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December 1, 2008

Millennials, Changing the Rules of Business

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

GenYGeoff Gloeckler wrote a great article for BusinessWeek about Millennials' invasion of B-Schools, and how they're shaping the future of business. Hint: it looks a lot different than how we know it today.

Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000 and there are 78 million of them in the U.S., bigger than the baby boomer population. Millennials, says Gloeckler, are "a demographic tsunami that will soon be remaking business schools on a grand scale."

Politically galvanized, [Millennials] are in some ways even more influential, helping propel Barack Obama to the Presidency on Nov. 4. Generalizations about them should, like all generalizations, be applied with caution. But they like personal attention and are used to getting information how they want it, when they want it. They are strong-willed, passionate, optimistic, and eager to work.
Since first appearing in the workforce in 2002, members of this so-called Millennial Generation have been praised and derided in equal measure—for their tech knowhow and idealism, their unrealistic career expectations, and their doting "helicopter" parents, who hover over their kids obsessively. Beginning as a trickle last year, the flow of Millennials into B-schools will become a flood this year and next, as the bulk of Gen Y begins entering the prime B-school age group of 26 to 28. When that happens, B-school will never be the same.

Which means business will never be the same.

I can't wait to see how Millennials (Generation WE) help shape the identity and soul of new organizations. I also look forward to their leadership in resurfacing and returning to righteous roots that are embedded in so many existing organizations, but have been lost to a Wall Street worldview over the past 50 years.

With new success measures like the Triple Bottom Line and B Corporation, as well as conversations like GOOD, I'm encouraged to see where things are headed with the future of business.

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November 18, 2008

Dubai, Booming 'Soulless' City

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

DubaiUna Galani and Edward Hadas wrote a short piece in the November issue of Fortune magazine about Abu Dhabi and Dubai. These two desert siblings are an hour away from each other, but the soul and identity of these respective cities are miles and miles a part. For starters, Abu Dhabi is oil rich. Dubai doesn't have a drop of oil.

Dubai has garnered a lot of press over the last several years as being a haven for billionaires and ordinary tourists, "drawn by a relaxed attitude to Islamic norms, absurdly opulent hotels, and man-made islands." It has been built on three core values: capital, competence, and ambition.

Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, has provided a lot of the funding to build Dubai. It is also attempting to learn from Dubai's excesses. "[Abu Dhabi] is pointedly marketing itself to foreign investors as a cultural center and 'sustainable' city."

As the available credit for Dubai's rapid expansion is tightened, "the squeeze might ultimately be good for [Dubai's] competence if the government focuses its more limited resources on infrastructure - as any visitor can attest, the city's own transport system is woeful - and tries to add some community to a place often described as soulless."

I'm not so sure you can just add "community" to a place with an identity and soul that never included it or incorporated it in the first place. Most of the labor was imported to build the city. The buying and selling of property in Dubai is done mostly on making a profit, not a home. Slapping a community label on a brand that exudes commodity is going to be a real challenge.

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March 24, 2008

Make it Easier on Your Customers, Not Harder

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Last week I had to run to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and I didn't go to my usual grocery store. That was my big mistake, right there. I picked a different store because I needed an item my usual store no longer carried. I thought maybe this new store would have what I need and maybe, just maybe, I'd switch.

As soon as I walked into the store I knew something was wrong. I couldn't find the bread. I couldn't find the milk. I wandered around the store aimlessly trying to figure out how it was laid out. The aisles were perpendicular to the check outs, so you couldn't just race down the aisle and arrive at the check outs. Then the aisles were separated in the strangest ways with nothing where you'd expect it to be. This store wasn't laid out like any other grocery store I'd been to, not even other locations of the same brand.

When I resorted to the signs identifying what was in each aisle, I was flabbergasted to find them written in only Spanish from one direction and only English from the other. I'm all for multi-lingual signage, but it has to be helpful.

I eventually found the one item my regular grocery store doesn't carry anymore, but at this point it was a lost cause. I'll never shop there again.

The lesson is that organizations need to make things easier on their customers, not harder. I understand the logic of supermarket design--bread on one end of the store and milk on the other forces most shoppers to traverse the entire store and perhaps spend more. But is it really worth it to irritate your customers? Perhaps a better business model is to organize your store to make everything easier on your customers. They'll be so happy they'll come back more often and they will spend more.

Sadly, I've never seen a grocery store with bread and milk up front.

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March 21, 2008

But That's How We've Always Done It

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

The old answers don't always work. The way you've done it in the past isn't guaranteed to be the best way to do it in the future.

Take alphabetical order, for example. Seth Godin argues that in today's world it's often obsolete.

Just because it worked well yesterday doesn't mean it's the best idea for tomorrow. Besides, who put the alphabet in alphabetical order?

What is your organization still doing because that's how you've always done it?

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February 8, 2008

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

I was conversing with a friend and unofficial "business" adviser yesterday and he put forward some questions that really made me think. He said, "If you closed down your business today, what would you regret that you never tried to accomplish? What could you have done? What should you have done? What would you have done?"

Life is full of couldas, shouldas and wouldas. I want to lead a company that lives without those as much as possible.

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December 8, 2006

You Can't Judge a Book

Posted by Brian Zopf | Filed under: Business

Here's something I've learned over the last few years: There's good business and bad business. Good business is good, while bad business isn't. What do you think? Sounds like something Yogi Berra would say, doesn't it? But don't laugh. I'm serious. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference. Looks can be--and often are--deceiving.

A poorly structured business may enjoy unprecedented growth and apparent success for any number of years, while all along it was doomed from the very beginning. Remember that old saying: "Time makes fools of us all"? Well, you can't hide the vase you broke in 3rd grade forever. A business, if poorly conceived and fundamentally flawed, will not remain hidden. Bad design will ultimately reveal itself--a painful lesson you may have to spend a few dollars on the stock market to learn.

A good business, on the other hand, may appear to be stagnant and show signs of floundering for a period of time, and yet still be the best investment that no one's talking about. Remember those 'hidden' stock tips everyone's always asking for? I think I just gave you one.

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November 20, 2006

Oxfam vs. Starbucks

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Development charity Oxfam accuses coffee giant Starbucks of cheating Ethiopian coffee growers. It's a complex little fair trade debate, but what's really sad is seeing a charity and a business fight. Can't we all just get along?

Starbucks puts up a good defense, arguing that the Ethiopian coffee growers need a better solution. Basically, it's more complicated than Oxfam makes it out to be. The reasoned argument, backed up by Starbucks' good corporate citizen reputation, puts Oxfam in an awkward position.

And so yeah, can't we all just get along? Rather than picking fights with corporations, causes need to find ways to work together. Starbucks is certainly no stranger to charity, so why the smear campaign? Working with Starbucks to better understand their side of the story seems like a safer plan. And if Oxfam and Starbucks couldn't come to terms, Oxfam could always find another coffee retailer to partner with and effectively make their voice heard.

Especially after the recent elections it should be clear that a positive message will accomplish more than slinging mud.

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November 14, 2006

L'Occitane Sees the Good

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

LOccitane11-13-06.jpgNovember is American Diabetes Month. Because vision is so closely related to diabetes, it provides the perfect backdrop for a company and a cause that are proving it's OK to get close.

L'Occitane has been creating body care, skincare and fragrance products for over 30 years. They are also known for their active role in the blind community because nearly all of their packaging includes braille. In 1996, founder Oliveier Baussan noticed a blind woman sampling perfumes. A decade later, L'Occitane is a leading advocate for the visually impaired.

There is an estimated 10 million visually impaired people living in the United States. That's not a big market for L'Occitane and, according to Business 2.0, some experts suggest it costs 4 to 6 cents for braille to be added to each L'Occitane package. So why do they do this?

Reading through L'Occitane's philosophy, it is easy to be endeared to this company. From running a summer perfume school for visually impaired teenagers near company headquarters in France, to donating proceeds to charities for the blind, it appears L'Occitane is simply L'caring.

It's refreshing to see a company care enough about a cause to even risk a little profit in the process. Call me an incurable idealist, but I think this is the way it should be. Will L'Occitane reap the rewards of good publicity and goodwill? Who cares. It's the cause that wins. And the cause should win every time.

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September 19, 2006

Learning from Mistakes: Veggie Tales

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Big IdeaTwo years before Pixar made a splash with Toy Story, Big Idea created the first ever computer animated video series in the U.S.--the children's series Veggie Tales, which debuted in 1993 and fulfiled Big Idea's mission of promoting Sunday morning values with Saturday morning fun. The positive Judeo-Christian values propelled the series to big profits. Between 1996 and 1999 Big Idea's revenue grew by 3300%, from $1.3 million to $44 million. But it all came crashing down and ended with Big Idea's bankruptcy in 2003 (as part of the settlement Big Idea was sold to Classic Media who continues to crank out Veggie Tales shows).

Big Idea founder Phil Vischer shares what happened in a surprisingly honest and revealing series of blog posts, What Happened to Big Idea (at 11 separate parts it's also lengthy). It amounts to a business case study in how not to make the transition from small company to big company. Big Idea found itself in the sticky middle ground of being "too big to be small yet too small to be big," which ended up being deadly.

For bonus reading you can check out Vischer's recounting of how Big Idea almost bought the Dupage Theater in Lombard, Ill. as a headquarters. It's another business case study, this time in how not to buy a headquarters.

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December 22, 2005

4 Personality Tips for Your Employees

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

This originally appeared in our e-mail newsletter. If you're not getting it, you can sign up today.

Once upon a time I worked at a grocery store. If I had a business card it would have said "Kevin Hendricks, Bag Boy." Not exactly the most glamorous title in the world. Not exactly the most glamorous job in the world. But I did earn some cash to finance my teenage lifestyle.

The customer/worker interaction doesn't change much, whether you're talking about a bag boy at a grocery store, a volunteer coordinator or someone answering phones. Employees have different roles and varying degrees of interaction with customers, but it all comes down to the people you serve, whether it's selling them a book, offering medical care or accepting their donation. All the customer satisfaction initiatives mean nothing if your employees aren't on board. Here's how to help them see the light.

Continue reading "4 Personality Tips for Your Employees"

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December 17, 2005

Good to Great

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, has published a companion volume for Good to Great specifically addressing the non-profit world: Good to Great and the Social Sectors. He calls it a "monograph" and it's only available online. You can find excerpts and audio files on Jim Collins' web site.

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November 21, 2005

Back in the Box

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Instead of trying something new or hopping on the latest bandwagon, what many organizations need to do is get back in the box: return to what they really do best. Forgetting what made a company hum in the first place can lead to trouble.

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November 17, 2005

Remembering a Legend: Peter Drucker

Posted by Brian Zopf | Filed under: Business

This originally appeared in our e-mail newsletter. If you're not getting it, you can sign up today.

A great and widely respected leader, often heralded as "The Father of Modern Management," died last week. We mourn his passing and here, pay tribute. The memory of Peter F. Drucker will undoubtedly be recorded in the pages of global history with indelible ink. He was great, not merely for his almost-prophetic business sense, but for the unique way in which he combined this gift with human warmth. We honor him at Personality™ in particular for his work on behalf of non-profit organizations.

Continue reading "Remembering a Legend: Peter Drucker"

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November 15, 2005

Get the Wisdom of the Wise

Posted by Brian Zopf | Filed under: Business

I have learned the wisdom of having a few, well-trusted advisors to serve as a sounding board.

A couple words of caution:

1. Choose only a few... 2-3 tops. "Too many cooks spoil the broth," so to speak. And in the end you'll be more conflicted/confused than you were in the beginning.

2. Be completely honest in showing your hand. How can others help you if you're holding back? Show 'em warts and all. (Hey, that's why you only have a few!)

Seeing yourself through someone else's eyes is a rare and wonderful gift. Keep in mind that we always make excuses for ourselves. Everything we do makes sense and seems right to us when we're the one who's doing it! But if you're open to criticism, the reflection of yourself in others is one of the keys to innovation and progress. After all, no one does everything well.

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November 11, 2005

Lessons from Netflix

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Fast Company has a web-exclusive interview with Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix. Here's a few of the lessons he shares:

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November 7, 2005

The Little Things

Posted by Brian Zopf | Filed under: Business

I'm realizing more and more that success is often the result of important yet subtle distinctions. Twists and tweaks can make all the difference. This applies to one's attitude and outlook on life, as well as to business and marketing.

Consider the following:

Continue reading "The Little Things"

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October 3, 2005

25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Author and entrepreneur Rajesh Setty offers 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself. It's a free PDF download giving suggestions for ways to make your business stick out and get noticed.

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September 28, 2005

Do What You Do Best

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

Earlier this week I went to dinner with the vice president of marketing for a private hospital here in Southern California. Her resume is larger than life, having worked in the marketing industry for decades. Her list of mega-brand clients and former employers would be recognizable by just about anybody in America. Why she even took the time to meet with me I am still sorting through, but when the opportunity to engage her wisdom came, I took it.

Personality™ is paying for her help. That's right, we're doing what we ask clients and potential clients every day. Hire people that know more than you to do more than you ever could so that you can stick to what you do best. We're paying someone to help us because we know we don't know it all.

You don't build your own computers. Dell does a good job at that.
You don't make your own paper. Weyerhaeuser does pretty well at that.
You don't do your own legal work. Lawyers do a decent job at that.

Do what you do best. Hire out what you don't. It's hard to get better at what you do when you're doing what you shouldn't. And if you're doing what you shouldn't how will you ever be the best at doing what you should?

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August 26, 2005

20 Tips for Doing Business with Personality

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

This originally appeared in our e-mail newsletter. If you're not getting it, you can sign up today.

1. Know your customers by name.
2. Be a stats junkie. You can't be more effective if you don't know what works.
3. Make your customer's lives easy, and they'll make your life easy.
4. Don't forget people. Behind every number and every dollar is a person. They are your livelihood.
5. Don't assume last year's sales as a given for this year. Everything has to be earned.

Continue reading "20 Tips for Doing Business with Personality"

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August 25, 2005

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

The May 2005 issue of Worthwhile magazine had a feature on Bob Parsons, the founder of Parsons Technology and more recently This guy has balls. Growing up "as dirt poor as a church rat," Parsons learned not only to expect the worst, he practiced quantifying it. "When I start feeling afraid of what's going on with GoDaddy, I take out a piece of paper and say 'What's the most terrible thing that could happen? When you see it in writing, you realize it's nothing to get paralyzed over.'"

From launching software that never sold to being hospitalized for exhaustion, Parsons would end up selling his technology company to Intuit for $64 million. GoDaddy, not without its start-up setbacks, is now No. 8 on Inc.'s list of fastest growing companies.

Among some of his rules for success?

At Personality™, we're passionate about helping your purpose become an exclamation. What better reminder than from a guy who knows risk, knows reward, and loves the return from both. That's some personality.

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August 5, 2005

Quality as a Branding and Marketing Decision

Posted by Shawn Stewart | Filed under: Business

A few of us were eating lunch together in the office the other day. Our conversation found itself on a familiar male topic, movies. One of the guys here has never seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy! That's right—they've never seen the movie juggernaut of the early 21st century. We ended up discussing the amazing quality of the film and the painstaking attention to detail. For instance, all of the chain mail armor in the movie was built link by link by an artisan. Everything was real even down to the stitching on the inside of the clothes, which we never saw on the screen.

This stirred up a whole other conversation: What ever happened to real quality?

Continue reading "Quality as a Branding and Marketing Decision"

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August 2, 2005

Business on the Edge

Posted by Brian Zopf | Filed under: Business

"Great ideas, like humor, come from the corners of the mind, out on the edge. That's why humor can break up log-jams in both personal relationships and in business. Cutting edge, leading edge, bleeding edge, the edge of inspiration, on the edge of our seats. The edge is exciting and risky and extreme. Great ideas can come from anywhere, but most of them turn up on the edge."

(from Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi)

Continue reading "Business on the Edge"

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August 1, 2005

Faithfulness in Business

Posted by Shawn Stewart | Filed under: Business

Last Friday marked the end of an era for General Motors. General Motors on a whole might not realize it, but the men and women who build their cars in Lordstown, Ohio will notice it today. On Friday Loye Stewart, my dad, retired after just under 40 years of faithful service. That really has had me thinking this week, as I'm sure many of you know people from that generation who have spent the majority of their lives helping to build a single brand or business while caring for and feeding a family. This kind of company loyalty is really something less and less familiar to our culture.

Continue reading "Faithfulness in Business"

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July 25, 2005

Fast Food Innovation

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Combining Mexican with southern food with seafood seems to be a hit. But it's not as gross as it sounds. Fast food conglomerate Yum Brands is teaming up Taco Bells and Kentucky Fried Chickens with under-performing brands like Long John Silvers or A&W. The combined stores share space, employees, kitchens and cash registers, meanwhile they draw more people. Perhaps we could dub the strategy combine and conquer.

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July 20, 2005

Change This is Back

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

After nearly six months of downtime, Change This is back. It's not quite a blog, not quite a news site, more like an enabler for good ideas. They publish PDFs of smart ideas, including recent riffs on conventional business wisdom from Tom Peters and bringing Hawaiian values to business management.

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July 19, 2005

Full Circle

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

It would take years and years of trying before March 10, 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, would hear each other’s voice over a wire for the first time. Just three years later the Bell Company had connected 133,000 telephones. Long distance communication would arrive in 1915 when Harold Arnold invented the first practical electrical amplifiers, allowing phone calls to reach everywhere that wires did.

Decades later, the modem would come on the scene to allow data to travel across those same wires that voice traveled over. This led the way for the world wide web of connectivity because now data could travel over voice lines.

Continue reading "Full Circle"

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June 27, 2005

Worst Agency Reel

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

The folks at Grey were voted to have the worst agency reel by their industry peers in a recent Adweek survey. So Grey fired back with a full-page ad, solid black background on the inside back cover of a recent issue with the domain address: opined a bit on this as well. Grey did a great job of turning its negative jab into a publicity punch.

Is there anything (negative) your clients or constituents know about you that could be converted into bigger recognition or awareness? I am not arguing for the "all publicity is good publicity" model, but there are certain paradigms or perceptions people have that may not be right, that if taken further can be made right.

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May 24, 2005

So That's What Happened

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

Back in 1998, when we were just getting started in Chicago, there was a company (also located in the Chicago area) who called in from a direct mail piece we had sent out. The company was just getting started and needed some branding and identity work. I remember talking to the owner (Rodney Dixon of Lacrad International) on the phone, hearing his million dollar ideas, and getting pretty excited at the potential of working together. He sounded like any other entrepreneur—bold, brash and a little brilliant. This worked great because we needed business. We got to work on some ideas right away and helped him with a logo and started working on a Web site.

We didn't get too far along because it was taking him a while to pay his bill. Then he stopped returning phone calls. Then our mail got returned. Then the phone number was disconnected. We got burned.

Continue reading "So That's What Happened"

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May 18, 2005

Lessons from the Apprentice Finale

Posted by Shawn Stewart | Filed under: Business

Last week my fiancé and I gathered with some friends to watch the finale of The Apprentice. I don't know how I got suckered into watching The Donald fire people on a weekly basis but I did.

The funny thing is I've learned a few things while watching and last night was no exception. The final two candidates were put in charge of two different events, one a video game championship for Electronic Arts. The other an event to promote New York City for the 2012 Olympic games. The person in charge of the video game event got it right, the other clearly did not. What did she get right? Two things mainly, the details and the management of sponsors' (client) perceptions. When problems came up she handled them with high touch and with clear attention to the sponsors. In turn the sponsors felt comforted, relieved and reassured their sponsorship was not in vain.

The other candidate seemed to focus solely on the event itself just moving forward without attention to detail or the sponsors of the event. I'll bet for the most part neither the people playing the video games or the guy running the 100 yard dash knew any different, but the people footing the bills sure did.

In business, you have to not only do the job well, and make sure that the "show goes on" but you have to make sure your clients feel taken care of. Here at Personality™ that's something we really do want to do, take care of the people we work with, while pulling off great work.

The second thing I learned last night is that apparently NBC has the ability to stretch a mediocre final episode into three mediocre final episodes!

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May 3, 2005

Pick Two: Good, Fast, Cheap

Posted by Brad Abare | Filed under: Business

2005_04_26_GoodFastCheap.jpgThere are three components to every project and, go figure, there just happens to be an ol' business adage to accompany this concept.

From the above words, you can only pick two. You can't have all three. If you want something good and fast, it won't be cheap. If you want something good and cheap, it won't be fast. If you want something fast and cheap, it won't be good.

Keep this simple little principle in mind next time you're planning a project. Here at Personality™, this principle comes in handy when you're trying to get us to work miracles.

Here's a poster (PDF) for your office (thanks to David Adam Edlestein).

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March 18, 2005

It’s Not Rocket Science

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

The former head of PayPal is shooting for the stars. Literally. He launched SpaceX, a company trying to make rocket launches profitable. Their can-do attitude and emphasis on low-cost reliability make a bold statement in the white lab coat world of rocket science.

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February 28, 2005

The Gospel of Failure

Posted by Kevin D. Hendricks | Filed under: Business

Fast Company explores three examples of failure--from 9/11, to the Columbia shuttle disaster, to the New York Times Jayson Blair debacle--providing lessons on the importance of imagination, culture and communication.

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