The Idea Dude


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The 7 deadly sins

Here are my 7 deadly sins of blogging:

  • Lust, to covet those page views, Google page rank and Technorati rating
  • Gluttony, to join every online community on the planet
  • Greed, to believe Adsense will make us all millionaires
  • Sloth, to be too lazy to acknowledge a comment on our blogs
  • Wrath, to be really angry when some insanely vanilla blog post gets a million views from Digg and our own award winning post gets a hundred
  • Envy, to dream of becoming an A-lister
  • Pride, to believe our blog is the de facto authority on all things

There are two things I value the most from the blogs I read.

They say we should dance like nobody is watching, we should blog like nobody's reading.

They say we should dress like the whole world is looking, we should blog like the whole world is reading.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Are you dangerously comfortable?

A phrase caught my eye this week when reading a Fast Company interview with Tim Ferris, who is the 4 hour work-week evangelist. The phrase was...

dangerously comfortable

We all get that way sometimes in our work and in our lives. Dangerously comfortable. Sometimes it is because we are successful in what we do. Perhaps it is because we are financially secure or for most of us, we are so overwhelmed with life, we just let another week slide by. Maybe, just maybe next week will be better.

What happens when we are dangerously comfortable?

We lose our curiosity, we ignore opportunities, we stop innovating. The slow death of taking the initiative.

I thought about our ancestors, pioneers, inventors, explorers. I doubt any of them were ever dangerously comfortable. I would imagine the two words that consciously or subconsciously resonate within them would be, what if?

I thought about what I should fear the most and it is this. One day I arrive at the pearly gates to meet my maker. In one hand I have a bottle of opportunity and in the other a bottle of talent.

What would I say, if neither bottle was completely empty. How would I feel to know at the end of the journey, I had not used all my opportunities or made the most of all my talents...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So you want to build a community

Tealeaf and I went to a new restaurant for lunch yesterday. We hesitated for a bit outside two restaurants and picked one. As we entered, we were greeted by a portly lady with a beaming smile. "You've made the right choice! guaranteed". She never stopped smiling, hustled by our table a couple of times, joking and laughing.

Here's the rub. The food wasn't great but Tealeaf and I spent a long time there without realizing it, somehow it felt warm and friendly. The food wasn't great, would we go back? Probably, if only to give our smiling host a second chance. In fact we almost didn't mind that the food wasn't great...

Building communities is all about heart. The rest are props, the website, the features, the content. They are the oxygen but far from being the meaning of life. MySpace had Tom, whether you liked him or not, he was your first friend. MySpace remembered it was always about the people and they made space for the conversation, any conversation. People felt comfortable, they wanted it to be their home. Then 100 million people signed up and it felt like shopping at Walmart, not like that little store where they personally helped you pick your clothes and made you feel special.

It's always about the people, it's always about the heart

Whether it's for business or for pleasure, it is the rage of the day. Building a community that is. Techcrunch reports over 100,000 communities were built on Ning. With a click of a button you can have a website with all the right curves, pictures of people and relevant content. You spend money on SEO and PPC. You built it...

and they didn't come

Because nobody told you...

  • Communities are built on relationships
  • Building real relationships takes time
  • Building communities require catalysts, champions, hosts
  • Communities want to see the faces of the people who run them

If you're building community, who is your friendly, smiling host? The one that knows your name and you know his or hers? And sometimes, when you're down, they may even surprise you and skype you with a simple, "can we talk?".

Online communities are like bars. They all serve pretty much the same beverages, some are slicker than others. But what draws you to that one around the corner that you walk an extra 4 blocks for, the one where the tables are old and the bartender even older.

It's the place where everybody knows your name

Hi, my name is Vernon, I am The Idea Dude, what's your name?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A new destination for health conversations

Today is World Diabetes Day. It is also the launch of Wellocities, a Canadian health site built with help from the dudes from TheGoodBlogs. We're proud to be associated with folks at Wellocities. Proud enough to have drained most of our resources at TheGoodBlogs in the last 6 months to help them get it up and running.

You'll see many press releases and blogs referring to the $1 million seed capital raised. You'll see all the markings of a Web 2.0 company, slick, iterative and powered by the community. You'll also see great features like a proprietary search complemented by Google, health provider directories and a nifty timeline to help users track how they are doing. And of course, all the social network requisites to make them legitimate. But is this one so different?

Perhaps this one is because it is build with hearts. Behind Wellocities is a team of seasoned professionals who are the best at what they do. But it isn't their brains that will make the difference. It is their hearts. That is their compass. They care.

Every design discussion we have at Wellocities is predicated with just one question. How what we do will help those in need. To help people who are chronically ill. For them the topic of health is a daily concern. It is not choice, it has become their lifestyle.

Wellocities is an opportunity to be a destination of choice for those who have chronic conditions and for their family and friends. For them it will be place to connect with others, to learn from each other, to guide and to emphathize. It will be a place where conversations can happen in a very focused and meaningful way.

I say opportunity because it's success is linked to two factors, the ability for Wellocities to create and maintain a site that is open, warm and comfortable and secondly for the community to embrace it and help mold it to the best it can be. It is the model of empowerment and the wisdom of the masses. Wellocities is there to serve.

The words comfortable and conversation are used deliberately. Because behind the word comfort, there is the implication of trust, reassurance, openness and humility. Behind the word conversation, there is the implication of dialog, relationship and shared journeys.

With my congratulations to the team, I have but one thing to add.

Stay true to your course, your compass beats within

Let the conversation begin.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

In a blink of an eye, I finally saw the light

It's amazing...In a blink of an eye, I finally saw the light goes the Aerosmith song.

I'm talking about the client you couldn't change his mind for 6 months and one morning, you wake up and he's actually where you wanted him to be. Why does it take so long? Carl Sagan used to use the analogy about 2D people in a 3D world. It's not that they're stupid but you're presenting a dimension that is so alien to them that they just can't see it no matter how hard they try.

It's a situation that often happens when you try to get your customer to focus on a niche. Like a kid given an option to put sprinkles, chocolate chips, maple syrup or hot fudge on his ice cream cone, your customer wants it all. They want to go global, reach all markets so no money is left on the table.

There is a great Fast Company article on niche marketing. Nick Rice tells us that the average American is bombarded with an estimated +3000 advertising and branded message each day. So how do you cut through the clutter.

To try and market to everyone makes you part of the noise.

To take the risk and market to a niche is a much better strategy. However it is one many companies are reluctant to take because the risk is ignoring the other market opportunities. We want full global coverage but your message becomes bland and impersonal. Some of the most successful businesses focus on one niche and they serve it with a passion and with excellence bar none. The result?

Loyal and repeat customers that delight in spreading the word.

To be viral, you have to delight the recipient, so much so they can't wait to spread the word. And he or she is more likely to be delighted if your message was personal and met a specific need. It's about context, relatedness and ONE value point.

You probably remember that wonderful evening at an expensive French restaurant but do you remember what you had at that cheap buffet that served everything?

Niche marketing tells us...

  • You can't make everyone happy, all of the time.
  • You can make a few people happy all of the time.
  • You shouldn't try and play the entire market at once.
  • If you attack more than one niche at a time, it isn't a niche.
  • Pick a niche and serve it better than anyone else.
  • That niche will become your reference point of excellence if you decide to try other niches.

But what if you're wrong, you could blow all your money on a niche that proves to be unprofitable. Here's where the consultant's impatience and the customer's stubbornness can be helpful to both parties.

  • Listen to your customer and understand his fears. Unless you do so, you won't break down any walls in a hurry.
  • Instead of forcing him to choose a niche and risking his business and your reputation, let him create a list of 3 or 4 (preferable no more) potential niche opportunities.
  • Monitor each one closely and keep a constraint on cost, effort and time spent on each one. One will invariable emerge as better than the others.
  • Don't assume you or your client knows which one it will be.
  • Choose a niche where all the employees can be raving fans themselves.

It WILL be amazing and in a blink of eye, they WILL see the light. It is a combination of patience, exploration and discovery.

Business is a journey, not an event nor is it a destination

Friday, November 09, 2007

Chasing rainbows

Understanding the difference between strategic initiatives and tactical implementations is important for any company to survive over the long term. It is equally important that management can communicate the difference to their employees. Sometimes it is necessary to take tactical steps to achieve your strategic goal, like putting gas in your car. However, sometimes we overreact to a competitor announcement or a customer complaint. How many times have you heard a CEO rushing in asking everyone to drop what they are doing and do a quick prototype to win an account. More often than not, the account is not won and a week later the cycle starts again. Pretty soon, employees become disgruntled refusing to put in long hours and weekends because it is becoming a case of "chicken little" each time.

A friend of mine has the analogy of standing under tree. The branches move as the wind blows so that sunlight streams down from different places through the gaps in the leaves. So we constantly run from spot to spot trying to catch the sunlight. Of course, the sunlight moves constantly and we quickly grow tired and frustrated and perhaps even a little angry with the tree. Perhaps we need to step away from the tree to see the sunlight in all its glory.

So often the tactical things we do each day overwhelms us, so much so we lose the meaning in our lives. It is hard to step back and decide each that there are things I need to do simply because I have to do them. But there are others where I have a choice and I must take the responsibility to make them, or risk my life being overrun by insignificance.

So what good is our execution no matter how superb if they do not work towards the goal we have in mind?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Lead by connecting others to your thoughts

The title was Why NOT to be a thought leader and yet ironically, it got me thinking. Did that make Liz a leader? you betcha!

It got me thinking...

  • Being a thought leader doesn't mean every idea has to be new. It means we led a person to a idea that was new to them.
  • Being a thought leader is about listening and watching. Collective thought is infinitely more powerful than the thought of one.
  • Being a thought leader means making choices. We have to pick the ones that make sense and evolve others so that they make sense to us.
  • Being a thought leader requires risk. To not be afraid to create or endorse a radical thought because it resonates within us.
  • Being a thought leader needs a voice. How will they follow if we are not heard.
  • Being a thought leader has a heart. For many, there is no doubt it is spurred by a genuine desire to change the world not matter how small the contribution may be.
  • Being a thought leader is seldom a choice, perhaps it is more a calling. The very best never think of themselves as such. For them, it is just a natural thing to share their intellectual wonderment.

Take me to place I haven't been, inspire me with a word, ask me a question no-one has asked, share with me the things that make you wonder, then you would be my thought leader.

Liz started the question and it led to a new thought...

Perhaps we should not be searching for new thoughts but for new thinkers