Individuality and chaos in the workspace

4 10 2006

Is your workspace unique? Should it be?

Does your company project the image of sameness, order and uniformity by having cubicles and work-spaces coordinated and equal to one another? Why? Because it looks good, gives the impression of order, control and discipline?

Is this sameness and order a good thing for sparking employee creativity, innovation, happiness and positive results ?

Alexander Kjerulf offers up ideas about workspace, sameness and creativity and roadwitching at The Chief Happiness Officer.

If we want to have a creative, enthusiastic workforce why do we want them to work in ordinary, uninspired surroundings?

Does it just look better when the office layout is coordinated and everything has a mathematical formality about it? Is it a fashion statement or is it about control, and the desire to reduce chaos and “environmental noise”?

Is there a study that shows that working in neutral sameness and coordinated surroundings makes us more productive or efficient?

The industrial world used assembly lines and standardization to increase time efficiency and mass production. Are we applying the assembly line system to today’s information workers without questioning the efficiency and effect on innovation and happiness?

Alex writes “…..so many workplaces have lost their human touch to a desire for sameness, efficiency and professionalism. It’s a shame, because it makes people less efficient.”

The same goes for meetings. Why are they always in the same conference or meeting room? You know the drill, everyone files, in, sits in the chair they always sit in, and the meeting drones on. How much innovation, creativity and enthusiasm will people bring to the meeting if you change the location?

Distracting, perhaps. Maybe, just maybe, people will focus on the task at hand and not the structure, hierarchy and safety of a routine. Perhaps being outside what is “comfortable” is what is needed to provoke new ideas or new ways of analyzing the same situation.

Move a meeting to the cafeteria, to the sales floor, under a tree, to the park, to the library, to another unfamiliar location and see what happens.

Ted Dewan (Link): “One thing that might be fun is renegade meeting rooms. I once heard of a group that set a meeting table up in a parking spot (they were meeting to plan Roadwitch-like activities) and they found the experience envigorating and it helped their thinking as a result. It might be a bit distracting, but depending on the sort of meeting, it’s worth a try I suppose. I’d test it first before offering it as paid-for advice, of course.”

You choose:

Choice # 1 – Chaos – Energy – Random Opportunities – Innovation

Choice # 2 – Order and Control – Suppression of Energy – Routine – Lack of Innovation

Related Links

5 ways to stimulate creative thinking and idea generation

Weird ideas that work

Successful managers should be breaking the rules

With nothing, anything is possible





Successful managers should be breaking the rules

14 09 2006

Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something. Thomas A. Edison

I’ve found the most successful and exciting environments to work, study or play in are those with “no rules”. Environments that are open and flexible and not strictly controlled with things you can’t do. It’s exciting to be in these situations, inspiring, sometimes a bit scary, but always memorable.

Rosa Say has a brilliant read for all managers about how the use (or abuse) of rules often limits our creativity and enthusiasm. What are the Rules? Hopefully, none.

  • “No rules” requires clear objectives and goals.
  • “No rules” requires planning.
  • “No rules” requires discipline and commitment.
  • “No rules” demands responsibility for actions and outcomes.
  • “No rules” is about inventing process. Creating and forming the process required, or desired, in order to get the job done and reach the objective.
  • “No rules” is about allowing creativity and innovation into every decision that brings us closer to our objectives.
  • “No rules” is about questioning the status quo in order to explore new and different solutions and methods.
  • “No rules” is about accepting and integrating new ideas.
  • “No rules” is about tolerance and examination of new concepts.
  • “No rules” is about getting excited and energized by every life or work experience.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. George S. Patton

It is good to obey all the rules when you’re young, so you’ll have the strength to break them when you’re old. Mark Twain

Related Links

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?





20 challenges faced by a family owned business

17 08 2006

Every business organization has a unique set of challenges and problems. The family business is no different. Many of these problems exist in corporate business environments, but can be exaggerated in a family business.

Family business go through various stages of growth and development over time. Many of these challenges will be found once the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

A famous saying about family owned business in Mexico is “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor” (Padre noble, hijo rico, nieto pobre). The founder works and builds a business, the son takes it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and and empty bank account.

Prepare now and help your grandson avoid the poorhouse.

20 challenges for the family business

  1. Emotions. Family problems will affect the business. Divorce, separations, health or financial problems also create difficult political situations for the family members.
  2. Informality. Absence of clear policies and business norms for family members
  3. Tunnel vision. Lack of outside opinions and diversity on how to operate the business.
  4. Lack of written strategy. No documented plan or long term planning.
  5. Compensation problems for family members. Dividends, salaries, benefits and compensation for non-participating family members are not clearly defined and justified.
  6. Role confusion. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
  7. Lack of talent. Hiring family members who are not qualified or lack the skills and abilities for the organization. Inability to fire them when it is clear they are not working out.
  8. High turnover of non-family members. When employees feel that the family “mafia” will always advance over outsiders and when employees realize that management is incompetent.
  9. Succession Planning. Most family organizations do not have a plan for handing the power to the next generation, leading to great political conflicts and divisions.
  10. Retirement and estate planning. Long term planning to cover the necessities and realities of older members when they leave the company.
  11. Training. There should be a specific training program when you integrate family members into the company. This should provide specific information that related to the goals, expectations and obligations of the position.
  12. Paternalistic. Control is centralized and influenced by tradition instead of good management practices.
  13. Overly Conservative. Older family members try to preserve the status quo and resist change. Especially resistance to ideas and change proposed by the younger generation.
  14. Communication problems. Provoked by role confusion, emotions (envy, fear, anger), political divisions or other relationship problems.
  15. Systematic thinking. Decisions are made day-to-day in response to problems. No long-term planning or strategic planning.
  16. Exit strategy. No clear plan on how to sell, close or walk away from the business.
  17. Business valuation. No knowledge of the worth of the business, and the factors that make it valuable or decrease its value.
  18. Growth. Problems due to lack of capital and new investment or resistance to re-investment in the business.
  19. Vision. Each family member has a different vision of the business and different goals.
  20. Control of operations. Difficult to control other members of the family. Lack of participation in the day-to-day work and supervision required.




Reached our limits or just bored?

15 08 2006

Who or what is or will be the next NASA?

What organization today represents the maximum in scientific knowledge and cutting edge technology and goals?

Who is shooting for impossible goals, capturing our imagination, defining the limits of human achievement?

The companies are out there, we may even be working for them.  Why don’t we know about them?

Are the now too many of them, and our attention is distracted?

Or is it that we don’t care anymore?





Build your organization, don’t destroy it

14 08 2006

Pragmatic business people know that strategies must be reviewed before, during and after implementation. Difficult questions must be asked and answered throughout the organization. Results analyzed and reviewed in order to identify flaws and errors.

Many times this exercise can push us into seeking and identifying problems instead of solutions. Too much time spent on what can go wrong and not enough focus on what can be created. Gridlock sets in, no solution is good enough, there is always a flaw.

All to often we find ourselves criticizing the work of others and the efforts that did not succeed as expected. We spend time taking things apart to find out what went wrong, and seeking to identify who was responsible for the “failure”. Our days are spent destroying the ideas of others.

Why not focus an equal amount of time on the positive aspects?

What did or will work, and why?

Creation is much more difficult than destruction. Support the creation of ideas and solutions in your organization, make your first analysis focus on the successful or positive aspects.

Ask yourself, “what am I creating today”.





Sales and marketing terrorism

10 08 2006

The recent media coverage of political terrorism throughout the world has me reflecting on terrorism and extreme sales and marketing tactics in the business world.

Every industry has individuals or organizations that use drastic, pointless, unethical or dangerous economic tactics in order to increase income or market share in the short term. This use of drastic and irresponsible actions can be called sales and marketing terrorism.

The goal of sales and marketing terrorism is to create immediate change, instill panic and chaos, or further the goals of one group who cannot or are not willing to work with the current system of rules, regulations and norms.

Many times the reaction to these isolated incidents will severely impact the industry, market or specific businesses. Reactions can result in increased government legislation, more government or industry intervention, increased costs of doing business, loss of revenue and reduced customer confidence in the organization or industry.

Some examples of “sales and marketing terrorism”:

A competitor who initiates a campaign of extreme discounts or low prices (dumping) in order to eliminate a competitor or increase market share.

A marketing campaign that uses lies and innuendo to reduce the reputation of a competitor or industry segment.

Products of extremely poor quality (below expected consumer beliefs or expectations) substituted for products known for their quality.

Don’t confuse sales and marketing terrorism with innovative ideas and paradigm shifts in how to do business. The difference is that a sales and marketing terrorist has no plan other than disruption.

Sales and marketing terrorism is a short term strategy or single event that has no regard for long term collateral consequences. They believe their actions will be justified because of short term increases in profit or market share. Rarely do they succeed, but often create chaos and disorder in the marketplace that have an impact on the industry and consumers that can last for a long time.





What does it mean when you don’t like the boss

8 08 2006

One of the major reasons given by people who desire to open their own businesses is that they want to be free of working for a boss.  It’s a bit naive to think that by trading corporate life for entrepreneurship you will avoid working for a boss.  There is always someone monitoring your performance and work.

In the corporate world a boss is there to monitor your performance, organize and criticize your work, support and provide resources or strategy, and maintain work harmony between team members.  Conflicts with the boss can be broadly divided into two major groups; personal conflicts and professional conflicts.

Personal conflicts are those related to situations driven by differences in personality, jealousies, sexual harassment, race or religious differences, and insecurities of the participants.

Professional conflicts are those directly related to the work and final work output; lack of skills or ability, ethical issues, theft, absenteeism, addictions, failure to do quality work, failure to do the work on time.

If your reasons for leaving the corporate world are heavily weighted toward a history of personal conflicts with the boss, what does that mean?  Are you a problem?  Is your personality one that provokes or seeks conflicts?  If there is a pattern here?  Some strong introspection is required before you break out and open your own business.

If professional conflicts are foremost on your list, be careful.  These are signs that you and your work abilities may be at fault and not the boss.

If the history of problems with the boss can be summarized as strategic, control, or decision-making conflicts, then I think you may be correct in seeking to run your own show.

Entrepreneurs love to say they are free and work for themselves.  In a sense they are correct, they are 100% responsible for their success or failure, and this is exhilarating and does make one feel free.  But they are now “working” for the customer, the bank or lender, the employees, and their suppliers.

Sure these are different relationships from the traditional boss-employee structure we are familiar with, but still difficult to develop and maintain, as are all human and commerical relationships.  Failure to maintain them will result in a loss of income or increased costs, and ultimately business collapse.

It’s not easy to work without a “structure” and a boss for the new entrepreneur.  It’s not impossible, but does require a set of different individual skills, great motivation and organizational abilities.  If you are invigorated by strategy, decision-making, and taking responsibility, entrepreneurship may be a good decision.





The “Lightning and Thunder ” sales and marketing strategy

7 08 2006

Thunder and lightning are impressive natural phenomenon that have the power to frighten, exhilarate, and inspire awe. We’ve seen severe lightning and thunderstorms hundreds of times, and yet can be continually surprised or shocked by the power and ferocity of the thunder and lightning.

Lightning is swift, if you blink you might miss it. It is always an unusual and unique form that appears in the sky. It is dazzling, it can light up the entire sky for an instant. We cannot predict where it will strike or what type of damage it may cause. It’s wild and uncontrollable. Unforgettable because it is unique, elusive and enormous.

Thunder always follows the lightning. You can’t miss it, whether it’s a sudden roaring clap or a booming rolling bass note. Thunder is often impressive, and one relates the sound of thunder to the power of the lightning bolt that precedes it. In fact thunder is all about power. It’s the announcement that lightning has passed through, and the thunder’s volume and duration represent an event that has passed away. People rarely forget a huge thunderclap.

Are you giving your customers thunder and lightning with your products, service, sales and marketing?

Do your customers see a brilliant “flash” from your organization, do they hear and feel the power of the thunder after the event?

Are you offering products or services that dazzle and amaze, that light up the customers sky for a moment?

Do they see the lightning and hear the thunder from your efforts?

If your organization is only creating cloudy skies or drizzle for your clients, it’s time to change and create something to make them sit up and take notice. Make some lightning and thunder.





The “entrepreneur vs. corporate world” debate continues

31 07 2006

The debate regarding working in a corporate environment versus becoming an entrepreneur is sure to get a large readership response these days.  Everyone wants to know “what’s better?” and why, and everyone has an opinion. 

The philosophical arguments are fun to listen to and evaluate, but at the end of the day, we all make choices about where and how we work, based on our individual circumstances, talents, skills, abilities, desires and fears.

Much of the pro-entrepreneur supporters promote the glory of doing what you like, when you like, and the freedom to make your own schedule.  Perfectly valid arguments.

The pro-corporate supporters point out that access to important resources, education, and information is hugely facilitated by corporate environments.  Again, perfectly valid arguments.

I’m a firm believer that each person decides upon a lifestyle, and makes all subsequent decisions in order to support their preferences.  Even the failure to choose a career and lifestyle is a decision and model now trumpeted as “Slacker”.  True happiness does not exist just because you are an entrepreneur or a corporate employee.  There are always tradeoffs in any situation and environment.

I moved from being an entrepreneur to a corporate environment and back several times in the course of my career.  During this time I also changed my country of residence from the USA to Mexico.  Every change was “better”, and more importantly allowed me to move closer to my lifestyle goal.   But none of changes gave me more time, or more money, or more stability.  Each change provide me with more of what I required at that time, but each had a price.

People don’t make changes unless they are unsatisfied with the current situation.  To make job and career changes in your life requires an adjustment and modification of many other actions.   It’s never all good, and it’s never all bad.

Next time you ponder leaving the corporate world to fly as an entrepreneur, give some serious thought to what you will be giving up as you reach for the new opportunity to change.  Determine what exactly is so attractive about changing jobs and job titles.

Are you just day dreaming and caught in a “grass is always greener” scenario?

Is the new lifestyle you wish create worth the sacrifice and risk?

Everyone is able to accept success, but are you willing to accept failure?

Could you achieve or move closer to your goals in your present situation?

Related Rants:

Ten Misconceptions About Having a Job (Why Entrepreneurship Isn’t All It is Cracked Up To Be)

Ten Reasons You Should Never Get a Job

 





Is hard work important, is it still valid?

28 07 2006

Working hard…paying your dues…are these concepts still important and valid in today’s information economy and jobs?

What characteristics do you think of when someone says “she’s a hard worker”?

Is being a “hard worker” a positive or negative trait, something you aspire to?

In the US, the Puritan work ethic still provides a model of how we should work to many people. The Puritans believed that hard work was morally important, physically demanding, difficult or exhausting, required sacrifice and discipline, long hours, and usually referred to physical labor (the dominant labor required at that time). If an activity was pleasant the Puritans were pretty much against it.

Perhaps a better definition of hard work, taking into account the new information economy, is better related to; preparation and research, creating and using your information networks, taking the initiative, follow-through and closure, discipline, focus, efficiency, finding and communicating the solution in a timely manner.

Perhaps hard work is no longer a valid term or concept to apply to information workers.

The time required to do our work has, and is changing. When our principal job was agriculture, long hours were required to plant and harvest. Long hours are no longer required in order to say that someone is working hard in an office, or are they?

As long are workers are hired for an 8 hour day and 40 hour week, employers want to see their employees at their posts, ….doing something. So for many companies working hard still means being in the office for many hours, and extra hours represents hard work.

Long hours in the office could be the result of; research and investigation (good for all), inability to finish your work during the prescribed time (inefficient or fearful employee or workload is too heavy, bad for all), enthusiasm and desire to do more than the norm (good for company and possibly for employee advancement).

“Paying your dues” and sacrifice are also part of our definition of hard work. Paying your dues is part of the initiation into an organization, industry or group. It’s a sacrifice (usually related to long hours) that is part of, or required for, that specific culture. A new employee in many companies might be expected to work extra hours and make personal sacrifices to show they are working hard and paying their dues, trying to become part of the corporate culture.

There is a trade-off for employees between their personal life and business life. In order to succeed and advance in business working in a corporate culture, you must be promoted. To get promoted you have to been seen as possessing profitable skills and be a hard worker and willing to make sacrifices for the good of the company. As our culture becomes more competitive, we are faced with more people willing to work more hours and make more sacrifices, reducing our time with family and friends.

This debate regarding work-life balance is gaining momentum in the US. Workers are evaluating what role work should play in their lives and how many hours they should dedicate to working, and where and who they should “give” their time to.

Our definition of work is changing and evolving, and with it our definition of hard work is also being modified.

At what point do our evaluation and compensation systems take into account new elements that reflect the new realities and definitions of work in the 21st century?





When leadership fails – an example – the Mexican shoe manufacturing industry

24 07 2006

It’s quite interesting to watch certain businesses and industries succeed and fail, and try to identify the factors that lead to these very different outcomes.

For example in Leon, Guanajuato, the shoe-making capital of Mexico, the industry is under severe pressure from imported product, and lower costs from China, Vietnam, Brazil, and other countries.

It’s quite clear to everyone in the industry that there are several solutions to the problem.

  1. Ask the government to create trade barriers and import tariffs. This will only support the inefficiencies in the national industry, postponing the inevitable.
  2. Invest in design and create a brand. Shoes are purchased for two reasons, fashion and protecting your feet. The fashion market has much higher profit margins, but requires constant investment in research and development and marketing.
  3. Invest in technology. If your product is focused on low prices in the market, you must have low costs, and lower costs than your competitors. This might be achieved with new technologies.
  4. Create alliances within the industry. If China production costs are cheaper, but it takes 60 days for the product to reach the US, doesn’t it make perfect sense to create an alliance where the initial production comes from Mexico (5 days to market), followed by the mass production from China?
  5. Purchase the shoes from the overseas competition and close your production facilities.
  6. Create new markets, export to new markets.

Those are the choices, and what do you think is happening?

The majority of companies are pointing out the danger and requesting government intervention, but not implementing any other strategies to avoid the “doomsday” scenario.

The few companies (industry leaders) that have invested in branding, design, technology and purchasing from competitors are thriving, earning money and making profits.

Why is avoiding the obvious or inevitable, such common behaviour in most organizations and groups?

I believe it has to do with the failure of the leaders to move out of the Thinking-Identifying stage and into the Planning and Implementation stages.

The cycle of business leadership and management consists of:

  • Thinking-Identifying. Thinking and identifying important internal and external factors and understanding how they interact.
  • Planning. Using the data and information to formulate a plan and strategy
  • Implementing the strategy. Putting the resources and motivation behind the plan and “making it work”.
  • Reaction-Modification. Reacting and modifying the plan as the conditions change.

Many leaders are uncomfortable or unable to identify the major factors that are and will affect their companies. They are unable to create strategies and delay important and critical decisions because they lack data, or have too much of it, or don’t know how to properly analyze it and find conclusions. Without a strategy there is obviously no implementation, and the organization begins to react to situations created by others (crisis management).

This inability to read the market, identify market forces, create strategies and adapt to changing conditions will eliminate those organizations from the market. Creating strategy is not easy, and creating successful strategies is even more difficult. It requires excellent leadership and management decisions.

What are the known problems in your organization and industry?

What strategies are waiting to be created and implemented in order to prepare your business for the future?

Why isn’t it happening now?





Serendipity as part of business development

19 07 2006

There is something missing from most business development project evaluations, serendipity.

Defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”.

Seth Godin has outlined why companies fear business development (Link). It’s hard to justify the expense and risk on new ventures and projects. The control aspect asserted by legal and financial people reflects one reality inside the company, but don’t forget the other side reflected by the sales, marketing and business development people.

If it’s a good to great idea, and the cost is low, and the chance of success is moderate to good, and the possibility of adding knowledge to the organization is part of the project, then go ahead and try.

Can your organization consider and discuss “serendipity” as a factor in your next business development meeting?

Related Links

Seth Godin: Careful consideration and analysis





Ideas from the “World’s Best Companies”

19 07 2006

I was reading the April 2006 issue of Business 2.0, entitled “Best Kept Secrets of the World’s Best Companies”. What struck me was that the companies profiled are jumbo, mega-corporations (immediately causing a frown and the question “why aren’t there any small or medium sized companies?”.

I doubt that these are the company’s best kept secrets, but the ideas are interesting if you remember they were designed for and implemented in large organizations (which we seem to associate with success).

The ideas presented were:

  1. Benchmarking – compare everything to the competition
  2. Lending library – have materials available that can provoke creativity
  3. Devil’s advocacy- promote debate
  4. Physically put the boss in the day to day operations
  5. Look for bad news and talk about it
  6. Use external consultants to promote ideas and research
  7. Creative equity arrangements for start-ups, new projects
  8. Everyone is the HR department
  9. Review and question strategy
  10. Peers chose their leaders
  11. Creative economic solution to avoid theft and loss
  12. Executive pay determined by results and collaboration
  13. Prediction markets
  14. Graffiti, promote communication outside “normal” channels
  15. Use greed to motivate, sell and inspire
  16. Maintain work related contact with retirees
  17. Crowdsourcing and open-source advertising
  18. Use employees to watch trends and monitor the market
  19. Hire someone to watch shareholder interests, not the CEO
  20. 3 minute daily morning meeting
  21. Get board members out regularly with customers and front-line workers
  22. Get executives out with customers and product/service users
  23. Pay your people if they save you money
  24. Take the “hard sell” out of your sales force
  25. Become a customer of your own company

First thought: Is it practical or necessary for small and medium sized companies to embrace and implement these ideas and strategies (In a large organization there are large problems, in a small organization there are small ones)?

Second thought: Given the multi-tasking of all employees and executives in small and medium sized organizations, is it realistic to expect results that echo the large corporations if these ideas are implemented on a smaller level? If you believe that a large organization will be populated by specialists and in small organizations generalists are predominant, are the ideas presented applicable to both environments (What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander)?

Third thought: How much of the success attributed to the ideas and strategies are because employees feel part of a large important project that has purpose (Everyone smiles during the parade)? How much of the positive response is because workers feel that leadership is aware and concerned about them and their problems (I am important, my contribution is important and they know it)?

How many of the 25 ideas are related to communication, strategy, customer feedback, cost savings, knowledge of the industry, knowledge of the customer, agility and flexibility….aren’t all these factors inherent in a small business? In fact, without competence in these areas the small business fails quickly.

Perhaps a great idea, number 26, for big corporations would be to take a look at the core competencies required by successful small business owners, and insure that these specialties and areas of expertise are well represented and disseminated throughout their large organization.

Related Links

Crowdsourcing, a potential resource for your business





Business Strategy, has it become a commodity?

18 07 2006

Here’s something I’ve written about earlier, but worth thinking about often.

Umair Haque has written Laws of the Post-Network Economy: Strategy is a Commodity in the BubbleGeneration blog.

His basic idea is that organizations are all creating and implementing strategy, it no longer provides clear differentiation from other companies as it did in the past. Strategy has become part of a “standard operating procedure”, it is a commodity process found in every business.

The playing field has been levelled.

Strategy is necessary, but no longer the important tool of change and value creation it was 20 years ago.

He suggests that the next value creation “tool” that organizations are and will be using is that of creativity.

“I think it is going to have to do with creativity. In a world where strategy is a commodity, creativity becomes the vital factor from which value flows. When everyone can think strategically about everything, the locus of value creation shifts from out-thinking everyone to out-creating them. The prime mover of value creation becomes putting the ability to create (goods, services, processes – even strategies) at the heart and soul of the firm.” (Link)

I’m a big believer that the best business ideas are those that no one else is currently using (Link). Once your business tools, human resources, sales and marketing and finance departments are all doing it like everyone else, it’s not going to be great, it’s not going to be exciting, it’s not going to create a profitable future.

What could happen to your organization and your industry if creativity is viewed and promoted as the most important business tool you have NOW, to create and prepare for the future?

On the other hand, what if Umair is wrong, and strategy is not a commodity?

What will occur if the future requires that we constantly “out-think” the competition?

Related Links

Strategy Redux – The Execution Economy

There are no new management and leadership ideas





There are no new management and leadership ideas

15 07 2006

Business, management and leadership ideas and trends are as changeable as the weather or women’s fashion.  In fact there are no new ideas, just old ideas in new packages.

Just as hem lines go up and down over time, and ties move from thin to thick, “new” ideas on how to do business re-appear with regularity.
The funny thing is that the “new” business ideas do work.  The ideas really work until everyone is copying them, and putting them to work in their own company…then it’s boring.  Once it becomes standard operating procedure, everyone is operating at the same level.

But lucky for us, there is always a crafty, creative, dissenting voice who says “hey, why not do this?”….and we do.  Old fundamental business ideas in shiny new boxes.

What do I mean by old fundamental business ideas?

  • Pay attention to your objectives, take the time and determine what you really want to achieve.
  • Pay attention to quality in your service, your products and your people
  • Support and seek constant innovation and creativity in your people, products and services
  • Keep your people motivated and demand results
  • Invest and reinvest in the best people, ideas, and technology in your industry
  • Listen to your customers
  • Educate your customers
  • Question how and why you are doing business, all the time
  • Be flexible
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  • Keep learning

I’m sure there are hundreds more, but the more I see the business fads come and go, the more sure I am that what really works is doing something different from the status quo.

Related Links:

The New Rules, Fortune takes a shot at Jack Welch

Tearing up the Jack Welch playbook

BizInformer 





First impressions, what can you do to change yours?

15 07 2006

First impressions do matter.

Seth Godin writes about his recent experience with a receptionist (Link), and has some observations on how this first contact could be made memorable, interesting and important.

I had two immediate thoughts after reading the piece. The first related to the Japanese custom of placing greeters at the front door of the department store….what message are they providing to customers by this action?
Second thought, what happens when everyone has a greeter, and the experience is no longer “special” but accepted as normal business procedure? You would notice if it was not there, and you would notice if it evolved and changed into something different.

Today everyone has a receptionist, it’s part of the normal business procedure, and as Seth points out, it is considered a necessary but usually low paying, low creativity position.

What could you do to change the receptionist and the first impression of your business into something special, different or unusual for the customer to remember?

Why aren’t you doing it?





Airlines – smokers only – what’s next

28 06 2006

Boing Boing has alerted us to what a first seems like a crazy idea….an airline for smokers. Smintair is announcing a smokers flight from Germany to Japan.

While this will ruffle the feathers of the anti-smokers worldwide, is there anything wrong with identifying a potential niche in the marketplace and offering a service to that specific group?

I think people are willing to pay more for air travel (especially international and long haul flights) if they can feel more comfortable.

I know my last international flights left me in physical (and mental) pain due to lack of seat and leg room, and seat companions. The situation is getting worse, and I’m not the only voice that says so.

Airlines could implement and offer any of the following ideas (and charge for it) to make international and long haul travel more pleasant.

1. A separate kids and family section (to the great relief of millions of business travellers). Before you start your complaining….I’ve got children and travelled a lot with them….trust me when I say this is a great idea.

2. A section on the plane dedicated to large (overweight) and tall travellers. It’s horrifying to the overweight or tall traveller and to seat companions when they have to squeeze into a tourist class seat for 8 to 12 hours.

3. An entire plane filled with only business and first class seats to top business destinations

When you see it happen, remember you saw it here first.

Related Links.
BBC News
Boing Boing
Smintair
Upgrade: Travel Better





Create a debate – find out who really wants the project to work

26 06 2006

I’ve always been the “Devil’s Advocate”, and a contrary voice throughout my career/life. Not because I’m a negative person, but to question and create a discussion about a project or idea. Too often ideas are not questioned due to “group think”, peer pressure or fear, resulting in projects and plans that have not been embraced by the members, and will slowly fizzle away and fail.

Who really wants the idea to work? Without a bit of an argument or debate, I find it difficult to determine who is committed to the idea, and ultimately this is what matters. Commitment by group members does not insure success, but it facilitates communication and guarantees that everyone is shooting at the same target.
This is why I loved Cuculuains blog entry “Don’t fear the Devil’s Advocate” at Businesspundit

I believe his observations are important in that they ask you to create an attitude and environment in your company that actively seeks to promote debate and question the merits of an idea WITHOUT fear of losing their job or offending members of the group. Create the position of Devil’s Advocate at each meeting or presentation, and let the company know you are creating an environment that promotes and can reward ideas and debate.

The idea of implementing constructive criticism and encouraging your people to play the “devil’s advocate”can only result in more communication, better project presentations and more unity in final decision-making.

Related Entries:

Invite a Challenge from 2 Weeks 2 a Breakthrough

Weird Ideas that Work

Does your company like new ideas?





When your brand gets accepted by the wrong consumers

16 06 2006

Here is an interesting dilemma. Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, apparently made some comments regarding the use and promotion of their premium champagne, Cristal, by rappers. This has offended the rap community, and Jay-Z is now leading a boycott of the product within the community.

CNN has the article: Jay-Z leads Cristal boycott


It appears that Louis Roederer believes that the rappers may be harming the elite, sofisticated image that Cristal has created.

Forget for a minute that champagne, rappers and different cultures and languages are involved. What happens when your product becomes tied to a group of consumers that does not fit into your marketing and product image?
Do you push them away or create a new image to include them?

Is the publicity and possible controversy good or bad for your brand?

Does this strengthen your brand in the eyes of your target customers, or weaken it?





Proof that “offer less and sell more” works

15 06 2006

I knew it. For years I thought I was the only one who suffered from anxiety, stress and indecision when faced with hundreds of choices when I went to the store. I never felt great about my decision, always wondering if I made an error….should I have bought the other one(s)?

Barry Schwartz, in the June 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review has an article that finally verifies that I am not alone.

More Isn't Always Better, Harvard Business Review June 2006, Barry Schwartz

A quotation from Barry's article "Marketers assume that the more choices they offer, the more likely customers will be able to find just the right thing. They assume, for instance, that offering 50 styles of jeans instead of two increases the chances that shoppers will find a pair they really like. Nevertheless, research now shows that there can be too much choice; when there is, consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection."
If this is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), what impact would it have on your product development and your marketing efforts?

How modern and insightful the established Sears Roebuck idea of "Good – Better – Best" marketing. Limiting product choices to three clearly distinct products, differentiated by price and quality. Simple, effective, retro-revolutionary.
Is it time to focus on creating sharp distinctions between your products or services, reducing choices and making it easier for the customer to buy and feel good about the purchase?