Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Davenport All Ward Meeting

I attended the All Ward meeting last night at the Fairmount Library and figured I would post the information since not many attended.

There were about ten citizens there and several city employees. Aldermen Frink and Meyer, Chief Bladel and three others from the DPD.

The first subject, of course, was the cameras and current litigation. There were at least a couple supporters of the program and more vocal opposition. It was clear that Cheif Bladel wanted to move on quickly as this will be in litigation at the courts for the next 12-18 months. It's still pretty clear to me that this will be a subject of much discussion even while it goes to the Iowa Supreme court.

The next hour or so focused on crime, NETS, juvenile offenders and how the city plans to take a proactive position in improving our city. The city is proposing adding 1 sergeant and 1 social worker to the Juvenile division and 3 more personnel to the NETS program. Chief Bladel reported that some 28% of total arrests last year were juveniles, and a lot of them were repeat offenders. There needs to be more cooperation from the courts and follow up from the juvenile system to make sure these individuals get back in line or are incarcerated.

The Davenport City budget was discussed next. A lot of information in just the 30 minutes or so that were left in the meeting. I'll give a couple highlights, but you should go to
the city web site to get more detailed and accurate information. They need to ratify the budget by March 15th so, if you want to weigh in, pay close attention to the meeting dates that will be announced soon.

The total budget for FY 2007 will be about $130 million. Most changes that were discussed were pretty straight forward and mostly focused on the changes in the DPD and NETS to combat crime. There is a proposal to possibly raise the rates for water consumption to save for the sewer expansion in West Davenport around 2009. The proposed rates haven't been raised for the last 15 years and the estimates given were an increase of about $1.33 per homeowner and $11 per business with high end water users much higher than that.

There was no discussion of The Freight House or other economic development. The meeting, at an hour and a half, was too short to cover more than what was already outlined.

In all Alderman Frink did a good job facilitating the meeting, Alderman Meyer pitched in some good information and Chief Bladel was full of information and statistics that show our priorities are in the right place, fighting crime. The debate on this might be centered around the strategy or the execution. Time will tell.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Use Language to Mainain a More Positive Attitude!

As a citizen of planet earth, it's sometimes hard to maintain a positive attitude. Did you know that, in all languages, there are more words to describe negative emotions than there are to describe positive emotions? The ratio is about 5:3 - meaning that for every 3 positive words you might hear, you'll hear 5 negative words. No wonder it seems like its an uphill battle for all but the most pragmatic optimists. You can read more here and here.

I've noticed that sometimes two people describe the same experience—positive or negative—in two completely different ways Maybe you talked about a “pretty” sunset while your spouse called the natural wonder “breathtaking.” Or perhaps one of your co-workers “needed clarity” after a meeting that left another “very frustrated.”
Imagine how your life would change if you were able to take all the negative emotions you ever felt and lower their intensity so they didn’t impact you as powerfully! Similarly, imagine what your life would be like if you could take your most positive emotions and multiply them tenfold.

Start by writing down three words that you use on an ongoing basis to intensify your negative feelings or emotions. Then, come up with alternative words or phrases that have a lower intensity.

Old word: depressed
New words: a little down, frustrated

Old word: overwhelmed
New words: in demand, full of opportunities

Now, write down three words you use to describe your experiences in a positive way, and come up with three alternative words that amplify those positive feelings. Get a friend to ensure you follow through by having her pay attention and tell you, if necessary, something like, “Are you okay, or are you fantastic?”

Old word: fine
New words: incredible, outrageous, outstanding

Old word: cute
New words: delicious, gorgeous, unbelievable

Here's a game you can play at work to get more of your team aware of avoiding negative language. Play 'Negative Language Bingo' and see how fast your employees start avoiding negative statements. Make up your own 'Positive Language Bingo' game to see how fast you can get those around you focused on the positive possibilities rather than just exclamations of how bad the problem is. Solution oriented not problem obsessed.

Commit to using a more positive vocabulary in 2007!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Netfilx or Blockbuster? He who innovates faster and better wins!

Netflix will begin offering some of its customers the ability to watch movies through their PC's via streaming video. This is not revolutionary but it does send a signal to others that there will be a steep entry price into the movie rental business and that those who choose to enter must be ready to change, innovate and move at the speed of the internet! More on the details here.

Netflix has been able to outpace some stiff competition. It was 2002 when Wal-Mart announced it would enter the online DVD rental business. They dropped that initiative in 2005 and now refer customers to Netflix. Last year Apple and Amazon announced they wanted to play in that same sandbox. Blockbuster made changes to their rental policy when they began giving its online subscribers the option of bypassing the mail and returning DVDs to a store so they can obtain another movie more quickly.

I'm sure the amount of customers willing to sit for hours and watch movies on their PC is currently a fairly small number. Considering the increasing convergence of media, PC, HDTV and high speed internet, those numbers will rise exponentially over the next few years. It wouldn't take much for those with a computer with TV out capability, broadband access, and an HDTV to take advantage of this innovation and be loyal to Netflix for some time to come.

Although their earnings went from $6.5 million in 2003 to an unofficial $44 million in 2006, the stock is down 40% in the last three years. Analysts say the competition in DVD and movie rentals is too strong for Netfilx to keep their 12% of the market. I say this is one step ahead for a market leader. They'll have to be planning their next innovation now so the competition keeps busy with this one.

The competition in this market will be good for consumers and will be a good show to watch in its own right. Grab the popcorn and smile!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Innovate this! Change is Good!

Sometimes we have to challenge ourselves and the way we look at things.

Many companies, organizations, as well as individuals, are still tweaking their '2007 Strategy' well into January. They do it either because the strategy was flawed and maybe incomplete, or they're not confident enough in the course of action they want to take.

This has been my experience over the years and I sometimes wonder why it takes so dog-gone long to get moving! I'm a 'get it done' type person and, yes, sometimes impatient. Reading anything from Tom Peters just exacerbates that mood! I love it!

Tom is an irreverent, rebellious maverick and encourages everyone to get out of their rut. Tom has a new book out, "Re-Imagine!", and it drove me to look for more of his short quips that may get you out from behind your desk and just DO SOMETHING! Execution and results are the things that matter! Execute, fail, innovate, start over! The harder you work, the luckier you get!

Here are some things to try if you need to look through a different lens, to see things differently or to get started on your innovation destination! (Hat tip: Tom Peters)

Want to get lucky? Try following these 50 (!) strategies:
1. At-bats. More times at the plate, more hits.
2. Try it. Cut the baloney and get on with something.
3. Ready. Fire. Aim. (Instead of Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim. ...)
4. “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”—G.K. Chesterton. You’ve gotta start somewhere.
5. Read odd stuff. Look anywhere for ideas.
6. Visit odd places. Want to “see” speed? Visit CNN.
7. Make odd friends.
8. Hire odd people. Boring folks, boring ideas.
9. Cultivate odd hobbies. Raise orchids. Race yaks.
10. Work with odd partners.
11. Ask dumb questions. “How come computer commands all come from keyboards? ”Somebody asked that one first; hence, the mouse.
12. Empower. The more folks feel they’re running their own show, the more at-bats, etc.
13. Train without limits. Pick up the tab for training unrelated to work—keep everyone engaged, period.
14. Don’t back away from passion. “Dispassionate innovator” is an oxymoron.
15. Pursue failure. Failure is success’s only launching pad. (The bigger the goof, the better!)
16. Take anti-NIH pills. Don’t let “not invented here” keep you from ripping off nifty ideas.
17. Constantly reorganize. Mix, match, try different combinations to shake things up.
18. Listen to everyone. Ideas come from anywhere.
19. Don’t listen to anyone. Trust your inner ear.
20. Get fired. If you’re not pushing hard enough to get fired, you’re not pushing hard enough. (More than once is okay.)
21. Nurture intuition. If you can find an interesting market idea that came from a rational plan, I’ll eat all my hats. (I have quite a collection.)
22. Don’t hang out with “all the rest.” Forget the same tired trade association meetings, talking with the same tired people about the same tired things.
23. Decentralize. At-bats are proportional to the amount of decentralization.
24. Decentralize again.
25. Smash all functional barriers. Unfettered contact among people from different disciplines is magic.
26. Destroy hierarchies.
27. Open the books. Make everyone a “businessperson,” with access to all the financials.
28. Start an information deluge. The more real-time, unedited information people close to the action have, the more that “neat stuff” happens.
29. Take sabbaticals.
30. “Repot” yourself every 10 years. (This was the advice of former Stanford Business School dean Arjay Miller—meaning change careers each decade.)
31. Spend 50 percent of your time with “outsiders.” Distributors and vendors will give you more ideas in five minutes than another five-hour committee meeting.
32. Spend 50 percent of your “outsider” time with wacko outsiders.
33. Pursue alternative rhythms. Spend a year on a farm, six months working in a factory or burger shop.
34. Spread confusion in your wake. Keep people off balance, don’t let the ruts get deeper than they already are.
35. Disorganize. Bureaucracy takes care of itself. The boss should be “chief dis-organizer,” Quad/Graphics CEO Harry Quadracci told us.
36. “Dis-equilibrate ... Create instability, even chaos.” Good advice to “real leaders” from Professor Warren Bennis.
37. Stir curiosity. Igniting youthful, dormant curiosity in followers is the lead dog’s top task, according to Sony chairman Akio Morita.
38. Start a Corporate Traitors’ Hall of Fame. “Renegades” are not enough. You need people who despise what you stand for.
39. Give out “Culture Scud Awards.” Your best friend is the person who attacks your corporate culture head-on. Wish her well.
40. Vary your pattern. Eat a different breakfast cereal. Take a different route to work.
41. Take off your coat.
42. Take off your tie.
43. Roll up your sleeves.
44. Take off your shoes.
45. Get out of your office. Tell me, honestly, the last time something inspiring or clever happened at that big table in your office?!
46. Get rid of your office.
47. Spend a workday each week at home.
48. Nurture peripheral vision. The interesting “stuff” usually is going on beyond the margins of the professional’s ever-narrowing line of sight.
49. Don’t “help.” Let the people who work for you slip, trip, fall—and grow and learn on their own.
50. Avoid moderation in all things. “Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess,” according to Edwin Land, Polaroid’s founder.

Now write down the opposite of each of the 50. Which set comes closer to your profile?*
In short, loosen up!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Tough Choices!

Did you happen to watch the first episode of this season's Apprentice? How would you like to make the choice of firing either the loud-mouthed, abrasive project manager or the inept, philosophising lawyer? Tough choice.

If you're in business or a part of one, you should watch the show just to learn a few things about human nature. I'm sure some of the personalities on the show are chosen just to make good drama for TV. On the other hand, if you read some of the bios of the candidates, these are no run-of-the-mill college students looking for their first jobs.

The margin between the successful team and the losers was small. The winning team was only about 5% better than their counterparts. There was a huge difference in the rewards the teams recieved. Live in the mansion or the tent. Dinner at a world renown restaurant or grill burgers in the dark.

The clear difference between the project managers in last night's episode was Heidi's ability to gain trust from her team by focusing on the relationship with them. She asked questions, let people take creative control of their assignments, offered suggestions and let people know what thier priorities were. Frank's tactic was to bark orders, micromanage and be inattentive to the idiosyncrasies of what was going on with his team. Frank won't be a finalist on this show, mark my words. But I'm sure they'll keep him around for a while just to add some elecrticity and controversy!

How long would you work for Frank? I'd hire Heidi right now if I needed a leader who could build team spirit, get the best from her team and produce the best long term results. I'll be watching next week to see who shines and who doesn't.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Wal-Mart: Turning the lights off or on?

I was reading an article the other day about Wal-Marts efforts to increase sales of compact fluorescent light bulbs. I may have had too much time on my hands.

Wal-Mart wants to increase sales from about 3.5 million to 100 million bulbs. It was stated that the CEO wants to decrease energy use across the country. A laudable goal. Good for the environment and it will help the U.S. decrease it's dependency on fossil fuels.

That would send shock waves — some intended, others not — across the lighting industry. Because compact fluorescent bulbs last up to eight years, giant manufacturers, like General Electric and Osram Sylvania, would sell far fewer lights. Because the bulbs are made in Asia, some American manufacturing jobs could be lost. And because the bulbs contain mercury, there is a risk of pollution when millions of consumers throw them away.

Will GE or Sylvania look at this as an opportunity to innovate? Will their R&D departments figure out how to make better looking, cheaper compact fluorescent lights that fit in our lamps? Will the lamp makers make the fixtures bigger to accommodate newer, more efficient light bulbs? Can we make them without mercury? Are the leaders at these companies foreseeing the possible ramifications?

Interesting. Should we make a mass migration to more efficient lighting to save energy and reduce dependence on foreign oil or risk losing manufacturing jobs in order to stay with incandescent lighting that's been the norm for over 100 years?

I think I'm going to buy some for the garage and maybe the basement. One step at a time, I guess!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Resolute Performance

Why do so many people make New Year’s resolutions only to be disappointed in their performance only months or weeks into the New Year?

It’s time to rethink our end of year rituals and do some strategic planning in our personal lives!

Many of us make New Year's resolutions, few of us keep them.
*25% of New Year's resolutions will be abandon in the first 15 weeks
*The average number of time's a New Years resolution is made is 10
*Those who manage to make a resolution that lasts for 6 months or more have often tried 5 or 6 times before finally succeeding

Tip on how to achieve the results you want:

Planning is your ally: Few plans succeed unless the ‘how to’ is built in. If one of your resolutions is to get in shape, put a detailed, specific plan in place to achieve that goal. Will you start with two workouts per week for the first month, building to three workouts per week in February? What exercises will you start with? What stretches will you do afterwards to minimize muscle soreness? Detailed plans will keep you on track in setting new habits for the New Year.

Write it Down: Put your resolutions in writing as well as your plans to achieve them. Keep these plans in a prominent place where you can see them every day. Your bathroom mirror, sun visor in your car or taped onto the side of your computer monitor are excellent starting points. Find one that fits your style and schedule. If we are constantly being reminded of our goals we subconsciously find ways to make progress.

Winners Keep Score: How will you measure your progress? Quantitative measures of progress are important. Find a way to put some hard and fast numbers to your resolution. If you want to be a ‘better parent’, how many hours did you spend with your children reading? How many evenings did you turn off the TV and play a board game or just a have good discussion about what your kids want to talk about? How many times in the last month have all your family been present at the dinner table? Any resolution can be measured if you put your mind to it. Aim to achieve your goals incrementally according to the numerical goals you’ve set.

Have a Plan B: Don’t expect perfection in the first few days or weeks. If your plan to quit smoking went up in flames Monday morning after that cup of coffee, don’t be discouraged. Review your plan and get back to it! Any good plan also has a plan to cope when the going gets tough. How will you get through that first, second and third urge to light up? Did you stock up on nicotine lozenges? Just like a toddler learning to walk, we need time to get good at what we know we can accomplish. Encourage yourself to do better next time and get back to your plan!

Praise Progress: On the first of the month take the opportunity to pat yourself on the back and brag a bit on the progress you’ve made! Those good feelings will keep momentum on your side and make the next stages of achieving your goal that much easier. Keep the focus, you can do it!

Make this year the year you attain your goals! Be resolute in your determination, disciplined in your execution, forgiving of setbacks and have some fun along the way!