Book – Show and Tell

Show-and-Tell-bookExcellent presentation guide!  Very clear and thoughtful approach to preparation of the most effective presentation.

I have a habit of drawing my PPT slides on a piece of paper and going through a few iterations before switching to a computer…  The book shows how to do it properly 🙂

Slides should be limited to one idea.  A slide should have:

  • A headline
  • A picture
  • A brief caption
  • Nothing else

A unique (and very helpful!) approach to the presentation outline.  Instead of the outline, our story line is our Presentation’s Underlying Message Architecture – PUMA



The most critical presentation in my experience is the pitch.  The report and explanation are more typical ones, but the pitch might be a point between working on an important project and doing busy work of the office.  It deserves special attention 🙂


The windup: a quick summary of where we are today

The hurdle: introduction of a problem we are all facing

The vision: glimpse of a way over the problem

The options: two ways to reach the vision – a boring one and an inspiring one

The close: why the inspiring option is really the only option

The fine print: using excitement of the audience, we cover the details of how it can happen

The hook: end with an added benefit

Interesting: overly beautiful stock photos are not recommended, as they can actually damage the message.  The audience know that the picture is not “true,” and disconnects from the presentation.  “If presentation is lying about this, what else is not true?”

The author of the book also created with a variety of offerings to corporations and individuals.

Book – Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype

youtilityAn interesting book – full of very specific examples to ignite imagination about your business.  I guess, it was planned 🙂

The main point of the book is the need to provide something useful to potential customers to become known to them as a useful resource in the topic.  And – being a useful resource in the topic helps selling topic-related items very effectively.

An important point: being remarkable may not be possible, but being useful is always possible, much easier to do, and proven to give results.

An excellent example in b-to-b is SAP blog – Business Innovation

SAP discovered a problem – most of the traffic to its web site were coming from branded keywords – it was people who new about the company already.  To introduce the company and its expertise to people who did not think about SAP as a problem solver for their need, the company started the blog. The result: the percentage of people who fills out the lead form is higher for the blog audience than for the web site audience.  Blog not only helps find new audience, but the audience is clearly more qualified.


Book – Scrum

scrumVery useful – and surprisingly enjoyable book, filled with interesting stories with often unexpected outcomes.  Highly recommend.  The book is introducing “Scrum” a project management method that originated in software development and can be applied to different areas of business, and life.   The method is superior comparing to the traditional “waterfall” methodology and allows to accomplish tasks faster with higher quality by empowering the team.

Notes from the book:

Government contractors sometimes have a curious business model: they under-bid on the contract, but build a clause requiring additional payment for any changes.  As no plan is perfect, at the end the contractor is handsomely compensated for the effort.  As a reaction to this practice, the client organization creates strict rules in attempt to limit changes.  As a result, the final product may not meet the requirements as over time, the requirements has changed…

Scrum vendor might have a different approach.  The vendor builds in the contract that the client can finish the project any time with payment of 20% of the remaining contract.  In one case, after three development sprints, the client took the software early, as it was good enough.  The result was beneficial for all: project ended up early and was cheaper for the client, and higher profit margin for the vendor.

How was built:

  • Design used scrum (worked)
  • Back-end used waterfall (did not work)
  • Fix of the back-end used scrum (worked)

Planning is useful; blindly following plans is stupid

Typically, planning does not work.  And when it does, the requirements (needs) change and when the project is built, the stakeholders don’t want it anymore.

Difference in performance of teams are much more significant compared to the difference in individual performance.

Great teams are autonomous, cross-functional, and empowered with a transcendent purpose.

Characteristics of the best teams:

  1. Transcendent – purpose beyond the ordinary (decision to be great)
  2. Autonomous – self-organized and self-managing (have poser to make their decisions on how to organize their work)
  3. Cross-functional – have all skills needed to complete the project

Optimal size of the team is less than 9 people.

Adding manpower to the late software project makes it later

Organizational system, rather than individuals involved, is the main culprit in the outcomes (including human obedience to authority experiments).

Japanese manufacturer took over a GM plant with significant labor problems.  The manufacturer re-hired all workers (but not the management) – labor problems disappeared.

Blame is stupid.  Don’t look for bad people, look for bad systems that incentiveze bad behavior and reward poor performance.

Daily stand-up meeting (takes 15 minutes) – design to identify and remove obstacles.  Scrum master asks three questions each team member:

  1. What have you done yesterday?
  2. What are you planning to do today?
  3. What obstacles do you see on the team’s way?

multitaskIf you think you are good at multitasking, you are actually worse than average.  Research shows that majority of participants judge themselves above average on their ability to multitask.  People who multitask the most struggle with focusing.

Multitasking lowers IQ by 10 points (more for men than for women)

Key thing to remember – multitasking is stupid

Working too hard makes more work.

Estimation of difficulty of tasks – Fibonacci numbers.  These numbers are distinctive enough to be able to define the “points” of task’s difficulty compared to other tasks.  Humans are notoriously bad in trying to estimate time required for the task completion.


Happiness leads to success in every area of our lives (based on the research).  Happiness precedes all other indicators.  People are successful because they are happy rather than happy because of their success.

Performance improves even if people just a little bit happier. 

Sprint retrospect:

After the team accomplished a sprint, the team reviews what went right, what can be done better, and what will be improved for the next sprint.  The team is looking at the process, not assigning the blame.

Happiness metric:  at the end of each sprint, each person happyanswers questions on the scale 1-5

  1. How do you feel about your role at the company?
  2. How do you feel about the company as the whole?
  3. Why do you feel this way?
  4. What is one thing that can make you happier in the next sprint?

Everybody takes a turn to answer the question.  Team takes one improvement and define how it can be measured.

Happiness metric is predictive.  Financial metrics reflect the past.

To succeed, make everything visible and throw away the titles 🙂

Book – The Brand Gap

book“A brand.. is a concept shared by society to identify a specific class of things.

“To compare a brand with its competitors, we only need to know what makes it different. Brand management is the management of differences, not as they exist on data sheets, but as they exist in the minds of people.

“Strategy and creativity, in most companies, are separated by a mile-wide chasm.  On one side are the strategists and marketing people who favor left-brain thinking – analytical, logical, linear, concrete, numerical, berbal.  On the other side are the designers and creative people who favor right-brain thinking – intuitive, emotional, spacial, visual, physical.

“Unfortunately, the left brain doesn’t always know what the right brain is doing. Whenever ther’s a rift between strategy and creativity – between logic and magic – there is a brand gap.

Each brand needs to answer three questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why does it matter?

The third question is the most difficult.


“Instead of building a brand on USP (the Unique Selling Proposition of a product), we should pay more attention to “UBS” (the Unique Buying State of the customers).

“Brand requires focus.  It is better to be number one in a small category than to be number three in a large one.  At number three your strategy may have to include a low price, whereas at number one you can charge a premium. …and risk of commodization is almost nonexistent.

“…The most important shift in business today is from “ownership” to “partnership,” and from “individual tasks” to “collaboration.”  The successful company is not one with the most brains, but the most brains acting in concert.

There are three basic models to manage brand collaboration:




The third version is the preference among advanced branders.  The company has to lean how to recruit best-of-breed creative firms from around the world and get them to play together on an all-start team.

“According to a recent McKinsey report, the next economy will see a significant rise in network organizations – groups of “unbounded” companies cooperating across the value chain to deliver products and services to customers.  By owning fewer assets and leveraging the resources of partner companies, these network orchestrators require less capital, return higher revenues per employee, and spread the risks of a volatile market across the network.

MAYA – the Most Advanced Yet Acceptable solution.

“When you think about it, branding is simply a convenient package for a business idea.

“Guy Kawasaki advises his clients: “Don’t worry, be crappy.” Let the brand live, breathe, make mistakes, be human. Brands can afford to be inconsistent – as long as they don’t abandon their defining attributes.

“Every person in the company should be issued a personal shockproof brandometer – a durable set of ideas about what the brand is and what makes it tick.  Because no decision, bug or small, should be made without asking the million-dollar question: “Will it help or hurt the brand?”

Book – QR Codes Kill Kittens

bookAnother lovely book from Scott Stratten.  I still have some points from his Un Marketing book in one of my periodically updated work presentations 🙂

Every time you use a QR code for your business because you can, and not because you should, whether your market wants them or not, a kitten dies – a sweet, innocent kitten.

The book is very entertaining, and the video below is simply hilarious – highly recommend!

The main idea of the book is a call to think before using any new “shiny object” in marketing – think about the purpose, audience, and the benefit (or any potential harm?) to the brand.


Why would anybody need a QR Pet Tag?

  • 85% of people have a cell phone
  • 50% of phones are capable of scanning a QR code
  • 17% of people have scanned a QR code
  • 50% were successful and would scan a QR code again

This means that 3.6% of people scan QR codes.  99% of people can call a phone number with their phone…  How about trying something else on the tag?  Like a phone number.

How about placing a QR code where it is not possible to scan?  Below is an excellent example.


Another hilarious example – a QR code on the bus that allows to check with availability of local emergency room.


Advertising executive might love QR codes…


Other curious marketing issues:

Study conducted by on 696 companies with online lead forms revealed that sales reps were, on average, attempting their first call to a newly submitted web lead after 39 hours had passed… 36% pf those audited never responded to a submitted lead during the entire two-week tracking period (2012).

Or just simple lack of attention that was not beneficial for a marketer:


And a note for social media issues in marketing (there are too many):

If you don’t have the time or resources to manage your social media accounts properly, or your product quality control for that matter, you shouldn’t be focusing on new technologies.  Your time is better spent elsewhere.


Coursera – Surviving Disruptive Technologies

university-of-MarilandQuite interesting course with many useful examples to illustrate main concepts.  The main point of the course is increasing pace of technological change and the need to adapt to the change to… survive.  Every organization will experience change in technologies; some will survive and some will perish.  The class gives a guide on typical process of evaluation of disruptive technologies and options of adaptation.


Interesting: profitable organizations with a strong brand have a “disadvantage” of their own profitability.  When the disruptive technology appears, it is difficult to make changes as the success of the company is rather obvious.  As it is more difficult for public companies to make changes (as the expectation for steady growth can create unnecessary pressure), the instructor mentioned Michael Dell’s attempt to make his company private to implement necessary changes.

Another interesting point:  successful companies are able to focus on their core strengths very well, their organization designed to be efficient and productive.  This particular approach hurts chances for their transformation – the success breeds rigidity necessary for focusing on profitability, in expense of flexibility vital for the future survival of the company.


Organizational structure also needs to change, even if it has been difficult to do for centuries 🙂


Survival guide:

  • Denying a disruption will affect you is dangerous
  • An innovation may not be impressive (at first)
  • Imagine the Worst Possible Scenario
  • Develop the strategy to survive the Worst Possible Scenario
  • Be bold
  • Change the organization (even if it has been hard topic for over 500 years 😉 )

Coursera – International Organizations Management

UniversityQuite interesting class, even if I thought initially that the class will cover management issues in corporations operating across the world, rather than international organizations themselves.  The class gives an excellent overview of the international dynamic and concept of international organizations.  The class also discusses in-depth PPP – Public-Private Partnerships, which are projected to grow.

A few interesting points:

WTO system under which all members need to agree on a particular measure is no longer functioning.  To better reflect reality of the international supply chain, regional trade agreements, mega-regional trade agreements and Plurilateral agreements are growing in number.


The chart above shows rise in regional agreements.

China surpassed US by internet population, but below in penetration (half of US rate).  Quite interesting chart of internet total use and penetration rate is below.


Will China become a new dominant player in the world based on its economic success?  Maybe not…

That it is more likely that China will continue its rise through competitive cooperation, and will become the center of the global network.

As “data” is becoming more and more important for businesses and countries, it can become an asset that could (or could not?) be controlled.

Will we see “data nationalism” with the requirement of certain or all data assets to be stored locally?  It will lead to fragmentation of the internet.


The class explains the concept and recent growth of PPPs – Public-Private Partnerships.




Interesting to see “attracting talented employees” as a business interest in PPPs.  From another side, it is an expected development as younger generations becoming disillusioned in the career experience of their predecessors.