Q&A from today’s webcast

Thanks to everyone who tuned in – we had almost 300 people according to WebEx.

The webcast will be posted soon on O’Reilly’s youtube channel.

Next time I do one of these I’ll be sharper – there were lots of good snarky comments I missed in the chat room during the talk, plus a twitter stream (#berkun).

Here’s some of my favorite snarky comments:

From Melina: How to make things happen: 1) Have a good idea. 2) Be willing to implement that idea. 3) Be persistent until you get your way. $39.99 please.

from Steven: Now you see the repression inherent in the system…. (watch this if it makes no sense)

From Keith: First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.  (GandhiCon).

from Andy: If you’re getting coffee at the risk of getting shot, you might have an addiction.


From Kathy: How can you initiate change in today’s environment when colleagues/managers are scared and increasingly entrenched?

All emotions have power. If people are afraid or worried there is energy a persuasive person can use to support an idea. Anyone scared wants change – they want to feel safer from the thing they are afraid of. If you can propose an idea that makes them feel safer, they’ll be interested.

From Margaret: How do you recommend becoming better at persuasion and intuition?

Watch the ShamWow guy 50 times.

Ok, only half kidding. My next book is about public speaking and I will talk about this. But persuasion involves two things:  1) know your stuff 2) know your audience.  I’d pitch very differently to Steve Jobs than I would Bono. I’d tell different stories and emphasize different things. So one easy local tip: if ever you have to persuade someone, ask for advice from other people who have tried to persuade that person. You’ll learn from what worked, and didn’t work, from them.

From David: are there systematic methods for coming up with innovations? can you recommend?

I think not. Systematic is not a word I would use. There are systems for experimenting, including what scientists and researchers do, but that’s not the same thing as a systematic method for innovation. They have a systematic way of creating an environment where innovation is possible, perhaps likely, but there are never guarantees.  Most start-ups fail: it’s hard and risky no matter how good your ideas are.

Much of the time the biggest hurdle for an idea are other people. Whose approval you need, what resources you need loaned to you, and convincing customers to try your new thing. There are no guarantees with these kinds of challenges. Many innovations sit around ignored and rejected for years, only to accepted later, the same exact idea or concept, when people’s attitudes finally change.

That said, you can systematically breakdown all of the challenges you have to overcome, and decide where you need the most help.

From Jeffrey: Scott, consider a situation where a small company is acquired by a larger company, and change means giving up the way things have always been done in favor of fitting into and aligning processes with the larger organization. Any special tactics/recommendations?

If you’re the smaller company, the time for this is before you sign. You have leverage then to ask for whatever you want, including keeping certain job roles, working conditions, etc.

If your the larger company, I’d ask the smaller company. I’d invite them to visit our offices (not just their VPs, but some of their line level employees too) and ask them to consider what provisions we can provide them to keep their culture, or their secret sauce, intact. Just inviting them into the conversation scores points and builds trust.

From Clinton: What to do in an environment where there is so much change being driven by the customers as a result of contracts? Really so much change that you can’t keep up.

All contracts are signed by two parties, you and the customer. If there is too much change to be successful, or sane, it’s not the customers fault. It’s yours. Saying No is always important. Saying yes to everything, including deals with customers, dilutes your focus, stresses your people, and makes priorities impossible. If a client asked me to do more than I could, I’d tell them it’s in their interest I say No.

From Praveen: How to control creativity to make it safe.

I don’t know that you can. Like the example of moving your desk in the webcast, change always effects someone negatively, or will be perceived as such, by them. However if I’m the boss I make creativity and change safe by funding it, supporting it and nurturing it. It starts by providing constructive criticism of ideas and accept some of them. When people see one idea get approved, they’ll suggest more and trust you to be fair in how they’re judged.

If you tuned in and have a question, fire away in the comments.

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