Perception Is Reality

Hook.jpeg

Sometimes, one person’s clothing hook is another person’s elephant trunk.


Or maybe it’s the other way around that some creative person looked at an elephant and thought:

“Oh my that trunk of his would make a great clothing hook.”


Life mimics art and art imitates life.


And that is flattery both ways. 


Either way perception is reality. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Genius Consultants–Yes or No?

Genius Consultants--Yes or No?

A lot of people think that the McKinsey’s of this world are the business geniuses.

You hire McKinsey, Bain, or The Boston Consulting Group when you need to address big organizational problems–frequently those that involve broad reorganizations, massive cutbacks, reformulation of strategy, and culture makeovers.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek in a book review of The Firm, the notion is that these consulting big boys come in to “teach you how to do whatever you do better than you do it–and certainly better than your competition does it.”

The question is can consultants really do it better than those who do it everyday, or perhaps an objective 3rd party is exactly what is needed to break broken paradigms and set things straight.

These global consultants are usually generalists–who specialize in “rational thinking and blunt talk.”

It’s like going to an organizational shrink to have someone listen to your crazy sh*t and tell it back to you the way it out to be–and then guide you with some behavioral interventions (i.e. the recommendations).

What’s interesting also is that these consulting firms hire the “A” kids right out of school–so they are inexperienced, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready with their idealistic thinking to tell you how things ought to be done–the question is do they have enough fundamentals under their belts and genuine solid thinking in a real setting to make sense to your business.

Probably the best thing is that these graduates can think out of the box and for an organization that needs to make a leap forward, these newbies can cut through the clutter and give your organizational a fresh start.

One of the problems pointed out is that with these consultant companies, it’s heads they win and tails you lose–if their ideas pan out, it’s to their credit–and if it doesn’t, well you implemented poorly.

Basically consultants are not magicians, but they do listen to your organizations tales of woes, put the pieces together, and tell you what you told them…many times, it’s basically validation of what people already know–but now it’s coming from “the experts”–so it must be true.

Another problem of course is whether their recommendations become more shelfware, collecting dust, or whether the organization can actually make the difficult choices and changes…or perhaps, there is another consulting firm that assists with that? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Rethinking How Blood Work Is Done

Rethinking How Blood Work Is Done

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interview today with Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of a new company that has rethought how we do blood work for medical diagnosis.

Her company, Theranos, has certified phlebotomists for taking patient’s blood, but instead of taking vials and vials of blood, they just take a pinprick worth–1/1,000 of a typical draw–from the tip of your finger.

Moreover, unlike with conventional blood work testing, “only about 62% of tests that doctors order are ultimately carried out,”partially because there is still not enough blood drawn, but with Theranos the tests are able to be done with only small drop sample sizes.

With advanced, patented technology, Theranos does the tests (blood, urine, other) faster–in 4 hours or less, rather than in days, so you, the patient, can get the results quicker, and treatment for your condition sooner.

Moreover the results are said to be more precise to within a 10% variation–in contrast to typical labs tests that are within plus-or-minus 30% allowable error–a 60% error range!

With faster and better technology, Theranos helps your doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis and provide targeted treatment.

The testing results are provided securely and electronically to the doctors in this very cool dashboard (pictured above) in which blood measurements can be quickly and easily seen on a scale of low-to-high, as well as whether something is deficient, insufficient, or at toxic levels.

Also, Theranos provides trending of results over time, so the physician can quickly see whether the patient’s condition is worsening or improving, and can make treatment decisions accordingly.

And when the doctor releases the results, you’ll be able to logon and see them for yourself as well.

Further, Theranos is committing to conduct the blood work at a 50%-off discount on Medicare fees–they are saying, “we want to bill you at less than you’re willing to reimburse.”

I really like when someone bold and bright like Elizabeth Holmes comes around and breaks the old broken paradigms–really rethinking how something could/should be done better.

In general, it often seems that the medical field is change/risk adverse (like with adoption of electronic health records), but Ms. Holmes has brought a better, faster, and cheaper testing and diagnostic process to all of us.

I noticed that Theranos has a very impressive roster on it’s board, including former Secretary of States Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry to name just a few.

Theranos seems to be the company to watch in this medical diagnostic laboratory field.

No more scary big needles–just a pin-prick and a few drops of blood…that’s blood worth taking and testing. 😉

(Source Photo: Theranos Website)

Walking On Rocks

Walking On Rocks

The first few times when I started hiking, I had this paradigm that I had to walk between the rocks–sort of like hopscotch–then I realized that I could walk on them.

For a long time, I had heard about how thinking within the box constrains our thought processes and innovation.

It was interesting for me to see this in action just by the way I initially viewed a basic skill like hiking.

The paradigms we use to view the world alter what we think and do, and only when we break out of the proverbial box we are in, can we really see and be open to other ways of being and doing things.

You can walk between the rocks or you can climb over them–whatever works best for you–just be open to seeing things in many different ways.

No one way is necessarily better than another–they are just different and each useful in their own time and place. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Go Curly!

This was a funny picture hanging around a local eatery in D.C–at election season.

Curly for President–sort of reminded me of when I was in grade school and had a head full of curly hair and some of the other kids (especially the females in the class) fondly called me “chief curly chicken”–yeah, it stuck for about a year or two. 

Anyway, maybe this is something both Democrats and Republicans can agree on: the three Stooges–Moe, Larry, and Curly–were pretty darn funny. 

With the big looming issues facing America today (exploding national deficits, high unemployment, endangered social programs, declining global competitiveness–now 7th, and more), we can certainly use a little humor to get past it, along with a good dose of strong leadership and breakthrough solutions. 

Whoever you vote for–keep smiling!  🙂

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Innovation Echtzing and Krechtzing

Make_a_difference

It used to be that either you were innovative or not.

Either you came up with out of the box thinking, new paradigms for doing things, cool new designs, and products and services using the latest and greatest technology–or you would eventually be dead in the marketplace and life.

Now as things seem to slow down a little on the innovators front–we’re echtzing and krechtzing (hemming and hawing) about what is innovation anyway?

The Wall Street Journal (5 October 2012) wrote about “The Innovator’s Enigma”–asking whether incremental innovation is real innovation.

For example, when P&G took the sleepy, drowsy part of the medication of NyQuil and made it into it’s own medicine called ZzzQuil–was that innovative or just “incremental, derivative.”

The article notes that big periods of explosive upheavals in innovation are often followed by “period of consolidation and then by valuable incremental innovation involving the same product.”

It’s almost like a lets face it–you can’t have the equivalent of the iPhone created every day–or can you?

When after the iPhone, people now ask for an iFighter (WSJ, 24 July 2012) and the real iRobot (like envisioned in the movie with Will Smith)–aren’t we talking about applying real breakthrough innovation to every facet of our lives?

With Apple coming forward with the integration model of innovation bringing together hardware and software –the bar has been raised on the expectation for innovation not just being functionally excellent, but design cool. Now, Fast Company states (October 2012), “good design is good business”

But even then innovation is questioned as to its real meaning and impact with Bloomberg BusinessWeek (2 August 2012) stating that “it’s easier to copy than to innovate” and “being inspired by a good product and seeking to make even better products is called competition.”

Here’s another from Harvard Business Review (April 2012) called “Celebrate Innovation, No Matter Where It Occurs” that calls out “adjacencies” as bona fide innovation too, where an adjacency is exploiting “related and nearby opportunities.” since inventions are often so large that “inventor’s can’t exploit them alone” and there are associated opportunities for other (think of new cool iPhone cases for the new cool iPhone).

One more thing I learned recently is that innovation isn’t just the great new product or service offering, but how you use it.

With Newsweek (17 September 2012), calling into question the iPhone’s “awkward invasion of the lavatory” with “not just phones, but tablets and e-readers and even our laptops” replacing the good ‘ol Reader’s Digest in the bathrooms around the world, then things have truly changed deep culturally and not just superficially technologically.

This message was brought home last year, when a friend told me how they dropped their iPhone in the toilet leading to a speedy drowning death for the smartphone, now not looking too smart anymore.

So innovation come in all shapes and sizes and can be mega big, incremental small, derivative, or even adjacent–the important thing is that we keep our thinking caps on and working towards better, faster, and cheaper all the time. 

Sometimes, I do look back and miss things or ways of doing them from the past, so innovation isn’t always–just by definition–a good thing, but what we really come up with and how we apply it perhaps can make all the difference. 

The perfect example for me is carving out some genuine space and quiet time to really think about life and innovate in what has become a 24/7 now always-on society that demands innovation but that often squashes it with incessant noise.

Turn down the noise, let innovation thrive afresh, and be sure you make a genuine difference, and whatever type it is that it is not just as they would say in Hebrew school more dreck (junk) or another narrishkeit (foolishness) in the making.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Finding Better Ways

Why_do_we_do_it_that_way

Saturday Night Live had a funny skit last week about people in the future looking back at us in 2012 as “digital pioneers”–and how silly many of the things we do today looks from the outside.

Here are some examples that may resonate with a lot of you:

– Driving–We drive 1-4 hours a day and “are okay with that.”

– Email–We boot up our computers, go to the Internet, log unto to our accounts, and send an email and think that “was so easy, fast, and convenient.”

– Clothing–We get dressed in underwear, shirts, pants, belt, socks, shoes, tie, and wrap it all under a jacket and feel that it’s “not way too many pieces.”

– Bathrooms–We have bathrooms in our homes and have it close to where we eat and that “seems smart to us.”

There were other examples making fun of us eating fruits and vegetables, keeping domesticated animals in our homes, and thinking that living to the age of 91 is old.

While we don’t know exactly what the future will look like, when we look at our lives today “under the microscope”–things really do sort of appear comical.

I believe that we really do need to look at ourselves–what we do, and how we do it–with fresh eyes–and ask why do we do that? And are there alternatives? Is there a better way?

Too often we believe that the way things are–“is simply it”–when if we would just think how this would look to someone 100 years from now, perhaps we would be quicker to open our eyes to other options and innovations.

It reminds me of the story in the Torah (Numbers 22) where Balaam is sent to curse the Jewish people but ends up blessing them. In this story the donkey that he is riding on refuses to proceed, because it sees an angel in front of them. Balaam does not see the angel and beats the donkey thinking that was the right thing to do. G-d then miraculously gives the donkey the power of speech and the donkey complains about the harsh treatment from Balaam, and G-d opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel, at which point he understands that the donkey really saved his life.

This Biblical story is similar to our lives where we go along sort of blind to the realities right in front of us, and not only that but we keep pushing forward along the very same route not seeing the obstacles or other alternatives that may be better for us.

While we (generally) don’t have donkeys talking back to us with feedback or the ability to see angels, I think by sensitizing ourselves more, we can open ourselves up to question the status quo and break the paradigms that we just take as givens.

So when we do get to the next 100 years out–it’ll truly be a lot better than today and without the traffic! 😉