Mind Mapping– Create a Visual Map That Sees Things Clearly: Capture–Concepts, Ideas, Plans, Strategy…

Mind Mapping: Mind mapping is the most effective, ‘brain friendly’ way for you to turn your unorganized, fleeting ideas and thoughts into a structured, visual ‘map’. A mind map resembles the visual aspects of a flow chart and the organization structure of an outline…

Mind mapping is a creative and logical means of note-taking and note-making that visually ‘maps-out’ your ideas. All mind-maps have some things in common: They have a natural organizational structure that radiates from the center and use lines, symbols, words, color and images according to simple, brain-friendly concepts. Mind mapping converts a long list of monotonous information into a colorful, memorable and highly organized diagram that works in line with your brain’s natural way of doing things...

One simple way to understand a mind-map is by comparing it to a map of a city. The city center represents the main idea; main roads leading from the center represent the key thoughts in your thinking process; the secondary roads or branches represent your secondary thoughts, and so on. Special images or shapes can represent landmarks of interest or particularly relevant ideas. The mind-map is the external mirror of your own radiant or natural thinking facilitated by a powerful graphic process, which provides the universal key to unlock the dynamic potential of the brain…

The technique of ‘concept mapping’ was developed by Joseph Novak at Cornell… Concept maps have their origin in the learning movement called constructivism. In particular, constructivists hold that prior knowledge is used as a framework to learn new knowledge. In essence, how we think influences how and what we learn.

According to Grayson Walker; concept maps identify the way we think, the way we see relationships between knowledge…

mind2 imagesCAQ063CZMind Mapping and Strategic Planning: There are many different definitions of strategic planning, but the most common always includes the phrase– ‘big picture thinking’… And, the ideal tool for strategic planning– viewing the big picture– is mind mapping; there is simply no better way to conceptualize, refine, compile, organize and share strategic-level idea…

The possibilities for developing and visualizing business strategies are limitless. Start with a theme – long-term planning, medium term goals, or even something specific like ‘increase market share by 25% in 180 days’… Then let the ideas start flowing. Keep the primary ideas connected to the central idea, then within subtopics let additional, specific thoughts radiate outward.

Don’t over-think – let the ideas flow as long as there’s energy in the room to continue. At some point in the strategic planning process take a step back and look at your mind map. If something stands out as really valuable, make that the center topic of a new map and start the process all over again… keep going until the creative energy is diminished. The end result will be more useful and infinitely more elegant than straightforward idea generation. Relationships will be visible, associations are clear, in short; the big picture will be right there in front of you…

The term ‘mind map’ was first popularized by Tony Buzan– who argued that while ‘traditional outlines’ force readers to scan left to right and top to bottom, readers actually tend to scan the entire page in a non-linear fashion. When compared with the concept map the structure of a mind map is a similar radial, but is simplified by having one central key word… Mind maps are used for– personal, educational, business situations… and some applications include; note taking, problem solving, brainstorming,  framework design, relationships, team building, collaborations…

In the article Mind Map Your Strategic Business Plan! by Fred E. Miller writes: When working on a business plan, one of the challenges is to include and expand upon, as many inside and outside factors that have, or could have, an impact on your success. Putting all these together, showing how they connect, inter-connect, and not leaving out anything is a major challenge…

One of the best tools for getting started on your strategic plan is by using– mind mapping. The simple definition of– mind mapping is that it’s non-linear brainstorming… It’s a visual technique that works the way our brains work by bringing together the left linear and right creative, sides of the brain.

Traditionally, planning is done in a linear format, which means that you are, essentially, trying to organize thoughts before you develop them. Your brain doesn’t think this way. Mind mapping works the way your brain works. Very briefly the steps are this:

  • Start with the paper in the landscape mode.
  • Place your main subject, e.g., ‘strategic plan’, in the middle.
  • Radiating from the center out, place your subtopics.
  • Use keywords, pictures, and symbols to trigger more ideas. Our brain does this naturally!
  • Use colors to show themes and associations.
  • Reorganize, edit and prioritize your map.

Revisit and revise the map often– very often– as business conditions are very fluid. The strategic plan should be able to change and reflect this. Mind mapping is one of the best ways to develop the most ideas and solutions to everyday challenges and opportunities, and definitely a great tool to get started on a ‘strategic business plan’. There are several reasons developing a strategic plan with this tool can be especially effective:

  • Everything, meaning all elements of your plan, can literally and figuratively be ‘on the same page’, thereby giving all stakeholders the ‘big picture’.
  • Seeing how all the pieces fit together can be paramount to implementing and succeeding with your plan.

Visually seeing everything will trigger far more, than when you are just looking at a linear, black and white outline of a business plan. Seeing everything helps eliminate being blind-sided when conditions change. A business, and everything that affects it is organic; meaning things are not static, but are constantly changing. An effective strategic plan must take this continuous change into account, and constantly be tweaked to reflect those changes. Regularly looking at a mind map, which is easily understood and easily modified, just makes sense.

In today’s radically changing economy; a business plan developed six months ago may not contain the correct contingencies and if not revisited often– could be mostly worthless. For example, changes in financing, payment plans, product lines, personnel, marketing… must be factored into the plan and regularly revisited, and when necessary, modified. Sometimes these modifications are not just simple ‘tweaks’, but major paradigm shifts… Mind mapping and other forms of visual communication helps people ‘get it’, quicker and more effectively…

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In the article Mind Mapping Makes Marketing More Meaningful by Cliff Allen writes: Success in any area depends on having a clear, sound plan and then acting on that plan. Mind mapping is a process of starting with a central concept and graphically adding links to greater and greater details. Most mind maps are drawn around a central concept, but mind maps are drawn in lots of ways, such as; a traditional organization chart.

Basically, a mind map is visual way to show a hierarchy… However, it turns out that with graphical mind maps you can more easily see– both, the high level view plus the details and their relationships– much better than with a linear outline. Of course, some times the linear prioritized nature of an outline is more effective… but in marketing so many programs affect other programs that the multi-dimensional approach of mind maps works very well.

Mind mapping is more than a way to draw charts, it’s used to capture ideas and concepts as they are discovered, and show their relationships. The actual mind map drawing is just a way to visually express thoughts and make them more meaningful. For example, in some organizations managers and team leaders use mind mapping for creating a common way of communicating the status of– projects, plans, performance… Mind mapping is especially useful in marketing where:

  • Marketing strategy is based on how multiple groups of customers think and feel about products.
  • Marketing has become increasingly complex as the number of communications and sales channels has increased.

These challenges have made it difficult to connect a set of marketing strategies with day-to-day marketing programs. At the same time, potential customers are being influenced by these multiple marketing channels. This means that marketers need to take advantage of the marketing leverage that an integrated marketing program can provide. It’s too easy to become focused on a few tactical marketing activities and miss other opportunities so as to influence potential customers.

One technique to keep a strategic view of a company’s marketing it to create a graphical mind map that shows: How marketing strategy guides all tactical marketing programs? How all marketing programs reinforce each other? The immediate benefit of using a strategic marketing mind map is that every manager knows how their team fits into the overall strategy– and what they need to do to support that marketing strategy. In other words, everyone understands how the marketing strategy is related to their individual marketing tactics…

Mind mapping is a strategic tool for catalyzing creative and expansive conversations while keeping the conversations grounded in the reality of the situation. By literally mapping out the details of your– technology, marketplace, strategy… you and your team have the opportunity to step back– see things better, see things more clearly, see the big picture, see things together, see things differently…

A good strategic map and the process of bringing people together in constructive dialog can help your team grapple with the complex and difficult issues… Navigating the future without a good map can be difficult and dangerous, i.e., difficult to see where you are, and if you are on the right track to reach your goal… A good map can help reveal your strategic reality and thus position you to create the future you want. A good map can generate understanding and insight, agreement, action…

The mind mapping concept is very flexible, and it can be used in a wide range of settings, including; creative thinking, writing, strategic planning, group brainstorming, life management, goal setting, training, education, business process mapping, event planning, research, SWOT analysis… and, the biggest benefits that people cite are; clarity of thinking, managing information overload, improved productivity and being better organized…

According to Alicia McWilliams; the mind mapping process is actually an advanced method of illustrating a vast variety of specific words; unusual tasks, concepts and ideas, which are effectively connected to and radically arranged around one chief idea…

Mind mapping represents a powerful and vivid method of comprehension which provides a general key towards unlocking the skills which are often hidden within the framework of the human mind. Mind mapping is a technique that can be practiced in all facet of one’s life, where enhanced learning and a more creative method of thinking would tend to improve understanding and performance…

Winners–Losers: It’s All About Having Real Grit, Superior Passion vs. Just Let It Happen– Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better…

Winners–Losers: Passion and perseverance may be more important to success (i.e., winners), than mere talent. In a world of instant gratification, ‘grit’ may yield the biggest payoff of all. Grit is defined as ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals’, and it may  be at least as good a gauge of future success as talent itself…

According to Angela Duckworth; individuals that are deemed winners (i.e., more successful), typically possess traits that are above normal ‘ability’ but more important, they also possess– ‘zeal and persistence’ of motive and effort; or, in other words, high in ‘grit’. Grit is conceptualized as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback. Individuals high in ‘grit’ are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to ‘stay the course’ amid challenges and set-backs.

Essentially, the ‘grittier’ person is focused on winning the marathon, not the sprint… Winning is important– that’s why we compete– When we play, we play to win… According to Ned Hardy; the difference between winners and losers are:

  • Winner is always part of the answer; Loser is always part of the problem.
  • Winner always has a program; Loser always has an excuse.
  • Winner says; Let me do it for you; Loser says; That is not my job.
  • Winner sees an answer for every problem; Loser sees a problem for every answer.
  • Winner says; It may be difficult but it is possible; Loser says, It may be possible but it is too difficult.
  • Winner makes commitments; A Loser makes promises.
  • Winners have dreams; Losers have schemes.
  • Winners say; I must do something; Losers say; Something must be done.
  • Winners are a part of the team; Losers are apart from the team.
  • Winners see the gain; Losers see the pain.
  • Winners see possibilities; Losers see problems.
  • Winners believe in win-win; Losers believe for them to win someone has to lose.
  • Winners see the potential; Losers see the past.
  • Winners are like a thermostat; Losers are like thermometers.
  • Winners choose what they say; Losers say what they choose.
  • Winners use hard arguments but soft words; Losers use soft arguments but hard words.
  • Winners stand firm on values but compromise on petty things; Losers stand firm on petty things but compromise on values.
  • Winners follow the philosophy of empathy: Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you; Losers follow the philosophy: Do it to others before they do it to you.
  • Winners make it happen; Losers let it happen.
  • Winners plan and prepare to win. The key word is preparation.

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In the article Winning Is a Losing Concept by Wim Rampen writes: Winning in sports is easy… that is, it’s an easy concept… Winning in business is not… The concept of winning requires someone else to lose… Not a problem in sports, it’s a game. Losing is not a concept that works well in business though. Even negotiation works best if the outcome is beneficial for both parties to the table…

Winning in business should be about creating nothing but winners, because even if both you and your competitors grow, this means that you are growing the total ‘pie’ (i.e., market)… And growth of the market means customers are winning as well… Winning in business is not about outperforming the competition. Winning in business is about co-creating superior value with stakeholders, and for all stakeholders. It’s about building an ecosystem that is so unique, it becomes a market, or category, in itself. Being a winner in business is all about finding your spot in the ecosystem, where you can best help others be winners too…

In the article Winning–Losing: Out-Played or Out-Talented by Wayne GoldSmith writes: In high performance sports you have a relatively simple equation to evaluate performance – you either win or lose. When you lose, it is natural to look for the reasons ‘why’.  A critical aspect in understanding the ‘losing process’ is to find the answer to the following question: Were you outplayed or out-talented? What does it mean to be out-played? Being outplayed means– your opponent planned and prepared better than you did. Being out-talented means– you were beaten by someone who possessed a superior talent… What’s the difference?

The difference between being ‘out-talented and out-played’ is that being out-played is totally your own fault and you had complete control and responsibility over your own preparation. The most important principle in any competition is that you must out-prepare… excuses do not count… blame does not improve performance. It’s pointless blaming losing on having ‘less talent’ than your opposition, unless you know with absolute certainty that you have prepared better in every other aspect than the competition…

In the book ‘Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing’ by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman write: We examined the science of winning and losing, and why a lucky few are top dogs and the rest of us aren’t. When the stakes are high, when it’s all on the line, some people rise to the occasion, others don’t…

Forget about the power of positive thinking. When it comes to competing you need focus, intensity, and readiness to face expected obstacles and adversity. A bit of insecurity and self-doubt motivates you to try harder. Instead, positive thinking makes you mellow and takes success for granted without being aware of the needed effort to actually succeed…

Many studies have confirmed that positive thinking is not associated with superior performance: What matters is not ‘positive vs. negative thinking’, its ‘additive vs. subtractive thinking’… Additive thinking is reviewing your performance and uncovering opportunities for improvement. Subtractive thinking is regretting you did not do this or that without thinking of the necessary skill improvement needed to move forward…

Teamwork is way overrated, and people underestimate how much time is wasted in teamwork… A conflict free team means no one is bringing anything to the table that might engender controversy; and from a performance standpoint, that’s bad… How one interprets stress is a key… Stress can also be interpreted as a challenge associated with a gain-oriented mode (i.e., seeking opportunities, risk taking, maximizing gains…); playing not to lose vs. playing to win…

In the article Winners and Losers by Gary Lockwood writes:  We frequently hear people being labeled as winners or losers. We seem to instinctively know the difference. In this article, we explore the essence of character that distinguishes the winners from the losers. She’s a winner! He’s a real loser. We frequently hear people labeled as winners or losers. We seem to instinctively know the difference.

Many years ago, I read a poem that discusses the difference between winners and losers. I don’t know who wrote it, but I tip my hat to her/him, because the poem captures the essence of character that distinguishes winners from losers. I’ll share it with you now– with my thoughts:

  BE A WINNER! Right here in the title is an acknowledgment of what most people want: To be a winner, and to feel like a winner. With all the talk of win-win thinking, we still want to be a winner and to enjoy the positive emotions that accompany being a winner.

Winners make commitments. Losers make promises: While some people do treat their promises as commitments, many make empty promises knowing that they may not actually perform. The meaning of this stanza is clear: When winners make a commitment, they see it through to completion. You can count on a winner to come through.

Winners go through a problem. Losers go around it, never get past it: This little-known secret of winners is powerful. When encountering a problem, don’t just work around it this one time. Solve the problem then keep going to solve the source of the problem. Fix it for good, not just for now.

Winners say: Let’s find out. Losers say: Nobody knows: An insatiable curiosity allows winners to explore the source of opportunities as well as the source of problems. This makes it more likely that the winner will develop even more opportunities while solving the source of recurring problems. It also turns out that genuine curiosity about other people is one of the secrets to increasing sales, improving customer service and strengthening relationships.

Winners always have a plan. Losers always have an excuse: Have you noticed that successful people seem to know where they’re going and what they want? It’s no coincidence that winners have a plan. The process of thinking through the issue of what’s important, allows the winners to keep a clear vision of the future and outline a path to get there. They routinely examine their mission by asking: Where am I going with this? How will I accomplish my goals?

Winners say: There’s a better way. Losers say: It’s the way it’s always been done: Continuous  improvement is one of the hallmarks of successful people. Their motto is: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing better. Losers just keep on doing the same old things yet they expect different results.

Winners are always involved in the answer. Losers are always part of the problem: Winners are not whiners. Instead of complaining about a problem (or just sitting there being part of the problem), winners jump in looking for a solution. No blame, no pointing fingers, no belly-aching. Just fix it and move on.

Winners know there is still much to learn. Losers want to be considered an expert before knowing how little is known: We’ve all encountered people who want to be ‘the expert’, even though their expertise is out-of-date, incomplete, or overestimated. Winners understand that knowledge has a short shelf-life. Winners also appreciate that, to be valuable to clients, they must constantly explore the limits of their knowledge.

Winners learn from their mistakes. Losers learn only not to make mistakes by not trying anything different:
 Winners are opportunistic about learning from daily experiences. All of us have hundreds of experiences each day that could be valuable learning opportunities. Losers ignore them and surf the shallow surface of their knowledge. Winners understand that learning in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing environment can’t be left to chance. Successful people make a conscious effort to actively seek new ideas, innovation and growth.

There you have it. To me, the poem addresses the fundamental qualities of being a winner. It captures the spirit of open-mindedness, strength, and compassion that makes winners and winning attractive… Be a winner!

Changing Nature of Leadership– Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Shifting Perspectives on Leadership…

Leadership: What is it? What an obvious question! It may be interesting to note; that there is absolutely no consensus, among the experts, on the definition of ‘leadership’– despite how much it has been studied and written about.

According to Warren Bennis, in his book ‘Leaders (1997)’ writes; academic analysis has given us more than 850 definitions of leadership. I think it’s fair to say that defining leadership will be studied and debated for a long time to come, and it’s likely that we will never all agree on the ‘best’ definition…

However, most attempts to define leadership emphasize different aspects of leadership or leadership characteristics or reflect the originator’s leadership values. For example, dictionaries write; leadership is the ability to lead…

Wikipedia writes; leadership is a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task…

According to Akhil Shahani; leadership is the process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective… All these and many other definitions are interesting because they contain two essential elements of leadership, i.e.; the ‘people elements’ and the ‘task elements’ (related to objectives), and every successful leader must work with both of these elements.

Also, most leadership definitions involve a ‘common task’ or ‘objective’ that suggest the end goal is already known, and clearly defined… However, in reality, leadership doesn’t always have the luxury of such clarity… Some experts think of leaders as providing direction (‘dream’ or ‘vision’), which may then be crystallized into common goals and objectives...

According to Peter Maxwell; leadership is influence– nothing more, nothing less… Then, Thomas Carlyle talks about; the ‘great man’ theory of leadership, which is based on the belief that leaders are born and not made… but Herbert Spencer countered the ‘great man’ theory of leadership and says; leaders are result of the society in which they live… Then, according to Peter G. Northous; leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal… which may be the best definition of the lot…

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In the article What Is A Leader by F. John Reh writes: A leader is a person who has vision, drive and commitment to achieve that vision, and the skills to make it happen. Leaders ‘dream’ dreams. They refuse to let anyone or anything get in the way of achieving those dreams.

They are realistic, but unrelenting. They are polite, but insistent. The constantly and consistently drive forward toward their goal. You can be a leader– and you will be– when the cause matters enough to you… the ‘Bass Theory’ of leadership states; there are three basic ways to explain how people become leaders:

  • Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles. This is the ‘Trait Theory’.
  • A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person. This is the ‘Great Events Theory’.
  • People can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills. This is the ‘Transformational or Process Leadership Theory’. It’s the most widely accepted theory today…

In the article The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership–John Maxwell by Phil Campbell writes: Although most people are not born leaders, we all have the capacity to improve our leadership abilities. If we continually invest in our leadership development, letting our ‘assets’ compound, the inevitable result is growth over time. Maxwell is a champion of continual growth and his ‘21 Irrefutable Laws of

Leadership’ is collection of what he identified as absolute qualities of effective leadership. By breaking down the individual qualities (laws), Maxwell encourages readers to assess their own leadership strengths and weaknesses. Here is a brief overview of John Maxwell’s ‘Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’ and how they can help you become a more effective and influential leader.

  1. Law of the Lid: Leadership is like a ‘lid’ or a ceiling on an organisation– it will not rise beyond the level your leadership allows. That’s why when a corporation or team needs to be fixed, they fire the leader.
  2. Law of Influence: Leadership is simply about influencing people. Nothing more, nothing less. The true test of a leader is to ask him to create positive change in an organisation. If you cannot create change, you cannot lead. Being a leader is not about being first, or being an entrepreneur, or being the most knowledgeable, or being a manager. Being a leader is not just holding a leadership position. (It’s not the position that makes a leader, but the leader who makes a position.) The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate. (He who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk.)
  3. Law of Process: Leadership is learned over time. And, it can be learned. People skills, emotional strength, vision, momentum, and timing are all areas that can and should be learned. Leaders are always learners.
  4. Law of Navigation: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course. Vision is defined as the ability to see the whole trip before leaving the dock. A leader will also see obstacles before others do. A leader sees more, sees farther, and sees before others. A navigator (leader) listens – he finds out about grassroots level reactions. Navigators balance optimism with realism. Preparation is the key to good navigation. It’s not the size of the project, it’s the size of the leader that counts.
  5. Law of E.F. Hutton: Hutton was America’s most influential stock market analyst. When he spoke, everyone listened. When ‘real’ leaders speak, people automatically listen. Conversely, you can identify the real leaders by looking for those who people listen to… Factors involved in being accepted as a new real leader include character, building key relationships, information, intuition, experience, past success and ability.
  6. Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the foundation for all effective leadership. When it comes to leadership, there are no shortcuts. Building trust requires competence, connection and character.
  7. Law of Respect: People naturally follow people stronger than themselves. Even natural leaders tend to fall in behind those who they sense have a higher ‘leadership quotient’ than themselves.
  8. Law of Intuition: Leaders evaluate everything with leadership bias. Leaders see trends, resources and problems, and can read people.
  9. Law of Magnetism: Leaders attract people like themselves. Who you are is who you attract. (Mmm… I thought ‘like poles’ were meant to repel!) Handy hint: ‘Staff’ your weaknesses. If you only attract followers, your organisation will be weak. Work to attract leaders rather than followers, if you want to build a truly strong organisation.
  10. Law of Connection: You must touch the heart before you ask people to follow. Communicate on the level of emotion first to make a personal connection.
  11. Law of the Inner Circle: A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. The leader finds greatness in the group, and helps the members find it in themselves.
  12. Law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give power to others. Mark Twain said; great things can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit. Another point to ponder… Great leaders gain authority by giving it away.
  13. Law of Reproduction: It takes a leader to raise up a leader. Followers can’t do it, and neither can institutional programs– It takes one to know one, to show one, to grow one. The potential of an organisation depends on the growth of its leadership.
  14. Law of Buy-In: People buy-in to the leader first, then the vision. If they don’t like the leader but like the vision, they get a new leader. If they don’t like the leader or the vision, they get a new leader. If they don’t like the vision but like the leader, they get a new vision.
  15. Law of Victory: Leaders find a way for the team to win. You can’t win ‘without’ good athletes, but you ‘can’ lose with them. Unity of vision, diversity of skills plus a leader is needed for a win.
  16. Law of Momentum: You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving forward. It takes a leader to create forward motion.
  17. Law of Priorities: Activity is not necessarily accomplishment. We need to learn the difference. A leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells ‘wrong jungle’! If you are a leader, you must learn the three ‘Rs’;  a.) What’s Required?  b.) What gives the greatest Return? c.) What brings the greatest Reward?
  18. Law of Sacrifice: A leader must give-up to go-up. Successful leaders must maintain an attitude of sacrifice to turn around an organisation. One sacrifice seldom brings success. When you become a leader, you lose the right to think about yourself.
  19. Law of Timing: When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go. Only the right action at the right time will bring success.
  20. Law of Explosive Growth: To add growth, lead followers. To multiply growth, lead leaders. It’s my job to build the people who are going to build the company.
  21. Law of Legacy: A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. Leadership is the one thing you can’t delegate. You either exercise it – or abdicate it.

Leadership is not just a title; it’s not just a few moments of standing in front of the crowd. Leadership is the iceberg deep below the water. It can be cold and lonely at times, and it’s often mislabeled, mistaken, and overlooked until after the fact. Great leaders don’t have to carry big titles or have letters after their name. Great leaders have the depth of character and willingness to do what’s necessary before and after everyone is watching…

According to Gabe; don’t ever underestimate the power of your personal influence on a team. You might not consider yourself a leader, but the fact is that we all lead in one way or another. We either lead poorly or effectively: The choice is ours.  Leadership will always be the difference maker for your ideas, for your business…

According to John Maxwell; everything rises and falls on leadership, but knowing how to lead is only half the battle. Understanding leadership and actually leading are two different activities… the key to transforming yourself from someone who understands leadership to a person who successfully leads in the real world is ‘character’. Your character qualities activate and empower your leadership ability, or they can stand in the way of your success! Several key attributes to being a good leader, include:

  • Charisma: First Impression Can Seal the Deal.
  • Courage: One Person With Courage Is a Majority.
  • Problem Solving: You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem.
  • Teach-ability: To Keep Leading, Keep Learning.
  • Vision: You can Seize Only What You Can See.

Micropayment Model for Monetizing Small-Microtransactions: Behavioral Shifts are Reigniting the Micropayment Option…

Micropayment is an online financial system that processes very small sum of money; some say less than one U.S. dollar, others say less than five U.S. dollars… but, exact definition depends on the business case and target group.

According to experts, key micropayment drivers, include; monetization of digital content, small online purchases, and emergence of new business models… However, one slightly cynical provider has commented– that the true meaning of micropayment is any transaction whose value is currently too small to be worth bothering with– about one U.S. dollar…

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One important issue that has prevented the successful emergence of micropayment systems is the need to keep processing costs very low for individual transactions. This is difficult when processing transactions that are very small sums of money; even if the fee is just a few cents.

According to ‘Peppercoin and Ipsos-Insight’; more than 10 million consumers said that they had purchased digital content for less than $2 in the past year… While digital music is the item most likely purchased, other items, such as; articles, games, ringtones… are also frequently purchased. However, the micropayment is still messy-fragmented– bit like early days of the Internet itself– and it still lacks a universal solution, i.e.; low-cost, high-speed, secure, flexible… 

One trend recognized by many people– that play games on smartphones is a shift among developers to micropayment as an alternative to traditional subscription-based payment, that is; providing the basic game for free, but requiring some features to be paid for with micro-currency, which is ultimately fed by real-life payments. For example, you might download a racing game at cost, but accessing better cars and extra tracks costs in-game money, which are purchased one-click at a time, without a credit card. With this model, the player can scarcely resist the upgrade purchases: Developers now have monetized the game.

According to ‘Frost & Sullivan’; growth of micropayment is driven by usage of mobile payment solutions… and, cloud-based mobile payment  is also expected to contribute to the expansion of micropayment. Although, traditionally, micropayment is the processing of very sums of money, e.g., less than $1.0… and, since micropayment is without any industry ‘standards’; some companies are redefining micropayment to suit their systems, for example; ‘PayPal’ defines micropayment as payment that are less than $12.00, and they charge a lower fee for these transactions.

Also, Facebook has ventured into the micropayment realm, using PayPal’s micropayment service for Facebook Credits. Facebook Credits are a form of virtual currency that consumers pay up-front for. The credits can be spent in apps on Facebook. Apple also uses a form of micropayment for purchase of its songs. But, Apple’s model is slightly different from the intended use of micropayment: Apple aggregates a user’s song purchases to one credit card transaction and allows users to prepay by putting credit on their account, and that seems to be the prevailing micropayment scheme…

In the article Google Rebooting Content Micropayment Initiative by Robert Andrews writes: Consumers may not buy all kinds of web content, but Google is now courting publishers who want to charge for rebooted version of its micropayment  system. Google is now going ahead with full version of its content micropayment platform under the Google Wallet moniker.

According to Pali Bhat; Google Wallet will support content payments typically ranging between $0.25 and $0.99, with content obfuscated after an opening preview and a 30-minute ‘instant refund’ for unhappy users. This development marks the arrival of a big beast in to a micropayment facilitation space populated by several smaller vendors like ZnakIt, but also bigger providers like PayPal, whose own digital content platform has been gathering pace. Google’s system works like similar rivals, for example, Cleeng, redacting  article text in what Google is calling a ‘rich preview’ and ‘rich obfuscated content’. In the same way, images that must be paid for can also be pixelated.

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Payment must be made before readers can see the whole article. The Google Wallet overlay enables swift (dare I say ‘frictionless’?) payment for users who already have card registered in Google Wallet account: It’s all rather quick. But, will any of it work?

According to Google: Users love free content, and so we expect that advertising will remain most effective monetization model for most content on the web. However, we know that there is more great content that creators could bring to the web if they had an effective way to sell individual articles that users can find with search. Google has been making good advances with Google Wallet for digital goods this year, introducing in-app payments and recurring subscriptions, plus payments for games…

In the article Death of Micropayment by Elizabeth Millard writes: Will the concept of micropayment fade into the footnotes of e-commerce history, or will this business model find new success? Despite the number of failed companies in this sector, advocates of the micropayment model still believe it can work. During the boom, they say, the concept was ahead of its time…

Today, among the micropayment firms are working hard to spiff up the industry’s image, challenges remain. However, according to Clay Shirky; it’s possible that the micropayment business model is too flawed to work. Everybody who imagines doing micropayment is basically thinking about forcing users to pay a little here and a little there… Literally, they’re nickel and diming them. He noted that the idea of this model is intriguing enough to stay alive, despite past failures and current problems.

To become profitable, a site must elicit large volumes of transactions, which is very difficult, even for established e-businesses. Even online porn industry, which has tried on several occasions to adopt a micropayment strategy akin to the 25-cent peep-show booths in the offline world: They can’t make it work online… And, those guys are the e-commerce geniuses, so if they can’t do it, who can?

However, despite rough road of the past and current potholes, micropayment companies still believe sunny days lie ahead. According to Kurt Huang; I think future is very bright… The music industry is doing us a great favor in validating the price point, and indeed, micropayment companies are carefully watching the pay-per-song battles currently being waged heatedly among Apple’s iTunes Music Store and its competitors. It is possible that similar conflicts will arise in the video game, publishing, movie… industries.

Going forward, the market is poised to leverage the technology, more so than back when the technology was first introduced. Before, the timing wasn’t right, but it is now…

micropay thCAM0U1W5In the article Micropayment Promising or Penny-Ante by Steve Smith writes: Online micropayment is an idea that just won’t die…nor will it quite come to life. Attractive as it may sound to consumers and some publishers, the idea of spending $2.0 – $3.0 here or there for a song, an article, or a day of access to a site remains in a zombie-like state. Despite increased interest in the model and no shortage of firms with payment solutions users just aren’t buying in…

Ultimately, it comes down to consumer behavior, and there are no signs that has substantially changed. Sure, millions of people are buying 99-cent songs at iTunes, but according to Apple, most are buying them in larger album packages rather than nickel-and-dime purchases. People do not buy content same way they do candy.

Some of the micropayment solutions themselves admit that the early customers are not loading more money into their accounts than they expect to spend on initial buys, which suggests that a significant barrier for this model remains. Without a big enough network of partnered content sites, consumers don’t buy into the network and spend across multiple partners.

And without this kind of consumer support, no one company can break through to be ubiquitous in the market and attract the major content publishers… No doubt the large companies are being sensible by sitting back and waiting for the category to shake out, but unless a major content venue steps-up to let itself and its customers experiment with these micropayment networks, the category may not shake-out so much, and stay zombie-fied waiting for the right voodoo.

Trust in business is a necessary condition for consumer to buy anything. That’s why companies need to ensure that all their processes, and especially their payment systems are trustworthy and secure. Increased security will attract more customers and improve business overall. However, high levels of security bring high costs.

Companies must weigh benefits and costs associated with different levels of security. For example, the amount of money a company may pay for security could be more than the amount lost to fraud. Also, the cost of clearing and settling a payment is approximately 20-cents, which is prohibitive for any purchase of one dollar or less… that is a key-difficult hurdle for micropayment to overcome…

According to Adam Thierer; there continues to be a debate about what counts as a micropayment, but the fact that so many more people are paying just a couple of bucks or less for content in mobile-app stores suggests that its only going to be easier for people to pay even smaller sums for content in coming years… We’re not nearly as reluctant today to surf away when something says 99-cents on our screen, and increasingly we’re hitting the ‘buy’ button…

The really interesting question is to what extent we can expect micropayment to grow and become more widely utilized for other types of content. Some people in the ‘news’ business are hopeful that micropayment can help monetize news content… However, most are skeptical that micropayment is going to ‘save the news’, since funding ‘news’ is really expensive and micropayment alone will not cover the cost…

But perhaps there are options, for example; micropayment could become a part of an array of new business payment models that media could tap into in an effort to reinvent themselves, and thrive going forward.

For example, subscriptions, advertising, micropayment… working together could all be part of the answer. However, we are still tinkering with the micropayment model, and many people have grown at least a tad bit more optimistic that micropayment can at least be considered part of the conversation, again…

Corporate Spin-Offs–Bloomberg Spin-Offs Index: Valued–Parts Greater Than Whole… Focus on Core, Hunt for Value-Growth…

Spin-offs: Merger-mania and bigger-is-better management mentality largely ruled the business world, but there are exceptions: Spin-offs. These provide an alternate path to prosperity, if the organization can weather the storms of such a radical change.

Among the keys for spin-off success are supportive management and flexible employees… Not all spin-offs work, but they do create more transparency-clarity about the parent company, and the spin-off entity, itself… and that benefits all stakeholders… Breaking up may be hard to do, but sometimes it’s necessary.

spin-off1 110627a301(1)In the corporate world, bigger is not always better… splitting-off parts (i.e, division, subsidiary..) of companies and establish them as separate independent companies is becoming a popular strategy for improving overall company value and growth… The basic rationale behind spin-offs is simply; the company parts are greater in value than the whole company…

However, there are real and strategic reasons for implementing a corporate spin-off strategy, for example; focus on core activities, deconsolidate, unlock shareholder value, grow faster, grow in new dimensions, greater value as separate entity, incompatible with overall branding strategy, regulatory reason, structure for merger, tax advantages…

Spin-offs are common corporate maneuvers and according to an analysis of ‘Bloomberg Spin-Off Index’ (the Index is made-up of stocks that were spun-off from top U.S. companies within the past three years)– spin-offs outperformed the S&P 500 by 233% from 2003 through 2012, and the Index has gained 39.7% this year, topping the S&P 500’s gain of 11.1%.

According to ‘Spin-Off Advisors’; there have been nine spin-offs completed, so far in 2013, putting it on pace to be the busiest year for such deals in a while… A strong year for spin-offs would reverse a rocky stretch for these type deals… as companies, instead, focused on cost cutting as a way to improve returns. Last year’s total of 37 spin-offs was down from 47 in 2011; though up from just 20 in each 2010 and 2009… Spun-off companies tend to be more focus and management has greater incentive to perform well, than when the company was a divisions of larger entities…

Typically, spin-offs are better capitalized and have more freedom to reinvest in the business. Although tax rules have permitted spin-offs since mid-1950s, spin-offs deals did not occur with much frequency or within major corporations until the 1980s, when the trend was ushered in by spin-offs of seven regional Bell companies by AT&T in 1982-1983.

According to David Sadtler; the number and value of corporate spin-offs has escalated since 1980s, for example; spin-offs accounted for less than 10% of U.S. divestitures in the 1980s, and then accounted for almost 50% by the late 1990s; this trend is continues to grow, even in current market environment.

According to Warren Batts; many spin-offs are run a lot better as independent companies than as wards of huge corporations… you attract far better managers to spin-offs than divisions of large companies… What makes spin-offs worth exploring is that those that succeed provide some of the most spectacular payoffs-paybacks around…

In the article Spin-offs, a Chance to Jettison Liabilities by Steven M. Davidoff writes:  A spin-off is a product of Wall Street math that says one plus one can equal three. Yet as shareholders may find out, it can also be all about subtraction, as a company ditches an unwanted business…

The business argument for a spin-off is typically that a separation of the assets allows both the parent company and the newly independent spin-off company to be better run, freeing management to take bolder steps with the new company. And since Wall Street is a place where magic works, the market will recognize this, giving each of the separated companies a higher valuation; and there is evidence of this effect.

Studies of spin-offs have found that they produce short-term gains, although in many cases these gains evaporate over the long-term… Spin-offs, not surprisingly, are big business these days on Wall Street. Last year, there were 85 spin-offs worldwide worth $109 billion, according to Dealogic, down just a bit from 93 spin-offs worth $128 billion in 2011.

However, spin-offs have a dark side, as they can serve as a convenient dumping ground, where liabilities can be freely attached to the company being spun-off: This is often management’s best opportunity to burnish its own company at another’s expense– it’s hard to resist…

A spin-off may be a good move for some companies and its management; saving them the trouble of having to turn around the business. However, the real question is– whether it’s just a way for a company to take out the trash and leave yet another wounded spin-off to struggle in the market. This may satisfy the Wall Street magicians, but how does it actually create value?

In the article Simple Anomaly That’s Been Crushing The Market For Decades by Eric Falkenstein writes: The straightforward strategy of buying companies that have recently been spun-off from their parent has generated very good results.  Here’s the performance of the ‘Bloomberg Spin-Off Index’ (BNSPIN Index) since 2003. As you can see, it’s pretty good, 15% annualized return vs. 6% for the S&P500 over that period. Volatility was higher but not extremely so (20% vs. 15%), while the beta was pretty close to 1.0.

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Is this a crazy recent phenomenon? ‘No’. In 2003 ‘McConnell and Ovtchinikov’ looked at 311 spin-offs undertaken by 267 parent companies between January 1965 and December 2000. And, on average, subsidiaries outperformed their benchmark companies by over 20% over the first three years following the spin-offs, with most of the excess returns within the first 12 months of trading.

They found the parent company outperformed as well, but not by a robust amount… I don’t think there’s a rational explanation for this. I remember at Moody when they just spun-off from Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B), it was really liberating. For years D&B had used the considerable Moody’s cash flow to fund their dumb ideas to extend D&B, which really ran the executive board, while Moody’s made all the money.

It was classic waste of shareholder money, and when the spin-off finally happened in 2000, Moody (MCO) stopped burning its cash and investors reaped the windfall (32% return, annualized, from 2000-present). It’s amazing how much money is wasted via such politics, but it’s a classic case of bad incentives and difficult monitoring…

It makes one wonder about the value potential in Citi (C). If someone could force it to spin-off itself into pieces, most everyone with defensible interests will be pleased. Letting $120 billion company under perform is really painful to behold. The only people such behemoths serve now are a select group of executives, politicians, but not shareholders, consumers, or 99.99% of Citi employees…

In the article Art of the Spin-off  by ‘The Economist’ writes: In the entertainment world spin-offs are the offspring of hit shows. You take popular characters and give them their own programs or mature franchises and give them a new twist… In business, spin-offs are the offspring of established companies– take a division and turn it into a free-standing firm…

According to Forbes; U.S. companies completed more than 80 spin-offs and valued at least $500m each between 2002 and 2012. The parent companies (or ‘spinners’) have delivered a return of 35%, compared with 22% for the S&P 500. The ‘spun’ have delivered a return of 70%. Returns for firms in the ‘Bloomberg Spin-Off Index’ were 47% over the past 12 months compared with 16% for the S&P 500…

However, managing spin-offs is tricky, for example; companies can appear to be tossing out ‘trash’ and keeping ‘cash’… and, they can damage long-standing relations with employees, investors, and suppliers… Both spinners and spun are odd hybrids; parent company with long a history and a new spin-off company– that share close ties with each other…

But, veterans of the various splits are justly proud: Managers boast that they were engaged in strategic corporate regeneration, not just rebranding… In many ways creating new companies out of existing ones is harder than creating new companies out of nothing…

Spin-offs are complicated transactions that require a great deal of advance planning. In many cases, an announcement that a parent company is considering a spin-off actually starts a ‘dual-track’ process, i.e., while a company considers and plans for the spin-off, it also remains open from third parties to acquire the business…

Spin-offs come in two forms: voluntary and involuntary. Where voluntary spin-offs, typically, are subsidiaries that are not core business, and not necessarily essential to the parent company, whereas, involuntary spin-offs generally result from a federal or state regulatory agencies’ action…

According to David Sadtler; release of latent company value is the ultimate motivation for spin-offs, and spin-offs, generally, result in increased value because they remove factors that impede the growth of value… In a study, ‘Robert Comment and Gregg Jarrell’ examined many companies involved in spin-offs over a three-year period and discovered that companies that spun-off subsidiaries performed about 7% better than companies that diversified. However, other studies present a different view of spin-off effects.

A ‘Clarus Research Performance Database’ study of spin-offs by the world’s 500 largest companies between 1996-1998 indicated; companies involved in spin-offs tended to under perform the market by 17% after announcement; suggesting that spinning a subsidiary off will not necessarily lead to an increase in value; in and of itself... however, companies that did increase value– they implemented restructuring and refocusing initiatives; in addition to spin-offs…

Spin-offs are transformative, which means both companies (i.e., spinner and spun) must carefully assess their post-deal strategy, as well as, their financial and governance positioning… Numerous academic studies suggest that many spin-offs show significant value appreciation, both on absolute and relative basis.

However, once removed from the parent company, the newly independent spin-offs frequently undergo significant internal-external changes, requiring much planning-adjustment during the crucial periods of uncertainty… Breaking up may be hard to do, but sometimes it’s necessary.

Age of Big Data– Mining for Value to Fuel Growth: Understand-Extract Real Business Value– Key Competitive Differentiator…

Big Data: Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (i.e., 2.5 followed by 18 zeros)— so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few…

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Big Data: We swim in a sea of data… and the sea level is rising rapidly. Tens of millions of connected people, billions of sensors, trillions of transactions work to create unimaginable amounts of information… According to Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie; an equivalent amount of data is generated by people simply going about their lives, creating what the ‘McKinsey Global Institute’ calls ‘digital exhaust’– data given off as byproduct of other activities such as; Internet browsing-searching, smartphone usage…

Human-created information is only part of the story, and a relatively shrinking part, for example; there are machines and implanted sensors in oceans, in the soil, in pallets of products, in gambling casino chips, in pet collars, and countless other places are generating data and sharing it directly with data ‘readers’ and other machines that do not involve human intervention. The projected growth of data from all kinds of sources is staggering– to the point where some worry that in foreseeable future the digital systems of storage and dissemination will not be able to keep-up with the simple act of finding places to keep the data…

According to McKinsey; research finds that data can create significant value for world economy, enhancing productivity and competitiveness of companies and the public sector and creating substantial economic surplus for consumers… However, while enthusiasts see great potential for using Big Data, privacy advocates are worried as more and more data is collected about people– both as they knowingly disclose things in such things as their postings through social media and as they unknowingly share digital details about themselves as they march through life.

Not only do the advocates worry about profiling, they also worry that those who crunch Big Data with algorithms might draw the wrong conclusions; e.g., about who someone is, how one might behave in the future, and how to apply the correlations that emerge in the data analysis… There are also plenty of technical problems. Much of the data being generated now is ‘unstructured’ and sloppily organized. Getting it into shape for analysis is no tiny task….

The Biggest Trends in Business–The Rise of Big Data: Big Data is the vast (and ever-growing) stockpile of information too large for companies to store in-house–let alone analyze. All that data offers potential opportunities for cutting-edge businesses willing to step-up and do the data crunching.

According to IBM; 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are born every day (i.e., enough to fill more than 531 million DVDs), and 90% of the world’s digital information was produced over the last two years. For so long, we’ve focused on human-powered businesses, and now we’re transforming into data-driven organizations that are bringing a level of customer centricity that we’ve never seen before. And, this is just early stage of the info boom.

According to Computer Sciences Corporation; by 2020, the annual data-generation rate will balloon 4,300% to 35 zettabytes of data (i.e., 7.35 trillion DVDs). According to Reuters; venture capital firms invested $2.47 billion in fields around Big Data in 2011, nearly 10% of all money distributed. That’s up from $1.53 billion in 2010 and $1.1 billion in 2009

According to Matt Ocko; Big Data represents a transformation of the entire IT industry, and $300 billion to $500 billion of wealth-creation opportunity for business. 

According to McKinsey Global Institute; the potential value of Big Data, when used creatively and effectively by the U.S. healthcare industry, would be worth more than $300 billion, in that sector alone each year. Currently, healthcare providers throw 90% of that information away… And that’s just one of many market segments that Big Data will revolutionize…

No matter how you look at it– as a consumer, marketer, investor, administrator or inventor– numbers don’t lie. Big Data isn’t just changing business; it’s changing everything…

In the article What Is Big Data and Why Does It Matter? by Margaret Dawson writes: Big Data doesn’t necessarily have to involve huge amounts of data, since it’s more about the quality of information you need to garner from the data and how difficult it’s to process and gain intelligence from it, rather than the pure size. While ‘data mining’ and ‘business intelligence’ are not new, Big Data takes these fields to a new level– dealing with data, ‘structured’ and ‘unstructured’, across multiple sources and applications in a dynamic, and near real-time fashion…

According to Sanjay Sarathy, perhaps most importantly; Big Data uses data as a new source of competitive opportunity and success. While most companies discuss and define Big Data in the context of the 3-V’s (i.e., volume, velocity and variety), another way to think about Big Data is the fact that most of it is; a) unknown, and b) unmanageable to IT organizations.

The relevance of Big Data is significant because– hidden among the daily terabytes (i.e., one trillion bytes) that a single organization can generate are insights that lead to better customer service, improve revenues, and deeper market understanding…

According to David Jonker; first and foremost Big Data is an emerging trend where companies are harnessing their data in order to drive business value. So Big Data is an opportunity; companies are seeing the value in tracking new business indicators that were not possible before. To truly harness Big Data opportunities, enterprises need to rethink how they manage data…

In the article Rise Of Machines–Why Big Data Is Getting Bigger by James Murray writes: Machine data is now the fastest growing element of Big Data and is set to represent 90% of all data. The ability to analyze-derive insight from all this machine data is where the big prize, but up until now its value has been largely ignored by business. This is a major oversight, as the information generated by machines can paint a richer and far more detailed picture of the operational health of an organization than any other measure.

But machine data doesn’t just apply to large IT systems– anytime someone switches on a phone, turns on a laptop, moves a mouse… machine data is generated. Some business are waking up to the value of machine data; integrating it into the Big Data mix to get a fuller, more holistic overview of how their company works. And this goes way beyond traditional notions of ‘business intelligence’, looking in the rear-view mirror of historical data to try to understand what you should do next: This is about ‘operational intelligence’, making decisions based on a constantly updated real-time snapshot of the business.

Machine data is changing the business landscape irrevocably; as Big Data is becoming increasingly pervasive and as technology underpins everything we do. For business worldwide, it opens up the potential to genuinely revolutionize the way they work– the challenge now is to manage and control machine data without becoming overwhelmed by it…

In the article Big Data And How Social Media Uses It by Social Media writes: While social media sites are pretty specific in the data they receive, some sites receive so much data; it takes far more than simple analytical tools to make sense of it all; every mouse click, post, tweet, invoice, and settlement for companies is being recorded

This could include; e-commerce, scientific experiments, environmental research, social data (taking in more than one site), and web activity to name just a few. In addition, these sectors require numerous– checks, matches, filtering… to properly make sense of, especially, since such process deal with both structured (i.e., stats, figures, databases…) and unstructured data (i.e., social media, email, texting…).

The benefits of filtering and making sense of all of this is huge, and when done properly, the data can spot– major trends, improve efficiency, reduce costs, streamline services and ultimately benefit the companies-people it affects. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can solely rely on data to improve your fortunes; you need a viable strategy that uses information/data efficiently…

The promise of Big Data is to help companies innovate beyond– the competitors, reduce costs, grow revenue, circumvent risk– and become more agile. According to Shehan Mashood; the problem is complexities of integrating Big Data into business is about as complex as the data itself…

To truly integrate Big Data into an organization there needs to be a ‘data comes first’ ethos instilled in the company… The key is developing ‘use’ cases that prove the effectiveness of Big Data, as well as; its complete integration into the core of the business…

According to Laura Madsen; the reality is that Big Data has always existed; we just didn’t have a term for it. It was all the data we had that we didn’t know what to do with. Yes, it feels like we are all producing a zettabyte of data every time we breathe, but why should that matter? What’s different now? How do we use Big Data?  The key seems to be that in order to take real advantage of Big Data, you must invest in people and processes associated with the data; big or small… Even before getting started, you must determine the business value associated with the data.

According to Ray Jenkin; Big Data can also equal to big distraction; as with any data analysis, understanding and clarifying your business goals when working with various data stakeholders and development teams is critical. Keep asking if it addresses the core business challenges… Consider what value you can extract from internal data sources and investigate external data you can use to augment and enrich it… Big Data is more than simply a matter of size; it’s an opportunity to make the business more agile, and answer questions that were previously considered beyond reach…

Clearly, the use of technologies to manage and find business value from data is becoming more mainstream. Most businesses are beginning to see that the volumes of data are an operational asset, rather than an anchor; for example, in a study 93% say; that their company has used data analysis to predict and analyze future business activities, across a wide range of functions…

Also, 84% say; using Big Data has helped them make better business decisions… Increasingly, companies are using data for competitive intelligence. Amidst all hype and challenges, companies clearly see real value and unrealized potential in Big Data.

According to Trevor Hastie; Big Data has perils, to be sure– there is increased risk of ‘false discoveries’… The trouble with seeking a meaningful needle in massive haystacks of data is that ‘many bits of straw look like needles’.

Despite caveats, there is no turning back: Data is in the driver’s seat: It’s there, it’s useful, it’s valuable, and it’s even hip…

The Power of Big Idea Thinking: Think Smarter, Faster, Create Value– Driving Imagination Beyond Abstraction…

The Big Idea is the only thing with the ability to attract enough people around a new concept when real change is needed in an organization… ~Winfried Schoepf– Big ideas guide us to put our brain to work… ~Rodrigo Borgia– The big idea is of little importance without effective implementation.. you can have the biggest idea in the world but if you don’t make it personal… the idea will go nowhere...~ Matt Crichton

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A Big Idea is a way of seeing connections, not just another piece of knowledge… A true idea doesn’t end thought, it activates it. It has the power to raise questions and generate learning… That little extra makes the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.

According to Grant Wiggins; a big idea is a way of seeing better and working smarter, not just a vague notion or another piece of knowledge. It is more like a lens for looking; more like a theme than the details of a narrative; more like an active strategy than a specific skill. It is a theory, not a detail. When an idea is ‘big’ it helps us make sense of things, and when an idea is not ‘big’ it merely categorizes a lot of content, e.g., change, relationships, global… certainly these encompass an enormous amount of knowledge and understanding, but these concepts don’t contain much insight or direction beyond their definition…

In short: Think of ‘big’ as ‘powerful’; not a large abstract category. It’s a ‘powerful idea’ vs. ‘mere abstraction’. The ‘idea’ is the easy part, but the real test of visionary leadership is the execution of an idea and its impact on business…

According to Seth Godin; ideas are easy, doing stuff is hard, and the more often you create and share ideas, the better you get at it. The process of manipulating and ultimately spreading ideas improves both the quality and the quantity of what you create… History is littered with inventors who had ‘great’ ideas, but kept them quiet and then poorly executed them. Also, history is lit up with do-ers who took ideas that were floating around in the ether and actually made something happen. In fact, just about every successful venture is based on an unoriginal idea, beautifully executed. So, if you’ve got ideas, let them go…

The big idea can be game-changing, and it means taking risks, bucking trends, and making innovation the priority– and, all while keeping your team fully engaged…

In the article Why Your Business Needs a Big Idea by Carmine Gallo writes: As business focus on simply surviving; what’s lost is the Big Idea. Your business needs a moon shot goal that will fuel its journey for the next decade and inspire your employees, your partners, and you. In my work, I hear plenty of small goals for the next year– but few moon shots, e.g., ‘we hope to avoid layoffs’ is not a moon shot.

Face it: A goal to increase sales by 2% next year isn’t going to inspire your team. Your employees want to know how you’re going to change the world. A big idea has a better chance of becoming relevant if it contains three components when articulated to its intended audience, namely; boldness, specificity, and consistency:

  • A big idea is bold: Great visions inspire: I do believe there is such a thing as dreaming the dream of a grand vision… Great entrepreneurs are focused on today, but the most innovative have a road map of where they will be tomorrow.
  • A big idea is specific: President Kennedy set a deadline to reach the moon, which contributed a lot to its success. An ambiguous idea such as becoming the ‘best-of-breed solution provider’ means very little. It’s not inspiring. Nor does it give employees a specific goal to reach.
  • A big idea is consistent: A big idea that’s not communicated consistently and frequently stands little chance of sparking action in others…

In the article Big Idea by Michael Masterson writes:  You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent a Big Idea. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a Big Idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. Big ideas come from the unconscious: This is true– in art, science, and advertising… But the unconscious has to be well-informed, or the idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then un-hook your rational thought process…

But, how do you recognize the Big Idea: Just ask yourself these five questions: Did it make me gasp when I first saw/heard it? Do I wish I had thought of it myself? Is it unique? Does it fit the strategy to perfection? Could it be used for many years? A big idea is instantly comprehended as; important, exciting, beneficial, and will last for a long time. That is a mouthful, so let’s break it down:

  • Big idea is important: Important to the customer
  • Big idea is exciting: Exciting to the customer
  • Big idea is beneficial: Benefiting to the customer.
  • Big idea leads to an inevitable conclusion: The big idea must be fundamentally simple: Easy to grasp, easy to see how it solves problems or delivers on stated promises…

In the article Big Ideas, Trends, Predictions–2013 by David Mielach writes: Media outlet ‘BusinessNewsDaily’ asked business owners, entrepreneurs, experts… to predict the most popular ‘Big’ trends in 2013. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Companies will focus on being remarkable: Becoming  remarkable has never been as important! It’s more important than ever for business to intensely focus on what it is that they are better at than any other competitor…
  • Crowdfund investing will grow: There is nothing bigger for some business than the ability to raise capital via crowdfunding; crowdfund investing will be an important option for entrepreneurs seeking to tap into new sources of capital to fund their business venture…
  • Mobile video consumption will continue to explode: It will surpass 50% of all mobile traffic. Those looking to develop their mobile presence, without having a mobile video strategy, will lose customers and market share…
  • Use of sensors will grow: Expect to see third-party payers and health care systems moving more aggressively to improve outcomes through the use of technology, such as; electronic monitored packaging, microchips embedded in pills, wearable sensors…
  • Social media will continue its evolution: Social media must have a two-way conversation tool with customers. Using three  important things: Listen before you speak… Understand what customers are saying about you… Develop relevant types of conversations that appeal to customers…
  • Content marketing will grow: Content marketing will rise to be the primary emphasis for brands wishing to increase; awareness, engagement, drive traffic… Move past the infographic fad to an era of truly entertaining and useful content.
  • Mobile shopping gets optimized: It’s now a business necessity for business retailers to provide mobile shoppers with an optimized mobile store that meets their unique shopping needs…
  • Personalization will grow: Technology converges to allow fast, inexpensive and convenient personalization of almost anything… allowing consumers to express themselves and their  individuality in ways never thought possible before…
  • Mobile-centric products will increase: Tech companies are realizing that mobile-centric products are not just an after-thought, but a necessity… we’ll see more technology companies opting for mobile business models. Some may even see the traditional Web as unnecessary.
  • Social media needs to show ROI: KPI (Key Performance Metrics) are most important: Everyone wants to know how  their campaigns are helping contribute to the company’s bottom line. Activity is not enough– its business outcomes that count.
  • Big data injects information science into relationship selling: While many companies leverage internal data to aid their selling efforts, companies will take it to the next level by  combining internal data with external data to make stronger predictions about which customers and prospects are most likely to buy, why, how much…

A Big Idea is formulated in a person’s imagination-mind; and, the human imagination is one of the world’s greatest forces. All of our world’s greatest achievements were once just thoughts-ideas in the mind of a person who dared to dream…

According to Ed Mylett; creative imagination is the first step to action… when we are creatively imagining something, we are actually causing it to come alive. However, deep in our consciousness lies the force of ‘conformity’, i.e., do it as it’s always been done... The person caught in this destructive cycle never does anything– Big or worthwhile… Some say that the opposite of bravery is not cowardice; but ‘conformity’…

According to ‘pakhandipandit’; mediocrity is one of the biggest hurdles… the problem is not that– ‘we aim too high and miss, but we aim too low and hit’… The problem is when we say some thing is– ‘big’, ‘unachievable’, ‘impossible’… we make our minds believe that we our incapable of doing those things, and thus we never do…

Fear of failure is another reason which stops us from thinking Big. When we think about something really ‘worthy and difficult’ to achieve, we quickly come to conclusion that we will ‘fail’… But, this should not be where the story ends, for example; ‘fail is not failure, until you quit’. The reason for not reaching goals is not that we make an attempt for something near-to-impossible and fail, but the reason is we failed because we ‘quit’– without trying it again for the second, third, forth… time.

I am saying that when you dream ‘Big’ you get an internal force which pushes you to make that first small step, which is usually the most difficult one– then, it’s a matter of persistence… The option is clear: Big Idea Thinking means: Be phenomenal or Be forgotten!

Global Innovation Barometer–2013: Unconventional Strategy Unlocks New Drivers for Innovation– Pushing Comfort Zones…

Innovation rules are changing, globally, and companies must reinvent their strategy in order to stay competitive, drive growth and contribute meaningfully to the economy… For innovation to flourish, you must embrace a new innovation paradigm that promotes collaboration between all players– big, small, public, and private– fosters creativity, and emphasizes solutions that meet local needs…

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One-in-three business leaders are concerned over their ability to maintain a competitive edge in a faster paced, more global and resource-constrained environment. There is increasing anxiety over– what, how, when… to innovate as competition accelerates…

Business executives continue to value innovation as a strategic priority; An emerging ‘innovation vertigo’– an uneasiness with the changing dynamics of today’s business landscape and uncertainty over the best path forward– is challenging leaders to think differently about how they can achieve growth.

Many executives, however, seem to be embracing this complexity by exploring new and sometimes unexpected opportunities to innovate… According to Beth Comstock, General Electric (GE); business change has become constant and leaders are responding by betting big on more unconventional approaches to innovation to unlock growth… exploring different markets, partnership structures and business models – all in the pursuit of uncovering new ways to better serve customers... The key points in the ‘Global Innovation Barometer Report, 2013’ are:

  • Protectionist Policies.
  • Business Model Innovation.
  • Collaborative Innovation.
  • Government Policies.
  • Workforce Preparedness.

The Global Innovation Barometer Report, 2013: Now in its third year, the survey is commissioned by General Electric (GE) and conducted by StrategyOne. It includes interviews with more than 3,000 executives in 25 countries and explored the issues of how business leaders around the world view innovation and how those perceptions are influencing business strategies in an increasingly complex and global environment… It examines what factors business believe to be drivers and deterrents of innovation and analyzes specific approaches and policies that enable innovation and drive growth. A top line summary:

  • Protectionist Policies: Many  executives appear torn about how to best respond to the changing business environment. In efforts to mitigate perceived risks to their business and local economies, many are responding by adopting protectionist tendencies; 71% of executives reported that their government should prioritize promotion of domestic innovation rather than imported, while 71% reported that their governments should actually open markets further and promote imported innovation and investment. Paradoxically, there was a 53% overlap between these two opposing views. Executives in Mexico (80%), India (56%) and Brazil (50%) were most likely to advocate both open and closed market policies as a means to better innovation. 
  • Business Model Innovation: While incremental and product innovation have, historically, been main drivers of growth for companies; business model innovation is gaining momentum as a route to success. Innovation of a new business model may offer business a less risky and resource-intense path to better understand and reach customers over traditional methods…
  • Collaboration Innovation: Collaboration between businesses is emerging as a means to surpass competitors and generate revenue, particularly in emerging markets. However, despite the global acknowledgement of the power of partnerships; the lack of effective IP protection, trust, talent poaching– pose important barriers to action…
  • Government Policies: Global business leaders are concerned with policies affecting innovation and calling policymakers to create more stable, supportive policies to help enable better innovation in markets and across borders. Business executives perceive safeguarding the business interests– knowledge, IP, talent, removing policy barriers, over-regulation… as key to allowing innovation to flourish…
  • Workforce Preparation: Talent is consistently identified as a critical concern for innovation leaders across the globe; as the creativity and technical prowess of workforce is seen as key to unlocking innovation potential. Concerns about workforce preparedness (i.e., education…) and access to talent (i.e., cross-border mobility, retention, poaching…) abound, as companies are seeking to match the right job with the right people and line up the right skill sets to meet tomorrow’s economic needs, today…

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In the article Innovation Barometer: How Collaboration Breeds Advantage by Ideas Lab Staff writes: The smaller the world becomes; the greater are the possibilities for growth and collaboration… Those most experienced at partnership are among the most successful: Germany, China, Brazil and Sweden. Where 87% of the more than 3,000 executives, in the survey, were confident that their firms could be more innovative and successful if they collaborated or partnered with other businesses…

The reasons to collaborate are clear: accessing new technologies and new markets: Executives in China (41%), South Africa (38%) and Mexico (37%) expect to report revenue and profit from their partnerships and continued growth…

The biggest dissuaders are lack of confidentiality-intellectual property (IP) (64%), trust (47%) and a fear of having their talent poached (45%)… Talent has been consistently identified as a critical concern for innovation leaders and fears of having trained, skillful and successfully innovative staff leave are a serious deterrent for more innovation and collaboration.

At the same time, 41% of the business leaders surveyed said they believe restrictions on access to foreign talent are increasing and those restrictions negatively impact businesses’ ability to innovate…

In the article Barriers To Innovation, And How To Break Through by Janie Curtis writes: One of the interesting statistics of this study was that over 50% of U.S. executives believe that new innovation models or processes are needed in order to accelerate the rate of introduction of market-changing ideas. However, I would make the observation that innovation processes in many Fortune 500 companies are thorough, but perhaps not exactly inspiring. When it comes to steps within the process and checks and balances that are in place to make sure that sub-standard ideas don’t move forward, there is a great deal of rigor.

However, there is often a lack of rigor around the need to engender a level of inspiration and creativity that would enable members of the innovation team to launch new products, which are more than tweaked facsimiles on what is already on the market. Frequently, the idea-generation part of the process doesn’t go beyond getting a group of smart people in the room with a pad and starting to put ideas up on the wall.

This can work very well for generating those marginal adjustments on the existing category reality, but often does not provide enough fodder for real leaps of imagination. Still another interesting barrier to innovation can be the– oh so popular ‘consumer insight’… don’t think that the person who first invented bottled water, went to the consumer and asked whether they would like their tap water in plastic bottles so that they could pay a dollar or two for the privilege…

Marketers-innovators in medium-to-large companies have come to a point where they don’t dare to trust their own instincts anymore; if the research doesn’t say it is a good idea, it isn’t a good idea. However, experience would indicate that in order to keep the door-open to paradigm changing innovation ideas, you must marry the need of process rigor with the ability to make the occasional leap of faith.

Still another barrier to significant innovation can be a weak brand or positioning strategy. We have all heard how difficult it is these days to come up with an insight that leads to the ownership of a consumer benefit that is truly different from the competition. This seems to have become the case; whether benefits are very direct and rational (e.g., better performance…), or more on the emotional end of the spectrum (e.g., improving quality of people’s lives…).

It has undoubtedly become harder, but luckily– not impossible: If the strategy behind brand represents real market differentiation, and consumer inspiration and relevance… then, the chances of the innovation ideas that emanate from it; will be revolutionary, and increase dramatically…

Efficiency versus Innovation: According to Rowan Gibson; when the economic barometer is pointing upward, all the talk in company boardrooms is about growth, innovation and value creation. When the global economy lingers in the doldrums, corporate strategy shifts inexorably back to the safe haven of operational efficiency.

Now you might argue that this reaction is both inevitable and understandable, and I would accept that at some level. But remember this: something far deeper and more significant than these periodic upswings and downswings is the fact that we are now in a new kind of economic era. An era in which fanatical cost-cutting, downsizing, lean Six-Sigma, mergers-acquisitions, supply chain management, off shoring or outsourcing are no longer the basis for competitive advantage.

Companies all over the world are becoming increasingly worried about their ability to innovate and compete in the fast-changing technology world… However, one person’s alarm can be another one’s opportunity.

Many executives seem to be embracing the new complexity by exploring new and sometimes unexpected ways to innovate. For example, a growing number of respondents, 52%, believe that development of new business models will contribute the most to their company’s future performance. Some 87% were confident that their firm could be more successful at innovating through partnership and collaboration, and 68% of respondents report already having developed or improved a product in partnership with others.

Other companies are moving beyond product and incremental innovation to developing innovative business plans that offer a less risky and resource-intense way to open new markets… It seems that business leaders, globally, are being pushed outside their comfort zones with an uneasiness about the pace of change and confusion over best path forward…

The feel of ‘vertigo’ can go beyond the usual symptoms of light-headedness and dizziness and is possibly far more than a chronic lack of solutions, which begins to creep into their psyche as their worlds are spinning out of their control… the whole economic system is still out of balance, and according to the survey; having ‘innovation vertigo’ may be part of a bigger malaise...

DarkNet– The Internet’s Anonymous Invisible UnderWorld– Lies Hidden Beneath the Surface: Freedom-Anarchy, Good-Evil…

DarkNet is a concealed-anonymous Internet with all the potential for transgressive behavior… it was originally used as an– anonymous, secure marketplaces for illegal content and transactions, and then much later repurposed as a networks for direct communication only between friends (friends-to-friends), trusted associates…  

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DarkNet is an anonymous private virtual network where users only connect to people they trust and who, typically, are engaged in file-sharing… DarkNet terminology has a certain persuasive power, evoking a subterranean world of illicit activity, a sort of criminal underground of the Internet…

According to Ed Felten; although compelling, the DarkNet  concept is misleading; it’s understood as implying that one can draw a fine line between ‘legitimate’ Internet and ‘illegal’ DarkNet; whereas in practice, the same technologies are used to conceal both legal and illegal activity: You can use a safe box to lock up either criminal plans or business data; You can use encryption to conceal either copyright infringement or love letters…

DarkNet is an anonymizing network where connections are made only between trusted peers– sometimes called ‘friends-to-friends’  (F2F)– using non-standard protocols and ports, and it’s distinct from other distributed P2P networks, since sharing is anonymous (i.e., IP addresses are not publicly shared), users can communicate with little fear of governmental, corporate… interference. For this reason, DarkNet is often associated with dissident political communications, illegal activities… More generally, the term DarkNet is used to describe non-commercial sites, underground web communications and technologies and most common– those associated with illegal activity, legal hidden agendas…

DarkNet was originally coined in 1970s for networks that were isolated from ARPANET (government program which evolved into the Internet) for security purposes; DarkNet was able to receive data from ARPANET but had addresses which did not appear in the network lists and would not answer pings or other inquiries. The term has since been widely adopted and has seen usage in major media sources, including; Rolling Stone, Wired...

Recently DarkNet are often discussed in many fields of network security, largely because users who occupy such areas have gone there for various reasons, for example; some publish on DarkNet for fear of political reprisal, while others publish on DarkNet for criminal gain. One trend is use of DarkNet to share media files that are copyrighted. When used to describe a file sharing network, the term is often used as a synonym for ‘friend-to-friend’– both describing networks where direct connections are only established between trusted friends.

DarkNet is also commonly used in a broader sense to describe any network that offers some level of anonymity and or obscurity. These networks usually make it difficult to uncover a user’s activities, identity… DarkNet requires specific  software to be installed for access; for example– popular DarkNet software include; Freenet, GNUnet…

In the article Uncovering the DarkNet by Jack Phillips writes: The DarkNet is considered the ‘wild west’ of the Internet and for decades has been a haven for both cyber-criminals and those seeking refuge from the prying eyes of authorities. As its nebulous sounding name suggests, the DarkNet is the hidden Internet. Little is typically said about it, but the hacker group ‘Anonymous Operations’ inadvertently brought light on the DarkNet by hacking websites under the DarkNet umbrella.

A common analogy used to describe it compares the Internet to an iceberg– with a small tip visible from the surface and with the bulk of its form looming beneath the water. The tip of the iceberg represents the Internet as we know it– accessible through search engines like Google, containing all well-known websites that can be accessed through top-level-domain URL (e.g., .com, .net, .org…). But, the massive chunk of iceberg beneath the surface is compared to the DarkNet. An image representing the ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ Internet is shown as:

darknet 2 DarknetGraphic

While it exaggerates the actual size of the DarkNet’s base of users, it does serve as a decent point of reference in understanding it– signifying the clear divide between the visible Internet and the invisible Internet. It’s used by some of the darker elements of society, from small-time criminals to large organized crime rings, and gives an ‘effective tool’ for communication and hosting…

According to a 2010 report titled ‘Beware the DarkNet’ by Bradford Hutson and Michael Miller say; it’s where the majority of spam and phishing attacks originate… it’s also a vast repository of pirated movies, music, and video games… ‘Anonymity’ within such a network plays a key role and is one of the main reasons why people, criminal or otherwise, get involved– it makes them difficult to track by the authorities. The report states there are– more than 50,000 extremist websites and more than 300 terrorist forums on the DarkNet, with nearly 1 million messages posted… and members of extremist groups can communicate with one another on it without being tracked. 

The DarkNet is not physically separated from networks of the known Internet, but is an application and protocol layer embedded within it, according to the report. This includes; private peer-to-peer networks for file sharing and password sharing, password-protected Usenet groups and bulletin boards, and email groups…. According to Michael K. Bergman; vastness of the ‘deep web’–DarkNet– completely took my breath away… the DarkNet is the fastest growing category of new information on the Internet… The value of DarkNet content is immeasurable…

In the article DarkNet: Explained, Then Done Right  by onessa writes: Think of the DarkNet as the ‘wild west’ of the digital hinder lands, the frontier. The DarkNet is a corner of the Internet where the unwary should not wander… It’s a refuge for many types of individuals and organizations both, honest and dishonest, legal and illegal… Most of the public do not even know that this place exists but those that do– know that it’s both powerful and dangerous. The most important thing to know is that the DarkNet is a very secretive place: The ‘first rule’ of the DarkNet is that you ‘do not’ talk about the DarkNet

However, like many things the DarkNet is a tool and like many other tools– it’s how it gets used by the person holding it that makes it good or evil. Let’s be honest, there’s some really bad stuff out there, and a lot of it originates from the DarkNet. It’s very nature makes it a haven for the evils in the world.

This corner of the web supports everything– from ‘private-communications to private-communities looking for the anonymity’ (which is what the Internet used to represent in the early days) to ‘a refuge for a determined file sharing community’. It’s also a home for outright criminals, and the source of many of the web’s most dastardly attacks on the Internet’s public and private infrastructures.

But let’s not be fooled, the DarkNet is a dueling ground– it’s a ‘cat and mouse’ game– with authorities monitoring-tracking, and the anonymous dwellers hiding in dark corners… It’s difficult to monitor, absolutely, but it’s not impossible either. The old axiom; ‘keep friends close and enemies closer’ is exactly what law enforcement community practices where the DarkNet is concerned…

The beauty of the DarkNet is that there are many corners to hide, so that– you can keep out of way of the unknowing public and stay ahead of the authorities. The DarkNet is a compilation of several app components that can be used– together or separate, depending on the users activities… Like the rest of the Internet and global technology base– the DarkNet is an ever-evolving entity: Today’s tools will be tomorrow’s digital floss...

In the article What is DarkNet? by Rogi Kalomni writes: Think of DarkNet as a separate Internet. To access DarkNet you must have access to the ‘regular’ Internet, then connect to the ‘Tor’ network. ‘Tor’ is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. You can use the ‘Tor’ network to surf the ‘regular’ Internet anonymously, which helps if you live under tyranny. You can also surf ‘Internal Tor’ network– also known as ‘DarkNet’ or ‘Onion’. Any ‘Tor’ connected computer can host a website, and make it available to the rest of the network without revealing its location.

Unlike the ‘regular’ Internet, websites do not list their IP address, but list a name not directly linked to them: ‘Tor’ guarantees that both server and client remain anonymous. It also guarantees that what happens between the server and the client is protected from third parties. On the DarkNet; the client never has access to the real address of the server, and the server never has access to the client’s address. Nodes in between the server and the client have no idea who is talking to whom, nor what is being exchanged, the data is encrypted.

DarkNet has many good sites and information available, such as; political advocacy, whistle-blowing, blogs, essays, forums… Because of the protection offered by the ‘Tor’ network and its hidden services, activists in oppressive regimes are free to exchange ideas and organize themselves. However, there are also a lot of bad things, as well; child porn, sex, drugs, and even contract killers market place… Evil doers benefit from the same protection as good sites; DarkNet is like the early Internet…

Information for beginners is hard to find, most everyone starts with the ‘Hidden Wiki’; a crowd sourced directory of links. The ‘Hidden Wiki’ makes an effort to classify the links listed, so you can minimize your exposure to the bad stuff. However, like the real Internet, the experience relies on following links to discover new things but since links are cryptic, before clicking, remember that; ‘what has been seen cannot be unseen’… the ‘deep web’ is anonymous, uncertain, and it can be very ‘dark’– be cautious– welcome to the DarkNet…