Wednesday, July 29, 2009

adi Dassler's Birthday Video

It's adi Dassler's birthday (adidas founder) and we are having a Party! We had an internal contest at adidas to see who could come up with the best birthday video. The Global Head of Recruiting, Steve Bonomo, along with other HR, Recruiting and some Marketing team members produced the following video. If you like it give us your vote by giving it a favorite rating!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reinvigorating the American Brand, Part 5 of 20

Giving Back

We now know our ecosystem, our economy, our consumption needs to be a balanced system for it to work in the long run. We have a symbiotic relationship with the world we live in and the people we live with. If we take we need to give. Giving powers positive influence in the people around us and the cultures we interact with. If one of our major oil companies enters a country with an agreement from their government they should also be held accountable for giving back to the direct community they are taking resources from. Chances are these communities didn’t have a say in the government’s decision, yet they are the ones most affected and impacted by the company taking resources there. We need to hold these organizations accountable for giving back. Organizations that are taking resources need to boost the well being of the community they operate in to maintain a balanced system. I say this needs to be regulated because the giving often doesn’t come close to what is taken. An organization is an entity that will maximize profits above all else. This is not a bad system but the flaw in the system is greed. I will touch on this topic later. Most companies will resist regulation but they need it in certain areas. We should not be fearful as citizens to regulate where needed. Capitalism has proven to be the best system on earth but it’s not a perfect system. To protect this system it’s our responsibility to make sure we strengthen its weaknesses—this is one of them. As a global leader we need to show compassion, especially to those who need it. We are Nation but we are also citizens of this world. The health of those around us impacts our health. Our social systems that enable dependence may have flaws but letting people suffer has even greater impact to the long term health of the system. The balance between a free system where we can acquire unlimited wealth and one where you can end up with nothing is not one were simple solutions can solve these complexities. We need to move past the sound bites and really think and analyze how our tax dollars and our votes impact this ecosystem. It’s delicate and when our gut reaction may be to get angry at a political agenda it’s our responsibility not to choose sides but use our brains to make informed decisions. We give back in many ways including our votes and our tax dollars. From an individual perspective if you are successful and obtain wealth then give—learn from Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in this area—two guys that absolutely understand this delicate balance. These guys aren’t driving around in Hummers and staring in “The Hills”—they are curing Malaria and Polio on a global level. These guys get it!

Coming Next-Part Six: Sustainability/Consumerism/Productivity

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reinvigorating the American Brand, Part 4 of 20

Hard Work

Past generations worked very hard for what we have today. These past generations weren’t perfect but they did build America and we have the same responsibility to leave something better for our kids, grandkids and future generations. This is one of my biggest fears in terms of the sustainability of America’s strength and influence as a Nation. There have been several documented examples that have shown when Nations become too wealthy people tend to outsource all of the hard work—even work that is core to the Nations sovereignty. There are theories that the Aztecs fell because of this and the Romans as well. In the early days of the Roman Empire friends and brothers fought side by side. They fought fiercely to protect their people. When they retired from the military they would earn a plot of land and could live out their lives peacefully. Later in Roman history, after acquiring a lot of land and wealth, the government used mercenaries to fight their wars. These people weren’t as loyal to the cause and the Romans started to lose ground. There were several factors that came into play with the Roman’s at this stage in history but the empire started to fall. Our Generations—Boomers, X’ers and Y’ers have been handed a lot. We can’t take this for granted. There are other superpowers emerging around the world with people who have had very little and their motivation is high. Early on in my career I started at a staffing firm and I placed people in lower wage positions mostly in the manufacturing and clerical fields. I worked in a Downtown office in Portland, Oregon which happens to have a relatively high homeless rate. The theory for the high homeless population is because of the amount of social programs offered in the city. Just outside my office I would often run into people who would ask for some spare change. These were people who appeared to be perfectly capable of working. Many of them spoke articulately and appeared physically and mentally healthy. I started off giving people my spare change but when I saw the same people day after day I decided to start giving them my business card. I told them that if they came up and talked to me I would look into placing them at one of companies I worked with. Not one of them ever came up to see me. I thought this was interesting. As I would drive through the city I would also notice the amount of Americans hanging out in the front of 7-11’s and other areas for extended parts of the day. I thought why are there so many people just hanging out during a time when we were in an economic boom. Then one of the most alarming things I heard was the High School drop out rate in Oregon. Right now about one fourth of all freshman four years ago won’t receive a diploma. This number startles me—we aren’t talking about college here. We are just talking High School. When I think about emerging countries where people are so hungry for more and the amounts of engineers and programmers graduating from some of these countries it starts to become a scary picture for Americans. Couple this with the amount students who are halfway through their University education and don’t know what they want to do yet—or don’t even know what they are good at. I bring groups of students in to tour the companies that I have worked for. I would say that a good third of the students don’t know what they want to do, they haven’t done any internships and they have, “I have all the time in the world to figure it out,” attitude. The good news is that there is still a portion of them that come in, know what they are good at, have internships in their field, and show immense passion for what they want to do. These students will hands down end up getting the jobs. It’s not enough anymore to tell our kids that they have all the time in the world to figure it out. If we tell them they can be anything they want to be when they grow up we also have to instill the hard work ethic that needs to go along with it. We are very fortunate that we still live in a place where we have limitless possibilities. This does not exempt us from hard work though. Our primary school system needs change. I believe this could be done for relatively low cost but it will take an astronomical shift in thinking. My suggestion is that we get rid of tenure and we instill a true performance culture. Administrators should be given far more control over the performance of the system and to make faster decisions to make changes when something doesn’t work. I know many people who work in the school systems and you would be amazed at the piles of bureaucratic red tape they have to go through to have something as simple as a performance discussion. This would never happen in the private sector. If something is not working or a person isn’t performing in a private organization it is going to act fast. This is not the case with our school system and our youth is suffering because of it. Parents, professors, career councilors need to ensure we are giving a current picture of the competitive landscape out there. The advice should no longer be—you have time to figure it out. We don’t have time to figure it out. Those seeking counseling should be given advice that will truly make them competitive in this new landscape. At the same time they should be guided to do what they love no matter how impractical it may be. If the impractical is complimented by a person’s true passion, hard work and focus then they will mostly likely land a career in their field or something related. Because they are passionate about it they will out compete others in the same field—no matter where they are globally. Hard work does not mean seeking out something you don’t like just because it’s practical. Over there years I have seen many people who have made this choice and they can easily be out competed by others that love what they do. My advice is the exact opposite. Figure out what your strengths are, what you’re passionate about and then work super hard to be the best in the world at it. And do it quickly. The last piece about hard work is that we all have jobs we don’t always love as we are working towards building our craft and building our career. Performance in every job you ever do will impact every job you have after it. Hard work opens doors, builds references and builds networks. Laziness and complaining because your aren’t in the ideal role yes does the exact opposite. It destroys references, shrinks networks and closes doors. Every job counts. Find what you love and work hard at it. If you don’t have it yet work hard at what you have and set your sites on where you want to go.

Coming Next-Part Five: Giving Back

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reinvigorating the American Brand, Part 3 of 20

American Jobs

We have taken outsourcing too far. The government needs to have better oversight of this. Powerful lobbyists have tipped the pendulum too far. There is an economic theory called creative destruction. This occurs when we invent something, maximize our benefit from the invention and eventually let it go when it’s no longer innovative or profitable for us to build in the US. Other countries at this point can take the technology and produce product more efficiently at a lower cost. If this is done right then we transition the industry over time to a more viable/innovative industry and American’s benefit because they get the same product at a lower cost. Because the move is gradual it gives our people enough time to make the transition and garner new skills needed. I’m over simplifying the theory but this is the drift of it. The problem now is that we are outsourcing at rates much faster than we had in the past. How does this happen? When companies assume a cost effective labor pool doesn’t exist at home. Where we have very low tech product it makes sense in certain areas to outsource. Because these products generally have been around for a long time there is typically heavy global competition. In order to compete with price you need to outsource to lower cost labor markets. Where I believe we have gone wrong is in highly innovative sectors where we assume the more mundane work is low tech. The work may be repetitive but it’s still innovative. And there are many American’s that would find these jobs viable careers. We also potentially give away trade secrets to countries that will easily take these and replicate and rebuilt at lower quality and cost thus exacerbating the issue. On the flip side we should be less concerned about letting foreign workers into the country. We mainly do this in two areas, low skilled labor and highly specialized labor. The low skill labor enables small business to operate competitively and efficiently. There are also less Americans willing to take these jobs. In the highly skilled areas we obtain knowledge in the US by allowing these individuals to come in. We are bringing them in generally for a skill we cannot find here. Therefore the organization gains knowledge versus lose knowledge. There tends to be a lot of fear in the country about allowing too many people in. We need to remember that this country was built on allowing people in. If you think about the country like a company then you know that surrounding yourself by brilliant people is healthy—this will be good for America. We will attract the brightest most diverse minds from around the world. We can all learn from these people. This is not a job killer for Americans. This is a job creator. We should be more concerned about what types of jobs we allow out and at what point. It’s not a simple problem and it’s one that won’t regulate itself. We need to be less naïve about what experts tell us. When we see jobs leaving that don’t make sense then we should put pressure on our representatives. Are the jobs leaving for the right reasons? Or are jobs leaving simply as a cost savings wrapped in a beautiful red bow of expert language that spins it into some other elusive, complex reason that nobody can understand.

Coming Next-Part Four: Hard Work

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reinvigorating the American Brand Part 2 of 20

Global Resources

I’m taking this one right from teachings of Thomas Freedman He visited Portland recently to discuss the “environmental/green” movement. Something that really resonated with me was how this was being defined in America. He said that by calling it the “green” movement we make the whole thing elusive and unfocussed. It’s a good point. What does green really mean? Recycling? Car Pooling? Localization? In his world travels one of the things that scared him most was that more and more people around the world are consuming resources like American’s. We know there are finite resources and this is unsustainable in the long run—it will cause political struggle and environmental impact in massive ways. What really matters is who leads the charge in renewable energy. The country that makes it efficient and affordable will become a global leader well into the future. It will be our next economic bull run and its reach will be global. This is an area where we need focus. Our entire system is based on petroleum right now. Every car, every product moved and every e-mail sent. Fluctuations in petroleum price cause fluctuations in our entire economy. If we find renewable energy EVERYTHING as we know it will advance rapidly. We will be able to travel further, compute more—everybody globally gets more. The social, economic and political impact of this one thing would far outweigh any other single thing we can do in the “green/sustainability/environmental” space. It’s very important that we continue to keep pressure on our representatives to move scientific investment dollars into the area—we need to be loud about this. This doesn’t mean we need to stop focusing on other environmental issues but we need to ensure this issue stays 100% in focus and prioritized. The country that figures this out will advance beyond all of our wildest dreams. We want that to be America.

Coming Next-Part Three: American Jobs

Sunday, July 12, 2009

America 3.0

20 Steps to Reinvigorate the America Brand

Why even write about this? Well I’m in recruiting and people in recruiting get to see a very sobering view of the economy. When it’s up we see millions of lives changed positively, people getting new jobs they love, making money and further fueling the system. When it’s down we see the exact opposite. These cycles will exist no matter what but the long term health of the economy ensures that the lows aren’t too low and the highs are built on substance and not fluff. And all of this depends on our collective health. And our Nations health depends on how we exercise our collective minds and bodies. We have let this go a bit and it’s time to get healthy again and stay healthy for the long run. This is as much about recruiting as it is the health of our entire system. If we want to be a high performing, winning country in the long run we got to think big now. It’s time to reinvigorate our American brand.

This is a longer read but I hope you take the time read it, comment on it and share it with friends if you feel it’s worthy. We have moved into an era of instant gratification and sound bite information. The news gives us very little depth these days. Leaders want everything delivered in high level sound bites. The answers to a strong American brand cannot be delivered in simple sound bites though. I have narrowed the solutions down to a list of twenty. I could easily break each solution down into far greater depth but I would rather hear your feedback, comments and additional solutions if you have them. As you read this you may ask why the American brand is reliant on so many things. Like any great brand EVERYTHING matters, EVERYTHING. This list is not exhaustive. These are just the top line items that I believe can have big impact in positively affecting our brand. I would like to add to it though as other ideas come in from you.

The America brand stands for a place where all men and women are created equal and where we can all live out our dreams—put simply, our single differentiating factor is FREEDOM. If you take brand strategy into account we do a lot of things right. We have a single differentiator--Freedom. We tend to infuse this message into everything we communicate as a Nation. We have what brand experts call strong alignment. This means we align everything we communicate to this single differentiating factor. And we use strong design, symbolism and multi-media to ensure nobody else’s brand is confused with ours. The website is a strong example of this. Differentiation, Alignment and Linkage are the fundamentals of strong brand strategy. So where do we fall short? How come our brand has been negatively impacted as of late? With brand strategy you are trying to influence two things, choice and expectation. You are born into America and you can choose to stay or leave. If you immigrate to America you make the choice to live here. Once you are here your expectations are either met or they are not. Earlier I said that we infuse our brand positioning into everything we communicate. A brand needs to also be authentic—you need to say and DO what the brand represents. Notice the words I chose earlier. I said we communicate or SAY this message. The challenge now is the authenticity of the message. You can’t just add a veneer and call it good. I believe this is where we have fallen short as of late. When I say, as of late, I mean the last 40 years and it’s been a gradual shift which makes the core issues more difficult to pinpoint. The challenge with this is that it’s not just a marketing problem which we have more than enough experts who can help us with this (and the government does hire PR firms and marketers to assist with the America image). What we have instead is a true organizational issue. When you are looking at issues you need to ask if it’s a communications problem, a business problem or both. I believe it’s a bit of both but it has become more of a true business problem as of late (I’m using the term business and applying it to government). Our actions as a country are not aligning with our brand positioning. It would be like Starbucks saying we always get your order right and then only getting it right one out of five times. Very quickly you are going to stop believing them. This is the issue we are up against as a Nation and it’s more difficult to fix than a communications problem. It can be done though. I’m going to attempt to shed some light on these core issues and offer up suggestions. The first step is awareness.

When you are born in America it’s easy to take the American brand for granted. I know I have many times in my life. As of late I’ve seen many reminders of what America stands for though—this is what motivated me to write this series. One recent reminder for me was from one of my ex-colleagues. She is from Iran and now lives in the United States. She told me that she is amazed that people don’t understand what they have here and she is grateful for every day she lives in this country. She went on to say that it’s hard to put into words what not having freedom feels like on a day to day basis. She said she used to be stopped in the street in Iran because a few strands of hair were hanging outside her hijab (veil) and she was told to fix it immediately. I also recently heard a radio interview with a French Professor who also now lives in the US. He said it’s time American’s remember what is so great about this country. He said he lived in France but is here for a reason. He went on to say that we, as American’s, have amazed the world once again with electing our first Black President. Never could he imagine this happening in France. This made me really think. I have friends on every side of the spectrum and I have heard all of the good, bad and ugly points about our country. But these stories reminded me that we have far more good to offer. We can reinvigorate the American brand. We can bring authenticity back to America and give it more luster and shine than it has eve had. How do we do this though?

We need to look at how the American brand was first built and how it became great. We were a vast land populated by Native American’s for thousands of years. We were a beautiful, vast continent with people who lived in harmony with the land. Then a combination of greed and power drove governments of Europe to fund exploration of far away lands. This coupled with adventurers who needed to find new uncharted places (I would hope I would have fallen into this camp back then) created the perfect breading ground for finding this new world—and it was found. Then people who could not live out their dreams in their home countries, persecuted for their beliefs and values, started off for this new world, to live new, free lives. There were of course power struggles early on up until the Revolution where the free world prevailed and the United States of America was formed. We had a melting pot of ideologies and beliefs and we struggled through them over 100’s of years—brought together by the foundation our forefathers put in place. Goodness prevailed in the end and we continued to advance as a society. At our peak was the Kennedy era, civil rights movement and a society willing to stand up for those that could not stand up for themselves, no matter what the cost. This generation was raised by what we call the greatest generation of all. They were the World War II generation. This group knew what struggle was; what hard work meant and understood that their word was everything. To fully understand what this generation sacrificed for us watch the beach seen in Saving Private Ryan and put yourself there. Capitalism and Democracy proved to be a global force to be reckoned with and its influences were spreading virally at this point. The past several generations worked very hard to preserve this. Our most recent generations, the X’ers (my generation) and the Y’ers tend to be more self critical, less confined by continents and governments and more lenient towards a culture of sharing. The X’ers and Y’ers have grown up with the most advanced communications vehicles in history and we have access to more information than any generation before us. We are also the most open to diversity and heavily focused on sustainable living. We can focus on these things because we have been given the foundation and wealth from the generations before us to have this luxury. I call it a luxury because in countries where this wealth does not exist people are focused on feeding their families, not the factory down the street polluting the environment. We have had and continue to have the DNA as a society to be a great Nation. So we have a brand position and we have the people to carry it through—where then does it break down. This is where simple sound bites don’t help and pop psychology solutions fail. The answer is complex but I’m going to attempt to dissect it. America has succeeded over and over again and now it is our time to once again make our indelible mark on history and create the next millennium of the great American brand.

Part one:

Conservative vs. Liberal—We need to move away from this battle as a Nation. This whole red vs. blue states, bible belts vs. tree huggers, conservatives vs. liberals. Differing points of view are always going to exist in America—this is not going away so we need to learn a new way forward. Disliking the other side is bad for the American brand. Let’s learn to disagree peacefully. This should be an area where we have learned from the mistakes of our past. Our country was populated by people who escaped religious persecution in other countries. They came here so they could practice their beliefs in peace. Freedom of belief applies to all religions though—Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christian Scientists and all lesser known religions that the mainstreams tend to call cults. Everybody has the right to their own belief system and that is what this country was founded on. And non believers have the right to not believe. The sides should be able to disagree but should avoid disrespect. We are all Americans. We know this division does not advance us as people and yet we revert back to disrespect especially during times of difficult debate. We need to be careful not to be split by politicians and interest groups with agendas that use dividing arguments to get us to take sides. These are the abortion, choice, gay marriage, etc. issues. We are never going to fully agree on these things; we aren’t going to magically convince the other side to change their minds. We need to accept these differences and instead look at what we do agree on. By doing this we advance versus stay in a perpetual cycle of argument without progression. There are many groups out there that would like us to stay in this state because it’s profitable for them or advances their own agendas. In business they teach us to give constructive feedback and not make it personal. We need to learn to do the same when we have differing points of view as Americans. Make your argument, back it up with facts but don’t make it personal. When we hear leaders and interest groups disrespect other groups, religions, ideologies we need to call them out on it—it’s okay to disagree but disrespect halts progress. One more point on this topic. Our forefathers separated church and state for a reason. This needs to be upheld. I realize many will argue you can’t really make this separation. Yes, you can. I would argue that it may feel perfectly okay to you as long as your religion is represented. If this line is not clearly drawn though one day a group will come into power that is not your religion and they will push their agenda—then it won’t feel okay to you anymore. This separation exists so you CAN freely practice your own beliefs and not someone else’s. We need to honor and protect this separation.

Coming Next-Part Two: Global Resources