Pointless hostile comments – at least it’s not just me

Reading the comments on David Pogue’s column in the New York Times today about “pay by phone” devices I realized something useful: no matter how useful, how factual the story, some people are going to get all riled up in the comments. And it doesn’t just happen to me. It even happens to someone as well-loved as David Pogue.

The column narrates the story of how one  iPhone card-reader device works. If you read the comments, you’ll see there’s an undercurrent of fear and a connection of Pogue with the technology. Here’s my favorite quote:

These people should be shut down immediately. Thanks a lot, Dave. You’ve just lost a devoted reader.

What? That doesn’t even make sense. He wrote the story, not the software.

Like I said, at least it’s not just me. For some odd reason, today it felt validating to see a titan like David Pogue have a few trolls.

The next frontier part II

Innovation adoption curve

Innovation adoption curve source: Wikipedia

As part of the “next frontier” of embracing the early majority on social media, there are some big questions leaders have to grapple with:

  • How do I encourage people across the business to include social solutions in their strategies?
  • How do I simultaneously cede control to the increasing numbers of people who want to engage in social channels and still guide the strategy?
  • How do I convince even the late majority and laggards that social solutions can improve the outcomes they’re seeking? More specifically, how do I do it without my ego getting in the way?
  • How do I balance time spent between executing strategies and educating?

I don’t know how I’m going to answer these questions yet, but one day soon I hopefully will. If you have any answers borne of experience, please comment.

The next frontier – part I

A new frontier in social marketingI’m biased and I admit it. In the past year or two, something wonderful (or terrible, depending on your point of view) has happened: lots of people are jumping on the “social” bandwagon. As someone who’s been in the trenches pioneering the work to shift a big company to approaching all aspects of our work in a way that incorporates help from our customers, I respect other pioneers more than newcomers. I just do. I suspect the other “first movers” from big companies feel the same way, although no one actually comes right out and says so.

Here’s why: people who were on the boat from the beginning have a shared experience. Without saying so, I know we’ve all faced the same skepticism, rolling eyes, and outright sneers from co-workers we respect and admire. We’ve all experienced the joy that comes with seeing new people understand and adopt new practices that embrace customers. We understand that the wins you have as an innovator may not be the ones you expected, but you celebrate them nonetheless.

A few personal stories on why relationships between pioneers matter so deeply:

When I first met Seth Greenberg four years ago, I suspect we both felt like two guppies in a pond full of goldfish. Both recent hires from internet backgrounds, we found ourselves surrounded by some of the smartest people we’d ever met. And they all thought in a really different way than we did – the consumer packaged goods way. (for those unfamiliar with that approach it’s traditional, disciplined, and steeped in decades of research and data) Our first meeting was at our then VP of Marketing’s staff meeting – he had asked me to present our work with the Inner Circle.  As I walked through the site, explaining how we partnered with customers to create our product, most of the room listened with varying degrees of interest. But not Seth. He lit up immediately, offering ideas of what we could do on the site to make it even more interactive. “Finally!” I remember thinking, “finally, someone I can talk to about this stuff.”

Around this same time two product managers whose opinions I still deeply respect to this day were telling me to, in effect, get a real job because nothing was ever going to come of this social stuff. But not Seth. And when it was time to leave product management for my next career move, our shared experience helped pave the way to a brand new opportunity working for Seth. (Which was transforming for both of us, I think)

Just as surely I knew “social” was the direction to go four years ago, I know the “early majority” jumping on board now is a necessary thing – the next frontier. How can we scale our efforts without their help? We can’t. And like Charlene Li states in her new book Open Leadership I need to find a way to enable even more adoption and still be a leader.

Next up: embracing the challenge of the unknown.

The real cost of “skunkworks” operations

skunkworks operationsAnyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of “skunkworks” operations where you circumvent the huge overhead associated with a corporation’s established “processes” and make things happen behind the scenes, often by working directly with engineers and designers who are passionate about the same things you are. Lots of sites extol the virtues of the skunkworks operations as a great, if not the only way to make innovation happen at big companies. I am not here to argue with them.

There is, however, a cost no one tells you about going skunkworks: you will for sure piss some people off. And some of them will be pretty powerful. Ask yourself this question: what do powerful people do when they are pissed off at you? They tend to take a few well-timed, visible slugs at you, which can add up to some stress. That said here’s what I think the keys to succeeding are:

  1. Year one: Go skunkworks in your passion project. Expect to take some hits for doing it and don’t take it personally when they come. Be brutally honest with yourself about goals and metrics that the business will get excited about.
  2. Years two and beyond: Once you’ve tested your way into those metrics of success and enough of the right people in your business are interested and excited, it’s time to suck it up and go through the established processes.

Next up: why would you want to go through established processes if you’ve had success in the skunkworks arena?

Top six things about being on the exec floor

Top 5 reasons it's good to be on the executive floorToday is my first day in my new office, which is on the “executive” floor. It’s different than the more marketing-heavy third floor with all its hustle and bustle. So what’s the good part of making the move? Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen I give you the top six (good) things about being on the executive floor.

    6. It’s really quiet. No one wants to be the clown who disturbs all those VPs.
    5. I can look out a window from my office.
    4. You get to sit near some super-smarties: like Chelsea, Ashley, and Julie.
    3. The snack machine is up here AND the soda machine with the Diet Dr. Pepper.
    2. Just by being here people think you’re strategic.

And the top reason to be glad you’re on the VP floor:

    1. The cleanest, least used ladies’ room in the entire campus (there are very few women on this floor).

Kids, there *are* bad ideas

I am tired, ever-so-tired of hearing people say “there is no such thing as a bad idea.” Believe me, there are plenty of bad ideas out there. Plenty. I have no idea how we got to this “I’m okay, you’re okay” place regarding the equal goodness of all ideas but I’m guessing the answer has something to do with New Math. (Thank you, 7o’s)

What’s more interesting to me is what principles can I adhere to ensure the ideas that come out of my mouth don’t suck. Here’s what I’ve got so far… I’d be interested to know what I’m missing here:

  1. Have a strategy. Your strategy should ladder up to the businesses’ strategy. If you do nothing else but refer back to this principle, it would be almost enough.
  2. Stay up on what’s current. If you have a grasp on what’s actually innovative in the here and now,  it’s hard to want to do things that are older just because three years later you finally figured out what you should have done three years ago.
  3. It’s not about you. If social is the “how” you’re using to get business results, it comes with its own set of rules. One of the most important rules is that you are not solving for the application you wish people would like if they all worked at your company, you’re solving for what they actually like. Based on actual behavior you can see and measure in the real world, not what you want it to be.
  4. Know how to build most things yourself. This is my personal opinion based on experience: if you can build even simple applications you will know more intimately how the internet works and what is most important. And you more than likely won’t make an ass of yourself when the time comes to work with real engineers.

What did I miss?

Business travel made easy

lots of flying for the next two monthsAfter looking at my calendar for the next few months, the sinking feeling in my stomach told me I have quite possibly over committed myself- both personally and professionally- in ways that all involve travel. So I’m going to be in a whole lotta planes and staying in a whole lotta hotels over the next few months.

Please help a sister out: what are your travel tips to make it all bearable?