Are you smart enough to know you may not be that smart?

Are you smart enough to know you might not be that smart?

Back in college, thirty years ago, I promoted rock bands. Once I did a show in Ortonville, Minnesota at the White Eagle Ballroom … in the middle of nowhere. Even though Ortonville only had a population of two thousand, the White Eagle was a great venue for small concerts. Since there was nothing else to do, kids from a hundred mile radius would flock.

This was my first show in Ortonville. In fact I’d never even been there before and the headlining act was an icon Minneapolis glitter band called Straight Up. I knew the band pretty well and the last thing I wanted to do is put on a bad show and have no one show up. Plus I was on the hook for $3000.

My modus operandi was to find a local contact to put up our posters and hopefully start an “excitement virus.” I found Gordy, seventeen, still in high school – and a police dispatcher. How bad can this be – a discount on security. Since I had set everything else up … all that was needed was to put up the posters and get the word out.

Three weeks later, I traveled back to Ortonville to do the show with Dave Theige, my roommate. We got in late the day before and checked into a motel.  The next morning, I got up before Dave and went out for breakfast and survey the town for our show’s exposure.

I went everywhere in pursuit to find posters. I found none! What happened to Gordy?

After several hours, I finally tracked him down.  “Where are all the posters?” Gordy’s response was to hand me back forty of the fifty posters I gave him.  “I only needed six.” “Great!” I said sarcastically. I needed six hundred people to break even. That’s sixty per poster. Unlikely!

Well, the show came and went and I made about two thousand dollars. Gordy manned the door so all Dave and I had to do was hang out with the bands and “rock.”.

After the show, I sat down with Gordy. “Where did all these people come from … and how the hell did they hear about it?”  Gordy came back with this:

“I put the posters in the places where the kids would see them when they were with their friends, so they’d talk about the show.”  This meant posters on telephone poles on the way to keg parties.

In addition, Gordy enlisted members of his “Tribe” (in Seth Godin jargon) to spread the word – and make sure that there were no parties or anything else happening to compete with our show.

I wouldn’t have put up the posters in places like that. Where I would have, the kids wouldn’t have seen them – or if they did they wouldn’t have talked about it. And there’s no way I could have squashed any potential competition. Fortunately Gordy did. That’s all that mattered.

Too many times, professionally and personally – we think we know everything, we have all the answers. Being smart isn’t knowing everything, because we never will.

Be smart is knowing that we may not be that smart!

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If you like this please retweet and check out more of my ramblings on twitter at @clayforsberg

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Welcome to my “Perfect World”

Imagine if you could close your eyes, click your heels – and find yourself somewhere else, somewhere where your personal little world was just like you wanted it to be.

About fifteen years ago I started using the phrase, “Road to Your Perfect World.” It was used mainly in the context of my recruiting business. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Thus the “Road” moniker. I told my candidates to view a job as a just step on a bigger journey where they wanted to go. If the job they were considering didn’t do that … then move on.

Well the over the years my idea of the “The Perfect World” has changed. It’s not just about work or getting a job anymore. It’s more encompassing. If you’ve read this blog, you probably already know that. It’s about my ideas to fix everyday life and all that makes it up. So – welcome to my “Perfect World, circa 2011.”

My Perfect World

My Perfect World ... well, kinda
  1. First it’s local. I’m all into the web, and what happens in the world and everything. And I’ve met some outstanding people that have expanded my life in areas I never expected. But when it comes down to it, it’s about where I’m standing, the ground underneath me, the tree over there (with the nest in it) – and the cat walking across the street in front of me. My physical, mental and financial health begins and ends here in my neighborhood. If I’m going make things perfect – I’m might as well start right here.
  2. Second, there’s more to life than just buying things. My value on this earth is a lot more than just the size of my house or the balance in my bank account. And I don’t think I’m alone here either. Helping each other, whoever they may be, and spreading good karma is more valuable to me than any car in my garage. In this day of “slash to the bone” political rhetoric, a lot of people, even some of my neighbors, are falling through cracks. And the safety net has holes in it. So it’s up to us, the members of my community – to power up the sewing machine and fix that net.
  3. Sometimes I do have to buy things though, so I’m going to make every effort to support locally owned businesses. These people are my friends and my neighbors. They are the parents of my daughter’s friends. Walmart’s not my friend, nor is McDonalds, nor is Amazon. I don’t hate these companies. But all I know, is three times more money flows into my community when I buy locally. That’s money for public art, for schools, for soccer leagues, and for cat parks (yes cat parks – imagine that – after all it’s my Perfect World). These things keep my neighborhood healthy, interesting and prospering.
  4. Also, when I buy things, local or not, I want to be treated like an individual. I’m not like my next door neighbor or my daughter, so why am I marketed to the same way. Once I first start shopping at your business, I want you to start building a profile on me. I know some people think that’s creepy, but I’m cool with it. I don’t want to know about deals on diapers. It’s been twenty years since I bought diapers. Just because you’re too lazy to keep track of what I buy doesn’t give you the right bombard me with endless circulars and junk mail. Keep me informed on things that matter to me when I should know about them. Respect my time as well as my money. Business relationships are exactly that … relationships. So I want them treated like that.
  5. And lastly, I want to not only have a say in what happens in my community – I want to actually make it better myself. I’m done sitting around and waiting for the government – local, state, federal, whatever – to make thing better for my neighborhood and for me and my friends. Whatever the level, government has gotten to point it’s nothing but a bunch of self-serving bureaucrats. We are much better served, serving ourselves. My neighbors and I know what needs fixing and who needs help in our own community. So in my “Perfect World,” we are going to deal with things ourselves. And it’s not just about throwing a bunch of cash around either (assuming any of us had a bunch of cash). It’s about helping however you can, with whatever resources you have. If you have a truck with a plow on it – help clear the snow in your neighbors driveway … and she’ll bake you a quiche in return. If you have open space in your office building – let a new nonprofit, volunteer tutoring service use it … for free. We learned in kindergarden to share. It was a good idea then – so why not now.

Well, that’s pretty much my “Perfect World,” at least in my own little corner of the world. And I think if a lot of other corners of the world did the same  – who knows maybe things might just get better … maybe a whole lot better.

In fact that might not be a bad idea. Imagine if we could bottle my “Perfect World” and spread it everywhere, or at least a template for creating your own neighborhood “Perfect World.”  And imagine if all these little local “Perfect Worlds” would talk to each other and share what they’ve learned. That could make their “Perfect Worlds” even more perfect.

My “Perfect World” may not be the same as everyone else’s, and that’s cool. After all, we’re all different. But one thing I know, is if you wait and hope someone else, mainly government and the big box store down the street, to tell you what they think it should be … you’re probably not going to be happy. How’s that been working for you?

I think there’s a lot of people out there that think the same way. And if you’re reading this then you’re probably one of them. We can make things better for a whole lot of people – if we just get back to the fundamentals, where it starts.

And it starts on your block, on your street  – and in your neighborhood.  A lot us have lost touch with our community and our neighbors – I’m no exception. But it’s time to reconnect … our neighborhoods need us to. This is where the real power lies. It’s waiting for you to grab it and run with it.

Don’t disappoint!

Note: The five items I described above may seem random, but they’re not . In a few months you see why. Keep in touch. I’m on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Collaboration 2.0 (Part 2) … crossing the chasm!

Crowdsourcing is like herding cats. Everyone wants to go in their own direction – and seldom is it yours. Of course “crowdsourcing” is best added to a project that is already structurally sound w/ core stakeholders … we don’t always have that luxury. Thanks to Max Aetheling – for that bit of insight.

In my May 8 post, “Collaboration 2.0 … from ideas to action,” I discussed the chasm that exists between most collaborative thought efforts and the implementation of the results of these efforts. What’s needed is an “implementation template” to service as a guide to put these ideas and thoughts into play. Well after a few days of thought (sorry, just my own), I’ve come up with a rough out of this “template.” Here we go.

Turning ideas into reality

Before the actual collaboration begins – the stage needs to be set. It’s the job of the collaboration Founders to set the project direction before the rest of the collaborators, or Alliance, is brought on.

  • Define the general premise of what the collaboration is trying to accomplish. This could be an idea, a solution to a problem, or even a general societal benefit.
  • Breakdown the collaboration into components – or Milestones.
  • Determine who you want on your team – your collaboration Alliance. Cast a wide net. You never know where talent will come from.
Once the direction is set – then let the Alliance begin the collaboration.
  • Set up Yammer groups (or equivelent) for each individual Milestone. All members of the Alliance will be members of each groups. They can jump from “sandbox” (Milestone) to “sandbox” or stay primarily in one – whatever their preference.
  • Set a “ship it” date, a deadline. Take advantage of emotional momentum (like the Middle East rebellions). After the deadline – project implementation starts.
  • Create a narrative goal of what each Milestone should strive for. Tell a story. Don’t fall back on lists – make it real.
  • Conduct an active ideas forum. The flow is the responsibility of the Founders. Moderate the activity and keep the goals always in focus. Use a proactive approach for inactive or lagging members.
  • Once each Milestone narrative is set, then the Alliance is to breakdown implementation needs, timetable and determine who will occupy leadership, or Driver positions for each Milestone.
During the project formation the following issues need be addressed.
  •  Total resources needed – things, talent (not money)
  • What resources needed do we currently have – and how compensated
  • What additional resources needed do we not have – how compensated
  • How will the additional resources be obtained and by who
Once the Milestones are laid out, then the real fun begins. Either the current Alliance or a new operational Alliance needs to take it to the next level – and if appropriate, an ongoing concern. Well, that’s a discussion for another post.
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 These are just some thoughts. Feel free, actually I’d like it – if you threw in your  input. I need all the help I can get with those cats! 

Collaboration 2.0 … from ideas to action!

I originally wrote this post two years ago so some of the cultural references are out of date. But even after two years, I believe the message still applies. This is especially the case in many “groups” on Facebook and Google+. There’s a lot of extremely talented and well directed people lending excellent ideas. But it seems as if everything dies in the ideas stage.

If there was one trend I would say is leading on the backstretch of the trends of 2011 (can you tell it’s the day after the Kentucky Derby) – it would be crowdsourcing and collaboration. With each week the “getting everyone involved” movement gathers stream. We saw it, and still are, with the revolutions in the Middle East. We’re seeing it domestically too. Even”hard to change” corporations are jumping on the bandwagon. Coke is currently crowdsourcing their new theme song (under the guidance of Teio Cruz). And two weeks ago Lady Gaga announced she’s giving away millions at four New York charities voted on by her “Little Monsters.”

In theory, this collaboration movement seems great. The “little guy” is getting a voice.

The chasm between ideas and action

Aside from efforts by major organizations – I see a problem. How do you move this collaboration off the internet into action in the real world? Not everyone is Coke or a rock star like Lady Gaga.

In my experience, there seems to be a chasm between thought and ideas, and the implementation of these thoughts and ideas.

There are numerous great online forums and groups that accommodate collaborative vision formation – but where does it go from there? It seems everyone wants to give their opinion (myself included), but who’s actually going to do the real work making it happen.

Somewhere in the process someone has to have the plan to put these visions to practical use. That’s the strength of traditional organizations. The ideas that come from them may be flawed … but they get implemented. Even the collaborative revolution we saw in Egypt, earlier this year, didn’t fully take form until the Muslim Brotherhood and their existing organizational structure joined in. The students turned over tactical control to them in the decisive battle of the Kasr al-Nil Bridge which marked the turning point in the rebellion.

There is no shortage of great ideas that can probably change the face of our future. Unfortunately, most of them are just ideas – even though they may have thousands, if not millions of contributors. But someone needs to “take the bull by the horns” and channel them into a productive movements.

At present, it seems those that have the worst ideas, those in positions of power – have the strongest organizations to implement these ideas.

What we need is an “implementation template.” A platform where our collaborative ideas can move from just ideas and visions to acting solutions. While we may want to discard the status quo with a ‘scorched earth’ policy – and start anew … it isn’t practical. We have to grab some of the old and use it however best we can – to change the world.

Serious implementation questions need be answered before even the best ideas can come to fruition.

Every movement, every challenge has to have someone to lead the charge. Not everyone is a leader however, nor do they need to be. And the organizational structure needed to get things done doesn’t happen by crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing may uncover a leader – but they still have to lead and they must have a plan to do so. Also, will those intricately involved in the idea formation be willing to take a similar influential role in getting it done? And if they aren’t – then who will. These are just a few of the questions that will arise.

We have a unprecedented opportunity to take this place we live in … and make it a whole better for everyone. It’ll take more than just ideas though. That I believe will be the next step in the evolution of collaboration … or as I call it –  “Collaboration 2.0.”

I’d like to make this post a clearinghouse for ideas on how to develop this “implementation template” I alluded to. Please throw in your ideas in the comments on how we can do this. All input, pro or con, is greatly appreciated.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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Buy local … or not

The chorus to “Buy Local” has become the new “Buy American.” This is especially the case with the corporate shenanigans going on. GE doesn’t pay taxes. The executives of Well Fargo and B of A should be in jail and Wal-mart is getting sued for discrimination by just about every woman who worked there in the last 10 years.  And even those companies, like the beloved Apple – make their computers and iPods in China with Korean parts.

The only way us common folk can fight back is to buy local. And it makes sense. Only 15% of the revenue from a big box store like Wal-mart or Target finds its way into the local economy – while the rest goes to suppliers, stockholders and c-level management to points unknown. Compare that to 45+% that stays in town with a locally owned store. Hard to argue with those numbers. You buy locally and you help your neighbor and probably yourself as well.

Main Street – Red Lodge, Montana

While buying locally may cost a few more cents on the dollar, I would hope that most us would be willing to help out fellow neighbors. And by patronizing local business, in theory you should get better service. After all – your neighbors know you and they can take advantage of that fact.

Technically local businesses should have an unfair advantage. In addition to their knowledge of their customers, they can adjust to local market conditions. In the time it takes for a big box store to even get market intelligence – their local competition is out the gate with a new product line and a promotion to match. Combine that with their superior customer service – any price premium should be discounted.

In theory, this should be the case. But such is not necessarily the way it is.

Recently, I’ve been helping out my parents in Montana. As with most people in their 70’s and 80’s, health-care is a constant issue. And central to elderly health-care is prescription drugs and their relationship with the pharmacy. Such is the case with my parents and their primary pharmacy – which is locally owned.

My parents have been very good customer of Pharmacy One, for twenty plus years. You would think that sort of relationship would warrant at the very least, good service. Rather than go into copious detail, lets just say … the help is rude, seldom is a prescription sent out when promised, and they charge extra to put something in the mail.

Yet this business will be the first to complain about the invasion of the corporate behemoths, Walgreen and CVS. “They can’t compete because of the bulk buying advantage the giants have. The can’t compete against their advertising budgets. No mention is made of the fact that Pharmacy One has been a member of the Billings community for decades, serving generations of customers. Nor is there any mention of the advantage they have because of their key location right on the ground floor of the main hospital in the city.

Their negative attitude is evident with of their employees. It’s as if they’re just waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to fall.” And they act, when that shoes drops, they’ll be waiting in line for a bed at the shelter on Montana Ave. They don’t say it, but it’s almost like it’s a requirement to shop there if you live in Billings. After all,  they’re a local business – and aren’t you supposed to support local business.

Here’s my conundrum . I am adamantly in favor of buying local. Personally I think by bringing the power back to Main Street we can retake our country and our lives from the unscrupulous corporate hacks that have hijacked our futures. This extra flow of money into our communities can go to help our children’s schools, our elderly, and our less fortunate – on top of it, our own wallets.

But all you local businesses – please help me out. I don’t want to spend my money at business only because it’s local. I’m willing to you give the first chance if your local, and I may even give you a second chance if you screw up. But you have to show me you want my business and you care about me. If you don’t already know me – take the time to get to know me. Then call me by my name – and remember what I buy. If you get a deal on something you know I like, let me know and let me share in your savings. Show me you’re part of the community and want to make it better, like the chain stores can’t. Make me part of your extended family – and I’ll do the same and I’ll be loyal. It won’t matter if I have to pay a couple of dollars more – you’re family.

But to justify those couple of dollars, you have to show it and meet me half way. I don’t want a “woe is me” attitude from your employees – or you. I want you to understand that having a business in my community, in my neighborhood – is not a right, it’s a privilege … a privilege that can be taken away by me, and my friends and neighbors. If you’re cool with all this – then you’ll have a great customer. You’ll have great customer that’s loyal and will refer his friends to you.

My conditions may seem a bit harsh, but they have to be. Owning a business isn’t supposed to be easy. But at least you know where I stand and you can act accordingly. Most people just defect and run to the big box stores without any notice. I’m laying my cards on the table.

I wish just being local was enough for me to be a customer “forever after.” But I think giving you the first (and second) chance, and being my default choice is more than fair.

Now the next move is yours.

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If you’re on Twitter please follow me … there’s cool stuff happening over there too @clayforsberg.

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Need financing for your start-up … join the Kernel!

Let’s say you have this great idea. You’re tired of working for the “Man.” You know deep down in you’re an entrepreneur. And you’re willing to put in the long hours and embrace austerity as your best friend. And the last thing you want to do is commit to an office space, spend your creative time in your space bedroom or become such a regular at local coffee shop that the seat in the corner has your imprint on it.

But you, and countless numbers of other fledgling young business owners are all staring at one seemingly insurmountable obstacle. You need funding. Not a lot, just enough to take of things barter or a good “arm twist” of one of your friends can’t take care of.

Banks aren’t going be any help. Banks don’t understand start-ups. They have no idea how value your project if you don’t have collateral backing it up. Banks need something to repossess. Venture capitalists want an investment they can sell off down the road for profit. They’re not interested in operating profit … especially from a $20,000 investment.

Normally, you would go to Uncle Charlie. But Uncle Charlie spent a day too long in Vegas. As they say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” … including Uncle Charlie’s money.

What do you do? You join the Kernel!

The Kernel is essentially a co-working facility. But it’s way more than that. It’s an incubator that grows the future of your community.

Imagine …

  • A place you could go to interact with other entrepreneurs, all in various stages of start-up development. Your project would be independent, but you would be open for collaboration or just general input from your Kernel mates.
  • The Kernel contains all the physical common facilities you would need to launch and operate a small business: reception, common space (kitchen, bathrooms, etc.), digital reproduction equipment (variable data printing), etc.
  • The Kernel would also provide intangible services such as accounting, legal and other needed administrative functions. The HUB could even provide sales through a rep(s) that would do crossover sales for you and your other Kernel mates.
  • Funding for the Kernel would be provided by Seedsmen or investors. The Seedsmen would provide capital to operate the facilities and also any other expenses needed by the Kernel mates. Capital however need not be money, it could services (barter). For example, an attorney could invest in the Kernel via their legal services. The same thing could be for web design, accounting and even basic administrative labor. The goal of the Kernel is resource maximization.
  • The Seedsmen would invest in the Kernel as a whole, not just in one start-up. This way their risk could be spread over several projects – much the way venture capital firms work. Individual start-up Kernel mates can also invest in the HUB through their services provided to other Kernel mates. It would also be in the best interest of the Seedsmen to go out and recruit attractive new start-ups to join their HUB. How much share each “cog” has in the HUB as a whole, as well as how much share the HUB has in each start-up would have to be determined.

There you have it … a new age barter co-op start-up incubator.

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If you like this post please feel free to Tweet away. I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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“Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas”

As protesters in Tahrir Square in Egypt faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia:  “Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”

You’d have to be living under a rock not to take note of what’s been happening in the Middle East over the last month. And it ain’t over yet. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on the revolution in Egypt in my personal blog, “Millennials Rising.” I talked about what I thought all of it was about.

Well I tell you what it’s not about. It’s not about the price oil, Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood … and sure isn’t about terrorism – no matter what Glen Beck, or Rush Limbaugh says.  It’s about the “kids.”

And news flash – we have kids here too.

What we saw over there was the incredible execution of a game plan to overthrow regimes that had been in power for over three decades.  And they did it peacefully. The only violence committed in either Tunisia or Egypt was committed by those in power, not the demonstrators.

These young people used social media – Facebook, blogs and Twitter to communicate with each other and they followed a textbook … a textbook literally written years ago by a Harvard professor here in this country, Gene Sharp. And the disparate parts from all over the world worked together with military precision.

A don’t think this generation, Generation Y, the Millennials, hate their elders. On the contrary, they’re closer to them than we were at their age. It’s the truth. But for some reason their elders don’t seem to take them seriously.

“All they do is play video games and sit on Facebook.” It’s no different here in this country. And the ruling class of my old industry, printing – probably feels the same.

I don’t think you’ll lose your firm to a coup of “twenty somethings,” but then again maybe you will … if you don’t pay attention to this group. The printing industry you built, is hanging on for dear life, while the industry they built, social media, is on the way to the “next great frontier.” Recent speculation puts the valuation of Facebook at $50 billion, Twitter at $10 billion and Groupon at $6 billion. And all three of these companies were started and are privately held by this no good “video game generation.” Find me a printing group worth $10 billion let alone fifty.

Gen Y isn’t going to need to take over anything, well not anything but your clients. Because in a couple of years, if it isn’t happening already – most of the clients will be their peers. These will be people who they have as friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. And what are you going to have … your Rolodex.

In the five short years since I quit recruiting,  my database for the most part has become a ghost of what it once was. Most of my contacts retired or just got burnt out and left the industry. I’m sure a lot of yours have too.

If the Millennials want to they’ll stay in the printing industry, they will … if they find it relevant. If not – they won’t. And with them will go their friends and followers – the clients.

But you don’t have to go of the way of Mubarak and Egypt or Ali and Tunisia. And all it takes is for you to listen and respect. Don’t treat this generation like you do your teenage children. Your priorities are not theirs.  The future of your firm will rely on how this group can identity with you and your company.

As I expounded on in my last piece, they are more concerned about others and the world than our generation is. If they don’t see you and your firm as being socially responsible – they will turn on you with the wrath of God. If you belittle their gaming culture or protest their socialization tendencies … they’ll do the same.

Remember your potential competition is not the same as it was twenty years ago. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to start a business. An extra bedroom, a couple of iMacs, that operator on your 2nd shift – and now you have your biggest nightmare. And there will be nothing you can do about it. Chances are they know more about technology than you do.

Why not use this knowledge … this resource. Do you let a perfectly good, new piece of equipment just sit there because you like the old one you’ve always used? What’s the difference?

What sort of reaction would you get if you went into your company tomorrow and called a meeting. Here’s the topic:

“What can we do to make OUR company appeal to young people and attract younger buyers. We don’t want to be old anymore.”

I guarantee you’d be enlightened. I also guarantee the word would get out that you had the coolest company to work for. You be the Google or Apple of your industry industry. And with it would come the best talent and the best ideas. And with that would follow profit.

Or maybe Mubarak has a spare room in Sharm-el-Sheikh. You can talk about the good old days.

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A successful blog post is when the comment flow provides more insight than the post itself. Please comment and add to the flow.

And if you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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