Make 2012 the Best Year Ever

December 29, 2011

For many years now, I have thrown away the concept of the traditional New Year’s Resolution.  In its place I have used themes that guide me through the year.  These themes are not specific destinations or goals, but are rather guideposts that help me make smart decisions.  In using this approach, I become more “present moment” focused (goals are future-focused).  This increases my happiness.  And equally important, it allows for opportunities to emerge that might be hidden using a traditional goal-setting approach.

If you want to learn more about creating New Year’s Themes, be sure to read my popular article on “Making Resolutions That Work” (a variation of it appeared in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year).

You may also be interested in some fascinating statistics on New Year’s Resolutions.  It is truly amazing how unsuccessful people are with their New Year’s Resolution setting.

Happy New Year.  May 2012 be your best year ever!

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Major Licensing Deal Signed

December 28, 2011

As some of you know, my 2012 business strategy is to license my content in a number of creative ways.

We already licensed Personality Poker in a variety of languages and to a number of trainers.  The Dutch translation is the most recent version and will be available in January.

And, just last week, we signed a major deal with one of the premier training organizations to take my content and convert it into workshops that will be delivered by their certified trainers.  This is exciting news as it will make my content more accessible to more organizations.

More details coming soon.

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Why Brainstorming is Stupid

December 27, 2011

I was recently interviewed for an article on Inc.com.  Due to length restrictions, only part of my interview was included in the article.  Therefore I am giving you the other half here.  But be sure to read the their article first as it sets the stage.

I was asked by Inc.com why brainstorming, as usually practiced, is ineffective.

Personally I am not a huge fan of brainstorming, especially the way most organizations conduct sessions. Here are a few of my concerns, along with some possible solutions:

  • Poorly defined challenge: As discussed in the Inc.com article, if you ask the wrong question, you will of course get the wrong answer. Most brainstorming sessions do a poor job of thinking through the challenge. If I were running a session, I would spend a bulk of the time making sure we have the right question. Einstein reputedly said, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and 1 minute finding solutions.” From my experience, most companies spend 60 minutes brainstorming issues that are not important.
  • Lack of Diversity: Most brainstorming sessions bring in the same people to each and every session. Usually the room is composed of people who are too close to the issue to be objective or even have a new point of view. Innovation only occurs when you have a wide range of perspectives. Therefore, make sure you identify others that have a tangential perspective.– people from different industries or disciplines. This will certainly add value.
  • Group Think: When one person throws out a solution, it taints the mindset of everyone else in the room. This causes convergence too early in the process. Instead, consider having everyone jot down his or her individual responses first. Only after that is done, should you have everyone share their thoughts with the group.
  • Single Threading: Most brainstorming sessions are done with a leader at the front and only one person speaking at a time. This slows down the process and leads to “social loafing.” In response, some leaders will break everyone into smaller groups. Unfortunately this leads to a lack of cross-pollination. To respond to this issue, I developed a technique modeled after the “Speaker’s Corner” in London’s Hyde Park (described in my Best Practices Are Stupid book). With this method, simultaneous conversations take place with participants moving freely from topic to topic as desired.
  • Innovation Event: Brainstorming is typically treated as an event.  Too often it is disconnected from the “reality” of the business and therefore does not convert the ideas into results.  If you think of the event as the start of a process, you have a better chance of creating value.  Before the meeting, get clear on what you will do after the brainstorming session.  Get buy-in early on from the people who will make change happen.  When innovation is a process, it is repeatable and predictable.

Ok, brainstorming can be effective (and not stupid), if done properly.  Unfortunately most organizations do not take the time to do it right.  Applying the concepts above can hopefully move you in the right direction.

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Ideas, Ideas Everywhere…

December 23, 2011

There’s an old tale that goes…

Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.

Inside of organizations, there’s a corollary…

Ideas, ideas every where, Nor any one can think.

Um, ok, I should stick to my day job.  But the point is, organizations are drowning in a sea of ideas, yet they never take the time to think about what matters most.

The other day I was at an event run by a non-profit.  They have built up a large network of advocates who support the cause.  As I am a good friend with the woman who runs this group, I spent a fair amount of time with her that evening.  As the hours passed, many people gave her their thoughts on how to run the organization.  “Do more of this…”  “Do less of that…” “Call your group this….” “Engage these organizations…” “Copy what this non-profit is doing…”

The ideas were all over the map.

I could tell that the organization’s leader was a bit frustrated and confused as there were so many suggestions.

She turned to me and asked what I thought she should do.

Of course, like everyone else, I had my opinion.

I told her, “Stop listening to people’s suggestions.”  I then joking said, “And you should ignore my suggestion too.” (Someone once said to me, “Isn’t telling people that they should not use best practices a best practice?” Hmmm….)

Within any organization, there is never a shortage of ideas.  There is a shortage of good ideas that actually matter and ultimately create real value.

My recommendation to her was:

  1. Stop listening to suggestions (and don’t solicit them either).  Everyone wants to give you their two cents…and that’s all their ideas are worth.
  2. Get clear on your strategy.  There has been too much focus on day-to-day activities that the business model has not been clearly articulated.  There has been an over-focus on tactics rather than outcomes.
  3. Stop copying the best practices of other, similar non-profits; study for-profit organizations.  This will provide new insights.  And it will have you less reliant on sponsorship/donations and will force you to develop a real value proposition.
  4. Based on the strategy, identify a series of challenges/opportunities (“How might we…?”).  The strategy defines “what” you want to achieve (outcomes) and “why” (purpose).  The challenges deconstruct the strategy into questions, that when solved, provide the “how”.
  5. Ask your network (through email or better yet a private discussion board) for “solutions” to these challenge/opportunities.  Encourage collaboration.
  6. Find people who are passionate about moving these opportunities forward and put them in charge of implementation.

A critical issue with so many organizations (especially smaller businesses and non-profits) is that there are so many opportunities and so little focus.  The ideas/needs of the day tend to overshadow the overall strategy.

Get clear on how you make money, how you differentiate yourself, and then define a series of challenges that will help make that strategy a reality.  Focusing on what matters most will accelerate your innovation efforts and reduce your investment.

Happy Holidays.

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Southwest Airlines Magazine Article

December 15, 2011

Last month (November), Best Practices Are Stupid, was featured in Southwest Airline’s Spirit Magazine.  Now that it is no longer on planes and can’t be found on the internet, I figured it was time to share the article with the readers of this blog.  They did such a nice job, I feel as though their work should live on.  Click the image below to launch the article in a new window. Enjoy!

 

 

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Making Connections

December 14, 2011

One of my favorite topics is to discuss how breakthroughs are generated by looking for someone who has solved a similar problem in a different space.

Some examples I talk about in my “Best Practices Are Stupid” books are:

  • A company developed a new type of whitening toothpaste by studying the way non-bleach laundry detergent works
  • A gas pipeline “sealing” system was developed by studying the way the capillaries in the finger coagulate blood and heal themselves
  • An office supply company found a way to get customers to return used toner cartridges by studying Netflix’s DVD service

And there are so many more interesting case studies.

While giving a speech on this recently, a client shared another wonderful example.

The company is in the computer simulation space.  They are able to build incredibly realistic models of what might happen in the real world by creating simulations in the virtual world.

When working for a medical device company that made angioplasty equipment, they wanted to create a computer simulation that would predict how the “balloon” would expand.

Where did they turn for an accurate computer model?

In the past, they worked with car manufacturers and built statistical models that simulated the expansion and contraction of airbags.  This proved to be a wildly accurate way of predicting how a balloon catheter would operate.

When you are working on your next business challenge, ask yourself: “Who else has solved a similar problem.”

In doing so, you might significantly accelerate your innovation effort.

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“Best Practices Are Stupid” Named One of the Best in 2011

December 13, 2011

I’m pleased that the American Express OPEN Forum (via Matthew E. May) selected Best Practices Are Stupid as one of the top 15 books of 2011.  Check out the complete list

Also, Best Practices Are Stupid  was selected as one of the “Top-Drawer Business Books of 2011″ by the advertising agency, DDB.  See the complete list here

And, in case you missed it, there is an excellent review of the book on the Actionable Books website.  Read it here

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Silly Pricing Practices

December 12, 2011

Here is the first new entry under the “Silly Practices” umbrella.

The other day I bought a television from Amazon.com. I buy everything from them and am a big fan. The TV was about 40% off the retail price and was $200 less than anywhere else. I thought was I was getting a good deal (and I was). Amazon.com has a price guarantee on the televisions they sell. If the customer finds the same TV being sold for less elsewhere or on Amazon.com within 15 days, they will credit the difference. I could also, for any reason, return a TV within 30 days and they pay for shipping both ways.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving (4 days after I bought the TV), I saw that Amazon.com has dropped their price by $150. Cool. I wrote customer service asking for my account to be credited. Instead of them agreeing to do so, They told me that Black Friday and similar discounts did not count and they would not credit my account.

My television had not yet arrived at my condo (but it was shipped to a 3rd party who would ultimately deliver it to me). So I decided I would buy a new one at the low price and see if I could cancel the first order. I was unable to do this through the Internet, so I called.  They were extremely responsive.  I asked if they could either cancel the first order or, better yet, cancel the second order and credit my account for the difference.

Again, they would not give me a credit. Even though the first TV had shipped to the local courier who was gong to deliver it to my house, they decided to intercept it and have it sent back without my ever taking delivery. They shipped the second order later that day.

From a customer point of view, other than having to call them, they end result was what I wanted.  I got the TV delivered on the same day as I wanted for the $150 less.

But the silly thing here is that Amazon.com paid for a 50 inch TV to be shipped to a courier, and then returned. And then they had to pay for my new TV to be shipped. Had they simply credited my account, they would have saved quite a bite of money and energy dealing with the return.

Knowing Amazon.com, there might be a good reason for doing this. But from my perspective, it just seems silly.

What other silly practices have you seen? Write us at: stories (at) sillypractices (dot) com.

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Introducing Silly Practices

December 9, 2011

My latest book, “Best Practices Are Stupid,” discusses why replicating what someone else is doing is not a bright idea.  Just because something works for one company, does not mean it will work for you.

Of course, not all practices are even good. Some are just downright silly.

Even great companies do silly things.

I am astonished every day by what I see.

Companies make their customers jump through hoops. It seems as though companies (and their employees) take great pleasure in making our lives difficult. And sometimes these silly practices cost the business money but they still do them anyway.

Are these companies bad?  Of course not.  In some cases, these practices have been around for decades and have not caught up with the times (“that’s the way we’ve always done it”).  In other cases, the organization’s business model/design make them difficult to do business with (“our internet sales group is not connected with our retail stores”).  And of course, in some situations, things that seem silly to the customer are designed to protect the company from catastrophe (“we need to return to the gate because the FAA will fine us if we are on the tarmac for more than 3 hours”).

Today I decided to launch a new website dedicated to gathering and sharing the silly things well-intention (and not-so-well-intentioned) companies do.

Here the concept in a nutshell…

Companies have policies and procedures that they use to run their businesses. Most are logical and serve an important purpose.

But many are just plain silly. They don’t make any sense because they either negatively impact the consumer experience or cost the company money.

IMPORTANT: This is NOT a gripe session. It is not a place for you (or me) to complain. Instead it is a chance to share the silly things that companies do. Yes, we can laugh at them if we want. But my hope is to start raising awareness of these practices so that they can be eradicated…or at least better understood.

Everyone has blind spots. They don’t realize the unintended consequences of their actions. But when you put a spotlight on them, you can take corrective actions. This is a key step in being able to innovate more effectively.

I encourage you to contribute.

Make a difference.  Share your story.  The best way to do this is to email it to us at: stories (at) sillypractices (dot) com [my spam filter will ask you to verify your identify]. Provide as much or little detail as you want. I will post appropriate emails here for others to see. Let me know if you want your name and contact details included (the default will assume anonymity).  In the future, you will have the chance to enter your stories directly.

COMING SOON: Although for now we will post the practices on this blog, in the VERY near future, we will move everything to a new (yet to be developed) website: sillypractices.com. Stay tuned.

P.S. We are playing around with different names for the new website.  Which do you like?

  • sillypractices.com?
  • dumbpractices.com?
  • weirdpractices.com?
  • badpractices.net? (the .com is taken)
Please leave a comment with your suggestion.  Thanks!

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ReinventingMyBusiness.com is Live

December 2, 2011

You readers of this blog may know, I am in the process of reinventing my business. I am looking at all aspects of it.  The innovator is innovating himself.

Today we launched a new website dedicated to this reinvention: www.reinventingmybusiness.com.

Although that content is useful to anyone who wants to reinvent their business (and life), I decided to keep it separate from this blog as I will be sharing some very personal insights there. Enjoy!

 

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