Criticisms from the G20

Frankly, I am tired of hearing about all of the criticisms of the G20 that was just completed in Toronto. People argue that it was a waste of money, that nothing got accomplished, that violence was out of control, that the police were overly aggressive…..pick your argument people. It can’t all be bad, can it?

Let’s look at each one individually:

  1. It was a waste of money – I don’t know about a waste of money, but sure it was expensive. You have 20 of the most powerful people in the world coming to your city, so the security concerns are ones that laymen like us will never be able to comprehend. Once we decided to host the Summit, we needed to go all the way to keep it safe. Would you rather be known as the country that spent $1b on the Summit to keep leaders safe or the country on whose soil a world leader was assassinated? Easy choice in my books.

  2. Nothing got accomplished – By the sounds of things, a lot got accomplished. Most of us cannot get any 20 people in a room to agree to what they want for lunch let alone 20 independent world leaders to agree on a direction for the global economy. An agreement on reducing deficits and some individual treaties amongst nations sounds like a pretty good result for 2 days of meetings.

  3. The violence was out of control – are you kidding? We had 20 of the world’s leaders here, the spotlight of the world was on us and what happened? A few windows got smashed and three cop cars got destroyed. This is nothing in comparison to the violence in every other city that has hosted Summits of this kind. The violence was very concentrated in one area and at the end of the day, there was not much total damage.

  4. The police were overly aggressive – this one really ticks me off. On Saturday afternoon, everyone (especially the media) was calling for a tougher hand by the police to stop the violence, so Saturday night and Sunday, they got exactly that. Now everyone is saying the police were using unnecessary force, corralling innocent people for long periods of time. Too bad. If you are part of a non-violent protest where there may be others who have different ideas, or you are trying to get the frontline story, you may be inconvenienced a little bit in order to maintain order. The result was very little violence and damage which is what we all wanted, right?

No one is ever perfect in these situations, nor can you expect everyone to be happy. The bottom line is the safety of the leaders was maintained, we had an opportunity to show our city on the world stage, the damage was minimal and some concrete things got accomplished. Not bad for a weekend of inconvenience if you ask me.

Stanley McChrystal or Billy Crystal?

Which one has provided more humour to us recently? I have not heard much from Billy Crystal lately, so I am going with the former.

General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander for the war in Afganistan, reminded us recently what it means to be a leader. It means accountability. After recent comments came out from McChrystal and his staff about very senior people in the US administration, McChrystal was forced to do some serious damage control and was quickly removed from his post. What did he expect would happen if a magazine reporter was given unfettered access to he and his aides? The reporter would inevitably hear things not meant for public consumption. As admirably as McChrystal has handled the situation, the error in judgment came long before the comments were ever made public. Let’s hope that this situation does not define the perception of the General’s successful career, but there are good lessons for all leaders – think about the consequences of your actions and act swiftly when required. President Obama tried to quell the situation by giving the General a chance to tell his side of the story and then dismissed him from the post. Now the US can move forward and put this debacle behind them.

But when you read some of the comments made by the General and his aides, you have to wonder “what were they thinking?” I am sure everyone has said things that they don’t want their boss to hear, that is sometimes the nature of business, but use some judgment and understand with whom you are talking. A reporter’s job is to get the inside scoop. There is nothing wrong with someone challenging their leader and having some dissension in the ranks behind closed doors, but it is unacceptable to do this in public. Interesting that it comes from military men who should better understand the chain of command and the consequences for ignoring that chain of command. I guess McChrystal understands that pretty well now.

The Dichotomy of Technology

Why is it that we have technology that allows us to have global meetings without ever leaving our home office, yet when we plug a laptop into a projector it never works? We seem to have started to master the technology of having live conversations with people from all over the world through a few cameras, microphones and TV screens. There are now temporary facilities that offer global conferencing for a rental fee, what a brilliant business concept as companies cut down on business travel.

Contrast that to the fact that we have all watched people spend 15-20 minutes trying to get their laptops successfully projecting on a wall and you see the dichotomy of technology. We are constantly innovating and improving on what we have, yet where we invest time and effort depends on the innovators. The issue of plugging a laptop into a projector and making it work has been an issue for years, why has no one fixed this problem? This has led to hundreds of hours of lost productivity while we try and get that image up on the screen.

No one has fixed the problem because there is no additional revenue in fixing the problem. Would you sell more projectors if you sold the perfect connection? Probably not. But you can sell the advantage of holding a meeting with teams from around the world with the ability to save significant travel costs.

Like everything else, innovations in technology focus on where the revenue can be generated, not necessarily where the productivity drains exist. If we could focus more on fixing things to increase productivity and less time on things that are cool, then technology would do a better job of helping companies improve performance.

I guess for now, we will have to stick with cool apps….

What we can learn from a 3-year old

My son is three (almost four) years old and I am amazed each day what I can learn from him. Today I learned the art of listening. This morning, we were at my wife’s convocation (she graduated from Teacher’s College) and as the President of the university was speaking, I started to zone out. About every third word, my son would ask “what does that mean?” or “what did he say?” He was picking up every word so I was forced to listen to the speech. It ended up being a terrific speech. It was about how teachers are challenged today more than ever because of the diverse cultures and backgrounds of the students, the constant budgetary pressures schools face and the current lack of teaching positions as older teachers stay on past retirement.

I walked out feeling very proud of my wife for her accomplishment, feeling energized and inspired about how to be successful in today’s world, and dumbfounded that it took  a three-year old kid to open my eyes to all of this. You never know where your inspiration will come from, so take it all in and make every life situation an opportunity.

Teamwork and the World Cup

By now, you have probably seen the highlights of England’s goalkeeper, Robert Green, miss the bounding shot taken by the US striker to tie the match. The resultant goal tied the game and lost the victory for England. This is a mistake of dramatic proportions considering the stakes of the game and the fact that it happened on the world stage. However, the fact is, England has more games to play and this does not ruin their chances of winning the World Cup. What it will show, is how much of team this squad really is.

As you can expert, after the match, all of the players were supporting their goaltender. That is what teams do, they support each other (although in a fit of what I can only call a mental lapse, the coach inferred the goalkeeper might not start the next game – way to build up his confidence). Success in sports, just as in business, is all about teamwork. It is not about the individual stars, it is about how everyone works together towards a common goal. If England really does support their goalie then they will come out and do whatever it takes to win their next match and put the situation behind them. They need to show themselves and everyone else, that they support each other regardless of what happens. The most toxic (and easiest) thing to do when something goes wrong is to blame everyone else and focus on the negative outcomes.

England can show some character by winning their next two matches, advancing on, and putting it behind them. They have the opportunity to teach us a lesson in teamwork and focus. Let’s see how it all plays out!

Air Canada shows how to generate revenue easily

I know we are always quick to criticize the airlines when they overcharge us for a flight or  charge us for food or a second suitcase, but today I want to praise Air Canada for what was a very smart business decision. I flew from Toronto to Regina yesterday and I checked in using the electronic kiosk. As I was going through the process, an option comes up asking me if I would like to upgrade to Executive Class for the flight. I had never seen this option before and thought it was a brilliant idea. I know you can change your seat or change flights through the kiosk, but I had never seen the option to upgrade. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to consider it. It was early in the morning, I had a three hour flight ahead of me…..that little machine was really tempting me. It said for only $250 I could upgrade to Executive Class, so I took it and it was the best $250 I have spent in while.

What surprised me was the convenience of doing it…..the whole process took about 60 seconds and I didn’t have to wait in line, or speak with anyone…..I just upgraded, chose my seat and swiped my credit card. This is a great example of how Air Canada used a smart process to generate additional revenue. There is no extra cost to them because customers are already checking in through the kiosks and it is not an inconvenience. If you do not want to upgrade, simply click no and move on. This was a brilliant way to generate additional revenue without adding any new costs. It never felt like I was spending more money.

Do you have any processes you can use to generate additional revenue at no cost to you? I bet you do, so go out and find them.

A delivery charge for room service?

I recently stayed at a Crowne Plaza hotel and decided to treat myself to breakfast in bed, so I ordered up some room service. Not only was my order brought incorrectly, which is a whole other story, but there was a $2 delivery charge on the bill. When I asked what the $2 charge was for, I was told it was a delivery charge for ordering room service. I was floored by this. My immediate response was "you are now charging people for room service. Isn't that one of the value adds of a hotel, that you can eat in your room?" I could not get over this….the whole purpose of room service is to have food delivered to your room and now I am paying an extra charge for it? It is sort of like buying a plane ticket and then being charged extra to use the washroom once you are on the plane (watch out, some airline exec might steal this as the next great revenue-generating idea). Don't charge your customers for ridiculous things just to make a buck or you will find that less customers will want your stuff.