Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Building Interdisciplinary Teams

No one department can make an organization successful. It is the sum of the parts that ensures success. Interdisciplinary teams work for companies of all sizes, especially global ones, and we recommend cross-functional and cross-cultural teams to: (1) review all strategies; (2) take ownership in all activities; and (3) define and guide messaging.

The benefits off cross-functional organizations are:
  1. Reduce redundancy of efforts;
  2. Lowers operating costs;
  3. Streamlines processes;
  4. Increases value in the eyes of customers;
  5. Cross-education leads to higher productivity;
  6. Empowers teams to think outside their immediate expertise, which adds to innovative ideas
  7. Provides transparency and accountability
  8. Forces delivery on commitments (peer pressure).
Building interdisciplinary Teams is a game changer, especially in this economy. Talent wins games, but teamwork, focus, passion and intelligence wins championships.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Manipulation or Win-Win?

I just finished reading Kristina Bjoran's Psychological Manipulation in eCommerce Design, and I do not share her conclusions. She starts out:
“Web designers and architects use an array of psychological tricks to manipulate users into specific behaviors. What can be learned from these tricks? And, more importantly, is it ethical?”
and then builds on this with examples; she ascribes pejoratives to each:
  • Free shipping on orders of $25 or more— “users are tricked into spending more”
  • Receipts e-mailed two days after purchase– “when negative feedback is necessary, it’s best (for the retailer) to postpone that feedback as long as possible. It’s a smart move, but also one that feels a bit, well, cunning.”
  • Limited time offers— “undoubtedly manipulative.”
And she ended with: “how do the craftsmen and women of user experience feel about such manipulation/design?”

Well, first we'd have to agree that it was indeed manipulation (manipulation not as in “I manipulated my software settings”— but as a judgment of unethical behavior, as in “I manipulated that sucker and he bought my snake oil”).

What is the litmus test of manipulation? What of the ethics of these?...
  • using a New York Times-ish design on your blog because you want to be taken seriously
  • giving your art to museums. Now you can say your art is in museums!
  • dressing well
  • coloring your hair/nails
  • wearing makeup, concealer, etc.
  • smiling when another facial expression might better reveal your thoughts
Each of these could be seen as manipulative— they all seek to influence opinion at a minimum, maybe even influence the actions of others. They could also be seen as putting-your-best-foot-forward, which should be topmost on everyone's personal priority list. So which is it?

I recently took advantage of Amazon's free shipping of orders of $25 or more. My immediate need was one item; shipping would have added 50% to the purchase. So I looked in my Amazon wish list (thank you Amazon for a wish list!) and saw two more items that I had been meaning to get but were of a lower priority. Added to my purchase; shipping waived! I had been planning on buying them all along and delayed buying them until I had enough items for free shipping. Kristina's hypothesis depends on the premise that the additional items purchased were not items that I ever really wanted, and that a free shipping option hastened my purchasing decisions rather than postponed them. To boot, one of the lower priority items was an educational book for me; hard to qualify that scenario as unethical given that my mind will be enriched from my purchase!

One could suspect that Amazon intended to “manipulate” me, but in and of itself, free shipping on orders over $25 is not unquestionably and undoubtedly “manipulation”. I am reminded of a quote from American artist Fairfield Porter, from a debate about whether it is arrogant to sign your paintings:
“If you are arrogant and you sign your paintings, then it is arrogant to sign your paintings and if you are not arrogant and you sign your paintings, then it is not arrogant to sign your paintings.”
“Manipulation” is a matter of intent. Did Amazon manipulate me, or did they create a win-win scenario by allowing me to gang my purchases together to save $4 shipping per item? Whether I perceive that scenario as manipulative or beneficial says more about me than them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ask for what you want; NOT what you think you can get.

It takes courage to ask... for anything. 

With that in mind I'd like to make this suggestion, when you are considering asking for anything — in your job, or your personal life — Ask for what you want; NOT what you think you can get.

You never know what the recipient of the request is thinking so it is in your best interest to ask for exactly what you want up front... even if it seems out of the realm of possibility. When you ask for what you want you set the stage for clear negotiations, letting everyone know exactly what your expectations are up front.

When you ask for what you think you can get, you sell yourself short — bargaining with an imaginary opponent and ultimately not satisfying your original intention.

Nobody wants to go to the well twice — give the recipient of the ask the opportunity to evaluate what you really want and you may be surprised by the result.

Friday, July 8, 2011

When is it time to kiss that client good-bye?

I know you’re saying, “In this economy, I’d never get rid of a client”, but the truth is sometimes you should. A client/agency more than a relationship, its a marriage. When a relationship is not healthy, its not good. But when a marriage is rocky, you need to take stock and reevaluate who you want to be, to each other.

When I was a kid my Mom gave me some advice that has been the barometer of my personal and professional life.

Show me the company you keep
and I'll show you,
the company you are.

Keeping clients who are dysfunctional, disconnected, or lack integrity will ultimately inhibit you from doing your best work and reflect poorly on you, your health, and your company's bottom line.

Here are some instances when you should consider ending the relationship:

When the client’s words don’t match their actions
Creating a great brand needs passion, focus and vision. When you are faced with a client who’s written mission and vision do not align with their actions, you are headed into rough, troubled waters. Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to work with someone who speaks the speak but doesn't walk the walk?

When there is internal discourse
When you are hired without all of the stakeholder’s knowledge or buy-in, you will be fighting an uphill battle. We have been successful when this happens only when we reported directly to the CEO, CMO, CTO and/or CFO. If this is not an option, consider the consequences carefully before moving forward. You can’t charge for hours spent maneuvering the minefields that may be thrown in your path by unhappy and/or disgruntled staffers, who are ultimately not the decision makers. Ask yourself this question: What is my bottom line with this project? How do I make up for loss of productivity?

When you are asked to show your credentials
When you are asked by non-stakeholders (employees that are not decision makers or responsible for the project) to show your credentials, it means they have no confidence in their senior management to make the right decisions for the company. While this seems incidental, this kind of behavior is a sure-fire sign of cultural problems at the core of the company that will ultimately compromise your ability to be effective. Ask yourself these questions: You have been in business how many years? You have an incredible track record. Why does this make a difference? Does the person who asks have a different agenda? Did they recommend someone else? And don't be afraid to ask them where this question comes from. Remember, you are in a relationship. Trust is important. And understanding what is happening is important too. Its easy to misunderstand. Maybe this question comes from another place. Better to ask then wonder!

When you don’t get straight answers to your questions
Our success as marketers and branding experts is dependent on accurate information from our clients. With the internet at our finger tips exploding with information, it is easy to work for public companies. But for privately held corporations, information is limited. Our strategy, campaigns, plans and more depend on the information provided by the client. When there are internal forces beyond your control that impede your ability to collect timely accurate data -- or you are not getting quick feedback on your work -- it is time to stop and ask yourself why, and do I really need this client? As with any relationship parting ways is hard. Even people who are married 40-50 years get divorced. If you sit down and talk with them, they will say "I keep on thinking of all the time I wasted and positive experiences I could have had. I don't know why I waited this long." Same is true with your business,  you and your team should be focused on positive experiences with clients that will help your company flourish and grow —allowing you to do your best work.

When collaboration becomes combative
We love, love, love, healthy exchanges and critique. Partnerships are exciting because everyone brings a different perspective to the table generating great concepts and energy. It's a necessary part of the creative process and it propels productivity. However, when these sessions become combative or abusive, it is no longer collaborative and ultimately will jeopardize your ability to help the client. If this was a friend or family member you would be the first person to tell them to end a relationship if they were being physically or emotionally "beaten up" by their partner. Transfer this same philosophy of "Don't take it anymore -- get out!" to your workplace. You will find another client — and if you pay attention to your "lessons learned" — the next one will surely be a better fit.

Remember this adage: When one door closes another opens. As long as you continue to learn from your experiences, behave with integrity and stay true to your own mission, vision and values good things will happen!

Our agency is so much better because of this philosophy. Think about it. Don't be afraid to take the plunge when/if needed!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Be Authentic.

Don’t underestimate the value people place on authenticity – especially when building your community
Social media places consumers in control by providing them with the tools to quickly communicate to their "network" what they think.  If your company's actions do not match their messaging, your customers will find out quicker than ever -- and they will make that information go viral.   Going viral is not always a positive experience.  So the importance of authenticity in your brand has never been greater.

Seven points to always keep in mind while building your community:
  • A community is like building a relationship; and like all relationships, it is built on trust -- you must be consistent;
  • Great communities (like brands) are built through simple, heartfelt ideas -- and a passionate fan base;
  • All ideas expressed need to be spoken in a true and honest voice, reflective of the brand personality;
  • Embrace your roots (mission/vision/values) to foster open dialogue;
  • Engage your community in big, compelling ideas and causes;
  • Reward people for their time and thought; and
  • Connecting with people is easy, so don't force it.