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Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Influencers

September 11th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

It used to be said that a person was “influential” — these days they are “influencers.” Are the terms synonymous? Can they really be used interchangeably? I don’t think so, and plan to enlarge on the differences over the next two days.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mInfluence isn’t about your online ranking or the strength of your brand, although they contribute.

Influence is about effect.

The effect your words or actions have on those exposed to them.

Yesterday I linked to an article in which Penelope Trunk said that it’s a bad idea for founders to be of different genders and because of her influence dozens of founders are probably rethinking their startup plans.

There is a common arrogance among influencers to generalize their opinion and present it as fact applicable to all. Typically, the more successful the influencer the greater the arrogance.

But from day one every founder has influence, before success and beyond the expected, so even a casual word can cause trouble.

A founder CEO I know, whose original education years before was engineering, had a habit of occasionally strolling through engineering to see what was going on.

One day he commented that he wouldn’t do a design the way the team was doing it. It was a casual, throw-away comment, one he had forgotten five minutes later, but it devastated the design team.

The CEO had no clue to the havoc he wrought and it took the vp of engineering, who was co-founder, hours to settle them down. He then told the CEO not to talk to the team and banned him from the department.

What those on the receiving end of influencers need to realize is that no matter how brilliant or experienced someone is they are still voicing an opinion.

And as valuable as the opinion may be, it should never be swallowed whole, because opinions are subjective.

They are the product of that individual’s MAP, which itself is a product of upbringing and experience. Even someone else having exactly the same background and experience would not have identical MAP because each person processes differently and has different inherent characteristics.

Influence comes with responsibilities—how well do you handle yours?

Image credit: HikingArtist

If The Shoe Fits: Guys’ Fault / Guys’ Responsibility

September 8th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIf you’re a guy and have a daughter/niece/sister/mom/female friend this post is for you.

If you’re a bro this post is especially for you.

You’ve all heard the stories of women who weren’t taken seriously as founders and couldn’t get funding.

You’ve heard it as anecdotal evidence, directly from women founders, and from those around them.

In fact, there’s finally enough data-driven proof that the fact can no longer be denied or blamed off on something else.

https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/19/in-2017-only-17-of-startups-have-a-female-founder/

It’s not just investors; but suppliers, partners, and vendors who ignore/condescend/etc., when the other party is female.

Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer experienced all these problems when they launched Witchsy last year.

So they took a time-honored approach.

Having noticed that the mostly male artists, developers, and designers they were working with took their sweet time to respond to requests and were often slightly rude and condescending in email— “They’d say things like ‘Listen, girls…,’” Dwyer tells Quartz—they decided to bring in a male co-founder named Keith Mann to make communication easier.

Pre-Keith, Dwyer explains, “it was very clear no one took us seriously and everybody thought we were just idiots.” When “Keith” contacted collaborators, Gazin says, “they’d be like ‘Okay, bro, yeah, let’s brainstorm!’”

Keith only lasted six months, but, by then, being Keith had taught them to stop being communicating “like a girl.”

Neither the approach nor the result is unique; women have been obscuring their sex to get ahead for centuries. But…

In era that touts gender equality, even school-age children are still absorbing warped messages about the sexes. A recent study published in the journal Science revealed that by the time most girls are six, they believe that only males can be geniuses.

That means by the time a female hits first grade she’s already convinced she’s second best.

And that’s on you.

Image credit: HikingArtist and TechCrunch

Ryan’s Journal: Hurricane Madness

September 7th, 2017 by Ryan Pew

https://www.flickr.com/photos/noaasatellites/37064048185/in/photolist-XTaCJY-XSEXo9-X9wkNd-YtdWex-XT1eej-Ys8QZR-YcwrBJ-XeZQaP-YubEqB-YubFH6-YtbPRB-YtJZLc-YcWK5s-XejK4K-YcjXkm-Ygp2JZ-YcbeBG-Ycuqsj-Ycwwaw-XeZ68r-XT9br9-YcjXi7-XSQyzd-Y9CBQA-Ye8SEj-Xe457g-XdoJw1-XT9cMf-YfPiPx-Xfhisx-XdoULj-XT94D1-Ye8D5d-Ycx58E-Ye8Hdd-YgFriF-YdCeME-X9BC7A-X9wkLQ-SACtD4-X9wkMS-YbSHFy-YtJZKv-XSQAa7-Ygp3BF-YcjXkb-YgoXVM-Ya2Xro-YdQniY-XeZ3UDHave you ever watched the propaganda film from the 1950’s titled, “Reefer Madness”? 

It was put together by the US Government with the intent to scare the population about the dangers of Marijuana.

Most of what they presented as negative aspects of using the drug were not particularly true, but they were effective.

However, this post isn’t about drugs, it’s about paranoia.

I live in Florida and you may have heard that there is a MASSIVE storm headed our way. Obviously with Harvey in the news people are taking it seriously. However there is a certain amount of panic as well.

Grocery stores are empty of water and canned goods. Gas stations are without fuel and the roads have started clogging up with people exiting the state.

To a certain degree this is rational behavior on the part of the individual, but when taken in aggregate it becomes more of a prisoner’s dilemma.

That may be a charged statement, but as I am watching my fellow man I start to see the cracks in civilized society.

People seem to be in a rush. They cut in line. There is a general “me first” attitude of self preservation.

My perception is that this is a natural state before a storm. Once the storm passes and we are left with the after-effects you see folks band together in harmony.

I’ll keep you posted whether this happens.

Now, what did I do as a rational consumer? I loaded up on water and food, more than what I need. I filled up all my vehicles with gas. And I am preparing to leave.

I have little ones and cannot risk them to chance.

But I did let someone in front of me in the water line out of kindness, a way to balance it all out.

Image credit: NOAA Satellites

Social Media Fame Stupidity Knows No Bounds

September 6th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

I write posts one day in advance, so this one was written yesterday (Tuesday) and is not the one I planned to write.

I live in Washougal, a small town on the Washington State side of the Columbia River about 20 miles from Portland, Oregon; a town that calls itself “the gateway to the Gorge.”

In spite of its proximity to both Portland and Vancouver, WA, it’s a very rural area.

I woke today to a gray sky, the smell of smoke and everything covered with a mix of fine wood particles and ash.

Apparently, some teens thought it was the height of entertainment to film throwing fireworks into Eagle Creek Canyon on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

“Even though that kid threw the firecracker, all of those kids he was with are complicit. All of them watched, all of them did nothing. They all were a part of it. One filmed it,” she said. “When I came upon them, and the guy threw the firecracker, I’m pretty sure I heard a couple of them giggle. The guy was filming it like it was another thing to film, no big deal. The whole complacency of that group, I find it so disturbing.”  

They did this in an area that has seen no real rain in months; an area under fire prohibitions.

That was the start of the Eagle Creek Fire.

Then, for the first time since 1902, the fire jumped the Columbia, caught and started the Archer Mountain Fire.

As I write this, that fire is less than six miles from my friend’s house and only 15 miles from mine.

The air, inside and out, is smokey.

Hopefully, the winds won’t start up and neither of us will have to evacuate.

There is so much I don’t like about today’s world that it’s hard to choose the worst.

However, I reserve a top spot for people, no matter their age, who don’t think about / don’t care how much damage they do so long as they get their 5 seconds of social media fame, along with those who stand by and watch.

Image credit: Brent/KOIN TV

Don’t Buy The Lies Of Silicon Valley

September 5th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

Silicon ValleyThis is a short post, because it contains links to the two biggest Silicon Valley lies.

I realize that lies aren’t nearly the big deal they used to be, but when the source of those lies is the MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) prevalent in a critical piece of US infrastructure the lies take on a life of their own.

They carry so much credibility that their insidious spread is guaranteed.

The first lie is that success requires constant hustle. Whether starting a company or working in an existing one, hustle means giving up everything else — family, friends, recreation, relaxation, whatever, no exceptions — and work 24/7/365 (more if you can figure out how).

But for some, “hustle” is just a euphemism for extreme workaholism. Gary Vaynerchuk, a.k.a. Gary Vee, an entrepreneur and angel investor who has 1.5 million Twitter followers and a string of best-selling books with titles like “Crush It!,” tells his acolytes they should be working 18 hours a day. Every day. No vacations, no going on dates, no watching TV. “If you want bling bling, if you want to buy the jets?” he asks in one of his motivational speeches. “Work. That’s how you get it.”

Which, as anyone familiar with productivity research knows, is a pile of poop.

The truth is that much of the extra effort these entrepreneurs and their employees are putting in is pointless anyway. Working beyond 56 hours in a week adds little productivity, according to a 2014 report by the Stanford economist John Pencavel. But the point may be less about productivity than about demonstrating commitment and team spirit.

The second lie is that Silicon Valley is special. But Silicon Valley’s special is completely self-serving.

Silicon Valley has a lot of self-interested reasons for preferring to maintain a facade that its culture is special, and that its industry is more innovative, virtuous and productive than every other industry. It serves as a great recruiting tool as the region competes for talent with other industries and areas. It allows insiders to maintain outsize control of their companies. And it is a way to prevent regulators from coming in and regulating Silicon Valley to the extent that it might otherwise seek to do.

Stop drinking the Valley kool-aid. Facebook doesn’t love you, it loves your identifiable personal data, which is slices, dices and sells to all comers. Google jettisoned its “don’t be evil” motto when it got in the way of revenue generation.

Read the articles.

Share them, tweet them and stop ruining your own life by believing them.

Image credit: Elektor Labs

The Story Of Labor Day

September 4th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_Strike#/media/File:940721-remington-givingthemthebutt-harpersweekly.jpgHave you ever taken time to wonder why there is a holiday dedicated to people who work?

No?

Then before you get too caught up in shopping, beer and BBQ, take a minute to learn exactly where the holiday comes from.

It’s the result of an 1894 labor strike against the Pullman Company (think aspirational, luxury private railroad cars).

Engineer and industrialist George Pullman’s workers all lived in company-owned buildings. The town was highly stratified. Pullman himself lived in a mansion, managers resided in houses, skilled workers lived in small apartments, and laborers stayed in barracks-style dormitories. The housing conditions were cramped by modern standards, but the town was sanitary and safe, and even included paved streets and stores.

Then the disastrous economic depression of the 1890s struck. Pullman made a decision to cut costs — by lowering wages.

In a sense, workers throughout Chicago, and the country at large, were in the same boat as the Pullman employees. Wages dropped across the board, and prices fell. However, after cutting pay by nearly 30%, Pullman refused to lower the rent on the company-owned buildings and the prices in the company-owned stores accordingly.

Federal troops used extreme force to break the strike resulting in 30 deaths, while rioting and sabotage left 80 million dollars worth of damage in its wake.

Indiana state professor and labor historian Richard Schneirov said President Grover Cleveland’s decision to declare Labor Day as a holiday for workers was likely a move meant to please his constituents after the controversial handling of the strike. The president was a Democrat, and most urban laborers at the time were Catholic Democrats.

Congress approved (knowing their constituents would also be pleased).

Makes you wonder what the current president and congress would do.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Can You Tweet @JeffBezos?

September 1st, 2017 by Miki Saxon

As most of you know, in June, Jeff Bezos turned to Twitter for philanthropy ideas and received nearly 47,000 responses.

The story got more interesting after Unanimous AI got interested.

Unanimous AI is an artificial intelligence platform that claims to make super-intelligent decisions based on the wisdom of the crowd, but not in small numbers.

Apparently, crunching big numbers can provide some amazing results.

When the company has held these swarms, the group has correctly predicted the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the first four horses of the 2016 Kentucky Derby in 2016, and the eight teams that would make it to the 2016 MLB playoffs, including the Chicago Cubs’ victory.

You have to admit those results are pretty impressive (especially the Cubs’ victory).
Long story short, after crunching the data access to clean water was the “winner.”

Two things have happened since then — one you couldn’t help noticing and the other more esoteric.

  • Hurricane Harvey brought the issue of clean water front and center in most people’s minds; Harvey changed the focus from “somewhere else” to “home.”
  • A product called the OffGridBox.

Pre Harvey, OffGridBox estimated 720,000 US families needed the box.

Post Harvey, the need is in the millions — and bottled water won’t cut it, even ignoring the environmental effects of all that plastic.

To date, only 28 OffGridBoxs have been installed.

But those 28 units have impacted 12,100 people!

The basic unit costs a reasonable $15,000.

Certainly Bezos and his network have the chops to help the business scale quickly, which should bring the cost down much further.

Now I need help from you, my readers.

As you all know I’m no social media maven, so I’m asking those of you who are to tweet @JeffBezos the link to OffGridBox.

I honestly don’t care if he sees my post; the important thing is for him to see OffGridBox.

Harvey left unbelievable devastation in its wake.

Irma and (possibly) another storm may not be far behind.

Ryan’s Journal: Culture Is A Reward

August 31st, 2017 by Ryan Pew

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gotcredit/32943610593/

I attended an AA-ISP* event tonight and heard something that struck me, “culture is a reward.” What a profound statement.

I’ll back up and explain what transpired tonight. I am in B2B sales and I have found that I must constantly sharpen my mind.

Sales is, to some degree, a game, but one requiring confidence. There is a lot of rejection and stress. Add to that the fact that most folks view sales as a negative field and it makes for a combustible result. I attended an event tonight that focuses on improving sales and the profession.

With all the negativity that surrounds the role, I have found the absolute opposite when actually at work.

Yes there is rejection, but there is also a lot of positive outcomes. I meet with clients that are trying to solve massively complex problems and I get to somehow help. My clients are usually more knowledgeable than I am, so I also learn something new.

That said, let’s get back to the statement I made earlier regarding culture as a reward.

Have you ever started a job thinking it was one way when it the reality turned out much different?

You felt like you got the rug pulled out from under you? I have and I hated it. The culture was negative and nothing was as it seemed. From the outside it was fine; from inside terrible.

On occasion, though, we luck out.

We stumble across an opportunity that delivers as promised, whether Google or some local shop that has a great team.

Doesn’t it feel like it’s a reward to just go to work? That is it!

A good culture is its own reward. I could not add to it because it is so true.

Now I just need to surround myself with it and never let go. 

* American Association of Inside Sales Professionals
Image credit: GotCredit

Managers, Micro Cultures And Values

August 30th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

Note: It’s imperative to recognize that culture has nothing to do with perks, such as free food, fancy offices, free services, etc.

Culture is about values and how they play out in both the internal and external functioning of the company.

But company culture isn’t the end game — micro cultures are.

Micro cultures are based on individual bosses’ values.

Both cultures are fundamental to that perennially popular subject, employee engagement.

HBS’ Jim Heskett recently asked his audience what’s needed to engender employee engagement given that engaged employees are 2.7% more productive.

Most of the responses talked about the need for managers to respect their people, listen to ideas from everyone, have better people skills, etc., and several mentioned the skills acquired with an MBA.

But, as I pointed out, and Heskett cited in his summary, “Respect and valuing employee input have little to do with education and much to do with personal values.”

Unfortunately, education is no guarantee of values.

Colleges are no different, with MBA students leading the pack. “56 percent of MBA students admitted to cheating…  In 1997, McCabe did a survey in which 84 percent of undergraduate business students admitted cheating versus 72 percent of engineering students and 66 percent of all students. In a 1964 survey by Columbia University, 66 percent of business students surveyed at 99 campuses said they cheated at least once.”

If scholastic success was based on cheating it’s likely that that lack of respect/get-ahead-at-all-costs mentality would carry over to their management style.

Yesterday’s post ended with this comment,

That [provide an environment in which people can learn, grow and excel] is what a good boss is supposed to do.

But it’s the great ones who actually do it.

In fact, they go beyond that and shelter their people from any kind of toxic culture coming down from above.

Image credit: thinkpublic

Ducks in a Row: Good Boss Culture

August 29th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewwippler/4556732144

There’s no question that tech, just like every other industry, is highly biased. It’s become a major issue not because it’s new, but because tech drives much of the economy, which puts it in the spotlight. Added to that, more women and people of color are and speaking out publically about what they have to deal with.

Tech’s main excuse for its lousy diversity numbers is a lack of talent, so they focus on kids to fill the pipeline — but all that really does is provide 5-20 years of avoidance in dealing with the real problem

Consider the hard data.

Among young computer science and engineering graduates with bachelor’s or advanced degrees, 57 percent are white, 26 percent are Asian, 8 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are black (…)  technical workers at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, according to the companies’ diversity reports, are on average 56 percent white, 37 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 1 percent black.

Those numbers certainly don’t add up.

The real problem is culture (duh!) — why spend eight-or-more (usually more) hours where you’re actively not wanted?

Yolanda Mangolini, Google’s director of global diversity, recognizes this problem.

“We know that it’s not just about recruiting a diverse workforce. It’s about creating an environment where they want to stay.”

True, but, in fact, the greatest company culture possible won’t cut it.

Even more important than company culture is the boss’ individual culture.

For hard proof there is Mekka Okereke, the black engineering manager who runs Google Play and seems to be missing (or controls) both conscious and unconscious bias.

That team is 10% black, 10% Latino, 25% women and 50% female managers, and has become a role model for other managers,

Obviously, Okereke doesn’t just hire strong talent; he provides an environment in which they can learn, grow and excel.

That’s what a good boss is supposed to do.

But it’s the great ones who actually do it.

Image credit: Andrew Wippler  

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