Archive for June, 2012


I was at a job club meeting yesterday and as I listened to each person stand up and deliver their “30 second commercial” I noticed a few things:
  1. Most took more than 30 seconds
  2. Commercials focused on the past
  3. I was unclear about what they wanted to do next
  4. I was often unsure how I could help them
People are willing to help you.  They do not need you to tell them what you have done, if they are interested they will ask, or will refer you to the person they know who might be interested or able to help.
What you really want an audience to remember:

  1. Your Name
  2. Your Dream Job
  3. The companies or people you want to meet
Shoot for a 15 second commercial.

Waste and Mistakes

We spend a lot time trying to avoid these two business scourges.  The following two attachments make me think differently about both.

1. Waste:
As you will see from the video Paul Kedrosky makes an interesting argument about waste in his presentation on Google Fiber.  The take away for me was that if you are overly concerned about waste, you are not likely to get much creativity or innovation in your business.  I am not suggesting that you have accounting start wasting time or resources in the interest of innovation or creativity.  I am pretty sure Thomas Edison would not have been successful if he were worried about the cost of experimentation or the ROI on the invention of the light bulb.  I know that if I am more worried about the cost of the canvas I am trying to paint on it makes it impossible to start painting.

2. Mistakes:
I wonder how many businesses have killed their entrepreneurial spirit by creating a scapegoat environment?  I have seen and experienced this and I know that it is the most effective killer of creativity and innovation.  I have sat through excruciatingly long steering committee meetings that go on for months (and in one case years) without solving the root causes of the issues these committees are ideally designed to fix, precisely because so many people were afraid to make a decision for fear of being blamed for the result.  Do I share in the guilt of most of the others who failed to act?  You bet!  But I have also been fitted for more than one “goat head” in my career and being proved right was very little consolation to me (or the business). In one instance I can remember being blamed for being right because I did not argue loudly enough! The attached article made me think about how differently some of the work challenges I saw in businesses might have gone if the work culture did not promote an atmosphere of ritual sacrifice.  Several companies accomplish this counter intuitive principle by celebrating failure.  Shell Oil and Etsy are just a few.  They promote a culture of blameless post-mortems.  (Etsy awards a 3 armed sweater).

Ironically, the fear of making a mistake can actually make a mistake more likely.  Trust me, I know this.

Trouble(?) in the Heartland

I read this article this morning and although I agree that the Midwestern disposition makes talking about ourselves (or what we do) more difficult  I do not agree that this “humility is a problem”. To suggest that we start talking and acting like the entrepreneurs on the coasts would be funny to watch but I am not sure it would be successful.  The author references the efforts of the Omaha chamber of commerce to try and build a thriving entrepreneurial environment and I think he can do this but not in the way the author suggests. 

If you accept the premise that our rural roots contribute to our taciturn and humble nature it seems to me that those virtues are what you ought to build on.  Agrarian communities are not confused about the interdependent nature of their existence.  Even where large corporate farms dominate, they understand  as Wendell Berry observed, that “Communities are built and sustained by the mutual dependence of their members.”  Entrepreneurial communities can and do benefit from the same approach.  

Of course your business will never survive if no one knows you exist.  But you can become known through your participation and contribution to the community you live, work in and sustain.  

Perhaps they are already doing this in Omaha, but it seems to me that all the start ups would benefit from helping each other the way it used to happen in rural communities when harvests had to be brought in and barns raised.  

I need a Joshua!

As I was sitting on hold (and trying to get on the web chat) at Micro Center I was marveling at the number of walls they put up to keep me from talking to someone.  The most annoying one was the chat queue that indicates you are next in line, then puts you into another queue with a message that says I will be right with you.  (By the way, the Option 0 to talk to someone made me wait for 5 minutes and then hung up.)

I am on day 2 waiting on a response from AT&T over a series of promises they failed to deliver on…

All of this had me thinking about Joshua and Jericho.  You may remember the biblical story of how Joshua marched around the city 7 times, blowing horns and then shouted a war cry which made the walls around the city fall down enabling them to take the city.

I would totally march around the headquarters of these companies if it meant I could actually talk to someone.

Companies need to evaluate how they are using technology especially if it is distancing them from the customer.


I heard an interview with Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot, who wrote the book “Exit”.  It is a book about the circumstances surrounding our exits; everything from saying goodbye on your way to work, moving, new jobs, divorces, even death.  She has made the following observations:
  1.  We focus more on entries than exits in our life.
  2. Although we can pinpoint when we are done, there is often an iterative process indicating we have been leaving long before we exit.
  3. Organizations (Military, Catholic Church) that have rituals to accompany exits tend to understand and manage them better.
  4. Professions like oncology and pediatrics involve a lot of exits.  The doctors who thrive in these specialties have done so by developing relationships, not by keeping professional distance.
This made me wonder about my own work life.
  1. Do I focus more on securing the job then on how I will progress through and perhaps out of the job?
  2. Am I aware of the myriad ways I broadcast my exit long before I leave?
  3. Do I regularly think about what I am moving toward in my career? Am I managing it or am I along for the ride?
  4. As a boss do I fall into the trap of maintaining a professional distance from people to make the exits (like layoffs) easier to deal with?

Wisdom: New and Old

I saw that Aspire KC is holding a business book review on June 28th  here in Kansas City.  They will be reviewing “Tribal Leadership” . What a great way to get people thinking and talking about new business ideas.
This got me thinking about ancient writers.  Aristotle said two things that I think are good reminders no matter what line of work we are in.
                                           “People only listen to excited speakers.”
                          “Whatever is received is received according to the mode of the recipient.”
As we talk to people about our business if we are not genuinely excited about what we are doing, then people are not going to listen to us.  No matter how genuinely excited we are about what we do, if we do not understand the situation of the person we are talking to then all are excitement (and value) will go unheard.
We have all heard the importance of developing our 30 second commercial.  I am reconsidering mine in light of these two ancient principles.

Should I respond to change or follow the plan?

I was having a fascinating discussion the other day about Agile (among many other things) and for me I kept seeing a universal principal.  It is however not easy to practice. As much as Americans love the idea of being independent, self reliant and ingenious I am not sure it is something we really live and practice as much as we think.

It reminds me of something I observed as a soccer coach.  The parents of my players were so enthusiastic and eager for their children to be successful they could not resist shouting instructions onto the field (read FOLLOW MY PLAN!).  I began to see players watching their parents, not the game, waiting for instructions.  Unfortunately, by the time the instructions were shouted and understood, the play had already moved on, resulting in an intercepted pass, or a collapsing defense.

I have had bosses do the same thing to me.  The more detailed instructions were shouted, the more dependence (and less confidence) emerged. The dependence and lack of confidence bred frustration and ended in anger recrimination and failure.

Yet we keep doing it everyday; following a “plan” that is clearly not working.

Is Technology Making Me stupid(er)?

I am not exactly a navigator.  One of my father’s greatest disappointments was my lack of any innate sense of direction.  I became proficient at using maps but with the advent of GPS technology I began to notice something; I no longer trusted my innate (albeit weak) sense of direction.  This is disturbing.  It’s like the parable of the talents buried… “What little you have will be taken away…”
I have been having a conversation over the last month about the proper place and use of technology in my life.  I have heard some interesting things from some unlikely sources.  Like the Mac expert on Public radio that thought some of the latest applications were removing our need (and therefore reducing our ability) to think.
I wonder how much intelligence (to say nothing of privacy, autonomy and freedom) we are losing.  

Bowline Consulting: Action-Intention-Trust

Bowline Consulting: Action-Intention-Trust

Bowline Consulting: Death Lessons

Bowline Consulting: Death Lessons

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Dan Clark

Dan Clark

Principal of Bowline Consulting, process designer/fixer, wireless telecom veteran, addicted pick up soccer player, fly fisher, backpacker, beer brewer, guitar player, choir singer, recovering bag piper

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