Weekend surprise

Riverwalk @ Prime Outlets
Riverwalk @ Prime Outlets

This past weekend (Labor Day weekend / September 1) we traveled by car to Williamsburg, Virginia to take in just a bit of local flavor.  It was a lazy trip preceeded by a trip to Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House in Richmond.  Upon arrival to Williamsburg, we thought we might make a quick side trip to the Prime Outlet Mall, as other shopping travels had not netted the right walking shoes for Barcelona.  So prior to looking around in Williamsburg we made the stop at the Prime Outlets.

The big surprise of our visit was a total chance visit near a store where Nancy had found a few things.  I had stepped into the store and said to Nancy, “I’ve found a parking place, I’ll be outside enjoying the air.”  I went outside the store and walking towards me was a familiar face, it was such a surprise, my mind was blank with “can this be, oh my goodness I can’t remember the name!”  There in front of me stood Cortland Gee, a man I met in 2002.  Courtland worked for Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania back in 2002 as the Security Team Leader for their SAP HR application.  Courtland and I quickly became great friends as we have some similar loves in life, jazz music and motorcycling.  I spent some 18 months working for Rohm and Haas both on a technical upgrade as well as a global implementation where I also was the team lead for the Asia Pacific rollout.

We had a super time catching up on recent history.  Courtland had left Rohm and Haas for greener pastures as now works as a tour director for Hagey Coach and Tours.  Courtland is quite a natural as he loves people and enjoys sharing his life learning with others.

This weekend is also a great time of catch-up for us.  I’ve been in the email box clearly out many details which I owe to my great friends around the world.  Nancy is using Skype to talk with friends in Prague, Czech Republic.

This too has been a big weekend for friends getting married in far away places.  Chris and LIsa will be married in Switzerland, and Jo-Ann and her fiancee will do a second wedding for family in Malaysia.  These are dear friends from IBM who I was privileged to meet in Lausanne, Switerzland as I worked for Philip Morris International.

Well enough details for a quick post, I hope you are having a great weekend wherever you are today.

New digs

O.k. so the first week in August headed to a new project in Richmond, Virginia.  I’ve started as the project manager for MeadWestvaco (MWV), an enormous packaging and chemical business in some 30 countries of the world.

We located a cool apartment near Short Pump Town Center.  This has been a real shock moving from Wisconsin as Richmond is so packed with shopping, history (Civil War), restaurants and each square mile is just used to the maximum with numerous establishments.

The project is a startup for global HR on the SAP platform.  We’ll travel to Barcelona, Spain in September for the initial meetings with key countries that will be involved in Wave 1.  It’s been superb to be in Richmond as it is also the home of Philip Morris USA which is a part of the international organization located in Lausanne, Switzerland (where I worked for some 28 months starting in January 2005.

It makes me appreciate how really small of big world is to be close to a former customer.  MWV is in process of building a new corporate office in downtown Richmond, which looks to be completed in late 2009.  This building faces the James River and is an absolute prime location in a very memorable part of Richmond.

We have many things to learn about Richmond as there is vast Civil War history here and of course just up the highway is the famous home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello.

More details and pictures to follow, just wanted to back into the blog world and keep moving.

Friday night at the movies. . .

I want to believe
I want to believe

Friday night to the movies…..ah, X-Files! I was a bit skeptical as the sub-banners talked about a supernatural experience, hmmmm, what was that about? Actually the movie is an excellent thriller and I won’t ruin it by rehashing the picture here.

I think what was very interesting for me is the anguish between certain ideas. Maybe this is true about X-Files in general as you have the “believer” and the “scientist” joined at the hip in Mulder and Sculley. My enjoyment centered over the one hand Sculley having to deal with a hospital administrator who judged her severely and then her own tough judgement that couldn’t accept the fact the pyschic was a fallen priest.

This is real commentary on the position of being human and how we can be dualists in our outlook on life.

The other thing to me that was quite poignant was the price Sculley paid to do what she believed was right. This is a high question in our culture today when people are so prone to be politically correct. Are we willing to pay the price to stand up and be true to our deep beliefs or values? What is the price to be paid for embracing truth when it isn’t popular with other people?

This is a big question in the social network we live in as we are prone to “hang” with those who think like we think. We all know there is an upside to being understood, but do we consider the downside of not pushing our boundaries to examine things from all angles?

I’d be very interested to hear back from people on this last point of “paying the price” to being authentic.

Do you have Status Quo Bias?

This blog is a reprint of something I’ve written inside the walls of IBM (where you may not be able to go as you are likely not an IBM employee).  I hope you enjoy the thoughts. . .

A great book on the market is the book “Nudges” by Richard H Traylor and Cass R. Susstein. Both men appear to be professors for the prestigious University of Chicago. The book is a wonderful exercise into the thought patterns of people and they propose a basic philosophical approach called libertarian paternalism.

Now before you choke on those two last words, please note the authors used those words in a cautious way, knowing that in today’s world those two words individually carry a lot of baggage with them that we as people may reject based on the “guilt by association” principle.

The authors sum up the simple idea that libertarianism stands for “freedom of choice”. This is powerful thought which we as Americans have a long history of choosing as a tenant of the good life. Paternalism here is more of a calling to be responsible for whatever is within our personal direct control. Put another way, the authors call us to see that we are truly architects of choice.

This makes a great deal of sense in the work that I do for IBM as I am rated in my ability to be a thought leader as it pertains to our customers. This for me is the enormous change I have seen happening from my yesterday certification as a professional consultant where I studied team work, professional messaging and how to assemble a powerful point of view to answer questions for my customers. The change for me is moving from being a software expert to someone who brings value to the customer by helping them see new possibilities and ways of doing business due to the global reach and expert research provided through the work of IBM. I would say this is a daunting task as it means I must constantly be thinking and absorbing the moving marketplace. On the other hand Traylor and Susstein are only concerned about what really works when you are trying to help people make decisions.

Traylor and Susstein have some deep insight into the fallibility of the human mind and constantly demonstrate this idea through exploration of the two sides of thinking: a) our intuitive model of thought and b) our more studious side where we find ourselves intellectually ascertaining the more scientific approach. They have a lot of fun exploring assumptions, myths and basic instructions on how to improve our way of thought.

One of the interesting readings is from William Samuelson and Richard Zackhausser’s (1988) work where they make the observation of the “status quo bias”. “Most teachers know that students tend to sit in the same seats in class, even without a seating chart. The status quo bias can occur even when stakes are much higher, and it can get us into a lot more trouble.

For example, in retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s, most participants pick an asset allocation and then forget about it. In one study in the late 1980s, participants in TIAA-CREF, the pension plan of many college professors, the median number of changes in the asset allocation in the lifetime of the professor was, believe it not, was zero. In other words, over the course of their careers more than half of the participants made exactly no changes to the way their contributions were being allocated. Perhaps, even more telling, many married participants who were single, when they joined the plan still have their mothers listed as their beneficiaries.

Status quo is easily exploited. Many years ago American Express wrote Susstein a cheerful letter saying that he could receive, for free, three month subscriptions to the magazine of his choice. Free subscriptions seemed like a bargain, even if the magazines were rarely read, so Susstein happily made his choices. What he didn’t realize is that unless he took some action to cancel the subscriptions, he would continue to receive the magazines, paying for them at the normal rate. For about a decade, he has continued to subscribe to magazines he hardly ever reads. He keeps intending to cancel those subscriptions, but somehow never gets around to it. . . .”

Here we are in the midst of Innovation and Collaboration and what has Status Quo Bias to do with our team? When we look at some of the positive sides of innovation and Collaboration the truth is smart folk see there is a great deal of distance between where they are today and where they’d like to be. A fellow colleague put it to me this way, “Al I believe in the end result, I’m just stuck with where my team is at today.”

I’ve seen this same frustration in another blog presented by Gia Lyons when she asked, “Why is it so hard to get smart people to share?”

Traylor and Susstein have some thoughts here when they discuss how inertia is a very powerful force in people’s lives.

How is it with you? Are you still stuck in the status quo? Are you waiting to be rescued?

Jammin’ on the outside

Hi there world.  I’m not new to blogs.  I regularly post inside IBM on BlogCentral.  I’ve just become so involved with social networking on the inside, I decided “hey it’s time to start jammin’ on the outside where my many friends across the globe could reach out and see what I’m doing and saying.

I had a website originally in this very place and yes, it was Web 1.0, a place so static and dead that I was embarassed to admit to much of anyone I had a website.  I hope to have a new leaf here by moving over to a blog format and therefore give opportunity for interaction and a lot of fun too!

This weekend was superb with a trip to Chicago and the Chicago Art Museum on Saturday.  We spent several hours on the first floor looking through the Asian art (there are exquisite 8th century porcelain pieces that China would be proud to say exist in the U.S.A.) as well as other exhibits and especially some of their sculptors (which is a much smaller collection than I expected).  It’s hard to summarize the wonderful art available in this museum and the weather was so nice and rainy it was the kind of day you want to spend inside.

The lions guard the gate to the museum
The lions guard the gate to the museum

We also had a nice surprise today in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as we had planned to walk up and enter the Kohler Art Museum.  We arrived to find an Art Festival weekend and many tents to view art work from around the U.S.A.   It was an afternoon delight to view exquisite prints, glass objects and fine pottery of many expressions.

Looking forward to share many more things here in the future.  Thanks for the visit.


A place to think, share and ponder