Read this book after a recommendation last year from John Green and it didn’t disappoint. I’m sure JD Vance didn’t set out to write a political masterpiece but rather focus on his story growing up the wrong side of the economic train tracks. His story highlights why the nationalist narrative has increased unabated and why politicians tapping into populism continue to make huge strides in voter appeal. It is a great read, very sad at times but ultimately JD triumphs making the best of the opportunities that eventually make it his way. One of the concepts referenced near the end of the book, social capital is something that I’ve positively experienced but could easily have missed given the environment I occupied. My parents, aunts, and uncles aren’t corporate animals and definitely didn’t have a corporate network that could easily be tapped to lay the foundation for the space I enjoy so much today. Luckily the stars aligned along the way and with some hard work I’m building the social capital my kids and hopefully grandchildren could access.
PSA: I’m a Malcolm Gladwell fanboy and will always be biased toward the content he creates. Having read all his previous books, it was a no brainer that I would source “Talking to Strangers” on pre-order.
As expected the book is a great read, super engaging with topics we can easily relate too. Malcolm’s ability to distill what could be complex concepts into a woven story that grabs the reader the first time is unparalleled.
Without giving to much away, the books deals with 3 concepts we all need to be aware of in our troubled times when dealing with strangers:
- Defaulting to truth
Get your copy today and you won’t be disappointed.
Since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica moment, I’ve been wondering why people are losing their minds about user data being in the hands of third parties. If you move on from the improperly obtained aspect of the breach, is it really that bad?
Using FB for free does come at a cost that somebody has to pay and if it is not it’s 2 billion users then by default it has to be advertisers or third-party companies who can use your data to render services related to your usage. All those cat pics are on your timeline for a reason. Assuming that everything on your FB timeline is in your best interest or a carefully curated list of posts is naive and maybe just maybe users are pissed that they were so easily duped.
In the US of A, Cambridge and other companies peddling similar services have for years been able to influence user behaviour and breaches are a timely reminder of this. Users magically become aware they are the product and don’t really have that much control over their precious timeline. In addition, the data that is being used by these companies won’t necessarily land in the inbox of scammers unless intentionally sold through the back door which is illegal. Seriously what damage besides the election of Trump, which would have happened in any event, has access to user data caused? If I were a Madison client suffering a data breach then being pissed is properly justified especially if I’m leading a seperate life.
By blindly accepting & agreeing to FB’s TCs they have been legally protected to use data accumulated on their platform to enhance the service it provides users. In order to fulfill that mission and connect everybody on earth and the moon at no cost to users, it has very limited options if it wants to remain the hassle free platform it currently is, those moaning users must either shut up or #DeleteFaceBook.
I bought Think Like A Freak many years ago, started reading it but stopped reading during chapter 1. Still not sure why I didn’t finish it though. The book has a decent rhythm and is filled with anecdotes which will keep you entertained and engaged. Think Like A Freak follows on from the bestselling Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics books further distilling the Levitt & Dubner doctrine and providing practical examples of unleashing your freakiness.
The book is about problem-solving, appreciating that not all problems can be solved and verbalising “I don’t know” is ok.
Other notable nuggets are:
- Dump your moral compass
- Think like a child, without a filter
- Focus on the root cause of a problem, not the symptom
- Search for the incentives, people care more about them than you realise
- Find innovative ways to persuade those who don’t want to be persuaded
- Embrace the upside of quitting
Levitt & Dubner have once again shifted the benchmark and although the book was written a few years ago, it is still relevant as a framework for addressing those niggly issues we all face.
Well worth a read.
Although Peter Thiel’s book was first published in 2014, it is still engaging and relevant. The book is concise and punchy, talking to all things startup and evolving your dream into a sustainable monopoly. Peter successfully argues that operating in a world of perfect competition where no economic profit can be made is sub-optimal, business owners should be fighting for and aiming for a monopoly. He drops morsels of wisdom that is often overlooked when in a startup, one of them is how important it is to sort how you make sales, as small sales volumes require lots of marketing effort or a healthy dose of viral growth engines.
In his 14 chapters, Peter details his journey and learnings while navigating Paypal through the DotCom bubble of the 2000s and then going on to build other successful business. Peter asks a number of daunting questions throughout the book, 2 of which had me thinking for a very long time:
- What valuable company is nobody building?
- What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Zero to One is not a blueprint for success but notes from a successful entrepreneur and definitely worth a read
I guess it’s human nature to immediately implement or listen to a doctor’s recommendation rather than the constant feedback from your wife or life partner. Much like a heart attack would spur into action an immediate lifestyle change, which was part of the conversation the doctor was having with me yesterday.
That being said I’m one of those special people whose body can’t process sugar properly resulting in significantly more bad cholesterol finding a home in all the wrong places in me. If I was producing enough good cholesterol this would not be a problem, but given my current trajectory I’ll probably be a diabetic and suffer heart disease along with a heart attack at some stage. All grim news just before the holiday season really kicks off. While emphasising balance the doctor also slipped in a move away from all things alcohol in the short term.
Being an avid beer, whisky and tequila consumer this was not good news not even red wine escaped the clutches of this serious conversation. Given the nature of things going cold turkey isn’t an option especially over the very vibrant festive season. So, in my infinite wisdom I’ve researched what the calorie count is for my favourite alcoholic beverages and slotted in a slice of bread as a reference. As an FYI, coffee has no calories. For comparison purposes 100 grams = 3.38 shots, calorie data sourced from USDA
|Calories||Grams||Calories per shot||Equivalent slice of bread|
|White bread (per slice)||79||30||23|
At my treadmill running pace, I can smash 232 calories in 20 mins, so the odds are stacked against me for now. It’s not all doom and gloom though, best is to determine how many calories you need to remain healthy and what percentage of those can be good or bad cholesterol. Fortunately we are all built and process carbs differently.
It is increasingly becoming obvious that millennials prefer being self directed in their choices, trusting peer review forums more than product brochures. Within their investment decisions this is becoming more prevalent as non-intermediated investments continue to tick up. Asset managers who do not embrace this trend will struggle to gain and retain market share. Not only are the number of self directed investors increasing the number of advisors specifically independents in the industry are projected to decrease as regulatory changes under the “Twin Peaks” model are implemented in South Africa.
The availability of low cost investment alternatives specifically Exchange Traded Funds, coupled with an easy to invest online application process which is user centric are providing further impetus to a changing landscape. Looking beyond migrating existing businesses away from legacy systems. It does beg the question why are firms hesitant to embrace a market which inherently is low maintenance yet has the potential to be a sustainable profit generator?
Visual messaging, be it a video or infographic has found a special place in our everyday existence. Good visual design should be part of the the holy grail of interaction with the consumer, yet few companies consistently deliver. Apple probably is one of the few large companies to hit the sweet spot more often than not. With this backdrop, it is no surprise infographics have become a key messaging platform within a marketing campaign. Not only does it convey a consistent message in miliseconds it allows the viewer to focus on specific products or service components while having access to a bigger picture the company is trying to convey.
Crucially a good infographic should include the following considerations:
- Simplicity: An overly complex infographic with many paths is confusing and will result in viewer frustration and a lost opportunity for positive brand engagement.
- Consistent messaging: A golden messaging thread should be weaved through the infographic as a whole and be part of well structured campaign not an isolated element. All to often an inforgraphic appears to be an after thought.
- Visually engaging: Viewers should feel incentivised to read the infographic not cringe as they follow the content trail. Being on Brand is key but infographics allow for brand extension with clever visual elements and the use of COLOUR.
- A BIG ASS Call To Action: CTAs are sometimes overlooked when designing an infographic. The infographic is not a CTA, it only visually portrays existing product or service information differently.
Infographics are a powerful marketing tool and should not be relegated to being viewed as a graphic heavy document with words slapped on it. A well thought through and executed infographic can be the start of a long fruitful conversation.
Happy to hear your thoughts?
Let me first confess, I’m a Malcolm Gladwell groupie. I find his work interesting, thought-provoking and a joy to read. His ability to deconstruct complexities in a story like fashion keeps me glued to the pages.
That being said I recently found myself rereading Outliers which he published in 2008. It’s an enthralling journey reshaping the way we think about success. It also introduces the 10,000 hour rule! YES a significant portion of success as we understand it is sheer hard work, intelligence, attitude and appetite but we tend to think very narrowly about it. We tend to discount the impact of our heritage, culture or even our birth year amongst other factors have on the successes we have achieved.
Success is very rarely is attained through a singular event, in most instances it’s the incremental environmental factors and decisions at the margin which over time add up to the major successes we accomplish. Looking at my own life, had I not been born in 1979 I would not have been able to complete both junior and high school in a model C school which allowed non-white students to attend after the end of Apartheid. This opportunity to learn in a different environment I do believe contributed significantly to my thinking about the world and made my succesful introduction into a white dominated corporate South Africa easier.
When you have a chance get the book or audio version and start building your collection of Gladwell books!
Given the plethora of tasks at hand on any given day, having a plan at hand is always helpful. Be it a daily task list or a year long marketing/campaign plan. This is especially true when unique or a “once in a generation” combination of events swarm together and disrupt the business as usual processes and activities. Think 911 or the oil price plummeting precipitously.
Having a plan, even a conceptual strategic version which is viewed occasionally does create focus and ensures re-alignment in times of extreme stress where deliverables are complex and requires a significant amount of focus with short turn around time frames.
It effectively allows one to Plan, Organise, Lead and Control. You might remember that from 1st year varisty studies and it’s a truth repeating itself daily. Creating a plan is daunting but consider the following when crafting your roadmap.
Objective: Clearly state the purpose of the plan in a document people can easily access. This should be succinct and excite the reader. Where possible distill the objective or messaging you are trying to convey into a word or a phrase no longer than 3. Less is more.
Stakeholders: Extracting and distilling stakeholder needs clearly in all likelihood will probably be the most frustrating part of constructing an executable plan. Removing ambiguity and agreeing on granular details are key to tick off as deliverables upfront.
Excel: Spreadsheets are one of the most underutilised business tools we have in our arsenal. Not only can you elevate your wordy plan by including budgets but these can be extended to modelling and forecasts with editable variables. Enhancing your Excel skills requires practice which will raise your confidence. Many online tutorials are available and Microsoft has a number of helpful hints.
Matrix: Using a Matrix approach allows for readers to sumamrise a year’s activity easily, key to this is understanding stakeholder needs on a granular level. As an example which Social Network platforms to engage: Facebook vs LinkedIn. These should be reflected in either the horizontal or vertical columns, the opposing category should be a time period either weeks or months. The Web is littered with templates to minimise your workload.
WIP: Your plan can’t be static, use it actively in meetings and discussions. It definitely should not be placed in the bottom draw only to be reviewed on an ad hoc basis.
Meetings: Your plan should form the basis of regular meetings to track progress and change activities as the market dynamics shift. In addition it forces participants and stakeholders to remain aligned and focuses energies on key outputs.
After a few iterations of trying different approaches in crafting and compiling your plan you will find a workable solution allowing for effecting Planning, Organising, Leading and Control. Good luck.