Opinions about branding by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal

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Saturday, July 30, 2011



Seriously...

1. Go away from the cameras until you make a deal.

2. Make a deal.

3. If you must go on camera, appear with your sleeves rolled up, with a roomful of colleagues, from both sides of the aisle. Sweating. Have papers stacked in front of you. Or get to a podium with this mixed group and speechify together.

4. Make a deal.

5. Take the pledge: A deal by Sunday talkshow time or donate a year's worth of salary to pay down the national debt.

6. Make a deal.

7. Get in a recording studio with a whole buncha diverse colleagues and re-record "We Are The World." Sell on iTunes to pay down the debt.

8. Make a deal.

9. Tweet that some of the smartest, nicest people around are (people from the other side). No more messages beginning "No way in hell..."

10. Make a deal.

"Can't we all just get along?" Maybe not. But we sure as hell better look like we can, or the whole D.C's gonna be in trouble.

Have a good day, & good luck!


___


Image source here

Take_a_look_in_the_mirror_by_m

"I am Generation X and nothing can shock me." 

Yeah, right.

Every time I turn on the TV and see that we're still stuck in "debt crisis" mode, with the clock ticking away on August 2nd, I get shockable again.

How did we get to this ridiculous place? I thought we had a lot of people in charge of the money stuff. Why are we seeing this constant fighting, finger-pointing, bravado talk when failure to reach compromise means we all go down the tank?

It is so very fashionable to fan the flames with...yet more blame!

Here is a radical suggestion: Let's solve the crisis ourselves. 

Deepak Chopra suggests, "You have the ability to solve problems and resolve conflict not simply by thinking creatively but by becoming creativity itself."

We, each individually and together, must become creativity itself in order to face and overcome this crisis. Only when we accept responsibility for the situation and take it on ourselves to fix it, even in the smallest way, then and only then will G-d step in and lift us out of the darkness.

My religious training emphasized the connection between spiritual and physical. The world is created and sustained on the spiritual plane - only the outcomes are seen here in the physical.

Following on that, when we behave in a spiritually sick way - being hateful to others - we experience the result of that action. Hate leads to the experience of being hated. Connecting with others becomes impossible and nothing can progress. Voila! The debt crisis.

Conversely, we can experience healing and reward: "When we rectify our ability to acknowledge and thank G-d for everything that we have, to relate to (G-d) above logic and reason, and return...in submission, we will then be healed from the illness of exile and will be able to experience our return to health and redemption."

Are you hateful to other people? Stop it.

Are you helpful when asked? Start being helpful.

Do you look for ways to solve other people's problems? Do it.

Are you organizing into groups aimed at helping people survive physically, emotionally, spiritually the crisis we are in and the even worse crisis that may be coming? Start now.

It doesn't matter how we got here except that we have got to stop blaming other parties for the situation. Blame is just another word for hatred.

I think we should forget about party labels too, while we're at it. When you're in as deep of a hole as we're in right now, what really is the difference? A sinking boat sinks all parties.

Fortunately we are still living in abundance, and there are so many resources that each of us has at our disposal. Let us put all of our energy into healing ourselves, each other, our planet right now, and stop carping on the mistakes that came before.

If our leaders are hateful to each other, it's because we've told them to be through our votes and through our rhetoric as private citizens. Let's reverse the dynamic and "be creativity ourselves," showing them that love is the way out of this crisis, not hate.

In the end the leaders will copy the followers, and we will have what all of us wanted all along - some solutions. (And then they can take credit for it, which is fine!)

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

___

Image source here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Manager

What are we going to do when all the managers get tossed from the coop because Gary Hamel said we don’t need them?

Yesterday in a Harvard Business Review webinar sponsored by Dell, he talked about his research on W.L. Gore, where managers are nonexistent. To Hamel, Gore is the company of the future.

Gore doesn’t need managers, says Hamel. Employees are motivated to perform on their own because at the end of the year a panel of 20 people rates them on how much value they’ve contributed to the company that year.

The underlying assumption is that managers are there to make the workers work. If workers are self-disciplined, then who needs managers?

In fact, Hamel believes, managers actually get in the way. They’re so busy imposing rules that employees can’t navigate the maze they’ve created and do their work efficiently.

Hamel’s justification for eliminating the manager and replacing that person with a self-disciplined worker is impressive. Workers innovate. And companies have to change radically, innovating all the time and at every level, to compete. Because their technology is easy to copy.

Hamel gave the example of Apple going into mobile phones. The technology was out there; they took it; turned the product into an Apple-branded device (simple, pleasing to the eye) – and succeeded.

Though as a non-manager I sympathize with Hamel’s research conclusions – we all want to do what we want and without a lot of bureaucracy – I think he is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Managers are important. The problem is that good managers are lacking. This is partly because some people are jerks, but partly because companies don’t know what they want from the role. Worse, the don’t value the true financial benefit managers offer.

In the age of the self-motivated employee, the role of the manager is indeed no longer to discipline. Rather, they are needed in the same way that smart kids still need parents to be there for them. Parents, and in particular, historically, mothers, provide a safe place for vulnerable young people to handle unpleasant emotions effectively.

Unfortunately, a natural capacity for caring for others is not financially recognized or rewarded in the workplace. Throughout history this ability has been taken for granted as “female,” “instinctive,” “unskilled,” and so on. It’s been exploited because of women’s dependency on men for protection.

It is no wonder that as soon as women got the chance, they fled “Revolutionary Road” in search of equal treatment in the workplace. Of course when they did so, they left a gaping void at home (though a lot of kids were probably also relieved that their resentful mothers would now stop bothering them.)

It’s pretty much the same at work. People who have caring jobs, or who care for others on the job, get absolutely no credit for it. Because it’s hard to find the “ROI” on emotional intelligence.

Of course there is enormous “ROI” in emotional and group intelligence: At a bare minimum, a good manager prevents otherwise sane employees from killing each other. At a maximum they enable teams to perform at peak capacity and protect them from the irrational demands of leadership. During times of extreme and abrupt social change, we need them more than ever!

If we want to adapt management for innovation 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever we’re calling it now, for Heaven’s sake don’t toss out the managers! Instead, refine the job description, educate accordingly, and compensate highly, in accordance with the value they facilitate.

In this country we don’t let minors raise themselves. In the same way, it is stupid to say that employees who are producing lots of code all night are necessarily incredibly productive. I don’t care what kind of genius you are - it is not normal to sleep in your office in a sleeping bag.

Emotions matter. Conflicts arise. If you don’t have anyone to help you out with that, you’re just wringing out your people for the money. As soon as the economy picks up they will pick up too, and leave.

Managers today are actually organizational development specialists. Let’s recruit those and pay them in accordance with the value they deliver.

Vineet Nayar, the author of Employees First, Customers Second, is right that it the frontline employee is your value creator. But at the same time, even a blind person can see that without solid parenting – provided by a female or a male - no human being and no workplace can function effectively.

For more information on Hamel’s work to promote Management 2.0 visit www.hackmanagement.com. I’ve visited the site; it’s good; this mention is voluntary and not suggested or sponsored.

___

Image source here

Thursday, July 28, 2011

 

I am a huge Anne Bancroft fan and was surprised this weekend that I had never seen her performance in The Miracle Worker (1962). This of course is the famous story of Anne Sullivan Macy (known as "Annie Sullivan," who in the late nineteenth century helped Helen Keller, a deaf and blind girl, learn to communicate.

 

It's sort of about Helen Keller, true, but the most fascinating part is the character of her educator. A human being of incomparable will who seems tough and mean but is truly full of selfless love for the child.

 

The breakfast scene is horribly painful to watch. And yet I am transfixed by it. I can watch it again and again.

 

I love that Annie was completely unselfish.

 

I love that Annie didn't give a damn about getting an award for her work.

 

I love that Annie physically threw herself into the task.

 

I love that Annie didn't know what she was doing, but let the child be her guide.

 

I love that Annie didn't care about how she looked.

 

I love that Annie knew how to get tough without getting angry.

 

I love how Annie saw through the girl's behavior to the light inside her soul. 

 

But most of all, I love how Annie believed that Helen could learn and join humanity, even when the rest of the world was negative about the child. Even when they let her run wild out of pity and hopelessness. They had labeled Helen an animal and so that was what she became.

 

Annie proves that there is nothing new under the sun. She embodies the management philosophy of the future. In particular, she epitomizes what has to happen right now in order for large bureaucracies to adapt effectively for the future.

 

Unfortunately in 2011 we are obsessed with everything being camera-ready and "nice." It has to look good for the cameras every single second or we don't want to get our hands dirty with it. We would rather be pessimistic and be proven right - keep the trains moving on time even if they're going nowhere - rather than put up our hands and yell "Stop! Nobody's got the map!"

 

If Annie Sullivan were a CEO today she would get in the trenches and find out what's going on. She would relentlessly inquire at all levels of the organization where the pain points are and why we aren't being profitable. She would go into business, government, educational institutions, hospitals and she would ask why there is so much inefficiency when we have some of the most innovative workers out there.

 

And then she would kick some ass.

 

America today needs a "Supernanny" like Annie Sullivan. We need some tough love. It's time to get rid of the misplaced compassion, stop living down to our worst fears about ourselves, and start demanding more of ourselves and our organizations.

 

We are not as incapable as we fear we are - we do have the possibility to get better - but it is going to take hard work and it is time to change.

 

Let's get out there and work together and be the change that we seek. Anything else is unforgivable, especially when there is so much at stake.

 

Have a good evening everyone, and good luck!

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Heart-and-brain

I watched Jeffrey Toobin analyze on CNN the disgusting, abhorrent attack on Nafissatou Diallo, an economically disadvantaged hotel maid of color, by a powerful, rich Caucasian who to her had all the power in the world.

Toobin absolutely no trouble mouthing the pros and cons of the accuser’s case in the coldest of legal-strategy terms. It was almost as though he were a sports analyst predicting who would win a major football game. “...may be a smart move on the part of her legal team, considering…”

In my mind I contrasted these cold, uncaring words with the straightforward words the victim used to tell her story:


Excerpt from interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts:


DIALLO: I was watching the news and then they say he's going to be the next president of France. Then I say, oh, my God. And I was crying. I said they're going to kill me. I said they're going to kill me. I'm going to die.

ROBERTS: Why did you think that, Nafi?

DIALLO: Because I know if I was in my country, a powerful man like that, they're going to kill me before someone knows what happened to me.


Read the interview with Newsweek. Put yourself in her shoes. Feel the terror she must have felt. Finally a decent job but cause any trouble and you're gone.

The Jewish Bible tells us to be especially kind to the immigrant, to the stranger in one’s land, because the Jewish people know exactly what it feels like.

It’s sort of laughable to me that people try to undermine the victim’s credibility by saying she was somehow trying to play the situation for money. Like, how would that work exactly? She was so happy to have a hotel floor all to herself rather than have to run up and down the stairs, and being suddenly assaulted by an old man was…a bonus she could use to buy a gold watch?

Whatever happened to her in the past, whatever lies she has told either to survive or because she is a psychopath, I believe her. The courts should try the case, I believe. But it looks damn clear to me that Diallo is telling the truth. And that DSK was a perpetrator who tried to run, failed, and now is lying.

The U.S. has a unique legal system, where accuser and accused get to duke it out in the world of rhetoric. In a way this is good – let the best case win – but in a way it is terrible. We have become immune to trusting our simple common sense. Everything people say is just “one side of the story,” a side they are most likely playing for a buck.

It is difficult in a climate like this to get to the truth of anything. It’s like “Fight Club” except we’re always debating.

Marketing culture has, unfortunately, made matters worse. We make up some words out of whole cloth; mangle the meaning of others; distort what we know to be true; turn wrong into right; and document it all with reams and reams of paper. Kindly assembled by the legal team, which has the “terms and conditions of use” carefully on file.

It is a sad fact that young women not even of teenage years have been completely thrown into a sexualized arena, one created specifically by the lies marketing culture has created. Everyone's making money from these girls: The makers of clothing, cosmetics, phones, music, movies, social media. The men young and old who are only too happy to exploit them. And their so-called "friends," already exploited, hate to see them remain innocent. Are only too eager to lie and manipulate them into adulthood before they can even drive a car.

I read such a case in the newspaper on Sunday. It paralleled the movie “Thirteen,” where an American girl’s best friend drags her down and out until her childhood and innocence are completely gone and unrecognizable. UK’s The Daily Mail reports of a 12 year-old whose girlfriend tells a bunch of 19-year-old boys they are both 16; delivers friend to boys; and she is of course attacked. The boys are initially convicted of the crime, but the conviction is overturned, because the appeals judge determines that the 12-year-old somehow consented.

We want to know why are kids are so spiritually lost, so unhappy. We want to know why the “underclasses” are smoldering with resentment. We can’t put our finger on precisely what has gone wrong. But we are perpetuating the problem every single day. By closing our eyes to reality, and preferring instead to let the “system” – legal, marketing, education, what have you – run its course. Lie its way to more profit and more pain.

Over the weekend a stranger tried to abduct two little girls. The perpetrator wasn’t who you might think. In fact it was a woman, young and sweet-seeming. She rolled the window down and said, “I have an infant in the car…and I give people rides sometimes. Do you want to get in?”

Lacking in cynicism, insufficiently cold, fully kind and emotional and receptive, the kids listened for a minute.

And then their instincts took over and they ran. Fortunately.

We have become a society with the wrong kind of compassion. We are cold to the daily attacks that take place against the powerless, ignoring their pleas for help and stepping over them when they eventually lie homeless, and then stinking and dead, in the streets.

At the same time we are fully attuned to our childrens’ every whim and desire, especially the tormented desire to be “popular” when what they really want is to be loved and paid attention to at home. Today the word “popular” is a code for having passed through a terrible kind of hazing, the kind that gets left on cellphones and passed from kid to kid with a laugh. Hazing that begins and ends with lies.

We are so busy talking and texting and shopping and running that we have lost touch with our ability to listen. To really think critically about the things we read and see and listen to and yes, feel.

Am I crusading against the legal system or due process? Hell no.

Telling people to ground kids till they turn 18? Of course not.

Saying that only girls are attacked and not boys? That is silly.

I am arguing that with all our seeming sophistication and fast-moving pace, we have lost touch with a critical survival factor: simple thinking - connected to simple morality and common sense.

We have a duty to look after adults who are vulnerable to exploitation – yes we do. And an equal responsibility to protect our children from themselves. To do so requires looking past the legalistic, cold analyses and staring manipulative marketing right in the eye. In a society that often seems to have gone crazy, the most important thing we can do is think – and feel – for ourselves.


Did I tie the point all together? I hope so. It seemed important to share these thoughts even if the edges are a little ragged.

Have a good rest of the day everyone, and good luck.

___

Image source here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The following is based on my own personal observation, and I know that
everyone is different. If you think this doesn't apply to you,
obviously you can ignore it or comment. I hope that it is helpful.

For women--

1. Remember that work is inherently competitive - don't take it personally.

2. Develop a comfort level with authority - assertive, not passive or
aggressive.

3. If you define yourself strongly as a "relationship person," engage
in linear decision-making sometimes.

4. Demonstrate physical confidence: Walk fast and tall; shake hands
firmly; look people in the eye.

5. Dress more formally than you think you have to, and not overly
"girly." The message should be: I'm smart and focused on my work.


For men--

1. Look beyond the visual cues and listen for the things that are not said.

2. Seek to influence and inspire rather than to "lead."

3. Convert enemies into friends, or neutral parties, rather than go
head-to-head.

4. Develop a high level of comfort with weakness to avoid being
blindsided by problems caused by denial.

5. Even if you know the answer, ask for advice anyway.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Like a lot of other people, I spend a lot of time thinking about branding and I admire when organizations do it well.

However, at the same time I notice that much discussion around brands and branding remains at the kindergarten level. For example, we're still asking "what is a brand?" And we can't agree on the answer! Even among professionals! For example, a recent discussion among brand-ers on LinkedIn, where we were asked to define the word, yielded almost 500 (!) comments.

And we have other conversations of a similar nature. My favorites are "what is branding vs. marketing?" and "what is brand vs. reputation?"

You can say what you want about marketers - that we're lying, greedy bastards - and I'll give you that some of us are. You can also say that we're stupid. Also, sometimes, granted. But there is enough mental firepower at work in the profession that it makes no sense that we cannot even define our basic terms of art. Every scientist knows "what is an atom?" and every psychologist knows "what is emotion?" and every historian knows "what is history?" Yet we still go round and round.

Which should tell you that on some level we still don't know what we're talking about. Although it is true that well-branded products and services enjoy a price premium, the alchemists who create them haven't been able to systematize the formula. There are many useful attempts - no need to list all the books here, but they are easily findable on Amazon - but the profession remains relatively backward still.

The reality is, the most successful brands did not start out with the intention of building great brands per se. Rather, they were trying to achieve something else. A HUMANISTIC mission. They were trying to do something important TO PEOPLE and they built organizations completely centered on the achievement of that goal:

* Google is about helping people find information.

* Apple is about making life simpler in a complicated world.

* Starbucks is about helping people escape the pressures of home and work.

* Amazon is about making the customer feel safe to buy whatever they want, online.

* Nike is about celebrating high achievers.

We eagerly invite these brands into our lives because they speak to us as people. We give them money and they give us something back that we feel is worthwhile. It is a win-win.

However, most organizations are not at the level of Google, Apple, Starbucks, Amazon and Nike.

So how do we get there? I propose that the marketing function needs to shift radically in three fundamental ways that align with the secret ingredient to brand success: MAKING PEOPLE HAPPY.

1. Audience-based structure: Right now professional communications is functionally siloed: PR, advertising, marcom, media relations, exhibit media, multimedia, social media, etc. Instead, divide communicators into groups based on audience segments. If it's about relationships, set yourself up to build relationships, with the right people, working as a team. Every segment gets a specialized group reaching it across all communication vehicles. Integration, integration, integration.

2. Education and training: We focus narrowly on mechanical skills rather than higher-level and relational thinking. We need psychologists, organizational development specialists, sociologists, and critical thinkers in marketing - not only MBAs and code writers. And the education should be broadly based, with input from many sources and many disciplines. That is what produces people who think holistically.

3. Values: We take it for granted that success means "I win you lose." Instead we ought to insist that the employee and the customer are left with more than what they started with, as a result of dealing with us. Not just because we'll make more money that way and for a longer period of time. But because we understand that there is a higher power who ultimately decides what happens. If you don't like the concept of G-d, try karma.

The last point here, one worth pulling out because it unfortunately doesn't get said enough, is that one's employees have to be well taken care of because they are the #1 source of brand value in any organization. Without employees you have only machines. And even machines need people to run them and make decisions about how they are used.

Looking at this list it seems very simple...but in practice it would be a very huge shift. I wonder if we are ready. I hope that we will at least think about it.

Have a good day, and good luck!

___

Image source here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Horrible-bosses

I have to tell you that the trailer for this movie does not do it justice.

The entire theater was laughing so hard I think you could have heard us in the street.

All of the actors were good but the "bosses" themselves - Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston - really took the cake. They were perfect caricatures of the power-hungry, irrational, harassing boss who lives to drive their workers crazy.

Which is why the whole lot of us at the matinee were in stitches.

One has to ask: 

If everybody recognizes the grain of truth in the narrative, why do we put up with abusive bosses at all?

The answer, I think, lies in two other stories.

I once had a friend who told me her boss was abusive. Seriously bad. The kind that leaves you shaking in your boots with fear.

The friend told another friend about the situation. Both of them were in the same workplace.

Listener responded, "Oh, I know ___. He does get a lot done though."

My friend was completely dumbfounded. It was as though the listener was saying, I'm sorry for your situation, but it has nothing to do with the abuser's level of competence.

Another story.

When I was a kid there was a teacher who was a creep. There was something wrong with him. Everybody knew it.

There were people who complained about it. But nobody in the administration of the school would listen. Because to all appearances, the teacher was doing their job.

Until one day, a wiseguy in the class rigged a bucket of cold water just over the classroom door.

Creepy teacher opened the door, walked in, bucket dumped a lot of cold water on their head.

Teacher turned around fuming. 

Teacher found the culprit easily by the look on his face.

Teacher proceeded to smash face of culprit right across said face. Right in front of my eyes.

Only then was the teacher fired.

Analysis of above:

Our society remains mired in a worship of money and power.

We therefore justify the behavior of abusive rich and powerful people by telling ourselves that it is people like that who foster productivity.

What we don't see - I don't know why we don't see this - is that the era of money is over. We have enough money.

What we lack is creativity. We lack the ability to innovate our way out of the messes that we are in. And the reason we lack that creativity is because we are forever squelching the quiet but brilliant voices that could help us to overcome.

Another story.

Last night on "America's Got Talent" Piers Morgan dressed down one of the acts pretty sadistically.

It was a cowboy act and it involved a horse. On stage.

I don't understand why you would put a horse on stage in front of people and expect it to do anything, but apparently the horse had done well several times before and this was Round 3.

Last night the horse wouldn't cooperate.

Piers was ruthless in his criticism of the entertainers.

The entertainers, for their part, took responsibility for the act not working. "You're right," the guy said, "It didn't work."

Piers wouldn't stop, asking basically, "So why did you waste our time?"

The entertainer explained.

But none of it was good enough for Piers. Who later justified his cruelty - his outright sadism - by saying that it was Round 3, there was a lot of money involved now, and so the judges had a right to be "crotchety."

Bullshit.

There is no justification for abusing people, ever.

It doesn't make them more productive or productive in the first place.

And the people who act abusive are known to everybody else. Increasingly, we aren't going to tolerate it. And the system will self-regulate, for the sake of survival, to promote gentle, constructive, creative people to the point where they can lead us forward.

Until then, I think, it's a good thing to talk, raise our consciousness, and think about this issue collectively.

Because a nation of traumatized people is at a definite disadvantage when it comes to any kind of survival - economic, emotional, spiritual. 

There is a German saying to the effect that G-d sees everything. 

Whether we know it or not, the blessings come from Above, and they can be taken away just the same way.

Whether you believe in G-d or not...think about it.

Have a good day, everyone - and good luck!

__

Image source here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If you ever have a few minutes to spare, find a job description for “social media” or “new media” and see the required qualifications. 

 

Universally they call for someone with technical skills.

 

Never – not once – are social skills, emotional intelligence, or personal qualities ever mentioned.

 

Think about it: From a job description point of view you can be a so-called “social media expert” but have absolutely no personal integrity, no commitment to transparency, and no belief in the importance of collaboration or information-sharing.

 

Wow.

 

Imagine if somebody were to put an ad on “Match.com” seeking a husband or a wife with “qualifications” like these:

 

·      Must be good-looking.

·      Must have high-paying job or be rich.

·      Must have spacious home in fancy neighborhood

·      Must be able to produce children.

 

…and so on.

 

Wouldn’t that be ridiculous?

 

A relationship ad, we expect, will mention things like caring, compassion, personal interests, religious beliefs, and so on. The things that are eternal. The things that matter.

 

Only superficial people ask for superficial things. And those people don’t belong in committed relationships. Because anything can happen, anytime, anywhere. And the “corporate culture” of a marriage is to be able to adapt to those realities and move on.

 

The same thing holds true for social media. It is called “social” for a reason. The use of interactive communication tools implies a culture in which communication skills are prized. A new way of doing things. A break with the past. An openness to feedback and a belief that transparency is better than hiding things.

 

So if you advertise for social media pros but don’t ask for these skills, favoring instead temporary tools like Blogger or Twitter or Facebook – tools that will no doubt be surpassed or evolved or changed utterly and rapidly over the next few years – what are you really asking for?

 

I will tell you. You have asked for an administrative assistant whose primary qualification is knowledge of Microsoft Word—rather than deference, discretion, and dedication.

 

The biggest insult an organization can commit in dipping its toes into social media is to cut and paste its press releases into the window box used for composing a blog.

 

The biggest achievement is changing the way we do business.

 

The next time you consider who you want to run your social media function, ask if it is really social media you want to do at all—and then hire accordingly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I read so many of these kinds of articles and they're all great. Throwing my two cents in:

1. Make TV a reward for exercise. TV has a way of totally numbing your brain. Exercise is mind-numbingly boring without TV. They go together and you need both. Combine.

2. Sleep. Or you won't be able to concentrate.

3. Work in bursts. Focus your mind intensely on one task at a time, do it for a short time, then do something else. As opposed to not working on it all day long.

4. Overschedule. Ask more of yourself. You will find that you get more done in general, even if you fail to do it all.

5. Write down your tasks. Go through the list once a day. Mark things "open," "hold," or "closed." Your goal is to have almost nothing in the "open" column by the end of the day.

6. Buy healthy food that is prepackaged. Let's be honest, there is usually no time to cook. But don't eat crappy food either. Giant has a healthier food section and it's worth paying a little extra.

7. Terminate going-nowhere conversations. Just end them. Imagine you are getting paid by the hour for your time. Wait a minute - you are!

8. Get to the point quickly regarding tasks. Keep the emotionally intelligent, chat-about-irrelevant-stuff to the edges of the conversation. Once the work is dealt with you can talk.

9. Cut down on the email. Life isn't a court case. Pick up the phone or stop by. Email is usually misinterpreted anyway.

10. Relax. It stimulates your brain to come up with new ideas. You lose steam if you are always "on task."

Hope these are helpful and as always, please share your ideas too.

Good luck!

Amy-winehouse-beehive-hairstyl

The other day my kid came back from a camping trip and said it was fun, but "a little too much" and she needed a break.


The problem was that her friends apparently don't believe in the concept of alone time.

I knew this was going to happen because we are basically a quiet, creative bunch and her friends tend to be Libras who want to interact nonstop. So the strategy was to just say, 

"I need to take a little space" 

...and then take it without apologies.

Didn't work. As she put it,

"If you don't have friends all around you every minute, you're considered a loser."

So apparently it's not just a Libra thing. Kids nowadays are connected ALL THE TIME.

We watched a show on ABC Family last night called "Cyberbullies," which was about online bullying but in the larger context that kids are so constantly with their friends, online and off, that it is actually odd-seeming when they are alone. 

I was thinking about "alone time" this weekend as I took a break from the frequent (perhaps constant) blogging, tweeting, Quora-ing, LinkedIn-ing, and GovLooping I do. I had literally three different projects to take care of and there was no way that a blog was going to fit in with all the responsibilities going on.

It was a little odd to be off the grid, but also a little nice. I wasn't used to it.

I realized that in becoming so engaged with social media, I had joined the Borg (from "Star Trek") or perhaps "The Matrix." That in a way, part of me lives in a virtual world - and I feel odd when I don't visit there on a regular basis.

Believe it or not, I even missed the comments on my Facebook vs. Google+ blog. (My favorites: "Anyone with a Ph.D. is an idiot" and "Can you believe this drivel?" Classic!) It was nice to know that somebody gave enough of a damn to take time out of their busy schedule and read my stuff. 

Another interesting moment occurred when I had lunch with my friends last Friday and we blah blahed about work and stuff. During the conversation I mentioned that I had blogged my bad feedback at work and it was a whole hullaballoo afterward with debates among the family as to whether I had completely lost my brains or was completely in control, a master of spin (neither believe me...just ordinary.) Just a couple of days later I read another blog by someone related to me where she talked about dating and a really bad encounter with an ex. I realized, reading that (she is much younger than me), that my blogs are actually TAME compared to what the next generation is writing.

So here are the 10 ways social media has changed us, in my view. (Also, and this has nothing to do with anything, "Horrible Bosses" is a great movie and you really have to see it.)

Here goes:

1. As a society we are mentally connected with one another despite not knowing each other or having permanent social ties. We process information collectively like an amorphous "hive" - crowdsourcing even when we don't think about it.

2. Individualism is acceptable today, but only if it is packaged, productized, and brought back to the collective to be consumed in some way. "Going off on your own" without sharing what you learn is not seen as normal.

3. Emotional intelligence is vastly more important than technical skill and people who can't share their feelings appropriately are suspect.

4. Direct, honest, frank comments are to be expected, but it is socially unacceptable to be rude or stalker-ish...the system corrects itself.

5. Plain talk is credible and jargon gets you booted out of the conversation before you even get to the second sentence.

6. We are willing to trust and "friend" anybody, but if that person shows ill intentions or bad motives, we remove them from the conversation quickly, again to keep the system somewhat "pure."

7. People are expected today to be empowered and resourceful, but also to work in groups to achieve big goals - the individual change agent is more likely to be seen as a dictator than a visionary.

8. It is almost inexcusable to fail to participate in the conversation in some way - doesn't have to be a blog, can be Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or something else, but you have to bring something unique to the table and share it. Or you're seen as somehow hiding something.

9. We are becoming an information society where it is expected that you will give away information at no charge. Thus the profit opportunity is to be the trusted source of analysis of that information - a knower of things who understands what they mean - who only shares this analysis with some people.

10. We are rapidly becoming a society beyond money, although we don't see it yet. It is about giving of ourselves to others for the greater good, not taking from others to advance oneself. There are people pioneering the art of giving, the results of whose work we don't really see on a massive scale yet. But if we can just hold on and reinforce their efforts, there will be a time when we regulate ourselves to remove social disorder and ensure that everyone has what they need to survive.

It is an amazing time we live in that is for sure. But being essentially an introvert, I still think we do need alone time regularly. We can't absorb ourselves completely into the collective, for then we will lose our freedom and distinctiveness. And given the crazy world we live in nowadays, it's more important than ever to be able to think for yourself.

Have a good day everyone - and good luck!

__

I couldn't resist that photo - it's Monday for cripes' sake! Image source here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Richard-kind-spin-city

Marketing is not an easy profession. It is actually pretty freaking hard.

The job of a marketer is to persuade people that they need something. Or someone. And then sell it to them.

How easy is it to...

Get a 4-year-old to eat carrots?

Get into Harvard?

Get a job?

Get married?

Get someone elected?

Get someone to literally buy whatever it is that you sell?

All of these things involve marketing. And if they were so easy, we would all be rich, happy and retired.

Yet the most popular misconception about marketing - after the belief that we are all a bunch of liars - is the idea that it is "all about the message." 

Meaning that if you can only find the exact right thing to say, your audience will believe you.

As if people are so stupid.

Believing that marketing is "messaging" is really just a form of ego massage.

"I am wonderful, here are the reasons, now I've succeeded in marketing to you."

A better way to think of marketing is like listening actively and then responding.

"How are you? Tell me about it."

And then when the customer has told you, and told you, and told you...you validate what they've said.

"I hear that. You feel ---. You want ---. Let me see what I can do about that."

And then you do it.

While it is true that people often can't articulate what they want, it is also true that they don't want you to "message" them.

Marketing is listening. It is ego-free.

If you do it properly, the audience pays you to listen.

If you do it the wrong way, you are talking and talking and their minds are a million miles away.

Think about it, and good luck!

___

Photo source here
Brother_can_you_spare_a_dime

There is a 7-Eleven near D.C. that accommodates about 12 parked cars. 

The other day there were maybe 25 vying for spots, in the middle of the day. 

This wasn't the A.M.'s commuting rush when people fight for the last sugarfree Red Bull or gratefully scoop up the last "taquito roller."

We had absolutely no reason to be there.

Except for one thing: The Good Witch of the Convenience Store had waved her magic wand and today was Free Slurpee Day.

My kid, nauseous from a long bus ride home, reminded me. "I need something icy," she uttered sweatily. "They're giving away free Slurpees at 7-Eleven. Can we go?"

We pull up to the parking lot and the scene is unbelievable. It's like a state fair. People streaming in and out as happy as can be.

Inside, the Slurpee line is snaking from the machines, around the lottery counter, around the fruit and sandwich shelves, and even out the door.

What are they waiting for? A FOUR OUNCE cup of sugar water. A mini-portion.

And they are thrilled!

That day, by strategically using a little generosity, 7-Eleven made some happy memories for a lot of people in the community. 

And that is why a giveaway builds buzz.

Just like it does in Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and every other establishment that tries it.

So why don't discounts work the same way?

The short answer is that discounts look desperate. And they ruin the brand.

Macy's is an excellent example of taking a venerable, respected brand with a deep heritage - decades of loyal followership - and trashing it on the altar of constant sales.

(Al Ries calls this "discountitis.")

Every five minutes, it seems that Macy's got a commercial on TV telling you to "shop early" and "save big."

Go into Macy's and the discount signs are prominently displayed, "40% off" this and "75% off" that.

I used to look at the Macy's star and think, wow, that is a classy logo.

Now I look at the star and think, wow, is that a degraded brand.

There is a Target around the corner with the same brand colors.

I am starting to think that their discount-designer merchandise is exactly the same as the Macy's merch, which used to be pretty high up on the scale.

On a broader level, it has to do with displaying strength versus displaying weakness. Nobody wants a ticket on a sinking ship no matter how pretty the view from the upper deck:

* Wal-Mart, though it isn't known for its giveaways, is an incredibly successful brand because it starts with the "lowest price" offer and sticks to it. The customer walks out and feels victorious for having made the trip. (Although commodity brand strategies are extremely dangerous...I wouldn't want to be them.)

* K-Mart, which gives me the impression of being forever one step away from bankruptcy, is an incredibly shamed one because nobody wants to remember that they are wearing a top from the last-ditch-$1 discount rack.

If you want to make people feel good about your business without detracting from the value of your goods or services, give a small amount away once in awhile. It makes you seem generous. Part of the community. A friend.

If you want to seem like a company flailing while it drowns in quicksand, offer deep discounts.

Financially a giveaway and a discount may cost you the same thing.

But in the long-term, you can only enhance your brand by offering customers a sample. While you will most certainly destroy it by giving away the store.

Good luck!

____

Photo source here

Monday, July 11, 2011

Path

Yesterday I did a crazy thing. I actually went for a walk with a friend. And I only checked my smartphone 3 times.

The whole thing was totally inefficient. We didn't really walk anywhere because she had her kid. And the kid kept wanting to get out of the stroller and do things like pet dogs and get big heavy rocks from the creek bed. Which my friend then had to put in the stroller basket. Making it weight about five thousand pounds.

We laughed at the bikers who complained that the stroller was getting in their way. They are so neurotic, we said. Ha ha ha. 

And then I realized that I am the biker, usually. Always rushing. Time to take a break, at least once in a blue moon.

You don't need to be a genius to know that rushing can get you into a lot of trouble. 

We think that going fast saves us time. It does - in the short term.

Long-term it leads to headaches. Not in order of priority, some examples:

1. Death or disfigurement from a car accident

2. Painful struggle with a troubled child suffering from substance abuse, social trouble, too-early sexual behavior, etc.

3. Getting fired or alienating someone at work due to making a careless mistake that insults someone; writing a harsh email; or speaking rudely

4. Computer crash due to a virus obtained by carelessly clicking on a link; theft of personal data

5. Waste of one's creativity by doing everything else except the thing that one is uniquely talented to do (write, paint, make music, etc.)

6. Choosing sides on an issue incorrectly due to jumping to conclusions; misjudging a person based on first impression

7. Wasted money due to rushed purchases - clothes that don't look good, don't fit, etc.

8. Weight gain and illness from eating junky, processed convenience food, not exercising, etc.

9. Supporting the wrong side of a social or political issue, or misjudging due to jumping to conclusions

10. Being elderly, unwell and sad because you've rushed through life and missed out on all the stuff that mattered.

The most important thing of all of course is losing touch with one's spiritual side...our purpose in life. What gives it all meaning in the first place.

I wrote this blog to give myself some advice; hope it is helpful to you too.

Hope everyone has a nice day, a slower day, a peaceful one.

Good luck :-)

__

Photo credit: Me
Yesterday I did a crazy thing. I actually went for a walk with a friend. And I only checked my smartphone 3 times.

The whole thing was totally inefficient. We didn't really walk anywhere because she had her kid. And the kid kept wanting to get out of the stroller and do things like pet dogs and get big heavy rocks from the creek bed. Which my friend then had to put in the stroller basket. Making it weight about five thousand pounds.

We laughed at the bikers who complained that the stroller was getting in their way. They are so neurotic, we said. Ha ha ha. 

And then I realized that I am the biker, usually. Always rushing. Time to take a break, at least once in a blue moon.

You don't need to be a genius to know that rushing can get you into a lot of trouble. 

We think that going fast saves us time. It does - in the short term.

Long-term it leads to headaches. Not in order of priority, some examples:

1. Death or disfigurement from a car accident

2. Painful struggle with a troubled child suffering from substance abuse, social trouble, too-early sexual behavior, etc.

3. Getting fired or alienating someone at work due to making a careless mistake that insults someone; writing a harsh email; or speaking rudely

4. Computer crash due to a virus obtained by carelessly clicking on a link; theft of personal data

5. Waste of one's creativity by doing everything else except the thing that one is uniquely talented to do (write, paint, make music, etc.)

6. Choosing sides on an issue incorrectly due to jumping to conclusions; misjudging a person based on first impression

7. Wasted money due to rushed purchases - clothes that don't look good, don't fit, etc.

8. Weight gain and illness from eating junky, processed convenience food, not exercising, etc.

9. Supporting the wrong side of a social or political issue, or misjudging due to jumping to conclusions

10. Being elderly, unwell and sad because you've rushed through life and missed out on all the stuff that mattered.

The most important thing of all of course is losing touch with one's spiritual side...our purpose in life. What gives it all meaning in the first place.









I wrote this blog to give myself some advice; hope it is helpful to you too.

Hope everyone has a nice day, a slower day, a peaceful one.

Good luck :-)


__

Photo credit: Me











Sunday, July 10, 2011

In my opinion, Facebook is no more trustworthy than Google when it comes to data privacy. 


The difference is that if you are a typical Google user you've plopped a sea of data onto their servers that makes FB look tame by comparison.


Look at all the data that Google users store on Google's servers...do you really want to create a public profile for all the world to see that is linked to the following? 


* Google Docs

* Gmail (imagine all the email sitting in your inbox, sent folder, the trash)

* Checkout (your purchase history if you used a Google shopping cart, linked to your credit card)

* Contacts (usually combine personal and professional)

* Social connections ("direct" and "secondary")

* Phone calls (if you use Google Voice)

* Photos (Picasa web albums)

* Calendar

* Tasks

* Blog, website, site analytics

* Web search history

* Chrome sync (if you use Chrome and sync your passwords)

* Google reader - the stuff you read

* Bookmarks

* Google group membership

* Music

* YouTube (your favorites, your comments)

* Google Buzz

* Google Mobile


Of course we're all going to use Google+.


All I'm saying is, use it smartly.


If you want to de-link your personal data from your public profile, create a dummy account that does not house the kind of data your personal/regular Google account houses. 


Good luck.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pac-man-extreme

After nearly 10 years in government I can think of five kinds of people who have helped me learn about leadership:

1. Government employees themselves. Mentors, bosses, colleagues who strive for excellence. Peers who have taken web and social media out of the basement and made them mainstream by working both within their agencies and across them, in interagency efforts. Other government employees who have done the same with internal and external communications of a traditional nature. Employees who raise money for charity. Employees who organize diversity support groups, prayer groups, who listen to you and offer constructive advice. People who take the time to go to Costco and get a huge sheet cake to celebrate someone's birthday. People like that.

2. Bloggers & other contributors to the grassroots Gov 2.0 movement, who may or may not get paid for their efforts but who do care enough to share what works through social media bulletin boards, discussion groups, blogs, Twitter, and in print.

3. Trainers like Edward Tufte, who teaches how to effectively present data in presentations. Angela Sinickas who teaches simply and effectively how to incorporate metrics into communications. Corporate educators like Steve Crescenzo and Shel Holtz, at one time the co-teachers of "Corporate Communicator's Boot Camp," for Ragan Communications, who know what they are talking about and can get the average person to be not only good, but pretty excellent at communicating effectively.

4. Researchers who take success stories and distill them into lessons we can copy - a great example is Bill Eggers and John O'Leary's work in "If We Can Put A Man On The Moon."

5. Business leaders who have taken the time to share their experience in book, video, and seminar form. Most recently, I read a very honest book by Donny Deutsch. I don't care if he wrote it for the money; it taught me a hell of a lot.

From all of these people I learned one simple thing:

Leadership is not a single event in one's life. It is a series of small moments that add up over time. Until there is a tipping point, and the new way is accepted as mainstream.

Leadership is like playing a game of Pac-Man. You are the Pac-Man (or Pac-Woman!)

Gobble up the dots. Get stronger. Then eat the monsters. When you have so much energy that you're supercharged.

Here is a story about such a leader. Who would never ever think of himself that way, guaranteed.

On a Friday afternoon we had a request to do something quickly. From an important source. It was either get it done fast, or worry about it Monday morning when new jobs start to come flowing in. Chaos and confusion could easily ensue.

This thing would normally take at least a day. We had maybe 3 hours.

My colleague and I thus went directly to the basement of the building to find the person who would do this job. Instead of submitting a form upstairs and then waiting for the mysterious process of work-getting-done to unfold.

This person, on a Friday afternoon, with no reward in sight, went out of his way to make it happen.

Introduced himself formally.

Gave us a sample form, already filled out, so we would know what to ask for.

Told us how to ensure maximum quality.

Wished us a nice day.

This person was not a designated leader. He was not agitating for Gov 2.0. I doubt he even would know or care what that was. But he exemplified the future of government. He acted as though he were running a business, we were the customers, and he would do what it took to make our lives easier.

His entire attitude was: "No problem."

It was 3 p.m. by the time we got down there. The job was done in 10 minutes. Expedited by another employee unrelated to the process who stopped what he was doing, got up, and stamped the form so we could get out of there. And also by another one who got up to sign the damn form even though he had no idea what he was signing. (My thank-you: "Good. Now I can go buy that BMW I've been wanting.")

All of these people completely understand what has to happen in government now.

Stop fussing. Get it done. And do it with a big freaking smile on your face.

If you want to be a leader, it is not necessary to wait for some magical event to happen in the future. There is no superhero who is going to gallop to the rescue on a big white horse.

The leader is you. The time is now. The things that need to be done are all around you. Gobble up a dot by solving a problem. Don't stop and don't worry about what happens next.

Everyone can make a difference. You already are a leader in more ways than you know. Step up to the plate.

It doesn't matter how old you are or how many years you have served in government. Change has nothing to do with being fresh out of school. It has to do with how you think, how astute you are, your ability to adjust and accept to a new reality. It has nothing to do with whether someone gave you "permission."

The future is here. We are all collectively making it. In every action and interaction.

Government leaders at every job, every rank, inside and outside the system too--

Wake up. It's a new day. Do you see it?

Your time - our time - is NOW.

Let's seize the day.

__

Image source here

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flipflops

Tonight on the train I counted a good number of women, let’s say 10 because I stopped counting at 9 and there were more, wearing these cheap plastic excuses for shoes.

 

Here are 5 things I hate about them:

 

1. They are sold in bins.

2. No manicure. Bad manicure. Fading manicure.

3. Black toenail polish looks like fungus. Deep orange is not a color.

4. Gnarly toes, bunions, calluses. “Oh my.”

5. Once you start getting unkempt with the shoes…things can deteriorate pretty badly.

 

I understand that people want to keep cool. Did I say to wear stockings all the time? Heck no.

 

If people were to keep the flip-flops for the beach or even Sundays I could understand. But wearing them to work? What is the deal with that?

 

It’s not like these flip-flop wearers are impoverished.

 

They take these beautiful outfits, these carefully done “looks,” and then they trash it with the flips.

 

What are these workers saying?

 

I will tell you.

 

“I don’t really want to be here. My head is at the beach.”

 

Not the message you want to be sending.

 

Casual isn’t always bad. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made a positive brand out of wearing casual, even shleppy T-shirts in that vomit color.

 

When I see someone who wears a T-shirt and a blazer to work, I get the sense that they are more focused on results than on appearance.

 

Flip-flop wearers don’t seem to want to be there.

 

And since the flip-flop-wearers are 100% female, in my experience – I have never once seen a man wear flip-flops to work, nor sandals, for that matter – is it really a good idea to be dressing so casually?

 

Is sexism really so over that we can act like we don’t care?

 

So – no matter how hot it gets – no matter how much you want to be in South Beach or Ocean City or wherever – please think twice before you put those flip-flops on your feet.

 

Especially if you are going to the office.

 

If you absolutely must wear them, at least get a manicure.


But then everyone is going to look at your feet - and not at your head - which is where your brain is. The thing you want to get credit for at work.


Think about it.

 

Have a great weekend everyone – and good luck!


__


Image source here

 

Landsend

Quickly: Look at these two.

They are the reason I threw out the Land's End catalog that came in the mail today ("Late Summer 2011").

Do high-fashion models actually buy this brand?

They could have saved a lot of money and just paid ordinary folk on the upper East Coast (Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, etc.) to submit their home photos to be in the catalogue. Not that they're not beautiful. But the pretension has got to go.

Just a thought.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Last night marked my return to the classroom. Adjunct assistant professor of marketing. A dream.

 

I’m going to leave the classroom discussion in the classroom. Let the energy stay there. Trust builds that way.

 

At the same time, some big ideas were shared, endorsed, chewed over.

 

Hope these are useful to you. Or that you have a comment, or would like to add to the conversation. What are the basics? What should everybody who wants to know about marketing, know right off the bat?

 

Here are last night’s 20:

 

1. We market, without realizing it, all the time.

 

2. Understand what the term “marketing” means to you upfront. Because if you don’t, you may find yourself talking past the other people in the room.

 

3. The key distinction to understand is between marketing and branding. (We didn’t talk about selling, but I’m throwing it in here, b/c I should have.) Branding is long-term image insurance, marketing is medium-to-short-term awareness-building, and selling is immediate term shouting designed to move merchandise. Think meat stew versus sautéing versus broiling.

 

4. Innovation is tough to do mainly because of social pressure. You have to train yourself to suggest things that others would find shocking.

 

5. Marketers must be ethical and tell the truth, but consumer insights cannot be based on political correctness. Only on what the marketer observes in an objective way.

 

6. Consider the regulatory environment and the client’s unique situation before suggesting solutions.

 

7. Exercise your marketing muscle by engaging people in conversation and then guessing what kind of brands they like, products they buy, etc.

 

8. It is not clear whether personality fundamentally changes over time, but life experiences do shape our thinking because we’ve gone through them.

 

9. To play defense is to be dead.

 

10. Emotion sells, but you have to control it so that you remain in touch with the customer and don’t seem like an out-of-control lunatic.

 

11. Usually it’s the throwaway insights that yield the most fruit.

 

12. You don’t always want the end user to know about your existence.

 

13. All publicity is good publicity. Usually.

 

14. The time to build a brand is way before you have a problem.

 

15. Rebranding is another way to say “failed brand.”

 

16.  Ask stupid questions if you don’t know.

 

17. Refuse the conventional definition of the problem statement if it suits your purposes.

 

18. Marketing is a helmet that you can put on and take off. It’s important to become aware when you’re doing that, and do it consciously.

 

19. If nobody is listening then you haven’t accomplished anything. Stop thinking so much about your message and what you want to say. Think more about connecting with the customer.

 

20. Corporate culture is the most important aspect of the brand and the most neglected.

 

Finally, when in doubt, refer to Starbucks. I criticize abundantly, but it’s only out of respect. Howard Schultz & Co. more or less wrote the book on how to build an outstanding brand, market it, and sell its individual products successfully.

 

Have a good evening everyone. Let me know what you think. And good luck.

 

 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Peace-stickerlg

A holiday weekend gives you some time to relax, reflect, and take stock...of the collection of natural supplements sitting on one's shelf.

Following are some products I use and find beneficial. If you are interested, I encourage you to read more online, ask your physician if they are safe for you to take, and try out if it is medically safe and might be helpful. 

Personally I have found that doctors rarely will push you to take supplements, but at the same time if they're not dangerous for you, they will tell you that you can try them and see what they do for you. If you do take supplements, make sure you understand what dose you are taking so that you're not overdoing it (toxicity) or underdoing it (no impact). Also make sure that you're not unintentionally taking too much (for example if you take a multivitamin and then B-complex together). 

And if you can, try to get high-quality supplements made from actual foods - more likely available at places like Whole Foods than the dollar store. (Seem expensive? Compare the cost of a nutritional supplement with the cost of getting sick.)

In general I don't like to take artificial nutrients as a substitute for actual food. I've been told, and I think it's true, that the best way to support your health is by eating whole, natural, unprocessed food. (I love the 12-vegetable soup at Au Bon Pain.) At the same time, you can't always eat enough of the good things to help you get the vitamins you need.

Also, nutritional supplements are just one part of a healthy lifestyle - the rest including (of course) things like exercise, relaxation, laughter, learning, and relationships. Spirituality of some kind helps too.

I don't endorse any specific product or vendor; the links are only provided for your convenience. However, I find that you can get most things from Puritan's Pride or Amazon.com (if you want the convenience of online), CVS or a local health food store or Asian market (they have an unbelievably good selection of medicinal teas). I don't often buy at Whole Foods because it's so expensive, but then again their quality seems to be fairly high. 

1. Omega 3-6-9 - benefits galore, not the least of which is good mood

2. Ubiquinol - promotes heart health

3. Turmeric - reduces inflammation

4. Medicinal teas - such as "detox tea," which is what it sounds like and has a zillion variations. Also decaf green tea (various benefits) with Ginkgo (memory booster) - I know they sell this on Amazon

5. Adora chocolate calcium with D3 and magnesium - gotta get that calcium, and do you really want to drink so much milk (I am not a fan of dairy products) - they sell this at Whole Foods and we gobble it up. 

If you are interested in nutrition generally, I highly recommend signing up for Dr. Joseph Mercola's free online newsletter. You may not agree with everything he says, and he does sell products. However, I've never bought anything from this site and I feel that have learned a tremendous amount of information by reading the daily articles.

Enjoy the holiday weekend everyone, and good luck!

____

Photo source here

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rocky2

This boxing match is over before it gets started: Facebook wins. Here's why:

* Brand: Facebook is about staying connected with friends. Google is about making the world's data searchable. Google is therefore not on solid ground. Analogous to Starbucks desperately trying to make more money by expanding into grocery store ice cream. It just dilutes the brand.

* Monopoly: Google is already pervasive in our lives due to its dominance in search, email, collaboration, smartphone integration, and more. People are going to resent or ignore the company's attempt to elbow out Facebook just like we resent it when one close friend tries to eliminate another one from our lives.

* Insanity: The definition of which is continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Examples: Google Wave. Google Buzz. Orkut. Knol. Face it, Google: Social networking is not your thing.

* Enemy: Facebook stays focused on its core business for a reason - they really know what they're doing. Already Mark Zuckerberg has an account on Google+. Talk about confidence. Talk about being connected everywhere, even on enemy ground. Talk about turning enemies into friends. Talk about keeping those enemies close. Can you say brilliant?

* Privacy: Last but not least, Google doesn't seem to get that people actually care about privacy and worry about being tracked online, especially when it comes to their personal email. Who wants to have their individual account connected socially to everything they do online? Despite all the company's reassurances about privacy protection, the fact is that when you do business (personal or professional) using Google email over Google's servers, they have touched your data. Now do you want to have an endless circle of friends, semi-friends, and contacts who aren't friends but who you've friended anyway, linked to your Gmail account? There's a reason why people do their professional networking on LinkedIn, their commenting on Twitter, and their friendship activities on Facebook: We like to keep different streams of our data separate.

Google is a great brand on many levels. But this one was a bad idea from the start. Doomed by its roots in envy of a competitor rather than the expansion of Google's own areas of excellence. Just like Microsoft laughably trying to overtake Google with "Bing" rather than get better at what it is they do best: create integrated software suites that are useful to the average business person. (How 'bout working on Sharepoint?)

Lesson for them and for the rest of us:

Stick to your core competencies--your unique selling proposition--the thing you can do better than anybody else, almost effortlessly. Succeed at that and then expand from there. Don't let yourself get jealous. (See "Obsessing about the competition blinds you to opportunity.")

Good luck!

__
Photo source here

Friday, July 1, 2011

Office_space

One day in 1985 it was my “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

 

I ditched school, caught the bus to Greenwich Village, and goofed around. By 5:00 I had returned with “outside” pajama pants (the non-sleeping kind); white T-shirts splattered with Madonna-trendy neon-colored fabric paint; and my favorite “find” of all, a lipstick-red fez (Moroccan-style hat) with a long red tassel that hung from the front like on a graduation cap.

 

Wore the fez to the Science Fair, at which I showed off my salicylic acid experiment—an early Lifehacker.com-style offering where students learned how to cure acne with crushed-up aspirin paste.

 

The principal walked straight up to me.

 

“You’re scaring the parents,” she said. “Go home.”

 

“I think I want to be a fashion designer,” I told my mom afterward. “But Mrs. N. didn’t like the hat.”

 

“Forget her,” she responded. “Go for it.”

 

As a supervisor of sorts, my mother provided me with endless developmental opportunities: drama, gymnastics, piano, violin, guitar. She may have been bleary-eyed half the time from working so hard, but she shlepped me everywhere and never complained.

 

She and my dad (let’s call him the “CEO” of the family) are total opposites. But they share an unshakable belief that everyone is entitled to follow their dreams.

 

My dad’s retirement plan: “I will go to law school and become a litigator.” He actually will do that.

 

In the olden days parents taught kids to fit into their given caste. Today the opposite is true. A parent is supposed to facilitate the kid’s personal journey. No matter how weird it may seem.

 

The family has progressed. But unfortunately our schools and our workplaces have not. Instead of rewarding creatives, we have a de facto system of groupthink, where the robots who can pump out standardized answers on cue are rewarded. While those who see things differently are mostly not prized by the system.

 

Observe:

 

* In recruiting new employees, favor is still given to “known” schools; high quantitative GPAs; an unbroken employment history; standardized “scannable” resumes; and the “conservative navy blue interview suit.”

 

* Once hired, employees are paid by “number of hours worked” rather than “quality of output” and telecommuting is primarily viewed as something one does after they’ve worked a full day at the office. Not to mention that part-time and flexible schedules are “accommodations” only.

 

* Within the organization, external communication is vastly favored over the neglected stepchild called “internal communication.” Organizational development specialists are called in only when there’s a “problem.” And anything related to emotions – whether conflict, distress, or even laughter – is seen as distracting from “real business.”

 

* The social phenomenon called “training” is viewed as the experience of having an expert teacher mush your brain full of lessons, whether “hard skills” (technical) or “soft skills” (emotional intelligence). Thus “training rooms” are set up for a “trainer” to lecture rows and rows of raptly listening students. And “questions” are to be restricted to having the trainer “clarify” the material rather than challenging its validity in the first place.

 

And we want to know why employees aren’t adding enough value to the workplace? Why they aren’t fully engaged?

 

If you look around, there are literally tons of blogs, articles, and books that will tell you how to “empower your employees.” But do you know what? If you have to empower disempowered employees, you have already lost the war. Because once you take the spark out of people, once you turn them into yes-men-slaves, you cannot easily get them to come back.

 

This is why G-d made the Jewish people wander in the desert after being enslaved in Egypt. It takes a long time to get your groove back.

 

So empowering people is too late. Instead you have to find people who come to you empowered. Who are endlessly jumping up and down with creative ideas. And who want nothing more than to join forces with a partner who will harness their energy.

 

What is so interesting to me is that this is obvious stuff. That jargon-y sounding phrase “human capital” is well-established as the key (forgive me) “value-driver” of any business. Leadership and management gurus from Peter Drucker to Jack Welch say it over and over again:  Everything can be replaced but your people. Let them be!

 

But most organizations still don’t get it. The shift in thinking is still too radical. People who will spend thousands of dollars for a seminar on innovation will return to the office and kick the dog. Even David Ogilvy, who is well-known for his humanistic philosophy of management (“we treat our employees like human beings,”) wasn’t immune from the gap between business theory and his own personal practice.

 

Donny Deutsch, whose father used to work for Ogilvy & Mather as a creative director and who told him “many stories of what a son of a bitch the guy was,” relates one typical episode: “He (Ogilvy) was known to have once walked by a secretary’s desk, found it too messy for his liking, and with a sweep of his arm, pushed everything onto the floor.” – “Often Wrong, Never in Doubt,” p. 19

 

I have a theory:

 

Companies pay lip service to the worth of their employees because, in the end, they still think that executives are the brains behind the machine (and employees are the machine, with interchangeable parts).

 

Thus they think that treating employees well is like a form of charity.

 

What they don’t see is the “ROI” of finding unique people and harnessing their creativity. Because they don’t understand that the value of the business is reducible to the value of the brand. And that the brand does not live in a dead, stale, picture on a website or in a glossy brochure on a side table. Rather, it exists in every single interaction between every single employee and every single person that employee talks to. Whether they are “on duty” or not. 

 

A case in point is Donald Trump’s “Branding 101,” written by Columbia University marketing professor Don Sexton, Ph.D. In many respects this book is an outstanding introduction to the discipline of building a brand. Reference the subtitle:

 

“How To Build The Most Valuable Asset of Any Business.”

 

However, it is an unfortunate fact that the chapter relating to the role employees play in building the brand—“Your Employees and Your Brand”—sits at the end of the book. (It’s Chapter 23.)

 

What a message. What a meta-message. Even though, as Sexton readily admits, “The values of…brands often depend on how employees live the brand,” the “how” of that living is relegated to just nine pages that sit just next to the dust jacket. There is no analysis of the incredibly complex relationship people have with their organizations, of corporate culture, of unifying the workforce.

 

In Trump’s/Sexton’s world, which is to say how most business people think, the delivery of the brand is analogous to the delivery of a pizza: If the delivery people (employees) know what the pizza (brand) looks like and know where to take it (key stakeholders), then that little problem is all taken care of.

 

This paternalistic attitude is exactly why brands are failing left and right. Not only are employees not living the brand, they’re disgusted with the companies that create these supposed brands and disgusted that they are treated like little show ponies who must repeatedly mouth the platitudes that a marketing writer came up with.

 

They’re spitting on the pizza in the kitchen before they deliver it.

 

Do leaders, once they attain high status, somehow unconsciously slip into a certain “mode” that enables them to forget that all these people being hired are actually adults who are responsible for homes, children, elderly parents, marriages, and who often possess advanced degrees?

 

Employees are pretty smart, usually. So we really can do better than “orienting” people to spit out a canned “customer service statements” like “Have I served you well today?” “Is there anything else I can do for you right now?” “It is my pleasure to be serving you.”

 

Come on. Brand success – business success – is very simply about hiring people who fit in in the first places, and then setting them up to succeed. They don’t need you to train them because they hit the ground ready to roll. Win-win. That’s it.

 

I remember we took a flight and the stewardess was so angry. Angry enough that she marched up and down the aisle, banging the overhead bins shut. It was clear that something was wrong between the crew members. Yes, she said what she was supposed to say, her little brand speech about how happy she was to have us there. But I was afraid for my life.

 

Logically, think about the implications of this statement:

 

Business = brand = employees.

 

Meaning:

 

You can have the crappiest, most homemade logo ever.

 

The worst-sounding name.

 

A store design that’s little more than “hole in the wall.”

 

Computers rescued from the garbage bin at Best Buy.

 

But if you have outstanding employees, you will succeed.

 

When will organizations learn? It’s all about the people, stupid.

 

If you aren’t engaging, exciting, and enabling your employees, I can promise you that eventually your business will wind up in the scrap heap.

 

That you are the one killing it.

 

And that despite all appearances to the contrary, an unhappy and unprofitable end to the party will come.

 

This is a certainty. It is only a matter of time.

 

Hire for brand, live the brand, evolve the brand. It should be natural and it should be fun. If you can say that then you are well on your way.

 

Good luck!

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Photo source here