Teaching children about money: the Poverty Week experiment

I caught up on Stanford Business magazine today. Let me share a quick story told in the Class Notes written by my classmate John D. Lee. He is a financial advisor, and may have a professional perspective on money that most of us lack. Yet, all of you readers can replicate the experiment with your families, if you wish.

In appreciation for all that we have (and just as an interesting experiment), we attempted to approximate what it would be like to live at the poverty level for one week. We confined ourselves to using one bedroom, one bathroom, and the kitchen as our entire family’s living quarters (though our dog, Nero, chose to ignore those rules). Except for when our jobs required it, we stopped using iPods/iPhones, the internet, and cable TV/TiVo. Our total food budget for the family was $108 for the week, and we made a donation to a local homeless shelter with the money we saved. While none of us particularly enjoyed the experience (and eating so much beans and rice), I thought it was good for our 9-year-old son, Archie, and we all came away more appreciative of our good fortune. Archie’s insight was that the thing he liked the least about the experience was the loss of freedom and choice. Truth!

Spain, women, and reproductive rights: a battleground, again

alberto-ruiz-gallardonIf we needed proof of how fragile and reversible our rights, women’s rights, are today, even in the West, we had it last Friday, when Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón put forth a draft law to set back abortion legislation by 25 years. You can read the details here, but if the law passes, you will only be able to get an abortion in Spain if you have been raped, or if your physical or mental health is at risk.

I am angry to see women’s rights as a political battleground, again; angry that governments seek consensus by legislating women’s bodies; angry that politicians think it is their God-given right to mandate that any woman should be forced to live through the confusion, pain and anger of an unwanted pregnancy, and not be able to choose the lesser pain, if not illegally.

Legislatures where women’s choices are so harshly limited should start introducing some restrictions on what men can do with their bodies, too. See the initiative by Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, who introduced a bill to require men who seek erectile dysfunction drug prescriptions to see a sex therapist, undergo cardiological tests, and receive counseling on the viability of celibacy as a lifestyle option (read more here and here). Says Sen. Turner:

The men in our lives, including members of the General Assembly, generously devote time to fundamental female reproductive issues—the least we can do is return the favor. It is crucial that we take the appropriate steps to shelter vulnerable men from the potential side effects of these drugs. When a man makes a crucial decision about his health and his body, he should be fully aware of the alternative options and the lifetime repercussions of that decision.

This is not irony, this is not tongue-in cheek: this is anger, fighting back through all available means. So let’s remember that we can take to the streets in protest, but we can also use Parliaments and bills and all the legislative apparatus to get lawmakers to understand why we’re so angry.

Freedom badgeAs Jane Smiley wrote after reading a hundred novels, “I saw that the world I thought was established and secure, at least in the West, is more fragile than I thought, because it is newer than I realized.”

We are not established and secure. Keep your guard up. Fight back.

In favor of wearing whatever the hell you want, part 3

We had our own Janet Yellen moment in Europe yesterday: the third swearing-in of Angela Merkel as Germany’s Chancellor. Just the same way as Yellen “Wore Same Dress Twice, Upsetting Local Idiot” (Jezebel), Merkel was criticized (picture below from the front page of Corriere della Sera) for wearing a very similar outfit to what she wore for previous ceremonies of the same type.

So what? They are smart and practical women. They standardize their looks because it saves them precious time, even if they become predictable. I am sure a lot of powerful men have favorite outfits too, and they don’t spend a lot of time worrying whether they’ve worn the same thing before.

Plus, Merkel has been photographed wearing quite different gear to the opera (see this post in case you don’t remember). So why, why can’t women yet wear whatever the hell they want?

Yellen-outfits

Merkel swearing-in outfit

 

What to look for in your next Chief Digital Officer

I am often asked to help people define what CEOs should look for in a candidate for the Chief Digital Officer position. My past eight years of digital experience have taught me that most companies tend to clearly see one or two sides of the job description and corresponding skill set, but cannot articulate in their entirety what should really be a multifaceted role – nor their expectations for impact or even outcome metrics.

Chief Digital Officer

This is my cocktail-napkin framework for the skills you should expect a Chief Digital Officer to bring to your company. A 2012 Russell Reynolds article listed part of them, but I believe this framework completes the scope of the role in important ways that were not originally covered; for more literature, see this McKinsey survey and this Forrester report (Forrester clients only). So, what does the CDO need to know how to do?

  • Online marketing, social media and digital PR. Most marketing and communication-focused companies, such as those in fast-moving consumer goods, are quite aware that the ways to drive brand awareness and engagement have shifted dramatically in the digital era; and that they need to move from traditional metrics, such as GRPs, to much more granular digital measurements. Market research, a cornerstone of many organizations’ plans, is largely shifting to online platforms, too; and digital listeners who can find the signal in the noise are in high demand. Yet, listening and communicating well in the digital domain are far from the only required capability; and what looks like the cutting edge today quickly becomes table stakes tomorrow.
  • E-commerce, digital distribution, multichannel. Retailers and manufacturers in many sectors are aggressively pursuing online sales: consumers are looking for your products online anyway, so hiding your head under the sand does not work, and in high-margin sectors such as premium and luxury goods a digital sales strategy is – at last – no longer shunned as damaging to the brand. Metrics here are about conversion, revenues and margins. The Chief Digital Officer will be the cross-channel integration champion in the organization, knowing when to push and where to stop: users will prize a seamless experience across a few channels much more than a complicated and fault-prone experience across many channels.
  • Online service and CRM. Customer expect you to be online, 24/7, to answer their questions, and no longer just at the other end of a toll-free number. What often starts as a marketing-focused corporate social media presence almost always needs to be complemented by strong online customer support capabilities; forward-looking banks, insurance companies and utilities are increasingly proving their worth in this arena. Here, the relevant metrics are customer service metrics; a digital customer operations mindset and expertise are needed, enabling in turn the generation of additional upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
  • Digital product and technology. The previous three quadrants extend what you are doing in the analog domain and can give you a competitive advantage: yet, it is only if you are able to reinvent your product into a profitable digital experience that you leave your competition in the dust. Media publishers, music and movies have struggled with the “profitable” part of the equation. Among successful examples, on the other hand, witness how Nike has positioned the Nike+ FuelBand at the center of a whole new Nike+ ecosysytem – remember, they used to make running shoes. A lesser-known but fine example of product redesign for the digital era is the new Getty Images watermark. From thermostats to cars, over the next few years all sorts of products and services will become very different from what we know today. If you’re not sure, go back and re-read Marc Andreessen on why software is eating the world. A good and easy-to-read guide to some of the disruptions is the recently published Age of Context by Scoble and Israel.

(Note that you can use this framework to get immediate clarity whenever a fuzzy digital project comes your way. Suppose, for example, that your team tells you “we ought to make a mobile app.” Is this a communication (or, worse, a vanity) app? a sales app? a service/CRM app? or an app that supplements, enhances, reinvents or revolutionizes your product or service? This way you can quickly define the right metrics and set your ambition levels.)

Underlying these four capabilities, your Chief Digital Officer should be able to foster a digital culture and nurture digital talents. Collaboration and knowledge sharing within the company must mean more than having an intranet, a digital suggestion box or even a prediction market: digital tools should foster your employees’ sense of community and belonging. Millennials thirst for transparency, openness and meritocracy; they will expect your company to be much more like an open-source-based software project and much less like the bureaucracy you grew up in. See this Gary Hamel talk if you’re not sure of what you should aim for.

In summary, a Chief Digital Officer is not just – as he or she is often portrayed to be – a good general management talent who has learned a few sexy digital marketers’ tricks. In my experience she will be much more impactful if she has a 360° vision of the future around her, not just of her product or industry; if she knows the front line well and has got her hands dirty with operations; and if she is unafraid to lead the evolution of the company’s culture.

FT Innovative Lawyers 2013: Claudia Parzani

Claudia ParzaniOne of the ten winners in this year’s FT Innovative Lawyers survey, among over 600 participants, is Claudia Parzani of Linklaters, chair of corporate association Valore D and co-creator of In the Boardroom, an initiative she developed with GE Capital and Egon Zehnder to provide training and skills to prepare women for boardroom positions. Claudia also created the Breakfast@Linklaters network, featured in this year’s Client Service category.

Kudos to Claudia! I am proud to be participating in her boardroom program and honored to be in her circle.

Update & Correction (Oct. 17, 2013): post corrected to clarify that In The Boardroom was developed through collaboration among Linklaters, GE Capital and Egon Zehnder. The supporting member companies of Valore D can be found on this page.

The Digital Director. More from the Korn/Ferry Institute

Mina GouranLast February I referred you to some research from the Korn/Ferry Institute about what makes an exceptional non-executive director. That report underlined the importance of social networks and digital media in a board director’s understanding of social trends and their impact on the business – practically any business.

The Institute has now published a new report on The Digital Director, authored – like the previous one – by Senior Client Partner Mina Gouran (pictured). It is highly recommended reading for chairmen, nominating committees, and prospective board members. Here are a few quotes for your appetite. Enjoy it!

  • Among the FTSE 100, just 1.7 percent of non-executive directors (NEDs) would qualify as ‘digital’ — that is, executives who have spent the bulk of their careers either in companies where the Internet is central to the business model, or in strategic roles focused on leveraging the Internet.
  • There needs to be a rapid upswing in the number of digital NEDs so that the strategic issues posed by the digital revolution are exposed and examined. Navigation of this paradigm-shifting change, affecting the way we do everything, cannot be left to the executive alone.
  • In most cases, the new digital NED will arrive with less board experience than ‘traditional’ NEDs. Our analysis of FTSE 350 appointments, for instance, found that digital NEDs were, on average, 46 years old compared with 56 for the rest of the NEDs.
  • More of these digital NEDs are women (25 percent) as opposed to non-digital NEDs, of whom only 15 percent are women.

iOS 7, and why Android still wins for me

iOS 7 is now with us, and while we get used to its clean, spare look, let me tell you why I think Apple has missed a major opportunity to catch up with Android.

On the left is my iPad, recently updated with iOS 7; on the right, my Galaxy Note (admittedly a large device for a phone, but one that I carry everywhere because it fits in any purse and still isn’t too large to have a phone conversation), carrying Android 4.1.2 (which isn’t even a very new version of Jelly Bean). Here are three reasons why I prefer Android by far.

Numbers row

IMG_0028

You’ll notice something that makes all the difference in the world: with the Galaxy Note, if you are typing letters and numbers, you don’t have to keep toggling back and forth: they are all there on the same keyboard. As far as I’ve been able to find out he iPad, with all that screen real estate, does not allow me to have them together.

Predictive typing

IMG_0037

Tweeting, posting quick text updates, and writing in general are all much faster with the Android keyboard. Try it especially with longish words. In this example, I can pick “absolutely” from the suggestions row after typing just three letters. With iOS, it takes nine letters before it knows what I need.

Filling forms

 

IMG_0032

Don’t know about you, but to me it feels like I fill in forms all the time. There is, especially, one piece of information that goes into all sort of logins, order forms, verification screens and so on: my email address. Android offers it to me in the suggestions row after just four letters; in iOS, I have to type it out in full every time. This gets, shall we say, repetitive.

If you have suggestions to help me improve my iOS 7 experience, please let me know in the comments (“Leave a reply” link). Otherwise, I think the iPad will stay at home more and more often, while the Galaxy Note comes out with me.