The interim strategy

interimWe say we want to treat people fairly, build an institution that will contribute to the culture and embrace diversity. We say we want to do things right the first time, treat people as we would like to be treated and build something that matters.

But first… first we say we have to make our company work.

We say we intend to hire and train great people, but in the interim, we’ll have to settle for cheap and available. We say we’d like to give back, but of course, in the interim, first we have to get… … Read more

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Blah, Blah, Blah

BlahBlahBlah

Writing and speaking (essays, non-fiction, copywriting, direct interactions, speeches) can be easily sorted into two groups:

                  The expected                                                  The unexpected

We don’t remember what most people say when they greet us (at a party, or even a funeral) because it’s banal. Most college essays, tweets and advertising copy fit right into this category. The prose we consume every day gets instantly processed, filed away and ignored. … Read more

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What is customer service for?

customer_service

Customer service is difficult, expensive and unpredictable. But it’s a mistake to assume that any particular example is automatically either good or bad. A company might spend almost nothing on customer service but still succeed in reaching its goals.

Customer service succeeds when it accomplishes what the organization sets out to accomplish. Google doesn’t have a phone number, doesn’t want to engage with most users. McDonald’s doesn’t give you a linen napkin. Fedex used to answer the phone on one ring, now it takes 81 seconds for them to answer a call. None of these things are necessarily bad, they’re merely examples of alignment (or non-alignment). … Read more

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You are what you share

WhatYouShare I have a friend who can always be counted on to have a great book recommendation handy. Another who can not only tell you the best available movie currently in theatres, but confidently stand behind his recommendations.

And some people are eager to share a link to an article or idea that’s worth reading.

Most people, though, hesitate.

“What if the other person doesn’t like it…?”

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Who let the air out of the balloon?

purpleballoon

Music, newspapers, books… most forms of media were exciting, high-pressure hothouses, environments with hits and winners and action and impact.

Many players in these industries are now trying to figure out where all the zing went. The mattering seems to have left.

Where did it go? It turns out that the air didn’t get let out, the balloon disappeared.

Balloons have pressure because there’s only one tiny opening. Scarce shelf space. Only room for one newspaper. Only forty titles on the Billboard chart. It’s that opening that creates the environment that allows pressure to exist, that pulls the rest of the balloon taut. … Read more

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Stop Stealing Dreams: The wasteful fraud of sorting for youth meritocracy

“Sorry, you didn’t make the team. We did the cuts today.”

“We did play auditions all day yesterday, and so many people turned out, there just wasn’t a role for you. We picked people who were more talented.”

“You’re on the bench until your skills improve. We want to win.”

Ask the well-meaning coaches and teachers running the tryouts and choosing who gets to play, ask them who gets on stage and who gets fast tracked, and they’ll explain that life is a meritocracy, and it’s essential to teach kids that they’re about to enter a world where people get picked based on performance.

Or, they might point out that their job is to win, to put on a great show, to entertain the parents with the best performance they can create.

This, all of this, is sort of dangerous, unhelpful and nonsensical. … Read more

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Thirty Years of Projects

I realized the other day that most people grow up thinking in terms of professional affiliations. “I’m going to be an accountant.” “I’m going to work for General Dynamics.”

Somehow, I always thought of my career as a series of projects, not jobs. Projects… things to be invented, funded and shipped. Sometimes they take on a life of their own and last, other times, they flare and fade. But projects, one after the other, mark my career. Lucky for me, the world cooperated and our entire culture shifted from one based on long-term affilitations (you know, ‘jobs’) to projects.

I had a two-part approach to building a career about projects. The first was to find a partner who was willing to own the lion’s share of the upside in exchange for advancing resources allowing me to create the work (but always keeping equity in the project, not doing it merely for hire). Publishers are good at this, and it enabled me to bootstrap my way to scale. The second was to grow a network, technology and the confidence to be able to take on projects too big for the typical solo venture. Complicated projects, on time, is a niche that’s not very crowded… … Read more

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Thinking lifetime (don’t break the chain)

The traveling salesman, the carnival barker and the old-time businessman can hit and run. Make the sale, cut your costs, move on.

Today, though, in the connection economy, two huge factors are at work:

1. Subscription. The lifetime value of a customer is high and getting higher. You might buy $50,000 from one grocery store over time. If you own an inkjet printer, it might come to a thousand dollars a year in toner expenses, with a profit margin approaching 90%…

2. Spreading the word. Every customer is also a media outlet and a publisher if she chooses to be. That means that unhappy news spreads far and fast (and that remarkable products and services need lower ad budgets).

But this seems to be almost impossibly difficult for companies to embrace. A simple example:

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Which charity?

Organized non-profits provide reach, leverage and consistency that can’t be matched by the millenia-old model of individuals helping those they encounter in the community. It’s one of the extraordinary success stories of the industrial age that they’ve been able to have such a worldwide impact with relatively few resources. As our choices continue to increase (yes, there’s now a long tail of philanthropy), it gets ever more important that we make conscious choices about what to support and how. … Read more

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The tribe or the person?

A parade of tourists is going to walk past your store today. Each is a separate opportunity for you to tell a story, to engage, to make a sale.

A connected community of readers is going to read what you wrote today. A cultural shift will occur among a small group of people because they will share, discuss and engage with each other about what you wrote.

Here’s the key question: are you trying to change an individual or are you trying to incite/inspire/redirect the tribe?

Direct marketers traditionally deal with separate events. Each catalog, each clickable ad is a unique transaction. In the world of separates, the simple test makes sense. You don’t pollute the pool when you try different transactions or different products with different people. … Read more

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