Why You Want to be at SOBCon (even if you didn’t know it)

SOBCon2013Those of us who have attended a SOBCon gathering (the think tank for forward-looking business people) don’t need much convincing – when you’ve gotten together with 150 smart, creative, action-oriented professionals who are restless to shape their futures through smart networking and ideation, you view it as an annual pilgrimage.

I’ve been to three SOBCon get-togethers in Chicago – and I’ll be back this May. Past reviews on my blog are here and here and here.

SOBCon is not like a typical conference, where you get talked at endlessly, and mill around in large herds hoping to find someone interesting to talk to.

SOBCon is where you brainstorm in small groups, network with a distilled 100-proof group of high-quality people, and come away with fresh ideas for your business. And people who are happy to hold you accountable to get it done, and encourage you along the way.

If you want to pose and pretend, SOBCon isn’t for you.

If you want to be real and make progress and challenge your own status quo, you need to go. It’s the kind of place where you make lifelong friends and find unexpected collaborators.

SOBCon happens May 3-5. Sign up today (January 31) and save $200. See you in Chicago!

 

5 Spectacularly Successful Strategies for Faking Authenticity

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Intermediation Biz Opportunity: Curation

In this introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking of The New Intermediation.

Briefly, we need to see that there are huge needs at the intersection of loads of “stuff,” which need to be translated into strategic business directions and deliverables. Graphically pictured:

Intermediary1

Now, let’s consider one of those new intermediation roles: Curation.

In this case, the Big Pool is information. We live in an age of information overload (getting exponentially worse), and no-one in an important business role has the time to keep up with it; let alone know how to filter, process, and assemble it into a strategic roadmap.

Enter the curator. Filter, process, assemble, deliver/present.

IntermediationCurator

In the early days of social media and blogging, first-movers got into the curation business by assembling information resources and making money by advertising, or by selling subscriptions. Nowadays, there’s a ton of on-line noise (including information-assemblers), but there are still many opportunities to add value by curating targeted business information for an audience that needs it, and is willing to pay for it.

A curator may make money directly by selling the information, or, by selling some other valued service that becomes known because a free (or low-cost) curation service drives awareness and credibility. This latter approach is one I followed in establishing my pharmaceutical consulting practice.

In ancient times, Reader’s Digest was an example of curation. In more recent days, Marketing Profs is a great example of an on-line version. But this role can also be adopted by a solopreneur with deep domain knowledge and experience. If you know where to find things in the deep pool, AND you are aware of the related business intelligence needs, you can become a valued intermediary. Opportunity knocks!

What are some other examples of curation intermediaries (people or businesses) that you know of or rely on?

Daniel Pink and the “Ambivert Advantage”

DanielPinkI’ve been reading Daniel Pink‘s latest book, To Sell is Human (Amazon affiliate link), and I like a lot of what he has to say.

I found his thesis intriguing that extroverts don’t necessarily have an inherent advantage over introverts in sales success – you can see a summary of his thinking in this Washington Post article (if you don’t have the book).

But, a couple of things set off some alarms bells in my head.

First, I think his use of the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” are somewhat imprecise. Pink reinforces some of the more behavioral notions of the two orientations (sociable/lively/assertive vs. soft-spoken) – you know those stereotypes about the gregarious extrovert and the retiring introvert. In fact, the essence of introversion is finding one’s energy source from within, while extroverts generally find their energy from other people. While it is usually true that extroverts may tend to favor being more often in larger groups of people, and introverts typically need more (quiet) alone time, to look at stereotypical extremes and label only those as introverts or extroverts is to miss the point (in fact, there are many introverts who can quite effectively project outgoing behaviors). The ” ___vert” wiring has to do with replenishment of energy; behaviors are somewhat elastic across the spectrum. One of the best treatments of this topic is Susan Cain‘s excellent book Quiet.

My sense is that most people lean toward one orientation or the other – there are degrees of introversion and extroversion, but I am ambivalent about the notion of ambiversion as presented by Pink. He depicts “ambiverts” as the majority of people on a bell curve, with introverts and extroverts as extremes. I’d argue that there may be very few (if any) true ambiverts – people who draw energy equally from within and without. If you think of introversion/extroversion as a linear scale, I theorize that we all natively lean in one direction or the other (according to our internal wiring), even if we have learned and adopted behaviors that are more outgoing or contemplative. See this blog post for a fuller muse on this point.

The other point of contention I have with Pink’s methodology is his over-reliance on a single study (by Adam Grant) correlating sales effectiveness with self-reported measures of extroversion. In this study, people at (either) extreme end of the introvert-extrovert scale did not sell as successfully as those in the middle (whom Pink labels as the ambiverts). This result is used to argue against the prevailing notion that extroverted people are (of course!) the most productive sales people. Instead, people who could be somewhat chameleon-ish in the middle were the most successful.

It’s an intriguing and suggestive result, but there is a serious limitation to keep in mind – this is a single study (300 people), and it involved only call center representatives. Generalizing from that sample is tenuous – this is, after all, only one type of selling, and it is via phone, not in person. We can safely conclude that extremely extroverted and extremely introverted people were less effective in this particular type of non-face-to-face selling than people who were less introverted/extroverted – but that’s about it. I’m not convinced that the data and extrapolated conclusions are as convincing as they at first appear.

To then call a large swath of the population “ambiverts” and imply that they’re going to be just fine at whatever-kind-of-selling may be a bit of a stretch.

I’m an introvert, and I have done a lot of selling. I don’t schmooze as naturally as my extroverted brethren, but I practice many outgoing behaviors (that doesn’t make me an ambivert; I’m just an outgoing introvert!). And I’m actually in sympathy with a lot of Pink’s message in this book, especially the notion that, in one form or another, we’re just about all in sales (of some type). I just think that the evidence for some of the conclusions being drawn seems a bit thin on this point.

If you’ve been reading To Sell is Human – what’s your take?

The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve been consulting with a company that has a tremendous opportunity to grow through the differentiation of its offering. They stand between a huge pool of unstructured “stuff,” and a business need to make that stuff intuitively useful (even beautiful). This type of creativity is a rare gift.

Many companies and people have lost work due to the internet-driven trend of disintermediation (the removal of no-longer necessary “layers” in the business chain – think about what Amazon has done to entire swaths of the publishing/book-selling business). But there are whole new business models on the other side of that coin – people and companies who can step in between two parties/needs and provide value.

These are The New Intermediaries. And, for an entrepreneur, this is a model ripe with opportunity.

A new intermediary provides value by creatively translating “stuff” into strategic business value. <<–(click to tweet this)

For example – the client I described above specializes in creating intuitive visual design. Now, if you can look into a vast sea of poorly-structured information and create an information design presentation that advances business goals, you have added tremendous value as a specialized intermediary. How many of us have experienced corporate on-boarding that was slipshod and poorly structured/designed?

This business problem needs a specialized intermediary (apologies, in advance, for the Ugly Graphic!):

IntermediaryDesign

The above is one particular expression of a generalized New Intermediation structure, which we can generically portray this way:

Intermediary1

The new intermediary has enough of a foot into the big pool to understand the possibilities and extract the core value (think of an experienced digital marketer who can talk to programming geeks), but also has a foot in the strategic business world and can see the market application (that same marketer discussing potential applications with the CMO). This intermediary is a filter and a translator and an interpreter between two worlds.

What is an on-line curator of information? Exactly – a new intermediary. The internet (and social media) has created an explosion of “stuff,” but also there are tremendous opportunities that come with the enhanced ability to build and cultivate networks. Social networking can be a mechanism to enable business intermediation.

In fact, I launched my Impactiviti business 6+ years ago based on this concept, though I wasn’t really thinking so much about the generalized potential of the model. I create partnerships with the best outsource vendors for training and marketing development (out of a vast pool of providers), and then I “matchmake” my pharma clients with the optimal providers – helping clients more efficiently choose vendors, while helping vendors more efficiently gain targeted business opportunities.

IntermediaryImpactiviti

A major enabler of this business model, from the get-go, was digital technology for networking and communication.

The intermediary has to have solid domain expertise and a trusted reputation to be effective. Bingo – only the top people and companies can do this. And, hey, isn’t that what we want – business growth opportunities for those who have earned differentiation through competence and trust? When I do Clarity Therapy with professionals looking to gain a clear direction for their future, it’s surprising how often we quickly identify a potential opportunity involving new intermediation.

I’ve scribbled down some other applications of this model somewhere in this vast pool that is my desk – I’ll dig it up this week and post a few other suggested ways people can carve out this role for themselves. I’m thinking that a lot of people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s who have built up a strong base of knowledge and credibility can find themselves a nice niche as new intermediaries and role their own. What do you think?

The Network Growth that Truly Matters

We who are active on social network like to measure our growth by followers, subscribers, page views, and other numerical metrics.

These things have their place, of course. But ultimately, they’re quite self-referential. I’d like to encourage us to notice some other, more important growth.

Let’s pay attention to the people we’re connected to as THEY grow <<–(click to tweet this) in stature, in skills, and in new endeavors.

ID-10024306

Mack Collier was once (just) a blogger. Now he is a budding author, a more in-demand speaker, a Twitter chat host, and someone who has made slow and steady progress for years. Have you noticed? Isn’t this great?

Over the past year, I’ve seen Tim McDonald grow in stature as he finds a new niche in community management (now working with HuffPost Live). He’s hustling. He’s making the most of his opportunity (and I think he’s on his honeymoon right now, in fact – congrats, Tim!).

Tom Martin was known by a limited (but appreciative) audience as a smart New Orleans-based blogger who did creative digital stuff. Now he’s finding his voice as a thought leader in digital marketing. 2013 will see his star rising even further.

Who hasn’t been thrilled to see the growing influence of Angela Maiers in the educational space? She’s paid her dues and influenced many. Speaking of midwest beauties, when I first encountered Carol Roth a few years ago, she had a great track record in business but little exposure in a broad sense. Now she’s grown into a published author, commentator, and rising star on TV news broadcasts. She even has her own action figure (long story…).

Jessica Northey, Chris Westfall, Lou Imbriano, Susan Cain, Michael Hyatt – all conquering new ground, growing their influence by doing good work and providing value (not by buying Twitter followers – the network growth that means nothing).

When our friends grow, that’s what really matters. Take a few minutes away from your subscriber numbers and pat some folks on the back who deserve it.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Me-working or Team-working – Where Are You?

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

During a deep discussion with a Clarity Therapy client this week, we touched on a theme that I’ve often thought about. His orientation, his preferred work-style is similar to mine, in that he prefers to work more independently.

Don’t try to manage me. Just give me the job to do and I’ll do it. And don’t make me dependent on the (non-) efforts of others.

On the other hand, there are many people who gravitate toward building, leading, or being part of a larger team.

Interestingly enough, the person I reference above is clearly an extrovert, and absolutely does his best work in and around people. But I’m thinking there is a work-style, a preference, that has to do with independence vs. interdependence.

We can picture it, perhaps, as a continuum (similar to what we were discussing with the Introversion/Extroversion scale):

MeTeamWorking

Now, obviously, to be effective in business most of us have to work, at various times, in more or less team/interdependent situations. But I strongly prefer to work more alone than as a dependent part of a team – and I’m wondering if the preference, the orientation, is DNA-level wiring. Put me somewhere in the Mostly Alone/Light Collaboration end of the scale.

Again, this isn’t a measure of introversion or extroversion, nor is it a function of whether we enjoy people and even work around them. A gregarious sales person can still prefer me-working, while a quieter introvert may feel the greatest comfort being part of a larger team.

What do you think – does this sort of scale make a valid distinction? Where would you place yourself?

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