Friday, March 28, 2008

The Nail don't hurt bad enough

Today I concluded a multiple-session meeting with a company that we were considering a partnership with, and I was reminded of a story I used on many a sales call back in the day . . .

Ben went to visit his neighbor, who had a front porch that extended across the entire front of his house.

On the porch sat the neighbor's dog, howling . . .


Ben asked his neighbor what the dog's problem was . . .


The neighbor said, "he's sitting on a nail."


Ben asked why the dog didn't just stand up instead of howling


The neighbor said . . . The nail don't hurt bad enough yet . . .

Does your nail hurt yet?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How long will "social networks" be around, and how long is the tail?

A recent article in my not-so-favorite form of media, the NYT - addressed: Why Old Technologies Are Still Kicking. The article identified the common traits of survivor technologies as 1) some enduring advantage in the old technology that is not entirely supplanted by the new, and 2) business decisions that invest in retooling the traditional technology, adopting a new business model and nurturing a support network of loyal customers, industry partners and skilled workers.

Is that what's happening with social networking?

In The Roaring 2000s, Harry S. Dent made some interesting observations and predictions. He missed the boat on a couple of them (like the Dow reaching at least 21,500 by the year 2008 -- it barely passed 14,000 in October 2007 and hasn't been the same since). In all fairness, there have been some significant unpredictable events, but take a look at what Dent was seeing here. Dent found recently that it was typical to have a major crash and shake-out as new technologies approached 50% penetration on the S-Curve, and in 2006, he forcasted that most stocks will soar to unprecedented highs—most likely to around 20,000 on the Dow by 2009.

Dent saw and examined the impact of new technologies on the S-Curve, and I think that's critical as we examine the longevity and enduring advantage of technology like social network or networking sites (not to be confused with the activity of social networking, which doesn't need a specific site). Boyd and Ellison (2007) define social network sites (as distinguished from social networking sites) as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

The first comes as many early stage market entrants go under as the product first moves mainstream around 10% market penetration and the field of mainstream potential options narrow down. Then there is a second and most violent shake-out as the product moves towards 50% penetration and growing competitors over-expand. That shake-out shifts market share further to the strongest leaders who bring costs down further through larger economies of scale. Once the industry matures between 90% and 99.9%, foreign or new competition often sets in and even dominant leaders have to fight to maintain market share in an era of declining growth and margins.

So where are we with social networks?

I think it depends on how you are looking at these sites. Social networking sites as they are used now ultimately serve to identify the changes in our approaches to socializing, especially dependent on the stage of life we are in. Take a look at three of these sites (my reasons for being on each of them were covered previously). We've got the mall (of MySpace), the Coffee Shop (of FaceBook), and the Chamber of Commerce function (of LinkedIn).

There is a likelihood of traditional social use -- both with MySpace and the mall.

Youth (and some adults) enjoy the time spent in "hanging out" at the mall. That's where groups of friends go to the mall to show off recent acquisitions (clothes, mobile phones, etc), to hang out with friends, and to hang out with friends of friends you can't connect with in your neighborhood.

Adults are more likely to meet in Facebook or at a coffee shop

The local coffee shop is a place way from home, perhaps an office-like environnment that can be used as a place to work or a place to relax. It's a short term stop between other personal and professional errands. It's a neutral, friendly place for informal conversation for business or pleasure. And most of them are more than a coffee shop.

People with business on their mind are more likely to go to LinkedIn or a Chamber of Commerce function.

LinkedIn has mall-like qualities, as does a Chamber of Commerce mixer. People often gather (group) together to chat, plan, or introduce others, and it's pretty clear why they are there (it's likely there's a clue on their nametag or profile). LinkedIn allows us to share details about each other and our professional interests, and provides a useful venue for introducing others.

LinkedIn also has coffee shop qualities, as it provides a place where business isn't the only thing that needs to be discussed. That's especially helpful in Chamber of Commerce mixers in some of the Southern U.S. locations, where it's taboo to conduct business before spending a minimum of 15 minutes about the weather, politics, and your choice of either the SEC or NASCAR.

Their use often differs by demographic, and their specific use and potential are different.

So where will social networking sites be in 5, 10, or 15 years?

In Metcalfe's Law is Wrong, Briscoe, Odlyzko, and Tilly say that Metcalfe's Law, which says that the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of its users, is wrong. Of relevance for this topic is their observation that:

The fundamental flaw underlying both Metcalfe's and Reed's laws is in the assignment of equal value to all connections or all groups. The underlying problem with this assumption was pointed out by Thoreau in relation to the very first large telecommunications network, then being built in the United States. Thoreau wrote: "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."

The authors noted that if Metcalfe's Law were true, it would create overwhelming incentives for all networks relying on the same technology to merge, or at least to interconnect. These incentives would make isolated networks hard to explain. They introduce Zipf's Law, which says that if we order some large collection by size or popularity, the second element in the collection will be about half the measure of the first one, the third one will be about one-third the measure of the first one, and so on. In other words, the kth-ranked item will measure about 1/k of the first one. They also propose their own calculations, which states that the value of a network of size n grows in proportion to n log(n). They note that this cannot predict the value of a network from its size alone, but if we already know its valuation at one particular size, we can estimate its value at any future size, all other factors being equal.

Here's the n log(n) law in application:

Imagine a network of 100 000 members that we know brings in $1 million. We have to know this starting point in advance—none of the laws can help here, as they tell us only about growth. So if the network doubles its membership to 200 000, Metcalfe's Law says its value grows by (200 0002/100 0002) times, quadrupling to $4 million, whereas the n log(n) law says its value grows by 200 000 log(200 000)/100 000 log(100 000) times to only $2.1 million. In both cases, the network's growth in value more than doubles, still outpacing the growth in members, but the one is a much more modest growth than the other. In our view, much of the difference between the artificial values of the dot-com era and the genuine value created by the Internet can be explained by the difference between the Metcalfe-fueled optimism of n 2 and the more sober reality of n log(n).

There's a lot more to their argument, but I think the key is that as the shakeout in social network sites continues (are you listening AOL, Google, and Microsoft?), the real valuation can be estimated, but only based on a previous real valuation. If we look at the anticipated growth with the expected mergers and acquisitions, it's possible we may avoid the kind of pain we saw with the bubble bursting in the late 1990s.

And so, Metcalfe's law is trumped by Zipf's Law and the law of n log(n) -- leading us to The Long Tail of social network sites for which we still don't have an assigned value.

So how does this fit with our look at social networking sites?

If an enduring advantage and a retooling mindset are the keys to success, then social networks should be around for a while. These sites didn't invent the social part, nor did they invent the networking part, so the enduring advantage is there. They facilitate acquaintance and reacquaintance, and are run (at least initially) by technology entrepreneurs -- with a retooling mindset built in. I think the question is not whether they will last, but in what form they will emerge, and how many mergers will we see before the shakeout is over.

As note in a previous post, I see a tendency toward focusing on specific social networking sites, but in the future I think many of us will simply be using what was "learned" in these sites to just be more social -- out in the open, on an Internet without walls. The people we relate to, the relationships we have with them, and the use of available communication tools are the keys to success in this space, not “the site.”

What do you think?

Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11. Available at

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dear John, Where's the Beef?

There's been recent news in the social webspace about not one, but two marriage proposals on the micro-blogging site Twitter (more discussion here). But marriage is only one demonstration of the relationships that can be strengthened with the support of the social web. It is about the relationship, but do we really understand how that works?

I found this little gem thanks to Doc Searls, who received it from Keith Hopper.

Don't read any more until you watch this (it's short - under two well-invested minutes):

As we wrote in The Emergence of The Relationship Economy, all business requires a medium of marketing, communicating, and selling means that drive customer awareness of the business proposition. Where companies screw this up is their focus ONLY on our awareness by failing to find the right balance between marketing, communicating, and selling.

Perhaps the perspective needs some adjustment -- let's look at it as a "communication sandwich," where marketing and selling frame the communication. Companies can bring their intent to the communication -- consumers are OK with that -- it's nice to know what the other person aims to get from a relationship, but we're getting to the point where we are wondering whether there is marketing just for the sake of marketing? Wendy's (provider of very excellent hamburgers sandwiches) had a commercial a while back that asked "Where's the Beef?"

In a communication sandwich like we've had for many years now, we should be asking the same thing!

So how can we get that message to the companies who keep pushing their products and services on us, without so much as a real follow up?

Perhaps we should just walk out on them and take our business elsewhere . . .

Is it that easy? Do you think they'll get it? NO!!! Not without a united effort by the people formerly known as the audience . . . we touched on the need for new strategies in our post on marketing in The Relationship Economy. Remember the peanuts that brought Jericho back? Well, that campaign worked (though not for very long), but this one is different, and it won't cost you money.

How 'bout this?

. . . go to as many company feedback sites as you can in the next 7 days.

Post something like this.

I (and a lot of people like me) have been trying to convey our sincere desire to have a real relationship with those who provide products and services for our consumption and enjoyment. The benefit of this relationship for you is that you get to know EXACTLY what we need, not only what you think we need, based on your research, focus groups, and late-night brainstorming with people who are so entrenched in the marketing model of the 20th Century that they wouldn't know a real conversation if one bit them on the nose. We want you to know what we need, when we need it, and why . . .

If you really care about our relationship, please invest two minutes and three seconds in it, by watching this video -



What do you think?

P.S. A hamburger is first a sandwich . . . verify here.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

NEED HELP with Social Media & Online Business Networking Must-Reads

I could really use some help building this list. I'm trying to include all the books that relate to the business-oriented social space.

My list at present is located here. Any method of response (blog comment, twitter post, email, or any of the communication methods to the right) ==>>> would be appreciated!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

WOW - GoYoDeo!

The cool thing about innovation is that in most cases all of us can share in the experience!

GoYoDeo's site personalization tools (my term) do REALLY allow anyone (even me) to publish their personal video content ON TOP of their blogs, social networks and websites (for a demo, you should have already seen the insert, if not check this out:


-- for an imagination stimulator, go here . . .

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How video complements what we do

We talked about video before, but didn't do a demonstration. This video is just a sample of how video can be used to spice up a website.

I uploaded a few .gifs from slides we used to design a course at, picked some music, and then let the gurus go to town. WOW!

What do you think?

On Target in the Air with Cell Phones!

Fly the Friendly Skies but get off the phone before you check in!

In a previous post, we expressed a tongue-in-cheek concern about the Transportation Safety Administration, and promise more int he future. But here's the current "problem" I think the TSA has to deal with. Continental is the first U.S. Airline testing a system that allows people to get their boarding pass sent directly to their cell phones. The electronic boarding pass can be used instead of a paper boarding pass to get through airport security and to board planes, according to Paper Is Out, Cellphones Are In, in the New York Times!

Excellent! I love the disruption that the mobile web is causing . . . but I still have a few concerns.

1) What is the backup plan for those who don't have a cell phone?

Surely there are still a few poeple who don't and won't have cell phones. If this takes off, what will be the extra cost for them to use the old-school way? And what happens if I am on an important business call as I am getting on the plane? "Hang on Fred, I have to check in . . ."

2) How hard will it be to get the information re-sent to my mobile phone?

I know that I may be the only one this has ever happened to, but what exactly do I do if after I get the boarding pass my phone craps out? Say I'm not able to get it fixed in time, so I don't even have access to the number where the message was sent. Are we back to showing some form of ID and hoping there are still enouogh kiosks to get a printed ticket, or maybe I could borrow one of my fellow passengers' phones just until I check in . . .

3) How hard is it to spoof this?

Continental is the only airline offering the service at this point, and their boarding pass is an image of an encrypted bar code displayed on the phone’s screen, which can be scanned by gate agents and security personnel. It's reported to be a two-dimensional encrypted bar code, which is much tougher to copy than the one-dimensional bar code used by many airlines for boarding passes printed online, so T.S.A. is expected to embrace the technology. The two-dimensional version looks more like the snow on a television screen that has lost its signal.

I appreciate that the U.S. isn't the first to use this technology . . . Air Canada has been using electronic it since last September, and Japan Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines and Spanair are using it or something similar, as well.

But they aren't the countries with the big target painted around each of their major airports either, are they?

This sounds a whole lot like more of an administrative cost-cutting measure for the airlines (both in terms of supplies and employees) than it does a convenience for travelers.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Can Candid Camera make a comeback?

As you may have seen from my post on the Retro-Education blog, I have recently figured out how to take a slideshow and turn it into a video. There's probably an easier way to do it, but I have it down to a science (if you want a how to, I'll get to working on that soon :-)

But the bigger question is WHY did I see the need for this anyway . . .

With Google's YouTube Video running so Hi def lately (almost 52 million visitors per year as of October 2007), the numbers are surely stacking up, and they are making good Cents (sic) . . .

. . . and with companies like GoYoDeo launching their cutting-edge interactive site personalization tools (my term) that allows anyone to publish their personal video content ON TOP of their blogs, social networks and websites (for a demo, check this out -- for an imagination stimulator, go here) . . .


. . . and LinkedIn, MTV, and doing video interviews to supplement their Internet presence . . .

. . . and now animoto is making it so simple to create flash-bang videos with lots of buzz (if you haven't seen their stuff yet, run over there now!) . . . it appears that this whole video thing may be catching on . . . ya think?!?!?

I'm not talking about the paranoia-laden concerns that could be caused by the press (the BBC to be exact) where a teacher was secretly filming lessons she taught, I'm talking about the use of video for a majority of our non-in-person (or video conference) communication. I'm talking about the only person I know who has never owned a computer (a friend since grade school) will be able to communicate the great ideas he has to more than just those who answer the phone when he calls (he does do mobile text-messaging, maybe I should set him up a Twitter account :-). I'm talking about the use of video for more than just passing around shots of the latest Go-Daddy Super Bowl blunder.

Part of me is concerned that we'll be dumbing down the future generations, but it's possible that we'll be giving them another avenue for self-expression (I know, they've been doing this stuff for a while). And for those who simply can't (or won't) learn how to type . . . welcome to the Internet . . . come on in, the water's fine!

So can we expect a return of the peeping-Toms of Candid Camera? Though the show (on it's return trip) hasn't been around for three years, does that mean this kind of activity hasn't permeated our culture? I'm thinking it has, and I'm thinking we haven't seen the end result yet. When portable video cameras can stream better than mobile-phone quality videos through the metropolitan wi-fi, I think it will be time for all of us to wear wigs and shades . . . until then, let's have some fun!

What do you think?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Police 2.0 - To Protect and to Twitter!

Not sure how I missed this, but here's an update from a previous post.

InThe death of social networking as we know it . . . Social Network Commerce, I suggested this scenario:

Your local police department recently installed a social network precinct, and you already added them as a "preferred location." This virtual precinct takes reports around the clock, using either text or voice input. Follow up consists of a text confirmation or a phone call, and you can check the status of your report at any time.

In our recent book, The Emergence of the Relationship Economy, I suggested:

We should consider adding our local police officer or precinct to our contacts or friends list. These individuals and organizations exist already in our community network, and possibly our social network of friends. Imagine community policing enhanced by a display of trusted connections, personal photos, or random thoughts.
* * *
If law enforcement took advantage of existing technology, we envision the process of a phone call to the police station being replaced by a posting on the virtual wall of the police station’s Web site.

Well, what do you know . . . some police departments have already upgraded to The Relationship Economy!

A search of Facebook shows 3 page results for Police Department, but there are many profiles set up with these identities.

A search of MySpace returns about 54,900 for police department, with many of the links for this department or that "jobs," and many individual officer profiles and videos - check out the Fairfield, CA police!

But as Doc Searls says, these sites are like AOL 2.0 (actually he says that about Facebook, I don't think he has ever seriously addressed MySpace). There's not much room for the relationship economy in government is there?

And now, here in the unexposed, unwalled social web of Twitter, there are . . . Real Police!

So how's this work . . . let me think. (I'm kind of new at this Twitter thing, so please correct me if I miss something).

I am a citizen in my town. I follow the Police and they follow me. They can instantly send out notifications, and I can directly message them, even from my mobile phone, right?

That's it, right? A new line on the officers' business cards, telephone hold messages, and of course on the back of the police cars . . . To Protect and to Twitter!

At least in Franklin, MA and Austin, TX . . .

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Avoiding the Rebellion, and anything that sounds like a Rebellion

It seems that the majority of folks in the technology enhanced world are missing something that will be critical moving forward. Lest we forget, there are now and always will be naysayers and laggards, and it is our responsibility to provide guidance and direction for them so they can remain behind the power curve if that is truly their desire.

It may be difficult for many to understand these folks, but they are the reason that the buggy whip was still being produced long after the automobile hit critical mass. They are the reason that typewriter ribbon (even correctable ribbon) can still be found in online office supply stores (and perhaps a few local stores), and why computer manufacturers still sell dialup modems (though most are faster than 2800 baud).

Is it really that difficult to understand? It may take a bit of imagination, but when headlines like How Google and eBay Act Like Nations are found on an ABC News website, is it really that difficult to think that some could actually think that this whole e-commerce "revolution" died back in '99? Surely when the writer says "eBay took the extraordinary step of going to war against its own customers/partners/employees" they were speaking metaphorically . . .

And if the war coverage of ABC wasn't enough, a dose of reality (and close reality at that) shows us that the next generation of the Castro-controlled are (get this) using technology to break the rules, in Cyber-Rebels in Cuba Defy State's Limits. Do they really have it that bad on this island nation? I mean, come on -- state-owned cafe (only) charge a third of the average Cuban's monthly salary--about $5--to use a computer for an hour. That's no worse than you would pay at a franchised coffee shop or high-end hotel in the U.S. if you needed Internet access and had forgotten your laptop at home, right?

And then these poor folks have to deal with some obvious marketing hype when they read the claim that a Pew Internet and American Life Project Study found that Cell Phones are Now the Most Vital Device . . . cell phones? Who needs a cell phone? If you have a home phone, your auto is in good shape, and you don't work in Emergency Management, there's really no use for cell phones, right? Who were they talking to when they found that the cell phone is the technological tool its users would have most difficulty giving up, followed by the Internet and television, anyway?

To buy into any of this is simply rebellious, and most law-abiding citizens simply shouldn't have any part of it, right? Who would want to turn over government-like power to a corporation, anyway? The Department of Justice would stop that, like they did with Microsoft a few years back. Right? And who would believe that a bunch of kids could actually do anything to upset one of the few remaining concentrations of Communism by using technology that their government prohibits. The police and military could keep that from happening like they have before! And finally, what's this nonsense about cell phones being indispensable? Most people don't need them, and they are spoiling their kids by getting them for them. It's crazy to think that they will catch on any time soon . . .

What do you think?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Do we really need to know how to have a conversation?

We all know that one of the key foundations for relationship building is the ability to have a conversation. We all assume that we know how to have a conversation, since many of us have been talking since long before we got out of diapers.

But do we really know what we are doing?

In the book Language Development: From Two to Three (1991), Lois Bloom summarized the research regarding basic conversational strategies. Likening conversation to a game of catch, she explained that each conversationalist participates by throwing balls into the air. The rules are that only one ball can be in the air at a time. Throwing a ball into the air is seen as a contribution to the conversation.

So what happens when both people in a conversation are willing participants? One throws the ball, the other throws the same ball back, and the conversation is ongoing until one or both get tired of “playing catch.” Another option is that one player throws the ball into the air and the other watches it hit the ground. The second player then picks up a new ball and throws it back. The first player (or a third) takes yet another ball and throws it into the air. This is not a conversation. The challenge is to get the game of catch going between two, three, or more people in order to engage. Knowing "the rules of the game" facilitates a smooth conversation. As with the game of catch, as we practice conversations, we usually get better at having them. Conversations often result in the transference of knowledge and enrich the lives of those involved, but in order to have conversations we have to actually engage someone else.

Has that changed with the recent advances of technology?

Years ago, people all over were asking whether the next generation would be able to engage in a conversation. They were spending all their time on instant messaging (and less time on the telephone - go figure), and there were some doubts that any of them were developing the social skills to actually communicate.

And then we realized that technology wasn't replacing interaction, it was supplementing it. The instant messages and now the social networking sites were being used like the telephone used to be. They were used to arrange meetings and follow up after them! They were enhancing the conversations, not replacing them. Wouldn't it be great if that worked in the business world?

The reality is that, for many, this is exactly what happens. People who arrange to meet face-to-face, whether in small groups or large, will plan the meeting in their choice of online communications forum. Many will also follow up the meeting with ongoing dialog, often including people who weren't even there. Ultimately, technology (once again), appears to have provided us with yet another way to communicate.

And technology based conversations are happening all around us. If you have access to Facebook, check out “The Conversation on Comcast” (covered in much depth by Mark Kerrigan) and the foundation for this conversation at The ConversationOn.Com. For some rather deep analysis of conversations in marketing, check out Doc Searls' post Can marketing be conversational? Jay Deragon has observed that the social web is the new marketplace of influence fueled by conversations and relationships formed at the intersection of people and technology, and refers to these activities as conversational rivers.

And we can manage our conversations with all kinds of tools. RIM Blackberries started the move to allow us to skip the return to the computer if we needed to check email. Mobile phone text messaging allows us to get messages on the fly (even while we are having a voice conversation), and all the feeds from a variety of providers including Twitter, and social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, let us know what all of our contacts (some of whom are friends) are doing, with minute-by-minute coverage.

I just wonder if we have mastered the art of conversation . . . are we able to play catch, or are we juggling?

What do you think?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Unifying our Communications -- can we really speak with one voice?

About a decade ago, in the dark ages of Web 1.0, I happened across a technology that I absolutely knew was going to catch on. It was a simple idea, really, and promised to make things so much simpler for all of us.

Perhaps you heard of it -- Unified Communications?

If you need a refresher, go here.

I first got turned on to it with an adverstisement as I recall, probably on a pre-Microsoft Hotmail message or something. As I write this, I am having some difficulty remembering the name of the first company I signed on with for this great experience. I do remember that I could get voicemail, fax, and email all in one convenient location (on the web), and I could access it with my mobile phone. The thing I liked most about it was the storage space, as I had many points of presence where I accessed the web, floppies were still likely to roast in my car or break in my satchel, and USB thumb drives had not yet been invented.

I was really hooked on this phenomenon, and actually still have an account with a company called J2 (which is good, 'cause I hate using a separate phone line for the technology -2.0 practice of faxing. But I have progressed with the technology developments, and now wear my unified communciations on my hip. I have an ATT/HTC 8525 phone/pocket pc device that provides one central location to read emails (including those from J2 with a fax), send text (and email messages) from, keep up with my daily schedule, manage my tasks, keep record of my mileage and other business expenses, and still be able to share pictures, PowerPoint slideshows, and full-lenth Video movies. Oh, and I get all my phone calls there, too.

Speaking with One Voice

But today the question is whether we can unify our communications and speak with one voice. It appears that in order to get what we want from the behemoths of corporate America, we have to show that our "numbers" are big enough to require them to pay attention to. I like the attempts that many have made in their customer service endeavors, but are they listening to us because they have nothing better to do, or because the really care?

Let's put this into perspective.

If I have 5 customers that each want something different from me that requires my time, which one am I most likely to respond to? I'm thinking the first choice goes to the customer who wants what takes the least amount of mental and physical effort. This customer may also be one who has listened to my suggestions in the past. He or she is likely to be low maintenance when it comes to my time, and I (as many people do) truly appreciate low-maintenance. If by using this model one of the repeatedly needy doesn't get as much of my time, is that a problem? Perhaps, but what's a businessperson to do? At some point, you gotta let them live with their decisions, right?

Many business thought leaders will suggest that we drop the customers who can be considered hand-holding, high-maintenance. They note that the Pareto Principle tells us, quite accurately, that in anything a few (roughly 20 percent) are vital and many (roughly 80 percent) are relatively trivial. You can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything, from the science of management to the physical world.

Is that good business?

How do we expect mega-companies to respond? We expect them to satisfy all of their customers! We look at the invoice every month and determine how big a chunk of our income we are dishing out to them and think that they should be falling all over themselves to earn every penny we send them. That's not how small businesses work, but by golly, that's how they should operate!

But it won't work that way. The only way for us to get them to satisfy our needs is for us to take our time to first figure out what our needs are. We can probably start with a Top Ten for each company and then whittle down the list to the Top Two. We should then get together with other customers and compare notes and find our collective Top Two. Then and only then should we approach the mega-company and ask for their attention. This way, we won't be stuck with a problem fixer, we can get the attention of a problem solver.

Don't think that kind of proactivity is needed? Where else have we tried to individually change a collective issue? Where else have we limited our conversations before deciding how we as a group should act? Where else have we failed to get the attention of the real decision makers, and ended up with those who could barely answer our questions, much less fix our problems?

Have you looked at the political scene lately?

We have treated the business world like we've been treating the political world for far too long. How's that working for us? The current election season has drawn out potential voters and open public conversations (no, not the debates) more than any time in recent history. If we can figure it out for politics, can't we figure it out for business?

Here's a spoof of the 2008 debates that I hope you enjoy:

What do you think?