Future of work: balancing cohesion and diversity

Future of Work

I was just poking around the Internet on Sunday AM and found a few articles on holacracy, which is a concept that intrigues me. (If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s essentially a looser, more informal management structure where traditional hierarchy is replaced by a series of interlocking circles. It’s in use at companies like Zappos and Medium, and it has a bunch of pros and cons.)

Specifically, I found this Harvard Business Review article by Greg Satell of Digital Tonto. It mostly talks about getting the benefits of holacracy without fully adopting the system, and it makes a lot of interesting points. Here are but a few.

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How can you create business urgency with limited resources?

Create Urgency in Business

If a business has been around for 5-10 years and it’s generally making money, there’s usually an established series of “cash cows” within the org — i.e. the things that actually make it the money. (Insert something about 80/20 rule here.) This is both a good and bad moment for a company; it’s good because hey, you’re making money. It’s bad because once you have cash cows, the idea of innovation or creating new projects/pipelines/etc. becomes limited. People want to focus on what’s working, and resources are limited.

For example, I worked at ESPN for years. ESPN is a big place and has a ton of money; it’s part of an even bigger place (Disney) that also has a ton of money. It’s not necessarily hard to get a new project going there, but … most people know the true money is coming from the cable subscription fees, so there’s a prioritization of resources towards all that, sure. This happens, at some large/small level, probably everyplace you’ve ever worked.

But how do you create urgency around a new idea in this situation? Well, thankfully there are a few approaches out there.

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Your Facebook profile seems managed, right? Nope. It’s your true self.

Facebook Profiles

1 billion people used Facebook this past Monday, which is essentially 12 percent or so of the Earth. That’s some reach.

Personally never been of the belief that “social media” is an actual relationship,  and I think that’s kind of a tipping point for the next couple of generations coming through this crazy dance we refer to as “life.” It seems, on surface, that most people have a personal brand they throw up on social — but their actual life might be a lot different. Social media sometimes seems like you’re curating who you are, right?

Apparently not. Check out this research from Stanford University:

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Opinion-seeking is a major reason videos/stories go viral

Let me start here: I don’t actually think something “going viral” is that great. If you work in social media or marketing, your focus should really be on retention. Most organizations can have one or two videos, or one or two blog posts, that really pop and get out in front of lots of people — heck, I’ve done that myself and I ain’t nothing — but that doesn’t mean the 5 million people who watched one of your videos are all coming back daily, or are all paying customers, or really anything. Going viral doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I have a good friend who used to work for MOMA in NYC and her boss would always say “We need this to go viral!” Then she’d be getting drinks with us and she’d be like “Why are we pursuing something that means we’re all going to get sick?” (It’s the same way that “lots of traffic” is a good thing in Internet marketing. What the f*ck? Lots of traffic should never conceptually be a good thing.)

That said, something “going viral” intrigues a lot of people in marketing and social media, so … why does that happen? There are approximately 92 billion theories and articles about this on the Internet. Hopefully you realize that ultimately it’s all about psychology. Marketing is really just a complex dance with your memories, although we complicate that by screaming about margins, ad buys, impressions, CTR, CTA, automation, product suites, and a whole host of other bullshit. Really it’s just storytelling, memories, and resonating with people. Not complicated.

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On Will Smith and the treadmill success theory

Will Smith and Treadmill Success

I came across an article on Wharton’s website about whether hiring should be based on gut or data, which is an insanely interesting topic because … well … most organizations spend about half their money going out on salaries and hiring, and yet, the process for actually finding the best people and putting them in the right roles is really, really flawed. This is largely because everyone buzzwords the idea of “talent strategy” — they talk about it, but they could care less —  and, as the headline of the Wharton article indicates, we’re still deeply in the throes of this “gut feel” vs. “use data” debate at most organizations.

OK, so long story short … the idea of this Wharton post was interesting to me, and I started reading it. There was a “People Analytics” conference at Wharton, and some guys from JetBlue were there, and they were talking about how to hire flight attendants, and … it’s all pretty interesting, then I got to a section randomly about Will Smith. Wait, what? But it, too, was intriguing.

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Execution. Expertise. Is empathy the new management trend?

Is Empathy The Next Managerial Style?

Start here, on the supposed themes around management since the Industrial Revolution:

“If organizations existed in the execution era to create scale and in the expertise era to provide advanced services, today many are looking to organizations to create complete and meaningful experience. We would believe that leadership has entered a new era of empathy,” said McGrath.

In the above quote, McGrath refers to Rita McGrath, who wrote this article on the same topic.

I’ve written about these topics 100s of times all over this blog, so feel free to poke around if you want. (I’ll throw some links at you later in this post.)

There are two ways to look at this and break it down:

  • How organizations relate back to their people (employees)
  • How organizations relate back to their customers

Empathy is important in both cases. Let’s dive a little deeper, eh?

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It’s actually fairly easy to explain Donald Trump’s rise

I guess we should start here: he’s not going to win the GOP nomination. He might run top-3 for a portion of the primaries, but he won’t win. I don’t even think he thinks he’ll win; I doubt any staff he has thinks he’ll win (if I had to guess). It’s more about what it means; it pretty much seemingly always has been.

The flip side problem here (brief tangent) is that the general election will probably be a Bush vs. a Clinton (of course, that could change 10,221 different ways), and “Bush” vs. “Clinton” doesn’t necessarily say anything good about where America is headed either.

But if you want to explain what’s happening with Donald Trump right now in an effortless fashion at a cocktail party, I can help you out. Continue reading →

Success actually isn’t a good teacher

Success Isn't A Good Teacher

If you were to line up a bunch of people in any industry, or job, or even family … and then you were to ask them, “Who do you learn from?” … I think most of the answers you’d get would be around either personal mentors of theirs (which is a bit awkward, because mentorship may be on the decline), family members (mom/dad/grandparents), and/or the holy trifecta of business people that always get quoted (which is some combination of Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Jeff Bezos, Peter Drucker, Bill Gates, and others).

Interesting on Bill Gates, though: he once even said “success is a lousy teacher.” For context, he has more money than you do. If you value money as a source of success — you shouldn’t really, but you probably do — then he’s more successful than you. Heck, he’s more successful than anyone on the planet if money is your goalpost. So maybe we should listen to him.

Most people, heads down on their daily tasks, don’t understand this idea. If you want to be successful, shouldn’t you model success? Shouldn’t you do the whole iceberg thing — failure below the surface — and then be successful, and that’s the teacher? You’ve learned by doing, right?

No. That’s actually not how it should work.

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