The famous bookstore in Paris is 100 years old. I was there when it turned 99.
Will it make it to its 200th birthday? Will there be enough bookworms to preserve it throughout this century?
There’s something to be said about the largest e-commerce company in the world beginning as a bookseller twenty-five years ago. It will be interesting to see if the Paris bookstore outlives Amazon.
Scott Heiferman founded Meetup just after the dotcom bubble crashed. It scaled over time and gained a global following. Before Facebook and LinkedIn, Meetups were the platform of choice for anyone interested in community-building. Evite was another similar tool at that time.
Scott decided to sell the company to WeWork a couple of years ago. As someone who relied on Meetup for all kinds of networking including running a community myself, I’m not sure if I’ll renew my subscription. The biggest benefit offered to Meetup community leaders was the usage of swank office space at WeWork locations for free. The cost of admission was often free in the Meetup world. Things seemed too good to be true. It’s impossible to run such a business for too long.
It’s a shame if Meetup gets shut down because there are so many folks like Scott who scaled amazing communities and connected with each other. I hope Meetup survives the WeWork reorganization.
If you grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen, this movie is for you…
The empty chair mantra has caught on at many companies starting with Amazon. Jeff Bezos alludes to the customer who needs representation, so the idea is to keep an empty chair in every meeting.
What if the empty chair also became a civic lesson for companies to give back. What if the empty chair was kept for disadvantaged youth, for the homeless, or for the stranger who’s terminally ill.
I helped with a recent program focused on customer experience and social impact. I couldn’t help but think about the empty chairs there representing those who may never get the chance to ascend the lofty heights of SF. At the same time, I felt gratitude towards the inspiring speakers and sponsors for shedding light on customer experience, employee experience, and volunteerism.
It’s why corporate social responsibility has become the primary reason younger generations chose an employer in the first place. I believe the more a company aligns social impact to its mission statement, the more likely it is to survive in the long term. Companies like Salesforce, DocuSign, Zendesk, and Medallia clearly understand what’s at stake. The employee who cares about the empty chair is a keeper.
CAR-T is a new treatment for cancer which is now available at over 100 hospitals. It re-engineers a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. It was one of the hundreds of trials at MD Anderson which successfully reached the mass market. Patients get access to such trials at the largest research hospitals. For anyone who gets diagnosed with complex cancer (stage 2 or greater), the best chance of survival is at a research institution.
Fortunately, my relative was able to join a breakthrough trial in Houston. As someone who studies processes and systems closely, I’ve learned more at MD Anderson than any other hospital because of the transparency, the quality of care, and aggressive vision which adopts the latest technologies such as Oncora. MD Anderson even has a yoga program.
Here’s a well-written essay by a Stanford doctor about her experience treating current patients with CAR-T. Huge strides are being made in the race to cure cancer.
(we began at Stanford and made our way to MD Anderson where we found access to such trials as well as a better patient experience)
The tech world has become much more hands-on in the last decade. Nearly all founders and CEOs build, configure, & implement products and services. Customer success becomes everyone’s mission when project execution happens with customers in perpetuity.
Proposify is a cool tool I’ve used. It’s made by a tiny Canadian company. In the world of Customer Success, it’s an unknown startup (with global ambitions) but has managed to scale from zero.
I really like how they’ve grown the customer success function from scratch. Founder Kyle Racki outlines how they made it happen.
Customer Success(CS) is often coined as a subset of Customer Experience(CX). The reality is that Customer Success drives CX initiatives. Based on anecdotal evidence, CX professionals seem to have fewer job opportunities than CS pros. Bob Thompson expounds on the dilemma here. CX needs CS more than ever.
It’s ok to lose some competitions. Every battle is not worth fighting for. I’ve seen a recent spate of successful people pass away well before their time, not from accidents, but from illnesses like cancer. Almost all were fierce competitors who led stressful lives.
Sometimes, losing really means living.
In search of a more democratic internet (from an academic’s perspective)…
Here’s a quick recap of Ramesh’s talk. Algorithms power the fastest growing companies. Tech companies monopolize and monetize exchanges. A handful of platforms and apps control nearly all of the world’s data. Here’s a popular slide he shared.
Silicon Valley tech leaders continue to determine technology access and user experiences for most of the world’s population. While good intentions drove them to success, the lack of awareness (and governance) of the unique needs of global cultures has resulted in cultural misappropriation and inefficient use cases. While most of us benefit from the new technologies, our data is being used against our future livelihoods, and for insane profits. Ultimately, the data will be codified to usurp our jobs. It’s already happening.
Ramesh portrays hope for an alternative tech universe focused on community, equality, and shared opportunities. He showcased some real breakthroughs of rural tech entrepreneurship —- mostly off the grid — insinuating that success is possible without being part of the global technology hegemony.
The viewpoint shared here is not entirely new. Populist movements have been railing against harm from the U.S. technology sector’s consolidation of power through data collection. Everyone from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump has expressed concerns. The least concerned appear to be the politicians controlled by the U.S. Tech lobby.
Some data issues are being addressed by GDPR and other government controls, but little has been done so far. We have embraced the Facebooks and Amazons of the world and given them all of our data. Yet, it’s frightening to think about indigenous populations, and what they might do to us if they made it across our borders. 😉
What if the same people were brilliant tech entrepreneurs trying to get us off the ‘grid’ as we know it?
A culture of empathy makes Japan a bit more frictionless than most countries. Omoiyari or empathy is a minimal expectation, not something which needs to be taught or enforced.
MD Anderson strives for as much human interaction as possible — creating a patient-centric experience that does not lead with technology. Rebecca Kaul, Chief Innovation Officer, outlines a world-class experience for patients and their families. I can attest to it — having walked the halls and seen hundreds of smiles.
It’s terrifying to think of hospitals just becoming factories of automation where doctors become obsolete. Some tech innovators should take a closer look at the human side of care. Huge efficiencies can be achieved through technology, but medical leaders shouldn’t replace the white glove treatment that extends care and keeps hope alive.
Entrepreneurship is often derived from life experiences rarely witnessed in America. Challenges yield creativity. Lual Mayen escaped Sudan and now runs a gaming company in DC. The son of another refugee entrepreneur Abdul Fattah Jandali is none other than the great Steve Jobs. America’s success comes from a culture of inclusion, not derision.
The former Soviet Union instituted the “continuous workweek” known as neprervka almost 100 years ago. Weekends didn’t exist. Families couldn’t see each other much. Burnout was pervasive. The experiment didn’t last long. In today’s workforce, flexibility is the expected norm with the caveat that work can get done anywhere and at any time thanks to technology. Instead of balance, we work much harder today and don’t know our neighbors.
Life in America works when there’s a calendar otherwise we lose sight of the life we have to live. Japan is another schedule-driven society I know all too well. The work we do overtakes the work needed at home and in the community. Technology is creating more imbalance when it should make us more civic-minded citizens.
This insightful article highlights some startling examples such as Home Depot’s evolution from FT retail employer to just another revolving door for part-timers. Technology helps with scheduling and workforce productivity. A business succeeds thanks to technology but hurts the average worker. The end goal is seemingly to employ 24×7 part-time workers just like the failed Soviet experiment. If we work all the time we won’t have time to revolt with our neighbors against a government and business world suppressing civic life. One-dimensional plutocrats lacking maturity and human empathy take reins because we didn’t have time to do our homework with our neighbors.
Home Depot was a recent client of mine. Back in the 90s, I recall it being a company of experts. The retail stores excelled with full-time workers and experts. You could always count on the friends you made at Home Depot. Home Depot’s band of experts created a positive employee and customer experience. Things changed in the 2000s when Home Depot changed its full-time work culture into a part-time one without experts. The store experience was pretty bad, and the online experience was even worse.
When I fast-forward to the most recent years — as I helped Home Depot move its customer service capabilities onto a smartphone — things have dramatically improved as Home Depot connected its brick-and-mortar experience with its mobile and online channels. The low-cost flexible workers have become ‘experts’ with customer knowledge at their fingertips. While over-scheduling a part-time workforce has certainly been good for Home Depot’s stock performance and for customers like me, the employee experience hasn’t improved. Only store managers are full time. They watch their stores like hawks, replacing workers frequently.
I’ve always worried about the kind of experience these part-time employees might be having since I consulted at the headquarters. Since I don’t think it’s fair to punish part-time workers struggling to support their families, I tended to give everyone 5-star ratings on the mobile experience surveys. The Atlantic article highlights the role scheduling has played in diminishing quality of life including time for civic life. As 2019 comes to a close, it’s become much harder to achieve the civic goals I set out for myself.
Neprervka has been resurrected in new ways. We are wired 24×7, tethered to our phones, becoming customer support for our companies, but not for the sake of customers. The end goal is survival — in order to pay the bills and raise law-abiding children. “It takes a village” was a proverb I heard often back in my schooling days. The culture of our hometowns — whether back in Texas or in the backwaters of Asia — has disappeared as we embrace what is tantamount to a socially-stratified corporate lifestyle in ritzy urban centers. The pressure never ends to be at the top of your game. There’s only one winner for every race. Losers go home. The carefree freedoms of the local coffeehouse culture (from childhood) have been replaced by a virtual prison — where our phones connect us to our humanity — not conversations around a cooler with our families and neighbors.
Making a difference in the world has become a big deal if you tie it to the opportunity to make a big sale. If you garner good enough PR you just might keep the government off your back. Corporate Social Responsibility deserves more executive ownership and visionary action since many government leaders are not up to snuff. As citizens, we need to reprioritize our lives to avoid rule by hegemonic forces such as the tech industry which has successfully hijacked our minds.
Nonetheless, our shared fate is being sealed by a faceless boardroom of plutocrats making painful decisions equivalent to those passed down by dictators like Joseph Stalin a hundred years ago. Our phones gave us this convenient lifestyle but also distracted us enough to elect stupid people into public office. Too many things on the schedule blind us from seeing the light.
Let’s join forces with our neighbors for the greater good before we lose our vacation and weekend time, too. 😁
This Japanese expression meaning “one life, one encounter” is a favorite. Time flies, but memories can be made to last. Behavioral psychology points to the younger population choosing experiences over things.
How do we keep up in the business world? I’ve learned that treating every initial customer and prospect with omotenashi (selfless hospitality) increases the possibility that they chose to return. At the same time, loyalty is becoming a thing of the past with so many consumers addicted to the pursuit of new experiences. The bar has been raised so high that every interaction requires additional creativity on top of selfless hospitality. Sometimes, this creativity requires provocation.
It boils down to creating memories with every customer interaction. The best marketers are memory makers.
Steve Jobs may not have been the greatest human being, but he left a permanent footprint in the sands of time.
Great podcast by Mio Adilman and Zendesk. As a One Medical customer, I can vouch for the intuitive mobile app and on-demand availability of great docs. Frankly, the healthcare industry needs the most disruption.
This is Silicon Valley’s dilemma: To empower and train (give back locally) or to automate and outsource (reduce local opportunities). The tech sector should benefit local communities wherever it succeeds. The 99% lives here, too.
Years ago Pico Iyer captured in an NYT column the desperate pursuit of silence and detox from our noisy world. The root cause of our anxieties according to him was traceable to the devices that wired us with info which we don’t necessarily need, certainly not all the time. A measured response meant going off the grid to a place intended to give back one’s bearings in order to consciously live again. The end game was potentially a happier life.
Today, the end game careens towards an exciting life with tech — not necessarily a happy one — with microbursts of joy as we speed towards 2020. Laura Holson, a writer for the New York Times, spells out a different narrative from Pico’s — examining the ups and downs of our pursuit of happiness. Happiness may be quantified by the number of joyful moments one can generate (even if it’s from social media).
I know this rings true in the customer experience world where happy customers tended to have more aha! moments.
Both NYT essays allude to a life prone to instant gratification which needs examination and recalibration. Mindfulness might be attainable for a handful of NYT readers. The rest of us tackle the world as an exciting scavenger hunt with nothing more than a small screen and tiny keyboard. It’s possible to collect joyful memories without using devices. Maybe the secret to joy is leaving the phone behind on the next journey.
South Asian lit festivals have grown over time. As the population thrives in large metros like Houston and Seattle, South Asian book-readers stake their ground and share voices which go beyond the professional brilliance of the community. All that glitters is not gold. There is real pain felt in the community as immigrants.
Pain can be recorded and promoted in the form of art. I attended the Houston edition of the famous Jaipur Literature Festival. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni of “Arranged Marriage” fame along with Mira Jacob highlighted a diverse program. Both writers took decades to publish their first notable books. They were activists addressing community issues long before they became writers.
The festival also featured longtime Bollywood film actress Manisha Koirala who emerged in the 90s. She shared her first book, Healed, a memoir of how she overcame cancer. Cancer is pervasive, yet it’s something South Asian survivors struggle to handle publicly. Manisha brings forth her story and inspires anyone on the same journey.
What I’ve learned from attending these events is that writing is hard. These activities inspire me to read more and share things online. Blogging helps me find my own voice.
Sony is not what it used to be. Japan, Inc. is relevant, but no longer a powerhouse. Old school rarely gets noticed in this age of warp speed. John Nathan’s story of Sony is a cautionary tale but also highlights conscientious leadership. Sony might not have kept up with the growth of the new tech companies, but it didn’t have the volume of sordid scandals today which pose a greater threat to external growth for tech startups than the competition. The fastest-growing companies today are struggling to establish a work culture and hold onto their employees.
Sony was led by grownups who never left the room. The culture was refined and maintained by its co-founder Akio Morita. And it worked for a very long time as portrayed by John Nathan.
Based on my own experience in Japan, business life and work culture rarely changed every year. The monotony was a good thing for long-term career seekers. Professional stability also helped the Japanese maintain nuclear families. Some of my expat friends in Japan continue similar routines over two or three decades thanks to the stability of their tech employers. The same cannot be said about Silicon Valley.
Nice clip highlighting the difference. Stay tuned for an event on 11/12 about implementing CX at orgs focused on social impact.
What’s the point of connecting in the first place?
My family is grateful for the loving support of family, friends, colleagues, and many strangers. Some of the best tips we received in this cancer journey were from Uber and Lyft drivers.
Many caregivers are children of patients. It’s difficult to begin journeys into the unknown. Life can blossom or be gone in the blink of an eye. A mid-career disruption also impacts every other aspect of your life, especially if you are coming a long way to Houston. Along with its world-class medical facilities, Houston’s accessibility is its greatest asset. There are flights to most parts of the world.
Nonetheless, Houston is a rugged town with marginal infrastructure and poor mass transit. The weather is muggy and it’s not walkable beyond parks and recreational areas. Air conditioning and hints of Southern hospitality keep hope alive. If you are into sports, Houston is a mecca. If you are into sustainability and music, Austin is just 3 hours away by car. The coasts are just 4 hours by flight. Getting away is the most important thing for visiting patients and caregivers who get occasional respite during treatment.
Cancer treatment alone won’t ensure the survival of your loved one. Everything else matters, too. MD Anderson sets up caregivers well to provide the best possible care. Here are some tips from my MD Anderson experience.
Recently discovered a new CRM. There are many support tools in the marketplace. Reminds me of the year 2000. Of course, I blogged about it. The tools are beginning to look the same. Salesforce is the market leader just like Siebel once was in 2000. Salesforce needs to improve its product for SMBs. Everyone has jumped in for a share of this pie.
I like Kustomer’s kanban-like UI and social media integrations. The focus is on the Retail vertical. It helps that Kustomer was founded by the same team which built Desk.com for Salesforce.
The most promising startups these days seem to be spun out of larger product companies which have become too unwieldy. Lengthy onboarding periods and hefty implemention fees have become a cash cow for larger software companies. This is a huge turnoff for SMBs. The key differentiator for SMBs is a high-quality product which can be rolled out fast…like in less than a week. Kustomer is doing the right things.
I’ve never liked Houston, but forcibly made trips here. Houston wins because of affordability and jobs. The oil and gas (O&G) industry fuels the economy, but younger generations may not stick around. O&G still makes the world go around, but it has lost its luster.
Life is too short to live in Houston.
This is a reference from a friend. Luke Coutinho is a nutritionist based in India specialized in holistic healing from cancer. Just another resource for anyone embarking on this journey.
The Indian diet is not the worst, but it’s not much better than BBQ and beer. Luke has developed a cult following in India while helping many folks recover from cancer. His program is not cheap, but a bargain compared to anything similar in the US.