No controversy could had derailed Super Bowl XLIX. Why did not the atmosphere affect the other team’s balls? It was no time to ask. Spoiler ad alerts on check and themed food ready, a record 112M+ watched the game on TV (128M during the last minutes), 1.3M Web-streamed and many posted 28M+ tweets. It was football time.
For me, it was culture observation time, through the eyes of football.
2015 Strategy Essentials is a powerful, short read for senior management, marketing, public relations, branding, creative and related business professionals. Distilled through hundred of trends, I discuss a few mega trends with strategic impact for 2015.
Juxtaposition talks to stimulate thinking, futuristic views to visualize as plausibility, and novel initiatives to fill the spirit, last month’s Chicago Ideas Week 2014 delivered.
Visual summaries with suggested follow-up actions are in http://www.chicagoideas.com and there is plenty commentary via social media #CIW. The following are some personal observations.
Like crossed rubber bands, our minds pushed, pulled and eventually stretched throughout the week. The sensorial and mental talks balanced contemplative and doable ideas, each connected through the passion for finding a better way.
Food experimentation: Scott Heimendinger combined engineering tricks with culinary interests in absurd experimentation that is resulting in new concoctions. Who does not like to play in the kitchen? It was my favorite laboratory growing up.
Food provenance as birth of flavor: Acclaimed Chef Dan Barber, is looking deeper into earth and environment quality to add flavor to foods. Starting with nutrients on the ground to using the 87% of the wind fish that is usually discarded and turning it into succulent dishes, Barber reminds me of my Grandmother Esperanza. She fed the earth and looked far and wide for the best tasting seeds to grow. And she could make a gourmet meal from the smallest, unthinkable parts of any animal. Nothing would go to waste with the right flavoring.
Personal tech: Radio DJs joke that having our cell phones near to us is more important than sex. Teasing aside, our relationship with our electronic devices is personal. Our phones are becoming not just a tool, but an extension of ourselves, and that is without using that much robotics technology, just the rudimentary Siri.
Music universality: Music, rhythms do not know languages. Notes transcend our senses and drives our moods without notice. Tod Machover from MIT Media Labs demonstrated that even people who cannot communicate due to debilitating diseases, hear and feel music.
Music is underutilized.
Ambassador Robert Ford delivered a political overview that kept you wanting to know and understand more than news coverage, ‘expert’ commentators and party lines offer. It made me realize how little we know about deep, complex issues and how busy we are to find out, absorb or engage in meaningful dialogue about them. What are we afraid of?
Creative classes: A hands-on approach through classes and laboratories was a key feature throughout the week. I cannot draw a stick man even if my life depended on it, but it would had been nice to take a class by an artist. Take time to play, was the message.
Memorization unlimited: I do not remember the last time I had to memorize anything. We look things up, copy and paste into our super phone assistants and are ready. A technique for memorization by relating to space, familiar images and ignoring spelling but focusing on sounds spellbound the audience. We can indeed learn a forgotten art, which is more important than ever as computers could threaten our memorization abilities if we are not careful.
Honesty in lies: Penn & Teller, sophisticated magician duo, reminded us about being authentic and honest in what we do, even if it is all lies. Something to think about when using images, tweeting, and blogging without clear attribution to originators.
Yoga and meditation are no longer exports from Asian cultures and 1960s hippies. Meditation and yoga in the workplace, at home and instead of a sport is becoming popular as we seek quiet times from digital over stimulation.
Embracing Death: A talk about pop culture touched on the idea that is okay to talk about death as a normal life occurrence. My Mexicans friends know how to ‘talk, dance, embrace and celebrate death’ not just the Day of the Dead.
Diversity through representation: African-American speakers included a young politician, few entertainers and activists; also there were a couple of speakers with Latino sounding names and many women, the openly gay and transgender. It’s a good start.
“What’s better than nice?” said Emmy-Award nominated Joan Cusack concluding an iconoclastic interview during the Creative Process session.The existential ‘how to be happy’ —from within and by serving others—became a mantra for many speakers.
Anyone can take action, as did a young tinkerer when disassembled an ink jet printer to transform it into her eye shadow custom-printer. The presentation was an example of what I call in the innovation field the “DIY” or do-it-yourselves process tor innovation enabled through technology and knowledge accessibility.
Many entrepreneurs are doing the same with creative, artistic shoes, foods and levitating tables designs.
Several unique and heart-warming non-for-profit organizations tackling women health, hunger, penal injustices and other worthy causes are taking it upon themselves to help one person at a time, what governments cannot do.
We are in the Wild-Wild-West of technology. Even the most radical thinkers are starting to believe that it is time to reign in for order, quality and safety. I believe that adopting and following core common ways, values and principles will prepare us for the next stage in the digital revolution. Otherwise, we may miss it or blunder it unnecessarily.
In the marketing field, somebody mention ‘share of preference’. I advocate that given unlimited choices, marketers need to be early adopters of ‘share of preference’ and not wait until share of market to tell strategy decisions. Similarly, just as share of the cupboard is a better indicator of brand strength than market share in consumer package goods, share of performance —how much time does a consumer spend with your product— is going to become an important marketing metric to measure and track.
Another element that was common throughout was the concept of businesses whose value is to curate other products and services. For the curator, it is a high-margin model; for the curated it commoditizes brand equity. The issue is not discussed in these terms, yet.
Innovation inspired by cultural traits, customs, values, food and ancient ways of living abounded. The question that was not asked nor answered: when benefitting from these type of inspiration, are originators compensated? Based on a previous experience running a small online art business, ‘inspiration’ and sharing of cultures is prevalent by developed groups and countries. Who is going to protect those whose only assets are the way they live, their cultural heritage?
Management advice: Assign questions.
A last thought:
I believe the next technology revolution is about to start, with exponential growth never imagined. Discounting past lessons, structures and laws will diminish its success. Building on the good mastered, and creating-leveraging technology, investment, knowledge and imagination in new ways is the ideal combination. Every one and everything grows through maturity. Millennials also grow old.
People, all kinds of people, are and will forever be the greatest asset. The hundred of students invited is a good start. How can they stay engaged?
What does it mean to you Hispanic Awareness month?
1. If you have a son or daughter older than 18, he/she is 20% likely to marry a Latino/a.
2. If you move, your next door neighbor could be Latino/a.
3. If you sell Consumer products such as food, clothes, cars, baby products, housewares, Latinos are your lead users and main social media chatty advocates, over indexing In consumption by 15-50%.
4. If you need to take care of your loved ones: elderly parents, children and yourself when you get sick.
5. If you are in politics and need voters as 2000+ U. S. born Latinos turn 18 years old every day of the year.
6. If you are Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, your business may not exist or would be much smaller.
7. If you want your big or small city income to grow, even in Arizona.
8. If you would like to expand your business to take advantage of about one billion habitants in the Americas hemisphere.
9. If you do not like to grow, harvest and ship your food; wash your car, cut the grass, or serve, cook and clean your own dishes at a restaurant.
10. If you want to defend Your country, as many Latinos have done during decades.
Celebrate Hispanic heritage month, celebrate an intrinsic part of America history and future.
Oh, it passed. Prepare for next year.
-Hispanic youth account for 20% of all 18-24 years old and are making big strides in college enrollment, accounting for 16.3% of all 4-year college enrollment. Pew Hispanic Research.
-As of 2005, the proportion of Hispanics in the $75,000 income household level increased to 18%, higher in New York, Miami and Chicago. Many dynamics explain this such as the polling of income among family members, younger age generation growing income opportunities and sheer growth rates as a percentage of the population. Source: Hispanics in the United States: A Demographic, Social, and Economic History
-Hispanic consumers act as accelerators in growing categories and brakes in declining ones, The Hispanic Imperative 2012, Nielsen.
-800,000 Hispanics turn 18 years old every year, Pew Hispanic Research.
-Hispanics increasingly account for a larger proportion of any city revenues and taxes. Arizona is one example, per Arizona Daily Star.
-Hispanic population accounts for 56% of the total population growth in the last ten years.
This week marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. September 16 was Mexican Independence Day celebration. During this Hispanic Heritage Month I am thinking about Puerto Rico, a part of the U.S. often ignored unless in tourist ads.
Cristóbal Colón was in such awe when he set foot on Borinquén (Taíno Indians name) that he called it ‘La Isla del Encanto’, the Enchantment Island. The island-nation preserves its natural beauty in the middle of a bustling society. Sustained economic development, although superior than most of Latin America, lags its potential. I am referring to the potential to raise a stagnant economy and living conditions of Puerto Ricans as well as an investment that could complement the U.S. economy.
How? Here are some examples:
Ready talent: About 25% of the 3.5M Puerto Ricans living on the island are bilingual and many, through Pell Grant aid, are also college educated yet underemployed. This relatively young, educated and English-speaking population could become a catalyst in filling hundred of thousands open high-tech jobs both at the professional and trade levels.
Culture: Puerto Ricans have lived in a dual – American and Latin – society for over 100 years, already mastering multidimensional approaches to the challenges of an increasingly diverse society. They are also primed as easy bridges between Latin America and the U.S.
Puerto Rico is a good economic partner for the U.S. Stable politically, Puerto Ricans are proud of who they are, but also value the relationship with the U.S. Setting aside referendums for full statehood, during the last century over 95% of the population consistently voted for a relationship with the United States.
Facing economic challenges that are exponential in nature versus the mainland, Puerto Ricans demonstrated integrity in the way they have handled investors during the recent crisis. Some are taking note. Quoted The New York Times this week: “hedge funds, including Perry Capital, Fir Tree Partners and other members of the self-styled Ad Hoc Group of investors, have bought $4.5 billion of Puerto Rico government guaranteed and tax-supported bonds — or roughly 10 percent of the total — making them a financial and political force on the island.”
Armed forces: Already active in the Armed Forces since the 1920s, Puerto Ricans are passionate patriots. Building on multi-cultural and multi-lingual background, soldiers could become an asset in learning Arabic languages and connecting with diverse groups around the world.
Geography: Most of Puerto Rico has rich, moist soil. My mother used to throw seeds out of the window and the next week plants were growing. The land is ready for a sustainable, yet organized way to produce exotic fruits and vegetables, organic produce or to build biomes that would mimic world forests as laboratories for new medicine discoveries.
I would not want to see all pristine land disappear, but there are many undiscovered treasures in real state at prices that are frankly a bargain. Investors need to think beyond the tourist industry.
Deep ports: The name Puerto Rico means rich port. The San Juan Bay is one of the deepest points in the Atlantic Ocean. Could these ports house ships from a new local assembly or manufacturing center? There are plenty tourists ships.
Investment through high interest debt is an opportunity but not enough. The ecosystem in support of the investment must also be addressed.
As a Puerto Rican I know that on the island, you think small. The investor side and the local governments often ignore the potential that a small and rich island can offer. It is time to change that.
Let’s do not ignore Puerto Rico’s beauty nor its economic potential enchantment.
The current crisis of over 50K unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. borders have almost fallen from the news radar. Plenty of finger-pointing heated arguments and what becomes automatic polarization of any and all issues is common. Some little progress is taking place through funds allocated to quick deportation. ‘Let’s get rid of the problem’, I mean children, mentality prevails.
Nobody is addressing root causes.
For the returned children and their families, life will likely be worse than before engaging in the dangerous trip to the U.S. Maybe it is not our problem what’s happening in neighboring Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Maybe it is.
We do not want to accept that there is a humanitarian crisis at our borders. It is easier to feel safer by returning these children quickly, building bigger border walls, or, and we should, going after the ‘coyotes’ who smuggle children. It is easy to deny that there is a violence crisis in Central America or to even think that it is touching us.
I ask, why have violence surged in these countries? Drug cartels have existed for years. Nobody dares to look deeply into the answer. It is easy to blame the government or ‘those’ people.
Am I wrong to believe that as Americans we can do better? Let me offer some suggestions:
1) Although nobody has yet studied the long-term effects of the 1994 Assault Weapons laws end in 2004; ask anyone in Mexico or in Central American and he/she will point out to the immediate rise in violence correlated to the laws ending. An obvious, easy and no-cost to taxpayers solution is to re-enact these laws.
2) Illegal drugs traffic bosses and its organized crime structure are outstanding businesses. They understand how to increase demand, distribution and marketing through latest technologies. Can we limit the enabling tools they use?
What about changing the public perception on drug usage from a mentality that ‘using drugs for fun is not bad as long as you are not hooked’ to ‘if you use illegal drugs you are helping murderers’? How would jokes about drug explorations look if tied to the cruel realities of drug trade and its trail of violence? Legalizing marijuana may ease some, but the allure of hard, expensive drugs is likely to continue.
3) In most of these countries $1 USA dollar roughly equals $10 in the local economy. What about taking modest amounts of money and invest in safe schools, entrepreneurial and trade organizations that give these children hope for the future and a safe role in their own destinies?
4) In the meanwhile, could we take these 50,000 students and teach them something? What can we do creatively to equip them with tools that would help them in their life trials? What impression do we want to leave with them other than the richest country in the world protesting to expel them?
5) Finally and probably a more complex issue is to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. The 11M undocumented immigrants in the U.S. contribute to innovation, job creation, tax income, and overall demand for housing and products and services. For example, in 2006 “Texas Comptroller reported that undocumented immigrants provided $17.7 billion in gross state product, including over $424 million more in state revenues than they consumed in state services including education, health care and law enforcement.” An immigration policy that protects current citizens from technical obsolescence, while opening the doors to the creativity and zest of immigrant workers, both skilled and unskilled, would be good for the economy.
Some are afraid that comprehensive immigration reform means opening flood gates to more illegal immigrants. It does not have to. Comprehensive means that border controls and limits to protect national interests are part of the reform.
I am sure there are other solutions. Inaction or denial is no solution.
I am a little worried about the meaning for us as a country if we ignore the plight of children. In the past, we welcomed those escaping violence in Cambodia, Vietnam or the Middle East. These children come from Central America next door, also escaping violence and reprisal.
I am also concerned with the long-term effects polarizing politics is taking in the U.S. society. Our ability to discuss and look for solutions that elevate the human spirit while pushing the limits of efficiency and effectiveness are the hallmark of the American culture. We cannot lose that.
As a parent, I care for the children. I could not bear to imagine my own children in such a predicament. I am also concerned for our own future. How we treat our neighbors children today will help decide whether they would be ‘good or bad’ neighbors in the future.
Am I wrong to believe that we can do better in handling the current 50,000 children? No, I am not. It should be the American way.
Finally, as a Latina executive I can use fresh sports analogies in business discussions. Better yet, at least 671.6 million viewers worldwide (NYT 7/15/14) will understand and relate. Thank you 2014 World Cup players!
In a beyond typical sports drama, we enjoyed great plays, disappointments, tears, rituals, random penalties, the famous GOLAZOS and even a surreal bite. Here’s my recap of management lessons and metaphors from FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
U.S. Team Inventiveness
The U.S. Team over delivered. The hero goalie, Tim Howard, became the inspiration for all to do their utmost. It was not the main players who delivered the goals, but the unencumbered ‘newbies’ who saw opportunity and without hesitation took shots during the Belgium and Germany games. The U.S. Team, regardless of its evolving nature, played as one performing together better than expected and earning a spot among the future best.
Costa Rican Ultimate Defense
They were not supposed to go this far. This under-the-radar team performed better than leaders by leveraging their strength, defense and the quasi impenetrable goalie Keylor Navas. Even when one does not have all the ‘goods’, one can still win focusing on strengths and playing with a heart.
Mexican Legs and Effusiveness
Men in Blazers called the Mexican Coach the happiest and most expressive coach in the league, Miguel Herrera. His passion for the game was contagious. Mexican players were fairly short. Some used the ‘enemy’ to climb to reach the ball. Whatever it took, those 22 legs moved fast, agile without hesitation and left very little opportunity for opponents. The tears at the end of the game of this last-minute qualifier as well as other Latin American teams such as Ecuador and Colombia cannot describe the soul and heart that went on. ‘Dejaron el alma en la cancha’; it sounds so much better in Spanish.
Nigeria and Algeria Fortitude
Nobody told these fellows that they were playing against the best in the world. They displayed confidence, superior athleticism and winning attitude at each turn. As a result, they advanced against the strongest and took lessons for their continued development. The continent new-found optimism and grow expectations for the future was clear in their game.
It could happen to the best. Under pressure as a host country team, with main star player and defender out, Brazil looked like my children 8th graders team. They could not figure out what to do. Surprised when the German team changed strategy with sequential back passes and plays, they looked confused. Horrific attempts at imitating getting attention for faults backfired and the team just lost their soul. Ah, prepare to play against the best. Do not rest in your laurels because you win some (Cameron). This is not enough for leaders.
Even as you learn from new technologies and European disciplined style Brazil, go back to your beautiful game! It is what distinguishes you and what you do best.
First, congratulations! Discipline, patient, control and hard work consistently paid off. Contingency planning worked well as winning goals came from reserved experts in penalty kicks and goals…even with the chest. Nothing work best like planning for a long haul battle and still has reserves.
I was expecting even more, but other teams delivered even less. The Netherlands and Belgian teams were not too shabby either. An overall great win, even if the Brazil game was a bit embarrassing for all, including the winners.
In general, those teams who:
– keep mental toughness in spite of setbacks,
– Clearly understood that when battling against giants there is a little margin for errors,
– played like one with fluid communications and little friction, and
– acted with personal responsibility for winning as a team,
These fared well. It showed. Those were great games regardless of the outcome.
With abundant technology and statistics many would like to extrapolate “Moneyball” techniques to soccer. Some level of analysis for discrete variables is proper, such as, length of time of ball possession, close shots at goal and others. However, soccer as business, is a game of many interactions, some controllable, yet most are random. Pretending that statistics or ‘big data’ in business will solve all the problems and have all the answers is bluntly misguided.
Humans are the players. Humans change, sometimes from one moment to the next or as fast as the ball moves. Changes could be unexplainable. Those who can fast handle a variety of situations, who can expect most of the time and react quickly the rest of the time, will be the strongest players in business, regardless of industry.
And to learn from the Brazilians debacle, do not forget to play and keep ‘your beautiful game’.
P.S. I am on fútbol withdrawal; I’ll wait for the Women’s Soccer World Cup 2015 in Canada. I want to thank Univision Pablo Ramirez and other commentators for your ability and creativity in describing the games. That’s entertainment.
Over lunch a friend and I reminisced about the 1994 Women’s World Cup in Chicago. We were probably one of the few people who attended the games. Yet it was the beginning of something. In 1999 the unforgettable U.S. Women Team won the World Cup. We raised children playing soccer, even if rudimentary by world standards.
Those children grew up and now there are 25M Americans watching 2014 World Cup. For Latinos, the story is different. They always watched soccer or fútbol. My best players as a coach for 4-8 years olds (I petered out soon afterwards) were Latinitos and Latinitas. Almost 20 years later, I set out to see how Latinos are enjoying this year’s games and I was not disappointed.
Who would they root for? Can we have Mexicans, Argentinians, Costa Ricans, Brazilians and other different country fans in the same room? Are Latinas fans? What does fútbol mean to Latinos beyond GOOOOL?
La Copa Mundial 2014, Latina, Americana y Mundial
Fútbol is not just a game or sporting pastime. It’s a national, pan American passion that identifies and defines people and countries. It is identity.
As in other aspects of the American culture, Latin cultural influences are shaping U.S. Social, political and economic systems. Fútbol, which gave birth to Soccer moms and dads, is now getting a broad-based following besides the 57M plus Hispanics. The sport is benefitting from increased attention among advertisers and sports enthusiasts.
Yet, if you really want an exciting experience turn to a Spanish broadcast, or ask your Latino gardener, nanny or new boss at work to comment on a game and teams. You’ll get a feel about what fútbol means to Latinos, their identities and pride.
“There it is, more happiness than any Englishmen has felt in my entire generation,” Mr. Bennett said during a recent broadcast of the quirky and suddenly famous Men in Blazers podcast from Brazil
“Including Benny Hill,” Mr. Davies added.
Another observation about the games is the great performance from African countries. They too seem more optimistic and empowered as their country economies improve.
The question about which style of playing soccer is superior, Latin American or European, will never settled. The question about the bidirectional acculturation process of Latinos in America and the inverse Latinization of America, would never settled either. Yet the discourse, understanding and implications in business are critical.
The future of the sport of business will depend on how well it taps and benefits from a multicultural, global society.
Note: Thank you to Juan Avila from Toroso Investments and Jaime Viteri from Chicago Latino Network for inviting me to their parties. Thanks to Ramiro Atristain and friends Leroy and David, Olga Camargo and Patricia Garza for participating on this video.
When I first included Middle Eastern groups as a growing and diverse multicultural market within the United States, surprised everyone. I had to start with the statistics of the world population that is of the Islāmic faith and how America is experiencing the same growth patterns.
Back then, market development strategies would have never segmented this group. Much less would have new product strategy focused on the special needs of Middle Eastern consumers. A disruptive class on financial shariah* law and how to do business within the Islāmic world got cancelled due to low enrollment. Now, it is happening. According to the Wall Street Journal on May 20, top consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies launched personal care products specifically targeted for Middle Eastern tastes, such as hair products that address lack of ventilation under a scarf.
In the global scene, although slowly, companies are starting to realize that an American brand name is no longer enough to sell to diverse consumers. Sophisticated and empowered consumers want what is important to them, in their terms. Cultural influences, overt or not, shape preferences. Brands market share growth both in the U.S. and abroad is highly dependent on how well brands tap into diversity of tastes, styles, perceptions and behaviors that shape consumer-decision making.
This lesson is not new. African-American women have long wanted hair and skin products that fit her needs. Small entrepreneurs started to fill the void before major CPG companies started to even consider this as a market, in spite of this segment $1B buying power.
Under-the-radar groups are big cultural influencers to the mainstream too. In fashions I remember when my friend and textile preservationist in Peru, Nilda Callañaupa from Centro de Textiles de Cuzco, brought the first embroidered ovary-tip, long-side-tie hat I have seen. (Gifted to our host at the Field Museum of Science and Industry where we were delivering talks about authentic Peruvian art forms and links to anthropological research). Soon enough some entrepreneur must have found the hat style, commercialized it and, after, the hat became fashionable to today.
Last week, at a business communications class after a participant spoke, most audience questions were about the outfit, a beautiful blue, white and black Sari** she purchased at one of the colorful Indian stores on Devon Avenue in Chicago. We all admired her chic look with a slight Indian flair within a quasi-American look. At a graduation party, the mother wore a similar outfit she bought at a boutique in California when travelling on vacations. She had not a clue that her outfit was a take on a sari.
Multiculturalism is about understanding cultural influences, differences and similarities. In business, these influences go beyond the way consumers speak, receive and process information to the very way consumers eat, dress, entertain and live their lives.
Multicultural influences come from multiple angles. From the targeted segment or subgroup, deeper understanding and connections feeds new products ideas and one hand and on the other hand, harnesses long-term relationships. From the mainstream, influences are bidirectional which opens doors for new creations or iterations of products and services as well. Furthermore, understanding trendy, young, multi-cultural individuals helps predict future trends and cultural shifts.
Why hair? It is personal. Is your product and relationship with diverse consumers personal?
*Muslims have a huge advantage in being able to turn to their religious teaching for guidance in their business dealings. Belief in God provides not merely the motivation, but the imperative for adhering to shariah law, which is to be applied in all spheres of life. For Muslims moral conduct in their daily lives is part of their devotion. Revealed teaching provides moral certainty, and a set of standards to which the entire community of believers can adhere.” Islāmic Banking http://www.islamic-banking.com/islamic-business-ethics.aspx
**”long, wrapping garment worn by Hindu women,” 1785, from Hindi sari, from Prakrit sadi, from Skt. sati “garment, petticoat.” Dictionary.com