July 23, 2009
I love cheering on my friends who are participating in sports because it is a great way to stay connected, to provide meaningful positive reinforcement for the participant, and have fun by participating vicariously. Until now, vicarious participation has been limited by time and proximity or by TV coverage (Olympics, ballgames, etc.). So, unless I have been near enough (and had enough time) to go watch at the friend’s venue or my friend has been an elite athlete that makes TV coverage, I have been relegated to listening to tales and seeing photos later. All that is being changed by customized tracking…
This weekend, a college buddy of mine was crewing on a sailboat that was racing from Chicago to Mackinac (Michigan). During the race, all the boats carried a GPS chip that constantly transmitted data to the iBoat website which then showed the positions and identifying information of all the boats in the race. It was so much fun watching all of the boats race toward Mackinac over the three-day race. As I went about my own weekend, I kept pulling out my iPhone to check-in on the position of my buddy’s boat (the little green dot on the map). What a riot! I would show anyone who would look how my friend was doing in his race – real-time.
Also this weekend, my sister-in-law (SIL) and I ran in a local ½-marathon. Timing was done using RFID technology – a disposable RFID tag was attached to the shoe of every runner. As we crossed the start line, our start time was captured and as we crossed the finish line, our completion time was captured. Because it was a long race, my husband (also SIL’s brother) planned to be back at the finish line to cheer us on (and take our picture). Although we gave him a pretty good estimate (less than 2 hours) of our expected completion time, he tracked our progress via iPhone GPS technology since SIL and I carried phones with remote tracking enabled (my teenagers!). Even though the iPhone tracking worked, it was klugy and not universally available. Imagine what the experience could have been for many others if real-time text-messages (tweets or emails) were being sent via RFID timing portals at milestones along the trail?! I know that I would have paid extra to sign up a for race day texts (or emails or Tweets) as my “bib” number reached various milestones. What an opportunity to create connection and positive reinforcement!
Over the long view, enriching the experiences of others by creating connection and positive reinforcement always pays positive dividends. If you can think of a way to create connection, meaningful positive reinforcement, or camaraderie, as part of your service and/or product, do it because it will build loyalty, returns, and possibly additional revenue! Real-time tracking has added value to many businesses – package delivery, sailboat racing, … I’m hoping that the technology will trickle down to running, cycling, swimming, etc.
I can’t wait to participate vicariously with MORE of my friends through tracking – it will help me stay connected.
Can you create an opportunity to enrich, create connection, and reinforce positively in what you do?
May 21, 2009
As Robert Putnam points out in Bowling Alone: “Strong ties with intimate friends may ensure chicken soup when you’re sick, but weak ties with distant acquaintances are more likely to produce leads for a new job.” Thus, it is not surprising that I might receive a job tip from an informal connection, what is surprising is the durability of the informal connection. Clearly, there is long view importance in cultivating positive relationships with acquaintances because they are durable. You never know when, where, or how reciprocal positives will emerge.
Sometimes benefits of unexpected connections will accrue quickly and sometimes they will emerge over a long time scale. When I reflected back to that weight-lifting class in high school that I wrote about in my last blog post (Inspiration from Rachel Alexandra), I realized that I gained much more from that informal connection to Todd than just an “A” in weight lifting.
Todd’s dad owned a trucking company, so Todd was a skilled truck driver at the tender age of 16. Although we had very little in common (except that fateful weight lifting class), I think my intensity and motivation changed him. As we worked together regularly, he decided that he would teach me to drive an 18-wheel rig.
Being game for an adventure, I took him up on the offer to learn. When I started my “lessons,” I could competently drive a manual transmission (I successfully received a driver’s license at age 14 with a final road test in my brother’s 3-speed 1955 Willy’s Jeep). When I finished my “lessons,” I could drive a 15-speed conventional Kenworth and a 16-speed (dual gearbox) cabover Peterbuilt on the grounds without stalling. I had no fantasies of commercial level skill, but I loved the power of commanding a huge diesel engine. That unique experience allowed me to be especially comfortable around BIG equipment, which has been valuable to my professional career.
Although I haven’t seen Todd since high school, should I run into him again, I would absolutely extend whatever kindness I could on his behalf. Who would have guessed so much could come of a high school weight lifting partnership? It is good practice to be open to diversity and to extend kindness to all those that you meet.
Who will you help today?