Archives for posts with tag: change the world

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This week I participated in the Beyond Cause Marketing Summit, presented by causeShift.

The premise:

“Let’s face it – cause marketing isn’t getting the job done. For all the money and attention raised, not enough is being done to address the major challenges facing society today. It’s time to shift our thinking and approach.

Rather than rehash past campaigns, Beyond Cause Marketing will build on the success of last year’s run by gathering leading cause marketing practitioners from corporations, charities, and agencies together with disruptors and innovators from other disciplines to challenge the commonly held assumptions of cause marketing. This diverse group of leaders will create new frameworks and approaches for how companies, charities, and government can better engage and encourage the public to solve social issues.”

Scott Henderson and his team (Amy Mai Bertelsen  and Brian Reich) led us through one-one-one discussions and collaboration sessions, expanding the horizon. It was a very special morning and

Here are a few tweets from the morning, just to give you a few insights the group gathered:

  • @sloane: People want us to build a bonfire but give us 2 sticks, a match and it’s really cold & wet outside.
  • @sd913: Get out of your comfort zone and try things out!
  • @CaseyB: @stmhoward says we need more cause intelligence – be a listener that distills true meaning.
  • @sd913: Stop measuring: 1. Reach 2. Size 3. Awareness/Impressions
  • @sonarc: data/=insight. more data/=more insight, more likely = confusion. Telling a story based on data? priceless
  • @sd913: Social is about finding expertise rapidly. Bringing teams together. Organizing ppl in a rapid fashion to take action
  • @sattler360: Lots of small actions can add up quickly. Time to change ‘go big or go home’ to ‘go small lots of times?
  • @TeshiShell: We need to start treating social as an ecosystem instead of individual tools, says @calebbarlow of IBM
  • @mktg4good: @brianreich – stop what you’re doing, simplify your purpose into an 8 word sentence, communicate it, see what happens

It’s just the beginning of a journey.

My biggest takeaway is that we just need to get started. Yes, we have major economic problems and I’m big fan of being aware of the macro-economic issues and challenges, building a better world in the spirit of Umair Haque’s The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business. But we have to make sure to start the work now, in the spirit of Seth Godin’s premise of Linchpin.

Changing the world can be as simple (and brilliant) as finding a new use for a bottle of water.

Low-cost, high-impact, life-changing.

Rock on.

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I love going to my kid’s school.

I feel very jealous every time I walk into their premises.

I see a few kids huddled around a table, working, co-creating, collaborating, exploring, changing the world.

They have circle time. Everybody shares, no egos, no titles, just being themselves.

Each day they start out with a blank slate. No history, no legacy, just the present.

All the tools they need (Paper, crayons, glue, scissors) are waiting for them. Ready to change everything.

Books and books and books ready for them to read, absorb and mash-up in their innocent minds.

And, when they have recess play time: It’s on. They just play. Because that’s what they are supposed to do.

When are we going to play?

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Throughout the World Cup, I received many emails and tweets congratulating “my team”, Deutschland, for their great tournament and playing really exciting soccer (Fussball, as I call it.). Reading German newspapers and magazines, I experienced a lot of self-congratulation for the new, exciting German soccer game, how suddenly the world loves Germans and the multi-cultural faces that played on the team. Oh yes, and 3rd place was lovely.

Enough already.

We’re talking German soccer here. We’re supposed to win each time. Sure, we won’t, but any tournament we don’t win is a loss. Period. Did you ever see the Lakers or Yankees fans celebrate a second place? Or a good loss in the Division Final? Of course not. On paper, Germany’s performance in the last 3 tournaments looks outstanding: Third place World Cup 2006, 2nd place Euro 2008 and 3rd place World Cup 2010. Great. But, where’s the trophy?

Match it up with all that nonsense talk when the US tied England in a group game and people started to celebrate it as a victory. That kind of talk will get you nowhere. Very, very quickly.

Winning organizations are like “A” students: They expect to get an “A” each time they perform. Whenever they get a “B” or worse, they’re disappointed and work hard to get back to the “A” level. Mediocre organizations are like “C” students: They get a “B-” and high-five each person they encounter. They are still not as good as the slip-up of the “A” organization but they’re ecstatic because for once they’re out of the “C” cellar. Just to slip back into it again very, very soon.

We all worked with “A” people before. They might fail, maybe even often, but they always give everything they have. They believe something can be done when others think it can’t. They can solve problems others consider unsolvable. They don’t believe in expectation of others, they have their own expectations. And, we all worked with “C” people. They might talk a big game but their actual work is sloppy. Mistakes. Not failures. Laziness. No high standards. No inner push.

If your organization does things that everyone arounds you thinks you can achieve, then your organization is just a “B” student, not pushing everyone hard enough. I’m not talking about pipe dreams, I’m talking about Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. Rationally, you will achieve your goals when you meet certain metrics. But, that’s not fulfilling, organizational achievement. Real accomplishment and achievement comes from pushing everyone, including yourself, to the limit. Beyond the place where everybody else thinks you could ever go. As a “C” organization, you need to push for constant “A” scores. It might take a while,  a lot of “B” scores, but as long you keep up an air of excellence, deeply rooted in your organization, you are on the way to become an “A” organization.

An interesting thing happens on the way: The people that didn’t believe in you and your organization in the beginning, will be starting to believe in you. And these people will do everything they can to make you even more successful. Nothing in your balance sheet might have changed, you still employ the same people, deal with the same stakeholders – a mindset of excellence will change everything.

My kid’s Karate teacher said to the class a few days ago: ” When you want to tear a piece of paper with your hand, you don’t aim for the paper. You don’t aim for a small space behind the paper. You aim for a place 2,000 miles beyond the paper.”

Shoot for the stars.

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The World Cup is upon us and as a lifelong soccer fan and player, I reflected on a few insights that the soccer game taught me that can be applied to small and large businesses.

1. Embrace and live your culture

I started playing soccer when I was 5. We practiced twice a week and played each Saturday. Raised in Germany, our practice consisted of 90 minutes running and 30 minute playing time. Fairly insane when you think about it: forcing 5-year-olds to run for 90 minutes through the forest or doing laps after laps. But that’s the German culture for you. We were no masters on the ball but my team could outrun anyone. We won 90% of our games in the last 10 minutes because we never tired. (I hope there’s more balance in today’s practices in Germany, though)

Each country has a specific soccer culture: the playfulness of Brazil, the physical intimidation of England, the defensive discipline of Italy, the exuberance of African teams. While you need to embrace and live your culture to be successful, you shouldn’t fall in love with it and be always open to change. Brazil wasn’t a dominant force in the 70’s and 80’s because they focused too much on playfulness and not enough on execution. Once they added execution into the mix, matches and World Cup’s were won again.

2.) Hire entrepreneurs

Most soccer coaches last only for a few years. It’s a tough job to gather all your players from clubs all over the world, fight internal bureaucracies and deal with the press. Coaches, just like players, are superstars. They have to take huge risks in order to succeed and most of them fail. Just to rise on some other bench to try it again.

Soccer is a team sport but individual decisions make or break a team. The collective approach to soccer will always fail. Both coach and player are entrepreneurs, and the more creativity they display, the more leeway they are given. Coach and players have two different tools of influence to impact the outcome of the game.

The coach can create a cohesive, yet competitive culture that rewards creativity and innovation, build team spirit and nurture team culture. He has strategic tools at his hand (formations, substitutions, etc.) but his input won’t lead to innovation or moving the game to a new level.

This is done by 22 feet of 11 individual players. Players innovate on a daily basis to get a small but significant competitive advantage. They need to surprise other players with new ways of dribbling, moving, passing and reacting. The coach is there to create the right environment for players to innovate. Daily. With every move.

3.) Dramatic innovation is rare. Daily innovation a must.

As a soccer aficionado, it’s very interesting to watch games from the past and compare them to today’s sport. The game was much slower, formations not as fluid as they are today and positions have been redefined over the years. But, what’s even more intriguing is that these changes take years to really come to life. Franz Beckenbauer perfected the position of “Libero”, the “sweeper” before the goal-keeper, freeing him from marking a direct opponent. (Rather revolutionary, if you think about it: Instead of marking a person, you’re defending a zone.) He played his first World Cup in 1966, not really filling the position of Libero yet. In 1970, he showed massive improvements on this new style of play but it took him until 1974, when he crowned his career with a World Cup win and a performance that showcased his evolution from support player to innovator.

Innovation didn’t happen in one game. It happened over more than a decade. And influenced generations to come.

4.) Don’t blame technology. Don’t worship technology. Just use it.

Each time the World Cup comes around, there’s a lot of talk about the new ball. Some people fear it, some embrace it. Most players don’t care. The ball is just a tool they use to accomplish a task. Because it’s new, players will have to find the challenges/dead spots when handling or shooting it. Introducing a new ball right ahead of the biggest sporting event seems wrong. But it is a great way to determine the best playing team and the team that answered this challenge with a strong creative approach. There’s nothing to fear. And a lot to explore.

5.) Play. Hard.

I could write about the beauty of soccer, get all poetic and philosophical. But the real beauty of this sport is that’s it’s still a game. When players have a creative thought, they can implement this idea immediately. And fail. Or succeed. At the heart of American Football is strategy. Creativity is not rewarded. At the heart of soccer is creativity. (Based on a foundation of technical excellence, supreme conditioning and mental toughness.)

Tomorrow the World Cup begins. A clean slate. For all we know, North Korea might win it this time. Or South Africa. History exists only in the books and in our heads. On the grass, there’s no history. Just opportunity. Possibilities. The best playing team will win the tournament.

And, that’s the most important lesson soccer can teach business: Business is a game that reinvents itself each and every day. The basic rules remain the same, your team defines how to play with these rules creatively. As an executive, it’s your responsibility to assemble the best players, to lay down the rules and develop plans. At the end of the day, the players have to play to move your business. Let them play. And enjoy each moment of it.

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Image: Courtesy of MusicPhilosophy

This post was featured a few days ago at my weekly column at Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers.

When people were consumers, brands lived in this exclusive universe of commerce and communication meant to sell products through emotions with one end goal: make money. Lots of it.

People are not consumers anymore. This is particularly true when people are online. We have transformed into citizen activists, journalists, lawless pirates, producers, protagonist and, more often than not, curmudgeons. People want much more from a brand than just a good offer, relieving them from the tyranny of too many choices or some fancy lines and images.

People will vote with their wallet for things they believe in rather than just buying stuff. Marketing constructs such as brand image are meaningless in a world where people expect brands to “do” rather than show, sell, spin stories nobody believes in anymore.

Successful brands will become social movements, fully committed to a cause. They will connect with people by either sharing a passion or fighting a common enemy. Brands have to come down from their Ivory Tower of branding and stand shoulder to shoulder with people sharing their passion, and helping each other to co-create and collaborate. A brand that shares my passion and is committed to a cause (We’re talking real dollars here…) will be seen as credible, committed and a real change agent.

Ultimately, we have to redefine the nature of commerce. Profits will continue to be important. Brands that define themselves solely through Wall Street results will not survive. The pursuit of a higher good than just selling stuff will become the admission fee into people’s mind.

We used to look at government programs to better the world, improve our surroundings. The stranglehold of debt will severely reduce opportunities for government institutions to be a change agent. Brands need to step up and become a cultural change agent. They have the monetary power, they have a better organizational structure than any government institution and they understand the power of democracy better than anybody else: Their constituents vote with their wallet not because of some ideology, family history or flawed loyalty.

There’s nothing wrong with making money. But making meaning is so much more powerful.

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Image courtesy of 24.media.tumblr.com

During the dot-com bust, I interviewed for a position with a digital consulting firm. The job description sounded like a good match, the company had a good reputation and strong growth: I was excited. After speaking to the CEO for 5 minutes, I knew his company wouldn’t be my future home. Why? Because I had no idea what he was talking about. Every other word was a buzzword, he must have made up words on the fly and the sentences were so long and convoluted, I felt he was filibustering the interview.

One reason brands have problems connecting with people is their use of language. A few examples:

Dachis Group: “Social Business Design helps companies reinvent themselves into dynamic, socially calibrated organizations that gain constant value from their ecosystem of connections.”

Dell: “Increase workforce flexibility while storing data or secure servers – enabling highly centralized control over your distributed environment and aligning clients with their organizational needs.”

Ford: “Covert aerodynamic design and critical technology such as the class-exclusive PowerShift six-speed automatic and 1.6L Ti-VCT Duratec® I4 engine with twin-independent variable cam timing make it a responsive and fuel-responsible driving experience.”

I chose those 3 companies because they’re often heralded as the pioneers of Social Media and Social Business. Did you have any clue what they were talking about? I had some idea but became bored a few words in.

We have developed a lexicon of contrived gobbledygook meant to confuse people not to enlighten them. How can you claim to be social when your outward language is anti-social?

Just go to digital conferences and half the words abused have no real definition (Engagement), 1 million definitions (brand) or their meaning changes day by day (Success Metrics). We tend to use imprecise words to cloud our confusion and hide the fact our thoughts are not that well-thought-out. A refined thought doesn’t need to come in a convoluted package. Or, as Winston Churchill said: “Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.”

Amidst the corporate gibberish, brands have a unique opportunity to stand out from the masses by speaking plainly yet intelligently about the matter at hand. Not only only will you be seen as having a stronger grasp of the issues, but people will form stronger connections with companies.

In a complex world, any effort to simplify will be appreciated.

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Three years ago, an online conversation between Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton resulted in a collaborative writing effort by more than 100 bloggers from nine countries, titled The Age of Conversation. Today, 171 writers (I’m one of them) are proudly announcing the release of The Age of Conversation 3 – It’s time to get busy.

Age of Conversation 3 embodies the dramatic shift from Social Media as a hypothesis to its current state as an integral marketing tactic and the trickling-down into boardrooms, enterprises and governments. The 10 sections of the book speak to the pervasiveness of social into our daily work and life: At the Coalface; Identities; Friends and Trusted Strangers; Conversational Branding; Measurement; Corporate Conversations (my chapter talks about this topic); In the Boardroom; Innovation and Execution; Influence; Getting to Work; and Pitching Social Media.

As always, all proceeds of the third edition will be donated to a charity. Which should make it even easier for you to consider the purchase as a Kindle e-Book, Hardcover or Paperback.

You can meet all 171 authors here. And consider following them on Twitter.

Congrats to everyone for their hard work. And a big THANK YOU! to Drew and Gavin.

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This is my daughter. Look at her. There’s this aura of infinite possibilities – she’s ready to take on the world. Nothing will stand in her way to explore this world that’s hers. We all used to be like that. We all had this fire in our eyes. Each morning we couldn’t wait to get out of bed, ready to make this world our world. We were curious. Eager. Had so many questions. Tried things out. Fell down. Tried them again.

And then life happened to us. Or better, institutions stood in our way. Pre-school. Kindergarden. Norms. Criticism. Homework. Schedules. School. Cruel teachers. Critical teachers. Grades. Norms. The system integrated us. We integrated the system into our lives. Into our thinking. And being. We graduated. When we were lucky, we traveled for a while. Found that joyful life experience again. But now it was time to join the workforce. To fit in. To accept mediocrity. Suddenly, it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Weekends and vacations are the only remaining highlights. We are slowly killing off everything that made us happy and curious in the first place.

Hold on, we just got a second chance.

The Great Recession is the biggest opportunity we will encounter in our lives. The Great Recession equals major hardship for many people but it also marks the end of the corporate era. If you’re corporate drone, your job will be eliminated very soon. If you try to fit in to make it in this world, you will struggle for the rest of your life. In order to succeed, you have to become an artist.

That’s the premise of Seth Godin’s newest book “Linchpin – Are you indispensable?” We have to become more human, creative and generous to be seen as unique and irreplaceable. And, most importantly, we have to ship. Meaning, we have to produce. Not spending hours on email trafficking, Twitter scanning, blog commenting. No, shipping. Producing. Doing. We can either give in to the lizard brain, the little part of your brain that is concerned with survival and is the reason for your procrastination and all your irrational fears. Or we can create our own destiny. Our own reality. And, at the same time, change the world.

Seth Godin’s Linchpin might be the most important book you’ve read in a long time. Hopefully, it will change you and your thinking. We’ve been working with major Fortune 100 corporations for years, even decades. We understand how tough it is to implement cultural change. But, it’s necessary. Actually, it’s imperative. Would you rather help your company change or see it vanish?

Seth Godin’s Linchpin and Hugh McLeod’s Evil plans (he illustrated Linchpin because he’s one) will give you the motivation and desire to change the world. We started our company with the goal to help transform businesses and change the way we work and live. Seth Godin distilled our thoughts in a neat and exciting package. Now it’s your turn to take the ball and change the world. We hope you’re ready.

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Image courtesy of ‘While you weren’t listening’

My daughter is obsessed with quantity: “How long? 5 minutes? Oh, that’s such a long time.”

“How many days until I go back to school? 2 days? That’s such a long time.”

My favorite:

Me: “You can only have one.” Daughter: “But I want 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 19!”

She’s not much different than the rest of us. If you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist. We get trained early on focusing on grades, sizes, personal records – give me any quantity, people will flock to it. And so they do, at their own peril. Just ask the math wizards on Wall Street who almost brought the economy to its knees with their models, derivatives and CDO’s.

Data linked with analysis doesn’t tell you the truth. It provides an assumption of the truth. Nothing more. Any Black Swan will destroy this assumption in an instant.

We see this pervasiveness and blind belief in data everywhere: Employees are resources that need to be utilized. Brands consider people targets that need to be tracked and hunted down by more and more ads.

It’s time to grow up, my daughter will one day, and learn that quality is often more important than quantity. You can’t compare 5 minutes at the dentist with a 5 minute hug of your loved one. Employees have non-quantitative strengths that are not measurable. We just know they have them. Just like products and services have non-quantitative strengths that transforms a product from a commodity into an object of desire.

Sales people are often measured by the quantity of their calls, not the quality of their interactions. Customer Service agents are being judged by the number of calls they handled, not the value they provided to customers. The list is endless.

Sure, we need to constantly improve our data sets and optimize them. But, the altar of data is not worth praying at. Leaving non-quantitative factors out is a road to nowhere. Integrating measurement into a more holistic, dare I say, human perspective should be the goal. Let’s use data and technology as a tool to better understand, innovate and change the world. Time to grow up. Who wants to be stuck in the “2,3,4,5,6,19” rut forever?