Friday, March 18, 2011

Are you tough enough to succeed?

This isn't a new idea, but it's one worth repeating.

When it comes to success; talent, intelligence, personality, and innovation all take a back seat to one thing, grit.

Are you willing to practice harder, study longer, get up again and again after after being knocked down? The willingness to do that has more bearing on your future than your birthright, your degree or your brilliant smile.

More and more research is coming out on this topic and it shows up in all levels of competition, from National Spelling Bee champions, to PGA professionals, to business leaders. It's about showing up, not just once, but over and over. It's about not taking no for an answer.

How many people in this world have been one idea away from a breakthrough, one phone call away from a big sale, one rehearsal away from a perfect performance but stopped short because it was just too hard?

Grit is what cures disease. Grit is what creates new markets. Grit is what wins wars. Grit is what separates the smart from the successful. And grit is what Winston Churchill was talking about in one of the simplest, most memorable speeches in our time.

"Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bracket mania

The NCAA basketball tournament has inspired a lot of other brackets. Radio stations around the country do the "March Madness of Music" pitting artists and songs against one another, Esquire has done the "Sexiest Women Alive Madness" and now comes one bracket no company wants to be on, the Consumerist Magazine, "Worst Company in America Contest"

This is just one more reminder that in this age of social media and the constant sharing of experiences, bad news travels fast. If you lie, disappoint, use questionable business practices, or just stink at customer service, word will get out.

And if you're really bad, you'll join this list of championship caliber companies.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Innovator, know thyself

When it comes to innovation, it's important to listen the voice of the customer, but don't ever put him in the driver's seat.

Innovation should be driven by your brand and what it stands for. The trick is, it has to stand for something first.

Most innovations fail because they only provide a functional benefit to the customer that can be easily copied and 'value-engineered' by a crafty competitor in less time than you can say "Let's manufacture it in China."

True innovation is an the artful blending of business strategy, consumer insights, technological improvement and a brand promise that differentiates you from everyone else. Leave out one element and you might as well not even bother.

That's what made Facebook sticky and MySpace an also ran.
That's how iPod was able to bury Zune.
That's why Swiffer was able to dust the Clorox ReadyMop.

That's what differentiates innovators from imitators.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Big brother, Flo

Want to save up to 30% on your car insurance?

All you have to do is let one of the largest insurance companies in America monitor your every move for six months. Yeah, that sounds good.

Yesterday, Progressive Insurance rolled out its Snapshot discount program nationally after an extensive test market. It promises huge discounts for those who are willing to install an electronic monitoring device in their car and let the good folks at Progressive capture data about how and when you drive. Then based on that data, they'll rate your driving and calculate your discount. Here's how Flo explains it.

I may be growing more cynical in my old age, but I'd rather not give more information than necessary to companies that practice the dark arts of actuary. Especially when there's a possibility that information could be used against me in a court of law. Progressive promises to keep your information private except "when we're legally required to provide Snapshot data, such as in response to a subpoena in a civil lawsuit or by police when investigating the cause of an accident."

There's already enough monitoring of my daily activity going on with the GPS in my phone, cookies on my web browser and surveillance cameras on every street corner, and the promise of a few hundred bucks isn't worth it for me to give up a little more.

Maybe I'm wrong about Progressive. Maybe their motives are purely altruistic. But based the fact that most American companies put their profits ahead their customers' best interest on a regular basis, I won't be rushing to sign up for this service any time soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let the madness begin

It's time to fill out your brackets and prepare for another year of torment as you watch lock after lock disappear from your field.

This spot from ESPN is a fun reminder of the absurd methods people use in an attempt to win the office pool. As someone who's lost to a spouse who selected her brackets on the relative strength of the opposing mascots, I can totally relate.