Fulfilling Dying Children’s Wishes

I am just so impressed with this charity…the Make A Wish Foundation


They grant the wishes of children diagnosed with terminal illness–and in the U.S. alone, they grant a wish every 34 minutes!


What nobler and giving act can there be, especially when it comes to an innocent child who never even had the chance to live their lives and try to make their dreams come true. 


Whether it’s letting the child meet a famous world wrestler and actor, John Cena (featured in the video above)–who has granted more wishes than any other celebrity in the history of the foundation–to taking a child to a special travel destination or helping them be that incredible superhero for a day. 


Seeing the joy on the faces of these children–despite the pain of their illnesses and their dire situations–seems like one of the holiest and most incredible things that we can do. 


I really want to acknowledge the famous people, like Cena and others, who take the time and effort to really give back–and with a loving and caring heart to these kids. 


Again, there are truly good people out there–who don’t just live for themselves–but who think about and give generously to others. 


Life is not just about “I” but about all the people we can reach and uplift.


Cena isn’t just a champion wrestler, but he has a champion heart. 


And the Make A Wish Foundation is an incredible organization composed of thousands of incredible people doing righteous work that I believe makes G-d smile down at us from the Heavens above. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Pleasure At Pain

Pleasure At Pain

Why do people laugh and feel pleasure at other people’s pain and misfortune?

The Wall Street Journal (20 August 2013) reviews the book, The Joy of Pain, on this topic.

Schadenfreude is the German word for feeling pleasure at the calamity of others.

And we see people laugh, point, and otherwise gloat when others are hurting physically, emotionally, financially, and so on.

When they fail and you succeed, you feel strong, powerful, self-confidant, and that you were right–and they were wrong!

Feelings of pleasure at other people’s pain is partially evolutionary–survival of the fittest.

It is also a function of our personal greed and competitiveness–where we measure ourselves not by how well we are doing, but rather relative to how others around us are faring.

So for example, we may be rich and have everything we need, but if someone else has even a little more than us, we still are left feeling lacking inside.

Thus, we envy others’ good fortune and take pleasure in their misfortune.

In a sense, our success is only complete when we feel that we have surpassed everyone else, like in a sport competition–there is only one ultimate winner and world champion.

So when we see the competition stumble, falter, and go down, our hands go up with the stroke of the win!

Anyway, we deserve to win and they deserve to lose–so justice is served and that makes us feel just dandy.

How about a different way–we work together to expand the living standard for all, and we feel genuinely glad for others’ success and real empathy for their pain, and they too for us–and we go beyond our pure humanity to something more angelic. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution for Lukas Vermeer)

Accomplishing What?

Crown

What do you want to accomplish before you die?

Four university students in Canada developed a list of 100 things a few years ago and as of the publishing of their book on this called The Buried Life, they had accomplished 53 of them–including playing basketball with President Obama at the White House!

Also on their list was to “get in a fight”–and so a couple of them beat the h*ll out of each other. Uh, now you can cross that one off your list.

Number 100 on their list is “go to space”–now are they really going to make it there?  Maybe one call to CEO Elon Musk and they’ll get on the next flight of the new SpaceX Dragon capsule.

MTV made this into a reality TV show in 2010 and aired it for two seasons, and it was nominated for a number of awards.

The book came out in March 2012 and it hit #1 on the New York Times best seller list the very first week!

The premise of the book is pretty cool–they collected ten of thousands of entries on what people wanted to do before they died, chose the ones they thought best, and had an artist creatively portray these.

Some of the items in the book are things you’d expect from people in terms of becoming rich, powerful, famous, and so on.  Others are more intimate and from the heart like reconciling with estranged family members, forgiving those that have hurt them, understanding why bad things happened to them, and even finding true love.

What I find interesting is not so much even what people want to do with their lives, but how everyone is in a way (or actually many ways) imperfect and they seek to fill the voids in their hearts, souls, and lives.

Does creating a list of 100 things and checking off the list really mean anything or is it just a gimmick to get on TV, write a book, and earn some cash?

I think to me it’s not how many things we accomplish, but what we are really trying to achieve–is it bragging rights and fulfillment of our mortal desires, or is it to get a deeper understanding of ourselves, improve who we are, and give back to others.

I don’t have a list of a 100 things or even 10 things…I just want to live my life where I can look myself in the mirror in the morning for who I am as a husband, father, son, as a professional, and as a Jew.

I am not sure it is the big splashy things like the authors put down, including getting into the Guinness World Recordsthat is all it’s cracked up to be–but all the power to them.

My parents used to have a little sign hanging over the kitchen that said “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”—yes, a little corny and cliche, but the point is well taken about setting priorities for ourselves that we can truly be proud of–and those things don’t necessarily make a list, a record, or get you an ovation.

Today, I read in the news about how Lance Armstrong, champion cyclist, may end up losing all 7 of his Tour de France titles for doping–just another example of what people are willing to do or give up of themselves to get what they want in life.

I say dream big, try your hardest, but don’t get lost in lists of accomplishments and stardom–stay true to who you really are and want to be.

And like the picture shows, it’s good not to take yourself too seriously.  😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Innovation: Leaders vs. Liars

Innovation

There’s a big difference between doing something and saying you’re going to do something.

Or as I learned early on–words are cheap, but actions speak loud and clear.

The Wall Street Journal (23 May 2012) reported this week about how many companies (and even academic institutions) overuse the word innovation–“the introduction of something new.”

It’s practically become cliche–“chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies, and even innovation days.”

So is innovation just the buzzword du jour or is ultimately something more?

Of course, the more we use something like the term innovation, the greater the chance to dilute its meaning.

– “33,528–times [innovation] was mentioned in quarterly and annual reports last year.”

– “255–books published in the last 90 days with innovation in the title.”

– “43%–of 260 executives who said their company has a chief innovation officer.”

However, innovation is not just a word to throw around and use lightly–innovation is our bread and butter in this country; it is what differentiates us from our global competitors (i.e. its one of our main competitive advantages) and is a source of our economic strength.

Not all innovation is created equal–there is “innovation lite” (my term), where we take something and make it better, faster, or cheaper, and then there is “disruptive innovation”–where we really bring something new to the market.

“Everybody’s innovating because any change is innovation,” but not every innovation is transformative.

We can’t afford for innovation to lose its meaning, because leaders and companies that abuse it and dilute it–and don’t ultimately deliver–will end up losing their jobs and ultimately the companies themselves.

Real innovation is like condiments, use it sparingly and it can pack a huge punch–pour it on indiscriminately, and you might as well just throw away the whole dish.

What we need are innovation leaders that don’t just mouth the words and buy the toys, but champion it, invest in it, and empower and encourage their employees to make it happen.

Innovate or die is our reality–so be a true innovation leader–don’t lie to yourself if it isn’t the real thing. 😉

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Seth Waite)

>Building High Performance Teams

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At work, there is almost no greater feeling than being part of a high-performing team, and no worse than being part of a dysfunctional one.

Teams are not, by definition, destined to succeed. In fact more often then not, they will fail unless they have the right mix of people, purpose, process, commitment, training, and of course, leadership—along with the time for it all to jell.

I remember being on a team in one special law enforcement agency that had the “right mix.” The project was both very successful and was written up as a case study, and everything in the project was really fulfilling personally and professionally: from gathering around the whiteboard for creative strategy sessions to the execution of each phase of the project. Now, that is not to say that there were not challenges on the project and on the team—there always are—or you are probably just dreaming rather than really in the office working. But the overall, in the experience, the health of the team was conducive to doing some really cool stuff. When the team is healthy and the project successful, you feel good about getting up in the morning and going to work—an almost priceless experience.

Unfortunately, this team experience was probably more the exception than the rule—as many teams are dysfunctional for one or more reasons. In fact, at the positive team experience that I was described above, my boss used to say, “the stars are all aligned for us.”

The challenge of putting together high-performance teams is described in Harvard Business Review, May 2009, in an article, “Why Teams Don’t Work,” by Diane Coutu.

She states: “Research consistently shows that teams underperform their potential.”

But Coutu explains that this phenomenon of underperformance by teams can be overcome, by following “five basic conditions” as described in “Leading Teams” by J. Richard Hackman (the descriptions of these are my thoughts):

“Teams must be real”—you need the right mix of people: who’s in and who’s out.

“Compelling direction”—teams need a clear purpose: “what they’re supposed to be doing” and is it meaningful.

“Enabling structures”—teams need process: how are things going to get done and by whom.

“Supportive organization”—teams need the commitment of the organization and its leadership: who is championing and sponsoring the team.

“Expert coaching”—you need training: how teams are supposed to behave and produce.

While leadership is not called out specifically, to me it is the “secret sauce” or the glue that holds all the other team enablers together. The skilled leader knows who to put on the team, how to motivate its members to want to succeed, how to structure the group to be productive and effective, how to build and maintain commitment, and how to coach, counsel, mentor, and ensure adequate training and tools for the team members.

One other critical element that Coutu spells out is courage. Team leaders and members need to have the courage to innovate, “ask difficult questions,” to counter various forms of active or passive resistance, and to experiment.

In short, harnessing the strength of a team means bringing out the best in everyone, making sure that the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals offset each other—there is true synergy in working together. In failing teams, everyone might as well stay home. In high-performance teams, the whole team is greater than the sum of its individual members.

>IT Governance and Enterprise Architecture

>I came across an interesting IT Governance Global Status Report 2008 from the IT Governance Institute.

The study and report was conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was the third one of its kind—the first two conducted in 2003 and 2005. In this latest study for 2007, interviews were conducted with 749 CIOs and CEOs in 23 countries.

Here are some interesting findings from the study on how enterprises are fairing on IT governance and my thoughts on these:

Championed by—in most cases CIOs champion IT governance (40%), followed by CEOs (25%), and then by CFOs (9%).

Since CIOs are predominantly responsible for IT governance, they need to step up and elevate governance as well as its complementary function, enterprise architecture, and resource it as a priority for effectively managing IT investments.

Business management engagement—68% of respondents said that business management participates (42%), leads (14%), or is fully accountable (12%) for IT governance.

From my experience, often business managers are more engaged in IT governance than IT managers; we need to work with the all the SMEs (IT and business) to understand the importance of IT governance and encourage and engage them for their active participation.

Positive view of IT—“Non-IT people…have a much more positive view of IT” than do IT people. 72% of general management agree strongly on the value creation of IT investment versus only 46% of CIOs.

We need to explore why IT professionals have a more negative view of IT than our customers on the business side of the house have and to reconcile this. Is it just that we are professionally self-critical or that know more about our dirty laundry?

Importance of IT to overall corporate strategy—“93 percent of respondents answered that IT is ‘somewhat’ to ‘very important’ to the strategy.”

IT is important to the business achieving its strategic goals. We need to ensure sufficient time, attention, and resources are allocated to developing an IT strategy and enterprise architecture that aligns to and support the business strategy.

IT governance implementation—Only 52% are ‘in the process of’ (34%) or ‘have already implemented’ (18%) IT governance; however, another 24% are considering implementing.

We need to pick up the pace of IT governance implementation. IT governance is critical establishing and enforcing the IT Strategic Plan and enterprise architecture, to vetting IT investment decisions and sharing risks with project shakeholders, and providing oversight and due diligence to ensure successfully project delivery.

Current IT governance practices—Some of these include: “IT resource requirements are identified based on business priorities” (80%), “boards review IT budgets and plans on a regular basis” (72%), “IT processes are regularly audited for effectiveness and efficiency” (67%), “Central oversight exists of overall IT architecture (IT Architecture Board or Committee)” (63%), “IT project portfolio is managed by business departments supported by the IT department” (59%), “Some form of overall IT Strategy Committee exists” (58%), Standard procedures exists for investment selection (IT Investment Committee)” (55%).

IT governance best practices are well established through frameworks such as COBIT, ITIL, and ISO20K. We need to leverage use of these frameworks to develop our organization’s IT governance solutions and ensure this vital enterprise architecture enforcement mechanism!