Dave Birckhead

A Tumblr Blog
passionate about marketing, technology & innovation; business owner / entrepreneur; runner; husband; dad
  • September 11, 2013 2:17 pm

    How Great Poetry Helps Leaders Prevail

    When I learned the news of Seamus Heaney’s death a few weeks ago, I was instantly reminded of an essay he wrote in the New York Times a few weeks before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the essay, he wrote eloquently about the power of poetry, using the poem “Incantation” by Czeslaw Milosz as an example. It was during this time that Mr. Heaney provided such a timeless illustration of how great poetry—and great art in general—can lift up, inspire and help people endure and prevail in challenging times.

    The fact that I still remembered Mr. Heaney’s essay so clearly after so many years speaks to the power of his words. In fact, I can clearly recall sitting in the kitchen with my father-in-law, relaxing with the family on a Sunday afternoon, when he reached across the table and handed me a section of the newspaper. “This essay,” he said, “is remarkable.” 

    I read and then re-read the essay several times. And, perhaps it’s impact on my thinking would have been left in the past, limited in my memory to a few weeks in 2001. However, in the months that followed, I often turned and returned to Mr. Heaney’s essay and Mr. Milosz’s beautiful poem. The tumultuous next few months included my move to a new city, the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the rapid decline of the IT consulting firm I had helped to start and resulting layoffs of good friends, and, most traumatically, my mother’s death after a protracted battle with cancer. Their words bolstered me during this time, proving the truth of Mr. Heaney’s central thesis and deepening my love of poetry.

    Mr. Heaney’s essay begins with a few lines from “Incantation” and a description of the thoughts and feelings they evoke.

    Human reason is beautiful and invincible.

    No bars, no barbed wire, no pulping of books,

    No sentence of banishment can prevail against it.

    It puts what should be above things as they are.

    It does not know Jew from Greek nor slave from master.

    It is thrilling to hear the ideal possibilities of human life stated so unambiguously and unrepentantly. For a moment, the dirty slate of history seems to have been wiped clean. The lines return us to the bliss of beginnings. They tempt us to credit all over again liberations promised by the Enlightenment and harmonies envisaged by the scholastics, to believe that the deep well of religious and humanist value may still be unpolluted.

    Despite their power, Mr. Heaney describes these lines as problematic, for the weight of history runs counter to them. The rest of the poem, he tells us, has a certain frantic, and even comic, meter and pitch when read in the original Polish. This bit of irony saves the poem from illusion and sentimentality. As Mr. Heaney puts it, “…the tragic understanding that coexists with the apparent innocence of his claims only makes those claims all the more unyielding and indispensable.”

    He goes on to argue that great poetry remains answerable to things “that should be” above “what they are.”  This, I believe, is where poetry can bolster and support leaders. Anyone who desires to lead is forced to acknowledge the prevalence of numerous obstacles while maintaining faith in the possibility of a desired future. 

    When William Faulkner accepted the Nobel prize for The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying in 1950, he also spoke of the need for poetry and literature to nurture the human spirit—a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. 

    The poet’s, writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.

    As the economist and writer Umair Haque often advocates, “Read the good stuff, daily…Don’t fill your mind up with junk food.” Poetry can help leaders inspire, endure and prevail. It can help them become “artists of human possibility.” 

    Mr. Heaney concludes his essay with the final lines of “Incantation” and a reminder of a conviction that most of us share—a conviction that could be adopted as a text by leaders everywhere.

    Beautiful and very young are Philo-Sophia

    And poetry, her ally in the service of the good.

    As late as yesterday Nature celebrated their birth.

    The news was brought to the mountains by a unicorn and an echo.

    Their friendship will be glorious, their time has no limit.

    Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction.

  • July 18, 2013 1:04 pm

    Adventures in Self Quantification

    image

    Comparison of the Jawbone Up and Fitbit Flex

    In this post I’ll describe my experiences using and comparing two of the most popular fitness tracking devices, the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit Flex. Both devices do a great job tracking activity throughout the day, how many miles you’ve covered, how long and how well you’ve slept, and how many calories you’ve consumed. After using both, I’d give the edge to the Fitbit Flex, especially in terms of comfort and convienence.

    Technology has made it possible to measure more and more about ourselves. We can now track how much we move, how fast we run, how well we sleep, and how much we eat, among other things. Wearable devices, such as fitness tracking bands, have already achieved robust consumer interest and adoption, and research groups such as Juniper, ABI, and IMS expect demand to increase significantly over the coming years.  

    I recently became interested in fitness tracking bands, the new crop of devices that track moving, eating and sleeping. Fitness tracking bands range in price from $30 to $200 and are worn as bracelets or pocket devices.

    I decided to try one after watching Nilofer Merchant’s fantastic TED talk this year and reading more about the dangers of sitting.  In her talk, Nilofer shares that people sit for an average of 9.3 hours a day, longer than they sleep. Too much sitting appears to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

    As an entrepreneur and consultant for many years, I’ve spent long hours sitting at desks, in conference rooms, and traveling on planes, trains and automobiles. So, research on the dangers of sitting certainly caught my attention. I was hoping that a fitness tracking band would help me move more throughout the day and also track my activity as I train for another marathon this year. New studies also have shown that visible monitors of behavior can really help promote positive changes and limit negative activities. My wife and son gave me a Jawbone Up for Father’s Day. A short time later, an investor in Fitbit sent me the Fitbit Flex to try and compare. So, I had a perfect opportunity to wear each fitness band for two weeks and compare the experience.

    First, the basics:

    image

    Initial Setup

    Opening and setting up the fitness bands was simple and easy. In both cases, I had to charge the battery and install the accompanying app on my iPhone. The instructions on how to use each device were straightforward and only took a few minutes to review. Once each device charged, I was quickly up and running.

    The Bands

    The band for the Up is stylish and looks more like a bracelet. It wraps around your wrist without a fastener. Both the Up and the Flex bands are available in multiple colors. The band for the Flex connects with a small metal clasp. Both my wife and I found the Flex band difficult to clasp at first (the secret is to press hard). Once I got used to it, putting on the Flex wasn’t difficult, but it was a little tricky at first. I found the Flex more comfortable to wear. It felt somewhat lighter and more secure. The Up was also comfortable, but I was more concerned with it coming off while removing jackets, exercising, etc.

    Syncing

    Syncing is where the Flex has a distinct advantage over the Up. With the Up, you remove a cap on the band and connect it to the headphone jack on your phone to sync it. I typically did this once or twice a day. At first I was so eager to see my data that I didn’t mind this. However, by the end of two weeks, manually connecting the band was getting old. The Flex wirelessly syncs to the phone whenever you open the app, and it automatically syncs with your computer whenever you are nearby.  This gives the Flex a distinct advantage in terms of experience and usability.

    Apps

    Both the Up and Flex have iOS and Android apps. Since I have an iPhone I used the iOS apps of each. Both apps display charts and graphs of activity and sleep. Here the advantage goes to the Up. The quality and usability of its iPhone app is very high—beautiful interface, presentation, and ease of use. The Flex app provides the functionality you’d expect, but it lacks the polish and design of the Up app.

    Tracking Activity

    Both the Flex and Up do a great job of tracking movement. They allow you to set daily goals for activity and track progress towards the goals. They also track calories burned throughout the day based on your activity. I found this to be very enlightening and motivating. In addition to my training runs, we’ve taken more walks around the neighborhood, parked the car farther away, taken the stairs, etc. Basically, I was very motivated to get at least 10,000 steps each day (the default goal on each device and recommnedation). Both devices also allow you to input additional activity. So, if you ride your bike for 30 minutes, the activity and calorie burn can also be recorded. The Up has a nice feature to remind you to move throughout the day. You can set an alarm for the band to buzz when you’ve been inactive for a certain amount of time.

    Tracking Sleep

    To track sleep, you switch both the Up and Flex to sleep mode when you go to bed and when you wake in the morning. Both devices track how long you are actually asleep during this time and how many times you get up during the night. The Up also displays how long you are in deep sleep versus light sleep. Both bands also allow you to set alarms so that the bands buzz to wake you in the morning. The Up allows you to set a time window for waking and then buzzes when you are in light sleep.

    Tracking my sleep helped me realize how much better I felt after a solid seven or eight hours versus my alertness, productivity, and mood after less than six. I also began to be more aware of the link between movement during the day and quality of sleep at night. An active day of movement during the day and a long run or cross training session almost always led to a great night of high-quality sleep.

    Tracking Calories

    To track calories, you use the apps to enter in foods consumed during the day. Tracking your food and caloric intake is easier than it sounds, and I did this consistently during the trial period with each device. At each meal, I took an extra 2 minutes to search for and enter what I ate (or a close approximation). The Up app was easy to use in this regard and also gives the option to scan the barcodes on packaged foods. We try to eat as little packaged food as possible. But, I thought this was a nice feature when I did. The food database and search capability wasn’t quite as robust and accurate with the Flex. And, while the Up app provides information about calories and nutrition content, the Flex app only tracks calories. I did find the nutritional information provided by the Up to be more helpful and enlightening than I expected. Even on days when I thought I was eating healthy meals, I sometimes discovered that I consumed more sodium or fat than I expected.

    If you are trying to lose weight, the Flex has a great feature that allows you to enter how much weight you want to lose and how aggressively you want to lose it. Based on this it calculates the daily calorie deficit needed to lose the weight. It then tracks calories burned and calories consumed during the day versus this plan. I found it really helpful at the end of the day in deciding what to eat for dinner or whether dessert was a good idea or not that day.

    The Verdict

    Both devices are very good, and I would certainly recommend some type of fitness tracking band for anyone interested in improving their health and quality of life. In comparing both devices, I’d give the edge to the Flex. The comfort of the band and the convenience of wireless, automatic syncing were big factors in the quality of my experience. While the Up app is clearly superior, I suspect that Fitbit is working on an improved version of their app. And, upgrading to a new version of the iPhone app is likely to be cheaper (or free) and easier than upgrading to a new Up device if Jawbone eventually releases a version that supports wireless, automatic syncing.

    Whichever device you choose, I hope you find that they help you improve your activity and gently nudge you towards behaviors that lead to a longer, healthier and happier life. Happy tracking!

  • June 7, 2013 5:16 pm

    Why Marketing Technology Is Set to Explode

    image

    It’s no secret that marketing is going through a lot of changes these days. It seems like you can leave your desk to grab a cup of coffee and by the time you’re back another social platform has emerged, a must-have technology is promoted, or an acquisition is announced. 

    Marketing is going through the most significant, technology-fueled transformation in its history.

    Consider these recent developments:

    Rapid shifts in consumer behavior. In recent years, most people have changed:

    • how they watch television (on-demand; NetFlix)
    • how they communicate (social media; Facebook; Pinterest)
    • their adoption of smartphones and tablets (iPhone; Android; iPad)
    • how they shop in stores (“Showrooming” and buying it cheaper online)
    • what they expect in terms of service and experience (based on experiences with Apple, Amazon, Trader Joes, etc.)

    CMOs have increased responsibility for technology and technology decisions

    • Gartner predicts that CMOs will have larger IT budgets than CIOs by 2017
    • CMOs are rapidly hiring “Chief Marketing Technologists” and “Marketing Operations Leader” roles
    • Companies are developing or hiring “pi-shaped” talent—folks with strong collaboration skills, interest in other disciplines, and deep marketing and technology expertise.

    Rise in marketing complexity

    • Explosion in marketing technology options from both startups and established players. 
    • Advances in lead generation, lead scoring, web analytics, marketing automation, CRM, etc.
    • Massive volumes of data. Google says 90% of the world’s data generated in just the past two years. 

    Increases in C-Suite expectations

    • CEOs and CFOs are demanding an investment-like discipline in marketing approach.
    • Upside is that many organizations are sitting on volumes of cash. CMOs who use data to tell a compelling story of how to increase revenue are generally rewarded with increased budgets.

    Cloud model for marketing technology

    • Many marketing technology offerings are now available as software-as-a-service (SaaS) via the cloud. 
    • On-demand model often means little internal IT integration and speeds adoption.
    • SaaS model is disrupting the traditional pricing model for enterprise technology vendors and driving down costs.

    Market growth

    • Many companies are investing in upgrades and expansions to the enterprise marketing technology stack.
    • We’re only partially through this phase of growth, with much potential ROI left to realize.

    As evidence of this transformation and the growing importance of marketing technology, one need look no further than the markets. Enterprise technology giants are quickly responding to the demand for more integrated marketing technology platforms by acquiring pieces of the puzzle. For example, in the past 18 months, Oracle, IBM, Salesforce and Adobe have acquired over $20 billion of marketing technology companies. The most recent of these was just announced this week. Salesforce is set to acquire Exact Target for $2.5 billion.

    As CMOs respond to the transformation of marketing and drive more and more technology decisions, they must also develop deeper partnerships with their CIO counterparts. While many marketing technology services can be set up quickly via SaaS models, a good deal of integration is still required. To upgrade and expand their enterprise marketing technology stacks, CMOs must balance the need to move quickly with the need to improve effectiveness, which will require integration and coordination. 

    Direct, digital relationships with customers are now more critical to company success than ever before. Responding to this opportunity and challenge will require a new level of leadership to set the vision, listen and learn, execute with discipline, and collaborate across (and beyond) the enterprise. 

    Buckle your seat belts. This is the new normal, and we’re in for an incredible ride.

  • June 5, 2013 3:04 pm

    Omnichannel Marketing

    image

    Omnichannel marketing is an natural evolution of marketing practices that have advanced beyond multichannel marketing. With multichannel marketing, companies invested to ensure that they were engaging with customers and prospects on all key channels. They took steps to ensure that their activity was customized and optimized for each channel. Multichannel marketing itself is a significant undertaking and many organizations are still focused on getting this in place.

    However, many companies that were leaders in multichannel marketing have now advanced their capabilities into what has been termed omnichannel marketing. So, what’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel? While the emphasis with multichannel is engaging customers and prospects on all key channels, omnichannel makes the leap to coordinated activity and interactions across channels. Each channel is aware of interactions that have occurred on other channels.

    image

    The omnichannel experience is quickly becoming what customers want and expect. Customers now insist that their interactions on one platform are reflected in their next interactions, even if on another platform. In other words, they expect a seamless experience.

    Customers often engage with a brand dozens of times between inspiration and purchase. According to a survey conducted by Endeca Technologies, 50 percent of customers interact with an average of two touchpoints to research or purchase products, and 36 percent engage with an average of three. Technology is driving much of this. Customers are rapidly adopting new devices and new digital touchpoints, such as Pinterest. Technology has turned our customers into moving targets.

    image

    Another trend behind the push for omnichannel is “showrooming.” Showrooming is a trend where customers shop and research products in brick and mortar stores but then purchase online at lower prices. Participation in showrooming is increasing, and many traditional retailers have taken notice. A recent Harris Poll revealed that 43 percent of U.S. adults have participated in showrooming. Most who engage in showrooming use their smartphones to comparre prices, and Amazon.com is the most popular destination for their eventual purchase.

    Companies are responding to customer expectations for an omnichannel experience and the rise of showrooming in different ways. Here are three examples:

    Cartwheel by Target

    • Target is partnering with Facebook
    • Offering deals that customers can only redeem in stores on their mobile devices
    • Strategy is to get smartphone-carrying customers to visit and purchase in bricks and mortar Target stores
    • Response to showrooming

    Nordstrom

    • New stores equipped with mobile point of sale devices
    • Top salespeople given iPhones to contact customers
    • Significant investments in IT to ensure online experience matches in-store experience
    • Company has integrated inventory and fulfillment for stores, the Internet, and mobile devices

    Starbucks

    • Disciplined, consistent approach to Starbucks brand across all channels
    • Leveraged robust IT platforms to launch new loyalty program
    • Loyalty program users can join the program and also make purchases using their phones
    • Now coffee can be purchased directly with a smartphone

    The Omnichannel Experience

    The experience that customers have across channels matters a great deal. Recent research, such as the chart below, has highlighted the critical connection between experience and company financial performance. Companies have higher levels of engagement and loyalty when their customers engage with multiple touchpoints. In fact, Forrester Research indicates that omnichannel customers are worth five or six times more than those who interact on a single channel.

    image

    Making It Happen

    Enabling Omnichannel marketing requires investment, discipline, and coordination. Common barriers include:

    • Organization: Many companies place emphasis on single channels. Managers of each channel pursue success metrics based on optimization of that channel alone. 
    • Data: Customer data and customer interaction data is typically spread across many different data “silos” in the organization.
    • Technology: Legacy technologies prevent scale or integration required for omnichannel.
    • Analytics: Many companies lack the ability to conduct cross platform digital ROI and understand a comprehensive view of the buying cycle.

    In order to move forward with an omnichannel approach, companies must address these barriers and focus on a truly cross-functional approach. Success requires coordination and collaboration across marketing, IT and customer service. 

    image

    Will your company make the leap to omnichannel marketing? Companies with omnichannel strategies are still on the leading edge of common practice. However, the rewards are considerable. They include improving overall experience, attracting the most valuable customers, and combatting showrooming. Given these benefits as well as the complexity of implementation, now is the time to begin crafting an omnichannel approach and roadmap. Customer expectations won’t wait.  

  • January 27, 2013 12:32 pm

    Social Media - Company Guidance and Policies

    During an Harvard Business Review twitter chat session this week (#HBRchat by @HBRexchange) I posted a question to find out if anyone had come across good templates for crafting a social media policy or guidelines for their company. I received many great responses, and I thought I’d compile the list of what I found here. Hope you find it helpful.

    Resources for Social Media Policies and Guidelines

  • January 27, 2013 11:03 am

    Interaction design is at a pretty interesting inflection point right now. This documentary focuses on the future of interaction design and user experience.

  • January 26, 2013 3:41 pm

    Real Strength

    image

    Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur

    I just finished reading Startup Life by Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor and would recommend it highly to anyone involved in starting a business. I was so engrossed in the book that I finished it in several days. It was the first time that I came across entrepreneurs willing to talk so openly and honestly about startup life and startup relationships.

    Brad and Amy share stories and advice from their 22 year relationship that has spanned numerous startups. Brad has been an early-stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987, and Amy is a venture philanthropist. The couple resides in Boulder, Colorado. Brad and Amy, along with many other entrepreneurial couples, share wisdom they’ve gleaned while dealing with the inevitable ups and downs that accompany startup life. The no-holds-barred book tackles relationship issues such as communication, sex and intimacy, mental health, financial stewardship, and family planning in an open and candid way.

    This book is such a gift to the startup (and broader business) community. As I read the book I was constantly reminded of my favorite business book, Personal History, Katherine Graham’s autobiography. Although I love reading business books, Personal History was the first book I read by a business leader that dealt with the human and emotional side of leadership. Mrs. Graham talked openly about her insecurities and doubts, she described what leadership feels like, and she expressed vulnerability. 

    Perhaps it’s because society still holds to the Industrial-era thinking that business life and personal life should be kept separate that books such as these are rare. Most business books fail to deal at all with the personal, the emotional, the human side of business. However, these are the aspects of startup life where we confront real challenges—often alone and without guidance or help. This is beginning to change. And, folks like Brad and Amy, and the others who shared their stories, are helping to make it happen.

    It takes real courage to share these type of intimate details and talk about issues facing entrepreneurs and their relationship parters so candidly. Their courage reminded me of this quotation about real strength from Fred Rogers.

    "When I was a boy I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is not seen. Real strength has to do with helping others.”

    - Fred Rogers

  • January 24, 2013 5:01 pm
    fastcompany:

The 5 Characteristics Of Great Leaders
Being flexible.
Being able to communicate.
Having courage to stand alone, the tenacity to not succumb to pressure, and the patience to keep fighting until you win the day.
Humility and presence. Acknowledge and respect all of your employees.
Being responsible. Accept blame and give credit when due.   
What are some other characteristics that make a great leader?
[Image: Flickr user Suvodeb Banerjee][Post: M.Cecelia Bittner]
View high resolution

    fastcompany:

    The 5 Characteristics Of Great Leaders

    1. Being flexible.
    2. Being able to communicate.
    3. Having courage to stand alone, the tenacity to not succumb to pressure, and the patience to keep fighting until you win the day.
    4. Humility and presence. Acknowledge and respect all of your employees.
    5. Being responsible. Accept blame and give credit when due.   

    What are some other characteristics that make a great leader?

    [Image: Flickr user Suvodeb Banerjee][Post: M.Cecelia Bittner]

  • January 24, 2013 4:58 pm
    fastcompany:

The True Meaning Of Power
Innovation expert Kaihan Krippendorff kicks off a discussion about power saying: 

“Power is a tool that carries no innate moral value. What matters is the reason behind using that tool.” 
“Power becomes destructive when we seek it out for its own sake; when we view power not as a tool but as an end in itself, when we seek power just for power’s sake.”
and,
“The opposite, of course is dedicating power to causes that improve the world: Mohandas Gandhi convinced Great Britain to leave India, Nelson Mandela used power to end apartheid, and Martin Luther King Jr. was powerful enough to “change the rules” and end segregation. Therefore, power is freedom. The more power you have and the more skillfully you use it, the greater impact you can have.”

Krippendorff concludes with three exercises that can help you address and change any negative associations you may make with the term “power.”
1. I associate the word “power” with the following (list any words, emotions, or opinions that come to mind):
2. Create a noble cause (if you had greater power, what positive impact would you want to have?):
3. New associations (what alternative, positive, associations can power have?):
Here are some other places that Fast Company talks about power:
Are You A Power Poisoned Boss?
Don’t Be A Power Hog
Why Sharing Power At Work Is The Very Best Way To Build It 


[Image: Flickr user Mohammad Haleeque][post by m.cecelia bittner]
View high resolution

    fastcompany:

    The True Meaning Of Power

    Innovation expert Kaihan Krippendorff kicks off a discussion about power saying: 

    “Power is a tool that carries no innate moral value. What matters is the reason behind using that tool.” 

    “Power becomes destructive when we seek it out for its own sake; when we view power not as a tool but as an end in itself, when we seek power just for power’s sake.”

    and,

    The opposite, of course is dedicating power to causes that improve the world: Mohandas Gandhi convinced Great Britain to leave India, Nelson Mandela used power to end apartheid, and Martin Luther King Jr. was powerful enough to “change the rules” and end segregation. Therefore, power is freedom. The more power you have and the more skillfully you use it, the greater impact you can have.”

    Krippendorff concludes with three exercises that can help you address and change any negative associations you may make with the term “power.”

    1. I associate the word “power” with the following (list any words, emotions, or opinions that come to mind):

    2. Create a noble cause (if you had greater power, what positive impact would you want to have?):

    3. New associations (what alternative, positive, associations can power have?):

    Here are some other places that Fast Company talks about power:



    [Image: Flickr user Mohammad Haleeque][post by m.cecelia bittner]

  • January 22, 2013 9:18 pm
    vengrove:

I find many Zen sayings to be relevant for the pursuit of innovation and creativity.  This one reminds us that inspiration often comes as a result of keen observation and mindfulness.
View high resolution

    vengrove:

    I find many Zen sayings to be relevant for the pursuit of innovation and creativity.  This one reminds us that inspiration often comes as a result of keen observation and mindfulness.