Monday, November 17, 2008

Squirrel, Inc.

I just finished reading a neat little book called "Squirrel Inc.: A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling" on a colleagues recommendation and really loved it.

In short, it's a neat little fable about a Squirrel with a great idea on how to save her company, Squirrel, Inc. She thinks the company needs to stop burying nuts and start storing them!

It's a quckie read but I took some key lessons in storytelling with me.
  • How do you persuade people to change?
  • How do you get people working together?
  • How do you share knowledge?
  • How do you tame the grapevine?
  • How do you communicate who you are?
  • How do you transmit values?
  • How do you lead people into the future?

Each chapter takes our hero through a different type of storytelling, each one optimized for the desired effects. It's a fun, quickie read that will leave you wanting to tell more stories!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm a PC

Microsoft bought the entire terminal corridor at JFK and I just so happened to have my flip with me. Silly little video, but hey, I'm silly.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

How Tiger Does It

Cross posted from my golf blog... I just finished reading a terrific book "How Tiger Does It" by Brad Kearns. It provides some great insights into Tiger's life and how he maintains his competitive edge. The book is much more interesting however, when read from a parent's point of view, I think.

The author talks a lot about kids and parenting (he must have his own!) and translating Tiger's winning ways into tools you can give your kids. The biggest takeway for me, across the board however is the idea that your child must be internally motivated (pure motivation), and that motivation must come from inside them.

My daughters both play sports (softball, basketball, soccer and golf) but never, ever practice on their own without being asked. Never. They do however, read, write and practice their instruments. My younger one draws pictures just because she feels like it. It's hard as a parent who knows that in order to get better, your kids have to practice - but the very act of pushing them to practice could be just the push your kid is looking for to quit. I'd prefer they keep playing casually instead of quitting because I've been an overbearing, winning obsessed parent.

The author points out "tips for raising a Tiger" towards the end of the book. I think they are worth listing here:
  1. Nurture your child's pure motivation and natural potential (in other words, don't project!!)
  2. Be a good caddie (help your child navigate, but let her take her own shots!)
  3. Place high expectations on your child (no for results, but honest, sportsmanlike and maximum effort in competition - direct praise at effort and behavior, not at ability or results)
  4. Apply the success formula (don't over do it, enforce expectations for effort and character and reduce emphasis on natural ability and winning)

The book is filled with great stories about Tiger's youth, his dad and mom's approach and full of quotes and bromides from the man himself. Well worth the time to read this book.

Full disclosure: I was not asked to do this review, I found the book in the library!

Marketing and Communities Conference Notes

I spent the day in NYC at the Forum One Marketing and Communities Conference (tag #moc2008) yesterday and had a pretty good time. I was happy to get out of my office dungeon for a bit and meet some new people. To follow the twitter stream, start here.

I don't have much time for a completely coherent blog post, but did take a lot of notes during the day. I organized them into a top X list (let's see how many are worth listing) and go from there. These are mostly in chronological order as I read down through my notes.
  1. Heather Gold was terrific (a bit like Sarah Silverman if you ask me). She's funny as hell and led a kickoff discussion. "Presentation as conversation" is what I wrote down.
  2. During that same session, this quote popped for me as well: "Vulnerability leads to connection." How true! My experiences managing online communities prove this over and over again. I can be scary to allow yourself to be vulnerable in an online community, but it goes a long way to proving that you are an actual human being.
  3. The party metaphor came up time and again during the day... the host role being key to welcome new members, clean up the mess and know who is coming back and who is not.
  4. People subscribe to people. True in most cases I think! Following institutions on Twitter for example is becoming more popular, but there is a real person behind there somewhere, isn't there? Maybe they are vulnerable tool.
  5. The more emotional investment community members have, the deeper the conversation.
  6. Offline communications is just as important as online communications when building a community. I tend to forget this myself.
  7. AMEX Members Project: Belinda Lang, the person from AMEX was refreshingly honest about her goals... "if it doesn't move the business, it doesn't matter." Yes! Clear goals win. Transparency wins.
  8. My god... the advertising barbarians are at the gates of community! As an industry, I advocate that we come up with a new word to describe these advertising based, transient, product focused micro sites and NOT call them communities. Please?
  9. I heard the phrase "we own [insert some large number] of customers. I hate, hate, hate this phrase. Brands that think they "own" customers deserve what they are about to get. Slapped.
  10. Another phrase I heard during one session focused on advertising and communities was "We don't want to be too intrusive." Wait... isn't advertising by definition intrusive. Shit, if you are going to do traditional advertising, why mess around. Go for it and intrude all you want. You're already across the line folks.
  11. Hypothesis for me to work on: Does the fact that a site (CIO Network) is free, make a negative or positive impact on whether or not members commit to the site? Hmmm.
  12. Issue to consider in B2B communities - how to best handle users who at times want to represent themselves, and at other times want to represent their company. One forthcoming site allows uses to click a box to change their "affiliation." Is that good enough?
  13. Community is becoming the new loyalty program, but the currency is different.
  14. A speaker, can't remember said something I couldn't agree with less. "The online world is not a mystery, it's really quite mature." EVEN if he/she was referring to the ad business online, he/she is dead wrong. It's not mature at all, and it is evolving so quickly that it requires a totally different mindset to be successful.
  15. The Mac and Cheese at lunch was amazing. I highly recommend it if you are ever at the Tribeca Grand in NYC.

Quick note - I failed miserably to note in my notes who said what which is why I can't attribute quotes to any one person in most cases. Lame, I know but I didn't even bring a laptop and minimized my twittering to try to stay in the moment and present during the day.

Another quick note - while I did send off a few tweets during the day, I was pretty appalled by a few folks who literally had their faces buried in their laptops the entire day. At breakfast, during breaks, at lunch, in sessions. Is this really accepted social behavior at conferences these days? I actually felt guilty sending a tweet at one point during a session and put my phone in my bag and zipped it away when I realized what I had done was rude.

Anyway... after attending a conference, I always go back through my notes to find 1 or 2 things I'll implement immediately:

  1. Community host needs to poke and prod members to participate. I've been doing this a bit, but need to turn up the noise with my key contributors.
  2. Find a way to reach out offline to key members (sure, it's connected to #1, but it is still important)