A Resourceful Recognition

Six years ago this month that I did a presentation called “The $4-a-month Online Newsroom (and other MacGyver tips)” in Chicago at a Ragan Communications conference.

I’m speaking today at the IABC Great Plains conference in Bismarck, ND at the invitation of Tracie Bettenhausen, who was in that Ragan audience back in 2009. More on that in a future post.

But for now, here’s a MacGyver-themed video some members of my team produced and showed at our Mayo Clinic Communications Division meeting last week, recognizing my 15-year anniversary at Mayo Clinic.

Thanks to Jason Pratt and Makala Johnson for leading the production, and to everyone who shared kind words.

The 36th Thesis

Just as Martin Luther’s 95 Theses posted on October 31, 1517 on the church door at Wittenberg were not a comprehensive statement of his theology, the 35 Social Media Theses posted on the wall of SMUG 492 years later also were just a beginning of the discussion. So here for your reaction is the 36th thesis, which I’ve been trying out in some recent presentations:

If your organization can’t find a way to constructively use free tools that enable deep, two-way communication with anyone, anywhere, anytime, your real problem is lack of imagination.

If someone gave you free and unlimited long-distance calling, or the ability to send letters through the mail without paying postage, would you not find ways to take advantage of those opportunities?

Of course, with social media tools you don’t just get to send your messages for free: you also get to hear from key stakeholders, whether they be customers, prospects, employees or the community.

Maybe you’re doing fine without these tools, and you’re feeling really happy with how your organization is performing (although I doubt it, given the overall state of the economy.)

If you’re comfortable with the status quo, you can be confident of one thing: you’re too confident. If you don’t use these powerful communication tools, a competitor will. And it may not even be someone you consider a competitor today. After all, Blockbuster didn’t see Netflix coming.

So if you can’t think of a way to effectively use social media in your organization, or if the barriers to adoption seem too high, you need to think harder. Or, in the words of the famous Apple slogan:

Which is, after all, what the first 35 Social Media Theses were all about. You don’t need to be an Einstein. Just think like MacGyver.

Creativity and the MacGyver Mindset

Here’s an interesting story from our Mayo Clinic Medical Edge TV news feature about the nature of creativity, and how it doesn’t just apply to art and music:

It’s nice to have a Mayo Clinic neurologist validating and outlining more rigorously something I’ve felt intuitively, and that is consistent with what I call “The MacGyver Mindset.” MacGyver was extremely creative, finding ways to use what he had on hand to accomplish what he needed to do. (Yes, I realize he was a fictional character, but we can learn lessons from his approach.)

Dr. Caselli breaks down creativity into these core elements, which surprisingly have little to do with what would traditionally considered “creative” professions:

  1. Motivation
  2. Perception
  3. Execution
  4. Temperament, and
  5. Social Context

What I’m trying to do in SMUG is help create a social context in which mid-career professionals can perceive the value of using social media tools professionally, can be motivated to try and get training to help them execute. Not sure whether we can do anything about temperament, but hopefully we can influence the rest.

Creativity is extremely important. Every business that starts involves creativity: seeing a situation that is not what you want it to be, and figuring out how to get to the desired end. Likewise, a politician who (in the words of Bobby Kennedy) says “I dream of things that never where and ask ‘Why not?'” is being creative in imagining a desired future state.

How is SMUG helping you think — and act — more creatively?

Lee Odden Interview

I was honored last week to have a chance to be interviewed by Lee Odden, a fellow Minnesotan with a cool first name who also has one of the top PR, marketing and SEO blogs. Here is one of his 10 questions, along with my answer, published this morning in his post, “Social Media Interview: Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic”:

Do you test specific social media tactics or do you go full on with a social media strategy for each initiative? Knowing what you know now, what approach would you recommend that companies take when they’re starting out?

I recommend what I call the “MacGyver Mindset,” named after the TV character played by Minnesota native Richard Dean Anderson. Look at the tools and resources you have available and how you can adapt them to meet your communication and marketing goals, and empower staff to explore.

Focus first on the free platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, mainly because that’s where you will find communities already gathered. This also enables you to prove your concepts before deciding whether to launch a community of your own.

Strategic thinking can be an excuse for inaction, and just as it’s easier to alter the direction of a moving car than it is to get one started from a dead stop, I believe it’s best to build social media momentum through low-cost experimentation and iteration.

Read the full interview here on Lee’s TopRank blog.

Dad and MacGyver

Millions of people know the character Richard Dean Anderson (a Minnesota boy, by the way) played on TV: MacGyver. So when I did a presentation in Chicago called, “The $4-a-week online newsroom (and other MacGyver tips)” people immediate “got” what it was about.

Although he is highly regarded in our community, relatively fewer people know my dad, Lewis Aase. That’s a pity, and it’s a situation I hope to rectify in some small measure through this post.



I wasn’t a huge MacGyver fan, in part because it began its run a year after Lisa and I were married, when we had four kids in six years. I didn’t have a lot of time for TV.

But another reason why I think it wasn’t “must-see TV” for me was that I didn’t think what he was doing was all that unusual. I grew up seeing my dad do things like that all the time. Dad never (to my knowledge, at least) used his problem-solving skills in death-defying situations, but he was (and still is) an amateur expert.

By “amateur expert” I mean someone who doesn’t have formal training, and perhaps doesn’t do things exactly like the professionals. But whether it was putting in a new shower by laying cement blocks in our basement (and eventually finishing it with ceramic tile) or fixing plumbing, installing light fixtures, laying carpet or linoleum (this was the 70s, remember!) or innumerable other projects, Dad just always seemed to figure it out.

Dad has had a strong influence on both of his sons, giving us a common-sense, no-nonsense approach to problem solving, as well as a can-do spirit. My brother Mark (of whom I’m really proud), got Dad’s home remodeling skills. In fact, they flipped a house together last year; maybe not as quickly as they would have liked, but they worked through everything.

I got more of Mom’s academic inclinations, so I’m pretty limited in use of Tim Allen-style power tools. The power tools I use instead are those designed for communication, such as Twitter, blogs, YouTube and everything else we cover in the SMUG curriculum.

Dad being a professional educator (he was an elementary school principal) gave me an interest in teaching. He also was an innovator who developed many new approaches and programs to better serve kids and help them learn. He didn’t just think about how things should change: he made change happen.

Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, Outliers, highlights two reasons why I’m thankful to God for my dad and mom. First, Gladwell shows that so-called accidents of birth play a huge role in individuals’ success. For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were born at just the right time and place to become software tycoons. But Gladwell’s other point is that this favorable environment needs to be accompanied by 10,000 hours of skill development to become world-class in anything. No one becomes successful without hard work…and lots of it.

That’s why I have been triply blessed. My dad and mom not only provided me the advantages of education and a spirit of inquisitiveness, but also the example of what Dad called “stick-to-it-iveness.” I have many memories of Dad just continuing to methodically work through problems until they were solved, or tasks (like cleaning the garage) until they were finished. And most importantly, they raised and instructed Mark and me in the Christian faith.

The life lessons continue to this day. Dad is now 78, but here is his current remodeling project, tearing a hole in the wall to create a main floor laundry room so Mom doesn’t have to go up and down the stairs so much with her arthritic hip.


And having my kids get to spend time with their grandparents (including working with them in the garden) is a true joy. Here’s my youngest, John, out with his grandpa yesterday:


Being born and raised in the land of MacGyver to parents who continue to exemplify that can-do spirit (as well as the Spirit) is cause for great gratitude on Father’s Day.