With thunder and lightning raging outside, our cat Ollie is housebound, climbing walls and exploring the unknown. From a spin in the dryer to printing out documents, her curiosity and quest for mischief has no bounds.
Watching Ollie’s silly antics makes me wonder why we humans aren’t more curious.
My good friend Les Potter has observed that his communication students at Towson University lack curiosity. They don’t question why things are the way they are, and they take information at face value. Les believes curiosity is a competitive advantage for both students and job-seekers, and is a quality we should be encouraging as parents, teachers and employers.
Merriam-Webster defines curiosity as the desire to investigate and learn, whereas absence of curiosity is described as boredom, indifference, and apathy. In his blog post, Les asked where the curiosity is among today’s students. Are we, as parents, killing it in our children? Or are our educational, political and economic systems the culprit?
Education expert Sir Ken Robinson says students are ignored and often stigmatized for their energy and curiosity, and with far-ranging consequences. His fabled TED talk on this subject has been viewed by millions. He often uses the Picasso quote that “All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up” to illustrate that children don’t grow into creativity, but are educated out of it.
I believe we have the ability to be creative and curious no matter our age, but that it’s squelched in our youth and thwarted by social and cultural norms as adults.
When I allow myself to be a dreamer, and ask “what if,” it’s easy for me to imagine, to innovate, and to solve the world’s problems.
So what if we start by nurturing curiosity in ourselves?
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This week’s news about the good Samaritans who saved three children trapped in an upside-down car in the freezing river captured hearts and smiles worldwide. It’s an uplifting story about the human spirit, and inspiring on so many counts.
Our hero’s words “it’s in our family to go out and help others” resonated with me. While I know I’d have been one of the passer-byers who scurried down the river bank to rescue the kids, I question if I instilled the value to “go out and help others” in my own children. I inspired their volunteer spirit through family activities like cooking meals at the Ronald McDonald House and building houses for Habitat, but I can’t say I’ve instilled ”giving” as a core value that defines them.
Closer to home, is helping others one of my personal values?
Sure, I get more pleasure from giving than from getting, but when it comes down to it, helping others doesn’t rank among my top drivers. The standards deeply etched into my make-up are happiness, trust, self-worth, understanding, authenticity and compassion, blended with a dash of humor. I love the concept of altruism, but my unselfish regard for the devotion to others can be hit and miss. Note to self for this year’s resolutions.
Media and culture tend to associate happiness with getting something, yet most of us get that big swell in our hearts from helping others. Some new research indicates that helping others may even be the key to happiness.
When I was caught in pajama feet at six years old leading my younger siblings in a premeditated candy hoist at the neighborhood grocery store, my dad asked me, “What if everybody did that?”
Imagine a world where everybody made helping others their core value.
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I’m in New York this week for IABC and PRIME Research’s Global Strategic Communication Measurement Conference where I’ve been delighted by the diversity and depth of presentations, and the dynamic Q&A. This morning, I was honored to finally meet Doctors Jim and Lauri Grunig, legendary teachers, authors and researchers who led IABC’s landmark Excellence Study. The Excellence Study is a timeless piece that continues to define PR excellence and education today. And after my 23 years with IABC, visiting with these living legends was akin to a tween’s dream of meeting Justin Bieber.
Lauri set the stage by outlining the fundamental principles of excellence:
- PR must be managerial, in a position of influence to represent the concerns of the public
- It must be strategic
- PR is an integrated function that’s most effective when it’s distinct from marketing. (Integrated marketing communication is not one of the excellence factors.) Integration under a single stakeholder function enables the nimble shifting of resources.
- PR must be symmetrical with multiple communication channels and feedback loops so any party can initiate and foster the conversation.
- The ethical practioner is critical as the conscience of the organization.
- Effective PR embraces and incorporates diversity.
- PR must have a global outlook.
- Social responsibilty and sustainability are essential.
In the session, Jim emphasized that the role of PR in strategic management is the most important of principles, and is what distinguishes the excellent from less excellent communication departments. He underscored that the strategic management role means participating in decision-making in the C-suite, not just being your company’s spokesperson.
What’s changed since the Excellence research launched 25 years ago? Not much, according to the Grunigs. The digital revolution (Jim prefers the term digital media over social, because many blogs are not social) has changed techniques, but theoretical principles remain the same.
And the overly publicized corporate scandals and crises have demonstrated what happens to organizations that don’t practice good PR.
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I slept through yet another tedious panel session at a recent HR conference. Why, dear reader, is it so difficult for panel organizers to get this right? In theory, the session should have knocked my socks off. It featured bright, provocative young talents talking about why employees don’t trust leaders, and how companies can break the cycle. All of those vibrant personalities on stage simultaneously should have produced something real and tantalizing, but instead it was spontaneous combustion.
Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist of Apple, posted some excellent tips today on Google+ on being a great moderator. Here’s the gist of his post for your next moderating stint:
- Keep it spontaneous by not overpreparing the panelists
- Prepare yourself in advance so you can stir the pot
- Outlaw powerpoint, videos and other pointless props
- Put your ego on the backburner and make your panelists shine
- Be your audience’s advocate for truth, insight and brevity
- Allot 30% of the session time to audience questions.
And remember, moderate as used in this context means to ”preside over,” and not ”mediocre.”
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It’s funny how a little grammar error by a large retailer grabs our attention. The missing apostrophe on Old Navy’s “Lets Go!!” t-shirts has the internet abuzz with hilarity and criticism over the chain’s misfortune. It doesn’t help that the “Let’s Go!!” shirt line is a partnership between Old Navy and more than 70 colleges and universities, or that thousands of tees were shipped to stores as part of the retailer’s launch of Superfan Nation, its new line of team wear.
I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the copywriter who may have skipped out on 1st grade English. But wouldn’t you think Old Navy would have a fool-proof proofing process in place after 17 years in business?
And there’s the moose on the table - who approved the design? I’d guess the 70 star-spangled universities (Stanford, Duke and UCLA included) would have required final sign off in their partnership agreements.
It’s the kind of grammar error that communicators love to tweet and blog about because it’s so easy to make. And it’s happened to all of us. Once or twice.
If I were on Old Navy’s PR team, I’d hand out red pens with the t-shirts and call it a day. Mea culpa.
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Posted by: Chris Corrigan in Life changing, volunteers, tags: Belinda Lazaro
It was a bittersweet day yesterday for Belinda Lazaro’s many friends and loved ones when she lost her battle with uterine cancer at just 39. Beautiful, radiant and bubbly, Belinda looked for the best in people and in life’s experiences, and always found that elusive silver lining.
A long-time IABC/New Orleans chapter leader, Belinda and I became fast friends when planning IABC’s International Conference in New Orleans on the heels of Hurricane Katrina. Belinda was chapter president and one of NOLA’s most passionate ambassadors. Determined to keep IABC’s conference in New Orleans, she worked tirelessly against the odds to ensure its success. There were very few chapter volunteers, limited restaurants and flights, and unrelenting negative press about the crime, unemployment and rebuilding efforts post-Katrina. But with Belinda’s inspiration, staff and conference attendees built houses with Habitat for Humanity, jazzed it up with Tom Sancton in an uplifting opening session, and indulged in the city’s culinary treasures at one of the most celebrated IABC dine-arounds. It was the best-rated conference in the association’s history, and Belinda lead the way.
Since the conference, I’ve made many trips to New Orleans to help out Habitat and visit with Belinda who regaled me with humorous tales about medical mishaps, her pooch Monty, Mardi Paws and Mardi Gras. On one trip in 2009, she picked me up at my hotel, bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked despite her recent chemo treatment. I commented on how sleek and shiny her hair looked, and how I’d love to sport her gorgeous locks. In her unimitable style, Belinda zigzagged out of the lane and pulled her jeep onto the shoulder shaking with laughter. With a mischievous smile, she tugged at her hair, handed me what turned out to be her wig, and said “Sweetie, it’s all yours!”
Full of life with an infectious laugh and big heart, Belinda was brave and hopeful throughout her illness. One of her last Facebook posts read:
“I can’t express how grateful I am to everybody that donated yesterday-I love you all so much!! I’m still in the hospital -but am not up for visitors for at least the next 2 days. I will post as soon as I’m feeling better/ ready for company. Thank you again!!!
And tonight, her parents posted this:
“A celebration of her life will be held at the Schoen funeral home on Friday, August 19th from 6pm tp 10 pm. As per her wishes, there will be champagne, treats, and music for all.”
Goodbye, sweet Belinda. Your candle may have burned out, but you’ll forever be in my heart.
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Some of my talents and skills come easily – I’m a carefree runner, a loving mom, enjoy cooking, swimming, reading and writing. And after a couple of drinks, I’m a wiz at pool and can beat most 14-year olds in a hula hoop contest. As comfortable as I am with my talents, I’m also aware of my limitations – my occasional stubbornness, impatience with people who disguise their insecurities with arrogance, inability to sit still, need to have everything planned, and fear to try new things.
But with my children’s independence and a calmer, blissful lifestyle, I’m gradually mellowing, letting go of the insignificant and noticing things I didn’t see before. I’ve always looked for the positive, but I’m finding myself increasingly more focused on the experience than the outcome which can sometimes be risky.
It’s also invigorating. And I’ve had a great mentor.
Take our garden, for example. I don’t like being knee-deep in anything (especially manure!), but we planted a garden this year and it’s actually taking off (with the exception of a sun-scorched pink mandevilla). I admire our garden, take pleasure in watering, snipping dead leaves, sharing fresh pesto with the neighbors, even pulling weeds. Sure, I’m thrilled with how beautifully it’s growing, but I’m enjoying the experience of nurturing the garden more than the results – the fragrance, hummingbirds, pinching the basil blossoms, dirt under my nails, and the bumblebees (from a safe distance).
In his TED talk, Google engineer Matt Cutt suggests trying something new for 30 days. His concept of small and sustainable changes is refreshing. It might just help you break your daily routine, and see the world differently.
What’s next for me? Maybe I’ll be the next ukulele lady.
The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.
Frank Lloyd Wright
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I’ve spent most my life avoiding giant flying objects, but they’re part of the landscape in Ewwston – scattering under porch lights, flying out of garbage cans, even hiding undercovers. Imagine cuddling up to your loved one under a blanket of stars, and feeling a delicate tingle down your back. You smile with his caress, then notice his nimble hands manipulating his iphone in search of Castor and Pollux. The perfectly still night shattered by your scream as you realize the tingle you feel is actually . . . well, you get the picture.
Ask the locals about this week’s featured creatures, and they’ll tell you there are no cockroaches in their fair city.
“Oh, that little thing? That’s a pretty Palmetto Bug – look how cute and bashful she is slipping into that sidewalk crack.” (This response brought to you by the Committee to Beautify Houston. )
I’m convinced they’re all participants in a large-scale PR campaign, or some pesty, oversized flash mob.
Here are the facts. Those pretty, little bugs are almost two inches long, and emit a most unpleasant odor when scared or excited. They carry nasty bacteria, keep the Houston Health Department gainfully employed, and there’s no stopping them. A female and her wanton offspring can manufacture more than 800 little bugs a year.
And did I mention they fly? A bit awkwardly, but ewww!
I googled “Palmetto Bug” after one of the airborne prehistoric insects recently made my dinner plate its landing pad. Seems “Palmetto Bug” is a southern euphemism for the common “American Cockroach” that lives and reigns in the southeastern United States.
As suspected, it’s all one big PR cover-up. Where’s Woodward and Bernstein when we need them?
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Banners tumbled down, sponsors dismantled their booths, and the once bustling halls emptied as IABC’s World Conference came to a close. Twitter is abuzz with take-aways and nuggets of knowledge, neighboring pharmacies are reporting a run on dental floss, and rumor has it that the San Diego Zoo is releasing several cuddly marsupials to the wild after a visit from “the koala woman.”
The countless aha moments, intensive learning, after-hours networking and red-carpet glamour contributed to an extraordinary four days, but it’s the people and passion for our profession that made the event outstanding – our speakers, sponsors, volunteers, social media aficionados and chapter hosts.
In the sea of fresh faces, conspicuously absent were some beloved long-time leaders who helped to build IABC. Friends and founders like Les Potter, Bobby Resnick, Linda Stewart, and Lou Williams who’ve taught us that we need to know the past to understand the present and chart the future. Their insights, influence and noble presence were greatly missed.
As IABC launches a bold change initiative in pursuit of a new staff president and visionary leadership, we should remind ourselves of Isaac Newton’s words, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
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I couldn’t have picked a better place to be this week than Singapore. Not because of the weather (humidity and temps are both teetering into the 90s), but because the national obsession is their General Election and not the royal wedding. With 82 out of 87 Parliament seats being contested on May 7 – the most since their independence in 1965 – the elections are all the talk in the news, elevators, and queues. It has the locals tittering and twittering.
The moose on the table is the growth of “foreign talent,” and the resulting competition for housing and jobs. With foreigners making up one third of Singapore’s population and taking more than half the new jobs created, Singaporeans are balancing the concern to protect their own while trying not to scare off global investors. Add to that the hit on economic growth for a city-state that imports all its food and oil amidst surging global prices, and it’s easy to understand the increased political awareness.
Yet the Singaporean culture is all about harmony in race, religion, family and relationships. Their polite verbosity about current issues and candidates is unusual. Singaporeans tend to be subtle and indirect in their communication. They’ll hint at a point rather than make a direct statement or confront another since that might cause the other to lose face. They’re a soft-spoken people who value personal honor, harmony and mutual security, yet these values are being tested with the May election.
As a former legislative aide and outsider, it’s fascinating to observe the behavioral and cultural shifts taking place, and the growing engagement in Singapore’s future. So fascinating that I think I’ll stay the week and give my personal royal wedding invite to President Obama.
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