My computer told me to get married

hunchEver wanted to leave an informed decision up to someone or something else? Enter Hunch, the latest web sensation from Caterina Fake (from Flickr fame). Hunch is a web tool that learns about you and your preferences and then delivers you quasi-relevant advice in return. I thought it was just another flaky web initiative until it recommended to me that I drive the car I’m currently driving. Unfortunately, it then recommended that I sell it to buy a wedding ring for my long-term girlfriend.

In any event, it’s fun and ruthlessly easy to use. And while you may not follow its advice, it does pose questions that do make you think more abut who you are and what you do believe in before you make tough decisions. And it’s open to anyone who wants to contribute to it.

So give it a shot. I got a hunch you won’t be disappointed.

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How can David beat Goliath?

davidMalcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and Tipping Point, recently wrote a terrific article in the New Yorker about Davids and Goliaths. He referenced historical conflicts that demonstrated that when David fights Goliath on Goliath’s terms (i.e. conventional battle), he wins 28% of the time. However, when he fights on his own terms, he wins an astounding 64% of the time.

This gave me a moment of pause. Not because of the radical percentage swing, but because how many of us out there, when you think of our talent, skills, company influence, experience, etc. can really call ourselves Goliaths? I would have to say that the majority of us out there are just plain old Davids. And if we’re David, then everyone else out there, to us, is Goliath.

So, what are we doing differently to succeed against the Goliaths of the world? Gladwell references a girls basketball team that used a full-court press to overcome the fact that they were smaller and less skilled than their opponents. But really, you can use this methodology in any aspect of your life.

For example, next time you’re applying for a job (which many are today) and you know that you’ll be competing against people with more experience and deeper skill sets, what will you do differently? If you go by Gladwell’s stats, when you apply like everyone else, you stand a one in four chance of getting that job. But if you change your tactics to focus on your strengths, you can change the playing field.

This philosophy, in essence, is how we look at advertising. Often, our clients do not have the same budgets, reputations or brands as their competitors, so we have to change the game in order to increase our odds of winning. This can take the form of an innovative media placement or use of media, unusual messaging, and a host of other areas. It’s all about cutting through the clutter and getting noticed.

In fact, this is a great way to look at anything in life where you feel you’re at a disadvantage. If you go up against the Goliaths straight up, you’ll probably lose. But if you change the game, you can accomplish anything.

PS – Thanks to condron.us for adding my blog to their roll.

Will personalized magazines save the printed word?

timeTIME and its entities have partnered together to give consumers what the Internet has been doing all along – delivering personalized content. Through MINE, consumers now have the ability to get magazines delivered in mashup form. I guess the only thing that surprised me is what took them so long? Magazines still have the advantage of being one of the most acceptable media for casual reading – for now. But their irrelevance has been killing them. A mashup of this sort could help in the short term, before the Kindle takes over. It could also serve up advertising that is more relevant, which appeals to my clients.

My assumption is that newspapers will not follow suit. They’re too entrenched in their old-world model to deliver personalized content. And besides, innovation isn’t exactly their style.

6 rules for better brainstorming

peopleIf you’re like our company used to be, any mention of ‘brainstorming’ is generally met with a collective, audible sigh. And why is that? Usually because many companies do it wrong.

The wrong/easy/lazy way is to put a group of people in a room and ask them to come up with ideas for something. And what happens? Generally, the most dominant personalities in the room overrun the session with their ideas, beating everyone into submission with their will and forcing them to accept their less-than-stellar, quasi-obvious solutions.

How do I know this?

I used to be one of them.

After several of our brainstorming sessions were going south, we decided to do something about it. Now we have some simple rules around our brainstorms that have really boosted productivity and efficiency at our agency. They’ve also created better ideas.

Rule #1Have a clear objective at the beginning of the session. If you don’t know what you want to find out or accomplish, your session will spiral out on a tangent quickly.

Rule #2Have engagement rules. Give your participants a framework of how you’d like them to brainstorm. They could be as simple as filling out Post-It notes, calling out ideas in turn or writing solutions down on one piece of paper. Regardless, if participants don’t have rules, dominant personalities will own the session.

Rule #3If it’s your meeting, be the moderator, not a participant. Your job is to inspire people, which is just as important as idea generation.

Rule #4No pessimism. As soon as people start to criticize ideas in a brainstorm, people shut off. Create a safe environment where everyone can speak freely. As the moderator your job is to encourage people to think wildly. Sometimes the right idea comes from an outlandish one.

Rule #5Set rigid time limits. People can do amazing things under pressure. If you give them all day, they’ll take it. Add a little time pressure and you’ll see your group really kick it into gear.

Rule #6Give your group feedback on the session. After all, everyone wants to know that their contribution was valued. It will also get them fired up for the next session.

For some great brainstorming exercises visit www.changeminds.org

Paul Williams also wrote a great article on brainstorming tips.

Is food the new recycling?

recycle_logoA few days ago I was speaking to a colleague of mine about breakfast. He asked me what I ate, and since I recently made the effort to actually eat something in the morning instead of mainlining three cups of coffee, I proudly told him that I eat a bowl of Rice Krispies before work. His response wasn’t what I was expecting.

“Ugh, you eat CEREAL?” he spat out. “Do you have any idea how many preservatives and chemicals are in them?” He then followed by pontificating on why his proper mix of flax and god-knows-what-else he eats for breakfast is the right thing to do. Which made me wonder: Is food the new recycling?

Everyone I know recycles. I don’t as much as I should. Really, when the contest is between rinsing out the tomato sauce can and a Seinfeld rerun, Mr. Seinfeld wins every time. I don’t think I’m alone, either. But I think we all try to recycle more because there is a shame culture behind not doing it, which, as a marketer, I must share some blame for.

Now I’ll make all of you flax lovers a deal. I’ll rinse out my tomato sauce cans more if you lay off the food scrutiny. In 10 years I don’t want to have to walk into the ‘Adult’ section of the grocery store just to buy my Rice Krispies.