Monthly Archives: June 2009

Agree & Disagree Links for 06-15-09

AGREE: Fame is very different from success. Seek success, by Kiersten Mitchell

AGREE: Start-ups are spiky, @Richard_Florida

AGREE: Reactive people are often affected by the weather, proactive people carry their own weather with them, @JessConstable

AGREE: Women need to be listened to, not fixed, @mckinneyos

DISAGREE: Preach the intangibles of social media, @mattChevy

Is Gen Y teamwork killing creativity?

Generation Y is a kind generation. Our conservative lifestyles and penchants for quiet opinions have led us to work together happily with healthy doses of idealism. We are a teamwork generation, fully in line with each other.

Top-down management and the clutch of hierarchal authority no longer illustrate the strokes of success, but instead lead to siloed rows of depressed employees and opportunistic managers.

Gen Y, in contrast, is all about the team, preferring conformity inside the lines over pushing boundaries or ourselves. “In many respects,” psychology expert Jeremy Dean argues, “[these] norms have a beneficial effect, bolstering society’s foundations and keeping it from falling into chaos.”

We’re the soothing wall fountain over a fire of greed, instability and unethical behavior. We dislike ambiguity and risk and mitigate the risks that we have inherited accordingly. We “provide a stable and predictable social world, to regulate our behavior with each other.”

The world these group norms create are so safe and sound that one research study found that “groups don’t even need to be that well-established, people will conform to others with only the slightest encouragement.”

It’s incredibly easy for crowdsourcing and group-think to take over. The wisdom of the crowd is everywhere.

“The power of groups, the clout that crowds can exercise to get what they want, is nothing new,” one trend briefing reports. “What is new, however, is the dizzying ease with which likeminded, action-ready citizens and consumers can now go online and connect, group and ultimately exert influence on a global scale.”

We can no longer buy a camera without checking the product recommendations, go on a trip without researching hotel reviews, or visit a new restaurant without the prodding of a friend. Wikipedia is one of the best known examples of the concept at work. Revering social media “influencers” is another. Do other people like it? What do they think? Have they legitimized it, given it their stamp of approval and a gold star? And did their mother try it?

Such trends make it incredibly easy to live in society, but also threaten the individual mind, intuition and originality. Consensus isn’t all gravy.

“Unfortunately groups only rarely foment great ideas,” Dean reports, “because people in them are powerfully shaped by group norms: the unwritten rules which describe how individuals in a group ‘are’ and how they ‘ought’ to behave. Norms influence what people believe is right and wrong just as surely as real laws, but with none of the permanence or transparency of written regulations.”

Teamwork threatens creativity.

Reverting back to a command and control structure is obviously not the answer, but decentralized leadership doesn’t mean we all have to hold hands. We can’t let the pendulum swing so far from one extreme to the other that we miss that happy medium where innovation soars.

Groups do such a good job breeding mediocrity that we can’t be so afraid to be alone and listen to the sound of our own voice and let out a real note while we lip-synch. March to the beat of our own drum as it goes. We can’t be afraid to sit with our own thoughts where that nugget just needs some dedicated commitment to the state of flow to turn into something wonderful.

Groups are for brainstorms, not conclusions. Teamwork is for energy, not leadership. Conformity is overrated.

And while it’s important to be the healing generation, the calm ones, the group that will bring people together to make things okay again, there’s no reason not to leave some solitary footprints on another path for future generations to follow.

Breaking Out.

Agree & Disagree Links for 06-08-09

AGREE: We tend to favor information that we’ve heard the most times, or from people we like, over information coming from sources we don’t like, via @heymarci

DISAGREE: Write in small words where possible, @chrisbrogan

How to pitch for what you want

I get around three to four pitches a day from PR firms and they all suck. Some of them suck so badly I want to re-post them on my blog and make fun of them, but that’s not what I do here. Yet.

You don’t want to make their mistakes. Maybe you want your old boss to give you advice on your current job situation, or need a restaurant recommendation, or you want a blogger to write about reality TV star suicides. Whatever it is, here are four rules that apply:

1. Be personal.
Mass emails are interruptive advertising. They are the commercials I skip, the billboards I glaze over and the fliers that line the trash. If you have someone’s email, you should have their name. Use it.

But a name isn’t personal enough anymore. You know what’s personal? Showing that you respect me enough to know something about me. Anything. Talk about your mutual friend, your fellow obsession with brussels sprouts, or how you respect their blog/company/daughter and why.

Extreme targeting through the cultivation of conversations and relationships is the future of advertising. Big companies will do this by creating spaces where consumers will come to them and receive personalized value in return. You can do this by making it fun, easy and enjoyable to enter into a conversation with you and by showing the value you provide. You’re human. Act like it.

2. Be persistent.
There is no such thing as a perfect pitch. One, because it has to be customized for each person, and two because you can’t possibly know what each person will respond to unless you’ve worked with them before. Even then, people are fickle.

Everyone makes the first call. Everyone leaves one message. And everyone is also counting on you to give up. Maybe not the first time, but certainly the second or third. Don’t be a wuss. If your request is important, keep trying. People are busy, or maybe you didn’t pitch well enough the first time, or maybe they just want to see if you have the gumption to keep playing.

During college I was the top fundraiser for my university foundation. Here’s why. We had to make five asks in a phone call. Ninety percent of my co-workers would stop after one ask or get uncomfortable after the second. I made all five. Don’t give up.

3. Be specific.
People can’t read minds. Trust me, I’ve tested every boyfriend I’ve had. Nothing.

Most people don’t have specific requests. They send information or they send praise, but no call to action. Tell me what you want. It’s great that you’re writing an e-book on careers or it sucks that you’re having problems at work. And I’m glad that you love my blog, but is there something I can do for you? Then tell me. Follow through. Close the deal. It’s easy to do this by ending a conversation with a specific request:

“Can I count on you to give $100?”
“Does a 1:00 pm call on Thursday work?”
“Will you attend my restaurant opening?”

4. Say thank you. For the love of God.
My last job was all about keeping young professionals in the city. So when a candidate said she had been rejected by a local organization for a job, I asked her who the contact was. When it turned out to be someone I knew well, I offered to call my contact and ask that person to take a second look at the candidate. My contact agreed, the candidate was interviewed and was subsequently hired for a position.

And I never heard a thank you. Ever. That sort of thing happened all the time and what irks me even more is that it still does. Constantly. You have to show appreciation.

People don’t help you out of the goodness of their hearts. People help for two reasons: 1) they want to feel good when their advice or assistance pays off, and 2) they think by helping you, they can help themselves.

When I got my current position, I called the friend who got me in the door immediately to thank her. And then I sent her flowers. Oftentimes, when you ask for something, there’s not much you’re able to give back in return. A simple thank you goes a long way.

Pitch Point.

What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Share your practical and creative tips below.

Agree & Disagree Links for 06-03-09

AGREE: We’ve lived our lives in nicely packaged semesters for 22 years knowing the exact formula… Unfortunately, we all know that life is anything but formulaic, @leadingassoc

RELUCTANTLY AGREE:  Studies indicate that people who are high in openness to new experiences and high in neuroticism are likely to be bloggers, @Richard_Florida

Niceness is the new career trend

In what is arguably one of the worst times in American history since the Great Depression, the people of America have their chins decidedly up.

The sanguine mood is characterized by “an outbreak of niceness across the cultural landscape — an attitude bubbling up in commercials, movies and even, to a degree, the normally not-nice blogosphere,” the New York Times reports.

Harvard MBA students are making a promise to be ethical in an age of immorality, young talent is shifting towards do-gooder jobs, and more people are holding the elevator door open for me daily.

Enron and Madoff are no match for the almost hermetic happiness that now protects the Nation. It’s not sugar-coated like the self-help decade of the nineties. Nor does it resemble the maudlin contentment of the shut-eyed fifties. Instead, it’s a cheerfulness that smiles next to adversity.

It’s nourished by President Obama himself, who has cottoned such unprecedented praise and agreement that the press can’t help but gush. That goodness has spread virally – as happiness has been proven to do – and companies and individuals are following suit.

“Companies that have the highest retention have the nicest atmospheres,” the New York Times reports. “And in a situation where people are losing their jobs and you have an option of whom to hire, you’re going to hire the person who is complimenting your tie. Nice becomes a competitive edge.”

Alice.com is a good example of this. It’s not just that we have a ping pong table and encouraged nap time, but that our co-founders consistently encourage and compliment employees, partners, customers, potential vendors, and others. I didn’t even know this was a viable way to do business. That is, our work is not predicated on fear, failure, politics, or manipulation.

Such plushy and persistently optimistic companies give power back to the employee, back to the customer, and back to the idea of social community where the greater good is served over the individualistic ambitions of wealth or influence.

Mean is out. Earnestness and altruism are in fashion. Humility is an aphrodisiac. The roof has caved in, and people are responding accordingly. Not by panicking, but pulling up their bootstraps and making lemonade. And giving their neighbor some. And the prostitute down the street. And the dog too.

Even hard-core adherents to darker fantasies like Eminem are “just coming clean and exhaling.” The rapper’s newest album ripostes on his drug addictions, and his subsequent challenges and triumphs more than women stuffed into trunks.

Because when you’ve hit bottom – and we all have now, whether rich and poor – a great opportunity exists to find commonality in the grace of our ascension.

And while our children will most certainly rebel against us, perhaps under the objectivism of Ayn Rand or the cynicism of Gen X, our optimism, vanilla, mediocre and conservative as it may be, is prevailing.

What is happening now is that glee is rising from collectively pushing forward at all costs, not knowing if it will work and accepting that there’s a good chance it won’t, and working towards something greater. All together. With differences of opinion, but with respect as well. With civility and common courtesy. And with confidence in humanity’s decency.

Good Works.