Archives: June 2007

Brand You Road Trip

Tom has been saying "Be distinct ... or extinct" for ten years now, and he wrote the seminal book about personal brand distinction, The Brand You50. In an era where the war for talent is more competitive than ever, personal branding is becoming increasingly essential. From establishing your own personal strengths to aligning your values to those of your organization, becoming a Brand You is key.

To address this need, the tompeters!company is bringing a series of Brand You workshops to the public. Following a successful Boston session, the next destination is Denver, CO, on August 1. Partnering with Arapahoe Community College, the tompeters!company will provide a customized, one-day session, in which people from diverse organizations will explore the power of their brands, how to augment them, and how to put them to use.

For more information on the Denver event, click here, or for registration, click here. For those of you who can't make it to Denver, we'll be doing a workshop in Dallas in early October. For information on this Dallas event, other possible stops on the Brand You Road Trip, or the Brand You program in general, e-mail me at


I cannot recommend strongly enough Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article "The General's Report: How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties." (June 25, 2007)

(This also provides another opportunity to push-as-hard-as-is-humanly-possible Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.)

In Summary …

I've been working on various forms of my Master Presentation, pretty much fulltime, for the last couple of weeks. A Post yesterday started a rather vigorous discussion about success "rules" that withstand the test of time. Virtually nothing—you, me, the corporation, the nation—withstands the test of time. And one of the principal reasons is hardening of the philosophical arteries—increasingly rigid interpretations of yesterday's "success" rules.

So I outright reject success "rules" or "eternal" principles. Nonetheless (whoops, here it comes), you gotta do something. What follows is as far as I will go. My first list has three items:

Cause (worthy of commitment)
Space (room for/encouragement for initiative-adventures)
Decency (respect, grace, integrity, humanity)

That is, find something useful that turns folks on, give them a lot of room to try their own interpretations thereof—and offer them the respect they deserve for participating in the game with commitment and determination.

I actually like my second list better, consisting of some four items:

Hire Great People (Resilient, Passionate)
Try a Lot of Stuff (S.A.V.-Screw Around Vigorously/R.F.A.—Ready. Fire. Aim.)
All "Wow" All the Time (Shoot for the moon—in every circumstance)
Enjoy It While It Lasts (And it ain't gonna last forever, so you might as well keep swinging)

I find I have a kindred spirit in Mayor Mike. The current (06.25.07) BusinessWeek extracts business lessons from Bloomberg's tenure at City Hall in New York. The article is first-rate, but this Blooombergism elicited a loud "Yeeeeeeeeeeessssss" from me:

"In business, you reward people for taking risks. When it doesn't work out, you promote them because they were willing to try new things. If people come back and tell me they skied all day and never fell down, I tell them to try a different mountain."

This perfectly complements a quote I've used in my presentations lifted from MB's book, Bloomberg by Bloomberg:

"We made mistakes, of course. Most of them were omissions we didn't think of when we initially wrote the software. We fixed them by doing it over and over, again and again. We do the same today. While our competitors are still sucking their thumbs trying to make the design perfect, we're already on prototype version #5. By the time our rivals are ready with wires and screws, we are on version #10. It gets back to planning versus acting: We act from day one; others plan how to plan—for months."

Amen. And: Amen.

For your amusement, I've included three—count 'em—versions of a presentation simply called, with tongue in cheek, "The 'Rules.'" There's a VERY short version, a SHORT version and a "standard" (longer) version.

Just keep throwin' that spaghetti against the wall, folks ...

Tom Topic #1

It's all about tryin' stuff. It's all about experimentation. It's all about getting' on with getting' on. Which means it's all about ...

Markets. (Lots a folks tryin' lots of stuff.)
Decentralization. (Lots of folks tryin' lots of stuff.)
Freedom. (Detroit 1900, Silicon Valley 2000, America 1783-???, new China 1979-???, etc = Lots of folks tryin' lots of stuff.)

Hence one of my labors of love (= reading project) this summer is freedom per se. Amazingly (to me), the idea of liberty as we conjure it today is only a quarter millennium old. My tomes under current study:

Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History.
Michael Barone, Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers.

Here's the way I see the life of individuals (top list), and organized entities (bottom list):

Go on offense.
Give everybody a shot.
Try a bunch of stuff.
Make it up as you go along.
Get some stuff wrong.
Laugh a lot.
Get some stuff right.
Become a "success."

Extract "lessons learned" or "best practices."
Thicken the Book of Rules.
Become evermore serious.
Enforce the rules to increasingly tight tolerances.
Go on defense.
Install walls.
Protect-at-all-costs today's franchise.
Install taller walls.
Write more rules.
Become irrelevant and-or die.

This master process is my life's work. And my personal joy. (And horror.)

Happy summer.
Try some stuff.

Remember Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

(Ciao, I'm heading out to the woods for my daily dose of brushcutting—a "widow maker" branch broke loose on me yesterday, which I suppose passes the E Roosevelt "scare-the-shit-out-of-myself" test.)

The Patient Experience

I am sure many of us have been in the hospital or other health care facility and experienced less than satisfactory care. Quality of care isn't just about how the doctor or nurse performs their duties, but everyone you come in contact with. As Mike Neiss said in an earlier blog, we would call these encounters "touchpoints." I can recall being in the hospital and the janitor was mumbling and stumbling around my room early one morning. He seemed to be indifferent to the fact that I was there. Or perhaps it was the technician who came in to draw blood (never a fun activity), who scored zero in bedside manners. There are tons of stories out there, I'm sure.

But recently at the Cleveland Clinic, they have decided to give the total patient experience a high priority. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the clinic has hired a person to be their Chief Experience Officer, and her job is to ensure that the patient receives a great experience throughout the process of the hospital stay. The process starts long before a patient arrives in the hospital, unless it is an emergency, so this new CEO has her hands full. But what a wonderful challenge to take on!

What suggestions would you offer this new CEO (or, as Tom calls it, cXo) for improving the patient experience?

Oh Deere, Built to Last (and Love)

Old-fashioned John Deere tractor

As many-most of you well know, I'm no fan (understatement) of "built to last." I do not see longevity as an achievement of note. (Yup, I'm an Orioles fan, but Cal Ripken's "iron man" record is pale by comparison with, say, Ted Williams' "last .400 hitter" achievement, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, or Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA.) My mantra is clear: "Built to rock the world" rules! Google may well be on the scrapheap just a dozen years from now—but it has surely "rocked the world" in a way that will indeed be remembered in biz history headlines 50 or 150 years from now. To be sure, if you "keep on rockin' the world," I'm delighted if you last—think, at the moment, Apple. But longevity for longevity's sake??

But, perversely, this Post is about "built to last" in a traditional and admiring way. We're burying about a mile of power line on our VT farm. Though the pros (electricians, excavators) are in charge, our 1985 John Deere 2350 with 245 bucket loader time and again has been indispensable—and at age 22 it's as perky as ever. Sure there's been a replacement part or two along the way, but the solidity and durability of the machine rolls on like the Mississippi.

And its superb design—Deere's longtime hallmark, so unexpected in "farm machinery"—makes it a work of art as well as a piece of work.

Hats waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off to John Deere!

Design, speaking of which, may be "in" right now and correctly so (and I do, I admit, crow for having "gotten there" 20 years ago), but it ain't easy, especially the "usability" part. I have bought two coffeemakers of late, a Cuisinart and a Krups, and the design in both cases stinks up the kitchen—in particular, the Krups pot pours poorly and the water-loading process in the Cuisinart is a bad joke. Reminds me to "stick with Braun." Also reminds me of the difficulty of getting so-called little things right, such as pouring effectiveness of a pot or, God knows, the quality and durability and usability of zippers!

(More "hoorays" re design and durability—I'm doing a lot of brutal brush clearing at the moment, and I am in love with my work-hiking boots, bought for our New Zealand trek 4 months ago. They come from Jack Wolfskin, a German company, I believe—at any rate I bought them in and hauled them home from Frankfurt.)

[Photo credit Luc Gallopin.—CM]

Built to Be Eclipsed

Partially the "built to last" bit (and my deep philosophical problems therewith) is on my mind because I'm immersed in a biography of Joseph Schumpeter. (Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, by Thomas McCraw.) For decades Schumpeter played, to his chagrin while alive, second fiddle to JM Keynes. In a penetrating review of the book, the noted economist Robert Solow convincingly argues that the first violinist now has rather clearly turned out to have been Schumpeter.

In short, Schumpeter, in a long life devoted to one idea, squarely and contentiously placed the entrepreneur way ahead of the pack when it comes to the engine of economic growth: "Without innovation, no entrepreneurs; without entrepreneurial achievement, no capitalist returns and no capitalist propulsion. The atmosphere of industrial revolutions—of 'progress'—is the only one in which capitalism can survive." (Note the plural of revolution—i.e., "revolutions.")

This was radical stuff in 1911, when Schumpeter's Theory of Economic Development arrived—and remains so today. We can work like hell to get the money supply "right" and to salvage the Mercks and GMs, but make no mistake that our future depends on the occasional but consistent provision of Googles and Genentechs and a string of future Googles or Genentechs bubbling in Palo Alto or Cambridge or another of those precious couple of dozen zipcodes which drive our future economic—and thence political—power.

Schumpeter also believed in "my world" (and Peter Drucker's!!!)—which also set him way apart from economists past and present alike. As Solow says, "He was explicit that, while technological innovation was in the long run the most important function of the entrepreneur, organizational innovation in governance, finance and management was comparable in significance." Thus the advantage that accrued to, say, Dell's supply chain organizational-management approach (abetted, indeed, by new technology) is as decisive to progress (at the moment—which is the point!) as is Amgen's latest FDA-approved compound.

All hail the entrepreneur, in search of what Schumpeter in economist-ese calls "temporary monopoly profits," and the revolutions-creative destruction said entrepreneur repeatedly leaves in his wake ... until that moment when he in turn is relegated to the scrapheap.

The king is dead.
God save the king.

Speaking of Capitalism …

The Clean Tech Revolution book coverI've enjoyed The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity, by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder. It is a marvelous tour d'horizon of the many experiments underway and funded in areas such as energy efficiency and pollution reduction. The "content" is enlightening, but the "context" even more so. That is, "intractable" problems effectively are embraced and ameliorated—often in surprisingly short order—only when the Giant called "market forces" is awakened. The economic tipping point has arguably been reached—and the likes of the Silicon Valley V.C.s are moving in for the "cleantech" kill-killing. Will there be a burst bubble that wipes out the bank accounts of thousands? Of course! And like Web 2.0 today, it inevitably will be followed by more experimentation of new flavors—and doubtless more burst bubbles. But the race is on, and progress, I confidently predict, will be astonishing in the next 5, 10, 20 years.

(All hail Joseph Schumpeter redux.)

Headline of the Month

"High Intelligence Can Hurt A Person's Ability To Lead"—Wall Street Journal (0619.07)

The underlying discussion comes from the wonderful (I'm a regular reader) Blog of U.S. judge Richard Posner and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker. Among other things, Posner writes, the super-smart don't know "when to defer to the superior knowledge of more experienced but less mentally agile subordinates." I'm well disposed to this as I have observed it time and again—especially in my McKinsey days.

Here are a couple of related quotes from my Master slide deck:

"Intelligent people can always come up with intelligent reasons to do nothing."—Scott Simon

"Andrew Higgins, who built landing craft in WWII, refused to hire graduates of engineering schools. He believed that they only teach you what you can't do in engineering school. He started off with 20 employees, and by the middle of the war had 30,000 working for him. He turned out 20,000 landing craft. D.D. Eisenhower told me, 'Andrew Higgins won the war for us. He did it without engineers.'"—Historian Stephen Ambrose/Fast Company

A New Brand Touchpoint?

When we work with clients on branding issues here at tompeters!company, we emphasize the importance of contacts between any member of an organization and the customer. We refer to them as "touchpoints." Since an organization's brand lives in the client's or customer's mind, the experience they have with members of the organization goes a long way in determining whether they ultimately buy the product or service again. In a world full of choices, the brand acts as a sorting device. Lately, I have noticed a new force in determining whether a buyer is attracted to the brand. A lot of the conversation among my friends lately is discussion of an organization's labor practices and executive compensation. The topic comes up often. For instance, many of my friends have abandoned the Circuit City store after their decision to fire all their sales associates and offer them the chance to reapply for their jobs at a lower wage. And here in Michigan, people frequently talk about Ford, as that company continues to ask for concessions from labor while compensating Mr. Mulally at astronomical levels ($28 million in the first four months of 2007) and provide Mark Fields expense money so he can commute from Florida to Dearborn weekly. Amazingly, he used to fly Ford corporate jets each week, and his flying commercially is seen as a concession! What a sacrifice!

I am not suggesting that sales will plummet for the companies in the above examples, but I do see the impression companies make with their treatment of employees as a new force in the brand wars. So bloggers, let me know. Is this a touchpoint for you? Do you consider or are you swayed by an organization's business practices when you make a brand choice? Have you ever chosen a different source or product because you don't like how a company acts in areas unrelated to the transaction itself? Any examples?