There are only three ice cream or sorbet flavors in my world: strawberry honey balsamic vinegar with cracked black pepper, sea salt with caramel ribbons or lemon sorbet if there is no Salt and Straw nearby. What started out as a small-batch artisan ice-cream cart on NE Alberta Street in Portland, Oregon transformed the world of ice-cream (dramatic statement but true). At tonight’s Stumptown Speaker Series Kim Malek, CEO and Co-Founder of Salt and Straw validated that the company is a brand with a purpose to serve and nurture community. She did not have a dream to start an ice-cream brand, she found the purpose first. Today it is a must-go destination in Portland, Los Angeles (and soon to be in San Francisco and Seattle), a place to indulge in a cacophony of ice-cream flavors that somehow belong together although on the other hand have no business being mixed together AND yet always leave you wondering how on earth Head Chef Tyler Malek cooked up yet another delectable treat. Life lessons: embrace the unexpected and let life surprise you.
Community comes to life in several ways at Salt and Straw:
Creating memorable Customer Experiences: The infinity line of customers out the door of the scoop shops – rain or shine – has never made standing in line more worthwhile (although this is not deliberate part of the customer experience). Malek shared that they’ve heard stories about marriage proposals, friendships and job offers while customers have mingled and waited patiently in line.
Investing in the Culinary Community: This year Salt and Straw will start an artisan program in Portland. They’ll provide future artisans with a support, a curriculum and share lessons about their own successes and failures to future entrepreneurs. Life is too short to learn everyone’s mistakes.
Caring for the Family: The army of dedicated Salt and Straw employees make it a special experience. They’re a key ingredient to the company’s success and well-cared for. Employees receive extensive training on topics such as conflict resolution, diversity and more in the spirit of creating a respectful community. Philanthropy is small fraction of the equation.
Collaborating with Connoisseurs: Then there’s the community partners. They partner closely with local companies such as Olympia Provisions to fine tune their menu offerings.
Feeding the Soul: Knowing that food has a knack for bringing people together, forging bonds and creating conversation, there is nothing better than bringing Apple Brandy and Pecan Pie, Stuffing or Eggnog flavors to the Christmas family gathering in Minnesota
Community is a mindset and not a passing thought or aspiration. Building an ethical, resilient and sustainable way of running a business requires a vision, and a commitment to a distinct cultural flavor. They’re always values based companies. I’d fathom a guess that freedom, respect, humor, happiness and connection are at the heartbeat of this cultural gem.
Today was a sunny spring day so I took a walk this afternoon to soak up Beaumont‘s buds, blooms and blossoms. Having the chance to explore the neighborhood mid-week is an opportunity see it in a different light. It is my favorite part of working from home. Even though I’ve lived in the neighborhood for fifteen years there is always a renovation to admire, activity to steal my attention or someone new to meet, often they’re retired. Today, I walked the peace route and finally met the owner of “the little monk” (a garden ornament). The homeowner was tending to the Japanese Maple under which which the little monk sits. While I aspire to master the art of meditation I have a long way to go but on every walk I always find calm in the simplicity of this garden and stop to pause most days for 2, 10 or 30 seconds. I was heartened to learn from the homeowner that this was exactly his intention. This simple experience captures three things that I want to master.
Find joy in chaos: It can be hard to find the quiet, value the understated and subtle when we’re so wrapped up in the frenzy and energy of the day but it’s worth breaking free of the chains to get perspective, see life beyond the screen and be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Look for beauty in the everyday: In the clutter, banter, craziness of the day, carve out time to find the little monk in every day. Savor what might appear to be mundane. Be prepared to be amazed or surprised. The tulip in the photo simply appeared, it was not deliberately planted. It looks so perfectly placed.
Listen. Ask open-ended questions. Be curious. Ask good questions. To paraphrase from Buddhism, “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.”
There are Throwback Thursdays, Webcast Wednesdays and so forth. This week I’m starting my own series called TED Tuesdays. Like many of the 1000s of TED followers, I watch a TED or TEDx recording weekly. More often than not, I listen to a talk and learn something new, I’m inspired to make a change or act on one of the ideas that the presenters shared. TED Tuesday posts will highlight my favorite talks and sound bites in the spirit of reflection, inspiration and daring to do things and think differently. This first post focuses on a TED talk that was recorded at the 2015 TED Global event in Vancouver, B.C, in February.
Who: Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, the single largest collection of human voices ever recorded
The theme of his talk: Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear
Four phrases that carry enormous power, “Thank you, I love you, Forgive me, I forgive you” (Book: Four Things that Matter Most by Ira Byock)
Listen a little more and shout a little less
People are basically good
There is an unimaginable spirit of human forgiveness
Every life matters equally and infinitely
My aha moment(s): Listening is an act of love and generosity. Find your courage, tell your story and leave nothing important unsaid.
We’re all improvisers. Every day we wake up, we don’t have a script, and we don’t really know what is going to happen. Anything could happen. This was one of Gary Hirsch’s messages at the TEDxMtHood Adventure: Improvising with Strangers held this weekend. Gary is a self-proclaimed improv junkie and co-founder of On Your Feet. During the 2.5 hour workshop, a group of ~30 strangers became friends by playing with improv. Through play, simple instructions, applying the principles of improv showed how it can strengthen collaboration, increase self-awareness and relationships, generate new ideas and approaches to opportunities, problems or products. Here’s what I took away from the session:
Be spontaneous: How often do you attend a meeting with an idea, opinion or a problem to solve but truthfully you’re steadfast committed to one solution? You’re not alone. Agendas have a time and a place. However a lot of people join a brainstorm or meeting with a focus on influencing or convincing vs. looking to solve real problems or find new ideas. Be honest about your intention.
Take the offer. Listen: Improvising is centered on the idea of maintaining the flow of a dialogue and acting on “offers.” We encounter offers throughout conversations and everyday events. They are mistakes, unforeseen circumstances, statements, questions, failures or gestures. Offers help us think differently or generate better ideas. It isn’t necessary to accept every offer but learn to accept the reality of others. Listen for offers to be able to help, learn, contribute, support, create and so forth (especially relevant if you’re in a position of power or authority).
Present: Improv is designed for the present which equips us for the unknown of tomorrow.
I signed up to attend Improvising with Strangers for two reasons. At the 2014 World Domination Summit, Gary handed out bravebots, I carry mine with me most days. It always prompts a smile and reminder to keep trying new things. Second, surprises are more rare these days. In our always-on lives our days are often hyper-scheduled or we’re learning about EVERYTHING new or different via social-media. It was a great experience to participate in a gathering without an agenda and a lot of unknowns. I didn’t really know what I’d signed up for. The tweet I read from @DesignWeekPDX made an offer and I took them up on it.
This blog originally appeared on November 5, 2014 on http://createathon.org/. Two years ago I wanted to find a new way to engage Waggener Edstrom employees and have a social impact. A dash of creativity, risk and some rubber arm twisting resulted in WE’s participation in a CreateAthon event which was a hit! Read about our most recent CreateAthon experience.
During global Pro Bono Week (#PB14), Waggener Edstrom celebrated its second CreateAthon experience. Twenty-four ambitious and energetic employees filled up on protein, energy drinks and delicious food — but no sleep — to create and deliver storytelling campaigns, marketing materials, PR plans and new brand identities to help support the missions of five amazing Seattle-based nonprofit organizations. Our Bellevue office space was lively for the full 24 nonstop hours, and energy levels hit a steady 8 or 9 on a 10-point scale around the clock (except for a lull between 7‒8 a.m.).
The delight of our clients this week confirmed the success of the event and the value of pro bono initiatives to help dedicated but resource-scarce groups. I was amazed to reflect on the overall performance and productivity of a team with lofty goals and a finite amount of time to achieve them. The team’s success can be attributed to embracing the following principles.
Be courageous. Every team member brought a variety of skills and experiences to the projects. Similarly everyone felt some vulnerability and uncertainty because they hadn’t worked together before. Participants embraced the diverse perspectives and focused on everyone’s (hidden) talents to get the work done. Be courageous, bring your whole self to the task and jump in to meet the need regardless of experience or job title. In the words of Dale Carnegie, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit around and think about it. Go out and do it!”
Embrace creative chaos. Each five-member team worked together to establish a clear scope of work and goals for their project. This was an easy and smart step. Determining how the tasks would be divided and how the work would get done was more complicated. Generating ideas for the clients was challenging too. Visiting the Boys & Girls Club of Bellevue’s club house, taking a walk in the park and listening to music inspired great ideas. Taking breaks, experiencing new or different environments, listening and honoring each idea, and brainstorming spontaneously with everyone and anyone available surfaced the most fun, surprising and winning concepts for our clients. Everyone’s creative chaos looks different, but you’ll know the winning idea when you see it.
Break rules, challenge assumptions. Every company and team has written and unwritten rules. These rules have purpose and value; for example, they help create order. Rules can also hinder flexibility, which limits our creativity and thus our ability to solve the problems that confront us. During CreateAthon, time is limited. We need to remove needless issues, concerns and hurdles fast. Trust the values of the common culture to ensure that you represent the company consistently. Challenging assumptions and breaking the rules of how to tackle a typical task is encouraged and feels really good. Let it go!
The success of our CreateAthon projects will be partly measured by our impact on building capacity for these pro bono clients and how much we further their business goals (for example, by increasing donations or recruiting volunteers). In the professional services industry, achieving excellence, innovation and results are at the heart of our success. When we open our minds, show passion and find purpose in our work, we can live these principles every day.
Every day companies are introducing sustainable, socially conscious products and services, engaging in public-private partnerships and working to alleviate social and environmental challenges to fulfill business commitments and goals (financial, environmental and social). Research indicates that more and more consumers aspire to align their purchasing decisions and lifestyle with their values. This is commonly referred to as ‘conscious consumption’. At the same time, employees’ values are showing up more prominently in the workplace. Environmental Leader recently reported that corporate social responsible (CSR) activities have been proven to improve job performance. As employers compete aggressively for talent, they’re learning about the importance of creating compelling experiences that match individuals’ values such as flexibility, shared responsibility and transparency.
Last year Sustainable Brands reported on Nielsen’s findings that 50 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for socially responsible products. Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2014 indicated that Millennials are disappointed in business and government leaders, and expect improvement in CSR. Sixty-three percent of Millennials donate to charities and 51 percent—more than any other generation surveyed—told Nielsen they would pay extra for sustainable products. As more and more digital natives show more interest in buying socially responsible brands and the number of micro-audiences increase, organizations are facing a more daunting or complex task of engaging and influencing consumers.
At this week’s Go Green Portland conference, Renee Lertzman, Ph.D., author of The Myth of Apathy shared insight about the challenges of engaging and motivating communities of stakeholders in sustainability. She advocated the value and importance of getting smart about the psychological and social dimensions of the stakeholders that we connect with. Assuming that most people share the desire to have impact there is more to consider besides people’s values, beliefs and opinions.
Lertzman explained the complexity of everyday decisions and how people relate to environmental issues. We face dilemmas each day. Think about a person’s decision whether to work from home to reduce their carbon footprint. If a person stays at home they may spend less time emitting carbon on the roads, however the power and energy to warm their home may equal the carbon emissions of a commute. Which option minimizes the impact on the environment? Lertzman argued that people’s capacity to understand issues will directly affect the appropriate engagement strategy to reach these people.
Instead of only focusing on appealing to individuals’ behavioral motivations and triggers, Lertzman pointed to the value of focusing on the emotional and experiential dimension of engagement.
Meet people where they are: Capitalizing on the energy that exists, mobilizing people to co-create and discuss solutions can help audiences rationalize their situation and negotiate dilemmas and conflicts.
Show compassion: Knowing that every human being has a fundamental need to have an impact, yet deals with anxiety in decision making, positive reinforcement and compassion breeds understanding and lends itself to promising outcomes.
Listen: Listening and being inquisitive helps us from jumping too quickly to conclusions and making assumptions. If people aren’t engaging its often because they are overwhelmed. Its often nothing to do with the fact that they don’t care or aren’t motivated. Listening to people, understanding their circumstances can be more effective in driving change, as opposed to pressuring individuals.
This title was the theme of Michele Norris’ keynote at the YWCA Inspire Luncheon in Portland, Ore. If you don’t know Michele Norris, she is an accomplished journalist, storyteller and co-host on All Things Considered, National Public Radio (NPR) – my favorite radio station, arguably one of the finest journalism outlets in the world.
Michele spoke about the race card. Sound risky or controversial? It wasn’t. She offered mind-blowing perspective about how race is experienced and how it shapes the world that we live in.
In 2010, Michele published a memoir about her family’s
racial legacy and race in the wake of the Obama presidential election. She was confident that when she went out to talk about the book, she’d be asking people to engage in a conversation about race. Something that she acknowledged is hard for people to do. She wanted to make it a bit easier for her audiences by quite literally playing the race card, by giving people a postcard and asking them to share their experiences, questions, hopes, laments or observations about race and identity – using just six words. She aimed to foster a candid dialogue about race amongst fellow Americans; it evolved into a global conversation. The Race Card Project is about dialogue and engagement.
People think in digestible sound bites: Replies to the question “What is Race?” which appeared on the post cards included: “What if the world was colorblind”, “Underneath we all taste like chicken”, “We can learn from one another”, “Money in hand not on counter”, “I am not a racist but …”, “My son is not half he is double”, and “I will not ruin your bloodline”.
Listening is the most important part of dialogue: Stories draw us into the lives and hearts of people. Asking questions matter, listening to the replies matter more.
Dialogue does not have any geographic boundaries: The Race Card project started in small town in America, when Michele printed 200 postcards to share with intimate audiences while she was on tour, to spur conversation. There was a 30 percent return rate. Social media amplified the conversation and before she knew it, she was receiving honest, funny and brave responses from Ireland, Belgium and Chile, and beyond. Michele found herself eavesdropping on the conversations of race around the globe (even though this wasn’t her original expectation or intention).
Don’t assume that mainstream dialogue mirrors the opinions of individuals: Michele has found herself archiving people’s attitudes and cataloguing history. She has learned that the race conversation in mainstream media presents one dimension of history and that the conversations with individuals are very personal. She didn’t elaborate on the differences between the mainstream media and information shared by individuals who she spoke with however I inferred that she was referring to the fact that race is a lot more complex that what the mainstream media reports and individuals’ experiences are so vast and varied, much more profound than some people give the topic credit for.