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Think Externally, Even Internally

Why do many people operate on a different metric of what represents “good work” when working on an internal project as opposed to an external project? Internal meaning when the output and deliverable are to constituents “inside the firm” and external meaning those “outside the firm”. I see this behavior often, there is not a place I’ve worked where I have not seen it, and have never understood it. In my experience, it occurs more often, or at least more noticeable, in presentations.

Here are some fundamental things to consider:

  • spell check, seriously
  • review material before sending it on unless you are sending as a work in progress
  • if it is a major deliverable, build time in for someone to review the work for you (do the same for them)
  • think about your audience, what are they trying to get from the meeting, output or presentation
  • think about what message you want to make sure your work conveys or your presentation delivers
  • think about things that you didn’t cover that may be relevant
  • use a baseline exec summary in front of lengthy material to ensure your recipients get the top line
  • think about the questions that others may have and answer them in the up front
  • Basically treat all of your major work output as if it were going to be viewed externally. It is a great principle to have and allows you to develop the skills and producing great output for when it matters most: deliverables to senior management, customer presentations and demos, annual budget cycle, VC pitches, board meetings, etc.

    Think Externally, Even Internally.

    (disclaimer: this may not necessarily apply to when blogging from your mobile device which is what I am doing right now)

    Boil the Puddle

    I am looking at the ocean and reminded of a topic that I’ve been meaning to post on. There’s a saying “Don’t Boil the Ocean”. Too many people try to and it rarely works. Trying to do accomplish a major undertaking all at once makes the task seem daunting and unattainable. You could be launching a product, installing a new process or taking a new offering to market. If it is big, the task often to team members seems insurmountable.

    So I am coining a new phrase: Boil the Puddle.

    This strikes strong parallels with the Minimum Viable Product concept that in my view is the best way to get something new to market. Attack the effort in bite size easily consumable chunks. Establish iterative milestones so you can figure out what is working is working, what’s not, build on your successes, and get to failure quickly, learn and adapt. Let the team see success and most importantly, progress. Momentum breeds momentum. And your seemingly insurmountable and unsolvable task is suddenly…solvable.

    Boil the puddle. Not the ocean.

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    Merging of Worlds, Look Out!

    As most know at this point, Facebook has acquired Friendfeed. There seem to be 50 plus posts on the topic on Techmeme. Mixed reviews at best on this one. From my reads, most seem more negative slanting. Scoble is excited but thinks this is end for Friendfeed as we know it. I would agree (with the this being the end part), Facebook clearly has no interest in running a separate brand and best we can hope for is to have full open data streaming into the Facebook platform. Louis Gray is watching and comments in a funny “girls in high school” parody. Steve Rubel has an interesting take that this is the next step towards true lifestreaming.

    Quick take on first glance:

    1. Can’t blame the Friendfeed team.  They built a great product and an exit to Facebook makes good shareholder return sense.  The fact the price tag was $50M really shows how bad the economy has taken a toll on liquidity.  I would think based on recent history, Friendfeed would have gone a higher price tag even sans revenue.
    2. Can’t blame the Facebook team.  As Scoble mentioned, Friendfeed was a lead innovator in the social stream space and Facebook was “borrowing” many of the innovations coming from them.  They are acquiring a great team that knows how to execute that should only continue to help them build their continually improving platform.

    Personally, even while it may make sense for both teams, I can’t help to be a bit negative on this one when I probe into it a bit more.  Some of my concerns can be remedied with time, some not.

    1. I would have liked to see Friendfeed to continue to evolve with more runway, they were doing some great stuff even if their penetration was only into the real early adopters.  It would be neat to see if they could cross the chasm just as Twitter did.  But perhaps they understood that it was too complicated for the mainstream.  This one we’ll never know, the writing is on the wall that Friendfeed will be absorbed fully.
    2. I am concerned regarding innovation and also the number of players.  Louis Gray made a great point when he expressed a concern that there could be four major players, Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.  We need more independent companies doing stuff in the space.  Time will play out here.
    3. Friendfeed never developed into a business model (perhaps this is why selling makes sense).  I always thought that their platform while fantastic for consumers had a great revenue opportunity for the enterprise, there is big revenue in the B2B collaborationa and communication space.  No one has won there yet and current market toosl do not satisfy the need fully.
    4. I need more than one stream in my lifestream.  As Rubel comments, lifestreaming is upon us with this acquisition.  Here I am not so sure.  I need more than one “sub-stream” in my lifestream in Facebook.  Fred Wilson removed everyone and made Facebook his private lifestream for exactly this reason.  For him, Facebook is personal and Twitter is everyone.  For me, I am going through the same conflict.  I have personal and some business people (that I actually know) in Facebook.  This creates a gray area between Facebook and LinkedIn.  I don’t know (in person) many of the people I interact with on Friendfeed; I don’t want them becoming “friends” yet on Facebook.  Already, I don’t like the fact that former business colleagues can see on Facebook what my former high school friends are posting in my news feed if I comment on it.  This whole area is an issue and is ripe for innovation.
    5. Facebook permissioning.  I know many of you are going to jump on point #4 above and say “Lou, Facebook has good privacy controls and you just need to manage the groups”.  Okay, maybe so but it isn’t clear to me on how to do this.  Is there a manual?  If you need one, there’s the first problem. It needs to be easy and straight-forward, right now it is not.   If I haven’t figured this out yet how can I expect my mom to creating multiple lifestream groups in the Facebook system.  One “newsfeed” to rull them all does not work.  Facebook may be the one to crack the code here in lifestreaming but it is beyond what they are doing now and is beyond what Friendfeed was doing too.  There needs to be innovation around easy management of the “different faces of one’s life”.  I will write another post fully on this.  But suffice it to say, the Friendfeed integration could get messy for many.  Time will tell.

    So, time will tell on where this heads.  Not only for the integration of Friendfeed and Facebook functionality and follower lists, but also in the entire lifestream space in general.  Time will tell on where this puts Twitter and how quickly they potentially move to Google as Kara Swisher outlined yesterday.  Look out, lots going on and much more to be on the look out for.

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    “We put the ‘no’ in innovation”

    My wife handed me a full page ad today of Post cereal’s ad campaign that started I believe last month.  The headline:  “Innovation is not your friend.”  The tag line:  “We put the ‘no’ in innovation”

    Certainly an attention grabber.  It certainly caught me off guard on first glance.  And I don’t think anyone will be clamoring to steal that tag line from them.

    But there is certainly something to the campaign.  We live in a world of innovation, innovation is taking place everywhere around us:  genetics, new sources of energy, the web, sneakers that blink, sneakers that roll, beer that tastes like it has lime already in it…  While innovation is great and the right thing for many companies and products, is that always the case?

    Too many times we see companies fall into the trap of innovating to create the next new thing that they lose sight of what got them where they are.  Worrying too much about what is next rather than concentrating on their core competency and ensuring that they maintain their competitive advantage  simply (or not so simply).  Sometimes, remaining the best in your space and at “what you do” needs to be the focus.  

    I’ll always be a believer in being on the outlook for new markets, new features (that add value), new technology trends and understanding what could disrupt your business.  At the same time, focus must remain on the core, this campaign speaks volumes to how companies need to remain focused on the core knitting.  Just in the time its taken me to write this post, I like this ad more and more.  And it is just a bonus for Post that I don’t believe anyone is going to try to mimic this campaign.  How ironic. An innovative ad campaign saying ‘no’ to innovation.

    Brand and Reputation

    The two terms, brand and reputation are often used as synonyms.  At least, in my experience, I have heard them used interchangeably. Think about it.  Have you ever sat back to ponder the difference between the two terms?  If not, it is something to think about.  We no longer live in a world where it is only the brand and reputation of the company we work for.  Equally important is the brand and reputation we have as individuals, and this is heightened in the world of social media.

    Back to the two terms.  Much of the reason the two terms are used interchangeably is due to the tight correlation that usually exists between an individual or firm’s reputation and its direct impact on their respective brand.  That does not, however, mean they are the same.  When I was working for Dow Jones, I would often talk to customers that wanted to ‘monitor’ the news, particularly themselves, the competition and the industry.  Often times, their goal was to monitor how they were being represented in the media and to have a holistic understanding on its impact to their reputation.

    In this pursuit, a key search companies would do is their brand name and the brand name of their competitors.  Those with more established practices, would extend their lens to areas of focus where key reputation indicators such as child labor, financial indicators, supplier relationships and large customers.  This is just a couple of examples.

    In any case, having clear definitions of brand and reputation are helpful when understanding how one represents themselves and how they are regarded.  A recent article, Don’t Confuse Reputation with Brand (PDF version) has pretty clean definitions between the two:

    Brand is a “customercentric” concept that focuses on what a product, service or company has promised to its customers and what that commitment means to them.

    Reputation is a “companycentric” concept that focuses on the credibility and respect that an organization has among a broad set of constituencies, including employees, investors, regulators, journalists and local communities – as well as customers.

    It is pretty easy to find companies that have strong brands and solid reputations.  Not so obvious are those where the correlation between the two terms -1? (i.e. one is bad but the other good)

    What are companies have a superior brand but a poor reputation?  Or the inverse (and my instincts say more likely), what companies have a great reputation but not a superior brand?

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