Watch Scott's TEDx talk!

A brand, a business and a career. From a nametag.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Two Ideas Having a Baby

Innovation isn’t about reinventing the wheel.

It’s about taking two wheels that already work well on their own, but haven’t met yet, and helping them intersect in a novel way.

The first step toward innovation is combination.

Which of your two ideas need to have a baby?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Art of Choreographing Attention

It’s not a nametag, it’s a magic trick.

Think about it. In the past thirteen years, I built a successful publishing and consulting enterprise out of nothing. Nothing. I authored dozens of books, did hundreds of interviews, published thousands of articles and got paid big money by big companies to travel around the world and share my story with millions of people, despite having no job experience, no resume, no credentials, and no legitimate expertise whatsoever.

And I can honestly say that, at any given point, I never knew what I was doing.

But nobody noticed. They were too busy looking at the nametag.

That’s magic. It’s the art of choreographing attention.

It’s not about deceiving people, it’s about distracting them. It’s not about duping the audience, it’s about misdirecting them. It’s not about dishonesty, it’s about capturing people’s imagination through selective perception. It’s not about sneaking up on people, it’s about transforming them through the power of the unexpected. And it’s not about manipulating people, it’s about wielding power through the advantage of being underestimated.

Master that, and you can get away with anything.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Brands That Momentize, Monetize

Let’s travel back in time.

Fifty years ago, everyday activities like landing on the runway, shopping for clothes, taking bread out of the oven or receiving a package from a friend, were just ordinary, fleeting experiences.

And then the world flipped.

Now, thanks to the beauty of technology, thanks to the connection economy and thanks to the new social norm of digital sharing, the concept of the moment hasn’t changed, but the shelf life of the moment has completed inverted.

What once disappeared like a fart in the wind now lasts forever.

And if we were smart, we’d dip our toes into that stream and ask one brave question.

What moment do we want to own?

In the daily life of our customer, what is the specific microexperience – be it emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually – where our brand intersects with the customer’s need and somehow improves their condition?

If we can pinpoint and own that moment, checkmate.

Brands that momentize, monetize.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What's The Ecosystem Around Your Product?

The product is only the beginning.

What’s evolved is the ecosystem around the product.

Now, it’s not just the product.

It’s joining the community that the product is a badge for. It’s redefining the industry the product is part of. It’s shaping the generation the product is a symbol of. It’s building the tribe the product is the symbol for. It’s listening to the voice the product is an amplifier of. It’s personalizing the user experience the product is part of. It’s building a platform that the product is the impetus for. It’s responding to the culture the product is an artifact of. It’s enhancing the sociability the product is the center of. It’s amplifying the human potential the product is an enabler of.

Sell that.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Charisma Versus Authenticity

What image would you rather project: Charisma or authenticity?

Charisma comes from the Greek word kharisma, which means "gift" or “divine favor.” According to Wikipedia, is often used to describe the ability to charm or influence people. It also refers to a quality in certain individuals who easily draw the attention and admiration of others due to a "magnetic" quality of personality and/or appearance.

Big deal. This is 2013. Charisma will only take you so far. And in an age of corporate scandal, lack of consumer trust and mass media brainwashing, there is only one attribute that picks up where charisma left off and truly magnetizes customers and coworkers to you: Authenticity.
The word comes from the Latin authenticus, or “original, genuine.” It’s defined as “worthy of trust, reliance, or belief,” and it is not the same thing as charisma. 

An article from the Harvard Business Review explained that while charismatic leaders have often been hired in times of corporate distress, charisma is much more a social product than an individual trait. Furthermore, Khurana explained, "Factors affecting corporate performance are often beyond the powers of even the most charismatic leader."

Furthermore, a related study from Cornel University, which surveyed 6,500 hotel employees worldwide, proved that organizations with employees who rated their managers as “authentic,” (not charismatic) were more profitable than hotels whose managers had gaps between their words and actions.

This is not to say charisma is worthless. I do think it’s a valuable characteristic that many successful businesspeople and leaders possess.

But it cannot stand alone.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of articles on charisma. And honestly, a lot of them piss me off. First of all; articles written on the topic of charisma usually reference famous political leaders who have innate and exceptional rhetorical/interpersonal skills. As if when it came to charisma, you either had it, or you didn’t have it. And if you didn’t, well, too bad! 

That’s why authenticity is more valuable. It doesn’t have such requirements. You don’t need to possess the interpersonal charm or brilliance of Bill Clinton to be authentic. You just need to be yourself. And anybody can do that to become a more successful communicator and businessperson.

Secondly, many articles written on the topic of charisma are way out of date. One piece in particular caught my attention, the writer of which I will not mention because, well, that’s just not cool. He said:

“There is a close association between personal charisma and success in life.”

“Fake it until you make it!”

What a load of crap.

There are many other determinants of your success besides charisma. I’ve personally read about (and met) thousands of successful people whom I never would have labeled as “charismatic.”

But you better believe every one of them was authentic.

So, don’t think that if you’re not charismatic, you’re not going to be successful.

And as far as that “fake it until you make it,” cliché?

Give me a break. That’s about as far away from authentic as you can get. People shouldn’t have to fake anything.

Do want to be perceived as “charismatic” or “authentic”? The following exercise will help you decide. I looked up the words charisma and authenticity in my thesaurus, mixed them up, then put them in this list. Go through each item and circle the one trait you’d most prefer others to perceive you as having.

1. “attractive” or “accurate”
2. “bona-fide” or “bewitching”
3. “desirable” or “dependable”
4. “faithful” or “fascinating”
5. “genuine” or “glamorous”
6. “lovely” or “legitimate”
7. “pure” or “provocative”
8. “tantalizing” or “trustworthy”

Can you tell the difference between authentic and charismatic?

I hope so. Because the people you work with certainly will.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Monopoly of Expectations

The Islands is a hole in the wall you hope no one else discovers.

Not just because the portions are huge, the dishes are amazing and the prices are affordable, but with only five tables, an alarmingly low ceiling and a dining room the size of your grandma’s attic, you’re basically on top of each other the whole time. And with only two ladies doing the all ordering, cooking, serving, delivering and cleaning, the pace is so chill, you actually feel like you’re having a meal in the islands.

Yes mon.

The point is, there is never a shortage of competence. Customers can order delicious oxtail anywhere. What’s scarce, and therefore valuable and remarkable, is the running imperative that drives this restaurant’s behavior, the nobility behind their work and the posture with which they approach their interactions.

Just another reminder that we’re not in business to sell a product, but to create a monopoly on a story and a set of expectations, to push an overarching narrative that’s worth remembering and spreading.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Power of Ongoing Micro Experiments

Everyone needs an interesting way of interacting with the world.

Some creative lens, personal filter, permanent fixture or unique coefficient, that we carry with us at all times, that affords us the opportunity to navigate and meet and understand the world with a slightly skewed perspective on just about everything.

Think of it as your ongoing micro experiment.

For me, it’s the nametag.

Wearing one all day, everyday for the past thirteen years has been my passport to interestingness, my mechanism for making sense of my existence and the source against which I bounce what I see.

Not sure what yours is? Try the following exercise:

Everything I need to know, I learned from my ___________.

The point is, this ongoing micro experiment doesn’t define you. It’s not your whole identity. And it’s certainly not the only thing you’re known for.

But for anyone who wants to live a more interesting life, all it takes one simple, powerful portal to change our perspective on everything.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Does Your Brand Integrate With People’s Lives?

People will always value a brand if the experience of it adds something to their lives.

The problem is, too many companies fail to actually consider people’s lives when they make decisions. And as a result, their marketing is tolerated at best and loathed at worst.

Turns outs, it’s not about starting with the customer in mind, it’s about actually starting with the customer. It’s not about how they fit into your marketing plan, it’s about how you fit into their lives. It’s not about observing their behavior, it’s about becoming part of their society. And it’s not about you beating your chest about your product, it’s about people celebrating how your product fits into their world and how you enable them to use it better.

If you want to integrate your brand to fit into people’s lives, ask these questions.

How does this precisely complement people’s way of life?
 How do we put the product in the context of people’s daily world? 
How does this turning a painful process into a pleasurable practice?
 How is this an excuse to spend more time doing something mundane? 
How can we let technology enhance an experience from start to finish?

What idea, that people are convinced is dead, can we bring back to life? 
How do we create an experience that makes people believe in something again?
 How does this reward people for everyday interactions that they’re already having?
 What experience, that people avoided as a badge of honor, are they now obsessed with? What stories are people telling about themselves and how our product fits into it?

Think of it as developing a better conception of humankind.

Instead of waiting for customers to join your brand, try meeting them where they are and joining them first.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Getting Things Moving in the Right Direction

Motion organizes and creates order.

Once you start moving, creating and poking around at the problem, all things tend to their equilibrium, find their perfect place in the universe and conspire towards some unifying geometrical situation.

Or so says the quantum physics theory of gravitational order.

Innovators have no choice but to make up everything, because most of what they’re doing has never been done before. So they jolt themselves into the middle of the problem. And after a few days of complete immersion in a new world, they start to notice some pretty interesting things.

Turns out, when you commit to the frightening work of flying blind, believing with unshakeable faith that there will always be something in the box, the universe doesn’t disappoint. Life rewards action, not ideas.

Because it’s not about getting things right.

It’s about getting things moving in the right direction.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Out Of A Job Every Week

Living life on spec corrodes your spirit.

Low and erratic income, sporadic employment, feast or famine cycles, fear of the work drying up, lack of job security, essentially, tossing coins in the wishing well and hoping bills float to the surface.

It’s murder out there.

But that’s the brutal truth about working for yourself. You’re always trying to resolve the economic problem of livelihood. Having to live and die by every gig you get, you’re basically out of a job every week. Or every month. Or every few months.

And yet, some people thrive on it. They love the hustle, the hunger and the pressure. They crave the sword of obligation dangling over their head, and they use the continuous tension to fuel their work.

Eventually, though, we all have to ourselves if this lifestyle and business model is truly sustainable over the long haul.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How Does Your Brand Deliver Texture?

People are yearning for texture.

When we deliver things that are tactile and usable in the everyday world, they’re satisfying in a way that pure pixels are not. And in the battle of bits versus atoms, in our hyper accelerated culture where we all hunger for life beyond the screen, anything we can do to promise people a moment of slowing down is worthwhile.

Firecracker is the master of texture. They’re a letterpress printer and design studio that makes cards, posters, tags, books, pamphlets, brandtags and a ton of other works of utmost artistry.

What’s astounding is, it’s all done by hand. They combine antique printing technology with new thinking to design and produce objects that people enjoy seeing and feeling. Even though they used computer design software to conceive ideas, they still carve the woodblocks and do the printing by hand.

And when customers walk in their store, not only is it hard not to slow down and touch everything they see, it’s even harder not to take out their wallets and buy everything they touch.

That’s texture.

Physical is starting to earn as much traction as digital, because it breaks through the screen and comes through the door.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Set a Tone That Says Work Happens Here

Everybody needs a good on ramp.

A ritual that prompts a work mindset to start our day. A process that merges us into the real world and ensures our days have a cadence and rhythm. A routine that gets us in the mood, in the flow and in the zone so that by the time we actually hit the highway of life, we’re traveling at the same speed as traffic, and can navigate the road effectively.

In the past decade, I’ve tried a heap of helpful practices including morning pages, spiritual devotionals, daily appointments with myself, self-hypnosis, mindfulness incantations, pregame breathing exercises, hot yoga, meditation, and my recent favorite, subway karaoke, as variations of my on ramp.

Whatever works.

It’s less important what you do, and more important that you do it.

Not just for your own sanity, but for the sanity of the people you work with.

Set a tone that says work happens here, and let it ring.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Inverting The Marketing Graph

Most traditional marketing actually becomes less effective over time.

As companies continue to spend millions of dollars irritating their way into people’s inboxes, and as buyers behaviorally and technologically tune out these interruptive campaigns, the law of diminishing returns settles in. And organizations end up hurting their brands the more that they market them on depreciating platforms.

Unless you give your army the means to convert for you.

What if you offered your untapped tribe a reason to take up arms and champion you? By putting the right people in the right situations where they become the marketing, where they become the heroes, passion and heart and connection and generosity will fuel your movement, and everybody will come out better.

Sure beats pulling the big slot machine arm and hope the audience shows up.

If your company is trying to market a new product in an innovative way, instead of pushing rocks up the mountain, trying rolling snowballs down the hill. Build assets that grow more valuable over time.

Invert the marketing graph and reward longevity and accumulation.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Are You Letting Customers Scratch A Creative Itch?

Human beings are driven by a desire to create.

To contribute to the world’s intellectual and artistic commons, to express their individuality and vibrancy, to come alive through the pursuit of their ideas, to satisfy the biological compulsion to render their feelings and to use their imaginative endowments to make cool stuff.

The question companies should be asking is, how can we help people use our products to scratch that creative itch?

Earlier this year, I was a passenger on the maiden voyage of the Disney Fantasy. And without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was dinner in the Animator’s Lounge. At our tables, the placemats doubled as drawing templates. And servers instructed us to use markers to draw faces and bodies inside the pattern.

One hour later, after we’d handed in our drawings to the staff, our table’s artwork showed up on the big screen and started dancing across the wall. We were spellbound. The experience of seeing our own drawings come to life, right in front of our eyes, was the most satisfying creative feeling anyone could imagine. We went from amateur doodlers to professional animators in a matter of minutes, and we would remember that experience for the rest of our lives.

Consider my creative itch scratched.

The point is, at the heart of what it means to be a person is the act of dreaming, doing and finishing.

If your organization’s products can help facilitate that process, everybody wins.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Golden Child Or Golden Water?

Social media isn’t the answer.

With every marketer in the world clamoring to make their message heard, social media has gone from the golden child to the pool filled with golden water. The place is so crowded, nobody goes there anymore. And the days of buying likes, tricking people into consuming content and bothering customers into doing business are over.

Ten years ago, when the web was just a baby, and when we didn’t know any better, the set it and forget approach to marketing might have worked.

But we’re big boys now.

And if companies were smart, instead of drinking the pee water like everybody else, they would do the bold thing, initiate brave conversations about something bigger and create a whole new pool.

That way, they could be everywhere the competition isn’t.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Clues That It's Time To Move On

Most entrepreneurs go into business as a byproduct of beautiful timing.

Why should their exit be any different?

Here are a few clues that it's time:

When you feel like you’ve squeezed all of the juice of this lemon, and there’s nothing left but rind and pulp.

When the drug you used to be addicted to, the one that served you well and was good to you, no longer has the same effect.

When you reach the point of diminishing returns, bloodying your knuckles on doors that have no intention of opening.

When you’re executing without elevating, spending all your time just to make enough money to buy more time.

When you feel like you’re just keeping your head above water, but never actually swimming anywhere.

When you’re bored with the work, burned out by the hustle and no longer in love with the future.

When you’re showing up faithfully, every day, shipping your face off, and still hearing nothing but crickets.

When you’ve hit your growth ceiling and have a hunch that your golden goose is probably done laying eggs.

And when you come to the sobering realization that you can't keep the fairy tale alive forever.

It’s time to move on.

No regrets. No shame. 

Just gratitude for the past and openness for the future.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Take a Walk, Solve a Problem

Staring harder won’t help.

When your brain crashes into a creative wall, the smart thing to do is to get irrelevant on purpose, then come back to the work.

By walking away, going perpendicular to the flow of the current activity and mentally and physically displacing yourself, you invite unexpected inputs that change your perspective for the moment, delivering new insights that the work so badly needs.

Take a walk, solve a problem.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Are You Letting Fear Boss Your Customers Around?

Fear is a significant factor in most people’s lives.

And if your organization wants to matter to those people, you need a tool that helps customers feel less afraid. Some platform, some interaction or some mechanism that gets their jitters out and gives them something to face the world with.

Covestor is the world’s largest online platform for investment management. It’s a world of great investors that allows you to automatically mirror their strategies, trade for trade, all from the comfort and safety of your own account.

But that’s still scary. When money moves, people take notice.

Covestor understands this fear, so their site let users try out the service with a hundred thousand virtual dollars, simulated functionality, account mirroring, performance tracking, for free, with no obligation and no payment details required.

It’s a safe haven. An interesting place where people can interact. And a simple, smart and social platform, free from the constraints of regulation, that identifies the line between what financial companies can do and can’t do, and lets people play right on top of it.

Most importantly, it’s a compelling case for why investing doesn’t have to be scary. And it’s a reminder to people that they’re all good investors, they just don’t know it.

Are you letting fear boss your customers around?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Keeping Your Career In Permanent Beta

Reinventing yourself isn’t about changing everything.

It’s about springing yourself past a frontier and letting the constellation of your identity expand so you can see the beginning of a different and more courageous dream.

It’s about letting go of everything you’ve tried and built and accomplished and accumulated so far, except for the person you’ve become, and using that as the raw material for whatever comes next.

It’s about interrogating what it is that you’re intrinsically the best in the world at, that you have been put on this earth to do, that you’ve already been doing your whole life, that nobody can take away from you, and that people will value and pay money for.

It’s about evolving your work strategy based on market feedback, changing your path path to get somewhere new based on what you’ve learned along the way, keeping your career in permanent beta and remaking yourself as the world changes.

And how will you know if you’ve done a good job reinventing yourself?

If you feel like a whole new person, and yet, more like yourself than ever, you did a good job.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Fear Not Innovation

I’ve been an inventor my whole life.

Making things has always been the most natural way for me to engage with the world. When I get up in the morning, there’s this mechanism inside me that wonders what I’m supposed to make next. And it’s relentless. Like the junkie who walks thirty miles to get twenty dollars, the mechanism doesn’t shut up until it finally gets its daily fix.

That’s why, if I don’t spend at least a little time each day, tinkering away, I grow restless. I don’t feel like myself. And I won’t feel like myself until I make something.

But that’s just me.

Or is it?

Maybe it’s not a personality thing. Maybe it’s a person thing.

Human beings, by their very nature, are builders. We make art to capture our feelings, we make tools to amplify our potential, we make games to express our playfulness and we make rituals to celebrate our experiences.

We’re created to create.

And we should never stop. No matter how good, how popular, how useful or how meaningful our creations are, we should never stop inventing. Ever. Because when we stop making things, we lose our innovative edge. And when we lose our innovative edge, we fail to serve the progress of humanity.

Fear not innovation. Fear only that which dims your capacity to innovate.

Stay calm and carry on?

More like get excited and make things.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

How Deaf The World Really Is

If your idea is everywhere, you win.

The hard part is, millions of people around the world are trying to make their ideas more popular than yours. And with the exception of the few that hit a run of dumb luck, most of the ideas you want to spread, won’t. Most of your marketing attempts are reminders of just how deaf the world really is.

Even the big guys, the companies with the most brilliant and expensive marketing campaigns out there, fail to attract more than a modest amount of attention.

But don’t let that be another excuse not to try.

They might not make you any money, but if your ideas make you excited to get up in the morning, if they help you find a home for all of your talents, and if they make meaning in the world to the people who matter most, you win too. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Prove That You Care About The Whole Self

We don’t need scare tactics, we need care tactics.

Organizations brave enough to interact and connect with customers holistically, in a way that actually engages the whole self, and not just the small part of it the company finds interesting and important.

The perfect venue for this type of innovation is your company’s signup process.

What if registering for your product involved much more than simply submitting your name, age and social security number? What if you let customers pick from a collection of lifestyle images to express their whole personas? What if the signup process was a canvas for people to talk about their futures, goals and dreams? And what if the data from the registrations was aggregated anonymously to help the company listen loudly and give people more of what they want?

That’s care.

Nothing overly personal, just something with more personality. Nothing too private, just something that commends people for engaging in the journey of life.

Like the doctor who treats you beyond the disease, it’s time for organizations to treat customers beyond the niceties, beyond the pleasantries and beyond the techniques, and more like a whole person.

It’s time to actually start with the customer, not just with the customer in mind.

Tell people you care about the whole self, and then do something to prove it.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

You Can Only Do The Dishes So Many Times

Twelve million of us are unemployed.

And in addition to the obvious downsides of financial hardship, fear of the future, loss of control, boredom, lack of momentum, feelings of humiliation, decline in motivation and lack of human contact, perhaps the hardest part about looking for work is the devastating affect it has on the human psyche.

Offices are where we do some of our most important existing. Work informs our identity more than most things, so it’s a primary means to express our sense of who we are. And if we lose our daily expression of that, if we don’t have a consistent platform for being creative, passionate and personal in our interactions with other human beings, there’s a noticeable emptiness that starts to grow.

Eric Maisel calls this a meaning crisis, in which meaning has leaked out and unhappiness has leaked in.

The secret is to take action on something meaningful. Anything. By deciding to bite into something and do it really well, by making the most of our talents and inner resources, we feel more alive. It’s a form of living our principles and values.

Even if it’s a tiny step, as long as it helps us create meaning in our lives, at the end of the day, it feels like we’ve met our quota of usefulness. Besides, it’s only one part of a larger repertoire of activities that are pretty much guaranteed to provide us with the experience of meaning.

The point is, without asking ourselves what tiny steps we can take, today, that will help us create meaning in our lives, it’s going to be an empty journey.

You can only do the dishes so many times in week.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

How Are You Connecting The Disconnected?

Loneliness is a permanent feature of the human condition.

If you can find a way to remind customers that they’re not alone, that they’re not the only ones having an experience, and that the roller coaster isn’t as scary when you have other people to scream with, it will be hard to keep your name a secret.

Connecticut Working Moms wants the members of their community to feel more empowered, less guilty, less isolated and to realize that someone else feels the same way they do, so they built a digital confession booth. A destination where users can anonymously share the raw truth of their struggles, as their lives really are.

Dove Lewis Animal Hospital offers free support groups where owners can share stories to cope with the loss of a pet, along with art therapy workshops where first timers can learn from veteran members who have navigated, survived and even laughed about the grieving process.

Greenpoint Coworkers holds jellies, free coworking days where freelancers can leave their den of solitude and join a community of fellow independent professionals to work together for a day, bounce ideas off of, and have a structured, professional workday in a beautifully designed, naturally lit work environment.

How are you connecting the disconnected?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

With Tears Dropping Like Stars

Every couple needs a common enemy.

Some force to fight against together, some adversity to triumph over together, some experience, that’s bigger and stronger than the couple itself, that forces them to stand at each other’s shoulders, and with tears dropping like stars, bring their collective will to bear.

Whether it’s moving across the country, starting a business together, having children, fighting illness or grieving the loss of a family member, every great partnership needs a good low. Something to call upon their resiliency, test their spirit and remind them that they’re alive and real and human and imperfect, and by depending on one another, they will come out on the other side.

Otherwise they’re just roommates.

Here's to year one, baby.