19 Dec, 2012 – one comment
Rather than a trends-piece or a learnings round-up, I thought I’d grace you with the planned tent poles of my focus for next year. These are based on my experience over the last 15 months growing a new discipline within a rigid(ish) organization and debuting a new service model for an established industry.
‘Agile,’ or its cousin ‘lean,’ are the biggest buzzwords in our industry right now. If you plotted them on the Gartner Hype Cycle, I think you’d find them somewhere near the ‘trough of disillusionment,’ though. One reason for this is that agile has to be applied across the institution’s practices before it actually works. In advertising, agile planning or agile production sound great, but when they meet fixed budgeting, bloated approvals, or glacial staffing, there is absolutely no traction. Worst of all, you tend to deflate a team’s momentum and overall interest when you hit these inevitable roadblocks. Next year I’m going to pay better attention to our entire assembly line.
I have two management-related pet projects I want to accomplish next year. The first is a system integrated into my Outlook Calendar that limits the percentage of my time that I’m allowed in meetings per week. Say I determine that I’d like to spend no more than 20 hours a week in meetings, then my calendar would alert me when I’ve reached this threshold and would ask the meeting coordinator to consider an informal chat or discussion via email instead. Admittedly, this won’t make me popular within my organization.
The second pet project I’d like to undertake is a system to measure the work load and overall happiness of my team. Right now I measure these things with a simple but crude weekly survey, via Google Forms. I’d like to mature this into a system which allows each employee to track their work load and happiness over time and record notes for the team as a whole.
paying off my promises
More than two years ago, I raised money to write a book. Immediately after this, life decided to muck about with my plans and my productivity. The cause of this disruption is finally coming to a somber but welcomed close, and the book will soon shift to be my top priority.
I’m still wrestling with this one. I have a blue-collar work ethic. I believe in putting my head down, grinding on a project, and then holding myself and my team accountable for our results. On good days, this makes me successful. On other days, this distances me from my co-workers and my superiors, which eventually erodes the power I have to lobby on the behalf of my team. If I want them to be successful in the larger organization, I suppose I have to come to terms with the fact that interpersonal impressions are weighted more heavily in organizations than direct results. As long as I’m working for someone else, this is reality.
Oh hey, I’m getting married next year. That’s pretty awesome.
15 Dec, 2012 – leave a comment
From an interview with Eric Schmidt and the Authors@Google speaker series. Skip to 6:50 for the failure bit.
14 Dec, 2012 – leave a comment
I’ve been too busy lately to fully form the thought, but I’ve been feeling nostalgia for the early days of the web. With Twitter turning on its own third-party ecosystem, Instagram pulling out of Twitter, Pinterest being so stingy on releasing an API, Facebook taking away user voting, Google crushing Reader’s community … it feels that the ideals and implicit promises which made the early web so great are being lost and forgotten.
Anil Dash has done us the favor of exploring this idea, far better than I could have, in his post The Web We Lost:
Five years ago, if you wanted to show content from one site or app on your own site or app, you could use a simple, documented format to do so, without requiring a business-development deal or contractual agreement between the sites. Thus, user experiences weren’t subject to the vagaries of the political battles between different companies, but instead were consistently based on the extensible architecture of the web itself.
That’s just one of the many differences he catalogs, I highly recommend you read the whole thing.
04 Dec, 2012 – leave a comment
GigaOM just posted a nice write-up of a new platform we’ve launched for Pop Secret, dubbed Pop Secret Labs.
In the next 9-12 months, we hope to demonstrate how digital campaigns should be executed for the modern web. We’ve got a slew of smart utilities and clever partnerships in the pipe to help make movies even more fun and social.
It deserves to be said that good work can only be done when your client is smart and fearless – and the team at Pop Secret is both.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
27 Nov, 2012 – 2 comments
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13 Nov, 2012 – leave a comment
These are slides and notes from a recent workshop I lead for a small conference in Bend, OR. This workshop was three hours, so the deck does some bouncing between topics and covers a fairly large swath of things I’ve been thinking about lately. I’d love to hear any thoughts, concerns, or condemnations you might have.
06 Nov, 2012 – leave a comment
If your name is Nate Silver.
30 Oct, 2012 – 2 comments
I lost a couple months worth of images and shared posts this morning. It hurt.
Backup your sites, people. Learn from me.
Carrying on …
29 Oct, 2012 – leave a comment
“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” – Sir William Preece, the British Post Office, 1876.
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” – Western Union, 1878.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, an official at the US patent office, 1899.
“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? The music–that’s the big plus about this.” – H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
“The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.” – IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.
“There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.” – T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961.
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olson, president, chairman, and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977.
“For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few … On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper.” – Erik Sandberg-Diment, The New York Times, 1985.
“I will believe in the 500-channel world only when I see it.” – Sumner Redstone, Chairman, Viacom and CBS, 1994.
“The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works” – Clifford Stoll, 1995.
“You’ll never make any money out of children’s books” – Advice to JK Rowling from Barry Cunningham, editor at Bloomsbury Books, 1996.
“Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” – Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States, March 2003.
“The idea that we’re going to see a collapse in the housing market seems to me improbable.” – John Snow, Treasury Secretary, 2005.
Almost everything an organization does is inherently a prediction about the future. The talent we hire is a bet on which skills will be more valuable down the road. The products we manufacture are a bet on what our consumers will want tomorrow. The marketing messages we craft are a bet on what will attract someone’s attention under a future context.
The average lifespan of a Fortune 500 firm was 75 years in 1937. Today, that lifespan is hovering dangerously close to just 5 years.
That single statistic says a lot about how the world has changed in the last 75 years. It also demonstrates just how ineffective most organizations have become at predicting what’s around the corner in this more connected and more global world.
As our ability to predict the future wanes, our ability to invent the future must supplant it. Today’s organizations spend untold resources and time trying to predict the future. Managers once existed to ensure quality and/or efficiency in their subordinates (e.g. looming over the assembly line), but as technology and management practices have alleviated that demand, the field of management has become more and more obsessed with predicting the future. Compounding this, most structures within large organizations seek to limit agility rather than promote it.
We have worked to create a process by which organizations such as these can unlearn their bad habits. As interesting as we find it, we know that managers today don’t have the time to ruminate on the finer points of management theory and their ability to predict the future. We know that companies are profit-driven. They need success stories to rally behind in order to change. And if we can help create just a small handful of these cases, we think there’s the potential that the masses will take notice.
Here’s to hoping.
18 Oct, 2012 – 3 comments
It happens every so often. I find myself in the preamble of a presentation to a client when I say, “These are the core problems we face,” and that client turns their nose up at me.
“We don’t have problems. We have opportunities.”
… And my skin crawls.
On the surface, it’s a semantic argument. But scratch that surface, just a bit, and there’s something more to it.
This will shock no one, but there is a bullshit problem in corporate America. A seven-layer-dip bullshit problem. At each level of management, each employee is ever so lightly revising reality to make things just a little bit rosier for their boss. Multiply that process up the food chain and all problems become white-washed into inoffensive opportunities.
Why do big companies fail? There’s a host of reasons more critical than this, but bullshit doesn’t help. There’s a rampant culture of mindless optimistifying. It isn’t sinister. It may not even be conscious.
The single common trait of effective CMOs and CEOs that I’ve witnessed is an allergic reaction to bullshit. These leaders demand hard truths and confront problems head-on. Most of the time, they’re feared because of this trait.
They say the first step to finding a solution is admitting you have a problem.