In the dark corner?If you are a responsible worker, you might be sometimes genuinely concerned that a team member is just a free-loader and takes advantage of your generosity by giving you his/her share of the work. You end up doing it because you see yourself as a good-natured person, and find advantages in learning and teamwork for yourself.

While your generosity is not your fault, you might be overwhelmed with the burden. Sometimes, you pity yourself for not being able to command. You are afraid that if you escalate it, the team will lose face in front of the class or company, and your reputation will suffer. Even if you don’t care for reputation, the fiasco is unproductive because it’s going in the opposite direction. You would rather spend time with the manager or lecturer discussing subject-matter instead of accusing your team member.

You can now move from the dark corner into the bright center. Entrepreneurs, marketers, and human resource professionals know that measurement induces behavior. In other words, if you want a particular behavior from a person or group, you can measure, monitor and reward that behavior. You don’t have to entice your team member or classmate to a snack for what he/she is supposed to do. So, how do you measure?

  • Tell them before you begin the project that you will monitor progress
  • Observe their contributions to effort and results on a regular basis
  • Take note of any variations in their contribution and performance, and
  • Occasionally, tell them know how they are doing.

When giving feedback, you can give them words of encouragement when they do well and provide suggestions for improvement when they don’t. Whether you are a student in a class project or an employee on a project team, this scientifically valid technique works like a charm.

What after 2012?

April 30, 2012

Can I still play with my magnets?Years before I was born, Apple Computers Inc. advertised itself saying, ‘1984 won’t be like 1984‘. Well, 2013 won’t be like 2013 either. When my colleague forgot to change the date on a slide from 2011 to 2012, I said, “The world is going to end in 2012, and you don’t care?”, to which she smiled.

We all know that the direction of the earth’s magnetic field is going to reverse at the end of 2012. Only a handful on earth know what’s actually going to happen. Some of my friends are concerned that life on earth is going to die. Where are we going to hide? Camp on the moon till the reversal stabilizes? Should we get a ticket on a shuttle to a Saturn’s moon, where they seem to have found some ice crystals?

Nature magazine published an article last week saying that pigeon’s brains respond to changes in earth’s magnetic field, some of their neurons behave like tiny compasses. How’s that going to help? Shouldn’t someone tell us how it’s going to impact the common man? If our mobile phones are affected, will I be able to talk to my friends and family or should I send them letters and post-cards?

NASA says here that reversals happen all the time, in fact once in every 200,000 to 300,000 years. Like that helps. I will live only for the next 50 years and not for 300,000 years to find myself in the same situation again. Should I feel unfortunate that it’s happening during my lifetime? Should I feel comfortable that if I sinned so much that I am doomed to reincarnate thousands of times on earth, I may evolve to have some of those pigeon’s cells in my brain too.

Can someone tell me how exactly my life is going to be affected by this year’s pole reversal?

Start with why before you measure!

In a consumer market, companies sell products that satisfy our wants and needs. How many of them serve our perceptions, lifestyles, values, and most importantly, our beliefs and purposes? Adding to the problem, each consumer has a distinct taste and requirement, and they have different lifestyles and unique beliefs. So, how can any company address such a large diversity of perceptions in its market?

Even with a thorough understanding of their target audience, marketers don’t adequately sell. Occasionally and under pressure, clients shift focus from creativity in advertising to sticking to sales and forecasts. There is a view on why creativity cannot be measured. After all, we see an ad on TV to decide whether to buy a product or not, which defines an ad’s success. Direct marketing is an alternative, if not simply putting it on a store shelf and waiting behind the cash register.

Is measuring creativity necessary to sell a product? An advertiser would want to quantify his creativity to measure and monitor his performance. At the end of the day, isn’t he performing creatively to sell the product? Advertisers could revisit their role in marketing.

Let’s get creative. Simon says, ‘Start With Why‘. Why should I buy the product and what will I lose if I don’t? To answer this, marketers could measure the following instead:

1. The satisfaction a consumer gains after buying,

2. The effort the target audience spent in searching for a suitable product, and

3. The time and money the client spent in developing it.

One, if not all these questions, might answer why anyone should buy it. After you have the answer, you can draw the curtains on your creative performance and bill your client.

Unclear communication creates a burden of understanding on at least one end of the line. People usually advise us not to begin a presentation by showing data or charts because the burden of understanding is on the viewer and not the speaker. Did the coach ever dump you in the pool in your first swimming class? Not knowing how to react  or respond to the opening creates the burden of understanding in presentations. So, take the burden on yourself off your listeners’ shoulders and you can sell the solution.

One way to do this is to begin by letting the listeners react naturally to the context in the opening. Then present your points and supporting material. If you are presenting a solution, after defining the problem, raise the obstacles, challenge them after you address the audience. Once you discuss each point and its supporting material, clearly explain how a specific obstacle can be overcome. To conclude, summarize by telling them how the solution makes the path to their goals smoother. The rest is clear: they buy your solution.

Every day, we crave to understand how we are doing in the eyes of our peers. Sometimes, we also question ourselves on what we are supposed to be doing. ‘Why are we here?’, we ask. ‘What am I doing here?’, we try to find out. It’s not always clear to us or our peers what we are supposed to do. Not always we are able to answer each others’ questions. Do we not know anything for sure? Isn’t there anything in business that is beyond uncertainty, something that is beyond illusion, timeless and not confined to any space?

There seems to be a ray of hope. The client is the most important person on our premises. Service to the client is service to ourselves. It justifies our existence in business. On top of that, when commitment and dedication are added to service, they justify our excellence in business. Customers have objectives. These objectives lead to questions. Some questions are asked before the task is done. Some questions are raised after the task is done. Sometimes, the mind’s eye can see the elusive objective lurking behind the curtains of unanswered questions. If there is one thing that will bring us closer to our values, whatever values we choose, it is our acceptance of the principle of customer service.

A customer with an objective is a customer to be served. Our minds, hearts and souls go into achieving this objective. If not for that reason, at least we know that whether we are present in this arena or not, these objectives will be achieved. It is not a common enemy, the competitor, but it is a common objective of the customer that unites people from various walks of life. Let us make the customer’s objective our objective.

The Bad Lemon

April 4, 2012

The Bad Lemon

Self-appointed life coaches say, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. Most of the time, we are not starving or have parched throats, we have options to choose from. Don’t we look for plump, ripe, and juicy lemons at the grocery store when we want to make cool lemonade at home? Only an inexperienced person would start picking lemons after bringing a dozen of them home: some ripe, some plump, some hard, dark and dry, and the rest already half-rotten.

It is said that consulting and research industries tend to thrive when the economy doesn’t perform well. We have choices not only when we pick fruits and vegetables, we have options in everyday business. Consultants and analysts don’t sit around waiting for the economy to slow down, and it may not be ethical on their part to hope so. Most of the time, industries and economies do fairly well.

Analytics maybe a juice-making machine, but it’s not just lemonade it makes. There is another side to analytics which cannot get more irrational. Someone asks, ‘This data point seems weird and it’s not consistent with the others. Can you tell me why?’. This question causes slight panic and gives rise to a tendency to eliminate outliers instead of investigating them. It’s very tempting to make the data look smooth and consistent. This tendency is found in analysts and consultants alike, not to mention some incompetent managers. The real question is whether eliminating outliers affects how you interpret data in your business. Does it improve your decision-making abilities, or does it make you look good? Do you remove the bad lemons when you are making lemonade, or while you are picking them in the store?