Greetings. Looking to create much broader interest in your products, services, and ideas? If so, Jonah Berger’s new book Contagious: Why Things Catch On should be at the top of your reading list. Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School, is a thoughtful researcher and a wonderful storyteller…but more importantly, he is one of the smartest people around when it comes to helping us understand why some things take hold, spark amazing buzz, and go viral in a matter of days. And his insights can make a powerful difference in any business or walk of life.
Using powerful examples that include $100 cheesesteaks, blenders that can turn cell phones into smoothies, homemade videos of customer service nightmares, and the clever creation of Hotmail, he shares the “science” (and practice) that drives word-of-mouth…science that will change the way you look at your world and the challenge of being heard. It’s a formula that he summarizes in six essential STEPPS…
And while I’m particularly keen on the power of triggers and emotion, each chapter is filled with clear examples and ideas you can use today to spark your thinking and hopefully unlock the real genius in what you have to offer.
We win in business and in life when we fuel compelling conversations about ideas that really matter. And when we understand what makes ideas and possibilities spread.
Greetings. Not long ago Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer caused a stir when she announced that starting in June the company’s employees would no longer be allowed to work from home. Her “decision” flew in the face of a growing corporate trend, especially among leading tech companies, toward telecommuting and the idea that giving people the freedom and flexibility to work from home, or from their local Starbuck’s, was not only good for morale but good for business.
Speaking at the “Great Place to Work” conference, Mayer acknowledged that “people are more productive when they’re alone,” but suggested that “they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” Adding that “some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.” In an importance sense, she is absolutely spot on. But she, and most leaders on both sides of this issue, are also way off the mark when it comes to understanding where innovation comes from. And here’s the data point that should matter most:
99 PERCENT OF ALL NEW IDEAS ARE BASED ON THE IDEAS AND INSIGHTS OF OTHERS
Ideas that are typically found somewhere beyond the confines of our workplaces or our dining room tables. Ideas that are typically discovered when we decided to explore the world around us rather than hang out in an office meeting or at our laptop or tablet on the kitchen counter. Ideas that beckon us, and our colleagues, to get out of our comfort zones in order to take a fresh look at the genius that is around us–in the work of another company, the galleries of a local museum, the bustle of a thriving city street, or the solitude of our favorite hiking trail. Ideas that challenge us to scratch beneath the surface of another industry, culture, walk of life, or corner of nature to discover new ideas, insights, and possibilities.
And then, after proper reflection, to come back together to collaborate, innovate, grow, and make a compelling difference.
Working from home might not be the best answer for a company like Yahoo!
But neither is working from the office…at a time when their real challenge and ours is to be way more open to new, different, and more remarkable ways of doing things.
We win in business and in life when we challenge all of our colleagues to get out of the office. And to return with new perspectives and even better opportunities to change our worlds.
Greetings. None of us like to say we’re “sorry.” Sorry we forgot your birthday. Sorry we missed today’s meeting. Sorry we didn’t let you know about our change in plans. Sorry our incredible products didn’t work as well as we intended. Sorry we didn’t have the part you needed in our stock or that it took us forever to respond to your service request.
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
Yes, Elton John and Bernie Taupin were probably right in 1976 when they wrote their popular song “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.” And while this tune wasn’t about business or our lives dealing with organizations, it certainly could have been. Because just like many personal relationships that go bad, sometimes our relationships with companies also go bad. Often it’s simply unavoidable, we change and the companies we do business with are either unwilling or incapable of changing with us. And that’s okay. But sometimes it happens because they decide to change without asking us. And that’s less okay, because it suggests that they either know better than we do or that they believe there are better and more valuable customers out there.
Which brings us to the curious case of J.C. Penney, which today decided after a failed change in strategy to ask its customers for forgiveness. Yes, the folks at this venerable retailer (that began in 1902 in the town of Kemmerer, Wyoming) took to Facebook and YouTube to say that they were so “sorry” for trying to reinvent themselves at the expense of their loyal customers. Sorry that they tried to become more upscale, trendier, and way more focused on a decidedly younger demographic without letting anyone in on the secret. A secret that failed to resonate with their old or new customers. And now they were asking their old customers…the unhip shoppers who loved the old Penneys…to come back with the following mea culpa:
It’s no secret. We’ve made some changes.
Some you’ve liked and others you didn’t.
We’ve heard you – and we’re listening.
Let us know what you think.
“Sorry” is one of the hardest words in business. And we can avoid having to say it very often if we commit to being as “customer-centric” as possible. Not that Penney’s old customers were sufficient to carry the day. But one might imagine the company asking them to be part of any effort to reinvent the business and keep it relevant in changing times.
That part of any business is no secret.
And soon we’ll see if this public apology works.
We win in business and in life when we work hard to maintain our relationships. And when we try to change and grow together.
Greetings. Most of us know something about the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps…organizations that unlock the talents of people across a wide range of disciplines to work in service to low-income communities in developing countries and here in the United States. At their best, these programs help to strengthen local capacity by teaching and supporting local residents in projects that matter to their future. Now, a relatively new program called Code for America is applying the same business model to urban challenges that lend themselves to information technology solutions by connecting talented IT professionals with cities to reimagine the way that local government operates. The program provides fellowships that enable technologists to work directly with cities to solve pressing problems in new and innovative ways and is also looking to support civic start-up ventures with the potential to create disruptive technologies that will benefit local governments.
Code for America is an exciting idea that comes at a time when many local governments are challenged to provide additional services and greater value to citizens in the face of limited resources. And it makes sense that the combination of skilled and dedicated geeks and the Web might be a brilliant part of the solution.
It also suggests that your best and brightest people might be able to make a contribution to a challenge facing your community, and that we all have a vital role to play in solving important challenges at a time when public sector funding is increasingly constrained. And, there’s reason to believe that giving employees the opportunity to make a difference is an important part of what it takes to keep a new generation engaged and excited about work. In fact, Adam Grant’s new book “Give and Take” suggests that the people who give the most are likely to be the most successful.
We win in business and in life when we choose to share our expertise with others, and when we seek to find innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges and opportunities in our companies and our communities.
Greetings. Last Friday, the brilliant Jonathan Winters died at the age of 87. One of the most remarkable comedians of his era, Winters had an uncanny ability to improvise, innovate, and find humor in almost anything around him. Often by creating new voices and often without saying a word. And while countless stories have detailed his career, his creativity, the truly amazing band of misfit characters he invented, and the personal challenges he worked hard to overcome, I’d like you to think about one simple idea…
The power of making things up on the fly.
Once when asked why he preferred to improvise, Winters simply suggested that it was a lot easier to make things up than it was to remember his lines. And whether this was true or not, his sense of ease and imagination was the real gift of this comedy genius.
All too often in business and in life we allow ourselves to be led by a script, or a plan, or a set of meeting notes or bullets that define our world and frame our direction. Prearranged ideas that protect us from messing up and assure greater consistency by eliminating the guesswork and leaving nothing to chance. But that also limit our sense of spontaneity and possibility in a world that consistently demands fresh ideas, new energy, and quick rethinking of the things that matter most. In fact, our ability to improvise and even make things up on the fly is essential to our greater success.
To give you a sense of Jonathan Winters, check out this delightful improvisation using only a pen and pencil…
We win in business and in life when we challenge ourselves to improvise. And when we unlock brilliance and new possibilities in the slightest suggestion.
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