Live RESPECT, You Flourish. Abandon it, You Crumble.


Photo Credit: J. Ng May, 2015 Conceptual Art. Lenbachhaus Museum, Munich, Germany.

One Sat morning I went to Starbucks to get my grande bold. The old lady in front of me looked a little queer. She ordered two tall pikes and paid with a Starbucks gift card. After several attempts, the server said, “Sorry Mam. The card did not work. Do you have any other method of payment?” After fumbling through her purse and all her pockets, embarrassed, she shook her head as if she just wanted to disappear. All eyes were on her. Before anyone had an opportunity to respond, another server took out two tall pikes, nicely put on a paper tray, with a big gentle smile, he looked this old lady in the eyes and said, “It’s on the house. My pleasure to serve you.” The lady was surprised but delighted. As she added milk to her coffees, her hands were shaking uncontrollably, likely due to some chronic problems. The hot coffee spilled on her hands causing burns, making a mess & a big scene. One server immediately came, attending to her burns, making sure she was OK. The other server went to pour two new cups of tall pike. Knowing her hands were not steady, he asked her politely if he could put in the cream for her, attending to details asking 2% milk or cream and how much she wanted, if she wanted sugar. The lady’s shame was turned into joy, enjoying the moment to be treated like a queen. Asked if she needed anything else, she answered no. The two servers walked her to the door, then came back to clean up the floor. I couldn’t help but to go up to the two servers and thank them for their good service and kind heart.

One might argue that coffee is different from a seat on a plane. But there is so much United Air can learn from how Starbucks treats non-paying, troublesome customers, so United Air can treat their paying customers with more respect.

To illustrate the gravity of the United Air’s narcissistic business practices, someone came up with the following restaurant analogy. Can you imagine that you went to a restaurant to eat. You sat down. Ordered your food and actually paid for it. With the food you ordered and paid for placed in front of you, the owner of the restaurant came out and told you his employee needed to eat before taking his next shift and asked you to get out of your seat so his employee can eat your plate that you paid for. You refused. You were upset.  You insisted to eat the plate of food you paid for. The owner sent in two security guards, assaulted you, then threw you out of the restaurant. As ridiculous as it sounds, that is exactly what United Air did: bullying and cheating their customer, when they assaulted a customer who has fully paid his fare and had boarded the plane, then got dragged off the plane just because the airline’s employees needed that seat that was rightfully the customer’s.

When the company is obsessed by greed for profit, they lose sight of customers. Customers become their inconvenience.  Such abandonment of respect creates a very toxic culture for the company that will eventually crumble the company.

The contrast between Starbucks and United Air is far too profound and significant. Good company culture always starts with the top.




Communicating Innovations Effectively


Like all other inventors, I often get pre-occupied with the technical engineering and architectural details of the solution of a problem. These details sometimes would eventually be evolved into an invention, captured as a patent filed and/or a publication being published. Once these technological details have been thought through over and over again, they form a  crystal clear mental picture in my head. Knowing that this may never have been done before, it drives an euphoric thrill in me. Because these details become so obvious to me, it locks me into a mental state that I want to share it with anyone who cares to listen, especially those who have the capacity to help to further its adoption, as if everyone should be able to grasp it easily.

It took me a while to be awaken to the most deadly blind spot of all inventors: when I get myself to such a mental state of clarity of any invented solution and appreciate of its coolness and its novelty, a common mistake of all inventors, myself included, is to become locked-in our own chains of thoughts and lost the perspective of seeing it from the outside. As a result, inventors communicate our innovations in a manner that others, who are not trained in the field and/or have not gone through the thinking process, could not possibly relate or understand, let alone appreciate the coolness of its advancement.

Effective communication of our inventions is critical for technology adoption.

I  think most inventors can relate to this hurdle.

This four minutes TED talk on “Talk Nerdy To Me” by Melissa Marshall addresses how to get out of that inventors’ locked state and to communicate our innovation effectively. It helps me a lot. Hope this helps other innovators as well.