Category Archives: Uncategorized

Scandals, Innovation, and AIG

It is interesting, and also sad, to watch the public fury unfold against the big bailouts, especially the AIG scandals…while an even bigger scandal goes unchecked in our own neighborhoods every day.

What is this scandal?

Author, blogger, & Political Commentator, Keli Goff recently published an article in the Huffington Post describing the costly scandal of the high school dropout. In her article she points out that:

  • A 2008 study found that high school dropouts cost the American public more than $100 million per year.
  • A 2009 study found that one high school dropout in Ohio will cost the state’s taxpayers $200,000 from the time they drop out until they reach age 65.
  • Every 29 seconds another American student becomes a dropout. (How many kids dropped out while you were reading your email today?)

  • Four out of every 10 young adults (age 16-24) lacking a high school diploma received some type of government assistance in 2001.
  • A dropout is more than eight times as likely to be in jail or prison, as a person with at least a high school diploma.

So, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year supporting high school dropouts without batting an eye–but we turn out with protests, signs, and marching, when AIG does something stupid.

Even worse than the high cost of our high school dropouts, is how this situation is contributing to the downfall of the United States as the world leader in Innovation. We are losing our best young minds because our educational system is broken and needs to be totally restructured. Trying to prepare students just to score high on their SAT tests no longer works.

Our educational system needs to teach and encourage young minds how to dream, how to visualize, how to question, how to search…and they need to know it is ok to try something and fail. Unless we start to teach “outside the lines” we will continue to lose brilliant young minds that could make a difference in America’s future.

Of course, we cannot put this entire burden on teachers–we need mentors, sponsors, participating businesses, civic leaders, and the like. When school lets out is not when education stops–life is what happens after classes, and it is up to all of us to make sure every young person in our community learns how to use that time to make the best life.

America is no longer the Innovation leader of the world, and I am afraid if we don’t change the way we educate our young people, we will never regain that role.

Any agreement or disagreement–or, is everyone still too worked up over the bailouts and executive parties?

MBWA–For Managing in Troubled Times

I have always been a strong proponent of “Managing By Walking Around” (MBWA). I have studied the concept, and written about it, but, more importantly, I have practiced it for several decades. I have experienced the benefits…and there is no downside. For me, informally talking with my employees frequently, whether individually or in small groups, is the single best way I found to build cohesive teams that can fulfill a common purpose.

Never has this been more important than it is today. Employees are constantly bombarded by the negativity of mainstream media sources (we all know bad news sells best), and consequently, rumors abound. That is why it is up to each small business owner to spend as much time as possible communicating with the people who make their business run. Sadly, big business has lost site of the power of this simple act. HP was probably the last big corporation to formally practice MBWA, and that was many years ago.

Of course, just walking or wandering around, by itself, won’t do it, you also have to talk to people—everyone—and make sure your message is consistent, or you will quickly be disregarded. Keep your employees informed about the realities of your business, both the good and the bad. Nothing dispels rumors and fear like the unvarnished truth. Nothing builds trust and respect like factual, frequent information—the sharing of everything that is going on.

Just as important, you have to listen to your employees. All employees talk amongst themselves about the business, and usually they know things about your business that you do not…so, ask them what they think. Ask them what the business can do better. Ask them what you can do to help them do their jobs better. Be sure to really listen to what they have to say, and then thank them. Of course, you do regularly thank them for their contributions anyway—don’t you?

The same holds true for people outside your organization…your customers, suppliers, creditors, bankers, investors, board members, etc. Pick up the phone and call them from time to time. Where appropriate, ask how you can help them. Everyone connected with your business needs to hear from you—everyone is anxious about what is happening, and when they are fully informed and connected they also can help you, and your business, in ways you may never have thought of.

Frequent and consistent communication not only makes for an informed organization, but it provides the basis for meaningful communication between everyone. This is what fosters innovation.

Doesn’t all this MBWA stuff take a lot of time? Well, it does take a dedication of time consistently spent out in your workplace, but not as much as you might think. If you make it part of your daily routine, and your overall management style, MBWA will become second nature and a part of your business culture—and it definitely beats the hell out of “meetings.”

Do you MBWA? If not, give it a sincere try—spend more time with the people who make your business successful. You can make everyone in your organization feel they are a real part of your business. This is what can give you a better chance of winning during the recession…and beyond.