Parting Shots from Ottawa Bluesfest 2010

Luckily I got most of the shots I wanted before Bluesfest started enforcing a ban on ‘people with nice cameras‘. At one event I was asked to put away my camera, while the guy behind me continued to videotape the entire show… wha? I will assume that they didn’t discriminate against me because my lens was white.  🙂

That one negative experience aside, I really enjoyed the music at this year’s Bluesfest, and taking pictures of some of my favourite performers!

Here is my last selection of shots, from Matthew Good and Crowded House.

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IMG_7815 Clap for me... like I care...
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THIS is ‘Drummer Face’

Security didn’t like me, but I managed to get a bunch of shots of Matthew Good last night at Ottawa Bluesfest. Apparently their camera policy has changed for the second week, probably based on the realization that camera technology has advanced so far that people were taking 1080p HD bootleg video that was of similar quality to the pro’s.

They seemed to be picking on people with big cameras, particularly ones like my trusty ‘Light Bazooka’. Meanwhile, the guy behind me with a tiny camera took video of the entire show.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. Some people don’t know what it is when I say ‘drummer face’; I saw such a good example of this last night that I had to do this post! This is the drummer from Matthew Good’s backing band (name please?).

IMG_7795 Classic Drummer Face!
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RUSH v. The Light Bazooka

I carried my trusty ‘Light Bazooka’ to try and capture one of my favourite –and oft-maligned*– musical acts, RUSH. I arrived over an hour early hoping to snag a reasonable mid-field location for the 100-400L to work its magic, but I forgot two important things about RUSH that could thwart the mighty Light Bazooka:

  1. Rush fans are overwhelmingly male, which means my usual height advantage in a typical Bluesfest crowd is negated for picture taking.
  2. Never underestimate how may RUSH fans there are! Even showing up 1.5 hours early I was relegated to the cheap-seats. I had been to big Bluesfest shows already (Metric, B-52’s, Flaming Lips) but this crowd was HUGE.

Below represent my best efforts to capture the 3-hour marathon (particularly for Neil Peart) that was the highlight of my Bluesfest so far!

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*For anyone who think these guys take themselves seriously, come to one show –especially on this tour– and you will find otherwise.

Adrian & His ‘Light Bazooka’ @ Bluesfest

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P.S. If you are wondering what a ‘Light Bazooka’ is, it is my nickname for THIS.

The BEST Mechanic in Ottawa

After my OC Transpo rant, I thought it appropriate to counter-balance that with a review of a company I LOVE to do business with.

Apple? BMW? Starbucks? Bridgehead? All good guesses… but I want to talk about Dakota Automotive.

I spend a lot of my free time researching employee and customer engagement.  One of my favourite sources for such research is Gallup; you might be familiar with some of their polls.  Their research has revealed that there is an underlying structure to “emotional attachment” to businesses and it is remarkably consistent from industry to industry.  This emotional attachment model is layered much like ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs‘ and includes the following layers:

  • CONFIDENCE (Do I feel safe doing business with this company? Do they deliver on their promises?)
  • INTEGRITY (Will this company treat me fairly? Do they offer fair resolutions to any problems?)
  • PRIDE (Will I feel good about myself if I do business with this company? Do they treat me with respect?)
  • PASSION (I can’t imagine a world without this company.  The company is perfect for people like me.)

Building customer engagement based on this model translates directly into increased profitability, revenue & customer retention. Just one example of this is a customer with pride or passion in a company who will actively promote that company to friends and family (or even on their blog!).  Lots of business leaders/owners have a hard time believing that their customers actually are ‘passionate’ about doing business with them, especially since they don’t see that passion about the business even in their own employees. Paying no heed to customer engagement can lead to something worse than having customers that are unengaged, you can actually make them ‘actively disengaged’.

Before we go there, lets talk about Dakota Automotive and how Andrew (the owner and mechanic) satisfies this emotional attachment hierarchy:

  • CONFIDENCE & INTEGRITY: Andrew sticks to his quotes, even if he low-balled.  While I actually prefer that he gets paid fair value for any work he performs, this clearly shows he is more than willing to deliver on his promises and treats me fairly.  I reward him the best I can by referring business his way, although he has PLENTY of business.  When he does work on your car he is always looking out for potential future problems which he informs you of, with none of the customary ‘hard sell’ pressure you find with other shops.
  • PRIDE: Do I feel good about myself when I do business with him?  Absolutely, he offers great value for the money and he clearly loves what he does.  It feels good to pay someone to perform a task that they enjoy and do so well.  From a respect point of view, his willingness to hear  what I think to be the problem pays great dividends.  He will always listen, ask questions and actively diagnose the problem with me.  This not only is a sign of respect, but helps build trust. In contrast, many mechanics give you that ‘look’ when you try and describe the problem to them that clearly says: “I am just moving my pen to give you the impression I am listening, I actually have no interest in what you are saying, I am just going to get my guy to plug your car into the computer and that will tell us what we need to know”.
  • PASSION: Well, I am writing a blog about him, so that is a pretty good sign that I am one of Dakota’s ‘actively engaged’ customers.  I won’t go as far to say that ‘I can’t imagine a world without this company’, but I will mention something that is very telling: Whenever I consider getting a new car, I have this pang of guilt in my mind that a new car warranty will reduce the business I do with Dakota.  Can you imagine a company that you actually adapt your behaviour to do business with them… by choice!!  What gets me to this level of passion I find hard to understand, but it has a lot to do with contrasts. Andrew is a rare gem amongst a large pool of average or even borderline-criminal people involved in the automotive industry.  He’s the sort of guy that you give money gladly because you know there is great value, it is well-earned, he enjoys his work and is just a plain likeable guy.

Speaking of contrasts, Gallup on ‘actively disengaged’ customers:

These customers harbour substantial negative feelings towards the company. Most actively disengaged could be considered strong candidates for defection to a competitor [where one exists].  Yet many remain with the company –spreading their discontent to other customers or prospects along the way – because of either high switching costs or a sense that the competitor would be no better [or there is no competition]. Their motto is, “Better the devil I know than the devil I don’t.

From my life experience the companies that quickly come to mind here are: Microsoft, OC Transpo, American Express, HSBC, Bell Canada, just about every NA car manufacturer, and George Lucas as a writer/director since about 1983. For each of these I can think of a defining moment (or many) where I was treated with a lack of respect and/or my confidence in them was severely shaken.  I go FAR out of my way to avoid doing business with these companies.

It is on days that I deal with the likes of OC Transpo that I am so especially glad that some businesses can deliver so well on their brand promise, and make their customers feel like a valuable asset to their business.  Luckily for me, I was taking OC Transpo to go pick up my car being serviced by Dakota Automotive.

TEDx Ottawa: A Resounding S.U.C.C.E.S.s!!

TED conferences are mind-blowing, but expensive and far away.  Sp when I heard about the TEDx concept (locally organized TED events) I was excited to hear that an event was being organized in Ottawa!  But how was a local event going to compare to TED conferences which regularly attract the worlds top thinkers?

The same weekend, I was trying to complete my presentation on a very compelling book that my wife bought for me: Made to Stick. This timing was very fortunate for my presentation because TEDx provided so many great examples about how to make ideas ‘Sticky’. I thought I would use the S.U.C.C.E.S.s acronym used by the book to illustrate some of my key take-aways from TEDx Ottawa:

S – Simple: Keep your message core and compact to increase the chance that people remember the one most important thing you want them to act on.

If someone really succeeded in getting their message across, I shouldn’t have to look at my notes! And one great example of this was Bob Ledrew who’s key message was to “Sing your song.”, which was all about remembering what things you were passionate about in your youth, and making sure that you make time for them in adulthood.  His personal story about his rediscovery of his passion for music, and his ‘House’ concerts was very inspiring.

U – Unexpected: If you can break a person’s guessing machine you keep their interest and increase the chance that they will absorb your message.

For me the ‘unexpected’ story that stuck with me most from the day was Ray Zahab‘s story about how he entered a Yukon ultra-marathon, and the mental and physical battles he fought during the race to convince himself that he could finish it.  At the end of the race he then says “Nobody is more surprised than me that I finished this race.” and the race marshall responded: “You didn’t just finish, you won.”

Cindy Chastain and Kip Voytek surprised me by clarifying the difference between ‘cooperation vs. collaboration’, and how most ‘collaboration’ strategies actually are about cooperation.  This surprise caused me to furiously write down their proposed approach to collaboration, which I will use!  As a result, I have a lot more ‘pleasure in not knowing’.  😉

C – Concrete: Everyone will take in your message using their own filters and lenses, you must make your message concrete to ensure that your audience gets your message, regardless of their background.

Images and video are fantastic ways to make your message concrete and accessible to a wide audience.  Najeeb Mirza used a video shot in Afghanistan to illustrate how people around have more in common than you would think!  It made me laugh to see a bunch of turban doffing Afghani tribesmen talking about who had the best cell phone.

Williams Jans‘ message about how ‘Bad Roads Bring Good People’ was driven home by his many great photos and video showing how friendly and happy people can be at the fringes of the inhabited world, and showed the joys (and laughs) of learning new languages!

Finally, Mark Levison talked about how images are ‘Google for the mind’ and there doesn’t appear to be an upper limit to how many images the brain can process.  So many of Mark’s comments echoed the ‘Made to Stick’ concepts that I ended up giving him my copy of the book when I was surprised to find out he hadn’t read it!

C – Credible: To get people to believe your message, you need credibility.  The book has many suggestions on how to accomplish this, but I used some TEDx presenters to illustrate.

Tracey Clarke has credibility for many reasons.  First of all, she is the managing director of Bridgehead Coffee, a company who has beaten the mighty Starbucks at the own game (in Ottawa anyway). This should be credibility enough, but then teaches us more about the dynamics of coffee business than I thought possible in such a short presentation!  Her many stories, pictures and detail about Bridgehead’s stance on coffee supply made me proud to be a Bridgehead customer!

Robert Mittelman, a Kiva Fellow, leant a lot of credibility to Kiva’s microcredit initiatives by his experiences with the program abroad.  It was good to hear how this money was being used, and how the inspiration flows both ways: debtor to creditor, creditor to debtor.

E – Emotional: In order to get people to act on your message, you have to hit them in the heart with it; with emotion comes action.

Mark Blevis and his message of the importance of children’s books really hit me at an emotional level.  It made me realize how I really didn’t recognize the importance of these books in providing children context on how to interpret and interact with their world.  The reminder that this is actually a high art form of imparting messages in a compact way to people with a limited vocabulary.  So is this emotion making me act?  Absolutely.  Just one week after TEDx I am sure I have had at least 4-5 conversations about the significance of children’s books!

S – Story: If you tell your message as a story, there is no way that your audience can remain passive. The act of listening to a story (as opposed to just a bunch of facts) forces the listener to build the mental image of the story as it is told, which increases the chances of the listener remembering it.

Danny Brown‘s presentation was all about story telling, digital storytelling in particular.  He told of the new Star Wars series that lost the viewer because it forgot that telling a human story was the important part, and not all the technology that enables it (actually I think it WAS Jar Jar’s fault).  I really liked how he compared the Millenium Falcon to everybody’s beater first car!

Nothing illustrates the power of story like Jowi Taylor‘s Six String Nation ‘Voyageur’ guitar!!  Every piece of this guitar has a story, and is perfectly united to his message of ‘One Canada’.  There was certainly a lot of emotion in his stories as well, as there were several that brought a tear to my eye, and the passion of Jowi about telling these stories was clearly apparent!  The best part about this guitar is that, for all the stories that are built into this guitar already, the guitar itself is creating so many new stories that are being captured by Jowi.  All Canadians must hear the story of this guitar, and I am certainly doing my small part.

I don’t want to diminish any of the other presentations by their omission here!  I got at least one great nugget from each presentation, and many great discussions with the presenters in the interludes.  It was a fabulous event, exceptionally executed.  Even the box lunch was fabulous!  I hope all people that attend TEDx events around the world are as lucky as we are in Ottawa to have such a great experience!  An experience worthy of the ‘TED’ name!

Who Killed Nortel?

James Bagnall of the Ottawa Citizen has been covering Nortel for a long time, much longer than my time with the company.  It was with great interest that I heard from a co-worker that James was doing an 8-part series called “Who Killed Nortel?”.

Would it tell me things I didn’t know?  Would it point the finger at people I respected?  Would it conclude the collapse was due to bad luck, incompetence, or something more sinister?

Even knowing the series was on the Ottawa Citizen, I found it horribly hard to find the articles and then to navigate them (its improved a bit now that the series is complete).  To save you the same frustration, I collected them here:

I found the series very enlightening.  It points to leadership apathy, a board that lacked knowledge of the telecom industry, bad luck, incompetence, and -of course- the well known financial scandals as contributing causes.

Now that you have seen the ‘balanced view’, you may want to check out the ‘unbalanced’ view for a laugh: Nortel’s Downfall – The Mini-Series

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