The “Door of Success” Opens Both Outward and Inward

I came across a success quote on Twitter invoking a door metaphor that I couldn’t, um, “unlock” the point of.

Fellow Bentley University alum and sales operations blogger Marci Reynolds re-tweeted the quote in question:

I like quotes but I just didn’t get this one: Why would the “door(way) to success” swing only outward and not inward? Does it matter? As long as it opens, right?

Is the point of the quote that being extroverted that is, outwardly focused – is essential to succeed? I hope not, because, as author and TED 2012 speaker Susan Cain compellingly argues, that’s simply not true.

I urge you to listen to Susan Cain’s entire TED talk, but the gist of her presentation is that too often our schools and workplaces are seemingly structured based on the assumption that the best students and workers are extroverts – outgoing types who are in their element working in teams and being “productive.” Unfortunately, few breakthroughs in technology, research or other areas of endeavor have been created by committee.

Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, are designed mostly for extroverts and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation…Even in subjects like math and creative writing, which you think would depend on solo flights of thought, kids are now expected to act as committee members…

And when it comes to leadership, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, even though introverts tend to be very careful, much less likely to take outsized risks — which is something we might all favor nowadays…(I)nteresting research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has found that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do, because when they are managing proactive employees, they’re much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas…

And groups famously follow the opinions of the most dominant or charismatic person in the room, even though there’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.

Susan Cain’s points are well supported by scads of research; Jim Collins’ Good to Great insights into the personality traits of the top “level 5” leaders immediately come to mind: level 5 leaders are often unassuming, self-effacing and display introverted tendencies – the opposite of what Collins calls the “corrosive celebrity CEO.” Yes, introverts can make excellent leaders. It is a serious mistake for extroverts to believe that introverts merely work in a vacuum without input from others.

Susan Cain also goes out of her way to make clear that she does not disparage extroverted people in any way (she mentions that she’s married to an extrovert). Doing so would be plain dumb. Rather, Susan Cain’s key point is that it’s critical for institutions to set up both extraverts and introverts for success by equipping them with the differing environments they need for success.

By helping to ensure the organization’s “door of success” does indeed open both outward and inward, the organization’s will significantly expand its potential for extraordinary “Good to Great” levels of success. Organizations that don’t get this will find its collective door of success frustratingly difficult to open indeed…

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Introverts: Not Networking is Not an Option! (A Brief Interview with Holland-Mark CEO Chris Colbert)

Point/Counterpoint: Two Polar Opposite Managerial Styles & Personal Brands

Buy this Book and Read it Now: The Leader as a Mensch (Book Review)

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Innovative Companies Don’t Have Employee “Sediment”

I really liked this tweet by Sandy Kemsley ūüėĄ¬† As Sandy noted, someone¬†clearly intended to comment on the need to monitor employee sentiment – and yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized companies should monitor employee “sediment” too.

Somehow the above reference to sediment¬†triggered a memory (from ‘sediment’ to ‘dirt’ ‚Ķ ‘soil’ ‚Ķ ‘plants’) of an article I read about “potted plant syndrome” in the workplace:

There was a boss who complained that everyone around him was a “potted plant.” He couldn’t understand why his managers wouldn’t take charge of an idea or come up with solutions. In his management meetings, if a manager suggested how to handle a problem or come up with solution, he would tell them how they could do it better or differently. Or, he would argue that they were wrong.

He didn’t realize he was killing commitment and innovation.

The boss was a one-person idea prevention department. His staff was tired of standing out with an idea only to get it shot down, so they stopped offering them. The oblivious boss had sown a staff of “potted plants.”

Company-Potted-Plant-Staff-Meeting

And now a quick true story of employee ‘sediment’…

A business professional (we’ll call him “Rick”) met with a company leader to discuss¬†how he wanted a certain SaaS tool¬†to work. Rick listened and asked questions, teasing out from the leader the specific desired outcomes and results he was looking for. In the course of the conversation, the leader drew his thoughts and answers to the questions on a whiteboard.

The next day, Rick presented the plan describing how the actual production implementation¬†would work, delivering the end results the leader had described. Rick’s¬†plan included a time-saving idea involving a simple update to certain existing data that would provide the desired end results much more quickly with fewer workflow steps. Even better, Rick also noted a flaw in one of the leader’s primary assumptions as to how the solution should work; however, Rick’s proposed data update would resolve that issue as well.

Instead of¬†being pleased, the “leader” was angry!¬† “I told you exactly what I wanted!” he sputtered. “What is this?!”

leader-air-quotesAnd only then did Rick realize the unfortunate reality that the “leader” never wanted Rick to propose an innovative solution; no, the “leader” wanted Rick to merely replicate his desires, wishes and assumptions, exactly as instructed on his whiteboard… flawed assumptions be damned.

Did this “leader” want fries with that?!

Keeping his incredulousness – and that¬†snarky fries remark – to himself, Rick simply obliged and completed the project to the “leader’s” exact – and faulty – specifications. Sure enough, the system processes the “leader” had mandated proved to be so needlessly complicated, the end users rarely followed them.

Not long afterwards, Rick, not terribly interested in becoming a “potted plant,” chose to move on… to much greener pastures.

If a company doesn’t want “potted plants” for employees, they should stop burying their ideas.

Monitor employee sediment, indeed.

If you liked this article, you may also like:

The ‚ÄúDoor of Success‚ÄĚ Opens Both Outward and¬†Inward

‚ÄúI‚Äôd Like to Have an Argument, Please‚ÄĚ ‚Äď An Innovation Message from Monty¬†Python

The Impact of Imagination Level on Product Marketers and Managers

What Superior Autobiographical Memory Subjects and Unified Information Access Have in Common

I am pleased to mention I have posted my first article on the Attivio Unified Information Access Blog, in which I discuss a parallel I see between people who have superior autobiographical memory – the extraordinary capacity to recall specific events from one’s personal past – and the need to combine objective (structured) data with subjective insights (drawn from unstructured content) to gain true understanding, ‚Äúsee the big picture‚ÄĚ and avoid getting distracted by unimportant details.

Here is an excerpt:

The Gift of Endless Memory, a 60 Minutes story originally broadcast on December, 19, 2010, introduced viewers to emerging research on superior autobiographical memory – the extraordinary capacity to recall specific events from one’s personal past. The story featured five of the six people recognized by researchers as having this superlative level of memory, including actress and author Marilu Henner…

I would have liked to have learned much more about how each group member actively uses their memory to their benefit. How does each person effectively manage what amounts to a vast personal ‚Äúdatabase‚ÄĚ of highly detailed memories, each one as vivid as any other, regardless of the passage of time?

Please read the entire article here:

The Gift of Memory – and the Gift of Perspective by Mike Urbonas

Ever Feel Like You’re Being Treated Like “The Fighter” at Work?

the-fighter-movie-poster

The Fighter (2010) is an exceptional movie based on the true story of Micky Ward (portrayed by Mark Wahlberg), a professional boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts.

Set in the early 1990’s, the film introduces Micky Ward as an aging boxer whose champion¬†potential is slipping away as trusted family members fail to look out for him. Stymied by his drug-addicted brother Dicky (Christian Bale) missing training sessions and¬†his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) badly mismanaging his matches, Micky Ward suffers a series of embarrassing defeats and considers ending his boxing career.

The Fighter led me to wonder how many people are out there today with similarly high potential being similarly squandered. Does this suggestion ring true to you?

I am certain the vast majority of people¬†(certainly not just product marketers and product managers) have felt the same gnawing cognitive dissonance¬†during their careers that Micky Ward felt: an awareness that one’s work and skills were somehow being stifled.

I believe¬†the root cause behind the vast majority of struggling products (and, therefore, struggling businesses) is people not living up to their potential due to a¬†non-supportive organizational¬†environment. Like Micky Ward’s frustrations¬†early on with his family members in The Fighter,¬†too often executives and senior managers fail to lead effectively and treat workers with respect and civility.

There are many types of managerial dysfunctions that contribute to a non-supportive environment that adversely impacts people, which cannot help but adversely impact products. Here are a few that might ring true to you (though I hope not!) …

Leadership that is disengaged from the company’s original innovation and brand equity. Beware of management who was not around and/or not emotionally invested in the company‚Äôs original innovations that earned its success and brand equity in the first place.

Starbucks is one example of post-founder management that missed the mark badly. After original visionary CEO and chairman Howard Schultz’ retirement from Starbucks, the company pursued a nearly ruinous ‘management by the numbers’ strategy¬†along with massive over-expansion that made the company less like the original Starbucks and more like Dunkin’ Donuts.¬† Thankfully, Starbucks is also a success story in recapturing that innovation, and rescuing its brand following the return of Howard Schultz to the company.

There are many far worse examples out there, from so-called “professional” turnaround management teams¬†to the likes of James Kilts,¬†the last CEO of Gillette, who simply abdicated his responsibility to cultivate innovation¬†to grow the top line and revitalize the company. Instead, Kilts simply declared that past double-digit revenue growth was a thing of the past. He instead fixated on shareholders as the only company stakeholders, overseeing massive layoffs and cost-cutting. With a compensation package larded with stock options, Kilts predictably sold Gillette in 2005 and pocketed $165 million. A Boston institution, with untapped potential to rediscover its innovative roots, became just another division of Proctor & Gamble.

In an organization with a management team that has merely inherited the fruits of innovation from previous leaders, innovation becomes devalued and “leaders” take short-sighted actions, often based on their “knowledge” of the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Leadership that punishes unsuccessful innovation.

If you say, ‘I want people to take risks,’ and then fire the guy if the outcome fails, it becomes clear how your organization really feels about risk.

~ Anthony F. Smith, consultant and author

There’s a great old movie sight gag featuring an overworked bus boy at an understaffed diner. Hurrying with two full armloads of stacked dishes, he slips and drops one armload of dishes that fall shattering to the floor. The slave-driver boss roars, “You idiot! You’re fired!”

The bus boy looks his boss in the eye, shrugs his shoulders, lets the other armload of dishes fall crashing to the floor as well, and walks out.

The lesson is clear: a company culture that burns out workers and punishes them for honest mistakes, and even worse, for taking a risk and trying out a new idea that doesn’t work out, deserves the plentiful fallout it creates. Nothing stifles innovation (or, for that matter, careers, information sharing, customer service, etc.) like a ham-handed “slap on the wrist” from an authoritarian boss.

Leadership that fails to reward (or even recognize) successful innovation. Failing to appreciate or acknowledge innovation success might even be worse than scolding unsuccessful efforts. I recall some years ago reading the 1985 book Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur by Gifford Pinchot. The book described an ingenious manager who single-handedly created a new multimillion dollar stream of revenue for his employer. The manager discovered an innovative breakthrough that transformed tons of scrap material previously hauled away as waste into a vital component of a new product.

Great job, right? Tell that to the manager’s employer. Incredibly, the manager was not rewarded or recognized in any way for his multimillion dollar innovation (!!) – an injustice that Gifford Pinchot seemed to gloss over and almost excuse:

[The manager] doesn’t seem bitter that he barely received a thank you for creating a new business…He is from that loyal generation who is thankful for a job, and my questions about recognition and rewards made him uncomfortable.

This feeble conclusion debunks the book’s own premise; after all, an entrepreneur in charge of his or her own company actually reaps the rewards of his or her innovation, rather than having them gobbled up without even a “thank you” by an indifferent executive team!

In addition to conveying the cynical notion that the manager “should just be thankful he has a job,” the company made a very loud and clear statement about how little it valued innovation and those who engage in it. I’m sure that message was received loud and clear, and remembered, by others across that organization.

Leadership that is preoccupied with “problem solving,” not innovating. Referring to the previous sad example, problem solving would have amounted to simply finding a new vendor willing to dispose of ‘all this worthless material waste’ for a few nickels less than the current cost. Innovating is what that manager actually did, turning that scrap material into revenue-generating gold.

An organization unduly focused on such “problem solving” will readily recognize the former and often underappreciate the latter (even if the innovative efforts prove successful!), perhaps even going so far as to label those innovative efforts as indicative of “not taking direction.”

I discussed this issue in a recent article exploring the Hierarchy of Imagination, in which I suggested that many boss-subordinate conflicts stem from incompatible levels of imagination, such as a highly “creative” person reporting to a “left brain”-focused, “problem solver” boss – more likely to be focused on “the numbers” while paying lip service at best to innovation.

Once again Mr. James Kilts comes to mind.¬†After selling off Gillette, he authored a book, paradoxically entitled Doing What Matters,¬†in which he proudly described one of his greatest achievements at Gillette: Successfully¬†mandating a dramatic reduction in the company’s product SKU count.¬†Wait, what? This is an example of a keystone “achievement” by the CEO of a global company?! This is not leadership; it’s an example of executive tinkering over administrative “problem solving.”

Source: New York Times (click for source page)

In The Fighter, Micky Ward’s fortunes begin to change when he begins to surround himself with professionals who set the right environment and agenda to start setting him up for success.

Similarly, in the world of work, I hope your company’s leaders and managers are also setting the right environment, agenda and vision to innovate – thereby setting up the company, your co-workers, and you for success.

My Article Published in Pragmatic Marketing Newsletter

The just-published June 2011 edition of Pragmatic Marketing Newsletter includes an article of mine: an extended version of my earlier blog post Play the Product Marketing Game Like a Chess Grandmaster.

Here is a link to the Pragmatic Marketing article, and a link to the original blog post.  Enjoy!

What Flavor is Your Cupcake?

Photo by Clare & Dave (Flickr CC)

I’ve been meaning for a while to write about¬†the simple and clever Cake Model for Product Planning,¬†a smart product management methodology by Brandon Schauer of Adaptive Path, a user experience (UX) design firm.¬† The cake model¬†helps launch desirable products as quickly as possible, and in so doing, help customers achieve positive, successful¬†product experiences as quickly as possible as well.

The Adaptive Path Cake Model urges product managers not to try making a big huge honking cake of a product.  That requires baking a very a big cake (on its own, rather plain and dry), then adding some filling, and then some frosting.  Hopefully your target markets are willing and able to wait for all that, and the finally-completed cake is the flavor, texture, etc. they were expecting.

Instead, product managers should¬†first spec out¬†a cupcake of a product that be made relatively quickly, with a small amount of cake complimented with enough filling and frosting to make people want it¬† – and get value from using it – right away, as is.¬†¬†Users¬†achieve success¬†and a sense of competency with the product now, and eagerly look forward to enhancements.¬† For more on the importance of getting your users past the newbie threshhold with your product to passionate user, check out this classic post – one of my favorites from Karhy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users blog (archive).

One cupcake product model example that comes to mind is the online to-do app TeuxDeux.¬† Instead of trying to bake the entire cake of “everything” that belongs in a to-do app, TeuxDeux offered up a quick cupcake: a dead-simple online to-do application for people who might find the very wide and deep features of¬†more comprehensive¬†to-do apps like Remember the Milk a bit intimidating.¬† Users raved about TeuxDeux’s highly intuitive “cupcake,” and have since provided over 10,000 enhancement suggestions, culminating in new online features as well as¬†an iPhone version.

Meanwhile, product marketing managers contribute to the success of the cake model through two primary roles:

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The Impact of Imagination Level on Product Marketers and Managers

With thanks to a tweet by Donald Farmer, I recently came across an impressive graphic representation of the increasing degrees of human imagination.

Brennan’s Hierarchy of Imagination was designed by John Maeda based on his conversation with Patti Brennan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.¬†Similar in design to¬†Maslow’s classic Hierarchy of Needs, the Hierarchy of Imagination is represented as a pyramid¬†progressing from the base of¬†reactionary behavior with little or no imagination (Reflex), proceeding upward to Problem Solving, then Creativity, and finally the pinnacle of “completely unrestrained” Imagination.¬† It is a very thought-provoking, very useful model.

I had a few thoughts on Brennan’s Hierarchy of Imagination and its application to the workplace and product marketing/management in particular:

  • The hierarchy should not be interpreted as¬†disparaging jobs in which little creativity or problem solving¬†is expected. What sets a worker in such a job apart from others is the level of wisdom they bring to their job (Read more here). That said, a person in the Reflex category had better not find himself in a Peter Principle job situation¬†and¬†be expected to proactively solve problems or provide creative leadership.
  • Many boss-subordinate conflicts stem from incompatible levels of imagination.¬†A product manager who¬†spends¬†his time gathering customer enhancement requests and prioritizing bug fixes¬†(Problem Solving) will likely find himself in trouble with his VP who expects him to creatively identify new, ground-breaking features for the next version of the product. Conversely,¬†a “left brain” business owner who prides herself as a Problem Solver is more likely to fail to appreciate the creative work¬†of her marketing manager. She might even be reluctant to recognize new business leads are being generated by creative,¬†engaging marketing programs, choosing to be preoccupied instead with supposed “flaws” as to “how” those marketing programs were executed.
  • Problem Solvers should beware of creativity blind spots. With the thought in mind, I read an article linked on John Maeda’s blog on the challenges creative people might face when pursuing leadership roles. I’m willing to wager that many of those surveyed demonstrating ambivalence towards creative people¬†tend to fit into¬†the imagination hierarchy as¬†Problem Solvers themselves, strongly focused on successful project¬†administration¬†but also generally unaware of the creative value and ultimate business impact of a project’s deliverables. To paraphrase a passage I recall from a Tom Peters book, ‘the project was ahead of schedule and under budget… but no one cared about the final product!’ Such Problem Solvers risk losing their creatives, and with them, their capacity to innovate, gain the attention of new prospects and keep existing customers.
  • In fairness to Problem Solvers, creativity needs to be directed carefully. Product manager turned CEO Barbara Tallent warns product managers to avoid¬†working on “just the cool stuff” instead of what customers have already said they need and will pay for. Read more here.
  • The further you go up the imagination hierarchy, the more vital your skills of persuasion will be. In order for a creative person or¬†someone¬†with “completely unconstrained” Imagination to achieve his vision, he will need to effectively brief others in the organization¬†on the merits of that vision. And if their boss is that prideful Problem Solver, they must effectively “manage up” and¬†earn the boss’ buy-in, enthusiasm¬†and¬†support. Read more here.
  • You can’t “teach” creativity, but you can help cultivate it. On this issue, I really like Patti Brennan’s comment: “teaching creativity doesn’t work but expanding their imaginations might work better.” In¬†her work in patient healthcare, Patti Brennan¬†believes “that in order to get patients to take control of their health, they need to imagine what it looks like to be more healthy.” Well said! The ability to visualize something better than what you are already doing is vital for creativity. Similarly, creativity requires a capacity to empathize with others, whether we are talking about the health problems of patients or the challenges and frustrations of our customers. Good product management and product marketing professionals can translate their empathy towards what customers are going through into well-defined products and clear, relevant, engaging messaging and content.

I found Brennan’s Hierarchy of Imagination very insightful and I look forward to reading more from John Maeda’s Creative Leadership blog.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Product Managers and Product Marketers: Ever Feel Like You’re Being Treated Like ‚ÄúThe Fighter‚ÄĚ? [Or: When Leadership Squanders its Innovative Workers]

Today‚Äôs ‚ÄúNew Rules‚ÄĚ Marketing Organizations Run Like Winning Football¬†Teams

Innovative Companies Don‚Äôt Have Employee¬†‚ÄúSediment‚ÄĚ

Today’s Best Marketing Organizations Run Like Winning Football Teams

Football-and-MarketingI read a great Ad Age article,¬†Four Talent Categories You Need to Win in a Connected World,¬†by Chris Kuenne. Recognizing that many marketing organizations still cling to “old school” marketing and PR, Chris Kuenne provided a timely description of the must-have¬†talents, skills and attitudes found in today’s leading¬†marketing organizations that actively contribute to business¬†growth and success.

To support his key¬†point that “the old set of skills and conventional deployment will not work,” Chris Kuenne offered up a sports analogy:

In [American] football‚Ķ each player goes one-on-one against his opponent, helping the team advance the ball in a linear fashion down the field. Marketing over the past 50 years reflected this linear approach, in which a brand’s marketing plan specified a highly planned, seldom altered, set of initiatives‚Ķ Today marketing is closer to rugby. All players handle multiple roles, using many different skills…

I agree with Chris Kuenne’s historical and current assessment of the marketing function; however, today’s game of football is actually brimming with innovative tactics. I see a lot of parallels between the practices of winning modern pro football teams and winning marketing organizations:

Transformation through Innovation. Both football and marketing have benefited dramatically from innovation. The “linear, seldom-altered” football game Chris Kuenne referred sounds more like how football was played over a century ago, when the most successful teams, notably the Army Cadets of the U.S. Military Academy, had a predictable but powerful smash-mouth running game.¬†

And so it went, until Notre Dame, in 1913, unveiled an innovation that would transform the game: The forward pass, which was recently legalized but remained widely ignored. Quarterback Gus Dorais and future football legend tight end Knute Rockne led Notre Dame’s surprise passing attack that surprised and confused the Army Cadets defense. The Fighting Irish cruised to a 35-13 upset win.

At roughly the same time as Notre Dame’s game-changing¬†use of the forward pass, John Wanamaker, the pioneer of the department store, made his famous remark, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”¬†Similar frustrations by marketers have¬†continued right up to present day!

Thankfully,¬†marketing innovations today¬†are replacing decades of linear, seldom-altered, interruption marketing with a still-evolving paradigm of content marketing, permission marketing and marketing automation technologies. The marketing function is undergoing its own¬†game-changing, “forward pass”¬†of¬†innovation and transformation.

Improvisation. In the football game of an earlier era, the coach’s called play was the play, no matter how obviously ready the defense was ready for it. Today’s football calls for champion quarterbacks to decipher disguised defenses in real-time and possibly “call an audible” ‚Äď a quickly-improvised new play. Teammates must also recognize the need to improvise a play as well: wide receivers must know when to “cut their route” and expect a very quick pass in response to an anticipated rush on the quarterback. The defense must be ready to change its coverages at a moment’s notice as well.

The old school coach’s “command and control” of a football game has given way to much more flexible play-by-play in response to real-time game situations. In similar fashion, members of winning marketing¬†organizations are afforded the autonomy, and have the skills, to make real-time corrections during¬†a marketing campaign or other activities, and do so collaboratively with others on the team.

An obsession for analytics. Today’s most effective professional teams ‚Äď not just “Moneyball” baseball – but pro football, basketball and hockey as well ‚Äď are utilizing data analytics in ways and depths unimaginable even a decade ago. Sports analytics can help predict future success on game day and optimize success off the field (e.g., demand-driven ticket prices, non-game day events and functions). Celtics co-owner and venture capitalist Steve Pagliuca called Boston “a new Florence” for sports analytics.

A similar analytic renaissance¬†within marketing¬†is now in full swing. I encourage you to visit Scott Brinker’s¬†Chief Marketing Technologist and start with one of Scott’s¬†all-time¬†favorite posts, Rise of the Marketing Technologist. The active use of analytics is a force multiplier for effective marketing as it is for successful sport teams.

Leaders with genuine¬†acumen and leadership skills. Chris Kuenne¬†provided advice to CMOs equally applicable¬†to football coaches when he wrote that leaders “must encourage collaboration across radically different temperaments, skills and backgrounds.” That’s an accurate description of football and marketing teams alike.

Just as important are the coach’s/CMO’s own qualifications: how many, how much of “hard skills” ‚Äď the vital talents, skills and attitudes identified by Chris Kuenne ‚Äď does the leader in question really possess? Has the coach/CMO demonstrated his or her “soft skills” ‚Äď a proven ability to “attract, inspire and retain the best talent”? Authentic leaders, like champion coaches, attract and inspire highly talented professionals.¬† Poor coaches and poor business leaders repel talented people.

Pro football fans will recall the unfortunate¬†failure of Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress, resulting in a rare midseason firing of a head coach back in 2010. Brad Childress’ implosion should serve as a cautionary tale for those in any executive position lacking genuine leadership skills. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com wrote:

Brad Childress had a distant relationship at best with his players, feuding with most key veterans at one point or another. And his schemes were uninspiring and rigid, routinely minimizing the skills of talented players… They felt neither inspired nor challenged.

Winning marketing organizations, much like the best football teams, are typically led by savvy, authentic leaders who encourage innovative thinking, seek out new analytic insights, understand key challenges and needs, and translate that understanding into new, engaging customer experiences that build new business. They are the ones setting new rules for marketing success.

“Missionary” Technology Really Requires a Technology Evangelist

A technology evangelist “promotes the use of a particular product or technology through talks, articles, blogging, demonstrations, [etc.]…The word ‘evangelism’ is taken from the context of religious evangelism because of the similar recruitment of converts and the spreading of the product information…”¬† (Source: Wikipedia)

I recently came across a blog post by technical writing and communications professional Dr. Ugur Akinci, who wondered aloud whether there was a better term to describe the title of Technology¬†Evangelist. Ugur Akinci¬†noted the dictionary definitions of evangelism in its original religious context; those definitions¬†suggest communication¬†that is, among other things,¬†decidedly¬†one-way. Point well taken, but none of the other alternative titles suggested – technology communicator, ambassador, champion, advocate, enthusiator (the latter one intended to provide¬†a chuckle!) – comes close to conveying the role as vividly as¬†Guy Kawasaki’s original term of technology evangelist: the¬†active persuasion of¬†people to buy into¬†the superiority of¬†his/her¬†particular¬†technology product and help spread the word about it.

Actually, the term technology evangelist becomes even more appropriate if we use more secularized religious terminology to describe the product offering itself. I have in mind an article product management professional Jacques Murphy wrote a few years ago, asking a still-timely question: Is Your Product a Missionary or a Savior?

(W)hile every (software) company wants their product to be brand spanking new, there are two very distinct strains of newness: the Missionary and the Savior. And one of those two types is a much harder sell…The Missionary product…represents a new idea or a whole new take on an old idea. Nobody has heard of it and your company is in the position of telling others about it and convincing them of how important it is…

With a Savior product, the market comes running out into the streets to greet it, cheering it along all the way. The Missionary product has to go exploring into lands unknown to make converts through its boundless zeal.

Of course, Jacques Murphy’s “market running¬†and cheering¬†to greet a Savior product”¬†hyperbole has¬†since become literally true many times over by Apple’s amazing run of true Savior products.¬†As for¬†software, particularly in the B2B space,¬†every product¬†will have some missionary, or educational, aspect to it. You will always need to effectively convey your understanding of your customers’ problems and how and why¬†your product solves these problems in ways far superior to¬†your competitors. Every software solution requires effective product marketing, and benefits greatly from technology evangelism.

But a¬†“true”¬†Missionary¬†product¬†will also¬†offer a very different solution to fulfilling a need; a solution that might even be openly contrarian to current conventional wisdom;¬†a solution¬†that¬†is proven to yield unique and compelling benefits for¬†your customers, but in very new ways. Having a technology evangelist, a name and face for the product, actively advocating your unique, even contrarian solution to the market, becomes absolutely crucial, absolutely vital.

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Business Managers Can Learn a Lot from Data Scientists

Source: HikingArtist.com (CC)

In a recent thought-provoking TDWI article, David Champagne informed readers of The Rise of Data Science: a discipline of emulating the scientific method when analyzing data, in a conscious and laudable effort to ensure objectivity and avoid poor analytical practices.

As I had just recently blogged on¬†the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, a type of flawed analytical logic business intelligence users might fall into, David Champagne’s article caught my attention.

 

From David Champagne’s article:

Back in the “good old days,” data was the stuff generated by scientific experiments. Remember the scientific method? First you ask a question, then you construct a hypothesis, and you design an experiment. You run your experiment, collect and analyze the data, and draw conclusions. Finally, you communicate your results and let other people throw rocks at them.

Nowadays, thanks largely to all of the newer tools and techniques available for handling ever-larger sets of data, we often start with the data, build models around the data, run the models, and see what happens.¬† This is less like science and more like panning for gold…Perhaps the term “data scientist” reflects a desire to see data analysis return to its scientific roots…

Barry Devlin, in his business-focused commentary on David Champagne’s article, noted the worlds of science and business have rather different goals and visions,¬†which I interpreted as data science might offer limited benefit to business managers.¬† But perhaps the best practices of data scientists have a lot more in common with those of¬†business managers after all,¬†in light of¬†some commentary I came across on effective business decision-making.¬† That commentary gave¬†high praise to the manager who utilizes the scientific method in the decision-making process. The author was not a technologist, but rather:¬†Peter Drucker, the father of modern business management.

Revisiting Peter Drucker’s writings on¬†effective decision-making process¬†will show surprising similarities to¬†the best practices of data science, and yield beneficial insights for business managers seeking to make more effective, data-informed decisions.

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