A SMUG Tour of China

I’m excited to begin a new adventure today as I make my first trip to China.

I’m accompanying Kent Seltman, co-author of Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic. Kent was formerly the Marketing Division Chair at Mayo Clinic, and he wrote his book with Len Berry as his swan song as he approached retirement. It has been translated into Mandarin and has sold 350,000 copies in China.

China TourKent has previously visited China 13 times, always taking a current Mayo Clinic employee with him. I’m delighted to accompany him on his 14th trip. We’ll be there from now until June 27 and will speak at 9 hospitals in China (click the map to enlarge).

According to the Chinese Firewall Test, I probably won’t be able to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn for the next couple of weeks.

On the bright side, SMUG does appear to be available from mainland China.

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I’ll hope to post updates here relatively frequently. Since my posts are tweeted automatically, SMUG will be my way of at least sending messages via Twitter.

On World Peace, Labor Day and Blocking Facebook

I’m as big an advocate of social media as you’re likely to meet. Still, I think Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker went a bit overboard in yesterday’s offering, Facebook and social media offer the potential of peace:

Not to be a Pollyanna, but it is striking to realize that peace becomes plausible when barriers to communication are eliminated. More than 500 million people use Facebook alone. Of those, 70 percent are outside the United States. MySpace has 122 million monthly active users, and Twitter reports 145 million registered users.

I actually think Ms. Parker does have a bit of the Pollyanna principle running through her argument. And it’s kind of nice for me to have people like her occupying the “extreme optimism” end of the social media spectrum. It makes me seem more moderate. I agree that building more friendship connections is helpful, but I’m not anticipating a Nobel Peace Prize for Mark Zuckerberg.

While I don’t see social media ending the Middle East conflict, I do see these tools playing a huge role in connecting and strengthening relationships within organizations and among those with common interests.

That leads me to one of Parker’s paragraphs that I thought was particularly illuminating, as it relates to the practice of many companies in blocking access to social media sites from their corporate networks:

Obviously, some countries don’t like these media for the very reasons we do. People talk. Facebook is blocked in Syria and China and until recently was also blocked in Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Where freedom flourishes, so do open channels of communication.

As we celebrate Labor Day in the United States, maybe opening access to social media sites at work wouldn’t rank among the all-time achievements for employee-friendly workplaces. It probably won’t usher in a Millennium of peace, either.

But at least it would make your company more open than China, Syria and Iran.

Does your company block access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at work?

Unspeakable Sadness

Steven Curtis Chapman is one of my favorite musicians, and has been probably for the better part of two decades. I love his upbeat songs and how they display the infectious enthusiasm of his faith, and yet he also  writes poignant pieces that plumb the depths of human experience and the Christian life.

I also have admired not just how he writes and performs songs that capture deep truth, but how he lives his life. He’s a dedicated dad, which you’ll see on his YouTube channel, and whereas Lisa and I got our six children the old-fashioned way (and one at a time), Steven and Mary Beth filled out their half-dozen by adopting three girls from China, illustrating the redeeming love of God that crosses oceans (and more) to bring people into his family.

Last Wednesday their family was struck by tragedy, as their youngest daughter, Maria was killed in their driveway when she was hit by vehicle driven by an older son. Here’s a tribute to Maria, set to a song Steven wrote about the importance of cherishing each moment with children. In the best of circumstances they grow up before you realize it. And you can’t take any day with them for granted.


Here’s a Facebook group you can join to express condolences to and solidarity with the Chapman family.

One of the benefits of the large family Lisa and I have (with kids from 9 to 22, and one of them married), is that we still have some young ones when the older two have moved out of the house. We realize how quickly they grow, so we can cherish them as we should.

On this Memorial Day, which was rightly established to honor those who gave their lives for our freedom, I hope you will also remember the Chapman family, and that you will give your loved ones an extra hug.

Life is a Vapor.