Archive of posts from January 2021

January 23, 2021     Daily Post

Imaginary Race

Imaginary Race

Who are you competing against?

We know that our products compete against whatever alternatives exist in the minds of those we wish to serve.

But what about you? You compete against whatever you like.

It could be your peers: keeping up appearances in ways they deem important.

It could be different peers: the same rules as before but with a different crowd.

It could be yourself: being better than yesterday in areas you deem important, disregarding the pressures of peers.

Some imaginary races (competition) exist in the minds of our audiences; we’d do well to pay attention to them and race well.

Other imaginary races (such as the ones we have with ourselves) exist only in our own minds. We get to choose what or who we’re racing. We decide both who races and who wins.

Remember that.

January 22, 2021     Daily Post

Innovative vs Useful

Innovative vs Useful

“Innovation” is praised as a key requisite of successful projects. We don’t hear so much about “usefulness”.

Are these two things at odds with each other?

Innovation without usefulness is still innovative… but what good is that without usefulness?

Usefulness without innovation is still useful.

Innovation with usefulness either makes something more useful than were it to be otherwise, or it makes it useful but just in a different way.

Producthunt.com is peppered with innovations that lack much usefulness, a byproduct of the praise innovation gets.

What if we praised usefulness to the same degree? What if usefulness (plus a little innovation) was more desirable than innovation (plus a little usefulness)?

If your work exists to create meaningful advantage for those it serves, serving with usefulness is more important than impressing ourselves with innovations in isolation.

Long live “useful”.

January 21, 2021     Daily Post

Would They Miss It If It Was Gone?

Would They Miss It If It Was Gone?

If it were gone, would those you wish to service miss:

Your product or service? Is there meaningful, useful advantage that you bring that others would reach out asking for were it to be gone?

Your team? Is it’s ability to do what it does contagious enough in spirit and culture, and skilled enough in deployment, that others would sorely miss working with you?

That particular feature? The one you thought was super-important, would people reach out desperate for its return, or is it perhaps not that important?

That report or meeting? Is it integral to what you do, or could you go without and still do what you do just fine?

Your social media posts? If you stopped posting tomorrow, would someone reach out asking what happened?

When evaluating what makes our work important, it’s worth asking ourselves, “Would they miss it if it was gone?”

Could you be doing more things that they would, and less of what they wouldn’t?

January 20, 2021     Daily Post

Simple Vs Easy

Simple Vs Easy

‘Simple’ is widely considered better.

‘Easy’ has more baggage.

When something is made ‘simpler’, something was changed so that, once learned, may prove ‘easier’ to a user.

Making something simpler has a cost (learning), which the user must be willing to pay. The return on investment might be that things are now ‘easier’.

When something is made ‘easier’, something was changed to reduce a cost (learning or time). Making something easier doesn’t necessarily require ‘simple’ (delegation and removal are other paths to ‘easier’).

But when things can’t be delegated away or removed entirely, ‘simple’ often comes into play.

iPhones are ‘simple’, but the 2007 release still had to come with an instruction manual (where are the buttons? What does the ‘home button’ do?) before it became ‘easy’.

Sending letters in the post is ‘easy’ because it just takes paper and a stamp. Email may have been ‘simpler’ (fewer steps, faster) but wasn’t ‘easier’ until the cost (learning) was paid.

Menus are along the top of websites because that’s where people expect them to be. Hiding them behind a menu icon on large screens may create a simpler interface, but the cost isn’t ‘worth the investment’ to visitors who are only going to be there for a few moments.

We serve people better when we remember the costs we ask them to pay, making sure that our people think that the ‘easy’ at the end of the tunnel is worth it.

January 19, 2021     Daily Post

Do Less To Do More

Do Less To Do More

Less really is more:

More productive output comes from six hours of attentive work than twelve hours of mushy-minded ‘hustle’.

Better business operations come from fewer fancy processes and fewer moving parts, thanks to reduced margin for error, while creating the same output.

More Twitter community comes from less time wasted lurking on other social sites. One minute on ten social channels doesn’t create the same result as ten minutes on one.

Saying ‘No’ can be hard, especially when it’s to good ideas and opportunities.

But focusing on fewer things is often the key to achieving more, and juggling more things is usually the key to achieving less.

January 18, 2021     Daily Post

Lazy Opportunity

Lazy Opportunity

What’s a lazy opportunity?

When your competitors think “advertising means running ads on Facebook”, there’s a lazy opportunity. They forgot about a universe of potential connection, creativity and useful initiative because one channel made them lazy.

When your offer does the safe, easy thing, instead of leading customers forward bravely with better value and risk- reversal. Being lazy means a competitor can walk in, care more, and shut you down in the prices.

The lazy route is a path well-travelled.

That’s where lazy opportunity comes in – the chance to do better than the lazy status quo.

January 17, 2021     Daily Post

Impressed By The Wrong Things

Impressed By The Wrong Things

We’re often impressed by the wrong things:

When a framework/formula/system is put up for sale, we want to see screenshots of graphs and flowcharts… pages of supposedly-important nuance. If it’s got a lot of pages, surely it must be better? If it looks simple, perhaps it’s not worth the asking price?

When a new camera is put up for sale, we want to see how many megapixels it has… and that it comes with a carry-case and a spare battery. If it’s got lots of accessories bundled together, surely it must be better? If it looks like a lot is included, perhaps it’s worth a lot more?

What if the framework is complicated because it’s trying to impress you, rather than trying to serve you? What if the camera’s accessories are there because the seller knows people on Amazon often think 10 x $10 = $200?

We often undervalue simple and overvalue complex.

What if we did the opposite, appreciating how simplicity is often created by combining complexity, expertise, and focus?

January 16, 2021     Daily Post

Accidental Influence

Accidental Influence

Accidental Influence is all around us.

Described as “The Anchoring Trap” in a HBR post:

How would you answer these two questions?

Is the population of Turkey greater than 35 million?

What’s your best estimate of Turkey’s population?

If you’re like most people, the figure of 35 million cited in the first question (a figure we chose arbitrarily) influenced your answer to the second question. Over the years, we’ve posed those questions to many groups of people. In half the cases, we used 35 million in the first question; in the other half, we used 100 million. Without fail, the answers to the second question increase by many millions when the larger figure is used in the first question. 

We can, of course, be influenced without realising it.

We can use this to our advantage too, though, by guiding our vision with way we self-talk, the way we nurture our teams, and the expectations we put on ourselves.

How have you been “accidentally influenced” this week?

How could you use this to your advantage?

January 15, 2021     Daily Post

Tearing Apart Your Own Work

Tearing Apart Your Own Work

Every sometimes, I have a strange chat with someone on our Creative team.

In that chat, we tear apart our products and services. We look for holes, flaws, things that could be improved, ways that something could slip through the cracks.

Sometimes I’ll be put straight on something I missed (where the work was strong), other times a product development opportunity emerges (where the work wasn’t strong enough).

What’s the point in this?

  • If there’s a fault, someone will find it. I’d rather it be us than a client.
  • If there’s room for improvement, we owe it to our clients to find it and do something about it.
  • If there’s something that doesn’t make sense, we owe it to not-yet-clients to bring clarity to things that don’t.

No work is perfect. If we get into apologetics, we miss opportunities to do better. If we get into tearing apart our own work, our work gets better.

Any of us trying to build great things owe it to others to challenge our own work, for their benefit.

January 14, 2021     Daily Post

Try Different Parameters

Try Different Parameters

We can’t perfect what doesn’t progress.

We can’t measure progress with parameters designed to measure perfection.

If we do, we never progress (we just become perfectionists).

So try different parameters:

Progress in a brand new craft could be “something was made.”

Progress in an existing craft could be “something different was made.”

Funny how we enable ourselves to perfect more things when we measure progress with parameters designed to enable more progress.

January 13, 2021     Daily Post

Awareness vs Engagement

Awareness vs Engagement

Awareness is attention that you took. Engagement is attention that you earned.

Many ads take awareness. They only deserve what they took if they did the work of engaging and moving you.

Many referrals take awareness. They only deserve what they took if folks engage because you lived up to expectations.

Setting yourself on fire in Time Square takes awareness. It only deserves the attention if others engage by setting themselves on fire too.

Do you want your work to be seen, or do you want it to engage people?

January 12, 2021     Daily Post

Metaphors vs Reality

Metaphors vs Reality

You’ve probably heard these two phrases before. Here’s what they could mean for you:

“Plant the tree before you need shade.” Building a media platform, extending good will, going first, mastering a skill. These are things folks often leave until they need them. Have you?

“Fix the roof when the sun is shining.” Once things are up and running, leaving system errors, infrastructure problems, suboptimal marketing and recruitment bottlenecks unsolved means they’ll bite you in the butt at the worst moment. Will they in your work?

Most of us know the phrases.

Most of us haven’t heeded their warnings.

Shall we do something about that this year?

January 11, 2021     Daily Post

No More No Time

No More No Time

“I don’t have time for that.”

Ever thought this to yourself when you stumble upon a great opportunity to level up your business, team, or project?

What you make time for is what you get more of. Putting out fires today? Got time for that but not spending it on that new product opportunity? Then expect more of the former and less of the latter.

What you don’t have time for will never happen. Great new marketing campaign opportunity? Product development or innovation opportunity? If there’s no time, there’s no chance.

Making time sometimes means literally carving empty space into a calendar, and protecting it.

Now there’s time.

What will you spend it on?

January 10, 2021     Daily Post

Investing In Things That Last

Investing In Things That Last

There are always a flood of articles about what you must do in any new year. These posts are likely going to be arduous regurgitations or whatever the trends are at the time.

Chasing trends isn’t a path to success. Good marketing isn’t about blending in and doing all of your competitors are doing. It’s about doing what your audience needs from you, regardless of what has your competitors attention.

Avoid linear tactics

If the trends say you should use Facebook Messenger bots but your audience isn’t on Facebook, don’t use Facebook Messenger bots. If they’re like receiving physical mail best and your competitors are obsessed with sending emails, where do you think your opportunity lies?

Focus on communication

Every year that rolls by, I wonder if anyone is going to add the importance of good communication to their list. They never do. What if you took an existing effective channel and improved your messaging skills, do you think that would make it more effective?

There’s a new marketing toy available seemingly every week. Ignore the noise and invest in things that last. Leave the freneticism to your competition.

January 09, 2021     Daily Post

We Can Smell Your Priorities

We Can Smell Your Priorities

We know when it stinks:

When Boris Johnson’s government dithers between lockdowns and tier-systems while tens of thousands of Britons die from the global pandemic, we smell people-pleasing agendas for a hostile-dependent culture. We don’t smell leadership for the commonwealth.

When Joel Olsteen’s ministry enjoys over $4 million in undistributed aid while the average American receives $600, we smell the tax-haven prosperity gospel ministry’s goals. We don’t smell faith.

When Amazon becomes a trillion dollar business in 2020 while its workforce struggles to afford the gas required to delivers its packages, we smell the harvesting of marketplace after marketplace. We smell it on ourselves when we buy there.

We smell most brands on ourselves when we buy them, no matter the brand.

The smell is that of your priorities, your values, your mission.

What’s your scent?

January 08, 2021     Daily Post

Delegating Results

Delegating Results

Do you delegate?

Do you delegate results?

Some people on a team seem to naturally take full responsibility for outcomes, whereas others look for tasks to mark ‘done’.

The former moves things forward. The latter leaves gaps for someone else to have to go in and keep things moving forward.

When we delegate results, we remove the latter. We’re able to trust folks will get ‘the whole thing done’, rather than waiting for someone else to move things along for/around/in spite of them.

Our teams use “Result Statements” for this:

Don’t just make a task. Define a result. Give it a name. Give it to someone. Give it a start and end date.

Give it a clear articulation of the problem being faced, and one of the solution you seek.

Give it the steps involved in achieving it to the best of your knowledge, to give them a rolling start.

If needed, have them choose a team to help them achieve it, and have them lead that team to the desired result.

That’s how we delegate results.

If you delegate, consider gifting people with the opportunity to do more than check boxes. Gift them with the opportunity to succeed at something.

January 07, 2021     Daily Post

We Don’t Do That

We Don’t Do That

“Can you also do _____?”

This question is the catalyst of dilution for product and service projects alike.

“Add this feature, someone asked for it” is the way to make a product unfocused, bloated, and unable to clearly resonate with the specific people it was designed to support. Confusing those you wish to serve serves no one.

“Include this service and we have a deal” is how service teams stay small. Progressive mastery in an area of genius requires spending more time solving the problems your choice of market is faced with. That means saying ‘No’ to the outliers who lure you away from your focus and your ability to be the best at what you do for whom you do it.

‘No’ is rarely an admission of insufficient skill or care.

But ‘Yes’ is often an admission of insufficient focus and care.

Take pride in what you do. Take pride in not doing what you don’t do.

January 06, 2021     Daily Post

Unfinishable Projects

Unfinishable Projects

Got any?

Unplanned projects are adventures that probably would have benefitted from an end, weren’t planned properly… and so they simply sit on the shelf, unfinished.

Unfinishable projects are adventures you embark on we’re designed to not end. There’s a place for these.

A daily blog (like this one) is an Unfinishable project. It was designed to be daily. It doesn’t “finish”, it simply evolves as an ongoing adventure.

So is showing a significant other that you love them; it can be an Unfinishable project, designed to be pursuit with ad much enthusiasm today as it is in 10 years time.

Sometimes, our pursuits of important work (and of those important to us) benefit from projects designed to have no end.

Got any?

January 05, 2021     Daily Post

Someone Else Knows Better

Someone Else Knows Better

Do they?

There are many great web developers, but perhaps your insight and perspective could move the collective conversation forward, or offer a different direction also worth pursuing.

There are many great entrepreneurs, but perhaps your experiences or ideas could change the subculture for better, such as by bending things toward the triple-bottom-line or toward an appreciation for new ways of producing ethical advantage.

There are many great artists, but perhaps your way of seeing the world represents a convergence of ideas not previously seen before, indeed that’s what makes any great artist great.

“Someone else knows better” is a lousy excuse for not participating.

We want to see your ideas.

January 04, 2021     Daily Post

The Thing You Shouldn’t Do

The Thing You Shouldn’t Do

There are certain things you shouldn’t do, because you were told not to.

Some make sense. “Don’t drink that cup of bleach” is a wise exclaim worth listening to and remember in future.

Others make sense for most people, but not others. In your pursuit of creating important bodies of work, watch out for these.

“VPs don’t do customer service” is one example. It’s often true, except if you’re Umpqua Bank – every branch has a phone that connects straight to the CEO. Anyone can pick up the phone.

“CEOs don’t get caught up in things like content creation” is another example. It’s often true, except if you’re Richard Branson, who writes all his own blog posts. Or Gary Vee, who posts all his own social content.

There are lots of things we “shouldn’t” do. Don’t rule them out just because someone said so.

January 03, 2021     Daily Post

We Earn Our Badges

We Earn Our Badges

Do you earn your badges?

It’s easy for folks to add “writer” to their Twitter bio because they wrote a blog post once. But “writer” and “wrote once” are different things, one is the ongoing pursuit of creating and publishing work, the other is merely something that happened in the past.

It’s easy to add “serial-entrepreneur” to that bio because someone had multiple ideas they couldn’t stick to, that failed. It sounds good, impresses mothers, but doesn’t accurately depict the ongoing pursuit of actively creating and sharing products and services that create meaningful advantage in the lives of others.

We earn our badges. Badges describe what we actively do. Copywriters write great copy. Designers make great designs. Developers write great code. Salespeople make great sales. Leaders lead things into being.

Whatever our role, there’s a result that is our privilege and joy to produce. Those we serve (and serve alongside) are relying on us to produce those things today, and again tomorrow.

January 02, 2021     Daily Post

Your Relationship With Your Work

Your Relationship With Your Work

The relationship we have with our work benefits from intentional care:

When we work hard at our work relationship, we get to make the time count, rather than dragging on mindlessly going through the motions.

When we see problems affecting our work relationship, we get to address them head on, rather than letting them fester, tarnishing what’s special.

When we see an opportunity to make the relationship better, we get to take the initiative, giving and receiving from our work in equal measure.

We’re more than our work. Our work is more than us. A healthy relationship with our pursuits enables both sides to thrive into everything they’re capable of.

January 01, 2021     Daily Post

Keeping Your Promises

Keeping Your Promises

Here’s what it says outside a ‘Pets At Home’ store nearby:

“We are committed to keeping you and our colleagues protected”, the sign reads, next to symbols depicting the importance of masks and social distancing.

After watching people come and go from the store for about 30 minutes: here’s what I saw:

  • ~25% of the adults entering and exiting did not have masks on.
  • ~75% of the children entering and exiting did not have masks on.
  • 0% of everyone entering, exiting, or negotiating the store entrance made any effort to social distance.
  • 100% of people saw no problems with (being close enough to each other to be) petting each other’s animals.
  • 0% of the staff made any effort to enforce their rules.

If the sign outside read, “We will make no effort to protect you, enter at your own risk”, there’d be nothing to write about here.

Instead there was a promise of commitment, which was not fulfilled.

The strength of our brands is equal to the strength of the promises we keep.

Putting aside the carelessness of the survey participants, if we care about our work, those we serve, those we serve alongside, and the opportunity for us to serve them again tomorrow, remember the importance of keeping the promises you make.