The index and the menu

Google killed the old-fashioned cookbook.

Why bother searching through a thick, dull cookbook of recipes when all you have to do is type in two or three ingredients and the word ‘recipe’ online? The index, the now infinite magical index of the web, helps us find whatever we want, better and faster.

On the other hand, a generous, modern cookbook doesn’t ask, “what do you want to cook?”  Instead, it says, “how about this?” A menu, not an index. 

Years ago, I was at a power breakfast in New York, a fancy restaurant jammed with masters of the universe and those that hoped to have a few minutes with one of them. The waiter came over and said, “what do you want?” There was no menu. Just tell him and they’ll make it.

Looking around, I realized that just about everyone was eating one of three popular items. With an index but no menu, the room resorted to safe and easy.

And this is the challenge every organization faces in the uber-indexed world we live in. It’s not enough to sit with a prospect and ask him what he wants. Once we know what we want, search finds it for us. No, we have to offer a menu, we have to curate choices, we have to dream for people who don’t have the guts or time to dream for themselves.

This is frightening, because when you offer a menu, often people will get hung up on their status quo and just say “no.” You can’t get rejected when all you offer is an index, but getting your menu rejected is one of the symptoms that you’re doing the hard work of making an impact.


What kind of media counts?

The Department of Justice has decided, apparently, not to prosecute Wikileaks for leaking information because the prosecutors would have a “New York Times problem.” In other words, because Wikileaks worked with a media entity that counts, they have to be treated seriously.

Amazon soon will have more new self-published books for sale than books that went through the old process. Do these self-published books matter? Are the reviews from readers ‘real’ or should they be ignored?

Many actors would rather do a low-rated cable show that doesn’t pay well than appear on a YouTube video that is seen by millions. Because the former counts.

Columnists for famous newspapers look down at bloggers, even bloggers with more readers and impact than they have.

In live theatre, a revue out of town that gets a well-deserved standing ovation nightly doesn’t count as much as a Broadway show, even one that’s frankly pretty bad.

Of course, television didn’t used to count, not if you were a radio star. And cable didn’t count, not if you were a network sitcom star…

Sure there are fake reviews, fake followers and fake views. Sure, there’s a huge amount of unreadable, unwatchable, unshareable stuff being published in the curationless media of our time. But eventually, the truth will out, quality will be shared (or at least interesting will be shared) and our definition of what counts will change.

The question for you is which line to get on… the line waiting to get picked or the line to start now?


Who’s left?

The classified section of the Sunday New York Times used to be more than twenty or thirty pages long. Now it’s down to one.

Part of this is due to the lack of new jobs in the post-industrial economy, but mostly it’s due to job listings moving online. I was fascinated to see some of the jobs in last week’s paper, and confess befuddlement at the thinking of those that ran them.

Here’s one, from Amazon, for a level II programmer in their New York office. Just a mailing address, no online method for contacting or applying. They’re using the newspaper to search for programmers unable to apply online, perhaps the best place to find this sort of programmer, but really, do they want them?

Or the ad from Paul, Weiss, a prestigious big law firm in New York. It’s the biggest ad on the page, and goes into a long, long list of requirements for the job–Magna Cum Laude from a famous law school, more than three years with one of their competitors, etc. Which high-powered New York lawyers are reading the last single page of newspaper classifieds?

And my favorite, an equally long ad for Deloitte that instructs the applicant to go to a website and enter a 15-digit code, including several “1”s, some “I”s and a bunch of letters and numbers. Almost unreadable in the paper, and hard to transcribe. More than a billion combinations… why not just enter NYT1124?

Lots of time and money being spent chasing the wrong people with the wrong ads.

My point, and I do have one, is that if your HR department is run by policies that were established a decade ago, worth a new look. And if you are serious, truly serious, that talent is your competitive advantage, please understand that the way you look for and sort that talent is the highest-leverage way you’ve got to increase what you end up with.

[Update: sorry to let facts interfere with a good story. Further research seems to indicate that the paper ad was a freebie that came with running a month of online ads. My guess is that the advertiser didn’t even care it was going to run in the paper. I’ll leave this post up as a reminder to me that I should poke about a bit more before running with a riff sometimes.]


The behemoth and the Acumen Fellows

Today, applications are open for the fabled and important Acumen Fellows program. Every year, thousands of people from around the world apply to spend a few months of intensive training with Acumen in New York, followed by nine months in the field with an Acumen investment. This is rigorous and life-changing work, and it’s not for everyone (but if you know someone who can leap like this, please pass it on to them).

For the rest of us, there’s the chance to support the work, at least financially.

You may remember the limited-edition behemoth that I published last year. It’s more than 700 pages and weighs more than 15 pounds. It sold out quite quickly, but I’ve kept some in reserve for the appropriate fundraising opportunity. Here it is. $145 a copy.

I’m donating 125 books to this fundraiser, plus the shipping and handling expense. Use this Paypal form to order your copy. I’ll give all of the money, plus another $50 a book, to Acumen in support of this year’s fellow program.

Quantities are limited. I hope to ship the books out December 1. Insert your phone number, hit Buy Now and you’ll be taken to PayPal. I’ll do my best to ship anywhere in the world, but I know that international shipments take a very long time and you may have to pay your local government agency a customs fee on receipt.

Your phone # for Fedex/UPS

PS you’re always welcome to make a donation directly, without getting a book and stuff.


Godin’s first law of pizza

Pizza quality is inversely proportional to flexibility. At some places, the inflexibility can be appropriately confused with callous indifference or even rudeness.

Saying yes to every prospect and every request isn’t the point of most organizations. The point is to do work that people seek out, that changes things for the better, to bring ideas that spread to the world.

Some of the legendary families that serve great pizza in New York aren’t in the customer service business. They’re in the great pizza business.

Saying yes to every request is one way to do business, but it’s not the only way.


I Will Take My Bathroom Breaks, Michael Bloomberg, and Still Be Successful – Huffington Post

I Will Take My Bathroom Breaks, Michael Bloomberg, and Still Be Successful
Huffington Post
Michael Bloomberg, The Third Metric, Business Advice, Career Advice, Creativity At Work, Becoming Fearless, Heart-Based Leadership, How To Be Successful, Innovation, Leadership, Business News. Get Business Newsletters: Subscribe. New York Mayor 

Getting smart about the time tax

If you want to go to Shakespeare in the Park in New York, you need to really want to go.

That’s because it’s free. Well, mostly free. They use a time-honored tradition to be sure that the tickets are allocated to people who truly want them: they tax the interested by having them wait on line, for hours sometimes.

It seems egalitarian, but it’s actually regressive, because it doesn’t take into account the fact that different people value their time differently. People with time to spare are far more likely to be rewarded.

Another example: Call the company that sells your favorite tech brand and ask for customer service. You’ll be on hold for one to sixty minutes. Why do they do this? They can obviously afford to answer the phone right away, can’t they?

Like the mom who waits for the sixth whine before responding to her kid, these companies are making sure that only people who really and truly need/want to talk to them actually get talked to. Everyone else hangs up long before that.

You can hear the CFO, “well, if we answered on the first ring, more people would call!”

Again, at first glance, this seems like a smart way to triage with limited resources. But once again, it misses the opportunity to treat different people differently. Shouldn’t the really great customer, or the person about to buy a ton of items get their call answered right away? The time tax is a bludgeon, a blunt instrument that can’t discriminate.

We don’t need to make people wait in line for anything if we don’t want to. Why not have the most eager theater goers trade the three hours they’d spend in line in exchange for tutoring some worthwhile kid instead? Instead of wasting all that time, we could see tens of thousands of people trading the lost time for a ticket and a chance to do something useful. (Money is just one way to adjudicate the time tax problem, but there are plenty of other resources people can trade to get to the head of the line).

This logic of scarcity can be applied to countless situations. First-come, first-served is non-digital, unfair and expensive. And yet we still use it all the time, in just about everyone situation where there is scarcity.

The opportunity isn’t to auction off everything to the highest bidder, but it might lie in understanding who is waiting and what they’re willing to trade for the certainty and satisfaction of getting out of line. [A great example].

When in doubt, treat different customers differently.


Perhaps you could just make something awesome instead

Mass marketers love the promise of big data, because it whispers the opportunity of once again making average stuff for average people, of sifting through all the weird to end up with that juicy audience that’s just waiting to buy what they’ve made.

Big data is targeting taken to the highest level of granularity. It grabs your behavior across web sites, across loyalty cards, who knows, across your phone records… the promise of all this grabbing is that marketers will be able to find precisely the right person to reach at the right moment with the right offer.

[Worth noting that the flipside–the ability to reach the weird and offer them something that would never be practical otherwise–is a breakthrough just waiting to happen.]

And the rocket scientists are busy promising Hollywood that they can run the numbers on a script and figure out how to change it to make it more likely to sell. Add a sidekick to that superhero, perhaps, or have that demon be summoned instead of whatever it is that unsummoned demons do…

This rearview window analysis is anathema to the creative breakthrough that we call art. No amount of digital focus group research could figure out that we wanted Memento or the Matrix or Amour. Worse, it’s based on the flawed assumption that the past is like the future, that correlation and causation are related. By that analysis, every Supreme Court chief justice, US president and New York City police chief is going to be a man. Forever more.

We are going to get ever better at giving committees ways to turn your work into banality. That opens up the market even more for the few that have the guts to put great work into the world instead.


Positive thinking influence on my business!

Till date many have discussed, opinioned, preached, educate, and question the art of positive thinking and the benefits offered by think positive attitude. But no one had the willingness on what did they get from optimism till date or on what basis they are judging that an optimistic approach has given the best chance to survive. Well, here is what my experience has gathered from thinking positive and that is what I am letting you people know in this article.


Hi, my name is Tom and I am a person who owns an electronic good shop in New York City; a city which is full of colors. My business is the one which my father started in 1989 years ago and we do have a good customer base, who is literally patrons to our business. Any new product which is out in the market, we help you own it. We sell, distribute, integrate different products of many electronic brands and have do have a good domestic and commercial base.


But from the past 10 years, the advent of digitalization has influenced our business to a great extent. With the internet revolution in full progress the footfall to our store has decreased as people are interested in buying the goods online. When the revolution of the web started to take a toll on our business, many of our family friends have indicated that our electronics business in store will be in jeopardy in the next few years.


People also started to advice me and my father to sell it off and instead start to look out for work in stores like walmart and others. Since, we only had experience in selling electronics; they started to sarcastically point out that we had no choice but to work as a salesman in some stores in the city.


With this kind of sharp criticism my father fell ill and after few days he started to think in the same way as others. All he had in his mind was to sell off the goods to big stores and start to look for some work. The best thing is that my father also has some technical skills in him and can repair some of the goods like televisions, refrigerators, dish washers and vacuum cleaners.


When he finally announced the bad news that we are going to close our business, my family was a bit disappointed. But my mother started to think the other way. She always shows optimism in every effort she puts in and told my father, why not think in a different way.


This positive attitude of my mother generated a thought in my mind, which said that why don’t we think in the way online businesses are thinking? What is that which is making their business go merry?


This though gave me an idea and instead of thinking to close down our business, we decided to try some marketing skills. I and my mother decided to take our business to the consumers and then see the difference. We started to look for some lucrative alternatives which can make our customers happy and indirectly increase our sales.


My mother offered monthly EMI plan, where people can buy their goods in installments. I know that this is an old marketing skill now, but in the year 1991 it was a new one and this experience of mine is from that period. Then we started savings scheme, where people can save some of the money in our savings scheme for 11 months will get the 12th moth installment as a bonus from our business. This idea clicked and we are now not only the number one electronics sellers in New York City but have an online portal as well, in order to be on par with our competitors.


So, all that I want say is that positive thinking of my mother influenced our business to get onto the track and I would like to recommend the same optimistic attitude to be practiced by others in all their other efforts.