Can Success be Predictable?

According to Les McKeown – yes, it can. His book, Predictable Success, explains in step-by-step fashion just how that is so.

On #LeadershipChat this week (Tuesday, March 22, 8 pm ET) Les will be joining us to talk about Why Leaders Fail. And one surprising perspective is this: failure may simply be a function of not understanding the phases a company goes through.

My #LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli has given a very nice summary of the content and message of the book (Lisa’s blog post here), so I’m going to focus, in this book review, on something different. In a word: Narrative.

I was struck right away, in the Preface to the book, how Les was telling a story – his own story about arriving at the conclusions he’s come to. Then, throughout the book, he uses narrative – telling the stories of businesses and people that illustrate the meta-narrative – to make his points and keep the reader looped in.

But, ultimately, Les’ entire thesis about the way businesses evolve is one big narrative (see the graphic below), and that is one of the major appeals of his book. Narratives help make sense of that which is confusing. I’m sure it may seem simplistic to some, but Les gives a pretty convincing case that there is a predictable arc in how businesses can grow into success, and decline into failure. Fact is, I have seen and been part of Early Struggle, Fun, and Whitewater stages, and his narrative regarding those common experiences is eerily spot on.

For the leader of a company struggling to stabilize into patterns of growth and success, I highly recommend giving this book a read. You might be surprised at how often you find yourself nodding in agreement, or striking your forehead as a key insight into the obvious flashes by. Video summary below:

Please join Lisa Petrilli, me, and our guest Les McKeown for our table talk at LeadershipChat (8 pm ET this Tuesday evening). It’ll provide a wonderful excuse to get off the Treadmill!

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Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment: Will it Blend?

Recently, I was sent a review copy of Guy Kawasaki’s newest tome-for-the-masses, Enchantment (not an affiliate link; my ability to buy a pack of gum this month will not be influenced by your purchase).

And as I began to read, I wondered if it wasn’t a secret practical joke by the ever-cheerful GK. Was this book serious? Or was he pulling a fast one on us? Here’s my conclusion:

There’s a lot of the basics in this book – the bread and butter of business. You’re not going to read this book for blinding new insights. For the experienced, it’s a handy little summary of reminders. And also a great giveaway to hand out to those getting started.

A few favorite items extracted from the blender:

  • Re-thinking the term “conflict of interest” for “alignment of interests” (p. 30) – cute, and a nice re-framing.
  • The power of proximity in connecting with others (p. 16)
  • The application Guy gives for each “think Japanese” term (p. 149)
  • Prototyping your work (p. 167-8) – I do this all the time with clients, even at the proposal level.

If I had to put this somewhere as required curriculum, I’d place it (at latest) right between college graduation and your first career position. Then re-read 5 years later. And again 10 years later. These simple, foundational practices will provide far better ROI, I’d wager, than whatever you just sank into that diploma.

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Revolution – Now!

The Beatles put it this way when talking about revolution:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

Sorry, but you really don’t want to count yourself out of The Now Revolution. Jay Baer and Amber Naslund have done us a service by writing an excellent volume on how social networking is impacting business. Instead of the usual summary review of content (you can find that all over the place), I’m going to give a video recap of the highlights for me, then just extract some juicy quotes so that you’ll be enticed to buy this book. Because you most probably should!

“This book is about a business culture that has changed more in the past 3 years than in the prior 30 and what you must do as a consequence of that change.” (p. ix)

“Real-time business…is almost entirely a public spectacle. There are no insignificant transactions any longer.” (p. xiii)

“Adopting social media and real-time business means a shift in mind-set.” (p. 11)

“Hire first for a fit with your company culture and values, with an eye toward those who have a passion for their work. Skills are much easier to teach than mind-set.” (p. 27)

“There’s a point at which we’re going to stop talking about social media and online communications as a specialty…and instead start viewing it for what it really is: a series of pipes, tubes, tools, and media that can help us communicate more relevantly and urgently with customers.” (p. 53)

I only have two thumbs. If I could clone one of them, then I’d give The Now Revolution three thumbs up!

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Marketing Profs Digital Forum Re-cap

It was a cold week in Austin, TX. But there was plenty enough warmth among the attendees at the Marketing Profs Digital Forum, where a bunch of smart people (they let me in, too) gathered to think together about the future of digital marketing.

Or, actually, the present of digital marketing.

I won’t attempt to give a full overview, but instead, just put a spotlight on a few things that were exceptional.

Organization - the Marketing Profs staff did it right. And, they were all friendly and fun to talk to. You know what? That matters. Special kudos to Megan Leap who did a lot of the pre-event and on-site orchestration. And there was some scrambling that had to occur, with weather-related postponements and what not.

The Now RevolutionJay Baer and Amber Naslund kicked off the promotional tour for their new book, The Now Revolution. And – no surprise here – their presentation rocked. Especially their use of simple slide design as adjuncts to tell the story. Yes, slide design matters.

Content did Rule – Many of the presentations were quite meaty. Some of these conferences can get fluffy, but not here. Plus, and C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley (whom I consider a dear friend) gave a nice talk about the main thoughts in their recently-released book, Content Rules. Both are solid presenters (and, I finally got to meet C.C. for the first time).

Mobile - one of the best talks for me was Christina Kerley (CK)’s overview of why mobile is huge and getting huger. I’ve known CK for years but had not seen her present before. Fabulous. And I walked out totally convinced about the importance of developing for mobile RIGHT NOW.

Anthropology – huh? Yep, one of the highlights was a talk by an anthropologist, Michael Wesch, who gave a breathtaking 300,000 foot view of how media shapes and reflects culture. Many of us felt stunned at the end. It was also another example of using background slides to help tell a story rather than impart a content outline. Yes, storytelling matters.

Tom Martin – I’ve been hankering to meet Tom for years. We’ve talked and collaborated on-line; finally we got to hang out. Not only were our discussions fun and fruitful, but he gave a great talk on his Mardi Gras marketing initiative. Good times.

BBQ – Yes, one minor (but not unimportant!) reason for going to Austin was to have some great barbecue. And Tim Hayden helped orchestrate a very fun outing at the County Line, where the food was plentiful and delicious, and there was time to be with fine folks like Jason Falls, Frank Eliason, Aaron Strout, Tom Webster, Tamsen McMahon, Matt Ridings, and many more (yes, I know I’m forgetting names…can I get away with it by blaming age, the cold, or something else that avoids culpability??)

For me, this conference was about face time with people. I went to share vision and thoughts with folks I respect in the field, and I was not disappointed. It was also about having fun with semi-crazy folks like DJ Waldow, who along with CC Chapman and Matt Ridings helped produce an ad-hoc series of Ann Handley Day videos. Thanks to the Marketing Profs folks for putting on the event (despite all weather-related dampeners!), and I look forward to future events!

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Book Review: The New Small

I’ve been reading through Phil Simon‘s latest book, The New Small, and it’s a keeper.

There’s a revolution going on in small businesses these days, and it is being enabled by low-cost, high impact new technologies (note: I have built my business on the approaches Phil outlines, so this is not just theory!). Phil outlines the Five Enablers in this volume, and gives a series of case studies showing how progressive and nimble businesses have employed things like cloud computing and social networks to advance their goals quickly.

Here is my video review of The New Small:

Learn more about Phil, and The New Small, here at his website (www.philsimonsystems.com). I met the guy for lunch, where he handed me the book – he’s a high-energy, engaging, likable fellow with some important perspectives.

For two weeks, I struggled to identify the stylistic difficulty I was having with the book. I’d read a chapter, put it down feeling a bit overloaded, stymied at every attempt to put into words why that was so. Concept, message, author – liked them all. Content – solid. Finally, it came to me – the book felt overstuffed, like a suitcase that had 30% too many items of clothing in it (ever done that?). It was packed very tight, and didn’t have an easy flow for this reader. This is purely an editing and writing style issue – and, it may be more of a personal reflection than anything else (plus, I’d rather get a book that had too much to say than too little!)

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Book Review: The Entrepreneur Equation

I have had the privilege of reading through Carol Roth’s about-to-be-released book, chock full of very valuable advice for anyone thinking about starting a new business. The Entrepreneur Equation is a must-read if you’re looking at becoming an entrepreneur.

My video review is below. This is a no-nonsense, highly practical reality check from a gal who knows her stuff. Highly recommended.

It’s also quite well-written, and funny. Because that’s who Carol is. You can pre-order your copy here.

(btw, I am a huge advocate of taking ideas and distilling them down to their core essence – yes, I’m a bit OCD about that. One of the coolest items in this book is the “Cheat Sheet” section in the back, where Carol gives a 1-3 sentence summary of each chapter. You can only do that when there is clarity and cohesion of thought…good job, Carol!)

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Book Review: Pick a Title. Any Title.

Bloggers always like to be first getting out a new book review on their blog and through Twitter, in hopes of achieving maximum retweet exposures (MREs).

So, since my friends Jay Baer and Amber Naslund are about to launch their awesome new book The Now Revolution, I thought I’d cheat a little bit to get the very first review out of gate (video below). I like MREs just as much as the next blogger. And, hey, there are efficiencies here – have you ever heard of the Reusable Book Review (RBR)? Yeah – I’m trademarking that.

Tomorrow, return here to very same URL to view my thoughts on Ann Handley and CC Chapman‘s Content Rules. And the day after, Scott Stratten‘s UnMarketing. Because if you don’t send it, I still review it with my patent-pending RBR technology!

(Actually, I do have a couple real video book reviews coming up here on Connection Agent this week – stay tuned!)

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