Thursday, March 31, 2011


You will never be perfect. Neither will your work, your kids, your spouse.

So stop freaking out at every little error. Build systems that reduce errors, yes, but don't allow the fear of errors to draw your vision too far inward. We often use the first error as an excuse to throw up our hands and quit. "I can't be perfect so I shouldn't try". What a waste.

When running down a hill, looking at your feet, trying to place each step will almost guarantee a fall. Keep your head up and pick your path down the hill- your feet will amazingly take care of themselves and find a place to land. Will the Russian judge hate the aesthetics of your run? Yes. So? Your goal was to run down the hill.

You win.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Information Sets Expectations

One thing I miss from the analog days at the public library- the due date stamps in the front of books.

Besides telling you when your book was due, it also told you in direct terms how popular the book was in your community. This popularity information also set a certain expectation for the book- if everyone was reading it it must have value on some level, even if it is only entertainment. If the book was from a deep niche, it could confirm both the obscurity of the subject and also validation that a few others shared your love of that niche.

A nearly empty due date sheet hinted that you were freeing a seldom read book from the shelf, and whatever it held inside would remain, even after your reading of it, a closely held secret experience of a select few.

Knowing the Amazon rank of a book just isn't the same kind of information.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Leverage of Baggage

By charging for every checked bag, the airlines have changed the relationship with their customers in unexpected ways.

The game is now to avoid checking and getting as much into the cabin as possible, which has led to comical scenes of travelers like myself trying to change the laws of physics in the overhead bins.

But once the passenger carries a large bag through security, they have some leverage. It is in the airlines interest to get as many bags in the belly of the plane as possible. Often passengers can simply "gate check" their bags- as their boarding pass gets scanned a gate check tag is attached to their bag, which they leave at the end of the skyway before boarding. The bag goes in the belly with no money changing hands. Passenger wins.

On my last flight I witnessed the following exchange at the gate:

"I'll give you a drink coupon if we can check your bag."

(Clearly and experienced traveler) "I'll check it for two drinks and the snack box."


Coupons were exchanged, the bag was checked. Experienced Traveler then enjoyed two drinks and a box of random snacks while the his seatmates (including me) nibbled their peanuts and drank their sodas. E.T. used his leverage- a checkable bag- to increase the quality of his flight. Well played.

Changing the rules has unintended consequences. In this case turning gate agents into Monte Hall. Probably not why they got into the business.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Recomendation

I was given an eBook to review last week, and boy was it worth the time spent:

"How to Market A Business" gives you more information.

The book discusses the skills to look for in a marketer who will deliver results, and there the skills you need to develop to become one yourself.

I will be reading the book a couple more times and taking careful notes on the way. There is just too much good detail to ignore.

Buy it at the usual locations.


Friday, March 25, 2011


HBO subscribers can now view HBO content via broadband, including the archives (Yes, that includes the Sopranos). But only subscribers can sign up.

This is a smart and natural extension of the HBO brand, and should be the model for other premium services.

I'm not surprised that Showtime is not renewing its licensing deal with Netflix for legacy content- they feel it cannibalizes their other revenue streams.

But at some point your legacy content will have outlived its shelf life, and Netflix will be the last available revenue stream. Everyone who wants to own "The Larry Sanders Show" or "Band of Brothers" on DVD probably already has it.

The good news for content creators is that there is revenue all through the long tail. The hard part is finding the right delivery platform for each package, and pricing it fairly for all involved.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Joy Of The Moment

I was riding my bike through a park on Sunday when i came upon a father-son rocket launch. As rocketry favorite hobby of mine as a kid, I stopped to watch.

Dad held the switch and the son moved about 100 yards downwind for the recovery. WHOSH! The rocket jumped up about 200 feet, launched its parachute, and floated to the ground near the son.

Hours of labor went into construction, planning for launch day, and the event itself. Yet the flight was only 15 seconds, maximum. But the 15 seconds were so much fun that all the hours were justified.

It made me want to order a rocket kit and get my kids involved in the hobby. (Some of the models are still for sale 30 years later.)

Many of us have a similar experience at the office. The occasional moment of joy somehow justifies hours of the ordinary.

At least with rockets you know when the payoff is coming.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I've been using Kindle for Mac to read some eBooks that don't exist in print, and I have discovered a setting that I really like. I call it "Isolation Mode".

It's best described as Full Screen Mode, but it has some extra benefits for me: It blocks out everything else on the screen. No clock, no page numbers, nothing. Just you and what you are reading.

On of my weaknesses is that the competitive corner of my brain, once it is aware that I have finished two-thirds of a book, wants to crash through the remainder as if I am racing someone to the end. Comprehension doesn't matter, Being Done does.

Without page numbers, or the horizontal progress bar, or even the feedback a physical book can deliver keeps the competitive streak at bay, allowing me to focus on the ideas in the book. That's a huge bonus for me, but probably wasn't an intentional design consideration.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011


While on the road last week i passed through the Delta terminal at La Guardia. Much of the grief airlines receive is earned, but I did notice a bit of intelligent planning to meet traveler needs.

Amongst the ten gates that are clustered together is a kiosk with eight telephone receivers. The phones have no buttons- when you pick up, the phone dials an operator somewhere. Out of curiosity, I called.

(Side note: the kiosk also has a shelf and power strip on either end for the charging of your various electronic devices. I charged my cell phone while talking to the Delta rep. Smart.)

The Delta staff was very helpful, and answered my question about how many frequent flier miles I. The kiosk seems designed for when a flight gets canceled and a hundred people need to talk to a service rep right now. But that's the key- service capacity was put in place to be used only at moments of high demand. Its free and easy to use. No hunting for the 800 number on the Delta website. Just pick up the phone and call.

Its the same philosophy as putting your 800 number or email address on every single page of your website. Don't make your customers hunt for it- put it out front. They may never use it, but knowing they could builds a lot of trust in the transaction process.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I'm on the road to work with some fun people on something that hopefully is interesting. No posts for the rest of the week.

Do something great with the time saved.


Monday, March 14, 2011


Perhaps the hardest part of getting a customer to try a new product is getting them over their fear- fear of a bad experience, fear that someone will make fun of them, fear they will be ripped off.

There's a psychological reason why franchise businesses do so well. We all form a minimum expectation with each one, based on past experience, and they are designed to consistently reinforce that expectation. That's why the brilliant Mom-and-Pop may struggle next door to the mediocre chain. In most minds, the reward of a fantastic discovery does not exceed the perceived risk of a bad experience with the unknown.

So the mediocre chain survives and expands. Thus is the struggle of any new product or service.

The problem isn't being brilliant once a new customer in the door- it's getting them out of their comfort zone and through your door for the first time.


Friday, March 11, 2011


When the reality of your customer's situation falls below their expectations, you've got a problem.

Fortunately, if they choose to interact with you again, their expectations will be lowered as they come in the door. Perhaps you can meet them and try to cement the relationship.

If they come back in.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Single Size

Trying to speak with one voice has another down side: A One-Size-Fits-All message doesn't really fit anyone. The small group it does fit finds that its been so watered down as to be immaterial, so they ignore it.

Your carefully crafted generalist message has done nothing. Congrats!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


When deciding how much to pay somebody, there is a fine line between fair and cheap.

Cheap is the right choice if the relationship is to be short term.

Fair gives you a much better shot at building a long-term relationship.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011


The explosion in ways to communicate electronically is both good and bad news.

The good news is that you now have dozens of ways to communicate with your consumers. The bad news is that those dozens of channels have to be filled. The days of printing a brochure, mailing it out, and waiting for the phone to ring are gone.

To further complicate things, each channel's message needs to have a different feel even if the overall message doesn't change. Your eNewsletter will be a different read than your Twitter stream.

Each customer will receive your message in the ways they prefer, too. The user on your email list may never go to your Twitter feed. Plenty of customers will still want to read a physical brochure before calling in.

You no longer have one audience, but dozens. Stop speaking with one voice.


Monday, March 7, 2011


Group dynamics are always fascinating in the first person. When everyone is interested in all viewpoints around the table, the task at hand can wander into some original and unconventional territory.

Its also helpful when the only comments given push the conversation along, and aren't just efforts to feel like part of the gang.

Moments like this require a careful dance by all involved. You want to find the creative solution without meandering into a sidebar that isn't relevant. Staying within arm's reach of the task is the challenge.

In many ways our work lives are vast stretches of ordinary with moments of collaborative alchemy sprinkled within. Those moments are something other than work.


Friday, March 4, 2011

The Scarcest Commodity

Clever elevates the ordinary. Exhibit A:

The top half is a good joke- but what's written on the tear off fingers is clever, and really makes the piece priceless.

Clever is exponential creativity.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Group Dynamics

I work in an industry that frequently uses ad hoc groups to get jobs done. Bring in a dozen freelancers, assign tasks, go.

I've noticed that group dynamics play a heavy role in the success of a project. The right mix of skills and personalities can elevate everyone's talent. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.

But one bad attitude can ruin the mix. The job becomes drudgery because nobody wants to be there, and things get rushed so everyone can escape. The final product bears the scars.

Facilities and technology can have the same effect. The right tools in the right space have the same uplifting effect that positive attitudes have.

When I'm hiring freelancers, personality plays as big a role as skills. I have a low tolerance for the Genius Prima Donna, as the attitude is seldom worth it. Few things are more soul-sucking than working with a jerk.

Focusing on the team improves the chances of success more than focusing on the task.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blind Spots

We all have blind spots. The daily minutia hides bigger issues, and it can be incredibly hard to see the big picture.

An outside pair of eyes that you can trust to give it to you straight is under rated.

Everyone thinks their baby is beautiful, but statistically they can't all be.

An outside view is not optional.