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Follow the leader, both in reality and in thought. How to change minds and ensure the uptake of new business models. #thoughtleadership

I have just started to read a big book. A very big book. Avinash Kaushik‘s Web Analytics 2.0 and i must admit i am hooked! I am not entirely sure how i have become quite so interested in the frameworks, mechanics and methodologies of disseminating metrics to acquire valuable insights for businesses and decision making but i have. “Who would have thought?” as my mother might say! As suggested in my previous post What is Agile Marketing, the ability for teams to quickly and confidently alter course based on real data drives us to improve on failure; over and over and over. I think it is this attitude toward a continual state of team learning that makes us all lean a ‘little bit analytical’ these days.

Now I have only read the first few chapters but one thing that has struck a chord with me already is that one (or a business) can be armed with all the tools under the sun and yet still fail to deliver on changing those frameworks, mechanics and methodologies that I have alluded to earlier in this post. If you cannot instil a change of ‘mindset’ (or will) in your customers or colleagues then you are doomed to the status quo. This is the power of leadership i suppose, and perhaps from where the coined term “thought leadership’ has emerged. Emergent internal team leaders, business leaders and businesses themselves have to be able to take colleagues, team members and customers in directions which were not immediately obvious or comfortable, physically and emotionally.

So this got me thinking about the process of altering mindsets, and how one might go about this. As a business leader myself (a co-founder of Movebubble) I am tasked with changing the mindsets of those looking to move house around the world. It is my role to push, position and illustrate an alternative method to achieve the same goals. With this new venture we are taking on an old, heavy and wealthy adversary; an adversary with real authority and ‘apparent’ knowledge. And in the mind of the prospect, this is the ‘status quo’, the way things are done… unless we can change that.

Daniel Kahneman has written of something called the Theory Induced Blindness in the acclaimed Thinking Fast and Slow, in which individuals are blinded to an obvious truth (albeit in hindsight) simply because of an official and generally accepted theory stating otherwise. People seem unable or unwilling to challenge it. In particular he talks of Daniel Bernoulli’s theory of economic utility, in which an individuals’ utility (or happiness) can be easily calculated based on wealth (see the graph to illustrate this below).

 

Kahneman goes onto to argue that this is in actual fact not entirely true, and that it does not take into consideration where you have come from, i.e. your relative starting position of wealth. I would also add into this that people don’t act rationally most of the time which is one of foundations of economic utility theory. Kahneman introduces the Prospect Theory, which does take into consideration the relative starting position to calculate utility.

“Well that obvious Logan!” I hear you shout.

My point is that for approximately 200 years, scholars, intellectuals and other economists believed Bernouilli’s theory was true almost without question, because it was an official theory. And the longer it went unchallenged the more official it became. They themselves had Theory Induced Blindness.

It reminds me, in part, of the Milgram experiment, where subjects of a psychology test were asked to administer potentially lethal electrical shocks to other volunteer subjects, simply because they were being told to do so by authoritative people in white official clothing. This recurrence of an ‘official line’ seems to be important in making people act irrationally. Our societies and cultures are shaped by our anthropological background as a species, and hasinstilled a sense of respect for authority, which we perhaps feel uncomfortable in challenging.

I work in the Real Estate and Technology Sector (Realtech) therefore I am able to comment on this sector more ably than any other. It feels to me, that the Real Estate and Private Residential Lettings market has Theory Induced Blindness, or as i am going to call it Business Model Induced Blindness. People are unwilling to (or have not to date) look outside the current models in play; but once they do the alternative will seem to have been so apparent;

“Why has this not existed before?”

is a common statement that i come across in my daily work life. This implies to me that this alternative ‘unagency’ or ‘customer collaborative’ model (as being used by my company) is, in hindsight, so obvious.

Even Mark Earls, author of Herd (officially one of my favourite books on ‘group think’ and ‘herd mentality’) talks about this power of authority, and how people are willing to listen to, trust and undertake tasks given to them because the ‘giver’ is an authoritative looking figure. Perhaps this is why Real Estate agents and brokers wear suits and drive fancy cars. I am sure that web developers with hoodies and beards instills less authority!

So, i am finally getting to my point, in that we can enact change in the market place, in any market place as entrepreneurs and startups by taking real positive action. It is up to us to be authoritative, perhaps even in areas where no one has authority. I am beginning understand that this leadership, whether of the tangible or thought variety, is the key to altering the mindset of colleagues and customers. Firm, consistent and constant messaging and communication thereof is the key to moving people into a new mindset or way of thinking.

This might perhaps sound obvious. Drone on and on about your ideas and eventually people will follow… no no not at all. You miss my point. One has to become an authority on that subject, find the knowledge that is not common, and share with the world. People won’t always like what you have to say, in particular the incumbents, but be sure to shout loud and clear from the digital rooftops that you really do know what you are talking about and that people should follow. Be willing to learn that knowledge with your customers, and even your competitors. Because if you are truly going where no one has gone before as an entrepreneur then knowledge on that subject will be few and far between. It is up to you to find, and communicate this through your comms and content strategies.

Thought leadership is a state of mind, and it begins with you…

 

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How to get your cake and eat it. The job your product does. A talk from Professor Christensen at Business of Software 2011

This is a great lecture from Professor Clayton Christensen at Business of Software 2011. He is a lecturer and professor at Harvard Business School and has some brilliant insights, something all entrepreneurs should understand. In this talk he describes disruption (referencing disruptive innovation) as the art of killing rather than being killed. How do you take on the incumbents in the marketplace? You can’t outspend them, and you probably can’t out innovate with new features and added benefits onto already existing products and services.

He implies that if you can focus on the job required to be done and the causal mechanism behind a customers decision then you can retain the ‘bleeding edge’ high ground and ensure continued profitability. Becoming a purpose brand is vital, i.e. one that states what job it tackles so as to become that brand people go to when thinking of a task. This is the only way to ensure sustained profitability. An example here is ‘furnishing my house’ and IKEA.

Professor Clayton Christensen at Business of Software 2011  The Job your Product Does   Business of Software

Drucker has a great quote:

“A customer rarely buys what the company thinks they are selling him (/her)”

Investigate what job people are using your product for, and improve on it. Companies are often wrong about how people are really using their services. People use chairs to change lightbulbs and not to sit on (all the time) so should chair companies make chairs that do both jobs better, or innovate with a new product for changing lightbulbs?

If you do the job well enough as a service (or product) then you don’t need a marketing budget. Sounds so simple hey? Too many companies compete on the same axis of performance and competition. Innovate on different axis, centered on the task only. Simple examples are Salesforce.com and Oracle, Toyota and Ford Motors.

Oddly he tells us not to listen to the customer but to be sure that the company makes the job easier and cheaper. A great example here is when Ford was the innovator in the market, and the famous line from Henry Ford himself:

“If we asked the customer what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse”.

Henry Ford understood that the problem was getting from A to B, and so simply innovated to make this task easier and quicker. He did not try to breed faster horses. People are willing to pay a premium for a product/service that provides a better solution.

Its true customers don’t know what they will need in a few years time, and companies do have to lead the way. However if they lose sight of the job being performed they lose track altogether. Jobs don’t change quickly. So don’t add features above customer requirements or capabilities. Yes it adds complexity, and makes it harder to copy, but sometimes you will get so far ahead of the customer that you become too complex and replaceable. Not a good place to be as a business. Christenson suggests rather than innovate on the same axis/market, look to create zero consumption markets with simple products.

He makes a point that refers to innovation as a culture, and investing in the services of the future before you need them. Because if you wait until you need the innovation persuading shareholders to move away from key business activities to invest in higher risk projects is difficult, if not impossible.

Finally he describes how companies are now competing on business models. This is something that i have mentioned before of how it is now ‘Battle of the Business Plans’. The three business models he describes are summarised below:

Solutions Shop Business

In this business model you define a problem and offer a solutions. Business consultants are perfect examples of this.

Value Adding Business

These business take something in at one end, add value, and sell it at a profit. Great examples are clothing manufacturers.

Facilitated Network Business

These are closer to customer company collaboration to find a better solution. Perhaps the sharing economy falls into this category also. There are many examples of this, but a couple are Lyft and Sharedesk. These companies will take revenue per transaction.

Lastly he talks of ‘stupid managers’. Be careful as a company that looks only at the Return on Net Assets (RONA) or Internal Rate of Return (IRR) as measures of profitability and a guide to decision-making. If you are not careful, you can easily outsource your core competency further down the supply chain even though we are taught in business school that this is the right framework within which to make decisions. Dell is a perfect example of this managerial oversight. He says the best way to make decisions, is on how many tonnes of cash you make.

Anyway, enough of my summary. Watch this, and let me know what you think.

……. Also since writing this post, i have been asked to share this link for the Business of Software blog post with Clayton’s talk, which also includes a transcript of the talk. Happy reading. Sorry i did not do this the first time around. I forgot.

http://businessofsoftware.org/2012/02/professor-clayton-christensen-at-business-of-software-2011-the-job-your-product-does/

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLsphIC?p=1 width=”550″ height=”443″]

Contextually Relevant Marketing aka CRM – coined (ish) #blog #marketing #digital #branding

I was sat in a meeting the other day, talking about software requirements. And we began talking about ideas of branding and how ‘advertising’ has changed. Its no longer about repetitive bombardment from billboards and placards. Advertising in my opinion does not do ‘maketing’ justice. Marketing is about demonstrating the core values of why you do business and ensuring alignment with customers. Its not about blag or smoke and mirrors. Its about well timed, relevant content and engaged communication to ensure maximum comprehension and efficacy. Its about being human. Scott Stratton talks a lot about this. Definitely worth checking out and finding on twitter too @unmarketing . So stop advertising and start talking.

Anyway i digress ever so slightly… So we spoke of Customer Relations Management Systems (“oh the joy i hear you shout”). CRM we then thought could mean something else, and we explored the idea of ‘Contextually Relevant Marketing”. I am sure this is not coined here, i just thought it was really cool and i wanted to blog about it. The idea that a brand should be engaging with you at the right moment, with the right content. The lines between customer and company are blurred these day, and i think those companies that cannot leverage this ability to engage will always fall short of the mark. I believe that most companies dont get this, they still act on the opposite side of the fence to the customer. The problem is, there is no fence anymore. Be your company.

Just some sunday afternoon ramblings having watched Andy Murray win Wimbledon. Fair play.

Great coders are today’s rockstars!

This is a great little video about coding, and how it is not taught in schools (in this instance US schools – but i think we can assume in general).

Steve jobs quotes:

“Everyone in this country should learn how to programme a computer… because it teaches you how to think.”

I love that. I dont code. I want to learn how to code. I can certainly see how Drew (just the guy who created Dropbox) suggests it is similar to learning how to play an instrument in terms of the learning experience because coding is about pushing the realms of possibility. I want to be able to think of something, create something and then publish… Its exciting.

It’s amazing to see this new wave of tech engineering jobs (or lively hoods i prefer) being available but the skill base actually not even being there. This is an amazing thing to actually think about. I want to learn to code, as its the future. How cool is that. This video made me want to learn to code.

And the offices in this are so damn cool too. I love that i saw this question on the wall. Its now written and hanging above my computer.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid”

no-fear

So check out the video below. And if anyone has any ideas as to the best way to learn how to code, let me know.

Starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, will.i.am, Chris Bosh, Jack Dorsey, Tony Hsieh, Drew Houston, Gabe Newell, Ruchi Sanghvi, Elena Silenok, Vanessa Hurst, and Hadi Partovi. Directed by Lesley Chilcott.

Gamification… a talk from Gabe Zichermann. Follow him @gzicherm

Well, this is a novel idea…. and one i love.

Definition: Gamification is the use of games thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. 

From the days of finding every coin in Super Mario Bros (Explorers) to destroying all your friends in Goldeneye (Killers), Gamers have been slowly and surely watching, listening and taking notes to human behaviour whilst in Game mode. They know their stuff! Gamification is a new form of thinking, where people are funnelled into a fun Gaming environment that is aimed at maintaining your loyalty, and basically adding value to the customer experience. Gabe Zichermann talks of how brand loyalty has been overtaken by this phenomina, and people want to receive something for their loyalty predominantly in the form of status. What is status worth? Companies that dont see and aim to embrace this may miss out on a new method for customer and employee engagement.

There is a huge amount of information in this (so i am not even going to try and explain it too much), and it is well worth giving it one hour of your time. Beginning with Mary Poppins and talking through how air traffic control can be fun, this will make you think about your current working and customer environment. Truly inspirational, i will certainly find more from Gabe and other Gamification pioneers and post here.

Why not check out the blog by following this link to find more information …. http://gamification.co/

Simon Sinek gives a great talk on #Leadership from TED TALKS. @simonsinek @TED_TALKS

Why do some leaders and organisations inspire and some dont?

Simon Sinek offers a great talk with Ted Talks about ‘Why’, not how and what. Looking into the Law of Diffusion of Inspiration, and talking of ‘Crossing the Chasm’ to mainstream acceptance, Simon’s talk is well worth giving 18 mins of your time for.

Get the ‘How’ right, and you get the rest. Simon talks of communicating with the Innovators and Early Adopters and you get toward the 100th monkey syndrome. You reach the tipping point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on this link to see the source of this image from Andre Ivanchuk.

Make sure you watch this, as i feel its very interesting when looking at getting new products and ideas into the market, and blows most ‘mainstream’ marketing companies out of the water. WHY WHY WHY!!

The World Economy in Crisis: Debt, Double-dip, Employment Outlook. What Happens Next?

A friend of mine from the University West Of England Executive MBA course just sent me this fantastic youtube video, of Boston University’s School of Management’s first event in the Dean’s Speaker Series. Entitled “The World Economy in Crisis: Debt, Double-dip, Employment Outlook – What Happens Next?” it kind of describes it all.

The Panelists included:
Jeffrey L. Knight, Head of Global Asset Allocation, Putnam Investments
Lawrence Kotlioff, Professor, Department of Economics
Michael Salinger, Professor, Markets, Public Policy & Law
John Zhao, CEO of Hony Capital

Boston University School of Management Dean, Ken Freeman, moderated the event.

http://management.bu.edu/

Be sure to watch this video, as it gives some great insights into what the great minds of today, are suggesting we do for tomorrow. I will aim to give this video some more time on this blog as some great concepts are talked over. I found it very inspirational, and almost a challenge to go and make ‘it’ work. But for now, here is the video….

Jeremy Rifkin talks about the need to evole into Homo-empathicus

The RSA Organisation is a true inspiration to myself, with many lectures and articles from some of the best intellectual minds on the planet. Jeremy Rifkin is one such mind, and is a bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet. In this lecture he explores the evolution and development of empathy and the ways in which this has profoundly shaped our development as a species and our social interaction within communities. Mr Rifkin calls for a more empathetic world, one where we can extend our empathy outside of our blood line, religion, and nation to include the entire population of the world, the animals within it, and the environment itself. He claims that the 6.8 Billion people of today (now actually over 7 Billion) are decendents from 2 individuals, ie we are all family. In the words of Rodney King;

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

As we have evolved our consciousness over time, from the early hunter gatherers, to the coffee drinking shoppers of today, we have expanded our levels of empathy to include people further and further afield. Taking Haiti as an example of the state of Global Empathy reached following the devastating earthquake there, Jeremy Rifkin suggest that we can evolve further using technology to communicate and spread the word. He believes we can evolve into a more empathetic species, called Homo-empathicus where we are concerned and feel for all people of this world and the world itself. Without this development, he states, we are doomed to self-destruction. Mr Rifkin calls for the beginning of a global debate to bring about empathic socialability and to begin to rethink the institutions (educational, political, commercial, societal) to promte a more empathetic world. And i suppose in short, this is what the RSA Organisation stands for.

I believe that unless the individuals within the business world begin to function with a higher level of morality and empathy towards others and with a better social vision that we will see a period of Global Destabilisation that will rock our species to the core, and will cost the Global Economy untold Trillions and set us back into the dark ages. Many people believe that Milton Friedman, the prophet of Free-Trade, to be an evil man but i feel this is a vast oversimplification. I am aware that he was involved in some dubious dealings and that his theories have caused hardship for many around the world, but i aim to look at his economical ideology rather than the results of such ideologies. But he once wrote;

‘our minds tells us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power’. 

Although in this he was talking about the centralised government, and the need to ensure a more de-centralised base for political and governmental power i believe this can be applied to a concentration of wealth, as it is easy to see that economic power can lead to political leaning and thus enable monopolies of power and self-interest. We, as business people, need to ensure that we are able to view anothers situation and seek empathy for that person so that we can share the resources of this world and promote freedom around the globe.

As ever, a truly enlightening and thought-provoking lecture from the RSA Organisation.

For another post from the RSA Organisation about motivation please click this link.

Please let me have any comments you have, so that we can aim to develop conversations and debate over this topic.

 

 

360 Degree Assessment Surveys, are they an accurate form of feedback, or just bad data?

As i begin to prepare myself for my Executive MBA at University West of England, i have started to research my course and the topics i might very well study and discuss. This blog is a place for me to begin to understand more of these topics and try to engage with others about such things and effectively increase my learning.

As i have been looking through organisational structure and management i have come across a tool that offers managers ‘apparently’ objective feedback on their ability to manage that can be used at all levels within a business. This is called a 360 Degree Assessment Survey, or the Full-Circle or Multisource Assessment.

This assessment tool, allows organisations to gather feedback and information on a specific employee from managers, co-workers and those that report to the individual. It is apparently objective, and gives great insight and data on a specific individual within a specific job role by asking a set of questions about this individual and allowing a space for comments and feedback under a range of headings such as leadership, vision, clarity, work ethics, performance management, communication and many others.

The organisation can utilise this data to look at how an individual is viewed by his/her self and of all their colleagues around them who have undertaken the survey. It is, effectively a managers reality check, and a method for increasing self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses as perceived by others.

At first glance, this might very well sound like an interesting and useful tool. I don’t doubt that perhaps, within the correct organisation this information can be used to shape an individual so they become more effective at their role so long as no one becomes defensive or concerned about giving frank and honest feedback. And a lot of statistical data does point to this being a great tool… but…

I have just read a blog post by Marcus Buckingham that talks of a fatal flaw within the very fabric of this assessment tool, and how they can do more good than bad (if the organisation is not careful).

‘And yet I still think all but a very few 360 degree surveys are, at best, a waste of everyone’s time, and at worst actively damaging to both the individual and the organization. We could stop using all of them, right now, and our organizations would be the stronger for it.’

Marcus has some good point in his article, regarding the questions asked. How can someone give feedback objectively… really? Because surely their response is in some way related to their position and opinion of the assessment’s subject? Marcus states pretty clearly that the data garnered from these are in general.. bad.

‘No, my beef with 360 surveys is more basic, more fundamental. It’s the data itself. The data generated from a 360 survey is bad. It’s always bad. And since the data is bad, no matter how well-intended your coaching, how insightful your feedback, how coherent your leadership model, you are likely leading your leaders astray.’

And the last things we need from these surveys, is the take the leader in the wrong direction. That is the ultimate ‘no no’ and a waste of valuable time and resources.

Typically the survey breaks down core competencies into questions about behaviour that apparently encompase these. If we take communication as a core competency, and the evaluators use the following question;

‘Is Logan a good communicator?’

Your answer to this, will actually tell us more about you than of Logan. If your answer is ‘yes, Logan is a good communicator’ this simply indicates that Logan is a better communicator than you. And if your answer is ‘No, Logan is a poor communicator’ it could simply mean that Logan is a worse communicator than you. This could be said for all answers to questions that are asked in this way. It is based on the relative skill set of the person answering the questions to the relative skill set of the person we are asking about. And Marcus argues that no matter how much bad data you get it will always remain bad data.

‘Again, this sounds right, but it still doesn’t hold up. Each individual rater is equally unreliable. This means that each rater yields bad data. And, unfortunately, when you add together many sources of bad data, you do not get good data. You get lots of bad data.’

So, is there a solution to this? Everyone can answer a question based on their own experince, emotions and feelings, and thus be subjective. So why not ask questions that allow people to answer subjectively. A better question to ask about communication might be;

‘Do you understand Logan’s verbal instructions?’

The answer to this can be yes, or no and will give more accurate feedback because it is based on the way you specifically feel about the question.

These tools can be very useful, and the best leaders will be able to use them correctly and take good information and feedback and use this to develop. However, it can obviously be very easy to structure these incorrectly and point the leader in the wrong direction.

Be careful, think hard before implementing these forms of feedback survey otherwise you may be doing more harm than good.

If you have any thoughts on this, just comment as i am keen to hear what people think.

If you wish to read the full article by Marcus Buckingham follow this link.

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

Stay Hungry, stay foolish… the words of a wise man?

Lets face it, Steve Jobs did great things for the human race, technology and creativity in general. He made computers accesible, and working flair part of the technological world. Even my mum can email, tweet, and continuously follow me and comment on all my goings on on Facebook due to the ease of Apple Mac’s products. Steve Jobs noticed how the aesthetics of what you use are integrally linked to how you use them, and how much you want to use them.

Making Apple Macs beautiful was a key element to the success of the iPhone, iMac, and iPad. And so seeing as it was Steve Jobs who seemed to be the pioneer of this transformation he will be sorely missed at Apple and across the world. He seemed to hold an unwavering belief that he would change something, and so below is his Stanford Commencement Speech of 2005.

Pretty inspirational to all those Entrepreneurs out there.. myself included.

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