Thursday, October 24, 2013

Finder, Minders & Grinders: Everyone has Expertise

The phrase "Finders, Minders and Grinders" has a long backstory with the common lesson being that you need to become a Finder in order to rise to the top. Those who bring in the most new business tend to make the most money, but their success is built on top of the Minders & Grinders who actually deliver. Even the best Finder can only sustain a business if the product they are selling is good.

Every organization needs Finders selling, Minders analyzing, and Grinders delivering results.

I'm inherently a Finder. I'm highly networked, willing to talk to anyone, and deeply invested in finding the right Product-Market Fit.

I can be a damn good Minder, but I can't sustain it forever. I get curious about the next thing, rather than being happy about pulling all the money out. Minders analyze what is going on and constantly optimize and tune. Good Minders love A/B testing and empirical results. Mature products in established markets need great Minders. Sustained social media success is built on the backs of Minders.

Grinder is not my strongest suit, but I love working closely with them! It isn't that they aren't brilliant, it tends to be they are focused on what is in front of them. Grinders are Engineers who enthused about their new feature. A good Finder or Minder needs to help them get that story out there to the right audience. Everyone should love the feature, but really only certain users in certain contexts. Finders help Grinders see a bigger picture.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

VMware ruined my Summer

August used to be the last lazy days of Summer. Like children getting ready for school, we'd ramp up planning, campaigns and events for the crucial Fall season. VMware changed all that.

To avoid competition for time between September and The Holidays, VMware placed their annual conference the week before Labor Day. They threw a good party in in San Francisco, so we didn't mind at first. We'd work hard for VMworld, then take the long weekend of Labor Day in the vineyards of Napa or down the coast to Carmel. It became Summer's last hurrah.

That didn't last long. Since virtualization became the number one driver of IT refreshes, VMworld became the epicenter of the Enterprise IT sales and announcements. Companies planned their announcements - or even their funding rounds - around VMworld. For marketing and product teams we'd focus for 6 months on it and scramble to get the demos right in August.

The inevitable happened. Just as VMworld moved earlier in the year to find some white space for their conference, the industry has done the same. To get press before VMworld, many turned to Flash Memory Summit. Previously a niche vendor-to-vendor event, many used the event to rally the press and bloggers to their cause. This year was their biggest - and I predict more next year.

Then, EMC turned the tables. Realizing that Labor Day only counted in the US, they staged their major product launch the following week in Milan. I can think of worse places to end up in early September.

If they make it an annual event, maybe I can go. I can plan the long weekend in the north of Italy. It won't be the last hurrah of Summer, but the recharge after all the hard work of July and August.

Yes, VMware has ruined Summer.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Yes, you should go to a Meet Up!

Never been to a Meet Up because no business gets done there? 
Here are three reasons you should go & two why you should not. 

Meet Ups are the physical manifestation of the Internet's skill at "ridiculously easy group formation"[1]   The barrier to creating one is low and the membership is self selected. The organizer is deeply invested, has expertise and enthusiasm. On the other hand, attendees have at least a passing interest in the subject, and the unscheduled time to attend.
This is not the formula for high quality business networking, but you should go anyway.

Three Reasons to Attend a Meet Up

  1. Learn something new. Since most of the people attending are probably dilettantes, be one too. Find a speaker, a technology or an idea about which you are curious and get exposed to it. It is cheaper than a TED talk and much more fun than an online webinar.
  2. Uncover a new perspective. Meet Ups draw a diverse crowd. There will be students and many who are not in your field. Embrace the opportunity to explaining what you do, why you do it and how it matters to someone new. You will learn from it.
  3. Rediscover what you know. If you are an expert in the subject, a Meet Up is revisiting your Freshman classes. You may not learn anything new, but you will have a chance to revisit the fundamentals from which you can refresh your approach to the problem. 
Two Reasons Not to Go

  1. Job Interviewing. If the only reason you are going is to find a job, don't. (For career fairs - try Greenhorn Connect) Yes, there will be someone at a Meet Up with opportunities, but they aren't there to interview you. Meet Ups are a great opportunity to discover new companies. Absolutely follow up, get the interview, get the job, but don't attend 'looking for a job'  Everyone is tired of that conversation.
  2. Making a Sale. It is rare to find someone with dedicated budget and decision making authority at a Meet Up. If they had budget, they would have the vendors come to them on company time. You will meet the influencers and hear the inside stories of why certain technologies or services are or are not being chosen. Meet Ups can provide good intelligence, but this isn't selling.  
No two Meet Ups are organized the same way, so choose a couple to try. Whatever subjects you choose, you need to participate. Be ready to ask the first question and start random conversations. Who knows where it might take you. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Manipulating the Motivation Curve

Motivation is highest when a problem is considered difficult, but not impossible.
My father told me that when I was young. He was adapting Yerkes-Dodson Law for the simple mind. 

I carry a mental model of my motivation curve. The entry and exists are steep. Once I slip toward the bore or burnout slope, the bottom approaches rapidly. If engaged, I drive myself toward optimum by expanding the scope of strategy. Being a Myers Briggs Extravert, I expand my motivation through interactions, goals and deadlines. I like complex problems, but sometimes I find myself slipping over the edges.

In this month's New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell covers a biography of Albert O. Hirschman. Hirscham was an economist specializing in development, but Gladwell starts with an analysis of human endeavor. Quoting Hirschman "Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened."  As he further explains, 
"The only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be."
Delusion may be a critical tool for motivation.  If one properly grasps the difficulty of the situation, one falls into Anxiety; and performance plunges. To improve personal productivity, just lie to yourself: "that's not hard" 

Brings a new depth to motivational strategies, heh?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tech Marketing Pablum

I am sitting in sessions at Red Hat Summit watching the same uninteresting product positioning scroll across the screen. "Enterprise" "Highly Available" are endless and are being used to refer to every single product. Oh boy! Aren't these table stakes for software?

They are asking me to pull cash from my pocket and all they can offer is 'it won't embarrass you"

Compelling marketing needs to be built on a tangible and understandable customer benefit.  The best advice I've heard is to pull quotes from your customer testimonials as a starting point. If you can't find any you are in the wrong job.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Linked-In Social Hacking for Fun or Profit?

Two days ago an Impostor invited me on Linked-In. I didn't recognize the name or face, so I looked at her profile. She had about 30 contacts - none in common with me. She didn't attend the same schools. In fact, I had absolutely nothing in common with her. This morning she has 143 contacts and growing. At least 9 of my contacts have accepted her invitation. WTF?

I receive requests for new contacts about once a week. Linked-In is my primary work database and where I regularly seek connections, contacts and work. Aside from the mobile interface, I love it.

Lately, about 1 in 5 contact requests are from Impostors or Posers. Impostors are clearly not who they say they are. While Posers appear to be legitimate humans attempting to exploit a vague connection to me. I have no idea why they do this.

I assume the former are malicious hackers intent on lowering the bar for me to give up personal details, steal identity, passwords, credit cards and accounts.  The later seem to be self-agrandizing attempts to develop a persona in search of some future reward. Perhaps they are bored, counting contacts or looking for a job.

My anecdotal evidence is these Impostor and Poser accounts live on and show some success. Individuals accept invitations and their contact numbers grow. Apparently, three clicks to validate your contact is too high a barrier for most.

This morning, I googled the Impostor's  image. The photo is an actress from "Dead like Me." I didn't even watch the show. I flagged the account. You can thank me latter.

I'm losing trust in my fellow cybercitizens because of their careless behavior. The only protection you have is the lock on your own doors. I have 100s of them online and people are making it easier for them to get closer to me. This could keep me awake at night.

Undoubtedly, Linked-In, Facebook, Google, etc. have large data mining capabilities to flag these accounts, but I don't see it. When will the analytics be available to me to look for patterns of fraud and misrepresentation? Is this the Premium Feature I am going to pay for next?

Why does someone pretend to be someone they are not on Linked-In? 

Case Study

"Levins Michelle, Recruiter at Colliers-International" -- perhaps not even a she, but a script experiment from a hacker.

The photo is of Britt McKillup (thank you google image). Colliers may have recruiters recently out of college. There must be people with the first name "Levin" or last name "Michelle", but I don't know any of them. In fact, I can't think of a single one of my 100s of contacts who is associated with Colliers or 20-year olds from San Jose State.

If I can figure this out in less than 5 minutes, why can't Linked-In?

Yes, I flagged the account... You should also... 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beowulf, 1k Years of...

I've been busy orchestrating test plans, feedback and all the other important little details of early customer testing for Tonian. There has been little room for mental exercise, but I did get out a little.

I squeezed in the wonderfully irreverent Beowulf at ART: "A Thousand Years of Baggage"  In word, song and pantomime the Banana Bag & Bodice company walked the audience through the epic poem that we know and (probably do not) love. Beowulf's baggage is historical, critical and contemporary. The studying of Beowulf is unavoidable in American High Schools and a rite of passage for the English Major.  

There are no surprises in the fight scenes. The audience is even pre-conditioned by English teachers to see patriarchal and matriarchal motifs. Yes, Grendel is killed. The male bloodline continues into old age - until a dragon (hubris) does him in. What can you do when everyone in the audience knows the story?

First, be creative. We didn't come for the story. We came for the experience. Banana Bag & Bodice's performance started in the audience with music.

Second, get your audience involved. In 1k Years, the lecturers on stage who introduce the poem were clearly caricatures of our English professors - including one who quoted comments on a blog as if it were a fine critical source.

Third, focus on what you want me to hear. Where Beowulf the poem is repetitive, Beowulf the musical moves through quickly. 1k Years spent more time riffing on "Themes" than is did on old English.  

Finally, keep up the pace. I know what is coming next, don't waste time setting it up for me.

These same lessons are true if you selling technology. Our audiences are know so much that we need to approach the subject fully aware of their knowledge and why our approach is creative, empowering, focused and engaging.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


My father, my daughter & I skied today.  I've been skiing with my Dad for about 42 years. This year, he has some trouble getting his ski boots on & off, but no trouble smiling, skiing and chatting on the lift. 

Cherish these moments!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Other Nuerons

I spend a lot of time with a keyboard. Most of my time is spent on the ephemeral form of email. Most of the hard work is in the longer form of white paper, data sheet and sales kit.

Today, I did something I've never done before. I wrote a 100 word story - and I used dialogue. I've never written anything with dialogue before. Because I knew it had to be short and precise, I tried something new. It was wonderful to do. I even like the result.

Innovation within constraints is both creative and problem solving. It fires different neurons.

Pick a narrowly defined project and do it differently.   

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

10 minutes a day

I was given a good harmonica for my last birthday. I have no idea why Traci decided that's what I needed, but that's what I have - and it is good.

Eventually, I grew tired of it staring at me across the desk. Inside the box is a lesson plan with simple instructions. Perhaps the most important one is this: "practice 10 minutes every day."

10 minutes may feel long to my family, but I can now play a tune.

Just 10 minutes a day...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More than reducing dissatisfaction

I am re-starting this blog for what I think is the 4th time.

I started this blog to live blog industry events. Now, I tweet them.

 I continued this blog to keep myself 'out there' as I transitioned. Now, I contribute to several others.[1]

I'm working for a start-up that is going very well, which means busy as all hell. I am still squeezing in time with family, friends and a semi-regular work out. I have friends posts of FB. Professional commentary on Linke-In. Short conversations on Twitter. And a handful of close friends with whom a SMS regularly. Why the hell would I type here when I should be finishing a white paper?

I need something that isn't work. Something that isn't driven by the kids, the meetings, or the calendar. This blog will provide me a few minutes of (semi) public space to record my thoughts.

So what made me log on? My January knocked my out a comfortable state of denial.

Clayton Christenson put it very well, "we work to reduce our level of dissatisfaction" I _like_ my work, my company, my colleagues, but I _love_ my family, my friends and my experiences. So, this blog is now going to be about experiences.

 This morning, I spent 30 minutes reading poetry, mostly ee cummings, and I feel better prepared for the day. I recommend you do the same. Seek out his love poems and read them aloud - even better read them to someone. Maybe they will read one back to you.

 [1] (and probably a few I missed)