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Poke the Box

Book Review-Poke the Box

Lately I’ve been getting a distinct message that I need to just do. I just had to get some things out there for the market to test. No small part of that message is from Seth Godin’s Poke the Box. Godin makes a compelling argument that we sometimes fail to start because we fear to fail. We don’t want to put that first, tentative foot into the water for fear that the market might not like it. There are the cliché references to Thomas Edison and the light bulb and the same reminder that most folks don’t know how many time Edison failed to create the light bulb – they only know that he did. His success virtually erased his failures.

However, beyond the same prompting for action that you might find elsewhere, there’s an awareness of pressures that cause initiative. Having been a consultant almost my entire professional career the idea of a project based organization creating the drive for the next thing is familiar. It’s downright eerie when you consider the name of my organization is Thor Projects.

Perhaps another insight is a restatement of Scott McCloud’s argument in Understanding Comics. That is: Life isn’t what’s drawn in the frames, it’s what’s in between the frames that counts. It’s the space that’s left up to you – and you alone – to fill in the blanks.

As a final thought, there’s a discussion about the delicate balance between initiating – getting started – and the need to get finished. In my head I went back to a large snow when I was a child. I can remember designing a snow fort. Or rather I can remember a series of iterations for gathering and piling up snow to create a snow fort. What I realized even then was that I spent so much time changing my approach for gathering snow that I never really finished trying one. I kept changing my approach until I had gathered all the snow. It’s this story that reminds me that sometimes it doesn’t help to keep changing and doing new things.

Poke the Box is an easy read and worth it if you’re trying to help motivate yourself to get started.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Book Review-The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a classic. I probably read it 20 years ago when I was first entering the workforce and the book was the latest rage. I can probably count on one hand the number of books I’ve read more than once on one hand – actually I can’t recall any other book that I’ve read more than once. However, when Amazon.com featured the book for $0.99 on Kindle I thought it was time for a reread.

The 7 Habits, for a quick reminder are:

  • Be Proactive
  • Begin with the End in Mind
  • Put First Things First
  • Think Win-Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the Saw

These correspond to three “levels” – Independence, Interdependence, and Self-Renewal.

The Seven Habits is different than other books in the sense that it focuses on principles rather than techniques. While the connection is never made to Dale Garnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People the difference between the approaches is striking. Where one is teaching you the psychology of how people work – something I deeply enjoy as evidenced by my DVD – the Seven Habits talks about how to develop an inner strength of character. I believe both are needed as I’ve found people who are very character rich who still struggle with how to work with people, how to communicate their concern for others on a daily basis. One of the premises is that principle centered growth leads to more happiness than techniques for connecting with other humans. This is consistent with The Time Paradox and The Happiness Hypothesis. Both of these books speak of the way that character and purpose are more rewarding than the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.

Much of reading the book was like watching an old home movie of me. Somehow I remember being there but I was seeing things from a new perspective, from a new lens. I was stirred by different words. I caught the difference between principles – natural laws and values – beliefs. I pride myself in having friends with different beliefs. While I personally have a deep faith in God, I have friends who have no such belief. I can have great conversations with them exploring because I know that my perspective on the situation isn’t the only one.

Having been a consultant for most of the last 20 years of my professional career, I consider the information in The Seven Habits foundational for every good consultant. As Covey admits in the book his struggles to always live the seven habits, I too must say that I’m not always on track with the seven habits. I can, however, say that in many cases I know when I get off track with them. It generally means I get a healthy dose of retraining as to why they’re important in the first place.

Even if you’ve read the book before, it’s worth reading again.

The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations

Book Review-The Heart of Change

You would think that with the great value I saw in John Kotter’s Leading Change book I would have jumped to read The Heart of Change – but I didn’t. Part of that may be the fact that I’ve had a pretty deep reading list for a while. Part of it may have been that I felt like I had extracted the most valuable piece from Kotter’s work – the process. No matter what the reason, more time spent with the change model was well worth it.

More than any other of the books that I read lately, I found myself taking notes about The Heart of Change. I was writing in the virtual margins on my Acer Iconia A500 Tablet with the Kindle software. I kept reading and writing notes and parallels.

I wrote in one spot the classic (if not potentially insensitive) question: How do you eat an elephant? The answer is simple and surprising. One bite at a time. In another place I wrote “You can’t boil the ocean.” These clichés may be overused but they represent a fundamental awareness that Kotter and his co-author Dan Cohen grok.

Distilling the key message of the book into just this would be an over simplification, but core to the book is the idea that first people SEE the need to change, then they FEEL the need to change, and then, with luck, they CHANGE. This SEE-FEEL-CHANGE model is important. If I put this into the language of The Happiness Hypothesis and Switch it’s about the elephant, the rider, and the path. The rider must become aware of the change that’s needed (urgently), but it’s the elephant, the emotional powerhouse of the arrangement, that must FEEL the need to change. With a bit of luck in shaping the path (removing barriers) change can occur.

It seems that the natural resistance to change – which is less about resistance and more about confusion – can be overcome by feelings. The elephant will start to move when he senses that standing still isn’t working.

Another interesting thought that swept across me while reading The Heart of Change was the idea of a fish ladder. If you don’t know what these are, they are specifically designed parts of a waterway that are designed to allow fish to traverse dams, locks, and other manmade structures that have disrupted their normal migration. What’s remarkable about these fish ladders is that they aren’t so much a set of distinct areas but rather a connected system. As the water flows across them they make each individual step – which are distinct in structure – seem like a part of a system. So there’s a bit of overlap – or connectedness – between the steps. The Heart of Change speaks to this exact thing – that the steps aren’t so distinct as they are a natural system where the lines blur and the next step starts before the previous one ends.

Sidebar: the whole idea of a fish on a ladder is funny if you think about it. How do the fish hold on to the rungs?

I was also struck by a story about how pictures were removed from the lobby of one organization – not because changing the décor is the solution to changing a company – rather – I was struck by how sometimes simple, stupid, unseen things are the sacred cows of the organization. They’re the thing, process, or procedure with the unwritten “do not touch” rule. My note on the story was “find the sacred cows and slay them – with theatrical style.” Why would I write such a thing? It’s simple. There are far too many sacred cows, it’s time to thin the herd. Make sure the sacred cows that remain are meaningful.

Image from Flicker – USFWS Pacific

A quote from the book is “You can’t plan what you don’t understand.” The context is that it’s difficult to plan for radical changes because you don’t understand what a radical change will look like. However, it occurred to me that this extends beyond. The great project managers I’ve worked with always seek to understand. They want to know how things work – even if they don’t understand the details, a foundational understanding makes them better at planning the project. It also occurred to me that far too often organizations try to move forward through a transformation without an understanding of what the other side looks like.

Even after all the books I’ve read on change, on thinking, or motivating, I still found new ways of connecting to this content. If you’re trying to figure out how to do change, pick up The Heart of change

Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking

Book Review-Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking

When a friend of mine told me about this book I was sort of concerned. I thought that somehow learning more about Social Engineering was sort of like reading a book on how to make a bomb. Sure I know some people need to know how to make a bomb, but does everyone need access to this kind of information? However, as I was reading it I realized that the information in the book wasn’t “new” per-se. It was the same sorts of things that consultants do every day – perhaps without the lock picking part.

If you’ve read my reviews you know that I love psychology. I love the observation of human behaviors and the thinking about what makes people tick. So much of what I ran into including neuro linguistic programming (NLP) was already information I had been exposed to. However, there were other places where I was reexposed to things that I had not remembered. Dr. Ekman’s work on FACS (Facial Action Coding System) was something I was exposed to before but hadn’t really spent much time thinking about.

While I don’t think that reading this book will make you a good social engineer, I do think that if you’re interested in psychology, particularly how people are manipulated you’ll find this book very informative. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that everyone who’s a full time consultant should read it – not because I think that consultants should use these techniques to get their next consulting engagement – but rather because the sheer number of people a typical consultant interacts with will ultimately cause them to run across someone who is trying to use the techniques on them.

Perhaps the best part – from my point of view – was that the book was easy to read and interesting. Having made a relatively sharp right turn into some heavy academic books this was the book that I kept coming back to for “filler time.” It was the one I wanted to read when I had a few minutes. So whether you’re looking for a job as a tester who will test an organization’s vulnerability to social engineering tactics, or you just want to learn more about the tactics that Social Engineers use, this book is a good read.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Book Review-The Happiness Hypothesis

When I was reading Switch I was introduced to the metaphor of the elephant, the rider, and the path for thinking about how to motivate people (including ourselves) but the book referenced The Happiness Hypothesis as the origin of this model. Despite the good coverage of the model in Switch, I wanted to get more details about how the model was formed and some of the concepts that surrounded it.

The Happiness Hypothesis doesn’t disappoint. It reaches across religions and great thinkers, it quotes psychologists, philosophers, and research. It’s an ultimate tour of peoples thoughts. I deeply respect Jonathan Haidt’s considerable effort to seek balanced views. I remember a blog post by Malcolm Gladwell where he was discussing Freakonomics. In his book Tipping Point, Gladwell points to “broken windows” as a theory for why crime fell. Freakonomics proposes that it’s the reduction in unwanted children because of Roe v. Wade (abortion rights). He mentions that he dismisses other ideas in his writing. I’m not saying this is wrong – in fact, The Happiness Hypothesis acknowledges that this is normal human behavior. The fact that Haidt fought so hard to provide a balanced text is important.

There’s one direct quote that I can’t pass up because it’s so perfect:

“The metaphor I use when I lecture on Freud is to think of the mind as a horse and buggy (a Victorian chariot) in which the driver (the ego) struggles frantically to control a hungry, lustful, and disobedient horse (the id) while the driver’s father (the superego) sits in the back seat lecturing the driver on what he is doing wrong.”

I just love that word picture.

There is some good coverage of Buddhist philosophies about detachment and their evolution as well as their usefulness. Ultimately, walking through the consumption and the externalization of a person’s identity into the things that surround them and how this isn’t good – even though it’s less risky now than in the past because we’re relatively speaking more secure in our possessions than any other time in history. Haidt explorers the positive effects of meditation and highlights the benefits of cognitive therapy.

I particularly liked the closing which ties things together by talking about “vital engagement” – which is flow plus meaning.

If you’re interested in a “once around the block” for the religions and great thinkers of the world as to what makes people happy, you should reach for The Happiness Hypothesis.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Book Review-Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Criticism. Everyone hates it. Or do they? People talk about constructive criticism and somehow that doesn’t make any sense. How can criticism ever be constructive? Isn’t criticism by definition critical? Isn’t it rejecting someone or what they can do? Maybe you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and feel like most criticism is – or at least can be – helpful. In Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, she isolates one critical aspect of the way folks view themselves, and others, to help describe why we might see criticism differently.

The core assertion is that people either see themselves (and by extension others) as a fixed-unchangeable quantity or as a fluid changing organism that learns from the world around them and their experiences.

The world tends to talk about “talent.” Oh, Mozart was so talented. That soccer player, or dancer, or painter, etc., has so much natural talent. We think that you’re smart or dumb. You believe you’re either good at math, or writing, or something else. But wait, if you go back and look at the truly great geniuses in their respective fields most of them didn’t show any natural talent. They were relatively uninspiring figures in their childhood. Einstein wasn’t a spectacular student. In nearly every example the leaders were downright ordinary. What changed them was their intentional practice. The change was a result of their “hard work” to become better than they were.

I say “hard work” because most wouldn’t describe the work as hard. Most would say that it was a rewarding learning experience. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (from Flow) interviewed Nobel Prize-winners and other creative leaders in different fields who often said “You could say that I worked every minute of my life, or you could say with equal justice that I never worked a day.” Part of this is a result of the psychological state they end up in – what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow is all about.

This is the change mindset. It’s an awareness that you can change and become better than you are.

I remember one of the pivotal days in my life. I was in elementary school and were having some sort of competition for math, reading, etc., I remember that I was told a haunting thing – that I had potential. Ouch. It didn’t fully sink in at the moment. It took weeks. I could have been told that I was a good kid, a bright student, destined for greatness but I got “potential”. The problem with this is that someone with potential has to take responsibility if they don’t do something great. You have to work to fulfill your potential. If you’re “good”, “bright”, “talented” you don’t have to work. This moment has served me all my life. Realizing that my life is what I make it. All based on a single word.

You can imagine my confusion later in life when talking with friends they couldn’t understand how I reacted to criticism and hardship. It’s a funny thing – even to me – that I can hear the criticism of something I’ve done and both value the person that it comes from – and not take it personally. It’s not that it doesn’t hurt at times but how I choose to deal with it is different than some others. Generally I’d convert the criticism into anger. Eastern philosophies believe that anger is disappointment directed. I directed the disappointment internally. I would then use this “emotional fuel” to drive change in myself. Whether it’s building adaptive behaviors to handle folks who are the most detail oriented or whether it is coping behaviors for some of my friends who are hopelessly late for everything. The thing is that while I remain an imperfect being I at the same time realize my flaws (or at least some of them) and I get frustrated and angry with them so that I can change them.

Most of the truly inspiring folks that I know – the people I look to for my source of direction and wisdom – see that everyone is capable of change and becoming better than they are today.

If you’re feeling “stuck” by your job, your career, your family, or your spouse, I’d highly encourage that you seek out a Mindset of change

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Book Review-Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

When is change easy? Switch sets out to make it easier to accomplish change in your organization, and your life. One of the things that my friends and colleagues call me is a change agent — that is like a catalyst I help drive changes into organizations. Most of the time, I describe that process as a framing process. I’m framing how things look when they’re running correctly. It’s often subtle little things that need to be fixed – a simple check on a requirement for whether it’s measurable or not. Other times it’s creating awareness that some kinds of problems are ordinary, normal, and candidly a sign of danger if they are missing.

Switch is based on a sustained metaphor. The metaphor is this. Humans are like a rider on top of an elephant. The rider is our logical, analytical, consciousness. The elephant is our emotional self with all of its instincts – and power. The rider and elephant are headed down a path. Fundamental to understanding the model is that the rider cannot make the elephant go where the elephant doesn’t want to go or stop going where you don’t want –unless, perhaps, you change the path. (the environment) The rider may be able to reign in the elephant for a while. The rider might be able to prod the elephant on. However, ultimately the control the rider has over the elephant is an exhaustible resource. The rider will get tired and the elephant will get his way.

We spend most of our lives with the rider quietly sitting atop the elephant, not providing the elephant much direction and the elephant walking down a well-worn path. If you don’t believe me, tell me about your drive into work or your drive home. If you’re like most people you won’t remember it. In fact you didn’t remember it the moment you pulled into the driveway. This is a good thing (sort of) because it means the rider doesn’t have to use his exhaustible resource on the elephant. The elephant already knows the way home. However, what are we doing with change? We’re asking the elephant to go off the well-known path. We’re using our rider to prod and direct the elephant off the common paths. If you’ve ever ridden an animal you’ll know that they have this instinctive pull to do what’s comfortable and what they expect. Get on a horse on the way back to the barn at dinner time and he’ll be in a dead run.

There are some funny misconceptions that we have about what causes change. We believe that people are ignorant of the reasons why their current path is bad. A smoker isn’t ignorant of the harmful health effects of smoking. It is, however, the path that’s in front of their elephant. A drug addict isn’t startled when someone in passing mentions that he might be harming himself. Knowledge doesn’t change behavior. Behavior change – and change in general is a SEE-FEEL-CHANGE proposition. The person has to internalize the knowledge. They have to feel the real pain before behavior will change. This works pretty well for individuals – but not necessarily so well at a corporate level.

The best part of the book for me was a question – -a single question “Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well. Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you were sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that you brought here are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think ‘Well, something must have happened – the problem is gone!'” Wow. Basically you’re forcing the person to talk about a future state when the problem is gone (change has been completed). You’re also getting specific behaviors that could be created to move things in the right direction. It reminds me of one of my favorite elicitation questions “If you had a magic wand, what would you do?” Or the similar “If you could do just one thing, what would it be?”

I want to end with a final point from the book. Our rational rider seeks solutions which are commiserate with the size of the problem. A big problem needs a big solution. However, in life this is often not the case. A small course correction can make a huge impact if it’s done at the right time. (Think rocket maneuvers.) The really interesting thing is that from the top of the seesaw it’s hard to see where the fulcrum is. You should retrain your rider to think about shrinking the gap between where you want to be and where you are now. Help them slide that fulcrum just a bit to cause larger and larger changes.

While there are certainly more process oriented, more detailed, books to read on creating change – like Leading Change – but Switch is more likely to capture your heart (elephant) and mind (rider).

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Book Review-Don’t Make Me Think

As someone who gets engaged by clients to help them work through their problems, you wouldn’t expect I’d like a book titled Don’t Make Me Think, but it’s perhaps the most accessible book on web usability that I’ve run into. In fact, I’d recommend it to anyone who has to build web sites. Why? Well, it’s short. It’s practical.

The basic premise is that when we look at something small thought bubbles form over our head and they often end in question marks “What?” “How is this supposed to work?” “Can I click this?” … Good web usability has FEWER of those question mark filled thought bubbles popping over folks heads. Obvious right, or is it?

How do we get there? Well, we’ve got to let go of some of our misbeliefs like…

  • We read web pages. No we don’t. We scan, skim, and flit. We’re trying to extract information off the page as soon as possible. We don’t have time to read. OK, sure the occasional article that’s particularly interesting or necessary but by and large we skim.
  • We make optimal choices. Seriously, who has the time for optimal choices? Sources of Power talked about how when pressed for time we don’t evaluate every possibility. The Paradox of Choice talked about the negative effects of maximizing (optimizing decisions).
  • We figure stuff out. Really? How much is there about your smart phone that you don’t know? If you’ve got an iPhone tap the user’s name in messages to scroll to the top. How about something simpler, explain how mobile phones switch from tower-to-tower (when they don’t drop the call)

The book includes some marvelously simple questions for determining how many question marks might appear over folks heads.

I’d recommend that everyone on a project to rebuild an intranet read the book – because it’s accessible to everyone. Maybe there’s something to this idea… Don’t Make Me Think.

The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development

Book Review-The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development

It takes a lot of moxie to call yourself a definitive classic. However, the subtitle of The Adult Learner is probably correct. I picked up the book because of my work on the SharePoint Shepherd Presents DVD series. The goal of the series is to make learning more accessible to people who need it. The series started with some preliminary research on the challenges of getting specific content at a time that was appropriate. I was being asked by customers – who were ready to make a move – when there would be a conference they could attend that would have what they need. Even with the conferences cranked up to full speed it was an average of three months away for someone to get to the conference that would get them the information they wanted and even then there would always be gaps. A conference organizer has to pick and choose with limited slots what content they want to have delivered. All of this lead to the realization that we needed a way for people to get to the information they needed – when they needed it.

This is consistent with Andragogy – a framework (or set of techniques) for teaching adults. Before I get too far into this discussion I should say that The Adult Learner goes to great lengths to discuss the validation – or lack thereof – of the andragogy principles. From my point of view the primary issue, raised in the book, is that there’s no effective way of measuring learning in a broad sense. That brings us to the difference between education and learning. Education is about the acquisition of knowledge or skill. Education is therefore difficult to measure. You can measure recall of the information but since usefulness – what we’re aiming for – can only be measured in context, it’s notoriously difficult to measure education. Learning, however, implies a change in the behaviors of a person and those behavior changes may be able to be monitored – except that there’s no psychometrically valid instrument to do so – yet. (Psychometrics is completely oversimplified as applying statistics to psychology mostly to measure education and learning.)

All of that is to say that we believe that the principles of Andragogy are appropriate for most adults, however, there’s not a lot of hard numbers that are available to support this belief. Andragogy was moved forward most by Malcolm Knowles (one of the authors of The Adult Learner) with what became six basic principles:

  • Need to Know
  • Foundation
  • Self-Concept
  • Readiness
  • Orientation
  • Motivation

Trying to put these together into a single context; it’s clear that adult learners need to be trained at the moment in time that they need the learning (readiness), why they need to know a piece of information (need to know), that they have the foundational concepts necessary to integrate the new information (foundation), and that they have an understanding of the problem they are trying to solve (self-concept). The training must be focused on solving problems (orientation) and the motivation for learning must map to the internal motivations of the student (motivation).

In addition to the core framework of Andragogy, there are numerous other citings and alternative views presented. The Adult Learner explores why adults choose to learn – to solve a problem, to develop a social network, or for the joy of learning itself – as well as reasons why adults reasonably reject learning.

The Adult Learner also explores the tension between Andragogy and the needs of human resource professionals who are charged with training the organization in the key skills it needs to be safe and effective. Andragogy proposes that learners should be in greater control of their learning experience – that they should be self-directed – and yet human resource development would dictate that the organization has certain needs for skills that employees and volunteers must be taught.

I believe that if you’re trying to teach adults, whether it is as a content or a courseware provider, an instructor, or a learning professional, you should read The Adult Learner.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases & Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly

Book Review-The New Rules of Marketing and PR

David Meerman Scott shares his view of how the rules have changed in The New Rules of Marketing and PR. There’s a subtitle longer than your arm that seems to include every possible keyword that anyone who is doing marketing might be looking for – I was not really interested in trying every possible approach to marketing. After all I’m not checking off items in a list. I want to try to figure out how to make my marketing effective.

To over simplify the message – you’re not trying to get attention – you’ve got attention – you’re trying to educate the market on your value proposition or build credibility through your content so that they’ll come back to understand your value proposition. Instead of building a site to sell to a prospect, you’re creating a place for the prospect to learn about you and what you know. As a consultant I can say that I learned a long time ago that there’s a certain amount of “spilling the candy” that has to happen when you meet a new client. That means that you have to give the client some of the answers so that they know that you’ve got the rest of the answers to their questions.

The interesting bit about this is that you can’t spill ALL the candy – you can’t solve every problem for them – but you have to create the credibility that comes with having answers to their questions. This would tend to leave you with the idea that you shouldn’t share everything you know on your web site or blog – however, this misses an important point (or two). That is that you’ll never be able to codify all of your knowledge on to your web site. There are nuances and details that can’t be communicated until you’re literally in the situation. I can tell you everything you want to know about SharePoint Workflow, professional SharePoint Development, Information Architecture, however, having to put all of the pieces together from a few dozen blog posts, articles, and presentations, there will be gaps that will refuse to be filled. (Sidebar: I’m spending a great deal of time refining my posts, articles, and presentations into the SharePoint Shepherd Presents series of DVDs to ensure that those gaps are filled.)

A key area of focus for the book is Personas and their power to help focus your marketing efforts. I was exposed to the idea of Personas through work with Microsoft. These fictional characters represented an anchor for product development – and they can do the same thing for marketing. It’s really hard to target everyone because so often in targeting everyone you’re targeting no one. So personas give you a way to anchor to a specific ideal person. Of course, the persona is fictional, just a made up person but the story of that person is the story of your target buyer or buyers. A persona consists of a bit of demographic data basis… including the age and gender of the person who buys what you’re selling as well as a picture and a made up story of their background to make them more real. There’s something magical about thinking about a specific person to focus your thoughts. Personas are a way to help you get to marketing messages with a target.

One of the other encouragements in the book is to learn the language of your customer and use those words – rather than the words that you would normally use – to improve the chance that the prospect will resonate with the message you’re sending. If you’re selling training (as I am) it might make sense to talk about ILT (Instructor Led Training) or CBT (Computer Based Training) rather than talking about training in general – or making the assumption that all training is ILT. Scott recommends researching the magazines the prospect is reading, reading the conference packets to understand what is being talked about, and anything that will help you better understand the concerns the prospect is facing and the language that the prospects are using.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I’ve been reading and reviewing social media books for a while. (See: Wikinomics, Blink, The Wisdom of Crowds, Linked, and The Long Tail) As a result I’m no stranger to the idea of using social media as a platform for driving business forward. Scott delivers more push around ideas for leveraging the power of social media from giving eBooks away to participating in the social networks that operate today.

The book wraps up with the idea of using press releases targeted to the consumer instead of the press as a way to get better search engine optimization and as a way to communicate with the consumer. I can say that I’m not a big fan of this approach. Having run a web site for Internet.com where I was reposting press releases as stories I can support the idea that journalists are hungry for content they can repurpose and use, however, I never saw much response to the work I was doing.

The New Rules of Marketing and PR is a good survey of concepts for marketing and a good read if you’re looking to sharpen your focus on marketing efforts.