What’s Your Dash Going To Be?

There’s nothing like attending a funeral to get you to sit back and evaluate your life.

Carl Karcher, the founder of the Carl’s Jr. restaurant chain, passed away last week.  My wife grew up in Anaheim, California 2 blocks from Carl and his family – and her 7 siblings matched up with Carl’s 12 children.  We attended the funeral on Friday and it was an extraordinary outpouring of love, gratitude and respect for a man who took a single hot dog cart in 1941 and expanded it to a national and world wide restaurant chain with more than 3000 restaurants.  Carl was a real-life Horatio Alger and his entrepreneurial rags-to-riches story is the American dream.

The celebration of Carl’s life was something you had to see to believe.  There were more than 2000 people at the Mass, in a church that only holds 1500.  For the 2-hour service, there were 80 priests con-celebrating the mass, including his son Father Jerome who presided over the funeral mass.  In addition, there were upteen Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta, and their auxiliaries, a brass ensemble, a full choir and the front half of the church was taken up by Carl’s 12 children, 51 grandchildren and 45 greatchildren and their families.  Of course, they served Carl’s Jr. hamburgers at the reception afterward at Carl’s house.  Two portable trailers served up Carl’s hamburgs and the crowd was serenaded by the All American Boys Choir.

In one of the eulogies, Carl’s son talked about a poem called The Dash.  On a gravestone, there are two dates marking the beginning and the end of someone’s life.  In the middle is “the dash”, and it’s what you do with your dash is the most important because that is what is truly important.  Carl’s life touched many people during his 90 years on this Earth and he always put his family and his faith at the front of everything he did.  He was famous for passing out free hamburger coupons with the Prayer of St. Francis on them – in fact it was recounted that he even handed a free pass to Pope John Paul II when he a private audience with him several years ago.

Not all of us will leave a story and legacy like Carl – but it certainly puts things in perspective and makes you wonder about “what your dash will be”.  I know I’ll be thinking about my dash whenever I see a Carl’s Jr. restaurant or commercial, or taste one of their famous burgers.

Thank you for all you did and rest in peace Carl…and may God bless you and keep you.  You can see more about Carl’s life in this video and the obituary from the Orange County Register.

Making Ideas Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Some Ideas Die

I was reading an essay titled “Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike” in the NY Times recently. The essay went on to describe the Curse of Knowledge – and how this curse impacts innovation and stifles new ideas. The author described the curse as the reason why managers sometimes have trouble convincing others to adopt new programs and why engineers design products that are ultimately only useful to other engineers.

There is a way to exorcise this curse. The essay mentioned a book called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Some Die written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. Chip is a professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Dan is a consultant for the Aspen Institute. In their book, the brothers take apart sticky ideas (natural ideas, urban myths, proverbs, rumors and other ideas) and figure out what why some ideas are more memorable and why others die.

Based on their research, they identified six principles of successful ideas. The six principles can be summarized in a checklist for creating a successful idea: Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story which form the acronym SUCCES:

  • S – Simplicity (the message must be both simple and profound)
  • U -Unexpectedness (the message must generate interest and curiousity)
  • C – Concreteness (the message must be clear)
  • C – Credibility (help people test ideas for themselves)
  • E – Emotions (make people feel something)
  • S – Stories (stories act as mental flight simulator)

The book also mentions that not every idea is ’stick-worthy’. In fact, the range of stick-worthy ideas for most people ranges from one per week to one per month. They also point out that creating sticky ideas is something that can be learned.

What’s the take-away? “A little focused effort can make almost any idea stickier, and a sticky idea is an idea that is more likely to make a difference.” Using these six simple steps, we can take our ideas and transform into ’sticky’ and powerful ideas.

To learn more about making ideas stick, here are several link to follow:

Eight Business Technology Trends to Watch From McKinsey

Three consultants from McKinsey & Co. collaborated on an article in the January issue of McKinsey Quarterly discussing eight emerging trends in business and technology.

I have summarized and paraphrased the trends here, and you can follow the links below to the complete article and podcast.

1.  Distributing cocreation

Distributing cocreation is letting customers, suppliers, independent contractors and others create new products.  While this approach to innovation is not widely accepted yet, the impact could be substantial.  McKinsey estimates that 12% of all labor activity could be transformed by more distributed and networked innovation.

2.  Using consumers as innovators

This is an interesting trend and one that many companies are exploring.  Dell lets consumers suggest new product ideas and vote on them in their IdeaStorm website.  On the B2B front, Salesforce.com uses a similar application for users to make suggestions to improve their CRM software.  In fact, the top ideas from Salesforce.com receive executive-level visibility.  Later this month, iRise will roll out their own Ideas application in the iRise Users section of the Catalyze Community – drop me a note at thumbarger@irise.com if you are interested in learning more.

3.  Tapping into a world of talent

This trend is about finding the best talent for an activity, regardless of where the person is based.  Software and internet technologies make it easier and less expensive to integrate and manage a distributed workforce.

4.  Extracting more value from interactions

As more manufacturing and clerical activites are being off-shored, the resulting work becomes more collaboration and knowledge-based.  This will require companies to invest in technology tools that promote collaboration such as communities, wikis, virtual team collaboration and videoconferencing.

5.  Expanding the frontiers of automation

There is still more progress to make in automating repetitive tasks, especially in sectors and regions where IT moves a slower pace.  Automation is a good investment “only if it lowers costs and helps users get what they want more quickly and easily”.

6.  Unbundling production from delivery

More and more companies are unbundling their business models, services, infrastructure and assets to become more nimble, to increase capacity, to scale up businesses and to make the use of certain assets more attractive to their financial statements.  For example, Amazon is unbundling their infrastructure and offering it’s logistics and technology services to 3rd parties.  Fractional jets, data centers, office buildings and networks are doing the same in the physical world.

7.  Putting more science into management

Technology is helping managers exploit greater amounts of data to make smarter decisions and develop insights.  Deep customer insights will lead to a richer understanding of a customer’s needs which will enable more segmentation and increased mass customization.

8.  Making businesses from information

Businesses are routinely capturing vast pools of data that could be used to create new information-based businesses.  Smart companies will aggregate and exploit these data ‘by-products’, but need to watch out for increasing levels of transparency that could out-aggregate these companies.

The original article was written by James Manyika, Roger Roberts and Kara Sprague and is available from McKinsey Quarterly which requires you to register to read it.  Registration is free and the quarterly newsletters usually have at least one article that is worth reading in depth.

The companion podcast is available here.