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 : Smart Tribes by Christine Comaford

SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant TogetherSmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together by Christine Comaford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The content here seems to all line up. The “critter state” seems similar to Seth Godin’s “Lizard Brain”. The concept of a high performing team (tribe) resonates well. However, the book is pretty geared towards Christine’s system which can feel a bit of a pitch at times distracting from the content. She shares neuroscience mapped to her five key Accelerators of the Smart State: Focus, Clarity, Accountability, Influence and Sustainability.

If this would have stuck to the material and dropped the sales pitch to hire her company as a proven management consulting firm it would have been a lot better.

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Sunday Book Review : Remote by David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote: Office Not RequiredRemote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I tend to find myself repeatedly finding I agree a lot with Jason and David even though I struggle to identify with them. I thought for sure this book would piss me off to no end. Mainly because I think that physical interaction is so important for success. However, they hit the topic pretty eloquently. They highlighted the right things about what is amazing when remote work is done right, but acknowledge that some face time and presence (head gap) is so very important. I suspect this book is powerful as a cultural wake up to many of the industrial minded managers out there that struggle greatly with effort versus results.

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Sunday Book Review : The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient WisdomThe Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a reputation of being some what of a negative cuss. In the spirit of ever seeking improvement of myself, I figured I would begin seeking what psychologists have to say about happiness. Haidt’s work seems fairly well received so I started here. Holy shit, this was not what I expected. I expected Oprah-esque doses of fluffy psycho-babble about positive feelings. In stead I got a a healthy dose of vitrue, happiness, fulfillment and meaning.

Haidt has taken several “Great Ideas” on happiness by luminaries of the past such as Plato, Buddha, Jesus, etc and studies those ideas that have common themes through the lens of modern psychology. From these he spells out lessons that apply to us.

In it, Haidt poses several “Great Ideas” on happiness espoused by thinkers of the past – Plato, Buddha, Jesus and others – and examines them in the light of contemporary psychological research, extracting from them any lessons that still apply to our modern lives. Central to the book are the concepts of virtue, happiness, fulfillment, and meaning. This is not a self help book, it is a philosophy book.

James Flint’s review in the Guardian probably sums it up best – “I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that laid out the contemporary understanding of the human condition with such simple clarity and sense.”

Available on Overdrive.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Asking For Help

So the other day we were watching Ashley play play soccer. It’s the middle of November, but in Arizona the weather is good enough that we are able to wear shorts and T-shirts and flip-flops out watching the game. My wife is sitting there with her legs crossed and she’s kind of bouncing her foot up and down. Bouncing the flip-flop off the bottom of her foot, relaxing herself waiting for the game to start. All of the sudden the flip-flop flies a couple of feet out in front of her and hits the ground.

We both look at the flip-flop. We look back at each other and she says, “Are you gonna get that for me?”.

I pause and I ask, “Are you asking for help?”.

She says, “No! I’m expecting you to pick my flip-flop up.”

I say, “What makes you expect that?”

She says, “Well it is the right thing to.”

I say, “What makes it the right thing to do?”

She says, “Because you’re my husband and you love me and so you should do that.”

I say, “Well, what makes you think I know that as your husband who loves you, that that’s expected of me?”

And she just gave me that look. And, I did the right thing; I picked up flip-flop and I put it back on her foot gently and gave her a kiss. But, I think that’s the problem. In relationships we have all sorts of expectations, unwritten rules, thoughts about how the other person should behave, and what they should know, what they shouldn’t know.

I think sometimes if we just asked for help and did the simple little thing of saying “will you”. It sheds away all that crap and puts us in this state of where “sure why wouldn’t I want to help you.” So if she would’ve said “Will you pick up my flip-flop for me”. Sure I love her, of course why wouldn’t I pick up the flip-flop for her? But if I didn’t pick the flip-flop up and she didn’t ask for help. She might walk away angry because I didn’t meet her expectations. Expectations that I may or may not have known about. Now this particular example is pretty simple, of course I would’ve picked it up regardless. I think it’s a dangerous thing to do, because what we teach each other doing this, is that things are implied and things are unwritten. If we don’t have presence and we have a head gap between ourselves, man a whole lot of hurt comes in pretty quick when expectations aren’t met.

So the next time you want something, the next time you have an expectation don’t use it as a gauntlet to tell if the other person loves you or the other person desires you or the other person wants you to succeed or the other person cares about you. Instead think of it as an opportunity that you could ask for help. You could show someone the behaviors that you want. More importantly, you can get the things that you want and not walk away frustrated, hurt, angry and upset, but instead walk away fulfilled. They certainly have the ability to say no, but at least then you know they are saying no and not just that they didn’t know. So today, break a sweat asking for help.

Note:  I have been walking everyday and introspecting.  I have started to play with talking into a recorder instead of just talking to myself while walking.  This is a transcription/edit of such a recording.

Here is the uncut audio.