Archives: May 2010

An Amateur’s View of Social Media
Circa May 2010
Disorganized Musings

On the evening of May 26, I made my first "presentation" (an informal talk) on social media. The affair, called "Sweets & Tweets," was held in Georgetown and hosted by corporate social media consultant Debbie Weil. I participate in social media somewhat myself, but in no way, shape, or form am an expert. Moreover, I did not spend an enormous amount of time preparing—the talk was intended to be "off the cuff." But with my obsessive penchant for lists (ah, engineers), I did jot a few things down which I shall simply call "musings from an incredibly old guy and unadulterated amateur" on social media:

  1. Social media is not new. SM writ large is LITERALLY what makes us human!!!! Ape brains grew to accommodate socializing skills; aborigines and "songlines;" people trade refrigerators in for radios; etc.
  2. But "modern" social media does change everything: Matt Ridley's new Rational Optimism: How Prosperity Evolves; prosperity (more or less in its entirety) comes from trading-connections (leads to inventions, econ growth); today's SM is wildly accelerating connections (crowdsourcing, etc., etc.)
  3. FYI: SM changed my life. Blogging turned out to be the best marketing tool ever—based on giving away "everything"/90% of intellectual capital, etc. And Twitter caught me totally by surprise—my compulsion for, and emerging benefits of.
  4. I do SM for ONE reason: fun! (Fun makes it loose, social, inclusive—and hence personal and professional ties grow.)
  5. SM does not relationships make. Part of the game, to be sure, and "intimate" (professional) ties can arise. But, at least for now, pubs, dinners, clubs, bars, body language are imperative.
  6. SM is an end in itself. We are simply discovering new ways of interacting—which is, as noted, "everything."
  7. SM is not an end in itself. For me, Steve Jobs, etc. For most of us there's gotta be a great there there: iPad, iPhone, BMW, Cirque du Soleil, speeches (for me).
  8. It appears that brand new organizational forms are arising—"emergent leadership" at Cisco, etc. The nature of implementation of pretty much everything is changing.
  9. Da basics are the basics, always were, always will be. "Thank you." Decency. Thoughtfulness. Integrity. Etc.
  10. Beware "sexy." Napoleon: The simple is the best, and most failure (on the battlefield) comes from generals trying to be "clever."
  11. SM is the ultimate EXPERIMENTAL medium ever. Change. Adjust. Fail. Try again. And again. (On large scale, Google's the master.)
  12. Beware of learning too much from others. Michael Schrage: innovation from "serious play." Gotta try your own combinations, not copy others.
  13. Beware hanging out with too many social media peers. Hyping each other and getting caught up in "SM is all there is" is a deadly sin!
  14. Consider differences: Women and men process differently, socialize differently. (Women around the world are the biggest market, taking over in general, especially among the young/youngish. In developed countries, older/old folks are the most incredible market (size, $$$) in history—and old are surprisingly vigorous SM/Internet users.
  15. Consider differences: Most businesses are small businesses doing "ordinary" things—how can we help them?
  16. Bonus/redux: This is a hoot! Enjoy!

Memorial Day 2010

Names on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

What a great time to be in Washington D.C. (Wednesday, Thursday.) We scream and shout and hoot and holler, but the magical American experiment in self-rule continues on. Washington is our Capitol, and a reminder, through its monuments and beauty and bustle, of our nation's specialness, warts and all. (The warts are as much of it as are the glorious bits.)

As almost always when in D.C., I make a detour to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Our sustaining democracy has not come inexpensively, from Concord to Kandahar. Monday, called Memorial Day, is the day we set aside—and have been setting aside since the late 1860s—to honor those who fought for American freedom. We will have our parades and hot dogs, but it is also a somber occasion to be honored by prayer and silence, too.

People by Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

I always am found wearing a baseball cap. And the last few days, for no particular reason, I've been wearing my Rosie the Riveter cap. The sacrifice of American lives helped win World War II, but American tools and armaments were at least as important. And in our nation, Rosies were as important as Privates and Lieutenants in the Army.

So lets give thanks to our soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines, but also to those who have given them the tools to prevail. And, also, guide your prayers to the families who have most recently lost sons and daughters and husbands and wives and nephews and nieces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Above and below and center, the Vietnam wall.)

Flowers by Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

New Video: Tom Talks About Excellent Organizations as Cathedrals

In this latest video in The Little BIG Things series, Tom gives his definition of excellent organizations. He says that they should be "no less than cathedrals."

You can watch the video here. [Time: 2 minutes, 17 seconds]

[Or, get a PDF transcript of the video's content: Organizations as Cathedrals.]

Also, you might like to try these other titles:
Strategies: Diversity Wins
Brand You: First Impressions
Strategies: First-line Supervisors
Servant Leadership

Cupcakes Revisited

Last night Tom had a terrific time speaking to a crowd of 60 packed into a cupcake salon as part of Debbie Weil's Sweets & Tweets events in Washington, DC. To see what people had to say about the event, you can follow their live tweets using the hashtag #sweetevent, or watch a video interview with Tom and Debbie.

It’s All About the Relationships!

Star-like purple flower

Sebastian Junger, best known for The Perfect Storm, now gives us War, based on harrowing months in which he was embedded in an American platoon in Afghanistan. Consider this, from the Economist review:

"Mr Junger ... is in awe of his fellows' fighting skills and acceptance of, sometimes, appalling danger. ... The main reason, Mr Junger observes and numerous studies have confirmed, is love. The Americans in the Korengal, heroes by the standards of any warrior culture, are not especially religious or patriotic. They show little interest in the war overall or allegiance to the army at large. ... Rather, with passionate intensity, they fight for each other. 'What the Army sociologists, with their clipboards and their questions and their meta-analyses slowly came to understand was that courage was love,' Mr Junger writes. 'In war, neither could exist without the other.'"

I believe these findings go back at least to sociological studies in the U.S. Army in World War II. That is, it is a commonplace. In the context of this Blog and its aims and prejudices, it is one more, perhaps the ultimate, confirmation of ... RELATIONSHIPS ARE EVERYTHING!

Self-knowledge Reigns!
Every Interaction Unique!
Their Eyes, Not Yours!

I happened across a New York Times interview, from April 10, of Andrew Cosslett, CEO Continental Hotels Group. I was particularly taken by the following two quotes from Cosslett, as he explained his success:

"I think having a sense of self-awareness is very important, like how you impact each of the people you're with individually. ...

"The whole thing about staying alive on a rugby field is about reliance on the guys around you. You need to gel them as a team, but each one responds individually. So it's about dealing with them on their terms, not yours. I'm very sensitive to how people are feeling at any given moment."

The powerful notions, for me, are:

(1) "how you impact each of the people you're with"
(2) "sensitive to how people are feeling at any given moment"
(3) "dealing with them on their terms, not yours"

Many of the top leadership authorities, such as Warren Bennis and Marshall Goldsmith, have long put self-knowledge at the top of their lists of leaders' success traits. Fact is, research shows, the large majority of us are downright lousy judges of how we come across. Working on this self-knowledge is a big project, not to be taken lightly.

Major league baseball consists of a whopping 162 games in the regular season. To listen to the best managers, they field 162 different teams, depending on where the heads and hearts of their players are on any given day. The work year consists of about 250 "games"—and, indeed, each one differs from the one before and the next one to come. Conscious awareness of "where the heads are at" of our 25 colleagues on the project team on 25 May 2010 is of paramount importance to the leader; again, evidence suggests that many of us are found wanting on this score.

Finally is the paramount idea of "their terms, not yours." It is a commonplace, often ignored, that we deal with the world as seen through our own eyes, leaden with our feelings of the moment; and often are oblivious to the trials and tribulations of "the other"—alas, this seems to especially be the case with spouses, and for males. Seeing the world through the other's eyes does not in any way mean being a patsy, as so many seem to assume. It is possible to be just as tough, when necessary, looking through the other guy's spectacles. In fact, it can readily be argued that "being tough" (if necessary) is more effective when looking through the other's lenses; that is, many/most acts of toughness backfire precisely because they fail to account for the mental state of the other person.

All three of these ideas are near the core of effective leadership. And none of the three is easy to take aboard, let alone master. Yet it is not a stretch to say that success or failure on these three dimensions is the key to success or failure as a leader.

Thank you, Mr Cosslett!

Cool Friend #148: Ed Schein

When people need help, they often can't articulate exactly what it is they need. Ed Schein's book, Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help, Understanding Effective Dynamics in One-to-One, Group and Organizational Relationships, offers practical strategies for determining what kind of help is desired. Ed is Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus at MIT, and he's done a great deal of writing and consulting on the subject of culture change. In the new Cool Friends interview, Ed talks with Erik Hansen about how to offer the most effective help. If you call yourself a consultant, I'd call this interview essential reading, and this book, a highly recommended purchase.

The One-third Rule:
And You?

From No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller, by Harry Markopolos (the Madoff whistleblower):

"I had established the one-third rule: For every three hours you spend at work you have to spend at least one hour outside the office on professional development. That might mean reading material that might improve your life, but more likely it meant social networking [TP: this from a diehard quant!!!]. I encouraged Neil to take advantage of the pub culture in Boston, to go to professional association meetings, and to go to dinners."

I love this!
How are you doing on "the one-third rule"?

NB: While I believe that emerging "social media" is incredibly powerful, there is something about a pub.



I call it "Return On Investment in Relationships." It outstrips standard "ROI" by a mile in the long term—and, for that matter, the short term.

Here's a take on R.O.I.R. from Harry Markopolos, author of No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller:

"The financial industry is a business of contacts and relationships. No one ever buys a product and says, 'That product is the sexiest thing I've ever seen. I don't care who's selling it.' Generally people do business with people they trust and like, or people who are recommended by someone they trust."

This is not news.
But it always bears repeating.

So: Over the weekend, consider in detail your R.O.I.R. strategy for next week, the next month, maybe the rest of the year. This is an idea that deserves careful and continuous thought, not a catch-as-catch-can attitude. You'd work for months or years on a plan for a new bridge. Well, R.O.I.R. is your "bridge to success."

NB: Markopolos is the quintessential "quant"; i.e., this is a geek pushing relationship power, not a used car salesman.

(Above: Ice-tea season. Fresh mint.)

Tom & Cupcakes in DC

Cool Friend Debbie Weil is hosting a Sweets and Tweets event featuring Tom on Wednesday, May 26 at 8pm. If you're in the Washington, D.C. area next week, stop by and chat with Tom while getting a sugar rush.