Scarcity thinking = poor thinking

Scarcity mindset: I really don’t have the time to meet with you. Besides, I don’t have any openings.

Abundance mindset: You share my interests. Let’s find time to talk.

Yesterday, I met a woman who is out to change the world one “thank you” at a time. A man who writes news releases that tell stories. And a woman who stayed in health care marketing because she wants to make a difference.

My life is richer for it.

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Oh, go fly a kite!

Photo of a single kite flying.I love to fly kites. They trace the invisible wind, in technicolor. Watch them go all in a tizzy during a blustery wind. Even the gentlest breeze has sass. The wind becomes something you feel in your fingers, see with your eyes.

When Casey was 6 or 7, I took him out to fly his kite. It hopped into the air and immediately danced skyward. The sky drew it in one, long inhale. Mesmerized, I let the string run smoothly through my fingers. I was dimly aware of Casey tugging on me, shouting something.

I came to the end of the string, thankful that it was tied to the spool. And there we were, in balance: The kite anchored in the heavens and me on the ground.

And then Casey’s cries sunk in:

“DADDY STOP! Stop flying my kite to God and Jesus!” He never let me touch it again.

I once sailed a big nylon delta wing kite in a stiff wind on Imperial Beach, San Diego. Its sturdy string was at max most of the afternoon. Kai, 3 years old, occasionally took it for a walk. I stayed close, half worried the kite would take off with her.

The best times to fly are when the winds are neither calm nor rough. The best times swing playfully between the extremes. Surge-and-run one moment; free fall the next.

I like the counter currents that run through the experience. A brisk tug pops the kite straight up. There’s probably an elegant geometric equation to describe it. Rhythmic pulses in tension, timed with the gusts, settle the craft. When you want to climb, you let the tension build a bit, and when the time is right, release and let it soar.

It’s like dance. And life.

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

From Mary Poppins

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Instead of a slide deck, next time try a story

This is a story about a story.

It begins with a 53-page PowerPoint deck that looked like it had been spliced together by 20 people. Because it had. The CEO was hours away from sending it off to the home office and it was nowhere near presentable. She told me to put my best writer on it. So I did. Me.

The deck was serving as an executive report that would be read in advance of a quarterly meeting between local and national executives. Then it would serve as the discussion guide during the meeting itself. It was built on a template provided by the home office, seasoned liberally by slides shoe-horned in to make side trips, elaborations, and/or nuanced asides.

If the deck were human, it would be Sybil, a raving schizophrenic who is also grammatically challenged.

I have made peace with the fact that PowerPoint has replaced Word documents for executive reports, at least in my organization. The PPT format does have the advantage of breaking up dense information and allowing readers to scan through and pick up the important bits.

However, through this project I discovered that the creation of the deck was gumming up the leadership’s decision-making process. Finance and Sales teams were communicating with each other through slide iterations. Important decision gateways were delayed as executives ordered up slides to hammer out issues with each other. One person on the strategy team confided that as this process unfolded the deck became more fiction than reality – an ever-changing reflection of scenario gaming.

A small group of us was tasked to improve the PowerPoint process, which we took to mean the entire decision-making and meeting prep process. We agreed to use storytelling to create a core theme that would tie the year’s quarterly meetings together. We would come to learn that the mere creation of that story line also enhanced leaders’ decision-making.

The new process proceeded on two tracks: On one, the technical staff populated and maintained the template PowerPoint pages. On the other, a cross-departmental working group developed a regional narrative that played out in a Word document. The necessary details of forecasts and financial impacts were hammered out in the creation of the slides. And the narrative helped frame the strategic discussions.

We started building the narrative by first thinking of our region as the hero. What was its character? What challenges did it face? What strengths and tools were at its disposal? What would its journey to a happy ending entail?

I wrote the first draft, following Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey pattern:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, 1949).

Iterations of the narrative were vetted through three layers of the organization: The analysts and planners; senior-level department heads; and the CEO’s team. I took input during real-time meetings, many aided by WebEx. These meetings were lively. I heard people aligning strategies across departments, clearing up ambiguities, resolving different interpretations, filling in knowledge gaps. On a few occasions, momentous decisions were made in the room, I think because the issues were clear and their context was established in the story line.

It wasn’t going exactly to my plan. I had hoped to keep the narrative short, with proof points indexed in the margins. But more stuff kept getting crammed into the document. But even though it was getting longer, it was getting better. With leadership’s current-state thinking crystallized in the Word document, they were free to make creative riffs off the main story line. They were out of the slide deck weeds and into the script for their conversation with national leaders.

With two meetings now under our belts, the folks who have gone through several cycles of these quarterly meetings report that the process is much less crazy-making. The most recent meeting was so smooth it was eerie. The national players pronounced it a productive meeting, and most importantly, a sound strategy.

The narrative will evolve through the year. Some of its chapters will be dialed up for strategic emphasis in future meetings. I will recommend a rewrite next year, and I hope it will ultimately take on more significance in guiding the meetings than does the PowerPoint deck.

And then we will live happily ever after.

Resources:

Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, by Stephen Denning. This is a great read and provides specific examples of how business leaders use stories.

Anecdote, a blog and newsletter on corporate storytelling by Australian Shawn Callahan.

 

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How Adobe puts structure to its social media program

Large companies are wrestling with how to reap the benefits of social media while also trying to “manage” it.

It was a common concern expressed at the recent Social Media Marketing World Summit, where 1,800 practitioners gathered to share best practices. Technology that helps put a human face on huge brands is almost an attractive nuisance: Employees and customers are a formidable force in this age of consumerism. And they are volatile.

Responsible stewards of the brand must play a role in capturing that lightning in a bottle. But how?

I am keen on the structure described by Cory Edwards, group manager of Adobe’s Social Media Center of Excellence (@CoryEdwards). It allows social media to develop along two tracks: On one, an operations services group that builds and maintains a framework for the other track, where traditional business functions employ social media in their mix of activities.

Edwards, part of a panel discussion on how big brands accommodate social media activity, compared his group  to Sales Operations – experts who make it possible for the Sales guys to do their jobs. His Social Media Center of Excellence provides:

  • Governance. They enforce the brand, promulgate policy, and conduct audits.
  • Enablement. They train and coach others  in effective and appropriate use of social media channels.
  • Measurement. “We haven’t created one standard measure, but rather help the functions measure their activity based on their business objectives,” Edwards said.
  • Innovation. His team explores the opportunities and shares lessons learned.

I asked Edwards whether such a model could operate in local markets, coordinated by a national Center of Excellence. He said Adobe is beginning to do just that, with centers of excellence setting up in Adobe markets overseas.

The model rings true to the spirit of social media – freedom counterbalanced by responsibility and good taste. It also provides the best kind of corporate control – the kind that recognizes the wisdom of the people.

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Social media marketing is more fly fishing than net casting

Michael Stelzner is my favorite podcaster. In a recent episode, he interviews Jeff Rohrs, himself a podcaster (SocialPros), about Jeff’s new book Audience. A few key points I picked up:
A “proprietary audience” is one that has learned to rely on and value your content. They engage with you repeatedly, and you discover that they ultimately bring you incremental revenue increase (they spend 10 percent more than the average customer, for example). Tally that up and you have a quantifiable business asset to show the CFO.
Where traditional marketing casts wide nets, social media marketing offers flies. You want to move audiences from Seekers to Amplifiers to Joiners. Seekers hit your site and leave after getting what they need. What can you do to make them linger? Amplifiers share your content with their audiences, and are the power of social media. Joiners give you permission to connect with them in a direct channel (by giving you their email, for example). Joiners become buyers. 
Your content should strive for utility more than popularity.  The entertaining articles get all the attention, but the workhorse articles feed your audience’s main reasons for surfing the web: to find and to share information.

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To blow stuff up or not to blow stuff up?

President Obama did us a favor by not acting unilaterally to bomb Syria. I’m not sure what he was thinking by drawing Congress into the decision-making process. But by doing so, space has opened for a real American soul-searching.

Obama’s “if we don’t stop them there they could do it to us here” argument is the same used by President Bush and by many presidents before him. The argument always works if enough interest groups take it up. Oil interests and neocons magnified the argument for Bush, creating such a din that Americans stampeded to war in Iraq.

But Syria is different. There is no smoking ruin in Manhattan, no threat to our oil supply. If powerful interests do not beat the “we could be next” drum, we just might get to wrestle with the real questions:
Is it moral to drop bombs on a country to teach its leader a lesson?
Is bombing an appropriate punishment for gassing?
Will bombs ensure that gassing will not happen again?
And what about the lives of Syrians that will be ended or forever changed by the cruise missile explosions?

I’ve thought a lot in recent days about Rwanda. In retrospect, I am ashamed that our country did not stop that horrible human tragedy. If we don’t blow up some buildings and neighborhoods in Syria, are we allowing another set of atrocities to play out?

I haven’t heard much talk about alternatives to cruise missiles, though. We should reject the “we could be next” canard and demand an exploration of other ways to punish such atrocities and to prevent them from happening again. Blowing stuff up can’t be our only option.

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Today, I felt like God’s child in Eden

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I never take for granted what a beautiful place I call home. But today, with Karen and Casey on the Perry Park Golf Course, I felt like one of the First Children, stepping into the Garden of Eden for the first time.

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A cool app to help illustrate a story

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/AKYF05PCZH/obamacare-is-coming-get-ready

While lying around with an earache and cough today, I played around with a new app, Haiku Deck, on my iPad. What a fun and compelling way to tell a complex story.

Because I am in health care communications, I am consumed these days by health care reform. It is my job to help people understand what reform means to them. I have found that few people know much about this fundamental change that’s on our doorstep.
So this Haiku Deck I created (link at top of post) is a very basic primer. I used research from Enroll America and Families USA.

  • If you’re interested in Haiku Deck, here’s an overview:
  • It provides a few basic templates that govern colors and fonts. You can buy more.
  • It has only three layouts for text: a headline/subhead combo, a bullet list and number list. I suspect they will add more. I could have used one for quote liftouts.
  • I love this part: it does not let you put much text on each slide. It forces you to simplify so that you remain true to the visual medium you are using.
  • An integrated keyword search allows you to peruse thousands of commons licensed images. It was so simple that there was no barrier to following several creative paths in search of the perfect image.
  • When finished, you may upload to the Haiku Deck website. You may choose to make it public or limit to people you give the URL to. You can add a description to the title slide, and notes to all other slides.
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A victory over Lizard Brain

So this is what the Lizard Brain looks like.

It tells you that you don’t have what it takes to write a novel. You really aren’t that good. You don’t have enough passion for it. You spend all your creativity at work. You don’t want to steal time from your kid.

So you let the novel idea ferment in your head. For eight years.

You beat back the Lizard Brain long enough to put down two chapters. But the Lizard Brain comes back.

That was hard work. You don’t have what it takes to fit that into your life.

Four years later, you put the Lizard Brain down again. And even as you take steps to start the novel again, it’s telling you: “Don’t even look up those chapters. They’re crap. You might as well start from scratch. Yeah, that’s right. Go back to the very beginning and start again. Work, work, work. Then you can compare the two pieces of crap and realize this is futile.”

But I called up the chapters this morning. They had last been touched March 28, 2009. They were pretty good. I didn’t even recognize them as mine, that’s how effective old Lizard Brain had been. I’ll take them for now.

I wrote Chapter 3 this morning.

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Putting it out there

This week, it seemed like everything I read and listened to was telling me to put myself out there. Seth Godin urged me not to give in to The Man; to do my art. Jonathan Fields challenged me to tap into my inner mission.  And Stanford Smith coached me to blog, blog, blog.
Then my son, Casey, goes and records a song on YouTube, putting his art out there.
All of this counsel is doing wonders for my creative thinking at work. But each prod stirs up an inner guilt.
You see, there’s this novel I started years ago. Two sketchy chapters gather digital dust in some Word file somewhere. I remember the spurt of energy that powered me through the first 20 minutes. And I remember the next several hours of drudgery. Writing fiction is hard work!
The latter memory kept me from diving in again. There were convenient excuses: job stress, grad school for awhile, growing toddler/kid/tween. Maybe I should wait until Kai is in college.
Then Michael Stelzner threw down the gauntlet last week on his Social Media Marketing podcast: commit to your dream in public and let the crowd hold you accountable.
Even though there’s not much of a crowd here on my oft-neglected blog, this is my public commitment. I will get back to the novel.
As soon as I find it.

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