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June 27, 2009

What's in a word? - Renaming as Rebranding

Recently two articles have caught my attention. Both seek suggest a new name as a means for rebranding a movement or initiative.

The first in ODE Magazine suggests that the term "green" is played and that a more authentic term for the "green movement" would instead be "brown".

Another, a Newsweek article, notes the increased incidence (especially in the restaurant world) of the term "house-made" and the resulting decline in the term "home-made".

* Are these new names or labels effective?

* What could you rename or reframe in order to be more effective?

* Or to better articulate your purpose or points of distinction?

For example, Cali Yost's company seeks to reframe the public's notion of WorkLife Balance with the name of her company, WorkLife Fit.

June 26, 2009

Really Getting What You Pay For - Fans funding production

We recently read on Popagadget about indie singer Jill Souble and her newly-released album, which peaked our interest because Jill's new albums was funded by her fans via paypal donations.

Some donation amounts scored fans the opportunity to even be in the song.

Jill's decision came shortly after RadioHead's 2007 decision to let fans pay whatever they wanted to buy their album and represented yet another creative way that musicians are trying to succeed in the challenged music industry.

* Could either of these strategies work in other industries or fields?

* Could you let your clients/fans pay what they wanted?

* Could you solicit funding or donations from your clients or fans in order to develop a new offering?

June 22, 2009

Homeboy Industries: An Innovative Model Provides New Beginnings

Homeboy Industries is one of my favorite non-profit organizations and one I have followed for many years after a professor in graduate school introduced me to the company.

Started in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries "assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education".

While it began as a jobs training program, Homeboy Industries quickly grew by adding several businesses that would employ the youth and teach them both work and life skills. Proceeds from the businesses continue to fund the outreach programs and services including: employment counseling, mental health counseling, tattoo removal, 12 step meetings, and legal services.

20 years later, Homeboy Industries now boasts at least 6 independent businesses including: Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl CafĂ© & Catering, Homeboy Maintenance, Homeboy Merchandise, Homeboy Press and Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery. Through these businesses thousands of former gang members have worked side-by-side with rivals at creating a new beginning for themselves. This organization is so impressive not only because of the impact it has created, or the creative solutions it devised to meet the community’s needs, but also because of its innovative model and visionary aims.

Many non-profits have recently followed suit by bolstering their operations with revenue generating businesses, but Homeboy seems to have been a leader in this area.

Despite the progress made and goals accomplished, Homeboy Industries has targeted several additional issues (including transitional housing and day care) that it seeks to address in the coming years through an expanded services platform. At the time of writing Homeboy Industries is geared up to launch a “virtual car wash” in order to bring national awareness to the organization. Be one of the first to know & help spread the word!

You can also support Homeboy by sporting some of the gear made at their merchandise shop.

June 21, 2009

Women's Work: Driving Wealth Towards Charitable Causes

(In the last couple weeks, we have written about how women are influencing the professional landscape, how women may have impacted the evolution of our society, and how women as a chosen vehicle for investment are impacting global social change.)

Next up: the impact that women are having on the world of philanthropy.

Installment 4 of the women’s work series focuses on the extent to which women are reshaping the world through philanthropic donations and leadership, and charitable contributions. There has been lots of news coverage recently about women and philanthropy, sparked no doubt by the very sizable (about $100M) and mysterious and anonymous donations given to at least 20 universities in the last year. The anonymous donations are earmarked for scholarships for women and minorities and were all given to schools whose presidents are currently women - thus raising suspicions that it is a woman or group of women who is behind this intriguing show of force. More on donations here.

However, I also learned that aside from large initiative like this set of higher education donations, Women Moving Millions, and the Women’s Donors Network, the numbers are showing how women’s accumulated effort and impact is really driving change.

Joanna Krotz shared with me an article she wrote for Town and Country that indicates that:
* single women are more likely to give than single men
* married women influence their spouses to give more (than they otherwise would)
* more and more of the worlds wealth is being held by women (both due to increased earning power and life expectancy)

This conversation echoed others with Lauren Katzowtiz Shenfield, who stresses increasing importance of women’s philanthropy and who has been asked for her opinion by the media on the anonymous college donations numerous times.

Similarly, Momentum writes:

"Now, for the first time, women are in control of money on a large scale, according to the Boston College Social Welfare Research Institute, making up 53 percent of the workforce with their net worth at nearly $2.3 trillion. And with the enormous generational shift that will take place in the next half century, a majority will fall into the hands of women, who regularly outlive men. This likely means more giving. One study, conducted by the Center for Women’s Business Research, found that 47 percent of women versus 39 percent of men feel giving is a moral obligation."

It exciting to read that women’s increasing philanthropic influence is a growing trend and ongoing cultural shift.

With all the exciting ways to give and get involved, it seems that whereas historically the question we might ask ourselves would be “should I give?” and now it is becoming “how should I give?, where should I give?” and “when should I start giving?”!

June 19, 2009

Great Business Case for Daydreaming!

A few weeks ago we read a summary of interesting research in The Week. Similar to the news that sleep is good for the brain and supports the integration of memories and knowledge - profiled in our post The Business Case for Sleep - this recent research from the University of British Columbia concluded that daydreaming corresponds with a lot of brain activity in regions dedicated to high-level thought and complex problem-solving.

As the Week reports - “People assume that when the mind wanders away it just gets turned off,” researcher Kalina Christoff tells LiveScience.com. “But we show the opposite, that when it wanders, it turns on.”

So while you are seemingly distracted and unfocused, you may actually be letting your brain think through complex ideas or mull over decisions.

This further reinforces the importance of scheduling some down-time in your day and remembering not to overload yourself with tasks where you need to be “on” - whether that is a steady flow of client interactions or a constant stream of execution-oriented operational tasks. Instead of expecting to intensely focus over a long period of time, plan unstructured breaks so that you brain can continue to work on un(re)solved ideas and issues.

June 15, 2009

When Size Doesn't Matter: Small Amounts That Do Make A Difference

A few months ago we wrote about companies that, in an effort to be transparent and authentic, allow consumers to TRACE BACK their products’ origins, including the sheep that provided the wool, the farm that provided the strawberry, or the granny that knitted the hat.

Here’s a look at a non-profit that allows you to TRACE FORWARD your contribution by letting you choose the exact people that you want to help. Small Can Be Big allows you to find a family that you want to help (all Boston-based, since the non-profit is as well) and make a donation (100% of the money donated is given to the recipient).

SmallCanBeBig partners with existing non-profits who put forward a few select families that they feel can significantly benefit from a one-time charitable donation. All are in a very difficult spot and on the brink of disaster – “one step away from homelessness or one payment away from getting back on their feet”.

Profiles of the selected families are featured on the Small Can Be Big website, allowing you to choose the one that speaks most to you and directly make a donation. Like Kiva (where IGC routinely donates – join our team!), SmallCan Be Big is based on the premise that small person donations work and are rewarding.

June 14, 2009

Women's Work: Women Chosen as Best Investment Vehicle for World Improvement

(Welcome to the third installment on a series about women's transformative influence on various societal aspects including the professional landscape, human evolution, social change, and philanthropy.)

Next up: the impact that women have on social change and economic development.

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with Joanna Krotz (philanthropy expert, author of The Guide to Intelligent Giving, and editor at Town & Country) that focused on women as a source of both social change and global economic development. Specifically we talked about the extent to which women are being chosen as donation recipents as well as the climbing numbers of women who are donors themselves (more on this last point next week).
This conversation dovetailed nicely with two others (on reshaping professional landscape and influencing evolution towards a group society) prompting this series of posts on some of the more exciting and transformative impacts that women have collectively had the world as we know it.

Recently the fields of international development and social change have shifted and placed a great deal of primacy on the education and promotion of women worldwide. This is in part evident through the surge in the number of women oriented micro-credit organizations such as Nest and ProMujer.

"As we know from long and indisputable experience, investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity and sustained economic growth. No measure is more important in advancing education and health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS." - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for International Women's Day, March 8, 2008

Also in 2008 Goldman Sachs conducted a robust global economic research study which found, among other things, that:

"At the macroeconomic level, female education is a key source of support for long-term economic growth. It has been linked to higher productivity; higher returns to investment; higher agricultural yields; and a more favorable demographic structure. The economic growth that results from higher education feeds a virtuous cycle, supporting continued investments in education and extending the gains to human capital and productivity."

In response to these findings, Goldman Sachs launched the 10,000 Women initiative, which invested $100M in the business and management education of women around the globe. This initiative seeks to go beyond the reduction of poverty at the very grassroots level and instead seeks to rapidly advance the economic growth of entire countries and regions.

How thrilling that Goldman determined that women were the best way to achieve this.

More articles on the iniative are here: NYTimes, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Washington Post

June 12, 2009

Engaging Explanations for Complex Concepts all in 3 minutes or less

We recently learned, via Newsweek, of a really cool site that creates instructional videos that explain complex concepts “in plain English”. Better yet, the videos are interestingly illustrated and are all less than 3 minutes. Common Craft launched with a library of videos on technology and has expanded into some other areas such as finance.

Now there is a place to go to get clear and engaging explanations on Twitter, Blogs, Computer Hardware, Computer Software, Investing Money, Saving Money, and on and on.

The three minutes I spent watching “Electing a president” (pictured above) far surpassed many accumulated civics lessons in the Electoral College, and I even learned something new! (While I knew that the number of votes each state gets is proportional to the population of that state, I didn’t know that the exact number equals the state’s number of congressional districts plus 2 - for the 2 senators. Oh, just watch the video...)

We’re routing for Common Craft and hope that they continue to expand their repertoire. Their perspective is so refreshing and we are sure it can be applied almost anywhere - perhaps they can simplify some really thorny issues such as ‘Becoming My Mother’ or ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ or ‘He’s Not That In To You’. (Note: They can also make custom videos.)

Aside from selling really interesting stories, Common Craft (run by husband and wife team Sachi and Lee LeFever) has an interesting story itself. Read it and be prepared to fall in love.

June 6, 2009

Business Card Art: Making All Sorts of Statements

Business cards (and websites) are something that we receive a lot of questions about from the IGC membership. Some folks believe their business card is a central piece of their business identity, while others are happy with a functional placeholder.

Regardless, social networking, websites, and Google have all collectively challenged the traditional role of the business card and its centrality in helping you stay known, remembered, and contact-able.

Much of this discussion is reflected in a blog post by our friend Marci Alboher on her new blog at Yahoo! Shine, who queried about whether a business card was necessary at all.

So, given that it is a hot topic, we wanted to share the following resources if you are wondering about your business card, how you use it, and what it says about you!

Marci’s post introduced us to MOO which offers a really fresh and intuitive approach to business cards! I recently ordered some, not for IGC, but for a side project that needed an easy way to share information and the MOO minicard did the trick. All their products are beautiful, colorful, simple and easy to make…a cleaner look than our typical go-to VistaPrint.

On the other side of the spectrum, Marci found some amazingly unique and completely unforgettable examples of business cards. & InventorSpot.com recently featured some as well.

With many people’s employment status and career trajectories changing so rapidly, however, it seems that some folks are using their old business cards to make a statement about their transition.
Cards of Change is chronicling people’s positive changes through their “edited” business cards. Pretty cool idea, huh?

So in addition to thinking about what you want a business card to say about you, I think it is also important to be honest about what you do with the card that are given to you!

* Do you keep them? Scan them? Toss them?

* When you want to find the contact information of someone you have met before does the business card even play a role?

* Does that make you think differently about the expense or importance of your own cards?

June 5, 2009

Just when I thought I had it all figured out…

As a business owner you are likely an expert in all sorts of topics including what you do (hopefully), your industry, functional skills such as marketing, and even entrepreneurship in and of itself. And it is very easy to become complacent in your expertise. But there is something to be said about a “learning as a lifelong pursuit” attitude and approach to business.

In other words, there is tremendous danger to the growth of your business if you start to believe that you know it all and that you should be exclusively in a teaching position.

There is great value in letting yourself be a student on a regular and daily basis. We always say that you can learn something from any business regardless of how different it may seem from yours. Pushed further, you can really learn something from each person you met and every situation you encounter.

Recently, I (Amy) was invited to an event and it was a similar format to an event that I had facilitated in the past. At first I thought I would skip it, that it was of no value to me. But on further contemplation, I thought that not only could gain a fresh perspective about the topic but that it might be incredibly valuable to observe and learn from the facilitation! And it was.

This made me think of countless interviews I have read about teachers who describe the thrill of their job as continually learning from students. What a reflexive and refreshing approach and outlook.

As entrepreneurs we believe that we can learn a lot from our peers and in our community we seek to foster rich knowledge and information exchange. In large part, this is accomplished on account of our community’s diversity - along generational differences, age of business, industry – you name it.

We are continually surprised what we are learning and from whom. It should be noted that most of “our” good ideas have come from the in good company members themselves and we are quick to footnote them. And if there is one major lesson we have learned from the in good company community that the best thing that we can do for our business is to constantly put ourselves in a group of curious and smart people who are actively engaged in learning new things.

Someone who really exemplifies this approach for us is Donna Fenn, journalist and writer who has been reporting on entrepreneurship for 20 years. Yet, recently, her focus has been Gen Y entrepreneurs. Yes, much of her coverage is through a reporters lens but she has sought to capture what can be learned from the scores of 20-somethings that she has interviewed and her upcoming book, The Upstarts, shares 8 of these major lessons. You can read more on Donna talking about the project here and here.

So, we encourage you as entrepreneurs to consider:

* Who are you learning from and how?

* Have you stopped being a student?

* What you can do to change that?

posted by Adelaide & Amy
image courtesy of ohkayk

Women's Work: The 'It Takes a Village' Attitude Had a Bigger Impact than You Might Think

(Welcome to the second installment on a series about women's transformative influence on various societal aspects including the professional landscape, human evolution, social change, and philanthropy.)

Next up: the impact that women have had on moving us towards a collaborative group society.

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, a favorite evolutionary psychologist of mine since graduate school, has just come out with a new book, Mothers and Others, that, like her other publications radically shifts the paradigm on why things (relationship, life, society) are as they are.

Her latest book discusses the impact that mothers and mothering had on our evolution and the development of our cooperative, group society.

Mothers and Others proposes that “the evolutionary significance of warfare is overrated. What made us human-what transformed our ancestors into a uniquely cooperative, hypersocial species of great ape-were not the requirements of inter-tribal combat, as some anthropologists have long contended, but the demands of motherhood. For most of human history, says Hrdy, our population was so small and spread out that there was no reason to fight over survival needs. But human infants’ large, slowly maturing brains and need for large amounts of protein make them uniquely dependent, and mothers found they needed help from other women to raise their babies. That led to the development of group trust and communication not found in our simian relatives. So take a bow, grandmothers, aunts, and other female caregivers, says Hrdy. You enabled humans to conquer the world.” - The Week Magazine

What additional insights are gleaned from this new framework? A review of reviews will tell us:

What she found is that our unique mothering instinct, quite different from gorillas and chimpanzees, meant that the children most likely to survive were those who could relate to and solicit help from others. We evolved to be wired for empathy for, consideration of, and intuition into how others are feeling. --Jessa Crispin (Smart Set)

Hrdy argues that unlike other apes, Homo sapiens could never have evolved if human mothers had been required to raise their offspring on their own. Human infants are too helpless and too expensive in their demands for care and resources. So human females have to line up helpers--sometimes extending beyond their own kin--to raise their young. That requires both males and females to invest heavily in social skills for bargaining with other members of their groups. Hrdy suggests that females in ancestral hunting and gathering groups may have thrived because they were free to be flexible in this way. Female flexibility was reduced when humans established settlements requiring male coalitions to defend them, probably leading to greater control of females by males. --John Odling-Smee (Nature )

Ill be reading this book on my vacation and will be sure to circle back with another insights and findings. In the meantime, WHAT DOES THIS NEW FRAMEWORK MEAN TO YOU?

June 4, 2009

More Than a Full-time Job: Law Enforcement at Facebook

We typically don't write about companies as notorious as Facebook, but a recent Newsweek article about their operations and employees caught their attention.

Thinking sort of abstractly about Facebook and its employees, I would have expected that most Facebook employees are tech and programming guys & gals who work on maintaining and improving the existing product and doing some "R&D" work to develop innovative apps or features. I would have also supposed that they have some folks who focus on ad sales.

What I wouldn't have guessed is that nearly 18% (150 out of 850) of Facebook's employees are dedicated members of a Facebook police force or "the porn cops" whose job it is to keep corral users, fend off spammers, and generally keep Facebook a clean, safe, and well-regarded advertising space.

Many of these employees fall into either the:

"User Operations" team - which is charged with issuing judgment on flagged photos and content according to Facebook guidelines and policies - such as the nipple rule and the fully exposed butt rule. No small task for a site with 300M members - at the time of the article 438,848 photos were awaiting judgment.

Or the "Site Integrity" team, which actively searches (often under cover) for spammers and phishing attacks.

Others still actually work with members of real law enforcement agencies who are looking for case-related information (often missing kids and even murders).

I can't quite identify why this is so surprising to me.

Perhaps it is just staggering to think that with hundreds of millions of members that Facebook has to account for such small details as someone calling another person a "jerk" - not allowed by the way.

Or, while I accounted for all the maintenance that the technology would require, I hadn't considered all the maintenance that the human users would require.

And of course maybe this gargantuan policing aspect hadn't occurred to me because I just don't use Facebook enough to have had a photo deleted or content removed.

Or, instead it could be that I am used to reading stories of tech companies that seem so divorced from the actual nuanced activity and exchanges between users. A prime example is Markus Frind, CEO of Plenty of Fish, who employs a handful of people and works just 45 minutes a day yet has revenues of $10M.

And of course it could just be the thought that in total this department costs Facebook somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5M to employ (starting jobs seem to be in the $50K range).

Regardless I wonder whether Mark Zuckerberg had anticipated from the beginning having to deploy so many resources not towards the management of the technology but the members themselves. Obviously a lot has been learned about the online advertising department since Facebook launched and, as this article insinuates, this police force is necessary for maintaining a strong advertising climate. And obviously $7.5M is very little compared to projected revenues of $500M for 2009.

But considering Facebook's small, private, and collegiate beginnings, I would guess that a department of 150, employed at the rate of $7.5M per year was an unforeseen destination.


June 1, 2009

Women’s Work: Our Impact on the Professional Landscape

(For some reason this week, I have been inundated with news, conversations, and information about women’s transformative influence on various societal aspects including the professional landscape, human evolution, social change, and leadership. Because it all together seemed so inspiring and fortuitous, I thought I would write a series of well-noted segments/blog posts detailing each of these insights. One will be shared over each of the next four weeks.)

First up: the impact that women have had on our professional landscape.

David Leonhardt of the NY Times published an article entitled "Financial Careers Come at a Cost to Families".
At first glance, the article bears some bad news. It turns out that women who have participated int eh financial and consulting sectors are likely to have experienced up to a 41% wage disparity if they have taken time off for kids as compared to their peers who haven’t.

The hidden good news however, is that women have reshaped many other fields and industries including medicine and law making them more work/life fit friendly and reducing “time-off” wage disparities to as low as 16%. While I realize that 16% may not be considered by some to be a "win", it is clear that innovations and creative solutions, such as group practices for Ob/Gyns, have enabled certain fields to evolve to become more compatible for professionals with families.

Further, the article underscores what both experts and research tell us, which is:
* that men too are benefiting from, taking advantage of, and enjoying flexible work/life practices on near equal footing with women. More and more we are seeing men indicate that work life fit is personally important and that existing policies and attitude pose professional and personal challenges. See Cali Yost's insights and findings.

* that work/life programs and initiatives are largely regarded as positive and a value add, not just by employees (male and female) but shareholders as well. See discussion by Freek Vermeulen

So, on the downside…women in finance and consulting, two supremely-hyped career choices of late have likely gotten screwed from a salary and work/life fit perspective.

But on the upside, women have pioneered significant workplaces changes, helping to create quality of life programs that have not only been enjoyed and valued female and male colleagues alike but also recalibrated the status quo for many industries reshaping the way that work is done. So, maybe finance and consulting are (just?) the last frontier.