Sunday, March 22, 2009

Over qualified

One of the biggest reasons ideas fail to sell is because they are over qualified. Think of the times you have used or heard the following phrases at work.

"These are my thoughts, you can take them or leave them"

"Here's what I think, do what you will"

"Do what you will with my input"

"Its only my idea"

With the first three, what I do with the idea is flush it, usually before the individual is finished speaking. If someone can't own their thoughts, I have no interest in whatever comes after their qualifier.

With the last one, I want to jump up, grab the individual pitching and scream, "THAT'S GREAT! ITS ONLY YOUR IDEA! YOU DON'T HAVE TO SHARE CREDIT WITH ANYONE!" Fortunately for my colleagues and clients, I have restrained myself so far.

Instead of enhancing your idea pitch, qualifiers communicate your lack of belief in your idea to your audience. 

If your idea is well thought out, your pitch doesn't need any qualifications, you are qualified to pitch already.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So what?

To give your ideas the best chance of being sold answer the "so what"? 

It's not enough to know that 2+2 = 4, what you do with 4 provides real value to your organization.

Unfortunately for those of us trying to sell our ideas, our managers' time is short. Last year, at a presentaiton by Christensen Investor Relations in Calgary, the presenter mentioned a study showing CEOs will switch their attention every 60 seconds unless they see value in the infomation they are reviewing.

So how do you avoid being 1 (minute) and done with your manager next time you pitch an idea?

Someone, I really wish I could remember who, gave me the following system, which they called the "60 second report".

15 seconds - summarize current situation (shareholder revolt, product recall, quarterly earnings call)
30 seconds - identify 3 options for resolving current situation (the "what")
15 seconds - recommend 1 option for resolving current situation and why (the "so what")

Instead of just summarizing the current situation and staring blankly at our manager for direction, the 60 second report quickly gives our manager (who is probably dealing lots of other issues as well), some guidance on how to resolve the situation you're describing. 

As much as "Free Agent Nation" sounds exciting from an employee perspective, employers will look for their current crop of free agents to not only provide "what"s, but "so what"s to justify their investment.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Update on "what" versus "who"

Reading the excellent, "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, one of the 100 best business books of all time. 

As a previous post mentions, I feel the "what" is more important than the "who"; however, Collins talks at length about how the "who" is more important. 

Based on Collins definitions of "what" and "who", I feel the "what" is still more important as Collins talks about "getting the right people on the bus," which to me is a "what" that leads to a "who."


Monday, March 2, 2009


Our collective fear behind more personal information migrating to online databases isn't really the loss of privacy. Instead, our fear is that that information can strip away the lies we tell ourselves and expose our true selves, not to others, but to us. 

This thought slapped me across the face while reading Super Crunchers, by Ian Ayres. Ayres points out that Visa, based on purchase history, can predict with relative accuracy if a married couple will be divorced in 5 years. 

To most, this information probably carries a terrifying "big brother" connotation. On the other hand, wouldn't you want to know this information? Having watched several divorces unfold from the periphary, it seems most divorce announcements shocker the individual receiving divorce notice. What if, 5 years before you were served, you had a brief conversation with your Visa rep who adivsed you that you were on a path towards divorce? I would certainly be happy for the chance to correct the course of my marriage.

Let's leave what most consider "personal" information for a second. Anthony Bourdain writes in Kitchen Confidential about a server who showed up late for work after returning from vacation claiming that her plane was delayed. Her boss called the airline, discovered that the plane had arrived on time and promptly fired the server for lying. 

Today that server's boss wouldn't need to call, he could find arrival times on a myriad of websites.

With so much of our information available online or through easily sourced databases, our chances of getting caught in a lie are exponentially bigger than even 10 years ago. 

At the same time what are the mental and emotional costs of facing up to our true selves? To paraphrase Joe Thornley at the CPRS national conference in Halifax last June, I have one life online. 

Having one life would make it easier to be truthful. What do you think?