In the Star Trek episode called Darmok Captain Picard is stranded on a planet with an alien called Captain Dathon. In spite of the fact that they both had Universal Translators they had considerable difficulties understanding each other. Dathon kept on saying “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” but since Picard didn’t know what Darmok, Jalad or Tanagra is, he couldn’t understand the meaning behind Dathon’s words.
They were missing the cultural context.
As night fell, Dathon lit a fire for warmth, but Picard was unable to. Dathon handed Picard a branch from his fire and said to Picard, “Temba, his arms wide.” Finally, Picard realized that Dathon was trying to help him and that Dathon’s language used metaphors for communication.
In this song by Melanie Amaro she says that she wants her boyfriend to be more than just a picture on her screen.
Just ten years ago, people would have thought that she was talking about a television instead of her smartphone.
One hundred years ago Ms. Amaro would have been talking about a movie.
We all use metaphors in our everyday conversation, but communication problems happen when we don’t know the context behind the metaphors. As Laura Jung, one of our interns, pointed out in her blog earlier this week, communication problems can wreak havoc on international relationships. In his blog Brian Henderson shares ten “lost in translation” gaffes that cost millions of dollars in lost opportunities, including one of my favorites. When the Chinese translated the Pepsi slogan “We bring you back to life,” a little bit too literally. To the Chinese it meant “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.”
As communicators we must be watchdogs for our clients. We need to understand their key audiences well enough to judge how they will react and know the hidden context.
Effective communication requires more than a universal translator; understanding the context behind the words is key. Imagine how much more compelling the conversation between Picard and Dathon would have been if Picard knew that Darmok and Jalad worked together, to fight a common enemy, in an epic battle at Tanagra.
PS. As I was researching this article I discovered that Microsoft is developing a real Universal Translator. I wonder if their translator will be able to handle Klingon and Vulcan.Tagged Effective Communication, International Communications, Shanny Morgenstern, Star Trek, Universal Translators
I volunteer on a leadership development committee for the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. As part of our committee responsibilities the secretary, Sarah Beren, who happens to be an English teacher, assigned the book “Inspired Jewish Leadership: Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities by Dr. Erica Brown.” While I was reading my assignment, I was struck by how much of what Dr. Brown advocates is relevant to leading a business. Dr. Brown uses Maimonides teachings to suggest that effective leaders need these seven attributes:
From a business perspective, I would modify these slightly. Replace Fear of God with Integrity, and Disdain of Financial Gain to Disdain for Ill-Gotten Financial Gains, then I believe that you have a blueprint for a successful business leader.
Ironically, the next day I read “Lincoln’s School of Management” in the New York Times. As Nancy Koehn said, “Lincoln’s presidency, at a moment of great moral passion in the country’s history, is a study in high-caliber leadership.” For years CEOs have used Lincoln’s experiences to inspire them to greatness.
Today the lessons of Lincoln are as relevant as ever. “They demonstrate the importance of resilience, forbearance, emotional intelligence, thoughtful listening and the consideration of all sides of an argument. They also show the value of staying true to a larger mission.”
The overlap between the two philosophies is uncanny.
And then on Monday, I learned that the “first lady of Kansas City,” Adele Hall, had passed. She took the best from both of these philosophies. She epitomized high caliber leadership. She was a gracious and gentle soul, who could move mountains. She dedicated her life to making the world a better place, and because of the quality of her leadership, her legacy will continue for many years to come.
May her memory be for a blessing. And an inspiration for us all.Tagged Adele Hall, Community Leadership, Leadership, Lincoln, Maimonides, Morningstar Communications, Shanny Morgenstern
As I was thinking about what should be the topic of my next blog post, I saw this bumper sticker and it truly resonated with me.
First of all, I think it’s terrific design; it tells a story in a very simple and yet effective way. The shapes and the primary colors remind me of childhood, learning new things, trying different combinations to see what works best and the joy of creating something new.
The word that the blocks spell out is the ultimate message – LOVE. This is especially important after the tragedy of Shady Hook.
So often we get caught up in the everyday stress of working and running our businesses that we lose site of what is truly important. Take some time over the holidays to be with those you love. Everything else pales in comparison – all you need is love.
I wish you a 2013 filled with love.Tagged Happy Holidays, Love, Morningstar Communications, Shanny Morgenstern
I don’t believe in “can’t win” situations.
As a life-long Star Trek fan I often couch my philosophies in terms of lessons I have learned from Star Trek. One of those lessons is the Kobayashi Maru. It refers to a no-win situation that can only be won by changing the rules, in effect cheating. The Kobayashi Maru is a small ship featured in a Star Fleet Academy training simulation. The Kobayashi Maru sends out a distress signal and the student plays the role of a starship captain who comes to the rescue. However, the scenario is rigged so that no matter what the captain does, the starship gets destroyed by enemy forces. The purpose of the test is to see how the student faces defeat, however James T. Kirk refused to accept defeat and he reprogrammed the simulation so that he would be successful.
I don’t advocate cheating, but in business, there’s almost always “another way” to find success.
You win some and you lose some in business. But often, people accept defeat gracefully when they could have been successful by changing the parameters. We find ourselves in a situation where we feel compelled to choose between Bad Choice A and Bad Choice B.
I say, never settle, pull a “Kobayashi Maru,” change the parameters, look at the situation differently and then come up with a Good Choice C.
Gregory Conti and James Caroland are military security experts and they recently published an article entitled Embracing the Kobayashi Maru: Why You Should Teach Your Students to Cheat. They advocated how important it is to learn to think creatively when considering adversary behavior.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet Julia Dandolova, the Director of the Jewish Distribution Committee in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian people are masters at the Kobayashi Maru – although I doubt they would use that term. When the Nazis occupied Bulgaria in World War II they forbid anyone to harbor any Jews in their homes. Their work around was to move into neighbor’s homes, leaving their own homes vacant so that Jewish families could move in.
They say life is a battlefield
I say bring it on
If you wanna know how I feel
Live it till it’s gone
I’m just saying that what don’t kill
Only makes you strong.
Never give up. Never surrender. Always look for a Kobayashi Maru. It’s there, you just have to look a little harder.
Live long and prosper.Tagged Executive Insights, Kobayashi Maru, Morningstar Communications, Shanny Morgenstern, Star Trek
We are fortunate to be able to make donations to several different charitable organizations. Once a year Eric and I sit down and make a giving plan about which organizations we will support and how much our gift should be. Then I go through and make all of our contributions in one fell swoop. Within a week, I receive a stream of acknowledgments from the organizations. The contrast from one organization to the next is truly enlightening.
Not-so-good – Because of some volunteer work Eric did, a benefactor offered to make a special one-time contribution to a charitable organization on his behalf. This contribution was ten times more than the one we usually make. The organization simply sent us a standard, form letter acknowledgment. I can assure you that when make our giving plan next year we will leave not include this charity.
Better – Many organizations sent us a form letter with a personalized note on the bottom. Following are two great examples, one from CASA and the other from Jewish Family Services, that I particularly liked because I could tell that the author did not write the same thing on every note they signed.
Best – The best note was from Laura L. Rose Clawson with the Nature Conservancy. Her note was handwritten, however, I am including the entire text below so that I can point out some items that I think were particularly effective.
Mr. & Mrs. Morgenstern-
Fifteen yeas of support, membership and dedication to the Nature Conservancy is an inspiring commitment. Thank you for your contribution to support our work here in Kansas, and thank you for what I can only guess is a staunch belief in our mission to protect nature for all species. Please know that you can call on me as a local contact any time you would like to learn more about our work. Have you ever been to a Kansas or Missouri Conservancy preserve?
With sincere thanks again-
Laura L. Rose Clawson
If you would like additional information about the impact of a handwritten note see Eric’s blog post.
In a world where we are constantly bombarded by messages, the most effective communications are often those that are simple and said quietly, from the heart.Tagged best practices, CASA, Executive Insights, Jewish Family Services, Morningstar Communications, Nature Conservancy, Shanny Morgenstern, Thank You Notes
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss is the ultimate graduation story. It encapsulates both the joy and the terror regarding graduation, from the parent’s point of view.
One of my best friends has two children who are graduating this year. What is ironic is how different the two celebrations are. Her youngest son is graduating from high school, and they are celebrating in a big way. His grandparents are coming in town for the ceremony. My friend and her husband are hosting a party and inviting all of her son’s friends and many of their own friends to come celebrate with them. They ordered special decorations and a custom cake to commemorate the occasion.
Her daughter is getting her Master’s degree. To celebrate, my friend invited a few family members for dinner. Her daughter didn’t even attend the graduation ceremony.
What is particularly ironic is that virtually all of the kids in our community graduate high school, but it is truly an exceptional accomplishment to earn a Master’s degree. And then it hit me; graduation celebrations are not about celebrating accomplishments, as much as they are about motivating children for the future. The hope is that we, as parents, can still motivate our high school graduates to do well in the future. The graduation celebration reinforces the idea that if the young man steers himself in the right direction, he will be rewarded for his efforts. A parent may (or may not) be able to influence an 18-year-old to behave according to certain standards, but by the time someone has earned a Master’s degree, it’s clear that he or she is internally motivated to succeed.
In Great By Choice, Jim Collins suggests that unsuccessful parents and bosses have one thing in common—demotivation. I recently attended a conference for senior Public Relations Counselors and David Baker reinforced this concept when he said, “Quit trying to motivate employees–it cannot be done. Motivation is an internal force. You can, however, demotivate them. If you’re doing that, stop.”
According to Collins there are three main ways for managers to demotivate employees:
One of the best articles I saw about how to demotivate your staff is by Wayne Mates. He suggests five factors:
On the other hand, celebrating our employee’s successes may not be a true motivator, but it certainly makes for a better work environment.
And in honor of my friend’s daughter, Mazel Tov! You should be proud of your accomplishments.
I know I am.
In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Dr. Evil threatened to hold the world ransom for… $1 million. Because Dr. Evil was thinking in terms of 1960s economics, he thought he was asking for a huge amount of money.
Today, it’s not $1 million, it’s one billion. Yesterday, there were three large transactions in the communications field — each worth about $1 billion. Cerberus bought a majority stake in AT&T’s Yellow Pages business, Microsoft bought 800 patents from AOL, and Facebook purchased Instagram.
On the surface it appears as if each of these transactions was over-valued, especially to those of us who weathered the 2001 Telecom crisis. However, if you dig deeper you can see the logic behind each deal. Daniel Gross with the Contrary Indicator wrote a great analysis about why these deals made sense.
Cerberus is a private equity firm. Their primary focus is on making cash now, not for the long-term. And as hard as it is to believe in today’s world, there are still people who rely on the Yellow Pages as their primary source of information when they are considering making a purchase. In 2011 AT&T’s Yellow Pages had EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of about $ 1 billion.
Microsoft has accumulated quite a bit of cash from its legacy business – to the tune of $19 billion dollars, and more is flowing into the company on a daily basis. Most likely the move to buy the patents is defensive. Microsoft may use the patents to further its own business, but their primary value is keeping the patents out of their competitors hands.
Daniel Gross called Facebook’s purchase of Instagram a “bolt of youthful exhuberance.” In Barbara Ortutay’s article she quoted Webush analyst Michael Pachter. He said buying Instagram, not only eliminates a rival but gives Facebook technology that is gaining traction. Facebook believes that it can turn the 30 million users of Instagram into revenues and profits. In fact, it’s not quite right to say that Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram, because a significant portion of the transaction is in Facebook stock, which doesn’t even trade yet.
So are these deals overvalued? To me it feels a lot like it did in 2001, just before the first technology bubble broke, but I’d like to think that we have learned from our mistakes the last 11 years. Perhaps, in the not-too-distant future we will all laugh about how small $1 billion dollars is.Tagged AOL, AT&T, Barbara Ortutay, Daniel Gross, Facebook, Instagram, Michael Pachter, Microsoft, Morningstar Communications, Shanny Morgenstern, Yellow Pages
One of the cornerstone principles at Morningstar Communications is Think Excellence, Not Difference(TEND). In fact, here is an article that Eric published in 2004. The TEND philosophy is based on the fact that consumers don’t make their buying decisions because of a Unique Selling Proposition – consumers decide what to buy based on who they believe will satisfy their needs the best. As marketers our job is to determine how our clients and customers define excellence, figure out a way to provide it and then communicate our message of excellence in a proactive and integrated way.
United Parcel Service’s ‘What Can Brown Do For You?” is an excellent example of putting the TEND philosophy into action. All State has been using the “You’re in Good Hands” slogan for more than 60 years. And the latest proponent of the TEND philosophy is jcpenney.
My sister-in-law, is an assortment planner for the top-selling Worthington line at jcpenney. She sent me their new catalog to get my reaction and I am honestly blown away by how well it was done. The look is clean, and bright and exciting without going over the top or being too cheesy. The copy is absolutely terrific. I love how jcpenney has simplified its pricing strategy.
According to Second Wind, “the new brand strategy, is solidly based on consumer research regarding how jcpenney’s middle-class shoppers actually shop. Research revealed that only one in 500 items sold at full price, and 72 percent of revenue came from merchandise sold at 50 percent off or more.”
In her Forbes article about the jcpenney rebranding Sarah Heller wrote, ”It’s refreshing, daring and probably exactly what the retailer needs. It’s probably what a lot of retailers need but few have the leadership and support to do it.”
When Ron Johnson, CEO of J. C. Penney Company, Inc. said “We want customers to shop on their terms, not ours,” he truly was embracing Think Excellence, Not Difference.Tagged Forbes, JC Penney, jcp, jcpenney, Morningstar Communications, Rebranding, retail, Ron Johnson, Second Wind, Shanny Morgenstern
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place can result in large differences someplace far away later. Edward Lorenz claimed that a butterfly flapping it’s wings in one part of the world could determine if a hurricane happens in another part of the world.
In my case the butterfly effect started with an earthquake and ended with exceptional customer service.
Last Fall I ordered my dream car – a 2012 Mini Cooper S from Baron Mini Cooper. (His name is Pepi because he has a lot of spice and pep.) Since my car was manufactured to my specifications in England, Tom Seling, my salesperson told me that it would take about eight weeks for my car to arrive. I tracked Pepi’s progress and was pleasantly surprised when he arrived after only four weeks.
I eagerly drove to the dealer to pick up Pepi; went through some basic how-to training and started to drive home. Before I left the parking lot, an error message appeared saying that I needed to drive carefully to the nearest Mini dealer to have my anti-lock braking system (ABS) repaired. At first I figured it was just something the car dealer forgot to reset when they were prepping the car for me, however it actually was defective. Not only that, but the dealership needed to order the part from England and they told me it would be a few days before they could repair my car.
Baron prides itself on their customer service and everyone from my sales person, to the mechanic to the manager were mortified. Apparently this particular problem hasn’t happened to Baron since Baron started selling Mini Coopers in 1999. I was truly disappointed, but they gave me another 2012 Mini Cooper S as a loaner and told me that they would let me know when my car would be repaired.
Here’s where the butterfly effect comes in. There was a world-wide shortage of ABS parts. The manufacturer that Mini Cooper had been using for the ABS was located in Japan and because of the tsunami in March, they were temporarily unable to deliver the parts to Mini Cooper. Mini Cooper found another supplier, but it was inferior quality and many systems failed and needed to be replaced.
In the meantime, Tom kept in contact with me and told me that it might be another six weeks before my car could be fixed – and of course, I could continue to drive the loaner until then.
When my car arrived, only three weeks later, Tom drove Pepi to my house so that we could switch cars. He gave me some Mini gifts AND a check for three months of my lease payments.
The earthquake near Japan, was completely out of Mini Cooper’s control – however what they could control is how they handled it. They turned what could have been an opportunity to lose a customer into a positive experience.
In the end, I am even more impressed with Baron Mini Cooper and I LOVE my car.Tagged Butterfly Effect, Customer Service, Mini Cooper, Morningstar Communications, Shanny Morgenstern, Tsunami
A few months ago a friend asked me what business title I would like, if I could have any title. Some people would say President or CEO, but for me, the perfect title would be Chief Knowledge Officer. I would love to spend my days reading the news and researching trends and then determining how to make that knowledge a competitive advantage for our company.
I may not ever be able to devote myself just to gaining knowledge, but exploring trendwatching.com is a small step in the right direction. trendwatching.com scans the globe for emerging consumer trends, insights and innovations. They recently published their 12 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2012. Here is their list:
There are many fabulous examples of how these trends are manifesting themselves on the trendwatching.com site; I’d like to share two here.
A great example of Eco-cycology is Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative. The initiative encourages people to return items that have reached the end of their life to be recycled into new fiber or fabric. So far Patagonia has reclaimed 45 tons of clothing.
One of the examples of the Cash-less trend is about the company called Square. Square is an electronic payment service that enables users to accept credit card payments using their smart phones. I happened to hear Jim McKelvey, one of the founders of Square, speak at a recent conference for women entrepreneurs. His best advice, “Don’t look for opportunities, look for disruptions.”
Source: www.trendwatching.com. One of the world’s leading trend firms, trendwatching.com sends out its free, monthly Trend Briefings to more than 160,000 subscribers worldwide.Tagged Global Women's Summit, Morningstar Communications, Patagonia, Shanny Morgenstern, Square, trendwatching.com