Monday, October 31, 2011

BIG's Blog: Magic 8 Ball

As children, many of us played with this magical ball to help us answer our life’s most challenging questions.   

Questions like, “Am I going to make the team?” Or “Is that cute boy going to like me?”  

By turning over the black ball marked with the number 8, answers came to life. We were all looking for an easy way to predict our future.

Does it appear some leaders are still using the Magic 8 Ball to set the path for their organization? During these uncertain times, it may seem like they are using this approach to help them address difficult questions. But, today’s demands on the organization need more than a magic ball. As leaders you need to be alert, flexible and dynamic in order to stay ahead of the changing environment.

It is important to make the right decisions at the right time. Organizational leaders must work together to face the issues of our times.

Essential to the organization success is the ability to identify the right leaders who have the knowledge, skills and experience to act decisively. Leaders must be able to identify critical issues early so they can gather facts, analyze the situation and then discuss possible solutions. 

If aligning key leaders is a challenge for your organization, you may want to bring in a consultant to assist the group in making better decisions especially during these uncertain times. 

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. “ -Niels Bohr (1885 - 1962)

I asked the Magic 8 Ball if the quote above is true. The answer, “YES!” If your organization’s future is uncertain, now is the time to act.

This is BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and colleagues.

BIG’s Blog: Don’t Miss the Significance of Siri

We’ve all probably heard the famous story of Steve Jobs taking his Apple engineering team to visit Xerox R&D labs to see the computer interface screen and the device they called a mouse that the Xerox scientist had developed for their computers. When the Apple folks got back to their offices, Jobs told them to throw out what they had been working on and create what the Xerox scientist had already created. Jobs instinctively knew this was the missing piece that would make the personal computer accessible to everyone. Of course, when Bill Gates at Microsoft saw the Apple user interface that Apple had created, he knocked it off and called it Windows and personal computer use skyrocketed.

Today’s Macs and PCs are still driven by these two fundamental easy-to-use technology features. But, as mobile has grown and the power and capabilities packed into smartphones has increased, the question of computing on smartphones needed to be answered. How do you replace the user interface screen and the mouse to accomplish all that we do on computers on the tiny smartphone? 

It turns out the answer is your voice and better access to the Cloud. When Apple (in early October) introduced the new iPhone 4S and simultaneously launched iCloud, even the tech journalist that routinely cover Apple product introductions missed the significance. Yes, these folks are journalists but they are first and foremost geeks. My workable definition of a “geek” is someone who can sit down with a brand new technology device and “mess-with-it” until they have all the hardware and software features figured out. These folks are linear thinkers, which is why they are so darn good at working through new products and problems created by people like me. They get intuitive progression. But pseudo-technological leaps . . . not so much.

We all know Steve Jobs was famously NOT a programmer or engineer. He was a user like you and me and most of the world. He knew what he wanted the technology to do.

So, as to be expected, when the iPhone 4S and iCloud were introduced, virtually all the geek journalists were disappointed. Remember, they were expecting iPhone 5 and all we got was 4 with an “S” behind it. They took a look at the new voice-controlled artificial-intelligence system called Siri on the iPhone 4S and shrugged. Their collective reaction was, “Cute, but where are the new hardware/software features that are the next leap forward?”

To be fair, a few of these technology journalists got it. But they were drowned out by the others in the press saying, “4S is not a real breakthrough.”

Huh? These geek journalists just blew it. Siri software is the breakthrough!

Look, you can’t connect a mouse to a mobile devise and I don’t know how your eyes are but reading a mobile screen is tough no matter what your age. But now with your voice and the voice controlled artificial-intelligence Siri software, you dictate a letter, email or text, you ask “Where can I get a cheeseburger?” or “What was Shakespeare’s best comedy?” or ask “What is the meaning of life?”  

And coupled with iCloud, the appointment or document you make on your iPhone is immediately updated on your iMac and iPad.

Everyone reading this blog was alive the day that Steve Jobs and his Apple engineering team came back from their famous trip to Xerox and created the machine that was to be the foundation for the personal computer revolution. We were alive that day but we didn’t know it happened and wouldn’t have understood its significance anyway. Siri software on the iPhone 4S is as big a breakthrough to personal computing on mobile today and soon to PCs as the mouse and the user interface was to the original Macs. But the difference is, today you know and understand how big.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Form and Function and What We Do Next

This is one of the most important blogs that I will ever write.

Periodically, I point you to other blogs or articles by authors that may have something important to say that connects to the major issues that fund raisers are facing. One blogger that I cite many times is Seth Godin.

He is worth reading just on the basis of his marketing insights, but sometimes he makes a point that picks up on one of my major blog themes with an insight that drives home my message . . . better than I have done it.

Case in point was his blog this past Monday entitled, Form and function.

One of my major themes is the fundamental shift from analog to digital in our fund raising mode of communications with new and younger donors and Godin uses the analog to digital example to drive home his message on Form and Function that when the form changes, so does the underlying business model, which changes the function as well.

Mail ---> email

Books ---> e-books

DVD ---> YouTube/Netflix

1040 ---> Online taxes

Visa ---> PayPal

Direct mail ---> permission marketing

But, then Godin shares the key insight that I don’t want you to miss.

When the form changes, what is the response of the people in the legacy industry? Invariably, the first reaction is to take the new form and bolt it onto their existing business model.

And, says Godin, “In each case they are wrong. Speed and marginal cost and ubiquity and a dozen other elements of digitalness changed the interaction itself, and so the function changes too.”

Wow . . . did you get that? The form changes [example: mail to email] so that email is not just digital mail, its function is fundamentally different.

Godin continues . . .

The question that gets asked about technology, the one that is almost always precisely the wrong question is, “How does this advance help our business?”

The correct question is, “How does this advance undermine our business model and require us / enable us to build a new one (business model)?”

Since the inception of the Browne Innovation Group blog, we have been consistent in telling fund raising organizations that the digital world is fundamentally new and different.

Yes, by all means keep your direct mail fund raising programs as long as they remain profitable. But, “bolting on” digital communications to your current analog (read direct mail) business model misses the fundamental change that digital communications represents.

In the shift from analog to digital fund raising . . . you need a new business model . . . a new plan.

The final question is, “Is it better to develop the new plan today while your current direct mail model is still profitable or wait until your direct mail stops working and then scramble to change?”


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Pursuing Perfection – Part Two

In last Monday’s blog, I opened a two-part blog about pursuing perfection by making the point that following the death of Steve Jobs, we are suddenly hearing and reading a lot of stories about elements of not settling for mediocre products or performance.

In the middle of the morass of what seems an interminable economic downturn, we are all paying attention to what it takes to improve our game--no matter what game we are in.

That’s why the stories that have been out there for awhile about paying attention to the little things, the details, resonate with us.

Sometimes it’s a deliberate decision like I wrote about on Monday. Fund raisers need to first inform themselves about the digital world and it’s tools if they aspire to be effective in online fund raising before jumping into it.

Then it is about putting in the time to become competent at this new marketing media and craft. The author Malcolm Gladwell has said it takes 10,000 hours working at something to become competent.

Everyday our clients and other fund raising groups are already moving swiftly down the road in developing competence in digital marketing and communication while too many other fund raising organizations “settle” for building or rebuilding Web sites, sending out some emails, or opening a Facebook page instead of doing the hard work it takes to learn about the digital world, develop a new plan and fundamentally change their fund raising direction.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to leadership’s choice to do the work it takes to fundamentally change direction or settle for the same-o, same-o.

Steve Job’s style wasn’t always perfect, but the success of Apple was based upon doing the hard work, inspiring his employees and then not allowing them or himself to settle. Apple had leaders in the 90s that almost drove Apple into the ground because they wouldn’t change what they were doing. Then Steve Jobs returned to change the direction, inspire the troops and push for perfection. It took awhile, but today Apple is one of the most valuable companies in America.

I believe that the next few decades can be a new golden age of fund raising, but only for those organizations with leaders with the vision not to settle.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BIG's Blog: Let’s be realistic!

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”—Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill’s quote points out how individuals face a challenge. It is fairly easy to recognize these personality types. I pose that there is another category that we should include, a “realist.”

A realist is someone who sees things as they really are, good or bad. These individuals are optimistic, but also may appear to be a pessimist based on the reality of the situation.

As nonprofit leaders, we need to be realistic about the future of our mission. The industry is going through a transformation. It will change the way organizations are managed and how nonprofits communicate with constituents and donors. 

How a leader communicates the message of change to organization is important. Directing the pessimist, optimist and realist through these opportunities may determine the success of change. Sometimes it is necessary to bring in a change agent/specialist who can assist the leader through the transformation process. They can also help manage the expectations of each of these personality types. 

As a realist might say, “Change is never easy, but it can be successful if managed properly.” 

This is BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and colleagues.