Staying Relevant

I seem to remember people telling me that the only sure-fired things in life are death and taxes.  That always implied to me that you would have no problem if you were in either business segments.  Well, maybe not.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, because more Americans are choosing cremations, funeral homes are searching for ways of growing their lost revenues from casket, burial plot, and dreary rituals.  They are having to reinvent their business and are finding ways in offering ‘multi-sensory’ rooms, weddings and other upscale services. Funerals have hit some serious headwinds.

I have been studying the work of Patch Adams and others who are reinventing the end of life approaches … improving the quality of life and the healthiness of the end-of-life experiences.  But, frankly, I hadn’t thought about the business implications of the changing preferences in the US might have had on the funeral business.

There are so many businesses that are in similar transitions: mail, tobacco, etc.  We are all witnessing a dramatic transformation here.

I wonder whether there are interesting parallels we could draw here to the traditional services the energy industry has offered.

No … I really don’t wonder at all.  Of course there are.

The Elephants Left the Room

Photo Credit: Brian Ach, Getty Images for Ringling Bros.

The article here from USA Today has played on all the news channels.  Some might compare this to the demise of Sears Roebuck’s catalog sales.  There is a lot going on when cultural icons go out of business as quickly as these did. Check this out: USA Today Story

Relevance and public opinion.  That is the obvious culprit, right?

Nope.  The business cratered when the elephants left the room.  On a personal note, I remember going to see this when I was about 8 years old.  It was magical.  I took my kids to see this.  Somehow the question of animal rights never came up in our minds at the time.  It was the greatest show on earth.  Well, after this May, it will be no more.

The fact is that while animal protection groups railed against their use, the reason most people went to see the circus was to watch the amazing, trained elephants.

There is something profound to be learned here.  Let’s start with the obvious.  If Ringling Brothers knew that the seemingly noble act of taking the elephants out of the three rings and giving them a better life in a nature preserve was going to destroy their business so quickly, would they have done that?  Could they have found another way to make the special interest groups happy and therefore keep the elephants?

Or what about the obvious questions this raises for NASCAR, Pro Football, Soccer … and … wait for it … professional boxing?  And, where is the comparison to Cirque du Soleil?  Why is one persisting while the other is not?  Was it all about the elephants in the room?


The Robots are Here!

Well, it really should come as no surprise that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) featured a huge range of robots.

Read the MSN article here.

I find most people stuck with just one robot-paradigm: the thought that robots are in human form.  People don’t seem to realize that we are in the midst of a robotic explosion of influence.

Think about autonomous vehicles and how soon we will be contending with this disruption in our business models.  If I were a conventional taxi driver, I would be truly afraid between the combination of Uber and autonomous vehicles.  Tesla may have started the revolution, but now almost all car and truck builders are moving toward this reality.  You may remember this poster available from

I remember when I saw this poster years ago.

IVRs are moving toward true Artificial Intelligence with natural voice menus.  Amazon and Google have accelerated the shift in the home.  The idea that the homeowner now merely needs to express a desire seems to be very near at hand.  And stiff and wooden is moving closer to human-like personality.  Cozmo has truly raised the bar here.  I blogged about this previously.

Are you ready to take advantage of this trend?  It does seem we are now on the cusp of a new range of opportunities and threats.  Let us know if you are because our latest digital engagement platform can power all of these concepts.

Wait for it!

Video provided by Newsy Newslook.

We all know that time and tide wait for no man … at least according to Chaucer.  But, did you know you had to wait another second longer than usual this year for that ball to drop on New Year’s eve?  Many of my friends have told me that this year seemed longer than years in the past … now you can know why:

Click here to view the video.

Now, I have to admire the precision and the number of professionals who care about something like this so deeply.  It is nice to know there are so many high paid scientists out there protecting us from things like this which might, after enough years, prove embarrassing … geeze … you would find yourself showing up a minute early for a meeting if you lived that long.

On a more serious note though, this should remind us all about how our modern world now has levels of precision that were unavailable … frankly inconceivable in prior decades.  Well, if we can celebrate this, why do we so easily ingest comparisons of data today with decades when we did not have precision like this?  We talk about the incidence of hurricanes over larger periods of time than we have had radar and satellite imagery.  We talk about changes in temperature in fractions of a degree when temperatures a hundred years ago were +/- a full degree precision!

And, on a personal note, I recently conducted a range of experiments with the loggers we have been using to measure thermostat performance and, much to my amusement, I discovered that the mass of the logger itself biases the measurements!  Not much mind you, but in comparison to adding one second to the end of a year, a lot!  It doesn’t change anything I have been saying about how important it is to measure temperatures in a home, but it does point out that comparisons of data over time should be treated with caution.

Happy New Year in any event!!