Friday, September 16, 2005

"The Big Moo" - Seth Godin's Latest Purple Cow Project

I am a big fan of Seth Godin. I have found something valuable and practicably applicable in each of his books on marketing and innovation. I regularly read his Blog - as a way of keeping my mind sharp when it comes to thinking about issues of marketing and branding. I love his latest project – “The Big Moo.”

A few months ago, Seth contacted 32 of the most creative business thinkers, thought leaders, writers and innovators that he knew and respected and challenged each of them to contribute a short essay that would be compiled into a book about how to be truly remarkable in business. The profits for the book project would all go to charity –

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
The Acumen Fund
Room to Read

Each of the authors immediately agreed to participate, and the resulting book – The Big Moo – will be published in the next few weeks and available on and in bookstores everywhere.

Many of the contributors to the project are individuals whose work I already know and admire – Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters, Daniel Pink, Dave Balter and Seth Godin himself. Each writer was willing to leave his or her ego “at the door,” since the resulting 33 essays are printed without author attribution. I have just finished reading a pre-publication copy of the book and found it to contain some very helpful and encouraging nuggets that spur my own ideas of how to work on being “remarkable.”

As an appetizer, let me share some ideas that grabbed me from just two of the essays:

From the chapter: Fire The Gatekeepers

In California, Hyland Baron, an independent arts, economic and urban-development-oriented community organizer, reads the Oakland Times religiously. She underlines people’s names, details about projects, and other useful information. Then she writes those people e-mails or calls them on the phone with recommended resources, incentives for introductions, and other expressions of support and congratulations.

I do the same thing. If I read a book I’ve found personally or professionally important and useful, I try to track down the author. If a piece of music affects me, I reach out to thank the artist for their effort. And if I want to meet, learn more from, or help someone I encounter on-line or off-line, I write to them.

I do this, not as a fan but as a comrade, as a coconspirator. Because if someone else’s work has improved my life or my work, it is my responsibility as a consumer, customer, fellow creator to help improve their lives and work in kind. . . .

Such an approach to life requires an assumption of indirect reciprocity. We must assume that the people who makes things happen are visible, accessible, and responsible to those who use their tools to make still more things happen. It also suggests that we need to open ourselves to such outreach from those who wish to approach us.
(pages 111-113)

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Amen! I feel as though I could have written many of these words myself, since they reflect the modus operandi I have adopted over the past several years. My life has been immeasurably enriched from conversations and correspondence that have resulted from my having taken the risk to reach out to authors and public personalities such as Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, Kelly Perdew, John Irving, Michael Abrashoff, Admiral Bill Owens, James Webb, Duncan Watts, David Lipsky, et al. I also make it a regular practice to offer feedback to actors and directors when I attend theater events, and to musicians when I attend live performances.

From the chapter, Stop Being Ordinary, I appreciated these five practical suggestions for behaving remarkably:

1) Avidly Collect Firsthand ExperiencesBe your own Sherlock Holmes. Take pains to observe and understand nuances from the front lines of your business . . . A.G. Lafley, CEO of $50 billion Procter & Gamble still regularly finds time to visit individual homes and talk with customers to keep current on what really matters to people.

2) Practice the Zen Principle of “Beginner’s Mind.” People with a thirst for learning can momentarily set aside what they “know.” They often have extensive academic backgrounds and ample professional experience, but they manage to look past tradition and preconceived notions. They’re confident in their knowledge, yet willing to challenge it when confronted with new information.

3) Keep an “Idea Wallet” So You Don’t Lose Momentary Insights - Real-world anthropologists carry a field notebook and a camera to record their discoveries. Try recording ideas in real time – on your PDA, or even on a folded sheet of paper you keep in your back pocket.

4) Embrace the Power of Storytelling to Bring It All TogetherStorytelling has an emotional appeal that trumps all the raw data in the world. Medtronic, a blue-chip medical-technology company, reports that when their teams need an extra spark, they bring in patients and ask them to talk about how a Medtronic product changed their lives. The results are positively electric. These life-affirming stories leave hardly a dry eye in the house, and the entire Medtronic team returns to work with a renewed energy, motivated to do their absolute best. (pages 114-116)

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I plan to purchase multiple copies of “The Big Moo” to give to colleagues and clients as holiday gifts. In that way everyone wins – the giver of the gift, the recipients and the charities whose work is being supported by this worthy publishing project. Remarkable!



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