Grade A Entrepreneurs

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Simone Murray from DirectEmployers: Employers in residence help to address education inequality

December 8th, 2015 · Book Review

Simone Murray with Bill Warren

Simone Murray with Bill Warren at the DirectEmployers Association 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference(#DEAM15)

Education inequality is a chronic problem in this country, and it is getting worse. As a result, initiatives designed to assist are definitely worth special exposure. One of them is the DirectEmployers Foundation, Inc. headed by Simone Murray, its first Executive Director.

Simone is passionate about her mission – and this, for very good reasons. Raised by a single mother who immigrated to the US from Jamaica when she was a child, she was the first and only one to attend college out of all of her six cousins that she grew up with.  After completing college, her career in business management opened her eyes to the lack of diversity in roles with high paying jobs.  “I knew once I reached a certain level of success,” Simone says, “that I wanted to open the doors for my children and other students”.

The purpose of the Foundation is to enable socioeconomically disadvantaged middle and high school students to explore STEM careers with Central Indiana employers. The originality of the program is that instead of having students go visit employers, employers are the ones coming to students. Look at it as a new dimension of internship programs, or what I would call “reverse internships.”

The model offers three critical benefits:

Scalability: Traditional internships target students individually. In this new model one company addresses several students at once. Employers come to a school and set up their business environment within that school. They are “employers-in-residence” and they conduct their work activities in a dedicated area on a school campus. Typically, each group comprises six to twelve students in grades 8-12. In 2015, the initiative has impacted over 165 students from ten schools. Two of these schools have hosted the Employer Simulated Workplace labs, IPS Career Technology Center and Bloomfield Jr./Sr. High School. Some of the employers who have participated so far include the DirectEmployers Association, Salesforce, Duke Realty, NSWC Crane, PwC, Eli Lilly and Company.

Effective learning for students: Individual internships transplant students into an unfamiliar place: the more socioeconomically disadvantaged a student is, the higher the culture shock. More often than not, efforts to adjust to a completely foreign environment create fear or discouragement, a severe form of distraction that prevents interns from enjoying the experience and, even worse, from leveraging their own learning potential. They spend too much time struggling with the inhibiting emotions of their fear of not fitting in. In this new model, companies immerse themselves into the students’ environment, and, as a result, students can directly share their experience with their peers in their own language as well as with their teachers, who, in turn, can enrich their courses, because they too are seamlessly exposed to the corporate world.

Reciprocal experiential learning: Experiential learning immerses participants in an active and shared learning environment and has proved extremely successful. Though its the Employer Simulated Workplace labs, the DirectEmployers Foundation’s offers employers the ability to go the extra mile and experience for themselves the complex world of diversity, something that it is almost impossible for most employers to fathom from within their internal precincts. “Being a part of, and partnering with DirectEmployers Foundation, has been a rewarding and impactful experience, ” says Chris Ferguson from Duke Realty. “The goals of the foundation really resonate with Duke Realty in that we believe that we have the responsibility to give back, and be stewards to our communities.  Our involvement with the work study program in conjunction with IPS will allow many of our associates that participate to enhance a young person’s life, and future, by exposing them to career opportunities they may have not ever known existed; providing them hands-on experience and real world knowledge.”

The DirectEmployers Foundation, Inc. is a powerful, transformative initiative fostering new mindsets and new hopes among disadvantaged adolescents. As Bill Warren, Executive Director of the DirectEmployers Association, puts it: “By providing opportunities for our employer partners to show at-risk students what it’s really like to work day-to-day in a STEM career, we believe that those students will pursue such a major in college and eventually work for a local STEM employer, earning high wages in high skill jobs.” The initiative is also an occasion for companies to meaningfully connect with complex urban groups whose sole exposure to the business world consists of seeing gigantic illuminated logos from their suburbs.

Companies should consider participating to the DirectEmployers Foundation as a major action item in their inclusion and diversity programs and help the DirectEmployers Association to extend it to multiple States. Reducing education inequality has always been about inclusion and desegregation.

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If you play golf with your boss, does he/she have to win?

December 1st, 2015 · Book Review

During a conversation about Bob Sutton’s Good Boss, Bad Boss and what Guy Kawasaki’s summarizes as the “Good Boss Manifesto” in The Art of the Start 2.0, a participant asked me what I thought about one of Ally Bank’s “facts of life” commercials, which assumes that when you play golf with your boss, your boss has to win– even if you have to put his ball in the hole yourself. Here is Ally Bank’s short ad to which she was referring:  Holing the ball for your boss

If you are tempted to adopt this short video as a parable illustrating the principles and facts of life, here are two questions you may want to ask yourself:

Are you willing to cheat because you have reasons to believe that it’s what it takes to be in your superior’s good books?

Where will you draw the line? Are you also going to lie about product development strategy, sales or accounting because he/she could be upset if things don’t go as well as he/she would like? Do you want to be part of a misleading culture in which your boss will provide, willingly or not, false information to his/her own boss and ultimately to the shareholders? Do you want to be caught in the spiral of potentially shady activities? If you have doubts about the ethics of your bosses or the quality of the corporate culture that they embody, leave before they neutralize you, destroy you or make sure that they fire you for not tagging along (and, if you can afford it, do not ask for a separation agreement).

What’s going to happen if you cheat and your boss finds out that you did?

In the visual parable, the ball runs way over the other side of the green… If your boss is a reasonable player, he/she will have doubts that he/she actually holed the ball. Two things may happen:

  • If your boss is unethical, he/she may not like the fact that you know it and interact with him/her based on that premise. It’s not uncommon for unscrupulous people to extoll their respectability, care for their reputation… and resent that you have seen through them. Many bosses want you to tell them what they want to hear or see what they want to see, but they expect you to do this “unbeknownst” to them in order to make you the fall guy if anything goes wrong. No matter what you do, you will be part of his/her hit list anyway.
  • If your boss is ethical, he/she will be horrified. If you make them win no matter what, how can they trust you when you report on the state of the business? How can they know that you are not ready to cheat for your own aggrandizement?  This boss should sack you immediately.

Leadership is leadership whether or not you are the boss  - it’s not about winning or losing but about pursuing shared goals based on mutual trustworthiness.  Golf, just like life, can be exasperating. So play by the rules and remind your boss of a great aphorism by one of the greatest amateur golfer of all times, Bobby Jones: “I never learned anything from a match that I won.”

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Is Attitude always “more important” than IQ?

November 25th, 2015 · Talents, Innovators

Attitudes

I enjoyed reading Travis Bradberry’s piece Why Attitude Is More Important Than IQ as I reframed the text in the context of his book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, which he co-authored with Jean Greaves, as well as Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which defines “mindset” as “an established set of attitudes held by someone.” Both are must-reads, and this post is not challenging their content. I simply have misgivings about the statement: “Attitude is more important than IQ.”

This is a great title marketing-wise because it’s memorable. Yet each time I see it mentioned on my various feeds, I can’t help cringing a little bit and going back to my initial quizzical reactions before I actually read the piece in its context:

  • I told myself “Always?”
  • What if people remember the title without reading the piece and then feel empowered to blindly assume the superiority of “attitude” over IQ, no matter what?

Comparing attitude and IQ is like comparing apples and oranges

“Attitude” and “IQ” cannot be measured by the same standard; one cannot be evaluated relative to the other or cannot be said to be “more important” that the other.

The meaning of the word attitude is very composite, starting with its original Italian definition of “disposition” and “posture” to a broader description as “the way you think and feel about someone or something,” “a feeling or way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior,” or even “a way of thinking and behaving that people regard as unfriendly, rude, etc.” The definition of IQ is more straightforward: “a number that represents your intelligence and that is based on your score on a special test,” even if we can sometimes question the standardized tests used to measure IQ.

You can show a bad attitude while being a member of Mensa, and many historical geniuses haven’t exactly been peaches. You can show a “great” attitude at work and yet believe that the earth is as flat as a pizza.

Attitude relates to socially accepted behaviors, social competence and interactions while IQ relates to information- and knowledge-processing capabilities that may not lead to social acceptance.

What I liked about Daniel Coleman’s landmark book in 2005 Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ is the fact that he was more prudent in the title itself. Yes, emotional intelligence “can matter more than IQ,” in multiple situations. Conversely, also, however, IQ could “matter more than emotional intelligence”…  and also in multiple situations.

Would we have Macintosh or iPhones if Steve Jobs had been all about attitude?

IQ alone is not enough, and it’s quite possible that backlash against IQ-idolization may have triggered an overemphasis on “attitude” even though we are speaking of two different worlds. In many cases, success is ultimately obtained by building consensus. As a result, it is obvious that attitude – or let me rather say “emotional intelligence”  — fosters quality interpersonal relationships, and that empathy facilitates mutual understanding, constructive feedback as well as business or personal success.

Yet, emotional intelligence is not the universal panacea. The features and content of this emotional intelligence can be shaped by implicit and explicit cultural values or biases, which can lead to intolerance or to rejecting people with a completely different history. For emotional intelligence to operate as a human bond, the people involved must belong to a fairly homogeneous group and implicitly share similar cultural choices and … maybe have similar IQs. You may be valued for your empathetic capabilities in your biology department and yet be looked at as a total disaster if you develop an evolutionary explanation of the history and diversity of life on earth to group of anti-Darwinians, who will peg your work as “insensitive” and dismiss everything you say based on what they believe.

As much as emotional intelligence is deemed to be a major factor for success, it can also nurture a recessive status quo where everybody has to feel, breathe and run with the pack, and so can become a serious impediment to innovation. Steve Jobs was definitely a man with attitude, but do you really believe we would have Macintosh or iPhones if he didn’t have the IQ to back up his swagger?

In fact, we can’t oversimplify things in terms of “attitude trumps IQ,” or vice versa, because the one usually informs the other. Emotional intelligence and maturity can be facets of a high-functioning theoretical brain, and a strong presence or helpful demeanor often stem from feeling competent and capable in a given situation. Proust was not spurred to write seven volumes by a multiple-choice question, after all.

Emotional intelligence enables us to “fit in,” adjust to a given context and feel good. Yet, IQ is what enables us to process the implicit knowledge embedded in this context, process it differently, question it, disrupt it and ultimately innovate. Pardon my romantic view of IQ…  but in the end, inventors often have to ruffle a lot of feathers and upset a lot of accepted “attitudes” to succeed!

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Diateino publishes L’Ere du Contexte, French version of the Age of Context

September 8th, 2014 · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

Diateino just published the French translation of The Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel: L’Ere du Contexte. Here below is the English version of the preface I wrote for the French audience.

When we speak  about the “context” of a phrase or an event, we allude to the circumstances and conditions that give that phrase or event its particular meaning, or import. The “context,” then, acting as a backdrop, allows us to understand, to explain, or to justify the things we encounter through resonance to particular times and/or places. Everything that we say and do is inscribed in an environment we cannot always control, and upon which we are dependent.

In The Age of Context, Shel Israel and Robert Scoble extend and, in some ways, invert the idea of context. Although we are the children of our time, acting and thinking within the spatial and locational framework given us, we are more than the simple products of a context; we are also its creators, by the choices we make and the use of our free will. These days, new technologies offer so many possibilities that we have, more than ever, the ability to become architects of our own contexts.

In the age of hyper-connection, a multitude of technologies allow us to place ourselves within an environment, to understand its complexity, to modify and control it. The Age of Context describes our ability to adapt our surroundings to our needs and extract information that will optimize our decisions and grow our efficacy. We live in a world of mobile devices, social media, and geographical sensors and services that continually transmit to us data that widen our experiences while simultaneously refining them. The context era touches every area of our lives, and it attaches us to all sorts of objects that are themselves interconnected. In 2009, one of the best blogs dedicated to gadgets created by two French people, Eliane Fiolet and Hubert Nguyen, Ubergizmo, asked, “Who would have thought that something as ordinary as a bathroom scale would end up with Wifi functionality? The Wifi Withings scale (from a French company) not only has a look straight out of science-fiction, it can also send your weight and other data to an online dashboard, which you can access via a free iPhone app.”

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel share with us their enthusiasm for human connection through examples from their world, primarily in the United States. But the context age is spreading at more or less the same rate everywhere in the world, and thousands of entrepreneurs are rivaling one another with their ingenuity and creativity. Some are taking on enormous infrastructure problems, such as the Toulouse start-up SIGFOX, which offers a global network powering the Internet of Things that consume little energy and is inexpensive: “I have brought back a taste for low-cost technology that was used by submarines in World War I, the Ultra Narrow Band, which was used to transmit signals in Morse code,” recalls not without humor the company’s founder, Ludovic Le Moan. “With this technology, we deal with very weak signals in the midst of enormous ambient noise.” At the same time, other entrepreneurs merge design and technology with rare elegance, such as, for instance, Netatmo: its smartphone thermostat, designed by Phillipe Starck, allows you  to remotely control your heating system while it remembers your habits to adjust the temperature in real time. June, conceived by Camille Toupet, meanwhile, is a splendid piece of jewelry that measures solar exposure and advises women on how best to protect themselves from the sun’s effects.

“Wearables” in general have an important marketing impact. When you wear Google Glass, you become the focus of a very specific interest. You may fascinate and attract the people who want to try them on or, to the contrary, repulse people who fear being stripped of their privacy. Yet, while it is true that some new technologies may generate apprehension, or even outright phobia, it is also a fact that most people get used to it more quickly than we may think: new conventions and rules of courtesy and quality of life are emerging, just as they did with the advent of cell phones. We quickly forget the inconveniences of novelty and retain only its benefits. Ask, for example, the eighty-year-old patient operated upon in a hospital near Rennes what she thinks about the fact that her doctor was able to directly transmit images of her surgery to a professor in Japan! “Thanks to Google Glass, it was as if the professor was by my side at the operating table,” Doctor Collin told a reporter from Ouest-France. “He could see exactly what I was seeing and could interact with me via the glasses’ display.”

Google is testing a prototype for contact lenses that would help diabetics measure glucose levels in their eyes. Samsung, teaming up with San Francisco University, has opened a lab to develop data sensors to allow digital health regulation. The Age of Context is not about the magical era of automatons functioning according to predetermined programs; these days, sensors allow objects to receive and analyze data in order to adapt appropriately to varied environments and consumers without any particular technical knowledge. These objects are more or less complex, but they are usually very simple to use, whether we are talking about the Kolibree toothbrush, which remembers your brushing habits and identify areas that you are brushing incorrectly, or about the Flower Parrot, which helps you optimally take care of your plants.

The Age of Context is a revolution in our daily lives that touches jewelry, electric mowers, cars, drones, or small communication devices such as the Wi-Fi-enabled Nabaztag, which has engendered several next generations since 2005 and whose creator, Rafi Haladjian, has been on a mission “to develop systems that are really intelligent and that allow for the creation of new services in all areas of life.” The smart home is no longer a concept but a reality that is growing and being refined quickly with fascinating incarnations, as the Commission for Energy Regulation (Commission de régulation de l’énergie) reminds us in its survey of communicating house projects and intelligent buildings worldwide: “Eco-efficiency in terms of energy, with intelligence loaded into a habitat and its equipment, is now recognized as a priority by policies and institutions.” This involves numerous economic players, whether they be of the old or new guard: makers of household appliances, producers of electric heating, agents of worldwide telecommunication and internet, building companies, the automobile industry… In this vein, the report adds, “Toyota is developing in Japan, in the village of Rokkasho, a smart housing project, the Toyota Smart Center, in which the automobile manufacturer has established two smart homes equipped with a house system for energy management, with six electric vehicles, rechargeable Prius hybrids.” Naturally, Honda has elected to do something similar in California, where the cars and houses will all be part of a Smart Grid,  “smart” electricity distribution network.

The Age of Context describes what Jeremy Rifkin calls “the third industrial revolution.” Whatever the area, the leading directive is one of “smart” assistance to the consumer, that is to say, “a concentration of technology accompanies you in your daily life,” as Omate described its connected watch. Or the idea is to give you the ability to augment your reality, as promises Optinvent, a Rennes-based company that is determined to compete with Google Glass. This is the age of “Smart-Sensing,” which is the name that Cityzen Sciences, a company specialized in the creation of connected textiles, has given to its program. This era is also resolutely optimistic: “This bonding between people and machines will result in people being healthier, better informed, more aware of changes in their environments and more secure, efficient and productive,” writes Scoble and Israel. It’s the opposite of futuristic nightmares of uniformity in the style “Brave New Word,” as everyone can expect a highly personalized experience. Who will have to wait for a cab in the rain when Chauffeur Privé, Drive, LeCab or SnapCar can be summoned in an instant? Stéphane Marceau, co-founder of OMSignal, a Canadian company producing smartwear that gives you data about your physical and emotional states, is not lacking in humor when he takes on as his motto this statement by Aldous Huxley: “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own.”

Our hyper-intelligent world is, of course, a world of Big Data… and The Age of Context cannot help asking important questions: Where is this data going? Who owns it? To what extent can this data be used against us? The purpose of this book is not to answer these questions, nor is it either to add fodder to these fears or to diminish them. It is certain that only highly precise data and in great numbers is able to provide us with data that matters: Big Data is the necessary flipside of “Little Data” honed for the hyper-personalized services that we have come to expect. What’s more, escaping this targeting is more easily said than done, as Janet Vertesi, assistant professor in sociology at Princeton, discovered when she tried to hide her pregnancy from the internet, as she explained at the Brooklyn conference Theorizing the Web… But perhaps the expansion of this context-driven age will also, ultimately, give consumers the means completely to control the terms of use of their data in commercial situations. The era of “ultra-private” smartphones is already upon us, as is the era of new regulations. As the Huffington Post reminds us, “‘The trend of the quantified self will lead to tides of very personal data that will need to be protected,’ warns the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty.”

Happy reading!

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Women in HR should be thrilled about the appointment of Mary Barra as GM’s CEO

December 11th, 2013 · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

I just wrote a post on my company’s blog about Mary Barra:

http://blog.talentcircles.com/2013/12/women-in-hr-should-be-thrilled-about.html

Of course, I  was thrilled to hear that Mary Barra will be the new CEO of GM. The appointment of any woman at the head of a company is a victory for all women.

My post on three takeaways for HR:

  • The value of being able to keep talented interns.
  • The power of internal mobility: Mary Barra was involved over the years with virtually every aspect of the business.
  • The power of an being outstanding VP of GM’s human resources department, a position that she occupied between 2009 and 2011. She is credited with making the culture of the company evolve.

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APE, Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch: a must-read

December 10th, 2012 · Book Review

APEAPE, Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to write a book and self-publish. It’s packed with information, advice, tips and resources.

Even if you still dream of finding the ideal agent and the most prestigious publisher on the planet, chances are that you will be ignored. So don’t waste your time: take your fate into your own hands and go for self-publishing. This book tells you how to make it right.

Is it easy? No…

Self-publishing is not easy — but certainly easier than waiting for miracles. Guy warns you: “I thought self-publishing would be easy: write in Microsoft Word, upload to Amazon, and cash checks.” Now, his book tells you what it actually takes, and what you need to do. It’s hard work, but you will make it if you are equipped. First, make sure that:

1) You want to become an author for the right reason — be of interest to real readers out in the wild (and not just to please yourself or your friends).

2) You understand that the self-publishing revolution is only starting: “only about 10% of publishing revenue comes from ebooks.” But that shouldn’t detract you, especially if you don’t stand a chance contributing to the 90% of the print books of the US publishing industry. Think of the opportunity: you are part of a new movement.

So start… Use the right tools. Read this book starting from page 1. Get Word. Create your template or leverage the work of others, such as Guy’s APE or Adam Shepherd’s Perfect Pages: Self Publishing with Microsoft Word. Don’t waste time doubting yourself and turn into a daring entrepreneur.

Is it possible? Yes. Start now!

Finance your book. You are not paid to write your book and it’s going to cost you some money. Not a fortune, but as in any business, check what you are ready to spend based on how many books you might be able to sell. Leverage existing organizations such as the Independent Book Publishers Association or crowdfund your efforts using Indiegogo, Unbound, Pubslush, or Kickstarter. Self-publishing is business with real upside potential. Yet, do not underestimate your costs and price your book accordingly — albeit reasonably.

Offer a clean product: Self-publishing requires a DIY mindset. This doesn’t mean that you will get away with an amateurish product: “Your goal is a book that looks and feels as good as any book from a big-time, traditional publisher [...] The whole point of self-publishing is to produce a book faster, better, and cheaper than a traditional publisher.” So take the time to understand the authors’ recommendations, from “how to convert a file” to leveraging a new trend of “Author Services.”

Think “Distribution:” The self-publishing ecosystem is fragmented and messy. Just as any entrepreneur, analyze what it is about and choose your distribution channel (eBook resellers or direct) based on your goals. Take some time to learn from others. The simplest path is Kindle Direct Publishing, but also look into Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Kobo; compare, and still consider selling directly to readers! Remember also that self-publishing doesn’t prevent you from using Print-on- Demand companies for printed versions. An important detail: Every format of a book needs a unique ISBN (although all ebook platforms count as one format).

Be smart: Throughout the book, Guy and Shawn give you the tools and advice you need successfully to self-publish your book. Look at them as your mentors. Listen to them. Do not overlook any chapter, even though you can read this book in whatever order you want. It’s part of your roadmap as an entrepreneur to keep your enthusiasm while remaining vigilant (and using common sense). In the end, success depends on you: market your book like crazy using any guerrilla tactics that come your way and build an enchanting brand: “the quality of your book and the quantity of your moxie are more important than the amount of money you’ve spent.”

Like Guy’s first book, The Macintosh Way, of which I had the privilege of being one of the very first readers, this book ”celebrates passion, competition, excellence, and hard work. The basic premise is that David can defeat Goliath, that a teenager can fly into Red Square, and that an ex-jewelry schlepper from Hawaii can eat pate with a French philosopher at Jacques Cagna in Paris.” Become a self-published author the “Macintosh Way,” which entails “doing the right thing and doing things right,” and ”competing on execution.” Become part of the APEcommunity: join the movement on Google+.

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Compete Now: The 2013 New Year Challenge for Entrepreneurs

December 8th, 2012 · Entrepreneurs

1m:mOne Million by One Million (1M/1M) celebrated it’s 150th free and online roundtable mentoring session for entrepreneurs a few days ago, and announced its 2013 New Year Challenge.

The Prize:

The New Year Challenge will award twelve scholarships worth $1,000 each to twelve entrepreneurs. This scholarship allows entrepreneurs to join the 1M/1M premium program that offers private roundtable sessions, a comprehensive curriculum, and introductions to potential customers, channel partners, media, analysts, and investors.

How to compete

  • Complete the application process here by December 20.
  • Get at least 50 of your Facebook friends to vote for you here by January 3, 2013 to qualify for the final round.
  • 20 finalists will be chosen by audience voting, so get AS MANY of your Facebook friends to vote for you as you can to maximize your chance to win.

Selection process

Twenty entrepreneurs will be selected to pitch their startup during the finals on January 10 and January 17, 2013 by audience voting.

Finals

The 20 Finalists will be notified by January 7, 2013, and instructed on preparing their presentations for the January 10 and 17 finals. The finals will be held during the 1M/1M roundtables, and you can register to attend here.

Twelve entrepreneurs will win the prizes! Go for it!

To know more about the program: One Million by One Million (1M/1M). I also wrote a post a while back about this amazing — and highly successful — initiative started by Sramana Mitra to democratize entrepreneurship education. Today, over 50,000 people participate in the 1M/1M community. Several revenue-generating companies have been incubated in the program, some have received angel and/or VC funding, and some have crossed the $1M mark. You can listen to some of them in the recording of the 150th roundtable on YouTube.

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Great book: Google+ for Small Businesses by Lynette Young

December 3rd, 2012 · Book Review

Google+ for Small business I met Lynette Young at Guy Kawasaki’s party at SXSW earlier this year. She contributed to one of the chapters of Guy’s landmark book, What the Plus!: Google+ for the Rest of Us. No wonder, Lynette represents the elite of “female googlers,” with over 1.5M followers.

Lynette just released an excellent short book. Google+ for Small Businesses. Her goal is to help you to realize that ”Google + makes it easy for the small business owner with limited resources to be on an “even playing ground” with large corporations that have seemingly unlimited budgets.” Google + is more than a social media network: it’s the platform by the online search and advertising giant that owns the two most used search engines in the world, Google and YouTube. So visibility for your small company is at your fingertip.

Start with the end of the book: Your “One-Month Action Plan.”

Browse through Lynette’s “One-Month Action Plan” to realize that leveraging Google+ for your small business is not an insurmountable endeavor.  ”By taking 15– 30 minutes a day for one month, you can build a solid Google + presence and plan. At the end of one month, you will have circled 100 people and left comments on almost that many pieces of content. You can build a solid following and a library of content both available in Google + and via search on the Internet if you follow this plan. By focusing on a handful of tasks at a time and building on progress you’ve made the days before, you will come to the end of the Action Plan with a stronger understanding of Google + and the start of a community.”
 Now, read the book…

One hour or so of good reading

Lynette doesn’t drown you under tons of marketing hoops and loops, and instead walks you through the basics of Google+ in six chapters (plus the last one) that describe the platform’s main features, provide ideas to promote and support your business, increase your leads, enhance your support, or organize events with your customers and leads. One of the key characteristics to be aware of as a small business leader is to take into account major differences between your personal Google+ account and Google+ Pages for your organization. Using Pages, you cannot circle someone that has not circled you first and you cannot convert your Google+ Profile into a Page (but you can and should have both!). This anti-spam mechanism has its benefits. In turn, you won’t be spammed yourself and this forces you to develop a real attraction strategy and interact constructively with Googlers as a small business (instead of adopting a swarmy pitching style that exasperates everybody). Of course, hangouts and Hangout on Air can be initiated as a Page, which can be key for your marketing or lead generation initiatives. Take advantage of great tips scattered throughout the book, such as this one:  ”When you attach an image to a post, be sure the image has a descriptive name such as red-kids-sneakers.png rather than IMG0032002. Consider using part numbers or SKU numbers in the file name if that is a common way those products are searched and referenced. Google Search and Google Image Search can “read” the words in the name of the file and use them as keywords!”

Move into action…

On Google+, just as any social platform, you must be genuine, show that you care for others by sharing their content, and offer meaningful content of your own adapted to your various targets. For example, don’t bombard your VIP circle with tips that only matter to your current customers. With minimal, but consistent efforts, your Google+ Page will operate as an important amplifier for your small business. So keep in mind that a social platform basically follows the same etiquette as the physical world. If you are nasty, your nastiness will come across as even more ridiculous than it is. If you are great, your greatness, too, will be magnified.

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Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It

August 16th, 2012 · Book Review

CappelliAlso posted on the TalentCircles blog.

A refreshing short book by Peter Cappelli, Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources! This is a must read for any HR Professional, of course, but even more for anyone who is in a management position and has the power, or simply the will, to put an end the current “crippling employer-employee standoff.” The purpose of Peter Cappelli’s book is to get “America’s job engine revved up again.”

We are all familiar with the litany of complaints: Companies can’t find skilled workers, schools are not providing the right kind of training, the government doesn’t let in enough highly skilled immigrants, prospective employees don’t want jobs at the wages that are offered, etc. If perception and scattered research might give some weight to such complaints, Cappelli demonstrates that they don’t add up when looked at holistically, and that they come across as urban myths.

Are we a nation of un-qualified people? In a market with a lot of job applicants, companies tend to look for purple squirrels or unicorns. Are job seekers unqualified for not fitting a paranormal job description? Does it allow us to jump to the conclusion that “there is a skills gap” when the hardest-to-fill jobs appear to be those that often require the least skills? In reality, lots of job seekers are overqualified: “When applicants far outnumber job openings, the overqualified bump out those only adequately qualified… And the proportion of overqualified has more than doubled over the past generation.” Cappelli sees very little evidence of an actual supply problem and asks a valid question: Isn’t it a paradox that the US would rank seven among 39 countries (survey performed by Manpower in 2011) in terms of employers’ complaints about an inability to fill jobs, while in China, the new global rising power, these complaints are half as frequent? Does China have a larger pull of “qualified” people?  No — simply millions learn on the job and do so very quickly, just as generations of Americans have. In the end, the analysis shows that skills aren’t the issue, but market-determined wages are…

Are your kids less intelligent that you were at their age? Nobody wants to believe this, but businesses are quick to assume that today’s workforce is more flawed than 20 years ago. There is no evidence to support this “good old days bias” either. Cappelli indicates that US student performance has actually improved over the past decades. In addition, studies by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OCDE) do not show any absolute decline in US scores. Emerging countries are simply catching up — and they do not belittle their workforce nearly as much as we do. Another great point: the history of Russia “reminds us that an economy’s success is not related to education in any simple fashion.”

So what’s wrong? Job seekers and employers talk at cross purposes. Is it reasonable to expect job seekers to have done the work before because companies don’t want to train people? While it’s certainly valid to fear that a newly trained employee might go to the competition, it’s equally logical to wonder why a newly trained employee would leave… Maybe this was not the right hire in the first place… Maybe the very culture or a non-existent culture of the company is the problem. Is it reasonable to assume that filling a job vacancy is akin to replacing a part in a washing machine — what Peter Cappelli calls the “Home Depot Syndrome” — and assume that people are mere cogs in the industrial machine? This may not be the safest angle to increase a company’s productivity or creativity, or to even motivate people to join a company.

Cappelli mentions two major problems: The first one is the automated software used to filter job seekers — it allegedly complies with the mandate of equal treatment of all candidates, yet ends up generating pervasive unfairness: people can’t find jobs even though there are millions of open positions. How long will the legal requirements be an excuse for using antiquated software? The second one is the loss of power of the HR function: “Not coincidentally, the United States has the weakest human resources in the industrialized world.” The ultimate call is certainly to re-empower human resources, and re-empower recruiters —give them a strategic role. Brain drain is the death of companies, and so is brain blindness: “Millions of unfilled jobs are costing the economy billions of dollars in lost business,” reminds Cappelli.

This little book is a powerful eye-opener. As I was reading through it, it seemed to me that what is initially presented as a sort of standoff between job seekers and employers may not be that willingly created by employers, and may raise a broader question about the ability for established companies to realize that economic survival in a global economy is more about building and nurturing talent and less about “filling” positions. The vast majority of the people who look for the perfect match today would not be hired in their own company. They benefited from a system when trust in people and intra-entrepreneurship mattered, which is the deep history of this country: the US started the modern industrial revolution thanks to millions of “unqualified” people — and Cornelius Vanderbilt left school when he was 11.

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“De-season” yourself to remain innovative!

July 27th, 2012 · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

Earlier this month, Heidi Groshelle invited me as a keynote speaker to the ExecEvent organized by Greg Duplessie — it is an exclusive networking event for industry executives focusing on the data storage marketplace. I was asked to share tips and tricks about being an executive. Vast topic! So I decided to address only one theme: Reinvent yourself continuously to create your own A-Team.

BecassineWhen I came from France to Silicon Valley in the late 1980s to found a tech startup, I learned one key thing: that what I knew was nothing compared to what I didn’t know… Since then this has been my motto. As counter-intuitive as this may be, I would say that keeping one’s self confidence in check helps to continuously rekindle creativity and develop new tools of self-reliance. I am glad that more researchers start to emphasize the power of “less-confidence.” I mentioned a great piece by Tomas Chamarro-Premusic, Professor of Business Psychology in London (UCL), for HBR: Less-Confident People can be More SuccessfulMy take-away: Confidence that you have built over the years relates to what you did, not what you will do.

TintinYes, it’s hard to check your experience at the door… But consider this: The experience that we have acquired in a job may be valuable, but more often than not, this same experience may encourage us to operate on automatic pilot, and therefore can prevent us from seeing what’s new or what should be different. Tintin’s moon mostly resembles the Alps without the trees, and his vehicle is more like a tank — nothing in common with Lunar Roving Vehicles (LRV) of the Apollo missions. Checking your experience at the door means, in practice, letting the scales fall from your eyes. After one year in any job, these scales are forming fast… My take-away: While it’s a cliché to say that a failure can accelerate success, it’s also true that former success can cause failure.

New skiesSure, you may feel lonely when you start something new, and the temptation is to hold on to what you know, or find reassurance from people “who know more.” While it’s good to listen to the experience of others, it’s equally critical to make sure that they are not affected by their own Tintin syndrome. When I started my first company, I was advised to hire “seasoned executives” with 10 years of experience… Even though desktop software was new, even though Macintosh was really new, it was already the craze to hire “industry veterans.” I was not used to business verbiage and was scratching my head. There were no veterans in the Apple world… and the self-proclaimed veterans hated the Mac and were shouting that Apple was doomed to fail. My take-away: Seasoned executives may be great, but they may also have vested interest in the past. So watch for the birds that can help you move towards new skies.

PopulateYou can’t lead alone, except when you are a dictator (and want to die a violent death). So, how do you surround yourself? “Hire ‘infected’ people,” to use great expression by my friend Guy Kawasaki in The Art of the Start: “It’s often easier to teach an infected candidate how to do a job than to teach an agnostic (or atheist) how to believe.” This is true for startups, of course, but also for large corporations who want to innovate again. I can safely say that my various companies had the most diverse people. None was born “seasoned,” and all turned out to be extremely effective. These people were not connected to one another because of their background or their education. They were connected to one another because of a common purpose. My takeaway: Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Diversity creates vibrant and energetic companies.

Purple squirrelsAfter hiring a few hundred people myself over the last 25 years, I realized that I never looked for the perfect resume. More exactly, I was discouraged by resumes very early on, because they were full of what I later discovered were called “key words.” When I was asking the candidates what they meant, I was regularly disappointed. So basically I always ended up “hiring for attitude” to use the title of Mark Murphy’s book. I never looked for the “purple squirrel” considering that when people have a passion, they learn fast. Training new employees is far more cost-effective that experiencing high turnover, anyway. Now that I am in the HR industry as the CEO of TalentCircles, I am finding out that turnover is even worse than I thought: “46% of people hired in 2012 will fail within the first 18 months on the job,” and “an astounding 89% of the time, employees fail for attitudinal reasons, and only 11% of the time because of skill.” Also, of course, I recommended George Anders’ remarkable essay, “The Rare Find.” My take-away: In practice, spotting talent before everybody else is the ability to help people develop their potential.

PenguinsHiring for attitude means finding your “brown shorts,” the people who will really be able to contribute to your team: a Southwest interviewer had asked pilot interviewees to wear the company’s Summer uniform (brown Bermuda shorts instead of formal pants). The candidates refusing to wear the shorts showed that they were not a good fit. I never had any specific name to my various teams. Call yours the “penguins of Madagascar” if you want. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private are cute-looking penguins, but with unique commando skills. They will make competitors “crazy” and make customers fall in love. And each is a true evangelist of the company’s culture, both inside and outside, and so committed to the cause that you can let them talk on social networks. My take-way:  Let your team speak on social media channels. As they communicate, they also learn what’s going on in the industry. If they don’t, you may be running a nursing home.

Conquer new wordsI love this cartoon created by Hugh MacLeod for Rackspace and its “Rackers,” where the Little Prince is a cosmonaut and Tintin’s space shuttle, a hybrid of nature and culture. My take-way: Even large companies can think like startups.

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