Exceptionally Normal

It is normal that no two people are exactly alike. Not even twins. So the word normal should not be confused with the word average. If you leave your fingerprints on something, you might as well leave your name and address since no two people have the same prints. 

normal

You hear music and see a sunrise differently from any other person. You might enjoy a movie that your spouse would do anything to avoid. You might like being in a crowd of friends while your spouse prefers an evening being just the two of you. 

When you say, “I want my child to be normal,” you don’t mean average, and you shouldn’t. What you mean is that you want your child to grow up with their own abilities, talents, likes, and dislikes. So to be normal is not to be average; it is to be different.

But for some reason, we are not comfortable showing our differences because we think society is expecting something we are not. We present one face to the world, as a rule, and another one to ourselves.

There are millions of people who feel inadequate just because they’re not like what they think they see around themselves. They’re not inadequate at all. It’s just that they’ve never understood that we’re not supposed to be like everyone else because no one is. We’re supposed to be ourselves and realize that we are distinct individuals.

Face it, we are all quirky. Take a look at the great thought leaders: Socrates stood for hours in the snow, oblivious to the wind and cold, working out a philosophy problem; Churchill walked into the bedroom of the president of the United States with only a towel wrapped around his waist; Einstein could go a whole lifetime without giving a thought to whether or not he needed a haircut. Are these people normal or abnormal? They’re normal. That is the way they do things — which is their normal. 

I’m sure there are lots of people who are keeping themselves from something they’d like to be doing because none of their friends are doing it. The truth of the matter is that they would be normal to follow their own natural inclinations, since no two people are alike, and they are in fact being abnormal in copying their friends. 

If you try to conform to the crowd, you’re trying to act as people act on the surface. It isn’t you.

What’s normal for you, for me, is not easily discovered. It is not found by looking around at other people. It is found only by inward searching, by the knowledge of “who I am,” not by watching “others.” Each of us is outstanding in some way. Every person on earth has a superpower for something.

When we find it, life takes on a new meaning and excitement. When you committed the effort to develop your superpower, a lot of other people will wish they were like you. But they shouldn’t. Being normal is being what you are as an individual.

This applies to everyone including those that society labels as “not normal” such as those on the autism spectrum. Rather than someone on the autism spectrum trying to act like people who society thinks of as “being normal”, what is wrong with them being themselves and acting their normal?

We as a society have defined normal based on some artificial standard we see around ourselves. Society has never understood that we’re not supposed to be like everyone else because no one is. We need to realize that each person is a distinct individual.

So what are the steps to being content with being ourselves? 

Everybody Knows:

You can’t be all things to all people.

You can’t do all things at once.

You can’t do all things equally well.

You can’t do all things better than everyone else.

Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.

So:

You have to find out who you are and be that.

You have to decide what comes first, and do that.

You have to discover your strengths, and use them.

You have to learn not to compete with others,

Because no one else is in the contest of “being you”.

Then:

You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.

You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.

You will have learned to live with your limitations.

You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due.

And you’ll be a vital part of society.

Dare To Believe:

That you are a wonderful, unique person.

That you are a once-in-all-history event.

That it’s more than a right, it’s your duty, to be who you are.

That appearing normal is not a puzzle you need to solve.

And you will be comfortable being your unique self and not someone else.

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Each and one of us is a mystery and a miracle. What a shame it is to try to paint over the amazing you with a likeness of someone else. 

To be normal is to be ourselves — and never to be average. 

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Great Leaders Keep Cool Under Fire

My grandfather had an old saying when I was growing up, “Never burn a bridge.” At the time, I thought it was a strange saying. It was only later that I realized what he was saying. No matter how someone treats you, don’t get angry and never retaliate as to destroy the relationship. Great leaders keep cool even when the attacker is making it personal.

Leaders Keep Cool Under Stress

The president of a large corporation was confronted by an employee who stormed into his office and said, “I have a thing or two to say to you.” He then angrily poured out his complaints and pent-up feelings. As he did so, the president calmly listened. The employee was surprised that he didn’t get more of a reaction. When he was finished, the president said a simple “Thank you.” 

The president had wisely remained cool like Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, who said: “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.”

Emerson made the same point when he wrote, “Keep cool, and you command everybody.” The person who winds up in charge is the one who can remain calm and in control under the most intense pressure. There are strength and power in stillness and quietness. It is the most universally important quality of great leaders — they are unflappable. Leaders know that they don’t make the best decisions when made with emotions or in the heat of anger. 

Leader’s Most Valuable Lesson

If a person can learn to remain calm in situations of stress, they have discovered one of a leader’s most valuable lessons — one that the vast majority of people never learn.

Earlier in my career, I was on a trip overseas, when I saw two drivers whose trucks came face-to-face in a narrow street. Neither would back up to let the other by. So what did they do? They started blowing their horns and yelling profanities at each other. After a few minutes of watching this spectacle, I went on to my meeting. When I returned a few hours later, they were in the same place, still blocking each other, red in the face yelling at each other. I wonder if they are still there.

They were the perfect representations of what happens when anger and emotion overcome reason — nothing constructive happens. Logic says that when they had first seen each other, one of them should have immediately backed up and both could have been on their way. 

Losing Your Cool

While it is easy to point out the flaws in others, we need to recognize when we have fallen short. My mom, a fellow redhead, said I got a double helping of the “red-headed temper.” To emphasize the point, she used to tell me a story … 

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His mother gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered each day gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Controlling His Temper… 

Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. She then instructed him to pull out one nail for each day he was now able to hold his anger. The days passed, and the young boy was able to tell his mother that all the nails were gone.

The mother took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. She said, “You have done well, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like the holes in the fence. It won’t matter how many times you say your sorry. The holes are still there.” 

The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his mother and said, “I hope you can forgive me mother, for the holes I put in you.”

“Of course I can,” said the mother.

Don’t Get Angry

Every day, I strive to follow my grandfathers’ warning to stay calm, don’t get angry, and never burn a bridge no matter how someone acts, says, or treats me. 

“Keep cool, and you command everyone.” Emerson was right. Even a youngster, who keeps his composure in the face of raving parents, makes them look ridiculous.

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Find A Way To Say ‘Yes’ To Non-Obvious Ideas

The world is made up of ‘yes’ people and ‘no’ people. We need more optimistic — more hopeful people who find a way to say yes to non-obvious ideas.

During Thomas Jefferson’s presidency in the early 1800’s, he and a group of travelers were crossing a river that had overflowed its banks. Each man crossed on horseback fighting for his life. A lone traveler watched the group traverse the treacherous river and then asked President Jefferson to take him across. The president agreed without hesitation, the man climbed on, and the two made it safely to the other side of the river where somebody asked him: “Why did you select the President to ask this favor?” The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President of the United States who had carried him safely across. “All I know,” he said, “is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No’ and on some of them was the answer ‘Yes.’ His was a ‘Yes’ face.”

There are times to say no, of course. But success belongs to the people who say, thoughtfully and hopefully, “Yes – let’s try it.” These individuals have thrown their hat in the rings and are part of the answer rather than part of the problem.

When we say ‘no’ to a non-obvious concept that might become a great idea, we shield ourselves of responsibility should the idea fail. We give the impression that we have superior knowledge compared to everyone else as to the outcome. In reality, our objective with our ‘no’ is to reduce risk by maintaining order and the status quo. However, the unintended consequence of our ‘no’ is the impeding of what might have been a great idea.

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Why is it that 95% of the people in a typical organization believes it is their responsibility to say no? They are playing the role of the anti-risk innovation antibody. There is no risk by saying no. Projects that are rejected with a ‘no’ can’t fail since they never got a chance. If later the idea turned out to be a breakthrough innovation executed by some other organization, nobody will remember who said no.

Why are we afraid of being wrong about a new idea?

Most ‘no’ people seem to live under a suffocating dread that they might be wrong or make a mistake. Perhaps their parents punished them for every little mistake. ‘Yes,’ people use their best judgment but realize that failure and mistakes are part of living and growing and are always a possibility when something new is tried.

I recall one high profile project that was not successful. Someone on the original evaluation team came up to me and said, “I knew that wasn’t going to work.”

My reply was “No you didn’t know it wasn’t going to work. You just hoped it wouldn’t”

As innovators, we should be the ones that most often say “yes – let’s try it and see if the idea works”.

When we say ‘yes’ to someone else’s idea, we are committing to them that we are willing to invest all of ourselves to their idea. That is a powerful message to send to someone who is taking the risk and putting their idea out in the open for support or for rejection.

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Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt shared how important it is to say yes more often which included the following mantra:

During an innovation project, you will say yes or no 100’s of times. However, without that first yes, we have nothing. That idea is dead on the spot.

So take a risk, be willing to be wrong, and say ‘yes’ to a new idea. If the idea is not working out, then stop it and say ‘yes’ to the next idea.

There are times to say no, of course. But success belongs to the people who say “Yes – let’s try it.” Those organizations who say ‘yes’ more often than ‘no’ are more willing to throw their hat in the ring and be part of the answer.

Ask yourself — are you a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ person in your organization?

I’m Phil McKinney and thank for listening.

9/11 Reflections and Memories of Charles Falkenberg

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know it is my policy to avoid mentioning companies and specific individuals … this is a special case – I want you to know Charles Falkenberg.

Charles was the Director of Research (CTO) for ECOLogic – a small company based in Washington DC where I served on the Board of Directors.  Charles was incredibly brilliant and the work he did in data visualization for earth data allowed for ECOLogic to grow and expand including spinning off companies (e.g. Datazen) to commercialize the research from Charles and team.

Charles and his family (Dana (3), Zoe (8) and his wife Leslie) were on the American flight that hit the Pentagon.  They were in transit to Australia where Leslie would be a visiting professor.  Charles asked for a leave of absence but instead, the company asked him to continue his research … from Australia.  In his last week, he started to clean out his office so that someone else could use it while he was gone.  The response from his co-workers was “no” —  his office would be waiting for him when he got back. He still packed it up just in case someone needed to use it while he was gone.

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Here is a video tribute that was put together to memorialize the family.

With 9/11 upon us and the fact that I’m on the east coast, I decided to make a special trip to the new 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.  When I came around the corner of the Pentagon and saw the memorial, the impact was profound.  Each person who perished has a bench with their name.

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Pentagon Memorial for 9/11

The benches are organized by year of birth.  As a result, Charles’s youngest daughter, Dana, is the first bench you see when you enter the memorial.

Charles Falkenberg – you are missed.

I can’t easily explain the emotion I felt when I saw their benches …  the memories of that day all came rushing back …

Update: 9/11/2019 — Re-post of the original from 9/11/2008

Vision Video Of The Near Future: Diverse Thinkers Wanted

Last week, we released our fourth installment in the Near Future series of vision videos. I started creating these vision video’s back in 2006 when I was at HP. The most recent film titled The Near Future: Diverse Thinkers Wanted explores the impact of technologies on our work lives.

near-future-vision-video

Technology Vision Of The Future

The Future Vision

The film’s narrative is centered on Nikki, an ambitious executive who’s about to meet with the CEO for a very important presentation. But as often happens, things don’t go as planned and Nikki and her team are faced with a number of challenges.

Fortunately, they have all the tools needed to not only solve every problem but to do so without ever slowing down. Thanks to advanced tech at their fingertips, they have the opportunity to be their best, most creative and efficient self, and to make smart, calculated decisions without ever losing focus. Not everyone’s workday will resemble what is shown in the film, but this kind of technological advancement is certain to have a profound effect on the way we approach our daily tasks, conduct meetings and solve problems in the near future, no matter what line of work we’re in.

Technologies That Will Help Us Get There

The technology shown in the film will shape the way we think about work in the future. Powered by a 10G multi-gigabit network of tomorrow, it will create a more efficient, productive and creative work environment that will help us perform at our best. For example, technology can be used to:

  • Manage our time better: Picture a world where you don’t waste half your morning resolving calendar conflicts or worrying about logistics. How much more would you be able to get done in a day? According to Accenture, technologies such as Nikki’s ear-piece AI assistant are projected to increase labor productivity by up to 40 percent, enabling you to make more efficient use of your time.
  • Access the information we need, whenever we need it: A lot of workplace slowdowns occur because of missing or inadequate information. How much more productive do you think you’d be if all the information you ever needed was readily available to you? In the film, Nikki’s eyeglasses have built-in mixed-reality tech that overlays street addresses and other data on top of everything she sees, allowing her to make critical decisions on the go.
  • Collaborate more efficiently, from anywhere: To accommodate a more talented and diverse workforce, businesses around the world are seeking advanced remote collaboration solutions that allow their teams to seamlessly interact as if they’re physically present at the same location. In the film, we explore a few ideas about how this might work, including layered videoconferencing technology that combines traditional video with mixed and virtual reality, public light field tables and holographic telepresence systems (holo-rooms), where Nikki’s entire team gathers to work on a common project.
  • Enhance our skills and abilities: According to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children now entering elementary school will hold jobs that currently don’t exist. 
  • Focus on creative solutions: According to McKinsey, 50 percent of current work activities are automatable, and the demand for skills like creativity, critical thinking, decision making and complex information processing is projected to grow 19 percent in the United States by 2030. Outsourcing some of the boring and mundane tasks—such as double-checking locations, hailing a cab or booking a room—to machines will free up more of our brainpower for a whole new level of creativity and imagination.

Predicting the future is not for the faint of heart. It can be tricky to know what and when something is going to happen. It’s not enough to just have an opinion of what the future holds but you have to have a way to show the future so others can see and respond to it in their own way. 

Hopefully, you have found the above and the previous vision video’s challenging and maybe even a little inspiration in your thinking about the future.

What is your vision of the future? 

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Avoiding The Habit Trap

When I was growing up, one time my grandmother baked a fantastic German Chocolate cake. I can see it now — that moist chocolate cake and rich icing. It was great and everyone in the family let her know how great it was. We devoured the cake. But from that time on, we could count on a German Chocolate cake as THE dessert every time we would visit. It became a little boring. Needless to say, I never told her that. 

Everyone wants and needs change. But on the other hand, we enjoy doing what we do well that has reinforced by others expressing their appreciation. We all have experienced applauding a small child’s, or in my case grandchildren’s, performance — perhaps a somersault or a dance — only to have the child repeat it over and over again until we could jump up and run out of the room screaming. We as adults are no different. We tend to limit ourselves to the things we learn to do well. It’s easier for one thing, and it beats the risk of trying something new.

When it comes to innovation, this plays out in spades. When a new innovation team achieves some level of success — such as the creation of a new product or service — they jump to the assumption that it was the process that enabled them to achieve success. Or maybe it was the way that one brainstorm session was run and therefore all future brainstorming should be done the exact same way. Or maybe it was the evaluation and idea selection process that was key for its success so all future idea evaluations should be done in the exact same way. 

Just as the enthusiastic applause for a child puts the child on auto-repeat, success to an innovation team does the same. We create a habit of repeating the exact same steps in what we believe is the perfect innovation process.

When that happens, its the first indication that an innovation team is on the glide path to mediocrity. 

It was NOT the process that enabled success. It was the idea. And building rigid repetitive processes are NOT conducive to creating a stimulating environment for generating new and exciting ideas. 

It’s easy to fall into uninteresting grooves of habit. And the only way to avoid it, to keep change and creativity in our lives, is to do it deliberately. To achieve sustained innovation success, it is a good idea to break up the patterns from time to time. It will stimulate you and the team resulting in a new, fresh outlook on things.

Remember — no habit has any real hold on you other than the hold you have on it. 

Habits and routines have a way of sneaking up on us. It starts off with us finding a way of doing things that become easily repeatable — comfortable. Soon it becomes the way “we innovate”. Samuel Johnson, in 1784, put habit in its right context, “The chains of habit are too weak to be noticed until they are too strong to be broken.”

Be on guard to avoid the habit trap.

Innovation is about being disruptive. So disrupt how you do everything — including how you innovate. If you can apply innovation to products, services, sales, marketing, HR, finance — why not innovate the way you innovate? 

Turn the habit mirror on yourself. We are quick to criticize the expense report process as being too rigid and in need of innovation. Could others say the same about your innovation frameworks and processes? 

Does this mean you change your innovation frameworks and processes after each project? No. What it does mean is to be deliberate in trying new things. Do not allow the feeling of the safe to hold you back from taking risks. 

There are things you would like to leave as is. But German Chocolate cake — or anything else — gets old and boring fast. 

We need a change in our lives. It’s a basic human need. If we don’t get it, the concrete starts to harden. We need to be willing to change ourselves first and through it, influence others that change is what is needed if we are to keep moving forward.  

Most people who drive cars to work leave at the same time and follow the same route, after having the same thing for breakfast. Arriving on the job, they continue the routine. 

So start tomorrow. Have something different for breakfast. Leave earlier and take a different route to work. You might see something that could spark a great idea and also see some interesting parts of the town or the countryside. We all can do things to get us out of our ruts .. and avoid the habit trap.

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I’m Phil McKinney and thanks for listening.

Innovation Attitude = Innovation Success

I find it interesting that we usually get from other people exactly what we expect of them. If we are looking for friendship, we will likely receive it. If our attitude is that of indifference, we will get indifference. And if we are looking for a fight, we will in all likelihood find ourselves in the middle of a fight.

Innovation Attitude

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude has on me. 

When it comes to success, attitude is more important than what happened in the past, more than your education, more than money, more than circumstances, and more than what other people think or say or do.

It is more important than giftedness or skill. Attitude will make or break an organization.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. And once we make that choice, we need to recognize that our attitude not only impacts us but will also lift or drag down others that we will engage with every day. 

Can attitude really have that much impact on our success? Yes. An article in a leading research publication describes how a researcher tested the importance of attitude

Testing For Attitude

A psychologist is seated at a desk. There is a knock on his office door. The psychologist says, “Come in.” A student enters. The psychologist says, “Sit down, please. I am going to read you a set of instructions. I am not permitted to say anything that is not in the instructions, nor can I answer any instructions about this experiment. OK?” The student is then given the test. 

After the student has completed the test and left the office, there is another knock on the door. The psychologist says exactly the same words to a second student. The only difference is that this time he smiles as he says the words. He smiles in a friendly fashion. The only difference between the two episodes is the smile. 

Will the smile affect the results of the experiment? Yes. 

It not only can but does — in the laboratory, in the classroom and everywhere else in life. All other things being equal, the student who receives his instructions with a friendly smile will do better on the test than he would without the smile. The smile indicates that all is well and that the experimenter expects the student to perform satisfactorily, without any trouble. The student will live up to the expectations. He will fulfill the prophecy. 

Without a smile, the situation becomes more tense. The serious expression on the part of the experimenter carries a ceratin forboding, a lack of confidence in the student’s ability to perform in a satisfactory manner. The student will not perform as well under this circumstance. 

Impact of Attitude

These test, carefully conducted and measured, indicates the tremendous importance of attitude. Our attitude towards others tells them what we expect from them, and they will give us what we expect: they will fulfill the prophecy. We do this with ourselves, too. This is why those who say, “I’ll never be able to do that,” or, “With my luck, the whole thing will end in failure,” are unnecessarily handicapping themselves. Expecting to fail, they will increase their chances of failure. 

The parent or spouse who keeps repeating to their family that they never do anything right, who continually criticizes and magnifies mistakes, is setting the stage for the family members failure in life. William James said that it is the attitude at the beginning of a difficult task that will, more than anything else, determine the outcome. 

That is why the manager or coach of a baseball or football team is so important. The right kind of coach can make a great team using ordinary athletes. They will do what the coach expects of them

Innovation Attitude

This same impact from attitude applies to innovation. When an innovation leader projects an attitude of success, it sets the expectation that the team will be successful in delivering innovations that will lead to high impact products and services. 

One way to set this expectation is to craft a BHAG – a bold harry audacious goal.

The best BHAG I have ever heard was when President John F Kennedy shared that “Before the end of the decade, we will deliver a man to the moon and return him safely.” He had no idea how this could be done, but he was convinced that it could and should be done — and projected an attitude of success. 

It was a rallying cry that pulled people together to deliver on the expectation was set before them. 

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Seldom does an individual or a team exceed their own expectations. 

What are your expectations? Aim high. Now have the attitude that goes with that expectation. 


I’m Phil McKinney .. and thanks for listening. 

Innovation Requires Getting The Facts Right

There is an old saying that goes something like this, “Speaking with passion but without the facts is like making a beautiful dive into an empty pool.”  

As John Adam’s famously said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

To convince or persuade others to support your idea, you have to base your idea on incontestable facts that are readily grasped and understood.

When it comes to taking your idea and turning it into disruptive innovation, you need to get people to support and even fund your idea. The willingness of others to support your idea is based on your personal credibility. The easiest way to lose your credibility is to run fast and loose with the facts.

I’ve seen many an innovator thinking they needed to make some bold claims and then proceeded to stretch the truth. Their idea was fundable on its own but they lost their credibility and support — and thus their funding.

If the facts are more of a hypothesis, then you should be upfront and say, “In my opinion …” Ben Franklin was a great one for that. He said that one of the greatest lessons he ever learned in winning others to his ideas was to begin everything he said with the words, “I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me …. “ And the combination of humbleness of attitude, linked with overwhelming logic, quickly had people assuring him that he was absolutely right.

To take the stand that you’re right before the hypothesis had had the time to be turned into facts will make sure others will oppose you and your idea. It’s also a sign of immaturity. Speaking with passion but without the facts is like making a beautiful dive into an empty pool, and it has brought many otherwise intelligent people into positions of embarrassment, even disaster. We’ve all been guilty of. I know I have — still am, on occasion. And I’m always sorry afterward, especially if I’ve been proven wrong.

“It seems to me …” are magic words. They soften and clear the way; they open others’ minds and initial opinions toward us and our ideas. And then, if we are proved wrong, we are not so far out on the limb that we can’t get back with good grace. But more important than the escape route, it ensures we are not offending others, and it helps brings them around to our way of thinking.

When I was writing my book, Beyond The Obvious, I took the advice of others and had the entire manuscript reviewed by one of the leading fact-checkers from a major New York newspaper. I wanted to avoid the post-publication embarrassment of having someone point out some factual error — or worse, find out I had unintentionally revealed some confidential information of HP or one its clients. The fact-checker was told that every story and reference had to be supported by public information. If it could not be validated with publicly available facts, it was pulled from the manuscript. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

In one story, the fact-checker came back with a change. In a story about innovating under pressure, I used the story of the Apollo 13 disaster and how mission control came together and innovated a solution for the “air scrubber”. In the story, I told how they used items in the command and lunar module to construct a device to remove carbon monoxide. One item I listed was a sock. The fact checker pointed out that I must have based the story on the movie. She was correct but how did she know?  The actual item was a “piece of a towel” and that the sock reference was a mistake in the Apollo 13 film. The film got it wrong and the fact-checker caught it.

I fixed the manuscript and have used fact-checkers ever since.

The first step to translating your ideas into disruptive innovations is to convince others to see your ideas as you see them. If you present your ideas with humbleness of attitude, linked with overwhelming logic you will be way down the path of attracting the support you need.

What part of the story you are telling about your idea is based on absolute truth? Whatever that is, stick with that. Everything else should be presented as the thoughts, dreams, and hypothesis it is.

Remember the saying — make sure your mind is in gear before you set your mouth or pen in motion. And even then, it’s a good idea to proceed with a certain amount of caution so that you don’t run over somebody.


I’m Phil McKinney — and thanks for listening.

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Change Caused By Innovation

As a result of some digital spring cleaning I was doing, I found and was listening to old shows from 2005 – the first year of my podcast. Honestly, given what I know now, I wish could have re-written and re-recorded them. The technology and tools now available to podcasters are far superior to what we had back in those early days.

This got me to thinking about how wonderful innovation is and how easy is for us to overlook it.

Fifty years ago, we lived in a way that would be considered a burden today. When we catch a glimpse of those days in old movies and TV shows, we laugh and shake our heads. We used to think the cars from back then were great, not to mention the clothes.

This looking back reminds us that past routines, past way of doing things, are exactly that — the past. There is a better way to do almost everything. We must remind ourselves that a thing which has never done before doesn’t mean it cannot be done at all.

I can remember when I was a kid before central air conditioning was considered normal. During the hot humid summers in Chicago, the only way to cool the house was with a small window air conditioner in the kitchen.  This then dictated that everyone in the family slept on the tile floor in the kitchen in order to get some relief. Many a night, the five of us, my parents, my brother and my grandmother all crowded into the kitchen or in the doorway trying to catch some cool air so that we could some sleep.

How would you like to go back to those days? While is great to be nostalgic about the past, I can’t imagine going without the innovations we have today.

Change from innovation is inevitable. Today we take pride and comfort in our modern world, and seldom think twice about it, as I’m sure we seldom did in the old days. Hindsight is 20/20. Could we have predicted the radical changes that occurred over the last 50 years? Think about it. We put a man on the moon, invented the personal computer, launched the internet, introduced mobile phones, not to mention the millions of apps and tools we now have access to.

From personal experience, I give thanks to the innovations that led to central airconditioning becoming a scalable and accessible product for millions around the world.

Given our ability to gain perspective of the past, could we predict the innovations that will impact our lives in twenty years? Even 10 years from now, we will look back to today and smile and shake our heads at how primitive we were in so many ways. Our cars of today will look primitive in 10 years, not to mention our clothes.

In 10 years, what will you be doing? Where will you be living? What job will you have and what will be your income? Where will you vacation?

What are your plans for the next 10 years? What are your goals? In order for a goal to be effective, it must effect change.  What can you learn during the next 10 years that will change the future?

The most effective way to cope with the change is to help create it.

The only thing you can know for sure is that everything will change. Can you predict and anticipate some of this change and by doing so, be years ahead of others? If you don’t and others can, you will find yourself at a clear disadvantage by having change surprise you.

My grandfather used to tell me a story of two neighbors, Bill and Ted. Bill always brought his dog that loved cats. Ted had a cat that hated dogs. Whenever Bill came to visit Ted, his dog would come along. The dog would chase the cat up the maple tree in Ted’s yard. This same scene would take place every time Bill came to visit. After a couple of years, Ted cut down the tree.  A couple of days later Bill and his dog came to visit. Out around the house ran the cat with the dog right on its tail. Suddenly, about thirty feet in the air, the cat realized that something had changed …

Don’t be the cat.

Today we smile when thinking about the past, and in the future, we will be smiling back as we think about today.

Reminds me of a sign I saw at a roadside gas station: “If you continue as you have in the past, where will you be in five years from now?”

Something to think about.

I’m Phil McKinney … and thanks for listening.

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Innovation Quality is a Virtue

I was looking through some of my old idea notebooks and came across a quote that I wrote down. It is one of those quotes that cause you to pause and contemplate. To question your own personal motivations. The quote?

“Institutions, like vineyards, should be judged by the quality of their vintages.”

Its worth think about, isn’t it?

“Institutions, like vineyards, should be judged by the quality of their vintages.” An institutions impact should be measured over time just as it takes years if not decades to truly know what the quality of the vintages of a vineyard.

You can apply this quote to businesses, schools, universities, charities, a church, a family or a country.

I, for one, would rather be connected to an organization that puts out a really great product than an organization that is turning out ordinary products or services.

The ability to produce a great product or service is tied the inherent drive to quality from the team that builds it.

There is nothing more important than to instill in our ourselves, our children and grandchildren than a love for quality sake. We instinctively look for it in others and admire it when we find it. We want it from the people who deliver the products and services we use. We want it in the education of our children, in the medical care we receive, in the food we eat, in the car we drive, in the clothes we wear, in the books and newspapers we read and in the podcasts we listen to.

Quality puts the value into everything. And because we admire it so much, we should most certainly demand it of ourselves in everything we do, because it is what gives us the value that others want from us, too.

But we must not stop at ourselves but help those around us to recognize the importance of quality. The result would be a rising up of quality to the benefit of everyone.

This reminds me of a story …..

I grew up in Illinois where we are famous for our “Super Sweet” corn – so we know a thing a two about corn. There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor’s corn also improves.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

So it is with our lives. If we are to improve our quality, we need others around us to improve theirs. And quality is not limited to just a few high profile jobs. There are no unimportant jobs. There isn’t a job of any sort where the quality will not reflect on the person performing the task.

Quality is not something you can fake. Time exposes the lack of quality like the geological strata of a canyon. Someone who does not deliver quality to the level expected will be found out. People instinctively know and respect quality when they find it — or turn away when they are disappointed when they don’t find the quality they expected.

So – are you delivering quality in everything we do? Are you helping those around us deliver quality? Or — are you trying to get by with delivering just the minimum required?

Joel Weldon says it best. “What you value is what you think and talk about. And what you think and talk about is what you become.”

Thus why I’m talking about quality. You and I need to hold ourselves and each other to the expectation that high quality is what we will deliver in everything we do.

Before you say something is done, you need to ask yourself, “Is this up to my standards of quality?”

And because the quality is more of a journey than a destination, you should never stop asking ourselves, “How can I improve on the quality of what I do?”

This is Phil McKinney and thanks for listening.

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