Thursday, August 26, 2010

Creativity Malaise?? Time to road trip!

A friend of mine recently shared this observation about his start-up:
the most frustrating part of it: we have difficulty finding time to sit together and "reinvent the world/future" of the company. Probably a lack of oragnization, and certainly too many things to do, which in itself is a good problem to have I must say. (Mathieu, you did sign that disclosure agreement? Didn't you??)
My suggestion. Take a Road Trip, and do it now.


When Mathieu and I worked together, we used to have to drive 4 hours each way to get to customer and prospect demos. On those drives we used to bubble up some of our best ideas, practice our spiel, get good at verbalizing the raw and unformed ideas, and generally have a great time in doing so.

On the way home we would debrief the demo then, fall back into the creative BS line we had on the way out, and try to imagine what we could do next.

So, Mathieu set an appointment (real or imaginary) to call on a prospect about two hours outside of Marseille. On the way out just get the ideas out there, make the sales call (or if you are inventing an imaginary one set your phone to call you shortly after you arrive to have the prospect cancel on you); Then use the ride home to make action items from any ideas you had on the way out.

Might as well make the trip worthwhile.

Sell the problem (borrowed from Seth)

In a recent post Seth Godin suggests that we need to be good as selling the problem (before we can sell the solution).

Getting your clients or prospects on the same page as you, by demonstrating your understanding of their pain, and then suggesting that you have a remedy to that pain is one of the keys to successfully changing them from prospect to customer.
If the customer does not at first recognize the problem or pain the resistance to change is certain to go to infinity. If we do not have a reasonable alternative to the current situation that too sets the resistance to infinity.

Both points Seth is good enough to mention in hist blog. But I would add that we cannot forget to include the ever important W.I.F.M. (what's in-in for ME) and the desire to feel that it was their idea.

Get them on board with the problem, present them with a beneficial alternative, that makes the individual succeed as well as the company and let them THINK it was their idea.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Grade Point, and S.A.T. Scores? REALLY

While trolling about the internet and the number of Social Sites I use: LinkedIn, FaceBook, Buzz I stumbled upon a job listing for Google. Looking for somebody in the Sales Department in Mountain View to do Partner Sales-Technical Account Management.

I followed the link and filled in my first GoogleJobs application/resume/posting. Now I am a little disappointed that I did find that I had to post my G.P.A. which is really quite poor (2.72 I think I actually have long forgotten what my G.P.A. was) and My S.A.T. Scores (I recall that I had an 1100 +/- 50 points), but that was 15 and 22 years ago.

Just how these metrics track to the potential I have to support a company like Google, is well beyond me. In fact, I am quite certain they are well beyond relevancy. The only interesting thing about my grades in University is that I got them, and they let me out anyway; And that since then I have been employed, despite them, and succeeded well beyond what some people would have assumed possible with those types of numbers.

Maybe more important would be the trend (not visible in a single number) of the Grades:

  1. 3.0 freshman
  2. 2.0 sophomore
  3. 1.2 sophomore
  4. 2.2 junior
  5. 2.7 junior
  6. 3.1 senior
  7. 3.2 senior

But then I would have to expose that I was a really poor student at first, then a lost student for a few years, but finished (a miracle on it own) and actually finished strong, once I found my niche--Technical Training and Communication about Technical Content. Oh and yes, that is just under 7 full years to graduate from Michigan Tech (which in my defense has accepted the fact that they are a 5 year school, and that explains at least 1 of the extra years).

What makes good employees after all?
  • Grades? (not good for me)
  • Test Scores? (not great, but not bad)
  • Good looks? (Rats!)
  • Height? (Ouch, that would suck)
  • Ability to survive adversity? (Hey, I used to suck but look at me now!)

I hope that Google, or whoever we try to find work with in the future, will recognize whether or not they are creating for themselves a "quarterback problem" when trying to fill their jobs. At least long enough to get our foot in. At least then the rest is up to us in the present--just how it should be.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Specify the Outputs, Not the Inputs | Thought Leadership Leverage

Specify the Outputs, Not the Inputs | Thought Leadership Leverage

When we create outlines for business, engineering, life-hack or any other processes what ratio of time do we spend thinking about the desired outcome when compared to the process steps or procedure?

My guess and subjective recollection is that we tend to get mired down in the details of How-to-do instead of Why-we-do or Where-we-want-to-go.

This question posed by Peter Winick in a recent blog post, stirred for me a recent hornets nest of activity where we have been spending many hour discussing and defining the "beneficial outcomes" that arise when people use our software, and what other beneficial outcomes they might need to complete their job. And funny enough it turns out that our product development has been focused very much on the what and not the why.

Thanks Peter.

Baggage Bonanza: international flights and Codesharing FAIL

If you are taking an international flight on Delta or any other US based Carrier that requires a stopover and change to one of their Code Share partners- BEWARE. The baggage allowance that you think you get on the way their may be different than on the way home.

When booking apparently you must read ALL the SMALL PRINT, regarding their codeshare partners on international flights. For the rules that govern your check-in on the way out, may be differently enforced on the way home. That's right, you fly out with your two bag allowance, or your 70 lbs. per bag, or your total weight allowance and special sporting items; on the way there the desk attendant gladly lets you check-in with the aforementioned bags. BUT on the way home, the "partner" airline handling your check-in informs you that you actually only have one (1) bag allowed, or only 23kg (50 lbs) per bag, or that skis and other sports equipment are extra.

IF you complain to the carrier you will get responses like this:

I apologize for the carry on and checked baggage discrepancies between other airlines. Each airline determines their own allowed allowances and fees. When airlines create working agreements between each other (such as SkyTeam), these agreements do not change or homogenize the baggage allowances.
The easiest way, Mr. Kam, to keep on top of Delta's airline partners' baggage allowances is to go to this link:
Scroll down to Airline Partner Notice and click on "codeshare partners." From there click on the "SkyTeam Partners" and scroll to the airline of choice and click on that airline's "baggage policy."
Air France routinely offers four classes of service on its long haul flights, e.g., between Europe the U.S. or other continents such as Africa and South America. In the first class cabins (La Premiere, La Affaires (business), and Premium Voyageur (economy) Air France allows two carry ons up to 40 pounds. In coach (Voyageur) the allowance is one carry on not to exceed 26 pounds (12 kg). KLM on the other hand allows one carry on whether in coach or first class. That airline's distinction is that it's a maximum of 26 pounds in coach and 40 pounds (18 kg) in first class.
Checked baggage is again different. For instance, in first class KLM allows three free bags not to exceed 70 pounds, and in coach one free bag not to exceed 50 pounds (23 kg). In coach the second checked bag is 
$50. Air France, on the other hand, on 'Long Haul' flights permits three free in La Premiere and La Affaires but they cannot exceed 50 pounds each, not the 70 pounds per bag as on KLM or Delta flights. In Air France's Premium Voyageur or Alize classes, the allowance is two free bags, and in Voyageur (economy) it is one bag at 50 pounds. 
Since baggage policies are all over, it is best to check the website when planning to fly in foreign countries on their national airlines.
Mr. Kam, please accept our apology for the unfavorable impression you have received. Your selection of Delta is appreciated and we consider it a privilege to be of service to you.
Daphne Jensen
Medallion Desk
Suffice to say, I am out $150 dollars for the overweight bag that I clearly would have expected to carry home, since it is the same bag I flew out with. But apparently, Delta feels it is OK to allow me to have the notion that when I fly out with them on a Delta Ticketed flight, that the return home flight (which is also Delta Ticketed) my not allow the same treatment.

So don't learn this lesson the hard way like I did. Make sure that all your legs of the flight are with the SAME CARRIER if you can, or if you find that you will be check-in with one of the "partners" find out what the lowest common denominator rules are, and follow those.

And yes pack lighter if you can--which is hard to do when traveling with 3 women for 6 weeks. All my personal gear fit in a carry-on sized bag and my PC backpack.