Book recommendation: Sway--Stop being so irrational...yes, you.

July 25, 2016 View Comments
Did you know that saying to your friend or colleague that "Jeremy is a smart and warm guy" that I am much more likely to be liked than simply by saying "Jeremy is a smart guy?"
 
Even if the experience of meeting me is exactly the same in every other regard...
 
That's just one of 100+ examples that the Brafman brothers bring out in their fantastic book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior.
 
My brother, Asher, loves to say, "you need to think about how you think."
 
For people who agree with that sentiment, this book is for you.
 
They are great stories and they raise your awareness to the pitfalls of how we are susceptible to irrational things.
 
For example, in a room full of 20 people (the majority of whom are paid actors) looking at a small circle and a big square where the size differential is not in doubt at all, if you ask them "which is bigger?" and the paid actors DELIBERATELY say "the circle is," the people who aren't paid and who clearly know that the the square is bigger will actually (more often than not) say, "the circle," because of their fear of looking stupid or of missing something. [Note: this isn't the exact story from the book, but you get the gist.]
 
What the book reminds us of is that humans are wildly unpredictable, irrational and immensely fallible.
 
We suffer from diagnostic bias (once we have concluded that someone is "bad" or "good," we're extremely unlikely to change our minds, even despite a ton of evidence to the contrary.)
 
There's all kind of good stuff in here about loss aversion, commitment, incentives, fairness.
 
All of these things that many of us think we understand, but we really don't.
 
It's a fun, relatively quick read and while you'll probably forget the names of all of the different "sways" a few days later, the lesson is clear.
 
In any situation...try to assess what is going on in how people might be swayed based on irrationality.
 
You may not be able to change anything, but at least you'll see it...and maybe it will help you the next time you have to make a decision.

How Blockchains Will Impact the Story of Marketing...cont'd.

July 21, 2016 View Comments

The recent post on how companies will use blockchains to sell supply chain credibility generated some great comments and feedback.

One of the things that came back to me was: "Hey Jeremy, give me some examples."

So, let's think about this.

I'm sitting at a Starbucks right now. They aren't shy about promoting the fair-trade, organically sourced, etc. element to their coffee.

But how do you actually KNOW that everything they are saying is true?

You don't. They know and you know that words like "fair trade" and "organic" are going to get more people to buy their stuff.

However, a Starbucks supply chain blockchain which would be open for investigation by any customer would give you the ability to track the actual beans used in your cup of coffee that day back to the farm where it was grown.

Imagine FedEx tracking, but not just from the company's warehouse to your door...instead, you are tracking a batch of beans from a farm.

Then, if you really wanted to get sexy about it, you could look at the supply chain blockchain for the farm where the coffee is grown.

This would allow you to see that the farm actually doesn't buy pesticides or that its workers are, in fact, paid what you consider to be a fair wage.

If this seems like a lot of work...it is (now), but imagine a world where it wouldn't be.

You could set criteria for the types of purchases you want to make (inline with your values) and then, before you bought that cup of coffee, your "Values App" would notify you that "yes, this store-today- is in line w/how you want to live your life," or it's not.  

You can, of course, decide to overwrite or change your actions or values in either way (I don't care), but you would KNOW...Starbucks actually DOES have fair trade coffee.

And you, if this is important to you, would be willing to pay more for that.

Knowing that the creation of the coffee, from farm to table (as it were) is in line w/how you want to live your life at each and every step of the way then becomes  a true differentiator for Starbucks (in this case) or any brand.

And that's really defensible as well.

More to come....

Companies Will Use the Blockchain to Sell Supply Chain Credibility

July 18, 2016 View Comments

Bernadette Jiwa (you should subscribe to her blog) wrote a great post the other day that "Consumers Don't Just Want Better Products, They Want Better Narratives."

She writes:

"It's not enough to hae a great product, that's well made. Savvy csustomers want to know its backstory."

She's correct and I'll just extend it.

They want to know the backstory, but what they REALLY want is to trust the backstory. They want to be certain that the supply chain of the clothes, food, or whatever are not just some savvy marketing, but REALLY don't use child labor or oil from an endangered forest or anti-biotic laden animals.

Since most customers aren't going to spend the time to investigate all of the elements of the global supply chain (and they don't have the resources to do it), the next wave of Blockchain Marketers are going to understand that providing an immutable ledger that connects each part of the production process to a verfiable source that is consistent with the values of the customer is going to be a strategic differentiator.

If the RFID tag of the chainsaw is geo-located to a forest that is sustainable and cuts down a tree that has a certain marker to it, then you can log (pun intended) that the wood is in line with your values. Same with the slaughtered cow or the factory where the shirt was made.

Sure, this stuff isn't going to happen overnight, but if stories, values, and meanings are all things for which we pay premiums (and we do), we'll be able to use a global supply chain blockchain (say that 5 times fast) to undeniably show how we are making and delivering products that are consistent with our customers' wishes.

That can (and will be) huge.

Once you connect emotionally and that trust can be verified at any point, a company will have the opportunity to obtain a whole new level of loyalty.

Marketing in a Blockchain World

July 11, 2016 View Comments

In the early days of blogging, people were comfortable putting out raw, unformed thoughts on a business blog. It was less about a polished, finished product that would generate leads and more about a way to share ideas openly with a community of people who could help you refine the idea and make it better.

That changed as blogging became more corporate and focused on lead-gen and branding.

Technical blogs have never really suffered this fate.

Why do I say all of this?

I've been a "blogger" for 16 years now and the "raw" approach has served me quite well.  I haven't found a better way to help me work out some of the things in my head than by sharing them, exposing myself to a bit of ridicule, but ultimately getting better for it.

This is particularly true as I encounter a transformative idea.

How the discipline of marketing will evolve and adapt in a world that is run on blockchains is just one of those transformative ideas.

Over the past year or so, I've become increasingly fascinated with blockchains and, perhaps more accurately, the coming of the decentralized web.

I've installed IPFS and OpenBazaar and bought cryptocurriences that include Bitcoin, Ether, Storjcoin, Ripple among others (including a small investment in the ill-fated DAO experiment), and verified my own Blockchain-based identity at OneName and BitNation.

This doesn't even touch on my Estonian e-citizenship (and upcoming trip there) or all the reading I've done (recommended book here).

While I still feel like a mega-novice in this brave new world, what I have discovered is that there is an absolute boatload worth of innovation going on...of all kinds.

As a student of the marketing game, I started to ask myself some questions. For example, what happens when:

  1. individuals truly control all their own data and can determine what information to share and when?
  2. transactions are anonymized and companies don't even know who bought their product?
  3. customers understand how their personal information is being traded, bought, and sold...and can put a stop to it?
  4. company supply chains can be independently verified and thus either be shown to be a true differentiator or a farce?
  5. consumers don't pay with credit cards, but with digital currency that may not be aggregated.

These are just a few of them.

In this world, what role does marketing have to play?

How will it be the same as the world we live in now of centralized data stores (more or less) and where customer information is pretty readily available?

I honestly don't know. I haven't really formed a theory of Marketing in a Blockchain World or a Decentralized World...maybe I should call it "Decentralized Marketing?"

But one is going to emerge, because one is going to have to.

It may affect large enterprises most of all as they are the bastions of "Big Data," but like others, it will trickle down and impact small business as well.

So, coming full circle, I intend to use the blog to explore these concepts and hope that the community can help refine them. 

I remember back in the very early days of social media that I had the thought "I don't know what the future of marketing is going to be, but I do know that it's going to be very different than what we have now." Fortunately, with thanks to the community, we hit upon  Community Driven Marketing

I feel the same way about how blockchains will impact marketers. Together, we'll figure out what it will mean.

Are you a lousy networker?

July 6, 2016 View Comments

Usually people think of networking as lame mixers where others are forcing their business cards into your hands and everything is superficial.

Networks are critical to your professional and personal development.

The key is: meet the right people and cultivate meaningful relationships.

My good friend, Derek Coburn, was recently quoted extensively in Forbes because of his unique, differentiated, and value-oriented approach.  He wrote a great book on it: "Networking is Not Working."

It's most likely for you.

Read the article...then, please... buy the book.

Future-Proof Yourself: Read the Business Blockchain

June 30, 2016 View Comments

You've heard of Bitcoin.

You may not have heard of the Blockchain.

In short, it's the distributed, immutable database that powers Bitcoin and, it's my guess that it's going to fundamentally reshape society as we know it.

Any business that relies on being a trusted intermediary (from notaries to clearinghouses to auditors) are in grave danger of being 100% displaced.

And that's just the beginning.

In my mind, it's not a question of if...it's a question of when.

I've become increasingly fascinated with the Blockchain not just as a technology, but as a business disruptor.  In other words, how will the world fundamentally shift because of its arrival?

It's already begun, for sure, but we are at the beginning of the beginning.

This is the Internet circa 1994.

Not only will a huge number of "back office" jobs be affected, but some of the newest, biggest players on the block such as AirBNB and Uber are also at risk. And, similarly, the opportunities for value and wealth creation are going to be immense.

In short, if you aren't going to be above retirement age in the next 15 years, it would be worth your time to start familiarizing yourself with this next wave, no, tsunami of technological revolution.

One great place to start is with William Mougayar's book, The Business Blockchain.

Mougayar's street cred as a technologist and business leader can't be challenged and he dives into the Blockchain in tremendous detail.

It's a wonderful primer on the basics of the Blockchain, the industries and jobs that it will impact, and, my favorite part, an exploration of the new and, as yet, undiscovered lands, of opportunities that the Blockchain alone creates.

His knowledge is vast, his sense of urgency is present, and his advice is clear. "Get ready...and here's how."

On page 142, he hits a high note:

"Hopefully, you are convinced that just asking what problem the blockchain solves is a limiting question on its own. For example, if you look at the startup innovation around banks in FinTech, you will see plenty of cases where these new companies did not really solve a “problem” the banks had, but they tackled a particular market or service differently.

So the tipping point was to compete by reframing the opportunity, for example, peer-to-peer lending, unconventional home loans, really fast approval cycles, efficient robot investing, and so on." 

You will see Blockchain, peer-to-peer solutions that will eventually replace much of the so-called Sharing/Collaborative Economy we currently have.

As the "old world" fights back against AirBNB in places like NYC and LA, and Uber/Lyft in Austin, there's a quietly brewing storm that will bring these same services to people, but without a centralized company. It will all be done securely via the network on a peer to peer basis...based on the Blockchain.

The implications of the Blockchain are enormous and I'm going to explore them a bit further in posts to come, with a particular focus on Marketing in a Blockchain World...it may not be upon us for a few years, but it will get here.  

All I know is that it's going to be VERY different than how we do it today.

But that's a different topic entirely.

The thing you can do now is get yourself ready.

Do that by buying and reading The Business Blockchain.

Is a Boss Different Than a Friend? Should it be?

June 27, 2016 View Comments

After receiving some pretty strong feedback about elements of my managerial/coaching/leadership style, I've spent the last 9 months focused specifically on becoming a better people manager. 

As part of that effort, I've interviewed nearly 10 people outside of Sprinklr recommeded by the NSM community, hired coaches, engaged some HR experts within Sprinklr, and read a number of books all off a strategy to just be more compassionate as a leader without compromising on results.

It's not easy, but it is worth it.

Why am I sharing this?

Well, I was flipping through Time magazine recently and came across an essay by Kristin van Ogtrop, the editor of Real Simple, entitled: There's a difference between a boss and a friend.

Her basic point was: "It's not part of my job as your boss to care about your personal life."  

If a boss does ask about your weekend, for example, she's being polite and friendly. But, if she doesn't, that's not a big deal, because the purpose of work is..."to work."  

Kristin decrise the Gallup/Wall St. Journal findings that talk about how millenials want a "holistic relationship" with their bosses. 

It sounds like it's too much for her.

A year ago...I would have agreed with her. Now, I don't.

It's inappropriate for a knowledge-based economy where the war for top tier talent is intense.

(On a side note...I've learned over and over again that the difference between a true A player and a B player is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE. Do not compromise..but that's a post for another time.)

In a knowledge based economy, where you have true top tier talent, as a coach (I deliberately prefer that term to manager), you want to understand the person as wholly as possible so you can align their personal skills, motivations, and sense of fulfillment as much as possible with the desired outcomes of the job and the goals of the company.

IF (and it's a big IF) you can do that, what I think (and I'm still testing this out, so Kristin may ultimately be right) will happen is that you not only have happier, more satisfied, and, yes, more fulfilled employees, you actually get higher quality work product, more commitment, and more innovation which leads to better outcomes.

At Sprinklr, within the Marketing team, we have a Monday morning ritual called "Weekend highs/lows," where everyone puts a quick summary of what they did that weeked on the internal Socialcast (basically a corporate Facebook). 

It is the most commented on post of the entire week for our team and it gives all of us insights into what makes our co-workers, bosses, and direct reports tick.  

Does knowing that someone likes to hike automatically make me a better coach? No.

But knowing that hiking resonates with them allows me to frame a challenge in a language and vocabulary of inclines, blazing a trail, plateaus, and vistas that may give a deeper perspective to the work task at hand.

And as we build the personal relationship, I'm in a position to start orienting the goals around the strengths and passions of the person to create a better team.

Am I the best friend of those who report to me? No.

Should I be? No. 

There may be a day where, even if I care about someone's weekend and passions, that I will have to let that person go. That's part of the job.

But looking at someone as having a "work life" and a "personal life" is antiquated. 

We look at people as having integrated/holistic lives and I do my best to lead them accordingly.

Your comments/thoughts are welcome.

No One Wants to Read Your Sh*t

June 27, 2016 View Comments

It's true. 

Most of the time, no one cares about what you have to say.

It's probably true about this blog post as well.

So I'll just say this....

If you want an example of a newsletter that people actually do want to read, sign up for Rohit's. The guy just adds value every week.

He doesn't talk about himself. He just makes you trust him by showing you that he's trying to help you.

That's it, folks.

Nothing more complicated than that.

And if you want a treatise on the reality that no one cares about your stuff, read this free eBook from Steven Pressfield, which inspired the name of the post.

Putting Your Customers on the Menu

June 20, 2016 View Comments

Coffeeshops are supposed to be highly personal and intimate experiences.

Figure 8 in Austin, Texas adds to that by putting their customers' pictures over the names of drinks.  

If you order an espresso, you see the face of one of their regulars.

Lessons from People Manager All-Stars, Part 3

May 5, 2016 View Comments

Background

I’ve taken on the professional goal in 2016 of becoming a better “people manager.” 

One of the activities in my plan is to interview peer-nominated “People Manager All-Stars.”

Thanks to Sheryl Tullis, I was introduced to Rick Zimmerman, who is our headliner for part 3 (see part 1and part 2).

 

“Don’t ever think there’s a finish line.” 

In every interview I’ve done, there’s a “money line,” where the interviewee shares the absolute core nugget.  Rick did it off the bat.

It’s almost like the “Never Stop Marketing” version of people management.

Once you are leading a team or leading people, you are never done, he says.

“You need to make it part of your process. You can NEVER check it off the list.”

People change. Situations change. The world changes.  So, as a result, there’s an evolving benchmark of what people expect from you. You will change in your own eyes.  So you can never be complacent about being a good leader or a good people manager.

Rick, who’s spent a long time working in the CPG industry, said there are two things which are critical.

The first is (and yes, it’s obvious in both theory and reality, but sometimes difficult to remember in practice) is that “people are different.”

He offers that as you get to know someone, you will have opportunities to ask questions upon questions so that you understand them better. However, there will be a moment, a time in which you ask THE question which gets to their absolute Core (think City Slickers for those of you who remember it. YouTube for those who don’t).

You want to find the CORE that truly reveals who the person is. What makes them absolutely positively tick.

The sooner you find it (and we all have it), the better off you as a people manager are AND the better off the individual is…as you’ll be in a position to help him/her thrive.

Ideally, you want to look for this CORE issue during the interview process.

Push people on career inflection points. What happened? Why? What’s your biggest regret? 

As Rick says, “what’s the one question I can ask this person to reveal who they are?"

Keep asking until you figure it out.  By NOT probing, you are doing yourself a disservice and doing them a disservice. 

No one wins when there’s a bad hire. (I’ve learned the hard way on this one).

And the second thing…VULNERABILITY.

Rick told a powerful story about a previous boss, a former army officer.

In Rick’s words:

“We had an energetic debate -- a bit out of character for both of us, as it was really intense, with raised voices and sharp words.  Upon reflection that night, I felt I had “stepped over the line” -- after all, he was my boss.  So, the next day I sought him out to apologize. 

When I entered his office, he told me “I’ve been looking for you” and I thought I was in “trouble.” 

But the fact was he was looking for me to apologize to me because he felt he may have “stepped over the line.”  Which then led to us hugging it out.

Then the real kicker was, 16 years later when we were catching up on stuff, he remembered the episode as vividly as I had.”

So the experience was less about him or me being wrong.  And more about each of us reflecting on what had happened and how that impacted the relationship.  A bit rare, I think, for boss/subordinate, especially for an ex-Army officer.”

We saw in part 2 of this series…everyone has vulnerabilities. Show yours as a leader first. It’s actually a sign of strength.

In short

  1. The journey is never over
  2. Figure out the CORE of each individual
  3. Show your vulnerability

Bonus Material

Rick shared a best practice from one of his companies that I think makes a lot of sense and dovetails with my next goal (Clarity in Communication)—see chart below borrowed from the G2C2 framework.

He said that every memo begins with “THIS document serves THIS PURPOSE” as the opening line, so people can more easily understand the context of the memo/email.