Category Archives: Scheel’s Rants

Welcome to Anticipations: What I Told My Staff Five Years Ago

The blog you are reading sort of began in early 2007.  Back then we used something called paper and some old issues likely still lay in what are still called file cabinets.  Each issue, distributed to my staff, was described as “A quarterly newsletter to enhance understanding of the opportunities and challenges of the future, both professionally and personally.”

The following is taken from the front page of the first issue.  I hope it resonates with you and that it may compel you to share this blog with those you work with.

Welcome to Anticipations . . .
This is the first issue of what I hope will become a publication you will look forward to reading.  If successful, you will want to talk about some of its content with friends, co-workers or family.  It may even ignite an interest you never had before.  Or, it may seem like a total waste of time, although I hope not.

It’s called Anticipations because its focus is on the future.  Each issue may include brief articles, book reviews, explanations of how to study the future (no not crystal balls), emerging medical and healthcare topics, and what ever else looking forward brings to our attention.

Some of you may be wondering why your Administrator is doing this.  I’m not doing it because I’m bored.  I’m doing it because it’s both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do because everyone who works here deserves to know what I spend some of my day thinking about.  You guessed it – the future.  And how our team envisions the future shapes the direction of the organization as well as the day-to-day work environment we all spend so much time in.  In short, it is relevant to each of us.

It’s the smart thing to do because the world is changing faster and faster.  And it’s becoming more complex.  To continue providing quality healthcare and maintain a viable business enterprise, we must manage change and complexity.  We need to be able to capitalize on the opportunities that change affords us.  We also need to be able to anticipate the challenges (i.e., threats) that may lie in wait.  Lastly, but most importantly, we absolutely must be able to attract and retain the best and the brightest human resources.  And that’s you.

The hallmark of good futures work is to create connections – between today and tomorrow, between knowledge and action, between aspirations and reality.  Help create the future.  After all, it’s yours.

 

Texting Our Way to Oblivion

Not long after cell phones became ubiquitous  it seemed like every other person I saw, whether in the car or on the sidewalk, was jabbering into one of these little gee gaws.  I kept wondering, “What do all these people have to talk about all the time?”  Talk, talk, talk.  Now, I’m a busy guy with a lot of responsibilities and tasks to accomplish.  I help run three businesses, have over 200 employees and I travel.  Granted, I don’t have children.  But I still don’t get it.  What are they talking about ALL THE TIME?

Yesterday I really went nuts.  The Pew Research Center released a new study titled “Teens and Mobile Phones.”  The findings are that teens are sending enormous quantities of text messages each day.  The typical American teen sends and receives 50 or more messages per day, or 1,500 per month.  But wait, there’s more!

31% of teens send and receive more than 100 messages per day, more than 3,000 messages a month.

15% of teens who are texters send more tha 200 texts per day, or more than 6,000 texts a month.

A little Google research reveals that there has been a 107% increase in text message use in the U.S  in the past year and that 2.5 billion are sent each day in the U.S.  More text messages are sent per phone than phone calls.

What bugs me is that I think (I may be wrong) that most of this is just chatter.  I define that by example:  “Hi, what are ya up to?  Nothin.  Me neither.  Where are you?  At the mall.  Cool.  I’ll catch ya later.”  OK, that’s innocent enough.  But here’s my mega-concern.  If (almost) all of our young people are spending most of their time chatting back and forth and are so addicted that many sleep with their gee gaws under their pillow, when are they actually thinking?  Aren’t they just skipping their way across the lake of life?

Research has shown that your brain needs at least 15 concentration-filled minutes to get into the zone where you’re truly focused and doing your best work.  I know many young people are in school and actually do concentrate once in a while.  But what about the rest of the time?  A successful, well-adjusted life requires time to think – to concentrate, to focus, to noodle things through.  Our collective future as a culture and society demands this.  We have problems that need thought.  I’m worried that the next generation of policy-shapers and decision-makers are texting their way into oblivion.  This worries me.

I Was Right on the Bottom Line

I’ve gotten to know a fellow better.  I’ve sat next to him at a few business meetings and, a couple of weeks ago, we killed some time at the airport together.  I have long known that he is financially very successful.  I figured it was because he was always crunching numbers.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.  It caused self-doubt.  I have never focused on the bottom-line like I know he does.  Oh, I know its role.  But it’s not the leading actor.  Or is it?  Back to self-doubt.

However, academia has addressed this doubt.  According to recent survey of 520 business organizations in 17 countries and as reported in the December 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review, making the bottom line your top priority may not be the best way to improve profitability.  The research shows that CEOs who put stakeholders’ interests ahead of profits generate greater workforce engagement – and thus deliver the superior financial results that they have made a secondary goal.

The researchers were testing the hypothesis that if a CEO’s primary focus is on profit maximization, employees develop negative feelings toward the organization.  They tend to perceive the CEO as autocratic and focused on the short term, and they report being less willing to sacrifice for the company.  Corporate performance is poorer as a result.

Like many of you I’m confronted by staff, both individually and collectively, with questions.  Unless I can respond with an operational answer, I simply say “Do what’s right.”  It’s worked for over 20 years – most of them profitable.  I’ve been right all along.  I just needed to be reminded of it.

P.S – Strictly from a financial perspective, airports remain the wrong place to drink.  And that’s the bottom line.

A Case of “Perpetual Now”

Brain

If you studied mental health you probably would be familiar with the case of N.N., a patient.  N.N. was a man who suffered a closed head injury in an auto accident in 1981 when he was 30 years old.  Tests revealed that he had sustained extensive damage to the frontal lobe of his brain.  A psychologist interviewed N.N. a few years after the accident and recorded this conversation:

 

Psychologist: What will you be doing tomorrow?
N.N.: I don’t know.
Psychologist: Do you remember the question?
N.N.: About what I’ll be doing tomorrow?
Psychologist: Yes, would you describe your state of mind when you try to think about it?
N.N.: Blank, I guess . . . it’s like being asleep . . . like being in a room with nothing there and having a guy tell you to go find a chair and there’s nothing there . . . like swimming in the middle of a lake . . . there’s nothing to hold you up or do anything with.

The psychologist who worked with N.N. wrote that this man seemed to be living in a “permanent present.”  Trapped in the “perpetual now.”  My understanding of the lesson to be learned here is to never take your ability to think about the future for granted.  It is a powerful and wonderful gift.  Use it.