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Tim Peter


August 5, 2015

How Not to Fail – Thinks Out Loud Episode 132

August 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

How not to fail

How Not to Fail – Headlines and Show Notes

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about how to lead mobile-focused digital transformation within large organizations (a topic we’ve been talking about a fair bit lately). Here are the slides for your reference:

Contact information for the podcast:

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 28s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter


January 16, 2014

3 Key Things to Remember About Remote Work

January 16, 2014 | By | No Comments

Building the right teamSo, I realize the whole “work from home vs. work in the office” debate is kind of done, right? Marissa Mayer sent out her memo—a year ago, I might add—the Internet exploded, and promptly forgot about it.

So, why am I bringing this up? Again? A year later?

Funny you should ask.

I was visiting with a client earlier this week and something interesting happened (all parties were completely fine with me sharing this story; as you might expect, names, and a boatload of details, have been changed).

A key individual, we’ll call him “Peter Gibbons” was working remotely to meet some fairly crushing deadlines. He, with the acknowledgement and endorsement of his team, turned off his phone and IM. It’s all good, as the kids say.

He churned out his work, reconnected his devices/utilities, and learned that the world had caught fire while he was offline. Um… kind of not cool.

Anyway, once they team got together, they fixed the issues, and life went on. Not great, mind you. But, y’know, fine.

Now, the guy was completely in the right on this one. He’d done everything right. Everyone thought it was cool. They made the best of the situation and discussed how to ensure this wouldn’t happen in the future (i.e., make sure Peter had some appropriate backup).

Except for one thing.

An individual on another team, who we’ll call “Michael Bolton,” completely lost his mind. “My work is just as important as that guy’s,” he bellowed. Well, insisted. But it came off kind of bellow-y. “How come I don’t get to do what he did? And what’s worse, the whole world caught fire! If that happened to me, I’d get reamed up and down. I’ve got to churn out (pick whichever one works for you):

  • the big client presentation; or,
  • that major press release; or,
  • 5,000 lines of code; or,
  • our entire business strategy for next year.”

He continued, “I’ve got important work to do. And I’m way more productive outside the office. I’m not constantly interrupted by other people and I can focus on getting my job done. It’s ridiculous that I’m held accountable for meeting specific productivity goals and not given the opportunity to meet them.”

And on and on and on. You know the type I’m talking about.

Now, to be fair, his last point has some merit and I’ll come back to that.

But, while I think remote work is right for many people in many situations, there are three, highly related reasons why not everyone should work remotely. At least not every single time they want to. Happily, this individual’s mentor laid them out plainly:

  1. You are not a number. Your value to your organization is more than a single measure, no matter how important the presentation, press release, code, or strategy you’re developing. Now, if you’re legitimately being interrupted by people talking about trivial, non-important stuff, you’ve got a legitimate reason to say, “Hey, sorry, but I can’t talk right now. I’ve really got to get these TPS reports to Lumbergh by the end of the day or they’ll take my Swingline stapler.” But, if they’re trying to solve real, honest-to-goodness work related things, take a minute to assess whether their things might be worth contributing to, too. Which leads to…
  2. You weren’t hired to do one thing. Your value is not that one thing you do. Doesn’t matter how good you are it, either. Part of your value to the organization is “dealing with interruptions” and being available to the rest of your team to answer questions, engage, brainstorm, and, participate in the overall process. Sometimes, maybe even go to a meeting (as long as it’s a useful meeting; I’ll have more to say about this another time). Part of your role in just about any organization is to help move the entire organization forward, not just your piece of it. Which leads to…
  3. Don’t confuse your productivity with your team’s productivity. Finally, this is the kicker. Your client presentation, press release, code, strategy, or what-have-you is undoubtedly important (if it really isn’t, but they’re having you do it anyway, you really want to schedule some time with Lumbergh to sort that out). It may in fact be critical to the organization. But it’s also possible that your focus on that thing creates a roadblock to others’ productivity and, worse, to that of the overall organization. When Peter Gibbons was out of the office and “the whole world caught fire,” it definitely delayed the team’s response. If two or three or four or more people are standing around waiting for you while you work on your project, that’s a pretty big hit to the organization as a whole.

Now, as for Michael Bolton’s complaint about being held accountable for meeting specific productivity goals and not having a realistic opportunity to meet those goals? Yeah, that’s bad. It’s not only demotivating; it can be downright soul-crushing.

What a good manager is supposed to do in those cases is work with Michael Bolton to determine the organization’s actual priorities and create an environment where Michael can both get his work done and get recognition for contributions to the team’s success too. Which, I’m thrilled to say, Michael’s manager accomplished handily.

So, does this mean I’m against remote work?

Absolutely not. Not even for Michael Bolton, sometimes.

With the right people, processes, and platforms in place, many organizations can benefit from getting their folks out of the office from time-to-time (I’d recommend revisiting these tips on how to do just that).

I’ve said many times, people don’t go online; they are online. The web, mobile, social. and otherwise, creates lots of opportunities for people to work at a remove and remain completely connected. What matters is how you make it work in your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter


December 12, 2013


December 12, 2013 | By | No Comments

Closing out the yearI’m a little contemplative today. I tend to get this way roughly this time each year.

  1. Because of the holidays and the end of the year, and
  2. Because it’s my birthday.

Yes, I’m one of those. Don’t worry. It’s not a mid-life crisis, just a little year-end contemplation. I think it’s valuable to look back every now and again. And this year, I find myself thinking a lot about my Birthday Reflections post from two years ago:

“…through everything, I’ve had more happy days than sad the last year. Which I hope is true for most people.

I suspect it’s not.

I look around and see people challenged in many different aspects of their lives. Some are unhappy in work. Others are unhappy in love. And still others are unhappy in life, generally.

Now, to be fair, many people face challenges that I can scarcely imagine. We’re sitting in the middle of the worst economy any of us will ever see (we hope). Lots of people are struggling to pay their bill or are worrying about what happens if they get sick. Some aren’t sure how they’re going to pay for their kids’ college or their retirement. Others face very real medical situations for themselves or their family. These are huge problems and ones that I don’t see any easy answers to.

At the same time, I’m excited whenever I talk with a business owner or an entrepreneur or a kid fresh out of school who looks at the world and sees opportunity. Many speak of their plans with such enthusiasm and passion and drive, that they breathe life into everyone who hears what they’ve got to say. You can’t help but get caught up in their excitement for what they’re going to do.

Sure, some won’t succeed, at least not at first. More than a few will likely adjust their plans or their goals along the way once they learn a bit more about their customers, their market, or their assumptions that weren’t quite right. But many will succeed in the long run. And not because they had a better idea or a better business plan or a better operating environment.


What will help them reach their dreams is that enthusiasm, that passion, that drive. We all get knocked down from time to time. The most successful people I know often have suffered serious setbacks or losses somewhere along the way. That’s not cliché. That’s reality. It’s the enthusiasm, the passion and the drive that helps them deal with those setbacks, that helps them overcome the challenges, that helps them get back on the horse when they fall off.”

I’ve long believed it’s important to do what you love. In fact, I’m increasingly convinced that’s true. That doesn’t mean you’ll love it every second. Nor does it mean it’s a guarantee of immediate success.

What it is, though, is the thing that will get you up off the ground when you’re knocked down — and if you’re like most of us, that will happen somewhere along the way. Bill Gates’ first company was called Traf-O-Data. While it wasn’t an outright failure, it didn’t exactly net him his billions. Warren Buffett couldn’t get a job with his hero, Ben Graham, when he first graduated college. Again, that seems to have worked out OK.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a look backwards every now and again — whether on your birthday, the day after a major project tanks, or whatever one appeals to you. But the folks who do what they love quickly absorb whatever lessons they can from the process, then “get back on the horse,” and start moving forward again. Gates’ love of computers and software led him to Microsoft; Buffett’s love of business and finance kept him in the game.

So, as the year starts to close, take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself, “Do I love what I’m doing? Will it sustain me through the tough times?” And if you find the answer is “No,” think about what it would take to get you there.

And, for those of you who answered “Yes,” you’ve got the best present you can have. For you, I’ll close with my thoughts from a couple years ago,

“…my birthday wish is that you find whatever it is that engages your energy and prods your passion (even though that [phrase] sounds a little dirty when I say it out loud). Each year goes a little faster than the one before it, so don’t waste your time worrying too much about what could go wrong. Some bad stuff will happen no matter what you do. That’s life. Just make the most of your time and do what it takes to make yourself—and the people you love—happy.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of my past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter


June 19, 2013

Forget Your Industry. How Safe is Your Job from Amazon?

June 19, 2013 | By | No Comments

Measures that matterThe other day, I talked about industries getting “Amazon’d,” where technological shifts (largely brought to bear by the AGFAM-ily), disrupt traditional industry players. More importantly, I talked about how your business can adapt in such an environment.

However, a number of you wrote to me saying, “Screw my industry. What about my career?!?” Or something very much to that effect.

Now, I don’t want to offer false platitudes. (Y’know, as opposed to all those true platitudes going around these days.) It’s fairly certain at least some people will be displaced by these changes.

Unfortunately, that’s not new.

Equally unfortunately, many countries don’t have a great process for helping people transition to new opportunities (or, in the worst cases, few new opportunities exist).

As for whether these disruptive shifts signal “the end of work,” as Jeremy Rifkin called it in his 1995 book of the same name, I honestly have no idea.

In my defense, no one does. While Rifkin’s work may have been prescient, remember that the book was written 13 years prior to the current unemployment crisis. It’s possible his thesis foretold the future. It’s also possible it represents the proverbial broken clock, with the last few years representing one of the two times he’ll actually be right.

Even more telling, Rifkin’s not the first to make this claim. Theorists dating back to John Maynard Keynes in the 1930’s predicted an end to work brought about by a machine age (though, in Keynes’ view, massive technological shifts resulted in the “good problem” of what to do with an abundance of leisure time). And the original Luddites of the early 1800’s smashed machines out of fear of losing their jobs permanently.

So, the “end of work” crowd doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record here.

Of course, the fact that none of these folks have been right in the past doesn’t mean that they are automatically wrong now.

Me? I tend to follow a “plan for the worst, hope for the best,” strategy. Or, as put far better by computer scientist Alan Kay, “The only way to predict the future is to build it.”

Labor, yours and others, is a product. As a marketer, I’m all about products. Whether machines can do “all” the work, plenty of opportunities will exist to fill customer (or, if you must, employer) needs going forward.

The means of production and distribution are now, effectively, free. So use them to your advantage.

Sites like Etsy and and 99designs and DeviantArt and Disc Makers and Threadless and, yes, Amazon, Google, YouTube, and on and on and on offer opportunities to put your work, your creativity, and your passion in front of potential customers.

Sources like Khan Academy and Coursera and MIT Open Courseware and iTunes U and YouTube and loads of others enable you to learn new skills (like, say, programming, network engineering, or training), on which those machines, their operators, and the capital behind them rely.

New customer segments like older, increasingly active adults, Millenials requiring mentoring, Boomers requiring reverse mentoring, and on and on and on will require myriad new products and services and features and benefits that you can provide if you follow my long-standing advice and focus on your customer (even if, in this case, the customer is somebody different than you’re accustomed to serving).

I’ve said many times that marketing is so much more than advertising. It’s creating products, and finding the right place, price, and promotional vehicles necessary to put those products in front of the right customer. At its core, it’s about helping people solve their problems.

And as long as there are people, there’s an opportunity for you to help them. For fun. And for profit. And if that’s not a job worth doing, I don’t know what is.

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter


December 3, 2012

What creates success?

December 3, 2012 | By | No Comments

What drive success?The Atlantic has a great interview with author and, more relevant to the story, bookstore owner Ann Patchett discussing why her new venture succeeded. And there are lots of reasons: good market, strong demand, excellent timing, amazing PR. But I can’t help thinking the main reason comes down to this quote:

“Amazon doesn’t get to make all the decisions; the people can make them, by choosing how and where they spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves.” [Emphasis mine]

Just because you want something, won’t make it so. You have to work for it.

But, if you really want something and are willing to work for it and are willing to change yourself and what you do? Then very little can stop you.

If you can help those dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, please visit the American Red Cross.

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