My Lesson 11 … I am still learning

There is nothing better than having someone share their story, their experiences, their passions to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs. Robbin Phillips of Brains on Fire joined my MBA class for a morning of discussion and sharing.

So here is what I walked away with…

1) I am still a student of this entrepreneurial journey.

2) Passion is a must…so don’t be afraid to share.

3) Our story is our story…

4) Listening is one the most important parts of connecting with like minded people.

5) To lead a successful company, initiative, or movement…you must be healthy from the soul outward.

So here is to Robbin for filling up my cup, giving me a new breath of passion, and reminding that regardless if I am the teacher…learning never stops.

So there is my Lesson 11 for the evening. I am still learning!  Read the Brains on Fire book and you will understand.

[Leadership Summit 2011] Creativity & Passion Means – Part 2

So here is part two of my series on defining Creativity and Passion. As I stated in the first post yesterday, the question below was posed as primer questions to get us ready for Clemson’s Leadership Summit 2011 at Clemson at the Falls.

Here is the second question in the series of ten:

No one person or individual leader in an organization owns creativity and passion.” What’s your reaction to this statement? Do you think this statement is true?

Two books come to mind when I hear this statement...”Tribes” by Seth Godin and the “Brains on Fire” book. First lets look at the book “Tribes.” Seth does a great job sharing the idea of building a community around an idea with his newsletter story. He had the desire and passion to create and launch a product. While using his newsletter to share his passion for this project, he engaged other members of the company who took ownership in this project. In the end…a group of people brought their creative skills together and exceeded the expectation of the project. OK…who owns the creativity in this scenario? Everyone…it just took a leader with the passion and a vision to creatively engage a group of people with a common cause.

Now let’s look at the “Brains On Fire” book…it is nice to have one of the “Fire Starters” right here at the table with this discussion. Robbin Phillips sat right across me as a panelist durin this discussion. The book tackles the idea of what is a movement…more specifically a sustainable movement. It is defined as

“A sustainable movement happens when customers and employees share their passion for a business or cause and become a self-perpetuating force for excitement, ideas, communication, and growth.”

Well said…in my humble opinion. Now let’s take this model and look around us. Most of you might recall the Google On Main event over a year ago. Here is an idea of sharing Greenville’s passion with Google, in the hopes to attract some highspeed broadband to the area. A group of people in Greenville had the vision to spell out Google with light sticks and capture aerial video of this passionate mob, then submit it to Google. I am not sure if you witnessed this movement…but hundreds of people showed up to share their support. It started with a group of people with a common goal, who then shared their passion with more passionate people. Before you know it…I was flying over hundreds of people, hanging out of a helicopter, shooting video of a human glow stick sign spelling out Google. Now…who owns the creativity in this situation?

[Leadership Summit 2011] Creativity & Passion Means?

Today, I was asked to take part in a panel discussion for the 2011 Clemson Summit…the topic was Creativity and Passion. As a part of the panel discussion, the moderator sent us ten potential questions to be asked in the during the panel discussion.

Here was the panel (including myself):
Moderator – Russell Stall, Executive Director of Greenville Forward
William Barnett, CEO of the Barnett Company
Edna Morris, CEO & Partner of AXUM Capital Partners
Robbin Phillips, President of Brains on Fire

What a humbling experience to take part in a discussion with such thought leaders. Over the next ten weeks, I am going to post the answers to each question. All of these questions explore the idea of Creativity and Passion…enjoy!

(“In My Own Words”) Creativity & Passion mean _________.
My Response: To be able to fully understand “Creativity” one must be able to get into the “Zone.” That thin space that connects logic and ethics, with the ability to grasp the full extent of our senses. Think of a time when you were fully connected with your senses, where an idea presented itself and the euphoric side of your brain took complete control. An example might be when an idea is fully presented when a certain selection of music plays or during an epiphany. The passion comes to play when you exercise the ability to act on that euphoric moment, converting creativity into tangible results. Taking complete control of that idea and having the willingness to lead others to bring that idea to fruition.

One of my favorite videos I share with my students and my clients is from Steven Johnson called “Where Great Ideas Come From”…which is a presentation put to animation by RSA Animate. This concept of connecting people with passionate ideas emphasizes the opportunity we have to use our passion to inspire others with creative leadership.

Content can be king outside of SEO…just plain tasty!

Recently…I have become increasingly irritated with rubric’s and how-to’s that are consistently floating around the social space. It is driving me up a wall. Most of this is inside the world of blogging and the social space…that we must find a way to create a path for the perfect blog, that we must create the perfect social “strategy”, and there is a formula for social media messaging.

It is my humble opinion that those that are preaching these strategies, rubrics, and methods are in the business for their checkbooks. Each time I watch the tweets come down the timeline, “5 ways to do…”, “how to measure…”, the perfect blog must have…”, it is all about generating revenue for the person writing the posts.

Writing from the heart and creating great content is not “BS”. You cannot put a path to success when it comes to writing, connecting, and building an online community around a social outlet. There is no magic cookie cutter. Anyone that is selling this, pushing this, or tweeting this is selling it to generate their own income streams and not bringing value to this initial open source community.

If you do not have a passion for writing…then while the hell are you blogging? If you do not have a passion for exploring ideas, generating genuine creative thoughts, and connecting with others online…then why are you interacting in the social space.

I have read more and more tweets and blogs screaming to re-define the word marketing in this social space or 3.0. Many of which are searching to create a whole new space based on consumer trends and big company strategies. Why are they are re-defining this…well it is helping them land the next retainer deal, speaking engagement, big corporate marketing gig. But those same folks who surround themselves in chats an online discussions pushing what they deem is innovation…well they are actually trying to put this social space of user created content into a cookie cutter, placing a marketing dollar to each tweet, blog post, youtube video, and Facebook update.

These same “innovators” are actually stifling the social space right back into the same old marketing channels. Each of these spaces are becoming distribution points of corporate generated content specifically geared to track and generate a metric. Why, because the CEO’s and the VP’s of Finance who sign-off on these initiatives need a metric. We are right back where we started when the social space was beginning to appear.

Twitter is now the AP Newswire, Facebook is the new email chain, and YouTube is now our living television set. Just distribution points for those pesky marketers to generate a strategy for ads, product placement, and sponsorships. WTF…hashtags that are sponsored? Great…can’t wait. Sign me up.

Phil Baumann is right as he writes in his latest post: “Are Healthcare Marketers Destroying Twitter?

“Because hashtags are important, packing tweets with them defeats their purpose. It muddies communication – of all people, Comms peeps should know the vitality of clarity, and the cost of clutter and noise. Why so many Healthcare pros don’t understand such a simple concept is beyond me, but I digress.

I’ve thought to myself: you know, Twitter once had so much promise, and now it’s becoming all serious business and so-called marketing. What a shame. We’ll all lose in the end.”

Thanks Phil, I do not think we will all loose…but there is a big ole shift.

Several months ago, I was talking with a very smart lady, Robbin Phillips after she came and spoke to some students at Clemson. She says it so nicely…(i am paraphrasing): “there is just so much noise out there in this space.” I have to agree.

I blame us…us marketing people have gone out and screwed it up. We had to find a way to put in some sort of cookie cutter system so we can track it and metric the crap out of each profile and communication channel online. Hell, we are even spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars for companies like Radian6. We want to track those conversations. And we will pay top dollar to analyze the heck out of those conversations.

All of this stifles innovation. It stifles passionate writing. It stifles true connection. It prohibits individuals to use places like blogs, YouTube, and other creative outlets to become pioneers. We want each of them to think there is a rubric for using these channels then track the success. Why can’t success be simply creating content, writing passionately, making a cool video. What if the only person that you were communicating to was just one person. If that person read it, listened to it, connected with the message…then led to see life through the authors eyes…then success? Right?

I remember when I was working on my thesis for graduate school and some of the many academic articles that followed. Each person in the academy I spoke too told me that getting an academic thesis or academic article approved was like jumping through hoops. My mother calls it “Hoop Dreams.” Yes…it was almost like social construction of knowledge. My genuine ideas were shaped to meet the expectations of those academic gate keepers whose agenda’s were played out in each word that was written. Some argue this process is necessary to form true scholarship…to meet the expectations of the academic world. I see the value in this process, but I also see the value in allowing true innovative writing and thinking to shine.

The connection here is that regardless where we go, where we write, what we create….someone wants to fit it into a cookie cutter paradigm. The social space is starting to shape-up to be just that. We marketers and new media people are trying to force clients, organizations, and small businesses into a framework that meets the needs of our pocket books. Why not just teach the technology and how them to utilize this framework as a place to share our inner thoughts, a place to express our inner beings.

Content is King. Communities grow as content and ideas are created. In order to connect we must share our thoughts and communicate.

I think there is a true progression in the way people create innovative content and connect through their ideas.

Idea —> Content Creation –> Content Shared —> Ideas Consumed –> People Connect … then the cycle starts over again.

A blog is just a place to hold thoughts. A video is visual representation to share motion, action, sounds that represent our creativity. These are just technological theaters for others to engage with our ideas. If we are thinking, writing, sharing in a way that the people that are truly interested in reading, listening, watching, understanding…then their peripheral vision will disappear and become completely engaged in the passionate content we create!

To hell with SEO…sometimes?

our little pitch

We spend so much time trying to pitch. Whether you like it or not, we are pitching. Selling an idea, trying to get a job, trying to convince our significant others to buy a gadget…we are pitching.

I have so many students asking me and sending my questions, wondering why people are not hiring, people are not buying, just plain not accepting their pitch. But why? Economics and supply/demand tell us that this is one hell of a competitive market. We have to be on our “A” game. We better have all of our “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed…we better dress for success and make sure we can sell ourselves. We must make sure we position ourselves as “thought leaders” with a piece of differentiation that makes us rise to the top. But does this really make us relevant?

why pitch?
I have been thinking through this little “elevator pitch” concept. Get it down in 60 seconds so if we are trapped in an elevator with that one person…they might be interested and buy what we are selling. We are selling…selling…pushing…selling…pushing….CREATING NOISE! Why? Because we are conditioned.

During NetworkBash Excite at Clemson University, my friend Robbin Phillips took the time to talk about the relevance of Social Media in the job search today. She shared a piece of paper with some notes…her “Sixty Second Speech.” The first line:

“Let your passion shine. Share who you are and what you stand for with the world. Your hopes, your dreams, your life. Then like magic, you’re going to start drawing kindred spirits and like minds towards you.”

what are we seeking?
Hmm…why are we selling what we are not passionate about? Why are seeking jobs that are just jobs, not careers. Why are we not chasing the dreams, finding like minded people like our tomorrow is our last? Why are we pushing our stuff instead of learning more about the people we share a common interest. Why are we not trying to create our lasting legacy?

Each time we spend more time selling and less time learning about the people that might have a common interest…it is like cold calling at 7pm when the person answering is having dinner. It is like we did not take the time to do the research and put the “To Whom It May Concern” at the top of the letter.

So what is your story? Now think…who are the people we are trying to connect with daily? What is their story? How do you know you can help them until you know their story? I am just as much a victim to this un-human approach to connecting.

my little confession…
Over a year ago, I went to a conference in North Carolina. When I walked in, they gave me a great list of all the people that attended and their email address. These people were decision makers. So when I got back from the conference…I defaulted to my old way of thinking. Created a boiler-plate email, changed out the name and email address, and off to the races. I sent out about five emails…but I had a slight twinge in the back of my mind that just did not settle well. It was confirmed in about five minutes. A response that indicated that they did not attend at the last second. I was embarrassed. NEVER AGAIN!

It is about people…STUPID! I am talking to myself.

Next time…I will just call, say hello, introduce myself, and ask to take them out to coffee…then LISTEN.

Below is Robbin Phillips’s little paper called “My Sixty second speech.” Enjoy!

My 60 Second Pitch