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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

A good marketing idea works on several levels, right?

So, i picked up dry cleaning this morning. They offered a nice cup of fresh coffee with my order. Happy to! A few minutes later the lid leaked a little, and i had to change shirts.

Brilliant on their part – give a gift that causes more use of your service. Kind of like a dentist offering hard candy…

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I wish you could have been there.  I was riding an airport shuttle on a recent business trip, and reluctantly started a conversation with the guy in the sport coat and trendy tie next to me.  I say reluctantly, as you never know how these conversations can go.

We traded answers on “What do you do?”  He: Policy Consultant for the US Government.  Me: Human Resources Consultant.

He perked up.  “Say, do you know much about Obama Care?”  I shrugged and offered I might.  “I’ve been working with a bunch of policy wonks in a think tank for 9 months, and none of them can explain the real purpose of the Affordable Care Act.  Frustrating.”

We were approaching the end of the bus ride.  As we stood up to get out, I turned to him and said: “It’s really quite simple.  The act intends to give existing insurance companies slightly more than 30 million new customers, many of whom are healthy.  For that, the insurance companies have to take everyone.  No exclusions, no carve outs, no lifetime caps.”  I stepped out of the bus.

He caught me at the next door.  “Is it really that simple?”

I kept walking and he kept up.  “Of course not.  But you asked what the purpose was, and that’s it – expanding coverage.  If you read the whole law – and I have – every sentence can be put in one of three categories.  Expanding coverage, improving quality of care, or finding ways to pay for it.”

He blinked and stopped.  He had an honest look of wonder on his face.  “Who ARE you?”  I shrugged.  “Just some guy…”

As I walked off, he said “You should get on television and tell that to the American People…”  I smiled and waved.  My good deed for the day.

My takeaway?  There needs to be more and better communication out there about these issues, done in ways that are tailored to each audience.   Experts like his policy wonks in the think tanks are too close.

When you’re inside the bottle, you can’t read the label.

Man on the street - explaining Obamacare, one citizen at a time...

Man on the street – explaining Obamacare, one citizen at a time…

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Just came in off the road from several conferences. My brother noted that the customer service motto for most modern airlines appears to be “…We’re not happy ’till your’re not happy.”

 

A comment on modern air travel

Over here! Help! Heloooo! Over here!

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Two days ago, our office manager decided the cracked trash bin on the 3rd floor was trash, and should be trashed itself.  It was placed in the hallway, and a note was attached…

Blog trash 1

That night, the cleaning crew did the obvious, and dutifully emptied the empty container and put it back in it’s normal spot.

This morning, the message was escalated.  The trash container has now been dragged to a prime spot next to the main trash can in the break room, and the note is a little more specific.

Blog trash

I’m willing to bet $$$ that vague communication will be misunderstood again tonight.  Any takers out there?

But, then again…

What if this is something more?  What if this is a “performance art” moment, styled after Rene Magritte, one of my favorite surrealists?  He would have painted the trash can and labeled it “This is not trash”.  You can see why I like him here.   Perhaps this is fine art, and not humor…

Or not.

We’ll see tomorrow.

Update!

No surprise.  The trash can was still there early on day 3.  The office manager was seen hauling the offending item to the dumpster.  Herself.

Lessons?  If you can’t communicate, nothing happens.  And art can appear in surprising places…

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As a presenter, I have noticed that audiences are sending a clear message.  They.  Hate.  PowerPoint.  (sigh.  or keynote.  or whatever.)

Len Mozzi

 

Here is a simple chart, from friend and colleague Len Mozzi, clearly explaining the direct relationship of the number of bullet points in your slides to the chance that someone will scream.

I knew this was true, and recently have been doing an  experiment.  I go one or two slides into the presentation, then blank the screen and actually talk with the audience, rather than talk to them.

After about 5 minutes, I note that the if the discussion does not continue, we will go back to the slides.

We never go back.

Hmm.

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It is interesting to stand in the middle of free speech in action   – the perspective can be revealing. Last month,  I was on the front steps of the US Supreme Court as the Obamacare reform ruling  was revealed.  The scene was  a jumbled layer cake of professionalism and craziness.

The scene as the Court decided

As a benefits professional taking time off from a conference across the Potomac, I wanted to be there to experience the reaction firsthand to  share the experience with  my team back at Gregory & Appel.

The Media created a first layer no-nonsense “buffer zone” of cameras and lighting rigs. The second layer was a more of the random mix of supporters and opponents eagerly awaiting to see if their side won.

The third and final layer were more of the “protest junkies” who simply wanted a reason to yell a little bit, along with the outer layer of DC tourists with no other interest in the situation than just being interested citizens who wanted to get a photo of the chaos on this momentous day before rejoining their tour group in time for lunch.

It  was exciting to be at the center of the storm  of how our nation handles health insurance.

Yes, really. Belly dancers against the PPACA.

The crowd was either shouting to be heard or not listening at all, staring intently at smart phones tuned to SCOTUS blogs.  The first sign of the decision was a buzz of energy from the middle of the pack, with some screams of “Yes!  Yes!  Repealed!”  I learned later  that day that both FOX and CNN reported premature and incorrect alerts that the bill had been overturned as unconstitutional.

There are lessons in this moment.  If you want proof of the value of a responsible, methodical press, compare the actions of twitter, bloggers, etc to the print media.  CNN got it wrong – my wife Barbara got it right.  She texted me the correct news – taken from the NBC newscast back home in Indiana, and I was able to correct a knot of interns standing  next to me.

As the corrected news spread everywhere, the tone of the crowd shifted.  The “Pro” crowd smiled quietly  – perhaps  not fully believing the news. The buzz of the remaining viewers turned to strong disappointment, with someone finding a microphone  and shouting about the end of civilization.

Pete Williams figuring it all out – in 2 minutes.

I was  pushed back into the press  zone,standing on a riser watching the live reports begin.  A very polished CNBC anchor was reading a stapled, thick document and turned to his assistant and asked “What is Medicaid Severability, anyway?”   Up and down media row anchors intently read the thick ruling, hoping to find clarity in this complex ruling sometime before the end of the commercial break.

It was now time for me to go.  I found it ironic that the steps of the Supreme Court itself was the last place to learn how the Court ruled, but still the best place to be to see our Democracy in action.  From here, we move forward again advising our clients on the next and best steps they need to take in response to this ruling.

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Okay, this is obscure but personally satisfying.

"Cloud Gate" in Chicago

When I visit Chicago, I enjoy visiting “The Bean”, the sculpture in Millenium Park officially named “Cloud Gate”.  It distorts the skyline like a big fisheye lens.  Everyone takes pictures into the curved mirror, getting curvy building pictures.

In Chicago with family yesterday, I packed my fisheye lens which distorts straight lines into curved.  I pointed it at the curved image in the sculpture and the distortions cancelled each other out – but the lens curved the buildings at the edges.  Kind of a reverse “bizarro world” photo…

Okay, maybe it’s just for me.

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