Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

How to Make Widespread Changes with Small Wins

If you ever wondered how some Olympic athletes, like swimmer Michael Phelps, can routinely outperform their competition at razor thin margins of victory, some credit can go to the keystone habits in their training regimen.

This is according to a new book called the Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer Prize winning staff writer for the New York Times.

In the book, Duhigg outlines how Phelps used the power of positive habits to transform himself into a winner of 22 Olympic medals.

Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman believed creating the right routines were the key to victory. Routines, or keystones habits as Duhigg calls them, would set Phelps apart from his competition.

Duhigg goes into great length in describing Phelps’ seemingly mundane routines, such as:

1. Visualizing the perfect race before falling asleep
2. On raceday, waking at 6:30
3. Eating breakfast at 7 a.m.
4. Stretching at 8 a.m.
5. Listening to the same warmup music at 9:35 before a 10 a.m. race

This sounds so simple, and by itself, it’s hardly believable that it can turn someone into a world champion. And make no mistake, it’s only a piece of a much larger process. This is simply the building blocks to other tiny advantages Phelps gained by training this way. Habits, like these, save us mental energy & help us function productively.

Duhigg writes that once Coach Bowman established some core routines in Phelps’ life, other habits (his diet, practice schedule, sleeping habits, etc.) all fell into place. These keystone habits became “small wins,” which are how keystone habits create widespread change.

“Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win,” Duhigg writes in quoting an unnamed Cornell professor. Duhigg went on to say that small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

One way of using this approach as a public speaker is to break down your prep into segments, like:

Day 1 – research/brainstorm your topic
Day 2: Write the first draft
Day 3: Edit/Rewrite the draft
Day 4: Create/incorporate visual slides, if necessary
Day 5: Rehearse your presentation

Small Wins Approach
Phelps’ practice regimen incorporated the “small wins” approach by finding tiny advantages in training to help him overcome chaotic situations that all swimmers face from time to time, such as goggles filling with water or slipping awkwardly out of place after a dive.

To combat that, Bowman would have Phelps – on some days – swim in the dark, so he could learn exactly how many strokes it took to get from one side of the pool to the other. A keystone habit would be to count his strokes, and know on which stroke number to lunge for the wall at the finish.

As a public speaker, you can use these techniques to learn exactly how long each segment of your presentation should take (i.e. – four segments broken into 15 minutes each). Preparing and rehearsing in this fashion, will prevent enormous headaches, when your boss or conference organizer tells you at the last minute: “We’re short on time, so your speaking time has been slashed from 60 minutes to 30.”

If you have other techniques 0r approaches, feel free to list them below in the comments section below.

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10 Powerful Insights from the book “Imagine: How Creativity Works”

10 Powerful Insights from the book “Imagine: How Creativity Works”

If you wonder how and when inspiration strikes, New Yorker staff writer Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, is definitely worth a read.

Here are 10 insights I found fascinating.

1. Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with the feeling of frustration, having worked so hard, but yet hitting a wall. We have no idea what to do next. When the breakthrough comes, we tell that part of the creativity story and neglect to mention that we had almost quit. That’s because failures contradict the romantic version of events, so we skip to the happy ending first. However, the act of being stumped, is an essential part of the creative process.

2. The Bootlegging Hour: 3M pioneered the idea of allowing its employees to spend 15% of their time pursuing speculative ideas. (While Google often gets praised for something similar, 3M started doing this decades before Google’s existence).

3. Insight often arrives only after you stop looking for it. Therefore, you must allow yourself to relax at times. The imagination has a wicked sense of irony.

4. The key is persistence. Graphic designer Milton Glaser’s process for creating the “I Love NY” campaign is a testament of persistence. First, he created the campaign. Second, he got it approved. Third, he continued to refine it.

5. The importance of decompressing: When we are struggling with seemingly impossible problems, its important to find time to unwind, to eavesdrop on all those remote associations coming from the right hemisphere. Instead of drinking another cup of coffee, indulge in a little daydreaming, take a warm shower or walk on the beach.

6. Red for Alert: Studies have shown that certain colors in an environment can sharpen certain skills. People in a red room, for example, had sharper skills requiring attention to detail, like catching spelling errors. The scientists explained that those people associated red with danger, so they were more alert.

7. The color blue carried a completely different set of psychological benefits. People in the blue room performed better in skills requiring imagination, such as coming up with creative uses for a brick or designing a children’s toy.

8. Milton Glaser’s philosophy: There’s no such thing as a “creative type.” As if creative people can just show up and make stuff up. As if it’s that easy. I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb.

9. Fostering a culture of spontaneous meetings. “[Steve Jobs] really believed that the best meetings happened by accident, in the hallway, or parking lot. And you know what? He was right. I get more done having a bowl of cereal and striking up a conversation or walking to the bathroom and running into unexpected people than I do sitting at my desk.” – Pixar executive Darla Anderson.

10. Pixar realized that its creativity emerged from its culture of collaboration, its ability to get talented people from diverse backgrounds to work together.

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How Social Media’s Causing The End Of Business As Usual

How Social Media’s Causing The End Of Business As Usual

The rise of social media has propelled the “End of Business As Usual,” as suggested by the title of Brian Solis’ new book. And what that means is that retailers are no longer in control of the sales process. The social, or “connected,” consumer is. That’s the person, with a giant social following, who can derail a brand’s reputation with a single critical tweet or Facebook post.

Solis, in The End of Business As Usual, explains the evolution of social media has led to people not just tweeting to their audiences, but this fabric of today’s social network includes “audiences of audiences of audiences.”

This is nothing short of disruptive. And it extends to the actual buying experience, down to the very minute before a point of purchase in a brick and mortar store. Smartphone-wielding consumers have product information and peer reviews at their fingertips as they stroll through isles of a store. This access can make or break a buying decision.

Solis outlines how some retailers, like Target and Best Buy, have been forward-thinking and have created mobile apps that actually help customers navigate stores, look up prices and find special offers and promotions.

Best Buy has taken it a step further by providing customer reviews for a peer-to-peer perspective.

For businesses struggling to figure out how to develop a social media strategy, Solis says businesses must be able to answer these nine questions.

1. Why would a connected consumer “Like” us on Facebook, “Follow” us on Twitter?
2. How can we deliver value for them?
3. What is the experience they will take away?
4. What is it we want them to share?
5. Why would they want to stay connected over time?
6. Why would they choose to engage our updates in their social stream over those of their real friends?
7. What incentive do they have to tell everyone they know to follow us?
8. Why would they invest their time and express loyalty in their networks?
9. Why should they come back

This is part of a series of blog post running until the end of the year on business books in 2011 that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

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How Anyone Can Tell to Win, Hollywood-Style

How Anyone Can Tell to Win, Hollywood-Style

Whether your job is to encourage employees to perform a task, shareholders or business partners to believe in your vision or customers to buy your product, Hollywood executive Peter Gruber says we’re all in the emotional transportation business.

In his new book, Tell To Win, Gruber demonstrates how purposeful and emotional storytelling is the catalyst to propel people to act.

Gruber has a very colorful past, having produced blockbuster films (i.e. – Batman, Flashdance, The Color Purple, among others) for the past three decades and his films have earned more than 50 Academy Award nominations.

Developing these films along with some of the biggest egos in the movie industry serve as a backdrop to many of the stories he uses to vividly show rather than tell in this book. The basic screenwriting formula can be used to tell an inspiring story in a business setting:

Story building blocks:
1. Open with a challenge for the main character
2. Show how the character struggles through this challenge
3. Resolution: What was the result of the character overcoming this challenge

Gruber also outlines five core points in telling a great story:
1. Motivation: Contrary to what you may think, this point doesn’t center around motivating your audience, but rather knowing what motivates you, as the storyteller, moments before you speak to your audience. Gruber says you need to “get in state” before speaking the first word.
2. Audience: Render an experience to move them
3. Goal: All storytelling is purposeful. You are trying to create a relationship with the audience, not a transaction.
4. Interactive: A speech is not a monologue, it’s a dialogue. You want the audience to be a participant, not just a passenger.
5. Content: A story puts all key facts into an emotional context

This is part of a series of blog post running until the end of the year on business books in 2011 that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

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The Dragonfly Effect: Using Social Media for Social Good

The Dragonfly Effect: Using Social Media for Social Good

When 31-year-old entrepreneur Sameer Bhatia was diagnosed with leukemia, finding matching bone marrow in a matter of weeks to save his life seemed almost impossible. The odds: 1 in 20,000.

But his friends, a tight-knit group of entrepreneurs, figured it was a typical math problem. The solution: getting 20,000 South Asian individuals into a bone marrow registry.

In order to do this in such short time, Team Sameer used Web 2.0 services, like Facebook, Youtube and Google Docs to mobilize and empower others to organize bone marrow drives all over the country. This resulted in getting more than 24,000 South Asians into the bone marrow registry. And sure enough, a match was found and the tranplant was performed in 2007.

This is one of many examples of how social media can be used to power social good, outlined in the book, The Dragonfly Effect.

The book is co-authored by the husband/wife duo of Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith. The Dragonfly Effect demonstrates how to achieve both social good and customer loyalty by leveraging the power of design thinking with practical strategies

The Dragonfly Effect model has four key elements:
1. Focus on a single, concrete, measurable goal
2. Grab attention: Make someone look.
3. Engage: Foster personal connection.
4. Take Action: Enable and empower others.

This is part of a series of blog post running until the end of the year on business books in 2011 that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

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Building a Business Strategy in the Facebook Era

Building a Business Strategy in the Facebook Era

Just like the start of the Internet Era, or Web 1.0, the Facebook Era (the rise of social networking sites) has been a major transformation for the business world. For the first time, the customer is in the driver’s seat. Brands are being elevated or jeopardized overnight by a single customer’s opinion that goes viral.

As a result, most companies realize they need to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, but many are struggling to develop a strategy.

In the book The Facebook Era, entrepreneur and author Clara Shih, outlines how some companies have found early success in converting leads, engaging audiences and transforming customers into evangelists on social networking sites.

Shih and her contributing writers demonstrate the importance of using social media sites to build your sphere of influence by providing helpful tips and advice to your fans. And if this is done appropriately, only then can you earn the right to market products through these same channels.

The book notes that the leaders of today and tomorrow are learning to give up “control” and instead are inspiring and listening to their employees and customers.

This is part of a series of blog post running until the end of the year on business books in 2011 that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

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How Anyone Can Make Sweeping Change

How Anyone Can Make Sweeping Change

If you’re like most people, you’ve pondered why it’s so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities and even in our own life.

In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, authors Dan and Chip Heath chronicled a wide range of people who have found creative ways to make sweeping change happen without having structural authority. In other words, change can be spearheaded by middle managers, parents or social activists.

In one example, college student and conservationist Paul Butler didn’t have the authority to enact laws against killing an island parrot. Therefore, to save the species, Butler appealed to the emotions of the locals of St. Lucia by promoting the native parrot as “one of their own.” The St. Lucia Parrot only existed on that island, and the islanders “were the type of people who protected their own,” his campaign suggested. His campaign included puppet shows, parrot T-shirts, bumper stickers and even songs (written by local musicians).

The Heath brothers use many examples like this one to demonstrate that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern that can be used by just about anyone. First, find the bright spots, script the critical moves needed that will lead to the change, and point to the destination (what does the change look like.).

In a blog post late last year, I used some of the Heath brothers’ principles to demonstrate how you can turn an average presentation into one that could inspire your audience to change behavior.

The Heath brothers are also the authors of the 2007 bestseller Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

This is part of a series of blog posts running until the end of the year on business books I’ve read in 2011 that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

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Books Worth Reading

Books Worth Reading

In the coming weeks, I will be posting reviews of business books I’ve read in the past year that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

I’m kicking off this series with Scott Berkun’s hilarious and highly practical Confessions of a Public Speaker (O’Reilly Media), in which this best-selling author and speaker reveals techniques great communicators use to connect with their audiences.

Many of the practical tips he outlines for presenting are hard learned lessons from falling flat on his face in his own public presentations over the years – hence the title of the book.

Here are some of the many areas of topics he covered and I found particularly fascinating or useful in today’s speaking arena:

1. How to keep an audience engaged in the era of tweeting, texting and mobile phone games.
2. Social Media: How to monitor what people say on Twitter, while you are actually presenting on stage.
3. The importance of speaking not just to a live audience, but also to the camera (since your presentation will likely end up on Youtube)
4. How to deal with hostile audiences

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Making Your Presentation Change Behavior

Making Your Presentation Change Behavior

The purpose of any persuasive speech or presentation is to encourage the changing of behavior. But even some of the most persuasive presentations, loaded with analytical data, fail to motivate the audience to act.

That’s because the audience fails to emotionally connect with the message, even though they may agree with it.

That’s part of the premise behind a new book called Switch: How to Change Things, When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath, the brother duo that produced the 2007 beststeller Made to Stick.

In order for people to not only want to change, but also be motivated to do so, the authors say you need to appeal to two types of personalities: the Elephant (people’s emotional side) and the Rider (the rational side).

The authors acknowledge this is difficult, because the Elephant often overpowers the Rider. When you fail to stick to a diet or push the snooze button, that’s your elephant overpowering your rider, they note.

To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant and shape the Path. If you reach your audience’s Rider, but not their Elephant, they will have direction without motivation.

How do you develop a presentation packed with the proper emotional/rational combination?

Some people think the persuasive presentations is filled with analytical data, with a formula like:


But that formula will only work for small changes, the authors note. For big changes, however, the Heath brothers, citing a study called the “The Heart of Change,” say the formula is:


To illustrate this, the authors describe Jon Stegner’s dilemma in the Heart of Change study. He was tasked to correct the poor purchasing habits of a large manufacturer. He discovered, in one example, all the departments were buying work gloves from many different distributors at a wide range of costs: $5 – $17. The no-brainer solution would be for all departments to buy the same $5 gloves.

But how do you motivate all the people in charge of purchasing to care enough to do so?

The ANALYZE > THINK > CHANGE approach would be for someone to produce a spreadsheet showing all 424 gloves and their costs.

But the SEE > FEEL > CHANGE approach would be to do what Stenger did. He collected the 424 different types of gloves and tagged them with the price tag. Then the gloves were gathered up, brought to the boardroom and dumped on the conference table. Stegner invited all the division presidents to come visit the Glove Shrine.

That’s what the Heath brothers call making “a gut-level emotional connection.”

In your next presentation, ask yourself: Am I making a gut-level emotional connection with the audience?

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Using Videos in Your Presentation

March 16, 2010

Incorporating video to your presentation has many powerful benefits to keep your audience engaged. It’s a great way to illustrate a point, or even show visually rather than only tell how something has occurred.

In fact, it’s a great way for “businesspeople… to show new stores or products in action or to show interviews with customers,” notes design guru Garr Reynolds in his new book, Presentation Zen Design, which is sort of sequel to his 2008 best-selling book, Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery.

Reynolds says adding video to a long presentation is especially useful to break up the pace, since research shows audiences’ attention tend to drift after about ten minutes, unless some aspects of the presentation are altered.

If you are a Mac user, embedding video (from your movie folder) onto a slide in Keynote 2009 is a simple drag and drop process (see video tutorial).

PowerPoint 2010, which is expected to be released in June as part of Office 2010, promises to include the ability to embed videos. A beta version is already available from the Microsoft site.

Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations includes other great tips on designing effective presentations that contain text, graphs, color and images.

Reynolds first book, Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, provided the framework for planning, putting together and delivering presentations.

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