September 19, 2010
Why did I have to travel with this colleague, for whom everything about Europe was wrong?
It was a beautiful Saturday morning when we arrived at the Holmenkollen Ski Hotel, atop a small mountain on the east side of Oslo. I took a quick shower, then a short nap to recover from the long airline flight, and a delightful buffet breakfast before starting my trek down the small road to Oslo city center. But my colleague stayed behind, “to watch television”. And when I completed my downhill adventures, enjoyed a quiet day of art galleries, city walking, and gourmet foot, and took a train back up the mountain to the hotel, his only comments was, “The coke was warm!”.
Our next stop was the town of Hilversum, the radio and TV center of Holland. I always like to work hard and live well, and so when our consulting was finished I took him to one of the finest but least formal restaurants I knew — a small auberge in the seaside village of Oude Loosdrecht.
September 15, 2010
“The best time to win customer loyalty is when you make a mistake.” I heard this surprising comment from an IBM executive speaking at a professional conference, and not long after that had an experience that demonstrated everything he said.
My IBM Thinkpad laptop had developed a persistent but intermittent problem. I’d sent it in for warranty repair, but it was returned with the problem still present. When I called IBM they offered to expedite another repair, again paying FedEx overnight both ways. But I was flying off to Europe in four days, explained that I needed a working laptop, and that this was cutting it too close for my comfort. The IBM representative promised to see what she could do. A few hours later, she called back, to say that she was working on it. And a bit later she informed me that an IBM repair person would be coming out (by boat) the next day to our island home to repair the computer. This wasn’t normal practice, and she had to “borrow” somebody from another department. But no matter — I was visited by a knowledgeable repair person who quickly found the real problem, fixed it, and got back on the boat.
The transaction cost here was the cost of sending a repair person to our home — perhaps a half day of his time. IBM certainly didn’t have to incur this cost, but they chose to.
September 10, 2010
Turn the computer off? “Impossible”, you say. And my emotional response is to agree. I’ve a dear friend in the hospital, and I may get e-mails that need to be relayed. There may be an inquiry about the apartment we’re renting, a prospect who wants my coaching or consulting, a client who needs help in a hurry. I need to stay tuned to that information stream!
Or, do I? Will that information wait 30 minutes, or 60, or 90? Can I work on my time frame?
With the computer on, I tend to respond, and pay attention to what might come, even as I’m addressing the opportunities or challenges that are already here. My attention, and my creativity, are diverted from the most immediate task at hand.
I’m not alone. I see this with business colleagues around the globe. Sitting in front of our computers, we may be connected, but too often we’re not focused on the real questions, the deeper issues. We’re probably not our best creative selves.
Neuroscientists tell us that our brains need quiet time to rearrange and reorganize information we’ve taken in. When we’re permanently connected to an on-line data stream, that time just doesn’t happen.
What’s the prescription? Spend some time sitting under a tree, or on a rock by a stream, or even in a quiet room with no electronics. Think, plan, envision, create, imagine. Write with a pencil, and don’t worry about the font or margins. In fact, don’t worry at all. Just be present in the quiet space. With practice, you can even do it in a room with computers, iPhones, and other electronic devices present.