Recipe for Decision-Making Diversity

It seems we now celebrate diversity in our society.  We are working on cracking the glass ceiling for women in the workplace and finding new balances in the ethnic makeup of almost all elements of our society.  We have crossed a few barriers I once held sacred, like women serving on the front lines of our armed services, but I guess I am OK with most of where we are going.

Most importantly, we are embracing the idea that our past bias for who is best qualified for a job is being discussed.  We even seem to celebrate the idea that kids no longer have to recite the pledge of allegiance in schools (the latest here in Georgia) and of course the idea that it is OK for athletes to kneel rather than stand for our National Anthem at professional football games.  I am still having difficulty with that, but that is not my point in this blog.

I am not a chef by any means but I enjoy cooking.  It is therapy compared to my “thinking job” all day long and it is often social with my wife and son joining in.  My usual role is to be the primary “slicer and dicer” taking vegetables and fruit from their natural forms to something reasonably uniform to enter the recipe.

As I read and watch the recipes for many dishes it struck me that you almost never see the statement: just beat one egg or something like that.  It is very common to treat the yolk and white of the egg separately and to prepare them with extreme care (e.g., beating the egg whites to a froth) before putting them in at precisely the right time to the recipe.

Perhaps there is a bigger lesson here in our culture of diversity as we try to get people to work together to make the best decisions for our organizations. Right now, we tend to put everyone in the same bowl and turn on the mixer.  We may get a nice composite but we fail to take advantage of the differences in that diverse group.  Is it possible that the senior engineers who know the history of the business might think differently from the millennials just entering this world?  Is it possible that the men in the group might see things differently from the women?  I think so.

Then, perhaps you need to mix these ideas together at the right time in the recipe.  Perhaps it is time to recognize that the result from the group will be far different if it is approached this way rather than just taking everyone into the discussion and hoping that the average of those opinions is best.

Celebrate the diversity of your teams by honoring the unique contribution they each can make.

Wolves in Yellowstone

The recent research demonstrating that wolves, the highest animals in the Yellowstone food chain, are essential to the habitat’s balance, is stunning.  Deer seem so victimized by wolves.  We have visions of Bambi, and our softer side then wants to protect these lovely creatures.

Here at the Gilbert house, we have quite a different point of view.  Yes, deer are pretty … but they love eating our Hosta plants and their flowers.  As we walk around our garden path, we see clumps of them neatly chewed to the ground.

We’ve been told we can spray a repellent on them, but will have to do that after every big rain.  This summer, that would mean spraying them about twice a week.  I have read that you can plant things in the area that deer don’t like at all, like onions and peppers but frankly that just won’t work.  It is aggravating to watch this, but I do know it is the “rest of the story” when living in nature as we do.

We should just enjoy the fact that they are so comfortable visiting.

On the humorous side, we have a mature male turkey who polices the entry road to our neighborhood, stopping cars and pecking at their tires.  You can shout, wave your arms, and do what you will, but he holds his ground.  It is hilarious to see how he stops traffic.  It doesn’t happen every day, and it doesn’t happen at the same time every day.  But, it happens so often that he has become a talking point whenever we gather with our neighbors.  Very funny.

What this all tells me is that we do not understand our habitats as well as we should.  They are much more complex than we like to assume.  And, when we tinker with them, like trying to eliminate this or that because we think it is a problem, we are prone to find out that we simply can’t comprehend the complexity and balance of the natural world.

Wolves are wolves … part of the natural balance.  Deer eat Hostas.  Don’t plant them if you don’t want them to be eaten.  Living in a complex natural world lets us see things we don’t like along with all the beauty we enjoy.

Walk humbly in it … we are but a very small part.

Monetize This!

The most common question I hear from our utility clients is “How do I monetize this?”  It is almost as if everyone now has this question memorized no matter what is being offered as the obviously right thing to do.  How do I monetize coffee breaks, vacation, career development, etc., especially with today’s millennial who do not think they will be with any company very long.

Therefore, I was struck by the comments from the president of Southwest Airlines about all the things his competitors were doing that did make tons of money.  I don’t have the answer to the obvious question in all this, but it is certainly worth some consideration, especially from this time going forward.

Read what USA Today reports. 

What also struck me was his unabashed confidence in these decisions despite the open vehement criticisms from Wall Street and others.

Once again, I don’t have the answers, but perhaps watching Southwest from this point on may.

Marketing to Excess

Credit: Getty Images – Men’s Health

I know many of you have been wondering whether beneficial electrification is real.  You lament that you are trapped in an outdated regulatory model and seem stuck waiting for permission to offer customers ideas that might just increase electrical energy use while saving the customer money or offering enhanced comfort affordable.

I think you are missing the point.  People are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars turning rooms in their home into high-tech relaxation areas.  They are installing hyperbaric oxygen-therapy chambers, infrared saunas, steam showers and therapeutic lighting.

And, one of the latest gizmos are sensory-deprivation tanks.  Read about it here. 

Meanwhile utilities are hoping they can get a few people to put in a bit of this or that.

Excess is back in a big way.  No apologies needed.

Theological Innovation

It is probably no surprise that churches of all denominations are having problems these days with declining membership and funding.  The message and community value they brought years ago does not seem to resonate with today’s youth and the idea of just giving money to any organization is now questioned more carefully.  Yes, there are always those who have been raised to appreciate tradition and may value it … or may not any longer.

Things that were once sacred may not be sacred any longer to this new generation.  Part of the problem here is that they don’t accept the underlying premises.  And, in fact, it might just be accurate to say that what we once thought was foundational may no longer even be accepted as fact at all.

A business person facing these questions would ask the natural question:  How do we innovate?  Do we need to stop wearing robes, add modern music styles, or just talk about things in today’s everyday life?  These seem to be good questions, but asking them runs the risk of wrath by those who cherish tradition.

So, attempting to be innovative on things that some consider sacred is bound to create tensions.  And, given another church down the road or across the street may have decided to stand on cherished tradition, you can easily imagine the migration over time.  The church clinging to tradition may indeed seem to be growing … but it is very likely growing increasing out of touch with what is happening in society.

This may be interesting to watch from the sidelines, but is certainly not just rhetorically interesting if you are one of those churches trying to innovate.  Churches have spent hundreds of years trying to formalize and rigidize their brands as defensible in the sea of theological alternatives non-churched people can consider.  Some, most notably the megachurches, have decided that Sunday is more about performance than theology … and it seems to be working.  Critics in the mainstream easily criticize them as “watering down” the truth, but those in leadership in these megachurches will point out that they offer an easy start to the unchurched.

As I watch all this I am stunned by the parallels in our world of energy policy and consumer engagement.  Maybe it’s time to think of customer journey and engagement more about performance than theology.