War of Internet Net Neutrality: Myth or Threat to the Internet – Freedom, Innovation, Openness?

Internet neutrality (or network neutrality) is the principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they choose and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider(ISP).

It refers to the absence of restrictions or priorities placed on the type of content carried over the Internet by the carriers and ISPs that run the major backbones. It states that all traffic be treated equally; that packets are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis regardless from where they originated or to where they are destined.

Net neutrality essentially levels the playing field for commercial websites, ensuring that a small online bookstore can still receive visitors, even if sites such as Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com are statistically more popular. Under the philosophy of net neutrality, individual Internet service providers (ISPs), search engines and major online services like Yahoo, AOL or Google cannot restrict or filter a user’s access to rival companies. For example, AOL cannot prevent one of its subscribers from receiving email from Yahoo accounts…

Supporters of net neutrality suggest that non-profit government control over the Internet would prevent larger commercial websites from completely dominating the marketplace. A government agency similar to the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would oversee the basic network to prevent the formation of ‘robber barons’, companies who could possibly choke off competition by controlling key points on the Internet transmission network. Countries such as Japan already have Internet access laws based on the principle of net neutrality. Eventually, most countries with Internet access may have to implement laws to protect the current net neutrality concept.

Opponents of net neutrality include cable television companies, major Internet service providers and large commercial websites. They suggest that net neutrality is an unrealistic goal, since other network systems are already controlled by largest contributors and are still able to function fairly. Government control over the Internet’s basic network, opponents argue, would only lead to increased censorship and invasion of privacy. Website owners shouldn’t be legally forced to receive or transmit information from competitors or other websites they find objectionable…

In the articleWho Wins & Loses Under FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules by Stacey Higginbotham writes: The new FCC rules enshrines three principles as the framework for implementing ‘network neutrality’:

  • Transparency for fixed and mobile broadband providers.
  • No blocking for fixed broadband providers in general, while mobile broadband providers can’t block competitive services, although blocking apps is fine.
  • No unreasonable discrimination by fixed broadband providers while mobile broadband providers have to justify their discrimination.

The full order contains many pages of exceptions and justifications that explain what the FCC is trying to do and why, but the primary things the FCC has done with this order are clearly separate the act of providing access to the Internet from the Internet itself, and rejected the idea of a one-size fits all concept of network neutrality. Unfortunately, as it tried to please everyone from consumers to carriers, the FCC has enshrined rules that create different policies which could fragment what people think of as the Internet. Let’s look at those rules.

Transparency: A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.

On the whole, this compromise is good for carriers, because it’s minimally invasive in terms of how they market their services, yet poor for consumers, because it won’t help the average user much, and good for tech-savvy ‘edge service providers’ who will have the information needed to build apps for certain networks.

No Blocking: A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

This is good for consumers on fixed broadband networks, good for service providers in general, and bad for ISPs interested in overtly blocking competitive content.

No Unreasonable Discrimination: A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service. Reasonable network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.

In general, this section lays out specifically how carriers can manage their networks, which is good for them and good for the FCC, because it sets its framework for how it will rule on future disputes. It’s not great for consumers or web service and device providers, because they will have to go to the FCC and prove the ISP is being unreasonable when problems occur…

In the article “What Happened to Net Neutrality?” by Peter Osnos writes: The net neutrality issue is actually far from being resolved, despite the FCC action. In fact, by reaching what was essentially a compromise decision, the FCC set the stage for another round of contention, almost certain litigation, and possibly a move for congressional action to override the FCC.

What the FCC has done is create a major administrative loophole that enables the providers to determine how those technologies will work — although it does require them to be more transparent in explaining their decisions as they are made. The FCC has determined that the Internet should, in effect, remain open to all on equal conditions…

Josh Silver, Free Press, wrote: “For the first time in the history of telecommunications law, the FCC has given its explicit stamp of approval to online discrimination…. For wireless communications, the rule provides virtually no protections at all. Silver does acknowledge that the FCC actions discourage “unjust and unreasonable” practices. That means that dominant industry players will need to provide data in support of the rationale for their service changes rather than simply imposing them…

In a scathing editorial the Wall Street Journal said: “The FCC’s brazen power grab is already producing a welcome backlash on Capitol Hill. GOP Representative Marsha Blackburn says she’ll introduce legislation to prohibit the FCC from enforcing net neutrality rules.” The stakes are very high. The technology corporations, the communications industry interests, the open access advocates, Congress, and ultimately the courts will have much more to say on the subject…

In the article “Citizen Uprising Over Internet Regulation” by Lori Drummer writes: According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 53% of Americans oppose FCC regulation of the Internet – and only 27% support such regulations.  In fact, support for Internet regulations has plunged by 22% just since June 2008. In January, at the close of the initial comment period, over 32,000 American citizens filed official public comments with the FCC opposing network neutrality.  Then 48,000 individuals voiced similar concerns during the reply comment period. That’s over 80,000 voices saying “no” to bigger government.  Yet the FCC plunges on…

“Increasing federal regulation of the Internet will reduce choice, growth and innovation.” ~ Dick Armey

In the article “Net Neutrality” by The New York Times writes: OnDec. 21, 2010, the FCC approved a compromise that would broadly create two classes of Internet access, one for fixed-line providers and the other for the wireless Net. The new rules are, at best, net semi-neutrality. They ban any outright blocking and any “unreasonable discrimination” of Web sites or applications by fixed-line broadband providers, but they afford more wiggle room to wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon.

They require all providers to disclose what steps they take to manage their networks. In a philosophical break with open Internet advocates, the rules do not explicitly forbid “paid prioritization,” which would allow a company to pay for faster transmission of data.

In the article Save the Internet by Doing Nothing” by Larry Downes writes: The ongoing and seemingly endless fight over “net neutrality” is a good example of bad regulating. For those who have somehow missed this, the FCC has been promising for over a year to implement what it calls “prophylactic” rules to limit how U.S. ISPs can manage network traffic for consumers in the future.

When the rules were finally voted on in late December, the agency was obliged to carve out well over a dozen exceptions to its basic principle of a “neutral” Internet, recognizing that in the last 10 years the technology has evolved to optimize popular applications and resource-intensive content such as voice and video.

There are exceptions for content-delivery networks, IP-based television and voice, and peering arrangements between backbone providers; special rules for nascent and resource-constrained mobile Internet users; and exemptions for e-book readers, game platforms, and coffee shops that offer limited forms of Internet access. The Internet has evolved into a much more complicated place…

In the article “Government’s Internet Grab Begins: FCC Approves Internet Regulations” by Publius writes:  The five-member FCC approved the rules aimed at safeguarding “network neutrality,” the principle that lawful Web traffic should be treated equally. The most controversial of the rules involve the FCC taking a different approach to fixed broadband and mobile broadband, giving wireless providers greater freedom to manage their networks because of limited spectrum.

Under the new rules, both fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose their network management practices and their commercial terms. Fixed broadband providers are subject to a “no blocking” provision, prohibiting them from blocking lawful content, applications or services. They also may not “unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.” Defending the decision not to apply the same rules to wireless networks, the FCC cited the spectrum issue and said mobile broadband is at an “earlier stage” than fixed broadband and is “quickly evolving.”

“I am very concerned that we do not have adequate competition today to act as a restraint on abusive practices on some of the broadband carriers and until we have that kind of competition, we still need oversight and some kind of constraints.” ~ Vint Cerf

In the article “Competition in Broadband Market Ensures Consumers’ Rights” by Brian Gaar writes: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC doesn’t have authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic on their networks. That was a victory for Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company, which had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose such “network neutrality” obligations on broadband providers.

Supporters of network neutrality have said the policy is necessary to prevent broadband providers from favoring or discriminating against certain Web sites and online services. Detractors of network neutrality have said there’s no need for FCC regulation because competition in the broadband market is robust and government agencies haven’t found any concentration or abuse of that market power. “In other words, there’s nothing for the government to fix”…

Update: On Friday (4/8/11) The House of Representatives voted to reject the Internet “net neutrality” rules that were adopted by the FCC last year (12/21/10). House Republicans, in a 240-179 vote, pushed through a measure disapproving the FCC’s rules.

The outlook for further progress by the Republicans in rolling back the FCC’s actions was uncertain, however. While a similar measure has been offered in the Senate and has 39 co-sponsors, the White House said that President Barack Obama’s advisers would recommend that he veto any such resolution.

The Struggle for the Right Business Model: Distraction or Imperative for Creating and Sustaining the Business?

“Past success stories are generally not applicable to new situations. We must continually reinvent ourselves, responding to changing times with innovative new business models.” ~Akira Mori

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value; economic, social, or other forms of value. Whenever a business is established, it either explicitly or implicitly employs a particular business model that describes the design or architecture of the value creation, delivery, and capture mechanisms employed by the business enterprise. The essence of a business model is that it defines the manner by which the business enterprise delivers value to customers, entices customers to pay for value, and converts those payments to profit. This reflects management’s hypothesis about what customers want and how they want it, and how the enterprise is organized and how it makes a profit.

The popularity of the term “business model” is a relatively new phenomenon and it rose to prominence only towards the end of the 1990s. This surge coincidences with the advent of the Internet in the business world and the steep rise of the NASDAQ stock market for technology-heavy companies. Oddly, the number of times the term “business model” appeared in business journals follows a pattern that resembles the shape of the NASDAQ market index. It is not quite clear what to conclude from this observation besides the fact that the topic of business models probably has a relationship with technology.

In the article Business Models on the Web by Michael Rappa writes: Business models are perhaps the most discussed and least understood aspect of the web. There is so much talk about how the web changes traditional business models. But there is little clear-cut evidence of exactly what this means. In the most basic sense, a business model is the method of doing business by which a company can sustain itself — that is, generate revenue. The business model spells-out how a company makes money by specifying where it is positioned in the value chain…

“… all too often, a successful new business model becomes the business model for companies who are not creative enough to invent their own. ~ Gary Hamel

In the article Focus on Business Model Innovation and Increase Growth by Gunjan Bhardwaj writes: Business model innovations come from new entrants, but incumbent firms can also reinvent their business model to stay competitive and to outperform competitors. What is a business model? A business model can be defined as the combination of “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how” a company provides its customers with its products. Business model innovation is the discovery of a new way to do business in an already existing business, or in a new start-up business.  Creating a new business model means to discover new sources of revenues; thanks to new technology, changing demographics or consumer behaviours…

According to the observations of ‘Mitchell & Coles’, who have studied several successful public companies, the most effective firms were making important business model shifts every 2 to 4 years. Continuing business model innovation is essential because it can help companies to prosper… Firms should learn to cannibalize their own businesses before the competitors do. In addition, when a firm changes several aspects of its business model, it makes its business model innovation very hard to duplicate by competitors and benefits from significant growth and increasing profitability.

In the articleFree: a Tactic, not a Business Model by Anne Zelenka writes: Every time an economic bubble develops, many will tell you how “this time it’s different,” how “this time the rules have changed.” The lie of the Web 2.0 bubble is that ‘free is the way to succeed in the new economy’: That’s not true. The rules of economics have not changed. The best way to make money in the new economy, in the Web 2.0 economy, comes down to the same fundamental business model that has always existed: create something of value for people who will pay for it.

Fred Wilson, venture capitalist(VC), wrote in defense of free: “free is a great way to make money. You just have to know how you are going to get paid for being free”. To be fair to VCs, they’re not advocating doing everything without pay. They’re suggesting ‘free as a tactic’ towards getting paid in other ways; through advertising, or by premium services (as in a freemium model), or maybe even through being acquired by another  company. “Free is only a tactic, not a business model”.

In the article5 Business Models for Social Media Startups by Jun Loayza  writes: During the first Internet boom, the most common business model was probably, “get a ton of traffic, then figure out how to make money”. Today’s social media startups are finding unique ways of generating revenue from the very beginning. Here are a few of the revenue models:

  • Freemium Model: Offer a basic service for free, while charging for a premium service with advanced features to paying members.
  • Affiliate Model: Drive traffic, leads, or sales to another affiliated company’s website.
  • Subscription Model: User pays a fee, generally, monthly or yearly to access a product or service.
  • Virtual Goods Model: User pays for virtual goods, such as upgrades, points, gifts, on a website or in a game.
  • Advertising Model: Sell advertisements against their traffic; the more traffic and the more you can charge for ads.

In the article “Business Models by Dick writes: Focusing on business model too early can hurt a company’s prospects. When asked about Google’s lack of a clear business model, when he  originally backed the company, John Doerr is said to have responded “With this kind of traffic, we’ll figure it out”… Be laser focused on having your company be passionate about product and passionate about customers, you don’t need to be passionate about revenue until the business model reveals itself. You try different things…

So, we come to this curious world in which some people say “sure that’s great, but what’s the business model” while other people are saying “don’t worry about the business model right now, grow, grow, grow”…

In the articleWhat is a Business Model?” by Audience Dialogue writes: When designing a new business, the model it uses is likely to be a crucial factor in its success. The other type of business that needs to worry about a business model is a business in a steadily declining market. ‘Chesbrough & Rosenbloom’ point out that “while the term ‘business model’ is often used these days, it is seldom defined explicitly“… Roger Clarke created a framework for e-business models with four questions, and answers to these questions would form a business model:

  • Who pays? (e.g. consumer, producer, or third parties?)
  • What for? (e.g goods, services, expertise, assurances of quality or security.)
  • How much? (e.g. currency)
  • Why? (e.g. perceived value)

In the article What is Business Model?” by Umair Haque writes: Business model converts innovation to economic value for the business. The business model spells-out how a company makes money by specifying where it is positioned in the value chain. Simply put, a business model describes how a business positions itself within the value chain of its industry and how it intends to sustain itself; that is, generate revenue. “The classic business model that has dictated the structure of traditional companies is so at odds with contemporary economic currents that is must and will disappear”…

In the article The Best Business Model in the World by Robert Pozen writes: The best business model is also the simplest: make stuff that’s insanely great: That is, it amazes, enriches, and inspires. That kind of stuff doesn’t need a hard sell, a new market, or a convoluted product range. It just needs — to be. Business model innovation is often self-defeating and self-destructive. The real problem with business model innovation is that it dilutes the incentives to make good stuff in the first place…

In the article Reinventing Your Business Model by Mark W. Johnson, Clayton M. Christensen, and Henning Kagermann writes:  One secret to maintaining a thriving business is recognizing when it needs a fundamental change. Apple introduced the iPod with the iTunes store, revolutionizing portable entertainment, creating a new market, and transforming the company.

Apple did something far smarter than take a good technology and wrap it in a snazzy design. It took a good technology and wrapped it in a great business model. This model defined value in a new way and provided game-changing convenience to the consumer.

Business model innovations have reshaped entire industries and redistributed billions of dollars of value. Retail discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target, which entered the market with pioneering business models, now account for 75% of the total valuation of the retail sector. Low-cost  airlines grew from a blip on the radar screen to 55% of the market value of all carriers. Fully 11 of the 27 companies born in the last quarter century that grew their way into the Fortune 500 in the past 10 years did so through business model innovation…

“In all enterprises, it’s the business model that deserves detailed attention and understanding”. ~ Mitch Thrower

In the article 5 Influential Business Models by Jane McGrath writes:  A business model can make or break a company, no matter whether its product is fantastic or just mediocre.  Henry Ford, famous for using the assembly line in his car factories, neither founded the world’s first car company nor invented the assembly line.

Borrowing the idea originally used in the meat-pa­cking industries, Ford was able to go after a new market in his industry to great success. It goes to show that in the dog-eat-dog world of business, it’s often not as much about the product as it is about the process.

Bu­siness strategy may not be a science, but using the right method with the right materials in the right place at the right time can create explosive results. What’s particularly fascinating is how companies ride to success largely on the strength of their business models.

Some of the most interesting business models are: Dell [‘just-in-time’ manufacturing]; Amazon.com [direct-to-consumer service];  McDonald’s Corporation [ real estate, fast-food assembly-line, franchising];  Microsoft [operating system, personal computer, non-techie-community, Office suite]; Wal-Mart [retailer, no-frills-low prices, rural areas]…

Getting the business model right is often the difference between surviving or not, between being truly transformational or simply incremental. Many business models in the private sector must demonstrate simplicity, precision, and focus that can be communicated in just a few words… Business models are as relevant to the public sector as they are to the private sector…

“This leads to the question of whether business model innovation and strategy is really just the same thing. Certainly successful business models should also have sound strategic principles behind them and one of these is the central concept of ‘fit’. This is an old idea made popular by Michael Porter in the 1980s and it is really about lining up all of your business operations behind a central logic of value creation” ~Tim Kastelle and John Steen

The #1 Stumbling Block for Success in Business: Time Management…

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you”. ~ Carl Sandburg

In Greek there are two words for ‘time’: Chronos means amounts of time, like “20 minutes” or “two days”. Kairos means the time when something occurs, like “attwo o’clock” or “next Sunday”.  We can think of time as a currency, like money, and decide to “spend” an hour on one thing or another.

But unlike money, hours are never the same. “Time” cannot be saved, bought, sold or mortgaged. Time is an invaluable commodity that we must protect and nurture actively and take responsibility to invest wisely. We only have one life to live. Time management can make it worth living.

Stephen Covey author of the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” tells a great story about the real things that we should devote our time to:  “One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business executives. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “

Okay, time for a quiz.” He then pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on the table. He produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them one at a time into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?”

He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing it to work down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied.  He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand and started dumping the sand in the jar until it filled the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.

Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good.” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One executive raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.” “The truth this illustration teaches us is that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.

What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all. If you sweat about the little stuff then you’ll fill your life with little things and you’ll never have the real quality time you need to spend on the big, important stuff.” So ask yourself this question: What are the ‘big rocks’ in my life? Then, put those in your jar first.”

There is no mystery about managing time. Everyone has 24 hours each day and 168 hours each week to eat, sleep, work, relax, exercise… There is nothing magical about getting the most from these hours; it just takes planning. But time management does require self-discipline and control until the behavioral changes are internalized and time management becomes an everyday habit. Plans and schedules for managing time are useless if one does not follow them.

Building time management strategies is similar to planning a budget. Just as the goal of a budget is to put you in control of your money, your goal in time management is to regain control of your time. The first step in forming time management strategies is to analyze how you spend your time. After you’ve analyzed your time, begin planning by creating a “To Do List”; listing obligations, meetings, appointments, special events…

According to Jared Sandberg, task lists “aren’t the key to productivity [that] they’re cracked up to be”. He reports an estimated “30% of listers spend more time managing their lists than [they do] completing what’s on them”. This could be caused by procrastination and prolonging the planning activity. This is akin to analysis paralysis. As with any activity, there’s a point of diminishing returns.

Lord Chesterfield stated, “If you watch the minutes carefully, the hours will take care of themselves. Ask yourself regularly, “Am I making the most of my time right now?” The 80/20 rule states that we tend to spend 80% of our time on projects that have a 20% return. Concentrate your efforts on the 20% of things that have the highest value to you. There are several barriers to scheduling you may need to overcome. These barriers are the ‘time wasters’.

The biggest is procrastination. The second barrier is interruptions. The third barrier is stress. It’s been shown that 75% of all worries never actually happen. But the stress over these fictitious events can waste many hours. Perhaps the best way to overcome these barriers and others is simply to create habits of good time management…

In the article “10 Tips for Time Management in a Multitasking World” by Penelope Trunk writes:  In today’s workplace, you can differentiate yourself by your ability to handle information and manage your time. Careers are made or broken by the soft skills that make you able to hand a very large workload,” says Merlin Mann. “The ability to quickly process and synthesize information and turn it into actions is one of the most emergent skills of the professional world today”.

Each person has a best time. You can discover yours by monitoring your productivity over a period of time. Then you need to manage your schedule to keep your best time free for your most important work. If you don’t know what you should be doing, how can you manage your time to do it? Some people prepare a “To-Do List” and write it out by hand that shows commitment to each item, and then rewrite it each day until it gets done.

In the article Time Management for Leaders writes:  Time in the organization is constant and irreversible. Nothing can be substituted for time. Worse, once wasted, it can never be regained. Leaders have numerous demands on their limited time. No matter what their position, they cannot stop time, they cannot slow it down, nor can they speed it up.

Thus, time needs to be effectively managed. On the other hand, you can become such a time fanatic that you start to waste more time by managing it, to deeply. Keep it simple, analyze how you spend time and implement a few time saving methods that will gain the most time.

“What use is wizardry if it cannot save a unicorn? What use is saving time if you do not get something in exchange? ~ Peter S. Beagle

In the article “Time Management” by Karen Patterson writes: The old adage, “all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy,” is absolutely true. A well-balanced life includes time for things other than work: for things that are much more important than work; family and friends, health and recreation, spiritual development and volunteerism, among others. So, practicing time management at your job is not merely so you get more work squeezed into an eight-hour day, but mostly so you have time for the important things in life.

In the article Time Management writes: Great time management is one of the most vital skills leaders can develop. All of us have the same number of hours in a day, and no amount of effort can change that. What we can influence is how we spend those hours. A quote from Stephen Covey sums up how we can best use our time : “I am personally persuaded that best thinking in area of time management can be captured in a single phrase : Organize and execute around priorities.”

In the articleTime: You Can Never Get Back, But… writes: If you’re doing more and enjoying it less, it’s time to make real choices about how and when to spend your time. The notion is not new. Tim Ferriss recommend strict time constraints in his book “The 4-Hour Work Week.” He argued that much of the work we do is of questionable importance and conducted at low efficiency.

If we instead identify only the most important tasks, he said, and tackle them under severe constraints, we’d be surprised by how little time we actually require. Consider this simple formula: Time = Creative 50% + Working 30% + Other 20%

What if your “big goal” in life is to spend half of your working time on creative work — thinking, researching, and writing — a third of time on regular work, and then cram everything else into the last 20%. Then track your time and monitor progress on a spreadsheet. This is a pristine example of ‘fixed-schedule’ productivity in action.

A fixed-schedule approach to life comes from a simple conviction “to produce a lasting and distinctive body of work,” and the “willingness…to focus on what not to do as much as what to do” can make this possible. The steps to adopting fixed-schedule productivity are straightforward:

  • Choose a work schedule that you think provides the ideal balance of effort and relaxation.
  • Do whatever it takes to avoid violating this schedule.

Some interesting time management statistics from the UK: Emphasizing the huge significance and opportunities in time management, a 2007 Survey by Proudfoot Consulting covering 2,500 businesses over four years, indicated that wasted time costs UK businesses £80bn per year, equivalent to 7% of GDP. The causes of wasted time — labor inefficiency:

  • Inadequate workforce supervision (31%)
  • Poor management planning (30%)
  • Poor communication (18%)
  • IT problems, low morale, and lack or mismatch of skills (21%)

Clearly organizations are vastly under-utilizing their people, and could be doing a lot more to enable more efficient working. These failings of organization and leadership make it all the more important for individual people to think creatively about time management, and particularly to start making changes to improve time management at a personal individual level.

In the article “The Secret of Time Management Revealed” by Alan Lakin writes: Unless we take conscious control of our decision making, we’ll tend to react to the urgent, even if it’s relatively unimportant, and shun the important, unless it also carries a sense of urgency. Simply stop what you’re doing, take a breath, and ask yourself the following question:

“Is this what I want or need to be doing right now?” Note; it’s “or,” not “and.”

If the answer to this question is “yes,” go back to what you were doing. You will have affirmed your choice of activities and made your decision consciously, the key element in time management.  However, if you want or need to do it but not right now, then put it off and do something else with a higher degree of time sensitivity. And if you neither want nor need to be doing it, now or ever–STOP!  

It may seem amazing to you, but if you stick with the “want/need” question for 21 days, you really will catch yourself doing things you can’t justify doing on any grounds, and you’ll find yourself shifting activities to better serve your needs.  This simple question can make a tremendous positive difference in the way you live.

However, time management isn’t always a matter of time at all.  Stop looking. You’ll never find time. It isn’t lost. You’re living it. You have to consciously decide to live it in certain ways and not others. You have to make time by taking it away from one activity and giving it to another…

Time management is one of the greatest skills you can develop. Being able to manage your time effectively can mean being successful in your career or reaching important life goals. In the big picture, time management may determine whether you look back on your life one day and reflect on the wonderful things you have done in your life, or whether those dreams you had were just that, dreams.

“Time is the scarcest resource of the manager; if it is not managed, nothing else can be managed” ~ Peter F Drucker

Great Leaders – Hire Great People – Build Great Companies: Myth or Reality?

“People are ‘not’ the most important thing…The ‘right’ people are. In fact, the ‘wrong’ people are your biggest liability.”

It’s the toughest — and most important — challenge in business today. The scarcest commodity in business is not customers or technology capital — its people. More and more companies simply can’t recruit great people fast enough. The talent shortage is the biggest obstacle to growth; solving it is the biggest strategic priority.  “Hiring great people must be a strategic initiative in all companies, and every person must be involved in the process.”

A great company — full of great people — is an invaluable asset. It all comes down to people. Making the right people decisions will promote success — from the corner office right down to the front lines.  Great leaders hire great people and build great teams!

In the blog “Great Leaders Hire Great People and Build Great Teams!” by George Ambler writes:  Great leaders surround themselves with great people. The proposition is undeniable: you can’t build a great company without great people. The all-too-common reality, in far too many companies; the hiring process is poorly designed and shabbily executed. Hiring, some believe, is not about finding people with the right experience… it’s about finding people with the ‘right mind-set’.

These companies hire for attitude and train for skill. One of the central tasks of leaders is the selection and development of people and teams, and to remove those who are under-performing. The key to recruiting great people it to be clear about what you’re looking for…

It was Peter Drucker who said, “Great people have great strengths and many times great faults too. As a hiring manager you need to take full advantage of the former and make the latter irrelevant.”

Remember the immortal words of the “Apple Computer Ad Campaign”: Here’s to the crazy ones:  The misfits– The rebels– The trouble-makers– The round pegs in the square holes– The ones who see things differently– They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for status quo– You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them– Because they change things– They push the human race forward– And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius– Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do…. Hire people with greatness in them and make their weaknesses irrelevant.

A successful leader is one who is always looking forward. They always have their eye on the long-term vision without losing focus of near-term needs. When faced with a hiring decision, they know that they can either hire a ‘follower’ or a ‘leader’. A follower will simply play the game. A leader will change the game. How do you tell the difference? Followers want to talk about credentials.

They’ll tell you all about what school they attended and tout awards and accolades. It’s all about what they’ve done and how they can do the same for you. Leaders want to talk about possibilities. They have all of the same credentials as the follower, but their focus is on the future. They want to talk about how they can take those skills and help you create something better

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

In the article How to Attract Top Talent by Jason Hesse writes: Difference between success and failure is attracting top talent and finding the right people for your business…  Get to know talent before you need it… Spend time networking and figure out who the shining stars are and what excites them about their work… Fostering these relationships early will pay off later…

Set clear expectations of what they can learn from you and what you expect from them… In a complex organization or unfamiliar context; “sink or swim” is a perilous strategy. New talent wants to succeed. Invest from the start in making sure this happens, and you will soon find yourself surrounded by loyal followers…

“The most successful businesses often thrive because of their talent. Getting the best people should be at the top of every manager’s list. So to become a talent magnet, try developing these habits.”

In the article Recruiting Stars: Top Ten Ideas for Recruiting Great Candidates by Susan M. Heathfield writes: The smartest employers recruit from a pre-qualified candidate-pool of potential employees before they need to fill a job. Or, as Harvey Mackay, well-known, irreverent, author and speaker, says… “Dig Your Well, Before You’re Thirsty”. You can develop relationships with potential candidates long before you need them.

Spread word-of-mouth information about the position availability, or eventual availability, to each employee so they can constantly look for superior candidates in their networks of friends and associates. Tap into this potential audience on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, …

In the article “The War for Talent” by McKinsey & Company writes: In today’s competitive knowledge-based world, “the caliber of a company’s talent increasingly determines success in the marketplace”. At the same time, attracting and retaining great talent is becoming more difficult, as demand for highly skilled people outstrips supply. Companies that are leading the way execute against five talent management imperatives:

  • Instill a talent mindset, which is a deeply held belief that building a strong management talent pool is critical to achieving the aspirations of the company.
  • Create a winning “employee value proposition” (EVP); just as a company carefully shapes its value proposition to customers, it should also deliberately craft the value proposition to its people: Exciting work – Great company – Wealth and reward – Growth and development.
  • Always be on the prowl for top talent and continuously recruit great talent.
  • Talented people crave the opportunity to grow, and without it they’ll leave. Grow and develop people and turn them into great leaders.
  • All people are not the same– differentiate and affirm.

In the article “The Talent Myth” by Malcolm Gladwell writes: “Success in the modern economy, according to the McKinsey & Company study “The War for Talent” requires a “talent mind-set“, which is a “deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors”.

The “talent mind-set” is the new orthodoxy of management. It’s the intellectual justification for why such a high premium is placed on degrees from first-tier business schools, and why the compensation packages for top executives have become so lavish. In the modern corporation, the system is considered only as strong as its stars…

However, the management of Enron did exactly what the consultants at McKinsey said and it hired and rewarded the very best and the very brightest… The reasons for its collapse are complex, needless to say. But, what if Enron failed not in spite of its talent mindset, but because of it? What if smart people are overrated? The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart but more often than not it’s the other way around.

There is ample evidence of this principle among America’s most successful companies: Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, and many others highly successful companies. The consultants at McKinsey preach what they believe about themselves. They are looking for people who have the talent to think outside the box. However, it may not have occurred to them, if everyone had to think outside the box, that maybe it was the box that needed fixing.

In the article “What Exactly is a Top Performer?” writes: What I object to most about ‘top grading’ is the vague definition of an ‘A’ Player, namely “the top 10% of talent for a compensation level” — like anyone could possibly determine who exactly qualifies. But, even if you did figure it out, it would not help you hire correctly. One thing I know for certain: top performance in one environment does not necessarily predict top performance in another.

Simply hiring Olympic athletes or poaching your competitor’s top people guarantees you nothing… So rather than filling your company with mythical ‘A’ Players”: set performance goals, manage your people against their results, fire your bottom performers and replace them with highly competent, hard-working people who fit in your culture. Then train the new people and hold them accountable for their results. Then, rinse and repeat…

“A top performer is someone who is capable of, and interested in, driving the business results you need – someone who will take responsibility for getting results within the norms of your company culture”.  

In the article “Don’t Hire to Fire:  Secrets to Getting and Keeping Top Performers” by Robert Half writes: Hiring is one of the most difficult tasks any business owner or leader faces. Yet many leaders simply do not know how to interview effectively and how to uncover the critical aspects of the candidate’s skills, experience, background and personality that will give them the information they need to determine if the person they are interviewing has high potential for being successful…The whole process… interviewing, hiring, retaining… is challenging and yet it’s the single biggest factor in the success or failure of any company.

In the article “The Dirty Little Secret of Successful Companies” by Jay Goltz writes: Great companies do not always hire the right people. It’s a dirty little secret that even great companies have to fire the people who don’t work out. If you want to run a great company — a company that gives great customer service, delivers a great product, has happy employees, and a good bottom line; you occasionally have to fire people. But which people? Those who are rated a six (6) on a scale of one (1) to ten (10). You’ve probably already parted company with the people who rate worse than a six (6); but it’s the six (6) who can be tricky. They’re not that bad, but they’re just not good enough…

Do you know about the “hedgehog concept”?  It refers to a parable of a ‘hedgehog and a fox’, where the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The good-to-great companies are, by and large, built by “hedgehogs”– this doesn’t mean stupid – au contraire – it just means that they were able to focus on one big important thing that made their companies great.

Sometimes it takes real genius to see through all the clutter and grab the one, simple, unique thing that gives you the advantage. It’s not really that much harder to be great, rather than just good, but if you and your people are not motivated to greatness, perhaps you should consider doing something else…

“The toughest decisions in organizations are people decisions – hiring, firing, promotion etc. These are the decisions that usually receive the least attention and are the hardest to unmake” ~Peter Drucker

“Nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the field.  All the clever strategies and advanced technologies in the world are not effective without great people to put them to work” ~Jack Welch

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies ~Larry Bossidy

Challenge for Sales and Marketing: Alignment, Tranformation, Contemporize,…or Red Herring?

 “When you are in alignment with the people around you, you are much more likely to travel in the same direction and avoid hidden agendas” ~Mitch Thrower

Misalignment is often a byproduct of a lack of process and a natural result of traditional marketing and sales roles. Think about it — sales is perhaps one of the most measured functions in an organization. In sales, performance is measured by tangible results, and a lack of performance is cause for immediate and unquestioned dismissal. Contrast that with marketing, which is perhaps one of the most difficult functions to wrap tangible measurements around, and therein lies the challenge; we expect the most measured function and the least measured function to work seamlessly together…

In the article “Sales and Marketing Alignment: What the Experts Have to Say” by Kent Huffman writes: The CMO Council recently published a report entitled “Closing the Gap: The Sales and Marketing Alignment Imperative.” Among other key findings, the study revealed that “…there is an urgent need for marketing, sales, and channel management to be in alignment, and embrace technologies, processes, and programs that enable wider and deeper customer conversations, as well as leverage the knowledge, influence, and access of the channel. And, continuously refine the delivery of products and services in the most painless, seamless, and satisfying way.”

But is alignment the answer? In the article Aligning Marketing and Sales…With What?” writes: The real challenge is transformation, not just alignment. Of course marketing & sales need to work more closely together, but most of all they need to figure out how to collaborate in serving and attracting customers… there should be more agreement between marketing & sales on which leads matter, how to map marketing to the sales cycle, and where marketing can help most with key accounts…

“If we don’t look for a larger transformation in how both marketing and sales work — and work together — we run the risk of building alignment around a process that no longer fits the real world environment.”

In the articleWhy Aligning Sales and Marketing Never Works by Geoffrey James writes: I’ve come to the conclusion that “alignment” is a red herring. I believe that alignment simply can’t happen, because the problem is being defined incorrectly. Almost every article that I’ve seen treats sales & marketing as if they were co-equal functions.  Therefore, “alignment” consists of finding compatible goals, working together as a team, measuring the same things, and all that yada-yada-yada.

However, marketing was originally a service function to sales.  It was a way to help Sales make sales. For instance, advertising was supposed to create demand… so that somebody could sell something to a customer.  Branding was supposed to be a way to make products more attractive… so that somebody could sell something to a customer.

And so forth… marketing was a service organization. It’s totally ridiculous to “align” sales & marketing as if the two group were co-equal.  The only real and practical alignment is for marketing to step back, and respectfully ask the Sales team what they should be doing to help:  There should be submission not alignment.

In the articleWhy is Sales and Marketing Alignment Difficult for Most Organizations?” by Brian Carroll writes:  Organizations aren’t taking a holistic approach that considers all of the marketing and selling components on a total, complete, and ongoing basis. The lack of synergy between sales & marketing regarding lead generation is so common as to risk cliché. Marketing feels that sales doesn’t follow up on marketing-generated leads. Sales counters that the leads aren’t any good, and the information they provide isn’t helpful. My experience confirms that this communication breakdown affects nine out of ten companies.

Another reason that sales & marketing alignment is such a thorny issue lies in how each of those disciplines views its role in contrast to the other. For example, marketing often sees itself as the strategic player and sales as the tactical delivery mechanism for the strategy. In contrast, sales often see itself as the primary driver for the business, with marketing relegated to a sales support role. However, businesses having the greatest degree of alignment showed the following impact:

  • Grow 5.4 points faster than their less-aligned counterparts when compared with businesses in the same industry.
  • Close 38% more proposals than non-aligned businesses.
  • Lose 36% fewer customers to competitors.

In the article Sales and Marketing Alignment: One Lead, One View, One Result by Andrew Boyd and Ian Michiels write: Aberdeen Research surveyed over 617 companies to identify the strategies, capabilities and enablers that ‘Best-In-Class’(BIC) companies use to improve demand generation practices. The research revealed that 56 percent of Best-In-Class (BIC) companies and 62 percent of Laggards consider the alignment between marketing & sales a target for improvement. Marketing & sales alignment is also a significant dynamic in implementing new technology…

In the recent “Success Strategies in Marketing Automation” benchmark report, 63 percent of companies ranked sales & marketing alignment as a top two challenge to deploying marketing automation solutions. The pressure to improve ‘return on marketing investments’ and increase revenue are driving BIC companies to devote resources to aligning sales & marketing in the hopes of improving both the quality and quantity of leads entering the sales pipeline.

In the article Align Sales and Marketing by the Needs of Your B2B Customers” writes: Companies are aligning sales & marketing in 3 main areas: ‘Buying Process’ (how individuals make buying decisions to achieve their needs), ‘Common Sales Method’, and ‘Common Language’. In an August 2010 study released by Aberdeen, the results continue to show those who aligned sales & marketing are growing faster. The revenue growth rate is 20% year-over-year for those considered to be ‘Best-In-Class’. “If you are looking for ways to grow faster in these tough times, the alignment of sales and marketing may be low hanging fruit as an area to consider.”

In the article “Aligning Sales & Marketing: The Upside of Lopsided Risk” by Kathleen Schaub writes:  Above the door of an Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower is a sign that reads: “What is the similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots? If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies; but if ATC screws up …the pilot dies.”

This sign soberly reminds us that risk distribution between interdependent work partners can be unfairly lopsided. Marketing & sales also experience this interdependency and risk inequity. It may not be “fair”, but it is valuable. In today’s complex marketplace, it takes sales & marketing working interdependently to attain revenue growth. Aligned companies enjoy “a substantial improvement in important performance metrics: sales cycles are shorter, market entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower, say Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham, and Suj Krishnaswamy.

While it may take both teams working interdependently to achieve goals, there’s no question that marketing & sales have very different jobs and unequal risk levels. Like air traffic controllers, a marketer’s job is primarily about information – planning, analyzing, and communicating.

Compare this to the sales team who, like pilots, are out in the field, constantly moving, directly weathering market turbulence. Both ATC work and marketing take place in relative safety from behind a desk. Most marketers have never cold-called, never had a door slammed in their face, never met a competitor in the lobby of their best customer.

While marketers may not come face-to-face with slamming doors and conniving competitors, marketers possess the life-or-death information that sales people need to adroitly maneuver.  Critical customer intelligence, competitive intelligence, and market situation intelligence determine how successfully a sales person manages through their tough situations. As a pilot, you want a safe, reliable, friend who has “got your back” and consistently feeds you critical environmental data while you battle the sky.  As a sales person, you want this kind of a friend, too…

In the articleDefining Sales & Marketing Optimization by Christine writes: We all bandy about the term, sales & marketing alignment, assuming a widely accepted definition exists that all understand and subscribe to.  What I have found is that ‘alignment’ means different things to different people based on their orientation to the problem.  For many sales leaders and technology solution vendors it means anything from automated lead management, sales force automation to marketing delivering higher quality leads. 

If we’re going to improve sales & marketing alignment through best practices, we need a comprehensive definition that we all can work with.   I’ve scanned a large number of sales, marketing and leadership books and have yet to find a succinct, comprehensive and balanced definition. However, I’ve put a stake in the ground and defined sales & marketing alignment at a higher, more strategic level:

“Sales and marketing collaboratively working toward the common goal of profitably increasing revenue and customer excellence through shared processes, resources and metrics.”

What does this definition say? Alignment is more than just leads.  At the heart of alignment the two teams are working toward the same goal with a common understanding of resources.  Companies achieve this through a three stage journey that integrates activities, processes, and team structures and reinforce alignment with a culture that emphasizes shared accountability and institutionalizes it with common technology platforms.

In the articleSales and Marketing Alignment: Thought Leadership by Jon Miller writes: Technology is a key enabler of alignment but it does not, in and of itself, produce alignment. The benefits of technology solutions with common target market & customer database, automated lead management system, and SFA/CRM system, to name a few.  Then, both groups can focus on improving lead quality, velocity, pipeline accuracy and reducing lead leakage. Marketing & sales operations’ analytics, based on data in a common systems, provides greater transparency in what is really happening in the company and enables management to manage the business more effectively…

In the article “Transformation: Aligning Sales and Marketing Processes” by Walter Rogers writes:  Marketing & sales organizations must stop thinking about simply pushing products or solutions. The way to close more business and drive more revenue today lies in adapting to the way customers are doing business now, becoming more accessible and responsive, and being sensitive to the customer’s needs by adopting a flexible, creative approach to customizing products and solutions that will help customers achieve their desired outcomes.

Eliminate the chasm between marketing & sales – The sibling rivalry between sales & marketing must end. The old disconnected, cumbersome system in which two independent divisions both fight to achieve the same goal must be replaced by a fully collaborative, integrated approach and function as one seamless team, supporting each other and sharing information with each other in real time for a common goal…

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~ Max De Pree

Stupidity in Business: A Fine-line Between “You’re Fired!” and “You’re Genius!”

 “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits”~ Albert Einstein

Stupidity is a quality or state of being stupid, or an act or idea that exhibits properties of being stupid. According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the words “stupid” and “stupidity” entered the English language in 1541. Since then, stupidity has taken place along with “fool,” “idiot,” “dumb,” “moron,” and related concepts as a pejorative appellation for human misdeeds, whether purposeful or accidental, due to absence of mental capacity.

“Laws of Stupidity”: The economic historian Carlo Maria Cipolla is famous for his essays about human stupidity. The essay, “The Fundamental Laws of Human Stupidity”, explores the controversial subject of stupidity. Stupid people are seen as a group more powerful by far than major organizations or the industrial complex, which without regulations, leaders, or manifesto nonetheless manages to operate to great effect and with incredible coordination. These are Cipolla’s five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person.
  3. A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at any time anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person there is.

The fool or buffoon has been a central character in much comedy. Alford and Alford found that humor based on stupidity was prevalent in “more complex” societies as compared to some other forms of humor. Some analysis of Shakespeare’s comedy has found that his characters tend to hold mutually contradictory positions; because this implies a lack of careful analysis it indicates stupidity on their part. Today there is a wide array of television shows that showcase stupidity…

In an article “Why Do People Do Bad Things?” by Chris MacDonald, Ph.D. writes: It’s an ancient question. Certainly, some people do bad things simply because they are bad people. Psychopaths and sociopaths exist, though thankfully they are very few. Whether those few should be classified as “evil,” or as “mentally ill,” or both, is not clear to me. Either way, they certainly have the capacity to do evil. But sometimes, surely — maybe quite often — people do bad things stupidly, rather than out of evil intent. “Hanlon’s Razor” is the name for an adage attributed to one Robert J. Hanlon. It says the following:

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is capable of doing something immensely stupid. But everyone is also capable of learning from their blunders and making a fresh start. Yes, even the most thick-headed person has hope. Have you ever bungled something so bad that you actually felt ashamed? You might still wish that you could have that moment back to do things differently.

We all have those moments. And even the smallest mistakes can be upsetting. There is a way to recover. It takes learning and it takes smarts. If you use that error to make your future better, you just got a little smarter. So you might say that part of your intelligence and success comes from stupidity. Just don’t be stupid in the same way twice….

In the article “Should Your Best Customers Be Stupid” by Amy Edmondson writes: Take a hard look at your most profitable customers. Not the biggest, not the best, not the most satisfied: the most profitable. Then ask your colleagues: Do we make most of our profit margins from our “smartest” customers or from our “stupidest” ones? That is, does your firm capture the bulk of its profitability because your customers appreciate the value of what you do? Or because they’re (effectively) ignorant or ill-informed and your product and price positioning successfully exploit that?

The smartest/stupidest dichotomy is deliberately provocative. Because, really, how sustainable can a business dependent on customer stupidity really be? A popular advertising campaign once declared, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” But for many firms, the smarter customers become, the more discriminating and less profitable they might be. Conversely, there are professions, such as, neurosurgeon, criminal attorney, etc. where the smarter the customer is, the more likely they are willing to pay a premium for excellence…

But as insulting as it may be, the smartest/stupidest customer framing may be far more helpful to innovators and entrepreneurs than exhausted clichés about “good” versus “bad” customers or “early adopters” versus the “mainstream”. Profitability matters. How you and your colleagues perceive the source of those profits in the context of your customers’ “smarts” — or “stupids” — is enormously revealing. It’s an argument your organization probably needs to have.  Or am I just being stupid?

Tom Monaghan, Dominos Pizza, founder, is fond of saying, “I owe all my success to stupidity.” In reality, the emergence of Domino’s as a global pizza empire owes itself less to the fact that Monaghan didn’t know what he was doing, as to the fact that he was willing to take risks and gamble on ideas he couldn’t predict the odds or the outcome…

In the article “Creative Brilliance + Business Stupidity = The Nissan Barbie Ad” writes: One of the all time great commercials is the “Nissan Barbie” spot. It’s also one of the stupidest.  When discussing the spot, the ad agency’s creative director remarked, “I was just looking for something that could be dynamic. I couldn’t believe it when Nissan bought it.”

It’s no wonder he got excited. The spot generated awards for agency and earned the creative director a guest spot on Oprah. There was even talk about an animated television series based on the commercial. According to the creative director, Nissan executives instructed him, “Let’s do something different, let’s break the rules”. To a creative person, that’s as close to nirvana as it gets.

Nissan hired a marketing research company to test the spot, but the research firm asked the wrong questions. The research firm asked if people liked the spot. Of course they liked the spot. It’s great. It’s highly entertaining. “It’s also hugely ineffective”; a Nissan dealer commented at the time, “Yeah, it’s cute, and everyone’s talking about it. The ad, featuring Nissan’s 300Z car, started running in August 1996. However, Nissan ceased production of the Z in 1996 and didn’t resume production until the launch of the 350Z in 2002!

“Can you freaking believe an ad agency would spend $1 million producing an ad that’s the centerpiece of a $200 million campaign that features an obsolete product (300Z car)?”

In the blog “Grand Stupidity and Absurd Bravery in High Performance” by Joe Calloway writes: This may seem incredibly counterintuitive, but top performers are the ones who seem to act with grand stupidity and absurd bravery. They make choices that others don’t make. They try things without knowing whether or not they’ll work. They often refuse to play it safe and they sometimes seem ridiculous and audacious. What I’ve just described is the behavior of an innovator.

Innovation means you go first. Innovation means you have to try things without knowing whether you’ll succeed or not. Innovation takes courage, sometimes even absurd bravery. It also takes a willingness to let go of what used to work; what has always worked; and everything that made you successful up to this point. It means acting with an attitude of grand stupidity that says “I don’t know what works. So let’s find out.”

The big question in business used to be “What have you done for me lately?” Today we’re not so interested in what happened “lately” anymore. Today we’re interested in what happens next. We have truly become an “I want it yesterday” society and we have no patience for what we judge to be unnecessary waiting. “If you make me wait, you lose”…

In the article “How Can Someone So Smart Be So Stupid?” by Kurt Kleiner writes: We do stupid things and we should know better, for example… People buy high and sell low: They believe their horoscope: They bet it all on black because black is due: They super-size their fries and order the diet Coke: They talk on a cell-phone while driving: They bet that a financial bubble will never burst…. Even smart people are not perfect…

Sometimes mistakes do happen…If the person is humble, he/she will accept responsibility and apologize. Then, you really know the person is smart! Intelligence by itself doesn’t make you rational. Thinking rationally demands mental skills that some of us don’t have and many of us don’t use.

“There is a narrow set of cognitive skills that we track that are called intelligence. But that’s not the same as intelligent behavior in the real world”. How we define and measure intelligence has been controversial since at least 1904, when Charles Spearman proposed that a “general intelligence factor” underlies all cognitive function. Others argue that intelligence is made up of many different cognitive abilities…

In the  book “What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought” by Keith E. Stanovich, he proposes a whole range of cognitive abilities and dispositions independent of intelligence that have at least as much to do with whether we think and behave rationally. In other words, you can be intelligent without being rational. And you can be a rational thinker without being especially intelligent (or stupid)…

In the book “The Encyclopedia of Stupidity by Matthijs Van Boxsel writes: Stupidity is motivating. Without it, we would have little in the way of progress, success or civilization, which in his contrarian view is nothing more than ”a series of more or less abortive attempts to come to grips with the self-destructive folly found in all countries and at all times.” Stupidity is not the same as a lack of intelligence — though precisely what it is is not always clear. ”It’s a quality all its own”.

Our culture is the result of a series of failed attempts to understand our own stupidity. Stupidity is the foundation of our civilization.  ”On the one hand, stupidity poses a daily threat to civilization,” he writes. ”On the other hand, it constitutes the mystical foundation of our existence. For if man was not to fall victim to his own stupidity, he had to develop his intelligence.” ”Stupidity is the engine that drives our society.”

In the blog “Smart People Should Do Stupid Stuff” by David Wurtz writes:  I once met a man that made over $1,000,000 per year selling bowling balls on the Internet.  I asked him how he had built such a fantastic business. I was looking for this guy’s secret sauce. Was he a marketing guru, a tenacious entrepreneur that didn’t give up, saw an opportunity earlier than most? None of the above. He was an average guy, with below average technical skills.

He hired 2 kids to work out of his garage to build his website… So,“If he can do it, so can I“. It’s two years later, and I now make a decent sum of money selling “TV wall mounts” on the Internet. This is an area I can proudly say all of my fellow over-achievers have overlooked. But don’t fret. The world is full of more stupid things to do.

The truth is, any endeavor, no matter how seemingly trivial, can benefit from an incisive mind taking a good, hard look. And almost any endeavor can be intellectually gratifying. You may be surprised to know that most people don’t apply scientific method to their efforts, or even possess the reasoning skills or patience to achieve greatness.

This puts you and your well-honed cerebral apparatus, at an incredible advantage. In the real world, you’re no longer competing with your fellow geniuses at the school science fair…you’re competing with your typical neighbor…

Success isn’t only found in the complex, intellectual achievements.  Sometimes it’s found in more obvious, less sexy places. If people call you stupid, you could be on to something big!  Whether it’s a risk or a hunch or a gut feeling, if you know it will work, ignore the voices you hear because, soon, instead of stupid you will hear– that’s super…bet the farm. So, go ahead…take the next step–Be Stupid…

    “If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?” ~Will Rogers

Rethink the Sales Cycle: Embrace the “Buying Cycle” to Achieve Sustainable Winning Sales Organization…

                     “Stop selling. Start helping” ~Zig Ziglar

Align your selling methods with a customer’s buying habits for a win-win relationship! “The digital age has dramatically changed the selling profession. Today, buyers don’t want salespeople telling them what they want or need; they’ve already gone online and informed themselves—which makes the job of selling more difficult than ever.

So how do you reestablish the relevance that you previously took for granted? You must stop focusing squarely on the selling cycle—and pay close attention to the buying cycle. Learn how the customer buys, and align your selling techniques accordingly. Merge your selling process with the buyer’s buying process. (Definition: buying cycle relates to the time elapsed between receiving a lead and when the sale is closed, and not how frequently a customer buys the same product or service).

“When it comes to the buying cycle, today’s customers want control. You can give it to them when you have a selling strategy aligned with their behavior. It’s the best, and perhaps only way to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive world” ~John R. Holland

There is a growing amount of buzz about a concept called “social selling” (often used synonymously with Sales 2.0). Many will argue that sales particularly B2B sales, has always been a social activity. After all, selling has always revolved around relationships (i.e. “who you know’) and hence the focus on networking, establishing rapport, and leveraging existing relationships.

Traditionally this was done via face-to-face business meetings, industry conferences, athletic clubs, civic organizations, social clubs, etc. Social selling is about recognizing that the buying process is controlled by a better informed and more connected customer. While sales remain a relationship-driven business, the power of “who you know” is trumped by “what you know about who you know.”

The new social customer is demanding relevance from sales people, expecting them to know about them, their companies, and their needs before being engaged. This has heightened the need for comprehensive sales intelligence that brings together both traditional data and social media. It is imperative that sales professionals leverage the social web to actively listen, engage, and add value to the customer conversation. Your customer expects you to know at least as much about them as they do about you.

In the article by “Change Strategies” writes: Accept the immutable truth of the buying cycle…whether buying razor blades or jet airplanes, every customer and prospect goes through a buying cycle. It may take the customer a split second while standing in the aisle of the local pharmacy or more than a year in meetings involving dozens of people and a complex decision process. This is a move from a focus on transactions to a focus on customer relationships.

In today’s technology-enabled and information-driven world, customers are increasingly taking control of the buying cycle. This fact makes the need for a common and consistent focus on the buying cycle even more urgent.  Acceptance of the buying cycle as immutable is perhaps the most important first step any customer-facing organization can take to achieve greater effectiveness and impact.

The right customers and buying cycles are those that produce profits, in either the immediate term or ultimately as part of the customer long-term relationship… having a deep understanding of the customer is key to managing customer progress through the buying cycle. Managing the cycle begins with clearly identifying ‘who we want’ entering and continuing in the cycle, and the near-exclusive focus on these customers.

The bad news is that creating deep understanding and actively managing the buying cycle based on that understanding is hard work and time-consuming. The good news is that technology, analytic methods, and increasing people skills make it possible more than ever before. One thing is certain: a company that does not develop a deep understanding of customers and actively manage the buying cycle risks losing the account… Strong customer relationships drives sustained business results…

         “Markets don’t buy anything, people do!” ~ Tom Peters

In the article “Where Are You In Your Customer’s Buying Cycle?” by Gihan Perera writes: Thanks to the Internet, customers today are smarter, savvier and more sophisticated than ever before. When they come to you, ready to buy your products and services, you can bet they didn’t suddenly think of you five minutes earlier.

They might have asked around on Twitter or LinkedIn, watched some sample videos on YouTube, checked in with their Facebook friends, done some Google research, looked through their in-box for recent newsletters, and so on. This is the biggest change in the sales process. As Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie said in their Harvard Business Review article:

“Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. It used to be that these were in sync … [but] now, the buy cycle is often well under way before the seller is even aware there is a cycle.”

Get with the customer early in the process and influence them right from the beginning. This isn’t about hard sell; it’s about guiding them as an expert adviser, rather than being just another supplier. Always be engaged in a meaningful way…or you will just be another supplier in the customer’s buying process, or at worst, you’ll be ignored altogether!

In the article “The Best Way to Shorten the Sales Cycle” by Jeff Thull writes: Customers don’t create long sales cycles — salespeople do. The biggest contributor to dragging out the selling cycle is salespeople prematurely presenting solutions to customers who may not believe they have a problem, or even if they had a problem, didn’t understand its impact on their business…

Comparing what we do as salespeople with customers to what doctors do with their patients: Imagine how ridiculous it would be to go in for your annual physical and have the doctor give you a presentation on the benefits of angioplasty while expecting to sell you surgery.

Instead, the doctor brings you a high-quality diagnostic process, guides you through it, looks for symptoms you’re experiencing, measures those symptoms, and if they’re serious enough will recommend the surgical solution. Before any recommendation can be made, you mutually come to the conclusion that you have a condition that needs to be fixed.

The second challenge to address is “change.” A decision to buy leads to change and change is painful. Customers frequently do not buy because they are concerned about the change process… Bringing clarity to the change required will help both you and the customer… The final challenge involves “value.”

Customers must be able to measure the impact of a solution, and until they do they will not recognize value when it is delivered. Often the customer does not have enough knowledge or method to measure the value that a solution will provide (pre-sale), and worse, left on their own, may not be able to measure the value they have alredy received (post-sale).  

I’ve seen clients reduce sales cycle time by as much as 62%, and more than double their closing percentage by creating a high-quality decision process and guiding their customer through it. Providing a change management process allows their customer to see a clear path to their success, and helps them quantify the value that the solution will provide.

In the article “Sales Myth – The Sales Cycle” by R. Meriwether writes: There is no such thing as a sales cycle.  Does that surprise you?  If you have a traditional sales background then the sales cycle has become part of your daily lexicon.  But the reality is that it is just a myth, possibly a dangerous myth to be sure, but a myth nonetheless.

We constantly hear this same statement regarding sales cycles: “Our sales cycle is X weeks or months or light years”, as though there is some magic time frame which determines how long it takes to sell your product or service.  Most organizations simply take the good and the bad sales efforts and average them together, and then cement into every sales person’s head that this is –the sales cycle.

A sales cycle is something which has been constructed in our minds, not in the actual business of selling.  There is only one cycle you deal with when you are successful in selling: “The Buying Cycle”. The most successful sales people and sales organizations understand this and either directly or indirectly mirror their sales cycle to the buying cycle.  They understand that moving from decision to decision is always fixed by the buying side of the relationship.

You can heavily influence those decisions, but only by understanding how and why those decisions are made. You are probably thinking, “Duh”.  So if this is so simple and it goes without saying, how many times have you ever seen a buying cycle used to create a sales cycle?  Probably never.  If we all know this, why don’t we simply start with a buying cycle and then work out our sales cycle so it matches the buying cycle? The process is pretty simple since all you have done is map-out a typical customer’s buying process which will look something like:

  • Recognition of Need—-Consensus on Need for External Help—-Initial Budgetary Approval—Search and Evaluate Options—Select a Solution Provider—-Negotiate—Execute Project—Measure Value

And, a typical sales process looks like:

  • Discovery—Collaborative Solution Design—Develop Business Case—Propose—Finalize Agreement—Execute Project—Manage Customer Relationship

So imagine if you are in your sales process at “Propose”, but the prospective customer is still at the “Consensus on Need for External Help” in their buying process.  You know what happens, right?  We all know what happens… diddly squatSo do yourself and your revenue stream a favor and sit down with a current customer who is very friendly towards your company and simply ask them the steps they go through to purchase a solution.  Use it as a framework to develop your sales process so you can match each step of your sales process to their buying process… The result: Close more deals; Close them faster; Happier customer          

 “Be creative. Use unconventional thinking. And have the guts to carry it out” ~ Lee Iaccoca

Focus on the buying cycle, not the selling cycle…there are sales methods abound that focus on the selling process: “AIDA”: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action. Or, the “ABC”: Always-Be-Closing (famously heard in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”). The selling cycle goes from awareness to leads to presentation to evaluation to close to (hopefully) a satisfied customer. Sales don’t need to “push the product” or “create the need” when they start with a product (value) that people want to buy…

“The organization must learn to think of itself not as producing goods or services, but as providing “buying customers” the things that will make people want to do business with it.” ~Theodore Levitt

The world of selling has irrevocably changed with the age of the new media. Social media, blogs, and other self-publishing tools have sparked an explosion of content at a scale and pace we have never seen before. For example; over the next 30 minutes, approximately 22,000 blog postings will go live, 2.3 million Tweets will fly, and Facebook users will post 2.77 million status updates and 41 million pieces of content.

Then, factor in the steady stream of online articles from traditional media outlets, and an untold number of niche sites and other networks. What’s clear is that successful salespeople still need to identify and engage the decision leaders, influencers, and other customer voices, however, the traditional sales cycle approach simply can’t keep up with today’s buying savvy customers…

 “Approach each customer with the idea of helping him or her solve a problem or achieve a goal, not of selling a product or service” ~Brian Tracy

“Describe your product in terms of what it ‘does’ not in terms of what it ‘is’ “~ Brian Tracy