A New Year's Thought: Let's Get Real

Benjamin Ellis' lunch time talk at Like Minds, Exeter 29/10/2010(Photo Credit: Harry Duns: http://www.flickr.com/photos/harryduns/)

2 things prompted this little thought, which in it's self has turned into a new years resolution for me that may be one of the hardest to keep out there.

It's not got anything to do with quitting something, or starting up something new, but actually is about doing something that we need to overcome in ourselves. Not just me, but all of us.

The two things that prompted this resolution are these:

1. This post from Bernie about being connected to people

2. This video from Tony Porter from the recent TEDWomen conference

Bernie speaks about a new kind of people who are emerging as business people in 2011 as people who;

"...don’t chase big names, they chase big problems, and they don’t have lots of rubbish badges on their web page or write ‘working in partnership with’ on everything they own. Instead they spend the time getting to know people and are honest about how they work..."

In Tony Porter's TED talk he talks about how Men need to get out of the "man box" which we so often hammer ourselves into, a place where we lose something of ourselves. He says we need to come to a place where's OK to be "whole".

These two thoughts got me to thinking about how we can spend 2011. How we can do extraordinary things. How we can be people who change our worlds and the world's of others. How we can do life just that little bit differently.

I am talking about being real. Working in the world of marketing where it's all about appearance and managing reputation, not just of our clients but our own, it can be pretty bloody difficult to stick to our guns about who we are. About what makes us tick, or angry or what causes us pain or joy or grief or unutterable happiness. Because, as we have gotten used to sharing so much of the minutiae of our lives with one another online we have become aware of our own filters. Aware of what we share about ourselves so as to only present the version of ourselves that we would have others see. We have become our own editors.

Now sure some of this is for the good. It stops us from lashing out when we are wronged, or posting that Facebook photo that we may very shortly regret or even being labelled with an Overshare Foursquare badge. But I think the problem is that when this consciousness of our own reputation begins to permeate all of our relationships it becomes intensely difficult for us to be real with one another.

Take the example - in the pub with some business people. Maybe after the conference or event or even day at work has finished and you are sharing a drink and breaking bread. How often is there one or more people at the table who are still in presentation mode? Still doing the hard sell, or name dropping because they feel they have to? I think this may be becoming a social trend that will get gradually worse if we don't watch ourselves - and the result isn't just ugly, it's dangerous.

Let's commit to making 2011 the year where we get this right, living life out together but without the bullshit. Without the corporate speak. Without the hard sell. Let's make this the year where we get real.

Getting involved in Global Share The Bible Day: December 25t

Christmas Eve is upon us and what a year it has been! Twitter went mainstream.

Facebook hit half a billion users.

and people spent more than 4 BILLION MINUTES reading the Bible on YouVersion...

Hang on - what?

That's right YouVerison (one of our clients here at Lexis and run by friends Bobby Grunewald and Terry Storch from Edmond, Oklahoma) the worlds most downloaded Bible App for iPhone / Android / Blackberry / Web OS has been a big highlight of my year personally. It's been amazing to see so many people getting involved in God's word through this new medium.

Now for those of you who read this blog regularly you know I don't usually post about clients we are working with, but this is something I couldn't not share about so I hope you will indulge me. Tomorrow (yes Christmas Day) YouVersion are wanting to declare December 25th as Global Share The Bible Day.

Whether you are a Christian reading this or not, there are plenty of ways to get involved and get reading the Bible this Christmas:

  • Download a Bible App for you Smart phone - Check out the YouVersion Site for download details
  • Check out a Christmas Day church service? (http://stmaryslondon.com)
  • Tweet a verse?
  • Try the YouVersion 5 Day Christmas Reading Plan?

There you go - rant over.

Have a wonderfully blessed Christmas where ever you are spending it and why not share in the truth of why we celebrate this time of the year, with those you are spending it with.

Merry Christmas folks. Catch you in 2011.

Presence v. Participation

One of the interesting aspects of last weeks LikeMinds conference was the phenomenon that I have experienced in a few good conferences (I use that term carefully), that when the most interesting stuff was being said on stage the twitter stream died of... Interesting I think to myself. The #LikeMinds boys!

It's not that the #tag went completely silent, but you could certainly see and feel a dip in it's momentum. It seemed for a second that the fact that someone had got up on stage to share something with us in the room that was truly interesting, people began to opt for being present where they were, rather than participating (or for some broadcasting their pithy comments) in the conversation on Twitter.

You may now be sat thinking - yes James, this is plainly obvious, why waste your time telling us this. Well you may be right, when we are presented with something really interesting, mixed with the social etiquette of a person on a state, sure we pay attention. But what about at home watching a movie, or at the dinner table in a restaurant or in a lecture? Do you find yourself, your partner or your friends checking Twitter, Facebook or reading the football scores? Or maybe your fingers wander to that level of Angry Birds that was giving you trouble in the tube home?

The thing is, I know this is my experience. For all that I love about these technologies, for all the connectedness they bring, I also find a constant struggle against what has just become the norm, the battle to remain present where I am, with who I spend my time with. It's not easy when these things become so engrained in our way of life. As my friend Jeff Pulver often says "social media is like air" it's becoming just the way many of us (not all I know) live our lives.

But in the same way that many of us found at LikeMinds and as I find my wife Constantly reminds me (as I in turn remind her) that there will always be down time to tweet, blog and post - but the moments of true connectedness are found when we meet, visit and worship together, and right there in those moments by our very presence we are participating, writing new lines of living code into His great tapestry.

At the start of this new week let's give it a go. Being present, participate with what you find in front of you. Practice being present.

Standing out by standing still

As some of you will know (because you were there virtually or physically) I have just got back from 4 days in Devon at the wonderful #LikeMinds conference run by Scott Gould and Drew Ellis down in Exeter. One of the biggest draws of the event except for the speakers, conversation and wonder that is Exeter is the sheer fact that you get out of, what is for many of us, the London bubble. It was a thoroughly refreshing experience as I find it is every time I get out of this city. Don't get me wrong, I love London, but every once in a while you get a chance, if you are very lucky to stop and stand still. Maybe for the briefest of moments, in a coffee shop, by the river, a park bench. Or maybe for a longer period, a weekend away, holiday, sabbatical or even a conference.

The River Ex

These times can be confronting can't they? Isn't it funny how often in these times of standing still, which are meant to be moments of comfort, release or rest we find ourselves so conflicted or just unable to switch off?

I think it's because in these moments we are presented with what we've been busying ourselves with. When we get a moment out it's often so hard to concentrate on being still because we spend so much time analysing what's just been or planning what's just about to come. If our heads are full of this stuff how on earth are we meant to just be?

I sometimes think we need to learn to be a bit more like a DVR or DVD player. These things are built to play stories from start to finish, they just play out, but if you stop them mid way through, if you hit pause, that's all they do - pause. They don't worry about what you were just watching nor do they care about whether Jim Carey will ever find his way out of Trumanland, they just stop in the moment and do nothing, just leaving us with a still image of the character in screen.

Maybe in our timeshifted, google mapped, live streaming world it's counter cultural to just stop for a minute and pause. So much of our time is spent spinning around trying to stand out, maybe we might just stand out all the more by learning to stand still.

LikeMinds Autumn 2010 - The photo post

The London contingent and those from all corners of the earth decended on Exeter once more to impart into one another, to participate and to do life together. This time we came together to discuss Curation+Creativity - all about how we think about bringing stuff together and making something new.

Check out @ScottGould and @DrewEllis for more details or check out the LikeMinds website

I'll be posting some follow ups from all we learn't whilst in Devon this week over the next few days, but for now check out the pics below of our jaunts in the South West!

The DNA of a Recommendation

Last week I shared my thoughts on the "Recommendation Economy" at The Late Late Breakfast Show and here on the blog - and I must say I was a little astounded at the response. After sufficient prompting from you lot I thought I would explore this a little further by examining the DNA (more on that in a moment) of a recommendation. First of we must understand that there are several factors, as with any economy, that make up the Recommendation Economy - markets, currencies and goods. Over the coming weeks I'll be exploring these other elements, but today - we focus on the currency of the recommendation economy - The Recommendation itself.

What's in a Recommendation?

As we began to explore last week, I can see there is a new kind of consumerism breeding in the underbelly of the digital world. One where the sale and purchase of goods continues to flourish, but can go mostly unseen as we bring more and more of our purchasing, leasing and renting into the comfort and privacy of our own browsers. Yet brands and increasingly as the weeks go by enterprises are seeing the need to breed a culture of recommendation, where every consumer becomes the evangelist for his or her shop/barber/SaaS Provider/Consultant/Frisbee Manufacturer.

This new culture's currency, the recommendation, when automated, facilitated and propagated efficiently can become a very powerful tool - one that can move financial markets as well as social ones. The recommendation has it's own DNA - a very particular makeup, which has positives and negatives for both sides of the equation.

What is the DNA I here you cry? - Direction, Naming & Association

Let's take each of those in turn. (and here's a handy diagram!)

DNA of a Recommendation Infographic

The first part of the DNA of a recommendation is the direction. This direction in an offline world may sound like "I saw this new paint in the XXBrand Catalogue, you should check it out" - which in many ways has not changed online, however the direction is far more precise. When we choose to say "Check out Dulop's new colour range - Flacid Yellow! http://bit.ly/sillypaintname" we are not only directing people to a destination but giving them the tools to reach that destination instantly through a link.

This direction element is the most key for companies who want to become major players in the recommendation economy, as this is the element which is most easy for them to faciliate, through automating these sharing actions from their own online stores, social pages and mobile applications. The direction of a recommendation clearly benefits the subject of the recommendation (i.e. the brand) the most - however this value is also shared with the person who uses this recommendation to get a good product or service.

N - The Naming of a Recommendation

This may seem fairly obvious - a recommendation that didn't name the thing it was recommending would appear to be pretty worthless. However the second element of the recommendation's DNA - the naming of the recommendation has a lot more intrinsic value that one my first think.

We are awefully precious about our names, both personally and corporately, and in my experience particularly so when it comes to big companies. So why do we get so hung up about the names we use? Well - our name holds a lot of significance to us, names are one of the only things we can truly claim as our own, even when others may even share the same name - and so they carry a lot of inherent value for us. Not only do they signify who we are, but where we have come from, and the values we hold- they are the badges of our reputation, and when we recommend someone it is that reputation which we are putting into the spotlight, that history, those values - that name. Test this on yourself - when you think of Coca-Cola, Virgin America, IBM, Tony Blair, Melinda Gates, Will.I.Am - what do those names conjure up for you?

This is why so much time and effort is spent by marketeers trying to reinforce and create identities that we as consumers will associate with different names, brands, icons and monikers that we see and here everyday. The value in having these names passed on and recommended reinforces and amplifies these efforts - the more we share the more the reputation is brought to light, where it is either built up or torn down.

Of course the naming of a recommendation plays an important part for the one who recommends also - the association with that name.

A - The Association of a Recommendation

This third element of the DNA of the recommendation is the one that has most value for the one who recommends, and is the key driver behind the currency of the recommendation, as it is the payoff for recommending. The association of the recommendation is what we as the original consumer of the good or service get out of the process of recommending (often referred to as social capital). By saying "check this out", "this is good", "has great service today from...", "James Liked XXBrand" we are associating ourselves with these services - in part to say "try them out" - but I would argue far more that we are shouting - "here I am", "this is what I'm about", "these values are my values".

We know that broadly speaking we are moving a large proportion of our social interactions online, making it harder for people to spot the books on our shelves, the DVD's in their cases, the holiday brochures that once littered the coffee table have been replaced with browser histories, HTTPS shops and next day delivery (or more often than not instant downloads). So by liking, tweeting, sharing, posting, blogging and emailing these recommendations we are beginning to rebuild our own name/brand/identity by means of association with these social goods, traded through these social markets using the currency of the recommendation.

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Knowing how to turn things off

SLL - Sunday Latte LamentationsFollowing on the conversation from today's post from my good friend Scott Gould (and his mate Ian) I share with you my 3 productivity tips for today!

1. Reading something inspiring keeps the mind active, it gives you focus and direction.

I am currently working through the wonderful 80's classic book "Money, Sex, Power" by the fantastic pastor Richard Foster (author of Celebration of Discipline) - just picking up a couple of nuggets that get the brain juices flowing on a daily basis is sometimes all it takes to get the creativity and productivity flowing.

2. Think about getting an iPad (or some useful desktop widgets!

Using "Things" on the iPad has completely consolidated my mish-mash approach to task management up until now, and Evernote being always with me makes finding things much easier.

Also check out some of these great little nuggets:

Off Switch

3. Knowing how to turn things off is crucial.

What I mean by this is knowing that things do have a Off button, and you can choose to press it. You change choose to tune out. And you should.

We often forget that the world will not end if we don't check in, tweet, email or text for a couple of hours, or even a couple of weeks.

The more we learn to switch off for appropriate amounts of time, the more productive we are when things are turned on!

Over to you...

What makes you more productive? What tools do you use? Are you more creative when you are being productive or more productive when you are being creative?

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That Wedding Video - June 26th 2010

Here it is... the one you have all been waiting for. The Wedding Video (Highlight version - we won't subject you to the whole 3 hour Directors cut!)

Massive thanks to our videographer Paul for his brilliant handy work. Give me a tweet if you want his details!

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