Category Archives: Business

Posts about business, marketing, communication, and organizational development.

The idea virus

Image “Cold?” courtesy of Allan Foster on Flickr

When you ride the subway in fall, you’re reminded that this is the time of year when people share an invisible gift called The Cold.

There are hundreds of viruses that cause the common cold. All of them have one thing in common, which is that they are good at spreading.

The common cold is relatively harmless from a health perspective. Its impact is cumulative. Millions of people get a cold each year. A cold influences productivity and sociability. The true costs of a cold in most cases are social and economic, not physiological or epidemiological.

Every year, millions of small differences make one big difference. The cold season ends, and the gift exchange attenuates. In the meantime, the common cold feeds the medication industry and accounts for almost half of all the hours spent at home, away from work.

Cold viruses have the simplest of business models. Always be on the move, always adapt, and replicate over and over across a large population.

An idea has “gone viral” when it has met these conditions. It need only have a small, temporary impact on any one individual. If it has the ability to always be on the move, and to adapt across populations and cultures, it will have a cumulative impact.

Make your ideas simple, adaptable, and easy to share. Win over the individual but also consider the cumulative impact of your efforts.

On giving up

British Royal Marine Joe Townsend, a Wounded Warrior with the Allies Team, shot puts during the 2012 Marine Corps Trials, hosted by the Wounded Warrior Regiment, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 19, 2012. Townsend, from Eastbourne, England, placed first in the 10-kilometer hand cycling competition and 200-meter wheelchair race. Wounded Warrior Marines, veterans and allies are competing in the second annual trials, which include swimming, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, track and field, archery and shooting. The top 50 performing Marines will earn the opportunity to compete in the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., in May.
Photo “Shot Put” courtesy of Daniel Wetzel on Flickr

Every success is the culmination of a series of failures. To get it right once you have to get it wrong a hundred, maybe a thousand, times. Then you get it almost-right a thousand times more. The day arrives, at last, when you succeed.

Or it doesn’t, because there are no success guarantees.

Not all visions will come true. Many businesses will fail. For every story of Olympic glory, there are a million stories of dreams unfulfilled.

Giving up on a dead-end strategy or a flawed prospect can be part of a powerful process. The challenge is knowing when to change course. How can we know the time has come to give up on a venture, a product, a career, or a goal?

There are two kinds of success—task success and life success.

Task success. If your goal is to go to Rio de Janeiro and win the 2016 gold medal in shot put, you have one pathway.

Life success. If your goal is to lead a happy, satisfying life in sports, there are infinite pathways: weekend warrior, coach, fan, collector, researcher, writer, historian, trainer, scout.

Task success is clear, discrete, and measurable. Either you win the gold or you don’t. You can assess progress and the likelihood of reaching your specific goals. Emotional success is the desired long-term condition of your life.

Imagine a thousand-mile trip. How do you navigate your way to the destination? By focusing on a visible, short-term point along the horizon that brings you ever closer to an end-point you can’t see.

Have a long-term pathway and a series of short-term pathways that support it.

One is a point on the near horizon, and the other is your final, desired destination. Both speak to the things that will enrich your life.

What is your value?

Photo “Beauty Is Simplicity” courtesy of Reji, on Flickr

We express value, and we hold values. Honesty, authenticity, courage, beauty, integrity. Our values are conceived in the abstract realm and negotiated in the material world of objects. They are subjective but indivisible from our relationships with other living beings.

Value can be measured. Each day on eBay, thousands of bidders answer the question What is it worth?

What about loyalty, truth, or faith? We frown on the idea of putting dollar amounts to values. Loyalty transcends cash. Our values are precious and priceless. Money can’t buy you love.

A skill is an abstraction. So are competence and intelligence and professionalism. No one has an objective number indicating the value per hour of your skill or professional value. Yet, for business to happen, a value must be determined.

Value and values intersect. One of your clients recommends you. She says that you’re honest, reliable, professional, and pleasant. None of these things can be auctioned on eBay. They are values. They are also value.

Your value increases as its intersection with values becomes more clear and compelling in the mind of your customers. This is not a cheap marketing gimmick, it is an insight into value.

You can choose to make a widget, or you can choose to enrich people’s lives by doing something that supports and nourishes their values.

The choice is yours.