Monthly Archives: June 2012

Sharpening Your Knives

For our Foodie Friday Fun, let’s talk about knives.  It’s impossible (almost) to cook without one, and I find it nearly so with a dull one.  Dull knives are more likely to slip off whatever it is you’re cutting and onto (into?) your finger, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep their knives sharp as can be.

As a public service of sorts, here’s how to sharpen a knife:

How To Sharpen A Knife

Obviously, it’s not the same as a bit of honing using a steel.  That’s really the equivalent of an after work cocktail as opposed to two weeks off.  Which is exactly the point.

Each of us need to sharpen ourselves from time to time.  I don’t know about you, but “quitting time” is a foreign concept in an “always on” world, and it’s pretty hard to do more than find the time to “steel” ourselves.  Like a dull knife, however, we often end up doing more harm than good when we don’t take the time to stay sharp.  There’s less pressure involved when the blade is sharp – we operate with a lighter touch.  That’s true in both the kitchen and in the office.

What better advice can one give on a Friday?

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Out Firefoxed

A few days ago, videos stopped playing nicely on one of the computers we use here at The World Headquarters.

Image representing Firefox as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

It happened right after a Firefox update. Now, while it’s not a computer (or browser) I use very often, other team members use it regularly and they need to watch videos from time to time. I spent the better part of an hour diagnosing the problem (since I’m the I.T. guy around here) and after reading a lot of web postings in which Mozilla blamed Adobe (it’s a Flash problem), and vice-versa (it’s fine on other browsers) and where they both blamed Real Player, I’d had enough. I had spent several more hours updating video drivers, uninstalling and reinstalling components, tweaking settings, rolling back to old versions, and wading through the general snark that’s around the various support sites that mention this issue. No, it’s not resolved, but it’s not an issue any more. I installed Chrome on the damn thing and that is that.

So here’s the broader business point.  According to Adobe’s site, the issue is fixed.  Mozilla says the same since they give you a few workarounds.  How can I sum that up politely?  Hogwash?  A load of crap?  Who are you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?  The very last thing we as businesspeople want is for our installed base (customers to you non-tech types) to migrate to an alternate solution (blow us off for a competitor, in English).  I’ve been using Firefox since the early days.  I’m now gone forever, and I understand I’m not alone.

How would I have handed it?  Transparently:  we have a problem, we don’t have a fix that works for sure so we’re suggesting you roll back to an earlier version – here’s the link as to how to do it.  I’d say it loudly and in as public a way as I could.  I certainly would NOT suggest users turn off high-end video acceleration (those cards are expensive), uninstall other software, disable virus protection (seriously?) or muck about in configuration files that are best left to people with Computer Science degrees.

Stuff happens.  It doesn’t go away when we deny it, minimize the issue, or suggest things we don’t know for sure will solve the problem.  The only thing that does go away are customers.  We’re happily watching video on another browser.  People have choices about most products.  Keep that in mind and work hard to earn their trust and business.  You’ll need it when the fan is turned on and something hits it.


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I Can’t See You

Once in a while we play a little game of compare and contrast which is what we’ll be doing today.

Person with PDA handheld device.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The two items causing a bit of cognitive dissonance are studies from Pew and from Mongoose Metrics.  Let’s start with Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:

  • Nearly a third (31%) of adult U.S. mobile Web users say they now go online mostly through their cell phones
  • Leading the mobile-only Web trend are young people and minorities. Nearly half of all 18- to-29-year-olds (45%) who access the Internet on phones do most of their online browsing on their mobile device. Half (51%) of African-Americans and 42% of Hispanics in the same category also mostly go online through their phones. By contrast, only 24% of white mobile Web users turn mainly to their devices for Web access.
  • Less affluent (income of under $50,000 annually) and less well-educated people were also more likely to rely mostly on their phones for Web browsing than those with higher incomes and college or higher levels of education.

OK – pretty straightforward.  Nearly everyone has a mobile device, more than half (55%) use them to go on the web at some point, and as incomes go down the mobile device tends to become the primary point of access.  Got it.  Next.

Part of the 2012 Mongoose Metrics Data Series found that mobile internet access accounts for approximately 9 percent of all traffic. However, the report also found that about 10 percent of websites are fully optimized for mobile access, which means 90 percent are incapable of serving these users completely.

Oops.  You can read the study here if you’re interested.  It also reminds us that 80% of users preferred mobile sites when searching for prices and product reviews.  But then again, if they can’t see the great content you have, what difference does it make?

We’re at yet another point of change.  The desktop computer is dying a lingering death, and I think it will be an enterprise-only device within 5 years.  So why are a lot of us behaving as if nothing has changed?  We need to be thinking and building mobile first, as the data points out.  After all, being discoverable and social is useless if you’re not optimally visible.


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Chosing Ignorance

Today’s screed is a little backwards.  As you might have noticed, much of the time I’m taking something I learned or realized and applying the point to business.  Today I want to do the opposite – take a business point and apply it to life outside of business.

I don’t believe that anyone who plans on staying in business for very long chooses to be ignorant of what’s going on in that business.  Sales reports, analytics, financial reports and such are all part of the daily life of a businessperson.  In fact, one big complaint I hear from clients is that they’re often overwhelmed with the amount of information that’s available to them and they need help sorting it out to understand what it all means.  They do NOT, however, simply ignore it.  They also tend not to take a single piece of data that supports their world view and ignore many others that contradict their position without a number of damn good reasons to do so.  Using a good sales report to say you’re doing well while ignoring the P/L that shows you’re losing money on each sale isn’t just irresponsible – it’s suicidal.

Most of us who’ve been doing this for a while (like more than a year, frankly) understand this.  So what has me baffled is why we chose to do exactly the opposite when it comes to our government.  No, this isn’t a political statement but yes, it is about politics.  I’ve spoken with a number of pretty smart people lately who have done with their political views something they would never do in business.  They didn’t get the facts or let one fact which supported whatever world view they had obliterate an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary.  In some ways it’s like my grandmother choosing to vote for the Jewish-sounding names regardless of their political positions – she had the only fact she wanted and chose ignorance about the rest.

We live in an age where there is a lot of  information about issues.  Some of it is carefully researched, some is twisted into propaganda, and some is totally made up.  It’s not easy to sort it out but each of us has to try, whatever our own beliefs about an issue and a candidate.  What are the facts?  Is what a candidate saying today the same as what they said last week or month or year?  Do they acknowledge inconsistencies in their positions?  Is someone telling the truth (and please let me know when you find someone who is!).

Obviously I support certain candidates and have positions on the issues but I respect those who disagree as long as they’ve got a grasp of the facts and have thought through their positions.  We never choose ignorance in business because if we do we’re not in business for very long.  Why would any of us chose to do so with something that has an even greater impact on our collective lives?

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What A Soccer Player Teaches Us About Business

I spent part of the weekend watching the UEFA Euro Tournament.

European football government body badge

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re into the sport of soccer, it’s must-see TV and the matches have, in general, lived up to the tournament’s stature as the best football tournament on the planet behind the FIFA World Cup.  During one of the games, the commentator described a player in a way that triggered an immediate business thought and that’s today’s topic.

The defender was described as having “a lack of pace but always a perfect reading of the situation so he’s quite valuable.”  In other words, he has the ability to read the situation on the field, react appropriately, and is rarely out of position even though he’s pretty slow relative to the other players on the pitch.  In my mind, that’s a good description of some desirable business traits as well.

How many executives do you know that act on knee-jerk reactions?  When they’re right, they’re often ahead of the field or have headed off a problem before it starts.  When they’re wrong, however, they often spend resources chasing markets that don’t develop or betting on new technologies that never pan out.  They end up out of position.

As businesspeople we can’t confuse activity for progress.  Moving quickly is always desirable but moving a bit more slowly while compensating for our lack of speed with a much better understanding of the situation is even more desirable in my book.  It’s not a particularly new thought:  we’ve all heard the fable of the tortoise and the hare and I expect we all know a few folks we’d describe as “slow.”  Slow is, in my mind, a relative thing – if they get to where they need to be because they can analyze a situation and react appropriately within the available time frame, they’re pretty valuable.

How about in yours?

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Is Your Menu Out Of Style?

For our Foodie Friday Fun this week I refer you to an article on the Eater/Philadelphia blog.


(Photo credit: pomarc)

It makes a statement about food that just might have some business implications too.  Let’s see what you think.

In a piece entitled The 10 Signs Your Menu Is Out Of Style, they assert the following:

…what we eat is strongly influenced by the trickle-down effect of creative ideas and the cultural atmosphere we’re making decisions in. But, at what point does an ingredient or dish that once seemed utterly fresh become completely stale?

A classic like roast chicken may be safe, but most dishes are not so timeless. For example: The Korean taco. What started as a food-truck highlight from Kogi in Los Angeles has wended its way to TGI Friday’s menus everywhere. And recently, a bacon-studded sundae has appeared at Burger King. When a dish turns up on a chain restaurant menu, it’s over.

I agree – there’s a huge difference between a classic that’s widely executed with varying degrees of success and something “trendy” that loses its cutting edge.  Of course, that’s kind of true about anything in business, isn’t it?  The problem with trendy is that it becomes passe.  Or as Yogi once said about why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

If your business is built around catering to the masses, grabbing the latest thing and making it widely available is a good thing.  More often than not, we’re not about mass anymore – we fulfill niches, we serve highly segmented audiences, and we can’t afford to let the rest of the world catch up or dilute our magic potion.  Apple is the best at this (and yes, they serve mass markets but they’ve moved on by the time others catch up).

So what’s on your menu these days?  Classics?  Something others will be dumbing down for their own menus in six months?  Or are you trying to stay afloat serving up stale versions of other’s creativity?  Think about it!

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The Social Hot Potato

An interesting read this morning from the folks at Genesys (with a hat tip to Media Post).

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Genesys conducted a study that surveyed more than 798 senior executives worldwide about customer communication and found that the social and mobile channels are not yet aligned with customer service.  Shocking, I know.  Some key points:

  • Fifty eight percent of C-suite Execs see the CEO as responsible for the social media and mobile channels, but only 28 percent of middle managers agree. The disconnect between top-level and mid-ranking executives might be explained by the novelty factor of social media.
  • When it comes to driving the customer conversation, the marketing department, not customer service or the C-suite, is driving the response to new channels with 44 percent of executives saying the marketing department has dominated the dialogue between company and customer.
  • The report also found that 43 percent of companies only began using social media in the last year and only 11 percent of businesses have been using social media to communicate with customers for three years or more.
  • Customer Service has not been a priority with new communications channels. Only 42 percent of organizations use call centers to communicate with customers and just 6 percent see customer support/service as the main purpose of new communication channels.

A few thoughts.  In larger, more mature companies, the CEO is generally someone my age – well over 50.  One might wonder how familiar your stereotypical CEO is with social channels and what sort of daily (much less hourly) use they make of them.  No wonder the middle managers are a little skeptical.  The implied turf war between marketing, PR, and customer service over who is in charge is no surprise.  Nor is it a shock that companies that appoint a single person, instead of a team, to manage all communications were more successful. Thirty-three percent of executives within companies that have appointed a team to manage social media/mobile channels felt that there was a disconnect between teams that touch these channels. In organizations that had appointed a single individual to manage new channels, just 9 percent perceived the same disconnect.

Social media as a communications channel is a huge disruptor.  Those sorts of hot potatoes aren’t welcomed into most corporate environments.  As the study show, the social round peg isn’t fitting into any of the existing square holes.  The companies that are doing well are the ones that have drilled a round place.


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