Saturday, July 30, 2011

Are you what you do?

A fairly mundane debate sparked by a comment I made on Twitter about the (pathetic) "Gmail Man" campaign launched by Microsoft led to unexpected territory: philosophy about what defines identity.

One of my friends and partners, Fabian Tilmant, a Google hater, Apple zealot and Tech skeptic, who is currently working on a book outlining DICoDE a model aimed at decoding and reinventing content businesses, said something like "you are what you do". His claim came from the fact that I said Google has a weakness in the way most people perceive them as a company, replying to Fabian's opinion that Google is "increasingly perceived as an ad company". For the record I disagree with that statement and I'm looking for data about how Google is perceived, but I suspect people know the search engine, the billions made selling ad space and the issues with street view. Not too sure they'd spontaneously say "Oh yes! Google, the ad company"... Most people don't have a clue about things like AdWords, AdSense, the display network or retargeting... and even if they did, it's not an "ad company", whatever that may be.

Anyhow, are you what you do? Is a business what they do? Fabian thinks so and says "Public Opinion don't know vision/mission. They only see/feel/experiment touch points." He is quite right, but that does not mean that what consumers experiment is the core of a brand's or company's identity: it is the perception of the people. It is also the definition of the company in the consumer's mind. But it is not identity. Identity is something that is difficult to grasp most of the time, which is why we often use metaphor to define or convey it. Identity is on the inside, not defined by someone else's perception of a person, company or brand. Granted, identity, mission, vision all have important influence on the kind of goals and strategies a company can pursue. In turn strategies have an influence on the activities of a company, including products, services and cultural patterns of behavior, all of which impact market perception. But again someone else's perception of you is not your identity, no more than your clothes are part of your organism.

So in my opinion in order to succeed, particularly with Google Apps - an amazing platform that gives businesses of all sizes the IT firepower they could never hope to have paying for armies of sys admins to run the incumbent's products -, Google needs to fix the way it's perceived because much of what many people know of Google tends to make it possible for older incumbents like Microsoft to try to exploit fear and imply (falsely or at least without any proof at all) that people's and businesses' emails are "read" by Google, much like your postman would open your good old paper envelopes. And of course we know that Microsoft is not alone using fear tactics or trying to hit Google's reputation using questionable means. Their good friends at Facebook have been caught paying a PR company of questionable ethical standards to slander Google.

So, no you are not what you do: identity and image are not the same thing at all.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

As simple (and as complex) as 1-2-3

Recently I had the great pleasure to present at a "Friday Session" organized by Cleverwood. The format is great because it's time boxed to 1.5 to 2 hours during which people who know something that could be useful to the others run the session. Usually the topics are focused on the Internet, social media, mobile technologies...etc However, because the challenge of dealing with people is a great one, I'm trying to contribute content that comes from my interest in NLP and coaching.

For many people, dealing with people is one of the most challenging things in professional life. For consultants, dealing with people is critical to the success of their projects. That's why I focused my Friday Session on two key concepts that can be used in a variety of contexts: personal relationships, sales, business development, negotiation...etc. These two concepts are:

  1. the tao of engagement, which is based on the idea that if you want to achieve lasting results with a customer or as part of a project team, you must nurture relationship with people while striving to achieve challenging goals. That's easier said than done and it's easy to become either an inefficient socialized or a competent jerk 


  2. the perceptual positions which are the different points of view that often emerge in work contexts. Becoming aware of the different positions that exist and starting to consciously process information from three angles is perhaps the single most valuable asset to be able to handle situations that may become "stuck" or enter never-ending loops in terms of patterns of relationship. The purpose of the tool is to deal with situations of conflict, disagreement, negotiation, sales and people management.

The way to use this is simple, but you have to accept the principle of immersing yourself in each of the roles without any attachment whatsoever for your "Me" position:

  1. start by describing the situation you'd like to deconstruct, understand and improve. Descriptions should be with as many details as you possibly can;

  2. define three distinct spots in the room and allocate them to you for the "Me" position, to your alter ego for the "Other" position and to a neutral "Observer". Using different spots is really important because of anchoring, i.e. the unconscious connexion we make between things that happen in the physical space and concepts, ideas, emotions...etc Thus we want to maximise our ability to really play the role of the "Other" without "contaminating" it with elements, judgment, rejection or confusion between thoughts, feelings of "Me" and thoughts, feelings of the "Other"

  3. firstly sit at the "1" (or "Me") position and examine the scene; identify clearly how the person sitting in that position thinks and feels, what she says or does during the scene that is being player;

  4. then "leave" your Self at position 1 and explore position 2 as though you were the "Other": what does he think, feel, say and do? What values are involved in the scene (as far as you can tell with the info you have, which is incomplete, but enough to start working;

  5. having expressed what 1 and 2 think, feel, say and do, you must now go and observe the scene from a neutral position of the "Observer", position 3. The Observer is full of curiosity, openness, positive intentions and has no judgment whatsoever. From that position you can assess the quality of the exchange between 1 and 2, identify good aspects as well as areas that can be improved. Then from position 3 you suggest behavioral changes for position 1 and replay the amended scene to examine what changes have occurred to the way 1 and 2 think, feel, say and do.

This can be used to understand conflict, develop negotiating positions, work on a sales pitch...etc It's a great way to explore the "Other" position and understand the way the whole system made of "Me" and "Other" actually works.

So, overall it's "as simple as 1-2-3" and no, business cannot be about me, myself and I.

The Tao of Engagement

Perceptual positions