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Motivation does not act in a vacuum.

Sadly we expect people to be motivated I’m vacuum. It’s wishful thinking. It just doesn’t happen.

Provide people with the right perspective. Help them understand where theyare and which direction they should be headed.

Easier said than done. You need to work hard yourself to keep your team motivated and focused on the right things.

Goal of an experiment

Should be learning.

If there is even a small learning and the overall experiment fails, running the experiment itself should be treated as a success.

This is simple but often overlooked. Trying to control the outcome to your biases only spoils the party and confirmation bias kicks in. 😪

It’s always about happiness

Good to see these adverts focusing on what you feel, instead of products and services.

Most of the communications are company focused. They are inside out.

What matters is a communication which puts your customers first and how they feel when they choose to be with you and use your products or services.

Well done Airparks. 👍🏽👌🏽

Owning success as well as failure.

Most of us like to take all the credit as our own when we taste success. When we fail, the blame shifts on the systems, environment, anything external but not ourselves.

Our bias should be towards failure, which teaches more than success does. The problem is, society as a whole has pinned more importance towards success than failure; as a result, to be a part of the herd, we ignore failure and only embrace success. If you need to succeed even more, then your outlook needs to be able to see both success and failure through the same lens.

There is a reason they say,

Success has many fathers; failure is a bastard.

Risk and uncertainty.

Risk does not mean uncertainty. Take a deep breath and read the previous sentence again.

A risk exists where there is a lack of understanding. The wider the gap between the understanding and available information, bigger the risk. One way to mitigate risk is to understand. It is easy to know how to mitigate risk but difficult to follow because understanding requires temperament. And in today’s world, patience is rare.

If you minimise risk then dealing with uncertainty is OK. And this is what entrepreneurs do. They understand a topic, mitigate risk, their commitment allows them to be OK with uncertainty.

Doubling down.

One of the most striking differences between ordinary people and successful people is the ability to double down. Digging deep.

People who scale great heights double down and not only they put tremendous efforts, but they double exactly at the same point where everyone else gives up.

It appears easy and straightforward, but doubling down on efforts when your body, your mind and the rest of the world is pushing against great people apply great inner strength and break through.

Making it fit.

it‘ refers to your service or your product. You need to be customer focused to understand their needs so that you adapt your product or service in a package that makes sense to your customer. If you do this and have the first mover advantage, then you are on the right path. It is easier said than done, very few companies show such insight as well as-as customer focused alignment of its processes.

Take Amazon, we all know about Amazon in a business to consumer context. Yet, one of the cash cows is its business to business offering called Amazon Web Services (AWS). The existing providers for web services infrastructure relied on the customer to predict the usage. Businesses who wanted to conserve capital under specified their requirements; their end users suffered during peak times. On the other extreme businesses who over specified the requirements based on peak usage lost capital as the peak is a rare occurrence as opposed to baseline. Either case was not ideal.

It is here, that genius of Amazon’s customer focus came into play and delivered to the market a pay-for-what-you-use model and as a result, AWS is a now dominant player – other two being Microsoft and Google. Amazon’s serivce model took away the guessing game and delivered on-demand use of web service to the businesses and as a result in 2006 changed the face of the industry.

Making a difference.

This link is an article posted by 80,000 hours. They are doing some pioneering work to help people find meaningful work.

Early in my life, I knew, my work needs to bring a smile to people. My work and actions should bring people happiness.

Have you found your purpose yet? Read the article to explore more about how each of us can make a difference in people’s life.

Near Share

Microsoft launches Apple’s Air Drop like feature called Near Share.

A little lack of creativity I believe. There is definitely room to improve on the name.

Air Drop means dropping files without any connection. The name of the feature and function make sense.

Near Share just does not have the same impact.

Parachute could have been better. ☺️

Focus on on saying no.

I read somewhere, focus is the ability to say ‘no’. When you focus on creating a great product be selective in who your audience is. If you want ‘everyone’ to be the audience of your product/service then you will have diluted its value.

Real genius lies in the ability to stay focused, create more value, say no to many, yes to few and as a result delight your audience. You can not please all the people all the time, and it’s OK.

Understanding risk through its likelihood.

A risk is present and unavoidable most of the times. The question then is, knowing that the risk exists, do you take the risk or not?

One of the biggest risks of them all is not to take any!

The best way to discuss this scenario is to ask what is the likelihood of this risk? What is the chance? If the likelihood is high, then it is a high-risk scenario. There are brave hearts who like the high-risk high-reward scenarios. The other possibility is that the likelihood is low, then the threat posed by the risk is not so much.

This is a routine exercise one performs ring risk assessments. If we take a step back in our daily lives and base our decisions – about whether or not to risk it – with this approach (risk x likelihood) we will get an incredible insight and make better choices. It’s not perfect, nothing is.

What it does is, it allows us to think twice and be robust in our approach.  You will never be right, you will win sometimes and other times you will learn valuable lessons, either way, you would have made a choice which had your wholehearted support.

 

NatWest – Make better ads, how can they make it stick?

NatWest is good at communicating. Their ads are well thought and the message is clear. See for yourself below, its one of my favourite.

A bank who wants to work for its patrons. It is great. But there is a disconnection right at the end where it says, “NatWest, we are what we do”. This is where their communication becomes diagonally opposite to what the ad talks about. Allow me to explain.

The advert carries an emotional message, people cherish their relationships, NatWest as a bank does the same with their customers. They reward loyalty and look after their customers. The question arises, why is their purpose suddenly does not talk about their customers? Their purpose sounds narcissistic! We are what we do!

No! We are WHY we do what we do. The underlying purpose is what matters. Most of the organisations get it wrong. Their mission is about themselves! The vision and purpose should always be focused on your audience! Your vision cannot be internally focused. You will implode!

NatWest could do better by putting their customers at the heart of their vision. Below are a few examples

YOU are why we do what we do.

YOU drive us.

YOU are the centre of our universe.

Our world revolves around YOU.

There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.
Indira Gandhi

Seth Godin – On speaking up

We can’t judge those that challenge the status quo merely on their rule breaking. Because the rules only exist to maintain the status quo.

Instead, we have to work ever harder on seeing, listening and supporting the quiet voices who have something important to say. Perhaps, if we listen a bit harder, we’ll be able to do the right thing that much sooner.

 


Seth Godin has been a guiding force. Seth has been a source of learning for a long time now. The snippets I share are insights which resonate with me and inspire me.

A possible way to handle crisis situation.

There are only two ways to see an event; half empty or half full. It is a gift if you can see things half full naturally. If you are like me and have put in efforts to able to see things as half full then kudos to you.

Your brain likes to take the path of least resistance – it’s a law of physics, everything in nature takes a path of least resistance. You need to, first, be aware of this and later work on it.

Our mind also likes to panic during critical situations. During a crisis, it is always fear, flight or fight. I believe a way which has worked for me is to see an opportunity to grow. All you have learnt so far is not enough to face this situation, and it is OK. Do not think that things are beyond your control, think about different ways to perceive the situation or stretch yourself to react in a way you would not otherwise. I am sure you will come out as a winner if you were to see a crisis as an opportunity to grow.

BT. Be There.

I love adverts. They are a good medium to communicate with your audience and to get new audience on board. Few companies do adverts correct, Apple and Nike come to mind first.

Both these companies talk about how their products and services help their users. Facts and figure rarely feature. They never tell their audience they always show their audience. Emotions are at the centre of their communication. Story telling par excellence.

BT’s ad is one such delight. It tells the story of a girl communicating with her grand dad. That is it. BT’s Infinity internet service allows the girl to go in any corner of the house and yet not lose the connection. The message is subtle. The focus of the ad is the girl, her grand dad and the stunt performing bird.

BT then closes the ad with the tag line Be There. This is clever as well the two words to describe the brand value are the same as the name of the organisation.

Well done to the team who made this ad. A stroke of genius.

Victim. Learner.

Failure is common. It is more common than success. In fact, success is the endpoint and the path to success goes through failure. Failure takes you one step closer provided you do not give up. Most give up. They blame external circumstances and have what is referred to as the fixed mindset.

People with such a narrow approach find a number of excuses to blame it on the circumstances. We can refer to these as the victim mindset. Everything to them is beyond their control.

To an extent, there are so many things which are beyond your control. There is, however, one thing which is under your control, all the time, and it is your choice to respond.

The opposite to victim mindset are people who have learner mindset. People who are OK with the uncertainty and the failure but are open to learning and know that there is always a scope to improve.

Leaner flip the ditch that the victims create and turn into a pedestal and put an effort in rising to the situation and eventually being on top of the pedestal.

 

Openess to new possibilities

Openness is a fundamental belief of existence. Whether you are an individual, or a team or an organisation. You need to be open and receptive to changes.

Openness sows the seeds for experiments. When you experiment, you either succeed or make mistakes. When you succeed you innovate. When you err, you learn and you create another experiment, eventually, you will succeed.

There is a reason why we see Silicon Valley at the forefront of this culture. Yes, it’s not perfect, but the benefits outweigh the shortcomings by a country mile.

 

Google + HTC | The Verge

Google has invested $1.1 billion in HTC to gain momentum in the hardware space. Google started as a search engine and after dipping its toes in various other online services wants to focus on hardware.

If you look at Microsoft, it started with software alone and now is delving into hardware with its Surface lineup.

Apple is great at keeping the software and hardware working together. They apply this to more than one kind of hardware, you have desktops, laptops, phones and tablets.

Amazon started as an online bookseller and now is into online music, video, e-books, cloud computing infrastructure.

 

All these three companies started with a mission, worked on it relentlessly for a long time and then diversified. An important lesson to learn is, you need to become exceedingly good at one thing first and then try to venture into new areas.  The focus is important and as is diversity; you need to do these in order and at the right time.

Don’t find time. Find value.

There is one universal truth and that is time. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 52 weeks in a year.

Motivated people who want to grow as individuals are able to make time to learn new things and as a result become better version of themselves.

Rest are able to complain about how they do not have enough time.

A way to create time is not to focus on time itself but creating enough value in what you want to learn and let your subconscious do they rest. If what you want to learn is of immense value, you will be able to prioritise it over the rest and as a result be able to find time to do it.

Example: If you want to learn to code, then coding itself has to be so valuable to you that you will be able to prioritise it over the rest of the acitivites you are wasting your time on.

Patience and humility.

Patience and humility are pillars of those who defy the odds. All the greats of the past and the ones to come have these two traits in common.

You have to show extraordinary patience when you have nothing. It is difficult, not impossbile.

Time changes and patience will bear fruits.

Humility needs to drive you when you have everything.

 

Never underestimate the ability of a small group of dedicated people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Meade

How YouTube perfected the feed | The Verge

A great article by The Verge which explains how YouTube’s relentless focus on its user allowed it to create feed which was meaningful to its users. It created win-win scenarios, the user got more of what they wanted and YouTube in return for its users to spend more time on their platform.

 

Organisations by putting shareholders first forget the most important group of people, their customers, their audience. This is sad but a reality. If you want to grow focus on your customers. Establish your organisation by bringing together passionate people; focus on the customer and then see how the magic happens.

Focus and pressure

Focus is proactive. It creates synergy and adds value.

Pressure is reactive, unnecessary and creates conflicts.

 

Example: If superior customer service is your focus then measure your customer service by how well they solve customer issues. Do not create unnecessary pressure and friction by measuring how quickly they resolve these issues! Most of the inbound calls are measured on how quickly they handle customer complaints and as a result the effort is toward ending the call as soon as instead of finding a solution to customer’s problem.

The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.
Brian Herbert

Experience or potential?

When you are building a team this scenario is common, you have an experienced candidate who does not quite ‘fit’ the team and other one has little or no experience and fits the team.

Always choose the latter.

It is important that new additions strengthen and compliment the team as opposed to weakening it. Look at the long-term effects than short-term goal or filling in the gap rationale.

A person might not have the requisite experience but have they got the ability to learn? Are they proactive? Have they got a track record of taking on challenges and raising to deliver their best work?

 

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture

Ballet of visuals, script and music.

The three essentials for any advert are its visuals, the script and its background music. You get what the University of Wolverhampton is trying to do. The message is simple – choose the University of Wolverhampton, it’s a place for the go getter.

The goal is simple and powerful, what gets in the way are the visuals, which are too jittery; the background music is chaotic and the script wordy.

Instead of running, they could have used visuals to show how each of the students help one other to succeed in the team spirit. The speed of the visuals could have been slower and the background music needs to fade (that is why its called background music!). Script uses unnecessary words.

 

Its ends with a call to action which says “Visit us at our next open day.” This is such a cliché. If the University really claims  a place for the round pegs then it could have said “Come, explore the possibilities.”

 

Laser sharp focus.

Creating an advert is an extremely difficult. You have only 90-120 second to tell your story. There are very few brands who do this consistently well.

Great British Bake Off is a TV series and is a show based on baking.

If you see each and very visual, it only shows the laser sharp focus which has gone in to making this video but also the tender loving care gone into its execution.

You will be found out.

Marketing is a key to any organisation’s success. Marketing team builds the brands, nurtures them. Marketing also helps your stories to reach further.

These stories need to be built on truth, the foundations have to be solid. You can always add a flare of creativity but the foundation has to be robust. It is the quality of your product and service along with your passion to pursue excellence which takes you far and not on marketing prowess alone. Eventually you will be found out.

Thoughts. Actions. Wisdom.

Let tools not get in the way of your thoughts. Thinking is critical. Tools are important but secondary. You need to think first.

With your heart into your thinking don’t allow analysis to impede your actions.

Worship your work; focus on excellence based on thoughts and actions and wisdom will be yours.

Intellect is second only to wisdom. Between intellect and wisdom, allow wisdom to win.

Brand is a baby

Creating a brand is like caring for a baby. You need to spend a lot of time nurturing its story and spreading it’s message. Return on investment (RoI) is over a long period as opposed and not precise to calculate; expecting quarter over quarter exact firgure about brand is not correct.

And after such tendering loving care; success is not guaranteed. Your brand lives within you as well as your audience. And both these images have to be the same or as close as you can get to the brand’s identity.

Such responsibility must be executed with utmost care. Think about it this way, your parents did not raise you because they expected a certain RoI; they did it out of sheer unconditional love.

Below is one such example where the branding is done which lacks thoroughness.

Nissan launched its new Micra. The launch advert shows a couple who are happy; enjoying their activity; dropping in and out of places. In the background Bonnie and Clyde playing. You see an encounter with police car. And it’s ends with saying “Meet the accomplice.”

 

 

Seriously? You are associating acts robbery and killing with your brand? Why would you do that? How did such a campaign get the required go ahead?

 

A better way would have been to show the same couple planning a prank, or a last-minute dash to create a surprise for a someone special and using Micra to dash in and out of various places the prank or surprise happen and the tag line could have been “Your partner in crime”! And people would have understood what you are trying to say. The association would have been simple and brilliant, in spite of the word crime in the tagline.

Below is one such example. M&M advert shows a wife trying to ‘cheat’ on her husband by eating her M&M in his absence. The act of cheating is innocent and the audience gets it! It even brings a smile to us.

 

 

Brand needs unconditional love and care. Execute this responsibility carefully.

Float to live

You need not to be a commercial entity to tell a powerful story.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a charity which saves lives at sea. Their work here is not only visually appealing but also impactful. It carries a message as well as imparts necessary instructions to react to make sure when you are at sea in an unforeseen incident you are able to save a life.

When you are driven by a purpose, it affects every aspect of your organisation including communications.

San Miguel Rich List ad

Association is one of the way you can create a mark with your brand. Think about Red Bull, what comes to your mind? Brave, out of the world, adrenaline, etc. This is because Red Bull has over the years has made a conscious decision to work with artists, dare devils to bring these qualities to their own brand.

San Miguel has done something similar here, they want to reward and appreciate special talents. Such associations are long term and need a lot of commitment to see success.

To make a meaningful impact you need to invest a lot of time, effort and love. Nothing happens over night.

One word at a time

At the begining of the year I renewed my commitement to writing. Seven months into it and the progress has been steady. Having written few original posts, my take on few adverts and managed to share few inspirational quotes, etc. what I discovered that the best to keep focused is to record the ideas you have at the very moment they appear.

The two apps which have helped me a lot to capture my thoughts are DayOne and a native iPhone app called Voice Memos. These two apps help me capture the idea and later a focused approach of 30 minutes every couple of days devoted to developing this ideas enable the blog to grow.

Action!

Any science student knows this, to understand better, you need to form a hypothesis, run an experiment, observe. Interpret the results and learn. The same applies in business as well as life.

If you need to get something done you need to action it. Both, bias and focus is towards action.

You may not have the results you expect, tough. You tweak the actions and try again.  Failure of results is OK, you learn from such instances.

Failure of effort is never an option.

Dropping out

Most of the self-made billionaires have dropped out of school. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg to name a few.

People correlate these two facts, dropping out and being a billionaire. Co-relation is not always a reason for causation.

What we need to acknowledge is these individuals were part of a top institute, Harvard for Bill and Mark; Reed College for Steve. The reason these visionaries drop out is not because they know they will make billions, there are no guarantees in life. They drop out because of clarity of thought. They know enough and are passionate that whatever project they are working on is what they would like to pursue full time. Their love of the project is bigger than getting a degree. This act is a sign of self awareness more than pursuit of money and fame.

The rest of us complete our degrees.

Perspectives

Two people experience the same event differently. The easiest way to test this is with your partner; let a thing unfold, form your perspective and then ask your partner how did he/she see it? These different perspectives is what makes our world do beautiful.

The key is not to have the exact experience as the other person but to have the kindness to appreciate that there could be other way to experience than you own.

The ability to be understand and appreciate other’s perspective is what makes you open and keep prejudices at bay.

Desire to succeed

To achieve your dreams you need to do what you want to do. At the end of the day, we all yearn for success. Success is what is celebrated in our society via movies, books, etc.

The reality is, success is less common than failure. You learn more from failure than success. So, if failure is this common, how do you maintain focus when nothing seems to be working?

Well, your desire to succeed should be multiple times more than you fear of failure. Success is the cherry on the top and faiure is cake which makes the cherry on the top worth it.

We’ve already thought about that

When you communicate, you need to go beyond the script, beyond the obvious. Tell a story, paint a picture. Stories allow us to connect. By story, I do not mean fabricate lies, I mean find a way to communicate what you want to in a meaningful way. You need to think from our audience perspective.

NatWest could have easily said, if you ever lose your wallet, worry not, we will send you a code that will allow you get out of the trickey situation. But as any market focused organisation should communicate, they tell a relatable story about John, they make us smile and they also make us feel sorry as well as happy for John.

It is never about you, your product or your service. It is always about how it affects your audience.

Price match

Is a race to the bottom. Who can sell at the lowest possible price.

People, teams and organisations who lack creativity, who are unable to add value take this route to the bottom.

Find a purpose. Tell the story and stick to it. Do not compromise long term value by cutting corners for short term financial gain. Do this and you will never discuss price.

Communication is the key

When there is a problem between two or more parties i.e. friends, partners, employees or even at an organisational level, the misunderstanding is always due to lack of trust. And lack of trust is always down to lack of communication.

Open the communication channels. Let people be authentic. Once the seeds of trust are sowed, everything else will flow.

Bare minimum

When you create something, it has to be simple. So simple and so minimal that its impact is at its maximum.

This sounds counter intutuive and believe me, to be able to deliver that, you need to put lot of time and engery in the concept. To be able to create something which has the maximum impact and yet its physcial manifestation is with as little as possible you need to dig to the deepest point.

One of the very best who can deliver this is Dieter Rams. What I just said above Dieter sums its best “Involve as little design as possible.”

Clarity of thought is a great attribute to have but it takes hell lot of hard work and determination.

Creating a brand

If you want to create a brand, a brand that is loved by its audience. Brand that is revered. Brand which is remembered.

Then you need to first of all stop competing on price. Stop making your product or service a commodity.

Invest lot of energy and efforts in telling stories, creating value system and stick to these values.

Stories

One of humanity’s hallmark has been its ability to tell stories. We are collectively able to pass our past experiences in meaningful way to our future generations using stories. The amount of information grows many folds as a result of this passages.

Growing up, all we do is bask ourselves in stories, your parents, grand parents tell us stories to captivate our imagination. This ability to store information in the form of stories is what becomes an integral part of us. Yet, time and again we see business use facts, figures, features and benefits to impress us. An easier way is to tell stories to our audience. Every organisation, small or big has a story to be told.

The Verge covers SpaceX’s landmark 48 hours turn around of Falcon 9

Can’t be done, until someone brave gives it a go. SpaceX has just done that.

Reusable rockets sounded like an impossible dream back then. It can’t be done. Single use rockets is what we have done and that’s it.

This is until SpaceX came along. Challenged the status quo and last weekend was able to reuse the rocket with 48 hours turn around time. Incredible.

In life as well, we come across people who will tell you it can’t be done. Or better yet, this is how we’ve doing it.

The choice lies with you, do you join the bandwagon or you challenge the status quo and establish a new frontier?

There is always a choice.

Life unfolds. You have to be patient and willing. At times, it throws curve balls as well. Things you least expected. That’s life after all. There little or no control over these random things which happen to you.

There is one thing though which is absolutely under your control and that is, how you respond to these situations. How you handle these curve balls which life throws at you. There is always a choice, and this choice is always yours.

Everything is scary but. . .

People talk about business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C). And B2C is always easier than B2B. This is the normal perception.

My belief is whether it is B2B or B2C, you always need to focus on P2P i.e. person to person. Behind all the complexity and the big facade lies a human who is giving it their all. It is us, people, who make things happen. And to appeal to people, to drive us to make a decision, to inspire us, you need to appeal to our emotion.

When was the last time you went to a supermarket with an Excel sheet with a list the groceries you want to buy along with pros and cons per brand? I guess, never? We make most of our decisions based on how we feel. And we feel because of our amygdala (read more about amygdala).

The power of subconscious is superior, so stop playing the rationality game. Open yourself to serendipity.

 

GE a so called B2B, industrial brand says it best. Ideas are scary. . . but fortune favours the brave.

Clarity of thought

When you need to spread the word about you, your brand and your story, the most important thing is not the product or service or its features and benefits. The focus should always be your audience. To continuously keep your audience in mind, you need clarity of thought. Steve Jobs referred to this as the ‘laser sharp focus’.

One organisation which has stood the test of time to place their audience at the forefront is Nike. Nike honours great athletes and celebrates athletics. This is the business Nike is in. Believe it or not. Nike is not about rubber soles on your shoes and the kind of air it packages in the soles to make you jump 15% higher. Nah! Amateurs talk about features and benefits. Pros talk about purpose. They make other rise above the status quo.

Any brand driven by purpose puts their audience at the forefront. Nike has even bettered their purpose, I believe they now honour people! Normal people who live amongst us and they celebrate life. Life is what Nike is all about. Check out the clip below. Well done Nike. Loads of love. Sheer brilliance.

Making technology work end to end

Making technology work for users is a good objective for any institution, commercial or not-for-profit. Whilst visiting Shallow Falls in Wales

QR code @ Shallow Falls, Waless I came across this QR code which is suppose to give more information to users.

A deep rooted problems with QR codes or any other type of bar-code is that you need a separate app to

translate these codes and also you need a network connection. Network connection is not much of an issue if your location is not remote. The app based approach needs to be solved by the handset manufacturers and the codes should be read by the native camera app. I believe it is not much of an engineering challenge; considering what we can do with cameras on your mobile phones.

The problem with the code at Shallow Falls is, there is not network! So even though you may have an app which reads QR codes, you do not have mobile network for the app to render this QR code. This should have been discovered by the team who implemented this programme. It is better to not have feature in the first place than to deliver a broken experience.

RAF Museum @ Cosford Cockpit experience

Not all experiences suffer this neglect. The team who created this experience in RAF’s museum in Cosford got this right and as a result deliver a smile to whoever uses this. The cockpit of the plane is at least 20-30 feet high, and to get everyone to enjoy the cockpit’s view would be a logistic nightmare. As a result this QR codes delivers that experience to more than on user at a time and at the same time brings technology more closer.

 

GiffGaff

I want to see are there any new offers on mobile phones tariff? This questions lands me on GiffGaff’s website. This is were I come across the information below.

GiffGaff allows you to make an  international call directly via your mobile but each minute costs few pence and depending on the country the charge is different. This is what is shown in the screenshot here.

The charge per minute in shown in a solid bar which unfortunately does not do a good job of relaying any information. The bar scale works if GiffGaff as comparing how much it costs per minute for GiffGaff and its competition to India. Then the size of bar helps for easy interpretation of which network is the cheapest or expensive.

The data below is for pence/minute for different countries and only data point is how much GiffGaff charges is displayed. As a result, the solid bars do not help to make the information assimilate easily. An elegant way would have been to represent a pence by a circle or even a coin, for each pence. Then the number of circles/coins presents number of pence.

I understand, this would be glanced over without a thought by most of the users and it is not a make or a break deal either. But one thing I have learnt is pursuit of excellence is not dependent on acknowledgement.

Living with our genes

Living with our genes by Dean Hamer & Peter Copeland

I have always been drawn to books. There is something endearing about books every word you read is a stroke of paint which helps creature a beautiful landscape of your own as you delve deeper into the story. I am fortunate to have friends who love reading and recommend me books often; at times, serendipity helps.

British Council’s library was in the local vicinity while I was a university student. It helped me to expand my horizons. One of the most fond memories is this book by Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland. Genetics are a deck of cards you are dealt; you can not change this – may be in the future you could possibly alter your genetic code, but now and in the foreseeable future, I do not see this happening. How then nature your genes and nurture how you are raise is well laid out in this books.

Understanding and respecting biology can help you to become more rounded person and this is exactly what this book did.

Recognising somethings are just innate can help us to be more kind towards others who do not ‘appear’ to be like ‘us’.

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
Leonardo da Vinci

We all have opinions. Opinions are rigid. You have already made the decision.

Raise your own bar by challenging yourself to have a perspective. A perspective tells others you are open to seeing things from their point of you; you are there to understand not stand still.

Unconscious and conscious design

Design, to put it in simple terms, is a plan of action. You are at position A you need to go to position B; how you got about doing it is call design. If you are elegant and graceful, then the design is a delight, if not, then it bad design. Design is as much science, as it is art. You need both laser sharp focus as well as imagination to make graceful designs.

When you allow chance to take control it gives rise what results in an unconscious design. Nature does this, or rather use to do this until us humans fiddled with it,  we refer to it as evolution. There is not direction here, just a matter of chance, and whoever fits the bill, gets to procreate, to multiply and dominate.

When you put direction and efforts into thinking about things this results into conscious design. The best example is dogs. Once upon a time, dogs were wolves, man made a conscious effort and selected features he likes and benefited from into make different kinds of dogs. You can not save dogs have evolved! We have ‘created’ dogs the way we intended to. Dogs are incredible and are an important part of our social structure; if we put enough time effort and care we can create beautiful design.

Customers come second

If you are a freelancer, or a independent, then yes, Customers do come first. There is no second choice. If you are a company however, your customers should come second.

Public listed companies constantly focus on pleasing the shareholders. To achieve this they make every effort to beat their quarterly earnings so the company stocks to up. This short term focus endangers company’s long term impact.

If you are not public listed, then you are trying to get your IPO and still doing the same mistake as your bigger counterparts, endangering their long term outlook.

The pyramid looks like below when you focus more on your investors, then your customer and finally your employees. And this is not right. The pyramid can topple easily! It is top heavy and not stable.

I believe to be a successful organisation, you should focus on your employees first. They give their tender loving care, their blood sweat and tears in creating an awesome user experience, making your products and services awesome for your audience. If you look after your team, then the team naturally looks after your audience, and if you audience is happy then the investor get the RoI and they are happy as well.

The pyramid should appear like below, a strong based formed by the team at work, followed by happy customers and even happy investor right at the top. A strong base allows the structure can stand test of the times.

In either case, your customers are second! But their are happier when your employees are happy.

Volvo – Human made stories.

Volvo means safe. That is how the brand has been built. I personally like Volvo. From being boring, they are not making their products more exciting. They are investing in their efforts to communicate these stories as well.

The problem with associating an emotion with our brand is, you have to be 100% committed. And this commitment need to be from within and from top to bottom. There are no exceptions.

Below is an advert from their campaign.

It is an excellent story. Thinking about amputees, thinking about how to make accessibility an innate part of design.

Calling it Human Made Stories just gives an impression which is mechanical, it sounds ‘corporate’. Would you say Human made stories in your day to day life?

Stories are human made! No one else tells stories, only humans do! An essential element of corporate communications, internal or external is to not be corporate. Just think about communicating!

A better title from my perspective could have been Stories by People.

It is always about people – your employees, your audience and your investors.

50/50

There are few people you are able to crunch the numbers. For example sales people. Sales people live by their numbers. That is what they do day in and day out.

 

Other group of people are able to tell stories. Stories which are able to spread the good message and find the audience. We call this bunch as the Marketers. Marketing team is able to spread the message that multiplies and feeds the sales team.

 

People who are able to crunch the numbers and tell the stories, are rare. And these people lead the organisations.

Not why; why not.

Our mind is curious. It dreams beyond what seems possible right now. Our imagination is not bound by the limitations of rationality.
At the juncture of possibility where one arm represents possibility and the other impossibility; lies a perspective.
A perspective to ask not ‘why’ but ‘why not’. Greatest things have happened because few brave have dared to ask ‘why not’.

From data to information

Autotrader is a platform to sell and buy cars here in the UK. Think about Autotrader like eBay but focusing solely on cars.

Thousands of cars are listed on the site and users are able to search specifically for a car which suits their preference. Normally the car advert would love something like below.

A standard ad which does little to help the user to understand whether the displayed price is low, high or just about right.

Recently, Autorader has added a feature where it is able to turn the tonnes of data points it has into useful information for its users. Based on the criteria you select your options displayed and a badge is displayed whether the price is good or low based on similar

A ‘Good Price’ marker helps the user to understand the car is priced at a fair value as compared to similar cars.

A ‘Priced Low’ marker helps the user to understand the car is priced below its fair value as compared to similar cars.

 

Data is the starting point, on its own it can not do anything, you need to be creative and curious to transform that data into meaningful information.

Well done team Autotrader.

I know this answer will not satisfy everyone. But this is what happened and it's how it happened. In times of crisis we must not succumb to cynicism and mistrust. Instead, we must maintain faith while embracing reason and truth, not speculation and rumour. We can attain this through transparency.
Designated Survivor

It is about us.

Treat others how you want to be treated. This approach is good if you are a Narcissist. Viewing the world from your perspective.

Life is never about you. It’s not about them either. Life is about us.

Treat others the way they would like to be treated. And express yourself as to how would you like to be treated.

This should be the mantra. They key then lies in understanding what is that the other person likes? This perspective requires you to first understand where the other person is coming from. What is it that matters to them. To discover this can be as easy as ask the question and get a reply or you spend days, months, years figuring out what is it that is important to the other side? But when you do figure out what it is. Be rest assured that they would be happy and thankful for your generosity of keeping their interest first.

Do something!

This video is the first video ever uploaded on YouTube. It was April 2005. 12 years later, YouTube is a source of entertainment and funny cat videos for the most of us. For the select few, it is a channel to showcase their creativity. Which one are you?

So don’t sit there! Get up, go, do something. Do not let perfect stand in the way of good. Take that leap of faith and create something.

Investing in tomorrow

Image credit – Fabian Blank @ Unsplash

The only certainty is that there is no certainty. What is outstanding today is normal tomorrow.

As a business, small or big, you need around 5-10% of our profit invested in how you can delight your customers for tomorrow. Tomorrow, here refers to medium to long term horizon.

Put efforts into how you could serve your audience better; how could you care for them even better? Be proactive and not reactive.

It is not going to be simple, it is not going to be straightforward. Your goal should be about excelling. Small touches over a time add up to create something big.

Creating value

Seth’s words have been useful to me. His clarity of thought is amazing. I share the links to spread the message and copy to text to keep a record for myself.


The real asset you’re building is trust.

And even though it’s tempting to cut a corner here and there to boost profit per interaction, the real cost is huge.

No one will say anything, no one will put up a fuss, until one day, they’re gone. Those extra few dollars you made with some fancy footwork have now cost you tens of thousands of dollars in lost value.

The opposite is clearly true: invest a nickel or a dime every chance you get, and the trust you earn pays for itself a hundred times over.

Bigger is better

Regatta Great Outdoor clothing label

Regatta Great Outdoor are apparel manufacturer. They have an incredible story.  All businesses do. We all start small, we take risks, we work hard and at the end we are rewarded.

 

Regatta are proud of their story, their humble beginnings and rightfully so. They print their incredible story on their labels which accompany their products.

Regatta Outdoor’s great story

Regatta could make their story even better by increasing their font size and make it more legible for their readers! Hope they are listening.

Perspective matters.

9 out of 10 times when you visit any office where customer facing roles are involved i.e. reception at a hotel, hospital; customer help in malls or railway station, once can see a warning regarding ‘zero tolerance’ policy. And its understandable. You do not want your staff to be subjected to abusive or violent behaviour.

These posters are written with strong words, as a result they do little to change the behaviour, because the tone itself is to rigid eg. ‘. . .abusive language will not be tolerated. . .’

Royal Mail have taken a great step towards explaining people who may want to be abusive to Royal Mail employees.

Royal Mail’s warning about abusive behaviour towards their staff.

Not only it deliver a strong message but also reminds you about civility. Well done Royal Mail.

Converse with fear.

Fear is biological in nature. Its innate and instinctive. Fear is body’s way to tell you ‘Stop! Be careful.’ And that’s that.

Do not let fear consume you. Your body reacts and makes you aware of possible danger. Fear has evolved over millions of years and its purpose is to warn you. Its OK to feel fear. It is only natural.

An important thing is, when you body signals fear, you should accept it, and converse with your body, thank your body for raising the alarm. Once you acknowledge and thank your body for the signal, its time to move through the fear! Past this experience is always a lesson to be learnt.

Do not let fear consume you, converse with it and go for the win!

Control vs leap of faith

Control is an illusion. Take a leap of faith and believe me.

Above call of action is contradictory in its own way. When you think that you are in control of the situation then you are unable to take a leap of faith. In business world ‘control’ has been drilled into us and we spend so much time and effort in creating this illusion. Simple matter of fact and truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. Instead of learning to accept this, we tend to find it and create bureaucracy to create this illusion of control. Start-ups are OK with the uncertainty and hence people working in traditional organisation envy to work in a start-up.

You will deliver a masterstroke when you are faced with uncertainty and you take the leap of faith as opposed to trying to ‘control’ the situation. Your results will more often surprise you. The request is not to make a reckless decision but to listen to your heart instead of an excel sheet! Also bear in mind, not 100% of decisions will result in a masterstroke, you will burn your hands sometimes and it is OK. When you will take a hit, you will learn a valuable lesson; and this lesson is a gift you would not have received is you had gone down the ‘I want to be in control’ mode.

Practice each day to let serendipity nudge you in the direction you were meant to ride. When you take leap of faith, magic happens, you exceed your own expectations.

Buying a landline for a cheaper broadband.

When we think about basic needs, food, clothes and shelter come to my mind first. I am moving house now and I realise, what focuses my mind is whether the area has a fast broadband connection or not! Internet has changed our lives and will become ubiquitous in the next few years. Our future generations will not know life without internet!

In preparation for the house move, I call Virgin Broadband, they are the best and I like them; they have never disappointed me. During my conversation, I am told the price of broadband is 50% higher than what I am paying now, my counter is, being a loyal customer for over 4 years, I am sure there is a better deal to me made and my loyalty to be rewarded.

I do not understand; why existing payer always get a boring/expensive deal? Customer retention is better than customer acquisition; this is common knowledge, at least to one who has studied marketing.

What happens next is still stuck with me! The salesperson offers me 30% reduction if I were to buy a landline as well. I am lot of words. A bundle of broadband + landline costs less than just broadband itself! Why would a state of the art service (read more here) cost less if I buy a redundant service? Just does not make sense.

If there any one who can make me understand this, I am listening.

Connections

Humans are a social species. To grow – individually and collectively – we need to form connections. These connections are essential; they from a fundamental part of who we are. An organisation as well needs to forge connections.  These connections are internal as well as external.

Internal connections are with people who work with you, your partners.

External connections are with people who form your audience and another group of people who are your investors.

Connections are initially build on the basis of faith and belief. With the passage of time the the roots of trust start to form. If you keep the promises you make, then these roots go even deeper and everyone wins,

Tip of the iceberg

The magical thing about iceberg is most of its body is underneath the surface of the water. What you see is just the tip. The tip needs the body to hold the iceberg together.

The same applies to success. Success is jus the tip, what like underneath is a difficult and endearing journey. The pain, rejections, countless failures which eventually result in success. People only see the success and want to replicate it. In reality, it is the body of failures and rejections is what makes success worth it, these struggles hold the success together.

Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.
Anne Sweeney

Being transactional or creating value, its a choice.

Seth’s words have been useful to me. His clarity of thought is amazing. I share the links to spread the message and copy to text to keep a record for myself.


“We owe you nothing.”

This week, all but one NFL owner voted to let the Raiders leave Oakland for Las Vegas (I’m not a football fan, but bear with me).

A nearly perfect example of how one version of capitalism corrupts our culture.

The season ticket holder bought a ticket and got his games. Even steven. We owe you nothing.

The dedicated fan sat through endless losing games. Even steven. Ticket purchased, game delivered. We owe you nothing.

The problem with ‘even steven’ is that it turns trust and connection and emotions into nothing but a number. Revenue on a P&L. It ignores the long-term in exchange for a relentless focus on today. Only today.

There’s an alternative view of capitalism. Modern capitalism. Capitalism for the long-term.  In this view, the purpose of an enterprise is to make things better. To minimize negative externalities and create value. Value for the owners, sure, but also for the workers, the customers and the bystanders.

“We owe you everything.”

You trusted us. You showed up. You tolerated our impact on your world, even when you didn’t invite us in.

It’ll never be even steven, but we can try to repay you. Thank you for the opportunity.

I think this is what sports fans signed up for when they were first offered the chance to support a team. Maybe your customers feel the same way.

It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings.
Abraham Lincoln

Ethics statement

Ethics is your belief system. It is about what are the principles you subscribe to. There is no wrong or right here, the only caveat is, once you define it, you need to take responsibility for your actions based on your belief system.

Can you change your ethics? Absolutely! You live and you learn. If your belief system caused something which is not the outcome you hoped, then it is OK to change the belief system going forward. Before you change your belief system for future actions, the present needs to be addressed. You correct your mistake, you learn and you move on.

I have shared the ethic statement for The Verge, a source I follow for various updates. Their ethics statement is easy to read and also as a avid reader I know exactly where The Verge stands. So well done to the team to have written such a compelling ethics statement which is easy to read and understand.

Understanding brand.

Brand as I understand is, ‘what you stand for’. That is the simplest definition.

Here, ‘you  can be

  • a person – like you and me, an individual
  • a collective group of people – a team
  • an organisation – small or big

What I mean by stand for is – what is your belief system?

Mine is

  • care – unless I care enough about something or someone, I will not enjoy what I am doing. I care about things I get involved with,
  • create – love to create – the blog is a result of my creativity
  • connect – connecting dots, two seemingly unconnected dot is also a passion. I love to connect to people, I love to mess around with ideas, etc.

Based on  this belief system the way I am able to nurture my own ‘brand’ is by being true to my values – my belief system, being able to tell stories about who I am, why I do what I do what I do.

A funny thing about brand is, it lives in someone else’s mind! Brand is always in your audiences’ minds. And they will have their own perception about who you are. So if you do not make an effort to align what you actually are and your audiences’ perception, you will have a big problem. Hence, using stories you need to be able to bring your audiences’ perception about you as close to reality.

 

If you look at brands like Apple and Virgin, you always associate these with certain values and this has not happened overnight. It has taken lot of time, effort and storytelling on their part so that we can not associate these brands with elegance, design (Apple) and vibrant, break free (Virgin).

 

Building a brand is a conscious effort and storytelling is an integral part of it. Even if you are an organisation, you need to have a mantra, what you stand for. And it is OK to tell different stories with the passing of time, we all evolve. You do not have to be static. Also, it is also OK to make mistakes! Own your mistake OK, say sorry, and move on.

 

If you take enough care about your belief system, tell stories about your experience and have few mantras to guide you, you will have a brand like no other.

 

Hiring. . . storytellers.

One of the most important reason why humanity has achieved a lot is because of our ability to pass acquired knowledge to our next generations. We do this better than anyone else in the animal kingdom. We learn from our past and hopefully avoid repeating the same mistakes. In animal kingdom, only humans are able to tell stories.

Image credit – Wookieepedia

If you are a small organisation, then maybe you need to start right away; if you are a big organisation then its not too late! Organisations, small or big need storytellers. Stories are essential for people; people who work for you, people who buy your stuff and people who invest in you. You will have better commitment on all these fronts if you are able to tell stories.

I would love to see organisations hiring storytellers, literally. No corporate malarkey plain ol’ stories.

I tell stories, read more than I tell them, and if  I were to do this for a living, it would allow me to tell even more stories.

What is a start-up?

Start-up as a term is exciting and we hear it all the time. We live in the time of start-ups. Most of us either want to start one or be a part of one. If we take a step back to ponder what is the definition of start-up then I am sure we will end up scratching our head for a long time. This Forbes’ Natalie Robehmed sums its well. Y Combinator accelerator head Paul Graham explains it better with context.

The first book I read.

Growing up in a small suburban town called Nalasopara I was fortunate to have a school which has a decent library. I was in 5th standard (9 years old) when we were allowed to enter the library and borrow books. Personally speaking, schools should encourage reading at an earlier age.

My first books that I read was by Sir Arthur Conan  Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles. At first I did not know what a hound was and found it difficult to pronounce Baskervilles.

Image credit – Puffin Books Australia

My Mum was kind enough to buy me a dictionary which translated English words to my native language Marathi and also put in efforts to teach me how to use a dictionary. Things were analog back then! How to say Baskervilles proved to be a bit difficult; I had to go through school assistants with failed attempts – their opinion was this was my attempt to embarrass them – I promise it was not. Eventually I gathered courage to ask our English teacher – as this was not curriculum related, I was not sure my teacher would entertain such a request; let’s just say, things were different when I was growing up, we were scared most of the times to go up to our teachers for anything other than school related. My teacher was kind to help me pronounce the word and was also impressed I was reading a book other than a textbook!

This book is dear to me, as this expanded my horizon and made me a lifelong fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. If I do have any analytical and observational skills, is it because of the spark ignited by this book.

User experience – Tapi

I recently stumbled up on Tapi carpets and floors store in Telford. The experience from the moment you enter the store is amazing. The fragrance which surrounds the entire premises, the lighting, the way different materials are labelled and displayed; every small detail is well thought and shows the tremendous care that has gone into building a create user experience.

A simple and elegant way to guesstimate what costs are you looking at.

Feedback matters and this is a elegant way to let your prospects know about what your past audience thinks of you. (I would have preferred a bigger font size to make help legibility.)

The communication style is simple and is very humane. Don’t sound corporate. Puts people off! Being more human.

A clear sign. Tapi’s leaders needs to be more clear about how they beat others quote! It does not have to be price! It could your craftsmanship, your service or your expertise.

A bigger sample helps to visualise how the floor space can look.

The luxury segment is displayed in a lush manner. It helps the premium segment stand out.

 

 

 

Brand

Before you create a brand, you need to build the foundation with a story. A story that is legit and honest. Based on this foundation you then direct all your efforts into telling this story internally within our organisation.

Once the story is assimilated with, you then direct all your efforts into letting your audience know the story. Great brands are live. They are able to share their experience with their audience. And it’s this connection which drives commitment and loyalty. There is an emotional exchange between the brand and it’s audience.

Without a story and a meaning you can not communicate. And hence organisations needs to embrace this to be able to communicate with their audience at an emotional level.

The 10x rule

Image credit – Toa Heftiba @ Unsplash

I live in the UK, where as most of my family, extended circle of friends live in India. For them, one of their own lives in the UK is an achievement. I have dared to dream and I have cracked it, this is how they see it. Personally speaking, miles to go before I sleep, is the best way I can describe it.

One such acquaintance has their son in the UK for a short work project. He happens to call his birthday in the UK, all alone. His parents want to make it special and have asked me to arrange a chocolate cake to be delivered to his house. It is a short notice of 48 hours. Being an organised person I have my plans and schedule. The task itself was not difficult but I have to search for a cake delivery service. It will consume time, at least an hour. I can say no, it easy in the scheme of things. I did not know these people, they are not dear to me, and what’s in it for me?

On the other side the result of me making this happen will be substantial. Our acquaintance will be happy. Their son will be surprised. And this would create great memories for all the three.

The impact of an hour spend is disproportionate. In fact an hour compared to a happy memory for 3 people is next to nothing. So did I do it? Absolutely.

 

Mantra – when your efforts and resulting work is disproportionate, to lets say a multiple of 10, then do not even think about it – just do it!

Beat it!

Walking on the high street the other day I came across Wren Kitchens. Below is a shot of their store. In big bold letters, they claim, “We’ll beat any quote”.

There is an important piece of information missing, what are they going to ‘beat’ others’ quote on? Most of us would think price! Price is the first thing to come to my mind. I had to pause and ponder to realise, there are so many other things which any business can ‘beat’ their competition.

  1. passion – doing things from the bottom of their heart, tender loving care makes a lot of difference to the finished product. There is a reason Mum’s food is always tastes good.
  2. craft – your craftsmanship can be superior to the rest, as a result you command a premium.
  3. service – you offer a after sales service which is second to none. After you have delivered the product you would still care for your user, your audience.

As a business you need to have your own belief system and you need to stand by it. In the short run, you will have to persevere; in the long run this will pay dividends.

Price is important and easy to give away.  Being the cheapest on the market wipes the value you can deliver to your clients.

 

Take away – Do not compete on price. Market, like life, is not zero sum, so carve your niche.