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April 2007

Is Your Business Hard-Wired? Thoughts on Risk-Taking

Adversity can seed innovation.   The boldest ideas come from those who have nothing to lose.  How can we avoid being spoiled by success and infuse a "fresh start" mentality into our everyday thinking?   

I recently re-read two favorite books (new thinking doesn't require a 2007 press date) that provide a blueprint for taking bold, yet calculated risks:   Working Identity and Seeing What's Next.

Reinventing ourselves could be the most difficult re-positioning exercise of all.   Especially if we're successful.   What a great paradigm for reinventing the successful business.  Established careers rest on strong foundations.  Skills, CVs, career networks, personal networks, industry knowledge all serve to keep us on the same track.    Any effort we exert helps us go faster and farther in the same direction.   7788_c_2

But what if we want to switch tracks?    We often lack the infrastructure to make the change.   

In Working Identity -- Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, Herminia Ibarra addresses the obstacles that success can create -- barriers that discourage us from thinking more broadly about our lives.  This is sage advice for business leaders, not just career changers, given the fact that success discourages change. 

Seeing_whats_next In Seeing What's Next, Clayton Christensen addresses how successful (read: profitable) business models encourage businesses to pass up new opportunities and emerging markets, and how to create an environment that embraces change without testing the patience of the risk-averse.

We don't have to start from zero, but we can visualize the process of doing so.   

Thinking "fresh start" could inspire a crop of fresh ideas.

Integrity Redefined: Resilience for Changing Times

If only this book had been published ten years ago...   I would have avoided some regrettable hiring decisions, and one-sided friendships as well.    9780060849689 It's the fairweather friend or colleague that trips us up -- the sunny disposition that turns surly when the forecast turns foul. 

In Integrity -- The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, Dr. Henry Cloud does an admirable job of defining the elements of character that either enable people to rise to the occasion -- or go down in flames. 

Change changes everything:  a stellar candidate becomes an underachiever (or a destructive force) in a crisis.   Down-to-earth becomes Diva in the face of success.  How do you gauge a person's capacity for change?   Dr. Cloud illuminates how we can misjudge character:  we see admirable traits (trust, concern for the greater good) as absolutes, when they may be conditional or situational.   

By deconstructing our "gut instincts", Cloud has created a useful formula for evaluating relationships with potential employees, colleagues, friends -- even future mates.  Although it is geared towards human behavior in the business world, Integrity's blueprint extends to human relationships in all aspects of life.

Black Coffee for Starbucks from a Marketer (and Artist)

The buzz on Starbucks these days is about getting back to their core business:  Coffee.  Through the Customer Experience lens, their other other core business is Community -- and it's conspicuously absent.   In an attempt to process large quantities of hand-crafted lattes in robotic fashion, most Starbucks locations lack the "personal touch". 

I discovered one exception when hanging an art show at a Starbucks in the center of Lexington, MassachusettsFb0_mugondesk.   This particular Spring_swings_ii_4 location was as close to a corner coffee shop or local pub as one could get. Regular customers were recognized and their coffee preferences embedded in the baristas' brains. Newbies and tourists were greeted like old friends. Artists like me (I'm a CMO the rest of the time) were welcomed to show their work, borrow hanging tools and talk with customers. Despite the winter weather, it was a warm place, indeed.

Customer-centric Marketers, including Paul Paetz of the Anti-Marketer and Marketing Profs have served up some black coffee for Starbucks' team to ponder.  Let's hope it wakes them up to the fact that even with exponential growth, the little things still count.