Category Archives: Leadership

Reflection on TEDx Vancouver

Did I learn anything? Yes. Was it a good crowd of people? Most definitely. Would you recommend it to friends? Yes. Were there ideas to spread? Absolutely.

The theme of TEDx Vancouver was “Frontier” this year.  This is my third TEDxVancouver and fifth TEDx event and it has being interesting to see it grow.

There are some who just go for the speakers, me I go to meet the audience, people who are willing to apply are already interesting and hopeful the speakers will intiate ideas for people to talk about. I prefer to learn and evolve through dialogue.

Thoughts on Speakers:

Reid Gower ****

The video was inspiring and keyed into hope, aspiration and the beauty of the planet we live on.

Nolan Watson ***

“Compassion kills”

“Don’t donate to Africa, invest in Africa!” .

“treating symptoms instead of effectively solving problems”

Spoke on how naïve compassion kills lives

Stephen Slen & Aaron Coret ***

“Pursue what gives you meaning…and what allows you to share your joy with everyone”

“Twenty years from now, the things you would be most disappointed by are the things you didn’t do, rather than the things did” – Mark Twain

A story, of force changed and how they dealt with it. Two snowboarders, one breaks his neck (and cannot snowboard anymore) both build a device to make learning snowboarding safer to learn, esp tricks.

Jai’ Aquarian & Erin Marcri **

The importance of expressing emotion.  It started off really well, that our society often represses our emotions.  But the actually case ‘the building of the a wooden temple to burn down’ (could you have built a house for a homeless family instead?) was interesting but only for people who could really afford it, so it felt self indulgent, when compared with the other stories.

Sean Aiken ***

“what matters is what makes you come alive”

“Those who are most passionate about their work, are those that are connected to the meaning behind what they do”

Jose Figueroa ***

A story of stupid immigration bureaucracy. Not the first one I have heard when you have a conservative government with a commitment to slow down immigration.

‘Canada has the obligation to respect innocent people’

I would have loved to hear this in spanish with a translated. Some people complained about the political nature of this talk, but I pointed out to them that anything involving humans and change inherently becomes politics.. hmm if politics comes from the latin – citizen + city does that mean it does not exist in the rest of the country 😉

Seth Cooper ***

Interesting speech about using games and gamers to solve some of the world tough problems, the examples were in bio chemistry.  For me this is old news.

Christopher Gaze ****

“Shakespeare is all around us. Alive and well.”

Excellent stage presence. I learned a lot of the metaphors I take for granted and are from Shakespeare. One drunk actress came up to me later to say that he had got one line wrong. Me I just respected him even more 🙂

Jer Thorp ****

“By placing data into a human context it gains meaning. These are our histories.”

A man who loves his data and knows how to use design principles to make it more readable.

Kara Pecknold ***

Saw her presentation at the Design Thinking conference, liked it.  She had definitely polished both her presentation and slides, so it was an upgrade in terms of presentation. Design process – Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver

Dr Kate Moran

“99% of life lives beneath the surface of the ocean”.

Really cool tech, sign up to see live data come in and watch the fish swim by from camera upto 800 miles out into the pacific. http://www.neptunecanada.ca/

General Romeo Dallire ****

Although the content was too much, I think he delivered some of the most important messages, where the whole audience could help.

“Inaction is an action”

“There is no way you can sustain status quo.”

“people that operate under ‘status quo’ are going to fall behind”

“The future of humanity is in the NGO Community and the youth will join them”

“That if the youth of today vote they will change politics forever”

My reflection from his:

Youth of 2day could change the political system by voting, say no to status quo or they cud let their inaction be their legacy 

Victor Lucas *****

I think in terms of content, emotion and presentation this was the best presentation, the context was = what advice will he give his girl when she is born and understands language, they are simply rules that any of us could apply to ourselves.

1. Don’t be a dick – People love people who aren’t dicks. Go light on the sarcasm. What people remember most about dicks, are that they were dicks.

2. Don’t dick around – Touch the world. It takes work, planning, and goals to be happy. Don’t let dicking around be your goal

3. Don’t hang out with dicks – If you aren’t a dick, you’ll attract people who don’t dick around. If you hang out with dicks, other people will think you’re a dick.

4. Dream

They actually feel quiet Canadian?!

The Organization:

Venue + Crowd management

Amazing for presenting, bad venue for meeting people, no WIFI within the theatre. Crowd management was poor. $80 per person and 1000 people turned up not sure where all the money went considering how many volunteers  helped out

Food

Limited, they ran out of meat and I ended with vegetarian, its ok I can eat grass ;-). Apparently no vegan? The pop tart donut things were interesting if you could fight other people for them.

Presentation organisation

The presentation organization was smooth and professional.

Music

Billy the kid was awesome.  It would have being nice to have more than one performer.

Videograph

I love sailing, but the number of times they changed the camera angle started to make we sea sick (for those speakers whom did not use slides).  Though seeing the person on the screen was helpful as if you were one or two levels up those presenters were a mite small.

After Party

This was awesome.  The venue was very cool (Space Centre) as the whole venue was open including the laser show (which was cool but too long).  Looking forward to when the venue is in a place that does not need cash for drinks.

Suggestions for next time (I will add to these as my brain returns):

Help people network

Give people 10 random people they should meet, have ‘professional’ volunteer networkers whose job is to get people together to talk, have a lot of space so people can easily discover people, have games people can play based on the talks.

Call to Action

Stalls for each speech where you could pick up notes and ways to get involved and help. As well as find people who want to talk more about that talk 🙂

Forming Community

The president dude said that he wanted to form a community and I think it can become one.  So involve us in dialogue, before and after the event. Don’t just talk at us.

  1. Maybe start with the theme – crowd source it.  If you have courage get the community to vote their top five and than let the organizers choose.
  2. Let us all see the applications, this will allow us to choose who we want to talk to at the event. Not brave enough for that than publish the attendees list with our links.
  3. Have so many non-celebrity speakers and get some professional trainers to get their presentation skills upto speed (yes I would volunteer for that). OK after writing this I find out that you sort of did this but not with the TEDx Vancouver community but with another community (http://tedxvancouver.com/vancouverisawesome-com-helps-select-kara-pecknold-as-speaker-at-tedxvancouver-2011/)
  4. Have a  space where by skilled people can volunteer (see which skills they can offer), this will help you choose good people and also people may volunteer to be coached by an expert volunteer.
  5. Choose an online platform to keep the dialogue on-going after hearing the speakers (twitter is helpful for buzz not so much for dialogue).
  6. In the end community forms out of lots of interactions between people and the best is when you can watch the dialogue without having to intervene.
  7. Use the space on the name badges for something useful, yes your name helps, AND some unconferences have “Ask me about..” or “Three things I love…” people often just need an excuse to talk to each other, make it easier, especially for the shy types
  8. I wonder what you can learn from each talk, if you applied it to TEDx Vancouver?..

TED.com talks played on the day

These were interspersed during the day. Apparently to make sure we don’t go native or become to NIMBY and share in the global movement 🙂

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization


http://www.ted.com/talks/marcin_jakubowski.html

Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity

http://www.ted.com/talks/charlie_todd_the_shared_experience_of_absurdity.html

Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter


http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bezos_a_life_lesson_from_a_volunteer_firefighter.html

Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days


http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.htmlss

Whoops missed one (Thanks Chris Ryan)

What do you think?  I welcome your views both pro and anti 🙂

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Your recruitment system maybe losing you paying customers and damaging your brand

Your brand is the COMPLETE experience, every interaction, anything that can change motivation and/or attitudes, with your company.  This can  include the consuming of your product and service, repair, suppliers and yes your recruitment process. The good modern brands are human and often concrete, you can trust them.

SYMPTOMS

You are only worth an automated response..

If a person spend hour’s, maybe days writing a letter of introduction, adapting their resume/CV, maybe even pulling a slideshow or video together for you. And than they receive a notification that you will not even bother contacting them, because you have so many applicants.  You know this type of letter:

“Hello Applicant,

Thank you for your interest in XXXX Company and for sending us your resume link and supporting information. We’re always looking for the best and brightest new candidates who are interested in joining our fast-growing team.

Please note, due to the vast number of enthusiastic applicants, we are only able to contact those we select for interviews.  We will however take the time to review your resume, cover letter and all related materials you’ve sent through, and will contact you if you are selected as a shortlisted candidate.

We frequently add new positions to the Careers Page so keep an eye out for more opportunities to work at XXXX company.

Sincerely,

Automated response”

I wonder who in an organisation is so naïve that they feel that this experience will encourage the ‘recruit’ into buying any of your products let alone a service. Many organizations don’t mash together their HR and marketing talent.  When the applicant started the process the applicant was a keen advocate, which you have turned into something else.

No closure for the applicant

The typical scenario is where the applicant is not even told when you have been thrown out of the process, or when the process is complete and they have not got an interview. The applicant then does not even get a chance for closure. The first they may hear is through a press release on your website or indeed nothing. That’s just plain mean and very common.

As an applicant we only care if you have the capability

Most employers will not look at a candidates’ application if they have not even taken the time to write a relevant cover letter that covers off the person spec.  So they expect you to spend time on them but they are not always willing to do the same. Aren’t good relationships formed on equality?

You are just a transaction..

It seems most Applicant Tracking Systems have being built from the aspect that you are just another process to deal with.  They do not see you as a human that or you should be treated with dignity or respect. In fact the more they ‘take over’ the process the less human you are treated. People are not simple nor are the ways you should interact with them.

We are often more protective of our friends than ourselves

The applicant may not be alone during this journey through your recruitment system, as they may share it with their friends e.g. can you check the letter please, especially if they are woman.  Friends don’t take it kindly if you reject, ignore or attack their friends. You haven’t just pissed off one person; congratulations you just gained two pissed off people for the price of one – who now thanks to online social media have the ability to share globally. They may not indeed talk about the job application process, they just may look at all your marketing as another ‘poke in the eye and respond negatively.

Motivation..

Your worse case scenario is that you have just given them the motivation (see this TED video) for the job applicant and their friends to dislike your products and services and look to your competitors.

Bottom line – the buying power of every rejected applicant is?

In the end this will affect you financially. The chances are that you will reject more applicants than you will take on board.  You will, probably still want them as a consumer? Who will pay a company that has just rejected them? or even taken the time to communicate, er, anything after the initial application.

Not just B2C

In the B2B sector relationships are even more important and in the end B2B purchases come down to a very human emotion e.g. Trust.

Evidence

StartWire, recently completed a survey of 2,000+ job seekers, asking how a company’s application process affected their view of the brand. This is what we heard:

  • 77% said they think less of companies that don’t respond to job applicants,
  • 72% would be deterred from recommending or speaking positively online of your company
  • 58% said they’d even think twice about buying your products or services if they don’t ever hear from you after they submit their application.

CAUSE

Outsourcing to save money

I wonder who missed the lessons from out sourcing call-centres to another country where the understanding of both culture and language was insufficient to handle the customer care in an appropriate manner. Now its automated on a computer (and they are really known for their customer care!), you are not even worth a human response.

Good ‘customer service’

If your customer service system treats your customers as just a transaction you deserve to go out of business.  Humans want to be treated with respect and dignity.  Even politicians know this hence why some of the most sophisticated marketing happening on the planet is happening in election campaigns.  But some of the best sustained examples I have seen in customer service are from Zappos (http://www.zappos.com/) or Freshbooks (http://www.freshbooks.com/)  They essentially treat you with respect and appreciate your time is as valuable as theirs.

Who is accountable for this?

Maybe the CEO for not paying attention or CFO for cost cutting, or the HR leader being squeezed or even the CMO for not considering the brand impact.  In the end HR needs people to ensure a good experience.

The days of unaccountable recruitment and HR process are coming to an end if you are consumer-facing provider.

ON-COMING TRENDS

On-line accountability

On-line systems are rating well everything. For example http://www.ratemyemployer.ca/ it’s only a matter of time when people start rating recruitment systems and HR.  We already have individual rating systems for people such as http://blog.ratemyprofessors.com/

It will not get easier to find talent, just more competitive

The economist wrote two pieces about how hard it is in get the right talent:

The Search for Talent – http://www.economist.com/node/8000879

The battle for brainpower – http://www.economist.com/node/7961894

Another article of interest – Canadian tech CEOs see shortage in talent. – http://www.pwc.com/ca/en/emerging-company/connecting-vision-to-reality/ceo-report-emerging-companies.jhtml

In these circumstances, is it wise to give job applicants a good experience? They may return and have grown since they last applied, if you gave feedback last time, they may have responded to it and exceed your expectations on the next attempt.

Gen Y

Now add Generation Y behaviour to this and you have an interesting power cake just around the corner.

WINDING UP

Is your recruitment system losing you customers and damaging your brand? How many job applicants did you reject last year?  How much social influence did they each have?

Corporate/Organisation culture

It seems to me that corporate culture is on a journey from repression to expression from viewing human beings as number, resources, sales figures to, surprise, human beings. It can be seen in the HR titles e.g. VP Personnel -> VP Human resource -> VP People.  I think the organisations that have the lead HR person reporting into finance or corporate or operations are worse off.  There is one person, that a lead HR person should report into i.e. CEO.  In terms of political power HR are generally one of the weakest on a board (if they are even on it), I think in part because so many of their process orientated capabilities are being outsourced, maybe because people are too complex or too emotional compared to finances/sales/operations. Or maybe its because in some organizations leaders are taking on the role of HR for their teams (about time).

Reward, if possible give feedback and say thank you

The job applicant, was a person who wanted to help your organization grow, for a moment in time were probably your most passionate advocate.  Yet they are often treated like robots, resources or costs.  How would you like to be treated?  If someone has invested more time in your company than the average, why not say thank you.  Tell them what they are missing in terms of capability or fit and prove you mean it. I think the best companies employ on ‘fit’ before capability.  Who is to say that this person maybe a future employee? Consider it another form of relationship marketing.

Leadership accountability – Don’t pass the buck!

If a candidate gets through a number of stages, it should not be HR having to give the bad news, the leader should do what they are paid for and give the bad or good news. I believe leadership is taking on the responsibility of your decisions both the easy and tough ones.

Suggestions

  1. Tell the applicant when they have been removed from the process.
  2. Give some useful feedback; the chances are that you have spent some time human processing anyways; at least give the biggest single reason why they were knocked out.  You may find that there are a lot of standard reasons e.g. you do not have enough relevant experience or the average interview applicant will have 5 years more experience.
  3. Say thank you in some meaningful way.
  4. For those who you think culturally match, consider other posts or put on a watch list.  But be careful no one believes “we will file it and if something comes up we will contact you.”
  5. The deeper the experience (number of interviews) the more likely rejection will be felt.  But also they are more likely to be match for your organization and thus the more likely they may be a future employee.
  6. For all candidates that have being interviewed by the manager, should be given the news by the manager.

FINAL THOUGHT

You are nothing without your people.  The ones you have now and the ones you have yet to work with.

Socrates as a mentor?

The modern socratic method I belive is not helpful for growing ideas or for exploring ideas.. and can be dangerous in terms of mentoring.  This thought process started when I read David Cohens’ blog on developing The Mentor Manifesto  I tried to add a comment but either there was a bug in the software or David did not like my comment.  I don’t know, helpful for me in two ways I tried to refine the point and post it again, again nothing.. Also it made me think about the effort I put into comments.. Anyways back on track..

I believe with the socratic method you may end up with the most defendable rather than the best idea or solution.  It is also a negative  method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. Some ideas need to be grown and evolved i.e. “green housing”.  This is often the problem with democratic political systems that there is more to be gained by ‘making a point’ then solving the problem. The methodology and strategy can get in the way of the what you are trying to acheive.

For many the socratic method is the basis of ‘critical thinking’ or scientific thinking.  I put a proposal/hypothesis , you attack, I defend, you attack, I defend…. I believe it is a is one methdology and should not be a way of life.

Many years ago I read a book called ‘Sticky Wisdom’ by ?WhatIF! which developed a concept of how you get many ideas and refine them. It was not aggressive or conflict based it was collaborative.  I have found this method of creative thinking as excellent for solutions to many problems, it encourages the full power of the room working in one direction rather than the room been divided half e.g. for and half against..  It make sense right, if you can use everyone ones brain power heading in the same direction that you will end up with something more powerful, and everyone brought in because they were all involved in the journey to its creation.

Below is the basis of WhatIfs’ sticky wisdom:

The Innovators Dilemma talks about how they are lots of big companies being over taken by companies not from their sector.  I believe that sometimes critical thinking or socratic method gets you focused real fast and you many not be able to laterally think or out of the box because you are defending your initial idea/hypothesis. Or you not realize you need to dump the idea, because you are defending it, and in defence your ego may get intertwined.  You have become defensive.

I recently heard a good lecture at the Design Thinking UNconference #DT2011 that you should ensure that you divergence of ideas e.g. Brainstorm should be kept very separate from you convergence e.g. testing of ideas. The first process being more intuitive more emotional and the second being rational, logical.

So to mentoring.  I often find the best mentors ask questions and help you find your own path. I think the best mentors can flip between both forms of thinking, but I think they work better with the creative first and the critical when the time for testing comes.

Why should I be your next CMO/VP Marketing

Dear CEO,

There are Marketers who are marketers… then there are Marketers that are techies, entrepreneurs, educators, leaders, community-builders… and marketers. I’m not your average Marketing VP: I’m a Marketing VP with benefits and I’d love to help you take your company to the next level.

To cover off on the traditional stuff first, I’ve chalked up about 19 years total in marketing, communications and campaigns. My experience in every sector from government and non-profit to private corporations, and in several markets, reflects a breadth that mirrors your client base. There are few-to-no delivery channels I have not explored, and I have a habit of driving organisations to get a ahead of the wave in using the latest and greatest, with social media no exception. I’ll leave my resume to provide the details of my engagements and achievements.

Now onto the bonus material…

You’ll find I have zero distance to travel when it comes to creating marketing strategy around a SaaS model. Spending the last two years creating a tech start-up has honed my product management, development and business model know-how to a fine point. In fact, technology is and was my first love: I have computer science degree, an IT consultancy to my name, led 110 people IT department and more recently refreshed my hands-on experience with a web dev qualification.

In addition, my career here in Canada began as VP Marketing for a Vancouver SaaS success story, Vision Critical, where I led a major re-branding initiative, a new website launch and contributed to sustained growth throughout the recession despite major marketing spend curtailments. Speaking of which, you can’t get away with working at a market research company without great data to inform and back-up your efforts: whilst there, I initiated the first customer satisfaction system. In all marketing I do, I expect to deliver ROI metrics.

I have a passion for people: I love them. I just can’t help it.

This has taken me down a number of roads, including serving, developing and communicating to communities (and the multiple groups, agencies, businesses and services therein) as a politician.  What this brings to my marketing (aside from experience of managing budgets of £71 million and approximately 400 staff) is getting the balance between a results-driven and value-driven approach. All great brands are built around emotions and values.

My bordering obsession with human psychology helps me to both understand client needs, both in product features, but also in terms of the complete customer experience and the messages they want to hear. It also makes me a great leader. I’m the guy that puts out a lot of positive energy and gets to know everyone. I also relish the opportunity to grow those around me: you’ll see that education and training forms a major theme throughout my career. Right now, I teach Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising part-time for BCIT.

CEO, I hope this provides a sense of what I can bring to the table. Successful marketing requires a great CEO – Marketing relationship, so I believe fit is as important as capability and I would love the opportunity to see if we get on. 🙂

Kind Regards

Eric Brooke

P.S. Here are a couple of opinions about me:

“Eric is a prolific thinker and one of the most well read individuals I know. While he is skilled in Marketing and Communications, he is a strategist at heart, looking for greenfield to take companies and pushing organizations to consider bold new directions. While visionary in his thinking, Eric is equally tactful in his negotiation. He is one of the few people I’ve met who can succinctly articulate and communicate multiple sides of an issue without offending anyone in the room. He knows when and how to move around roadblocks, invite debate, and get things done. Eric is someone who can really make a difference in organizations large or small if given the runway to do so.” Jason Smith, President, Vision Critical

“Eric Brooke is a professional, thoughtful, inventive and provocative marketer and communicator. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Eric on a number of projects, most recently and most deeply on a task force charged with rebranding Vision Critical and Angus Reid Strategies. In this role, Eric brought a tremendous amount of energy, branding experience and resourcefulness to the task. He did an excellent job balancing the need for being a team player with being willing to challenge conventional thinking and the status quo – a role we needed him to play.

In addition to understanding marketing, Eric also has a deep knowledge of communication, change management and organization development – in our case bringing a company brand/vision to life for staff and customers. This is something that sets him apart from those who have only had experience with traditional marketing and will be truly valued by those who require successful transformation.” Andrew Grenville, Chief Research Officer, Angus Reid Strategies

What does the future of post secondary education look like?

I was recently asked by a organization leader of an local education institute what my view is. Here are my thoughts along with some possible solutions in red.  The green boxes are what my startup Professional You is working on.

Why do I teach?

Its not the money, no I don’t get free courses or any discount on other courses.  Here are 15 reasons why I teach:

It turns skill into knowledge

I have always found the act of refining and teaching what you think you know, turns it into something more refined, more useful even.  It can make you think very deeply on a topic and for me; it makes me question the foundations of what I think I know.  It encourages me to seek alternative answers, sometimes before I have formed a question.  It allows me to reflect on some of the decisions I made in the ‘field’ and explore other options of a possible future from that decision point.  Whilst you can copy someone’s skill you cannot copy his or her knowledge, as I believe knowledge comes from a journey, which you have to travel and reflect upon.

 “Knowledge is the inoculation of information” Anon

I learn & and grow as much as my students

Helping others learn, if you listen to the students questions, can challenge your own thoughts and feelings on a matter.  The ‘tired’ teacher just forces the student to learn what the ‘agenda’ tells them, whilst an ‘awake’ teacher will explore with the student the path of understanding and together they can grow. Occasionally I will meet a student who does not receive my materials or teaching in the way that works for us, this keeps my thinking and rethinking of different styles, materials, activities I need to use to involve and engage the students mind.

Staying ahead and preparing for the future

To teach keeps me up-to-date with my domain expertise and it pushes me to understand the likely trends for that domain. I than have to translate that into my lessons and it explain to my students and prepare them for it. Of course at the same time I am preparing myself for the future.

Hubris does not take over

Some teachers think they know it all, not only is this naive in terms of knowledge but also in terms of communication/engagement. They are idiots. I need to remind myself that I am not an idiot! 😉

I test my assumptions

Working with people from different generations and history is really useful as your assumptions are constantly challenged not every Gen Y acts like a Gen Y or every baby boomer like baby boomer.  We often get surround by ‘shortcut labels’ or brands and start to believe that every women thinks’ shopping is fun or every teenage boy only thinks about sex. As you teach you get to see the next upcoming generation, how they think/feel, learn and make sense of the world.  On the counter side you get to see the older generations re-training themselves.

Prevention is better than cure

Effective education can prevent many problems in our lives, communities and society. Unfortunately we as a human race spend more time fixing problems after they have occurred, rather than preventing them with education.  If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

It helps me understand humans to a greater level

I am thirsty for works on memory, learning, processing, communication, interaction and risk.  All of this curiosity helps me explore, test and understand. Hopefully over time it improves my lessons and the students retention and ability to use the knowledge.

I believe in meritocracy

I am strong believer that our society has too much cronyism and nepotism and this needs to be balanced with meritocracy. Note I said balanced not replaced.  There are days when I would suggest that meritocracy should be then dominant force, but not completely replace.

I like partnership

For me I have a contract with each of my students.  They do their part and I will do mine.  Sometimes life intervenes and does not allow the student to put the work in.  I don’t have that choice.

I like accountability

In the end you get to see how successful you are as a teacher by the students work.  When did you teach well and when you communicated a concept that was unrefined or too fluffy. For me this holds me accountable.

The global need to share

Like most human beings I have the need for acknowledgement, to belong and be part of something.  Teaching satisfies part of that need.

It reminds me to be patient, understanding and compassionate

The most effective teacher will take their time and not hurry a student.  They will allow ideas and thoughts to grow in the student and I greenhouse them until they are ready to be challenged.  I don’t believe the Socratic method is always helpful, especially in early stages of knowledge development; it can force people down a path of believing in what they can defend.  It can be very aggressive which not all humans appreciate. Nature often reminds us that to allow something to grow, you have to wait. Don’t get me wrong, there comes a time for testing where the Socratic method is very helpful.

It improves my ability to explain and communicate

For every lesson I have to think of a number of ways to explain the same concept, so that students with different learning styles can understand the concept well and grow beyond it. Very helpful in business.

It improves my leadership & mentoring

My simply philosophy for my employed teams, is to help them out grow you and the organisation, so they move on.  I don’t expect anything to be forever.  If you want to keep people in your life you have to work at it and try not to take each other for granted.  Even so I think those people who work or play together for long periods have found a way to evolve and grow together. I have and do coach/ mentor a number of business leaders and politicians, I will cover this in another blog.

Teaching is not just in the classroom.

Mentor, Coach, friend, lover, colleague, leader, follower, we are all teachers.

“Those that cannot do, teach” Anon

Whilst I don’t agree with this statement, for many of reasons above.  For me teaching is part of my life not the whole of it, hence why I prefer to do it part-time.

Branding for Tech Startups

A lot of people seem to believe that a brand is about advertising. That it is merely corporate identity, the name, and the logo, the colours used.

So here is what after 19 years of marketing I uses a definition for my start-up and my marketing students.

  1. Its starts with the founder(s) vision,
  2. It shifts according to the team they have built and their values plus behaviour
  3. Its is limited by the technology used
  4. Its expressed and reflected in the product built
  5. And finally it is decided on by users and their experience both with the product and customer/support team

Whilst it starts with the founder(s) it is decided and defined by your users.

I believe good strategy and brand can support each other.  It’s not about spending lots of money on an icon, name or colours.  It is about the sum expression of what you are already doing.

For me a good strategy and brand go together through having a vision, mission and values.  These will evolve but they will help guide your decisions – what space am I in (Vision – some call this Brand promise), How will I change it (mission) and how will I make decisions (Values).

Here is ours http://www.professionalyou.com/vision.html once we had done this, it was easy to develop a corporate identity as our prime value is Growth, hence the tree and colours.  This value set has/is helping me make a large number of decisions about what we are and what we are NOT.

Once I wrote the vision, mission and values name came to me i.e. Professional You. Not in a sudden flash admittedly. Personally I prefer names that are concrete and that mean something.  If you take no time I believe it shows your users that you do not care, that you are only temporally, why should they invest in you if you can not get the basics right.  Sometimes sharing this journey (of choosing your name) can also be powerful when users want to know who you are.

It is both my strategy and brand; my pitches are cleaner for it, my messages cleaner and my decisions easier. People tend to trust clarity, if you are clear people find it an easier journey to trust you, branding can help you with this.

So far I have spent nothing on advertising, on creative agencies and a local (Vancouver) designer helped with the logo for free.

Occasionally I tweak the vision and mission as I form better ways to describe what we are up to.

It will continuing evolve but in the end users decide, so do not forget the importance of your customer/user facing staff if they are happy your customers are more likely to be also 🙂

P.S. Do tell your users who you are and what you are about.  It is always disappointing if you go to the About Us on a web page, to see that you don’t care to make an effort or even bother to introduce yourselves and its not polite 😉

Thoughts on the cultural evolution

Here are some of my thoughts on the future of culture and identity.

Language will evolve 

I believe the the barrier of language will disappear and it will become more of a your style of communicating, the way you think and your values, that will differs us.  Technology will start easily translating the basics, whilst at the same time the tidal wave will push people to learn english for business and travel.. India got there sometime ago and China is already make leaps in getting their population to have english as their second language. English schools (teaching as a second language )is one of the fastest if not the fastest growing industry.

A global culture

I will think we will see a greater merger of national cultures online; currently it is very English speaking American.  We already see it happening with entertainment.  Bit by bit I see more trends coming out of smaller countries in terms of word usage, behaviours, etc. Perhaps merger is the wrong word, as I feel that it will be something different more complex than any one national culture.

Evolving communities

A lot of product and services are still built in a western methodology in terms of process and systems. Of course Japan has already influenced this in certain sectors e.g. cars and consulting. I think we will start to learn more alternate ways of encouraging community and collaboration from the rest of the Asian countries.

Cultural experience

For us lucky few who were here and now, who could benefit from cheaper flights, which allowed some of us to travel around our country or even the world.  Exposure to other cultures I think deepens understanding for those willing to learn and may also give us a greater appreciation of our culture.  Of course it is all about the experience, who you meet, the events that occur whilst you are in that country. Serendipity really.

Expressions of culture

Through software and the advert better quality camera, whilst still becoming cheaper – Film has dropped  in terms of cost, other countries are able to enter the film industry again and reveal their thoughts, fears and dreams to us.  At the same time our ‘tolerance’ for low quality production has risen. Allowing a rise of new media producers use smart phones and free software to create something.

Distribution of culture

Starting with the Internet we have greater access to each other, it helped globalise culture distribution.  Successful open global platforms have increased our ability to share such as YouTube. Even global closed systems such as Xbox live or iTunes are allowing us to explore new avenues of communication and access media once hard find such as music.

Transparency

We are demand more transparency from everything, governments, corporations, food etc.  I don’t see this declining in fact I see it having a massive impact on the future of business.

Immigration

If you live in the first world immigration is occurring, in fact there is alreadly competition to get the entrepreneurs of the future, best skilled or the hardest workers.  Countries where there are more older than younger people are seeing their budgets slowly shift tax dollars to health and social care. Combine this with a reduction (in the richer nations) of child birth means they will run out of money to support their older population.  Some countries are thus trying to make it easier for young people to move to their country.  I think within ten years countries will start paying immigrates to move there.  I think this trend will mean people will start to move countries more often and be exposured to multiple countries in depth.

In conclusion

I think these trends will take decades, probably a lot of pain. It may be sped up by global tragedy or an alien invasion.  If we don’t get wiped out by us or others.  The end result I see is one human race with a greater understanding of itself and each other.  Personally I believe in Infinite diversity infinite possibility as it will give us a greater opportunity to survive as a race.

What do you think or feel?

A journey through design thinking..

Over the last couple years I have being considering design in terms of my startup Professional You.  We are working on something that will have a large amount of complex data in our system and that needs to be easy to access and manipulate.

In my life, design started with Technical drawing at school as child.  It than evolved in basic computer games later at school. However it was PageMaker and Quark Xpress both in their first versions that got me really into thinking about what I was creating and the process.  I still have this amazing book called ‘One Minute Designer’ by Roger C. Parker that was an amazing help to get me started. This lead me to training professional typesetters how to use the first Desktop Publishing software.

Later in life I took on a computer science degree and studied system design and UX at University which helped me to understand some more of the language and concepts. During my placement year I created with a partner a business to help businesses upgrade their paper based systems to electronic ones particularly Finance and Admin systems.  It taught me a lot about change management and the direct impact on people that systems have, thus my design and process became very people aware.

So back to the present, 19 years of marketing later…To help me with startup, which I can visualize entirely in my head I decided to absorbed some books:

  1. Head First Web Design – Ethan Watrall
  2. Design Interfaces – Jenifer Tidwell
  3. Universal Principles of Design – William Lidwell
  4. Designing Web Navigation – James Kalbach
During this part of the journey I bumped into an amazing book which takes rational concepts and made them very visually meaningful. It taught me how powerful effective design can be.
  • Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder
Yet still my greatest frustration was now I understood the concepts but could not actually create them.  So I took an Introduction to Drawing course at (VanArts) and I learnt a lot with many of the Betty Edward books supporting my class learning.
  1. The new Drawing on the right side of the brain – Betty Edward
  2. Color – Betty Edward
  3. Basic Perspective Drawing – John Montague
Yet this still was not enough, I want to CREATE!  So off to college I go again this time BCIT to refresh my software coding skills. Completing my first course with 98.5% grade.  I loved it (you can tell by the grade) because it was leading me down a path where I could create 🙂
Ok so that is the introduction!  What got really thinking was a linkedin group I joined called Design Thinking and a conference they held recently in Vancouver, BC. The conference was really something, which I have yet to fully process.  But it was very good and had a lot of interesting people.   Somehow I ended up running a session on what should a Design Thinking Manifesto look like, my initial concept came from the Agile Thinking Manifesto.
We in the session revealed the values and the principles that should be a part of it.. Come join the discussion on the linkedin group and you can see the work we created here.
What I have learned from this journey so far:
  1. Is that there is value in iteration and striving for perfection can lead you down a rabbit hole
  2. Practice, practice, practice
  3. Working and playing with good people refreshes the souls and is fun
  4. Combining the words design and thinking implies there is a process that it is more than just intuition.
  5. Good design thinking involves engaging both the rational and the emotional parts of your mind.
  6. That you need to be able to take criticism and other points of view.
  7. That you have to have some part of you that enjoys turning chaos into order
  8. That your audience may not think and feel as you do
  9. That you should never stay still and need to bounce between what is safe and what makes you sacred
  10. That there needs to be story behind it a consistency of your journey
  11. That ‘pure’ design is elegant and more often occurs in nature than in human creation
  12. Simplicity and complexity can both be beautiful
  13. That whilst we admire perfection we don’t trust it
  14. Engage the users early and often
 There are more books involved in this journey which can be found here.

One platform to rule them all..

I often hear no one can beat facebook as a social network or linkedin for professional networking or twitter for short messages. I hear it from individuals who are either risk adverse, cannot look to the future, prefer one standardized model or have agenda. Or even worse have forgot recent history.

So for the quickstarts..

Human nature

Ok you want more context = IBM or Blackberry or Microsoft or AOL (for US readers)

There we are done, seriously… ok for those still in need of caffeine or a sleep pill.. here is the longer version.

“Monopolies last as long as consumers buys from them”

I wonder if there was a time in Rome where they thought that they were invincible?

Wasn’t there also a time when most IT managers were trying to force the uniform system setup throughout their whole organisations you know Microsoft Windows and Dell or HP. Maybe you got a pass if you were part of the creative people tribe e.g. artist, designers and maybe even occasionally marketing.

For a time Microsoft was a monopoly, recognised by the whole planet, except the America Government (those tax dollars were just too important).  Even Blackberries (er crack berries or the best whip a slave driver could develop) owned the market.

So how did it work out for Microsoft and Blackberry?

“Ease of use wins and device shifting is a great opportunity for all”

But it was users, not economists, or Angels or VCs who defined the next step; because amazing people from Apple and Google came up with something easier to use. And maybe people were ready for a change.

Apple and Google took the initiative as we moved from one platform to the next. It was users who revolted with their iphones? And now their ipads? And now Andriod based er everything..

So quick side trip – future device shifts yet to take hold include:

  1. augmented reality,
  2. using your X Box Kinect to do office work maybe with a 3D TV screen,
  3. the use of contact lenses or sunglasses to be our computer screens,
  4. Virtual Reality and there will be a few shifts in between.

“Distribute your consumer power”

In a past life as a political campaigner I would often hear people who voted for one political party at a national level would vote differently at a local level.  When I asked why, the number one reason was “I don’t want either political party to have too much power.”

Do we consume the same as we vote?  Are consumers savvy enough to ensure that they have a competitive market by buying from different companies to ensure one does not take over the world and we end up living in the Robo Cop, Aliens, Cyber punk or maybe even Shadowrun world.  For you non sci fi lovers I am referring to a world where corporations have more power than government (hmm is that not now), most first world countries are run by VERY conservative (ok to be fair fascist) governments (ummm) and the corporations are armed with private military forces (phew this has not happened yet).

So for some humans we care from where we consume, for the majority I guess not, until its too late.

“Rebellion is part of us all”

There are always enough people who do not want their freedom to be taken away from them. Thinking you have a choice may be enough for some humans.  I think also some humans will always take the anti-ethnomethodolgy approach e.g. they will take the current behaviours/methods and choose to do the opposite or severely different approach. Because we don’t all think or feel alike. Need proof become a parent and raise a teenager.

We don’t want to all conform. We don’t want all to live in the same infrastructure.  Past infrastructures were harder to change than they are now. More places will be built so we can talk to whom we want to talk and in the manner that we prefer.

“We don’t all talk the same language”

The big wheel keeps turning and we are raised with different cultural inputs or TV, Music and Films.  For each of us, our understanding of the planet is different.  The way we express our needs and wants changes with each generation. And that is before you even bring national culture and languages.

“Alignment of values, it’s more than ethics or the environment”

We often hire for aptitude but fire attitude.  I wonder if this can applied to companies we choose to work with..  While saving me time and making things easy, may drive me onto your platform but will I stay if there is another company with a closer value alignment e.g. facebook and privacy vs. Diaspora.  Would you prefer to work for a boss who helps you grow or one keeps you in ‘your place’.

“Specificity or Narrowcast vs. Broadcast is it inevitable?”

A bit like what has happened in TV and its movement from few channels too many and very specific. Or once upon a time there was just soap, than there was soap with rose petals, now there is soap for different parts of your body!

“Change will happen whether it’s through evolution or revolution”

I think all communities whether a nation, a business or a sports team change.

In healthy democracies we see change the cycle maybe 18 years or 9/10, but it happens.  The luckiest leaders are the ones where their party just missed it in the last election and than you see a landslide the next time round. They have the ability to change more.

I believe that communities don’t die per se but they continually evolve, and if they don’t a revolution will occur. Online ones are no different.

The end, well nearly..

So not all of these apply to all humans but I think enough apply to most humans.

So big platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin will continue to exist until someone finds an easier or better way to do the same thing or maybe the market will be re-segmented time and time again and we will have many smaller communities

Come on you have seen what happens when one ring controls all the others.. its not good.. just ask Frodo