5-29-2007 Carnival of the Capitalists

This week's edition of the Carnival of the Capitalists is up at The Marketing Whore, who does a very nice job of commenting on each of the submitted posts. There are a good, diverse crop of posts this week. One of my favorites is written by Charles Green, one of the authors of The Trusted Advisor. In his post, he takes the notion of 'generic' trusted advisors to task.

Unfortunately, this raises the bar for next week's host, yours truly. Nice job, Gracie!

posted by Mike at 5:41 PM 0 comments


Is It 1929 All Over Again?

I have been following the stock market with wary anticipation of a major correction. The historical mid-term correction has yet to occur, and there are several indicators of general economic problems.

There is a great deal of debate about the genesis of the stock market crash of 1929. One theory says that the primary driver was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. The link has a good overview and rationale, which seems completely plausible to me. So imagine my reaction when I read in USNews that Congress is planning on passing major tariffs on most Chinese products! Note to esteemed legislators: Who do you think is holding all of those Treasury bonds? And what do you think they will do with them if you start a trade war?


posted by Mike at 1:47 PM 6 comments


It's the FAST That Eat the Slow

Author, speaker, and management consultant extraordinaire Laurence Haughton is conducting a web seminar entitled "It's the FAST That Eat the Slow", based on his bestselling book It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow. The seminar will be conducted on May 29th at 9:00am PST, noon Eastern.

Here's what Laurence says he'll be talking about:
I’ll be teaching 3 strategies to think faster, execute faster, and make speed a competitive advantage. It’s based on my first bestseller “It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small…It’s the FAST that Eat the Slow.” The title of the workshop is (of course) “It’s the FAST that Eat the Slow.”

In this 60 minute LiveMeeting I’ll show entrepreneurs: how to spot trends before the competition; how to get people who will follow through fast; and how leaders can make fast decisions that they’ll never regret.
Based on my experience with his previous seminar on organizational change, I can heartily recommend this seminar!

You can register for the session here.

posted by Mike at 11:58 AM 2 comments


What Makes Toyota So Formidable

A fictitious fan write:
"Dear Mike:

I'd really like to know what makes Toyota such a juggernaut, but I have ADD and could never finish Taiichi Ohno's book. Is there a single article that I could read to understand what the real secret is? And could it showcase Americans applying the secret so it doesn't appear to be some Japanese cultural mumbo-jumbo?



Well, my friend, today is your lucky day! This Fast Company article does exactly that. Here's the money quote:
"If you go to the Big Three, you'd find improvement projects just like you'd find at Georgetown," says Jeffrey Liker, a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan and author of The Toyota Way, a classic exploration of Toyota's methods. "But they would be led by some kind of engineering group, or a Six Sigma black belt, or a lean-manufacturing guru of some kind.

"They might even do as good a job as they did at [Toyota's Georgetown, KY plant]. But here's the thing. Then they'd turn that project into a PowerPoint. They'd present it at every place in the whole company. They'd say, 'Look what we did!' In a year, that happens a couple of times in a whole plant for the Big Three. And it would get all kinds of publicity in the company.

"Toyota," Liker says, "is doing it in every single department, every single day. They're doing it on their own"--no black belts--"and they're doing it regularly, not just once."

Sounds a lot like When Bad Things Happen To Good Concepts, only better. Do go read the whole thing. The specific examples are stunning; the message crystal clear. But like so many other "secrets", challenge is to make the effort to apply it to your own situation.

[h/t: Rob Patterson]

posted by Mike at 7:55 AM 8 comments


Halos and Horns

While working on Moonshot and Tsunamis, I was contemplating the change management / influence tools of the angels and devils that live on our shoulders (or in our heads). I tried to stratify elements of John Boyd's and Robert Cialdini's writings, and came up with this:

  • Some of Cialdini's 6 tools of Influence didn't fit neatly in one camp. You will notice that some of them are the most powerful of the group.
  • The 2 tools that do fit neatly into one category, fit the Horns.
  • Initiative, Adaptability, and Harmony are the key elements of successful insurgent/counterinsurgent operations
  • Uncertainty, Menace, and Mistrust are what those successful 'change agents' try to foment amongst their opponents. Too bad they show up in management practices so often.
  • Implicit bonds are the key enabler of Initiative, Adaptability, and Harmony. How many corporate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measure them?
  • Images are Copyright 2007 Alchemy LLC

Does this list look right to you? What would you add?

posted by Mike at 12:23 PM 2 comments


A Blogging Proposal

Dan at tdaxp is visiting Beijing, where he writes:
"Let's spend our lives together

I write many things, but I do not know how to write it.

I don't know how to say it.

And you know my voice -- you would not want me to try to sing it!

Unlike you I am not an artist. I cannot draw it or paint it.

More than I can write, say, sing, draw, or paint,

I love you.


Will you marry me?"

How did she respond? You'll have to look in the comments, naturally!

I never saw one of those before, but people do find the strangest ways to propose. Mine was with a fortune cookie. What stories of unusual proposals do you have?

posted by Mike at 5:23 PM 4 comments


Top 5 Faces NOT to Make During an Audit

Top 5 Darren Rowse at ProBlogger has a new group writing project: Top 5. The rules are simple:
"Be as creative as you’d like - take it in any direction you want as long as it relates to the topic".

Poker players call it "the tell", those little signals you give off while playing the game. The raised eyebrow when you fill out that straight; which hand you use to push your chips forward. You may not play high-stakes poker, but there are plenty of situations where you want to be careful not to give away your thoughts, and none may be more important than when you are being audited, by the IRS or some other government regulator.

As a service to you, dear reader, I offer the Top 5 Faces NOT to Make During an Audit. They may make the auditor wonder if there's something you're not telling them...

Please note, that if you are an auditor, you should add these to your repertoire!

If you are new to Spooky Action, please feel free to look around. Here's a bonus Top 5 - Favorite Posts on This Blog:

  1. How To Make Important Decisions
  3. When Bad Things Happen to Good Concepts
  4. The Theory and Practice of Customer Delight in a Nutshell
  5. Categories of Fun and Experience Design

posted by Mike at 5:42 AM 2 comments


What I Learned from 16 Great Writers

Last week I posted What I Learned From a Mesquite Tree as part of a Middle Zone Musings group writing project.

Here is the complete list of entries, each one finishing the phrase “What I Learned From…”

“… Teen Girl Squad”, by Markk at My Opinions Are Important Now I remember why I don't get all excited when high school reunions come around...

“… the Mt. Pinatubo Eruption”, by Ronald Huerca at Ronalfy.com This fine post is a real testament to the human spirit!

“… Drugs”, by Sam Brougher at Forest Azuaran Climb inside Sam's head while takes drug. I'm having the acupuncture and hypnosis for my next procedure!

“… a Mesquite Tree”, by Mike DeWitt at Spooky Action I really connected with this author!

“… Drinking Starbucks Coffee”, by George Manty at Can I Make Big Money Online I kind of disagree with George's point (I'd say Cialdini's Social Proof has a bigger effect), but I'll agree with anyone who questions what the big deal is about Starbucks.

“… My Wife!”, by Rajaram Sethuraman at Thoughts of a Rambler Something tells me that Rajaram will be learning additional lessons after his wife reads this post! ;-)

“… Having a Daughter”, by Marco Richter at FitForFreedom I know a little something about debt and daughters (see profile), so Marco's post really resonated with me.

“… Norm”, by Joe Raasch at The Happy Burro Too much of our lives are lived on autopilot. Norm teaches Joe and me a good lesson.

“… my mentors”, by Karin H. at The Kiss Business Too I need to find myself a couple of mentors as amazing as Karin's!

“… Procrastinating”, by Yvonne Russell at Grow Your Writing BusinessHilarious research on thinking!

“… a Squirrel”, by G.L. Hoffman at What Would Dad SayTeachable moments are everywhere, as a couple of albino squirrels remind us...

“… Blogging”, by Gayla McCord at Mom Gadget In Big Bucks, the protagonist learns: 1) Do What You Love, and 2) Always Put Making Money Over Doing What You Love (you'll have to read the rest to see how to resolve that paradox). Gayla has a nice personal blogging twist on the same topic.

“… a Weight Problem”, by Monique Attinger at Insurance Guide 101 How do you tie the topics of weight loss and insurance together in one cogent post? Click Monique's link to find out!

“… Taking Out the Garbage”, by Michael Chantrel at Mortgage Guide 101 Blog How do you tie the topics of taking out the garbage and paying your mortgage? Michael knows!

“… RUMMAGING!” by William Tully at LOGICal eMOTIONs A marvelous piece about perspective!

“… A Light Switch”, by Robert Hruzek at Middle Zone Musings Between this story and the companion sailboat caper, you get the distinct impression that Bob's life is never dull!

Thanks, Bob, for creating this concept, and thank you to all the contributors. I really enjoyed them all! Let's see how long it takes for Bob's promised 50,000 point Technorati ranking improvement...

posted by Mike at 5:47 AM 4 comments


What I Learned From a Mesquite Tree

Have you ever eaten mesquite-grilled food? M-m-m! But do you know where those wood chips came from?! While it may not be Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, this story does involve nastiness and bloodshed.

When I moved to Arizona, I bought a house with a mesquite tree in the back yard. It didn't take long to realize why many mesquite owners don't proliferate them. First, they are constantly dropping/shedding/expelling pods, fronds, and other growths. It seems like you're always raking something under a mesquite. Second, they grow like weeds - prodigiously and randomly. And third, when you go to trim that growth, you find that the new growth has razor-sharp thorns hidden along its length! After my first battle with a mesquite thicket I looked like I'd been scourged by the Romans. "Why couldn't I have had a nice kite-eating tree instead?" I wondered aloud.

Over time, though, I came to appreciate some characteristics of my backyard menace. It was incredibly hardy, and the wood was great-smelling! But the truly great thing about a mesquite is its malleability. Because they grow so fast in so many directions, and because the wood is so strong, you can "sculpt" the things like no other tree I know! There is one in my neighborhood that actually looks like the trunk has a loop in it from one angle (the guy who maintains it studied in Japan for a decade).

I know, you're thinking "Mike, if the mesquite taught you to look beyond first impressions, I'm going to hurl!" Don't worry. The mesquite taught me a new perspective on personal development. That's more interesting, isn't it?

Allow me to explain. When you first try to make changes in thought and habit, your mind can seem a lot like a mesquite: constantly expelling negative self-talk, developing a bewildering thicket of opinions and habits despite your best conscious effort not to. And, boy, do those opinions and habits resist change!

When I first started trimming that tree, I was fairly tentative in my cutting. Having lived most of my life in the midwest, the concept of hacking a significant portion of a tree's vegetation with the expectation that it would grow back seemingly overnight was a foreign, nay, alien concept to me. But with some experimentation, I soon learned that temerity was wrong; that by being bold I could do a much better job.

Many of us live our lives timidly, making little changes here and there, afraid that making big changes will jeopardize our very existence. But our minds aren't maples, they're mesquites. Left untrimmed - the unexamined life - they grow into unrecognizable thickets of addiction, confusion, and misery. Minimally attended, they provide decent shade and utility (a passable existence). But it turns out that they can quickly be turned into something magical. You are limited only by your willingness to be bold, your willingness to experiment, and your ability to creatively adapt to evolving growth!

So here is the perspective on personal development that I learned from that mesquite tree:
  1. Start with an overall direction and plan. It may be a far cry from the way things are today, but you'll be surprised how fast things can change.
  2. Deal with specific circumstances as they arise in ways that advance the plan. You can't control every unfolding event. Don't try to; just keep going in the right direction. Unforeseen setbacks will occur, but so will opportunities to advance faster than expected. Be ready to exploit them.
  3. Don't be afraid to hack away at things that don't conform to the plan. This is the hardest part, because it is tough work and the fear of screwing things up is Brobdingnagian! But that's where the transition from "decent shade" to "living marvel" happens. It's okay to start small, but it's even better to be bold and go big! There will be cuts and scrapes and contusions along the way, but the results will astound you.
Ah, the sweet taste of success...

[This post is part of a group writing project concocted by Robert Hruzek.]

posted by Mike at 5:31 AM 21 comments


Quantum Physics News - Reality Does Not Exist When We Aren't Observing It

Physics Web:
"Some physicists are uncomfortable with the idea that all individual quantum events are innately random. This is why many have proposed more complete theories, which suggest that events are at least partially governed by extra "hidden variables". Now physicists from Austria claim to have performed an experiment that rules out a broad class of hidden-variables theories that focus on realism -- giving the uneasy consequence that reality does not exist when we are not observing it."
I guess our thoughts really do create our reality.

Additional thoughts?

posted by Mike at 11:52 AM 6 comments


Commitment and Consistency

I know how to brainwash you. So does Charlie Munger, vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. We both learned the secret from Prof. Robert Cialdini, who learned it from the Chinese. Would you like to know how it's done? I can teach you in about two minutes.

Have you read Prof. Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion? If you have, then you know what I'm talking about. If not, you've missed out on one of the most important lessons you'll ever learn. Don't believe me? Would Mr. Munger's strong recommendation be better? How about George Soros or Peter Lynch? They all recommend the book. In fact, Mr. Munger gave a copy to every single attendee at a speech at Harvard, along with this admonition:
"And if you have half as much sense as I think you do, you will immediately order copies for all of your children and several of your friends. You will never make a better investment."
[emphasis mine]

At least click on the link above and check it out. I'll resume the post when you come back.

Cialdini outlines 6 tools of influence, which he formulated over a three year period by "infiltrating" influence peddling organizations such as used car dealerships and the Hare Krishnas, and by studying others, such as the brainwashing experts. During the Korean War the Chinese demonstrated that you didn't need special drugs to brainwash American prisoners of war. Or special forms of torture. The only things they needed were patience and creativity.

And an understanding of the principle of Commitment and Consistency.

It turns out that your brain, consciously and subconsciously, works VERY hard to be consistent. How hard is very hard? One of Cialdini's experiments to test this principle consisted of having a student go to an affluent neighborhood and ask residents to display a 3" x 3" sign saying "Be a safe driver", which the majority of residents agreed to do. Three weeks later, he sent out another student to ask the residents with the small signs to display a larger sign:
"To get an idea of just how the sign would look, they were shown a photograph depicting an attractive house, the view of which was almost completely obscured by a very large, poorly lettered sign reading DRIVE CAREFULLY."
76% of those affluent residents agreed to do it! Because making the tiny commitment to campaigning for public safety with the smaller sign made their brains want to act in a consistent manner when asked to make a larger, ridiculous, but consistent commitment.

How you use this principle is up to you, but it can be used for good. Here is a handy example. Over at Successful Blog, Liz Strauss asked an interesting question:
"A friend of yours, Larry, is larger than life. He seems to know everyone in the country and most of the folks online. He’s rich and highly connected, especially in home and garden television. Once when you were in New York, he invited you to an event at the Waldorf where the entire industry seemed to be in attendance.

Larry is so busy in his world, that he doesn’t seem to notice that you have attained some status. Your blog has gotten press, and you’ve become known as an expert. In fact, you’re a celebrity and highly popular with the gardening set. You’ve written three books of your own and been interviewed by People, House and Garden, and Architectural Digest — not too shabby for a blogger. These days it’s not unusual to get a short bit on the Today Show when they need an expert.

After many months, you finally can announce that you have a daily spot on a national home and garden television show. While you’re reading the press release and formal announcement, Larry calls to congratulate you. Then he says how glad he is that he was able to help you land that job.

You’re stunned. Larry didn’t help. He’s never met any of the people involved. You did it on your own.

How do you respond?
The comments in Liz's post are fascinating, and got me asking myself "What would Cialdini do in that situation?" I thought about the 6 tools, and this is how I would respond (if I had an hour to craft my answer).

"Larry, it is an honor to have a luminary figure in our industry like you recognize the value of my work and act to advance it. Thank you."

Then I'd sit and wait for Larry's brain to process the fact that he'd made such a commitment, setting up a future opportunity for me to call on Larry to act in a consistent manner. And I'd wait for him to act in a consistent manner right now by telling me why he did it (his brain is feverishly if subconsciously crafting a reason for this in the silence), which only further strengthens the commitment!

That's why car sales people try to get you to make tiny commitments to making a car buying decision before they make the big ask, e.g.: "If you were to buy a car like this, would you prefer the cloth or leather seating?" And that's why the Chinese didn't start by asking P.O.W.s to renounce the United States, but rather by asking if they thought it was possible that the U.S. Government had ever made a mistake. Once they'd gotten a tiny seed of doubt to take root, they knew that with careful nurturing, they could turn even the strongest captive to their purpose.

My response to Larry uses another of the 6 tools, too. Did you catch it? It turns out that using 2 or more tools together geometrically multiplies their effectiveness! And people are using these tools on you every day. So if you haven't read the book, now would be a good time to click on the link and buy a copy.

If you have read the book, answer this question: which of the other five tools might Larry have been trying to use on me?

If you know, tell me in a comment. Not sure? Better click on the link and get a little refresher. ;-)

posted by Mike at 6:10 AM 8 comments