Month: August 2010

The triumph of the human spirit

Those of you who know me personally will also know that I use the Catalyst for Magic as my job title because I so passionately believe in the magic of the human spirit and its unfathomable power. 

I often wonder, how is it that one man can strap a bomb to himself and kill himself and others for what seems to be very little real impact on the world, and another man who loses his arms in an accident can teach his feet to create the most beautiful music- and impact the world in a far greater way? 

This is going to be even bigger than Susan Boyle….do you agree? 



You can never be too rich, too thin, or too connected

Today, I will be delivering this talk at the International Association of Business Communicators- NSW Chapter in Sydney. Please visit their site if you are working in the  communication industry or profession- it’s a valuable network and a knowledge transfer agency- as per one of the messages in my talk.

The slide show below was not designed for presenting via overhead slides, I won’t be using any preferring to make a heart to heart connection with the audience instead, and will be elaborating with stories from the trenches. These are just some preparation notes shared here so others can also benefit from it ( Sharing the Whuffie in other words!)  

IABC talk on Thought Leadership 26 August, NSW Chapter, Sydney, Australia

Recommended reading list: 
The Cluetrian Manifesto-Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger  ( Still visionary 10 years after first published- most people STILL don’t get it!) 
The Power of Pull– John Hagel III, John Seely Brown 

If ignorance is bliss, awareness is awakening.

Note from Annalie: This week I had a few conversations with colleagues who are working on a “Fit for the Future” project. Our conversations were about how much we need to change our work practices and paradigms and mental models of success from the era of knowledge as power to and era of knowledge as crowd-sourced, from the domain expert in charge of the master strategy and thinking, to the co-creator of change programmes tapping into the talent all around including outsourced partners, from exclusivity to inclusivity, from top down to peer to peer. 

It is my belief that the steps outlined below by Brian Solis, and a string of others like Chris Brogan, Charlene Li, Don Tapscott, David Weinberger, Jeremiah Owyang, Jason Fried, Clay Shirky, Andrew McCafee, Joseph Jaffe, Jay Deragon, Thomas Malone, Dan Pink etc, are the very things that the Functional Executives in every organisation need to adopt and turn into “weapons of mass transformation and influence”. Success in the future is not a tweaking of past work practices with a thin layer of knowlede management overlaid- its fundamentally a totally different mindset. 

These 5 things are not only to do outside the organisation with customers- but inside large corporations, every leader can start with his/ her own subject of expertise, community of peers and stakeholders, and internal tools and processes. 

via briansolis

Unless you literally run your business with your ears plugged and your eyes covered, you are aware of the importance of social media and its impact on both brand and bottom line. However, while social media is the topic du jour in mainstream news, on blogs, in books, at conferences and at your local Starbucks, we may still underestimate its overall promise and potential.

The socialization of business is comparable to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland or the red pill in the Matrix. If ignorance is bliss, awareness is awakening. Where there’s insight, there’s opportunity – but with opportunity, there’s also a cost. In this case, that cost is financed through learning, change, adaptation and innovation.

Social media is deceptive. It appears easy, free and yours to own simply for the price of admission and engagement. If this post were to live up to an alternate headline, say the “5 Easy Steps to Managing Your Brand Online,” the list might look a bit like this:

1. Monitor and listen to conversations related to your brand and competitors

2. Start a blog, create a Twitter profile, set up a Facebook brand page and broadcast a YouTube channel

3. Draft social media guidelines

4. Be transparent and authentic

5. Ask questions, introduce polls, curate interesting content and have fun

It’s not that the list is untrue or menial. In fact it’s where many organizations begin their journey towards a new era of discovery, relevance, and earned prominence. Keep in mind however, that as social media matures, consumers are becoming increasingly discerning.

They are mastering their social domains and experiences and, as a result, their attention is not only thinning, it’s focusing on the relationships and information that’s most beneficial to their regiment.

Rather than looking at the easy ways to use social media to manage our brand, let’s examine five next-level steps for managing and ultimately defining your brand online.

1. Listen and learn – Listening, monitoring, and reporting are obligatory cogs in the social media machine. Gathering intelligence to inspire meaningful and actionable social programs is, on the other hand, priceless.

Measuring share of voice and frequency of mentions is helpful in understanding what is happening in and around us. But if you expand your horizons to surface the share of all conversations related to your market and position within the broader landscape, you also discover missed opportunities and inflection points – along with areas for improvement, innovation and expansion.

2. React to and lead conversations – While many organizations monitor conversations related to keywords or respond simply to those who invite participation, the prospect of social media lies beyond first-degree dialog. This is a chance to leapfrog conversations by learning what it takes to lead them and then embodying the position you wish to gain.

Responding to relevant commentary is only the beginning. Introducing social objects that address needs or direct actions in the form of posts, videos, imagery and other commentary to demonstrate passion, expertise and leadership ensures a comprehensive rotation of inbound and outbound marketing, service and communication.

3. Divide and conquer – What becomes clear in those first points is that no one department owns social media. Depending on the industry, conversations usually align with distinct facets of business including service, marketing, product/service, HR, finance, etc. This is the beginning of the socialization of business. As relevant conversations and the information present within them are scrutinized, it becomes clear that they feed and are fed by distinct information. Prioritize and assign inbound and outbound activity based on a conversational workflow that reflects the nature of organized and relevant long tail discussions.

4. Adapt – Reactions to negative experiences don’t scale. Identifying recurring patterns of negative experiences and connecting emerging themes to those responsible in order to develop targeted and sweeping fixes negates widespread negative sentiment and alleviates unfavorable publicity. But it also does something more.

The acts of listening, responding and solving make for an adaptive organization. The process transcends lip service to action. As we all know, actions speak louder than words.

5. Design metrics into campaigns and measure performance – One of the primary reasons discussions around metrics and return on investment in social media are hotly debated today is because many of the examples we hear and see are designed without an outcome or measurable success designed into the program. That’s not to say that they’re any less important, however.

Metrics, by nature, are devised to document movement. As such, KPIs and ROI should get factored into the planning process of all social media programs. Introduce clicks to action, conversion opportunities and experiences with desirable outcomes, then compare activity and results to other programs to learn, focus resources and evolve with the market.

Social media is as dynamic and expansive as it is simple and complex. At the very least, the socialization of business is aspirational. We are competing for attention, affinity and commerce in forums where quick start guides and instruction manuals are in process of development and may never in fact, materialize. What’s clear, however, is that we are competing for both the present – and the future.

Written for VentureBeat

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Facebook
Please consider reading, Engage!: It will help you find answers to your questions…


My Whuffie over the next 30 days

International Association of Business Communicators_NSW Chapter: August Lunch.

TOPIC OF MY TALK: “You can never be too rich, too thin or too connected”

 Bookings via


The Annual Melcrum Strategic Communication Summit, 15-16 September, Intercontinental Sydney





Macquarie Graduate School of Management Executive Careers Fair 30 Sept, CBD Campus: Building powerful networks 

I will share how I focus my social efforts on growing a garden of friends not a box full of business cards or a network of acquaintances. 

NOTE: It’s lovely to receive invitations and I try and share knowledge and experience with my local ( and global) community and industry, if time permits. Contact me via Facebook, LinkedIn or @maverickwoman on Twitter or leave a comment below with your email address. 



What does it mean to be a Thought Leader?


Coimbatore Krishnarao (C.K.) Prahalad would have celebrated his 69th birthday on August 8, 2010. He was one of the most influential and original strategic and management thinkers of the last 50 years. He was also a friend to strategy+business and, most significantly, a friend and mentor to management thinkers and practitioners all around the world — particularly in India, where he was born and educated, and in the United States, where he lived for most of his career until he passed away from a sudden lung illness on April 16.

Starting in 1977, Prahalad held a post as professor (the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy) at the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School, while building a body of groundbreaking work on the most significant themes in business today: strategy, emerging markets, innovation, and organizational structure. His book Competing for the Future (Harvard Business School Press, 1994), coauthored with Gary Hamel, established core competencies as a strategic enabler, and strategic intent as a managerial purpose; The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (Wharton School Publishing, 2005) anticipated the remarkable growth of emerging markets; and The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-created Value through Global Networks (McGraw-Hill, 2008), coauthored with M.S. Krishnan, proposed that the most value-added corporate activity would occur across hierarchical boundaries. Along the way, C.K. wrote three of s+b’s most prescient articles: “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” (First Quarter 2002, coauthored with Stuart Hart), “The Innovation Sandbox” (Autumn 2006), and “Twenty Hubs and No HQ” (Spring 2008, coauthored with Hrishi Bhattacharyya).

C.K. and I conducted two conversations in 2009 — face-to-face in New York on January 26 and by phone on June 19 — about the nature of thought leadership and the evolution of his own ideas. During these discussions, he spoke intimately about the ancient ideas that inspired his management and strategic beliefs, described the process by which his thinking evolved, and offered a clearheaded vision of his greatest hopes for the future. We recorded these conversations without quite knowing how s+b might publish them; we knew only that it would be good to have a record of C.K. Prahalad’s perspective on thought leadership. Now, we are very gratified to be able to offer an edited version.

Big Ideas from Simple Questions

S+B: Which of your ideas have had the most impact — and how did you develop them?
One would be the idea of core competencies in a corporation. That has had a long life. For example, it reappears as capabilities-driven strategy. Others included the bottom of the pyramid [the profitability in targeting the 2.5 billion people who make less than US$2.50 per day], co-creation [companies and customers innovating together], constrained innovation [typically used to develop very low-cost but functionally sophisticated products, like the Tata Nano], and dominant logic [the idea that companies are held back by their prevailing view of how to conduct business]. Everybody now talks about shifting mind-sets, which is essentially a dominant logic argument.

In developing all of these ideas, I learned not to start with the methodology, but with the problem. A lot of times, research tends to start with the methodology. I prefer to start with a problem that’s of interest and apply whatever methodology is appropriate.

S+B: For example?
To me, the problems of greatest interest are things that you cannot explain with the current prevailing theory. Core competencies was like that. Gary Hamel and I were doing work in the mid-1980s at ICL [International Computers Ltd., a computer hardware and services company that was later acquired by Fujitsu]. The company had enormous technical capabilities, but it was tiny compared to IBM. We asked a simple question: How does a small company take on the dominant competitor in an industry? Management theory at the time said this was not possible. Honda could not take on GM. CNN could not compete successfully with NBC, Walmart with Sears, or Dell with IBM. The theory said that size matters. The underlying logic of unequal balance — relative market share and barriers to entry — would prevent smaller companies from succeeding.

Annalie’s note: Vale CK- you have left a legacy and shoes that we humbly try to fill. Thanks to Art Kleiner of Srategy+Business for again being on the money with the subjects that matter and the people who make the world a better place. Hat tip to Jenny Ambrozek for posting this story on LinkedIn where I first saw it.

Social Networking like falling in love

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has discovered, for the first time, that social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains. And that should be a wake-up call for every company.

The essence of affection. The cuddle chemical. In other words, oxytocin.
This hormone, produced daily by your brain and mine, is the reason I’m on my back, trying to remain perfectly still inside a magnetic-resonance-imaging machine secreted in the basement of a cheerless building at the California Institute of Technology. Even though I am cocooned by earplugs and noise-cancellation headphones, it’s freakishly loud in here, a mix of jackhammer pulses and a hurricane whoosh of air. In other words, it’s your typical MRI experience — save for the Apple laptop bolted a couple of feet above my head, the mouse on my chest, and the unbearably sad video playing on the MacBook screen.

I have volunteered for this, signing up to be a test subject for Dr. Love, aka Paul J. Zak, a professor at Claremont Graduate University who popularized “neuroeconomics,” an emerging field that combines economics with biology, neuroscience, and psychology. In this first of three experiments, I’m helping Zak’s researchers gauge the relationship between empathy and generosity. While best-selling behavioral economists such as Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational) and Steven D. Levitt (half of the Freakonomics duo) ponder how we make economic decisions, Zak wants to figure out why we do what we do.

In a series of studies spanning nine years, Zak has changed our understanding of human beings as economic animals. Oxytocin is the key (and please, do not confuse the cuddle drug with the painkiller oxycontin). Known for years as the hormone forging the unshakable bond between mothers and their babies, oxytocin is now, thanks largely to Zak, recognized as the human stimulant of empathy, generosity, trust, and more. It is, Zak says, the “social glue” that adheres families, communities, and societies, and as such, acts as an “economic lubricant” that enables us to engage in all sorts of transactions. Zak is a walking advertisement for oxytocin; his vanity license plate reads oxytosn, and he hugs virtually everyone he meets. (“I’ll hug you, too,” he warns.) It’s this passion for the hormone that led to his Claremont campus nickname, Dr. Love.

But I didn’t come to L.A. in search of love, or even a hug. I came for answers. Specifically, I wondered if Zak’s research could be applied to social media, an area I’ve explored in my own work. What explains the need of our BlackBerry-bearing, Twitter-tweeting Facebook friends for constant connectivity? Are we biologically hardwired to do it? Do our brains react to tweeting just as they do to our physical engagement with people we trust and enjoy?

The answers could have profound ramifications. As Zak and others deepen their study of oxytocin, we may better understand why people with friends live longer and get sick less, and why we are compelled to be social animals online and off. If these changes apply in the world of social media, the implications for business — for every brand, company, and marketer trying to understand the now intimately networked world — could be significant. Yes, there may be a dark side to all this: What if corporations come to understand human behavior and its root mechanisms so well that they can manipulate our biochemistry to trick us into buying more? But that’s a question for later. For now, I just put myself in the hands of Dr. Love.


In Which I Learn Trust by Issuing Ultimatums
For as long as he can remember, Paul Zak has been obsessed by how things work. Growing up in Santa Barbara, California, he and his dad constantly tinkered: They built a calculator from scratch, pieced together an Altair 8800 computer from a kit, and took apart the family car. Ask Zak about his own personality, and he’ll cite the results from his Myers-Briggs test. (He’s an NP — intuitive perceiver — “all into creativity and making weird connections,” he says.) While some men might describe their wives as extremely organized, Zak says his has a “highly developed hypothalamus.”

When a biological anthropologist suggested he spice up his economic research on families with an inquiry into oxytocin, a hormone then famous only in ob-gyn circles, Zak wasn’t turned off; he was intrigued. It seemed, he admits, “like the dumbest idea in the world. But at least it was testable-dumb.” So in 2001, just after he’d been granted tenure, he marched into his dean’s office to tell him that he just wouldn’t be publishing for a while. Instead, he was going to take blood from hundreds of people to measure whether their hormones changed during certain emotional states and whether this influenced their economic behavior. Since Claremont wasn’t going to finance the $300 per test subject to get the data, Zak went the DIY seed-capital route. He started with a friends-and-family round of financing. The person in the next office gave him $5,000 from one of her grants, another offered $3,000 from one of his, and a colleague at UMass Amherst wrote him a check for $5,500. Then a trustee donated $15,000 to cover the cost of a centrifuge and an ultra-cold freezer; after checking OSHA guidelines, Zak ripped out a cabinet and a bookshelf in his office and bolted the 8-by-4-by-3-foot freezer to the wall.