March 13, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1. Are Your Interview Questions Relevant For The Future”

Behavioural interviewing has become popular but recruiting expert John Sullivan warns you to be wary of such historical questions.

On Harvard Business Review Blogs, he notes that in a fast-moving world where yesterday’s approaches can quickly become irrelevant, there are limitations in asking how candidates handled a past situation. Indeed, research suggests those questions predict success only 12% better than a coin toss.

“The way a candidate did [something] years ago at another firm may be the wrong answer today at this firm with its unique culture. Historical questions also allow a good storyteller to passionately describe how a problem was solved even though they only played a minor role in the solution,” he notes.

Alternatives: Having an applicant do some of the actual work is the best way to separate top candidates from average ones. He suggests asking them to solve a current problem. Or hand them a one-page description of a flawed existing process related to their job. Ask them to identify the top three areas where serious problems are likely to occur.

Looking ahead: You also may want to evaluate whether they are forward-thinking, a valuable capability these days. Ask them to outline their plan for their initial three to six months on the job, highlighting goals and other key components. Or ask them to forecast at least five ways their job will likely evolve over the next three years as a result of changes in the social, economic and business environment.

2.  Overcoming Barriers To Creativity

Consultant Laurie Ruettimann, after a one-week personal retreat, made a commitment to being creative daily. In doing that, she has to overcome barriers to creativity. Here’s the recipe, if you want to echo her efforts:

  • Make a public commitment to your creativity: Start telling people about your plans. Don’t hold back because you don’t feel you’re a Picasso or Steve Jobs. She says we have an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be creative. Making the commitment will spur you on and lead others to support you, so you’re not dreaming alone.
  • Establish a budget: Many people feel they lack the time or money to be creative. She insists on her blog that’s nonsense: “If you have a mobile phone and the means to take your kids to Disney, you have the ability to step away from the world for a few minutes each day and focus on creativity.”
  • Communicate with your muse, not Facebook: Avoid tech exhaustion. Manage your attention span and limit your Internet time so you can have creative periods. She uses tools like Rescue Time and Moment to block her access to social media during her scheduled writing breaks.
  • Never stop improving key skills: Creative people are both skilled thinkers and project managers. “They develop core competencies and shore up the nitty-gritty aspects of their work with skills and capabilities that grow over a lifetime. Great art isn’t accidental, it’s evolutionary. And it takes work,” she writes.

3.  Beware of Marketing Myths

“You should always try to exceed customer expectations.”

That’s a common and noble belief. But it’s also dangerous, says Ottawa-based consultant Shaun Belding, because it’s unsustainable. “Once you have exceeded a customer’s expectations the first time, you set a whole new expectation… If you exceed that expectation the next time, you set a new expectation — and so on, and so on,” he writes on his blog.

Other myths to beware of:

  • “You should always treat customers the way you would like to be treated.” In fact, while all customers want to be treated with respect, they also want to be treated differently — some prefer you close at hand, others want you at a distance, for example. Treat them as they wish to be treated.
  • “The customer is always right.” Not really. Sometimes the customer is profoundly wrong. You should be respectful, perhaps deferential, but that doesn’t make them always right.
  • “Customer sense is common sense.” This adage seems to exclude the importance of skill, attitude and training — “common” sense can sometimes lead you astray.

4.  In Rushing For Productivity Remember Presence

The quest for productivity leads us to focus on the future — judging our days by what we have produced so that our future burden is reduced.

But research fellow Jess Whittlestone says that ignores presence — focusing on the present moment without aiming at anything, and judging our days more in terms of our internal experiences.

“If we focus too much on productivity at the expense of presence, we might find our lives slipping away in a blur,” she writes on Quartz.

You can meld them by thinking about meaning — what you care about. If what you produce is meaningful, it helps you be present.

5.  Zingers

  • Be more than a pleaser: It’s tempting to be a crowd pleaser. But entrepreneur Seth Godin suggests you also could consider being a crowd changer, crowd disturber, crowd inspirer, crowd connector, and crowd calmer. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Unforced accountability:  Trainer Dan Rockwell says accountability isn’t forced compliance; or pressuring people to do what you want, but they don’t want; or resorting to authority when you encounter resistance. Accountability is self-imposed. You can help establish it in others by exploring commitment levels when accountability is low. Describe the big picture and explore the best path forward. (Source: Leadership Freak)
  • Some patent advice: One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make, according to Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran, is wasting a pile of money on patents and PR. The right steps are: Make the product, get some sales, make the big guys envy you, and only then get a patent. (Source: Inc.com)
  • The one thing:  It’s well known that 80% of value can come from 20% of your effort or assets. But consultant Wally Bock notes that often the most important thing delivers 50% of value. In laying out your week’s schedule, keep that in mind. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Feed your motivation: Tenacity is praised. But it’s not something bestowed on us, says Jennie Mustafa-Julock, who calls herself the audacity coach. It takes practice — and motivation. When setting out a goal, list five reasons for achieving it. Whenever your tenacity takes a hit and you just don’t feel like working toward your goal, revisit your five reasons. (Source: CoachJennie.com)

6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  Finding Focus for Communication Plans

Question:  We’re feeling lost in the chaos of the new digital world — a deluge of data, new ways to deliver and communicate value, mind-boggling levels of customization for individuals, and new behavioural dynamics. Is there a tool we could use to focus how we think about our communications effort?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood responds:

You might consider developing your communications strategies around three areas of focus suggested recently by Linda Popky, author of Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage With Marketing That Matters. She emphasizes the importance of:

  • Conversations: How do you approach the continuing dialogue with your primary audiences? Customer interactions should be two-way conversations, not one-way monologues. Are your touchpoints (online and offline) harnessed to inform your marketing activities and move with the action? Are key messages able to flow both ways in an interactive, responsive style?
  • Content: Does the content of your conversation engage? We’re marketing in a world where so much information is freely available on the web — broadcasting your pitch with industrial-level repetition doesn’t work the way it once did.
    Popky notes that, rather than communicate in “selling” mode, marketers need to ensure they provide content relevant and valuable to their clients/customers. It needs to be interesting, authentic and credible. It must also be easy for them to access and digest.
  • Community: Geographies, channels and segments are fractured and blurred in today’s marketing climate. Popky recommends that you engage target clients or customers in the communities where they naturally congregate — whether that be online, offline or both.

Of course, the basics of understanding your market, sensing its needs, and knowing how best to provide services and/or products that satisfy those needs, combined with effective operations and a strong brand identity/ reputation — those are still the pillars framing your strategic plan for marketing and communications.

But as you look at structuring your communications effort, these three arenas — conversations, content and community — may help you see through the fog of change and “too much going on at once” that you’re experiencing today.

7.  From Our Water Cooler:  Unleashing Your Creativity

Along with a river of how-to advice on innovation, agile and lean strategies, we continue to notice no shortage of tips on how to unleash creativity, in the broadest sense of the term.

Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post: “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … imaginative people have messier minds.”

One of the most important and practical insights, perhaps, is that creative work requires a different tempo — functioning best in uninterrupted free-flowing blocks of time set aside for constructive daydreaming.

For teams working on bigger projects, this can also be structured in a sprint format, developed in the agile technology sector, where a few key players (perhaps including customers/clients) will come together in a retreat setting for fast, focused, iterative development of a project over just a week or two.

Bottom line: You create a precious opportunity for solo or group creativity when you set aside time in busy workdays jammed with meetings and bombarded by emails.

Here are some other tips:

  • Explore your world and seek out new experiences. Observe (and question) everything.
  • Make small bets (take hills first, not mountains), and be open to possibility — say “maybe” to new ideas.
  • Look outside your industry and learn what others can teach. Or be a copycat, and build on the classics.
  • Don’t be afraid to start over — to scrap everything and think about projects afresh.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Consistent, daily, focused work can unlock genius.
  • Unplug: rest and a change of mental scenery can foster new ideas and connections.

For more, see the infographic 21 Ways to Unlock Creative Genius from MarketingProfs.com and 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently by Carolyn Gregoire on The Huffington Post.

8020Info helps teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research/stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.

8.  Closing Thought:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

— Harper Lee