Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Doppler Effect: What Do You Measure, Why, and How?

Talking to a client last week, I had to ask that rather than sit and measure performance, the supervisor participate in the workshop. I explained that the Doppler Effect would almost guarantee a lower score for her employees than they would get if everyone in the room were involved.

David Gurteen started following me on Twitter at which point I discovered his wonderful blog. Here's a post about measurement of performance in business.

David breaks everything down into the smallest pieces before commenting on the whole. It's articulate, generous and eliminates assumptions. Don't you love someone for defining his terms? Why is this so unusual when we use business jargon?

It's worth seeing the related posts on incentivizing performance as well.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Entrepreneurship: Start Young

Is business sense in the air or in the DNA? Probably both. In a recession, there is obviously more of a tendency to begin your own business when you've lost your job and there's nowhere to go but up.

However, check out this very young entrepreneur whose work has nothing to do with this economy per se. Eighth-grader Jason O'Neill has done an amazing job with his Teddy Bear project. Check it out.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dragons Again: Everywhere

Westerners are familiar with Dragons' Den, both in the US and UK, but perhaps they have not yet seen an Eastern cousin. Have you visited the lair of the Money Tiger from Japan?

Take a look. Check it out, even if your Japanese isn't what it was. Amazing what you can get even if you don't speak the language.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Elvis has Left the Building: More on Dancing About Architecture

Continuing from a post about business presentation not too long ago, here is the article on how to win clients that has been published in WomenUnlimited.

Enjoy. Feedback welcome!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stage Craft, Not Witchcraft (Although There's Always Magic)

Paula Vogel, my wonderful PhD advisor, used to say that empathy is a chemical reaction.

There's a kind of magic that arises between and among people when they're in the same room that just doesn't happen any other way. Sure, empathy is possible long distance, but it's just not the same.

Long distance, empathy requires some internal work, pulling out what we have already learned in person, even if we're not aware of it.

Empathy is also easily disrupted -- for example, if microphones are involved. The sound of a real voice to another person makes engagement less than immediate. Those few seconds of adjustment can mean the difference between engaging listeners immediately and losing them to passive hearing.

Talking to Dean Meyers last night via skype, we got on the subject of presentations and what people seem to do too often to turn off their listeners when it would be so easy to turn them on.

Dean works with visuals -- and he uses the word "stage craft". It's perfect. Once you are aware of your audience and that any presentation is theatre, you can begin making conscious decisions about what works and what doesn't.

In your presentation, you might want some disruption (in theatre, perhaps a la Brecht). However, if you are aware of stage craft, both the disruption and the manner of disruption are careful choices. Understand that what that an intention does not necessarily achieve the effect you want. Intention is only the beginning.

Once stage craft becomes a priority, it's easier to have the desired impact. If you know you need visuals and it's not your specialty, you'll go out and find someone who can do them right (rather than just doing it yourself because -- well -- you need slides).

Although the basis of presenting, content is the smallest piece of a pitch because its impact depends on the visual, emotional, and physical contexts in which (or with which) it is delivered.

The combination of the right elements produces a kind of magic you can't quite explain. And it's the feeling, not the specifics of the content, that people will remember.

Your listeners can always go back and review content. But the feeling of being present during a great talk can't be revived except in memory. Moreover, it's often exactly that talk's emotional impact that makes your listeners want to learn more.

So you'd better be careful about planning that (special) effect.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Advertag has Launched!

It always feels particularly satisfying when a client gets off the ground. Jonathan Shrago, winner of a trip to New York and San Francisco from the SeedCamp where I coached presentations, has set up his site.

For those in London, Advertag are focusing their site first on jobs in the Harrogate area for feedback on SEO (and those looking for jobs).

Their work is wonderful, and they are a very smart team. Keep your eye out for their blog.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Just to Remember: It's Not ALL About Presentation . . .

I write all the time about how important presentation is when persuading because people tend to ignore it in favor of content.

Just for a change, here's some emphasis on content --about Tom's Shoes that Raquel Dobson sent me. It's absolutely worth seeing, entrepreneurs out there (the presentation isn't so bad either, by the way).

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Business Presentations: This Time with Feeling

I've just penned a piece about business presentations for a publication that deals with new ideas. Here's the gist:

We need to replace the word "presenting" with "representing". Presenting implies only "introducing". Representing, on the other hand, demands that ideas are embodied in the performance we create. To do this meaningfully, this embodiment must stir up the inspiration, excitement, and other emotional reactions in others that they do in us.

It can easily make the difference between making a sale and losing one.

We treat business presentation skills as though they are a science when in fact they are an art. Again, I think the problem begins with the word "presentation".

Consider comedians. They strike a chord (or don't) because of the way they embody a situation rather than talk about it. Or embody a situation and THEN talk about it.

The humor comes from the emotional reactions that combine to become recognition. The recognition comes from the performance of a conversation with a partner, boss, store manager -- whatever -- which the comedian represents through embodying it onstage. Without it, any commentary would fall flat.

For maximum power, every medium needs to be exploited for its own particular possibilities. Film wouldn't work as dance, and visa versa, except as an exception to a rule or as a stand-in for the other.

Think how much more powerful a business presentation would be if you add all the possibilities of the art of representation. Move people. Inspire them. Make them feel something that moves them to action. It's the only way to do effective business.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Intimacy: The New (Technical) Frontier

At the Tuttle Club yesterday, I had a rather inspiring conversation with FJ van Wingerde. For those of you who don't know FJ, his thinking is wonderfully, productively disruptive. His comments are also right to the point.

We talked about the mobile industry -- as well as (conversationally) ubiquitous social media (so how could we avoid it, really?). Here's the interesting part.

My feeling has been since the early mid-90s that what technology has to aim for is intimacy. As FJ said, we can call it "personalization", but it's personalization for the purpose of intimacy. FJ also noted that at a large entertainment company, he worked with others on finding ways to make mechanical devices (such as phones) into characters for the sake of creating relationships with users. Second Life does this with avatars. And games like WOW do it with communities.

As a theater person, I think we're missing the performance aspects of the Web and mobile -- after all, every medium should be explored to its unique full potential. Those in advertising talk about "engagement", but is it engagement we're after for its own sake?

OK, the overall goal is roi (usually for businesses) or repeated use (for geeks who just love getting things right). But before we get to the end, let's really break down the the path we're using to get there.

The bottom line is: when it is with the aim of creating intimacy that we go for expanding the possibilities of theatricality, engagement, or any other web-possible activity. That's how you hook consumers. That's how you create a relationship between a mechanical device and a human being.

FJ noted that people probably won't feel comfortable with word "intimacy" in a working environment. He's not wrong -- "intimacy" in work always implies sexuality.

But take the sex out, and remember that the reason people hate spam with their name at the top is the note's inappropriate intimacy. What else can you call it?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One more piece published . . . .

You will probably recognise a lot of this material if you follow this blog, but here you go: Enterprise Nation just published my article on presentations.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Article on mSearchGroove: How to Sell Investors

Peggy Saltz has put a small piece of mine on mSearchGroove, a publication dedicated to mobile.

Here's the link to the article on presentation skills.

Let me know if it's anything I haven't said here yet-- happy to elaborate.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A Little Meisner for a Grey Wednesday

Reviewing Sandy Meisner and his performance technique is a pleasure. One of his tenets: the foundation of acting is the reality of doing.

"Acting" here is taking all the walls away from being yourself in front of other people.

OK, it sounds obvious -- and simple. But how many people do you know who are great presenters? Here's a little more that will demonstrate the connection I'm making between professional performers and business people trying hook an audience at a conference.

Meisner says,

" . . in most professions, every practitioner uses the same tools and techniques, while the actor's chief instrument is himself. And since no two persons are alike, no universal rule is applicable to any two actors in exactly the same way." (Sanford Meisner's On Acting)

This is as true when presenting information that you've written as when it's material a playwright has concocted.

What exactly does it mean to be "yourself"? In front of people?

You either do what you're doing (eg explain -- really -- "the reality of doing") or you play AT it. Who cares what the content is? You're genuinely talking TO listeners (or talk AT them). As we all know from sitting through presentations, the second ends up being very dull.

Both are characters purpose-built -- but one is much more effective than another.

I have a nice example of Lloyd Davis in the reality of doing. He plays a great ukulele, too.

Friday, October 02, 2009

BizSpark and SeedCamp

As I've mentioned, I was asked to coach teams for investor pitches at both SeedCamp London and at Microsoft's BizSpark. Very exciting, both. And everyone has been kind in their feedback.

The results were very different for each set of teams. And the adjustments one inevitably makes due to space and time allotments made everyone rise to the challenge.


At SeedCamp, I worked with a content expert.

The room was an auditorium. The teams were given five minutes to present, and then mentors were given five minutes to give feedback. I hardly heard what was said. My responses was focused on how the material was presented physically and the resulting engagement (or lack thereof) with the audience.

The space was ample for performers to practice. Perhaps equally important, the auditorium was where they would later pitch for investors -- for real.

Teams pitched and were given feedback by us in front of all their competitors. This is a different reaction than I've got in more academic classes, and I was both pleased and surprised.

I was told that feedback for one team often helped prepare the next, and everyone was to have been in a room of critical voices. It was a pretty exciting experience.


This was the first year of BizSpark, and the events' full, high-calibre schedule made it impossible to practice in the room in which teams would perform.

So instead, we were put in a room usually used for meetings. The table was pushed back, there was enough room for teams to move around as they would in the auditorium. They showed their slides on their lap tops.

An odd thing happened with the energy in the room that didn't happen at SeedCamp. Because the laptops took so long to get ready, and because the space was temporary, teams seemed both more relaxed (it was an ad hoc space) and more nervous (it was an ad hoc space -- so what was the relationship to the one in which they'd pitch?).

A good thing -- at BizSpark, I had each team one-on-one for fifteen minutes, and we worked on 3 minute presentations rather than 5. This works very well for students who would like to articulate their anxieties and concerns. It would be impossible in a room full of competitors.

The work wasn't less effective than at SeedCamp, but it was very different. The changes from rehearsal to final performance were different, too -- at SeedCamp, those with challenges seemed to struggle more with content in their final pitch. At BizSpark, teams were thrown off a little by the space change. So any awkwardness was with how to move and where to look.

And So . . . .

I've got nothing but happy feedback, and it will all go up on the Stradbroke site in about a month when our webmistress returns.

However, I've learned a few things about making an environment friendlier, and that's a good thing.

And, contrary to my expectations, one-on-one teams could use more time with me than those in front of large groups. The latter expect to be thrown in the deep end and prepare as the last group is finishing. The former are not exactly sure how to settle into the space immediately. It takes a little more to make them feel comfortable.

That's the great thing about collaborating -- you never know what's going to happen. And you always have to stay on your toes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Start-Ups: Beware the Buzzwords, Says Venture Beat

I usually work with clients more on presentation style than content, although the two are so closely connected that untangling the two is often challenging.

Excellent piece, though, on Venture Beat about start-up buzz words at TechCrunch50.

For those at SeedCamp next week -- and at TechCrunch London -- it's worth taking a look.

See you SeedCampers tomorrow for speed pitching.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SeedCamp: Coming Up Soon in London

SeedCamp, a boot camp for start-ups, will take place in London in a couple of weeks. The short list of 40 companies was down to 20 and the SeedCamp participants were announced today.

It's useful to see the trends in business models over the years, all included in Mike Butcher's article (link above).

I'll be serving as SeedCamp pitching mentor on the Sunday for all the companies -- 10 in a room and then the other 10 -- five minutes for pitching, five minutes feedback.

Having seen a couple of the companies pitch for other reasons already, there seem to be a lot of differences among the ways in which companies are represented by their leaders. Looking forward to it.

Will report back at the end of the month on how it all went.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Presentation is a Full-Time Job in (Family) Business

The notion of genuine engagement when giving a presentation -- and self-awareness and discipline -- take on a refreshing shine when Steve Blank talks about it on VentureBeat.

Everyone who works hard knows that presenting in business is s full-time job. Always on the hunt for opportunities, we always have to be aware of how people perceive us, on what we focus, and what we reveal.

However, usually, home life is usually thought of differently. Too many of the high-power executives (particularly men) tend to turn off their awareness -- of their own presence and of those around them -- once they hit the front door.

In fact, the business of life outside work requires the same level of engagement. Everything takes practice, including being present in new contexts. And the more present you can be, the more you can listen (to both yourself and those around you), the better quality of presentation and response you'll get from yourself and others.

Lovely post, Steve.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

May I Have a Word?

I had a lively discussion with Euan Semple today about life, the universe, and everything.

Euan doesn't like the word "teach" to mean the very broad set of activities by or from which people can learn. He's right -- it implies a top-down, Victorian style classroom behavior that is more broadcast than conversation.

Equally, I don't like the word "coach" to describe the activity through which an individual works to improve his or her presentation skills through interaction with someone who understands performance.

Again, it implies a top-down set of behaviors.

As I am called both a teacher and a presentation coach and find the lack of readily available and suitable vocabulary irritating.

Anyone got better words for multi-directional interaction through which learning takes place on all sides?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Play Within Structure: More on Giving a Successful Pitch

On the subject of practical tips on giving a pitch, here's anecdote about working with a very successful client.

This client is an advertising executive -- let's call her Lucy. Lucy had been effectively selling ideas to companies for years. But she felt that something was missing. (More on that here).

A Different Way of Depending Too Much on Content

Lucy is a strategist and excellent at what she does. However, when it comes to doing her pitch, there always seems to be too much information to relay in the time allotted.

Furthermore, Lucy has many slide decks to present every week. She would need a photographic memory to remember it all. So she compensates by looking quickly at a slide's headline and improvising on each topic. To remind herself of where she is, she uses industry jargon to get her from one subject to another rather than telling a story that could stand on its own for anyone.

The effect? Lucy hits a heading, wandered around a topic, hits yet another, and rambles again. All the information is there. But there seems to be no emphasis, either within or among the paths that lead between sign posts.

You can follow the plot line, but it isn't exactly gripping.

Creative Performance Depends on Structure

When in doubt, impose a structure.

In this case, I suggested Lucy should ask a Question (or State a Premise/Heading), explain step-by-step how to get from the question to the answer, and end with a So-What? Clause.

For those of us who are new to this blog, a So-What Clause is the content with which you should conclude all presentations -- written, or oral. Time and space is valuable real estate when selling an idea. You've already told them the WHAT. Now tell them why they should care.

It Worked

Lucy was thrilled with the results. She said she hadn't been able to reconcile her feeling of being lost with her thorough knowledge of the subject area and experience presenting. She had gotten bored and hadn't really addressed her audience. She felt she was focusing instead on her content.

Lucy concluded enthusiastically by saying she wished she had met me when she was 20.

I must admit I was chuffed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Tips on Presentation: Don't Rely on Your Content

I promised to unpack the post from last week a bit -- the one that talks about how to give a better presentation.

Here's a start.

When Last We Saw Our Hero(e) . . .

I was recently with a very accomplished fellow who interviewed me for a project at a cafe in Mayfair. He asked me the usual questions -- what qualifies you to do performance coaching? (20 years of doing it), how did you get to London? (brought here to establish and run a charity), what's formal credentials do you have (PhD in drama and five years of teaching from Brown University), and so on.

Then he surprised me by asking me to review his performance.

I thought this a very canny move. Most people don't think of conversation as performance. However, in business as in life, all interactions are an opportunity te sell yourself.

Information Can't Sell Itself

The conversational mode is a little intimate for this level of direct talk on first acquaintance. So the question demonstrated an unusually high level of self-confidence in the face of possible criticism.

Just that piece made me want to work for him.

What I Said, and What Might Be Useful to You

I told client that he relies on his content to sell itself rather than using eye contact to get his point across. His charm, too -- which is considerable -- was interrupted and the effect eradicated when his eyes wandered away.

This is true regardless of the fact that the content my client offered would have been tremendously engaging if I hadn't been so distracted by what seemed like careless or lazy delivery. I followed his line of thought because he's a client -- but if he hadn't been, my mind would have wandered several times.

The Lesson?

Even if you've been to the moon, don't expect the story to stand on its own. You need to sell it, although a tale of space travel probably requires a lighter touch than, say, doing your laundry.

And Now, Back to Our Story

The client agreed. He told me that it's difficult for him to hold someone's gaze -- that it's uncomfortable. He mentioned that perhaps it's because he's British and culturally determined.

Everyone faces internal obstacles in some process or other. These can be either overturned by new habits or, if deep-seated, they can merely be adjusted for. Ultimately, it depends on how much time you want to put into the process.

The Easiest Route

If you find yourself with the same challenge, try the suggestion I made to this client.

At the point of feeling uncomfortable, look away in a deliberate manner rather than allowing your eyes to wander off. The latter looks rude and undisciplined. The former makes the speaker seem as though he were thinking -- or, at least, seems to connect the intermittent periods of eye contact. This connection gives the listener an impression that he or she is being attended to in a focused way, regardless of the moments of disconnected eye contact.

And So . . .

It seemed to work for the client. If any of you try this, please report back on the results of how you feel -- and how it works.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Performance Coaching: Some Tips

For those of you who need performance help but do not live in London, I thought I'd share a few tips with those who feel nervous about presenting that I offer to my clients.

It's certainly not all there is to the process, but it should help.

Tips for Non-Actors

1. Good presenting skills are not mysterious. Here's the math:

95% of great performance is preparation and practice. Only 5% is inspiration and/or innate talent.
People are innately creatures of habit. Once we start, it’s almost impossible to stop. Effective performing habits can be learned.

= The odds are in your favor to become at least an above-average presenter - at best, excellent -- with practice. No matter where you are today, you can get there.

2. Inspiration is a meeting point of emotional and intellectual insight. So get that 95% preparation down cold – only then will you find a way to channel inspiration into your performance with consistency.

3. Empathy is a chemical reaction – you automatically effect the people in the room by being present. If it feels natural for you to smile, do it – it’s about the most effective sales tool you’ve got. But only if it’s genuine.

And, believe it or not, acting with sincerity can be learned.

4. The best way to channel nerves is enthusiasm. The alternatives are dire.

5. You’re most effective when you find your own presenting style. But steal whatever works from wherever you can get it.

Become aware of the way people move, sit, and stand around you. If there is something particularly effective in a gesture or expression (or particularly undermining), write it down with as much detail as possible. It will make you more aware of your own body language.

6. Practice. Slides never sold a thing, so don’t depend on them.

Pretend there’s only one word on every slide – the main idea, say “Opportunities” or “Management Team” – and then explain why it’s there. Don’t point or even look at the screen unless there is a very good performance reason.

7. Practice. The value of your performance reflects the credibility of your company. Half an hour a day. Every day. In front of someone who doesn’t know your material.

Don’t say you don’t have time. If you had a big bug in your software, you’d throw all resources into fixing it.

Think of your performance as the most important software you’ve got.

8. Practice. Find different emphases for different audiences, and have a few presentations up your sleeve. Make sure you can do them in automatic pilot.

But don’t. Ever.

More in the next post.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Teach Engagement, Not Content

Continuing from the last post on performance coaching:

To a large extent, great presenting is like great teaching -- Ben Zander's performance at PopTech! might shed some light on other aspects of such things.

The key, I think, is that everyone remembers a favorite teacher who inspired more than any other. However, it's the passion, not the content, that people remember most. I've covered this before, but it's worth restating here:

Teach your listeners, not your content. It couldn't be truer in business than it is in school.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Creativity Redux: How to Get Where You Want to Go

Following on the heels of the last post, how do you become more flexible in the ways you think about yourself and what you do for money?

I thought it worthwhile here to link to a post from 2005 on just this subject. No less true today than four years ago.

Funny how that works.

For those of you who just came aboard -- and to continue yesterday's discussion -- please take a look at why Creativity is not a singular quality. It's a practice. In business and elsewhere.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

You Aren't What You Eat (or What You Do, Either)

The recession has made me think anew of the relationships among profession and our sense of identity.

The US is famous for 12-hour work days, short holidays, and a focus on profession to the exclusion of all else.

Europeans, who came up with the stereotype and like to look down on the US for this attitude, brags a higher quality of life with long holidays and much shorter work days.

But how different are the cross-continental individuals' sense of self based on what they do?

What Has Changed

So many people have lost jobs that there is a big push to "retrain". Not just in the US but everywhere. Look at how much effort the UK, for example, has put into new initiatives for just this.

It's going to be a problem.

Re-learning, on the other hand -- particularly learning how to learn -- is going to be the key to success in the new economy. Just ask a financial services leader.. Or for that matter, anyone in the world -- CEOs, policemen, teachers -- with charges to tend and grow.

I've banged on enough in past posts on the differences between training and learning. Long story short, the former is about mastering a specific set of skills, usually in a particular environment to accomplish a fixed group of tasks. Learning is about seeing the relationships -- among environments, ideas, skills, tasks, and so forth -- across disciplines and contexts. And it's process-driven as well as oriented toward results.

Again, ask a business leader in advertising who feels passionate about it.

And This Has Changed.

I've found in the past, when asked "What do you do?", most people describe a profession with conviction. Lately the statements sound a bit shakier. And they're amended with "But I've also done other things."

Being someone myself who has had a series of interesting jobs rather than a career -- and being forced to justify the relationship among them -- I find this encouraging.

Not just for me, either. Given momentum, it could be very good for the economy.

If we retrain, what happens if the new job goes away like the old one did? Retrain again?

Why not instead be the kind of effective learner that everyone is looking for -- from kindergarten through the Boardroom?

Just a thought.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Doug Rushkoff Redux

Following on from the post about Doug Rushkoff's ideas on a new CFO and Life, Incorporated, see Rushkoff's appearance on the Colbert Report.

There is very little Douglas Rushkoff says that isn't worth hearing.

At least twice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nick Givotovsky: A Proper Goodbye

Dean Landsman wrote this beautiful tribute to Nick. It's worth reading.

Monday, July 13, 2009

People, Thoughts, and Feelings

I find it fascinating that there's no such thing as a neutral expression on a the face of a healthy human being. Our thoughts and feelings are so connected that it's obvious when the latter is missing. The former seems gone as well.

See this post I blogged for Affect Labs.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Proof of Concept: Working Social Media

For those of you struggling with what social media can do, here's a wonderful proof of concept.

This parody of West Side Story (and social media) was designed and distributed to enact, rather than show, how social media functions, its impact on those who participate, and how to market its producers at the same time.

You want to see how fast and widely it spread? Do a search for comments on Twitter. See how many hits it got that instigated public endorsement.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Data Sets Old and New: Learning is Disorganizing

For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you might remember a post on the disorganizing nature of learning.

A friend recently asked me how to shake up her staff because she (and they) are so used to working in particular ways. In fact, the entire team has put a lot of effort into working creatively together, but those techniques have hardened into habit.

So What Do You Do?

To sustain creativity, it's important to change your universe of data -- people, ideas, places, and the connections we've forged among them in order to come up with solutions to problems. If you apply old information to new challenges, you are unlikely to innovate.

Another alternative is to take a new process and apply it to the old data. Where would you find that thinking process, and how would you use it?

Crossing disciplines often works. If you use a strategy from one field and (thoughtfully) use it for another, who knows what you'll come up with? Introduce new people to your process. Or new places. Or new things.

Sometimes even unresolved results are better than old ones.

Above all else, remember to play. Process usually needs more care and feeding than results if you want to keep things fresh. And if you're one of those people who want one habit on which to rely, make it sustaining curiosity.

It's probably the most productive (and stimulating) rut that you could possibly (and consistently) seek.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Time Out for a Small Miracle

Just thought I'd take a moment for a brief advert.

It's Not Like You Haven't Heard This Kind of Thing Before . . . .

This is another one of those stories where the hero spent hundreds of dollars, went to every great doctor in New York, over a course of years (15), and was told there was nothing to be done (ankle problem, me).

Then, after asking a London friend for a suggestion about a back problem, she found out that there was something to be done after all.

Everything changes when you can walk without pain.

Who Is This Magician, You Ask?

Dave Gibson on England's Lane -- I'm not kidding. If you are having any health problems, limp over there as soon as you can.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Geeks Are Coming

For those of you who are interested in what's going on globally in social media, you can take it (at least partially) off-line next week if you live in the UK.

Some American bloggers coming to London, and there is a big agenda planned. Some events open to the public, some closed -- but certainly worth a look.

Renee Blodgett, publicist extaordinaire, has organised the week and done a remarkable job.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Worth Repeating: Feelings and Business

I've begun revising and posting some older pieces from this blog on Affect Labs' website.

As those who have followed me know, I've done a lot of research on the ways in which people learn, in business and elsewhere.

The bottom line:

The more resources of your own to which you have access, the more innovative and creative you can be.

Sounds Obvious?

In business, it's pretty clear that affect is frowned upon. Feelings are suspect; ideas are supposedly products entirely of the intellect. OK, Emotional Intelligence sold well back in the day, but how often is it actually applied in a board room?

Why is this Worth Repeating? And Why There?

Affect Labs is proof of concept. Their software crawls social networks for what is said about brand based on the feeling expressed in phrases. Jennie Lee, who invented it, says there are no algorithms quite like the ones she created to do this.

Jennie's pretty smart, so I believe her.

It seems like that site is the place to reposition the relationships among language, social media, learning, and business because Affect Labs can help companies benefit from them.

But first they have to believe it.

Feeling Presentable

This might be a good place to connect up how this is related to the way people present themselves and performance coaching.

But that's for another time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I'm now on the advisory board for TheNextWomen.com. It's one of the really good online magazines about women "heroes," generally women in new media.

And the founder, Simone Brummelhuis, is tremendously generous with her introductions. No politics, no nonsense. The spirit is genuine teamwork to get women some advantages in networking they might have missed (but that their male counterparts might take for granted).

What a relief.

Also will be working on a book for Simone -- so women heroes, step forward please. I'd be very glad to hear your stories.

Perfomance Coaching

I've begun a business doing several things, all of which fall under the category of business strategy:

--Advising on big-picture thinking on business plans and the steps that lead to where you want to go.

--Writing and editing website copy for best results, both for visitors and SEO.

--Coaching people on business presentations.

If you can't do any one of these things well, your business is probably in trouble. Out of the three, I find the last to be the most satisfying and the most misunderstood.

Business Coaching

I coached acting for 20 years and still work with people preparing for auditions. Along the way, I've picked up some executives who have felt their presentations could be better. Business coaching is both very similar and very different from what I did for the theatre.

What Are Actors Good For?

Actors (the good ones) are primed to be aware of their bodies, their pace, and so on. They build a relationship with the other actors on stage primarily by listening well. But they can't deviate from the script.

It can feel as though one's foot is nailed to the floor -- there is only so far you can roam from what was intended by the writer. And sometimes the playwright wasn't so smart.

What About People in Business?

Business people (the good ones) are less tuned in to the way they present themselves and more focused on a rehearsed, fixed set of content.

The problem? It's never strictly the content that sells a product. It's the presenter.

Given that business people can always change the script if the relationship with their listeners changes, a focus on fixed content (usually on power point slides) would not really be to anyone's advantage. Yet those slides seem to hold an almost mystical power over the presenters. They can't seem to let go.

Wouldn't it be better to focus on the relationship between yourself and your audience? Adjust your manner and even the content to the level and kind of receptiveness you meet?

Don't panic. It's just a matter of focus. And practice.

Emma Gilding wrote a nice piece about this. Take a look.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Affect Labs: Feeling Social?

I have begun working as a strategist and partnership developer for Affect Labs, a start-up based in Scotland with a London office (mine).

Jennie Lees, a tremendously smart entrepreneur, has designed some software that crawls the web - social networks, blogs, you name it -- and comes back not only with positive and negative phrases aggregated around key words but also with star ratings. Phrases are given values, and the algorithms automatically update the stars as opinions change or as positive or negative opinions arrive to weight the star differently.

It's an amazing tool for companies that want to know what people are saying. And it's an important thing, this Emma Gilding, just for example, would say it could be the most important conversation a business can hold with its stakeholders.

This Time, With Feeling

I've also begun blogging for them -- in the spirit of how the Learning Lab began, in fact. Isn't what people feel -- and how they express it -- the same as what they think? Or close enough for rock and roll?

Keep your eye on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year where we'll test out the software to help theatre-goers figure out which shows they'd like.

When I brought shows up in the 90s, our casts always made sure to be there the second week of the Festival to get random people's opinions of what was worth seeing.

Now the random people can be heard on the first day. Good for the audience, good for the shows, good for the festival.

How wonderful is that?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Emma Gilding and Brand: Part 3

To continue from the last post, Emma Gilding's group, Insite, at Omnicom sees brand as more than just another sales tool. Instead, the focus is on the ways in which brand encourages citizenship.

Or doesn't.

“Citizens opt into a brand's rules and regulations because they get benefits from adhering to them.” In order to sell, Emma believes that the product must fulfill its promise.

Emma often talks about her work in political terms. “Brand has to have a genuine value to citizens or they fail.

Before new technology, companies could get away with a top-down approach – people had to look to the governor of the brand for the value(s) of the product”. These citizens could never be sure if they were the only ones finding or not finding the value themselves.”

These days the Web forces transparency. There’s nowhere to hide. Consumer-led groups gather to hear from and tell each other about the value of the symbol.

If a brand is not persuasive, the product is no longer a symbol – it’s just a product. It won't distinguish itself among its competitors.

On the other hand, a coherent and responsive conversation between a company's brand and people they target is the only way for promises to remain credible.

Learning by Example

Perhaps the most famous illustration of a failure to really enagage with people who buy a product exists in the famous Mentos/Coke video. Mentos was thrilled and encouraged the distribution.

Coke, on the other hand, objected. Their brand stated “Coke is fun,” but executives put out the message that “this isn’t the sort of fun Coke means.”

“The citizens of the coke world spoke up – just like any civilization,” says Emma. “To them the explosion WAS fun.” In a democracy, if you deny the voice of the people, the brand fails -- or at least is weakened."

And no one will buy what you're selling.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back to Brand and the CFO: Emma Gilding Part 2

Continuing from the last post, how do executives reach out to consumers in a way that builds their brand?

Doug Rushkoff says that the ideal consumer for a company is an enthusiastic amateur. Rather than a top-down model of management as dictators and consumers as subjects, the company needs to be conceived more as a mandala.

A good example is Apple. At the centre is the impression, and, to a certain extent, the reality of Steve Jobs creating ideas and developing them. Around him, are people doing the same, with his ideas and their own. And at the edges, but within the overall structure, are enthusiastic amateurs who are creating and playing with the same sorts of ideas and products to improve them.

Emma adds that “people have always been creating things for the apple products. They have always been brand advocates. The Apps store was a way of channeling that effort.”

The Apps store has hit more than a million downloads. Something that started as a value-added opportunity for gave people the opportunity to contribute to the brand and feel part of it. It gave people the opportunity to participate in the conversation with the company.

Emma would say this is a demonstration of Apple succeeding because it lives its brand. “There should be no seams between an internal and external brand. The people in the building who are guardians of the brand should be customers of the brand. If you don’t live up to the brand value inside your company, you’re not inviting your employees in. You’re dominating them.”

Emma says this doesn’t work anymore because there is no belief system supporting the creation and distribution of the product. And those who buy the product get that.

“As a CFO, you need to walk the walk of your brand. What used to be a quiet but important job now has to be the conscience of the organization in a new way. Are we being true to the brand? That’s a tough ask for anybody.”

Emma Gilding has advice for executives, particularly on how to handle financials.

"Being a CFO used to be a defender role. Now it’s definitely an aggressor role. CEO payments are horribly inflated. What do you do as a CFO? What do you do about your incredibly loyal staff that are being underpaid? Or overpaid?"

Brand should be a guide and a beacon that helps you make the right decisions. So companies today need to re-experience their own brands to see anew what it stands for. They can’t take it for granted or it won’t be specific enough as a symbol. And the company has to be true to it.

“Look at banks,” says Emma. Success or failure has been determined by culture. The ones that have survived are the meritocracies – they put the brand first and the rest second.

“Now look at Lehman and Morgan Stanley – can you think of anything that they did according to their brand rather than according to their star traders?” Goldman, on the other hand, made decisions that worked with the brand. You can argue that these banks all had different histories and different circumstances. But it’s following the brand that created the decisions and histories and so on.”

More in the next post.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Brand as the Key for the New CFO

Following on the heels of my discussion with Doug Rushkoff, Emma Gilding, head of Insite at Omnicom, gives her perspective on the key to a profitable business today.

Rather than changing economic models, Emma says that the most important alteration for any company is the attitude of the CFO. Rather than staring at balance sheets, the CFO should be reevaluating the company's brand in order to strengthen market positions.

What Makes an Effective Brand?

“Great brands,” says Emma, “are two way conversations in which there is satisfaction on both sides. The brand – or symbol – innately sets out rules and asks people for something. The symbol promises and delivers something in return.” Both participants must be satisfied for the brand to work.

How to Get From There To Here

Emma says that what a lot of CFOs aren't getting yet is that a focus on bean counting won't produce cost-effective results.

Echoing Doug, Emma adds the notion of “cost effective” for too many is based on economic models that have become dinosaurs.

Rather than focusing on balance sheets, CFOs need to think “what is the new financial value of this brand and how do I support it, both internally and externally?”

Emma is an anthropologist by training and sees business as only part of a much wider cultural landscape. This landscape is too diverse and complicated to measure strictly in numbers.

"Given what is happening sociologically in the economic downturns, the CFO has to be the bravest person in the company as he takes an entirely more strategic approach when it comes to brand."

What does a CFO do, for example, if the brand promises green practices, and the inexpensive supply chain refutes the claim? Or if the CEO is overpaid when the brand is all about tightening belts?

Everyone in the company must live the brand or it becomes an empty and ineffective symbol. This requires a new kind of thinking for those who have traditionally focused on cost rather than customers.


How do you take a symbol and make its meaning pervasive and true to all your stakeholders? How do you make a brand robust and flexible enough to hold real conversations with those who use the product? How do you stop hiding behind rigid monologues broadcast from the top with no chance for people to say whether or not they want or believe it?

More in the next post.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Week with Astia, London: Entrepreneur Boot Camp

A few posts ago, I announced the weeklong conference at Astia's London base.

Since then, I had the privilege to attend most of the sessions. At the risk of sounding like I work on their marketing department, it must be said that the meeting was one of the most remarkable I've ever attended.

And I've been to a lot of conferences.

One Weak Spot

If there was a weakness to the conference, it was the way in which the volunteers were organized. This doesn't seem serious because the participants didn't seem to notice -- and because this was the first London event, the rough patches will probably be ironed out next year.

The rest was pure gold.

Where To Start?

Astia claims it offers three kinds of support for entrepreneurs:
--In accessing capital.
--In achieving and sustain high-growth.
--In developing the executive leadership of the founding team.

This is not empty talk. 60% of the start-ups chosen by Astia get funding.

What Else is Different?

Another of Astia's distinguishing characteristics is its dedication to supporting women in business. There were as many men at the conference as women, and in these cases, there was encouragement to put remarkable women into executive roles where currently there are none.

This is not your ordinary affirmative action, and again, it isn't empty talk. Astia offers to find extraordinary women for start-ups who could really use their talents.

Why Support Astia?

There were quite a few exceptional things about the week, not least of which was the intimate feel of each meeting. Astia brings together selected entrepreneurs and experts in finance, pitching, marketing, and everything else a start-up needs to succeed.

There were never more people in the room than could fit around a conference table, and all stake-holders seemed genuinely interested in understanding what everyone had to offer.

The feeling was more mentor/protégé than expert/novice. I've rarely seen anything like the straightforward way in which panelists and conference members interacted -- and in which CEO Sharon Vosmek facilitated conversations.

Even university seminars feel more political.

How it Was Organized

Evie Mulberry did an exceptional job of both securing top-notch speakers but of also combining high-level these experts in panels to complement each other’s professional strengths and personalities.

For a complete range of topics and speakers, check out their website. It's worth visiting anyway.

But Wait, There's (Always) More

At the end of the week, after tremendous knowledge exchange, practice at pitching, and honing of financial models, the entrepreneurs were given a real opportunity to pitch their cases before investors.

The funding opportunity is two-fold:
First, the start-ups could secure funding at the May pitch.

Second, the strongest pitches are selected, and their CEOs are offered mentoring for a month and a bigger funding opportunity in June.

When the winners are announced, I'll let you know.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Part 4: Doug Rushkoff and the New Economy

Continuing from the last post, here's more on what Doug Rushkoff has to say about the effective way to build a business.

It's not news that people are looking for value. According to Doug, however, the most valuable business intelligence is at least as old as the Late Dark Ages: the rules we take for granted as necessary for doing business are only one group of many rules designed by the few people they benefit.

Doug says, “Most organisations are just holding companies – they don’t do anything but are just names on debt. They promote their stories to get more debt, and CFOs focus on spreadsheets – which can be manipulated.”

Other Misconceptions: Is Good for the Bottom Line?

Doug suggests that CFOs have to understand that the things they are doing to cut costs are really not effective. “Outsourcing is always a high investment to start – you think you’ll make it up later.”

Rather than making that investment externally, Doug suggests putting the money back into the business. “Outsourcing is a losing battle because currency speculators know what they’re doing. Businesses can’t win because it’s not a business they’re in.”

“Companies paint themselves into a corner again and again because they think they’re being clever about markets.” Doug says it’s better to stick to what you know about your business then try to beat speculators who are much better because it's they're specialty -- not yours.

Doug adds that competitive advantage is no longer a CFOs ability to get investors. It’s a CFOs interest in, passion about, and knowledge of what the business creates.

Another way to explain it: transparency is something that happens naturally on the Internet, and that companies need to engage with people “for real.” “A CFO needs to look at employees and customers as the same community. Your best customers are enthusiastic amateurs of what you do as a business.”

Over the course of the last 500 years, experts have been promoted to managerial positions in a wide-spread practice of decentralized management. They then hire the cheapest labor possible to do the jobs from which they've risen. Those in charge no longer do what made them successful, and those they hire can't do the job nearly as well.

On the other hand, if you who are experts produce what you sell, know your business, and engage with your community’s passion for your product, you’ll get a sustainable pay-off.

Seems like common sense, no?

Doug adds, “I hope the era of competence is upon us."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Part 3: Doug Rushkoff and Better Business

Continuing from the last post . . .

How can money be earned into existence?

According to Doug, businesses need to deal in local currencies. “If you go into a town with a depressed economy, the people in the town will invest in your success there,” he says.

In Hasting-On-Hudson, NY, where Doug lives, The Comfort Restaurant was in danger of going into bankruptcy. They offered local people “Comfort Dollars” – 120 for 100 US dollars.

People got an immediate 20% return on their investment. They knew the restaurant's credit was good, and they ate at the restaurant anyway.

In return, restaurant could stay in business because it borrowed money at a lower rate from the community than they could from the bank.

Furthermore, Doug says, "There's a sense that local establishments give value to the town. Franchises take value. The best that people can hope for from a franchise is that their kids will get jobs there"

Where Did Comfort Come From?

Doug talks about the Late Middle Ages as the beginning of the end of local currency with the establishment of chartered corporations and centralized economic control. But he notes that the practice has been on its way back globally, particularly since the 1990s. Local currencies appeared during the economic crashes of Japan and Argentina. The practice continues to gain traction -- and even receives government support -- in an impressive number of countries.

There is not nearly enough space in one blog post to cover the history – or even recent history – of the global effects of local currency.

But it's worth checking out if you're a CFO and want to grow your business.

More from Doug in the next post.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Part 2: Doug Rushkoff on the Role of a CFO

Continuing from the last post, how do you fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities to customers, employees and to your community?
Doug Rushkoff says: don't take the rules of economics for granted.

The corporate model is one of centralised control is supported by the currency with which we make transactions, and visa versa. "The money we use is only one of many monies. We just take for granted that the economic rules we play by are the only ones possible."

Doug argues that in the Late Middle Ages, although there was "a coin of the realm" used for long-distance business, it was local currencies made communities prosperous. If you sold a hundred pounds of grain, for example, you received a piece of paper stating the value of that hundred pounds of grain that you could divide as necessary in your community to buy other goods and services.

Because the local currency tended to devalue with time, people would put it back into circulation as quickly as possible to buy what they needed. Communities made investments in themselves as well with the extra cash flow, Churches, for example, were built to bring pilgrims and tourists to town. Local areas, therefore, produced their own ecology of wealth.

Doug offers this as one solution for companies today: “Money can be earned into existence instead of lent into existence.” CFOs that are willing to remember and acknowledge this can participate in and generate real community activity. According to Doug, this is the only sustainable business model today and the strongest competitive advantage.

More in the next post.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Interviewing Doug Rushkoff: The New CFO

Same Old, Same Old

One would think that the key to being a superb Financial Director (CFO for you Americans) is limited to deep knowledge of accounting, regulations, and cash flow if your reading were restricted to CFO Magazine or Finance Director,

Titles of lead articles, for example, include Insovencies are Not Our Fault, Accountancy Qualifications among FTSE-100 FDs, Since Sarbox, Non-audit Fees Dove from 51% to 21%.

You get the picture

And Now for Something Completely Different

Douglas Rushkoff, author of numerous books on business trends, argues that instead, competitive advantage depends on a new focus. I interviewed Doug to see how the role of the CFO can improve the economy from the inside out.

For those of you who don't have the time to watch Doug's talk from Ofcom, I'll go over some territory for the sake of context.

Doug believes that the underlying fault in business on all levels is that “cash fuels the economy.” He says, “This is actually a backwards notion that was invented during the renaissance to promote central banking over decentralized value creation.”

“Your fiduciary responsibility,” Doug adds, “are to your employees and to your customers. This is your community -- and you can adopt a sustainable growth model for and with them rather than a speculative growth model."

Doug's conclusion: "Once you've done this, you are really in a position to take advantage of the collapse of the top-down funding models all around you.”

More on what Doug means by this in the next post.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Astia: Worth Taking a Look

Astia is a remarkable organisation that dedicates itself to developing the know-how for women starting up their own businesses.

In conjunction with other vc-supportive organisations, Astia's work seems to be paying off. Women's start-up's in the UK have done better than those run by men. There seem to be some unique opportunities in this economic climate that shouldn't be missed.

Astia works globally -- they have bases in in Silicon Alley, Silicon Valley, the London, and India. Look into what they can do for you.

Astia's London conference is next week. I'll let you know what I learn.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Linked In

If you read the post from February 3, you'll know that Emma Gilding, anthropologist and business innovator, has begun a new blog - Thru Their Eyes.

Emma and I have very similar attitudes about the way people learn -- particularly about learning in business. She's made me a guest blogger.

I republish the post here to save you time from clicking around.

Corporate Training: is it Good for Innovation?

Even before the global economy found itself in peril, professional development seemed the solution for all organizational ills. If you find a hole in your process, fill it by prescribing a set of skills within a specific context or task.

Too often, training is the result of short-term thinking. An organization needs results quickly, so trainers limit a class to a narrow set of parameters. Then a particular problem can get solved immediately.

Don’t waste time making connections between contexts or tasks – why bother addressing problems that might arise later?

This is not helped by the fact that trainers tend to see their own goal exclusively to give clients exactly what he asks for rather than expanding offerings to include what they need.

Give Them the Fishing Rod (Not the Fish)

Training offers answers. But does it explore the questions in enough depth to do anything but maintain the status quo? Wouldn't it be better to improve the way business is done rather than just treading water?

Learning, on the other hand, focuses on process. It offers the facility to make connections among different contexts, resources, and so on. In fact, it's what makes a skill transferable. But more important it's learning, not training, that makes innovation possible.

On the other hand, the results of training are much easier and faster to control and quantify. They demand no messy emotional investment (read: engagement) that is required for inspiration and innovation.

So with training, you know what you get. But is what you want?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More on Doug Rushkoff: The Dark Side of New Media

Worth watching is a Frontline piece on South Korea's approach to young people's addiction to computer games.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Meeting Douglas Rushkoff

I met Douglas Rushkoff at a party the other week. Turns out we have a lot of good friends in common, and it's strange we've never met before. I've always been a big fan.

Because Doug is that very unusual combination of fascinating and generous, his arguments are almost impossible to resist. Even when you might want to disagree.

Doug gave a talk at Ofcom recently, and it's worth mentioning.

I'm perhaps most impressed by the way that Doug avoids jargon in order to unify what seem like unlike concepts. He breaks down ideas and examples so that anyone -- in any field -- could understand it.

In fact, Doug's communication style is proof of concept. For him, the rules of the current economic models should be redesigned to benefit people before corporations. That, in turn, will benefit the economy in ways we haven't seen since the Middle Ages.

So if you believe people create their own economic models, then you need to be able to speak to everyone.

How generous is THAT? How productive -- And how unusual.

I'll be interviewing him for an article tomorrow, and I'll let you know what I learn.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Good: This Time With Feeling

Good and Bad

Last night, I saw a screening of a film called Good, the journey of a professor in pre-war Germany from ordinary citizen to SS officer.

I note it here only to reinforce the notion much discussed in this blog that emotional reactions are the basis for intellectual convictions -- and if one doesn't take notice (and responsibility) for the first, one can not answer for the second.

All sound obvious? Take it out of context and apply it to business. Still a commonly held notion?

Yes, But Did It Work?

The film succeeded because it persuasively demonstrated that value and intolerance rose and fell according to the rise and fall of the pride in identity of ordinary citizens.

Strangely, this seemed clear for all the characters except the lead, Halder. The film failed because one had no idea what he felt, and though he behaved in ways that implied conviction, it was impossible to be clear about what he thought.

Jason Isaacs, who spoke after the premier, explained that the cinematic format precluded clear articulation of Halder's feelings. I suggested that it's really more a question of what the director chose -- cinema is a pretty plastic medium.

In any case, any popular political rallying point -- that creates a strong sense of identity and belonging -- persuades just from these causes. Not a surprise? Again, what happens if you apply this principal to other contexts?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Unemployed? A Perfect Excuse to Rebrand

Every economic and political crisis has its opportunities. It just takes some imagination to find the ones you can make the most of.

Who said that luck happens when opportunity meets a ready mind?

When Last We Saw Our Hero . . .

I was recently asked to help a company to create marketing collateral for their current services. This organisation specialises in outsourcing particular financial functions for small to medium sized businesses.

In order to make the most of the marketing opportunities, I suggested that that they activities and collateral that will expand their brand.

With expertise in all aspects of finance, why not take the opportunity to find the cream of the financial market's unemployed, retrain them, and place them in new jobs?

In a world where there are hundreds of talented financial people who are newly unemployed, you have a market keen for any way to find a job.

Likewise, companies need talented people -- always. And they would prefer to outsource functions that require high overhead in salary, benefits, and so on.

So why not make a business of rebranding people from the City? You make money training. You make money placing people. Win-win.

You Who Have Lost Your Jobs: This Is Where You Come In

You who are smart and agile, this is your chance. The current situation allows high-level thinkers to take advantage of the opportunity for new career directions by re-branding yourselves.

What are you most passionate or curious about? What sorts of businesses or business functions have you demonstrated an impact other than whatever was contained in your job description? Where can you get that extra expertise quickly and efficiently to fill in gaps for a job you'd like to have?

Speaking from Experience

My own career path has been entirely about re-branding in order to explore and learn exactly what interests me. I worked in the theatre, I earned a PhD in drama, I became a journalist, I worked in Silicon Alley and consulted, worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as strategist and negotiator for the global website, and then I ran a charity for children in London.

Contrary to those who advocate single career paths, employers have not found me flaky. In fact, I've found the threads that connect my passions allow me to see things new in ways that make me seem more, rather than less, committed and qualified. Cross-disciplinary thinking and making connections among unlikely resources is high in demand. In fact, my research shows that in every field employers are looking for people who can show this sort of creativity.

And those who do this can find great success.

Re-branding is a big topic, and I'll get back to it in later posts. For now, there's a great (if old) Fast Company issue that offers some very good ideas. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thru Their Eyes

Emma Gilding, an extraordinary innovator and Crain's Under 40 at 32, was trained as an anthropologist and brought her talent to advertising. She has a new blog: Thru Their Eyes that covers a variety of topics around creativity and management. Worth taking a look. I particularly like the elegance of Three Notes to Collaborate.

Starting a Discussion

I've been considering Emma's distinction between collaboration vs. cooperation. I think it needs refining, although I'm not sure exactly how.

Emma defines collaboration as a lofty goal, and I agree it's a difficult process to maintain, particularly in business.

Emma says:

Collaboration is difficult because it requires critical thinking skills and creativity and that we have one goal and that we be innovative in the way that we seek to fulfill that goal.

On the other hand:

Cooperation requires that we seek to fulfill the same focused goal but using the same skills in the same way. This strikes me as a much more achievable goal as we have been doing it for years.

The distinction is an important one, but I think it needs some tweaking.

Critical Thinking

The difference here seems to be twofold: collaboration requires critical thinking, creativity, and innovation aimed at one goal. Cooperation requires using one, rather than three, sets of skills in the same way toward (again) one goal.

Is it possible to do anything without creativity, innovation, and critical thinking in some form?

Even digging a ditch requires overcoming obstacles that arise, and all tasks done as a group require consideration about how to work together. Last, is everyone doing exactly the same task? All of these negotiations to me seem to require some analysis and creativity, even if we've become unconscious of the processes.

By the same token, would a musician's jam be classified as collaboration or cooperation? Each is performing different tasks, they are certainly creative, and the result is often innovative. However, again, the critical thinking aspect is intuitive. It's not self-consciously articulated.

So -- is the real distinction between cooperation and collaboration a group's awareness about the differences in roles, outcomes, and processes? Each cooperation and collaboration requires agreement, and although collaboration tends to be an explicit understanding, cooperation doesn't have to be.

Or does it?

Maybe it would be worth breaking down further what goes into assessment, analysis, mastering, and performing with one voice -- from the previous post. Defining terms is always useful.

Emma? What do you think?