This is a tale of when two projects collide. Ever have a lucky intersection, where work on one project informs another? My YES! moment of the week came on the heels of a really rewarding session of facilitation.
Recently Jason, Leigh (two of my SmallBoxer team mates) and I had the great honor of leading a strategic session with Growing Places Indy, a small nonprofit doing great things in urban agriculture and sustainability.
We hung out with their board and staff for the better part of a day, working through exercises and conversations that will lead to a three year strategic plan for the organization. We covered a lot of stuff, but perhaps the most meaty – we sank our teeth into organizational values. We use a few sources as inspiration for this work, including two highly recommended books, The Advantage and Tribal Leadership.
Back in the office, I’ve also been tasked with rethinking how we set individual goals and support the professional development of each team member. A couple of days after our Growing Places session, I happened to have a few monthly check-ins with some members of our team. It got me thinking:
How do we live our core values through our individual roles? (For SmallBox, our core values are collaboration, curiosity and growth.) And how can we each use our personal values to complement that?
And then that YES! moment. We all have personal values, but we haven’t shared them with each other, much less considered how to leverage them for individual and group professional development. In Lencioni’s model from the Advantage, he defines different types of values – permission to play are baseline values, aspirational values are things you strive for, but haven’t yet begun to live, while accidental values are those for which you didn’t plan. Are their various kinds of personal values that might be channeled to improve our work?
With this mash up of value soup sloshing in my head – everything we’d done with Growing Places and my conversations with the team, I couldn’t help but think about leadership values. When it comes to leading, how do I want to behave?
Two things came very clearly to me:
When you balance deep empathy with high standards, you can lead people nearly anywhere.
Leading is something I still earn and grow into. With a team full of so many bright minds, the right to lead at a company like SmallBox is an honor. Everyone on our team, from the interns, up to the CEO is a leader among us. We all lead at one turn, follow at the next. A third core leading value emerged from this line of thought: flexibility.
When I say flexibility, I especially mean openness to sometimes follow, so that others may be empowered by leading and to recognize that everyone has different communication and work styles and may need a unique approach to further their professional development. This aligns closely with one of the greater lessons I’ve learned in leading teams: everyone can be reached. It’s just a matter of finding how.
Keeping the mind sharp is an admirable pursuit. While it’s easy to set a self-learning goal, it can be even easier to let the year pass without acting on it. Posting my goals online gives at least a little extra accountability. So here goes nothing: two new skills I’d like to gain in 2013, and a bonus baking skill for good measure.
Culture Consulting Toolkit.
In 2012, I had the great fortune to work with a couple of SmallBox clients on what we call culture-powered marketing. It was a relatively new line of thinking for us internally, but something we’d be testing on ourselves. With one client, it evolved organically from asking questions and working with them on content strategy. It’s incredibly rewarding to help a company connect the dots, uncover their own culture-starters and begin to blend organizational health, marketing and HR. I’m very much looking forward to adding some new collaborative techniques to my toolkit and sharing these ideas with more people.
Working conversational Italian.
This one goes a long nicely with my “extracurriculum” project, la dolce vita. Once upon a time, I learned songs in Italian from my voice teacher. It’s a beautiful language to sing in, even when I had no idea exactly what I was saying. When my husband-to-be and I traveled to Italy in 2006, I tried to learn a bit of the language. I could order coffee like a champ, or let someone know if I was on fire, but that’s about it. Louie proposed to me in Florence, steps away from where the above photo was taken, adding to the magic of this place for me. I may only be so lucky as to return once or twice more in this lifetime, but I’d like to learn nonetheless.
Perfecting macarons. (Or, at least, coming close!)
I tried my hand at an almond version sandwiched with a bitter ganache for a shower once before. They tasted wonderful, but were crackly, all different sizes and otherwise not-pâtisserie-worthy. The picture above features the best of the bunch – I didn’t photograph the lot of them in all their various states and sizes. Since then, I’ve read up and learned after piping the macarons, you must let them rest for 15 minutes before baking. Another tip: trace circles onto a sheet of parchment paper to help with consistent sizing – genius!
When all else fails, there’s always baking.
This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “What new skill do you want to add to your repertoire in 2013?”
There’s a lot of sitting in marketing work, all while staring straight into the electric glow of multiple screens. When it came time to think about New Year’s resolutions, one of the first things that came to mind was to get up from my desk every day.
Sitting at my desk through lunch has become part of my normal work pattern. Without taking that time to get up and move around, that’s a whole lot of stationary time. Every. single. week day. I know I’m not alone in this – otherwise standing desks wouldn’t be in demand.
It seems like such a small thing – just 10 to 15 minutes of walking around the work neighborhood, but this short break packs a lot of punch. I often use it either to mull over something that needs solving or to clear my mind of all the work clutter and think or nothing at all. Either way, I come back to my desk with a calmer mind.
One unexpected bonus has been inspired in part by Lydia Whitehead’s initiative to bring adventure to the every day. I use these small walks as a chance to discover the unexpected. One day I peered down an alley between two buildings and stumbled upon a marriage proposal. Another day I found this wee knit bunny left on a ledge.
To me, these images are like a visual version of the six word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” as told by Hemingway. There’s a full story there, but also mystery.
Did she say yes? Is a little one pining for this lost bunny, or did someone leave it behind, yarn bomb style to make someone smile?
A Good Kind of Disruption
I might not have noticed if I hadn’t accidentally hoarded my vacation days resulting in an extra long winter break. Aside from a bit of work on Think Kit I spent far less time at a computer since I don’t know when. Whatever work and thought patterns I’d developed were wholly disrupted by excesses of lounging, family time and movie-watching.
Sore Thumb Multitasking
And thank goodness. Otherwise, it may not have seemed so weird on returning to work when my brain instantly switched to that internet-fueled multitask mode – you know, the one when you have one eye on tweetdeck and incoming email while you’re knee deep in a project.
That first day back, I didn’t sit at my desk to work straight away. Instead, I stopped in the main room to flip through the newspaper. In came a co-worker to chat up the holidays. As we shared stories of our break, I couldn’t stop thumbing though the paper. All the while – my thought process: “Wow, this is really odd. Why am I flipping through this during our conversation…” until the inevitable lost train of thought.
A-ha! That was weird, huh?
Routine multitasking of internets and inboxes would have felt like the normal business of getting back to work. This multitasking was just plain weird, so I had a greater awareness of the shift in my brain. I noticed the fogginess, the slower processing, the not-quite-grasping any one thing as fully as I might with a more singular focus. It became obvious that despite the gross inefficiency of chronic multitasking, I was hard-wiring my brain to work this way, even when it didn’t matter.
Frankly, it scared the hell out of me. I wonder if I can break this bad boy, and if so, how much more I’ll accomplish?
This year, I tested myself and found I can, indeed, still pull an all-nighter… And it was amazing.
I wasn’t partying, and it wasn’t because a project blew up or a client demanded a crazy deadline either. All of that delirium and extra caffiene was for a cause. 24 Hour Web Project is an annual event in which SmallBox donates a website to a worthy nonprofit.
This year we doubled the fun, and in just 24 hours, our small, but mighty team conceptualized, designed and developed two custom websites for Earth House and INDYCOG.
Sure, I may have had more fun at a few rock shows and dinner parties this year, but the feeling of being part of something that changes the game for a nonprofit is the coolest feeling.
This post is part of Think Kit, a blogging project by SmallBox.
Yesterday at SmallBox, my coworker Justin Shimp started playing some songs from his youth. It sparked a conversation about music we bought when we were kids. There was a brief time in my early music-buying days when new releases were still pressed on vinyl. My sister and I had some great albums – Madonna’s True Blue, Thriller, and some true eighties gems like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.
When I think of my early music obsessions, I always think of a 45 I had of Suzanne Vega’s My Name is Luka. On the flip side, she sang a Spanish version of the song. As a young midwestener, it was exotic and mind-blowing – and in hindsight it was pretty darn progressive for the time.
Reminiscing about that 45, I’ve decided I’ve got to have it again. I’ll be scouring used record bins, and I’m pretty excited about this new vinyl mission.
See, here’s the thing. I don’t like to mindlessly shop for things. One of the reasons I love going to antique stores is because I have an almost complete set of light blue depression glass. Five tea cups, six saucers, six side plates and three dinner plates. Four pieces away from completion. I’m sure I could find them on eBay, but then I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of the hunt. I love going in to places like this with a mission. I have others, like finding the best tamale, and now, an old Suzanne Vega 45. I like attaching purpose to the things I do.
It has me thinking about vision and mission in business and life too. I recently went through an exercise with the Indy Film Fest board to revisit our own statements. Like so many businesses and organizations, ours didn’t really reflect our identity. The statement was stiff and boring and verbose. As a group, we brainstormed. We stared at each other a little. We had a hard time finding our voice, feeling okay adding personality into something so official as the MISSION statement. We wrote several lines, mashed them up, crossed some out, narrowed it down.
It was liberating. And awesome. I can say our new mission statement in conversation and feel like a real person, not a talking head reciting some lofty, meaningless phrase.
I’ve read some personal mission statements here and there on the web. Often, I don’t feel like they say much of anything about the person they’re meant to describe. I’ve never gone through the process for myself personally. Maybe it’s time, but I’m hoping for something bigger, more defining than the little missions I assign myself.
If I write it, will I use it? Will I put it here on my blog or my resume? Will it guide the choices I make? I’m not sure, but I think I’ll enjoy the process either way.
Until then, placeholder: ‘I seek the best tamale in the world, an old Suzanna Vega 45 with My Name is Luka en español and blue depression glass plates and tea cup.’
Image credits: Suzanne Vega – “Luka” photo by Geoff B. via Flickr | Untitled photo by nosuchsoul via Flickr
After watching ice cream trucks all but disappear from streets, the food truck business has made a huge comeback. When a taco truck in Indiana can make it into the New York Times, you know there’s a trend afoot. West Coast Tacos in Indianapolis is the perfect example of the hybrid business – new product, old package, new relevance. It’s new in the sense that it offers fusion food, korean tacos. West Coast Tacos then uses the old delivery method of the food truck, made relevant in today’s market by the fact that they broadcast their location through twitter to let people know where they’ll be on any given day. In addition, location-based game foursquare allows checking-in to food trucks, and there’s even a badge to earn, adding to the allure for the hyper-connected.
Our reconnection with the business on wheels might just be an extension of our addiction to cell phones, mobile apps and an on the go lifestyle. And this could be just the beginning. Enter LaSMOOCH, the couture truck, your roving source for fashion and accessories, at least if you’re in the Hamptons. This is hybrid to the extreme – a high-end product, typically sold from glass cases in posh retail environment (or maybe a catalog or web site) available in a truck converted to look like a walk-in closet. According to Manhattan Style, LaSMOOCH carries pieces ranging in price from $50 to $1,200.
Fashion might be old business, and mobile trucks might have been around the block, but together? All of this combined with neighborhood targeting via drive-by. This isn’t so different from the age-old marketing tactic of buying zip codes to send a catalog or snail mail promotion, but in this physical manifestation it offers the immediacy of product now versus in 8 to 10 business days for shipping.
In some cases the nonprofit sector has turned mobile to get services to those in need or to deliver health service messages in new ways. The documentary Born Sweet showcases a mobile karaoke truck visiting remote Cambodian villages to steer people away from old water wells tainted with arsenic.
Beyond the truck, the vending machine is another example of businesses going hybrid to meet new demand, find niche markets. If you’re in Spain, you can access gourmet meat 24/7, thanks to a butcher shop that installed a meat vending machine outside its shop. Or, consider the Art-o-mat, a refurbished cigarette machine, modified to dispense $5 art. We’re not only mobile, but seeking convenience in clever, unexpected forms.
The next wave of hybrid business could very well be less about product, and more about experience. Think: Mobile Karaoke, Tattoo trucks, Photobooth on wheels. What else could work in a vending machine? or on a truck? If you’re in an old biz, can you mix it up with new distribution? Can your business go hybrid?
Image credit: pamhule
This post was originally published on August 18, 2010 on the Wise Elephant blog.
I recently did a quick design job for trade, a drink special flyer for a restaurant in exchange for a meal for two. I think the value of the meal would be on par with what I’d charge, and it’s no secret that I’m a huge foodie. I’m going to be dining out anyway, so it seemed like a great swap.
I saw this tweet a while ago, and it got me thinking about the barter system.
In my mind, the barter system would make consuming a more thoughtful process. When this project came along, I began thinking more about it. What do you think? Do you work for trade? Should we revisit the barter system?