The Scoop @ MSCO

Unconventional Thinking

How Entrepreneurs Think

How Entrepreneurs ThinkFor starters, they think differently than everyone else. Oddly. Strangely. Never in a linear fashion. Always asymmetrically. Frequently in dangerous and outrageous ways. Einstein’s was not an entrepreneur, per se, but he said he liked to start with fantasies and work backwards to realities. If the realities existed at all.

That’s how Jobs thought. Musk. Edison. And the thousands you never heard of — and who don’t give a whit if their names are never mentioned in public.

So what are some of the key pillars of entrepreneurial thinking:

1. Dreams come before the strategies. A romantic vision that makes everything else seem superficial and commonplace. This morphs into the mission that makes the entrepreneur relentless.

2. Risk is not a “should I take the plunge or not” kind of ping pong thinking. It is a fact of life –in fact the thrill and the line in the sand that distinguishes the true entrepreneurs from the wannabes. While others may see risk as a necessary evil, entrepreneurs view it as the steep, exhilarating down slope on the dollar coaster.

3.What would no one else dare to do? Or what would the world date me to do? And in both cases, what would they think that doing it would lead to abject failure. To an entrepreneur’s mind, that’s “sign me up” time.

4. Is there a puzzle I can figure out? Something that has confounded others for years? The more daunting it appears to be, the more I want to take it on.

5.Success is never really SUCCESS. The balanced life crowd doesn’t get this, but they don’t get the restless mind of the entrepreneur. They are the lonesome cowboys of capitalism. There is always another roundup to gallop into.

6. Working for someone else is a form of imprisonment. Better to fail at creating the new widget than succeed as a middle manager at Ford.

7. Worrying about what others think of you is moronic. Time wasting. Pathetic. It’s all about the innovation.

8. Get rich: not mostly for the toys it buys but for the freedom (from everyone but yourself) it provides.

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Why Brand Obama Collapsed

ObamaBarack Obama rose to the US presidency on the power of one of the greatest and most thoughtful tech-driven viral branding and marketing campaigns in history. Brand Obama was a phenomenon for six years and two national elections.

And then suddenly the power of the brand began to deteriorate– slowly at first but then with the speed of a gathering avalanche. The question is, how did this happen and what can we learn from it for our businesses/our careers?

It all starts with the fact that the core of a great brand is not a logo but instead a “promise.” The brand promise defines what the product/service/candidate stands for. When people are attracted to the promise, they buy it. When they love the promise, they spread the word virally. When Obama promised “hope and change” from the weary old ways of Washington, the brand caught fire. And those who were happy with it and voted for the charismatic President stayed with him, even through the inevitable bumps in the road that face any product/service/candidate. Starbucks has had its setbacks but always rebounds. Amazon is in the midst of a writers’ revolt but the vast majority of its customers still adore the brand.

Things go south, at times implode, when a brand misleads. When it is perceived as no longer trustworthy. For Obama (regardless of anyone’s political position), this turning point occurred when his “promise” that one could keep their doctors and medical plans proved to be erroneous. Whether this was intentional or not, many believed that the Obama brand could no longer be taken at face value.

Once this crack in the dam occurred, the President’s actions were open to much higher levels of scrutiny. Does he work hard enough? Does he vacation too often? Is he just another politician? Is he soft in the foreign arena?

Independent polls are now revealing that Obama’s popularity is declining rapidly. In fact, his brand is collapsing. Who he is, how intelligently he thinks through issues, the way he views the world and his role– none of this may have changed.

But that’s not the point. Once trust in a brand is weakened, the love affair is over. The key is to recognize when that “crack in the damn” occurs in any brand and to take decisive action:

1. Correct any misconception that has led to brand confusion and apologize for it.

2. Demonstrate with specificity how you will move forward to restore confidence in the brand.

3. Recognize that a simple “open letter” will not suffice. Management (or a candidate) must communicate by doing as well as by speaking.

4. Meet with the key influencers in your market and seek their help in restoring the power of the brand and the loyalty to it.

 

Waiting too long inevitably leads to a loss that cannot be recovered. Brand Obama is still waiting.

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The Hard Truth: Why Promising Careers Nosedive

Career Nosediving Fighter JetYou start with a company and in short order everything feels like the right fit. More than that: Like you’re on a fast track trajectory that knows no direction save north.

For a while your sense of an inevitable rise to the upper echelons is reinforced regularly. Raises. Promotions. First to be offered the plum assignments. The most coveted offices. Even rides on the Gulfstream.

And then suddenly (as in the title of the Joseph Heller novel) Something Happens. And in true Kafkaesque fashion, you don’t know why the tailwinds have suddenly turned against you.The accolades you were getting nicely accustomed to–addicted to– have gone silent. Worse yet, they are being heaped on others.

The question is, WHY?

In most cases, it boils down to five reasons:

1. You discounted the importance of politics. Ugly as it may be, not a single company is a pure meritocracy.

2. You got complacent. You expected the ride to go on forever under its own combustion. The fact is, your seniors love to cut the legs off of that kind of entitlement with a simple series of emails.

3. You had your eyes on the prize– that’s fine– but you took them off of your internal competitors. That’s tantamount to suicide.

4. You failed to build a coalition. Even the CEO’s golden child needs a to drive a career through the rough patches. (Ask Jamie Dimon about Sandy).

5. You overestimated your place in the hierarchy. Nothing is bankable until the golden handcuffs are locked around your wrists.

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The Greatest Marketing Story Ever Told

Rin Tin TinWhen I was a kid growing up in New York, I dreamed of owning a dog. A buddy who would bound through the woods with me, swim in the clear lakes and ride by my side on toboggan hills.

But several gauntlets stood in my way: in the lower middle class borough of Queens where I lived, there were no woods. No lakes. And nary a hill nor a toboggan to be found. And worst of all my pet averse mom wouldn’t even cede to my begging for a parakeet. So was my dream short lived? Not at all.

Why? The power of marketers who knew not how to win Clios but instead how to make consumers fall in love, aspire to what could be against all odds and move product.

I would watch a TV show–Rin Tin Tin– about the glorious adventures of a boy and his beloved/heroic German Shepherd. The way it was set up, I had to get my pet-hating mom to buy cans of a rancid cake (yes cans) and then send in the wrappers in a contest whereby I also wrote little stories about how much I pined for a dog.

For two years, mom bought the cans of cake, I tossed the junk out, we sent in the labels and the letters. The fact that mom would never let a dog in the house and that our one bedroom digs were hardly roomy for a 100-pound buddy, well that didn’t matter.

We bought and bought and I dreamed and dreamed. Naturally, I never got the dog (I had to make do with a turtle), but I had the dream to cling to and the marketers had their sale. Is there any difference in selling shampoo that will make stringy hair lustrous? That will make tired men virile fireballs? That a new Acura will make you sexy?

Moral of the story: I learned more from the dog cake marketers than any professor I ever had. Regardless of how inelegant they may have been, they knew that marketing is a selling game And that hope springs eternal.

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Curve Balls, Counterfeits and Hand Grenades

Curveballs, Counterfeits and Hand GrenadesWhen I was a kid growing up in New York City, every street was a Carnival Of Surprises. Or should I say Battlefield.

You could never just walk along the concrete jungles lost in youthful daydreams, Leave It To Beaver style. Around every corner, behind every tree, aside every Simonized muscle car, stood a con artist, a fraud or an urban terrorist ready to pounce.

You had to read lips, decipher codes, see through walls, detect bullshit coming at you at the speed of light. You had to think on a dime, take punches in the nose and return the volley twice as hard, plan routes to success and emergency exits. Nothing was ever the same two days in a row.

Nothing even remotely predictable. It was a real time kaleidescope of everything life could throw at you. And though I didn’t know it at time, it was a Navy Seals boot camp for the entrepreneurial odyssey I would embark on as a teen.

It boils down to The Big Three Lessons:

+Curve Balls: Regardless of what you do, how you think, the income you may have and the wealth that may shine down on you, you will be smacked in the head with curve balls. It’s not what you do to avoid them that counts (as that’s impossible), it’s learning how to recover, to be resilient, to prevail and if necessary to vanquish the source of the toss. That is a priceless skill.

+Counterfeits: Half of what everyone tells you is a lie. The other 50 percent is just nonsense morphed over the years and the mean streets into conventional “wisdom.”

Takeaway: always start your thinking with a blank page.

+Hand Grenades: if you expect people to play fair, to have a sense of decency, to honor who you are and what you’ve built, watch out– the wallet in their back pocket is really a hand grenade.

Lesson Learned: make sure yours is a torpedo.

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