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6 posts from September 2018

Better customer relationships require contextual analysis

Every time a supplier misinterprets our customer behavior, we get a little more frustrated. Most CRM systems don't even have the ability to track the context of a purchase. So the salespeople and customer service representatives have to take the initiative, find out what's going on, and record it. The companies that figure out how to train their people and update their systems to track this, they will be the loyalty winners. 

Edge Perspectives: Navigating From the Industrial Age to the Contextual Age, 2018-Aug-15 by John Hagel

The forces shaping the Big Shift are progressively undermining standardization and efficiency (as conventionally defined) as drivers of value creation. As consumers, we’re gaining more and more power and we’re less and less willing to settle for standardized products and services – we want offerings that are tailored to our unique and evolving needs. On the supply side, digital technology is making it easier and far more affordable to produce highly personalized products and services. That’s leading to more and more fragmentation in product and services businesses, something that I’ve explored here.

As these forces play out, context is becoming more and more central to value creation. If we don’t pay attention to the circumstances surrounding a person or an event, we’re unlikely to understand how to create the greatest personalized value. Those who are most insightful and adept at understanding context, will be those who create the most value, both for customers and for themselves.


Metabolic myths

My personal experience is that you need to weigh yourself daily and chart what you're eating. (Similar to a food diary but easier.) Download my chart. I've discovered the easiest way to gain weight is to overeat protein. Desserts are less of a problem. EVERYONE is different!  

Vox: What I learned about weight loss from spending a day inside a metabolic chamber, 2018-Sep-4 by Julia Belluz

Studying thousands of subjects in the metabolic unit — the chambers plus NIH hospital wings for patients with diabetes and obesity — has helped researchers show how adaptable the metabolism is, and how it works with our appetite, body composition, and physical activity levels to adjust the calories we’re burning at any moment.

For example, by giving people a medication that causes them to lose (through their urine) an extra 360 calories per day, they’ve shown that we unknowingly compensate for those calories lost by eating more.

They’ve found that exposing people to cold temperatures while they sleep causes them to accumulate more brown fatfat tissue whose main function is heat production — and burn more calories. (These results reversed completely when the study participants slept in warmer temperatures again, revealing how dynamic metabolism is.)

In a remarkable study of Biggest Loser reality TV show participants with obesity, researchers showed that crash dieting can permanently slow a person’s metabolic rate, leading them to hang on to the calories they were eating for longer, though this isn’t true for everybody who loses weight.

The big theme in many of these studies: Our metabolism silently shifts under new conditions and environments in ways we’re not usually aware of.

When it comes to diets, the researchers have also debunked the notion that bodies burn more body fat while on a high-fat and low-carb ketogenic diet, compared to a higher-carb diet, despite all the hype.

“We could have found out that if we cut carbs, we’d lose way more fat because energy expenditure would go up and fat oxidation would go up,” said Kevin Hall, an obesity researcher at NIH and an author on many of these studies. “But the body is really good at adapting to the fuels coming in.” Another related takeaway: There appears to be no silver bullet diet for fat loss, at least not yet.


When the news and politics became a sporting event for some, not for me.

Below is one of the best explanations I've seen, and a great argument to NOT identify with any political party. I don't talk politics with my friends. I read a wide variety of news media, and then I vote in private. With my friends, I like to have conversations about art, travel, and business. 

MIT Technology Review: How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump, 2018-Aug-14 by Zeynep Tufekci

While algorithms will often feed people some of what they already want to hear, research shows that we probably encounter a wider variety of opinions online than we do offline, or than we did before the advent of digital tools.

Rather, the problem is that when we encounter opposing views in the age and context of social media, it’s not like reading them in a newspaper while sitting alone. It’s like hearing them from the opposing team while sitting with our fellow fans in a football stadium. Online, we’re connected with our communities, and we seek approval from our like-minded peers. We bond with our team by yelling at the fans of the other one. In sociology terms, we strengthen our feeling of “in-group” belonging by increasing our distance from and tension with the “out-group”—us versus them. Our cognitive universe isn’t an echo chamber, but our social one is. This is why the various projects for fact-checking claims in the news, while valuable, don’t convince people. Belonging is stronger than facts.


How do relationships cross from acquaintance to friendship?

Zat Rana thinks that friendships are based on a 'shared culture' between two people, and this culture is built through shared experiences. That belief places a pretty high hurdle on friendship. If we accept this idea, then developing and maintaining our friendships is among the most time-consuming and energy-consuming things we do. 

Design Luck: What Does It Take to Bond with Someone? 2018-Aug-4 by Zat Rana

By default, there is an invisible wall that separates us from most people that we interact with. This wall is created by the public selves both parties hold up.

The only way to truly connect with someone is to break this wall down, not fearing that doing so is going to lead to a kind of nakedness; the kind that makes us feel shame and embarrassment and vulnerability.

Once that threshold is crossed, what is left is truth and honesty and all of the soft and warm and fuzzy things that make life just a little better.

The Agency of an Interpersonal Culture: I have written before about how any strong relationship has its own culture and how much of what is great about it stays hidden in what is unspoken.... 

Every interaction between two people provides an information point to the culture that exists between them and this culture subsequently develops its own agency according to the sum of these information points.

To maintain a bond, not only do the total positive points have to outweigh the total negative points, but the two parties have to consistently redirect the agency of the interpersonal culture to aim towards a future that is meaningful before it gets too heavily reinforced in the wrong direction.

The longer a relationship lasts, the more information the culture contains and the more it affects the space that exists between the two individuals.


Planning an "advance" for innovators

I recently attended a weekend retreat for innovators, something I had forgotten I need. It was fun but there were also frustrations. Seth Godin pinpoints some... 

An idea which really struck me was having a poker game, or some other activity where we have to manage chance and random results. 

Seth's Blog: How to organize a retreat, 2010-Dec-15 by Seth Godin

...An advance*. Retreat is too negative).... 

I've been to a bunch and here's what I've learned, in no particular order:

Must be off site, with no access to electronic interruption

Should be intense. Save the rest and relaxation for afterwards

Create a dossier on each attendee in advance, with a photo and a non-humble CV of who they are and what they do and what their goals are

Never (never) have people go around a circle and say their name and what they do and their favorite kind of vegetable or whatever.... 

Instead, a week ahead of time, give each person an assignment for a presentation at the event. It might be the answer to a question like, "what are you working on," or "what's bothering you," or "what can you teach us." Each person gets 300 seconds, that's it.

Have 11 people present their five minutes in an hour. Never do more than an hour in a row. The attendees now have a hook, something to talk to each presenter about in the hallway or the men's room. "I disagree with what you said this morning…"... 

Invite a poker instructor or a horseshoe expert in to give a lesson and then follow it with a competition.

Challenge attendees to describe a favorite film scene to you before the event. Pick a few and show them, then discuss.

Don't serve boring food.

Use nametags at all times. Write the person's first name REALLY big....

Create an online site so attendees can check in after the event, swap email addresses or post promised links.

Take a ton of pictures. Post them as the advance progresses.

*Seth gives credit for this term to Alan and Bill, the founders of Fast Company magazine.