Category Archives: People

Cutting through the clutter — Curation and the new 3 Rs of content.

Two-thirds of tweets are either “so-so” or not worth reading at all.  So says a study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, MIT and Georgia Tech.

There is a delightful irony that I found this little gem in a tweet.  I read it on a feed from Chris Zane who runs Zane’s Cycle.   I interviewed a few months back for “The Customer Experience Show” a podcast that I host.   I follow Chris on Twitter because he is truly one of the great experts in customer experience.  What he has to say is worth listening to.

If truth be told, I had an little extra incentive to review his twitter stream.  I got a notice that Chris had mentioned me in one of his tweets.  When you get someone who you respect like I do Chris and THEY think that you’ve said something intelligent, you want to know what it was you said.

I — like so many others — say and pass along a great deal of information.   If this study is correct, about a third of it is worth saying.  Despite the source, I don’t believe it for a second.

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Dream Team – Or Your Worst Nightmare? In praise of the “B” Team

Everyone wants that perfect team. We are taught from the time we start in business that the secret to project and corporate success is getting the “very best” people in the right positions.  The “dream team”.  Get that right and you are 90% of the way to giving the competition a real butt-kicking.

That’s what we imagine. Excitement builds. We’ll get the best people, from the best schools, people who are “up and comers”! Get me the “A” performers! No “dead wood” on this team!

What a load of crap. Continue reading

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Unplugged

The smart money was on the third day.  I’d go running and screaming for my iPhone and come back to the world as we know it.

The challenge?  I was undertaking at 10 day retreat.   Totally unplugged.  No phones.  No internet.  Not even books.  And – here’s a kicker.  10 days in total silence.  I would talk to no-one.  Totally unplugged. Continue reading

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If you are really accountable – you resign

Phil Baker….what the hell were you thinking?   For anyone vacationing off planet this week, the Canucks lost and Canada’s reputation for education lost as well.  Philip Baker – the dean of the University of Alberta’s medical school was caught plagiarizing someone else’s convocation speach.

Funny how that works, Phil.  You see, I’m not a Dean.  I’m just a part time instructor at a couple of universities.  And cheating is a real problem for me, anyway.   This year I made a speech to my class – I wrote it myself.  But I fully confess to stealing the ideas from a number of my professors years and years ago — probably about the time you took your undergrad, Phil.   My profs said what I said at that class.

They said – if you cheat and I catch you, the consequences will be severe.   Continue reading

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Strangers in our midst

“There are strangers among us.”  The lady was referring to the consultants that her company’s executives had hired.

The phrase hit me like a brick.

I’ve been a consultant for over 15 years – half of my career.  It’s funny, you don’t get into this game unless you have some desire for feedback. Given how competitive consulting is, you also have to be a bit of an over-achiever.

I confess.  Yes.  I was that kid in school who had all the answers — the one the teacher eventually stopped asking, or looked vainly to each side of hoping for someone else to raise their hand, eventually returning defeated to reluctantly accept the offering of the impatient know-it-all in the front row.  For anyone who worries about my social status, you can rest easy — I got over that part. In university I became the guy sitting at the backs.  Still an over-achiever, but now a rebellious one — I learned to be cool and disdainful.   But I still knew the answer.  At least that’s my perception. Continue reading

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Attention Must Be Paid

As I think about the passing of a dear friend, David Hall, somehow I keep hearing these words ringing through my mind.  For the literary minded, the quote is of course, the final words of Arthur Miller’s famous play, “Death of a Salesman” where the protagonist Willy Loman’s wife, Linda, is mourning the death of her husband.

“Attention must be paid.”

Why these words as I think about David?  I’ve struggled with that.  David was certainly no Willy Loman.  Certainly not a salesman. But he could have been, I suppose.  David had qualities that any salesman would love to have.  He had that affability, that charm — a warmth.  When you met him, he was impossible to dislike.  And easy to like.

I remember the first time we met at his cubicle in the IT department at Inco — back in the days when it was a Canadian company.  Continue reading

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The secret to lasting change – burn the manuals and learn to ride a bicycle

The sad reality of change is that most attempts at organizational change are destined to fail. Sometimes the failures are overt and obvious – the change encounters a wall of opposition that simply cannot be overcome. Contrary to the famous Star Trek quote, resistance is not futile. It’s often covert. But it’s also very effective.

But let’s say you do everything right and manage the resistance and you even get some initial results. Are you destined for success? Rarely. If you come back to that same organization weeks or months later you may see some of the trappings of the change – but it’s real effect will more often than not be undetectable.

But it’s better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all, right?

Actually, not really. Continue reading

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TEDx Toronto 2010 – A Pilgrim On A Shopping Spree

What a wonderful day.  From the start, I was greeted with smiles and happy faces.  It was like a Stuart MacLean Vinyl Cafe concert to anyone whose been to one.  Or like one of the 60’s folk festivals.  Nice people.  People that you like to hang out with.

Music.  Poetry.  And the speakers!  Wow.

To take a line from the great band “Broadway Sleep” who played four great tunes in the morning — we were “pilgrims on a shopping spree”.

Here’s my glimpses of TEDx Toronto and a link so that you can see some of the pre-recorded talks.  Read on… Continue reading

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Innoculate Your Organization Against Change!

This just in. A group of scientists today announced that they has successfully created a vaccine which is almost 100% effective in preventing any change within an organization.

A spokesperson for the group claimed that they had decoded the basic DNA of organizational change and come up with a fool-proof method of ensuring that change was prevented totally or if any change variant did manage to get instilled in the organization, that it would be short-lived.

Since change itself can get started in a number of ways, the scientists stressed that it had to be systematically attacked at a number of levels. These multiple strategies, have an added bonus. They not only destroy the current infusion of change — but these anti-change factors actually work on the organizations own immune system. Initially, they work to destroy the initial change itself. But incredibly, they teach the immune system of the organization to find and tackle new and different changes.

“Soon, the organization becomes protected from change whatever the source,” said one of the researchers.

Okay…. I was just kidding. But it struck me today that this isn’t too far fetched. A lot of organizations actually DO things that build up their resistance to change. There are a lot of ways that this happens. I’ve covered some that I’ve been thinking of. Let me known in the comments below if you agree or add your own observation.

Here’s what I was noodling on when the idea of corporate immunity to change came to me. Continue reading

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If you want new clients, go where the clients are!

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? You might have had a different experience. But here’s something that I’ve observed. Einstein had it figured out when he said, “every solution should be as simple as possible – and no simpler.”

When I first read this quote it stuck with me instantly. I remembered it days later. I had this visual image of Einstein with the funny hair and a blackboard behind him with E=MC2 written on it in chalk. The visual image made the quote even more memorable.

Isn’t it funny how a simple message can have such an impact? What would you give to be able to be that memorable to potential customers?

Why is that important? Because in this environment, can you really afford to lose even one single deal that you could have or should have gotten? Are you struggling to find those new customers in these tough times?

I’d like to suggest something that I’ve found has really worked for me. It might work for you as well. Only you can find that out for yourself. Your experience could be different. But take a second and think about this.

Two nights ago I went to see Shelle Rose Charvet speak at a meeting of the our Strategy special interest group of the Toronto CMC Chapter. Shelle said a number of amazing things, but she left me with an image that I can’t get out of my head. Actually, it was two images — but if you want the second one, you have to hear her speak. She knows what it is. I think of her talk at least once a day. It turns out that’s healthy. But even if I tried to forget it, I couldn’t. And I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday. So making me remember two things is quite an achievement!

Let’s return to that first image. Here’s what she said — I wrote it down so I’d get it exactly. It might not be perfect, I wrote it quickly, but I’m sure she will correct me if it’s not right.

Here’s what I heard.

“In order to get someone to go somewhere with you, you need to meet them where they are…”

Shelle went on to make another point. She feels that many times our real competition might not be competitors. The real thing that’s preventing us from winning the sale may be that the client has other alternatives. One of those alternatives is to do nothing. The other is to study the issue – put it off.

She suggested that we need is to find a way to convince our clients that they need us more than ever. Shelle also went on to explain why we can have the best product or service and still lose the deal. Or why sometimes our own honest enthusiasm might be working against our message! I appreciate that all of this might sound a little over the top so let me share something from my own experience.

I’ve been following Shelle’s work for a few years now. Recently I had a client who had a problem. They had a product which would legitimately save their customers money. It had added benefits as well. It offered them ways to access new services. Interestingly enough, this other product was not only good for my client’s customers, it was much more profitable for my client. So imagine how frustrating it must have been to find out that they could not convince customers to switch.

They told me that their customers preferred the first (less profitable) product. They could not be convinced to switch.

As someone who cannot resist a good problem, I wanted to see if I could help them (as Shelle would say) re-frame the issue. Or as I might call it — to change the game. I had some ideas I thought might work, and I asked them if we could do a pilot to test them out.

So here’s what we did. We stopped selling. We asked customers if we could help them. We created a script which asked customers what their needs were and we asked permission to explain the differences between the two options. We explained these options clearly and objectively (we’d prepared this well). What happened? In our tests, we converted 60 percent of the people to the cheaper, but more profitable option.

Remember that my client was convinced this wouldn’t work? the results immediately raised some skepticism. So they should. They have every right to be skeptical about results like these. It’s a good thing. And I wanted to be careful not to “oversell” this. I was clear that their results could be different in other stores, other circumstances. But I got the chance to ask a question. I got the chance to ask what benefit they would get if the results were 1/10th of what we got in the pilot?

When even the skeptics went to work on this, they had to admit to themselves that this was worth a try.

Why did this work? The underlying principles came from reading one of Shelle’s books “Words That Change Minds”. I tell people that the reason my consulting gets results is not that I have to be smarter than everyone else. I just have to be smart enough to recognize great ideas an adapt them to what I do. Shelle has given me a number of those ideas over the years in her book. So it was very rewarding for me after all these years to be able to sit in the audience and hear her talking about things that I had thought about over the years since I first discovered her book in our company library.

And as always, she was reframing the issue so I could see it in a new way. If you want to get someone to go somewhere with you, you have to meet them where they are. We did that. We got to them in the store as they were in the process of making their decision. But we knew from surveys that customers wanted to be helped, not sold. We devised this so that it was clear and helpful — no sales, we simply gave them the facts they needed to make an informed decision and invited them to make up their own minds.

If we’d started where we were, we would have been trying to convince them. Even if we were right, even if we were enthusiastic, we would have been making them even more skeptical and less likely to hear our message.

So I’ve been asking myself a question. How many times am I missing opportunities because I am not going to where my clients are? As a consultant, I fall into the trap myself. I might be good at spotting issues with clients, but missing them in my own work. My own filters might keep me from seeing myself clearly. Sometimes even the best of us need a good mirror. That’s what Shelle’s presentation was for me. And what her work has been for me over the years. It’s a chance to hold up a mirror and take a clear look at how my message is being (or not being) received. By seeing it clearly, I can remove the obstacles to my own success — in the same way that I remove them for others.

So to my friend Bob who started this out with his question this morning. If you are reading this, that’s the answer to the question you asked (half in jest) this morning. Your question was right on the money. I hope I got it right You asked, if I’d read Shelle’s book so many times, why didn’t I spot these issues earlier? Correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll fix it. (The wonderful thing about a blog!)

I might suggest suggest that I’ve done some very good work for my customers. Do you remember that famous quote from Archimedes? I think we all learned it in school. “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

I’d like my clients to think of my services in that way. I can help them leverage what they do now and transform their efforts so they can do things they never thought possible. I can help them solve tough problems. The solutions are what they need them to be. For some, its that extra customer, for others, it’s reducing costs, for others its getting their teams to work together effectively. Some just want to hold the customers they have by building loyalty. They believe that loyal customers stick with you in tough times.

Even my business has challenges. We are a growing business and need to find new customers. Or better still, we need to convince old customers that doing nothing is not an option. I have to help them see why they need my services more than ever. This recession (or whatever it is) is changing customer behaviour. To use Shelle’s visual metaphor, it’s like clients have moved off to a different bus stop. And I can only convince them to get on the bus with me if I go to the bus stop where they are. It’s a timely message that we might all consider.

Everyone — including good consultants — need a look in the mirror from time to time. Because the world changes and our filters — the very things that help us cope with all the information out there, the things that make us successful, can actually prevent us from seeing problems clearly. Even if you are great at seeing what others need, you can still miss it for yourself. Shelle helped me once again, to reframe and see a challenge that I have.

so I came out of Shelle’s workshop with a list of notes. I’ve learned that if I want to get a lot out of an event, I have to listen carefully. Some speakers make that hard. Some make it easy to listen.

Shelle not only makes it easy, she explains how you can do that as well.

I hope I will never stop improving. So I set some goals. I will try to meet my clients where they are. I will expect them to be skeptical if I talk about all the great results that they will get. I will ask even more about their problems. I’ll remember to ask them what matters to them and why. I’ll continue a habit that Shelle taught me long ago – I’ll capture the answer in their words and not mine. I want to meet them where they are and not where I think they should be. If I can do that, I can invite them on the bus with me and we can take a journey together. That’s the type of work I think I’m good at. It’s also the type of work I love.

Thanks, Bob for raising that question. Thanks to Shelle for helping me see an issue that I can share with my friends, colleagues and readers.

Note for anyone who missed this workshop. Shelle is having two more workshops which are sponsored by CMC Canada in Toronto. Contact CMC Canada if you want more information about these workshops. Check out Shelle’s web-site if you want to find out more about her. You have to make up your own mind. All I can tell you is that her advice has helped me a lot 😉

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