Ponderlust

There is a phrase called Wanderlust.

wan·der·lust
ˈwändərˌləst
noun: a strong desire to travel.

There should be something called Ponderlust.

pon·der·lust
ˈpondərˌləst
noun: a strong desire to contemplate.

I know many people who have this symptom. When faced with a situation, they want to think about it, alot. In one sense, this can be a form of procrastination. They think and think and think indefinitely until the problem goes away. In another context, ponderlust might just be a curious soul who wants to think about lots of problems deeply. I am probably the latter.

Too many people do not have ponderlust. They would prefer NOT to think about the problem at all. Take the people who support building a wall in our southern border. If they took the time to think about it, they would realize that it’s impractical, expensive and ineffective to solve the stated problem. These people do not have ponderlust. They just jump to conclusions.

The right mix combines a healthy dose of ponderlust with a sense of action. You need to take that pondering and do something with it. Pondering with no action is as bad as action without contemplation. The world and your own life is better when you mix the two.

How well do you balance analysis with action? This is something truly to ponder.

 

FUD

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

FUD is responsible for millions of deferred decisions each day. It stops us from embracing reality, moving forward and dealing with our circumstances. FUD doesn’t make you conservative or liberal. It makes you stick to the Status Quo.

The Status Quo is the universal remedy for FUD. You might be in a terrible situation either personally or professionally, but FUD makes you avoid changing anything because the new reality might be even worse.

Famous incorrect words: “It couldn’t get any worse!”

Of course things can always get worse, but they can also get better. FUD is wired into our brains back when a bad decision would literally cause us to die. Imagine some early caveman who said, “I love change! I wonder what would happen if I went into the woods at night?” [sounds of bears eating caveman] Obviously, that “devil may care” attitude has been mostly bred out of us. The ones who survived are the ones who had a healthy dose of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about any changes to the status quo.

So we have this ancient fear of being eaten by a bear, but we live in a society with smart phones and cars and laser beams. We clearly have the capacity to shhh our inner caveman, at least sometimes.

As a UX Designer, I always avoid asking people to ignore their inner caveman. Rather, I use the caveman to delight customers with animations and other psychological tricks. However, in life, you are better off ignoring the caveman and modifying your point of view.

I think the appeal of Donald Trump to his base is largely about FUD. New technologies, new ethnic realities, new economic truths…all of these create a disturbance in the Status Quo. “Make America Great Again” is code for “Go back to the status quo when we didn’t feel FUD.” Its code for returning to a more racist past. The past, no matter how terrible (and for many americans, the past was a much scarier and sad place) it is still knowable and therefore not scary.

At work, I am designing software that disrupts the status quo. Therefore, I have to deal with FUD. In fact, I’m up to my eyes in it.

If you really thought about it, your behavior was recently influenced by FUD. Do you care? Maybe it feels safer to not care. Because if you changed…who knows if it would be for the better or for the worse?

Something to ponder.

 

 

Paying Attention

Before they can pay money, they have to pay attention.

Make no mistake, it’s a real currency. Every waking moment is accounted for. Whether it is social media or a smartphone game or even staring at the wall, you are paying out your daily allowance of attention. Most companies want to earn your attention dollars. They are a key performance indicator of marketing departments the world over.

Companies shell out billions to get little slices of your attention. Billboards, commercials, ads, product placement. It’s a huge industry. However, measuring attention has been dicey at best. Usually, it is some form of sampling the wider audience and extrapolating the larger trends. Google has innovated here with the idea that a by-product of attention is Googling it. When you care about something, you Google it.

For example: Here is Google’s interpretation of attention paid for Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton for the past 18 months. It seems that Trump has been able to get you to pay attention more than Hillary has. She does seem to be catching up though.

For small businesses, Google Trends doesn’t have enough data to give you a coherent view. The Engagio product with Account Scoring makes more sense for businesses. It translates the activities prospects and customers do into attention minutes. These minutes are rolled up in the account and made visible.

The point is that a trend of attention is crucial. In other words, if the trend of paying attention is going down, the likelihood of them paying you real money is very low.

Here are some tips to get more attention from your audience:

Be Interesting
Go to the websites of your favorite B2B software. Boring, boring, boring. My God, have a point of view! Don’t just do the lowest common denominator of writing. Be funny, be wise, be provocative, just be interesting!

Tell Stories
Read Made to Stick – stories are how people remember. Stop telling them facts and start telling them anecdotes about how real people use your software.

Be Authentic
Don’t try to put on a fake persona. Speak from the heart. People are turned off by fakery and will pay their attention elsewhere

Keep it fresh
Just because you got my attention last week doesn’t mean you will get it next week. It’s a never ending cycle, sorry. You need to keep being interesting forever. Paying attention is a “What have you done for me lately?” game. You have to keep innovating.

Be inspiring
Like in Jerry Maguire when Dorothy said, “I just want to be inspired.” That is the whole world. Describe a world that is truly better than the one we currently have.

Get to the point
Don’t waste my time. Give me fewer words to read and Ill pay attention more easily. Don’t make me pay attention so that I can pay more attention. Just get to the point.

 

Thanks for paying me some attention.

Engagio closed $22M Series B

Original Haiku Post

I am currently Head of Magic (PM/UX) at Engagio. The experience so far has been excellent. The culture is authentic and vibrant. The product vision is very strong and the market dynamics couldn’t be better. Engagio has a strong analytics product already in the market, which is doing very well. Additionally, we have built a new product called PlayMaker and Scout that I believe could revolutionize how companies organize and coordinate their account activities. It is what keeps me awake at night.

Today, we just announced a 22 million dollar investment by Norwest Partners. We plan on using the money mostly to buy a mega yacht. (Kidding!) Actually, we plan on using it to grow and accelerate our vision and product line. That means, we might spend the money on YOU. (Assuming you fit one of the hiring roles)

Check out the open positions at Engagio.

A startup is no place for a status quo corporate cog. You wear many hats and do things very differently. There is a transparency, collaboration and openness that just doesn’t exist in a company with hundreds or thousands of people.

There are many positions open and more in the coming months. We have had tremendous interest, so some people are interviewing for a position that opens up in 2017. Design and PM positions are not until 2017, but I am happy to meet with people in advance.

It is an exciting time. Hopefully the next 5 years will be a wild ride to another IPO and bazillions of dollars. Then I could finally retire and buy that mega yacht! For now, one step at a time. I gotta get back to the product.

The Decline of Facts

I’m not looking forward to the presidential debates. The reason is that facts will not be part of the discussion. Imagine this fictitious argument:

  • Fact Person: “The world is spherical.”
  • Feelings Person: “I feel that it is flat.”
  • Fact Person: “There are pictures, science, facts. It’s provable!”
  • Feelings Person: “All of that is faked. Photoshopped. It’s all paid for by Big Round, the round earth lobby.
  • Fact Person: “How can I prove to you that this is a fact.”
  • Feelings Person: “You can’t. How can I prove to you the world is flat?”
  • Fact Person: “What?? You can’t. It’s spherical! Idiot!”
  • Feelings Person: “Oh, so not you use name calling. Good argument.”

Do you see how facts are impossible to prove to someone who doesn’t want to hear them? On the internet, every point of view has a page that supports their ideas. How can we move forward in this world if facts don’t matter?

Newt Gingrich got in an argument about violent crime. He said, “People feel that crime is worse now than ever.” The moderator said, “But the statistics say the opposite is true. Crime is way down!” Gingrich replied, “I’ll go with what people feel and you go with the facts. Let’s see who wins that election.”

That is terrifying. Facts don’t matter. Only feelings matter.

As a B2B product leader, I actually know that feelings actually do trump facts. (No pun intended). The way a product makes you feel is more important than how much money is makes your company. Feelings are more powerful than facts. So much crazy behavior stems from this.

I don’t try to fight that in product development. Rather, I lean in and make sure the application nurtures people’s feelings as much as their bottom line. However, as a progressive, I have trouble mapping that to the current political environment. How can Hillary win when she is just using facts? She needs to build up her foundation of positive feelings.

Come on Hillary, I know you can do it. 🙂

*Fact: Not photoshopped.

Taking advantage of the herd mentality

It is a sad truth, people go in herds. There are obviously some early adopters, but the majority of people do not want to be the first one to do something, even if it is clearly a good thing to do.

Case in point: The NFL Draft.

It has been studied and proven that the 2nd and 3rd rounds are nearly as effective as the first round when it comes to getting NFL starters and potential great players. However, the 1st rounders get paid 5x as much. A smart team will always trade their first round picks to the highest bidder in exchange for many picks in rounds 2-5. In other words, never draft in the first round. Ever.

How many teams do this despite scientific evidence that it works? Just the New England Patriots. Why can’t my team, the New York Jets, do this? The answer is the herd mentality.

The owners are the only ones who can take responsibility for such a move. These are conservative white men making the decisions. They don’t want to look foolish. So they end up doing what everyone else is doing and the Patriots keep getting a statistical edge.

Another case in the NFL is going for it on 4th down. Check out this chart:

These are statistics that show that NFL coaches are wildly conservative in their play calling. It’s not only scientifically proven, but obvious to the fans that when you are 4th and 1 at the 50 yard line that you should go for it. Yet, despite all evidence and common sense, coaches do not go for it.

How does this apply to software UX?

I often find myself arguing with people over these exact issues. People do not want to be trend setters, they do not want to be early adopters. Thankfully, startups are generally filled with early adopter types, which is why startups can more easily innovate. However, even within that crowd, skepticism is the norm.

For example: The Save Button.

There are times when a save button makes sense, but usually a save-as-you-go (Autosave) method is preferable. The system should allow undo and let the user just work. Think about how Google Docs work. You just type and it saves. However, most UX designers still think that the long form save button methodology is the way to do things.

It’s herd mentality.

The Good News.

Everyone is doing it wrong! You can be Bill Belichick if you want to. All you need to do is identify when people are all doing something BECAUSE they are all doing it. That is the litmus test. Find the herd. Then look for options. When you find something that few people do, yet is really good, you have struck gold.

Here are some of the choices I have made exactly for this reason:

  1. App metaphor in a browser (Hotkoko 1999)
  2. jQuery on the website for enhanced interactivity (Intuit, Quicken, Quickbooks, TurboTax – 2006)
  3. Drag and drop landing pages rather than boxes in a template. (Marketo 2007)
  4. Using a JS component library (Marketo 2007)
  5. Autosave (lots of examples over the years)
  6. Animations and transitions (Engagio 2016)
  7. Cartoon characters in the UI (Engagio (2016)

Anti-herd choices are valuable to you to differentiate and to gain benefits against competition. It’s worth your time. The real question is: Can you escape the herd mentality that may guide your decisions?

Verizon didn’t exactly buy Yahoo

In the news today it says “Verizon Announces $4.8 Billion Deal for Yahoo’s Internet Business” and “Verizon Buys Yahoo for $4.83B”. This confused me at first because Yahoo has over 40 billion in assets. Then I read the article and realized that Verizon bought the operating business but NOT the capital and assets.

Here is the relevant part:

“After the sale is completed early next year, Yahoo will become a holding company for its two stakes in China’s e-commerce leader, Alibaba Group, and Yahoo Japan. Those investments” … “are worth more than $40 billion before taxes.”

“Yahoo also still has a patent portfolio that it intends to sell, and about $7.7 billion in cash.”

“The holding company will drop the Yahoo name and adopt a new identity after Verizon takes control.”

With that much money and holdings, the new identity (let’s call it NewHoo!) could potentially become the world’s largest venture capital firm. My prediction is that NewHoo! Investments becomes a world behemoth in VC. This will spur innovation (and some wasted effort) in lots of new companies.

It’s possible they retain some building space and do a Y Combinator space sharing incubator thing with their investments.

For Verizon, the deal makes sense. They need page views to put their AOL (purchased last year) ads on. 5 billion is chump change to them. It might as well be a life-style purchase.

For Yahoo! it makes even more sense. They have no reason for making content. They don’t know who they are. This is way to put their assets to work. They collect 5 billion and sell another 7 in patents. Google and Microsoft are likely bidders in that war.

So, Verizon bought the crap Yahoo wanted to get rid of. Yahoo becomes the worlds largest VC. And the world keeps on spinning. Long live Silicon Valley.