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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 6 September 2013


Ok, now he was close
Baby it's in your nature

- Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines

You can't treat an equal in a way that you wouldn't want to be treated yourself - it's a defense mechanism humans are hard-wired with that takes significant departures from the norm, like psychopathy, to deviate from.  

What we can do, though, is dehumanize those people we'd rather treat differently.  The most common way we do this is by deeming those we want to be inferior as animals.  Animals, we believe, are lesser creatures - they don't have awareness or purpose the way people do.  Women were objectified as "too emotional" and therefore undeserving of the vote.  Various minorities have been enslaved, raped and murdered under the justification that they "simply aren't human."  They don't think the way we do, therefore they aren't like us.  Therefore, they are not due the same rights and responsibilities we feel people like us should be entitled to.

It's why resistance to interrogation experts and hostage negotiators place humanization at the forefront of their toolboxes.  The same goes for politicians tweeting about their weekend with the kids - essentially, they're trying to say "I'm just like you."

Which is why I think this is so brilliant.  These ladies haven't bitched about unfair treatment; instead, they've demonstrated that they're able to go toe-to-toe with any misogynist on the block.  

Whereas a Miley Cyrus reinforces sexual stereotypes with her "you know me, I don't think things through" response, these Auckland law students are demonstrating they deserve respect.

Which, frankly, sex should be about.  

The Power of Story Telling: Content Strategy Tweaks Businesses Can Implement Today (Syed Balkhi)

The Power of Story Telling: Content Strategy Tweaks Businesses Can Implement Today
Have you ever been at a conference where the speaker talked, or should I say read, from their PowerPoint deck and you couldn't stop yourself from yawning? The worst part is after the talk, you forgot all about what they were talking about even before leaving your seat? I have had a lot of those experiences in the past, but I have also attended keynotes where the speaker barely looks at their notes and instead tells a riveting story about their experience. These kind of talks always get me thinking and often inspire me to take action. Story telling is a powerful tool. To be effective in business, the ability to tell your story is a must if you expect to grow and attract an audience to your brand.
Creating unique and useful content is a great way for you to inform your clients and potential customers about your products or services. Content created for the sole purpose of selling is often woefully ineffective because it fails to tell a story. Remember when you were in school? Which professors or classes did you enjoy the most? Which ones were most memorable for you? For me, it was the professors that were great story tellers in teaching lessons.
Why Use Stories In Your Content Strategy?
Thanks to online content marketing, business owners are now able to reach many more people in a much more efficient manner. Along with using content marketing to attract the attention of potential customers, content must also be able to move people in order to be truly effective. One way to accomplish this is by telling stories. Compelling stories entertain, inform and offer value to your customers which makes them more likely to engage with your brand.
Telling Your Story Humanizes Your Brand
Storytelling should not be used solely as a selling tool. It should be used as a medium to build strong relationships with your clients and customers and to transform them into strong loyal advocates of your brand. I consume a lot of content myself, and I am often more likely to be inspired by other content producers who share their personal story instead of just selling to me. Stories offer your readers relatable human perspectives that help them better connect with your brand.
Stories Help Your Audience Better Understand Complex Ideas
Some ideas and theories are difficult to understand on the surface. When you utilize story telling as a narrative to illustrate complex concepts and ideas, it can help make your message easier to connect with and much more relatable.
Stories Help Establish Your Authority
When you tell a story about your professional successes, it tends to better build your authority. When you share stories about your experience and not just the usual boring bullet points, you not only give your readers a glimpse into your business, but your story also serves as a testimonial to your success.
How You Can Use Story Telling In Your Content Marketing?
The ability to tell great stories can have a dramatic impact on the way we think act and feel. Our brains are, after all, wired to tell stories. Stories can be a great way to capture your readers imagination. They can also help make things much more relatable in a way that cold, hard facts simply can't. If you want your message to cut through the noise, here are some tweaks you can add to your content marketing strategy:
Begin Your Articles With A Story
One of the best ways to quickly capture your audience's attention is by starting off with a story. It's one thing for visitors to click on your link because of the title, but it's whole other thing to get them to read the entire article. You can certainly share anecdotes and metaphors, but by telling a story that relates to your personal experience, your audience will be much more likely to relate to your brand on a deeper level. Everyone has a story to tell. We are all shaped by our life experiences, both professionally and personally. When you share your story, you give your readers the opportunity to better connect with you and your brand making them feel that they know you personally.
Use Photos And Images To Tell Your Story
As the popular saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Why do you think Instagram is such a huge hit? People enjoy sharing and looking at photos. It allows them a brief peek into their friend's lives. There are several ways you can use images and photos to tell stories as part of your content marketing efforts:
  • Make use of infographics when sharing significant milestones or data. Instead of just writing in all text, why not use images to communicate those same ideas. Not only is it more interesting to read, it is very impactful and easy to share.
  • In order to make your content more compelling on social networks, use images when sharing your links. Make sure to choose relevant and attention grabbing images that represent your brand's story and message.
Tell Your Story Through Video
Aside from photos, video is another effective way to connect with your audience. Videos allow you to tell your story visually. With advances in technology, you can now create professional looking videos without breaking the bank. Here are some ways you can incorporate video into your story telling strategy:
  • Instead of the usual photo and text formatted post, add a video of yourself as part of your about page.
  • Take advantage of the popularity of social video sharing sites like Vine and Instagram. Not only are they cost effective, but you are also able to connect with people where they are already engaged.
  • Consider using UGC or (User Generated Content) as part of your story telling strategy. Create contests or ask your readers or customers to send in their videos related to a campaign you're running. This way they can participate by telling their stories too and feel like a real part of your community.
User generated content has worked great for us. We've utilized it on several occasions. For example our twitter tips and blogging tips article were a big hit. We also used this to gain traction for a new site, and it worked prefectly.
Tap Into Your Client's Success Stories

Most people have compelling stories to tell and this includes your clients. If you have built a meaningful, long term relationship with them, then you probably already know their story. However, before you tap into your client's stories, you have to make sure you get their permission first. Most will be happy to share their stories as long as you don't reveal confidential information. Not only are you helping your client build their authority, but you are also inspiring your customers and readers. There are several ways to tell your client's story. You can certainly do it through a written article, but why not consider doing an interview with your client about how they have built a successful company and share it with your community.
The beauty of telling your client's story is that when potential clients read your content, they learn from your client's unique story. You also build on the relationship you have with your client and increase the possibility of working with them in the future.
I have shared my story with products I use. For example my article on HitTail is widely referenced.
Content marketing is here to stay. People will always seek out content that entertains, informs and is relevant to their interests. Companies must implement effective ways to share meaningful content if they expect to grow and thrive in the 21st century. Tell interesting stories and tell them well. What's your story? How will you incorporate your story into your marketing strategy? Share with us by leaving a comment.

Two Simple Questions for Team Assad

Is that what this is all about?  Independence?  I think not.  The majority of the rebels are Syrians - they're being stomped on with toxic prejudice because, ostensibly, they are a threat to Syria.  Assad's regime is willing to kill women and children to protect his Syria from them.
Now, we're hearing that his government is willing to watch the world burn, turning Syria into this century's Sarajevo - all in the name of protecting Syria's independence. 
Here's a news flash, Team Assad - when you can only maintain control through the murder of your own populace and by threatening external forces, you ain't leader any more.  You're a dictator.
Assad's life is increasingly in danger, his country is in ruins and a whole new generation of Syrians will be scarred for life by the trauma of war.  The Syria Assad claims he wants to protect is gone.  Everything you say you stand for is fiction you're selling yourself as much as everyone else.
Put your critical thinking caps on, Team Assad, let's do an objective assessment.
What does victory look like to you?  A nation that loves you, the respect of your international peers for being a tough leader, a velvet-draped palace to hold court in?
Is that victory in any way achievable?  It isn't.  The most you can hope for is Scenario A - you hunker down behind your firewalls as your countrymen burn around you; eventually, someone's gonna break that wall down.  You know what happens next. Scenario B - Assad gets out with the hope for asylum somewhere.  He holes up in relative luxury and publishes his memoirs.  Someone needs to wear the war, though, and if it ain't the boss...
But there's no point in talking to Assad; he's got the dictator complex, like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi before him.  How'd that work out for them?
There's no hope for Assad - one way or another, this will end badly for him.  It doesn't have to for his lieutenants.  History will never remember you if you continue to back your leader; he'll be vilified, you'll be forgotten.  Looking down the road you have death, humiliation and loss awaiting you, with nothing to show for it in the long run.  Is that what you want?
Think about it, fellas - do you want to go down with the ship, or are you still hopeful you can gain something out of this; money, power, the love of the people, the respect of peers?  It's only impossible for as long as you continue to back Assad. 
Something to think about.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Study Finds Playing Multitasking Games Improves Cognition

Can you chew gum and walk at the same time?  How about drive a car, monitor traffic and hold a conversation?

Congrats, you've got the basics for multi-tasking.  Now, how do you strengthen that ability and develop the skills to be content creator, marketer, sales rep and project manager all at the same time?

CARLY SMITH | 5 SEPTEMBER 2013 11:58 AM 2   

Get off my case, Mom, I'm improving my brain functions by playing this game. 

Neuroscientists at the University of Carolina recently finished the latest study in findings on multitasking through videogames. They reported that participants in the study who trained by playing Neuroracer, a videogame in which players drive and must identify road signs, performed better on memory and attention tests outside the game for six months. 

The researchers monitored the brain waves of participants and found the older adults who played Neuroracer had increases in theta brain waves, which are associated with attention. Comparatively, adults in their 20s regularly have bursts of theta. The study also found that multitasking skills decrease with age. People in their 20s experienced a 26 percent drop when driving and identifying signs in the game as opposed to simply driving, whereas the drop was 64 percent for people in their 60s to 80s. However, other neuroscientists cautioned that many games advertised as "brain games" do not work as advertised. 

A previous study showed heavy use of "certain off-the-shelf, intense shooting games" can improve the player's ability to ignore distractions. Daphne Bavelier, leader of that research, said, "We know we can rewire the brain, but the challenge is how to do it properly." 

Dr. Adam Gazzaley, leader of the team of neuroscientists at University of Carolina, said the transfer of benefits from inside the game to outside the game was "grabbing," but he also warned that the findings do not suggest that any activity or videogame improves cognition. "There's a big leap between what we did here and the real world," he said. 

Source: New York Times

4 Tips To Empower Employees to be Content Creators

Want your employees to be creating content?  Get your learnin' cap on...

4 Tips To Empower Employees to be Content Creators

by Jason Miller | shared from Linkedin
Do you have content writers on your staff? You probably do and don’t even know it. Every one of your employees is a content creator and can be an important part of a successfulcontent marketing strategy. They were hired because of their expertise in a function that relates to your business and it’s your job to help them get their domain expertise out of their head and onto your blog. It might not be obvious to them that everything they know about a particular function or industry or business practice might be valuable insight to your customers and prospects. But with a little encouragement and communication of the “what’s in it for them” (e.g. good for their career/professional development, management recognition, etc.), you can help allay their fears.

Here are 4 tips to creating an employee content engine for your company:
1. Break Down the Barriers to Writing
One of the most common barriers to getting your employees involved in content creation or contributing to the blog is the fear of writing a blog post. Those who have never done so before can be intimidated by putting their thoughts out into the world for all to see and comment upon. It’s your job as a marketer to encourage them to get their thoughts and expertise out there.
One very useful resource that I have used to overcome this challenge is from what I like to refer to as “the bible” of content marketing, Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. This book is the essential guide for all content marketers, and it includes some very useful tools for getting new bloggers up and running. They have put together a blogging template that outlines the blogging process, making it easy for newbies to jump right in. Put that into place along with a few brown bag lunch blog training sessions at your office and you are primed for success
2. Incentives Work Wonders
Now that you have the essential playbook (Content Rules) in hand and the helpful templates, it’s time to incent participation. I recommend putting together a point system with tiered prizes for blog contribution and have seen these types of incentive programs work wonders when coordinated by a smart content marketing manager. For example,Marketo has a fantastic incentive program in place for internal bloggers which the following is based upon. Level 1 can be something simple such as a branded T-shirt or Starbucks gift card. Rewarding writers after just one contribution can really get the ball rolling. Level 2 could be a much more significant prize, such as X, for three blog contributions, Level 3 for six, and so on.
3. Don’t Forget the Editorial Process
With all of the new content coming into your blogging pipeline, it’s essential to have a quality check in place. The template will help out with any formatting issues, but remember quality always trumps quantity in the world of content. You will need to have a final reviewer in place for grammar checks and to add a bit of SEO optimization along with scheduling for the editorial calendar.
4. Ongoing Fuel for the Content Machine
Programs such as these are vital to a successful content marketing strategy. Once the ball gets rolling you will start to see new ideas and topics along with fresh opinions and writing styles begin to come out of the woodwork. It’s an internal content awakening of sorts, but just as with any program it’s going to need some TLC to keep it going strong.
Celebrate those who contribute to your blog and call them out in a company newsletter after they get their first blog post published. Publish their blog contributions to your LinkedIn company page, then take the top performing posts and run a Sponsored Update. It’s just another way to reward your internal content creators while making sure they know that their voice and expertise are contributing to the overall humanization of your brand online.
Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. Empowering them to contribute to such a powerful medium will help deliver the most difficult kind of content to create; the organic kind.

Alyssa Milano / Miley Cyrus Action!

(Funny or Die)

Cyrus got her headlines, all right - most of them negative.  Maybe she sells a couple more albums out of this, maybe not, but by not thinking her actions through she has done nothing for her brand.  She hasn't made history - she's briefly scandalized a couple of folk who will have already moved on to the next shock-and-awe story - like, say, the terrible plight of Syrians.

Then, there's Alyssa Milano, who until now I recalled as the kid from Who's The Boss.

Milano created the situation, tapped into the same emotional triggers that Cyrus used and then redirected focus on a human catastrophe.  Well planned, well executed and I guarantee there are a ton of people, like me, who are going to look at her with a new perspective - one based on respect, not disappointment.

Cyrus, whatever - kids in their skivvies acting inappropriate are a dime a dozen.  A woman with a critical mission, a thorough understanding of how to use public appetite and social media to her advantage and the strategic sense to follow it through to perfection?  Now that's hot.

And while you're here, you know what's definitely not cool?

Tolerating this.

After Action Reports: Death and Iteration in Business

Of course, you can always blame someone else for your woes and keep doing things the way you always have.  That tends to work real well.

When you find the right priority - and it might be a bit loftier than pure profit - you expand your perspective and enhance your capacity to bring new insights and new tools to the table.  Inevitably, those additions will benefit all your other objectives, including profit.

That's how value-add works.

Not Sharing the Opportunity to Learn is a Cardinal Sin

I have never worked for a company that was dogmatic about project postmortems but I have always wished I had. After all, project postmortems teach us so much.
Learning from the mistakes and experiences of others constitutes the better part of our business education. It’s why we ask successful entrepreneurs to coffee and hang on every word when they speak at conferences. All those stories are postmortems. Postmortems condense all the experience and learning into a nugget of shared wisdom.
Despite their value, postmortems are uncommon. They exist only in delicate corporate cultures that demand excellence but support learning. Harder still, framing one’s own failure to colleagues daunts the entry-level employee as much a seasoned CEO.

It’s rare to find an enterprise that conducts postmortems consistently. Very few startups do. But I came across one business in a sector I wouldn’t have expected that exemplifies the value of the everyday post-mortem.
Alcoa, the Aluminum Company of America, generates $24 billion in revenue and for decades held the title of largest aluminum producer in the world. In the mid-1980s, the company hired Paul O’Neill as CEO. O’Neill changed the course of the business and doubled revenues in ten years because he instilled one particular value in the company. Unlike his predecessors who focused on increasing profitability to drive market cap, O’Neill championed safety as priority one from his very first shareholder meeting.
This ostensibly odd decision created a cascade of cultural changes within Alcoa. First, it united the interests of managers and unions who had been at odds over wages and benefits. After all both sought safer working environments for their teams. Second, because every accident needed to be reported in a timely fashion according to company policy, Alcoa became one of the first large enterprises to adopt email. Last, as employees focused on reporting accidents quickly and widely, the company cultivated a culture wherein people learned from others’ mistakes and everyone benefitted as a result. Accident rates plummeted, productivity rose and the business boomed.
A few years into O’Neill’s term, at a shareholder meeting, a Mexican nun (who was a shareholder of Alcoa) pointed out to the CEO that some members of her parish had suffered exposure to toxic gases working for Alcoa. The company investigated. They discovered that one of the most senior and tenured members of the management team, Bob Barton, had covered up the gas leak. O’Neill fired Barton immediately.
O’Neill said later, “…no one else had the opportunity to learn [from the accident]. Not sharing an opportunity to learn is a cardinal sin.” And his employees agreed.
Postmortems demand a culture of honesty and communication, two of the core values of the strongest relationships and cultures. I hope we see more of them in startups.

The Economics of Knowledge: A Simple Irony

Profit is about sales - sales is about giving people what they want.  At present, we have a populous increasingly lost in the data fog of economic war; there has been an increased focus on salesfolk to simply the message embodying their product or service, making it literally a no-brainer for customers to buy in.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in politics, where successful leaders flaunt 5-point plans and repeatedly regurgitate canned messaging.  The same holds true for a whole generation of government relations consultants, encouraging their clients to be as simple as possible while at the same time trying to secure "the low hanging fruit" for those who pay their bills.  "Give 'em the sugar" is the message - "they aren't interested in the meat."

On the employee side, however, the reverse is true.  Employees in politics, as in a growing number of fields, are supposed to be masters of all trades; sales, product development, execution, project management, social media, keeping the boss happy, keeping the client happy, etc.

Employers are increasingly cycling through employees, using the three-month-contract like a speed-dating service.  Even more cost-effective for their end has been the use of unpaid interns; you get the benefit of the date without having to buy 'em dinner.  

How many of these employers are clear on what they're actually looking for?  How many criteria do voters consider in choosing the candidate or Party that gets their vote?

We keep telling ourselves that the details don't matter - whether we're a consumer or a voter or an employer, we want what we want and it's up to those we're paying to do the heavy lifting.  If they can't, we'll move on to someone else.  If they can't, we'll rinse and repeat the process.  When top-rung folk keep finding that employees aren't playing by their rules, or voters aren't behaving the way they want them to, they can grow despondent, get mad at the other party and fume about how kids these days "don't get it."

Meanwhile, smart employers are adapting the rules of the game to be a bit more inclusive and supportive of those who would work for them.  Ongoing training, work and workplace design and a bit of individual brand-building are all part of that package.

As is the case with any adaptation curve, there will be those that innovate new employee engagement practices, those that recognize they need to catch up and those who refuse to accept that the world has changed.  Those who fail to adapt will find themselves going the way of horses and bayonets.

The Industrial Economy relied on cookie-cutter functionality; knowledge was the purview of a select few at the top, making the decisions for their employees and for society.  The Knowledge Economy, surprise surprise, relies on more knowledge and decision-making ability in the hands of a larger demographic.  

It's an old story, but definitely one worth reading carefully.  After all, the devil's in the details.


Trainingpedia: The Future of Life-Long Learning

Cognitive Labour: The Mechanics of Innovation

Cognitive Labour: An Idea Going Viral

Mental Health, the Knowledge Economy and the Cognitive Labour Movement

Cognitive Labour in the Classroom

Life-Long Learning: Managing the Future

Mapping the Future of Government Services

This is What Creative Destruction Looks Like

Conscious Capitalism: The Future of Business

The Conscious Revolution: Peering Into the Looking Glass

IR #4: The Conscious Revolution

There's plenty more - I'm a prolific writer.  I'm hardly the only one painting this picture of what tomorrow looks like, though; it's worth your while to take some time, look around a bit, see where the other strands are and how they're starting to connect.

The Social Cost of PCPO Shenanigans

Where to begin?

I should probably start by saying that I rather like Peter Shurman - he's tough-minded but generally fair.  Despite the fact that we're on opposite sides of the political fence and I'm really of no value to him, he has on more than one occasion dedicated some of his time to communicating with me over a couple of issues.  He really is a dedicated constituency man, though he's equally good at being a partisan shill (part of the "what any MPP has to do" he refers to).

It also occurs to me that, as chatter grows about a race to replace Tim Hudak as leader, Shurman is a name that has periodically come up; he's a solid public speaker with a booming voice and, as indicated by my affection, could probably be presented as a more appealing face for non-traditional Conservative votes.  I wouldn't be surprised if the surfacing of this story is connected to someone trying to mitigate his threat as a leadership rival down the road.

With that out of the way - why on earth should the public be subsidizing a retirement home for an MPP?  Isn't that what sound financial planning is for?  Shurman's energetic, to be sure, but he's not a young man.  The MPP gig is not his first career, either.  Has he not been planning for retirement his whole professional career, buying RRSPs and whatnot?  He should have planned for retirement self-sustainability; that's what Conservatives are telling everyone else to do.  

What about "live within your means?" I can't afford a retirement home; I can't even afford annual overseas vacations.  So, I don't take them.  For a growing number of people across Ontario, the focus is on second-hand cars, smaller homes, cheaper products and fewer perks, which is exactly how the Tories would have it.  It's ludicrous for a Conservative MPP to be complaining about what their salary doesn't let them cover - if he needs more money, he should take on a second job, or a third job, like so many other Ontarians do.  Selling Avon or cleaning parks provide no conflict of interest with his political employment.  Or maybe he should get out of politics for a job that pays more adequately for the sort of lifestyle he wants for himself and his wife; there's good money in consulting and lord knows, GR firms always find rooms for well-connected former politicians.

Me, I'm a liberal - I think our economic system is out of whack and I agree with Shurman that what MPPs make isn't that much in the grand scheme of things.  I think it's problematic to expect so many other Ontarians, especially young ones, to work more jobs for less to make ends meet.  I have a real problem with expecting youth to "cut their teeth" on unpaid internships to earn the right to make money.  That's a cop-out by the people pulling in millions every year and investing those dollars in second homes in Barbados.  Somehow, something's gotta give.

Unemployment and underemployment is a severe problem in Ontario's economy, one that the sorts of policy ideas being fronted by the Hudak Tories (including Shurman) simply aren't going to fix.  The current Liberal slate of policies aren't fully up to the task, either.  What's needed to solve this deepening crisis is some genuine debate, compromise and creative, shared solutions.

Shurman's idea of an Ontario-based Kickstarter is an example of the sorts of ideas we should be looking at.  If our politicians spent more time working collaboratively on defining solutions instead of attempting to pull the rug out from under each other (both across the aisle and within their own Party) we'd probably see more such innovative ideas - heck, they might even come to fruition.

I have some sympathy for Shurman; it's hard not to, he's a likable kind of guy.  I have a lot more sympathy for the many, many Ontarians who don't have the luxury of dipping into publicly-funded allowances to finance their dream lifestyle.  This is the kind of thing that drives them bonkers and leads to declarations that "all politicians are the same" - entitled to their entitlements, which are paid for by us.

On the odd chance that Shurman is mulling a leadership run, I would recommend that he balance the cognitive dissonance of his position; either people are entitled to public support for quality-of-life or they aren't.  The only way to truly demonstrate one's leadership potential is to practice what you preach - i.e. lead by example.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

From Product to Experience to Relationship: Where @thejohnrobson is Stuck in the Past

@thejohnrobson is an historian - as the child of two historians, I can understand what informs his perspective.  When you have immersed yourself in the past and studied the thoughts, actions and results of those who shaped the past, it's natural to feel you've got a pretty solid understanding of how the world works.

The problem is that the world keeps changing; demographics, technology, urban density, cultural diversity and countless other factors become more complex and tweak the modern context.  A feudal lord in 13th Century France could not have predicted The French Revolution any more than South African Doppers in the 1850s could have forseen the impact of Twitter on social communication and accountability.

As a student of history, though, I'm sure Robson is aware that "these kids just don't get it" is a theme that repeats regularly.  In fact, it's often uttered by those folk clinging to a societal/economic model that's in the process of being replaced.  It's a message that has been passed on to colonials (the Tea Party) women (Suffrage), African Americans (Civil Rights) and countless other groups since the discovery of the written word.

While there are certain realities that don't change, there are plenty that do.  Booker T. Washington may have advised Presidents, but he could never have been one.  Today, an African American does sit in the Oval Office.  A century ago, it would have been impossible for Steven Fletcher to be an MP.  It would equally have been impossible for deaf children to hear, women with fertility problems to have children, etc. etc.  

Yes, many of the innovations that have facilitated social progression were discovered - but it took individuals with direction, the ability to connect the dots and the audacity of dreaming big to harness those fortuitous accidents and create opportunities (though perhaps he feels that Sun News was an accidental discovery).

Which is why I singled out Robson's quote about employees proving themselves to customers  via management in particular.  It's quite telling that, in using the burger joint as an example, Robson focuses on a product experience; customers want what they've ordered and expect their meal to taste good.  Fast food joints are built on the mass production model - create lots of the same thing at a predictable level of quality and sameness using an assembly-line model of production.  Theoretically, you should be able to get the exact same burger experience at a Harvey's in downtown Toronto as you do in Montreal or St. John's.

Under this model, it is indeed management that designs the process and the product; the role of employees is simply to follow the instructions, like an IKEA furniture kit.  Whether you're making cars or t-shirts or burgers, the process is the same; employees are meant to fill functions, not add value. 

Missing from this equation, of course, is customer experience.

In the Mass Production model, the actual producers (front line staff) weren't meant to interact with customers; the results of their labour was transferred to customers via management or sales teams.  This is still often the case with rapid-turnaround burger joints; you don't go for the conversation, you go for the convenience.  If there's a problem with anything, you ask to speak to the manager.

If you're looking for an experience, you'd go to a Starbucks.

Starbucks, that nesting ground for liberal arts types, maintains a focus on quality product (coffee) but has enhanced their model to provide a customer experience.  It's the same with the Indigo/Chapters model - the instore experience is designed to encourage customers to linger, to see outlets as places to be as well as to buy.  Part of this model has been to turn front-line staff functionaries into customer service agents; instead of proving themselves to customers via management, these staff are instead proving themselves to management via customers.  

maslow's hierarchy of needs diagram
Sales agents still want to rack up their numbers, but there is no denying the promotional value of positive customer feedback to the boss.  As there is so much more variety of product out there these days there's real value for a customer in communicating with front-line staff who can offer suggestions on choice, be it a burger, a coffee or a book.  You can't communicate what you don't know - there's increased pressure on front-line staff to be well-rounded, to know how to read their customers and offer informed opinions.

But even this doesn't bring us up to the present, where employers are increasingly demanding their employees develop products and services, identify markets, make the sale and maintain the relationship.  There's more to CRM, after all, than database management.  When your frontline is constantly engaging with your customers, you need them to be in the right frame of mind, which is hard to maintain when you're treated like a widget or constantly in fear of reprimand.

Then there's the marketing side of the equation.

We've heard about employees fired for griping about work via social media - smart managers have twigged to the fact that happy, socially engaged employees are a fantastic source of free advertising.  Promoting your employees over their social networks is also a quick and easy way to expand your reach and build brand loyalty in the most organic of ways.

There's a whole trend emerging of employers who have recognized the financial value of respecting and even empowering employees; it's good for them, for the customers they build relationships with and, as a result, for the company's bottom line.

Like it or not, that's where the trend lines are pointing.  You can gripe that too many kids are being hand-held through education and are emerging with unrealistic expectations, but the fact is those expectations are increasingly being met, although admittedly not in every sector.  In areas like manufacturing, you're still expected to take what you get and like it - just ask Wal-Mart employees in Bangladesh.

For an historian like Robson, though, none of this should really come as a surprise.  As he points out, there was a time where very few citizens had the privilege (or wealth) to go to university; the same applies to education at large.  As society grows more dense and the demands of an increasingly specialized and integrated economy grow more refined, we have a growing need for greater education and greater social awareness.  You can't get a job anywhere in Canada if you have zero education, or secondary education - post-secondary education is just the latest addition.

If anything, the lesson history seems to be teaching us is that liberal arts are going to more, not less useful as we progress into the future.

UPDATE: I've already written on how cutting-edge companies like Environics are raising the bar in terms of work and workplace design; I came across this lovely promo video by H&K Toronto that provides another example.  Employers that are relying on their employees to develop relations and create solutions rather than build widgets or serve burgers should pay attention - this is what the future looks like.

Nurturing Diversity: The Garden of Good and Evil

That which adapts, survives - and thrives.  Where does adaptation come from?  Diversity.  If you want to stay the same forever, try building firewalls around yourself and keep the rest of the world out.  Japan did that.  The Ottoman Empire did that.  North Korea, enabled by China, is pushing that experiment about as far as it can go.

Without change, stagnation and rot sets in.  Always does, always will.  If the people beyond your walls don't knock them down (their superiority due to the laws of adaptation), the weeds will eventually force their way through, cracking your defences.

Diversity is not a threat - change is not a threat.  Change is inevitable; diversity is strength.

The role of government isn't to segregate its citizenry nor to allow each to grow wild - that leads to a tangled mess and eventually, brushfire.  

True leaders are like gardeners, seeing neither good nor evil but the potential for sustainable growth.  Plant the seeds, nurture systematic growth, reap what you sow, etc.  It's something to chew on, at least.

War is Sacrifice

Steve Rogers: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.
Tony Stark: I think I would just cut the wire.
Steve Rogers: Always a way out... You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.
War is the most wasteful of human activities.  It's designed to do one thing - destroy.  That destruction comes in the form of lives lost, property damaged and societies fractured.  It's all so very wasteful.
It also requires an utter level of conviction; you must completely overcome your enemy, reduce them to a quivering mass afraid to ever lift a finger in your presence again or you must "...plant your foot on his neck, and keep him that way forever, lest he spring up and slit your white throat."
There is, in my mind, only one valid justification for war - and that's to stop the fatal suffering of other human beings at the hands of oppressors.  Up to that point you have many, many tools for coercion; legislative, advocacy, civil disobedience, million person marches, more nuanced tactics of persuasion.  When the guns start picking off the people, that is when you must recognize all other efforts have, in exclusion, failed - and that's when you supplement them with extreme prejudice.
The conflict in Syria is one of those times.  It is incumbent on world leaders (yes, many of whom have blood of some kind or other on their own hands) to do something to protect the innocent.  That's the whole point of being a leader.
Now here's where I stand apart from many.  I am not in favour of armchair military tactics that keep the aggressor out of harm's way.  There is, in fact, a rule for that - do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.  If you are prepared to put a bullet into another human being because you believe it is necessary, you must be prepared to take one back.
To declare war on someone and expect them not to retaliate if folly.  To try and take the risk out of war for yourself is equally short-sighted - it tends to involve harsh measures like landmines, chemical weapons and drones, escalating the inhumanity of combat.  When you keep your skin out of the game, you keep your enemy at a distance, making  it easier to dehumanize them.  The person you can't see can be an animal, a beast, a sub-human creature that needs to be put down at all costs - meaning, the ends justify the means.  That's the approach Assad has taken, as have so many dictators before him. 
When you look 'em in the eye, they are simple another soldier following orders on behalf of a cause that's been sold to them in the most flattering terms possible.  They have families just as you do; they are as frustrated, tired and questioning as you are.  If you have to kill them - and you may have to - recognize that killing for what it is and remember.
This is the same reason I believe he who passes judgement should wield the sword.  Leaders calling for war from the comforts of plush offices are playing testosterone-fuelled games using the lives of others as their pawns.  Assad feels like the Big Man on the Syrian campus; he'd feel a little bit differently if the carnage being done on his orders landed directly on his doorstep.
There are all kinds of reasons why modern leaders don't lead from the front - bigger theatres of war require broader line-of-sight to manage multiple engagements in an effective, coordinated way.  When the people calling those shots, however, have never experienced war in person, then there's a good chance that all they see are hills on maps.  The Bloody Great War I is full of such stories of lives destroyed because leaders didn't bother to get the lay of the land.
Politics is this kind of warfare writ large - leaders try to remove themselves from the consequences of their direction, fostering a chain of unaccountability.  You can always spin your way out of any crisis you have brought on yourself.  Everyone that gets hurt along the way is simply collateral damage.  By enabling leaders because we think that will serve our own best interests, we fuel the problem.  The role of a leader's team isn't to protect their leader but to empower them and provide them with the best counsel possible, whether it's palatable or not.  Leaders should wear the weight of their decisions personally - it's not a privilege, being in charge, but a responsibility.
War is sacrifice; in situations like Syria a necessary one, but a sacrifice none-the-less.  If you're going to commit to combat - if you're going to commit your own forces to combat - have the guts to internalize what you are doing and do it properly.  That means boots on the ground, preparations at home and a never-ending commitment to try and make non-violent alternatives work.  Destruction of the enemy is never the goal - you can't do that without becoming a war criminal yourself.  Keeping your foot on the throat of your enemy isn't sustainable, either - revolutions are born that way. 
If a leader is to commit to war, they should do so not in a bid for self-preservation; in fact, they should do so from a mindset of never asking their troops to do that which they would not.  That means being ready to put your own life on the line as well.  That kind of conviction discourages sloppy and wasteful planning, but it is also powerful beyond recognition - there is nothing more terrifying on the field of combat than an entire force that, from the top down, is prepared to put the mission before all else, including themselves. 
At the end of the day it's not a matter of us vs. them; it's one world, and we all live in it together, or we can die alone.  There is nothing heroic about killing someone else; the true heroes are those ready to die themselves so that others may live.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Party at Work: BYOD!

So many out-of-date tools, poor workstation design, work design, so on and so forth.
Know what really helps?  Invest in your labour and let them have a say in work and workspace design.  What tools are going to work best for them?  Instead of cutting salaries to buy equipment and more marketing, give individual employees tech budgets and some parameters - they'll have the toys, the investment and as a result will add value.  When they live and love what you do, they become your best salespeople (in how they do their job and how they post about it online).
That's increasingly the direction we're headed
We’ve been talking about BYOD on several blogs, from a policy, people and technology perspective since quite some time. BYOD is increasingly getting debated in enterprise content management (ECM), collaboration, marketing automation and marketing/business in general too. It’s again one of many reasons why it’s more than time to reconnect business and IT for intelligent information management and beyond.
BYOD (short for Bring Your Own Device) is  just one aspect of the whole so-called consumerization of IT phenomenon and it’s certainly about more than just devices (the D in BYOD) as we can see in the multitude of new acronyms popping up. So, why does it matter a lot in enterprise content management and collaboration?
For starters, the first step towards drafting a good BYOD policy is aligning an unstoppable reality (even if a business does not allow workers to use personal devices at work or for work purposes, they’ll do it anyway), business goals (with the many possible benefits of BYOD) and an IT strategy, possibly completed with HR goals, etc. If you take a look at the business goals that can be served by BYOD, you’ll notice that most of them essentially are about content and access to it – individually and within groups (collaboration…).
At the occasion of his analysis track keynote at Global Directions 2013 later this month in Washington D.C., as previously mentioned an event we support, John Mancini, President of AIIM says, I quote: “The workforce has become increasingly mobile…there is also an increasing expectation by customers, suppliers and partners that business be conducted in real time…as a result, 46% of users need to share documents and content with project groups inside and outside the firewall”.  Mobile and real-time business and information needs driving the way content and documents get shared indeed.

What we can learn from mobile CRM: the context of enterprise content management

The consumerization of IT, BYOD and the more general BYOx (Bring Your Own Anything) as Ovum calls it (e.g. apps, social, storage etc.) has played an interruptive role in business and marketing before. The adoption of mobile CRM, for instance was, among others, driven by the demand of mobile workers (sales reps, marketing execs, etc.) and the increasing use of smart mobile devices by those workers.
The positive impact of mobile and BYOD in the CRM area is known with research clearly showing organizations using mobile CRM properly leading the pack regarding sales (enablement). At the same time there is a lot to learn from the fact mobile CRM adoption was mainly worker-driven. Especially as one of the key reasons for this demand was all about having the right information (customer data, product information, social data and different types of documents and content) at hand at the right time and place.
It’s from this information and content viewpoint that BYOD often should be seen. BYOD is happening and each business needs to find the right equilibrium between flexibility, involvement, centralization, distribution, security and management. But, no matter how you turn it, essentially BYOD often is really about content and information. That’s why a BYOD policy should look at how workers can be empowered to have access to the business content and tools (collaboration, for instance) they need on one hand and how to manage that information (risks of loss, personal content silos, deleting information when needed, etc.) on the other.

Avoiding unmanaged data and content silos: mobile ECM

The risks of data fragmentation and personal content silos are real. And so are the benefits of BYOD from a content and information perspective. Let’s face it: if access to content is not easy or not adapted to the reality of the increasingly mobile worker and the context of the devices we do use, it won’t be used the way we want it. People want access to business content and data using their mobile devices. Beyond the firewall too.
91 procent of the workforce uses personal devices for work documents - source Huddle
When it doesn’t happen the content either sits there without being optimally turned into action or people just start building their own mobile content repositories in the cloud using easy tools, accessible anywhere anytime. The rise of the mentioned personal content silos and containers shows it as in the Huddle research I mentioned a while back. And it’s not just the vendors noticing it. Organizations see it as well. Earlier this year AIIM found 30% of research respondents “are seeing increasing use of unofficial cloud content management and file shares”. Decentralization is OK but it needs to be managed and combine flexibility with management.
More data
(from SkyDox, now Workshare), based on a survey with AIIM, (see infographic below): 
  • 77% of employees require access to their documents from outside the office.
  • 66% of employees use a free file sharing platform to store or share corporate documents.
Vendors of enterprise content management solutions add access to mobile devices and mobile ECM is there. Even if some mobile management solutions offer content capturing, storing and sharing possibilities, it’s increasingly clear the ECM market has a role to play and often plays.
Enterprise content management in general is moving from document and content management and capturing to making the content available across multiple channels and devices, including mobile.

The collaboration dimension: connecting content, documents, people and mobility

Furthermore it’s not just about ECM in the strictest sense but also about (content) collaboration. Social business de facto is mainly about collaboration. And collaboration is mainly about content and information.
Social and other collaboration systems also are moving towards mobile environments with storage and document features, accessible via mobile devices. Just look at the latest version of Microsoft SharePoint, for instance. Or at social collaboration pure-players and file sharing/storage/collaboration tools, even in the consumer space. At the same time (mobile) ECM providers offer mobile collaboration features and several collaboration vendors (like Workshare) have or add features in the area of Mobile Content and Collaboration providers.
Things are getting connected. Just as business functions and people are. The link between consumerization and BYOD on one hand and the changes in the ECM and collaboration landscape are clear. Just as BYOD has an impact on ECM and collaboration vendor offerings, BYOD user needs increasingly are about file sharing, mobile access to ECM, collaboration and a friendly yet full and thus integrated/connected experience.

A word on BYOD and marketing

It happens in content management but also in business applications and marketing systems such as marketing automation. I guess it’s not a coincidence the people at marketing automation vendor Marketo recently blogged about BYOD.
With the mobilization of content and the workforce, productivity and efficiency gains are probably more visible in the content space than anywhere else.
And in the end it always boils down to the same: right information, right time, right place. Or connecting people, data, content, behavior, technology and business.
The consequence of not doing it: fragmented data, information security risks and content silos. Oh, and for marketers looking to get their subject matter experts ‘doing content marketing’ and interacting more with each other and customers via social channels: guess which devices we increasingly use to share content and interact? Indeed. Maybe it’s time to look at a BYOD program?

AIIM Survey BYOD and content infographic - via SkyDox