Friday, December 25, 2009


Something I read from James Scott Bell the other day said we each get about eight decades in this world. Which made me stop and count on my fingers how many decades I've gone through, and how many I may have left.

I've cleared past one full hand of fingers and just started into a new one on my other hand.

Yikes. That's a lot of fingers I've gone through. And seems there aren't many leftover. Double yikes.

It's Mystery to me what all these fingers are adding up to, where they are pointing. I used to think that was a bad thing. That was back when I was living on the other hand.

But ever since getting a new hand I'm thinking Mystery's not so bad. Especially when I'm aware that much of life is nothing but Mystery.

Think about the first decade of this new century. Geez, what a Mystery it has been.

Letterman, Tiger and Bernie? Oh my.

Iraq and WMD? Beats me.

Washington and Wall Street? No clue.

Why is it the more sophisticated and certain and omnipotent we act, the more mysterious life becomes?

What if we cut to the chase and embrace Mystery? How fun might that be? Even better, what relief might come from not having to know the weekend weather forecast or the difinity of pundits or the payback scenario or whether the next thing is really going to be The Next Big Thing?

When someone's trying to make sense of stuff and all the talk turns to nothing but answers with few questions or the debate over ROI or just loud, hot hootin' and hollerin', try asking So why the hangup with mystery?

Five fingers in and three more to go makes me wonder if all is Mystery? If so, fine with me.

So long as we're working together toward good, and no one despairs, come win, lose or draw and the mess that goes with it, isn't it easier and less of a burden to believe in Mystery where all will be well?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Movies

You ever wanted to go to a holiday movie because everyone you know is saying they want to go to that movie. Even though you don't know exactly what you're all in for?

That's the way it is for all Next Big Things. Everyone wants in. Even if they're not sure why.

This is the moment when everyone's getting swept up. And it's a moment when great opportunity is at hand.

Here are a couple of thoughts that may come in handy at times like these.

First, is simple awareness that everyone wants in. As in the case of stuff like Facebook and Twitter these days. These are movies everyone wants to see right now.

How can you tell? The Odd Factor helps me. I start seeing swept up moments when I hear odd chatter in odd spots. Like when I heard two seniors in a Starbucks talking about connecting on Facebook. That ranked high on my Odd Factor. And helped me see everyone wants in on this movie.

Second thought is if you're aware of all the people going to the movie sweeping up at the box office, how great would it be if you're the one selling the popcorn?

Who wants to be the guy selling liver and onions at the movie everyone wants to see?


Friday, December 11, 2009

What Job Is Your Product Being Hired For?

This is the million dollar question asked by Harvard business guru, Clayton Christensen.

He's a big thinker when it comes to the art of innovation. Whether working on The Next Big Thing or simply trying to figure it out, this is a guy I love to learn from.

FRIDAY'S POST just came across a recent talk by Professor Christensen to a group of educators. Lordy, if there's a category ever in need of disruptive innovation, our schools, from kindergarten all the way through university, have to be among those most in need of serious transformation. Maybe it ought to be required viewing for every educator drawing a paycheck today.

Professor Christensen's research suggests that the job kids hire schools for is to help them feel more successful, and have time and a place to enjoy their friends. When schools fail to do the job, the Professor says kids will look to fill unmet needs by eventually dropping out or video-gaming or mallrat-packing or gang-banging.

In my state, Minnesota, only about a quarter of today's ninth graders will make it through college. That's a troubling statistic in this global high-tech knowledge economy of ours. Makes you wonder if schools get the message they aren't doing the job they're hired for very well anymore.

Oh, by the way, if you believe technology in the classroom is the answer, it's not says Professor Christensen. He says don't look for much impact from all those spiffy new computers in the classroom, unless it's accompanied by new models of teaching.

This brings to mind our friend Fred the Math Teacher and his model of doing school backward, featured in one of our November posts. Would that The Professor and The Math Teacher could meet. That'd be a great mash-up of 21st century theory, practice and what-job-is-school-being-hired-for-re-definition in one room.

Clayton Christensen's recent talk runs about 50 minutes and it covers innovation in business as well as government and education.

It is Must-Watch TV.

No matter if you are a leader in business or government or education or not-for-profit, you will find tremendous value watching this presentation. So, FRIDAY'S POST highly recommends you treat yourself to an hour with Clayton Christensen.

How great would it be if your customers someday said The Next Big Thing you invented did exactly the job they hired it for?


twitter tjmorin

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hope and Fear and The Next Big Thing

We're at a moment when we need lots of Next Big Things. Those things and the jobs they bring aren't coming from GM or BofA or AOL or BHO. No, they'll come from us, We The People.

Trouble is hope and fear are getting in the way when it comes to getting after The Next Big Thing.

Who wants to step up and step out with some high-impact innovation when you're constantly feeding Fear the Beast with "Better not hire just yet" or "I'm not good enough" or "What if I fail" or "My boss will think this is stupid" or "You guys aren't big enough to be a good credit risk."

Oh my. Not me. That's for sure.

On the other hand, Hope unchecked can carry you quickly away. Next thing I know I'm swept up by my own genius or avarice or omnipotence.

These storylines hold the stuff of bad endings, the last thing needed when crafting a better way for, say, health care in America. How sad when Hope gives way to hype and then to the tartuffe and the thousand-page fix-it plan that becomes law of the land.

Here's the deal, Hope and Fear in proper measure can fuel each of us to The Next Big Thing. Hope dwells within inspiration coming from Something bigger than ourselves. And Fear, in the right dose, spurs positive change.

But, lordy, how do you find the right balance?

Maybe all it takes is being aware of moments when Hope and Fear are at work in our lives. And consciously responding to their movements on a path toward passion, purpose, growth.

Maybe it means balancing Hope with humility. And Fear with the trusting embrace of mystery, this thing we call Life.

You got an idea and passion for the next killer social media app, or an opportunity to buy a distressed company, or underwrite a small business loan, or desiring a career change, or looking for a new job? You're probably hanging around Hope and Fear a lot these days.

I wonder if becoming aware of how they hang around us is the first big thing we should do when getting after The Next Big Thing we do?

twitter tjmorin

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fred the Math Teacher: The Movie

FRIDAY'S POST caught up with our 2009 Teacher of the Year the other day. We wondered how the new school year was going.

In our post last June you heard about Fred the Math Teacher's out-of-the-box idea of filing daily school lessons up on the web so students can watch them at home at night and then come to school the next day to do homework during class.

A lot of people wrote in to say Fred's a really smart fellow with a brilliant idea.

Fred's picked up where he left off last school year and is now going to a new level. Turns out he's expanded his novel approach to every one of his daily classes this school year. And the results are really encouraging, when you ask the kids. Which is what Fred did in a short video piece.

Go see for yourself at Fred the Math Teacher: The Movie.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Makes me think I'll be thankful for teachers like Fred the Math Teacher this coming holiday.

Twitter tjmorin

Friday, November 13, 2009

Desire. Behavior.

Game changing innovation does best when addressing our desires. Innovating or automating behavior is a dead-end route.

Google didn't set out to automate how we find information. Had it done so, it might have created robotic library card-catalogue systems. Expensive. Heavy. Yuck.

Instead, it responded to our desire for better organized information. The result is easy search innovation that's changed the world's behavior in how it finds the information it needs. And met our hopes, desires for having quick, simple access to information at our fingertips in this knowledge economy.

Medtronic didn't set out to automate the behavior of the beating human heart. Otherwise it might've invented an artificial heart device. Instead, it responded to the desire of healthy, normal living while managing cardiovascular disease. Today it produces minimally invasive devices about the size of the coins we carry in our pockets. How excellent is that!

Would that our health care reformers pay mind to this as they advance efforts to reign in out-of-control costs while improving access in an aging country.

The next big thing for business software guys isn't automating more-and-more behaviors of their customers. It's going to be meeting the desires of people to be appropriately, commercially, efficiently, measureably social and community-centric in a business context.

Twitter's had some success here. But I suspect there's more to the desires of humans being social in business than what is being met so far by Twitter.

You want to be in on the next big thing at a time when our economy needs a lot of Next Big Things, you ought to be solving for desire, instead of solving for behavior.

twitter tjmorin

Friday, November 6, 2009


How do you greet revelation?

Mostly, I ignore it. Revelation moves in, then moves out. Mostly, it's months or years before I notice its movements.

Relevation is the subtle ingredient of awareness. Sometimes tough to hear in a noisy, media infested world. Sometimes difficult to embrace because it is so honest, so direct, so tough on illusion. Sometimes its patience lulls you to an easy place where you think you have all the time in the world to get back to it when, you know, it works best for you.

Revelation is about what's becoming, not what's been left behind. Which means its second-act is Mystery. And who really wants our play to go there from here.

Sometimes revelation breaks into life in a way that is impossible to ignore. Like when my wife called and said Those Words about our son: "He has cancer."

Sometimes it comes with a question that followed Those Words, "If it was time to take your boy, would he have cancer with a ninety-eight percent cure rate?"

Sometimes revelation hangs around long enough that you notice its greeting is all about life you cannot even imagine, like life ahead with a new spouse or partner, or with a new child. Something so good it makes you wonder, Am I worthy?

Or maybe it's telling you something's not right. Maybe its greeting is about a dead-end career or a stale relationship or a dear long-held belief or a deadly addiction. Something's dying; there's no energy; life in you or around you is draining away. Maybe you don't notice and you die or live a life without any life.

Sometimes revelation is a slow burn that creates just enough smoke and flame you can't help but notice. Maybe it's a business deal or some other hope stone that rolled off a tall cliff and you say the words my friend once said after getting swept up innocently in a good-deal-gone-real-bad, criminally-bad: "This is big trouble."

And maybe revelation pays its call and can't cut through the power and the glory and the omnipotence. As in There's No WMD Here. With Mission Accomplished the potent and powerful shrug and respond Then Glorify Elsewhere. And revelation moves on. Leaving the power and the glory and the potent in a boiling pot of cable television talking heads, moving no one, nowhere.

Revelation sometimes has two words serving up its alert: Holy Smokes or Holy Hannah or Holy Whatever-from-the Gutter.

When I hear them, revelation is nearby. It's in the house. My house. When I hear them I know the bets I placed on hope and fear, belief and unbelief, life and death are being called. Those words mean the jackpot of awareness is somewhere nearby.

But, here's the thing, maybe revelation's always been in the house.

What if it's me who moves in and out?

Maybe greeting revelation and letting it greet me means I'm finally home.

How do you greet revelation? What words call you home? Where do you go from there?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bob the Leader

Bob the Leader has been a leader as long as I've known him. I learned this first-hand way back in ninth grade when he told me he was into reading and writing poetry.

Back in the day of our Catholic all-boys hormone hot-dish, a place our Benedictine masters had us believe was high school, guys didn't tell other guys those things unless they had the stuff to live dangerous lives of saints-in-waiting-to-be-stoned or maybe as leaders of a community of some sort some day.

Turns out Bob's now leading a community. His makes its way in the cut-throat competitive construction materials business.

They're doing well in this economy. And Bob the Leader's doing it the way he did it in ninth grade: leading with the heart of a poet; maybe as the only poet in the cut-throat construction materials business.

How's that for dangerous....

Bob the Leader's seen this kind of economy before. Last time was the early 90s. That's when Bob nailed the deal to supply and deliver the drywall for The Mall of America. And all that drywall for the Mall of America is how he and his team and maybe even America beat the recession back then.

His secret was the same in the 90s as it is now: "Old fashioned values like hard work, honesty, doing what we say we're going to do, never lose their sense of fashion, and wear smartly if you're brave enough to wear them every day."

Bob the Leader goes even deeper when he cuts to the heart of Community Centricity, "Overcoming oneself is about the struggle over the destructive ego. Selfless service is what we should offer up. Success and happiness are not the primary goal, but a byproduct of service and doing the right thing."

Hey Washington, Wall Street, Cable Wide Mouths, are you listening to this guy...?

Today to make sure they're on track, Bob the Leader leads his company regularly through real-life scenarios, testing itself to see if it is holding true to its values, its beliefs.

When he does this, Bob offers one simple thought: "Bottom line should be read last, like an epilogue to a good book."

Oh my, how that is well said. And said, I should imagine, as all men of letters in the cut-throat construction materials industry would say. Makes me wonder how great it would be if more of our companies and communities had leaders as poets.

Do you know poets with the values of Bob the Leader, leaders who are poets in your midst?

Wouldn't their values wear smartly in our communities if we were brave enough to wear them daily?

twitter tjmorin

Friday, October 23, 2009


Thomas Merton the monk had in his daily journal 46 years ago this line from Karl Barth:

"Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that they ought not to take their own unbelief too seriously. Only faith is to be taken seriously..."


Is that a line invented for today or what? What if all of our talking TV heads began their shows with that line? What if Congress made that a law? That'd be acceptable government over-reach, wouldn't it?

Knowing what to believe, whether in someone or something or yourself, is next to impossible these days. And keeping the faith once you believe is even harder.

Today you can get to unbelief before the next commercial break. And stay there forever.

I've known Bob the Leader for years and just learned the other day how he leads his company regularly through real-life scenarios, testing its beliefs to see if it is holding true in the cut-throat, competitive, construction materials industry.

More with Bob the Leader next week. Until then I'll wonder a lot about how many and how often companies and communities hold all-hands chalk-talk sessions, game-planning what they seriously believe and whether they are keeping the faith.

I like these words from Merton and Barth from so long ago because we're all in communities, whether family, work, civic, school, church, and we are surrounded and pounded relentlessly by serious unbelief these days.

All we need, these gurus tell us, is to know and then to hang on tightly to our beliefs. No matter, they say, if they're tiny or grand.

Getting serious about what your community believes means you're on your way to faith which means you're on your way to hope, which are waypoints to good, to life, to destiny.

How does this work for you? Does your company or community know what it believes? And what about its unbeliefs, fears, predjudices, angst, power-trips? Does it see them too? And take them not too seriously?

twitter tjmorin

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pete the CMO

I gathered two quick impressions of my friend Pete the CMO the other day.

First, he's easily impressed. Surprisingly so for a New York Chief Marketing Officer guy.

Just take him to lunch at the down-home Five-Eight cheeseburger joint in Minneapolis. The $12 bill for two will impress him so much he'll grab the tab. In Manhattan, where Pete hangs out, $12 wouldn't get you half-a-burger. And Pete, as you'll soon read, knows a bit or two about restaurant tabs.

Second thing about Pete, he's one of our planet's best marketing/social/community nurturing talents. And what a great talent to have at this moment, the moment of Community Centricity.

Two-plus years ago Pete was a C-level marketing guy at Avaya leading global this-n-that. One thing about the chiefy levels of Corporate America: For all its power and trappings, it is a lonely place. And Pete recognized there was no place, no community of CMO peers focused exclusively on helping each other.

Sure there are plenty of high-brow conference panels, boards and trade groups out there; places where Pete says "You get sold to." But nothing exclusively comprising "peers who know as much about my challenges and problems as I do," Pete said.

So Pete did what any social marketing community nurturing guru would do: He started having dinners with fellow CMOs as his day-job travels took him around the country.

In early 2007 Pete organized his first CMO dinner. Six people showed up. The roundtable dinner discussion ranged from helping one CMO who'd just been promoted get more comfortable in the new role to brainstorming better customer engagement ideas with another CMO to thoughts about building trust and reputation with another CMO.

Wow. To be a fly on that table.....

Today Pete and The CMO Club he founded (after jumping off the corporate C-Level high dive) numbers more than 800 Chief Marketing Officers. "It's called a club on purpose," Pete says. "Everything is driven by the CMOs in the club." And it's Pete's full-time job to listen to what the club needs and wants.

Today Pete hosts dinners for CMOs in 15 cities three or four times a year.

The CMO Club website ( is an exclusive place on the web for its members. It's one of the best social media & community sites out there. Which is the reason well over 100 CMOs spend time there every day listening and learning from one another.

And twice a year The CMO Club hosts its Thought Leadership summits. It's quite an experience to be in a room for two days with high wattage corporate marketing execs.

Like last spring when Pete and his club thought it would be good to hear from a group of young millenials about their perspectives of today's market and work world.

CMOs didn't react so well when one kid on the panel bragged about his habit of being on Facebook during staff meetings. Darn near started a food fight. And lunch was still 30 minutes from being served.

I remember watching Pete, waiting for him to panic. Not a chance. He loved every minute of it.

Because Pete gets community. And community is at it's finest when it is open, dynamic, engaged, authentic and, yes, even messy.

As a community, The CMO Club is one of the finest. 40-50 new CMOs join every month. And here's the thing, of all the stuff Pete does to breathe life into The CMO Club, there's one thing he doesn't do: sell.

One CMO told Pete the secret sauce of the club is simple. "You have my best interests in mind." Pete's approach is to let the club evolve as the members will have it evolve.

For Pete the CMO, doing this well means he follows. And the club leads. And the club grows.

That's Community Centricity.

Isn't it funny how the more you follow your community, the less you have to sell?


twitter: tjmorin

Friday, October 2, 2009

Community Centricity

You ever been planning and budgeting a new business year and let the words of Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins frame your current market scenario like this:

Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

I've never used those words in a business plan but maybe I should. Those words all trades, their gear and tackle and trim suggest We. Not Me. As in only a customer and me. Or only a supplier and me. Or just an employee and me.

Those words and these All things counter, original, spare, strange suggest community. As in customers and suppliers and partners and employees and, then (and only then) me.

Together. Fickle, freckled (who knows how?).

You hear a lot of chatter about customer centricity these days. I don't really get it yet. And maybe no one I ask does either, since everyone has their own definition of it.

Even Wikipedia is useless. It devotes just 29 words to the topic.

Some big deal This Next Big Thing in business is.

Sounds a lot like the last thing: It's me against you. And if you're my customer or supplier or partner or employee you have MY money in your pocket and I'm comin' to get it swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.

Maybe we're at a moment ripe for community centricity. Where you succeed because the other guy really knows, believes and trusts "you've got my best interests in mind."

That's what my friend Pete the CMO said the other day when I asked him about the secret sauce of The CMO Club, a community of 800 CMOs he founded two years ago. (More about Pete next week...)

Community Centricity says my customers, employees, partners, suppliers, even competitors are part of the story, this Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;

Community Centricity says everyone has something to offer and it is good and it isn't to be feared. So go ahead and comment on our work together and share it and rate it with your Facebook friends.

Community Centricity says I'm not only going to sell you my product, but I'm going to work with you to attract another customer for you because you have it.

Community Centricity says I'm going to organize a Twitter following of customers so you can learn everything from everyone I do business with: Good, Bad, and Ugly.

Community Centricity says I'm obligated to be a thought leader and deliver you the best ideas the market has to offer, whether I thought of them or one of my competitors did.

Community Centricity says, like Pete the CMO said, I have your best interests in mind in All things counter, original, spare, strange.

Then, and maybe only then, you'll trust me enough to buy something I have to offer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Swept Up

You ever gotten swept up in a business deal or neighbor problem or some kind of holy war that made you wonder: What was that? What was I thinking?

This happens to me a lot. Just like it happens with every other human.

It doesn't matter if you're a big shot or not. In fact honchos are famous for getting themselves and lots of others swept up in stuff.

Stuff like WMD and subprime mortgages and TARPs and Health Care Reform and Change-Is-Coming-America and Mission Accomplished. And to think this is stuff that's swept up over a few measly years.


Why do we keep doing this?

Maybe it's because of the pounding we get from yak radio and talk TV.

And because leaders and bosses are forever promising to save us from melting polar caps, insurance companies, men in caves, quarterly sales slumps, devils, un-Americans, missing the Next Big Thing.

And, let's face it, maybe it's because we're willing to let others tack their talking points to our tongues.

What if everyone held to a couple of basic principles of responsible leadership and followership?

For leaders this would mean that truth and honesty are more important than urgency and victory. For followers this would mean it's your duty to ask Why until it can't be asked anymore.

And wouldn't it be great if someone invented a four-point checklist where you could check off the stuff people tell us on the TV and Radio and The Internet?

Like when they say "EVERYBODY needs to do this or do that or else."

And "We gotta DO something and we gotta do it now!"

And "There's just no time for any discussion because we gotta do something NOW!"

And "If you must ask why, well, then you must be ONE OF THEM and not one of us."

When this list reads Check-Check-Check-Check we'd all know we're getting swept up.

I wonder why nobody's invented that checklist to make it safer to use the TV and Radio and The Internet? Maybe it's because somebody already invented the OFF Button.

And assumed we'd use it.

twitter tjmorin

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Confidence. Arrogance.

You ever seen these two forces at work in a family discussion or office staff meeting or joint session of Congress?

Maybe you find it easy sorting confidence and arrogance apart in this real-time, noisy, on-demand, demanding world. I don't, but I try.

Here's one attempt:

Confidence listens. Arrogance speaks to no one but itself.

Confidence enjoys the question. Arrogance wants the answer, any answer.

Confidence invests in tomorrow. Arrogance spends all it has for the glory of fleeting moments.

Confidence seeks resolution. Arrogance yells You Lie.

Confidence nurtures patience. Arrogance can't wait.

Confidence learns. Arrogance knows.

Confidence wonders and looks around. Arrogance and its stiff neck sees one way.

Confidence trusts. Arrogance suspects someone's to blame.

Confidence accepts the river coming its way. Arrogance controls the flow.

Confidence invites civility. Arrogance breeds chaos.

Confidence acts humbly, subtly. Arrogance seeks omnipotence and you better get on board or else you're one of them and not one of us.

Confidence hopes. Arrogance fears.

Confidence believes deep down. Arrogance trembles.

Confidence earns. Arrogance deserves.

Confidence sows steadfastness. Arrogance breeds anxiety.

Confidence searches for a Source and Center larger than itself. Arrogance believes only in itself.

Confidence renews and refreshes. Arrogance becomes a has-been.

Confidence asks Do You Want To Come Along? Arrogance asks Am I Good Enough?


twitter tjmorin

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Dinner With Vishwa

You ever have a conversation that you can't shake out of your head? I can't stop thinking about my dinner with Vishwa in Bangalore. And we had dinner two years ago.

That's when I asked: "So who's going to win, Vishwa, China or India?"

"Oh no, Mr. Tim, that is not the right question," Vishwa said. "Because it's not China or India. It's China AND India."

Vishwa says the young, emerging middle-class street in places like Bangalore believes the bulk of financial and human capital (i.e. money and talent) is moving to his part of the world and away from ours. It's just a matter of time says Vishwa.

So for my friend Vishwa the right question is simply: "When? When will it be China AND India?"

Oh my!

Maybe I can't get this dinner chatter out of my head because my four kids just went back to school.

Maybe it's because they were walking up the schoolhouse steps just as some famous Americans were yapping about the current American president encouraging kids to study hard.

Maybe it's because of a speech, Dave Laird, the soon-to-be retiring president of Minnesota Private Colleges Council, delivered the other day that had these facts:

-China will build 800 new universities in the next decade. America will build five.
-In Minnesota (my home) just 25% of 9th graders will earn a college degree in the next decade.
-Compared to students worldwide, American kids rank 25th in math; 21st in science; 15th in reading.
-In 1975 America was #3 in the world in graduating college kids who held a science or engineering degree. In 2005 America was 20th.
-And by 2004 China AND India were producing 10 times more of these brainy graduates than we do.

Dave Laird says America is falling behind China AND India. He's been a thoughtful, vocal leader on this topic. He only wishes more leaders in politics and business would be as public as the president when it comes to encouraging kids to study hard.

I wish everyone could have dinner with Vishwa. I'll bet that would encourage our kids to study harder. Maybe even make our famous yappers a lot smarter too.

twitter tjmorin
facebook tjmorin

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sometimes Questions

You ever been in a sales or board or townhall meeting that wasn't going anywhere until someone asked a really good question?

The kind of question poet David Whyte would say has "no right to go away."

These questions are sometimes as good as answers. Maybe better.

A lot of questions are asked in a lot of meetings to fetch pride or power or status or 'gotcha.'

But not questions that have no right to go away. Those come from the soul. From wisdom places hard to hear in this talk-talk-talkie-talk world of ours.

They don't go away because some truth is just on the other side. Sometimes painful or inspirational or scary or peaceful truth we need to get to.

Questions like these are just what we need says David Whyte in his poem

If you move carefully through the forest,
If you move carefully through the forest,

Breathing like the ones in the old stories who could cross
A shimmering bed of leaves without a sound,
You come to place whose only task is to trouble you,
With tiny, but frightening requests.

Conceived it seems out of nowhere,
But in this place starting to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop doing what you are doing right now.
And to stop what you are becoming while you do it.

Questions that can make or unmake a life,
Questions that have patiently waited for you.

Questions that have no right to go away.

Sometimes Questions. You get to know them because they have no right to go away. Do you have any of these questions sometimes?

Join me on Twitter & Facebook
twitter tjmorin
facebook tjmorin

Friday, August 14, 2009

Steve the Innovator

You want to grow in a tough time like this you need to get comfy with these two words: radical constraints.

Steve the Innovator taught me these two words. And it's those two words that allowed him to create (my favorite place on the web).

In short, radical constraint means thinking completely differently about a problem or goal. Another hot innovator, Evan Williams who invented Twitter, told THE ECONOMIST in December 2007 that 'radical constraints can lead to breakthroughs in simplicity and entirely new things.' One question, the story says Evan Williams likes to ask is ''what can we take away to create something new?''

Sounds like big stuff when the big-wig inventor of Twitter talks about radical constraints.

In Steve's case he wrestles the same demons we mortals in businessland face every day: How do I grow in a tough economy? The typical approach is to come up with better answers to questionable sales, marketing, pricing, product programs.

Not Steve.

Radical constraint concepts led him instead to an offbeat question: "What could I do that would get me in the email inboxes of C-level decision makers 52 times a year AND have an 'open' rate of ten times average email campaigns?" was his answer. And the best part is it has no clear linear tie to his core digital consulting agency, Polar Unlimited. Unless you consider that the weekly blogpodcastebookmashup that is is followed by thousands of people, many who are business honchos too busy to read all the must-read business books out there.

So Steve does a nifty, thrifty summary of the best business books of the moment. It's less book review than an unpacking of big ideas bound by hard cover. I actually go looking for his email if I don't find it during the week (this week it was sitting in my spam folder for who knows what reason.)

If I was CMO of a place like Amazon or Target or Wal Mart or Barnes & Nobles and wanted to sell more books to more business execs or a place that peddles publications or software or anything else that promises to make business run better, I'd want to pick Steve the Innovator's brain.

Not for answers. I'd want offbeat questions about how you get inside (and stay inside) the heads of customers and prospects in this idea and knowledge economy of ours.

Join me on Twitter and Facebook

Friday, August 7, 2009

We the Writers

You ever wonder why people blog?

The business gurus, Tom Peters and Seth Godin, say blogging helps you think more than it helps you get rich or become famous.

Which makes me wonder what if all this blogging (which is to say writing) makes us better writers and then better thinkers?

I know a business columinist in Minneapolis who knew of a freelance writer who called his trade 'vernacular engineering.'

Goodness gracious, that's well said. And well-engineered.

Writing is the engineering of ideas; the test-bed of creativity; the thing you do to shape and refine concepts until they are just right.

Here's an idea: What if our President, an accomplished author (and, perhaps, now the nation's Writer-in-Chief...), asked every kid in America to start blogging? And to encourage them, Mr. President, how about you promise to make time to read one kid's post during every one of your presidential press conferences and weekly radio addresses?

How great would it be if We the People became We the Writers? And in the process, became the world's best vernacular engineers in this knowledge and idea economy of ours?


Friday, July 31, 2009

He Has Cancer

You know the words no Mom or Dad or Kid ever wants to hear:

''He has cancer.''

Those words were my wife's words about our son.

I'll always remember that phone call. My wife said quietly at first: ''You need to take this.''

Then Those Words, ''He has cancer.''

Same crud as Lance Armstrong.

Those Words send you somewhere lonely. Somewhere scary. It's a place that's not dark. Nor light. A place where time checks out. Moments are thick. Minutes immovable.

And the people, your people, they are gone. Way gone. Because you’ve lost your place because maybe you're going to lose your boy. And they just don't know how to reach over to you. You've moved onto a different path. A path that's only for you and people like you who have Those Words.

I asked just one thing in the middle of our first night with Those Words, ''Are You really coming to take my boy?''

As you wait for some kind of answer, people, who are gonna be Your People through this thing, begin gathering around you, saying stuff like “we're thinking of you.”

They call. “We're praying for you.”

They drop an email. “We'll ask God to heal your son.”

They bring a meal -- lordy, do they bring meals. “Let us know if we can do anything for you.”

This gathering of Your People really takes off when someone says you should set up a page on Caring Bridge .

Holy smokes!

You quickly realize, this is a place where you can actually begin to manage Those Words; to keep Your People up to date in (sorry to sound clinically techno-geeky here) a way that scales. Even better, even more important, Your People can keep you in their thoughts and prayers at scale.

Geez, is THAT important when you and your wife and your kid are dealing with Those Words.

"It's a sacred place," says founder and CEO, Sona Mehring. A place she started in 1997 to support a Mom and a Dad and Their Baby, all friends, who'd been dealing with a really difficult illness.

Sona's a down-to-earth, techie-type, and she asked her friends a simple question at a tough time: How can I help?

You know like I know that keeping Your People up-to-date at a time like this is really hard. Really time-consuming. Really emotionally draining. And, speaking from experience, you gotta know it's really the last thing you want to do if you're like my wife and me and my kid when we gotta figure out what to do with Those Words.

Sona's response back in '97: She stepped up and created the world's first social network so her friends and their family could easily share and update one another. Before Facebook. Before MySpace. Before YouTube. Before Twitter.

Now, it's the most important social media place on the planet!

The CaringBridge premise is simple. Each family has a page. And they use it for free as long they wish to keep friends and family informed and connected when, as Sona says, "it matters most. It's a time when people need to connect. It's a place for important emotional support."

In 1997, Sona's friends and then some 100 other families turned to CaringBridge. From there it took off. The number of families has doubled every year. More than 30 million people have visited CaringBridge in the last 12 months. Every day 200 family sites are created. These are people like Your People who have cancer, premature babies, cardiac challenges, serious accidents.

Today, CaringBridge is a vibrant non-profit, depending on small contributions from the people like Your People who benefit most.

If I could pick a theme song for CaringBridge, it would be this one from Bruce Springsteen. And if I could pick a tagline it'd be this line from that song:

"With These Hands. With These Hands. C'mon Rise Up."

I know what Your People and their hands can do for a Mom and a Dad and a Kid with Those Words. There's no clear-cut cure for cancer yet. But Those Words are no match for Your People, Your Community, and a place like CaringBridge.

Do you wonder what would happen if you had this sacred place and Your People with you before you ever get Those Words?


Friday, July 24, 2009

Is Merton Right?

You ever had A Year with Thomas Merton, the monk and mystic?

Most of what he says whistles well over my head. A riff of wisdom he posted way back on July 2nd, 1948 talks about tranquility. You know, the thing that's opposite fear and anxiety.

Here's what Thomas Merton said of his notion of tranquility:

"I have more of it perhaps because I am less mixed up today in peculiar tensions of desire and pride that come from fighting the will of God in an obscure way, under the pretext of a greater good."

Oh, my. But wait, here's some even more in your face stuff:

"There is only one way to peace: be reconciled that of yourself you are what you are, and it might not be especially magnificent, what you are!" (Ouch!)

"God has His own plan for making something else of you, and it is a plan which you are mostly too dumb to understand." (Double-- Maybe Even Triple-- Ouch!)

So, here's a simple two-word takeaway: Dumb and dumber.

A lot of times I'm too dumb to understand Merton. A guy who tells me from a simple post all the way back in 1948 I'm even dumber to understand the Big Picture when it comes to finding a slice of tranquility.

You know like I know there's a lot of fear and anxiety out there in the world in 2009.

Maybe this is the dumb thought for the week, but I'll ask anyway: Is Merton right?


join me on and

Friday, July 17, 2009

Commit & Deliver

You want to be a leader these days means you'll need to get your head around two big ideas. One is commit. The other is deliver.

Committing is something a lot of people in business, academia, government, relationships, spend a lot of time, money, energy avoiding.

I learned this from Sam the Intern, who works in my office. I asked Sam to figure something out once this summer. Sam's simple reply: "I'm on it."


This was six weeks ago. The quick comeback from Sam the Intern still rings in my head. So does the fact that he delivered on his "I'm on it" commitment.

I can't think the last time I heard a bunch of management honchos say during a meeting: " I'm on it." Usually they say, "Let's get the consultants on it." Why do they say that?

So they don't have to commit. So they can come up with a lot of questions, reasons, data for not doing something. So they can keep their honcho paychecks.

Here's the thing they don't lecture about and teach you at MBA schools: Most people who end up in leadership positions are pretty scared in their roles. And it's really tough to commit -- to tell the group "I'm on it" when you're running scared. It is why a lot of good companies fail and potentially great movements never get going.

Beating back fear and then committing is why a lot of little, great ideas become big, great ideas, movements, companies. Think of Bill Gates telling the world he wanted a computer on every desk. Or John Kennedy saying we're going to put a human on the moon in 10 years. Or the Google founders organizing the world's information. Talk about commitment.

This is the kind of stuff everyone of us is born to do. All it takes is taking out fear. Eliminate fear and we'll eliminate a lot of problems on Earth: hunger, poverty, illiteracy, pollution, etc.

I hope future leaders are taught how to look fear in the eye at MBA schools and other kinds of leadership academies in the U.S. We're gonna win for a long time if our leaders learn how to not be so scared and commit to big ideas. And then deliver.

Delivery is a solo sport, compared to commitment (which is a crowd sport where the crowd usually tries to avoid committing.) Sure it takes a lot of people to get a human on the moon. But somewhere there's a leader standing in the middle of all the confusion, ambiguity, tension holding firm, risking much, and driving to deliver something meaningful.

Do you know that feeling? Here's one story: A few years back, my software company cranked budgets really tight. Of course they wanted my commitment to maintain marketing communications service delivery. What to do in that situation?

I committed. And then moved all creative design work for all marketing communications to India. A lot of folks thought this was nuts. Truthfully, I mostly thought they might be right. Thankfully, a few of us in Bangalore and in the U.S. kept at it. And in the end, we hit quality targets and drove spend to about 10 cents on the dollar. We committed. Then delivered. To this day, it still works for the firm.

I'm thankful for Sam the Intern and his "I'm on it" attitude of commit and deliver. I suspect he may be a leader some day. I hope Sam and his contempories don't unlearn this during their careers.

"I'm on it"....isn't that a great attitude for current and future Americans to embrace? Doesn't a time like this mean all of us are going to have to commit and deliver? How do you do this now?


join me at and

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm Scared

You ever heard someone in a meeting say: ''I don't have time for this'' ?

Mostly they mean: ''I'm scared.''

This is too bad. Too many good ideas get killed on the spot in meetings by scared people.

What's even worse is that scared people scare other good people. And then those good people decide to not to take a big good idea forward.

Why? Too scary.

What to do then?

Here's one idea: Whenever someone says ''I (or we) don't have time'' reach for your flashlight. You know...the one that you were born with; the one you keep in your pocket most of your life, and shine it on that person pretending to ask 'em: ''Are you just scared of something, or what?'' And if you're feeling really gutsy, maybe go seek that person in private and ask for real: ''What's so scary?''

There's nothing like shining a little flashlight on the boogie man. You know like I know what happens when you do that. The boogie man goes away.

Maybe I was a strange kid but this is always why I slept better during the dark night...with a flashlight ready to shine on the boogieman and his scary schtick. By light of day, he always went away.

Do you have a flashlight nearby? Have you ever had to use it on the scary boogieman who says you don't have time to do something big?


join me on and Facebook at

Friday, June 26, 2009

Your Island

This is a good day for America. Thomas Merton, the monk, became a U.S. citizen on this date in 1951.

He lived in a secluded monastery. And he had a lot to say about silence, especially to a noisy place like America.

Sometimes I'd like to live in a secluded monastery so I didn't have to listen to useless stuff like the passing of faded pop stars. But my wonderful wife and four kids and their stinky old dog probably wouldn't agree to this. (Or maybe they would...I'm too chicken to ask.)

An island works almost as well as a monastery, especially my favorite island in Lake Superior. This place is so disconnected that people line up outside Ed & Marilyn's Island Market to fetch the morning newspaper. (People lining up for the newspaper...shouldn't that be on the news?)

I usually think I go to the Island to find wisdom. But I'm wrong when I think like that. What really happens when I go to the Island is wisdom finds me. Sometimes. If I let it.

Do you have an Island (or maybe even a monastery)? I hope so. It's a great place to let wisdom find you.

So, here's to spending time this upcoming summer holiday in a place way off the grid, whether it's an island in the middle of a lake or in the middle of some other part of your world.

When you go there, do you have success letting wisdom find you? If you do, how did you do that?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fred the Math Teacher

I suck at math. Always have. I never thought I was smart enough to learn math.

This would be different if I had Fred the Math Teacher.

Fred is FRIDAY'S POST 2009 pick for Teacher of the Year. Here's why: Every day, Fred uploads his lessons (via smartboard video/audio) to a website for his students to watch and take notes from each night (to keep 'em honest, he checks notebooks every morning to make sure kids were watching him and not some reality TV show about desperate husbands and housewives somewhere).

Then -- and here's where the genius of Fred comes to life -- Fred and his kids do homework together in the classroom every day. He says it's simply amazing to see how much kids will talk about math concepts in detail (i.e. as a community) when he lets them watch lessons at night on the web and then work on problems the next day together in class.

Fred (who teaches at Benilde-St.Margarets School near Minneapolis; says his purpose and goal is to get kids to better communicate together about math.


When's the last time you ever heard an American who had that purpose and goal? Fred says kids in the US think you need to be really smart to be good at math. He says that's opposite of kids in places like China and India who believe being good at math means you just need to work hard (which is what Fred believes too).

So Fred's approach in his classroom is to get his kids engaged in the subject by letting them communicate more when it comes time to do homework. This means Fred lets his kids talk in class the whole time (how great would that have been back in the day).

He says ''I feel like I'm teaching more instead of just sitting behind my desk. I'm bouncing around the room actually building relationships with the kids.''

As for the students, Fred says they are getting the concepts behind math (not just looking for the quickest route to the answers); they are asking better questions; they aren't afraid or ashamed to ask for help when they get stuck; and best of all, they're enjoying math while working harder on it.

Fred is a hero for inventing "math-lessons-on-the-web-at-night-and-homework-during-the- class-hour." He's taken math class and turned it into an engaged community experience.

What would happen in America today if every teacher taught like Fred the Math Teacher? And what would happen if schools got rid of Math Class and replaced it with Math Community?

I'm liking America's chances in the globalized 21st Century with teachers and classroom community leaders like Fred the Math Teacher.


Join me on Twitter & Facebook

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Age of Your People

You hear a lot of people in business talk about "lifetime value of the customer." Usually, it boils down to a dollar-and-cents thing.

No doubt there's a place for lifetime-value analysis when it comes to sizing up go-to-market investments. This is a well-baked process.

Less well-baked is "lifetime value of the community." You don't hear many organizations talking about their community, much less the value of their community.

Community is multi-dimensional, while customers and prospects are one-dimensional (You make an offer. They respond thumbs-up or thumbs-down.). Community includes customers, prospects and more: employees, shareholders, media, bloggers, industry analysts, academics, neighbors, neighborhood leaders and perhaps even politicians.

Nowadays these are your friends, fans and followers. As a community, they have a big say in the well-being of your business, brand, organization or institution. Measuring the economic value of all these constituents is difficult, even mysterious. But, nurturing your community well will allow you to accomplish big things (just ask the most recently elected U.S. president).

Community is two-way circuitry. Most businesses, organizations, brands, and institutions are one-way circuits. They lead and everyone else follows. Feedback often turns into noise. But that model is eroding. Now, your community of friends, fans and followers and their ability to swap inputs and outputs immediately are real-time zeitgeist of your business, your vision, your place in the world.

Some French fellow once said that demography is destiny. In the Age of Your People, "zeitgeist is destiny" too. Business, brands, organizations, and institutions are very good at getting people to follow them. In the Age of Your People, when you become a focused and innovative follower of your people, you will be a winner.

In an age like this, one measure comes to mind when thinking about the value of your community: priceless.

If you have time, drop a line about your people. How do you nurture them? How do they value you?

-- tim morin

(join me at

Friday, June 5, 2009


You can quickly sense a well positioned business, product, movement, person. They define themselves in a word.

The non-profit I met the other day does really inspiring work with troubled teens. It has a word: relationships. The U.S. president has a word: change. The governor of my state, Minnesota, has a word: accountability. America has a word: freedom. Young GIs who dropped into the water and hit the beach at Normandy 65 years ago (still) have a word: hero. At my company, we have a word (actually two words): smart catalogs.

It's hard work knowing your word. That's because a lot is packed into it. Like what you stand for; how you are different, even special; what you value; the way you behave; the kind of people you will hire; where you are heading. Knowing your word means you've made tough choices about what you are and what you're not.

It's just as hard staying true to your word, consistently breathing life into it. And letting it breathe life into you. What good is your word if you never use it in your messaging; or let it guide your strategy and your culture; or define your products and services; or influence the kind of customers you want to work with and the kind people you will hire?

Really successful organizations know their word. They are inspired and energized by it. They are true to themselves and others because of it. They are confident about their futures by remaining centered on it. This is why successful organizations keep their word.

So, what's your word and how is it helping you? Drop a note. It'd be great to hear the story of your word.


(join me on