Category Archives: change

Crystal ball


Western Union was originally a telegram company. The first time, (when the need for telegrams went away) they saw the future and leveraged their existing infrastructure (an office in many cities) to dominate the money transfer business. Their crystal ball broke, though. They should have been PayPal, but they didn’t see the future.

Barnes and Noble should have become Amazon, but they didn’t see the future.

While the record labels and the RIAA were trying to sue kids for downloading music, Steve Jobs saw the future and created the iPod.

Right now, newspapers are dying, magazines are struggling and book publishing industry is hurting. Jeff Bezos saw the future coming and created the Kindle.

What is the future of your industry? What are you doing to prepare?

Polish your crystal ball and look closely because things are changing more rapidly than ever.

Clinging to the status quo is like clinging to an anchor, not a life preserver.

An outsider’s perspective


The closer we get to a situation, the less clear we see it.

Next time you want advice on a new product or service or an honest evaluation of your current business, ask an expert…

…outside your industry.

We’re often too close to the situation, the nuances, the terminology and our perceived needs of our customers to evaluate an idea completely objectively.

Get advice from someone you trust who works in a completely separate industry. Buy them lunch and explain the idea. They will ask you questions that matter without the cloud of bias that you bring to the table.

Wise perspectives are all around you. Welcome a more naive one. Let an outsider hold your business at arm’s length and give you honest feedback.

Then listen. You’ll be surprised what you learn.

(repeat as necessary)

Give an “A”

There has only ever been one conductor for the Boston Philharmonic.

Benjamin Zander.

We can all learn a lot from Mr. Zander, author (along with Roz Zander) of The Art of Possibility.

In this video from, he shares three key insights:
1) It’s all invented
2) Standing in possibility
3) Rule #6 – Don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously (that’s the only rule)

In his TED talk below, he tells the story of two salesmen sent to Africa in the 1900’s to determine if there was any opportunity for selling shoes. Two very different telegrams came back to Manchester, England.

Salesman #1: “Situation hopeless! Stop. They don’t wear shoes.”
Salesman #2: “Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet!”

(Which salesman would you rather hire?)

He also converts an entire room of people who thought they didn’t like classical music.

Ben Zander has changed thousands of students who pass through his class and millions of others who have seen him present, either live or through videos like these.

Ben was also very generous in contributing a story to our upcoming fear.less e-book, coming in July 2009.

Ben Zander

It’s right

One of my favorite movie scenes happens midway through Good Will Hunting. The main character, Will (played by Matt Damon) hands in a solution to a difficult proof to a genius math professor. Despite understanding Will’s genius, the professor challenges the proof and his method for solving it. Will insists, “it’s right”.


Watch the scene above or on YouTube here. (warning for my 8-year old followers – it does contain some adult language)

When pushing a new idea or an improvement, there will always be dissenters; people that are terrified of the slightest change to the status quo. Stick to your guns. Show them why it will succeed.

If you’re passionate, ignore the dissenters and execute with reckless abandon.

If that means you need to light your idea on fire to prove a point, do it.

Generation Lap


Parents, if you can’t understand how your kid can jump from Facebook to instant messaging to texting, all while doing their homework, watch this.

Parents with young children, watch this.

Kids (anyone under 35), if your parents don’t seem to get you, the digital you, watch this with them. Help explain it to them.

Educators, watch this. Think about how you can use this knowledge in the classroom.

Everyone else, watch this anyway. We can all learn a lot from Don Tapscott.

Last chance at Tribes!

Seth’s TED Talk is now live. You can visit the TED site or watch it below.

The hardcover of Tribes is available on Amazon.

A long Squidoo lens, including lots of information and more videos and slides, is here.

You can download a FREE mp3 of Seth himself reading the entire thing right here.

OK. It’s not really your last chance. Everything above will likely be available…well, forever. But knowing Seth, he’s cooking up even more quality. Another topic that will require a good portion of your brain.

So finish up Tribes. Read the book. Watch the video. Listen to the .mp3. Pass it along to a friend.

Learn Tribes. Lead one. But make room.

More genius is coming.


Baked in magic

Walt Disney didn’t build an amusement park and then decide later to make it magical.

Tony Hsieh didn’t start Zappos and then, in year three, decide to deliver the best service the industry has ever seen.

Herb Kelleher didn’t build and operate Southwest Airlines and then decide to turn the airline industry on its head. (The original flight attendants were chosen by a committee that included the same person who had selected hostesses for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy jet.)

Delivering true magic isn’t something that can be fixed with a half-day training class. Because everyone works in marketing, ‘wow’ has to be baked in to the company’s culture. The larger the company, the harder it is to change the culture.

Frank Eliason and his team are doing great work trying to improve Comcast’s customer service and image using Twitter, but that’s customer support, not magic.

Magic has to be baked in.

45 (more) ways to change everything

Today, Seth Godin lists 45 things you can do to change if you feel stuck in a rut…

What a wonderful start.

Here are 45 more:

Omering - traditional Canadian solo paddling

46. Learn a completely new sport. Or a completely new way to do an existing sport.
47. Invite your customers tour your facility.
48. Cook lunch or dessert for your team. Something new. Take turns.
49. Learn about and improve your web analytics.
50. Take your web lead to lunch and ask her what she thinks.
51. Take the janitor to dinner and ask him what he thinks.
52. Take your mother to dinner and ask what she thinks.
53. Ask 100 people on the street what they think. Write it down.
54. Determine which (if any) of your ads actually work. Kill the rest.
55. Send your best customers a valuable free gift.
56. Improve your word of mouth.
57. Ask everyone on your team to submit a suggestion that can be acted on within a week. Together, the team votes for the best suggestion and it is executed. Repeat once a month.
58. Rank your products or projects from most remarkable to least. Think of five new ones for the top. Kill the bottom half and allocate those resources to the new five.
59. Implement a productivity system.
60. Organize an office (or company wide) wellness day or 5K run.
61. Start an office book-share program.
62. Transform an entire room into a whiteboard with IdeaPaint. This is now the IdeaRoom. Do the same in your kid’s room(s). Encourage them to write on the walls.
63. Identify and publicly reward a customer of the month.
64. Hold a quick meeting to implement the “Cult of Done” manifesto. Print the poster and post it around the office. Reward examples of Done daily.
65. Instead of an traditional NCAA office pool, everyone donates an hour of a service they can provide (like tennis lessons). Instead of cash, the winner gets first choice. Last place gets last choice but everybody wins.
66. Raise money to sponsor an entrepreneur through Kiva.
67. Post an interesting (and potentially viral) video to describe your product or service.
68. Finish that book you started.
69. Read a book from a new genre
70. Rewrite the company’s mission statement in 140 characters or less.
71. Rank you and your competition using social media metrics. Aim for the top spot. It may be empty.
72. Define your corporate culture. Compare it to Zappos.
73. Take your competitor to lunch. Literally.
74. Take a long, scenic drive and relax with some great music.
75. Try yoga.
76. Call that friend that you’ve been meaning to get back in touch with.
77. Help your customers improve. For free.
78. Take your kids out of school and skip work. Take them to a ballgame or a play.
79. Simplify your personal finances.
80. Help your customers tell your story.
81. Publish an ebook. Or at least a manifesto.
82. Coach a youth sports team that doesn’t involve your own kid.
83. Start a book club.
84. Learn photography.
85. Be more Zen.
86. Volunteer at a nursing home. Or just go there and meet someone. Talk to them. You’ll learn more than they will.
87. Eat no processed foods for one week.
88. Improve your SEO. Organically.
89. Hack your life.
90. Write down your list of resolutions. Tape them to the bathroom mirror or somewhere you’ll see them everyday.

Green Tea Ice Cream – to go

We recently ate at Chow Bar in New York City. The dessert I ordered was excellent . . . green tea ice cream on fresh ginger snap cookies. The flavor combination was delectable.

Last night, we had finished dinner and were talking about desserts when we remembered the one from Chow Bar. As I sometimes do, I decided I needed to recreate it at home. Now.

The problem was, it was 8:30pm. The grocery store had ginger snaps but no green tea ice cream. Other markets that stock green tea ice cream had already closed. Sure, we could always recreate the dessert some other night but once the memory was in my head, the taste was in my mouth.

It was now almost 9pm on a weeknight. Where was I going to get green tea ice cream?

Then it hit me. Sushi Mike’s!

I hadn’t yet been to the popular sushi joint on the corner of our street but I assumed they must serve green tea ice cream. Doesn’t every sushi joint?

So I strolled in and calmly waited. I explained my odd request for take out green tea ice cream to the server. She strolled directly over to the restaurant manager who immediately helped pack up a quart in a generic container for me to take home.

This is clearly not a typical transaction for Sushi Mike’s. They sell sushi to be eaten inside their restaurant, not ice cream to go.

Not a word of English was spoken (by them).

She only charged me $3. (So I tipped her $2 more.)

There was never a moment of hesitation or debating whether selling green tea ice cream to go is ‘against policy’.

Because of this level of service, I’ll definitely be bringing friends to Sushi Mike’s again for a big sushi dinner. For 2 minutes of customer-focused thinking, they just gained themselves a repeat customer. And I’m sure my next bill will be well over $3.

When your customers ask for something outside your scripted playbook, do you accommodate them? Does everyone in your organization have the authority to accommodate them?

Not an opportunity. An obligation.

Last month, I went with my friend to visit a man who is in the hospital with multiple sclerosis. We talked with him for a while, we helped him setup speed-dial for his family in his hospital phone and we helped him setup a new GMail account because he had forgotten the password to his Hotmail account.

He was so happy and grateful to have visitors, even for an hour. Mentally, he was still very sharp but the MS had debilitated his body and his speech. I sat there wondering what things he wanted to accomplish that he never got the chance to.


As we walked out of the hospital, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Guilty that I could walk out of the hospital. The guilt quickly turned to a sense of obligation to do something great because there are so many people that don’t have the chance.

What we all have isn’t just a chance. We all have a responsibility to do something great. We all need to change the world in our own ways. We’re all blessed with enough intelligence and drive. Plenty of people are willing to teach us the skills and techniques. We have no excuse not to succeed.

What we all have is not an opportunity. It’s an obligation.

Drive change constantly.

The leaves on a tree have it down pat.  They wait until the weather turns cold, then they turn beautiful colors, fall off and wait until spring.  Same routine, year after year.


Unfortunately, you’re not a tree. You can’t wait to create change once it’s needed. You have to proactively and constantly change.  It is difficult, because you can’t sell change when you’re doing well, but you can’t afford change when you’re doing poorly.

Are you uncomfortable?

If not, maybe you should be.

be uncomfortable often
be uncomfortable often

To achieve anything beyond what you already have, you need to leap out of your comfort zone. You may be familiar with the old saying, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done then you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.”

Look at what is keeping you in your comfort zone.  Ask yourself two questions:
a) What is the worst that can happen?
b) What is the best that can happen?

‘b’ is almost always greater than ‘a’.  The pain of ‘a’ is temporary.  The benefits of ‘b’ are forever.

Unless you’re completely, 100% satisfied with your life, take a leap. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. You’ll be surprised at the result.