Video motivation

Videos can be a powerful way for speakers to get their messages across.

After 30 years of covering association conferences for three magazines, I’ve encountered two types of motivational speakers. There is the guru, who carries around with him or her a briefcase full of platitudes designed to make you feel good about yourselves and get yourselves fired up to take on the world.

Then there is the inspirer, usually someone who has overcome great odds or hardship such as blindness or a missing limb to accomplish a tremendous feat. The inspirer is supposed to make us realize that if he or she can be successful, so can we.

In my experience, both types of speakers accomplish their goals in the heat of the moment. But most of us fail to carry the messages back with us once we leave the conference, or reality strikes us so hard once we return to our jobs that the inspiration fades to black very quickly.

Because one of my main goals in attending a foodservice conference is to network with operators, track trends and come up with story ideas, I have learned that motivational speakers are a good time for me to get caught up on emails, phone calls or overdue copy for the magazine. So I almost ducked out of the opening session of the 2014 AHF National Conference this week.

Something stopped me, however. I think it was because the opening session was not a speaker, but a pair of speakers—a husband-and-wife team, no less. That intrigued me enough to stay in my seat. I am so glad I did.

Kevin and Jackie Freiberg, who bill themselves not as motivational speakers but as “leadership experts,” didn’t fill their 75 minutes with words we are used to hearing from such speakers. There were no “rah-rah” moments, no exhortations to get fired up and carry that back to your operations and infect your teammates. Instead, the message I came away with was simply this: It’s easier to think outside of the box than you think.

Using real-life examples and tying their message very carefully to their audience, the Freibergs explained that “innovation is everyone’s job.” They didn’t challenge attendees to go back and fire up their teams. They simply laid out some ways that operators can encourage innovations in their units. Here are a few:

  1. You have to make it safe for people to question the “unquestionables”.
  2. Trade “yeah, but ...” for “what if ...”
  3. Creativity loves constraints; limitations can lead to great innovation.

This last one surprised me at first, because I was thinking in terms of having my hands figuratively tied, preventing me from thinking outside the box. But then the Freibergs showed a video of a poor rural town in Paraguay, where residents make musical instruments out of trash they collect from a nearby dump. The sight of people, especially young ones, making music on cellos, violins, flutes and other instruments shaped from discarded 55-gallon drums, pipes, cans and the like was the best possible example of that message in action.

So my takeaway was not words on paper, like a plaque on a desk that you look at when you want to be “inspired.” Instead, it was an image, burned into my brain, of what thinking outside the box truly means. That alone was more than worth my time.

Keywords: 
new concepts

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
packaged meals

While the multiple-choice questions on FoodService Director’s annual census surveys are a great way of gathering data on trends, I’ve always been rather partial to the open-ended queries. We can’t possibly think up every answer operators might have to a particular question, and it gives respondents a chance to show some personality as well. (A special nod to one cheeky operator’s not-quite-safe-for-work response to how they’re tackling shortened lunch periods—you made my day.)

So this year, for the first time since I’ve been at FoodService Director, I chose to include a very open-...

Menu Development
ramen bowl spoon chopsticks

Asian noodle soups are a popular lunch option at YouTube’s San Bruno, Calif., campus, says Trent Page, the GM at Bon Appetit Management who runs the company’s three corporate dining venues. But Page noticed an increasing preference for customizable dishes and vegan preparations among the 1,000 customers he feeds daily. Inspired by a recent visit to Japan, he introduced tsukemen to the menu—a dish that features most of the traditional ramen ingredients (noodles, eggs and vegetable garnishes) served separately so diners can mix and match. “Separating the components makes it more customizable...

Ideas and Innovation
chicken dinner

For the last three years, we’ve hosted an event called Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner. We sponsor the local chapter of Future Farmers of America to raise the chickens, and we have to arrange all the transporting from farms to the distributor, which keeps the birds in a freezer until we’re ready. We build hype by having students vote on the proprietary spice blend they would like on the chicken. It helps the nutrition team get involved in the educational process and showcase local food purchasing.

Ideas and Innovation
employees generation multicultural

We are no longer short staffed, ever. On a given day, missing two team members from a team of 50 would leave us 96% staffed. The actual choice of wording places a positive emphasis on those that did come to serve our guests and patients. We no longer use the phrase “short staffed”; this is a game-changer when we are challenging ourselves as culture facilitators or leaders.

FSD Resources