Friday, August 28, 2009

The One-Post-Per-Day Challenge

Assume your pay cheque and sanity depend on you uploading one blog-post a day. Assume you're given the task of averting cosmic disaster befalling you and the universe by writing a (reasonably intelligent sounding) blog piece every 24 hours. What would happen?

Quite a bit.

You'd have to observe and make mental notes of virtually each and every moment of the day - every conversation, every gesture, every poster, every sound, every face. You'd have to keep your writing short, to the point, relevant and helpful.

You'll also have to apply everything you've ever learnt to every occasion you encounter in the on-going process of generating more and newer ideas. Your note-taking and idea-storage methods would be on overdrive. You may even read more because how else would you sustain your learning rate? (And you know you don't want to be writing gibberish)

Also, you'd have to re-prioritize the way you use the Web, thereby cutting out (often) hours of wasted time online. If this isn't good enough news, you'll also learn about focusing and channeling your attention/energy outwards, on something creative which engages other people, as opposed to brooding on what you don't have or failed to accomplish.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

6 Ways to Breathe Possibility into People

1. Accelerate the actionability of your message. “I believe this! I can do this! I want to try this!” That’s what your readers, listeners, viewers, subscribers and audience members need to think after they’ve been exposed to your ideas. That they can take action. So, in order to move from “How I did” to “How you can,” consider compounding your message with action items like:

o An exercise to do that bridges what you said into their unique situation.
o A checklist could to keep people accountable and consistent in the future.
o An assignment that, when they’ve completed it, people will be ready to move forward.
o An equation (algorithm, formula, system, etc.) people can easily plug themselves, their situation or their company into.

BREATHE IN: You words become persuasive the moment someone is compelled to take action as a result of being exposed to them. How actionable are you?

2. Challenge people. Let’s say you’re telling a story about an obstacle you overcame. Either in a conversation, during a presentation or in a piece of writing. Here’s what you do: First, once the story is over, allow it to land. Embrace the pause. This increases the probability that your words profoundly penetrate people.

Then, call to the hearts and minds of your audience by using phrases like, “I invite you to reflect with me,” “Consider this question,” “Plug yourself into the following equation” and “Ask yourself how good you are at these things.”

BREATHE IN: Language like this immediately 180’s the message and moves the story from Me Land to You Land. How challenging are you?

3. Help people. In a few different ways. First, help people absorb and understand what you said. But allow things to unfold at their speed. Do this by becoming a master at letting the pearl sink. Second, help people see their field of possibilities. Ask them how they would coach themselves through this situation.

Do this by asking people Back to the Future Questions. Lastly, help people build long-term, self-generative capabilities. Feed the development of self-reliance. Do this by becoming a listening midwife, that is, helping others give birth to their own understanding.

BREATHE IN: Let people lead themselves. What are you helping people do?

4. Throw people lifelines. If you’re a leader, odds are, you’re not normal. And don’t worry – this isn’t a bad thing. The only challenge is making sure your message stays relevant and relatable. Otherwise “How you did” is perceived as “How the hell am I supposed to?”

For example, I’m a writer. That’s what I do. That’s my occupation. And, sure: I’m also a speaker, coach, consultant and entrepreneur. But writing is my occupation inasmuch as it occupies most of my workday. As such, I spend four to seven hours writing, every day.

Four to seven hours.

Now, upon hearing such a number, most think, “Good god. Four to seven hours? But I don’t have that kind of time to write!” And naturally, I respect that. Because it would be ridiculous to expect my clients, workshop attendees and readers to invest that kind of time each day.

So, I challenge people to start with fifteen minutes a day. That’s it. If you do the math, that comes out to 1/100th of your daily allotted time. (I don’t think that’s asking too much!) In fact, when I started my career as a writer in 2002, fifteen minutes was the unit of writing time I started out with. And if I can do it, so can you.

That’s a perfect example of a lifeline. You inspire others to function at a higher level by telling them to take action things in the context of their unique situation. You breathe life into people’s hopes and dreams by meeting them where they are.

BREATHE IN:Don't run the risk of people thinking, “Oh, but I could never do that…” What lifeline could you throw them?

5. Democratize your experiences. Open the curtain. Simplify and demystify your message. First, ask yourself questions like, “What is the universal human emotion here?” “How could what I endured relate TO (and offer help FOR) people who aren’t like me?” and “What lessons are inherent within my experience that anybody could apply to their own life?

This line of thinking builds a generic equation your followers can plug themselves into. Second, answer those questions with nuggets, keepers, pebbles, one-liners and other digestible forms of wisdom. Third, you physically write those answers down. And fourth, you articulate those chunks of wisdom to stick the landing of the message you’re delivering.

BREATHE IN: Move people’s hearts and engage their capacity to dream. How democratic is your message?

6. Inspire others with a vision of what they can contribute. Reflect their reality. Show them what they know. Make them aware of their abundant, inherent treasures. One way to do this is to offer your attention and acknowledgment of another person’s contributions to your worldview.

For example, after having a conversation with someone, type out your notes into a bullet-point list. Then email your keepers to that person later that day. Not only does it prove you were listening, not only does it honor the other person, but it helps people see the brilliance they didn’t realize they possessed.

BREATHE IN: Inspire people to continue contributing in their own unique way. How do you reflect genius back to others?

- - -

REMEMBER: The secret to inspiring people isn’t sharing what you’ve learned, but rather, what you’ve done.

AND, the practical application of what you’ve done to their unique situation.

Otherwise “How I did” morphs into “How the hell am I supposed to?”

How actionable, relatable and translatable is your message?

Catching Up is the New Looking Ahead

Foreverism. Generation G. Eco-Bounty. Innovation Jubiltation. Sell-Sumers. Check it out.

Procrastination and Self-Control

What Font Are You?

Take the quiz.

How to Restart your Intellectual Property (IP) Program

Advise from Guy Kawasaki:
Isolate your patent business model. The big question here is how will patents pay for themselves? By protecting markets from competitors? By being licensed? By reducing the rate of patent litigation? The best place to start an IP program is with a solid foundation on profitability. Then, once you’ve decided what the IP business model is, measure it. Gilb’s Law of Quantification is that there is always a way to measure that is better to not measuring at all. Supertrue for the area of IP. Measure and ye shall receive.

Tell inventors the “what.” If you write down the seven areas where you want inventions, and make these areas into a cover sheet on your invention disclosure, you will increase the rate of strategic inventing. Increase from whatever it is now, to over 90%. Until inventors get calibrated, filling out invention disclosure forms is an uncertain, risky, stab in the dark. Tell inventors what you need, and you drain the uncertainty, risk, and much of the career threat from sharing ideas.

Tell inventors the “why.” If you can proactively communicate the criteria by which invention disclosures are evaluated, you will increase your rate and quality of inventing dramatically. I think the best way to do this is to pick four scales that range from 1 (low) to 10 (high), have a legal person rate each disclosure on these scales, and have a technical person do the same. You’ll learn a lot as the two raters talk about the differences in their scores and begin to converge. Information is contained in contrasts such as these:

Scale 1: Bringing in new business

Scale 2: Required investment

Scale 3: Competitive pain caused

Scale 4: Current business protected

This process forces your legal and business people to operationalize their currently implicit theories—for example, “Above 30 is a default file patent decision”. Then you can objectively communicate these scores with inventors to calibrate them to the company’s standards. Numerical clarity simultaneously increases the rate and quality of inventing. Quality comes up rapidly, so rapidly that the IP department budgets become immediately overtaxed with potential patent ideas that attorneys canʼt bear not to file on.

Make a contract between IP and Senior Management. The biggest sin of omission in starting an IP program is not having an activity-based budget contract between management and the legal department. It can seem like an approach of “Break it. We’ll fix it as we go” is a good enough start—especially before you have shown that you can improve either quality or quantity of IP.

It’s not true.

Break-fix does not work for legal departments. Legal is not a BUSINESS function. Legal is a dignified profession. When corporate lawyers need more money, they won’t demand it. Every legal department I’ve worked with has been a wall flower about money—denial ain’t just a River in Egypt. Lawyers won’t pound the table (like psychotic marketing VPs) and demand funding. So without a contract you are likely to end up killing your IP program with success as the legal department chokes on increased activity and improved quality.

If you have a contract between the IP people and Senior Management, the IP people wonʼt drown in the great disclosures theyʼve always wished to see. And management, for the first time, will have to specify (cap) the appropriate activity level for IP in the company.

Establish a translation layer. I have a Ph.D. in marketing with minors in electrical engineering, evolutionary ecology, econometrics, and statistics. When I arrived at HP I was a in marketing, managing printer products. Very soon I was beamed across the group into managing the business side of a million dollar a month burn rate, patent litigation event between HP and Xerox. My background in BOTH hard science and soft science sides was the reason for this assignment. Hard science plus soft science training prepared me to be able to translate between all the stakeholder groups in intellectual property.

Being able to translate between engineer and marketeer, engineer and attorney, between attorney and VP of Technology, and between outside counsel and inside counsel, and most importantly for that litigation event, between the PR people, business people, and patent attorneys, we were able to shut down the HP/Xerox litigation at minimum cost. The IP management game is won by simplifying and accelerating communication. Hire a translation layer person, someone who delights at being stuck in the middle of people who can’t, don’t, or won’t communicate.

Build the rebel alliance. Unrecognized in every great technical company is an incipient alliance of people who want to help intellectual property management happen. IP rebel alliance members are sometimes are visible as patent coordinators in business groups, but the vast majority of potential rebel alliance members are below the waterline like an iceberg. By tapping the rebel alliance, I was able to keep IP strategies moving while remaining flat to the wall—not leaving a cost profile that a computer or finance person could see.

For example, I built a world wide automatic payment system for IP payments. But, by tapping the rebel alliance, I built this system without head count, budget, or even an accounting code. No company knows what it should be spending on IP. So the less you have to spend, the more successful you can be. The way to spend less on IP than anyone for a given level of success is to build the rebel alliance.

Democratize inventing. If you haven not engineered an ‘inventing democracy,’ you don’t have it. Being content with inventions that find you, means you have biased and filtered access to the ideas created in your organization. A lot of things make inventing undemocratic: habit, cultural assumptions, ignorance, and inertia. My personal favorite ‘wrong’ cultural assumption is that engineers in engineering groups CAN be inventors while engineers in sales groups CAN NOT be inventors - even if the engineer came from an engineering group and used to be an inventor.

You need to build business processes between the legal department and the inventors. Between the legal department and the business people. And probably between legal, finance, business, and inventors if you have invention incentive program. Democratization of invention is engineered in over time as you feel your way iteratively discovering breakthrough processes. If you design in open-ness, you’ll maximize the quality and income of your IP system.

Be enthusiastic. The root words of “enthusiasm” are “en” which means “in” and “theos” which means god. Enthusiasm is the god within. And enthusiasm is responsible for all the results I’ve achieved in IP management. This was surprising to my boss; he was a twenty-five year managing counsel for IP who once said, “The policies have been on the books for seven years. The doors of the legal department have always been open. Why is everything happening now? … I’m surprised at how much more happens when enthusiasm is behind the process pushing.”

Enthusiasm is not taught in law school. So, enthusiasm is crucial complementary skill to your legal department. Make sure whoever you hire is famous for enthusiasm. For example, while I was running an invention workshop for the first time at a client. During the presentation the IP attorney (now GC for IP) present looked at me and blurted out “This is like an intellectual property revival meeting!” Yes, exactly!!!

Strip your disclosure. Invention disclosures are complex forms created by patent attorneys to pass muster with other patent attorneys. The requirements to document an invention are however, very few. Why complex forms for simple inventions? Because attorneys are shifting the work they are supposed to do, on to inventors. If you want more and better disclosures from the inventors, simplify. Take the legal department’s work, off the backs of your inventors. If the legal department needs more people to process invention disclosures, so be it.

Starting up an intellectual property program is about profit, not cost. Groundrule #1 is that nobody in the system gets to optimize their own costs at the expense of other people in the system. Simplify the disclosure, put a targeting cover sheet on it, you’ll be delighted with how the results come in good and then continue to get better every month.

Close the open loops. Intellectual property is managed open loop. Invention incentives if companies have policies, are always a disaster as far as inventors are concerned. Companies are either months (or years) behind in payments, or the payments come so far after invention (4 years if the patent has to issue before the inventor receives payment) that the “incentives” are useless for making inventors feel like they are part of a team. Basic strategies like how IP pays for itself, are not written, reviewed, measured, or routinely revised.

But donʼt feel bad about IP being open loop. This is what an ground floor opportunity looks like!! Intellectual property infrastructure and culture are built up over-time. Reigniting an IP program is a lot of fun because reigniting IP programs helps companies protect and re-monetize themselves, gets employees working together in new ways, and makes jobs more meaningful for people when they see that their work is valuable, patentable, and part of the company’s competitive advantage going forward.

Competing with the Single-Minded

"When you have someone who is willing to accomplish A without worrying about B and C, they will almost always defeat you in accomplishing A.

"Online, of course, this often leads to doom, since there are many organizations that are willing to get big at the expense of revenue, or writers willing to be noticed at the expense of ethics or reputation.

"But in the short run, the singleminded have a fantastic advantage. And sometimes, their singleminded focus on accomplishing just that one thing (whatever it is) pushes them through the Dip far ahead of you and then yes, they make a ton of money and you've lost forever."

Read the full piece.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What sort of Meeter are you?

A little tongue-in-cheek but worth a read:

Take the maximum allotted time for the meeting, add 15 per cent for every person from India present to a maximum of three, and 20 per cent for each Westerner to a maximum of two.

Deduct two-point-five per cent for each Hong Konger and five per cent for every Filipino, Sri Lankan or Indonesian attendee. (For people of other cultural backgrounds, you have to do your own research.)

The meeting I had just been at started with six Hong Kongers, one Sri Lankan, and a Filipino.

So the sum was 60 minutes minus 25 per cent, taking us down to 45 minutes.

But just as we were starting, a European arrived, pushing the estimate back up to 55 minutes.

At first I was skeptical, but the girls’ system turned out to be remarkably accurate: it WAS 55 minutes.

One committee on which I used to sit lost its token Westerner, and meetings DID finish 20 per cent earlier than usual. Then a Canadian joined us, and meetings went back to their previous length.
Why does it work? To generalize absurdly, Westerners are critical thinkers who see meetings as democratic events at which they can contribute to more or less every item on the agenda.

Indians also like to talk. They come from a society where debating is a popular pastime, since watching Indian TV has the same fun quotient as being waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay.

Hong Kongers are busy people who don’t like meetings, but they are polite, so make the minimal number of comments to show they are present.

Filipinos, Sri Lankans and others stay silent because they loathe meetings so much they are not mentally present, being deep in fantasy worlds.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Understanding Social Media

A passionate presentation, to say the least. The information is current and thought-provoking.

View more documents from Marta Kagan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Education at the CrossRoads (Seth Godin)

...There are three choices that anyone offering higher education is going to have to make.

Should this be scarce or abundant?

MIT and Stanford are starting to make classes available for free online. The marginal cost of this is pretty close to zero, so it's easy for them to share. Abundant education is easy to access and offers motivated individuals a chance to learn.

Scarcity comes from things like accreditation, admissions policies or small classrooms.

Should this be free or expensive?

Wikipedia offers the world's fact base to everyone, for free. So it spreads.

On the other hand, some bar review courses are so expensive the websites don't even have the guts to list the price.

The newly easy access to the education marketplace (you used to need a big campus and a spot in the guidance office) means that both the free and expensive options are going to be experimented with, because the number of people in the education business is going to explode (then implode).

If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.

Should this be about school or about learning?

School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and notetaking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is 'getting it'. It's the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn't care about workbooks or long checklists.

For a while, smart people thought that school was organized to encourage learning. For a long time, though, people in the know have realized that they are fundamentally different activities.

The combinations...

Imagine a school that's built around free, abundant learning. And compare it to one that's focused on scarce, expensive schooling. Or dream up your own combination. My recent MBA program, for example, was scarce (only 9 people got to do it) and it was free and focused on learning.

Just because something is free doesn't meant there isn't money to be made. Someone could charge, for example, for custom curricula, or focused tutoring, or for a certified (scarce) degree. When a million people are taking your course, you only need 1% to pay you to be happy indeed.

Eight combinations of the three choices are available and my guess is that all eight will be tried. If I were going to wager, I'd say that the free, abundant learning combination is the one that's going to change the world.

Friday, August 14, 2009

10 Tips on how to think like a Designer

(1) Embrace constraints. Constraints and limitations are wonderful allies and lead to enhanced creativity and ingenious solutions that without constrains never would have been discovered or created. In the words of T.S. Eliot, "Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl." There's no point complaining about constraints such as time, money, tools, etc. Your problem is what it is. How can you solve it given the resources and time that you have?

(2) Practice restraint. Any fool can be complicated and add more, it takes discipline of mind and strength of will to make the hard choices about what to include and what to exclude. The genius is often in what you omit or leave on the editing room floor.

(3) Adopt the beginner's mind. As the old saying goes, in the expert's mind there are few possibilities, but for one with the beginner's mind, the world is wide open. Designers understand the need to take risks, especially during early explorations of the problem. They are not afraid to break with convention. Good designers are open minded and comfortable with ambiguity early on in the process, this is how discoveries are made.

(4) Check your ego at the door. This is not about you, it's about them (your audience, customer, patient, student, etc.). Look at the problem from their point of view -- put yourself in their shoes. This is not easy, it takes great amounts of empathy. Get in touch with your empathetic side. Empathy — an under valued "soft skill," can be a great differentiator and is key for truly understanding a problem.

(5) Focus on the experience of the design. It's not the thing, it's theexperience of the thing. This is related to #4 above: Put yourself in their shoes. How do people interact with your solution? Remember that much of design has an emotional component, sometimes this is even the largest component (though users may be unaware of this). Do not neglect the emotional aspect of your solutions.

(6) Become a master storyteller. Often it's not only the design — i.e., the solution to a problem — that is important, but the story of it. This is related to #5 above. What's the meaning of the solution? Practice illustrating the significance of solutions both verbally and visually. Start with the general, zoom in to the detail, pull out again to remind us of the theme or key concept, then zoom back in to illuminate more of the detail.

(7) Think communication not decoration. Design — even graphic design — is not about beautification. Design is not just about aesthetics, though aesthetics are important. More than anything, design is about solving problems or making the current situation a little better than before. Design is not art, though there is art in design.

(8) Obsess about ideas not tools. Tools are important and necessary, but they come and go as better tools come along. Obsess instead about ideas. Though most tools are ephemeral, some of your best tools are a simple pencil and sketch pad. These are often the most useful — especially in the early stages of thinking — because they are the most direct. Good advice is to go analog in the beginning with the simplest tools possible.

(9) Clarify your intention. Design is about choices and intentions, it is not accidental. Design is about process. The end user will usually not notice "the design of it." It may seem like it just works, assuming they think about it at all, but this ease-of-use (or ease-of-understanding) is not by accident, it's a result of your careful choices and decisions.

(10) Sharpen your vision & curiosity and learn from the lessons around you. Good designers are skilled at noticing and observing. They are able to see both the big picture and the details of the world around them. Humans are natural pattern seekers; be mindful of this skill in yourself and in others. Design is a "whole brain" process. You are creative, practical, rational, analytic, empathetic, and passionate. Foster these aptitudes.

(11) Learn all the "rules" and know when and why to break them. Over the centuries, those who came before us have established useful and necessary guidelines — these are often called rules or laws and it's important to know them. Yet, unlike other kinds of laws, it may be acceptable to break them at times so long as you know why. Basic graphic design principles and rules are important and useful to know, yet most professionals today have a hole in their education when it comes to the fundamentals of graphic design. I'll try to do my little bit withthe next book to raise the design mindfulness and vocabulary of professionals who do not make a living in design per se, but who have a desire to get better.

Read the full article

The Minimalist Principle

"A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Find out more about the principle from
Zen Habits.

Educating for the Unknown

David Perkin's now popular agenda for education which talks about what's worth learning. See also some audience ideas from Perkins' presentation at the 2007 International Conference on Thinking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The CIDTT Class of April '09

Go here for information on KDU's promotional packages for CIDTT.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Things We Have Lost

The Electric Minds Project is presenting 'The Things We Have Lost', a collection of five original Malaysian short plays about grief, despair, abandonment, and hope.A woman with a gun tries to fix her relationship. Three children contemplate selling a house, and their memories of it, one after the other. A mother grieves for her child in an unusually cruel fashion. Friends sift through the ashes of their previous lives. Two lovers contemplate eternity, the view from their rooftop, and moving to Mongolia.

Starring Elza Irdalynna, Natalya Molok, Nicole Fuchs, Sham Sunder Binwani, Mikey Tai and Justin Wong.

Bookings can be made to the following numbers - 012 233 6879 / 017 232 2578 or at

For more information, click here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The New 4Ps' of Marketing?

Not entirely new, but nevertheless worth thinking about, says Idris Mootee:
  • People
  • Planet
  • Purpose
  • Profit

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

5 Grammatical Errors That Make Us Look Dumb

Brian Clark shares...

1. Your vs. You’re

This one drives me insane, and it’s become extremely common among bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.
“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

2. It’s vs. Its

This is another common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say.

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “this blog has lost its mojo.” Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds goofy, “its” is likely the correct choice.

3. There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

To this day I have to pause and mentally sort this one out in order to get it right. As with any of the other common mistakes people make when writing, it’s taking that moment to get it right that makes the difference.

“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.” By thinking in terms of “the effect,” you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb. While some people do use “effect” as a verb (“a strategy to effect a settlement”), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.

5. The Dangling Participle

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say.

Check out these two examples from Tom Sant’s book Persuasive Business Proposals:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.