Sunday, April 25, 2010

Judge what’s coming, take time to determine the best course

Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power. Take away then, when thou choosest, thy opinion, and like a mariner, who has doubled the promontory, thou wilt find calm, everything stable, and a waveless bay.

By Marcus Aurelius
Written 167 A.C.E.

Understanding how relationships form and evolve is certainly an area of study that can provide fascinating exploration. I’ve been contemplating my approach to getting along with others and for the most part have found the dynamics of relationships intriguing and rich with challenges and rewards. 
An interesting aspect of all of this is the way we respond to the day to day demands which often can become stressful. Certainly at times during the course of running the business stamina, patience and a balanced approach to dealing with issues and people is required.
I'm not sure as I close in on fifty years of age whether harmony in relationships is a more acute priority and I’m searching for more meaningful experiences or this reflection is me becoming more judge mental about who is in my midst. Either way the ability to define character attributes and social intelligence when running an enterprise is a priority. 
Without empathy for our clients after all how can we effectively tell their story and help build their relations with others. This context of relationships it seems to me becomes key to defining the prosperity of an individual or an organization. 
Here is my philosophy about relationships today as it stands for me at this time in my career and personal life. A metaphor is something I’ve been contemplating for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here but some aspects of my day to day existence have emerged at this time that have me reflecting on my approach so I’ve come up with new strategies which I feel are worth sharing.
An oasis for escape for managing the demands and toxicity in life.
To get at the heart of this I’ve been thinking about an imaginary island. The island is situated in  turquoise waters in a temperate climate. Because this is all imaginary my island is likely in Polynesia. I’ve never been to that hemisphere of the world but my perception of the place is that it fits the vision for my personal imaginary island.  
The island is set apart from other land masses and because its my imaginary island I’ve got white sand, palm trees, bamboo structures and an assortment of watercraft.
My island inhabitants include Louise and Harry and immediate and extended family. The island is accessible at all times to closely related people in my life. A kind of imaginary utopia that when the stress levels are exceedingly high or uncertainty is pressing I go to the island.
The island has coral reefs off its shores beyond that is an expansive endless ocean horizon. 
This imaginary island becomes useful I find at different times. I’ve always jumped in with both feet to circumstances and realized later that my approach might be far to invasive or in conflict with balancing or carefully engaging relations. The Island has space around it with long sight lines. The idea is that you see what’s on the horizon and judge what’s coming you take time to determine the best course of action before the situation arrives or landfalls. The island is a welcoming environment for those whom you extend invitation to or you can repel others or if required set them adrift put space around them should they be coming toward you with conflict or toxicity. I’ve had sage advice and counsel that indicates suppressing conflict is not the best solution and the reality in life is clear, we will encounter tension, anxious situations and conflicts. 
Having a personal oasis is not a bad right brain exercise to support a more healthy outlook.
An interesting outcome from all of this is that I realize today my home in Chelsea has many of the imaginary island attributes without some of the watercraft I had in mind. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Approach is a loaded word

As business grows the approach from the past may not be the best approach going forward. Interesting transitions take place weekly around delivery to clients. Clients set the stage for all the roles we perform, the clients set objectives that we act on in support of their mission. 
Approach is a loaded word since defining the approach requires rulings and judgment for selection of the best pathway ahead in the interest of achieving the greatest value or result in support of winning outcomes. 
So my post is about approach and some perspective about how design is an integral function today used to support positive business outcomes. I think back to the early days reading business management books and discovering metaphors that offered an understanding about the rules of business. One visual metaphor remains a core concept which is the idea of a tripod as it relates to the three legs of business function. 
The approach to marketing and all its definitions including online utilities, advertising and the myriad of other tools available to organizations form a clear leg on the business tripod. The organizations brand and all that is factored within building that into something robust and meaningful. Marketing of course is a central component of any business. This function is required to effectively grow the organization. Investment in marketing remains crucial for attracting new opportunity and growth. To ensure a stable support, the organization’s approach must leverage the designer’s thinking. Today we’re witness to a surge in visual communications driving information to audiences and building market share(communities) for organizations. The marketing function within the organization is at a disadvantage without the designer's skill set somewhere within reach to differentiate the offering. Ideally the designer may be resident inside or acquired through contingent support from the street.
The approach to marketing in all its forms combined with the other two tripod legs will certainly enhance and provide stability to the organization. Get the marketing leg started and invest in design. A remarkable outcome occurs on the marketing leg once you've pitched your idea or you offer your vision or concept to the prospect. The marketing interaction engages and jump starts response's from clients and prospects. Essentially you may be turned away or you may find your timing is spot on with new business opportunity. The minimum result I’ve witnessed in the consulting world on the positive front are incidental opportunities that result from trying. Often these incidentals situations end up as substantial engagements. Most incidentals happen outside my comfort zone when some level of risk is involved.
The approach to production for the organization interested in stability and growth brings with it some unique challenges. The metaphor  “who do you want on the bus?” comes to mind. For those companies that foster leadership and excellence within their cadre a unique set of circumstances unfold about individual’s acting collectively driving the output to new levels generally resulting in building stronger relations with clients. Production validates everything. Did the social media campaign result in extending the brand? Are the clients aspirations to achieve specific sales quota’s exceeded? Has the event resulted in a sell out with people leaving feeling good about the value imparted? Does the analysis show effective growth in traffic to an online solution? Have your clients renewed their business dealings year after year? Design thinking as it relates to production today specifically in a multi disciplinary organization will bring a higher level of success to the program. Design in its many interpretations will support great production outcomes. The  time spent (designing) planning the clients assignment from the onset and subsequent execution along the value chain by outstanding talented individuals makes a difference because people who bring extraordinary passion are an unstoppable force for winning results. Production is a core leg of the business tripod.
I’ve felt in the last few weeks that I’ve been on the front of a locomotive train barreling at high speeds forward. The word production doesn’t adequately define the momentum and performance of the organization when you get it right and witness all systems firing in support of clients aspirations. 
Retrospect or pro forma evaluations ultimately determine the stability, vitality and results of the organization. Procurement and related activities place administrative demands ensuring fairness, transparency and equity among organization participants. A balanced approach to finance is an essential leg of the business tripod. Lots about this leg can scuttle growth. Recent trends point to heightened emphasis on design thinking as central to growth moving the bar away from reliability to a pragmatic and more risk tolerant and innovative model. This argument place’s greater emphasis on right brain creative thinkers leading forward into areas that may not be as familiar or traditional. Opportunities to reach a new audience through online conversations and experiences for example open new and expansive channels to many organizations who have yet to begin strategic exploring or reaching out. The cost of entering these channels needs to be understood, captured and controlled. Risk arguably is higher today for  those who haven’t embraced the online universe or who may be demonstrating lag in committing to properly building their brand in new media. Holding back and playing safe with investment in this space will reduce opportunity for growth.
The business tripod remains a simple metaphor for stability central to competitive advantage. What’s emerged is the central role design thinking plays on each leg and how adopting the practices that bring innovation and risk taking to these functions is a minimum requirement today for leadership. The rules have changed for organizations who have successful talented people that take risks and do not settle for the status quo.

Approach design thinking on each leg of the business tripod. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Envisioning an apt word for defining the properties unique brand.

Design for clients that do investment in Real Estate or development has brought many different experiences.

These projects can be measured with concrete results since the brand approach we develop drives the sales. On pre build developments the brand is the difference often between selling off or having the property lag on the market for months or years on end.

We act closely with our clients on “envisioning” an apt word for defining the properties unique brand and developing the story that creates aspiration to buy in the mind of the prospect. Over the years we’ve developed turnkey brand solutions for property development and “assets” across Canada. Our Brand Leadership Model effectively sets criteria for getting at the essence of the brand and building a comprehensive framework that is compelling, empathetic, authentic and persuasive.

The most recent brand launch of a client’s magnificent development a short drive outside of the National Capital Region into Quebec is linked here. The development offers those who seek country lifestyle a wonderful opportunity to live in nature and be afforded rich amenities.  Amenities starting with waterfront in a pristine forested enclave.

Have a look at the approach. I’ve included the Logo/graphic above and an animated sequence to link that have initiated the brand building process…toward stabilizing the development. We believe the approach will capture the hearts and minds of affluent people that see themselves living in this environment.

Created in After effects exclusively with stills, scripted, narrated and creative directed. The video is 3 minutes and may take a moment to upload. This example is reflective of the broadcast environment online today and how "play" has transformed the designers role. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Twitter a Brand Extension

Brand extensions come in many forms. Hoot suite is an online dashboard for people who embrace the emergent platform Twitter.  I’ve been coached by three uber-technologists who are associates of my organization. I’ve also engaged in a couple of functions with University Students who've lectured about leveraging online utilities.

My way into the Twitter universe has included the four steps of brand assimilation.

  1. Observation
  2. Touch point
  3. Coaching to assimilation
  4. Assimilate and share

From the point of view of brand touch point of course naming is central to creating personality. The name after all is a core element in building a following and creating equity. I had to overcome the name. 

I admit as well I had no following so the idea that I would initiate the brave new Twitter universe without anyone to receive outgoing tweets while Mashable, Kyle Braatz and the remarkably terse armano were leading armies of Twitter patriots. 

Touch point
Touch points happen when people become introduced to one another, products services, lodging, entertainment the touch point/experience is central to brand building or not. The laws of persuasion go into effect or fail. Twitter suddenly was ubiquitous when my good friend in England Matt Lipsey had us to his home in London the timing lined up for witnessing his debut television show airing in the summer 2008 overseas. The show he directed airs today and is known as Psychoville. My 13 year old son Harry was with me when we had the pleasure of celebrating this Television show in his living room while it was broadcast on Tele’s across the country. Subsequent to the show Twitter was on overdrive with audience members showing a collective upload praising the production in mass tweeting. The shows rating spiked to 2nd after some event in the middle east on the UK twitter roster. The cross media effect evident in this example where old media and new media now intertwine to communicate "brand" validates how social media is relevant and powerful as effective media for reach to market. This is good news for individuals and organizations who wish to extend their unique brand augmenting Twitter to achieve their marketing objectives.
That touch point was quite informative as was Matt’s very cool and level response to the overwhelming positive rating of his Directorship. Certainly the Psychoville debut event was a meaningful experience in the company of my son, my life time friend and his family.

Coaching to assimilation
Often brand buy in is enabled by a coach, educator or a great sales person or an expert.
We're privileged to have capable people in our midst. Among us we have people who bring great depth specifically in areas dealing in the design/brand, writing, technology space. People who have pulled me out of fires on many occasions and who have built the stable business we operate.
We’ve had to stay on top of online technologies in support of our client’s mandates ensuring they receive value. We’ve aligned with our clients and introduced unique solutions to meet their aspirations and build their brands. We have partnered with clients who are making considerable investment and raising their presence through reaching out to audiences and leveraging social media.  Twitter is one of many options.
I called in the experts.

Assimilate and Share
Three weeks back I had about 24 followers.
I was on the Hoot Suite dashboard that Andy Church instructed me on.
I came upon the following tweet.

RT @armano: If there is ONE article you should read over the weekend. It's THIS.

This quip demonstrates the functionality of twitter. I see the utility as a LINK distribution channel.
Essentially the field allows the user to write a headline. (if we think in publishing terms) The core content which in the Twitter universe is extensive, varied and rich is found through drilling down from the link. Twitter users are sharing information to drive interest to audiences and create followings. The link above led me to a useful post that defined one persons philosophy about the impacts and opportunities of a networked society. That information “share” crystallized value about Twitter and purpose. I realize the unique attributes Twitter offers today and see tremendous value for clients, stakeholders and others who have an interest in continual learning. The Twitter universe extends your brand to the global village. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Oral History & Sustainable Development

I’m on my second read of “The Wayfinders”. Every so often an authors work hits a chord so engaging that a second read provides the deep dive into the subject matter that satisfies my need to know and understanding.

The Wayfinders is a recent book that is part of the Massey Series of lectures. The author Wade Davis profiles a number of First Nations circumstances worldwide. The chapters describe the tension between these remarkable people and modern societies values today. The book describes fascinating details about the relationships modern society has with their First Peoples neighbours. He points to a number of Canadian situations that raise profound questions about our countries values and investment in preservation and support of First Peoples languages, culture, heritage and traditions.

My interest in this subject area is largely due to the project we’ve been involved with specifically documenting the oral history of
Cree leaders within the Northern Quebec Region. This first hand experience has shed light on exactly the subject area defined in Wayfinders. To the extent we’re loosing First Nations heritage is it reasonable that new and innovative ideas can be brought forward to reverse the trend? I’m of the view that Design Thinking applied to preservation of First People’s languages perhaps may be an approach. IDEO a worldwide innovation consultancy offers some practical reference and case studies of sustainable projects where they’ve played a role in making a difference to successful outcomes. 

Design thinking applied to preservation of knowledge, oral history and languages through constructs such as Desirability, Feasibility and Viability described in IDEO’s Human Centered Design toolkit begins to set the roadmap for tackling issues and bringing support to the preservation of Canada’s First People’s oral History .

with permission IDEO March 31, 2010 1:30:46 PM