Wednesday 22 May 2013

Next Level Marketing and Kanye West

Yo, big marketing firms. I'm really happy for you and Imma let you continue running your business, but Yeezy had one of the best product launches of all time. One of the best launches of all time!

That's right. Kanye West is at it again and breathing new life into the term "Hype Beast". 
How? It all began with a tweet earlier this month. All Mr. West stated was "June Eighteenth." Then came the speculation. What could it mean? Kim's due date? A new single perhaps? 

No and no. JUNE EIGHTEENTH marks the release of his his much-awaited 6th solo album and of course, the build up is keeping us at the edge of our seats. So, now the world knows the meaning behind the cryptic "June Eighteenth", but that isn't enough to increase album sales and Yeezy knows this (Yeezus knows all).

On May 19th, Kanye updated his website with a flash-style map that would reveal the locations for the world premiere of his latest single "New Slaves". He was in 66 places at once as the video was projected onto 66 different buildings in the United States, Europe, and Australia. This was COMPLETELY unexpected and absolutely brilliant. What better way to build anticipation and generate word-of-mouth! The only thing missing was a Vancouver launch...he forgot about us Kanye-dians.

But all in all, this is how you increase physical compact disc sales. For a soon-to-be obsolete item you need to pull a Kanye. That is, a big, bold, and brilliant Marketing Artiste move. THIS, is how you execute a world premiere. THIS is how you get the masses talking. THIS is some NEXT LEVEL MARKETING.

Check out the Williamsburg premiere
Black Skinhead SNL premiere

In case you were interested in his other great marketing schemes:

2010: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
He made this film to generate hype for his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

And who could forget...

"That song evokes so much emotion, and four minutes of imagery limits the ideas that you're supposed to give for the songs, so I had to do three."-Kanye West on Jesus Walks

Jesus Walks 1

Jesus Walks 2

Jesus Walks 3

Behind Kanye's Mask: An Interview with Yeezus himself

Kanye West on 'Yeezus' Leak: I Give 'No F*cks at All'

Sunday 14 April 2013

Speeding Up Projects: More than Gantt Charts

The phrase project management is being used now more than ever before. So much so that Project Management has transformed into a profession.  In recent years, many organizations have changed focus to become more innovative, to experiment with new markets and products, and employees are becoming more cross-functional due to the rise of the projects. As projects are increasing in relevancy, and becoming more commonplace in rapidly changing environments, the demands on Project Managers to deliver more quickly and efficiently are also increasing. Bruce Dearstyne’s, “Smoothing the Turbulence: Project Management Strategies for the Changing Workplace” addresses the demands placed on Project Manager’s and discusses strategies to ensure successful project management.
The purpose of Dearstyne’s work is to help Project Managers be more effective and efficient when it comes to completing projects. He identifies and describes seven focus areas for Project Managers:
  •          Align Projects with Business Objectives/Priorities
  •          Apply Intense, Hands-On Management Skills
  •          Accelerate Project Work
  •          Incorporate Risk Management into Project Management
  •          Practice Agile Project Management
  •          Incorporate Social Media Technologies
  •          Deliver/Measure Project Results
All of the strategies Dearstyne identified can lead to success, but Accelerate Project Work is the most fundamental strategy of the seven for project success.
When Dearstyne explains Accelerate Project Work, he points out that in fast-paced constantly changing environments of business today; Speed is of greater value than quality. Project Managers need to be able to adapt to this need for speed if they are to progress in the profession. According to Robert Wysocki, the best way to Accelerate Project Work is to:
1. Emphasize empowerment accompanied by accountability and responsibility.
2. Make exceptions to defined processes when justified.
3. Resolve issues and problems on the spot through conversation.
4. Promote information sharing via electronic communications rather than meetings.
5. Make meetings purpose-driven with an agenda and time limits.
Essentially, the strategies suggested come down to people on the project team. This is why Accelerate Project Work is so important. It focuses on the people on a project team. When it comes to projects we typically think of completion and success in the stages of a project.  We tend to view project completion in three steps: inputs√†processes√†outputs (IPO Model Figure 1). We think, “What’s the next step on the timeline? How do we do it? What are the sub-tasks?” We do not typically think about how we can be more efficient as a team to accomplish the tasks on-time and within budget.
The X Model is a more detailed IPO model and provides a more realistic view of the situation of a project because it considers the systematic aspect as well as the human aspect. “The inputs refer to the situation at the start of the project or to a situation prior to the present situation, while the outputs are related to the present situation” (Andersen, 2010). All of the activities that take place within the project (meetings, e-mails, drawing, building, etc.) are the work processes of the model. The Factual part of the model represents “the more formal or structural part of the project” (Andersen, 2010), and the Personal part of the model represents “the attitudes, needs, knowledge, skills, and experience of the members of the project organization, and their relationships to one another and to others” (Andersen, 2010)
This model is a great tool for Project Managers to help them consider the whole team and how they will contribute to each part of the project. By providing this overview of two systems, that of the technical tasks and the people involved, can potentially help projects be completed more quickly because Project Managers can visualize how to use their team for a set task.
Ultimately though, when working with a group of individuals it comes down to the Project Manager to bring them together to function as one unit— a team. So in order to Accelerate Project Work, Project Managers need essential leadership skills and the ability to understand the stages of a team.  The stages of a team are forming, norming, storming, performing (Adams & Anantatmula, 2010). Forming is when individuals come together for a common cause. Norming is when the culture of those individuals together becomes apparent to everyone in the group. Storming is the term to describe when the individuals begin to know and understand each other better. It is the stage when power struggles and conflict seem to arise. Performing is the stage when the individuals become united by a goal, begin to work together and finally become a team.
Leadership skills are necessary to understand that there are differences among the team members, to understand that everyone on the team is going through the change of adapting to this new “culture”, and guiding them through the change, so they perform well at the end of the project.
Tools like the X Model and suggestions for project success are plentiful and would be able to help any project because pretty much everything involves technical systems and people. But awareness without implementation ability holds no weight. If the Project Managers are able to apply Wysocki’s suggestions to the personal aspects of the X Model, the team members may feel more motivated to perform at a higher level. Higher level performance often means a higher quality product for the business. If the team finishes the project more quickly it also gives the business more time to gain customer feedback about how the product could be improved. A higher quality product for the business could lead to the acquisition of new customers, and happier existing customers. A Project Manager that can understand that the people affect the systems will be able to understand how to use the X Model and Wysocki’s suggestions to Accelerate Project Work. It is something so simple and so obvious. But it is also an art, something that is easier said than done.
What do you think? Of the seven focus areas for project management success suggested by Dearstyne above, which one is vital to project success
Andersen, E. S. (2010). Are we getting any better? comparing project management in the years 2000 and 2008. Project Management Journal41(4), 4-16. Retrieved from
Adams, S. L., & Anantatmula, V. (2010). Social and behavioral influences on team processes. Project Management Journal41(4), 89-98. Retrieved from
Dearstyne, B. W. (2012). Smoothing the turbulence: Project management strategies for the changing workplace. Information Management Journal,46(2), 28-33. Retrieved from

Graphically Speaking

Did you know that Visual Learners make up about 65% of the population? It’s true, but from time-to-time we still find ourselves sitting through horrid text-filled PowerPoint presentations and 100% orally-delivered lectures. Seriously. I once attended a philosophical talk about what could have been a fascinating topic. It turned out to be 45 minutes of Professor X READING his paper in front of 50 people.  
I can tell you from personal experience that this type of presentation can be hard to focus on (especially for 45 minutes) and hard to remember after delivery (I have no idea what he was talking about).
Here are some things to keep in mind for your presentation or report.
1. Organize Text Graphically
Use bullet points and numbered lists, clear headings, and white space. By using these appropriately, your audience wont be intimidated by the work and will remember the information better since it is categorized.
2. Use Images
I love when someone copy-pastes an essay into PowerPoint and calls it a presentation. Please don’t be that guy.
Create infographics to tell a story, use pictures to convey emotion, and generate charts/graphs to help people understand complicated concepts.
I recently used a LIVE POLL to generate data graphically. People love to see change in real time.
3. Body Language
The most convenient visual tool to use is ourselves. I could tell you that “a male platypus is 50-60 cm in length” or I could demonstrate it’s size with my hands! I could try to explain the steps to the Dougie, or these guys could show you.
I am one of the 65%. Keep me in mind the next time you have to deliver a message to the masses. Use these tips to SHOW people what you’re talking about and people will be more attentive and more likely to remember your message.

Friday 29 March 2013

Personality, Communication, and Leadership

Personality types can be classified differently depending on which test is taken, but for the purposes of this blog I will only consider the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
The test classifies personality traits into 3 categories

  • Extraversion (E)
  • Introversion (I)
  • iNtuition (N)
  • Sensing (S)
  • Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J)
  • Judging
  • Perceiving
How does knowing your personality type connect to communication and leadership?
Knowing your OWN personality type can help you understand why you react to people the way you do. But what's more valuable is understanding OTHER personality types.

To effectively communicate with different personality types the key traits we must acknowledge are
  • Sensing vs iNtuition
  • Thinking vs Feeling
  • Judging vs Perceiving
Sensing vs Intuition
People with a tendency towards Sensing appreciate details whereas those with a tendency towards iNtuition prefer generalizations.

Student: How long many pages are expected for the report?
Sensing Teacher: Exactly 9 pages
iNtuition Teacher: As many pages as necessary, but no longer.

Thinking vs Feeling
People with a tendency towards Thinking appreciate direct straightforward communication whereas those with a tendency towards Feeling prefer to be eased into communication.
A company is downsizing and has to let go of some employees. Below are how a T and F would break the news:

T: Due to budget cuts we will be laying off some employees. If you need assistance finding a new job you can call the HR line. Do you have any questions?
F: I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but XYZ is downsizing and we have to let some people go. It has nothing to do with your performance. I understand that this may be a difficult time for you, so I want to help you in any way. Again, I apologize for this and will be happy to help you find employment elsewhere.

Judging vs Perceiving
People with a tendency towards Judging appreciate concrete timelines whereas those with a tendency towards Perceiving prefer to go with the flow.

Below are some examples of how you might assign deadlines to a J and P:

Assigning deadline to a J: Please have the assignment completed by March 11th, 11:59 PM.
Assigning deadline to a P: When do you think you have the assignment completed?
By asking a P to create their own deadline you can increase accountability and leave less room for excuses.

By understanding different personality types and how they take in information you can reduce misunderstandings and increase accountability.

Learn more about the MBTI!

Harry Potter and the Resolution of Conflict

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1), Harry, Ron and Hermione are on a mission to find and destroy the 7 Horcruxes (evil objects). The Horcruxes are not easily destroyed and have to be kept safe until the three find out how. The problem is that when a Horcrux is on a person, the person begins to see things in a negative light and behaves in a manner unlike him/herself. Ron was subject to this Horcrux “spell” and began perceiving situations that were not so. For example, Harry and Hermione in love,  and Harry speaking poorly of Ron. This resulted in a huge fight between Harry and Ron, and was not handled in the best way. This perception was Ron’s personal Horcrux and below I talk about two ways by which he could have destroyed it.

Walk the Cube
This is a process I learned in my Organizational Behavior class. It is a 4-step process that involves the two people involved, in this case, Harry and Ron.
  1. Say what you saw: “I had a vision of you and Hermione kissing.”
  2. Tell the story you made up about it: “I thought you two were actually in love and doing this behind my back knowing about my feelings towards her.”
  3. Say how you felt about it: “I felt angry, confused, and betrayed.”
  4. Say what you want from the other person: “I want you to speak your mind and tell me when I’m being ridiculous.”

In situations that are completely out-of-hand and cannot be resolved in one-on-one conversations a third party may need to be involved. When these types of situations occur you may need to consider the following Alternative Dispute Resolution methods:

a third party facilitates discussion to arrive at a negotiation

Conciliation: a third party visits each person separately. The two people rarely meet to discuss the issues.

Arbitration: a third party decides how the conflict is to be resolved through a legally binding document that is to be signed by the people involved.

Litigation: when the conflict is resolved in court before a judge

Now that you’re equipped with these tactics, how do you think Hermione could have helped resolve the conflict as a third party?

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Listening in Leadership

When I thought about charisma I would think about people like Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., and anyone who has ever been a speaker on TED TALKS. According to 10 Habits of Remarkably Charismatic People, charisma is something deeper than delivering captivating speeches. 

I recently read an article about a perspective of humanity that expressed that people are only as valuable as the skills they possess. What the article was explaining is that people are perceived as more valuable when they can give of themselves. We are made to serve those around us. And this article supports that because it describes charisma as providing a service to the person you are listening to. 

Through the 10 Habits suggested I hear a common theme: listening. That is what it comes down to for one to be truly charismatic. But I want to take this past simply listening for the sake of being charismatic. Most of us have been, currently are, or will be in a leadership position at some point. But why is listening so important in a leadership position?

Team Development
If you want to have a high performing team it will take more than task completion. A high performing team will bring new ideas to the table. I recently learned that although some of the ideas will not be feasible, it is better to allow your team to get the ideas out of its system. Make them feel like they have been heard rather than shutting down the ideas before they have had a chance to discuss the ideas. Remember that not every great idea has to come out of your mouth!

Team Member Development
This is about getting to know your team on an individual basis. By talking to them and understanding their goals and motivations you are able to develop a stronger relationship with the team members (which can lead to loyalty and higher performance). You also develop an understanding of how you can help the individual achieve those goals through the project or job.

Leadership is about your team members and making them better, and listening is the best way to make that happen. I have been working on being a better listener for over a year now. It is difficult because it is draining. But it can become your most valuable skill whether you are a professor at a university or an up-and-coming director.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Marketing Communications Toolkit

A friend recently shared this extremely helpful checklist with me. Great tool to help define what avenue is important when developing a marketing plan for a company.