Sunday, June 27, 2010

Understand the river

When I put my hand in the flowing river, I am connecting with the last of what has been and the first of what is yet to come"

Charles Lee explains his investment style to .

For Lee, it's not a stretch to draw lessons about investment management from fly fishing: "When you go to the river, you sit there first and just watch. You see many things you hadn't seen before -- dragonflies are floating or damselflies are flying, the way the wind and sun move. Then you hear sounds you never heard before. Then you notice how the fish are doing. What are they eating? Where are they going? The goal is not to say how many fish you catch. The goal is to know and understand the river. That's the way I look at investing and studying markets. If you understand the river, you will catch a lot of fish."

Operating a business has a lot to do with the flows of a river

Search for value

Bob Bielinski shares his thought on the new normal

Is the value-conscious consumer the new norm?

A: During the downturn, a persistent theme was consumers search for value. Immediately, lower prices come to mind when people think about value, but that doesn’t explain Panera’s and Chipotle’s strong performance during the downturn. These fastcasual bellweathers are relatively expensive options, yet people understood the value in the brands.

The campaign Subway developed around their “$5 footlong” promotion completely redefined the value landscape in QSR (quick service restaurants). Chains that did not react with their own compelling value propositions suffered. Even casual dining chains reacted to the price point, trying to match value at lunch.

Similarly, McDonald’s expanded coffee line forced Starbucks to rethink their price points as they saw McDonald’s increase its market share with a value-conscious themed advertising campaign.

So, consumers are more focused on value than ever before, but price, while important, is not the consumers’ sole measure of value.

The power of what you surround yourself with

Tom Peters explains,

Someone explain twitter search to me

Ever wonder what Twitter search is all about?

Hat tip: Chad

The benefits of a longer lunch

Tony Schwartz advises frazzled executives to take back their lunch hour

I wasn't entirely surprised. The Energy Project, the organization I run, recently conducted a poll on the Huffington Post about people's experience in the workplace. Sixty per cent of 1200 respondents told us they took less than 20 minutes a day for lunch. Twenty per cent took less than 10 minutes. One quarter said they never left their desks at all.

That's consistent with a study by the American Dietetic Association, which found that 75 per cent of office workers eat lunch at their desk at least two to three days a week.

Those poll findings were the inspiration for a movement The Energy Project is about to launch. The concept couldn't be more straightforward. We're calling it Take Back Your Lunch. It begins this Wednesday, between noon and 2 p.m., in locations around the country, and continues every Wednesday this summer. Find out where people will be gathering — or organize a Take Back Your Lunch Meetup in your city or town.

Your are helping your customers boost productivity by entertaining them for lunch a little longer. Your restaurant is helping to make the world a better place.

Battling demons that never materialize

Saturday was a beautiful summer day in Chicago, sunny and not oppressively hot. The weather forecast on Friday night however foretold of a day layered with thunderstorms and hurricane force winds. If you were planning an outdoor event on Saturday you spent a great deal of energy on Friday conjuring up "what ifs"on how to deal with the foreboding weather.

The day was a picture perfect summer day. None of the "what ifs" materialized.

Live in the moment!


How to get past mistakes

Ellen Weber shares her strategy for recovering from missteps.

  • Admit you blew it – Anger, fear, and frustration fuel harmful cortisol chemical hormones that stops success, while admitting errors stems its flow in brains.
  • Pop a novel fix – Venting curbs brainpower and creates neuron pathways to more complaints. Novelty adds the opposite for increased intelligence.
  • Push brainpower buttons – Buy-in from community and clients benefits from multiple intelligences for a winning array of answers.
  • Create rather than criticize. Cynical or critical mindsets block creativity, limit talent and stomp out innovation. Creativity jolts brainpower for a better way.
  • Ride shotgun for risks. Encouragement changes the chemistry of brains through raised serotonin levels, and fuels new risk-taking for profitability.

How to filter the noise that invariably finds its way to you

Entrepreneurs are continually inundated with information, how do you figure out what to listen to? Seth talks about some filtering guidelines.

So, here's a quick list of a few ways to earn that right:

  • Be informed
  • Be rational
  • Pay your dues
  • Have a platform where a lot of people can hear you
  • Be an impacted constituent, not a gadfly
  • Represent a tribe of people with similar concerns
  • You've been right before
  • You're not anonymous
  • You have a previous relationship and permission to interrupt
  • Listening to you earns something of value

On a tangential point for the recipients of this incoming flood of noise, you are not a punching bag. Some people will become your customer (or a prospect) merely because it gives them the power to complain. To be heard. To be paid attention to. I'm not sure you need customers like that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Recreating the local from the national chains

The trend has been talked about for a long time, however it is very difficult for a group of independent developers to come together and make a conscious choice to revitalizes an area.

David Farley explores one such experiment,

The area on Oakland’s inner harbor was developed in the ’70s, and the city had hoped that the waterfront space would have a quirky, independent appeal. But chain restaurants soon moved in, and both local residents and tourists largely stayed away.

However, changes are afoot. The chain restaurants are largely gone, after their leases were not renewed in an effort by developers to reinvent the square (a plan approved by the city). In came a cast of big-name chefs — as well as a new six-floor, 72,000-square-foot farmers’ market scheduled to open later this year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Through the fog and smoke the new Starbucks is emerging

Ashley Heher introduces us to the future of Starbucks.

The pilot shows how hard Starbucks is working reinvigorate its brand, which stumbled under the weight of hyper-paced over-expansion. The chain closed hundreds of stores and cut scores of jobs, and founder Howard Schultz returned to help the company re-emerge.

Now, Starbucks plans more measured growth and is working to relax its corporatized image by returning to its days as a place where people want to linger for hours sipping coffee. It plans to offer free, unlimited Wi-Fi in all company-run stores; it's letting customers tailor drinks even more, and it's opening stores with more community flavor. A Seattle shop uses an old bleacher from a nearby high school for shelving, and a New York City store's floors and counters are made of wood reclaimed from a century-old Pennsylvania barn.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Interrogative or declarative?

Dan Pink examines a declarative question and its corresponding results;

three social scientists explored the differences between what they call "declarative" self-talk (I will fix it!) and "interrogative" self-talk (Can I fix it?). They began by presenting a group of participants with some anagrams to solve (for example, rearranging the letters in "sauce" to spell "cause".) But before the participants tackled the problem, the researchers asked one half of them to take a minute to ask themselves whether they would complete the task – and the other half to tell themselves that they would complete the task.

The results?

The self-questioning group solved significantly more anagrams than the self-affirming group.

Doubt is the reason that lead did not become gold overnight in the Middle Ages and it still works its ugly magic today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crowdsource your restaurant

Sumathi Reddy's WSJ article highlights a new chain that will be built by social media;

burger chain launching next month is redefining the strategy.

4food, which on July 6 is to open its first of 11 planned locations, will allow customers to use iPads to place orders.

Customers also have the option of naming and branding their creation, and posting it on Facebook or Twitter. When ordering from home, they can create commercials on YouTube.

The branded burgers and commercials are then featured on a 240-square-foot media wall at the restaurant that also streams from Foursquare, a social-networking site where users can check in at restaurants and other locations. Every time someone buys one of the concoctions, the creator receives a 25-cent credit through their account...

The burgers have holes in the middle, which can be filled with one of 100 rotating garnishes, from macaroni and cheese to sushi rolls.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Talent aquisition window

Are you getting a lot of resignations lately? Staff that has stayed with you during the really bleak times are moving on. The window of keeping good talent at bargain basement prices is closing. The amount of knowledge that walks out the door when there are wholesale staff changes is frightening.
This year has shown a marked increase in available positions and a willing pool of under appreciated workers looking to change.

Credit destruction

This recovery, slight as it is, just got a big kick in the teeth. Many credit card companies under the guise of adjusting to the new credit card laws are reducing or canceling credit to "creditworthy" customers". That is right, just when many consumers are getting ready to purchase a big ticket item, mostly out of necessity many credit card companies are eliminating the source of funding.

I certainly understand the argument that a lot of people have cut way back on increasing debt loads over the past three years, however contracting credit at the very time the economy can use some credit creation seems counter productive to me. Credit destruction never bodes well for the economy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Escape Velocity

The Earth's escape velocity is 11.2 km/s, the Sun's is 42 km/s. A restaurant's escape velocity is dependent on factors that are not as quantifiable. The principle however is the same. If a an object that has no external propulsion is not traveling at escape velocity, the gravitational pull of the nearest mass will act on the object and return the object to itself.

All businesses receive an initial propulsion from the start up phase. Many never add to the momentum and fall helplessly back into the abyss of non-business, while others eject a steady stream of propulsion which keeps them moving and defying the gravitational pull of the abyss. Movement is key because if your moving, you are getting closer to the stars and farther away from the gravitational pull of irrelevance.

Once you achieve the elusive escape velocity you will be among the stars

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Differentiation Pricing Startegy

Price strategy is a complex dynamic exercise. Peter at SEO Book has explained the differing strategies that can and should be applied to maximize revenue and provide value. The entire article here

Offering one price to one group, and another price to others may seem unfair. This is something you'll need to weigh up for yourself.

However, keep in mind that if the differing price points reflect different levels of value, then the customer is deciding what they value most. If they want the full service, they should expect to pay full-service prices. If they want the lowest price, they may be prepared to wait or sacrifice some features. The customer decides what they value, and votes with their cash.

And they can always say "no" :)

Eliminate tipping to individual servers

Dan Pink highlights the removal of commission sales with a higher flat salary. Would this approach increase sales at a restaurant if all the tips were pooled?

once commissions were no longer around, collaboration and commitment increased.

And then there's the experience of the companies' customers. When we buy, we often see the salesperson as an adversary with whom we're locked in a zero-sum battle. That sort of relationship, says Weinstein, is ultimately bad for business.

Ending commissions, he said, sent "a strong message to the staff: We're not just paying you for what you close in the next five minutes. We want you to be an agent for the customer rather than a salesperson."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Which location app works best?

Jennifer Van Grove explains;

uTests’s findings are not scientific, but they do underscore a few interesting points, mainly that privacy is a huge concern and badges may not be as cool to users as we think. If you’re building location-sharing into your application, these findings might help you fine tune your offering to better address users’ wants and needs.

The importance of square footage

Square footage matters to the feel of your concept. If you take two footprints one with limited seating and one with ample seating, the larger one will feel right. The smaller footprint does not work. Even with the menu being identical and the staff offering the same level of service as the larger footprint, the perception is that the smaller footprint is lacking.

Nothing will overcome that perception. There is a need for space in the overall feel of any concept.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Motivation, what is it good for?

Dan Pink explains what really motivates us,

Skate to where the puck is going to be

Using a hockey analogy here is Ashlee Vance's NYTimes piece on the coming Singularity.

Some of the Singularity’s adherents portray a future where humans break off into two species: the Haves, who have superior intelligence and can live for hundreds of years, and the Have-Nots, who are hampered by their antiquated, corporeal forms and beliefs. Of course, some people will opt for inadequacy, while others will have inadequacy thrust upon them. Critics find such scenarios unnerving because the keys to the next phase of evolution may be beyond the grasp of most people.

The question we need to ask is whether the exponential growth in computing power has led to exponential growth in your business or your life?

Delight the audience

Seth advises to forget about the pixie dust and do the hard work.

delight the audience you already have, amaze the customers you can already reach, dazzle the small investors who already trust you enough to listen to you. Take the permission you have and work your way up. Leaps look good in the movies, but in fact, success is mostly about finding a path and walking it one step at a time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rules v Principles

The age old question is should you adhere to Rules or adhere to Principles? The answer of course is total adherence to Principles. Rules are only a methodology to accomplish those Principles. What is the story being told by your Rules and how is that different for the story of your Principles? Now has everyone in your organization an understanding about the strategic clarity of those Principles? If they are not, they will seek cover under the umbrella of Rules to the detriment of your customers.

Principles > Rules.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This city needed a reason to celebrate

City officials estimated 2 million people. I am happy the Hawks won however, there were definitely not 2 million fans before winning the Stanley Cup. The city really needed a reason to celebrate. The Great reset, recession, real estate deflation or whatever this economic climate will eventually be named has been depressing folks around here for way too long.

Thank you Blackhawks for giving Chicago a reason to celebrate and party.

It is not customer appreciation day if it is a marketing stunt

A national QSR sub chain was selling sandwiches for $1 yesterday and calling it "Customer Appreciation Days." It is not customer appreciation day if a regular customer has to stand in line for a considerable amount to get a sandwich for a buck that they normally pay $4.89 for.

Yes, the marketing stunt clearly generates interest in a $1 sandwich, however by alienating the real customers who maybe will come back after this stunt, the net is negative. A relationship with the customer is the key to creating customer advocacy. When that relationship is not honored the consequence is not pretty.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Business is improving, chefs are growing more assertive

Brian Niemietz and Carla Spartos chronicle the return of the chef,

requesting vegetarian dishes at trendy steakhouse STK, there’s one thing that’s on the menu at many of the city’s best eateries: extreme pickiness.

“A lot of [people] think they’re experts, which they’re not,” says Le Pescadeux owner Chuck Perley of diners. He thinks the rising popularity of cable TV cooking shows is responsible for the escalation of demands from finicky New York City foodies. “There’s a night-and-day difference between now and when I opened in 1981.”

And chefs are increasingly refusing to indulge requests, even if it means losing customers

City of Champions

The Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. Thank You to the entire Blackhawks organization for doing this city proud.

Visual history of The Stanley Cup here

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What do you mean I do not have a reservation?

Glenn Collins explores the trend toward no reservations,

“the no-reservation policy is a buzz-kill,” wrote one surveyor, who was anonymous thanks to the Zagat nondisclosure policy.

Many restaurateurs, though, are delighted to do away with the formidable payroll expense and heartburn that come with reservations. Some point to Mr. Chang — with his first-come, first-served Momofuku restaurants in the East Village — as the trendsetter driving stakes through the hearts of reservationists.

“There is a little bit of something going on — maybe ‘democratic’ is the wrong word, but it is the closest one,” Mr. Chang said. “By not taking reservations, there is a certain lack of pretension. It is saying that we just want people to eat something delicious. And that people aren’t there for the scene — or anything else but the food.”

Others were willing to suspend judgment. “It’s not a typical businessman’s lunch, and I’m not a typical businessman,” said Leah Dickerman, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, who was waiting in the bar for both a business guest and an available table. “I think the food trumps the wait.”

The rise of wait-your-turn dining “may simply be a function of the down economy,” said Rick Camac, a managing partner of the tiny Fatty Crab/Fatty ’Cue empire. The downturn “has dictated more casual restaurants, where people are not looking for uptight service or high price points — and often that means no reservations.”

Around town, check averages have deflated. Generally, no-reservations customers are younger and less affluent, and, in part, the reservation question entails “the suits versus the shorts issue,”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Info layer on top of daily living

June briefing of Trendwatching focuses on mass mingling.

Expect the MASS MINGLING trend to be giving for a long time. While all of the above will go mainstream in the years to come, keep a (short-term) eye out for impromptu meet-ups of strangers, mobs and crowds with similar causes. Many of these meet-ups will revolve around generating public attention, or getting something done.

Also (and rather amusingly), expect the new lament from sociologists and philosophers to be about the loss of solitude, due to 24/7 connecting activities (after having fretted over social isolation for years ;-)

Long term, younger generations will be at ease with meeting likeminded souls they’ve met ‘virtually': it's a change in attitude that will fuel MASS MINGLING even more.

On the tech side of things, expect the triumphant rise of all things mobile to continue: iPhones, Android, Apps, iPads, 3G, 3.5G, 4G, Wifi everywhere, clouds, GPS (and Galileo, Compass and Glonass)– the list goes on! Which is yet another push for MASS MINGLING on steroids.

For business, the opportunities are plentiful: Anyone involved with anything that helps people getting and staying in touch, that gets people from A-Z, or that accommodates those people before, during or after meet-ups with others, should find it easy to dream up services and products that further facilitate MASS MINGLING. Run with the examples above: how would they apply to your own industry?

At the same time, purely 'online' brands will have to further embrace the real world, by building a temporary or permanent real-world, physical presence. In the end, every business wants to be where its customers (physically) are. Of course, our recent Trend Briefing on BRAND BUTLERS comes to mind, too.

Oh, and what's itself doing, mingling-wise? Well, while we're doing plenty of unofficial mingling, we will initiate a number of more structured MASS MINGLING events for dedicated readers, Seth Godin style. We'll announce these meet-ups early Q4, so make sure you are subscribed to our Trend Briefings.

Variety equals better experience.

Most restaurateurs are acutely sensitive to changing the menu. They understand the dynamic exercises that are required to change even a letter on their menu. There is a way to completely improve the dining experience without having your accountant go ballistic. Increase the number of condiments you have available.

There are three benefits to this strategy.

1) The basic menu is unchanged.

2) Operating cost increase is negligible.

3) The variety that your existing menu offers has just gone parabolic and the guest experience has improved.

Capex is impossible without a predictable payout.

What makes financing any venture difficult is the ROI (return on investment). Bankers, lenders, investors only care about one thing. When will they get their money back and how much profit do they stand to make from this investment. Capital Expenditure (Capex) is predicated on this notion of returning the original investment and providing future cash flow. If you cannot provide a satisfactory answer to that question, the funding will not be forthcoming.

Proformas are fabrication and everyone goes along with delusion if the storytelling connects. The story needs to provide a mechanism that the stakeholders feels comfortable with.The story needs to resonate a predictable payout.

Funding approved!

Have your customers create and name the next menu item

Stuck for ideas on your next new menu item. Ask your customers and make it fun. Have a contest, ask your customers to create and name the menu item, give it a deadline, put it on the menu for limited time, get feedback and have some fun.

Repeat next year.

That was easy!

Least failing person in the company.

Seth in his book Linchpin suggest that you evaluate people based on failing.

The least failing person in your organization is the most dangerous because they are not trying new things. They are not taking risks that your organization needs to survive going forward. They are playing it safe.

Playing safe feels real good, sadly however lack of movement is death.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Decorative bike racks in the city

Every once in a while inspiration visits city hall.

Fran Spielman reports on the new bike racks coming to a sidewalk near you.

Artists will be asked to design decorative bike racks that double as pieces of public art wherever chambers of commerce, neighborhood groups or a so-called “special services area” bankrolled by local businesses comes up with the money to pay for them.

Decorative bike racks are already being installed in a host of cities, including Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Lousville and San Antonio, according to Nathan Mason, curator of special projects for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

They could become every bit as popular in Chicago, adding a whimsical boost to the city’s 10,000 mundane bike racks that encourages cycling. “I can see it motivating families to bicycle. It’s like, ‘Let’s take the kids and go lock our bikes up to the dog down the street,’ ” Mason said.

“It’s a good thing because it addresses the need for more bicycle parking.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Customer Service Cycle

Elizabeth Garber defines the process to improve customer experience.

Leadership is service

Tom highlights the essential questions of leadership

The Four Questions

  1. Who are you serving?

  2. How can you best serve?

  3. Are you making your unique contribution?

  4. Are you getting better every day?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More effective Business Plan

Phil Dobbie interviews Seth about business plans.

He has a more effective approach to the business plan, with five key elements: Truth; Assertions; Alternatives; People and Money. He talks through what to put in each of these sections in today’s podcast.

That steak was fantastic

Jonah reminds us that the memory is only as good as we think it is

At first glance, this experimental observation seems incongruous. After all, we like to think of our memories as being immutable impressions, somehow separate from the act of remembering them. But they aren't. A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. The more you remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes. The larger moral of the experiment is that memory is a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. It shows us that every time we remember anything, the neuronal structure of the memory is delicately transformed, or reconsolidated.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Corporate values starting point

Tom Peters suggested this be shared.

Zappos 10 Corporate Values

  1. Deliver "WOW!" through service.

  2. Embrace and drive change.

  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.

  4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded.

  5. Pursue growth and learning.

  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.

  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.

  8. Do more with less.

  9. Be passionate and determined.

  10. Be humble.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

1500 chemical substances.

Giorgio Milos shares his passion for espresso

Coffee is intricate and requires education and passion to get right--plus a lot of practice. Espresso is the most complex coffee preparation, containing around 1,500 chemical substances, of which 800 are volatile. There are also more than 100 chemical/physical variables that affect the final preparation—like water composition, the size and distribution of the ground coffee particles, filter dimensions and hole diameter, dynamic water flow temperature and pressure, shape and temperature of the cup, roasting degree, and many, many more ... I can go on for pages and pages.

The potential aromatic components and flavors are crucial, because their presence in the cup is determined not only by which coffee we choose to prepare the espresso but also by the preparation method. A single little mistake can affect the final result. Thanks to the crema, the taste of espresso lingers on the tongue for up to 30 minutes and should be a pleasure to hold with you from cup to cup.

Turn the attribute around.

Roger Dooley reframes the question masterfully,

If your product has an attribute that some might consider undesirable, is there a way to perform marketing jiu-jitsu and turn that attribute into something that might attract a segment of your potential buyers? There’s certainly some risk with an approach that highlights a potentially negative trait, but if successful doing so might be a million-dollar solution.

Let them read Linchpin.

Seth rails against the compliance mentality,

We make a difference to other people when we give gifts to them, when we bring emotional labor to the table and do work that matters. It's hard for me to imagine that this is only available to a few. Yes, the cards are unfairly stacked against too many people. Yes, there's too many barriers and not enough support. But no, your ability to create and contribute isn't determined at birth. It's a choice.

Someone please explain social media to me

Tamar Weinberg does just that here

Location. People always ask me what the “future” of social media is. I think that where we are will continue to evolve, but we’re seeing that face-to-face connections have a role in social media marketing as well. FourSquare, Gowalla, Loopt, and other location-aware services are social networks, unifying real connections. Beyond that, though, there’s the potential for businesses to run with special promotions, bringing more people to a business location and maybe even cultivating new friendships as well.

Social Gaming

"If you are coming with me you need nerves of steel because I take corners on two wheels"

Not that you have mastered social media, here comes social gaming. Christina Warren explains;

Loopt Star does borrow a lot of its social game elements from Foursquare — there are badges, leaderboards and the ability to become the “Boss” of a location — however, it also differs significantly from the other location-based services already available.
  • Loopt Star is based entirely on Facebook Connect. Instead of having to build or import your social graph, Loopt Star simply uses Facebook. We think this is pretty brilliant because it lets users get started immediately. Users can then share their current location in real time with their Facebook friends and alert them about special Loopt Star offers via newsfeed.
  • Brands can customize campaigns based on location, the number of visits, how many people are in a group, time of day or day of the week.
  • Wi-Fi location technology is used to limit cheating.
  • Users can view “Nearby Rewards” in the app and also get updates of rewards for places they have been before or that their friends share with them.

Loopt has already signed more than 20 sponsors and will launch with several large companies including The Gap, Universal Records, Burger King, Starbucks and Stanford University. New brands will be rolled out each week in the application.


In a recent editorial post about why location hasn’t gone mainstream, Leah Betancourt argued that its value to advertisers was questionable. Loopt Star isn’t designed to be its own social network; Facebook and Twitter and other services can do that better. Instead, it can be a location guide and a virtual loyalty card. The coupons and the simplicity offer the user value, while the ability to set parameters around offers and to better target existing users offers businesses and advertisers value.

Electronic coupon clippers highlights the rise of the online coupon

So, how can restaurants appeal to price-conscious consumers but not define themselves by price? New delivery channels are taking coupons and discounts to the next level – and to new audiences. For example, offers made to restaurants’ social media followers are working well. In fact, 63% of respondents to the R&I study said coupons and deals are what they most want when they connect to restaurants’ Facebook or Twitter accounts. Restaurants are becoming increasingly adept with offers – such as asking followers to mention a specific tweet to get a special deal. They are also making announcements of last-minute specials and invitations for happy hour specials. In addition to driving traffic quickly, offers aimed at restaurants’ social media audience are viral and build those communities further.

With With over four million subscribers and more than four million coupons sold to date, Groupon is a force in the electronic coupon category. Subscribers receive a daily email with a special offer in their cities to see, do, and buy, including discounts on restaurant meals, such as paying $25 for a coupon (or “groupon”) for $50 worth of food. The offer becomes the exclusive subject of a daily email (including photos, information about the business, and links to its Web site). There’s no upfront cost to businesses to participate; Groupon processes the transaction and retains a portion of each “groupon” sold. Because businesses specify a minimum number to be sold for the deal to be valid, subscribers often use email and social media to spread the word. Restaurants say that participating has helped them reach new audiences – notably the young and Web-savvy – without spending time and money on marketing.

Paperless loyalty cards

Claire Cain Miller enlightens us on the role of smartphone loyalty cards

Instead of collecting paper cards and fumbling through wallets at the cash register, customers are increasingly using their cellphones to track their visits and purchases, and receive rewards.

Some start-ups, like CardStar and CardBank, store existing loyalty cards on cellphones with scannable barcodes. And companies including Motorola and a start-up called mFoundry are providing retailers with the technology to build cellphone loyalty cards.

Self control is exhaustible

Dan heath relates a study that says there is a limit

Then, the two groups are asked to do a second, seemingly unrelated task—basically a kind of logic puzzle where they have to trace out a complicated geometric pattern without raising their pencil. Unbeknownst to them, the puzzle can’t be solved. The scientists are curious how long they’ll persist at a difficult task. So the cookie-eaters try again and again, for an average of 19 minutes, before they give up. But the radish-eaters—they only last an average of 8 minutes. What gives?

The answer may surprise you: They ran out of self-control. Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. And I don’t mean self-control only in the sense of turning down cookies or alcohol, I mean a broader sense of self-supervision—any time you’re paying close attention to your actions, like when you’re having a tough conversation or trying to stay focused on a paper you’re writing. This helps to explain why, after a long hard day at the office, we’re more likely to snap at our spouses or have one drink too many—we’ve depleted our self-control.

And here’s why this matters for change: In almost all change situations, you’re substituting new, unfamiliar behaviors for old, comfortable ones, and that burns self-control. Let’s say I present a new morning routine to you that specifies how you’ll shower and brush your teeth. You’ll understand it and you might even agree with my process. But to pull it off, you’ll have to supervise yourself very carefully. Every fiber of your being will want to go back to the old way of doing things. Inevitably, you’ll slip. And if I were uncharitable, I’d see you going back to the old way and I’d say, You’re so lazy. Why can’t you just change?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Golf and the Zen of Achieving goals

I was playing golf the other day and I noticed how one attains a goal in this endeavor. Golf first and foremost is a "now centered" activity. The object of the game is to play 18 holes in less strokes than your nearest opponent. Victory in golf is not based on an absolute score, rather it is relative to your opponents score on that day.

The magic of golf as it relates to goal setting is that it breaks down the process to a very specific action. Swinging the golf club at this ball in this precise location as it attempts to find its way to the green and ultamitely into the cup.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We are hard wired to co-operate

Victoria relates the prisoners' dilemma saga.

We appear to be hard-wired for cooperation in the same way Tit for Tat was programmed for success. When research subjects played the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma while attached to equipment monitoring brain activity, the brains of those who were cooperating with one another lit up like pinball machines. Not only did the cooperators win more total points for cooperation than did the betrayers, they were happier whether they were winning or not. As the neuroscientists discovered, when we cooperate, the neurochemical that gives us pleasure – dopamine – is released. At the same time that the cooperators’ brains were being bathed in the warm glow of dopamine, their impulse inhibition areas were activated, helping them resist the lure of self-seeking.

Our evolutionary history has created us to be a “band of brothers” – a human family that places the well-being of the tribe on a higher level than anyone’s “personal best.” If family members betray us (and they will) we doom our effort to secure compliance if we fail to retaliate. A sharp slap on the wrist or even expressed disapproval (the powerful shock of shaming) is usually sufficient to bring miscreants back into line. To optimize the benefits to be gained by cooperation among the greatest number of family members, we must be quick to forgive when our retaliatory actions bear fruit.

Oregano burgers, yes!

Karen Schrock highlights the delicious benefits of oregano, cinnamon, thyme and rosemary. I'll have that oregano burger with a cinnamon roll!

and it's possible that we humans evolved a taste for these toxic compounds because they help our bodies function better

One half teaspoon of ground cinnamon has as many antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries; a half teaspoon of dried oregano rivals three cups of raw spinach.
And the health benefits go far beyond antioxidants. A UCLA paper published May 9 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding a mixture of herbs and spices to hamburgers reduced the level of carcinogenic compounds created by grilling—such as the dangerous malondialdehyde that forms when beef fat oxidizes. Malondialdehyde damages DNA in cells, which is thought to lead to replication errors and possibly cancer. Not only did the burgers with the spice mixture—a palatable blend of oregano, rosemary, ginger, black pepper and others—have lower levels of malondialdehyde when tested in the lab, but subjects who ate the spiced burgers had fewer DNA breaks in their cells afterwards.

Ode to a white arrow

Mitch Ditkoff shares 20 ways to see what is unseen.

By the way, every time I see a FedEx truck these days, I stop and ask myself "What am I not seeing?" It only takes 10 seconds, but usually reveals some very useful insights. And even when it doesn't, the act of asking the question opens my eyes a bit wider.

Here's to the revelation of your white arrow!

Gone Silent

Adam Boyden shares steps to recapture those who have silently disappeared,

Find Out Why They Have Gone Silent

There is a reason your customers are no longer interacting with your brand and uncovering the reason why is an important first step. One way to do this is to use online surveys and polls that are specifically crafted for this subsection of your business. Don’t be afraid to ask and be direct. This analysis will only make your business stronger.

Ask them what you could do better, how you could adjust your offerings, how you might better meet their needs, etc. Take the feedback seriously and make adjustments where possible. Then, let them know that their feedback was heard and implemented.

You might be surprised by how much goodwill this generates, and how the goodwill will bring them back.

Gourmet on the go

At the 2010 NRA show I noticed several vehicles very well equipped to transport food. In Chicago the only mobile food is ice cream so I did not see the need. However the mobile trend across the nation has not reached this little hamlet on the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan.

Monica Eng explains

In the last couple of years, a gourmet food truck craze has swept cities from Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, to New York and Minneapolis. High-end chefs and talented amateurs have hopped in mobile kitchens to serve kimchi tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches and Latin-Asian chow to foodies who follow them on Twitter and line up in convivial droves.

Don't cherry pick

"Observe without judgment"

One of the most difficult self imposed obstacles for entrepreneurs to tackle is the urge to cherry pick. The urge to ignore some customers and pay really special attention to others based on a subjective metric. You do not know what anyone is capable of bringing to a relationship. Endeavor not lose a fantastic opportunity because you prejudge. Everyone has a gift, everyone is relevant, take the time to learn about them.

Life in the most tenuous of places

The other day I was in an office tower forty stories above the streets of Chicago. Looking across the way toward another office tower I noticed that a seedling had taken root against the side of a building high above the city streets. No doubt its life would be treacherous at best however there it was holding on with utter tenacity against all odds.

"Never, never, never give up." Churchill

Rain on a parade

Yesterday was a day of parades in the Chicago area. Typically the parades occur between 10:00am and 12:00pm. Yesterday during those times a fairly heavy downpour roared through the area. Some parades got very wet while others were canceled because of lighting strikes.

In both cases months of planning, hours of preparation and effort were for naught. Sometimes you do everything right and it rains or in this case, it storms. What to do?

Dry yourself off and go on to the next adventure. There will be another parade.

Connection creates great art.

Jeffrey Tang defines the connection that creates the great art. Does what you do inspire connection?

When Monet brushed color onto canvas, he birthed beautiful paintings into the world. But those paintings didn’t become art until they were put on display, until people looked at them, appreciated them, and in doing so created a connection with them and their painter.

You see, art is about the connection between artist and audience. Whenever you look at a painting or read a book or use a new product, you create that connection – you create art. You participate in the creative process.