Archives for posts with tag: Behaviour

Content marketing, the business of producing and promoting online the kinds of materials which educate and edify rather than overtly sell what you have, relies on an endless stream of idea and information, even in an era where constant recycling and repurposing is not only the norm but considered a best practice.

I do quite a bit of content marketing, paid and unpaid. In fact I suppose what you’re reading right now is a form of content marketing. It demands quite a portfolio of skills, like creativity, writing ability, attention to detail, and organisational prowess to name but a few. There’s one thing above all else, however, that it needs in my opinion.

You have to have a hunger. A hunger to acquire. Content marketing hunger is what drives you to devour information in the hunt for inspiration you can turn into information of value to the people who want to read your stuff. It’s a kind of inquisitiveness that has given me 599 ideas and counting for blog posts, and that’s just for my hobby, not my day job.

The information doesn’t have to be about your domain of expertise either. Information from all areas helps spark ideas that you can synthesise and shape into meaningful new content for your audience.

If you stay hungry, and stay curious, you’ll always have the catalyst for content.

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Why do so many of us strive to be normal, to fit in? Is it our natural herding instinct, the safety in numbers? We don’t want to stand out too much, do we?

But what is normal?

Is it a basket of behaviours that can be grouped into a standard, a category or a stereotype? To me, normal is rather like ‘average’. Calculating an average number, or an average person can be a useful yard stick for grouping people or things, if it’s interpreted correctly.

But who is average? Who wants to be average? No-one is average. Average is a mathematical nicety describing a group, not an individual. It’s like when someone says ‘well most people would do that.’ Well, I’m not most people. Besides, how could I be?

So who wants to be ‘normal’? What is normal? Can one person really be normal?

I don’t want to be normal. I don’t want to be thought of as normal either.

In 2000, I was in San Diego, California, for a conference. The day before the conference started, I had some time to kill and I needed a new travel bag with wheels and one of those extendable handles. So I went to the local mall with a colleague to do some research.

We split up and I went into a couple of shops. I nodded my hellos to the staff and I didn’t speak any more to a sales assistant. In the second store found the bag I thought I was looking for. I left the store and went to go find my buddy for a second opinion, as he travelled for work more than I did.

20 minutes later we came back into the store. ‘Welcome back’, said the sales assistant, a handsome African American bloke in his late-20’s. The store was Sharper Image.

What struck was that the guy remembered me. When he said ‘Welcome back’, I took the unspoken part of this to mean:

  • I noticed you come in before
  • You’re important to us
  • We pay attention to our prospects and customers
  • I want you to know that
  • We want to serve you so that you can become a customer

I bought the bag.

I still have the bag.

Some time ago, quite a long time go, I wrote about fear and greed.

It was my Dad’s basic premise that much of human behaviour can be distilled into the explanation that it’s driven by these two forces.

If you look around what’s happening in the world and in your country today, or at least the stories that are being selected and channeled to us by the media, an uncomfortably large number of them are still confirming this basic hypothesis. It’s all a bit depressing if you spend too much time on it.

Then again, the vast majority of attention is hogged by leaders in their field: world leaders and politicians, army generals, captains of industry, entertainment a-listers, terrorists and arch criminals all make the news. Maybe it’s the people who have got to the very top of their group are the ones exhibiting these base characteristics. Maybe they’ve had to.

When I look around at my fellow human beings that make up the 99% of us, I don’t see the fear and greed so much.

It’s really hard to change the culture iof an organisation. It’s even harder to do it quickly.

This is because culture is made up of people, who themselves find it particularly hard to change their engrained behaviour, as you might expect. You’re expecting people to change who they are. Not gonna happen, at least not without a ton of effort, time and patience.

I remember working with a company in the last 2o years where we worked hard on establishing the mission and values of the organisation, those important things we stood for. The difference, however, between what was on paper and what was exhibited by people, from the CEO down, was considerable. The value statements looked great on paper, but that was not how the company behaved.

This is why culture eats strategy for lunch, and why it’s so important that, once you’ve genuinely established the culture of your organisation, you hire people who are true to that culture. It’s easier said than done.

People and culture don’t change. Sometimes people join a company and find the culture is different to their experiences of it before they joined. Other times people join a company thinking – or more likely hoping – that the prevailing culture there is a good fit for them. In either situation, if you find yourself in a business either where the corporate culture is not your culture, it’s a good idea to consider trying to find a company where there is a fit, preferably as soon as possible.

It’s always good to see people taking the initiative. It doesn’t happen anywhere near as often as it should. Having initiative and taking the initiative is a bit like putting ‘self-starter’ on your CV. Everyone feels it should be on there but few generally do it, at least not early in their careers.

I remember being on a train in London Paddington, about to head west, during the evening rush hour about a decade ago during the time when intercity trains were not just full, they were packed, in a Japanese commuting-style. This particular train was bound for south Wales, but stopped off at Reading, the first major stop 25 mins away and a city that was served by a train every 15 minutes or so. The train was packed, dangerously so.

Many of the travellers were heading for Reading, perhaps 40% of them in my very unscientific estimation. I happened to be standing wedged in a corner of one of the carriages when I overheard the conductor talking to a couple of colleagues. ‘I know what we can do,’ he said. Two minutes later, the conductor came onto the intercom, apologised for the schedule change and announced that the service would not be stopping at Reading.

There was a degree of huffing and puffing, the rain emptied to the point where everyone could just about get a seat, and we took off a few minutes late.

The conductor was probably not authorised to do what he did, but he got the train away, 500 passengers where able to get to their long distance destination on time, and 200 commuters to Reading were delayed 15 minutes getting home.

We need people to take the initiative and shoulder the consequences. That’s how we get stuff done.

I’ve recently been through an exercise to change the way I run. I’ve never benefitted from coaching and only really jogged or ran to keep the weight off and stay fit for more fun pursuits like soccer or racquet sports.

I’d also been picking up a few calf niggles over the last few years and thought it was something to do with my technique, rather than the more obvious reason which is the inexorable sway of time.

What I noticed was that people who run don’t actually plant the heel. The ball of their foot hits the ground first, rather than the heel. I was always heel first, as if I was walking, but a bit quicker. So I set about changing the way I ran.

Because it’s such a fundamental and constant activity, it takes a lot of conscious effort to change. It’s the same in business. If you’re comfortable doing things a certain way, you stay doing it that way. When you find it’s wrong, or it can be done better, you have to embark on a regular conscious process of upheaval or else you’ll give up and go back to the old way. You might not want to change, even if you privately admit it’s for the better. It’s too hard in the short term.

So it was with the running. Every single stride was a conscious effort, otherwise the mind would wander for a couple of minutes and I’d emerge from my reverie to find that the heel was back hitting first. Slowly, but surely, the new way becomes the new natural way, but it’s still so easy to slip the yolk early and step back – literally.

I wrote recently about the so-called Circle of Life, and how it relates to our working lives in a ‘cradle to grave’ stylee.

It occurs to me that within this ‘macro’ trend there are lots of mini cycles, rather like an agile development flow if you’re from a software background.

These cycles can be weekly, monthly, yearly or pretty much any length, but before you know it they link up into a mega trend that defines us.

Here’s an image which pretty well sums up the converse ebbs and flow of the working week for younger and older workers. I hope you can relate to it 🙂

I must admit to a certain frisson of pleasure at the closing of things. Mundane, inconsequential things.

Let me give you examples. That feeling when you load up the dishwasher – surely the single greatest invention of all time – put the cleaning tab in, hit the ‘on’ button and close up the lid. So satisfying.

It’s same when you close the heated oven door after carefully preparing your dish for cooking. Here’s two more for you: Closing and locking the house front door at the end of a day, ideally a Friday, when everyone’s home, last thing at night. Closing the car door when all the family is inside after a long walk somewhere, ready for the drive home.

I know, the last ones have serious womb syndrome about them, but you see parallels in the working world. Submitting that final report, either paper-based or electronically, is a rush too. Signing off on an initiative, a project, a job even, come on, you must feel it too. Sales people – closing a deal! How good is that feeling?!

Perhaps the ultimate work-related frisson of closure is the day you fully retire, as long as what you have lined up after it is better. This post harks back to a recent post about the circle of life, which makes them both all the more valid I think.

The circle of life has a truth and completeness about it. We come into the world, we need help, support, guidance so that we can learn the ropes and participate as independent people, until its our own turn to do the same for the next generation.

Then we gradually fizzle out and eventually reach a similar stage of dependence on others, until we exit, stage left.

This got me thinking about our working lives as well, how we start not knowing anything – about a new career, new job, new company and their products and services – reliant on others to show us the way, give us the knowledge and the inside track until we can work alone, be trusted, and contribute productively.

My rule of thumb was 12 months. I felt it was a full 12 months before people were genuinely up to speed and actively leading or contributing. Then their experience of having seen a full 4 quarters play out allows them to build on the previous calendar year and improve the business. Some people think that after the second period of 12 months you start to stagnate and should move to a fresh challenge, but that has always seemed premature to me. Sure, I’ll give a new career or move 2 years, but will stay longer if I’m enjoying it and enhancing the business.

We improve as working individuals and start to climb the corporate ladder in our 30’s and 40’s, but does there come a time when we start to lose our creativity and the well starts to run dry? Do we step back a little and look to the next wave of high achievers to come up with the fresh ideas that we can help execute and bring to fruition?

I think there’s some truth to it, but conversely there are plenty of people making huge contributions well into their 6th decade of working, and a good proportion of them are at the very top of their profession, and their company.

The body may weaken over time, but the mind, the experience, and the ability to delegate the heavy lifting – literally and figuratively – to others goes the other way. As long as we have the mental energy and the curious mind to go with it.