Showing posts from April, 2013

3 Sales & Marketing Lessons You Must Know

Random ideas from me and others -- the overarching concept being to entice the customer to come to you first rather than the other way around.

1. "Have breakfast with the customer" -- a former boss taught me this. Excellent salesman, he thought from the client's perspective at all times and actually did have breakfast lunch and dinner with them.

2. "Let it be their idea"--another former supervisor who was brilliant at this. I don't know exactly how she did it.

3. "Solve their immediate problem well" and then they will call you to solve others - e.g. sell them stuff they need.

If we really cared about innovation...

In School

...we would let children go with their parents to work and have childcare and tutors available there.

...we would focus on helping children discover rather than on teaching them.

...we would eliminate standardized tests completely in favor of the essay, the presentation, the model.

At Work
...we would end the distinction between working and learning activities.
...we would embrace noble failures rather than worship success.

...we would work and learn in whatever setting feels natural to us.

In Our Communities

...we would make the outdoors more accessible and safe.

...we would have free, safe libraries and learning labs everywhere.

In The World

...we would unlock the data and use it - to end poverty, sickness, inequality and social repression.

Thoughts on what makes an innovator - in the public sector, private sector, & the organization

Some thoughts in response to a question on GovLoop-- 1. Organizational Innovator Always an outlierCan see the whole, the future, the vision - very big picture thinkerFuture-focusedTechnology-orientedPut things together that don't seem to connectIdealistic not practicalOptimisticHumanitarian on a grand scale but can be rude one on oneNot power or money hungry but definitely want to influence othersNot diplomatic - it's either innovative (good) or not innovative (bad)Tend to overvalue your contribution and be a poor listenerNot swayed by "feeling" arguments - "we can be more efficient but it will hurt people's feelings"2. Government Innovator You understand and value government for what it is and your agency for what it is uniquelyTry to make things better within the subjective logic that is every unique agency system.Achieve innovation that may not be much by private sector standards but that is significant in an agency settingYou don't attack or underm…

Reflections on the first year

So I hesitated to write this post for a lot of reasons. In the end I decided to try.

(If you are curious, I am worried that I will sound like a snotty know -it-all or maybe worse, like an incompetent fool.)

Here is what I learned from a year of trying my very best and making a lot of mistakes:

1. Nobody cares what you did before or who you are outside. All that matters is here.

2. You can never know enough or learn enough. Not for a single day.

3. Listening is not just something nice to do. It is a whole brain activity that is essential to do about 80 percent of the time. Even when you are talking you should be listening.

4. Find people willing to teach you. These people are everywhere. Don't be afraid to ask for advice, for five minutes, for help. Executives as well as success-minded people are generous.

5. The people at the hierarchical bottom of an organization know the most.

6. Don't be an ass. Interpret this as you see fit for your situation.

7. Don't get involved in gossip b…

Data vs. Feelings (What Seems Irrational To You Seems Very Rational To Me)

"Shouting" via, "Teaching Cultural Diffusion in Medieval China"
There are definitely two kinds of people in this world, "data people" and "feelings people" (Myers-Briggs: Thinkers and Feelers or Ts and Fs).  "Data people" tend to do work aimed at maximizing efficiency on a mechanical level. Currency traders, policy analysts, surgeons, programmers."Feelings people" tend to do work aimed at enabling psychological & social adaptation. Parents, nurses, psychologists and counselors, customer service. Most of the time each one has no idea what the other one is talking about.
In addition there are some people who take the existence of G-d for granted while others are vehemently agnostic or disagree. Each can be terribly offended by the other to the point where they will in effect stick their fingers in their ears going "la-la-la, I can't hear you" with the sentiment being that the other person is respo…

You Can't Manipulate The Public's Emotions & 4 Other Lessons For Law Enforcement Public Affairs

Take a good look at your audience - any ordinary person. Here, the actor Michael Cera, via Wikimedia. Having worked in a law enforcement environment I think it is fair to say that the culture features chain-of-command thinking, jockeying for power and general discomfort with managing emotion in a real way.

These factors have a direct impact on public affairs because in today's environment - where social media has a gargantuan influence - you will literally be shouted down from your post if you cannot engage the public.

The rule of the day is to treat the public with respect, as a peer group equivalent if not greater in influence and power, as an ally to be persuaded. To be humble. And most importantly to engage them equally emotionally and intellectually.

Therefore, 5 tips for law enforcement public affairs--

1. Tell people what is going on in a way that conveys expertise but also deep concern for them. If you don't know how to do that watch any movie with Morgan Freeman. In fact I…

Do Government Employees Have Freedom Of Speech?

It's a free country, everybody has freedom of speech, and it is statistically impossible that you will agree with every single thing your agency, another agency or the government does as a whole. You want to make the government work better. Every day people take to social media, face-to-face conversation and everything in between to say what they think. And honest conversation promotes transparency and therefore credibility. To my mind it shows the public that we care. However, there are times when speaking your mind may not be the best choice. Here are five factors I use to guide and sometimes limit my public comments: 1--Focus on the general (rules and best practices) not the specific. 2--Remember that I am in a sense a representative of my Agency's brand (and the brand of government) whether I am speaking in a personal capacity or not. This is true of any employee of any organization. 3--Stick to designated roles and responsibilities - in my Agency only Public Affairs or designated…

Words Tend To Have The Opposite Effect

If you tell a kid to limit TV viewing they will sneak out and do something else. Just because.

Order an adult to eat fruit. They will ignore you and find cheeseburgers.

After a politician makes any speech, people will find reasons to howl in protest. What a hypocrite!

That is how authoritative speech works. The more you try to force a thing the more the people rebel.

Photo by me.

Leadership When There Is Nothing To Say

Man with sick child in hospital waiting room, Mozambique. Photo: Eric Miller/ World Bank via Flickr
Proactively identifying and solving problems. Those are leadership traits.

But they're not always useful.

Often the skill is simply to be there.

Being there does not mean imposing yourself on the situation, on the problem -- shoving your agenda around.

It does mean physical, emotional and spiritual presence. Sitting with the people. Holding somebody's hand. Showing that you care.

Leadership often means empathy and not action words. Action-oriented people have difficulty understanding this. "What should I say? There are no new developments."

Especially in times when there is chaos and fear, the calming support of a leader is not just helpful. It is required in order for the organization to continue running.

People may not show it but they are frequently wracked with physical and emotional pain -- anxiety, apprehension, fear. Not to mention anger: "It's not fair."

Brand Values: Be Consistent, Not "Nice"

Starbucks corporate social responsibility values are key to the brand -- because they position themselves as part of the community. Screenshot of Starbucks coffee cup label via Tara's Tidbits.

People get brand values (a.k.a. core values) mixed up with humanistic ones. They're not the same thing.

You, as a person, have a basic set of values. They are the principles that drive you as a human being -- your conscience. Your values may make you "not nice."

For example let's say these are your top three: freedom, integrity, and honesty. Freedom means choices; integrity means doing the right thing; honesty means not lying.

Standing up for freedom can mean fighting very vocally and sometimes physically. Integrity may mean turning in a thief. Honesty may involve a very direct and undiplomatic response to someone who's being deceitful.All of those values are nice. None of those values involve being nice.

What is the purpose of having personal values? They are your compass; …

8 Branding Opportunities Most Marketers Ignore

Screenshot via Improbable Research
1. Receipt: What does it look like? What does it say? Even the lack of a receipt can mark your brand, as at Whole Foods where you can get one automatically.

2. Pre-Recorded Telephone Message: How does it sound? Does it drone on and on? What does that say about you? BOR-ING!

3. Cashiers: Are they thinking human beings or just drones? People like to chat when they're checking out, can your staff make conversation?

4. Seamless Experience: Does every point of interaction focus on solving the customer's needs? Or is the entire shopping experience stove-piped? (My favorite is when customer service starts explaining why bad service is not their fault.)

5. Third-Party Republished Information: Other websites are taking your data and aggregating it with similar providers. Or you are getting rated. Are you collecting information about how you appear on these sites? People may trust them more than you. (Please tell me you aren't writing your own reviews.…

Prepping For Disaster -- Alone

Image: Shooting Range Glock via Wikimedia
"Just 28% rate the federal government in Washington favorably. That is down five points from a year ago and the lowest percentage ever in a Pew Research Center survey." - Pew Research Center for People & The Press, April 15, 2013
Today during the morning commute the radio station played interviews with Boston commuters.

"They are going on as usual," the announcer said, and then a lady started talking. She was there when the bombings happened. "I don't understand," she repeated over and over. "I don't understand."

My daughter called me on the phone. "I'm very upset about what happened in Boston," she said. "Who did it? I don't understand."

Surfing the Internet as if to find the answer in five seconds, I felt helpless. "I don't know," I said to her. "I just don't know."

What we worried about is happening. Terrorist attacks are hitting home. Not …

5 Ways To Assure Your Place In The Moneyless Future (Bitcoin)

Image by ffejery via Flickr Creative Commons
Money is dying and virtual cash is coming alive as people have figured out a way around traditional currency systems. Today the predominant system for this exchange is known as Bitcoin.

(See: "Meet The Bitcoin Millionaires.")

Bitcoin is disruptive. Nobody owns it. It is traded though. In fact last Thursday Nasdaq had to halt trading on Bitcoin (the "Mt. Gox exchange," out of Japan) because they couldn't handle the volume. The system is seeing about 20,000 new traders a day.

If "Bitcoinia" were a country it would be small but significant, would be the world's 165th largest, "beating out Malta but...just topped by Luxembourg," writes John Vandivier, who tried to calculate its popularity. He also estimates there are about 450,000 users worldwide.

Virtual money is essentially an advanced barter system with bits and bytes replacing the idea of money.  Even if you don't understand the details, the ba…

Mark Zuckerberg Wants To Know: Why Are Leadership Speeches So Boring?

Image via, "Blah, Blah, Blah is What Gen Y'ers are Hearing"

Writing for CNET, Chris Matyszczyk talks about the new commercial for Facebook Home. He notes that it's partly a commentary on the typical phenomenon of employees listening to their boring CEO go on and on, writing:

"In a quite stunning acting debut, Facebook's CEO shows the virtues of Home and the difficulties of being a CEO. His employees aren't impressed." (Full story here.)

From an advertising perspective I don't think the commercial works - I'm too focused on the fact that Zuckerberg is making fun of himself. 

But from a branding perspective it might be a good one. The commercial tells me that Facebook represents irreverence - a brand value that I identify with. This might make me more likely to remain a customer.

If you take away the commercial aspect though, the ad brings a timeless internal communication problem to light.  Corporate writers wring their hands about b…

What Leadership is NOT

Leadership is NOT spoon-feeding information to the workers in little dribbling bits of Gerber baby food. We won't have that anymore. We are not babies. We are old enough to vote, marry, drive cars and think for ourselves. Give us the tools and let us have conversations on company networks with leadership blessing and permission.

Leadership is NOT hypocritically saying one thing and then doing another, or being wishy-washy about what you mean. It IS modeling the vision in behavior - taking a hit for the cause - being unpopular if you have to.

Leadership is NOT taking credit for the work. It is using your power to renovate the organizational structures that hold people back. And then unleashing the workforce to do better it ON THEIR OWN.

Leadership is not a monologue but a conversation. It is recognizing that the value in the organization stems not only from the service provided or the knowledge produced, but from the SOCIAL FABRIC itself. The stronger that fabric the more durable the …

Everything Begins With A Tracking Number

There was a lady who ran a graphics service department. Everybody wanted that service.

She would make them log the request in first.

"But it's urgent," they would say.

"Don't care."

"There is no time."


"The Commissioner said so."

"Have him call me."

Nobody could get past this lady. And she had a great enforcer.

Time has passed and I lead a communication service now.

At first it was tempting to fly spontaneously all the time. There is a certain excitement.

But at some point we all have to grow up. Customer service is a marathon not a sprint. To do a marathon you need process.

1. Create a job.
2. Log in the job.
3. Create a shared folder with limited permissions.
4. Use a template.
5. Get the background on the request - talk first.

All of this may seem very basic. But in an high-volume, rapid-response environment you can forget it.

Don't. Because everything nowadays is urgent. And if you set unrealistic expectations, in th…

A false kind of liberation: 10 one-sentence stories

Screen shot via Jezebel
"How do the best writers convey grief without alienating the reader or lapsing into melodrama?" - Emily Rapp
"A Clear View of Raw Emotion," (Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2013) by Emily Rapp is about the experience of losing her son to a terrible disease. 
Rapp's way of dealing with the grief was to write. But she had the writer's dilemma of not being able to distance herself from the subject she most needed to talk about. 
Sexism completely infuriates me. So maybe I can't really write about it. But I can share just a few stories, assorted, heard over the years: The one about the man who breaks up with the woman, then calls her to ask for relationship advice, but they weren't married, so it "didn't count."The one about growing up poor and having to join the military or take a minimum-wage job. Then, in the army, sexually harassed.The one about the husband who cheats because he feels neglected, even though the woman …

Misc. Lessons - April 10, 2013: Emotional & Rational Intelligence

* Don't fall for drama. Stay even-keeled.

* Don't jump to conclusions especially about others' intentions toward you. Ask directly if possible but not in an attacking way.

* Communication is symbolic as well as literal. Understand when your words and deeds may be misunderstood because of their symbolic value.

* Look at people's true intentions.

* Read interactions not just actions. Study the dynamic.

* There is no such thing as an unimportant detail. If something strikes you as off, it is.

* Respect the desire to not be bombarded with useless information. Offer value and don't make your listener sift the wheat from the chaff.

* Somebody stopped to help you today. Say thank you.

Big Data, Big Fear, Big Potential

Source: "War & Peace Manipulation"

Big Data can solve the world's problems, potentially.

--If we know how to feed and house and clothe the masses
--How to cure disease
--How to curb violence
--and so on, at low or no cost

Then we have the tools to bring the vision of global peace into reality.

But Big Data creates scary problems of its own.

--Who defines what the data is? This is the meaning of a thing - like "married couples" -- if same-sex marriage is legal then the data will be different than if only heterosexual couples are recognized.

--Who controls it? Is it the sheriff and his best friend who have access to the database? Are medical records shared with the police and the schools as part of your "Universal ID?"

--Will people be out of a job? When computers collect, process and spit out information sufficient to think for us, where will all the knowledge workers go? How will the resulting inequity of income and wealth affect the population as a wh…

Branding Takes Time: J.C. Penney Edition

Yesterday J.C. Penney fired its CEO and announced they're bringing the old CEO back.

According to experts interviewed for a report tonight (April 9, 2013) on National Public Radio the CEO made five critical mistakes:

Overlaid a past turnaround formula onto an incompatible present situationConfused very different brandsMoved too quicklyTook away the couponsDidn't use a data-based process (e.g. piloting changes, mining customer data).
Partially I agree:

It is true every situation is different and Apple is indeed not J.C. Penney.Piloting is a good idea.However there are other points that I take issue with:

There are times when radical change is needed - and J.C. Penney had become a crap store - physically even, it looked dingy.Consumers move extremely fast.The coupons were absolutely worthless because everybody knew you paid the same price no matter what. But those are just marketing points. The bigger picture has to do with the brand. And this is where the Board should have given the…

In With The Awesome, Out With The Jerks

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch

"The firing Wednesday of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, for shoving players around, firing basketballs at them, and screaming that they were [expletives deleted] reflects universal condemnation....while that behavior had long been tolerated if not celebrated, his off-court actions clearly crossed the line of acceptability." - "The Basketball Bully," Slate, April 3, 2013
Study after study shows that fear and anxiety inhibit learning: * Fear = externally imposed, e.g. by a bullying coach * Anxiety = internal, e.g. a condition you feel regardless of what's going on outside Yet: * Despite our theoretical understanding that learning is itself anxiety-provoking and works best with a relaxed and receptive mind * Despite the critical nature of continuous learning to the modern workplace ...we continue to think that fear-inspiring leaders are somehow better. (See "Love and Fear and the Modern Boss," Harvard Business Review.) …

Blog Life vs. Real Life & "The Matrix"

My work/life balance campaign is going swimmingly well. I managed to put the computer away for an entire 24 hours this weekend. Did not touch it! Amazing!

In the process I learned that I am a little the characters in "The Matrix" who exist partly in an alter life and partly in the real one. And that I find life challenging without a computer attached. Here's why: Control: You've seen the Bounty (TM) paper towel commercial: "Life's messy. Clean it up." Writing about things lets me put the puzzle pieces together in an orderly way, giving me the illusion of control. I like that.Optimism: Real life can be disheartening. There always seems to be "something" challenging going on. And you look around you and see how things end: basically people end up alone, and disabled, and miserable. Writing puts you into another space where everything turns out alright. Which brings us to -Justice: It is true that really great fiction, like great movies and TV, is …


These sneaker-lace-up-boots-whatever are great.

Print Mailers Must Have A Coupon: 7 Lessons in Marketing, Management and Life

Not everything can be a longish blog so here are a few assorted ideas collected over the past few days and the experiences that prompted them: 1) Print mailers must have a coupon. Don't waste money sending "awareness" flyers. If you're good you can do both. Example: Sephora @ JC Penney sends a mailer telling me about 30 different kinds of lip gloss. No coupon. Disregard. Payless sends a mailer with a coupon for 20% off. Better, but Payless still seems low-class. Hold because perhaps they have a good throwaway shoe for work. Bed Bath & Beyond sends enormous purple coupons always with a coupon attached. Best, because it brands them as a cool place to go and I have a reason to go there. 2) Always question the process. This week we ended up in the emergency room due to a home repair screwup. During which we decided that if a little Drano is good, a lot must be better. (See "When The Solution Is Worse Than The Problem.") Sitting in the ER at 3 a.m. watching my…

Communicators: Know When To Shut Up

"Big Mouth" by Hiba Tim via (Creative Commons)

One of the more annoying things communicators tend to say is:

"If Only I Had A Seat At The Table."

Loosely translated this means something like--
"I am so smart about communication things..." (because I've written about fifty thousand factsheets)"I know so much about how people RELATE to one another..." (based on instinct, opinion and the latest survey results from the Partnership for Public Service published in Federal Times)"If only the bosses would LISTEN to me..." (wah, wah)I've heard communicators make this complaint in person, on the Internet, and in numerous books. And I honestly can't understand the dire need communicators have to tell businesspeople what to do.

Lawyers don't tell businesspeople what to do. They simply offer advice. Because lawyers know:

Specialists know their specialty.

Communicators know communication.

Businesspeople know the business.

Now b…

Reebok's Brand Confusion

Saw these two in-store signs promoting Reebok. Different tag lines. No consistency of theme. What makes this brand a brand?

They would be better off appealing to the anti-Nike crowd, focusing on women perhaps, those of us who exercise for health -- with zero hope of ever looking like an athlete.

Remember Wendy from Snapple? She would be a good spokesperson and that would be a great co-brand.

The general principle though is -- mixed messages cancel each other out and neutralize brand equity.

Who Do You Think You're Fooling? (A Meditation On Authenticity)

Image via If you mean well, or if you are hateful. If you're a liar. Or tell the truth.

If you have integrity -- or throw your team under the bus.

Can you be counted on when the chips are down? Or are you a self-promotional phony?

Is your wisdom real? Or did you make it up?

People, like dogs, can tell from your aura.

And they will treat you the same way in kind.