Sunday, August 29, 2010

Want to be an Analyst? Use Social Media

While I was thinking on the topic to write, as flash, something on consulting popped up in my mind.. Not sure why it popped up but as I started thinking about it, started taking a different turn. In typical business consulting assignments some of the terms that we hear as a client from consultants/analysts are:

  • Top 10 Technology trends as per Gartner or Forrester for 2011- 2016
  • Best Practices given as Rx for success
  • Some Frameworks or business models promising a glorious future keeping in mind the current day business risks
Record Events
I have no abject disregard for these predictions but when I think of the current economic recession or any major scam which hits the headlines, I am forced think as to what happened to those predictions or forecasting by analysts or top notch consultants.What we get to read is always the post facto analysis of  the event as though it was obvious and we as naive intellects neglected to see through or were ignorant of these early warning signs. 

Why is that we find it easy to find a reason for failure(s) and not way to predict such failures and help avoid it?

This trend really bothered me and I got some interesting insights from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan..

We,humans, have this problem of retrospective determinism.Once we have an issue at hand, say economic recession, we are really good at looking at the chronicle of events,take a deep dive into it and come up with simplistic answers and the worst part is that the reason failure will usually point towards a single event or two.One more possible reasons,although not conclusive, that can be attributed for this kind of problem is our " Confirmation bias". When we have a set of events in hand, we would like to simplify it using our inferential systems and confirm our opinions than just look at events as is - empirical studies..

I am not going to proceed to try and solve this problem as I am also a victim of these biases. But the one piece that is interesting to me is " chronicle of events". In the chosen topic of interest start recording all the relevant events that you read or listen to. But how to record it? I use the social media platforms for doing it.The central point in this blog is about how one can record the chronicle of events in the chosen topic of interest using social media platform at no cost. Once could use:

  • Twitter favorites
  • Digg relevant articles
  • Share events or articles on Facebook
  • Audio/Video content on Youtube
  • Google Reader 
  • Any form of content syndication
pretty much the same platforms that you use on a daily basis. The only difference is that you will focus on recording events on the chosen topic of interest.Lets say the topic is "new technology in mobile phones". As you record these events and do an empirical study on a regular basis,your ability to predict future events can get  brighter..Imagine a set of predictions from side, if taken up by the right people, brings about stability /growth in that industry. I know that it sounds too ambitious and wishful thinking but what's wrong in dreaming such a scenario. When I think like an earthly mortal, these  events recorded in the social media platform can used to do a post facto analysis or retrospective determinism which anyways we are really good at. 

Let the analyst in you wake up!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Build your personal brand through Resume 2.0

This blog post is inspired from the movie 3 Idiots.Great movie with an excellent message for the educational system in India. Watch this video clip especially the interview scene- from the time 4.43 till 6:50..

The key message from the interview is that ones' simple, honest and direct approach may or may not yield results ( in this interview it did yield result) but for sure will resonate well with ones belief systems. This self belief has certainly helped Raju Rastogi ( the student in this movie) to speak his heart out. What worked for him was not his resume,certainly not his grades or qualification but the direct connect that he was able to establish with the interviewer with utmost honesty. I like this statement " It took 2 broken legs to get me on my feet" -brand Raju Rastogi

Now imagine Us.The body of knowledge, interests,passion,hobbies all that we have accumulated painstakingly for so many can we capture all that and represent ONESELF as a brand in a 3 page resume or within the 45 mins interview time.Tough isn't it 

The good news is that you don't have compress all that into a 3 page resume or a 45 min interview.We are living in interesting times.There has be a  tectonic shift in the way candidates are identified by organizations. For example Jason Zimdar, a graphic designer got his dream job @ 37  Signals without a resume. How is this possible? Its all about personal  branding. Much is written about the  need for personal branding and the ways to achieve it. Dan's Swabel Me 2.0 is an interesting book on personal branding.

 All it takes is 10 mins a day to just pen down your thoughts in some journal...even better if you can KEY down your thoughts in some kind of an online journal..

Although this blog post is not a prescription on how to build a Personal brand, here are some baby steps to get started:

  • Read interesting blogs: Based on your chosen topic, identify interesting blogs using technorati or blogpulse and read these blogs regularly.. You get an RSS feed onto your desktop
  • Start writing blogs: Use any of the free blogging tools like blogger,wordpress etc and get started with your online journal entries. I am sure there will be great inertia to start blogs as we are grappled with 2 questions: 
    • What Do I write?
    • How to ensure that am factually correct?
Don't worry about it. You are not writing a book for a world wide audience on day one. Let your blogs be based on your interests , areas in which you are  passionate about or on core subject matter. Content is more important than getting it grammatical correct( but don't ignore it)...The blog requires a theme and a personality and some mental disciple to put your thoughts on a regular basis.. Very simple isn't it

  • Get your social Media foot print: Suggest you have an account with Facebook for personal and professional contacts and Linkedin for purely professional reasons.This will certainly help you to get new connections,exchange ideas, promote blogs as well as to answers some questions on Linkedin.This will certainly make you more visible
  • Get Portable: Based on your interests, create portable video and audio files. Video files can be posted on Youtube and can be made viral through social media. Audio podcast is another interesting way to reach a large audience.You can push your podcast into Apple's iTunes or any podcast alley.
  • Graduate to next level: Once you have gained confidence. start contributing to vertical specific  blogs or for Usability, for marketing related content. This will help reach the right people within the industry
In all this there are 2 basic principles to be followed:
  • The content should be original - true reflections of your thoughts and opinions
  • Leave a trail - Make sure you leave your website or blog address or social media connect details
With better inbound links and social footprint your blogs/websites might get better ranking on Google.These initiatives will certainly make you easily searchable on the web.

New trend is that  organization wanting to recruit you will not longer be interested in the 3 page resume document. What will be more valuable and interesting is all the content that you have generated all along.The interviewer will potentially use all this information and form opinions. With the new age resume there is no need to compress information.  Get started and everything that you write gets automatically added to your new resume  - Resume 2.0

Make a journal entry and your valuation starts.....  

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Reset your Value Systems thru Social Media

One of the books that has had profound impact on me is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey.This book highlights  2 important philosophies

  • that which is confines to deeper principles called as Character Ethic - integrity,honesty, sincerity etc
  • that which is much more superficial called as Personality ethic- positive mental attitude,skills, techniques
Seth Godin in his book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? makes a mention of how how tribal economies  were built around deeper principles such as mutual support and generosity.Communities believed that each one should support the other for the upliftment of the society as a whole. All this sans reciprocity.Giving was always a signal of surplus. The underlying message for the recipient of the gift is:
  • Benefit from it
  • Pass it on to others
The Bhagavad Gita states " Do your duty and do not expect the fruits of labor".

Simple take away " Stand up for your value generous and helpful and do not expect anything in return". Result: The tribes/communities grew with a lot more trust,honesty and openness which resulted in peace and happiness...

My guess is that in the last 200 hundred years, especially post Industrial revolution, a lot has changed in these tribes..
  • Large tribes have disintegrated into smaller communities
  • Receiving is more celebrated than giving
  • Reciprocity has now become human nature- Quid pro quo is the motto
  • We are nostalgic about the future -Expectation of results keeping past memories as reference
This is largely fueled by capitalism in which smaller tribes started focusing on  economic gains out of every transaction - " More for Less". While the world has benefited from many modern discoveries and inventions what is more damaging is that we have lost out on basic value systems like:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Generosity sans Reciprocity
Lack of these character ethics creates fear and has resulted in mistrust, cheating,deceit and what not. There is unrest in the air and we all know it fully well. What is the way out?

How can we live in peace and happiness in this world?

Typically human behavior is that once pushed to a corner either the best or worst comes out. Recession, job lay offs, financial constraints and other external pressures have certainly ensured that we revisit our basics and reset our value systems.It appears today's individuals have realized what our ancestors have been practicing for centuries-Grow as a Community and not as individuals.

So people want to hold hands and move forward as communities and not just as individuals. The encouraging part is that this time around it includes people not just their families & friends but a new set of people called as friendsters- Virtual Social Communities(VSC). We are limping back to an era where any form of noble gesture for the community like philanthropy gives peace and happiness to the giver. Be it in the form of information, money, gift in kind or just an advice at the right moment.These newly formed Virtual Social Communities, not bound by geographical boundaries, need a platform to address their emotional and self expression needs.

Change Agent:  Social Media

Social Media pundits are calling this new platform as a change agent and possibly one of the best things that could have happened especially during recession. The Social Media has helped the Virtual Social Communities to

  • Get Phenomenal Reach -Connects VSC members connect across geographies.This reach has reduced the marginal cost of generosity(Lovely statement by Seth Godin).A good example is sharing one's ideas on a blog to larger audience for no economic gain. Members of the tribe might gain from it.

  • Social Footprint -By using this platform every member of the community would have established a social footprint which cannot be erased.Any contradiction will expose the member and might damage one's respectable character or Integrity. A good example - CEO of a company was trying to tarnish the image of the competitor through social media using an anonymous name. He had foot in his mouth when situation forced his company to acquire the competitor.
  • Platform for expressing: Unlike the past, every member has an opportunity to express his/her views, opinions, write reviews, broadcast search. The community values honesty over abundant knowledge. Any member trying to promote a product or brand within his community for economic gains will be exposed
Similarly we can elaborate for each character ethic like fidelity, patience etc...

It is very natural that some of you may have disbelief /skepticism with this thought for what we hear is:

  • People give to get.. Sharing is not without reciprocity
  • Identity theft
  • Confidentiality breach
and what not.. Yes I agree with you partially but it is also true that we have been indoctrinated to believe like this. Social Media is a new kid on the block. Approach,Use and embrace it for right reasons and am sure we will reset our basic value systems. As a community ( VSC) , we will be happier and more peaceful.

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