Friday, August 31, 2007

LNB 048: Just Say "No?! (Pt. 4, Cleaning Up the Slop)


Little words in whatever language we speak. Big mischief if we don't use them when we should. We end up half-committed to projects and other decisions we know we really don't support, taking precious time away from other priorities, working without the focus that comes from commitment.

Resentfully wasting time.

Search and you'll find a staggering amount of books in getting to "yes" but nary a one on getting to a "no" or saying "no" for that matter. Curiously, most of the ones on saying "no" were written with children in mind. Truthfully, some of those books purport to be sales manuals, but are little more than cheap verbal manipulations designed to satisfy us. Funny enough, I can't tell you how many salesfolk I've met who hate being "sold to." They hate when someone doesn't take "no" for an answer. We all do. And still their bookshelves are lined with books that keep spreading the magic.

In this business 2.0 world of relationships we find ourselves on a collision course between two sets of desires: theirs (customers, partners, vendors, suppliers, employees) and ours. Doing untold damage to their chances for the further collaboration. A half-hearted "yes" becomes the low-hanging fruit.

Clean, concise, authentic communication is always the ticket. We end up with less to remember when we stick to the plain, unvarnished truth with little embellishment.

On the show, I talked about the four options you have in responding to requests made to you. They are:

With us committed to an action either immediately or in the future. Ever heard a prospect say "I'd like to do it in January at the top of the budget year?" Our training has us inclined to try to get them to do it now when they might really mean "I want to sign up in January." Here, you can tell them that you're going to take them at their word...and get your proposal ready for them to sign now with a January start date. You can even make sure that they meant it by calling a spade a spade: "I want to be clear that you are commencing in January. So, I'll take you American Express number so I can run the agreed-upon amount on January 1."

No maven Ramona Creel suggests that there are 20 Ways to Say No; however I find that, given some of the equivocations she suggests, people are liable to enter into a tussle with us, believing that those equivocations are up for negotiation. If it doesn't work, isn't consistent with your commitments--whatever--stop trying to be "nice." A clean "no" will save you from trying to manufacture a reason (which isn't nice, by the way). You don't need one (unless you've trained your business associates that you do).

You may, in fact, want that project, but with some clear caveats. Tell them so: "I'd like to commit here, and I have a few changes that will have it really work for our team. Take a look and see if we can work those in and then I'm all in." Here, they can say yes or no--they can even counter your counter. This is called a negotiation. Have fun and be clear in you communications.

Commitment to Commit Later
You may be racing out the door. Keep moving. We sometimes say things to people to placate them and hope we can dig ourselves out later. If you don't have time to carefully consider an offer now, resist the pressure to commit right away. Giving people a clear date and time you want to discuss the merits of their request with them will satisfy most. Putting it on your calendar will satisfy even more. Really racing out the door and can't stop. Ask them to email you a request with some suggested dates and times for your talk...and then keep moving.

...and now some Zen from the epic movie, White Men Can't Jump:

Rosie Perez: Sometimes when you win, you really lose. Sometimes when you lose, you really win. Sometimes when you win or lose. you actually
tie. Sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose.

Woody Harrellson: I hate it when you talk like that.
We hate it, too. Woody. So get this: Some of us sound eerily similar when we say "Sometimes when they say yes, it's really yes. Sometimes when they say no, it's really yes. Sometimes when they say yes or say no it's actually maybe..." You get the point (and probably a headache, too.

Simplify Your Work Like: Ways to Change the Way You Work So You Have More Time to Live...some of these suggestions are stunningly simple and effective.

On my list to read is Saying No: A User's Manual by Karen Bading. It purports to helping people say "no" without wrecking their relationships. I'll let you know.

Listen Now: 24.01

MP3 File

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The design duel is finally on!

HP Virtus revealed: "

Filed under:

This is what Dell is seriously lacking and it's the ONLY way they will get back in the saddle in a serious way...differentiation by design! Sony started the Apple onslaught but has faltered, now I think HP is the first PC manufacturer to take the "design duel" to One Infinite Loop with this sweet piece of work.

Apple and Google sitting in a tree....

I think we are about to see the first major fruit of Apple's collaboration with the G-force (Google) and that is the Gphone. Apple and Google have been working closely for some time now and with the imminent release of the Gphone from Google we are beginning to see how their collaboration is going to pay off. The strategy seems so simple. Establish the iPhone as the creme de la creme of the PDA space sell it for a premium price, then offer the gPhone as the bargain buster option but super connected to your existing Google world (that's where the value come from of course). I see good times ahead for Apple and Google....good times. This is a perfect example of company cross-pollination with out the product cannibalism. It's fast becoming a Google-Apple world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I was just listening to more news from NPR (which I keep running as the soundtrack of my business day) about the collapse of the mortgage finance market, and was just about filled to the brim with cynicism. Following a link to TED, I found this amazing artist. We I wind down my business day, I thought I'd share it with you.

He runs through a three song set with about as much fire and sweetness as one person can. A South African, he's managed to keep his sould while generating songs that have become anthems. I was in Namibia for several months just after apartheid fell (yes, there was a Namibia pre-Angelina) and took weeks for me to get the funk off of me so I stopped eyeing my fellow man and women with some measure of fear.

Don Heckman of the LA Times writes that "Despite the fact that his songs are frequently filled with political subtext and despite his personal familiarity with the horrors of apartheid, his performances are optimistic and soulful, delivered with an intensity that captures the attention and embraces the heart."

I'll say.

He sings about love, hope, family and pride--all the things I have at stake in the development of my business. You probably have some pretty heady stuff at stake, too.

Death by PowerPoint

I don't know exactly what hell will be like, but I'm certain that there will be some lower level demon with a laptop and a never-ending PowerPoint presentation.


Life After Death by PowerPoint

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Noggin is Now Enormous!

Imagine how cheesy my grin got when I learned that my podcast "Like Nobody's Business" has been listed among the Top 100 Business Podcasts by Small Business Trends Radio! This online radio station is the best thing since cheese in a can, with news reports, interviews and a whole lot more from business experts and entrepreneurs from all over the nation.

Be sure to listen in to the other podcasts. If you have a business problem, the solution is a mouse click away.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What does it mean to live life fully?

You hear the advice all the time, "Live life to the fullest!", "carpe diem", "This is not a dress rehearsal, you only get one shot at life", and a number of other old adages.

But what does it mean? Does it mean don't stop and smell the roses? Eight hours sleep is too much? What should you be doing thats more important than what you are doing right now?

What does it mean to you? For me it means taking advantage of the opportunities life presents us. Not putting off something you want to do because you feel too tired, or it seems frivelous.

We probably only do get one time around, so enjoy it! Do you spend time each day doing something for yourself? Something that forwards your commitments in life? Showing appreciation for the people in your life that you love?

I used to think I had to schedule every minute of everyday to live life fully. Well to some extent that's true. The best way to remember to stop and smell the roses is to put in on your schedule.
Schedule time to drink a cup of coffee and enjoy the breeze on your back porch. Play with the dogs.

Living life doesn't mean work hard!

What Is Your Super Power?

I was heading home from a conference in New Orleans (BK, before Katrina). There were two other ladies from my city who were traveling with me. When we got to the airport, we learned that all the flights were overbooked (the city was packed to the seams with conference-goers, graduating seniors and the like). The gate attendant was telling each person in turn the situation and getting back less than the milk of human kindness. One of my party started to work herself into a panic attack (explaining that she'd packed her meds and checked them at the curb....*).

So, I gathered up all three tickets and told both women to take have a seat.

Just before it was my turn, a disgruntled almost-passenger ripped into the gate attendant with a napalm-level barrage, suggesting that her parents were never married. Then, it was my turn. When she began her spiel with gritted teeth, I told her that I knew she didn't create the problem and that she would do her best to get us home...that night. Then, I flashed a sincere, though toothy grin and shut up.

She got us out on the last flight of the night, after typing what looked like a manifesto into her computer.

On the way back, the other ladies dubbed me Charmella, The Charming One. The name has stuck.

I get called in to deal with execs with whithering temperaments, partnership meetings where people are afraid to drink anything they didn't bring, project teams that can only agree that the boss is the devil and deserves a stake in the throat (and have written the project charter to carry it out).

I can disarm the nasty at 20 yards. They never see it coming.

If mine is the power of charm (I have southern parents on both sides), what, praytell, is yours?

Cross-posted at

Friday, August 24, 2007

The "If You Start Me Up" Update

OK, it's been a week of more regular eating (when I eat, my diet is good but at the starvation level, impacting my fat retention), vitamins and exercise and better sleep. I have lots more energy, but my weight is fluctuating. I have more energy and mental clarity (hmmm....could there be a connection between food and the ability to think?). Still working on setting up a regular time to get to the gym, but I think that's defeating the purpose. I've hit my Total Gym every morning while I'm watching the early news (Fox in the morning, the best live comedy there is).

My doctor, a very nice Korean practitioner of traditional medicine (herbs, acupuncture and cranial manipulation), is concerned that I've depleted my adrenal glands from all the stress of the year (Dad and Garland were sick puppies then I had the cancer scare). Could be. So Dr. Park's doing some blood tests and having me beef up on my stress vitamins, which has been surprisingly good. Also learned that I can't eat wheat, rye, barley or oats (which are in everything). So pita bread felafel's sandwiches are right out. Looking for alternatives for home and for business meetings (no more morning oatmeal breakfast gatherings).
Including my well-being in my business day has not been the easiest thing. Taking care of myself as I know I should is damned inconvenient


Hoops and Ladders for Black Women?

I was talking yesterday with Darla Williams, a local attorney who had been interviewed and featured in the Indy Star's report Promising Black Women Face Barriers. I'd gotten on Darla's radar when I wrote a piece for the Indiana Minority Report about Black Hooliganism. In it, I recounted a disturbing business trend among some in black business "leadership." Elected officials and others create their own lists of "approved" black business people and encourage contract holders to do business with these people, regardless of the host of others who have built solid businesses. They use the power of their position to get contract holders to consider these people over others on government approved lists of vendors, particularly minority vendors. Coupled with this is the fact that some will offer to have you put them on your payroll so that they can broker business deals for you using their Rolodexes. One suggested that I pay him $5,000 monthly and 20% of whatever he brought in. I hoped he was joking. He wasn't.

Now, I'm a fan of free enterprise like the next kid, but there seems to be something a little off here. For businesses that have worked to gain their MBE, WBE or DBE certifications (which is onerous enough), having a separate list that one has to curry favor to get on (or pay for) seems to defeat the entire purpose.

In the article, Darla asserted that "One barrier in my personal experience is African-Americans creating barriers for other African- Americans," Williams said. "If they (black leaders) let you become a leader, you can only be one if you let the other black leaders exploit you. And if you don't, they blacklist you."

One commenter seemed to have it all sorted out: "black females have have special status in the workplace. all they have to do is claim racism and presto, they get the promotion. i've seen it happen too many times, quality, production and customer service go down the drain but the company gets a tax break. the really sad part is that truley capable and qualified people either get fired or have to work for this caricature of a professional. "

Really? Then Black women must be stupid because if "all we have to do" is make a spurious claim of racism to get promoted, we sure have been lying down on that particular job. Be sure to read the rest of the commentary thread on this one. The general tone goes to show that there is bias against Black women in the workplace. Nasty bias.

At one time I was in HR, worrying that I might be a "lifer." It didn't take long for the other white staffers and the secretaries to claim that I was hired for my race and gender. One even went to far as to say "we had to hire you." What was shocking was that I graduated with distinction from Purdue (and a host of other accolades) and have been blessed with an IQ in the 130's. Oh, yeah, and was the very department where (whether I liked it or not) every member had access to my resume, application and transcripts. Trouble was: they didn't care to find out that they might be wrong.

They didn't invite me to meetings (claiming that I was clearly too busy), held lunches where business decisions were made without my input and didn't invite me and they weren't above lying. One secretary claimed that I hit her...she was committed for psychiatric care after her accusations and behavior got even more extreme. The damage to my reputation was immense.

They didn't even want to consider that I had a right to be there. Very sad.

Do we all have ladders to climb? You bet: every one of us. Is there grease on the rungs for sum (added later: "some"...I meant "some")? You bet.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Coal fired power generation - etc.

The recent events have underlined one of the unmeasured impacts of coal fired power generation, especially the huge uptick in demand sourced by China firing up a new coal fired power plant every week!!

In 2002, compliance coal, that met certain specifications cost the University of Cincinnati $28 a ton. UC now paying about $90 per ton, after negotiating with a utility to supply coal. (Prior to that it was significantly even more expensive. The utility would only recently start to sell coal to 3rd parties ).

Regrettably it appears that the 6 miners trapped 11 days ago are probably not alive, and now several more are know dead and more injured. Work will progress in some manner to try to find the first 6 but the MSA will work to reduce any more risk to rescuers.

Coal is abundant in the US. It's probably one of the biggest energy assets we have. But to use it we have to mine it either underground, or surface strip mining. We have to ship it constantly on barges in rivers, by rail and by truck as it is consumed on a very large scale. And not only by power plants. Coal is used to make coke (not that kind) and that coke is the pure carbon source for addition to steel to produce carbon steel for industry.

Looking at energy and alternatives, one needs to look at the whole picture. When nuclear power construction was stopped in the US 30 years ago that shackled us to fossil fuels. The industry needed a new source of energy that was cost effective and could be rapidly developed. That lead to the rapid growth of the sale and installation of combustion turbine generators across the country and even to foreign markets. They use natural gas, and lots of it. It was a fairly clean technology, and plants could be built rapidly, and due to the fact that they are relatively small compared to traditional large scale coal plants, they were easy to permit and cheap to build.

Then Enron happened. oops. Now natural gas has tripled in price and the vast majority of combustion turbines are sitting idle waiting for dramatically higher power costs or dramatically lower natural gas prices.

So we are back to coal.

If we were to wave our magic Harry Potter wands and chant "ignitus carborundum" or something like that and be able to replace all coal fired power plants with some new yet to be developed technology, we would still need coal mining to support the steel industry. With diminished demand for coal, prices would drop as mines would close, putting thousands in the industry out of work. When enough mines closed for pricing to recover, the remaining mines would have the steel industry at its knees. If you push on the balloon in one place, it goes out somewhere else.

If you divert fields to corn for ethanol production, and corn prices soar because of a spark in interest in ethanol, then corn feed for cows gets expensive, beef prices go up and cheese prices double. Push on the balloon in one place and it goes out somewhere else.

Closing down nuclear power plant construction 30 years ago pushed on the balloon in a big way and we are still watching it go out.

Don't worry too much about reducing your personal carbon footprint, that will just cause something else to happen unless we develop a holistic approach to energy policy in the US and globally.

I meander around don't I?

Linked In

For those of you who have not discovered LinkedIn as yet, I can hardily recommend it for accessing a wide network of professionals globally.

Since I was introduced to the grown-up's version of myspace or facebook, I have really gotten engaged in asking questions, answering questions and being of service where possible.

I hasn't become an obsession yet, but I can seee my ADD dancing around the fringes.

Check it out:

Being of Service

Starting next Wednesday I am going to be engaged in an intensive course on being of service...........

My wife is having foot surgery and will be unable to put any weight on her foot for 6 to 9 weeks!!!

I wouldn't say I am lazy, although she might, but she has spoiled me rotten, cooking really healthy meals, grocery shopping, keeping the house clean, etc. etc. ( I do grill, like most men, we that's helping).

We also have a recent addition to the family, Sadie, a beagle shih tzu mix that is without question, the cutest puppy on the planet. Our vet says Sadie could rule the world!! She does however have more energy than I do and she and my 6 year old schnauzer don't always see eye to eye. Sadie being still very puppy like things she's the center of the universe.

So starting next Wednesday I am going to be in an intensive course on being of service to my wife, pur puppy, etc. etc.

Wish me luck........well patience........

I will keep you posted on how the course is going and what new insights I have gained.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Popping my Cherry, so to speak..........

OK Everyone,

Lalita invited me to contribute to the totalteam blog and I accepted. I thought, "Yeah, it's about time to put my toe in the water of the blogosphere".

My wife keeps asking me, "what's the big deal about blogs?" "Why do people do it?" "What's the point?"

All good questions. I have been reading a number of blogs for a brief time and have found myself learning from people that I had not even known before.

So for me, sharing what we know, expressing what we think hopefully forwards the ball in the game of life. Sorry for the sports analogy, I am NOT a sports fan, but I figure everyone seems to get sports analogies.

OK, here I go!

I have been around the block once or twice and not necessarily the same block. I started out my engineering education as a Biomedical Engineering major, worked as a lab assistant to earn my work/study grant money and learned welding and machining as part of the job.

Junior year of college I come to find out that in 1976 no one wants to hire biomedical engineers, no less understand what they did. So I changed majors to another obscure major, Fluid and thermal sciences, a subset of Aerospace engineering. Why fluid and thermal science? It was the one major at Case Institute of Technology that accepted my biomedical engineering courses and would let me graduate with only 1 extra semester, instead of 2 or more.

I was hired by the infamous General Electric in what was then called Installation and Service Engineering as a Field Service Engineer. I was hired to maintain, overhaul and construct large scale commercial power plant equipment like steam turbines, gas turbines, and all the related knick knacks associated with them in power plants. Sort of related to my degree but not really.

I loved the work. Who wouldn't love erecting machinery components that weigh hundreds of tons! Running crews of tradesmen as large as 150, managing projects as much has $50 million dollars almost right out of college???

I did hate living in motels, however, and oh yea, working 7 days a week 12 to 14 hours a day for months on end. I used to average over 3000 hours a year worked. A bit much for even a youngster.

Seven years on the calendar, and what felt like 20 years of my life later, I left GE and field service. My local management would never let me take an office job, or transfer to an office job in another region, "because you are too valuable to us in the field running projects", they would say. So I had to quit once my health started suffering. I had three hospitalizations my last year with GE field service. It apparently wasn't a powerful enough indicator to them that I needed to get off the road.

So I left. I went from huge noisy, dirty powerplants, with a bunch of roughneck tradesmen to, of all places, Avon Products plant in Cincinnati! At the time there were 1300 employees at the plant. 300 of them were men!!! Let's do the math...............1000 women, 300 men?!?
Hmmmmmmm, a big change for me. Plus suits and ties were required and I was no longer going to be paid for over 1000 hours of overtime a year. BIG CHANGES EVERYWHERE.

There are some stories there, but we can get into them some other time. Let's just say that after two years I moved on. The next job lasted a little over a year, and the next one about a year and then I ended up at Cincinnati Milacron as a Senior Project Manager. Great job, impressive talent, incredible products, terrible management. That lasted almost 2 years, and then hard to believe it, I ended up back with the General!

I ended up at GE Aircraft Engines as a Staff Engineer in their develop test group. I got to work with really big noisy machinery again, roughneck tradesmen again, and working for Thomas Edison again. (GE was originally the Edison General Electric Company).

I lasted in that environment about 9 years and again, in typical GE fashion, I was not allowed to move to other positions or up, "because you are too valuable to us in your current role". Hmmmmm, that sounded awfully familiar. After much gnashing of teeth and meetings with HR I was finally released and transferred over the the Facilities Engineering group at the same 6.5 million sf facility in charge of all the mechanical plant systems, HVAC, steam, chilled water, etc.

As I had a bunch of experience in this field it was technically pretty comfortable, but with cost cutting and dozens of layers of management I was suffocating. They finally gave me a break!

They laid me off in 2002. That's how I ended up at the University of Cincinnati. They were building a new power plant, they didn't have anyone who knew how to build one, I did and the rest, as they say is history.

Along with the job stories above there was a marriage, 3 children, a divorce, a remarriage, a step son, being trained to lead programs by Landmark Education, teaching at the UC College of Applied Science since 1988 and a few other items, like winning a grand prize at the Sculpture Center in Cleveland and going from a tool box in my garage to a 5400 sf studio where I have completed large scale architectural sculpture, wrought iron railings, synagogue and church commissions, and have spent many an hour covered in grinding dust and breathing welding fumes, but I would replace them for the world! Check it out:

I guess that's droning on enough for now.......more later. I bet Lalita will be shaking her head over inviting me to contribute.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Strike a Match (between your brand and your ideal customer)

Scott and I were talking about customer demographics--how to better "dial into" the kind of customer we want. I'd remembered this article from an old FastCompany magazine and shared it with him (and now you, because it had such staying power). It profiled those who frequent the sophisticated brand, Anthropoligie, a brand I've been interesting in for quite some time.

Here's an excerpt:

"Ask anyone at Anthropologie who that customer is, and they can rattle off a demographic profile: 30 to 45 years old, college or post-graduate education, married with kids or in a committed relationship, professional or ex-professional, annual household income of $150,000 to $200,000. But those dry matters of fact don't suffice to flesh out the living, breathing woman most Anthropologists call "our friend." Senk, 46, says, "I like to describe her in psychographic terms. She's well-read and well-traveled. She is very aware -- she gets our references, whether it's to a town in Europe or to a book or a movie. She's urban minded. She's into cooking, gardening, and wine. She has a natural curiosity about the world. She's relatively fit."

"While most retailers today are obsessed with the highly lucrative and populous "tween" (preteen and young teen) and boomer markets, Anthropologie has cultivated an understanding of and connection to the ultimate tweener: the thirtysomething sophisticate, once known as a Gen-Xer, who has carried her mildly rebellious, against-the-grain independence into a serious career and family life. She's defined less by static qualities and more by a set of dynamic tensions. If the tween anthem is Britney Spears's "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," the Anthropologie customer's plaint is more Alanis Morissette: "I've got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving the peace sign." Translation: "I can't pick up my children or sit through a meeting in low-rise jeans, but I'm not nearly ready for an elastic waistband."

"The Anthropologie customer is affluent but not materialistic. She's focused on building a nest but hankers for exotic travel. (She can picture herself roughing it with a backpack and Eurail pass -- as long as there is a massage and room service at end of the trek.) She'd like to be a domestic goddess but has no problem cutting corners (she prefers the luscious excess of British cooking sensation Nigella Lawson to the measured perfection of Martha Stewart). She's in tune with trends, but she's a confident individualist when it comes to style. She lives in the suburbs but would never consider herself a suburbanite. (This is where Senk's kinship to his customer is most apparent. He had lived in cities all over the world -- London, San Francisco, New York, and Philadelphia -- before settling in an elegant turn-of-the-century house in the Philadelphia garden suburb of Chestnut Hill with his partner, Anthropologie antiques buyer Keith Johnson. Says Senk: "We're city people -- we'd never dreamed of moving to the suburbs. But Chestnut Hill is sophisticated. It's like
a suburb in the city.")

"The Anthropologie woman is not so much conflicted as she is resistant to categorization. Her identity is a tangle of connections to activities, places, interests, values, and aspirations. She's not married with two kids: She's a yoga-practicing filmmaker with an organic garden, a collection of antique musical instruments, and an abiding interest in Chinese culture (plus a husband and two kids). It's no coincidence that Julia Roberts is the celebrity avatar of Anthropologie. Not only is she a frequent shopper (along with many of Hollywood's strongest-minded women, including Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone, and Madonna), but her bohemian-chic wardrobe in The Mexican was Anthropologie sourced."

Though I'd worked out all of the "dry matters of fact," I didn't' have a clear--no--Technicolor picture of my "living" customer and couldn't tell the story of this key contributor to my brand story like a page from my favorite novel. Yipes. Look for more as I put more flesh on their bones.

You Don't Know Jack!

Big drinker that I am (Garland cuts me of the java, because he thinks it goes to my noggin), I read an article about international focus group strategy used by the Jack Daniels distillery to expand its brand and it left me a little troubled.

It assumes that the German, Australian, Japanese and British people studied are one monolithic "culture." Even Britain, made up of several distinct indigenous people (Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, and peoples from the outlying islands) with a host of immigrants (one in five children born in Britain are born to foreign-born mothers. Even in the IPS school system here in Indy, there are over 130 languages spoken in the children's homes (not just English and Spanish!).

Exactly what "culture" were they talking about in this article?

As I travel (5 countries on 5 continents so far), I'm struck by how difficult it is to categorize the people I found. How, exactly could a focus group leader do it?

Of critical importance would be a keen understanding of their home cultures as well as of those of the brand's home country. The article talked about studying their body language and facial movements. I did my graduate work in psychology the first time through and I can tell you that no psychological scientist worth a sprinkle of table salt would assert that they could "read" faces and body language effectively, particularly from those of other cultures and ethnicities.

I remember a college psych class I took. Subjects were to look at pictures of faces and guess what emotion it represented. They did fairly well "reading" the faces of members of their own racial/ethnic/gender group, but didn't fare so well when the face looked different than the ones usually at their kitchen table.

Having a translator who could handle the language is one thing: Having one with a keen understanding of a variety of cultures and of marketing is quite another.

My Darling OQO Has a Wart!

Weekend before last, I got to hang with my extended family: Garland; his cousins, who I just met; my friend Gigi (Garland's first wife), her gentleman friend; Addai (Garland's oldest) and his wife, Egem. We'd gotten together in Chicago the night before to see stepdaughter Shani's Broadway debut in The Color Purple.

She was amazing.

Anyway, before I start waxing braggadocios about that girl, let me get back to the piece that's critically important: Addai's OQO US Model 02 (and yes, I've got issues!). As it turns out, Egem, his wife of less than a year, had ordered one for him and he wanted to show it to me. As I held it in my hands and looked at it with shining eyes, he explained how he had it set up to "talk" to his desktop computer at his SOHO...How it was easier to carry and that it was a dream to use...How he'd upgraded the hardware to better serve his needs.

I could hear angels singing. That is, until I tried using the mouse. It was waaay over on the right hand side. No matter what I did, I couldn't easily get my left thumb over there. Forget using my right thumb. I just didn't have the fine motor control (you try using your other hand to mouse over to something before you scratch your noggin and mutter at your screen). Other than the fact that they'd set up the form factor for a right-handed populace, it was perfection itself.

Of, of course, I wrote to the people who'd created the object of my lustful tech affection. Here's what I wrote (with shaking fingers) to the good people at OQO:

I was so excited I was almost giddy when a family member showed me his OQO model 2. I'd been following the OQO's for months and was convinced that I would replace my company laptop with one when it came time.

You can't imagine my surprise and disappointment when I learned that the mouse was on the right hand side. I am one of the estimated 8.4 million left-handers on planet Earth (14% in the general population...more when you consider Asian populations or creative professionals which tend to have higher instances of left-handedness than in the general population). Using the trackball mouse was torture. Try switching the mouse buttons on your computer and then putting your mouse on the left. It will take about 30 seconds to see what I mean and, more than likely, you'll use your right hand to use the mouse on the left side. This is what I ended up doing: putting the machine down and using my left hand to use the mouse button. Frustrating and unnecessary.

Nick Merz, your VP of Design should have known better than to design a product that so obviously excludes roughly 14% of the possible market share for this subnotebook market. Please centrally locate the mouseball on the keyboard. I will purchase one immediately.


Now, I don't expect to hear from these good people beyond the automated response and I don't think for a moment that they'll change the button placement after hearing from little ole me. But I can hope.

What's interesting is how we approach offerings like this. They don't come out and say that this product is for right-handed people only. They don't even offer an easy workaround (not even for more money). This kind of thing leaves me wondering: What are we thinking with respect to who our customers are. I don't reckon that OQO decided to make a product that's hard for leftys to use. I think it didn't cross their radar. Also, looking at the people who were doing the product reviews, I noted that they were all right-handed men.

What's this all mean? Heck if I know. I just want one.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's Been Rough...

I've been quiet for a while.

Here's the scoop. Everybody's finally fine. Garland just finished his three month treadmill test and his cardiologist is very pleased. He had a little angina (still has some blockages), but his doc said that everything is moving the right direction. Dad came out the other side of his septic pneumonia (a deadly form) looking better and feeling better than he had in years (only Dad could take a running slide toward the Abyss and come out healthier). He's continuing his rehab at a local gym and is strong and quite...well, alive! He went back to visit the rehab center where he stayed for two months. They simply didn't recognize him. He's gorgeous!

In the midst of all this, I found a mole that was getting very large and a very...weird (its own technicolor mole show). When I pointed this out to my doctor, he immediately produced a set of scalpels and started hacking it off (with clear margins to make sure he got it all). Then, off it went for biopsy.

Um, yay....*

Listening to him worry aloud whether it was a nasty skin cancer (I'm Black, people! Mighty melanin protect me!), I just didn't think I could deal with anything else this year--I'd already weathered the one-two punch of Dad's major illness and Garland's heart treatment. Then Dr. Park, still suturing up my leg, said "If it's nothing, you'll know. If it's something not so good, you'll deal with it. That's what you do."

It was that statement that left me with tears in my eyes. No matter now much got heaped on, how the illnesses of these important men in my life left me with a business with no actual business and work I'd never thought I'd need to do, I was there: battling for their health and wellness for over a quarteryear with all the love and hope I had when others had given up.

I'm rebuilding my business. I'll be straight with all of you. And it's not the most fun I've ever had, but like Dr. Park indicated about my dealing with the possibility of cancer, I'll get through it.

Like he said: That's what I do.

I'm carefully considering what (and who) I want to let back in and where I've been tolerating business deals that made money but no sense. I'm making sure that I re-invigorate my business with only the elements that give me a chance to use my SuperPowers (more on that later) and see others use their mutant powers for the forces of good.

I recently saw the Broadway production of The Color Purple. My stepdaughter is in it. She lives by her passion for music and dance and doesn't let anything else get in the way of that passion--not even her own "sensible" voice that says "make sure you have a fallback plan."

I adore that about her.

I've also stopped bullshitting about my well-being. No more pretending that I'm ever too busy to eat or work out or get a good (read: complete) night's sleep. Dad said I had to: "We can't take care of you as good as you take care of us!" Sweet man!

You'll be hearing more from me as I pick up my pace. Some of it will really shame me to admit (like that I top the scales at over 180 pounds). Other stuff will be easier (I've booked lots of speaking engagements, added two new clients and my podcast is expanding). I'll want to convince you that I'm really talented and that this was just an unavoidable circumstance I had to deal with (when you hear that, know that I'm just scared or tired or worried). I want to see how my sharing with you, openly and generiously about the truth of where I'm at, can add value to your business day. And then some days I won't want to talk with you at all.

See what you can get for yourself.

Now, I'm going to have at it!


Friday, August 03, 2007

LNB #047: Just Say "No?!" (pt. 3) It's What You Say "Yes" To...

Just say "no?" Seems like this has energized many of you (ticking off some) and gotten you into action.

Being one who thinks when it gets tough one should dig deeper (as opposed to scarpering away), we're going to look some more at this ugly topic.

We've discussed the bloated lifestyle that has us say "yes" to everything without limitation...and then giving up sleep, family life and sanity to try to make it all work. We've talked about the fact that our actions (including what we say) is given by our belief systems: If you're worried about your image and want to look good, you may find yourself a slave to it, saying "yes" to things that will raise you in the esteem of others, while your find yourself filled with resentment (or copping out, running late or other tactics to make the pain go away).

Here, we're looking at what we say "yes" to. We discussed that by not knowing the answers to several key questions about our business (business unit or department), we wind up at a loss about what we should be saying "yes" and "no" to in the first place. Mentioned also was the point that we're not having a happy relationship with many of the "source documents" for our businesses (like our business and action plans or our budgets). We create them once (if we do at all) and then operate like they don't exist.

Simplify Your Work Like: Ways to Change the Way You Work So You Have More Time to Live...some of these suggestions are stunningly simple and effective

The One-Page Proposal: How to Get Your Business Pitch onto One Persuasive Page. After completing your plan, you'll know what you should be saying both "yes" and "no" to. Contact me for help with your plan. I'm a licensed One Page Plan consultant and can help you as the owner or leader of a management team get--and keep--your act together.

Listen Now: 17:16

MP3 File

TEDGlobal talks premiere online

I got this from the TEDTalks people. Worth a read (and a looksie).

Dear TEDizens,

I'm pleased to tell you that today we're premiering the first online talks from this summer's extraordinary TEDGlobal: "Africa: The Next Chapter." The talks from the conference have been buzzed about around the blogosphere, and we're thrilled now to offer them as they happened.

Whether or not you were with us in Arusha, you will want to check these out ... and then join the exhilarating conversation taking place about Africa's brighter future.

Four talks to kick things off:

Euvin Nadoo set the scene on day one, describing a continent poised to light up.

George Ayittey roused the audience, alternating from lacerating criticism of Africa's "hippo generation" to an inspiring appeal for the "cheetah generation" to rise.

Ngozi Okono-Iweala, the final speaker, provided a tour-de-force, telling powerful personal stories and showing how the different pieces of the aid vs trade argument, which had animated the conference all week, could be reconciled.

And 19-year-old William Kamkwamba won a standing ovation for his shy 3-minute interview, revealing how as a 14-year-old he had solved his parents' energy needs in a village with no electricity.

Over the coming months we'll continue to release ever more of these talks. These represent just the tip of the iceberg...

All best,

Chris Anderson, TED Curator
Emeka Okafor, Conference Director,

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Poorer Paris!

This one snuck up on me. Paris Hilton's grandfather, Barron, and partiarch of the Hilton clan has said "Enough" after Paris does her time in jail. His concern? Paris has finally done enough to sully the Hilton name. I wonder what he was thinking though all of her other antics (sex tape, tardy appearances, no undie-plundies)...

This will serve as a $60 million spanking.

Now, what I'm interested in is the business application at work here. Paris, a businesswoman and owner of the Paris Hilton brand has failed in going up against Barron Hilton, the keeper of the Hilton brand (that is until Blackstone takes it over in an upcoming buyout).

Click here to read the full article on the website

There's a Killer Weed in Lake Caddo!

Um, this really does have something to do with business.


I was sitting at Rick's Cafe Boatyard, having a leisurely lunch with one of my clients a dear friend. We were catching up on her business doings. She described her partnerrship: they were still ineffective in problem-solving and it wasn't going much of anywhere. One, for example, would point out a problem and then blame one of the other partners for it (ignoring his own performance). Another, knowing that reducing errors is a chief way to increase the bottom line in the business, just hasn't taken action to create the needed systems (for a couple of years).

Just when I thought it was going to get depressing enough that I was going to have to start drinking (and I'm not an imbiber), she said: "There's a killer weed in Lake Cadd0."


I'd actually seen the news report she was referring to and knew that the sun hadn't completely baked her noggin. See, at the border between Texas and Louisiana, there's a lake that's gotten choked with what the U.S. Geological Survey calls the world's most noxious weed. Reports explain that it is "under siege by a fast-spreading, Velcro-like aquatic fern, Salvinia molesta, also known as Giant Salvinia." The South American weed, which can double in size in just two days, covers everything in the lake and everything under the weed dies.

Evil plants. Kind of like the Triffids. I digress.

Here's the thing: Texans have leaped into action (or as nearly as they can given the heat), spraying and hacking at the villainous vine, but to little avail. Even singer Don Henley, who has a small home on a nearby waterway, has taken action to protect the landscape on the Texas side of the waters. The Louisianans? Not so. Now the Texans are putting up nets to keep the green invader on the Louisiana side of the fence.

In reminding me about this recent story, she was telling me that she had exactly the same kind of ineffective action taking place: varying levels of awareness, blame, finger-pointing, ineffective action, taking sides.

This is why I really like this woman.

We were quiet for a while, watching the boats on the reservoir. Wanting to open up another subject, I asked her what she thought about the property tax situation in the city. Her response: "There's a killer weed in Lake Caddo."

And she quietly took another sip of her iced tea and watched the ducks fly out over the water