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The idea that it is necessary to go to a university in order to become a writer, or even a man or woman of letters (which is by no means the same thing), is one of those phantasies that surround authorship. -- Vera Brittain
I've only met a few people in my life who truly didn't want to do a good job at work. They were psychopaths, so let's leave them aside in this discussion. But the rest of us, we want to succeed and be recognized for doing great things.
I'd like to walk the ranks of corporate America and ask the question: "Leaving the thin-lipped editor lady in your head behind, if you could improve the workplace, how would you do that? How could you make this place more efficient and productive?"
Some managers ask a variation of that question regularly. Some never ask it at all. Which manager has the more productive office?
Peter Drucker said, "Ninety percent of what we call 'management' consists of making it difficult for people to get things done."
People want to be effective in their job. Managers who listen to their employees and remove the barriers to productivity are craved. People like working for such managers because these managers allow employees to feel good about themselves.
Beyond the workplace, how do we do this with colleagues? Friends? Family?
Yep, that's a picture of one of our bathrooms. Specifically, I shot a picture of our wastebasket.
When Tamara and I decided to decorate that bathroom, we went to Lowe's and Target and a couple other places and we found nothing really attractive in wastebaskets. The bathroom is painted in a golden orange color with red accents. None of these retailers had anything to offer.
Lowe's was our last stop. Suddenly, Tamara wandered out into the garden area. She started staring at flower pots. And she picked this one:
What a lovely wastebasket!
The elegant solution is not often found in the labels we stick on things. Instead, it's best if we leave the labels behind and unlearn and see a thing for the purpose we need it to be.
Our florist for the wedding did an outstanding job with the most beautiful arrangements well-colored to match Tamara's dress.
The florist was not found in a floral boutique. No, she found the florist at a nearby grocery store.
When she first told me that we were going to the Valley West HyVee to talk flowers, I first thought, "Oh... we're just saving money."
I met David, who very much looks the part of an unassuming grocery store worker. The three of us sat down together in the deli area and David started talking flowers. Within three minutes, I was hooked. Two things occurred to me:
1) I have the most amazing wife who sees things and people without pretense.
2) In my own life, how often do I overlook the right solution because I prejudge?
It's a good lesson to be reminded that things aren't often limited to what they seem.
I just landed a dream job for me. My work will be to find innovative ways to implement strategic objectives. Creativity meets action. What's even cooler - I really like the guy to whom I'll report.
Since hearing that I landed this gig, my brain has been on a high hum. I can feel the passion motor cranking up big time. I know that I will churn out huge productivity for this and I get tingly just thinking about it.
Isn't it amazing how the right position can be just like inserting an IV of adrenaline into your arm? What would it be if every manager sought to do just this thing for each of their employees? Resumes include a silly statement called "Objective," but it's always too generic. It should be relabeled "Passion."
I'm very lucky... I wish more people were very lucky.
At our wedding, my longtime friend, Kelly, took photos of our wedding. Kelly took a couple of pictures of me last fall that were simply great and told me that he was interested in getting into portrait photography.
Kelly's work is unique because of his understanding of composition and technique of photography. He simply knows how to take a great, candid picture. Staged pictures are fine, but Kelly's work captures the spirit of the people, with a wonderful blend of color and balance.
Here's one of the pictures he took from our wedding - this one of Tamara and her daughter, Tess - both beautiful women.
What a gorgeous and rich photo...
His sense of the art is fabulous. Our memories are better for his willingness to do this for our wedding, and we couldn't be more thankful. Plus, he's just an excellent man anyway. I'm proud to call him a friend.
Whether at work or at home, wherever we are, we use tools. We humans have made ourselves more than we are because we're able to craft tools and extend our abilities far beyond what we're born with.
A company with which we do business is nothing more than a tool. The company extends our abilities to help us succeed. The more the company enables us, the more likely we are to return to that company again and again.
The richer and more diverse the experience, the more we want to return.
So let's say that I visit a restaurant. Its mission? To help us enjoy good and timely food, good conversation, and have a better time than we might have had on our own. Through the restaurant, I don't have to cook. I might really like the person who serves my food. The atmosphere might pick me up after a long day at work. The restaurant and its staff are tools.
Does a waitress view her job this way? Does she see that she is a tool for the customer to achieve these ends? Or does the job serve her needs instead? Does she see it as a paycheck and she simply sees herself as shuffling food around?
What's the mission?
Do we see what we do as serving others? Or do we see what we do as serving ourselves?
In the first view, we see ourselves as tools for others.
In the second view, we see others as tools for us.
Earlier this year, I read something at Creating Passionate Users, one of my favorite blogs, and it got me thinking...
When people work with you, do they leave talking about how cool you are? Or do they talk about the cool thing that you did? In either case, they're promoting you. It's something you did for them. Which is nice. Good for you.
Or, do they leave the experience with you and talk about what they were able to do themselves? Did you enable them?
We don't want our users talking about the company or the product. All that matters is how they feel about themselves as a result of interacting with our product. How they feel about us has little impact on whether they'll become loyal (let alone passionate) users. All that matters is what we've helped them do or be.
So, when you analyze user reviews, look for first-person language. Look for the word "I". Do a statistical analysis on the number of times users talked about something they were able to do as a result, rather than a run-down of oh-how-great-this-company-is. View your competitor's positive reviews the same way.
I recently saw an amazing video.
The guy who produced it was interviewed and said this:
The best tools are those that are flexible enough to be used beyond that for which they were intended.
When a tool allows you to use it beyond your initial purpose, then it becomes about your cleverness and your creativity. You talk about you, and not so much the tool or the maker of the tool.
So let's say that I meet someone, a consultant. I need her help. But in my interaction with her, she helps me in ways I didn't expect and shows me how I can do things beyond my initial purpose. I come away more enabled than I was. I'm equipped for great action and I'm able to do more things. People get excited about what I've done.
How likely am I to return to the woman who helped me?
Kathy Sierra says:
If you're creating something to win awards, or to impress people, or to gain praise and recognition, that might lead to an award-winning, impressive product that leaves the user behind. I hear a lot of companies claim to care about what the user thinks, but they're still focused on what the user thinks of them or the product. I don't want people to praise us. I want them to thank us for helping them earn the praise of others.
I read something at Tom Hayes' web site that has me spinning. He notes that his son, who plays a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), is learning the breadth of collaboration, and it's bigger than what I've grasped.
These kids are gradually, unwittingly learning a brand new culture of collective online behavior. Today they play together, tomorrow I believe they will buy together.
I've been chewing on the P2P financial model for a while. A P2P financial site, like Prosper.com and Zopa, operates like an eBay for loans. People can submit their public request for a loan and other folks can then - in part or in whole - bid by amount and interest rate to fund that request. In that model, in effect, people buy the loan together. It's community purchase.
It's not hard to apply that to other financial products and services. What about student loans? What about insurance? What about credit cards?
It's not the baby boomers who might hop on this model and make it big. No, it's more like the teenagers who are about 5 years away from having the financial wherewithal to enact what they're learning today in Second Life and in Maple Story, which is what Tom's kid plays. (Though if the kids show that it works, the boomers will bring their billions to the table.)
How does group purchase change the financial industry dynamic? Where else does this apply?
Collaboration is the new competitive advantage. It doesn't apply just to the vendor in terms of partnerships, but to customers and to collaboration between vendors and their customers. We will buy, build, and dream together, without the definition of class or border.
Teens will lead the way on this one. It's the culture they're creating for themselves. Today, this feels much bigger than I've grasped.
ETC: I found this today, via Mitch Joel, an article in the New York magazine entitled, Say Everything. Perfect. From the article: "It's theater, but it's also community: In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with your friends."