April 24th, 2014

About a year ago, quite an interesting study indicated the tremendous value women bring to corporate boards.  The study was based on a survey of 600 board directors and was published in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics.  Here are a few key findings:

1—Women have a higher propensity than men to consider competing interests.

2—Women have a higher propensity than men to adopt a cooperative approach as they make important decisions.

3—Women have a higher propensity than men to see more than one solution to a problem.

4—Women have a higher propensity than men to shake things up rather than to be bound by tradition or regulations.

Although certainly we are each individuals with our unique strengths and weaknesses, on average, women and men tend to see matters differently.  Before you too quickly conclude that the female perspective is somehow inferior in any way, consider Stuart Pfeifer’s summary on how the female perspective affected the financials (“Women Are Better Board Members Study Says” The Kansas City Star, March 28, 2013, p. A8):

Companies with at least one female director were 20 percent less likely to file bankruptcy.  And those with higher representations of females on their boards had better financial performance.

I believe all of the above is good news.  Now, here is the bad news.  Worldwide, women comprise just 9% of corporate boards.  I would say we have some definite growth opportunities.  Let’s start capitalizing on them.


April 23rd, 2014

At the end of 2013, Kaspersky released its annual report.  It contains many interesting cybersecurity highlights from which we can benefit.  I highly recommend the report as an excellent review of what has happened with cybersecurity last year, and where things are moving in the future.

Not surprisingly, the report emphasizes the continuously growing threat to corporate data.  The villains benefit just as much as the heroes do from our ever-improving technology.  Given this trend, Kaspersky anticipates the day when corporate data’s only threat is technologically delivered as opposed to humanly delivered:

The extensive use of computers and other digital devices in all areas of business has created ideal conditions for cyber espionage programs and malware capable of stealing corporate data.  The potential is so great that malicious programs may soon completely replace company insiders as a way of gathering information.” (Corporate Threats, p. 22)

Just think—“reach out and touch someone” is no longer required.  Industrial spies need not apply.  The software does all the villain’s work.

Somehow I have a feeling that cybersecurity is going to be a very hot field for a very long time.


April 22nd, 2014

Daniel Goleman summarizes three kinds of support for ethical thinking: vertical support, horizontal support, and wakeup calls.  Vertical support is derived from your mentors and teachers.  Whom do you respect?  What kinds of things did you absorb about ethics from these influential persons?

Horizontal support is derived from your peers.  How are the people around you behaving?  What kind of ethical standards do they embrace?

Finally, wakeup calls are those situations in which someone you know does something very bad or very good.  These situations cause you to ponder, “oh, how terrible.  How could she have succumbed to that behavior?” or “I never imagined he possessed that level of intelligence and moral fortitude.  That truly took wisdom and courage.”  Additionally, depending on your relationship to that person, in a bad situation you may need to ask, “did I do anything to contribute to this?”

Although one could contend it comes partially under vertical support, I think a person’s spiritual or religious convictions are ethics-support tools.  Most people hold a philosophy of life that is driven by spiritual or religious convictions.  Consequently, this life dimension is very important to a person’s ethics support.

I see great value in regularly reviewing all four of these ethics-support tools within your life.  Working together, they provide a measure of checks and balances.  Anytime they are in conflict, that can create serious ethical dilemmas.  For example, if your vertical support says one thing but your horizontal support says something different, then you will be in conflict.  Likewise, if your spiritual or religious convictions say one thing, but your wakeup call does not seem to fit that paradigm, then you will be in conflict.

The ultimate goal—hopefully arrived at sooner rather than later—is to take a holistic approach that integrates these four areas.  Only when this happens can you truly say that you have achieved wholeness.  Moreover, when it comes to ethics, wholeness is compulsory.

When was the last time you reviewed your ethics-support tools?  Maybe it is time for an update.


April 21st, 2014

You do not have to look far to find folks who like to share all the things they hate about social media.  I agree that social media has disadvantages.  That is true of every human involvement arena.  I think it has something to do with none of us being perfect.  Therefore, we must actively work to overcome the disadvantages and the misuses involved in every human arena.  Nevertheless, as I reflect on where social media is today and what it has done for us, I prefer to focus on the significant positives.

When it comes to social media, I like to think of “Life Before Social Media” and “Life After Social Media.”  As a baby boomer, believe me, that gives me lots of material with which to work!  Even a cursory review of life before and life after, tells us much has changed.  Again, preferring to focus on the positive, here are the reasons I love social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and numerous additional sites):

1—Professional Networking.  Professional networking has always been important, and some folks are better at it than others.  Regardless of your prowess with professional networking, social media is a commanding way to expand and enhance your network.  In addition to all the traditional mechanisms of professional networking, social media opens up an entirely new dimension unbounded by time and space.  I have people in my professional network today that I never would have without social media.  I love social media because of what it does for my professional networking.  You should too.

2—Old And New Friends.  We often strike up acquaintanceships and friendships with wonderful people . . . with whom we then lose connection due to time, circumstances, and geography.  What I love about social media is that you have the ability in real time to make social media connections with those same wonderful people.  Going forward, even if time, circumstances, and geography change, you still have that personal connection via social media.  This facilitates the discovery of new friends.  Additionally, it significantly improves the odds of reconnecting with old friends.  For example, due to the power of Facebook, I now have a very dear friend back in my circle.  He and I had simply lost touch over many decades due to, again time, circumstances, and geography.  I love social media because of what it does for my old and new friends.  You should too.

3—Knowing And Responding To Current Information.  Whether it is professional relationships or personal friendships, social media constantly enables me to access current information and respond as I wish.  This ability adds immeasurably to my information awareness.  I pick up so many insights, alerts, news bulletins, and technical information directly from my social media connections.  Likewise, for those bits of information to which I must respond, I can usually do so much faster, even instantly, compared to “life before social media.”  I love social media because of what it does for my knowing and responding to current information.  You should too.

As someone who knows life before social media and life after social media, I genuinely hope you love social media as much as I do.


April 18th, 2014

Just Born is the company that makes those marshmallow chicks and rabbits.  We see them flooding the stores every year during the Easter season.  From Just Born’s perspective, that is the problem—we only see them during the Easter season.  Therefore, the company is planning to expand its marketing to create a year-round presence.  To facilitate that strategy, the marshmallow snacks are being made with additional flavors and colors.

From a business marketing perspective, I think this is all good.  Nevertheless, what truly cracked me up was the casual observation about the hardiness of the product when reported by Venessa Wong (“Peeps Break Out of the Easter Basket” Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/14/14–4/20/14, pp. 24–25):

Like the Easter Bunny, Peeps hop into our life each spring, only to disappear a few weeks later.  Although they have a shelf life of about two years, many of the marshmallow chicks and rabbits never get eaten.” (p. 24)

A two-year shelf life?  Those sure are hardy chicks and bunnies!  Perhaps it is time for Just Born to roll out a new marketing slogan:

Chicks and bunnies tough enough for three Easters!


April 17th, 2014

I have read more city ranking lists than I can remember.  They are sometimes valuable in making certain types of decisions or in assessing quality of life and work.  That said, the statistician in me always looks carefully at the methodologies involved because many things can change depending on those methodologies.  Therefore, I have learned to receive the ranking data for what it is worth.  I view it more as a collection of comparative observations rather than a rigidly ranked data set.

To that point, I was heartened to see what Dane Stangler (the vice president of research and policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation) said recently.  Speaking on a panel concerning Kansas City’s future, he affirmed (Greg Hack, “Kansas City’s Business and Cultural Scene: A Rival to Austin?  Vibrant Hub Emerging” The Kansas City Star, April 15, 2014, pp. C1, C6, C7):

‘I don’t put too much stock [in various city rankings because] you can tweak one small thing and get greatly different results.’” (C6)

Rankings are great when you want to run through some quick mental comparisons.  Just realize they never tell the whole story.  A ranking alone does not a city make.


April 16th, 2014

Entrepreneurs must bring significant intelligence, passion, creativity, and vision to the table.  Without these qualities, their businesses would never get off the ground.  As important as all that is, those same entrepreneurs rely on the power of networking to facilitate key connections.  Chris Anderson explains how all the intellectual horsepower in the world still will not cut it if we do not have significant, and often serendipitous, encounters with key people (“The Shared Genius of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs” Fortune, December 9, 2013, pp. 98–108):

Even with all the right mental attributes, the first big success requires some luck.  You have to be in the right place at the right time.  Without that, you may have no opportunity to hit the second rung on the ladder.  All the more reason we should look out for those attributes in upcoming entrepreneurs and do all we can to support them.” (p. 108)

Innovative ideas alone will not carry the freight.  The visionary must have connections with the right people.  “The right people,” means many things:  the chemistry is right, we have a complementary relationship, synergy occurs, and we have a shared vision.

Some of these qualities are difficult to predict or control.  That underscores the need for networking.  Networking opens the door to new and unexpected relationships.  Just as much as some of those relationships may take you nowhere significant, some might just change the world.

I love talking with entrepreneurs.  Many opportunities exist to do exactly that.  Whether it is the Kansas City Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups meetings that are sweeping across the country, a business networking meeting, interfacing with members of a startup team, or just chewing the fat with an impassioned person who plans to change the world, all these events are marvelous opportunities to hear the heartbeat of the entrepreneur.

I am thankful for all these opportunities, and I look forward to many more.  You never know when one of them will put a person in the right place at the right time.  And that is always good for business.


April 15th, 2014

Just as we have been using fracking to extract natural gas from the earth, the same technology can now be used to capture heat for our energy grid.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that even if we tapped just 2% of the heat beneath our feet, that would meet the national energy demand annually times 2,000, for the foreseeable future.  That is a lot of heat!

Convinced of the technology’s efficacy, last year the Department of Energy helped Ormat Technologies build its Desert Peak power plant near Reno, Nevada.  That plant has been operational for a year this month.

In the energy divining business, prospecting and drilling can devour a company’s cash fast.  This is especially serious if you do not start producing results in a reasonable timeframe.  The Department of Energy is responding to these risks.  Given the opportunity for mutual benefit to other energy players, industry cooperation would make much sense.  David Biello summarizes (“The Coming Boom in Geothermal Fracking” Scientific American, August 2013, p. 20):

If technologies can be developed to reduce the risks, geothermal could play a more prominent energy role.  With that in mind, the DOE is pursuing better methods for geothermal prospecting, drilling and fracking.  Because much of that work could also benefit traditional drilling, the oil and gas industry may actually help foot the bill for enhanced geothermal technology.

Energy technology and policy is never simple.  Many factors must be considered such as costs, environment, sustainability, feasibility, stakeholder interests, and regulations to name a few.  Nevertheless, geothermal energy certainly seems to be a very positive development.  It is one that many have waited for a long time.  Perhaps it is time we launch geothermal as the next best wave of energy.


April 14th, 2014

What is a good way for a state to save $33.7 million a year in healthcare costs?  I am sure you can think of many possibilities here, but the one I am thinking of is Washington state choosing to establish a network among its hospital emergency rooms.  This new network is called the Emergency Department Information Exchange.

This kind of electronic networking is extremely efficient and helpful.  By the time a walk-in (or carry-in) has been registered and vital signs taken, that ER has a fax or an email detailing all recent ER admissions, diagnoses, and treatments from any other ER in the state.  Medical staff is able to treat patients from a better informed perspective as opposed to seeing that patient as a brand new case, and potentially administering a treatment regimen contradictory to what the last ER executed.

Another benefit is the ability to spot intentional or unintentional ER abusers.  These might include people who present from one ER to another to obtain drugs, prescriptions, or simply think of an ER as a local doctor substitute.  Some of these patients can be redirected to more appropriate healthcare avenues as Karen Weise explains (“Hospitals Share Data to Stop ER Abusers” Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/7/14–4/13/14, p. 38):

Doctors can now direct many of these patients to clinics or other less expensive care centers.  Data released on March 20 show ER visits by Medicaid patients fell 10 percent in the 2013 fiscal year, and the rate of ER visits that resulted in a nonacute diagnosis decreased more than 14 percent.

Will this solve every ER healthcare problem in the nation?  Of course not.  Nevertheless, it seems to be a way to work smarter instead of harder.  That is why doctors in California, Texas, Ohio, New York, and Florida are already inquiring about how to create a similar ER state program.  If there is any place that we need to work smarter rather than harder, it is healthcare.  I think this is an idea whose time has definitely come.


April 11th, 2014

Be a winner at wellness.  That is the best advice I can offer anyone for personal and professional success.  Everything else you do will be enhanced by or degraded by your wellness level.  If we give up on wellness, it is the beginning of the end.  Wellness should be something we focus on daily.

Wellness involves many areas of our lives such as the physical, mental, emotional, physiological, spiritual, religious, and philosophical.  What works for one person will not necessarily work for another.  One person’s greatest area of opportunity may be another person’s greatest expertise.

Your wellness can affect another person’s wellness.  Never underestimate your influence.  By your words and your example, you can positively impact people around you.

If wellness is one of your priorities, then please maintain that focus.  If wellness seems to have eluded you, then I encourage you to take a fresh approach.  Today can be a turning point for the better in your life.

To make that happen, you will have to reach out to the resources around you.  You have friends, mentors, and loved ones around you who genuinely care about you.  You have a philosophy of life, and religious and spiritual convictions that can sustain you.  You have hidden opportunities just waiting to be discovered.  You have time-tested strengths and abilities.  Reach out to all those terrific resources because they are there to help you.  If you do that, then I see no reason why you will not be a winner at wellness.