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The murmuration of life…

A murmuration of starlings over Gretna

Ask any starling…Time flies when you are having fun. Well, I sure must have been enjoying one heckuva good time the last six and a half months!! Wow. Has it really been that long since I posted up on ideationz? Yup. It sure has.

I feel as if I owe my friends and readers a little explanation. So, here goes: I have none. All I can tell you is that  I’ve been working with some wonderfully talented folks, creating global engagement solutions for some of the biggest household names in the land. I’ve been listening, reading, watching, speaking with, sharing ideas among, and mostly learning about a myriad of changes underway in organizations, cultures, brands, and channels.

New issues, from wading through the market realities of ACA, to the migrational shift underway in the workplace, to the global reallocation of resources and capital, to the impact of QE3 on worldwide equity markets, have made for no shortage of change in all aspects of business, politics, economics and lifestyles.

This hiatus from ideationz has provided me with more to muse over, more to ruminate about, and more time to re-energize my emotional batteries. Change is good, change is real, change is everything. And it is time to get back to the fundamentals of adapting, innovating, and enduring. The flock of thought is forming.

Thank you for being there while I was away. A new year of ideationz starts today. Hang on, it’s gonna be a helluva ride…

“Here’s to the crazies…”

Thank you, Hugh McLeod, for memorializing an icon using the words he put into our lexicon, rather than those of his fans, fanatics and followers.

Why Richard Thaler maybe was wrong, and how that proves his theory….

Behavioral economist Richard Thaler conducted a landmark study a number of years ago, concluding that the reason why it is so hard to hail a cab on a rainy day in New York City is because once the cabbies earn their expected income for the day, they go home. The point is (was) that money is not a prime motivator… If it was, then cabs drivers would work extra hours when the demand was up (as on a rainy day).

This afternoon I conducted my own research in Manhattan, consisting of a single interview with a 23-year veteran cab driver. And what he explained to me was astonishing. The reason it is so hard to hail a cab in NYC on a rainy day is a function of traffic flow. You see, when it rains in Manhattan, things really slow to a crawl, particularly on the East-West Streets that take traffic in/out and across the island. As a result, turnover in cabs is dramatically slowed. A ten minute ride becomes a fifteen or twenty minute ride. The result: fewer available cabs, seemingly at times no available cabs.

What does this suggest? Well, it does contradict the finding of Thaler. But it also suggests something else. A NYC cab driver today pays $700-800 a week to use a cab. That is before paying for gas. A medallion today goes for over $800,000. Cabbies therefore focus more on covering costs, not maximizing their income.

Thaler’s study was relevant years ago, when there were fewer vehicles on the city streets,  a medallion cost under $100,000 and cabbies paid $150-200 a week. But not today. You see, it has much more to do with Maslow than with Thaler. Which, in a way, makes a stronger case for non-financial rewards to motivate behavior change. The reality is that most every worker is concerned with “covering their costs”…the lower echelon of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A substantially greater portion of society are (by definition) “under-indulgers”. They (we) are so centered on preserving what they (we) have that the ability to indulge on a guilt-free basis has largely disappeared.

The point here is that non-financial rewards, for consumers as well as for employees, are much more meaningful and significant than they were even ten or fifteen years ago.

I read recently that the age of affluence is fading, quickly, in America. This speaks to a social issue, and with it, a reality that guilt-free indulgence may be subordinated to a rewards program. How? By steering away from money or things that feel like money (gift cards come immediately to mind). People will shout, more than ever, that they want more money. But don’t be mislead into believing that you will see higher performance by offering dollar-denominated rewards. Why? Because employees are already giving all can to protect their income and lifestyle. That is an economic reality. Offer them a chance to revisit a bit of affluence, or maybr experience for the first time what it feels like to bask in guilt-free indulgence, and they will amaze you with their response.

I’m not married to the company…but I am engaged…(Part 4)

 

In our previous three segments of this series, we have drawn a bead on employee engagement, and the critical need to improve employee loyalty as a prerequisite to future business results.

Employee engagement is a organizational virtue while “sustainable growth” is a measurable outcome, albeit subjective to the extent that one defines what “sustainable” means and what constitutes “growth”…

If we view “sustainable” as effecting a minimum of two successive quarters (or longer), and if we define “growth” as improving top-line performance, such as net revenue increases, then the term takes on a sales metric. If the term “growth” speaks to productivity (e.g., revenue or net profit per employee, or units of production per hour or per employee, or some other operational metric) then the term becomes one of organizational performance.

Either way, there are common traits indigenous to both perspectives. Specifically, you need to have established:

  • An aligned understanding of the mission, across all the levels of the organization,
  • Accountability as to divisional, departmental and individual performance requirements to support the common goal,
  • Agreed-upon key performance indicators (both behavioral and operational) that will mark progress toward the desired future,
  • Sufficient skills and competencies upon which to build performance,
  • Willingness and commitment to a defined set of objectives, incorporating goals that are defined by the individual,
  • A cultural value of recognition to acknowledge and reinforce those associates who lead the way down the path to improvement, and
  • Tangible and intangible rewards (non-monetary, and outside of compensation) to cement the linkage between individual and/or team achievement and public acknowledgement of contribution.

Sound impossible? Not in the slightest. The companies that do these as a matter of common practice are, not surprisingly, the same organizations that attract and retain the best talent. They are the companies that have the most loyal customers, and achieve category leadership in their space.

How do you begin to assess your own company needs in order to further or expedite progress toward your goals in 2011 and beyond? For starters, fire me an email (pulito@biworldwide.com) and let’s chat. I’m not looking for business here, just an opportunity to hear about your company’s challenges, and share some thinking about how you might tackle them. Let’s talk!

The art of air…

Crossing into Vancouver, BC, from Washington state, you find an oddly fascinating “billboard” on the side of the road…Unlike anything you have ever seen before… No catchy wordplay, no alluring models, no flashing neon lights. In fact, there is nothing. Period. Nothing but, well, air….

A billboard, made of nothing but air…?

Hats off to Lead Pencil Studio, to chief creatives Daniel Mihalyo and Annie Han, who (to quote Fast Company magazine) have “blurred the line between architecture and art”.  If one objective of both is to stir thoughts and feelings, then this project is an unqualified success. Bravo!!