Archive for December, 2014

What’s Next?

December 31, 2014

WhatsNextAs we exit 2014 and enter 2015, it’s a time of reflection – reviewing what has passed and planning for what’s to come. Below are some thoughts and questions on how to evaluate what’s happened and what’s next.

  1. What are the facts? What problems did you solve and what results did you generate?
  2. How did what you accomplish above fit into your plans-for-the-year created last year? Where did you measure up, exceed expectations or miss out altogether?
  3. What were the surprises – good, bad and ugly? Why were they surprises? Were they welcome? What did you do to make the best of these surprises?
  4. Who was a part of your life in ways small and big? How would you change the way you interact with these people in 2015?
  5. What will you do differently and unexpectedly next year, assuming that you have a desire to do so? How long have you had the desire to do that thing and why are you considering doing it now?
  6. How has your life changed for the better and for the worse? What will you do about it to embrace the good changes and slough off the bad?
  7. How has your company and the market changed in the past year, and how will that affect your plans for the new year?
  8. What is your one big regret relationship-wise in this year, and what can you do now to make it right?
  9. What is your one big regret in your business or in your job and what can you do to fix it?
  10. What is the most magical thing that could happen to you and for you in 2015 and what can you do to facilitate that occurrence?

We hope that you find them helpful. Our best to you and yours for a peaceful, fulfilling and magical 2015!


Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff

December 16, 2014

WheatChaffAs we move from an Age of Information to an Age of Personalization, there are ten filters that help people sift the wheat from the chaff, seeing clarity in a noisy and cluttered environment full of data.

  1. The Validity Filter – The first and largest filter will be the validity and accuracy of the information. Only truthful information, backed by measurable data should be considered. It takes good judgment and experience to know whether you’re dealing with facts, embellishments or opinions. Only the valid data should carry weight.
  2. The Values Filter – The values of the stakeholders involved should be considered in making data filtering choices. If there are multiple options, elect the one that would not compromise any stakeholders’ values. If there is only one option and it doesn’t align with the values of the stakeholders, keep looking for the right information.
  3. The Neutrality Filter – Sometimes you come across information that’s biased for whatever reason, and conclusions are based on slanted, inaccurate or misrepresented data. This often happens when a sponsor pays to have information presented and may cause a conflict with the integrity of the data. When making a sponsorship choice, remember that only neutral, unbiased data will add value to the end stakeholders.
  4. The Sustainability Filter – Information can have relevance in the short term and in the long term. Considering the longer term implications of relevant information helps customers make more sustainable, longer term choices.
  5. The Cost Filter – The cost for acquiring and maintaining the relevant and timely information must be factored in when considering how to cost-effectively deliver dynamically-generated data to stakeholders across the value chain.
  6. The Receptivity Filter – The receptivity of the various stakeholders to the validity and importance of the filtered information will help determine what gets included as the data, what gets filtered out, how it gets delivered, how frequently it gets delivered, etc.
  7. The Data-Availability Filter – How readily available data sources are, how easily data sources can be integrated, how easily reports can be generated, and other factors will determine how the data is acquired and filtered and whether it can be easily available.
  8. The Convenience Filter – No matter what information is used or how it is delivered to the customer, it must be distributed to the customer in a way they find convenient. Often times this is through mobile apps or over the web or over e-mail.
  9. The Relevance Filter – Ensure that the information is filtered out to be relevant to each customer and each class of customer. Understanding the needs of the customer is an essential part of delivering only the information that’s relevant to them.
  10. The Timeliness Filter – Even if a customer may find certain information relevant, timing is everything. Knowing what they need and delivering precisely what they need when they need it is that constantly-moving target!

Savvy businesses will figure out how to cost-effectively filter out the noise and better serve the customer and their current and anticipated needs. Understanding what these filters are is an essential first step in doing so.

Getting The Most Out of You and Your Team

December 13, 2014

Dec12Panel2FountainBlue’s December 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Getting the Most Out of You and Your Team. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have impassioned, articulate and inspiring speakers on our panel, representing a range of perspectives and approaches to the leadership and management of teams. They represent different backgrounds and career paths, different styles and experiences, yet they had much in common:

  • They did not necessary plan to be managers or leaders, yet they figured out how to successful lead and manage, and discovered that working with a team helps people achieve more than they could as an individual contributor, no matter how brilliant they were in that role.
  • They always put their team first, and took the time to build relationships, understand the needs of the people they work with, and advocate for the support and resources so that each member and the whole team succeeds.
  • They understand their own strengths and weaknesses and that of their team members, and worked with their teams so that they collaboratively deliver results.

Below is advice offered by this wise and experienced panel:

  • Develop your learnings and expertise – there is no substitute. It will help you be confident and persistent and garner the respect and admiration of the right people.
  • Help set the direction and priorities, and let your team members figure out how they can deliver on it. Separating the what and the how helps leaders go from good to great.
  • Trust your team to deliver. And respond appropriate if they do or do not.
  • Raise the bar high and give people stretch goals to keep them motivated, committed and connected.
  • Be positive and transparent and authentic in your communications – it’s all about relationships.
  • Walk the talk and model the way – show others how they can be proactive and productive despite challenging situations.
  • Really care about each team member, in thoughts and words and actions. Be compassionate and flexible, especially with your high-performers.
  • Share the credit for success, accept the responsibility for challenges.
  • Find the support you need so you can focus on the larger picture. Mentors and sponsors can help to do that. Having support at many levels will help you think through the problems you’re facing and the options for resolving those issues.
  • Give people on your team the opportunities to grow and lead and stretch.
  • Establish, communicate, respond to ground rules. The team should know why they are there and what the consequences are for breaking them.
  • It’s not so much about gender or style or knowledge, but about what you do and what results you provide. Focus on the tasks at hand and why you’re doing what with whom, and the other stuff will take care of themselves.

The bottom line is to be open to and prepared for change – for yourself and for members of your team. Change is not personal but happens to a company all the time, especially in industries that are fast-moving like tech! Help your people to respond proactively and positively to changes.

And in order to lead through change managers and leaders must be likable – the kind of authentic, transparent and trustworthy leaders who put others in their thoughts, speak clearly of their intentions and follow through on their projects and programs, delivering tangible results.

Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Applied Materials, our partners at UCSC Extension, and our panelists for FountainBlue’s December 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Getting the Most Out of You and Your Team:

Facilitator Christina Trampota, Managing Partner, CGM Squared

Panelist Azlina Ahmad, Sr. Director of Engineering, Violin Memory

Panelist Chunshi Cui, Business Development Director, Dielectric CVD Division, Applied Materials

Panelist Kamini Dandapani, Director of Engineering, LinkedIn

Panelist Lakshimi Duraivenkatesh, Director of Engineering, Retail Promotions Platform, eBay Inc

The Seventh Sense

December 9, 2014

SeventhSenseWe all learned of the five senses in preschool and kindergarten, and have our own opinions about the sixth sense – the things that are perceived beyond the five senses, yet are just as real for many people.

But for those who are consider themselves ‘people-people’, there’s a seventh sense, an added sense that helps them quickly read and assess and connect with people who touch them in-person, online, or over e-mail. Most of these people-people have met thousands of people in their lives, have met a wide range of people in their lives, and have had deep and broad experiences, some good, some not-so-good.

Having this Seventh Sense helps people to quickly evaluate how well he or she might connect with others, how they fit into their framework, perspective and life at the moment. Indeed, it is invaluable to know quickly and confidently whether to connect with new people or relate more deeply with those already in our network.

Whether or not you consider yourself a people-person, if you’re interested in how to better that Seventh Sense in yourself, below are some tips for doing so.

  1. Know, respect and communicate your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you bring to the table will help you see how you fit in with others, and how others fit in with you.
  2. Know your purpose, values and mission. Knowing what you stand for, what you do and why will help you frame your view of your world and your network.
  3. Recognize that it’s always about the people. Make the people who are important to you feel like they matter.
  4. Listen at the deepest level to those that matter most. Connecting with those that matter will help you see with more clarity who the most relevant people are in your network and why.
  5. Trust your gut. If you feel squeamish or queasy or uneasy when you sense someone around you, disengage or make evasive maneuvers. You may or may not be right in the end – but it would save you time and heart ache if you’re right and act accordingly.
  6. Assume positive intent, unless you know otherwise. Give people the benefit of the doubt, but respond appropriately if they prove they are not what they say or appear.
  7. Act quickly and decisively when you get that gut feeling. There’s time for the left brain to consider why you wanted to respond in the way you did.
  8. Be curious and open to the uncomfortable. People who stretch your perception of what’s real, what’s right and what’s known may make you feel uncomfortable. Embracing those that do is a doorway to a wider view of the world.
  9. Share what you have with trust and generosity. Trust that those in your network will use it well and pay it forward. It helps the right people to gravitate to your circle.
  10. Live and learn. Follow the above guidelines and live and learn based on your personal experiences.

What are your thoughts about developing that Seventh Sense?

Successful Business Models in an Age of Personalization

December 2, 2014

ビジネスイメージSuccessful Business Models in an Age of Personalization filter out the noise generated from databases, sensors, and people, and provides filtered, data-driven, automated, relevant and actionable reports for people, teams and businesses so that they can better serve their customers and partners and other stakeholders. The trick is to digitize the information, engage and connect the communities of stakeholders, garner wisdom from the crowds as well as usage data, deputize contractors to deliver quality goods and services to-the-door, and continue to leverage Data, Sensor, Software, Network and Operational Advancements to sure that CUSTOMERS receive the personalized services they expect. Below are descriptions of these categories of business models and examples of companies implementing them well.

Monetizing Digitized Content connects creators, consumers, communities and sponsors. It’s remarkable what NetFlix has done in the movie industry, taking down companies like Blockbuster, and what Amazon has done for books, moving us to paying for digitized volumes.

  1. Progressive newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York times are successfully selling online and mobile subscriptions to their targeted audiences. And businesses like Issuu work with tens of thousands of periodical publishers to convert print to digital formats, making it easy for publishers to do the conversion from print to digital.
  2. In the gaming and sports industries in particular, you will find that consumers are willing to pay more for quality, exclusive content. For example, ESPN is now partnering with local carriers to offer premium access to targeted sports content to their most loyal customers. And Sony Online Entertainment subscribers can pay $15 a month for select enhancements, including: more character slots and storage, 10% discount at SOE’s marketplace and a monthly allotment of virtual currency for purchasing upgrades.

Engaged Audiences and Communities will lead to more connections, more targeted conversations and longer and deeper interactions between members.

  1. Many of these niche communities will make it easier for advertisers to connect with their targeted prospects, and help community members receive relevant information and deals. In fact, advertising strategies will target relevant communities, and will no longer focus on the Web 2.0 eyeballs-and-exposure strategy, preferring Click-Through models, which benefit both the advertisers and the prospects/customers.
  2. There is strength in numbers, and a good example of how that’s working is in the Crowdfunding Connecting with others to jointly fund promising ventures is lower risk, with potential up-sides. This trend will amplify and extend in other ways as well.

Wisdom From the Crowds leads to empowered and informed consumption. Getting vetted, impartial recommendations from trusted and experienced networks will saves time and money and increases the likelihood that you will be happy with the product and the results.

  1. Product, Music and Service Recommendations: Whether it’s getting product recommendations with services such as Needle and Peerlyst, or getting music and playlist recommendations from your friends through iTunes or Spotify, or service recommendations through Angie’s List, Care and Thumbtack, it is very powerful and useful to get the input of the experts, people who have been-there, done-that, but without a motive or agenda. This crowd of experts-in-the-field and others with similar needs will continue to fuel purchasing decisions for all.
  2. Social networks such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter help you connect with your network, communicate with your community, and create a platform to share your views. The crowd will help determine who’s popular, followed and respected – and those that are influence the decisions, thoughts and actions of others.

Post-Sales Data will help retailers proactively serve customers. Retailers are reasonably sophisticated today using past purchasing patterns to plan-fully stock their shops, but having data about what happens after purchases will help retailers even better prepare for and even anticipate customers’ preferences.

  1. Information on what happens *after* a product is brought home – whether it’s used, how often it is purchased, long-term data on buying patterns for that product – will help retailers better project and plan for anticipated needs for niche customers, regions, areas.
  2. The Next-Generation of Mail Order retailers will be data-based, of course, assuming preferences on styles, colors, costs, quantity etc for each niche market. But what will be different will be how proactively send products out to customers with minimal risks to those customers, and then how they take feedback from customers to progressively more personalize future offerings.

Deputizing Vetted Local Vendors and Providers will conveniently bring products and services to the door. It’s hard to build an army of providers to serve the personalized needs of specific people in specific areas, and even harder to scale that army. Here are examples of companies successfully doing so.

  1. The UBER/Lyft example shows how an army of deputized, local couriers will forever change the way people think about how to get from one place to another – and forever transform the taxi industry. Look also at what Surf Air is doing – providing all-you-can-fly memberships to-and-from convenient locations to frequent flyers. What will this mean to the airline industry in general?
  2. Amazon Fresh and Google Express are examples of how forward-thinking companies leverage technology to efficiently deliver perishables regularly to the doorstep. Both Google and Amazon will leverage supply chain concepts, delivery-optimization algorithms, and targeting populace target markets. Google Express will target the delivery of non-perishable staples, perhaps with the support of self-driving vehicles and Amazon Fresh will focus on efficiently delivering perishables. Both will continue to transform how we think about grocery shopping and online retailing.


This list isn’t intended to be exhaustive – in fact we will soon have a separate post that’s all about the data – filtering out the noise to find what’s relevant. Meanwhile, your input and thoughts are welcome.