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12 posts from April 2019

Knowing our customers vs. verifying their identity

We can know our customers on many different levels, for many different purposes. For a cafe owner or server, the most important way to 'know a customer' may be to recognize the face of a regular, whether or not a name or address is ever acquired. For a bank, identity and background have to be checked before an account can be opened. 

Facebook and Twitter know many intimate details of our lives, yet they make no effort to verify identity, leading to some really serious problems. I agree with Andrew (see below). We need to figure this out, and I suggest we designate a third party... maybe or

NY Times: To Purge Some of Social Media’s Ugliness, an Unlikely Lesson From Wall St., 2019-Apr-10 by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Although it won’t address all of Big Tech’s problems, a simple rule that bolsters the banking system could do a lot to clean up some of the uglier aspects of social media that Mr. Zuckerberg felt compelled to apologize for. 

The concept is “know your customer” — or KYC, as it’s called on Wall Street — and it’s straightforward: Given concerns about privacy, security and fraud when it comes to money, no bank is allowed to take on a new customer without verifying its existence and vetting its background.... 

When I broached the idea of applying a “know your customer” principle to their business, several senior executives at social media companies recoiled at the prospect, questioning how they would pull off such a huge feat, especially in emerging markets where many people lack credit cards, and even fixed street addresses can be hard to come by.

Then there are the legitimate complaints about Facebook and its ilk already knowing too much about users. Who would want them to know even more? And what would the companies do to protect personal information better than they have in the past? After all, not long ago, Facebook disclosed that tens of millions of user passwords had not been stored securely.

But the stakes may be too high not to consider some kind of heightened verification process.... 

There is a precedent for adapting such a regimen for social media: NextDoor, a social network that helps people communicate in their local communities, won’t let new users sign up unless their addresses can be verified.... 

The company doesn’t disclose user numbers, only that it is in more than 200,000 neighborhoods. Reports suggest it has tens of millions of users, a far cry from the billions using more popular social networks. If introducing such a system at that scale is too daunting, testing it in the United States and Canada first might be one way to start.


The rebranding problem for Texas, Houston, and all the rest

I appreciate Chris Tomlinson's recent article about rebranding Texas, and I don't disagree with his point, but... 

As a marketing professional, I always raise a skeptical eyebrow when someone says something has to be 'rebranded.' 

Changing the message doesn't change perceptions. Changing behavior changes perceptions. If we want Texas to be seen as a dynamic, diverse, and sophisticated place, we have to vote, run companies, and participate in enterprises that demonstrate it. 

Chris and Hajj Flemings acknowledge that. Now we have to find ways to inspire Texans to fulfill all our capabilities. 

Houston Chronicle: Texas needs a rebranding away from racially charged myths, 2019-Apr-10 by Chris Tomlinson

The adoption of the Western identity, after all, was an intentional rebranding of the state. In my book about my family’s five generations in Texas, "Tomlinson Hill," I describe how state leaders wanted to slough off the Southern, white supremacist identity that dominated until the 1940s when state leaders made Big Tex the new icon.... 

Many native Texans may want to deny it, but our state already suffers from a bad reputation. Employers and economic development offices continuously complain about how young professionals and innovative companies won’t come here because they think it is a hot, regressive, cultural wasteland.

Those perceptions, which include only a sliver of truth, hurt local businesses. But think about the number of visitors who say Texas wildly exceeded their expectations for culture and graciousness. Or how surprised they are to find San Antonio is a fundamentally Hispanic city, and Houston is arguably the most diverse in the U.S. with a globalized culture second to none.

Here is the opportunity, because most authentic brands are based on truth, not public-relations exercises. They bubble up from residents, entrepreneurs and companies, said Hajj Flemings, founder of Rebrand Cities, a technology firm focused on boosting economic development. 


ALL the Productivity tips

What's most helpful is the pile of tips, where you can check for something you're not currently doing. 

Harvard Business Review: What Makes Some People More Productive Than Others, 2019-Mar-28 by Robert C. Pozen and Kevin Downey

More specifically, we found that professionals with the highest productivity scores tended to do well on the same clusters of habits. They planned their work based on their top priorities, and then acted with a definite objective. They developed effective techniques for managing a high volume of information and tasks. And they understood the needs of their colleagues — for short meetings, responsive communications, and clear directions....

First, plan your work based on your top priorities, and then act with a definite objective.

  • Revise your daily schedule the night before to emphasize your priorities. Next to each appointment on your calendar, jot down your objectives for it.
  • Send out a detailed agenda to all participants in advance of any meeting.
  • When embarking on large projects, sketch out preliminary conclusions as soon as possible.
  • Before reading any length material, identify your specific purpose for it.
  • Before writing anything of length, compose an outline with a logical order to help you stay on track.

Second, develop effective techniques for managing the overload of information and tasks.

  • Make daily processes, like getting dressed or eating breakfast, into routines so you don’t spend time thinking about them.
  • Leave time in your daily schedule to deal with emergencies and unplanned events.
  • Check the screens on your devices once per hour, instead of every few minutes.
  • Skip over the majority of your messages by looking at the subject and sender.
  • Break large projects into pieces and reward yourself for completing each piece.
  • Delegate to others, if feasible, tasks that do not further your top priorities.

Third, understand the needs of your colleagues for short meetings, responsive communications, and clear directions.

  • Limit the time for any meeting to 90 minutes at most, but preferably less. End every meeting by delineating the next steps and responsibility for those steps.
  • Respond right away to messages from people who are important to you.
  • To capture an audience’s attention, speak from a few notes, rather than reading a prepared text.
  • Establish clear objectives and success metrics for any team efforts.
  • To improve your team’s performance, institute procedures to prevent future mistakes, instead of playing the blame game. 


Learning is practicing

I keep meaning to go through the entire "Learning How to Learn" course, but in the meantime, here are some reminders... 

Nautilus: How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math, 2014-Oct-2 by Barbara Oakley

Understanding doesn’t build fluency; instead, fluency builds understanding. In fact, I believe that true understanding of a complex subject comes only from fluency.

In other words, in science and math education in particular, it’s easy to slip into teaching methods that emphasize understanding and that avoid the sometimes painful repetition and practice that underlie fluency. I learned Russian not just by understanding it—understanding, after all, is facile, and can easily slip away. I learned Russian by gaining fluency through practice, repetition, and rote learning—but rote learning that emphasized the ability to think flexibly and quickly. [Emphasis mine.]... 

Fluency allows understanding to become embedded, emerging when needed.

Persuasive information makes the journey from data to story

I keep clipping these articles to try and get it through my head... 

Good News: Herd Immunity, 2018-Mar-13 by Mike Monteiro

So, while you should absolutely include the study of data in your approach, recognize that when you get to the point where you’re trying to persuade someone about good work, you need a story. Work like a scientist but present like a snake-charmer. When I’m trying to persuade someone, I start by painting a picture in the person’s mind. There’s a future where you do what’s right, and I paint that rosy. There’s a future where you do what’s wrong, and I paint that dismally. My goal is to get you to walk into that rosier future, the one where everything works out. If you want to persuade someone, you need to take them on a little journey. Think of all the things that have ever persuaded you in your life. Think of all the memorable speeches you’ve seen. Think of how they moved you. Those people did the work. They collected the data. Then they used it to tell a story. 

If you’re not persuading people, you’re not telling a good enough story.