So You Like To Eat Fish….?

This is not really a story about marketing. However it is something that you might want to know and to think about if you like food.

We eat quite a bit of fish in our household. I normally buy fish at a little hole in the wall fish shop in Kiama. The shop is tiny. It is perched out at the end of the harbour on its own, and away from the rest of the town. Its run by Steve and Ruth, and its been in Steve’s family for a couple of generations apparently.

Because I go to the store regularly, I have gotten to know a little bit about the people, as you do when you see people regularly. One reason that I go to this particular fish shop is that almost all of the fish that they sell is caught locally. A few species of fish that are popular, like salmon, come in from Tasmania but almost everything else is caught locally and is super fresh.

Kiama Harbour

The other day I asked Steve whether the fish shop in Shell Harbour represented competition for him. This shop is in the big shopping complex there and has a lot of foot traffic and is always busy. Steve said that they probably were competition but that the people who came to his shop came for a different reason. The fish were different.

He gave me an example: the gemfish. The gemfish that Steve sells are caught on a line, by the local fisherman. The fish that are sold in the other shop are caught by the big industrial trawlers. I knew that when a fish is caught by a trawler it is caught in a big net that is dragged across the bottom of the ocean. What I didn’t realize is that when that takes place, the fish are caught up in the net for hours and hours, possibly a whole day, before the net is hauled up to the surface. While the fish are in the net they are being tumbled around like the clothes in a tumble drier. They bump into each other, bruise each other, possible even drown because they are no longer traveling in the right direction for their gills to work properly.

Steve brought out a gemfish and showed me the way that he could determine whether the fish was healthy. He showed me the beautiful colours of the scales and the sharpness of the eyes. He told me that when you get a trawled gemfish the scales are dull and so are the eyes. And the flesh is no longer firm.

It was a really fascinating story told by someone who clearly has passion for what they do and an intimate knowledge of his field. I suggested to Steve that he should shoot a video and put it up on YouTube – not to market himself or the shop, but just to inform people about fish. He is thinking about it.

Imagine though: How much more would we value the provenance of our food if we knew the processes by which they come from the source to the table?

I asked Steve and Ruth whether they sold much fish into the restaurant trade. My thought was, “surely chefs must value this sort of provenance?”. Steve told me that what typically happens with restaurants is that chefs send their staff out to pick up supplies and the staff are told to source very specific pieces of produce – 2 dozen 200 gram pieces of Dory – or whatever it may be. So the specifications by weight or size become the drivers for the restaurant rather than the quality!

Think about it next time you read that beautifully crafted copy on the menu of the restaurant that you are in!

But think too, about the possibilities that exist if you could market honesty and integrity. How valuable would Steve and Ruth’s product be if people understood the difference? They don’t charge any extra for what they sell, because they are hard-working honest-as-the-day-is-long people.

Their UVP is almost unique in the world we live in. Integrity.

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Networks, Change and Managable Risk…

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A study was recently completed by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute into the smallest number of people that through exerting influence in a network, can bring about change. 

Apparently the number is slightly less than 10% – provided that the core base is highly committed and not prepared to change themselves.

This has quite significant implications for marketers, whether the product being sold is a political party, a concept, or a physical good. When the number of people that are required to hit critical mass is so small the potential for success becomes greater. The issue is clearly to follow the maxim that great marketers have laid down for as long as I can remember. That is to have a bull’s eye target market that you start with when you are planning to sell something, and, just as important, to ensure that the following that is built is passionate and unchangeable, bearing in mind that “the less reasonable will prevail”.

The less reasonable. Who are they? And what does this mean to you?

For those who are selling it means that you have to build a passionate following for your product. This is what some of the big online brands have managed to do on their way to greatness. Think about Google, Amazon… What could you do with your brand that would put you in that league? Or even a fraction of it!

It is a particularly interesting question at the moment given that we are now entering what I would call the third wave of internet business. This is the time when the mainstream of internet users start to “get it” and are sufficiently motivated by what they see around them to become passionate about it (the critical 10%, perhaps?).

It is this rising tide of mainstream web acceptance that is going to be the greatest disruptive force ever seen in commerce. Wherever passions can be awakened and ideas become entrenched there will be change. The task is all about finding reasons to create intractable support for products, brands, ideas by the magic 10%.

For most legacy businesses, this going back to basics is very hard. It requires leadership not just management. And for most mature businesses, leadership of the kind required means an increased level of risk. But in this model the paradox is that by not leading, the risk is absolutely increased.

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The Destruction Of Leadership As We Know It

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Digital technology empowers and it destroys. As the legacy silos entrench themselves and become more polar in their approach the silos start to crumble. It happens in business and more of that later. As is incredibly visible right now, it happens in politics.

Sometimes those silos are not really about the leader or the policy but about the system itself.

Look at what is happening right now in Australia, in the US, in the UK, and in North Africa right now.

In Australia only a few years ago John Howard finally lost his grip on power as a result of the rise of Kevin 07, powered by a social media campaign, at a time when half the population still hadn’t heard of FaceBook. Of course he wasn’t the first. Just before him Obama had raised more money in a campaign than anyone in history, all driven on the web.

These two leaders came in on a wave of expectation and euphoria. Finally two leaders who created more division than could have ever been thought possible, George W Bush and John Howard, were retired to the bench and two progressive new leaders came in – and these new leaders were unashamedly from the left.

Kevin Rudd created a level of antipathy with the mining industry that really runs Australia that motivated them to get rid of Mr Rudd. It doesn’t take a whole lot, it appears, to change a leader. All you have to do is to have enough money which buys influence and causes the hollow men of politics to worry about whether they will have a pension or not. They start pushing for change and then we get Julia Gillard.

However changes of leadership actually hide the real drivers of change that are now present in our society.

The thing that is the primary change maker is digital communications. It is causing a fundamental shift of power. The political support for change that was motivated to raise money and then elect Obama, the networking ability to use twitter to bring together people in Egypt and set off the Arab spring… these are instance of the power of the positive that are inherent in social networks.

However, what has been happening, in case no one noticed, is that there has been a massive growth in take up of digital communications tools by people who are not early adopters. The main stream actually started to “get it”. The people who are in the main stream, those people who don’t sit at the bleeding edge or in the early adopter sector, who had bought computers and who had gone online…. those people actually started to put together all the tools and to start to use them. Main street went main stream.

At the same time people on the extremes of politics started to understand that there was a wealth of leverage to be gained by using the same principles that had led to the rise of the left in the US and Australia. Socialize the raising of money, and socialize the rhetoric of fear, racism and hate. The seeds of fear sown so acutely by Howard and Bush and by Blair, are now producing the bitter fruit of ratbag paranoia in English speaking countries and leading directly to the almost historic low-polling figures of Gillard and Obama.

Each of these people has made a classic mistake of overestimating their own ability to influence the population with the power of their own rhetoric, and the need to share with the public at large a carefully engineered message that is balanced and measured and doesn’t spook the populace. Because each of them, when finally entering the vestibules of power, presumably gets to look at the books and to see the true state of the nation, of the economy, of the world. And it must be a scary thing, indeed.

But each of them at that point, also moves from being engaged with the real power that elected them, and moves to the traditional powers that run countries. Or think they do.

Its no different in business.

The power silos think that they are in power. The truth is that the population, the mass, is now absolutely in control. Except the mass has no idea of the power that it wields. Nor how it is being directed by the eminence grises that are in the back rooms plotting the ideas and stories that will drive emotion and action.

Rupert Murdoch historically was the master of this sort of approach. But he didn’t really get the web, in spite of his pronouncements about not being a digital native. Nice bit of scripting, but he didn’t really get what the web was about. The web is by nature anarchic. It breaks down the silos.

Those who are using it to do so are not necessarily doing it by design. But some of them certainly are. Look at the rise of the Tea Party. Misguided, perhaps. Misinformed, certainly. But absolutely motivated and becoming more powerful by the day.

Yes, the silos of power are crumbling.

One Australian friend of mine in the US and well connected in Australian Liberal politics said to me yesterday he thought that Tony Abbott would already be Prime Minister if it were not for the fact that people in his own party feel that he would be more dangerous in power than Julia Gillard, and would rapidly cause a decline in their own fortunes.

They too, forget that they serve at not just at the behest of the people, but at their whim too.

We are living now in a netherworld of change. The old systems appear to be in place but the world has actually shifted. When you walk down the main street and see the shops the brands all appear to be there and the same. You just don’t see all the digital brands that are even closer to hand, sitting in your pocket, on your smart phone. In politics it is the same. The leaders are on the TV each night making pronouncements. But the real action is taking place in your pocket on your smart phone with the facebook update and the twitter feed that is telling you the salacious, possibly unfounded rumour about who knows what, that will be the thing that you talk about at the water cooler at work tomorrow. These are the things that are driving our political destinies, our economies, our lives.

Leadership is not what we think it is anymore. And until the leaders understand that, they are all going to be doomed to be straw men (and women) whose time in the spotlight will be short lived. Their time in office will go down in history as being a failure of catastrophic proportions. The new poison chalice is leadership, until and unless the leaders understand that they need to lead from within a google engineered world.

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How We Reach Decisions – Then Become Entrenched In Positions

Rising Above the Industrial Revolution

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We all exist in networks of people. Before the industrial revolution they were close knit and very local. Fast forward through the industrial revolution and the ability to travel far and fast and into the digital era and we all have complex and vast networks of connections.

All of those connections have influence on our decision making. Some of the connections, such as the media we consume, has an inordinate influence on our decision making considering the fact that unlike our real world friends it is not there to help us when we have needs, but it is there to tell us how we should act – who we should vote for, what TV we should buy and where we should buy it etc.

The power of that influence is what has driven the value of the 30 second ad. As the highly individualized opportunity to influence afforded by targeted ads has emerged over the last dozen or so years, both the level of influence and the value of ads has changed markedly. But what about the value of the personal physical and direct connection?

This is the Trust Network – the people who you know in the real world, even if you don’t meet with them in person every day. These are the people who influence your views and the positions that you take even when they don’t realize it – and it all starts with them influencing your view about them.

A couple of cases in point:

I had a meeting with a company last week that wants to build up its marketing presence. They believe that they should be doing this online. This all sounds pretty straightforward. Then what is revealed is that the CFO of the parent company will not allow the company to undertake any internet banking. Sounds remarkable in this day and age, but it is true. So what we find is that the job that is required is not as much about developing a marketing campaign for the company, as it is about developing a management solution for the company so that the guys that want to build their business unit can actually get internal approvals to operate.

The one thing that makes even taking on a challenge of this kind is that I know one of the guys that wants to build the business and I trust him. I trust him enough to be prepared to try to help him tackle the problem that he has – even if the rewards are dubious at best…

Here is another.

I am working on a business development project for a start up. It is a highly technical proposition that really needs reference customers in place in order to validate the technology and indeed to enable detailed specifications for the technology to be developed. There is a potential client, but the client understands very well the value that they bring and the potential disruptive impact of the technology in the marketplace. As a result the client wants to insure against the risk that the technology may become available to its competitors. The simple solution might be to roll over and give them a piece of the IP. The problem with that though is that it will reduce significantly the ability to get investors into the company at this stage.

Of course this is one of those conundrums in which the elements of trust that need to be created also need to transcend the distance between the respective lawyers’ views and their motivation to invest the time into developing appropriate language that will give both sides a belief that they can trust the other. In this case, the one thing that will absolutely bring this deal undone, is to purely rely on the lawyers to solve the problem. With all respect to the lawyers in the room, their role in this instance is to protect their clients from risk, and the easiest way to do that is to make sure that the intent of an agreement is represented succinctly and simply. That means establishing and holding the line and not blinking.

But even the lawyers are influenced. So the job here has been to try to ensure that the individuals in the game increase their personal emotional stakes in the negotiations. These can help soften the harder voices in the room and prevent people from becoming entrenched in their decisions. I have some solutions for this that are very folksy and down home that have worked in the past, and will hopefully work in this case that help build personal trust.

Example: I built a very strong trust network in Japan at one point by the very simple process of gift giving. Every time I flew to Japan – which was roughly every 2 months at that time – I would take two cases of Australian wine with me, and then give bottles to pretty much every business contact who I met. I did this absolutely out of friendship and not to win any business contract. However the philosophy led to trust being built, and along with that trust, friendship, and along with these two ingredients, the willingness and interest in doing business.

The moral of the story is that the way to get business done is to build relationships that are absolutely not about business. Relationships that are about trust and a feeling that you can give something to the other without expecting anything in return.

All that finally leads me to the case of a student and an interaction he had with someone outside of the university. This came up yesterday. The student is working on a project and needed some information from the exterior party. The information wasn’t forthcoming, and granted, the outside person dropped the ball. The student got very uptight about the fact that he was doing work that would be valuable to the outside person and that therefore the outside person should co-operate and do things on the student’s timetable. The reality is that no one runs to the timetable of someone on the outside. To expect it is to be delusional. To get upset by it shows a weakness of character that can severely dent your ability to succeed.

When I act as the “marketing whisperer” for companies, a very important component of my time is spent in helping clients understand how small localized decisions can have vast ramifications with regard to future profitability, and that those decisions are not about how much media you buy.

Rather it is about how much trust can you build so that the entrenched decision making is in your favour rather than against you.



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Real Marketing Can’t Help But Be Strategic

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Everyone wants more sales. They want more revenue. And they want more margin. And they want it now. They think that this involves strategy.

Actually what they are looking for is tactics, and when they adopt tactics without a strategy it will almost invariably fail.

Tactics is selling canned tomatoes at retail in the supermarket. Strategy is planting the seeds on the farm where the tomatoes are grown and canning them and then distributing them…. taking margin at every turn. Yes I know its very basic, but almost everywhere you turn there are people who don’t understand marketing who think that they can just buy it. The fact of the matter is almost invariably that marketing requires planting seeds.

Developing marketing concepts that are valuable takes time and means that you need to work with managers and executives of companies who are prepared to accept some ideas that go against the grain for a lot of them.

The most important of them is this: That really important sales invariably don’t take place because you tell someone to buy something. They take place because the marketer becomes so attuned to the marketplace that he or she can advise the company that he/she works for how they need to change in order to meet what the market wants…. next.

This is a subtle and complex problem and it takes real insights into how technology works, how people function and how to build the narrative for the people who develop the products….

That is the stuff that I try to impart on my students and it is the product that I provide to my clients… esoteric, yes, but very powerful.


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Why Businesses Need Professional Help

Milgram experiment

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While the media is all doom and gloom, for some there is boundless optimism.

I have been asked to do several pitches in the last two weeks, two to companies that are expanding into new areas and want to make sure that they capture all the market potential that they see, and one to a new enterprise with several very successful people involved in it.

All the people involved think that they are technology and communications savvy. Unfortunately recognizing that you need a web site is only a beginning.

Here is a case study of one of these businesses:

They realized that they needed a web site because their target customers have indicated to them that when they discuss the concepts presented internally, people not directly exposed to the pitch will want to check them out online. So they hired a web developer to build a site and provided a broad idea of what they wanted and then delivered copy. The developer convinced them that they should use his proprietary platform which is a rather limited CMS system. Since the enterprise doesn’t have any idea of what various CMS systems can do or what they cost, they got talked into using the developer’s system instead of using WordPress where the options are almost infinite and the costs extremely low.

At the time I was brought in the site was substantially developed and looked like a rather pedestrian blog circa 2006. Serif fonts, off the shelf gifs and a totally out of context image of a fish on the site – and their plan was to introduce a complicated registration system in order to capture information on visitors. The site is not optimized for mobile. The copy is tortuously lengthy. It was and is almost a text book case of how many things can you do wrong in a web site. I suggested that they should start over. That of course went down like a lead balloon because they had invested a fair amount of time and money in getting to where they were.

One thing you find about dealing with people who have been successful in life – a lot of them think that they got successful because of how smart they are, rather than understanding that luck may have also had something to do with it!Don’t get me wrong – some of them are also incredibly smart…

These are people who really need professional help – and their develop hasn’t done them any favours.

Mind you they haven’t helped themselves either. When I suggested that they should use an API to enable people to register on their site via FaceBook and LinkeIn, they asked me to write a note to them to give to the developer, which I did. When they continued down the path that they were on, I asked them why they hadn’t followed up on my advice, and they said I hadn’t sent any information to them. The problem as it turned out was that they didn’t have a clue what an API is, but hadn’t wanted to look ignorant by asking me to explain.

Can you imagine what happens when you talk to a fly by night developer who only cares about getting a fast buck and he comes to the realization that you don’t have a clue what you are doing? He just takes you to the cleaners – gives you a crappy site and sends you the bill. He knows you have no idea and charges you accordingly.

As I had more conversations with this business I came to the realization that they are so out of touch with the reality of communications that they actually can’t move past “Go”.

As our communications and technology world become ever more complex, understanding how brands work, how social networks work, and how communications functions is going to be more and more important. And just as important for people to understand is that good design doesn’t actually cost much more than bad. And even more important – research.

In a world where so much is so instantaneous undertaking research into consumer response to design, to interface, functionality are absolutely imperative. You always have only had one opportunity to make a first impression. When first impressions are best impressions that can be seen by millions you want to make sure that you are creating a positive response that people will want to share and recommend, not something that people will want to excise from their lives as rapidly as possible.

That is why you need to get professional help early, and in particular, for that professional help to provide a point of view that may be quite contrary to all that you would like to believe about what you are doing…

By the way: last week was the 50th anniversary of the famous psychological experiments that were undertaken by Stanley Milgram that shocked so many people at the time. These were the experiments that proved that people would do things that were quite against all they stood for if they were persuaded by an authority figure. Remember that you are probably an authority figure for many, and that if they sense that you want to do things a certain way, they will probably agree with you if they think that it will make you happy. You don’t want to be taking advice from these people. You need people to provide you with strategic marketing advice who will tell you the truth, even if it hurts.





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Who’s Your Customer…?

Irving Nature Park

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Its a question that anyone who is in marketing will ask at a meeting. Its a question that should help us define how to start a campaign.

Maybe its not the only question that we should ask, though. How about, “Why’s your customer….?” Why is your customer going to respond to your campaign? Why is your customer going to decide to purchase your product?

The path to making a sale is actually quite complex. That is why brand architecture is important. The brand helps the various people in the decision ecosystem decide in your products favour. The people in this system are incredibly important if you are going to make the sale and through understanding “Why?” you can then get more focused on the real “Who?”

The person who really helped mentor me to understand how this works is a guy by the name of Rob Irving. Rob used to be a pretty big wheel in advertising. He was with JWT for a long time in very senior roles in South Africa, the UK, and then Australia. However, for quite a while now, he has been mentoring managers, CEO’s, marketers, in a variety of companies. His style is to make you figure out the solution to the problem you have. He is one part salesman, one part mystic, and one part psychiatrist and a whole lot more besides.

Rob was recently diagnosed with a rather aggressive form of cancer. I spoke to him yesterday on the phone to catch up and to find out how he was coping. He is taking it in his stride. He continues to work with clients – but is trying to make sure that he doesn’t overdo it. He is getting chemo. And he remains unbelievably positive about life, about his friends and his family.

He has also just started a blog. It is called Power Of You. Read it. It is excellent writing and it is helpful and it provokes thought.

Rob is someone who helps people develop their own personal brands. And let’s face it, if your personal brand values are just about making money, how does that differentiate you from a mass of others in the marketplace. Why would anyone want to buy you? If your personal brand has a set of values that aspires to greatness of another kind, based on the “why” rather than the “who” doesn’t it make you a much more interesting person?

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Getting Past The CO2 Debate And Into Profiting From It

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I recently got into an extensive FaceBook conversation/debate with someone that was somewhat ridiculous, but we all do stupid things from time to time.

This debate was about CO2 emissions and the role of man. The person on the other side of the debate is a big fan of Lord Monckton, the media shill who shows up from time to time in Australia, most recently paid for by Gina Rinehart, the mining magnate,  Australia’s richest woman and more recently a strategic investor in a number of major media companies (Channel 10, Fairfax etc.).

The person I was debating with keeps on coming out with opinions from a variety of scientists who are “climate skeptics”.

The problem with this debate is that it is like religion in the middle ages – you can a Catholic christian or you can follow Martin Luther’s arguments – neither can ever be proven to be right or wrong, because ultimately there is never any proof that God exists. That’s the Richard Dawkins proposition.

In that environment there isn’t anything to be gained from continuing the argument, because for some people the winning is in keeping the discussion going…

The important facts are different to those being discussed on talk back radio (and I spoke to someone last night at a party who told me quite seriously that she was well informed about this topic because she listed to talk back radio!).

The important facts that actually influence us all (and some more than others) are these:

CEO’s of large emitting companies are generally of the view that there will be some kind of regulations introduced in every country in the world that will regulate the emission of CO2. Some countries will act before others. There will be no universal agreement as to the approach.

As a result the race is on to identify ways to reduce CO2 emissions and effectively to become sustainable. Some of the industries affected are major emitters of CO2 and for these businesses the move to accept regulations is of course much more painful than for others.

However, the means of reduction of CO2 will be technical and will be many and will certainly be proprietary. So those businesses that identify, and acquire technologies that interdict effectively will be in a vastly superior position than those that don’t. So CO2 regulation will act as a motivator of positive management change and increased efficiency and improved profitability for those who are able to get past the rhetoric.

In the mean time while the debate is heated, the media rubs its hands with glee, because that translates into increased readership or listenership of the media that presents the most heated arguments… which means more ratings, circulation which in turn means more ads and more $$$.

The facts are not what drives media to cover stories. Its consumer sentiment.

Business makes decisions based on the perception of what policy is going to do, and focuses on trying to modify policy to suit them.

In the CO2 debate the place to be is not in the argument about which is right or wrong, but where people have already made up their minds, and where they have the strength of balance sheets to invest in innovation. Again the best technology won’t necessarily become the most successful technology. It will be the one that has the best distribution, the best value proposition for the customer, or perhaps is the one that gives the owner a level of control over its business sector that allows it total industry dominance. These beget complex economic considerations – and have nothing to do with whether humans make more CO2 or not, whether Australia makes enough to be important  or not, etc.

The decisions that affect us all will be made in the boardrooms of the world’s biggest energy companies, chemical companies, mining and agricultural companies. These are the businesses that have the opportunity to become much much bigger if they can get ahead of the regulatory curve.

Research scientists probably, in fact almost certainly, have a good part of the technological solution worked out. It won’t be robust enough to take to market yet. But it is almost certainly nearly there.

Watch as the US and Europe introduce regulations that require all goods that are shipped into their markets to have a universal CO2 impact number to be incorporated into the product. This will happen at approximately the same time that their local industries advise the government that they have the ability to become more sustainable and therefore more competitive. At that time Chinese and Indian companies will be forced to adopt the same practices because otherwise they will be denied markets.

This will affect Australian businesses massively unless we too get ahead of the curve.

CO2 is no longer about what is right or wrong in terms of climate science. It is about how countries can be competitive in the CO2 regulated world that is going to be with us within the next 10 years.

For the innovator, the opportunity is to understand that when the gold rush comes you want to have access to a lot of shovels in order to be in a sustainable business yourself.

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The Corporate Whisperer

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Next week is the start of the spring semester at university and I am back at the Arts Faculty of the University Of Wollongong for a reprise teaching the Digital Communications course I initiated last year and one other course.

DIGC302 is a course that I have developed that last year was a huge amount of work for me and also for the students, but we all found it extraordinarily rewarding. (Here is a link to a pdf of the course outline as proposed: DIGC302 Final It may be subject to late changes however).

The course essentially puts a small group of students into dealing with the real world situations that they would face if they were in a business. They use the skills that they have developed in research, writing, analysis, design, communications, together with their own wits to delve deep into a specific client’s challenges of communicating.

This year the real world clients (without revealing specific names) are a major national trade association in Australia whose members are being seriously impacted (both positively and negatively) as a result of e-commerce, a substantial charity in Australia whose contributing base has been eroded as a result of the internet and the efficiencies of digital communication, and a new $54 million manufacturing facility that is about to open for business and has not yet established its digital communications strategy.

I am pretty excited about the possibilities associated with this and hope that the students will be too…

One thing that I have to deal with this year is to ensure that I have all of the potential ethics issues clearly defined. In order to deal with the kinds of surveys that students will need to undertake and manage this semester there is a lot of planning work that needs to be approved by the university ethics committee which means that I have to think through a number of problems that the students will also need to deal with as they go on the journey.

I also have to manage the industry clients’ expectations and ensure that they have a clear idea of what they want from the project. Its a daunting task to undertake, but I think this is the kind of course that it is very rare to find in a university today, mainly because it is so hard to put together.

Unfortunately lecturers and subject co-ordinators have so much administrative work to undertake that to take on the added burden of having to spend the number of hours that are necessary to set up the outside clients, and then to think through and then execute on what needs to be done is too difficult. So they just revert to doing what is easy – which is to get a bunch of texts, set some readings, put in place assignments, and do what they have always done – which is to talk at the class.

This class is all about the class taking the journey, rather than the class being told about the journey.

This is ultimately a class that teaches students how to develop vision and ideas.

That is what is needed not just in universities and education but also in business. Without ideas and the means to execute them what do we have? Not a lot.

I see the same thing happening in both business and in academia – and I am in a relatively unique position having spent 40 years of my life in business and now spending time with academics across two very distinct and different areas of activity (science and arts).

Early this week I put on a breakfast networking event in Sydney (in conjunction with NSW State and Regional Development, who were tremendously helpful). The intention was to bring together CEO’s and others from small manufacturing businesses and give them some insights into the potential of additive prototyping using nanostructures to make them more competitive. In preparing for the event I spent a fair bit of time working with the scientists getting to grips with what they have – and then turning that into a value proposition that they appreciated and which the business people coming to the event could also understand and resonate.

This translation of language and concept from one culture to another is the role that I have taken on in recent years. Its fascinating, intellectually rewarding, and I believe, one of the most valuable areas of activity that older members of society can play – filtering communications based on insights into how corporate life functions into language that scientists and academics can understand so that they can help deliver it for society and markets.


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Marketing Yourself

Thomas Friedman, American journalist, columnis...

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I have been involved in a few start up companies and I have helped quite a few others to get their businesses cranked up, funded, and operational.

I have also advised many more that their ideas, their companies – were not ready for prime time.

Regardless of whether the ideas are fully formed one thing I think we can be pretty sure of is that if you are entering the work force now, whether it is because you have just graduated, or because the company you were with has folded… you should appreciate how much the marketplace for work is changing.

We are well down the road where every person on the planet has to be an entrepreneur in order to make money. Not just to become a billionaire, but just to work.

There was a fascinating article in the New York Times this week written by Thomas Freedman about this topic.  He talks about the massive change not only in values of successful companies, and the implications of this, but also about the changing workplace environment for employees – how employees nowadays don’t have yearly reviews, but quarterly, and how soon it will be monthly. This is the eat what you kill mentality that is part of our new society. It isn’t particularly pretty, and its not something that I like myself, but its the reality.

My belief is that we need to be pragmatic about these things and deal with the cards that we get dealt.

Now, having said that… while I was wandering the halls of the building that I spend a fair bit of time it, I bumped into a PhD student who I know. I had just read the Tom Friedman article and ironically the student asked me if I answer a couple of questions about what he was intending to do after he completes his PhD – next year.

He works in a fairly esoteric area of biomaterials science in printing of cells. However, he told me that he is interested in going to work for one of the large consulting companies. My advice to him was to not start where you hope to end, but rather to figure out a strategy to ensure that you get noticed.

I suggested to him that he should start by researching a company in the biotec sector that he is is researching and then to try to contact the CEO of such a company, not to try to get hired, but to see if he could undertake further research – this time into the market ecosystem in which the company operates. By asking whether you can do research, you get through the door relatively easily. Most CEO’s will open the door to someone who is smart and not trying to sell something.

And if they get the sense that the person interviewing them is really smart, they will probably ask that person to contact them when they complete their formal education…. CEO’s always want to hire the smartest guys in the room, and especially when they are not asking to get hired.

So my advice to anyone who wants to get a job, is to not approach it directly, but to think about how to get the person who you want to hire you to come up with the idea that you would be a good person for them, so that they try to sell you on the idea…

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