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All posts from October 2019

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689: What Gmail And Malnutrition Have In Common

Work being done to address global malnutrition has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Deaths under 4 have halved from 12 million to 6 million between 1990 and 2017. The next 20 years, as outlined at the 2019 Professor Hawking Fellowship Lecture in Cambridge, is incredibly promising.

This is in no small part because of the contributions of CSR and cause-driven corporations; R&D in these areas take many years to create breakthroughs, the ROI won’t show up on the P&L, and short-term thinking businesses can’t make the math add up.

Which brings me to the Gmail example. Gmail, while a wonderful tool that powers capable email productivity for millions of people at no cost, suffers from a short-term thinking challenge at the moment: stock option valuation for those building the tool.

When a corporation commits to executively assuming the responsibility of change, the buy-in throughout the organization enables everyone to contribute to the degree they are able and comfortable with. But when the activities of the organization hurt the value of everyone’s options and the contribution creates a tangible loss of tens of thousands of dollars per employee, short-term thinking is born.

Hiding promotional emails under a promotions tab so companies need to buy more ads to be heard increases ad spend, profitability, and the value of stock options. Pledging ad spend grants for NGOs helps boost awareness but also keeps ad spend relevant in an increasingly cause-tolerant marketplace.

Google is in a great position to create change and brings many powerful contributions in areas such as open AI development, education and open-source software. But an organizational structure needs to thank those involved for being optimistic about the future if it’s to create change at all levels.

My question for you: are you building systems and culture that celebrates bravery and the production of a better future, or are you making it too risky to try?

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688: Taxis, Busses And Chauffeurs

Every business is one of these three things. Which is yours?

The bus says, “We’re all going over here.” It leads to a singular destination and you lead yourself to the decision of whether or not it’s best for you. That destination may or may not be what is best for you, you decide. If you think it is, you get to join the journey with the others. If not enough people want to go there, it goes there less often.

The taxi says, “Where would you like to go?” It doesn’t lead to any destination in particular, you do all the leading. You pay for someone to do the driving. It doesn’t matter to the taxi where you go; if it knows how to get there, it’ll get you there.

The chauffeur says, “This is where you specifically need to go next, and I’m going to take the best path to get you there.” It leads you forward based on your unique vision for your destination. It knows whether your decisions are wise or ill-advised, and finds the best path to get you to where you want to go.

All businesses do one of these things. None of the answers are wrong, but which you choose has profound implications on the way you will do business, the opportunities available to you, who you’ll attract as customers or clients, and what kind of experience and result you can produce for those people.

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687: You’re My Client Too

If I buy something from you, am I your client, or are you mine?

Trick question: the answer is both.

I am your client – you are going to render the service I paid for by representing yourself in the best manner you possibly can. To advise me and create as much success for me as you can in your chosen field.

You are also my client – it’s my responsibility to engage as fully as possible for the benefit of my companies. To represent myself and our work in the best manner I possibly can.

Often, as a buyer, we lean back and just expect to be served. We don’t always consider how differently we behave compared to if we were the one doing the serving ourselves.

The direction that money happens to be flowing in isn’t the point. Money flows everywhere, it’s the energy of the market. It may flow out today, but it may flow back tomorrow ten-fold, in no small part from the advantage we’re experiencing from our present engagement with you, but also in part because those serving us too have problems we may be able to solve. Or perhaps those they know may have problems we can solve.

In every market engagement, it pays to maintain the mindset of, “You’re my client, too.” If you’re doing work that matters, even more so.

For whom are you a client? How can you mine ores of value from this engagement, to enhance your perception and help that energy flow to your benefit too?

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686: Your Product Or Service Isn’t The Point

I mean, people are buying things they need, but hopefully that’s not all you have on offer.

Otherwise, you run the real risk of being commoditized.

  • It could be a sense of significance being bought; the feeling of accomplishing something worthwhile.
  • Or protection; the feeling that they’re being well looked after as a result of making this investment.
  • Or advocacy; buying not only from need but as an expression of a shared belief.
  • Or momentum; the belief that this action will propel them forward in their pursuits.
  • Or time; either to be able to spend it where they love spending it, or to be free from spending it where they’d rather not.
  • Perhaps offering a high-touch concierge experience in an industry full of low-touch do-it-yourself experiences.
  • Or the ability to go on a journey; a process they’ve never been through before in a market that never shows how the secret-sauce is made.
  • Or the offer of accountability; buying while knowing you’ll be personally assured of progress regardless of your willpower or distractions.
  • Perhaps it could be novelty on offer; the ability to engage in a service in a way never offered before that makes it stand out and noteworthy.

Whatever meaningful work you produce and whatever you sell, the product or service isn’t the point. Are you taking people where they want to go? Will it be the ride of their lives, one they’ll tell others about?

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685: The Services You Don’t Know You Offer

The services you don’t know you offer aren’t truly services until you treat them as such:

Helping someone figure out what to do: Oftentimes, those in your care don’t know what to do. Whether it’s purchasing professional services or deciding what to add to cart on an eCommerce store, knowing what to do is a process in need of a solution. If you’re able to be there to help them solve this problem, you have solved an important problem that neither of you may have fully appreciated.

Do you skim straight past the fact you did that, or do you inform those in your care that you’re able to offer this concierge problem solving service? They can’t appreciate your level of care if they don’t see it.

Helping someone figure out what it should cost: Establishing the right price for a project is often riddled with concerns and insecurities. A client may not want to disclose a budget in fear of being drained of every last cent of it. A company may not want to extend price options without a budget in fear of guessing too high or low.

So skip the guessing: the ability to understand a client and lead them toward the right purchase, the right volume of purchase and the right frequency of purchase is a valuable service you may be offering to the market. They can’t appreciate this moral and professional level of care unless you educate them.

Helping someone back on track when they’re getting distracted: You probably know what success looks like in your industry. Those you serve probably don’t, because it’s not what they do. As such, it’s juvenile to suppose anyone you serve could ever appreciate the leanest, most effective, most powerful way of having their problem solved better than you do.

As such, it’s your responsibility to steer them right with every opportunity you get. This act of leadership and support is a valuable service they may not experience anywhere else. They won’t know that unless you educate them.

There are services surrounding what you currently know to be your important, meaningful work. If you can only see them, show them the dignity of elevating your commitment to each of them, then educate those you serve that these are valuable services with problems being solved throughout, those in your care are sure to be thankful for your fiduciary support.

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684: Exactly What I Was Looking For

How often do you find yourself saying this?

“This is exactly what I was looking for”?

I’ll bet not very often:

It’s not because there aren’t many great products or services out there. There are. Not as many as there are average or marginalized ones, but some nevertheless. They’re usually well packaged, using all of the latest marketing whiz-bang and have produced good results for people like you. So why’s it not exactly what you were looking for?

It’s because you weren’t on the packaging. When you can’t see yourself and your unique life situation in what you see on the screen or on the shelves, you’ll not assert that it’s exactly what you were looking for. Because what you were looking for is a direct solution to a specific life situation you’re currently facing. He who articulates it clearest, wins.

While working on your meaningful work, the temptation is to “pour yourself into your work.” Instead, consider “pouring those you wish to serve into your work.”