Train Hobos and Chicken Bones

Strategy is a series of moves to get what you want.

It’s about approaching a task, project or situation in a
logical, holistic, intelligent, creative and comprehensive way, understanding
the why behind the what, taking into account all the relevant variables and
asking tons of hard questions.

It’s about working every possible angle like a train hobo
with a chicken bone, taking
the world apart and putting it back together again, putting the process
on a pedestal and knocking and knocking until the doors of ignorance have no
choice but to open.

The hard part is, strategy takes time, commitment, endurance
and grit. The word itself comes from the Greek stratos, or “expedition.”

And if we’re not willing to pay
that price, all we’re left with is a pile of tactics and a few short-term

The Dull Blanket of Sameness

When an industry starts to become cannibalistic and incestuous, it might be a good time
to walk away.

We’ve seen
it in a number of fields, from comedy to publishing to consulting to

People start feeding off and breeding with their own kind, inhaling
each other’s fumes, building business models around each other, sharing
the same stories, being guests on each other’s shows, living in each other’s pockets, swapping
customers and saturating the market. And because these folks meet most of
their needs inside the boundaries of their own family, playing nothing but
inside ball, they eventually isolate themselves from the outside world and retreat
into an effortless, airless,
echo chamber stroke fest.

The result is
an infinite regression, a dull blanket of sameness draped over an entire industry, where people’s
willingness to listen and stretch and expand is muted.

That’s when
it’s time to move on.

The New Chain of Influence

The best way to reach future customers is through existing customers.

That’s the chain of influence. Now that people have replaced
their trust in traditional authorities with trust in each other, they don’t want
to hear from the companies who make the products, and certainly not the experts
who review them, they want to hear from the amateurs, the real people, who
actually use the products.

Rotten Tomatoes, the world’s best film review
aggregator, is a fascinating example. For every movie listed, they post two
kinds of reviews. First, the ones from approved critics, usually certified members of writing
guilds or film associations, who review movies for a living. And second, the
reviews from registered users, usually film fanatics and regular people, who simply
love going to the movies and sharing their experience.

Who are
we more likely to trust?

if I’m going to leave the house and part with my precious time and money,
personally, I care less about critical acclaim and more about casual approval.

balance of power has shifted. 

Treat Them Like a Client, Even Before They Become One

Here’s a generosity experiment worth trying.

Treat someone like a
client, even before they become one.

No need to break the bank, give away the intellectual farm or
collapse your entire agenda on moment’s notice. You still have to rational and realistic.

But just this once, just for fun, act as if the prospect you
hope to land is already a paying client, someone who likes, trusts and believes
in your value.

Not to create a sense of indebtedness. Not to crate social
pressure to reciprocate.

Just to see how powerful generosity really is.

And yes, there’s always the possibility that potential
clients will agree to meet with you, ask a thousand questions, take copious
notes, act like they’re going to hire you, then have a staff person do the work
instead and never call you back because they might need to exploit you again in
the future.

it’s also possible that prospects will be so floored by your ideas, so wowed by
the generous spirit in which they were delivered, that they almost won’t
know how to react to such a act.

Are you providing
value in advance of a purchase?

When Anyone Can Do Anything, They Will

It’s easier than ever to do it, but it’s harder than ever to make a living doing it. 

example, there is more music being created than ever before, says editor Paul Resnikoff, but paradoxically, musicians are making less than ever before,
thanks to a deflated ecosystem once primed by traditional major labels, massive
changes in recording technology, trends in pricing structures, cultural shifts
in taste, evolutions in genre and nonexistent barriers to entry.

it’s not just music.

same goes for publishing, performing, photographing, blogging, designing, consulting,
coaching, crafting and coding.

anyone can do anything, they will.

And when they do, when scarcity goes the way of the dodo, the
value of the product plummets, and profitability becomes harder and harder to

Personally, this scares the shit out of me.

It this the end of the world, or the beginning of a new one?

The Human Implications of Joining

Good brands are bought, great brands are joined.

Over the last few months, I’ve interviewed fifteen
presidents of fifteen organizations with amazing culture. And upon revisiting
each of those conversations, I’ve realized a key insight about belonging.

If you want more
people to join your brand, you have to understand the human implications of why we
join things in the first place.

People join where they can belong, make meaning and enjoy
the company of others. They join to participate in a venture, a crusade that
accomplishes much more than they ever could individually. They join to come
alive in the role that was designed for them. And they join to do what they
love in an environment that wants them to do it.

People join where their craziness and uniqueness will be
embraced. They join where they will be
understood. They join where they can pillage the playground of their minds and
put their fingerprints on the things they love. And they join where reality is
as big as their imaginations allow it to be.

People join where their real self can exist. They join where
what they do is what makes them feel most beautiful. They join where they can
use their own creativity to solve problems. They join where they’re not in
competition for the right to be treated decently.

And they join where they can be serious about their talent
and their obligation to use it.

Build that, and they will come.

Customers Value Context Before Content

The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews.

there’s a shift.

the past, online reviews were evaluations.
How accessible is the place? How long is the wait? How crowded is the bar? How
tasty is the food? How speedy is the service? How affordable is the price?

now, online reviews vouch for credibility.
Is the place sketchy? Is the experience worth our time and money? Do people
even go there anymore? Are there better dining options available right down the

The lesson is, customers value context before content.

Before you start adding bacon to every item on the menu,
start by changing the soft tissue about what you make, how you deliver it and
where you promote it.

How to Write Your Brand Manifesto

If you want to start a movement, you have to write a manifesto.

A short, concise, inspiring declaration, written in your brand’s
trademark language, that gives your values a voice, becomes a powerful social
object and paints a compelling, detailed picture of the desired future you want
people to join you in creating.

Once you put that on wax, everything changes.

Holstee never intended for their manifesto to go viral,
become an iconic example of office art and inspire millions of people around
the world to claim a mindful and purposeful existence. The owners of the
company just wanted to sit down and create a cool, visual reminder of what they
live for, what they want from life and why they go into work everyday.

But because of this document, this bloody, heartfelt statement
that connected and infected so many of us, their brand became more followable,
their organization became more joinable, their philosophy became more
spreadable and, best yet, their bottom line became more profitable.

As usual, writing is the basis of all wealth.

And yet, there are still
organizations out there who haven’t written their manifesto yet. Not because they don’t
care, but because they don’t know where to begin.

Fortunately, this happens to be my superpower.

might not be able to change a flat, but I will melt your mind with
my skills as a strategist.
Ask anyone who’s spent more than five minutes with me, and they will testify to
my talents as a noticer, translator, interpreter, wordsmith, synthesizer,
imaginator and visionary.

Not because it’s my job, not because it’s my calling, but
because this is who I am.

This is what I do.

If your organization wants help crafting your manifesto,
email me. Write the word “manifesto” in the subject line, and I’ll ping you
back with the one and only question
you need to ask yourself to get started.

Digital Used To Be A Thing, Now It Flows Through All Things

My from POKE said it best:

“Digital used to be a thing, now
it flows through all things.”

product is a media experience, e
very idea has interactivity built into
it, every business is an online business, every company is a technology
company, every website is a broadcast platform, every blog is a distribution
channel, every brand is a media concern, every phone is a computer, every customer
is a reporter, every program is an app and every device has a web connection.

The implications of this trend are massive, from the shift
in the balance of power to the elimination of barriers to entry to the
criminally low cost of doing business.

But what excites me most about the digital revolution is, is
that for those of us who know how to talk to people with our mouths, for those
of us who remember why it matters to show up in person, for those of us who
build things with our hands that people can touch, and for those of us who are
endowed with human interaction as their superpower, analog is more important
than ever.

Face to face isn’t making a comeback, it’s already here.

What New Social Norm Is Your Company Creating?

Every company wants to create a new social norm.

They want to change the way people do something, for better
and for always.

groundbreaking console didn’t just look cool, it got people up off the sofa,
broke down the walls that separated players and spectators and turned a video
game into a communication tool that family members, both young and old, could
socialize around, instead of disappearing into their digital worlds in a state
of separate togetherness.

To do this, to create a social norm, to make a lasting
impression with something of cultural meaning above and beyond the product,
there are several questions worth asking at the onset of a project:

1. How can we approach an industry in an entirely new way? 

2. How does our idea take
an activity to a scale never before achieved? 

3. How does our work revolutionize the way people do or think about

4. How do we instill new habits in people and align our
brand with them? 

5. What
if we gave people access to ownership instead of ownership itself? 

6. What idea,
that people are convinced is dead, can we bring back to life? 

7. What used to be
impossible that we can make easier for people?

on that, and you won’t just make money, you might just make history.

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