20 Pages a Day

20 pages a day. 140 pages a week. 7300 pages a year.

OK, that last number does seem a bit daunting. However, assuming the average book is 240 pages, with a disciplined approach to daily reading setting a target of reading a minimum of 24 books in 2012 does seem achievable. In fact, it is a target that I have decided to set for myself.

I have always enjoyed reading, and I relish spending time at a cafe digging into a good book or loading something of interest onto my Kindle app.  Often times though, I feel that I don’t read as much as I like, or for that matter as much as I should – given the need to keep learning, amidst the increasingly dynamic world we now live in. (side note: I highly recommend reading a recent Fast Company article, This is Generation Flux: Meet the New (and Chaotic) Frontier of Business).

So far, although it is early, I am on track with my goal of reading 24 books.  I completed reading Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis, and am currently getting immersed in the Steve Jobs biography as well as Seth Godin’s Poke the Box.

Some other books on this year’s reading list include:

The Histories of Social Media, by Jonathan Salem Baskin
Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li
The Power of Co-Creation, by Venkat Ramaswamy
Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better And How They Can Change The World, by Jane McGonigal
What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, by Rachel Botsman

In writing this post, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special hat-tip to Dave Fleet, from whom I’ve drawn some inspiration from – he is challenging himself to read 36 books this year.

Have you recently read any books you recommend I should consider? What books are on your reading list?


Are you in the mindset of shipping? Do you focus on delivering quality work and output in a timely manner, but with a realization that it might not be 100% perfect?

Often times, I think that people spend too much time trying to achieve perfection. It’s not that producing quality output isn’t important – it is. However the time spent achieving perfection can often best be utilized for other pursuits.

I’d rather produce 10 projects that are really, really good as opposed to one project that is perfect. Recently, I’ve spent some time working for a couple of startups – I honestly don’t think they’d survive if they didn’t focus on shipping.

Do you strive for perfection? Or do you have a sense for when the time is right to move to the next task?

The Hyper-Social Organization

It seems that we are only at the early stages of truly understanding how companies must adapt their business processes and resources to fully realize the potential associated with becoming a social organization. At the February 22nd Third Tuesday event in Toronto, Francois Gossieaux, co-author of The Hyper-Social Organization, shared some leading insights, supported by intriguing case studies and data, on why businesses must become hyper-social in order to survive and thrive in the era of social media.

According to Gossieaux, companies do not just need to understand Web 2.0 technologies, they also need to understand basic, if not primal, “human 1.0” tendencies.

Case-in-point, while we often tell others what we think we actually want, our decisions and actions often speak otherwise. Recently, JetBlue surveyed their passengers asking what kind of snacks they would like to receive during flights. Respondents indicated that they would like to receive healthy snacks, and JetBlue revised their offerings accordingly. However, as it turned out, the healthy snack offerings were not well-received.

Gossieaux also touched on people’s desire for status and power, and mentioned that he believes social leader boards will take off as a result. If you’re not familiar with social leader boards, they’re becoming prevalent in applications such as FourSquare, and are also being used in some online communities as a gaming mechanic. Participants earn points for completing various tasks, with leader boards indicating where people are on the power ladder – enabling comparison of rank and creating incentive to earn more points.

How can companies become more social? Here are a few key steps Gossieaux suggested companies focus on:

  1. Become human-centric as opposed to company-centric. Be ready to engage with consumers wherever they are, using platforms they use. Hierarchical, fixed processes for response need to give way to nimbleness – people want responses to their suggestions, and fast.
  2. Start thinking in terms of tribes, and not market segments (hat tip to Seth Godin – read more about tribes here). We have been hard-wired to think in a particular manner for eons, and this needs to be overcome.
  3. Focus on knowledge networks, and not information channels. The most important conversations happen within networks of people, and not between company and community. To highlight this, Gossieaux cited a great stat from the McKinsey Report – 60 to 80% of all buying decisions are made without consumers receiving information directly from the brand!
  4. Increase resources devoted to social. 67% of companies surveyed have only one-full time or part-time employee involved with social programs. Consider establishing a social media center for excellence – covering all departments.
  5. Think culture, not technology. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are just tools.  Leverage them to the best of your ability – but realize that tools will evolve, and be ready to use whatever is available.

Now, I’m off to Indigo to buy the book …

The Need for Innovation at Retail

I feel that innovative marketing at retail, specifically grocery stores, is currently lacking. Studies have shown that shopper marketing, done properly, can be a very effective driver of brand awareness and product purchase – more than mass and digital media. A recent trip to a Vancouver, BC grocery store revealed both good and bad examples of shopper marketing.

The good: When purchasing deli meats, a Hellman’s mayonnaise coupon was placed on the package. Right beside the deli was a well-placed, visible rack of Hellman’s mayonnaise.  Two complementary products, and a coupon presented in a unique manner  – well done. I had never seen that before, it caught my attention; a “purple cow” in Seth Godin lingo.

The bad: The same grocery store, for the last year, has been playing a short promotional video for a particular brand of meats near the frozen sausages section. I shop there every week, and I don’t think I ever recall anyone stopping to watch the video. It is not engaging, there is no incentive to watch. Who really cares, and who has the time? What a waste.

How can brands be more innovative at retail? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Add value by promoting quick, easy to access digital recipes on packaging.  A simple link to a website, or perhaps Facebook group, will suffice. Enable consumers to easily share the recipes with their friends, perhaps using the Facebook “like” feature.
  2. Consider a cause-related incentive to purchase. People care about brands that truly strive to make a difference, through genuine relationships and partnerships with charities. TOMS donates a new pair of shoes to a child in need, for each pair purchased. How about donating a portion of proceeds for each sale to a relevant charity?
  3. Ensure that your packaging is innovative.  Employ functionality wherever possible, making it easy to store. Also make sure that your design truly stands out, without adding to the messaging clutter found in grocery stores.

Read and Recommended (Nov 20)

Here are a blog post and an article that caught my attention over the past few weeks.

Will Oprah’s Move to Cable Dampen the ‘Oprah Effect’?

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Oprah Winfrey’s decision to end her long-running syndicated program is a bet on the future of TV — that niche cable channels, with their dual revenue streams from advertising and subscriptions, will be a more stable media base, and that technology will allow any content provider to reach its core audience in a more direct fashion without having to be seen at a certain time of day and on a certain channel. But the move may end up diminishing her power as a mover of products.

When data and decisions collide

(Seth Godin’s blog) Until recently, most of the decisions we were called on to make were based on hunches, insight and a little bit of data. Occasionally, a field like direct marketing would develop into something quite data-driven (“I don’t care if you like mailer one, Smythe, mailer #2 did three times, better! Number 2 it is.”) but not often.