Category Archives: Thoughts

Leaders: Filling the Talent Pool


Linked 2 Leadership

Prototype Your Product, Protect Your Brand

Designers and entrepreneurs have been experimenting with live prototyping — putting unfinished product ideas in the context of real markets and real customer situations — for years, and now bigger businesses have begun to catch on. Many executives, eager to avoid over-investing in the wrong ideas, are intrigued by this approach, but they’re leery of putting unpolished products and services out in the market. Might we tarnish our brand? Will customers trust us less once they’ve experienced the rough edges of our prototype? Might we expose our strategy to competitors?

The concern can be valid, but by answering a few questions, and playing with a few variables, you can usually find a way to conduct market experiments that does not put your relationship with customers at risk.

A good first step is to get a sense of your customer’s sensitivity to change and to “rough edges” in your offer. We find the following approaches useful to help executives understand the degree of caution they need when running market experiments in public:

Connecting dots (or collecting dots)

Without a doubt, the ability to connect the dots is rare, prized and valuable. Connecting dots, solving the problem that hasn’t been solved before, seeing the pattern before it is made obvious, is more essential than ever before.

Why then, do we spend so much time collecting dots instead? More facts, more tests, more need for data, even when we have no clue (and no practice) in doing anything with it.

Their big bag of dots isn’t worth nearly as much as your handful of insight, is it?

The Best Jobs For 2014

Most jobs for mathematicians used to be confined to the cloistered halls of academia. But in the age of big data, an increasing number of companies are hiring mathematicians to crunch numbers for all sorts of projects, from energy firms that need to figure out the most efficient ways to get products to distributors, to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which must calculate how best to spend agency money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for mathematicians will grow 23% between 2012 and 2022 and it pegs the median 2012 mathematician’s salary at $ 110,000. Those statistics land mathematician at the top of career advice and job listing website CareerCast’s 2014 list of the 10 best jobs in the U.S. (You can  read a complete list of 200 jobs rated here.)
Forbes – Leadership

30 Thoughts We All Have in Staff Meetings:

Right before the meeting:

1. Arrgh, I’m supposed to be at a meeting in 10 minutes. What the heck is it for, who’s running it, and where is it?

2. Oh no, it’s the dreaded staff meeting! I’d better take a look at the agenda and make sure I wasn’t supposed do anything to prepare.

Trust and attention, the endless dance

The two scarce elements of our economy are trust and attention.

Trust is scarce because it’s not a simple instinct and it’s incredibly fragile, disappearing often in the face of greed, shortcuts or ignorance.

And attention is scarce because it doesn’t scale. We can’t do more than one thing at a time, and the number of organizations and ideas that are competing for our attention grows daily.

The dance happens because often, it seems as though we need to trade trust in exchange for attention. We have to rely on gimmicks, or overpromise and hype in order to get people to, “look at me!” And of course, the dance happens because once attention is attained, asking for trust merely slows things down. The most viral ideas ask for nothing more than a click from your mouse, a share, more attention gained.

Why Amazon Is Copying Zappos and Paying Employees to Quit

Last week, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos released his annual letter to shareholders. As is the case every year, it is a tour de force of ideas and initiatives about the customer experience (Amazon Prime), disruptive technology (Fire TV), fast-growing product initiatives (Amazon Web Services), and strategic consistency. (As he does every year, Bezos attached his first letter to shareholders from back in 1997 to underscore the company’s long-term commitments.)

Still, for all these big, cutting-edge innovations, it was a small, pre-existing idea, something that Amazon borrowed from one its subsidiaries, that generated the most public attention. Bezos’s letter unveiled his well-named Pay to Quit program, in which the company offers fulfillment-center employees one-time payments to leave Amazon. Each employee gets the offer once a year. The first time, it’s for $ 2,000. The offer increases by $ 1,000 each year after that up to a maximum of $ 5,000.

If Pay to Quit sounds familiar, there’s a reason. The idea was invented several years ago at Zappos, the online retailer based in Las Vegas that has become iconic for its zeal about customer service. Tony Hsieh and his colleagues call their program The Offer, and it’s made as new recruits experience the company’s deep-dive training program. The Offer, which applies to all new Zappos employees, not just front-line service people, started at $ 100, went to $ 500, then $ 1,000, and now stands at one-month’s salary. Amazon bought Zappos back in 2009, and now Jeff Bezos is shipping some of this upstart’s ideas into his behemoth organization.