June 13, 2010
A Shepherd's JourneyIshmael Khaldi who helped to make our Traveling Geeks first trip to Israel possible and acted as guide on-the-ground, has just released a new book -- his first -- A Shepherd's Journey. This "journey" is his unique story of transformation from his modest village roots to becoming Israel's first bedouin diplomat and voice of reason in the Middle East.
He was born into a traditional Bedouin family in a poor Bedouin village in northern Israel, where he took us to during our trip in 2008. Take a look at some of the visuals from that trip to get an idea of his roots and what shaped him as a child.
His stories include his early days as a sheepherder and schoolboy "fights," to his terrifying first forays into New York's subway system, and later, his remarkable friendships with Jews and Muslims, religious and secular.
Ishmael has served in the Israeli Defense Forces, Defense Ministry and the Israeli Police before being chosen to join the Foreign Ministry. You can order his new book on Amazon.
May 15, 2010
Sustaining Happiness: Part IV (Be part of something bigger than yourself)Part IV of Zappos' Tony Hsieh on sustaining happiness. Here are links to Part III, part I here and part II here.
Sustaining Happiness: Part III (Don't chase the paper, chase the dream)Below is Part III of the video I shot of Zappos' Tony Hsieh's talk on sustainable happiness in San Francisco earlier this week. Part I of the video here and Part II can be found here.
May 14, 2010
Sustaining Happiness: Part II (Align your company with your values)Below is part II of Zappos' Tony Hsieh's talk on Sustainable Happiness from the VatorSplash event in San Francisco Thursday night. Part I can be found here.
Tony Hsieh on Sustainable Happiness: Part IZappos' Tony Hsieh spoke at the VatorSplash event in San Francisco last night, recapping some of Zappos' history, lessons learned, as well as some of the highlights from his new book: Delivering Happiness. I got an early copy at SXSW so will post a book review on it soon.
He asks us: how do you create stories and memorable experiences for your customers? Remember that Zappos' corporate culture is centered around customer service and their employees walk, talk and breathe outstanding customer service - a 365 day return policy and a commitment to the phone regardless of how long it takes when the majority of their sales are from the web, are just two examples.
"The telephone is one of the most powerful branding tools," says Tony. And for most of us who used to sell, pitch and engage on the phone, we don't anymore. We now use social media tools, such as Twitter, IM, email and Facebook to get in touch with people we already know or need to know. If you can get someone on the phone however, you have their undivided attention. Most call centers have scripts but Zappos doesn't believe in scripts, since it's more important for them to let their employees' personalities shine. Ask yourself - what do customers expect from you AND what do they actually experience?
"If you get the culture right," adds Tony, "branding and customer service will naturally happen on its own. Customer service shouldn't be about a department, it should translate to the whole company."
People often say he's lucky but he's quick to remind that they had uphill battles along the way and Zappos' success didn't happen overnight. Ten years later, they may be a household name, but it didn't start that way. As for luck, Tony says its about 'looking for opportunities beyond what you naturally see.'
They also have a commitment to transparency, a core trait of a great company versus a 'good one.' He refers to Jim Collins' book Good to Great, where he pulls out some of the qualities that create greatness. He encourages entrepreneurs to figure out what your core values are, commit to them, and get aligned with them. And, don't just stop there - make sure you hire people who fit with those core values, whether it's great customer service, simple product design or experiencing 'fun.'
"Don't chase the paper," he echoes. "Chase the vision, chase your dream....and money will naturally follow. There's a big difference between motivation and inspiration. Make sure you have a higher purpose." He says that his only regret if he had to do it all over again was not having a core set of values in place for the company earlier. If you have passion, you're following your vision and your dream AND your company has alignment with those core values, all of it WILL extend to your employees, your partners and your customers.
Types of Happiness:
a - Rock Star happiness (chasing the high). This is obviously the shortest lived.
b - Flow (engagement - time flies - being in the zone). This is the second longest lasting form of happiness.
c - Meaning & Higher Purpose (being part of something bigger than yourself). This obviously is the most sustainable form of happiness.
Below is Part I of the video I shot of Tony's talk from last night's event.
April 29, 2010
David Shenk on Gene Expression & SuccessAuthor David Shenk talked to us at the TEDxSF event this past week on Gene Expression.
In scientific terms, gene expression is defined as "the process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product." Shenk talks about what 'gene expression' means in the context of our lives and why earlier understandings and belief systems around gene expression must change and has changed.
He references Bell Curve thinking which suggested that genes were simply something we were born with and whether we were successful or not, depended on our 'gene pool.' (see Bell Curve debate).
Success of course, is not just about genetics and those of us who have overcome genetic obstacles know that success IS in fact, the result of so many other things, including the lifestyle we choose, our environment, and the process we tap into. The current thinking is that a trait 'emerges from the interaction between the gene and the environment,' a quote he attributed to professor and researcher Michael Meaney.
Watch Part II of his exploration of genes and success.
April 20, 2010
Relationships & Dating: How Offline Principals Apply to Blogging & Twitter
Relationship columnist Andrea Syrtash and author of He's Just Not Your Type, is on the 140 Character Conference stage sharing her principals of effective relationships - what works and what doesn't for dating offline. She takes these principals to the online world and demonstrates how the very same principals apply to social media - blogging, Twitter and in every other online communication.
Lesson number 1: let others impress you rather than you focusing on "me me me." In other words, listen to the inbound dialogue, engage and respond rather than having it all be about your own pitch.
Number 2: you can't have intimacy without vulnerability. You need to be present and let go - you need to show a little vulnerability and not try to be so polished and perfect. People can't connect with you when you're being perfect. The same goes for relationships online. It's okay to ask for help on Twitter, but be real in your ask.
Principal number 3: Remember that people want to be challenged, not changed. No one wants to date a doormat; most of us want to be stimulated and challenged. It's important to understand the difference between challenging someone and changing them. When you are having a conversation with someone, ask yourself - are you trying to change their opinion or change them or are you offering your opinion?
In the online world, the same is true. People love provocative conversations on Twitter - a debate online is 'magic,' but the moment someone gets mean or angry, it's the end of the conversation. People stop listening and engaging at that point. Remember, you can challenge someone online without undermining their position.
Principal number 4: don't confuse immediate gratification with long term fulfillment. This is obviously a lesson in life too. She refers to Aristotle on this one. Don't be distracted by material things, power or money when you're engaging with people, on or offline. Ask yourself, am I being brought to my highest potential with the person I'm engaging with? This is where an effective relationship starts.
Am I a good version of myself when I'm with the person I'm engaging with, relating to, IN a relationship with? If you focus on superficial measures of success, it's only going to give you short term superficial gratification, not sustainable success or happiness.
Effective relationships start with you - stop complaining and start creating. In other words, BE the audience you want to create. How does the story start and end? You can't control how everyone reacts, but you can only create how you react. Andrea ends with this statement and passing advice: "To be effective in relationships, you have to be authentic - on and offline, and in life and in love."
April 16, 2010
Open Leadership a Must in the New Open WorldI had the opportunity to read an advanced reading copy of Charlene Li's new book: Open Leadership - How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, which is available to buy online starting May 24, 2010.
I started my career at large agencies working with big brands - Bausch & Lomb, Novell, Hilton, Vodacom and others, so I had to rewind the clock to remember how structured management can be, how long it can take to push decisions through the ladders and layers, and all the considerations you have to take into account if you're publicly traded or are in an industry with sensitive information, i.e., healthcare and insurance.
I have been advising start-ups for years, and many of them are building social media tools. Those who are not, are using them as an integral part of their daily lives, including the CEOs. Not the case with many of the big corporate giants although there are exceptions, and many of them are outlined in the chapters of Charlene's book.
We learn about the four major types of decision-making methods in organizations today: centralized, democratic, consensus and distributed - and which method is useful for various types of corporate culture: what works, what doesn't and why.
Open leadership can most certainly lead to new innovations and like most things in life, learning, developing and growing doesn't happen in a vacuum -- it's a two way street. The core principles of open leadership are a healthy reminder of that.
There's even an open management 'audit' so you can discover how open your leadership style is today. The results pinpoint holes where you might be 'closed' or 'cautious,' and a follow on section provides tips and guidelines on what you can do to become more open, whether it's for yourself or managing a leader above you.
Charlene brings us in and out of the corporate landscape, citing example after example of positive outcomes from using social media, outcomes that improve branding, customer relations, partnerships, and yes, profits.
She points to familiar ones many of us know, like Frank from @ComcastCares, who promptly responded to a negative tweet I posted about Comcast during the Comcast CEO talk at Web 2.0 Summit last fall. And, SolarWinds, a network management software provider who built a 25,000 member user community of network administrators who help each other with their problems. They continuously invest in the health and well-being of their community by listening and actively engaging.
Remember that collaboration platforms provide structure for conversations. Traditional enterprise applications are even becoming more conversational, such as Salesforce.com's Chatter platform, which integrates real-time updates and conversations directly into the interface.
People will increasingly start to have conversations around work processes that already exist. And, the more you can give employees the ability to hear and learn directly from their customers, the more you empower them to use that information to not just do their jobs better, but build loyal relationships and a more powerful brand.
Whether its improving customer support, community management, sales or marketing, in a world that is more transparent than it has ever been in our history, it's critical that we 'humanize' marketing and communications, "replacing the non-descript 'voice' of the company with a personal and meaningful relationship."
As she points out, "with today's empowered customers and employees, organizations need to 'earn' the right to have a conversation, and then, only at the right time. Without a relationship in place, the best marketing campaigns will fall on deaf ears, especially as people struggle to channel the real signal in the cacophony of today's media clutter."
And let's face it, that clutter is only growing and the tools to help us sift through the noise are not effective enough.....yet.
On top of it, measuring the impact and effectiveness of the success of campaigns amidst building those relationships while getting your message out in a noisy landscape is not easy. It takes time - working with start-ups for as long as I have, time is not a luxury many of them have. If they don't get traction within a few months before getting funded, they may be forced to close shop.
I loved the chapter on measuring the benefits of being open. American Express CMO John Hayes is quoted as saying, "we tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot." Hear hear. For example, what is the ROI of a handshake? Hayes says, "while we strive to become more measurable and accountable, there is a limit to what is feasibly (and economically) measurable. Inevitably, we based many of our decisions on just the thinnest sliver of information and evidence, or even more likely, our gut feeling."
We also explore the value of 'inviting customers into a covenant.' She writes, "as uncomfortable as they are, the presence of negative comments can give the conversation a ring of authenticity." With product roll-outs I've done over the years, some early negative feedback has been filtered back into the product roadmap and incorporated. Even when you don't give customers everything they want, as long as you listen, and make them feel 'heard' and that their input matters, you're half way there. You are in fact building a relationship and trust will only grow over time, as long as you continue to listen and engage.
If a brand doesn't have user-generated content about it somewhere on the web, then people aren't learning about it organically.
As customer feedback gets circled into more and more threads, forums, blogs and Twitter conversations, bigger brands are learning that they need to monitor them and respond. While better moderating and workflow tools are becoming available, it's still a cumbersome process, even for smaller companies that opt for freebies such as Twitter clients Hootsuite, Co-Tweet and others.
Chapter after chapter, we hear from leaders who have made social media work for them. The new world is an open, transparent one and it demands that leaders be more open inside and outside their organizations. Blogging, tweeting, sending Facebook and LinkedIn updates and firing off videos and photos from your iPhone in a few quick button clicks are no longer a fad - they have become an integrated part of doing business.
Leaders at all levels, CEO down to manager level, are cited, and the examples are diverse ranging from the U.S. Department of State, Ford, Kodak, United Airlines and Cisco, to Yum!, Best Buy, the State Bank of India and Proctor & Gamble.
There are many lessons to be learned in this free flowing, conversational and insightful book that anyone running an organization should read. Remember that "transparency, authenticity, and the sense that are you being real are the by-products of your decisions to be open" -- on and offline.
April 06, 2010
Carnegie's NEW Secrets of Success iPhone App & Book GiveawayHow to Win Friends & Influence People is out on the iPhone and in celebration, they are giving out 200 free hardback copies of their book through a contest.
Twenty blogs, including Down the Avenue, are participating in the contest and each participating blog is giving away 10 FREE copies of Carnegie's classic, which has already exceeded 15 million in sales.
In order to win, all you need to do is the following:
1. FIRST: Follow @magicsaucemedia on Twitter if you're not already.
2. SECOND: Tweet a business or a branding tip followed by @magicsaucemedia and #msm. Including both is important otherwise we won't be able to track your tweet.
We'll pick our ten favorite tweets, and not only will you receive a free book, but we'll retweet your tip as well.
More about their new iPhone app: Carnegie's Secrets of Success, which was just released. Their mobile app brings to life Carnegie's Human Relations Principles and includes over 30 videos, which illustrate the most effective ways to employ those principles.
It also includes useful public speaking tips, tactics for mastering workplace culture, presentation effectiveness, team member engagement, leadership development, sales effectiveness, customer service and more.
April 05, 2010
TEDX Berkeley: Inspiration, Music & Form Under the Wheeler RoofTEDX held their first Berkeley event, with curators Jessica Mah and Kai Chang behind its organization together with dozens of other co-organizers and volunteers. Held in Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium, I ran into TEDsters I've known for years, but the event also drew a number of students who heard loud and clear: Anything is Possible. Find Your Purpose. Follow your Dream.
Psychologist Dacher Keltner who focuses on the biological and evolutionary origins of human emotion, talked to us about the idea of compassion and sympathy breakthroughs. He used the example of Miklos Nyiszli, where 75% of soldiers refused to shoot the enemy.
To give us some background on others who have given this topic some thought, he also brought up Alfred Russel Wallace who believed that something as 'raw' as cmpassion and sympathy couldn't be formed by evolution.
Let's face it. Compassion is highly contageous. Human goodness has to be viral. We've all seen example after example where gratitude has spread through networks. Keltner shows us an unfortunate and yet not surprising chart on sympathy and compassion across about a dozen countries, which ranked U.S. children close to the bottom, only to be surpassed by the Brits. (the chart was referred to as A Compassion Deficit, sadly appropriate I thought).
Another favorite on the TEDXB stage was an overview of the latest research and unveilings of David Ewing Duncan, who wrote a book I'm eager to read called "Experimental Man: What One Man's Body Reveals about His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World. From mercury and obesity to lifestyle and chemicals in our environment, we explore what we can do from what we learn through very early testing and what is simply beyond our control. He gives us examples of what cutting-edge medical technology can and cannot tell us about our future health and what the implications are, including Orwellian possibilities. He talks about four of them: 1. Big Brother - we have to be careful about what we learn and where our medical records end up. 2. The Obama Effect - things are changing but we still have a long way to go. 3. Discrimination 4. Genetic thrallism (Gattaca) David also shows us some frightening results of mercury from fish and discusses anxiety and fear factors - how and where they come into play. Physician Daniel Kraft gives us a future glimpse of medicine, with so many examples that it was overwhelming - so many implications. Fascinating and yet scary innovations that are within our grasp today and more coming within the next decade, shared a common theme: it's all going digital. There's an increasing integration of IT, devices and the web. We look at new 'creations' of wearable devices, which are continuously shrinking in size. Seniors can now wear attachable and embedded devices which means that loved ones can monitor their health and changes from miles away. Wearable devices are turning up trends we've never been able to discover before. Robotic surgery will enable surgeons to be 'super-enabled,' by adding layers of augmented reality and augmented decision support in real-time. With brain-computer interfaces (BCI), you can use thought to control things you couldn't in the past. Minute robots will be able to move through your colon and perform surgery. Chips can turn into microscopes. Microbots will clean out our arteries after gobbling down a heavy-cheese layered pizza.
Other speakers included Neuroscientist Bradley Voytek, inspired by the personality shift and decline of his grandfather's brain from Parkinsons, TED prize winner Jill Tarter from SETI who reminded us that we are all made of stardust and come from the same source, and Diane Benscoter who talked about how her brain was affected by her time spent with the Moonies. Eric Cheng encouraged us to save our oceans, Amit Deutsch shared his experience about a trip taken with Palestians in an effort to move closer to understanding and further away from hatred and Gerver Tulley, who I heard speak at TED several years ago, showed examples of students who learn in an exciting, dynamic way at the Tinkering School.
Amit Deutsch Bradley Voytek Drue Kataoka Eric Cheng Eric Gradman UC Men's Octet Gerver Tully SETI's Jill Tarter Curator Jessica Mah UC Men's Octet TED Berkeley's recap here.
From mercury and obesity to lifestyle and chemicals in our environment, we explore what we can do from what we learn through very early testing and what is simply beyond our control.
He gives us examples of what cutting-edge medical technology can and cannot tell us about our future health and what the implications are, including Orwellian possibilities. He talks about four of them:
1. Big Brother - we have to be careful about what we learn and where our medical records end up.
2. The Obama Effect - things are changing but we still have a long way to go.
4. Genetic thrallism (Gattaca)
David also shows us some frightening results of mercury from fish and discusses anxiety and fear factors - how and where they come into play.
Physician Daniel Kraft gives us a future glimpse of medicine, with so many examples that it was overwhelming - so many implications. Fascinating and yet scary innovations that are within our grasp today and more coming within the next decade, shared a common theme: it's all going digital. There's an increasing integration of IT, devices and the web.
We look at new 'creations' of wearable devices, which are continuously shrinking in size. Seniors can now wear attachable and embedded devices which means that loved ones can monitor their health and changes from miles away. Wearable devices are turning up trends we've never been able to discover before.
Robotic surgery will enable surgeons to be 'super-enabled,' by adding layers of augmented reality and augmented decision support in real-time. With brain-computer interfaces (BCI), you can use thought to control things you couldn't in the past. Minute robots will be able to move through your colon and perform surgery. Chips can turn into microscopes. Microbots will clean out our arteries after gobbling down a heavy-cheese layered pizza.
Other speakers included Neuroscientist Bradley Voytek, inspired by the personality shift and decline of his grandfather's brain from Parkinsons, TED prize winner Jill Tarter from SETI who reminded us that we are all made of stardust and come from the same source, and Diane Benscoter who talked about how her brain was affected by her time spent with the Moonies.
Eric Cheng encouraged us to save our oceans, Amit Deutsch shared his experience about a trip taken with Palestians in an effort to move closer to understanding and further away from hatred and Gerver Tulley, who I heard speak at TED several years ago, showed examples of students who learn in an exciting, dynamic way at the Tinkering School.
UC Men's Octet
SETI's Jill Tarter
Curator Jessica Mah
UC Men's Octet
TED Berkeley's recap here.