Can Muhhamad Ali teach us a thing or two about online products?

7 07 2010

My, my. What a way of returning to the post pace, don’t you think? Let us tackle the elephant in the room first: I was neither dead nor unconcerned about my blog. What happened is that Tobías Felipe was born (April 27th, 2010) and I had the marvelous idea of starting my MBA there for strangling my schedule. Ok, enough with the mumble on with this post’s scope. Have you heard the phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”? It is actually Ali’s boxing style and his most remembered quote. Waddya know?  I think it can summarize an online strategy!

The Greatest -Muhammed Ali- by achimh

The Greatest -Muhammed Ali- by achimh

Float like a butterfly

You have dwelt upon your product, designed a fulfilling experience and actually developed it. Still … there you are drumming your fingers and not a single visit around the corner. Ok, ok, let us tone down the drama: at least not as much visitors as you expected. What to do? In comes the butterfly: your product might have followed a clear design path and it actually fulfils an unattended need, still you need to show it around town. Make yourself acquainted with where your audience abide and expose your product, let them know you’ve heard their pain and create the remedy.

You say there is not a single spot where your birds perch? Don’t worry, use the old marketing/publicity amalgam:  produce a message to be portrayed in different venues (the ones most likely your audience will hang around) where your product is depicted and its claim clearly stated.

Sting like a bee

This will resonate with you. A great marketing campaign with a memorable pitch and a clear claim that actually tackles an unsolved problem you’ve been fighting with. On you go to the site and…..emergency break! WTF!!!! After so much noise you are face to face with a poor experience, an over pitched product or worse: you cannot make head from tail of what you are being shown. Hmpf. Enter THE BEE. Your product exposition, even more than its proposal, should be simple and compelling, something your intended audience will find not only easy -transparent? KISS anyone?- to use but something that actually delivers what it promised: the sting.

Pd. This post is actually dedicated to my dad. Old man lots of things you taught me did stroke a cord deep inside me, thing is, it takes some time to realize it.

Pd.2. The butterfly, bee, 1,2-2,1 (it works backwards too) dance might actually apply to other things in life for example relationships!


What did I learned from a mere pair of pants?

22 05 2009

The fearful costumers’ unspoken expectations

Well is known the fact that we learn easier from lived experiences than from academic rhetoric. Several months ago, actually on my new job early days, I decided my attire required some intervention so it could match up the expected standard of a corporate environment. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think a specific brand would make me look hipster or worthier of professional admiration; it is just that usual clothes were a little over worn and by investing more than usual on my new attire I would not only pimp my look but would also get a new extended period for them (value for money anyone?). After reviewing my modest knowledge about clothing brands, I decided Lacoste was my best bet: it projects comfort, capability, quality, and status without being out of my league.

So there was I shopping all by myself and trying out a hodgepodge of different clothing until I came up with the combination I wanted: two pair of pants and a nice collar shirt. Fast-forward 60 days. Picture me entering my boss office with a huge smile, feeling secure about what I was going to talk about and suddenly feeling a cool gentle nice autumn breeze on my hip. While smiling, I looked down to see what was the divine source of this gift and dreadfully found out my pants were totally worn out right beneath where my belt went! Geeh! Sorry boss, I would need to talk in a while since I need to grab something to wear over my pants and stop scandalizing the cubicles!

Inspiration: Lintmachine by Evil Erin

Inspiration: Lintmachine by Evil Erin

Enter unspoken expectation number 1.

Somewhere during my assessment on Lacoste’s brand promise I came to grip it pledged quality on their produce, or was I wrong? I thought they deserved a second chance, after all the other pair was still as snug as it was the first day I worn it, haven’t shown any signs of deformation whatsoever and we all make some mistakes from time to time don’t we?My dear wife offered herself to go back to the shop and ask for an immediate replacement. And as you might have already guessed she was told a substitution was indeed called for but …. Oh no, there it was again, that apprehensive word that lurks at the corners for its victims! We had to wash the pants BEFORE we could get the replacement.

Does anyone see the mistake here? Say what again madam? You actually showed surprise when you saw the bad torn on the fabric and the evident way it showed the shabby state of the pants was not caused by misuse. Yet you ask us to wash them –they weren’t that dirty if you ask me- before we receive what we are entitled for? Why? Why do some brands, companies and certain human beings when found in the wrong tend to acknowledge their mistake but at the same time have the guts to make you feel some how guilty? Yeez! Back came SWMBO* with the mix feeling of having succeeded but with the opinion she was cheated.

Enter unspoken expectation number 2.

After two full wash cycles (hey don’t blame us we didn’t wanted the dirty police to turn us down a second time), Marina went back to Lacoste’s shop only to find out she was actually being unashamedly cheated! She was gaily told by the same woman she would have to expect a call from Lacoste telling her if they were actually given us the replacement or not. She told her it was standard procedure and in no way she could have ever suggested the replacement could be made instantaneous since a fabric expert must do some forensic analysis on the torn and state its real cause.

Why do some brands, companies and certain human beings after promising something to their costumer back up and completely change their stance? Where is their trustfulness? Are they playing with the odds someone actually commits to their weird requirements?

Dear Lacoste,

Once I fell in love with you. I came to dream of me wearing your brand in those astonishing landscapes you portray at your tv ads and even thought the crocodile was not only cool but a great mascot to summarize your claims as a brand. But you know what? I learned the hard way you were only an array of shiny mirrors covering  your bad manners and misguided promises.

Thank you for opening up my eyes and letting me learn something new about claims and unspoken promises, I would try to do my best not to fall into your same mistakes. It was good flirting with you for a while, but hey … at close sight you look shabby and even smell bad!

I’ll go back to my usual brand, after all they don’t produce promises they will unmet. They might not be as pricy, don’t have a tv ad or a mascot of sorts; but, their products will endure common use for some few years and the brand and their stakeholders would acknowledge their mistake right on the stop without play or hushes behind my back.

Zara I am sorry, here I am back again.

*SWMBO: She who most be obeyed

Hi Creativity, pleased to meet you.

9 05 2009

Say what creativity? We have been friends all along? Thank God, I was starting to think you were platonic 🙂

It has been a long time since my last post! Regrettably, my new responsibilities not only required but also deserved my full attention, yet thanks to them I have had the chance to acquire new knowledge –mainly air transport industry- and refresh some. Today’s post wanders around creativity, a subject briefly touched upon on our Annual Sales Meeting.

I am sure there has been times when most of you all believed you are not the creative type and had voice some of the following: “I would never come up with something as beautiful as that!”, “I dearly thank you, but what I did here with this work is far from creative I just played around with what we had and what we could do”, “I do not know how to draw, not even sticks figures, how come you say I am creative”.

Hey! I’ve been there too, always tying creativity with and aesthetics and superpowers blend, I always struggled with others opinions regarding my creativity. What they heck do they meant? Do they want me to draw better or do they think I can deliver a Cannes winner? Nowadays I bet lots of you have been hearing the need for being more creative so we all could find ways to cope with the financial storm and safely arrive our destination.

Time and experience had taught me that creativity or the state of being creative is not directly tied to beautifulness, arts or stickiness. When someone is creative it means she has gone through a mental process that delivered an idea or concept that has never existed before or at least not commonly thought about. When the product of creativity is then applied and provides either an answer to an unresolved problem, evolved a product or transformed a given context, you have met innovation. In other words: when you come up with something not thought before you’re being creative; and, when that thought is in turn applied and produces a benefit, innovation occurs.

Lias Colors by laurenatclemsons

Lia's Colors by laurenatclemson's

Our creativity speaker at the annual sale event gave us our fast track tour to what it means to be creative and what kind of habitudes could nurture this trend, and I would love to share my notes with you.

Fluidity: you cannot be creative if every time you think of a new idea you stop dead on your tracks and think of ways that idea cannot be applied. Sit back and think of the times your own Jiminy Cricket has played against you: “Oh God! This is so simple someone else must have thought it before and found out it didn’t work”, “there must be a rule somewhere I am forgetting about”, “plain stupid”, etc. In order to be creative you must hush down your consciousness, demolish your self-imposed restrictions and just play along with whatever idea burst, in the end it might prove the right one.

Flexibility: As the result of a well known human trait (once you’ve found something works or feel like it might stick with it Joe) there have been times when every single idea I come with has common elements with the ones I’ve thought of before. Is this creative? I don’t think so, the storm of ideas might seem alluring but once you end the creative phase and start reviewing which ideas might work you’ll find that you’ve wasted precious time biting your own tail, hence ending with a handful of ideas instead of lots of them.

Or from another point of view: think of how much more chances you’ll have to nail something if the ideas you came up with have origins in different contexts (eg. Think out of the box, oblique strategies, woods vs trees) and how less probable you’ll find an answer if you stick with the same elements.

Goal oriented: to be creative does not gives you license to ramble of your goal. If you are trying to solve airspace travel it won’t help you at all if your ideas are of different ways dogs could take themselves for a walk. You are not being ingenious, you are just being rebellious.

Last, the guy who spoke at our event also mentioned originality as a trait to work upon if you are working on your creativity. In my opinion originality is not a trait to work upon creativity since coming with an idea not thought before is what you are aiming at, hence being original at your context.

In a future post I’ll ramble around the concept of innovation and what guides I believe most be applied through creative process so their product is actionable and could produce innovation. If you squint your eyes and read again what defines and describes creativity processes, you will see a triggered trap there: you could generate unviable new ideas forever and ever.

— Speaker name and bio will be linked during the week as well as some links to books/techniques that might help you with cretivity, fluidity and/or or flexibility

The above mentioned speaker: Mr. Eduardo Kastika (spanish)

Interesting books:
The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelly
Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun
Ignore everybody by Hugh Macleod 

Oblique Strategies

So you want to be a superhero

27 02 2009

How to face your new job part II

Allrighty then, your first X weeks at your new surroundings –be them work, country, family, etc- have come and gone. You have somehow managed to walk thru the valley of anguish and now you proudly display your war marks –hey, they were hard to get in the first place-.

Now that you know there are others that can either help you cope with mammoth quantities of new information and eventual frustration; or that there are even some generous individuals who will take your hand in theirs and walk you by the obstacles while at the same time you learn how to do it, you can almost smell comfort in the air. Having lost the primal fear, due to your childhood’s weekends full with super hero cartoons you begin to think of your coworkers as poor souls in desperate need: naïve beings that have done things ignorant of better ways. Rolling up your sleeves you let your mighty body fall point blank into the chaos….

You fool! Stop before you get yourself into trouble and make your still weak office ties crumble because of your heroism. Grab a seat and listen. Show of hands: how many of you have first pitied and then hated someone who while be new to a job has being heard saying things like “this is not how we did things at XX, let me show you better…”? Get my point?

Chances are you are currently on an established business, hence your need to change its wrong ways around, how then, if most of the choices made by its employees were wrong or badly executed, has it managed to survive all this years? If it is an established business most of its choices must have been the correct ones and even though superficially they must seem the wrong ones, with time and hands on experience you will learn to see the context that drove the organization to do things the way it did.

Its not easy to  be a superhero by Esparta

It's not easy to be a superhero by Esparta

Sure, there most be some that are wide of the mark, others where there is a chance of improvement and even some with which the company might be better off. But won’t it be better if you first let your ego at the front door and with humility dive into the context of your new company? You have a choice here: either brawl and step over everyone’s toes and eventually produce little improvement if any, loosing any chance of empathy, rapport and bonding on the way; or, you could just step into your coworkers shoes, deeply understand the context behind the decisions that were done which might have an impact on your responsibilities and then understand what part of your previous experience and skills might help everyone better things around and what things are what the context provided them to be.

It is a matter of balance: first give others the chances of showing you where they come from, where they are and where they heading; and then, step in and pitch how your previous experience and skills could help everyone arrive to the intended destination with less effort and better earnings.

I’ve learned this the hard way on a previous job, and it took me almost 3 years to rebuild my bonds and get an opportunity to help.

Valley of Anguish. The express tour

18 02 2009

How to face your new job part I.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past month, it has been almost two weeks since I started at my new workplace. As it is customary I would like to share some impressions and feelings I’ve struggled with, hoping these can help others while facing a similar situation.

Before we get down to the bare bones, black and white, details of my experience I feel a little background is needed. Having fortune played a major role on my life it didn’t let me down and again touched me: while preparing the road for my personal venue I was reached and asked to participate on an interview process.  Knowing sometimes interesting challenges and professional opportunities knock at your door in unexpected ways I went to the meeting. Four interviews, three psychological tests, one medical check and lots of paper signing later I am now writing this while getting used to my new role: SubManager for LAN Airlines Argentina’s Internet Channel –mouthful-.

So what kind of feelings I have had while entering a whole new unexpected venue? As far as I am concerned I’ve been thru three major phases during my introduction to the new surroundings: Anguish, delusion, serenity. It is about the first phase I would write in this post: the valley of anguish a.k.a. SMOG* I am a recruiting blunder.


Una lectura de Edvard Munch by Eneas

Una lectura de Edvard Munch by Eneas


Day 1, introduction 1

After filling out the regular paper work required for every new employee, I walked into my first introductory meeting with my new boss. After the expected greetings and still wielding a million dollar smile I opened my moleskin and started writing down what ever information I found was either new to me or sounded as if it was a core issue I must handle in the near future. There was some talk about the hierarchical structure (“you are here”), the matrix relationship with the holding structure, who were the individuals and the roles of my direct team and the service teams I would be working with, etc.

Suddenly, I felt as if I had just opened a submarine hatch while under the deep sea: my moleskin was being scribbled all over the place, I wasn’t able to discern whether the numbers I was being introduced to were positive numbers or were things I needed to fix, and on top of all that I had a starry page covered with acronyms I needed to check later in order to understand +80% of what I was being talked about. And then is when anxiety kicked in: “OMG would I ever be able to match head and tail of all this? Who was the moron who hired me believing I would be able to handle all this? Who am I kidding?”

The other introductory meetings ran more or less by the same script and I ended my first two days with a major headache and a bashed ego.

Day 3, meeting 1

Once I hit 80+% of my introduction to this whole new crazy travel industry, my boss kindly suggested I went to an operational steering committee so I can get a sense of the things I  would be doing on a daily basis. It goes without saying, I had already lost my smile and had instead a Bert look (don’t we all frown when we are concentrating?) with which I entered meeting room number 2028.

Routine introductions made we jumped in into what might be my worst meeting ever. I couldn’t help myself raising my hand every 5 minutes or so to ask something: “Would you please explain to me what PRK stands for?” “Would you kindly remind me the cost structure we use?” and so on. Thankfully instead of being the target for condescending smiles, general sighing and other kinds of boredom and disapproval manifestations, all of my fellow coworkers kindly answered all my questions.

Day 5, meeting 3

Anguish was gone and I was experiencing a Nirvana of sorts, where I started to understand more of what I was being told and even risked offering my opinion. The Nirvana was the calm before the storm, but that will be the subject of a future post: “So you want to be a hero?”.

So, what happened during day 3 and 4 that helped me conquer my anguish? How would my experience help you cope with a similarly scary situation?

 Believe others know what they do

 While reviewing my posts and talking with my friends about my anguishing circumstances I came to realize this: If you were the candidate who was hired it means human resources saw in you the competence to not only match the corporate culture, the industry needs but also the potential to ride your role to new positive places. Hey, human resources is for sure responsible for hiring the other 1k+ employees and the company didn’t disappeared because of them!

Prepare yourself to adaptation

Let’s get real: every place has its own rules and you need to adapt to them if you want to survive. I am not only talking about a whole industry change, as it is my case, organizations are made up by individuals and as such they gather different traits and thus produce different environments. If you think you could survive a whole new culture by sticking to the conducts you might have had at your past job prepare for a mighty struggle.

Check your ego at the door

Some might have an uncalled need to expose themselves as an expert on every single subject. Why play as if you were not in a team if you could tap into others to obtain knowledge? Everyone else have been in your same situation before and if they are not un interestingly offering their help it is still in their best interests to help you get up and operational as fast as possible. Forget about how you would look and keep asking until you feel you can understand what others are talking about. Ignorance is not a bad trait if you are working to correct it.  

The office bully, how to retort

29 12 2008

How to kill a coworker and get away with it. Part II.

I’ve had my days when just after awakening I wanted to scream at top of my lungs: “I am sick, I do not want to go to school today!” But why in heavens sake will I do that? Well, it happens I used this phrase on my early teenage years; whenever I passed part of the night replaying the occurrences of the day and fantasizing about the many ways I could have snapped back at the young man who either routinely stole my lunch money or made a loud remark about anything I was wearing or doing and left me amidst piercing general laughter. The positive thing about this, is that I learned how to recoup bad experiences, learn about what went wrong in order to not misstep again in the future, the bad aspect is that it took me some years to act upon the acquired knowledge.

Don’t think I am once again wandering, truth is most of the environments we live by have their own bully; whether this archenemy uses physical force or psychological punishment what matters is that everywhere you find people fighting for the alpha dog coup and think that by intimidating others they would achieve it. Bullies at the office wear several masks, and I would love to share my own categorization and what are the ways I’ve found out work to retort their actions.

Superman Superboy Super trouble by hyperscholar

Superman Superboy Super trouble by hyperscholar

The Devil’s Advocate

Who hasn’t heard the phrase “let me be the devil’s advocate for a minute”? If you have ever been in an organization; someone, if not yourself, has without doubt used this invocation to play this horny little role in the past while in an all hands meeting. This phrase is the bullies’ war cry. Think about it for a minute and you will see these seemingly benevolent words are a polite introduction to an unabashed critic without the least intent of adding value to your idea or project.

What most do is take a defensive stance and eventually start attacking the devil’s advocate using the very same techniques: long-winded descriptions accompanied by superficial argumentation. It is easy to see that this kind of reply ends resting value to the parts involved and might eventually escalate to a domestic brawl.

What I’ve decided to do when confronting this mighty warrior is to get the most value as possible from the situation. Negative criticism is not necessarily something bad if gathered carefully it might even shade some light into unattended problems and its possible solutions. How to do this? Simply adopt a quizzical role with two intentions: gather background information around what you are being told and try to find a way of bringing the contender to your side.

Set of questions to gather background information: How is that a problem? To what type of costumers will that be an inconvenience? How our competitors faced this trouble?

Examples of questions to build rapport and eventually befriend the devil: How do you think we can work this out? Is there something in your area of expertise we might have overlooked?

The Ninja

Have you ever came back home thinking you might have just delivered the best ever pitch or that you have killed the Goliath of turn? And then waked up and arrived at the office to find people glancing at you just like you were a zombie. Fired up your station to find a single message which, far from being the pompous praise you was expecting, was a single courteous line asking you to get to your manager box first thing in the morning?

What have I done? What happened from 6 pm to 9 am, Armageddon? Chances are you did nothing to change the waters while something extraneous did. It might be that your manager found out a major fallacy in your estimations, but that won’t explain the weird looks you keep getting from others, would it? Besides, this time you doubled and tripled checked the deliverable, reviewed the plan with your manager on an almost daily basis, pitched it against your peers; so, if there was something bluntly wrong you would have found out earlier. Then what? Don’t wind up it might be that there is a ninja in your organization. Someone who surreptitiously works lurking in anxiety for the time in which someone makes a mistake and no one else notices it. Ninjas are people with enough knowledge and intelligence to find slip-ups no one else identified have direct access to powers that be and have faith that if they point to others flaws they will gain recognition and power.

Cosplay - AWA14 - Ninja stalking by mikemol

Cosplay - AWA14 - Ninja stalking by mikemol

In a balanced world managers who receive notice of a mistake thru a ninja should aim to eradicate the practice and then correct the mistake. Why? Because, this kind of practices do not build value. If the intention was to help, the ninja should have gone to you and tell you about the problem once it was spotted, creating the opportunity to correct it before delivery.

Nevertheless a mistake was committed and it most be corrected. Don’t invest time on trying to find out who was or the intentions behind the attack. This turn time is not on your side buddy. If you wander off road you’ll be not only helping the ninja but will also hamper any value created by work done up to this instant. Instead of falling into espionage mode, bravely gather your shredded feelings, face the crowd and approach your manager. Hear what he has to say, asses if an oversight did exist and if so acknowledge it and find a resolution as soon as possible.

If by chance you gather up who was behind, my advice will be to confront show her up how much more value for all will have been created if the mistake was uprooted when sighted instead of waiting to creep into the project and go bombastic after delivery. Explain to your ninja coworker how much better he will have looked if instead of waiting,  you were told about this from the start and that now that the bully waited it just looks less like a team player.

The eternal bully

Some people  cannot grow out the character they once played as little boys and they keep at it their whole life. Ever heard the phrase “you’ll do it because I said so?” on a corporate environment? There is a bully in the wild, someone who has neither tools nor methods to face debate, explain to others why a certain path must be followed or recognize an erroneous position and correct.

What to do? Well, this is something I do and applies to every other bully type: don’t take it personal. If you take it personal the bully will know a button has been pushed and will keep at it until its goal is reached; besides, since you actually acted berserk everyone else at the scene might think he could have a point and you are covering something.

If everything else fails, don’t take it personal ignore the wise remark, the gesture, the attack, at least your bully won’t know what buttons to push. Be more like batman.

A foal giving Web 2.0 lessons? :)

19 12 2008

in your face Mr. Ed!

You still don’t get why all the noise around web 2.0? Wondering how you can follow along this beta companies? Still banging your head against the wall? Let Kathy’s foal show you how to apply Web 2.0 principles for startups:

I totally loved it, still the castration part was unasked for 🙂