Monthly Archives: February 2008

Secrets of success: The 4 minute version

Richard St. John gave a compelling, four minute version of his ‘Secrets of success’ course at TED in 2005:

Richard’s eight points, found by surveying 500 successful people are:

  • Passion (be driven by passion, for love not money – the money follows),
  • Work (it’s all hard work but successful people have fun),
  • Good (become very good at what you do),
  • Focus (focus on one thing),
  • Push (push yourself, push through self-doubt),
  • Serve (serve others, provide others with value),
  • Ideas (listen, observe, be curious, ask questions, problem solve, make connections), and
  • Persist (through failure, through CRAP)

Of course, one needs to beware of survivor bias – the human tendency to focus on successful people and ignore the unsuccessful. This may mean that many people follow the advice or path of the successful but fail, unnoticed by observers, preventing us from accurately assessing the risks inherent in following in the footsteps of the successful.

One thing I do know, however, is that no one became successful by being ignorant of advice, risk averse or lazy. Which brings me to the eloquent wisdom of Ted Roosevelt:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The Completeness Method

I recommend Freemind, mind-mapping freeware, to everyone. I use it for:

  • brainstorming – alone, in a team or with clients,
  • planning – business, documents, presentations, this blog, and
  • completeness – strategy & problem-solving.

Of the three uses – brainstorming, planning and completeness, it’s the latter that’s probably most overlooked in a given situation. I use a powerful technique that Dave Hunt taught me a couple of years ago.

The idea is to take a problem and break it down in stages, creating a complete list of possibilities at each level. If, for instance, your problem/challenge is to generate a higher profit, there are typically only two broad possibilities – to increase your revenue or lower your costs – so you enter this in Freemind:

Then you look at all the ways to increase revenue – more sales, higher price, etc. Following that you look at all the ways to generate more sales – more customers, more sales per customer, etc.:

As a non-linear thinker I jump between levels without necessarily completing any one level first, with FreeMind allowing me to move or regroup ideas as necessary. I don’t stop mapping until I have a complete view of the problem, down to the Nth degree – as far as it needs to be taken to assess my problem. I finish with a review discussion with one or more peers to see what I’ve missed.

If you do all of the above, you’ll have a complete view of your problem – the good news is that the answers to your problem are definitely on the page. Then you can assess which solutions are the most powerful or suitable and prioritise to determine your tactics and strategy going forward.

Why Freemind? It allows me to type thoughts as quickly as I think them, then easily reorder, highlight, change or regroup them once they’re written down. You can then export your files to PDF, various web formats or as an image. You can even copy and paste the nodes into MS Word to make headings for your document. Even better, it’s free and being Java it works on both PC and Mac.

To get the most of the software and work quickly when brainstorming you’ll need to learn some shortcuts, particularly:

[insert] to add a child node
[enter] to enter a sibling node (below)
[shift+enter] for a previous sibling node (above)
[F5] for a bright red node
[F1] for the default node style
[Alt]+[PgUp] to collapse a node
[Alt]+[PgDn] to expand a node

Try it – you’ll love it (or your money back).

Know where the work is

My car importing business is about a fun, high performance driving experience. The work, however, is in getting through compliance red tape and providing information to the thousands of people who contact us in the meantime.
Running a caf? is about a great place for friends and family to meet. The work is in early starts, late finishes and non-stop hard slog in between.
Running a telco is about people communicating with each other. The work is in billing correctly and handling a large number of customer interactions efficiently & cost-effectively.
The nature of the work effort in a business is typically different to and less glamorous than the purpose of a business would suggest. Make sure you know in advance where the work is – otherwise you may have significant skill gaps, inadequate systems and a business that you don’t actually want to run.

Persuading Led Zeppelin

Wanting to use Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in the movie School Of Rock, director Richard Linklater cunningly asked Jack Black to beg them:

As discussed in Influence – The psychology of persuasion, Jack used three of the six weapons of influence to greatly enhance his chance of success:

Liking – Jack used this in spades with both humour and genuine respect,

Reciprocation – in the sense that they went to so much trouble – going to some trouble (in allowing them to use the song) is to be reciprocated, and

Social Proof – 1,000 people screaming – it’s not just Jack who wants this, it’s everyone in the theatre.

Liking is my favourite weapon of influence. Not only am I more likely to get what I need, the person I’m dealing with is more likely to enjoy their day. It’s based on mutuality, the bedrock of long-term business.

Book Review: Influence – The psychology of persuasion

Who is it for?

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is for anyone whose role requries persuading others, particularly marketers & entrepreneurs. It doesn’t mean manipulating other people, it means aligning your approach to the way that others assess their decisions and opportunities.

Who wrote it?

Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D. of Arizona State University who researched which psychological principles influence our tendency to comply with requests.

The core idea

Being busy, we humans rely on shortcuts – triggers – to help us decide which requests we will comply to eg. whether we take a salesperson’s call or help a stranger. Robert has determined that there are six universal triggers which he calls weapons of influence. His book details them so that we can use them or avoid falling for them as appropriate. They are:

1) Reciprocation
An extremely powerful tool, this is used extensively – free samples, free gifts, donated time, etc. Having been given something we are obliged to reciprocate and are more likely to comply, even if we don’t like the person we are obliged to.

2) Commitment / Consistency
As humans we demand internal consistency so that we are not lying to ourselves. Examples of triggers include our previous decisions, presale surveys, asking for stated responses (eg. ‘How did you enjoy the free sample?’) and asking people to make minor concessions to encourage larger ones later. Think interrogation techniques, salesmen who ratchet up the pressure, etc.

3) Social proof
We look to see what other people are doing before making our own decision. How do we know if someone lying on the road is a sleeping drunk or someone in need of urgent medical assistance? We watch to see what others are doing. Testimonials, ‘our millionth customer’, seeding tip jars with cash, etc, are also examples of social proof.

4) Liking
We tend to comply with people who we like (are friendly, warm, personable), are like us (race, religion, creed) or we aspire to be like (eg. Tiger Woods).

5) Authority
We give more weight to authority figures – police, doctors, etc. Scarily we also allow this weight to be transferred to people wearing uniforms (rent-a-cop security guards), actors who play authority figures (and then do a TV commercial recommending medical products, say) among others.

6) Scarcity
We assume that things that are scarce have more value. Scarcity may be in terms of availability (‘Hurry, only three left!’) or it may be in terms of time (‘Quick! Sale ends tomorrow’). More subtle uses include limited editions of photographic prints, etc.

Why I liked it

This book has enabled me to get a higher response rate on my offers and requests, be they in person, via email, flyers, advertising or on my website. While I have always made mutually beneficial offers, people don’t have the time to trawl through a whole website to come to that understanding. By including as many triggers as possible in each request people can quickly assess my offer and give it the additional attention I believe it deserves. To this end I’ve memorised the weapons of influence so that they’re always at my fingertips. Finally it’s also helped me avoid a few pitfalls, and understand why some people and businesses are more successful than others.

A motivational speaker owes me $100k

I once did business with and lost around $100k to a woman who was a big-picture visionary, able to see incredible opportunities and create trust with others almost instantly. She did, however, consistently over-promise and under-deliver, creating an increasingly long line of disgruntled former investors.

When despair was upon her, she would sequester herself to listen to her library of a well-known motivational speaker’s tapes, reappearing again an hour or so later ready to take on the world once more. In doing so, this unconsciously incompetent businesswoman avoided painful self-reflection, replacing it with a large dose of audio fire-walking. The way I figure it, the motivational speaker owes me (and no doubt other former associates) about $100k.

Self-reflection can be painful, but pays incredibly large dividends. Avoid it at your (and others’) peril.

You sort it out.

This sign greeted me at a Sydney train station last week:

Be heat smart on the train this summer.

We know that it can become hot on the train in summer. At Cityrail, we want you to enjoy your trip and be as comfortable as possible, so please take note of these summer travel tips:

  • If you do feel unwell, don’t get on a train. Ask a member of staff for help.
  • If you are on a train and feel unwell, get off at the next station, where help can be called upon more easily.
  • Always carry a bottle of water with you.

Here’s my translation:

Because Sydney’s hot in summer and we haven’t air-conditioned some of our trains, using our service may lead to heat exhaustion. You sort it out.

Telling the truth to your customers is essential. Knowing, however, that you have a serious problem and ignoring it won’t win you any new customers. Cityrail should fix their problem and provide advice in the interim::

Every train in our fleet will be air-conditioned by 2009. In the meantime, we apologise that some of our trains can be hot in the summer -please take these precautions:

  • If you do feel unwell, don’t get on a train. Ask a member of staff for help.
  • If you are on a train and feel unwell, get off at the next station, where help can be called upon more easily.
  • Always carry a bottle of water with you.

Do you force customers to sort out your problems? If you don-t know the answer to a customer’s problem, can your customer help you solve it? Where problems are endemic, can your customers help you prioritise your solutions?

Sell what can’t be copied

The internet copies everything, so how does one make money selling free copies? Kevin Kelly has a great article on this topic. His simple answer is:

When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.

And he discusses eight things that can’t be copied:

  1. Immediacy,
  2. Personalisation,
  3. Interpretation,
  4. Authenticity,
  5. Accessibilty,
  6. Embodiment,
  7. Patronage, and
  8. Findability.

Thanks to uberblogger Seth Godin for finding the article for us.