Podcast on The Brain Advantage

March 10, 2010

Brad Kolar is one of the brightest guys I know.  He and I worked together in Accenture back in the mid-90′s.  He has been a contributor to all of my books.  And now he is the co-author of a fascinating book called “The Brain Advantage. ” I had the privilege of receiving a review copy and loved it so much, I provided an endorsement.

“For years, experts have been teaching leaders so-called soft skills. To date, there has only been anecdotal evidence to support their theories. Finally, The Brain Advantage turns these theories into hard science. Anyone with half a brain would buy copies for their entire organization.”

Recently I interviewed Brad for a podcast.  What you will hear are 40 minutes of fascinating dialogue about the brain, leadership, and innovation.  By better understanding the brain, you can help unleash the full creative potential of your organization.

Stream the interview…

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Or download the mp3

Weight of Soft Drinks Shipped > Weight of Cars Shipped

September 8, 2009

Last week I had a fantastic meeting with the CEO of a mid-sized energy company. We had a number of fascinating conversations ranging from Personality Poker, Open Innovation, and alternative energy.

In the meeting, I was drinking my “caffeine in a can” – a diet cola.

The CEO pointed at my soft drink and said that it was one of the worst energy hogs.

He pointed out that years ago, Coke was sold as syrup (in fact, it was originally sold for medicinal purposes). The carbonated water was added at the point of sale (e.g., the pharmacy or soda shop). Less energy was expended in the packaging process. Less material was used for the packaging itself. But more importantly, less energy was used in shipping.

After doing some digging, I found that, according to one website, 500ml of syrup makes the equivalent of 12 liters. That means that a can of cola contains <5% syrup and over 95% carbonated water. According to one study, nearly 300 billion liters of soft drinks are sold a year. Hoovers research shows that only 35% of that is from fountain sales.

Ok, so let’s do some math.

A liter of soft drink weights approximately 1 kilogram. This means that a liter is over 2.1 pounds of water, and .1 pounds of syrup. At 65% bottle/cans (excluding the 35% fountain sales), this is over 400 billion pounds of carbonated water needlessly shipped with the syrup. Let’s not forget the weight of the cans/bottles. To put this in context, this is the weight of 100 million cars. In 2007, 16 million cars, SUVs and trucks were sold in the US. Every car sold in the United States over the past 6 years weighs less than the weight of the excess water shipped EVERY year with bottled soft drinks.

Enough of the math. I could attempt to calculate the average distance the bottles travel and the amount of fuel required for transportation, but I just don’t have the time. And I suspect you get the idea.

What do you do about it?

  • Of course advocates are trying to reduce the amount of soft drinks we consume. But so far nothing points to that being a successful strategy.
  • Encourage people to buy and use soda machines. There are several companies that provide this type of product.  You buy the machine, the syrup and the gas cartridges.
  • Another option might be to find a solution similar to Crystal Light “On-the Go.” The challenge is adding carbonation to a powder. While eating Pop Rocks Candy the other day, I realized that there must be a way of addressing this.

Of course there are many more possible solutions. But the solution is not the point of this article.

Innovation is about asking better question. It is about surfacing the hidden assumptions. When looking at issues (environmental, business, or personal), sometimes you need to question everything…even the can of soda in your hand.

P.S. Soft drinks account for the largest percentage of the “liquid refreshment beverage” market. This article did not even include the oft-maligned bottled water industry, which is smaller in size. Do you want to know how far your bottled water traveled to go to you? Check out this article.

P.P.S. I am not suggesting we eliminate soft drinks.  My consumption of diet cola – especially first thing in the morning – is one of my guilty pleasures!

Simple Not Simplistic

April 30, 2009

People who play Personality Poker tell me that they love its simplicity.  But what they find most amazing is how this simple “game” can generate profound insights.

During a recent event, one participant commented that she learned more about herself and her team in 15 minutes than she had in her previous 15 years.

In today’s age of data-driven analysis, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that more data and more complexity lead to better results.

This is not always true.

I was chatting with Michael Wiederman, Professor of Psychology at Columbia College, this morning.  Michael did a fascinating podcast with me a while back.  Be sure to check it out.

When discussing the simplicity of Personality Poker, he responded:

“Simpler is good, as long as it’s valid/useful.   As an analogy, I recall a published study from several years ago in which a battery of all of the widely-used depression inventories were administered to the same group of people, along with some other questions. The best predictor of who was depressed?  The single question: ‘Are you depressed?’ So much for complexity.”

Common Innovation Myths

Where else do we fall prey to the belief that bigger is better?

  • More Ideas = Better Ideas.  Although free thinking is useful during the generation of creative ideas, if you are solving the wrong problem, all the ideas in the world won’t make a difference.
  • More Data = Better Customer Insights.  Data mining is the rage.  Unfortunately it only allows you to study your customers.  Quite often the greatest insights come from those who are not your customers — or those who were and no longer are.
  • More Goals = Better Results.  Goals are useful in moderation.  However, an obsession with outcomes often results in taking your eye off the present.  The result is worse performance.  Read my article on “The Performance Paradox” for more.

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, I am a big believer that “Simplification is Innovation.”  Don’t confuse complexity with quality.  The greatest ideas are often the simplest.

P.S. I am reading Made to Stick…finally.  It is an excellent book on the stickiness of ideas.  Once again, we see that often the simplest ideas are the ones that stick best.

Help Me with the Math

December 7, 2008

Today’s topic is less about innovation and more about critical thinking.

I am in Florida in a timeshare I bought a couple of years ago through the Hilton Grand Vacations Club (HGVC). Although I bought it on impulse rather than logic, I have been taking full advantage of it and am glad I purchased it. Today, I had a chance to step back and reflect on my “investment.”

This morning I attended a sales pitch from the good people at HGVC. I currently own the lowest point allotment allowed, so they wanted me to increase the number of points I get each year.

For the bargain rate of $10,000 down, a $1,000 closing fee, and $500 a year (extra) in dues/taxes, I can get an additional 2,300 points per year.

I told the nice saleswoman that so far I have not been able to use the points I already get.

Her response was, “That doesn’t matter. For $69 a year, you can convert your unused HGVC points to Hilton Honors (HH) points, allowing you to stay in Hilton Hotels anywhere.” Each HGVC point is converted to 25 Hilton Honors points (2,300 HGVC points = 57,500 HH points). She continued to tell me that she converts half of the points she gets each year into Hilton Honors points, because it is such a good bargain.

I think that she and I have different definitions for the word “bargain.”  Here’s why…

I had a choice of parting gift for spending the hour in the sales pitch: either a restaurant voucher, a theme park discount coupon, or 20,000 Hilton Honors points.  Each are said to be worth $100.

If 20,000 HH points are worth $100, then 57,500 HH points are worth $285. Yet, the total cost to get these 57,500 is $569 per year (dues, taxes and conversion) PLUS the $11,000 down (buy-in and closing costs).

Call me crazy, but this does not sound like a bargain to me.

P.S. My gripe is only with the conversion to HH points and not the overall program.  My experience to date with HGVC has been quite positive.

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