Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

If you think China will always be THE source of smart, young talent … uh…

A colleague just passed this along: Northern Hemisphere population is no longer at replacement levels – potentially dire consequences .

This has far-reaching business implications – both domestically (one MORE argument that you can’t build too many biz plans around the aging of America) but globally — notably, and unlike Japan, China will *never* grow rich.. it will, however, grow old AND poor … and relatively soon …


Social media and grey hair

Paul Seaman’s “21st Century PR Issues” rarely fails to stick delightful verbal needles in conventional wisdom. In that regard, his Social Media Reality Check 2010 doesn’t disappoint us.

As I read his posting, what came to mind was a topic of conversation I’ve been having with two other colleagues for, well, a clutch of years now.

Companies have stories to tell. If we anthropomorphize for a bit and talk about business ventures as ‘beings,’ they want you to know about them, they need you to know why they’re different, why they do things the way they do, and why they charge what they do.  And how they do this is through the voice they’ve had for decades – PR, corporate communications, advertising.

So, a new kid on the block says, “no, this is ALL wrong, the voice of the whole is made up of the individual voices of the crowd.” That new kid is social media. Reduced to black and white, it smacks of a very old divide between control (some would say dictatorial) and freedom (some would say anarchical ranting).

I have a crackpot idea that the blossoming of grey hair on people ‘of a certain age’ is the universe’s way of reminding us that the world isn’t black or white – but often something in between. And so it is, I’m guessing, about this false distinction ‘tween what companies need to tell the world and what the wisdom of crowds can tell us.

I think there’s something very important in finding alignment – sometimes at least – between what companies want people to know about them … and… what buzz exists in the many social media venues.  Companies need both – they need strong and clear messages that help them rise above being seen as ‘also-rans’ and they need to be comfortable with the new places, new players and new rules of places created by the likes of Facebook and blogs.

In a phrase: social media is growing up.

Perception Drives Actions

Three words.

What makes you different from your competition? Why should anyone see your company, your products, your services, as anything but a commodity that can be found, exactly the same, in the offerings of a dozen other places? If you charge a premium for your services – do they know why?

People start business with a vision – the belief that their uniqueness will serve customers — and themselves.

The magic is in connecting that vision to what people carry around in their heads.

And the first step is finding out what people REALLY say about you, what their worries are, their gripes, their understanding or misunderstanding of what makes you special.

MindshareMining is a service that helps you discover that buzz.

things come, things go

The disruption of change, the poignancy of thoughts of what were, and what may never be.

A quote from the first line of a book review seems appropriate here:

Sicily is the key to Italy, as Goethe once wrote, and one novel is the key to Sicily: “The Leopard,” Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s masterpiece. This tale of the decline and fall of the house of Salina, a family of Sicilian aristocrats, first appeared in 1958, but it reads more like the last 19th-century novel, a perfect evocation of a lost world.

Something I believed in, something I wanted to believe in, is undergoing a kind of change that will benefit so many people, and that will, as the saying goes, ‘make a more inclusive tent.’ And yes, to put a metric on it, it will make more money for a lot of people. Careers will bloom, reputations will be made.

And yet, I think of the book’s protagonist, looking out over the totally silent and searingly hot vineyards of his old Sicilian town, worrying if his way of life can ever be the same again. My own view is different here – it’s of container ships moving into ports, of San Francisco Bay and the sounds below my window are those of a working marina.

Lampedusa’s “The Leopard” is as fitting a commentary on the inevitability — and heart wrenching pain — of change. Should you ever wonder about whether the sights and sounds you have come to love will change, and how you will adopt and adapt, I can think of no better recommendation than to wander through this novel.

Ah– the review the quote above came from:


trickle-down job creations *still* not a boom for small business

Earlier this morning, President Obama outlined a series of steps that would help companies make the decision that it’s time to bring more employees on board. The process, even if it works according to economists plans, will take a long time. Meanwhile, not only do small businesses hold back (correctly so) on hiring people, but they also suffer from an economy where the combination of widespread unemployment and the fear so many of us have about the security of jobs.

Without jobs, people don’t spend. Without spending, businesses don’t hire. Without hiring, people remain unemployed.

Yes, huge bailouts to the financial system probably helped this country avoid a catastrophic depression. And yes, in time, free-er money will find its ways to small businesses as capital for growth. In the meantime, remind a small art frame shop owner who saw his revenue decline 20% last year, and anticipates another 20% this year – *remind* them that patience pays off.  Better still, remind an unemployed husband and wife balancing the decision whether to keep paying a mortgage or buy health insurance that patience is a virtue.

Plan B is the direct intervention of government to create jobs. Direct intervention.  Almost every city in this country has parks, or government buildings, or bridges, built by WPA employees in the Great Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps employed my own father in rural Ohio 80 years ago. (just to counter the argument that ‘make work’ jobs create so many layabouts who grow used to government handouts: this same man went on to be a decorated bomber pilot in WWII and from then, used GI loans to become a physician and later, a psychatrist)

A few days back, Paul Krugman wrote a piece for the NYTimes about this politically impossible option.

I include his short column in it’s entirety.


A question I’m occasionally asked at public events is, why aren’t we creating jobs with a WPA-type program? It’s a very good question.

As it is, job-creation efforts are generally indirect. Tax cuts and transfers in the hope that people will spend them; aid to state governments in the hope of averting layoffs. Even infrastructure spending is routed through private contractors.

You can make a pretty good case that just employing a lot of people directly would be a lot more cost-effective; the WPA and CCC cost surprisingly little given the number of people put to work. Think of it as the stimulus equivalent of getting the middlemen out of the student loan program.

So why aren’t we doing this? Politics, of course: government is the problem, not the solution, even when it is, you know, the solution, and cheaper than running things through the private sector.

Still, it might be worth discussing whether we shouldn’t try to include an, um, public option in stimulus, too.

so WHERE (or, at least when) to have meetings?

Sitting around the conference table just now with the principle of BlueKey – Julie Gordon White – we started talking about venues for meetings.

Before you find the back arrow on your browser, terrified by the idea of something deadly boring … here’re some of the thoughts we kicked around

Business lunches are challenging. People are at work, they have things on their desks – and on their minds – ‘n’ number of people are trying to get their attention by voice and texting and Blackberries are buzzing everywhere. In between trying to eat, there’s the nagging worry of ‘how long is this going to take?’

Meals at *either* end of the work day seem to be better.

-Breakfasts are inexpensive and the menu choices simple. While the whole load of workaday problems are waiting on peoples’ desks, they’re not yet engaged with them.

-Good things to say about dinner as well. People may be tired from the daily grind but they’re usually more receptive to more casual exchanges. (hint: avoid friday dinners – it’s too much like “thank GOD that week is over, oh… yoohoo… another double malt whisky over here fellah! “)  A friend of mine works at a nationally famous foundation and she claims that her monthly “dinner salons” have been the key to a LOT of great organizational planning. The short of it: she hires a caterer for simple snack food – and puts out the word “remember, this thursday is Cheryl’s dinner salon – come, eat, have a glass of wine, and schmooze with people in the Foundation you probably should know but have never had the chance!”  No presentations, no PowerPoint!”

(hmm… let me find out more about how she markets these evenings)

The POINT? It’s as old as civilization – breaking bread and talking over food and drink is something that reminds us that business is first and foremost, a matter of people interacting. Getting down to ‘bid’ness’ will happen, but having a ‘measure of the person’ your making deals with is invaluable. Sadly, it’s also something we often rush by…

got a business story to tell.. think “Thumb Novels”

In a twitter ‘tweet’ I just posted:  keitai-shosetsu – ‘thumb novels- fiction series in phone-sceen bits, 50% of Japanese top-10 fiction bestsellers originate on cellphones.

So you ask, “How in God’s name is this relevant to anything about my business?”

There’re arguments floating around that as we read more things like quick blog entries, bullet-pointed summaries, and (obviously) tiny twitter tweets, we become less comfortable wading through long(ish) texts. SO how do you, as a business owner, get longer messages across to your customers?  While there are lots of possibilities, here’s something you can consider.

Just as Charles Dickens’ wrote novels intended to be serialized in penny newspapers, so too are an increasing number of Japanese authors writing stories that are capable of being broken into small bits. In this case, however, the bits are displayed on mobile phone screens. Stories written for, truly, the Small small screen are typically less than 500 words – and even this short amount of text is broken into 6 or 7 chunks. When you finish one, you send a text message to a text address that sends you the *next* chapter.

Two things are important here. The first is that authors get their stories out to a potentially huge marketplace easily. The second is that  because of the nature of the medium, readers have the ability to send comments to a central site — and so the stories become interactive.

So – maybe there’s a clever way to wrap up your information in short, punchy, narrative spurts. Tell people they can get you stories at such-and-such a text address. And the novelty can drive the audience.

Background on this new form of story-telling: