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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hal Varian, Google's Chief Economist, On How The Web Challenges Managers

Google’s chief economist says executives in wired organizations need a sharper understanding of how technology empowers innovation.

“What is it that’s really scarce in the Internet economy?” And the answer is attention. [Psychologist] Herb Simon recognized this many years ago. He said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Interview transcript and video published in the McKinsey Quarterly

Monday, December 28, 2009

Culture, The Unexpected Asset

At this month’s Leadership Breakfast of Virginia, Tom Meylan developed the concept of LO+FT, “Luck Optimization plus Fault Tolerance.” Tom is a NASA rocket scientist, and LO+FT came out of “what happens when you put a project in space and something changes?”

What Tom taught is that your plan usually covers what you expect to happen. There will also be unexpected opportunities, where you optimize luck, and problems, where you need to get back from disaster. Excellent concept.

Tom presented a number of precepts and examples, all of which make sense.

We were assigned of small group exercises. My group looked at how to generate an action plan to implement a change. Hemant Mehta, another McCaw alumni (who I didn’t know back in the day) and I came up with five key points, which pretty much completed the task. This exercise mirrored the way we worked at McCaw, during the rollout of the analog cell phone network.

Looking back, my McCaw experience was the only culture I have participated in that made mergers successful on a daily basis.

Another member of the team, a successful CXO, wanted to insert, “stop people from doing the wrong thing.” I disagreed, said I would probably ask the subordinate to teach me what he was doing. Hemant was nodding his head. The CXO asked why?

I said, “First if he is in the position, I expect competence. Second, I have a chance to learn something, and third, if there is a flaw, teaching gives the person doing the work an opportunity to improve his plan.”

That was apparently a big insight for our CXO. It caused me to think of the many managers I have known who will stop a project if they don’t understand it, yet are generally late understanding and applying the tools and concepts that are revolutionizing the top players in their industry.
  • The chief lesson of Pac Man over checkers is you learn not moving will end the game faster than making the wrong move.
  • Sailing teaches you have to be under way to improve your course. Being stopped leads to more being stopped.
  • Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?
As Tom was wrapping up, he said his LO+FT system is aimed at changing the culture of the organization. I had been taught that culture is what you believe and practice.

In Tom’s presentation, I learned that for two of us, our culture of twenty years ago was still influencing our activity, and creating valuable teamwork.

What are your experiences with culture as an unexpected asset?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Networking Checklist

’Tis the season for getting out!

Went to a great event last week organized by Andrew Meringoff at the Washington DC Connections LinkedIn Group. No matter how emailed, Web 2ed, blogged and phoned we get, face to face still does a lot of my work. I’ve been thinking about what I learned at the event, tried a number of writing approaches, and as my deadline went by what came out is my Networking Checklist.

Attitude Check –Networking is helping someone - Tom Peters

Time Check – Most golf matches are won before the first tee or after the eighteenth – Bill Van Dyke. I come early and leave late.

Name Tag - Bring your own. Make it work for you.

Purpose – Why am I going? What do I want to accomplish? “20 meetings a month” is my start, add to that.

So many targets, so little time! – I want to acknowledge everyone I already know as my first order of business. After that, I concentrate on having a complete conversation with each person I meet, resulting in a recommendation or commitment to action. That is usually more than twenty people per hour, and I have helped some people, met people, and I’m tired. What more should I want?

Offer – What am I offering? I rarely start a relationship and then close a transaction at a first meeting. This is the information age. I think a public group meeting is for establishing initial interest. An interesting handout centers the discussion and enables further inquiry. Explaining a handout usually creates a line of people listening and waiting to talk with me.

Of course, I also enjoy being the featured speaker whenever I can arrange that.

Positioning – I don’t move much. Once, a new acquaintance told me she was trying to get over to meet me and I disappeared. Other people are navigating their way through the group.

What is your guidance for open meeting networking?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Truth and Time

For over 20 years, I have been presenting Talk Your Business, How to Make More And Better Sales Right Away! It’s an hour where I introduce a better template for an introduction and a better template for telling a story and the audience then commences to commit sales on each other. We always get a couple of transactions, so I must be a guru.

About once a year, a participant would get very disturbed and splutter, “That’s not true!” I couldn’t get a coherent explanation of the issue, but did understand they were angry. The rest of the audience and the presenter (me) would try to understand the problem, would be mystified, and would proceed…cautiously.

After the third time that happened, I was flying home and sat next to a shrink. I described what had happened, and asked what it meant. He must have been great shrink, because he asked a couple of questions, looked at my handout, thought about it, and explained.

The problem was I was letting people develop examples of how they are excellent in either the past or the future, he explained. Truth is about something that has already happened. Telling a story about the future is neither true or false, since truth can only be measured in the past. The future story shows vision. The splutterer was having an emotional reaction to trying to measure the truth of something that hadn’t happened.

Sometimes we need to discuss our vision of the future. Proverbs 29:18 “When there is no vision the people perish.” However, when demonstrating truth, the safest course is to tell a story about something that has already happened, and even better, is already known and accepted by the audience.

Today I make sure I explain this drawing during the presentation and everyone is happier.

Your story?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Value of Commenting

We had a fun presentation last week, “Building Your Social Media Platform” at the Leadership Breakfast of Maryland. As part of the presentation, we asked participants to post on my blog, Through The Browser. So far we have 13 comments.
One of the organizers expected more comments.
“How many were you expecting?”
“I was expecting more.”
I have been thinking about that for a few days.
First, we already have a one-out-of-three response rate. Direct mail measures response in hundredths and thousandths. Print advertising is less.
Second, as usual, the commenters educated the presenter. I was amused, provoked, and moved forward by the thinking in the comments.
Third, our combined information is now available to others. I plan on making this presentation several times next year and adding to the comments on this post. I might like to know about a presentation before I attend, I may have a better informed audience in the future, and I expect further comments are going to expand our knowledge of the subject.
Finally, I was already in a meeting with these 40 people for almost two hours. I don’t believe I learned as much through the conversations in person as I learned from the comments.
Your comments? *grin*

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is being shy a new type of digital divide?

Shyness is an attribute that could prove to be damaging to your career and increase the price of goods and services... by Tom Foremski

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Headwaters Of The Sale

They made a big deal when someone discovers the origination point of the Amazon, Mississippi, or Nile. (“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”)

What about when someone discovers the origination point of a sale?

It’s way before a project goes out for bid, before negotiation, before specification. If you were present at origination, stands to reason that could be a huge advantage.

Thursday I was at a Grip’N Grin at the Alexandria Chamber Of Commerce. Joe Shumard, Membership Driver was making some announcements. He and I are running an experiment to raise the use of Web 2.0 by Chamber Members. I would be satisfied with an ostentatious display of mastery from the members. This was the kickoff.

Joe asked two questions.

“How many of you have a LinkedIn account?”

“How many are in the Alexandria Chamber LinkedIn group?”

And he dropped the subject, went on to other announcements. I was fielding questions the rest of the morning.

The headwaters of the sale are the point where the buyer starts to consider the solution. That’s the efficient place for me to be.

Let me give you another example.

A friend asked for help building a presentation for a industry-wide meeting where he was selling document management software and services. We had done this before and agreed that the battle would be won or lost with the opening question.

Come the presentation the opening question was:

(Hand raised above head) “How many of you…have ever…lost a document…in your own computer?”
End game at three minutes. The audience took over to make all his points for him. It was a feeding frenzy and he was busy graciously welcoming his new customers.

Been there, done that? Tell us!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

“It’s Important Work We Do Here”

Twenty years ago I was a partner in a marketing company. We did a lot of innovative work.

The bottom rungs in our organization were researchers and typists. We picked up interns just out of school and had them doing an enormous amount of repetitive work that has now been replaced by computers.

We had an increasing morale problem. Business was flourishing. The work just kept coming. Mistakes were increasing.

Finally we came up with a new tactic. My partner would walk out of his office into the bullpen every day around 11 AM. He would look around, nod his head, and say,
“It’s important work we do here.”

Turn around and walk back into his office.

Morale improved. Our guys started paying better attention. They felt better about their jobs.

“It’s important work we do here.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Anil Dash explains Expert Labs

Anil Dash is founding Expert Labs, with backing from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the MacArthur Foundation to provide access to crowdsourcing expertise to government. David Weinberger's blog (includes video) :

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Best Defense Is NOT Being Offensive

Two “hunh?” experiences last week.
A friend was meeting another friend for the first time to discuss an opportunity. While prepping for the meeting he got off into, “Well if he even thinks of saying that, I’m gonna…” building a fantasy disaster.
I thought of that smart guy who said “of all the horrible occurrences in my life, very few of them actually happened.”
If I expect the worst, anybody around me who is paying attention knows it and adjusts. Every time.
Then there was a reader who got quite exercised by my ceaselessly promoting my financial business. Wow! I learned a long time ago that there are words people and numbers people and I am most definitely a words people.
I searched for some other posts from the guy to get an idea of where he was coming from…couldn’t find any other posts. Looks like his first comment in this marvelous new world was a flame. I am so sorry.
Thinking about it, I’m going to deny that the best defense is being offensive. Sure you hurt people when you catch them by surprise, but it’s not sustainable, and I can’t think of a valuable lesson I learned from someone expressing their anger.