From HBR: Always Use Meaningful Words

http://business.time.com/2012/03/07/always-use-meaningful-words/

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From HBR: Why You Need a Better Elevator Pitch

For decades, salespeople have practiced something called an “elevator pitch.” The idea was that they had to sell themselves and their product or service in the time it took to ride an elevator from the ground to the top floor. Every good salesperson had an “elevator pitch” and could perform it flawlessly at a moment’s notice.

Today, elevators are much faster and attention spans are much shorter, so you’ve got to amp up your pitch. You’ve got to have a 118.

The 118 Pitch is my modern term for the old elevator pitch. It’s based on the fact that 118 seconds is the length of the average elevator ride in New York City. The first 8 seconds are “the hook”—the time you have to get the “lean in” factor, to snag your prospect, to catch their interest.

Those first 8 seconds are the key. In researching the idea I discovered that the length of time the average human can concentrate on something and not lose some focus is as little as 8 seconds. Eight! (It’s true–I found it on the Internet!) Thirty seconds, then, was way too long for getting that lean-in factor for your pitch. You know how you hear something in a conversation and you lean in because you want to hear the rest of it? That’s what you want from your prospect in those first 8 seconds of the 118.

If you accomplish that in those 8 seconds, they’ll give you the next 110 seconds to drive your message home with no bull. It’s not about name dropping. It’s about what’s in it for the recipient of your pitch.

Your 118 must:

•Grab the attention of your prospect
•Convey who you are
•Describe what your business offers
•Explain the promises you will deliver on

You need speed and immediate relevance. A compelling, attention-grabbing 118 tells who you are, the value of what you do and sells that to anyone, internally and externally. Used correctly, it helps your business grow bigger. Your 118 should also describe the thing that separates you from everyone else that sells the same thing. I don’t care what businesses you are in or what other services you offer; tell me how you are different, your story and how that story connects to your prospect.

Leaders need to get away from bland pronouncements that say, “We do this” and focus on “what we do for you.” You’re supposed to understand not just what you’re selling, but what it offers to your prospect.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of 118 Pitches:

The Good: Mentions your product or service and tells how it will help your prospect. “In less than two minutes, I will tell you how the use of me, my company, or my service will grow your development department 115%.”

The Bad: Mentions what you’re offering, but lacks any reference to what it offers your prospect. “My name is Sam Maybe-Somebody, and my company The Hopeful-Who Knows wants to work with your company using our We Think Super Service.”

The Ugly: Makes no mention of your company or service and how the prospect will benefit. “My name is Sam Nobody, and my company wants to work with your company because we think we can help you.”

Eight seconds goes by in a heartbeat and you don’t have time for anything that’s flabby or ambivalent. Cut to the chase, make them lean in, and then don’t let go.

Start your 118 with a rough draft. Then, do another draft. Then, put it down for a while and come back to it. Does it still ring true? Repeat the process. When you finally arrive at a 118 that best suits your business, you’ll know it. The vibe will be there. It’ll feel good rolling off your tongue. You’ll wake up in the morning reciting it and go to bed at night doing the same thing.

You’ll believe it.

After all, if you don’t, nobody else will.

 

From HBR: Social Media versus Knowledge Management

On the surface, social media and knowledge management (KM) seem very similar. Both involve people using technology to access information. Both require individuals to create information intended for sharing. Both profess to support collaboration.

But there’s a big difference.

  • Knowledge management is what company management tells me I need to know, based on what they think is important.
  • Social media is how my peers show me what they think is important, based on their experience and in a way that I can judge for myself.

These definitions may sound harsh, and biased in favor of social media, and to some extent they are. Knowledge should be like water — free-flowing and permeating down and across your organization filling the cracks, floating good ideas to the top and lifting all boats.

But, really, is that anyone’s KM reality?

KM, in practice, reflects a hierarchical view of knowledge to match the hierarchical view of the organization. Yes, knowledge may originate anywhere in the organization, but it is channeled and gathered into a knowledge base (cistern) where it is distributed through a predefined set of channels, processes and protocols.

Social media looks downright chaotic by comparison. There is no predefined index, no prequalified knowledge creators, no knowledge managers and ostensibly little to no structure. Where an organization has a roof, gutters and cistern to capture knowledge, a social media organization has no roof, allowing the “rain” to fall directly into the house, collecting in puddles wherever they happen to form. That can be quite messy. And organizations abhor a mess.

It is no wonder, then, that executives, knowledge managers and software companies seek to offer tools, processes and approaches to tame social media. After all (they believe), “We cannot have employees, customers, suppliers and anyone else creating their own information, forming their own opinions and expressing that without our say. Think of the impact on our brand, our people, our customers. We need to manage this. We need knowledge management.”

This is exactly the wrong attitude for one simple reason: It does not stop people from talking about you. Your workforce, customers, suppliers, competitors, etc., will talk about you whenever, wherever and however they want. Even pre-World Wide Web, these conversations were happening.

We’re long past the time to seek control; it’s time to engage people.

Business leaders recognize that engagement is the best way to glean value from the knowledge exchanged in social media — and not by seeking to control social media with traditional KM techniques. That only leads to a “provide and pray” approach, and we have seen more than our share of “social media as next-generation KM” efforts fail to yield results.

So how do organizations gain value from social media, particularly in situations where they have not been successful with KM? The answer lies in a new view of collaboration: mass collaboration.

Mass collaboration consists of three things: social media technology, a compelling purpose and a focus on forming communities.

  • Social media technology provides the conduit and means for people to share their knowledge, insight and experience on their terms. It also provides a way for the individual to see and evaluate that knowledge based on the judgment of others.
  • Purpose is the reason people participate and contribute their ideas, experience and knowledge. They participate personally in social media because they value and identify with the purpose. They do so because they want to, rather than being told to as part of their job.
  • Communities are self-forming in social media. KM communities imply a hierarchical view of knowledge and are often assigned by job classification or encouraged based on work duties. Participation becomes prescribed, creating the type of “mandatory fun” that is the butt of many a Dilbert cartoon and TV sitcom. Social media allows communities to emerge as a property of the purpose and the participation in using the tools. This lack of structure creates the space for active and innovative communities.

Creating mass collaboration involves more than building technology and telling people to participate. It necessitates a vision, a strategy and management actions we will discuss in subsequent posts.

The point here is that while they may seem similar, social media and KM are not the same. Recognizing the differences is a crucial step toward getting value out of both and avoiding a struggle of one over the other.

It is also a step toward becoming a social organization.

From HBR: Social Media Success Is About Purpose (Not Technology)

In the real estate world, there is a saying: “The three considerations that most impact value are location, location, and location.” In the world of social media, they are purpose, purpose, and purpose.

Nothing impacts the success of a social media effort more than the choice of its purpose. Because purpose becomes the cause around which people will rally and be inspired to act, it is also the source of social media’s business value.

What is a good purpose for social media? Would you recognize one if you saw it? And if you could identify a good purpose, would you be able to mobilize a community around it and derive business value from it?

If you’re like most executives (and you’re being honest), probably not.

No wonder most organizations struggle with gaining tangible and significant business value from social media. This single most important criterion for success is also the biggest leadership skill deficiency.

That deficiency often leads to a worst practice we call “provide and pray.” Leaders and managers provide access to a social technology, and then pray that a community forms and that community interactions somehow lead to business value. In most cases, adoption never really materializes; communities may form, but their activity is not considered valuable to the organization.

The lesson? People rarely rally around a technology. Success in social media needs a compelling purpose. Such a purpose addresses a widely recognized need or opportunity and is specific and meaningful enough to motivate people to participate. Every notable social media success has a clearly defined purpose:

  • Facebook’s core purpose is for people to easily track what their friends are doing.
  • Wikipedia’s purpose is for the masses to collectively build an online encyclopedia.
  • LinkedIn’s purpose is for people to leverage their professional networks for employment and hiring.

Yes, some social Web environments have strayed from their original purpose. But they made a name for themselves because they started with a clearly defined and tightly scoped purpose, gained critical mass, and mobilized their respective communities.

Choosing the right purpose is difficult (much harder than providing the technology). It requires a new management approach we call “purpose roadmapping” — planning how to use purpose to engage and sustain productive communities. A purpose road map shows how community collaboration and related business value can evolve over time, and provides critical guidance on the required investments and risks. It also informs all lower-level implementation decisions such as technology selection, content seeding, policy, moderating, and tipping-point marketing.

Purpose is a business decision. And business leaders must get involved in strategically choosing and pursuing the right ones. This is why success with social media is primarily a leadership and management challenge, not a technology issue.

From HBR – Social Media versus Knowledge Management

On the surface, social media and knowledge management (KM) seem very similar. Both involve people using technology to access information. Both require individuals to create information intended for sharing. Both profess to support collaboration.

But there’s a big difference.

  • Knowledge management is what company management tells me I need to know, based on what they think is important.
  • Social media is how my peers show me what they think is important, based on their experience and in a way that I can judge for myself.

These definitions may sound harsh, and biased in favor of social media, and to some extent they are. Knowledge should be like water — free-flowing and permeating down and across your organization filling the cracks, floating good ideas to the top and lifting all boats.

But, really, is that anyone’s KM reality?

KM, in practice, reflects a hierarchical view of knowledge to match the hierarchical view of the organization. Yes, knowledge may originate anywhere in the organization, but it is channeled and gathered into a knowledge base (cistern) where it is distributed through a predefined set of channels, processes and protocols.

Social media looks downright chaotic by comparison. There is no predefined index, no prequalified knowledge creators, no knowledge managers and ostensibly little to no structure. Where an organization has a roof, gutters and cistern to capture knowledge, a social media organization has no roof, allowing the “rain” to fall directly into the house, collecting in puddles wherever they happen to form. That can be quite messy. And organizations abhor a mess.

It is no wonder, then, that executives, knowledge managers and software companies seek to offer tools, processes and approaches to tame social media. After all (they believe), “We cannot have employees, customers, suppliers and anyone else creating their own information, forming their own opinions and expressing that without our say. Think of the impact on our brand, our people, our customers. We need to manage this. We need knowledge management.”

This is exactly the wrong attitude for one simple reason: It does not stop people from talking about you. Your workforce, customers, suppliers, competitors, etc., will talk about you whenever, wherever and however they want. Even pre-World Wide Web, these conversations were happening.

We’re long past the time to seek control; it’s time to engage people.

Business leaders recognize that engagement is the best way to glean value from the knowledge exchanged in social media — and not by seeking to control social media with traditional KM techniques. That only leads to a “provide and pray” approach, and we have seen more than our share of “social media as next-generation KM” efforts fail to yield results.

So how do organizations gain value from social media, particularly in situations where they have not been successful with KM? The answer lies in a new view of collaboration: mass collaboration.

Mass collaboration consists of three things: social media technology, a compelling purpose and a focus on forming communities.

  • Social media technology provides the conduit and means for people to share their knowledge, insight and experience on their terms. It also provides a way for the individual to see and evaluate that knowledge based on the judgment of others.
  • Purpose is the reason people participate and contribute their ideas, experience and knowledge. They participate personally in social media because they value and identify with the purpose. They do so because they want to, rather than being told to as part of their job.
  • Communities are self-forming in social media. KM communities imply a hierarchical view of knowledge and are often assigned by job classification or encouraged based on work duties. Participation becomes prescribed, creating the type of “mandatory fun” that is the butt of many a Dilbert cartoon and TV sitcom. Social media allows communities to emerge as a property of the purpose and the participation in using the tools. This lack of structure creates the space for active and innovative communities.

Creating mass collaboration involves more than building technology and telling people to participate. It necessitates a vision, a strategy and management actions we will discuss in subsequent posts.

The point here is that while they may seem similar, social media and KM are not the same. Recognizing the differences is a crucial step toward getting value out of both and avoiding a struggle of one over the other.

It is also a step toward becoming a social organization.