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    Published on: June 14, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    Beyond a staggering array of wonderful performances, there was a really sound reason why businesspeople should have watched this past weekend’s broadcast of the Tony Awards for Broadway excellence. It came down to this:

    Reinvention is real, but it requires some out of the box thinking.

    No matter what your line of work, you have numerous business challenges these days and I would never downplay them. But think for a moment about the challenges of succeeding in live theater in the age of endless choices of television networks, streaming video, traditional movies and countless other entertainment options. Against that backdrop how could live performances at incredibly high prices possibly win?

    Heck, if you Google the phrase “The theater is dead,” you’ll find nearly 100 million references.

    But it’s not dead and the answer again is reinvention.

    In many ways the Tony’s were dominated by a single show, the smash musical “Hamilton,” that in many ways demonstrates just how far you can think outside the box and succeed.

    "Hamilton" is about one of America’s most important, yet lesser-known Founding Fathers. We rarely wax nostalgic about the founding of the mint, the central bank or the entire system of a federal government. No one curls up at night with a dog-eared copy of the Federalist Papers. So who would want to see a show about the guy responsible for all of them?

    What’s more, imagine that show set to rap and hip-hop music - a style I bet many of us don’t appreciate - and filled with minority actors playing the roles of all the Founding Farmers, who were famously not minorities.

    Yet just try to get a ticket and if you do, prepare for sticker shock.

    So what can we learn from this?

    First, hard work always matters. "Hamilton" wasn’t an overnight success. The show’s creator/star/resident genius Lin-Manuel Miranda spent years working on the project and is now supported by an incredible team. Not a thing that happens in the show came lightly or easily.

    Second, don’t let accepted assumptions stop innovation. It’s incredible to think that a rap/hip-hop show is so popular, yet it is. I’ve talked to people in my age group who have managed to snag a ticket and the reviews are always the same. They all went in expecting it to be overrated, expecting to hate the rap style and they all emerged calling "Hamilton" the best show they have ever seen.

    Third - and to paraphrase Forrest Gump - boring is as boring does. Miranda tells the story of the country’s birth and Hamilton’s journey in a way that everyone from school kids to grandparents love and he does it while staying true to facts. History, like so many things in life, shouldn’t be boring if we tell it right. The mundane can always be made exciting.

    I’m sure there are countless other lessons, but like so many others I have yet to score a ticket to "Hamilton." When that moment finally comes (and donations are welcome if Lin-Manuel Miranda happens to be an MNB reader) I promise to write more.

    In truth, there were countless other great lessons from the Tony’s last night, demonstrating how this part of the entertainment industry successfully is fighting to retain business, profitability and relevance in a very different age. It comes from new approaches to old problems, involving new people and taking some stunning risks.

    Success is never guaranteed and, in fact, many shows fail. Then again, Alexander Hamilton himself was never certain the American experiment would succeed.

    Sometimes you need to apply some revolutionary thinking.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:
    By the way ... anybody who comes up with two tickets to "Hamilton" for Michael and me gets in exchange a month's advertising on MNB. Just in case Michael's pitch for tickets wasn't blunt enough.

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Washington Post has a story about an outbreak of random violence that took place in a ShopRite grocery store in New Windsor, N.Y., about 60 miles north of New York City.

    The facts of the case seem both clear and disquietingly vague. The victim was in the produce aisle, when the assailant came up behind him and slit his throat using a folding box cutter knife. The victim died later in a local hospital. The assailant, who vanished into the background of the crowded store, later was identified via surveillance footage, was arrested and charged with second degree murder.

    However, the investigation also suggests that there was no connection between the two men, no altercation that led to the attack. While the attacker was known around town and believed to be unstable, there was nothing to indicate that he would commit such a crime.

    I'm not sure what the lesson is here, nor the usual Eye-Opening conclusion. But I do think that we're living in a world ever more fraught with violence, and that these kinds of violent outbreaks - both big and small - certainly will lead to a higher level of awareness, and perhaps even a sense of paranoia. We'll feel it as people, and we'll feel it as institutions. And I fear that we will as a result lose a bit of our humanity.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    Good piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning about how, "under growing pressure from discounters and online rivals, supermarkets are trying to transform themselves into places where customers might want to hang out rather than just grabbing groceries and heading home."

    The examples include stores that feature yoga classes, cigar sections, putting greens and spa treatments - anything that draw the bricks-and-mortar stores are standing in sharp relief compared to the online shopping experience.

    You should read it here.
    KC's View:
    I cannot help but think about this story within the context of this morning's Eye-Opener about random violence in the aisles of a supermarket ... especially because one of the stores cited in the Journal piece is a ShopRite (though not the same ShopRite in which the knife attack took place).

    The argument here always has been that while I am not anti-store, I am not in favor of bricks-and-mortar stores that don't work overtime to establish a pattern of evolving relevance to a changing and highly diverse and differentiated consumer class. That's what the stores cited in the Journal story are doing, and I'm all in favor of it. But then I think about the random acts of violence that we see taking place across the country, and I wonder if an ever-increasing percentage of the population will prefer to stay at home, to shop online, to watch a movie or play a game in the safety of their living rooms. If so, these instincts will have an impact not just on the conduct of commerce, but also the fabric of our society.

    Again, I have no answers. But I think that we all have to be thinking about these questions.

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that "Kroger is aggressively expanding its ClickList service across markets in the U.S., allowing customers to order groceries online and pick them up at stores.

    "The move stakes Kroger's claim in the volatile, but rapidly growing e-commerce market for groceries. It also comes as a non-traditional rival has elbowed its way into the industry: Amazon. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is growing its Prime Now service – now available in 27 U.S. cities, including Cincinnati."

    While Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen says that the company is going "all-in" on the technology, he is not specific about how many of Kroger's markets will have ClickList by the end of the year.

    The story goes on: "McMullen downplayed Kroger's growing rivalry with Amazon, but analysts say the Seattle behemoth has Wal-Mart and traditional grocers scrambling. Last fall, Wal-Mart slashed its profit outlook, citing a need to heavily reinvest in e-commerce and other initiatives."

    In a related story, the Hutchinson News in Kansas reports that "Dillon Stores announced last week the launch of its new online grocery-ordering system, ClickList, at its Dillons Marketplace store at 21st and Maize in Wichita."
    KC's View:
    There's a line from Fast Company that I'm fond of quoting...

    “The companies that fail to reinvent their business models can quickly become vulnerable to commoditization, obsolescence, or business failure."

    Kroger knows this. Amazon, by the way, knows this. The companies that don't know this ... and don't act on it ... are facing a long (or maybe short) slide into irrelevance and eventual nonexistence.

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    Marketplace, on National Public Radio (NPR), had an interesting story the other day about how churches are grappling with the fact that people don't carry money the same way they used to. They use credit and debit cards, and they increasingly shop online.

    "Research is showing over 80 percent of population, they do not carry more than $50 in their pocket," Mary Paxton, who directs philanthropy and stewardship for United Church of Christ, tells Marketplace. "So if you're sitting in church and it's time for the offering plate, you may only have $3 or $5, versus if you have your credit card."

    And so churches are trying various techniques to make it easier for the devout to support them. There are, for example, some churches that install kiosks in the church vestibule so that people can dip their cards and make contributions. One church actually posts a text code in the sanctuary so that people can donate via text message while sitting in the pew. Churches also can establish websites via which people can give.
    KC's View:
    The lesson is clear - that every business, including the institutions in the business of saving souls, has to adapt to consumer trends if they want to survive, as opposed to counting on consumers to come to them and do it their way.

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    The Chicago Sun Times reports that McDonald's Corp. has signed a lease that will move the company out of its longtime Oak Brook, Illinois, headquarters, and into downtown Chicago, 18 miles to the east.

    The new headquarters will be in the complex that formerly housed Oprah Winfrey's television studio and HARPO production company.

    In a statement, McDonald's said that the move from the suburbs to the city will allow it to create a space that is "a modern setting that fosters collaboration and connectivity.”

    McDonald's actually was headquartered in Chicago from 1955 to 1971, at which point it moved to the suburbs.

    The company said that the move will be concluded by the spring of 2018, and will include its Hamburger University operations.
    KC's View:
    If the McDonald's folks think they are going to find the keys to new cars under the chairs at the HARPO studios, they're going to be disappointed.

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    • The Seattle Times reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking to fine Amazon $350,000 "for what they say was an improper packaging job for a gallon-size container of corrosive drain cleaner." The FAA says that "some of the 'Amazing! LIQUID FIRE' drain cleaner Amazon shipped through UPS from Louisville, Ky., to Boulder, Colo., wound up leaking, giving nine UPS workers a 'burning sensation.'

    "The FAA says the box wasn’t packaged correctly, didn’t have a shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods nor any other indication that it carried something potentially hazardous. The agency also says the tech and retail giant didn’t include emergency-response information with the package nor appropriately train the employees who handled it."

    According to the Times, "The accusation underscores the logistical and regulatory complexities Amazon faces in its role as the world’s one-stop shop for everything from horse-head masks to advanced laboratory equipment."

    The FAA says that Amazon has a history of flaunting hazardous-materials regulations; Amazon says that it takes such shipping issues seriously, has developed "sophisticated technologies to detect potential shipping hazards." and will continue to work with the FAA to improve his processes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that a new analysis from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health of "12 published studies and health information from more than 786,000 participants" has concluded that "people who ate 70 grams of whole grains per day, compared with those who ate little or no whole grains, had lower risk of premature death ... Whole grains also lowered the risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease, the study found."

    It is said that "this is the first analysis of this type linking whole grains to mortality risk."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    Variety reports that actor Michu Meszaros has passed away. The cause of death was unknown. He was 76.
    KC's View:
    Okay, I know this seems both random and totally obscure, even for me. But I had to take note of this story.

    Meszaros, you see, used to play Alf on the eponymous 1980s sitcom about the furry alien who crash-lands on earth and ends up living with a typical American midwestern family. He didn't play Alf in every scene - in closeups, Alf was manipulated by puppeteers, and he always was voiced by series creator Paul Fusco. But in scenes and master shots where Alf's entire body was seen, the costume was worn by Meszaros, who stood three inches under three feet tall.

    The reason I mention all this is that just the mention of "Alf" makes me smile. "Alf" was on from 1987 to 1989, and my oldest son, David, was born in 1986. When he was just a year old, we'd used to sit on the couch on Monday nights and watch "Alf," and laugh together at the dumb jokes and imitate Alf's voice to each other and just have a terrific old time. (My recollection is that Mrs. Content Guy would find something else to do, and would roll her eyes at us.) But we enjoyed ourselves immensely ... and yesterday, after I emailed him the Meszaros obit (David lives in Chicago now, writing and acting and working for a cable company's marketing department), we agreed that "Alf" represented part of us growing up together.

    I love my son. I loved those evenings, and I love those memories.

    I think we all have such memories, of moments shared and connections made. I just wanted to share one of mine this particular morning.

    Published on: June 14, 2016

    Yesterday, I wrote a bit about Orlando. I'd been in the city over the weekend, and had some thoughts about how and where hate grows. Nothing terribly insightful pr provocative, I thought ... just musings that seemed relevant because I'd been in the city when and where the biggest gun massacre in the nation's history took place.

    That's not to say my thoughts didn't provoke some MNB readers.

    One MNB user wrote:

    The horrible tragedy in Orlando was yet another case of Islamic Jihad.  It had nothing to do with “toxicity in our culture”.  It is their culture - Islamic Jihadists want to kill Americans, Europeans, Christians, Jews, LGBT’s.  They spread their terror upon the West indiscriminately.  No amount of love and tolerance for LGBT’s in America is going to change their mind.   Omar Mateen called 911 in the middle of his shooting rampage to announce his support of ISIS.  Why didn’t President Obama include this fact in his speech?  He couldn’t even include the phrase “Islamic Jihad”, but did use the word “hate” multiple times.  You seem to follow his lead.   
    We can’t solve a problem that we remain unwilling to call by its real name.

    And from another reader, precisely as written:

    Kevin, the shooting happened for one reason and one reason only, ISLAMIC TERROSISM!! Your pride and joy Obama simply refuses to call it what it is and refuses to take the battle to them. If your too stupid to take the battle to them, guess what? they bring the battle to us. I'm watching a new conference right now and Obama still refuses to call it what it is.
    This world is full of hate on both sides of the political spectrum but this hatred eventually goes away after years of generations and understanding that cultures change over time. Islamic Terrorists are built on hate, pure and simple. There is no changing their minds or any cultural shift over time.  

    I feel sad for the victims and their family as do almost every normal adult. We stop this by dropping political correctness and take a firm stance on anyone showing any type of hatred towards the USA.

    Just for the record ... in my original piece, I mentioned neither political party, nor any political candidate. Deliberately.

    From MNB reader Genevieve Lee Aronson:

    Kevin - I frequently read your posts on Morning News Beat – and wanted to just say that I was moved and touched by your post this morning on the recent Orlando shooting.   Since you were in the area for GMDC, I’m sure it was a scary and different experience than what others experienced (in being a bit more geographically removed, and not in the same city)  – glad you weren’t anywhere near that part of town, though.   That said - I was glad to see that you shared your thoughts, your questions on the world we are creating for our kids and most importantly, your note of gratitude. 

    Thank you for sharing.  It was a nice post.

    MNB reader Jack Di Salvo wrote:

    Been an everyday reader of MNB for several years and I rarely write a comment.  Your statement was so well written and cogent that I had to give you a complement.
    Agree.  The answers are not easy, but someone in leadership has to take the first step.

    From MNB reader Scott Uguccioni: 

    Thank you for your compassion.  As a company that originated here in Central Florida, the Barnie’s team along with the community is remaining strong.  Such a shame when incidents like this occur in general, but when they happen in your own backyard, it’s grounding. 
    I hugged my wife and kids too last night.

    And from another MNB reader:

    Americans citizens, it appears, (largely) have forgotten that the only way we maintain true freedom in our country for ourselves is by respecting others diverse beliefs and honoring and protecting their rights just as stringently as we would our own…because in the end their rights are our rights.

    My Dad & I don’t always believe the same things or have the same opinion on political topics but he did instill in me this - The only way Christians will continue to have their freedom of religion is by allowing all other religions to have their right to their own religious beliefs protected. You don’t have to agree with them or agree with what they believe but you have to believe in and support a country where they have the right to believe what they believe.

    If Christians are the majority…which they still are…and they decided to make it illegal to practice the Islamic faith..then think ahead…what happens when the Muslim population outnumbers the Christian population? That’s right suddenly Christianity gets outlawed..or maybe denied access to even living here. Sounds like Nazi Germany? That’s why protecting OTHER PEOPLES RIGHTS is just as important as fighting to protect YOUR OWN belief’s…otherwise we are simply rule by majority and that is a fast track to dismantling our own freedom and rights.
    This in my opinion is how the founding fathers legislated tolerance…you don’t have to agree with them but you have to allow them to believe what they believe.

    On another, less sobering topic, MNB user David Hegle wrote:

    I was surprised and delighted to witness your discovery of the Roomba! I genuinely thought robo-vacuums had reached the level of common knowledge.
    You might enjoy this Parks & Recreation clip (quintessential silliness from a favorite show):
    They actually do a good job fully explaining a Roomba for people who might not be familiar (way back in 2010!)

    I guess I need to do more vacuuming...
    KC's View: