04 November 2010 ~ 0 Comments

stupid and dumb

stupid and dumb

Someone far wiser than I once described to me the difference between stupid and dumb.

Dumb people don’t do something because they don’t know what to do or how to do it. They don’t know.

Stupid people know what to do, but they don’t do it.

Dumb people can learn. Good dumb people learn for themselves.

Stupid people either have fear, lack of practice or a belief that they are doing the right thing that prevents them from doing the proper right thing.

I have yet to encounter a single human being who is stupid and doesn’t do the right thing for malicious reasons.

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01 June 2010 ~ 0 Comments

more gas

more gas

Things need to change around here. I think I know exactly what’s needed.

Business textbooks, MBA courses and the common logic around change prescribes more. More process, more people, more money.

A friend who was moving to the US from France told me of a theory he’d heard about American companies. When there is a problem, American companies immediately apply ‘more gas’.

If something is broken, if a company isn’t performing well, the last thing to do is add on top of the mess. Instead refine, simplify, intertwine people and communication and focus only on doing one or two things exceptionally well.

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17 May 2010 ~ 0 Comments

two for change

two for change

There are two layers to change: the people and the environment. Change only one and, well, no change.


This isn’t necessarily the physical person. Sure, there are people who don’t work out in the role that they are in. Many people are in a place where they really cannot succeed. Nobody is stupid, however everybody is good with at least one thing and this may not be that thing for this person.

People’s attitudes can and often change too. Add a few new faces to the environment and people will tend toward the people that are most like themselves or what they perceive themselves to be. Failing that, the person with the most promising story or aesthetically pleasing qualities. Yes, human beings are fickle that way (for example; the draw of the busty blonde sales girl in the technology sector remains, sexism aside, an incredibly effective mechanism to make sales).

If the environment stays the same, people and their attitudes default back to how things were. Even a new person will naturally gravitate to the behaviors and flow of the environment surrounding them, which is most often the same behavior as the person they succeeded.


The seating arrangements, the processes, the interactions between people, the way to gather people together, the communication channels, the nature and attitude of the communications, the lighting, the software packages, the color of the walls and flooring, the brand of coffee and what people wear all have a strong psychological effect on those immersed in the environment.

Cube farms are especially strong, unmovable constants in any environment. It’s almost a nest-like paradigm at play to those forced to be in them for eight hours every working day.

Change the environment and you begin to agitate the people in it. This causes discomfort, which is not a bad thing. It is change you are after, after all, and it is not going to come about without some element of anxiety.

However, changing the environment but not adapting or modifying people’s roles and purpose in that environment encourages the pull back to how things used to be.

Inspire the people you have to want to do something different, something infinitely better. Spend time with every person individually and find out what their one great skill or talent is then change their world to make the most of this for your business. Adapt the world around them to let them be the best they can at this.

As an example: if a person is in technical support, complaining about how the company is not helping the customers as best they should be… don’t beat them up for complaining. Don’t listen and ignore.

Change their responsibilities and put them in charge of customer support (and fire or move the person who is in charge of that today, as they may not be doing the best job they can be). Physically move their seat and desk and place them in a different setting. Tell everyone that this person is now in charge of how customer’s are dealt with. If this person wins, lots of other people win.

Shift the attitude of people and surroundings ninety degrees out of kilter from where it was and watch the change take hold and spread.

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25 April 2010 ~ 1 Comment

situation not people

situation not people

In the 1990 movie “Pump Up The Volume”, Christian Slater’s character Mark (Hard Harry) in one of his pirate radio sessions is trying to talk a caller into not killing himself as he’d threatened to do.

“You’re having a perfectly normal reaction to a f**ked up situation”. The kid’s parents were splitting up and he was blaming himself.

People react to what’s around them. Rarely does the person ever change but the situation around them can, and does, frequently.

If you are trying to do something and a person you need isn’t playing along, don’t blame the person. Look at the situation and circumstances surrounding the person to figure out why they are acting or reacting the way that they are.

What changes can you make to their situation to change how they feel about doing what you need them to? Small changes are usually all that’s ever needed.

Never blame the person. People rarely ever deliberately want to do the wrong thing. They’re only reacting to the situation around them.

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05 April 2010 ~ 0 Comments

postscript: journey

postscript: journey

It’ll turn most bad commercial situations into something better. It shows a level of caring beyond anything an email or empty sales gesture can. It starts people talking and it’s worth talking about.

From Collin on Delta Flight 9857, my return flight from Buffalo/Toronto last week… a handwritten note.

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04 April 2010 ~ 0 Comments



This was meant to be a routine business trip to Toronto. Car, airport routine, hotel, office and back.
But things went wrong. Nothing catastrophic, but certainly far away from the travel routine I’m so well practiced in.
I arrived at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson airport as I always do. Pulling two suitcases behind me I rode up the escalator that takes me to the check-in area.
In front of me was a man. An old man. He turned and started talking to me. Being so deep in routine I had no idea that it was me he was talking to, it was pure noise to me. He was excited. His sister was arriving from Detroit and staying with him for two weeks. He hadn’t seen her in over a year. He wasn’t just telling me he was excited, he visibly was. His expression was lit and, despite is elderly years, he edged forward like he was starting a race. His sister was nearly here!

Someone was excited to be at the airport. I’d forgotten that that was even possible.

Instead of flying directly to Toronto, I took the cheaper route this time. The eight hundred dollar cheaper route via Buffalo, New York. After picking up the rental car I headed north to the Canadian border.
Despite other people’s claims that crossing by car is far easier, I faced a hard time. Heading over at a quiet time clearly caught the border agent mid-boredom, so he picked on me (or, at least, it felt like that). Nearly an hour later I was on my way into Canada.
Almost. A few hundred yards ahead of the border crossing is a toll booth. If you didn’t already know, I work in the credit card industry. I wear the career well and no trait says I’m deeper in the industry than barely ever carrying cash.
As luck would have it, there’s a well placed ATM inside an currency exchange in between the toll booth and the border. In the same way as the rest of my day was going, the ATM wasn’t accepting my cards.
The final resort was to head over to the duty free store right on the border. The lady in the store started guiding me back across the border to local ATMs that may work (she had no idea the border crossing hell I’d just been through), when one of her co-workers asked me how much the toll was. He looked like he was just finishing up his shift. He headed through to the back of the store and came back with $3.75 and gave it to me.
He had no idea who I was, where I’d come from or where I was going (except it was via the tollbooth I had no cash for, of course). He didn’t want to know either. I asked how I can pay him back and he told me to “make sure you help someone else, pass it on”.

Someone helped a total stranger with no expectation of something in return. I didn’t know that still happened in the world.

With the toll crossed, the bulk of the week continued as expected. Met some fascinating business people (who are also exceptionally successful) I’d never met before, hung out with the gang in the Toronto office and connected with customers. Then it was time to head back home.
Despite fearing the 407 toll being applied to my National car rental (with $10 convenience fee – their convenience, not mine), I managed to avoid toll roads and made it across the border and back to Buffalo with no excitement.
There’s so few ways to describe the feeling of heading home. Triumph, relief and comfort all wrapped up together. As I stood at the Delta gate listening to announcements of a flight delay that was promoted to a full cancellation, I knew the promise I’d made to my kids that I would see them that night was about to be broken.
Cancellation turned into a Delta-sponsored stay at a nearby hotel of their choice. With the airline industry having lost its way financially, this manifested itself as a sleepover in the local Days Inn. It was roughly the same time as this happened that I also confirmed a long thought suspicion that I’m a closet snob.
In what felt like an episode of Lost, a collection of people I didn’t know when i woke up that morning who were all traveling on the same flight, and therefore were all stranded, all started to talk.
There was the 17 year old with a guitar who was traveling on his own for the first time. A businessman from Montreal with a very heavy French accent who had been on his way to tee off at 8am on a course in Palm Springs. An Interior Designer who works for IKEA who was heading to Oklahoma City to see and surprise her mom who’d fell ill just days before.
Everyone had a story and a purpose. Everyone wanted to be somewhere else, but instead was involuntarily stuck in Buffalo New York for the night. Had the plane left on time and not been cancelled, all of these people would have simply passed by on the periphery of my mission to reach home.

Every day is a school day. Instead of bitching and complaining about not getting home and having to stay in a Days Inn, which is what I’d usually do, I met some pretty cool people and learned a little more about the world.

So what? For every circumstance you face each day you have the choice of keeping your head down and ignoring it or looking up and making the most of it. Look up.

Bon voyage.

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26 March 2010 ~ 0 Comments

losers mean you’ve lost

losers mean you’ve lost

For every negative situation, issue or crisis you are faced with there is always, always an outcome that includes everybody winning. The path of least resistance or the quickest way to solve the problem will generally involve one party winning and the other losing or not being included. This is not the end point you are aiming for.

It takes a little extra effort, some humility and usually a handful of creativity to get there, but the no lose outcome buys you and everyone involved more than purely the end result.

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17 March 2010 ~ 0 Comments

stuff i learned at sxsw 2010

stuff i learned at sxsw 2010

I attended the 2010 South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin Texas for the first time over the past few days. After attending countless panels, discussions, presentations and workshops I left feeling like I’ve read twenty books in two days.

It incredibly difficult to describe exactly what attending SXSW feels like. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon and then tried to explain the immensity of what you saw to someone who has never been there… same thing but with technology and being surrounded by successful, insightful and determined people.

While I took tens of pages of notes, here’s the headlines of what I learned and picked up from the people I spent time with in Austin.


  • social media is not about you
  • everyone who is doing something progressive and useful is using an Apple iPhone and MacBook Pro (this is not an advert)
  • allow and facilitate visible backchannel chat
  • great, clean-looking speakers speaking clearly telling stories win
  • a sales pitch switches everyone off. the crowd goes cold and walks
  • genuine appreciation is impossible to fake. people are unwittingly sensitive to a bullshitter
  • social media and e-commerce are not connected. they are different answers to different problems
  • if you’re breaking a rule, know why you’re breaking it
  • people and context first, only then do whatever you were going to do first
  • prototype: make a commercial, not a specification (Google doesn’t use specifications anymore)


  • in real life famous people and millionaires are human beings and exactly like you
  • the successful people are not doing anything you can’t already read in a non-fiction book and apply yourself (so why aren’t you?)
  • everyone is reachable and you should reach them
  • if a famous person doesn’t give you much attention it’s because you’re not interesting. expect the same from non-famous people.
  • if you’re not presenting, you’re a critic. you just are
  • online everyone is famous and everyone with a camera phone is in media
  • nobody cares about your products except for you


  • the least important part of a technology is the technology
  • press releases are corporate generated spam and serve no lasting purpose. connect with your customers every day instead
  • internal communication and communities must be stronger than your external communication
  • when handling complaints avoid treating the customer like an ex-girlfriend instead of a future girlfriend
  • hug a customer today
  • people ask the internet first (nobody asks advertisers where the world is going)
  • ship experiences people love
  • take a non-linear experience into a linear experience = use cases/examples
  • if you have to sneak around in your company to help your customers you have a catastrophic problem
  • make it included, never free
  • people who buy from you want you to succeed

I have collected all the people that made these words into a Twitter list: http://twitter.com/bnlv/sxsw-2010

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07 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments



It makes no sense to me when the words “people” and “resources” are used interchangeably.

People are not resources. They are people. People use resources to get what they need done.

Meetings rooms, tools, web servers, lights, floor space, Flipcams, benefits package, project management, reports, paper, ink, microphones, video cameras, administrative time, fuel, computers, paper, copiers, postage, cellphones and data packages.

All are consumption based resources.

Positive emotion is the single greatest constructive resource you can have. To succeed; use this resource the most.

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