One Picasso A Day?

If one were to ask what is the most loyal thing in the world, it would be the ‘ bodyclock‘. Time after time, day after day, it never lets you down in waking us up. I guess, that too, is a creature of habit.
 
Being an old schooler, waking up and writing down the ‘ to do task list ‘ of the day is de rigueur. And on the rare occasion, the list falls shy of occupying a full A4 page, disappointment gets writ large. After all, ‘ Men are from Mars ‘. And Machiavellian abilities for Herculean tasks are expected to go hand in hand. How remiss!!
We have been hardwired to think that working is productivity. But, is productivity working? After all, the map is not the territory. Nor is noise, the signal.
 
Distraction is the only constant “. How things have changedIn an on-demand, 24/7 society, where distractions cost millions of people relationships, health , peace, productivity and profitability, it’s time to pay attention to what matters most.
We are living through a crisis of distraction. Plans get sidetracked, family and friends are ignored, work never seems to get done. And that in the wake of first love and passion being firmly put long ago on the back burner, be it music or sport, travel or discovery, reading or writing..not worth it.
To create extraordinary lives, we can (re)learn to “unplug” from the constant barrage of disruptions and “plug in” to the tools, strategies, and mindsets that will allow us to harness our attention to reach our highest potential. 
You sit down at your desk to work on an important project, but a notification on your phone interrupts your morning. At home, screens get in the way of quality time with your family. Another day goes by, and once again, your most important personal and professional goals are put on hold. Story of our distraction fueled, notification driven lives.
 
If we can prepare ourselves to be as indistractable as possible, zero in on distilling the vital few from the trivial many, and be prepared to look in the ugly mirror, we can stop running on the treadmill of mediocrity. Not just that. With high focus, extreme prioritization and unflappable emotional labour, we can all get to producing our ‘ one Picasso for the day .’ What do you uniquely do that matters the most? After all, you can only do one thing really well at a time. SIP by SIP. Engage in some Mutual Fun!
Most big, deeply satisfying accomplishments in life take at least a few years to achieve. This can include cultivating a loving relationship, writing a book, getting in the best shape of your life, raising a family, building a business, and more. A few years is a long time. It is much slower than most of us would like. If you accept the reality of slow progress, you have every reason to take action today. If you resist the reality of slow progress, five years from now you’ll simply be five years older and still looking for a shortcut.
 
Where’s your paint brush? The canvas and the easel awaits. And your version of the Guernica.
So, time to offer a serenade to life, in all its terrifying and transcendent uncertainty, sung in ink, watercolor, and wonder.

Die Empty!

Caveat Empty..sorry Caveat Emptor: The caption of this piece is inspired by Todd Henry‘s seminal book of the same name.

Look no further. The wealthiest place on the planet is just down the road. It is the cemetery. No, I am dead serious. And it is a matter of grave concern.

“ The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”- so said Les Brown. And what a telling commentary that is on the ‘ ground reality ‘ .

Most of us live with the stubborn idea that we’ll always have tomorrow. But sooner or later all of our tomorrows will run out. It is finite.

We have: One life to live. One life to die. One life to learn and practice what you have learnt. One life to learn multiple skills, arts, hobbies, sports…multiple professions. One life to experience joy in what you perform. One life to share, give, pass on, teach and donate so that you die empty but Rich every which way.

Look within. Let’s define it as WINtrospect(there is no such word in the dictionary, yet). There is a gold mine waiting to be explored. But, all that we seem to do is exchange ourselves for fear to trade on a silver platter. So busy short changing ourselves. As they say, ‘ ideas are plenty but ideas without action are regrets ‘. No need to die before we die. That is called living empty. If power dynamics were to come into play, go empty to the graveyard. Prepare to disappoint it.

Eckhart Tolle has beautifully articulated that the ‘ present is a present ‘ in his book, The Power of Now.

Could have‘, ‘might have‘, and ‘should have‘ must be classified in the ‘Must Not Have‘ category of life. So, instead of being afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin. No calendar is going to tell you when to live your life. The  greatest loss is not from rejections and failures, but comes from what dies within us while we live.

Discovering your voice is rarely a linear path, but instead is the culmination of a lifelong process of observation, course correction, and risk-taking that eventually leads to the recognition of a valuable contribution.

You came to the earth with loads of inspiration and influence. Dare to offload them out of you before you die. Give out all you carry along into the world and when you are ready to go back, go empty handed!

So, do what lights you up! Day in, day out.

ENDS

Comfortably numb inside the Golden Cage?

The Golden Cage? Probably yes.

Intrusion capitalism paves the way for what has been called the ‘ convenience economy ‘. And like billions around the world, we are almost comatosed into not only acceptance but to dig deep and stay there. The numbness of convenience, shall we say? And apart from the occasional murmur or a sporadic protest, life goes on.

We don’t have to go very far but look at a few examples. Let’s begin with one of the usual suspects-brands like Amazon, Amazon Prime and their accompanying eco system that touches the lives of millions of customers around the world every day. For about US$ 10 a month( if you are in the US), you get a vast pool of content, priority door step delivery at the most economical value for zillions of products. And with Alexa(another Amazon wonder) taking root as a serious tool for search and e commerce, the cesspool of dependence has only gone deeper and broader. Since there is no better reason( or a better alternative by far), we as customers are happy to be remain comfortably domiciled.

With 2.2 billion users every day around the world, Facebook is a monster drug(combining its repertoire of Whats App, Instagram users) and there is no saturation in sight as the time spent on these platforms seem to be only increasing. Data theft, brand safety, privacy intrusions etc have not stopped the eccentric growth of this juggernaut. Sometime back, the powers that be at Facebook actually mentioned that they are addressing the privacy and data theft concerns and they are prepared for a 95% success. Very recently, under pressure from several quarters, the commitment went up to 99%!!! It’s akin to an airline saying that we are 99% sure of our landings. 1% can be seriously debilitating and you don’t have to look further than the New Zealand shooting which went live to understand what I am trying to say. But, just like the case of Amazon, there is no mass exodus. On the contrary, the clamour to get in is only increasing. The absence of a viable, palatable alternative definitely helps the cause. People are staying put!


As Steven Van Belleghem espouses in his book Automation, AI and the Customer Experience , just as there is a mandatory audit of all corporations’ financial statements both internally & externally, there has to be a regulation in place calling for ‘ algorithm transparency ‘. Because, presently only the outcomes are understandable while there is no clarity on the inputs- especially the bias and the prejudice that gets fed into the codes to manipulate outcomes. I think this is a clarion call for a basic ‘ code of conduct ‘ and the earlier it gets put into place, surveillance capitalism will have some guard rails.

Till then, the (algo)rithm is going to get you! And it’s quite possible that you go blue in the Face(book).

ENDS

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The Big Trap for Brands: A Sea of Sameness!

The Big Trap for Brands: A Sea of Sameness
Normal needs a new normalising!
Since there is so much interest, let me start from the bottom line. It is no coincidence that damn near everything that you and me buy or want to buy, seems to have a label ‘ Made in China ‘. Now, that includes airplane wings …as well as caps!
Instant knock offs-with excellence- have become the norm. From shoes to sweaters to computers to restaurants. The quality of damn near everything is terrific. Things that work well are not unusual. Things that don’t work are unusual.
By design or accident, we are afloat, awash, adrift…in a Sea of Sameness. High-quality sameness, but sameness nonethless.
An idea that has legs ..lasts only a few weeks, a few months at best. Then the sequel. And the sequel that follows the sequel. And so on.
Sure heard this before. Herd mentality. We race around. Follow each other’s tails. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Madison Avenue to Jamal Abdul Nasar Street.
As Swedish business professors  Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale brilliantly articulated in their book ‘ Funky Business ‘, ” The surplus society has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with almost similar educational backgrounds..coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices..and similar qualities “. Ouch, that is painful!
The 10X/10X theory on that is that you could be 10 times better. While being ten times less different.
The basic idea that I am echoing here is that ‘ Good Stuff ‘ is commonplace.”



“. It’s no longer exceptional for stuff (anything, everything ) to work. Which means the bar for ” standing out ” has risen dramatically.

In a winner takes all world, Normal = Nothing. So time to stop being goddamn normal.
Dovetailing seamlessly into this line of thought is the Danish marketing phenomenon Jesper Kunde’s articulation ” Companies have defined so much best practice that they are now more or less identical. ” It’s commoditised. Instead, how about ” It’s yet to be practiced “?
In other words, the only way to make a difference is to, well, “ Make a Difference “.
Standing out in a world where most everything works is stupefying difficult. And yet some companies are making a go of it. How I hate the word ‘ normal ‘.
We are in a ” Don’t just sit there economy ” – so, embrace abnormal. Never mind if you are first mover, last mover, first follower or fast follower. Go for it!
ENDS
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No.The Customer is Not Always Right!

 

Does this article caption seem like sacrilege? Especially in the context of all the cacophony of narratives that float around viz Customer Service, Customer Delight, Customer Centricity, Customer Experience, Customer Journey...and all of that and more.

Over time, we have transgressed(not so effortlessly) from mass to mass customisation to personalisation to customer segment of one. And somewhere in between there is the Long Tail effect as well that encourages more granularity when it comes to addressing customers.

The phrase “ The customer is always right ” was originally coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London.Business was different, expectations were certainly so and organised retail was only at the embryonic stage. This line is typically used by businesses to convince customers that they will get good service at this company and convince employees to give customers good service.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of bad employees giving lousy customer service( the United Airlines incident last year involving a passenger last year stands out like a sore thumb) but trying to solve this by declaring the customer “always right” is counter-productive.

CEO Hal Rosenbluth(owner of Rosenbluth Corporate Travel, since acquired by American Express) wrote an excellent book about their approach called Put The Customer Second – Put your people first and watch’em kick butt. Rosenbluth argues that when you put the employees first, they put the customers first. It’s a chain reaction, often overlooked by organisations and brands.

In his book Customer CentricityPeter Fader(Marketing Professor at Wharton & Co-Director,The Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative) encourages business owners to focus on the customers who matter most: “Not all customers deserve your company’s best efforts. And despite what the old adage says, the customer is most definitely not always right. Because in the world of customer centricity, there are good customers…and then there is everybody else.”

To borrow the experience that Tim Ferris(author of the wildly popular The Four Hour Work Week book) where he realised he was spending far too much time attending to customers who were contributing very little to revenues but causing high amount of stress, only to recalibrate his energies and attention to customers that warranted it best.

Haven’t we heard this before: “The customer is always right, except when they’re wrong—and then, it’s our fault”.

A more balanced way of looking at it would be to respect the customer, as it’s not about who’s right; it’s about what’s best for your company and the customer together. It takes two to tango.

Another example was when Toblerone changed the shape of their iconic chocolate bars, customers went absolutely bananas. It wasn’t that the new shape of the bars was bad, per se. It was just different, and people HATE different. Customers like to maintain the norm.The status quo, be in the comfort zone..

When you make changes in your business, you will probably get some initial backlash, even if the change that you have made, is for the better. If you have the attitude that the customer is always right, you’ll never make healthy improvements to your business because the possibility of bad customer feedback will paralyse you.

Needless to say we all need to strive for excellent customer service, or delight or experience as the case may be. But, adopting a ‘ Customer is always right ‘ policy can end up actually hurting your business. You kill employee morale, empower rude customers, slow down innovation, and even create unhappy experiences for other customers.

A much better strategy would be to empower your team to make the right decisions. And, that would translate to” The Right Customer is Always Right “. That’s a much better place to be.

ENDS

Image: ISD Global

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Affluenza, Stuffocation and being Worldly Vice!

Let’s begin with what the Business Dictionary has to say about Affluenza(not to be mixed up with Influenza though the contagious capabilities are common to both):

1. A social condition that affects a society because of the elevated number of individuals striving to be wealthy. People within the society feel that the only measure of success is determined by how much money and prestige a person has.
2. A social theory claiming that individuals with very privileged and wealthy backgrounds sometimes struggle to determine the difference between right and wrong due to the nature of their upbringing. Also known as sudden-wealth syndrome.

Having done that, Stuffocation is defined by Macmillan’s Crowdsourced Open Dictionary as:

– a feeling of being oppressed by the amount of stuff you own. The problem in question is an anxiety christened stuffocation – a feeling of being oppressed by one’s ungovernable heap of belongings, acquisitions.

Affluenza( or Selfish Capitalism as author Oliver James would have called it in his book by the same name) has not just changed the world, it has also changed the way we see the world. The happy embrace of ‘ convenience ‘ and our reconciling to not being able to plan ahead is an entirely new way of thinking and over the past few decades we have built an economic system to accommodate it. A vast majority of humans(yes, us included, thankfully) would find the idea of using our scarce resources to produce things that are designed to be thrown away absolutely mad.
Consumerism(the love of buying things) can, by definition only provide a transient sense of satisfaction, the ‘ thrill of the chase ‘ or the ‘ after glow ‘ like walking down high street with your branded take away. The benefits of consumerism, as one can imagine is short lived as they are linked to the process of the purchase and not to the use of the product. Materialism(is the love of things themselves) is about owning and therefore there is a clear distinction from consumerism. Taken literally, they are polar opposites, though they are often used interchangeably.
We love things not for their material function but for the symbolic act of acquiring and possessing them.
Stuffocation (a term brilliantly coined by trend forecaster and author James Wallman who wrote a book on the subject) is to have more stuff than we could ever need – clothes we don’t wear, kit we don’t use and toys we don’t play with. How it’s cluttering up our homes,making us feel stuffocated and stressed and potentially killing us. Not to mention, how damaging it is for the planet. Our obsession with stuff can be traced back to the origin of the Mad Men who compellingly created desire through advertising (Remember Vance Packard’s famous book on advertising, The Hidden Persuaders).There is a clutter crisis and rampant materialism is being strongly linked to declining well being. The manifesto for change that the Stuffocation book articulates is to replace materialism with experientialism– instead of a new watch or a new car, maybe a holiday with friends and time with family. It advocates being healthier, happier and to do more with less.
To put it simply, if we want to reduce the impact on the natural environment of all the stuff we buy( and mind you we are almost 7.5 billion of all humanity, so that’s a whole lot of stuff and so much of it unneeded), we damn well hold onto them for far more longer. Maintain it, repair it, get more satisfaction from the things we already own, more satisfaction from leisure time and definitely less satisfaction from buying things. Affluenza is curable and has to be cured. So is materialism. The culture has to change. Let’s move on from worldly vice to worldly wise.
Less is indeed a lot more!
ENDS
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