Worthy of imitation

How to be a good listener on Zoom

I just realized that I've been making the dumb mistake of looking at someone's image when they're talking on Zoom. I should be looking at the camera often. 

Fast Company: How to do a better job of listening when you’re remote, 20-Aug-12 by Judith Humphrey

Listen with Your Body

Use your physical presence to listen. This goes far beyond using your ears to absorb what people are saying. Our entire body needs to convey attentiveness.

For starters, turn to the person who’s talking on the screen and physically align yourself with them while they’re speaking. This makes a huge difference. I recently attended a Zoom meeting and the host was talking to a small group, and one person was turned away at a 45-degree angle. She probably didn’t realize that the message she was sending was, “I’m not interested in what you’re saying.”

Use your eyes, too, to show that you’re listening. Don’t stare, but keep your eyes centered on the person who’s speaking by looking into the camera. Maintain an open and interested expression in your eyes. Avoid the temptation to look down at your phone, or around the virtual room. Focus your eyes on the chat line from time to time, but don’t let it distract you from the audience you’re addressing.

Use gestures, too, to show you are listening: nod when you agree with the speaker; move your body forward to listen to something you find particularly interesting, and gesture with open arms to acknowledge agreement.

When you’re speaking, bring physical energy to your delivery. The individuals you’re talking to are probably suffering from Zoom fatigue, and they need your energy to stay engaged and alert. 

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How to be a pragmatic dreamer, from Tanvir Aman

Here's a really good trick for making sure that you're chasing the right dream. Think about something you'd love to do, but ALWAYS ask does it solve a problem? Whose problem? How would that work? 

Tanvir has a cool new company called Dunyha, an innovative real estate firm that integrates home sharing and home ownership. Check it out: https://dunyha.com/ 

Kivo Daily: Movers and Shakers Interview with Tanvir Aman, 2019-Nov-1 by Dillon Kivo

Kivo: What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?

Aman: I wish someone had told me that rather than just focusing on what you are passionate about, try to find a way to connect it to a real-life problem. It’s great that you have a great idea, but if you find a way to use it to contribute to your neighborhood, community, society, your life, or anyone else’s, then you are onto something considerable.

We all should be pragmatic dreamers. Thinking about what we’re passionate about is the first step. The second is trying to figure out which problems we can solve and how they fit into real-life, how to connect our ambition with reality to make a tangible difference.

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Designing the world for our children

As my mother enters the late stages of Alzheimers, I'm looking around her cluttered home and wondering who'll carry out all the stuff. Then I go home and look at my cluttered home and think, "I'm not leaving this for someone else to sort out." 

In the future, when I acquire something and manage my home, I'm always going to visualize where that item will be after I'm gone. (And if it's going into the trash, I better be the one to put it there!)

Forbes: Lovesac's Loyalty Secret For Keeping Customers For Life And Saving The Planet, 2019-May-3 by Jackie Huba

In recent years, Nelson has been honing the Designed for Life (DFL) philosophy. Now 41 years old with four children, he is focused on growing the company in a sustainable way beyond "green washing." He wants to get rid of the status quo; that what we buy is designed to be used one time and thrown away. Nelson says, “There is an Iroquois saying that I think of daily... ‘we are borrowing this earth from our children.’ I think [about] what that really means and how our consumer actions right now will influence this world for my kids and yours.”... 

Nelson hopes the DFL philosophy becomes a movement among other businesses and has created a website, dflgroup.org, that explains the concepts and provides helpful resources. Ultimately, he believes the philosophy will help companies connect with customers on a higher level than just a transaction. Nelson says, “[We want to] have an ethos that resonates with souls at a fundamental human level. You don't have to be a sustainability freak or even an environmental advocate to appreciate something that's well built, and that allows your life to be flexible, and that you'll love more after owning it for four or five years than you loved it on the day you bought it.” 

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Storytelling tips from the Nielsen Norman Group

As an analytical thinker, storytelling has always been a struggle for me. I tend to organize information differently than storytellers. But throughout my career it has become increasingly important. Anytime I find a good teaching tool for storytelling, I try to work with it and incorporate its lessons. 

I especially value the reminder here to pair our stories with artifacts. If we handle it correctly, a very complex story can be embedded in a single image or token. 

Nielsen Norman Group: 6 Rules for Persuasive Storytelling, 2019-Apr-28 by Rachel Krause

Stories help us explain difficult concepts.

Giving additional context helps our audience connect with a concept. This additional context can be in the form of behaviors, emotions, reactions, motivations, or goals. Unlike a flow chart or artifact, a narrative allows the audience to understand the reasons behind users’ actions; they remind our audience members that they are not the user.... 

Stories allow us to form a shared understanding.

Thinking about how to build a product usually involves feature lists and backlogs. Stories bring user pain points and goals to the forefront of the conversation and help teams create a shared language of why they’re building a product or feature and whom it benefits. These stories can also be used to rally around a product vision, painting an image of how life could be better with that product.

6 Rules for Persuasive Storytelling

    1. Adapt your vocabulary to match your audience.
    2. Appeal to the needs of your audience.
    3. Back up your points with real data. 
    4. Focus on the entire omnichannel experience, inside and outside the interface. 
    5. Pair your story with an artifact for memorability and alignment.
    6. Follow up with a summary. 

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Half Price Books shows the way in instituting loyalty

Half Price Books is the perfect example of a company that deserves our loyalty, not because they care, but because they care enough to institute systems that preserve their values. 

Retail Touch Points: At Half Price Books, Empowered Associates Create Curated, Store-Specific Assortments, 2019-Apr-19 by Bryan Wassel

Half Price Books is unafraid to take its time when expanding to new markets. The retailer needs the right combination of demographic makeup, population growth and size for a city to become a good target, and it recognizes that not every scouting mission will be successful.

“Unlike a shoe store, we need lots of people, just because such a small percentage actually buys the printed word,” said Thomas.

With such a small audience, the key to success is making sure those that do shop there are dedicated. One way Half Price Books achieves this is through its ambiance. The retailer builds its own wooden shelves for a “homey feeling” inside the store, and its eclectic selection of both popular and unknown authors recalls the experience of visiting the famous Strand, an independent New York City store that claims to house 18 miles of books.

“Stores are a destination,” said Thomas. “If you’re a reader, and you live in New York City, you go to Strand. You want to browse their sections and discover new authors and discover new books, and we are a browser’s paradise. People love treasure hunting.”

The other key to the Half Price Books shopping experience is the staff. These associates aren’t just passionate readers who are experts on their favorite genres — they are also the ones purchasing used books from customers to further develop their relationships. Half Price Books uses a comprehensive onboarding process that includes author and category tests, as well as training on how to price incoming books.

“We give them a lot of autonomy and a lot of responsibility and authority,” said Thomas. “We’re giving our employees a pot of money and telling them, ‘You decide how much to pay for this book.’ So they feel an ownership, they love it, and they know how important it is. We have to train them thoroughly because we have 3,000 employees, and over 2,500 are deciding what to buy that book for, and what to price that book at.”

The extra effort and responsibility gives the staff more to do than the average retail associate, creating a deep sense of investment in the company. 

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How to create a retail experience that allows us to compete against Amazon

As Amazon expands into the grocery business, we can learn great lessons from the companies which are competing effectively, especially Walmart and Trader Joe's. Walmart's success is mostly about distribution power, but Trader Joe's uses techniques which any retailer can copy. 

The Trader Joe's approach to retail:

  1. Make it personal
  2. Make it enjoyable
  3. Make it easy to manage transactions
  4. Make us feel like we are supporting the community.

Harvard Business Review: What the Grocery Stores Holding their Own Against Amazon are doing Right, 2019-Apr-12 by Amit Sharma

The nature of customer loyalty is changing as shoppers get more comfortable buying groceries online — prioritizing convenience, choice, and ease over physical proximity to a store. As consumers become more sophisticated, retailers need to inspire lasting loyalty across their customer base. To do it, they should offer flexibility, proactively communicate about order status and other details, and build emotional connections with shoppers.... 

And people are emotionally connected to grocers, as utilitarian as grocery shopping may seem. For example, Trader Joe’s, which ranked highly in the C Space study, inspires loyalty by creating an enjoyable shopping atmosphere. A 2018 Forrester survey of 287 brands rated Trader Joe’s first in positive customer experiences, and the company regularly outranks other grocery chains in sales per square foot. Trader Joe’s fans closely follow new product releases, request stores in their towns, and have even created their own community on Reddit.

Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer grocery delivery, but it has created such a personal and enjoyable shopping experience that customers actually want to visit its stores. Everything at Trader Joe’s is designed to make grocery shopping feel more friendly, personal, and laid-back, including its flexible return policies, free samples, quirky product labels, fast check-out, and helpful employees.... 

Grocers need to offer their customers more than points-based customer loyalty programs, which are no longer a competitive differentiator. Most grocery chains offer similar benefits and do little to foster an emotional connection between a shopper and a brand. A study by Accenture found that 78% of shoppers abandon loyalty programs after signing up.

By investing in the factors that build long-lasting loyalty instead of transactional programs that most people ignore, grocers can attract repeat buyers and brand advocates.

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The new function of hierarchy

Be careful that your 'self-starters' don't start off in different directions. If we have competent, empathetic leaders, we don't need too many of them, but we do need a few. 

diginomica: Flat hierarchies--progressive organizational thinking or digital's 'flat earth' theory? 2019-Feb-22 by Cath Everett

Robert Ordever, Managing Director of culture consultancy OC Tanner Europe, is not convinced that an apparent desire to remove hierarchies from the business is actually about people wanting to eradicate leaders at all. Instead he believes it is more about a certain tiredness of what they have become. He explains:

Much about leadership has evolved to where it’s unhealthy, so control-and-command, lack of respect and transparency etc. Leadership has got itself a bad name and what people crave is a better form of it – and if they’re not happy with what they’ve got, it’s human nature to go to the extreme when thinking about alternatives.

For him, in both the workplace and the animal kingdom, there will always be natural leaders and followers. But a key aim across businesses of all stripes at the moment is to find expressions of leadership that are not based on title and privilege or on traditional characteristics, such as being ‘strong’, all-knowing and having to take tough decisions. Ordever explains:

The new style of leadership is about building a great team by bringing talent together, empowering them, enabling them, helping them grow and then getting out of the way. So it’s about involving people in decision-making, respecting the individual, enabling innovation and constantly learning. But even in a hierarchy-free organisation, there will always be strong leaders that come to the surface because without leaders, it’s difficult to keep people moving in the same direction. 

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