David M. Nour

Jan 082012
 

a leader and her teamWithin each organization is a core group that is chiefly responsible for the success of that organization. That core group might be a working team, an executive committee, or a board of directors. Or it could be an unofficial grouping of people from all three categories, typically consisting of no more than a dozen individuals. In this case, the application of ConnectAbility can be modified to take into account the dynamics of this core group.

ConnectAbility, for the core group, increases to the degree that there is a higher degree of alignment with stated goals as well as with each other. Trust levels must be high and cooperation must be natural and uninhibited. Good dynamics within the inner circle of productivity involve deep person-to-person communication and adaptability to changing circumstances and challenges. The greater the Desired Outcome, the greater the combination making up the level of ConnectAbility.

There is a strong focus on dynamics within the core group, because it is this group of individuals on whom the success of the entire enterprise depends. Without the interpersonal sensitivity and adaptability, this inner circle cannot perform to its highest potential, thereby blocking success no matter how much awareness there is to the individuals outside. Also, no matter how great the Awareness Factor of the effectiveness of the inner circle, unless they are aligned clearly with the goals of the organization (Desired Outcome), then the higher success will not be forthcoming. Finally, the greater the Desired Outcome, the greater the demand on the elements of ConnectAbility.

Below are Tips for Advancing Your ConnectAbility:

Leading people is not about telling them what to do. Rather, it’s about understanding how they fit into the work environment and how they can best be understood within that context.

Don’t just listen; also hear what is said. We’ve all heard of the importance of listening to others, but hearing is the challenge, closely followed by clearly confirming that we’ve heard the essence of the other’s message.

Strive to understand others’ points of view. Achieve better two-way communication by “standing under” the other individual’s perspective of any conflict or difference of opinion. It’s easy (and less productive) to protect our status and image. It’s much more challenging (yet definitely more productive) not to let our status stand in the way.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, teaches us about how quickly decisions are made by those who are good at what they do, whether experts at art or sports or business. Thin slicing is the term he uses to depict how little information such experts use to make their astute decisions. The best of them waste little time thinking about the unnecessary. When they’re trucking on all cylinders, their minds are powerhouses of instant decision making-every though a blink. In his book Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy D. Wilson writes of “the adaptive unconscious,” which “does an excellent job of sizing up the world…setting goals, and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner.” At their best, core groups are made up of personalities that complement one another. The best core groups operate on this basis of “blink,” complementary personalities, unreserved honesty and clarity in making quick decisions, and in deep commitment to the Desired Outcome.

David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning? and Enterprise Social Networking best practices. http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/

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Dec 252011
 

a young woman whispering in the ear of another womanOne of the best approaches to spreading a viral change campaign is to court key influencers. But recent research also confirms that the influenced may be as critical as the influencers. A recent study found that trying to track down key influencers – people who have extremely large social networks – can in some ways limit a campaign and its viral potential. Change agents instead need to realize that the majority of their audience, not just the well-connected few, is eager and willing to pass along well-designed and relevant messages.

Science News Online reports on related topical research by two social network theorists, Duncan J. Watts of Columbia University and Peter Sheridan Dodds of the University of Vermont in Burlington. These researchers tested the conventional wisdom that experts on a subject matter who love to talk can persuade dozens of others to adopt their opinions. If this were true, an excellent communication strategy would be to find those few critical people, convince them of the value of your change campaign, and leave it to them to persuade others.

Though this theory sounds good, it shouldn’t be your only approach. The researchers compared how far an idea would spread depending on whether it started with a random individual or with an influential individual who was connected to a lot of other individuals. They found that highly influential individuals usually spread ideas more widely, but not that much more widely. More important than the influencers, the researchers found, were the influenced. Once an idea spread to a critical mass of easily influenced individuals, it quickly took hold and continued to spread to other easily influenced individuals.

Dodds compares the spread of ideas to the spread of a forest fire. When a fire turns into a conflagration, no one claims that it was because the spark that began it was so potent. Instead, a fire takes off because of the properties of the larger forest environment: dryness, density, wind, and temperature. So, what’s the takeaway? According to the study, the best way to increase the odds of a person-to-person transmission of an idea is to make it a good idea. Some things are just fun to talk about. One of my favorite quotes by Seth Godin is simply, “Be remarkable – that which is worthy of remark!”

Are your efforts to change an individual, a team, or the organization at large, worthy of remark? How can you ensure that beyond the network of influencers, the influenced are armed with just the right message to create the broad-based viral effect you need to broaden your reach and your return on impact?

David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning and Enterprise Social Networking best practices. http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/

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Dec 232011
 

five-person business teamIn addition to such victims of “industry dissonance” as the late Enron founder Kenneth Lay and CEO Jeffrey Skilling, there seems to be a movement, perhaps due to the dramatic economic shifts occurring at the start of the century, in which the status-loving, jet-setting, deal-making celebrities of the 1990s are being replaced by awareness-sensitive leaders who are more performance oriented and less egocentric. Some clear examples of this trend are Disney’s preference for consensus builder Robert Iger over the more domineering Michael Eisner; Hewlett -Packard’s choice of low-key Mark Hurd over high-profile Carly Fiorina; and Intel’s transition from charismatic, rough-and-tumble Andy Grove to the more diplomatic and soft-spoken Paul Otellini.

When Otellini took over as CEO in May of 2005, he converted Grove’s old antagonistic philosophy of “only the paranoid survive” to the more discrete “praise in public, criticize in private.” To integrate a sense of connectedness into the company culture, Otellini hired sociologists and ethnographers to better discover what emotional ties potential customers had to certain product images in one particular region over another. Intel even hired doctors to work with their ethnographers to explore which technologies the elderly might find most useful in monitoring their vital signs or tracking how victims of Alzheimer’s ate. “I have seen more flexibility,” admitted Sony vice president Mike Abary, in a Business Week article, ‘more of an open mind-set than in years past,” appreciating the shift toward Intel’s increasingly collaborative attitude.

When Bill Ford Jr. took over as CEO of Ford Motor Co. after firing Jacques Nasser, it became clear that the corporate culture there was shifting away from Nasser’s aggressive, hierarchical status style to Bill Ford’s more collaborative awareness style. Bill is a passionate environmentalist and student of Buddhist philosophy. He’s much more people-oriented than Nasser, who shook up the company with his hyper-aggressive management style. Yet Bill Ford is no pushover. As Mark Fields, president of Ford’s Americas division, puts it in an issue of Time magazine, “You don’t have to be a tyrant to be tough.”

Though Bill Ford has since yielded the presidency to former Boeing executive Alan Mulally, he maintains a strong influence over his family’s company, remaining executive chairman. No lover of hierarchy, he answered, in a Newsweek article when asked about his giving up his title of CEO, “I’ve always said that titles are not important to me…What’s important is getting this company headed in the right direction.”

After handing the CEO mantle over to Mulally, Ford said, “I have a lot of myself invested in this company, but not my ego. I just want the company to do well. It’s not about me.”

Mulally was characterized in the Wall Street Journal as a new-age Lou Gerstner, a “gregarious man…an executive with a strong track record for building teamwork in a large organization.” This fit with Bill Ford’s style of maintaining the connectedness of his management team-”searching for a combination of subordinates who shared his desire for a teamwork-oriented, collegial management culture.” In Mulally’s own words, as described in another Wall Street Journal article, “You talk to customers, dealers, Ford employees, UAW, your suppliers, your investors-everybody…I know that’s what I have to do. I need to network with these groups.”

While General Motors and Chrysler floundered in 2009, Ford’s U.S. market continued to grow. Upon ascending to the leadership of Ford, Mullaly had acquired what he jokingly termed “the biggest home-equity loan in history”-cash and credit worth almost $30 billion-a brilliant deal, according to financial analysts. With its focus on smaller cars and electric vehicles, Ford was in much better fiscal shape than its competitors, an indication that connecting with employees and customers does work where other approaches are not as nimble.

About the Author:
David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning? and Enterprise Social Networking best practices. http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/

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Dec 112011
 

box that says "handle with care"There are a number of components we must keep in mind when it comes building and nurturing our strategic relationships. The following seven areas will help you build these key relationships:

Relationships are assets. In any business setting, relationships are assets. As such, they can be created, managed, nurtured, measured, and even discontinued, intentionally and consciously.

It’s all about who cares. Business cannot exist in the absence of people relationships. The stronger the relationships, the more potential for success in the business. It’s not whom you know that counts; rather, it’s who cares whether or not you know them. The more they authentically care – whether the “they” are associates, prospects, customers, or vendors – the greater the potential for success.

People relationships make up the business. When the purpose of a relationship changes, the expectations and “rules” that apply also change. In that sense, the purpose defines the nature of the relationship, which survives until the purpose or desired outcome is met. Then that particular relationship ends, or transforms into a new one if a new purpose is agreed on. Therefore, desired outcome is the organizing factor in business relationships. Without it, there is no meaning to the relationships.

The Desired Outcome defines the business. All relationships can be evaluated with regard to the desired outcome, which may be as simple as casual friendship or as complex as the organization of a federal institution. A marriage contract is one that overlaps broadly between personal and legal aspects of a relationship. The success of a business relationship always refers back to the desired outcome, which might change over time, requiring ongoing evaluation.

The key to success is the core group. Any business, other than “mom-and-pop” operations, is run by a select few, which we refer to as the “core group”. Core groups, committed to reaching the desired outcome, are the key to success. Without an effective inner circle, the business will fail. The potential for success of any business can accurately be predicted on the basis of the cohesion of its core group.

Show me the people. A primary contribution to the structure of cohesiveness is that businesses are not the brick-and-mortar buildings that house them, but rather the relationships that constitute the social network of the individuals making up the organization. Accordingly, the business is the dynamic interaction between and among its members as they focus on the desired outcome. All the rest, including the brick-and-mortar physical space, the paperwork files, and the related inventory (if there is such), are merely the physical manifestation of the business, not its essence.

We have met the business, and it is us. It then follows that the business exists whenever and wherever two or more people communicate to achieve the desired outcome, including virtual connection over the Internet. A “virtual” business may have no brick-and-mortar home yet be highly successful. But it must have a relationship network of individuals focusing on a desired outcome.

David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning? and Enterprise Social Networking best practices. http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/

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Nov 272011
 

There are three fundamental componena cracked egg with money in itts of revenue growth.

  • The Gradient or slope of growth;
  • The Torque or speed of growth; and
  • The Fuel Efficiency or Profitability of growth.

As you can imagine, there are multiple scenarios in which an organization’s actions (or lack thereof) can contribute to its positive or negative direction. One, which is particularly perplexing, is the misguided correlation between product or service line extension and innovation. Let me explain:

In a 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review Bain Consultants Mark Gottfredson and Keith Aspinall wrote, “What’s the number of product or service offerings that would optimize both your revenues and profits? For most firms, it’s considerably lower than the number they offer today.” They add that “Continual launches of new products and line extension add complexity throughout a company’s operations, and as the costs of managing that complexity multiply, margins shrink.”

Several companies are producing zero revenues from product extensions they’ve developed, reinforcing the fact that leaders confuse proliferation with innovation. For many organizations the quick fix is to modify an existing product or service. What they don’t foresee is that although a product line extension sounds easy and attractive, it often subdivides the sales volume among more choices and adds little net new growth!

Of course, there are exceptions – the extension of the iPod to the iPhone and iPad has increased Apple’s sales of all three by attracting both net new consumers, as well as those like me, who own all three products. What I don’t understand, however, are the eight models of the iPod, eight of iPhone and eight of the iPad! Where does the volume come from? At what point do you cannibalize one version? For instance, why would I buy an iPod if I owned an iPhone? For others, their entry point is the iPad (from which you can make and receive calls), eliminating the need for the iPhone!

However, now there are three times as many items to make, inventory, ship, display, promote, and sell. If there aren’t three times as many sales, the cost of managing the triple variety eats into the profitability. Seldom is another outcome possible. So, while the top line revenue growth remains constant or slightly increases, the bottom line goes down! The difference is that Apple has a very large, cult-like following and can afford the additional complexity and expense; most companies are not Apple! They’re also extremely astute in limiting the number of features in a new product launch, i.e., not including a camera in the first version of the iPad to create a strong pull through for the much-desired feature in subsequent releases. In my case, we tend to pass down the technology; when I upgrade, my wife or kids will get my iPad and current MacBook Pro.

When variety goes up, sales may go up a little, but profits often go down. Conversely, when variety goes down, sales may go down a little, but profits often go way up! Voilà…

This idea applies to competing priorities as well. Another company reduced the number of improvement projects to a few that people agreed were the real priorities. In six months, they delivered more benefit to the organization than in the previous two years.

So, how do you focus on the most compelling / pressing opportunities? How do you maintain and accelerate all three attributes of growth (slope, speed, and profitability)? Innovation is creating a repeatable, predictable process for doing things differently (true innovation) and not simply better (incrementalism mentioned earlier), through building strong, diverse and value-based relationships in the market into “signal scouts,” who have a vested interest in your success. Ideally, they will share faint signals from key trends in the market with you on a consistent basis; combined with your ability to understand you can act quickly on these trends.

When you use signal scouts as a funnel for new ideas, and collaborate with internal and external portfolio of relationships to nurture these ideas to fruition, you develop a line of sight to not only what the market needs, but on how to fill those needs with true innovation. In the process, you change your revenue models, business model, and can adapt in a much more agile fashion to changing market demands.

About  the Author:
David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning? and Enterprise Social Networking best practices. http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/

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Nov 132011
 

man creating a networkIn our experience, the following key factors heavily influence the results of many venture capital investments:

  • Selection and on-boarding of high quality, high-performance-minded entrepreneurs
  • Quality, speed, and convenience of high value interactions
  • Attracting and retaining the right professional managers at the right time in the emerging growth company’s life cycle

If you agree, then LinkedIn may be a solid approach to each of these attributes. Here’s how:

Selection and on-boarding of highly quality, high-performance-minded entrepreneurs – Get references on prospective entrepreneurs from your Relationship Bank. Traditional inquiries as to who used to work with a prospective entrepreneur is time and resource intensive. A targeted search on the company, geography, and key roles make this search simple. A profile on LinkedIn, as well as insights from past colleagues, can also help you more effectively plan for their selection, assessment, and on-boarding process.

Quality, speed, and convenience of high value interactions – Reverse or backdoor references are just a few clicks away with LinkedIn. And because access to these pivotal contacts is granted through your Relationship bank, they’re not only more likely to be candid, but will refer you to a broader set of potential references. Former managers, colleagues, investors, customers, suppliers, and strategic alliances can all provide quality conversations at a fraction of traditional outreach campaigns.

Attracting and retaining the right professional managers at the right time – Every emerging growth company goes through a natural life cycle that requires very different skill sets of its leaders. Few leaders possess the same focus, tenacity, and the relationships to succeed from zero to $1 million or $5 million in revenue as they do from $500 million to $2 billion-plus. Getting the right executive at the right time can often make or break a company. Recruiters may or may not be able to provide the right fit. Connecting on LinkedIn with highly trusted portfolio or 2 a.m. contacts in your Relationship Bank people who know you and your requirements to a particular company’s hands-on leadership needs, may be very effective in identifying someone with the whole package to lead your portfolio companies.

David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning™ and Enterprise Social Networking best practices. http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/

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Oct 302011
 

brain with the word "power" over itThe neuroscience of connecting with others tells us quite a bit about how we persuade others and negotiate with one another in financial transactions. At the Center for the Study of the Brain, Mind, and Behavior at Princeton University, Dr. Jonathan Cohen and his colleagues study game theory – more specifically, ultimate games. In one research paradigm, two players are involved, one giving the other an ultimatum. For example, you and Frank are given $100 on the following condition: Frank decides how the money will be divided between you and him and proposes that plan to you. If you agree, then Frank gets the money and it is divided accordingly. If you reject the plan, neither of you gets the money. So Frank has to try to come up with a sharing plan that gives him the most money yet enough to satisfy you so that you won’t reject his proposal.

You should be happy with any amount, since even $1 is better than nothing. But human nature is such that most people in your position refuse to accept the ultimatum if it’s “insultingly” low. For example, if Frank decided to share only $30 out of $100, most people would reject such a proposal. They’d rather get nothing than feel they’re being treated so unfairly. Then both lose out. That makes more subjective sense than logical sense – and that’s human nature.

But put in terms of social evolution, if you were joining a new group, your status would depend, to a large extent, on your ability to display power over others, which is largely manifested in terms of gratification of needs. If you settle for a smaller proportion in an ultimate game, you’re not as likely to garner respect. However, as time and the game go on, early refusals of smaller shares – resulting in no “income” – give way to the proposer offering you larger shares in order to make the game work – to keep you as a working member in the group.

In other words, if you refuse smaller portions, at first you get nothing, but neither does Frank, since both players have to agree for the proposition to work. Over time, Frank learns to respect your demands for a higher share and eventually an equilibrium arises in which you get more than originally offered, Frank learns that doing so is the only way to go, and a healthy relationship is formed. This will work out satisfactorily only if you are willing to refuse a small offer initially, even if you make nothing on that initial offer.

The underlying importance of the research described is the radical notion that we affect one another in ways never before understood. If you have any business or working relationship at all, then what each of us does affects the other much more directly than we ever realized. Imagine what that means to individuals working together on a daily basis. Imagine what that means to a boss trying to influence the workforce he or she manages. Imagine what that means to the leaders of industry as they influence and persuade those in their organizations to follow visions of financial success. Finally, imagine what that means in terms of the neuroscience of negotiations and marketing. There’s no turning back from this new power of making connections with others.

About the Author:
David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning™ and Enterprise Social Networking best practices. http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/

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