Learn from Others

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the bread aisle
photo credit: ratterrell

The last few weeks have been filled with Change. An unwelcome visit from Katrina and the untimely delays from our government to provide assistance could be replicated when Rita visits our shores.

Last week, both Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection. Along with United Airlines and US Airways, four of the nation’s largest airlines are today operating under bankruptcy, with some predicting that all the major carriers will be forced to follow.

We must learn from these examples. Most of us are faced with fewer resources, less time and higher expectations. Productivity is pushed back, people become upset, confused and demoralized. Delivering results becomes more about managing existing resources and protecting the bottom line than about satisfying customer needs.

We have to learn that change always will occur. Business will never be “as usual.” Status quo will simply not work. We all must become more entrepreneurial and driven to slash response time, drive down costs and diminish bureaucracy. We must raise the bar every day in both our personal lives and in as our businesses.

I expect a certain amount of resistance from people and understand that many of us are not ready to accept change on this scale. But we Better Change: We simply cannot ignore the lessons being taught to us.

Better Change: It is no longer a game of chance.

This last week I have been traveling. I exhibited in Las Vegas, spoke in San Diego and attended the Farm Aid concert in Tinley Park, IL. The diversity of attendees and their purpose for attending each of these events taught me much.

In Las Vegas, the industry’s largest gaming expo unveiled server-based slot machines that can change the game being played on the individual machine. The latest “themes” for these slot machines include “The Apprentice,” Showtime Rotisserie, Morgan Fairchild, KISS, George Lopez, Ed McMahon and Dick Clark.

Now, casinos can now respond to the consumers’ preferences and encourage longer play at their “favorite” game of chance. Each of these games requires a major change in face plates, graphics, etc., when the theme is changed. Yet, the server-based slot machines can TRANSFORM themselves from one themed format to another in just seconds.

It is no longer, if it ever was, a “game of chance.”

The gaming industry understands change because they are creating it. Clearly, the industry continues to reinvent itself with more choices targeted to narrower interests in the hope of capturing greater “mind share.”

The gaming industry understands that, at its heart, business is all about mind share. As in most relationships, success in selling, managing or motivating depends largely on how much of people’s minds you occupy, and for how long. The more space you have, the better.

Today, business is more of a mind game than ever, but not in the closed sense of using mental gymnastics to manipulate people. Now, a more open strategy is required, and we must be open to it. Better Change.

Better Change: Our future is in our youth, but is our youth up to it?

When I spoke in San Diego to the SITE Southern California Chapter, the audience was extremely well dressed. Business people looked like they were in business. There were no “casual” outfits. They came to network, discuss and share ideas, and had a positive attitude. There was no “wait and see” attitude, but one of a personal and business challenge to maximize their time and embrace the opportunities that presented themselves at multiple levels.

They were upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic. It was my personal and professional honor to be with the members of the SITE Southern California Chapter. When a scheduling conflict arose, the SITE Chapter immediately responded and allowed me to change the presentation date. For this concession I was most grateful. In return, I offered complimentary copies of my book, as well as table tent reminder cards and four-color handouts at no charge to my host.

I was energized by their positive attitude and hope they invite me back.

Then, there was the group attending Farm Aid.

Twenty years since its inception, Farm Aid returned to Illinois where it started. It was held at an outdoor venue, where tens of thousand of attendees tried to out-drink each other, as the bands played. I watched with amazement as this reenactment of the “Tower of Babel” unfolded before my eyes.

While the victims of Katrina suffered and coped with the loss of their homes, jobs and even their loved ones, this group young executives and professionals spent a fine summer’s day afternoon attempting to consume as much beer as possible while trying to remain erect.

It was not just the men that were drinking to excess. The women were clearly as drunk as their male counterparts. There was no concern for the uncertainty of our country, the Gulf Coast, the airlines, or even the farmers that they came to support. They were there to test themselves, as well as the bathrooms, to see how much beer they could “rent” prior to relieving themselves.

What did I learn? In less than a week I had experienced Las Vegas with its clear objectives and technological supremacy, San Diego with its focus on business and networking, and Farm Aid as an excuse to drink to excess and not offer financial support, other than beer purchases, to farmers that feel the pain of Katrina, rising fuel costs and increased costs of food production.

I saw a laser pinpoint target on one hand, and a lack of focus and on the other. I experienced communication and networking supremacy in San Diego, while in Tinley Park I saw people who not only found speaking difficult, but almost unnecessary.

The biggest redeeming behavior at Farm Aid was a lack of confrontation. Even when a drunk fell over someone lying on the grass, no combative outbreaks occurred. Instead, they offered concern and assistance to help upright the fallen. Their courtesy to each other could certainly be replicated in other parts of our country or throughout the world. Perhaps there is hope after all.

The bathroom lines were long, the food and beer concession lines even longer. So much beer was sold that the vendors ran out of cups and the bathrooms overflowed. How could our future leaders and business associates spend time and money in such a wasteful manner?

How could thousands of young people ignore what is going on around them? They need to understand that changes are taking place and they are the future of this country. . .no, the world. . .and I was ashamed of them.

These were not the poor or poorly educated. Clearly, from their clothes and cars, they were well-to-do with ample disposable income. Were they really there to help farmers, or was it simply an excuse to get drunk in a public place? Better Change: Youth is our future. Better Change: Success is dependant on execution.

John Gardner, author and founder of Common Cause, said, “Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot solve their problems, but because they can not see their problems.” Effective entrepreneurs have learned that how you think is everything.

The entire workforce must rally to defend the organization to deal with change and opportunity. It should be the core principle of every job in every organization. Everyone should begin thinking and behaving like an entrepreneur. To thrive on change, your mindset and behavior must help your organization prepare for the daily changes that have become the new status quo.

Success is dependant on execution. We must be prepared to take measured and carefully analyzed risks. The most effective businessperson is someone that takes personal responsibility for managing change, and being ready to act when change occurs.

Be ready. Better Change:

  • Temporarily ignore risk.
  • Think progress.
  • Have more ideas.
  • Establish clear priorities.
  • Promise change.
  • Accept change, and learn from it.