October 30, 2014

The Politics of American Innovation Today by Laura Schlafly

Laura Schlafly of Career Choices with Laura

Laura Schlafly of Career Choices With Laura

I want to thank Laura Schlafly of Career Choices With Laura for submitting this great post on The Politics of American Innovation Today.

Within an organization, be it a local non-profit or an international manufacturing behemoth like Apple, we will always find individuals who are the internal politicians and influencers within any decision process.  If we have a proposal, our agenda, for some significant change then it behooves us to entice the influencers to be inclined to our idea by offering something which will be seen as a desirable advantage for them.

Similarly, but on a more global scale, the decisions that stem from the desire for companies and countries to be ever more innovative to achieve mastery of global markets, growth of emerging economies, and international political hegemony, creates tremendous pressures on a country’s leadership. I read with great fascination a recent January 21, 2012 N.Y. Times article, titled:

How the U.S. Lost Out on IPhone Work This well-researched article elicited many comments and opinions on the current state of innovation in America, which has been widely decried as having become substandard in various ways, when compared to that of China.  To me, it is an economic transition that played out in the 1960’s through the 1980’s with Japan’s path from a country of cheaply made copycat products, to a world super power producer of superior designs with high quality.

Below, I have posted the reply of one of the anonymous commenters, which I happen to align with.

___________________________________________________________________________

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.””

Exactly.  It is up to us as individuals and up to our government as our representatives to solve these problems. As individuals we can make sure to educate ourselves and have good skills. Our representatives need to ensure that our schools can teach such skills to those willing to learn them and to provide the type of environment where companies can succeed.

We cannot force anyone to manufacture anything here unless the environment is right. If we force companies to produce here in an unprofitable way,  soon no one will be producing here. Better, we can entice high tech companies with an educated work force, a predictable business environment, good infrastructure, and a steady tax regime. We also have to accept that we cannot out compete the world in every industry.


Let’s start by educating our kids so that they can perform engineering and design jobs. We should not lament that we do not have any 12 hour night time factory jobs where workers live on-site. We should instead prepare our children for higher value-added jobs so that they can enjoy a better life.

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Such are the politics involved in the selection of where to locate major production facilities in a global economy.  So much more political maneuvering occurred behind the scenes than is revealed in this article.

Laura Schlafly
Career Choices with Laura

PODCAST: How to Deal With Difficult People During the Innovation Process

During the innovation process, you will more than likely bump into a few “stoppers” and “nay-sayers”.  During this podcast, Bea Fields will discuss how to handle difficult people who are on your innovation team.

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Celebrating the Life of Steve Jobs and How He Changed Our World

Pick up the 5,000 leadership books from the past five years, and my hunch is that you may not hear in those books that Steve Jobs is considered one of the greatest leaders of our times.  People spoke often about his difficulties with people, his perfectionism and his distaste for the press.  He never finished college, had a few rocky patches in life, but that did not stop him from being one of the most celebrated geniuses of our times.

Now that Steve Jobs is no longer with us, something tells me that he will be in history books as the man who truly changed our world during the 20th and early 21st century.  While he may not have been the best people person, there are many different types of leaders, and hands down, Steve Jobs (in my opinion) is the greatest visionary leader of the past 50 years.  He did not just change the way we live and work in the United States but changed the lives of billions of people worldwide.  In my opinion, someone who changes the entire world during their lifetime is certainly someone who defines true leadership.

When it comes to leadership, being a true visionary is a gift…not many people really have it.  To get people to buy into a big, world changing vision is very tough, but not for Jobs.  After a series of ups and downs, 10 years ago, Jobs went on a quest to truly change the world when he unveiled the iPod to the world.  I remember seeing the tiny, simple, sleek, thin and sexy looking device and thought “It can hold over 10,000 songs?  That little thing…no way!  Can’t happen and wont.  And who in the world will buy it at that price?.”  Boy, was I wrong.  When I suddenly “got” that the new device could download 10,000 songs from iTunes and watched my kids going crazy downloading songs with white earbuds in their ears, I became a believer and a buyer.  I now own an iPod, iTouch, iPhone and an iPad.  I still work on a Windows computer, but I want an Apple computer…that will be the next computer I own.

To see the timeline of the innovative process of Steve Jobs, just flip through this slideshow on CNN.  Really amazing!

Many people will tell you that Steve Jobs was not the tech guy (although I do take some argument with that statement…you don’t run one of the largest technology based businesses in the world without a great deal of tech knowledge), but instead, he was the man who could see where we are all going in our hyper-connected world and knew how to bring the greatest minds together to get his futuristic ideas to work.  He knew the home computer could do more, look and feel a lot more cool and could make life simpler for everyone.  He was a music lover and knew that people would love to be able to pull out a tiny device and scroll to their favorite song out of a list of 10,000 and that those songs could then be streamed into your home stereo system.  He knew that the iPhone would not just dial numbers…that it would serve as a mini computer that could be a GPS system, could turn on your lights while you were away from home, could be a barcode scanner, would eventually be able to scan credit cards and could help you find the pet of your dreams.  And, once the public fell in love with the iPhone, he knew people would want something like the iPhone in a bigger form…in the form of a tablet.  The interesting thing is this:  Steve Jobs had a way of knowing what we wanted before we knew we wanted it, and once  we had our iBooks, iPods, iPhones and iPads, we then wanted the newer version, more apps to be more efficient in life and would probably not be able live without them.  And of course, as a result of Steve Jobs’ innovative spirit, his competitors around the world tried to come up with their own ideas (which were actually copycat versions of what Jobs had already built)  to compete with the genius.  While a few of his competitors have come close, they really have not yet quite hit the mark, and Jobs was always 2 steps ahead of the rest of the world of technology.

I know the world is grieving today, but I want to encourage you all to also celebrate his life and legacy to the world.  Steve Job said it all best in his commencement speech to Stanford in 2011:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs said that day.

“No one wants to die,” he added. ”Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. ”

“Your time is limited,” Jobs added. ”So don’t waste it living someone else’s life. … Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

As we grieve today, let’s all celebrate the life and legacy of Steve Jobs…and look at his words closely…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

Watch the video tribute to Steve Jobs on Gizmodo

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Leadership Coaching Lesson: Shake Things Up!

Lady Gaga in Meat dress

I wonder if this dress smelled bad.

If you have not read the recent article in Fast Company about Nike’s CEO John Parker shook up the shoe industry, I think it’s something we all need to start considering….shaking things up.  Many criticize Parker for being eccentric and irreverent.  I just think he wants to be the best and to be the best you can’s keep doing the things you always have done them.  As a matter of fact, my daughter bought a pair of dress pumps recently with the nike air cushion built in…ahhh…felt great!

Do you think Steve Jobs is boring?  Mediocre?  Doesn’t shake things up?  Look at how he has changed our world.  Many of you will feel that he has made things worth with our addiction to the iPhone, iPod, iPad and all of the apps that keep flying out of Apple, but at the end of the day, Steve Jobs has revolutionized the digital industry.

And, I just can’t end this post without talking about Lady Gaga’s meat dress.  I know PETA is all in a tizzy, but I am not quite sure that this stunt was to show us she is a meat eater or animal killer.  Mabye just the opposite…how disgusting it looks.  I don’t know…just wondering about her motive.  I am just wondering if it smelled bad.  She is the oddest human on the planet right now, but she is a business woman who is building a brand and followers.  I just hope she can keep her clothes on and her middle finger where it belongs so that she can mature a bit into being a true leader.  But right now…she is certainly shakin’ things up.  If she were not, she wouldn’t be on every channel 24/7.

And, if you want one more example of someone shaking things up to change an industry, go back and read my post:

Michael Jackson: The King of Pop But Also A Global Leader

What do you think?  Are folks going too far?  Please weigh in?

Marketing to Generation Y: What You Can’t Afford Not to Know

makreting to generation y

Are You Truly Marketing to Gen Y? If So, Check Your Authenticity Rating

Generation Y. You’ve heard that they don’t watch TV, and you’ve probably been told that they don’t read that much. Your research tells you that you can’t target them through MTV anymore, and you certainly can’t tell Gen Y what is cool. So how do you reach these 71 million “Millennials” that spend over 200 billion dollars annually and will soon replace the baby boomer generation as the largest percentage of the workforce? The answer is simple—you STOP marketing to them. Let me explain.

First, let’s look at who they are. As a baby boomer, I can tell you that this generation—sometimes called the “Connecteds”—are our own invention. We raised Gen Y to believe that they can do anything and be anything. We made their lives easy enough that they now believe they deserve to live first and work second. (How dare them!) So the first thing we have to do is stop being pissed off at our own creation and embrace the brilliance of this Gen Y community.

This is the most optimistic generation to ever walk the face of the planet. They absolutely believe that miracles are possible. They refuse to work a job that does not bring them a sense of joy. They care about the earth and servicing their community. In Gen Y, we have created the possibility for everything that we wanted for the world. So we must stop whining about them being entitled and embrace the power of this generation. Once we do that, we can then begin to take a closer look at who they are, what makes them tick, and what they want from our businesses.

Let’s look at who has been successful at marketing to Gen Y: Apple, Jet Blue, Trader Joes, Jones Soda, Mountain Dew, and Red Bull, to name a few. How do these companies speak to this demographic? To answer that, we first have to understand the four areas Gen Y considers before purchasing a product or service:
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  1. Cheap cost
  2. Good quality
  3. Fast service
  4. An “experience”
  5. Company integrity

When Apple created the 99-cent download that took eight seconds to transact, they hit the nail on the head with Gen Y. Music is an experience, the quality is stellar, the cost is low, and the purchase happens instantly. What did Apple do right? They spoke directly to Gen Y and asked the question: What do you want?

So who gets Gen Y’s attention? Living in an age where information is everywhere and where everyone can reach them, the Gen Y community is VERY selective about who they listen to. Just look at their MySpace and Facebook accounts, and you’ll recognize that they get their information from one another—NOT from us, and certainly not from the media. And the information they get from each other is not in emails, which most of them don’t even touch anymore (I know you probably thought you were being hip with your 100 emails a day!). They text one another. They IM. They watch each other on YouTube. And sometimes they do all three at the same time! Most importantly, Gen Y does NOT care about what you have to say unless you have been endorsed by their friends. They care about what their community says, and they take each other and their network’s recommendations VERY seriously.

So taking that into account, how do you reach them? Well, understand that Gen Y is an “experience” culture. They do not want to be told what to like or what to do. They want to experience the world for themselves and pass their own judgment. They love to be in the trenches of life, and they want to be there with their friends. HERE is where you have to meet them if you want to be taken seriously and respected by this generation enough for them to buy from you:

· Concerts (Gen Y LOVES live music.)

· Extreme sporting events (skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX)

· Movies (mainstream as well as art-house)

· Hiking events (They love the outdoors)

· Video games and video game competitions (Cyber Athlete Professional League, GameCaster, Global Gaming League)

· Mashups (Weather Bonk, Where’s Tim Hibbard, Y! Mash, Sims on Stage)

· Social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, del.icio.us, DIGG)

· Tattoo parlors (36 percent of them have at least one tattoo)

Before I wrap this up, there is one more major element we need to discuss, and that is how to earn their respect when you are talking with Gen Y: AUTHENTICITY. They don’t waste time on people or companies that are not being real with them. Authentic is cool. Authentic is dorky. Authentic is hip. Authentic is truthful. This generation has seen it all, from televised wars to 9-11 to the hanging of Hussein. They know real when they see it, and it takes them all of three seconds to pass that judgment.

So what does all this mean to you? It means that you cannot directly market to them until you buy into them, until you value their perspective on life. So while other experts are out there giving you “tricks” to market to Gen Y, I’m here saying STOP marketing to them and START listening to them. Hang out with them. Experience life with them. Respect them. If you do, their outlook on life will change you. You’ll begin to behave differently, take on some new values, and begin to live more yourself. When you do that, you’ll find your audience within this generation. Then talking “with” them, not “at” them will sell your business.

Why Should You Hire a Leadership Coach?

Coaching is Now a Standard Support Mechanism for Some of the World's Top Companies

I get this question about three times each week, and the business owner or CEO usually responds by saying “We have had to cut our budget, and leadership coaching and development were the first things to go.”

BAD IDEA!

Of course, I am going to say this…I am a leadership coach, but here is the reality:  With leadership coaching, training and development, your employees will be:

  • More productive at work (productive time equals greater revenues)
  • Happier at work (when people are happy at work, they show up earlier and call in less often for sick days)
  • More committed to your company (it costs thousands of dollars to replace and train new employees)
  • Promotable (it is so much more cost effective and easier to be able to promote from within…your employees who are moving up KNOW your company, so their learning curve will be much flatter than a newbie exec)
  • More aligned with your company (with leadership coaching, it is much easier to get people on board and aligned with your vision and mission)

Dave and Wendy Ulrich wrote and recently published a must-read book The Why of Work.  It is fabulous.  Their research found the following about companies who actually invested in the development of their people, including coaching and training:

  1. Over a 10-year period (1998-2008) “best companies to work for” have a 6.8 percent stock appreciation versus 1.0 percent for the average firm.
  2. Over a seven-year period, the most admired firms in Fortune’s list of admired companies had doubled the market returns of their competitors
  3. A one-standard-deviation increase in high performance work practices yields $27,044 increase in sales per employee and $3,814 increase in profit per employee.”
The Why of Work Can Teach Your Company How to Become a "Best Company to Work For"

The Why of Work Can Teach Your Company How to Become a "Best Company to Work For"

I am not going to tell you the full list of their findings, because this is in their book, and I truly believe that all leaders and leadership coaches should check out their findings.  (I am not getting one cent for endorsing this book or anything from the authors…I do not know them…I just respect their work).  Just click on the photo to the right and pick up a copy from Amazon.

On page 71, the authors spell out the competencies leaders need to get fully ingrained into their DNA to lead “abundant organizations” (as they call the great companies of the world) and they give examples of best companies who embody these competencies.  (Apple for Innovation and Nike for Strategic Clarity as two examples).  If you follow these companies on page 71, you will see quickly how much they value their employees and the time and effort they invest in their development.  They KNOW their employees are their biggest assets, and of course, if you are smart, you will invest in your top assets.

So, if you really want to know why you should hire a leadership coach, pick up a copy of this book, read it and then take a big step by hiring a leadership coach…I am not saying hire me necessarily…I am suggesting that you hire a leadership coach if you are not currently working with one.  When hiring a coach, make sure to interview at least three coaches to find the best fit.  Some will be great for you and some just won’t click with you or your company.

As a leadership coach, here are a few of the benefits my clients have received.  There are many others, but these are the benefits I usually notice very early on in the coaching sessions:

  1. Clarity on next steps
  2. Improvement in strategic thinking
  3. Coaching skills (to lead in today’s world, you need coaching skills under your belt.  When you work with a leadership coach, you will pick up the skills just by being coached)
  4. Improved ability to influence and inspire others
  5. Ability to listen more deeply
  6. Improved questioning skills (Asking the right questions with an appreciative approach is critical to being able to lead today)
  7. More time to attack critical projects
  8. Improved organization and productivity
  9. Stronger team relationships
  10. Better use of skills and talents of employees
  11. Greater flexibility to adapt to change

If you are someone who is interested in leadership coaching, please contact me today for more information.

If you are a leadership or executive coach, please leave comments below about the type of leadership coaching you offer and benefits your clients have received.  The more we can educate the public about leadership coaching, the greater chance a company will have of becoming a great/best company to work for.

9 Steps to Convincing Your Customers “Be the Brand”

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the fifth D: All ...

Image via Wikipedia: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at the All Things Digital Conference

If you want your customers to “be your brand”, spend some time reading this post about how Apple has created a brand that has been built by raving fans.

In marketing and leadership, we all constantly preach the “You are the brand” sermon.

Something struck me today that maybe this statement may not be an absolute (this hit me today as I was on a run, using my Couch to 10K App for the iPhone and wondering if Steve Jobs owns a PC and if Bill Gates owns a Mac…I have no idea if they do, but something tells me they do…even if just to “check out” the competition a bit).  I started wondering…”Maybe the owner and employees are not the brand…maybe the customer is the brand”.  I am sure I am not the first or only person who has thought this, because you always hear of “walking billboards for your business” and “brand ambassadors” for your company.

If you take a look at the Apple commercials featuring the PC and the Mac guy, you can certainly see the resemblance in their creators (Gates and Jobs).  But, at the end of the day, how many Apple or Windows customers actually KNOW the 2 founders OR people who work for the company?   I know I don’t have any close friends that work for either company and according to Linked in, I am 3 levels away from Bill Gates, and I cannot find Steve Jobs on the site.

You see, I was sold on the iPhone without even going into a store.  I was sold based on watching Generation Y navigate the sleek yet simple device and once apps started coming out, I was hooked…no going back for me now!  And, many of the people using iPhones at the time of my purchase looked a bit like the Apple guy…cool… like they just stepped out of Urban Outfitters.  And, once the PC and Apple guy started doing their thing on television, I wanted to be more like the Apple guy…life seemed to be much easier, more hip and more laid back… living out there on the edge of new media.  The PC guy looked a bit like his neck tie was choking him or that maybe he needed a tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia.   So, at the end of the day, if you follow the 2 brands, you will see how Apple users literally live and breathe the brand.

So…the question is…how do you get customers to “be the brand”?

Here are 9 steps that I believe Apple is using to allow its customers to “be the brand”.  These are simply from the standpoint of being a consumer and talking to other Apple consumers.

1.  Give your customers something they don’t even know they need it before they buy it.  I did not know I  wanted or needed 10,000 songs on a mobile device until I had it…I did not know I needed my 10 favorite iPhone apps…now that I have them, I get crazy when I can’t use them!

2.  Build mystery around your brand.  Steve Jobs makes the announcing of a new product seem like Christmas is coming, and you want to peek inside the box while your parents are away from the house…you can’t wait to see what is inside the boxcovered in foiled wrapping and mounds of green and red ribbon.  We all know there is a “next Christmas” coming with Apple…we just can’t wait to see what they will come up with next.

3.  Make your brand relevant. As soon as the iPad came out, apps started flying out of every corner and closet to make people crave an iPad, because the apps are relevant today…not yesterday…Just check out the top apps for the iPad on Gizmodo and you will see what I mean.

4.  Keep innovating. As of the last week, I feel like my iPhone is suddenly outdated…it is only a year old, but now I want the 4G…Apple is telling me that I can “multi-task the right way” and create HD video with the phone.  As a multi-tasker who loves to shoot quick video…you’ve got me!

5. Place people in your retail stores and in the public eye that look like they belong there.  If you have ever visited an Apple store, you will notice the folks at the genius bar look like they selected for both their brains and their looks!  I have been to the store in Durham, NC multiple times, and these guys are great.  They know what they are doing and trust me…they look like they are perfect for Apple!

When it comes to branding, you want your front line folks who are interacting with your customers to drip of your brand.  As I look at this photograph, there are just certain people I could never see working behind this counter.  I know that this sounds like a “skin deep” judgment, but it is true…when you are building a brand you are going to want people who look like they can eat, sleep and live your brand interacting with your customers.  As humans, we are going to connect more quickly with people who “look like us” so that, as customers, we can go out and sell the brand more easily to our friends.

6.  Find out what your customers like and don’t like. This is critical, and Apple does this so well…this is why (I think) the Verizon conversation is floating around out there…the Verizon customers want their coverage and they want an iPhone do the work.  I just find it ironic that Jobs could not connect to his iPhone during his unveiling of the new iPhone and as the awkward moment was unfolding, fabs in the crowd shouted “VERIZON!”  (Awkward but a message sent loud and clear to Jobs, who I know is listening).

7. Dedicate yourself to reinvention. People think that Apple set out to compete with Windows and Bill Gates…maybe…maybe not.  Something tells me that Steve Jobs is dedicated to competition but more importantly… to reinventing the entire computer industry.  I believe he is leading us all to being able to live with a simple system that we can hold in the palm of our hands.  This will certainly allow us to be more mobile (I know I have been much less tied to my laptop since the iPhone came into my life…and I also have to give kudos to Jeff Simpkins for introducing me to Google Apps, as all connects seamlessly to the iPhone…so, I can perform most tasks from my iPhone).

8.  Connect with the emotions of your customers. We hear this all of the time, but what does this really mean in tangible steps?  Apple has tapped into our emotions by giving us music that takes us back in time, by providing easy tools to make our day less stressful (high marks to the multiple apps for the Where To? app for GPS and to the Get It Done app for time management) and for giving us the ability to video chat and record both voice and video to send to relatives and friends who are far away.

9. Keep it simple and consistent. I can spot an Apple product from a distance.  The look is sleep, simple and just look so great…I have to touch it!  If your brand is complex, clunky and always changes looks, the public will get confused.  So…know who you are and the look you want to present, and you will attract the customers who will “become your brand”.

If you or your team is interested in learning more about convincing your customers to “be the brand”, contact me today for a leadership coaching consultation.