Actually, it is just the opposite of what you think


From the hashtag intro you can guess that the mission to serve & protect our clients from the bullshit that swirls around the world continues.

The presentation below is by Bob Hoffman, debunking the myth surrounding social media marketing.

Everyone embraces failure - this is why

(Cross-posted from LinkedIn. Please connect there to get more like this.)

In recent times wannabe contrarians have embraced their love of failure – often pointing to entrepreneurs who have failed spectacularly, learned their lessons and then went on to great success. JK Rowling may have started it all with her TED talk in 2008, and even the psychologists agree.

It is not so much that failure is a ‘good’ thing.

The simple truth of the matter is that it often does not matter what we do as much as it matters that we do something. Maybe a better title to this piece would have been “The benefit of doing something”.

The sub text is that anything is better than nothing – even if it leads to failure.

There are a few arguments to support this contention:

1.      Law of Unintended Consequences.

2.      Complexity of Achieving Behaviour Change (statement of the bleeding obvious).

3.      Predictable Irrationality of human decision-making.

Summarising all of the above leads to the inevitable conclusion that, for practical intents and purposes, it is near impossible design and deliver a human intervention that involves many people in order to achieve a predetermined outcome.

This is illustrated very clearly with the ‘Hawthorn Effect’:

The experiments took place at Western Electric's factory at Hawthorne, a suburb of Chicago, in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They were conducted for the most part under the supervision of Elton Mayo, an Australian-born sociologist who eventually became a professor of industrial research at Harvard.

The original purpose of the experiments was to study the effects of physical conditions on productivity. Two groups of workers in the Hawthorne factory were used as guinea pigs. One day the lighting in the work area for one group was improved dramatically while the other group's lighting remained unchanged. The researchers were surprised to find that the productivity of the more highly illuminated workers increased much more than that of the control group.

The employees' working conditions were changed in other ways too (their working hours, rest breaks and so on), and in all cases their productivity improved when a change was made. Indeed, their productivity even improved when the lights were dimmed again. By the time everything had been returned to the way it was before the changes had begun, productivity at the factory was at its highest level. Absenteeism had plummeted.

The experimenters concluded that it was not the changes in physical conditions that were affecting the workers' productivity. Rather, it was the fact that someone was actually concerned about their workplace, and the opportunities this gave them to discuss changes before they took place. (Extracted from The Economist – my emphasis)


For example, consider the following ‘failures’:

  • You may want to run an awareness campaign in your company to increase safety awareness – but it results in a rise in complaints about unsafe working conditions.
  • You have a serious talk with your team about discipline and putting in the hours, attending meetings and being on time. Instead of them being negative and feel reprimanded as you feared, they get to clear the air - resulting in positive climate change in the office.
  • Giving people performance bonuses but instead of it being motivating, it raises the sense of entitlement.
  • During an office relocation when everybody had to spend a fair amount of time on ‘housekeeping’ matters and services were disrupted, sales actually increased.

There simply is no accounting for human behaviour. When put under stress some people rise to the occasion and others wilt. When lavished with attention, some avoid the scrutiny and others feel more engaged.

The same logic can be extended to initiatives like:

  • A re-branding exercise
  • A corporate re-structure
  • A merger
  • Decentralising the procurement function

Most readers will be well aware of how corporate warriors will jump through hoops creating business cases, project maps, task forces and the like to develop and implement these solutions.

And then if you are lucky enough to survive the round of retrenchments, a few years on you will find that the re-structure must be undone, and that the acquisition must be sold and the procurement is better off being centralised again.

It may seem like the epitome of bureaucratic waste to do and then undo the same initiatives in a never-ending oscillation.

The simple answer is that there is no right answer to any one of those business/ operations/ management conundrums. Whether a certain function is centralised or decentralised does not matter. Whether the company is going through a ‘specialisation’ stage or a ‘diversification’ stage is just the strategy cycle.

What matters is this: the company is doing something; anything really, as the workers in the Hawthorne factories taught us. Any project will do. Any initiative will energise. Any strategy will do the job of making us feel we are working towards something.

Along the way the project will be more or less successful, but that matters nought, since there was no way to predict the outcome of a complex system anyway. All that matters that we are doing something, constantly engaging with our work and the people we work with.

A little bit of luck will determine whether there are more little wins or little losses adding up to success or failure in the long run.

But that we will not admit to each other. Just delude ourselves that we are in charge and prepare the business case accordingly.

Looking for success in the wrong place

Did you know …

  • Coca-Cola began as a pharmaceutical product.
  • Tiffany & Co., the fancy jewellery store company, started life as a stationery store.
  • Raytheon, which made the first missile guidance system, was a refrigerator maker.
  • Nokia, who used to be the top mobile phone maker, began as a paper mill.
  • DuPont, now famous for Teflon non-stick cooking pans, Corian countertops and Kevlar started out as an explosives company.
  • Avon, the cosmetics company, started out in door-to-door book sales.

There must be some lesson in that.

FOR THE SME: If things don’t work out as planned, there is always a plan B.

FOR THE ENTREPRENEUR: Launch quickly, iterate rapidly and pivot to a more viable business model.

FOR THE CONSULTANT: With good strategic planning, a company can be steered in the right direction.

FOR THE MANAGER: Even with the best resources at their disposal (including research) anyone can screw it up.

Maybe I am wired different, but when I look at these cases, I learn completely different lessons:

For each example listed here, there are tens of thousands of companies who stuck to their knitting and failed, and just as many examples of companies who stuck to their core and succeeded.

I post these thoughts to share with you dear reader ONE very important truism:

It is extremely dangerous to rely on one example of someone who ‘has done it’, one example of a company that did things ‘a certain way’ – or any ONE explanation of why something succeeded.

Go into your nearest Dymocks and look at the shelves full of books by authors on the topic of success. Everyone has a recipe.

One guy will tell you to ‘Be a Maverick’ (ex Pepsi), one guy will tell you to ‘Be Paranoid’ (ex Intel) and one guy will tell you to follow ‘these 7 habits’; not to mention a book a year by Richard Branson telling you to ‘standout from the crowd’.

I could go on, but you catch my drift.

The same goes for (and especially so) for business people who have made a success of something and then offer advice about that.


  • They can tell you what they THINK has made it work for them – and they may be wrong.
  • They can only tell you what they think has made it work for THEM – and it won’t work for anyone else.

The internet is rife with examples of entrepreneurs who made it big, who sold out and then write the books and goes on the speaking circuit. I challenge you to name the number of entrepreneurs who have made a similar success twice, and I am confident that in the world there will only be handful. How many CEOs have backed up their successful tenure at one company with an equally successful tenure at another? Just a handful in the world.

This may be the most pervasive success myth ever: if you want to be successful, learn from the successful.

  • Other people’s success is not your success – copying their ‘approach’ at best a starting point.
  • There is no ‘secret’ – the recipe for a successful business is well-known.

This seems counter-intuitive, right? It SHOULD work.

But it does not. So let’s turn to that trusty terrain of the sporting analogy.

The most successful coaches are (extremely) rarely the star players of yesteryear. I have looked at a range of sports, but for this example I will use the Australian sport called Rugby League. The only very successful coach that was also a bona fide star of their era is Mal Meninga of the Queensland State of Origin team. (I am sure you can argue about the star power and coaching success of say Ricky Stuart, but the fact that it is subject to argument already disqualifies him.) Meninga on the other hand has won 7 series in a row – at the highest level and in his playing career he was the National Captain and had the most caps of any player and made the Australian team of the century.  (A US equivalent might Yogi Berra of Baseball fame.)

Of the 100s of coaches, there is one that qualifies clearly. Even then his coaching credentials can be questioned because it just so happens that his tenure coincided with having the best group of players of this generation playing for his team at the same time. But let’s not get petty.

Despite this dismal track record of star players to perform as coaches, clubs continue to offer them first dibs on plum coaching gigs.

By the same token, the coaches who have impressive track records may have played the game, may even have been good players, but often weren’t stars of their teams.

(Of course, being an average player, does not mean you will be a great coach either!)

To stretch the analogy even further.

When a coach is successful, other coaches adopt their strategies, which eventually nullifies that particular strategy because everyone uses the same strategy and they learn how to play against it week in and week out.

The really successful coach never copies another successful coach, they work on building a game plan that is unique and gives his team a competitive advantage.

From this analogy, I want to emphasise two things.

  1. What made you successful as player, does not make you successful as coach.
  2. What makes one coach successful is not worth copying, because in the long run a successful coach needs to carve his own strategy that suits your personal preferences and your resources.

Every successful outcome is the product of a unique set of circumstances, a range of complex processes and countless, dynamic human interactions.

To attempt to seek success by copying someone else a poor strategy, and it is even worse investment of time to read about it.

Success comes from doing your own shit. Maybe.

Retail Shift - A double dose

This presentation by Ross Dawson (Futurist) captures a number of trends. There is some good stuff in there, including case studies to be explored. 

I am of the opinion that 'drone delivery' is much hyped, but completely nonviable, principally for safety & security reasons.

And here is a copy of a presentation I gave (a few years ago in 2011) just to compare and see how I stakced up...



The recipe for failing industries threatened by online

... is not what you think

I have had an A-HA moment…

The reason why so many industries/ professions are in trouble is not because of changing technology. The industries/professions that are struggling to reinvent themselves are the ones that were structured to achieve profit and prominence AGAINST human nature.

All that has happened now is that technology has ENABLED consumers/users to wrestle back the power and force the change in that industry/profession to REVERT to the natural state.

In practice what happened is that industries built business models where the source of revenue was separated from the actual value sought by the consumer.

Let’s consider three examples:

1. Journalism/ Newspapers: everything free online

People want to know what they want to know. People don’t like to be bullshitted. People don’t want to be used and treated as eyeballs.

Newspapers have traditionally used journalism (relevant, true) to attract, but made their money by exposing the reader to other things where they (the industry) can make money.

The revenue source has no relationship with the consumer value.

People still want all those things like truth, information etc. And now they can get it mostly directly from each other. Technology allows them to curate and filter based on what they have always wanted.

The original opportunity for this sector remains in real journalism that is worth paying for. (The economics may be different, but that is the only sustainable response to the fundamental human need.)

2. Education: access to information and knowledge universal and free

Dropping out of college has become a badge of honour amongst entrepreneurs.

Academic institutions are considered out of date and most curricula are both irrelevant to the context of the current market, and irrelevant to the learner’s specific needs.

People can now find online all information they need to do anything and even better, someone who will help them and train them often for free or for a fraction of university costs. People will learn what they need to and may be motivated by an intrinsic desire or by force of circumstance and don’t typically see the value of being taught within an institution.

People want to learn what they are interested in learning when they want to do so, AND the test of relevance and competence is the real world, not a classroom quiz or exam.

Most people will recognise that familiar refrain: I went to university to get a piece of paper. What they wanted was the ‘accreditation’ or certification of their ability, not lecture hours.

The revenue source has no relationship with the consumer value.

Universities are losing their monopoly gradually at present, but in 10 or so years they will start approaching a tipping point towards complete oblivion – unless they can pivot.

Some professions (law/medicine etc.) are artificially maintaining a closed shop with the assistance of governments, as are the governments themselves by mandating secondary education within their system. Not for long.

The original opportunity for this sector remains in objective assessment of knowledge and skills.

Marketing/ Retail: unlimited choice, instant determination of true value

This profession has thrived in the past because it controlled so many elements of the offer that it dictated all terms in the relationship with the consumer. This has led to a sales orientation. Even Theodore Levitt’s seminal insight in 1963 did not change that because the so-called marketing orientation was simply a re-phrasing of the activities that existed in order to sell more stuff.

Consumers don’t want to be sold to.

They don’t want you to sell them by ‘serving’ them. They don’t want you to sell them with a USP.

ANYTHING you do that will help you sell stuff has always been resented, but now technology has provided them with an alternative that is easy, cheap and powerful.

The remaining opportunity for this sector remains in finding ways to help the consumer to buy.

What consumers/users want is to buy stuff that,,.

Your challenge is to complete that sentence with YOUR product/service.

It is a completely different mindset to selling stuff. You must become a meaningful part of the customers’ lives without ending up like the annoying uncle at the family BBQ who wants to sell insurance to everyone.

The recipe for any industry being challenged by the transformative effects of online/ e-commerce and the connected world is pretty simple.

Find out what it is that consumers really want (and wanted all along) and attach value to that and charge for that value fairly.

Oh, wait. That isn't a recipe. It is just marketing.

Dennis @ Ganador

Customer Acquisition, Retention & Engagement by turning your Organisational IP into Marketing IQ.

Today's trends - tomorrow's retail store


The good folks at Futurelab has a nice presentation touching on many key issues that is well worth a look

Do you have any idea how crooked our thinking really is?

The silver bullet you are searching for…

... does not exist.

When you are a client you demand an answer, if you are a manager you demand solutions, not problems. When you are a consultant, you feel compelled to come up with an answer. When you are a ‘guru’, you want to be first to the summit of Crap Mountain – like content marketing at the moment.

Strangely enough, few people understand what they demand, nor how one is supposed to arrive at those ‘answers’.

The best thinker about risk – bar none – is NN Taleb. One of his major insights about decision-making was triggered by this observation by Daniel Kahneman, the grandfather of Behavioural Economics.

Kahneman and Miller wrote in 1986:

A spectator at a weight lifting event, for example, will find it easier to imagine the same athlete lifting a different weight than to keep the achievement constant and vary the athlete's physique.

This observation basically states that bias is introduced into our thinking because the variable of choice is not random. In this example we can imagine the athlete lifting a different weight, but we don’t easily imagine a different physique; whereas both of those variable could materially influence the final outcome of the weight being lifted or not.

This triggered him to think about this in the context of risk (being Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering, New York University School of Engineering) and came to the conclusion that, in REALITY (not in laboratories) there are many random variables and they are all subject to variation.

It seems very obvious to say this, but Taleb realised that; increasing the number of random variables compounds the number of counterfactuals and causes more extremes.

And of course we all know that reality is comprised of multiple variables, so PREDICTING an outcome in reality is really just a lottery.

The practical outcome of this phenomenon are:

  • We really don’t THINK straight as we think we do. (Because of an inherent bias in our thinking process, we vastly under-estimate the variability of multiple variables, with catastrophic consequences. Taleb.)
  • We foolishly cling to the notion that we can influence the universe and things happens because of us. (Price: stating the bleeding obvious.)
  • We feel compelled to find the answers by applying rigorous rational thinking and research.

If we can’t understand our own biases, RESEARCH would be a good way to overcome the problem, right? Not so much.

Taleb remarked that ‘scientists use statistical methods blindly and mechanistically, like cooking recipes (and) tend to make the mistake when consciously comparing two variables.

This is very common in research and in fact so much so that I can safely say that most research is not worth the paper it is written on. I wrote that Neuroscience is not all it is cracked up to be (and promptly got attacked by converted zealots.) Nieuwenhuis et al. in 2011 found that 50% of neuroscience papers (peer-reviewed in "prestigious journals") that compared variables got it wrong.  (I have warned about being seduced by statistics too.)

We can’t rely on research to save us from sloppy thinking.

The question is then what we CAN do about this because we have a life to love and a business to run?

A good start would be to study and understand probability theory properly so that you can truly appreciate (for example) properties of the joint distribution of tails.

But the REALITY is that most of us won’t be doing that, so here are some simple alternatives instead:

  1. Consciously avoid the lure of simple extrapolation. (Especially when it is so easy to do with spreadsheets.)
  2. Consciously stop and anticipate worst case scenarios. (They are more likely than you want to think.)
  3. Encourage a culture of robust questioning. (Particularly those corporate mavericks who go against the grain and sometimes seem difficult.)
  4. Actively guard against people using ‘research’ as a reason to do or not do stuff. (Apple did OK without ever relying on research.)

You must appreciate that ANY of the above could easily be abused and become a reason for never doing anything and we should be vigilant about that.

But more than anything, stop being seduced by the promise of a silver bullet.

Ganador: Acquire and Retain Clients in the retail supply chain.


If you sell to retailers this is for you


Although we do a lot of work with retailers, we usually do it FOR the supplier/ franchisor, landlord etc.

We often work with the supplier (et al) about how to work more effectively with retailers to build mutually beneficial relationships.

I have summarised some of the messages we give in that instance in a checklist - which you can DOWNLOAD FOR FREE.

(It is not the complete thing, but it will be a great start if you want to use it to review and compare how you currently do things in your company.)

(C) 2014

(C) 2014

The missing ingredient in this checklist is of course the SKILLS required to push the right buttons at the right stages of the conversation. But the purpose of this post is not to train representative, but to give them a framework to compare & evaluate their own approach.

It is not so much that there is ONE right approach, but rather that the approach you DO have be based on a series of rational decisions, rather than an laissez faire 'interaction' that serves very little purpose beyond ticking the box that you have actually visited a client.



15 Statistics about customer experiences and service

I grabbed the following stats here – but cherry-picked the most interesting ones. (Presumably the original sources can be tracked down.)

Instead of focusing on what the actual number is (and whether it is completely accurate) I would suggest that there is more benefit to gain from thinking about what it means – and how that relates to your business.

1.      A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs

2.      Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs

3.      55% of customers would pay extra to guarantee a better service – Defaqto research

4.      It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience – “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner

5.      A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5 – 95% – Bain & Company

6.      It costs 6 – 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one – Bain & Company

7.      An average company loses between 10 – 30% of its customers annually – McKinsey

8.      The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Marketing Metrics

9.      For every customer complaint, there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent – Lee Resource

10.   An average of £1202 is spent on employee training  – The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Annual Survey

11.   85% of business leaders agree that traditional differentiators alone are no longer a sustainable business strategy – Shaw & Ivens

12.   71% of business leaders believe that customer experience is the next corporate battleground – Shaw & Ivens

13.   55% of current marketing spend is on new customer acquisition – McKinsey

14.   33% of current marketing spend is on brand awareness – McKinsey

15.   Only 12% of current marketing spend is on customer retention – McKinsey

Dennis @ Ganador

Customer Acquisition, Retention & Engagement by turning your Organisational IP into Marketing IQ.


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