Posts by jcuene

Digital marketing & innovation leader. Founder of Fahren. Previously at GoKart Labs, General Mills, Ameriprise. MPLS. Husband to Andrea, father to 2. Lover of bikes, food, beer and rock'n'roll.

Don't Blame the McKinsey Messenger

What Problem Were You Trying to Solve When You Hired The Consultants?

(warning: this is a hot take).

I want to stand up and cheer for this series of posts from Zeus Jones, but i kind of also want to call BS. I agree with 90% but think their setting up the wrong strawman.

Who wants to be the one defending the classic management consulting firms? Not me, but to a certain degree, any professional service provider who’s talking to a client about “digital” or innovation (or the related work) is a management consultant. Including my firm and Zeus Jones. 

I don’t think management consulting is going away. We get hired to provide external perspective, experience-informed recommendations, and to shine the light on the right problems to solve. We provide short term support to get our clients through complex issues where a different perspective can actually create clarity.

I completely agree that the problem is cultural, that there’s something glitched in the DNA of most companies, and they won’t accept the injections from great consulting firms like Zeus Jones.

I also believe that every organization will need to be more adaptable, open, creative, empathetic, collaborative, etc. Whatever, but yes to working differently.

I love the framework of Imagination and Ingenuity. it works on a lot of really smart levels, and every company would benefit from both. It’s the really smart, swaggery, controversy-baiting thought leadership that great firms like Zeus are known for. It’s not dissimilar to the kind of thought leadership that gets companies like Ideo, Redscout, Frog Design hired. To consult with leaders. To solve problems and change their businesses. You know: Consultants to management.

But, let’s focus on the core problem: Leadership and the courage to play the long game. Consultants get hired by good, smart people to help them make hard decisions. If those decisions don’t lead to the right outcomes that’s probably because someone made the wrong decision and/or the execution fell apart.

I think the real villain is the concept of “Maximize shareholder value on a quarter by quarter basis” and i think the evil assistant is probably private equity (which drives orgs to forsake long term investments in favor of doubling down on “now”). And, then throw in unbelievable executive compensation formulas  that front loads options and equity.

I’ll be thinking about this series of articles for a while, which is exactly what the provocative folks at Zeus wanted!

"Open Source" Money; Disruption Requires Breaking Some Rules

This article on Mastercard’s withdrawal from the Libra project is interesting reading if you’ve been following the “open source” money ideas. Libra was launched with a bunch of fanfare and equal parts skepticism, but the backing of large companies like Mastercard implied a seriousness and stability that would be needed to get it off the ground.

One of the reasons it’s reported that MasterCard pulled out is because the Libra project couldn’t provide a clear, hard commitment to comply with “local” laws and regulations in every government zone, municipality, and state where it would operate. This is important when there are issues around data management, privacy, and accessibility.

But, I’d guess the real reason is more like this:

Analysts also fret that as digital wallets such as Apple Pay or India’s Paytm gain traction, and more transactions are conducted on big tech platforms such as those belonging to Google or Amazon, Mastercard’s place in the payments ecosystem will become less prominent.

You can’t make mega innovations like Libra work without breaking some rules and facing down your own existential crisis. (Unless you’re Jack Dorsey)

Yes to the Leadville Jitters: Aspire to Do Epic Stuff

Today I find out if I have to dig deep in August. 

Thousands of nut jobs enter the lottery to get in to the Leadville Trail 100 MTB each year, and this year, against my better judgement,  I threw my name in, too.  I’m both excited and worried that I might “win” the lottery. If I do get in, i’m sure I’ll have to go pretty far into my suitcase of courage to get through it.  If I don’t get in, I’ll chalk it up to bad luck and commit to being the best crew member/driver/helper I can  be for my friends who do get in. 

The lottery results are announced today and the time for being ambivalent will be over.  I’ll have to get off the fence and commit one way or another. 

The Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race is one of intimidating monuments of endurance cycling: 103 miles on an out-and-back course covering 10,000 feet of climbing at altitude in the Rockies.  It is 10-12 hours of pain for most racers, a steady mix of grinding trails, harder climbing, and a battle with the dark-side voices in your head. 

I’ve done the race before. After wondering about it for years I finally got in via lottery in 2018. I went with a group of 4 other guys and we all got the portfolio of experiences we were seeking, good and bad. In a lot of ways, the 2018 ride was a peak life experience. I can’t believe I really did it. It seemed almost out of reach before I got to the line. So, completing it created a sense of pride and satisfaction, relief that the plan came together.

But, did I need to do it again?  I wasn’t convinced, yet I said “yes” to adventure and challenge. So, here I am, the day of  the lottery, wondering and waiting and worrying. 

In my heart of hears, I know I really want to take it on one last time. 

I know it’s going to hurt a lot. The ride is just really hard on a middle aged body. 12 hours on the bike is never easy at any rate or on any surface. I remember seeing people crossing the finish line all hunched over from the pain, their backs and arms seizing up with cramps. I’ll have blisters and raw skin in places you wouldn’t expect and I’ll be sore for a week afterwards.  In 2018, coming over the finish line, I was sure I’d be a “one and done” rider. Despite all that, I’m still hoping to get in. 

One one hand, it’s just a bike ride. A stupid long one that is expensive and irrationally hard. With all the craziness in the world right now, it could be seen as a gross indulgence to spend that kind of time and energy on a group ride to the top of the hill and back. On, the other hand,  what better way for  a middle aged laptop jockey like me to remind himself what his body is capable of? Epically stupid bike rides can still be epic challenges. 

Here’s the thing about the epic challenges: They force you to strip away all the bullshit and niceties and civilization. What might have started as a lark – a decision made after the third beer – gets serious really quick. Between now and August 15th, I will need to be committed to a hard plan, and gut my way through a lot of “practice” challenges to make sure I’m ready for the real one. 

To get through ordeals like Leadville, you just have to cut through your rationalizations to the truly primal stuff, you have to go deep down into the basement of your soul and see what’s in there when it’s as hard – physically – as it’s ever been for you. When you take your body to the extreme, your mind and heart have to go along and it becomes a spirit challenge: Do you have it in you or don’t you?  

For me, Leadville was one of those “before & after” experiences. Life “after” my ride in 2018 was more meaningful in ways I’m still trying to understand. I found out some things about myself that I didn’t expect to find and I was surprised at what was revealed (in a good and bad way). 

I’m pretty sure the odds will be in my favor today and I’ll be heading to Leadville to Race on the 15th of August. These things get harder as I get further up the road, but they also become more meaningful. Wish me “luck”!

Product Review: Lasko 3300 Wind Machine

If you’re setting up a training room or, in my case, a cyclists “pain cave”, you gotta think about getting the wind moving around to keep you cool. Living in Minnesota, you can keep the windows open most of the Fall, Winter and Spring, but even with the windows, you need a fan. You wouldn’t think a stupid fan makes that big of a difference in your training, but it does.

Lasko 3300 20″

I’ve tried a couple different box fans and a few standing fans, but i was still not satisfied. After reading a couple different threads on Trainerroad and the Zwift sub on reddit, i took a chance on the Lasko Wind Machine and ordered it from Amazon.

I found the fan i needed. Here’s what i like:

  • It’s cheap ($28 on Amazon when i bought it)
  • It’s light and easy to manage. The chord is long so it can be moved around the room.
  • It moves a lot of air. And, the air can be targeted really well.
  • It’s easy to tilt up and down, making it easy to point the air up/down.
  • Knobs are large and easy to turn when your hands are sweaty.
  • It’s pretty quiet

I would love to see the speed control be on the front of the fan. But that’s a small thing. It’s not going to make the training any easier, but i’m going to be less sweaty when i’m doing it.

Camper / Cracker / Lowery

Due to a random Facebook post, i went deep, deep into a Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven hole. I’ve been listening to most of the older Camper records that i’ve loved for years and “discovering” the more recent Camper releases. The earlier stuff was both dumber and better than i remembered and i LOVED them at the time. But the more recent records are just great recordings. The songwriting is still distinctive, literate, funny and novelistic. They’re even better players now, balancing good, tasteful restraint with just enough showiness.

I kind of stopped listening to Cracker after Kerosene Hat for some reason, so i’m going through the Cracker catalog now and really enjoying getting to know the songs. New to me.

Lowery is one of my favorite writers. He’s way more than a musician; i keep hoping he’s going to turn to novellas, short stories or an autobiography.

I really enjoyed this three hour (!) podcast with two writers from the National Review (!). And the 300Songs.com site is new to me, but you can find a travelogue of sorts masquerading as blog telling the backstory of the Camper Songs.