Small Business News
Just as important as the idea itself is the entrepreneur behind it--and the skill, passion, and effort she provides.
When it comes to an idea gaining traction, what's more important: The idea itself, or the entrepreneur behind it pursuing it with skill, passion, and effort?
Since its inception in 2009, The Awesome Foundation, a nonprofit that offers $1000 grants to one idea at a time, has successfully bet on the latter. With an implicit mission of "funding the unfundable," says cofounder Keith Hopper, the Foundation provides grants with no strings attached and no ownership stake. So far, the Foundation has funded 829 projects. (In other words, it has granted $829,000.)
The grants have led to several astonishing inventions--some of which have scalable, revenue-generating potential. For example, one idea led to a universal medical diagnostic test that screens for several diseases simultaneously. Another helped a musician create an "invisible violin," which is potentially "an infinitely better version of WiiMusic." Another led to a wide-scale design update of "handicapped" signs (a person-outline sitting in a wheelchair).
What can businesses learn from the Foundation's experiences of ideas becoming realities? Two things, according to Hopper:
Hand over the money, and get out of the creator's way. The Foundation is entirely hands off, once it hands over the money. This enables grant recipients to spearhead their own ideas with no restrictions or requirements. So while the idea itself is, of course, of some importance, what's more important to the Foundation is empowering the entrepreneur's unconditional pursuit of it.
It's this hands-off factor, Hopper believes, that businesses can learn from, if they're looking to bolster not only the in-house generation of ideas, but the execution of those ideas.
"The traditional workplace instinct is to step in and say, 'Well, let me guide you, and demonstrate why this idea might not work.' It's coming from a helpful place. But we do the opposite," he says.
"It's not that we don't care," he adds. "It's that the best way for [an idea] to work is for it to fly under its own momentum."
When considering which ideas to support, think beyond the strictly fiscal implications. This is not to suggest that you divorce your innovation process from the importance of generating a return-on-investment. It's only to remind you that sometimes, the most groundbreaking ideas don't immediately present a fiscal payoff.
In addition, many strong ideas contain what expert John Butman calls a "fascination" element--something that "enables you to make a connection with other people," he writes in Breaking Out. To write Breaking Out, Butman studied how dog psychologist Cesar Millan, lifestyle guru Mireille Guiliano (French Women Don't Get Fat), and TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie built empires from their ideas. In each case, their ideas had a "fascination" element--that is, a human connection.
For Mycoskie, the human connection came from the shoeless children he saw on a visit to Argentina in 2006. Solving this problem was the impetus for TOMS' now-famous one-for-one model, in which the company, for every pair it sells, gives a pair away to a child who can't afford them. Mycoskie believes this human connection was essential to TOMS' popularity. "People don't get initially excited--especially in the media--about the concepts," he tells Butman. "They get excited about the people."
For this reason, too, the Foundation's hands-off policies have come in handy. The lack of an ownership stake--and perhaps even the lack of an emotional stake, since the $1000 investment is so small--frees the Foundation to fund ideas that have a "fascination" element, irrespective of whether the idea will ever create value, in a business sense. This is what Hopper means when he says that the Foundation's implicit mission is "funding the unfundable."
The result, of course, is that some ideas--allowed to breathe as mere ideas--end up creating value.
But in the early stages, the Foundation can think clearly about an idea's "fascination" potential. "It's a huge part of the success of the Foundation's overall concept," says Hopper. The fascination comes when "there’s an underdog, maybe even heroic Robin Hood component," behind the idea. "Other people love that," he says, "and it makes them want to be involved."
Brand names carry deeper meaning in China than elsewhere, so you need to make sure that yours tells the right story.
Your brand name should tell the right story. It's important in any market, but perhaps none more so than China, where brand names tend to have more connotations than they do in the U.S.
That's according to Advertising Age, which published an excellent story on the subject Wednesday. A good Chinese name has to stick and sound original. What's more, it should work in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Shanghainese, none of which sound alike.
If you're hoping to expand your reach into the vast Chinese market, here are a few tips for picking a name.Be Positive
When LinkedIn, which recently pushed into China, chose the name "ling ying," many pointed out that it sounded a lot like the term for the ghost of a dead infant. To avoid such a backlash, opt for something uplifting--or better yet, meaningful. Pepsi-Cola is bai shi ke le in Mandarin, which roughly translates to "anything can be happy."Skip the Gibberish
Nonsense names that sound like the original have gone out of vogue, Ad Age notes. Exhibit A: mai dang lao, which was used for McDonald's. Sometimes it's better to keep the original if it's short, or find a creative workaround.Get Clever
A little clever wordplay can go a long way. One good example is Booking.com's name in China, which plays on the word for guest, bin ke.Do Your Homework
Perhaps the most important aspect of localizing your name is finding a language specialist to help. Lest you sound ignorant or offensive, it can pay to hire a professional to help you come up with names for your brands and products.
First you must grab your listeners' attention--then you need to hold it. Check out these simple ways to do both.
In my mind, there are two kinds of attention: neck down, and neck up. Neck-up attention is when the listener has to make an effort to pay attention. Neck-down attention is when the listener is riveted to the speaker: she can't help but pay attention.
Please note that, in our language of English, attention is paid because attention is a valuable currency. When listeners pay attention, they are rewarding you with arguably the most valuable currency in the world.
Here are 10 techniques that are guaranteed to earn you more attention without losing any of your professional credibility.1. Start with the unexpected.
Start with a bang, not a whimper. Smokers like matches that light with the first strike, and listeners like presentations that ignite interest with the first sentence. For instance:
"We stand today at a place of battle, one that 40 years ago saw and felt the worst of war."--President Ronald Reagan
"I stand before you today, the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock."--The Earl Spencer, brother of Lady Diana.
"I wish you could have been there…"--Patricia Fripp, CSP, Former President of the National Speakers Association.
Each of these opening lines makes us lean in, lend an ear, and wonder where the speaker will take us. They jump right into the subject and create suspense, intrigue, curiosity. They capture neck-down attention.2. Make it about them.
Now that you've gotten listeners' attention with your magnetic opening, make the story about them. Increase your You-to-Me-Ratio. Talk about their goals, their aspirations, their anxieties. Cicero, a Roman statesman and orator, and one of the greatest speakers in the history of the world, said, "Tickling and soothing anxieties is the test of a speaker's impact and technique." He meant that you can capture attention if you remind an audience of a felt need, a pain point, or a threat to their well-being.
"Ring around the collar," was a 1968 ad in which a housewife protected her husband from loss of social status and career disaster by using Whisk on his shirts. And many consultants I know use something called FUD to sell their projects: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. A smattering of FUD gets our attention. When I feel it, I feel it in my chest.3. Keep it concrete at the start.
Show a prop. Use language that appeals to the senses. Don't tax the audience right away with abstract reasoning or academic concepts. Better to hide your smarts than to wear them on your sleeve. Storytelling is a powerful way to get into a topic because we are hard-wired to absorb information through storytelling. Tell a good story and you'll get neck-down attention.
I once heard Robert Kennedy, Jr. speak about conservation on a boat on the Hudson River. He began by pointing south. "If you look in that direction," he said, "You will see the channel that for millions of years has been the largest spawning ground for sturgeon in the world."
Of course, when I looked where he was pointing, I saw nothing but gray polluted water, not a sturgeon in sight, but I had the image of millions of large fish teeming so densely on the surface of the river that I could have walked across their backs to New Jersey.
Only then did he dive into the data about the poor, languishing Hudson.4. Keep it moving.
Not just in terms of pace, but in terms of development. Make sure that every new bit of information you provide builds on what came before. We lose interest in movies when nothing is happening, or novels that stop while the author describes a bucolic setting for two pages. Our brains are saying, "I want action! Drama. Suspense." The same holds true for your listeners. They are time-pressed, content-driven, and results oriented.
Think of the difference between a river and a canal. A canal is plodding while a river is dynamic and constantly changing. To please your listeners' insatiable desire for variety, make your presentations like rivers, not canals. Make sure there's always something happening, most especially when delivering webinars, where your audience is likely to be highly distracted.5. Get to the point.
One of the great pleasures the audience has is quickly grasping what you're getting at. They resent you when you rob them of this pleasure.
I once saw an ad for a Seth Godin speech on why marketing technical products was too important to leave to marketing. When I saw the video, the first words out of his mouth were, "Marketing technical products is too important to leave to marketing." It was a no-nonsense speech that moved like a bullet train, straight down the track of that single point. Give them only one point, make it early and often, and they'll carry you out on their shoulders.6. Arouse emotion.
Humor is inherently persuasive. It gives the speaker an unfair advantage because it literally changes the chemistry in the room, and in the brain of everyone present. But don't try to tell jokes if you're not a comedian. Simply allow your natural sense of humor to be present in the moment, and when something comes to mind, allow your humor to reveal itself.
Confessing something personal about yourself can also make the audience feel connected with you. I had a client recently--a senior person in her company--who confessed to her colleagues at a major company meeting that she had been a bar tender, a taxi driver, and short-order cook in order to pay her college tuition. The audience was amazed and thrilled as she drove home her point that we can all do more than we realize if we have the will to do whatever it takes. One definition of courage, she said, is acting out of character.7. Keep it interactive.
Social scientists have demonstrated that an interactive audience is more easily persuaded than a passive one. In many circumstances, the give and take between speaker and audience breaks through the reticence and reserve of listeners, encouraging them to engage with the speaker and play a part in the proceedings.
We see this in certain churches using the call and response tradition of worship. We see it in schools and universities, where an effective teacher, by asking questions, can get monosyllabic students to open up and participate.
And of course the world also witnessed the power of audience interaction in the massive rallies of Nazi Germany when Hitler would cry, "Sieg," and the soldiers replied, "Heil," raising their arms in the Nazi salute. I include this negative example because it is a powerful reminder that what makes a speaker a dangerous demagogue is not his technique, but his moral purpose.8. Write clear headlines.
Write headlines for your slides that express a point of view. The audience will get the big idea and look at the body of the slide for evidence that supports your point.
For instance, "We Can Dominate the Market" is a better headline than, "Market Share." It's better because it implies action, it's brimming with intellectual and emotional content, and it captures the physicality of neck-down attention much more than the inert phrase "Market Share."9. Keep it short.
Stop talking before they stop listening. The mind cannot absorb what the behind cannot endure.10. Let there be you.
The presence of a human being alone on a stage of any kind, whether it's the floor of a small meeting room or the elevated platform of a vast ballroom, is profound. It immediately creates neck-down attention. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you are speaks so loudly that [nobody] can hear what you're saying."
Listeners interpret everything a speaker does: they read your face, your inner rhythm, your posture, voice, and stance. In fact, the human mind ascribes moral intention to physical cues having the slightest hint of emotional expression.
The problem is the mind does this in a matter of seconds, and you have to speak longer than that. Plus you may be nervous, not at your scintillating best, so your technical skill at capturing and holding attention could be the difference between success and failure.
Every business presentation will have plenty of moments when the audience will have to work hard and pay attention to grasp the material. I am suggesting that your results, and your reputation, will improve when your audience finds you and your content fascinating.
I urge you to go for the neck-down stuff.
Does work/life balance even matter anymore? I think not.
I distinctly remember having a conversation with someone about how much time I dedicate to my work. "Get a life and stop working so much," this person implored me.
But there's a fundamental problem with that advice: My work is my life. I enjoy my projects, and technology enables me to easily integrate my work and personal life. The notion of leaving work at work is a remnant of the industrial revolution. Most of us are paid to think, and you just can't shut it off when you walk out the office door each evening. That's why some of my greatest business breakthroughs happen when I am not "at work."
I was reminded of this conversation when I came across an article in Wake Up, branding and marketing agency Omelet's online publication. The article is by Anna Nesser, who is an account supervisor at the agency, and her article focuses on the idea that work-life balance is a myth.
Anna shared the following story:
"A couple of weeks ago I was at my mother's home in Florida, sipping coffee at the kitchen table while waiting for a Thanksgiving pie to finish baking. Oh, and I also happened to be on a conference call with my creative team in L.A. and clients in New York.
Working in account management means I'm nearly always on, and yes, that includes the occasional working vacation. My folks might argue that I'm doing it wrong; that I should be creating more of a balance between my work-life and my life-life. But I see it differently. In a world where the lines between work and play are blurry at best, developing a sense of balance between the two is no longer the goal--integration is.
We're constantly connected, not just by our devices, but also by our incessantly churning, always-buzzing minds. They don't exactly have an off switch. And that's a good thing--ideation requires lateral thinking, and unlike task-oriented work, ideas can, and should, be born anywhere, anytime."
I was intrigued to see what her bosses thought of her article, so I reached out to Don Kurz, Omelet's Chairman and CEO, to get his thoughts.
Don agrees with Anna that there's never really been a distinction between his work and personal life. For him, he says, "It's not a conscious decision; it's visceral and just part of my DNA at this point."
He shared a story of a dinner he had with friends while in Aspen skiing with his wife. "One of our dinner companions was a close friend who recently left Warner Bros. This friend had just gone out on his own and is now looking for additional opportunities. Turns out that what he's doing may fit right in to Omelet's intellectual property goals and so we started pursuing his potential fit at Omelet. It would have been inconceivable to say, 'I'm sorry, we're having dinner now so let's speak when I get home and organize a time for you to visit.' It was an organic, successful business conversation and it just happened to be in the middle of vacation."
I couldn't agree more. I love the fact that the today's technology allows me to continue to move my work along, and make it better, even when I am not at the office. So please don't tel me to get a life.
Great service is both helpful and human. Here are six ways to make sure your service is both--every time.
If your job is at all connected to the world of customer service, you've probably heard of Captain Mike and the Good Ship Netflix. The star of a highly original chat support exchange posted on reddit last fall, Captain Mike is a Netflix customer service rep whose creative sense of humor made him not only a hilarious viral hit, but also a serious, widely-cited example of what great customer service looks like.
Here's what I like about Captain Mike's story: it shows an engaged customer service employee who clearly feels both freedom and responsibility. He makes the conversation funny but is still obviously focused on solving the problem. And, on the flip side, we also see the customer's immediate, positive response. When Captain Mike asked if there are any other issues he could address, the customer replied, "I almost wish there were." The customer got right into the spirit of the conversation and clearly had a ball--how often can any of us say that about our own interactions with customer service? It's a refreshing example of a customer service encounter that's both helpful and human: something that, all too often, can seem like the elusive great white whale to customer service managers.
So what does it take to make exchanges like this one the rule, not the exception?Become an 'admiral.'
Sparking the motivation of would-be Captain Mikes--and then sustaining it--comes down to your leadership. Have you taken a turn at the helm of customer service? I've written about this before--I think it's absolutely essential for leaders to get in the trenches and actually listen to customers. It's good for you to hear what customers have to say--and it's an extremely helpful exercise in appreciation for your member services team and the important job they do.Motivation starts with appreciation.
It's important simply to recognize the foundational role that the customer service department plays within your business. As a major potential revenue center and a site of key learning for your company's other teams, customer service deserves to be publicly celebrated, all the more so because it faces unique, frontline challenges which other teams do not. Say thank you. Ask a team member to share a success story--or helpful lesson learned--at a company meeting.Don't forget to communicate.
Busy organizations can sometimes forget how important internal communication is--especially to groups like member services. Early on at Reputation.com, we were scaling very fast and we did not communicate as programmatically as we should have with our customer service team. That was a mistake--they really are the front lines and need to know the latest products, services, and new features as well as pricing and policy changes. Never forget that customer service is one of the teams that needs to be most informed at the company.Treat representatives like customers.
Customer service can be a draining job--from dealing with the ire of dissatisfied customers to the receptiveness of internal teams to feedback. Try thinking of your customer service representatives as if they were your customers--and treating them similarly. This means making the transition from telling to asking. Ask what they care about and what their goals are. Ask what tools and support they need to do their jobs. Ask what's working and what could be done differently. And ask in such a way that respects their time, like short surveys or in-person conversations designed to yield just a few key insights. Then, make those changes happen to the extent feasible.Try tangible techniques.
Rewarding good work is a typical strategy for a reason: it works. Some ways, such as profit or equity sharing, have the added benefit of giving employees a real stake in the company's performance. You can try the customer service version of a SPIFF, in other words, a spot bonus or incentives for keeping customers happy or producing a good outcome. Reassigning teams to a new product, changing shift hours for employees who are interested, or physically switching up workstations in the office can also offer a revitalizing boost of energy to a team stuck in a rut.Some good things come to an end.
Never forget that customer service, like other jobs, can have a natural lifespan. Sometimes it works for employees to take on new challenges in other areas of the company (at Reputation.com, for instance, we've had member services people transition naturally to sales). But sometimes, people are simply ready to move on. This can be natural and good, not necessarily a symptom of something broken in your organization. Help and encourage them in their transition: supportive exchanges of skilled customer service reps between companies leave everyone feeling positive and productive.
What are some interesting customer service techniques that work for you?
A video featuring what appears to be a working hoverboard has been debunked, but the hype it generated shows how powerful viral ads can be.
Sorry everyone, but it appears that the wait for hoverboards will continue for the foreseeable future.
Sadly, a video released this week featuring a levitating skateboard called the HUVr turned out to be an elaborate hoax. Supposedly designed by a group of MIT students, the HUVr looks similar to the hoverboards depicted in the 1989 movie Back to the Future II.
The video, ostensibly released by a startup called HUVr Tech, quickly went viral, garnering nearly 4 million YouTube views in just two days.
HUVr Tech added to the hype on its Facebook page, proclaiming "Yes! This is real!," raising the long-held hopes of science fiction enthusiasts, 1980s kids, and tech nerds alike.
The company's website explains how the technological breakthrough came to be: "What began as a summer project in 2010 at the MIT Physics Graduate Program has evolved into one of the most exciting independent products to be developed out of MIT since the high-powered lithium-ion batteries developed by Yet-Ming Chiang in 2001," the site says. "Our team consists of materials science, electricity, and magnetism experts who've solved an important part of one of science's mysteries: the key to antigravity."
Celebrities including Christopher Lloyd (who played Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown in the Back to the Future films), skateboarder Tony Hawk, and even musician Moby appear in the video to endorse the HUVr.
But, crushing everyone's dreams, the video has been debunked by Mashable, which claims comedy site Funny or Die is behind the HUVr. The Verge has a screenshot that shows part of the wire harness used to hoist the celebrity endorsers into the air. And if you're still clinging onto hope that you can hover around like Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly after seeing that evidence, here's the disappointing proof that one of HUVr Tech's "founders" is actually actor Nelson Cheng.
The question still remains: Why would someone go to the trouble to produce a video, set up a website, and even manage Facebook and Instagram pages? Well, getting millions of views suggests that if executed well, such as stunt is worth the effort from an advertising standpoint. Some theories are that it's a promotion for Tony Hawk's new mobile game, or Nike pushing its version of Marty McFly's self-lacing sneakers. But CNET may have the most sound theory: It may be all a teaser for Back to the Future IV.
"Let's recall that the Back to the Future series's director Robert Zemeckis perpetuated a [hoverboard] hoax after the release of the second film, claiming in a behind-the-scenes feature that hoverboards were real and not available to the public because of safety concerns," CNET's Nick Statt writes. "He kept that up, making sure it was featured in the 'extras' section of the trilogy DVD box set."
It's a sad day for hoverboard enthusiasts. But the stunt could soon turn into a dream come true for Back to the Future fans.
Check out the video below and see for yourself.
You think you're souping up your presentation with these neat tricks. Your audience thinks you're torturing them.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase "Death by PowerPoint." It’s a cutely exaggerated way of talking about boring presentations, right?
Not according to veteran presentation attendee Robin Hardwick. In a hilarious, strongly worded post on Medium recently, Hardwick vented her frustration at being forced to sit through countless preposterous presentations, making clear that "Death by PowerPoint" can be actual agony, not just a funny phrase. In the course of the epic rant, she offers speakers plenty of expletive-laden advice on how to avoid torturing their audiences.
So what bad presentation habits does Hardwick hope to see consigned to the dustbin of history, along with other misery-inducing implements of medieval torture? Here are three.Forced Friendliness
OK, we get it; you figure your audience might get bored of your voice after a while. Why not do a meet and greet exercise with fellow attendees to break things up? Because it’s a horrible idea, that’s why.
"I am here for a presentation. That means that YOU are there to provide me with some knowledge or inspiration," she argues. "Therefore, please don’t make me turn to my neighbor and answer whatever dumb question you put up on the screen, just to buy you time/make you feel like you've created a community in the room or give yourself a pat on the back for making your presentation ‘interactive.’"Failing to Control Question Time
Sometimes the most torturous person in the room isn’t the speaker, it’s a fellow audience member. Questioners often speak too softly or ask things that are of interest to no one but themselves. If you’re presenting, don’t let them get away with it.
First off, if someone asks something, repeat it. And more importantly, don’t answer every silly question you’re asked. "Inevitably, an inept audience member who will ask '[I have a very specific situation that applies to no one else here, and I've made the decision to ask this question to you in front of all these people because I’m an ignorant selfish f**k who doesn't realize or care that I am wasting everyone’s time, so please answer this question that will help no one but me]?'" Hardwick writes, eliciting nods of recognition from nearly everyone.
What’s the right response to this sort of bumbling rudeness? "Shut that down. Similarly, shut down any distracting or ignorant questions. You are not obligated to answer everything. Ask the person to talk to you after," Hardwick pleads.Case Studies
Does this scenario sound familiar? "You start counting off so we can form groups, so not only do I have to move and huddle uncomfortably around a group of people with whom I will never work with again, but we have to read about a fake scenario that you came up with the night before, and then answer some demeaning and obvious questions about it on a f****g huge Post-it pad, and I have to pretend that I am a team player by proclaiming, ‘I’ll be the writer!’ and snatching up the sharpies you've provided with gusto."
If you hate these sorts of case studies, Hardwick is your champion. She criticizes them as a pointless gimmick that amounts to nothing in the end. "There’s absolutely no follow-up and no policies or actual useable ideas created from this," she says. Her solution: ban them!
Do you agree with Hardwick’s presentation pet peeves? Would you add any others to the list?
After working for some of the hottest companies in the Valley, David Byttow decided to make a go as an entrepreneur. Now, his app Secret, is a runaway hit with the tech world.
David Byttow hasn't been sleeping well. He works until 4 a.m. most days, and he booked a 48-hour trip across the country just to get some rest. Currently, he's hibernating in a New York City hotel. In a few days he'll fly back to San Francisco only to turn around and fly to Texas for a tech conference, South by Southwest.
Byttow, 32, recently launched Secret with former co-worker and Googler Chrys Bader. Their team of three has been working tirelessly on the app, which lets people post text messages to both strangers and friends anonymously.
We met Byttow for breakfast in New York City, and asked him about Secret's founding, what it's like to be a mega-hyped startup, and what will be left of Secret once all the buzz dies down.
Byttow's career began 13 years ago when he was 19. The Chicago native attended Purdue, then dropped out of college to join a gaming company.
"They asked how much I wanted to be paid to develop games and I said, '$40,000!'" Byttow recalls.
He packed all his belongings in his car and drove to California.
Byttow later joined Google and spent five years working on hyped - but ultimately flawed - products: Google Wave and Google+. There, he hired Bader as a product manager. Byttow left for a short, one-month stint at Evan Williams' blogging site Medium. He felt Square was a better fit, and left for a management role that reported directly to Square's founder, Jack Dorsey.
After a few years at Square, Byttow decided he wanted to travel. He quit and visited places like Paris, Tokyo and Bora Bora. Then he got a call from Bader that ended his world tour. Bader wanted to start a text messaging company, and he wanted Byttow to be his co-founder. Byttow returned to California and the pair got to work.
The first product they launched wasn't an app that needed to be downloaded. Instead, it was a one-to-one text messaging tool that let users send anonymous secrets to each other. The text messages disappeared after they were read, like Snapchat or another anonymous app, Confide.
Byttow says the disappearing text message idea was rejected by investors. He also wasn't crazy about the product he and Bader had built. He felt a one-to-one anonymous message service would do more harm than good and that users would abuse each other with it.
Secret was their next idea, but the pair struggled to find the right name for their startup. Byttow and Bader thought about calling the mobile app "Glimmer" or "Blink." They also toyed with the idea of calling it "Whispr" or "Whisperly," which is nearly identical to Secret's closest competitor, Sequoia Capital-backed "Whisper."
Byttow felt strongly that the app should be called Secret, but Bader took some persuading. Byttow incorporated the name for $75 in Delaware, bid on and bought the domain name Secret.ly for $3,500, then presented the materials to Bader. Bader had no choice but to agree.
Last month, Secret did its first press push. Byttow said he never expected Secret's launch to receive so much hype. Secret was first written about on tech site Re/code. From there, major news outlets like NPR and Daily Mail picked it up. Secret became Silicon Valley's latest craze overnight. One investor, Y Combinator's Sam Altman, likened the anonymous app to the high school burn book in the movie "Mean Girls."
When a startup receives a lot of press, it sees a sharp spike in downloads and usage. When the press goes away, the company's inflated growth metrics do, too. Although Secret has received fewer mentions in recent weeks, Byttow says the app is still opened about seven times per day.
Another thing that will help Secret's growth continue: Byttow has finally mastered Apple's App Store. For the first few weeks, Secret wasn't showing up in mobile search results. It fell behind its competitor Whisper and even irrelevant apps like Uber when people typed in the word "Secret."
Apple's faulty search feature drove Byttow mad; he says he would check his app's rank every Thursday morning and chuck his phone in fury when it didn't show up. "[Chucking my phone] got expensive," he jokes.
Right now, Secret is trying to turn its buzz into a long-lasting product. The biggest challenge Secret faces is to avoid meeting the same fate as anonymous services that have come before it.
When users are allowed to be anonymous, their posts often become nasty. Byttow's team recently met with Juicy Campus founder Matt Ivester who coached them on ways to avoid his pitfalls. JuicyCampus was an anonymous social network for college students that received a number of lawsuits for libel. PostSecret, another anonymous network, was shut down for similar reasons.
Byttow insists most of Secret's current posts are productive. He says he's surprised how quickly his team found product-market fit. And although it's likened to a gossip rag, Byttow doesn't believe his app is a place for sharing deep, dark thoughts without repercussions.
Instead, it's a place for sharing information strategically among friends, without the shackles of being completely identified.
"Secret isn't for sharing secrets," Byttow says. "It's for sharing secretly."
This article was originally published on Business Insider.
For Those Who Get Discouraged When They Hear The Word 'No'... Here's A Rejection Letter U2 Got In 1979
At one point or another, every successful person has had to face rejection. Here's proof that hearing the word "no" is not the end.
It sucks to hear the word "no."
Even when you've gotten rejected thousands of times (as any successful person has), it's still discouraging.
When you hear the word "no" - when a proposal of yours gets rejected - it's easy to think that there might be something wrong with the proposal. Or worse, you.
So it's helpful to remember that everyone has heard the word "no."
Lots of investors passed on Facebook, Google, Twitter, et al, for example.
Lots of publishers sniffed at "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (the U.K. title of the original book before one brave U.S. publisher finally bought it).
And at least one record company, it seems, rejected the early recordings of an unknown teenage Dublin band called "U2."
U2, needless to say, is one of the most successful bands in history. And the record label that said "no?" They're almost certainly toast.
So have a look at this U2 rejection letter that @uberfacts just tweeted around every time you get rejected. Use the feedback to improve your proposal or presentation, perhaps. But don't spend a single second doubting yourself just because you heard the word "no."
A rejection letter Bono received from a record label in 1979. pic.twitter.com/iUL7Nah9t9-; UberFacts (@UberFacts) March 4, 2014
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Having a hard time letting go? Trying to do everything yourself is not a viable option, so it's time to face your delegating fears.
Do you have trouble delegating? Regular readers of this column know that I do. It turns out, that's a good sign. "Really talented people who have lots of ideas and are likely to become leaders tend to have trouble with delegation," says leadership expert Laura Gail Lunsford, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, University of Arizona. "It's because they have really high standards and want to make sure everything is done right," she says.
But that doesn't mean it's OK for you to just go ahead and do everything yourself. Instead, Lunsford says, you need to recognize the thought patterns that are holding you back from handing off tasks to other people, and fight those habits whenever you encounter them.
Here are some not-so-valid objections that tend to hold you back from sharing the load with the people who work for you:Delegating takes too much time.
It's absurd, if you think about it, that when you're overloaded with work, getting someone else to help could be a bad thing. Yet I've fallen into this trap and I bet you have too. It's easy to feel like an idiot if you spend two hours teaching someone how to do a task that would only take 30 minutes if you did it yourself. So you have to take a long view, Lunsford says. "It is true that it takes time to teach a skill--the first time," she says. But the second, third, and fourth time the same job comes up, you'll start seeing time savings when someone else--who now knows how--can take it on with minimal effort on your part.
Lunsford advises getting an idea of the true time savings by figuring out how many times the same task will come up in the future. "Ask yourself how much time it will save in the coming month or year," she suggests.It won't be done the way I would do it.
This objection can lead to trouble because it often turns out to be true. "Someone who's trying to learn to delegate may have something in mind but may not communicate it well to the person taking on the task," Lunsford says. When the task then isn't done right, the person who did is likely to get blamed. "It's not a good experience for anyone involved."
Instead, she suggests focusing on outcomes and making sure the subordinate taking on the task understands its purpose in the scheme of things, and the desired end result. And then face the fact that it may not matter exactly how the job is done as long as that end result is achieved.I'm the only one who knows how.
Sometimes leaders trust their team members, but not their expertise, Lunsford says. If that's the case, you can overcome the problem by having the person take small steps, completing portions of the task and checking in frequently. That way, if something goes wrong it will happen on a smaller scale.
She also recommends ending the conversation by asking subordinates when they'll deliver which portions of the job. (Fight the urge to tell them, she stresses--make them tell you.) If they can't give you a clear answer, that may be a sign that the job is indeed too much for them and you may have to provide extra support.If someone else learns this, I won't be needed anymore.
The fear of delegating oneself right out of a job is a real one for both employees and entrepreneurs, Lunsford says. And it may make you feel both important and needed to be the only one who can do a given task. But--is having you do that task really the best thing for your company as a whole? "Leaders should spend their time on the organization's vision, and on cultivating relationships," Lunsford says. If you're spending time on jobs someone else could do, those more important roles are likely getting neglected.I don't want to give this task up because it's fun.
All leaders have lower-level tasks they enjoy doing once in a while. But if you're doing too much of the easy stuff is it really because you enjoy it or is it because it's just that--easy? "Failure to delegate is another form of procrastination," Lunsford says. "You may want to do what's familiar and comfortable and put off tasks that are difficult and complex. The harder tasks may feel less rewarding."
Giving in to this temptation is a bad idea if you want you and your organization to grow and mature. "You need to be doing the work that's more ambiguous and more frightening," she says.I've always done it this way.
If you've been a leader for a while, chances are you've got ingrained habits that may seem tough to change. But it may not be as difficult as you think. "Delegation is a skill, and people can learn it," Lunsford says. "Most habits get developed in six weeks. If leaders really do want change their delegation skills, it's a habit that could set for themselves within six weeks."
And then they'll have time to become more thoughtful and more strategic, she says. "Delegating well frees the leader, and thus creates a much healthier organization."
Like this post? Sign up here for Minda's weekly email and you'll never miss her columns. Next time: Stop giving so much and other ways to be happier.
Here's how three companies advertised the good and the bad to win the love of their customers.
Every company has its quirks. For one young startup, embracing them turned out to be one of the best marketing moves it's made thus far.
Back to the Roots is an Oakland, California-based company that creates sustainability-focused grow-at-home products. For example, children can use one of Back to the Roots' kits to grow their own urban garden of Pearl Oyster mushrooms. There's just one problem with the final products: some end up growing pretty funky-looking.Get Real
"One of the things that [my cofounder] Alex and I were always kind of unsure how to talk about was our mushroom kits don't always grow in this beautiful cluster rose-like thing," Back to the Roots cofounder Nikhil Arora said, laughing, during a talk recently posted to 99U.
Though the issue was inconsequential when it came to the way the mushrooms tasted, it was undeniable that some of the company's customers, or would-be customers, were a little taken aback by the look of the bizarre fungi.
So the the company decided to address the issue head on. With the launch of a social media campaign called "Name That Mushroom," Arora and his cofounder flaunted their imperfect-looking product. They posted pictures online of the craziest mushrooms kids had grown, and they invited others to caption the photos.
It was a hit. So much so that some of Back to the Roots' customers wanted the mushrooms because of the way they were shaped, Arora said. One woman called to order a kit for her son and requested the "hunchback" mushroom by name.Clever vs. Clear
Arora's biggest takeaway from the campaign was that customers don't want clever marketing. They want transparency.
Back to the Roots isn't the only company to reach that conclusion.
In 2012 the clothing company Patagonia aimed to reveal the good and the bad about its supply chain. It launched an interactive map called the Footprint Chronicles, which allows users to examine information about the company's suppliers.
Patagonia said the disclosures would "help us reduce our adverse social and environmental impacts." As an added benefit, Patagonia's sales increased after the launch of the campaign, according to Forbes.
And in 2008, after two and a half years of negative sales, Domino's was in for some changes. The pizza maker adopted a new recipe for its pies, and the company got a new chief marketing officer, Russell Weiner.
Weiner had plans for all future marketing: it was going to be brutally honest. What followed was a self-deprecating ad featuring customers talking about how bad the old pizza was. Domino's also vowed not to touch up photographs of its food in ads. And last but not least, it published unvarnished customer reviews to an ad in Times Square. The outcome? Domino's, too, saw sales increase.
Want to be found by more clients and customers? Add this.
LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform for professional and business purposes. (Based on the amount of email I got from my recent post, 10 Ways to Generate More Leads and Referrals on LinkedIn, many people agree.)
One reason for its popularity is that getting found by people on LinkedIn is really easy. Getting found by and connecting with the right people is a lot harder, especially if you only apply website- and resume-building strategies to creating your personal and business LinkedIn profiles.
For example, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great way to find out how many people search for various keywords. Lots of people use it or similar tools to create their LinkedIn profiles. All you have to do is perform a little keyword research and pack your profile with search-friendly terms so potential connections and clients can find you.
Fine. But tons of people use the same approach to determine how to describe themselves and their businesses. That means every recruiter, for example, shoehorns six-figure searches per month keywords like "staffing," "recruiting," "hiring," "jobs," "staffing agency," etc. into their profiles.
And by doing everything "right," they get lost in all the keyword noise.
What can you do to stand out and help the right connections find you?
Here's an example. I worked in book manufacturing and have significant (another way of saying I'm old) experience in productivity, quality, and efficiency improvement. Pretend I want to build a consulting business around those skills and I want my LinkedIn profile to help book manufacturers find me.
Using the Google keyword tool approach, I should definitely include keywords like process improvement, productivity, efficiency, and quality. I should also include keywords like Six Sigma, 5S, TQM... commonly searched for processes and programs that I can deliver.
The problem is, those keywords don't help me stand out from all the other efficiency experts. Some potential clients will find me, and that's great, but many I'm sure to miss. And, again, I won't stand out. I'll be like every other process improvement consultant.
So now I'll go deeper. Now I'll identify keywords specific to the book manufacturing industry. Here are a few categories I'll mine:
Conventional wisdom says including industry-specific and esoteric jargon on websites and promotional literature is a mistake. In this case the rule doesn't apply, especially if you hope to connect with B2B customers.
For example, in book manufacturing the word "makeready" is used to refer to a job changeover. No one in the industry searches for "changeover reduction," but "makeready reduction" is perfect. I could go farther and also include "zero makeready," since some printing and binding equipment is described that way (whether accurately or not.)
Think about specific processes in your field and include a few key examples in your profile.
Books eventually have pages, but before book blocks get trimmed those pages are called signatures or "sigs." Cases, jackets, super, headbands... all are terms specific to book manufacturing.
In the B2B world this is especially important; if I'm in the environmental cleanup business, "brownfields" means something even though the average consumer would never consider using it as a search term.
Are you familiar with manufacturers like Kolbus, Mueller-Martini, or Timsons? You probably aren't, unless you're in the book business.
Include industry-specific equipment in your profile to not only create long-tail keyword possibilities but also to reinforce your expert status.
Shameless name-dropping is one thing, highlighting experience with industry-leading companies is another. I worked for R.R. Donnelley, so including the company in my profile not only makes it more searchable, it also serves as a credibility-enhancer and a potential, "Hey, I worked for RRD too," bridge builder.
Consider including names of companies you've worked for, done business with, provided products or services to... both to highlight your experience and accomplishments and to provide additional search fodder.
Remember: the key is to build your profile in two stages. First focus on a general audience. By all means use Google keyword tool-friendly search terms so you cast a wide net.
Then go deeper. Consider your specific skills and experience. Think niche. Think targeted. Include some keywords industry insiders might use when searching LinkedIn profiles.
While some of your niche keywords may only attract a few potential customers every month, those who do find you that way are much more likely to become great connections.
More LinkedIn Tips:
The key to being successful lies in finding ways to be constantly improving. Leadership expert Lee Colan shares eight easy ways to help you build your competence.
Building your competence boosts your confidence...and confidence is a close friend to high achievers. Building your competence is like cleaning your house. If you stop cleaning, dust collects. The need to clean never ends. To achieve the success you deserve, you need to find ways to be constantly improving. The task of building competence never ends.
Competence includes anything that improves your ability to perform--your knowledge, skills, relationships, resourcefulness, processes, systems, and information. Olympic athletes are not only testaments to the human spirit, they are also living examples of competence. Only when we hear their backstories do we fully appreciate all it takes to build Olympic-level competence. We learn about gut-wrenching daily training regimens, strict nutritional standards, rigorous mental discipline, top-notch training equipment, reams of collected data, various supporting relationships, and even past adversities that motivate the Olympian. It is an intentionally developed set of systems and processes designed to produce a golden victory.
So, here are eight proven ways to help you build Olympic-level competence:
1. Seek feedback on your performance. Building competence requires courage--courage to face the facts. Be ready for what you might hear and be prepared to make changes. It might feel uncomfortable, but it will build your competence.
2. Take baby steps. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is our competence. Start with just one new skill, one tool, or one new area of knowledge. Use it until it becomes a habit. First you form your habits and then your habits form you.
3. Listen more than you talk. Remember what Mark Twain said, "If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear." When you listen, you learn and also prevent "blind spots"--weaknesses that are apparent to others but not to you. The higher you rise in an organization, the more you must listen.
4. Build your BEST team--Buddies who Ensure Success and Truth. Choose your team wisely. Ensure each member offers the energy, truth, and positive perspective you need to succeed. Connect with your BEST team, individually or as a group, on a consistent basis. Learn from them and help them--it goes both ways.
5. Create it once, use it many times. If you know you will be performing a task more than once, create a checklist, form, or template to save time and improve your consistency over the long haul. No need to reinvent the wheel every time you conduct or coordinate an off-site meeting, prepare a proposal, send out a mailing, plan a new project timeline, etc.
6. Learn along the way. After you complete each task, ask yourself, "What should I Stop, Start, and Keep?" Identify those things that did not go so well (Stop), those you did not do that would have helped (Start), and those that went well (Keep). Continually improving your performance is a powerful way to build competence--it turns good into great!
7. Ask the right questions. The fastest way to change the answers you receive--from yourself and others--is to change the questions you ask. Asking the right questions will get you better answers whether you're asking them of yourself or of others. The questions you ask will either limit or expand the possible responses.
8. Be decisive! Get 80 percent of the information you need, then make the best decision you can. Don't let the fear of being less than perfect stop you. Remember, good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
So, start today and go for your gold!
Download free chapters from the author's book Stick with It: Mastering the Art of Adherence for more tips on building competence.
Are things a little blah at your shop? Here, Inc. columnists share ways to energize the team.
Even the most energetic teams can hit the doldrums once in a while. Maybe everyone has been burning the midnight oil for too long. Or perhaps the company has lost its momentum. Sometimes it just takes a couple of people feeling funky to bring down the atmosphere for the whole team.
As a leader, you're responsible for keeping the energy high and the atmosphere light. First you need to dig a little below the surface to make sure the problem is incidental and not systemic. If the lethargy is simply a canary in a coal mine, get working on your culture with serious conversations that surface the genuine issues so you can resolve them quickly.
If it's just a simple case of winter blues, get creative. Help the team get the blood pumping with a little bit of friendly creative competition. Form small teams and assign each one to produce a brief compelling video exemplifying one of your core values. Award a nice prize for the best video, as voted by the group. People will get excited and spend time building the company culture, which should re-energize them.
Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.
Often the easiest way to motivate your team is also the simplest. If you're the boss, others may think you "just don't get it" or "don't care". Taking the time to let someone share what they're struggling with, and showing that you understand why it's difficult, can go a long way to getting them back on track. Many times my work involves supporting large companies, which can be a challenge for my team. Sharing my own stories about frustrations I have had with projects or getting sign-off from a customer, along with a reminder that the current situation is only temporary, may be the simple boost the employee needs to get them back on track and motivated for the challenge.
Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward
Want to read more from Eric? Click here.
2. Bring everyone in the loop.
Is there something going on in your business that may be creating discomfort among the troops? Employee morale often declines when they aren't kept in the loop. Hold a meeting to get your employees up to speed and stop the gossip. Do your best to keep it positive and make sure to discuss the upside of things. Add a free lunch and a little giveaway and you should see some smiling faces. No time to arrange lunch and a giveaway? Follow Zinepak's lead and assign a monthly culture captain to find the fun and create a great shift in your company culture.
Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist
Want to read more from Marla? Click here.
3. Take it outside.
No matter how motivated your people may be, there will be times when things get sluggish and everyone is in dire need of an energy boost. The solution? Get outside and play. And when I say get outside and play, I mean really get outside and play! There are all sorts of kids' games that are fun for adults, and that have the added benefits of building teamwork and energy. Three-leg races, egg tosses, pin the tail on the donkey, piñatas, Frisbee golf, shave the balloon, and water-balloon tosses are just a few of the possibilities. The key is to make sure that the games you choose aren't too strenuous, and that everyone has a good time. And if you really want to go for the gold, you can up the ante by handing out awards to the winners afterward.
Peter Economy--The Management Guy
Want to read more from Peter? Click here.
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The crowd has knowledge, and the crowd has power. Listen to them and your decisions will be informed by their needs and reflect what they want.
Crowdsourcing is nothing new. Since the beginning of time, people have come together to accomplish bigger goals than they could achieve on their own.
Take the Oxford English Dictionary, which was the result of hundreds of volunteers compiling the first definitive record of the English language. Our modern day version is Wikipedia, which is also entirely crowdsourced.
Customers are more empowered than ever, given their access to review sites and knowledge of peers. And the crowd is more powerful than any one person. In this people economy, your only choice as a business is to embrace the crowd and its knowledge.Embracing Crowdsourcing
Feeling hesitant about crowdsourcing is understandable. Opening up your business to the masses means relinquishing some control over what information is shared, how it's shared, and who shares it.
In real estate, many brokers and agents initially resisted Trulia and Zillow because their advent meant potential customers didn't need to exclusively search private brokerage sites. These people were also concerned about inaccurate or misleading information making its way onto listings. Regardless, these websites have largely changed the business for the better, something I saw for myself as a homebuyer in an unfamiliar market.
When I spoke with my agent, he brought my knowledge to a higher level, offering nuanced information I hadn't heard before. But the fact that I, the consumer, did crowdsourced research prior to speaking with him gave me the confidence that what he was saying was accurate. It also helped my agent provide more value.
Websites that harness the crowd, such as Trulia and Zillow, may be different from what you're used to. But once you prepare for the slight loss of control, you'll find a new set of opportunities to engage your customers.The Power of Crowds
Opening up your company to the crowd means having more transparent relationships with customers. Depending on where your company stands now, the first step may be small, like joining crowd-based websites relevant to your industry (The Hunt), or starting a business blog where anyone can leave comments (Marriott on the Move). Perhaps you'll take a bigger leap and invite the public to speak face-to-face (Marketo's JumpStart Tour).
One company that has successfully embraced the crowd is Anheuser-Busch. To tap into the craft-beer boom, they hosted a brewmasters' competition, allowing more than 25,000 customers to help develop the beer, Black Crown. The competition, announcement, and subsequent Super Bowl Ad increased the crowd's engagement immensely. And when Black Crown was introduced, the company's beer sales saw a nice boost as well.When Crowds Strike Back
Of course, crowdsourcing doesn't always go according to plan. In 2012, Energy Sheets hosted a contest inviting the public to like their local Walmart on Facebook. The most popular store would win a concert appearance by the rapper Pitbull. But when a comedy site learned of the contest, they encouraged the crowd to send Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska, of all places.
Fortunately, Energy Sheets and the rapper handled it well. They didn't complain or shut down the contest; instead they gave an Alaskan town of less than 7,000 people a show to remember. Sure, things didn't go as planned, but Walmart and Pitbull embraced the crowd, and customers were pleased with the outcome.More Engagement, More Business
The crowdsourcing movement is more than a trend. It shows new ways of doing business that offer real, long-term results. Deep community engagement, customer interaction, and loyalty add up to a better business, plain and simple.
The crowd has knowledge, and the crowd has power. Listen to them and your decisions will be informed by their needs and reflect what they want. So be flexible--open up and join the crowd.
Researchers rank VCs on their board seats, their network centrality--and their pearly whites.
Finally, data hounds are attempting to answer the question entrepreneurs and limited partners alike really care about: Who are the superior venture capitalists, and who are the ones we just like to complain about?
Using data coupled with a decent sense of humor, researchers at CB Insights ranked tech VCs in five categories, then boiled the whole thing down to a ranking and a big social graph.
Most rankings of VCs rely solely on exit data. That's certainly helpful--of course we want to know which partners made the most money for their funds. It's also backward-looking. In this experiment, CB Insights tried to get a bit ahead of the ball, looking for VCs that sat on the boards of promising companies and also trying to evaluate the networks of each of the more prominent VCs. That's also a bit risky, since even the most promising private companies aren't guaranteed great exits, and the influence of one's network is hard to quantify.
There's more information available on CB Insights' website, so if, for example, you think "influence" (or, more likely, "smile,") is a totally spurious measure of VC capabilities, you can tweak the results to omit that particular criteria. Here's how CB Insights did it.Board Seats
At the beginning of this year, CB Insights identified 590 private-tech companies with valuations, “real or rumored,” of at least $100 million. So the first measure of VC ability looked at how many of these high-valued boards a VC sits on. By my reading of the results, this is by far the most important criteria. Some 26 investors sit on at least five of these boards, so they make the first cut.
The winners: Ted Schlein, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Ping Li of Accel Partners each sit on seven of these boards. They get the early lead.Betweenness
CB Insights also looked for investors that most often act as a direct connection between others in their network. The theory here is that since access to information is an important part of being a good VC, those investors who best position themselves as a conduit for information have a significant advantage.
The winners: Benjamin Horowitz, of Andreessen Horowitz, is ranked No. 1. Mary Meeker, of Kleiner Perkins, comes in second.Reach
Sorry, massive numbers of Facebook fans and Twitter followers didn't help here. Instead, investors with a high score in the reach category had lots of direct links with other investors and were relatively close to everyone else in the network. If this measure of ability sounds a lot like betweenness to you, you won’t be surprised at the winners.
The winners: Once again, Benjamin Horowitz and Mary Meeker come in first and second, respectively.Influence
CB Insights says its influence ratings are based on the rule of "Eigenvector centrality," which holds that “connections to high-scoring investors contribute more to the score of the investor in question than equal connections to low-scoring investors." In other words, investors are judged by the company they keep.
The winners: Peter Fenton, of Benchmark, travels in the most highly-ranked circles. Peter Sonsini, of New Enterprise Associates, comes in second.Smile
A happy VC is a good VC, right? So the researchers used facial recognition software to determine which VCs, based on the photos on their firms’ websites, looked happiest.
The winners: Bryan Schreier, of Sequoia Capital, gets the nod for the best grin. John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins, comes in second.
So who are the top 10 overall?
Congratulations to all of the top-ranked investors--and, of course, their dentists.
Contrary to what you might think, providing evidence just isn't the right way to be more persuasive. Try this instead.
In business, it's not unusual be confronted with a decision that somebody else has made but which you would like to change. Your first impulse is probably to present evidence that proves the current decision to be wrong.
That, however, is a huge mistake. People tend make decisions emotionally and only then evaluate the evidence. Once they've made a decision, people tend to either disbelieve contrary evidence or mentally manipulate the evidence so that it supports their decision.
In other words, when people are wrong about something, the more evidence you present that they're are wrong, the less likely they are to change their minds.
For example, when confronted with evidence that climate change is happening, deniers either dismiss the evidence as part of a "liberal conspiracy" or hijack the evidence to confirm their point. (E.g. "it's colder this year than last year, therefore it's all nonsense.")
Similarly, Macintosh fans and Windows fans alike have mountains of evidence as to why their preferred platform is "better." Despite decades of debate, I doubt if more than a handful of people have actually changed camps.
Business decisions aren't usually as set in mental concrete than the examples above, but the same psychological pressure to rearrange evidence to fit the decision plays a very real role.
If evidence doesn't work, how do you change somebody's mind? Here's the process, followed by an example:1. Agree with them.
With human beings, pressure always creates resistance, so your first step is always to get on the same side of the table. This doesn't mean that you abandon your position, but it does mean that must you express support for whatever truths you can find in the other person's decisions and opinions.2. Reframe the problem.
Decisions and opinions always emerge from a certain way of looking at the problem. When you change the problem's definition, you open up the possibility of escaping from the standard back-and-forth. The other person no longer needs to defend his or her viewpoint, because you've changed the "view."3. Introduce a new solution.
Once you've reframed the problem and the other person has accepted the reframe, you can suggest a solution that solves the newly-defined problem. At this point, you can introduce evidence, not that the other person is wrong, but that--given the problem's new definition--a different decision might be right.4. Provide a way to "save face."
People often cling to decisions and opinions simply because they're afraid they'll look stupid if they "back down." Therefore, when you want a person to change his or her mind, you must offer them a dignified way to do so.
For example, suppose your customer announces that she's buying from another vendor. You naturally want her to change her mind and buy from you instead. The conversation might go two ways:
- Customer: "We've decided to go with XYZ."
- You: "Here's an analyst report presenting evidence that our product is higher quality." (Evidence.)
- Customer: "Analysts only say what they're paid to say." (Disqualifies evidence.)
- You: "But their products don't last as long."
- Customer: "They have plenty of customers." (Selecting supporting evidence.)
- You: "You've made the wrong decision."
- Customer: "Maybe so, but it's MY decision."
- Customer: "We've decided to go with XYZ."
- You: "I'm sorry to hear that. For my own understanding, could you explain why you're making that decision?"
- Customer: "Their lower price fits into our budget."
- You: "XYZ has a very good product and their price is indeed lower that ours. If I were in your shoes, I'd be looking very closely at their offering." (Agreement.)
- Customer (a bit confused): "Oh. You think it's a good decision, then?"
- You: "Yes, and I was also wondering if you considered the issue of total cost of ownership." (Reframe.)
- Customer: "No, because I'm more concerned with this quarter's budget."
- You: "I understand. The reason I ask is that I can show you independent evidence of how, in the long term, you'll save money with our product." (Solution.)
- Customer: "But what about this quarter?"
- You: "If we could spread the payment out over several quarters, would you be willing to reconsider?" (Face saving.)
- Customer: "Maybe. Let's see what you've got."
Obviously, the dialogues above are a bit idealized. Nevertheless, I've heard both these conversations take place, with very slight variations, hundreds of times, from both ends. Method 2 works; method 1 is a dead end.
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The Dating Ring, a Y Combinator startup, plans to fly single women from New York to San Francisco to meet eligible men.
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, ladies.
In the latest innovation in the booming matchmaking industry, The Dating Ring, a group-dating startup based in Brooklyn, New York, is setting up a Memorial Day weekend trip for New York City-based women to meet men in San Francisco. The project is aimed to solve the "numbers problem" in the dating world: New York City has 100,000 more single women between the ages of 21 and 40 than men in that demographic, while San Francisco has 40,000 more datable men than women, according to the company's website.
The startup, part of Y Combinator's winter 2014 class, is trying to raise $10,000 on Crowdtilt to fly ladies from the Big Apple to meet tech-loving gentlemen by the bay. Funding a dater to come from New York costs between $500 and $1,250 for transportation, housing, date-coaching sessions, as well as group dates and cocktail parties. Locals pay up to $350, depending on the events they attend.
Lauren Kay, The Dating Ring's founder, launched the service last spring in New York; it has since expanded to San Francisco and expects to move into Los Angeles and Boston soon. The company typically charges $25 per person to meet with a matchmaker, and then an additional fee to connect the dater with other single men and women for a group meetup at a bar.
The company does "away with online profiles and messages and wasting time online," Kay writes on her site. The group date is a move to replicate what happens in the real world--friends meet at a bar--instead of scouring the Internet. The cross-country jet-setting dating project is set to make "dating fun again," Kay writes.
The company also has kicked off a second campaign, to bring men from San Francisco to meet women in New York in June.
The gaming company's change in strategy could indicate a shift in the gaming market toward realistic, social experiences, with a heavy emphasis on mobile.
In an indication of where the mobile gaming space might be headed, earlier this week Zynga announced that it's going to launch new mobile games that emphasize realism and social interactions between players.
Before the end of March, Zynga will roll out Farmville 2: Country Escape, and will update established titles Words With Friends and Zynga Poker in undisclosed markets. The games will launch officially in June as Zynga attempts to rebuild its image as a mobile gaming company, Reuters reported.
According to VentureBeat, the redesign of Zynga Poker is in response to consumer demands that the game be more elegant and realistic--moving away from the cartoonish look of games like Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds. The game will also incorporate more social features.
"We had to think about what matters, about how we want our players to feel. It's more social, with an emphasis on quality, immersive and personal, like you have permission to dream, play, and win," Nick Giovanni, the creative director of the mobile version of Zynga Poker told VentureBeat.
Farmville 2: Country Escape will also emphasize social elements, such as letting players trade goods in the game, Reuters reported.
Named CEO of Zynga last July, Don Mattrick admitted that the company was slow to transition to mobile and was too reliant on selling goods to users via Facebook's platform.
"We are trying to make sure the company becomes a content leader in free play...we are paying more attention to consumer research. We're spending time thinking about how our experiences are differentiated relative to the competition," Mattrick said in an interview with VentureBeat.
You're probably wasting your time and energy on recruitment. Here's how to hire right the first time.
When you pay more attention to your raw materials than you do your talent, what you end up with is people who aren't as productive or happy as they should be and high and costly turnover. And nobody wants any of that.
Plus, notes Sue Marks, CEO of Pinstripe and Ochre House, a global talent acquisition and management firm, you're probably going about hiring all wrong, too. Up to 70 percent of recruitment is unnecessary, she claims. So what is necessary? Here are seven tips:
1. Hire higher. "A small business person and someone with 50 employees is going to say 'I don't make enough money now, how can I hire higher,'" says Marks. It's definitely a problem many small businesses face: Budgets are stretched thin, so they look for the cheapest employee that can do the job. But Marks says that is a shortsighted view. Instead, she says, look at your three- to five-year plan and figure out what you need, then hire that way. Perhaps you should hire eight employees instead of the 10 you wanted. Yes, fewer employees, but of a higher quality.
2. Understand your existing talent. Instead of running out and hiring someone new, do you already have those skills within your work force? Don't focus on cost but on employee value. In order to do this, you actually have to know your employees, and your HR department should be focused on identifying and developing talent within your existing work force.
3. Warm bodies aren't enough. You put in an applicant tracking system and say, "We hired X employees last year, and this year we'll need to hire Y employees." It's good to plan ahead, but ask yourself: Are these the right people? Take a bit longer to evaluate, and your turnover will be lower and your employees happier.
4. Use external recruiters that keep their promises. How does a recruiter build her business? Through adding new clients, and increasing the number of hires with current clients. The latter is a sign that a recruiter isn't completely focused on your business needs. Good recruiters should mean that your need for recruiters drops. "If we're doing our job, hiring goes down," says Marks. "We should, over time, see the number of hires go down given a constant business environment. Most of our competitors like screwed up companies because the more screwed up you are the more money you make." Avoid those recruiters.
5. Don't hire for who people are, but for who they can become. "We hire people for what they've done. And then six months later, we fire them for who they are," Marks says. Too much focus on the résumé and whether it meets your strict requirements means that you get someone who can do X, but may not meet your company's needs in the future.
6. Identify your current star employees. Marks always asks clients, "Who are your star employees, and what is it about them that make them such great employees at your company?" Once you've identified those people, note their characteristics, and use those characteristics as your guideline for your next hires. If you haven't identified what makes someone a star, how will you know enough to hire the next star?
7. Do your research. This goes along with identifying your star employees, but in addition, do you really know what you need? If you just have a vague idea that you have too much work and need someone else, you won't hire the right person. Additionally, just because someone quit, it doesn't mean that the best person is someone who can do exactly what the previous person did. Really think it out before you post that job vacancy.
If you do these things, you'll be able to cut your turnover costs considerably, and increase morale and productivity at your company, says Marks. It's absolutely worth your time to recruit properly in the first place.