Shift Happens


To grow means to continuously walk in and out of discomfort zones. I’m definitely in one such zone right now and happily so.

I started a new gig at Tradeshift last week as a senior content marketing manager. The company has a strong vision and impressive SaaS platform that connects buyers and suppliers in an entirely new transparent way.

I’m pretty green to the world of e-invoicing and AP and P2P automation so am happy to learn about a new business function that’s beyond, yet inclusive of IT.

The team is stellar. With roots in Copenhagen, Denmark, I think this is one of the most diverse and gifted groups I’ve had the pleasure working with.

Now, time to get some rest because there is a world to change tomorrow.



Went to Brazil twice in 2010, made a video

I made some great international friendships over the years. While at IDG Communications in 2001, I become friends with two interns from Brazil. About a decade later, we met up for New Years and traveled up and down the coast. I finally got around to posting some of the footage from that trip.

I was lucky enough to return to Brazil about eight months later on a press tour. I covered that experience over at ZDNet:

Last week, I was in Brazil on a media tour sponsored by Apex-Brasil, a government agency with a mission to attract foreign investment and support the nation’s international business interests. The trip focused on the country’s 2010 Census and included meetings with executives from the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) along with senior government officials. What follows is a look at the system specs.

Lisfranc injury

Lisfranc injury

The surgeons at the orthopedic institute over at UCSF put four screws in my left foot. Going to heal up quick, I hope.

UX and B2B

Doreen Lorenzo, president at design firm, frog, has an important message to the business-to-business community: everyone is a consumer, and they have high expectations for the quality of experience your brand delivers in a world where services like Netflix and Zappos routinely delight.

If everyone responds well to great UX then why isn’t every brand delivering? For marketing, I think it comes down to a few simple realizations:

1. Technology can only do so much – Just because you’ve implemented, say, a new CMS for your website with responsive design and frictionless publishing doesn’t mean your messaging, value proposition, and media assets can simply be dropped in. Discipline and ultra-close collaboration between all stakeholders is just the beginning of nailing down the delicate dance between form and function. That holds true for any new platform, app, tool, etc.

2. Your team can only do so muchSiriusDecisions talks a lot about aligning sales, marketing, and product. I’d also throw into the mix support and customer service. A unified UX requires all slios that own customer touch points to be broken down or at least perforated for consistency and seamless hand-off.

3.  Agencies can only do so much – Outsourcing work to expert third parties to scale or try new things can be wise. But for help with existential questions that point to why you are in business and participate in marketplaces in the first place takes real soul searching. Heck, it is hard enough on an individual basis. But doing so sets the path for a vision that is usually bigger than the company itself and gets people aligned and excited enough to convey the brand story in every action.

What other challenges exist for B2B marketers on the path to delivering exceptional UX?


Bay Bridge LED display impressive, but no Christo

Leo Villareal sequences 25,000 lights spanning the Bay Bridge's suspender cables.

Leo Villareal sequences 25,000 lights spanning the Bay Bridge’s suspender cables.

Today the western span of the Bay Bridge becomes the nightly center of attention for the next two years with a public art installation. Its grandeur made me think of some of similar projects by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in decades past:

Valley Curtain

Valley Curtain

Surrounded Islands

Surrounded Islands

Wrapped Reichstag

Wrapped Reichstag

The location of the “The Bay Lights” probably didn’t allow for much in the way of assembling a work force of volunteers (see the team) that makes public art “public,” at least in execution.

The armies of temporary helpers, art-school and college students, itinerant art workers, engineers, and professional climbers that Christo and Jeanne-Claude needed were as integral to their vision as the permits, fundraising, design, and construction.

Thought I’d point that out.

Design thinking is dead. Long live good design.

Artefacture’s Goodesign concept.

I confess. A couple of years ago I ran out and picked up books like Change by Design, The Design of Business, and Glimmer in search of inspiration. After all, my brother — a RISD alumni — and I had t-shirt business that touted the importance of good design, so I thought I should become an expert on the subject. As many observers pointed out, as soon as you package up a process for corporate leaders to poke, prod, and promote it is pretty much doomed. Such was the case with design thinking. Or so it seemed.

Fast forward a few years and design is back in the spotlight. Today at GigaOM Roadmap in San Francisco, just about every speaker mentioned the importance of design, along with honest ideas like connectedness and simplicity. We’re talking about people like Ev Williams, Yves Behar, and Joe Gebbia who are behind today’s leading start-ups. I think what has changed is that design is now more tangible. The success of companies is predicated on it more today than ever before. And from Apple to AirBnB, there are plenty of examples to go around. Design is also innovation in tangible form where it can be observed.

Design thinking’s torchbearer, John Maeda, is now taking design up a notch to see how creativity could impact leadership. Check out the spirited talk he gave this morning on the subject: John Maeda at GigaOM Roadmap 2012

Does your content marketing stand up to Rams’ ten principles of “good design”?

It is too soon for 2013 predictions? I put my money on a shift from social media/content marketing ROI blabbery to basics. Things like good design, style, and grammar.

Marketing is back in the wild west and if you are not like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne then forget about riding off into the sunset of success.

That means trying new things, taking risks, and getting advice from bonafide frontier marketers.

Design is popping up as a topic in content marketing, so lets start there. Yes design rules — have you seen Apple’s market cap lately? — and can even get household appliances to command art exhibitions at top museums. So it’s worthwhile to spend some time with the ingredients. Try on industrial design king Dieter Rams’ design rules for size:


Is innovative – The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

Is honest – It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

In this blog, I embark on a journey to apply this ethos to B2B marketing, particularly for complex IT products, such as WAN optimization.

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