Publish… or Perish

Paul Nicklen, photographer for National Geographic, states in his TED talk of March 2011 that National Geographic reminds him quite frequently, “We publish pictures not excuses.” As business people, we can only sell our products, not excuses. We can only sell our services, not excuses.

 

The growth and survival of our companies depend on this tenant. In fact, many companies over the years have unfortunately found that excuses kill. Sometimes excuses are the inability to see the changes before their eyes. Example in an eerily related industry: Kodak. Film cameras and film have all but ceased to exist. The successful slogan “Kodak moment” so well marketed, disappeared from the viewfinder, and they must shudder at their lack of vision. (Pardon all the puns.) They have no excuse. Their pictures go unpublished.

 

This week, IBM has had to retrench in a flurry of unexcused excuses. An Apple? Oh, golly our loyalties are fleeting, and trending shorter.

 

All the more reason to keep in mind that you can only publish pictures, not excuses, and if you don’t — perish.

Plan B

What is a Plan B, besides a morning after pill?

It’s a backup. It’s the spare tire. It’s what you should have behind your Plan A.

Plan B’s are scary because we rarely even have a Plan A.  Why not? Companies usually have Plan A’s. Or Plans. Do they have Plan B’s? Shouldn’t they? What happens if the new product fails? What happens if the production line slows or stops? What do they do if they cannot obtain the part they need?  What’s their Plan B?

What’s your personal Plan B for losing your job in a reorganization? What’s the Plan B for retirement if the kids come back home with your grandchildren in tow? Or THEY lose a job in a reorganization and need a place to stay “for a little while.”

If you don’t have a Plan A, you won’t ever have a Plan B.

So what are your plans for the weekend?

Mismatched Socks and Marketing

It might have started with Helena Bonham Carter (HBC) at the 2011 Golden Globes. OR before. HBC rocked the fashion world by wearing OMG mismatched shoes!  Clearly on purpose, she chose one gray, and one red.  Not to be confused with the time I went to work with one navy blue, and one black leather pump, having dressed in the winter dark morning, only to be mortified the WHOLE DAY LONG by my style gaffe.

I received my first on purpose mismatched pair from a friend in February of this year. Cute, I thought, and I love them. At a local high school last week, I sidled up to a student, and kidded her, asking if she was aware that her socks didn’t match. “Oh,” she said. “Mismatched socks are good luck.”socks

With that, three other girls in the classroom pulled up pant legs to reveal, very seriously, that they too had opted for good luck.  Their socks did not match, and whoever added the “luck” factor deserves the you’re-an-awesome-marketer-good-for-you award.

Don’t know about you, but not only does this appeal to the environmental side of the universe, because we have plenty of sock orphans at our house, but also, it pays huge homage to the marketing theory of finding a new use for an old product. Adding the magic of “good luck” (wish I had thought of that), and you have a sock-it-to-you business that actually precedes HBC.  Come to find out that one company alone (Little MissMatched) sells $5 million a year of mismatched stuff to a very rich target of “tweens” and teens.

Meanwhile, I look to the future of being daring enough to wear mismatched anything.  My conservative self grew up wanting (because ours didn’t) for all the pieces of a place setting to match. Ask my mom.

Big Brother Google

The ThinkerDid you catch the allusion to  George Orwell’s 1984? Here we are, almost 30 years later, and the novel’s themes sniff at our heels. Someone or something is controlling what we see and hear.

Does it concern you that what you see and what I see are entirely different? Big Brother Google, in its best intention to send you what it thinks you want to see, limits not only the exact content, but also the slant of that content.  In his 2011 TED talk, Eli Pariser starts the conversation. http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html. But where does this discussion end?

I know it is great for you if your stuff pops up all over the web. Good for you.  But as a society, we may suffer.

Break the mold. Start looking at stuff you don’t care about! Stuff you don’t know about. Different stuff. Otherwise, your head will be stuffed with what someone else thinks you want to see. Maybe you don’t want to see yesterday’s “you” anymore. It’s your responsibility to see a wider view, the today you, and the tomorrow you.

We founded this country on freedom of the press, freedom of speech. Don’t cut off your freedoms to avoid being clobbered by your big brother.

Tribes

I love the notion of tribes.  It’s a gut-level ancestral haul back to ancient times. It’s also hot right now.  Seth Godin, marketer extraordinaire, extols tribes as key to effective marketing. We all want to belong, fit in, be a part of.

David Logan, co-author of Tribal Leadership and The Three Laws of Performance, breaks tribe culture into five stages as summarized in his 2009 TED talk.

FIVE STAGES OF TRIBES:

  1. Life Sucks
  2. My Life Sucks
  3. I’m Great (and you’re not)
  4. We’re Great
  5. Life is Great

Logan says that tribes are comprised of between 20 and 150 people, but that the goal for managers, leaders, and marketers, among others, is to help people move from the lower stages up to the next higher stage.  In fact, as I see it, moving people to the highest level should be the objective for all of us as humans.

I would love to be a part of a tribe/group in which everyone in it could genuinely say “Life is Great” all day long.  Logan says that only 2% of tribes reach stage five. How could we increase the percentage of “Life is Great” tribes to 3% or 4%? That fifth stage is the world-changing, innovating, creating springboard to a better life.  Start by moving your tribe up by inviting more people into yours. Then move yourself and them up. If you’re at stage five, congrats. Can I join?

Victims of Our Own Unconscious Behaviors

The ThinkerI recently stumbled upon the Chris Jordan 2008 TED talk  wherein Chris made artwork out of our collective unconscious behaviors.  With a smoking skeleton and pills formed into a surprising circular array, he exposed the following and other punishing statistics…not to punish us, but to inform us.

  • 400,000 people died from smoking in 2008.
  • 65,000 teenagers would start smoking in one month in 2008
  • 213,000 Emergency Room visits resulted from prescription drug abuse

How are we doing against these data today?  More importantly, if the unconscious behaviors Chris exposed in artful form come from our individual denials, is there something we can do about it?  Not only do we bear the cost to our national psyche, but also to our healthcare costs, and unnecessary loss of life for our young people.

We’re moving in the wrong direction.

  • 443,000 died from smoking in 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  •  114,000 teenagers started smoking in one month in 2011 (CDC)
  •  1.4 million Emergency Room visits resulted from prescription drug use in 2011 (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

I am reminded of the novel Lord of the Flies.  I think the book, published in 1954, has been required reading in the California high schools for decades,  and tracks closely to Chris Jordan’s reflection of our collectively destructive detritus.  The Lord of the Flies author, William Golding,  states that his novel’s theme is “an attempt to trace defects of society back to the defects of human nature.  The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system, however apparently logical or respectable.”

Chris’s and our question of ourselves is: How conscious are we as individuals? What can we change today about ourselves that will change society, but more importantly, make us better individuals? Change is hard.   Becoming conscious is the first step.