Arizona Innovation Summit

The Arizona Commerce Authority, MIT Enterprise Forum and the Arizona Scitech Festival put on the Arizona Innovation Summit earlier this month. It was well attended and had a wide range of innovators. Jeremy Babendure has done a fantastic job rallying the Arizona community around science and technology.

Arizona Innovation Summit

There was a mini trade show floor for organizations to share their work. Sessions of various varieties and a keynote from Logan LaPlante. Logan is 14 year old that has opened the world to the concept of Hackschooling. During lunch a number of organizers of SciTech events got together to discuss how to better work together. I believe Jeremy will be releasing something sooner than later that captured the results.

I sat with a group that had the topic of “Collaboration – Strengthening the AZ SciTech community. How do we create more opportunities for collaboration to connect with collaborators year-round?” Ideas collected:

Presence Together
Whether it be networking, cocktail hour or service events. It is apparent that there needs to be more presence with each other. Something that can be difficult with the disparate nature of Arizona’s infrastructure.

Database of Organizations
It is hard to collaborate with people that do not know what they want, but even more difficult to be found if you aren’t broadcasting it. There was mention that the AZ SciTech Festival already had started a site that contained a list of participating organizations and perhaps it just needed some more data.

Collaboration Prize
Incentivize collaboration monetarily. Have a local organization similar to The Arizona We Want annually coordinate a prize for the organizations that have collaborated together for the greatest benefit to Arizona. Similar to the Lodestar Foundation‘s The Collaboration Prize.

Workshops / Mentor (Buddy) Program
Collaboration is a skill that needs to be developed. Some organizations are doing it well, some are struggling. Regional workshops to give organizations the basic skills required and pair them with mentors to help them down the path to collaboration. (Shout out to one of my mentors that introduced me to so many people [Francine Hardaway]).

Do Shit Together
The best way to build a skill is to use it. There is way too much talking about working together in this state. It might be fun to draw interested organizations out of hat at random and pair them together.  The paired groups having six months to deliver something together. It could be a physical something, an event or who knows what…

Are any of these ideas new and stellar? No. Don’t throw them out blindly though. It is easy to say just go collaborate. It is much harder to do it in practice.  Almost impossible to do it well consistently.

I am always open to new things and working with new people. Hit me up. Let’s collaborate on something to make Arizona better.

5 Principles of Life Seen Through an El Pollo Loco Birthday Lunch

A few weeks ago Laurie and I were running errands. We fired up Yelp to find a place to eat. We decided on El Pollo Loco. The menu seemed vastly improved since the last time I had eaten there. This particular location was exceptionally clean not only for an El Pollo Loco, but for fast food in general.

El Pollo Loco

While waiting I signed up for their My Loco Rewards program. Almost immediately I got a coupon for free chips and guacamole. Score! then a few minutes later I got a coupon for a free meal for my birthday that was a few weeks away. Double Score! The best part is it was good for a few days after my birthday, so no pressure to eat there on my birthday.

Fast forward to today. After a stressful morning I left the house without a lunch. Then I remembered I had a free lunch waiting for me. So I headed out to El Pollo Loco (#3578) to claim my birthday present. The encounter left me impressed and thinking about simple principles of life.

The cashier took my order just fine. She attempted several times to enter the coupon, but the machine would not take it. After each attempt she looked back up and gently apologized and let me know it would be just another second.

Take Away 1: Be visible with progress. It goes a long way to helping gain empathy. I wasn’t angry it was taking extra time because I felt her frustration in letting me down.

The cashier excused herself after three attempts to go find help. She scanned the kitchen looking for the right person. I could tell she was sizing up each person she locked eyes on as to whether they could help her. There was a gentleman in the back preparing food, which is a large part of the duties when serving fresh food (see interesting fact below). She approached and asked him for help.

Take Away 2:  Seek effective help. It is important to know when you are in over your head. When you are, don’t fight it, ask for help. Not any help, but the help that will get you the best results.

When Ignacio (yes I remembered the name from the badge) got interrupted he didn’t get frustrated or seem inconvenienced. He came over and showed the young lady how to process the transaction. Explaining to her why it was different than how she thought. Instructing her on all aspects including what to do with the coupon etc after the sale. When done he looked up and said, “Happy Birthday, Enjoy your lunch.” then hurried back to his preparation station.

Take Away 3: Help others when you can. Having an a sincere attitude to make those around you better and help them learn is key to creating great teams. It would have been easy for Ignacio to be frustrated or just process the order and turn around and leave without teaching her a thing.

Take Away 4: Details matter. Take the time to observe the details. This wasn’t any coupon. It was a birthday coupon. MY birthday coupon.  Noticing that allowed Ignacio to give me personal service that made me feel human and appreciated.

The cashier was equal part relieved and excited that it wasn’t so painful. She was able to fall right back into the groove of the transaction and straight into the customer after me.

Take Away 5: Don’t get flustered. By asking for help and collecting yourself you can avoid frustration. Frustration that gets passed on to those around you. Take the time to collect yourself and get back on track.

There is a lot you can learn by observing everyday life. Who thought a forgotten lunch would turn into a reminder of these principles of life? Maybe I am just Loco?

Interesting Fact:  On the back of the cup was the following: Giving Tomatoes the love they deserve.  All 357 of them, to be exact.  That’s how many tomatoes we hand-chop at each El Pollo Loco restaurant every single day.  Because here, we strongly believe in preparing fresh ingredients by hand, and you can taste it in every dish, from our pico de gallo to our guacamole.  What can we say?  Preparation is kind of our thing.  Some say the lengths we go to are crazy.  We say it’s crazy you can taste.

Sunday Book Review : Next: The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis

Next: The Future Just HappenedNext: The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Lewis’ writing in general, but I particularly liked where he went with Next: The Future Just Happened. Showing how the Internet boom has changed everything. Telling the tale of the revolution with real life stories from those leading it. With a 13 year old son interested in technology and already making money on it, truer words couldn’t exist. The Internet exposes so much yet hides things in a way that a pre-teen can be a legal expert or a stock trader. After reading this you might have to ask yourself how aware you are of the future. Because it is now.

Available on Overdrive.

View all my reviews

Sunday Book Review : Frederich Nietzsche by Richard Schacht

Frederich NietzscheFrederich Nietzsche by Richard Schacht

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good look in the life and work of Nietzsche. Anyone who is interested in philosophy and deeper thought, owes it to get over the audacity of “God is Dead” and peer into the mind of someone who truly challenged the status quo of his time. An original revolutionary. An observer of human behavior who held the creative aspect of humanity in high regard. The audio version is read by Charlton Heston.

View all my reviews

MailChimp Christmas Gift (Minion Handbook)

At Integrum we use MailChimp to send out our AgileWeekly Newsletter.  We love the experience and the product.  One of the things that is apparent to me is that MailChimp knows how to have fun.  I suspect it has to be one of their values.

When I stopped by Gangplank over the holiday I found a package on my desk from MailChimp.  I opened it and was AMAZED. It was a nice box set. The first thing I pulled out was the post card.

Front of Card

Back of Card

This would be “normal” for a company to send. Impressive. Great design. Light hearted. Kudos.

However, that was the just the tip of the iceberg. Next was a full comic “Th’ Adventoorz of Freddie & Mannie”.



Jacket Cover

I don’t have any idea the meaning of the comic book, but it was brilliantly designed. A pure work of art. If this was all it contained I would still be writing this post, but oh noes. MailChimp knocked it out of the park by including the Minion Handbook.


So what might you find in such a handbook? How about the Minion Oath?

or maybe Dressing and Grooming Standards?

or a Frequently Asked Questions, including how to read your leader?

If all that wasn’t enough at the back of the handbook one can find a minions notes

I can not tell you how impressed I am by the thought, care and design found in this. I am completely perplexed what we did to deserve receiving it, but it was by far and a way the most memorable gift a vendor has ever sent as a gift.

Well done. MailChimp. Well done.

Sunday Book Review : Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

Antifragile: Things That Gain from DisorderAntifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic book. Challenges everything you think you know about how things work. Economics and statistics turned on their heads and seen through a new light. Nassim has done a fantastic job of asking the right questions and pushing assumptions taken for granted.

View all my reviews

Sunday Book Review : Makers – The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

Makers: The New Industrial RevolutionMakers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris does a great job of laying out the hacker culture and how it has evolved into the maker movement. If you want to know how we got to here, this is a great book. It also sheds some light on what is to come. I would love to see a follow up book now that a few years have passed.

View all my reviews

Arizona Art Project – Influx AZ Comes to Chandler Arizona.

IN FLUX a innovative multi-city initiative.  It demonstrates a holistic approach to temporary public art projects.  Influx showcases installations created by local Arizona artists.  They are preparing for their third cycle.

Local Arizona Art

This cycle has three Arizona artists displaying working in Chandler, AZ. Textile artist Ann Morton, sculptor Craig Randich and mixed-media artist Denise Yaghmourian will be displaying their work.  This temporary display is intended to help show case Arizona Art.  There is plenty of FREE covered parking in Downtown Chandler.  Additionally, the installations are all located the Valley Metro Bus Rapid Transit line for those looking to leave the car at home.  Come make an afternoon of it by walking the path and visiting the Vision Art Gallery.  Stay and grab a meal at one of the fine eateries before heading back out.

We are excited that Gangplank will be the host to one of the installations. Here are the locations and a proposed walking trail.  Installations should be ready to display in the next two weeks.

In Flux Arizona Art

In Flux Arizona Art

Sunday Book Review : Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected AgeCognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think Clay has it right. So much good stuff. The part that really hit home for me was the part laying out the various types of sharing and the value they deliver. Leaders of the future should be reading this book. The power behind civic sharing and realizing it’s value is what will move humanity forward.

View all my reviews

What Makes Gangplank Magical?

For a while there was a #whygp push going on to ask people what made Gangplank unique to them.  You can see the results at What is Gangplank.  The truth is, Gangplank is magical.  It is often cited as being so, but rarely does anyone try to explain it.  So here is my feeble attempt.

Gangplank is a community of creators that fuses family life, civic life, creating and earning a living into this unique blend where anything is possible.  The support and tenderness offered is counter balanced by a gruff and forceful exterior making participation daunting to most.

Recently Gangplank’s executive director, Katie Hurst, took the next step in her journey and headed to Portland with her husband, Tyler Hurst.  What would your family do if one of it’s children were leaving the nest to explore what the rest of what life had in store for them?  What rite of passage would you embark on?  At Gangplank the choice was made by, Amanda Blum, to transform the space into the Land of Oz for the day.

Gangplank Oz

Photo by James Archer.

Could there be a more a beautiful metaphor for the magic of Gangplank than the Wizard of Oz?   Much like Dorothy when you first set foot into Gangplank your entire world is transformed.  Regardless of what tornado brought you through the doors, you find something different about this world.  It has a quality that tends to comfort while providing endless possibility.  The playfulness of munchkins pervades the space, often making you think perhaps you have landed back in middle school.  While the wicked witch may be looming or lurking in any number of forms, you are encouraged to keep exploring and finding the truth you are looking for.

Along the way you are sure to make friends that make the journey exciting and attainable.  They will have their own quirks.  Each searching for their own selves, but thats okay you are all in it together.  Eagerly anticipating each part of the journey.  Whether you stuff your brain with knowledge along the way, find your courage to be the creator longing to escape from within or find the passion to fuel you to your destiny or whether you are just looking for home.  You will find what you are looking for in the end.  It will never be what you really expected.

The status quo and her band of flying monkeys will guard the castle of the entrenched, but with your new friends you will brave the storm and push forward to victory.  When you have conquered the walls of your former cubicle, your own self doubt and the mediocrity of the norm.  You will have learned that the magic of Gangplank was in you all along.  Once you have been to Oz it will always be a part of you, same with Gangplank.

Don’t believe me?  How else can you explain the above group of connected souls literally floating across the canvas of Downtown Chandler on their journey home?  Sometimes it pays to believe in magic.