I made up a word. Then I made up a phenomenon to go with it. The word and the phenomenon are hyperinformationalism. They’re illustrated by the paragraph above. They refer to the fact that we’ve become of a race of knee-jerk artists — constantly and reflexively twitching under the relentless onslaught of information with which we’re constantly bombarded. And they confirm this truism: When everything’s important, nothing’s important.

I made up a theory, too. We spend so much time inflicting so much information on ourselves from so many electronic sources, we’ve mistaken ourselves for computers. We think we’re the same sort of objective, dispassionate, unemotional accessing mechanisms as those amalgams of  chips, processors, transducers, capacitors, and wires. But we’re not. And we’re suffering for it.

This is why, from the youngest age — I grew up at a time in which the dissemination of information were the exclusive provinces of newspapers, radio, and television — I never paid attention to the news. The reason? It’s too new.

We can react to news, but we can only know its ramifications in time. The news can soothe or panic, but it can’t reveal which reaction is warranted. The news can tell us what happened, but it can’t tell us what will happen. And knowing what’ll happen as a result of any news item was always more important to me than what someone else said happened.

The Cost

In the age of hyperinformationalism, have we lost our ability to ponder and to ask critical, analytical, discerning questions? Or have we lost time? Just when we engage in discriminating contemplation, we’re overwhelmed by the next wave of brute information. Awash in that wave with its potential to stimulate beyond reason, we have a choice: Ignore it all until the items of any import roll forth in another wave — or react to all of it instantaneously: Good. Bad. Hopeful. Fearful. Important. Trivial.

A twitching knee has no reason. It reacts on impulse. In the manic, agitated trance of hyperinformationalism, so do we.

What, then, does hyperinformationalism do to our businesses? It compels us to say everything we can think to say in every place we can think to say it. Collateral systems become exhaustive, de facto technical manuals. Websites warehouse unseen content. Direct email campaigns blitz spam. Blogs, articles, and white papers become the virtual, verbal equivalents of drinking from fire hoses. And our target audiences are dazed, confused, probably annoyed, and not likely to be buying — at least not from us.

Thanks to hyperinformationalism, we’ve forgotten (how) to relax. We’ve forgotten to take our time and communicate substantively. We’ve raised our expectations beyond sense and sanity. One man’s deluge is not another man’s call to action. So, why not take it easy?

The Remedy

Buck the trend. Turn down the volume. Create a real message. Let it differentiate you. Give people a chance to absorb it. Make it good enough that they want (to learn) more. Don’t sell, instruct. Don’t flood, trickle. Don’t scream, talk quietly and directly.

No one will ever think what we’re doing or selling is as important as we think it is. Ever. But that doesn’t mean our prospects won’t care. They just need to be allowed to care in their own ways, in their own time. If we want our marketing efforts to be effectively fulfilled with sales, we need to gently and calmly help our prospects understand why they need what we’re selling.


What’s Innovation?

Over the past three weeks, I’ve posted three polls about innovation on LinkedIn — first, second, third. As of this writing, they’ve garnered a total of 2,495 views but just 41 votes. Those stats suggest at least four possibilities. I only know the fourth one to be true. But here they are:

First, the lack of a consistent or consensual definition of innovation may make people leery to vote at risk of sticking their necks out uncomfortably. As I’ve come to understand it, innovation is change — undertaken purposefully, grounded strategically, adopted systemically, and practiced systematically with discipline, a willingness to accept failure, a desire to learn from failure, and the ability to mitigate risk in the process. Is that a mouthful? Sure it is. But every element of that definition is necessary to innovate consistently and repeatedly.

Second, people may be unwilling to create the impression that they don’t know what they don’t know. That’s the very antithesis of innovation. As much as anything, innovation presupposes a willingness to fly in the face of what’s known — of the ordinary, the expected, and the status quo. Innovation rejects best practices in favor of new and better ways of doing things relentlessly. It’s the determination never to say, “We do it this way because this is the way we do it.” It’s the conviction that creativity is preferable to complacency, all the time, every day.

Third, it may be possible that traditional ways of doing things — allocating monetary and human resources to initiatives without changing processes, approaches, methodologies, or ways of thinking — constrain people to the extent that they can’t or won’t consider doing things in different ways. It could be fear of failure, fear of reproach, fear of change, fear of the unknown, or garden-variety insecurity. The root cause doesn’t matter. What does matter is that outcomes don’t change if the things being done to produce those outcomes don’t change.

Fourth, while the growing proliferation of ostensible innovation-management tools has caused them to become almost commoditized, there’s been no matrixed framework that comprises the requisite common tools, along with novel tools and capabilities, all of which are matrixed (interoperational) within a structured framework that enables organizations to innovate consistently; to continually bring new products, services, and/or business models to market; and to make their competition irrelevant.

That was then. This is now. Now there’s EinFrame.

Proudly Naïve

I have a theory. It goes like this: If I remain naïve enough, I’ll never get old. If that’s so, then I just found the Fountain of Youth.

The German writer, Thomas Mann, once said: “It is impossible for ideas to compete in the marketplace if no forum for their presentation is provided or available.” Given that he lived from 1875 to 1955, I don’t imagine it ever occurred to him to question the sources — or the very definition — of ideas. But question we must.

It seems, much to my naïve surprise, the sources and the definition of ideas have changed. So has the presumption of originality. It appears we now live in the age of PLR content, in which PLR stands for private label rights. You’re probably way ahead of me on this. But the implications are profoundly unsettling.

Case in point: Take a few moments to absorb and comprehend the sentence in bold type below, the emphasis on which, by the way, originates from the source:

Quality website content extends beyond rewriting or “spinning” PLR articles for uniqueness. In order to shine, online content should be useful, well written, and relevant to readers. Professional sounding Web content and articles impress readers while original content impresses Google. Writing content for readers first, search engines second is a SEO content strategy that works over the long run.

That’s right. We no longer require native, substantively meaningful, or original content that accurately and genuinely reflects the differentiating singularity of our brands. Uh uh. We don’t even need professional content. All we need now is professional sounding language — counterfeit content that impresses our readers. That’s as cynical a concept as I’ve ever come across. And it’s at least as insulting to the readers with whom we desire to share our ideas as it is cynical.

Dude! What the hell were you thinking?

By that logic, I’ve wasted every moment I spent writing this post and believing it reflects the personal convictions that inform my thinking and the EinSource brand. I could have cribbed the content for the post from any of the content available here. I could have bought it here. Or I could have randomly generated it here and here.

It’s ironic that I just re-read Animal Farm this past weekend. It’s ironic — or serendipitously synchronous — because George Orwell also wrote this (I’ve written marketing in place of political language):

[Marketing] … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind. (Politics and the English Language)

That statement is cynical, too. But it’s no more cynical that it is prescient. Its prescience has been fulfilled now that PLR has erased the line between cynicism and truth.

PLR is the Walmart of content: It obliterates any value in or accruing to your brand. And the age of PLR is The Age of Cynicism.

Go ahead. Call me naïve. In addition to younger, I’ve just become proud of my naïveté.

Is Curiosity the Superpower That Makes Companies Resilient?

I recently read an article in Inc. with the premise that curiosity is a useful trait for good leadership. It said this, in part:

Taking into account all the digital exchanges we have in the course of a workday, what can we as leaders do to humanize our interactions, draw people to us, and build trust? It comes down to one word: curiosity. Research has found that curious people are known for having better relationships, and other people are more easily attracted and feel socially closer to individuals who display curiosity.

The article goes on to indicate that curiosity is a useful trait at all levels of an organization, as cited in an HBR study:

The most curious employees sought the most information from co-workers, and the information helped them in their jobs–for instance, it boosted their creativity in addressing customers’ concerns.

Does curiosity among leaders and employees facilitate a growth mindset that enables organizations to continually learn and improve? Maybe.

On Further Review

I also recently read an article in Entrepreneur with the premise that curiosity drives innovation. It made the point this way:

It is an impulse to pursue a thought, find a solution, seek new possibilities or keep on a path to see what’s around the next bend.

Does curiosity within an organization also facilitate a desire to develop new products, services, or business models? Are organizations that have identified curiosity as a desirable characteristic for leadership and employees doubly blessed with the good leadership and the drive to innovate that ensures their abiding resilience?

McKinsey has this to say about resilience:

The world is experiencing a level of disruption and business risk not seen in generations. Some companies freeze and fail, while others innovate, advance, and even thrive. The difference is resilience.

Is a lack of curiosity among the attributes of companies that freeze and fail while companies that seek and nurture curiosity thrive? I don’t know. But I do know people who remain curious are less likely to settle for the status quo. And I do know organizations that hire and encourage those curious people are less likely to do things they’ve always done the way they’ve always done them.

Is that curiosity a superpower? I don’t know that, either.

But I remain curious about it.

Total Cost of Failure (TCF)

I recently saw a LinkedIn post from a gentleman named Oscar L. Martin. In it, he compared the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Elon Musk’s SpaceX to NASA’s. Mr. Martin wrote:

Elon Musk proved the problem with space was not technological but institutional … NASA prefers to expend $40B after 15 years in known tech for a flawless first launch, to $4B for 10 de-risk launches in 5 years in evolving tech.

In the same post, Mr. Martin hyperlinked an article by one Brian Wang, in which Mr. Wang embedded a YouTube video by Dr. Robert Zubrin. Mr. Wang wrote:

Orbital SpaceX Starship working by 2024 will mean a Saturn V rocket capacity at 1% of the cost.

If you’re wondering how or why any of that could be true, wonder no more.

Name That Tune

There are three reasons for which the performance of a SpaceX will outpace the performance of a NASA every time:

  1. Bureaucracy
  2. Government
  3. Lack of innovation.

Bureaucracies can be counted on to pursue three other things exclusively and without fail:

  1. Control
  2. Growth
  3. The operational status quo.

Those three things are more prevalent in government and government-agency bureaucracies than they are in any other institutions because there’s no accountability. Consequently, there’s neither desire nor reason to innovate.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. (Thomas Sowell)

We have no such luxury in business, industry, the private sector, and the market. If we’re wrong — if we fail — the price we pay is high and inescapable.

We Don’t Have to Fail

One of the most common expressions in many business discussions is total cost of ownership (TCO). According to Wikipedia:

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a financial estimate intended to help buyers and owners determine the direct and indirect costs of a product or service. It is a management accounting concept that can be used in full cost accounting or even ecological economics where it includes social costs.

Given the breadth of that definition, we might just well add opportunity cost (for unidentified ideas) and the cost of failure (that might result from long histories of unidentified ideas that might have led to new products, services, or business models).

But with purpose, discipline, transparency, and a commitment to making innovation systemic, systematic, and sustainable, the risks of lost opportunity and failure can be effectively mitigated and dramatically reduced.

Given the choice between TCO and TCF, take TCO.

If you take TCF, you won’t own anything.

Settled Science: Breakfast Edition

To understand how absurd a notion is settled science, we needn’t tread the politically inflammatory territory of weather, climate change, and global warming. Nor do we need go so far as to read — let alone comprehend — the one tract that utterly debunks the possibility that science can, should, or will ever be settled. Nope. In fact, we need go no farther than our breakfast tables to understand how profoundly unsettled, and unsettling, science can be.

Case in point: Should you harbor any doubts about the deleterious consequences of drinking your morning coffee, this article, warning us that coffee is the worst thing in the world for us, should put all such trepidation to rest. Here’s why:

 Those good vibes and the boost in energy you get from drinking a cup of coffee are the results of temporarily reversing the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. In other words, that euphoric short-term state that you enter after drinking coffee is what non-habitual caffeine consumers are experiencing all of the time.

Who’d have thought the only pleasure to be derived from coffee would be negative — that is, the only sensual benefit is not withdrawing from caffeine? Wow. Talk about a buzzkill. I guess that explains why … wait … no, it doesn’t.

And, should you harbor any doubts about the hygienic prudence of drinking your morning coffee, this article, reassuring us that coffee is the best thing in the world for us, should put all such trepidation to rest. Here’s why:

A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are:

  • less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia
  • have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes

“There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health,” says Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

As if all this contradictory but oh-so-settled science weren’t confounding enough — and as if the notion that some of us might genuinely enjoy coffee for its taste were so utterly far-fetched — we also have to contend with the feel-good busybodies who just can’t seem to get through the day or attain any level of self-satisfaction without telling the rest of us what to do.

So much for settled science.

Does Past Success Prevent Future Success?

Is most of your revenue from products, services, or business models more than three years old? If so, and even if your revenue is growing, that should be a warning signal that you’re not innovating effectively. All industries are competitive and, by not moving forward, you’re falling behind.

There are numerous examples of former market leaders that failed to innovate and eventually fell victim to their markets. Companies like Kodak, Digital Equipment Corp., and Blockbuster all share a sad story of allowing their past successes to prevent exploration for new ideas.

Kodak, as reported by Startup Talky:

The Eastman Kodak Company’. It was the most famous name in the world of photography and videography in the 20th century. Kodak brought about a revolution in the photography and videography industries. At the time when only huge companies could access the cameras used for recording movies, Kodak enabled the availability of cameras to every household by producing equipment that was portable and affordable.

Kodak was the most dominant company in its field for almost the entire 20th century, but a series of wrong decisions killed its success. The company declared itself bankrupt in 2012.

Kodak failed to understand that its strategy of banking on traditional film cameras (which was effective at one point) was now depriving the company of success. Rapidly changing technology and evolving market needs made the strategy obsolete.

  • The ignorance of new technology and not adapting to changing market needs initiated Kodak’s downfall

  • Kodak wasted time promoting the use of film cameras instead of emulating its competitors. It completely ignored the feedback from the media and the market

  • When Kodak finally understood and started the sales and the production of digital cameras, it was too late. Many big companies had already established themselves in the market by then and Kodak couldn’t keep pace with the big shots

  • Kodak invested its funds in acquiring many small companies, depleting the money it could have used to promote the sales of digital cameras.

Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), as reported by MIT Sloan Review:

The DEC story is one of a dramatic rise and fall: DEC was an entrepreneurial computer company that grew to $14 billion in sales and employed an estimated 130,000 people worldwide at one point, but Digital failed to adapt successfully after the personal computer eroded its minicomputer market.

Blockbuster, as reported by Indigo Digital:

Blockbuster was extremely popular. It was the largest video rental company in the world with over 9,000 stores and over 50 million members. So what happened? While most talk of Blockbuster’s demise centers on the rise of Netflix, Blockbuster made many strategic errors throughout its history that caused it to have such a stunning fall from grace.

  • Walking away from the deal of the century. Blockbuster made a critical error when it walked away from a deal with Netflix. Netflix wanted to sell its company to Blockbuster for $50 million in 2000. At the time Blockbuster could have afforded the purchase price since it had raised $465 million in an IPO a year earlier.

  • An inability to pivot quickly. Blockbuster was skeptical about the potential of renting DVDs online and sending them to customers via mail the way Netflix did. But customers enjoyed Netflix’s service because it was convenient. As Netflix continued to gain subscribers it took Blockbuster six years to launch a similar service of its own in 2004 called Blockbuster Online. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly,” said Reid Hastings, Netflix’s co-founder and CEO.

  • “I’ve been frankly confused by this fascination that everybody has with Netflix…Netflix doesn’t really have or do anything that we can’t or don’t already do ourselves,” said Keyes in 2008. Two years later Blockbuster was bankrupt. A healthy degree of hubris ended up being the fatal thorn in Blockbuster’s side. Blockbuster couldn’t see pass its previous success to see the change on the horizon and then once it did it was too slow to react.

Each of these companies was in an enviable market position, but their leaders believed they knew what it took to be successful and continued doing what they’d always done. By being unwilling to look ahead, take the small risks required to innovate new products, services, or business models, they eventually took the biggest risk a company could take … and failed.

Look at the composition of your revenue. Is it the canary in the coal mine? If so, look at the way you innovate or whether you innovate at all. Is there discipline, mindset, process, exploration, a framework, and investment in innovation? If any of these elements are lacking, it will be difficult to effectively develop new products, services, or business models. If you’re seeing warning signs, EinSource can help you to avoid the demise of some other great companies.

Don’t let past success prevent future success.

Prophets and Loss

What’s the most valuable attribute of successful people? We can find lots of answers to the question from lots of sources: Courage. Vision. Imagination. Persistence. Willingness to fail. Iconoclasm. Lunacy. Every one of those attributes is a factor in the equation that yields success. But none of them is the most important. The most important attribute of every successful person is objectivity.

Think about it: In every job you’ve ever had, in any business you’ve ever founded, in any set of circumstances in which you’ve created or revealed value, how and when did you do it? In all likelihood, you did it by seeing things that other couldn’t see. And in most cases, you did it early in your tenure, at a point at which you still retained an outsider’s perspective.

At that point — whether it was recognized or not, whether it was characterized this way or not — you had the status of a prophet. You were a seer, an oracle, a breath of fresh air, a font of wisdom and knowledge, a source of new perspectives and sound advice. And then you weren’t. What happened?

What happened is what always happens. It’s why every honeymoon ends. It’s why today’s heroes are tomorrow’s wallpaper. It’s why people get taken for granted. It’s why ordinary becomes acceptable. We lose our objectivity. Our preoccupations become subjective, be they ego, power, ostensible correctness, or garden-variety selfishness. And the straight lines we once intended to follow to our objectives become directionless circles.

In case you’re curious, this isn’t a new phenomenon. As this excerpt from Luke 4:14-29 indicates, we’ve been ignoring our prophets forever:

I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

Nobody’s perfect, and nothing lasts forever. But if you’ve been wise enough to acquire the objectivity your business needs, running your prophet out of town too soon may be your loss.

Higher and Hierarchy

I recently became aware of a consulting company that compels its clients to begin strategic business planning with a sales and marketing review. That’s the rough equivalent of compelling architects and contractors to build skyscrapers from their lightning rods down. And it invites five perennially perplexing questions, as intriguing as they are troubling and, as yet, unanswered:

  1. Why do so many organizations create the position, VP of Sales and Marketing?
  2. Why is the VP of Sales and Marketing typically a sales person?
  3. Is the chief responsibility of the VP of Sales and Marketing sales or marketing?
  4. Why do we persist in giving one person two sets of responsibilities?
  5. Why do the people we saddle with those two sets of responsibilities always seem to struggle with both?

The answers are in the Strategic Hierarchy — or the lack thereof.

The relationship between sales and marketing is perennially misunderstood and consistently misaligned. That’s because the Strategic Hierarchy is equally misunderstood and misaligned. And it’s a wasteful shame because it should be this easy:

  1. The organization strategy is the organization’s reason for being. It’s the dream. “We recognize that, and we can capitalize by creating this.” It’s the why.
  2. The marketing strategy marketing program is the plan by which this does that. It’s the what. It’s the creation of the (realization of) the need.
  3. The sales strategy is the plan by which the fulfillment of the need is delivered. It’s the how. (Remember: Marketing is not a sales-support function. Sales is a marketing-fulfillment function.)
  4. Prospect qualification is the point at which prospects’ needs align with their desire to buy.
  5. Conversion is the point at which qualified prospects become become customers.

Even if most companies get steps 1 through 3 right (many don’t), dysfunction sets in between steps 4 and 5, after which business-generating activities come unglued because the gap between strategic marketing and feet-on-the-street sales is never bridged. Confusion reigns. Finger-pointing begins. Circular firing squads are assembled. And lost opportunity multiplies.

With the Strategic Hierarchy established and employed — with the organization and its activities structured in accordance with it — the gap starts to close itself, one unmade mistake at a time. The organization doesn’t expect prospects to contact it because it don’t assume its outbound communications are irresistible. The organization doesn’t imagine marketing and sales are inbound activities. And it initiates contact with prospects because it realizes the odds of prospects initiating contact with it are against it.

With the Strategic Hierarchy in place, organizations also recognize the burdens they place on VPs of Sales and Marketing are unrealistic. It requires the position to serve two masters and master two disciplines. It lets sales drive marketing. It tries to establish momentum from the bottom up.

And it forces organizations to realize gravity can’t, after all, be defied.

The Introverted Business Leader

It’s taken me most of my career to get comfortable with the idea that I’m an introverted business leader. Like many, I expect business leaders to be gregarious and charismatic. Through experience, though, I’ve learned reserved colleagues make significant contributions even when they’re not holding the attention of a room. I’m an introvert, but I like people. I can enjoy time in a group, but I don’t get energy from groups or do my best thinking in groups.

I’m a believer in collaboration, but I’ve learned it doesn’t begin or end with a group session. I’ve read that 50 percent of us are introverts. If that’s true, there are some simple ways to get valuable contributions from the quiet half of your colleagues.

Before the Meeting

Introverts do their best thinking alone, so give them some time with a challenge before calling a group session. Publish an agenda early. Agendas aren’t just useful for keeping a group on task in a meeting; agendas give people the opportunity to think and prepare. I need this before-the-meeting think time. Otherwise, I tend to receive information in the meeting and analyze it later. If a colleague expects me to be an active participant or to make a decision in the meeting, I’ll be reluctant unless I’ve had time to consider the topic in advance. Preparation doesn’t mean I’ve made a decision or that I won’t actively deliberate in a meeting. It means I’ve given the issues some thought, but I remain open-minded. When I’m prepared, I bring the best of what I can offer to the group.

In the Meeting

In meetings in which I’m the facilitator, and even in some in which I’m a participant, I may ask for input from colleagues who haven’t said much. I do this carefully because introverts may not do their best thinking with an audience. Even so, the group benefits from additional perspectives on a topic. If we’re making a decision, I’m careful to leave the door open to additional input. I usually say something like, “This is what we’ve decided, but if people have additional thoughts or ideas in the coming days, please let me know.” 

After the Meeting

I recommend publishing meeting minutes, writing a recap, or sending a note to thank the group for participating. This practice is polite, it provides documentation, and it gives introverts another opportunity to express themselves. In my follow-ups, I invite people to share additional ideas. At times, these new insights can cause the group to reconsider and improve their decisions, or at least to have a deeper understanding of an issue.

Even though we all get a lot of messages, I carefully read emails from colleagues. Introverts tend to express themselves best in writing. When someone has considered an issue and penned a well-thought-out email, know that may be their best way to share valuable information.

Last Thought

I’m a believer in collaboration. The best decisions are made with by groups but not necessarily during meetings. When soliciting input from colleagues, I’ve trained myself to ensure introverts are heard. I think of getting input from introverts like a hidden-image puzzle (stereogram): When I free myself from the dominant image, I can see the hidden image. While feedback from extroverts is easy to see, input from introverts takes a little more effort but is equally valuable. If you can draw input from everyone, you’re making better-informed decisions.

This is serious stuff.

If introverts aren’t given a way to be heard, they’ll leave. Introverts don’t like to be the center of attention, but they want to contribute. If their input is routinely ignored, they’ll look for another place in which to make a difference.