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Proud Work

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

When I was growing up, work was a means to an end for many of the breadwinners in our neighbourhood. Work meant food in the bellies and clothes on the backs of the people you loved. There is both dignity and joy in providing, especially when you’ve gone hungry and shoeless, as my father often did when he was a child. I still remember how proud my dad was when he could afford to pay for me to be fitted with a pair of Clark’s black patent leather shoes.

Today, many of us aspire to do more than only provide. We want to do meaningful work. We want the hours we devote to working to stand for something—to be more than an exchange of time for money. If we are driven to find meaning in our work, then we must be clear about not just what we want to do, but who we want to serve and how we want to go about doing it.

Once money is no longer our only driver, we need to discern what enables us to do our best work, and then to detail what those projects or clients we want to work on and with look like. There is no single right formula—no one-size-fits-all answer. There is only your answer.

I have worked in places where the waitress loved her job more than the CEO loved his. And, where the nursing assistant—the least qualified person on the team, made as much impact on patients as the entire medical and nursing staff put together.

Now more than ever we are responsible for the kind of work we do. And more of us are charged with creating the places and circumstances that enable other people to do work they’re proud of.

As Lewis Caroll said; ‘If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there. ‘Once you do know where you want to go, and why, you can proudly choose the path that’s right for you. When you do the right things the way you want to do them, you’ll be surprised how loud your whispers become.

Image by Russell Davies

What’s On Your ‘Not To Do’ List?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success


Back in 2007, the New York Times called Apple’s decision not to add a mechanical keyboard to the iPhone their billion dollar gamble). That decision worked out pretty well for Apple.

Some of the most successful ideas in the world were born from a conviction about the things the creator, founder or company would not do.

Pixar decided not to make animated musicals.

James Dyson decided not to make vacuum cleaners with bags in them.

Nino and Sisto decided not to expand beyond their single successful café.

What are you gladly forsaking to become the best at what you do?

Image by K.H. Reichert

Easy Does It

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success


Our expectations about the quality of products have increased exponentially with our ability to perfect the things we produce. When quality improves our tolerance for mistakes plummets. Interestingly, the same isn’t true for human interactions. Even though digital technology has enabled degrees of efficiency beyond our wildest dreams our expectations about how people will use it to serve and connect with us have dropped. Product reliability is a given. Great service and emotional intelligence are not.

Now when you respond to an email in good time or simply reply at all, people are blown away. When you take the time to listen to a complaint and acknowledge someone’s feelings, they are not just satisfied, they are delighted. When you go the slightest bit out of your way to resolve someone’s problem, you make a customer for life.

We spend much of our time working on perfecting the hard thing and not enough time doing the easy thing. People want to be seen and heard just as much, if not more, as they want things to work. Helping is both priceless and underrated.

Image by Jessica Lucia

How Much Information Is Enough?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy


When do we know it’s safe to cross the road? How much information do we need about how far away that truck is and how fast it’s going to decide whether to step off the pavement?

How much information does your customer need before deciding she trusts you?

As people who sell things or ideas, our challenge is twofold. We must understand what information our prospective customers want as well as how much information is enough. All the while remembering that the same information doesn’t work for everyone and we can only ‘know’ with hindsight what messages worked.

Researchers in university departments around the world spend years, sometimes decades, attempting to answer similar questions. Unlike scientists, we don’t have years to discover what’s working. But just like the scientist we must try and test. We must begin with the posture of empathy for the people we want to reach and resonate with. The question about what we should say then becomes about what the person we’re speaking to is ready to hear.

Image by Garry Knight

The Assumptions Checklist

filed in Brand Strategy, Success


Our decisions are rarely based on objective information. And even when we do have ‘good data’, it’s coloured by why, who and how it’s collected. Often our decisions are based on assumptions. We accept something as true, without proof.  We make many of these assumptions with a scarcity mindset. We kill good ideas too soon by assuming there is not enough of this or too much of that to make a difference. And pursue bad ones for similar untested reasons.

We can challenge our assumptions by compiling three lists to answer three simple questions:

A. What assumptions am I making?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…..and so on.

B. What if what I’m assuming is not true?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…..and so on.

C. How can I test these assumptions?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…..and so on.

We create a more hopeful set of expectations by calling out the beliefs that are holding us back.

Image by P. Thirumalaisamy

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