Friday, 12 April 2013

Some Final Blitherings (Because I Don't Have Time To Blog Anymore)

As an environmental planner, I studied the impacts of technologies (waste treatment plants, large dams, road work projects etc.) on communities. Technology has always had an impact on how we live, how we work and how we interrelate with the environment around us. Similarly, working in interactive communications since 1996, I have seen the growth of digital networks and their communities. While at first glance, it may seem that environmental and digital ecosystems have little in common, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. There are many parallels between natural ecosystems and their networked counterparts and therefore many lessons to be learned. ‘GreenMan marketing part I’ attempts to formalize this strategic approach and lay down a foundation, a philosophy and a way of thinking. 

As a tech entrepreneur I recognized that without big brand marketing budgets, I had to do things a different way. Now back in the corporate sector, there are lessons to be learned. I have captured them in this presentation, Start-Up School 101. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Cause of Ovarian Cancer Chose Me

As many of you know, I've been part of creating and supporting an Ovarian Cancer Awareness initiative called It's Time To Shout.

At the time when i had  reached out to Elana & Mark (Waldman) I hadn't really been touched by cancer.  But since that time, my uncle died of esophageal cancer and my father died of Pancreatic cancer.

Most importantly, we found out that my family has what is sometimes known as the "Jewish Cancer Gene" BRCA .  (note: There is an increased rate of BRCA in the Ashkenazi Jewish community of 1 in 40, vs. 1 in 250 in the general Caucasian population)

It's funny.  I worked on It's Time To Shout for over a year.  I have hours of video of Elana and a hundred conversations talking about her diagnosis, BRCA in her family etc. and it never occurred to me even for a second that BRCA ran in my family.   So when my sister mentioned to me a study of Jewish women in Toronto where we would be tested, I thought, well, sure, it will give the study more data, probably a good thing to do but again, NEVER OCCURRED TO ME FOR A SECOND THAT WE HAD IT.

And then the results phone call.

Genetics Councellor:  " Just calling to tell you that you DO NOT have BRCA."
Me:  " Ok great. thanks" (i mean exactly what i expected right?)
Genetics Councellor:  "Have you talked to your sister yet?"
Me: "No.  Why?  Why would i need to talk to my sister?" (me...panic)

So i did end up talking to her --  and I (unfortunately) burst into tears when she told me she had BRCA II.  Everyone in my family has now been given the choice to be tested (or not) with results that they choose to keep private and I won't discuss here.

When I told Elana she said to me,

"Sometimes you don't choose things, they choose you"

And clearly It's Time To Shout chose me.

I tell this story (with my sister's permission)  to ask everyone to help bring attention to Ovarian Cancer awareness in any and all forms.  From our site to this infographic to of course Elana's own powerful story.

And that's what I'm going to leave everyone with.

Spread the word and maybe, save a life.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Business Lessons From Motherhood

Being a mother is my greatest challenge and my most brilliant accomplishment.  And I’ve learned a lot that I use in business.  Here are just a few of those business lessons from motherhood. 

How to function without sleep – probably the first thing every mother learns and let’s face it, it can be essential to running a successful business.

Patience:   I once waited almost an hour for my daughter to stop screaming in a Park when she was having a major tantrum.  Maybe this just pertains to businesses with creative people, but patience is something you can’t succeed in my business without. 

Creativity:  Finding solutions to simple problems seems to be a Mother’s main function.  You are in the middle of nowhere and they suddenly have to go Potty.  It’s been raining all week at the cottage and you have to keep them entertained.  Business is all about having new challenges being thrown at you and finding new ways to make them work for you vs. against you – much like being a mother.

Focus:  “Mama play that song from Adele again!”  Repeated at the top of his lungs about a hundred times while I’m trying to do a significantly challenging driving move.  Yep, kids absolutely teach you focus amidst chaos. 

Negotiating skills:  My two kids are like the most hard core negotiators I’ve ever met.  They make my head spin.  If anyone thinks I’m a decent negotiator, the only reason I don’t suck, is what I’ve learned from my two pros at home.

Helplessness:  Sometimes there is nothing that can be done.  They are getting bullied at school.  They have to get through the process of learning how to get comfortable with daycare.  Their sad little eyes are enough to break your heart and yet you learn, some times there is nothing one can do.  Sometimes things just are.  Business lesson?  Absolutely. 

Dinosaurs:  Well not just dinosaurs, Thomas the tank engine, ancient Greece, everything I’ve never wanted to know about bugs, and some disparate things about science, social networks, cell phones, how a 18 month year old learns to experience an ipad and what makes 16 year old girls tick.  Understanding strange facts and the process of watching two different generations of children grow up has made me a better marketer and businessperson. 

Perspective:   Business can be stressful.  Things happen you can’t control.  You feel the pressure of ensuring your staff and your business succeed on a daily basis.  But it doesn’t always happen.  You fail.  You aren’t as good as you’d like to be and it can feel like everything is coming apart at the seams.  You go home.  Your son or daughter says, let’s go to the park and make a sand castle.  And you do.  There is nothing like sand castles at the park to let you know that it really doesn’t matter and it will all be ok.  Perspective is everything and they give it to me every day. 

Final Note:  As I was finishing this up, my 3 year old son has come into my room and wants me to be done and play Thomas with him -- couldn't think of a more perfect way to end this post and start my day :)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Competitive Advantage Of Letting Your Employees Leave at 5:30

I am and have always been a working mother. When I had my first job at a communications company I felt how many do. You have to give a 1000% and never wanted the fact that I had an 18 month yr old child to affect the perception of how hard i worked. To the point that while in the middle of a very stressful week with a client, as a co-ordinator, i was told that even though my daughter had a fever i was not allowed to go home (my only choice was to bring her in and put her on a mattress in a spare office - and by the way, i'm not kidding).

As you move up in your career you get braver. You realize that how much you work or when you work isn't and shouldn't be the marker of what makes you great at what you do.

It's why i love this article with Sheryl Sandberg about how she leaves every day at 5:30 to be with her kids but makes sure people see she is the last and first to email.

And it's funny bc my business partner and I had that exact conversation the other day. He said he likes to be the first in and the last out of the office -- and I laughed and said i like to be the last to email to which he laughed.

What does this all have to do with competitive advantage? The truth is, we all have different lives and different situations. Being flexible enough to allow people to live their lives well will make them not only want to work with you and more importantly on behalf of your brand.

In a market place where who you recruit and retain can make the difference between being just good or absolutely brilliant, it's time to rethink our traditional lenses and understand the competitive advantage of a truly flexible workplace.

(h/t to Katherine Emberly for the Sandberg article)

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Innovate By Focusing In On What Makes You Great

Always innovating is a tough game. RIM more then anyone has had a tough go of it recently. Jon Evans has a piece in Techcrunch today that I really relate to. If you are from Canada, it's hard not to want to see RIM turn themselves around. There are a tonne of smart people at that company and they simply transformed the technology market place here at home.

But evans isn't optimistic. He talks about the inevitable demise of RIM. He thinks it's one of ability. They don't have the product development prowess of a Google or Apple in his mind and never will.

I just don't buy that.

I have friends who have gone to work for Google - they'd probably come and work for RIM. I know a huge amount of smart product people working in startups all over Canada -- they'd go work for RIM. Facebook bought Parakey -- many people say only to get Blake Ross as part of their team.

Ironically i wrote about RIM in the context of a post back in 2009, reinvent or die. Might be good to read that one again.

But reinvention won't happen by focusing on the competition. There is no light at the end of the "trying to be like Apple or Google tunnel".

Moreover, RIM definitely shouldn't waste its time focussing on why people AREN'T buying their products -- they need to start reframing their challenge by looking towards how to unlock their incredible potential just like Hermes did.

So my advice?

Innovate by focusing in on your amazing strengths and what has made you great.

And if this helps at all, just remember you still have an army of brand advocates sitting here waiting for you to succeed.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Chilling Real Time Decisions In A Real Time World

James Armstrong is live Tweeting the Tori Stafford murder trail and wrote a post called "Tweeting from the Rafferty Murder Trail" about his experience which is well worth a read.

I have to say, as a Mother of a 16 year old daughter, and a 3 year old and as someone who worked with the amazing Leslie Parrot, mother to Alison, this story has actually kept me up at night. I find myself conflicted as to what I want to know as a human being, what I should know as a parent and what I should just stop myself from reading.

Armstrong said this:

"Though Twitter has been used effectively to live-tweet elections, riots, and revolutions, to tweet a murder trial is different. The words ‘tweet,’ and ‘murder’ sound diametrically opposed – two things that at first glance, just feel wrong"

In a real time world, we are now in a situation of facing real time decisions. What is right to one person, is completely wrong for another.

For those who work as social strategists, they often tell clients to use common sense, but there is nothing common about any of this.

Armstrong says:

"But tweeting the trial, I believe, helps provide another layer to the coverage. It gives people who may not want to sit and watch a two-minute piece, complete with the editing and storytelling journalists take so much pride in, a chance to digest the story as it happens"

We call it the future of news, but really it's the future of trust because as it happens creates an entire new level that is required -- how we determine what is right and wrong, what the audience should know, wants to know and what role if any, that very audience plays in the building of it.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Training Hybrid Thinkers

Companies want training in all sorts of things. But what if instead of social media, digital marketing or project management training, you actually taught yourself to be a better problem solver? After all, 90% of what we all do every day would be THAT much better if we actually asked the right questions and deconstructed problems in a systematic way from various different angles.

That's why i heart this article by Co Design about the Girl Guides. My favourite part is about training hybrid thinkers...
Solving the ambiguous problems that plague our society, such as health care or access to clean water, will require working across multiple disciplines. Instilling the value of hybrid thinking--the mashing up of disparate disciplines--will ensure that we have leaders ready to tackle pressing issues.
I've always tried to build cultures of hybrid thinkers. It isn't about one school of thought, it isn't even that i think hybrid thinking is a school of thought in itself. It's about different ways of thinking and different thinkers coming together to solve complex problems.

And that's the key:

Complexity doesn't mean we have to individually get smarter, but we have to smartly bring collective experience to the problem solving Team.

Being a hybrid thinker and being open to hybrid thinking just makes it that much easier.

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