Monday, September 20, 2010

Authenticity in the 21st century Bazaar

My friend @DrewCarpenter sent over a link to this book along with a radio interview with its author Rajni Bakshi.  Bakshi presents a VERY interesting way to think about how commerce works across the spectrum of capitalism to communism, using the concept of the Bazaar that this article asserts we have been straying from for the last 400+ years...

Authenticity and transparency are topics scattered through social media discussions, and have the potential to be force multipliers to drive the efficient production espoused in the classic Atlas Shrugged, without the selfishness of greed and fear that can follow in its wake.  This NYT book review of a recent Ayn Rand biography does a nice job of considering this balance across economic, social and political planes.  After the market crash, do we still think Gordon Gekko was right in believing "Greed is good" and market externalities are the burdens of the weak...?

The truth is that in the beginning as in the end, "we the people" are social animals.  Efficient market theory doesn't account well for what it takes us to maintain strong and honest relationships between each other - it remains difficult to "price in" the value and the cost.  If anything, social media is forcing us to recalculate and calibrate those values and costs as they increase, since a bad choice today can be communicated widely across a network and the world like a single match can scorch a forest.

There are some great entrepreneurial examples of authenticity and total transparency emerging, but I have to confess that when I heard of I hesitated, just like others are transparently confessing themselves.  While Unvarnished lets people publish anonymous reviews of co-workers or friends/enemies, there is little to no control of our personal and professional image using this tool.  Our friend @AaronStrout is proving brave by appearing in their Beta leaderboard for Marketing.  Nice leadership!

It raises a huge paradox for those of us working to relinquish the tight control we have learned to manage of every aspect of our lives.  We seek to be professional and personal "trust agents", with forms of spiritual development to enjoy the fruits of faith and "pay it forward" to others.  After all, if we can't live by and succeed from our actions and our reputation, then what do we really have?

With 500+ million Facebook members alone, social media networks are here to stay.  Crowdsourcing and UGC (user-generated content) makes us more honest, less selfish and more accountable to each other.  Ayn claim she was transparent and authentic, but it was a mean and selfish transparency that she hid from people and made excuses for.  Sorry Ayn, but as opposed to the "Mad Men" marketing of the 60's, social media is making it suck to be selfish.

But the question still stands:  will embracing Unvarnished through Facebook Connect be like opening Pandora's Box and risk corrupting our image across the real-time digital networks we have been assembling for the last 10 years?  Ultimately, can we enjoy the higher plane of efficient social, political and economic market theory that Bakshi introduces, without bleeding the human relationship capital in the process that Rand's Objectivism selfishly continues to advocate?

I don't want to live and die sad, mean, lonely and angry like Ayn Rand.  I'll pay the authenticity tax and take my chances.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is Matt Curtin Superman?

Congrats to Matt Curtin and his successful launch of at DEMO 2010 this week.  Lots of great response, including this from Austin SXSW Interactive:  Austin social media startup Socialsmack launched today! 

What's cool about the guy is not just the consumer activist mobile platform he has built with this company, but how his character as a leader and citizen shines through things like The Superhero Foundation.

It was on display today at the CASA Superhero Run 5K at The Domain in Austin, TX this morning, with over 1,000 registered runners and hundreds more volunteers, friends and family cheering on the "heroes" - volunteers and brave kids.

We need to "Prop" the guys that are good stewards and leaders.  I hope you get a chance to meet and know him.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CASA Wants Superheroes for Race

I hope you are here because you care about CASA and the Superhero Run on Sunday, Sep 19th at 8am at the Domain in Austin, TX.  But if you are just to laugh at me in a Superhero costume, then that works too.  ;)

Fox 7 News Austin:  CASA Wants Superheroes for Race

If you would like to Register, Donate, or help promote the event, you can do so here:

Thanks to all of you, from the kids, for your support!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Social Media Revolution vs. Bill Belichick

Nice job by Erik on social media's effect on, well, everything.  If you haven't seen this before.

Makes me laugh when I think of Marvin Lewis and Bill Belichick quotes yesterday about social media, especially:  
Asked by media in New England whether he follows Ochocinco's tweets, Belichick smiled and said, "I don't do Twitter or MyFace or any of that stuff."
Old school coach that prefers to stay in the confines of his past, instead of the Moneyballers of the 21st century.

The stats are changing before our eyes every day, which is why Erik and team updated the video.  Still, his message is really more interesting as a tool to drive understanding and change with those around us.  Hold on!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Facebook Users Like Brands for "stuff"...

Facebook Users Like Brands for Discounts, Social Badging : MarketingProfs

This report makes some great points about how limited today's "Like" function is in Facebook.  It's a limited, crass, "poor man's" way to comment on Brands and experiences, though it serves well to do a virtual "back slap" on your buddies funny or agreeable comment when he posts something you "Like".

There is no doubt that in a consumer-driven culture, part of our persona is brand affiliation.  It's simply honest to affiliate ourselves with preferred brands, and a great way to confer with them.  We are what we do, what we eat, what we Like.  As Chris Brogan says in his book "Trust Agents", be transparent!

Also, as a former Brand Manager, nothing is more important than understanding what customers think and prefer.  That's how we can make better decisions on behalf of our customers.  Frankly, it's worth paying for.

This small survey scope is clearly missing the broader dataset possible through social media.  It's a gap emerging companies are striving to provide in complementary ways.

Two specific companies in Austin, TX are very focused on helping consumers advocate and provide feedback to brands in ways that leverage today's social media technologies, which is encouraging. does this through Props and Drops, using a social gaming metaphor - kind of a "Yelp meets MyTown", focused on Brands instead of real estate/businesses.  It's free to consumers, to affiliate with Brands as well as peers and their Brands.  I understand it will be featured at Demo 2010 this year.

Of course, the leader in the space is  It is the engine that helps almost every Brand leader you can think of help us (as consumers) indicate our "rating" of the product or service on the sites of those manufacturers and retailers.  Impressive first-mover advantage and expertise that is setting them apart, as they extend into other verticals.  Given how pervasive they are, you already use them...

Props to MarketingProfs for pushing us to think and evolve the psychology behind "Like"s.  Now let's all get the data behind our analysis so we can get better Brand experiences, and managers can make better decisions to make that happen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are you a Superhero? These kids are...

Friends and Family,

You may already know the soft spot I have for abused children, and the passion I feel to help and protect them.  As my good friend Matt Curtin was inspired to say:

“Every child needs a hero, but every abused child needs a Superhero.”

So please join me and REGISTER for the 2010 CASA Superhero Run on September 19th at 8am at The Domain, where you can laugh at me running in a Superhero costume, and do good in the process by raising money for children whose parents should have protected them cannot or will not do so.  These kids can’t stick up for themselves, but CASA Can.

Mens Deluxe Muscle Chest Green Lantern Costume
Who is the Green Lantern?
But hey, I understand not all of you are comfortable running around in bright colors or tights.  So before you bail out and hit , here are the Top 10 reasons people said no to the Superhero 5K, that you don’t want to have to admit in public on September 20thJ

Top Ten List:
10. I'm afraid if I go to The Domain I'll get distracted and stuck waiting in line for an iPad at the Apple store.  (it’s ok, they are closed Sunday mornings)
9.  I haven’t run a 5K in “x” months/years/ever.  (this is about the kids, so don’t sweat the timer if you are worried; get the course record  if you are fit or gifted)   
8.  I only run barefoot in the mountains on rocky paths - can't do high-end shopping districts with soft paved roads.  (c’mon, this’ll be the Neimann-Marcus of 5K’s)
7.  I only wear Superhero costumes in “private” time.  (We won’t tell, and this is socially acceptable…)
6.  I don’t have a costume yet.  (Amazon and others have lots to sell, and there’s plenty of time to buy)
5.  I have to watch 5 hours of NFL pre-game on Sunday mornings (really?  Well, use your DVR amigo)
4.  We must go to church on Sunday mornings (don’t worry, we’ll be done by 9am and God says you can have a hall pass to do good for abused kids)
3.  I love/despise the Longhorns and might be tired or hung-over after their victory/loss at Texas Tech the night before.  (celebrate victory or sweat out your misery with us)
2.  I am not in Austin and/or can’t make it there on September 19th.  (keep reading, we have options for you…)
1.  I don’t like fun, winning things, celebrating good causes with people, seeing children smile, or feeling good.  (uhhh, I don’t know what to say…are we friends?)     

If you can't run for some reason above, please help us reach our team goal of $1,000 by pledging and contributing something between a cup of coffee ($2) and whatever touches your heart for these abused children (all amounts welcome to help us hit $1,000).  

Friends, this is a legitimate need to show kids we care about them and how they care for others in the future.  Here are some stories behind the kids and volunteers, including support from Gov. Rick Perry.

When you click the link to REGISTER for the Race, make sure you join team name: "Family Venture".  Or start your own!

Thanks for considering this fun activity and/or small financial sacrifice as part of your overall giving and service.

Stronger together,


Monday, August 30, 2010

We are what we do, and we do what we read...

Our family went on vacation a few weeks ago to southern California, and seeing friends and family while creating some quiet reflection time provided time to reflect, freed cycles to ponder thoughtful questions  a colleague had shared, and read some ideas of some other very smart people sharing and developing their thoughts on developing and maintaining values.

Do you share a passion for leading your families, teams, companies, and community with a culture around you that breeds strength, confidence, trust and honesty?

I'm recently riffing on this idea with some of you that just because we THINK or INTEND something to be our values, doesn't mean they are. What we INTEND but don't DO are just IDEALS. Only those things we actually DO represent how we really feel about our values. No real new insights any self-discovering adolescent hasn't heard before, but all of us myself included can use the reminder.

Many wise people have chewed on this idea, but here's a simple one that I appreciate because of the source:

"When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier." - Roy Disney

So, the question is, what can I read more of that will help influence what I do, to reflect and refine who I really am and strive to be? I'm always looking for more angles to strengthen my heart, mind, body and soul, so feel free to send or share suggestions. Here are a few of mine, with more to come:

The Bible:  pick your flavor - it's still the purest, leanest and most vetted book on values I've ever read. The way it is designed to cross-reference other Books and lessons is a great precursor to today's hyperlinked learning via the web.

Here are a few others that shaped ways to live consistent values (you can ignore the buying option - just listing these via Amazon for easy reference):

So, what do you read that influences your values?  We want to know...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is Relational Intelligence (RI) more important than anything else?

I love putting good content in my head, and sometimes an unknown author is a crap shoot.  So after recently reading Relational Intelligence, I have to say it was impressive how something so tuned into how to improve relationships with people could apply to business, personal, family or community lives.

Think "Emotional Intelligence" meets Myers-Briggs or DiSC profiles, focused on relationship skill sets and personas that make leaders great.  Check out the free and simple assessment to see where you fall at:

What I really enjoyed was the frame of reference Steve takes in writing this book.  It wasn't just about RI for the sake of getting ahead, but about developing it with substance and for the right reasons.  It's rare to find tools that encourage us to develop a consistent character and discipline across all of our relationships.

If you are looking for a way to strengthen the impact of your character and consistency across your business and personal life, this is a pretty good tool.  Here's a link to the Amazon summary if you want to check it out:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

So, did Apple learn this time?

Great article in Wired on mobile wars and winners, with even better posts by readers on where the profits are, and where they will likely be.

For all you SAT exam or Mensa lovers:
Apple (Macintosh):Microsoft (Windows)::Apple (iPhone):Google (Android)

Google has model to scale, but there's always going to be a market for simple design and turnkey experience, and with the phone subscription anchoring the model and the potential of server-side cloud offerings, this war is really nothing like the PC.

Begs the question: will RIM even matter in 5 years, and does Cisco have to jump into the space...?

What are your thoughts...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why the Windmill?

You might be asking yourself, what's up with the Windmill background, Mark? Two reasons, which explain some of the purpose behind this blog:
  1. My entire extended family is from the Netherlands and while I was born and raised in California my first language is Dutch.
  2. The Dutch are the world's most successful international trading people in recorded history (Tulips, Spice Trade, Diamonds, Windmill and Delta Technology), and most recently have done so in an internationally recognized highly regarded way.
I aspire to reflect my heritage through how I respectfully conduct business across borders, always seeking in work and life to find the balance of trade between people, cultures, and markets. Perhaps like you, I've learned that the only way we will get better is to share ideas and explore them with people that will challenge our thinking - that's how the Delta project came together, and now we are seeing the same thing in new-age wind power. People tell me that at least some of what I have learned so far is worth publishing. ;) Let's hope I can extract the good parts efficiently to provoke healthy growth together...

As a start, here are a few topics I would like to share what I've learned and tackle with you:
    1. high-technology marketing and business development
    2. international market development
    3. technologies from IT infrastructure to the apps we use
    4. social media's impact on Enterprise markets
    5. how to avoid future "Tulip frenzies" or " bubbles" in the process (no Don Quijote windmills either)
          • striving to balance life and health across "heart, mind, body and soul"
          • prioritizing relationships, especially life with my family
          • working with people with character as a personal and professional priority
          • living toward my values and not just my ideals
          • ways mobility is changing buying and selling, personal transparency, and productivity
          • tools of the trade in business and personal development that have made a difference
          We'll see where it goes from there. I'll try to avoid the "Jerry Maguire manifesto" and stick to the topics, and I'll try to keep it brief. Keep me honest. :)

          Thursday, July 8, 2010

          Under construction

          Reflecting on which personal and business topics are worth publishing and discussing in public...

          Like most of you, I prefer some editorializing to occur on your blog and on mine. ;)