Saul Kaplan: Nooks and Crannies

photo-saulNooks and crannies are important to both English muffins and innovation.

I haven’t been able to get a picture of a lightly toasted Thomas’ English muffin with butter and strawberry preserves oozing into those marvelous nooks and crannies out of my head.  Maybe it’s because I’m resisting the temptation while on one of my frequent short-lived diet and exercise delusions.  More likely it’s because of a story that caught my eye last week about an executive who left the company (Bimbo Bakeries, I’m not kidding) that makes Thomas’ English Muffins to join the arch enemy, Hostess Brands.  It seems that Bimbo is suing to prevent the executive from joining Hostess because they suspect he has absconded with and will divulge the secret of how to make English muffins with perfect nooks and crannies.

You heard right.  The row is about protecting the trade secret for creating nooks and crannies in an English muffin.  Bimbo claims there are only seven people who possess the trade secret and of course the executive leaving to make Twinkies is one of them.  I find it hard to believe that only seven people have the know-how necessary to create great nooks and crannies. It sounds more like a marketing ploy. But what do I know.  I thought it was just using a fork to split the muffin!  Think about it.  Samuel Bath Thomas left England headed for America in 1874 with a recipe for his muffin baked on hot griddles.  Surely in over 135 years more than seven people have accumulated the know-how for nooks and crannies. And how are we to know if Samuel Thomas didn’t borrow the formula before heading for fame and fortune in America. Not to accuse Samuel Thomas of pilfering the recipe and starting an English muffin revolution but it does sound eerily similar to Samuel Slater escaping England with the trade secrets for the textile mill, which of course started the U.S. Industrial Revolution!

No surprise that nooks and crannies are the secret to a great English muffin.  Those air pockets allow for both perfect toasting and a natural repository for the aforementioned butter and jam.  So Bimbo Bakery goes to incredible lengths to protect its know-how.  Instead of recipes they use codebooks. Employees are on a need to know basis and only have access to the pages of the codebook necessary to complete their specific task.  They are shielded from the information and people in departments working on other tasks.  It doesn’t sound like a formula for innovation but then maybe Bimbo isn’t interested in innovation.  Perhaps they are  just obsessed with protecting the status quo for the nooks and crannies of English muffin making.

Nooks and crannies are also the secret to great innovation.  Innovators thrive in nooks and crannies and refuse to stay in any silo barred from communicating across them.  They know freely exploring nooks and crannies is the only way to get better faster. Nooks and crannies increase the surface area an innovator can expose to the best knowledge flows and new ideas.  With more surface area comes greater exposure to and absorption of a broader range of ideas, experiences, and capabilities.  A thoughtfully comprised network of unusual suspects increases an innovator’s surface area.  Social media platforms are just nooks and crannies on steroids to an innovator.

Innovators also know that most important innovations emerge from the nooks and crannies between silos, disciplines, and industry sectors.  It is by combining and recombining ideas and capabilities from across silos that innovators create new ways to deliver value.  System solutions for the big social challenges of our time including education, health care, and energy, will only be found if we get more comfortable in the nooks and crannies between us.  Pass the strawberry preserves.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Mathematics of Weight Loss

jyb_musingsWhen you are talking about gaining weight and you have gained a pound, you simply say you gained a pound. If you’ve gained five pounds, you say you gained five pounds. Simple, right?

But talking about weight loss is different.

If you are trying to lose weight and are talking to someone about your success so far, the weight you mention is always the most total pounds lost to date. Even if your weight has fluctuated by a few pounds that week.

For example, I mentioned the other day I had lost 19 pounds in 4 months. And have. I mean had. But I gained two pounds this week. But when asked this morning how my diet was going, I announced confidently that I had lost 19 pounds (not 17 pounds).

I figured it was just pointless to mention and didn’t make me feel as successful.

The rationale, I guess, is that when losing weight we are “in process” and a little backsliding is to be expected but isn’t representative. And we “will” continue to lose weight.

It’s a little like when economists distinguish “constant” dollars and “actual” dollars. Constant dollars are adjusted for inflation. And weight loss is adjusted for aspiration.

As of today, I may have only lost 17 actual pounds, but I have lost 19 pounds when adjusted for aspiration.

Julie Rath: Wake Up that Navy Blazer!

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, excuse me, someone was talking to me about navy  blazers, and I fell asleep.

The idea of navy blazers typically conjures memories of a first trip to  Brooks Brothers for a rite of passage Sunday jacket, gold buttons and all. But not all navy blazers have to be a snoozefest. In fact,  there are ways to take this conservative stalwart and give it a good shake-up. Read on for 5 tips on how to make a navy blazer your own:

1) Get it tailored so that it FITS you. I’ve you’re a  current Rath & Co. client, or if you’ve been following me for some time, you  know I’m a stickler for clothes that fit perfectly. So if you have a navy blazer  that’s been hanging around your closet for a while, and the fit is within  striking distance (the first thing to check is if it’s right across the  shoulders), take it to a tailor you trust, and have him or her check the rest,  including waist, arms and length, and make adjustments as needed. You’d be  amazed at the 180 a jacket can take with a few nips and tucks.

Men's Personal Shopper: navy blazer

2) Swap out those trad gold buttons for ones made of horn or  gunmetal, like in the image above of a blazer I designed for a client.  You’ll go from preppy to polished in no time.

3) Rather than standard navy, consider a blue with some kick to it,  like midnight, cobalt or royal. Check out the same shot above of my  client in his spanking new bright blue blazer. (His fiancée wasn’t  complaining.)

Men's Personal Shopper: navy blazer 4) Instead of a solid, try a subtly patterned  fabric, like this tone-on-tone windowpane (above left — you have to  expand the image to see the pattern) I just picked out for a different client. A  blue hounds-tooth or pin-dot (above center and right) would also work, as would  blue tweed in cold weather. From 4 + feet away, these fabrics read as solid, but  up close you can see the extra oomph.


Men's Personal Shopper: navy blazer

5) Wear it casually. This is an entire blog post on its own – much bigger than one bullet point, but I’ll give you the broad strokes. If  you’re bored by the navy blazer-khaki pants routine (or if it just isn’t you),  mix it up by pairing your blue blazer with casual pieces: with jeans, layered  over a t-shirt and hoodie or cardigan, with a casual (perhaps short-sleeved – no  one will know) shirt in a quirky pattern as seen in the above image and/or with  casual laceups.


How do you like to wear a navy blazer?

-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: An Amazing Person?

jybFam_picI secretly miss, deep down, that feeling of being an amazing person….in my home, at least, when my children were 6 and 10.

I may have been just another schmo at work. But at home I was a master and maestro to my children at every new activity. Or seemed to be.

I remember blowing giant bubbles for the first time in our backyard that amazed both my children and made them feel like their dad was truly special. I seemed to just “know” how to blow giant bubbles effortlessly–something new to them. They felt proud and believed, deep down, that their dad was probably a better bubble blower than any of the other dads on our street. And maybe in our entire neighborhood. Heck, that day I felt that they believed I was probably a better bubble blower than any dad anywhere.

It was a good feeling. Even though I knew I was probably just a little above average at bubble blowing.

Now our kids are 16 and 20. And they know how to blow bubbles and fly kites and draw in the sand and go sledding and they even know all the grown-up tricks to win at hide-and-go-seek.

jyb_musingsAnd I’m just not as amazing a person as I used to be. I just feel like I’m out of tricks. And pulling a quarter out of one of my children’s ear would just irritate them and make me feel cheap for only pulling out a quarter for them instead of a dollar bill.

Maybe it’s time for a David Copperfield-esque mega magic trick where I make something amazing disappear.

And then I realize that something amazing has already disappeared.

Josh Bowen: Food Prep

“You either prepare to succeed or prepare to fail…there is no in-between.”


You have great intentions. You want to eat better. You want fitness results. But you didn’t bring any food to work today. So you go out with the rest of the crew and eat Mexican.

Is this you?

Professor JB here! I am prepared to take you through a course of food preparation. But first lets digress on why you would prepare your food:

1. Selection- I find that clients that prepared their meals ahead of time select better foods. Clients that do not prepare meals, tend to select whatever is available. Selecting whatever is available is a great way of messing with your fitness results.

2. Cost Effective- Today I fixed 3lbs of chicken and a half pound of rice. This will last for 10-12 meals. The total cost $60 or $5-6 per meal. To eat out and get the same meal would cost $10-15. That is a savings of $5-10 per meal. In other words, prepare your meals.

3. Results- Everyone wants results but few are willing to do what it takes to get them. If you want results, prepare your meals. It is that simple.

Now let us get down to the “nitty gritty” on how to prepare your food.

1. Prepare ahead of time- Take a day or two and prepare your meals for the week. Plan what you are going to have (in accordance of your goals) each day and only cook what you need.

2. Keep it simple- Try your best to keep it simple. A great protein source, a steamed vegetable and a small amount of carbohydrates (depending on goal) is a great way to prepare your meals.

3. Variety- If you want variety for taste purposes, use different seasoning and sauces to switch it up. Keep the additives to a minimum but also it is important to have fun with your meals. Getting a cookbook and trying different recipes is a great idea as well.

4. Fun- Try you best to look at this as fun, rather than a chore. This process is to help you see fitness results and keep you on track and more efficient.

For you enjoyment, here are some of my lovely clients food prep pictures:

food prep 2

food prep 1

food prep 3

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Marital Advice

jyb_musingsMarital advice

When a husband says that his wife isn’t appreciative enough of him it is like the Grand Canyon saying to a person throwing a small stone into the Canyon, “That isnt enough to fill me up.”

So ladies, please throw in slightly larger stones.

And thanks for throwing “in” and not “at.”


Just for today…

Instead of trying to right a wrong that was done to me, I will forgive the person and never think of the incident again.

Tomorrow I can go back to trying to right wrongs against me.

But only if I have finished today’s assignment.

Lauren Mayer: All The World’s A Stage

. . . and all the men and women merely players, in the immortal words of William Shakespeare (or of Christopher Marlowe, if you subscribe to that theory; or of Family Guy, if you’re like my sons and get most of your cultural references from that show’s parodies). So much of what we do is for public show, from dressing for a special occasion to posting on Facebook to making a speech on the House floor. (And you were wondering how I’d segue from theatre to politics!)

Actually, politics and theatre have merged before, and not just in plays like The Best Man (the 2012 all-star revival of Gore Vidal’s classic about the 1960 President primaries, which I saw with my boys, who weren’t impressed by Angela Lansbury, Eric McCormack, Candace Bergen, or John LaRoquette, but who loved seeing James Earl Jones, a.k.a. Darth Vader . . . but I digress). There have been a few musicals about politics, like 1776, Fiorello, or The Cradle Will Rock – not to mention the political undercurrents in Urinetown, Les Miz, Miss Saigon, Evita, and so on. Meanwhile, Congress seems to be getting more and more theatrical, with hearings, speeches, and posturing taking the place of actual legislation.

So before someone beats me to the punch, I thought I’d better jump in and stake out my own territory here.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Horse Racing Capital of the World

jyb_musingsPardon this brief political and commercial announcement about the importance of supporting our local industries.

Let’s make sure we don’t ever let another state become the Horse Racing Capital of the World.

Sure the jobs and economy are important.

But imagine what we could end up with instead the first Saturday each May (see below). There’s not a lot to choose from if we lose this proud and well deserved title. Do we really want to become, say, the “Car Touching Capital of the World?” That could be our only option. Think about it. Florida will never concede Dog Racing Capital of the World.

Could we even take that title from Shanghai?

I’m not sure we could. At a minimum we probably couldn’t get Toyota to be the sponsor after last week’s announcement. It’s just a lousy fallback position to have.

It’s just important we think about the consequences of taking our key Kentucky industries for granted. Taking something for granted is usually the last thing you do before feeling really dumb about whatever you are taking for granted.

Car touching, admittedly, has some superficial appeal. But I don’t think it has the potential to have the long proud history comparable to being The Horse Racing Capital of the World.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a few years in the future that post time is about to be announced. For car touching. Billboards featuring car touching images would dot our highways. But it just wouldn’t be the same picking out a special hat or tie for this new annual event.

You get the idea. I’m not sure I’d open my eyes either.

You can open your eyes now, though. And enjoy the grandeur of yet another Kentucky Derby.

Let’s make sure we keep it that way.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Myanmar First Impressions

mynmarMyanmar was not a “scheduled” country on our trip, in fact we knew very little about it until we had our tickets.  Even after reviewing the Lonely Planet, it isn’t too often that you go to a place without a picture in your mind.  Here are the thoughts that crossed our minds in the first days in Myanmar.


I had no idea what to expect when stepping off the plane in Yangon.  Really, no idea, I thought everyone could be riding horses around dirt roads or maybe a neon lit modern country.  The first thing I saw was the airport, which, at a greatly reduced scale, was a dead ringer for the Bangkok airport we had left.  Leaving the customs area, the I was surprised by the calm and quiet.  It was like we had left Asia, there were no hotel touts and taxi drivers, instead, there were locals waiting for their family members to arrive.

The first night we went for a walk and were surprised by the tranquility and darkness.  There were few streetlights in our area, but where there was light we saw very old vehicles and broken down roads.  It reminded me of the outskirts of Havana, until the power went out.  With no power, the dark roads turned pitch black for a few minutes until the roar of generators filled the air and lights came back on.  Returning to our hotel we became horribly lost and started asking for directions, the people we encountered were as helpful as anyone could be, they sincerely wanted to help us, even if that meant leaving their store to show us where to go.

When daylight broke we headed downtown to explore.  It was bustling and busy, but everybody was going about their own business, not hassling us.  Kids didn’t follow us peddling trinkets.  Men didn’t chase us offering taxi rides.  Tour guides weren’t posing as friendly locals trying sell you a tour. While this looks like Asia, it is actually an alternate universe; we had entered the Twilight Zone.

I am looking forward to exploring Myanmar as everything I have encountered I have loved.  The locals are helpful and friendly.  The food is delicious, offering some of my favorites including Roti Pratha and proper, flakey, pastries.  I am looking forward to what else I will find here.

Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Myanmar First Impressions

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Four Kinds of People

jyb_musingsThere are four kinds of people in the world.

There are those who say “You can’t do that.”

And there are those who say, “I just did.”

Then there is the group who says, “I told them that they couldn’t do that in here and that they were going to get in trouble if they didn’t stop…but they went ahead and did it anyway. I couldn’t believe it and was about to call and tell on them but couldn’t find find my phone.”

And finally there is the fourth group who says, “Phst. I could do that much better than they did. I just don’t want to right now. You can use my phone if you want to.”

We could probably use a fifth kind.

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