February 19, 2006

From what's Predictable to what's Possible

I've long used a model when asked to forecast out results called the "Predictable/Possible Model". It's pretty simplistic. It allows you to bracket a kind of worst case/best case scenario. It's easiest to use with sales organizations but you can really use it organizational wide. The "predictable" piece is the easiest to model. It's what I call the accountant approach, where you simply look back in time, see what you've always done in terms of results and then mathematically model out to the future what you most likely (predictably) will produce moving forward. Not a lot of inventiveness there. The harder part is trying to determine what's "possible". Here's where you run into problems, everyone thinks different about the future, always different tolerances of risk, different motivations, yada, yada, yada. The main premise of creating what's possible in terms of producing a future result is an old cliche - "thinking out of the box". Some companies do it well, others kill creativity. Most organizations have adopted the term "setting a stretch target" to try to break out of predictable pattern. Whatever the case, it's really about doing things differently, things you haven't done before, on a day to day basis to create a different result or set of results. Not abandoning how things have been done in the past, but adding in new dimensions to create a unique set of actions and therefore creating a different - UNpredictable - result. In a lot of start ups, organizations that are blazing new territory where "it's never been done before", you're always trying new things, adjusting the model. Of course it's a bit uncomfortable, breaking new ground, so you always need people that are comfortable being uncomfortable. One given of breakthrough performance, achieving what's possible instead of what's predictable, is that inevitably you will fall short of whatever goals you set (hopefully these goals are big, bold and bodacious). And what's the secret formula of achieving those stretch goals? When you do hit a wall, fall short, FAIL; that you NEVER lose sight of the stretch goal - NEVER. That you rally in a way that you've never rallied before. And how do you do that? Through conversation and exploration. You have conversations that you've been reluctant to have, you have more conversations than you've ever had in the past, and you have a different tenor to your conversations. In the end, if you're up for producing what's possible rather than what's predictable, it's how you react to failure and the future, rather than the past, and the failure itself.

February 19, 2006 in Business | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 01, 2006

Letters from the Front - Tokyo

I've been in Tokyo over the past week on business - I'm staying at the Cerulean Hotel in Shibuya which is really fabulous. Without revealing too much, it's been a very successful trip. I love Tokyo and the Japanese people. I've been to Tokyo twice before, but never for any extended period. In my quest to be more cognizant of the world around me, I spent some time immersing myself in the culture. Japanese people are the most kind, gentle, considerate people in the world. The staff here at the Cerulean is simply amazing. Really, service at it's highest level, you can't walk through the lobby without a half dozen of the staff bowing and wishing you good morning. Although it gets a little weird when they wave you into the hotel elevator, and then get in with you, push the floor button, ride with you, wave you out of the elevator and walk you to your room. They are so kind. So a few of my observations;

- There's approximately 18 million people in Tokyo which is about the same size as the 5 boroughs of NY. That's almost twice as many people in the same area. That's a lot of people, but everything is clean, efficient and nice, really nice.

- The train system is phenomenal! Picture the NYC subway/train system and then multiply it by 10 in terms of number of trains/lines. It's very. very clean, the trains run like clockwork and they are packed with people. They have white gloved attendants ushering people in and out of the trains and giving information to lost souls like me. Although at one point I had an attendant chase me into one of the subway cars blowing his whistle. I had no idea they had subway cars reserved for women only.

- Speaking of trains. The Shinjuku station processes 5 million travelers a day. That's 5 MILLION a day. Do you know what 5 million people in a day looks like. One rush hour morning as one of the attendants was squeezing people into a subway car with a baton I swear my feet came off the ground because we were packed in like sardines - although he was so nice while he was doing it. It was great for my claustrophobia - NOT! One good point is that I'm about 6" taller than most so at least I could see above everyone.

- The cabs are amazing. The seats and headrests are covered with white linen clothes (like grandma had on her Sunday dinner table). Clean as a whistle. The drivers wear white gloves and suits! Really taking pride in their job. I took a cab to Roponggi Hills and the driver missed the exit. He circled back and then waived the fee apologizing profusely for his mistake. Last time I took a cab in the US I had to roll down the window because the guy hadn't showered in a week. And then he swore at me when I only tipped him 10%.

- Ya know the pictures that we see with Japanese people wearing white surgical masks on the street. It's not because they are afraid to breathe smog. It's because they may have a cold or the flu and don't want to get others sick. Talk about considerate. Think about that the next time you're on the number 7 from mid town to the Bronx and some guy is hacking up a storm all over you.

- Shibuya is a proxy for all teen fashion and technology worldwide. There's like a million kids that hang out in Shibuya, shopping, talking, coffee, bars, restaurants, etc and they are all dressed up. It's a place to see and be seen. If you're marketing products to teens, go to Shibuya and you'll see what the rest of the world will be wearing/using next year.

- Japanese people are thin. Without exaggerating I would estimate 49 out of 50 are rail thin (although I mostly noticed the women :-). You won't find jeans and baggy sweatshirts here, everyone is dressed very fashionably and takes pride in their appearance. It's a site to see.

- Japanese clean their hands all the time. Everywhere you go they have warm wet towels waiting for you to clan your hands. So, clean environment, health conscious, thin - let me see....think their health costs are low. I bet they're a small fraction per capita of ours.

There's not much bad to say about Tokyo or the Japanese. Some say the food isn't the greatest but I had some fabulous but strange food over the past week. Last night I went out for Tapenyaki (on my own) which was a trip. No one spoke English. I think the waiter got a kick out of me, he asked where I was from in very broken English and I said Denver, CO and he said "ahh, Broncos" or something like that. We laughed and nodded our heads a lot. He brought me a complimentary rice wine - OK, that sucked.

February 1, 2006 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2005

Why RSS Works - St Barts

I spent some time this week with a very large on-line travel company talking about RSS. They're developing their RSS strategy and asked us to talk with them given the topic and applications are so broad within the travel industry. During the conversation, we started talking about specific use cases. I shared a recent experience I had in planning a vacation to the Caribbean, St Barts. I had heard a lot about St Barts via some friends and via Conde Naste magazine, but I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to information about travel destinations given I'm a bit particular to when it comes to vacation spots. I let them know that I went to Google and got a lot of information from web sites with "canned photos" and stories published by their PR people as to how great each hotel, restaurants, etc was. Of course most of the content was the establishments trying to sell themselves. I then went to a couple of chat rooms and bulletin boards which I found useless - again, most run by companies trying to sell you something. I then told them how I just simply set up a search feed (NewsGator Smart Feed) for the key work St Barts and was continually updated from people blogging about St Barts - people sharing their personal experiences, likes, dislikes, etc. Real information from real people, hmmmm. Through NewsGator I was able to review posts (article)from months ago as well as be updated as soon as a new post came in. Bingo, all the information I wanted, from real people, at my finger tips - the good, bad, and ugly. Pretty easy from there. Needless to say, the travel company we were talking to instantly got it. Sure, they're going to try to sell you something, but by personalizing the experience, it puts the power into your hands, not the hands of 3 star hotels trying to market themselves as something they're not. Of course this is just a small example of the power of RSS. BTW, if you're looking for a first class experience on St Barts, the Eden Rock at St Barts is the way to go!

November 12, 2005 in Business, Travel, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

Web 2.0 Conference

I'm at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco this week along with Greg Reinacker, Brent Simmons and Jennifer Smith of NewsGator. The conference is amazing, all the latest technologies applied to the web. NewsGator garnered the early "buzz" with our acquisition of NetNewsWire and that continues to be the hot topic but there's a lot to consume here. There are two things that struck me most; One is the transformation of what we know as the "Web" from one way to a two-way platform of communication. To date most of the web has been created, delivered and managed by corporate America, and we as users consume that data. The other is the "mashing" of programs through open source or "APIs" that allow programs talk to one another, to share data with one another.The cool thing is that there are applications/programs that have been created and are being used today by early technology adopters that is just amazing. The new functionality that I witnessed today will blow your socks off. In 5 years we will be looking back at the way we used the web in 2005 and laugh. Web 2.0 will be a completely different experience for all of us. It's about bringing the power of the web to the people. Yea, web 2.0 is kind of like "power to the people" vs. "the man" (saw that in a movie). Can't wait until tomorrow.

October 5, 2005 in Business, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

Rollin, Rollin, Rollin

Last week we acquired Ranchero Software, makers of the ever so popular RSS aggregator software NetNewsWire for the Mac. We were waiting for Web 2.0 to start this Wednesday to formally announce the acquisition but someone got "happy fingers" and broke the news early in the blogesphere via a leak. You can read about it officially here or of course by searching the blogesphere through NewsGator on-line for key word "Newsgator" for other juicy comments by friends and foes alike.

This is a big deal for NewsGator, it rounds out our Individual User products platform. We now have interfaces for Outlook (NewsGator for Outlook), the Web (NewsGator Online), the Desktop (FeedDemon edition), mobile (NewsGator mobile edition) and now the Mac (NetNewsWire)...all synchronized to deliver you your RSS feeds now matter where you are. We also are extremely happy to have Brent join the team, Brent's a rock solid developer not to mention one of the nicest businessman you'll ever meet. With the treo of Greg, Nick and now Brent you do the math. The NewsGator family has the best of the best from the RSS world in terms of products and talent.

NewsGator, #1 in Individual Use RSS products, #1 in Enterprise RSS Server and #1 in Private label RSS solutions. The RSS Platform Company!

October 4, 2005 in Business, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2005

Factiva Forum - A Hit!

I had the chance to serve on a panel at the Factiva Forum in N.Y. this past week. It was great on a number of fronts. They had about 100 of their top clients from the east coast attend to hear Factivas strategies for premium content. For those of you that are not familiar with Factiva, they produce premium content for consumption by organizations world-wide. As the world of content, especially content produced in an RSS format, increases, companies like Factiva become more and more valuable as a source of "trusted information". David Scott blogged about the event here.

September 25, 2005 in Business, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (119) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Undertsanding RSS

Hartford Courant publication does a nice job of simplifying RSS. If you're already reading a few blogs, or are thinking about creating your own, this article is a must read.

September 19, 2005 in Business, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 30, 2005

Did I say That?

A couple of weeks ago Seth Levine of Mobius Venture Capital had a great post on being "responsible" in a relationship. Seth points out that if each person takes 100% responsibility for the communication inside of a relationship (personal, business, family, etc) that there is probably going to be much more frequent and meaningful conversation vs. each person being 50% responsible. 

I'd like to take it one step further.

I've been around a great deal of people that are totally oblivious as to how they "occur" to the person(s) that they are talking to, being with. In fact, I'd assert that by far, the majority of people have no idea what others are thinking about when they speak. Most are more concerned about what they are saying than what is being heard. Of course, all of us process whats being said by others through whatever filters that we have, based on our past experiences. The best communicators put themselves "in the other persons shoes" during any and all communications. Simpler said, when you're speaking, what is the other person hearing - other than your spoken words. How are you "occurring" to them. What are you leaving them with - what are they thinking. You see, in the end, it doesn't matter what you say - what matters most is what they hear. It's that perception that they will take action on. Not by what you said. btw - the best way to tell what heard when you said what you said.....ask them! More importantly, ask them for the color around what you said. And beware, most people are not honest enough to tell you.

So taking Seth's post one step further, the most powerful relationships are those in which you are 100% responsible for what the other person is hearing/thinking during whatever conversation you are having with them . So you are not only 100% responsible for what you have said, but also 100% responsible for what they heard. This is about being "intentional" in a conversation. At the end of this conversation, what do I intend to have them think about, feel, etc.

We've all heard the old adage "talk is cheap". From my perspective, we've "cheapened talk". Conversations today have become more and more about trying to prove something. That's not a conversation, that's a one way communication - a lecture. A conversation is about exchanging information, sharing ideas, experiences, in a way that imparts knowledge or creates an environment for something to occur - good, bad, whatever.

Now , you might be left thinking that this sounds a bit complicated, or hard work. Try it on. And if you find that the conversations are longer, have fewer of them, but really concentrate on what the other person might be left thinking about. You'd be amazed at the broadening/deepening of the relationship that will happen. Fewer, higher quality conversations will open up a whole new world.

April 30, 2005 in Business, Weblogs | Permalink | TrackBack

April 03, 2005

Attitude - It's up to You

I was going through some old Management Consulting files when I happened to come across this short excerpt on “Attitude”. I'd like to take credit for this but I can't - I'm not sure of the source. It struck me how core this can be to the success of any organization, whether that be a company, a family, a group of friends - whatever. Here you go...

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It can make or break a company...a church...a home. We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

I'm a firm believer that we create our own destiny. That our daily choices make who we are in the present and the future. Our choice of attitude changes the way others interact with us, what they chose to say, or not say to us, what they are left thinking after our interactions. You are always leaving someone(s) with an impression.

April 3, 2005 in Biographical, Business | Permalink | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

Getting People Into Action!

I got a lot of great feedback, emails, etc on my last blog "The Reality of Possibility" so I thought I'd continue down this path for a bit. Most of the feedback however was centered around - OK, got it, now - how do I get people to stop doing "Business as Usual" and to start getting creative. That's where leadership comes in. Bear with me here.


If we all accept the premise that Results are a derivative of Actions, then the real question is; how do I get people to change their actions? If I'm/we're not satisfied with the Result, how do I/we get someone, or a group of people to change their actions to produce the desired Result? Well, you might want to start with the question; Why does someone or a group of people take the actions that they take? Lets take an example; Why is it that a one 6 year old boy runs up to home plate, gets a certain look in his eye, digs his feat in and takes a mighty swing at the ball. While another boy will walk up to home plate sheepishly, look intimidated and take a half swing, and most likely miss the ball. BTW - I'm using this example because we've all seen it in one way or another. It applies to each and every one of us in differing situations, work, play, personal interactions, etc.

Slide1_1 Why the difference? Becuase the actions that someone takes are a direct correlation to what they see as being "Possible". If you think or see that something is possible, the actions that you take, minute by minute, day by day are perfectly correlated to that. The 6 yr old boy who runs up to the plate, digs in, etc, thinks/sees that he's going to hit that ball. Now he may, or may not but his actions are correlated with the possibility that he sees for himself. Business, same thing. I guarantee you that the employees that are jazzed about something see a great future for themselves in what they are doing. They see a great future for the company. It's true, check it out, have a conversation with that type of person and ask them what they think the future holds for them. btw - some people have a difficult time expressing that but you'll know its there. The converse is true as well. Employees that seem to be going through the motions, guess what kind of future they see for themselves.

You might be asking why certain people see different possibilities given the same set of current circumstances. We are who we are because we are shaped by our past experiences. No matter how much we like or don't like who we are, what we see as possible, our past experiences creep into the picture, consciously or sub consciously and alter what we see, what we believe in. Not much you can do about the past experiences, they are what they are. What you can do is alter how you relate to those past experiences.

So back to the question, how do I get people actions to change? Easy, change what people see as being possible for themselves - as a future.  This is where leadership comes in. It's a leaders job to coalesce people, to have them see what is possible, as a future for themselves, as a part of an organization. And have them see, have them believe in something big and bold. Get people excited about something and really believing in it and it's amazing what will happen. People will start doing things (taking actions) that you would have never thought they would take. And, low and behold, the results start to happen. It's not that difficult. There are fabulous examples of this throughout history, from Kennedy proclaiming "space - the new frontier" and setting the goal of landing a "man on the moon before the end of the decade", to Martin Luther King and his famous "I believe" speech. I use those as widely known examples but there are examples around us in every day life as well. I'm sure you can point to experiences in your life where you've been a part of a group that shared a special experience because you all believed in something. Whether that belief originated from an individual leader or a group of leaders - it doesn't matter.

What not to do: Tell someone what to do. In other words, go to work on changing their actions by telling them what to do. Sure, they will do what you tell them to do, but what happens when you're not there telling them what to do. Or intimidation - doesn't work! Yea, command and control will get an action and desired result but it will be a "Business as Usual" result, not something born out of creativity or a possibility that that person or group believes in.

So, the next time one of your family members, friends or employees seems down or are being unproductive - talk to them. Talk to them about the current situation and talk to them about what's going to be great in the future and why. And then notice the change you get. Notice the change in actions and ultimately, the results. It's amazing what people can do, what groups of people can do when there's a common goal that everyone is energized around. It's even more amazing when that common goal, that belief is out of the norm, where what needs to get accomplished has never been done before - that's where breakthroughs happen.  Get people to believe in something.

March 5, 2005 in Business | Permalink | TrackBack