Conversations while I am on an airplane typically go one of three ways:

  1. Exchange some pleasantries, discuss a mundane topic, and then politely go back to my own business
  2. Talk for two minutes and then realize I’d rather gouge my eyeballs out with the passenger safety card than continue talking
  3. Engage in a few deeper discussions that often reveal some interesting insights or perspectives on the world and make me a more enlightened person

To be certain, options 1 and 2 represent approximately 90% of the conversations I have on planes – if I ever do begin conversing in the first place. But sometimes, option 3 appears and it is like a wave of positive emotion that washes over the entire flying experience.

While on a lengthy overseas flight this past weekend, I was seated next to a 69-year old gentleman who was returning from a vacation with his bride of 50 years. They were split up between rows (hey, take the first class upgrades however you can get them!) so it was just the two of us in our row. Shortly after we sat down, it was obvious that she was his caretaker, and I’d have to pitch in some of those duties (moving things around, getting out the tray table, etc.). I really didn’t mind at all.

Somewhere in the middle of the flight, he wanted to relax a bit and watch a movie, so asked for some help. He was navigating the touch screen menus with relative ease, despite the language barrier getting in the way. He then paused, looked right at me, and said “this is just the beginning.” Interested to know more, I asked what he meant by that. He said, “technology has evolved so much during my lifetime, but this is really just the beginning. There is so much future innovation that is yet to happen.”

EHANG184 at CES 2016In January I had the privilege of visiting the Consumer Electronics Show, “CES” to those inner circle-types, and couldn’t have been more amazed by what I saw. The show displayed everything from connected homes and appliances to wearable health technology to cars that apply intelligence to your day to all sorts of flying objects like the EHANG184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle pictured to the right. If you’re not familiar with the show, it is 2.5 million square feet (232,000 square meters) of hands-on immersion experiences, keynote speeches, and discussion panels across many subsections of technology. Visitors get an exclusive look at what is on the market today, and a glimpse of what is coming a few years down the road. There is more on display than can possibly be viewed during the show hours.

The gentleman next to me on the flight was absolutely correct.

Daryl DuLong

 

Only a handful of times have the actions of the Highest Court in the United States created such anticipation about heavy, contentious rulings within a few days of each other. This week was one such occasion, including a key ruling about the Affordable Care Act and capped with a rare Friday ruling on same-sex marriage.

Looking beyond the headlines, these rulings are intertwined with the heat of ongoing debates among Americans about weighty topics. The Supreme Court itself is inscribed with ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ across the transom, though that has been called into question time and time again. Whether a group of nine people can truly represent the opinions of 330 million-plus is an ongoing debate within itself!

However, today was, I believe, a true step forward in the court playing the role it should: Ensuring all Americans have equal treatment and the same rights and privileges as their neighbors. Even the partisan Constitutional theorists can align on that as a guiding principle.

I was struck most by the Supreme Court’s incredibly salient grasp of its role while reading the final paragraph of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s [incredibly well-written] opinion for the majority:

Justice Anthony Kennedy 2015-06-26

Regardless of your opinions on the topic of same-sex marriage, the majority eloquently stated that nobody should have the power to deny you the right of choice. I found Justice Kennedy’s statement incredibly moving.

What’s equally interesting is how, on a macro scale, the opinions about same-sex marriage have changed rapidly across the country. Even statistics guru Nate Silver is intrigued by how quickly public opinion on gay marriage has shifted. It’s worth a read because this trend is likely to continue as the issues and catalysts that force those issues onto the national stage continue to evolve.

Daryl DuLong

 

new-conversation Regardless of how much time you spend visiting LinkedIn, you’ll notice that your feed is interspersed with various inspirational quotes by business and thought leaders. From Bill Clinton to Steve Jobs to Sheryl Sandberg, the quotes are often excellent distillations of their life work, and meant to provide the nudge we all need to continue striving toward our own dreams. The comments from readers are often positive as well, proving the worth and general acceptance of the quotes.

The resulting motivation is great, but then according to 2013 Gallup research, why are as many as 70% of workers feeling unfulfilled or like they haven’t achieved what they set out to do professionally?

The Situational Formula

In practicality, it is irresponsible to think of the aforementioned quoted leaders and their accomplishments in a vacuum. Leadership is as much about having a good strategy at the right time as it is about having the right skills and experience. That ideal environment is much akin to a Situational Formula, and understanding the formula is the real secret to professional fulfillment.

For example, let’s look at Ron Johnson, the retail and customer experience guru. While at Apple, he led a revolution in the way consumers interact with products, and overhauled the entire shopping experience. Then he moved to J.C. Penney, and nearly destroyed the already tenuous relationship the retailer had with its customers. In theory, Johnson had the same general strategic vision in both situations, just executed in a different place and time. The results were wildly different.

And the reverse is true, too. Think of James Dyson, the iconic creator of effective bagless vacuum systems. Before the great success at his own company, Dyson had a dicey run over more than 10 near-bankrupt years trying to convince retailers and consumers that his bagless idea was a good one. He stuck with his instincts, and started pursuing alternate markets until he built enough consumer support to launch broadly. Once again: Same strategy, different time and place, wildly different results.

The New Conversation

Rather than focusing on the singular thoughts from the inspirational quotes posted on social media, we need to start a new conversation. The reality is that it takes more than just gusto to achieve our dreams. It is as much about having a good personal strategy as it is about finding the environment where you can be most effective. Or, for those who are a little more risk averse, about being able to be a driver of change within your current or future environment.

Think instead of the contributions you bring to the table, and how and in which situations those contributions can be best applied. What is your formula for success?

This idea can be extrapolated across those who are currently employed, those who are seeking jobs, and even those who are retired and looking for new adventures.

The required approach is to stay sharp, adaptable, and be a ready catalyst for disruptive innovation, regardless of your industry or field. The right ingredients for your formula — and your inevitable success — are out there.

 

Perhaps one of the largest challenges in working between countries is understanding and mastering the subtleties of communication when doing business.

For example, I need to talk with my American colleagues using a style that works with them, and then talk with my Japanese colleagues using a different, but equally effective style. If I use an American communication style in a Japanese business environment, it likely won’t be a productive use of time, and will leave many items open for interpretation. (Quite frankly, I could be speaking about using a German style in an Argentinian business meeting and the same situation would arise.) Extrapolate that theory across multiple geographies and it becomes clear that how you’re used to doing business in your home country is not how business gets done on a global scale.

If you’ve ever been in a multi-cultural meeting and it seems like everyone agrees with what’s being said, but then no action is taken afterwards, you know exactly what I mean.

One of the areas this really comes alive is when you see multi-lingual advertising or public service announcements. Here is one from the JR system, reminding everyone to be polite and respect the space of those around them.

JR Public Service Announcement

The Japanese text is a lot softer than the English beneath. And the overall tone, including the graphic elements, is much more direct than you would expect in a public ad. Clearly the JR advertising board isn’t speaking to the Japanese population with this ad, but rather to everyone else.

If they used direct Japanese here, or soft English, the message would be lost.

Daryl DuLong