Friday, November 30, 2012

How to be a thought leader

Everybody wants to be one, and, if you define thought leadership loosely enough, most anyone can be one. But what does it take to play at the highest level, the Harvard Business Review level?

H. James Wilson, a senior researcher at Babson Executive Education, set out with others to answer this question. Here's his guide "for anyone — from bloggers, to academics, to strategy consultants — looking to produce world-class thought leadership."

Tune Your Idea to the Zeitgeist. 
Zeitgeist, German for "spirit of the time," is the complex interplay of economic, technological, political, and social forces that can determine which ideas will flop and which will fly in a particular moment. Again and again, we found that HBR writers learned to sync their ideas with the zeitgeist to deeply resonate with their savvy, connected readers. 
The zeitgeist doesn't have to be a vague and intangible notion, though it tends to remain so unless you intentionally look for it. Read widely and systematically scan sources, from new consulting reports to business headlines, to discern the zeitgeist. It can even be quantified. For example, a British study showed the precise ways in which management gurus in the 1980s U.K. effectively connected their ideas to the particular national moods aroused by Thatcher's economic policies. 
Similarly, scholars in the U.S. have found strong correlations between an idea's popularity and economic indicators such as trade deficits, consumer confidence, and unemployment rates. As the U.S. trade deficit with Japan grew through the 1980s, for example, influential thinkers increasingly focused on how managerial innovations used in Japanese firms might be imported and adapted in the U.S.
Pick an Apt Objective. 
Underneath the varied thickets of research and rhetorical styles, some universal truths persist. In particular, our research revealed that HBR's authors consistently took aim at one of three core business objectives: improved efficiency, greater effectiveness, or innovation of products and processes. 
Since these gurus were paying attention to the zeitgeist, they knew which of the three objectives to select in order to maximize the demand for their ideas in the reader's mind — and in the organizations where their ideas might be adopted. 
During difficult economic times, organizations often seek ideas on how to cut costs or perform operations more efficiently. In better times, companies are attracted to ideas that help them do their work more effectively. In transition periods, during big technological shifts or the ends of recessions, companies often turn their aspirations to growth through innovation.
More at the link.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Keeping eyeballs attached to the screen

Researchers studying how people read on tablets offer us some design insights.

Tablet readers typically give a story about 78 seconds before deciding whether to keep reading or to start looking for a new story. The team suggested designers give readers a "gold coin" at the 78-second mark (what the team called the "bailout point") in hopes of keeping readers engaged. The gold coin might take the form of a pull quote, picture, graphic, or link to another story, anything to keep the reader reading. By way of example, think about's tendency to include graphics and stand-alone links to other stories between paragraphs.

Orientation -- 70 percent of those in the study preferred a landscape layout, which is a consistent result. Garcia said he's been involved in six tablet studies and 90 percent all participants start with a tablet in the landscape position.

Careful selectors v. not-so-careful -- People who went on to read a full story, fixated on an average of 18 different elements on a home page -- looking at headlines, subheads, pictures, captions, etc. -- before choosing which story to read. People who tended not to read full stories, looked at an average of nine elements before choosing.

Navigation -- The researchers found that 67 percent of readers used the browser's controls (e.g., the back button) to get to more content even though navigation tools were built in.

Scanners v. methodical readers -- About 75 percent of digital natives (those between 18- and 28-years-old) read used a "scanning" style to consume news on a tablet. Interestingly, this doesn't mean they don't read or read less, they just have a different search method. It's style of consumption, not amount of consumption.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tracing photos to their origin

You're found a photo or other piece of art online and you want to know where it came from. Here are two methods. This search engine’s sole function is to search for exact match images, including where it came from and how it’s being used, higher resolution images and also modified versions. Meranda Watling: "I searched for an image I pinned a year ago because it made me laugh (it’s a sign bashing another signmaker for using Comic Sans). I’ve seen it around the web for awhile but the link on Pinterest takes me to a Tumblr log-in page. TinEye turned up 57 results, which I can sort by best match, most changed (for example if someone crops, photoshops, etc.) and biggest image (if I wanted a higher resolution version)."

Google Images Search. You’ve probably used Google Image Search to track down images of places, people or things. But did you know you can search by an existing image instead of a name or word? Go to the Google Images search page. Instead of typing in a search term, click on the little camera icon. It will pop up and give you the option of either searching by an image at a certain URL or uploading an image to search by.

Both the URL and uploaded file work the same, basically scanning the web for images that are similar. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always turn up the original in the top results and sometimes the results for “visually similar” images are far far far off-base, but it at least can usually give you a feeler on whether it’s unique. I find it’s useful to skip the search results, and go to the image results with it set it to “more sizes” instead of “visually similar” (the more sizes options means it’s searching for different resolutions but exact copies of your image). You can use the search tools there to sort by the date range. If you get a bunch of results to wade through, you can set the date range to a specific period, so for example you could search the Sandy images with it set to before the storm to see if there are any hits.