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Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's Easier to Find a Job When You Have One

We're faced with an unemployment paradox.

Being jobless is a barrier to finding a job. It's the hiring paradox in which the status of being out of work creates fear in the worker that they will be seen as lazy and unmotivated by potential employers. It's a vicious circle of rejection that leads to dissapointment and feelings of unworthiness.

The longer you're out of work, the harder it is to get work because companies don't trust you as responsible. And employers are don't want to be biased in their hiring practices, but they're just protecting their bottom line from losing money on the wrong staff.

Legislation against this practice hasn't held water, so something has to be done organically, from the ground up.

But since it's easier to find a job when you have one, what if there was a way for job seekers to become employees of companies they wanted to work for, before they got hired?

What if there was a online platform that helped unemployed people identify and solve problems for prospective employers, leverage that work as the ticket to earnning those employers' attention, and land the job by uniquely and strategically positioning themselves as valuable problem solvers?

We could call the program Hire Yourself.



Monday, February 18, 2013

The Negativity Department

Negativity is highly underrated.

Instead of insulating your business against it, consider these ways to leverage it.

Own the hate, mitigate the sting. What if, instead of getting defensive when customers leave negative online reviews, you printed those nasty comments on employee shirts, carry out menus and other marketing materials?

Turn feedback into inspiration. What if, instead of ignoring negative mentions of your product, you offered refunds as a necessary cost of defending the reputation of your business?

Gamify the complaint process.  What if, instead of posting prewritten, preapproved responses to negative tweets, you held a contest for the employee who issued the funniest, most creative apology?

Treat crisis as an outreach opportunity. What if, instead of issuing another impersonal, corporate apology, you designed custom apology postcards for situations in which you let customers down?

Say sorry in three dimensions. What if, instead of sending a laughable mass email that takes ten minutes to write, you created a splash page where negative feedback was converted into song parodies?

Introduce a cinematic element. What if, instead of pretending poor reviews didn’t hurt your feelings, you personally contacted your haters, hired a camera crew, interviewed them about their experience and published the videos online?

Leverage complaints from non-buyers. What if, instead of standing mute as complaints mounted, you approached your competitor’s unhappy customers with a delight item to wow their hearts and win their loyalty?

Maybe your company needs a negativity department.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Round the Clock Transcontinental Flash Mob

Anything worth doing is worth making memorable.

Considering how absurd and transient life really is, there’s no good reason not to add personality and surprise and bounce to the interactions that make up our days. That’s what gives our moments weight. That’s how we make each other feel alive.

Think of it as an exercise in creative mindfulness. A mental recipe. An awareness plan for perceiving, experiencing and thinking about the world around us. What could we do to make this moment, right now, a more humane, pleasant passing of time?

The more we ask that question, the more connected and colorful the world becomes.

The point is, if all the world’s a stage, why not put on a show for each other? Why not take a moment to make a memory? Why not invest a few extra minutes or a few extra bucks to do something people will remember forever?

That’s why we’re here anyway.

To turn life into one big round the clock transcontinental flash mob.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Building a Remarkable Service Ecosystem

Business is best when it’s about the service above what you really sell.

But you can’t just claim, “We’re all about service.”

You have to be more specific.

Highly personable tech support, tightly connected user groups, fanatical logistics, unforgettable live events, capturing and using customer feedback, lighthearted social media engagement, amazing return policies, human beings answering the phones, classy employee interactions, elegant mobile technology, complete customization, accurate recommendation algorithms, apologizing in three dimensions, offering tactile delight items, curation of situations that create discovery, online communities for lonely users, building platforms for extending transaction experiences, intelligent anticipation of guest needs, mastering the art of small touches, unprecedented access to information, a continuous flow of education and the willingness to entertain every step of the way.

Just to name a few.

Point being, the product is only the beginning.

Smart companies focus on building a remarkable service ecosystem around it.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Holmes Would Be Proud

Insight doesn’t come from expertise, it comes from doing detective work.

Approaching the problem in a holistic, intelligent, comprehensive and systematic way so that the solution presents itself.

Here’s a snapshot of the strategic process I’ve been using for more than a decade:

Macro investigation. Issues including historical patterns, economic, social and cultural forces, the regulatory environment, any industry, distribution and technological concerns, and whatever other big picture trends will help identify the why behind the what and create context around the problem.

Micro investigation. Interrogate real human behavior, natural language, ordinary conversations and normal discourse, pouring over reams of content, streams of pictures, immersing yourself in the daily lives of relevant parties, asking smart people dumb questions, doing complaint case studies and sniffing for kernels that trigger entire worlds.

Connection analysis. Next, you overwhelm yourself with every possible input, spreading out everything you have front of your face, and start looking for natural relationships, patterns, inherent geometry, unconscious integrations, cross-pollinations, trends, categories, structures and thought bridges between seemingly unrelated ideas.

Insight extraction. Allow all the fragments to add up to a few unique, interesting, powerful and ownable opportunities where nobody else exists, and from that place, make a few insightful observations, ask a few what if questions and make a few why not recommendations, both of which help you move closer to a solution.

Happy detecting!

Friday, February 08, 2013

What's Ironic About That?

A few months ago, the woman behind the counter at a grocery store asked me if I was wearing a nametag for any particular reason, or just to be ironic.

“Actually, I always wear it,” I smiled. “Makes people friendlier.”

She shrugged and handed me my receipt.

And on the walk home, I thought to myself, “Ironic? Why would wearing a nametag be ironic? And if so, does that make me a hipster?”

Confused, I did some research. And I came across a fascinating article from The New York Times that mapped out the cultural and psychological meaning of hispterism, once and for all:

“If irony is the ethos of our age, then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things. His irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows him to dodge responsibility for his choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public.”

So the more I thought about it, the more I realized, wearing a nametag is the exact opposite of being a hipster.

It’s not cool, it’s vulnerable. It allows me to be affected by the word around me. By standing out, I risk being rejected. It’s not hiding, it’s transparent. There’s no backstage. Instead, the nametag creates a social construct that enables accountability through attribution. It’s not nostalgic, it’s mindful. The nametag keeps me present. Instead of trudging along in a diminished state of awareness, it snaps me into the magic of the moment.

It’s not posturing, it’s personal. On a micro level, it builds social capital. The nametag teaches me the art of conversation, the joy of listening and the power of interaction. It’s not sarcastic, it’s earnest. The nametag is a simple, sincere expression. It’s a statement about what’s meaningful to me, and declares it without suppression. It’s not referential, it’s direct. I’m not pointing to anything other than the nametag. Not even Seinfeld. There’s no explanation behind it. I just love wearing it.

What’s ironic about that?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

When Listening Isn't Enough

Any idiot can take notes.

But if you want your voice to reverberate through people’s bones, if you want to make an impression that matters, you have to be more than a listener.

Be a translator, a courageous interpreter of the world’s vagaries, adding facets, angles, new dimensions and refractions of light.

Be a craftsman, using the source code as inspiration to create your own form of art that fires inspiration into people.

Be an imaginator, going beyond the literal to add insight that has meaning that lives on after the moment.

Be a visionary, metaphorically disorganizing the common sense of ideas and reorganizing them into uncommon combinations.

Be a noticer, discerning recurring motifs and unspoken patterns that reveal the invisible curriculum of the conversation.

You will be missed when you’re gone.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Serve the Underlying Social Needs

Word of mouth drives most of our country’s economy.

Not because traditional marketing sucks, but because human beings, a species whose prime feature is its social nature, rarely do what they do by their own volition. The agent of decision making is interaction, not interruption. If we’re going to buy something, it’s because somebody we know already bought it.

The catch is, few silver bullet solutions exist for getting people’s mouths moving. All we can do is create environments in which word of mouth is most likely to occur.

Try these.

Start with virality in mind. Marketing needs to stop being the last step in the process. As early as possible, build a base of people who want you, and only you, and are willing to pay for your product. Otherwise, if evangelism isn’t built into the process from day one, you’ll never reach critical mass.

Keep it short. Long form content is heavier to share. Be sure to keep your ideas brief. When necessary, break up larger pieces of content into a series with multiple parts. This encourages people to come for more, or, better yet, miss you in their past. Otherwise, it will be too much work to share your work.

Reduce the friction of participation. No matter how excited people are about your idea, if it’s awkward to talk about, they will hesitate to bring it up in conversation. Make sure your names, websites and other branded properties are pronounceable, understandable and don’t remind people of something goofy or embarrassing.

Divorce your ego. People like talking about cool stuff because it increases their status. Period. It’s not because they like your brand, it’s because they like their friends. It’s not because of their handy plastic card, it’s because they want bragging rights for being the first one to discover something awesome.

The point is, before you sell your wares, you have to serve the underlying social needs within the people who buy it.

The goal is to spark a conversation, not have the last word. 


Monday, February 04, 2013

The Poetry of a Revolution

Changing the world has never been easier.

We have the tools, we have the power, we have the resources, we have the connections, we have the initiative, we have the people and we certainly have enough problems that need to be solved.

What’s missing is a beacon to guide us, give us hope and show the way forward.

A manifesto that serves as the poetry of a revolution.

It’s the rally cry that inspires people to expand to their full capacity. It’s the platform that signals the collective spirit of the culture. It’s the calling card that demands something from people now. And it’s the statement that tells the world who we are, what we believe, how we live, what we declare, what we denounce, and what the world would look like if everybody did exactly what we said.

Best of all, manifestos are free.

They cost nothing. They have power to change everything. They create a world more beautiful than the one we’ve dreamt up.

And they’re the best way to understand, if only within our own hearts, who we are and what we believe in.


Friday, February 01, 2013

Don't Boil The Water

The point isn’t to consume the content.

The point is to be the first to comment on it. The point is to be the best at publicly deconstructing it. And to the point is to outdo everyone else in making fun of it.

That’s why the volume of comments far exceeds the volume of content.

Because that’s what nerds do, they obsess. They have hyperactive internal monologues passionately deconstruct everything they encounter. And the only way for a nerd to be more into something than others, is to hate it.

Knowing this, the goal shouldn’t be to deliver content that’s perfect, unarguable and safe.

The goal is to be pliable. People want to be able to do remixes that enhance or ridicule what the mass market is giving them. They want to tap into their creative flair and achieve whatever microfame they can muster. Let them.

The goal is to be open. Great art is never finished anyway. Kick out the parameters of your vision by trusting people to have their own experience. People like talking about cool stuff they made because it increases their status. Let them.

The content is only the beginning.

The real trick is not to boil the water, it’s to keep it hot.

Because when you boil it, it evaporates.