Profile cover photo
Profile photo

Post has attachment
10 Signs That You Are Becoming An Entrepreneur

1. You Take The Initiative

A lot of people will complain about a number of things and ask questions like, “When would someone deal with this problem?” You discover that you don’t fancy such questions but would rather ask questions like: “What can I do now to start changing things for the better? They create solutions to problems they encounter. They don’t wait for anyone to do it for them.

2. You Believe Your Vision Will Come Alive

Are you an incurable optimist who believes that his/her visions will be actualized no matter how high the odds are stacked against you? Do you walk around with the confidence of someone who knows that it’s just a matter of time before it finally clicks? Well then, this is a strong signal that you are cut out to be an entrepreneur.

3. You Don’t Just Work For The Money

Do you find yourself working longer than you are actually paid to do? Do you take special pride in always giving the best even when the employer doesn’t give a worthy remuneration? Are you willing to work for free if it means it would give you the opportunity to acquire an important skill or get connected to someone you’d like to network with?

If you answered “Yes” to all these questions then you are unlike most people. You have a strong trait of entrepreneurs. The truth is that many people will NOT do more than they are paid to do. Many folks will NOT work unless they are guaranteed financial reward.

4. You Know How To Sell Your Visions To Others

Entrepreneurs know how to articulate their visions in such a way that they are able to strongly convince others that their dreams are actually possible. Have you found yourself easily selling your goals to others and getting them committed to them? If you have this gift then you have one special ability that sets entrepreneurs apart.

5. You Are NOT Afraid To Leave Security For Something You Believe

Would you happily leave your well-paying job because you have an idea that you believe will make a big difference in a few years’ time? Do you wonder why other people are so concerned about having a secured employment when they can have a great life exploring the great ideas they have?

That’s something that makes you rare. That’s the spirit of the entrepreneur: Leaving the secure but mundane for the opportunities of a better tomorrow albeit fraught with challenges.

 *6. You Look For Ways To Make Things Better*

Are you never satisfied with the way things are? Are you constantly looking for ways to sell more, deliver more value, improve customer service or make the sales process more profitable? Are you never happy to leave a good thing alone? Do you think of making the best even better? That’s something that entrepreneurs have in common.

 *7. You Don’t Like To Live By Predictable Patterns Of Work*

If waking up by 5am every day, getting into a cubicle and working from 9am to 5pm makes you feel less human. Then the idea of entrepreneurship may appeal to you. If you are sure you are meant for much more than doing just what you are told to do at work then you have something that all great entrepreneurs have. They don’t like to live by the predictable patterns of the 9-5 rat race.

8. You See Opportunities Where Others Don’t

Do you see money where others only see problems? Do you see opportunities where others only see setbacks? Do you see the solutions (and the opportunities that come with them) where others only see challenges? Then it means you have the valuable eyes of an entrepreneur.

 *9. You Like To Play By Your Own Rules*

Do you find it tiresome having to wear a necktie to work every day because you just want to make your boss happy? Do you really believe what you wear should be determined by how it helps you get the job done and NOT by predetermined conventions?

Do you find yourself questioning the rationale for established norms and practices in your place of work (That you actually see as counterproductive)? Do you find yourself introducing your own set of rules whenever and wherever you can (For improved performance and productivity)?

Then you are a game-changer. You have one of he most important characteristics of a great entrepreneur.

 *10. You Like Being In Charge Of Your Own Success/Failure*

Would you prefer being the pilot in a turbulent flight than being a passenger in a boat going nowhere? Do you take ownership for success or failure? Would you prefer a situation where you are given the tools to work, given a free hand and then held accountable for the end result (Whether favorable or unfavorable)?

Then entrepreneurship is your true calling.

If you answered Yes! to all 10 points above, congratulations, you are a true entrepreneur.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Why Operating Rules and Not Size Are Responsible for Innovation

You can find plenty of people who disregard bigger enterprises, stating they are not the future. 

This argument is both old and wrong. Joseph Schumpeter, the noted economist, said — in 1909 — that small companies were more inventive than large ones. But then, in 1942, Schumpeter reversed himself and argued that big companies had more ability and incentive to invest in new products. Today, there's a similar bias; people assume that small companies are creative and big firms are slow and bureaucratic. A look at any performance measure shows that innovation can come from either size, and that both arguments are oversimplifications.

The key for every firm — regardless of size — is to figure out how to consistently create value in a demanding, ever-changing market. That is hard no matter what size you are, no matter what industry you're in.

If we're to actually get better at innovation, we need to understand the operating conditions that lead to it and move past the bigotry and biases. To do so, let's look at two distinguished firms side by side to see how innovation is entirely independent of size and more a function of different operating rules.

IBM and HP are two amazing companies with long and meaningful histories. Both CEOs are notable in what they have done, and are doing to lead their companies and both companies rank highly on the Fortune 500 List. HP is #10 on the 2012 list, and IBM is number 19.

At HP, CEO Meg Whitman has had the unfortunate situation of following a string of CEOs who've had short runs at the company and appear to have moved the company in the wrong direction. That said, her first decision when she returned was to "stay the course"; that involved keeping its PC-making personal systems group because that "product line allowed better supplier cost negotiation with Intel, Seagate and others." The logic was "together we are stronger". Another of Whitman's first actions was a cost-cutting exercise to "fix" HP. She aimed for 29,000 employee cuts, which would bring the number of HP layoffs to 120,000 over the past decade. And earlier this month, she shared plans for revenues and profits to decline for another year to then return to growth in three years, with the key to the turnaround being "stability".

IBM has gone through its own turmoil. Back in 2002, when Sam Palmisano took over, IBM had four main businesses each organized on a global basis: hardware, software, services,such as back-office outsourcing, and personal computers. (The parallels to HP can easily be seen). They focused on a shift that was described as moving "the center of gravity" away from IBM. Customer-facing teams around the world were asked to deliver IBM's solutions in myriad markets. To help frame the thinking of these dispersed IBMers, a three-day, 24-hour on-line town hall was held for some 150,000 employees — IBM called it a Jam — to define the values by which IBM would be operated and its people held accountable. IBM's Smart Planet Initiative is said to have come from these jam sessions involving 200 universities from 40 countries.

The new CEO, Ginny Rometty has been quoted as saying that IBM believes it needs to persistently reinvent the value proposition and "take new things on." And the CEO sees enabling a culture of collaborative innovation as key. "Culture," Rometty has also said, has "become the defining issue that will distinguish the most successful businesses from the rest of the pack." And "strategic beliefs may be more important than strategic planning when thinking about how you keep the long view," she said. "Clients say, 'What's your strategy?', and I say, 'Ask me what I believe, first.' That's a far more enduring answer."

Innovations are not a function of size or even industry-specific strategies, but an embodiment of a set of ideas.

Let's go through the key distinctions as evidenced by HP and IBM and how the distinction between those ideas plays out in today's Social Era:

1. Trying to Preserve Market Position vs. Cultivating the Ability to Adapt. While it's true that size once created competitive barriers and correlated with market power, it no longer does. HP holding onto its PC division because it will help them manage supplier negotiations suggests that they are trying to preserve a cost position, rather than innovate on value. Research shows that what was once a sustainable competitive advantage has shifted from 30-40 year arcs to 12 years in most industries, and five years in the tech sector. Instead of worrying about power over their suppliers, HP needs to be focused on leaping to their next opportunity, which is what IBM persistently does. Organizations must acknowledge that any advantages are short-lived, and the thriving business is one that figures out how to persistently reinvent their product lines, and business models.

2. Seeing People as "Production Units" vs. Essential to the Success Equation.

 As HP continues to burn-n-churn people, they are signaling that people are cogs in the machine — dispensable and easily replaced. Imagine what that does to recruitment, let alone energetically to the people who work there? In the Social Era, the greatest asset isn't the stuff you lock up — like the building or manufacturing capabilities — but the people who walk out the door each night still thinking of creative solutions and ideas that will make a difference. The role of leadership is to unlock that talent, just as IBM has done when they jointly built a shared understanding of "why we're here" and connecting people through purpose. Culture, Talent, and Purpose matter crucially when what you are making is a function of creativity and ideas. Who we are is what we make, and if we treat talent like Kleenex, innovation doesn't happen.

3. Organizations are Open to New Ideas vs. Closed.

A vast portion of our economy is now freelance (the US range is between 45-50%), which shows that "work is freed from jobs." In all the examples I give about Social Era, it's clear that value can be created independent of "a job" and by the very way we structure innovation, we can pull in ideas from anywhere. By engaging with others — regardless of whether they work for or in our firms — we engage new ideas. I've written extensively about this, and so have others, so I'll avoid repeating the case studies here... but the crux of the issue is that organizations need to stop thinking of who creates value as the people who work "for us." Often new ideas and innovations can and do come from outside the perimeter of an organization — especially from people who, without vetting or permission, create unexpected value. Open is more than a way of thinking about crowdsourcing or open innovation, it's a way of thinking about who is allowed to create value. IBM embodies this as their Smart Planet, Watson, and digital initiatives show (comprising about 20% of their revenue stream); HP continues to limit who is allowed to create value for the firm.

Here's the bottom line.

IBM has recently reached the highest stock valuation in its 100+ year history. HP, on the other hand has lost 35% of its value since its new CEO and over 70% since 2010 — over $90 billion of value from its peak.

These outcomes are a result of a set of principles, not the commentary of one industry titan outsmarting another in product moves. In truth, strategies change, market moves happen, and industries change. But if an organization knows what principles of innovation work, then innovation follows — regardless of size.

It seems that HP believes one set of ideas and IBM another. This makes HP more a patchwork of people and products inside some corporate buildings, and IBM more a centrifugal force. Which is not to say that one will inevitably continue to thrive and the other decline. But it is true that the organizations using the right operating principles will continue to thrive.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Unblocking Women's Paths to the Boardroom 

Earlier this month in Strasbourg, European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding proposed a new law that would enforce quotas of 40% for women's representation on European corporate boards by 2020. Why did she do it? Because experience suggests that this is the most effective way of substantially increasing the representation of women in top leadership. Many companies have embraced gender diversity initiatives, women's mentoring networks, and leadership development programs with great enthusiasm. But the continuing low level of representation of women in the highest levels of corporate leadership shows that these strategies for facilitating women's entry into managerial career paths and supporting them once there are inadequate.

Now that the EC quota initiative has been blocked, what other pathways to women's advancement should we be focusing on? Organizational solutions must focus both on the development of high-potential women themselves and on systemic and sustainable change to the organization's mindset and processes regarding gender diversity. A number of systemic issues block women's path to the top, and any comprehensive gender diversity and inclusion initiative must take steps to recognize often invisible barriers to women's advancement, to act on the system as a whole, and to promote ownership of solutions by men as well as women.

First, we need to understand what holds women back. Research has found that a number of unintended selection and performance biases disadvantage women on their pathways to top leadership. The closed networks from which board members tend to be recruited make it less likely for qualified women candidates to be identified. Women in leadership face a higher burden of performing well due to their minority status. Aware of the importance of turning in flawless performance, women take fewer risks than men and are less likely to promote themselves, with the result that they appear to lack ambition. Wary of putting women in situations where sub-optimal performance could hurt not only their own career chances but those of other women, even well-meaning superiors are less likely to give them critical developmental assignments. Superiors also often decline to offer critical international assignments to women, assuming without verification that their family demands would make expatriation impossible. While the socio-emotional support from women's mentoring networks is valued and appreciated by women, women are less likely to have powerful career sponsors who actively advocate for them when decisions about developmental assignments and promotions are made.

Progress requires action. The European Business Schools/Women on Boards initiative was launched in September of 2011 as a centerpiece of EC Vice President Reding's efforts to increase gender diversity on boards of directors. This initiative has produced the "Global Board-Ready Women" searchable database, an excellent new resource for corporations seeking candidates to appoint to their boards. The GBRW database, which will be publicly launched on 12/12/12, will be administered by the Financial Times Non-Executive Directors' Club on the LinkedIn social network. The participating European business schools are currently busy populating the searchable database with over 7500 alumnae certified as board-ready.

Within corporations, gender diversity initiatives that are added on to the same old way of doing business cannot have significant impact. Instead, the most successful initiatives are integrated with the organization's core strategy and processes from the top down. The CEO must identify gender equity and diversity as a core strategic priority; in turn, this organizational priority must be translated into operational goals and processes at every level of the organization. Managers must have goals for recruitment and promotion of women in their departments and divisions, and achievement of these goals—including such factors as climate for gender equity and managerial support for women—should be measured and reinforced by the performance management and reward system.

While there is a wealth of research information available to support the business case for gender diversity overall, sustainable change within organizations requires the articulation and demonstration of a company-specific business case. In what ways does your company perform better, innovate more, provide better customer service, identify more exciting market opportunities, promote faster learning, recruit more outstanding talent, and more effectively develop employees as a result of increased gender diversity? In order to answer these questions, one straightforward and powerful practice to implement is highlighting success stories of women leaders and recognizing people in the organization who are helping to drive and sustain the move towards greater gender equity. The more visible, exciting, and dynamic the bandwagon, the more people will want to get on board.
More blog posts by Monique Valcour
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
6 Ways You Can Bring Your Social Media Back Under Your Control

\Managing your social media can be like making the most of your Halloween haul as a kid. Inhaling everything will not end well. You need to pick and choose what you really want and enjoy it in small, select bites. 

In our ever-connected world, social media is a full-on, constant coffee klatch. The party’s always there, whether you’re ready or not. Sign into Facebook and all your friends know you’re there…and they’re ready to chat. Log on to Gmail or Skype and the same thing happens. The next thing you know, you’re madly responding to multiple chats or watching cat-in-a-bag videos when you really need to get through your inbox. 

Entrepreneurs are busy enough running their business. How can you use social media and not be spooked by it all? Here are some tips to help manage the social media fire hose:

Schedule social media time blocks.

 Most days I check in three times: scanning for world and industry news in the morning, catching up on colleague and client news in the afternoon, and socializing in the evening after dinner. For maximum productivity, set a timer or alarm to remind you to log off and get back to work. 

Separate computer and mobile social time.

 The convenience of checking in via mobile device can be a blessing. I love using my iPhone to check in on FourSquare or quickly post a photo to Facebook while on the go. That lets me focus on business when I’m at my desk. Using a mobile device also helps prevent me from just “wandering around” on social media.  It keeps me focused on getting up-to-date.  

Be selective about notifications.

You can determine what’s most important and then have that specific info pushed to you in whatever form you choose. For example, I receive a text when direct tweets come in, but not Facebook or LinkedIn updates. I also subscribe to alerts from CNN, which sends me periodic texts with major news from around the world. I love being the first to know what’s going on! Carefully review your notification settings so you’re alerted to only the most important information or from the most important people. 

Schedule posts for later.

 Want to maintain an active presence online even while you’re busy, traveling or asleep? Buffer, Hootsuite and Tweetcaster are a few applications that allow you to draft posts and schedule them for a later time, or even multiple times. 

Delay your reaction to posts.

 Your social media should not reflect your stream of consciousness with a response to everything and everyone. Read, absorb, and if you really want to add something thoughtful and consistent with your personal brand, go ahead. It’s easy to get sucked into every political, pop culture or athletic team discussion or debate, but is it really worth your time? 

Treat social media as a reward.

 It’s tempting to click over to Facebook or Twitter to see what’s going on when you’re bored or frustrated with a work project. A better strategy would be to treat yourself to a social media break after you’ve accomplished something. (This works equally well with teenagers trying to focus on homework while friends pop up via chat or instant messages.)

Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Why It's Important To Build Honesty Into Your Brand

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” yelled the Wizard of Oz in a fit of hysteria, as the secret of his human-ness was unveiled.

This quote, of course, is from the 1939 classic fantasy film The Wizard of Oz. And in this specific scene, Dorothy and her gang have broken into the Wizard’s chamber, where little dog Toto opens a green satin curtain to expose the ultimate sham--an ordinary man operating a panel of wheels and levers while speaking into a microphone. There is no great and powerful wizard.

This line would become one of the most ironic lines of the 20th century, largely because, as a culture, we did not successfully interpret its implication. It was a warning sign to look beyond flashiness and fancy lighting. But we failed to listen.

The biggest misconception is that brand perfection is necessary before honesty is a valid brand strategy.
Over the course of the following decades, we would permit ourselves to be duped into taking things at face value, especially when it came to the influence of big brands. In the '60s, cigarette brands told us that smoking was stylish and healthy. We smoked like chimneys. In the '80s, corporate America successfully situated fast-food restaurants, brand-name blue jeans and cheap technologies into our day-to-day lives. We bought into the whole thing.

The standard approach for most companies was to focus on how they looked--all brand botox and no heart. Soul-destroying advertising became the standard, unrealistic images of what beauty should be were emblazoned across billboards, while being ingrained subtly through television. The biggest brands in the world emulated the wizard, successfully telling us not simply what to buy, but what type of lifestyles ought to be pursued. The wizardry worked like magic.

We’re weaning ourselves off uninspired corporate messaging. We crave honest brands.
But now it’s 2012, and the rules of marketing are changing because the world is changing. Blind consumerism driven by spoon-fed corporate advertising is on its way out. Consumers are starved for a new type of corporate engagement, a new form of capitalism. We are realizing that there is little correlation between owning "stuff" and being happy. We are eager to shop with values, and to support brands that actually stand for something other than product and bottom line. We’re weaning ourselves off uninspired corporate messaging. We crave honest brands

The most intelligent brands are sensing the sea change, and they’re adjusting by shifting with the evolving social environment. They understand that it’s no longer practical to attempt to distract consumers from the nasty implications of their production line by hosting glitzy charity balls or supporting pink-washed cancer runs. Instead, they’re bucking up, telling the truth, and making changes. Why? Because they actually want to exist in the future.

But wait, I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t it nearly impossible for a brand to tell the truth?”

The biggest misconception is that brand perfection is necessary before honesty is a valid brand strategy. Yet ask any couple that’s been married for 30 years and they’ll tell you this: Being honest does not mean being perfect. In brand parlance, it simply means truthfully communicating the challenges being faced, and then putting in the legwork to address those challenges.

A few brands can be applauded for their approach to honesty, while some have considerable work to do. This month, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (a company owned by Unilever) successfully joined the socially responsible B Corporation movement, and in doing so has made its full B Impact Assessment and governing documents visible to the public. In the retail world, footwear company Timberland is mapping its progress in improving factory conditions. It’s a great example of a brand that’s not perfect, but working to make changes.

We increasingly allocate our money and ‘likes’ in ways that promote the type of world we want to live in.
In a recent report on transparency in corporate reporting among the 105 largest publicly listed multinational companies, it’s surprising to see that oil companies such as BP and ExxonMobil (also far from perfect) rank much higher in transparency than popular tech companies such as Google and Apple. And in terms of integrity, public perception of Google and Apple continue to fluctuate. If I were a PR executive at these tech companies, my palms would be sweaty.

But there’s a simple solution.

Brands need to know that, when presented with honesty, consumers become loyal enthusiasts. We increasingly allocate our money and ‘likes’ in ways that promote the type of world we want to live in–-it’s a form of consumer democracy that has arrived to the modern world where every dollar is a vote. And although the debate rages on whether or not corporations are people, there is one thing that’s certain: Every brand on the face of this planet has a heart. Each brand has values and intentions. How do we know this? Companies are constructed by people who have values and intentions, and therefore are neither apolitical nor neutral. Brands are a reflection of the people behind them. And consumers are eager, if not practically begging, to see honest hearts at the core of their favorite companies.

So are you listening, big brands?

Companies can go in two directions: 1) Continue to conceal and to sweep away the internal brand truths, or 2) move towards a communications strategy of honesty and transparency. In an era of connection and instant sharing--where social media is the little dog ripping open every curtain across the land--a movement towards truth-speaking is undoubtedly the most intelligent.

The practical approach is to avoid the inevitable hysteria that will ensue when someone else exposes the truth. Unlock the castle doors before they get broken down. Lift the curtain before it gets ripped open. Be brave and be honest.

And--chances are--consumers will love you all the more.
Why It’s Important To Integrate Honesty Into Your Brand
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
7 Leadership Lessons From The San Francisco Giants

As a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, I’m thrilled that the club just won its second World Series in three seasons and is celebrating today in San Francisco.  As a management consultant, I’m very pleased that their journey highlights useful leadership lessons for people who want to succeed in highly competitive industries.  Here are 7 lessons.

 *1.     Listen To and Encourage Unfamiliar Voices*

Behind by two games in a best-of-five playoff series, an unfamiliar voice spoke to the team before an elimination game.  Outfielder Hunter Pence, who joined the Giants nine weeks earlier, was an unlikely source of a Knute Rockne-like speech.  By all accounts, his impassioned exhortations helped inspire 11 victories in the next 14 games, including a four-game sweep in the World Series.

Clearly, the Giants’ organization created an environment that made Pence feel safe enough to speak up.  What would have happened to the end of the season if the Giants’ culture did not allow this kind of expression?  How does your organization encourage or punish unfamiliar voices?

 *2.     A Charismatic Leader Is Not Required*

Giants’ Manager Bruce Bochy is about as laconic as they come.  (Giants’ broadcaster Jon Miller joked that sometimes interviewing Bochy nearly puts him to sleep.)  Bochy’s lack of charisma belies his fierce steadiness - nothing seems to rattle him, and this even keel was remarkably contagious to the team during tough times.  Bochy’s baseball knowledge (his “hard skills”) is second to none; his ability to relate to people (his “soft skills”) is firmly focused on aligning others to the shared purpose; and, like every good coach/manager/leader, when the team loses Bochy takes responsibility.  And when the Giants win, he gives all the credit to the team.

3.     Culture Does Change

For more than a decade, the Giants organization revolved around superstar Barry Bonds, whose mammoth home runs were matched by his divisive presence in the clubhouse (and involvement with performance-enhancing drugs.)  In short, it was all about Barry.  After the organization decided not to re-sign Bonds, the Giants’ leadership consciously turned the page to shift the focus from A Star to The Team.  This decision was supported by the hiring of a new manager (Bochy), shuffling people and responsibilities at the ownership level, and signing players with a “team first” mindset.

The point is that the culture change happened because changes were made first at the top, and the new priorities permeated the organization because leadership made it an ongoing priority with unrelenting resolve.  You can affect culture change in your organization with a similar approach.

 *4.     When One Door Closes…*

The Giants faced several serious challenges this season. They lost a key pitcher at the start of the season; their nearest division rivals made a dramatic talent acquisition late in the season in an effort to win the division; and in August the Giants’ best player was suspended for the season.  One can easily see analogous challenges in the business world - and the point is how an organization responds. The Giants chose to face these adversities as genuine opportunities to coalesce as a team and re-commit to a shared purpose.  When one door closed, the team found another door to open.

 *5.     Rebuild When Needed*

The Giants’ starting lineup for 2012 World Series included only one position player from their 2010 championship team.  After a successful end to 2010, the 2011 season was disappointing for a number of reasons.  The Giants’ management realistically and dispassionately evaluated the current personel and made many changes to serve the future while letting go of the past.

6.     Know Your People

During their championship season, the Giants adjusted for injuries and inconsistent performances, and asked certain players to take on new roles.  The majority of these transitions were successful because the club a) connected all of the changes to the broader vision of doing what was best for the team, b) recognized that not everyone is interchangeable, and did not make over-the-top demands of people, and c) gave plenty of support and encouragement to those who were asked to do new things.

7.     Play For Each Other

The core of Hunter Pence’s inspiring speeches was that he did not want the season to end because he did not want to stop being with the team.  He did not want the group to disband.  He spoke of his respect and love for each member of the team.  He spoke of belonging to something larger than himself, more special than anything he could accomplish alone, and the fleeting nature of the experience.  The team responded by not focusing on the fear of failure, or the potential of losing glory and individual riches. 

Instead, they played to not let down their teammates.  They played for a shared purpose.  They played for each other. 

And in the process, they happened to win a championship.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Google's VP of Search Products and User Experience, Marissa Mayer Shares Her 9 Principles of Innovation

Google's VP of search products and user experience shares the rules that gives the search company its innovative edge.

"There are two different types of programmers. Some like to code for months or even years, and hope they will have built the perfect product. That's castle building. Companies work this way, too. Apple is great at it. If you get it right and you've built just the perfect thing, you get this worldwide 'Wow!' The problem is, if you get it wrong, you get a thud, a thud in which you've spent, like, five years and 100 people on something the market doesn't want. Others prefer to have something working at the end of the day, something to refine and improve the next day. That's what we do: our 'launch early and often' strategy. The hardest part about indoctrinating people into our culture is when engineers show me a prototype and I'm like, 'Great, let's go!' They'll say, 'Oh, no, it's not ready. It's not up to Google standards. This doesn't look like a Google product yet.' They want to castle-build and do all these other features and make it all perfect.

I tell them, 'The Googly thing is to launch it early on Google Labs and then iterate, learning what the market wants--and making it great.' The beauty of experimenting in this way is that you never get too far from what the market wants. The market pulls you back."

"We have this great internal list where people post new ideas and everyone can go on and see them. It's like a voting pool where you can say how good or bad you think an idea is. Those comments lead to new ideas."

"Since around 2000, we let engineers spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want, and we trust that they'll build interesting things. After September 11, one of our researchers, Krishna Bharat, would go to 10 or 15 news sites each day looking for information about the case. And he thought, Why don't I write a program to do this? So Krishna, who's an expert in artificial intelligence, used a Web crawler to cluster articles. He later emailed it around the company. My office mate and I got it, and we were like, 'This isn't just a cool little tool for Krishna. We could add more sources and build this into a great product.' That's how Google News came about. Krishna did not intend to build a product, but he accidentally gave us the idea for one. We let engineers spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want, and we trust that they'll build interesting things."

"Eric [Schmidt, CEO] made this observation to me once, which I think is accurate: Any project that is good enough to make it to Labs probably has a kernel of something interesting in there somewhere, even if the market doesn't respond to it. It's our job to take the product and morph it into something that the market needs."

"People are blown away by the information you can get on MOMA, our intranet. Because there is so much information shared across the company, employees have insight into what's happening with the business and what's important. We also have people do things like Snippets. Every Monday, all the employees write an email that has five to seven bullet points on what you did the previous week. Being a search company, we take all the emails and make a giant Web page and index them. If you're wondering, 'Who's working on maps?' you can find out. It allows us to share what we know across the whole company, and it reduces duplication."

"I used to call this 'Users, Not Money.' We believe that if we focus on the users, the money will come. In a truly virtual business, if you're successful, you'll be working at something that's so necessary people will pay for it in subscription form. Or you'll have so many users that advertisers will pay to sponsor the site."

"When I meet people who run design at other organizations, they're always like, 'Design is one of the most political areas of the company. This designer likes green and that one likes purple, and whose design gets picked? The one who buddies up to the boss.'

Some companies think of design as an art. We think of design as a science. It doesn't matter who is the favorite or how much you like this aesthetic versus that aesthetic. It all comes down to data. Run a 1% test [on 1% of the audience] and whichever design does best against the user-happiness metrics over a two-week period is the one we launch. We have a very academic environment where we're looking at data all the time.

We probably have somewhere between 50 and 100 experiments running on live traffic, everything from the default number of results to underlined links to how big an arrow should be. We're trying all those different things."

"This is one of my favorites. People think of creativity as this sort of unbridled thing, but engineers thrive on constraints. They love to think their way out of that little box: 'We know you said it was impossible, but we're going to do this, this, and that to get us there.'"

"When I was a grad student at Stanford, I saw that phrase on a flyer for another company in the basement of the computer-science building. It made me stop dead in my tracks and laugh out loud. A couple of months later, I'm working at Google, and the engineers were asked to write job ads for engineers. We had a contest. I put, 'You're brilliant? We're hiring. Come work at Google,' and got eight times the click rate that anyone else got.

Google now has a thousand times as many people as when I started, which is just staggering to me. What's remarkable, though, is what hasn't changed--the types of people who work here and the types of things that they like to work on. It's almost identical to the first 20 or so of us at Google. There is this amazing element to the culture of wanting to work on big problems that matter, wanting to do great things for the world, believing that we can build a successful business without compromising our standards and values.

If I'm an entrepreneur and I want to start a Web site, I need a billing system. Oh, there's Google Checkout. I need a mapping function. Oh, there's Google Maps. Okay, I need to monetize. There's Google AdSense, right? I need a user name and password-authentication system. There's Google Accounts. This is just way easier than going out and trying to create all of that from scratch. That's how we're going to stay innovative. We're going to continue to attract entrepreneurs who say, 'I found an idea, and I can go to Google and have a demo in a month and be launched in six.'"
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
What Successful People Do The First Hour Of Their Workday

How much does the first hour of every day matter? As it turns out, a lot. It can be the hour you see everything clearly, get one real thing done, and focus on the human side of work rather than your task list.

Remember when you used to have a period at the beginning of every day to think about your schedule, catch up with friends, maybe knock out a few tasks? It was called home room, and it went away after high school. But many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up home room every day. You should too.

The first hour of the workday goes a bit differently for Craig Newmark of Craigslist, David Karp of Tumblr, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, career writer (and Fast Company blogger) Brian Tracy, and others, and they’ll tell you it makes a big difference. Here are the first items on their daily to-do list.

Don’t Check Your Email for the First Hour. Seriously. Stop That.
Tumblr founder David Karp will “try hard” not to check his email until 9:30 or 10 a.m., according to an Inc. profile of him. “Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive,” Karp said. “If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.”

Not all of us can roll into the office whenever our Vespa happens to get us there, but most of us with jobs that don’t require constant on-call awareness can trade e-mail for organization and single-focus work. It’s an idea that serves as the title of Julie Morgenstern’s work management book Never Check Email In The Morning, and it’s a fine strategy for leaving the office with the feeling that, even on the most over-booked days, you got at least one real thing done.

If you need to make sure the most important messages from select people come through instantly, AwayFind can monitor your inbox and get your attention when something notable arrives. Otherwise, it’s a gradual but rewarding process of training interruptors and coworkers not to expect instantaneous morning response to anything they send in your off-hours.

Gain Awareness, Be Grateful
One smart, simple question on curated Q & A site Quora asked “How do the most successful people start their day?”. The most popular response came from a devotee of Tony Robbins, the self-help guru who pitched the power of mindful first-hour rituals long before we all had little computers next to our beds.

Robbins suggests setting up an “Hour of Power,” “30 Minutes to Thrive,” or at least “Fifteen Minutes to Fulfillment.” Part of it involves light exercise, part of it involves motivational incantations, but the most accessible piece involves 10 minutes of thinking of everything you’re grateful for: in yourself, among your family and friends, in your career, and the like. After that, visualize “everything you want in your life as if you had it today.”

Robbins offers the “Hour of Power” segment of his Ultimate Edge series as a free audio stream (here’s the direct MP3 download). Blogger Mike McGrath also wrote a concise summary of the Hour of Power). You can be sure that at least some of the more driven people you’ve met in your career are working on Robbins’ plan.

Do the Big, Shoulder-Sagging Stuff First

Brian Tracy’s classic time-management book Eat That Frog gets its title from a Mark Twain saying that, if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you’ve got it behind you for the rest of the day, and nothing else looks so bad. Gina Trapani explained it well in a video for her Work Smart series). Combine that with the concept of getting one thing done before you wade into email, and you’ve got a day-to-day system in place. Here’s how to force yourself to stick to it:

Choose Your Frog

"Choose your frog, and write it down on a piece of paper that you'll see when you arrive back at your desk in the morning, Tripani advises."If you can, gather together the material you'll need to get it done and have that out, too."

One benefit to tackling that terrible, weighty thing you don’t want to do first thing in the morning is that you get some space from the other people involved in that thing--the people who often make the thing more complicated and frustrating. Without their literal or figurative eyes over your shoulder, the terrible thing often feels less complex, and you can get more done.

Ask Yourself If You’re Doing What You Want to Do

Feeling unfulfilled at work shouldn’t be something you realize months too late, or even years. Consider making an earnest attempt every morning at what the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told a graduating class at Stanford to do:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Customer Service” (or Your Own Equivalent)

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark answered the first hour question succinctly: “Customer service.” He went on to explain (or expand) that he also worked on current projects, services for military families and veterans, and protecting voting rights. But customer service is what Newmark does every single day at Craigslist, responding to user complaints and smiting scammers and spammers. He almost certainly has bigger fish he could pitch in on every day, but Newmark says customers service “anchors me to reality.”

Your own version of customer service might be keeping in touch with contacts from year-ago projects, checking in with coworkers you don’t regularly interact with, asking questions of mentors, and just generally handling the human side of work that quickly gets lost between task list items. But do your customer service on the regular, and you’ll have a more reliable roster of helpers when the time comes.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
How To Handle Working With People You Don't Like

Jeff*, like me, is a writer, a speaker, and the head of a consulting company. As far as I can tell, he's professional, well respected, capable, honest, and has a popular following. Someone we both know has asked us to collaborate on a project and there's clearly a mutual benefit to our working together.

It all sounds great except for one thing: I don't like Jeff.

Something about him rubs me the wrong way. He seems too self-serving or egocentric or self-satisfied. I don't know what it is exactly, but I know I don't like him.

I mentioned that to the person who wants us to work together. She told me, essentially, to get over it. "You don't have to like him," she said, "but you'd be smart to work with him."

So how do you work with someone you don't like?

I'm not simply talking about someone who frustrates you because they communicate poorly or can't run a meeting. Sure it's annoying to have your time wasted, especially when you believe you could do a better job. But that's different than disliking them. Just think about how you respond differently to someone you like who can't run a meeting (you want to help them) versus someone you don't like (you want to stop working with them, or, if the meeting is really long, kill them).

The typical advice you hear about working with people you don't like is simply to depersonalize the relationship. Just transact whatever business you need to with them and move on. In other words: Grin and bear it.

But I have found that almost impossible to do.The people we don't like drive us crazy and we waste a tremendous amount of time complaining about them, or stressing about a conversation we need to have with them.

And that's not the worst of it. The deeper problem is that if you don't like someone, chances are they know it. Which will prompt them to not like you. And if you think working with someone you don't like is hard, try working with someone who doesn't like you.

It's simple, really. The people you get along with will find ways to help you; the people you don't get along with will find ways to obstruct you.

Being liked has irrefutable benefits. According to research, the more people like you, the easier, more productive, and more profitable, your life will be. Which means that someone you don't get along with — even if you grin and bear it — poses a risk.

So if grinning and bearing it is a losing strategy, what's the alternative?

Consider, for a moment, the reason you don't like someone. Maybe you think they're greedy. Or selfish. Or dismissive. Or downright mean. In other words, they have some character flaw or disagreeable trait that bothers you. Like my view of Jeff as self-serving, egocentric, and self-satisfied.

Now — and here's the hard part — think about whether, in the dark shadowy parts of your psyche, you can detect shards of that disagreeable trait in yourself.

Can you be greedy, selfish, dismissive or downright mean? You really don't like that part of yourself, right? You wish you could distance yourself from that side of you. Just like you wish you could distance yourself from that disliked person.

In other words, chances are, the reason you can't stand that person in the first place, is that they remind you of what you can't stand about yourself.

Suddenly, working with people you don't like becomes a lot more interesting. Because getting to know them better, and accepting the parts of them you don't like, is actually getting to know yourself better and accepting the parts of yourself you don't like.

So the way to overcome your dislike of someone else? Overcome your dislike of yourself.

That's where the person you don't like can come in handy. Use him to understand yourself better. Consider why you have a problem with him. What does he do that bothers you so much? Move past his inability to run meetings or write a good email and get to what's really bugging you. What about his personality or behavior sparks annoyance or disgust in you? What do you hate about him?

Then, consider how your answers might be a reflection of you. This is a game and you win by finding that hated behavior in yourself.

For me, Jeff reflected those attributes about myself that I disliked — the way I can be self-serving and egotistical and self-satisfied.

Think about times when you feel greedy or selfish or dismissive or downright mean. Can you see it? Can you feel your feelings of both attraction and disgust? Can you admit to yourself that it's not black or white? It's black and white. Can you live with the complexity of your humanness? That's the key to being compassionate with yourself.

And being compassionate with yourself is the key to being compassionate with others. Before you know it, you'll actually begin to like people you never liked before. Maybe you'll even feel like helping them run those meeting more productively.

It's now easy for me to see myself in Jeff. I can be self-serving and egotistical and self-satisfied. It's still hard to admit that — especially in writing — but it's a part of who I am and, in the right doses, it actually serves me well.

And there's an added bonus to admitting it: I now like Jeff.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Why Free Customers Are More Valuable than Captive Ones

"Put down the customer. Step away from the marketplace."

That's what Craig Burton once said to a clueless marketing officer at a meeting we both attended a few years back. It was one of the most right-on things I have ever heard uttered inside a company. It also comes to mind every time I hear unwanted surveillance of customers rationalized for marketing purposes, or how Big Data lets a company know a customer better than she knows herself.

We hear lots of that jive lately, and it makes full sense only to business people talking to other business people. To most customers it's creepy, regardless of how many Chief Experience Officers get hired, or how many sales pieces lauding "the Chief Executive Customer" get distributed.

What's rarely heard amidst all this talk about customer intelligence is the customer's own voice, expressing her own agency as an independent actor in the marketplace. Instead many companies continue to talk to themselves about "acquiring" "managing," "controlling" and "locking in" customers — and to create systems for that, described with marketing euphemisms that fool vendor and customer alike.

One example is "loyalty" programs that are often nothing more than coercive gimmicks to provide discounts that aren't, or rewards that are barely worth the hassle — especially when they make customers carry around different cards for every store, each with its own way of "delivering" a relationship "experience."

The problem with having as many different experiences as there are vendors is apparent only from the customer's side of the marketplace. And, as long as solutions to customer experience problems are sold only to vendors who use those solutions to increase "switching costs" and other annoyances, the frictions for both customers and vendors will only increase.

The best way to fix the customer's experience problems is from her side of the marketplace: the demand side. And, in fact, many demand-side solutions are being developed and moving forward, mostly below the supply side's radar. The intelligence behind these solutions is the customers' own. I'm involved in that work, and I'm here to report on it.

For the past six years I've led ProjectVRM at Harvard's Berkman Center, fostering development of tools and services that give customers two advantages:

1. Independence from vendors; and
2. Better ways of engaging with vendors.

VRM stands for vendor relationship management. Think of it as the customer-side counterpart of CRM, or customer relationship management. With VRM, customers have ways of speaking their wants, needs and preferences in relationships with individual vendors — and simultaneously "at scale" in the open marketplace across many vendors. For example, think about what a pain it is to change your contact information for every vendor separately. If you could do it once for all of them, that's working at scale — for you.

The first and most obvious tools for independence are browser ad-ons for blocking ads and tracking of users. According to ClarityRay's Adblock Report, issued in May of this year, the overall rate of ad-blocked impressions in the U.S. and Europe is 9.26%. Even if we discount the source (ClarityRay's business deals with ad blocking), the rate of ad blocking is substantial. Mozilla shows 170.5 million downloads of Adblock Plus, with more than 3 million downloads in the last 30 days alone, and an average of 13.9 million daily users. That's for just one add-on for one browser.

People are also taking action against unwanted tracking. All the major browsers support some form of Do Not Track (DNT) signaling by browser users to websites, and Microsoft is committed to turning it on by default with the next version of Internet Explorer.

But to engage, VRM can't just draw lines in the sand. It will also provide ways to cross those lines, offer a handshake, and back that handshake by demonstrating new and better ways of doing business.

For example, at ProjectVRM we want to add dialog to DNT (informally, we call it DNT-D). With DNT-D, the user can signal an openness to engagement with the website. One dialog might be go like this, entirely in the background...

USER: I don't want to be tracked, but I'm open to dialog.

SITE: Okay. What would you like us to do?

USER: First, share the data I shed here back to me in a standard form, specified here (names a source).

SITE: Okay. What else?

USER: Second, it's okay for you to monitor my activities on this site for the purposes of our mutual interests and for managing the performance of your services. But don't track me with third party cookies, tracking beacons or anything else that monitors my activities outside this site.

SITE: Okay, What else?

USER: Here (points to a source) are my other preferences and policies, and means for matching them up with yours to see where we can agree.

SITE: Good. Here are ours.

USER: Good. Here is how they match up and we can move forward.

SITE: Here are the interfaces to our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, so your VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) system can interact with it.

USER: Good. From now on my browser's r-button will tell me when I'm at your site that we have a working relationship, and I can see at what's happening on both sides of it.

That's just one example. You can also expect VRM tools and services to do one or more of these other things as well, just for starters:

Provide a way for the individual to gather and store his or her own data from transactions in a reusable way.

Provide ways for managing the use of that personal data in relationships with vendors.

Provide ways to "intentcast" demand for products and services to whole markets, outside any one vendor's silo.

Provide means by which levels of trust can be established between customers and providers and put to use.

Provide ways for individuals to express their own policies, preferences and terms of service, which can be matched with those of companies open to negotiation.

Serve as agents for individuals, known as "fourth parties".
You can see a growing list of these on the ProjectVRM wiki. You can also follow them on the ProjectVRM blog or with the #VRM hashtag on Twitter. You can join the conversation by getting on the ProjectVRM mailing list, which has more than 500 members. You can also join Customer Commons — as a customer. (Customer Commons' tag line is "We're the 100%.")

I launched ProjectVRM because I wanted to make good on a promise laid out by The Cluetrain Manifesto, a business bestseller I co-authored with Chris Locke, David Weinberger and Rick Levine six years earlier. While Cluetrain is best known for its 95 Theses (e.g. "Markets are conversations" and "Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy"), it summarizes its case in a statement that appears above all the other theses, under the line, "if you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get..."

We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings — and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.
VRM is how customer reach will exceed vendor grasp.

With VRM, customers will prove that the intelligence that matters most is their own, and that free customers are more valuable than captive ones.

When that happens, vendors will have to deal with it — or find the marketplace stepping away from them.
Add a comment...
Wait while more posts are being loaded