Twitter is immersive. It washes over you. But what happens when a great link or clever post goes by? Squidoo just launched a promotion around the new TwttrList tool. The power of this tool is that it turns the momentary stream of tweets into a permanent sign post. A curated best of instead of a random time-based river. You can chronicle a conference, or highlight great posts about your brand or event.
From Seth Godin on why it’s a bad idea for Microsoft to attempt to be “the next Google” with its relaunched search:
Microsoft, home of the Zune, has just announced that they’re going to launch Bing, a rebranding and reformatting of their search engine. So far, they’ve earmarked $100 million just for the marketing.
Bing, of course, stands for But It’s Not Google. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that it is trying to be the next Google. And the challenge for Microsoft is that there already is a next Google. It’s called Google.
Google is not seen as broken by many people, and a hundred million dollars trying to persuade us that it is, is money poorly spent. In times of change, the rule is this:
Don’t try to be the ‘next’. Instead, try to be the other, the changer, the new.
(By the way, this does not deny that there is wisdom in the words “geniuses copy.” Most new things are not wholly original — and shouldn’t be. The key is to take what is indeed excellent from what has been done before — and relevant to what you are doing — but to do it in your own way, integrating it with other excellent ideas [some of which may be unique to you] such that you are creating a new synthesis. That’s how you create something new.)
… Drucker went on to tell us that it was essential that business executives master at least two disciplines, and that one of them must be outside of the field of business. He said this was important in the preparation of an executive for higher responsibilities because, like the corporate attorney suddenly elevated to general management, one never knew what future responsibiliteis might be thrust upon one unexpectedly. Expertise in more than one field was good training for sudden responsibilities in yet another field, and was the only evidence that the manager was capable of mastering more than one discipline.
Peter said that mastering at least two disciplines would have a number of beneficial effects. First, the executive would have the self-confidence of knowing that he was not limited to a single field. That he could, if called upon, do something entirely different, and do it well. Moreover, Drucker continued, great advances in any field rarely come from a single discipline. Rather they come from advances in one discipline being transplanted to another sphere, which is totally unfamiliar with these procedures, ideas, or methods which have never been applied to problems in this other domain” (p 74).
This is worth repeating: great advances in any field rarely come from a single discipline; rather they come from advances in one discipline being transplanted to another sphere.
Whether you are starting a business, non-profit, division within your company, or church plant; or if you are launching a new product or service within your company, this book will be worth your time and help improve your chance of getting off the ground well.
I regard it as one of those extra-useful books because, when reading it, I felt like I was reading about a lot of my own mistakes. That was a humbling experience — especially because it actually took a second read for the lights to really come on.
So maybe read it twice.
From Seth Godin’s post yesterday, “It doesn’t hurt to ask“:
Actually, it does hurt. It does hurt to ask the wrong way, to ask without preparation, to ask without permission. It hurts because you never get another chance to ask right.
If you run into Elton John at the diner and say, “Hey Elton, will you sing at my daughter’s wedding?” it hurts any chance you have to get on Elton John’s radar. You’ve just trained him to say no, you’ve taught him you’re both selfish and unrealistic.
If a prospect walks into your dealership and you walk up and say, “Please pay me $200,000 right now for this Porsche,” you might close the sale. But I doubt it. More likely than not you’ve just pushed this prospect away, turned the sliver of permission you had into a wall of self-protection.
Every once in a while, of course, asking out of the blue pays off. So what? That is dwarfed by the extraordinary odds of failing. Instead, invest some time and earn the right to ask. Do your homework. Build connections. Make a reasonable request, something easy and mutually beneficial. Yes leads to yes which just maybe leads to the engagement you were actually seeking.
The cover story for the May 25 edition of Time is on The Future of Work. Here’s the summary:
Ten years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. Ten years before that, we didn’t have the Web. So who knows what jobs will be born a decade from now? Though unemployment is at a 25‑year high, work will eventually return. But it won’t look the same. No one is going to pay you just to show up. We will see a more flexible, more freelance, more collaborative and far less secure work world. It will be run by a generation with new values — and women will increasingly be at the controls. Here are 10 ways your job will change. In fact, it already has.
The ten changes they discuss are:
- The fall of finance
- Bringing ethics to management
- Employee benefits
- The change from a career ladder to a lattice, and the growing role of flexible working arrangements
- Postponing retirement
- The rise of green jobs
- The role of women
- The leadership transition to Generation X
- US manufacturing
- The last days of cubicle life (by Seth Godin)
The talks given at the TED conferences are some of the best you will ever see. While the actual conference is open to only about 1,000 attendees by invitation only, most of the presentations are available free online.
I highly recommend checking out some of the TED talks. Two sentences on their website sum up what you are in for. The first is their site tagline: “Ideas worth spreading.” That’s what TED is about. The second is “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” Fantastic.
One of the reasons the talks are so good is that the TED organizers provide the presenters with ten speaking guidelines (the “TED Commandments”). I admit that the concept of “TED Commandments” is a bit hokey, but they are nonetheless very helpful. Here they are:
- Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.
- Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
- Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
- Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
- Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
- Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
- Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
- Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
- Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
- Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.
After you’ve given a presentation and want to make your slides available to people without having to email it as an attachment to lots of people, how do you do that? Slideshare.
Slideshare is an great place to upload and share the slides from your presentations. You can share them publicly or privately.
For example, I was recently at the Web 2.0 Expo, and a lot of the presenters put their slides up on Slideshare after their presentations. This was pretty handy.
You can also browse thousands of other presentations on the site. For more details, here is a helpful (slide) tour of the site. The most interesting 6 things it tells you about the site are that you can:
- Share your presentations with the world
- Find thousands of interesting presentations
- Create slidecasts (slides plus audio)
- Make professional contacts
- Join groups about interesting topics
- Check out slides from events you missed
Since we’re on the subject of PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations, it’s worth giving a few words on quality.
First, here’s a helpful visual summary of how to present information in a way that is interesting and does not overwhelm the user.
Second, when creating a presentation, it’s worth checking out powerpointing.com for some useful designs.
Third, it’s worth checking out Edward Tufte’s essay The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. He talks about the problem with PowerPoint, how to use PowerPoint right, how to avoid the boring use of bullet points, and basically blames the Challenger disaster on the incorrect use of PowerPoint.
Scott Berkun’s book The Art of Project Management (now issued in a new edition and renamed Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management (Theory in Practice)) is the best book I’ve read on project management. It is fantastically helpful.
The other day I came across these brief notes I had jotted down a while ago from the book. They are very incomplete, hitting on just a few of the key things that stood out to me.
But sometimes, that’s what can be most helpful. So here they are, in case they might be timely for you as well:
- Requirements vs. specifications. Requirements are the what, and specifications the how.
- The three perspectives: Business (including marketing), technology, and user. User is most important but also most often neglected.
- The importance of planning: “Plans provide an opportunity to review decisions, expose assumptions, and clarify agreements between people and organizations. Plans act as a forcing function against all kinds of stupidity because they demand the important issues be resolved while there is time to consider other options. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend four hours sharpening the axe,’ which I take to mean that smart preparation minimizes work.” (p. 41)
- On thinking outside the box. It’s not always best to say “think outside the box.” Eliminating boxes is not necessarily the hard part—it’s knowing which boxes to use and when to use them. Constraints are ever present. Art of Project Management, 93. “Do whatever you want with the box. Think in the box, out of the box, on the box, under the box, tear apart and make a fire out of the box, whatever, as long as you manage to solve the problems identified as the goals for the project” (p. 94).
- Where good ideas come from. To generate good ideas, ask good questions.
- Open issues list: “An open issue is anything that needs to be decided or figured out but hasn’t happened yet. It’s essentially a list of questions, and it should encompass anything that needs to be done, prioritized by its potential impact on engineering” (123).
- Different types of requirements and specs: Requirements, feature spec, technical specs, work-item list (the description of each programming assignment needed to fulfill the feature spec), and test criteria and milestone exit criteria (prioritized cases for the new functionality, along with goals for how well the code needs to perform on those cases to meet the quality goals for the milestone).