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Archive for August, 2007


I had a great conversation with someone about the topic of leaders vs. managers earlier this week, and was reminded of this post from about a year ago:

(Note – If you are an HR professional, you may not like what follows.)

“Managers make sure that work follows an established process. They don’t like change. Leaders, on the other hand, are restless creatures like gamblers who get excited about doing things a new way.

“Now, here’s the problem: There’s a great need for talent and a glut of unqualified candidates. It’s going to take a leader to figure out how to move forward. And Recruiting is full of managers.

“One solution: take recruiting away from HR and give it to marketing people who know how to sell. Another: give it to the operational leaders who have the knowledge needed to assess the candidates technical skills.”

Per Kevin Wheeler, via The Recruiting Animal blog.

Whether you think that’s genius or complete bunk, read Kevin’s entire article here. Whatever side of the fence you happen to be on, it is well worth ten minutes.

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Photo: Jim Cunningham leading the chase in the final laps of the 2006 Greenville Classic Criterium

From Don Boudreaux’s Cafe Hayek blog:

“There are two kinds of people in the world. Members of the first group think of jobs as being rather like boxes, each of which has a monetary figure on it as well as a set of levers inside. A job-holder occupies a box, yanks on the box’s levers, and in return receives pay in the amount of the prescribed monetary figure. Lucky workers are those who land in boxes paying big money and whose levers are easy to manipulate; unlucky workers are those who find themselves in boxes paying little money and whose levers are difficult to manipulate.”

“The second group of people in the world understands that real jobs are a matter of creating value for buyers. The greater the amount of value I create for others, the better — or, at least, the higher-paying — is my job. In markets, your job isn’t a box that you get assigned to; your job is an opportunity to perform, to help improve the lives of others and, in return, to persuade these others to help you improve your life.

“And one of the most important of these performances is corporate management — the ability to coordinate large amounts of resources, time, and workers in ways that create large amounts of value for others and that makes it easier for those of us with less vision and administrative ability to find jobs that maximize the value that each of us, individually, creates for others.”

I still run into way too many senior execs who run their organizations like piles of boxes. Every time I do, I don’t know… it just makes me cringe. I get turned off. I wonder how much longer the companies they manage will continue to be profitable.

Perhaps more to the point, I wonder how much more profitable they would be if they shed their old ways and made the jump to the second group. If they championed the recruiting and mentoring of T-shaped talent and favored operational flexibility over the limitations of rigid job hierarchies.

I guess that when you belong to the first group and are one of the lucky ones (big money/easy levers), there isn’t much of an incentive for you to rock the boat and be an agent of change.

Like Don said, there are two types of people in this world. You’re either one or the other. The question is, which one are you?

Have a great Wednesday. :)

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I finally did it. After months of flirting with 50mph (48.5, 49, 49.5,48, 49.5, 49, etc.), I finally hit that magic 50 coming down Paris Mountain on my road bike today.

To hit 50mph on that steep and twisty little stretch of road, you kind of have to commit. Especially if you only weight 160 odd pounds. My bike and I aren’t heavy enough to let gravity and momentum do the work. You have to tuck in, pedal fast, and carve your way in and out of each turn with razor-like precision. You have to be fully committed to this, or it won’t happen.

You have to make sure you don’t eat dirt by doing something stupid, like taking your eyes off the road for a second, or glancing down at your watch, or hitting a pothole. Those things would all be bad.

You have to be focused. Relaxed. Confident. You have to be in the moment, not 90%, not 98%, not even 99.9%, but 100%.

Moments before taking the plunge down the final and steepest section of the mountain for my latest personal land speed record, I almost bit it. Hard. I hit my brakes a little too late and a little too hard going into a tricky turn. I wasn’t committed. I was too busy adjusting my sunglasses and got myself into trouble: At 40mph, I squeezed my front brake a bit too much, and felt my rear wheel come off the ground. I started to go over the handlebars.

In cycling terms, this is the start of what is called an endo. (endo: end over heels.)

The endo is part one of what some folks affectionately call a “superman.”

A Superman is simply a rider flying through the air head first… like Superman. Minus the cape.

The part that usually follows a Superman is the landing. The crash landing. This is the part you want to avoid at all cost. This is the part that hurts a lot. It usually comes with serious injuries, like broken bones and road rash. If you’re lucky.

My screwing up and making my rear wheel go airborne into a turn at 40mph, on an 18lb bicycle with 23mm wide tires, that is what you call an “oh shit” moment.

Fortunately, I haven’t used up my nine lives yet: I made a smooth and miraculous recovery. I rode my front wheel long enough to shift my weight back, managed to keep my bike steady, got my rear wheel smoothly back on the pavement, and made the turn without even crossing over the double yellow line.

I committed to the recovery. I didn’t allow myself to think of anything else. I threw every bit of skill, balance, dexterity, calmness and agility into not crashing, and it worked. Had I made the error to dwell on the thought of a crash, had I wasted even 0.1% of my brain power on bracing myself for impact, I probably would have crashed.

Several minutes later during my acceleration down the steep portion of the mountain, had I wasted any brain power thinking about anything but hitting 50mph, I wouldn’t have broken 49.5mph.

Why am I telling you all of this? (Other than wanting to share my joy of being alive with everyone?) Because although cycling is fairly irrelevant to the topics covered in this blog, the concept of committing to something, of giving something your all is very relevant.

So my little bit of advice for today is this: Commit. Give it everything. Your project. Your job. Your relationship. Your race. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well… and if it’s worth doing well, it’s worth doing exceptionally well.

Yeah, it might hurt and it might require a certain measure of sacrifice. Time. Pride. Fun. Sweat. Sleep. But that’s a choice you make.

The choice is to either commit, or… not.

And if you aren’t willing and ready to commit, you might as well save yourself and your client the trouble and… stay home. Be honest with yourself and those around you. If your heart isn’t really in it, if you aren’t willing to hit the ball or turn the cranks like the pro you are, then maybe you ought to sit this one out.

Committing to something isn’t just about hard work, but also smarts, guts, and willpower. It’s about throwing yourself into the game body, mind, sould and all. Even if it’s for two hours a day, or five minutes every hour, that’s what it takes to do something exceptionally well. If you aren’t motivated to give it your all, then do yourself a favor and work on something else. Seriously. Turn it down. Delegate. Wait until your head gets clear and you can put your heart into it.

If you can’t turn it down, if your boss or client forces you to work on something you would rather not spend any time on, then take a breather. Go clear your head. Find that one thing in the project or task that you know you can throw yourself at wholeheartedly, and focus on that.

Don’t ever, ever, ever do anything half-assed. Ever.

Unless you like looking back on a completed project or campaign or achievement and wishing you had given it a little bit more effort. A little bit more heart. A little bit more juice.

Commitment is fun and painful and hard all at the same time… But that’s the way it should be.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy to come by.

So make every word count. Every stroke of the mouse. Every release of the shutter. Every turn of the cranks. Every interaction with a customer. Every design feature. Every promotional coupon. Every TV spot. Every meeting. Every element of your web page design. Every media purchase. Every minute. Every second. Every breath.

It all adds up in the end.

It all pays off.

As long as you give it your all.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. ;)

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Photo: George Hincapie one lap away from winning the 2006 Greenville Classic Criterium

This is a story of terrific service.

Though I enjoy my vintage Pentax K1000 35mm camera a lot and also enjoy getting my hands on Nikon, Minolta and other brands of cameras, I shoot Canon cameras and lenses almost exclusively these days. Why? Maybe because something about the Canon brand always appealed to me. Maybe it’s because my older brother (who got me into photography as a boy) has always used Canon equipment. Maybe it’s that cool little red stripe on their L series lenses (the professional stuff). Maybe it’s the cool white paint they use on their L-series zoom lenses. Or maybe it’s because Canon‘s user interfaces on every model above the 20D are perfectly designed for purists like me, who shoot in manual mode. (Most pro shooters these days shoot in some sort of automated mode like aperture priority, etc.)

Call me a control freak, but I like being in complete control of the aperture, shutter speed, etc.

But I digress.

I don’t need to sing the praises of Canon products. Canon’s reputation speaks for itself. What this post is about is the customer service side of their business, – the hidden service entrance to the brand, if you will – which, until very recently, I had never bothered to think about.

I’ll try to keep my little story from turning into a novel by just saying this: My favorite lens of all time, my baby, my brand new 70-200mm f:2.8 L series zoom lens was recently damaged on a shoot. To be more specific, someone who had no business even touching it picked it up… and dropped it on a brick floor.

Yes, the lens was kind of busted. Not badly, but enough to require some service by Canon.

No, I did not murder the culprit – who ran from the shoot before I could get my hands on him.

The next morning, I called the Canon customer service center and briefly spoke with a representative. My only concern was this: How long will it take Canon to fix the lens?

The answer was “7-10 days at the most”.

Really?

“Really.”

I filled out the online form to set up the repair, took the damaged lens to my local UPS store, followed the packing and shipping instructions detailed on the website, and sent it on its way.

Three days later, I received an email from Canon to tell me that my lens had arrived safe and sound at their service center.

One week later, I received an email from Canon telling me the repairs were completed and that the lens would be shipped out the next day. The email contained a link to the FedEx tracking number so I could follow the box containing my restored lens as it made its way back to me.

Evidently, the email was sent to me a day or two late, because when I clicked on the tracking number link, the FedEx site indicated that the lens was already in Greenville, out for delivery. 45 minutes later, my lens was back, and as good as new.

The next day, a letter from Canon arrived in the mail, detailing the work and thanking me for my business, etc.

Canon didn’t send me flowers, chocolates, cool free gear or anything out of the ordinary, but I was thoroughly impressed with the way they handled my repair: They were friendly on the phone. They answered my questions immediately. The procedure for sending them a damaged product was simple and easy to follow. The repairs were taken care of quickly and expertly. The product was sent back to me promptly. The communications from Canon and subsequent follow-ups were precise, adequate, and professional.

Compared to a lot of other companies I have sent products to for repairs or warranty issues, Canon takes the prize for speed, efficiency, simplicity and professionalism. They did everything right.

Bottom-line: Canon did exactly what it promised, and there’s a whole lot to be said for that these days. It’s great to know that one of my favorite consumer products brands a) hasn’t fallen asleep at the wheel and b) isn’t cutting corners anywhere in its organization.

Could Canon have left a bad taste in my mouth by not handling my service request very well? Maybe. Could Canon have allowed me to consider buying Pentax or Nikon next time I am on the market for new photo gear? Maybe.

But they didn’t. By taking good care of me the way they did, they confirmed that my preference for their brand was well deserved.

Thank you, Canon, for getting it right. ;)

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www.F360photo.com – Year 3

Don’t hate us because we’re Euro.

So you already know things have been insanely busy at F360 these last few months (so much so that I had to drop off the grid and stop blogging for the entire month of July), but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and this might be as good a time as any to share some of the not-so-confidential projects we’re working on for this fall. (Worry, we can’t talk about the super-double-top-secret ones.)

1) The F360 website is going to completely change this September. Not that there is anything wrong with the current design, but to be completely honest, we put all of five minutes into it last time, and that was a bit lazy on our part. For 2008, we thought about the site’s new look for the better part of half an hour, so we expect that it will be at least twice as exciting as the 2007 version.

As you may or may not have noticed from the sample image above, the current prototype for the welcome page is 725% more narcissistic than before, which works exceedingly well for Roby. (Now we just need to find a friendlier, less ridiculous looking photo of yours truly… and maybe make it a tad BIGGER. And leave my hair alone?

Feel free to comment and throw suggestions our way.

At Roby’s request, our content will focus on the photography side of the F360 portfolio first, and then move to the graphic design, advertising, and marketing portfolios.

2) New Services: The 2008 site will also see the addition of Brand Management and Idea Sandbox services to F360’s menu of goodies, which is pretty exciting. (As in: It’s about time.)

The Brand Management side of F360 will simply be the practical application of what The BrandBuilder Blog discusses quasi-daily.

The Idea Sandbox will focus on helping clients a) with specific projects such as new product ideation, and developing innovative strategies for starters, and b) nurture innovative thinking and functional creative processes within their organizations.

We will talk about these services in more detail when the site officially launches next month.

Fans of our creative work: No worries, the commercial photography, graphic design and other purely creative elements of F360 aren’t going away. (They’re doing way too well for us to ever give them up.)

3) “Collaboration” may have been a dirty word in Europe during WWII, but it is a great way to earn yourself some free beer and some kudos in F360’s crazy little world of idea cross-pollination. The new site will make a point to recognize our favorite co-conspirators and give them a space to call their own. Expect names like Jason Crosby, Kimberley Westbury, Ben Schowe, Rusty Hutchison, Cox Photography, Orange Coat, North Gate Labs, and perhaps even the super secretive 6:43 group to make the list.

4) Roby’s War: In case you didn’t already know this, Roby is shipping out to the Stan with the US Army this fall and probably won’t be back until next spring. While deployed, he will be splitting his time between being a soldier and shooting some intense combat photography (hopefully not too intense), which should be pretty exciting.

Roby, wearing his thinking cap.

What does this mean for F360? Aside from a) more work for those of us staying stateside, b) a greater level of involvement from our growing pool of guest designers (who will be taking over much of Roby’s duties while he is away), and c) having to learn a whole new international area code, nothing much will change.

(We’ll kind of miss him though.)

I guess it also means F360 will have a studio somewhere in Afghanistan… which isn’t Paris, London or New York, but pretty exciting nonetheless.

More updates will follow.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, everyone. ;)

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Words of genius from Damon Dimmick, over at UX Magazine:

When corporate marketing departments dream of brand design, they only dream as far as they need. The expensive and time consuming process of extending the brand into an interactive concept is usually pushed off until it becomes absolutely necessary.

“Unfortunately, by the time some serious rethinking is required, a lot of people have gotten stuck in the mud of static branding. It’s completely natural for companies to resist straying from the handful of predefined styles that were never meant to address web forms, widgets, calendars and menuing systems.”

“Of all the arguments for modifying brand attributes to better suit a digital experience, the most compelling is this: The way users feel about their experience is inseparable from the way they feel about your brand.

“This maxim holds true for brick-and-mortar experiences as well as for digital interactions. A restaurant with great food but incredibly long lines and a bad wait staff will experience brand damage. The user experience is bad, and people will look elsewhere. The same thing will happen if your users get baffled by confusing menus, hard-to-read text, and perplexing layouts. The user experience is bad, and people will look elsewhere.

The way a user feels when they come in contact with a brand interaction point will implicitly shape their image of the brand itself. This realization is a powerful tool for user experience professionals and can help snap clients and peers out of static thinking.

“It is helpful to remember that even the most accomplished companies have become experts at modifying brand attributes to suit interactive experiences. This is done without sacrificing brands, but rather by extending them.
Amen.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. :)

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