Free Ice Water. You can succeed by giving away free ice water. It's true... isn't truth always stranger than fiction?
Wall Drug opened for business in 1931 as the only pharmacy in the godforsaken small town of Wall South Dakota, population 326 people, 326 poor people. Wall Drug started out as a pharmacy, but after 5 years of lackluster results, the owners had epiphany - the folks driving along Route 16A might want some ice cold water on a hot day.
"...Well, now what is it that those travelers really want after driving across that hot prairie? They're thirsty. They want water. Ice cold water! Now we've got plenty of ice and water. Why don't we put up signs on the highway telling people to come here for free ice water?"
So they put up some signs:
"Get a soda . . . Get a root beer . . . turn next corner . . . Just as near . . . To Highway 16 & 14. . . Free Ice Water. . . Wall Drug."
Today Wall Drug draws up to twenty thousand people on a good summer day.
The lesson: No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need.
This is one of my favorite analogies... it came up today so I thought I'd post it... hope you enjoy it!
The cat’s nervous system compels it to respond to every small thing that moves. Trying to catch a mouse, a cat observes the mouse’s actions closely. The cat actively learns from the mouse's behaviors, continually changing its capture strategy in response.
So: The mouse teaches the cat.
Of course, the mouse’s behavior also changes continually, in response to the cat’s shifting tactics.
So: As the mouse teaches the cat, the cat also teaches the mouse.
This can also be thought of as a double feedback loop.
The first feedback loop defines the cat’s catching behaviors. The second feedback loop dominates the first; it conserves the cat itself. (For example: The cat may want to chase the mouse out a window, but its system of self-preservation will prohibit that behavior.)
The mutual learning process is also a double feedback loop: Processing input from the mouse, the cat continually adjusts its capturing behavior, adaptively increasing efficiency and reducing noise in the message (that is, limiting extraneous actions). Conversely, the mouse changes its output based on the cat’s input. As a result, the entire system evolves over time.
The 'cat-mouse' analogy is a model of organizational learning behavior. The organization that continually takes customer behaviors and activities into account improves its efficiency over time. By soliciting feedback from people, and closely observing their behaviors, we are able to gain a fuller understanding of their needs. In understanding their needs, we are able to adapt our activities, and this enables us to increase efficiencies even when conditions are changing.
What do you think? Is your company adapting based on feedback? Have you ever given feedback to a company and seen them change as a result?
That was the first slide of a Power Point presentation I saw someone putting together on the airplane the other day, seriously.
"It's nothing personal folks..."
I wasn't trying to eavesdrop or pry or anything, but I couldn't help glancing over a couple of times... Doh! (please tell me I'm not alone on glancing over like that... )
Anyway, from what I could tell, the presentation was at least 30-40 slides with lots of charts and graphs and TONS of text on each slide... urgh, that is not a meeting that I would like to go to... but I digress....
"It's nothing personal folks..."
That is just wrong on so many levels.
First: Okay, then why are we here?
Second: Yeah, actually, it is personal.
Third: So, you don't care about me... then why should I care about you, this presentation or this company?
I wanted to lean over to the guy and suggest another approach: Get rid of the Power Point and instead take a boom box into the meeting and play that song "We're in this love together, we've got the kind that lasts forever."
Think about how much different people would have FELT about any "discussion" that followed....
I gave a speech to the American Society of Military Comptrollers (Kansas City chapter) on Thursday. It was great, I really had a great time, everyone treated me so well and Kansas City seems like a wonderful place (FANTASTIC BBQ!!).
In my speech, I spoke briefly about leadership - I think an important aspect of leadership is being credible. One of the stories I used to illustrate the point was:
The Evangelist Billy Graham tells of the time he was in a small town to preach a sermon. He wanted to mail some postcards when he came across a young boy. Billy Graham asked the young boy how to get the post office. The young boy told him and Graham said, "Thank you. If you'll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me tell everyone how to get to heaven."
"I don't think I'll be there" replied the boy. "You don't even know your way to the post office."
On the way home, I was reading Tao Te Ching - Lao Tsu said (Book 1, #17, Acting Simply):
"True leaders are hardly known to their followers. Next after them are the leaders people know and admire; after them, those they fear; after them, those they despise. ..."
The short term parking garage at Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Airport has a really cool feature - there are electronic signs that tell you how many parking spots are open in any given aisle.
Of course the title of this post is "could've" been purple.
The signs that indicated an open space in a given aisle were wrong.
Oh, how cool it would have been if that worked... instead, it was me driving around endlessly, just like a normal garage... oddly enough, I ended up on the 4th level - THE PURPLE LEVEL (I'm not making that up).
I heard a statistic a while back; it takes the average person more than 15 days to adapt to a change as simple as moving a garbage can from the right side of their desk to the left side.
15 days or more. Interesting.
At the office the other day, I noticed that everyone always parks in the same spot. I wondered how often people took a different route to work?
We're all capable of change. As one example, think about learning to play the piano (from the book Liars, Lovers, and Heroes):
If you spent a few hours a day for the next three weeks learning to play the piano, you would be altering the structure of your brain. Specifically, you would alter a part of your brain that represents your body and helps move its parts in precise fashion. When you learn to play the piano, you stimulate the region of the brains' map that represents your fingers, challenging your brain to learn the new motor skills.
Inactivity, on the other hand, can lead to a decrease in the brains' representations underlying a skill - this indicates that the brain is constantly adapting to external events that affect how you use it.
And, since businesses are made up of people, the evolability of the organization is the direct result of the evolability of its people.
So, my questions are:
How often do you change your routine? How often do you take a different route to work? Read a book outside of your domain of expertise? Try a new restaurant? Listen to a different radio station (or buy a new CD just because the cover art is cool)? Try a new activity or hobby?
How do you maintain your "evolability"? Individually or Organizationally?
I had an interesting discussion with a really smart friend a couple of weeks back about feedback. I mentioned that like the 4/5 stages of grief, there are 3 stages of dealing with negative feedback:
Emotion - This is the stage where you are focused on the messenger more than the message... "I can't believe this person said this!" or "I'm so angry I could... !"
Introspection - If you're smart, this is where you separate the message from the messenger and consider the validity of what the person said.
Evolution - Finally, you get the opportunity to evolve.
Several days later, when we spoke again, he gave me an example of evolving from feedback. He mentioned that he had just gotten some feedback from his employees about communication. So, he put three flags on his desk: Red, Yellow, and Green. When an employee comes in, they choose what color conversation they want to have.
Red - I just want you to listen to what I'm saying. Yes or No, should I proceed? Yellow - I'm not sure about this, I want to try to solve this but could use a little guidance Green - Open discussion, both ways. I want feedback and lots of it.
That isnt' exactly the meaning of each flag, but you get the idea.
So, how do you deal with feedback? What about negative feedback? Are you good at getting past the emotional state? If so, how?
Actually, I got two comments - one I percieved as negative, and the other nicely giving me a some latitude. Hmmm.
"A brand is an ensemble of emotional meanings & attributes that provide an associative interface for the mind of a consumer"
Let me take another stab at this...
It doesn't matter what you think a brand is - it matters only what the consumer perceives it to mean to them.
Or, expressed another way: A Brand is the promise of what a consumer believes they will achieve/feel/become from using the product/service.
Succinct enough? Jargon-free enough?
Now, the more than 25 word version of what I wrote:
A brand has to form a "whole" around a set of meanings and/or attributes. This "whole" provides an interface that a consumer can use to emotionally associate that "whole" with their life - their needs/desires.
Any definition of Brand that doesn't include (and focus on) the consumer as part of the definition, I think, is wrong.
What do you think?
Got a very nice email from John Moore - looks like I misinterpreted his comment.
Jon... please don't perceive my comments on your definition of a brand as being "negative." That was not my intention...
We actually had a really nice email exchange about the whole thing. I thought that was very nice. Wish I would have emailed John first and asked him what it was he really meant. But, too late for that... Woops! Kind of like wanting to put toothpaste back in the tube.