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

The silver bullet you are searching for…

... does not exist.

legalfutures.co.uk

legalfutures.co.uk

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.


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Marketing is education is marketing

#thinkdifferent


Marketing to customers is the same as educating them

Marketing is LIKE education:

1.      At its heart it is a form of gentle leading.

2.      It’s people-centric: about the recipient, not the ‘sender’.

3.      You remember the great experiences.

4.      It is sustained. (It is a life-long journey)

5.      It is sustainable.

6.      It is sustaining.

7.      Technology is an enabler, not a substitute.

8.      It is rewarding (everybody benefits).

9.      It is authentic.

10.   It is a form of conversation.

11.   The fundamentals never change (and it will survive the buzzwords).

12.   The best system creates a virtuous circle of beneficiaries.

13.   The benefits last forever.

14.   You can share, expose, challenge, inform, teach – but you cannot MAKE anyone love it.

15.   You can’t fake it (the ‘kids’ will catch you out in a blink)

Given these similarities, this raises the question: might it be that Marketing IS Education?

At Ganador we believe it is. When education is at the heart of your marketing philosophy, then you truly have the customers’ interests at heart.

The revealing power of knowledge and truth will reveal the heart of the brand.

If you genuinely believe your brand is the right solution then you will seek and embrace this exposure. Instead of ‘influencing’ the customer to buy, they become driven to buy because they know the product/brand is the best fit for them.

That is the most powerful outcome for any brand AND the most ideal result for the consumer.

Marketing as education requires a mind-set change as well as a new set of tools and strategies. Some activities may appear superficially the same as those previously executed – but just like a philosophy lecture and class-room show and tell may ‘look the same’ and appear in the same setting and involve one-to-many communication exercise, they are in effect very different.

A marketing activity may LOOK like a training workshop, but it is not.

It may look like a consulting gig, but it may be an engagement exercise.

It really just depends on intent – and the philosophy behind the execution; but good marketing is education is marketing.


Customer Education is the new marketing

#thinkdifferent

I like to think we are innovative and our offer is slightly ahead of the curve. That causes difficulties sometimes, because instead of simply having to explain the benefits of what we do, we also have to explain what it we do.

One of the latest iterations of marketing is ‘content marketing’.  I am not a big fan – and I have already said that.

Marketing as a professional discipline struggles because its practitioners are constantly jumping on the next band wagon, proclaiming “this is the big thing”. Social media – and a specific range of platforms come to mind and of course then there is the other buzz word – Big Data.

(I read somewhere that Big Data is like Teenage Sex – everyone thinks everyone else is doing it and therefore claim they are doing it, but the reality is there is much groping in the dark and not much else.)

By labelling what we do as “Customer Education” and claiming that it is the new marketing, I run the risk that the same fate will befall it; a slow, agonising death until all that remains are a few abandoned websites in the Google graveyard.

The current crop of young marketers who are ‘discovering’ social mistakenly believe that they have discovered something amazingly unique about consumers. People are social. It doesn’t take more than a moment’s reflection to realise that humans have ALWAYS been social.

The only thing that has changed is that (1) it is easier for people to use technology to express their social nature and (b) the social dimension of decision-making has shifted power to the consumer because brands are no longer custodians of the information needed to make decisions.

By the same token, marketing has always been about customer education.

Text book purpose of advertising is for instance to:

  • Inform
  • Persuade
  • Remind

You could simply re-read those aims and easily categorise them as ‘educational’ could you not?

When a parent ‘reminds’ a recalcitrant teenager to clean their room, that is surely a form of education?

When a manufacturer includes a user manual in their packaging, they are attempting to educate the customer.

The reason I believe content marketing is a dead end (in addition to those already enumerated) is that content marketing (as it is practised today) is biased towards entertainment – as can be seen from the unrealistic and counter-productive focus on creating something viral.

Content can be entertaining and it can be educational. It can even be both at the same time. But pure entertainment is not – in our experience - a viable, effective and sustainable marketing strategy unless your product/service is an entertainment product (like XBOX).

By definition someone who wants to be ‘entertained’ always wants to move on to the next thing… which goes against the grain of the organisational objective of creating loyal and repeat customers.

At best, content marketing is part of your digital marketing strategy which is part of your overall marketing strategy.

Customer education is a nobler endeavour.

Like any relationship, “getting to know each other” is a crucial part of the relationship. When you really know and understand each other, the relationship has the opportunity to attain longevity. 

The SKILL all successful people have

#thinkdifferent --

There are many people who write about the attributes of successful people. And they may even write about the actions of successful people. But what is the particular skill that a successful person has that may explain their success?

A: The ability to balance two opposing forces.

That is the ability to handle the tension between two opposite forces in such a way that he or she gets the benefit from both (opposing) forces.

To be a successful sales person:

You must be able to genuinely, empathetically listen to and be interested in the prospect’s problems and yet be motivated and focused on getting your solution adopted and your KPIs met.

To be a successful leader:

Leaders have warmth and natural empathy that makes people feel they are understood but they are also strong and resolute and unwavering in their beliefs.

To be a successful entrepreneur:

Be truly committed to something that is completely unproven. This requires balancing the Doubt that defines the opportunity (inherent in breaking new ground) with the Faith to execute diligently and repeatedly believing it will work.

Great parents find the sweet spot between unconditional love and strong guidance.

I could go on…

But the question that intrigues most is why some people can acquire that skill and others not.?

This particular skill is not a physical one, so there are no innate requirements like hand-eye coordination or fast-twitch fibers.

Yet some people acquire and some people don’t.

In my view it boils down to a certain way of thinking. And by this I definitely DO NOT mean ‘positive thinking’. (In fact relentless positive thinking is bound to be as problematic and ineffectual as continuous negative thinking.)

The mindset I am referring to is a strong intellectual commitment to avoid binary thinking. Some people seem to be more easily able to avoid either/or thinking and others struggle a bit more. It may relate to a need to make sense of the world in convenient little boxes, but the reality is invariably different.

And I really mean invariably.

If you are a Christian/ believer, then God is the only ultimate truth (by definition). If you are a materialist there are no absolute truths. For practical purposes – at the human level in our reality here on earth, one can therefore safely say that for every argument to act one way, there will be a powerful (if not equal) argument to act the exact opposite way.

The outcome of this particular reality is that humans make choices to pursue a particular course of action and then ‘battle’ with the implementation because there unintended consequences. But in fact those unintended consequences could easily have been foreseen if one simply had the inclination to objectively consider the opposite course of action.

The knack (skill) to do so is something that can be learned. It does not take any particular set of ‘smarts’.

In the next post we will apply this skill to a big social problem and explore how that may apply in business. (And even talk about Schapelle Corby.)

The emergent start-up culture has unintended consequences

#thinkdifferent

Over at SVBTLE they have now allowed the plebs in. And I signed up. This is my first post. I can't say I will be writing a LOT over there, but I really like the look and feel of the site.

CHECK ME OUT

This is cross-posted from there:


The new dogma for an entrepreneurial start-up is:

  • get it up quickly
  • close enough is good enough
  • test
  • feedback
  • iterate
  • pivot, or - prove the concept

(Even VC is going that way - ala 500 Startups)

Is this really how entrepreneurship should work? Just because it can?

Most writing about start-ups references the Valley and equivalent places where the focus is on tech- and web start-ups. Of course these are not the only types of start-up.

It seems as if the philosophy that underpins the 'do the quick and dirty and figure out as you go along' works well in the digital space - because it can be done without great time penalty.

There are two problems with this.

1. It does not work for all types of start-up. E.g. in the B2B space it could spell disaster. Or imagine if a hardware start-up, selling say smoke detectors, decided to suck-and-see?

2. The UNINTENDED consequences of this approach is not (the desired) creation of a culture of rapid innovation, but rather one where risk is not considered and thoughtful planning and great execution are sacrificed at the alter of expediency.

Just because it works - or has worked - for so many of the current crop of start-ups, does not mean it is the right thing. If that is the way they all do it then cause (suck-and-see) and effect (success) do not necessarily follow because there is nothing to compare it too.

Hunting start-up success with a shotgun is one approach. I am just not sure if it is the one I prefer.

Shotgun_in_training_US_military.jpg
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Why you are screwed and don't even know it

#thinkdifferent

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We all went to school. Some of us may have learned more than others, some of us may have been in different types of schools, but essentially we all went through the same (or practically similar) educational system.

This system shaped what you do and believe today and your success today is influenced very much by those foundational years in school.

This image is taken of an actual public school in NSW. It is not necessary to be more specific, but images like that abound. Can you remember if words like these were used ‘as a charter’ at your school?

It would have been something an ambitious principle dreamt up and tried to shape the culture of the school accordingly.

If I as a parent saw this at a school where I may have had plans to take my kids, I would have worked very hard to get them into a different school.

If you look at those words what do you see?

Do you think I am nuts? What kind of parent would not want to have their kids adopt that charter as their value system?

I, for one, would not.

Read these insights from John Gatto, about the American educational system.

Schools intend “to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.”

And he quotes H.L. Mencken on the aim of American education: “The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”

When I read those four words on the wall of that public school, I translate them to one idea: CONFORMITY.

Those words are not there to encourage kids to try things; they don’t exhort them to aim high or not to fear anything. There is no excitement, challenge or sense of purpose.

Those four words are there to make the school easier to govern: responsibility, respect, co-operation and safety.

Those four words are about the teachers, not about the kids.

Maybe you were taught by teachers at a school like that. Mr Chips exist in real life and some of you may have had one of those, but I guess that would the minority.

This post is not about the educational system in this country, though it is thoroughly stuffed, but is about you and your business.

  • These are the question you should ponder and answer for yourself because it is influencing how you do business the way you do:
  • What was the lasting impact of those ‘values’ you were taught to put above all else?
  • Do those beliefs you now hold as consequence empower you or limit you?
  • What is the charter of your existing business?
  • What is the value set by which you govern? Is it about you or is about the customers and employees?
  • Do you understand the impact of these seemingly innocuous decisions?

If you have been battling to understand why your employees are not more motivated, and why your customers are not more loyal, it usually comes back to the value system that is in place. We put it in place without knowing that we do, and if we do, we often don’t fully appreciate the consequences (intended and otherwise)

How are the values that you are trying to put place influenced by those values of compliance and conformity that were drilled into you as a child?

USP. Niche. Segment. Point of Difference. Cut-through. Innovation. ALL THESE IDEAS require you to be original and think differently.

This is the million dollar question: Can you?

Or more pertinently:

With an educational system that values conformity and obedience above all, have you been equipped with the attitude to embrace change and enjoy challenges, or do you look to the government (or some authority figure or institution to fix things and control the environment for you the way they did in school?

Confronting, I know; but well worth a few moments of your time to as you embark on a new year with new challenges.


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Fundamental flaws in government-sanctioned e-learning

#thinkdifferent

This post is somewhat off-topic to my regular audience, but some rants must be vented, so here goes...

 

CONTEXT

The government has endorsed a new eLearning quality model.

Readers are urged to take a look and then return to the post.

To be fair, or brutal, depending on your point of view, this flaw is really expected because it is built on a flaw that exists in the entire vocational educational system which is competency based system here in Australia.

My company used to operate an RTO. Mainly because our clients asked about the money. We tried to do the right thing in giving them the training they needed whilst maintaining compliance with what the system demanded.

In the end we quit because we could not do justice to the commercial reality and continue the box ticking. It was uneconomical for us (as a small business) and tedious for the client. Now our training products must succeed or fail on their own merits and generate sufficient value to be judged against the plethora of free stuff on the internet and cowboy RTOs subsidised by the government.

This note is not written because we are disappointed in any way. (We stopped taking trainees more than 2 years before we ‘expired’ our registration, so it happened a long time ago.)

I mention this as context simply to make the point that we are intimately familiar with the system. We continue to operate in the Learning & Development space as a private entity but not as an RTO.

The whole formal educational system is under pressure from a rapidly evolving learning landscape – and I am not talking about MOOCs. Some of these issues raised and the final solutions suggested therefore is broader than just the VET system.

The reason why I raise it in response to the eLearning Quality Model is because it represents a major opportunity that is missed since it merely builds on what is already a flawed foundation.

The analogy of driving a car can be used to understand the flaws in competency based education. If this new ‘model’ was a car, it would work as follows.

There is a detailed manual of how the car functions, much like an owners’ manual. This one even includes some driving instructions. This is the new ‘quality model’ issued by FLAG.

If you were generous, you would say it even references a rule book. Except that this rule book is not generally available to all users, is not fully documented and even where it is, it is subject to interpretation. The rule book is enforced by the feared auditors who each have their own pet approach and much of the RTOs success in an audit is about whether your preparation aligned with the auditor’s pet hates.

But I digress.

The job of the owners’ manual (quality model) is to provide the drivers of the car with the knowledge and the structure to successfully navigate the car from point A to Point B.

And this is where the wheels fall off – pun intended.

Knowing where every safety switch is, knowing where the spare tyre is located, knowing which type of fuel to use and how to tune the radio may all be important parts of driving the car, but that clearly won’t make you a competent driver.

Even if the rules were clear (which they are not) then you still won’t be a competent driver. Does someone who is travelling at 80 km/h in an 80 km/h zone competent?

Clearly not.

Even if the rules were clear and the assessment of those rules was effective, it still would not work.

These standards (like speed limits) are necessary but compliance with standards does not indicate that you are good driver.

Testing against these standards achieves nothing.

Even taking a driver’s test supervised by an experienced instructor achieves nothing.

Firstly consider the accident rates that continue despite the driver’s test, which means the test is inadequate indicator of deriver competency or desired outcomes.

Secondly I would argue that the good drivers would make fewer accidents irrespective of whether they take the driver’s test or not.

Thirdly, the number of failed drivers is negligible. Even those that fail once or twice achieve their license within a few weeks of failure. Their driving skills could not possibly have improved, all that happened is that they successfully avoided the technicality that prevented them from achieving their license in the first instance. (All citizens of this country are familiar with the stories of how the supervisor found a silly transgression and failed you on it.)

And let’s be honest here, the whole system is geared towards finding these technical failures which in reality contribute nothing to raising the standard of education just as those technical failures do not make our roads any safer in a material way. (All RTOs will have stories of how they failed audits on those same technicalities that, in the scheme of things, make absolutely no difference to the standard of education.)

The conscientious will argue that it is all we have and even if it makes a small difference, it helps. And just like a car needs an owner’s manual, we need those technical standards.

They are wrong.

The problems with the system are strategic on one level and on another there are domain-specific issues.

DOMAIN SPECIFIC ISSUES

There is a difference between the issues apprentices face as opposed to those who are trainees.

Apprentices are engaged by employers because they are cheap labour. They know that they will learn the job on the job. What happens at TAFE…. well, whatever… As long as they are on time and do what they are told.

But by the nature of the fields of work where you can serve as an apprentice, there is some merit in a having a formal component of learning. These jobs are OLD jobs. Best practice is well known. These practises can be codified as standards relatively easily.

There if very little change in most of these types of jobs. Having the ‘school’ take care of some of the learning provides mechanisms that ensure that shortcuts and bad habits learned at one employer do not become standard practice.

But these jobs are dying, falling out of favour or being automated. Spending a lot of time and resources on fixing it will gain very little. The proposed quality model may be all that is required to allow an antiquated system to use some new tools. (For eLearning is a new tool and not much more.)

The traineeship system is different.

It is easy to codify in standards the job of an electrician. (Apprentice.)

It is extremely difficult to codify the standards of a manager or a marketer. (Trainee.)

The Trainees system (of white collar apprentices) is a gigantic wealth transfer system that produces very little in terms of tangible results. Employers go through the system to make money, or at least cover a big part of their training expense and absolve themselves of the responsibility for training.

As the diligent and responsible people in government know full well, the (private) RTOs do it purely for the money and the business model requires ticking the boxes and cashing cheques. This causes problems they are well aware of and these problems do not exist to the same extent in the TAFE system.

Everybody in the system knows it is flawed. And they feel they can’t do anything about it except create more boxes.

The eLearning quality model does not address this fundamental issue. FLAG has now simply added another owner’s manual to the car – this one for the electronics and al the fancy new systems – but the car is still (a) heading in the wrong direction and (b) driven by a driver who passed a test instead of one who is competent.

STRATEGIC ISSUES

Consider the quality model. It is a gigantic engine that will produce more tick-the-box requirements than will be humanly possible to manage.

The ladder of this learning is leaning against the wrong wall. It is there. It works. People are climbing. But when they arrive at the top rung and hoist themselves onto the roof, they are mighty surprised that they are in the wrong place.

Their teachers ticked every box and they have a piece of paper that is to all intents and purposes useless as they soon find out when they start wondering the streets.

What VET needs is not a quality model – that merely helps manage the output on the current production line.

We need a new vision – a whole new factory – which may not even be a conventional factory. It is beyond the scope of this note to explore an entirely new vision, suffice to say that the notion of social learning, performance enablement and behavioural analytics would provide the key planks of a new strategy. (Read that link, it is an eye-opener for most people.)

PAINTING A BIG PICTURE

Is the ladder of education leaning against the right wall? The nature of education and the delineation between education, training and learning should be completely re-thought.

Is a driving test the best way to determine readiness? Are we assessing the learner’s ability to be assessed or the real skill? The whole notion of competency should be revisited and considered in the light of changing needs and changing technologies.

Is a checklist-wielding instructor an effective and objective way to test the real skill required? Are we testing the teacher’s ability to comply or their real andragogical effectiveness? The role of teachers/trainers/assessors/auditors should be fundamentally reviewed.

Do we really need a bigger owner’s manual? The benefits of the current system should be questioned without fear or favour. (Nigh impossible in the equally antiquated unionised environment that is designed to maintain the status quo.)

CONCLUSION

There is nothing ‘wrong’ with the quality model as it tick all the boxes.

But it is a model of the wrong thing because that system of education it is supposed to function in has already changed.

I would argue that this is a pretty fundamental flaw.

Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.

Which Wolf Are You Feeding?

#thinkdifferent

There’s a Native American tale about an old man who was telling his grandson a story about two wolves.

 

The old man said, “There’s a fight between two wolves. One is an evil wolf, filled with anger, resentment, greed, sadness, rage, envy, pride, ego, vanity, and superiority. The other is a good wolf, filled with peace, light, kindness, generosity, love, compassion, humility, benevolence, grace, hope, compassion, and faith.”

“Which of the wolves will win the fight, grandfather?” asked the boy.

The old man paused, considering the boy, then said, “Whichever one you feed.”

UPDATE

I have added the www.gui.de text to video animation below.


Whatever you believe, it is wrong

Or at least half the world will say it is.

Except for ice cream; everyone loves that. (Even the lactose intolerant who can’t have it).

But I digress.

 

The fact is that all the things you believe are either a matter of opinion or a matter of fact. Opinions are at best a 50/50 proposition.

 

And if the arc of scientific development continues as it has over centuries, most of what you hold true today will eventually be disproven.

That puts your beliefs and even your ‘experience’ on paper thin foundations.

Even when we know we don’t know, we tend to kid ourselves. This piece on individual and pluralistic ignorance is a great read, and Shane Parrish concludes:

Information is coming to us with greater velocity and magnitude. “I don’t know” might be the most powerful admission you can make in the internet era.

I have a practical suggestion for you to challenge convention.

Why don’t you play a version of that old kid’s game and make today ‘Opposite Day’?

Start by taking a different route to work going through different opening procedures (even if you ‘know’ the usual way is the most efficient.) Approach customers differently. Build different displays. Put your popular products where you normally have your unpopular products.

Who knows, you may just discover a new truth which is the opposite of your old truth.

It isn't normal, is it?

The Melbourne Cup is a celebration in Australia. It not only stops the nation when the race is run, it stops the state of Victoria for a whole week and makes every mug across the country horse racing expert for a few days. The race has spawned a whole week of horse racing and even has its own website and even its own memorabilia.

The stories about horses, the trainers, the jockeys and the owners grace the newspapers for days. We want to emulate the punter who won $107k with a $1 mystery bet. Celebrities jump when invited. Wannabe celebrities parade along with the horses. And Joe Blow provides the human backdrop required to make it all work – until the alcohol takes it toll…

It is a tradition. It is just a bit of harmless fun.

Or, maybe not…

Maybe it is state-sanctioned gambling promotion? Could it be that the State sees it as an opportunity to make a buck off other people’s misery while they are drunk and think they are having fun?

We don’t hear the stories about the hundreds of horse that lost. We don’t even hear much about the horse that dies trying to win. (‘Euthanised’ according to the media, not killed or put down, I may add.)

We will hear about the total amount that is bet on the Cup, but we are not told what amount is lost. We don’t hear about the guy who loses his house or commits suicide because of bets lost.

This is not sanctimonious rant.

It is not even about gambling – that is just an example to illustrate the very important psychological fact contained it the headline: Do it often enough and become normal.

This can be used for good or for evil. You can pick on which side of the fence you fall, but consider these examples:

  • Is it still strange to see to men kiss in a movie/ TV-show?
  • Is it still offensive to hear God’s name taken in vain?
  • Does it look wrong when you see an inter-racial couple?
  • Is talking on the phone in other people’s company still rude?
  • Is it still wrong for a woman to wear pants?
  • Is it ok to arrive late for a meeting?

I could go on, but you see where this is going: The more you are exposed to something the more normal it becomes.

In your store this manifests itself as store blindness. You don’t see, hear and smell what your customers see, hear and smell because you have become used to it.

You learn to accept …

  • Shrinkage is about 3%
  • Staff are lazy and unmotivated
  • Suppliers can be paid a few days late
  • Reps can be made to wait an hour or so

Again, you can see where this is going.

Are the things you accept as normal really normal? Does it have to be the way that it is? Is it possible to create anew normal?

Here is an example of Mr Dib - who did NOT accept the status quo and chose a new normal.

Is it just possible that you could pull a ‘Mr Dib’ on your employees? Can you imagine the impact on your business?

Dennis

Ganador: Learning to perform in the 21st century.

 

10 Things to UNLEARN if you want to run a successful retail business

  1. Staff are not a minimum wage commodity. They are the key touch points with your customer. Retailers say they can not afford to train them (paying the service provider, paying the staff member while they are not working and paying the replacement staff member.) I argue that you can’t afford NOT to train them.
  2. You can’t keep adding impulse items indefinitely. Eventually it will dilute what you do and when you hit the tipping point your customer will just think the store is full of crap and you will struggle to win them back.
  3. All you achieve by piling up stuff in a discount bin at the front door is showcase your failures and condition your customers to expect more cheap stuff inside.
  4. The things that made you successful yesterday or even today will not maintain your success.
  5. NASA may have sent a man to the min on the back of the cheapest tenderer for every product, but you can’t build your business on the cheap. Everything that is cheap or free, is cheap or free for a reason.
  6. Stop selling features. Customers don’t care about the biggest or fastest. They care about how bigger of faster might benefit them.
  7. Stop selling on price – people buy value. Do you drive the cheapest car you could find? Are all your clothes the cheapest you could find? 99% of people find the product that meets their needs and THEN don’t want to pay more than it’s worth.
  8. Customers are not thieves. 98% are honest and you should stop punishing the good ones because of a few bad apples. MOST of your shrinkage can be attributed to your STAFF. See point #1.
  9. Australians/ Westerners are conditioned to pay full sticker price. That is good for retailers if consumers act that way, but you don’t have to act that way with your suppliers. There are at least 20 things you can negotiate with your suppliers other than price.
  10. A gift has two buyers. The person in front of you in your store may not be the most important buyer. Understand the person who is NOT there in order to make a sale.

Hope that helps. Have fun…

Dennis

Ganador: Solutions for the retail supply chain (landlords, brands, franchisors etc) to engage their stakeholders (retailers, communities, consumers etc) effectively.

 

How to start a consulting business and find your niche.

This post comes in two parts: serious and not-so-serious.

In the tough economic climate that prevails, I suspect the consulting ranks will swell with many new entrants.

And as a consultant, I encourage this. There are a lot of businesses that need help. In order to succeed as a consultant, you need a few key variables to be in place:

Here is a good place as any to start if you want to tap into the SME retail space.)

To get you stated on finding your niche, I have created a marketing buzz-generator – for all to use… for free

Pick-and-Mix one word from each of these tables, combine…. and off you go:

 
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Just don’t expect me to buy the book :-))

Of course you figured that this is the not-so serious-part of the post.

Whatever you do, make sure it is fun.

Dennis

 

Are you marching to the beat of a different drum?

This video contains a powerful metaphor.  Thirty two metronomes are started asynchronously, and then after a few seconds become synchronised. The key here is that they are set on a flexible or movable surface - not a fixed surface (like a table).  

Energy from the motion of one ticking metronome can affect the motion of every metronome around it, while the motion of every other metronome affects the motion of our original metronome in  return. This inter-metranome "communication" is facilitated by the flexible board, which serves as an energetic intermediary between all the metronomes that rest upon its surface.

 It makes you think that fort all the talk about being focused on one thing and keeping your feet firmly on the ground and building a solid foundation may not be as universally beneficial as we always think it is.

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50 reasons why you can’t change and one why you should

E.F. Borish, a Product Manager in the Milwaukee Gear Company, originally penned this list; reproduced here from a Fast Company article.)

Evaluate your resistance to change and if it is on the list, it is probably not a valid reason for you not to embrace that change.

1.      We've never done it before.

2.      Nobody else has ever done it.

3.      It has never been tried before.

4.      We tried it before.

5.      Another company/person tried it before.

6.      We've been doing it this way for 25 years.

7.      It won't work in a small company.

8.      It won't work in a large company.

9.      It won't work in our company.

10.   Why change -- it's working OK.

11.   The boss will never buy it.

12.   It needs further investigation.

13.   Our competitors are not doing it.

14.   It's too much trouble to change.

15.   Our company is different.

16.   The ad department says it can't be done.

17.   Sales department says it can't be done.

18.   The service department won't like it.

19.   The janitor says it can't be done.

20.   It can't be done.

21.   We don't have the money.

22.   We don't have the personnel.

23.   We don't have the equipment.

24.   The union will scream.

25.   It's too visionary.

26.   You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

27.   It's too radical a change.

28.   It's beyond my responsibility.

29.   It's not my job.

30.   We don't have the time.

31.   It will obsolete other procedures.

32.   Customers won't buy it.

33.   It's contrary to policy.

34.   It will increase overhead.

35.   The employees will never buy it.

36.   It's not our problem.

37.   I don't like it.

38.   You're right, but ....

39.   We're not ready for it.

40.   It needs more thought.

41.   Management won't accept it.

42.   We can't take the chance.

43.   We'd lose money on it.

44.   It takes too long to pay out.

45.   We're doing all right as it is.

46.   It needs committee study.

47.   Competition won't like it.

48.   It needs sleeping on.

49.   It won't work in this department.

50.   It's impossible.

Despite the plethora of reasons you may find for NOT changing you should acknowledge that all things, with the exception of God, changes, and that it is not only inevitable, it is necessary.

You may not know this, but in the decade of 2000-2010, a grand total of 40% of the Fortune 500 companies disappeared off the list. I am sure they have their reasons for it (where they still exist), but I can guarantee that at the heart of the matter lies the failure to change.

 

Story of your life

This is rule # 4 from Pixar’s rules on story telling. (Not quite their rules, but one person’s summary of lessons learned about story telling.)

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

I found all the rules interesting, but this one struck me immediately for its relevance to our own – and even our business journey.

Intuitively this may make a good model for redesigning the customer experience, because customer experience is a form of physical story-telling, is it not?

Here are all the rules:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Half the difference in your profit from competitors comes from this

If company A had a profit of $100m and Company B had a profit of $50M, then the difference (obviously) is $50M.

The amazing thing is that HALF of that difference can be attributed to culture.

   

 

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Heskett wrote a book, The Culture Cycle in which finds that as much as half of the difference in operating profit between organizations can be attributed to effective cultures.


The million dollar question is therefore: HOW DO YOU CHANGE CULTURE?

Firstly, creating the right culture is easier than changing it. When you start the business is the easiest and best way to do it.

If you do have to change it, the process requires soft skills. It’s about changing the behaviour of the individuals, and you can only do that by addressing their feelings.

At Ganador we have developed an internal coaching program that has termed a Dynamic Learning Network – and the stages of the process is referred to as the PEDALS process. Whilst that is somewhat cutesy, it is easy to remember, but more importantly the sequence of activities (to learn new behaviour) in the PEDALS framework is designed to address the EMOTIONAL CONTEXT of new behaviours and new skills before focusing on the functional/ technical skills.

We did that because there is no other way. Spending money on learning/training is often a waste of time BECAUSE there is no attention given to the emotional context of the learning interaction.

If you are interested in changing culture – even to strengthen an existing, successful culture ask us how ...

 

Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.

Pareto Principle - a useful tool to apply can be found here

Everyone knows about the 80:20 principle. That does not mean we think much about or use it often.

But I found this tool (calculator) with some good examples of how you can use it.  Have a play and let me know how YOU used it:  

Training that is designed to fail

The honest truth about training you may not want to know is that..

All training is not equal. There are differences between training in a small business and training in a large corporation. Of course training (under the guise of education) is constantly mucked up by government. But one thing about training is almost universal and it is bad news.

Training becomes the fix-all solution when managers don’t know what else to do.

Don’t get me wrong, training can be very useful – but only if it is done right. Too many HR departments justify their existence by indentifying:

-        need for change

-        performance gaps

-        blind spots

-        weakness

-        sub-optimal performance

-        and blah-de-blah

… and training is the answer.

NOT!

More often than not you will hear people say – 2 weeks after going on a course – that it was really interesting but they haven’t had the time to implement it.

BEFORE you resort to training, there are a number of things you must fix or have in place for training to have any value and have any chance to succeed.

1. The right strategy

If you don’t have the right strategy, you will not be training for the right skills.

2: The right people (who)

-        have common decency and you would actually like to work with, and

-        are passionate about their jobs

3. The right culture

Give them an opportunity to excel. (And if they don’t, demote them to their previous level of competence and apologise for your poor judgement.) If they are not passionate or nice any longer fire them for lying to you about who they really were.

IN CONCLUSION

Good training is built on the strengths of the individuals. ‘Skills improvement’ – specifically soft skills are incredibly hard to train. Unless an individual is personally focused on it and motivated to make those changes themselves it aint gonna happen.

Just like an obese person or an alcoholic must take personal ownership of the status quo and then make a personal commitment to dealing with it – no amount of chalk & talk is going to cure it. And here is a little inside-tip to the HR professionals:

Despite what the delegates ‘say’ in those little breakaway groups, the reality is and will be very different. Nobody is going to make life-affirming, or identity-shattering confessions to a guy he met last night at the bar before the leadership seminar.

I don’t advocate ‘no training’ – but fundamentally, more important than the training is the raw material that you are working with. Recruit well and 90% of your training ‘problems’ go away.

Like the biblical seeds that are sown on the different types of soil, so training success only on the fertile soil and never on the field of weeds where they get strangled by politics and pretence.

 

Just imagine if you went about your retail training like this

Watch the video - and then ask yourself the question: 

What would I be doing differently in my business IF YOUR AIM was that your business/ staff would have to operate to the same level as the people in the video? 

(Apologies for the quality - but you will get the idea...)

 

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