Today AU, tomorrow the world – Part 2

“Renaissance Men Wanted: Big Problems Need Big Innovators” interview of author Vinnie Mirchandani by Thomas Wailgum (CIO.com, 14 June 2010). A quick follow up to yesterday’s post. Looks like Mr. Mirchandani casts another vote for an AU state of mind.

Today AU, tomorrow the world

“From Push to Pull: How to Navigate the ‘Big Shift’ Reshaping the World” interview of author John Hagel (ConsultingMag.com, 8 July 2010). It’s Saturday, so let’s just cut to the chase…

Consulting: What exactly is the power of pull?

Hagel: I guess it starts with a rather provocative proposition that the current management approaches and institutions that we have in business are fundamentally broken, and to support that proposition we muster a set of evidence around performance trends over long periods of time for all public companies in the United States. In particular, we show that return on assets (ROA) for all public companies in the U.S. has eroded in a very substantial and sustained rate since 1965. In fact, it has come down about 75 percent. There is no evidence of it leveling off, much less turning around. At minimum, it suggests that the current recovery of the economy debate may be a bit misleading. We’re showing some longer-term trends that have been playing out across many economic cycles that we have not been able to respond to effectively.

Consulting: And to what do you attribute that decline over the last 45 years?

Hagel: On one level, you can simply think about it in terms of intensifying competition. One of the metrics we have shows the intensity of competition has at least doubled over this time period. But at a more fundamental level, the basis of competition is changing. In the past, we lived in a world where the source of economic value was around knowledge stocks, developing a proprietary set of knowledge, protecting it fiercely and extracting the value from it as efficiently as possible for as long as possible…

Wow! That’s quite a mouthful, eh? Where we are today traces all the way back to 1965. That’s a lot of bad habits and false assumption to break and remold. No wonder the last couple year felt like a house of cards collapsing. Fortunately, there is hope…

Consulting: How would this impact the way professional service firms serve clients?

Hagel: That’s interesting: One of the key implications, we believe, is for professional service firms to organize a much broader network of expertise. Most professional service firms tend to operate as ‘we have the answers and we engage one-to-one with our clients’ as opposed to organizing a large network and help to connect that network and its expertise to clients. With more and more options competing for everyone’s attention, the notion of someone who deeply understands what a client’s needs might be and who can be helpful connecting that client to the people, information and resources that are most valuable to them will be well positioned to succeed.

Interesting enough, that sounds very similar to the Alchemy United model. Let’s just leave it at that for today. Time to run out and grab Hagel’s “Big Shift”.

Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world

Just plain damn interesting. As found on TED.com. Watch, listen, ponder a bit and enjoy.

A trillion hours is a lot of hours, eh?

Social networking is only a means

“Interview: John Jantsch – 5 Minutes with…” by: Daria Meoli (NY Enterprise Report, 19 April 2010). You know John, author of Duct Tape marketing, as well as his new book The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. Good stuff, right?

Well, if you read and retain one thing this week then this paragraph should be it:

DM: What does “teaching your business to market itself” mean?

JJ: I actually went out and interviewed people from about 50 or 60 companies that get a lot of referrals. They’re doing a lot of business by word of mouth. What I discovered pretty quickly was that the number one way that these organizations were successful in generating referrals had nothing to do with a super special cool way to ask for referrals; they just did stuff that made the experience of doing business with them so great that people voluntarily wanted to talk about them. That’s the idea behind teaching your business to market itself. How do you become the trusted resource? What are all the touch points? What about your culture and your people? The idea is to get your clients so connected to your business that they’d go out of their way to refer you, and not just because they like your product and it does what it says it does, but that they really want to see you succeed.

Brilliant, eh? What did you think of the rest of the interview? Are you going to buy the new book?

It’s you who define you

“Work-Life Lessons From Peter Drucker” by Bruce Rosenstein (Baseline Mag, 8 April 2010). Finally, another perfect storm. That is, a spare moment or two to do some biz reading and an article worth passing along.

If there were a Business & Management Hall of Fame, Peter Drucker would be inducted, first shot, all the number one votes. If by chance you’re not familiar, here is his wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Drucker. The irony is that the five recommendations listed by Bruce are really nothing new. For the most page they all date back ages and in some form are rooted in many of the great religions. That not to say, business is substitute for faith, not at all. But we’re not just talking the business you here. We’re talking the holistic you — on and off the clock.

The bottom line… If you can’t help you and improve you, who can? In addition, when you stretch out to help and support others that also makes you stronger too. “No man is an island,” indeed.

Three to get ready (for next week and beyond)

You might not be an executive. You might not have users.  You might not be a CFO. However, if you’re looking for ideas, inspiration and strategies for staying on a path to success then this trio is for you:

“Escaping the Executive Bubble” by Kate O’Sullivan (CFO Magazine, 1 February 2010).

“There are a whole bunch of natural filters in an organization,” Roberto explains. “It’s not because people are necessarily hiding things, but as information moves through the hierarchy of a company, it gets packaged, streamlined, and analyzed.” As a result, the “news” that arrives at the CFO’s desk has usually been cleaned and polished. And distorted.

“Opinion: Love Your Users” by Frank Hayes (ComputerWorld, 22 March 2010).

Yes, users also burn up a lot of our time with password resets, downloaded malware and simple dumbness. We could cheerfully strangle them for things like that.

But some users, at least, have eyes, ears and brains that can be IT’s first line of defense against problems that we wouldn’t spot ourselves until it was too late.

“We Fail Fast, Learn, and Move On. An interview with Steven Neil, CFO of Diamond Foods Inc.” by David M. Katz (CFO Magazine, 1 April 1 2010).

We got our supply-chain folks involved, studied our approach, and identified what my kids call the “duh” factor. The way we had been loading the truck facilitated the operations of our warehouse rather than our customer’s warehouse. So we changed how we packed the truck to align with the layout of the customer’s warehouse.

Get it?

Opinion: Love your users

March 22, 2010 06:00 AM ET

What you see is what you get (or not)

“Is There an Ecological Unconscious?” by Daniel B. Smith (New York Times Sunday Magazine, 27 January 2010). The majority of this blog is devoted to the more technical if not clinical aspects of life in the business world. But as they say, “All work and no play makes Mark a dull boy.” Speaking from personal experience I have no doubt that there is a positive and necessary connection between my mind, body & soul and my ability to maintain a healthy connection to the world around me.

Yes, Wired’s pro-technology approach – “How Twitter and Facebook Make Us More Productive” by Brendan I. Koerner, 22 February 2010 – makes some sense. That is, humans are wired such that we need to take breaks from the immediate task at hand. However, maybe the true productivity advantages come not from dialing up a browser and Facebooking but from stepping away from the desk and taking a quite moment outside? Maybe there really is an advantage to having a corner office with a view?

Furthermore, if you subscribe to the ecological unconscious ideals then it would seem that they might also explain the increase prevalence of human disconnect (e.g., the need for anti-depressants) in our society. Are we building a world that more and more of us are not fit to live in? Is a (short term looking) productive work environment the same thing as an ongoing healthy human living environment?

Simple and brilliant at the same time

“It’s a Wonderful, Horrible Feeling” by Shaun White as told to Alyssa Roenigk (ESPN, 22 Feb 2010). Better knows as the Flying Tomato, Mr. White (age 21)  is considered to be one of the best snowboarders in the world. He is certainly the most recognizable.

It’s not often someone of such a young age shares an idea such as:

You know how I said that everyone assumes this is easy for me? Well, I probably downplay the one easy part: I cut out a lot of prep time by visualizing complicated tricks. But I still have to practice, and it still gets gnarly and terrifying. I slam my back against the ice all day just like anyone else. And there are still times when I show up at the mountain and think, I hate this. I don’t want to be here. The halfpipe is terrible. It’s cold. Then I look over at the next guy, and he hates it. And the next guy, he hates it too. Then I get this amazing feeling. Great. Everybody hates it. Their spirits are down. I am going to rip this halfpipe. The best riders shine through in bad weather. I’m probably the most prepared of anyone.

To me, it’s simple. If you really want to do something you can figure it out. If you hurt your hand and you have to write with the other, you figure it out. You adapt. I am a big fan of doing what you are really bad at. A lot.

There you have it boys & girls, this gold winner’s four keys to being world-class:

1) Visualize success
2) Suck it up in order to rise above the rest
3) Perseverance and adaptation
4) Get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to do what you’re bad at

Sound just like a day at the office sometimes, eh? Simple and brilliant at the same time.

The future is? – Part 2

“Bill Gates Sets Out His Global Charitable Goals” (NPR.org, 25 January 2010). As a supplement to yesterday’s post, here is a link to Mr. Gates being interviewed on National Public Radio’s (NPR) Talk of the Nation.

For the most part Mr. Gates’ perspective is global. He does however mention during the inteview that s in the United States the two biggest issue his foundation is  addressing are helping teachers and online learning. Contrast this with the fact that Uncle Sam’s approach has lead to a system where only 60% of the students who start high school actually graduate.  The irony comes when one considers how many massive corporations jump through tax loopholes to avoid paying into the system and then those same outfits also expect to have a well educated work force available so they can be even more profitable.

Is the system just dented and bent, or broken and in need of a complete makeover?

The future is?

“2010 Annual Letter from Bill Gates” by Bill Gates (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 25 Janueary 2010). While certainly not an oracle, Mr. Gates, former Microsoft head honcho, is well established and well connected and needless to say very very wealthy. If you’re curious about what’s ahead then invest some time in Mr. Gates’ thoughts.  In short, good economy, bad economy or New Economy, we have a lot of work to do.

In the event you don’t make it to the last page, Bill says:

I have decided to take the notes I make after taking a trip, reading a book, or meeting with someone interesting and pull them together on a web site called www.gatesnotes.com. This will let me share thoughts on foundation-related topics and other areas on a regular basis. I expect to write about tuberculosis, U.S. state budgets, creative capitalism, and philanthropy in Asia, among other things.

What is interesting is that many of The Gates’ concerns are resource and/or “head count” driven. Yet, there is little mention of population and population control as a means to helping solve some of these problems. We’d all agree that technolgy can be a wonderful tool, but let’s not forget about (changing) good ol’ fashion human behavior as a means to a better ends.

Failure is like Red Bull, it gives you wings

Wired magazine (www.Wired.com) has collected a series of articles on failure. The title of the grouping is, “How To Fail: Screw ups, disasters, misfires, flops. Why losing big can be a winning strategy.” Take some time, these are sure to put the value of “R&D” into proper perspective.

“Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up” by Jonah Lehrer

“Stay in the Game: The Fall and Rise of Alec Baldwin” by Scott Brown

“Learn to Let Go: How Success Killed Duke Nukem” by Clive Thompson

“Time Your Attack: Oracle’s Lost Revolution” by Daniel Roth

“My Greatest Mistake: Learn From Six Luminaries” by Wired Magazine

“Accidental Art: Three Alternate Histories” by Christoph Niemann

For those who like to look up at the stars then “Six Luminaries” is the obvious first read. Other than that, just dive in. Don’t be afraid to pick the wrong one. And for those of you who like to believe that the key to success is perfection. Well, you’re making a big mistake.

No sense crying over spilled milk

“How To Bounce Back: The Last Drop” by Miles Austin as told to Charles Curtis (ESPN Magazine, December 2009). First, to the non-sports fans out there please excuse the sports “analogy” — but it works. Second, for reasons unknown to mortal man & woman, this (brief) article was only in ESPN’s print edition. No, AU value add today. That time is being invested in typing this in for you.

It’s a receiver’s most egregious sin: dropping a pass when he’s wide open. But that transgression might actually be a necessary evil.

Just ask Cowboys’ wideout Miles Austin. The way he tells it, his bobble during the first half of Dallas’ Week 5 win over Kanas City helped him break the franchise record for receiving yards. That day, he went for 250 yards, 234 gained after the drop. Since then, Austin has averaged 17.4 ypc (yard per catch) and scored 4 TDs (touch downs). We asked the four-year vet how he used his big mistake to come back big.

“Right before halftime, Tony Romo threw a fade pass to the corner of the end zone. For some reason, I lost concentration and didn’t stick my arm out for enough. The ball went off my hands, and immediately,  I thought, I have to lock back in. Mentally, I treated the moment like the game had started over. Luckily, the worked. For the rest of the day, I attacked the ball and tried to reach out and grab the ball before it hit me.”

“When I drop a ball I think I should have caught, I focus more during practice the week afterward. For example, right before Wednesday practices, we run what’s called pat-and-go. To warm up, the quarterbacks will throw a few fade routes to us. That’s a point where you could easily lose focus, but that’s when I try to concentrate more on the looking the ball in.

“In Week 9, against the Eagles, Romo threw the same type of ball to me on the opposite side of the field. I looked it on and caught it, the same way I wanted to catch the one I missed the month before. That turned out to be the game-winning touchtown”

We all drop the ball. We all make mistakes at work. We all make resolutions and then have transgressions. The point is, don’t get sucked into the black hole of a past you can not change. Just get up, learn your lesson and keep going. Also be sure to forgive your “team mates” when they drop the ball too.

“No” is not an option

“Think Beyond Your Means” by Robert S. Levin – Editor-in-chief (The New York Report Magazine, 23 December 2009). For one reason or another it’s been somewhat slow starting this year in finding material to blog about. Not to worry, Mr. Robert S. Levin uncorks another bottle of bubbly inspiration. This was his Letter-from-the-editor in the latest issue so it’s a quick read. No need for pull quotes, etc. required.

Also, kudos to NY Report for beta launching their new web site: http://www.NYReport.com. As small biz resources go, this outfit consistently  provides “good stuff”.

How The West *will be* won

“How the 2010 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders were chosen” by Ellen Fanning and Mari Keefe (Computer World, 7 December 2009). Before you side step this article with, “But I’m not in IT” or “I’m not a CIO” — pause that thought for moment. Dismiss the “IT Leadership” bit and look at this grading scale from these four perspectives:

1) Consider these as leadership qualities that are universal, not just for IT.
2) You don’t have to be at the top of the org chart to be a leader. This is especially true if you want to get to the top of the org chart.
3) In many cases, these criteria also apply to brands, not just individuals. How well does your brand lead? Or not?
4) Finally, instead of “were chosen” substitute “will be chosen” and adjust your resolutions for the year ahead as you see fit.

Which of these dozen or so characteristics do you value most in a leader? What characteristics did Ms. Fanning and Ms. Keefe  miss? Who is your leadership hero?

Toes touches and jumping jacks

“The future is a gimmick” by David Weinberger (KM World, 1 Jan 1 2010). The parties are over and it’s back to reality – cold, non-stop reality. But let’s not be foolish and try to break into a full sprint from a dead stop. It’s always smart to loosen up a bit. As you sip your coffee and gear up for 2010, consider this article toe touches and jumping jacks. Enjoy!

Just press the Go Viral button?

“A Web Presence Needs Sizzle, For Shizzle” by Fritz Nelson (Information Week, 18 November 2009). Good golly Rudolph, give this guy a candy cane and double him up on the eggnog. Santa should no doubt move Mr. Nelson to the top of the nice list.

Aside from sharing some damn good examples of inspiration, he hovers under the mistletoe and plants this golden gem of a KISS on us all. (Note: The bolding was added for effect.)

On the Web, entire economies and cultures emerge with surprise. The less creative or visionary watch and try to follow, as if there’s a secret formula to be revealed to the most astute observer. People look at the NetFlix corporate culture Google (NSDQ: GOOG) free lunch program, and Obama open government mantra and say: It worked for them, it will work for us. There’s some truth in that, but the success variables are never the same. Ultimately, each business must create its own wave.

Success on the Web, like The White Rabbit, is alluring in its urgency and its insistence on its path. Words like “crowdsourced,” “social,” and “sticky” are simple labels for complicated ingenuity. Anyone who sets out to create The Next Big Thing invariably fails compared with those who create something out of real social need, or passion. There’s no hidden button for “Go Viral” on the Web, and there’s no magic formula to replicate what happens when something does. Take new social media buzz factories, FarmVille and FourSquare.

In other words, just because you use the channels doesn’t guarantee anything. That said said there is a “secret” for going viral and that is, introduce something to the conversation that’s worth talking about. The usual blah blah blah is not going to get anyone attention, nor is it going to differentiate you from the masses. And if you don’t have an authentic passion for it then certainly no one else will either. There are enough me-too and cookie-cutter type outfits out there. The time has come to suspend the belief that your brand is special just because you think so.

The web hasn’t changed the fact that you have to have passion. Someone has to have passion for your brand (for which you provided the reason(s)). And ultimately to cut through the clutter you have to differentiate both in medium and in message. Actually, if the web has changed anything it has made these must-dos even more essential. Can you afford to do X? Nope! The question is, can you afford not to? That is what your guest will be looking for- The Winner. The one who goes the distance with them and for them.

Thanks Fritz! And a ho ho ho to you too.

NYC >> Web 2.0 >> 2009 >> Douglas Rushkoff

A colleague and I were fortunate to witness this first hand a couple weeks ago. Considering that this was part of the Web 2.0 Expo’s free seminars, is simply amazing. Rushkoff alone was worth the time and the cost of the train multiplied by a few thousand, at least. Cheers to O’Reilly for bringing that event together and having Rushkoff expand our minds. Challenging, brilliant and not to be missed.


Just change? Or change for the better?

“Work for Change” by Alexander Stein (Fortune Small Business, November 2009). It’s always interesting how the title of  an article sometimes changes from the print version to the web version. In this case, the web version is actually, “Break bad habits, make more money.” Look out Spiderman, here comes SEOman. I digress.

Change and innovation continue to be the buzz words of the moment. Add in the fact that the New Year’s resolution ritual is just around the corner and this article becomes a great way to kickoff your post-Thanksgiving week.

As we so often like to do, let’s bait you with a pull quote teaser:

There’s no simple prescription for change. But here are the first crucial steps:

Recognize that your personal history plays a central role in shaping your behavior.

Revise any prejudice against emotional inquiry. Accept the fact that fear, rigidity and avoidance are corrosive — and that reaching an understanding about yourself can reap rewards.

Admire psychological complexity; don’t let it intimidate you. Decode your mind to harness its natural ingenuity.

Respect the gargantuan force of your emotional life. Emotions can propel you to success. They can also impede and even straitjacket you. No matter what, you can’t ignore your emotions and still hope to prosper in business or in life.

Keep in mind, we’re about to enter the second decade of the 21st century. What 20th century habits and approaches do you hope to leave behind already? What do think it’s going to take to make those changes happen? Who or what — aside from yourself — is stopping you? Where else do find sources of inspiration that work for you?

NYC >> Web 2.0 >> 2009

For obvious reasons, this year’s Web 2.0 Expo, presented by O’Reilly, didn’t have the same buzz as last year’s. None the less, there were some pearls. Aside from a stack of brochures to consume, here’s a raw list (in no particular order) of domain names dropped during a few of the seminars/presentations:

https://www.SuperFluid.biz/

www.GoogleWave.com

www.CompleteWaveGuide.com

www.BetaWorks.com

www.Tumblr.com

www.Neighborhoodr.com

www.SetJam.com

www.apstrata.com

www.EarthAid.net

www.FoodSpotting

www.AnyClip.com

As this list as well as the brochures are consumed in detail, there promises to be follow up posts. Grab the AU RSS feed and stay tuned.

Lucky seven

“The Seven Dimensions of Wellness” By Jasmine Jafferali (Club Industry, 10 July 2007). The process of checking out Club Industry’s new web site (www.ClubIndustry.com) I bumped into this piece from Ms. Jafferali.

Obviously, it’s not new but that is no reason to discount its value. What’s appealing is that these Seven vectors take AU’s holistic approach and brings it all the way back to the individual. Or as Collins would probably say, back to the wellness of the right people on the bus. In other words, a healthy business starts with healthy people – both employees and maybe even clients/customers.

True, Jasmine’s context is within the sports/fitness club industry. If you’re not in that industry then try imagining your company or organization as a club and consider that employees are not just productivity tools but are first are foremost human beings. They need to be well 24/7, not just from 9 to 5.

Btw, clubs have guests too, right? So if you need it, here’s another vote for being guest-centric.