Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’

Invisible Man Artist: Putting People At Center

Yesterday my wife showed me a series of photos, but first she explained it was a test to see whether I could find what was hidden in the photo. Most were pics of nature and the intricate disguises used sometimes for protection and most times to catch prey.

But then she turned to this pic, and I honestly couldn’t tell what I was looking at in this photo at first glance. Wild, isn’t it?


The man looked like something from X-Files or Fringe, a hologram, invisible man, floating in front of real life. Clearly he is at the center of the picture, but my first thought was a doctored photo.


Not so. Chinese artist Liu Bolin, 37, has taking blending in to a whole new level. According to a story by the Foreign Mail Service from summer 2009, Bolin takes up to 10 hours after finding a setting to determine where and how he will blend in, then, with the help of an assistant, he paints himself to literally blend into the background, perfectly.


I couldn’t help but look two, three, four times or more, and I had to find this guy online. What a fascinating concept.


After you get past the cool or bizarre or wow factor of many of his photos, you can’t help but think of the commentary on daily life that this tells. How often do we want to just blend in and not stand out? How often do we want to stand out but we’re stuck in with the crowd? Do we really see what is around us? Are we part of the fabric of the world around us?

Very interesting. The talent required to pull this off is hard for me to imagine. It gets you thinking about many ways you could really put consumers in the center of your world… hmmm… fun!

A few more…




11 2010

AT&T Coverage Fight Totally Ignores Customers

I used to think it was crazy every time I heard AT&T claims of the best 3G coverage and speed across the country.  Why?  Because it’s just not true for me and the places I live, work, and travel to in my life.

imagesNow I can’t wait for the chance to switch to another provider once the iPhone exclusivity is up. AT&T’s use of Luke Wilson in the current round of their coverage fight TV ads have solidified that for me.

This public battle between AT&T and Verizon over coverage maps is hilarious.  It’s like two guys flexing their muscles and arguing back and forth looking only at each other, all the time the girl they were after has left.  Guys, the girls have left the room.images

AT&T will likely claim it doesn’t matter because we have the iPhone so the people want us.  True.  But, it’s not you we want, it’s the iPhone.  And you can bet the second I can get it service somewhere else I’ll check it out.

AT&T… instead of spending millions to make a crazy argument that you can’t even defend (and one that anyone who uses an iPhone would know you’re feeding us BS), how about finding ways to be more relevant and ways to add more utility to the lives of your customers?  This could mean spending that money on new products and services, innovations to wow and impress people because of how they improve daily living in an authentic way.

Or, hey, what about spending those millions to build out the network so the user experience is actually improved?

In that way, people like me would feel like maybe you don’t totally ignore us as your customers.  For right now… well, I’m pretty certain you ignore me and others like me.  You’re too busy arguing network maps with Verizon.

And I can’t help but wonder… do you really think I care about that map coverage argument?  If so, let me suggest that what I care about is what the actual experience is, how relevant your services are to me, and what you do to help me live me life the way I want to.

Focus on helping in these areas.  Then I’ll want you and not just the iPhone.

Social Media and Co-Creation… 30 Years Ago

large_magic-johnson519Co-creation, social media, engagement, viral campaigns, etc. New tools for today’s marketers? Well, yes and no.  The digital side is new… the practice is not.

I’m reading the new book by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and came across a piece of NBA trivia new to me about the 1979 draft that landed Magic at the LA Lakers.  Little did I know it involved a co-creation exercise with a viral component and a social media spin.

The result was the Bulls missed out on drafting Magic Johnson and, instead, picked up UCLA senior David Greenwood.  But they had engaged their fans in helping make the decision:  ”heads” instead of “tails” was the consensus.

Turns out the Bulls and Lakers were up for the first pick in the draft, and Magic was the expected first pick.  On June 25, 1979 the issue was resolved by a coin flip.  But the Bulls general manager, Rod Thorn, didn’t call it out on his own.  The Bulls ran a fan promotion in which the poll results showed more fans wanted Thorn to call “heads” and win the toss to pick up Magic.

As reported on a NJ Nets fan page:

images“I’ll never forget that,” Rod Thorn recalled. “We had some sort of promotion with our fans, and we let them choose what we’d call. And Bill Sharman, the Lakers’ GM — he was on the line from L.A. — Bill was so gracious, he let me call it. Then I hear, ‘Tails, L.A. wins.’ I would have always called tails. It was always luckiest for me, but we did it for the fans.

“But it’s amazing and ironic how life works out, isn’t it? Had the Bulls gotten Magic, we never would have gotten Michael Jordan five years later. The Lakers won all those titles, but I’d say it worked out great for everybody.”

Fascinating concept:  engage your loyal fans to help win the prize on draft day.  So, was it good or bad for the fans given they ended up picking wrong?  Or did they?

Would it have been better to get Magic Johnson in 1979 and miss picking up Michael Jordan in 1984? Obviously, not a question you can answer… and not the point.

The real point is brands have been doing things to involve their customers for years.  Today’s tools make it so much easier, but the rules of needing to provide relevance and utility have only become more important today.

I think the Bulls’ actions show how brands have to be “all-in” to genuinely involve their customers in charting the future of their franchise.  And they have to be willing to risk that what you create together may not payoff in the short term.

Stick with it, though, and you just may find the next Michael Jordan in the process.

Who knew?  Sports, the NBA, social media, and co-creation… all 30 years ago.


12 2009

Relationship Building: One Bad Example, One Great Idea

Daily course of a rather busy day led me to some nuggets of examples:  one not-so-good actual customer service interaction and one really great idea.  The primary criteria I use for evaluating these types of things:  does it help someone and make them like you even more?

Bad example first.

Story.  Well, we’re opening a new account with to track some opportunities and stay organized, etc.  I’ve used it at a large company before, but was trying it on for size (free trial period) for small biz use.  I’m ready to buy, but the options online were different from what I recall, and the features and fees were not clear — I needed to chat with someone to decipher the fine print.

When I first clicked that I was ready to buy (end the free trial and pay them money!) I got the automated email from my personal sales rep almost immediately.  How cool, right?  Well, his email informed me he was out of the office until the 16th, but “so-and-so” was covering him the 8th – 11th.  So, no worries, I can contact that gal in his absence.  Which I promptly did, forwarding the mail I’d sent to my personal rep.

I asked:  ”I only need contacts, accounts, leads, opportunities.  That’s it.  What is the best solution for us?  We’ve been using it now for a few weeks.”  I provided a little more context and background info.

Her response:  ”I am actually at an off site meeting right now.”  She continued:  ”You can actually purchase directly from your trial if you are ready to move forward. You can review the feature comparison on our main page to see what edition may be best.”

Basically, she let me know that, although she’s the one my personal rep has covering for him from the 8th – 11th, that she, too, is not able to break out of a company meeting to help me.  What’s more, she thought she’d tell me to read it myself and figure it out, as if I’d not already spent time doing just that, only to arrive at some questions that silly me thought a sales person could answer!  When I shared my surprise at her response, she let me know she’d be happy to talk with me on Friday when she gets back.

Wow! And the funny thing… sells a tool to help you stay in contact with your customers and your prospects to help sell your product.  Oops!  Maybe they should work on the human side of interacting with their customers… not just relying on technology.

On the positive side… I can’t take any credit for this. But it’s such a great idea of demonstrating value to people in a customer service perspective that I had to share it.

David Armano posted this tweet mid-day:

Picture 8

It speaks for itself.  It’s an example of thinking from the consumer experience to create a relationship that keeps people coming back.

This type of thinking, however, only comes when a company truly puts themselves in the position of why their customer behaves a certain way.  When you think about it from that perspective, an airline can realize that people on the plane love getting a surprise visit to the first class seats… those seats are their greatest relationship-building asset.

Wen you think about it from that perspective, a software company can realize that people wanting to buy their service sometimes need a short conversation to understand how to buy the product they’re most likely to use, not the one most likely to make the company the most money.

You see… when a company thinks about people in that way, consumers become people who purposefully choose to enter into a relationship with a company.

Relevance. Utility. Authenticity.

It’s about connections. It’s about being real.


09 2009

Authentic Social Connections

Two recent experiences add to what I consider the good side of the technology behind social networks and communication tools that are constantly emerging.

This morning, I was jogging and came across a moleskine book on the side of the road. It was a little wet from the sprinklers, but it was obvious someone did not intend to “store” it there. I grabbed it and finished my run… in fact, I kept thinking a number of the people I saw along the way must have wondered why I felt compelled to jog with a notebook in my hand! :)

I saw the name inside the notebook. Got to my computer. The first place I turned to was Facebook to search for this guy. Sure enough, from his profile I could easily tell it was him. I clicked on “send ___ a message” and told him about the find.

Later today I’ll connect with him out near my home and get it back to him. Easy. Quick. Non-invasive. Benefit for the both of us… feels good to find something when you know what it feels like to lose something, plus he has his book back now.

Earlier this year I posted about a chance encounter I had on a flight home to Austin. I was so touched by my interaction with Dawn that I felt like I had to share the way she approached adversity with honor and commitment. She and two of her children are now serving in Iraq with the MN National Guard, leaving her husband and teenage daughter back home.

Just a few days after posting the story, I was surprised to see a post from Dawn’s husband, Todd.  Then several other people with family in the military shared their own experiences. Eventually, her young daughter, Meagan, even posted her feelings and gratitude to those who had shared support. Together, we were able to share thoughts and a common sense of respect for someone who would never promote it herself. And it isn’t about pointing a spotlight on Dawn, it is about expressing appreciation for goodness, honor, and respect.

This person captured my reactions, too:

Picture 4

Just a few weeks ago another comment to my post on Dawn came from a friend of hers from years ago.

Picture 7Dawn’s husband, Todd, replied and explained Dawn had talked about her friend many times over the years. I assume they’ve since connected and she’s been able to send a care package to Dawn.

My point in sharing all of this? Ambient awareness through social networking tools has a good side. Used for uplifting purposes we can find good and honorable people, things, and experiences.

Likely, I will never meet Todd and Lois and others who have shared in this story. But I’m a better person knowing what they’ve shared. How cool is it that we can facilitate such connections today?

Sure, these tools have as many, if not more, negative sides.

But I appreciate the good that can come. In the end, authentic connections between people on issues that matter will drown out the self-interest and negative scheming via online social networks. In my world, these are two examples of what I mean…

Nature’s Musings, Human Experiences

Sometimes we don’t have to look any farther than right above us to get a glimpse of nature’s playful moments.  If we allow them, these very human experiences can fill the heart and enlighten the mind.  A few current examples from my life…

First, tonight I’m going to wake my kids to get a glimpse of the Perseid meteor showers. We’ll try to get ‘em up at 3AM and watch. I’ll add in a photo or two here if we get any. How often can you watch the heavens light up outside of the 4th of July?

Second, on the way home tonight, we noticed these clouds as we waited for the light to turn. The kids commented on the cloud with a hole in it and the sounds of angels with the rays of sunshine spreading out.


It was one a moment that would pass so quickly I had to get one more photo after we made it through the stop light and could get a clear view of the amazing cloud and light show. The sun spotlight almost looked too staged to be real!


Third, I took the following pictures with my iPhone of a storm that rolled in during our soccer practice (I coach a few of my kids’ teams). The Texas skies offer a number of different dramatic performances. The emotions and nature’s expressions are very different in this series.


img_0227The storm came in so quickly we had to gather the team and wrap up practice. But the clouds were amazing and mesmerizing to stare at. Their intensity and depth were almost palpable. They seemed to be dropping down right on top of us. The emotions expressed by kids and parents alike ranged from fear (those who know how fast Texas storms turn bad) to pure joy (never seen anything quite like us).

For me, I didn’t want to leave. It was too much fun watching the rapidly moving clouds.

Tonight, I guess these expressions of nature reminded me of how real the human experience is when you add in the rich context in which life is lived.

Nature is authenticity. It is what it is. Yet it is always changing. Nature is sometimes predictable and many times not. It is always an expression of individual elements interacting to yield a beautiful tapestry. Humanity plays out its part within the tapestry and inseparable, really, from the reality of nature.

To be authentic in life, we have to appreciate the context in which people live their lives. We have to be real. We have to a part of the tapestry of their lives.

Ok… back to living my own adventure!


08 2009

Amazon Jungle: Apology Nicely Done, But Orwellian Slip Invites Important Debate

The irony seems too perfect, almost scripted. Big brother “snatching” of illegal e-copies of kindle1984-thumb-550x447-20925George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). A totalitarian regime in a future world?  Or just Amazon trying to abide by copyright laws? 

Follow up Amazon’s actions with a public apology with candor rarely seen from the corporate world, especially from the CEO.  Watch the apology spread across social networks in our living of the futuristic world Orwell anticipated back in 1949.  Problem solved.  Case closed.  Or not?

I was very impressed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ public apology posted yesterday on’s own Kindle community forum.


images3Bezos’ apology is powerful because of its sincerity.  Sure, you can find ways to pick it apart.  But, absent any more information this seems like the perfect way to be authentic in today’s fully connected world.  Kudos to Bezos.  Well done.  And it’s clear the overwhelming majority of comments in the forum applaud the action.

Setting aside the apology, the lasting impact, and the real irony of this situation, is the debate it has already fueled and, most certainly, will reach a new level intensity.  Amazon effectively demonstrated to the average John Q. Public that it can very easily get into your system and delete a “book” that you purchased from them for any reason.  Now, this isn’t new–the ability has been around for sure.  But this is the most widespread and potentially most public such action that literally brings it home. 

Consider this comment to Bezos’ apology:picture-9You can easily laugh this off to naivete. [UPDATE: Reached Eric via Twitter @vrtsflipflop and as an IT guy he's well aware of capability, but like most of us would not have expected functionality built into the Kindle product] But you can read many of these comments in the discussion with people not realizing this is possible in the world of e-commerce and cloud computing today.

The technological reality of today enables companies to be truly people-centric in building solutions that meet all our needs and wants, on our terms, and delivered in our preferred way.  Convenience.  Utility.  Value.  All great.

But the same reality presents a quandary, especially for e-tailers like Amazon.  And it causes, or should, people to consider the same realities of what is given can be taken, or watched, or copied, etc.

Amazon’s user agreement for Kindle expressly “grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display…”  When faced with the news that the product sold (copies of 1984 and Animal Farm) were illegal and violation of copyright laws, Amazon acted to protect publisher and author’s rights.  

It has since informed its users it will no longer delete purchased content.

But, as Eugene Volokh comments in his blog, the move could prove to be more than a PR blunder:

Even if Amazon had reserved such a right under its contract, I think that would have been something that many readers would have found quite troubling, especially given that the reservation of this right would have been unexpected, contrary to the way things are done with traditional books, and put somewhere inside an agreement that no-one reads. The contractual term might have been enforceable, but still understandably upsetting to readers. But as best I can tell, no such right was reserved; in fact, the deletion was a breach of its contract, and quite possibly a trespass on readers’ Kindles.

Amazon has since said it will not do this again in the future.  Spokesman Drew Herdener stated in an email:  “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.”  Importantly, the statement ends in an interesting phrase:  ”in these circumstances.”  Not never.  They can’t say never.

Apparently, some have responded with more fervor with reports of a class action lawsuit being pursued (or at least a threat of one).

My own view is this is hardly worthy of lawsuit settlements as Amazon is taking steps to repair the $5.99 purchases made of illegally copied material.  

But the bigger issue it raises is a worthy debate for companies to consider and people to ponder.  How do we enable the convenience and utility the online world affords us, while also protecting content?  How does a company handle a dilemma like this in the future?  What impact will it have on receptivity to, and use of, products like Kindle that house online content?

I’m intrigued by commentary from Jonathan Zittrain, author of “The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It”, about this situation almost a week before Bezos’ apology.  Zittrain writes in his blog:

Another fascinating aspect of the Cloud: everything is rented rather than owned, and can be taken away with only a refund to show for it.  I worry about this phenomenon in my book — I just didn’t have any good examples at the time of writing. My concern isn’t just about publishers having second thoughts about their material.  It’s the tool handed to regulators: someone could allege defamation for a passage in a book and a court, aside from awarding damages, could order Amazon to excise the offending passage retroactively.  Same for politically sensitive speech.

I suppose I don’t gravitate too far to the conspiracy theory and Big Brother mapped by Orwell in the very book deleted by Amazon in this situation.  But, like both of these Amazon customers, I think this case study will point to new ways to consider how the individual is kept at the center of the issue when companies face such decisions in the future:picture-42picture-5

What do you think?

From A Tweet, Why Would I Want to Connect on FB?

So this afternoon I just got a direct message on Twitter from someone I recently followed after being intrigued by some of his tweets.  Literally came about 10 minutes ago.


Since this is not the first message like this I’ve received, I guess the timing hit me to capture my reaction and share it.  I’m curious if I’m missing something or if others feel the same way as me.  And it made me realize an important separation between social networking tools that at least I employ in my use.

So, here’s the deal.  @Stefan_Berg I don’t know you.  In fact, I don’t know anything aboutimages1 you other than having reviewed your recent tweets.  I’m interested in what you have to say from what I saw, so I decided to follow you.  Over time, if you post way too much or content that offends, I’ll probably stop following you.  If you post great stuff, I’ll probably look more into whether you have a blog and what else I can learn about you.

But, @Stefan_Berg, I will not likely ever connect with you on Facebook without some direct, human, and, perhaps, face-to-face interaction.  If my interaction with you is only work related, I’ll not likely ever connect with you on Facebook.  If we do business together, or if you are connected in circles important toward my expanding my company (PURSUIT) then I’ll probably find you on LinkedIn and connect there.

My question:  why would I want to connect with you on Facebook based only upon my decision to follow you on Twitter?

imagesTwo words with different meaning:  connect suggests a binding of sorts, follow is more of look and see, listen and learn or watch.  I bind with friends and family.  I look at, watch, listen to, and learn from interesting people, sometimes friends and family, often strangers and human beings just living their lives.

I think it’s a real mistake to assume that Twitter is a way into someone’s Facebook account. Certainly, this vehicle is a way to share ideas and get attention from others.  But they’ll not become a fan or friend off the same criteria used to decide to follow you.

If others have a strong opinion how/why you disagree, I’d love to hear and learn.

To me, authenticity matters in real and in virtual social circles.  And that means there are images2boundaries and uses that vary, accordingly.  Twitter = listen and learn and find and share and follow.  Facebook = connect and stay in touch and share and keep track and reach out.  LinkedIn = network and promote and search and learn.  

Each social network platform I use is unique and plays a different role in the journey of my life.  I guess that’s why, @Stefan_Berg, your invitation seems so “not authentic” and/or presumptive.  You may be a very nice guy, but why would I want to connect with you?  Right now, I’m just interested in listening to what you have to say and seeing if you are interested in anything I have to say.


07 2009

Honor, Commitment in the Face of Adversity

At the wrap of a busy week of travel, I worked my way onto the tiny plane to catch the final leg in my flight home to Austin.  I was surprised to find out I had been upgraded to first class–surprised not because of the upgrade as much as the idea that this sardine-can of a plane actually had a first class section!  

Anyhow, as I came to my seat I saw a woman in military fatigues in the seat next to me… 2ceI had no idea the impression the story I was about to hear would have on me.  I typically plug in my headphones and get work done on planes, but as Dawn told me her story I was taught a lesson in honor, commitment, and service in the face of adversity.  And I was taught it by a simple, honest, and humble woman from southwest Minnesota.

Turns out Dawn was on her way to Iraq via Fort Hood.  She is accompanied by her 21-year-old daughter and her 19-year-old son, each of them in the Army National Guard and headed to a 1-year deployment to Iraq (including 3 months of training they just wrapped up in Texas).

“I’m the luckiest person in the world,” Dawn told me. “I have three in my family serving our country.  I consider it an honor for me and for my family.”

Dawn’s unit will be stationed at the Iraqi border with Kuwait.  She and her daughter are in logistics and communications, mostly driving trucks she explained.  Her son is a gunner.

There’s a lot more to Dawn’s story.  She leaves at home her 15-year-old daughter and her husband.  The family is expected to be reunited in April on 2010.  Very fitting for Dawn, they leave for Iraq from Fort Hood around the 4th of July.

“The 4th of July is my favorite holiday,” Dawn explained. “I love the military and doing something for my country.”

It is not all rosy for Dawn, however.  In fact, she was obviously torn up inside with the pain of leaving her daughter and husband at home.  When she joined the National Guard in 2006, a unit from their area had recently been deployed, so she never expected to be deployed, at least not before her youngest was out of high school and on her own.

Dawn was fulfilling the commitment she’d made, honoring the choice she’d made three years ago to serve her country, and doing it in the face of leaving her family behind.  I couldn’t help thinking if more people put commitment before self in many aspects of life our society, our country, our families would be all the better.

To soothe her distraught 15-year-old (I overheard her talk to her on the phone right before takeoff and immediately after landing in Austin), Dawn explained they made a commitment to each other that helped give perspective.

“We told each other that every night when we look up into the sky, even though we’re so far apart, when we look up we will be looking at the same stars,” Dawn said.  The idea comforted both her and her daughter.  That, plus reflecting on the fact that our experiences in life make us stronger are what help Dawn have perspective.

“I think all things happen for a reason,” Dawn said. “If I can look at it that way it’s easier. But it’s still hard. But we’ll have email, letters, and Skype. I just don’t know how reliable it will be over there.”

Dawn’s humble, candid, and straightforward manner of facing life head on touched me.  And, apparently, not just me.  The Delta flight attendant, seeing her coming down the jetway in her fatigues pulled her aside and brought her to the first class seat where I had found her on the flight–a respectable move by Delta.

To Dawn, the act was kind, but not necessary.

“I don’t need to be honored,” Dawn said. “I feel honored to serve my country.”

You know what-she meant it.  I’ve heard, and worked with, many politicians who say the same thing.  But, Dawn… well, I believe she meant something altogether different, something very much from the heart.

Thank you, Dawn, and thousands more like you who serve daily with honor and commitment.  We can all learn a bit of how to face adversity and fulfill our commitments even when it’s not easy.

Dawn’s journey is one of genuine, simple endurance and service. Thank you for sharing!

UPDATE:  Had some questions, so I’ll add more of the story about Dawn.  

Dawn was in the Navy for 8 years earlier in her life.  After she started having children, she got out of the military.  In 2006, she was with her son meeting with the recruiter for the National Guard.  She decided to ask him, “you wouldn’t take an old lady like me would you?”  The recruiter knew she had been in the service and confirmed that, yes, in fact, they would be happy to take her as well.

So she joined at the same time as her son.  I’m not certain when her daughter joined–we didn’t cover that part.


06 2009

Cutting to the Chase–Saying What You Mean!

I love finding examples of authentic communication.  When people are clear, when people are real, when people say what they mean it doesn’t take much to get the point across.  My brother recently forwarded me this photo.  Religion.  Property rights.  Nature.  Beauty.  prayerWarning.  Creative expression that leaves no doub as to its intent.  But it also says a lot about the one who posted it. 

Besides generating a good laugh, this pointed to an area rich with creative license to get a message across quickly:  Trespassing signs.  Talk about cutting to the chase. 

They show in Malaysia that you don’t always need to know the language.malaysia

Seriously, just say what you mean:  Go home!go-home1

Gun lovers likely prefer this option.shot

This one doesn’t necessarily win the clarity award, but it’s up there in my book for creativity and sparking thought in the reader.invisibility

At the end of the day, each of our individual centric views of the world would yield a different trespassing sign.  Authenticity is different.  Cutting to the chase is refreshing and, at times, entertaining.



06 2009