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Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

How To Invest in Your Brand, Wherever You Go

In Business & Marketing on June 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I announced on Twitter that I went to a job fair. (Exciting, right?) There were employers like Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and Civil Service tests there which aren’t in my career goals. But I learned a valuable lesson there: create opportunity at every turn and take action because there is something to be gained or something to be lost.

I collected four business contacts as freelance leads, which I will be pursuing privately. Aside from the potential for more business, I gained valuable insight into execution strategies. Particularly:

  1. How to engage prospective clients and business partners
  2. Establishing your brand and services through clear communication and voice
  3. Pitching or making your value known to organizations
  4. Find their needs, if you don’t know them already.

Points of Success

  1. Your success begins with identifying your goal. Going into this job fair I had no intention to pass out business cards or resumes. I was gathering information to research and connect, as potential freelance work. What are your objectives and intentions when you engaging your target market?
  2. Be knowledgeable about your environment and the people you talk with. In this case: Recruiters at job fairs are very excited to talk to you about your pursuits. They are there to promote their business and see how you might fit into their work culture (or bottom line). Knowing your environment and audience will ease you into a comfort zone for talking about yourself and what you want to pursue. Remember: communicate directly.
  3. You can learn to put the “useless” to use. Clear, commanding, and incisive communication is privy to business applications that numbers cannot achieve. Communication creates or accesses the numbers.

  4. Remember to shine. The professionals who were representing large companies that day were captivated by my ambition. Sometimes being young and hungry is the only advantage you need. I felt like I was pitching them. Know what you are looking for and be able to elaborate. If the employer cannot figure out what you are after, how can they help? The basics are important too (e.g. body language, smiling). Note: this isn’t something to be gained overnight. You’ll need to develop insight into your niche and field.

Here’s the twist.

I did not see one person there who was dressed casually. Everyone was suited-up! And that’s great for them. I was wearing quarter length black Nike socks, beige cargo shorts, a white Detroit Red Wings t-shirt (with Hebrew writing) and a bright red Valet Services windbreaker. I don’t suggest walking into your next board meeting wearing a Hawaiian shirt. (This goes back to knowing your environment.) Job fairs attract the full spectrum of income and social class. I just bent the rules, here. Know what is flexible and what is not.

I gathered that most of the job-seekers looked at me and laughed. But I was making advancements and creating valuable connections. Make yourself memorable and create a separate identity from everyone who shovels their resume on to every table. My information and what’s more my time is valuable.

Here’s a question I hope will be thought provoking, not discouraging:

If you will work for anyone and perform any task, what is your worth? Where are your values?

There are qualities and talents specific to you, which nobody else has. Never forget this, and make them work for you. This I’ll take the next thing that comes my way mentality is endemic to today’s job seekers. It’s sad. It’s time to find happiness in your work and produce great work, which happens when you’re doing it for more than a paycheck. I’m interested to see what correlation this has to the growth of service economies in the United States. It’s OK to be hungry—even starving. But be smart about how and what you consume. (And excrete?)

Moving Forward…
Time to begin cross-training. The job fair diversified my workout and exercised my muscles differently—making for a healthy day of spring training, leading up to the season. (I have interviews and applications that I’m very excited about.) What is your opening day? Do you have one scheduled yet? Get off of waivers, today!

#MakeItCount: How You Can Change The Digital Landscape

In Business & Marketing on June 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I ate breakfast on my balcony today and saw the “double-yellow” lines on my street had been redone. (And the street recently paved!) I noticed, however, that these lines did not meet at the white crosswalk lane. And I thought: huh, that’s funny. The next question is fairly easy to think of, but not obvious to address: why didn’t they draw the double-yellow to the white crosswalk?

Answer: because they aren’t finished yet. They will be touching up the white crosswalks as well, which are currently cracked–prime for development and change.

The same can be said for social media and the Internet, but we’re not always as conscious about these things as we are in real life. The information pool and wealth of knowledge is much greater and more subtle. It’s not as simple to identify the “pothole” (keep thinking: social). Staring at the computer screen won’t give you answer, like observing the road does. So how can we “predict” change and see what’s coming next? (On the horizon.)

Participation in Digital
To “understand” the digital frontier, you must participate. An interactive experience gives you the opportunity to explore the current landscape and discover other users’ passions, thoughts, and desires in digital [to promote your own]. Blogs, webinars, conversations, posting—as stated: participation, first. To be knowledgeable is to marshal potential resources in your favor to push digital culture forward. And to innovate, it’s important to develop strong creative and strategic thinking. This is seldom learned by following a rigid set of instructions, like a technical manual. So enjoy drafting your own syllabus.

Example:
I am a writer seeking introductions in content management to promote a brand, mission or company. I attend @Radian6 webinars regularly, and connect with people like @ginidietrich, founder and CEO at Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication firm. I will be guest blogging for them in July! (I am very excited.)

Wrestling with Uncertainty
Discovering outlets I’m interested in has proven to be a great tool in directing my attention and how I can get there—to apply my skills and expertise to new media. Your passion and development is to be determined along the way. Don’t let this uncertainty intimidate you. Or if you already know exactly what you wish to do, your execution should be that much easier.

The beauty of innovation is: you don’t have to do it alone. We need a lot of fingers and toes to count the number of people looking for what’s next in digital. And the big guys at corporations don’t even know.

Developing Valuable Connections, with Mutual Interest
Find like-minded people and groups to learn and develop with, together. Organizations like Radian6 and Arment Dietrich are two of many places I look for quality information. Don’t be afraid to make leaps and connect with people. A beautiful network of connections awaits you. Consider Twitter, Facebook, Quora, niche forums and threads, etc. You just have to get out there and go.

Susan Chun, who recently announced her own blog’s obituary, Smudged Text, writes: “Twitter is like a virtual water cooler where you can share interesting links with interesting people.” (Twitter is the reason I am blogging less.) I’m discussing collaboration with Sue, now, which I am very excited about. Remember: Information exchange is at an all-time high. It’s important to choose wisely, as not to spread your jam too thin, but also Make It Count:

Don’t forget the Medium
The digital landscape’s workflow must also be considered. Humans are not the only members in the process. Workflow systems now incorporate man and machine, as I like to call it “manchine”. Knowing how these devices work is also a must. I am currently learning HTML, CSS, and Google Webmaster Tools to name a few. A carpenter can’t build something great or discover use without insight into how their trade and resources operate. Observation is paramount.

Summary

  • Participate, to gain knowledge and insight into the user experience and collaborate with current professionals.
  • Workflow analysis, to facilitate the growth of new ideas and create a strategy. Remember: it’s not concrete; you may need to adjust along the way.
  • Observation, to identify existing structures and resources.

Above all:

#MAKE IT COUNT

Are you pursuing a career in new media or involving the Internet? What are you looking for? If you have insight into strategies or inspiration, share your ways! How do you spend your time online? What’s worked for you and what has not?

Stay hungry, and you will make sure you get fed.

Why E-Book Readers Need Great Engagement & Copywriting to Succeed in the Marketplace

In Business & Marketing on June 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I’m currently sitting in a Long Island Barnes & Noble and noticed they have their “New! NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight” posters decking the halls and customer service posts. The green tag draping over the corner of the NOOK, as if it was gift wrapped, captured my curiosity. It says: “Sold Out! Reserve Yours Now.”

  • Was this product in high demand?
  • Was there a production shortage?
  • What per cent of the market share belonged to B&N?

I searched Google for an answer and I first came across Christopher P.N. Maselli’s Ebooks, Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad Statistics. This was a good place to start my research and collect statistical information on the general tablet/e-book reader marketplace. But I wanted more focused statistics, rather than a conglomeration—insight into the e-book reader market.

This led me to The Pew Internet & American Life Project, of the Pew Research Center. The rise of e-reading was released on 4 April 2012. I discovered that between smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, and computers the total sum of e-book reading exceeds 100%. The market is expanding.

  • Kindle, the top dog in e-book readers: 62% market share.
  • Nook, my focus in this post: 22% market share.

I also spoke with the B&N store manager in Stony Brook, NY who told me the Sold Out sign was a slip cover for the original advertisement, which didn’t feature the green tag.

The e-book reader market is a tight field. It’s almost about who can get there first–to you, the buyer. Where our attention is (in store and online) is a great start.

Closing Remarks
This goes to show you that even smaller market shares and niches require strong[er] marketing planning to compete. And excellent copywriting is even more important when you’re jostling for position against a thoroughbred like Amazon (Kindle). Nice work, Barnes & Noble.

The mixture of the field team (on the ground campaigning) and copywriting was a great experience (nice engagement) and is one of my favorite forms of reaching your customer (combination). Just don’t forget the research.

Brief Apology to Barnes & Noble
I’m sorry I recently unsubscribed from your email updates. My inbox was being inundated by too many nifty gadgets and things I can’t afford right now.

For you
Do you use e-book readers? If so, which one(s)? What’s your favorite way to learn about a product? Via magazine, online, word of mouth?

The Ultimate Guide to Acing Your Job Interview

In Personal Development on May 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I recently had a meeting with the Assistant Dean of Admissions & Recruitment at Binghamton University Graduate School to discuss potential job interests. In what I thought was going to be an interview turned out to be more of a coffee shop roundtable or personal assessment. These meetings are just as important as a direct interview, and the miscommunication was my error. It’s easy for me to toss it up to a poor judgment call, but what benefit would this serve? After close inspection, this mistake suggests: there is no value to inaction—only blindness. And going into an interview or meeting blind illustrates a lack of preparation. (I thought I was prepared.)

Researching and Developing Your Strategy
There’s an overwhelming amount of information on the Web that attempts to prepare you for job interviews—entertaining specific questions, grooming and what to wear, paying attention to body language, overcoming your fear of public speaking, etc. They’re important to read-up on, but what should you read? I recommend the Harvard Business Review and Wall Street Journal. Both organizations have excellent blog networks.

I address the job interview concerns listed above with a single method that I call interview cross-training.

Defining Your Strategy.
Cross-training is: to engage in various sports or exercises especially for well-rounded health and muscular development. You can see why this concept applies nicely to the approach required to land your dream job. Think about your favorite professional athletes. They talk to scouts, attend columbines, workout, practice, study tapes, and simulate real-time experiences—all in preparation for the one thing that matters: making it count in the recorded game. Find ways to be like the pros: talk to employers, attend webinars, read articles, practice speech in a mirror, and study the behaviors of others. Don’t be like Allen Iverson …. Practice, practice, practice.

Embrace the present, as this is where your virility lives and breathes, to project the future. Your track record will make clear its value and defense.

Implementing Your Strategy
Common knowledge suggests knowing your resume inside and out, and being prepared to talk about past work experiences and how they apply to the opportunity at hand. The difference is in how you gather your ingredients to create a recipe for success. What’s frequently overlooked is the mentality of a successful applicant. The mind is at the center to building a quality recipe. And tracking your goals, with concrete measurements, is one of the nine things successful people do differently as Heidi Grant Halvorson explains.

Here’s an example:
Rehearsing lines ad nauseam is a common misconception in successful interview planning. You’re flogging a dead horse. Why? Because this method encroaches on the ‘prepare for the worst’ or ‘work as hard as you can, that’s all you can do’ mentality—an underdeveloped call to action. A caveat of this mental process is: there isn’t a limit or end in sight. There’s no documentation for your efforts—you’re just running in one direction, which makes you think you’re going somewhere. Fact: you are, but it’s not only about how far you can run. Personal trainers recommend keeping a progress log to people who are serious about losing weight or gaining muscle mass.

Are you serious about your interview?

Then the same goes for your job. To get in better shape, you must measure and keep track of your development. So keep a detailed record of your definition, progress, and growth. It’s OK to rehearse, but act with purpose. This proved to be my downfall: I was ready to talk but I didn’t know how to apply it. (I will talk more about voice and presentation in the roadblocks section, later on.)

One way to curb over-rehearsing, or figure out how to apply your experiences—what I think is the best approach—is to ask for direction. I could have created a better experience and saved some time with a simple inquiry. But you live and you learn. (Also, more on this later.)

With regards to my higher education meeting, I jumped right into analyzing my Curriculum vitae, researching their web presence and goals, reviewing job specifics, and tailoring that information to the interview opportunity. I missed a critical step in the process: to simply ask for direction. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask questions as the interview approaches—just give them enough notice to respond and enough time for you to cross-train. Rather, it’s insight into more than what your qualifications or a piece of paper can offer the interviewer. Directly asking for details concerning the interview process tells them what type of person you are.

  • You have a keen eye for detail
  • You are direct
  • You are results driven

These values have a rightful place in any work culture. The attributes listed above are particularly valuable in the marketing and business industries. Note: consider the industry, your relationship with the organization and contact, and job specifics when using the direct approach.

Analyzing Your Strategy.
My close friend Pete, who works for the New York State Senate, said to me, “Regardless of how it goes you should treat every interview as a learning experience.” This optimism is another character of successful people. They analyze and engage experiences to measure results. Your primary concern may not always be getting the job as long as you’re improving, developing, and growing. Michael Schrage offers a fierce perspective on this in Projects Are the New Job Interviews.

Being a sour grape will only hurt you, and the fruits of your labor will continue to spoil—seek the value. Lastly, even if you don’t land the job it is a good idea to stay connected. People who interview generally have a higher level of authority in the organization. Keep casual contact for idea-sharing and development, and future offers.

Overcoming Roadblocks in Your Strategy.
Overcoming roadblocks is the key to unlocking a powerful cross-training regimen. Discover what your roadblocks are and overcome them–nothing will be able to stop you. An umbrella topic of this discussion is fear, specifically the pressure people feel from interviews. It’s a difficult fear to escape. I really enjoyed JD Schramm’s article How To Overcome Communication Fears. In his assessment he writes:

Jerry Seinfeld made famous the line about funerals and public speaking: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Move over fear! Here are some tips of the trade you can practice to frame the situation, internally, and push fear to the side. If not genuinely, you can “trick” your mind and still provide a great performance:

Live The Culture. Successful job applicants know their craft inside and out, which comes from immersion in the culture. Peter Bregman provides sage insight in The Interview Question You Should Always Ask. A great applicant is passionate and obsessed with the ethos and innovation of a particular niche. It’s about possessing insight that’s greater than prepared answers can drub out. It’s easy to develop responses; it’s difficult for people to be (or appear) honest, sincere and passionate in the boardroom when this roadblock is applicable. Living the culture comes from deeper places.

Hone in on your presentation skills. Remember that it is easy to talk, but in an interview you need to persuade and captivate. My favorite way to explore voice, meter, and style is to look at those who have had success before me. Motivational speakers and keynote speeches are great resources. Personally, I enjoy stand-up comedy. Gather a wide range of perspectives, but pay attention to your field and how to convey those best practices in your area of expertise. At the 4 Hour Blog, Tim Ferris shares two of my favorite speeches in Neil Gaiman – The Best Commencement Speech You May Ever Hear. Communication skills are necessary to participate in any workplace, digital or physical. Always work on pushing your presentation skills forward. And don’t be afraid to endorse your brand. You want to present a vibe and aura during the interview—a subset of behaviors—not just experiences.

The interview process is a conversation, not an interrogation. The structure of the interview is a daunting proposition that promotes fear in the process. The interviewer-interviewee relationship promotes an uneasiness because it is interpreted as a catch-and-release function of conversation. The same can be said for the question-answer paradigm, which is a stale thought process. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself–it’s reductive and crippling. It’s best to remember: this is a conversation and conversations are fluid and dynamic. Approaching an interview as a conversation presents a more comfortable environment with mutual goals and objectives. The best way to do this is to get out there and gain experience. Nothing satisfies this point more than exposure to the process.

Don’t practice specific questions. This is a subset of the two previous tips. (Remember: optimism is paramount.) The question/answer strategy will prepare you for specific situations of greatness rather than projecting greatness. And this will only get you so far, with luck as a crutch. Don’t succumb to a single thought process. It’s possible—and I know first-hand—that you won’t address the question to the best of your abilities when taking the Q&A approach. Familiarize yourself with your experiences, with Q&A as a component of the process.

Offer an insider perspective. Discuss experience as an insider, but take the outsider approach, to see how the person you will be talking with will view your experiences. This also prevents mundane details from spuriously making their way into the conversation. It’s a nice tip to make sure you run a tight track in applying your past experiences and current developments to the job opportunity. Remember: a great job applicant won’t have competing interests–a common deal-breaker. Here are some questions to help discover mutual interests shared at the beginning of your relationship:

  • Who is the organization looking for to fill this position and to help achieve their goals?
  • What knowledge does my interview contact gain from learning about my experiences?
  • Where does my role start and stop in achieving their goals?
  • Why are you and the business (we) a great match?
  • When should I apply my experiences to the conversation?
  • How can I remove interpretation from the process?

Inject passion every chance you get. One thing I do during my job hunt is inject my passions into conversations, which comes naturally to some but not for all. Talk about current projects that you are working on with friends or colleagues. Or better: random strangers. This will get you into the carefree habit of talking about yourself …. And how to do it well! You will develop: (1) transparency in your voice, (2) authentic confidence in your delivery, and (3) understanding for where your voice needs to be to capture the listener—without sounding like you’re trying to pull a fast one, intentionally or not.

The cross-training interview strategy is a microcosm of a larger concept: lifestyle design. Beginning preparation only when you know you have an interview is the most common cause of injury and performance deficit. Preparing for an interview is about consistently carrying out a regimen to promote your lifestyle. Use routine workouts and exercises that bulk-up your strengths and target your weak muscles to improve performance. So when the job interview does come around you won’t break a sweat–unless the A/C is broken in the building where your interview takes place. Still, you’re already in shape to throw down the gauntlet. How do you stay lean?

Personal Development Tip: The Inspiration Pyramid

In Personal Development on May 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I recently explored strategies to combat writer’s block, a form of stasis that addresses overcoming the blank slate. I hope those tips nailed a cease and desist letter into WB’s front door. If they didn’t, the symptoms of writer’s block might be due to a lack of inspiration. I’d like to visit a similar point here: developing a lifestyle design that garners inspiration.

You don’t have to be a writer to make use of the following strategies, but this will be my focus because this is my area of expertise. Writing, like any passion, requires a balanced diet of inspirational sources. Think of inspiration as a food pyramid. There is a recommended daily value of parts to consume, to address the needs of the host. And each host requires different DVs. This means the source of inspiration comes from many groups. It’s important to eat the fats, proteins, fruits, vegetables, etc. in the inspiration pyramid. Here are some tips to help you stay lean and inspired:

Avoid carbo-loading. It’s easy to pick on the base of the pyramid, as we do with our actual diets. If carbohydrates are the only source of inspiration, you may begin to feel sluggish. An example of inspirational carbs could be a significant other or dream job–the rocks that you rely on to give you joy every day. They are a very important part of your daily value, but this category really begins to flourishes when supported by other forms of inspiration. The smaller inspiration groups, such as a hobby or interest, generally give the inspirational carbs their diamond status.

Say your dream job growing up was to be an actor. Assume that you are an actor, today. And you do all of the things actors do. If you studied combinatorial mathematics and analyzed stock trends, instead of voice, art history, and stand-up comedy along the way, your construction of “dream job” would probably be a little different.

Go shopping for new groceries. In my experience one of the best ways to break an inpirational dryspell is to experience something new, that’s raw. Growing your experience base, means you are seeking new knowledge. You don’t need to taste the forbidden fruit nor does it even have to be something you like or an experience that costs money. Just find something to shake-up your current perspective that’s momentarily holding you back.

While you’re out, stop in at the nostalgia shoppe. There’s always a juicy sleeper here. The goal is to rekindle the flame in your writing. There are times I have looked back on my writing and laughed, or even better: being proud of a piece. It’s fascinating how a few turns of the page can loosen the valves and pour on the inspiration.

Did you notice anything new in town? My favorite strategy is to seek environments–old or new. People naturally leave a footprint in their travels which means environments are always changing. Think: a flux pavilion of culture. If you think you know everything about an environment, take a second look. There’s an infinite number of perspectives. Consider these parent categories: people, objects, nature, location/vantage point, geography, and history. (Break them down from there.)

The inspiration pyramid is a frame to foster your own inspiration. Use this as a guideline to identify and interpret unique points of inspiration. What inspires you on a daily basis? Have you tried the inspiration pyramid? Share your thoughts below.

Personal Development Tip: Finding Your Dead Zone

In Personal Development on May 23, 2012 at 3:08 am

I went off-roading yesterday with my b/f/f Mike. He has a red Jeep Wrangler 4×4 and it’s as much of a joyride as it is a chick magnet. Trekking through rocky back roads and dense forestry in Pennsylvania is a vivid excursion I recommend experiencing first-hand. Not knowing what’s to come at each turn, searching for the next “deep kick” was the best part.

We hit a lot of dead zones in Pennsylvania, and this really allowed us to get lost. I started thinking about the benefits of living out here and how wonderful it would be to get away. Technology fills a “space” in our lives, and if it is removed something else most likely will take its place to fill the void. This is the perk of living in a dead zone.

I had my Droid ready to roll so I could share my journey and relive the action, but my connection to the outside world was completely severed. (How often can you say that?) My world was reduced to three things: Mike, the Jeep, and the mush between my ears. It was liberating.

The benefits of being disconnected began to present themselves, clearly. I could explore my thoughts freely without feeling the constant tug of email alerts, text messages, (previously) draw something notifications, and phone calls—to name a few.

Imagine the creative royalties that would come with this freedom. This is my dead zone. I’ll help you explore your inner dead zone below. Sure, the Internet and people sending me these “interruptions” have their place and there’s certainly value in both parties, but try and recall the last time you had a nice cut of time for your thoughts to marinate. (A time and place for you to retreat.) The dead zone is a healthy way to cope with all of the data that is sent our way each day.

We usually have a room of our own, but there are devices that can be distracting. We’re bred to be connected, as this is human nature, and we create culture hubs to unite one another. It just so happens that our hubs are made up of wires and signals. Wireless carriers pitch this to you every day: Zero drop-offs. No more dead zones! Who’s in your top-5? are forms of keeping you on the grid. The same can be said for social networks (e.g. G+ circles) and various tech-social platforms. We thrive on being connected and we assign value to being connected.

News flash: there’s [also] value in being disconnected. The reasons and benefits to escape are up to you, and you need not go far to make this a reality.

Discovering your dead zone

It’s not rocket science–all that it took for me to discover my dead zone was a joyride in a Jeep. The ah-ha! experience is nice, but here are three simple tasks you can do to discover your dead zone:

  • Define your dead zone. Make a list of conditions that constructs an appealing state of being for what you wish to accomplish.
  • Identify what distracts you and seek to eliminate the stimuli. For example, I have 9 tech toys that have a screen—all of which require active participation (no matter how small or large).
  • Execute the plan. Manage the little things and draft a call to action.

I understand relocating to a remote island or even to a place with bad service (like spots in PA) as a call to action isn’t realistic for most people. It’s easier to set up some hoops for the outside world to jump through, first, in order to reach you. Creating your own dead zone is also a chance to marshal self-control, which in practice has its own perks.

Here are some suggestions to discovering your own dead zone:

Know your limits. Think about what facilitates progress [in a project or organization] and what inhibits production. I assess the risks and rewards of opening up to the digital matrix because this is something I struggle with. Use a style that you’re familiar with, like the pros and cons approach. If you have difficulty assigning limits, ask some friends or colleagues.

Create a routine. This is a long-term objective to accomplish two major goals: (1) develop consistency and (2) manage the expectations of others. Having a set schedule is an easy way to do this. Regularly allotting time for yourself or something you would like to pursue in a controlled environment sends a firm message: Interruptions are only to occur when urgent. You don’t have to disappear for hours, but if people know you like to take a walk or workout at 1 p.m. they’ll generally leave you to your business without taking offense to it.

Keep your vices in check. If you really want to create a dead zone, make sure your vices are accounted for. If they help you work, entertain them properly. (E.g. cigarette breaks.) But if you identify a vice as harmful, perhaps it’s better to check that one at the door. It’ll be there when you get back.

Know your environment. Having an environment that is built for you, to entertain all of your senses, is a plus. Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch – these are all sources of inspiration and development. So make the most of them and have fun with it. If the smell of coffee arouses you, set up a mini coffee bar. (I have a soft spot for vinyl records.) The aesthetics should not be overlooked when making your dead zone.

Turn off the cell phone. I mentioned limits in the first point, but this deserves its own section. Some applications like foursquare have a Mute button that disables push notifications, when you need a break. That’s beautiful. (Thanks Foursquare.) If this isn’t an option, search through an application’s settings menu. Here, you can curb unwanted interruptions or at least control them. (E.g. change what you receive notifications for.) There’s also airplane mode which turns off most of your device’s signal transmitting functions. You’ll still be able to use the device locally. If all else fails, turn the phone off.

These practices work for me, but they may not work for everyone. The beauty of the dead zone is that each person has their own unique idea. What are some things you do to break away?

The Convenience Effect, or Making Yourself too Accessible

In Business & Marketing on May 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

Have you ever heard of the choice effect? The choice effect suggests that when one is faced with an overwhelming total sum of choices the final decision is less likely to fulfill the expectations of your desires (the reason for this choice to begin with). The convenience effect is similar. Broadly stated, the convenience effect suggests that when ‘X’ is too convenient, ‘X’ provides diminishing returns.

I live with four guys and it’s easy for things to messy. Here’s a simple exercise I carried out in my apartment: after a cleaning binge, I moved the microwave from the kitchen counter to a shelf that is higher up (requiring a chair to use). My housemates don’t use it as much because it is more difficult to reach (cost). This means that those who do use the microwave get more out of it (returns); particularly a cleaner experience, but the time is always reset and all of the working parts (tray, door, etc.) are accounted for too. These are small differences, but they matter. The choice effect doesn’t work in this case because it’s not a matter of choice but accessibility.

One example in business is monster.com and theladders.com. Monster.com provides services for all job seekers and employers and theladders.com provides services for 100K+ jobs and 100K+ people. The difference here is a simple barrier to entry, or participation. It’s important to find the right barrier to entry for yourself or your business to get results. Higheredjobs.com is another market that exercises this strategy.

There are some examples that defy the convenience effect, like Wikipedia where anyone can contribute content. But other measures are taken to keep the convenience effect in check, like moderators. Craigslist is a good counterargument: high accessibility and ease of use, with few controls in place to manage content. This comes at expense to the user who must filter search results and posts to find value. (A bad experience.)

Finding the right level of convenience can make or break the glass ceiling. I’m not suggesting your business should move its microwave but it’s an analogy for the way you should be thinking about your business. How is your business “accessible” to the target market? How is your business “accessible” to employees? Each analysis will be different depending on the resources available and results that are desired. Think of how you can manage barriers to entry and accessibility—to create quality returns—and you will master the convenience effect.

How to cure Writer’s block, and other forms of stasis

In Personal Development on May 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Writing is a process.

You are probably thinking: Gee, how many times have I heard that one? We all know it’s true: writing is a process. It’s a nice laconic phrase that doesn’t disclose any obvious wisdom which can create a costly experience for the thinker—especially when writer’s block kicks in. We get jammed up over this saying because it summons the power of observation, not inspection. I have been stuck before, either staring at a blank piece of paper or blinking cursor in a text field, with no end in sight—everyone has. Delusion will only lead to more empty pages and rainy days. Here are three strategies I use to make this aphorism work for me and jump-start my mojo:

The binge and purge approach. This method is the most-straightforward and cures most common symptoms of writer’s block, like over-thinking or conception. Remember: writing is a process. So get cracking. Sometimes getting the words down is more important than the quality of the words themselves. Then revise, revise, revise. Don’t get hung up on a single detail, peer too far into where the story is going, or stop to research syntax while writing. You can revisit all of this later.

The mindcasting approach. This strategy begins with physically mapping out your thoughts, and has proven to be especially useful in developing content for non-print mediums, like blogs or presentations. First, select writing materials that suit your groove. The traditional pen and paper is sufficient, but sometimes I enjoy using construction paper and a colored Sharpie. It’s good to shake things up. Start by thinking about what has captured your interest lately or recent events and experiences. I recommend only choosing one or two things. Once you’ve decided, write it down wherever you want on the page and put individual bubbles around them. The key here is to break your thoughts down into simple structures, so exercise brevity. Begin branching out, using each original idea as a locus, in your mindcasting session. Circle the new thoughts and connect them to the previous bubble. Soon you’ll have a visual network of ideas to flesh out, with built in relationships and contexts.

The fragment approach. Shares concepts with the mindcasting approach. A quotation from H.G. Wells inspired this strategy: “I write as straight as I can, just as I walk as straight as I can, because that is the best way to get there.” Write in short bursts, only focusing on the words. Disregard grammar and sentence structure. Fill in the blanks. Connect the dots. And don’t forget the tittles and other diacritical marks to complete your writing.

If you try any of these approaches, come back and tell us about your experience. I hope these methods help you break the occasional spellbound funk or cure your writer’s block altogether. What methods do you use in a bind?