I Used to be a No Guy but Now I’m a Yes Man

I lived with a man whose no was in the middle of his heart, whose no kept him thin as a bone and stole the juices from him. 

— Bradshaw in Howard Barker’s Victory

When I first read Howard Barker’s play, Victory, it made me angry. It was an angry, abusive, roaring text that made me want to throw it across the room. It was confronting from the first word and never let up. In fact, 20 years later, here I find myself quoting it.

You see, it’s got me thinking. There’s much to be said for the word “no”. I’ve loved its power and its brutal, abrupt ending-ness. I’ve loved being the No Guy.

But “no” is about knowing – and these days I feel like I know less. And no is about resistance and opposition. It’s about stopping.

“Yes” on the other hand takes courage. No takes conviction. With a yes, you don’t set a direction, you go where life takes you. The no roots you to the spot while the world revolves around and past you.

Now, I’m sure no will make a comeback for me. But for the present, yes represents challenge and opportunity. And it seems more than a little confronting to a world that has every reason not to change. What about you?

The State of Community Management, 2011

The community manager often lives at the sharp end of business practise – which means balancing the demands of your bosses and the expectations of your community members. It can be exhilarating and exhausting as Scott Drummond has explained previously. Somewhere in this sandwich of innovation topped with a lettuce leaf of frustration is the diversity that constantly attracts curiosity seekers to these roles. But what is the business of a community manager? This report from the Community Roundtable does a good job of explaining the state of play – with contributions from respected practitioners working in agencies, in small business and in the enterprise.

The report a little too US-focused for my liking – and could do with a healthy dose of input from Europe, Asia and Australia. But one of the challenges of community management is – as the authors point out – that the complexity of the discipline is often at odds with an organisational view of it. (Maybe we need to have some of those smart marketers give community management a makeover!)

Jokes aside, this report provides business innovators with plenty of ideas for improvement. And no matter whether your business embraces these opportunities on a large or small scale, it’s clear that there are competitive advantages on the offing. Take a read, and then get to work.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

We live in a time of information abundance. Almost anything we want to learn, we can find online. All we need is an internet connection and a few minutes to scour the search engines. But it’s not information that is valuable these days – it’s our time. Our attention. We need utility in all its forms. We need relevance. But perhaps most importantly, we need resonance.

This week’s must-reads are brought to you by the letter I and the number 5. I hope they resonate with you.

  1. Anna Farmery serves up yet another tasty podcast – Innovation is a Social Process featuring author, Patrick Howie
  2. Stefano Maggi shares a TED talk with volunteer firefighter, Mark Bezos. It’s a story of how to be remarkable – one act at a time
  3. Mark Pollard has been on fire, writing plenty of scorchingly good posts – but this one on social media monitoring tools asks all the right questions
  4. Ron Shevlin announces a new social media influence measurement tool. You’re going to love it
  5. We all talk about leaders, but what about followers? You can learn about the art of followership from the brainiac Matt Moore at one of his upcoming events in Sydney and Melbourne.

The Calm Before the Social Media Storm

Businesses have been slow to react to social media. I don’t mean that they have been slow to setup a Facebook page or open a Twitter account. I mean that they have been slow to adopt the practices of social media within their businesses. They have been hesitant to spend the time and the resources to come to grips with the changing nature of technology and its intersection with our social graphs.

But the challenge for business is not just the proliferation of channels and markets facilitated by technology. It’s the speed. These days markets and consumers can emerge and respond in moments. Witness the dramatic rise of group buying sites. Witness the sudden collapse of the Borders bookstores here in Australia. In both of these cases, technology created the conditions and then accelerated and amplified them. The fundamental difference was that only one of these business models was ready for social business.

If you are running a business today and you are not seriously considering the impact that social media will have on it, you’d better not blink. I have a feeling that Gary Vaynerchuck is right – this is the calm before the storm. It’s not time to batten down the hatches, it’s time to break out the oars and get wet.

Two Weeks Can Change a Child’s Life

Do the crickets sound louder than sirens where you live?

If so, the Fresh Air Fund would like to talk to you. The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2010, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.

Sounds great, right? But just take a close look at the faces of the kids in this video. Clearly this experience is really has an impact.

How can you help?

I’m glad you asked!

If you or someone you know is able to host, please sign up now. In 2010, The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

More than 65% of all children are reinvited to stay with their host family, year after year. Learn more here.

Friendly Town host families are volunteers who live in the suburbs or small town communities. Host families range in size, ethnicity and background, but share the desire to open their hearts and homes to give city children an experience they will never forget.

Hosts say the Fresh Air experience is as enriching for their own families, as it is for the inner-city children. There are no financial requirements for hosting a child. Volunteers may request the age-group and gender of the Fresh Air youngster they would like to host. Stories about real Fresh Air host families and their New York City visitors are just a click away!

Click here to learn more about becoming a host or call (800) 367-0003!

You never know, the experience that changes a child’s life may change yours too!

Innovation, Leadership and Transformation

Imagine …

You have one great customer … a shoe manufacturer. They create shoes that are worn by the world’s great athletes. I’m talking Michael Jordan. I’m talking Tiger Woods. I’m talking Serena Williams. Cathy Freeman. But there’s more. Many more. It’s like a star-studded cast of top tier athletes that are not just "at the top of their game", they are making history.

And this customer, working with these sporting icons, these star athletes, have transformed the way that we look at sport. They have transformed our own participation.

These days we treat our own fitness as if we were professionals. We spend hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. If we have the money we can dress the part. Even if we can’t BE the part.

These brands, their ambassadors and their customers have changed the game. They have blurred the line.

Gavin speaking 2Last week – as part of the Hargraves Institute’s Innovation, Leadership and Transformation conference – I delivered a keynote address on Open Innovation: Using Social Media to Build and Maintain Momentum. I shared the approach that we are taking with the SAP Premier Customer Network – to not just think or talk about open innovation, but the concrete steps that we are putting in place to enable and facilitate it.

“Blurring the line” is a fundamental tenet of this approach and what I am increasingly calling The Social Way. Where once organisational performance was achieved through a co-opetition framework, we’re now seeing (and supporting) new models of innovation that closely resemble the social networks that we use at home, at work and in the places in-between.

It’s still early days for the programs that we have in place. But one thing is clear. We need to cling to our stories. And we need to tell them passionately and persuasively. For if we just rely only on the facts and figures, we miss out on the hearts and the minds who drive any innovation within our businesses.

The hard part with any business program is getting to the start line. Many believe that’s where the project ends – but in the social world – and the world of open innovation – the launch is the start of everyone else’s journey. And that is perhaps as it should be.