Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cross Pollinating: Uncommon Service and Conviviality

I am spending time synergizing Frances Frei and Anne Morriss' Uncommon Service with Wendy Pollock and Kathleen McLean's Convivial Museum.

It is at the intersection of these two works that I hope to be focusing some of my work in the coming months and years, assessing the balance and importance of the visitor experience and the "content piece."

It is the shared experience that seems paramount in the present day, and our museum field is telling us this, right?

On the other hand, what are we, if we are not educators?  Illuminators?

It is, in fact, at the intersection of these two things --conviviality and uncommon service that the transformative outcome can blossom.  This is the perfectly tepid-to-steamy bathwater environment where good things grow; where we are cleansed and revitalized.  From here, we can shock, teach through participation and invigorate.  

The quality of aliveness we see in these images is what we call conviviality. We chose the word "convivial" for several reasons. Its roots—together and being alive—characterize what we think is a major role and responsibility of museums: to be places where people can share their common humanity and to offer opportunities not only for learning and social engagement, but also for reflection and solitude in the presence of others. 
Pollock and McLean from Museum 2.0

Uncommon Service lays out a prescription for how to move your business toward a customer focused reality.  
To tell you the truth I am only 1/2 way through Uncommon Service, but the authors lay out a pretty clear set of goals and how to get there:

Great service, it turns out, is not made possible by running the business harder and faster on the backs of a few extraordinary people...Once you accept the idea of trade-offs -- and break the addition to service heros -- the inputs into service excellence are much easier to consume.  We lay out these inputs in a framework we call the four service truths...: a service offering, a service funding mechanism, and employee management system, and a customer management system. 
Frei and Morriss Uncommon Service p. 5

I discovered the book through recent, strong guest post on Museum Geek by Janet Carding.

Per Suse Cairns who runs Museum Geek, "This post is written by Janet Carding, Director and CEO, Royal Ontario Museum, who very generously offered to share some core takeaways from attending a Harvard Business School executive course on Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management."

Y'know, as another thought, one must be struck at how women are taking over.  And we are likely better for it. People speak of the ability for women to have multiple-minds -- a higher level of mindfulness all around.  This is what I think we all need to strive for - the mindful museum.  Janes has used this term, as has Gopnik.  Theirs is more about thinking, which is essential; and I think we need to augment that term with an enhanced understanding for visitor experience and customer service.

I shared this same line of thinking with an important teacher in the field and an admired colleague when we were catching up at the last Western Museum Association meeting in Palm Springs.  She said, "I think you have a big woman up inside you."   (In line with previous, well, dare I say, slightly back-handed compliments?) I was positively overwhelmed.

Having grown up in a home of strong women, I felt like I had perhaps reached a state of higher understanding - or at least perceived as much by trusted, professional friends. Thank you, Dr. Madsen-Brooks!

I am also interested to see what will happen when two extremely significant boy-toy corporations, founded in very different eras -- HP and Yahoo! -- are now being lead by two important women like Meg Whitman and Marissa Mayer.   They both have huge jobs presently -- to right those massive vessels.  What will we all have to learn from them and their experiences? For better or for worse.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Confessed Ignorance and the Ecstasy of Influence

Rob Gronkowski poses with his new cereal “Gronk Flakes” which are available at Stop & Shops throughout New England.
Rob Gronkowski’s new cereal “Gronk Flakes” hit store shelves on Tuesday, and the Patriots tight end was on hand to celebrate at a Walpole Stop & Shop.
Who is this guy?! He looks like Stephen Malkmus!

So I'm all "gronk?"  "Gronk?"  "What the F' is that phrase that guru and GLAMrous mentor Michael P. Edson uses?!..."  Gronk? Grunk? Grok?

GROK!  And so I learn it is from Heinlein:

grok664 up95 down
Taken from the book 'Stranger in a Strange Land,' literally meaning 'to drink' but taken to mean 'understanding.' Often used by programmers and other assorted geeks.
It took me a long time to grok Perl, but now I can read it without going blind!

I get it!  And it's beautiful!!  Drink to me only with thine eyes...

My brother read science fiction, I didn't.  Maybe because of that.  I never understood why I should.

I also had a tough time reading Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (thanks, Adam, but -- sorry...I just can't do it...even if Eggers' time-space feels so much like mine...).

Now I find myself reading A Hologram for the King, which kinda feels like today-based science fiction.  I am likely to meet Dave Eggers in a couple of weeks, and I feel like I have to have read at least one of his complete works.  The novel is happening in a very American now, but it feels a little like science fiction, and I get the page-turning aspect and how over-arching, metaphor-like actions help us take one small step outside of our own lives.  This out-of-body sensation has us just far enough outside the psychic skin to turn around and look at ourselves or those in our close circles -- better to appreciate or criticize, emulate, learn or smolder in self-loathing or onanistic admiration.

And I am right now into several essays of Jonathan Lethem's The Ecstasy of Influence.  Only to find that he was an avid science fiction reader, then writer.  When he writes about science fiction it brings back all these images of my youth and the deep libraries my brother kept of Herbert, Heinlein and the old science fiction magazines he collected.

I wanna write a great essay that connects Joyce's Ulysses and Pavement's Crooked Rain Crooked Rain.  They'se is the stories of my life written by better writers.  After I finish the Hologram book and the Lethem essays, I might go on to Lethem's 33 1/3 book on Fear of Music.  Will Lethem write about i Zimbra and the influence of Romanian Jewish avantgardistes like Tzara on Ball and others?  I digress... 

For now I'll leave this short post as a tribute to influencers in my life, and likely never get to science fiction, alas.  It seems like so many people I love do, so here's to them.  Thanks, Mike, to opening my eyes to Heinlein, martians, and drinking life in to the fullest.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Haftarah for Ki Tavo (Isaiah 60:1-22)

Arise, shine, [O Jerusalem,] for your light has come, the glory of the Eternal is shining upon you! Though darkness may cover the earth, thick darkness [the] peoples - upon you the Eternal will shine, over you G_d’s Presence will appear. Nations shall walk toward your light, and kings toward your sunrise. Raise your eyes and see! They are gathering, all of them, they are coming to you. Your sons shall come from afar, your daughters borne securely. You shall see it and beam with joy, your heart will thrill with pride, the sea’s abundance shall shower you, the wealth of nations shall come your way. A horde of camels shall cover your land, the young camels of Midian and Ephah, all coming from Sheba bearing gold and frankincense; proclaiming the praises of G_d! The flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nevayot shall serve your need - a sacrifice welcome on My altar, adding glory to My glorious house. Who are these that fly like a cloud, like doves to their cotes? The coastlands’ vessels wait for Me, the ships of Tarshish in the lead, to bring your children from afar, along with their silver and gold, to please the Eternal your G_d, the Holy One of Israel, who has given you glory. Foreigners shall build your walls, and their kings shall serve you. For in anger I struck you down, but in favor I show you love [again]. Your gates shall be open always, day or night they shall not be shut, to bring in the wealth of nations, their kings led as in procession. Nations and kingdoms that refuse to serve you shall vanish, their people utterly destroyed. The pride of Lebanon shall come to you - juniper, box-tree, and cypress together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary, to glorify the place where I rest. They shall come bowing down at the soles of your feet, all those who despised you. They shall call you the City of G_d, Zion, [abode] of Israel’s Holy One. As once you were abandoned and hated, with no one passing through, so now I make you a pride forever, the joy of all generations. You shall suck the milk of nations, suck the breast of kingdoms, and you shall know that I, the Eternal, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of copper I will bring gold, instead of iron, silver, instead of wood, copper and iron instead of stones. I will make Peace your government, and Righteousness your rulers. No more shall [the noise of] violence be heard in your land, desolation and destruction within your borders. You shall name your walls Deliverance, and your gates Praise. No more shall the sun be your light by day, nor shall the moon’s glow brighten [your night]; the Eternal will be your everlasting light, and your G_d [will be] your glory. No more shall your sun go down, or your moon disappear; for the Eternal will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Your people shall be righteous, all of them, and possess the land forever: they are the shoot that I have planted, the work of My hands, to display My glory. The least of them shall become a thousand, and the smallest a mighty nation; I, the Eternal, will hasten it when the time has come.