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Ten Career Lessons

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Often when asked for career advice from students coming out of school or individuals early in their own careers here is what I share.

A. The First Decade

1. Find the least sucky job you can: Early on in your career your initial assignments being those of the starter variety will be filled with a certain rote drudgery as you being the lowest of the low will be delegated work that no one wants to do themselves.

Do not delude yourself that in your early years that you are going to find “your purpose”, “your passion” or “your identity”. Nope. You have found yourself a job in a competitive landscape and you will be learning valuable lessons on showing up even if you do not feel like coming to work to do stuff “beneath you” , how to deal with a spectrum of characters and personalities, how to present and write, and what it feels like to being bossed around.

These elementary skills will turn out to be essential in that communication skills, empathy and discipline will carry you far and be your friends forever even if you constantly change industries or the world changes around you.

Unreal expectations must be controlled in the early years or you will be seen as a sniffling blow hard in need of attitude adjustment.

2. The Trend is your Friend: If you are fortunate to be able to pick between jobs or find demand for your skills that allow you to choose between opportunities in a company do not select the higher paying one but the one that is aligned with the future. Shakespeare wrote “we must take the current when it serves. Or lose our ventures” which in modern vernacular is “go with the flow my friend”. A majority of career success is to be aligned with trends and industries that are rising and even mediocre players can succeed in an unstoppable tide. Aligning with a trend and particularly aligning early is critical because not only will the force be with you but your skills will be in demand as the area grows and if you have joined early you will be experienced and become well known in the field.

3.Plan and make decisions over a long horizon: Most people coming out of school and early in their careers will work for nearly 50 years. With life expectancies nearing the mid eighties, social security being pushed back and health holding out till the seventies it is unlikely that you will be parked on a beach in your mid fifties. Maybe in your mid sixties or later. Thus do not make job or career decisions with three to five month horizons but  three to five year horizons. Try to give each company  or assignment or adventure at least three years and if it is an industry or company at least five. Your decision making will be better, your skills will mature and you will take daily and weekly gyrations in perspective.

4. Even the best jobs are only good seventy percent of the time: If you have a great job you will find yourself wondering three days out ten you what you are doing, why you are doing it and if you are any good. The reasons for this are three fold. First. do recognize that you are being paid for what you do and the more you are paid often the harder the job is and the problems and troubles you must deal with. Often the challenges or the situations or the people you have to deal with require you to steel yourself with a drink or more. Second, if you have a great job it is one that is growing you and sometimes throws you challenges that require you to build new muscles and do new things. Learning is never easy and if you are growing there will be days that the pain will feel more like a signal that you dislike your job rather than you are building new expertise. The best jobs have flow which is a combination of competence and challenge and sometimes the challenge can be quite daunting. Finally, we are all living in a time of great change,  chaos and velocity which is filled with uncertainty . The most relevant and most transformative industries are in the eye of the storm and this can make a day at work feel like a day in the high speed spin cycle of a laundry machine.

5. Compete against yourself rather than with others: The trick is not to try to better than every one else which is neither possible nor attainable for long or with everybody who is doing the grading. Rather it is to be better every day than you were yesterday. Perpetual improvement by learning from those you admire and respect or expertise you appreciate is not only fulfilling but one that you can control free of petty politics or pissing of people that you will need to work with. Oddly it is more competitive than external competition because you can win externally often by bamboozling and sleigh of hand but you cannot really fool yourself. Get better because in it there is reward.

The Middle Years

6. Who you work for is critical so choose your boss well:  Once you get past the first decade of your career and you have learnt essential skills including how to keep learning, built an early reputation and if lucky aligned with a growing trend, the key to success is to find and hold on to the right boss. Over the next decade or two who you work for will be the determining factor in your success more than anything else you do. The middle years are really about being given new opportunities to learn and grow and linking with someone who is both growing themselves and is mentoring your own growth. A successful boss increases their remit and thus makes new opportunities for you, but also ensures that they have your back while being very upfront and straightforward with you face to face. They challenge you but cover for you when necessary. Find one or more of these and hold on tight. It makes all the difference and every successful leader has been fortunate to have someone who mentored, challenged and looked after them.

7. Find Fit: In your middle career you should begin to specialize. You now know what you enjoy and are passionate about. You also know where you have comparative advantage. And you can see where there are growing and declining opportunities. Continuously adapt your job and find ways to start doing more and more things at the intersection of passion, comparative advantage and market demand. Today, more than ever before it is experts who love their jobs that are happiest and successful. Stop thinking that everyone can or should be a CEO. And for a lot of people the CEO job makes zero sense. Stop doing and pursuing things just because other people think they are cool jobs. Stop living in other peoples mind and start living in your  own life. It is only then that autonomy, purpose and mastery come together and you fit your role and your role fits you.

8. Build a  Personal Brand: As you get to the last third of your career it is very crucial to enter it with a stellar reputation. As Jeff Bezos said a brand is what they say about you when you are not in the room. In addition to being generous and working with integrity which are key to being a successful brand it is important to be well positioned niche (what are you world class at or what is your special expertise?), have a distinct and clear voice (who are you and what do you stand for) and have a story (why should people believe you). Here is an exercise on how to build a personal brand

The Later Years

9. Unlearn. Transform. Re-Invent: A quarter of  century or three decades into work still leave a decade or more of career ahead and this is where things can get really dangerous or interesting.

If you have been successful you are  being set up for a fall because without you knowing it the Industry you grew up in is being transformed and there are new technologies and approaches that make what you learned obsolete and just when you think you have arrived you have to unlearn what made you successful.  Now you have to start learning and changing and making mistakes that you long thought you no longer have to do since you are a leader and not a rookie. You are too cool and too senior to actually make a fool of yourself but if you do not want to become as irrelevant as you fear privately  you will have to change.. Now all this talk about “change is good”that you have been stating to your teams has to be applied to yourself and you begin to realize that change actually sucks since you have to learn and trip and re-grow.

The really successful folks in the last third of the career are students and learners again and if they have built a brand and have worked with integrity and helped others along the way, a swarm of people come to help them adjust. They reverse mentor, form a trampoline and ensure that you do not fail since they recall the days you helped them.

10. Build a portfolio career and start giving back aggressively : Anyone successful in addition to working hard and playing the long game has been helped immensely by other people and of course been blessed with luck. They have been given chances and now is the time to give those chances back.

In addition it is time to build a portfolio career that expands from a job to one that includes a job, consulting, advising and giving back. Sooner or later the job will end but meaningful and purposeful work will continue. Successful older people end up being consultants part of the time and serve in advisory roles on boards or as mentors and they start teaching and helping non- profits. The folks who have ended their jobs most gracefully began these alternate streams during their last decade at work by volunteering, by teaching classes by mentoring and advising younger folks. This way they have a new road ahead when their full time job ends and because they do they move on gracefully into a new phase.

Five Lessons From The World Economic Forum Davos 2015

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A summary of Davos is really not possible given that there are many simultaneous public sessions as well as private by invitation gatherings spread over four dawn to midnight days. All that one can do is summarize the Davos that an individual experienced somewhat broadened by other participants takeaways.

1. A Point of View Depends On Ones Perspective

 The reality of how different speakers and panelists saw the world was highly dependent on the world they were experiencing.

The Europeans were at the center of the discussion but the most unsure of their institutions and their future given the recent ECB tightening, the surge in the Swiss Franc and weakness in the Euro, real worries about deflation spiraling out of control and doubts on whether they had the leadership who would carry out the fiscal and structural reforms necessary to put their economies back on track and the worry of homegrown terrorism.

Two statistics that were shared from the stage illustrate the challenges facing Europe and the need for significant structural reform 1) the continent has 9 percent of the Worlds’ population, 25 percent of the worlds GDP but 50 percent of its pension liabilities. 2) At todays Euro exchange rate with all the various work and pension rules a European employee costs a multi national firm twice that of an equivalent American worker for the same job.

The Asians were surprisingly quiet. The Prime Minister of China came to assure everyone that while their economy was slowing they were hoping that entrepreneurial innovation and more investment in business versus infrastructure would turn things around. The Chinese were eager to prove to the Western leaders who believe China is hard to do business in as a foreign firm and the growth story for their firms are over that it is not true. Interestingly the Chinese themselves are moving their investments outside the USA with more Chinese direct investment outside of China than foreign direct investment in China. The real star from China was Jack Ma of Alibaba who in addition to his great humility has a focused vision of enabling small business and building a marketplace of 2 billion increasingly global but connected to China and Asia. Many businessmen accompanied the Finance Minister of India and while there i was new found enthusiasm for the country given the new government it was surprisingly not mentioned in many economic conversations. So much so that after one of the panels a prominent Indian businessman went up to the stage at the end of the session on global economics and plaintively said…”You forgot to talk about India”.

If there was a belle of the ball it was the USA. The strength of the economy from growth to strong dollar to innovation was called out again and again. The US felt like it was the new emerging market. The Europeans were particularly concerned about their lost decade on innovative technology noting that they had failed to develop a Google, Facebook, Tencent or Alibaba. The Americans noted how hard it is to start a business in Europe and the work and labor rules.

Latin America was as far as I could tell were somewhat missing in action while the Africans were beginning to emerge. One of the best lines on perspectives was “first we get the news and then much later we get perspective”. An African entrepreneur noted that Africa was not an Ebola infested continent because only 3 of 54 countries had Ebola and one of them had controlled it on its own. Here was a continent with a billion people, 75% under 25 years old, 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world and more advanced mobile payments than the west which was painted in a headline. The key challenges in Africa remain the balkanization of the continent into 54 countries where people and goods find it hard to move and lack of skills.

Davos teaches one to be aware that what one sees depends on where one stands and where one comes from.

 2Organizations Are Struggling Between the Past and the Future

Two driving forces of globalization and digitization are challenging every organization whether it is public or private. These institutions were built for a slower moving, top down, western centric, analog reality and now have to deal with a fast moving, multi-polar, start-up and digital mindset. As someone asked would the EU be designed, as it is if it were designed today?

During a conversation between the recent or current heads of Intelligence Agencies (yes MI6 and stuff) they bemoaned how difficult things had become for intelligence services noting that five years ago they did not have to deal with a) extremists from inside their own countries, b) cyber warfare, c) Snowden revelations and d) having to get judges to not agree to wire taps but to unleash algorithms on large swaths of data.

The CEO of Dow and Old Mutual at a Bain Breakfast noted the key reason for their recent success was over the past few years changing their organizations via investment in talent and bringing in new blood and building externally driven, customer focused, team oriented cultures. The CEO of Dow has says it is critical that everyone understand the strategy of his firm and behave in a way called ACT now where the A stands for Aim High, C stands for Customer first and T stands for its Their business (make decisions like its your business). The CEO of Dow had such trouble changing the mindset of his management that he changed his management. Between 2005 and today 195 of the top 200 managers are new! If companies cannot change people’s mindsets they will change the people. Thus key to re-invent and learn and grow and adapt to new circumstances.

The world seems to be moving at two realities. The world of the future and the world of the established organization and government that is built on the learning of the past and generating less and less value today. You could feel the angst about this two-speed world when the author of the Second Machine Age described government and organizational dynamics as a struggle “between those who seek to preserve the past from the future and those who seek to protect the future from the past”.

 3. Trust—if one can build it– will be a new competitive advantage.

 Edelman released their latest Trust Barometer for 2015 which can be found here:

(http://www.edelman.com/insights/intellectual-property/2015-edelman-trust-barometer/) .

There is a clear breakdown of trust between people and the organizations of every sort whether it is corporations; NGO’s or governments are trusted by less than 50% of the people. The only stars are intelligence agencies that are despite the Snowden revelations seen positively by 70 percent of folks.

One of the industries that surprisingly are losing trust is the technology industry. There seems to be anger, which I picked up in Davos by the non-technology companies against the technology firms which is also picked up in the Edelman survey. In fact the leader of a Silicon Valley company was heard wondering aloud as to why his eco-friendly free busses shipping his employees from SF to Campus.

The issue seems to be we are forgetting that its people we are dealing with. People who resent how fast technology is upending their lives and their jobs. People who see their job replaced by a machine and hear about tech folks talking about seceding from the United States. Edelman noted that Silicon Valley has a growing PR problem.

This needs to be fixed because in many ways technology is truly liberating and providing amazing new opportunities. The digital divide that people worried about is not true and in fact mobile phones, networks and other technology is letting David take on Goliath. It is opening up information and education and health care for billions.

However as the CEO of Manpower noted there is a real and growing mismatch of skills between the skills the skills the future is looking for and the skills that people have today especially in the developed world where what technology is a two edged sword where it brings and takes away relative to the emerging world where it is a catalyst and enabler.

In a connected world where inter operability will be key Trust will be critical. As noted during a breakfast I attended “Who will I trust with my data?” or even “Who will I trust with the keys to the Internet?” Was surprised to hear that before the US allowed ICANN to become a global organization the Chinese had created a new root to the Internet and were threatening to make the world two Internets! When Skype does not connect with Facetime, When Facebook and Google glower at each other. When institutions are old and new are questioned its time to build trust!

 4. Uncertainty has always existed but so many things are now certain.

 Many of the super stars of Finance and Industry noted how none of them predicted that oil would be half the price of six months ago or that deflation would be a huge issue in the Western World or predicted an ISIS or the amazing recent strength of the US.

When businessmen say they do not want to invest because of uncertainty you have to wonder which dream world they are living in. Life by definition is uncertain. Till someone arrives representing future time at Davos we pretty much are guessing and extrapolating trends.

However as I finished five days at Davos these things seemed certain if one takes a longer term (five to ten year view)

a. The world will become more multi-polar versus Western Centric. Today 88 percent of the world’s population is in Africa, Asia and Latin America and with the exception of the US all the top ten growing economies. They are embracing free markets of a sort, enabling technology, empowering women who have been underutilized and embracing science to enhance food, energy and medical requirements. Melinda Gates noted that in the past 25 years half of the worlds population had been lifted from poverty and now in the next 15 years another half will be.

b. The world will grow old outside of Africa and India. In 2014 there were 650 million people over 65. By 2050 that number will be 2 billion. Faster than digital growth is old people growth. Older demographics if extrapolated will see Japan become a third smaller in fifty years and 2/3 smaller by 2150.

c. Organizations, Institutions and Laws will need to be redesigned to a world where individuals walk around with supercomputers in their pockets. This year’s iPhone6 carries 650 times the processing power of a 1995 Pentium. In India the number of smart phones will go up from less than 20 million at the beginning of last year to 250 million at the end of this year. These are not phones but highly connected computing and connected devices that will change society and industry but also government and financial institutions. We are focusing too much on Facebook and Google or Alibaba and not enough on the seismic change billions of connected highly empowered people within the next few years will bring about.

 5. There is so much to learn, to do and to look forward to…

 I will end with half a dozen seemingly random statements or facts that made my list of further study to mine insights. Imagine how many incredible thoughts and facts I missed at Davos since I could only be in one place at a time and probably missed all the most elite closed confabs. Here goes:

 a. Bitcoin and Bitchain are likely to revolutionize money. It is likely to become the currency of the Internet since it addresses the lack of trust in financial institutions, speaks to the need of the unbanked and leverages network technology. It’s in the early innings and too much focus on the roller coasting price. With that being said I would recommend everyone buy a bit coin (its now about 240 dollars as I write this) and begin to understand it. In the US, Coinbase is an ideal wallet. The book to read on this topic is The Age of Cryptocurrency by Vigna and Casey two Wall Street Journal Financial Journalists.

 bThree key words, Awareness, Authority, and Oversight will be needed to regain and build trust. Authority. Oversight. Are people aware of how their data is being used and what the laws are. Is there someone who gives authority to lawmakers or data companies on how data is used and oversight is there a way we can see how are data is being used if by a private company or is there an oversight government authority that watches those who process our data.

 c. Women will be the economic engine of the future: In a panel on “Equality through Parity” it became clear that women not only are the portals through which life arrives but are the portals to economic uplift in the emerging world (and who most foundation like the Gates Foundation focuses) and to superior growth all over the world (including Japan) as they are treated fairly in the workforce. As the Prime Minister of Norway noted we do not need to build an economic case for why Women should be treated equal, its just the right thing to do.

 d. The workplace of today is increasingly obsolete and non-productive: A Bain Study found that technology is making meetings easy to schedule today versus the past and the cc: address line expands unnecessary email to such an extent that the individual at work spends 20 hours in meetings and 10 hours on email and 8 hours doing everything else. In addition junior supervisors generate 1.3 Full Time Equivalents of Work and senior supervisors generate 4.3 Full Time Equivalents of Work. Organizations and work needs to be modernized.

 e. The world is making us more connected and more disconnected: We sit in a room connecting with others outside the room while not talking to those who are across the table. We connect to worlds outside our communities but not to what is going on outside our windows. Maybe a bit of Analog is good since we people are carbon based life forms enabled with silicon objects and not silicon based life forms carrying around carbon based flatulence emitting flesh.

f. The future is arriving faster than we can imagine: The rate of progress and change is heating up. Its just not mobility and computing but robotics and communication and much more. Cars now drive better than humans and will soon drive 10 times better than humans. Nano and bio technology will make science fiction reality and all this will happen in the next decade if not sooner. Hold on tightly to your mobile devices!

 

Analog Feelings From a Carbon-Based Life Form Amidst a Digital Sea of Silicon Objects

Under a Cloud by Albert Ryder

Yesterday (Tuesday, January 6, 2015) I spent six hours walking the North, South and Central Exhibit halls of the Consumer Electronics Show. While overwhelming, it was also inspiring and thought provoking.

My short summary of the technology is that things are getting larger, thinner, faster, clearer, cheaper and more connected, while everybody is lusting after or leaking into everybody else’s business.

Besides the technology I focused on how I felt on the floor, since in the end the technology should be in the service of people and their hopes and dreams.

My three big takeaways are

1. Optimism: Despite constant concerns about the economy or the state of the world, things are actually getting better. And technology is absolutely magical in making it so. More and more people can afford some of the most mind-blowing technologies that let us discover more, entertain more, express more, learn more, be more productive in finding a job, doing our job, and saving more. For a cost of less than $250 a month, a family can have a 50 inch state-of-the-art television, a tablet, a powerful home computer, a couple of smart phones, a decent internet connection, and access to streaming movies via Netflix and music via Spotify. And the power and connections of Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and much more. Globally, smarter and cheaper phones are providing opportunities for both a better life and people revolution. We all have “God like” power.

2. We must find ways to overcome complexity and offset regret: Many of us remember the days when we would buy computers only to find that the same computer cost half as much a year later. Now that is happening to more and more things we buy. While walking around and thinking whether I should buy a 4 K TV, I came across a Sharp 8K TV! And my thought was: let’s wait! Increasingly, as more things get obsolete faster or cheaper faster, companies may want to think about enabling access rather than ownership. Leases not just for cars but for almost everything.

In addition to regret (did I buy the right thing at the right time at the right price), there are just too many choices. And in this Internet of Things mania the possibilities to confuse will grow. The ability to link things together so they are easy, solve a need and deliver value will be key. Which is why I believe the first platform for scaling the Internet of Things will be automobiles. Automobile companies package bundles and all of the stuff works in tandem. The home is a long way off since there is a riot of offerings that are discrete, unconnected and just goddamn ugly.

3. Connectivity is a double-edged sword: Everything is getting connected, from large objects like televisions and automobiles to smaller objects like pedometers and watches. Humans like interaction, but we will soon reach the stage of more than occasionally wanting to be disconnected. It was only when I left the panels, meetings, and gatherings and put down the phone and just walked around either the show or between the hotels that I could think and actually be me. Otherwise I was finding myself in the flow of the status quo. It is important to recognize that our minds are being both enriched but also colonized by connectivity. If I am constantly connected and interacting with you and your thoughts what will happen to “me”? Man is both a social animal but also a solitary one. Robert Frost noted that ” Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference “.

(Painting is “Under a Cloud” by Albert Ryder from collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)

Three Takeaways From TED Global 2014

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Last week I was fortunate to attend TED Global in Rio De Janeiro Brazil which was titled South! While I have been lucky to attend many of the original TED’s in Long Beach (and now Vancouver), but this was my first time to participate at TED global which this year had 1000 attendees.

A key difference between the two TED’s are threefold. a) The profile of the attendees and speakers, b)the topics being discussed and c) underlying themes with TED Global participants being 1) far more global versus American, 2) the topics being more close to todays reality than tomorrows possibilities and c) the underlying themes being about empowerment of every day people and humanity versus self actualization.

Both TED’s are awesome and if you ever get the chance to go and can afford it I would highly recommend. You can of course experience it at the 10 TEDx events every day all over the world or be among the millions who watch the talks at TED.Com.

Here were my three
takeaways

1) Mobile combined with cloud computing is the single biggest enabler of all time: We have always been told about mobile in the hands of billions of people will change society but every prediction is probably not revolutionary or optimistic enough since it has not foreseen what these mobile devices can become when combined with cloud computing and data driven algorithms. We saw a combination of incredible low cost medical  solutions from early cancer detection to the potential to  identify ingredients in any food by simply scanning it and much more.

We saw how electricity was being provided and home improvement facilitated by mobile payment systems. How governments were being held to account by the ability to photograph and share their behavior. How culture was being enhanced and captured for posterity by individuals with nothing but a phone on their pocket linking to a cloud and open source movements.

You cannot but be greatly optimistic about what people will do to improve society and humanity at a scale that is unprecedented.

2) Openness  and accessibility will have the greatest impact:  Despite being someone who uses both the Android and iOS operating systems I have been a tilted Apple fan . It is clear I may have underestimated how the open nature of Android which brings with it lots of clunkiness will actually be the operating system for the world ( or something like it since no one can predict what surprises may come) and Apple while being highly profitable and newsworthy will likely be a gated system for people who are rich and fashionable enough to be in a gated community.

Apple may control the fashionistas and the press but Cupertino is going to have to really find ways to be even more open (maybe even licensing out iOS to low cost manufactures) than their recent efforts if they want to be a part of the rest of the world. Amazing that the company that brought  forth the computer for the rest of us and the smart phone that changed the world may find itself as the mobile system for the elite in a world despite their trailblazing.

Why? Because as more and more people all over the world see their phone as the next most critical thing to their family members  the real innovation that is taking place is not “native advertising”, “swiss watch replacements”  and ” wonderful to hold and behold” but how mobile technology can lift millions out of poverty, dictatorship and sickness. Its time for Apple to “Think Different” once more.

All of us who work in organizations and governments will be more “open” in our mindsets on how we partner, how we organize and how we move forward in a world of platforms, blurring lines between countries and skills and much more.

3) Technology itself is not good or bad but it enables people to be leverage goodness or badness: Clearly technology by empowering more people than ever before, I believe will create far more opportunities for a better life for billions in the future.

But there is a dark side including the loss of privacy and inability of the current systems of government to adapt to the increasingly mobile data driven tech world. Glen Greenwald the journalist was one of the few big names known in the West to speak since he lives in Rio. Along with quite a few others he explained how critical privacy is to all of us. Two statements he made stood out. First is that we are only ourselves when we are not being watched and second, even Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg who have questioned the importance of privacy go out of their way (including Mark buying up all his neighbors homes) to remain private.

Also sometimes we mistake the ease of starting a movement with actually achieving its goals (notice how many movements today start with a tweet but end with a thud) and could technology be a pacifier and a distractor that makes us lose the plot as to what is important ?

The future does not fit in the mindsets or containers of the past.

Am optimistic that things will be much better than ever.

Facilitating Movements

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Today, in an age of empowered consumers, who are connected via social networks in an always on basis, smart marketers are realizing that finding ways to create or link to a broad movement can have greater longevity and impact than any campaign.

But how does one align a Brand with a movement in a way that is authentic and tonally correct ? Any over reaching or overt commercialization has the ability to create a movement against an advertiser for their heavy handedness.

An  effort by Nescafe in India that launched earlier this month on You Tube is a great example of  the nascent stages of what may become a powerful movement that the Brand facilitates and links to but does not necessarily own, since all movements are owned by the people who participate in it.

There are three key realities of linking to a movement  (Resonance, Fit and Relevance) that this effort illustrates

1. Resonate with an underlying truth: Today India and particularly the younger generation is moving from a country of day dreamers to dream builders. They are far less willing to accept the status quo or “karma” and far more willing to forge the future through self improvement and personal growth. The country is optimistic and forward looking and this effort links nicely to this reality.

2.  Brand Fit but in a supporting role: Tea in India is the social drink, while coffee today is  still primarily a beverage drunk alone. It is in some ways like a cigarette that one uses to relax and pick ones self up. It is a personal catalyst and an enhancer to self reflection.  This effort nicely inserts the brand in ways that still make the individual and their growth the star.

3. Personal Relevance  that allows viewers to see  themselves in the story: This is not the story about a stutterer but one about personal striving and overcoming challenges. This is a human agenda and one that viewers can engage with. They can not only share this very well produced effort with others but can begin to tell their own story.

Many Marketers believe creating movements are about leveraging technology and sharing platforms.

They are wrong because these need the advertiser to do the work.

What a movement needs is for the people to do the work.

The Brand sets up the scaffolding and platform but people own it and customize it and the Brand wins because it is linked to it.

In a world increasingly of self marketing where people market to themselves and to others facilitating movements can be very powerful. Something, Nestle may have begun to do with this initial ad that already has 4 million views.

Too much math. Too little meaning.

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Today we are living in a data driven world infested by mathematics.

In marketing we worship the algorithm and its superiority to human decision making.

In our conversations about music and books and postings we boast about the number of songs we have downloaded, the number of books we have on our Kindles and how we can switch between devices more than discuss the books or the music.

In social media we are besotted by measuring and increasing our followers, friends, and connections.

In a world of  ascending Buzzfeed, Vice, Vox our media landscape is driven by the viral vortex of volume verification.

The wearables that will soon festoon our bodies will allow our quantified selfs to resonate with numerics.

Data data everywhere.So much data we will sink.

Data often without meaning. Who will help us think?

I am a math major. I love numbers and logic.

But somewhere in this hurly burly of numbers we may end up worshiping before the wrong totem pole.

1. Too much plumbing. Too little poetry.

In the world of media we are so fixated on the plumbing of finding the right person at the right place at the right time that we forget that the interaction we deliver will have to be absolutely right and brilliant not to piss of this superbly well located person at the exact right time. The better the “targeting”, the more important the tone, content and quality of the interaction.

Lets think about the poetry (water) versus just the plumbing.

2. Too much content. Too little time..

Marketers instead of focussing on improving their own products and services and gaining insights about their customers have got seduced into being content providers. They believe the social platforms of the world will help them distribute their in house content or they can impregnate journalism with the seed of their marketing messages under the rubric of “native” advertising.

The ability to quantify the social media distribution and the cost reduction in content creation allows for this type of focus and decision making.

In the world of content everybody now is finding ways to create new content and more content and scalable content and viral content without realizing that the time we have is limited and increasingly the returns to content are going to plunge as we increase the numerator (amount of content) while the denominator (amount of time we all have) remains the same.

Soon we will see a major content crash like we did in the cost per thousand views for display advertising.

Because the best content is created for itself and not as a shill for a marketer. It is created by true experts or is truly authentic.

 3. Too much information. Too little common sense.

In Finance we are inundated with books and articles and mutual funds and investment experts who use up everybody’s time and money to justify the money we give them for their time when almost no one can beat this simple three step formula

a) Spend less than you earn

b) Diversify your savings using low cost index funds which you re-allocate once a year

c) Hold for the long term

In Health and Diet we have books  and articles and experts  and charts which eventually cannot beat three steps

a) Eat less and move more.

b) Diversify your eating across a lot of food types (today something that is good for you will be bad and vice versa) while moderating alcohol ( lots of data suggests 2 drinks a day for men and one for women is better than none!)

c) Sleep enough

Intriguing that finance and health have basically the same general best formula built around moderation, diversification and long term habits.

More importantly the point of money is to enable you not to think about it. The point of food is to enjoy it as it is one of life’s great joys versus it being some monster you have to manage and grapple with.

In the end the world of science needs to support the world of living and art.

Anybody can read an excel spread sheet and let the numbers make the decision. In fact if that is what you do get ready for your job to be soon replaced by a machine.

But the point of the machines is so that we do not have to bother as much about the numbers and go on with living.

Its not the number.

Its how you use it to live and what you add to it to make decisions.

 

Why Nestlé’s “Share Your Goodness” is More Than Good

 

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Nestlé has hit a nerve with its latest “Share Your Goodness” campaign. This series of heartwarming ads has emotionally resonated with millions of people in India, as well as a larger set of the global population via social/online media.

If you haven’t seen the campaign yet, I’d encourage you to check it out. The first commercial is Adoption and the second Dabbawala.

 

I share this campaign because it’s a great example of next generation storytelling and its message has resonated with many, largely because the campaign leveraged a number of new media tricks – from online video with extended versions to smart search optimization and seeding its own hash tag #ShareYourGoodness to enable sharing and discovery.

But the campaign is a success for more reasons than just great storytelling and new media tricks. So why did this campaign succeed and what can we learn from it as global marketers? The lessons are surprisingly less about digital technology and more about analog humanity.

  1. Storytelling is critical: Both executions, particularly Adoption, is a well-honed story – a story with humanity that leaves enough unsaid that the viewer brings their own experiences into the experience and therefore it becomes more engaging.
  2. Human insights are key: The core insight is really about how food is central to human bonding and social experience. In both commercials, food serves as a bridge, a connection, an expression of love and understanding between siblings, husband and wife and just people.
  3. Smart marketers own the category benefit: Food is an effective way to share our goodness. This is the underlying emotional benefit of food, besides its ability to sustain us physically. By linking Nestlé to this underlying category benefit, Nestlé looks bigger, more purposeful and more relevant to life than just being a food manufacturer.
  4. Break The Mold: Somewhere a client or a series of clients made some bold calls. First, they decided to launch the campaign online. Second, they approved story lines where the brand is the hero without the product being the hero or appearing all over the story. Third, they approved scripts that took on out of the ordinary topics. And finally, they understood that we live in a connected world and had their agencies seed, enable and leverage sharing.
  5. Recognize  and leverage the power of new media: Many marketers see digital and new media – even today in India and often around the world – as an after thought, an add-on or something one does to claim it is in the plan. The reality is that in places like India, which is the second largest market for Facebook with 100 million users (also Twitter’s and Linked In’s second largest market) and a highly mobile (soon in India 250 million smart phones), new media is as much media as old media and can allow for far more flexibility to create and distribute an idea. Why not start with the idea first and then determine the media rather than starting with the :30 or the print ad?

International appeal

The underlying insight of human goodness linked to sharing food, combined with the realization that the digital world allows one the room to tell a story which can then be shared and edited for other media, is so big that I believe this campaign has an appeal for international audiences, making it possible to leverage this effort across the globe.

In a connected world, the best ideas can come from everywhere and the Internet is global!

Marketers and Agencies need to realize that some of the old arts (storytelling, insights, understanding category benefits) and pure client and agency guts are very critical. So is the ability to seamlessly leverage old and new media in ways that get people not only to be viewers, but be part of the media distribution plan.