Sunday, January 15, 2012

Do. Improve. Repeat.

If you've been following me on Twitter for any length of time, you've read these three words before:
Do. Improve. Repeat.
I call it my "mantra." I've used it in just about every aspect of my life. Of course, it's my personalized version of "Practice makes perfect" or "La práctica hace al maestro" or "Kaizen," but with emphasis on a central step: Reflection and the conscious intention to make the next golf swing, guitar riff, kata routine, blog post or paragraph better than the last.

Every day presents a new opportunity to get better at something, whether it's being a better follower, leader, thinker, writer, golfer, musician, student, manager or martial artist (or whatever it is that you've chosen to apply yourself to). It seems to me that this is a common thread among the people I have admired throughout my life: They have worked on the things they find valuable, and have tried to continually improve not only for themselves but for others as well.

I realized long ago that practice doesn't guarantee you excellence as compared with the greats. I found out that I'd never be a major league baseball prospect, or a pro golfer, or lots of other things I might have enjoyed. But knowing I can't be the next Jack Nicklaus doesn't stop me from heading to the range and trying to get better. It's easy to put yourself on "cruise control" when you reach a certain level in your chosen profession or hobby or sport, and many people do. It's not my way.

Does this make me better than other people? Absolutely not, and that has never been my goal (especially because it isn't possible). It only makes me better than my "yesterday self."

If there's some area of your life, be it hobby or work, that draws you on and makes you try and try again, think about why that is, and see if you can't bring the desire you feel there into other areas of your life.

I would thoroughly enjoy hearing about your experiences.
Give it some thought.

Golf practice photo by Roy Atkinson

Monday, January 2, 2012

Customer Empowerment: Lessons Learned

Some very large companies learned lessons this year about the power of customers. There was the Bank of America fee story and the Verizon fee story. Now, those fees hit customers in the pocketbook, and it's easy to see why people rebelled against them. But things get very interesting when we look at what happened to GoDaddy, which lost upwards of 72,000 domains when customers decided there were better alternatives.

GoDaddy didn't increase its fees, or do anything directly draconian to its customers; the company did, however, indicate that it was supporting SOPA, the very controversial legislation making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, and customers didn't like it.

There's always been an adage in business about customers who "vote with their feet," heading over to the competition if they find something they don't like about you, whether it be price or service. But now, people may leave you if they don't like your backing of a bill, or if they don't think you pay enough attention to the environment. And this is just the beginning.

Those of us who follow and contribute to social media are well aware of the ability to use outlets like Twitter and Facebook to make noise when something doesn't appeal to us, and some even credit, or partially credit, social media with a role in the recent governmental changes in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, the so-called "Arab Spring."

But customer influence is being taken seriously at levels most of us are not even aware of. Take for example the complex social media analysis being done by Bluefin Labs. As explained in a recent article in Technology Review (login required for the full story), Bluefin extracts enormous amounts of information from social media updates related to TV programs and advertisements. It won't be too long before they can deliver detailed analysis related to almost any topic in any medium.

All of these things should be a very big warning to companies: 

Pay attention to your customers. They are empowered now in ways that they have never been before. They may vote with their feet, and take thousands of others with them when they go.

What are you doing to make sure your relationship with your customers stays on the positive side?

Give it some thought.