Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Useless News

Just for fun, I did a google search on 'useless news'. I picked the third listing, a site called All Things Useless to visit. To my surprise and delight, it said:

No News to Display. There are no news stories to display. There may be no news for this topic or your user preferences may be too restrictive for topic General

How curiously delightful! Not one single shred of useless news is out there this morning! I think it's going to be a good day.

-----Category: _fun


Saturday, September 27, 2003

Cubs Win!

Friday, September 26, 2003


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Change for Change Sake

Sometimes I just don't get it right. And based on comments received about my Change Management, Part I post, it happened again.

The general consensus was this: "You don't have to use the 18 cent coin just because you have it. Just use it when it makes sense." Fair point - and one that was further illuminated by the guy behind the counter who gave me 4 nickels and a penny worth of change yesterday afternoon.

So perhaps some recalculating is in order to determine the APPROPRIATE net coin savings (NCS) and cumulative coin savings (CCS):

Purchase: Two medium pizzas (one cheese, one barbeque chicken) and a large salad. NCS: 0. CCS: 0.

Purchase: Yarn for some scarves my wife and daughter are knitting. NCS: 4. CCS: 4.

Purchase: Some picture hooks and lightbulbs from the local hardware store. NCS: 0; CCS: 4.

Purchase: Gas for my car. NCS: 0. CCS: 4.

Purchase:Office Supplies. NCS: 0. CCS: 4.

Bottom Line: The total number of coins received as change from my purchases would drop from 21 to 17 if an 18 cent coin was available (even if not used). That's about a 20% savings which is considered a meaningful difference by most people. Myself included.

So my apologies, Dr. Shallit. And my thanks to those of you who helped 'change' my mind!

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Demystifying Situational Illusions

MC Escher was a master at creating visual illusions, like his circular steps that just keep going up and up, or his 3-D drawings or A into B or B into A drawings. Then there are those a perceptual illusions which are always great fun until they give you a headache!

There's another type of illusion, though, something I call Situational Illusions. Situational Illusions are what get created when we interpret events in our lives through a lens of self-limiting judgments. For example, how many times have you thought that some task would be totally impossible, yet when you finally got around to doing it, you were left wondering what all the fuss was about? Or more importantly, how many times have you thought that some task would be totally impossible, so you never even tried? That's the sad story in all this.

The thing that's so maniacal about these Situational Illusions is that they seem so very real, totally fact-based, completely objective and undeniably true ... Even when they're not. Indirectly, Pablo Picasso said, "Everything you can imagine is real," and in a way it IS.

So the next time you find yourself reluctant to try something new, procrastinating from doing something 'difficult', or just failing to stretch your comfort zone, realize that it might just be due to a Situational Illusion you've unknowingly created. And find someone to help you work through it.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

"Change" Management, Part II

Here in the Land of Lincoln we're proud of our pennies. Yet according to that Discover magazine article (see prior post) "In a penny-less world, the number of coins per transaction would drop from 4.7 to 2.7 - a whopping 42 percent reduction."

(Pause for effect.)

Here are some other interesting factoids from the article about change:

"About $600 worth of coins pass through the hands of a typical American each year."

"More than $10 billion in coins is sitting around in drawers, cans, bottles, and bins in American homes."

"Another $13.5 billion in coins is in circulation.'

"A group calling itself Americans for Common Cents claims the cost of minting a penny is $0.0081 and that the U.S. Treasury makes as much as $35 million a year on them."

"According to a Coinstar National Currency Poll, 73 percent of Americans use coins to scratch off lottery tickets, 29 percent use them in magic tricks, and 7 percent use them to steady table legs."

Sorta puts a whole new spin on "Change" Management, wouldn't you say?!

"Change" Management, Part I

There's a fascinating little article in October 2003 issue of Discover magazine (not yet available on line) under the category of "The Mathematics of ... Pocket Change." In it, a mathematitian named Jeffrey Shallit has a suggestion for helping us deal with all that loose change we keep collecting that goes beyond the simple idea of eliminating the penny. His solution: Create an 18 cent coin. An EIGHTEEN cent coin?! Yes, that's right.

It seems that Dr. Shallit, through the use of a mathematical equation, was able to calculate that if we added an 18 cent coin to American currency, we'd be able to lessen the amount of change we receive, per transaction, from 4.7 coins to 3.89 coins.

Fascinated by this notion, I thought I'd monitor some of my own results:

Purchase: Two medium pizzas (one cheese, one barbeque chicken) and a large salad. Change: 30 cents; 2 coins (a quarter and a nickel). With the new coin: 4 coins (an eighteen, a dime, and 2 pennies). Net: +2. Not much of an improvement so far!

Purchase: Yarn for some scarves my wife and daughter are knitting. Change: 19 cents; 6 coins (a dime, a nickel, and 4 pennies). With the new coin: 2 coins (an eighteen, and a penny). Net: -4. Cumulative Net: -2. Okay, this is good.

Purchase: Some picture hooks and lightbulbs from the local hardware store. Change: 35 cents; 2 coins (a quarter and a dime). With the new coin: 5 coins (an eighteen, a dime, a nickel, and 2 pennies.) Net: +3. Cumulative Net: +1. I'm losing ground again.

Purchase: Gas for my car. Change: 68 cents; 7 coins (2 quarters, a dime, a nickel, and 3 pennies). With the new coin: 8 coins (3 eighteens, a dime, and 4 pennies). Net: +1; Cumulative Net: +2.

Purchase:Office Supplies. Change: 52 cents: 4 coins (2 quarters, and 2 pennies). With new coin: 7 coins (an eighteen, a quarter, a nickel, and 4 pennies). Net: +3. Cumulative net: +5.

Thank you anyway, Dr. Shallit.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

More on Success (and Failure); Good News (and Bad)

What TIME HORIZON do you use to determine whether something you tried is a success or failure? Taking a short-term perspective makes failure look like, well, failure. But the longer your view, the more your failures will start becoming more and more synonymous with learning. And learning is form of success.

There's an old Chinese fable that looks at good news and bad news in terms of this same TIME HORIZON dynamic. Sorry, but I don't have an exact wording (or appropriate attribution), but the story goes something like this:

An old Chinese farmer had only a horse and a son. And one day, the horse ran off. The local villagers cried, "What BAD news!" The old farmer just said, "Maybe."

The next day, the horse returned, bringing with him an entire herd of wild horses. The villagers roared, "What GOOD news!" The old farmer just said, "Maybe."

The next day, while trying to tame one of the wild horses, the farmer's son broke a leg. The villagers again cried, "What BAD news!" The old farmer again said, "Maybe." (The son cried, "Ouch!")

The next day, the Emperor of the land came through the village and drafted all able-bodied men to join him in war.

The son was told to stay at home.


Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Refreshingly Simple

My daughter wanted Little Caesar's Pizza for her birthday party. I don't care much for their pizza, but a birthday is a birthday, so I went to pick some up. When I got there, I was surprised to find that they only had one size - large - and only one price - $5. Want a cheese pizza? $5. Want a pepperoni pizza? $5. Can't beat that! And they had some already-made ones, piping hot, ready-to-go, even though I didn't call to place my order. I think they're saving a LOT of money by simplifying (read: standardizing) their operation and are passing some of it on to customers like me. I still don't like their pizza, but I like their style. In a world of mass customization, they're selling one-size-fits-all pizzas ... and winning. While sales growth for franchise pizzamakers is relatively flat, Little Caesar's posted an 11% gain for 2002.

In a related story - you'll understand why if you keep reading - Fast Company did a piece called 90,000 DVDs. No Shelves about a DVD-rental company called Netflix. They found that it's faster - and more cost-effective - to stack their DVDs in big piles (and scan each and every one of them twice a day) than it was to put then all in neat, order shelving system. Counterintuitive. Messy. And VERY successful.

Then, of course, there's what 7-Up is up to. Remember their jingle? Something about no caffeine - never had it; never will. Except now they do! Introducing "dnL". Caffeine? Yup - and proud of it. They took a perceived weakness (no caffeine) and flipped it upside down ... literally!

So how can you turn YOUR weaknesses into strengths? How can you gain greater success by offering FEWER choices or going AGAINST common thinking? Thinking outside of the (pizza) box takes some getting used to, but it's an idea you definitely don't want to SHELVE before really trying it! Start by turning things "umop 3pIzdn", that is, upside down!