Give Your Brain a Jolt

As an experienced information and market researcher I’m always on the lookout for new concepts that will help me keep pace with the quickly evolving marketing landscape. These are resources that I use to both inspire and inform Romainiacs’ efforts—because sometimes, as my mother-in-law says—you need “a jolt.”

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Barking Up the Wrong Tree: This site brings you science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life. I read the weekly blog posts from top to bottom. Sometimes I read it out loud and I frequently forward the email to others. Recent posts include these thought provoking topics:

  • How To Focus: 5 Research-Backed Secrets To Concentration
  • NYPD Hostage Negotiators On How To Persuade People: 4 New Secrets
  • A Navy SEAL Explains 8 Secrets To Grit And Resilience


Business Source: According to the research, people who read business books make more money — a lot more, and even in tough economic times. So, I’ve signed up for the premium version of Business Source, a business book summary site. Best of all, I can digest these summaries in on my phone, iPad, Kindle, or—well you get the idea—any device. For January’s installment, I watched an animated video on the book titled

  • The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom without the 9-5.


Coursera: I just finished my first MOOC class and I can’t stop talking about it, as my colleagues will attest. I tried other open online courses before, but was disappointed. The class I just took was an Introduction to Marketing from the Wharton School of Business, which is the #1 business school in the world. The class was excellent because it was provocative, informative, and insightful. I’ve already signed up for another course. This one is on Design Thinking. If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is expand your knowledge base, you’ll want to sign up too. In an Information economy, we all have to be life-long learners and keep our skills sharp.


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Next Draft: Daniel Pink is one of my favorite authors, and he is a big fan of pushing yourself to keep current. He recently wrote that the NextDraft’s “Dave Pell scans what seems to be the entire Internet to find the most fascinating articles, which he then distills to a pithy, provocative, and punchline-packed read. I stop nearly every afternoon to give this newsletter a look.” I do, too—and I recommend that you add it your list of ‘can’t miss’ reads.

Get Yourself Into the Race

 re·sil·ience

Pronunciation: \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\

Function: noun

Date: 1824

1 : the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

In anticipation of a presentation I will be giving, I talked with Kim Dority about the essential ingredients for a successful information professional. Without hesitation, she said “resilience.”

I nodded to myself and added it to my PowerPoint presentation. But since then, I’ve been thinking: what does resilience really mean? It could mean that, like a punching clown, when you get knocked down, you have the wherewithal to get back up again. Certainly, this is a good trait as it takes character to “get back in the race”, but when you are down, you know there’s got to be a better way. 

Last week I heard a sustainable energy engineer talk about “building resilience into a system.” He was saying that rather than optimizing a system, you could increase strength and increase the possibility of success through building alternative pathways. Alternative pathways to success –now that is very relevant to the information professional right now. 

So, I asked Kim for a little more insight on her version of resilience, and here’s her take on it: 

“The ability to “get back up” is a part of the definition of resiliency, and especially speaks to issues of character and determination and confidence. But I also think that an ability and willingness to learn from our experiences, good and bad, is what turns the “getting back up” into making forward progress toward wisdom, and greater success, however one defines it.”

 Resiliency to Kim means:

  • Ability to get back up when life knocks you for a face-plant
  • Ability to accept setbacks as a natural and welcome part of growth, rather than as a sign of failure – it means you’ve got the courage to try new things, which is requisite to achieving anything in your life
  • Ability to move beyond comfort zones in order to respond to new opportunities
  • Ability to manage our usual reaction to change – i.e., fear or defensiveness – and instead embrace the adventure
  • Ability to see obstacles as momentary delays, for which you will seek alternative solutions. The engineer’s “alternative pathways,” are an on-target analogy

Kim continued with a good metaphor: body surfing, which has passive and active components. “I liken resiliency to body surfing, where your goal is to use the energy of the wave to achieve your goal. Everything I need to know I learned bodysurfing in Southern California… 

  • Anticipate
  • Position for opportunity
  • Paddle like crazy
  • Enjoy the ride, but know it will end
  • Don’t take the sand in your suit personally
  • Know that a new wave is always on the way

 That’s kind of how I think about resiliency! I think its critical issue for information pros!”

Are you driven?

Last night, the uniquely Portland bookstore “Powell’s City of Books” hosted author Daniel Pink, an engaging speaker and author of A Whole New Mind, Free Agent Nation, and The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.

I’d gained some real insight from Pink’s previous books and already purchased Drive—as the title is just so darn compelling. I’d also heard positive reports about this book from Jeff de Cagna at Principled Innovation.

So, what is it that DRIVES us? Of course, there are our biological drives: food, shelter, and finding a mate. And there are extrinsic drivers around rewards, such as our desire to obtain good things and avoid punishment—the carrot and stick.

But there are other intrinsic motivators and that’s really what this book is about. Yes, we need a paycheck, but we engage in work for a myriad of other reasons—because  it’s interesting, to contribute to serving a larger purpose, and to engage in a community.

In engaging employees, most business models stop at the extrinsic carrot and stick rewards. But, Pink says, this model works well only in a narrow range of circumstances, when work is simple and mechanical. It is not effective when creative solutions are needed. Humans have a mix of motives and, after a saturation point, cannot be manipulated to increase their productivity with more carrot and less stick.

In fact, Pink’s research found that when work requires higher level cognitive skills, higher rewards and punishments actually lead to worse performance. (Now you see why the subtitle of the book is “The surprising truth about what motivates us.”) When a problem does not have a clear direct answer, extrinsic rewards are not effective. Once you pay people “enough,” they want to engage by thinking about the work, not the reward.

Pink describes three intrinsic drives that motivate us: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy is the drive to be self-directed. Many business models require people to comply, but autonomy looks instead at engagement. For example, call centers typically time employee calls, monitor all employee actions, and put workers in “hamster cage-like, soul-hollowing settings.” As a result, turnover can be as high as 100%. In contrast, the shoe company Zappos implemented a different model. They give call center employees two weeks training that concludes with an offer of $2000 if the newly minted employee wants to quit. Interesting! For those that stay, which is the vast majority, their instructions are simple: “You know what to do; when customers call in, do it.” So the operators are free to solve the customer’s problem in the most appropriate way—which increased customer satisfaction. In fact, Zappos received customer service ratings equal to the Ritz-Carlton.  

Turning to mastery, Pink stated that as engagement is falling off at work, there is a rise in volunteering. People want to contribute. Open source software such as Linux, Apache, and Wikipedia are salient examples of this trend. People need interesting, challenging problems and will commit time and effort towards fulfilling this need.

How can a company engage our drive to purpose? Tom’s Shoes provides a relevant example as they give a way a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair you buy. By doing this, they attract customers who feel good about giving and turn their customers into benefactors. To address purpose effectively, business models need to combine profit and purpose. People are not horses – we have the drive to make an impact on the world and a need to contribute.

Go read the book!  Then, let’s talk a bit more about intrinsic rewards.