Friday, November 21, 2014

Customer Equity Management

A few thoughts on Customer Equity Nick Poulos The value of our business is the sum of the value of all our customer relationships The value of your company is equal to the sum of all the revenue from all of your customers. Not exactly the textbook definition. Your CFO, without much grumbling, will allow it, however. Most of us are aware of Paretto’s Law, which would suggest that 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers. A more startling rule is what Kaplan and Cooper call “20/200 Rule.” 20% of our customers return 200% of our profits. While you recover from the shock this statement presents – and, it is verifiable! – it is more important that we realize that there are proven fact-based approaches that lay down a roadmap that allows you to optimize your customers and mitigate the rules. Like your other assets managed in your portfolio, your customers can be viewed as a portfolio of assets, which you can manage proactively. Successful management of your customer portfolio brings a series of cascading benefits to your firm. The primary benefits are your ability to maximize shareholder and stakeholder value; and your ability to optimize your “market coverage strategy.” The latter benefit is vital, since virtually every organization has limited resources. So it is critically important to invest those limited resource in direct proportion to the return we expect to receive from our investment in our primary assets - our customers. Market leaders Target, Segment and Grade their customers. Recognizing that they cannot be all things to all people, their goal is to maximize yield: they want to invest their limited marketing, sales, and service dollars in direct proportion to the return they expect and need. Starting from the point of Targeting and consciously defining a customer; we then work through Ideal Customer identification, Segmentation and Grading (or, valuation). The result allows us to analyze our total customer universe. We can take a further step: Customer equity analysis can be combined with (a modified) activity-based costing (to discover our cost-to-serve), which in turn allows us to optimize our investment in sales, customer service, marketing and with our channels/ channel partners. The models, analytics and tools of the data base, relationship marketer / eCRM practitioner provide a “dot-to-dot” template with which to assure coverage optimization and hence optimal use of the firm’s limited resources. This paper deals with a portion of the process issues and introduces an analytical framework. The technology infrastructure – data- warehouse, CTI for the contact center, the eCRM and/or SCM package are outside the scope of this discussion. Let’s take a look at how the simple pyramid, used to represent graphically our customer universe, can help us understand a little bit more about our own customers and their worth as assets. The Business Issue Since our portfolio of customers represents the primary asset that we must manage, we need to make the most informed investment decisions we can when it comes to investing our resources into this group of assets. Whether the resource is time, money, or people, the optimal allocation of resources is a critical issue, a critical challenge, for almost every business organization, since no enterprise has unlimited resources. The customer relationship marketing models, which have been refined during the past 25 years, provide a critical key to unlock the answer to this problem. In no functional area of business is this resource allocation problem more true than in sales, marketing, and servicing customers and/or prospects. In fact, the search for the optimal allocation of resources in these functional areas is something akin to the search for the Holy Grail. This resource allocation (and concomitant knowledge management) issue should be a Board Level issue. Several years ago Adrian Slywotzky used the pyramid reproduced below to illustrate the increasingly competitive challenges of today’s marketplace and to emphasize just how critical it is to move this conversation out of from the Sale and / or IT departments and to the Board Room.1 This first pyramid shows how, in most mature, competitive industries, the sales function (together with service and product marketing) is faced with: • Price and margin pressure at the top of the pyramid, where the size of the targeted accounts is the largest • Margin (cost-to-serve) pressures at the bottom of the pyramid, where the largest number of accounts exist • An eventual overabundance of competition – once all your competitors realize where you are making your money - in the middle, where the most profit is initially available • A shrinking middle layer The 3 take-aways from this diagram: A All of us focus our efforts on the Major accounts where the margins are the thinnest – so the competition heats up and… B. There are so many “minor accounts” that we don’t have the resources to serve them profitably, and so we under serve the select few that go up the pyramid to the top C. The “middle accounts” are the most profitable – that is until everyone notices that we make our money there or that those accounts are becoming “major accounts” and so everyone wants a piece of the action Faced with this competitive global scenario, is there a proven way to examine our customer universe with an eye to increasing the value of our customer portfolio? The answer is a resounding “yes!” The Thesis: an interlude The planning tools, operational models, feedback loops, and performance metrics of data-based, relationship marketing provide those templates with which we can create optimal resource allocation and coverage models. What follows is a guideline for optimizing the allocation of resources, together with the attendant analysis and one possible implementation roadmap. Background Supposition We live and work in a time in which each of us faces allocation constraints pertaining to use of money, time, and people. Furthermore, the competitive arena we operate in is wholly unlike that of just a few years ago. The marketer’s Holy Grail is to get the right message, product, and/or service to the right person, at the right time, in the format that customers have indicated they prefer: investing their limited resources (time, money and human) in direct proportion to the expected return. In fact, this is the primary goal of an optimal allocation model. An optimal coverage model would also: • Support a retention, and loyalty-, focused, customer-based business design • Make effective use of the organization’s limited resources • Make investment decisions based on reciprocal commitment or mutual interdependence of your Ideal, Best customers and channel partners • Establish integration and synergy across the three functional areas responsible for servicing the customers: i.e., product marketing, sales, and customer service. My contention is that there is a fairly well defined path the enterprise can take when analyzing and assessing its allocation challenges. This path is mapped out through the use of the tools, templates, and planning of the data-based, relationship marketer. Resource allocation must also bring to bear the relationship marketer’s theories about managing the point of contact, managing the customer across their lifecycle of interactions with the company, managing the value of the customer portfolio, and managing knowledge across the company and across the value chain. Specifically, there is a spectrum, or “continuum of relevant customer contact activities,” that needs to be mapped to create an optimal and effective resource allocation model. The major group of inter-related tasks that the organization is to undertake – in conjunction with the analysis of their customer equity – will be to conduct an assessment, or audit, of their marketing, sales, and customer service activities so as to surface the key interdependencies between them, as well as with site logistics. Implicit in this assessment will be the attempt to understand how to move from the “current state” to the “desired end-state”. In the audit the company will: • Make visible and apparent where integration between the functional areas is necessary • Make apparent where non-discretionary accountability must reside • Revisit the current account selection process • Revisit key account management practices • Objectively verify whether an account is relationship – or transaction-oriented • Assess the skills, training, and behavioral components of the relevant customer contact people in each of the functional areas • Assess degree of cooperative, cross-functional teamwork along with supporting account planning, communications, and contact management tools Even as times have become tougher it doesn’t appear that enough businesses have heeded Slywotzky’s and elevated sales to a strategic boardroom issue. My assertion, however, is that we can achieve the greatest return on our portfolio of assets combining this thinking and by applying the models of customer relationship marketing and knowledge management to the problem of resource allocation and by extension to customer equity management. The Customer Portfolio Pyramid “Sure, it makes sense “philosophically” but all this stuff fails to hit home.” I can hear you say this. So, let me suggest that you take the pyramid and use it differently in order to present the value of the firm’s customers. Once this exercise is finished, I guarantee you will feel vastly different about how your company spends its limited time, money and other resource – and about your customers. Take your financial results from the last several years and analyze the buying behavior of your customers. (if your segmentation schema is complete, do this analysis by segment). Simply stack rank your customers by sales volume. Then let us “grade” or “apply a valuation” to the customers’ past buying habits. While most of us have used simple grading techniques such as A-B-C, I suggest that we need to get greater granularity in order to make more informed, better decisions on how to invest our resources. The second pyramid I suggest you create and deploy makes use of a “sizing” metaphor to visually allow our managers and individual contributors to see exactly what each account is worth. (This discussion takes hints from all the practitioners who discuss account grading and especially from Curry & Curry’s Customer Marketing Method). Break the customer results using these percentages: 2%, 3%, 15%, 25 %, 25%, 25% and 5%. The top 2% and the bottom 5%% (could be 7 or 10% or more) should be excluded from the general customer inventory analysis because they represent accounts that we should serve in different ways. (For Example: Major account teams for the top 2%; in-bound customer service handled via the web for the smallest 5%). While the graphic is interesting in and of itself, the real insight comes to the forefront once you investigate the actual profitability of the customers in each of the grades. While most of us are aware of Paretto’s rule, a more startling finding will likely emerge from this analysis: 200% of the profits come from 20% of the customers. And therein is both the take-away nugget and the challenge to address in implementing market coverage and customer equity management. Once the pyramid has been created – it must become a living document. Not only can it be used at the Board level but, perhaps with more immediate and tangible impact, it can be used to guide decisions and actions at the level of the individual field sales representative, the field service rep and the contact center rep. The Determinants: Reprise of the Interlude Customer Equity Management is a strategy that requires a supporting business design. What the practitioner needs is a framework for determining how to allocate resources and then how to optimize the deployment of these resource to provide the optimal “market coverage” necessary to maximize the portfolio of our customer assets. There are a great many steps involved, yet, in some ways, creating this framework is much like the dot-to-dot games from our childhood. Below are some types of information that will be required, both to “connect the dots,” and to build an effective allocation model: • Company strategy and vision • Target market • Customer and market reach • Definition of customer • Go-to-market mechanism • Activity based costing (or economic value added) analysis of the marketing, sales, and service processes • Analysis of current and required customer knowledge, customer economics, and the technologies used to connect with customers • Map of current market coverage with number of accounts (targeted, actual, and potential) by territory • Understanding of account segment membership • An account contact matrix model • An account valuation/weighted potential model • A volume/margin/duration model (to manage customer equity) • Results from qualitative, directional research that includes marketing, sales, service, and the end-user customer (plus channels[s], if applicable) • Data about customers: e.g., customer cycles (buying, budgeting, forecasting), number of contacts per site, key influencers by site in the complex selling decision, etc. • Accurate time/responsibility mapping for field sales and service personnel • The right set of metrics Although the preceding list looks more like a laundry list than a practical approach, we can, in practice, proceed from the point of accumulating this knowledge to crafting an actionable coverage and resource allocation model for the company The Building Blocks The primary building block for moving forward will be the analysis of the current portfolio of your customers. Combining the knowledge acquired from the steps identified above together with the results of an analysis of the economics of sales, customer service, marketing and channel coverage, will take us to the point of crafting a final resource allocation model. Perhaps the most tangible and useful will be the customer pyramid because everyone can relate to it. Performing the marketing and sales cost-to-serve analysis (Modified Activity based costing) takes us directly to the next challenge: Customer Based costing. To complete this phase we will want to identify how we interface with our prospects and customers. More importantly, we will want to map our contact points, our contact frequency, content and a marketing calendar. During this series of interlinked tasks we will investigate certain specific data-based, relationship marketing concepts. These include: a. The multi-dimensional data cube b. The opportunity management funnel c. An activity based costing analysis of the cost-to-serve our customers d. An understanding of how often and by what means we do contact our customers or contact matrix e. Directed and very focused conversations (e.g., focus groups) in which we have our customers help us define what is of value to, and valued by, them f. A marketing and sales communications calendar and activity audit. Taken together, these concepts and you then can map the ideal “allocation model” for your organization. What happens to the strategist who follows this path is rewarding to say the least. S/he can build and deploy: • A centralized marketing database with a four level architecture necessary to conduct effective business-to-business relationship marketing in complex selling situations: individual functional group, application served, street address, and enterprise • A repository of your corporate memory that can be used to share knowledge across the company and the company’s value chain • A method to stimulate leads with a closed-loop system for tracking them and the economics around both generating leads and closing sales • An activity-based costing model with which to manage cost to serve and cost to communicate – and customer profitability • A method that discovers how their customers define, and prefer to receive, relevance and value in communications • A holistic way of viewing all corporate messaging that will build a single voice to customers • A detailed understanding of the respective roles, responsibilities, and concerns of the field sales and service employees Taking these steps and combining them with the ideal “allocation model” can and should be done inside your enterprise. The result will create a double win: the development of the critical competence for the next millennium, and judicial, optimal investment of your limited resources. The result will create three complementary skill sets: 1. An integrated, data-based, relationship marketing competence 2. An optimal resource allocation model that effectively matches your product, services, and messages to your target customers and prospects 3. A deliberate effort to manage both the profitability of individual customer relationships as well as the value of your portfolio of customer assets.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Are we Asking the Right Questions?

Are we asking the right questions? Are we? As we throw insults and “insight”; data, contradicting data, and party-line rhetoric around, with, toward, and against one another, are we even asking the right questions? I don’t think so. I’ve been booed down, attacked, or whatever else for trying to explain why I advocate that Heidegger – for each and every one of us - is more relevant to our lives today than 99.+% believe possible. Not only are his ideas relevant and timely, but they are pathways along which we can move; they un-conceal a thought-process and present ideas by which we can live, ideas that can help us approach this election, the national one, the issues regarding sustainability, women’s rights, quite simply – how to live. I confess that I am a believer in his approach to the creative power of “the word” – just imagine: “Language is the house of Being. In this house man dwells.” A number of you can hear the echoes of St. John, in his Gnostic hymn: “The Word was made Flesh.” Heidegger’s renewal of St. John’s statement affirms that “Language creates world.” The phrase is not metaphoric; it is literal; and, as such, it IS. These gnomic statements quickly alert us, bring into focus the everyday Language in which we are immersed, in which we now abide. Yet we walk away from that-which-is-clear. How many of us consciously create the world we desire with the language of the day? Have we not the same again with the insistent question: “Was Heisst Denken?” what does it mean to think? Let alone what does H mean, what are his 4 levels of looking at the question? Or, is it any easier to wrestle with his straight-forward, allegational assertion: “what is most thought-provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.” Heidegger was able to see that language has been deadened metaphorically. As speakers we hear but no longer comprehend. Language no longer brings the thing into presence; today, language is code, simplified, nullified of its essence and insight. Instead it is a short-hand, especially in the world of politics and governing/power. We fail ourselves unless the code is deconstructed, unpacked, and revivified. Lewis Carol played with language to the amusement and edification of millions. We need a poet. For us language is being tending ineffectually and moving towards its own demise - at which point anything could mean everything and everything will mean anything; and, it all will mean nothing. Why am I trying to bring Heidegger or a poet or Lewis Carol into a patch conversation? It isn’t because I think I’m better or that I’m any smarter than anyone here; I don’t have THE answer to any one question. But I do think we are on a collision course with Freedom – with a capital ‘F’; and, that is why I am trying to answer a question recently asked in the writing of this piece. Now the question came from another patch contributor, one whom I believe holds rational and balanced attitudes as evidenced by his thoughtful (usually) posts. He asked me why I find myself so invested in how we look at this election. It’s easy, Jay. I don’t think we see what remains concealed, what is hidden and not brought into the clearing. In other words, something strikes me as just not right, certainly not kosher, cricket, nor allowable if we just pay closer attention. I admit: There certainly are those among this intended audience who don’t think so or don’t care seemingly because they believe that this doesn’t affect them - they stand above the rest, above you and me. Now me, I’m “kinda” typical in Patch-ville, USA: I’m a lifelong Republican. Grew up in the Bay. Believe in God. Received a good education. Done ok at times, other times not. Been a sinner and a saint. But this election really disturbs me at my core: something is rotten in Denmark! I think the spotlight has been shone on the wrong openings, the wrong clearings. In fact, I think we are looking at the wrong clearings altogether; and, I think we are not asking the right questions. Moreover, I think we’re selling ourselves short. One thing that worried Heidegger, one of his pet peeves with the whole of western European man, the educated masses in particular, is the placid, unthinking existence of those of us just carried along by the flow: “…we are still not thinking.” Why are we not asking the deeper questions, the ones that do need to be asked and answered; and, if we are, are we unreservedly attending to the answers; are we then listening authentically, openly to what is in front of us; or, are we already on to the next fleeting thought? Moving away from that which needs to be thought, a movement natural to all humans. Personally, I believe that we are not asking the right question(s). And, in not asking the right one, or set of questions, we are failing ourselves; and, and we are failing the generations to follow. I think the most “thought-provoking” elements of the current political situation are being shifted from view, sometimes hidden behind a veil that is embroidered using the vocabulary threads of the “words that work” weavers, who today embroider with the same thread sold by those hucksters, or ones identical to, those who brought ridicule to a certain hapless ruler, in the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In this case the puppeteer brushing and dyeing the wool is a Republican and Tea Party adviser, the social researcher, Dr. Frank I. Luntz. He’s their “words-smith,” the guy distorting the facts and tricking us with clever phrases. This election, the one here in Wisconsin as well as the National one, is not about “job creation.” It is about the nature of government. It is about ‘the Good’, about ‘Justice’ about ‘Truth’: the stuff that really matters: society, providing for one another. For me, this election - and, well, it really is the most important election of my life - it proposes to destroy our beloved democratic republic and the ideals upon which our country, our nation, was founded with a verbal misprision of ideas. Concept distortion is all around us and no one is seeing it. One party has become the party of only a few, only some of the people. That is not the American way. If we choose the side pretending to follow this Nation’s founding principles, we will like lemmings following a disembodied the Voice, fall off the cliff and drop into a world ruled by a plutocratic oligarchy, which will have won control of everyone’s life. For me today, I am trying to detoxify myself from the bitter ads being shot across our bows. But I did hear one statement that I believe should apply more liberally to both sides. Yes, it was made by the President. Mr Obama was quoted while speaking from the G-8 Summit: “My job is to take into account everyone not just some” – not just the elite few. Why would any one of us follow a path that excludes and only looks out for the few, for some? And why would, or are, we only looking out for the few, for some? By the way: are YOU one of “the some”? Are you comfortable with the underlying belief system that both parties have in fact? (Not what the patcher crowd pretends, by the way). Have you asked all the questions that need to be answered? What questions don’t you want answered for fear of what has been concealed? Sorry if this got a little too ethereal. I hope that it “touches ground” for more than a few careful readers. For me, though, I suppose my conclusion is simple: ask the next question and the one after that and… In other words, whether you like Heidegger’s phrase “Questioning is the piety of thought” or prefer the words of John Fowles’ Magus, “A Question is a form of life; every answer a form of death.” Let’s make sure we are asking the right questions before we sink the ship of state.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thinking is not a highbrow sport. Change Managers know all about thinking

Thinking is not a highbrow sport; not an activity for the intellectuals or the intelligentsia to practice and thus to lord over others, demonstrating some supposed sense of superiority. That is neither what thinking intends nor what I propose nor who I am. Thinking is, however, a vital part of being alive, a privilege that, for some reason, a seemingly, ever-increasing group of fellow-citizens have abdicated: to the Tube, or to “the crowd” or to anyone else except themselves. Again: or, so it seems. Thinking, rather, is a gift, is our Divine right as human beings: “cogito ergo sum”. We all, each of us, has learned that such is the essence of being human. We do not think well any longer. Is it that we have grown so unconscious of what we do daily? Do we not simply plug in and surrender to some force other than ourselves and find superiority in that commonality of approach to life and its issues?

Thinking is not a highbrow sport. Not an activity restricted to lawyers and doctors and politicos or to . Yet as a nation, we, without a second thought, without the uproar the decision deserves, have done nothing to overturn the worst decision our nation’s Supreme Court has ever made: unrestricted control of the airwaves and media channels to the monied. And so people have become lemmings, led by a talking-head who is already brainwashed of the truth. These talking heads and pundits no longer think themselves. They spout that which is approved and is PAID FOR; nor the truth that has been concealed, hidden, unquestioned, forgotten, displaced.

Thinking is not a highbrow sport. I am not talking from an ivory tower. I am talking from the trenches of 2011. While admittedly, I come from a Patrician background, I am not a Plute in thought or reality: unless They now be among the poorest and those beleaguered by life (and, we know that the Plutes are THAT oligarchy – that tiny ! group of the richest ½ of 1% at most, who want to tell all of us that because they are rich that they know best and that they are right). Yes, I am a Republican by birth. I was not, however, brought up to believe the lies that the Tea Party is foisting upon the unwitting: my contention is that “the unwitting have become all of us.” Stop drinking “the Kool Aid”. Please! That is all I ask. We need to think; and, thinking is not applying group common sense. We no longer ask authentic questions; we no longer seek the complete truth; we accept the good enough instead of the best; we accept lies from Tea Party “pledge”-takers and certain Republicans who care only for themselves and the very wealthy who now own America.

Do you remember reading Plato’s Republic and the Allegory of the Cave? Thinking, the role of teaching, the challenge of taking on a responsible role in the world is the touchstone for life that is presented to us during our encounter with the text of the Allegory of the Cave. We all know that text. Many of us have re-read Plato. As readers of the text of during this present-now, this-today, the challenge, now, is how do we become unfettered; and, how do we go back up into the world, aware that most has been hidden; aware, and struggling to change the fact, that we are 3 removes from the truth. More importantly, how can we demonstrate convincingly and straightforwardly, and with simplicity that we have and continue to be misled, lied to by these Plutes? The Allegory of the Cave is much about what lies concealed, what has been hidden, what is several removes from the truth. My “allegation” or charge against myself and you is that all too often we kick pebbles. Try this test for yourselves: Pick up one of those pebbles. Hold that rock in your hands in a dark room. Then, take your narrow beam flashlight and direct its beam towards that rock. How much is revealed? 7%? 1% ? Certainly not much more. The challenge that we face, then, is to learn how to shine the light upon the 99% (or 93%) that remains concealed by when that partial particularity of a mere 1% is revealed; it is to learn how to discover the greater proportion, and then all of, that 99%. From that point on our responsibility under a new civil and social contract would be to share it responsibly, authentically with one another.

Thinking is not a highbrow sport. I am no intellectual; just a guy who believes that we have become deceived and led far astray by the oligarchy - the few. Their message has become only and exclusively a message that says “no”; it is a message of fear, exclusiveness, deception, lies, and betrayal. Thinking is not a highbrow sport, but it does require one to unplug from Tubeville, from the talking heads, from the summarizations that only provide a distortion of truth, from the cave; and to emerge into the light so as to ask questions and to listen authentically. It does demand a great deal of constructive questioning, informed paranoia, and a willingness to uncover what has been concealed and hidden away from us. That is what I would offer, if I could, to those who want again to find a path to a sustainable future. Instead of kicking pebbles; pick them up: shine a light upon the 99% that the Plutes want to hide. Make thinking truly a participative sport at last.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Common Sense is not what is needed, Mr. President.

Common Sense isn’t what’s needed, Mr. President

If you listened to Mr. Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes, did you hear the phrase? Yes, that phrase. Personally, I listened until I heard the phrase “common sense”, after which I turned the Tube off. What calls for thinking in this present-Time, Mr. President, is not common sense. At one time, I had a Chinese employee who loved to repeat “common sense isn’t so common is it?” when client discussions became mired in details that clouded the bigger picture. Clients loved it; it simplified life for them. That is not what we need from our leaders, our friends, family members, or ourselves! Mr. President, I want to share this little paragraph with you, because I was disappointed when you called for “common sense” in a time that calls for thinking.

“That sound common sense which is so often ‘cited’ in such attempts” ascertain facts, by appealing to particulars> “is not as sound and natural as it pretends. It is above all not as absolute as it acts, but rather the shallow product of that manner of forming ideas which is the final fruit of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century (emphasis mine). Sound common sense is always trimmed to fit a certain conception of what is and ought to be and may be. The power of this curious understanding extends into our own age; but it is no longer adequate.
The organizations of social life, rearmament in moral matters, the grease paint of the culture enterprise – none of them any longer reach what is. With all the good intentions and all the ceaseless effort, these attempts are no more than makeshift patchwork, expedients for the moment. And why? Because the ideas of aims, purposes, and means, of effects and causes, from which all those attempts arise – because these ideas are from the start incapable of holding themselves open to what is.”

Instead of common sense, Mr. President, we need to think and to think differently from those ways we have allowed ourselves, or been allowed, to think. Certainly - if we are honest with ourselves - each of us already has some sense that we no longer truly engage with life and think. Television, cable news, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, radio pundits pushing a message supportive of one platform or another: each of these “channels” through which we are bombarded daily, deliver messaging that merely distract us from, allowing us to avoid, thinking. There are, in all likelihood for most of you, actual human beings sitting next to or across from you right now from you; and yet, in many instances, you are not connected, you have not come together, no thought is taking place.

Several avenues of help are available. Psychiatry, Religion, gatherings, engaging with thought, engaging and building with Others: these all seem to be better for us and for our times than staying plugged in and not thinking. In other words, there are multiple “Tubal-detox programs” available to any one willing to unplug, to engage, to recognize, as well as to accept the fact of their own Being-in-the-world and the Being of others. Such engagement brings with it awesome responsibilities, responsibilities which if accepted can negate both “common sense” and the failure to think so prevalent at present. It is hoped that we thus could find a path along which we could co-create a sustainable future, inclusive in nature, characterized by it ability to allow all to flourish. We need to repair and to re-weave the world and local tapestries. Common sense will never achieve either of those two goals.

Was heist Denken? was written by Heidegger nearly 50 years ago; and yet, its message is more relevant to our present-Now than any earlier time. Thinking is not “common sense”! At our most Sacred time of the Year, what greater gift could we give our friends, families, partners, lovers, employees and employers than to engage as humans, as thinking humans? Thinking requires that we unconceal that which has been hidden; it requires, in Heideggerian-speak that we come together to gather; that we no longer accept the concealed as truth.

Let me leave you, Mr. President, with Heidegger’s conclusion to this portion of his lecture. It applies in today’s Flat World more than in 1954.

“There is the danger that the thought of man today will fall short of the decisions that are coming, decisions of whose specific historical shape we can know nothing – that the man of today will look for these decisions where they can never be made.”

Mr. President, you have demonstrated that you understand and have internalized Michael Porter’s admonition: “strategy is choice”. We need you to choose to lead us out from tubal-land’s morass of conflicting utterances of concealment. Currently it seems as though the Sybil of Cumae is allowing leaves to blow, leaves that portend disaster, leaves inspiring fear. Mr. President, make the concealment stop. We need you to eschew common sense and to set the standard for thinking in America. Help us see that “common sense” is not the way.