Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tough to be smart...

Everyone who's worked for a boss or inside a team has always felt at one time or another an immense amount of frustration. The better you accomplish your job and the smarter (you think) you are, you can see a lot of slackers and “politically active” co-workers whose job it is to escape work, steer trouble, hold on to their fort and make your life miserable.

The more sensitive one is, the more difficult it becomes to ignore this underground, systematic deconstruction going on, day in, day out, and it becomes extremely difficult to carry on, yet alone to deal with it.

To those of you in that predicament, I propose a simple trick, inspired from my hero of the moment. I'd simply ask myself “How would Obama deal with that?” More on this later...

Of course, if you're a Cheney fan, you can substitute the name, but I won't guarantee the results!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Making an easy task difficult...

“Vision Park City” is a process meant to define how we, the citizens, see our little city and its future. This great community exercise, that a group of us are in the midst of preparing, was an undertaking made unnecessarily difficult for the volunteers who signed up for it.

I believe the consultants in charge of the project had no idea how they could obtain the data they needed and asked the volunteers to design a model that would meet their needs. They decided to let them invent a tool they had sold, sight unseen, to the city. This has been a rather laborious process and I feel that we – the volunteers – have been robbed of our time and efforts.

As the product is nearing readiness, the consultants seem now eager to regain control and claim ownership. I wonder who, among the City's decision makers was charged with vetting the consultants and also wonder what goal was presented to them in relation with their assignment?The City should learn from that fiasco, make sure that the deliverables meet the objectives set and take appropriate precautions as similar projects are developed in the future.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big, beautiful and expensive!

These days, washers and dryers are downright... Beautiful. Their organic, rounded styling and their stunning colors make them sculptures you'd want to have in the middle of your living room, not inside your laundry! The problem with these handsome appliances is that their price mirror their sheer beauty. A great marketing ploy to get more money from consumers. Go to the any appliance website and compare an old fashion washer-dryer sets with its space-age counterparts. You'll see that if you're willing to double the investment, you can upgrade a trip back into the 1950's well into the 21st century!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Creative outburst

For many months, I had not had too many chances to dig into my mind and look for creative ideas. In the past couple of weeks, this has changed dramatically. I'm now in the middle of two projects that have rocked my mind and that wake me up at night with a flood of ideas I fall for. Don't get me wrong, no one has given me an award yet, it's just my own self-satisfaction at work. At any rate, I'm impressed to see that there's still a good supply of creativity left in me. Hopefully, that should carry me for another decade or two...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Station-wagons and SUV

In a not so distant past, station-wagons had a clear reason for existing. They were the logical roomier and more practical extension of a sedan. For that very very reason, automakers could only sell them for a tad higher than their more elegant counterparts. All that changed with the advent of the SUV that started back in the 80's with the highly popular Jeep Cherokee and later with the Ford Explorer.

With what was nothing but a “glorified” station wagon, perhaps a bit more rugged and with more ground clearance, manufacturers realized they could significantly raise their prices and their profits just by giving the driver a more commanding view... Will the re-invention of the American auto industry return to basic common sense and re-legitimize the good old station-wagon?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Time. More precious as it flies...

The more time passes, the more it becomes incredibly precious. I'm talking about good time, when all is well; health, family, friends, good fortune and great feelings. This is not a new concept: Scarcity breeds higher value. It may be the most obvious concept in the world, but until that very day I had never visualize it in such an brutal light. My time, your time, everybody's time becomes more precious each passing second. If you're a lawyer, a plumber or a gardener, this might even mean that you should charge more for each passing hour that you are at someone's service.

Of course, this is solely seen from your own perspective, it's your very own time and it's the most valuable to you. The service rendered, due perhaps to your continuously improved skills might be better too, but chances are your client or boss doesn't see it in quite the same light. At any rate whether you're able to sell you time for more or not, you're now warned; it's awfully precious. Starting today, don't squander it anymore!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Excuses, excuses...

In trying moving things forward, there is always an ample of supply of reasons for not acting that never fail to come up. People have different values, are working from different agendas and operating at different speeds. All these variations create the kind of interferences that can jam up the gear box and bring everything to a complete stop.

Undisclosed agendas often are the big problems that remove transparency from the process and are meant to promote the status quo. This is when it's okay to stop “playing by the rules” and start moving ahead.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Innovating, leading an doing it now

As you may have read yesterday, innovation is dear to my heart. So is strong leadership. Just following or “keeping up” is never a satisfying feeling as it brings far too much stress; one gets the sense of always running around, being on the defensive and having that sinking feeling of leaving things out. Leading is much simpler, yet so much more exhilarating as it make you a trailblazer and brings both a sense of excitement and discovery.

Lastly, if you are convinced that innovation and leadership are indeed the right things to do at a particular moment, it's no longer acceptable to delay their implementation. The “we'll do it later approach” is never acceptable as it constitutes an open door for not doing what we ought to. Instead, if it can physically get done now, it should. Call it “implementation as you go” if you will, but that simple habit hoists you up faster, affirms your leadership and overtime builds your competitive advantage...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why innovate?

When asked about how they deal with the current crisis, leaders, whether they're in business or politics, seem to focus on how they're minimizing the blow to the area they're responsible for, how they've been able to salvage what they had and how they've beaten the “average.” Nothing inspiring; they simply want to impress us on how they've been able to cover their rear-end and made it almost unscathed, so far...

Maybe I'm a bit too demanding, but I'm looking for more. I'm hoping for some vision, I want to hear about solutions going forward. That's were innovation belongs; to simply turn things around, shift paradigms and create a new reality capable of stepping us into an improved realm of life. What I find missing with all these “top dogs,” I also find missing all around me, starting with "yours truly." I wonder why we forget to search for alternative solutions to a dreary reality and don't put all of our resources behind these antidotes. The reality is that we've probably grown a bit too “fat” and need to go hungry for a while...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A wealth of culture

As I was watching the second installment of “We shall remain,” the native American saga as told by them on PBS, one Indian tribal leader interviewed said that the art of surviving was to extract the very best of both cultures (their own and that of the white man.) While I'm no American Indian, I walked that path many times during my life. From the days I was working in my parents' summer farm in the Alps, living in near-middle-ages conditions and going to a boarding high-school to discover a much more advanced way of life, to the day I came to America, more than 30 years ago.

My wife and I have always sorted out the best of both worlds - the American “new” and the European “old” - and made a successful run with the “blend” we picked for ourselves. Straddling different cultures and customs and making the wisest choice possible between their respective attractions isn't always easy, but when exercised with some discipline and a clear sense of direction, it can lead to priceless benefits.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The art of persuasion

This can be seen as basic salesmanship as we all have to convince someone at some point in our lives. It could be our parents, teacher, boss, customers, spouse or kids. Some of us do it very well, others do it so poorly that they never go far with it and soon give up.

I am not talking here about reciprocation or some other situations where the decision of the other party is either leveraged by something dubious like a threat or some form of manipulation. Instead, I am suggesting the sound argument made in favor of a worthwhile idea that may be little known but can bring appreciable benefits.

Do you make a big "splash" in presenting it or do you prepare your audience, take the time to let it percolate and try to make it germinate further in those very minds you want to turnaround? If the idea is rather complex, involves a big change, the latter approach might be the best. What are your thoughts?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Managing email the right way

Everything so often, my computer dies on me and when it happens, I always try my best to have everything backed up and ready to re-install on the new machine. This is something I'm fairly comfortable with and the only area where I always seemed to have problems has been with my email application, in that case the Microsoft program called Outlook. After losing enough data each time I switch computer, I've decided to put an end to that “dysfunctional relationship” and consolidate all my communication into a web-based email service. It's been a hard job to funnel and rebuild all my available information into this new home, but with this done, I'm now feeling like born again. Beware of the Outlook trap!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Could a depressing recession...

...turn into a full blown depression? That's quite possible. People are scared, they've quit consuming and they've never been so down in years. The current situation is a good illustration that we the people have become our own worst enemies. What's needed now is some credible inspiration. Can Obama do it? Probably not, as all of his political capital is riding on what he says and he simply can't afford to make promises he won't be able to keep. What's needed is a creative initiative that can transmute all that negative energy of inertia into some positive action leading to a dynamic societal change. Has anyone got a good suggestion?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Comparing The Canyons to Park City

Today, I spent a full day skiing Jupiter, my favorite spots in Park City. While the overcast and foggy weather brought poor visibility, the fresh snow, a bit on the heavy side, was outstanding for April. I skied enough to remind myself what my old favorite ski place was like; the Jupiter area can fairly be compared to 9990 at The nearby Canyons and when I attempted to rate the two places, Jupiter showed slightly more diversity of terrain while The Canyons offered longer runs, a much faster lift and a huge array of off-piste options accessible through a short hike. The Canyons win that one and this is another compelling reason for connecting the two mountains!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An end to suffering...

For the past eight months I suffered a continued and mysterious chest pain, just over my heart, and after getting cat-scanned and “echographed” right and left, my doctor couldn't make any sense out of it. I felt the pain in the early morning hours and it would fade away in the afternoon, it never took a day off and became totally part of my daily life. As I was ready to go back and seek more medical advice, just a week ago, it disappeared exactly as it came; suddenly, abruptly and without any warning or even easing out. My attempts to switch sleeping position didn't help a bit and the only plausible explanation is that the voodoo master who pricked me on the chest got tired of me and realized that I was so full of tricks that it wasn't fun anymore. At least that my diagnostic...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The curse of excess

Like many of us, I keep several email addresses; I find them convenient and have them forwarded to my main email account. The problem is that with so many addresses, I end up doing a terrible job managing them. Following the “death” of my last computer, I've been re-organizing all of my files and am now considering getting rid of my Microsoft address tool and use instead a Google email account.

This way, when my new computer “kicks the bucket,” I won't have to struggle transferring addresses and retrieving my old email. In going into each account, I've found a few “good” email messages lumped into the “junk” folder. I've fixed the problem and addressed the missed message, but the lesson learned is that with multiplicity comes responsibility and I need to do a much better job managing my plural email accounts...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Team work

Last night was yet another meeting of the Park City Vision group for which I recently signed up. This is a team of volunteers that have undertook to take pictures and create images that represent different aspects of our community, from the elements we cherish, to the ones we loath and those we wish we had. This particular piece of the puzzle will culminate into a community wide presentation that will paint a picture of where we all want to take our much cherished town into the future. We all had an evening session during which we discussed and sifted through over 500 pictures. All went well as the various participants worked seamlessly together and brought their sincere attitudes and best perspectives into the process. Although it lasted for about three and a half hours, It went by quickly and effectively as we moved forward swiftly, by respecting each others and by letting enough good humor filter through the entire session. We're not out of the woods though and have much more work waiting for us this weekend...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Death of a computer (part III)

There is a huge quantity of information I considered important that is now sitting in the old, dead computer forever. I'll never see it again and will forget it soon because I actually don't need it so badly. I'm now in the process of turning the page and by so doing discovering new ways to accomplish some of the tasks I'd always done without thinking much. After two days of feverish work I now know much more about my new computer and feel a little better. In fact, I start appreciating the newness and the new personality of my electronic companion. I don't feel totally reborn yet, but am now somewhat hopeful!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Death of a computer (part II)

Prior to going skiing this morning, I've decided to unpack my new “baby.” It sure smells new, and to my dismay runs “Vista” instead of the old “XP” system, which I'm told is bug ridden, but again, I didn't give myself much choice... The biggest problem with a new computer and a new operating system is exactly like starting a new life or a new relationship. You need to change old habits, learn something new, give up old acquaintances and procedures - in one word, endure a major transformation. In fact, this kind of incident is what makes you realize that it's not just your old trusted administrative assistant that went belly-up, but a big part of yourself. You try to reload some programs that could sound trivial to others but are important to you – a sure sign that there's some clinging to the past - and realize they won't work anymore... I always sing the merit of personal re-invention, but now realize that I hate the process. Change remains a cruel exercise no one is ever looking for!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Death of a computer

This morning as I was typing furiously, my three year old Dell computer died at my fingertips without giving me a fair warning that could have allowed me to conduct a last minute backup in order to save all my files. Like for us humans, computer death generally comes without any warning and seldom fail to take us by total surprise. What was worse this time however was that I needed my trusted companion to edit a long series of images that I would need to get ready by this next Monday morning. With that in mind, time was of the essence and I needed a replacement machine as soon as humanly possible. >I jumped in the car, drove down to Salt Lake City, found a new computer and paid a premium to have the data transferred on the spot as tomorrow is Easter. Not the best way to buy, not much in terms of comparison shopping, but what else can you do, when resurrection is the only element that counts!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Championing an idea

Two days ago I was discussing the practical aspect of successfully implementing a concept or gaining acceptance for an idea. There is the direct method of charging bull like a bull that rams into the subject without much preparation or strategy; that one albeit quick never produces much in terms of positive results. At the other end of the spectrum, there is an orchestrated “planting of the seed” that hopefully will grow, germinate and pretty soon invade its surrounding at everyone’s surprise. That’s a process that I’m eager to better understand and develop when it’s appropriate to bring new and strong ideas everyone can use and profit from.

When I’m ready to introduce that sound, but little-known concept, instead of rushing the job by doing a piece here and a piece there, I intend to first study the background of the topic in question, survey its environment, list a few strategies and pick the one that has the best chances of bringing the idea or the project to fruition. This is quite exciting and I’ll tell you more as the process incubates…

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Praising flexibility...

It’s a lot easier to be set in some way and never change course than being flexible, nimble and going with the flow. This approach requires more adapting but is also so much more fun. It means that everyday is different, every mistake is a learning experience and every hurdle a challenge that needs to be overcome. Call is adaptability if you prefer, but this form of espousing the changing reality of each new day truly is a gift that becomes priceless as time goes on…

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The difference between ideas and action

A friend of mine who knows of my interest for economic topics just sent me some information on a book titled “20 proposals to reform capitalism.” Over the years, there have been heaps of books displaying similar names like “7 this or 12 that…” Every time, the cover looks appealing, the number well-rounded or suggestive, some of the ideas can be terrific, but not always the 12 twelve listed on the cover...

The big challenge is that between ideas and execution there is a chasm that takes lots of good strategies and a strong determination to successfully navigate to destination. So good in fact, that it’s better to be picky, come up with the most potent idea (out of the 12 or so listed,) develop a well-thought approach to launch it and go to bat with it. So much inertia, obstructionism and ignorance in this world make championing any idea a super-hero’s job.

Some great initiatives have worked beautifully, like smoking cessation programs, other are just making progress like gay’s equal rights, but many are still alien to our governments and to the masses. With that in mind, it takes a well-orchestrated effort to get one tiny idea to grow roots inside a population’s minds. Sometime luck or just being “at the right place, at the right time” makes a huge difference. Yeah, change is always all about flawlessness and well planned execution. Good luck and much perseverance to all of us who want to change our world!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rossignol just like General Motors?

In recent weeks, the Rossignol group unveiled major and painful restructuring plan and announced that it would let 30% of its workforce go, amounting to 450 people with 275 of them in France. Ski production will be trimmed from 800,000 to 650,000 pairs after 290,000 pairs were left unsold this winter. The Rossignol group, which includes Dynastar, Look and Lange lost 58 million euros on sales of 270 million in 2008.

According to Bruno Cercley, its president, the group aims to breakeven within 2 years, yet without closing any of its current production sites in France, Spain or Italy, hoping instead to build on their strengths. Just like for GM, these moves may prove to be “too little, too late” for Rossi. With the management unwilling to make courageous decisions, like consolidating ski manufacturing, cutting the number of models, changing its overall paradigm and embracing risks that these changing times demand, this may prove to be too mild a medicine.

If what they do in Park City, their U.S. headquarters, is any indication, aggressiveness, imagination and progressive marketing seem no longer part of the company DNA and for retailers and consumer alike, the entire product offering of the group is quickly becoming the falling knife no one wants to catch...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jean Vuarnet Plaza, Avoriaz

This past Saturday some 300 people attended the ceremony naming the plaza at Avoriaz upper tram station after Jean Vuarnet, who won the Olympic downhill in Squaw Valley back in 1960. Vuarnet who split his retirement years between Quebec and Morzine was there along with a roster of former champions and associates. After winning his gold medal, Vuarnet was able to parlay his victory by launching the famous line of sunglasses named after him and was the man who not only had the vision for Avoriaz, but was also instrumental in making the Portes du Soleil ski interconnect possible between 8 French and 4 Swiss neighboring mountain resorts. For his two latter achievements, nothing was easy and for the downhiller, co-credited with Georges Joubert for inventing and perfecting the “tuck” ski position, there was lots of obstructionism, jealousy and pettiness from locals to fend off along the way to building his vision. At any rate Jean, you’ve achieved it beautifully now and can be proud of yourself; heartfelt congratulations!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mystery of vanishing skiers solved

This winter has seen far less visitors on Park City mountain slopes than usual. We all thought it was caused by the current financial situation, when in fact we just learned it was the result of some subterranean phenomenon that is swallowing people from the snow surface and pulling them into the ground. Park City used to be a major silver mining town and its mountainous underground is just like Swiss cheese with more than 1200 miles of tunnels and access shafts.

All became clear this past week when Bruce Rogers from Sun Valley, Idaho was skiing at Deer Valley Resort with a friend. He was skiing powder snow in the trees, when he suddenly stopped to catch his breath and survey the terrain. Suddenly a strange feeling swept all over him. The snow beneath his skis was moving and sucking him into the ground like quicksand. Rogers had stopped over a patch of snow sitting on top of what was the opening of a historic mine tunnel that was not accounted for.

While his companion helped him get unharmed out of the hole, that remarkable event suggests that all the missing skiers of this season probably have been swallowed by the mountain, never to return to the surface. This incident is only the tip of the iceberg and with the understandable ski resorts PR black-out, there are probably thousands of skiers waiting for a “lift” at the bottom of our underground galleries. Unless we find a way to rescue them by this coming November, these folks may never return to feed our local business; so has anyone any good suggestion to extract them from the mountain and pump them back out into our economy?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ending on a high note

Our 2008/2009 snow season that started anemically was saved by a providential, last-minute Christmas Day snowstorm and went on to be a fairly decent, perhaps slightly below average in total snow cover, but a pretty good season after all. That was until the snow gods woke up 13 days ago and came down on us with a vengeance and incessant dumps.

We skied on several occasions during the week and with unseasonably cold temperatures and overcast skies, the skiing had never been so good all season long. Conditions alternated between waist deep snow and creamy 4 to 6 inches covering overnight groomed runs to provide for enchanted skiing and the very best conditions of the years. In just 8 days, our local Park City mountains will all close for the season on a very high snow note, thanks to Mother Nature’s generosity and in spite of a terrible economic undertone…

Friday, April 3, 2009

The price of long distance

Yesterday, I learned that my big brother just had a heart attack; a mild one for sure but one nonetheless. He’d been hospitalized waiting for further testing that would determine the best course of action. All this to say that when it comes to that sort of events, being far away always sucks and put the party that is on the farthest end at a loss to show up, provide comfort and do something more tangible than just making a phone call. As modern life moves people all around the world and as everyone becomes more mobile, this kind of situation is likely to becomes more the norm than the exception and brings a totally new dimension in the world of relationships; namely, the wonderful luxury to be just one smile and one hug away…

Thursday, April 2, 2009

G20: A disappointing outcome

As anticipated, the G20 didn’t bring the expected powerful medicine to the bedside table of the international finances and economies. The $1.1 trillion help package isn’t much in view of a global GDP in the $70 trillion range and pales in comparison with the couple of trillions that the US has already pumped into its domestic rescue effort.

What is deplorable however is the agreement to “cap the pay and bonuses of bankers,” sounds like, and probably is, a token gesture to appease those of us who believe they were “fleeced” by their own financial institutions. Not going forward with the creation of a regulatory body with cross-boarder authority as called for by France and Germany, was clearly the largest failure of that meeting. It clearly demonstrates that big finance remains incredibly powerful as well as influential and remains the “puppet-master” in U.S. politics through Tim Geithner’s deceitful dexterity…

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Time to rethink the war on drugs

As the Mexican drug cartels are fighting their battle of influence south of the US border, this should serve as a reminder that our drug policy has been a dismal failure and that it’s perhaps time for some fresh approach. Just like the prohibition of the early previous century, the “war on drugs” is a pipe dream and is never going to be “won.” I’ve long been a proponent of drug legalization and taxation as well as rehabilitation of drug users instead of jail time.

That would cost significantly less money and finally put a dent in these underground economies that are destroying the world from Afghanistan to… the United States. We talk a lot about of thinking “outside the box;” legalizing and controlling drugs would go a long way to bringing society at large into the rule of law. It would be a courageous example of political innovation (another great concept!) and is likely to lead to totally different and positive results. What do you think?