CNN On “Tomorrow’s Funerals”

Here is a clip about a personalized funeral. But what is really the story behind the story, in my humble opinion, is that the owner of the funeral home (Ernie Heffner) has created an environment wherein his staff feels safe enough to take this kind of initiative in the arrangement conference without having to check first.  The second part of the story is that personalization doesn’t always have to be fancy and expensive.  Sometimes easy and a little irreverent and, best of all…fun is enough.

Notice also that the staff member is the one is acknowledged on nationwide TV.  That one small choice on the part of Mr. Heffner is worth a ton of motivational seminars.

Kudos to Heffner funeral home for showing us how it’s done.

Good Advice For Leading Younger Workers

There is a lot of noise coming from the Baby Boom generation about how the younger generation isn’t willing to work the long hours and endure the hardships they endured when they first started.  In fact, as I spend more and more time studying the cultures of funeral homes this is specifically where the divide comes in.

In my experience, however, Millenials, as the younger generation is called, need only be connected to a higher calling.  The need a purpose to link their work to.  Once that happens just get out of their way.  I have always believed that funeral service has a noble calling.  Boomers somehow got fixated on the long hours and arduous work pattern.  connect millenials to the work itself and you will see some wonderful things happen.  This article from Harvard Business Review contains some sound advice on this matter.

In the years I spent at West Point as the military leadership course director, I got to know some millennials pretty well. I came to appreciate them as ready to work just as hard as previous generations, perhaps even harder. West Point graduates from the millennial generation have selected the most dangerous initial assignments for their Army service at rates higher than previous generations. They aren’t looking for military jobs that will just set them up for good business careers later. They’re demonstrating with their very lives that they’re ready to join the real world.

It seems our differing generations suffer from two key stumbling blocks: communication gaps and preconceived notions. Communication has changed rapidly in the last ten years and not all of us have kept the pace. And both older and younger generations can fall victim to surrendering to negative chatter or stereotypes, instead of looking for common ground and goals.

So as leaders, you have a choice: You can make assumptions about the next generation or you can invest in them the way that others have invested in you….More at Don’t Make Assumptions About the Next Generation; Invest in It – Col

Why You Don’t Get It Done Now

I like science.  And I am increasingly aware of the impact neuroscience and linguistics have on our unconscious behavior.  Well here is one that suprises me.  On little word can make a huge difference in how we handle life…


Want to be more effective personally, professionally, and economically? Apparently, one solution is kill will.

One of the CultureSync Approved Tribal Leaders Leslie Bennett reminds me to take “will” out of the proposals we develop together. Statements like “participants will learn about the connections between organizational culture and organizational performance” become “participants learn about the connections between organizational culture and organizational performance.”

As we make the change, I always think, removing “will” can’t be that important can it?

Turns out it just might be.

Behavioral Economist Keith Chen is researching language differences that align with differences in national behavior when it comes to savings as a percent of gross national product.

Early results are more than a little startling. Nations with languages that speak differently about the future than they do about present (think: It will rain tomorrow) have a 5% lower savings rate than nations who do not (think: It rain tomorrow).  see more at Culturesynch

Here is what I would do:

Start paying more attention to how you talk.  Self talk and common social talk reveal a lot about how  you think.  Remember:

“How you behave is what you believe no matter what you say”

Innovation: First Mover Advantage Isn’t What You Thought

All this talk (including mine) about reinvention.  Well you have to consider all sides and this is an important one.

Innovation does not need another advocate. It has acquired divine status, with even politicians promoting its virtues, promising that “we will innovate our way” out of any mess in which we find ourselves.

There is, however, one little problem: evidence. A close scrutiny of the empirical work suggests that the market supremacy of innovators is questionable, often distorted by biased assumptions and inadequate design. Many of the more rigorous studies show that innovators produce lackluster returns. Even those studies that identify a modest first-mover edge find that it has been receding over time.

Who does capture the benefits of new ideas, products, and models? Imitators. They get a free ride, avoid dead ends, capitalize on the shortcomings of early offerings or tweak the originals to better fit shifting consumer tastes. And yet, imitators rarely get the recognition they deserve: When was the last time someone received an Imitator of the Year Award?

Eli Broad, who built not one but two Fortune 500 companies — KB Home and SunAmerica — would be a good nominee for a lifetime achievement award for successful imitation. This excerpt from Broad’s recent book, which collects the insights and lessons he learned during his career, explains why.  Read More….Strategy and business The Value of Being Second

Good Things Happen When You Are Contagious

There is something about positive people that is…well…contagious.

(MoneyWatch) I love being in an office surrounded by contagious people. Not the sniffling, sneezing, coughing kind who don’t stay home when they should, but the kind whose enthusiasm and attitude towards their products, customers and company is absolutely infectious.

Many use the term “evangelist” to describe this, but I think there’s a distinction: Evangelism (which I also love) is mostly unidirectional — true believers, preaching and hoping to spread the good word to the masses, whereas contagiousness is more personal and subtle. When you’re truly, “professionally” contagious, the people you deal with catch the fever just by interacting with you.

Carriers of these positive contagions make every business better in virtually every way: Customers are happier, they buy more and are more loyal; employees work better together and are more productive; creativity has a more fertile breeding ground; projects, products and services are made better.

Here are a few great ways to pass the bug: (read more at CBS Money Watch)

Reinvention: It’s Counterintuitive–Don’t Focus on Your Best Customers

Disruptive innovation always comes in at the fringes.  In this article by Bill George, former CEO of Medtronics we learn that innovating for our best customers leads to increasingly complex products.  This is something I have continually warned about as we are overserving a shrinking part of our market and underserving the rest.

Christensen and Bower’s article offered the counterintuitive notion that great companies fail for the same reasons they initially experience success. They listen to their best customers — something we did religiously at Medtronic — making increasingly complex products to meet those customers’ most sophisticated needs. This process leaves companies vulnerable to competitors…More at The Idea That Led to 10 Years of Double-Digit Growth – Bill George

Authentic Leadership

There is an old saying: “Fish Stinks from the head”.  Your people are always watching.  This video says it well in less than 3 minutes.

Innovation Made Simple: The Five C’s

We make a big deal out of innovation.  We all tend to think BIG AND FLASHY.

My Take?  For my entire career in DeathCare I have watched as we have overserved most of the market and underserved part of it.  It’s not that we have entirely missed the mark but without fully understanding the 5 C’s we really don’t understand what we are trying to accomplish

More important we don’t really see the true opportunities.  We are only dressing up what we already do.


Simply asking “what job is the customer trying to get done?” can be a powerful way to enable innovation, because it forces you to go beyond superficial demographic markers that correlate with purchase and use to zero in on frustrations and desires that motivate purchase and use.

Seductive simplicity hides a rich, robust set of opportunity identification tools. Through our experience utilizing the “jobs-to-be-done” concept in a range of settings, my colleagues and I have developed five tips for would-be innovators: the five Cs of opportunity identification (modeled after marketing’s famous four Ps — price, product, place, and promotion).  The Five Cs of Opportunity Identification…HBR Blogpost

What I would do:

buy and read: 


Integrating Around the Job to be Done By Clayton Christensen


Want Breakthrough or Breakout Results? Set Unrealistic Goals!

It’s true.  Breakthrough results aren’t achieved by methodical planning and strategy.  That’s the kind of thinking that only preserves the past.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review, alluded to in this article, argued that unrealistic goals were what achieved real progress.

DeathCare is in the midst of a “New Normal” to which we have not yet started adjusting.  Maybe it’s time for unrealistic goals.


Take, for instance, JFK’s audacious goal in the early 1960s when the U.S. fell behind the Soviet Union in the technology race: “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Why does a statement like this produce breakthrough innovation? Performance is a function of expectations, since we rarely exceed our expectations or outperform our ambition. As humans, we are drawn to a bold, challenging, and unrealistic goal. Deep inside, we feel uplifted by the thought of climbing a mountain in a way we are not by the idea of scaling a molehill. JFK’s intent produced many breakthrough technologies.

In a similar way, “Strategic Intent” inspired me to think about mountains and not molehills as I shaped my research agenda around breakthrough innovation….More at The Timeless Strategic Value of Unrealistic Goals – Vijay

Want To Change? Be Transparent, Vulnerable and Authentic

DeathCare Practitioners are chained to a stumbling block that obstructs  the adaptability and agility that today’s markets demand…not request, demand! It’s called EGO.  And that ego is manifested in the maintenance of a self-styled persona that does not allow for the display of any imperfection.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the New Normal of society in the developed world will no longer accept anything less than transparency and authenticity.  Oddly, learn to be those things and it is incredibly liberating.  Better, because your learning ability is now open, your adaptability and agility skyrocket…and people like you more besides.

My motto:  Esse Quam Videri…Latin for–“To Be Rather Than To Seem”

The beliefs we are using to guide us are often a tacit thing — something we can’t see because we are so close to it that we actually can’t see it as a “thing”; it has become something “true”, an assumption that frames every decision. Chris Argyris wrote in 1992 that a major impediment to learning is that most organizations “store and use” information in tacit, versus explicit, forms.I’ve come to see that this is true for both personal and organizations situations. And without being able to name the thing, you can’t change the thing. But by naming it, any of us can and will see it as something we can question and only then can we unlearn it. When I unlearn that “perfection must rule on big stages”, I will return to connecting deeply. This carries a risk of course: It may turn out that I’m less “appropriate” in future talks, and my imperfections and flaws may not resonate. Yet, I have to trust — as all people need to — that they can and will learn and adjust and be flexible enough to adapt to ever-changing conditions.

If you’re learning to use calculus or to fly an airplane, you don’t want to have to start from scratch; you want to learn from others and follow the road already paved. But most of life is about learning to be ourselves, and to “learn to be” is about figuring out what we take as a truth — those ways we just “know”. To unlearn, we need to get good at seeing and naming those ways. Unlearning is harder than learning, but it’s crucial to do … because innovation and creativity are rarely about doing more of the same….More at What I Learned from My TED Talk – Nilofer Merchant – Harvard