➻ Kathy Sierra had one of the better posts I’ve read recently on Hugh MacLeod’s gapinvoid site earlier this month. It was about Pixie Dust and The Mountain of Mediocrity, or how companies go about representing themselves online.
The answer has always been there: to make the product, book, service that enables, empowers, MAKES USERS AWESOME. The rest nearly always takes care of itself.
Which brings me back to, why are so many so convinced that [insert favorite buzzword] is the answer vs. just making a product that helps people kick ass in a way they find meaningful?
And then someone I trust said this: these [insert favorite new buzzword] approaches are not about saving a crap product or marketing an awesome one… where these tools really DO make a difference for a brand is when the brand has little or no other compelling benefit over the competition. If the product is mediocre, or even really good but with too many equally good competitors, these things can make a difference. If you have little else to compete on, then out-friending/out-viraling/out-gamifying can work.
At least until your competition out-hires a good social media strategist or compelling extroverted social media star and out-friends you.
You do not want to be That Brand. You do not want to be That Product. That Book. That Consultant. You do not want to be in that arms race because it is an exhausting and fragile place to be. You want to use social media not because you *must* but because you can add even more value for your users by doing so. You do not want to be the guy that must ask constantly, “how can I get more comments on my blog? how can I get more followers and fans?”
The real pixie dust is when you ask yourself, “how can I help my users get more comments on THEIR blog?”. You want to be the guy who asks, “How can I help my users get more followers and fans?” And that is why I have always been such a fan of Hugh and Gary V and Tim Ferris, for example. Not for the comments their followers make about Hugh, Gary, and Tim… But for the comments their followers make about themselves. In a nutshell: Hugh, Gary, and Tim might well be the people you want at a dinner party, but what matters is that they help people become more interesting at their OWN next dinner party.
That resonates with us here at 800-CEO-READ because—although we’re obviously in business to sell books and make money—our mission, our reason to exist, is to help you find the right books, ideas and resources that will propel your business and make you more money.
➻ And speaking of finding the right books, Neelima Mahajan-Bansal has a piece over at Poets and Quants about the Great Books That Shaped The Business School Elite. The post asks nine separate business school professors the same five questions:
- Which book has influenced you the most?
- What do you plan to read next?
- How do you usually like to read — real books or digital devices?
- Apart from management books, which genres do you like best?
- If you are stranded alone on an island which is the one book you would like for company and why?
The interesting thing about the responses is the lack of business books on the list that “influenced them most.” I suppose it may be that business as a popular publishing genre isn’t quite old enough to have heavily influenced the current generation of professors, but only one professor—Why of Work author Dave Ulrich—seems to be a big fan of (or heavily influenced by) the genre.
I read for professional and personal growth and for pleasure. Professionally, I like to read authors, not books. An author comes to life through the books they write and I like to spend time with the authors through their books. My professional author list includes Ed Lawler, Steve Kerr, Lynda Gratton, C.K. Prahalad, Gary Hamel, Bob Eichinger, Ram Charan, Jac Fitz Enz, John Boudreau, Marshall Goldsmith and Dick Beatty. I have probably read every book these people have written. Personally, I find comfort and insight from reading scriptures. For pleasure, I read escape novels that you would find on the top sellers list.
The bible was the most influential book in the survey, with three professors citing it as influential. The second was a book of near-religious significance to some, and the only actual book on the list that could be considered a business book, Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, which was mentioned by two professors.
➻ David McCullough, author of the recently released history of The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, often gets to know the subjects of his books more intimately by spending time reading their favorite books. It’s a fabulous idea that led him to read Don Quixote while working on his biography of John Adams. So revealed Danny Heitman in his conversation with McCullough about The Greater Journey and some of McCullough’s own favorite books in The Christian Science Monitor. But perhaps the most important part of his writing process takes place on his early morning strolls.
People always ask me, “How much time do you spend researching, and how much time do you spend writing?” That’s a good question … But what they don’t ask me is “How much time do you spend thinking?”
Good old fashioned walking and thinking, and he still writes all of his books on a used typewriter he bought in 1965.
In dialogue with Terkel’s book, DW Gibson has organized NOT WORKING, a project that will produce a book-length oral history. The book will be accompanied by a film, which Gibson will produce with MJ Sieber. [...] It will provide the names and faces, the pulse of the Great American Recession. [...]
Interviews will be centered on the exact moment when the job was lost, the conditions that led to that moment, and the consequences that followed. The moment-to-moment details rupture with emotion, tension, humor, and absolute horror. These close-ups are the essence of this project.
These are workers who have lost their job because of economic considerations. They have been let go by forces beyond their will, ability, and sense of commitment. They come from all levels of responsibility and income: hourly wage earners, executives, and every tax bracket in between.
I am really looking forward to seeing how this project progresses. (Tip of the hat to GalleyCat for the story.)
➻ Sometimes, Milwaukee is a magical place to live. Especially when accompanied by a Group of the Altos.