71st Edition – June 14, 2020
… in a world where people want hot tea or iced tea, stop trying to please everyone by serving warm tea.Peter McGraw – Shtick to Business
1. Anticipated Innovations Stemming from the Coronavirus Outbreak
On March 14th, the president declared a national emergency related to the coronavirus outbreak. On March 14, 1888, one of the deadliest snowstorms in the history of the U.S. came to an end.
The killer blizzard of 1888 left its mark from Virginia to Canada, and is still one of the most written about weather disasters of all time stemming from some 1,200 first-hand accounts of the storm according to the fast-paced book by Jim Murphy, Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America.
As Churchill once said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Accordingly, there were several noteworthy changes prompted by the storm’s aftermath that changed American life forever:
- In New York, current ordinances would be enforced requiring communications lines to be buried underground
- Some of the first anti-littering laws were introduced (such debris became like shrapnel in high winds)
- The first New York subway was open for business in 1904 which was set in motion after this deadly storm – until the blizzard, the idea from 50 years earlier was considered too costly and impractical
- The planning and work of clearing streets subsequently shifted to municipalities
- The United States Weather Bureau was launched and operated 24x7x365 with an expanded mission – learning meteorological laws
Like you, I’m intrigued as to what new laws and innovations will be introduced as a result of the pandemic we’ve endured.
2. A Seldom-talked-about Topic
I’m not even sure how to classify a book like Ronan Farrow’s, Catch and Kill. I just finished the audio version this week, and it’s about the author’s account of how he brought down a powerful movie mogul through his investigative reporting while working for NBC.
When the final seconds were playing through my ancient iPod, my immediate thought was, ‘every HR professional should be talking about sexual harassment at least annually in the workplace.’ It’s not a popular topic, I know. But is it the right thing to do? Just ask the victims of Harvey Weinstein.
In blue-collar environments and businesses who rely heavily on teens, I’d throw in the topic of bullying too.
3. Think Like a Comedian
Am I the only American growing tired of Jimmy Fallon’s basement? Sorry Fallon fans, but this is getting old.
While Fallon and others like Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, and Will Ferrell are kings of improv, the author of Shtick to Business reinforces his readers that comics are also kings of creativity:
… an MIT study that featured a brainstorming competition between professional product designers and improvisational comedians revealed that the comedians’ ideas were 25 percent more creative. McGraw, Peter. Shtick to BusinessPeter McGraw – Shtick to Business
If you run a business, a division, a department or are in charge of strategy development in a mid-sized business, this is certainly an ideas book. McGraw’s perspectives on critical and analytical thinking, leadership and social influence, and reasoning and problem-solving are memorable and sticky as viewed through the lens of a comedian mindset.
4. Leno, Jack and Corporate Values
Regarding comedy, I still remember the big debate over who would take over for Johnny Carson when he decided to call it quits on The Tonight Show. Leno and Letterman were the competition. The NBC executives from the west coast wanted Leno. East coast executives wanted Letterman.
Jack Welch was NBC’s ultimate boss as his company, GE, owned NBC at the time and suggested the following:
But if I were you, I would do this: I’d go for GE values. You like Leno’s values. He’s good for the affiliates. He’s a good human being. The American public will find out that’s true.Jack – Straight from the Gut (p. 290)
Leno got the gig. Did Welch get it right?
5. Annual Reports Don’t Have to be Dry
I still scan annual reports before pulling the trigger on stocks that I buy in my eTrade account. There are three sections I always read first:
- The shareholder’s letter along with the MD&A (the best ones are never boilerplate language)
- Risk factors – never skip this section – you’ll find out in these paragraphs why great CEOs are highly-paid
- Selected financial data – sometimes better than the actual financials – but many lack unit-driven metrics
I have a challenge for you. If you are a CEO or a CFO, step away from the office and create the three documents above annually. Share your finished product with no one.
I can’t explain it, but this reflective thinking exercise causes your mind to sloooooooooow way down. The process also causes you to think about your business in the past, present, and future. And finally, the exercise forces you to think in priorities or to start focusing on the critical and vital few.
Thank You For Reading. Thank you for making this a successful newsletter.
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Stay safe and healthy.
Title photo by ASTaylor under this Creative Commons License.