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Month: February 2011

The social media expert list wanted by business

The Conversation by Danielle Scott via FlickrClay Shirky talks about politics – what about social media and business?

I was stunned when I listened to Clay Shirky on the Middle East uprising.  Not stunned by what Clay Shirky said –  I’ve always believed that social media will rock the political world.  I was stunned because when I stopped to go behind Clay Shirky’s words, and more importantly, relate them to business, I arrived at a view about social media pundits might consider heresy.

Social media may be bad for dictators.   But, social media is not always good for business.  Not, because we are dictators.  We can’t be dictators in business.  But, because consumers have constant choice.

Consumers can love us, or leave us, with a lot less effort than they can love and leave their governments.  And frankly, your service or mine is a lot less important to them than the way they are treated by an all-powerful government.

In short, good people, social media is not always good for business because what we offer and sell is not always that important to our customers.  I am not being rude.  I am making an important point.

We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small

Our consumers have lives, and their lives are much bigger than our businesses

Dictators need to listen to their people because they take over a person’s whole life.  We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small.

Where dictators swamp every detail of a person’s life; the details of a person’s life swamp the use of our product.

What do we want to know before we know whether social media is good for business?

We want to know how the details of their lives swamp us.  Phrased positively, we want to know how we fit in to the bigger picture of their lives.

Social media has made niche conversational analysis important

Lifestyle analysis  is not new in marketing   Coca-Cola has people going around watching where they can put a cold box full of Coke to create a new channel and they find surprising places like commuter Kombis in Johannesburg.

What is new, A.SM. – after social media, is that social media has put the spotlight on lifestyle analysis and conversational analysis, in particular.

But not every conversation that is possible will happen.  Nor is every conversation important.  Our conversations may be ridiculously important to dictators, who are easily destabilized by the sudden connectedness of their people.

Business simply doesn’t need to worry in the same way as unpopular governments.  People in Inverness don’t necessarily want to suddenly start chatting about baked beans to someone in Brighton.  Nor are people in Invercargill going to start talking about baked beans with each other just because they can.  Nor will students in Brighton make baked beans the subject of Facebook. There has to be a reason why they might want to.

I got to spell this out.  With dictators, the reason was already there.  Waiting.  Simmering.  With business, because consumers have choice and are already doing what they want to do, changes are going to be a lot more subtle.  And probably a lot more unexpected, and a lot more counter-intuitive.

Easy solutions are not readily found.  Someone trying to take advantage of your market share online has to work just as hard as they do offline.  Perhaps harder.  Online audiences aren’t captive.  They click away fast.  When we are capturing attention online, we can think of 0.5% as baseline, 2% as good and 10% as marvelous.

The outfit that captures your market through social media – the outfit that beats you to your own market has, by chance, or keen acumen, understood that there is something about your baked beans that consumers want to talk about.  And, they provided your consumers with the social media facilities to talk about something they want to talk about.

This feels hard.  So it should.  Most Marketing students skip the lecture on analysis.  So let me give you examples.

Example 1: Baked beans may be the advance party

When consumers buy baked beans – what problem are they solving?  Are they students trying to fill up on a tight budget?  Do they have kids who are picky eaters?  Are they going camping and need something edible ready in 5 minutes on an open fire?

A challenger to our business might reconstruct the market around a more viable segment: student meals, mums with troublesome kids, dads organizing active holidays.

Example 2: Frugality with style

In the great recession of the 21st century, we are eating out less.  Have you noticed that we talk about eating out a lot less than we used to on Twitter?  When did you last see someone bragging about buying takeaways in London?  When did you last see ‘nom nom’?

We are eating at home more, but really, when we are planning a private party, why would we broadcast it?  Wouldn’t that be rude?

Conversations change in purpose

Our conversations have a purpose – a social purpose.  Who are we talking to?  Why? And what do we hope to achieve?

In politics, the conversation is obvious.  In business, we have to get thinking.  Consumers are as inventive as they are choosy.

How to use social media in business

Social media offers the possibility of completely new conversations with a completely new purpose.  That’s the danger (and excitement) of social media.

  1. Tracking mentions and sentiments is good.  It gets us started.  And most of us still have heaps to learn.
  2. Tracking how the conversation is morphing and understanding what the consumer is doing socially when they Tweet, Facebook and blog – thats where the opportunity lies.

That’s where challengers with a keen eye for social science are going to seize the opportunity with two hands and make inroads into our markets!

Social Scientists and Social Media in UK

This is what has changed.

  • Social media specialists who can track activity and sentiment
  • Social scientists who analyze the conversation and tell us what punters are trying to achieve socially when they talk online.  That is where the opportunities lie.

So who are the expert social scientists in UK?

So who are the expert social scientists in UK who can track morphing conversations? That’s the list we need to compile for business customers.

Would you drop a comment saying who you think are the most expert social scientists studying new conversations emerging out of social media?

That’s the list that businesses would like to have.

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What is influence?

One word out of you, buster, and I'll fly over there and poop on your head by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

What is influence?

At Social Media Week in London last week, Brass Agency asked Twitterati, “What is influence?” Fifteen leading social media buffs replied.

I want to ask the question in another way – like a social psychologist, to be precise.  I ask


  • “What do we do to be influential?”


  • “What does influence look like?”

I ask a question which is, on the face of it, quite threatening, but I take off the threat quickly with the sub-question.

  • “Who accepts our influence? (And, on what terms?)

On what terms do people accept our influence?

Harvard Scholar, Herbert C. Kelman studied this question for over 50 years in different settings and he found a 3-way typology worked for him: Rules, Roles, Values.


We’ll follow an undisputed authority or celebrity.  We allow ourselves to be influenced (at least superficially) and we bring little of ourselves to the relationship.  We follow, but we aren’t followed back!


We take part in an enterprise, or game, with a shared goal to win a valued prize – a championship, say in sport, or a big sale in business, or a mission in computer game.

To bring all the skills together that for our team to win, we need ‘levels’.  Levels are important because they allow anyone to join in at the bottom, as a newbie, and to work their way up, in a psychologically safe way, to a position of respect in a respected team.  That is what we are after when we join – working our way up into a position of respect in nice easy chunks, that aren’t so easy that they hold no status, and not so hard that we can’t get it after a little bit of practice

Influencers in these systems look like players at the higher levels.  The real influencers are almost invisible.  They are the designers – the managers and games designers who create the levels and keep the whole system  co-ordinated and flowing.  Without them there is no game to play.

In systems like these, we re-tweet people on higher levels than us, and we are re-tweeted by people on lower levels than us!  And we are little irked when our members re-tweet people in other teams.

We sometimes re-tweet the influencers.  They might read our tweets, but they never re-tweet them except as an example of what is useful or not useful to the group.  They are as distant to us as a celeb.


When we are influenced by values, we are very self-directed.  Our goal is to  expand our connection with the universe, however we interpret that.  In the process, we expand our own horizons and we get better at better at what we like to do.  We are picky too. We only get involved in situations that are meaningful to us  and that offer sufficient resources for us to follow our calling.

People who don’t  share our values think we are nuts, if they see us at all.  People who share our values notice us and their attention perks up.  They learn from us and we learn from them.  Following is mutual.

Re-tweets in this kind of influence are used as quick references in a conversation.  Re-tweets here aren’t likes; they are abbreviations!

What kind of influence do you specialize in?

As social media pundits, I think specialize in two ways: domain of influence and terms of influence.

Domain of influence

We work in a particular domain – politics, technology, arts, science, education, music, FMCG, light industrial, etc.

Terms of Influence

We probably have a particularly interest in one of the three influence mechanisms.


For example, classical broadcast, radios, magazines,  large festival, FMCG B2C marketing


Sport, education, professional community management, relationship marketing including frequent flyer programs, games design


High value goods (typically not seen from the high street including the post-graduate corridors that produced Google).  Situation-led events like the Egyptian revolution

Which terms of influence interest you?  I can almost guarantee you can rank order the three in order of preference.

The influence interests of London Twitterati

I tested out the Kelman’s model of rule, role and value by classifying the definitions of influence offered by London’s Twitterati and collected together in such a delightful mashup by Brass Agency.

Let’s see if they think that I have read their interests correctly!


@ally_manock @benjaminellis @drewellis @toodlepip @eba


@gemmawent @lesanto @azeem @whattleydude @sophiebr


@marketsentinel @joannajacobs @josepholiver @mazi @c_draper

I trust they will let me know if I’ve added anything to their understanding!

What is social influence?  (By Brass Agency and others)

My theme is aggressively wiping off this video.  If is has disappeared follow this link to Brass Agency while I sort out the code.



Catastrophizing – the question we are really asking but don’t want to ask out loud

Behind the Scenes Tour of G. Krug & Son by Baltimore Heritage via FlickrCatastrophizing

Do you have an area in your life where the slightest mistake fills you with foreboding?

Let me give you an example of catastrophic thinking:

  • You go to the shops and you drop a can of baked beans.   You think nothing of it.  You pick it up the can and put it back in your basket.
  • You go to the shops and you drop a can of baked beans.  You feel mild panic.  You’ve been told you are clumsy and here you go again.

Challenging your catastrophic thinking and re-framing

The standard psychological advice is to challenge your catastrophic thinking – be a critical friend and show yourself you are exaggerating.

That’s good.  Do it.  But also go a step further.   The problem isn’t ‘you’.  The problem is not what you are expecting from yourself or anyone else. There is a problem coming though.  You are losing faith in a relationship that is important to you.  Get your head around that now before your growing jitters sabotages what is left.

First, let me remind you of the conventional advice.  Then I’ll show you what I mean about your growing loss of confidence and the pointers to another task – reframing.

The 3 P’s of catastrophizing

Someone somewhere , I don’t recall whom, provided a handy heuristic to ‘parse’ the underlying mechanisms of catastrophizing.


In the first situation, the can of baked beans that you dropped was, well, a can of baked beans.

In the second situation, dropping a can of baked beans had personal significance: I am clumsy.


In the first situation, dropping a can of baked beans was chance – a one-off related to nothing else.

In the second situation, dropping a can of baked beans reminds us of another time where we were clumsy – the personal quality persists over time


In the first situation, dropping a can of baked beans in a supermarket has no connection to our prowess elsewhere.

In the second situation, dropping a can of baked beans in this place reminds us of when we’ve dropped something in other places – we feel a connection between otherwise disconnected activities.

How to use the ‘personal, persistent and pervasive’ heuristic to challenge your panic?

Personal, persistent and pervasive is a useful heuristic that helps us challenge our thinking.

  • Is this about us? (Not always!)
  • Is this really persistent? (OK, we suspect so, but what would be counterbalancing evidence to at least make our feeling neutral?)
  • Is this really persistent? (As above)

Challenging your thinking will at least give you a chance to take a deep breath and concentrate on what is well and good in your world.   Some times that is all that is needed.   Try this first and if all feels good, stop here and laugh at your temporary panic.

Our relationship with the world

But if you continue to feel bad, consider this.  We are feeling angsted by our relationship with the world.  We feel humiliated. Lessened. Devalued.

The real issue is that we feel an important identity has been challenged and challenged by someone whose attention and respect we sought.

Let’s play this out some more.

If a steward on a plane had said to me when I dropped my coffee, “You are so clumsy”, it is unlikely that would have gone with me to be remembered in a supermarket.

If my boss, or my sports coach or a lover had said “you are so clumsy!”, that would have been remembered.

The real issue behind catastrophizing

Who is making us care?

When we catastrophize, we do need to take not just one step back but two.  We have to go past personal, persistent and pervasive and ask ‘who is making us care‘?

Whose opinion do we fear?  And why do we fear this opinion so much?

What is the real issue behind our alarm?

Think of this.  If I am really so clumsy, my valued other should be

  • Trying to protect me
  • Helping me arrange circumstances so that my clumsiness hurts neither me nor anyone else
  • And if it is really bad, getting me some medical attention.

The real issue then is not my clumsiness (though it may be real).  The real issue is their bad temper.   What is irking them?

What to do about nagging criticism of a valued other?

It is hard to think straight when someone is attacking you but that is where our attention should go.  In my example of feeling clumsy when we drop a can of baked beans, we only notice the pattern of ‘clumsy’ because it was said by someone dear to us.

So let’s concentrate on that.  What relationship do we want with that person?

The question that we are really asking but don’t want to ask out loud

What relationship do we want with that person.  Or rather, why do we suddenly feel that we have significantly reduced faith in the relationship?

Isn’t the problem with us?  Aren’t we suddenly feeling “This can’t work”, or rather, “I am not sure I can be bothered to put the work in to make this work.”

That’s what we are thinking about, really. That we have to reframe this relationship.  Not jettison it or downgrade it.  Re-frame it.

We have to think about what we really want from this relationship and whether we have any faith in the relationship.

One thing that I do know and that I willing to stake my professional reputation on – any relationship is as strong as your belief in it.  It may be weaker but it is never stronger than your belief in it.

Be willing to take that second step back and re-frame

Examples of re-framing

Sometimes we find we have to reframe.

For example, on Saturday I noticed myself dropping things in the supermarket and because I was, I noticed that a lot of other people were too.  Mid-month and a lot of exhausted people on a Saturday morning.  I’ll read that into my assessment of the economy.

And then I noticed errors while I was working.  Some of which turned out not to be errors after all.  What was I saying to myself?

  • I was momentarily worried that I had lost my systematic ways of working.   I opened a few log books and slowed down and corrected that.
  • I was also asking myself whether I was committed to the project that I was working on.

I need to re-think where this project fits in to my life.  I don’t have the answer yet but once I did work for an organization for 10 years with the motto “Though they cannot support me, I will support it”.  I earned my own money and funded a lot of their operations and was nominally an employee of theirs.

Get it?  I knew what I valued and how much of a commitment I would make.   With the wisdom of years, i might phrase that now as “Though the cannot support me, I will support it while we are doing mutually valuable work together.”

How to re-frame?

By definition, re-framing is hard.  We are having to discover a new way of thinking.

That can take some long walks, some talks with close friends who might have different ways of thinking (not just their opinion of our lives!), and some reading of novels and poetry.

But we should stop worrying about the baked beans.  Our clumsiness may be real but it is not the issue here.  The issue is our self-esteem reflected in the eyes of someone we hold dear.

We need to think about how much we care about them, and whether we want to stay in the conversation if they do.  If we want to stay in, then stay – but only as long as the relationship is mutually valuable.

  • So do you believe in the relationship that is making you so unhappy?
  • What are the conversations that you are  having?
  • How are you bringing yourself to the conversations that you are having?
  • Are we doing mutually valuable work together?

Or to say this appreciatively:

  • What is it that we are doing together that is so valuable?
  • What are the immediate obstacles to our common activity?
  • What are we doing well and can do more of?
  • When we do more of what we do well together, are we doing what we find so valuable?

Sometimes a relationship is valuable but on entirely different terms than we originally supposed.


One day you finally knew what you had to do: a poem by Mary Oliver

Pack Square Fountain 16 by anoldent via FlickrTime to move on but not packed yet?

Have you ever been at a turning point in your life when you know you will be moving on?  You are beginning to pack but not going yet?  When people around you assume that you will be there for ever and yet you know you will not?

What is the word or phrase for this time just before dawn?

Crossing the Rubicon

The psychology of ‘leaving the house’ is well known.  We call it crossing the Rubicon.  The psychologist most associated with this phenomenon is Peter Goldwitzer.

Crossing the Rubicon feels good but is also a dangerous time. We are so committed that we don’t listen.

Resolving but unresolved?

There is not a lot written about the less definitive time that comes before.  Indeed, psychologists seem to think that if we just behave like someone who has crossed the Rubicon, all the issues on our side of the river will be resolved.

But surely this state of being neither here nor there is worthy of its own respect?

As ever I turn to poetry.   Mary Oliver has a wonderful poem about someone who is just about to set out and is still very attached to the world they are in.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Do you feel the “whole house begin to tremble” and the “old tug at your ankles”?

Are you about to step into the world “determined to save the only life you could save?

Mary Oliver is still alive and writing  If we want more, we should all go out and buy one of her books or send one to someone we love.  Here is the link to Mary Oliver at Amazon.


Khalil Gibran and The Happiness Index

Don't Spill! by Ack Ook via FlickrUK’s Happiness Index

David Cameron’s Happiness Index has most people puzzled.

How can we measure happiness?  Surely, we aren’t put onto this earth to be happy, we protestants cry?  Surely, happiness means different things to different people?  Surely, happiness is like a shadow – seen but essentially ephemeral?

Begin the science of happiness with poetry

All the usual objections are valid and in a strange way illustrate what we mean by happiness.  Khalil Gibran explains in the The Prophet.

“Then a Woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.

And he answered.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not  the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is the lute that soothers your spirit the very wood that was hallowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall in the truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say , “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep in your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at a standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weight his gold and silver, needs must your joy or sorrow rise and fall.”

Khalil Gibran and The Happiness Index

Indeed, we can cannot measure happiness.  But, we can measure the fullness of our emotional involvement with the world.

Indeed governments do not create happiness.  But, they do influence conditions that enrich or narrow our lives.

And remember, rich men too have narrow lives.  How much can we enjoy life when we are daily separated by car windows and personal assistants who keep us away from the people sharing our streets and the mysteries of unmatched socks?

A happy country is a country where we weep when others weep and smile when others smile.

A happy country is a country where winners celebrate losers because without willing losers, there is no race to win.

In a happy country delight leads to compassion, surprise leads to curiosity and our days are balanced between strangers and intimates.

Measure the size of our cup carved from joy and sorrow.

The happiness index is possible, but first we need to look to poetry to understand what we are trying to put into numbers.

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How do you play the game in the ever-shifting sands of business?

R2P by smadden via Flickr

Want to tighten up your marketing?

@jobsworth listed the roles that we play in the every morphing networked organizations in the new economy.

And I’ve turned them into a little questionnaire.

Check out the list! Figure out your own role! And work out who plays the other roles in your industry.

Position yourself well and clearly?  Do let me know if you gained any insights!

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A more soulful way to manage?

Desert River of Flowers by wanderbored via FlickrDry sterile thunder without rain

Tired of the grind of persuading people to do what’s needed?  Dreading another day with a boss who seems to think you are their metaphorical punch-bag?  Studying management and finding it overcomplicated and unpersuasive?

Some of us manage.  Some of us teach management.  Some of us study management.  And we all seem to be cynical about what we do.

But, of this, I am certain.

We agree the management community spends too much time posturing.  Whether we are on the front line or back at the university, teaching & studying, we dread the nonsense of our days and long for hope and meaning as the parched ground sighs for rain after a long dry summer.

A place that we can call our own

I would like to this post to be a place where we talk about what we really believe and what brings pleasure to our work and our relationships with others.

How do we nurture our souls in the pinch of anxiety and tension of our working days?  What balances our world and brings peace and harmony with people around us?  Are there poems that calm our frayed nerves?  Are there stories we tell to young people who want to hear?  Are the questions we would ask a person older and wiser in quiet moment in the park?

Do you still have hopes and dreams beneath the landfill of management-speak?

Have  you recoiled from the call to shape the world in our image – and choose instead to work with people, rather than against them, even when they seem determined to work against us?

Do you see reflections of what we each think important to do now in our dreams of the future – and do you marvel in the varied beliefs we hold between us?

Do you quietly resist filling your day with mindless activity – and simply concentrate resources, so we can relax and live in the moment today, knowing we can take of tomorrow, whether it is opportunity or disaster that knocks?

Would you share how your nurture your soul at work?

Would you drop a comment and a link to your favourite poetry or photos or leave a story?

I would love to hear how you nourish soul in the soulless workplaces that claim our days.

Follow the conversation

This RSS feed at the bottom brings comments to your feed reader.

This RSS feed at the top new posts to your feed reader

The Subscribe by email  box on the right brings new posts to you by email

Let people find you – they will like what they see

When you make a comment, leave your name and email address (not ever sold or passed on to third parties) and I can contact you.

Leave the link to your website, or Linkedin profile, as well, and other readers can follow you  work.

Can we build a community around people who want bring their soul to managing and being managed?

I am looking forward to hearing what you think about the rain you bring to relieve “dry sterile thunder” at work


My events sucked, until . . .

Events that suck

Have you ever sat down to write the advertising copy for an event and found it just didn’t come together easily? Or put together the perfect event – and no one was interested? Does events management feel too hit-and-miss for comfort’s sake?

Of course, the best way to learn to manage events is to seek an apprenticeship with a maestro of events and learn at their feet.  But, I’m a just a spare-time events manager, as most of us are these days, and as a business psychologist, I wondered what my profession has to say on the magic of events management.

I’ve searched the university libraries and apparently we have nothing to say.  Hmm!

So, that’s the position.  I can carry on lurching from church to school, or I can dig into my kit bag of basic tools and put together a model from first principles.

That’s what I have done.  I took the well-known solidly-researched Theory of Social Influence (Herbert C. Kelman) and applied the trio of {rules, roles, values} to events.

Here is what I came up with.  This post is long (1500 words), so let me give you the basic structure and you can pick what you need.

  • Event Management: The Short Form
  • How I sabotaged my own event by mixing up the archetypes
  • 3 surprising insights that come with thinking more clearly about events
  • Checklists and links to examples in the wild

Events Management:  The Short Form

In short, we have three event archetypes, and they don’t mix.

  • Celebrity-based
  • Action-based
  • Value-based

Kool & the Gang Concert @ Montreal Jazz Festival by Anirudh Kuol via Flickr

At celebrity-based events,we experience AWE

We attend the event.

We see the celebrity.

We take home the t-shirt.


Not least,

We are remarkably passive.

Rock Climbing Mississippi Palisades (94) by akeg via Flickr

At action-based events, we experience AFFECTION

We are essential to the event.

We play in the team.

We take home the shared story of triumph and disaster.

And provided, no one asks too much of us,

We are amazingly loyal repeat-customers.

London Marathon 2009 by blitzy72 via Flickr

At value-based events, we experience ACKNOWLEDGMENT

We run our lives within the event.

We customize it to fit our tastes.

We take home a sense of having done good.

We have a sense of having been respected, and respecting the universe in turn.

But we cleave to our path and not the path of the organizers.

How I sabotaged my own event by mixing up event archetypes

Kelman’s model of {rules, rules & values} has helped me understand what I could have done differently to manage and advertise an event that flopped horribly.

I advertised a course in blogging for occupational psychologists (UK term for work and organizational psychologists) in our professional magazine.  Only one person called up – and he will probably read this post.

Why, I ask, was this event so poorly received?

Simply, I advertised a blogging-training course like a celebrity-event when I had a value-based mind-set.

Well, I was duly rewarded with a  muted response.

How would I focus my event on one event archetype and one archetype only?

Focus a celebrity-event on the celebrity!

  • First, if I wanted to offer a celebrity-centered event, I should have offered celebrities.
  • Second, I should have concentrated on the raz-ma-taz  – name tags, lunch and some good souvenirs.
  • Third, I should have let consumers consume.

Consumers want to enjoy not make an effort

The reception must be organized.  The seats must be comfortable.  No one must mind if their questions are off the point (but no one must be allowed to go on for too long and bore everyone else).  The dining room should be well appointed.  The participants pay good money and they want to know what they will get back.

The participants may be circulating like mad trying to meet new people but they don’t actually help run the event.  And, we should be clear about that.  Asking them to make an effort or take responsibility takes all the fun away!

Offering training (meaning the hard work of learning) is just not compatible with an event for consumers!

Either, I should have run the event with celebrities at the center and let them go home no more knowing how to blog than when they arrived, or, I needed to run an action-based event!

Focus an action-event on the team!

If I had wanted to promise training, I needed to improve my advertising and re-jig the event to match.  I didn’t do any of this so feel free to show me how to do it better!

  • Set a group goal and state how we will achieve it

“Bring occupational psychology to the attention of the corporate world with attractive blogs that readers return to again and again “

  • Assure participants that the training is organized

“Learn the basics with an expert on hand and graduate as a proficient blogger in one day”

  • Assure participants the group will be loyal to them

“Form a lasting network with experienced bloggers who are putting occupational psychology in front of the public”

  • Suggest ways forward

“Get an early start by registering with the event”

  • Tell participants what is needed

“Bring yourself, your ideas, your enthusiasm – we will provide the rest.”

Focus a value-event on the individual’s good judgment!

I also think that I may have blundered by designing my course as an action-based event while thinking in terms of  value – at least in terms of my own commitment.

The curious thing about value-based events is that the organizers stand back a bit and they rely on the good sense and judgment of the participants.  The good judgment of the participants is not a matter of chance, though.  We need to be close to our participants and not only understand the way they think, but share their values too.

If I were running a value-based event, then I needed to show my appreciation for their good judgement in my advertisement, provide facilities, and not take charge.   I am not sure at all that a value-based event works for people who have no experience in a domain but I may be wrong.  The dividing line is whether this event is about their judgment or mine.

If I had been running a value-based event, I would have said something like:

  • Talk to the situation and common values

“Join early-adopters who are bringing attractive and informative blogs to our clients”

  • Tell them what needs to be done

“Demonstrate to the profession the benefits of communicating with our public through the flexibility of blogs”

  • Tell them the resources

“Experience blogging with 30 other committed psychologists for a Saturday in a well-connected commuter room and specialist bloggers on hand to help with the mechanics”

  • Tell  them how to get there

“Click here for the venue, map, and sign up”

  • Keep in touch but stay independent

“Click to stay informed with the email newsletter”

  • Bring in their ideas

“Sign up here to add your ideas and shape our efforts in advance”

3 surprising insights that come with thinking more clearly about events

In truth, thinking clearly about events surprised me.

  • I hadn’t realized before that consumers like being consumers.

Often that’s what we want.  We want the magic of celebrity entertainment.  You do the work!  We’ll consume!

  • I hadn’t appreciated how much action-based events rely on the skilled delivery of levels.

Action-based events are games.  We love belonging, and in order to belong, the tasks have to be easy enough for us at the start and challenging enough for us as we level up.

  • I hadn’t been consciously aware that value-based events are curiously stand-offish.

After all, when we provide a luxury bathroom, we don’t tell people how to use it. They already know and may know better than us.  The core of a value-based event is our appreciation of our guests’ judgment.  We make the event possible with our facilities.

What do you think?

My event design has improved and I am sure will get even better as I apply some clear thinking to what I do.

Checklists & examples for good event design

Here are some check-lists and examples to get you on your way and for you to test out your thinking.  Do let me know what you think and the insights you glean.


Example of a celebrity-based event: SXSW Interactive 2011

Your checklist:

  • Who is the celebrity?  Why are they a celebrity to this group?
  • What is the takeaway?  Will it impress people back home or back at the office?
  • Are we letting consumers be consumers?  Are we expecting them to take responsibility – they want us to take the responsibility!


Example of an action-based event: Baking for Greenpeace

Your checklist:

  • Who is the team-based event?  Are the levels well thought-out and can people slip in at the right level for them?
  • What is the takeaway?  Is there a group goal that is achievable and can they see their own contribution to the goal?
  • Are we helping our guests work together in an enjoyable team?  Are we taking responsibility for their learning curve without micro-managing?


Example of a value-based event: Documentary Matchmaking at the Frontline Club [the link is now broken]

Your checklist:

  • What is the situation and what are the values that bring us here?  Is the situation immediate, is the action possible, and does it call on our values?
  • What is the takeaway?   What will people feel and remember after the event?
  • Are we giving our guests enough space to customize our facilities?  Are we celebrating their values or taking over?

Academic Background

And P.S. , if you’d like to follow up the psychology, look up Herbert C. Kelman’s Theory of Social Influence.