Monday, December 14, 2009

Update on my new blog address

Well I finally figured it out!

The URL of my new blog is now:

I look forward to sharing my thoughts and engaging in discussion with you over there. I do not intend to post anymore on this site.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New blog address


If you've been reading my blog, first of all thank you! I hope you enjoy it.

Now the news: I am switching to a new blogging platform (URL is at the bottom of this post). I don't really have a clue what I'm doing but the new platform will allow for a more professional and high quality look and feel. It will also allow me to edit and add features more easily.

Now because I am learning this as I go, I'm not sure if/how it will work. If you've been subscribing via email or RSS, I hope you will continue to get my posts sent to you. If you don't, there are tools on the new blog that will allow you to sign up again. (And hopefully they will work!)

And now just because I've criticized the whole new look without new benefits marketing tactic, let me explain a bit more why I'm doing this and why I'm not a hypocrite for it :)

New packaging on potato chips does not change the functional benefit I receive from my chips. They taste the same. They clog my arteries the same... But the look and feel of a blog directly impacts reader experience. I want people who read my blog to get a certain experience that is consistent with the way I would like to present myself and makes their reading more enjoyable. I felt that my current blog made that difficult for me. I also want to be able to add more features without having to find workarounds for everything.

Anyway, I want to thank you again for your attention and hope that you enjoy the new blog. Please share any feedback with me. This is very much a work in progress. I will be adding new features, changing the color scheme and generally messing around with it for a while until I and you are happy with it.

Check it out at:

Oh and BTW, I will probably change the URL to just once I figure out how :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Network not netjerk

I just got an email from a guy I knew years ago. I have had zero contact with this person in more than two years and possibly as much as six. And even when we had contact, we were not close. We socialized a handful of times a year and he was friends with my brother in law. Between the time I last had contact with him and now, I have been in the process of getting divorced. It's been nearly two years since that process started. And not a peep from this guy. Well, that's OK. We weren't close anyway.

But now he sends me an email. The subject line of his email is: "q for u".

And the text of his email is:
"Hi Adam,

I’ve got a q for you that is possibly business-related, or maybe you’ll have some advice - when is a good time to talk, and what is your number?


Note how unfriendly he is. Note how he does not acknowledge that we have not been in contact for years. Note how he has no comment on the fact that I'm getting divorced. And note how he simply assumes I will give him my time.

Well, my inclination is to help. That's a natural human inclination. But this is just bad behavior. And I'm not going to reward bad behavior. The polite thing for him to do would have been to say a proper hello, acknowledge my life circumstances in some way and ask if he could get a few minutes of my time.

I was going to simply ignore his email but why should I be the guy that ignores emails? Instead, I sent him the following email which is a bit testy but I think he deserved it:
"No "Hi, how are you? It's been a few years and I hope things are well for you." No "Hey, I hear you've been going through a divorce. I hope you're doing well."


Do you typically find that method of networking to be effective? If so, I recommend you send your question to those people with whom that approach works. I generally prefer a bit of humanity with my networking."

And just a few minutes later he responded with:
"Sorry, u r right - jerky of me. Am using a pda and just went quickly. Lesson learned."

Yes, it was jerky of him. It just didn't meet the basic standards of human decency. Now could a good friend send me an email like that? Absolutely! That good friend would have built a reservoir of good will with me. I would know that he or she would be there for me. They would know I'm there for them. That's a big part of what friendship is. But if you're not a good friend then you have to be a bit more polite. Be human.

If you walked through my front door, how would you act? Would you just barge in and start demanding things? Or would you announce yourself, be nice and then make your request only after having (re) established the relational right to do so? Look. I may not be able to call the cops on you for spamming me the way I can if you walk into my home without permission. But just because you can send me an email and just because it is legal to send me an email does not mean it is wise to send me an email. And if you're going to send one, think about what you should say. Yes, it is very easy to hit send. But it is just as easy for me to hit delete.

Can this guy repair things with me? Probably. But now it will take more effort than had he simply taken an extra minute to be friendly. Now instead of just overcoming years of a dormant relationship, he has to overcome years of that dormancy plus today's jerkiness.

Do you think it was worth it for him?

Don't scratch that itch

Years ago when I was a kid practicing martial arts I remember one of my teachers telling me, as I interrupted a technique to scratch my leg, that it was important I stay focused on what I was doing and that if I focused properly then I would not feel my leg itch at all. That it was in the power of my mind to feel or not feel the itch.

Last week a dear friend told me about something she had learned in yoga. It was all about not scratching an itch. And it was meant to include physical itches but also metaphorical itches. The point was to reject the reflex to scratch the itch and make it go away and, instead, to live with it and see what came of it.

I thought this was very interesting and it holds some lessons for those of us that seek innovation.

So let's think about itches for a minute. Our bodies and minds throw all sorts of itches our way. Hunger is an itch to eat. Sexual desire is an itch. Parents often have an itch to see their kids when they are away. (Or not to see them when they are!) We have itches to study a particular topic or visit a certain place. And we have itches to avoid things as well. For every itch we get that tells us to go do something, there can be a corresponding itch to not do something. There is a hunger itch, but there is also an itch not to eat if you have eaten too much. You might really not like someone and get an itch whenever you're in their presence to get away as fast as possible. Maybe you don't like being in crowds and you get an itch to find open space...

It occurs to me that these itches are mechanisms of stasis. They are designed to maintain you the way you are. Hunger is your body telling you that in order to keep going, you need fuel. Sexual desire tells you that you need release because if you don't get it, you will find yourself in an uncomfortable state. All of our itches are signals from inside telling us that something is not going according to plan and that we need to adjust our course to stay on track.

We also have various variety-seeking mechanisms. People cannot eat the same things, see the same things, do the same things day in and day out without getting bored. We crave variety and novelty. Now I would argue that these variety-seeking mechanisms are also mechanisms of stasis. Because we have been constructed to require variety and novelty, when we don't get them, we get an itch. Our bodies and minds tell us that if we don't get some new input, we will find ourselves in an uncomfortable state. Variety-seeking is really just a way to maintain. It's that old expression about running just to stay in place.

Now think about what we do when we get an itch. That's right, just shout it out when you know it. Yes! We scratch the itch. As quickly as we can. We are good little soldiers and follow the instructions from inside that tell us to get back on track right away.

That's wonderful if maintaining ourselves is our goal. But it's not so good if we want to innovate. Stasis is the enemy of innovation. Stasis is about keeping everything constant. It's about the safety of the familiar. Old routines. Old habits. Changing only enough to maintain. Stasis does not help you see wonderful new vistas or create inspiring new ideas.

The solution is to not scratch the itch. Let it ride a bit. See what frame of mind it puts you in. Find some new experiences. These will be uncomfortable. Certainly at first. Maybe forever. If they turn out to have negative consequences then scratch the itch and make it go away. But some of them may open you up to new ways of thinking and feeling. You may find yourself changed for the better by allowing yourself an opportunity to see what lies just beyond the itch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More kudos to NB Web Express

I have written about these guys before. They are just amazing.

I recently redeemed a very generous coupon they sent me. I bought another pair of their 1011 running shoes. I love these shoes. They are unbelievably comfortable. Anyway, I just got an email from them. It's a really nice, warm human email. The text is below. My one minor complaint is that they call me by my first and last name. It sounds a little weird. But otherwise, I really like getting emails from them.

I buy my shoes at Nordstrom. I buy my sneakers at NB Web Express. Nobody else has a chance to sell me shoes or sneakers. I am totally loyal to these guys.

So here's their email:

Dear Adam Schorr,

I wanted to follow up regarding your recent purchase from us.
I sincerely hope you are enjoying the comfort and fit of your
New Balance gear.

Understanding you have many choices, we truly appreciate your
business. NB Web Express is committed to earning your loyal
patronage by surpassing your expectations and being open to
suggestions for improvement.

You can contact us directly via email or by calling
1-800-595-9138(Toll Free) with any comments or suggestions.
We welcome your feedback!

Kerstin B.
Customer Care Specialist
(800) 595-9138

Friday, November 20, 2009

Everything you know is wrong

There. Feel better? I bet you do.

Because I know that you so badly want to change. You want to improve. You want to try new things. And you still think the word "innovation" is cool and if you can put it on your resume you know you'll get invited to cool parties.

But there's this really big problem. The problem is that you know so much. You're an expert in your field. You've seen it all and you know what works and what does not work. So if you're going to change, improve, innovate and hobnob with the A-listers, you've got to find something that fits in with what you know to be true.

And that is hard. Honestly, it's damn near impossible. Because if there was something new and better out there that fit with what you know, you'd probably already have it wouldn't you?

So what is a would-be innovator to do?

Well, I'll tell you. Accept that everything you know is wrong. What you learned in school. Wrong! Your accumulated professional wisdom. Wrong! Your most sacred beliefs. Wrong! All of it is wrong. And if it isn't wrong this very minute, it'll be!

The world is not flat. The sun does not revolve around the earth. Infants are not born as tabula rasa. Our sensory perception is not driven by eidola (c'mon, look it up). The most sacred beliefs of the best minds throughout history have been shown to be wrong by the advance of wisdom and knowledge. Are you really certain that you're smarter than them all? That human knowledge has now reached its apex and that we now know all there is to know? Really?

Look. There are very few certainties in life. But here are two for which there is so much evidence that only the delusional could possibly deny them.
1) Future generations will laugh at your naivete. They will know how you were wrong. And the generations after them will do the same.
2) Your kids will laugh like crazy at the clothing you wore when you were young and most assuredly at that goofy mustache you thought made you look so cool.

But this is all good news. Well, not so much the part about your kids laughing at you. That can sting a bit. I kid you not. But the other part is good news. Because you already know the end of this movie. The end is that you were wrong.

Stop for a moment to take in the full measure of this. You are wrong. How wonderfully liberating it is to be wrong. You do not have to hold onto your orthodoxies as if they are the last piece of flotsam saving you from certain death in the stormy seas. You are not in possession of a jewel so precious that you must guard it with your very life from the hordes of envious pillagers.

Rather, what you've got now is OK. It's good enough. It's working pretty well. Maybe well enough to hang onto for a bit longer. But it is wrong. And you are free to move on. To challenge your own orthodoxies. Even to toss them away with a soupcon of cavalierness.

Go ahead. Give it a try. You know you want to.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Screw you consumer!

That's what I see and hear when I look at packaging that says "New look. Same great flavor."

What that says to me is: "I spent hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to improve this product you bought but instead of making it better for you, I made it better for me."

In a few rare instances, packaging is updated because consumers that want to find the product simply cannot amidst the clutter of a typical retail shelf. (BTW, I'm referring to packaging graphics not the structure itself.) But most of the time, the packaging is updated so it practically screams at you from the shelf. Marketers will say things like "we've got to make sure the package has stopping power" or "make the package intrusive."

Well guess what? I don't want to be stopped. And I do not want to be intruded on.

When you play with packaging this way, you've resorted to gimmickry. You're not calling on the rational faculties of a consumer to try and assist in the purchase decision. Instead, you're preying on the irrational, the built in little cognitive and cultural biases we have that, generally, help us make better decisions but often lead us astray.

I have a better idea. Try this new line on your packaging: "Same old look. New improved taste." Make the damn chips taste better. Make the soda taste better. Make your product work better. Instead of trying to trick me with flashiness, convince me with true product benefits.

Oh, and consumers. I have a message for you too. See here's the thing. As one of my favorite people pointed out, these gimmicks work. Marketers do this because notwithstanding their cynicism and lack of respect for the consumer, these tactics do work. You know why? Because you allow yourself to be seduced by shiny objects rather than demanding better products. When you stop letting yourself be taken advantage of, when you start demanding from manufacturers that they truly respect you, then you will start seeing better tasting chips.

Until then, enjoy the new bag.