Saturday, October 8, 2011

5 Ways to Kill a Brainstorming Session

As brainstorming has become customary, has it also lost its sparkle, and value, for your company? Here's where you may have gone wrong, and what to avoid in the future.

Brainstorming is big at most creative organizations today, but in becoming ubiquitous it has lost something. The invitation "let's brainstorm about that" typically leads to a gathering in a conference room where the convener asks for ideas then shoots them down as fast as they come up. And brainstorming sessions have come to resemble any other meeting—veering off topic, sucking up time, and causing impatience or boredom. That's in part because brainstorming has been compressed and made more efficient—killing its real purpose in the process. The whole point of brainstorming is to let creativity emerge and shine. You need to be very careful not to let criticism stifle that creativity. The creative process must be supported, nurtured and embraced wholeheartedly. Want to make sure your team gets the most out of brainstorming in the future? Avoid these five behaviors.

1. Pass judgment or comment.
As ideas begin to flow, you must do everything in your power to let them flow. No one should be allowed to offer any judgment of any idea. The idea-generation phase is about generating ideas, not ranking them. Just let them run like the mighty Amazon. There will be plenty of time to evaluate them later. Even if the person next to you throws out the stupidest idea you've ever heard, let the process continue. The slightest comment or criticism will change the mood in the room, and the group might start to clam up. The objective is to bring ideas to the surface, not to discuss them. The only acceptable comments should be a very quick "wow," "cool," or "sweet."

Also keep in mind: It's always tempting to lighten up the atmosphere in a meeting, but laughter at the expense of an idea is a fast way to kill it.

2. Tidy up.
You might be the boss, but don't let your inner editor join the session. When you're brainstorming, it doesn't matter where the comma goes in the sentence, or how best to word something. The font choice, color palette, and idea's original name are irrelevant. Editing is a left-brain activity that is completely separate from idea generation. Keep it that way. First, let the ideas come out; sloppy and uninhibited. You'll have plenty of opportunity to edit later.

Another left-brained tendency to avoid: comparing ideas. Comparing is an insidious form of criticism that needs to be checked at the door with all other left-brain habits. Comparing usually contains an implicit criticism. "That's like the idea Jim had back in '05" sounds harmless enough on the face of it, but think again. Remember Jim? Everyone hated him.

3. Think ahead.
The second an idea hits the whiteboard, you can easily become distracted by thinking about execution. You'll wonder how the idea would come to life. What would it cost? Who would run it? What would the project plan look like? What would the financial implications be? Where would the work take place? When would we begin? Those are great questions for later, but avoid them at this stage. They are your left-brain in all its glory sneaking in and vying for a seat at the table. As important as that kind of thinking may be, it will quickly crush your creativity. Keep it out of the room.

Also remember: Don't look back. We can always learn a lot from the past, but it can also limit our ability to invent the future. Holding back an idea because you tried it once before and it didn't work out so well is highly limiting. Think how much the world changes every day. An idea today comes into a world with an entirely new set of circumstances, market conditions, technologies and customer tastes. If it didn't work in the past, it may just have been ahead of its time. Or perhaps that idea, when revisited, will lead to a revised version that can carry the day. Every idea is new at this moment, so share every one that you believe has merit.

4. Worry.
Fear is the single biggest blocker of creativity. But social fear is pounded into us from childhood on. We learn in school that there is always one right answer and mistakes should be avoided at all cost. You need to release that fear to unshackle your true creative potential. If you're leading the group, emphasize this before you begin.

How can you eliminate fear in your organization? Tell your colleagues that every idea matters and that the whole point of the exercise is to get a lot of ideas on the board. To best create an environment where everyone feels comfortable taking risks and has no fear of embarrassment or negative consequences, set an example. If you as leader aren't afraid to toss out silly, outrageous ideas, you will enable others to release their fears as well, so that their most creative thinking can emerge.

5. Wander.
Idea sessions can easily dissolve into wandering and woolgathering. Don't let it happen. An idea might remind someone of a story she just has to tell. Or it might lead to taking on a different creative challenge, or discussing a completely different topic. A right-brain creative state is so rare and so refreshing that its energy and excitement can cause a team to stray. To solve this, keep what I call a parking lot list. When unrelated topics come up, put them on the parking lot list to be discussed another time. This will keep the group focused on the task at hand while still making sure that important concepts are remembered and can get attention later.

How can you keep from wandering? The collective energy of the room can build into a frenzy, unleashing brilliant ideas while everyone has a great time, or it can devolve into yet another boring, BlackBerry-checking, clock-watching drone session. Do everything you can to keep the energy up. High-fives, cheers and positive vibes for all. Don't allow negativity and energy-draining commentary to suck the life from the room.
 
 
 

Comparisons Between Canada And The United States Of America

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - John Adams

The following table consists of facts and statistics concerning Canada and the United States of America on: Geography, Resources & Environment; Demographics; Health; Education; Crime; Economy & Government Spending; Infrastructure & Communication; International Indices & Ratings; and Miscellaneous, as recent as Jan 1, 2011 (or most recent date available). Please also see the Summary below, for more information.

 

Canada

USA

Notes

Geography, Resources & Environment

Total Area1

9,984,670 sq km
------------------------
3,855,103 sq mi

9,826,630 sq km
------------------------
3,794,083 sq mi

Canada has 1.6% more total area.

Land Area1

9,093,507 sq km
------------------------
3,511,023 sq mi

9,161,923 sq km
------------------------
3,537,438 sq mi

USA has 0.7% more land.

Arable Land1

415,573 sq km
------------------------
160,454 sq mi

1,650,062 sq km
------------------------
637,093 sq mi

USA has 4 times more arable land in total.

Irrigated Land (2008)1

8,550 sq km
------------------------
3,301 sq mi

230,000 sq km
------------------------
88,803 sq mi

USA has 26.9 times more irrigated land.

Forest and Wooded Land (1995)2

4,119,359 sq km
------------------------
1,590,493 sq mi

2,986,786 sq km
------------------------
1,153,205 sq mi

Canada has 27.5% more forested and wooded land.

Major Protected Areas (2008)2

609,265 sq km
------------------------
235,239 sq mi

1,786,575 sq km
------------------------
689,800 sq mi

USA has 2.9times more naturally protected areas as a percentage of total land.

Renewable Fresh water Supply (1985)3

3,300 cu km
------------------------
792 cu mi

3,069 cu km
------------------------
736 cu mi

Canada has 7% more renewable fresh water.

Energy Supply per capita (equivalent oil) (2008)2

8.07 tonnes

7.53 tonnes

Canada has 6.7% more energy per capita.

Total Emissions of Major Greenhouse Gases per capita (equivalent CO2) (2005)2

23.11 tonnes

24.50 tonnes

USA emits 5.7% more greenhouse gases per capita.

Livestock (2006)2

Cattle: 14,830

Sheep and Goats: 949

Equine: 389

Pigs: 14,690

Cattle: 96,702

Sheep and Goats: 9,067

Equine: 9,580

Pigs: 61,449

USA has 6.5 more cattle, 9.6 times more sheep and goats, 24.6 times more horses, mules and asses, and 4.2 times more pigs.

Wheat Production2

23,167,000 tonnes

60,093,000 tonnes

USA produces 2.6 times wheat annually.

Demographics

Population2

33,910,000

313,232,000

USA has 9.2 times more people.

Age Structure (2011 est.)1

0-14 yrs: 15.7%
15-64 yrs: 68.5%
65 yrs +: 15.9%

0-14 yrs: 20.1%
15-64 yrs: 66.8%
65 yrs +: 13.1%

USA has a slightly younger population.

Population Growth Rate1

0.79% growth

0.96% growth

USA has a 17% higher growth rate.

Birth Rate (2011 est.)1

10.28 births / 1,000 population

13.83 births / 1,000 population

USA has a 25.7% higher birth rate.

Death Rate (July 2011 est.)1

7.98 deaths / 1,000 population

8.38 deaths / 1,000 population

USA has a 4.8% higher death rate.

Net Migration Rate (2011 est.)1

5.65 migrants / 1,000 population

4.18 migrants / 1,000 population

Canada has a 26% higher migrant rate.

Sex Ratio (2011 est.)1

0.98 male/female

0.97 male/female

Canada has a 1% greater male population.

Ethnic Groups

White: 83.5%

Asian: 10.5%

Native: 3.7%

Black: 2.3% (2006 est.)4

White: 81.2%

Black: 13.1%

Asian: 4.7%

Native: 1.0% (2008)5

Canada has 2.3% more Whites, 2.2 times more Asians, and 3.7 times more Natives. USA has 5.7 times more Blacks. All per capita. See below for further information.

Languages (spoken at home) (2006)

English: 66.5%

French: 21.9%

Chinese: 1.2%

Spanish: 0.7%4

English: 80.3%
5
Spanish: 12.2%

Chinese: 0.9%

French: 0.7%5

USA has 13.8% more English speakers, and 17.4 times more Spanish speakers. Canada has 31.3 times more French speakers and 0.3% more Chinese speakers. All per capita.

Religions1

Roman Catholic: 42.6%

Protestant: 23.3%

Other: 18.1%

None: 16% (2001)

Protestant: 51.3

Roman Catholic: 23.9%

Other: 20.8%

None: 4% (2007)

Canada has 18.7% more Roman Catholics, and 12% more non-religious people. USA has 28% more Protestants. All per capita.

Literacy (2003)1

99%

99%

No discernible difference.

Married as % of population (2010)2

53%

59%

USA has a 6% higher married population.

Divorced as % of population (2010)2

5%

6%

USA has a 1% higher divorced population.

Foreign-born Population as % of population (2007)2

20.1%

13.6%

Canada has a 6.5% higher foreign-born population.

Urbanization (2010)1

81%

82%

USA is 1% more urbanized. (Note: Urban areas are defined differently by each country, and thus not entirely comparable.)

Top Three Major Cities Population (2009)1

Toronto: 5,377,000

Montreal: 3,750,000

Vancouver: 2,197,000

New York Metro: 19,300,000

Los Angeles Metro: 12,675,000

Chicago: 9,134,000

All of the USA's top 3 major cities are larger than Canada's, with the largest city (New York) having 3.6 times more people than Canada's largest city (Toronto).

Health

Life Expectancy (2011 est.)1

81.38 years

78.37 years

Canada has a 3.7% higher life expectancy.

Infant Mortality (2011 est.)1

4.92 deaths / 1,000 population

6.06 deaths / 1,000 population

USA has a 18.8% greater infant mortality rate.

Fertility Rate (2011 est.)1

1.58

2.06

USA has a 23.3% higher fertility rate.

Doctors per 1000 population (2009)2

2.4

2.4

No discernible difference.

MRI Units per million population (2007)2

6.7

25.9

USA has 3.9 times more MRIs per capita.

Suicides per 100,000 population (2004)2

10.2

10.2

No discernible difference.

Tobacco Consumption as % of population (over 15 years old) (2009)2

16.2

16.1

Canada has 0.1% higher tobacco consumption per capita.

Alcohol Consumption - Total Liters per capita (over 15 years old) (2008)2

8.2

8.8

USA has 6.8% higher alcohol consumption in terms of total liters consumed per capita.

Obesity as % of total population (2008)2

24.2

33.8

USA has 28.4% greater obese population per capita.

Education

PISA Math Performance Score (2009)2

527

487

Canada has a mean score 40 points higher than USA. Canada ranks 9th, and the USA 26th according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

PISA Science Performance Score (2009)2

529

502

Canada has a mean score 27 points higher than USA. Canada ranks 7th, and the USA 19th according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

PISA Reading Performance Score (2009)2

524

500

Canada has a mean score 24 points higher than USA. Canada ranks 8th, and the USA 10th according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

Post-secondary Graduation rate (2006)2

30.6%

35.5%

USA has 4.9% greater post-secondary graduation rate at the typical age of graduation.

Crime

Murder Rate per 100,000 population (2009)

1.84

5.06

USA has 2.8 times higher murder rate.

Victimization as % of total population (2005)2

17.2%

17.5%

USA has 0.3% higher population of people victimized.

Vehicle Theft as % of total population (2005)2

0.8%

1.1%

USA has 0.3% higher population of people having cars stolen.

Robbery as % of total population (2005)2

0.8%

0.6%

Canada has 0.2% higher population of people robbed.

Sexual Offenses as % of total female population (2005)2

2.3%

3.6%

USA has 1.3% higher population of women sexually offended.

Assault & Threat as % of total population (2005)2

3.0%

4.3%

USA has 1.3% higher population of people assaulted or threatened.

Consumer Fraud as % of total population (2005)2

7.4%

12.5%

USA has 5.1% higher population of people victimized in consumer fraud.

Corruption as % of total population (2005)2

0.6%

0.5%

Canada has 0.1% higher population of people victimized in corruption.

Safety At Night as % of total population (2005)2

17.0%

19.0%

USA has 2% higher population of people feeling unsafe at night.

Prison Population as % of total population (2009)2

0.116%

0.760%

USA has 6.6 times higher prison population.

Police Force (2008)7

65,283

708,569

USA has 10.9 times higher police force.

Economy & Government Spending

GDP

$1.613 trillion USD4

$14.755 trillion USD8

USA has 9.2 times greater GDP.

GDP per capita

$47,567 USD4

$47,106 USD8

Canada has 0.97% greater GDP per capita.

GDP Growth Rate2

1 year: 3.1%

10 year: 2.2%

1 year: 2.9%

10 year: 2.9%

Canada's GDP is growing 0.2% more over a 1 year period, and USA GDP is growing 0.7% more over a 10 year period.

GDP by Sector (2010 est)1

Services:
78%

Industry:
20%

Agriculture:
2%

Services:
77%

Industry:
22%

Agriculture:
1%

Very similar, with USA having a slightly more industry-based economy and less services and agriculture than Canada.

Industrial Growth Rate (2010 est)1

5.8%

3.3%

Canada's industrial production is growing at 2.5% greater rate.

Personal Disposable Income per capita (2009)9

$28,591 USD

$34,949 USD

USA has a 29.3% higher disposable income.

Unemployment Rate2

8.0%

9.6%

USA has a 1.6% higher unemployment rate.

Trading Partners - Exports / Imports

US:
74.87% / 50.38%

China:
3.31% / 11.03%

Mexico:
1.25% / 5.48% 4

Canada:
19.49% / 14.51%

China:
7.19% / 19.08%

Mexico:
12.79% / 12.02%
5

USA and Canada are eachothers largest trading partners, with Canada more heavily tied to the USA than vice versa, and Canada slightly less tied to China and Mexico than the USA.

Government Surplus/Deficit as % of GDP (2007)2

-5.5%

-10.6%

USA has 5.1% greater defict as expressed in % of GDP.

Public Debt as % of GDP2

84.16%

93.58%

USA has 9.4% larger gross debt as expressed in % of GDP.

Military Expenditure as % of GDP (2005)1 

1.1%

4.06%

USA spends 3.7 times more money on military as expressed in % of GDP.

Research & Development as % of GDP (2008)2

1.84%

2.79%

USA spends 1.5 times more money on R&D as expressed in % of GDP.

Old Age & Survivors Benefits Expenditure as % of GDP (2007)2

4.2%

6.0%

USA publicly spends 1.8% more on programs like Social Security.

ODA Development AID Expenditure as % of GNI2

0.33%

0.21%

Canada publicly spends 0.12%more on development AID as expressed in % of GNI.

Educational Expenditure as % of GDP (2005)2

6.2%

7.1%

USA spends 0.9% more money on education as expressed in % of GDP.

Health Care Expenditure as % of GDP (2009)2

11.4%

17.4%

USA spends 6% more money on health care as expressed in % of GDP.

Unemployment Benefits Expenditure as % of GDP (2007)2

0.6%

0.3%

Canada spends 2 times more money on unemployment benefits as expressed in % of GDP.

Total Government Expenditure as % of GDP2

43.8%

42.3%

Canada spends 1.5% more money in total as expressed in % of GDP.

Total Tax Receipts as % of GDP (2009)2

31.1%

24.0%

Canada collects 7.1% more taxes as expressed in % of GDP.

Total Tax Receipts per capita (2009)2

$12,629.7

$10,950.8

Canada collects 13.3% more taxes per capita

Total Property Taxes as % of GDP (2009)2

3.5%

3.3%

Canada collects 0.2% more property taxes as expressed in % of GDP.

Consumer Price Index (annual change)2

1.8%

1.6%

Canada has 0.2% higher CPI rate.

Prime Lending Rate (2010 est)1

3%

3.25%

USA has 0.25% higher lending rate.

Exchange Rate (Annual average for 2010)10

$0.9710 USD

$1.0299 CAD

USA dollar is 5.7% greater in value.

Infrastructure & Communication

Airports per million population (2010)1

41.74

48.61

USA has 14.1% more airports per capita.

Railways1

46,552 km
------------------------
28,926 mi (2009)

224,792 km
------------------------
139,679 mi (2010)

USA has 4.8 times more railway miles.

Roads1

1,042,300 km
------------------------
647,655 mi (2009)

6,506,204 km
------------------------
4,042,768 mi (2008)

USA has 6.2 times more roadway miles.

Merchant Marine (2010)1

184

418

USA has 2.3 times more ships. Canadians own an additional 223 ships registered in foreign countries, Americans own an additional 734 ships registered in foreign countries.

Telephones per capita (2009)1

1.24 lines

1.39 lines

USA has 10.8% more telephone lines, both land and cellular combined.

Internet Users as % of population (2009)1

80.8%

79.75%

Canada has 1.1% more internet users per capita.

International Indices & Ratings

Big Mac Index11

$5.00 USD

$4.07 USD

Big Macs cost 18.6% more in Canada according to the Economist.

Democracy Index11

9th

17th

Based on The Economist's experts' assesments of freely held elections, security of the voters, influence of foreign governments, and capability of civil servants.

Freedom of the Press Rating (2010)12

26th

24th

Based on Freedom House's analysis of each country's: legal, political and economic environments.

Global Peace Index11

8th

82nd

Based on The Economist's experts' assesments of a multitude of issues relating to war, peace, crime and militarism.

IMD World Competitiveness Rating13

7th

1st

Based on IMD's analysis of each country's: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

United Nations HDI Rating14

8th

4th

Based on the United Nation's analsyis of each country's level of: income, health and education.

Miscellaneous

Independence Day1

July 1, 1867

July 4, 1776

USA is 91 years older (Note: Canada was not fully self-governing until December 11, 1931).

Representatives of Government (Legislative)1

House Members: 308

Senators: 105
------------------------
Total per 1 mill pop: 12.6

House Members: 435

Senators: 100
------------------------
Total per 1 mill pop: 1.8

USA has 122 more representatives. Canada has 7 times more representatives per capita.

Nobel Prize Laureates15

16

240

USA has 15 times more Nobel Laureates.

Awarded by committee in recognition of significant achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Note: Only native-born laureates counted toward country total, so USA total does not include 10 Canadians who did their work primarily in the USA, as well as other (76) foreign-born laureates.

Retirement Age2

65 years

66 years

USA has a 1 year higher retirement age in order to receive old age pension.

Patents per 100,000 population (2008)2

7.58

13.77

USA has 45% more patents per capita.

 

Geography, Resources & Environment: Canada and the United States are both very large nations, making up the vast majority of the North American continent. Canada has a slightly larger territory, and the USA has slightly more land. On a physical map, the two countries appear to be on an equal footing, but in reality, much of Canada is unsuitable for normal living conditions due to the very cold climate. This has resulted in the majority of Canada's population living along a long strip of land straddling the US border (See Canada population distribution map). Even so, the large geography of Canada does contain a great many natural resources, including one of the world's largest fresh water supplies, vast amounts of natural gas, oil and hydro power. Although not counted as a renewable fresh water resource, Canada and the USA share the the Great Lakes, which contain nearly 6 quadrillion gallons of water.16 Combined, Canada and the USA would make the largest nation on Earth with the largest amount of fresh water supply.

Demographics: If people are any measure of a nation's power, the largest advantage the USA has over Canada is its much larger population. The USA and Canadian growth rates are fairly comparable, but, on paper at least, the way they are growing is slightly different. Statistically, the USA relies less on immigration than Canada, and thus has a larger internal growth rate. Of course, one must consider the uncounted number of illegal migrants, which some estimate number as much as 20 million, a majority of which come from Latin America17. Due to the fact that Canada does not share borders with less developed nations, illegal immigration is much less of a problem.

The US Census Bureau and Statistics Canada classify ethnic groups differently, and therefore a true comparison between the two is difficult. However, Statistics Canada does record "Visible Minorities" so some inferences can be made. The USA statistic above was calculated by looking at "one race only" results and ignoring all races which could not be assigned to either White, Black, Asian or Native American. Original data can be viewed from this link. The Canadian statistic above was calculated by classifying all Blacks as "Black", all South Asian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Southeast Asian, and Filipinos as "Asian", all Aboriginals as "Native", and all others as "White". We can see according to this estimate that Canada has slightly more Whites, one sixth as many Blacks, over two times as many Asians, and over three times as many Native Americans, proportionally.

Linguistically, an easier comparison can be made, and it should be no surprise that Canada has many more French speakers, and the USA many more Spanish speakers. While Canada is officially a bilingual country, and the USA has no official language, in reality they are both dominated by the English language. Canada has a smaller English majority largely due to the French-speaking province of Quebec; a heavily Catholic province. The USA has a much larger Spanish-speaking population due to its proximity to Latin America, and control of former Spanish colonies.

After looking at all the data, there are noticeable differences between the two countries in terms of: ethnicity, language and religious affiliation. However, in all cases the differences become much smaller when compared regionally. For example, Washington State's ethnic population makeup is as follows: White 81.8%, Asian 5.5%, Black 3.2%, and Native 1.6%.5 By and large, northern states, like their Canadian provincial counterparts, tend to have less Black people and more Native Americans. Canadian national figures for language and religion are skewed by the large Catholic presence in Quebec, but on the whole the areas that surround Quebec are much more Catholic than the rest of the United States, and even more French. For example, USA Today estimates that New York and Vermont have a 38% Catholic population; Massachusetts with 51%, while states like South Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah only have a 6 or 7% Catholic population.18 Likewise, the US Census Bureau reports that 41% of all ethnic French-Canadians in the USA live in the Northeast, nearest to Quebec, though it is difficult to know how many of them speak French at home, as such information is not recorded on the state level. Spanish speaking is a subject the US Census bureau reports, and with that we find that, once again, northern states rank much lower. Washington, North Dakota, Michigan and Maine have the following numbers of Spanish speakers respectfully: 7.3%, 1.4%, 2.9% and 0.9%; Still all higher than the Canadian average, but, excepting Washington, much closer to Canadian norms.

Health: Canada has long boasted a higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality rate and much smaller obese population, despite spending less on health care as % of GDP. The USA also has a slightly higher alcohol consumption rate, which could be accounted for by the lower cost of alcohol; however, tobacco is also cheaper in the USA, but roughly the same amount use it in either country.

One area the USA dwarfs Canada is its much higher availability of expensive procedures such as MRI machines, which tends to have a long waiting list in Canada. While not listed, CT machines and other expensive machineries have comparably large differences between the two countries. The aforementioned exemplifies perhaps one of the largest dissimilarities between Canada and the USA; that being the national health policies. While the USA can vaunt an abundance of advanced technologies, drug research and cutting-edge procedures, Canada's national health policy is clearly more egalitarian. Canada may not provide the absolute best care possible, like the USA, but it does deliver quality health care to all citizens irregardless of income. Benefits and drawbacks can be found in both systems, particularly to very high and very low income earners. Both US and Canadian media tend to provide egregious examples of those shortcomings whenever they arise.

Interestingly, despite the different focus on health care delivery in either country, both obesity and life expectancies do show the same geographic similarities that can be found in many other areas. See: Average Life Expectancy at Birth by State, and Obesity Rates.

Education: Education is a difficult area to compare, as there are few international standards to compare in a fair manner. The two best known to gauge education are: Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). However, only PISA has both the USA and Canada in the list of countries they evaluate. Strangely, TIMSS uses different provinces of Canada, but doesn't evaluate the entire country. Overall, the USA fairs much better using TIMSS over PISA when compared against other countries, and Canada surpasses the USA under every measure using PISA. Comparing state against province, the two states (Minnesota & Massachusetts) achieve much higher scores than all provinces evaluated (British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario & Quebec) in both math and science, but this is not a very good measure for comparing the two countries as a whole, as those two states are generally among the highest achieving. One last bit of interesting data is that despite the higher amount of government subsidized education in Canada, the USA has almost a 5% greater graduation rate. This can be attributed to the much higher amount of private bursaries and scholarships that can be found in the USA compared with Canada.

Crime: There is no denying that the USA has more crime. The only two areas that Canada is more dangerous is in terms of robberies and perception of corruption. The two most striking statistics are the much higher murder rate (2.8 times) and much higher prison population (6.6 times) in the USA. Both Canada and the USA have reduced crime rates over the past 30 years, and the gap between the two is now much smaller than in the past, but even with much harsher sentencing and larger prison population, the USA continues to be a less safe place to live.

Again, geography plays a very important role, and when comparing murder, the easiest statistic to compare directly, we find that Quebec, Ontario, the Atlantic provinces, the New England states, Hawaii, and the Upper Midwest states all have very low murder rates; Western Canada, the Mid-Atlantic and Central states have moderate murder rates; and that the Northern Territories, Alaska, Southern and Western states generally have high murder rates. See: North American Murder Map.

Economy and Government Spending: It is well known that the USA has had the strongest economy in the world since the post WWII era. Comparatively, the USA has more than double the GDP of the second highest ranked country, China, which is just over 5.8 trillion.19 However, the statistic that really shows how well a country is doing comparative to their population is the GDP per capita figure. In this category, both Canada and the USA are listed in the top ten countries of the world, with Canada slightly edging the USA for the first time in the modern era this year. Canada is projected to grow faster over a one-year period, while the USA has a slightly better ten-year growth rate level. In make-up of the economy, the two countries are nearly identical, but Canada can boast a better industrial growth rate. Unemployment and public debt are two other figures that have always proven to be lower in the USA, until this year; like with the historically anomalous GDP per capita figure, these numbers changed for the first time in 50 years after the late 2000s recession. Despite the more sour figures for the USA in 2011, personal disposable income still remains much higher compared to Canadian levels, and the US dollar, the world's reserve currency, still remains higher than the Canadian one on average.

Until recently, market size has always insured that the USA had better figures than Canada, and if history is any measure, this will play an important role in the future. Interestingly, if the European Union is counted as a nation, it would have a larger GDP than the United States, but Canada and the United States combined would make the world's largest economy together.

While historically Canadians have always had a much larger government per capita, in today's reality, Canada only spends 1.5% more as a % of GDP than the USA. In fact, the USA spends more on the military, research and development, social security, education, and health care. While this may seem impossible, knowing that Canada and the USA spend roughly the same overall, not all categories are accurately comparable or even listed by the OECD or others. For example, while the USA spends more on social security, the single largest expenditure Canada has is its social services, which are roughly 10% higher as % of GDP than the comparable US figure. Canada also sends a great deal of money to the provinces in the form of transfer payments, which also skews the interpretation of the data.

Infrastructure & Communication: Notwithstanding southern Ontario, if an individual were to travel by car from Canada to the USA, a noticeable difference is the interstate system that stretches from the most urban to rural populations of the United States of America. While Quebec and Ontario have similar provincial highway systems, they largely end where the population does. In Manitoba, it is not unusual for the only major highway leading south to be flooded for a month of the year, but open on the US side; for there to be vast sections of the only highway in a province to be undivided; or to drive for hundreds of miles on the Canadian side without seeing an overpass, while on the US side seeing dozens over nearly the same geography and population density. Even so, on a per capita basis Canada certainly has more total roadways, railway and merchant marine, and only trails in the category of airports and telephones.

International Indices & Ratings: There are many different organizations that compare countries, and only a few of the most famous or interesting ones are listed here.

The Big Mac Index is a somewhat comical but also interesting and simplistic way to compare nations around the world. It is in essence comparing the value of a McDonalds Big Mac in countries around the world. By this measure, an American has an almost 20% better purchasing power than a Canadian.

Like the Big Mac Index, the Democracy and Global Peace Indices were also created by the Economist. Unlike some of the other indices listed, they are largely constructed by experts rather than hard numbers alone. In both categories, the USA ranks poorly, especially so when it comes to the Global Peace Index. These and other indices like them are highly criticized by many organizations, but do offer a wealth of interesting information, even if the rankings don't indicate how great the nation is. For example, considering that Canada joined World War I and World War II before the USA, would that mean it is a lesser nation since it would surely rank much lower on the Global Peace Index if it existed at that time?

IMD uses a variety of statistics attempting to find the most competitive nations by analyzing four major factors (economy, government, business and infrastructure), and twenty sub-factors. The USA has long held its #1 position.

Freedom House ratings are entirely analytically derived, but use many examples to justify their scores. The two major ratings are for general freedom of the country and freedom of the press. The former simply categorizes countries into: Free, Partially Free, or Not Free. As can be expected, both Canada and the USA come out as "Free", but surprisingly, neither list within the top ten for the freedom of the press rating. It is worth noting that all the Scandinavian countries rank very high, despite the fact that they all have a large amount of government control in the media, and despite the fact that libel and defamation are much more of a concern in these countries.

The United Nations Human Development Index is perhaps the most famous index, and rates a country based on its income, health and education. Until the formula was slightly modified in 2010, this was a statistic that often put Canada above the USA, and in the 1990s when Canada scored first year after year, was touted by Prime Minister Chretien as proof that Canada was the "best country in the world". Unmentioned, now or before, is that the statistical difference between any first world country listed in the HDI is negligible, and as has been shown with the 2010 revision, can easily change the ranking with a slight modification of the equation.

Sources:

    1. CIA World Factbook
    2. OECD
    3. The Pacific Institute
    4. Statistics Canada
    5. United States Census Bureau
    6. Federal Bureau of Investigation
    7. Eurostat
    8. United States Department of Commerce
    9. Centre for the Study of Living Standards
    10. Bank of Canada
    11. The Economist
    12. Freedom House
    13. IMD International
    14. United Nations Human Development Report
    15. Nobel e-Museum
    16. Great Lakes Information Network
    17. Illegal immigrants in the US: How many are there?
    18. What is your religion.. if any?
    19. The World Bank
Thanks to United North America
http://www.unitednorthamerica.org/simdiff.htm
 
 

How To Involve Participants In A Leadership Training Program

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand"

-- Confucius

Even the most brilliant, credible, and talented instructors with the most dazzling PowerPoint slides won't guarantee participants in a leadership training program are actually going to learn anything.

In order for all that good content to actually sink in, people need to have a chance to do something with it.

I was recently asked by one of our professors for some ideas on exactly how to involve participants more in one of our leadership training programs. I was happy to oblige. (-:

Telling vs. learning:

Start by cutting your content in half and build in "soak" time. Instead of presenting 10 best practices in 2 hours, present the 5 most relevant to the participants and build in a learning activity that facilitates knowledge transfer to help them build a bridge to on-the-job application.

For example, after each, or after a series of best practices, ask participants to take out a piece of paper and write their answers to the questions: "What's one idea from this best practice that I could implement at my company?" "What would be the barriers?" "How could I overcome or minimize those barriers?"

Then, have participants pair up or form triads to discuss their answers. Encourage them to mix up their groups throughout the program to encourage networking. Keep the activity brief and fast-paced – about 5 minutes for individual reflection and 10 minutes for group discussion. Monitor the energy level in the room.

Then, debrief the discussion. This allows for everyone to hear each other's ideas. Ask each group for a brief summary, ask questions, and add your own comments. More importantly, encourage other participants to join the discussion. A skilled facilitative instructor knows how to "fan the flames" of a potentially hot discussion yet keep the pace moving. Again, it's about monitoring the energy level in the room. For example, people standing and checking their emails are signs of low energy and engagement. When all eyes are focused and multiple hands are in the air, you know you're in a zone.

Build involvement into the design of a program:

Adult learners, especially senior managers, are ADD when it comes to training. They can only actively listen for a limited period of time before their minds begin to wander. In any program, participants should be spending at least 50% of their time "doing" something (other than listening). High involvement instructional techniques (also known as "experiential") include case studies, simulations, role plays, pair/small group discussion, learning journeys (field trips), and project work (action learning). Low involvement techniques include lectures, guest speakers, listening to long project presentations, reading, and watching videos.

Note: Even low involvement techniques can be very effective, as long as they are not overdone. For example, for videos, think 2-3 minute "Youtube" clips, vs. those long boring science videos we used to have to watch in high school. Lectures can be very engaging with a healthy dose of Socratic questioning, stories, examples, and group discussion.

The learning effectiveness of any high-involvement learning activity can be amplified with an effective debrief. Participants are not always consciously aware of what they learned, and a good facilitated discussion can help bring these "aha's" to the surface, and provide potential learnings to other participants.

One more note on experiential learning: unlike a planned, sequential lecture, participant learning is usually random and unpredictable. You could run the same simulation for 10 different groups and get hundreds of different outcomes and learnings. However, the learning is usually more personalized and meaningful to each participant.

Beginnings and endings:

They say in any speech, the audience always remembers the beginning and end. For training programs, a high energy, high involvement beginning and ending helps to create a memorable and positive experience. At the start of a program, get participants involved right away. Introductions can go either way – they can be long, drawn-out, and boring, or highly engaging. The key is to pick provocative questions or activities directly related to the course content, and then engage with each participant. The focus should be on the participant, not the instructor (i.e., "hey, that reminds me of a story….").

At the end of a program, try having each participant announce what they are committed to implementing back on the job, then "graduate" them with a certificate and a handshake or high five. It should be high energy, fun, even emotional experience.

The impromptu role play technique:

I've seen Jim Clawson, one of our instructors, use this technique very effectively in our Change Leadership course. He doesn't overdo it – maybe 2-3 times per program – and it's always "in the moment".

When a participant makes a comment, suggestion or asks a question that he wants to explore, he's say something like "OK, let's try that out. I'll be your manager, and let's have you pitch that idea to me." He'll then divide the class in half, with one half on his side, and the other on the precipitant's side (like boxing corners). He turns around and gets his side involved in planning the discussion, then turns around and role plays it with the participant. He'll call time outs, debrief with the entire class, have both sides strategize again, and then continue the dialog. It's fun, high energy, and most importantly, allows participants to try out concepts by putting their own "skin in the game".

While a group of students or new managers might find this intimidating, senior managers seem to love the competitive aspect of it.
 
 
 

4 Customer-Service Lessons From Amazon

U.S. consumers will spend an average of 9 percent more with a business when they're impressed with its service, according to a global survey conducted by Echo Research. High-quality customer service not only can convince people to buy more, but also helps companies drum up repeat business and attract new clientele.

Perhaps the best example of how powerful excellent customer service can be is Amazon, which led 142 other companies in Temkin Group's 2011 loyalty rankings. Here are four lessons that small businesses can learn from the e-commerce giant:

  1. Provide progress updates. Information is everything. After customers place an order with Amazon, they can simply click on the "Where's my stuff?" link in their account profile to find out whether the item has been shipped — and where it is in the transit process. Being proactive about keeping customers informed helps them feel confident in your service.
  2. Be generous with refunds. Is an item the wrong size? The wrong color? Not what the customer expected? Amazon provides a no-questions-asked returns and refunds process, even in cases where the product is sold by another merchant through Amazon. That means customers don't ever have to suffer from buyers' remorse, which can lead to hard feelings (and negative reviews) of your company.
  3. Monitor your partners' behavior. When you work with other merchants, their actions affect how people perceive your operation, too. Amazon works to ensure that sellers in its Amazon Marketplace provide high-quality service by requesting customer feedback and ratings — and booting out any merchants that have problems with 1 percent or more of their orders.
  4. Take a cut in profits in exchange for improved customer satisfaction. Amazon is the master of low-margin sales, undercutting other retailers' prices by as much as 60 to 70 percent. The company is more than willing to give stuff away, too: Amazon hosts thousands of free Kindle books and recently launched a lending program to allow Kindle users to borrow premium books from public libraries. Maintaining low (or no) prices encourages customers to rely on you for more and more purchases. This strategy may mean smaller profits at first, but will help you to gain a large, loyal customer base in the long run.
Kathryn Hawkins is a writer and editorial consultant in Portland, Maine, who works with publications such as BNET, OPEN Forum, and GOOD Magazine. She is co-owner and editor-in-chief of Gimundo, a site dedicated to good news served daily.
 
Thanks to Kathryn Hawkins / Blog Intuit / Intuit, Inc.
http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/4-customer-service-lessons-from-amazon/
 
 

Steve Jobs And Management By Meaning

Steve Jobs has always been considered an anomaly in management; his leadership style was something to admire or to criticize, but definitely not to replicate. He did not fit into the frameworks of business textbooks: there was orthodox management, and then there was Steve Jobs.

The reason why institutional management theories have always looked at his style as an exception is that he was navigating a territory that is often obscure to management: the creation of meaning, both for customers and employees.

He put people at the center. Which does not imply that he gave users what they wanted, nor that he created a flat playful organization where ideas flew from the bottom up. Apple's approach to innovation is definitely not user-driven: it does not listen to users, but makes proposals to them. And narrations on Jobs's leadership style tells of a vertical, top-down approach, often harsh. At new product launches, he, not the team, was the protagonist.

"Managing by meaning" is recognizing that people are human: they have rational, cultural, and emotional dimensions, and they appreciate the person who creates a meaning for them to embrace. We know customers do not buy Apple's product simply because of utility or functionality; people are even prone to forgive some of Apple's technical limitations in exchange for great design — and identity. For Jobs, design was not only beauty, but creating new meanings for users.

Jobs was constantly driven by the search for products that made more sense to people. And Apple has been a champion in creating new product meanings: the iMac G3, released in 1998, with his colorful translucent materials inspired by modern households products, changed the meaning of computers from office objects to home devices; the iPod plus the iTunes application and store created a new meaning in the world of music — accessibility — by making it easier to search, discover, buy, listen to, and organize music wherever a customer was; the iPhone turned the meaning of smart phones from objects for business to objects of social entertainment. These products where not necessarily best in class in terms of performance, but they were more meaningful to users.

Jobs also offered meaning to his employees. It is known that Apple's employees worked hard on visionary projects, striving to meet targets and to satisfy their leader's maniacal attention to detail. Jobs infused them with a sense of mission. Apple had to leave a mark in the world of computing, improve people's lives, be bold and, of course, "think different."

Experts and academics in business schools have often dismissed this approach as the outcome of the unique personality of Steve Jobs. A kind of "guru process," as a colleague once told me. Nothing to be considered as a role model. The reason is that institutional management is rooted into analytics, engineering, and the social sciences. Jobs had no disdain for these, but meaning is connected to other, more slippery territories: culture and the humanities, which unfortunately business schools hardly master. During an interview, Jobs stated that "The only problem with Microsoft is that they absolutely just have no taste. I mean that in the big way. [...] They don't bring much culture into their product. Proportionally spaced fonts come from typesetting and beautiful books." And in 2010, during his keynote for the launch of the iPad, he said, "The reason we've been able to create products like this is because we've tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts."

Institutional management is scared by culture and the humanities. They are not measurable and cannot be codified in processes. They depend on the person. What Jobs taught us is that managers are people before being managers. They have a personal vision of the world, painstakingly developed through years of research and exploration in life. Why should manager forget about culture? No method, tools and process can give you the capability to create meaning, to create visions. Only your personal culture, that no one can imitate, can.

Jobs showed that business and culture are not in contradiction, but rather they sustain each other. Isn't it time to consider this as a model instead of an anomaly? Can't Jobs become institutional and "management by meaning" become a core chapter in the future textbooks of management?

Thanks to Roberto Verganti / Blog HBR / Harvard Business School Publishing
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/10/steve_jobs_and_management_by_m.html?referral=00563&cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-daily_alert-_-alert_date&utm_source=newsletter_daily_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert_date

 

The CEO's Priority Should Be The Corporation's Survival

When leaders of corporations make decisions, they are necessarily, if only implicitly, expressing preferences about tradeoffs. For example, a decision to invest in growth, which might be better for longer-term shareholders, can often come at the expense of a higher dividend, which might suit short-term investors; a choice to pay higher wages and make employees happy and allow for price reductions, the benefits of which go to customers, impossible; and so on.

So whose interests should corporate leaders put first when making these decisions? My vote: the survival of the corporation itself. Not shareholders, not stakeholders, not customers, not society — not even profits. The corporation's survival should come first.

In practical terms, what this means is that management should not seek to maximize the wealth of any one of its major constituencies — customers, investors, employees, and society (in the form of obligations to governments). Employees provide human capital, customers provide revenue and social capital, governments provide critical infrastructure (not just "pipes and schools" but most fundamentally the rule of law) and legitimacy, and shareholders provide financial capital. None comes first in line; none is even primus inter pares. Rather, corporate leaders should seek to pay each supplier what is necessary in order to secure the requisite inputs, and no more.

There are at least two objections to this view: one moral, the other pragmatic.

Consider first the moral argument. Proponents of shareholder capitalism point to fundamental notions of property rights as the foundation of their position. In the words of the late Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, "In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires."

Some retort that this view breaks down in an era of short-term investors and could be salvaged with an emphasis on cultivating a strong base of long-term shareholders. But this is a red herring: One's rights are not diluted simply because one wishes to enjoy them only briefly, nor enhanced if one wishes to enjoy them over decades.

What does matter is that the "shareholders are owners" view overlooks a critically important implication of the limited liability conferred on shareholders by the corporate form: They can only lose as much money as they put in, regardless of the actions of the corporation — no matter one's investment horizon. How can one claim the exclusive right to determine the objective of a corporation when one is not held accountable for the full extent of any harm wrought in the pursuit of those aims? If one wishes to forgo limited liability, then by all means call the shots. But anyone wishing to protect their assets behind the corporate veil should be prepared to pay a price for that. A stock certificate is a particular sort of claim on corporate wealth; it is not a deed of ownership.

Pragmatic objections to "corporate survivalism" (if I might call it that) tend to focus on its allegedly "exploitive" elements. Executives who aim to maximize corporate survival will end up, either deliberately or through the cumulative effect of unfettered decision-making biases, taking advantage of the corporation's "suppliers", aiming to enrich either the corporation or themselves at the expense of other parties.

What this misses is that the socially beneficial effects of market-based exchanges are premised on precisely the kind of self-interest being decried. Adam Smith put it first and best in 1776 in Wealth of Nations when he noted, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chuses [sic] to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens."

In other words, thanks to Smith's "invisible hand," the net effect of each actor pursuing its own self-interest is the most nearly optimal social outcome. In contrast, when any given party is expected as a feature of the system to look out for someone else, the likelihood of exploitation can be expected to rise.

Of course, to realize these benefits we require not only self-interest but also well-functioning markets. In the case of corporate survivalism, the markets for corporate control (to keep management in check), products (to protect customers), capital, and labor must all be sufficiently efficient. This does much to ensure that the transactions executed among the various actors are true exchanges of value and not exploitive. These requirements are no more constraining than those assumed by any other theory of optimal corporate behavior.

Corporate survivalism has some rather intriguing overlap with at least one other view expressed in this set of blogs: Joe Bower argues that those who rise to the position of CEO from inside an organization can be much more effective than outsiders. In addition to the reasons Bower offers for this, it is worth considering whether home-grown executive leadership is more likely to be emotionally invested in the corporation as an institution: They want the company to survive for its own sake and so are perhaps better able to find that set of trade-offs that maximizes corporate survival.

Thanks to Michael E. Raynor / Blog HBR / Harvard Business School Publishing
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/10/the_corporations_survival_shou.html?referral=00563&cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-daily_alert-_-alert_date&utm_source=newsletter_daily_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert_date

 

A Bold Move In Measuring The Impact Of Sales Training

Tim Riesterer isn't shy and doesn't hold back.  A lot of people are like that, but when you consider Tim's intellect and his knowledge of what his clients need, you'd better sit up and take notice.

As  Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for Corporate Visions, Inc., he's been driving an exciting new initiative, and driving it hard.  CVI recently announced that it will integrate a 3rd-party ROI measurement with its popular sales conversation skills training solution. The 90-day post-training assessment will track adoption, behavior change and business impact. The new solution will incorporate a custom survey developed and delivered by BeyondROI, a leading training performance measurement company. It's a bold step and it places CVI among the elite with respect to measuring the impact of sales training.

I've wanted to interview Tim for a while. This new announcement provided us both with an opportunity.  Here's the interview:

Dave Stein: What prompted you to so aggressively go after the issue of training ROI?

Tim Riesterer: The question always comes up… "How will you measure ROI?" Then after a bunch of go-rounds trying to determine the best way to do that, everyone starts to question whether training can get any of that credit… so, everyone reverts back to training event smile sheets. That is, until the end of a project and everyone wants to know what you got. We decided enough is enough. Every person who goes through the Power Messaging conversation skills training will be evaluated by a third-party company 90 days after the event to determine the impact.

DS: Why has it been so hard to get ROI?

TR: The challenge is, how much credit should you give the training program for changes in sales performance? You want to know how it impacts real KPI's like closed business, cycle times, margin improvement, etc. However, when performance improves, everyone wants to tell you why it couldn't be the training and lists all the other factors. But, if performance doesn't improve, these same people want to tell you why the training didn't work. This bob-and-weave, rope-a-dope technique keeps the players on all sides off balance just enough that they give up in frustration.

DS: What are the most important ROI elements to measure?

TR: The key for us is working with a third-party expert. Someone who has proven skills and processes for capturing the business impact of something as difficult to quantify as sales training. Scott Watson at BeyondROI has identified three elements that need to be measured and correlated that sales performance and training impact. The first is behavior change… are salespeople really adopting and using the techniques, and if so when, where, how? The second is "definite difference"… does high or low usage of the new techniques correlate with better or worse performance against important metrics such as closed business or pipeline size, including citing specific deals and the relative impact the new techniques had on the deal? The third is feedback for coaching… making the techniques sticky and long-lasting requires knowing what areas are working, what areas are not. What players are succeeding, who isn't, and what the most successful people are doing differently. This information on individual rep performance can be used for coaching and refreshing.

DS: What kind of results are you seeing and what's the reaction of your clients?

TR: In some of the earliest results we are seeing from companies like Philips and Dell, we've been able to track that salespeople with high usage (70+%) of the techniques are closing 3 times the business that reps with low usage numbers. Also, salespeople are identifying millions of dollars worth of deals where Power Messaging made "all" or "a significant" difference in 60-70% of the wins. We're also seeing overall adoption and usage rates at over 90% where people admit to using the techniques regularly after 90 days. The clients are thrilled with the results and the quality of the insights gained from assessment. They know how it's working and they know what areas they need to shore up. So, it provides a business case and a roadmap for ongoing coaching and improvement.

Disclosure: CVI subscribes to ESR's products and services for sales training providers.

Tim Riesterer is a recognized thought leader and practitioner in sales messaging. He leads the strategy, marketing and products initiatives for Corporate Visions. His is the co-author of two books: Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win the Complex Sale. 
 
 
 

How We Quadrupled Revenue By Uniting Sales And Marketing

It's time to scrap the dysfunctional, binary approach of "sales and marketing," and look for a new system that harnesses the strengths of both groups to drive a company's revenue. In order to do that, we must move past traditional sales cycles (and the supporting role marketing plays) and start attacking the entire revenue process with something called revenue performance management (RPM).

Death of a sales cycle

Most companies are very familiar with the concept of a sales cycle (the sales process and tunnel/funnel). Companies track prospective customers as leads through distinct stages and predict revenue based on potential sales as things currently stand. Up until recently, that was the best way for businesses to model revenue.

However, a sales cycle model on its own presents distinct problems and shortcomings when trying to drive sustained revenue growth in today's increasingly social world for a couple of major reasons (and goes the heart of why corporations are literally leaving trillions of dollars on the revenue table).

  • It's insufficient: The sales cycle model remains stuck on near-term revenue opportunities, based what's happening with current accounts.
  • It's inefficient: The sales cycle starts tracking revenue when a lead is accepted into sales, ignoring the time and expense spent on the lead by marketing before and during the sales cycle. As anyone who has planned an exotic vacation or purchased a new flat screen TV knows that in today's market, the buyer explores dozens of online and social channels before they ever speak to a sales rep. That research, interest and outreach is not taken into consideration in a traditional sales cycle.

Birth of a revenue cycle

Contrary to the old sales cycle, the modern revenue cycle includes the parts of the business that feed and foster sales: marketing, branding, PR and social media. This bigger-picture process makes it possible to take this part of the business that has long been a cost center, and transform it into a true revenue driver.

Take marketing, for example. Incorporating marketing into a holistic revenue cycle means not just shooting in the dark and proving ROI later, but instead standardizing and tracking information with sales for the common goal of accelerated revenue generation. This new process, called revenue performance management (RPM), is a modern way of looking at marketing and sales together. The technologies that power RPM are rapidly gaining adoption among companies of all sizes and across every industry precisely because they deliver proven results.

In some respects, RPM is a no-brainer that's time has finally come. In others, properly implementing RPM requires dedication and a degree of sophistication to get the best possible results. Still, it can't be denied that there have been some major shifts between that make it both critically necessary and technically possible for companies of all shapes and sizes to take control of their revenue cycles by bringing marketing and sales together.

Today's buyer demands RPM

Before the Internet, sales organizations actually had a chance to influence customers' buying decisions. Now, buyers have a wealth of information at their fingertips and form their purchasing preferences well before they ever connect with a sales rep. We've gone from a limited number of powerful communication channels to a vast and fragmented Web-marketing world, bringing with it both opportunities and challenges.

Technological advances in cloud software — including marketing automation, business analytics, cloud-based CRM, sales intelligence and social media monitoring tools — have all been crucial to supporting the capture and flow of information from marketing to sales. They are equally as important to determining revenue impact.

For example, only recently has it been possible (or necessary) for a company to compare ROI across hundreds different marketing programs to base future marketing investment on the quality of resulting sales leads. Smart companies are now taking advantage of quickly proliferating marketing channels to reach, influence and track the interest of their prospective customers early in the revenue cycle. But with nearly infinite marketing options available, they must measure what works and what doesn't to consistently accelerate their revenue engine. By optimizing interactions across every touch point, and aligning sales and marketing to operate at high velocity, RPM gives businesses the ideal roadmap to help leaders capitalize on the changes taking place in today's social, mobile and web-driven marketplace to accelerate yearly growth by 40 percent.

Get going on your new revenue cycle

How can you take advantage of this shift in your organization today? Here are a few actions I suggest:

  • Establish an infrastructure where sales and marketing are fully integrated and equally responsible for revenue generation.
  • Hire a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). Many organizations are already doing this to bring together sales and marketing in an efficient way. That means one person responsible for the entire revenue cycle (money invested in marketing, capitalized on by sales, and then reinvested into marketing). The performance and continual improvement of that business process should be the responsibility of the CRO.
  • Establish lead scoring thresholds to identify when leads should be passed on to sales and when they should be returned to marketing for further nurturing Identify. This removes defects and increases sales and marketing effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Identify contribution to revenue for marketing campaigns and scrap those that are underperforming. In the same vein, determine which channels and campaigns are the most effective investments and increase investment accordingly.

What to Expect with RPM

A good revenue performance management process should result in high revenue growth out the gate. In our case, Marketo grew revenue by 315 percent in 2010 and we're well on our way to making 2011 another record-breaking year — growing revenue 140 percent last quarter alone.

The numbers speak for themselves. Now it's your turn. Seize the day and incite a revenue revolution at your company!

Phil is a 30-year Silicon Valley veteran and has the scars (and a couple of successful IPOs) to prove it. Prior to Marketo, he was President and COO of Epiphany, a public enterprise software company known for its visionary marketing products. Before that, Phil was COO and SVP of Products and Services at Red Brick Systems, a pioneering data warehouse vendor. Earlier, Phil held leadership positions at Metaphor Computer Systems, Stanford University Medical Center, and Masstor Systems. Phil holds a BA from Stanford University.

Thanks to Phil Fernandez / Venturebeat
http://venturebeat.com/2011/10/05/how-we-quadrupled-revenue-by-uniting-sales-and-marketing/