Five Ways To Make The Most Of Time

PD825In the end time is the only thing we have.

And the way we spend our time is the way we spend our lives.

We often say we are killing time.

But really it is time that is killing us.

So how best to make the most of time?

1. Eliminate: Many people recognizing the limitations of time tend to try to do as much as possible. They multi-task and run around in a frenzy. Usually all they achieve is more multi-tasking and more frenzy. Doing more stuff is  not the same as achievement. Activity is not productivity. Showing how busy you are does not show how important you are.

2. Focus:  The key to doing less is to focus. Here are two filters to help you decide what you should focus on.

a) Comparative Advantage: You should spend your time doing things that you can do better than most people. Some focus areas are are easy like being a spouse or a parent, since by definition you should be able to do this better than other folks. However for many of the errands you run and the assignments you take on at work, it is important to ask if you can outsource or delegate or find a colleague who is better than you.

b) Positive Outcome: Where you can choose you should only do things which give you a positive outcome. Either you 1) earn a financial reward,  2)  learn something new , 3) help someone else or the team get better or 4) experience in itself feels good.If it is not one of those four outcomes and it is avoidable why are you doing it?

3. Scale: You can scale yourself  and your impact and therefore save time. Two ways to do this is to use “leverage” and “momentum”.

Much of what we do as white collar workers is  to think, communicate and sell. Basically with a few exceptions our success is based in large part on how we are as  communicators and sellers of ideas and points of view.

a) Leverage: Today technology and scheduling allows people to leverage. You can use social media, good writing and speaking skills to reach many people that you need to communicate and sell your thinking to. You are not limited to small meetings and groups. You can decide if you are senior to gather folks at the right conference or meeting versus repeating yourself again and again.

b) Momentum: The trend is your friend. To not waste your time you need to understand the underlying trend that is driving your firm or your business and in most cases align with it. The world is going global. The world is going digital. Every company has a built in DNA. If you are going to go against the flow prepare for much loss of time and grief. I am not suggesting that you sometimes do not try to change the trend of your firm or relationship but be alive to your chances and better have a superb strategy or you will be have nothing to show for it but bitterness.

I often meet people who doggedly pursue totally wasted causes and complain about how little time they have. Time is all you have. Stop having idiots decide how you spend it.

4. Do new things. Tattoo the moment: While the first three behaviors of elimination, focus and scale are scientific, the next couple are much more artistic.In the movie “Into the Wild”, there is a line about how the core of existence is new experiences. Often what we remember and which gives time certain elongation and depth are new experiences. These do not just have to be travels or new relationships and new jobs but could be as simple as walking down a new street, eating at a new place and going to a new cultural event. If there is a way to tattoo the moment into your memory you should try too.

5. Give you time to others:  One of the best ways to use your time is to use it not on yourself but on others. Nothing is as rewarding as helping other people, mentoring younger people and forgetting about yourself in your time equation.

If you respect other people’s time. If you give them your attention. If you think not of  the lack of time but the beauty of time, you will find that the time you spend is magical.

And in the end it is the time that you do not measure that is the most meaningful of all.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 58,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Arc of Content Era

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Today, more and more,  people are engaging with video  (and increasingly other content) on two types of screens.

1. A bigger screen that hangs vertical on a wall, which we call a TV or in some cases another vertical screen that sits on our desk called a personal computer.

2. A smaller screen, that lies horizontal on our lap or in our hands, which we call a smart phone, laptop or tablet.

The future of the content business, from advertising to programming, will be built around the interaction within the ninety-degree arc between the horizontal and the vertical screens.

This is the Arc of Content.

Findings from a host of places including NBC Universal’s “Billion dollar” Olympic research indicate that people are consuming video and content in an additive way.  They are following events on multiple screens.

During most live television events we now follow the events on the big vertical screen while hearing or sharing our perspectives on the horizontal screen. Increasingly, many people find a Twitter stream on their phone or tablet is the more insightful soundtrack for live events than what accompanies the broadcast. For others a second screen experiences such as Zeebox or Get Glue add information or social or transactional layers to the activities on the vertical screen.

As tablets proliferate and smart phones get more powerful this multi-screen habit will grow.  While at home, we are likely to use the biggest television we can find as the vertical screen and a tablet or phone as the horizontal screen to create the Arc of Content. But we will soon create this arc everywhere. For instance, in the privacy of our room or on the road we will use the tablet propped vertically and the phone horizontally to create an “arc on the go”. Or the vertical screen will be a television in a bar and our tablet or phone will be the horizontal screen.

Basically, content will be consumed as an arc in as many places as we will be able to make this happen. Being transfixed to just one screen for video will over the years shrink to a minority of people who are old or do not have access to a wireless connection.

The Content Arc will transform marketing among other things.

Marketers will have to learn how to tell stories using multiple screens. They will also have the ability to enhance storytelling and data gathering and collapse the funnel from awareness to transaction. Interactive television will be more an Interactive Arc between the vertical and the horizontal screen rather than interactive TV as we imagined it, which involved zip code targeting, interactive menus and remotes.

Programmers and distributors are already moving quickly in working to understand and leverage the Content Arc whether it be unleashing video such as HBO Go, investing in the horizontal plane of the arc as Comcast recently announced with Zeebox, or Nielsen leveraging Twitter as a quick, real time research tool. But, increasingly the sight sound and motion business will not just come from the traditional video companies and studios but from the Trojan horse of the horizontal screen which will via technologies like Apple Airplay take over the large screen.

While we think of Google’s You Tube combined with Google+, Amazon Instant with their data warehouse or Microsoft’s X-Box as ways technology companies will come to the large screen, it is not just a technology play. Conde Nast, Hearst and the magazine business can now become major television players as they take their titles and properties and make them truly multi-media and get distribution over IP based versus cable networks.

The opportunities and threats for each marketer, brand, agency and content player will be significant as we enter the Arc of Content Era.

 Companies and individuals, who think and plan around the Arc of Content, should see their future blessed with another arc.

 They will enjoy a rainbow of wealth and business growth after the storm of change.

 

 

The Turd on the Table

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Earlier this week, I participated in a meeting with the CEO of a very well regarded large company to discuss ways our two companies might partner.

After sharing visions and perspectives on the future, it was time to get down to figure out how our companies might work together.

So I suggested we begin by addressing “the turd on the table”, which was the fact that on the fringes we were competitors and both of us saw the same path to growth which could make us bigger competitors in the future. Was this a “lets learn about the potential competitor meeting” or a “lets find a way to partner so we can both grow recognizing the potential of friction meeting”?

The CEO said, “I am so glad you brought up what I was thinking about but you brought it up so “elegantly” “

We had a very positive meeting and dinner for the next few hours since the CEO and his team and our team addressed “the turd on the table” and because of this our conversations moving forward were “bull shit “free!

Many years ago a boss of mine identified leadership as the ability to understand, face, adapt and align with reality.

Too often, particularly in meetings, we hide reality within layers of protocol, diplomacy, and dazzling multi-media shows. We are so afraid of the truth breaking out that we hold meetings to prepare meetings to get ready for a meeting.

Time passes. Opportunities come and go. The world spins.

And all the while instead of addressing the “turd on the table”, we talk about being sensitive, being politically correct and we all think we are in some psychological thriller or dramatic play where every move and word can make the difference. Meetings are thick with intrigue, back room dramas, meaningful silences, and side bar “bathroom break”conversations.

The joke is on all the participants because everybody knows what needs to be addressed. We all know what is the” turd on the table” and after the meetings we speak about how no one went near it.

So instead I suggest calling out the turd.

Call it out. Shine a bright light on it. Place it on a pedestal. Address the damn thing !

Here are some suggestions for you to become a “turd slayer”,  even though you may have  been have been indoctrinated not to do much of this advice.

a) Say what you think. In business we care what is between your ears. If you cannot say what you think (hey if its wrong you will be told so, in fact even if you are right you will be told you are wrong….). Truth eventually has a habit of breaking in. Why not open the door and save time and damage ?

b) Assume the person you are trying to be diplomatic to about an issue knows what the issue is. If you bring it up you will be more respected by them. If they did not know, you will earn an ally.

c) Do not go with the crowd if your instinct says no. Often group and crowd dynamics take over in much decision making. People think about what their boss wants  to hear rather than what they should say. People worry about the impact of their career rather than what is right. Sooner or later too many people are dodging their own shadow and playing mind games that lead to slow and bad decisions.

d) Do not work for a boss who you cannot bear the truth or whom you fear. We are living in a time of change and most of the time senior folks need to be told that their core beliefs may no longer be true. I have seen too many companies from newspaper to magazines to many other companies hasten their decline because their leadership did not face reality, in part because their staff was scared of them.

e) Tell all the truth but tell it slant: Once you have decided to address the turd on the table, you might want to do so in a way so the message gets through. Ideally it is in a way that does not make the person receiving the news “lose face” so much of this is best done person to person. In other times some humility, self awareness, metaphors or humor will be called for. Emily Dickinson says it best in her poem, too much of shock and you will have blinded someone to the turd!

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

So lets address the “turd on the table” wherever it might be.

For instance this post might be a turd in itself.

We would then call it a “meta-turd”

Marketers Need To Pay Attention To Changing Marketplaces

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Marketplaces are evolving at a rapid pace as the Internet a.k.a “The Connection Engine” is changing every aspect of what a marketplace is.

Historically a market place has been where buyers and sellers congregated and then exchanged goods and services with accepted currency.

First, there were the physical bazaars and souks and then the malls where the sellers congregated, the buyers came in crowds and service was transacted using either a form of barter or currency or credit.

Then there was the Catalog and Telemarketing addition,  to allow for virtual marketplaces which was then further expanded using the first generation of e-commerce.

A significant shift to the nature of marketplaces and their dynamics arose with E-Bay which created not only a new way to buy and sell but expanded the ranks of buyers and sellers. Amazon Marketplaces built on this momentum.

Today mobile phones, social networks, broadband and cheaper technology  are so changing every aspect of the market from a) what is the marketplace to b)who are the buyers and sellers and c)what is the nature of the currency used to execute the trade that every aspect of marketing will change.

The Marketplace

Today the marketplace is no longer a physical space or an e-commerce site or a catalog but pretty much anyplace where a buyer or a seller decide on a transaction.

There are dozens of new marketplace models of which the following are truly innovative

1. The Sampling Marketplace where you sign up for samples and then buy product or keep the sample. A more sophisticated book of the month club these include Birch Box, Shoe Dazzle and much more.

2. Sudden/Private Marketplaces which provide a just for you or just for now opportunity of which The Gilt Group is a leader

3. Reverse Marketplaces where buyers congregate and then ask seller for prices and deals such as the original version of Groupon

4. Collaborative Consumption and Production Marketplaces where spare capacity whether it be a spare room or a space in your car like Airbnb or Sidecar can now be monetized. Freelance creative talent have platforms built by Victors and Spoils and Jovoto among many others to make their skills available.

5. Exchange Traded & Electronic Marketplaces expand to all sorts of goods including computing power and storage sucha as Amazon Web Services, freelance talent such as Odesk, and data and ad inventory that began initially with Right Media.

6. Place based marketplaces where inventory is created based on the proximity of buyers and sellers such as Uber for cars or Four Square and Groupon place based deals.

7. New Funding Marketplaces such as Second Market which helped provide liquidity for Facebook holders pre-IPO. Then we have the awesome Kickstarter that has raised more money for artistic projects (among others) than the National Endowment for the Arts. In fact, projects on Kickstarter have raised more than a million dollars from the crowds at least  on seven occasions. Finally, Prosper enables a marketplace for peer to peer lending.

New Breed Of Buyers & Sellers

These are just a few of the way the Internet has enable completely new marketplaces to come into existence.

But as interestingly these marketplaces have allowed for a completely new breed of seller and buyer since productive capacity as well as consumption capacity that was untapped is now brought to the market.

In the case of sellers we now have every home owner can now not only offer a spare bedroom to the market but also a space in their car or even rent out their ladder!. And if you like designing and making things there is Etsy and if you are a sitter there is Sittercity and the list goes on. Your hobbies and your spare time (now we can all be freelancers) can be monetized (and you can also give your time for charity or to help others).

Similarly a new crowd of buyers surge into a marketplace because either the price is right or the place is right or the offering is right. For instance when a non car owner needs a car for a grocery run there is a Zip and the fact that the store you are near has a special deal that you hear about when you check in on Four Square makes you an additional buyer.

Medium of Exchange

The orginal medium of exchange was barter and in many ways barter is one of the new forms of exchange as people can trade cd’s and home articles and much more due to the ability to create new markets.

But in addition to old fashioned barter we have new currencies including Facebook Credits, Airline and Hotel Miles and Credit Card rebates and much more as companies marry data and the internet to reduce friction and enable transaction.

Implications for Marketing and Marketers.

There are three things every Marketer  and their Agency should ensure they are doing.

1. Audit and Understand the New Marketplaces Impacting their Category:  How will the new markets create new opportunities as well as potential competitors for  you? Are there ways to reduce costs or enhance the ability to gather ideas and input? Will the new markets allow for new products and services you did not think of in a static or existing marketplace

2. Understand the new levers available to your firm due to new Marketplaces.There is a host of new companies that can provide incentives to the right people at the right time due to these new marketplaces. They not only offer ways to target folks but gain insights and potentially bundle your product and service with another. Do you understand the new levers?

3. Participate in or create new marketplaces: After understanding the landscape and determining potential opportunities it is critical that marketers participate in the new market places or create one of their own (this may be as simple as a collaborative sharing marketplace inside their own company), in order to stretch and test their own organizational system and capabilities.

The future of marketing will change as the nature of marketplaces change and leaders will change with it. ‘

The Six P’s of Data Driven Marketing.

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his famous poem “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner” has a stanza describing what it is like to be stuck in a salty ocean under a withering sun:

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

Today we live in a data driven, data infested, data diarrhea world where we may plaintively wail:

Data, data every where

So much data that we will sink

Data, Data every where

Pray who will help us think?

It is clear that data itself is being created in such piles that data itself is close to meaningless and information from it is often not too meaningful. What we really need is to be able to make this torrential flow yield a waterfall of actionable insights and maybe even wisdom.

This is unlikely to come from yelling “big data”. ” we need to own the data”, “data is critical” and other data shibboleths that the most data challenged companies and individuals brandish like some magic sword.

A better way is consider the six P’s of Data.

1. Perspective: What perspective do you expect to get from the data ? What connections are you hoping to see ? How do you plan to use this data? Asking the questions before you collect or cull through the data can be very helpful. There are times that the data itself may yield the answers but to do so you will need the next P which is people.

2. People: The shortage in data driven marketing is clearly not the data or the storage capacity or even the computing capacity but of this rare bird called the “data scientist”. John Rauser of Amazon in this fine talk explains how this species combines applied math and engineering with a layer of curiosity, skepticism and good writing skills.

3. Punctuality: The half life of a tweet is probably 8 minutes and of any piece of data probably less. Collecting data is like building a museum to the past in a real time world. What is critical is to have data arrive where you need it, and when you need, both from some past archive and some just in time magic. As the world gets more mobile and place and time based relevance increases in importance so will the punctuality of data.

4. Privacy: As data scientists glean insights such as the likelihood of you being a valuable pet food buyer is if you celebrate/promote your pets birthday on Facebook , and combine it with the amazing technology of just in time, things may get all creepy and icky. And to ensure that this privacy issue will become a critical factor one can look to the Government. Not just the Europeans but of every country whose political structures are being disrupted by technology armed citizens. To make an example of things the Government  will come after the big companies and so data policies and transparency will be key going forward to keep things all nice and elegant.

5. Pooling: We are living in a connected world. The Internet is a connection engine. Data API’s and access to databases from all over will be critical to make data driven marketing a reality. Here is a simple example of how Google Trends data and retail location allowed for some superb marketing. Its not the data you have but the data you can access. Access to rather than ownership of data is key and therefore the ability to partner and leverage platforms and portholes into data clusters will be key.

6. Partnering: As large companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Experian, IBM and several others around the world build data stacks, warehouses and tools,  the key will be to partner with these platforms that allow companies to process, pool and pull their own information. There are huge economies of scale that come with data collection and processing and therefore it will be key to decide what platforms to partner with rather than build a complete vertical stack.

The age of data driven marketing arrived some time ago. Now companies and people have to catch up with how best to thrive in such an age and collecting data and running algorithms are unlikely to yield much without the six P’s.’

Good Meetings

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We spend our time in meetings.

Meetings at work. Meeting friends. Meetings where you present and meetings where you are presented to. Meetings with all sorts of people. Meetings over meals and meetings over coffee.

In fact if you are in business at a management level you likely the spend the majority of your time in meetings. Thus how you spend your time in meetings is how you spend a great deal of your career.

In business there are many who find meetings a waste of time and try to make them as short, small and few as possible.Many try to avoid meeting people and have gate keepers and delay tactics ready to brandish. Some leaders use meetings as ways to ensure discipline and instill fear.

But in a collaborative, fast moving, networked society even with all the social networks and collaborative tools in the world, it is hard to be a manager or a leader by hiding behind a screen dressed in your pyjamas.

Instead of circumventing what cannot usually be avoided why not think about how to get the most from the meetings you will be spending your time in ?
There are a lot of books and articles on meeting management and how to get the most out of gatherings.I think most of them are utter and complete BS because they all focus on how you can get the most out of a meeting, while I have learnt that the focus should be how can you give the most in a meeting.

Despite my travel around the world, I try to meet every single person who wants to meet me. Many times I do not know who the person is or what their agenda is or if I do many meetings are when I am meeting folks for the first time. Often these unsolicited meetings from the edge end up being the most full filling because they bring in new news, perspectives or just make one feel blessed for what one does.

Regardless of the size of a meeting from a lunch meeting with a person to a presentation to a room of hundreds or a huddle in between I keep the following three questions in mind.

a) Generous:  How can I give the person or the people whom I am meeting or presenting to with a gift. A gift of knowledge or insight or a way to see things that they did not have before. Something that makes them believe that it was a good use of their time to be in the meeting.

b) Empathetic: How can I truly understand the other persons perspective and point of view because in doing so I will grow even if I disagree with the perspective or view. If I am presenting how can I make sure that my talk is relevant to the audience and the issues they have in mind and not some boiler plate boiled anew. I find it ironic when speakers talk of relevance and customization and customer or content is king but do not customize or make relevant their content to their audience. Basically they are saying that their time is more valuable than the audience!

c) Energetic: How can I leave the folks in the meeting more energized and feeling better about themselves ? So much of success is attitude, belief and hope. So many meetings leave folks dispirited, brow beaten, scared and worried. One does not have to be all bouncing beans unrealistic but lets be pragmatically enthusiastic if you want progress.

By focussing on giving versus getting you are almost guaranteeing a great meeting because at minimum the other folks leave the room better off  and respected. And in feeling that way they become an ally, a supporter and an advocate for you, so you get something out of it.

But actually what happens is much much more. In the course of the meeting once they understand that you are giving without asking, they give in return. Knowledge, Insight, Help, Lots of stuff. Often in themeeting or as a follow up.

Finally because you have treated their time as precious they treat your time as precious.

Don’t think of how to put barriers to meeting people. Don’t think about what you can get. Don’t think through yourself as a filter.

Think about the other person or people.

Give yourself and your time first.

And you will find meetings are valuable, fun, educational and energizing.

Its not about you.

Its about something bigger.’