Book Summary of ‘Great by Choice’ by Jim Collins

Introduction

It’s 1912 and Raold Amundsden and Robert Scott are in a race to the South Pole. In a story seemingly designed perfectly to illustrate the difference between thinking that will lead to success and thinking that will lead to failure.

Amundsden’s team makes it to the South Pole first, and make it back alive to tell the story. Scott’s team, on the other hand, are less fortunate. They make it to the South Pole weeks later, only to find Amundsden’s team had planted a flag to mark the occasion. They struggled mightily on the trip back, eventually succumbing to the elements and perishing on their way back to civilisation.

The details of this incredible story seem to mimic the findings of Jim Collins’ research in his current book, Great by Choice. When Jim Collins wrote his best-selling book, Good to Great, he became an instant business hero. Executives from around the world aspired to be Level 5 leaders and focused intently on finding their hedgehog concepts.

But there was a question that remained unanswered: in a world that is increasingly in financial turmoil and constant change, how do you succeed? In a methodology similar to Good to Great, Collins and his team studied companies that were in industries where there was a constant state of change, and found that there were some companies that outperformed the marketplace by a significant margin.

He called these the 10x companies, because they all had outperformed their “industry index” by more than 10 times over the span of the study. In fact, on average, the 10x companies outperformed the marketplace as a whole by 32 times.

If it sounds to you like these would be some good companies to learn from, you’d be right. What Collins and his team concluded was that there were 4 main attributes of a 10x company – fanatical discipline, empirical creativity, productive paranoia and Level 5 ambition. In the following few minutes, you’ll find the keys to becoming more like Amundsden and less like Scott.

Attribute #1 – Fanatical Discipline

The first attribute of a 10x company is that they have fanatical discipline. Collin’s gives us the metaphor of the 20 mile march. Starting out on a cross-country journey, the metaphor goes, you’d be much better off walking 20 miles per day consistently than walking much more on the good days and much less on the bad days.

In business, the 10x companies realised that a similar principle applied – that you should do whatever you need to do in order to get results in the down years, and resist the urge to grow too wildly in the up years.

A great example of a company that has done the 20-mile march consistently is Southwest Airlines – the celebrated anomoly of the dreaded airline industry. Southwest demanded a profit from its business every single year.

For entrepreneurs, this sounds obvious. But in the airline industry, which was losing $13 billion per year, this is a remarkable thought. Even in the months after 9/11, when the industry was in shambles, Southwest was turning record profits.

They also excelled at the flip side of the 20-mile march, and controlled their growth in the up years. In 1996, for instance, there were over 100 cities who wanted Southwest to open operations there. Instead, they took a methodical approach and expanded to only 4 cities.

If you want to bring the 20-mile march to your organisation, here are the 7 elements you can learn from:

1. You should use performance markers to deliniate lower bounds of performance you are willing to tolerate. It should be difficult to achieve, but not impossible.

2. You also need to create self-imposed constraints to understand how much you are willing to grow in the good times. This should create some discomfort as well – there should be the feeling that you should be doing more and growing faster. It takes discipline to look at opportunities and turn them down – a lesson that Starbucks and many other fast growing companies learned the hard way.

3. These constraints should be tailored to the specific circumstances of your company and market environment. For instance, a web company has different growth challenges than a coffee chain. Setting those upper and lower bounds appropriately is critical.

4. These targets should be largely within your control to achieve. Could those other airlines have set up their businesses so that they achieved profitability every single year? Yes, but it would have took some significant planning and preparation like Southwest did.

5. You need to be thinking about the ‘Goldilocks’ time frame when setting these bounds – not too long and not too short. If you make the timeline too short you’ll be forced to deal with too much variability, and set it too long and will lose all its power. A year worked for Southwest, and something that’s a year or less is probably the range you want to be hunting for.

6. These bounds should be designed and self-imposed by you, and not by outside forces or circumstances. For instance, if you are in a public company, choosing a bound for what your earnings per share need to be every quarter would be a lazy choice driven by the demands of Wall Street. Choose a performance marker that is a true reflection of the underlying business instead.

7. Lastly, the march needs to be achieved with a great consistency over time. Hitting it every once in a while just doesn’t cut it. It’s the discipline to hit it time and time again that will determine your long-term success.

Attribute #2:Fire bullets, then cannonballs.

It’s a great metaphor for the process of creative experimentation and planning that seems to be popular with web startups, but I bet that will now also become more popular with the mainstream business community.

The idea is that if you were down to your last bit of gun powder, and had an enemy ship bearing down on you, you’d need to be judicious in your use of last reserves. Take it all and fire a cannonball, and the chances are that you are going to miss, and perish. But fire bullets first instead, and sooner or later you are going to find the right trajectory for your shots. Then, and only then should you load up the cannonball and take your shot.

Collins defines a bullet in the business context to be something that is:

1. Low cost – it shouldn’t cost you a lot of money to fire a bullet.

2. Low risk – the result, one way or another, shouldn’t have a major impact on your business.

3. Low distraction – it shouldn’t take much time away from the other major priorities the company has at the moment.

There are 5 steps to the process:

1. Fire a bullet. Make a hypothesis about a goal you are trying to achieve.

2. Assess whether or not you hit anything. Was your hypothesis correct?

3. Consider whether or not it’s worthwhile turning this bullet into a cannonball. This will depend largely on whether or not additional resources and money would lead to a big win for your company.

4. Convert it into a cannonball once you are convinced that you have calibrated the bullet correctly.

5. Terminate bullets that show no evidence of eventual success.

Attribute #3 – Productive Paranoia

It’s a great metaphor for the process of creative experimentation and planning that seems to be popular with web startups, but I bet that will now also become more popular with the mainstream business community.

Although Apple usually serves as a great example of creativity and hit products, the underlying story shows a great discipline in creating bullets, then cannonballs. It kept making investments in its’ “computer as the digital hub” strategy, first with the iPod, then iTunes as a platform and then the iPhone.

What the world saw as breathtaking innovation and big bets, Apple saw itself firing bullets and then turning them into cannonballs after they were sure that they were going to be a huge success.

All of the 10x companies seemed to be paranoid about something. But instead of acting like crazy people on the lookout for the next government conspiracy, they always have one eye out for the risks that could bring their companies down.

One of the things that each of the leaders of the 10x companies knew at all times was where their “death line” was, and they devised strategies for making sure they never got close to it. They knew that their company, like all companies, would run into a rough patch or ten along the way.

As the saying goes, you can afford to stay in business for as long as you can keep paying for your mistakes – once you cross the death line, that’s it. Game over.

There were 3 specific things that each of these companies did:

1. They had enough cash on hand to make sure they were prepared for any unforeseen events or bad luck before it happened. There’s a lot of bruhaha right now about the fact that Apple has tens of billions of dollars in cash reserves at the moment and that it’s an inefficient use of their money. But one thing is for sure – they are prepared for almost anything. And that economists and financial analysts for the most part don’t know what they are talking about.

2. They bound the risk they are willing to take on. Specifically, they pay attention to 3 kinds of risk – deathline risk, asymmetric risk (where the downside is much, much greater than the upside), and uncontrollable risk. Only when they were comfortable with the risk they were taking on, would they move forward with a plan.

3. They zoom-in and zoom-out. In zooming out, they would sense a change in the marketplace, determine how long they had in order to respond to the change, and then take the appropriate action. By zooming in, they would focus on the extreme execution of plans and objectives.

The big question that they ask themselves is “how much time until our risk profile changes here?” A great case study of this is action is what Andy Grove did when he found out he had cancer. As stunning as this would be for anybody, Andy did something that most people wouldn’t even think to do in this situation – he sprung into action.

He knew that he had months before any major decision needed to be made about what course of treatment to pursue, and he took that time to assess all of his options. He saw himself as the only person responsible for his health, and studied enough about his cancer and possible treatments that he could have probably passed a medical school exam. All the while running Intel.

That’s the hallmark of a great leader – truly understanding the timeframe in which you need to make a major decision, and then using that time to prepare yourself appropriately.

Attribute #4: Level 5 Ambition

Just like the leaders in Good to Great displayed Level 5 leadership (humility paired with professional will), the 10x leaders displayed a desire for their companies to succeed even beyond their tenure. The way they did this is through something that Collins calls SMaC. These are Specific, Methodical and Consistent operating principles as a recipe for success.

This is much different than core values or mission statements, because these are specific criteria for how they will run their company.

A great example of this was Southwest and how they ran their airline much differently than the other carriers. For instance, they only flew 737 airplanes so they could save costs and time by learning how to maintain and fly one model of airplane. They would remain a low cost carrier.

They would always have a high utilisation rate and low turnaround time for their aircraft. As Collins pointed out, Southwest only changed their SMaC by 20% over a 25 year period. That’s quite remarkable when you think about it.

And the other 10x companies operated in a similar fashion. By having a business strategy that was articulated and that could stand the test of time, they were able to focus their attention on the execution of these plans. Of course, even when the companies did amend their SMaCs, they did it with either empirical creativity or productive paranoia, only changing direction when they absolutely needed to, or when they could prove that it would be a home-run.

There you have it: everything you need in order to start your own 10x journey!

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Sales Growth’​ by Thomas Baumgartner

Marc Benioff knows a thing or two about sales. He visits and meets with thousands of sales executives every year in his role as Chairman & CEO of salesforce.com. In the foreword of the book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders, Benioff is surprised that there isn’t more rigorous research in the field of sales. Incredibly, he says, “MBA students can graduate without ever attending a class in sales.”

A team of global leaders from McKinsey’s Sales & Marketing practice led comprehensive research and interviews with more than 120 of today’s most successful sales leaders across a wide range of industries. The results led to Sales Growth, one of the first comprehensive books on the discipline of sales management.

Read this book and you’ll learn about five strategies that the world’s best sales practitioners use to create growth in any market.

Strategy #1: Find Growth Before Your Competitors Do

The first way to find growth before your competitors do is to look 10 quarters ahead to find out what the market will want.

There’s a well-known quote by Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” In order to do this well, you’ll need to “surf the trends” and see where your market is heading. Of course, you will need to invest in the appropriate resources in order to take advantage of the demand when it hits.

You should be looking at technological, political, geographical, and regulatory trends. For instance, cloud computing is estimated to be worth $65-$85 billion by 2015, so one opportunity would be to target small businesses with a pay-as-you-go model for online software.

The second thing you can do to find growth before your competitors is to “mine growth beneath the surface.”

In essence, this is all about turning on the microscope to find small pockets of growth that collectively deliver real impact. For instance, a European telecommunications company broke down its 15 traditional sales regions into 500 micro-markets. This exercise made it very clear that it was under-investing in areas that were prime candidates for significant growth, and over-investing in areas where its returns would be much lower.

However, if you want to start analysing your markets in this sort of microscopic detail, your sales force will need assistance from other teams, including marketing, and even customer service in order to execute effectively. For instance, your marketing team might need to transfer some of its spend to markets where there is more growth opportunity.

The third thing you can do is to “find growth in big data.”

Making the most of big data means doing much more than analyzing the information contained in your CRM. It includes looking at data from your company, your suppliers, partners, and even your customers’ social media accounts.

When you start looking at all the sources of data in your decision making process, you find growth potential in unexpected places. For instance, a marketing executive at Google noticed that the colour of the links in the Gmail ads was different from the colour of ads on the Google search engine. The company tested 40 different shades of blue to see which link colour would generate the most revenue. The results were staggering. The winning blue collar added $200 million in revenue to Google’s coffers.

Strategy #2: Sell the Way Your Customers Want

How do your customers want to buy from you? The answer to this question is not as simple as it once was given the dramatic changes that the Internet and social media are driving

The first thing you can do to sell the way your customers want is to “master multichannel sales.”

This goes beyond the traditional understanding of multichannel, which typically assigns lower-value customers to low-cost channels such as the web and telesales, and directs bigger customers to more expensive channels, specifically, face-to-face direct sales.

In the new world of sales, leading companies understand that more important customers might have smaller needs that risk being unfulfilled because sales reps simply couldn’t afford to spend time on them. The implication is that you might consider pairing up an inside sales rep with each field sales rep. One company reaped a sales force productivity increase of 14% just from this simple change.

Of course, to master multichannel sales you also have to integrate online and offline experiences. The key here is to truly understand what your customer’s decision journey is. For instance, in the case of a car dealership, customers will probably want to research models and prices online, before they head in to the dealership for a test drive.

The second thing you can do to sell the way your customers want is to “power growth through digital sales.”

As the authors point out, more than two-thirds of all sales today involve some sort of online research, consideration, or the purchase. This proportion will only grow with time, and there are two specific ways to generate sales growth from this trend: optimise fanatically and get social.

Online optimisation is a huge topic with many facets. One of them is conversion rate optimisation through A/B or multivariate testing. A powerful example is this when upscale shirtmaker Thomas Pink learned through testing that adding product videos to its website doubled conversions compared to static images. You also need to start thinking seriously about investing in a great mobile web experience, as more and more people use their mobile device to shop online.

Getting social means that you need to start thinking about how you engage your customers and prospects through the various social networks. Although it’s still “early days” for many B2B marketers, the best performers are finding growth by running test campaigns through social media.

The third lesson the authors drew from leading sales executives was “innovating direct sales.”

This means doing things a little bit differently from your competition. For instance, sales leaders have found that by engaging customers early, and by not mentioning their products in these early discussions, they were able to generate higher levels of sales.

These early discussions instead focused on collaborative problem-solving of the customer’s specific business issue. Another finding was that companies who had more experts on hand as part of the sales process, sold more.

There are plenty of other options for selling the way your customers want: orchestrating direct and indirect channels, investing in partners for mutual profit, and selling like a local in emerging markets. If you want a more in-depth look at these elements, you can read more in the complete version of the Sales Growth book.

Strategy #3: Soup Up Your Sales Engine

“Souping up your sales engine” is all about designing sales processes that support your sales team.

The first thing you can do to turbo charge your sales engine is “tune your sales operations for growth.”

This means unearthing every opportunity to let your sales teams use more of their time to sell. That might seem simple enough, but if you haven’t looked at how your reps are spending their time lately, you might be in for a surprise.

A logistics company found that its sales reps were spending only 35% of their time actively selling. The rest of their time they were having to deal with other issues such as billing systems updates, internal communications and firefighting. Once the company understood this state of affairs, it implemented solutions to cut down on non-sales related activities, and voila – instant sales growth.

The second thing you can do to soup up your sales engine is to “build a technological advantage in sales.”

As the authors explain, putting the right insights into the right person’s hands at the right time can be enormously valuable. One company was able to help its reps automatically map their daily travel plans to enable them to make the best use of their time.

The technology looked at traffic patterns and the store hours of their retail customers and then automatically generated a map for them to follow. Not only did the reps not have to spend too much time mapping out their day, they were also able to travel much more efficiently and spend more of their time actually selling.

You should also enable your channel partners to take advantage of these insights. For example, Cisco developed communication tools for its own reps, and then opened them up to its channel partners so that they could take advantage of them as well.

Strategy #4: Focus on Your People

Of course, with all of this focus on technology and strategy, it’s easy to forget that we are also dealing with human beings. So, it makes sense that you also need to focus on your people in order to create sales growth.

The first thing you can do to is to “manage performance for growth.” There’s a difference between managing a sales team in the traditional way, and managing a sales team to engineer growth. To do the latter properly, you need to create a mindset shift in a few key areas.

First, you need to “coach rookies to become rainmakers” – as quickly as possible.

Traditional thinking was that “coaching” was a nice-to-have. Wrong. Sales growth thinking makes it a core competence of your team. Through the research the authors carried out, they found that a structured coaching program with weekly contact between the coach and sales rep was critically important. One industrial company has what it calls an 80/80 rule: sales managers are required to spend 80% of their time with their reps, and 80% of their variable compensation is tied to that coaching.

Second, you need to set the tempo of performance.

As the head of advisor sales at a US financial services firm says, “Great sales leaders run their operations with the precision of an engineering firm.” One pattern that emerged from the authors’ research was a high pace of reporting. Sales reps report to managers, managers report to executives, and the sales executives report to the CEO – every single week. Those calls are used to address issues and to put in place corrective actions.

Third, you need to recognise that it’s not just about pay.

Non-cash rewards can be a powerful incentive – up to four times more effective than cash rewards, if designed correctly. Even perks as simple as tickets to your team’s favourite sporting events can be a more powerful motivator than extra money in reps’ pockets. And, believe it or not, extra training for your team can also be considered a powerful motivator.

It’s one thing to create the mindset shifts we’ve just described, but it’s another to make them stick for the long haul. The authors found that it’s bolstered by going a level deeper. “Building sales DNA.” is critical.

The key to embedding these concepts is to encode the behaviour you know will be successful (such as those weekly meetings) into your team’s daily, weekly and monthly routines. After all, as the authors state, adults need to apply a new skill at least 20 times before it will stick.

The final item to pay attention to when creating long-term change is to give your middle managers a starring role.

Too often, companies underinvest in front-line managers, who can easily make or break any change effort.

Strategy #5: Lead Sales Growth

The final section of the book starts off with a great quote by Albert Einstein, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it’s the only way.”

The only way to generate the growth that you and your team are looking for is to drive it from the very top. As the authors point out, transformations of all kinds are two and a half times more likely to succeed if they have strong leadership commitment.

The most successful leaders focus on a few specific things in order to make this happen.

First, they challenge the status quo.

If there’s one thing that’s certain in your drive for growth, it’s that you’ll meet resistance from your team. By having the courage to insist that you and your entire team always challenge convention – always question the “but we’ve always done it that way” mentality, you’ll be ensuring the long-term growth of your sales team. Second, leaders galvanise sales teams.

You will need your team’s buy-in over the long run if you want your sales growth program to succeed. To get that, you need to paint a simple and compelling vision of the future. One CEO created a video highlighting the vision for the company that brought tears to their sales executives eyes (seriously). That’s the type of vision that you need to create. Lastly, leaders need to demand results.

Sales growth leaders know that in order to generate results, you need to be very specific about what you’re trying to achieve. First, be crystal clear on who is responsible for the growth plan. Second, be willing to move talent around to deliver results – ultimately rewarding those who produce results by setting them up to achieve even more.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Never Eat Alone’ by Keith Ferrazzi

There’s an old Chinese proverb that perhaps you’ve heard of it:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Well the same holds true for building your network.

Getting the Right Mind-Set

Here’s the rub: success in any field (but especially in business), is about working with people, not against them. Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people. We need each other and we feel a need to help each other.

We’ve all been invited to networking events. Those post-work sessions are often frequented by card ninjas playing top trumps with the other attendees. Ferrazzi believes real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful. It is about working hard to give more than we get.

Real networking is also good for business. Building relationships is good for the companies we work for because everyone benefits from our own growth — it’s the value we bring that makes people want to connect with us.

Here’s the key to success in one word: generosity. And here’s Ferrazzi’s supplement: We’ve got to be more than willing to accept generosity. Often, we’ve got to go out and ask for it. It’s his belief that until we become as willing to ask for help as we are to give it, we’re only working half the equation.

A network functions precisely because there’s recognition of mutual need. There’s an implicit understanding that investing time and energy in building personal relationships with the right people will pay dividends. But it needs to pay both ways: win-win. Any other way and it’s binary. One winner, one loser. So step up and ask for help.

Where we once found generosity and loyalty in the companies we worked for, today we must find them in a web of our own relationships. It’s a more personal kind of loyalty and generosity, one given to our colleagues, our team, our friends and our customers.

Experience will not save us in hard times, nor will hard work or talent. If we need a job, money, advice, help, hope, or a means to make a sale, there’s only one surefire, fail-safe place to find them: within our extended circle of friends and associates.

So, before we ask for help, we need to know what we want. Ferrazzi suggests the more specific we are about what we want to do, the easier it becomes to develop a strategy to accomplish it and part of that strategy is establishing relationships with the people who can help us get where we’re going. Here’s his 3-step process to identifying what we want.

Step One: Find Our Passion

Most people don’t. They accept what they “should” be doing, rather than take the time to figure out what they want to be doing. Yet deep within each of us, there’s an intuitive knowledge of what we want most in life. We only have to look for it.

We need to look inside: without the constraints, without the doubts, fears, and expectations of what we “should” be doing. We have to be able to set aside the obstacles of time, money, and obligation.

We need to look outside: We must ask the people who know us best what they think our greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

Step Two: Putting Goals to Paper

Ferrazzi suggests we use what he calls a Relationship Action Plan of three parts.

The first part is devoted to the development of the goals that will help fulfil our mission.

The second part connects those goals to the people, places, and things that will help get the job done.

The third part helps determine the best way to reach out to the people who will help us accomplish our goals.

Step Three: Create a Personal “Board of Advisors”

Finally, even the best-conceived plans benefit from external help. It helps to have an enlightened counsellor, or two or three, to act as both cheerleader and eagle-eyed supervisor, who will hold us accountable.

Build It Before We Need It

Ferrazzi points out that the people who have the largest circle of contacts, mentors, and friends know they must reach out to others long before they need anything. The most important thing is to get to know contact as friends, not potential customers. The dynamics of building a relationship is incremental: one small step at a time.

Ferrazzi suggests that all around us are golden opportunities to develop relationships with people we know, who know people we don’t know, who in turn know even more people.

So step one in creating our relationship network is to focus on our immediate network: friends and family. Without a doubt they will know someone that might just be that magic connection. When making connections, people who are constrained by fear need to realise the worst anyone can say is “no”. We need to have the “guts” to face up to our insecurities. To help, find a role model and observe their behaviours. Pay attention to their actions and over time, adopt some of their techniques. Slowly, we’ll build up the courage to reach out by ourselves.

The Key Skills needed within our toolbox.

#1 Homework

Leave nothing to chance. Who we meet, how we meet and what the objective of the meeting is should be pre-determined. Research who they are and what their business is. Find out what’s important to them: their hobbies, challenges and goals. Pre-armed with this information we can step into their world and talk knowledgeably. Ferrazzi assures us their appreciation will be tangible.

#2 Take Names

The successful organisation and management of the information that makes connecting flourish is vital. Tracking the people we know, the people we want to know, and doing all the homework that will help develop intimate relationships with others can cause one heck of an information overload. So set up a working system to track the people you want to know.

#3 Warm the Cold Call

Ferrazzi gives us four rules for making effective cold calls:

1) Convey credibility by mentioning a familiar person or institution

2) State the value proposition

3) Impart urgency by being prepared to do whatever it takes whenever it takes to meet the other person on his or her own terms

4) Be prepared to offer a compromise that secures a definite follow-up at a minimum.

#4 Managing the Gatekeeper, artfully

How do we open the door? First, make the gatekeeper an ally rather than an adversary. And never, ever get on his or her bad side. Treat them with the dignity they deserve. If we do, doors will open to even the most powerful decision makers. Acknowledge their help. Thank them by phone, flowers, a note.

#5 Never Eat Alone

Ferrazzi believes invisibility is a fate far worse than failure. It means that we should always be reaching out to others, over breakfast, lunch, whatever. It means that if one meeting happens to go sour, we have six other engagements lined up just like it the rest of the week. He suggests we keep our social and event calendar full. We must work hard to remain visible and active among our ever-growing network of friends and contacts.

#6 Share Our Passions

When it comes to meeting people, it’s not only who we get to know but also how and where we get to know them. Ferrazzi suggests shared interests are the basic building blocks of any relationship. He tells us it is what we do together that matters, not how often we meet. When we are truly passionate about something, it’s contagious. Our passion draws other people to who we are and what we care about. Others respond by letting their guard down. Which is why sharing our passion is important in business.

#7 Follow Up or Fail

When we meet someone with whom we want to establish a relationship, we need to go the extra yard to ensure we won’t be forgotten. The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Making sure a new acquaintance retains our name (and the favourable impression we’ve created) is a process we should set in motion right after we’ve met them. And remember, it’s not what they can do for us, but what we might be able to do for them. It’s about giving them a reason to want to follow up.

#8 Connect with Connectors

We all know at least one person who seems to know everybody and who everybody seems to know. Ferrazzi suggests these people should be the cornerstones to any flourishing network. They are at the hub of many networks. The most efficient way to enlarge and tap the full potential of our circle of friends is, quite simply, to connect our circle with someone else’s.

#9 The Art of Small Talk

We’ve all struggled with that ancient fear of walking into a room full of complete strangers and having nothing to say. That’s why small talk is so important. Conversation is an acquired skill. If we have the determination and the proper information, just like any other skill, it can be learned. The goal is simple: Start a conversation, keep it going, create a bond, and leave the other person thinking, “I like that person”.

#10 Be Unique.

When it comes to making an impression, differentiation is the name of the game. Confound expectation. Shake it up. Ferrazzi assures us vulnerability is one of the most under appreciated assets in business today. Charm is simply a matter of being ourselves. Our uniqueness is our power.

And there you have it…some of the top ideas from the fascinating book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you are interested in becoming a business coach then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time for an exploratory discussion.

Don’t fall in love with your product

This is a great short article by Tony Robbins…it’s SO true. Enjoy

The biggest mistake most businesses make is falling in love with their product or service, not with their clients.

If you are too focused on your product, you might overlook what’s best for your client and your product is nothing without a client to sell it to. However, when your client is your number one priority, your product becomes tailored to their interests. A happy client creates a great product.

Others are making a product or providing a service. They are the commodities. You are unique; you have differentiated your business by helping your clients solve a specific problem in a bold way. This is the key to making sure no one else in your industry even comes close. This is the bedrock principle behind hoe to Constantly Create Raving Fan Clients and Culture. It’s not just about being different, it’s about providing so much value that your clients can’t help but tell others about it — with genuine enthusiasm and excitement.

When it comes to client relationships, there are three dimensions of the relationship to be aware of. Your organisation will see the best transformation when you are focused on finding a better way to meet your client’s needs.

1. IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU.

This is the traditional client relationship and it’s why most businesses are always starting their relationships over. In this type of interaction, the focus is only about what you are getting out of the relationship and the minute your needs aren’t met, you’re gone.

Getting new clients and creating new relationships costs an organisation more money than striving to take care of the ones they have.

 2. IT’S ALL ABOUT EQUALITY.

While this interaction creates more of a successful business-customer relationship than the relationship above, it still lacks the depth and quality of long-term. The feeling here is, “If I meet your needs, you’ll help me meet my needs,” but if one party becomes unreasonable, the relationship dies.

Whenever you want someone, internal or external, to do something, you need to meet their needs – it’s not effective to expect something because you demand it.

3. YOUR NEEDS ARE MY NEEDS.

A relationship where you are committed to meeting the other person’s needs no matter what. A business that creates this depth of a relationship with their clients will have the ultimate competitive advantage.

Going above and beyond for your clients often requires questioning conventional wisdom about their wants and needs. How can you anticipate your clients’ needs to consistently satisfy them?

When you are striving to surpass your clients’ expectations, it’s important to ensure you fit the third relationship dimension

Interested on people’s views – do you agree?

Book Summary of Give and Take by Adam Grant

When we look at successful people, what are their common characteristics? According to Adam Grant and conventional wisdom, highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability, and opportunity. But how does this come about? What is the essence of success?

Grant suggests that success depends on how we interact with other people. Every time we make an exchange with another person we can approach the interaction with a competitive or collaborative approach. It is this approach which Grant suggests makes some people succeed and others fail.

People can give or take. Takers like to tip the exchange benefits in their favour by putting their interests ahead of others. Givers, on the other hand, put others first, giving more than they get.

When we look at society in general, we tend to see Givers as self-sacrificing individuals. But being a Giver does not require this payment. It just involves a focus on acting in the interests of others, such as by giving help, providing mentoring, sharing credit, or making connections for others.

According to Grant, in the workplace, giving and taking becomes more complicated. Professionally, few of us act purely like Givers or Takers. We adopt a third style instead: matching. This makes us strive to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. So which approach wins?

When we look at the characteristics behind Givers and Takers we tend to picture Takers as positive, demanding and progressive, whilst Givers are submissive, compromising and more accepting of second best. Grant’s research tells us an interesting story however. Who is at the bottom of the success food chain? Givers of course. Who is at the top? Surprisingly it’s the Givers again! Takers and Matchers tend to be in the middle. Apparently it’s all about the strategy we take.

According to Grant, people who choose giving as their primary reciprocity style end up reaping rewards. It takes time for Givers to build goodwill and trust, but eventually, they establish reputations and relationships that enhance their success. A positive note is that in today’s connected world, where relationships and reputations are more visible, Givers can accelerate their pace. Grant suggests that we live in an era when massive changes in the structure of work — and the technology that shapes it — have further amplified the advantages of being a Giver.

Consider the following. You work in a service industry. No doubt your organisation operates with groups and teams working towards a common aim. But how? Teams depend on Givers to share information, volunteer for unpopular tasks, and provide help. And as a consequence, as the service sector continues to expand, more and more people are placing a premium on providers who have established relationships and reputations as Givers.

Grant suggests successful Givers have unique approaches to interactions in four key domains: networking, collaborating, evaluating, and influencing.

Networks are based on interactions and relationships, and consequently act as a good litmus test. How do people relate to others in their networks, and what do they see as the purpose of networking?

Often when we meet a new person who wants to connect, we wonder whether he’s acting friendly because he’s genuinely interested in a relationship that will benefit both of us, or because he wants something from us. A Taker. When we see a Taker coming, we protect ourselves by closing the door to our networks, withholding our trust and help. As a result, and to avoid getting shut out, many Takers become good fakers.

But all is not lost. Our defence is that they remain a Taker with self-interest and self-promotion. Grant points out that as Takers gain power, they pay less attention to how they’re perceived by those below and next to them; they feel entitled to pursue self-serving goals and claim as much value as they can and over time, treating peers and subordinates poorly jeopardises their chances.

After all, most people are Matchers: their core values emphasise fairness, equality, and reciprocity. When Takers violate these principles, Matchers in their networks believe in ‘an eye for an eye’, so they want to see justice served. And just as Matchers will sacrifice their own interests to punish Takers who act selfishly, they’ll go out of their way to reward Givers who act generously.

Think of your own network. There are strong ties with close partners and colleagues and weaker ties with those you have merely met or crossed paths with.

According to Grant, strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties serve as bridges: they provide more efficient access to new information. Our strong ties tend to travel in the same social circles and know about the same opportunities as we do. Weak ties are more likely to open up access to a different network, facilitating the discovery of original leads.

The third type of ties are dormant. These are the ties with former colleagues with whom you have lost regular contact. Grant suggests dormant ties offer access to novel information that weak ties can bring, but without the discomfort. He claims reconnecting a dormant relationship is not like starting a relationship from scratch. When people reconnect, they still have feelings of trust and that’s where Givers have the advantage.

For Takers, reactivating dormant ties is a challenge. If the dormant ties are fellow Takers, they’ll be suspicious and self-protective, withholding novel information. Reconnecting is a totally different experience for Givers. Givers have a track record of generously sharing their knowledge, teaching us their skills, and helping us find jobs without worrying about what’s in it for them, so we’re glad to help them when they get back in touch with us.

Takers have a knack for generating creative ideas and championing them in the face of opposition. Because they have confidence in their own opinions, they feel free of the need for social approval that constricts the imaginations of many people. But does that make Takers better innovators? No. Innovation is not a sole practice. Behind every innovator is a great team and that’s where Givers and Takers differ. According to Grant, the gap between our natural tendencies to attribute creative success to individuals and the collaborative reality that underpins great work is what separates them. Great performance is interdependent, not independent.

In business, independence is seen as a symbol of strength: interdependence as a sign of weakness. This is particularly true of Takers, who tend to see themselves as superior and separate from others. If they depend too much on others, Takers believe, they’ll be vulnerable to being outdone. On the other hand, Givers reject the notion that interdependence is weak. Givers are more likely to see interdependence as a source of strength, a way to harness the skills of multiple people for a greater good.

For a Taker, their driving motivation is to make sure they get more than they give. They count every contribution they make. It’s all too easy for them to believe that they’ve done the lion’s share of the work, overlooking what colleagues contribute. Not so Givers. Givers take care to recognize what other people contribute. When Givers put a group’s interests ahead of their own, they signal that their primary goal is to benefit the group. As a result, Givers earn the respect of their collaborators. And when people act generously in groups, positive effects grow in the minds of group members.

Grant reminds us that spotting and cultivating talent are essential skills in just about every industry; it’s difficult to overstate the value of surrounding ourselves with stars. As with networking and collaboration, when it comes to discovering the potential in others, whether we are a Giver or Taker shapes our approaches and effectiveness.

Takers tend to place little trust in other people. Because they assume that most people (like themselves) are Takers, they hold relatively low expectations of the potential of their peers and subordinates.

Takers doubts others’ intentions, so they keep a lookout for information that others might harm them, treating others with suspicion and distrust.

Takers see successful people as a threat. Even when impressed by another person’s capabilities or motivation, they’re more likely to see this person as a threat, which means they’re less willing to support and develop him or her.

Takers are poor at recognising their peers and subordinates. By default, Givers start by viewing people through a positive lens, seeing their potential. By recognising that everyone has potential, Givers focus on motivation.

When people focus on others they’re less likely to worry about egos and minuscule details; they look at the big picture and prioritize what matters most to others. Takers tend to discount feedback that does not support their favourable view of themselves, whereas Givers focus more on the interpersonal and organisational consequences of their decisions, accepting potential compromise to their status in the short term in order to make better choices in the long term.

To convince others to buy our products, use our services, accept our ideas, and invest in us, we need to communicate in ways that persuade and motivate. We need to influence.

According to Grant, there are two fundamental Ways Of Influence: dominance and prestige. With dominance, we gain influence because others see us as strong, powerful, and authoritative. With prestige, we become influential because others respect and admire us.

Takers excel in gaining dominance. They strive to be superior to others. To establish dominance, Takers speak forcefully, raise their voices, promote their accomplishments, and sell with conviction and pride. They win, others lose. Conversely, prestige isn’t zero-sum; there’s no limit to the amount of respect and admiration that we can dole out. This means that prestige usually has more lasting value. Givers are what Grant calls powerless communicators.

Powerless communicators speak less assertively, talk in ways that signal vulnerability, revealing their weaknesses and making use of disclaimers, hedges, and hesitations. Givers are much more comfortable expressing vulnerability: they’re interested in helping others, not gaining power over them, and as Grant suggests, they are not afraid of exposing chinks in their armour. By making themselves vulnerable, Givers can actually build prestige.

Asking questions is a form of powerless communication that Givers adopt naturally. By asking questions and getting to know their customers, Givers build trust and gain knowledge about their customers’ needs. Over time, this makes them better and better at selling. By asking people questions about their plans and intentions, we increase the likelihood that they actually act on these plans and intentions.

From the evidence presented, Grant concludes that being a Giver creates more change of success than being a Taker. To close here are five actions Grant suggests we can use to increase our Giver Quotient:

1. Test Your Giver Quotient. Are we a Giver or Taker? Where did you feel you stood when you read the Giver/Taker characteristics? How long is your journey likely to be?

2. Run a Reciprocity Ring. The best way to learn is with a colleague and, as identified, teamwork supports giving. So find a Reciprocity mate.

3. Help Other People Craft Their Jobs — or Craft Yours to Incorporate More Giving. Make giving part of your business. Mentor. Support. Give without ties.

4. Embrace the Five-Minute Favour. Can you give someone the support they need within five minutes?

Practice Powerless Communication. Speak from a peer position, not from a domineering position. You can’t know everything.

And there you have it, some great advice to help you become a giver, to get more success.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

Mark Twain had it right, Chip and Dan Heath say when he said that “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” Chip and Dan have become the de-facto sticky brothers through their bestselling book Made To Stick. As they say on their website “Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public health scares circulate effortlessly.”

And I think a lot of you have probably seen that. Meanwhile, people with important ideas: businessmen, educators, politicians, journalists, and so on, and so on, really struggle to make their ideas stick. And it’s a fascinating conundrum. The solution say Chip and Dan is their success principle. That’s S-U-C-C-E-S. You can drop the last S and it stands for simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional stories.

They’re a great starting point for developing and recognising spreadable, contagious and sticky ideas that will stand the test of time. And I think that’s something that we all need a little bit more of these days. What follows is a summary of these principles. And as usual we’ve humbly added our own thoughts, so we hope you enjoy.

Principle #1: Simple

Success principle number one is simplicity. Sticky needs to be simple. In order to have a memorable idea we have to be masters of exclusion. As a successful defence lawyer once said, and keeping in mind that I used to be a lawyer, “If you make ten arguments, the jury won’t remember any of them, even if they’re all good points.”

But one thing we don’t want to do is to confuse simple with simplistic. One of the most memorable examples of a simple idea that says it all comes from Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign in 1992. Trying to get his troops to focus on what was important and to stop trying to sound too smart, James Carville, Clinton’s righteous campaign manager, created the slogan IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!

Some say that this simple idea kept Clinton and his campaign focused on important issues and off of the distractions, ultimately winning him the Presidency. And we all know what came next. So focus, is one step closer to sticky.

Principle #2: Unexpected

Success principle number two is unexpectedness. In may 1961, J.F.K gave a speech to a special session of Congress. During the speech he talked about numerous aid programs including expanding their NATO alliance and building television and radio stations in Latin America and South East Asia.

Then, drawing near the end of what might be considered a typical address to Congress he said this, “I believe that this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

How is that for a surprise? Of course you have to back fill some substance to make the surprise stick. People have to believe it can be done. The goal is not only to get people/s attention but it’s to keep it as well.

The reason unexpectedness works so well is that our brains are wired to notice things that are different. And for those Congressmen – and for the entire United States of America even – when they’re listening to Kennedy give a speech, you’re expecting all this stuff about the NATO alliance, and building television and radio stations and so on.

They’re not expecting him to say that we’re going to fly a guy to the moon. A place no one’s ever been before. So remember this when your building your marketing story, your advertising picture, even just going to give a speech to your employees. Avoid the camouflage of jargon and cliché and you’re going to be able to unearth something very unexpected and sticky.

Principle #3: Concrete

Success principle number three is concreteness. Just as our brains are wired to notice differences they’re also wired to remember concrete data. Hence, the success of that Guinness book, Letterman’s top ten list and even the stickiness of your own phone number. We can recall concrete data better because it is usually associated with other sensory clues.

So what I’m going to do is ask you take this simple test which was done by David Rueben, a cognitive physiologist at Duke University. And it’s only going to take about thirty seconds. You ready? Okay, here we go.

Remember the first line of Hey Jude. Now remember the Mona Lisa. Now remember the house where you’ve spent most of your childhood. Now remember the definition of truth.

Okay. Immediate associations will probably jump into your mind. You know the image of the Mona Lisa, the way she is glancing at you. A memory of the first few bars McCartney’s baritone from Hey Jude. Perhaps even the aroma of your childhood home.

However, the definition of truth exercise probably didn’t conjure anything in particular. Why? Because it’s an abstract concept – it’s not concrete. Now think about this in terms of your last sales pitch or your last marketing piece, whatever. You’ve only got a few seconds to get your point across to make it stick. What associations are you conjuring?

Principle #4: Credible

Success principle number four is credible. Eighty six percent of all statistics are fiction. Think about that one. Just as we’re wired to pay attention to differences we’re also wired to believe facts. There’s something about data nuggets that sticks with us. Of course, organisations worldwide have jumped on the bandwagon, spouting numbers and lists and factoids of every type.

Your number one opportunity is to build your credibility by using facts in a meaningful way. Here’s a great example from Stephen Covey, he of the Seven Habits. In his book The 8th Habit he turned a statistic from something meaningless into meaningful, and here it is.

Here’s the meaningless part. “Only 37 percent of people said that they have a clear understanding of what the organisation is trying to achieve and why.” That probably doesn’t say very much to you.

However, he turned this into this wonderfully sticky thought. Try this one on for size. If a soccer team had the same scores, only four of the eleven players on the field would know which goal is theirs. Can you spot the difference?

Principle #5: Emotional

Success principle number five is to make things emotional. Donald Cowan, a Canadian neuropsychologist tells us that, “Logic leads to conclusions and emotion leads to action.” Well, as it happens it appears that emotion also leads to more spending.

In a Carnegie Mellon study, people were given five dollars to spend on an African children’s charity. One group is given a letter that lists its statistics about problems facing children. Remember the statistics part? Another group was given a story about a specific child, and you want to know the results?

The people who read statistics gave an average of one dollar and fourteen cents. The people who read the story however gave an average of two dollars and forty eight cents, more than double. Why? We’re human. We relate to human stories and emotional appeals stick in our minds influencing our behaviour. It’s an obvious framework applying to marketing but where else can you take it within your organisation?

Can you use emotion in storytelling to make even your next PowerPoint stickier? We think you can.

Principle #6: Stories

Success principle number six is stories.

Quick, who is that guy and what’s with the pants? Now for those of you listening to the audio that’s a picture of Jared, that relentless Subway sandwich guy. He lost two hundred and forty five pounds eating only subway sandwiches. Yes that’s very sticky. Take all of the principles explored in the past few pages and in the past few minutes and roll them up into one sticky story. Jared’s story.

Lets see how it stacks up against the success principles. Number one is simple, guy eats subs, guy looses a lot of weight. Boom! Your done. Two, its unexpected. This story violates our notions for fast food. I’m sure everybody has seen Supersize me, and the guy who goes to McDonalds and eats there for a month and he almost dies.

That’s our notion for fast food – it’s going to kill you eventually. Not this time. Number three its concrete, two hundred and forty-five pounds lost. That’s pretty concrete because if you’re like me you probably thought “man that’s more than most people weigh.”

So I have a concept in my mind about what two hundred and forty five pounds means. It’s a lot of weight. Number five, it’s credible. If the guy who wore size sixty pants can do it and can lose a whole human being off his body, anybody can do it.

And lastly as we know, it’s a story. This simple, unexpected, concrete, credible and emotional story turned out to be one of the most successful advertising campaigns the world has ever seen.

So, where are your organisations stories? Are they simple, are they unexpected, are they concrete, are they credible, are they emotional?

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of Grouped by Paul Adams

Everything you’ve been taught about social media is wrong… When you are sitting down to plan out your next social media campaign, or are trying to make your product “go viral”, is part of your plan to target people with thousands of Twitter followers? As it turns out, we’ve all had a lot of misconceptions about how people share online, and what makes ideas spread.

Luckily for us, Paul Adams has started to set the record straight through his book “Grouped”, where he outlines exactly how people share online, and what you as a business leader can do about it. Adams, by the way, led the social efforts at Facebook and Google, so he has unprecedented access to the data on this topic, which means that he can back up his claims with reality.

His biggest insight is that there is a huge difference in what he calls strong ties and weak ties. At the end of this summary you’ll understand the difference between the two, and how to centre your campaigns around strong ties so that your social efforts will succeed.

5-15-50-150-500

When we look at a Facebook profile with somebody who has hundreds of friends, it’s easy to conclude that this person must be somebody who wields a lot of influence online. But even the best social media tools that let us know who is “influential” online doesn’t really tell us much about who influences other people to buy products or services – which is what we are really interested in as business owners.

As Adams points out, there is an enormous difference between strong ties and loose ties. Let’s look at how our relationships are structured, and then look at the difference between strong ties and loose ties.

At the core of our relationship structure are 5 people who we would consider to be in our “inner circle”. These are your very strong ties, and are the people you communicate with on a very regular basis.

The next ring out would contain the people you are very close to, and typically contains about 15 people.

The next ring out contains the 50 people you communicate with semi- regularly so that you generally know what is going on in their lives.

Casual friends and acquaintances would fit the bill here. The next ring out contains the 150 people you can maintain a stable social relationship with. Stanley Milgram is famous for his research around the fact that this is the largest number of people we can maintain a relationship with before things start breaking down. Social media was supposed to change that, but hasn’t.

Lastly, we have 500 weak ties, who are people you loosely know and can recognise.

Strong Ties, Weak Ties

Within those circles are your strong ties and loose ties. Let’s look at the difference between them, and what it means for your business.

Strong Ties

Before the social media revolution, most of our strong ties were with our family members, friends, coworkers and neighbours. That makes sense, because those are the people we see and interact with every day.

We trust the people we know best, so those are the people we’d typically turn to for recommendations. That was supposed to change with the advent of social media. We could now connect with anybody, anywhere, and we would surely start creating more connections with people who we shared common interests with.

But consider this – the average person on Facebook (at the time of Adams’ book) has 160 friends, but they communicate directly with only 4-6 of those people every month. The stunning finding here is that we are not using social media to find new strong ties, but are using it mostly to enhance our relationships with the people we are already have strong ties with.

Weak Ties

Although we communicate most often with our strong ties, we also communicate with our weak ties from time to time. When we do, it’s usually because of a common interest. There are some things that weak ties are useful for. For instance, weak ties are often a better source of information than strong ties, and can lead us to insights or discoveries that we might not have otherwise made.

The downside to using weak ties as a source of information is that we don’t know if we can trust them or their information. We simply don’t know them well enough to implicitly trust them, and so in order to act on their information we need to know that they are qualified to talk about specific topics, and that they are trustworthy.

Conclusion – Market To Strong Ties

All of the research on decision making points to the fact that we are disproportionately influenced by the people we are closest to emotionally. In independent studies, research firms found that people are three to four times as likely to trust a friend or acquaintance than a blogger or expert for product purchase advice.

What it boils down to is this – when people are looking for information and opinions from others, they’ll look to their strong ties first. Even though there are weak ties that have a higher knowledge on the topic, they go with the advice of their strong ties because they trust them.

So, as a business, you should be building your campaigns around strong ties rather than weak ties. This means you can’t rely on a few handpicked social media power users to power your campaign. You need your message to be spread from one strong tie to another – and typically this means looking at your message and product and figuring out how to get it to spread between friends and family members.

If you get this right, they will automatically spread the word using their social media accounts anyways.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink

Leave it to Dan Pink to inform us that everything we need to know about human behaviour can be gleaned from a monkey trying to open a simple latch lock. Uplifting. But also leave it to Dan Pink to have us re-examine an assumption that’s fundamentally wrong – like people can be motivated by rewards and punishments. Maybe we do deserve to be ruled by apes after all.

Apes and Harlow

A long time ago (1949) there was this dude named Harry F Harlow, and he thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if he placed a lock in the closed position in a cage with a monkey. Life of the party, this guy was. What happened almost immediately shocked him – they started to play with and figure out the puzzle. Over and over again, they would solve the puzzle, getting very good at it over a span of a couple of weeks.

What’s surprising about this is that they were given no external rewards or punishments to elicit this behaviour, which ran contrary to the prevailing wisdom the time. After all, there were only two drives that could explain behaviour (primate or otherwise) – a biological drive, where we’ll do anything to stay alive and satisfy our carnal urges. We’ll call this Motivation 1.0.

The second drive was the external stimulus – rewards and punishments – delivered for behaving in certain ways. That was it. And neither of these two drives could account for what those crazy apes were doing. So, Harlow came to the conclusion that there was a third drive – that the task itself provided an intrinsic reward.

Cool, but we aren’t done there. When they introduced food into the experiment – an external reward for finishing the puzzle, it actually decreased their performance. So, he did what every scientist who is on the verge of shattering everything we knew about behaviour, and completely dropped it.

A lot of other scientists have picked up Harlow’s ball and ran with it (yes, even doing experiments that confirm the exact same thing in human beings) over the past 60 years, but one thing remains consistent until this day: there is a huge gap between what science knows and what business knows.

In fact, Dan highlights the 7 deadly flaws about carrots and sticks that science knows but business doesn’t. They can: extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, crowd out good behaviour, encourage cheating, become addictive and foster short-term thinking. You won’t see those lofty aims on a mission or values statement in a boardroom anywhere in the world, so why o’ why do we act in ways that almost guarantee those outcomes?

But we shouldn’t feel too bad. I mean, this was the way we were brought up. In fact, our entire economy up until the past 10 or so years was built for a Motivation 2.0 environment. Fredrick Winslow Taylor taught us that we could manage a business scientifically, with human beings considered as inputs. And of course, we had wave after wave of economists telling us that human beings acted in rational ways and would always act to line their pockets with gold. This type of motivation worked well during the industrial revolution when the world was built on the backs of factories filled with people doing repeatable tasks. But we don’t have a world that supports that type of motivation anymore.

Type I v Type X

Everybody has their own version of the old saying “There are two kinds of people in the world”:

Clint Eastwood in one of his great roles told us that there are those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.

Seth Green would tell us that there are Michael Jackson fans and losers.

Dan Pink would tell us that there are Type I and Type X.

Those in the Type X camp are those who chase external rewards. The ironic thing is that a large portion of the human race has been trained to chase these rewards in spite of the fact that they make us miserable and decrease our productivity.

In fact, as Dan points out, Type I people – the people who chase intrinsic rewards and desires, almost always outperform Type X in the long-run, and generally have greater physical and mental well-being.

Lastly, you were not born one way or the other, you were trained to become that way. And everything that has been trained can be untrained. So whether or not the people you work with are Type I or Type X, you’ve got every reason to motivate them using Type I motivation. And you do it by giving people what they crave – autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Autonomy

The first thing you can do is give people autonomy. And as Dan points out, flexibility is not autonomy. So, flexible work hours won’t cut it. A little bit of leeway in how an employee won’t cut it. Complete and utter autonomy is the only thing that works.

Now, you might be thinking…What? You want me to give people autonomy? They can’t even do what they are told! How do you expect us to produce results with this touchy feely stuff?

Well, here’s one good reason to try. Researchers at Cornell University studied 320 small businesses – half which granted autonomy and half that relied on top-down direction. The businesses that offered the autonomy? They grew at 4 times the rate of the control-oriented firms and had 1/3 the turnover rate.

Still listening? Good.

Here are the 4 main ways you can grant autonomy.

1. You can give autonomy over what people do – their task.

Most people have heard of Google’s 20% rule where they allow employees to spend 20% of their time working on a project outside of their job description. Some of the products invented in that 20% time include Gmail, Google News, Google Talk and Google Translate. However, this idea wasn’t invented by Google – it first appeared at 3M way back in 1948, when William McKnight sponsored what he called “experimental doodling”. You may have heard of one of the products invented during this experimental doodling: The Post-It Note.

2. You can give people autonomy over when they work.

There’s a good reason why most lawyers seem to walk around like they’ve had the life surgically removed from them after a few years on the job – they have no control over when they do their work, and thus no autonomy. Which is why I was a lawyer for exactly 1 week. The antithesis to the 9-5 work day is the results-only work environment, or ROWE. It started at the global HQ of Best Buy, when CEO Brad Anderson quietly agreed to allow people to come and go as they pleased, as long as they got the work done. Another company that has implemented ROWE is Meddius, whose CEO recently told me in a Twitter conversation that ROWE “was the best decision I’ve ever made as a business owner”.

3. You can give people autonomy over how they do their work.

Most of you will be working in environments where what gets done is tightly controlled. We have been brought up in a world where binders full of mandated work instructions loom large. Most call centres that deliver customer service operate this way, as I’m sure you’ve experienced. But what if you didn’t do it that way? What if, like Tony Hseih from Zappos, you gave your customer service reps the autonomy to handle calls however they wanted, as long as they had the customer in mind while doing it?

4. You can give people autonomy over who they work with.

This one ties in closely with #1. One of the things people crave is the ability to choose who they hang out with. The same is true for work. Give people the ability to choose who they do their 20% time work with, and you’ll have a satisfied employee.

Mastery

I love to get better at things. In particular, I love the journey of mastering things – learning things along the way. That’s part of the journey here with the RIFM series. From the fact that you are listening to this I’m guessing you love the journey as well. However, it’s not something we often stop to ponder – how do we master things? There is one condition and three laws to mastery.

The precondition is that we need to be in state of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”. It’s the state of mind where everything is just clicking. Sports people would call it “in the zone”. It’s where the relationship between what you had to do and what you could to as a perfect match.

Here’s how Dan describes it:

“In flow, people people lived so deeply in the moment and felt so utterly in control that their sense of time, place, and even self melted away. They were autonomous, of course. But more than that, they were engaged.” In a landmark study that Mihaly performed, he found the most satisfying experiences in people’s lives where when they were in flow. So there’s the precondition.

The first law of mastery is that it is a mindset. Here’s another “there are two types of people in the world for you”: there are people who believe that intelligence or ability come in a finite supplies, and those that believe that we can improve on those things over time, which we’ll call “incrementalists”. One of the main differences between these two theories is in the view of hard work. The incrementalists believe that hard work is good, because working hard means getting better. And if we tie that all back to Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory, it’s clear why mastery is a mindset. Nobody in their right mind is going to put 10,000 hours of hard work into something that will leave them in the exact same spot as when they started. So, choose your mindset.

The second law of mastery is that it is a pain. As Dan says, “as wonderful as flow is, the path to mastery – becoming ever better at something you care about – is not lined with daisies and spanned by a rainbow. (Wouldn’t that be awesome though?) This is why flow is a precondition to mastery. There’s no way you’ll suck it up and get to mastery if you don’t enjoy the journey. Because sometimes those daisies and rainbows are weeds and thunderstorms.

The third and last law of mastery is that it’s an asymptote – we never actually get there. Even Tiger Woods, the best golfer of all-time, would tell you that even he can get better, and he continually works towards that. This should be depressing, but as it turns out it’s not. It’s empowering. It gives us purpose. Which leads us into the last thing we need in order to be fulfilled – purpose.

Purpose

If you think of autonomy and mastery as the first two legs of the Type I tripod, purpose becomes that last leg we need in order to balance. As Dan says: “Autonomous people working towards mastery perform at very high levels.

But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more.” Left with goals without a purpose beyond financial motives – the largest carrot known to mankind, people do not perform as well in the long-term, as we’ve already discussed. Here’s some proof.

There was a study done with a group of college students, some of which had “profit goals” and the others which had “purpose goals”. They followed up with these students a couple of years after they set the goal. What they found surprised them, but shouldn’t surprise us by now.

The people who had profit goals AND had met them were no more satisfied or happy with their lot in life than after they had left college. In fact, they showed increases in anxiety, depression, and other negative indicators. The purpose group had much higher levels of satisfaction than when they left college, and very low levels of anxiety and depression. Chew on that one for a while.

Conclusion

So we’ve proven that science knows much more about the human condition than business does. If you want to catch up, all you need to do is allow yourself and the people that work for you find autonomy, mastery and purpose in their life. You’ll not only have a much happier life, you’ll be more successful and happy while you are at it.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Will It Fly’ by Pat Flynn Edit article

Just as a paper airplane needs wings to fly, a project needs wings to be successful. This summary will give you wings.

Does your idea have merit? Will it succeed in the market you’re trying to serve, or will it just be a waste of time and resources? Is it a good idea for you and the life you want to live?

In other words, will it fly?

You have an idea, or maybe a few hundred. They could be new, or old, or scrawled on the back of a napkin in the bottom of your gym bag.

Good ideas are common, but those who are willing to take action and execute those ideas are far more rare. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you don’t know where to begin. Maybe your fear of failure outweighs your fear of not getting started. Maybe you’re just not really sure if it’s going to work.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is, from this point forward you must make a commitment to take action.

John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

In other words, a sure way to predict the future is to take no action at all. When you do nothing, you get nothing.

In order for a business to become successful, it takes more than simply coming up with the right idea. It takes good execution, design, marketing, copywriting, and more. However, even the best of those things won’t do much if the idea isn’t good.

That’s why we need to ensure that your idea has what it takes to be successful.

This summary is divided into five different sections, each of which will guide you through the validation of your next business idea.

The first part is Mission Design, and it is the most important section. In it, we will ensure your idea aligns with and supports your target goals.

Part two is called the Development Lab. Here, we will uncover important details about your target idea that you haven’t thought about yet.

Part three is the Flight Planning stage. This is where you will assess the current conditions of the market that you’re entering, so you can see what and who you’re up against.

Part four is the Flight Simulator. Here, you will combine everything you’ve learned to validate and test your idea with a small segment of your target market.

The last part, All Systems Go, is where you will do some final analysis to make sure that you’re ready to move forward with your idea. You’ll also get some helpful insight on your next moves and how you can take a lot of this information forward with you.

Part 1: Mission Design

When you choose to live the life of an entrepreneur, you choose a path of freedom. You choose to live life on your own terms and you can shape it into whatever you want it to be. In fact, everyone is capable of this freedom, but it is the entrepreneur who has mentally turned off autopilot and has taken control of his or her own future.

Building a successful business is not synonymous to building a successful life. It is when your idea supports your lifestyle goals that it becomes worth exploring.

The purpose of Mission Design is to help you understand what your goals are in all areas of your life and help you determine whether or not your target idea supports them. How your target idea will perform in the market means nothing if you can’t validate how it can support you first.

The truth is, if you don’t have a passion for what you are doing, your energy will eventually fizzle out. Understanding your goals and the reason why you do what you do will motivate you and more importantly, it will keep you going when times get tough during your business journey.

The Airport Test:

What would need to be happening in your life five years from now that would make you say “Things could not get better!” ?

Step 1: Take out a piece of paper and divide it into four quadrants.

Step 2: Define the four most important categories of your life. They could be anything from friends, family, finances, health, professional, or music. Write them on the top of four quadrants of your page.

Step 3: Determine why life is awesome five years from now. Focus on one section at a time.

When you’ve filled your piece of paper, examine everything you’ve written down. This defines who you want to become and it will be the foundation for many decisions that you make from here.

Now you know where you want to be. How does the business idea you have in your head right now fit into your future self?

You can either decide to move forward with the idea you have or, if it doesn’t fit into who you want to become, you can start over with something else.

The History Test:

Step 1: Find a blank piece of paper.

Step 2: Write down the first job you ever had. Beneath that, write when you did it.

Step 3: Write down three things you enjoyed about it.

Step 4: Write down one favourite memory.

Step 5: Write down three things that you didn’t like about it.

Step 6: Rate the experience based on how much you enjoyed it.

Step 7: Repeat the process for at least two other life experiences.

Look at what you wrote down. Do you notice any patterns? Think about these questions specifically:

What one or two things seem to motivate you the most about the work that you do?

How much is your answer to #1 reflected in what you do now?

How can your future business be shaped into one that allows you to enjoy your work and continue to stay motivated?

Determine if there are any red flags or reasons to look for a new idea.

The Shark Bait Test

Email 10 friends and colleagues and ask them to identify your superpowers. If you don’t know what your strengths are, you’ll never be able to harness them.

You may not get the answers you expect, but whatever response you get will be useful.

Folding Your Wings

Take the piece of paper from The Airport Test and fold it into a paper airplane to keep as a symbol of your “why.” A plane symbolises flight, movement and innovation. It also symbolises freedom.

Here, we will take your target idea through a series of exercises to help you fully understand exactly what it is.

Mind Mapping:

Set a timer for 10 minutes and then write down as many thoughts or ideas related to your target idea as you can. Do not edit, delete, remove or move anything around. No matter what, just keep going until your time is up. Now, organise the ideas. There is no correct way to do it; do whatever feels right to you. Next, prune your tree. Remove the ideas that don’t really belong. What you’ll have left is what you need in order to move forward.

One Sentence

Step 1: Write a one-page summary of your target idea.

Step 2: Write one paragraph. Condense your single page to about 3-5 sentences.

Step 3: Write one sentence. Read your sentence out loud and listen to how it sounds. Tweak it until you have a sentence you can confidently proclaim.

Conservation and Observation

Small conversations about your business can help you refine your idea in a huge way.

Over the next two days, try to talk to at least ten people about your target idea. Consciously listen to the responses and see what you can learn.

Part 3: Flight Planning

1,000 True Fans

Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired Magazine, published an article called “1,000 True Fans.” According to him, a true fan is someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. In a world of seven billion people, there are a lot of sub-worlds to which you can become or create a trusted resource, product or service that 1,000 will love.

What niche does your idea belong in?

The Market Map

Find the 3-Ps within your market: places, people, and products. Give each one its own spreadsheet with three columns: name, web address, and notes.

Look at blogs, forums, social media groups related to your niche. See if you can spot existing authorities that your target audience already trusts.

Find the top products, services and books that are being offered to your audience. Amazon is great for this.

The Customer P.L.A.N.

This is broken down into four sections:

Problems: A business idea is really just a potential solution to a target customer’s pain or problem. The better you can solve that problem, the more successful your business will become. The best way to research this is to have a one-on-one conversation with your target customer. Surveys are great too.

Language: One of the most important things you can do is understand the language your target customer uses to communicate. To find this, look at forum searches, FAQs, and complaints on websites they frequent. Look at Amazon reviews. Type in any keyword related to your target market on Google, and scroll down to “Searches Related to.”

Anecdotes: When you’re creating content and promoting products, framing it with a story can have a massive impact on how well others relate and respond. Find stories about your target customer by looking at forums or podcast interviews.

Needs: A need is different than the product or business that you’re potentially going to validate and build. A need is what you believe your customers require to solve a problem, and the product or business becomes the mechanism to fulfill that requirement.

After you discover your Customer P.L.A.N., you’ll know exactly how your target idea fits into your target audience.

Elixirs

To finish off your Customer P.L.A.N., you will need to come up with the “elixirs” that address the specific problems and needs of your target customer.

To begin, add one more column to you P.L.A.N. spreadsheet and title it Elixir, and then, come up with what you feel would be the best remedy for that problem. Now, eliminate until you’ve found one perfect one to pursue. Sit on that idea for a day and then conduct a second mind mapping exercise with your new target solution as the focal point. Again, write one page, one paragraph, and one sentence.

Part 4: Flight Simulator

This is where we validate whether or not your idea could become successful.

Step 1: Get in front of an audience.

There are a few ways to do this, including targeted advertising (such as Google AdWords), private targeted advertising (such as Facebook ads), guest posting, forums, or offline methods. However you find your audience, the next step is to get people in the audience to “raise their hands.”

Step 2: Hyper-target.

This means getting people in that larger target market to self-identify as someone who wants or needs your particular solution. To do this, first ask them a question or propose a relevant scenario that elicits a “yes” response from them. A comment or response is typically the easiest way for people to say “yes,” such as in a forum, blog post, or social media post.

Step 3: Interact and share your solution.

Engage with the people who have signalled interest, whether in person, on a video call, a phone call, or an email. Take a minute to learn about them, qualify yourself as someone authoritative, and be honest about what you’re up to. Then pitch them your idea.

Step 4: Ask for the transaction.

Asking for payment before you build your product may feel uncomfortable, but if you’re honest about this with your prospect, you’ll have nothing to worry about. The more interested prospects you speak to, the better, but 10% is a good standard to use to see what the right number is.

Part 5: All Systems Go!

You are ready. The worst thing you could do from here is stop. You’ve got momentum on your side so definitely take advantage of that.

Being a successful business is no easy task, nor is it a small one. Celebrate your small wins along the way. Get support. Treat your customers like gold. They are the lifeblood of your business, and you must treat them like that.

Don’t forget why you decided to be an entrepreneur in the first place. Keep chasing your dream, and enjoy the ride.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

Would the world be better off if we asked more and better questions? This is something that Warren Berger sets out to answer is his great book, A More Beautiful Question.

A recent study has shown that the average four-year-old British girl asks an average of 390 questions a day. Which begs the obvious question – why do we ask them less and less as life goes on?

And perhaps more importantly for us in the business world, how can we do a better job of asking them. After all, a recent research study has shown that the most creative and successful business leaders are expert questioners.

Berger defines a beautiful question as the following:

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something – and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.

Let’s explore the ways we can all ask more beautiful questions in our businesses, and in our lives.

The power of questions, and why we can’t stop asking them

As Berger points out, good questioners are very comfortable with their own ignorance. In fact, it’s one of the things that drives almost all scientists towards new discoveries. As Stuart Fierstein – the author of the book Ignorance – puts it:

“One good question can give rise to several layers of answers, can inspire decades-long searches for solutions, can generate whole new fields of inquiry, and can prompt changes in entrenched thinking. Answers, on the other hand, often end the process.”

However, being willing to question is one thing, questioning effectively is another. Great questions can spawn multi-billion dollar companies that leave their mark on the world. Consider the evolution of Netflix, which was started when Reed Hastings forgot to return some videos to Blockbuster, and was charged what he considered to be exorbitant late fees.

Hastings asked himself “why should I have to pay these fees?”, and “how am I going to explain this to my wife?” That question led to the next question, “What if a video-rental business were run like a health club?” He then set himself the task of figuring out exactly how he could build a video rental company that had a monthly membership and no late fees.

Fast forward to today, and Blockbuster is of course out of business, and Netflix has moved on to another ground-breaking set of questions, including “what if we not only rented the films and shows, but made them too?”

The power in asking great questions comes to life in a 3-step process – asking why, what if, and how. It sounds simple, but the devil is in the details.

Let’s get started.

Why?

The first stage is “why”, and it has to do with seeing and understanding the world in a different way. For instance, Edward Land was prompted by his daughter to ask the question: “Why not design a picture that can be developed right away?”

This question would lead to the development of the Polaroid instant camera, which was a groundbreaking innovation at the time.

We live in a world that values moving fast and advancing, and looks down on anybody or anything that wants to pump the brakes and question why things are being done a certain way. So, one of the reasons that we are not very good at asking questions is that we are almost always discouraged from doing it.

So, the first thing we need to do in order to ask great questions is to get comfortable with not having the answers in a world that punishes that very thing. As Paul Bennet, the creative director at renowned design firm IDEO says, “I position myself relentlessly as an idiot at IDEO…being comfortable with not knowing – that’s the first part of being able to question.”

One of the benefits of doing this is that it allows you to ask naive questions. And that allows you to bring clarity to otherwise complex issues by forcing the person you are asking questions to simplify their thinking down to its very essence.

Once you are able to let go and ask seemingly naive questions, you’ll start to generate a lot of questions about the world around you. One technique for becoming an ever better questioner is to “open and close” your questions. The example Berger gives in the book is “why is my father-in-law difficult to get along with?” This is an open-ended question without a clear answer.

However, when you close that question, you end up with “Is my father-in-law difficult to get along with?”, which forces you to confront the assumption of the original question. This process works both ways – you should close your open questions, and open your closed questions. You’ll start to see the world from completely new perspectives if you do.

What If

Now that we’ve sufficiently questioned some base assumptions about our world, it’s time to move on to start imagining how things might be different by asking “what if”.

One of the best ways to do this is through the combination of ideas. As David Kord Murray, a former NASA rocket scientist who later became the head of innovation at Intuit points out in his book Borrowing Brilliance:

“The nature of innovation [is that] we build new ideas out of existing ideas.”

For instance, Walt Disney asked himself “what if this amusement park could be like a movie, brought to life?” The good news for us is that according to the latest neurological research, the human brain is built just right for this type of task, constantly searching through the random data in your brain and asking “what if I put this together with that?”

The only problem is that we don’t consciously control this process because most of it happens in the unconscious mind. That’s why the first step – the “why” question – is so important. According to Chen-Bo Zhong, a professor at the Rotman School, if the conscious mind creates a big question, the unconscious mind will go to work on solving it.

Another point here is that the brain uses the knowledge it has in order to search for these connections. So, the more knowledge you have, and the more diverse it is, the more possibilities you’ll have to create unexpected connections. If you want to be creative and innovative, it pays to learn as much as you can in as many areas as you can, even if the payoff isn’t immediately obvious.

Although a lot of this happens unconsciously, there are tactics and strategies you can utilize to give the process a kickstart. One strategy that finds it’s roots in the work of the creativity guru Edward de Bono is to “think wrong”. You ask questions that at first seem to be the worst ideas you can come up with. For instance, “What if a restaurant provided customers with a menu only when they leave?”

Or, consider the question “what if a company started selling socks that didn’t match?” This is the exact question asked by a bunch of dinner companions that lead to the creation of the company LittleMissMatched that sells pairs of mismatched socks to young girls who want to make a colourful fashion statement.

How

Now that we’ve created our why question, brainstormed a bunch of “what if” questions, it’s time to move on to the how.

In this stage, the world’s most creative minds know that they are not very good at deciding which ideas are winners and which are duds, so they employ something called rapid prototyping. Rather than debating an idea to death, they find a way to test it quickly and cheaply, and then look at the results. As Joi Ito, the head of the MIT Media Lab puts it:

“These days it’s easier and less expensive to just try out your ideas than to figure out if you should try them out.”

In fact, there’s no reason why anybody with a good idea should be slowed down by the execution phase. These days there are experts around the world you can find and tap into simply by sending an email.

Jack Andraka found this out when he was fifteen years old and had an idea for developing a new, highly effective and inexpensive way for screening for certain types of cancer. Using the incredible store of knowledge he’d accumulated in his free time by reading medical journals, he formulated his “what if” question:

“What if I exposed a single-wall carbon nanotube with an antibody to a protein overexposed in pancreatic cancer?”

He needed an incredible amount of help – including a lab and experts to help him prove out his idea. So, he emailed almost everybody he could find in his area that knew something about pancreatic cancer and asked for help. Eventually he found a scientist who was willing to open up his lab to him, who helped him finalize his screening test that is now being used around the world.

Questioning in Business

Now let’s explore some of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself in a business context. “What if our company didn’t exist?” This question can help you think about all of the things that are not currently working in your business, and have you consider old programs, practices and products that should be scrapped or reconsidered.

“What if money were no object? How might we approach the project differently?” By temporarily removing restrictions, your people will be free to think about the best possible solution for a problem. You might find your team comes up with groundbreaking ideas that can be scaled back to make them affordable.

“What are we against?” We spend a lot of time thinking about what stand for in business, but not a lot of time thinking about what we might make a stand against.

“What is something that I believe that nearly no one agrees with me on?” This is a question that Peter Thiel, the famous venture capitalist thinks we should all be asking ourselves. The best new ideas are often the ones that most people believe can’t be done.

“Should our mission statement actually be a question?” If you have a mission question, it sends the message to the company that we haven’t arrived at our destination yet, and asks them to figure out ways to help you get there. The mission of the company then becomes to come up with new ways of accomplishing the mission. This is a much more powerful place to be starting from.

“How might we create a culture of inquiry?” As Berger points out, when a culture is inquisitive and constantly questioning things, it gives people the permission to explore new ideas and share across silos. This should start at the top by the leader asking a lot of disruptive and provocative questions.

Conclusion

We don’t ask nearly enough questions in our businesses, and in our lives. If we could all cultivate the habit of asking why, what if, and how on a regular basis, we would be more creative, innovative, and ultimately more successful. So here’s one final question to end off this Book Brief: why not start right now?

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

I am also looking for business coaches or people who are interested in becoming one. If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.


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