Traders, Betrayers and Taking Responsibility

jp morgan chase, The Myndset Thought Leadership

Getting chased...

Unless you live in a cave, you will have heard that JP Morgan has taken a (minor) hit to its balance sheet as well as its “balanced” management reputation.  As several articles have pointed out (I refer you to the Daily Beast), there have been three celebrated cases of “rogue” French traders causing substantial losses at three different banks.

First, there was the famed Jérôme Kerviel, who generated a 5B euro loss at  Société Générale in early 2008.  Then, in 2010, there was “Fabulous” Fabrice Tourre, whose employer, Goldman Sachs, had to pay out half a billion dollars in fines related to his “ingenuous” creation of the “Abacus synthetic collateralized debt obligation.”  Talk about a complex product.  And, then last week, we now have the third muskateer: Bruno Iksil, implicated in a $2B loss at JPMorgan Chase.  Known as “The Whale,” he seems to have been beached.

The outcome and who takes the blame?

For Kerviel, he has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay €4.9 billion ($6.7 billion) in restitution to the bank.  Good luck in getting that back.

According to Wikipedia, the outcome of the Tourre scandal was that “Goldman agreed to pay $550 million – $300 million to the U.S. government and $250 million to investors – in a settlement with the SEC. The company also agreed to change some of its business practices regarding mortgage investments, including the way it designs marketing materials….”  Goldman has not admitted wrongdoing.  Tourre’s future, meanwhile, is still hanging in the balance.

Who knows what the future holds for the London Whale?  But, already there has been a major fallout among the senior ranks who have been dismissed/resigned as a result.  Management has clearly been held responsible.

In what I found a brilliant summary, the way the banks, Société Général and JP Morgan,  handled their respective cases, led my brother to write the following comment to me:

“The difference is that in the French bank, it is the poor little trader that takes the hit and in American banks it is the management that takes its responsibility.”  I think that the Goldman case shows it is not quite as black and white.  But, the point is that upper management is and should be, by definition, held accountable even if one of its employees are guilty.

The sub plot of all three of these scandals is the French Connection, related to a strong educational system in France that focuses on mathematics and enables the French students to tackle and, indeed, invent such complex matters as derivatives.  The second thread is that, as in the case of Tourre and Iksil, there is an evident attraction by certain French young men to the Anglo-Saxon world (of banking) and an equally evident ability to tolerate risk — a characteristic not regularly attributed to the French.  A third point is the age of these men.  Kerviel and Tourre were both exactly 31 years old at the time of the ‘infraction.’  And, if you check out the other major recent rogue trading scandal (not involving a Frenchman) with UBS’ London-based Ghanian, Kweku Adoboli, who was nabbed for a £1.3billion loss, he too was 31 years old. Iksil is apparently “in his 30s.” (Anyone know his exact age, please comment!).

Some conclusions (and I’ll gladly look for yours!):

  • we need more mathematics in the English and American curriculum
  • management should always be held accountable, especially when such huge sums are involved
  • there is something about the testosterone-charged thirty-something men that creates an aura of invincibility?

Many Tennis Players Would Benefit From Going All Out on Second Serve

It happens throughout every match — players uncork a first serve with as much force as possible, confident in the knowledge that another chance awaits. And on the second serve, they hit a much different, more timid, perceptibly slower serve.

The ball is more likely to go in. The subsequent rally, however, is also far more likely to be lost.

And the question persists: would players have a better chance of winning the point, even after factoring in the sure rise in double faults, by going for it again on the second serve — in essence, hitting two first serves?

The answer is yes, over time, for many of the top players. Continue reading

GEF 2009 Ipsos Study on Women in Business in France – 10 measure manifesto

I attended a GEF (Grandes Ecoles au Feminin [1]) conference yesterday, here in Paris, at which I listened to the results of an Ipsos study entitled, “How to improve the mix of women in management [in France].” You can read the French results here. This was the fourth time that a study had been commissioned in and around this topic, and apparently the results remained largely similar: all manner of managers in business recognize that having women in management is a good thing, but that little progress has been made and the road ahead is still long.

The study was made with individual interviews of top management from 16 major French companies (Dec 2009) as well as the answers of 5,431 respondents (questionnaire was self-administered on Internet) in May 2009.

Some highlights that I picked out:

o 82% of men and 87% of women are in favour of more women to change the style of management. This point strikes me as supremely important and recognizes implicitly the failings of current management practice (hierarchical, control & fear based…)

o 80% of men and 96% of women recognize it is rare to see women in top posts. The point here is that 20% of men actually believe it is not rare.

o 47% of men and 76% of women see an important or rather important difference in salaries between men and women. That’s a stunning 29% difference.

In a review of actions taken by companies to promote women in management, the study identified 25 measures that had been concretely taken by one or more of the 16 companies interviewed. The irony of the study was that 16 of the 25 measures were considered en masse to be easy to implement and effective in their results. And, yet, the net results remain basically imperceptible. The GEF team concluded that the reason for the lack of impact is that companies are satisfied to implement only a couple of the measures which, in practice, did not bear any fruit. Fully 1/4 of the respondents (21% for men and 29% for women) believed that it will take 50 years before seeing parity in France.

The net result of this GEF survey is a sort of manifesto of 10 specific measures that need to be taken, ensemble, in an effort to make real headway on this issue. I cite those 10 actions below, adding a few comments where I see fit.

GEF Plan: A Plan of Action in three areas, that needs to sponsored by top management

Actively promoting women
o For each open position in management, ensure the presence of female candidates and justify if there is no female candidate. The key is having someone who calls out and verifies when no female candidate is presented.
o Identify the high potential women to create a target group that is representative of the company’s mixity [2].
o Develop specific training for women.
Only 7% of women have ever received any special training.
o Promote networking
. I believe that women might benefit from some specific training relative to how men might network a little differently — at least to decode the ‘masculine’ ways of networking.

Changing the rules
o Change the criteria for performance evaluation. I believe that performance evaluations need to be adapted to the new world order, especially to promote collaborative behaviour.

o Break the linear career model and changing the criteria of geographical mobility. This applies not just to women, but to basically all Gen Yers. On average a woman has just under two kids in France and, therefore, spends 8 months out of a 40-year career on maternity leave.
o Educate management on the behavioral differences between men and women and on the interest in taking on a greater mix. The key here, for me, is bringing out/accepting feminine values of management in men as well.
o Develop a practice for a better
work-life balance. Personally, I struggle with the notion of balance on a daily basis, in that we are constantly out of balance. The key is to find a way to create a longer-term balance.

Operating and monitoring of measures implemented
o Establish quantitative targets at any level. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

As for quotas (as in Norway for Executive Boards), the GEF position is: there is no proof that we can do without quotas. They asked their pool of respondents the question to what extent they were opposed to a quota system. The “good” news was that they were less opposed than expected. However, that still left 45% — 56% of men and 32% of women — opposed (somewhat or totally) to a quota.

And, finally, I leave you with an article on a study which I have found extremely enlightening regarding how men and women can operate differently. The Harvard Business Working Knowledge article by Martha Legace
interview of Professor Boris Groysberg (Harvard Business School) is entitled, “How female stars succeed in new jobs.” The article (and study of 1,000 analysts) presents how female analysts (Wall Street) do a better job of creating a successful transition to a new company. As Groysberg said in an HBR article in Feb 2009, “[f]emale star analysts, it would seem, take their work environment more seriously yet rely on it less than male stars do. They look for a firm that will allow them to keep building their successful franchises their own way.”

North America if far from perfect in terms of parity, but there are surely some good examples to be had from over the pond.

——————–

(1) GEF is an assocation regrouping alumni from 9 major graduate schools in France: Centrale Paris, ENA, ENPC, ESCP-EAP, ESSEC, HEC, INSEAD, Les MINES et POLYTECHNIQUE

(2) Using the term “mixity” is perhaps a bit of a frenchism, but the important point is relating the percentage of women in top management positions compared to the overall employee population of that company. For example, it is highly irregular and suspect to see a company with 10% women on a board of directors in a company where over 60% of the employees are women.

Why do we sleep? Should we nap?

I have written in the past about sleep, in particular how interesting and revealing the study of sleep was for me at University (see here). What has always baffled me is that Sleep Researchers still have never scientifically proven why adult human beings need to sleep. We do know that if we don’t sleep enough, typically we suffer from irritability, forgetfulness and fatigue, and our motor skills in low-grade repetitive tasks diminish. One thing I also know is that, in ‘modern’ society, we sure spend a bunch of time THINKING about getting more sleep.

That said, sleep researchers have been making significant progress recently. LiveScience published this article, entitled ‘New Theory Questions Why We Sleep‘, by Charles Choi, which describes the latest research by Jerome Siegel at the University of California at Los Angeles. Sleep “is often thought to have evolved to play an unknown but vital role inside the body…”; but, Siegel suggests that the reason why we sleep is related to an adaptation to the outside environment. Specifically, Siegel “proposes the main function of sleep is to increase an animal’s efficiency and minimize its risk by controlling how a species behaves with regards to its surroundings.”
There are several other theories as to what is the purpose of sleep. These theories include promoting longevity, a role in learning, reversing damage from daily stress… The Choi article continues to say that “in humans, the brain constitutes, on average, just 2 percent of total body weight but consumes 20 percent of the energy used during quiet waking, so these savings have considerable significance…” Intuitively, the idea that the rest we get is most beneficial for the brain makes sense, knowing that the brain’s activity is never fully shut off during sleep and is hyperactive in the REM phases.
“I think this idea of ‘adaptive inactivity’ is an extremely useful way of thinking about the broader picture of sleep without getting lost in individual theories,” said sleep researcher David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dinges noted that regular cycles of light and darkness “put enormous environmental pressures on animals that all play into forced ‘time-outs.’”
Meanwhile, there are all sorts of myths about sleep, in part perpetuated by a lack of evidence, but also our lack of study/research and, more ominously, mis-information. It is worth noting that sleep (or at least getting to sleep) is also, unfortunately, big business: it is estimated that worldwide sales for sleeping pills (hypnotics) will surpass $5 billion in the next several years.
My own interest in sleep stems from a fundamental belief that sleep management is integral to time management. Actively managing one’s sleep should be part of one’s daily hygiene, just as much as eating and doing sports. One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that sleeping more is ipso facto healthier, to the point where taking sleeping pills is better than not sleeping enough. This is unlikely to be the case. From this LiveScience article, I quote, “[a] six-year study [Daniel F.] Kripke headed up of more than a million adults ages 30 to 102 showed that people who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate than those who get 8 hours of sleep. The risk from taking sleeping pills 30 times or more a month was not much less than the risk of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, [Kripke] says.”
I am personally a light sleeper and early riser, always living on the edge of what is necessary to live my conscious day in a comfortable way. While many people express a certain jealousy, it could yet be classified as chronic sleep deprivation. Do I naturally need less sleep or is it a self-imposed internal regime? Research by Ying-Hui Fu, a professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco, Mission Bay, suggests that a gene (DEC2) may be responsible for the amount of sleep we need (at least for the short sleepers). So, perhaps I am genetically predisposed?
If one is to sleep or rest effectively, there is also the solution of the nap. On weekends, a longer nap helps to accommodate the sporting endeavours and longer social engagement on the Saturday night… But during the working week, at least for those working in a company, the nap — even the power nap — is basically out of the question. Quite astonishingly, per a Pew Research Center study, reported in this article in LiveScience, napping is an activity done daily by 1/3 of all adult Ameri
cans. But for the other 2/3 [i.e. hard at work], it is a daily dream. Imagine a company where you could, without fear of reprisal, just crawl up for a power snooze of 10-20 minutes when the deep urge fell upon you. Would that not feel like a true daily gift? How much do you think that would be worth? Instead, snoozing is, almost uniformly, voraciously frowned upon and left to do on the commute home, stuffed in between two bodies on the tube/metro/subway or, worse yet, swinging upright, hanging on to a handle bar while standing on a moving bus. Of course, for power naps to be permissible, there would have to be some level of controls. The key is to set clear time-delimited objectives without focusing on exactly “when” the work is being done. This would also be a vital condition to creating more flexible hours for employees. On a side note, the much maligned pigeons (at least on this blog), apparently integrate the power nap into their daily crumb-finding, building-desecrating life – read here for more on those napping pigeons.
In a somewhat counter intuitive result of the Pew study, the most frequent nappers according to revenues were actually those in the middle, i.e. the middle managers : “Among people making more than $100,000, 33 percent said they nap regularly, while 42 percent of those making less than $30,000 clock out during the day. The income group that naps least? Those who make $75,000 to $99,000 (21 percent).” If such is the need for the human body, for the bolder CEO’s or leaders among you, is it not the smart thing to do to invest in organising a nap room, like they did for NASA’s Phoenix mission team members?
What’s your opinion? Is napping a luxury or truly necessary? Which do you prefer, the power nap or 90-minute snooze? Would a nap room make work conditions remarkably better? How might you go about instituting a ‘nap policy’ in an organisation?

Change Management – Cutting Dollars & Making Sense in Recession

Budget Cuts ScissorsIn these times of recession, a change is certainly gonna come… For the companies feeling the hit (not referring to Sam Cooke), there is plenty of talk of cutting budgets and payroll (though much less of the latter in France). In such environments, one speaks of light at the end of the tunnel with caution, especially if the gouging is severe. Speaking of light, sustainable development typically takes a less sustainable position in the hierarchy of expenses.

On the other end of the scale, there are those more fortunate companies that are planning major breakthroughs, profiting from a reservoir of cash and investing strategically and/or opportunistically to reap serious market share gains.

Then there are those companies flush in cash, investing strategically and that should also be taking the opportunity to eliminate dead wood.

As many managers cut dollars, it seems at times that as many are eliminating cents and plenty of good sense, too. Whether in a cash-strapped or cash-rich company, the need or opportunity to slash unproductive expenses, in my opinion, must be accompanied by two key actions in order to sustain an optimal customer satisfaction level throughout the downturn:

Clear Communication1) A clear, consistent and frequent (not necessarily regular) internal communication plan to keep everybody on board down the chain of management with the strategic thrusts and associated cuts. This assumes a clear vision. The visibility of [an aligned] top management is critical to communicate the vision, receive feedback (according to the company culture) and create unity of purpose.  When given the right resources, a well constructed internal intranet network (with web 2.0 functionality) is surely an interesting solution across a larger organisation — according to company culture.

2) And, in order to ensure optimal execution, there must be a culling of the unnecessary tasks and actions, often times associated with the prior, fatter budgets.  This is important to do in order that the remaining work and allocated resources are that much more effective.  The decision NOT to do is as strategic as what you decide to do.

Change ManagementThe first point above is about genuine leadership and getting the team behind you.  The second point revolves around the strategic execution of the plan.  These two actions are vital because, especially for the larger (older) businesses, at the heart of the issue is change management. As we all know, fear and psychology have generously contributed to the current predicament. And, going through the changes, employees at all levels experience fear (at one or other stage of the SARAH principle: Shock-Anger-Rejection-Acceptance-Hope/Healing/Help).  Consequently, they will start to act out of selfishness and defensiveness which inevitably creates breakdowns, inefficiencies and the dreaded internal politics.   Among the many typical faults made by top management are laying out a strategic plan, but not aligning expectations and creating too many exceptions.  Are the individual Goals & Objectives of the people in the different business units and functions updated and aligned?  Another common mistake is dogmatically and institutionally cutting budgets (by percentages) rather than involving the teams to find where and how to cut.  Getting the team to own the solution (strategy) means having them own the problem.

This line from Cooke’s song magically resumes the process of change management at the individual level:

“Oh, there been times when I thought I could not last for long, But now I think I’m able to carry on…”

NetExplorateur 2009 — Tom Gensemer on the Obama online campaign

At the NetExplorateur Forum 2009, I attended the Obama_online presentation by Tom Gensemer, Managing Partner at Blue State Digital (BSD), who explained the inner workings behind President Obama’s online campaign. Gensemer, who is not one to hide his partiality, gave lots of insights as to how to make an online political campaign effective — insights that carry over well into the business world.

First, here are some numbers about Obama’s “online” campaign:

  • They achieved a database of 13.5 million people each of whom subscribed and opted-in for the Obama campaign.
  • 7,000 unique email messages were created and sent out, populating the 1.2 billion email messages that were sent out between February 2007 and November 2008.
  • There were 3.2 million donors who gave, on average, more than twice an average of around $80 (some $500 million were raised online).
  • Around 2 million text messages were sent out.
  • They motivated 2 million social networking participants and created more than 200,000 events across the country.
For all the President 2.0-speak, this campaign excelled more in its presence online (more like a 1.0 approach) than for being a truly web 2.0 interactive campaign. The messages were evidently very controlled and, yet, by being touch with the communities, there was plenty of interaction. By mixing beautifully the on- and offline communication, the Obama team clearly mastered the art of feeling interactive via their effective grassroots mobilisation.

So, some guidelines to retain for creating your own campaign, political or not:

  • The average email message was less than 250 words long.
  • Each message was designed to provide a call to action of some sort (sign up, sales, contribution, affiliation…). i.e. no gratuitous communication. Every time, it was relevant and engaging.
  • The email remains the killer application.
  • There is no such thing as too many emails as long as the emails are not unwanted!
  • If you fake it, they will notice it. Be authentic.
  • If you promise, follow through.
  • Ask the addressee something (an action) with a clear and easy request.
  • Newsletters are dead. “When was the last time you opened and read a newsletter,” Tom chided us.
  • Text messages are more cumbersome to create in large scale and they do not work for raising funds.

In order for an online campaign to be successful, there are some basics that need to be understood by top management.

  • Make the online campaign fully integrated into the organisation: the online team and its activites must be part a the whole team — I think of the salesteam in particular.
  • Invest in staff, not the tools — not the easiest of Tom’s recommendations in today’s climate.
  • Listen and respond to the community needs. The Obama campaign had as a principle to get back to any sign up within 3 to 5 days with a telephone call or visit, thereby bringing online off line.
  • Test, test, and re-test. Not just the technological testing, but test on smaller markets to check the tone, the message and the uptake.

In a sidebar conversation with Tom, I was able to glean some insights as to how they managed to gain the budget for their activities. The first point was that the campaign already had some money which made it a little easier. But, the way they won the bid (they learned about it just 10 days before the campaign began in Feb 2007) and the way the budgeting progressed was by setting bite size measurable objectives. At the outset, the goal setting was all about acquiring emails (always with the mantra of linking each communication with an action…). Thereafter, the number crunching revolved around the number of email addresses that remained “live”, the number of people that contributed, responded or acted on one or other request. Blue State Digital clearly have a very good and immediate metrics system.

For me, my biggest takeaways from Tom’s presentation were that the success of the campaign was brought out by these two fundamental considerations:

  • Obama was and is a committed community builder offline; whatever strategy employed online was intimately related to the offline approach. The leadership set a consistent tone.
  • The success of the online approach benefited from groundwork done via the prior campaign with Howard Dean (2004), helping to break into the political infrastructure. I.e. An online campaign cannot be miraculously built overnight.

The revelation in all this? Business can learn from politics. Whereas I think that business principles are gravely missing from political processes, the way that BSD and Obama ran this campaign (call it “integrated sales & marketing”) is certainly a case study for businesses. For companies that are not as interested in totally letting go, there are still ways to involve and engage the consumer without succumbing to too much web 2.0 freak speak. The message was controlled, yet it looked and felt legitimately inclusive. Interesting, no?

You can read more about the Obama case study on the BSD website here.

Cricket as Life – Howzat for a Philosophy

Cricket as Life – A philosophy to follow

Playing Cricket

Considering the space that sports has taken in my life, I can hardly help thinking that sports are, at the same time, a part of my life as well as a microcosm of life itself. I have written on several occasions in the past on how one can draw [management] lessons from sports, for example with rugby and rowing… There is no doubt that sports participate in the development, among other things, of leadership skills and life skills (e.g. learning to win and lose graciously). Sports have been an integral part of my experience and formation. Physical and emotional scars, tears and elation, friends and enemies mark my portfolio of memories.

Recently, reflecting back on my days (10 years) at boarding school in England, I was pondering what cricket had brought to my life. Cricket outside England and the former colonies does not bowl over many people and I do not have regular occasion to talk about the subject in my sphere of friends. Mentioning cricket is more likely to provoke a long off, sound like a silly slip of the tongue, leave a pit in the gully. They just don’t get the point; you don’t have a third leg to stand on.

I remember reading a wonderful article about how countries that play cricket go to war less often; at least, cricket was a pacifying activity, capable of aiding diplomatic relations. The point of the article was that cricketers were inculcated with a certain sense of civility and that, in competing against one another, there is an overall sense of fair play that reigns — otherwise the epithet, “that’s just not cricket” is voiced. Of course, all the cited countries in the article were colonies of the English. There remains the fact that, unlike England’s other colonies, the USA did not see fit to pick up cricket. In its stead, the Americans cultivated baseball. Here is a crooked timber blog taking a look on that subject. If I can retrace that article, I will gladly post.

Meanwhile, I was reflecting how a 5-day [cricket] test match was a condensed version of life. If you play a full 5-day test, it is quite the journey. As the title of the contest suggests, it is a test of your endurance and concentration. There are a four cycles as you bat first, field, bat again and field again (in life, there are four broad cycles: baby, teenager, adult and you’re looking good, son). You pass multiple moments being in, being out. If you mess up the first time, you generally have the chance to make up for it in the second innings. But if you score well in the first innings, people will be gunning for you in the second at-bat. More often than not, you come out with a draw, but the superior point is to appreciate the journey, to take away the positive moments, learn from the mistakes. Like most of life, cricket is not exactly wonderful television material (although the success of reality shows is throwing doubt on my assumption). Like in life, it is the collection of small moments that give the most meaning to the event.

Oval Cricket GroundAs Voltaire said, one should cultivate one’s garden. In cricket, during a 5-day match, you certainly want to have a good grounds keeper and a beautiful green square. Over the five days, the wicket gets worn down and the bounces keep you on your toes. You cannot be dulled into routine, for you will surely pay the price. And, as I found in this thoughtfulmood blog, you need to take every ball at face value, because each ball has an independence from the prior deliveries and needs to be played accordingly.

While recognizing that a cricket match need not necessarily last 5 days to accommodate my machinations, I just wanted to use this space to reminisce about the days I played cricket. For the record, I played wicket keeper and was a very mediocre batsman. But, I remember well my cricketing days. My last official game was playing as an old boy at my prep school (now the defunct Old Malthouse School, replete with VIP site on Facebook) and I remember how we achieved a tie (exactly the same score after 20 overs). The last time I faced a ball, without pads I might add, was on a dusty field outside of Delhi where barefooted boys were having the equivalent of a pickup game. I faced one ball and bowled a couple of balls (which caused considerable aches for the following days). They showed great grace in allowing me to relive my younger days.

Howzat CricketLike many of the eccentric games that I have had the occasion to play (and still do), including Real Tennis, Eton Fives, Field Game, Wall Game, the game of cricket has enriched my memories. To a certain degree, cricket represents the closest I came to doing far niente (not one of my strengths) in sports. Howzat?

If you like this topic, you might want to read on… Here’s another philosophical post on Life is Cricket from Kevin Rodrigues in Mumbai. And you can get a Life Is Cricket t-shirt here.

Otherwise, the name of the game is to make sure you live your life and are able to say at the end: that’s cricket.

Finding a CRM Voice – The Right Values, Meaning & Frequency

Customizing your Real Message & Finding a CRM Voice?

As I mentioned in the prior post, I believe that the consumer world is in the midst of a true paradigm shift. In these dire economic times, there is a huge likelihood that the ongoing increase in the share of time and mind of the Internet is going to accelerate. The consumer will turn to the Internet even more because it offers useful new tools and services that cater specifically to the needs of people living in harder times. (Read here for more about why the crisis will push up Internet use).

The question now becomes how brands and companies want to take advantage of this. What posture will companies take to reach out to the consumer who is decidedly cautious, if not nervous about his or her future? The company that speaks to me in a way that makes sense is a good starting point. For example, if a company (ex Harrods) checks out my dopplr and see that I am going to travel to London on such and such a date, then drops me a pertinent offer for that date, would that not be a great idea? The chances are that I would be more than willing to view their mail (if they only they could make their creative a little more classy, too).

CRM Graphic Description

There has been much written about CRM (for basics, see marketingteacher.com), as in Customer Relationship Management. But, except for a couple of rare exceptions, I as a consumer have not been “feeling the love” from any particular brand or companies. It is not like I am not present on the Internet, or do not own any loyalty cards, or do not shop frequently at certain stores. There is certainly plenty of data on me out there to mine. At this point, for most companies, the mining has been, at best, superficial. There are some companies who have cottoned on to the idea of email campaigns as a cheap way to bolster traffic — to the web site if not the store. But that’s about it. But, I am looking for more. Companies need to tap into the data (which I volunteer) and capture my attention by knowing more about who I am.

Once companies have mastered dynamic customer knowledge (i.e. created a way to keep an up to date database), the question will then become to what extent (quantity and quality) the brand is communicating with its customers? There is a real risk that a deluge of irrelevant email campaigns will completely shut down the effectiveness of the email channel — broadening the definition of spam, increasing people’s intolerance to emails and making them opt out systematically or just delete with increasing revulsion on reception. If the average rate of opening an email drops down below the 2% level — a barometer for so many formerly traditional media campaigns — you may end up pissing more customers off in the process. While companies are still saving on the postal cost and on the CO2 with emails, they will be shooting themselves in the foot if they overdo it.

There is a golden opportunity to use the ‘net as a marketing tool. There are two important points. First, don’t abuse the opportunity out of laziness. Pouring out unpersonalized, non-customized emails is not the right answer; like cutting down rainforests, it is a very short-sighted approach. Second, mind the data (think “Mind the Gap” as they say in London’s tube stations). What is needed is to craft meaningful messages (in line with the brand’s values), with a customization that reflects some of the unique elements of the receiver.

Customize with Ease CRM

This all leads me to the main point: Brands endeavouring on CRM programs need to reflect carefully to find their CRM VOICE. There are three core ingredients to creating a CRM Voice. (1) A CRM Voice first means being getting in touch with the brand’s DNA, its core values. How is each communication refurbishing the identity of the brand and reinforcing the customer’s affinity with the brand. (2) It means knowing how to create messages that are relevant to the brand and to the receiving client. Does the brand have an interest in me? Does it know me (without the overtones of Big Brother). Does it know how to surprise me? To wow me? (3) Finally, it means getting the frequency right, knowing how often that person needs or wants to be contacted — including all the different channels of communication (TV included). A well-adapted, customized message becomes part of a well-oiled service.

LoveMarks Graph

In summary, brands need to find their CRM Voice: a Customized Real Message that is aligned with the brand’s core values. Brands that are high in love (lovemarks *****) and respect have a potentially greater starting point. But, every customer is looking for meaning and, in today’s difficult economic times, they will be more than likely spending more time online. I will be keen to see which brands or companies come through this vortex smelling like roses — for the times they are a changing, and I believe a paradigm shift is well underway. Which companies are going to capitalize intelligently on the accelerated shift in time on online that is bound to accompany this worldwide crisis? If you do what you always did, you may no longer get what you always got.

Common Factors in Web 2.0 & Sustainable Development

Web 2.0 and Sustainable Development – A Way of Life

Via personal predilection and, as it happens, in my work, I am embedded in Web 2.0 functionality. When I take a helicopter view of web 2.0, especially as it applies to the corporate world, I associate the 2.0 mentality with the desire to interact, to listen and to engage. Words such as “open”, “collaborative”, “flat” (as in hierarchy) and “collective intelligence” feature regularly in 2.0 vocabulary. web 2.0 is, at its core, social — thanks to the many new functionalities and the spirit that comes with it. And with it, the internet has gone from cold and impersonal to warm and interactive. Furthermore, web 2.0 is entirely global in scope, like all things on the ‘net.

Web 2.0 Graph Interlinking Circles


In another vein, I am personally committed to Sustainable Development (SD) and, in my professional world, am also engaged in the process. When I consider the mentality of all those who are also promoting SD, I think of the spirit of collaboration, community, an openness to new ideas, and a readiness to engage. And, in case it were not obvious, SD is also a global issue.

As part of any SD philosophy, there is a need to marry economic and ‘social’ benefits alongside the protection of the world’s natural resources. I like the definition that sustainable development is about the people, profit and the planet.

Sustainable Development Interlinking Circles Chart


I have for quite some time believed that, whether it is the mentalities of those involved or the inherent challenges when applied to the corporate world, sustainable development and web 2.0 are intertwined, not to say interdependent. And, as it happens, both topics are very much high up on personal and corporate agendas alike. Those that are engaged in sustainable development and web 2.0 live it both at work and at home. Both entail a state of mind. Both are about individuals engaging in a community affair. And, typically, I have found that when you are into one, you are into the other. Going further into the analysis, the similarities are more than skin deep.

Web 2.0 is a State of Mind


Sustainable development has a natural outlet via the web because its acolytes tend to be very web-friendly. When one looks at sustainable development initiatives (even in a corporate environment), the web itself offers wonderful opportunities. The most basic option is email. Rather than sending letters by post (and paying for and motoring the mail van), the web offers the option to send a paperless email (and even if the email must be printed out, it is quicker and you save on the stamp and the snail mail costs). Sustainable development is also about engaging with your community and there are terrific ways for building on-line communities that transcend borders, age and company lines. Similarly, whether it is an individual, a brand or a company that wants to link in with its community, it has no better way to do so than via 2.0 functionality.

Need to find meaning

In today’s world, especially true for the Gen Y — but also increasingly true for all generations — there is a heightened attention to find meaning. We are all, in our ways, trying to find or give meaning to our lives — and this is true in work as well. Whether a new recruit applying for a job or a current employee, there is an inherent need to feel that one’s values are aligned with the company for whom one is working [notwithstanding the crisis which may impair one's ability to act freely]. Increasingly, it seems that, in the search for meaning, the professional must be personal. Participating in one or other social media or even writing a blog (in most cases) is a personal act — and the lines are now completely blurred with regards to the corporate “friends” with ever growing corporate functionality in second life, Facebook, etc. Similarly, being committed to sustainable development cannot and does not stop at home.

Sustainable Development & Web 2.0 in the workplace

This all leads me to the notion of bringing web 2.0 or SD into a company that is not otherwise “there”. In a serendipitous way, I was talking with some French friends and realized that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Social Media actually have the same initials when translated into French: R.S.E. (Réseau Social d’Entreprise et Responsabilité Sociale d’Entreprise). But, whether it is sustainable development or web 2.0, implementation at the company level requires significant change management. And, there are drawbacks or risks to engaging in sustainable development or bringing a web 2.0 philosophy in the corporate world. In both cases, it is hard–if not incredible–to be half web 2.0 or just a little sustainable development. Being half-hearted about either leaves you exposed to having your ear eaten off. Implementing web 2.0 functionality necessarily means being able and wanting to listen because it is about two-way dialogue. If your client has something to tell you, you better have a plan as to how you plan to react. If not, the syndrome of the “fake blog” is quicky rooted out. Similarly, if a company trumpets its responsibility in sustainable development, but behind is wasting water (cf Starbucks nailed by the Daily Sun in the UK), the community bites back.

Taking on SD or implementing web 2.0 environments are neither invisible, innocuous nor tempora
ry actions. Both CSR, as it relates to sustainable development, and the implementation of web 2.0 functionality and systems ultimately require a complete company adoption — and senior management involvement. Anything less will become either dysfunctional or causes disconnection, neither of which are healthy. Meanwhile, if there were ever any question as to why a company should want to go down either road (SD and web 2.0), it is increasingly obvious that the spirit of innovation is inherent in both. Web 2.0 has bred open platform innovation — bringing a wider ranging community into the innovation process. SD, when taken on board fully by a company, has an ability to transform old “in growing” models into vibrant, community-based models that combine ecological benefits (planet) with ergonomic improvements (people) and economic savings (profit), if not growth. By evolving corporate culture to encompass these state of minds, companies will benefit from attracting a certain profile of candidates. Both SD and web 2.0 have engrained in their approach an acute attention to the economics and, moreover, they both provide concrete and measurable benefits.

Three critical steps in “How To…”

But, you don’t get there overnight. So how to do it? As I mentioned before, it takes change management. I have three sine qua non suggestions — whether it is Web 2.0 implementation or Sustainable Development actions we are talking about.

First, part of the recipe for success is having senior management total benediction, if not involvement, to help push through the inevitable sticking points (company culture, etc.). Secondly, actions and implementation need to happen in bite sizes, but as part of an overall plan — otherwise, you can get the callout of “greenwashing” or fake 2.0. And, thirdly, when a company wants to undertake active CSR or integrate web 2.0 functionality (whether in intranet, extranet or internet sites), the internal communication and adoption by its employees are absolutely vital. Notions of greenwashing and web 1.0 management are immediately picked up by employees, so the internal marketing and actions must be carefully aligned with the external communications. Meanwhile, here is a good recap (below) from Search Engine Land on how to bring social media into a company (concept from Elliance.com).


So, in sum, Web 2.0 and Sustainable Development have paths that are intricately related. Not that Greenpeace is all about web 2.0 (of course, their site has plenty of interactivity), but, in that both SD and web 2.0 are associated with a way of life, they share many of the same traits and, to some degree, the same challenges. I scoured the web for others blogging on this particular topic, and I did come up with t
his article by Thomas Claburn at Information Week. What I did find more commonly was that there is room to act on Sustainable Development in a 2.0 fashion, namely Sustainable Development 2.0. Here is an October 2007 analysis from Knowledge Politics of Web 2.0 and International Development NGOs. For more on the topic, read below.

* Policy Innovations – Can Web 2.0 revolutionize CR by James Farrar, Gerhard Pohl, Emily Polk, Steve A. Rochlin, Devin T. Stewart, Andrew Zolli
* Diario Responsable
* Weitzenegger.de – Consultancy services merging 2.0 and Development

What do you think? What similarities do you see? Or do you disagree? Thanks to bring your engagement with you as you comment!

Think Different — What do Feminism, Einstein & Sleep have in common?

Learning to think differently

As a marketer, I am always on the lookout for people who think and act differently. A part of my gestalt, my personality, I associate with people who think differently. Sometimes, that means being the contrarian or the devil’s advocate in a conversation. At other times, it just means looking at issues using different filters. Of course, thinking differently only happens in spurts and in certain arenas. There is plenty of good sense in thinking normally too. However, for the breakthrough ideas, putting on the rose-tinted glasses — or a re-wired thinking cap — is invaluable.

How does one actually come to think differently?

I cannot declare whether one is born to think differently or whether such a disposition is acquired at a given moment or simply over time. Using Apple products alone certainly won’t cut it, although I truly believe it has helped me as I have had to relearn lots of new functionalities (having crossed over from the PC world). However, that is only a recent transition for me. My journey into the world of thinking differently began more precisely when I was at University. And there were exactly three elemental building blocks which helped craft my propensity to think differently — each stemming from one central thought: Discover what you do not know. Being aware of what you don’t know is already a challenge because, you might say, how do I know what I don’t know if I don’t know it exists?

The three areas I became attached to studying were:

1. Women’s Studies.

In minoring in Women’s Studies at Yale University, little did I know I would end up working in a cosmetics company, serving primarily female customers. I fell into the subject of Women’s Studies via literary criticism; but I kept on taking more classes in a more or less direct pursuit to understand better the other 50% of the population. And no, it was not a pick-up ploy–not exactly the right environment in any event. More importantly, by studying Women’s Studies, I became aware of the study of all minorities — and how minorities are frequently obliged to think and act differently to succeed. Via Women’s Studies, I was opened to a whole new world of literature and literary criticism, fascinating insights into the differences between the sexes, the politics of touch (Nancy Henley’s landmark essay) as well as the interplay of females and males in groups (at all ages). I also embraced Jungian philosophy and my anima. I did not know how much, at the time, this minor would take on major importance in my career.

2. Sleep

As a rule, we tend to study all things conscious. Whether it’s history, literature or sciences (each basically through the eyes of men), the focus of our daily lives is what we know and do during our waking day. Thus, when I came across the study of sleep as a subject at university, I was enchanted: an opportunity to learn about the other 1/3 of our day. Certainly, there can be interest in understanding one’s own dreams — though, typically not given much credit in academic circles (nor for university degrees). But the subject of sleep is much more profound, including sleep disorders, sleep patterns… There are plenty of important questions that should concern everyone. For example, how much sleep do we REALLY need? Why do we sleep? On this question, scientists are still arguing (as regards adults). The science of sleep and the work of FSRs (famous sleep researchers) such as the giant apple seed and jazz man, William (“Bill”) C. Dement, is a completely undervalued field. I tip my hat to Professor Mark Rosekind for enlightening me on this fascinating part of our existence. I highly recommend any students out there to seek it out; you can start with Dement’s “The Promise of Sleep.” In the meantime, I can also recommend reading one of my favourite books “L’Art du Temps” or, in English, The Art of Time (by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber) which provides a shortcut view to how I manage my sleep and my philosophy with regard to time management more broadly speaking.

3. Left-handers

I am not left-handed and left-handedness is not exactly a “subject” in the same sense as Sleep or Women’s Studies. Left-handers are not unique — concerning apparently about 7-10% of the population (but they certainly get my attention on the tennis court). Neither is being left-handed a sign of a genius, although there are some wonderful examples, including Albert Einstein, Michelangelo (retrained right), Isaac Newton (the original Apple man), Charlie Chaplin, Benjamin Franklin, Bobby Fisher, John McEnroe to name a few. And, it’s worth noting that Apple chose a whole raft of southpaws — including Pablo Picasso, Jim Henson, Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfield and Einstein — for their Think Different campaign. Interestingly, we have been fielding more frequently left-handed presidents in the US since Gerald Ford: four of the last six! In the history of the USA, there have been a total of seven lefties in the White House (6 coming in the last century) out of a total of 43 (i.e. 16%). At this time, it should be noted that that both John McCain and nkindex="59">Barack Obama are left-handed (read here about Washington Post’s “Left-Handed Conspiracy“). There is a good body of research done on left-handers, indicating that lefties have a propensity to be more into visual arts. Also, according to this 2005 ABC report, there is the suggestion that being left-handed can entail some health hazards, too. (See also “Brains that work a little bit differently” by Bragdon and Gamon). But, what has always attracted my attention is that left-handers need to operate in a right-handed world. When I imagined my wife before even meeting her, I always thought that she would be left-handed. It turns out that she is absolutely right-handed, but created two sterling left-handed children.

So, what does this mean… at least, in the business world?

For one, I believe that having been attuned to these different topics throughout my adult life is part of how I have cultivated what is described as a “Whole New Mind” (in the book by Dan Pink and highly recommended reading), essentially a balanced right/left brain. In turn, this has been useful in coming up with new ideas and strategies. And finally, most importantly, it has led me to be more mindful of diversity. Whether international, unorthodox or just different, having opposing or alternative thinking people in your team is healthy and enriching. It also requires differing management styles to make the most of their talent. What are other areas of study that can procure “think different” mentalities? I’d love to hear your stories.


Others blogging on “think different”:
Mahmudahsan - with some English proverbs
The Apple Blog – Think Different with Rosa Parks
Mackinnon on Think Differently – athough this looks sadly like a dead blog.