Vol. 10, No. 1 – Jan. 11, 2010

January 11, 2010


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. How To Hire The Best Students

With economic forecasts improved for this year, hiring will be more common. If you will be in the hunt for the best university graduates in your field, here are some tips from HR consultant John Sullivan on how to find them:

  • Reach out to grad assistants, who are involved in both teaching classes and research so they have often worked directly with the best students. They will know who are the team players and who aren’t — and are usually willing to help recruiters. Remember those grad assistants are often handpicked by faculty and may be potential hires as well.
  • Ask last year’s graduates, if you happen to have brought some on or have connections to them. They’ll know the most talented students following behind them.
  • Seek student referrals. Endeca, a digital content company, gave away a flat-screen TV as a referral bonus to college students who referred a successful hire.
  • Technical contests can be an attractive mechanism for attracting and assessing college students. They can also help you unearth some relatively unknown students. “Offer contests to student groups, individual classes, or the world population via the Internet,” he advises on Drjohnsullivan.com.
  • College students are extremely active on networking sites such as Facebook, so you can try those to make your interest known.
  • Reach out to the presidents of student groups on campus, or even sponsor one of the groups or one of their meetings.

2. Foods To Avoid In A Business Meal

If you have ever had to struggle with a lobster claw at a business meal, then consultant Lynda Goldman bets you ended up with more of a relationship with the lobster claw than your client. Here are some other foods that she warns on her impressforsuccess.com site can sabotage a business meal — and how best to handle them:

  • Soup: Use the soup spoon to skim the surface of the liquid, starting near you and moving away from you. Sip silently from the side of the spoon. Don’t blow on your soup to cool it off, and don’t slurp.
  • Spaghetti or fettuccine: Put the fork vertically into the pasta and twirl it until the strands form a neat clump. When the fork reaches your mouth, bite off any dangling strands. Alternatively, hold the fork in one hand and a large, dessert-size spoon in the other. Take a few strands of the pasta on the fork and place the times of the fork against the bowl of the spoon, twirling the fork to neatly wrap the strands.
  • Cherry Tomatoes: These can look so innocent but are deceptively dangerous. “The only way to eat it without disaster at a business meal is when it is already cut in half when it is served. Otherwise, why risk squirting it or sending it across the table? The best advice is to leave it on your plate. You will get another tomato in the future,” she says.
  • Bread and Rolls: Break off one bite-size piece at a time. Butter it if you wish, and then eat it, before breaking off the next piece.

3. For Entrepreneurs, Every Day Is Game Day

When Monica Tate-Maile worked for Procter & Gamble Canada as a brand manager, she found there were two types of days: practice and game. On practice days, she chipped away steadily at projects, gathering data and writing communication briefs. On game days, the pressure was on as she sold her marketing plans or budgets to the powers-that-be. But she knew if she worked hard, she would get approval.

There were probably four to a dozen game days a year. But now, she notes on Harvard Business School blogs, as an entrepreneur, running a consulting firm, there is no such thing as a practice day — every day is game day, and nothing is guaranteed on those game days. So she warns fellow entrepreneurs to be prepared to work long days, learn to relish doors slamming on them so they don’t lose momentum, and don’t make strategic decisions in haste.

4. Hold that Web Redesign!

Think your web site is looking tired? Considering a redesign? Hold that thought, advises web design guru Jakob Nielsen.

You probably stare at the design every day, perhaps for many hours. But your typical customer likely has spent only a few hours looking at it in the past year, at most.

“Users don’t care about design for its own sake; they just want to get things done and get out,” he writes in his Alertbox. “People love a design when they know the features and can immediately locate the ones they need. That is, they love a familiar design.”

5. Zingers

  • Personal development consultant Curt Rosengren notes that mistakes represent information about what works and doesn’t work — they have nothing to do with your worth or intelligence. So next time you are tempted to beat yourself up for a mistake you made, ask yourself instead: “How has this moved me closer to my goal? What insight can I take away from this situation?” (Source: The M.A.P. Maker blog)
  • Spend a day at a customer’s business, helping them in any way you can. Call it your Customer Goodwill Mission or Thank You Service To Loyal Customers. The idea is to be of genuine service — a random act of value, for one (or more) of your best customers. (Source: Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Caffeine newsletter)
  • Business cards or e-mail signatures with too many phone numbers on them can be confusing to customers, who don’t know which one to call. Consultant Steve Adams recommends a virtual PBX system that allows the customer to call a single number that in turn rings multiple phones, such as your office, mobile and home. (Source: MarketingProfs.com)
  • Self-starting high performers may seem like they don’t need to be managed, but that’s a wrong assumption, according to consultant Bruce Tulgan. Self-starting high performers can go wildly in the wrong direction, as the recent history of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns or Enron shows. They also want a manager who knows who they are, what they are doing, and is in a position to help them. (Source: Rainmakerthinking.com)
  • Design is not about making something look cool, observes designer Joy Stauber. Design is about making something relevant. (Source: Tom Peters! blog)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Effective Forecasting in 2010

Question: How can I improve my forecasting for 2010 and the new decade?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood replies:

As Paul Saffo pointed out in Six Rules For Effective Forecasting (Harvard Business Review, July 2007), no forecast can be absolutely certain — your task is to identify the range of possibilities and map the uncertainties so your planning will be effective rather than precisely accurate. His six rules for effective forecasting are helpful:

  • Define a cone of uncertainty: That is, identify the range of potential events, knowing that the possibilities will get broader over time. This “cone” is narrow in the very near and more predictable future, getting broader and more uncertain over longer time horizons. List your wild cards on the edges of the cone.
  • Look for the S curve: Change rarely unfolds in a straight line. Often mapped as an S-curve shape, change usually starts slowly and incrementally, then suddenly ramps up or explodes, and eventually tapers out or even drops off. Where are you on the curve?
  • Embrace the things that don’t fit: We tend to ignore indicators that don’t fit our existing mental picture, but anything truly new won’t show up in familiar categories. Oddball curiosities may signal the next big thing.
  • Hold strong opinions weakly: Saffo says one of the biggest mistakes a decision-maker can make is to place too much priority on a single piece of strong information that confirms your current line of thinking. It can be valuable to reach strong opinions quickly, but be prepared to discard them the moment you encounter conflicting evidence.
  • Look back twice as far as you look forward: Recent history rarely repeats itself directly — look further back for parallels and/or change curve signals. Use history to illumine the way forward, not simply to bolster your current, perhaps blinkered way of thinking.
  • Know when not to make a forecast: Remember there are moments of chaos when forecasting is impossible. Even intense change will eventually settle down, though, so in these cases defer your forecast for a while and watch for reliable indicators of future risks and opportunities.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Making The Most Of Our Microbehaviours

One of the delights of our holiday reading was David Freemantle’s How to Choose (why our greatest successes are a reflection of our small everyday choices), which was first published in Great Britain in 2002.

“As you repeat the same activities day in and day out, a rut forms in your mind,” Freemantle warns. We tend to use autopilot to handle most of our personal everyday choices, and he makes a convincing case for how these microbehaviours tend to evolve into “big” decisions that become, in effect, almost foregone conclusions. The hard part is paying attention to our microbehaviours and getting them right.

We particularly enjoyed his ideas for injecting jolts of randomness into daily life as a way to counter our drift into conventional “village thinking.” He also has a prescription called HOW — Hesitate a second to consider options before your automatic microbehaviour kicks in; consciously choose your Outcomes; and Widen the Way forward by using wobbly rather than straight-line, linear thinking.

8020Info helps teams develop, communicate and implement their marketing communications, research and strategic plans more effectively. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com.

8. Closing Thought                                                                 Top

“The CEO who misleads others in public may eventually mislead himself in private.”

— Warren Buffett