The incredible USS Trout story …lives on through Tim McCoy

Over the last 20 years, I have had the chance to meet a number of members of the CHARLES TIM MCCOY USNGreatest Generation. It’s been a mission (if not an obsession) of mine. My purpose for the large part has been to find and meet people who knew or were somewhere near my grandfather, Lt Cdr Minter Dial, after whom I was named. So, it was only natural that, since I was headed to Austin Texas for SXSW 2014, I connected with a USN veteran of World War II. His name is Charles “Tim” McCoy, who served in the US Navy, aboard a number of submarines, before becoming a prisoner after the USS Grenadier was sunk (April 1943).

I came across Tim thanks for an article published in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, written by Ray Westbrook.

Charles Tim McCoy

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim McCoy, who is 90 years old (born in 1924), showed that he is in great mental and physical health. For two hours, I listened to him talk about his experience in the Pacific, including his captivity as a prisoner of Japanese for over two years. Anybody who has come across the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrad (soon to be a film, directed by Angelina Jolie), or any other book about the Japanese POW treatment will know just how horrible that experience was. During our chat, I was lucky enough to hear directly from Tim, about his participation in a truly epic and well-documented mission aboard the USS Trout.  Continue reading

Long-term vision with bold actions – is it your mantra?

Bringing sense to business

At the Freedom & Solidarity Forum, taking inspiration from Operation Overlord and the D-Day Landings, Brian Gallagher, President and CEO at United Way, said:

“We need a long-term vision with bold actions. Our endeavors must be values (or purpose-) based”

This phrase resonates with me, even more so as an entrepreneur. However, I think it’s an issue for most people in many companies, where the purpose is either non-existant or it may be published but not lived. Companies suffer from an oversized need to cater to short-term pressures. Finally, without the entrepreneur/founder at the helm, too often businesses lack boldness. And, I might add that actions speak louder than words…

In search of purpose

Mr Gallagher said that Operation Overlord was a success in large part because it embodied that phrase. As an NGO, United Way is inhabited by purpose. It is normal. In business, however, purpose is too often reduced to creating shareholder value. Interestingly, Mr Georges Plassat, CEO and Chairman of Carrefour, the second biggest retailer in the world, said the same thing about bringing “meaning” to his business and resisting the short-term ratrace (my term, not his). I wonder to what extent his comments resonated with the Carrefour employees? Mr Philippe Wahl, CEO of LaPoste France, echoed Mr Plassat, talking about the need to create products (and service) that are “useful” for society. Mr Wahl talked about the need to have “meaning” in business, which he translated as the need to contribute to society in each country in which one is operating, invoking the need to pay taxes in each country (a lightly veiled attack on Google and Amazon, etc.).

The big question I have is: how much does “purpose” fulfill shareholder value over time?

What do you think?

EasyJet Customer Experience – A failure waiting to happen

As companies continue to inch (literally) ever closer toward greater and greater productivity, I can say that I was only mildly amused when the EasyJet flight attendant on a recent flight cajoled us into listening to the pre-flight safety announcements. As with most of us who travel a lot, we consider these announcements over the loud-speaker as an obligatory nuisance. On this particular EasyJet flight, I decided to put down what I was reading to listen. One specific part of the instructions caught my attention. Not that I am against productivity gains; nor am I against an airline wishing my safety. However, someone needs to revisit and update what must be a rather old script.

In case of emergency landing, take the customary “brace” position, by bending over, placing your head between your legs and tucking your arms around your thighs.

Not being of the circus contortionist variety, I can say that I am just about able to put my chest on my thighs, nothing more. Getting the head to tuck down neatly is a bit of a stretch. And, I am fortunate not to have a pot belly.

Brace for it

Here are the instructions as printed on the plastified sheet in front of each seat (in this case for an Airbus A319/320). Continue reading

Arlington Cemetery – Tomb of the Unknowns Jeopardy Question with some Surprising Answers

Arlington Cemetery Jeopardy Question:

There has been an email circulating for well over 13 years (I found a 2001 reference to this email in a brief Google search).  The email starts:

“On Jeopardy the other night (MD: !), the final question was: “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns?” All three contestants missed it! This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Arlington CemeteryThe email goes on to give a prolonged and largely true answer. However, thanks to the good work at Snopes, I wanted to put out a cleaner and more accurate version out there.

Working through the Jeopardy archives, the only specific question and date I could find was in episode #4751 on April 11, 2005, which makes the initial email confusing since it would seem to ante-date the Jeopardy question:

“ARLINGTON’S TOMB OF UNKNOWNS: Sentinels at the tomb walk exactly this many steps at a time before they stop & turn”

In terms of my own discoveries, I wasn’t sure if the Tomb is called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Tomb of the Unknowns. It turns out that it is commonly known by both, but there is no official name.

Continue reading

Happy spring and happy birthday grandpa! RIP NMD1

Today would have marked my grandfather’s 103rd birthday. Three years ago, we celebrated what would have been his 100th birthday with a magical 24-hour global social experiment!  Here was the result by the way…

Nothing quite as grand today. However, in a case of multiple things to celebrate, it’s also time to celebrate Spring and Twitter’s 8th birthday. Looking back at my very first tweet in April 2007, I was quite surprised to find:

Minter Dial @mdial first tweet NMD1

Glad to know that my first tweet was meaningful (at least to me!). It starts with purpose, I should say. In the realm of lessons learned along the way, I was missing a hashtag (e.g. #WWII) and a link! I can now add the right link! Here’s my grandfather’s story in case you haven’t read about it — in the Smithsonian magazine.

As a sign of appreciation, please do go like my grandfather’s page in honor of the greatest generation!

P.S. if you want to discover your first tweet, go here.

An example of how not to be customer centric @ Heathrow’s Terminal 5

Heathrow Terminal 5 is in need of an urgent look at its customer journey… literally

I recently took a British Airways flight in business class on a brand new 787 “Dreamliner” on one of the first ever non-stop flights between London and Austin Texas (it was for #SXSW2014). I would note that I certainly don’t intend to be complaining about privileged travel in this post. My point is to observe the explicit consequences of not being customer centric. Embarking at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, I was ushered through the “fast track” customs and baggage control without much ado. After collecting my affairs, I noticed that to the right there was the Concorde Lounge, but was informed that it was only for First Class. I was told that the BA Business Class lounge was downstairs, immediately underneath. To get downstairs, you have to go about 60 meters past a row of stores. The escalator down is around the other side. Once downstairs, I headed back from whence I came. Signage was poor. The route was lined with shops, mostly luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada, Harrods (see below). It turns out that the space “immediately underneath” the Concorde Lounge was under construction. No sign of the Business Class lounge.

Continue reading

President Hollande – There’s a Hole in your Trustworthiness

The latest scandal in France with President Hollande, regarding his First Lady-cum-Second-Girlfriend-cum-Three’s a Party, has brought to the forefront the divide between personal and professional life. In France, the refrain is frequent: what’s personal is private. It’s considered the French touch, a cultural heritage. In an environment where trust is lacking and in a technologically enabled era where transparency is basically a conduit to trust, President Hollande’s secret tryst has made a mockery of the Office of the President.

Trustworthiness in leadership

In evaluating President Hollande’s management of his personal relationship, I think it absolutely matters in terms of gauging his trustworthiness. Not that ‘cheating’ is criminal, but it is certainly not encouraged at school, nor is it admirable or the basis for any solid long-term relationship. Moreover, for his team, it unquestionably has an impact on how they must view him and his sense of fidelity. In an ‘All Boy’s Club,’ maybe that type of behavior will be hammed up in the locker room. But, for a team including women, that has a sense of pride and from whom the leader is looking for total heart and soul commitment, this type of cheating will inevitably have a bearing. Even if it is not officially said to be important, the behavior speaks volumes.


I can only believe that this video above is not legitimate. Surely, with so few views, it’s a fake. But it certainly feels the part!

A Hole in Hollande’s Trustworthiness

I do make parallels between how Hollande managed this affair and what attitudes business leaders need to adopt in order to garner greater trust and to inspire and motivate the workers (or citizens) to follow the vision. In the army, if a soldier doesn’t trust his commander, he won’t feel good about taking the boss’ orders. I tend to believe the same is true of any leader. Sure, one might execute obediently, but the extra step, the extra energy will not be there. I would argue that the President of France has a gaping hole in his trustworthiness. It was there before the Gayet scandal erupted. Now, he has the trust of his very own team to recuperate before even thinking about the trust the population might have put in him.

Trust is intangible but relies on actions

Similarly, in business, engaged employees who live and work around their leader, for at least 8 up to 12 hours a day, need to feel that their leader is trustworthy. In such close quarters, I would also argue that employees will — at least subconsciously — also take note of his/her personal ethics. It’s not possible to separate the two, especially as it regards trustworthiness. If France has made a conscious decision to want to separate private and professional, it comes — at least in part — from its heritage of not wanting the King’s riches and decadence to be generally known by the masses. The French upper crust invoke the code “to live happily, it is better to live hidden.” This is just not a way to garner trust; especially in an era of widening transparency.

Voting for Whollande

For François Hollande, he has shown us throughout his career an inability to commit. What is true in his private life is also true in his public (political) life. Is it not obviously consistent? The natural extrapolation would be that if he treats his First Ladyfriend with such trickery and arctic coldness that he might operate the same way at times with his own team? And, for the electorate, it’s all very well “saying” you don’t care about his private life; then, why did Closer, the magazine that revealed the affair, sell out in the first day? Why has television been galavanting on about the ongoing tryst? Is it not because what is personal is the singular backbone of personality? Politicians, much like CEOs, are mediatic figures. They must accept to live in the limelight. I would argue that they must bring their whole person with them. And, it so happens in a world where digital media helps reveal and spread news, being transparent and demonstrating consistent integrity are the right way to go to build trust, a trust which in polls around the world is so lacking for politicians, business executives and marketers alike.

Ironically, now that Hollande is shifting from Socialist to Social Democrat, personally I am grateful for this latest switch; but will it last?

Daft Punk, The Myndset Digital Marketing & Brand StrategyBTW, is it not beautifully coincidental that the helmeted Daft Punk is a French band that just scooped the Grammy Award for its album? They clearly have the wind in the backs….

P.S. I participated in a “debate” on France 24 television following the press conference at which Hollande was grilled about the Closer revelations.  In case you are interested, here are the YouTube recordings (in two parts): Part 1 and Part 2.

Your thoughts?

Recycled newspapers – Bobo fantasy or true eco-tourism?

On our recent family holidays to Kerala, India, I was struck how several hotels used recycled newspapers. Specifically, I found recycled newspapers being used as bags (for example, for shoes), sanitary bags, envelopes and garbage inserts. The bags were carefully constructed and came with string handles. I can’t evaluate whether these items were playing to the Bobo fantasy* of being ecologically friendly or truly represent a way of saving the planet. In any event, I thought they were effective in their function and provided a nice change from the typical hotel amenities. I didn’t get too much black ink on my fingers either! Have you remarked these types of initiatives elsewhere?

Recycled newspapers India, Minter Dial, The Myndset digital marketing*Bobo = Bohemian Bourgeois

 

A perfect Vine video?

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I visited The Grove — a rather celebrated shopping center, replete with Apple Store and Nike Running store among others. In any event, at the center, there is a fancy fountain that is musically coordinated. Playing with Vine, I managed to cut an almost seamless video… with a great degree of luck. Hope you’ll enjoy!

Only in Canada: It’s different in Canada… eh?

Only in Canada…

A car crash, special fast food, graffiti, breakdancing, Canadian News, parking, a diary entry, burglary, controversy, knock-knock joke, racism, polo, protest, trapping, driving and two of the funnier GIFs you will find… only in Canada!  Enjoy!