Saturday, October 27, 2012
I haven't been idle since my last post. I've been doing a lot of research and reading. I recently finished reading The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg. I must admit that I am a skeptic when it comes to most things I read and hear, and every new tome about our current global economic crisis causes me to squint my eyes and purse my lips. However, I found The End of Growth a fascinating look at how the foundations of our economic models are about to change, resulting from the finite natural resources that have fueled the aggressive growth we've experienced since the industrial age. The book included a couple of points at which I pursed my lips with renewed vigor, but overall, it raised my eyebrows, made me question existing assumptions, and commanded more research.
As a result of the finite resources assertion, I have been keeping my eyes open for information to support or debunk this. Today's Seattle Times article (originally published by Bloomberg News) about the dramatic drop in the level of the Dead Sea over the past 12 months highlights the concerns about limited resources. The report states that the inland sea dropped a record 4.9 feet in the past 12 month due to industry use and evaporation. One source attributes half the drop to use by Israel Chemicals and Jordan's Arab Potash Co.
Is our demand for synthetic fertilizers are so great that it requires depleting the purportedly restorative waters of the Dead Sea? According to some of the research that I've done, the industrial farming infrastructure (particularly in the U.S.) relies heavily on chemical fertilizers derived from natural resources like the potash in the Dead Sea. I find this ironic, since we are dumping so much human and agricultural waste (i.e. natural fertilizer) into our waterways and oceans. I am finding reports about small, yet innovative, efforts to turn human and agricultural waste in local communities into energy and fertilizer (check out the September 21st and October 22nd post on my Facebook page). Why is this not being done on a larger scale?
I still believe in what I like to call the Star Trek philosophy: Everything gets reused and recycled. When you're trapped on a star ship a few light years from home, every subatomic particle counts. The processing of human, animal, and agricultural waste mimics natural processes. The world -- not just the U.S. -- should consider investing in large-scale industrial processing that turns organic waste material into soil that can feed our crops and be used retain natural grasslands and forests -- which thereby eliminates topsoil erosion. Instead, we're using taxpayer money to protect the bonuses of bank and insurance executives.
That's my two cents about The End of Growth and the latest report of water levels in the Dead Sea. I would like to see The End of Waste sometime before the end of my lifetime. What more can we be doing to reclaim waste resources and ensure that natural resources with multiple economic and human uses don't get stripped down or die out? How can ensure that the Dead Sea doesn't turn into the "Dead Salt Flats"?
Get The End of Growth in print or for your Kindle.
Already read it? Get the supplemental update from June 6, 2012.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
After weeks of gentle harassment, the woman finally relented and brought me on to do graphic design, design production, and sales. My first day, I settled into my computer workstation and noticed that the mouse was located on the left side of the keyboard. I, as a right-hander, made a motion to move the mouse to the right side of the keyboard.
"No," she said. "We use the mouse on the left side in this office."
I tried to convince her that I would be more effective if the mouse were on the right side of the keyboard. My new boss, whom I'd worn down to a nub to get this part-time job during my senior year, looked at me grimly and said, "You'll figure it out. Either that, or you're fired."
She walked quietly out of the room. Flabbergasted, and faced with my first deadline, I got a crash course in improving my dexterity with my left hand. By the end of the day, I was just as adept with my left hand as with my right. To this day, I still use the mouse with my left hand and write with my right. In fact, when I am faced with drawing on a computer, I'm much more proficient with my left hand.
One of my first employers forced me to look at the world differently and use the other half of my brain. In Dr. David Casasanto's article on Psychology Today, he shows how our handedness influences our emotions, motivations, and experiences. Unlike cognitive functions, emotional functions can switch between hemispheres, depending on which hand dominates. That means that a simple action like switching the mouse to the other side of the computer can influence how you feel about the task at hand, and even shape your motivation to complete it.
The link between brain activity and motor function lies at the heart of therapies like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). How you literally see can impact the way you figuratively see. The act of introducing motor functions to aid in mental processes can shape our behavior and how we perceive interactions with things and other people. For example, Casasanto stated in an interview with Psychology Today writer Katherine Schreiber that "one in four studies found that a job candidate who appears on the dominant side of an evaluator is judged in a more positive light than a candidate who appears on the evaluator's nondominant side." Something this simple contains huge implications on how we think and act.
So next time you find yourself dreading a task, judging someone harshly, or are trying to stop a bad habit, switch hands. It could add more balance to your decision making and help you achieve much more positive outcome.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
There is a lot of change happening in our world. That's why I have made a personal change to spark systemic change. In a new role as chief innovation agent and president at Verinnovation, I have the privilege of working with companies, organizations and communities to bring better understanding of human behavior and its impact on change and innovation. We do this through information services and research.
We are now conducting a study about water heaters. If you have a few minutes, can you share information about your water heater? Pretty please?
Why water heaters? Well, we want to understand energy use and how to reduce home operating costs. We learned that water heaters use more energy than your fridge, dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer -- combined! Who would have thought that an appliance that we stick in the back corner of our garages would be the second largest cost on our home energy bills?
So please take our survey. Your information could help us change water heaters from a back room energy vampire into a low cost, high performance money saver.
To learn more about Verinnovation, visit our web site at www.verinnovation.com. You can also find us on these social platforms:
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I don't drink a lot of coffee, but I visit a lot of Starbucks coffee shops. It's a great "third place" to meet colleagues especially now that they have free WiFi.
In recent months, I have noticed their new compost and recycle bins. This two-part design is very hip (see photo) but as you can see, it doesn't work. Every time I peer into one of these bins, the contents of the recycle side match the contents of the compost side.
Not all disposable items at Starbucks are both recyclable and compostable. In fact, each color-coded side of the bin includes a list of acceptable items in a fun script font. Does this mean that Starbucks customers cannot read?
For a food service chain whose design was based on the favorite haunts of European writers and artists, I hardly think this is the case. Instead we have what Stanford Psychologist Lee Ross calls a Fundamental Attribute Error. The problem with the people isn't about the attributes of the people (i.e. illiteracy) but rather the situation.
In this situation, a patron has completed her tall soy mocha (no whip) and would like to dispose of her cup and lid. But are both pieces recyclable? Are either compostable?
In a few milliseconds, the customer is going to decide on the next course of action. If she has the time and inclination, she will stop and read the instructions. Most likely though, she's in a hurry or distracted by processing the conversation she just left. The reading of instructions distracts her flow. Instead of interrupting her thoughts, she clicks the cup with lid attached into one of the bins so she can hop the bus to her next appointment.
Does this make her a bad person? Indeed not. So how could Starbucks avoid the purchase of pricey bifurcate bins that their staff has to sort through at the end of the day?
I suggest pictures. Studies show that pictures of appropriate items bridge the fuzziness between user friendly and idiot proof. Instead of engaging left brain processes to shift gears and read text, pictures of acceptable items posted above each receptacle would allow the consumer to instantly id the appropriate place for her refuse. Or, since each is color-coded, Starbucks could add a dot or star or other color matching tag printed on each item. That way, the eye only has to match the colors to make an instant connection.
The problem with people is that they are busy. Like Starbucks, you can make little changes to encourage big behavior changes. And some day, I'll know automatically what to recycle and what to compost when I visit Starbucks.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Schultz had stepped down from the helm of the company, but he still served as chairman of the board. "I should have been paying attention," he said when commenting on the company losing its way. Schultz re-took the helm and worked hard to steer the company back in the right direction. That meant making tough decisions. Starbucks retooled its business model to focus heavily on the customer experience. In fact, the company spent $7 million to close all of its North American stores for a day to retrain its employees. The move drew harsh criticism and sank their share price to an all time low of just above $6. They closed store locations and laid off employees for the first time in its history. This was hard-hitting for Schultz, who grew up in the projects in Brooklyn. He watched his father take a major blow to his career when he lost his job, worker's comp, and health insurance. He did not want to do the same to his own employees, but found he was faced with no choice. Making these tough decisions saved Starbucks and put them on a path to recovery.
Making tough choices can be painful and emotional. Many of the company leaders and entrepreneurs who read this blog don't have to turn a battleship the size of Starbucks. But making significant changes in times of challenge and struggle require significant investment. Your entire team has to be on board. And if they aren't, then it's time to get rid of them. Schultz knew that with the changes they were making, they needed people who not only had the skills and shared the company values, but also believed in the change. Nine of 11 of its leadership did not, and as a result, they are no longer with the company. It's only when leaders can make tough decisions like these in times of challenge that good companies can grow to become truly great -- and in a case like Starbucks, recapture its former glory.
Mr. Schultz also made it clear that in today's marketplace, principles and values matter the most. If companies "wash" their marketing with green or social claims that aren't true, consumers will go elsewhere and not purchase from you. Tracy A. Corley & Associates works with company to capture their vision, mission, values, and position so that they have a clear framework for articulating and communicating their souls. I asked Mr Schultz how growing companies could do a better job of creating consistency in their cultures. He was direct in stating that human resources must have a seat at the big table (ie. not just be relegated to subordinate role in the organization), otherwise the message would not be embedded throughout the culture.
If you have experienced a setback like Starbucks in recent years and would like to recapture your market position while retaining your soul, it's not too late. Though painful and emotional, I can turn your ship around and help you make the tough decisions like the ones that brought Starbucks back from the brink of disaster. Call me at 206.782.4040 to capture your strategic framework, create a strategic plan, map your business model, and assess your organization for efficiency and growth.
Information on how to capture the values and principles that drive your organization can also be found in my book, The Strategy String: An Organizational Primer for Tying Strategy to Performance.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Mentorship is one of those things that business leaders forget about if they get caught up in the roles and accountability of leading an organization, large and small. Sometimes, they use the mantra "do as I say, not as I do," forgetting that what they do is what will lead their organization into success or failure. Additionally, effective leaders take time out of what they do to spend quality time with their charges.
I know that as a leader, I have failed dramatically with my mentorship role in the past. Specifically, I recall one key employee. She was wickedly smart, bringing a wealth of knowledge to our organization. And what she did not know, she knew how to find it quickly. Unfortunately, I as a leader did not take the time to mentor her on the differences between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom combines knowledge and experience with the judgement to know when and how to use the information you have. So my superstar employee was a great asset in her knowledge, a bit low in experience, and definitely did not have the judgement to know when to speak up and when to shut up. As a result of her foot-in-mouth disease, I found myself repairing relationships and putting out smoldering brush fires from where she scorched important relationships.
Have you been serving as an effective mentor recently? Ask you team for their feedback, and make it a regular part of your schedule to be engaged and active with each member your team.The difference between the knowledge and wisdom can make a huge difference is the success of your organization.
Many thanks to Michael Lee of Express Employment services for hosting the event.
So how can lead as a mentor?
First, tell me your story. We then decide together what resources, like training and executive coaching, will sharpen the leadership skills of you and your management team. We can also improve your mentoring program. Don't wait until your employees have a major malfunction and destroy relationships. Call me today at 206-782-4040 or connect on Skype at tracy.corley.