Sang some karaoke with Haemi-chan.
  • Started my Masters in Adult Education. Completed 5 out of 13 courses by the end of the year.
  • Worked with Nancy Duarte (author of Slideology).
  • Went to Los Cabos. Spotted whales, coyotes, and Ryan Seacrest. Released baby turtles to the wild.
  • Worked towards certification in High Tech Speaking.

Turns out, this was (in the words of Tori Amos) a "Pretty Good Year".

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rambutan, Rambutan, My Kingdom for a Rambutan...

We're usually in Asia around this time of year.

This year, however, we have no plans to cross the Pacific...

That's a bummer, because right now I'm in the mood for some rambutan.

Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I decided to read about rambutan.
In my search, I found this (FREE) 59 page guide, "Fruits in Thailand". 

This'll get you wanting some sala, tamarind, or my favorite - Pomelo.

Download and enjoy!

Image courtesy of RedDogRambutan

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Countdown II

Whenever I get bored, I start drawing these little buddhas.
Last year, I decided to make a Christmas card out of them.

Hope you have a happy holiday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Countdown I

It's going to be quiet Christmas here, as Angie went back east to visit her parents for the holidays.
When she returns, we'll head to Hawaii to celebrate the New Year with The Bangles.

In the meantime, I'll be hanging out in San Jose, working on some projects.

At work, I'm finishing up a comic-book version of one of our classes.
At home, I'm continuing a massive scanning project (I've sent all my slides to ScanCafe, but all the B&W negatives are left to me - I'm at 2000+ so far). It's a slow, but extremely rewarding project, as I get to look back at my friends and experiences.

I love photography, as it gives me an opportunity to capture images of the world I love, and omit images of the world I don't love.
If anyone ever wonders what the world looks like through my eyes - I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard "What world do you live in?" - they can just look at my images (

For example - Angels are everywhere in my world.
I took this photo in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico - so Feliz Navidad!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Restroom Iconography III: Japan

This is a no-peeing zone...

In a country where a man can heed natures' call just about anywhere - in an alley, in a bush, by the side of the road, off the end of a train platform - it's rare to find a place where you can't relieve yourself (just another reason why I love Japan).

Here, however - in a Tokyo parking lot by a pachinko parlor in a neighborhood close to Asakusa Temple - peeing is prohibited.

There is much to admire about this icon: The realistic pelvic thrust, the dotted stream, and of course the strategic placement of the cross line.
I also will give extra points for going with a square versus the usual circular red 'no' symbol.

It's a sign of my maturity that I didn't steal the darn thing (it would look great in my office).
And a sign of my immaturity that I regret that I didn't steal it...

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Venntastic I

I am unabashedly stealing from Jessica Hagy, so see go her site, Indexed...

That said, Venn diagrams are a great visual communication tool, so I sat down a couple of weeks ago and exercised my brain by creating some.

I love the saying, "Every villain is the hero of their own story", so that is a natural my first Venn diagram.

I'll post more over the next few months.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Restroom Iconography II: Hawaii

Here's the 2nd in my series of photos that capture creative restroom icons around the world.

This one is from Hawaii.

Unfortunately, my notes don't indicate where these restrooms are.
If you know, please share...

The previous image I shared displayed a very loose interpretation of the international icon for a human figure.

This one, on the other hand, embraces the rounded, bland figure that we're all familiar with and dresses it up with a grass skirt, coconut bikini, and frangipani flower.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Learning with the Primacy-Recency Curve

People who remember things aren't just lucky. 

They usually have strategies that help them remember.
So carrying around a horseshoe probably won't help you remember, unless it reminds you of the Primacy-Recency Curve.

Like a horseshoe, the Primacy-Recency Curve is 'U-shaped'.
The Primacy-Recency Curve maps our retention of information over time. It says that we typically remember the first and last things we hear.

How can you use this? Well, as a presenter, the Primacy-Recency curve suggests that you should state your Most Important Point at the beginning and repeat it at the addition.

As a teacher, you give an overview at the beginning and a review at the end.

As a learner, you should study the most important or most difficult parts first, and then review them at the end.

*'horseshoe' image by dmitry poliansky

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Five Finger Facilitation

Here's one of my favorite facilitation strategies.

It's called "Five Finger Facilitation".

Trying to reach consensus with a team?
I hang this image on a poster or draw it on a white board.
And ask everyone to raise their hand and show their feelings.

Sometimes, folks are arguing, when they are all above a 3!
So, rather than trying to get everyone to say yes, I just want to get everyone above a 3 (assuming of course, that at least a few are at 4 or 5 - if not, discuss further).

Anyone below a 2 is now approached this this question - "What would it take to get you to live with it?"
That's a lot different question that "Why don't you like it?", or "What would make you change your mind?".

You can continue to float proposals and keep asking for a 'finger check', until you get everyone to three.
Try it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Three Ways to Make Your Resume Get My Attention

Are you stressing over your resume?

If you are, I have one tip for you. 
Your resume should be a list of achievements - not a job description.

Too often, I see bullet points that read: 
  • Repaired High-Tech Equipment
  • Led Project to Repair Broken Stuff
  • Maintained Optimal Alignment of Customer Perspective
  • Responsible for Major East Coast Sales Account

Excuse me, but "yaaaaaawwwwwwn"...
When I see your job title, I know what you're supposed to do.
Your resume is a scorecard. Tell me the results!

It's simple. You:
  1. Reduced something (costs, defects, cycle time, etc),
  2. Increased something (revenue, profits, customer satisfaction, etc)
  3. Eliminated/fixed something (cancer? the line at the frappacino machine?)
  4. Or created something (for example, I invented the virtual frisbee - Catch!!)
  5. Or a combination of the above (invented a doohickey that eliminated a whatchamacallit, which reduced costs while increasing revenue - Yay!)

If you didn't do any of the above, I'll assume you just showed up every day.
Good luck selling that.

All right, let's pretend you did at least one of the above five, since the alternative is too depressing.

All you have to do is document your achievements on your resume.
Here's a few ways to do that.
  1. Quantify it: This is the easiest. You just need the numbers. Increased sales by 30%. Decreased downtime by 11%. Eliminated customer wait-time by initiating self-service fountain.
    Oh, but you say you cannot quantify how much your customer loves you...
  2. Get a Reference: LinkedIn is great for this. Get someone to say how great your are, and then quote them in your resume! Delivered "quickest response of all our contractors" (see reference on LinkedIn). It's that easy.
    Wait, you're really good, but no one knows it yet?
  3. Share a Work Sample: You can use Visual CV, YouTube, or your own website. Are you a great presenter? Post a presentation on YouTube. A great writer? Attach a white paper to your resume. I'm shocked at how few people do this...

Is that clear? 
Don't tell me. Show me.
Show me data. Show me a reference. Or show me a sample.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where Am I?

It's one of my pet peeves of travel:
'International' hotel design.

While I think it's supposed to convey sophistication, it only implies a lack of imagination.
When I wake up, I like to have some visual cues as to where the hell I am... but most hotels don't give me those cues.

Here are Four Hotels in Four Countries around the globe. Nice rooms. Nice hotels.

But can you tell me where they are?
I bet you can't.

Let's list all the possible places where the visual cues could be placed:
  • The Floor - carpet design, fabric, or wood
  • The Walls - color, texture, pattern, paper
  • Lamps
  • Furniture - bed, chairs, tables, etc.
  • Art - vases, paintings, carvings
  • Fabrics- bedspread, curtains, pillows

These hotels either ignored the possiblities, or shopped at the kind of bland interior design shop that could be found in the back aisles at Sears.

The question I always ask is, "Why?"

Is it really easier to buy fake French furniture than to souce local materials?
Are there still travelers who want every hotel room to be the same for consistency sake?
It can't be because this makes people feel at home... whose home looks like this?

Here's a free idea for hotels trying to differentiate themselves:
Hang two digital frames in each room. Let guests (maybe just members?) log on to the website and pick their art.

In Hawaii, I can choose Kim Taylor-Reece, Vintage Hula posters, upload family photos, or - if I'm really lame - pick from the 'cute cat collection'.
In Japan, I can choose from Hokusai, vintage Kurosawa posters, scenes of Mt. Fuji, or geisha.
And you can always have the default Monet's lilies, for people who don't want to think...

As ESPN's Bill Simmons would say, "Someone needs to make this happen"!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One Must Tear Off One's Own Head..

It's a doll revolution...

Elvis Costello + The Bangles is a good thing.
I'm rocking to "Doll Revolution" right now.

We're heading over to Honolulu right after Christmas to celebrate the New Year with Susanna and the Peterson Sisters - a little Manic Monday and Walking like an Egyptian while we avoid the Hazy Shade of Winter in Waikiki at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort.

Really, I can't think of three bands that would be more fun (emphasis on the word fun) to ring out the old year with...

*image courtesy of

Friday, December 12, 2008

Every Day a Surprise

I'm often asked, "What was the best part of living in Japan for 8 years?"

I can't possibly pick just one thing - so my stock answer is this:
Every single day that we lived in Japan, we saw something - sometimes small, sometimes big - that we'd never seen before.
That's not an exaggeration. Every day. 

It might be a hamburger served on rice buns (I don't mean buns made of rice, I mean rice formed into buns - if that makes sense). It might be a man walking his pet chipmunk. It might be an ancient ceremony. It might be a tee-shirt that says, "Happy Love Clams". It might be a man marching around a festival with no pants (as my buddy Martin is pointing out in this photo from the Yokohama Matsuri).
You just never knew.

Often, our surprise would come in the form of a TV show or a movie.
If you've only watched movies by Kurosawa and Ozu (and you should see these), you have no idea what kind of wonderful weirdness is manifested in Japanese cinema.

Sometimes I worry that Japan is becoming too Western - but I shouldn't worry.
Here's a trailer for a new movie in Japan, called "Love Exposure".

If you have delicate sensibilities, don't watch. 
It features a priests son who, apparently, is the Bruce Lee of 'upskirt' photography. If that doesn't make sense now, it soon will.

If you want to advance your view of the Japanese beyond stereotypes of samurai salarymen and dutiful housewives, watch these five Japanese films.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Restroom Iconography I: Mexico

Maybe it's my fascination with the human figure.
Maybe it's my interest in graphic design.

Maybe I'm just odd...

Whatever the reason, I am unreasonably delighted when I encounter a restroom with an atypical male/female icon on its' signboard.

I found this elegant icon outside the ladies room at the Marquis Resort in Los Cabos. I was waiting there for my wife (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

I'm not sure that Frank Lloyd Wright had restroom signs in mind when he said, "God is in the details". At the same time, I'm pretty sure he'd approve.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sales versus Purchasing - The PICOS Battleground

The last, but certainly not least, of hues values is "Offerings, not Products".
Sometimes, I jokingly refer to this value as "Selling Sucks" - sometimes, it's not a joke.

To be fair to salespeople, though, there are also times when purchasing sucks.
Last night, I attended a short seminar on the PICOS (Program for the Improvement and Cost Optimization of Suppliers) program. This program was developed at GM. It has since spread to other industries.

PICOS is disguised as a 'six-sigma' or 'lean' approach to collaboration between vendors and customers for mutual cost reduction.
In reality, it's a program in deception. PICOS bares no resemblance to true collaboration and mutual benefit, like you would see and experience in Japan. I participated in many of these collaborations, and they feel nothing like PICOS

Here is a summary of the PICOS Method.
There are a number of points in this paper that show the antagonism present in the negotiation, from the purchasing side.

  • "Be prepared indirectly and under pressure to bluff and lie."
  • "Destabilize each supplier's people with many urgent meetings and many demands for information."
  • "Set new deadlines for suppliers to meet but defer decisions to increase their anxiety."
  • "Offer exaggerated growth and future order quantities as bonuses."
  • "Know your potential winning suppliers and their competitors inside and out before you begin to negotiate and play first and second tier suppliers against each other."

The underlying message here is to decide which vendor is best and then beat them up as much as possible or create the worst relationship with the best vendor.

I worked with a couple customers who used PICOS or PICOS-like programs, and I can tell you two things.
  1. If your customer is beating you up, they've already decided to buy you. Hold your ground, if you know you are the best alternative.
  2. Karma is a bitch. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge the golden rule (in work or life) will eventually pay the piper. And it's fun to watch.

Points of Power

Here's another commonly used tool from my toolbox.

Points of Power comes from Ken Blanchard, Susan Fowler, and Laurence Hawkins' "Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager".

It's a useful concept and an exercise that I often use in my coaching sessions.

This model defines five points of power:
  • Position Power - the traditional power of title and position
  • Task Power - having the keys to the stock room, coordinating the schedules, shipping authority, etc.
  • Personal Power - charisma, charm, empathy, etc.
  • Relationship Power - customers, friends, family, connections, etc.
  • Knowledge Power - any knowledge you know, languages, skills, etc.

Take a few minutes and make your list.
Write down as many examples as you can of the powers you possess under each point.


When you're done, ask yourself three questions:
  1. Are you surprised by how many powers you have? Many people are.
  2. Are you depressed by how few you have? Join the club.
  3. Finally, how can you build up your areas of weakness? Make a plan.

I have a colleague who was trying (unsuccessfully) to get work down with Asian partners.
When we did this exercise, we found that he had a lot of power, but almost no relationship power. It turns out that this is the most important power in Asia.
So, he got on a plan and spent some time building more relationship power.

What's your plan?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pictures from Mexico

Angie at Playa Santa Maria

The best of my photos from 10 days in Cabo San Lucas are now posted on my photo site at

You'll find surf, sand, sunsets, some skin, pelicans, turtles, a mission, ceviche, margaritas, turkey legs, christmass goodies, and a hummingbird in a pear tree.


The Facilitation Diamond

If you're at all interested in teamwork, thinking, creativity, decision-making, or facilitation - you should read "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making" and keep it on your shelf for reference.

The book is full of good stuff, but my favorite tool in the book is the Facilitation Diamond.
Everytime I schedule a group facilitation, I have a pre-meeting with the session sponsor.
In the pre-meeting, I draw the Facilitation Diamond on the white board to show how the session will progress.

At this point, I open my toolbox and we decide which tools will work best.
I use seven (or so) sections to the session:
  1. Opening: Go over the agenda. Share the diamond flow. Perhaps a quick exercise.
  2. Diverging Activity 1: Present traditional or evolutionary ideas.
  3. Diverging Activity 2: Stimulate non-tradition, revolutionary ideas.
  4. Transition: A break or a brain-cleansing exercise.
  5. Converging Activity 1: To narrow the multitude of ideas to some actionable ones.
  6. Converging Activity 2: To chose the best one (or 3 - 5 ideas).
  7. Closing: Decide on next actions

I have large posters of the image above that I label with the tools that we'll be using. I hang these as the session agenda. 
It allows everyone to see a map of the energy flow for the day.

Here's a pdf that outlines the method in more detail.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Slow? No kidding...

Given the standards that people set each day, it's pretty hard to do something so stupid as to impress me. However, one of my neighbors has managed to do so.

As I drive home from work today, in heavy commuting traffic, the sun sets.
I pull into our housing complex and turn a blind corner, where I see a sign next to the road.
It reads "SLOW - Children at play".
When I turn the corner, her children are literally playing in the road, spilling out of their garage.

There are (at least) three things wrong with this situation:
  1. This woman cannot find a better place for her kids to play than in a road or garage? In a complex with a green space 100 feet away? In units that have fenced-in back yards? In a neighborhood with 2 nice parks within a block?
  2. They can't finish playing by 5 o'clock when all the commuting traffic is arriving?
  3. She keeps them playing in the dark, hoping her little yellow sign will suffice?

I can only assume she has really good life insurance policies on her two girls and doesn't like them all that much.

*image from daily ha-ha

Let's Stop Meeting Like This - Information vs. Action

I've been keeping a list of activities that strengthen me and activities that weaken me. At the top of the list of things that weaken me is the word "meetings".

I did a quick thesaurus check for 'meeting' and found:
conference, assembly, summit, seminar, consultation, get-together, gathering, convention, and board (bored) meeting

Damn... none of those sound very sexy, do they?

Here's a little 'rule of thumb' I invented for testing meeting agendas. 
Ask how many of the items on the meeting agenda are actionable, and how many are informational.

In order to keep me engaged in a meeting, the ratio should be 80% actionable and 20% informational. Otherwise, just send me an email with the information... okay?

Of course, that's not the case. I've audited a fair number of meetings, and the informational items always (yes, always) make up more than 60%. 
Sorry, but that's some sleep inducing shit...

So, here are two suggestions:
  1. Go for the 80/20 mix. 80% of the items on your agenda must be actionable.
  2. Don't use the word 'meeting'. Personally, I'm starting to use the phrase 'jam session'.
    Other ideas are 'festival', 'carnival', or 'workout'. If you're in a more adventurous culture than mine you might try 'orgy'. Yeah, I'd attend an 'idea orgy'...

'yawn' image by Jean-Pierre Knapen

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Facilitator's Toolbox Updates

I've updated the The Facilitator's Toolbox.

Changes include:
  • The addition of the Conscious Competence Model
  • More links to my writings about these tools
  • And external links for many of the tools that I haven't written about yet.

Play... Reflect... Learn!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Book Review: "Don't Shoot The Dog" and the Ten Laws of Shaping

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been interested in behavioral training since my visit to Sea World's "Trainer for a Day".

While relaxing in Cabo San Lucas, I finished reading pioneering dolphin trainer Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot The Dog": a must-read for anyone who teaches, trains, or learns (and yeah, that pretty much covers everyone).

Title: "Don't Shoot The Dog"
Author: Karen Pryor, 
Genre: Behavior, Psychology, Training, Animals
Summary: to quote the book's subtitle, "The New Art of Teaching and Training"

Favorite Quote:  Instead of a quote, here are her ten laws of shaping behavior:
  1. Raise criteria in increments small enough that the subject always has a realistic chance for reinforcement.
  2. Train one aspect of any particular behavior at a time. Don't try to shape for two criteria simultaneously.
  3. During shaping, put the current level of response onto a variable schedule of reinforcement before adding or raising the criteria.
  4. When introducing a new criterion, or aspect of the behavioral skill, temporarily relax the old ones.
  5. Stay ahead of your subject: Plan your shaping program completely so that if the the subject makes sudden progress, you are aware of what to reinforce next.
  6. Don't change trainers in midstream: you can have several trainers per trainee, but stick to one shaper per behavior.
  7. If one shaping procedure is not eliciting progress, find another; there are as many ways to get behavior as there are trainers to think them up.
  8. Don't interrupt a training session gratuitously. That constitutes a punishment.
  9. If behavior deteriorates, "go back to kindergarten": quickly review the whole shaping process with a series of easily earned reinforcers.
  10. End each session on a high note, if possible, but in any case quit while you're ahead.

Strengths: Entertaining and clear with excellent examples.

Weaknesses: No photos?

Conclusion: As I said earlier - a must read for teachers, trainers, and learners.
Follow all these steps and you might get this result (a dolphin even I can ride!).

Post-it Flags: 37 flags

* Each time I find an interesting quote, model, image, or idea in a book, I mark it with a Post-it flag. The more flags, the more value I found in the book.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What's Your Motive?

I received my latest edition of "Core Motive" magazine yesterday.

It's the magazine of the International Color Code Association.
The Color Code is an assessment tool that deals with your core motive.

There are four types:
  • Red = Power
  • Yellow = Fun
  • Blue = Intimacy
  • White = Peace

You can take a free assessment at

It isn't a tool I use a lot, but I find it useful.
My engineer brain demands statistical validation of a tool before I rely on it (that's why DiSC is my most common tool).

At the same time, Dr. Rick Williams of CMOE shared a great metaphor when he picked up a book and held it in front of me, "Let's say that from the front is your Disc Profile. From the side is your Meyers Briggs Profile. From the bottom is your Color Code. From the side is your Wilson Social Styles. All together, you get a three dimensional portrait of a human being. Without one, the portrait is incomplete."

No one who knows me would be surprised to find out that my core motive is "Fun".
One of the reasons that I love Thailand is that a favorite word of theirs is "Sanuk", which means fun. When asked to do something, a Thai will often ask, "Is it sanuk?". That's always been my #1 question.
If it isn't fun, I won't do it.

Take the Color Code assessment and see what your motive is.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Losing Flow...


I'm auditing a sales course today and learning a lot.
Unfortunately, I'm not learning about sales.
Instead, I'm learning about flow... and how to lose it.

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi
identified 'Flow' as the happy place where challenge and skill reach an equilibrium. As your skills grow, the challenge should be increased.

When your skills are lower than the challenge, you get anxious and demotivated.
When your skills are higher than the challenge, you get bored and demotivated.
In the mid-range, time flies, you are energized, you learn, and you are 'happy'.

You can guess where I am right now (with most of the attendees) - below the line.
Why? The challenge is not meeting the skill of the group.

We have a lot of sharp folks in the room right now, and they're being asked to listen to a lecture.
Have you ever had to sit for three hours, listening to somewhat talk about things you already understand? I bet you have...

Please don't do it to others.
Engage the audience early. Challenge them to an appropriate degree. Have them do things!
Or they'll lose flow... and you'll lose them

Five Great Quotes about Presenting

Here are some of my favorites:

  • "It's not about having a 'good story', there is no such thing - stories are simply good or bad in the telling."
    ~ that presentation sensation by martin conradi and richard hall
  • "The only reason to give a speech is to change the world"
    ~ John F. Kennedy
  • "It is not faults that kill a talk. It is a lack of virtues."
    ~ Dale Carnegie
  • "Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern’."
    ~ Ken Haemer, AT&T
  • "Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening."
    ~ Dorothy Sarnoff

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Storyboarding for Success

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'm rewriting one of our workshop manuals in manga/comic book format.

While I was in Cabo San Lucas last week, I continued work on the project.

Storyboarding is the easiest way for me to do this. It triggers my right brain by forcing me to think visually. It also forces me to simplify my concepts.
So, I sat by the pool with a pad of post-it notes and sketched out my ideas.

The workbook opens with a quote from Confucius - "If you must play a game, know the stakes, the rules, and the quitting time" - so you can see here that I sketched some ideas around that.

The post-it notes are great, because I can move them around, insert or delete ideas and images, or redraw one without wasting the other pictures.
Once I drew the storyboard, I went to Microsoft Clip Art and grabbed some images that matched my storyboards. Eventually, I'll acquire some more exclusive images or shoot my own, but the Microsoft art is free and represents a good start.

Here is my 'manga' version of the Confucius quote.
Had I started at the computer, it would have probably taken more time, been less clear, and less creative.

The next time you create a presentation or document, try storyboarding first. You might be surprised by the results.

One other way to utilize your storyboards, is to just import them directly into your document or presentation.
This image that depicts "Stereotypes vs. Generalizations"
could be cleaned up in Photoshop and easily dropped into my presentation.

Lawrence Lessig, PowerPoint, and Copyright(wrong)

Edward Tufte will be in San Jose on December 11th. Mr. Tufte is the author of Death By PowerPoint. He's ornery, but smart. I highly recommend you go to see him.

The internet is full of rants regarding the brain-disabling capabilities of PowerPoint.
What's not nearly as easy to find, however, is a successful use of PowerPoint supporting a coherent message.

One of the most famous examples on the net is this one - Free Culture - by Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law Professor and surprisingly countercultural thinker.

The use of PowerPoint here is radical (unless you think using 243 slides in 31 minutes - one every 8 seconds - isn't radical), and totally effective.
Beyond that, the message - that innovation depends on borrowing and building off the past, and that the freedom to do that is disappearing - is one you should hear and care about.

If his message resonates with you, you can download the entire (352 page) book for free.
Highly recommended...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Freakonomics and the Real World

"Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so."
-Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Interviews for strategic planning reveal that many executives believe they lack
a) 'enough data' and/or
b) 'useful data'

This seems, to me, to just be an admission that they can't figure out what the data means.
Will more data help? Doubt it...
And what is 'useful data'? A proven answer?

Why don't more companies hire statisticians?
Probably the same reason why they don't hire philosophers and anthropologists.

"We kill what we fear, and we fear what we don't understand"

Monday, December 1, 2008

From Cabo: Time to Fly

Took one last walk of the beach this morning, before packing and heading to the airport.
Our local pelican was kind enough to pose for us.

Conscious Competence - A Path of Learning

One of the most-used models in my toolbox is the 'Unconscious Competence' Model.

I find it to be an excellent model for cultural dealings.

When I first went to Japan in a state of Unconscious Incompetence, I made many, many mistakes that I only became aware of later.
I wasn't nearly humble enough, or quiet enough. I was also waaaay too casual.

I remember pointing out - at a Toshiba business meeting - that a female Toshiba engineer had a Winnie the Pooh pen. "Pooh-san", I cheerfully remarked. Needless to say, I drew silent stares in return.

Then I moved into the state of Conscious Incompetence. This was the stage when I kept wearing my shoes into the wrong places. I knew better, but I would always catch myself three steps into the wrong area. Bad Glenn! Bad!

Gradually, I reached Conscious Competence. I got the shoe culture down. I stopped pouring soy sauce on my rice. I didn't get lost on trains. But, I always had to think about it.

Finally, I reached the glorious state of Unconscious Competence (in at least some areas). Unfortunately, it was just in time to return to the U.S.
Now I found my unconscious skills allowed me to say 'Hai' to Americans, suck wind when I needed to say no, and stand around like an idiot waiting for taxi doors to open automatically.

Ah well, it's the journey that matters; not the destination.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Finding an Anchor...

One of my favorite facilitations is our presentation workshop.
It's always fun and productive. Talk about learning, unlearning and re-learning...

I learn every time I watch someone present. I learn about humility, perseverance, and authenticity. There are a million different ways to present, but the most successful path is always the path of authenticity.

I try to unlearn bad habits every time I present. Video is great for this. Knowing I'm going to be taped is always incentive to drop filler words, limit my distracting movements, and try to control my tendency to go 'off script' (that's a nice way to put it!).

I also re-learn forgotten lessons. In our last workshop, I was reminded of the power of 'anchoring'.
Many people get nervous when they present. I have found that almost everyone can find an anchoring stimulus that will calm them down.
  • For some, it's simply eye contact. When they make one-on-one eye contact, they forget that they are presenting to a group, turn it into a conversation, and relax.
  • For some, it's answering a question. So, why not open by inviting questions, or asking the audience a question.
  • I've coached a few people who are anchored by writing. They start off nervous, but as soon as they write on a whiteboard or flip chart, they are fine. We coach them to get to the board as quickly as possible. As a bonus, people who write in real-time, look way smarter than PowerPoint jockeys.
  • One of our participants found an anchor in his eyeglasses. He found that the act of stopping, taking off his glasses, and speaking directly to one person centered him. He could then get another 'break' or pause, by putting the eyeglasses back on. It looked great - not fake at all - and it made him comfortable.
  • For me, sitting is an anchor. If I can sit on the edge of a table, or even sit in a chair with my audience, I slow down and become more present. I always look for a chance to do that.

What are your anchors? Do you have one? More?
Experiment... and let me know what you find.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

From Cabo: It's the Little Things that Matter...

Today we hiked up Fox Canyon, in the Sierra Mountains West of Cabo San Lucas.

I always hope for dramatic wildlife spottings - mountain lions, coyote, poisonous snakes... but that's rare.

We did see a coyote, but he took off before we could take photos. So, as is often the case, the highlights were found in the little things.

In this case, my little green friend was the highlight of the day. He didn't like being handled. Every time I caught him, he escaped. But I'm persistent. Finally, he posed for me.

Ladies and Gentlemen: my friend, the frog.

Lingo Bingo - 'Peanut Buttering'

'Peanut Buttering' is a phrase we've been using in our company for about a year.

The best definition I've found is from Brad Adams' Software Blog, though I've modified it slightly

Peanut buttering (v) – The tendency to evenly distribute resources across a full range - instead of the vital few
For us, 'peanut buttering' refers to the spread of benefits (like shares of stock) equally across the company. The alternative, of course, is to give a lot of shares to the top 10-20% of employees.

One of my colleagues just heard the phrase a few days ago and said, "Wow, what a great metaphor!", so I thought I'd share it.

(image courtesy of Everything in Moderation)

Friday, November 28, 2008

From Cabo: Hummingbirds, Photography, and Learning

A hummingbird at Plaza Mijares, San Jose del Cabo

A few days ago, I mentioned that pelicans are one of my three favorite birds, along with kingfishers and hummingbirds.
Today, I was lucky enough to be able to photograph a hummingbird feeding on flowers in the Plaza Mijares.
Photography is one of my addictions, for many reasons:
  • photography is a tool I use for making memories (as opposed to capturing them)
  • I enjoy the technical aspects
  • I find viewfinders to be an excellent tool for seeing
  • I find the process of interpreting a scene fascinating
  • I enjoy working with the environment - light, shadow, clouds, people
  • Tracking and anticipating the movements of people and wildlife is challenging. It combines the skills of an anthropologist, a naturalist, a psychologist, a musician, an athlete, and sometimes a seer
  • I constantly learn through all of the above

This was a challenging shot.
The hummingbird was shy. People were milling around and scaring it away.
There were too many flowers in bloom. The hummingbird was flitting erratically from one to another and then back. It was difficult to predict where he would be next.
The light was contrasty. The hummingbird spent much time in shadows, where a good photo was impossible.

I sat around these bushes (there were 4 of them in a 50 foot stretch) for about 40 minutes. The hummingbird spent about ten of those minutes around the bushes. During those ten minutes, I took ten photos.

While this is not an award winning picture, I'm quite happy with it as a record of a beautiful day, an extraordinary creature, and my efforts to capture both.

From Cabo: Authenticity in Action at the Salad Bar

The Thanksgiving Salad Bar at the Hilton Cabo San Lucas

One of the best books that I read this year was Authenticity.
It's filled with excellent examples and useful models.
What was perhaps most striking to me, however, is the 'rightness' of their observation that we all desire authenticity. The opening of the book, a trip through a grocery store, is dead-on.

I find myself noticing this 'authenticity-jones' when it occurs in me, and boy did it occur last night.

We had a Thanksgiving buffet at the Hilton Cabo San Lucas (I should get a free room, considering how many times I've mentioned the hotel). The buffet was outstanding, but one feature really stood out - the salad bar.

I'm not a really big salad eater, but this salad bar stopped me in my tracks.
"Holy crap", I think were my exact words. I grabbed Angie and said, "You've got to see this. It's the most incredible salad bar I've ever seen!".

The interesting point is that it wasn't the largest I've ever seen, or the biggest variety I've ever seen. It didn't necessarily have my favorite salad makings.
Instead, it was the most authentic salad bar I've ever seen.

Look at the photo above. Click on it to see it in full size. You'll notice:
  • The servers are dressed like farmer/grocers
  • The greens are all in 'original' form - full leaves, full vegetables
  • The farmer/grocers hand-cut your salad to order with scissors, in real-time

This was as close as you can get to an 'off-the-vine' salad without entering a garden.

If you cannot take your customers to the source, how can you (like the Hilton) bring the source (or the illusion of the source) to your customers?
Pick one of your offerings and ask these questions:

  1. What does my offering look like at its source?
  2. What does my offering look like when I serve it?
  3. What is the (authenticity) gap?
  4. Is the gap good? Some things - perhaps sausage - shouldn't be seen in 'authentic' state.
  5. How can you close the authenticity gap?

Caring is not a Soft Skill 1

When teaching customer service skills, I've taken to arguing that only two things matter:
  1. Caring, and
  2. Transparency.

Nail these and you're good to go.

My other proposition is that Caring is NOT a 'Soft Skill'.
Caring is the manifestation of tangible, measuable acts or behaviors.
These are the events that cause us to say (or at least think), "They don't care about my business" or "They care."

These photos are a record of tangible acts of caring that occur each day at the Hilton Cabo San Lucas Resort. In the afternoons, we return to our rooms to find a hand-folded towel animal animal (or two) on our bed.

It's a little gesture, with a big impact.
  • The animals create surprise and delight.
  • They inspire curiosity - "How do they do that?", "How many towels does it take?", "How many different animals do you think they can make?".
  • They result in us looking forward to returning to our room. This is no small matter, when the weather and scenery is so beautiful.
  • Finally, they suggest that Hilton cares enough to take this extra step.

Now, little did I know that "Towel Origami Animals" were so popular.
Watch one made here.

So, what are you doing to show your customers you care?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Note to Interior Designers

I believe that design communicates.
And that good communication should be designed.
I created the phrase DesignComm to cover both these beliefs.

Here's a lesson in DesignComm.
Design doesn't just communicate by how it looks.
Just like words represent only a fraction of communication, visuals only represent a fraction of design.

Case in point - The Hilton Cabo San Lucas Resort.
Our room is beautiful, it really is.

I love the colors. The room looks Mexican.
A pet peeve of mine is hotel rooms that are of 'International' design. I don't know what that means, except "no place on earth really looks like this".
I should be able to wake up and, without leaving the bed, tell you what country I'm in.
The Hilton succeeds at this.

Now the bad news. Cabo is a hot, humid, seaside environment.
And our room is filled with fabric.
Look at the photo above... 6 pillows and a ton of cushions. There are more pillows on the bed and there are fabric curtains.

What does this mean? Must and mildew.
The room smells like my grandmothers closet. We have to open the patio doors, which freshens the room, but brings in more sea breezes to continue the cycle of humidity.

Now, I'm not an interior designer, but even I wouldn't load a seaside villa with fabric.
Why do they do it? Because they don't have to live in it?

How about some blinds? And taking away 9/10 of the pillows?

If design communicates, then this room communicates, "We weren't thinking when we designed this!".

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My 50+ Best Experiences

By poolside today, I read Sasha Cagen's "To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What our Lists Reveal About Us".
While the book doesn't actually tell us what lists reveal about us, there is a voyeurstic pleasure to flipping through it and reading other peoples lists.

Reading "30 by 30" - a list which details 30 things that one person had done before thirty - inspired me to write my list, starting with the baby sea turtles we just released.

Here (in no particular order) is my list:

  1. Releasing baby sea turtles in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  2. Getting married under the Redwood Trees in Big Basin State Park, California
  3. Hosting a Geisha Party in Osaka, Japan
  4. Climbing Mt. Fuji, Japan
  5. Exploring the ruins at Ankor Wat, Cambodia
  6. Climbing Ayers Rock, Australia
  7. Tracking Howler Monkeys at 2am in the rainforest - solo - at Chan Chich in Belize
  8. Touring Frank Lloyd Wrights Fallingwater, Pennsylvania
  9. Watching the Chinese New Years Fireworks over Hong Kong Harbor
  10. Exploring the Great Wall, China
  11. Visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra, India
  12. Exploring Borobudur Temple, Java, Indonesia
  13. Paddling an outrigger canoe with some locals who were short one padder, Kona, Hawaii
  14. Seeing the Vietnam Memorial at Midnight on Memorial Day, Washington DC
  15. Watching a Ramayana performance at Prambenan Temple, Java, Indonesia
  16. Riding an Elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand
  17. Hiking through rice terraces in Bali, Indonesia
  18. Witnessing Thaipusam Festival in Singapore
  19. Hiking into the Grand Canyon, Arizona
  20. Kayaking 10 days along the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico with friends
  21. Hand-feeding Kangaroos and wallabies on Kangaroo Island, Australia
  22. Travelling the Li River by boat from Guilin, China
  23. Canoeing the Green River, Utah
  24. Ice skating under the stars at Yosemite National Park
  25. Floating in the Dead Sea at sunrise, Israel
  26. Being groomed by wild monkeys in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali
  27. Hiking to, and watching the lava flows at Volcano National Park, Hawaii
  28. Eating grasshoppers, bamboo worms, and crickets at a night market in Phitsanulok, Thailand
  29. Swimming with dolphins in the wild at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii
  30. Going on Safari in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe
  31. Throwing a Hanabi party with friends at Yamashita Park in Yokohama, Japan
  32. Staying at Raffles Hotel, Singapore and swimming in the 24 hour, rooftop, clothing optional pool (what? it isn't clothing optional? oops...)
  33. Taking surfing lessons in Lahaina, Hawaii
  34. Exploring 'wild' caves in upstate New York
  35. Taking cooking lessons in Thailand
  36. Swimming with three sharks in Thailand (by accident)
  37. Catching snakes and geckoes by hand, almost everywhere...
  38. Carrying a Mikoshi in a Japanese Festival, Tachikawa, Japan
  39. Jamming with a marimba group in Zimbabwe, Africa
  40. Taking Gamelan lessons in Ubud, Bali
  41. Staying at the Lake Palace, Udaipur, India
  42. Staying at the Iwako Inn on Miyajima Island, Japan
  43. Taking Taiko lessons in Osaka, Japan
  44. Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Hawaii
  45. Enjoying Cherry Blossom season in Japan
  46. Meeting Shoukichi Kina and hearing him play "Hana" at his club in Okinawa
  47. Watching a ceremonial Legong dance at an odalan in the middle of the night in Ubud, Bali
  48. Witnessing a Lion Dance animation ceremony in a Chinese temple in Singapore
  49. Watching a sea turtle lay eggs at Phinda Nature Reserve, South Africa
  50. Riding a dolphin at Sea World San Diego's "Trainer for a Day"
  51. Saying "Dr. Livingston, I presume?" at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  52. Riding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls
  53. The colorful burst of maple trees (and maple syrup) in the New England autumn
  54. All those karaoke nights that ran so late in Japan
  55. Enjoying a Pansori concert at a palace in Seoul, South Korea
  56. Watching traditional dance at the Mahabarapuram World Heritage site, India
  57. Eating sunrise breakfast with Angie on the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe, Africa
  58. Watching Kanoe Miller dance the hula at the Halekulani, Honolulu
  59. Eating katsuo no tataki in Japan, lobster in Maine, and Impala jerky in Africa
  60. Watching falling stars in Death Valley, California
  61. Sunrise on the Lost Coast, watching a whale and her calf playing 50 feet offshore, California

to be continued...

From Cabo: Slope Soaring for the Mind

I've been watching pelicans a lot this week.

One of my three favorite birds - kingfishers and hummingbirds are the others, if you must know - these goofy guys are so ungraceful that they give me hope that even I might be able to burst into spontaneous flight one day.

They are clever, though, on at least one level. They know how to maximize their flight with minimum effort. I've been watching them catch the updraft from waves, a technique that's also known as "slope soaring".
Wikipedia says that slope soaring is "a gliding technique used to maintain altitude by flying in the updraft produced by wind blowing up the face of a steep slope". This requires a "a hill, ridge, escarpment or ocean wave, and a wind that is blowing against the slope".

That got me thinking... when it comes to creativity, what is your hill and wind?
For me, travel is my hill or ocean wave, and conversation is the wind.
When I travel and talk about it, my creative juices flow and new ideas come smoothly and fluidly - like a pelican coasting down the beach.

Without travel (even virtual travel works, checking out new magazines or websites) I'm stagnant. I have few new ideas.
But without conversation, I'm unable to get any real lift from the ideas.
Give me both, and I'm slope soaring.

What works for you?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to Run a Process Walkthrough

Last week, I tried something new.

I was working with a group on a logistics process, and it seemed to me that the whole discussion was too cerebral. We had a one-dimensional Visio image on a screen, but no process is one-dimensional.

Any process is 4 parts people, 2 parts machine, 1 part time, 1 part emotion, 3 parts fumbling in the dark, and 1 part flowchart..
That's on a good day.

You probably know by know that I'm a sports nut. So, I reached into my sports metaphor toolbox and suggested we do a 'no-pads' walkthrough.
Let's print out each process box on a 8x10 piece of paper, lay it out on a floor, and - like a giant chess board - literally walkthrough it and see what happens.

So, yesterday we tried it. It was amazing to see the difference. Staring at a projected screen is entirely a left-brain event. As soon as we stepped up and walked around our '3-D swimlane chart', people noticed problems. Right brains become engaged.
Imagine the power of using your whole brain at work... no, really... imagine!!
In 90 minutes, we changed about 60% of the process - simplifying and clarifying it.

I was pretty proud of myself, until Ken informed me that this is a standard event in the world of process mapping. Oh well. It was still pretty cool...
Where would a walk through help your team?

Monday, November 24, 2008

From Cabo: Complimentary Water

Our room at the Hilton Cabo San Lucas comes with a daily bottle of complimentary water.

I've been waiting and waiting for my compliment, but still haven't heard it...
Oh, well.

If you see me, you'll notice that I carry index cards around with me. They serve as my 'non-linear notebook'. When I'm bored (which isn't often, but does occur - most often in lines or meetings) I jot notes and quick sketches.
It beats yawning.

I drew this one at dinner the other night, while waiting for our meal.

Learning From Sports: Good is the Enemy of Great

Donnie Walsh, General Manager of the New York Knicks (of the National Basketball Association, for those of you who don't follow sports) apparently agrees with Jim Collins.
Collins wrote the bestselling business book "Good to Great" and opens it by saying that "good is the enemy of great".

It's easy to see what he means. A good team or company doesn't want to take the risks necessary to become great.

Sports is a great laboratory for studying management and leadership, because the results are so easily measured and the stakes are so high. Unlike a typical business, in sports the only real success is a championship. Coaches have been dismissed for 'just' getting their teams to the playoffs year after year. Ask Joe Torre, Grady Little, Marty Schottenheimer, or Mike D'Antoni.

A case in point is the New York Knicks. Donnie Walsh is the new GM. Mike D'Antoni is the new coach. Everyone knew that this 08-09 team would be terrible, and would needd to be rebuilt from the foundation.
But a funny thing happened on the way to disaster. Coach Mike got the team playing well. They were 6-3 after 9 games. Fans were excited about the style of play and the playoffs looked within reach... until last Friday.

On Friday, Walsh traded the teams two best players, basically killing the season.
Because good is the enemy of great. This team was never going to be great. It's too flawed.
If Walsh let the team become good, then it's harder to break it up. The fans would scream.
By breaking it up early, Walsh can maintain the focus on long-term health (in this case, being ready to bid on LeBron James when he becomes a free agent), rather than short-term wins.
Pretty smart, huh?
But also pretty ballsy. Walsh is aiming for great (a shot at a championship), not good (playoff contention)

What about in your workplace?
I'm often surprised by managers who won't release 'so-so' performers to make room for new talent.
"Things aren't so bad," they reason, "We're hitting our targets".
Yeah, and you're setting a ceiling that you'll never break through.

Think about it: where is 'good enough' stopping you from being great?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

From Cabo: Releasing Sea Turtles

Yes, I'm holding a big-eyed baby sea turtle...

This is one of the baby leatherback turtles that we released this morning.
In 2000, we watched a turtle lay eggs in South Africa. Eight years later, we're able to complete the cycle. The rangers brought 60 hatchlings down to the beach, and a group of us got to hold and then release them.

A few thoughts:

  • Sense of Direction - This is so important in work and life. Not all species or individuals have it (I know a lot of folks with none), but the first turtle I released sure has it.
    As I held this guy in the palm of my hand, he always knew exactly where the ocean was. Whatever direction I faced, he would turn and start moving towards the ocean - like the needle on a compass always points north. Pretty remarkable.
  • Persistence - Watching these little guys waddle through the sand, exerting huge efforts only to get tossed backward by the waves, was tough.
    Most of the turtles got tossed back three or four times. Others had it worse. Often, they ended up on their backs, straining to flip over. Those of us watching would cheer each turtle that finally made it through the surf, its' head popping up in the sea beyond.
  • A Little Help from my Friends - As we got down to the final two or three turtles, it became obvious that some of these were clearly weaker than the others. Eventually, all (some with a little human help) made it to the water. They may not last long, but they all have a chance. You never know what they'll do with it.

A great morning...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From Cabo: Vultures and a Saguaro

I'm not the biggest birder in the world, but I guess this is a turkey vulture?
It was fighting with three other vultures over a dead pufferfish.

It's hard to imagine a more vivid demonstration of the harshness of a desert environment than three vultures fighting over a dead pufferfish (even in the best of conditions, I don't think there's much to eat on a pufferfish).

Another of my favorite icons of the desert is the saguaro cactus. Here's one we spotted.
Yes, there's so little in the desert that someone had to use this cactus as a fence post!
It's really effective, I'm sure.

As most of my friends know, I have a really lame sense of humor. One example?
Whenever I see a saguaro, I sing to it, using the melody from "Tomorrow". Yes, the "Tomorrow" that the annoying little red-haired girl sings in "Annie", which I've never even seen...
That's as far as I get before Angie tells me to shut up... which is good, because I don't know the rest of the song anyway.

huesworks is now twittered...

When I fly, I always stop in the airport bookstore for the latest issue of Wired magazine.
It's the only time I buy the magazine (not sure why that is... I always enjoy it). Still, I travel enough that I end up reading 6-8 issues a year.

The November issues has a short article called, "Kill Your Blog" that highlights the rise of Twitter. I've known about Twitter and its social media implications, but I don't carry a cell phone or Crackberry, so SMSing isn't all too interesting to me.
After reading the article, however, one aspect intereste me - the ability to upload short 'blurbs' that aren't worthy of a full blog post.

So... now I'm twittered. You'll see an area on the sidebar to the right called "Instant Updates" where my Twitter updates appear. Additionally, you can follow the huesworks Twitter page.

Enjoy... while I figure out what to do with it!

More Free Software

Don't have Power Point on your home pc?
Lacking Excel or some other MS Office compatible software?

Well, grieve no more...
OpenOffice is just what you are looking for.

Everyone should know this, but it bears repeating/sharing.

Microsoft-compatible, powerful and FREE - OpenOffice rocks! I've been using Impress (the OpenOffice presentation s/w) on my home pc for a few weeks now, and I'm very happy with it.

Waste no time. Go download it and give it a shot.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Cabo San Lucas Reading List

I've got 6 books with me for this 10 day trip. I hope to finish half...
If I finish more than that, it will probably mean that the weather was terrible.

I'm halfway done with Don't Shoot The Dog. This is a must read for every one who teaches, coaches, instructs, manages or has children/kids/spouses/pets.
I'll be sharing a lot of nuggets from this book over the next few weeks.