knowledge-career advice-networking career advice

Knowledge as Currency

Our global economy has evolved dramatically over the last two generations. A quick google search of things that were around in the 80’s that are extinct now, produces a whole slew of technological advances (and no, I’m not just talking about neon pants, boom boxes and mullets). Things like recording machines, cassette tapes, records, iPods, VHS among many others are relics of a bygone era.
Consumer Products aren’t the only things that have changed. In the 1980’s, the mining industry lost 25% while construction grew by 7%. In the 1990’s , Manufacturing employment dropped by 30%.  In the 00’s, from 2000 – 2007, tourism employment increased by 75%, and now retail is back higher than pre-recession levels while healthcare continues to rise steadily by 80%.
As technology has advanced at a rapid pace, our society has changed the way we value goods and services. Things that once would have been luxury items have now become free (just look at all of the capabilities of a smartphone). When things become free, we don’t value them. We expect them. Over time in an advanced economy, commodity products are elaborated in more ways and even labor is commodotized in the service industries.
While goods and services are becoming demonetized, knowledge as a service is becoming increasingly valuable. This is an example of the clothes line paradox – over time there are things that disappear from our accounting statements. Tim O’Reilly, explains this concept well – things that hung on a “clothes line” do not use up energy and thus are not measured or counted. Since they are hard to measure, they “disappear” from the economy. Typically, losses come from goods-producing categories as consumer demand shifts to open-source platforms or expectations of what is included in a product rise (e.g. live streaming on YouTube).
Perhaps the best example of the rising value of certain forms of knowledge is the self-driving car industry. Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X and Google’s self-driving car team, gives the example of Uber paying $700 million for Otto, a six-month-old company with 70 employees, and of GM spending $1 billion on their acquisition of Cruise. He concludes that in this industry, “The going rate for talent these days is $10 million.” You could make the same case for Snapchat’s $1 billion valuation and Facebook’s offer early on.
That’s $10 million per skilled worker, and while that’s the most stunning example, it’s not just true for incredibly rare and lucrative technical skills. People who identify skills needed for future jobs — e.g., data analyst, product designer, physical therapist — and quickly learn them are poised to win.
We have an economy that optimizes for the output, i.e. shareholder value. Shareholder value can be wildly variable on consumer sentiment, market demand and current events. Just look at the stock market.  It goes to show the importance of striking when the iron is hot. Knowledge used as a tool for persuasion is crucial in career development.
Those that optimize for a global economy use tools that help us see where outputs are maximized. Knowledge isn’t a zero sum game. It cannot be lost if gained by another person. With that being said, there will always be jobs to replace jobs for ambitious people. This advice is despite skeptics such as a McKinsey Institute study that claims that 5 percent of today’s occupations could be fully automated and 1/3 of the tasks involved in over a half of today’s occupations could be replaced by AI. There’s recent hype that an overwhelming number of jobs will disappear in the next 20-50 years. Forecasting it just that; a best guess. Past technological advances created more jobs than were lost shifting careers from manufacturing to information technology.
So what’s the point?
Knowledge is your competitive advantage. Leverage it where opportunity exists.
For example, one person who communicates his or her knowledge is able to command a higher salary than another who simply lists it as a bullet on a resume. Knowing how to and executing on the articulation of knowledge is more important than the knowledge itself. Perception becomes reality.
Here are three ways to leverage knowledge: 
  1. In Transactions – Knowledge is leveraged in several ways in the way that services or goods are bought or sold; both in the raw materials and finished goods in addition to the tactics involved in negotiating the value of knowledge. This is primarily impacted by research and preparation. As the old saying goes, “poor preparation results in piss poor performance.” Don’t underestimate the value of it.
  2. Context Specific – This is unarticulated knowledge, experience-based, context specific or even muscle memory. The application or context specific knowledge is tacit because it is hard to share with others. Call it a gut feeling you get when you know something will or will not work. It is able to be recalled when triggered by specific memories either from first- or third-hand experience.
  3. Fostering Innovation – By sharing explicit knowledge in an increasingly fragmented world or doing something that fosters innovation in your free time. The greatest example of this is a side project. How a person spends their free time says a lot about them.  It can show the level of intensity, grit and creativity used to take an idea from hobby to real achievement and also the thought process of how we prioritize our time. As a creative thinker, it means improving my writing product while learning new marketing strategies.
Here are a couple articles to keep the conversation going:
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#ThursdayThoughts: Stop the Brainstorming Brain Drain

There are two types of entrepreneurs:
  1. Those who sit around brainstorming who their customers are while sipping frothy macchiatos
  2. Those who spend time actually finding out who their customers are by doing the real work
Why is this actually important?
Finding out where (i.e. what medium) and what (i.e. content/product that performs better) and why (i.e. qualities that attract them) supported by REAL data will support a linear increase in REAL sales.
It’s the difference between:
a) vomiting your message onto the internet (and egotistically thinking that it will be amazing or that you think you know your customer best)
vs.
b) finding out why your customers have chosen you AND where they found you (the hard work of analytics, A/B testing, creating customer personas, etc.)
Last thought: Being specific and tailoring in your focus is KEY. For example, Google Adwords, SEO keywords or Facebook ads tend to perform better with a lower cost per click and higher engagement rate when keywords are incredibly specific toward a vary narrowly targeted audience.
So stop spreading yourself too thin and start focusing.
To keep the conversation going, check out these value-added tools to predict whether or not your product, service, feature or content will be successful:

 

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Turn a Support Center into a Profit Center

When is the last time you can think of where you were thoroughly impressed by your experience as a customer?
Disney almost immediately comes to mind – after all, they are all about creating a “magical” experience. The sheer creativity at Disney blows me away. From a replicated Employees at Disney are instructed to always say, “my pleasure,” rather than “you’re welcome.” Characters can never be seen changing costumes in front of customers and ride attendants become actors each diligently playing a part in the experience. Disney has a whole college program dedicated to teaching and encouraging a beyond enchanting customer experience. While little gestures might not always be remembered, they contribute meaningfully to the overall feeling associated with a particular place or company and the overall satisfaction. For example, how many people would go back to or recommend a salon after one bad hair cut? Would you go back to a hotel is the sheets were unclean? Or, would you recommend a restaurant if the service was bad?
Little details go a long way.
This point might already be obvious so let me say the inverse; a little screw up can cost a lot of business. This brings me to my next point and case study – when a company makes a little or big screw up, it goes a long way if it fixes it by rewarding the customer  and/or going above what’s necessary to fix the mistake.
You may have heard about the recent Delta glitch – the one that completely shut down Delta’s servers and entire control board in August 2016 (yeah, that one). I happened to be unlucky (or lucky) enough to be in the middle of it. Our 2 hour flight turned into a 5 hour delay in Detroit. Needless to say, we were not happy.
A couple days after our flight, Sean received an email from Delta stating that they were going to give him 20,000 bonus Skymiles for his trouble as a Gold Medallion (translation – the perks of status are awesome). Sean, however, had the brilliant idea of complaining to Delta since I did not receive such lovely bonus miles. Since there were two travelers, logically, there should have been apologetic emails to both of us.
After two emails and several days later, I received the following email from Delta:

Capture

Score!!! 20,000 Delta SkyMiles bonus points!
Keys to a good support email:
I highlighted a few key points in their email back to me which I found to be good in any customer support email:
  • Personalizing the email (note the extra time he took to say that he acknowledges that I was looking forward to quality time with family);
  • Showing empathy for customer’s circumstances;
  • Highlighted the most important takeaways;
  • Demonstrated that they listened AND responded by making the customer happy a la bonus miles;
  • Made it sound like I am a valued customer in the very last sentence
Oh wait, I’m not done. On top of that. We received two more emails a few days later stating that we received $200 eCertificates for the inconvenience that the mistake caused us.
That was a total value of $800 freely given by Delta for their mistake. Needless to say, we will continue flying with them. Delta went above and beyond to keep us as customers. But beyond just saying that they wanted to keep us as customers (of course they do), they acknowledged that flying is more than just flying. It is about getting to your destination and the experience of what comes at the other end of reaching your final destination. For most travelers, this means a much anticipated vacation that may have been planned out MONTHS in advance. The fact that Delta acknowledges the real reason I was traveling (to spend quality time with family) hits the nail on the head as to the service and experience they are selling. Every hour waiting in an airport is an hour lost from that precious PTO accrued throughout the year.
So what can you take away from all of this? Little mistakes (or in Delta’s case, a huge mistake) can end up costing companies millions. Delighting each and every customer on the front end (proactively via Customer Success), can end up saving companies a ton. Likewise, knowing that a service or product is just one conduit to a much bigger experience (e.g. I want NetFlix to work so that I can spend relaxing time with my family) is just as important on the support side. It’s way cheaper to set the bar high than to constantly put out fires or in other words, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Support as Sales
The support team is really the sales team. Success plays a critical role in driving sales by not only answering customer questions, but by keeping customers happy with the product or service (via education, marketing, etc. It turns support from a cost center to a profit center in the company because of their ability to enchant customers to be loyal to the brand.
Proactive AND Reactive
There’s a time and a place to woo customers over and to be putting out fires when things get ugly. While customer success is proactive, a company cannot survive without a good group of reactive support ready for action when the time comes.
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6 Productivity Hacks to a Happier Life

I have been thinking about the topic of productivity a lot lately. The more productive you are not only at work, but in your personal life through daily habits, the happier and more successful you can be (more on habit-creating in another post).

With that, I bet you’ve never heard of these top productivity tools.

My Top 6 Productivity Tools:

  1. Trello: Great for organizing and compartmentalizing separate projects into “boards.” Each board allows you to visualize separate to-do lists, create check lists. I’ve found the boards to be very helpful if you are a visual learner and need to switch gears from one project to the next.
  2. Pocket: I frequently go back to Pocket to read and reread articles or reference websites that I meant to read thoroughly but didn’t have the time. In this day-in-age, it’s less about finding an answer to your question and more about filtering out the junk answers, distractions and noise.
  3. Calendly: Calendly is great for reducing the back and forth inbox clutter and hassle of trying to coordinate calendars. Simply set preferred blocks of time, sync your Google Calendar and send over a link that allows anyone to book increments of time for your next conference call, meeting, etc.
  4. RescueTime: Literally track your activities in the background of your device and get a daily dashboard of how you spend your time. If knowledge is power, than the ability to know how and where you spend (or waste) your time is important to improving your productivity, work-life balance and overall happiness. It can even send you alerts when you spend a certain amount of time on an activity.
  5. PomodoroOne: Work in concentrated spurts. By working hard at just one thing for a concentrated period of time, the brain is able to focus completely without outside distractions. Not to mention, you can provide yourself with little rewards throughout the day for completing your goals. I find that I am most productive earlier in the day when it is quieter, but I simply can’t avoid the coming and going of people throughout the afternoon. The pomodoro technique helps to create a cycle whereby you block out the inevitable distractions of a workplace and breakdown large tasks into manageable smaller ones.
  6. Zapier or Alfred: Create workflows for common activities you do each day or automate tasks between web apps by creating “zaps” through Zapier.