Nov 11

Why I speak in absolutes

More than once in the past I’ve been criticized for over-simplifying and over-generalizing research findings and for making bold claims that go beyond the scope of the research. But I’ve continued to do it, because I think when done correctly, it’s the best way to get people to act on the insight you generate.

I’ve just finished reading The Thank You Economy by Gary Veynerchuk (which by the way is an excellent read and has lots of content you can re-use if you’re trying to persuade others of the value of social media) and he makes similar claims about speaking in absolutes and the value of over-generalizing research findings:

Why I speak in absolutes

Because if I give you an inch, you’ll run a mile with it. When I said in 1998, “You’re dead if you don’t put your business on the Internet and get in on ecommerce,” was that true? No. But boy, can you imagine trying to be in business in 2010 with zero web presence? I’d rather shock you into paying attention, and admit later that business rarely requires an all-or-nothing approach, than take the chance that you won’t take the situation seriously enough.

The trick is to explain that your bold claims are your opinion, based on the research you did: “Here is what I found, here is what I think it means, and here is what I think you should do”.

All communicated research should include those three elements. Far too many people stop at “Here is what I found”. All research is subjective to some degree, and open to interpretation. So be bold, make claims that will make people listen, be open to feedback, and be prepared to be wrong.

Oh, and stop communicating your research in reports and slide decks. Reports are useful for research synthesis. Reports are for researchers. To get other people to act, communicate face to face.

Nov 11

Why I wrote Grouped

Grouped is about to hit the shelves so I thought it timely to explain why I wrote the book. Some people may be surprised to learn that Grouped is a short book – roughly 160 pages. It should take no more than 2-3 hours to read. As anyone who needs to write for a living knows, writing a short book is harder, and takes longer, than writing a long book.

Grouped is intentionally short, and here is why:

Many people still think that the rise of social media is a fad – a trend that will come and go. Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong. I hope they realize it before it’s too late, and a competitor has left them obsolete. Certainly there has been a lot of hot air around social media, and a lot of people trying to claim expertise in a field that is only emerging. So it’s easy to ignore or dismiss social media, and go back to the day job, doing things as they have been done for the past few decades. But once all the hot air dissipates, it’s absolutely clear that the web is fundamentally being rebuilt around people and that this will change how businesses are structured, and how they market their products. It’s also dead simple why this is happening. People are social creatures. Social interaction is what we strive for, and it is what enabled our species to survive and evolve. It’s only natural that the web, which is only 20 years old, would reorient itself around how we have interacted offline for thousands of years.

The evidence that the web is being rebuilt around people is everywhere. In the last few years, new businesses have emerged that have been built around people, for example Facebook, Zappos, Zynga and Spotify, and they are challenging long established businesses in their respective domains. You only need to witness Google’s rush to rebuild their company around people and real identity to see that this major shift is happening. CEOs and CMOs need to understand this. They need to see that this is the biggest change to business in many decades, probably hundreds of years, and is possibly the biggest change ever.

The reason I wrote Grouped is because busy executives have too little time to really take it all in. Social behavior is complicated. Really complicated. It takes time to understand the subtleties of our relationships and social interaction. But in the next few years, it’s going to become absolutely necessary to understand the basic patterns behind how we interact with, and influence others, and how this will change business and marketing in particular. This is why Grouped is short, and fast to read. It’s also structured in small distinct sections, each describing a social interaction pattern. I hope that every small section is useful, and will be returned to time and again. I hope that many people who enjoy Grouped buy the book for their boss. And their bosses boss. I hope they put it on their desk and tell them to read it on their flight. Or on their commute. And I hope it helps them to rethink how their business needs to adapt.

Grouped is not just for busy execs. Many will remain defiant, convinced that interruption marketing is a sustainable strategy for decades to come. However, many people in the trenches know better. They can see that the future is building businesses around people. If you’re reading this, you’re likely one of those people. Grouped was also written for you. I hope that it’s distinct sections and short form helps you make succinct arguments to convince others that understanding social behavior is no longer an option. It’s a requirement for success.

You can pre-order Grouped here. For you or your boss. http://bit.ly/s6TAHV