Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 20, 2018 8:08 AM

Make Visible That Which Is Hidden

What does leadership look like in 2018?

Are leaders still believed? Are leaders still trusted? The obvious answer is, "of course!" Just look at the health of the market, the economy and how one business, in particular, crossed the financial threshold into the trillion dollar market valuation (well done, Apple). On the other hand, stop and think about the divisive state of politics, the news, the global economy and the changes shifting us away from a more connected and open world, to one of nationalism and "let's take care of our own first." With all of these strange shifts (it does seem like we're talking out of both sides of our mouth), the leaders of today not only have to deal with the economics and politics at work, but must dig deeper, and find more reason and meaning for their team to pull it together, show up, stand out and make a difference.

Leadership is about more than nurturing a team and contributing true economic value to the corporation.

Our world of disruption, innovation and transformation is less about the technology that we're deploying (and the people who make it happen), and much more about getting back to what Simon Sinek has defined as "the why?" As more and more leaders begin to think about the true corporate "why?," and how the culture of the team will (and must) adapt as our business world changes, there is - perhaps - something bigger to think about: How can we, as a brand, truly open up more. Not just to our consumers, but to our team as well.

Take a principled approach. Read Ray Dalio's Principles.

It's a big book, it's a deep book and it's a counter-intuitive book to how most businesses operate today. These principles worked for Ray Dalio (founder of Bridgewater Associates, which, over the last forty years, has become the largest and best performing hedge fund in the world). What's most striking about the book, Principles - Life & Work (and how Bridgewater grew) is their unprecedented transparency (you can also learn about how radical it truly was in his TED Talk: How to build a company where the best ideas win). While Dalio encourages every organization (and individual) to pursue this route, there was a bigger theme (for me, personally) that emerged from the book that every organization (and individual) can focus on...

Make visible that which is hidden.

Data, business process, human resources, technology implementations, sales, marketing, professional development, internal meetings, team performance, and the list goes on. There are countless areas where leaders can make significant changes and advances, simply by making visible (to all) that which is hidden (to most). A great (and public) example would be MLS (aka Multiple Listing Service) for the residential real estate market. Think back before this platform existed. If an individual wanted to buy a home, they would speak to a realtor (usually referred by a family member or friend). This realtor held all of the available MLS information in a black box. More often than not, consumers would only hear of homes that the real estate agent was personally listing (which may be expanded to other agents in their office, or agents that the consumer's agent was friends with). It was hard (almost impossible) to get a pulse for how many homes were on the market, their prices and more. The agents guarded this information. While the real estate industry may still have agents that don't like the disruptive force of MLS, the industry continues to roll along. Consumers don't just feel more empowered in their own home ownership journey, they are having more open and honest conversations with their agents, because there is less being hidden from them. 

It's not just an open market.

A former Google employee once told me that everyone who worked at company can see very specific information about every teammate on their internal platform. There was even an area that had each Googler's presentation skills rated. Rated not just on how this individual does in the room, but ranked in relation to every other Googler. By making that (usually) hidden information visible, teams for pitches and presentations could get sorted in a much more efficient way. A strategic by-product of this ranking, was that Googler's with a higher rating would often get called for external presentations (to clients or industry events) and this would heighten their visibility within Google, and to their industry. A helpful bump to one's professional development. 

A chance to make visible that which is hidden is available to one and all. 

It's a great question for every leader to ask: What is hidden that we can make visible? It can be asked today. Even if it is answered and resolved, it can be asked again next month, next quarter, and every year. There is always more. Companies always have these incredible pockets of information, talent and value that sits hidden and/or dormant (to a certain degree). As the French would say: "ouvre la fenetre!" Open the window. Let the sun shine in. Let the people walking by see what's inside. Take a look around. Which companies have made visible that which is hidden, and how did that work out for them? Leaders lead. That is the job. Leaders clearing the path, not just for the rest of the team (and the bottom line) to succeed, but to set the business on a course that allows it to thrive (not just survive) in these hyper-competitive (and different) times. 

Let this be the leadership battlecry from this day forward: Make visible that which is hidden!

By Mitch Joel


August 19, 2018 7:58 AM

Rishad Tobaccowala Is The Oracle of Advertising - This Week's Six Pixels of Separation Podcast

Episode #632 of Six Pixels of Separation is now live and ready for you to listen to.

He is, without a doubt, the smartest thinker (and doer) in advertising. Over the years, I have been fortunate to call Rishad Tobaccowala a friend. Some know him best for calling advertising agencies "cockroaches," while others appreciate his mentorship (he prides himself on helping advertising professionals in their professional development). For over 35 years he has held a myriad of roles at Publicis Groupe. Currently, he holds the title of Chief Growth Officer and member of the management board at Publicis. With that, he is an active investor and advisor in a range of startups and venture capital firms. If that were not enough, he also actively runs The Tobaccowala Foundation. I could not wait for the opportunity to talk with Rishad about the current (and volatile) state of advertising, the agency model, the holding companies and the many disruptions this industry now faces. Rishad was also a key figure in the recently published book, Frenemies by Ken Auletta, which all about the ad business (and an incredible read). Editorial note: we had some Skype challenges with this recording. I did my best to edit the audio and clean it up. Please stick with this. It is worth it. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation #632.

By Mitch Joel


August 18, 2018 5:33 AM

Six Links Worthy of Your Attention #425

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (Solve for InterestingTilt the WindmillHBS, chair of StrataStartupfestPandemonio, and ResolveTO, Author of Lean Analytics and some other books), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another: 

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on TwitterFacebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


August 17, 2018 8:38 AM

The Shame of Content Marketing And Social Media

There has been a long-held thought that great content for social media can't be a shill or a hard sell.

That is true. Up to a point. Some brands (and individuals) have done quite well leveraging content and social media channels in a direct response fashion. True, some feel more snake oil salesy than others, but that's not the point. If a brand (or individual) decides that social selling is for them, and - in turn - they are able to find a customer base (which may not be the same thing as an audience), it's not for us to judge (so long as the product or services does what it claims to do and that the customers are happy with their purchase). From big brands "advertising" with content marketing and social media to the gajillion of online courses, seminars and events that we're all exposed to, many brands have one (and only one) strategy with their social media and content marketing: to sell!

It's not just about selling.

When Six Pixels of Separation started publishing (back in 2003), it was a soft (very soft) sell. The focus was on you: The individual. The content was geared to helping the reader (and, then, the listeners of the podcast) build a better business, see their brand from a different perspective and, ultimately, embrace the change that technology was using to disrupt their respective industries. The soft sell (at the time) was that if the reader thought that they might require the services of a digital marketing agency that (because of the content and perceived value) they might consider working with our agency. There was also an ethos in the early days of social media and content marketing that came from the visionary book, The Cluetrain Manifesto, which stated: "markets are conversations." Content and social media was a way to have a conversation (not just push an advertising message) out to an audience. It was also hyper-personal (content was usually created and attributed to an individual, unlike an ad or press release that was issued via a corporation). I fell in love with the idea that marketing was now about real interactions between real human beings.

Real interactions between real human beings is still a noble cause. It's just not the only cause.

In a more mature social media and content marketing space, we can track back to see how the introduction and growth of personal brands has led to a certain level of celebrity. We can see how the selfie revolution has made us all a tad (or a lot!) more narcissistic. We all know about the self-esteem and depression related issues people have related to their own Facebook feed (it's a world where people are posting things about themselves - mostly - to create a persona that they want to world see them as). With all of this complexity, there still seems to be a stigma attached to how much a brand pitches, sells and shills on social media. At the same time, another (perhaps more nefarious) trend has emerged. It's a place where individuals may not promote or shill their wears, but are pushing beyond the humble-brag into claims, self-promotional statements and other not-so-subtle manipulations to create the aura of success (or results) without ever substantiating their claims.

The not-so-humble brag. 

It's subtle, but if you look for it, you will see it (often). Statements or sentences that start like this:  

  • "People have said..."
  • "I don't like to promote myself (it's weird), but...,"
  • "I wasn't going to post this, but people have been asking me to..."
  • "Someone told me that they didn't know I launched (insert product/service XYZ here), so I will share this with you..."
  • Any time they add in words like "best-selling", "first-ever",  "vital, important, original..." 

It's not terrible. We all (brands and humans) need to promote our own work (if we don't, who will?), but it's a form of manipulation and persuasion that goes (mostly) unchecked.

Why should this irk you (why does it irk me?). Self-promotion is a funny thing. It can be subtle (like this post probably is) or overt. It's distasteful only to the person who feels like it is on the receiving end. Some people find these tactics smart. The issue is in finding your truth. Is that book really a best-seller? Is that consultant really somebody who has helped a business to grow or adapt? Has this individual really had people ask/beg/plea with them to share this information or is that a manipulation to make it look as though they are just the messenger instead of wanting to shill? Words matters. The context behind those words matter. Actions matter much more than those words. So, don't fall for claims that are not substantiated. Dig a little bit deeper on the brands and individuals that you are following. Find out if they truly deliver the work that they claim. Find out if the accolades that they are simply "sharing" have merit and truth (that the claims are true, and that the source of the claims are reputable as well). This is not a slight against any brand or individual. Things have become complex and clouded in the content marketing space. It's easy to create, shill, lie and hit the publish button. Who watches the publishers?

Social media and content marketing are as powerful as ever. Let's get back to those real interactions between real human beings. Value trumps all.

By Mitch Joel


August 15, 2018 5:49 AM

Multitasking Doesn't Work. Task Stacking Might.

I can't multitask. I just can't. Can you? Successfully?

When I try to do two things at the same time, I often find that it's a fail. I either focus too much on one task, and it's not accomplished to the best of my ability (because some of my head space is semi-focused on the other task). I can think about new ideas while scrolling through (and deleting) emails... there's something about that practice that brings out new thinking (weird, right?). With that, there have been countless studies that demonstrate just how impossible multitasking is (go ahead, Google it... I'll wait). 

With that, we all get only twenty-four hours in a day, and our world keeps getting more and more complex.

Spouse, kids, work, family, friends, life... you name it. Everything keeps getting in the way. Show me a person who can do it all, and I'll show you a person who spends a lot of time on a couch with a therapist or someone who is heavily medicated (or both). We fall behind. We claim that we will get to it. We want to be able to "catch up on vacation"... or do whatever we're not doing when we have a moment to breathe. Things slip. Always. I've let two things slip (and I'm embarrassed by it) over the years. Up until May of this year, it had been a long time since I had any formal exercise regiment in place. I can give you the standard excuses, and amp those up with two legitimate (albeit it minor) injuries, but they're just excuses. Reading books had become a problem area as well. I just couldn't find the time, energy or ability to keep my eyes open long enough to get through a book (yup, that's just excuses!). Both the lack of exercise and book reading was eating me up inside.

The first shift: Kill your goals.

The idea of killing my goals came to me after reading Tim Grahl's excellent new book, Running Down A Dream (which I read post-May... as you will soon discover). I realized that when I accomplish whatever goal it is that I set out to accomplish, the result never satiates as much as I had thought it might. Plus, more often than not, the goal would not be met, and I would fall into a self-loathing pit of despair. My solution was to kill my goals, and focus on my personal values. Those values being: I don't want to die. I want to have some kind of regular exercise in my life. I want to be a healthy person. I want to read more, because reading also makes me feel healthy (and smarter). With that, I decided to walk every morning. First thing. Every morning. Without exception. So far... so good. I've been at it since early-May. As I began this morning walk ritual, I would listen to music and podcasts to pass the time. Then it struck me, why not listen to audio books? Once that kicked in, I found myself wanting to read more as well (and not just listen to audiobooks). I dusted off my trusted Kindle, and started reading bits of pages and chapters here and there (and, different books from the ones that I was listening to on my walks). By 8:00 am every morning, I had walked almost 5 miles and would "read" (or listen) to a handful of chapters of a book. Killing my goals and embracing my true life values seems to be working (so far... so good).

The second shift: Task stacking.

Daily exercise and listening/reading a book at the same time. Multitasking! It works! Not so fast. I was, simply, stacking two tasks that can be done at the same time without one stealing energy (physical or psychological requirements) from the other. That got me thinking. What other tasks can we stack together? Reading a book while going to the bathroom? Deleting emails and grazing newsletters while coming up with ideas? Reading/listening to a book on your commute to work? OK, these all seem like ways to simply add reading into otherwise dormant moments. What about work solutions that are task stacking?

Uch... nothing else is coming to mind. 

I think there is something to this idea of Task Stacking over multitasking. I'm wondering about what else might work for you at work? What are the combos? 

Let's open this up: Have you figured out a Task Stacking solution that works for you? Do tell...

By Mitch Joel


August 13, 2018 8:39 AM

Amazon Delivery Person Enters A Couple's Home And More On This Week's CTRL ALT Delete Segment On CHOM 97.7 FM

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 10 minutes every week - about everything that is happening in the... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 12, 2018 8:30 AM

Growth IQ With Tiffani Bova - This Week's Six Pixels of Separation Podcast

Episode #631 of Six Pixels of Separation is now live and ready for you to listen to. It's very exciting to welcome Tiffani Bova back to the show (her last appearance can be checked out here: SPOS #578 - Defining... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 11, 2018 5:22 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #424

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (Solve for Interesting, Tilt the Windmill, HBS, chair of Strata, Startupfest, Pandemonio, and ResolveTO, Author of Lean Analytics and some other books), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks,... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 10, 2018 8:56 AM

The Failed State of Digital Advertising

My digital advertising customer experience sucks. Big time.  I'm speaking at a conference soon, and wanted to know what the official hotel is for the event. I Googled the event. Now all I see are ads for this event. Every.... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 8, 2018 6:28 AM

Local Retail Needs To Step Up

This does not happen online. This does not happen with major retailers. Recently, I was recommended to a local retailer for some home furnishings. After visiting the store (and ordering some stuff), I was quite taken with the personal service,... Read more

By Mitch Joel