Culture Note: Independence & Community Cooperation

A recent Atlantic article explored “Why Japanese Kids Can Walk to School Alone?”  This seemingly mundane activity has extreme elements of socio-cultural depth to it.  Two chief cultural elements come into play with this: individualism and collectivism.

At first glance, the average American would point and say “Look how they make kids fend for themselves instead of babying them!”  Our sense of individualism and belief in independent liberty seem justified.  There’s an amazing television series that records the “First Errands” of children.  I found a video of 1 year old girl being sent out alone, which seems CRAZY.

Yet, this methodology of child rearing is dependent on the collective community or society.  A child is safer because all of the people understand and recognize there are other people around them to be mindful or careful of, including children.  If a child is lost, or needs to figure something out, an adult will direct or assist.  However, another Australian video online compares their child safety against Japan’s.  Admittedly one Australian indicates because of the self-interest of individuals, they are less concerned for the community or safety of children as secondary to their own needs.

Although some may exclaim how individualism is at play here, the cultural variation and value of community cooperation creates a “group sense” that is really helping allow this independent growth to occur.

Feel free to contact us at Idea Threads for more on cross cultural concepts and training.  Thanks, Devin


Thanking Starbucks & Howard

Yesterday I had an amazing lunch where I bumped into Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. I made a point to talk to him for a bit because of how well he treated me when I was a younger partner barista. As a professional today I respect and admire him more in recognizing how he sees company culture and individuals.

In 2008 Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO because of the decline in quality and the coffee experience at stores. Unknowingly I served Mr. Schultz as a naïve barista in preceding years. I was also a bad barista who couldn’t put together his order of a: double tall, split-shot, two-thirds full, one sweet n’ low, one equal, light foam, non-fat latté.

In a big way Howard’s experience of me when he would drop by was representative of the system decline he noticed as a customer. He saw a shift in company culture, training regimen, and store practices. A few causes for this were misguided direction, strategy mismatch, and leadership flux.

I feel he made change to SBUX course because of:

  1. Sticking to the Vision
  2. Correcting Culture
  3. Training Improvement
  4. Root Cause Process Analysis

I’d been wanting to catch Howard in public for years especially after doing case studies of Starbucks turnaround in biz school. Most important I wanted to thank him as a person for being kind and gracious to myself, regular partners, and people. I’m glad I finally got to repay him with some words while we both enjoyed the new Roastery.

So, thanks Howard.  Thanks for seeing problems as top-down issues. Thanks for seeking root causes. Thanks for SuperSonics tickets you gave me ages ago. Thanks for never chewing me out. Thanks for your leadership example.

*Addendum* NO, I do not blame Schultz for selling the SuperSonics. To my Seattle people, we have many other billionaires who can bring the NBA back. YES, Starbucks #RaceTogether is a good social campaign of global concern. I do not know of any other northwest corporations that are as brave in seeking to bring justice and righteousness to the fore. 

Present With Visual Movement

An excellent presentation platform is Prezi.  It allows for sharing information in a visual dynamic manner.

prezi1My primary points when being a speaker with visuals are as follows in no particular order:

1. Keep the audience’s interest.

2. Use more imagery than text.

3. Text in presentations should be minimal, and BIG when it is used.

4. Create a sense of movement and flow in presentation visuals.

5.  The audience should be listening to your voice more than they are reading screens.

Here’s a recent work I finished combining different innovation methods into Kaizen and identifying how to stimulate stagnant systems.  The linked Prezi is more about showing visual style.  Much of the content was spoken.  No audio, so focus on the flow and use of imagery.

Intangible Business Objectives: Getting Seattle an NBA Team

“We put Seattle’s best foot forward.” -Chris Hansen

Why is money not important in business objectives? Objectives of some enterprises are not always profit-driven.  Bidding on the Sacramento Kings to become the new Seattle Supersonics is a good case to look back on. Chris Hansen is a billionaire hedge fund manager who knows about strategy, finance, and also intangible objectives.  Overall, the resources put towards trying to buy the Kings was not solely for profitability, but a civic-minded objective.  The goal is to get the NBA back to Seattle, regardless of cost, time, or effort.

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Here’s a rundown of what this project has taken:

2 1/2 years of planning

$70M in real estate purchased

$625M final bidding offer (raised from bid of $550M)

$200M arena (primarily private backing)

With all of this the Seattle offer was lost, and many would say that the efforts made in the bidding process were a loss as well.  Chris Hansen still says he will continue.  The NBA chose against the lucrative offer and kept the Kings in Sacramento for $535M and Hansen losing $30M for a myriad of political and business reasons.

Chris Hansen reflects still:

 “I think first and foremost we have a great city.”

More aptly the project of Hansen trying to get Seattle into the NBA is a social enterprise.  We often attribute non-profits into this category. Yet, the social enterprise is different in that they provide a qualitative and quantitative value as a return.  Profit can be made, but the objective is not that alone.  Unlike many business owners Chris Hansen is pursuing an intangible objective of making his hometown of Seattle greater.  (as a multi-millionaire he can afford to pursue this massive pet project) Although idealistic, organizations do exist to promote just that: ideals.

::by dcabanilla

Idea Reading in Powerpoint

Have you ever read whole paragraphs during a meeting in powerpoint slides?

Powerpoint for business training and graduate presentations is part of my daily work. Communication in business is extremely important but sometimes poorly executed.   Far too often my colleagues make slides that are used as their speaking solely points.  They do not use slides to convey ideas.

When people get storytime in a professional setting, they will fall asleep to your ideas.

See example of an extreme idea reading slide:


1. If all information is present on a slide they don’t need notes and will present better speaking from the screen.

2. Others are fearful that too little information won’t show enough work was done.

3. As such a wordy slide can become a crutch. Presenting in front of groups for business, academic, or public settings can be scary. The PPT can become a place for support.

4. There exists a plain ignorance of how to use PPT communicating in general.

5. Communicating ideas is not understood as a method.

Don’t do it.