I have a friend who says, “Good wine, good friends and good stories go together.” I would put some good food in that mix also, but I agree. I have a group of former co-workers who make it a priority to organize a trip at the beginning of every year. In January or February, we trek off to a land of rolling hills covered in grape vines, rent a big bunk house for everyone and explore the area in search of good stories.As a big believer in combining work and play, I always look forward to these trips, which are great opportunities to collect stories and factoids to use in presentations. Last year, we visited the Santa Ynez Valley. This year, we went a little farther north, to Paso Robles. Just living in a house for three days with colleagues who work in many varied industries and disciplines inevitably yields a few stories.
For example, I learned from a Cisco engineer that they have come up with a way to incentivize their tech savvy staff to self support their company-issued technology, such as cell phones and laptops. Cisco associates can choose from a wide array of tech gear. They don’t have to use the company designated laptop and software bundle. But, they will have to support the gear by using their internal network of peers, wikis and forums to solve technical issues. What does Cisco get? Cost savings on tech support, more technically proficient associates and happy workers with the most current “toys.”
This a great story, we all know these characters. Some of us even profess to be the new chic geek. So, we can relate. Many of us understand the urge to have the most recent tech toys. We were all surprised at first by Cisco’s decision. Then, it was clear there is a lesson to be learned. The same old way of doing business is just not good enough. A simple change can yield many positive returns. This story could be used to inspire many to innovate if that was a topic for a presentation.
Then another fun factoid came from one of the winery visits. A wine maker with a deep tan and dirt under his finger nails described how, in certain low lying areas, when drier conditions follow wetter periods, a mold can develop on the grapes. This is called botrytis, more commonly known to the viticulture industry as noble rot. The grapes begin to shrink and moisture is pulled from the fruit. But, the wine maker explained, he can take these grapes that are unpalatable in appearance and smell and still squeeze out a little wine. In the pressing, he will only get a tenth of the wine he would normally get from the other grapes. The fungus removes water from the grapes, leaving behind a higher percent of solids, such as sugars, fruit acids and minerals. This results in a more intense, concentrated final product and a dessert wine that can be sold for a premium.
Again, I am sure you see the crescendo in the story and the lesson learned. If you ever have a moldy smelly, unpalatable situation, this story would work to make the audience think about how to squeeze out a profitable solution.
There were many good stories out of the group. While we have a commitment to collecting and sharing stories, it’s also a great time to spend balancing work, love and play. I challenge you to always be on the lookout for great stories.
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