Friday, December 31, 2010

Obesity Is a Red and Blue Issue

The uproar by conservative callers to a recent talk radio conversation on WPTF broadcasting from nearby Raleigh was deafening. The callers were raging against the experimental use of fresh salad bars in some public schools to promote better nutrition. It was followed by the even more recent snarking by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, taking a cheap shot on her TV show at Michelle Obama’s concern about the dramatic increase in childhood obesity.Obesity Prevalence

PrintI’m sure beneath the hubris and idiocy of some of these comments is a legitimate concern about how effective policy can be without “personal responsibility” on the part of both parents and students; but many callers just sounded resentful of an effort to give today’s school children the very same head start we were given. This is the same miserly thinking that has undermined physical education, bands, recess and other potentially healthful benefits in public schools.

As you can see in one of the illustrations shown in this blog, obesity is very prevalent in a lot of red states so this isn’t an ideological issue.

Those “holier-than-thou” conservative talk show callers may have been even more angry had they known that the forerunner of today’s school lunch program started in the 1930’s during the Great Depression when famed-Iowan Harry Hopkins encouraged state relief administrators to provide them, both for nutrition and to encourage urban gardening.

Maybe they would have shut up even more had they known that school lunch programs became nationwide during World War II as a national security issue. Too many military recruits suffered from malnutrition.

obesity_in_americaFlash forward and that what concerns our First Lady is also a deep concern among today’s military leaders. Only this time obesity and lack of fitness are threatening national security. There was even a news story this week that the military is dumbing down basic training to cope with issues like obesity among recruits.

Obesity is much more than just being overweight and it doesn’t come from being well fed, it comes from eating too much of the wrong types of foods - often the only foods too readily available to those on low incomes., Primarily it is the result of simply overeating and not getting enough exercise.

Regardless of the personal issues involved, it is an epidemic and it is undermining national security and the obvious place to re-instill good eating habits in a near universal sense is in the public schools. We can intensify lessons about “personal responsibility” at the same time.

Preaching “shoulds” to parents who already missed out on or ignored those lessons isn’t going to create the kind of rapid and broad-based change we need to be more nationally secure and to stave off the incredible public health costs inherent in obesity.

An example of how we’re paying for it is illustrated in this link to an interactive map on Slate showing how rapidly diabetes, one of the results of obesity, has advanced in just four short years from 2004 to 2008.

Gripe about possibly paying increased taxes to provide salads for lunches all you want, but be assured that you will pay now or you will pay later for the costs to society that are the eventual outcome or poor nutrition and eating habits.

For those who want at the same time to do more than rant about “personal responsibility” I leave you with a link to a new app to set goals (much more than a to-do list this time) and some very useful words of wisdom on how to set resolutions by authors Chip and Dan Heath.

Happy New Year and may you celebrate in moderation!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just What Does Your State Do Best?

When I first moved to Durham, people frequently asked where I was born and when my answer was Idaho, they invariably responded “oh, where they grow all of the corn.”  Even in the Southeast I guess we sometimes picture the world like that famous 1976  illustration for the cover of New Yorker Magazine.  I would respond, “wrong ‘I’ state,” I’m from the one much farther west and north and famous for another vegetable.

A good friend is from Iowa and we always kid that all of the “I” states are stereotyped by a vegetable.  Even though many of mine were already challenged during a 6,000-mile road trip last fall (my first such trek,)  a recent 1BOG (One Block Off The Grid) illustration-blog shatters the stereotypes we all seem to have about various states, except the one most people hold about Iowa.  I’m sorry Harvey, I guess “God’s Country” just didn’t make the cut.Capture

The infographic (only part of which is shown in the image I included with this blog) is entitled Just What Does Your State Do Best.

Check out North Carolina.  Seems I can’t get away from the potato thing.  As a bonus, a smiley, neutral or frowny face rates each state’s energy policies.  Very fun graphic and full of new information.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

15 Places To Safeguard and Rectify Your Community’s Identity

Below are 15 areas your community and its community/destination marketing organization should be checking to protect your community’s identity and brand.  Unless rectified or modified, no amount of promotion and awareness will trump permitting these distortions to persist.

Pioneered with great success by Durham and DCVB and a cadre of resident Durham Image Watchers over the past two decades, unfortunately you still won’t likely find them yet in any primer for community/destination marketing.  They involve some “heavy lifting” and they aren’t as much fun as “just placing some ads” or “booking” some business. But they are as much or more important.

Think of it this way.  A little courage, determination and resilience can substitute for millions of dollars in promotion and advertising.  Think of it another way.  No amount of promotion and advertising can overcome the damage inattention to these areas can create.

Your community’s identity is at the core of its brand and its overarching brand is at the core of any successful marketing.

The following 15 areas are examples of what experts mean by protecting your community’s brand at every “touch point” but first you and your community’s officials must feel empowered to make rectification, even if just at the margins.

When successful, protecting your community’s identity in areas like these below will have the same effect as millions and millions of dollars of promotion.  Ignoring them means most of what you do to promote your community is as ineffective as “spitting into the wind.”


Check the postmark across the upper right corner on mail you receive from within your region.  Unless you’ve been diligent, the postal service has stopped postmarking the actual community of origin and is stamping all mail with the name of the city in which it happens to have its regional center.

In Durham’s case we found that “Raleigh, NC” was being stamped on all of our bids and proposals and documents giving that competitor a distinct advantage.  Working with the Chambers and CVBs in the region, DCVB was able to get the postmark changed to read “Research Triangle Region, NC.


Airports and airlines have a nasty habit of truncating references.  For example, even though Raleigh-Durham International Airport is co-owned by Durham and Raleigh and their respective counties and located midway between and closest to the town of Morrisville, NC, gate postings and especially crew announcements shorten it to just “Raleigh” even though a minority of passengers were departing or arriving with that specific community or metro area as an origin or destination.

Equally distorting, airlines often list only airports under the heading “cities” which virtually makes the nearly all of the actual cities and towns served seem invisible.  Even though they rely on these destinations to generate their use, airports and airlines are among the most stubborn and inconsiderate, and yes arrogant, when it comes to respecting the identity of individual communities.

As representatives of your community, you have a right and an obligation to ask that your community’s identity be treated accurately and with respect.


The national weather station for Durham is at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, located midway between and serving as the official weather reading for both Durham and Raleigh.  However, just because the “office” where the NWS administrators for central North Carolina physically sit is located on the campus of NCSU in Raleigh, the readings are often disseminated with only a “Raleigh” dateline and picked up and publicized around the nation and the world as simply “Raleigh” vs. Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Maybe where the administrators sit is important for mail delivery and their families.  It is the location and identity of the station that should matter but if you’re community is being rendered invisible, you’ll need to be assertive with NOAA.  Even if the information is being disseminated accurately you’ll need to make sure it isn’t being short-handed by local television and radio stations and national weather reports who are famous for truncating.


Even if they are located right downtown, as Arts Institute and Smith Group are in Durham, in a list of city locations, they may list your community as these two companies do, by the name of the airport.  That means for Durham for instance that in a list of city locations such as Ann Arbor, Madison, Washington DC, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles etc. Durham is listed either as Raleigh or by the airport name “Raleigh-Durham.”

Some companies like the prestigious K & L Gates law firm with offices in both the city of Raleigh and the city of Durham will stubbornly list one but substitute a nearby business park for the other, e.g. offices in Fort Worth, Beijing, Raleigh, Dallas, Frankfurt but when it comes to the location in the City of Durham, it lists only a prestigious business park located here.  When you dig further, the office lists Morrisville as a location and only on emails of the partners is the actual Durham location revealed.


Keep in mind that the United States Postal Service feels no obligation to make your street address for receiving mail the same as your physical location.  You might think that zip codes would make it possible for USPS to make physical locations and street mail delivery addresses coincide but instead, for internal convenience they will arbitrarily undermine the identity of your community by assigning your residents a mailing address with another community superimposed.

USPS isn’t required to be logical or accurate about physical locations or they would have heeded two decades of pleading from the National League of Municipalities but with persistence and some courage by your city and county managers the regional officials can be persuaded to change inaccurate designations.

Watch out for real estate associations though who appear willing to hoodwink the public if it means selling a house.  Correcting mail addresses to also match school districts and vehicle registration locations is well worth the effort.


Some companies like Time Warner Cable are so self-absorbed with how they name their offices that they assign their location as your location.  Time Warner for this part of North Carolina is based in Morrisville but prefers to call it the Raleigh office.

When confirming my subscription recently using my zip code, instead of identifying my location as Durham, Time Warner identified me as living in Raleigh.  This is the result of a company forgetting that the way it elects to internally identify the location of its offices is immaterial to the actual location of its customers and your community.  You have a right and your community’s officials and community/destination marketing executives have an obligation to have these companies correct misidentification.


Ironically, publications, recordings and other navigation tools meant to serve private, commercial and military pilots with “airport” information misleadingly truncate references to the name of only one particular city.

This means that the entire class C airspace around Raleigh-Durham International Airport, while actually located in neither community is labeled as “Raleigh” on maps and websites and on recordings for for pilots about weather and distance and other navigation aids even though the vast majority of pilots and passengers are not heading to Raleigh and they will see two metro areas not one  when flying VFR.

Aeronautical maps are published by each state and that is a good place to start rectification.  Work with the FAA to making sure recordings are not being truncated and use the actual airport name or call letters.  If you don’t what goes in the pilots ear comes right out of his mouth during inflight announcements.


Monitor closely how your community and community-based assets including businesses are represented in map databases.   Often they will misrepresent neighborhoods, voter districts and crossroads as separate communities because they are infected by old databases that weren’t coded properly.

Make sure scrubbed databases for your community are submitted to the suppliers of navigation systems and Internet maps  Make sure your community’s latest GIS data has been updated in your state’s GIS database.  Constantly monitor how the businesses in your community are represented on the web.

Often chains, especially hotels, purchase third party data that in the case of Durham, for instance, can easily substitute “Raleigh” businesses as the closest available to Durham locations.  It is your community and community/destination marketing organization’s responsibility to monitor and correct this misinformation.

You can start by reminding the yellow page providers that “local” should truly mean “local” and that “nearby” is a far less confusing heading for businesses that just want to appear they are located in your community.


Carefully audit signs to, from and within your community to be sure it is listed wherever appropriate and hasn’t become invisible.    In Durham we found major Interstate signs failed to mention Durham at all, other signs read Durham when one was already here and the signage should have just used “Downtown.”  Others directed people in Durham to “Downtown” but they were sending people to the Downtown in an entirely different community.  Some listed business parks as though they were cities and towns without ever noting they were located in Durham.


Keep in mind that nearly 80% of newcomers and relocating executives shop your community first as a mystery “leisure or business” visitor and your community’s destination marketing organization must be vigilant that your community hasn’t become invisible or subordinated as a mere “neighborhood” for another community in real estate and home developer websites and literature.

These businesses are notorious for using inapplicable and inaccurate “centric” models, poor databases or deliberate attempts to misdirect newcomers and relocating executives.  Go on these sites, search by your community’s name to be sure developments and homes are clearly identified, search by the names of other communities to be sure your community’s identity hasn’t be subordinated.


The city name at the beginning of a news story was originally intended to convey where the story occurred.  Not using a dateline was meant to indicate the story happened in the city where the news outlet is located.  Then a reporter lied about being at a particular location so the Associated Press created havoc for readers and undermining community identities by having the dateline signify where the reporter is sitting when the story is filed.

Bloomberg takes the much less confusing and damaging approach of just putting a notation at the very bottom of the story indicating where the reporter was sitting at the time the story is filed.  AP though gives its offices around the country the flexibility of how they use datelines where they create confusion.

In places like Durham, the AP often datelines stories occurring here as “Raleigh” creating confusion for readers and creating the misimpression Durham is in Raleigh.  The Raleigh newspaper, hoping to establish hegemony often refers to stories in other communities with no dateline, inferring the story occurred in Raleigh or referring to the subject as “local” and then feeds the misinformation up through the AP’s office which just happens to be based in Raleigh, creating mass misinformation about Durham and Durham based assets like Duke, RTP etc.

You and your community can insist that AP accurately dateline your community and if they are stubborn and refuse or give you attitude, you can demand that the location of any individual, business or organization be identified in the story at the very first mention.  Hopefully, if enough places complain, AP will adopt more stringent, reader and community-friendly standards.


To optimize the amount charged to advertisers, Nielsen divides the broadcast television work up into huge lumps of counties, as though in Durham’s case consumers will truck across 22 other counties and hundreds of cities and towns and parts of three states to buy something in the so-called Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville) DMS.

TV and ratio stations though are notorious for truncating these "listening and viewing” areas down into the name of one city, much to the annoyance of the vast majority who don’t live there.  They forget they have created a fiction and often give weather or traffic advisories without noting the locations are in different cities and towns.  To keep your community from becoming invisible, insist that the stations be specific about locations and distinguish them from the full name of the “DMA.)

While those making the analyses rarely make the mistake, editors and reporters often play fast and loose with the terms “city” and “metropolitan statistical area (MSA) when publicizing rankings.  Cities are very specific and distinct places.  MSAs are census-created designations of many cities, towns and counties centered around a dominant city.  Rankings are conducted for both cities and MSAs.  Permitting the terms to be confused can subvert a communities identity.


Consultants and brokers who help retail businesses find locations are notorious for misusing outdated models that mistakenly assume all areas are centered around one dominant center.  Far more prevalent today are polycentric areas with no dominant city at the center.

Durham with DCVB at the lead has had to battle through the “Raleigh” bias created by consultants applying very outdated “centric” models to a “polycentric” region or mall contracts in that city that forbid another store to open at a location in Durham.  Very strange behavior for an industry that first helped identify the cognitive distance friction.  Left without intervention, by communities,  this “centric” thinking also robs regions of multiple store locations and an improved quality of life.


Companies that contract with relocating or expanding businesses to help their executives relocate are notorious for inaccuracies.  Often instead of using the location to which the business is relocating or expanding, these business arbitrarily select nearby cities for relocation.  Typically this is when they use software designed only to recognize areas centered around one city, failing entirely to serve communities in polycentric regions where there is no dominate city.

Left unaddressed, this means your community is not only invisible to executives relocating to work there but you also lost residential tax base, donations to charities and non-profits and corporate leadership and involvement.  Your region will also inherit long commutes and un-necessary traffic and road construction.

Only by insisting that these companies use accurate models centered on the location to which the business is relocating will you fully reap the benefits including any reinvestment on incentives granted.


Fewer and fewer cities have headquarters offices and/or CEOs with a connection to community, even banks.   As noted in this Brookings Institution report, because CEOs have so little connection with local communities anymore, they are much less involved, more more prone to talk regional or statewide because it is more simple and even more likely to dismiss or misuse local community identities.  This tendency is even more pronounced if you or your community fail to speak up. 


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Sustain A Bull Uses Independent vs. Local

There is a reason Durham’s new movement Sustain A Bull doesn’t use terms like “buy local.”  The term “local” was hijacked long ago by chains stores featuring a couple of so-called local items and distorted especially by television and radio stations masquerading “local” in the guise here of Nielsen’s 22-county area designated market.Sustain A Bull

Sustain A Bull – Shop Independent Durham is the real deal and the chart below shows what independent or truly “local” stores are up against.

Sustain A Bull shouldn’t be confused with Try It Local, a national coupon program subsequently launched here and promoted by chambers of commerce to raise non-dues revenue (10% of each coupon redeemed.)2007-census-revenue

I suspect the Durham Chamber is limiting participation to members but that probably doesn’t mean they are truly “local” or even independent.  I hope I’m wrong.

The Durham Chamber for instance has 900 members, a good portion of Durham’s 6,000+ businesses overall. However, because chambers everywhere have been compelled to forage wherever they can for members, many members are not local and participate as a means to appear local.

In my experience with chambers, including 19 years serving on boards, understandably “member” trumps “local” even though many are subsidized by local governments to pursue relocating or expanding businesses as a means to generate local jobs and local tax base.  Pure and simple, larger members pay the freight which is the inherent dilemma with the membership model that confounds so many excellent chamber execs here and across the country.

Almost immediately after I moved to Durham more than two decades ago, truly local places like The Regulator Bookshop, Parker & Otis (then Fowlers,) Morgan Imports, Durham Garden Center, Stone Bros. & Byrd, Ox & Rabbit (then McDonald’s,) Wentworth & Leggett Rare Books, James Kennedy Antiques and Brightleaf Square along with Durham’s colony of nationally recognized restaurants and other local favorites became regular stops.

Upon each visit my daughter (she was just turning 16 when I was recruited here to launch Durham’s official community marketing organization) immediately wanted to visit these places that are so much of what gives Durham its special personality.   You can see from this next chart though how rapidly market share for these Independent stores has eroded over the period.2007-census-percapita

DCVB has given truly local outlets special treatment for years not only because these placed-based assets are part of what gives Durham its distinct personality but because the local economic impact they generate is far greater than chains.  If they haven’t already, I’m sure DCVB will strategically partner with Sustain A Bull.

Not only do Independent businesses have to compete with chains but national organizations that purport to represent small, independent businesses like the US Chamber and National Federation of Independent Businesses are exposed by the fact that nearly 90% of the political efforts by organizations like these go to Republicans, while an American Express study reveals that 32% of small business owners affiliate with Democrats and 35% are Independent.

Small, independent, locally owned businesses deserve our support.  Research shows and successful community marketing proves that even larger businesses are drawn first by workforce and the creative or “knowledge” workforce, so in demand now, is drawn most by organic districts in a community with a “smorgasbord” of small, Independent, unique businesses.

For excellent information on the importance of Independent, local businesses, go to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance or The New Rules Project.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tourism Factor In #11 Best Place For Business

Because it crossed the 500,000 mark in population, the Durham NC MSA is included for the first time in the MarketWatch “best of” measures.

Also new this year in the “best places for business” methodology are new and improved metrics for tourism  just released this month and signaling the growing influence of visitor centric economic and cultural development for communities.DetailPicture_SC1160_market_watch_logo

Durham is the core city and county for the four-county metropolitan statistical area also including Chatham, Orange and Person.

Further illustrating Durham’s continuing emergence as a visitor destination, the marketplace methodology catapulted it into a tie for 11th place, highest among those in North Carolina and tied with Salt Lake City just behind Seattle.

The next highest metro area in North Carolina, Raleigh-Cary actually  dropped two notches from 15th in 2009 to 17th with the new tourism-inclusive methodology.  The MSA centered around Charlotte fell from 18th to 28th.

MarketWatch, published by Dow Jones & Co., tracks the pulse of markets for engaged investors with more than 16 million visitors per month. The site is a leading innovator in business news, personal finance information, real-time commentary and investment tools and data.

MarketWatch is also a part of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network.  Like some other analyses of this type the editorial about the rankings mistakenly substitutes “cities” for “MSAs.”  Metropolitan Statistical Areas are census groupings of several cities, towns and counties.

Friday, December 24, 2010

“Why Would A Reasonable, Rational and Otherwise Decent People Do That?”

In my opinion, the statement I used as a title for this blog comes from one of the most practical books ever written.  It explains why I endorse the movement No Labels with the slogan - Not Left. Not Right. Forward.NL_Home-flag_jpg_358x238_q85_crop

As a parent, an executive, a teacher, a politician or any other role, there is no one book more useful in my opinion than Crucial Confrontations.

I was still noodling what No Labels is all about when I came across the video of a panel discussion which includes Durham native David Gergen, a Harvard professor and columnist for whom I have great respect and who served as an advisor to five US Presidents both Democrat and Republican.

At at the same time  I was reading a excellent study out of the University of Maryland “Misinformation and the 2010 Election – A Study of the US Electorate”  published on December 10th.  Some publications reviewing the study quickly noted the finding that viewers of Fox News were the most misinformed.

Press reports don’t do the study justice and it is a quick read, well done and very enlightening.  Read it for yourself.  The question is, however, “why would reasonable, rational and otherwise decent people” appear to deliberately misinform their viewers?”

It would be easy to tell ourselves a story but that won’t solve anything.

Easier as an Independent I signed the No Labels Declaration, or maybe I should say especially as an Independent.  It may be coincidence but I felt great relief after the No Labels launch to see members of both parties in Congress seemingly move toward the “center” in putting the finishing touches on what many in the news note will surely go down as one of the most productive sessions in history.

There may be a lot of “sabre-wrestling” during the coming session but I hope No Labels fulfills its potential and that it is truly possible to motivate people without making them angry or by demonizing one side of a discussion or the other.

It will be important no matter how crazy the hyperbole may become; that we remember to ask ourselves the question in the title of this blog.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reuniting with the Soothing Call of a Western Meadowlark

For me, smells and memories go hand-in-hand but I’m not talking about the infamous smell of sour milk at a very small spot on the backseat cover of our distinctive-grilled 1954 De Soto, courtesy of my middle sister during a bout of car sickness and detectible only when you laid down back there.

From my earliest memories, my favorite sound has been the plaintive cheerfulness of a Western Meadowlark. You can’t hear it in my adopted hometown of Durham, North Carolina (my favorite here is the sound of a Cardinal) but thanks to the folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I can always hear it at these links or via my Audubon iPhone app.Western Meadowlark

I can’t hear or “play” the call of a Western Meadowlark without also recalling the vivid smells of pines and sagebrush, particularly when still moist with morning dew. The bird is common and some stay year-round where I grew up in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of eastern Idaho along the Henry’s Fork.

The sound of this squatty little brown bird with the yellow breast and a sporty black v-neck, typically perched atop fence posts, sounded particularly cheerful in winter whenever we loaded up a gigantic sleigh stacked with bales of hay and pulled by a favorite team of draft horses over five foot high drifts of snow to go out and feed cattle.

I found it interesting that Teddy Roosevelt journaled about the sound of the Western Meadowlark while working on his far western North Dakota Ranch. I wish now I had jogged north at the famed rally town of Sturgis, South Dakota during my 6,000 mile cross-country trip to scout a future motorcycle venture and up into the area where his Elkhorn ranch is now part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the birthplace of that President's strong feelings about conservation.

From the photographs, the only difference between that part of far western North Dakota and the area of Idaho where I grew up are the spectacular mountains like the Tetons that spike up dramatically out of the Yellowstone Plateau, a caldera of a volcanic eruption 1.3 million years ago. This is a vast country but as Americans we have a great deal in common including a fondness for Western Meadowlarks, second in number as a State bird with six to my other favorite, the Cardinal with seven. Idaho though picked another of my favorites, the Mountain Bluebird.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Not the Quantity but the Quality of Light

Often forgetting I wasn’t born there, people are intrigued when they learn that I lived in Alaska for nearly a decade in the 1980s.

I’ll hear more such comments yesterday and today which mark the shortest days of the year. Beginning now each day in Durham will extend by several seconds of daylight per day until by January 10th, when Durham will begin picking up more than a minute of daylight per day.

Anchorage, where I used to live, will pick up daylight much faster, increasing more than a minute per day by December 27th and all but catching up with Durham by the end of

By March 1st in Anchorage, days will be lengthening by more than 40 minutes a week compared to less than 16 in Durham.

At this time of year, Durham may have 40% more daylight (10 seconds more than even Raleigh in fact) but it isn’t the amount of light that distinguishes Anchorage. It is the quality of the light. Frankly, in either Anchorage and Durham at this time of year you get ready and commute to work in the dark and it is already dark by the time you return home.

What distinguishes Anchorage at this time of year are the incredibly long stretches of dawn and dusk, accentuated by beautiful pastels (captured beautifully by watercolorist Byron Birdsall and in photography by Clark Mishler) and vistas and long, spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

I can understand that some people experience light sensitivity there which often involves mood swings. Most don’t. I’m sure it is like sensitivity to humidity in Durham during some months. It takes a toll on some people but most adapt.

Other things make Anchorage and Durham similar yet unique. Their populations are comparable with Anchorage having more than 286,000 and the single city county of Durham nearly 270,000 and they are both ethnically diverse.

Bears come into Durham as they do into Anchorage, especially along the railroad track. Anchorage is home this time of year to more than 1,000 moose (300 year-round), Durham 0. I’m sure though that Durham may have as many deer overall. They each have bald eagles but Anchorage often hosts snowy owls. Anchorage has salmon, Durham has bass.

Annual precipitation in Anchorage, at 16 inches, is less than the 20-25 inches where I grew up in the Rocky Mountains (similar to most ski resorts there) but with far less snow. Durham gets 41 inches a year, an amount similar to Seattle.

I’ve been blessed to live and work in both but what I’ll never forget about Anchorage at this time of year and nearly every other time of year is the quality of the light.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maybe I Was Into Meditation After all

Groupthink sessions have always driven me a bit nutty.  Granted, few were resourced sufficiently but unless they were my own, I can’t tell you how many retreats I had to leave early, just to maintain sanity.

I don’t know if it is the “reinvent the wheel” syndrome or “talk before you think” chirpiness that so often dominate so-called brainstorming, but I think my adverse reaction to most of these sessions is because there is typically so little patience taken to identify a common problem for which new ideas or solutions are needed.groupthink

Often I just became impatient with how averse many people are to critical thinking, to asking questions and yet how predisposed they can be to politics in the guise of groupthink.

I may be a curmudgeon but I always showed up and participated even though I couldn’t hear myself think.  Now in an article in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine entitled, In Pursuit of the Perfect Brainstorm, gave me insight into why I can still be innovative but impatient with groupthink.

It is well worth reading if you missed it.

Dev Patnaik, Founder and CEO of Jump Associates, explains that a lot of breakthroughs are born in meditative states.  Patnaik cites neuroscience backing up why some really great ideas comes to you while driving or walking the dog, or in the shower, hiking or riding a motorcycle through the countryside.

He’s quoted as saying that it is because “you’re at ease, your sense of judgment is quieted, you’re making nonlinear connections, you’re more likely to come up with good ideas.”

Bingo.  That’s when most of my own gestalts occurred during my career and still do in retirement.

I worked with some very creative people but as a CEO, I never was good at building in enough time for them to think under the circumstances Patnaik describes.  And it is all but impossible to reach a “meditative state” during groupthink sessions including staff meetings.

It is scary to think how much more innovative even organizations widely known to be innovative, such as those with which I was involved could have been if I had understood this years ago.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Was The Only Son of an Only Son -

I was the only son of an only son and with no son the end of a line of ranchers, homesteaders, settlers and colonists or so I’ve always thought.

Studying family history and patterns has relieved the twinge of wistfulness I’ve always felt at being the last in that Bowman line to ranch or farm. Lengthening the lens beyond just this past 130 years or so, my ancestors weren’t even involved in ranching and farming for that long.spyglass

They were really in the business of start-ups. They settled several communities in both Utah and Arizona before a branch homesteaded in the nook of eastern Idaho, bordered by Montana and Wyoming.

In each place they started sawmills, built dams to bring water to meadows and livestock, improvised to fight off plagues of locusts, translated dictionaries and more. Not that different from destination marketing, really, especially the part about locusts (wink.)

This penchant for start-ups goes back hundreds of years further than my Mormon pioneer ancestors, one of whom was first in that group to cross the Mississippi into Iowa, 10 months before it was granted statehood and three of whom were on the first wagon train into the western territories.

These ancestors were preceded by those who helped settle, Delaware, California, Illinois, Iowa, Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut, North Carolina and many other states, even Canada.

Even they were relative short-timers compared to ancestors like Jan Franse van Hoesen, a Dutch sailor (from an area now part of Germany) who immigrated in 1639 and eventually helped settle Albany, New York or French Huguenot Pierre Chamois, who immigrated to America in 1660 to help settle New England.

Maybe my genetic code just led me to pursue a different approach to start-ups. People often asked what intrigued me about being in on the ground-floor and early development of community marketing organizations in three different places, culminating with Durham, North Carolina.

Destination marketing is intense and demanding anyway but for me there is nothing more rewarding or fulfilling than launching and/or growing these organizations to a point where they can over time fully develop their potential.

So if we each look back in time, maybe we all elect to further some part of our genetically coded predispositions.

I always thought my nearly 40 year career in and love for community marketing including the start up and evolution of community marketing organizations, was something I backed into by accident…but from here I can now see it fits nicely.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fly-Fish-Hooky On The Henry’s Fork

Growing up, my Dad wasn’t into fishing so in the years before heavy chores began I hid my old hand-me-down fly-fishing rod near the low-lying Ora Bridge between our ranch and where I went to school in the town of Ashton, Idaho. Photographer Daryl L. Hunter’s image below shows a sunrise over the Teton Mountains taken from Ashton.

The tiny bridge crosses the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in the shallow tailwaters, just below the century-old Ashton Power Dam and Reservoir as that North Fork winds its way from the mountains down to a rendezvous on the plain 50 miles south and a bit west with the South Fork flowing out of Wyoming.

I’ve learned as an adult that the the Henry’s Fork including the half mile of riffles and runs just above the Ora Bridge down through the deeper, spring-fed portion a couple of miles downriver to the Vernon Bridge (and even a bit further to the Chester Bridge) reportedly yields some of the best for trout fly-fishing in the world. There is even a lodge now a short distance from there.

To me it was just convenient. Each bridge was just a mile from the ranch homesteaded by my paternal grandparents and great grandparents then run by my parents.

Teaming with a friend who lived one ranch north, we talked the bus driver into dropping us at the bridge on the way home, fish for a while, stow our gear again in the rocks and walk the mile home in time for chores. Even back then we all knew to catch and release and besides, growing up on a horse and cattle ranch we were steak and potatoes people.

I didn’t think my Dad ever knew about my fish-hooky but in his belongings sent to me a few months after his funeral in 2001 was my little metal fly- box.

In the months after I turned age 15 I drifted away from fishing after nearly losing an eye when I was run over by a frightened pack horse during a Boy Scout fishing trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area along the border of Idaho and Montana. Or maybe as I got my learners permit and then drivers license, I just got too busy with cars, girls and sports, I guess.

It all came back to me as I gave my 7 year old grandson his first fly-fishing rod and reel for his birthday last month. I’ll do the same for my then-to-be 6 year old grandson in July along with a small pouch chocked full of flies and accessories for both of them to use. I fished off a dock with them last summer during a lake trip and the utter joy they exhibited flooded me with memories.

I’m primarily an introvert by nature. I was able to succeed in the highly extrovert career of community destination marketing but in this year of retirement, I’ve learned just how much more natural and relaxed I am with hobbies like reading, writing this blog, riding my Harley Cross Bones, and spending time with my Bulldog Mugsy.

I enjoy having more time with family and of course I still enjoy enjoy friends but just one or two at a time.

Fly-fishing too is ideal for introverts. They are doing repairs on the Ashton Dam over the next year or so to remedy a sediment issue but when they are complete, maybe I’ll run the boys and my daughter, their Mom, up from their home in Utah to experience fly-fishing from the Ora Bridge and the Henry’s Fork to see if it is just as much fun for them now that I’m aware the river is in the fly-fishing hall of fame.

One thing I know for sure is that this old introvert relishes his time with two little chatty boys who never stop bubbling over with the joys of living.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Link Between Walkability And Social Capital

A study publicized this week from another Durham, this time Durham, New Hampshire the home of University of New Hampshire was based on an initial pilot study in two neighborhoods there.

Deepened now to a survey 700 residents in  20 neighborhoods in the communities of Portsmouth and Manchester, the researchers found a link between walkable neighborhoods and social capital such as intrapersonal trust, volunteerism and participation in community projects.Peoplematrix

Participants who self-identified their neighborhood by indicating the number of locations they could walk to with a mean of more than seven walkable locations out of thirteen, e.g. groceries, playgrounds, post offices, libraries and restaurants were designated walkable.

To many, my home, Durham, North Carolina, recognized for walkability as high as 37th by Prevention Magazine and even more known for social capital may also be evidence of this link.  The UNH study is funded in part of the EPA and focused on what the researchers term the broad issue of community sustainability and resilience.

The Looming End To Broadcast Television

I was born in 1948, the year the first commercial, broadcast television programming commenced and even on our very rural ranch way out in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho, I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have a television. My parents and paternal grandparents were always proud that Philo T. Farnsworth, a pivotal pioneer in the technology that made television possible , grew up in Rigby, Idaho.

Once we traveled the gravel road down the Upper Snake River Valley from our west Fremont County ranch back across the Henry’s Fork and then across Fall River to connect to US Hwy 20 at Chester, Rigby was one of the last of a string of small towns including St. Anthony, Sugar City and Rexburg, dotting the route of our semi-annual treks to the stockyard auctions in Idaho Falls and back when we didn’t head north over the Stateline to equidistant Bozeman, Montana instead.

As far back as memory serves me, until I had too many chores, I remember turning on the television each morning to watch what was called the Indian Head “Test Pattern” prior to when programming commenced. My bed each night was a pull-out Davenport sofa under a north-facing big picture window in our living room so I didn’t have far to go. I also remember that well into my teens, we watched the American flag waving while the national anthem played before stations went “off the air” for the night.

I won’t be surprised if my lifetime brackets the beginning and end of broadcast television. Its days are clearly numbered. I already see a day very soon when producers will deliver content directly to homes via the Internet and even cable and satellites will just be conduits to the web.

We’ll probably download selected shows the way we do movies now from Netflix and create our own networks of content. All of those broadcast TV signal towers that private pilots must dodge will be gone or, if left standing, will be mere reminder of another era along with networks and affiliates of another era.

You can hear the murmur of this transformation as ESPN, one of the earliest cable channels, re-directs viewers to the web to see programming although for the time-being, they require proof of a cable or satellite subscription.

Nielsen may also cease to exist because measuring viewership will shift to things used for web analytics. So-called “market areas,” contrived of huge spans of counties to reap as much as possible from unsuspecting advertisers, will more realistically devolve back to the neighborhood level where viewers may be able to select communication about products rather than having to dodge those arbitrarily sent to them.

We owe a lot to the original three networks I remember, ABC, CBS and NBC and especially to local TV stations back when they really were local as in “your community.” That’s when the “D” truly stood for Durham in WTVD (broadcasting since 1954) and the “Ral” stood for Raleigh in WRAL (broadcasting since 1956.) In fact those original VHF channels were designated for cities back then, something lost on today’s broadcasters.

Without local affiliates needed to provide delivery it will be interesting to see if the new delivery technologies will be adapted to increase local programing and delivery. Local news may truly devolve back to being genuinely“local” as viewers will have the means to receive much more relevant content down to the neighborhood and street level rather than the 22-county, two-sound-bite travelogues that substitutes that masquerade as local news today.

Of course, broadcasting networks and affiliates aren’t alone in coping with extinction and we can’t underestimate what a challenge it will be for them to realize their anticipated profits and investments out of gradually irrelevant and obsolete capital costs. Just ask the owners and investors in traditional landline telephone companies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Like Durham Making The Cover of The Rolling Stone!

Jump-starting a community’s destination or community marketing organization from scratch, as some of us did for Durham more than two decades ago, includes overcoming a lot of obstacles in order to scrub up the community’s identity and brand.  Sometimes it seems like taking “friendly fire” because without an organization responsible for safeguarding a community’s identity, that identity can become not just diluted and polluted but these conditions become entrenched rendering them even more difficult to rectify.Division Cover

Today’s announcement that an image of Durham’s Historic Brightleaf Square, the bellwether for part of this community’s iconic sense of place,  will grace the cover of the State’s 2011 official travel guide is another illustration of just how far Durham has come.

Back when the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau was founded and we rolled up our sleeves, one of the first challenges was to clean up databases and references and listings in publications such as NC’s official travel guide and among other North Carolina tourism officials.  All of that work makes today’s announcement seem comparable to making the proverbial cover of The Rolling Stone. (watch this video if you’re too young to recall the county rock anthem by Dr. Hook)

No matter how skillfully the requests are made, it takes a lot of persistence.  We found a third of Durham’s assets listed under other communities and the co-owned airport was almost always truncated to just “Raleigh” in both print and verbal references.  The misinformation was so entrenched that we frequently found ourselves having to provide “proof” of the obvious to get many things corrected.

I can’t tell you how many times we endured heavy sighs and rolled eyes and near excommunication when intervening to correct mis-references.  The personalities are long gone and Durham has emerged with the help of other communities and the state as a leading destination, or so the performance measures and visitor sector accolades indicate, including today’s announcement.

Destination marketing, practiced as it should be, isn’t for the timid.  There are times when one has to speak up repeatedly to protect a community’s brand, identity and place-based assets.  “Going along to get along” just isn’t ever going to cut it.  It takes stamina and determination,  but ultimately people will respect you for staying the course, remaining committed, speaking up and if you’re lucky your destination just might make the cover of Rolling Stone.

Many thanks to Lynn Minges, assistant state secretary of commerce for tourism, marketing and global branding, who has stuck up Durham and for accurate and fair representation of all of North Carolina’s destinations her entire career and is arguably the most effective head of a tourism for whom any state could hope.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Surprising Force Behind the Innovations Of The Last 50 Years!

If you believe that the major innovations driving our economy such as semiconductors, computers, the Internet, GPS, mobile telephony are due primarily to corporate investments in R & D and entrepreneurs, you’re dead wrong.  Fact is that the basic R & D upon which corporations and entrepreneurs add value to and grow these industries has been facilitated by Uncle Sam.flag-us  Just ask Google or Microsoft.

Yup, you and me, the taxpayers.  Hopefully those in the new congress bent on cannibalizing Federal Government will get a grasp of this fact before destroying the backbone of this nation’s innovation.

A recent cross-country road trip gave me a lot of time to evaluate Satellite Radio.  One of my favorite Newsweek columnists now has a show called GPS on CNN.   Apparently airing on satellite radio a bit earlier than broadcast,  Fareed Zakaria was interviewing four CEO’s  including Eric Schmidt of Google on a GPS show entitled “Restoring The American Dream,”  as I drove back through the Rockies.

Schmidt's point in the transcript below is about the crucial role our Federal government plays in support of research and development made sense, but you wouldn’t believe the arrogance and vitriol it enlisted online from those loathe to ever acknowledge any good things about our government.

One arrogant tea partier claimed in a post to the transcript that if he were given all that tax money he too could have invented those things!  Uh, okay.  At least this person admits the importance of R & D.  Alarmingly a 2009 Pew study revealed that only 6% of scientists affiliate with the Republican Party while 55% are Democrats.  Only 9% consider themselves conservative.

But that’s just the point.  It took all of us working through government for the “common good” to generate the resources necessary to develop those technologies and innovations.  So get over it.  Give credit where it is due.

I agree with the head of Google.  For this country to remain great, we need to continue to fund government research, often conducted through public and private universities.  We can’t permit the hubris of a few who hate government to drag this country down.

Below is a transcript of that portion of this program:

ZAKARIA: Innovation is indeed the growth engine of future. But that engine is stalled right now. Corporate America spends some on R&D, but not enough. And much of what they spend is really directed at making existing products better or working on the next product. They don't do enough basic research. …

Is there something the government can do in the legal framework, in the business -- I mean, is there something we should be doing to get more of this?

SCHMIDT: The single biggest act that the government did many years ago was the funding that is known as the DARPA, the advanced research projects agency, and other governmental programs. Those are periodically under federal budget attack for one reason or another and, yet, they are literally the start of billion dollar industries. It's important that that investment occur. and even at a time now when everyone's worried about spending money, the investments we make now in universities and research that allow these entrepreneurs to get their start, will create the employment 10, 20 years from now that we'll all be so excited about.

ZAKARIA: So you're talking about government investment. You're talking about DARPA. You're talking -- you talked about industrial policy. You really see a big role for government in jump-starting growth?

SCHMIDT: Well, people assume that somehow America's government was not involved in the world 50 years ago. Almost all of the science and technology research that we take for granted now came out of the Defense Department spending post World War II.

ZAKARIA: Let's just stop here for a second and tally up some of those government-sponsored inventions.
The semiconductor industry, for example, would not exist if not for the DOD, the Department of Defense. The Internet, well, Al Gore didn't invent it, but DARPA did, the defense agency that funds new technologies. The computer industry, for years, NASA was its main client and kept it alive and brewing. And what about GPS? I'm not talking about this show, but about the worldwide network of satellites that can tell you, within feet, where you are almost anywhere on the globe. That's powering the next waive of innovation on the web. Mobile telephony (ph), that's going to be an industry with tens of billions of dollars in revenue. And that was also a Defense Department project.

All of the CEOs I have spoken to, especially those running technology companies, say that government investment in research and development has been crucial to driving technological change.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Typical Case of “Community” Identity Theft

If you ever wonder why “36 Hours” in the NYTs tried to cover Durham as part of two huge metro areas lumped together (an impossibility by the way) but gave tiny Sun Valley in the center of my homestate of Idaho an issue all its own, look no further than this announcement related to the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, R.I.P.

It is information like this, distributed either directly by Raleigh-based WRAL to publications like USA Today and others or relayed via the Raleigh-based office of Associated Press for North Carolina that pollutes and distorts, some say deliberately, Durham’s identity.images

The story mentions Raleigh three times in just the first three paragraphs regarding a thoughtful decision by the station to make a schedule change for a Duke University basketball game but without ever noting that neither Duke nor the game is located in Raleigh. Only in paragraph 10 does the information clarify that Duke is located not in Raleigh but in Durham, North Carolina.

AP guidelines stipulate that the location of Duke because it was different than the location of the outlet should have been identified immediately. But you wouldn’t believe the B.S. excuses given over the years including “everyone knows Duke is in Durham.” Oh Yeah, that’s why even outlets like CNN have placed it in Chapel Hill or Raleigh over the years.

Or could it be that some still harbor the notion that Durham should just be part of Raleigh?

Television stations covering this area may tout they broadcast to a mammoth 22-county area including parts of three states as defined by Nielsen as the Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville) DMA (designated market area) but they are often careless when it comes to to the identities of communities and their assets.

Intended or not, these inaccuracies clearly undermine or enable others to undermine Durham’s identity. Just look at the Arts Institute of Raleigh-Durham based in Downtown Durham in the heavily taxpayer subsidized and incentivized, spectacular, adaptive reuse of an old Lucky Strike factory. When asked why it substituted the name of the co-owned airport as its location rather than using Durham, AI officials tried to cover by claiming they wanted to use the name of the “market area so students wouldn’t be confused.”

Give us a break, like using the so-called 22-county market area, truncated to drop “Fayetteville” from the reference, is going to give a clearer locator than just using Durham? Oh, and it turns out this is apparently the only AI location in the nation to substitute a market area as a locator. Because the owner of the Raleigh-based media company that owns the Durham facility where AI is located has been reported to say in public that he thought “Raleigh-Durham” was a good choice, people thought it complicit.

I’m not sure that’s true or it may have just been an aside to cover AI from the widespread irritation this caused residents. The owner who also owns the Durham Bulls but not the adjacent Durham Bulls Athletic Park has typically always appeared to be sure to give the community (and taxpayers) of Durham credit as partners in making the facility possible. In this case, someone, most likely based in Charlotte probably misled AI, although the AI based there certainly doesn’t use the name of the larger market area as a locator.

Maybe the newly appointed president of the Durham campus, Chis Mesecar, a 15 year veteran of AI, can quietly help the company find a way to correct the name appropriately to Arts Institute of Durham, honoring the community where it is located and putting it on equal footing with all of the other campuses. I guarantee there will be no drop-off in student interest.

Durham is proud to be home to an AI campus and Durham also has a more positive image statewide than North Carolina’s largest cities. It is also clear from scientific surveys that the people who live in the communities at the center of the so-called 22-county Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville) market area, prefer instead to be characterized by the name of the distinct city, town or county where they live.

For anyone out there tempted to brush off why an accurate “identity” is core to a community’s brand success, just ask true, non-subservient Durham residents. Or ask yourself if a diluted identity and getting truncated into coverage of an area twice the size of Rhode Island is fair and rational while tiny Sun Valley’s identity is protected with a full issue.

With far too much of the heavy lifting falling on the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, standing up to issues of community identity theft like this in teamwork with residents is one of the strategies by which Durham has reclaimed its identity and begun to receive the recognition it deserves as one of the most highly and widely rated communities in the nation as a place to visit, live, raise a family, retire and do business.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Fellow Alaskan Adds To Durham’s Reputation

I’ve lived in Durham, North Carolina longer than any other place in my life now, but a part of me will always be Alaskan, sorry Sarah.   When I met Ari Zandman-Zeman for the first time this week, it didn’t take but five minutes for us to discover we’d both lived in Anchorage, where he was  born and raised and I was recruited to head the community marketing agency for most of the 1980s prior to being recruited here to jump-start Durham’s in 1989.rubberbanditz-seal 

Ari followed Duke star Trajan Langdon at East Anchorage High School and played Division I college basketball in Colorado (at the “real” UNC) before a stint in the U.S. Peace Corps and then making his way to Durham.  While lending his talents to Bull City Forward, founded by Life Entrepreneurs author Chris Gergen, Ari’s also adding to Durham’s considerable reputation for social entrepreneurship, the pioneers of which were celebrated a few years ago at Durham’s Annual Tribute Luncheon.

He’s the owner and Exercise Rubberlutionary at  Drawing from his experience as a college athlete, Ari has adapted and improved these exercise  products for business travelers, office jockeys, couch potatoes, deployed military personnel and just about anyone who wants to exercise but does not have access to a gym.  I think It will be a huge success and after meeting Ari, I even ordered a set myself.

That might be enough for a “simple” entrepreneur but not for the social entrepreneur. Ari’s real goal is to ultimately leverage the means to spur a greater interest and involvement in physical fitness  among low wealth neighborhoods, households and families.

It was a pleasure to meet Ari and discover our “Last Frontier” bond.  Once an Alaskan, always an Alaskan.   I recall that for several years after leaving Alaska, I’d get a call from the late Bill Tobin, an editor, editorial writer and columnist for the Anchorage Times and then the Anchorage Daily News, just checking on how I was doing and usually following up with a mention in his column to update my friends.

I remember that I had been in Durham several years when I received a phone call from a lady in Anchorage, whom I had never met, asking if I would pick her teen age daughter up at RDU and make sure she got settled okay at the American Dance Festival camp she was coming here to attend.  Alaska is a huge state geographically but with a population not much larger than the Durham metro area but once Alaskan, always an Alaskan.

I’m sorry I missed a write-up about Ari a year ago by Monica Chen in the Herald-Sun but I had my hands full wrapping up a nearly 40 year career before retirement.

Best wishes Ari and thanks for adding to Durham’s exploding reputation, not just for entrepreneurs but social entrepreneurs, and for extending several of this community's inherent, overarching brand values.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Adding 19 Hours To The Workweek

Admittedly, I was never an easy person for whom to work,  okay, that’s an understatement.  Often the reasons some people thrived and others didn’t are the same reasons that I was pretty good at other aspects of organizational growth and leadership.  However, I never gave up trying to find and integrate solutions to compensate, the most successful of which was teaming with an extremely effective and gifted COO during the last decade of my management career.

Receiving four more International MarCom awards further cements the marketing reputation of Durham’s official community or destination marketing organization, for whom I once worked and now a new study of 25,000 IBM employees in 75 countries may distill of DCVB’s secret.  Among the 120+ best practice recognitions DCVB has received in just two decades of existence are many as a “place to work.”

Destination marketing, practiced at or near its full potential as DCVB does, is a high-energy, all-consuming effort.  The target is always moving.  Competition is super-intense.  Rapid change is the norm.  Critical thinking and resilient learning from mistakes  is imperative.  Improvement must be continual and never-ending.  It definitely isn’t for everyone and it begins with selecting and grooming employees with the right fit and mental toughness.Capture

A study released this year and  led by E. Jeffrey Hill at my alma mater Brigham Young University (BYU) reveals that organizations like DCVB have a way to add 19 hours to the work week.  Part of the reason is hiring only people who live in Durham, curbing commutes.  But workplace flexibility, for which DCVB has been recognized nationwide several times including three Sloan Awards, is the secret.

Hill’s study of 25,000 IBM employees shows that after 38 hours a week in the workplace, employees experience work-family conflicts which cause a decline in efficiency and concentration.  When an employer does as DCVB has long been widely recognized and “strategically” employs comprehensive workplace flexibility through things like telecommuting and flex-time, the result is like adding 19 “workable” hours to the workweek improving workplace satisfaction and productivity.  The study shows that employees in a flexible work environment are able on average to juggle work responsibilities over 57 hours vs. just 38.

However, as DCVB has learned, with workplace flexibility, management responsibility intensifies.  DCVB handles this with an intricate process of highly measurable, cascading performance objectives for each employee, calibrated to each level of responsibility with relentless coaching and in-depth quarterly and annual reviews including several dozen core competencies that begin and end each year with the governing board’s review of CEO Shelly Green.

The results show in DCVB’s annual progress report, issued this week.

As a whole, DCVB has found a formula where employees work faster, harder and smarter on behalf of the community but without sacrificing personal or home-side responsibilities.  The result is a destination marketing organization that truly walks Durham’s overarching brand signature, “Where Great Things Happen!”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Model of Political Courage

You don’t grow up in the mountain states where I did without reverence for Teddy Roosevelt, but it wasn’t until a recent trip that I read his biography. I chose the just published, nearly 800 page Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris as my first. As my second I’m now reading the author’s nearly 1,000 page earlier book The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt which has been on my reading list for thirty years. In my own retirement now, I was drawn first to Colonel Roosevelt.

“Colonel Roosevelt,” the title he preferred following his two terms as President of the United States, covers the last ten years of this extraordinary American’s life between 1909 and 1919.Capture

Nothing “robotic-lock-step Tea Partier” about this Republican. He was Progressive through and through. Yes, OMG, that means liberal. Raised in privilege, if he were alive today he would have railed at his party for holding the unemployed hostage as they did last weekend so they could ensure that millionaires would benefit even beyond their first million dollars of annual income from an extension of tax cuts.

I would have loved to hear the butt-kicking Teddy Roosevelt would have given his own party had he still been alive and I have to believe he’s looking down with disgust even now because this man is definitely in “heaven.”

However, as it turns out, following Roosevelt’s presidency, the Republican Party of that day also betrayed his “Square Deal” to again favor of the rich and powerful.

I have more than a current event connection to this earlier Roosevelt (5th cousin to FDR.)

Nailed along a timber beam in my paternal grandparents’ basement were a series of horseshoes that I later inherited. They each represented stages of my grandfather’s life while breaking horses, match racing horses, homesteading range land, breeding and raising horses and much more.

One belonged to Darby, a bay saddle horse selected even though my grandfather was still too young to go along and shipped south to Salt Lake City to be ridden by a cousin in a parade for Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.

Roosevelt understood the West. He had worked as a cowboy in his youth. He understood the arid fragility of western settlement even after the West was won and the vital role a strong Federal government had to play beyond what any state or group of states could ever hope to accomplish so that region could fulfill its role as a benefactor for the entire union.

I also can’t help but imagine how much Theodore Roosevelt was influenced when as a 7 –year-old he looked down from his Manhattan birthplace on the funeral procession of President Lincoln, another Republican who would not pass muster with that party today. Had growing up during the war between the states, his father working tirelessly for the union and his Southern-born mother supporting secession given young Teddy a sense of the importance of a strong Federal government?

These two excellent books remind us of a time when one individual’s courage, values and “Bull-ee” determination rallied a nation to rise above powerful special interests and partisan politics and to care deeply about things we take for granted today, conservation, the environment, the dangers of corporate excess, equality, better working conditions and the right for every citizen to vote.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Death By Success

I became pretty good at three of the four Peter Drucker’s day-to-day parallel management activities:

  • organize for systematic and continuing improvement,
  • organize for systematic exploitation of successes and
  • organize for systematic innovation.

Try as I did, I never became very good at the activity he placed #1 on that list.  Drucker used the term “systematic abandonment” but I termed it organizing for systematic “obsolescence” of products, services, markets and distribution channels that are no-longer an optimal allocation of resources.

As I struggled with it personally, I tried delegating the responsibility, building it into strategic plans and organizational culture and teaching the importance of this activity to others so “E” for Effort right?

Each time I jump-started one of the three organizations I led, I leap-frogged passé elements so people mistakenly thought I was pretty good at abandoning obsolete strategies.  I was even pretty good at forecasting obsolescence.  However two conditions always made it hard for me to pull the plug.  One, after you put a lot of blood and sweat and tears into making a strategy a best practice, it is hard to abandon that baby.  Two, sometimes you had to keep a strategy on life-support, e.g. how many of you still have a fax machine in the back room or maybe even a manual typewriter, just in case.closed

What’s even harder for nearly everyone is deciding when an entire organization or type of business is obsolete, such as the phone books cluttering drive-ways and recycling bins this week or outdoor billboards blighting the landscape, landlines to nowhere and soon “broadcast” TV stations.  Non-profits and associations are notorious for ignoring organizational and product life-cycles.

For example, there is a certain type of general-purpose tourism association in nearly every state, typically organized in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, that having successfully fulfilled its mission by the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, has been kept on life-support now by generations of ever-dwindling numbers of members while struggling  through retreat after retreat in search of a new mission or a new “model,” anything new for which the organization can be useful.

We see them all around us, organizations and businesses that should have declared victory, distributed plaques and gone out of business once their original purpose or need for which they were organizations has been fulfilled.   Typically boards of directors fear that if they terminate the organization it will be a poor reflection on the founders or on them.  Often new regimes try to “reinvent” these organizations or businesses.  As they cling to life, attempting to take the lead of every parade that passes by, their desperate attempts to find oxygen sucks resources away from other needs.

These organizations and businesses are kept on life-support by the egos involved or by hoodwinking others via “smoke and mirrors” into believing that they are still relevant. 

Often this is a result of society’s failure to celebrate “death by success” a term coined by Nancy Lublin who writes about why charities should die in the Next Ethonomics section of the current issue of Fast Company Magazine.