Monday, September 29, 2014

Introverts' 11 Observation Techniques for Extroverts

Allow me to let you in on several of our little secrets. It will likely lead to a silent shunning from my kind, but such is the price I choose to pay.

1) Make your point and stop talking
Most of observation is focus and the greatest inhibitor for us all is often ourselves. This is especially true for the extroverts that feel the need to contribute for the vast majority of the conversation. First, silently focus your mind on restraining your desire to think out loud. Next, continuously choose your battles and strategically make your contributions to the conversation.

2) Stop waiting for your chance to speak
This is where it really gets difficult, especially for us introverts. More often than not, people not talking are waiting for a pause in the conversation or, for those more impatient, a breath to be taken. As difficult as it may be, you need to train your mind to realize you're doing this and stop.

Now that you have a firm grasp of your tongue and mind, let me welcome you to my happy place.

As you know, most communication is non-verbal and therefore your sense of sight is crucial. These next techniques will teach you to hone your vision for observational purposes.

3) Watch how people speak
Our parents teach us to look people in the eyes when speaking, which is respectful, but not always necessary in a group setting. Honestly, someone's eyes don't tell you much. However, their facial expressions, where they are looking, the difference between the direction of their face and eyes, their posture, their arms, their hands and their legs all speak volumes. For example, someone that goes from a relaxed speaking position, to an upright posture, speaking with their hands and fervently looking everyone in the eyes is likely an extrovert thinking out loud that stumbled onto a topic very important to them. They are likely very emotionally attached to their point of view and likely to defend it vigorously. This is where the scientific method can be helpful. Make some assumptions, hypothesize what's behind those non-verbal cues and test your theories later on. Also, once a speaker relinquishes the proverbial podium stay focused on them for a few more seconds. The switch can provide very useful information. For example, an eye roll conveys their opinion of the new speaker.

4) Watch how people listen
Most people tend to focus singularly on the person speaking, going from one to the next and so on. Everyone in the room is always communicating. Even if someone is just starring at the speaker not moving an inch you can hypothesize that they are likely engaged and interested in what's being said. Scan the room. Others may not be as engaged.

5) Don't fixate on a single person
Eventually someone is going to notice you staring at them or potentially your use of these techniques as well. Either way, you need to shift your focus fluidly yet sporadically through the room. This is not necessarily just to avoid detection. Continuously shifting your focus, say every 3 to 5 seconds, allows you to observe more and likely pick up on more queues such as a shift in posture. Recently, I encountered a person that totally freaked me out by fixating on me. I was on a Hertz shuttle bus headed back to LGA and there was a guy sitting 15 degrees off directly in front of me. At first he was staring at my aggie ring, likely wondering what it was from. Next he stared me in the eyes which clued him into the fact that I was observing him, specifically his eyes. So there we were eyes locked. I thought to myself, I'll take this challenge and I'm not going to look away because I want him to know I know he was looking at my ring. After 5 seconds of him staring, which felt as if through me, I conceded and looked away. Either he was the better man or he was the creepy man.

6) Sit where you can see everyone
Once you're skilled in the previous techniques you will find yourself wanting to move to where you can see everyone. Avoid your natural tendency to just sit in the back of the room. Next time, get a seat at either end of the front row.

7) Use your peripheral vision
This is another technique that compounds on the previous. Once you've figured out the most probable general mental state of everyone in the room, start relying on your peripheral vision to notice changes in those mental states.  This happens often when the speaker shifts. For example, most people tend to make large shifts in their posture, tilting their heads back or rolling their eyes when they grossly disagree or dislike the new speaker.

8) Look for patterns
People's distaste or opinion of others may manifest itself over the course of multiple body language changes, which may even escalate as the conversation progresses. Or the inverse, someone might sit up every time a specific person speaks. Your memory is crucial for this technique. Don't try to write this stuff down but typing can work if you can stay focused on the room as well.

9) Utilize other extroverts
The other extroverts have likely not made it past the second technique, so you might as well use it to your advantage. Statistically most of you think aloud, which if unguarded can be quite revealing. This tendency can be easily exploited to test your hypothesis. Use this sparingly and, of course, wisely.

10) Draw us introverts out of our happy place
As they say, the quiet ones are the ones you need to worry about. We are either deep in thoughtful consideration of the topic or have lost interest entirely. Identify the introverts in the room and make it a point to seek their thoughts on the topic at hand. If you like to plan ahead, request an inventory of everyone in the room's expertise on the topic early in the meeting to use later on to draw out introverts' relevant expertise and reflections on the matter.

11) Stay focused

Your mind is a powerful tool and if let loose it may wonder a bit. Stay focused. Your objective is to glean as much as possible from the conversation and if you stray there's no telling where you'll end up. You might find yourself alone in a dark room, yet such is the fate of the vast majority of this world.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Future of Retail and Predictive Analytics Role in Getting You There

What if when you went into your favorite apparel store at the mall you could:
  • earn rewards for showing up
  • see where your size of everything is on each rack as you approach it
  • earn rewards for trying on clothes
  • hear your favorite genre of music while trying on clothes
  • step in front of the mirror and immediately get pictures of all sides of you
  • take the opportunity to post the pictures to Facebook for immediate feedback
  • provide the opportunity for your friends to earn rewards for providing feedback immediately
  • customize the apparel like the stitching on your pockets to make it unique
  • take whatever you wanted or ship to wherever without paying for anything
  • automatically pay your bill at the end of the month which has progressive discounting based on your shopping habits and rewards status
Before such an experience could ever take place, retailers need to inspire customers to partake in their shopping experience. This is where predictive analytics can help retailers get customers in their stores.

Predictive Analytics is commonly known as a variety of statistical techniques for analyzing historical data to predict future events or behaviors such as future shopping needs based on a customers historical behaviors crossed with millions of others'.

First, you need to gather big data to massage it into customer relevant small data. There is a plethora of data to consume if you can get access to their social networks. An easy way is to allow customers to login to your systems with social network credentials or sync their existing accounts with social network accounts and while doing so ask for visibility into their behaviors. This paves the path for your collection of all sorts of data.

Next, you need to crunch the data specific to a customer and historical behaviors relevant to them and develop predictive models for potential future behaviors and their probability. For example:

  • Notice that similarly segmented customers that bought item X often did behavior A and the potential it has to lead to the purchase of item Y or Z. Then, open a dialogue with the customer saying we noticed behavior A and thought you might be interested in items Y & Z. Then give them the chance to respond or not. Either way if you capture every interaction, you'll have more data to work with next time.
  • Identify your most valuable and trusted customers that have potentially untapped buying potential based on their spending habits, their diligence in paying their credit card bill and their credit score. Then offer those few customers an elite invite only status in your rewards program that with it comes a no hassle shopping experience that eliminates the line at the register or the need to pay in the store at all and, as an added bonus, a personal shopping assistant able to see their past purchases and available only to them.
Predictive Analytics has great potential, but unfortunately today it is mostly focused on pushing products and often products that a customer already bought. The right product at the right time is very important. However, customer-focused predictive analytic models that distill actionable services to provide to specific customers will empower retailers to strengthen their brand and their relationships with customers. With a customer service focused approach retailers must reorient employees total focus on products to also focus on the associated services they provide and predictive analytics empowers those employees with each customers' potential behaviors and associated services that increase their probability.

Today; I expect you to know me, what I'm looking for and how to help me get it.

Tomorrow; I expect you to know before I do, how to get me there and how to instill my confidence in you.

However, if you are bold, leapfrog it all and instill my reliance on you.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Organizational Decision Making

Recently, I interviewed an international CFO and one thing he mentioned really caught me off guard. I was so dumb founded that I drifted off into "what if" land for a few seconds wondering what it would be like.

We were talking about who had decision making authority within adjacent organizations and how it was drastically different based on region. He said in some countries one man makes the decision and it is final whereas in others decisions are made by committee. This is, of course, analogous to the extremes of a pendulum, which naturally makes us think there is a good middle ground that we should seek for better decision making.

So, follow me into what if land. What if we threw out the middle ground.  Let's say the middle ground is like the middle of the screen in Frogger where you either get run over by a car, knocked out by a log or eaten by a gator. It's one side or the other to survive this little trek.

Everyone knows two heads are better than one and when people come together to make a decision they often consider more of the angles and implications of a decision simply because there is more brainpower in the room to pursue more trains of thought. Often great ideas come from groups of people brainstorming in think tanks.

The inverse is potentially just as effective, if poised appropriately. A single mind has the potential to make the decision exponentially faster than a committee since they need not deal with forms of communication that are reciprocally slower. When time is of the essence and the level of risk is acceptable a single person may be the best solution for delegation of authority.

I encourage you to consider delegating the power and authority you've acquired to those most suitable to make the decisions at the right time to expedite your organization and ultimately to leap frog your competitors. If you don't, they may.

Friday, June 06, 2014

My Son, Wyatt

This is my son Wyatt.

In so few words "my son", there is immense meaning that is unfathomable to those that are not a parent. And for those that were fortunate enough to have helplessly begged for their child's life, there is even greater meaning. It can only be explained with tears of joy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How To Become a Dysfunctional Team... or Not

Back in 2008 Tom Edison put this Project Team Performance Curve on paper as an expansion to Tuckman's Forming, Storming, Norming, Perfoming model. Edison describes five additional stages that characterize a tipping point, a trans-formative opportunity and the dysfunctional road some teams take to extinction.

At the pinnacle of a team's success Edison suggests a team is at its informing stage where they should be sharing their experiences, both successes and failures, with the larger organization.  This helps to keep a free flow of ideas, experiences and potentially prompting brainstorming's piggybacking.

Next the team moves into a mental state rampant with Group Think, fewer fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. This is what is referred to colloquially as the doldrums or what I like to call the mental state of boredom where you are so busy doing nothing you want to slam your face into the keyboard just to change things up for a few seconds.

This is where team transformation happens if dysfunction is identified soon enough. The team's leadership needs to inject a fresh perspective and its associated new innovation into the team.  They can do so on their own by leveraging external resources such as another team in its informing stage or perhaps an outside facilitator like the trusted experts at Thought Ensemble. Come on, you had to see that coming.

I'll leave it to Edison to talk about the other dysfunctional stages and melding of face and keyboard, but needless to say it's bad and you don't want to go down that road. However, the task left to you is figuring out where your team is in Tuckman and Edison's team development life cycle. I challenge you to be honest with yourself and your colleagues and get the help you may need to transform your team before it's too late.

Edison T. The Team Development Life Cycle: A New Look. In: Defense AT&L.