Monthly Archives: December 2010

Personal Social Media Policy

I like the Christmas holidays, apart from making me feel like I’m a good parent when I take the kids off to do something interesting, it also gives me a chance to reflect on what I have been up to, and what I should perhaps be getting up to. Kind of a trees versus forest discussion with myself. This years tool of choice for mapping out my thoughts is a product called VUE – its a free visualisation tool from Tufts University in Massachusetts.

But that’s not the point of this blog. The point of this article is to tell you where I am going to post the photographs of my holidays, based on my personal social media policy.

You see a lot of people in organisations are currently discussing their organisational social media policies, but don’t have a personal one. I think that’s a mistake as with all things emergent from the internet you should have a go before deciding what your plan is.

My policy is based upon what I want to achieve.

Twitter

Twitter is a real time social networking tool optimised for mobile services. Its designed to allow users to connect and share information in short bursts with the world. I use Twitter in two ways. For personal use and for business use. Consequently I have two Twitter accounts. The first one @Churchill_Melb I use to broadcast what’s happening at the Churchill Club eg “Just picked up Doron Ben-Meir as a speaker”. I have thousands of followers, but follow no one as I am using it to broadcast. It also automatically feeds my linked in profile. The second one, @One_Sock, I use for personal observations on the world such as “Does the Constitution’s S.44 disqualify you to be in parliament if you have ‘allegiance … to a foreign power’ ? #MarkAbib” I follow everyone who follows me, but disengage (unfollow) quickly if they are not amusing or generating original quality thought. It can be dangerous to automatically follow, as its public who you follow. Which can be embarrassing when its a known Ku Klux Klan member, as happened to me , or worse. I have around 150 personal connections on Twitter.


LinkedIn

LinkedIn was designed to assist people in advertising their services and finding contacts inside potential clients. Consequently I use Linkedin in a number of different ways, but all of them are commercial, not personal. Firstly I use it to find people – like “who is big on Customer Experience in Melbourne?”. Secondly I use it to advertise my services as a corporate development guy. Thirdly I use as a scoreboard for how much energy I am putting into networking. I don’t like the concept of Open Networking (connecting with anybody who asks) as I feel there is little value in having connections that you don’t have mindshare with and being proud of the number of records you have in a database is quite frankly ridiculous. My LinkedIn rule is “I will only connect with you if we have met or had some type of correspondence”. Consequently I am connected to over 800 people, all of whom I know their story, and they know mine.

Facebook

Face book was designed to connect and engage in a fun way with people you know, it wasn’t designed for promoting business. Consequently I mostly use Facebook for doing things such as sharing photo’s of holidays, sharing images I find hilarious or commenting on my friends amusing situations. I do not want people attempting to sell to me to know that I have just made sausages with an old friend. My Facebook rule is that “If Im not happy with you looking at pictures of my kids, I won’t be connecting with you.” Consequently I am only connected to around 80 people, all of whom I am comfortable with knowing my private life. My security is also screwed down. The chances of my information being misused or me being embarrassed are very small.

This personal social media policy means that I don;t have to be constantly on guard about what I share online and can get the maximum amount of benefit from Social Media.

Have a great Christmas Holiday.

Drawing Financial Reports

My boss made me present financial reports as drawings.

Along time ago when I wore an accountants hat, I used to work for a multinational engineering group that had a lot of operations in Asia. My boss was a Filipino who lived in the US, had been a managing partner of Arthur Anderson and was on the board of an airline. You could say that he was a global finance guy.

On occasion he would request a presentation on an area of our operations. My normal response was to scurry around for a week building spreadsheets of our Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet with some lovely graphs. His response was to ask me to draw where the money came from and where it was going.

Having studied Accounting, not Art, I used to find this approach very confrontational, but after a while I started to understand what he was getting at.

His point was:

  • In a multi-jurisdiction environment, issues around accounting policies and taxation can cloud understanding of basic operations.
  • The concept of profit in itself is vague (Operational, NPAT, EBIT, EBITDA etc, etc).
  • The differences between cash and accrual accounting can hide all manner of sins.
  • Policies underly revenue, expenses, liabilities and assets, not necessarily reality.
  • Cashflow is the ultimate metric for measuring performance, everything else is secondary.
  • And finally, if you can’t draw out where the cash is coming from, and going to, you don’t understand what you are talking about.

I bring all this up because I had a chat with an IP commercialisation guy the other week and asked him how he was going. Fabulous he said. He had done a huge number of deals over the last 4 years and had created some equity positions in some really interesting businesses.

The fact that he thought he was doing a fabulous job, put never mentioned revenue immediately caught my attention, but in a slightly irritated way.

I said “So you think you are successful?”.

So he said “Well it depends how you measure success”.

I said “Well lets say at the end of the day, its all got to hit your bank account as cash, so how much cash have you actually been responsible for putting into your employers bank account”.

He said in a very small voice “Well none actually”.

Now I’m not saying that profits and deal making isn’t important, I’m just saying beware vanity metrics!

Failing Smarter

Last month we ran a fascinating session on failure at the Churchill Club. It was prompted by a comment of a friend of mine who had been the commander of the Australian forces in the Solomon islands a couple of years ago. He said “Of course failure is going to happen, so we give people room to fail in training”

The conversation on the evening covered a number of different views of failure that were food for thought, including:

Science needs failure. Its basic process, the scientific method, is to make a hypothesis then test it repeatedly. Each failure makes the hypothesis more robust. Scientific hypothesis are never proven, but each failure in trying to “prove it wrong” adds to its weight. Interestingly, Science also recognises that failures can also have enormous value in an unexpected way. Known as serendipitous outcomes, there are too many examples to mention where something was invented by mistake. Consequently its accepted in research funding that interesting failures could likely occur through a new research direction.

The art world values failure, they call it creative accidents.  In fact some Artists set out to deliberately fail hundreds of times, just to see what happens.

For the military failure is expected and the impacts are serious – failure causing death is all to likely an outcome. Therefore, individuals are given room to fail as much as they need in training so, that they can get things right when it matters. This focus by the Military on failure led to the formation of the first military staff college in Prussia in 1801 – Its basic thrust was “lets learn from our mistakes”.

But sadly – Australian business has a problem with failure.  In a small market like Australia its impact is great, as compared to a large market like the USA where the impact is generally small. Consequently it is rarely planned for, learnt from or even acknowledged.

But the kicker for the evening for me was this:

In Science – Research funding applicants are generally only successful around 20% of the time, but almost never on their first go. Clever researchers expect this, and consequently design their first round proposals to derive the maximum amount of feedback on what is wanted by the funding body when the expected failure occurs.  They see the first failed application as the part of the process that determines exactly what’s wanted, but isn’t stated in the brief.

I think there is an awful lot to learn for us in business, from just that little idea.